Random musings from the front line (well, more like the support trench, or perhaps the castle 10 miles away, supping Chateau Lafite with the General Staff) in the battle for curiosity, inertia, grammar and a Dachshund called Colin.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Just for the Taste of It...

I see here that the corporate juggernaut that is Coca Cola Inc has made an enormous increase in profits. Their income is now more than $6 billion - that's a hell of a lot of syrupy coca juice! But they don't always get it right, do they? When I was in the USA last year, everyone who wanted a drink of bottled water reached for their bottle of Dasani, which appears to be the most popular brand over there. But do you remember what happened when they tried to launch it in the UK? Remind yourself about the story here!

Eau de Sidcup Yes, that's right. As well as the wonderfully delicate taste of illegally-high levels of bromate impurities, it was soon worked out by the tabloids that the newest water brand on the market was not lovingly tapped from a burbling brook in some mountain range, but actually piped directly via Thames Water's water mains, through some fancy filter paper, into a grey factory block in Sidcup. The media had a field day - everyone knows that tap water in the South East has apparently already been through someone's body 7 times already, and Sidcup is hardly anyone's idea of a bucolic mountain village. Even it's name sounds naff, and as soon as late night comedians latched onto "Eau de Sidcup" then the brand in the UK was effectively dead.

More subtle political comment from the world of PhotoshopThere's also a more modern problem with Coca Cola - it's simply too big for the tastes of the tree-hugging Plaths that always shout the loudest and wash the least. Any company that makes over a billion dollars in pure profit must be simply evil, and no amount of whizzy corporate websites will convince them otherwise. Never mind that this profit is then taxed, and the proceeds used for fluffy government spending, and the dividends from the soaring shares prop up the pension funds of their dear old grandmothers. But that's always the case with the age old capitalism vs socialism argument - only those who have benefitted from capitalism can then afford to protest against it, sometimes by the not-particularly subtle use of emotive imagery. If I were a director at Coca Cola, I'd pour myself a commuter-belt-filtered sewage by-product and just reflect that while the hairies protest, their friends just can't get enough of my product range. Except Dasani. Bleugh.

To finish off my all-too-infrequent rant, I also found this list (below) on the internet. It's interesting, but is it true? Does anyone know?



1. 75% of Americans are chronically dehydrated. (Likely applies to half
world population.)

2. In 37% of Americans, the thirst mechanism is so weak that it is often
mistaken for hunger.

3. Even MILD dehydration will slow down one's metabolism as much as 3%.

4. One glass of water will shut down midnight hunger pangs for almost
100% of the dieters studied in a University of Washington study.

5. Lack of water is the #1 trigger of daytime fatigue.

6. Preliminary research indicates that 8-10 glasses of water a day could
significantly ease back and joint pain for up to 80% of sufferers.

7. A mere 2% drop in body water can trigger fuzzy short-term memory,
trouble with basic math, and difficulty focusing on the computer screen or on a printed page.

8. Drinking 5 glasses of water daily decreases the risk of colon cancer
by 45%, plus it can slash the risk of breast cancer by 79%, and one is
50% less likely to develop bladder cancer. Are you drinking the
amount of water you should every day?


1. In many states (in the USA) the highway patrol carries two gallons of
Coke in the trunk to remove blood from the highway after a car accident.

2. You can put a T-bone steak in a bowl of coke and it will be gone In
two days.

3. To clean a toilet: Pour a can of Coca-Cola into the toilet bowl and
let the "real thing" sit for one hour, then flush clean. The citric acid
in Coke removes stains from vitreous china.

4. To remove rust spots from chrome car bumpers: Rub the bumper with a rumpled-up piece of aluminium foil dipped in Coca-Cola.

5. To clean corrosion from car battery terminals: Pour a can of
Coca-Cola over the terminals to bubble away the corrosion.

6. To loosen a rusted bolt: Applying a cloth soaked in Coca-Cola to the
rusted bolt for several minutes.

7. To bake a moist ham: Empty a can of Coca-Cola into the baking pan,
wrap the ham in aluminium foil, and bake. Thirty minutes before the ham
is finished, remove the foil, allowing the drippings to mix with the Coke
for a sumptuous brown gravy.

8. To remove grease from clothes: Empty a can of coke into a load of
greasy clothes, add detergent, and run through a regular cycle. The
Coca-Cola will help loosen grease stains. It will also clean road haze from your windshield.

My question is.....would you like a glass of water or coke?

Saturday, October 22, 2005

The Politics Test

You are a

Social Liberal
(60% permissive)

and an...

