Friday, December 20, 2013

A Happy Christmas to all my readers. And smartphone wallpaper takes a giant leap forward (or the wonder of it all as we think of ever more fabulous ways to fritter away our money without doing anything remotely useful)

A Happy Christmas from your favourite blogger! 

Like every other impressionable fuck who is not quite as bright as he fondly imagines himself to be, I am drawn like a bear to a honeypot to soak up every single detail whenever I come across a story about, for example, the biggest, best, most complex, most sophisticated and most expensive lavatory cleaner yet.

Reading on I discover that not only was the research into developing this revolutionary new bog cleaner undertaken by three Nobel Prize laureates! But it even has the blessing of the Pope! Furthermore, when the cleaner comes into full commercial production, the purpose-built factory making the bloody stuff will be the size of 12 football pitches! Or put another way: if the amount of paper wasted reporting such bollocks were cut into inch-wide strips and laid end to end, they would stretch from here to the Moon and back 20 times!

Perhaps even that bargain-price analogy isn’t helping you imagine the sheer scale and magnificence of the project, so try this: if all the paper wasted reporting such bollocks were repeatedly folded in two, getting smaller all the time, not only would you reach a stage where you could no longer see it, but you would create a small folded piece of paper so dense, you would create your own black hole! Well!

I’m not feeling especially grumpy today (i.e. just as grumpy as usual when I wake up in the morning and reflect that I haven’t had sex for 15 years and not had a good shag for least 17), but I got just a little grumpier when this morning - barely ten minutes ago, in fact - I began my daily round of the newspaper websites and BBC News and came across the remarkable story that ‘Europe has launched the Gaia satellite - one of the most ambitious space missions in history.’ And ‘Gaia is going to map the precise positions and distances to more than a billion stars. This should give us the first realistic picture of how our Milky Way galaxy is constructed. Gaia’s remarkable sensitivity will lead also to the detection of many thousands of previously unseen objects, including new planets and asteroids.’(You can find the BBC’s account here, the Daily Telegraph’s here, the Guardian’s here and the Daily Mail’s here. And if you take a little time to find your way around the Mail science pages, you’ll also come across the startling news that we can soon give our dogs a headset for Christmas which will allow us to read it’s mind and a smartphone app which will help make your conversation a little more interesting and make you less of a boring fuck.

Impressed or what? It might look like the Top Hat from Monopoly to you and me, but this baby cost £620 million and will clean your lavatory in under 13 seconds!

So there we have it: I can soon spend several seconds of my life gazing in rapt wonder of a colour pic of the Milky Way. Not only that, but within five years ‘boffins’ will have a complete map of all billion billion square lightyears of it and if, say, they ever find themselves in a part of it they don’t know - that it if they very get lost - they can simply consult their bloody map and find their way home again. Well! But dear reader - dear, dear reader - my immediate reaction to this utterly fantastic and sensational news was: why? Especially as it is all costing £620 million.

Don’t get me wrong: I yield to no man in my enthusiasm for gazing in wonder at colour pics of distant galaxies (I’m told) made up of a billion stars (I’m told) which do look suspiciously like the wallpaper on my smartphone and which, anyway, I forget about within two seconds of moving on. But give me a break: this whole Gaia exercise is costing a cool £620 million. And each time my one thought is: haven’t we got something more worthwhile on which to spend our shekel? Because, dear reader, make no mistake: it is your money which is being blown on a variety of Polaroids of clouds of pink, blue, yellow and red smoke. (And if you are thinking ‘what the hell, they look beautiful, just look at all that galactic dusk, doesn’t it look like smoke rising from a bonfire’, my advice to you is to go and find yourself a bonfire and gaze at the smoke rising from it: it’s just as beautiful and a lot, lot cheaper.)

I know the argument and I can hear you all now: don’t be such a Luddite, Patrick! What would have happened if Christopher Columbus had settled for a trip to Gibraltor rather taken himself off to discover the New World (well, actually a shorter route to India, but let’s not complicate matters). There would be no Disney, no hamburgers, no Fred Astaire, New York would still be a flat piece of swamp near coast, there would be no Cajun music, no grits, no Beverly Hills High, several thousand Iraqis would still be alive today. Come on, keep up, Patrick: you can’t halt progress!

This is science, man! Think of penicillin, the Pill, we’ve eradicated tuberculosis, we’ve conquered malaria, we can now know what our dogs are thinking! And why? Because of science, man, science! Ah, but dear reader wishy-washy liberal that I am despite suspicions that I am actually just a smidgin right-of-centre in my political and economic views, I can’t help but think of the cost and how that money might well be far better spent elsewhere.

We’re told, for example, that one of the biggest killers of young children in parts of the world is diarrhoea which can easily be cured by a simply mixture of sugar and salt, yet these children are not getting it. And we’re told that in parts of the world folk have to drink the same water they shit in. And we’re told that in parts of the world - mainly Africa and Asia - a great many women die giving birth purely because of unhygenic conditions.

Now wouldn’t it make just a little more sense to spend money on programmes help our young and sick and old rather than setting up cameras in space which can give us ever better, ever clearer and ever more colourful piccies of the Milky Way for our smartphone wallpaper? Or am I just another misanthropic old cunt? Answers, please, on the usual postcard which you can then tear up into samll pieces and stick up your arse.

