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Category: amusing (page 2 of 2)

Amusing

Eedinborrow?

We’re back up in Edinburgh this year for the Edinburgh Fringe Festival – this time Marty’s over from Australia, and he’s joined Liz, Billy, Myk, Kat & I in a nice centrally-placed apartment for a week of theatrical excess and mayhem.  So far we’ve seen (I suspect I’ll edit this list a few times in the next couple of days to add detail as I get time & inclination):

If there’s a link there, it’s to a review of that show I wrote for Whatsonstage.com

More detail to follow.

That bwessed awwangement. That dweam wivin a dweam.

There’s a chap in South Australia by the name of Ryan (pictured – yes, he’s just a floating head), who I’ve known since I was about 4 years old, and who is a bit of an expert at putting words next to each other.

Recently he posted the following stuff on Facebook, and I thought it was so well expressed that the best thing to do would be to share it here as a sort of guest-post.

It should be fairly clear, but I’ll explain anyway because it feels like a cop-out if I don’t write some sort of introduction: Ryan recently contacted his local member for Federal Parliament, Jamie Briggs MP (Lib – South Australian seat of Mayo), and what follows is the exchange of messages on the topic of Marriage Equality.

As an atheist with libertarian socialist leanings I support Ryan’s side of the discussion, not only because  I believe that the Australian Government’s policy of not allowing same-sex marriage is a massive vote-buying exercise, but also because I’m terrified of ever getting into an argument with Ryan.

So, here we go…


I sent this mail, recently, to a bunch of politicians, via this helpful website: http://www.australianmarriageequality.com/wp/

Dear Jamie Briggs and other parliamentary representatives,

On the issue of marriage equality.

I find the current government stance on the issue to be a clear denial of the separation of church and state. Regardless of the obvious discrimination issues, I think this fact alone is a startling indication of just how backward some of our system of law still is.

Please support marriage equality

And he replied!

Dear Ryan,

Thank you for taking the time to share your views regarding the legalisation of same sex marriages.

In 2004, the Coalition amended the Marriage Act 1961 to define in legislation the common understanding in our community of marriage –“the union of man and a woman, to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life”.

This definition does not, in any way, seek to prevent or discourage people from entering into same sex relationships, but to recognise marriage as one of the bedrock institutions of society, which is the basis for forming families and which is underpinned by tradition.

I would not support legislative amendments that alter the status of traditional marriage between a man and a woman.

Thank you once again for sharing your views on this matter.

Yours sincerely,

Jamie

Then I replied!

Dear Jamie,

Thanks for your reply. I must say, however, that I find it utterly insufficient as a reason for your stance against marriage equality.

If I may quote you, in relation to the 2004 amendment to the marriage act: “This definition does not, in any way, seek to prevent or discourage people from entering into same sex relationships, but to recognise marriage as one of the bedrock institutions of society, which is the basis for forming families and which is underpinned by tradition.”

In this one sentence you plainly state that, in your view, people in same sex relationships (which you kindly allow to exist) have no place in this “bedrock” institution of society, or in families, or in Australian tradition. This is precisely the “obvious discrimination” to which I was referring in my original mail.

Your reply contains no reasoning, it is simply a statement of prejudice.

If I might rephrase my original mail as a multiple choice question:

Given that marriage is an institution not only of the Church (whose discrimination against same sex couples is clear), but of the State, the Australian government is either:

a) Not truly separate from the Church. Or,

b) Itself openly discriminating against same-sex couples.

As far as I can tell, at least one of these statements must be true.

I thank you again for your response, and I urge you to respond again, addressing this, the core contradiction in the current policy, as I am yet to find a valid reason for its continued existence.

Sincerely,

See how I remain polite. I didn’t use the word ‘cunt’ even once. This is because I really want him to write me back. So we’ll see.

And there’s more!

Dear Ryan,

Thanks for your response.

I understand you have a different view and it is a perspective I understand.  However the view of the Liberal Party is that marriage, at law, should remain between a man and a woman.  I understand you disagree with that position.

All my best,

Jamie

Well that’s a whole pile of nothing, let’s re-rephrase the question, shall we? And let’s make it perfectly clear this time.

Dear Jamie,

Thanks again. It’s good to know that you’re interested, and that you understand my perspective. I, sadly, can not understand your perspective, or, I should say, that of your party.

