1,000 Hits

September 28, 2006

Yesterday afternoon I logged in to find that I’d received my 1,000th hit on this blog.  This news came just the day after I added a clustrmap [sic] to my site.  With hits coming from as far away as Bulgaria and Australia in the last two days, my main audience is mostly the UK and the USA.  Now that I’m finished the novel, and just about to finish full-time work, look out for an increase in content.  Later today, or maybe tomorrow, I shall be writing a blog on the weird search terms used to find my blog.  I promise you: you will be amazed.  Many thanks to my growing readership for your support — you ain’t seen nothing yet!

Talking to the Neighbours

September 20, 2006

Living in London, I don’t talk as much to my neighbours as I did in my Northern youth.  I had my annual conversation with one of my more talkative neighbours on Sunday morning.  Here’s a snippet:

Neighbour: How did you get on in the [London] marathon this year?

Me: I didn’t get a place.

Neighbour: Oh, are there are a lot of entrants?

Me: Yes, it’s three times over-subscribed.  But I did run the Edinburgh Marathon in June.

Neighbour: Really?  Was that the same sort of distance?

I kept a straight face, honestly I did.  Hmm… I wonder if Sir Roger Bannister broke the four-minute mile because he was doing a half-mile race?

On Finishing a Novel

September 18, 2006

At 13.40 this afternoon I finished writing the first draft of the novel I’m submitting for my MA in Creative Writing. At 83,500 words, it’s not the longest I’ve ever written. But it’s the most commercial, and the first I’ve written in 17 years. It’s only the first draft, and there’s a lot to do before I begin the laborious and heart-rending process of trying to get it published, so the journey’s far from over.

How does it feel?  It’s always sad to lose something that’s been a big part of your life for so long, not to have the characters talking to each other in your head, or reminding you to write specific things about them when you’re trying to concentrate on something else. But it feels great to have it out and onto the page. And it’s even better to know how much enjoyment it’s going to give its readers.

I’ve never before let anyone read anything I’ve written until it’s finished, but this time I read out ever chapter to my girlfriend as I completed it. A little after half-six this evening — half-ten in the morning for her in California — I read out the final paragraph to her. She loved it.

My web stats suggest that the satire on this blog has gained quite a following. The better the stats are for my blog, the easier it’s going to be for me to sell this novel to a publisher. So if you’ve enjoyed the blog, please recommend it to your friends, or put an RSS feed from here to your own blog. What’s in it for you? Well, there’s this wickedly funny novel about free internet porn movie downloads, hot sex and betrayal that will just blow you away — and if you support the blog, you’ll get it into a bookshop near you soon!  Many thanks for your support.

Islamic World Runs Out of Effigies, Flags, to Burn

September 16, 2006

There was widespread panic across the Muslim world yesterday after Friday prayers as stockpiles of effigies ran out following the Pope’s apparently anti-Islamic speech in Germany last month.

“It’s been a vintage year for effigy-burning,” explained one Islamic agent provocateur. “The publication of cartoons of Mohammed in Europe earlier this year gave us several weeks’ worth of burning as each country’s press dared to publish the pictures. There’s continuous burning due to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, which has created a constant demand for effigies. Then the Pope came right out of left-field with his remarks from a fourteenth-century scholar, accusing the Prophet of spreading Islam by the sword. Now we’re out of stock and hoping that there’s not another incident like this before we’ve had a chance to get more supplies. It would be a severe embarrassment if there was another insult to Islam and we didn’t have any decent effigies to burn.”

Prices on the Islamabad Effigy Exchange peaked on Friday morning before afternoon prayers, with the spot price for grade-A flammable effigies nearly 50% above that for December delivery effigies.

In related markets, December contract Stars and Stripes are up 11% in the last week, whilst the pending retirement of Tony Blair as British Prime Minister has caused a 20% fall in the price of Union Jacks for delivery in May 2007.

Turkey ‘Should be at heart of EU’ says Sarkozy

September 12, 2006

In an apparent about-turn, French would-be 2007 presidential candidate Nicolas Sarkozy appeared to endorse Turkey’s entry into the European Union.

“Zis turkey ‘as always been at the ‘eart of Europe, and I want to keep eet there,” said the right-winger in an impassioned speech in Paris.

