Thursday

Zen 823: Phone-in guy gives both barrels to the Royal Wedding

If you ever wondered what the phrase 'apoplectic with rage' means, have a listen to this chap - latterly dubbed Mad Melvin - as he attempts to explain exactly how the forthcoming royal nuptials make him feel.

(Link)

Zen 822: Message to America's birthers - you've got to be fucking kidding me right?

The American political scene is, at the best of times, a bizarre netherworld of plastic media creations spouting folksy platitudes about trivial nonesense while herds of unseen elephants galivant around the room. By which I mean that American politicians think it's safer to distract the voting public with small-scale, gut-issue bullshit than to ask them to engage their brains and think about the astonishingly massive and complex issues facing the greatest single superpower in the history of the world.

Trump: colossal douche-bag with stupid hair
One such trivia detour is the 'birther' 'scandal' that's been engulfing President Barack Obama of late. For those of you who've been too busy buying bunting and getting matching Wills and Kate tattoos on their arse cheeks to put your head above the parapet of late, it boils down to this:

Obama is a black man from America. His dad is a black man from Kenya. In order to qualify for the American presidency you must have been born on American soil. Obama was born in Hawaii, which even as far back as 1962 is definitively part of the United States despite having a rather splendid Union Jack in the corner of its flag. Obama qualifies for the presidency. Obama became president 2009. But then some right wing lobbyists noticed that Obama was a black man. Then they also noticed that his dad was from Kenya. They put two and two together and came up with eight. How was it possible, they reasoned, that a black man from Kenya could have a child born in America? Surely that had never happened before? So they investigated and, sure enough, discovered that the Kenyan man's son was born in America, in Hawaii. But this wasn't enough. They wanted to see proof, and that proof was Obama's birth certificate. Obama finally relented yesterday and published his birth certificate.

One suspects none of this would have happened if Obama was white and his dad was from Donegal.

The towering irony of this is that America is an immigrant nation. Leading the charge for the birthers is Donald Trump, a wonky-haired twatbag who looks like Owen Wilson's fat cousin (you know, the one who isn't allowed within 50 yards of a school*). Trump wants to be president next. Trump is descended from German immigrants, but you can bet your arse the American media won't be asking if he was really born in Kallstadt.

America as it was before you bastards stole it
Really, the only person who has the right to express any form of indignation about where the United States' elected officials come from is the first Native American presidential candidate. Trouble is that you won't get one of those in a hurry, because the hoards of Europeans that invaded their country carried out what can only be described as a thorough and aggressive genocide of indigenous peoples, the sad remnants of which they now keep safely herded away in reservations that constitute less than 3% of the available land in the US and enjoy levels of development usually seen in the Third World.

The second group who might be in with a shout on similar grounds are the Africans who were forcibly shipped like cattle across the Atlantic, dying in vast numbers in transit, to labour for the aformentioned European immigrants - immigrants who maintained their slave system long past the point most civilised nations had made it illegal and some of whom actually fought a civil war to defend it. Maybe we should be pissed off at Obama's dad for going to the US voluntarily?

So for those good old US born white folks who sympathise with the 'birthers', consider this. You are only there because you stole the land from some other people, most of whom you killed before forcing yet another group of people to work for you as slaves (as long as they hadn't died on the way there).

If you still feel that's something you want to wear as a badge of pride, be my guest.

* I have no idea if Owen Wilson even has a cousin. This comment is not meant to represent any persons, either living or dead, etc, blah.

Wednesday

Zen 821: Teleprompter inventor diets aged 91

I'm sorry, I'll read that again. Teleprompter inventor Hubert Schlafly dies aged 91.

Thank you. I'm here all week.


BBC News: Teleprompter inventor Hubert Schlafly dies at 91 [LINK]

And he has done something ... errr ... very good.




Teleprompters are also a bit of a running Obama gag, especially if you're a Fox News (w)anchor. I think he actually handles it pretty well.

Is that Beaker's sister presenting the item?







Tuesday

Zen 820: Open source civilisation anyone?

Marcin Jakubowski is a Polish man who graduated from university with a degree in fusion energy and suddenly realised that, in his own words, he was "completely useless". So he set himself a goal, which was to come up with open-source blueprints for the 50 machines upon which he believes civilisation can be built.

The project, Open Source Ecology, has already produced eight machines, including a tractor you can assemble in six days, and ultimately aims to have all 50 in a format you can burn onto a single DVD - the so-called 'Global Village Construction Set' (see below).

This project is the offspring of the burgeoning 'maker' movement and the open-source software/knowledge-sharing projects that bought us such essentials as Firefox and Wikipedia respectively. I get the feeling Marcin slightly overselling himself here, but you have to admire the vision and hope very much that he succeeds.





Zen 819: Charming Easter word cloud for the kiddies

So Thing One, aged six, brings home his word-cloud Easter card. It says all sorts of Eastery words on it. Like 'chick' and 'Jesus' and, errr, 'death'. Sweet.






