The reason I can’t understand your party’s perspective is that you give no me reasons, you merely state, repeatedly, what it is. To me, it is a clearly prejudiced view; it is an open statement of discrimination. If discrimination against homosexuality is the policy of the Liberal party, all is clear, but I don’t believe it is. At least, I don’t believe you would tell me it is.

Gay people work, pay taxes, raise families, serve in the military, and abide by the same laws as every other person in our society. They are not afforded the same rights as everyone else in our society. I have offered what I believe to be the possible reasons for this, ie: That the Australian government is subject to the Christian church, or the Australian government wishes to discriminate against gay people.

So far you have neither confirmed nor denied either reason, or offered any reasons of your own. The only conclusion I can reasonably draw is that there is no reason. This discrimination is completely arbitrary; as arbitrary as denying marriage rights to Atheists, or the unemployed, or the elderly, or Aboriginal people.

Of course, there is quite a practical reason for holding the stance you do: That your party kowtows to bigots. Albeit at the expense of the basic human rights of a blameless minority. A minority, I might add, whose defining actions harm no one, and whose right to marry would adversely affect no one.

That’s pretty ugly, in this day and age, don’t you think?

Thanks, Jamie, for your continued correspondence. I really appreciate it. I urge you to respond with some kind of logical, or moral stance on this issue. I sincerely hope there is a stance, as the alternative, that my government institutionalises bigotry, is really too revolting to contemplate.

Sincerely,

Come on Jamie, grow a pair! I promise I won’t get turned on by your big, hairy balls, if that’s what you’re worried about.

Hey hey! He grew some! They are hirsute and magnificent.

Ryan,

Thanks again.

It is unlikely that you are ever going to accept our position and I understand that.  However, the position is not discriminatory in fact previous forms of discrimination against same sex couples were removed by the previous government.  What this is about is a change to the historic definition of marriage, that is something the Liberal Party does not agree with.  It is not about ‘kowtowing’ to ‘bigots’ at all rather it’s maintaining a consistent view on what the word marriage represents in our society.

Again, I understand these reasons are unacceptable to you.  I understand and appreciate your position and I do not seek to change it, rather I am explaining the Liberal Party position on any proposed change.

All my best,

Jamie

Aaaaaand back in I go…

Dear Jamie,

Thank you, yet again, for taking the time to reply, and thanks, especially, for stating a case on this issue.

To refer firstly to the end of your mail, I am thankful that you understand my position, and grateful that you don’t seek to change it. Under normal circumstances I would happily afford you the same courtesy, but unfortunately you are my political representative, and thus it is precisely your position that I am seeking to change. Such is life, in this democracy-thing.

So, it turns out that the Liberal party does in fact have a stance on the issue of marriage equality, that being: They do not agree with “a change to the historic definition of marriage,” and are all for “maintaining a consistent view on what the word marriage represents in our society.”

This feels like progress, Jamie, and I like it. Now, if I may, I would like to present my counter-claim to the Liberal party’s (let’s call it) ‘historical preservation’ defence.

My counter-claim would go something like this: Some history is worth preserving, and some isn’t. I’d like to add that, historically, much of the history that we, as a nation, have chosen not to preserve has been the out-dated and discriminatory dogma in our system of law. I feel that the current stance on marriage equality is destined to be left behind also. To me, it is what our American friends refer to as ‘a no-brainer’.

You’ve kindly reminded me that “previous forms of discrimination against same sex couples were removed by the previous government,” which is true. Indeed, it is admirable. Those previous forms of discrimination were removed, but, sadly, this current form of discrimination has not.

You state also that the current position is not discriminatory, and here I’m afraid I must disagree with you. Clearly you recognise the need to eradicate discrimination against same-sex couples, in fact you state it as a point of pride. If we look back at the wording of the act in question, though, which states that marriage is “the union of man and a woman, to the exclusion of all others,” how on earth can you reach any other conclusion than: this is discrimination?

I honestly do believe that you, and other members of your party would never actively pursue a prejudiced policy. I think you’re simply allowing a prejudiced policy to remain in place, because you’d rather not handle such a hot potato, and there are too many voters on both sides of the fence to risk offending either party. I guess I can’t blame you for that. Much.

This historical preservation defence rings a little too convenient to be true, in that regard. On any other topic, if you told me that “maintaining a consistent view on what the [insert any other issue here] represents in our society,” matters more than the equality of the Australian people, I wouldn’t believe you then, either.

I can imagine a Northern Territory politician in 1975 explaining to a member of his electorate that his party does not wish to discriminate against Aboriginals, but that they wish to maintain a consistent view on what land rights represent in our society.

