Friday, March 31, 2006

I am woman – see me duck

While the Islamic Republic of Iran has made great strides in recent years in the field of executing rape victims, concerns continue to be raised as to whether Islamic justice can keep pace with all those evil little harlots out there flaunting themselves in their baggy chadors, shamelessly naked under their clothes.

Pausing only for a cold shower or two, the Majlis has finally hit upon the solution – combine military training with summary justice in the form of the new Khomeini™ brand “interactive” rifle range targets.

Women’s groups throughout the Western world rushed to ignore this latest development yesterday. “We feel it’s inappropriate to condemn another culture” explained Natalie Broadhead of Wimmin’s Action Against Male Oppression, idly kicking a man in the nuts for holding the door open for her. “It’s essentially a form of imperialism, which is an exclusively male crime of course. Anyway, those guys look a bit nasty. They’d be burning our offices before you could say clitorectomy. I think we’ll stick to pushing shit through Larry Sommers’ mailbox, if it’s all the same to you…”

Unveiling the new targets in Tehran yesterday, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad declared the Khomeini™ “a great day for the Islamic Republic”. “Of course, this is only a first step. Just wait ‘til we have nukes – we’ll be able to chastise these wicked females in bulk then, as Allah intended.”

Mr Ahmadinejad went on to plug three in a row through the X ring, winning a giant teddy bear for the “nephew” accompanying him.

Update! If, like our good friend Des, you are one of those deranged individuals with quite unfathomable and irrational prejudices against hanging rape victims, why not go here and sign the petition to save the poor lass? At the very least, they will know that they are being watched...

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Eating for three

More on fat, as the Economist catches my eye with an interesting little piece re weight gain among “pregnant fathers”.

Close observation of expectant marmosets and the cottontop tamarins demonstrated beyond doubt the existence of the long-suspected “couvade syndrome”, whereby the partners of pregnant females put on weight before birth, Significantly, it was also shown that the pattern of weight-gain among the males was different from that of their mates, occuring on average earlier in the pregnancy than for the females, ruling out the possibility of overeating in sympathy with the mother-to-be as the cause.

This is a topic close to my heart at the moment, as I fight an inevitably losing battle with my waistline while Terriblet #4 swells that of my wife. I raise my stepper time to an hour a day, add extra resistance to the abs machines, do an extra set of reps on the weights, but to no avail. I have finally gone north of 200lbs, never I fear to see the right side of it again. I scan the article for clues as to how to beat my body’s ghastly treachery, but no suggestions are offered. Rather, couvade is treated as a light-hearted inconvenience, if not a natural and even positive thing. Weight gain prepares the father-to-be for the rigours of parenthood, the Economist smugly declares.

Well, that may work well for marmosets and cottontop tamarins, but they don’t have to replace an entire wardrobe of very expensive suits. Maybe if I felt slightly less attached to my wife, and not quite so bound up in the mystical connection that is the mutual anticipation of a new baby? Alas, it is all too late for me. Not even that blonde from accounts can do anything to break this ruinous reproductive spell. And God knows we’ve tried hard enough.

Again, as with policing policy, the men in white coats pick on monkeys to prove a point about humans. It’s not clear however whether the results have been normalised to take account of simian-specific causes of variation such as a high-banana diet or having a bright blue bottom. These features are admittedly difficult to recreate in human subjects, but that didn’t stop them when it came to offences against Nature like sharks with laser beams on their heads, or Chris Evans. They really ought to think twice before publishing this sort of shoddy substitute for scientific research.

A proud father and his excuse, yesterday.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

It’s all Greek to me

On our travels over the weekend, we find ourselves hungry and far from home, so we stop in at a restaurant called Baba Ganoush. The menu is an almost exact duplicate of that of our favourite restaurant in Budapest, Semiramis, which was of course Syrian right down to the framed portrait of Assad the Elder. This place, on the other hand, is in North Carolina, and nervously insists that it is Greek.

I point out the picture of Beirut on the wall above the till, but the server says that it is Athens. ‘This is a Greek restaurant” he repeats, eyeing the exits. “Hi! I’m Bashir” confides his treacherous name-tag.

There is some intermittent raffia-work and a poster of the Acropolis, but one can tell that their hearts weren’t really in it.

The food is outstanding, but the drinks are mostly the standard God-awful American sodas. We spring on three Fruit Punch Snapples for the kids, in view of their lower than average E-number count. As an added bonus, printed inside each bottle cap is a “Real Fact”, intended to mug the children with education when their guards are down.

This bounces harmlessly off of my brood’s heavily-armoured carapaces, they being mostly illiterate except for brand names, but I find myself informed willy-nilly, in quick succession, that:
- bamboo makes up 99% of the diet of the average panda
- penguins have an organ above their eyes that converts seawater to fresh water, and
- the square dance is the official dance of the state of Washington

I once thought that the true killer fact was the work of months of dedicated research, a la Hutton. I’m therefore vaguely disappointed to discover that he’s probably just addicted to these tooth-rotting sugar-fests. No wonder he gets all hyper and abusive.

