Sunday, December 26, 2010

Boxing Day Magic

First the Aussies are all out in the MCG Test for under 100, then QPR thrash promotion rivals Swansea 4-0, including a mesmerising display by the one and only Adel Taarabt! A frabjous day.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Fantastic Four to be Four No More

They say here that in the next issue of the Fantastic Four comic, one of the main characters will die. What on earth is the point of that? Unless, I suppose, they then have to recruit another member to make up the number. Lame lame lame.

The Fantastic Four comic was the first to which I graduated after the early years of Peanuts. It was imported from the USA every month, and I went out and bought it each time for quite a few years (cue moans about if I had kept them all what a fun time I might be having on ebay today). Only Spiderman came close to them for me, despite a brief flirtation with the Silver Surfer and Iron Man.

My favourite was Ben Grimm, even before I knew this:


Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Grass is Greener

Many friends know of my interest in amusing and strange signs. I just found this one on a BBC site, and had to share it with you. Actually, I am a big fan of walking on the grass, especially barefoot. Except in Munich, where the police will give you a ticket. For the grass thing, not for carrying your shoes.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

For Those Of Us Mad At The Clouds

Winter Solstice Lunar Eclipse from William Castleman on Vimeo.

I got myself up to see the lunar eclipse that coincided with the winter solstice for the first time in c. 400 years. But the sky was full of clouds and there was nothing to be seen except a dank, dark night. In case you also missed the sight, please enjoy this vid.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

An Historic Moment


New York Times report
BBC News online report

Twelve years too late for me to become a military chaplain, but maybe now someone else will have a chance. Now for the marriage laws - onward and upward!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Answer, My Friend

Late this afternoon, the weather in west London turned from rain to swirling sleet. As I made my way to the surgery for an appointment, it occurred to me that holding an umbrella in a storm is the antithesis of sailing, i.e., the aim is NOT to let the winds billow into the canvas, otherwise it turns into a bad version of Mary Poppins.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Science Fiction for Kids

A Facebook friend posted this example of college humour, and I was rather drawn to it. With apologies to Dr. Seuss.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Leo Cullum RIP

Leo Cullum, whose cartoons in the New Yorker I recognise, although I never put a name to them, has died. Here are a couple of my favourites for your enjoyment.

An obituary may be found here.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Now Rest Ye Footy Gentlemen

No football today for the R's - the match up at Hull was postponed :-( (o now we understand the sudden interest in the cricket!)

The Second Test

Apologies for those of you expecting a religious treatise or an ancient myth. This is cricket. Unless you are English or Australian, you'd better go browse in the blogroll because this is serious business. After a humiliating whitewash last time the Ashes were contested down under, England have made a fine start this time round. The photo above is the schadenfreude-of-the-week moment, as the Aussie captain Ricky Ponting is out first ball at the beginning of the Second Test.

Monday, November 29, 2010

The Mighty QPR

If you want to see what the ravaj gave thanks for this past weekend, then have a look at the first minute of this vid. 5 points clear again at the top of the league. Hurrah!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Great Moments of 5771 #1

The ravaj preached her first Shabbat morning sermon in the pulpit where her father used to stand ... and her mother stayed awake. The ravaj was assured that this was a great compliment!

Happy Thanksgiving

This is Courage the turkey, being pardoned last year by President Obama. As a long-time vegetarian, I can only encourage you all to do your own pardoning. Whether or not you do, may I wish all who celebrate a very happy Thanksgiving. I am off to Wisconsin and therefore off the grid for a week or so.

Just Another Saturday Night

Sitting here in London it is hard to remember times like these for a QPR fan. In the olden days we were Premiership class. In the olden days I watched them home and away. In the olden days my father was alive. Those days seem far away, and I don't remember how I felt then. This makes it rather difficult to cope with the fact that tonight QPR are top of their division again, and still unbeaten. It's not a joke, and it's not a mistake. Pardon me for a moment ...


I celebrate along with Rob Hulse (above) who scored his first goal for the R's this afternoon. But now I must pack for a Thanksgiving trip to Wisconsin, knowing that I shall not be here next week when we play our great rivals Cardiff City. I may have to light a candle to St. Albert!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Momentary Catharsis

It's almost Monday over here in London, and it's been raining most of the weekend, that is when it has not been nipple-freezing cold. Then, thanks to the lovely Dorothy Snarker, I saw this:

Have a lovely week!

Royal Highlight of the Month

This is what the Daily Mail had to say about Prince Harry's attire:

"Prince Harry looked delighted with himself yesterday as he helped Scouts scale a wall at the Imperial War Museum at the launch of a forces charity campaign. But what comes up, must come down, so the saying goes, and Harry's trousers certainly looked like they could do with a heave-up as the prince revealed he was wearing a very pink pair of pants."

If you want to read more of the Mail's concept of the important news of the day, feel free to look it up for yourself. It may be one of my guilty secrets that I have bookmarked their website, but at least I don't have to enable anyone else! Meanwhile, I think that colour pants suits him.

O Schadenfreude

This post is probably only to be appreciated by QPR fans and others with discerning football taste.

For the best result of the weekend, look here.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

A Flower in Liz's Garden

Sometimes it is just a crisp, clear Sunday morning; and Liz is going to make us Jamie Oliver's apple pancakes. While we wait, we check out her garden.

