Monthly Archives: January 2011

Techno Party

One of the WordPress topic suggestions over the weekend was What’s one piece of technology you can’t live without?

To a man with a pacemaker, such as me, the answer is a no-brainer. To a man with no brain, such as me, that answer is no fun.

And the really top ones like the TV, the computer, the car and the George Foreman Lean Mean Fat-Reducing Grill will have plenty of espousers (to my amazement Spellcheck says that’s a real word), so I’m here to stand up for the forgotten ones, those little inventions without which life would be a lot less, well, interesting.

The Garmin Sat-nav. Back-seat driving in robot form.

The I-Phone. Gradually bringing the mobile phone back to the size it was in the 1980s, i.e. too big to be mobile.

Now that's entertainment

The underwater TV camera. Without it Synchronised Swimming could not exist, and the girl leaping about with the bit of ribbon would still be the silliest sport in the Olympics.

The canned-laughter machine in sit-coms. How else would we know when the jokes come along?

Run, Forrest, run

The yellow traffic light. The technological equivalent of tapping a racehorse with a whip, it gees us up so that we don’t get stuck at the red.

The treadmill. For people who don’t have footpaths.

The GHD hair-straightener. Shows that women are more vain than men.

The fact that Tinson2 uses Tingirl’s GHD hair-straightener. Shows how little I know.

Screw-top wine bottles. Confirmation that all that stuff wine-snobs used to do about sniffing the cork was a load of bollocks.

The microwave. Heating food by applying radiation to its internal molecules. Sure what could possibly go wrong?

And finally, the nipple-ring and all other forms of body-piercing. Proof that we are not the cleverest race on the planet. Do dolphins do that to themselves? Do tortoises?

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Earth Works

When people say they are building themselves a house, they do not mean that they are doing every single thing themselves. They do not lay every brick, plumb every utility, tighten every nut. No, what they mean is that they are putting up the money and letting someone else do it ( a nut-tightening experience in itself).

So when we learnt at school that God made the world, what was actually meant is that God made some plans, then got some men in.  He engaged the company Heavenly Homes, run by St Thomas, the patron saint of builders, and St Gomer, patron saint of cowboys (see, research).

And just six days later (although their quote had said four) it was time for the snag-list meeting….

God, Thomas and Gomer stared down into the Grand Canyon. “How did I end up with this giant hole?” asked God (I’ve checked Google, no-one’s ever typed that sentence before).

“Er, you know that big moon thing that you got us to hang in the sky?” said Thomas. “Well, it fell. Turned out it was too heavy.”

God looked up at the moon, now sitting safely in the sky. “How did you solve the problem of getting it to stay there?”

“We used a lighter material,” said Thomas, “we made it out of cheese.”

“What’s cheese?” asked God. “Curdled goat’s piss,” said Gomer helpfully.

“Good God,” said God.

He waved his hand, and Lo! they were the next snag. They all gazed at the Niagara Falls.

“Water feature,” said Gomer quickly.

“Don’t patronise me,” snapped God.

“Ok,” admitted Thomas, “we made a small miscalculation. We built the riverbed at the Canada end a bit higher than the American end.”

God looked at the towering wall of water. “ Define a bit,” he said.

“About two hundred feet,” mumbled Gomer, staring down at his shoes sandals.

“That’s quite a miscalculation,” said God.

(If he thinks that’s bad, wait until he sees the dinosaurs, thought Thomas. They were only supposed to be the size of corgis).

Again, God waved his hand. A unicorn appeared in front of them. “Story?” asked God.

“We got St John Bosco to help with the beasts of the field,” said Peter, “but of course he is just the patron saint of apprentices. He glued an elephant’s tusk to a horse’s head by mistake.”

“I see,” he sighed. “Did he create any other daft looking animals?”

Thomas thought of the giraffe, where John Bosco had screwed a T-Rex’s head and neck onto a deer’s torso; of the penguin, where he had stuck the feet directly onto the body, leaving out the legs; and of the hammerhead shark, an ordinary shark which had swallowed  St JB’s lump hammer, with cartoon-like results. “Er, no,” he said warily.

He needn’t have worried, God wasn’t listening anyway, he was staring at the creature that was walking towards them. It was like the man that he had designed for them to build, yet subtly different. As He stared at the bumps on her chest and the way her hips swayed as she walked he felt an inexplicable urge to shout “Phoarrrr!”.