I can imagine a Queensland politician in 1921 explaining to a member of his electorate that his party simply wishes to maintain a consistent view on what the death penalty represents in our society.

Likewise, I can imagine a South Australian politician in 1893 explaining to a member of his electorate that his party does not wish to discriminate against women, but that they wish to maintain a consistent view on what voting represents in our society.

I’m sure you are aware that in 1894, on the issue of voting rights for women, South Australia led the world. This is a point of pride for our state, and I’m sure it is presented as such to every student in every South Australian school. It was to me, and so it should be for ever more. Our state was a vanguard for simple human rights and equality under the law, one hundred and seventeen years ago.

If you’ll indulge me a moment longer, I’d like you to imagine living in 1890, as a man, and voting in the state election. I’d like you to imagine discussing, and debating your vote with other voters, in the presence of, perhaps, your wife, or mother, or sister, or a female friend, and how that might feel.

Then imagine, if you’re still with me, being a heterosexual, white male, as I am, and being the Best Man at your best mate’s wedding, as I was. I stood next to my great friends, in a perfect place on a perfect day, the celebrant started speaking and I looked out at the congregation. I thought, firstly: I can’t believe nothing has gone wrong yet, and secondly: I can’t believe how lucky we are, surrounded by our friends, both single and coupled, straight and gay, some married, some not. Then the celebrant said this, as she is required to by law: “Australian law defines marriage as the union of a man and a woman, to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life.”

At that moment everything shifted, just a bit, as it was made clear that this particular celebration of love and friendship is not for all of us, not according to the government. It was a sad moment. Some shuffled their feet, some glanced around, some made a concerted effort to do neither, and then we all moved on.

It may seem like an insignificant thing, and I know that to many it is, but please believe me, for all of us there then, and for hundreds of thousands of Australians, it’s not. No legal wedding can take place without those words being spoken, and those words amount to this: Our government insists that it is fair, and right, and necessary that, in this regard, gay people should be treated differently to anybody else. This is a statement of discrimination, demanded by our government, traditional though it may be.

I think about that every time I read a statistic on bullying, or assault, or suicide rates, or listen to yet another chapter in this ridiculous, circuitous debate that we continue to engage in now. If our government says it is necessary to treat gay people differently to anybody else, in even one way, then how can we ever fix this?

Thanks, again, for your patience and attention. I look forward to your reply.

Sincerely,

My brain-mouth is tired! At least I know, even if he doesn’t reply, that I’ve said just about EVERY CONCIEVABLE THING I could possibly say on the matter. Actually, that’s not true. I could go on and on and on.

*****

And he’s replied again. I want Jamie to get gay married to ME.

Dear Ryan,

Thank you for your further email.

You have articulated a very strong argument, in a passionate and considered manner which does make me think hard about this issue.  I can only say again that our policy remains what I articulated in previous emails.  There is no proposal before the Parliament to change that at the present time.  However I imagine that in the future there will be and these perspectives will need to be considered in consideration of our position.

I continue to think about this debate and I appreciate the fact you have put to me information that challenges my current position.

Please stay in touch.

Jamie

Goodnight, sweet Liberal, goodnight.

 

Whale snot, and bats being very rude indeed

London delivered another of it’s rare and exciting opportunities into my eager grasp last Thursday night with the chance to attend the 2011 Ig Nobel Tour of the UK, to hear from Marc Abrahams of the Annals of Improbable Research in the Great Hall at Imperial College as he gave a presentation on the 2010 Ig Nobel laureates and their various works.

I’d first heard of the awards when Australia’s Dr Karl Kruszelnicki was awarded one in 2002 for his study on the factors affecting production and collection of belly button lint.  This is the kind of science I can get behind.

The Ig Nobel prizes are similar to the more famous Nobel prizes, in that they honour scientific achievement.  The prizes are presented in September at Harvard, each by a Nobel Laureate, and the winners give a short speech about their research which concludes either when they do, or when the designated small child gets bored.