These uninvited nuggets of information are strangely unsatisfying. They raise more questions than they answer, especially considering that no-one asked the original question in the first place.

For example:
- what makes up the other 1% of a panda’s diet? Is it just stuff resembling bamboo, like supermodels, or stuff that just happened to be near the bamboo at the time, like abandoned baby girls? If the latter, does that explain why they’re all so fat?
- why can’t we just ring the south coast of England with factory-farmed genetically engineered borg-penguins, all chained up in the shallows and merrily pushing out fresh water like billy-o for our gardens and water features? I can’t think of any downside.
And of course
- what the Hell is up with those plaid-clad freaks in Washington State? No wonder Kurt Cobain shot himself.

Fretting over these weighty matters quite ruins my appetite, so I leave an insultingly low tip as we leave. Whatever Bashir mutters at me as we pass, it isn’t in Greek…

Some Snapple, yesterday. A regular liquid academy.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Robbie Burns Update

And so we wind down our search for the perfect picture to represent my limping prose. Given the original title, it seemed appropriate to wrap this up when we reached 50 comments. I seem to have gotten off extraordinarily lightly. Among those nominated are…
Michael Portillo
Peter Sellers
Laurence Olivier
Alan Rickman
Richard Clayderman
Rembrandt’s Polish Rider
Samuel Beckett
…and last but not least,
Jonathan Swift

This selection shows a generally flattering bias towards a certain type of sophisticated, slightly old-school Englishman, with a touch of the cad mixed in. I like to think that Beckett and the Polish Rider represent my extensive travels and long residence in many parts of Europe, while Richard Clayderman represents Aunty M’s fag hag tendencies which she should really get therapy for.

After all this, I’m tempted to post an actual pic for comparison, but alas Mrs Terrible has interposed her veto, which is something not to be denied, especially on the day the toddler peed all over the only couch. So instead we’ll have to make do with my favourite author, to whom I am reliably informed I do have a genuine resemblance.

What makes him all the more appropriate is that he is another, like Orwell, who never lived long enough to get “the face he deserved”.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the author of “Heart of a Dog”, “The White Guard” and “Master and Margarita"…

...Mikhail Bulgakov.

Friday, March 24, 2006

“At fifty, everyone has the face he deserves…” – George Orwell (1903-1950)

Answering a comment from my good friend Gorilla Bananas a few days ago, I was somewhat alarmed to realize that I subconsciously thought of him as being literally the adult male silverback pictured in his profile. Which of course he is. But it does raise the question as to what people think I look like. Do they really picture me as the cross between Neo and Wings of Desire that my hastily thrown-together South Park pic implies? Or does the moniker Ivan the Terrible suggest something darker, and possibly bearded?

Well, the great thing about the internet is that one need not suffer the agonies of uncertainty in silent frustration. “For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened” [Matthew 7:8]. So what say, folks? What do I look like? Or, if you prefer, what should I look like? Stick your choices in the comments as links, and who knows, I might adopt one of them.

At the very least, I’ll get to realise Robbie Burns’ poetic dream –

"O wad some Power the giftie gie us, To see oursels as ithers see us!"

I’m giving you all weekend for this one, so go nuts…

George Orwell, yesterday, who sadly can be said to have conclusively disproved his own adage.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Synchronicity at work

I’m impressed and a little alarmed at the results of our exciting swearathon yesterday, as the profanities pour in. Sterling nominations are received from Afrikaans, French, and a couple more from Hungarian, courtesy of arch-swearmeister Des. Check out the comments of yesterday’s post for details.

We had some brave attempts on the bonus question, too, to complete the phrase “I think swearing is both big and clever because” in ten words or less, as follows:

…because it’s good for reducing blood pressure.
…because my parents were against it.
…because provides a relief denied even to prayer.
…because it offends humans
…because it takes balls to go 'fuck!'

But to my mind not even Des’ valiant effort could match the winner of the same competition run by Viz magazine a few years back:

I think swearing is both big and clever because I’m a cunt.

That’s worthy of the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square, if you ask me.

In the course of my noble and disinterested research into the topic, I stumble across the explanation for the Hungarians’ fixation with the mighty lófasz:

lófasz a seggedbe!(phrase) ‡ horse's prick into your ass! note This is one of the most popular Hungarian curses, with a very interesting history. Hungary was under Turkish occupation for 160 years (from 1526 to 1686).The most frequent Turkish method of execution was impaling. The Turkish word for "stake" was "lopat”. Thus some 400 years ago, a Hungarian, wishing something very bad upon his neighbor, said; "lopat a seggedbe" (i.e. a stake in your ass). As the word "lopat" fell into disuse it was replaced by "lófasz", a word of almost identical pronounciation.

In other news, Donald Trump is moved to share more of his inimitable genius with us, on the birth of his latest child Barron…

“I continue to stay young, right? I produce children, I stay young."

Donald, I think I speak for us all when I say menjel mar az anya picsajaba lófasszal a seggedben te hulye szar.

