Gently does it

One of the best gadgets I’ve ever bought is my iPod Classic. Its 160Gb capacity means that I’ve been able to leave all my CDs and other music media packed up, along with my main stereo. All I need for instant music here until we move permanently is contained on the iPod which I’ve hooked up to a Panasonic mini hi-fi.

I’ve got about 150Gb of audio on the iPod which gives me plenty of choice and just lately I’ve been listening to some audiobooks.

I’ve never been too fond of audiobooks but listening to them whilst I was laid up with a cold which turned into a sort of stomach flu last month was very enjoyable and I’ve continued to listen to them.

With such a huge capacity on the iPod it’s easy to overlook things but I’ve rediscovered some Douglas Adams audiobooks I put on there a couple of years ago on a whim.

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I have all five of the Hitchhiker books, read variously by Douglas Adams, Martin Freeman and Stephen Fry. I also have both Dirk Gently books read by the author.

I first heard ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’ when it was first broadcast on BBC Radio 4. It was OK, although I remember thinking at the time that it was a bit too clever-clever and perhaps tried too hard to be different.

However, I continued to listen to the broadcasts and after that the next two radio sequels and then the TV series. I even read the first three books.

After about 1982 I didn’t bother with Adams again until just recently, although I did buy the DVD set of the TV series and also borrowed the recent(ish) film from the library, although I found the latter to be an execrable piece of shit that should have never been made.

Being able to catch up, as it were, with Adams’ writings after the original trilogy I’m starting to really appreciate him again and a re-evaluation is now due.

From what I’ve heard of the last two Hitchhiker books (and also the two Dirk Gently novels), I reckon he got better and to me they seem to be a vast improvement over the original trilogy.

This might well be heresy to Hitchhiker fans, but his later novels seem to have benefited from concentrating more on character and plot and less on witty observations and all the fussy details when the Guide is quoted.

In short – more substance and less gimmick.

Arthur Dent becomes a far more rounded character and the passive, bumbling ingénue of the first three books develops into a far more realistic and assertive individual to whom one can relate more closely. The early Dent is a comic book character; the later one a comic novel character – a big and welcome difference.

This depth of characterisation extends to his Dirk Gently novels which were a real surprise to me. I thought they were excellent, with a wealth of references to all manner of things that piqued the intellect, plot lines which interwove in a labyrinthine way and, at times, some quite haunting descriptions of the ways in which the main characters’ minds worked.

Dirk Gently himself is an amazing invention. At times he seems to act as a deus ex machina facilitating intersecting twists and turns in the plots and subplots just when you think they can progress no further. The closest parallel I can think of is the character of Dr Who and so it was really no surprise to discover that Adams wrote the scripts for three series of the iconic TV show at around the same time that Hitchhiker got off the ground.

I’ve been reading more about the author himself and he was one of those people who was fortunate enough to be able to indulge his passions as part of his work. Interested in science, music, computers and the conservation of endangered species, Adams brought these all to bear on his work and they even became his work at times.

Adams’ life, before the phenomenon that Hitchhiker became, followed a pretty similar path to many of his peers’ – boarding school, Cambridge, BBC script writing; a bit of a cliche really. But Adams was much, much more than most of them, and, had he lived, then people like Stephen Fry might well have far fewer Twitter followers.

He was, if you like, what Stephen Fry thinks he is.    .   

Yes, Adams was a true Renaissance man for the technological late 20th century and, had he not died in 2001, would have been equally at home in the 21st.

To wrap this article up, here’s my favourite Adams quote:

Isn’t it enough to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of it too?

Blue moon 2009

New Year’s Eve 2009 was marked by a blue moon.

I went out and looked but it wasn’t blue at all.

Feeling a trifle cheated, I laid some Google on its ass and came up with some facts about this phenomenon.

A blue moon occurs when you have two full moons in the same calendar month – about every 2.7 years – but  that month has to be December with the full moon appearing on the 31st – New Year’s Eve. This happens every 19 years or so.

Here’s what it looked like just before midnight yesterday – 31/12/09:

Yes, I know it’s a shit photo, but I took it with my iPhone which has a shit camera.

Rat(s) in mi kitchen

The Bosavi Giant Woolly Rat – it will pwn you…

Rats.