PS UK blog-niks don't forget to put your clocks back an hour right now!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Satiable Curtiosity

This picture was on the Telegraph website today. My first thought was, "it's the Elephant's Child!" One of my favourite stories ever, although when I went to an American nursery school a couple of years ago to share it with the kindergarten class I suddenly realised it was utterly politically incorrect because they were all spanking each other, and I had to make some speedy and unsatisfying adjustments as I read aloud. Anyway, poor little elephant of course but also the story come alive:

"'Come hither, Little One,' said the Crocodile, 'for I am the Crocodile,' and he wept crocodile-tears to show it was quite true. Then the Elephant's Child grew all breathless, and panted, and kneeled down on the bank and said,

'You are the very person I have been looking for all these long days. Will you please tell me what you have for dinner?'

'Come hither, Little One,' said the Crocodile, 'and I'll whisper.' Then the Elephant's Child put his head down close to the Crocodile's musky, tusky mouth, and the Crocodile caught him by his little nose, which up to that very week, day, hour, and minute, had been no bigger than a boot, though much more useful.

'I think, said the Crocodile--and he said it between his teeth, like this--'I think to-day I will begin with Elephant's Child!' At this, O Best Beloved, the Elephant's Child was much annoyed, and he said, speaking through his nose, like this,

'Led go! You are hurtig be!' Then the Bi-Coloured-Python-Rock-Snake scuffled down from the bank and said,

'My young friend, if you do not now, immediately and instantly, pull as hard as ever you can, it is my opinion that your acquaintance in the large-pattern leather ulster' (and by this he meant the Crocodile) 'will jerk you into yonder limpid stream before you can say Jack Robinson.' This is the way Bi-Coloured-Python-Rock-Snakes always talk. Then the Elephant's Child sat back on his little haunches, and pulled, and pulled, and pulled, and his nose began to stretch. And the Crocodile floundered into the water, making it all creamy with great sweeps of his tail, and he pulled, and pulled, and pulled."

You may read the rest of the story here. To be reassured that the baby elephant was saved, you may read this.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Is Bert Gay?

Is Bert from Sesame Street gay? The Telegraph thinks so. It claims that Bert tweeted a slang word for gay:

"In a message posted on Twitter about the premiere of the recent A-Team film remake, the mono-browed Muppet said on his official page: "Ever notice how similar my hair is to Mr. T's? The only difference is mine is a little more 'mo,' a little less 'hawk."
The remark meant nothing to most readers, but sparked intrigue in certain gay circles, where "mo" is shorthand for "homosexual."

Personally, I think that whatever two puppets do in the privacy of their own homes is none of our business. O, and Bert is the one on the right.

Did He See It Coming?

Pauls of the world are in mourning, as Paul the Psychic Octopus is dead. The obvious question: did he see it coming? Sadly, we shall never know. The Guardian reported:

"Stefan Porwoll, the manager of the Oberhausen Sea Life Centre in Germany that the tentacled psychic called home, said Paul appeared to have died peacefully of natural causes during the night.
"We are consoled by the knowledge that he enjoyed a good life here and that the care provided him by our dedicated displays team could not have been bettered," Porwoll said. (He continued), "We may decide to give Paul his own small burial plot within our grounds and erect a modest permanent shrine.""

Or you could read about firefighters striking on Bonfire Night, or the cholera epidemic in Haiti, or Tariq Aziz having been sentenced to death. No? Ok then, Paul. it shall be.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Growing Up

This is a picture of the actress Karen Gillan, who plays the character Amy Pond in the current incarnation of the popular TV programme "Doctor Who". She is holding the new action figure of her character. I want one. Would prefer the actual character but a. she is young enough to be my daughter and b. she is fictional. Would settle for a dalek I guess.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

It Gets Better - with Hillary R Clinton

Those who have already taken their own lives because they could no longer bear the bullying and the stigma for being homosexual must not have died in vain. Listen to Hillary, and all the others supporting this project!

Other vids on YouTube

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Really? Truly?

Saw this AP photo earlier today from the ALCS game 5 at Yankee Stadium. Hooligan invasion, no big whoop. Then I saw the caption:

"In this photo taken Monday, Oct. 18, 2010, New York City police officers and Yankee Stadium security subdue Grim LeRogue after he ran on to the field at Yankee Stadium during the fifth inning in Game 3 of baseball's American League Championship Series between the Texas Rangers and the New York Yankees in New York. New York police said Wednesday that LeRogue was undergoing a psychiatric evaluation at Bellevue Hospital."

Grim LeRogue. Grim LeRogue? What kind of name is that? His Superhero name perhaps? So I googled him. Sadly, he cannot blame his parents, since he has a real name. It appears to be Joe or John Rogan, depending on which source you check. They say he hated Alex Rodriguez, and was trying to confront the Yankees third baseman. If that requires a psychiatric evaluation, then check out all Red Sox fans and half the rest of the baseball world.

