Nine Words Women Use

OK, this is a cop out and should really just be posted to my jokes section, but as someone once said “Good writers borrow from other good writers. Great writers just steal outright”. I could try to come up with some socio-economic, gender neutral polictically correct stuff for this, but nah, it’s just a decent joke.

Nine Words Women Use

  1. Fine: This is the word women use to end an argument when they are right and you need to shut up.
  2. Five Minutes: If she is getting dressed, this means a half an hour. Five minutes is only five minutes if you have just been given five more minutes to watch the game before helping around the house.
  3. Nothing: This is the calm before the storm. This means something, and you should be on your toes. Arguments that begin with nothing usually end in fine.
  4. Go Ahead: This is a dare, not permission. Don’t Do It!
  5. Loud Sigh: This is actually a word, but is a non-verbal statement often misunderstood by men. A loud sigh means she thinks you are an idiot and wonders why she is wasting her time standing here and arguing with you about nothing. (Refer back to # 3 for the meaning of nothing.)
  6. That’s Okay: This is one of the most dangerous statements a women can make to a man. That’s okay means she wants to think long and hard before deciding how and when you will pay for your mistake.
  7. Thanks: A woman is thanking you, do not question, or faint. Just say you’re welcome. (I want to add in a clause here – This is true, unless she says ‘Thanks a lot’ – that is PURE sarcasm and she is not thanking you at all. DO NOT say ‘you’re welcome’. That will bring on a ‘whatever’).
  8. Whatever: Is a woman’s way of saying F— YOU!
  9. Don’t worry about it, I got it: Another dangerous statement, meaning this is something that a woman has told a man to do several times, but is now doing it herself. This will later result in a man asking ‘What’s wrong?’ For the woman’s response refer to # 3.

* Send this to the men you know, to warn them about arguments they can
avoid if they remember the terminology.

How the internet changes content

I love the stories, jokes and amusing articles that get circulated around the internet and the fact that the same jokes resurface time after time. But what I hate even more than that is the way that the content of these stories gets changed, the authorship gets modified and we lose sight of the provenance of the thoughts. The net result of content circulating on the internet is that the author often loses control over what happens to their carefully crafted words, loses all rights to their intellectual property and never gets any compensation for the repeated use of their ideas. But I guess that is just the price we have to pay in return for the ability for all of us to transmit vast quantities of information that we are entitled to distribute.

OK, so getting off the high horse of content theft, here are some of the best examples of the way distribution of things over the internet has changed the content. I am sure that there are more- in fact there are probably entire web sites devoted to the subject, just as there are to cataloguing acts of stupidity (Darwin Awards), urban legends, virus hoaxes etc etc. I simply present some that I have come across.

The most famous example of the misappropriation of authorship is probably the article ‘Sunscreen’. It originally circulated on the internet in 1997 as the graduation speech given by Kurt Vonnegut to a high school. It extolled the virtues of living life to the full and reminded us of the imprtance of using sunscreen to protect our skin. The words were so effective that they were used as the lyrics to a song, cunningly titled ‘Sunscreen’. All of which is fine, except for the fact that Kurt Vonnegut was not the author of this particular article. Presumably the orginator of the e-mail chain, or someone involved in it, thought that the actual author was not famous enough for people to forward the message to all their friends. Or maybe there was another reason, but whatever the reason Mary Schmich must have been pretty miffed that the piece that she wrote for the Chicago Tribune was now circulating the world many times over, with someones elses name attached to it. At least the lyrics to the song were correctly attributed, so not all was lost. I am not the first person to note this- we are all treading in dangerous ground by perpetuating the myth, but here is someone with a fairly complete history of the story.