Donald Trump yesterday, forever young. The optimist believes immortality will be discovered before they die. A pessimist knows it’ll be discovered before Donald does.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

It’s not big and it’s not clever

Des and I got onto the subject of swearing on Monday, after a particularly vitriolic display of Tourettes from Des in a comment about Putin. While everything that he said was unarguably true, he was belatedly overcome with remorse at the thought that my innocent sprogs might read it and be warped forever, bless his little cotton socks.

For better or worse there is no danger of that sort of damage being done, as my kids are already fluent in the foulest imaginable profanities that the Hungarian language has to offer, which make their anglophone equivalents wilting flowers by comparison. I have lived in eight different countries, mostly in central or eastern Europe, and have heard every expletive that the words “Communist”, “Russian” and “Gypsy” can provoke, and in all that time I have never met a match for Hungarian’s broad vocabulary and imaginative metaphors, nor for the enthusiasm with which both are deployed by the populace, without regard to age, sex or social class.

To this day I vividly recall hearing a sweet silver-haired granny with her shopping caught in a tram door describe uses for a horse’s cock that would make a docker pale, all while her cherubic grandkids looked on unfazed. There must have been a good fifteen permutations, all of them a rare combination of the graphic and yet strangely plausible, in a tirade lasting long enough for the tram to reach the next stop and the doors open again, whereupon she got off in a huff to the spontaneous applause of her fellow passengers.

I’m therefore going to stick my neck out and nominate lófasz (horseprick) as the most powerful swearword in any language anywhere ever. What say, my globetrotting crew – can you beat that?

Additional bonus question: Complete the following sentence in ten words or less:
I think swearing is both big and clever because…

What's everyone looking at me for?

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Mirror, mirror, on the wall…

…who’s the weaselliest one of all? Startling unanimity among the readership, as Lukashenko’s stunted but otherwise separated-at-birth twin Vladimir Putin romps home unopposed. I was expecting at least one pointed counter-culture comment about how W’s eyes are too close together to be entirely trustworthy, but no.

I hope people don’t think we’re all hopeless neo-cons here. I’d hate to live in a world where that could be true.

Putin and Lukashenko doing their “fun house mirror” impersonation yesterday, courtesy of “Dictator of the Month”. One assumes that this site is tongue in cheek, but when you see captions in German you can never be quite sure, can you?

Monday, March 20, 2006

Single White Russian

Alexander Lukashenko sneaks home to reelection as President of Belarus this weekend, with a mere 82% of the vote. Some people say he's an old style Soviet tyrant, but they always got 99.9% of the vote, so I suppose that makes our Alexander a bit of a weeping liberal really.

Just looking at him is enough to tell you he's trouble. I mean, the man has a comb-over, for God's sake. Not to mention the moustache. Like a rattlesnake, he's a walking (well, slithering) warning to anyone who sets eyes on him.

Can anyone beat this guy for a weaselly appearance? Who's your favourite rat-person? Stick your nominees in the comments. Maybe by tomorrow I'll be able to post pictures again and we can have a rogue's gallery of them...

Update! Suddenly, we can post pictures again. WooHoo! And here's that pic of Lukashenko. Perhaps we were better off without.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Technical Fault

For some reason I can't seem to get pictures to load today, which makes the planned post entirely pointless, so I'll save that for another day.

In other news, it turns out that it wasn't a hangover I had yesterday, which is a relief given how little I actually drank. Instead, it seems the Terribles have had another visit from the stomach bug fairy. Our middle boy went under on Friday, and the others dropped one after the other yesterday afternoon, even as I tottered to my feet. This morning it was the wife's turn, and the house is now a scene of such Breugelian horror that I would not dare share the images even if I had a way to load them.

Normal service will (hopefully) be restored tomorrow. In the meantime, if I were you, I'd go disinfect thoroughly after reading this...

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Erin go bragh

Yesterday was St Patrick’s Day. At least I assume it was yesterday, tho’ frankly I have no clue how long I’ve been unconscious. It could have been aeons for all I know. Squinting out the window I see what look like Morlocks shambling across a blasted post-apocalyptic landscape, but then again maybe that’s just my neighbours dealing with similar drink-related disorders.

Whatever. If they are Morlocks, the worst they can do is eat me, which will at least stop the horrible jackhammering going on somewhere just behind my sinuses. In the meantime I swill the beermonkey out of my mouth, pop a couple of pills, and head back to bed.

My wife appears at the bedside, attempting to communicate. It could be about shopping, it could be about infanticide – her voice has suddenly become a cross between a foghorn and those “mwah mwah mwah” adults from the old Charlie Brown cartoons. After a couple of sentences she notes my expression of goggle-eyed, pasty-faced incomprehension and goes away again, possibly in search of a ouija board.

A few minutes later a big glass of water and a cup of coffee miraculously appear on the bedside table. God bless her little cotton socks…

St Patrick yesterday, in his various Ulster incarnations. That man has a lot to answer for.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Cry Havoc! And unleash the bugs of war…

Those wacky pranksters of the Pentagon are once again pushing the envelope on the words “unethical”, “impractical” and “deeply disturbing” with yet another attempt to turn animals into weapons.