Official Funniest Jokes of All Time

So the list of the 50 funniest jokes of all time is in. Caveats include that the list was published in the Daily Mail, that the jokes are English ones, and that only 36k people voted. Bearing that in mind, here are my favourites, and the status they achieved in the poll:

49. A seal walks into a club...
33. I was having dinner with Garry Kasparov and there was a check tablecloth. It took him two hours to pass me the salt. (an old Tommy Cooper gag)
32. 'Four fonts walk into a bar the barman says "Oi - get out! We don't want your type in here" '
30. I'm in great mood tonight because the other day I entered a competition and I won a years supply of Marmite......... one jar.
18. My therapist says I have a preoccupation with vengeance. We'll see about that."
16. I went to buy some camouflage trousers the other day but I couldn't find any.
11. 'I went to the doctors the other day and I said, 'Have you got anything for wind?' So he gave me a kite. '
8. Doc, I can't stop singing the 'Green Green Grass of Home'. He said: 'That sounds like Tom Jones syndrome'. 'Is it common?'I asked. 'It's not unusual' he replied.
7. Two aerials meet on a roof - fall in love - get married. The ceremony was rubbish - but the reception was brilliant.
6. Police arrested two kids yesterday, one was drinking battery acid, the other was eating fireworks. They charged one - and let the other one off.
2. 'I went to the zoo the other day, there was only one dog in it, it was a shitzu.'

I hated the number one joke, though. If you must know, have a look here.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Look Me In the Eyes

Tanja Kiewitz is doing her bit for disability awareness. CAP 48, a non-profit organisation that highlights disability issues across Belgium and France, have used her in an advertisement based on this old Wonderbra ad:

If you know a little French, you may read more on the CAP 48 website here.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Things You May Not Know About Dr Suess

10. The American Heritage Dictionary credits Dr. Seuss as the originator of the word nerd, which made its first appearance in his 1950 book, If I Ran the Zoo: "And then just to show them, I'll sail to Ka-Troo And Bring Back an It-Kutch a Preep and a Proo a Nerkle a Nerd and a Seersucker, too!"

9. He was asked why he added the title “Dr.” to his pseudonym? He replied that his father had always wanted a doctor in the family.

8. He once drew cartoons on the vest of a distinguished naval officer, whom he caught sleeping.

7. At the 1985 Princeton University Commencement Exercises, where he was to accept an honorary degree, the graduates stood and recited the entire text of Green Eggs and Ham.

6. Publisher Bennett Cerf wagered $50 that Ted couldn’t write a book using 50 words or less. In response, Ted wrote Green Eggs and Ham, one of his most popular books. Ted often joked that Cerf never paid up.

5. The impact he has made for children's books was massive. He has been credited with killing off "Dick and Jane", the sterile heroes of older children's books, replacing them with clever rhymes, plot twists and rebellious heroes who do the unexpected. The Cat in the Hat was commissioned following publication in 1955 of an influential book, Why Johnny Can't Read, which said children were being held back by boring books. An article under the same name in Life magazine called for more imaginative illustration, and named Dr Seuss as a good example of what could be done. Now one in four American children receive Dr Seuss as their first book.

4. Horror movie icon Boris Karloff narrated the animated How the Grinch Stole Christmas.

3. His trademark is verse written in anapestic tetrameter.

2. One of NASA’s deep space explorers, the Data Relay Solar Electric Utility Spacecraft (DRSEUS) is called the “Dr. Seuss”.

1. He crossed out Marvin K. Mooney from the title of his book Marvin K. Mooney, will you please go now! and wrote in Richard M. Nixon after the Watergate Scandal. Nixon resigned nine days later.

Thanks to the sister of ravaj for tweeting the original link. And thanks to Movietome for the trivia.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

What is a Miracle?

So back to the Chilean miners (please don't yawn). One of the miners is reported as having said that while it was not God who caused the accident, and it was not God who rescued him; God was with him in the mine and helped him to get through the ordeal. In response to that, the rabbi at religion school this morning told the following story to the children:

A flood came to the village, and people panicked. The most religious man in the village was not worried at all.
"God will save me," he said. The waters rose higher and so the man moved to the upstairs part of his house.
"Save yourself!" people shouted at him, "leave while you still can!"
"I am fine," he said, "God will save me." A boat came by the first floor window.
"Jump in!" cried the people in the boat.
"No, that's ok, God will save me," said the man, and the boat went away. The waters rose higher and now the man had to sit on his roof. A helicopter came by and lowered a ladder to him.
"Climb up the ladder!" said the helicopter pilot.
"No thank you," said the man, "God will save me." The helicopter flew away. Finally the waters rose so high that there was nowhere left to sit and the man drowned. When he arrived in heaven, he demanded to have a meeting with God. This was arranged.
"What is the problem?" God asked the man.
"I am a religious man," he replied, "I believed that you would save me. I waited and waited and waited. Why didn't you save me?" "What do you mean?" God cried, "I sent you a boat! I sent you a helicopter!"

Miracles and magic are not the same thing; and when humans work together to help each other, perhaps they are inspired by the divine spark that is within us all.

One Down and Three to Go

Not it's not American Football but rather it is baseball. The New York Yankees are battling the Texas Rangers for the American League Pennant. Last night the Yanks made an amazing 8th-inning comeback to win 6-5 in the end. Mark Teixeira (above) and I are rather happy about that.