I hate the fucking things.

You know that red mist that can descend on you when you feel great wrath?

(KILL!

MUTILATE!

MURDER!

DESTROY!)

That’s what I get if I even think there’s a rat near me.

So far, this house has been virtually rat-free. We’ve had three of the bastards in about 25 years here.

The first one met its end via a sound twatting by a handy bit of gash timber when I found it in our basement.

Rat demise the second occurred when Mrs Shark chased it out of the garden and down the alley by the side of us. A well-aimed and frighteningly fatal kung-fu side kick delivered by Mrs Shark (she was taking kung-fu lessons at the time) sent the cunt to rodent heaven.

The third and final rat fatality here was accomplished with the help of one of the cats we had at the time. I was brought rushing to the garden by Mrs Shark calling out, ‘Owen’s cornered a big mouse!” I soon disabused her of that notion when I saw that the cat was in fact facing off against a rat. Mrs Shark and the cat flushed the motherfucker out of the shrubs in the border then I got a swift kick at it as it tried to climb the wall into next door’s garden. Once again, a kicking seemed to sort the situation out – I, too, had taken kung-fu lessons – and although I’m sure that it was never intended for this noble martial art to be used for pest control, it certainly came in handy for that task.

Which is all a preamble to this story in the news today.

A team of biologists and filmmakers from the BBC have found strange spiders, a rat the size of a cat and a frog with fangs co-habiting in a pristine giant volcano in the highlands of Papua New Guinea.

The animals were found in the ‘lost world” of the Mount Bosavi crater, an extinct volcano so remote and inaccessible that no humans live there. Instead, an amazing array of exotic fauna has thrived.

Among them is the Bosavi woolly rat, an over-sized – but vegetarian – rodent that measures almost 3 feet long and weighs in at 3.3lbs.

Fuck.

Me.

The BBC report on this discovery says that the creature

has no fear of humans

At nearly a meter long and the weight of a small dog, I’m not fucking surprised.

Not only is it a rat – it’s a cunting big one.

The team who discovered it call it the Bosavi Giant Woolly Rat.

Anyone with an iota of common sense would call it ‘Sir’

Yes, nature is wonderful, but sometimes maybe it’s a bit too wonderful…

I’m just glad it’s on the other side of the world in Papua New Guinea.

If it sets foot in this house, it’s fucking dead meat.

If it doesn’t kick my ass first…

To conclude. a totally appropriate and excellent song for your delectation…

“How to Talk to a Climate Skeptic”

There was a time when you’d have to do something pretty fucking serious to bring social opprobium upon yourself.

I mean serious shit; like beating your wife, mugging an old lady for her pension or your kids getting into trouble.

Nowadays, however, it’s all changed and as far as I can see, you now have three new transgressions that are likely to get you shunned in most social circles:

1) Stating that even though someone, for sake of argument, might have a hook for a hand, be transsexual, come from a different ethnic group to your own or is in any way different to you, they can still be a cunt.

Not because they’re different, but because a cunt is a cunt is a cunt – as Gertrude Stein once wrote.

Being a cunt just slices across ethnic, social, cultural, political, physical and religious boundaries.

Anyone can be a cunt – and, be warned, there’s thousands of the fuckers around and many of them are protected by law.

2) You smoke.

This really is the new ‘addiction’ monster paraded to scare people. It’s replaced drinking alcohol and jacking up heroin as being the single worst thing a person can do to their body and not only do you harm yourself, you kill others around you with second hand smoke – a fact not proven by anyone of any scientific reputability so far – and you also produce third hand smoke.

Yes, third hand smoke.

Read it and weep – and then cry because so-called serious scientists who help to form government policies which become bad laws can also be cunts…(see #1) above)

This brings me on nicely to:

3) You’re a climate change sceptic.

Now, this really is serious shit, because you’re not just insulting someone (however much they deserve it) or even jeopardising their health, you’re destroying the whole fucking planet.

Yes, you, you selfish and utter cunt – unwittingly you are now in category #1.

But without any legal redress whatsoever.

Because you are an unbeliever.

This is the new religion for the 21st century – the new dogma – the basis of a new Inquisition; snooping in your rubbish bin, curbing your freedom of movement, impinging on your lifestyle and when you have sinned you can buy your way to redemption through the indulgence of the holy carbon offset or by recycling your empty alcopops bottles.