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

Zen 818: It's a bit late, but Happy Easter!

Too soon?


Zen 817: The army is all about teamwork

As this clip demonstrates. And notice how the cameraman maintains total radio silence despite what must have been an overwhelming desire to ROFL. Teamwork and discipline. Right there.


Monday

Zen 816: If anyone actually buys one of these things, I hope it bloody falls on them

As the nation descends into a) a forelock-tugging spasm of pre-splice euphoria, or b) a studied mood of cynical aloofness ahead of the royal wedding on Friday, spare a thought for the poor dumb bastards who spank two grand on one of these puppies.

Two weeks hence, they will drag their knuckles into their kitchen and be faced with the crashing realisation that the nuptials of two dim but mainly harmless toffs is not the panacea to heal all human ills but an ultimately hollow and soulless exercise in placating the disaffected hoi polloi that manifested itself as a shabby bank holiday, which for the vast majority of Britons was notable solely for the fact that daytime TV was even shitter than usual, and no amount of Fosters can make a £1.99 barbecue party pack from Lidl taste like it should be eaten by humans.

At this moment, I expect they will realise the crushing futility of existence, as exemplified by their spanking the average monthly wage on a horrible souvenir fridge, and do the decent thing by loading it up with Panda Pops and oven chips before toppling it on themselves, preferably while listening to Robbie Williams' Angels, or whatever compilation of mawkish dirges some lickspittle somewhere put together for the checkout promotion shelf at Asda.

If indeed there is a hell, I believe it looks like this fridge.

Saturday

Zen 815: Brandon, Mississippi shows how to deal with Westboro Baptist hate church

When the good people of Brandon, Mississippi found at that the hateful fucks of the Westboro Baptist Church were planning to picket the funeral of local boy Staff Sergeant Jason Rogers, recently killed in Afghanistan, they took action.

The Westboro member who let slip about the picket was severely beaten up, but curiously enough no one from the large crowd who watched him get drubbed at a town centre petrol station could provide a single reliable description of the assailants. Which seems odd.

Next, a large number of dirty great pick-ups simultaneously blocked in every vehicle in Brandon with Kansas plates - Kansas being Westboro's home state - until after the funeral was over. By strange coincidence, the local tow truck company was unable to attend to any of these incidents due to a sudden and unprecedented backlog that curiously cleared once the funeral had been completed, uninterrupted.

And the Westboro members who did make it to the funeral were quietly arrested by local police who wanted to question them about a crime that, it turns out just a couple of hours later, they hadn't committed.

Thursday

Zen 814: Zombie Easter Bunny

According to the product spec, this is "not a silly little bleeder who will nibble your bum" but an emissary of the undead who will devour your brainz. I love religious festivals.

Wednesday

Zen 813: Establishing the gender of your unborn child through the medium of cake

Get ultrasound in sealed envelope. Hand envelope to cake maker. Instruct cake maker to bake a cake, the inside of which is blue for a boy or pink for a girl. This is definitely a very weird thing to do, but also quite charming in a peculiar sort of way.


Zen 812: Euthanasia rollercoaster

Lithuanian designer Julijonas Urbonas has designed a rollercoaster that "with elegance and euphoria" takes you through "various unique experiences: from euphoria to thrill, and from tunnel vision to loss of consciousness, and, eventually, death." This cheery 'kinetic sculpture' is a think-piece inspired by a quote from John Allen, former president of the Philadelphia Toboggan Company.

"The ultimate roller coaster is built when you send out 24 people and they all come back dead. This could be done, you know."

Cheery.


Design Interactions Research: Euthanasia Coaster [LINK]

Zen 811: Man free climbs north face of the Eiger in record 2 hours 47 mins

No doubting this is an awe-inspiring example of unadulterated athleticism. The first time anyone climbed the deadly north face of the Eiger was in 1938. It used to take three days and cost lives. Ueli Steck literally sprints up like a man possessed and is back down in time for lunch. When he got to the top, even he looked at his watch and thought: "That's not possible."

Shame he sounds a bit like the camp Chinese guy from the Hangover. Unquestionably worth a watch nonetheless.


Tuesday

Zen 810: Chabal!

If Jesus was 6 foot 6 and 120 kgs, he'd score tries like this.


Zen 809: Berkshire dominatrix sex botox doctor suspended

No, really. Who'd have thought it? My vote for most polysyllabic headline of the year, courtesy of BBC News.

Here's my tabloidification of same: 'Pervy whip sex lip doc gets struck off'.

Seriously, I'm wasted as a cage fighter.

Zen 808: Where have all the funny adverts gone?

If advertising was an accurate barometer of a nation's comedic output, we could easily be mistaken for Germany.

It's a little unfair to pick on advertisers in isolation - the malaise also afflicts prime time television. If you don't believe me, then try and find another explanation for the success of Miranda. She's the Frank Bruno of British comedy - only at the top due to a lack of quality contenders.