Pun's the Word

Somewhere there must be someone who likes a good pun. Is it you? I googled the top ten best puns and here are my 3 favourites:

3. Show me a piano falling down a mineshaft and I’ll show you A-flat minor.

2. Did you hear about the guy who emailed ten puns to friends, in the hope that at least one of the puns would make them laugh? Unfortunately, no pun in ten did.

1. I wondered why the baseball was getting bigger. Then it hit me.

Not laughing yet? O dear I am sorry.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Unanswerable Questions

The BBC recently reported that the search engine Ask Jeeves has a Top Ten list of unanswerable questions. Here they are:

1. What is the meaning of life?
2. Is there a God?
3. Do blondes have more fun?
4. What is the best diet?
5. Is there anybody out there?
6. Who is the most famous person in the world?
7. What is love?
8. What is the secret to happiness?
9. Did Tony Soprano die?
10. How long will I live?

Here are some possible answers that I Googled:

1. 42
2. Einstein says yes.
3. Charles Darwin thought not, but could not prove it.
4. Atkins and WeightWatchers says the Telegraph.
5. Pink Floyd.
6. God, Elvis, Michael Jackson and the Beatles.
7. A simple Buddhist guide to romantic happiness.
8. Tranquility and rationality are the cornerstones of happiness says Epicurus.
9. Yes. And no.
10. Find out for yourself, but don't expect to understand the answer.

Women of the Wall

In solidarity with the women of Jerusalem who wish to read Torah at the Western Wall and are being arrested when they try, we held a Rosh Chodesh service for the month of Cheshvan at Westminster Synagogue in London. Women read Torah regularly here - they should be allowed to where and whensoever they wish!

Find out more here.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Two Months and Still Up There

True Queens Park Rangers fans are very confused at the moment. Our side is top of the league still after 10 matches, amazing goal difference, unbeaten, and winning awards. Jamie Mackie (above), who was signed from a relegated team, makes his first start for the Scottish national side in the European Championships this week. Newspapers are referring to us. And Chris Hollins (last year's winner of Strictly Come Dancing, as well as the son of an ex-player) presented his dancing commentary for this year from the pitch at Loftus Road. We are not used to this. And, rather than enjoy it, all we can do is say "Sssssssssssssssssssssssssshhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh" and try not to jinx it.

When does it get to be fun?

A New Year and Finally a New Post

First of all, a couple of obituaries I had meant to post:

It's only 50 or so years ago (ok, 56) since racial segregation was outlawed in American schools. Jefferson Thomas, who died last month, was one of the Little Rock Nine, the first black students to test the federal government's desire and ability to enforce the new law. The Telegraph reports

"Jefferson Allison Thomas, the youngest of seven children, was born on September 19 1942 in Little Rock. He was keen to attend Central High because he wanted a better education than the one available at the local all-black school, which had second-rate facilities and hand-me-down equipment. Central, by contrast, had science laboratories, modern textbooks and an impressive record of college placements."

There was a happy ending and there were some unhappy endings. Thomas was one of the three of the Nine that graduated from high school. However,

"Thomas said his role in the integration of Central High "destroyed the family base," and recalled that his father had been sacked from his sales job because of the controversy. Callers threatened Jefferson Thomas, friends cut him dead and strangers threw missiles at his house. Thomas senior scraped by as a handyman and, the day after his son's graduation, moved the family to California."

The rest of the article is here.

In contrast to the story of oppression and discrimination related above, I was struck by the story of Michael Burn, who also died last month. He started out as an admirer of the Nazis, and even got to meet Hitler. He became disenchanted after a visit to the KZ at Dachau. In 1942, he was captured during a mission to prevent the biggest German battleship - the Tirpitz - from leaving port. Originally held prisoner in a concentration camp, he was moved to Colditz, where he received Red Cross parcels from Ella van Heemstra, better known as the mother of Audrey Hepburn. After liberation he received a Military Cross. The Telegraph notes:

"(After the war) he helped save Audrey Hepburn's life, by sending food parcels to her in occupied Holland where she was critically ill in hospital, and where she and her mother were subsisting on tulip bulbs. Burn also sent them hundreds of cartons of cigarettes, which commanded high prices on the black market. The money raised from their sale bought Audrey Hepburn supplies of the new drug penicillin, which were crucial in her recovery from an infection brought on by malnutrition."

What else can I tell you? He wrote a novel and a play and poetry as well as ghost-writing books and working as a newspaper reporter. He got a degree in Social Sciences from Oxford University. He ran a mussel-farming co-operative in North Wales. He hung out with the Cambridge spies. He spent the last years of his life living on the Portmeirion estate. And there is so much more ... read it here. Certainly a very full life, but also interesting to me because of the way he changed over time, especially politically. It is possible.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

High Hopes

It's not mice that really gives them the heebie-jeebies but rather, it seems that elephants do not like ants. The Telegraph reports that ants on the African savannah guard acacia trees from being decimated by hungry elephants. If the beast approaches one of these trees, the ants will swarm up its trunk.

"The researchers stumbled onto the discovery after noticing that one species of acacia tree, Acacia drepanolobium, was seldom bothered by elephants. ''We thought that was really interesting because we often see elephants feeding on other species of trees that do not harbour ants,'' said Prof Palmer. The scientists carried out tests in which some of the trees were stripped of their ants. They also ''added'' ants to one of the elephants' favourite tree foods, a different Acacia species called A. mellifera. ''When either tree species had ants on them, the elephants avoided those trees like a kid avoids broccoli,'' said Prof Palmer."