After their recent fun and games with remote-controlled sharks, they’re trying the same trick with insects. By integrating microelectronics into butterfly larvae, they hope to direct the adults as bomb detectors or spies.

You might think that this is paranoid nonsense. And you’d be right. There are clearly unhinged minds at work here, which covers the paranoia, and the insects themselves have supplied the nonsense but firmly refusing to co-operate. Early trials with wasps quickly degenerated into farce: these skinheads of the insect world cheerfully ignored their remote controls, opting instead to obey their God-given primal instincts to mate, lay eggs, and ruin picnics. Unless Osama Bin Laden is sitting outside his cave on a red check tablecloth, wrestling with a mayonnaise jar, he can probably rest easy.

Nor is this the first time that the military has failed to overcome the natural limitations their unfortunate subjects.

In the Second World War, attempts were made to stick a bomb on a cat and drop it from a dive-bomber on to Nazi ships. The concept was that the cat, hating water, would "wrangle" itself on to enemy ship's deck. Result: the cats proved strangely ill-equipped to deal with being slung out of aircraft and operating parachutes, and promptly passed out in mid-air. However, 2nd Lt Muffy “Whiskas” Miaow, King’s Own Tortoiseshells, did go on to escape from Colditz a record three times, repeatedly taking the war to the enemy even in captivity, and killing an alsatian guard dog in his final ill-fated attempt by cleverly wedging his corpse in its throat.

Also during WWII, another winner. Attach incendiaries to bats, induce hibernation, and then drop them from planes. They wake up, fly any into nearby buildings (such as factories) to roost, and then blow up. Alas, hibernation takes several hours to fully recover from: the bats universally plummeted to their deaths, to the strains of the Last Post.

But it’s not all abysmal failure. During the Vietnam War, dolphins were trained to tear the diving gear off of Vietcong divers and drag them to interrogation, and even to use syringes placed on their flippers to inject carbon dioxide into the divers, causing them to explode. Whereupon they jumped through a hoop, rang a bell and got a fish. About 40 divers are thought to have met this truly bizarre end. Did they know what was happening to them? Did the dolphins?

Fortunately, there are also civilian applications. The New York Police Department, for example, is trying to wire up rats to find people trapped in collapsed buildings. Let’s hope that instinct does not win the inevitable conflict of interest in this case, too. After all, in the normal course of events, a rat doesn’t want to find live bodies in the wreckage – what it really needs is dead ones. But if hungry, it’ll settle for one that can’t writhe or kick too much. If the NYPD is reading this, well, keep your fingers on the “Off” switch, boys…

The Navy’s cutest secret weapon, yesterday. No Flipper jokes, if you know what’s good for you.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

The unsung heroes of Somerville, Massachusetts

I find the following on siteminder this morning:
Visit 5000
Domain Name ? (Commercial)
IP Address 209.6.203.# (RCN Corporation)
ISP RCN Corporation
Location Continent : North America
Country : United States (Facts)
State : Massachusetts
City : Somerville
Lat/Long : 42.3916, -71.1047 (Map)

Visit 5000! There should have been flowers.

Who was this mystery visitor? One of the few presentable females in Massachusetts yet to be raped and drowned by a Kennedy, perhaps? I understand many of these unfortunates are hidden away in attics waiting for their ticket to safety on the Underground Railroad, the internet their only window on the outside world. Well, whoever it was, they didn’t stick around long.
Time of Visit Mar 15 2006 12:18:43 am
Last Page View Mar 15 2006 12:18:48 am
Visit Length 5 seconds

I dare say all the outrageous German-baiting scared them off. I told you guys to play nice, but oh no, you wouldn’t listen to me.

Whatever. Unknown reader, we salute you… and the other 4999 visitors who upon whose giant shoulders you stand. May God send angels to sing you all to your respective rests!

Update: Closer examination of the other 4999 visits reveals them to be the product of just 7 sad, soap-dodging obsessive-compulsives all repeatedly pressing refresh on their browsers while work and family life fall apart unnoticed around them. You know who you are…

Somerville Massachusetts, yesterday. Its existence is given meaning at last, being now forever immortalised by this singular milestone in Blogdom.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Physical sciences

Exciting news for lardbutts worldwide, as researchers prove that fat men are less susceptible to injuries in a car crash than thin ones.

This is just the latest success of a new branch of fat science, aimed at aggressive stress-testing of the naturally thin. “We all know the type”, puffed Dr Albert Porkpacker, 280lbs, at the National Symposium of Fat Sciences yesterday, “The type of guy or gal who’d sit around on the couch all summer eating twinkies while you desperately exercised to stay in shape, then would get up on the day of the high school tryouts and blow you right off the basketball team without even breaking sweat. And screw your date at the prom.”

Nobly putting such trivial concerns out of his mind, Dr Porkpacker insists that his interest is purely scientific. “Objectively speaking, we know that these freaks walk among us, and we need to know exactly what dangers they pose to normal people like ourselves. Like to my blood pressure, for starters.”