But the reason advertising is worthy of special consideration is the strength of the British sense of humour as a brand. If we can't leverage one of the few things the Brits are still acknowledged as being really good at in the name of flogging product, maybe we're not really good at it any more?

Pot Noodle: under no illusions
There is, of course, a school of thought that says funny is wrong for advertising because people remember the joke, not the product. There are two compelling reasons why this argument doesn't hold water.

The first is Carling Black Label, a titanically appalling beer that owes its continued existence almost entirely to a series of funny adverts that featured the brand as the hero. Funny adverts that don't work invariably forget this golden rule: the punchline and the brand have to be the same thing. Funny adverts that do employ the golden rule are remembered forever.

The second is that the advertising industry is full of clever people who do a lot of research into this stuff and they clearly and fundamentally still believe in funny, otherwise why would it keep trying to do it? Trouble is, for the most part they keep doing it wrong.

'Advertising funny' currently falls into five main groups. These are:

1) Celebrity-led. Take funny celebrity and (usually) make them unfunny. Occasionally, take unfunny celebrity and make them unfunnier. See Lenny Henry and Premier Inn.

2) Schmaltzy/patronising/nostalgic. Take something that worked in the past a.k.a. 'simpler, happier times' and rework it for the modern audience, preferably while demonstrating a tin ear for what made the advert funny and/or charming in the first place. See Milky Bar Kid, Bisto Family, etc. Alternatively, try and fashion something new that the lumpen proletariat will take to their chip-fat clogged hearts. Through such machinations are the horrors of the Vauxhall Zafira family born.

3) All men are idiots. Deprived of all the groups we used to take the piss out of, like ethnic minorities, women and gays, advertisers have let rip on the one remaining group you can lambast with impunity - men. It's an interesting strategy - describing half of your potential universe of customers and/or opinion formers as barely sentient morons - but it's a persistent one. See that fantastically irritating advert where all the men in a car start yelling incoherently because the kid in the back seat needs to pee. The only bonus with this ad is that they forgot the aforementioned golden rule, so I can't remember which brand to hate.

Lenny Henry: making the unfunny unfunnier
4) Risqué/trying to get banned. The latest example of this is the Oasis 'goes with anything' campaign. It achieves the double whammy of stretching a very weak double entendre past the point of destruction (the all time record for which is held by French Connection) while simultaneously making the brand sound trashy and cheap. This has been done before and with considerably more justification and/or aplomb by Pot Noodle, who understood perfectly that - like tapping off at 2am in a student nightclub - eating their snack was a calculated and comprehensive lowering of standards undertaken only as a weapon of last resort. Doesn't work for something you might put in your kid's lunchbox. Lunchbox - ha ha! Stop it.

5) Adverts that are actually quite funny. I'm reaching a bit here, hence the blog post. Cravendale's cats with thumbs. Sort of. Maybe Direct Line, but only because Alexander Armstrong and Chris Addison have been allowed to employ the schtick they've lovingly honed elsewhere. The Lynx 'Angels will Fall' campaign. Definitely. At first viewing (see below) not instantly an advert you'd describe as 'funny', but then how else would you characterise a story premised on the idea that your deodorant is such a potent aphrodisiac it can make angels fall from heaven? It's a funny idea, gorgeously executed. It also identifies the fact that comedy works best in contrast. There's drama, pathos and perhaps a little bit of tragedy in there as well, all of which serve to heighten the impact of the punchline. And it creates all of this with superb visuals and music alone. There's not one syllable of dialogue.

So what's the upshot? That there's a fundamental tension between being funny and selling a product. The former is anarchic, spontaneous, counter-intuitive, rude, persistently innovative and highly individual. The latter is planned, structured, conservative and mass-market. Funny is all about taking risks, while companies - understandably - want a guaranteed return on their investment. The instinct in modern broadcasting is the same, hence sitcom by committee. Funny-by-focus-group is doomed to fail.




UPDATE: Zen 807: America's voice of deranged, foaming-at-the-mouth, paranoid, right wing intolerance is silenced

UPDATED: With highlights of Jon Stewart ripping Glenn Beck new one (see below). Via Pintoo.

************************************************

How did I miss this? Glenn Beck, the aforementioned 'voice' has finally had his rabidly unpleasant show axed by Fox. The press statement said that while the show will end, Beck will continue to develop content for the network, but this was clearly an exercise in face-saving for both parties. Conspiracy theories abound for why Beck got punted, but I'm guessing that even Fox realises that a one-note, blunder-prone and increasingly anti-Semitic demagogue has a very limited shelf-life. Here are some of Glenny-boy's finest moments.






Monday

Zen 806: What the Japanese earthquake sounded like

Here's an AP report on the hydrophones (underwater microphones) that captured what the earthquake sounded like. Spoiler alert - it sounds exactly like you'd expect it to. And as with all American news programmes, the story is delivered in the manner of someone speaking to a particularly stupid child in a neighbouring room. Why do they do it like that?