The rest of the report is here.
Or you may enjoy this:

Sinatra's classic song High hopes
Uploaded by tb139. - Watch more music videos, in HD!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The First of September

Things that Wikipedia considers worth mentioning with regard to 1st September include:

1532 – Lady Anne Boleyn is made Marchioness of Pembroke by her fiancé, King Henry VIII of England.
1836 – Narcissa Whitman, one of the first English-speaking white women to settle west of the Rocky Mountains, arrives at Walla Walla, Washington.
1878 – Emma Nutt becomes the world's first female telephone operator when she was recruited by Alexander Graham Bell to the Boston Telephone Dispatch Company.
1914 – The last passenger pigeon, a female named Martha, dies in captivity in the Cincinnati Zoo.
1972 – In Reykjavík, Iceland, American Bobby Fischer beats Russian Boris Spassky and becomes the world chess champion.

1286 – Elisabeth Richeza of Poland, Queen of Poland (d. 1335)
1653 – Johann Pachelbel, German composer (d. 1706)
1896 – A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, Founder-Acarya of ISKCON, the Hare Krishna Movement (d. 1977)
1906 – Eleanor Burford Hibbert (Jean Plaidy, Victoria Holt, Philippa Carr...), English writer (d. 1993)
1922 – Yvonne De Carlo, Canadian-born actress (d. 2007)
1933 – Ann Richards, American politician (d. 2006)
1935 – Seiji Ozawa, Japanese conductor
1939 – Lily Tomlin, American actress and comedian
1950 – Dr. Phil McGraw, American talk show host
1955 – Bruce Foxton, English bassist (The Jam)
1957 – Gloria Estefan, Cuban/American singer
1962 – Ruud Gullit, Dutch footballer
1970 – Padma Lakshmi, Indian actress

1067 – Baldwin V of Flanders
1581 – Guru Ram Das, fourth Sikh Guru (b. 1534)
1838 – William Clark, American explorer, part of the Lewis and Clark Expedition (b. 1770)
1967 – Siegfried Sassoon, English poet (b. 1886)

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Elul Accounts

I would like to say something useful and profound about this time of year in the Jewish community. Not that I could necessarily find such things to say, but in any case I need to use my energy for turning towards a couple of friends and working things out with them. Shavua Tov.

Nigella is Back!

Nigella has a new TV series and cookbook on their way to our screens and shelves, so it's time for the papers and magazines to hype it up. It is probably healthier for me to lust after the siren herself rather than her Slut's Spaghetti, but I do enjoy reading such comments as:

"I do think that enjoying food is a way of celebrating being alive. People often say that no one lies on their deathbed wishing they’d spent more time at the office and what I’d add is that I am sure that no one lies on their deathbed saying I’m so glad I turned down the bread, the cheese, the pudding, so thrilled I spent all those years on a diet. "

O go and read the rest yourself!

The Dream Continues

An Association Football game is played in two halves of 45 minutes each, with a fifteen-minute interval between the halves. The referee may add on time at the end of each half to make up for that lost when injuries are treated, time is wasted, or other reasons according to the rulebook.

Today, Queens Park Rangers, currently top of the league and unbeaten after the first three games of the season, went up to Pride Park to play Derby County. At the end of the ninety minutes, QPR were down 0-2, and by all accounts deservedly so. They managed to score a consolation goal in the 91st minute. In the 94th minute, Jamie Mackie (above) equalised and the match ended almost immediately. As they said on BBC Radio London - Rangers were rubbish for 91 minutes and world-beaters for 3 minutes.

It is a bloody good feeling actually ... and we are still unbeaten in the league. UUUUU RRRRR's!

Monday, August 23, 2010

The Best and Worst Jokes in Edinburgh

From the Telegraph:

"Comedian Tim Vine has won a prize for the funniest joke of this year's Edinburgh Fringe. The pun pundit, who won the Perrier newcomer award in 1995, was presented with his latest prize by digital TV channel Dave. His winning one-liner was: "I've just been on a once-in-a-lifetime holiday. I'll tell you what, never again." The award was judged by eight comedy critics, whose shortlist of 24 jokes went forward to a public vote.

The top 10 festival funnies were judged to be:

1) Tim Vine "I've just been on a once-in-a-lifetime holiday. I'll tell you what, never again."

2) David Gibson "I'm currently dating a couple of anorexics. Two birds, one stone."

3) Emo Philips "I picked up a hitch hiker. You've got to when you hit them."

4) Jack Whitehall "I bought one of those anti-bullying wristbands when they first came out. I say 'bought', I actually stole it off a short, fat ginger kid."

5) Gary Delaney "As a kid I was made to walk the plank. We couldn't afford a dog."

6) John Bishop "Being an England supporter is like being the over-optimistic parents of the fat kid on sports day."

7) Bo Burnham "What do you call a kid with no arms and an eyepatch? Names."

8) Gary Delaney "Dave drowned. So at the funeral we got him a wreath in the shape of a lifebelt. Well, it's what he would have wanted."

9) Robert White "For Vanessa Feltz, life is like a box of chocolates: Empty."