“What’s that?” he asked hoarsely.

“It’s called a woman,” said Thomas. “We made her out of spare parts of Adam.”

“Why?”

“Well,” he was lonely, and to be honest he was driving us nuts, always hanging around and asking us to play three-and-in with him.”

The woman approached them and gazed upon everything. She saw that it was good.

“Not bad,” she said. “Put up some shelves.”

God had never created loins, but the sight of her bum moving from side to side as she walked away made him realise that they had created themselves, as he could feel a stirring in them.

It was the Seventh day. God rested.

By this I mean he lay down in a darkened room with a cold cloth on his forehead.

He could see trouble ahead.

Two Legs Good

Yesterday’s post about aliens reminds me of a strange fact.

We are the only species in the galaxy that wears trousers.

The aliens who visit here are, by and large, naked. Think of the guy in yesterday’s post, for example (no, not Bono, the green guy), or the ones in the pictures from Roswell . I suspect that in their research they had no idea what Fahrenheit and Celsius meant, and that the faint glow that always seems to emanate from them is in fact frost forming upon them.

ET (who was also starkers) wanted to go home as soon as he got here. I went to Copenhagen in November once and know exactly how he felt.

Their nakedness highlights the fact that they have no, well, bits. If they’d ever give us advance warning that they were coming we’d send Ken and Barbie to greet them, to make them feel more at home.

And these are just the ones that come here. According to documentaries that I have watched, such as Star Trek and Stargate, by the time we can travel through space ourselves the beings we meet will have learnt a thing or two about tailoring.

But not, apparently, about trousering. Thus the people of Star Trek or Stargate will agree to meet the ambassador from some planet (to discuss trade options, it seems no-one buys online in the 24th century) and through the Stargate, or through the transporter beam, will come a bearded man in a long robe.

He will usually be carrying a large staff.

The fact that these species are so advanced in space travel while still dressing like the people of Galilee is a bit baffling. Even in Fred Flintstone’s time we had invented the tie.

More enlightened planets will sometimes have a female ambassador. She too will wear a long robe, though it will cling tightly to her as if she’s been wrapped in swaddling clothes. This gives her a chance to tempt Captain Picard with her womanly wiles, wiles apparently being common to all females everywhere in the galaxy.

I feel sorry for them all. Bits or no bits, it cannot be pleasant when the chill winds of Xjrui (a planet who’s name derives from typing a capital X and then hitting four keys at random, I’m actually quite proud of it) blow up your robe. It can’t be easy drawing your phaser, or keeping your dignity when your ship flies briefly upside down. It must be really tough when the lifts don’t work (it seems to happen quite a lot on starships) and you’ve to climb a long ladder or crawl along a narrow tube.

Alien spacesuit

It must be a nightmare if you ever have to go outside the ship. Your spacesuit must make you look like Kenny from South Park.

The universe is our market. We can show that the world’s economic woes are a load of pants by selling a load of pants.

They need us badly. We have trousery to suit all tastes. The more dubious ones can start with flares, like a robe for each leg, until they get used to the idea. Those bringing their offspring to space-school will find the pyjama-bottom suitable for every occasion. Those working in the construction of starships will cling at least partly to their former nakedness by revealing the top half of their arse. The more womanly-wiled ones will quickly move on to Kylie-like shorts.

This is our chance to sew chino where no-one’s done before.

Too Many Chiefs

You might have noticed that aliens tend to appear only to sad middle-aged men in remote backward places, so it should come as no surprise that last night a small spaceship dropped to hover in front of me as I walked home through our remote backward town (it’s ok, no-one from Greystones reads this).

The door hissed open and an alien walked out. He was green, had long fingers, spindly legs and huge saucer-shaped eyes. If you think this sounds suspiciously stereotypical, then please consider that he must have looked at my small eyes, nostrils on my nose, hair on my head and open-mouth of astonishment and thought exactly the same thing about me.

“Take me to your leader,” he said.

They always say this. It appears that every other planet they have ever visited has just one ruler, and that any hick on his way home from the pub will have instant access to this leader, without having first to go through his secretary, his bodyguards and a really long-winded answering machine (“if you wish to introduce the Supreme Emperor to a visiting alien, please press 5”).