Zen 805: Two American geeks recap the entire history of Doctor Who in six minutes

While occasionally too fast to be completely comprehensible, these beanie-wearing geek-chic dweebs nonetheless manage to nail all 10 Doctors in a very comprehensive and educational manner in considerably less time than it would take to watch the entire back catalogue, thereby saving you several weeks of your life and the disappointing realisation that all those shows that scared the life out of you as a kid were in fact constructed out of egg cartons, double-sided sellotape and really quite terrible scripts. Death to Sylvester McCoy.



Thursday

Zen 804: Unfortunate ad placement, or a coded warning?

I think we should be told.

Zen 803: Catherine Zeta Jones has Bipolar II disorder, not as good as the original Bipolar

I'm not usually one for celebrity 'news', but I am intrigued by the burgeoning trend for 'medicalising' rotten behaviour by way of absolving the perpetrator of responsibility for their actions.

Not that I'm saying Mrs Douglas has been a frightful cow or anything. Truth is, I don't care enough to find out, although I understand she has had a tough year, what with Michael's recovery from throat cancer an' all.

But bipolar?

In order to be diagnosed with bipolar II, you need to have had just one 'hypomanic' episode and one depressive episode. It's like bipolar-lite. Entry-level bipolar, if you like. Try it on for size, bring it back if it's not for you.

Which begs the question, if you're not particularly wealthy and/or famous, would you be on the bipolar 'spectrum' at all, or would you have put it down to feeling a bit irritable and glum?

Zen 802: The SIM is mightier than the sword - how Libya's rebels stole Gaddafi's phone network

To control the people you need to control the flow of information. This is the first lesson of Dictatorship 101.

Mubarak understood this and that's why he took Egypt off the Internet. Happily it didn't work, and as a result the revolution was not only televised but available on Twitter and Facebook too.

Possibly the world's most pointless infographic
Libya is a different kettle of fish. They haven't really caught the Twitter bug just yet, and besides, powerful as the microblogging service might be, it's not great for coordinating troop movements (#victoryisours #runlikefuck).

No, what you need when you're trying to overthrow a properly evil bastard like Gaddafi is a good mobile phone signal, which is why every call on the Libyana network was routed through Tripoli. Gaddafi was able to cut off the rebels so effectively, they were reduced to communicating battle orders by flag.

That was until a clever chap called Ousama Abushagur, a Libyan-American telecoms engineer, put together a plan on the back of a fag packet to basically steal the network back.

To cut a long story short, he persuaded someone - probably the UAE and/or Qatar - to front the cash for some hardware that him and his mates parked in the desert to the east of Benghazi. They then hacked Libyana and extracted the numbers they needed to set up a 'Free Libyana' cell service. This done, they piggybacked a satellite courtesy of anonymous-but-friendly neighbouring-state telecoms provider (Etisalat) and the network was up and running.

The first call was made on 2 April by Abushagur to his wife. The call wasn't recorded (for the first time in 42 years) but presumably went something along the lines of: "Come here Mrs Abushagur, I need you." Yes, that's an Alexander Graham Bell gag right there.

The network won't win the war for the rebels - only guns, bombs, blood and a cap in Gaddafi's fat ass will do that - but it has almost certainly made sure they won't lose it.

See, geeks can be heroes too.

Wednesday

Zen 801: Unicode to make your head explode

Unicode is the computing industry standard for text. It depicts virtually every symbol used in writing systems the world over. There are just shy of 50,000 such symbols in the Unicode patheon, a number that creeps ever upwards as everything from Egyptian heiroglyphs to Old Hangul to emoticons and emoji get added by the voracious and terribly thorough, yet Orwellian-sounding Unicode Consortium.

Now a clever gentleman called Joerg Piringer has created a video that displays all 49,571 symbols in the Unicode range 0-65536 (you know the one) at the rate of one every frame for 33 minutes. Why Mr Piringer has done this remains a mystery. The effect is strangely hypnotic and it's fun, in a monstrously geeky way, to hit the pause button occasionally and see what you get.

I suspect, however, that if you watched it uninterrupted for more than a minute or two, you would suffer a massive epileptic seizure and die. If this happens to you, please write in and tell us all about it.


Zen 800: You're calling me a moron!

The correct response from David Silverman to this accusation from Bill O'Reilly should have been: "Yes. Yes I am calling you a moron. Because you are one."

This extraordinary exchange between Silverman, who commissioned some provocative posters calling all religions 'scams', and O'Reilly, the anchor on the Fox News show 'The O'Reilly Factor' is basically an object lesson in stupid. Fox News is a terrible station and O'Reilly is a gormless, platitude-spouting woodentop in bad make-up, but this 'interview' is a new low in hectoring, ignorant pillory-by-media, made sweet by Silverman's absolute refusal to play by O'Reilly's rules.

The expression Silverman pulls at about 2 minutes in (when O'Reilly comes up with his "tide goes in, tide goes out ... nobody can explain that" slam dunk) has become an internet meme in its own right, dubbed 'Are You Serious? Face'. Enjoy.


Tuesday

Zen 799: Where are all the climate refugees?