10) Gareth Richards "Wooden spoons are great. You can either use them to prepare food. Or, if you can't be bothered with that, just write a number on one and walk into a pub…"

On receiving his prize, Vine said: "I am very happy to win this award and I'm going to celebrate by going to Sooty's barbecue and having a sweepsteak".

Judges also selected some of the worst jokes of this year's Fringe, which included:

Sara Pascoe "Why did the chicken commit suicide? To get to the other side."

Sean Hughes "You know city-centre beat officers... Well are they police who rap?"

John Luke Roberts "I made a Battenberg where the two colours ran alongside each other. I called it apartheid sponge."

Emo Phillips "I like to play chess with bald men in the park although it's hard to find 32 of them."

Bec Hill "Some of my best friends are vegan. They were going to come today but they didn't have the energy to climb up the stairs."

Dan Antopolski "How many Spaniards does it take to change a lightbulb? Juan."

Antopolski's inclusion in the "worst joke" list comes just a year after he won the Dave trophy.

His winning joke was: "Hedgehogs - why can't they just share the hedge?""

Did any of these make you laugh? Have to admit, I kind of liked the chicken one and the lightbulb one.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Scariest Monsters in the Galaxy

According to the Telegraph, readers of SFX magazine have voted as the scariest monsters the one and only Daleks. As long as they are not the awful multicoloured ones above, I will certainly agree. The dalek cake below also kind of takes the ooooomph out.

The list:

1. The Daleks - Doctor Who
2. Lorne - Angel
3. Aliens - Alien franchise
4. Death - Discworld
5. Gollum - Lord Of The Rings
6. The Shadows - Babylon 5
7. Gizmo - Gremlins
8. The Thing - The Thing
9. Aslan - The Chronicles Of Narnia
10. Predators - Predator franchise
11. The Borg - Star Trek
12. Pilot - Farscape
13. The Cybermen - Doctor Who
14. Godzilla - Godzilla
15. Ludo - Labyrinth
16. Pinhead - Hellraiser
17. Nibbler - Futurama
18. The Great Dragon - Merlin
19. Frankenstein's Monster - Frankenstein
20. Slimer - Ghostbusters

As Tom Chivers points out in his recent blog, however, the rest of the list is a bit rubbish. Anything out of Angel has to come second to anything from Buffy. This is a terrestrial law. Gollum and Frankenstein's Monster are both tragic characters, terribly mistreated and thus driven to behave badly. The same for the Great Dragon. I am more scared of those that made them into what they became. And Aslan isn't a monster. Duh!

O hang on a sec, it seems upon rereading the articles that they were voting for the Greatest monsters and not the Scariest. Silly me for thinking that what makes a monster great is its scariness. Ok, then Gollum and Karloff are back in, but still no place for the dragon. And if I could add one other great and scary monster that is just behind the daleks for me, it would be the giant living brain called IT in "A Wrinkle in Time" by Madeleine L'Engle. Terrifying!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

QPR in First Place!

Three games. Three wins. Nine goals scored. None conceded. Please stop the season now before the dream crumbles and normal service is resumed. These aint no New York Yankees dripping with Jeters and Teixeiras. This is a team of Palarse rejects and overpaid journeymen. This is the team that had six managers just last season. This is Queens Park Rangers, humbled by lowly Port Vale the other day at home in the Carling Cup, yet sitting proudly at the top of the Championship table tonight.

I shall be sleeping in my Dennis the Menace shirt

by the way, for my American friends, you may like to see a picture of the English Dennis the Menace:

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Some Day my Plinth Will Come

In Trafalgar Square in my home town there is a great big column with a sailor at the top, and some plinths at the corners supporting hagiographic statues of military leaders and a king. One of the plinths, however, is often empty, and has been the site for a variety of artistic projects.

Details of the latest contenders for the Fourth Plinth were released today. My favourite is pictured above - a diabetic's delight, which one may savour without risk. To find out about the others, have a look here. O I do love a nice piece of Battenberg!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

When is Lou Gehrig not Lou Gehrig?

The Telegraph writes today that Lou Gehrig may not have had Lou Gehrig's disease after all. The motor neurone disease that killed him at the age of 38 might have been a different kind of condition, one that is triggered by blows to the head, and not the one named after him. The story is here.

This means that Professor Stephen Hawking may now suffer from his own disease instead of one belonging to someone else.

NB Information on Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis may be found here.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The New Football Season Begins

You gotta feel sorry for poor old Robert Green, the hapless goalie whose blunder allowed the USA to draw with England in the World Cup in South Africa (remember that?). Or do you? I am a QPR fan and they were stuffed at home by a 4th division team in the Carling Cup this week. Robert Green should jolly well feel sorry for me! Nevertheless, when I saw this headline:

"West Ham team-mates give Robert Green abuse to prepare him for England backlash"

I felt a momentary pang of sympathy. Then it passed, and as I read on:

"West Ham expect Green to become a target and they along with players have been hurling insults at him in training so that he is accustomed to it come the opening of the Premier League campaign"

I thought - what a great excuse for abusing someone at work! Y'know ... the group at your presentation is a really tough one, so let me help you while you rehearse ... what a stinking load of excrement, etc! Then I realised that this was right out of an old Dilbert strip. O well ...

