Tuesday, July 21, 2009

“I’ll have a pee please, Bob.”

The differences between the sexes is well documented (predominantly in emails which periodically pepper inboxes with titles like Why men are crap and 100 shitty chat-up lines and 100 witty ripostes to 100 shitty chat up lines etc. These usually arrive with such proliferation it’s almost as if email itself was invented as a vehicle to convey anti-male sentiments by dreary imbeciles reliant on similarly comedically-challenged individuals to tell them what’s funny. But I digress…) For all the physiological and emotional differences, there’s one which I find particularly baffling: namely, the ability to pee on demand.

Now, I’m an average bloke. I might urinate, three, or perhaps four times a day, depending on the volume I imbibe and my body’s ability to strip it of its nutritional value and expel the yellowy stuff it doesn’t need. I think this is typical of chaps: when we need to go, we go. When we don’t, we can’t. Femalekind, however, is a very different kettle of proverbials.

The reason it’s recently caught my attention is that we’re in the process of potty training our two-year-old. She’s actually doing very well indeed and appears to have got the hang of it pretty swiftly. This could be something to do with the fact that she knows she’ll be rewarded by encouraging cheers of delight and general whooping sounds every time she produces something. On receiving these, she’s beside herself with glee.

To keep the parental delight coming therefore, she’s able to generate something what seems like every few minutes: more wee equals more praise which, in turn, equals more endorphins coursing through her tiny frame making her feel happy. The fact she’s able to do this at will though, isn’t unusual. Any female can do this. Take, for example, a doctor’s request for a urine sample. Personally, unless it falls into my four-hourly cycle as described above, Doc could be in for a very long wait, though any woman is able to produce something seemingly out of thin air. Long car journeys are another example. Women can generally ‘strain the greens’ before getting into the car whether they need to go or not, though blokes will cheerfully sit in a car for hours without feeling the urge.

There may be an evolutionary reason for this mysterious ability. Perhaps, on making the long journey out of Africa, it prevented our nomadic ancient ancestors from having to stop every five minutes to find a convenient shrub, thereby keeping them from the clutches of long-grass-dwelling predators. It probably didn’t impact other elements of the journey though which remain hereditary to this day: “Brake! You’re walking too fast!”, “I told you we should have turned right back there.” “I’m sure I’ve forgotten something…”, “Did I leave the grill on?” etc. Ho, ho!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

“I Scream, You Scream…”

The quality of music these days is amazing: ga-zillion track studios record each instrument with crystal clarity before mashing it all together into a format compatible with a device of your choice. Every genre and taste is catered for – digitally reproduced and delivered earwards to be experienced exactly as the artist intended.

There’s one remaining outpost of music though which has remained unchanged for decades.

When I was a kid, I remember the excitement generated by Mr Whippy’s ice cream van as it chugged apologetically into our street, the arrival of which was announced by a tinkly-tonkly Bontempi cacophony of Beethoven’s Für Elise (which no doubt would have caused Ludwig to turn in his grave with such rapidity, it ironically could have been used as an ice cream churn). The clanging ting-a-linging was often set to a frequency so piercing, our ears would bleed, drizzling down T-shirts like the strawberry sauce atop the ice creams we’d cheerfully ram into our faces.

Thirty years later, ice cream vans sound exactly the same. What’s that all about? True, the vans themselves haven’t really changed much either, though I can’t believe that they’re all the same ones I got so excited about when I was in short trousers. There must be a factory tucked away somewhere where an army of workers, probably dressed in seventies clothes, manufacture not only the vehicles, but the recordings to be bolted onto the top of them. How do they choose the music? Why hasn’t it changed?

Personally, I like the sound of ice cream vans – purely based on nostalgia and the imminent possibility of a ‘99’. It’s true that they’re about as tuneful as a tanked-up Quasimodo in a bell shop, but I’m not sure I like the thought of Mr Whippy merely plugging in his i-Pod, and delivering a symphony of lighthearted classical tunes with sharp digital precision to alert kids as to his whereabouts. It wouldn’t be right.

As an aside, there used to be three vans working our ‘hood, the most popular of which was the aforementioned Mr Whippy. In my naïve, pre-brand-awareness days, I remember thinking how appropriate it was that his name was Mr Whippy and he sold ice cream (how could he sell anything but?) I probably thought he spent his evenings with Mr Kipling and Dr Pepper chewing the fat and munching confectionery. Happy days.

Thank God For Lightearted News Stories

Now, I'm having a particularly shitty day today, which seems to heighten my sense of schadenfreude. Perhaps cruelly this made me laugh.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Shrouded In Mystery

Typical sensationalist documentary on telly the other day, narrated by Sean Pertwee whose gruffly-sombre overtones could make CBeebies sound like The Evil Dead.

The Da Vinci Shroud (Channel 5 - who else?) purported that the Turin Shroud, famously denounced as a fraudulent holy relic when it was carbon dated a few years ago, was produced using a camera obscura by none other than heretical genius, and all-round medieval man-of-mystery, Leonardo Da Vinci himself.


There was actually some tenuous evidence for this which had been inflated in a recent book by a couple of hairy sub-prime academics. You’ve got to wonder though whether it was just another example of inserting Leonardo’s name to a subject to give it a bit of topical clout. For anyone looking for add some conspiratorial gravitas to their latest book/film/TV programme/dance routine/puppet show, all that’s required is to add the words “Da Vinci” to the title, and hey presto! Instant intrigue!

The programme did end with a bit of a cliffhanger though: despite managing to uncover who made it and how they did it, the identity of the man it depicts remains a mystery.

Not a problem as far as I’m concerned. I think I’ve cracked it. Click below.