Economic Conservative
(65% permissive)

You are best described as a:


Link: The Politics Test on Ok Cupid
Also: Get Laid Here

According to the Politics Test that I've just taken (having been sent here by Aginoth), I'm a boring middle-of-the-road cenrist. Damn - I always considered myself on the wilder shores of bourgeois socially-aware libertarian smaller-government free-marketeering arts-subsidising decent healthcare for all. But apparently, I'm Donald Trump. It's the first that I - or my bank manager - have heard about it...

I've always said, and bored my friends, that what we need in the UK is simple. Here goes...

An absolute monarchy, backed up by a military junta, with an aggressive foreign policy advocating the frequent use of tactical nuclear weapons.

Centrist? My arse.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Erm. I'm Slightly Uncomfortable in my Middle Class Guilt Thing...

There was a hilarious spat on the mediocre yawnfest that is Radio 4's "Midweek" on Wednesday, when "black rights" campaigner Darcus Howe and "comedienne" Joan Rivers managed to turn what should have been a dull plugging programme for their latest books/tour/photos into a loud shouting match about race. You can listen to the show here - it all kicks off about 17 minutes in. But it reminded me about this site:

'Sally' and 'Johnny' and some friends. Or is it all a massive hoax?

OK. Maybe I'm being overly cynical, or breathtakingly naive, but what the hell is the website Black People Love Us all about? It's clearly some sort of joke - but is it taking the mickey out of liberal white Americans? Or out of patronising race relations types? Or is it actually a racist site? Or maybe it's an art project (the domain name is owned by an arts consultancy called Eyebeam) - maybe there's some art gallery in New York specialising in New Media that displays the website next to 50 Chinese people staring at you? I particularly like the line in Eyebeam's mission statement that is a masterpiece of Birtian gobbledygook:

Eyebeam amplifies the flux and hybridity of the art/science intersection by openly fostering the parallel strands of EDUCATION, RESEARCH, PRODUCTION, EXHIBITION with its public and peers.
What the hell does that mean?! Who knows? What do you think about Black People Love Us? And am I the only one who feels a little uncomfortable while reading it? Pictures such as this one just increase my uneasiness:

For very strong opinions on the site, click on this picture for a link to the letters page

I actually enjoy being intellectually challenged by new art, but I have to say I'd rather not have to rationalise this. BUT ... maybe that's the point. In fact, social embarrassment as an art medium - could be the next Turner Prize winner?

In other unrelated but thematically linked news: Jamaican Man Has Hat Hairstyle. Seems like a nice filler story in the Caribbean "Silly Season", but can anyone tell me whether quotations in Jamaica are normally reported in pidgin English? I've never read a news article before that quotes someone as saying:

"When mi jus' know him is a felt hat him did a beat. So, nex ting mi know him change to dis type a hat. Di only ting him do now a colour di front in a yellow or some other colour."
Someone please tell me that this isn't another art project. Please.

Local news for local people?

The Trunk Monkey

George W Trunkmonkey wants YOU

I'd never heard of the Suburban Auto Group before today. And I don't know anyone with a "Trunk Monkey" but I now really want one - they appear to be the latest automotive primate related craze. Originally designed for rally-driving Subaru owners, they have since become a must-have luxury option for certain Ford and Chevrolet cars for sale in the USA. You can even buy a selection of assecories (sic) featuring the wee beasties. Click here for a collection of 5 short documentaries .. ahem ... TV commercials that explain all. I particularly like "Bridge" - I'm sure that car thief drinks in my local.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

The Bestest Weirdest Song EVER!

There is a little known album track on Pink Floyd's 1969 album Ummagumma called Several Species of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together in a Cave and Grooving With a Pict. Written by Roger Waters, it is 5 minutes and 1 second of the strangest "music" ever. It makes every song by Bonzo Dog, or John Otway, seem like middle of the road musical pop tunes. And I love it. One Pink Floyd tribute band named themselves after it, and I used to play it to psych myself up before a rugby game (school 5th XV, Vice Captain) - although this might explain our season's statistics in the 1993/4 yearbook:

School 5XV. P3 W0 D0 L3 F7 A182

But anyway, I digress. The lyrics for this masterpiece are:

Aye an' a bit of Mackeral settler rack and ruin
ran it doon by the haim, 'ma place
well I slapped me and I slapped it doon in the side
and I cried, cried, cried.

The fear a fallen down taken never back the raize and then Craig Marion,
get out wi' ye Claymore out mi pocket a' ran doon, doon the middin stain
picking the fiery horde that was fallen around ma feet.
Never he cried, never shall it ye get me alive
ye rotten hound of the burnie crew. Well I snatched fer the blade O my
Claymore cut and thrust and I fell doon before him round his feet.

..and the wind cried back.