Friday, August 06, 2010

Belief-0-Matic Knows Me Best!

Via somebody's tweet, to a piece by Roger Ebert, to this quiz, I answered twenty questions and the computer told me which faith tradition is mine. Despite a warning:

"Warning: Belief-O-Matic™ assumes no legal liability for the ultimate fate of your soul."

I share with you now the results I received

1. Reform Judaism (100%)
2. Liberal Quakers (95%)
3. Unitarian Universalism (93%)
4. Mainline to Liberal Christian Protestants (86%)
5. Neo-Pagan (81%)
6. Secular Humanism (79%)
7. Baha'i Faith (72%)
8. Orthodox Judaism (70%)
9. New Age (69%)
10. Sikhism (65%)
11. Islam (64%)
12. Mahayana Buddhism (61%)
13. Orthodox Quaker (56%)
14. Theravada Buddhism (54%)
15. Nontheist (54%)
16. New Thought (52%)
17. Jainism (50%)
18. Scientology (50%)
19. Taoism (45%)
20. Mainline to Conservative Christian/Protestant (40%)
21. Hinduism (37%)
22. Eastern Orthodox (34%)
23. Roman Catholic (34%)
24. Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons) (33%)
25. Christian Science (Church of Christ, Scientist) (32%)
26. Seventh Day Adventist (29%)
27. Jehovah's Witness (13%)

Guess what? The computer got it right. While I am a bit perturbed that I am almost as Neo-Pagan as I am a Reform Jew, I am also glad to have it confirmed that I am unlikely to become a Mormon in the near future. I just couldn't handle the underwear. I am also more likely to become a secular humanist than an Orthodox Jew. Hmmmmm .....

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Which Hair Cliche to Use?

The woman most famous for playing a wizarding student in the Harry Potter films has marked the completion of the final episode of the saga by having her hair cut short. "'Hair'-mione no more!" screamed the tabloid newspaper. I wonder if it will cause as much of a furore as occurred when young Mia Farrow did something similar in the '60's?

"Mia Farrow began her career in the successful television series Peyton Place playing Allison Mackenzie, a type of role that would become standard in her repertoire: the virginal and innocent waif—sensitive, vulnerable, and intelligent. Admired for her long, Alice-in-Wonderland hair, Farrow shocked Hollywood one day by cutting it all off, an independent act which, odd as it may seem now, made headlines across the country, and characterized Farrow as not just another pretty face content to follow the instructions of her male Hollywood bosses."

Meanwhile, cue endless references to urchins and Audrey Hepburn and pixies and other elfin folk.

Monday, August 02, 2010

The Happy Diabetic

When I was little, people baked cakes. They were round, had certain flavours, and icing. Sometimes the icing would be decorated with icing rosettes. Maybe there would be a small and shiny ribbon around the cake. I do not remember any writing on the top. Just candles. That blew out and stayed out.

Not long after I grew out of birthday parties with friends and jelly and sandwiches and crisps and orange squash and cake, a new craze reached our island shores: ice-cream cake. A cake, made out of ice-cream. This was amazing, and had to be collected from the shop during the party because nobody had a freezer big enough or empty enough to keep it solid.

Let us move swiftly through snoopy cakes, womble ice-cream cakes, and the dark years when i wasn't invited to any children's birthday parties so i have no idea what kind of cakes they had, to today. Just saw the cake pictured above on Twitter. The comment with it was: "40 yrs of federally-funded family planning, 50 yrs of the pill". I find this somewhat discombobulating. I don't want to have this cake or eat it. Luckily I found this page instead.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Librarians After Closing Time

A tip o' the mouse to Alison Bechdel on whose site I just saw this

The Teeth That Saved the World

Reuters reports on an upcoming item for sale:

"A partial set of wartime Prime Minister Winston Churchill's gold-mounted dentures, specially designed to disguise his natural lisp, go up for sale this month. The partial dentures, which Keys Auctioneers have catalogued with an estimated value of 4,000 to 5,000 pounds, are being sold by the son of the technician who was commissioned to make them.

A duplicate is on show at the museum of the Royal College of Surgeons, and a third set was buried with Churchill in 1965.

According to documents written by the college of surgeons, the dentures were "carefully designed to ensure that Churchill retained his characteristically slurred diction -- a deliberate affectation designed to overcome a childhood lisp. "Churchill lived in fear of losing his false teeth, and hence his speaking voice, and insisted that spare dentures always be on hand," it added.

The auction is at Keys' showroom in Norwich on July 29.

(Reporting by Isobel Coles; Editing by Steve Addison)"

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Paul the Psychic Cephalopod

Paul is an octopus that lives in Germany. He has come to our attention because during this World Cup, Paul has predicted the winner of each match the German team has played. This includes the shock defeat to Serbia (seen above), and today's semi-final loss to Spain. Six games in a row now the prediction has been correct. Is this a miracle? Might God really be interested in football? Who knows ...

Meanwhile, now the Germans are out, what next for Paul? I wonder how much it would cost to sign him for QPR?!

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Oranje Boom

Wesley Sneijder of the Netherlands football team celebrating as the Dutch reach the World Cup Final. Ok ok the header is really not very original. Blame it on the heat here! Meanwhile, this fan, who has loved Holland since the 1974 World Cup, is one of millions tonight shouting HUP HUP HUP!

