Thursday, 22 August 2013


OK, so I'm guessing that most of you know of my Dad, be it through his shenanigans where sub-zero avian vermin are concerned, or his stories of life as a Sergeant in the RAF.

He's incredibly self-sufficient, not just for an 84 year old, but in general.  He does all of his own shopping and cleaning, goes everywhere on the bus and seldom asks anyone (especially his family) for help.  In fact, he even 'does' for an old friend of his, a bit of light housework, sorting out paperwork, making sure that his kids don't steal all of his money, that sort of thing

Anyway, he checked himself into hospital last week with stomach pains, all sorts of unpleasant things going on with his digestive system and so forth, but his GP had told him that he just had an infection that was being a bit resistant to anti-biotics or something, probably.

He spent a week in there, being poked and prodded, pumped full of hardcore antibiotics, shoved into giant magnetic doughnuts and having cameras put in places where you normally wouldn't want a camera.

when we went to pick him up, he told us that his consultant had said that was an issue with one of his 'tubes' and they'd be having him back in when everything had calmed down a bit to do something about it.

It wasn't until the next day when he pulled an 'Agent Tee' (Go and watch Men in Black 2) on us, and waited until we were in a busy shopping centre before he told us the rest of the diagnosis... He was in the late, inoperable, stages of Cancer and his Consultant had given him 3-12 months to live.

Then he just carried on walking to the Post Office as if he hadn't just dropped the 'C-Bomb'.

Anyone who knows me in real life will attest to the fact that it's not very often that I'm rendered speechless, but on this occasion, I did not know what to say... So I told him that I didn't know what to say.  He replied that there wasn't really anything that I could say that would make any difference, so why bother?  Mrs Dandy took this opportunity to disappear off to the Vets, initially to pick some stuff up for the dog, but mainly so my Dad didn't see her burst into tears - He's a man of that generation where overt displays of emotion embarrass him greatly.

We walked for a while, in silence, until I broke the tension by asking if there was anything they could do, he shook his head.  I asked about Chemo, he reminded that Chemo was still technically 'something' and he'd already told me that there was 'nothing' that could be done.

After we'd driven him back home, we sat with him for a couple of hours, whilst he stared at the TV.   I can honestly say that this was the first time I'd ever noticed how fragile he was.  He'd never been a big guy, never topped 5'9" or been particularly muscular - But he's my Dad, so by that virtue a dyed in the wool Superhero, his power was never to leap buildings in a single bound, he was always clever enough to find a way round.  He couldn't fly, but he did tell some stories about when he used to.  His one superpower was to be unerringly right about almost everything.

He would say things that started with 'If I were you...' and 'You know, if you do that...' and invariably ended with me ignoring him, making a hash of everything and asking to borrow more money.  He warned me about women who were destined to tear my heart out, credit cards that would put me into debt and houses that would drain my very soul - I ignored them all. I'll bet you can count how many World's Greatest Son mugs I have in the cupboard on the fingers of one foot.

(Although, I don't think my Brother has any of those either, and he's taken early retirement and is living in his hollow volcano lair in the middle of the Mediterranean - He gets up every morning and can see the sea, and an honest to goodness shipwreck out of his lounge window - I think my Dad might have impossibly high standards for what classes as a good, successful, Son.)

I told him that I'd come and visit him every other day or so, to make sure he was OK and check if he needed anything.  I mean, we only live around the corner when all's said and done, so it's not much of a stretch... And Mrs Dandy's going to do his housework and shopping.   and that makes me feel... Well, guilty if I'm honest.  He's 84, shouldn't I have been doing these things for him for a long time?

I mean, I've been thinking that he's not been long for this world for years, his memory's not what it was, his trips to the Doctor are getting more frequent and more serious, and every time I go to his house when he's not answered his phone a couple of times in a row during the day, I expect to find him cold and stiff in a heap at the bottom of his stairs, or dead in his bed.  But he never has been.

Not so far at least.

So, on reflection, I'm a terrible son, a financial and emotional burden, thoughtless, non-empathic and generally a bad sort.  Except, I'm kind of not... I have offered to help innumerable times in the past, he just looks at me askance and says 'Why? I'm perfectly capable of doing it myself.' - So many times that I stopped asking in fact. I let him ask me if he needs anything - It's usually something like 'I need a big bag of compost' or 'I want to go to PC World, but there isn't a bus that goes that way.' - Nothing too taxing, it's usually the donkey-work that he trusts me with, things that I would have to try really hard to mess up.

But he's my Dad, and doing stuff for my Dad makes me feel good - Feels like I'm paying him back for me being a bit of a disappointment.

I regularly fix his computer, buy him tinned peaches (he loves tinned peaches, they remind him of when rationing first finished I think) and provide him with Grandchildren.  But I still feel guilty, not about not doing more, but for waiting until it was confirmed that he had a terminal condition before thinking about doing it.

I've told some people (I suppose technically, I've now told quite a lot of people, what with Blogging it) and most of their reactions have been similar, you get the 'Oh, I'm really sorry!' and the 'Is there anything I can do?' - And these people are great friends and good people and they mean well and there's nothing else you can really say... But it still take all my strength not to sound all glib and answer 'Why? it wasn't your fault.' and 'Yeah, just nip back in time about a year and give me a poke so I can tell him to go to an Oncologist so he doesn't die.' - I'm practicing my 'Thank you, but no.' - But it's going to take a while I'm afraid.

(If I do see you in real life and I do say any of these things, feel free to just shake your head and walk off, whilst muttering 'Wank*r' under your breath.)

Whilst we're on the subject of reactions, my Brother initially felt guilt too, must be a family thing - He was guilty about not immediately spending however many hundreds of pounds jumping on a plane and turfing up at our Father's house only to be told by a little frail old man what a bloody idiotic waste of money it's all been, he should have waited until there was a machine that went 'Beep' involved. (He is, nonetheless, paying hundreds of pounds on a plane ticket and coming over anyway - He's just sensibly waiting until the prices go down next month... Dad will actually appreciate that, he'll be proud - We're an odd family when you get down to it.)

Mrs Dandy was pretty devastated, but has now clicked into super-efficient carer mode, doing everything possible to make life easy for him.  Especially if that means shouting at him for his own good when he fails to take sufficient care of himself in the few times a day that she's not there. Technically known as 'trying to keep busy so she doesn't think about it.' I think.

The Mini-Dandy cried, a lot - but now she does a fine job of masking her emotions so that she doesn't make anyone else feel sad... Which reminds me, I must have the 'Bottling up your emotions can make your mind snap.' Conversation with her this weekend - I guess that she's learned it from me, I'm not an obviously emotional person ('cos I'm dead hard Me...) and things usually don't hit me until everything's all over, you know, when I consider that I've got time to grieve without effecting anyone else - Yeah, because that situation happens all the time.  I guess that being your Father's Daughter isn't just trifle and pony-rides all the time.

The Micro-Dandy... I didn't get to see his reaction, because the wife told him whilst I was at work, because I didn't seem to be able to bring myself to do it.  The words that he said that were the important thing though I suppose.

'Oh... Is Dad alright, because Granddad is Dad's Dad isn't he?'

Stunned me a bit when I found out about that one, with him only being eight years old and everything.

My Dad himself... Well, I think he's doing the whole 'Stiff upper lip' thing, trying to convince us that he's jumped to the 'Acceptance' phase of the Kubler-Ross model (Yeah, you're right, there should be an umlaut over the 'u' there, but I really can't be bothered) Though I don't believe it for a second.

