Friday, March 28, 2008

Toytown’s Defiance Of The Laws Of Physics

This morning’s episode of Make Way For Noddy depicted a scenario where Toytown was devoid of all colour after a magic spell had been cast, reducing the normally colourful conurbation to black and white. In order to restore the myriad hues to this monochrome world, Noddy and his friend, Tessie Bear, took to the skies in Noddy’s plane, and scooped colour in a bucket from a convenient rainbow. The contents were then sprinkled over the town below which promptly reappeared in all its vibrancy.

I wasted no time in informing our spellbound three-year-old that such actions were impossible, and that a rainbow is nothing more than an optical and meteorological phenomenon whereby an arc of prismatic colours is manifested when our nearest star shines onto droplets of moisture in the Earth's atmosphere. Ergo, collecting them in a bucket is just fanciful nonsense, not to mention the questionable logistics of using an high-velocity aircraft to do so.

I also took the opportunity to inform him that bears can’t talk (let alone forge close friendships with humans) and there’s no such thing as magic.

I like to think I’ve equipped him with factual information which will stand him in good stead later in life. I also intend to write a stiff letter of complaint to the show’s producers querying their gross innacuracies. As for entrusting a small boy the piloting of a plane – that’s just irresponsible.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Easter Feast

It's Easter in a few days. Hoorah! Time to limber up for a choc-fest feeding frenzy and not even think about work for four days (as opposed to the usual two). Oh, and celebrate the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ of course, who emerged from a giant egg-like tomb on the fourth day, and ascended heavenwards dressed as a giant bunny. Or something.

Like all Christian holibobs, the origins have now been largely superseded by the event (Christmas is obviously a more extreme example). Ask any schoolkid what Easter means to them, and they’ll start drooling about chocolate and palling at the thought of freezing-cold bank holiday trips to the seaside etc. It’s pretty much only toothy Christians and TV executives (who will no doubt run a documentary or two on the decline of the role of the church in modern society) who serve to remind people of the true meaning of Easter, and why they’re eating ovoid cocoa products and wearing hats with baby chickens on them.

I might give off the opinion that I don’t have much time for organised religion. It’s true that religion, in its many forms, has been responsible for all manner of ills throughout recorded history – when ardent believers start blasting holes in each other, calling round my house at 9 o’clock on a Sunday morning proffering copies of Watchtower, or indeed start crucifying deluded individuals who think they’re some kind of earthly deity, it fails to enrich global society and advance mankind’s understanding of himself and the world he lives in.

Still, as long as there’s chocolate in it at the end of the day, I’m prepared to cut them some slack. You’ve got to take the (Green & Black’s) rough with the (Galaxy) smooth I suppose.

It’s Behind You

When looking at photos I always look beyond the smiling faces of those immortalised on celluloid at what’s going on in the background. Often this is far more interesting as it reveals all sorts of stuff about the circumstances in which the photo was taken and provides a natural snapshot of time that’s all the better for being unposed and (and for the most part disregarded) by whoever took the photo.

The reverse of the dust jacket for the adult version of the latest Harry Potter depicts the obligatory black and white photo of the author standing in front of his/her bookcase, and an examination of the contents of the bookshelf itself reveals a right old mixed bag of non-fictional fruit and literary nuts.

There’s a mix of classics, modernist and contemporary, from the letters of Jane Austen to Joyce’s Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and even Sue Townsend’s Adrian Mole diaries. Other volumes include a collection of Agatha Christie, a Trollope and a Peter Cook.

Vladimir Nabokov also features (the title isn’t quite clear, but it’s probably not Lolita as I doubt the publishers wouldn’t want that on the back of one of the best-selling children’s books of all time), as does Freud: even schoolboy psychoanalysts can read a wealth of meaning into wand-waving and invisibility cloaks. There’s also a strange lesbian section including The Ladies of Llangollen, and Radclyffe Hall’s The Well of Loneliness. The rest of the titles are too unclear.