The good doctor’s technique consists of taking a representative sample of tall slim people who say “no matter what I try I can’t put on weight!” in a giggly whiny voice, and rigorously testing them for resistance to a variety of traumas. “For example, while it is true that most “skinnies” show above average ability in fleeing and otherwise avoiding a murderous beating at the hands of a justifiably angry mob, we discovered that if pursued cross-country on quad bikes they will eventually tire. The subsequent blunt trauma experiment with baseball bats showed no significant difference in resistance on the part of skinnies when compared to healthy adults.”

“The blonde ones were if anything especially vulnerable” added Dr Porkpacker, suppressing a smile. Under questioning he admitted that his team had omitted to normalise the results to take into account the possibility of bias, in the form of extra force being applied by testers when wielding their bats on blondes, or in extreme cases switching to golf clubs or repeatedly reversing over them in a Chevy. “However, that just goes to show how important it is that we validate our findings with further research. Preferably lots of it.”

The session ending to general approval, the Symposium moved to adjourn in favour of break-out sessions in the Arby’s next door.

Dr Porkpacker rounds off his highly acclaimed presentation with a light snack, yesterday.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

“Come to Germany. Now.” says German Tourist Board

Emboldened by their recent success in ordering their population to be happy, the German authorites have moved on to Phase II of their Joy Through Strength programme by ordering them to be friendly too. In preparation for the expected influx of party-hearty foreigners arriving for the 2006 World Cup, billboards and public service announcements everywhere urge the natives to put aside their traditional xenophobia and play nice, under the slogan "Die Welt zu Gast bei Freunden" (roughly translated as "Time to Make Friends").

“When you meet a foreigner on the street, instead of bayonetting him in the stomach, why not try smiling and waving?” suggests one typical poster.

The former German national soccer coach, Franz Beckenbauer, who is fronting the £2 million campaign, yesterday spearheaded an appeal to "roll out the red carpet" for foreign guests. "Unfortunately, we're not viewed as particularly friendly people and we have to improve on that," he said at yesterday’s launch. “With fewer than 100 days until the June kick-off, there’s no time to lose in instilling a sense of hospitality in our proud German volk”, he added, straightening the silver-braided cap of his immaculate black World Cup uniform.

Frankly this is a lost cause. Not for nothing is Germany known as “The land where the Israelis learnt their manners”.

In any case, the poster campaign will go only a certain way to proving how tolerant Germany says it is. Out of more than 70 service workers depicted, only two are of visibly non-German origin - a sushi waiter and a young boy playing with a football. None of Germany’s huge and football-mad Turkish population appear.

In fact, as part of the “Time to Clean Haus” campaign running in parallel, there seem to be fewer Turks on the streets too. Herr Beckenbauer explains: “The Turks? What Turks? Oh, those Turks. Well, they’re… uh… on holiday. In special… uh… holiday camps. With extra friendliness training.” When tasked to comment on the lack of phone calls or letters from those attending the camps, he informed reporters that the residents were “probably just really busy with World Cup stuff.”

And will they be back after the Cup? “Ah… let me get back to you on that…”

“Germany - a warmer welcome through intimidation.” © Deutsche Zentrale für Tourismus, 2006

Monday, March 13, 2006

Furry lobsters, supercreeps…

The dedicated scientists of the French Research Institute for Exploitation of the Sea (Ifremer) have excitedly announced their latest discovery, a species of hairy lobster native to the South Pacific. Some of the boffins theorise that the “yeti lobster”, which thrives around geothermal vents, uses the hairlike filaments to catch food. An alternative school of thought among their older, sadder and wiser colleagues is that it is recently divorced and just can’t be asked to shave.

Encouraged by this success, the gallic geeks of Ifremer are planning to redouble their pursuit of that elusive holy grail of marine biology, the bearded clam. Curiously, the pasty deoderant-free Frenchmen, who spend all their waking hours in labs smelling of fish, have not managed to track any of those down yet. Maybe next year.

The hairy lobster, yesterday. I searched for bearded clam images too, but got some rather off-topic results

Sunday, March 12, 2006


Today I am sick, so I’m off to church to pray for a cure. And also to cough over all those little rodents in the Sunday School who keep giving me their damned stomach bugs. Vengeance is mine, sayeth the Lord – I shall repay…

Thank God for small mercies – at least it’s not a workday.

Courtesy of Zeppotron

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Where’s the beef?

Evo Morales, Bolivia’s first indigenous president, is doing sterling work in reminding everyone why you shouldn’t elect indigenous presidents. Throwing out all your foreign investors and reverting to total dependence on agriculture is surely the mark of an unhinged mind. After all, narco-traffic aside, cattle raising is the only other source of income they have.

But is he really as crazy as he seems? Now a new and disturbing possibility arises…

Coincidence? I don’t think so.

Friday, March 10, 2006

A leg to stand on

Reluctantly tearing its attention away from the delights of goat-molestation, the BBC turns briefly to another bizarre crime, in this case a rash of leg thefts in Los Angeles.