Every time I leave him I imagine that he goes and sits back down in his armchair and bursts into tears - I know that I probably would, but I'm not my Dad... He probably just wanders into the bathroom and shaves himself with a Bowie knife which he licks the foam off and then spits it at the dog, because that's the sort of thing that Dads do.  That's the sort of thing that my Dad does at least.

At least, he does in my head, because he's a Superhero.

My Superhero

So,  that's why I said that the Blog might get a bit sporadic from now on... Not because I can't think of anything funny, although I'll admit that it is a bit more difficult at the moment.  But because I really need to finish the book and get it published before...

Well, you know what I want to do it before...

I want him to be proud of me one last time.

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

What we have here, is a failure to communicate.

It's not very often that a frankly trashy film has a good lesson... Not a 'If you want it hard enough, it'll happen.' thing or 'It all turns out OK in the end if you're a good person.'

S'boring, films have things like that in to make you feel good, after all, the movie people think, quite rightly in most cases, that once you've spent £10 on a ticket, then another £10 on drinks, popcorn, nachos (with salsa & cheese, thank you very much), a further £10 on pick 'n' mix (at £475 per kilo) You're so bloody depressed, that you need a happy ending or an uplifting message to stop you slashing your wrists.

So, you've got 'Bill & Ted' - Which had the supremely talented George Carlin telling us to 'Be Excellent to each other'.

The great Ferris Bueller imparted the wisdom that 'Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you might miss it.'

And Yoda, in 'The Empire Strikes Back.' taught us that we should either 'Do, or do not. There is no try.'

But one of my favourite quotes, the one that I like to take as read and agree with wholeheartedly is from Agent Kay, played by one of my favourite actors, Tommy Lee Jones in 'Men in Black' - He says that 'A "person" is smart. "people" are dumb, panicky, dangerous animals.' And he (well, technically the writer who came up with the line) is right, you get enough people together and they turn into a herd, there's no reasoning with them... Best you can do is give them two options... Get milked or get slaughtered.

Actually, thinking about it, there's another scene in Men in Black that is surprisingly insightful too.  It's where Will Smith's character is on a shooting range and shoots the cardboard cutout of poor Tiffany right between the glazzies - Then gives the following explanation:

'Well, first I was gonna pop this guy hanging from the streetlight, and I realised, y'know, he's just working out.  I mean, how would I feel if someone come runnin' in the gym and bust me in my ass while I'm on the treadmill?  Then I saw this snarling beast guy, and I noticed ha had a tissue in his hand, and I'm realising, y'know, he's not snarling, he's sneezing. Y'know, ain't no real threat there.  Then I saw little Tiffany.  I'm thinking, y'know, eight year old white girl, middle of the ghetto, bunch of monsters, this time of night with quantum physics books? She about to start some sh*t.'

It's all about the motivation... That's probably the single most important thing you can know about someone, what's their motivation? why are they doing what they're doing?  It's seldom obvious you know.

A lot of people get angry when they're scared, or embarrassed, or drunk, or confused - Anger's a pretty go-to emotion really, it's a lot of peoples' default setting - Especially those people who have limited options communication-wise, they lash out, you need to watch out for that.

Another personality trait you can get for odd reasons is unconditional agreeing, what we used to call 'Toadying', you see it a lot in the sidekicks of bad guys.  My older readers would immediately think of the many characters played by Peter Lorre, the archetypal toady (or toadie, whatevs...) The person who does this usually sees themselves as physically weaker, but cleverer than, the person they are agreeing with. Odd types usually... dangerous in a (sometimes quite literally) backstabby way.  They don't care who they're standing behind, as long as they're standing behind someone - (See the backstabby thing again) - Tends to attract the borderline schizophrenic, who think they're both not good enough and too good at the same time.

Then you get the slutty girls (Sorry ladies, that's not me being sexist, they're predominantly girls) who attach themselves to men that are currently described in modern parlance as, I believe, Douches.  Vacuously bronzed, spiky haired, skin-jobs who take any opportunity to divest themselves of their shirts and wander around the place inviting the world to stare at their oddly tiny nipples. Why are they attracted to these men?  Well, there's something of the Trophy Hunter there for some I guess, if they'd been born in the 19th century and had fewer breasts, more beards and a light sprinkling of pith helmet, they would probably have a tiger skin rug in front of the fire and a tapir head with sad, glass, eyes hanging dejectedly in the toilet.  It's also a possibility that they have crushingly low self esteem and believe that they can't do any better, they confuse 'intimate physical contact behind the bins at the local take-away' with 'Everlasting love and self-fulfillment' once every day and twice on Sundays.  Or... on the other hand, they could just come from an abusive household where sexual physicality has been reduced to a currency.

I don't know, and neither do you - It's easy to judge though isn't it? I do it all the time.

I've lost count of the number of Pikies and Druggies and Dole-Scroungers that walk past my house when I'm in the garage.  The number of Asylum seekers, terrorists, sex-trafficers and Eastern European non-carded plumbers that drive past me in rusty vans every day.  The number of once-pretty, Blonde-haired teenagers with crowds of mixed-race kids living off the Child Benefit that my Income Tax pays for in a house twice the size of the one I can't really afford to rent myself.

Then I think to myself (No, not "What a wonderful World") that actually, 99% of these people are just going about their every-day lives, trying to make ends meet, struggling just as much, if not more, than I am.

It's a commonly held belief that you only have seven or so seconds to make a first impression - and they're usually wrong, people who you pass in the street don't even get that - What chance do they have?

I guess what I'm saying is, don't Judge, it's really not nice - Unless you catch them trying to nick your bike out of the garage, feel free to judge them with extreme prejudice (and a bat... either / or)

But going back to where we started, I think the one film quote that epitomises the entire sentiment that I've talked about, the final explanation to the massive question of the ongoing bleakness of the human condition, the proof to Einstein's Grand Unified Field Theorem and the answer to Life, The Universe and Everything are the solemn words of one amnesiac female Royal Tang, who once opined: 'I shall call him Squishy, and he shall be mine.  He shall be my Squishy, come here Squishy!'

A lesson for us all there, I think you'll agree.

Friday, 16 August 2013

Know him by his trail of breadcrumbs

Quick one today, with it being Friday and everything.

Most of you will (hopefully) have read a few of the stories about my mother, both the ones she features in when she was alive, and those that she still manages to shoe-horn her way into after she'd run down the curtains and joined the choir invisibule.

This one takes place in about 1976 when I was eight and she was still toe-curlingly alive.

Can you imagine the single most embarrassing thing that a Mother can do to her young son?

No, not that, or that, Yes, that probably is more embarrassing, but it's not what I'm talking about... I'll put you out of my misery, she got a job at the school I went to as, what I guess you'd call a Teaching Assistant nowadays.  She had been there there for a while when a position as a cookery (because it was still called cookery then) teacher came up.

She always used to tell us that she got it because she had a certificate from a cookery course that she'd done, but we always knew that she'd put the Head-Teacher in a headlock until he'd agreed - It was common knowledge.

She used to cook all kinds of things, Jam Tarts (When Primary kids were still allowed to heat jam to boiling point), Fudge (With boiling hot sugar), Cakes (The kids put their own stuff in the ovens of the school kitchen), stew (With razor sharp carving knives - Which she always maintained were much safer than those blunt 'Special needs' knives that they were supposed to use... Actually, no-one used the term 'Special Needs' - as it hadn't yet been invented, it was generally held, by teachers and children alike, that the only people who used them were from a large country between China and Russia, and it's capital used to be called Ulan Bator - it was a different time.)

