Interception

February 18, 2014

When a pilot hijacks his own plane, you know things have taken a trip to the weird side.

That’s exactly what happened recently, when an Ethiopian airliner was forced to land at Geneva airport, where it turned out it had been hijacked by the first officer. Not only that, he followed the process rigorously, even setting his radar transponder to the emergency code reserved for hijacking. Not even the Pythons could dream up something like this, they stopped short at flights to Cuba being diverted to Luton.

And just when we think this story is as absurd as it gets, there’s more. Because of this incident it came to light that the Swiss air force only intercepts unidentified planes on weekdays between 8am and 5pm, except of course for lunchtime.

Why stop there though? Outside business hours they could broadcast the following pre-recorded message on a loop on the military emergency frequency.

“Thank you for tuning in to radio 243MHz. Your intrusion of our air space is important to us. Unfortunately there are no fighter jets available to engage you at this time. If you’ve squawked the hijack code by mistake, please set your transponder to your assigned code instead and contact your nearest high altitude ATC station. If you want to speak to an operator, please repeat your incursion during business hours.”

Impression

October 24, 2013

Last night I dreamt that I was given a five-minute slot to do a stand-up gig. I went to watch someone but he got stuck in traffic and I had to jump in to kill some time until he arrived. But I had no material prepared, I’m not even a comedian, I kept saying to myself. And I’m really not.

So… I’ve decided to do a Stewart Lee impression. But I thought the best way to go about it is to make it sound nothing like Stewart Lee. Not just because I can’t really do impressions but also that’s what he’d do too. I know I’m writing this so you can’t… hear my voice… probably the best thing for you to do is to imagine a voice… that is nothing like Stewart Lee’s.

So in a way… this would sound more like Stewart Lee than actually sounding like Stewart Lee. Cos it’s what he’d do, it’s the sort of thing he plays with all the time. Well, not exactly this sort of thing but… similar things. And for that reason this could be funny. It really could.

It isn’t but it could.

Because what we find funny… is determined by mood and upbringing, right? Mood and upbringing. The comedian… the comedian doesn’t make you laugh, it’s you, the audience, who make yourself and each other laugh. The comedian’s job is simply to get you into the mood.

And pray that you’ve had an upbringing.

So just to give you an example of what I mean by mood and upbringing, I’m going to tell you a joke. And the joke goes like this: on a riverbank a fox and an otter share a joint. I… I have to admit, I feel a bit uneasy about this joke because it just… it can’t happen in real life, can it. I mean the fox… and the otter… how would such a thing even… how would they… you know, roll it and… it’s all wrong… but I had to go with this joke because this is the only joke I know.

So they share a joint but it’s the first time for the otter so he asks the fox how to do it. And the fox says, just inhale and keep it down for a long time. How long? Well, it’s difficult to tell but I’ll tell you what to do: inhale and then swim underwater to the other shore then exhale. So the fox takes a puff, the otter takes a puff too and sets off. After a couple of minutes a hippo pops up from under the water, and the fox panics: ‘Exhale, otter, EXHALE!’

Now this joke… this joke… imagine… if you were brought up in the knowledge that drugs were the handiwork of the Devil himself, right? You wouldn’t be able to find the joke funny at all.

In fact if anything, you’d find it terribly sad, the idea that this horrible blight on God’s creation has infected the hitherto pristine and clean animal world, who unlike us were believed to be sinless and the only reason they regularly kill each other in the most horrendous ways imaginable is simply that God’s mood … and of course upbringing… told Him that this was somehow… funny.

On the other hand, if you were… say… stoned, you’d find this joke absolutely hilarious. You couldn’t stop laughing. Granted, you’d find most things equally hilarious but that’d just make my job even easier. And that’s why I generally prefer my audience to be stoned.

And that feeling is usually mutual.

I… I’m being told he’s just arrived, so thank you and goodnight, you’ve been a lovely audience.

Induction

September 16, 2013

I knew that you knew.

You knew that I knew that you knew.