Someone has apparently taken a shine to the shapely prostheses of 16-year-old Melissa Huff, and has gone on to take the object of his affections itself. Twice. In the space of the last four months:
- her first cosmetic limb was stolen
- a replacement was donated by her outraged neighbours
- the original was promptly returned, flung over the garden wall
- peace returned for a while, and the original theft was forgotten, whereupon
- both the original and replacement fake feet were stolen from Melissa’s bedroom, and finally…
- four weeks later, the purloined pins turn up on the back seat of her mother’s car, covered in graffiti

I’m sure the graffiti would make interesting reading. What red blooded male, once in possession of both of a young lady’s false limbs, could resist making the “getting between her legs” joke? I know I couldn’t. But alas no details are offered.

Callous as it might sound, I find it hard to sympathise. What’s the point of having a false leg if you leave it lying around all the time to be stolen? Does she just hop a lot? Now her long-suffering community is getting ready to give her free leg #3. Surely it would be simpler just to hold a whip-round and buy her a burglar alarm, or failing that an inexpensive peg leg and matching parrot combo. At least the parrot could keep an eye on the leg…

Prosthetic legs, yesterday. I hate people who put their feet up on the chair, don’t you?

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Dances With Sheep

Once again truth effortlessly outweirds fiction as an Indian hill tribe sends missionaries to convert the Welsh to Christianity.

The Diocese of Mizoram, in the north-east of India, has already sent one missionary to south Wales and has a second lined up to arrive in April, assuming the first one survives that long. These peaceful and pious folk were converted by Welsh missionaries a century ago, and are now coming to the aid of the Welsh Presbyterian Church, ostensibly to help their “mother church” with its shortage of ministers. One suspects that the three remaining Presbyterians in Wales might have dissembled a little re the real issue when they sent their appeal - less a lack of clergy than a chronic shortage of Christians in general and Presbyterians in particular.

The Rev Hmar Sangkhuma, interviewed in his razor-wired compound in Bridgend yesterday, described himself as a ‘mission enabler’. "Many people in Wales were suffering from a spiritual void" he told incredulous journalists, wiping the spittle off of his face and dodging a half-brick. "There is a perceived lack of relevance of Christianity to lives based on materialism. Excuse me, but they’re pressing up against the fences again. I have to go turn the current on.”

You have to admire a faith so simple and heartfelt, yet still strong enough to lead a man halfway around the world, from the beautiful and overwhelmingly Christian upland valleys of Mizoram to exile among the squalid ratholes and filthy savages of modern Wales. After all, there are parts of Cardiff and Swansea where there is a very literal danger of him ending up in a big pot. Let’s just hope it’s worth it.

“For Wales? Why, Richard, it profits a man nothing to give his soul for the whole world ... but for Wales!”

The charming and picturesque Welsh, yesterday, in their distinctive national costumes. And some fell on stony ground...

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Taking the Lord’s name in vain

Le Monde reports the strange case of Yahoo! users suffering repeated and inexplicable failures in registering certain email addresses and personal webpage names. Eventually the root cause is identified (by the users, not Yahoo!). It turns out that Yahoo! had some time past quietly implemented the automatic rejection or deletion of any names including “Allah” or even the substring “allah” appearing in other words. A fact that Yahoo! were curiously reluctant to ‘fess up to even when impacted users were contacting them for help.

Oddly enough, Irish surnames feature prominently – Callahan and Kallaher are both cited. Sea-divided Gaels like myself seem disproportionately affected. This is surely unfair. An Irish terrorist? Why, the very idea is ridiculous.

So, then: no allahs, to avoid abuse and consequent offence. So far so good. However, Le Monde goes on to supply a helpful list of words and phrases that Yahoo! has unaccountably omitted from its forbidden list:

…and my personal favourite

Roll up, roll up, while stocks last.

“fuck”, “asshole” and “cunt”, on the other hand, are also banned – an interesting equivalence alongside Allah, which might earn Yahoo! exactly the sort of attention it was hoping to avoid.

Meanwhile, l'Association française pour le nommage Internet en coopération (Afnic), which manages domains ending in .fr, claims to have a more balanced list, including Allah, Bouddha, Dieu, dieux, and diable. “lesnazissontmesmeilleursamis”, on the other hand, has already been reserved by the Parti Socialiste in perpetuity in memory of Francois “Mr Vichy” Mitterand.

Francois Mitterand, yesterday. Ah, sweet. Even after forty years, he was still helpless to resist the urge to cosy up to any nearby Germans…

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Gold envelope time at the Bookies™

Never ones to concede the limelight to Hollywood’s Academy Awards, the readers of The Bookseller magazine have been indulging themselves with their annual vote for “oddest book title of the year”.

This year’s #1 is “People Who Don't Know They're Dead: How They Attach Themselves to Unsuspecting Bystanders and What to Do About It” – surely a deserving winner, even if it is also a strong contender for “Premise most transparently ripped off from a movie”. It is after all quite possible that the unworldly souls who spend their lives breathing the dry dust of the nation’s bookshelves have never even heard of M Night Shyamalan.