So anyway, there was this one chap,  Let's call him Billy... But only because I can't for the life of me remember his actually name, otherwise I would gladly have used it.  He was sturdily built, certainly no stranger to sweet, fatty foods and possessed of a greasy complexion with straggly hair to match.  His family history, should you have gone back a couple of generations, was of a nomadic nature and the Council-house where he lived was generally believed to be the first bricks and mortar home that anyone in the family had ever had.

And he was a bully.

My Mother was very big on pre-lesson cleanliness, she would check her pupils' hands and nails before they entered class, also going as far as to sniff their hands when they returned from the toilet - Which I understand would be classed as common assault now.

On this particular occasion, the class was making bread and 'Billy' had been returned to the bathroom to 'try washing his hands' about four times before she was satisfied, the girls in the class had started to giggle at him and his face was an angry beetroot colour.

She showed the kids what was expected of them, how you added water to flour and salt and kneaded it until you had a dough etc.  Then she stopped, and showed them her hands.

'She how far the flour goes, it doesn't even pass my wrists.  If I it goes past your wrists, it means that you're being too vigorous, if it goes past your elbows, it means that you are not paying attention... Something for which I will not stand.'

So the kids got on with it, my Mother going from kid to kid, offering encouragement, warning when the flour was making its way towards their armpits... Then she got to Billy... It was safe to say that the flour was past his elbows, quite a lot of it was in his hair, and in fact, some seven years later when his first child was born, it sprang from the womb covered in the same flour, as did his first grandchild, fourteen years later.

So, Mother was upset, the girls started giggling again, which upset Billy, so tensions were high and there may have been shouting and possibly name-calling. Now, for the uninitiated, let me explain that no-one ever shouted at my mother - For years, on the back of all Birth Certificates issued in Derby it said, in large print, 'Oh yes, and another thing, don't shout at Mrs Dandy (Senior) it will be bad.'

With a cry of 'I did warn you that I would be upset!' She picked up Billy, threw him over her shoulder in the manner of an irate fireman, and conveyed him to the school kitchen.  where she opened one of the huge ovens, lit it and made to throw him inside.

She swore, after the fact that she wasn't going to actually put him inside and close the door.

Well, not all the way closed anyway.

Billy didn't know that at the time of course (And no-one was completely convinced after the fact either) - And he became frightened, so frightened in fact that some of his 'fear' may have accidentally leaked out.

She had to throw that particular cheesecloth blouse away.

Terrible waste.

Thursday, 15 August 2013

원본과 같은 좋은하지

I was thinking about films today, you know, lounging around, reading Variety as you do, and I saw the trailer for the Spike Lee remake of the classic Korean film 'Oldboy'.

(For the number of my friends who I know haven't stopped screaming since this film was announced - I know you think it's going to be worse than anything that the world has previously had to endure, including the decimation of the dinosaurs and the invention of Snap-back hats, and I know that you think that Spike Lee hasn't made a decent film since 1992.  And yes, you're right, they're probably going to change the ending significantly.)

If you've never seen it, it's about a guy who gets kidnapped for 15 (20 in the remake) years and held in solitary confinement, then is mysteriously released one day... As you'd expect he tries to find out why and goes on to get revenge on his captors.  The original 2003 version is one of the classics of Asian cinema.  There are set-pieces, most of them are unpleasant - But you should go and watch it now (unless you have kids with you, don't watch it then, especially if you ever want them to try seafood).

The trailer for the new version looks OK, I guess they're supposed to though aren't they?  They're advertising a new film that they want to make money from when you get down to it.  It's not a scene by scene homage by any stretch and Josh Brolin doesn't carry off the 'Old man of the woods' look quite as well as Min-Sik Choi did, but what do you expect?

Yeah... Good question that, what do you expect from a remake?

Well, you expect it to be rubbish don't you? initially I mean. Over the past ten years or so we've been hit by remake after remake, not just of Asian films but of 'classic' English language films.

Who could forget (No matter how much they might want to) Steve Coogan's 'Around the World in 80 Days' from 2004 - A remake of the beloved David Niven film from 1956 - I mean even Jackie Chan couldn't rescue it - And he makes most things better.

Or the 2003 version of The Italian Job, where the original was arguably one of the greatest British comedy/gangster films ever made, the 'new' version was its pale, insignificant, ginger great-nephew who wore socks with sandals and never finished a sentence.

And you really shouldn't get me started on Nicholas Cage's murdering of 'The Wicker Man'.  It doesn't help that the original is firmly ensconced in my top ten favourite movies. one that I watch every single time that it's on and quote from mercilessly whenever the opportunity arises.  And even the fact that his character's name was 'Edward' and the little girl that he was looking for had the surname 'Woodward' couldn't stop it from being 102 minutes of pure, rotting garbage on a really hot day, stink.

The Day the Earth Stood Still, Get Carter, Arthur and Planet of the Apes (And those are just the ones I could remember off the top of my head that I'd seen both versions of) were, to a man, anything between diabolical and shocking.  They should have been taken outside, given a good talking to, been left alone for half an hour or so to think about what they'd done and then set on fire and shot.

But for every twenty 'yank your own eyes out and beat the dog to death with them' awful remakes, there's a good one. For instance, 'Let Me In', which was a remake of a Swedish language film that was only two years old at the time, called 'Let the Right One In' (Even though the Screenwriter still contends that he was re-adapting the book rather than remaking the film) And it was pretty good... OK, it changes the sex of one of the characters to make it a bit more accessible (In the book and the original film, one of the characters is a castrated boy who 'lives' as a girl, in the remake, the character's actually a girl - Although the parts were played by girls in both films - Maybe it was a little bit confusing when you think about it.)

Which brings me back to the genre that sparked the whole thing off... K-Horror and its slightly more popular cousin, J-Horror.  Now, I likes me some J/K-Horror, these are Japanese and South Korean Horror films, designed for the home market, that often get remade by Hollywood.  Why do I like them?  Because everything about them is completely mental, from the basic premise, through the execution (How the film's actually made, not how the main character's brother often has his head torn from his shoulders) to the way they all seem to be filmed in the street with passers by as the extras.

Have you ever seen 'The Uninvited' - With Emily Browning, the girl from 'Sucker Punch' and 'A Series of Unfortunate Events'? - That was based on the K-Horror film 'A Tale of Two Sisters' remade for the American market.  And it wasn't bad... wasn't great, but it was certainly no Nicholas Cage Wicker Man.

Then you've got stuff that you're bound to have seen, The Ring films (Ringu), The Grudge films (Ju-on), Maybe you've seen Dark Water (From the bottom of Dark Water) or  Pulse (Kairo) and these remakes are... OK

OK as long as you've never seen the originals I suppose - They're OK films...

Actually I can't keep this up - The remakes of these great films, pretty much like every other remake that I can think of, off the top of my head, in the history of English language cinema has been awful.

Don't bother watching them, watch the originals, they might not be as accessible, they might have subtitles and you might have to pay attention rather than letting your mind wander and thinking about what you're going to have for your breakfast.

But at the end of it I guarantee that you'll know that you've watched a horror film, you'll be scared of your own cat, and you will never, ever go into your attic ever again.

And I'm sorry Mr Lee, but despite the fact that your new film has Samuel L Jackson in it, and I will watch it when it finally comes on Sky Movies, it won't be as good as the original.

Which is to be expected.

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

The sky is falling!

So, I've got this Cousin, right, and he's an Astronomer (Safety Tip: they REALLY don't like being called Astrologers - Not even by accident, I mean, I've seen one spontaneously combust under these conditions, it's not pretty - You don't want to do it if you're wearing your best clothes.)  He's not a full-time Astronomer, obviously... I mean, he doesn't do it during the day, and I'm reliably informed that not many of them do, what with the whole lack of visible stars thing, and that pesky sun causing the teensiest bit of light pollution.