“Which one?” I asked.

“Er, what?”

“Which leader? We’ve lots of them here at the moment. We’ve a guy who’s nominally still in charge of our country, even though he’s not even leader of his party anymore. He says this is constitutionally plausible, so he might be the leader. There’s the guy who’s taken over as leader of that party, which is still the biggest in the government, so he might count as leader. There’s a guy who will be the head of a new government in about  in about three weeks, if you‘d like to hang about a bit. Over all of this we have a President. She‘s just a figurehead, has no power, but she is our top citizen.”

It’s funny, though his features and facial expressions were completely different to ours, just by looking at him I could tell he was starting to develop a headache.

“That’s a lot of leaders,” he said.

“Oh, I haven’t finished yet. There’s the President of the EU, the Governor of the IMF and the Chairman of the European Central Bank, who have all just taken us over. There’s the clergy, who like to think we’re following their preachings, though we aren’t. There’s the head of NAMA, who’s managing all our debt. There’s the bankers, millionaires and developers who really run this country (wow, Tinman, political satire, we’re impressed). There’s Mary Byrne from the X-Factor, who rules our hearts.”

“Anyone else? Is there no one person who’s every word you feel you must obey?”

I thought of Mrs Tin, remembered that friends of hers sometimes read this blog, and chickened out.

“No, I think that’s about it.”

The alien sighed. “Guess I might as well leave so,” he said, and turned back towards the door of the spaceship. He looked so crestfallen that I tried one last time, and came up with one last name.

“Wait,” I said, “there’s Bono. He’s not actually a leader, but he tells the world leaders what to do.”

The alien turned back to me and smiled.

“Nah, met him,” said the alien. “He’s one of ours.”

Obvious once you know, isn't it?

Word Play

For the first time since I committed myself to this Post-a-Day thing I find myself really stuck. The helpful daily hints are proving less than helpful at the moment (“What would you most like to be remembered for?” “Being the first person to live to the age of 342”. “Describe a perfect Sunday?” “One that has a Bank Holiday Monday directly after it.”).

Then I remembered a Sherlock Holmes story in which they are given a message by directing them to certain words on certain pages in a book. Holmes originally chose the wrong edition of the book, which he realised when the third word was “pig’s-bristles“(the story is The Valley of Fear, I’ve just had the fun of typing “Holmes pig bristles” into Google).

I decided I would try a variant of this, using a book and the dates of birth of the Tinfamily, and would write a post based on the five words I found.

I did it using the day & month for the first, third and fifth members of the family, and the year in the other two cases. So I would take the 13th word on the 12th page for me, then using the year for Mrs Tin I took the 19th word on page…er, well, as a better example I took the 19th word on page 95 for Tinson2.

I went to the bookshelves at the side of the room, picked a book at random (“Watermelon” by Marian Keyes), and duly listed the five words.

They were “of”, “putty”, “want”, “did” and “if”.

Most people would have realised that the system was flawed, but I decided that it was the book that was. I took the next book on the shelf, “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo” and had another go.

*(Sigh)*.

“I”, “to”, “side”, “was”, “the”.

I’m not sure that “pig’s-bristles” would have been a whole lot better, but it would have had more possibilities.

I could of course just give up, but I made a promise to you all to do a post each day, so I am like putty in your hands.

And the use of the word “putty” there should give you a hint. All ten words are in here, if you want to look for them. It’d be like a verbal version of “Where’s Wally”.

Let’s face it, that’s the most entertainment you’re going to get out of this post.

Paddy No-Mates

It looks like our election will be on February 25th. This means counting on the 26th and 27th, followed by complete re-counts in a couple of seats in the first three days of March. There will then be a constitutional challenge by some candidate called Frank Zachariah, who will argue that it was alphabetical order on the ballot paper that led to him getting just four votes, and not the fact that his policies included compulsory porridge, a tax on puddles and the appointment of rabbits as Government Ministers. This will take at least another month.

Like a bad bodhrán player, our timing is shite. Let’s face it, it won’t be sorted by March 17th…

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

Barrack Obama slumped gloomily at his desk in the Oval Office, idly doodling on a piece of paper. It was St Patrick’s Day, and he had nothing to do.