This year’s list of prizes was:

Category Research Team Achievement/research
Engineering Karina Acevedo-Whitehouse & Agnes Rocha-Gosselin of the Zoological Society of London, and Diane Gendron of Instituto Politecnico Nacional, Baja California Sur, Mexico “for perfecting a method to collect whale snot using a remote-control helicopter”
Medicine Simon Rietveld of the University of Amsterdam & Ilja van Beest of Tilburg University, Netherlands “for discovering that symptoms of asthma can be treated with a rollercoaster ride”
Transportation Planning Toshiyuki Nakagaki & his team from Japan, and Dan Bebber & Mark Fricker of the UK “for using slime mold to determine the optimal routes for railroad tracks”
Physics Lianne Parkin, Sheila Williams, & Patricia Priest of the University of Otago, New Zealand “for demonstrating that, on icy footpaths in wintertime, people slip and fall less often if they wear socks on the outside of their shoes”
Peace Richard Stephens, John Atkins, and Andrew Kingston of Keele University, UK “for confirming the widely held belief that swearing relieves pain”
Public Health Manuel Barbeito, Charles Mathews, and Larry Taylor of the Industrial Health and Safety Office, Fort Detrick, Maryland, USA “for determining by experiment that microbes cling to bearded scientists.”
Economics The executives and directors of Goldman SachsAIGLehman BrothersBear StearnsMerrill Lynch, and Magnetar “for creating and promoting new ways to invest money — ways that maximize financial gain and minimize financial risk for the world economy, or for a portion thereof”
Chemistry Eric Adams of MIT, Scott Socolofsky of Texas A&M University, Stephen Masutani of the University of Hawaii, and BP “for disproving the old belief that oil and water don’t mix”
Management Alessandro PluchinoAndrea Rapisarda, and Cesare Garofalo of the University of Catania, Italy “for demonstrating mathematically that organizations would become more efficient if they promoted people at random”
Biology Libiao Zhang, Min Tan, Guangjian Zhu, Jianping Ye, Tiyu Hong, Shanyi Zhou, and Shuyi Zhang of China, and Gareth Jones of the University of Bristol “for scientifically documenting fellatio in fruit bats.”

Our evening was made up of brief presentations by 2 of this year’s laureates, along with an interesting bit of science along the Ig Nobel lines, a product demonstration, and some poetry.

We started with a talk from Dan Bebber about their technique for using slime molds to solve shortest-route problems and to design efficient travel networks, and their subsequent mathematical modelling to simulate the slime molds (thus saving a lot of work and cleaning up afterwards.

Following that we were treated to a demonstration of the Safety Bra by Dr Elena Bodnar.  The safety bra is designed to save lives in emergency situations by coming apart and being re-purposed as temporary breathing apparatus with filtration membrane.

We were also treated to a talk by Matija Strlic, who talked about chemical analysis of the smell of old books, and how his team are working on an electronic nose that can smell paper and work out what steps need to be taken to preserve it base on the degradation agents it can sense (he also passed around a jar containing “old book smell”).

John Hoyland from New Scientist gave us an insight into the sorts of things they get in their “Feedback” column, which is a damn sight more interesting than that description sounds.  Sort of like an extended “Colemanballs” of science, an amusing piece was the advertising copy in a Japanese hotel about the benefits of their spa, and that it helped with “Chronic fire extinguisher disease”, “Gimlet wound”, and “Chronic woman disease”.  Quite the miracle cure.

Finally Gareth Jones dragged us through his research on fellatio in fruit bats, complete with large hand puppets to demonstrate – on the offchance there was any doubt – just what it was he was talking about.

The obvious (and frequently posited question) is how people get funding to do this sort of research, usually by people with little or no understanding of research, and the thing which seems common throughout is that while a lot of these projects sound silly they also teach us something about the world we live in, and are the sort of thing which come about from delving deep into the specifics of one particular topic.  Which doesn’t make it any less ridiculous, of course.

Abrahams also stressed that almost nobody who had nominated their own work for an Ig Nobel had ever won, which goes to show.  Something.

To finish we had a partial group reading of William Topaz McGonagall’s famous poem, The Tay Bridge Disaster.  The relevance of this being (other than just being something profoundly silly to do) that a couple of McGonagall scholars had unearthed some previously unread works of the… errm… poet, and they were celebrating at the Dundee event by reading them out.  It seems wrong to inflict the words on you at this point, but if you’re interested and have a moment, there’s a YouTube of Billy Connolly reading The Tay Bridge Disaster.  If you’ve got a spare 6 minutes and aren’t fussy about how you spend your time, have a look:

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EmjPjyWCilk

So that was the Ig Nobels.  By the sound of the way the “main” presentation was described, there seems little or no chance of ever getting a ticket to that, but the Ig Nobel show is an excellent and far more convenient second, and the tickets are free, so if you’re in any way interested in science I highly recommend keeping your ear to the ground around Feb/March next year and see if you can bag one!

That’s m’boy!