Anywho, he was on Aleena Naylor's breakfast show on BBC Radio Derby this morning talking about the meteor shower that we're currently all experiencing - Trying to calm the populace, convincing them that the sky was not falling and that no, sacrificing a chicken or Edward Woodward wouldn't help the situation in any way, shape or form.

So, what are these strange lights in the sky?  Are they dangerous? Should we wear a hat when we go out? Are they different from that huge killer fireball that threatened to vapourise Russia in February?

Well, unless you've been living (or more likely cowering, shivering, rocking backwards and forwards, crying a bit) under a rock for the past week, you'll know that they're called the Perseids.  But why are they called that?  Well, mainly because they 'appear' to come from the direction of the constellation of Perseus (Which you will find just under the much easier to identify 'W' shaped constellation of Cassiopea, in the sky, mostly at night).  Does this mean that aliens in that constellation are shooting rocks at us?

Yes, yes it does probably - We should all run and hide... But not for a couple of thousand years yet, and I'll talk about that later.

Put simply, all the wonderful lights you may, or may not see when you look up into the night sky are dust, usually smaller than a grain of sand, travelling at anywhere between 25 and 160 THOUSAND miles an hour (That's between 33 and 210 times the speed of sound kids) and they would come really keen if they hit you on the back of your leg - You'd have a bruise for days.  Luckily, the vast proportion of them disintegrate as they burn up in the atmosphere.

But why is space full of dust? and has this anything to do with the popular mouth-exploding treat 'Space Dust'?  I'll answer the second question first... No... No it doesn't.  One is a mixture of boiled sugar and pressurised CO2 and the other is the excreta from a comet.  In the case of the Perseids, this is the fallout from comet Swift-Tuttle, a charming ball of ice and rock that swings round our part of the solar system every one hundred and thirty-three years.  This particular snowball however is sixteen miles across (About the size of Birmingham) and weighs (OK, has a mass of - before the Science nerds all gang up, gaffer tape me to a hobby rocket and launch me into a tree) about eight quadrillion metric tonnes (That's an eight with fifteen zeroes after it - give or take a zero - My degree's not in maths)

Every time our new friendly little galactic icepop goes near the sun, it melts a little (as you would) and bits fall off, most of that is ice, but enough of it is dust and pebbles to leave a trail around our solar system.  Every July/August the Earth goes through this trail and we get peppered by it, thus causing the lightshow - Simple as.

Do these space-dusty-rocky things ever not burn up and go on to bullseye a cow (possibly in Venezuela, maybe in 1972) and kill it instantly by blasting it in half?  Well, yes, technically that does happen.  But you shouldn't worry as it's incredibly unlikely - In fact, a chap called John S. Lewis, Author of the book 'Comet and asteroid impact hazards on a populated Earth'  (who probably had nothing to do with the Department store) once said 'No one in recorded history has ever been killed by a meteorite in the presence of a Meteoricist and a medical Doctor' - But, in fairness, I've been alive for forty-five years (as of last Saturday.. Where was your card?) and I've never knowingly done anything in the presence of both a Meteoricist and a medical Doctor, so that doesn't really mean a lot.

Did you notice something there?  The chances of one of these things surviving to impact the Earth is so slight that they get a new name:

Meteor - space-dust that burns up in the atmosphere

Meteorite - scalding hot death rock that survives its trip through the atmosphere, turns cows into spaghetti sauce and causes light bruising to people called Hodges, in Alabama, when they crash through their ceilings and bounce off their radios.

Anne Hodges, 60 years ago, with her space-ouchie

Back to Russia... It was difficult to turn on the TV in February and not see the beginning of that Bruce Willis film about the Earth-Killing comet impact... Thing is, it was actually real-life footage of a real-life event.

Big badda-boom!

This was obviously a Meteor (see above) but it didn't actually start life as part of a comet, it was one of the Apollo Asteroids that we share an orbit with around the Sun (In fact, there's a massive cloud of them that fills the space between us and the Sun, we're constantly swimming through this cloud - Doesn't that make you feel better?) and it was 'Only' about 20 meters across, but still weighed more than the Eiffel Tower and was travelling at about forty two THOUSAND MPH (or a mere sixty times the speed of sound)  It didn't hit the ground in one piece, luckily, but exploded about fourteen miles up in the air with a blast calculated to be about 20-30 times more powerful than the Hiroshima nuclear explosion.  This caused hundreds of small meteorites to hit the ground, disappear into snowdrifts, melt holes in ice-covered lakes and ruin a couple of perfectly serviceable fur hats.  The sound from the explosion was so loud that the echoes took more than a day to die down - You probably heard it without even realising... And you thought Brian Blessed was loud?

Very, very rare though, things like this.  So rare in fact that we had a near miss from another, bigger, asteroid on the same day, only we were so busy watching the first one, that we missed it.  It passed us at a distance of 17,000 miles (To give you some idea of how close that is, the Moon is 250,000 miles away - or fourteen times further) and it was half as big again as the one that lit up Russia - It is the largest thing that we know has ever passed that close to us without wiping out any dinosaurs.

And finally, remember where I said that we should worry a bit, but not for a couple of thousand years?

Well, it seems, that our friendly, neighborhood comet, Swift-Tuttle, mother of the Perseids, crosses the orbit of the Earth again on, or about Sept 15th. 4479 - two and a half thousand years in the future - No one we know will be alive then, the chances are that us Earthlings will have scattered ourselves across the Solar System by then, either by colonisation or as radioactive dust and it'll be close, about ten times as far away as the moon.

Everything should be fine... as long as, in the next 2,500 years, nothing effects its orbit at all, even by a minuscule amount, say 1,000 miles a year (which, in celestial mechanics terms is 'the square root of bugger all') - Because then it will hit the Earth square-on.

It will be travelling at 134 THOUSAND miles per hour and it's getting on for three times the size of the one that's supposed to have taken out the dinosaurs.

Should be quite impressive, as long as you're watching it from a distance.  Sleep tight dear readers, and keep watching the skies.

Friday, 9 August 2013

Go Dandy, it's your Birthday...

Actually, it's not my Birthday... Not until tomorrow at least... I've already had two cheery 'Happy Birthday's though, from slightly confused work-colleagues - So that was nice.

As I got all Biblical on Wednesday - Let's start with a bit of Psalm 90:

The days of our years are threescore years and ten;
and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years,
yet is their strength labor and sorrow;
for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.

Which sombre dirge, by anyone's reckoning means that, as I'm a child of the sixties, I'm over half way through already.  I'm speeding downhill on the badly maintained pushbike of my own maturity.  The brakes have been cut by my children and I'm going to freewheel through some little villages called Upper Adulthood, Senility and Incontinence On Sea any time now.

Well, at least I've got the longer summers brought on by Global Warming to look forward to.

So, what do I want for my Birthday?  (Apologies if you've already bought me something, it probably won't be anything off this list - But not to worry, I'm notoriously easy to please.)