Start to object, criticise, question, even, and you’re going straight to climate change sceptic HELL.

(Oh, are you going to fucking burn, you bastard.)

So tainted are we heretics that the apostles of Gore have devised many answers to the naive and petty questions we ask.

Here, in a handy list, are all the questions we will want to ask and all the answers we can ever want to hear under the heading of  “How to Talk to a Climate Skeptic ” by one Coby Beck (file under #1 above).

That, my fellow sinners, is one fuck of a long list.

It’s worthy of the Jesuits or the Scientologers or the Moonies.

It has headings such as ‘Stages of Denial’ – ‘Types of Argument’ – ‘Levels of Sophistication’…

Then there are the questions and concerns Mr Beck thinks someone who walks round in shoes made of muesli should be addressing and asking us as we luxuriate in our dirty sins and which are supposed to convert us to the right path one by one.

Here’s a sample – a very small sample:

Water vapor accounts for almost all of the greenhouse effect
There is no proof that CO2 is causing global warming
CO2 doesn’t lead, it lags
CO2 in the air comes mostly from volcanoes
What about mid-century cooling?
Geological history does not support CO2’s importance

It really does look like the ‘how to convert’ pages from some religious cult manual.

But nowhere does it ask two rather pertinent questions – to me, at least.

1) Aren’t many people making a shitload of money on the back of climate change concern?

2) Can anyone think of a better way to enforce social control?

Think about it…there’s a whole new technology coming out of this with all manner of opportunities for people to trouser fucking tons of cash and there’s all sorts of ways in which people can be monitored, observed and regulated even more than they are already.

It’s possibly the biggest hoax ever perpetrated by mankind and it’s going to affect all of us for years and years to come. It’s going to halt economic recovery, it’s going to place restrictions on us that are going to have a profound effect on our everyday lives and it’s going to cost every one of us who pays tax more – a lot more.

It’s not even as if there aren’t scientists who offer the alternative point of view – that climate change isn’t man made and that it’s as natural as the sun rising and setting and the tides ebbing and flowing.

But no, all oppositional debate is drowned out by cries of ‘vested interests’, ‘denial’ and ‘crackpot theories’.

Anyway, come what may, I shall still continue to call a cunt a cunt, smoke – if only to annoy prissy bastards who inhale more shit than I produce from their own fucking car – and refuse to get suckered in by the climate change clergy.

Fuck them and their carbon offset scams.

I’m already seeing my personal freedoms and liberties taken away on an almost daily basis.

Enough is enough.

So, how should you talk to a climate change sceptic?

Pretty fucking carefully if you don’t want a solar panel rammed up your arse…

Total eclipse 1999

For spectacular displays that can really mindfuck you, Nature surely takes some beating.

One such awe-inspiring demonstration of Man’s insignficance and powerlessness took place earlier today in the form of a total solar eclipse.

The 2009 eclipse was unfortunately not visible from this country but, with the benefit of modern technology, people can still experience part at least of its magnificence without actually having experienced it first-hand.

I was fortunate to see the 1999 eclipse and, since blogging back then was merely a young Guido’s wet dream I’m going to blog about it 10 years later.

We were in France on a caravan holiday with my brother-in-law and his wife and we’d gone specifically to see the eclipse as the band of totality lay across Northern France, whereas in the UK it only just clipped Cornwall.

We went for 2 weeks and spent the first one in the Dordogne on a very friendly site where I got an unofficial ‘job’ as interpreter for the owner – a long story which involved an irate Brit scraping the roof of his camper van on some overhanging branches.

We headed north-east as the day of the eclipse got nearer and the night before realised that as all the campsites were booked solid – we were idiots not to pre-book – we’d have to pitch the caravan in an aire de repos, which was somewhere in the Somme region.

It was a very basic aire with parking and a small toilet block.

The toilets were truly disgusting – French public toilets are rarely 5* facilities – but at least there was room to park…

I seem to remember that the eclipse was due at about 6am so we settled down for the night ready to get up early.

I couldn’t sleep – partly due to sheer excitement but also due to the sleeping arrangements. Mrs Shark and myself had been sleeping in the awning previously but this time we were sleeping in a caravan berth and they really aren’t to my liking.

