Monthly Archives: March 2010

The Imaginarium of Dr Ianassus

I’d like to take you on another journey into the world of imagination, if I may be so bold. Make sure your expectations are ready for this, as it may well just blow your brainbox out of your noggin.

Think of the greatest dance your tiny mind can possibly fathom, then multiply its coolness by a factor of approximately 1.28 billion. There you have a near-exact measurement of how utterly cool the imaginary dance was that this person – who is all in your head – would be doing. Think of moving like a raptor, bobbing the head like an inquisitive sparrow, making some fabulous down-pointing jazz hands and walking about like Hunter S Thompson. That’s as close a description as you could get to this fabled dance. If you were to see it, your eyes would explode with delight and your heart would exit through your mouth, ready to travel the world and tell everyone of what it had experienced.

But it isn’t a dance alone that could make this scene, no. For a dance to be real – for it to have more than just a passing resemblance to a series of rhythmic spasms it needs music. So imagine the above-described dance set to the wonderful, unforgettable signature tune of Figrin D’an and the Modal Nodes. Don’t know it by mention? Observe (with your ears):

For the third section of imagining, you will need to picture the person (or thing) carrying out this dance, to this music, saying something along the lines of “it would look strange if someone walked in now”. This line would have to immediately be followed by the door to the room this is all taking place in opening, and a befuddled old woman popping her head around the corner before exclaiming “oh! This is the wrong room!” You would then have to imagine the people in the room – both dancer and their accomplice – laughing so hard they cried.

Hard as it may be to believe, this imaginary land was actually my bedroom about an hour ago, the fabled dance/song/interruption-after-stating-how-weird-an-interruption-would-be were all very, very real and – most shockingly of all – the person carrying out the wonderful dance wasn’t myself. She is Swiss, and claims never to dance. We now have two people who have seen her doing that which she claims not to do.

All together now: doo do doo do do do doo do doo do do do do do do do doo doo, do do do do do do do do do doo doo do do do do do do…


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CERN, ending the world and laughing about it on Twitter

So they did it – the maniacs really did it. They turned on that giant party ring and blasted some shit quite quickly while the world sat around picking their arse and pretending to do something worthwhile. I am, of course, talking about Ricky Martin coming out as a big gay gay gay.

Oh ho ho – your expectations were confounded and from thence the humour arose. No, silly, I’m on about the CERN hadro-ultra-collide-o-tron-thing, of course. I’m amazed that I’ve been able to follow the massive haddock smasher live, as it happens, in my own time. Yes, kids – I’ve finally had an epiphany about why Twitter is really bloody good. I’ve been using it a while and I do get it – a bit – but I’ve never seen any real use for the thing bar random, pointless updates and the ability to get a response out of a celebrity (which makes you feel far better than it should – thanks, David Schneider). So it’s good to finally see a real use for the thing.

This Twitter thing meant we were all able to follow the progress on what our caveman gut reaction told us would abso-defi-lutely be the end of the world as we know it. We could all talk to each other throughout the process, exclaiming in a half-joking fashion that we were about to hide under the table from whatever impending doom the super colander brought about. We were also able to form humourous tweets about what the CERN updates were saying. For example, from my chum Rich: “RT @CERN We’d like to be the first to welcome our Benefactors.” (if you don’t know Half Life, you don’t get it. Move along.)

What this all means is – aside from the huge leap for science today has (probably) taken – thanks to the modern world and the way things is be need be are be, we were able to witness something huge taking place as it happened. We were able to witness it in 140-characters or less. And we were able to take the piss out of it as and when it happened. This has happened before, but this has to be the first time a scientific event of this magnitude has been welcomed with an immediate chorus of pure, distilled comedy.

I love the modern world.

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The law is hilarious

Picture the scene: you’re a bit of a dimwit (by all (one) accounts) and have been done for warring with your neighbours. You have done the classic Hal manoeuvre from Malcolm in the Middle of putting down your own home-made speed bumps, in order to slow down your speeding neighbour. You have also been involved in a bit of fisticuffs with the very same neighbour. So it comes as no surprise that you are slapped with the Queen’s favourite crime deterrent – an ASBO.

But this isn’t any anti-social behaviour order – no, this ASBO is filled with magical pixie dust that makes it able to stop you from doing some truly heinous things. This is an ASBO preventing you from ‘staring at people’. It stops you from ‘engaging in slow hand claps at the actions of others’. It denies you your god-given right to ‘wave objects at people’ or ‘adopt a menacing stance at anyone’. Most importantly of all, though, this ASBO makes it illegal under the terms of the order for you to ‘laugh at anyone’ within your local council’s jurisdiction area.