In victory this tome joins such timeless classics as “How to Bombproof Your Horse” and “How to Avoid Huge Ships” - a pair that neatly summates all we need to know about the common sense and intelligence of their target audiences.

Michael Karber, president of its American publisher, Red Wheel, said yesterday: "With the notoriety that comes with this award we're now considering making this book part of a series.

"Future titles under consideration include “People Who Don't Know They're Stupid”, “People Who Don't Know They're Fat” and “People Who Don't Know They Don't Know How to Read”.

Unfortunately, “People who Don’t Know that they’re Shameless Embarrassments to the Publishing Profession” does not appear to be under consideration.

What’s your choice for oddest book title?

“How to Avoid Huge Ships”, yesterday. “Lacks criteria for discerning between huge ships and merely really big ships… Some well-designed lists, charts or colorful pop-up sections would have been nice for readers who were unsure what size of ship they were avoiding” says Terry of Wisconsin. You can’t please some people…

Monday, March 06, 2006


Cartoonists! Say goodbye to “Will I get shot six times in the chest and then have my head hacked off with a big knife?” misery with the amazing Mohammed-a-like, new from Nervous Dutchman™ Productions of Amsterdam! Render your most “insensitive” works harmless and satirize with confidence. Book early, while stocks last…

Nervous Dutchman™ Productions would also like to announce the discontinuation of their Christ-a-like, Buddha-a-like and Kosher Rabbi lines with immediate effect, for lack of demand. We apologize for any inconvenience.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Fée clochette

Warning – schmaltz alert! Dangerously low sarcasm index in this post. If you’re here for the usual cynicism, you’re welcome to browse previous posts. Otherwise, normal service will be resumed tomorrow. See, it’s not always about you…

Looking over some old posts yesterday, I came across the phrase fée clochette (the sort of fairy who lives in bell-shaped flowers), which put me in mind of bluebells.

When I was very young, say three or four years old, I would often stay with my grandmother – Nan, as I always knew her – in Bushey, north of London. It was a fairly bog-standard dormitory town, but back then at least it was still rural enough to have some woods nearby. And thinking of bluebells I suddenly find myself transported back to a winding path through those woods with Nan, nearly forty years ago.

The bluebells grew on either side of the path, as far in every direction as I could see from my rug-rat elevation, an impressionistic smear of bright colour that seemed to hover above the ground like a lilac mist, brushing my hands and face as I ran through them, while the trees rustled overhead. We came back with an armful which we arranged in a vase - on the kitchen table or mantlepiece, I think. I don’t remember much about my visits or the house, but suddenly and for no particular reason I’m almost crippled by this one vivid recollection of being in the woods, chest high in bluebells, the sun streaming through the trees. If I closed my eyes now, could I return there, reach out a hand and find hers in answer?

I recall very little of my childhood, possibly due to the large percentage of it which I spent in wicker baskets. These memories are so rare, I suppose you have to seize them while you can. I doubt that I’ll ever get the chance to take my children to those woods (even assuming they still exist), nor can I introduce them to Nan. The best I can do is to press this image and this moment between electronic pages, and hope the colour doesn’t leach from them in the process.

Bluebells in the wood, yesterday. Meet you there, Nan.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Bad medicine

Running out of my own shampoo yesterday morning, I was forced to use the “Botanical” shampoo acquired by my wife from the local Whole Foods organic grocery. Despite the name, it smells like pesticide, and I spent the rest of the day leaving a trail of stunned wildlife behind me, holding meetings with people carefully standing upwind.

My patience grows short with the entire Whole Foods brand, whose prices amply justify the nickname of “Your Whole Paycheck” and whose earnest staff regularly betray themselves to be helpless thralls to the worst excesses of crystal-worshipping new-age nonsense. After one recent spiel from some pimply ecology major about how Whole Foods was “in touch with the pure herbal wisdom of our Native American ancestors” I was moved to ask where they kept their pure, organic Native American tobacco. Did they stock this totemic element of indigenous culture? No.

My only reward was the po-faced outrage of a hippy whose worthless secular idols are mocked.

This morning I stole some of the kids’ shampoo instead. You’d be amazed how many people enjoy the smell of cherry on a man…

The wrong sort of Native American, yesterday. Put that pipe out and go stick a soup plate in your lip or something.

Friday, March 03, 2006

And if you stroke it, it turns into a suitcase

A moment of silence please, in sympathy with our good friend Randall, whose wisdom teeth have erupted this week as is their wont, without warning or provocation, causing alarm and despondency among the innocent civilian population of Missouri. Perhaps we should rename them muslim teeth.

I know from bitter experience precisely what lies ahead for poor Randall, having had mine out just last year. I only did it to get my dentist to shut up. From the very second he caught sight of them he became a man obsessed, showing every sign of viewing their possession as a deliberate provocation, or perhaps a disgusting perversion akin to child molestation. And so my hitherto blameless back four had to go.