Friday, December 13, 2013

So now we know: the universe is just a figment of some bloody Fleet Street sub’s imagination. I’ve long suspected as much. And give me a cook who cooks, not one who insists on bearing his soul and expressing himself

There are a couple of cutting edge science stories I suspect you might have missed while you’ve been giving your all to Strictly Come Prancing and Masterchef: The Professionals. They come to a grateful world courtesy of a certain paper in Britain which might well, given it’s fears for house prices and the multitude of causes of cancer, be known as the Daily Whail.

First off we have this, a dire warning that it is pretty pointless getting out of bed tomorrow (or even getting into bed tonight if you are reading this during the day) because - you guessed it: the universe is collapsing. Well! And I thought I was doomed to die of a second heart attack. Further details are here. Just in case you feel that this is just another load of the cack our free press regularly produces, you can opt for this cosmic disaster scenario instead. It is marginally more interesting, though equally as much total bollocks.

Here ‘scientists’ (it’s a wonder they don’t call them ‘boffins’ because that’s what Fleet Street’s finest usually do) postulate that - if I understand it correctly - the universe is just a hologram and just a figment of our imagination. No, I haven’t understood it correctly, but then given some of the goobledegook the Mail Online bods insists on printing (e.g. ‘In a black hole, for instance, all the objects that ever fall into it would be entirely contained in surface fluctuations. This means that the objects would be stored almost as ‘memory’ or fragment of data rather than a physical object in existence. In a larger sense, the theory suggests that the entire universe can be seen as a ‘two-dimensional structure projected onto a cosmological horizon’ - or in simpler terms [love that], the universe we believe we inhabit is a 3D projection of a 2D alternate universe.’

As I say gobbledegook and incomprehensible garbage, but that won’t stop various men - it will invariably and exclusively be men, I’m afraid - in pubs, clubs and golf club bars up and down the country boring for Britain as they insist, several rounds into the conversation, on explaining at

length a fascinating new theory they read about ‘in the paper’. Their account will most certainly be concluded with a platitude or other along the lines of ‘makes you think, doesn’t it’. No, it doesn’t. Just makes you wonder why 19/20 of the population of this green and pleasant land are allowed within 100 feet of a ballot box.

If you’re interested (and shame, shame, shame on you if you are) you can read the Mail’s story here.

All we now need is some explanation as to why it is bothering printing two such stories, both of which mean the other one must be complete bollocks.

. . .

I don’t know whether it is just my age, also my age or mainly my age, but not only is everyone, not just policemen and bank managers, starting to look decidedly younger, but much of what is on television is beginning to get decidedly more pretentious. Now I can understand it to a certain extent when we have a small gang of arty types sitting around discussing literature, drama, film and ballet, but when bloody cooks - sorry, chefs - start giving those arty types a run for their money, I do start to wish the universe really were a hologram.

The other night I was on my way home from work in Kensington to my brother’s flat in Earl’s Court when I decided I was still quite hungry. It wasn’t greed because I hadn’t eaten much at all since lunchtime and even then it was just a mug of soup and two small rolls. So passing the Dragon Palace, a Chinese restaurant of the parish (and where a few weeks ago I bumped into a certain Paul D. and promised not to talk to him when I also dropped in for a plate of something or other), I decided that to have a latish supper (and no, I didn’t bump into Mr D. this time).

On such occasions - I often have a plate of pasta nearby on a Sunday night - I tend to haul out my excellent Huawei smartphone and seek out a wifi signal to watch a bit of TV. As it happened there was none at the Dragon Palace, so I gave 3G a whirl. Oddly, althought 3G is good for radio, I’ve never before had much luck with TV, but last Tuesday night it worked a treat. Must be something to do with the universe collapsing or other, though don’t hold me to that, I’m not much good on science and rely on our free press to keep me informed on advances in science. (Apparently scientists now know why dogs scratch themselves, which must come as a relief to all those who were a tad disturbed by that particular gap in our scientific understanding of the world.)

Having got a signal wasn’t really the main problem, however. What now stumped me was what to watch on my smartphone (courtesy of BBC’s iPlayer, by the way, if you’re wondering). You see, I don’t really watch a great deal of TV these days because a great deal of TV these days is so fucking dull on the whole I prefer to sit in the bathroom for hours on end and pick my nose. But rather than sit and talk to myself - people often think you’re nuts when you do that - I decided to give something a go while I worked my way through a plate of something spicy with noodles and settled on Masterchef: The Professionals.

I don’t doubt that the television concept of Masterchef has travelled around the world several times over these past few years but for those still unacquainted with the programme and its ilk all I can say is: don’t worry, you’re not missing much. (There is a variant of it here in Old Blighty called Celebrity Masterchef which is equally as dull.) Don’t get me wrong: I happen to enjoy cooking very much and was very happy watching cookery programmes many years ago when they were still about cooking and learning new techniques and dishes. But they aren’t any more. They are all about ‘competition’ and ‘being passionate about wheat/mushrooms/carrots/lard’ and ‘boiling a kettle of water doesn’t get harder than this!’, cue dramatic music.

In the particular episode I saw last Tuesday (or of which is saw part, because mercifully I had finished my plate of something spicy with noodles long before the programme was due to end), the emphasis was on ‘putting your emotions and feelings into a dish’.

OK, it wouldn’t be at all difficult to make me out to be some sort of cantankerous old sod for complaining that that is 24-carat, grade A bullshit, but if that is the direction you’re thinking is now taking you - that I’m just another old fart for not being intrigued by the mystery of cooking - then you are banned from ever reading this blog again. But don’t take my word for it - after all, I am the Luddite fuck who refuses to believe the universe is about to collapse - so here are a few snippets: (t/c)