Further to previous blogs about bad science leading to dodgy predictions that ultimately undermine your message, here's this from the Climate Policy Network:

"Rising sea levels, desertification and shrinking freshwater supplies will create up to 50 million environmental refugees by 2010, experts warn today. 'There are well-founded fears that the number of people fleeing untenable environmental conditions may grow exponentially as the world experiences the effects of climate change,' Dr Bogardi [director of the Institute for Environment and Human Security at the United Nations University in Bonn] said. 'This new category of refugee needs to find a place in international agreements. We need to better anticipate support requirements, similar to those of people fleeing other unviable situations.'"
David Adam, The Guardian, 12 October 2005


"In 2005, the United Nations Environment Programme predicted that climate change would create 50 million climate refugees by 2010. These people, it was said, would flee a range of disasters including sea level rise, increases in the numbers and severity of hurricanes, and disruption to food production ... A very cursory look at the first available evidence seems to show that the places identified by the UNEP as most at risk of having climate refugees are not only not losing people, they are actually among the fastest growing regions in the world."

Zen 798: Infographic of Rebecca Black's 'Friday'

... for those who find the lyrics challenging and somewhat indecipherable. Click on it to make it bigger, then click it again to make it readable.


Zen 797: Check out the mad skills on this penalty-taking little b*st*rd...

Don't follow the ball. Keep your eye on the kid who's taking it. He apparently has a sponsorship deal for hair products and snoods already.

Monday

Zen 796: Letter of complaint to Homebase


Homebase Ltd,
Customer Services Department
Acton Gate
Stafford
ST18 9AR


11 April 2011



To whom it may concern,

I am writing to complain. On Friday 8 April I hired a Rug Doctor from your store in Staines, where I was served by an assistant called Hannah. She was slow and indifferent, in keeping with your apparent company policy of hiring people whose limited interpersonal skills are only matched by their total disinterest in serving customers politely and efficiently. This is an observation, not my complaint.

When I arrived home, I found the Rug Doctor had not been cleaned after the previous hire. The filter was full of a muddy grey sludge consisting of someone else’s lint, fur and hair, and the white bucket had about half a litre of sewer water in it. In addition, the machine had not been correctly connected at the back and it consequently took a good 15 minutes of frigging about to get it functioning as it should.

I would have thought that the bare minimum required of your store was to hire out Rug Doctors that are clean and set up for use. This is the first part of my complaint. I strongly object to having to clean up someone else’s filth. But not as much as I object to what happened next.

I returned the machine to the Staines store on Saturday 9 April. In keeping with the instructions, I returned the machine in the state I hired it, i.e. with the filter clogged and half a litre of junk in the white bucket. I did this by way of making a point. While I was perfectly happy to clean the machine once my point had been made, I would have preferred it if your staff had apologised and offered to clean the machine by way of recompense.

Unfortunately, instead your staff reverted to their default setting of rude/ intransigent. The machine was inspected by a manager called Gemma who fixed me with a sullen, fish-eyed stare before sloping off to consult with Hannah who had ‘served’ me the day before.

Upon returning, Gemma revealed the following piece of information: “She says she hired it out clean. You’ll have to clean it or you won’t get your deposit back.”

At this, she unhelpfully turned on her heel and walked off to stand about 20 feet away and do nothing. I am assuming that she felt this was the safest minimum distance from which to studiously ignore the banks of irritated customers waiting at the information desk.

From this exchange, I take it that your store policy is not so much “the customer is always right” and a bit more “the customer is a lying scumbag who can be shown as such by a shop assistant who apparently has a razor sharp memory for the internal workings of every appliance she hired out the previous day but strangely struggles to recollect the basic tenets of good service, such as a pleasant demeanour and a willingness to help”.

This is the second part of my complaint. Your customer service is appalling.

I expect an apology.

Yours faithfully,


Otter Zen


Zen 795: Nazis on speed

This is a great story. Recent research by a German gentleman called Wolf Kemper, author of the book 'Nazis on Speed' (honestly, that's what it's called), has surfaced the fact that more than 200 million tablets of something called Pervitin were issued to German troops during the Second World War.

Pervitin is basically methamphetamine, or crystal meth, the super-addictive hyper-stimulant beloved of crankheads the world over.

It's a fact not acknowledged much these days, but the German army was, for much of the war, the best field army in the world. It is arguably only the combined factors of British naval superiority, American economic might, the vastness (in every aspect - geographic, material and human) of the Soviet Union and the wilful stupidity by the frightful bastards running the German war effort that undid them.

What has long contributed to the dubious mystique of the Nazi war machine is its soldiers' ability in the latter stages of the war to fight on against impossible odds, often well beyond the expected limits of human endurance.

The fact that many of them were mashed off their bonces on nutty uppers may go some way to explaining how this was possible.

While looking for an image to go with this post, I found this rather fantastically mangled Engrish rendering of the story: A Secret of Nazi Soldiers Fighting Stint  Sample text: "Thousands of soldiers were obsessed to the pills in 1941 when Soviet Union invaded the Wehrminacht."