I’m told that this is pretty much par for the course among American dentists, and not just for the whacking fee they charge, but (if the flying-spittle-flecked harangues were any guide) out of a genuine cult-like fervour to eliminate wisdom teeth wherever they might be found. It’s possible that the American Dental Association is building some sort of underground lair out of them or something, but more likely they’re just a key ingredient in Titleist™ golf balls.

I sometimes wonder why I succumbed. In the end, it wasn’t worth the hassle of arguing with an ex-navy dentist while he had both Popeye-sized forearms in my mouth up to the elbow with a drill. When my doctor tried a similar line on my foreskin, on the other hand, she met rock. I don’t care what nonsense they trot out about splits, impacted glands, and HIV virus retention, no-one is going to wave a knife near my knob, period.

And circumcision is just as much a secular sacred cow in the States as the War on Wisdom. I don’t know how on Earth the Yanks managed to talk themselves into it in the first place, but there we are. Did a certain ethnic group disproportionately represented in the medical profession and with particular expertise in the practice con the dim-bulb goyim with health scares so they could earn a little extra cash? No, that’s just crazy talk. Whatever the reason, so deep rooted is the cultural norm now that you have to tell incredulous nurses several times over, very slowly, read-my-lips fashion, that No, thank you very much, we don’t want him circumcised, no, no he won’t get AIDS, and no, it is possible to shower properly with a foreskin, so no – I said NO! take another step and I’ll twat you with a chair you glassy-eyed bitch now put that scalpel down and FUCK OFF!

Regular readers will know that we Terribles are on countdown for child #4, due in July. We discovered last week that it’s a boy. I can see already that I’m going to be beating the snip-happy bastards off with a baseball bat…

Some wisdom teeth, yesterday. Aren’t you glad I didn’t go with the circumcision pic? I certainly am.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Getting one’s goat

A Sudanese man has been forced to 'marry' a goat reports the BBC breathlessly, unimaginatively filing the story under “Africa” rather than “Entertainment” or “Agriculture”, or even “Agricultural Entertainment”.

It seems that Mr Tombe, of Hai Malakal in Upper Nile State, was smitten by the silky little temptress as he made his way home one night. Unfortunately for him, no sooner had he leapt the garden wall and consummated his passion than his neighbour appeared through the floor like the Demon King, inquiring with justifiable acerbity as to Mr Tombe’s intentions. To this question the trouserless Mr Tombe found no ready response, and he was hauled off before the local council of elders lickety split.

Mr Tombe was ordered pay a dowry of 15,000 Sudanese dinars ($50) to his neighbour, receiving in return the goat, who remains in his possession at time of writing. I can’t imagine that it made a very comfortable addition at the breakfast table that morning, especially if Mr Tombe is already married.

I suppose that we shouldn’t be too hard on Mr Tombe. After all, this sort of thing has an ancient pedigree (cf Aesop’s fable of the Spartan boy and the fox, where to my mind not the least remarkable thing is that the boy planned to eat the fox afterwards) and is hardly unknown in England, either. In some ways it’s an inspiring story, if only because this example of sharia in action will put extra backbone into Welsh support for the War on Terror.

But what about the goat? No-one seems to know or care how she feels about all this. After all, as is so often the way in backward patriarchies like Sudan, she didn’t get any choice in the matter. Who knows - maybe she would’ve preferred the bloke down the street? At least he brought her flowers.

A nanny goat, yesterday. A sad yet undeniably alluring symbol of oppressed womanhood everywhere.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

“Revolutions can’t happen in Germany. You’d have to step on the lawn.” – JV Stalin

Private Eye sees fit to publish a little snippet from the Australian about an IT company in Leipzig that solved its morale problems by simply ordering the entire staff to be cheerful on pain of dismissal.

Anticipating some cynicism out there in blogland, I searched for independent verification from a reputable news organization, but was instead forced to settle for Fox News. Oh well.

"We made the ban on moaning and grumpiness at work official after one female employee refused to subscribe to the company's philosophy of always smiling," Nuzwerk’s office manager Thomas Kuwatsch told The Australian’s desperately poker-faced correspondent. "She used to moan so much that other employees complained about her complaining. Once it was part of the contract, however, our employees really started to think positively," he added. “What are you laughing at? Is it my accent?”

Unsurprisingly, other employees, interviewed under the unblinking gaze of Herr Kuwatsch, unanimously confirmed their universal happiness with the new arrangements.

Some things are almost beyond satire. The Germans have been grumpy and miserable for many years as their economy tanks and they clock up a full sixty years without occupying Paris. A certain degree of frustration is therefore both natural and even healthy. But then some jumped-up pocket Himmler orders them to be happy, and they all snap to attention with a bellowed “zum befehl!”, and are cheerful forthwith.

This is effectively what happened with post-war denazification. A guy in a uniform (tho’ in this case a British or American uniform) stood on top of the smoking rubble that marked the site of every major German city and said “No more of this Nazi bollocks from now on, all right?” “Righto”, said the assembled Krauts, clicking their collective heels, and that was that.

I can’t help but feel a little conflicted about that sort of slavish deference to authority…

German discipline at work again, yesterday. Unnatural, I call it.