JK stands proudly in front of all this looking just a little bit smug, which she’s fully entitled to be given that she’s worth a mint. It’s strange to think that the people she’s inspired to be writers will one day be standing in front of their bookcases on the dust jackets of their own publications, possibly with a copy or two of her stories visible behind them.

Friday, March 14, 2008

As American As Tree Potato Pie

Potatoes. Or pommes de terre as the French call them which translates into something like ‘apples from the ground’. Elsewhere in Europe, the Dutch call them aardappels (literally, earth apples). There are probably more but this is where my polyglotism ends and I haven’t got time to Google it.

This has always struck me as odd as barring a vaguely similar crunchy texture, potatoes aren’t green, sweet or likely to keep doctors away. The French/Dutch must have eaten some pretty ropey apples in order to draw a comparison between them and the muddy hunks of irregular root they dug up and decided to munch. (Adopt Dutch accent: “Heng on cheps, these rooty things have the tixture and taste of epples, but grow underground. Therefore we shall call them earth epples.”)

In moments of idle speculation I wonder: if they’d been familiar with spuds before discovered the palatability of apples, would apples now be called tree potatoes?

If Only They’d Opened A Window…

To bastardise a much-quoted philosophical question: if a lath and plaster ceiling in the living room of a 1930’s semi- falls off and smashes to the floor, and there’s no-one around to hear it, does it make a noise? I know it’s meant to be one of those unanswerable conundrums, though I’d hazard a guess at yes.

Sadly, a large chunk of our living room ceiling is no more as it recently crashed carpetward in spectacular fashion creating a huge mess (thankfully, no-one was in the room at the time). In much the same way as the meteorite that killed off the dinosaurs, the atmosphere was filled with fine dust particles which reduced the regular stream of photons streaming through available windows to a hazy few. The problem was immediately solved though by opening several of them (windows, not photons). If only the dinosaurs had thought of that they may have survived the impact, but then again, they had tiny brains and probably just ran around freaking out and shitting their scaly pants.

Unfortunately for all but a few terrible lizards, they were doomed and the world of mammals was allowed to rise and flourish to the point where one particular ape would develop into a creature able to tame fire, form complex societies, and invent important things like stone tools, the wheel and Kenwood pasta makers. It’s strange to think that if dinosaurs had survived we’d be the inheritors of their reptilian genes and would all look like characters in Dinosaurs. Probably… Even so though, I reckon even the worst modern-day dinosaur plasterer would have made a better job of doing our ceiling than the last opposably-thumbed cowboy ape that did it.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008


Britain, apparently, sends one billion texts a week (a swift pounding of the buttons on my calculator reveals this to be around 17 per person). This seems high to me as I seldom send texts, though I‘m sure some spotty nimble-fingered teenager is gleefully making up the numbers.

I don’t much like texting, primarily due to my inability to write succinctly and unwillingness to abbreviate. Antidisestablishmentarianism would cost 10p on its own, while tintinnabulations, floccinaucinihilipilification and other wordage of the sort which used to generate enormous word scores on Catchword* would leave scant space for horrible hybrid number/letter compound wordage such as “C U l8er gr8 m8!” etc.” Urgh…

But then maybe I’m a Luddite, or old. Or both.

* Catchword was a late ‘80s teatime gameshow presented by Paul Coia and is not to be confused with Catchphrase hosted by Roy “Riiiiiiiiight!” Walker. It consisted of word-play in a sub-Countdown sort of way with a bargain-bin set and a noteable absence of Mr Chips. In one particularly unfair round, contestants were tasked with coming up with as many words as possible from a random selection of three letters. Invariably, the first contestant would get letters like S N G and reel off a list of 20 words (singing, slaughtering, sleeping etc.), while his opponent would get a bastard selection of letters like B Z J and spend an uncomfortable 30 seconds sweating like a boxer with the camera looming in for a close-up on his red glistening face while his blood pressure swelled to bursting point.

The prize for winning was a dictionary.