Zen 794: New York is going to drown according to new, headline-grabbing but seriously flawed attempt to model sea level rises

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) predicts that sea levels will rise due to global warming by approximately 28cm by 2100.

Sea level rises have now been modelled for the first time by at team from the University of Utrecht. They have taken into account the gravitational effect of large bodies of ice and other factors that cause sea levels to vary by anything up to 1.5m depending on where you are on the planet.

This has enabled our Dutch chums to make headline-grabbing predictions about places like New York, which are supposedly most under threat - a threat that is apparently underestimated by the IPCC.

Most under threat, that is, if the model they have come up with is anything like an accurate representation of the future and not, like all climate models, a hopelessly underpowered exercise in self-aggrandising, highbrow guff.

The general problem with modelling something as vast and complex as the climate, or indeed differences in global sea levels, is that these are massively interconnected, chaotic systems that are so mindbogglingly complex they all but defy prediction. You've introduced so much error through gross generalisation in your starting conditions that it's a bit like asking a visually impaired baboon to determine an exact likeness of every picture in the National Gallery using sticklebricks.

To illustrate, here are a number of pertinent examples. First is that global warming hasn't happened for nigh on a decade now, something modelling failed to predict. Second, modelling has failed to explain why, in the absence of a general upward warming trend, the Arctic sea ice continues to melt but the Antarctic doesn't. Third, the models that predicted sea level rises that will engulf the Maldives 'in decades' have yet to be realised by any appreciable increase in global sea levels whatsoever.

Little less media grandstanding, bit more proper science please.

Friday

Zen 793: Another observation about dogs

Hard on the heels of the revolutionary observation that dogs only ever itch in one place, I have another question about dog behaviour.

Dogs apparently have a sense of smell 600 times more acute than ours. They can effectively smell in 3D. So why do they have to shove their nose directly into whatever it is they are trying to smell, i.e. up another dog's arse?

Surely they could savour the aroma of dog ring from the luxury of several yards away, possibly while reclining on a chaise lounge.

I think they are just peverse.

Thursday

Zen 792: Jonah Lomu - a compilation of the human wrecking ball's greatest hits in two parts

There has arguably been no single player who has has a more immediate, defining and explosive impact on the game than Lomu. Here, in two parts, is a compilation of him pulverising his way to the tryline against the best opposition the world had to offer. Thrill as he greases Australians, carries six gang-tackling Frenchmen unassisted and treats England's Mike Catt as a speed bump on his way to yet another unstoppable, emphatic score.

Question is, how does an international side boasting such a gargantuan, free-roaming monster fail to win the World Cup? Because, unhappily for Lomu, that side was the New Zealand All Blacks. Something stuck in your throat chaps? It's just you always seem to be choking...



Zen 791: The world's oldest cheerleader - inspirational stuff

One day, Laura Vikmanis, a curiously orange woman with a voice bootlegged from a Barbie cartoon, decided she wanted to be a cheerleader. But wait! Laura was in her forties, at least 20 years past the point at which most cheerleaders are culled. Had she lost her mind? No. She had Gained Her Self Respect.

There's an important lesson to be learned here. No matter what age you are, you're never too old to do something meaningless with your life. You go girl! old lady!

Watch Laura's inspiring story below. It's clearly a left-handed upload from some obsessive fan who's taped the audio off the TV using two cans and a piece of string. There's a cleaner edit on Yahoo News, but then you'd have to sit through all their shitty adverts as well as wasting two minutes of your life listening to some bint explain how she's making Mary Wollstonecraft spin in her grave.



HOTTT! presumably explains her funny colour.

Zen 790: Falcon Heavy - the world's biggest rocket

I'm not sure what I love more - the idea that we're building the biggest munting great rockets since Saturn V ("thrust equivalent to 15 747s at full power") or the high testosterone cock rock stylings of the promo video.

Zen 789: Old lady crashes Armenia

A 75-year-old woman out scavenging for copper took out Armenia's Internet yesterday by cutting into fibre optic cables.

She's been sent home pending charges. You will be pleased to hear that Armenia is now back online.




Wednesday

Zen 788: Holy crap, Big Brother is back

Just in case an entire decade of intellectually stunted, socially inept exhibitionists wasn't enough, Channel 5 has bought another two seasons of Big Brother.

"We aim to bring Channel 5's energy, optimism and vibrancy to the series," says Jeff Ford, the channel's director of programmes, which means they are going to take it downmarket, if such a thing is humanly possible.

Everyone is said to be "hugely excited".

Everyone except for perhaps me, who would rather drive nails into my own face than waste endless hours of my life listening to a barn full of witless meat puppets in whore clothing swapping tedious anecdotes about their pointless and miserable lives to a backdrop of inane bitch fighting and knuckledragging posturing before the inevitable controversy in which one of them lets something particularly hateful and moronic fall out of their faces in the form of words and it all ends in a lurid cavalcade of redtop revelations and other weapons of mass stupidity.