You have been legally banned from staring, clapping, waving, standing in certain ways and laughing. LAUGHING. You have become another victim of the system, which seeks to hunt down and ban anything and everything that could ever be seen as offensive or insulting towards another person. No longer can you engage in staring competitions with people, sarcastically clap as your friend messes up the most basic of actions or laugh at the very same friend when he follows up his lack of ability with a basic lack of motor functions. You didn’t even fight the law, but the law won.

On one hand, I find this scenario incredibly frightening. I’m not one to shout from the rooftops of ‘political correctness gone mad’ (as I happen to like treating people fairly and eliminating racial epithets from everyday use – call me old fashioned) nor do I honestly fear the increasing control exerted by the state (concerned, yes – fear? No). On the other hand, this is one of the most downright silly and utterly pointless wastes of time imaginable.

As silly as this all may be, for all I know the guy could be a bit of a mentalist, hence the order. He might not be, though, and instead could just be the victim of some batshit insane magistrate’s handing this nonsense out.

Oh, did I forget to mention this is all real?

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Who is The Stig? I mean, no one cares, but still.

I’m watching Top Gear. It’s either a repeat or they enjoy wearing poppies all year because they’re so British. Anyway, I initially intended to write up some kind of hilarious critique of the programme, as is my wont. But no, I can’t be bothered, so I’ll do some witty, clever and altogether cutting-edge speculation on who The Stig may well be. That stuff is still in the news, right? No? Oh bollocks to it, I’m not changing my mind. So who might The Stig be? Let’s see my suggestions:

1. The Queen. Never seen them in the same place, both vying for the position of national treasure, both have a penchant for anonymity. It just makes sense.

2. Will Young. Because he’s on the telly right now. It just makes sense.

3. Jeremy Clarkson. The ultimate curveball would be for the giant, oafish idiot (who I still have a soft spot for) turning out to be the man he introduces every week. You wouldn’t expect it, and it would mean Clarkson is actually a foot shorter, meaning he’s been wearing stilts all of his career. Now that’s commitment to a lie. It just makes sense.

4. Frederic Vester. The Stig’s first appearance was November 2, 2003. Frederic Vester “died” the very same day. A German science chap who had an interest in cybernetics, thus meaning his “death” could actually have been the cover for him performing the ultimate experiment on himself. The Stig is in fact a heavily cybernetic-augmented Frederic Vester. It just makes sense.

5. The 9/11 hijackers. Already embroiled in many conspiracy theories of their own, is it really that far out to think the men who disappeared after crashing the planes on September 11 actually escaped to take up residence as the BBC’s finest time trial drivers? It just makes sense.

6. Me. I “can’t” “drive”. I am “not” “on” “TV”. I am “not” “The” “Stig”. Look, the evidence just mounts up here. I just make sense.

Don’t we all feel like we’ve grown today, and definitely like we haven’t just wasted our time reading a complete non-blog.


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San Diego: the definitive review (7/10)

The final stop on my tour of the Americas (North. And not really a tour, more just a few stops) took me to San Diego. Let’s hand over to Ron Burgundy: “Discovered by the Germans in 1904, they named it San Diego, which of course in German means a whale’s vagina.And it’s hard not see that influence wherever you go – even the shape of the roads makes reference to this fact, so it’s certainly an interesting city to take a look-o-tour of.

Driving through the city and its outskirts made me realise that there are some rather ridiculous houses in this part of the US, and that every single one of them is stupid, flat and boxy. And around half of them are shiny. Oh, and there was a massive church on the way to our destination that was utterly, utterly ridiculous in its size and displayed an abhorrent flaunting of wealth on the part of the god botherers in charge of it. So you lose points there, DEE AH GO.

Picking up most (read: all) of your experience of a city through the windows of a car and the sanctity of a hotel balcony/poolside may form a rather skewed opinion of the place, mind you. Full disclosure: most (read: all) of my experience of San Diego was through the windows of a car and the sanctity of a hotel balcony/poolside. Read (most: all) into that what you will.

In summation: San Diego is a city entirely comprised of roads, swimming pools and tanning tourists. There is table service by over-eager waiters in approximately 50 per cent of the places you go and the others will simply provide a buffet (with pulled pork mini-burgers, natch). It also has an airport.

You stay classy, San Diego.


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Virgin Atlantic: an apology

I would like to offer my sincerest apologies to Virgin Atlantic, after they put me in my place yesterday/today on our flight from LA to Heathrow. You see, I was under the impression that they were a capable, functional carrier, offering an efficient, modern service. As such, it is my duty as a man of (supposed) integrity to offer a full, frank and complete apology to the company, as my 11-hour-plus experience with them taught me they are very much nothing of the sort.