  1. Anything with the word 'Marvel' secreted somewhere about it.  I'm a sucker for fictional spandex - In fact both of Dandy Towers' reading rooms have weighty tomes filled with the work of Stan Lee, Steve Ditko and and Jack Kirby (Amongst others)
  2. Someone who wants to rebuild the clutch on a 1984 Honda VF1100 for free.
  3. A belt, because I'm losing weight and my trousers keep falling down. 
  4. A brown leather overcoat with a surplus of unnecessary brassware and bucklery.
  5. A top hat, as above
  6. A more powerful, less noisy PC - I mean, honestly the one I've got sounds like an asthmatic Harrier Jump-Jet trying to take off from an airfield made of toffee and the graphics can be a bit like a Janet & John flick-book in a strong wind.
  7. An ironic T-Shirt, seriously, anything will do... A bit of 70's nostalgia, something from pretty much any sci-fi film or TV show that there's ever been - I'm easy (Size: XXL)
  8. Food - Any kind
  9. Alcohol - Any kind
  10. Vouchers for cool stuff, even fictitious stuff - Or those acceptable anywhere ones that have a picture of the Queen on, where she's sat next to a random two digit number.
  11. An Iron Man suit - One of the modern ones, not from when he looked like a drunk with a bucket on his head - I've got that costume already according to some non-flattering photos.
  12. Some Sci-Fi weaponry - I've always fancied a wall covered in weapons from TV, Games and Films, Like in Tommy Lee Jones' apartment in Men In Black - One of each Star Trek phaser, one of each Light-Sabre Hilt (Plus Force-FX glowy blade ones... Maybe upgraded to ones you can actually belt someone repeatedly with) The Spinney-roundy sonic Shotgun from Minority report, (Has to be the coolest cocking mechanism of any firearm ever) An Identity Disc from the new Tron film, a Portal Gun, Deckards gun from Bladerunner, All the weapons from Halo and Half-Life, A pair of Grammaton Cleric pistols from Equilibrium, One of each of every Predator weapon, except maybe the shoulder cannon... Always thought that it looked a bit 'kit-bashed'.  An M41-A from Aliens... Actually no, six M41-As, in a rack, so you could grab one as you ran past. A Morita from Starship Troopers, Dredd's Lawgivers (Comic and both films) The Railgun from 'Eraser' and maybe a ZF-1 from the Fifth Element for comedy value (I think I may have thought about this slightly more than absolutely neccesary). Plus anything else I can get my hands on.
  13. Some more large format fantasy art books - You can never have enough pictures of a seven feet tall barbarian hero with an eleven foot long axe stood next to a 48-24-36 woman with flowing red hair wearing only a squirrel and two earwigs whilst an anthropomorphised badger plays a timbral solo in the background.
  14. Peace and Quiet (This is the one that I'm least likely to get in fairness)
  15. Chocolate - I know that technically it's a kind of food, but it's important enough to have its own entry (f'narr f'narr)
  16. Anything odd - If you see something for sale and think 'Who in their right mind would want that?' The answer would be me.

OK, that's me done for this week - I expect thousands of Facebook messages, tweets and emails and suggestive pictures from you guys tomorrow, wishing me a Happy Birthday.

Don't disappoint me, I know where most of you live.

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

But it says here...

So, Religious Texts, what do we think about those?

There are a lot of them about, probably more of them than there are actual religions.  And most of them purport to be the word of whatever god, God or Goddess favoured by that actual religion, whether directly dictated or 'translated' by a selection of scholars and prophets.

I'm going to put the next bit in big letters, so there's no confusion as to what follows.


You could argue that the people who wrote these things were directed by a god, you might be right, I don't pretend to know, but my opinion is up there, in the big letters.

But they exist... The books that is.  We're stuck with them now, so what do we do with them?  Well, as I understand it they were provided initially as a set of stories to teach things like morals and laws, rules for handling certain situations, and ways that you could prove that you were a follower of that particular religion.  In Christianity (I chose this one because it's the one I know slightly more about, but I'm reliably informed that the others are pretty much the same.) You've got your commandments and suchlike and your abominations, things you should do, things you shouldn't do. Fish you can eat, neighbour's asses that you can't covet.

And then there's the contradictions, a detailed book, written by a committee, is bound to have a few contradictions - Even if it was dictated directly by a deity - the entire history of space-time is a lot to remember, even for the omnipotent.

Although you'd think that they'd manage to get his Corporeal Son's last words right at least..

MAT 27:46,50: "And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, "Eli, eli, lama sabachthani?" that is to say, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" ...Jesus, when he cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost."

LUK 23:46: "And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, "Father, unto thy hands I commend my spirit:" and having said thus, he gave up the ghost."

JOH 19:30: "When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, "It is finished:" and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost."

OK, you're right, I'm being petty - It was probably an emotional time.

And there's the whole 'Who told David to start the census in Israel?' question - There's some confusion, but the two 'suspects' couldn't be more different:

II SAMUEL 24: And again the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel, and he moved David against them to say, Go, number Israel and Judah.

I CHRONICLES 21: And SATAN stood up against Israel, and provoked David to number Israel.

No... I got nothing on this one - You'll have to make your own minds up.

Maybe, just maybe, it's a mistranslation.  I mean, the texts that form the Christian Bible were written in a mixture of Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek with a smattering of Chaldean thrown in to make things interesting, over a period of a thousand years or so. The the bits that were in hebrew got translated into Greek so that the Jews could read them (Most 'modern' Jews didn't speak a lot of Hebrew at the time - from about 100AD onwards) Over the next thousand years it got translated into Gothic (Germanic) Olde Englishe and Latin and didn't get a Modern English translation until the sixteenth century.

Is it any wonder that a lot of it doesn't really make sense, you can imagine scribes translating from a Gothic version, into Latin, for the English market, hitting a word that the previous translator didn't really get right, scratching his head with the end of his goose-quill and saying something like 'Whateth I thinketh he meaneth thereth is-eth...' and having a wild stab at it.  No guarantee that he gets it right either of course.

There are a lot of parts that various people (usually those people who are directly effected by them) claim to be mistranslations.  A popular one is 'Abomination' as I've used above, this was originally translated from the Hebrew words 'Sheketz' and 'toevah' which is a bit difficult to explain really... It kind of means 'Things that THEY (pointing to Johnny Foreigner) do, but WE don't think are right.'  Many things are described a toevah through an awful lot of the Bible, including Child sacrifice, Idolatry (Very big on idolatry being toevah they are), fortune telling, haughtiness (Really, if you feel like doing a bit of reading, try tho Book of Ezekiel, it's a laugh riot - there are flying saucers and everything), eating with Shepherds (which brings up a whole bunch of questions on its own), women wearing trousers, remarriage and... Wait for it... Sodomy - A man lying with a man, as he would with a woman.

Which brings me to the trigger for today's Blog.  My good friend Nathan, shared a piece on Facebook about the Dr Laura letter - Which for those who haven't read it, is included below.

As a note, this is a real letter, written to a real person, but not by James Kauffman, He has a web-page about it and everything.


On her radio show, Dr. Laura said that, as an observant Orthodox Jew, homosexuality is an abomination according to Leviticus 18:22, and cannot be condoned under any circumstance. The following response is an open letter to Dr. Schlesinger, written by a US man, and posted on the Internet. It's funny, as well as quite informative:

It also shows that once you've read The Book of Ezekiel, take the Book of Leviticus out for a spin - But have a dry pair of trousers ready to change into afterwards if you have a weak bladder.

Dear Dr. Laura:

Thank you for doing so much to educate people regarding God's Law. I have learned a great deal from your show, and try to share that knowledge with as many people as I can. When someone tries to defend the homosexual lifestyle, for example, I simply remind them that Leviticus 18:22 clearly states it to be an abomination. End of debate. I do need some advice from you, however, regarding some other elements of God's Laws and how to follow them.

1. Leviticus 25:44 states that I may possess slaves, both male and female, provided they are purchased from neighboring nations. A friend of mine claims that this applies to Mexicans, but not Canadians. Can you clarify? Why can't I own Canadians?