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Pink Pride Piglet

Piglet joined the Jewish lgbtq groups today, marching down Baker Street and Oxford Street towards Trafalgar Square. The sun was hot, but he had protection. Happy London Pride!

btw apologies for the sideways pic - cannot figure out how to turn it round!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Andy Ripley RIP

Andy Ripley was an English Rugby player who died recently. The Telegraph obituary quoted the following from his forward to his book about cancer:

"Dare we hope? We dare. Can we hope? We can. Should we hope? We must, because to do otherwise is to waste the most precious of gifts, given so freely by God to all of us. So when we do die, it will be with hope and it will be easy and our hearts will not be broken.”

I hope I can remember this.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

King Ethelpiglet and the Coronation Stone

Piglet explores the sights in the Royal Borough of Kingston-upon-Thames earlier in the week.

Passing Out Parade

There I was thinking I was hot because I am in an office on the 2nd floor and it's a bit muggy up here. Then I saw this pic of a poor soldier rehearsing the Trooping of the Colour for the Queen's birthday. Am rather glad that rabbis' hats never got that tall :-)

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Apricot Stone

Definitely my favourite song from tonight's Eurovision Song Contest - Armenia's glorification of its national fruit: "Apricot Stone", complete with giant apricot stone on set. Utterly Eurovisional, unlike the winning song by Germany, which was already a recording hit across Europe before the show. O well ...

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Piglet St James

On the way to the Athenaeum Club the other day for a book launch, we noticed the guards were taking a break, so Piglet stepped into the breach for a moment or two

Chants of the Season

As the domestic season finally winds to a close (well done Ian Holloway and Blackpool!), Chris Charles via the BBC website gives us a selection of chants from the terraces. This is my selection from his selection:

"We've got Novak, we've got Novaa-ak.
"Our carpets are filthy, we've got Novak."
Huddersfield Town supporters show their love for Lee Novak.

"Tun-cay, cay - Huth, Huth, Abdoulaye!"
Stoke supporters, to the tune of Too Shy by Kajagoogoo.

"We love Taboubi, We love Taboubi, We love Taboubi on a Saturday night."
After Hedi Taboubi scored for Wrexham, to the tune of T Rex's We Love To Boogie.

"Does your mummy know you're here?"
England supporters voice concern for their Egyptian counterparts at Wembley..

"We can't see you sneaking out!"
Colchester United fans to their Southampton counterparts when thick fog descended.

"He's young, he's flash, he fills the air with ash. Sigurdsson, Sigurdsson!"
Reading's tribute to their Icelandic midfielder.

"There's only one Gordon Ramsay."
Oldham fans to Delia Smith and the Norwich fans.

"Alive, alive-o-oh, Alive, alive-o-oh,
"Stephen Ireland's two grannies.
"Alive, alive-o!"
Sung at France v Ireland in Paris, to the tune of Molly Malone.
Ireland pretended first one granny, then the other was dead to excuse himself for playing for the Republic in 2007 - Ed.

"You're supposed to be a gnome!"
At the Port Vale-Lincoln match, to a rather small referee!


"And tonight's match referee is...oh dear God....Davy Malcolm."
From the Ballymena v Glenavon Irish Cup replay.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

The Time To Vote Approaches

A great moment is approaching. Having become a citizen in January, I am finally eligible to vote. On Thursday, there will be a General Election.

I remember my first-ever vote in 1984. I listened carefully to the candidates, as I sought out their positions on the issues that were important to me. I made my choice, and my candidate suffered one of the greatest defeats in the history of American Presidential elections.

These days, it seems that the only way to make a choice is to decide what one likes the least. There aren't really any policies - despite each party telling us that they are the party for change - it is all spin. Matthew Parris wrote about this in the Times yesterday:

"Change is the last thing the British people want. They want things to carry on as they are. They are losing confidence in their politics to arrange it. That’s why they’re angry. Do you imagine change is what the Greek mob want? No, it’s change they fear.

We are in the same condition as the benighted Greeks, but not so far down the primrose path: dimly aware of the truth, scared of the truth, angry with the truth, and howling for the head of any politician who threatens to admit the truth.

The truth is simple: we’re living beyond our means. The change — if change were what we were really prepared to embrace — is simple: we will have to live within our means."
The Times 1.5.10

As he says, hard times are coming. Whoever gets the poisoned chalice will try their best, and make a lot of people very angry. So how am I supposed to choose? Thanks to the recent adoption of American-style debates, presentation and performance have suddenly become career-changing elements for our party leaders. So do I go for the guy who sweated the least? The one who had the nicest tie? Do I eliminate the one who stood there with his hand in his pocket?

I'll get back to you :-)

Amanda Seyfried

On the one hand I am far too old to be interested in a pretty little thing like Amanda Seyfried. On the other hand I am the proud older sister of a fine journalist whose interview with said actress was published by the Sunday Telegraph here.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Prisoner Piglet

My parents were great fans of the television show "The Prisoner", starring Patrick McGoohan. It has just been remade, which does not usually work for cult favourites. Above, Piglet flees from Rover - The Giant Ball of Death. Below, Patrick McGoohan is closely followed by the big white ball.