Davina McCall probably won't be returning. "I don't think I'll go back to it. I think I've said goodbye," she says, while simultaneously thinking "I think I'd better get onto my agent/accountant and see what they think." Go on Davina. You're worth it.

The one bright note in this horrifying new multimedia development is that at least with it being on Channel Five you know they won't be taking anything good off the air to make room for it in the schedule.



Big Brother mashup courtesy of Cassetteboy.


Zen 787: It ain't over 'til it's over - an object lesson for all budding sportsmen

If you have kids who are interested in sport, they should see this video. In my experience, children as young as five or six are mimicking the funny dances, ass-slapping and general showboating of the modern sporting professional.

Even previously sensible sports like rugby union and motor racing have experienced sudden and cringeworthy outbreaks of hugging, kissing and generalised homoerotic frotting. There's a time and a place for that sort of thing, if it floats your boat. One point ahead with 15 minutes to go isn't it.

Keep your eye on the ball. Play to the whistle. Celebrate when the game is won.


Tuesday

Zen 786: Clegg on his face

No, not an allusion to some seedy goings on from the annals of Westminster School, but a grim imprecation to be careful what you wish for.

A year ago, Nick Clegg was the Billy Shiny Bollocks of British politics. Now he's the poor, accident-prone schmuck they wheel out to make everyone else in government look halfway competent.

Take his latest escapade. What possessed a man who owed at least one if not all three of his banking internships to daddy's well-heeled chums to have a pop at wealthy 'sharp elbowed' parents hoovering up internships for their chinless, misbegotten offspring?

On the plus side, he does lend a lighter note to this mirthless era of grinding austerity politics. It's a lot of fun watching a man whose political career was forged in the hot furnace of unbearably smug sanctimony faced with the horrifying realisation that he is now being held to account for all that glib la-la bullshit he trotted out when he thought he never stood a cat in hell's chance of ever having to come good on it.


Zen 785: Singaporean solider sorry for getting his maid to carry his backpack

This is the story that has sparked something of a debate in Singapore about whether or not their military is tough enough for the job. The wafty Johnny pictured here has only gone and got his maid to lug his pack while he walks along looking up cupcake recipes on his Hello Kitty smartphone.

Apparently the maid doesn't mind, but Singapore's senior brass does.

"The recruit is remorseful for his actions and realises that it was wrong for him to have allowed this," says spokesman Colonel Desmond Tan.

So what heinous retribution do they have lined up for him? A log run in his skimpies? A thousand press-ups with full pack? Eight straight hours of sentry duty holding his rifle above his head?

Errr, no. He received counselling. Poor lamb.

Zen 784: See, I think the cat shows admirable restraint...

... then the bird gets what's coming to it. There's a metaphor in there somewhere. Maybe they could use this as a psychological test to work out if you're a hippy*.



* You're a hippy.

Monday

Zen 783: Ha ha ha! Your geoid looks like a potato!

What shape is planet Earth? It's a sphere, right? Well not exactly. OK, so it's a bit flatter at the poles and bulges in the middle. An oblate spheroid? That's a better approximation, but still not accurate. Ah, so you mean you want to include all the lumps and bumps, like mountain ranges, deep ocean trenches, land masses, etc? Not exactly.

The world, as it turns out, is geoid-shaped. The geoid is probably best described as Earth's 'true surface' - what it would be if the oceans were allowed to run free without land, currents or wind getting in the way. A map of the geoid would be irregular but very smooth, with the same gravitational potential at every point.

If you know what your geoid looks like, you can establish a universal system for the height of everything on Earth. And if you know that, you can do things like measure very accurately how much ice we're actually losing from major ice sheets, or figure out how the oceans distribute heat around the globe. And if you know that, you can better understand how our climate works, and a bunch of other clever stuff to boot.

So how do you measure your geoid? Two years ago, the European Space Agency launched the Goce satellite, the vanguard of an exciting new programme of Earth observation. Goce, which (sort of) stands for 'Gravity Field and Steady-state Ocean Circulation Explorer', carries a set of incredibly sensitive instruments that have done exactly that, and the YouChoob video below is a highly exaggerated view. Yellow is strongest gravity, blue is weakest. The universe is just amazing.





What Goce does, from ESA's YouTube channel. Weird soundtrack and no commentary, but the animations might be helpful.


Zen 782: If you want to know what Michael Jackson looks like depicted as a Jeff Koons sex doll...

At the weekend, Mohammed Al Fayed unveiled a wonderfully, hideously kitsch statue of Michael Jackson outside Fulham FC. To be fair, Jackson did attend a single game at Craven Cottage as a guest of the Phoney Pharaoh but that can hardly be taken as justification for honouring him on a patch you'd expect to be reserved for one of the greats from the club's past.


[Insert obligatory gag about Fulham not having any greats, hence requiring statue of Michael Jackson to fill the void. You have to know football better than I do to pull that sort of stuff off.]