The next example is one that I liked so much that I even posted it to my collection of jokes: Called ‘A revocation of independence‘ it is a list of what will happen because the US appears to have considerable difficulty electing a President (think ‘hanging chads’ in 2000). There was a canadian equivalent of this, when the result of the election in 2001 was announced (correctly announced too) within hours of the polling booths closing, but the british one is IMHO funnier. The premise of the joke is simply that the former ‘troublesome colony’ like an unruly teenager doesn’t really know how to govern itself, so the Mother Country is going to reclaim what was lost, and reimpose her rules. The same joke, with a few subtle changes, reappeared after the 2004 US election when the rest of the world was quite simply dumbfounded that a population could re-elect someone who, in terms of foreign policy, appears to be a complete buffoon. There is a politician in England called Boris Johnson, who held in the same regard as George W Bush, the only difference being that Boris is probably not destined for higher office, rather he provides huge amounts of amusement when he attempts to host comedy quiz shows such as ‘Have I Got News for You‘ or the Official HIGNFY site. I have no idea if the respective career paths of these politicians is a reflection of the relative intelligence of the two populations (but I rather think not) but back to the two versions of the same joke: Being someone with a background and history of living in the UK (though not so much since I have had a choice in the matter, but that is another story) I could fully see the merits of some of the points raised by the Revocation of Independence, I just couldn’t see the same joke being quite so funny 4 years later.

The final example is also something that I liked so much that I posted it to my web site; it is called ‘A Canadian Apology‘. When I received the text it was attributed to Rick Mercer who is a comedian in Canada most famous for the comedy special ‘Talking to Americans‘. For several years I thought that this was correct, but now, thanks to the wonders of YouTube, you can see the original video from the CBC show ‘This Hour has 22 Minutes‘. And what becomes immediately apparent is that the presenter is not Rick Mercer, rather it is Colin Mochrie. I have no idea why the original distributor thought it necessary to change the author, because in America and the UK Colin Mochrie is more famous than Rick Mercer, on account of the fact that he appeared on the improv comedy show ‘Who’s Line is it Anyway?’ There is a possibility that Rick Mercer was the writer and Colin Mochrie the presenter, but it is not possible to work that out, and why would the writer give up such fantastic material to someone else? I just don’t know but the mis-attribution persists.

And then comes the second piece of internet corruption: The text that circulated the internet is not the same as the original video. Someone, somewhere decided that they knew better than a professional writer and they would edit the content to make the joke ‘better’. There are two possibilities that I can see here:

  1. The editor was watching the show and tried to transcribe the words and got it wrong. Look I am trying to be generous here, no I don’t believe it either, but we have to include it as a possibility
  2. The editor genuinely thought that they were smarter than the original writer

Given the arrogance (and anonymity) of the average internet publisher, I am going to go with #2. And this is a real shame, because there are, IMHO, a couple of cracking jokes that were missed out from the text and it would have been great to read the original as it was intended to be. But then I like seeing Shakespeare done with the original words, rather than someone trying to adapt it. So maybe I am still out there on the ledge.

I guess that the final action that I should take after making all these points is to take down the various articles that I make available via my web site, on account of the fact that now that I know the copyright of the material I am actually breaking it. In my defence I am trying to provide the correct history and provenance of the jokes, articles and text; I am pretty sure that won’t stand up as a defence in court, but I’ll cross that bridge when the lawyers come.

Comedy Talk Shows and Favourite Songs

Talk shows are a staple of modern day television and have been so for over 50 years: Johnny Carson defined the late night talk show for nearly 40 years in the US and Michael Parkinson similarly dominated in the UK for 25 years. Recently the trend has seen far more informal shows dominate, things like Jimmy Kimmel in the US or Jensen in the Netherlands (my dutch may be bad, but he conducts some of his interviews in english so I can watch along). In the UK this has been taken even further by a raft of talk show where the hosts are not even real people.

One of the first to do this was Dame Edna Everage who dominated talk shows in the late 80’s and early 90’s by mixing proper talk show conventions with some comedy that was only possible because the interviewer was actually a man in drag peforming as a comedy character. This approach was continued by Caroline Aherne/ Hook (a 20-something comedienne) who used her Mrs Merton persona (a senior citizen with few social graces) to ask truly outrageous questions; the finest of which was “So, Debbie, what was it that first attracted you to the millionaire Paul Daniels?”