And in a fraction of a second, infinity unravelled in both our minds.

Headless

June 20, 2013

News are flowing thick and fast, not just the irresistible water cannon of the big stories but also the incessant drip-drip of the not-so-big, so people could be forgiven for trying to insulate their brains against it as much as they can.

But how to ignore the mind-boggling absurdity of the case of the West Yorkshire “spiritual healer”, who was arrested, not because of what most sane people would think (i.e. that he was taking money from vulnerable people to perform healing rituals that had never been proven to work in a double-blind test) but because while performing said rituals, he occasionally groped his patients’ tits.

No, he wasn’t arrested for fraud and neither was Psychic Sally, quite the opposite. The very fact that the otherwise rightly maligned Daily Mail was forced by law to prove that Mrs. Morgan doesn’t talk to the spirit world makes you wonder why we bother with a legal system at all. ‘I can tell straight away that you are an emotional control freak: you do let yourself go emotionally, but you avoid that because when you do’, she tried to dazzle the hack of the Mail (according to the article that prompted the libel action) and one can only admire the way she had mastered Barnum statements.


Now, if we imagine that absurdity distorts the brain the same way gravity bends the fabric of space-time, forcing thoughts to follow a curved trajectory, the equivalent of a black hole is when absurd overflows into grotesque.

Like when a local council in Hungary decides to erect a statue to honour Cardinal Mindszenty (and it’s hard to think of a more deserving subject for a statue) but it isn’t completed on time for the official unveiling. A tricky situation undoubtedly but this kind of thing must happen fairly regularly, artists can’t be hurried after all. ‘We mustn’t let this spoil a good PR opportunity,’ the organisers must have thought, ‘not with a lot of politicians and other dignitaries lined up for the event.’

So they went ahead anyway. The great and the good (as well as the bad and the ugly) all assembled on time, speeches were spoken, claps were clapped and when the covers were finally and very-very carefully removed, they revealed…a cardinal with his head fastened temporarily and probably rather hastily.

And this is where it all gets weird.

The big ceremony over, as the audience was dispersing in a suitably solemn mood, the sculptor turned up, expertly removed the head and took it home for further work.

And to this day the statue is still headless.

At least they put the covers back on the stump, probably out of respect.

(Photo: Szabolcs Barakonyi / index.hu)

Crest

May 26, 2013

Now, I don’t normally write here about stuff that I’m genuinely into but this time I’m going to make an exception. This isn’t the Author speaking, it’s just me, the author.

So, deep breath and off we go.

everton-crests

Everton’s crest for the last 13 years vs. the newly unveiled abomination

First of all, what is a crest or a badge? Well, it’s easy, the badge represents what we are, like a uniform: you wear it, so that your comrades know you’re on their side, right? No not right, because if the purpose of the badge was simply to identify each other as Evertonians, we could’ve just written “Everton” on our shirts, or we could’ve gone with a simple drawing of St Rupert’s Tower. It doesn’t have to look good, it just needs to be unique. You could also easily argue that, considering what we put up with every day, Nil Satis Nisi Optimum would be highly ironic a message to choose.

But what the badge actually represents is how we want others, outsiders, non-Evertonians to see us. And once you realise that, you’ll also realise that there’s almost never a good reason to radically change your crest, special circumstances aside, like if your current badge is embarrassingly hideous (as this new one is) or if you win a tenth champion’s medal and you want to incorporate a star into it (an unlikely scenario for us).

Obviously you do tinker with it slightly, as clubs often do and there’s nothing wrong with that. What’s suddenly changed though that prompts us to project a different image? (And let’s ignore the fact that the image we’re projecting with this crest is that of a newly formed Albanian non-league club.)

Of course people at Everton must know this too, after all, it’s not rocket science and they can’t have all gone mad simultaneously. And indeed if we look at the press release, there’s the answer to the why.

“As well as the Everton fan-base, key commercial partners such as Kitbag and Nike were also consulted and their input and ideas were fed into the design process. Of course, Nike’s brand pedigree is unrivalled and their contribution was invaluable. “

So there you have it, not much reading between the lines is required to realise that our new crest was designed and forced onto us by Nike, presumably to drive down production costs.