I got up about 1am, grabbed plenty of cigarettes and headed outside to wait for the dawn.

Whilst I was trying to sleep a Swiss guy had arrived in the mean time and had erected a massive camera tripod on the dunny roof.

He spoke no English and I spoke no Swiss-type German so we chatted as best we could in French for the next 4 hours or so and he shared his coffee with me and, as he smoked, we shared my cigarettes.

We were both eyeing up the cloud cover and wondering if we’d actually see the bloody eclipse but as the time approached the clouds actually rolled back as it started.

As the eclipse approached totality everything went quiet – the 150 or so people who had either stayed at or pulled in to the aire de repos, the birds which had been singing away, everything.

There was a strange light that was unlike any other sort of half light I’ve experienced – more like an absence of light than darkness if you see what I mean – which seemed to leech the colour from everything so it looked like colourised monochrome.

The Sun itself was eventually covered by the moon and we got to see the ‘diamond ring’ effect.

Above all, there was this feeling almost as if time was standing still and everything you knew that was around you had ground to a halt.

Then the sun emerged again gradually and as it got lighter the birds started singing again and everything seemed to come back from a strange place.

As everything gradually fell back into place, people started talking about what they’d seen and heard and felt and with the eventual reappearance of the whole of the disc of the sun it was clear that it was all over and that we’d seen something amazing that not everybody gets to see.

Amazing, to be sure, but above all rather humbling and a reminder, to me at least, that even though you knew the sun was going to appear again when it disappeared behind the moon that for a brief few seconds you realised how important that ball of energy in the sky really was.

I captured the whole thing on video tape and I watched it the other day.

Not quite the same, but still pretty powerful stuff 10 years later.

As for Cornwall’s view of it – a total disaster with far too much cloud cover…

Morecambe and Wise cloned!

Those people who scoffed at the ‘science’ in the Jurassic Park films may now be forced to consume humble pie because the cloning procedure has now been refined to such an extent that scientists working in a top secret facility in Penge have produced the clones of famous comedians Morecambe and Wise!

New Scientist has just published this brief summary of the procedure:

Professor Mike Hunt told us, “A breakthrough in the study of mitotic cellular integrity by Herr Pizz in the University of Stuttgart has enabled us to extract mitochondrial DNA from household debris which, as everyone knows, contains particles of human skin. Using Radon fluorescence and protein synthesis we arrived at a procedure  whereby CGI models of the subjects were used to ‘gene sculpt’ replicas of the original genes until whole DNA strands were produced and then the resulting protoplasmic mass was grown on in vitro. The whole process takes about 6 months and is almost 100% faithful to the original subject although our first attempt was less successful than we’d have wished.”

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(L – Ernie Wise,  R – Eric Morecambe)

Mike continued, “As you can see, the outward appearance of the first clones is pretty accurate – with Ernie being suitably short and fat and Eric with his trademark glasses and slightly crazed look – but I’m afraid they’re not very amusing, with almost zero sense of humour. The IQ of the pair is well off the scale too, in a downwards direction I’m sorry to say, with a joint score of about 80 which means that they can function on about the level of something like a slug – but that’s on a good day”

“One trait which they seem to share – that didn’t affect the original pair – is that they seem to like slinging excrement around. Even when they haven’t got the real thing they just go through the motions, as it were, and throw imaginary faeces. Quite bizarre…”

“To be honest, I don’t really know what we can do with them – release into the wild seems a bit unfair on the public, whilst a trip to the vet to put them out of their misery seems a bit harsh. We’ve even had a call from the Beaufort Hunt but I couldn’t really understand why they mentioned fox costumes. However, we understand that there’ll soon be a home for these poor unfortunates set up by someone who’s a bit of a comedian himself and soon to retire. He’s called Gordon Brown and he used to be a fan of these two, although – speaking personally – I can’t really see the attraction.”

“Our next project is going to be Russ Abbot.  A bit of a challenge as Russ was never that funny to start with. We’ll have to see if we can splice a humour gene in somehow. Accommodating this one in the lab might be a problem, however, as we reckon he might need three cages.”

Russ Abbot

So, exciting times in genetic research!