And now we have Al Murray using his ‘Pub Landlord‘ character as a host of chat show. The problem for Murray is that, unlike Parkinson or any of the late night show hosts in the US he is unable to command the quality of guests that a show typically needs to be successful. Whether this is because the guests have wised up after the experiences of Dame Edna or Mrs Merton is not clear but it makes for less interesting television. On the other hand he has come up with a couple of cool gimmicks; including getting all the musical guests to play 2 songs: 1 is normally the latest single that they are promoting, the other must be from the band who are, in the opinion of the Pub Landlord, the greatest band ever: Queen. So you could get Bryan Adams doing Fat Bottom Girls or Katie Melua doing Crazy Little Thing called Love.

Or the one that I liked best because it is my favourite Queen song: KT Tunstall doing Hammer to Fall. Which got me to thinking about my taste in music- it is very rare for me to agree with what is generally perceived to be the ‘best’ song or ‘favourite’ song by a band or singer. I would guess that Bohemian Rhapsody will be far and away the most popular Queen song- but not for me. When it comes to the favourite band of my youth (I got all their albums): The Beat (or The English Beat, depending on what side of the pond you are on) Mirror in the Bathroom is what most people will pick- not me, I love Save it For Later. Whether it is the rather risque lyrics that attracted a 13 year old boy or not I don’t know, but to this day it is still my favourite. And someone no less than Pete Townsend agrees with me. And he knows a little bit about writing songs (although a lot less about what you should or shouldn’t do on the internet). I’m thinking that I should stop that analogy right there. Onto The Eurythmics: I am going to guess that Sweet Dreams would be up there, but I’d pick When Tomorrow Comes. I never seem to get it right.

All of which pontification on musical taste has no real conclusion but leaves me wondering if I am yet again out of step with the majority of the world. Maybe it is the wiring in my head that makes me understand databases, but I still don’t fit in. And you know what? I am happy with that.

Farewell (or should that be Au Revoir) Miles Kington

I detested French at school. I had an entirely unfathomable dislike for France in general and I attempted to never set foot in France. This bizarre attitude infected my behaviour so much so that I refused to take a family holiday to France and thereby missed out on watching the Tour de France live.

I am not entirely sure what it was that cause me to lose the will to keep up the somewhat ridiculous stand; the decisive moment when I succumbed to the lure of France was probably due to an excess of alcohol, commitment of work or most likely the possibility of a date with an attractive woman (Needless to say the date never occurred and even if it did, them my inability to communicate to her in french would have resulted in the date being fairly short and spectacularly unsuccessful).

I can remember times and places that may have weakened my resolve- and the more I think about one particular meeting, the more I think that it may have been the key moment when my idiotic attitude was terminally damaged: During the summer of 1989 when I was still a student I found myself with a desire to travel and no money, so I resolved to hitch-hike through various parts of Europe. I found myself in the french speaking part of Belgian in a little town called Spa. It is home to a rather impressive casino (though I couldn’t afford to go in and gamble), a wonderful (and free) water fountain in the centre of the town that had a constant flow of unfiltered, untouched-by-human-hand and fantastic tasting natural spring water (yes this is exactly the same stuff that is bottled and sold all around the world as Spa water- go visit the town and you too can drink it for free), several extremely cool art galleries (though I couldn’t afford any of the pictures I liked) and a number of typically french restaurants. Oh yes, and Spa is also home to a little motor racing circuit that a few years later I found myself driving along at 5am in a VW combi. OK, taking Eau Rouge at 55km in a fully laden, diesel powered camper van may not have quite the same G-forces as Lewis Hamilton blast around it in a Formula 1 McLaren, but it sure as heck woke me up.