You can read a review of the album, in Greek, here. Or buy it from Amazon in the USA here. It is lovingly described by one fan (on the Amazon UK website) as "Hours of onanistic drivel for those who have lost the will to live. Featuring LSD on guitar and dope(s) on everything else. Dreadful. Imagine introducing the only person on Earth who hasn't heard of Floyd to them by this - makes me shudder."

So. How can you resist listening to the entire album straight away? At least go and buy this superb track from iTunes (only 78p), or a similar site, and rest assured in the knowledge that some of the animal noises in the background are actually distorted recordings of Roger Waters saying "where's my fucking guitar?". Genius. Och aye the noo.....

Friday, October 14, 2005


It's a disease! I've just been tagged by WordWhiz on her marvellous blog (bit too many semi-naked fireman for me, but then I guess American firefighters are different from the workshy, overpaid, underemployed, vain British ones) to do the following:
  1. Find your 23rd post
  2. Repost only the 5th sentence, or the closest thing to it.
  3. Continue the vicious cycle by tagging 5 people...
Erm, so here goes:

The players have been polite to each other, the sport has lost it's public school image, and amazingly even after 5 matches, of 5 days apiece, the entire series was decided in the final afternoon of the final test.

A fine piece of open source Ashes-related journalism (I like to call it 'web-logging', you know) even if I do say so myself. The trouble is, of course, that in my obscure little back alleyway of cyberspace, I feel it would be too presumptious to tag 5 of my occasional readers, especially as I hardly think that any more than that number have ever visited. After all, increasing the numbers makes it more of a chain-blog than a game of tag (if I remember the rules from my playground, one only tags one other player in order to pass "it" on.

So (if WW will forgive my altering* of the rules), I shall pick a recent commentator at random to continue this pointless, but diverting, game. I choose .... Mark. Sorry, Mark!

* A gerund? On a cold Friday afternoon before a black tie dinner? Suit you, Sir!

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

The Cream of the Nation's Youth?

Duh - I wonder if Colonel Nelson Mandela had one of these at Waterloo?"One of the many fascinating and rewarding facets of my varied and interesting work is that I have the privilege of working with young people on a regular basis, all of whom are students at two of the finest Higher Education establishments in the UK."

Effectively, that is the precis of the testimonial part of the job description that was forwarded to me when I was nominated for my current job, and I was genuinely relieved that my predecessor seemed so satisfied in his work, as it would have been awful to have to take over from a disillusioned short-tempered cynic...

Unfortunately, and I am ashamed to admit such an enormous failing, I had completely missed the sarcasm employed by the disillusioned short-tempered cynic who used to do my job when he wrote those words. What he meant to have written was something along the lines of:

One of the many frustrating aspects of my time-consuming and underpaid compulsory posting is having to tolerate the ever-changing whims of the ungrateful and immature products of a failing education system, as they are processed by one of the worst universities in the world.
Those of you (both of you, I should say) who read my blog have realised that my career is of a nautical persuasion. In keeping with the anonymity that blogs allow, I shall not elaborate any further as to my exact line of work but (unfortunately for me) the truth is slightly more mundane that I would otherwise wish, and I am currently anchored on the campus of a red brick (more "white tile", in places) university. At the beginning of every academic year (ie now) I am called upon to sit on an interview panel convened by the faculty in which I work, assessing new undergraduates' knowledge of current affairs, general knowledge and overall "potential" for future great things.

So, it came to pass that last week I sat behind a desk asking 50 or so fresh-faced (and not so fresh-faced) new students such insightful questions as "Where are the Conservatives holding their conference?", and "Who is Donald Rumsfeld?". Apart from the initial shock that most of my interviewees were born in 1987 (aaaaaaaaargh), the largest surprise to me was the sheer narrow ignorance of the world in general that most of these people displayed. Without giving you an entire run-down of last week, here are some of the comments and answers that supposedly intelligent young people (all of whom were awarded at least ABC at A-Levels in order to be accepted onto the course in the first place) gave to the board:

  • Q. Who is Walter Wolfgang?
    A. Was he the character played by Michael J Fox in Teen Wolf?
  • Q. How many people are in the UK Armed Forces?
    A. About 3 million?
    Q. Er - no, you're a little out there.
    A. OK then - 3 billion?
  • Q. What was the last book you read? (Most people replied "The Da Vinci Code". Sigh)
    A. FHM
    Q. I was thinking more of a novel...
    A. Oh. (long pause) Does the Highway Code count?
  • Q. (Having correctly identified 2005 as being the 200th anniversary) Tell me about the Battle of Trafalgar.
    A. OK, so you had a General in the Army, called Nelson Mandela, who fought the French in a big sea battle at Waterloo that was called Trafalgar.
  • Q. What was the biggest news story that caught your eye this week?
    A. Kate Moss taking drugs.
    Q. What do you think about that then?
    A. It's a bloody disgrace - her dealer will never get any trade now 'cos he'll be followed by the papparazzi. Poor bloke.