It was only later that it became clear that the turkey he was talking about was France. “Eet’s a disgrace that a country like ours with its low growth, high unemployment, crippling budget crisis, and a backward-looking agrarian population can stand in the way of progress by ‘aving a veto,” he said with a Gallic shrug.  “Mais, c’est la vie.”

Brixton Fails Drugs Test

September 10, 2006

I’d told Shannon that in 2002 Brixton had pioneered the downgrading of marijuana on a national level.  She was amused to hear that even a guy like me — who looks every inch the off-duty policeman — is continually offered ‘skunk’ ‘weed’ and ‘marijuana’ every evening in the throng of humanity between the Tube station entrance and the bus queues.  She laughed her ass off at the prospect of hearing British guys offering her drugs, and couldn’t wait to hear it firsthand and flip them a caustic comment.

The first time we did the fifty-yard push through the crowd there was not one mention of drugs — no deep voices muttering those magic words anonymously but directly at us.  “It must be the time of day,” I said, disappointed.  “It’s lunchtime.”  The following day we emerged around four o’clock, to be met with silence again.  “You just wait until we’re coming back from Edinburgh late on Thursday night.”

That Thursday we emerged onto the street around half-seven, straight from King’s Cross.  “Prime time,” I said.  We walked through the crowds without a hint of interest from any of the usual suspects.  “I can’t believe it,” I said.  “I swear, every time I walk through there I get offered, and I look like a damned cop.”

“Maybe it’s me?” she said.  “They must know I’d just laugh and call them pussies.”

She got a taxi to Heathrow at six on the Sunday morning. I went over to water my parents’ plants and do their mail at ten.  I came out of Brixton Tube at half-eleven, the sun high in the sky. “Skunk,” said a deep voice.  “Weed,” offered another.

Humans ’Not as smart as we thought’, Conclude Dolphins

September 7, 2006

Latest research by dolphin scientists shows that human beings may not be as smart as had always been assumed.  “The human brain is much larger than we would expect for a mammal that size, so we had always thought that the spare capacity might be given over to sentience,” said Herbert Bottlenose, of the Aquatic University’s Terrestrial Science department.  “After all, they don’t face the complex three-dimensional world that we do, nor do they have to give over so much of their brains to interpreting sonar signals.

“We’ve been able to train them to give us fish for doing simple tricks like jumping through hoops.  But every time we try to talk with them they just assume we want more fish.  If they were really intelligent, then they’d figure out that we were actually trying to tell them something important.  We’ve been trying to warn them about global warming for years.  It’s their loss — after all, warmer and larger seas are great for us.  The only human who ever got it right was the late, great Douglas Adams.  It really won’t be that long before we have to say ‘So long, and thanks for all the fish’.”

This story is a riposte to this article about South African researcher Paul Manger’s work.

Blair To ‘Go With The Crowds Wanting More’

September 5, 2006

Prime Minister Tony Blair’s closest allies yesterday said that he is to ‘go with the crowds wanting more’.  Wizarre Borld‘s opinion pollsters solicited the following suggestions this evening from our readership:

  • The United States
  • The Moon
  • The guillotine
  • The Planet Mongo
  • Being fed to the lions
  • Back beneath the stone he crawled out from under
  • Swimming with the fishes (former Italian PM Berlusconi to help)

And, contrary to his allies’ opinions, definitely not:

  • The House of Lords
  • The United Nations
  • Talk shows

It is interesting to note that Blair’s allies and our readership did agree on one destination: the Chris Evans Show on Radio 2.  Presumably our readership believed it would be interesting car-crash radio to listen to two self-obsessed has-beens toadying to each other.

Autism — Are Matzos To Blame?

September 5, 2006

On Radio 4 this morning I heard that men over the age of 40 are six times more likely to have autistic children.  The study was carried out by studying 100,000 births in Israel.

Here at Wizarre Borld, we regard it as our job to question the logic of apparently clear conclusions.  For example, we think it more interesting to reverse the argument and state that if you have autism, your father is six times more likely to be aged over 40.  So the question is not whether a man’s sperm degenerates with age, but what habits — dietary, lifestyle and even relationships — does a 40-year-old man have which makes autism more prevalent in his offspring?

And Lo!  On page 10 of today’s Guardian — i.e. just an hour after I heard the news on the radio — I saw that another study had linked autism to bacteria in the gut.  Glenn Gibson from the University of Reading studied the faeces of 50 autistic and 50 normal children.  He found raised levels of the bacterium clostridium in the faeces of the autistic children.  Gibson has now set up a study giving autistic children probiotic treatment.