2. I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for her?

3. I know that I am allowed no contact with a woman while she is in her period of menstrual uncleanliness - Lev.15: 19-24. The problem is, how do I tell? I have tried asking, but most women take offense.

4. When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates a pleasing odor for the Lord - Lev.1:9. The problem is my neighbors. They claim the odor is not pleasing to them. Should I smite them?

5. I have a neighbor who insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2 clearly states he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself, or should I ask the police to do it?

6. A friend of mine feels that even though eating shellfish is an abomination, Lev. 11:10, it is a lesser abomination than homosexuality. I don't agree. Can you settle this? Are there 'degrees' of abomination?

7. Lev. 21:20 states that I may not approach the altar of God if I have a defect in my sight. I have to admit that I wear reading glasses. Does my vision have to be 20/20, or is there some wiggle-room here?

8. Most of my male friends get their hair trimmed, including the hair around their temples, even though this is expressly forbidden by Lev. 19:27. How should they die?

9. I know from Lev. 11:6-8 that touching the skin of a dead pig makes me unclean, but may I still play football if I wear gloves?

10. My uncle has a farm. He violates Lev.19:19 by planting two different crops in the same field, as does his wife by wearing garments made of two different kinds of thread (cotton/polyester blend). He also tends to curse and blaspheme a lot. Is it really necessary that we go to all the trouble of getting the whole town together to stone them? Lev.24:10-16. Couldn't we just burn them to death at a private family affair, like we do with people who sleep with their in-laws? (Lev. 20:14)

I know you have studied these things extensively and thus enjoy considerable expertise in such matters, so I'm confident you can help.

Thank you again for reminding us that God's word is eternal and unchanging.

Your adoring fan,

James M. Kauffman,

Ed.D. Professor Emeritus,

Dept. Of Curriculum, Instruction, and Special Education University of Virginia


Note: To the Religionites who may or may not be reading this, I don't mean to offend, I mean to entertain.  I'd appreciate it if you wouldn't make me the subject of a... Erm... Whatever the Christian version of a Jihad is... Possibly a crusade I suppose, or perhaps inviting me to a bake-sale and then not letting me eat anything with Jam or Cream in it.

Only a bit of fun - Yeah? So no stoning to death for me please, if at all possible.

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

But that's what my food eats!

You can't have missed the recent news about the world's most expensive hamburger, £300,000 for a patty of, for want of a better word, pallid worms of grown matter, cloned from a cow.

I've heard some few reports on the news this morning that have caused discomfort amongst Joe and Jane Public that the stem-cells were taken from a DEAD cow.  Well yes, quite. Although I think I'd be right in saying that the traditional process for recovering meat that goes on to be used as food involves the animal shuffling of this mortal coil and joining the choir invisibule fairly early on in the process...

Although a trip to McDonalds would be a damn sight more exciting if you went up to the counter, ordered your meal and then they lined up... Oh I don't know, a cow, a pig, a chicken, a horse and a manatee, gave them a kick and you had to chase them around trying to take bites out of them.

Excitement, adventure, exercise and fast food, what more could you ask for?

Any normal person would think that this was a splendid way to spend an afternoon... But what about those 'other' people? The ones who hear people say 'Oh...' a lot at barbeques, those whose very appearance at a social event can make the organisers run around in a sweaty panic trying to find nuts and baby-corn?

That's right, I'm talking about vegetarians.

Now, before you all start waving limp celery sticks at me and threatening to berate me about the head and face with organic, vine ripened kiwi fruit, I understand that there are as many completely valid reasons for being vegetarian as there are vegetarians.

You've got your religious reasons... Well, actually you kinda haven't, not really... There are very few, what I would call mainstream religions that say 'Thou shalt not eat of the meat.' OK, A lot of Orthodox Rastafarians are veggies, and Hinduism focuses fairly heavily on the non-violence towards animals thing and that means that a great majority of its followers are vegetarians too, but other than that it's pretty much up to the individual.  In fact I understand that in Islam, vegetarianism by choice is frowned upon.  You see? You though that some of the eastern religions weren't forward thinking!   Buddhism, For instance, teaches that it's OK to eat meat, as long as the particular animal was not killed just so that you can eat it, which means that they can eat meat that someone else has killed to eat, but has given you their leftovers, and they can also buy meat from the supermarket.  It also means that they can eat meat from an animal that has accidentally died,  So if you ever accept a lift in a Buddhist's car, don't be surprised if they sometimes swerve violently to try to clip a beaver or peacock that they see by the side of the road - Although I understand that reversing over it repeatedly 'Just to be sure' is considered bad form.

Then you've got the 'Well I just don't like meat, tried it once, didn't like it.' section.  Now, I'm the first person to say that if you've tried something and didn't like it, well that's fine... But really? Have you tried all the meat? - I mean, I don't particularly like kidney, which is technically meat, but I would beat a budgerigar to death with a rolling pin if I thought for a second that it was withholding a decent amount of bacon.  Don't like veal? Fair enough - Munch on a faggot (Please note, for my American readers - a faggot, in the UK, is a type of meatball made from minced pig's heart, liver and belly meat... Often served with thick onion gravy, peas and mashed potato.) - It's like me saying that I don't like beans, because I once ate a carrot and it wasn't very nice.

And then there's, perhaps the most vocal group... The ones that everyone thinks of when you say 'Vegetarian'. The ones that don't believe that animals should be slaughtered just so that we can eat them, or object to the conditions that these animals are reared in, or the methods used to turn them into Happy Meals.  Contrary to popularly held belief, I do not have a single, solitary problem with these people.  I know quite a few of them (as biker / grebo / rocker / hippy culture tends to intersect) and not all of them are pale, thin waif-like types who keep banging on about the sacredness of trees and ladybirds having souls... Although, don't get me wrong, some of them are just exactly like that.

Unless of course, they're just doing it to make themselves seem interesting... I have written about this before, so I won't go over old ground - But they really make my knuckles spasm uncontrollably with their holier than thou radish breath, dull hair and hemp-based clothing free-trade produced from sustainable sources in areas where your money goes to supporting the plucky local freedom fighters in their war against the American-Funded fascist military Junta which took over in a coup six months ago and ousted the benevolent President. (lack of punctuation intentional to portray swivel-eyed, drooling maddists.)

So, is a vegetarian diet good for you? - It depends who you ask... If you ask a vegetarian, they'll say yes and show you pictures of vegetarian bodybuilders and a list of famous people who were 'eaters of the cauliflower' - But they'll cleverly avoid the 'Hitler being one' thing... Because no-one wants that.  If you ask a non-vegetarian, they'll look at you funny and cook you a bacon sandwich...

Not a particularly difficult choice there, I think you'll agree.

Even if you do decide you want to lick the lettuce for the rest of your life, (easy Tiger!)you have another difficult choice... You need to decide which type of vegetarian you'd like to be.  Who knew that there were so many types? (I freely admit to referring to Wikipedia for these, so some could be completely fictitious):

Ovo-Vegetarianism: You can eat eggs, but not dairy products

Lacto-Vegetarianism: The complete opposite of the above

Ovo-Lacto-Vegetarianism: you can eat eggs, dairy products and strangely, honey.

Raw Vegetarianism: Does NOT mean that you are only allowed to eat raw stuff - You can cook your veg, but only if you cook it at below 48deg C. (These people are definitely not mad, no sir.)

Fruitarianism: Not just fruit, but you can also eat seeds (Such fun!) and plant matter that you can collect without harming the plant - Although there is something of a Fruitarian Civil War going on at the moment about exactly what you can and can't eat - and whether you have to poop outside to return the seeds of the fruit into the environment - Famous Fruitarians include Steve Jobs and Idi Amin, I leave you to draw your own conclusions.