And so it went on. I was - in turn - amused, frustrated, saddened and (at the end of 3 days) resigned to it. I don't offer much in the way of social commentary about this, other than - what went wrong? When did young people stop caring about what's going on in the world? And surely half these half wits would be better off doing something vocational and useful, rather than getting horribly into debt for 3 years just so New Labour can meet their arbitrary 50% figure for 6th formers going to University. I need a cheap taxpayer-subsidised drink.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Tip Top Top Tips

Yes, I know it's a cop out. But I've been away for a week doing the annual torture that is the only part of my job that I really don't enjoy one bit - interviewing teenagers. So, before I regale you with stories of monumental stupidity, here's the text of the only thing that has made me laugh this week - an emailed list of the best "Top Tips" from the ever-scatalogical and irreverent comic Viz.

In case you aren't aware of this section in this my-favourite-mag-when-I-was-12 publication, this is a monthly column that satirises the inane contributions to Women's Magazines such as "Horse hoof clippings scattered on turnip plants increase the size twofold" and "to remove cat faeces from carpets, sprinkle hundreds-and-thousands over the offending items and invite a labrador into the room". Those of you easily offended (and copyright lawyers) please look away now....

DON'T waste money on expensive iPods. Simply think of your favourite tune and hum it. If you want to "switch tracks", simply think of another song you like and hum that instead.

CINEMA goers: Please have consideration for pirate DVD viewers by taking a leak before the film starts.

RAPPERS: Avoid having to say 'know what I'm sayin' all the time by actually speaking clearly in the first place.

DON'T waste money on expensive paper shredders to avoid having your identity stolen. Simply place a few dog turds in the bin bags along with your old bank statements.

WORRIED that your teeth will be stained after a heavy night drinking red wine? Simply drink a bottle of white wine before going to bed to remove the stains.

SOLDIERS: Invest in a digital camera to avoid all that court martial tomfoolery after a trip to Truprint.

MURDERERS: Need to dispose of a body? Simply parcel it up and post it to yourself via DHL. You will never see it again.

BURGLARS: When fleeing from the police, run with your right arm sticking out at 90 degrees, wrapped in a baby mattress - just in case they set one of their dogs on you.

EMPLOYERS: Avoid hiring unlucky people by immediately tossing half the CVs into the bin.

MEN: When listening to your favourite CD, simply turn up the sound to the volume you desire; then turn it down three notches. This will save your wife from having to do it.

GAMBLERS: For a new gambling opportunity, try sending £50 to yourself by Royal Mail in an envelope marked "Happy Birthday".

BANGING two pistachio nutshells together gives the impression that a very small horse is approaching.

PARTIALLY BLIND PEOPLE: Give yourself at least a chance of seeing something by not wearing heavy dark glasses all the time.

ALCOHOL: makes an ideal substitute for happiness.

DRIVERS: If a car breaks down or stalls in front of you, why not beep your horn and wave your arms frantically? This should help the car start and send them on their way.

PREVENT burglars stealing everything in the house by simply moving everything in the house into your bedroom when you go to bed. In the morning, simply move it all back again.

CAR thieves: Don't be discouraged when nothing is on view. All the valuables may be hidden in the glove box or under a seat.

DEPRESSED people: Instead of attempting suicide as a'cry for help', simply shout 'Help!' thus saving money on paracetamol, etc.

MOTORISTS: Avoid getting prosecuted for using your phone whilst driving. Simply pop your mobile inside a large shell and the police will think you are listening to the sea.

JEREMY Beadle: When selling DVDs on your TV advert, hold the disks in your bigger hand so that they do notappear to be the size of laser disks.

SHOES last twice as long if only worn every other day.

SINGLE men: Convince people that you have a girlfriend by standing outside Etam with several bags of shopping, looking at your watch and occasionally glancing inside.

BOIL an egg to perfection without costly egg timers by popping the egg into boiling water and driving away from your home at exactly 60 mph. After 3 miles, phone your wife and tell her to take the egg out the pan.

ALCOHOLICS: don't worry where the next drink is coming from. Go to the pub, where a large selection is available at retail prices.

McDONALD'S: Make your brown carrier bags green in colour so they blend in with the countryside after they've been thrown out of car windows.

There's lots more on the Viz website - just click on Top Tips - and I've just found one of the all time classics on it:

NISSAN MICRA drivers. The little number 5 on your gearstick refers to what is known as 'fifth gear'. This will allow you to reach speeds of over 25 mph.