This is again understandable from their point of view and it would even be acceptable but this is where someone at Everton should’ve stepped up and said: “Hang on, this is our identity, our public image we’re playing around with and we can’t let that happen. We also realise that we lack the finances to tell Nike what to put on our shirts and we must accept your changes. We’re trapped and we must find a way out.”

And it wouldn’t have taken much thinking to find that way, even though it seems to be alien to the Everton hierarchy: the way of a sensible compromise and truth-telling. This is what my press release would’ve looked like:

My fellow Evertonians!

As you probably already know from the leaked photos, we’re planning to put a new crest on our shirts from next season. The purpose of this is to make embroidering it easier, cheaper and the result more uniform.

It wasn’t a decision we took lightly but our commercial partners convinced us that this is the best way forward.

Needless to say that this change doesn’t affect the official crest, which remains the same as it has been for over a decade, and will continue to be used on our website, letterheads and any other non-merchandise material.

Thank you for your understanding.

There, it wasn’t that painful, or was it? After all, it’s not even the new design itself that is so irritating, it’s the happy-clappy campaign that has gone with it and the insinuation that it’s for our own good.

Priorities

March 12, 2013

Have you killed a man? Pray for forgiveness and thou shalt be forgiven.
Have you molested a child? Pray for forgiveness and thou shalt be forgiven.
Have you embezzled money? Pray for forgiveness and thou shalt be forgiven.
Have you fastidiously broken every single commandment and laughed all the way through? Pray for forgiveness and thou shalt be forgiven.

But send one tweet, just a single tweet from the Papal conclave and thou shalt be damned forever.

Amen.

Battle

February 4, 2013

So it is finally confirmed that the skeleton found in a Leicester car park does indeed belong to Richard III, who died in the Battle of Bosworth Field.

The findings are a great advert for the science of archaeology, and also a confirmation of how truly ancient the noble English tradition of fighting in car parks is.

Conspiracies

January 11, 2013

Of course everybody knows that the Internet/Google/Facebook/smartphones were all created by the CIA to snoop on everyone. (Well, everyone except the Chinese, who use them to snoop on the CIA.)

Hand on heart it’s hard to be enthusiastic about them, they’ve been around for decades, chewed, spat out and chewed again a thousand times. So instead of all the tired old cliches here are some fresh conspiracies that are a lot cooler to believe in:

Microsoft are secretly collecting recordings of your stupid victory celebrations when playing Kinect Sports. They’ve developed advanced pants recognition algorithms just for this purpose.

User comments are in fact a clever RIAA ploy to put people off listening to music on YouTube. It is by far their most successful programme, their army of automated morons (commandeered by only a handful of real ones) have driven millions of people to utter despair.

Memes were invented as a tool for human behaviour research, somewhat similar to how observing seismic wave propagation is used to map out the interior of a planet. Aliens use it as a cheap, outsourced alternative to the fiddly and rather messy probing.

Loyalty cards are used by supermarkets to keep track of what kind of condoms you buy. Size and flavour are displayed on the cashier’s screen, so if they appear to be unusually cheerful, now you know why.

Equilibria

November 8, 2012

It’s a well-known fact that a cake can be divided into two equal slices in cooperation by two players, who each only want to maximise their own share of it. All we need to do is tell one of them to cut the cake in two and the other to pick a slice.

Without even attempting any calculations it’s easy to see how their greed balances out and guarantees a fair outcome, exactly as game theory predicts.

Except…

Here, in front of us are two people desperate for cake.

And we’ve just given one of them a knife.

Precognition

October 22, 2012

“Yes, it’s those bloody scientists again. If they can’t even predict such a simple thing as an unpredictable natural disaster, of course they should be held responsible for all the destruction! I mean, what are we supposed to do? We don’t have magical powers or see visions, do we? Look, just look at the state of that altar! Awful.”


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