Of these many, many commendable qualities that Spa possesses the critical one is possibly the most bland: the restaurants. Even at the age I was, and with the paucity of money that I had, I recognised the need to eat ‘properly’ from time to time. Which is how I found myself in one of these restaurants and trying to understand the ‘Menu Touristique’. The waitress saw me struggling and came over to help. Unfortunately (for her) it wasn’t the choice I was struggling with, it was the words and the language that they were written in. However, she was not to know this and as she was incredibly attractive, foreign and entirely unobtainable I was not going to send her away. As she came closer my first impressions of her beauty were confirmed and then multiplied; she had long dark hair that further accentuated her face and dark, chocolate brown eyes that looked as though you could drown in. But all of this was nothing compared to her mouth; at the time I had no way of describing it and nothing to compare it to. Today the nearest I can come to it is to say that she was like all the best bits of Scarlett Johansson and Angelina Jolie- except that at the time Scarlett and Angelina were 5 and 14 years old respectively and using them as a frame of reference of reference in 1989 is dodgy in the extreme. A few years later a colleague (stand up Stuart Roddis) heard me tell this story and immediately came up with the expression “she had a mouth that looked like it could suck start a Harley Davidson”. Although a little crude, this is the best description I have come across for her. And I apologise for it.

But even more was to come- although I speak incredibly poor french, I can still recognise differences in accent. In the same way that in english an irish lilt is much easier on the ear than a west midlands drawl or a west country brogue is less aggessive than a Liverpudlian’s scouse, so it seemed to me that Belgian French was softer, gentler and dammit, sexier than any other french accent that I had ever heard. And it was being spoken by a goddess with a mouth that had been formed by the finest artists on Mount Olympus specifically to make the sounds that were currently coming out of it. I was smitten and I didn’t care how much my dinner was going to cost, I had to stay and order. Even if I couldn’t talk to the object of my affection, I could listen.

And the listening was worth it. And if that simple act of listening opened my mind to the possibilities of France then once again we confirm that the smallest chance encounters can have the greatest effects on our lives.

So with this background it may seem strange that I enjoyed the Franglais columns (and accompanying books) by Miles Kington. Perhaps it was an extension of my dislike for french, by bastardising the former language of diplomacy, but either way I would try to read the columns each week in The Independent and bought the first three books. Franglais is, at its heart, a damning of the english and our inability to learn others languages. To speak franglais is simple. Insert as many French words as you know into the sentence you are trying to say, fill in the rest with English, then speak it with absolute conviction. There are examples from all over the world, the following are just a few that I like

  • Je ne suis pas un nutter religieux
  • A la Douane: Black Pudding n’est pas tax-free
  • Le job interview: Vous etes exactement le go-ahead personal assistant que je cherche
  • Le hangover: Il y a un petit homme dans ma tete, qui fait le demolition work

And now, the master of the art Miles Kington has passed away. I hadn’t read much by him recently, but in the same way that the passing of Douglas Adams (he of the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy) removed someone who was too clever not to be funny, so it is with Miles Kington.

And so, although I never knew you, Au Revoir, Miles.

One funny, one not

There has been too much geekery going on. So tis time for something to think about and something to make you laugh

The funny one: Things I hate about Powerpoint┬áDon’t be freaked out by the dutch surrounding it, the video is a better quality than that available on YouTube (but isn’t everything)

And the worrying one is an update to “The most terrifying video you’ll ever see”. Now called How it all ends

Hey, at least it is not all about IT

P Company

This goes firmly in the category of “things that make you laugh (but really shouldn’t)”

P Company is the selection process used by the Parachute Regiment (2 Para or 3 Para) to determine who is eligible to take parachute training. It is a brutal week seven weeks (thanks to Smudge for providing me the correct information) of physical and mental examinations to weed out anyone deemed unsuitable. Needless to say I have no idea of what these men go through and it is a long time since I had any pretensions of even starting such a test, never mind finish it.

There were two documentaries made in the early to mid 1980’s about this selection process, probably as a direct result of the Parachute Regiment’s involvement in the Falklands Conflict. The BBC made a 6 part documentary, Channel 4 made a 1 hour special. At the very end of the Channel 4 version a new recruit is shown taking his first training parachute jump. The process is well known: Jump, count to 3, look up and check your company. The following is what this new recruit said as he made his first jump

“One thousand. Two thousand. Three thousand. Check canopy”

Short pause as canopy inflates

“Thank f^c& for that”

And here is the video to prove it (the clip is right at the end), courtesy of You Tube.