It might not be as bad if the thing didn't look like a sex doll designed by a drunk Jeff Koons.

The launch was accompanied by a press blitz of toadies and lickspittles who poured praise on their chairman's latest benefaction. Al Fayed himself, ever a man with tin ear for public opinion, said of Jackson: "He loved Fulham and wanted to attend all the matches."

Maybe in the funny little fantasy world inside your head Mohammed. Call me cynical, but odds are the poor, deluded, wannabe-albino, sedative addicted boy-child thing was too busy riding his candy wagon with Bubbles and inviting six year olds for dodgy sleepovers to seriously consider a season ticket to one of London's less illustrious Premiership clubs.

To say fans were sceptical is a slight understatement. The words 'laughing stock', 'monstrosity' and 'total fucking disgrace' were bandied about, and that was the printable stuff.

Of the detractors, Al Fayed said: "If some stupid fans don't understand and appreciate such a gift this guy gave to the world they can go to hell."

I give it a week before someone cuts the head off and chucks it in the Thames.

Sunday

Zen 781: The Fat Question on this year's census

Filling out the census. Thing Two asks what I'm doing. I tell her.

She says: "Don't forget, when you get to the question about being fat, answer 'yes'."

Slightly offended, but great sledging for a five year old.

Saturday

Zen 780: Gmail Motion - OMG! It's like a cross between email and Kinect ... amazing



Google are well-known merry pranksters come 1 April and the funny japes that come out of their hive mind are given that little extra frisson of really? by the possibility that they really might, one day, come up with something this ridiculous.More likely Microsoft, but Google have had their fair share of mad moments.

Nice gag, but as so often happens it's the You Tube commenters who provide the real punchline.

"gmial motion is for retards. Can you imagine sitting (or in this case standing) in front of your dest at work and doing all those stupid motions to reply one person. My boss for instance receives on average 400 emails per day so by that time she handle all of them she will be completely dead... I have never seen more stupid and useless idea"

Good job you're not a retard, buddy!

Friday

Zen 779: Awesome Blitzkrieg/beer pong trick

I'm pretty certain there's no dodgy editing going on here. The reactions seem pretty natural and he looks genuinely stoked to get the full house. Sweet trick.

Zen 778: Libyan rebels UR doin it wrong

And so the ping-pong conflict in Libya continues, as first the rebels gain the upper hand, then the Empire regime strikes back. Libya is a big place but not much lives beyond the 80 miles from the coast, so it really is a one-road war if your sole aim is to control the centres of population. The only reason the rest of Libya is of any interest at all is because that's where all the oil is. Which does make it quite interesting, but not in a hearts-and-minds kind of way.

Fair to say that arming the rebels would nonetheless be a bad idea. They don't know what to do with the weapons they have, beyond the traditional 'spray and pray' approach beloved of soon-to-be-dead revolutionaries the world over.

Of the fight in Libya, the recent comments of senior defector Major General Mahmoud Suleiman say it all: "We know how to die. We need to die for our country, for our people."

No. No you don't. The point is not to die for your cause, but to make sure your enemy dies for his, and to arrange the appointment at his soonest convenience. This is the fundamental difference in attitude between a professional modern army and a rag tag collection of idealists with guns.

I'd hazard that every single British soldier in a combat situation has two aims. First, is to achieve his objectives while killing as many of the bad guys as he can. Second is make sure that at the end of the fight, him and his mates are able to walk out on their own two feet. That takes training, discipline and tradition, none of which Libya's enthusiastic amateurs have the time or opportunity to accrue.

What the Libyan rebels really need is for someone to go in and win the war for them, but the West's days of casual adventurism are clearly over. So instead of piling in and finishing the thing for the side we want to win, we're content to sit on the sidelines, tentatively nudging the rebels to eventual victory, or uneasy stalemate, whichever comes first.



Zen 777: I'm gonna git me a Fat Ho ... ... ... ... burger

I love this story. A young lady from Texas called Lakita Evans has set up her own burger joint and called it the Fat Ho. This has caused a bit of a stir in the hyper conservative locale, giving the local TV news an excuse to do one of their wry and comedic 'And finally...' reports (see below). Nobody on God's green Earth does comic timing like an American local news reporter.

Lakita thinks people need to lighten up a bit and thought the name would deliver the sort of good natured badinage that she wants to see more of in the world. The extensive menu of homemade burgers includes the Super Fly Ho, the Sloppy Ho and - my favourite - the Bad Mammajamma. And, damn, they look good.

Not only that, but the choice of name has delivered a monster marketing coup. If I ever end up in Waco (presumably on some sort of Branch Davidian greatest hits tour) I'm gonna git me one o' them Supa Dupa Fly Ho burgers with cheese and ALL the fixin's.



Zen 776: Annoying Balls

Irrespective of your opinion of David Cameron, I sympathise. Ed Balls is definitely very high on the annoying spectrum, somewhere in the red zone between despicable and loathsome. But what's really lovely about this clip is seeing the bloated, bog-eyed twat colour up when his number gets called.