For months he had watched the growing political farce in Ireland, hoping that it would not come to this. He had hoped that the existing government would survive at least until today, so that Barrack would get the chance to look really handsome again beside the Irish Prime Minister (they called him De Shock in Ireland, Obama could understand why). If not, well, he had seen the likely successor, and could not help the feeling that he was descended from leprechauns. But the timing of the election had meant no-one was in charge.

The new guy

So no-one had come to make the traditional presentation of the bowl of shamrock that morning. He hadn’t had to listen to a load of guff explaining how he was actually part Irish (the Dalai Lama had been informed that he had fallen from the same genealogical tree just one month earlier). He hadn’t had to babble on about how the Irish had built the entire world, while ignoring the fact that they had just destroyed the entire world economy. You’d think he’d be thrilled, but he wasn’t.

It was Paddy’s Day, and there were no Paddies in the White House. And he missed them.

He had rung asking could he be Marshall at the St Patrick’s Day Parade, but it been turned down. They had opted instead for Sarah Palin,

Well, she is....

since (1) Sarah was a more Irish name; (2) she was as batty as any Irish person and (3) she was hot.

Obama glared at the hideous green tie that he had worn each St Patrick’s Day for the previous two years. This year he had no reason to wear it, but Michelle had left it out in the hope that it might cheer him up. It could get knotted, he thought, especially now that it didn’t have to.

He looked down at his doodling. He had scrawled

Barrack Obama
Barrack O’Bama
Barry O’Bama
The Bard Rick O’Bama
Bádraig Óg UíBamach (strange, he hadn’t realised he knew Irish).

He suddenly had the urge to put on the tie. He wanted to drink green-topped Guinness, to dance like a tap-dancer with his arms nailed to his hips, to sing a succession of dirges (with one hand cupped over one ear) about how he‘d been forced to emigrate from Erin‘s green shore by the potato famine/the dastardly English/the recession, to charm women with the cheekiest of smiles and cheesiest of chat-up lines, to throw up green-topped vomit, to stand proudly facing the Irish flag, to fall loudly face-first to the floor.

On St Patrick’s Day, everyone wants to be Irish.

When All At Once

William Wordsworth had decided to go for a walk.

He was in a vacant and a pensive mood. That morning’s Lake District Gazette had brought the news that the Poem of the Year award had gone to Keats. For some poem about a Greek pot.

Jammy bastard. Wordsworth hoped he caught consumption.

Wordsworth himself, meanwhile, was suffering badly from writer‘s block. His main problem was that he lived in a cottage in the middle (sorry, midst, he was a poet, after all) of nowhere, and there was little to write about.

First prize at the local village’s recent Summer Fete had been won by a humorously-shaped cucumber. Try getting something to rhyme with that.

Back in London the literary papers were suggesting that he was too staid and boring. People like Coleridge and Byron better fitted the public‘s notion of what a poet should be, living lives full of wenching, Bohemian excess and fatal diseases. Shelley openly mocked him, saying that he had written nothing since Tintern Abbey, while (whilst) even Shelley’s own sister Mary – a mere woman (his words, NOT mine, I’m not Andy Gray) – had literally created a monster.

His own sister Dorothy had taken to looking up from her sewing in the evenings and hinting that money was starting to run tight, and that perhaps it was time he tried another career – the clergy, perhaps, or maybe the military (a poet’s sales did tend to rise if he died heroically in battle, Dorothy had murmured one night, slightly more loudly than she had intended to).

And that is why this morning he was wandering, lonely, through this countryside that was frankly starting to get on his nerves. All he needed was one last great poem, one that would immortalise him forever (which is pretty much tautology).  But how to start?

He had read in another local paper, The Word Press, about something called free writing, where one simply wrote about anything at all in order to stir the creative juices. Well, he reflected, it was worth a shot, if only to prevent him having to enlist, and get shot at.

As he crossed o’er a vale and started up a hill, he decided  he would write about the next thing he saw.

He reached the top brow breast of the hill and gazed downwards. His heart with pleasure filled. There they were, beside the lake, beneath the trees (they were fluttering and dancing in the breeze, he realised excitedly, his talent was already returning). There were hundreds of them. They were a crowd, nay, they were not than that. They were a host.

Of nasturtiums.

It’s funny how little things change history.