It’s not strictly a story from this year, but it’s from last Christmas, it’s one of my favourite stories, and seemingly I haven’t gotten around to blogging about it yet… so that makes it more than eligible for the jasonbstanding.com treatment, doesn’t it? Admittedly, I think I’ve already told everyone I’ve ever met, but I don’t think that’s ever stopped me before.

This time last year I was lucky enough to be in Adelaide, Australia avoiding the ludicrously freezing London winter. One of the first afternoons I was there, I was out in the shed (it’s more like an outside office than a shed; we just call it that) at Mum & Dad’s doing a little bit of work on my laptop and chatting away with my younger brother Timothy.

Out on the verandah I could see my little nephew doing a drawing on the blackboard that Mum & Dad have out there to keep visiting kids amused. It’s only a matter of time before no kids know what a blackboard is, after they’re systematically replaced with interactive hypoallergenic digital whiteboards and the like. However that’s not relevant here.

My sister in law was out supervising, and after a short amount of blackbordial activity I heard her voice enquire, “Ooooh, what are you drawing, H_____?”.

His tiny high-pitched voice responded earnestly, “It’s a monster truck!”.

Maybe it was a sense of avuncular pride that prompted me, but for some reason I leant back on the tilty chair to get a better look at this magnificent artwork, and instantly broke out into paroxysms of merriment. Tim craned his neck to have a look, and started giggling too.

Chels came over to see what the source of the levity in the shed was, demanding “What is it you two are laughing at?”.

I explained – “Well, it’s a monster alright… but it’s no truck…”.

I don’t know what I like better about this photo – the fact that my nephew was only just approaching 4 years old and was already at the developmental phase of drawing meat & two veg on blackboards, or the sheer pride & joy in his expression.

It certainly has massive wheels, doesn’t it.

Happy Christmas everyone.

Edinburgh’s bountiful yet temporary gain

Excellent ludicrous photo from the weekend, taken & edited by Neonwombat. (click it for a less small version)

Investigative reporting at its zenith: I beg your pardon, you pickled a WHAT?!

And now a rare video blogging moment, in which our intrepid hero visits Deepest Reading…

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n3MlNY0ifY4

Mappular amusement

During our 5 day self-guided wander around various parts of Europe, K & I thought that it might be fun to do the obligatory visit to a place with a rude name.  It was a bit of an afterthought, admittedly, and not one which we explored with much diligence.  In fact, the extent of our planning this side trip was me typing a few rude words into Google Maps to see what would come up that was interesting.

I knew that there’s a town in Austria called Fucking, however that was too far away to conceivably visit.  A memory from a previous hunt for amusing place names suddenly popped up though: somewhere around Austria or Germany there’s a mountain called Wank (I now know that it’s in Bavaria, not Austria, and it was a little foolish of me to think that Austria held the monopoly on rude teutonic sites).

Now, Google have done a great job with their map application, and one of its purportedly helpful features is that if you type in a place and search for it, if they can’t find a match for what you’re looking for, they offer a list of helpful suggestions in case that’s what you actually meant.

I’m pleased to report that the iPhone’s first suggestion, when presented with the map query “Wank, Austria” is: The Tate Modern.

Again, due to distance, we never did visit Wank – and sadly therefore didn’t have the opportunity to shake hands with any Wankers.  Perhaps another time…

You only have to set fire to ONE goat…

As festive season closes in around us, it’s worth mentioning my favourite civic fixture of the Scandinavian winter calendar – Sweden’s Gävle goat.

As the name suggests, it’s a giant goat, and it’s built (this is the cunning part) in the town of Gävle.  This is the 42nd time the goat has been erected, and the chief reason for its global popularity is that it has a tendency to be set on fire.  In recent years the Central Goat Planning Committee have deployed preventative measures to ensure that the goat doesn’t get torched – 2006 and 2007 for instance saw the goat coated in a special fireproof substance which is used in aircraft, however according to Swedish news source “The Local”, the committee have not fireproofed the goat this year, as the liquid gave the goat a dull brown appearance rather than the yellow colour that it should be.

Arguably as a security measure, the goat also has a live webcam so you can check to see if it has been burnt down.  You never saw such a Web 2.0 straw goat (for some reason, it also appears to have a blog).

Please enjoy with me now.

Steamy beef curtain

How remiss of me – I forgot to post a photo of the highly excellent shower curtain that our bathroom is currently sporting.

Cool, huh?

Randall Monroe for Prime Minister. Of something.

The man is a genius

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