Sattvic (or Yogic) diet: Pretty much a plant-based diet, so no eggs (but you can get away with dairy if no-one's looking)... But, you can't have alcohol, black and green tea, blue cheese, chocolate, coffee, durian fruit, fermented foods, leeks, Mushrooms, nutmeg, onions, red lentils or 'sauces'.

Su Vegetarianism: No animal products at all and no members of the onion or garlic families (I'm thinking there's maybe a whole politeness / bad breath thing going on here)

Jain Vegetarianism: Yes to dairy, but no to eggs and honey and no root vegetables either as they contain a high proportion of micro-organisms, the eating of which would constitute eating an animal.

Then, there are also the ones that the students usually go for, these diets make even vegetarians look down on you... You really don't want that, it's difficult to describe anything more uncool.

Pescatarianism: Yes to dairy, eggs and honey, also yes to fish and seafood

Pollotarianism: Same as above, but with chicken

Pollo-pescatarianism: Means that you don't really like red meat (including pork)

Then there's the hardcore, the razor's edge, the grim avenger in the darkness that champions the cause of animals from the depths of the Marianas Trench to the Heart of Kathmandu.  The Ninja of Nuts, the Ronin of Radishes, the Berserker of Beetroot...

The Vegan

Not only do these people not eat animal products... No Egg, No Dairy, No Honey, NO EXCEPTIONS! - They don't wear or use animal products either, (So no glycerin or tallow based soap or rubber gloves with the lanolin liner - Neither do they use shampoos, moisturisers and toothpaste that contains natural Allantoin, which they mostly get from cow's urine) and when they sneak up behind you in a darkened alley and slit your throat for eating a Big Mac, (Because they do do that) they will do it with a piece of driftwood that they've found and sharpened with their own teeth.

You can tell the difference between a vegetarian and a vegan because the vegan will usually have a tattoo, somewhere about their person, declaring the fact and they will look at your shoes and a vein will start to twitch in their temple, they will also constantly whisper the word 'murderer' under their breath at you if you're wearing a leather jacket.

But my favourite kind of vegetarian are the ones that practice Post-Modern Billbaileyism.  A Billbaileyist is described in the ensuing quote from the great man himself:

'I'm a vegetarian. I'm not strict; I eat fish, and duck. Well, they're nearly fish, aren't they? They're semi-submerged a lot of the time, they spend a lot of time in the water, they're virtually fish, really. And pigs, cows, sheep, anything that lives near water, I'm not strict. I'm sort of like a post-modern vegetarian; I eat meat ironically.'

Right, I'm off for a bacon sandwich with extra brown sauce... How's about you?

Monday, 5 August 2013

Ignorance as a virtue?

I was in the pub last night, (I'll just pause for a second there to wait for all my loyal readers who have fainted in shock to regain consciousness) having a few quiet drinks with some friends of mine.  There was a lady there whom, allegedly I had never met before.  Although, you know when you get that feeling that you know someone, but can't remember where from?  I kinda got that feeling, although she denied all knowledge. I suppose, in fairness she isn't the first woman to do that, and I dare say she won't be the last.

She was the wife of a neighbour of some friends of mine from Church and I'm sure that she won't mind me saying that she is approaching retirement age.  We were discussing myriad subjects, including 70's soap opera based comedy, genealogy and how visiting sites in Germany that the RAF bombed during the war can make you feel a teensy bit guilty.

Anyway, as it so often does, because I am a ceaseless self-publicist, the conversation came around to this Blog.  Quick as a flash, the Dear Lady said 'Oh, are you a Blogger? What sort of things do you blog about?'

Now, I wasn't expecting this at all, I was expecting the much more popular 'What's a Blog?' or some derivation of it at least.  But I swallowed my surprise and brought out my phone, with the freshly printed cover that has the homepage address on it, she typed the address into her smartphone, favourited it and said 'I'll have a look at that tomorrow' (And if you are doing, welcome to the Chimping Dandy! It was a pleasure talking with you)

This got me thinking, I've been working in I.T. for nearly thirty years now, and do you know what the phrase I've heard more often than any other is? It's 'How long have you been under my desk? / Stop looking up my skirt.' Actually... That doesn't exactly capture the premise I was after... How about 'Did you mean to unplug my computer and lose all my work?' No... Not that either... Ah!... Here we are...

'Well, I don't know anything about computers!' usually said in a proud voice, followed by a laugh, as if implying that people who do know about computers are to be looked down upon and soundly mocked for being slightly effeminate and not very good at football.

Has it always been fashionable to be ignorant about things?  I don't just mean about computers, you can hear people say the same thing about their cars: 'Oh, I don't even know where the oil goes!' Guffaw-guffaw-guffaw, or mobile phones 'You put your number in for me, I've no idea how this thing works!' Haw-haw-haw, or 'Can someone load this machine-gun please? I don't even know which end to look down.' Ha-ha-Click-BANG!-sirens

Traditionally, before Women's Suffrage, when we had an Empire and the map was a resounding pink colour there were only two kinds of people who were expected not to know how to do things.  One group were people from the new colonies, because they hadn't yet been taught English, Christianity or how to use cutlery and suchlike and the other was women, because... Well... They were delicate flowers, who were to be protected at all costs, from life's little realities.  I mean some of those Ladies were apt to suffer conniptions and take to their beds for a month if they ever found out that things like sewers even existed, never mind what would happen if you suggested that they get the rods out and give it the old repetitive thrusting clungey movements.

But nowadays, we've all achieved a kind of equality, men are as good at things as women, white people and 'people of colour' are equally able and valid, disabled people can, with the correct mechanical assistance, for the most part be as active as people who have the complete unfettered use all their extremities. Yet I still have people coming up to me and saying things like 'To save a document I've typed, do I press the button with a picture of a floppy disk on it, or the one with a picture of a shredder being eaten by Godzilla with the words "Delete Document" in Flashing red letters five inches tall underneath it?'  When I answer 'Which do you think?' They think for a second and say 'I don't really know, I don't know anything about computers... Ha-ha-ha.'

Then I hit them with a shovel kept specifically for that purpose.

I've got absolutely no problem with people who don't know how to do things, no-one knows how to do everything and asking is definitely the right thing to do in that situation, but don't be proud of being ignorant, don't wear your lack of experience as a badge of honour.

Don't make out that you're too cool, or too old, or too young, or too important to know how do do something relatively simple.

It makes you sound like an idiot.

Friday, 2 August 2013

Felis Catus

Which is not, as some of you may think, the spell Harry Potter uses when he needs a little furry companionship (leave it!) But the Latin name for the common housecat.

I was watching the news this morning before leaving for work and caught the end of a story, (well, I say story...) that the Cats Protection League have produced a guide to cat behaviour.  It seems that some people don't know what certain cat behaviours mean.

They include (and I kid you not)

If your cat is purring - It is contented.
If your cat is walking towards you with its tail up - It is greeting you.
If your cat is wiping its cheek on the furniture - It is scent marking its territory.

You would, in my opinion, be very special (In an 'I ride on a special bus with a five-point harness and specially flavoured windows for me to lick'  way) to not know all that already if you'd ever spent more than five minutes with a cat.

There was one thing that I thought 'Oh, that actually makes sense.' However, and it was:

If your cat lies down, stretches onto it's back and presents its belly to you, it's letting you know that it's so comfortable in your presence, that it feels like you are no longer a threat to it.