After a flight out with Air Canada – on which I assumed we would be flying with moose-skin suits and all the flight attendants would be mounties – I had already been surprised by how really bloody good it all was. I am quite tall – about 6′ 3″ – and yet I fit in the economy-class seats rather comfortably. The food was decent if not special, they gave us ice cream randomly at one point and service was constantly going up and down the aisles, making sure we were well-catered for. Oh, and the movie/TV selection was quite good.

So when your colleagues say they are “looking forward” to flying Virgin as by all accounts they are a “great” service, you can understand my dismay on boarding the fucking shanty plane they had sent out to fly us over. Apparently it was an Airbus A340, which was 10 better than Air Canada’s effort. But apparently-also, the A340 Virgin operates doesn’t bother with any kind of modernisation. Or basic, human comfort, for that matter. I’m not small, but I’m not an American-fatty. As such, I really shouldn’t have to squeeze into my seat. I understand leg room is a bit of a complaint on a lot of flights, but I had not encountered a problem in any of the four prior journeys – including one on a plane smaller than my thumb – until boarding the Virgin flight. Being cramped is something I am willing to put up with – it’s punishment for me being so tall (and awesome). But on an 11-hour flight it’s just a piss-take.

I could go on. And I will.

See, it’s one thing to be cramped owing to a plane design that doesn’t offer adequate space for customers with less money than the others. It’s a whole other thing to have that combined with a fat, stinking woman next to you who falls asleep completely underneath a blanket (face and all) and then ends up taking up half of your seat. I can only apologise to the little Mexican/American girl next to me who had to endure my leaning away and growling at the fat piece of crap. I think I still have the delicious tang of mustiness on my breath, actually. A genuine cattle carriage, it was.

But hey, you can always amuse yourself on a plane by looking out of the window and seeing sights the human eye was never meant to see. Except for the fact that my view only stretched so far as the toilets on either side. Why not try looking forward and watching the world (on a plane) go by? Ah, view blocked by a bulkhead. See, in stadium situations, seats like this are cheaper than the norm. In Virgin Atlantic situations, they are the same price as any other Economy-class ticket. Make them cheaper, point out to people you can only see the embarrassed look on a girl’s face after she’s clearly been for a massive dump and left a huge queue of people waiting outside (instead of the Rockies, for example) and you would get people happily snapping them up and avoiding all complaints. But hey, they’re here to make money, right?

So instead I could just watch a film on the headrest TV unit – a selection of a few dozen recent releases, some classics and a few dozen TV shows on top of that means the hours should fly by. Except for one minor drawback: every single movie and TV show I tried to watch would not work, and it would instead show me a random clip of the Sandra Bullock film The Blind Side. I wanted to watch The Simpsons, or Peep Show, or even sodding Family Guy. I did not want to watch Sandra Bullock in The Blind Side, Oscar or no. I would have watched something on my laptop, but it had ran out of battery. Though this wasn’t a problem on Air Canada, as their seats have plug sockets in them. But hey – we’re British, we don’t conform to fucking common sense, right?

Even the food was stereotypically shite, again being put to shame by the Canucks. And there was no ice cream.

So, just to reiterate: I am sorry Virgin Atlantic. Sorry for thinking you could be anything other than an utter, complete and total failure. Next time try crashing – put me out of my fucking misery.


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San Francisco: the definitive review (7/10)

This was meant to go up yesterday? Today? I don’t know when. Yesterday, I think. But it seems the glare of the sun around poolside in San Diego meant I missed clicking the ‘publish’ button. There will be another entry, for today, shortly.

The second destination on my whistle-stop rock lord megatour of North America led our party to San Francisco. Or, as the locals call it: “El Hillo Liberalo”. But what did I think of the place I have cunningly entitled “The City I Can’t Come Up With A Stupid Nickname For, Apart From The One I Just Used Before”? Read on, oh readist.

I am from a small town in the north of England. It is surrounded by fields, woodlands and other such countryish stuff. It is small, and most people know the business of each other. Where I live now isn’t much better, to be honest. San Francisco is one of those American places that has really big buildings and stuff*, so it was a little bit overwhelming for my tiny mind. Still, with the help of those more experienced in its ways I managed to go on one of the trams without falling off and/or dying. I did get told off by the driver though.

San Francisco is hilly. These hills were actually invented by Mormon invaders in the 1880s, after they were insulted by the original inhabitants of the city: people called Francisco McSansan. These hills were put there solely to annoy people, but over the last three years have taken on a whole new identity with both locals and visitors to the large town, turning into more of a character-building element and something people call “an interesting thing about the city”.

Anyway, I was impressed with what San Francisco had to offer. It was suitably American, pleasant, had good food (especially pizza) and some of the most creative tramps I’ve ever seen. While it was disappointing to find the seals had buggered off somewhere else, those remaining were comical enough to raise a smile. Also (we didn’t go there, but still) Alcatraz is terrifying.


*Full disclosure: I’d never been to the US before this trip.

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