The question here at Wizarre Borld is whether men over the age of 40 fathering children have dietary habits which cause raised levels of clostridium.  The only population where this age-related correlation has been proven to occur is Israel.  Could Matzos be to blame?

Man Stops at Red Light in South London

September 4, 2006

A man was arrested last night after stopping at a red traffic light on Streatham High Road.

“It was a shocking piece of driving,” said local pedestrian Ed Fuller.  “The light went amber and he braked slowly to a stop just a second after it had gone red.  He showed a careless disregard for his own street cred.”

Local police confirmed that a man in his early thirties had been cautioned in relation to the incident.  “He had stopped in the correct lane to turn left up into Leigham Court Road and was even indicating.  He didn’t think of the impact this would have on the shoppers waiting to risk life and limb to sprint across to the Somerfield supermarket on the other side. Many required treatment for shock.”

“If only he’d been the South Londoner driving the Smart-1 probe at the weekend,” said Wizarre Borld’s source at ESA.

Related news:

South London Cyclist Seen Using Road
‘Mistake’ as European Probe Crashes into Moon, Admit Scientists

‘Mistake’ as European Probe Crashes Into Earth, Admit Scientists

September 3, 2006

The European Space Agency (ESA) crashed the Smart-1 probe into the moon at 4,500mph in the early hours of this morning.  The plume of dust thrown up will enable scientists to analyse the chemistry of the surface material more accurately.

It was the first ion-powered motor ever used in the history of space flight.  Charged xenon atoms are expelled from the back, using electricity from solar panels.  The thrust produced is slower but steadier than conventional rockets, which give short, sharp thrusts that expend large amounts of fuel at a lower velocity.  The ion drive proved highly efficient and lightweight in powering the dishwasher-sized probe.

“Actually, the story about analysing the dust was bullshit,” said a spokesman for the ESA, speaking on condition of anonymity.  “We named it Smart-1 with our tongues firmly in our cheeks.  The trouble is that the steering’s a bitch.  And it didn’t help that the guy piloting it remotely was from South London.  If we’d known what reckless drivers these guys are, we’d never have let him near it.  Of course, he’s laughing his arse off and talking about meeting Jeremy Clarkson from Top Gear.

“And the other thing is that it’s not just a dishwasher-sized probe, as referred to in our press releases,” said our source.  “It was, in fact, an actual dishwasher.  Europe has a dishwasher-mountain and this is the first phase in testing extra-terrestrial dumping of white electrical goods like dishwashers, fridge-freezers and washing-machines.”

There was further consternation at ESA’s headquarters this evening as scientists discovered that the absorption spectrum of the dust was identical with that of dehydrated blue cheese.

Related news:

Galileo Wrong, Church Right, Admit Scientists

Earth Not Really a Planet, Say Scientists

Lost Moon Shot Tapes Found

South London Cyclist Seen Using Road

September 3, 2006

Breaking news, Streatham Hill
Reports are coming through that a cyclist was seen using Streatham High Road, rather than the pavement.

“It was incredible,” said local resident Brian Stead. “He was perfectly polite to other motorists and didn’t swear once. But if he was hoping to knock pedestrians down, he was going about it the wrong way. And quite how he was supposed to steal goods displayed outside shops, or snatch mobile phones or handbags, I have no idea. The man’s clearly a maniac and has to be stopped.”

The Cost of a Private Education

September 3, 2006

I came across the website of Merchiston Castle School recently  The propaganda about the advantages of a single-sex boarding education for boys is a little dishonest; particularly for a school which prides itself on such a tough sporting tradition.  Indeed, the most recent research dispels the myth of the superiority of single-sex education.

I could find no mention of the school’s famous sons — perhaps because notoriety for alcoholism, psychopathic behaviour, drug-taking and wife-beating are all areas of excellence which tend to develop after one’s time there.

It was the headmaster’s statement that appalled me the most.  He said that ‘Boys need not be high jacked by a laddish culture’.  The word is actually ‘hijacked’, and it has been in common usage since the 1920s.  There are other obvious mistakes, such as the closing speech marks at the end of the first paragraph (the same person is continuing his speech in the following paragraph).  For a school currently charging so much and making such high claims for its educational standards, I’d expect better from its headmaster.

Headmaster's statement Click on it to read it, if you can be bothered.