It does not mean 'Yay two-legs, tickle my belly.' as anyone who has ever tried this will testify... What you get if you do is the whole 'Did you think that I was a cat? Sorry, I usually describe myself as a furry bag full of razorblades' treatment and your arm looks like something out of Hellraiser.

There are some very odd things about cats which aren't so obvious though, especially to a dog person like myself - Although we do have a cat, called Pop, I have slowly trained her to become more dog-like so that I don't get so easily confused.

Here are a couple things to look out for:

Cats are attracted to people who don't like cats - This is perfectly true, cats will indeed be attracted to people who don't like them, do you know why?  If you watch a cat for any length of time, you'll notice that they do a kind of slow blink every once in a while and then turn away... Go and watch one now, You see, it did it... Unless it was asleep, then I'd have to question why you were watching a sleeping cat for twenty minutes.

Anywho, that slow blink is a gesture of approval, it's the equivalent of John Thomson's Fast Show character 'Louis Balfour, the host of Jazz Club' turning to the camera and saying 'Niiiice!'.  So, picture the scene, you're at someone's house, they've got a cat and you don't like cats, you don't even like to look at cats, you'd never think of even sniffing, licking or playing a melodic harmonica solo to a cat. so you close your eyes and look away.

Cat thinks 'Hey! a new friend, and he likes me enough to have learned my language!'  then it jumps on your lap, nestles down in your nether regions and slowly pumps its claws into any area where hair mysteriously started to grow during puberty.  Because you're polite and don't want to offend anyone, you just sit there like a swan... Unmoving on the outside, but screaming like a lunatic on the inside - That is Swans right?  Actually, thinking about it, I might have swans confused with something else - Not sure what, it'll come to me probably.

The headbutt is another cat thing that has a meaning, it's kind of a question.  Your cat is saying 'Are you mine? you used to smell like me, but you don't anymore.'  The initial 'butt' is the question, if you don't push the cat away, squirt it with one of those plant spray bottles or hit it with a telephone directory, then it will assume that you are its property and re-scent you with its cheek glands.

This is the cat marking you as its property, confirming your status as a chattel, something that the cat wholly owns, but allows to move around within certain boundaries, known only to the cat.

Our cat does this to our dog, often.  Here is a picture of our dog, trying to tear my throat out in a loving and caring manner.

He is not as kind to the cat... There is chasing, and a little light, occasional biting.

But when you get down to it (No, not with the cat you skanky pervs) cats are simple animals with simple drives for everything they do.  If you look into it deeply enough it tends to be because they despise you with all of their black little satanic hearts.  You are just there to service their every whim.

There, I said it cats are evil.  I think Terry Pratchett might have said it best: 'If cats looked like frogs, we'd realise what nasty, cruel little bas*ards they are'

And they are, if a child plays with its food, it means that they're making the word 'Bumholes' with their alphabetti spaghetti, wheras if a cat's playing with its food it means that it's biting the leg off a baby bird and then jabbing it with its claws while it flails spastically about until one of its eyes pops out. (And yes, I have given myself extra points for using the word 'spastically' correctly and in context)

You can, and I have seen this happen to Mrs Dandy, feed a cat a plump, juicy prawn... Which it will proceed to eat, wash itself all over and then hunt you down and kick your ass by jumping from the ceiling fan, grabbing onto your ears with it's front paws and slicing your face open like an over-ripe beef tomato with its hind ones.

There is anecdotal evidence that they smother babies in their cots. According to Japanese sailors, they can bewitch you with their tails (I guess this really depends on how long you've been at sea). It was a commonly held belief that black cats are an incarnation of the Devil, which is a little racist, but I applaud the basic sentiment. and in the 9th Century, King Henry the First of Saxony was so seduced by a cat (History does not record whether he'd ever sailed on a Japanese boat) that he made it illegal to kill cats, a crime which carried a fine of sixty bushels of corn.  If that isn't evidence of witchcraft then I don't know what is.

This is our cat, Pop

She look like a perfectly normal, fuzzy little animal, until you realise... That her eyes don't have any pupils...

I leave you with a bit of ugly Feline doggerel.

There once was two cats of Kilkenny,
And each thought there was one cat too many.
So they quarreled and fought
and they scratched and they bit
Until there was only their nail,
and the tips of their tails
Instead of two cats, there weren't any.

And I think that sums it all up perfectly - Cats? Just say no.

Thursday, 1 August 2013

Those pesky Colours

Actually, that sounds a bit racist doesn't it?  Unless your first thought was about washing machines that is, then you have my sympathy.

Well, that's completely not what I'm talking about, I mean actual colours, red, blue, green and yellow, things like that.  (I'm also not talking about Taupe, beige or camel - As, if you're a man, these aren't even real colours).

Something that I've always wondered, often at four o'clock in the morning, when it's raining and the cat's singing along to a particularly interesting bowel movement that she's having,  is - 'What if the colour that I think is red, is the colour that you think is blue?'

Do you know what I mean?

I don't mean 'I wonder if I'm colourblind?' or 'Is that a reddy-blue or a bluey-red?'  I mean, what if we see colours completely differently?

When you're a toddler, you learn the colour of things by example, your caring parents may have bought you one of those books with the cardboard pages that have pictures of cars and trucks and bunnies and chicks, opened it at a random page and gone 'Look at the Blue Car, lookit... Bluuuuueeeee caaaaaaaar... Can you say Bllluuuuuuuuuuuueeeeeeeeee Caaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrrr?' and after a while, your little sponge of a brain will make a quiet clicking noise and go 'The shape that the large, strange lady with the breath that smells of vodka is pointing at will now be categorised as "CAR" and its predominant colour is described as "BLUE" - File: save.'

From then on, everything that is that colour that can be thought about, touched or put in your mouth is described as Blue.  The same can be said of 'YELLOW CHICKS' or 'RED FISH', you get the idea...

But what if, something in between the camera that we call an eye, and the computer that we call a brain is wired differently?  What if the colour that your parents call 'Blue' is recognised in your head as the colour everyone else calls 'Red'?  How would you ever know?  Your friends would be sunbathing in the Summer under a bright Blue sky, and so would you, but unbeknownst to everyone (even yourself) you're seeing a Red sky... But you've been taught that that colour is actually called Blue.

You see, that's the problem with subjective things... only one person (The Subject themselves.) actually knows how they're experiencing something.

Same thing applies to smell, how do you know that the smell that everyone else smells when they say 'I love the smell of of freshly cut grass!' isn't actually the smell of an elephant with explosive diarrhoea - Not only would you not know, but you would also have been conditioned to believe that it was a nice smell! - Hot buttered toast could have the smell of a tramps gusset, fresh paint could smell like a burning duck (not a roasting duck, but like, what you'd smell if you went down to your local lake with a can of Lynx and a lighter.)

Your nearest and dearest could, to you, smell like a mixture of week old sweat, dried on urine and regurgitated spam vindaloo... Much like the chap who sat next to me on the bus to Nottingham yesterday,  But to you it smells like what we would all describe as expensive cologne and soap (which you've been taught to think are awful smells...)

I mean, I have no idea whether this actually does happen, and neither do any of the world's leading scientists, which by default makes me as least as intelligent as them... More so in fact, as I'll wager my left kidney and half an unused testicle that most of them haven't even thought about it.

Maybe colourblindness is actually your brain rebelling against your conditioning?

This demands further research... I'm going to buy a baby from eBay and give it different, random names for all the colours and smells, just to see if it'll work... Although, I guess that everyone in the world would have to be in on it...

You'd support me wouldn't you people of the Internet?

Internet people?


Is this thing on?