The comic novel I wrote for my MA in Creative Writing has finally been published as a Kindle ebook. More here: http://markspeed.co.uk/Appreciating-Assets.html
The comic novel I wrote for my MA in Creative Writing has finally been published as a Kindle ebook. More here: http://markspeed.co.uk/Appreciating-Assets.html
A new series of Newsjack started last week. The gags below were not used:
9/11 happened, but the 9/11 memorial service was obviously fake. How did they get all those Americans to observe a minute’s silence?
I don’t think ringfencing the banks is going to help. Well, not unless they use searchlights and machineguns too.
New competition is being introduced to make it easier for people to swap banks. The Greeks now bank with the Germans.
Remarkably detailed photographs of the old Apollo 17 lunar mission show that conditions on the moon have deteriorated badly. The landing stage was covered in graffiti and the lunar roving vehicle’s wheels had been replaced by bricks.
This photograph is of the hot and cold-water pipes running under the footpath on the west side of Tooting Bec Common.
The pipe on the right of the picture is for cold water. You can see that the workmen have put a blue rag on top of it and marked an object blue in the foreground. The black pipe on the left must therefore be the hot-water pipe. I would imagine that part of the upgrading work may be to lag it.
Cold-water taps are always on the right, and hot on left. The logical conclusion is that the taps must be to the south of this hole. Indeed, Tooting Bec Lido lies about 1km to the SSE. The absence of lagging on the hot-water pipe may explain its consistently low temperature, even in the summer.
Last night I was part of an audience for a recording of BBC World Book Club featuring PJ O’Rourke talking about Eat The Rich, his book on economics, published in 1997.
My question was:
You list the following as the foundations of a modern industrial economy: hard work, education, responsibility, property rights, rule of law, and democratic government. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the American standard of living has been falling since 1973. In which of these six areas do you think the United States has changed for the worse, and what could be done to reverse the trend?
He didn’t much like that one, and slipped off the hook by disputing government statistics as a whole. He pointed at the preponderance of electronic entertainment devices – from music players to flat-screen TVs – as evidence of an advance, then sought refuge in the rise of single parenthood, marital breakdown and the rise of drug abuse as evidence of a fall in societal standards. He deftly declared psychology and sociology beyond his remit or knowledge to try to avoid further discussion. Harriett Gilbert, WBC’s marvellous host, did try to pin him back on the hook, but PJ’s a wily fellow.
A question from my friend Efua Meadows Smith in Ghana was a good one:
Ghana is rich in mineral resources, particularly gold. Recently we discovered large oil reserves off the coast. Given that we actually have an honest government which has been stamping out corruption, what would you recommend we do with the extra money in order to secure our future economic wellbeing; spend it on health, infrastructure, or education?
PJ talked knowledgeably about unnecessary mortality due to diarrhoea, and the cheapness – 35c per instance – of the cure. Education was his investment of choice, using Scotland in the Eighteenth century as an example.
I stayed to talk with Harriett and then realised that I was the only ‘civilian’ left. PJ revealed he’d been up at five that morning due to mild food-poisoning. Whilst we waited for the lift I entertained him with an old joke from university days: the questions in the Economics exam are the same every year; only the answers change. The lift arrived. I remarked that it was signed as being the evacuation lift, and that his bowel problems should thus be cured instantly. I’m glad to report that he roared with laughter at my gags. Apparently he’s the second most-quoted person in the Penguin Dictionary of Humorous Quotations (Oscar Wilde being number one). I’ll keep an eye on any new additions…
The show airs on February 5th, 2011, and will be available to download as a podcast.
There are two quintessentially British comedy shows on Radio4: I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue and Just a Minute. I was fortunate to see a double recording of the latter at the Edinburgh Fringe this year. On Monday 22nd I had two tickets for another double recording; the first ever at the British Library. But who to invite? The answer was an American friend from my old comedy improvisation group, who’s been living here for six years and is currently applying for British citizenship. The show’s marmite in nature, so I was concerned he might have to tough it out for ninety minutes.
I explained the rules: panellists have to talk without hesitation, deviation or repetition for sixty seconds. Bonus points are available for correct interruptions as well as humour. Panellists were Paul Merton, Giles Brandreth, Sheila Hancock and Ian McMillan.
I needn’t have worried. Ed didn’t need to understand the rules – this kind of classic humour encompasses everything an American loves about British comedy: clash of wits, spontaneous dazzling one-liners, clashes of power and personalities and general all-round silliness.
Suffice to say, Ed’s a convert. The poor guy’s studying a book half an inch thick for his citizenship test. I told him he should qualify for bonus points for having been to a live recording of Just a Minute.
Yesterday the Pope issued new guidance on drinking water in response to the cholera epidemic in Haiti. Previously, the Catholic Church had forbidden the boiling of water, on the basis that it was not taught in the Bible. Health advisers and aid workers had been frustrated by the Vatican’s hardline stance on safe drinking water for decades. “Cholera didn’t exist in the Palestine of Christ’s era,” said one doctor in Port-au-Prince. “We’ve always viewed it as absurd that an old man with a safe water supply and the best healthcare available should dictate sanitary practices to those in developing countries. Cholera is a preventable disease spread by poor hygiene and ignorance.”
But the doctrinal change is causing confusion amongst the clergy. “His Holiness seemed to imply that water should only be boiled when being sold to strangers. It doesn’t say whether water used within families should be boiled or not,” said one priest. “So I’m recommending that married couples continue to drink filthy water contaminated with raw sewage. Unlike Aids, death is often rapid – sometimes in as little as four hours – and excruciatingly painful. Far better for you and your children to die of cholera than to risk breaking Papal edicts and going to hell, or living long enough to think about using a condom during sex.”
Check out this brilliant video. It explains Ben Bernanke’s brilliant intervention strategy. Gut-wrenchingly funny.
No, you read that title right: porn and oral sex are apparently just the thing men need to optimise their partner’s chances of getting pregnant.
In his Bad Science column in the Guardian of September 25th, Ben Goldacre was talking about the controversial (not to me) provision of pornography in sperm-donor clinics. (At an average of just £21.32 per year per hospital trust, I think the politician who objected to this should concern herself with more important things.) Dr Goldacre cites a raft of animal research showing that ‘competition’ makes males produce more and higher-quality ejaculate. Human research carried out in 2005 by Kilgallon and Simmons showed that the same also applied to humans. Their methodology was to measure the volume and quality of sperm produced by men shown pictures of three naked women only, versus images of a single woman being, ahem, ‘serviced by two men. This backs up the work of Yamamato and colleagues in 2000, which showed the same thing to be true of men shown pornographic videos.
Last night saw the 2010 Ig Nobel awards ceremony at Harvard University. Amongst the winners was Gareth Jones of Bristol University. Jones and his Chinese collaborators found that female short-nosed fruit bats who fellated their partners prior to sex copulated for longer. Jones told the Guardian that this is the first non-human evidence of female sexual manipulation using oral sex. It is thought that the behaviour is likely to increase the chances of successful fertilisation.
So, there you go, gentlemen – go home and tell your partners. Well, those of you who are trying for kids, anyway. Frankly, you deserve it – if you’re successful, then in a few months you’ll look back on that wild night and wonder whether it was a price worth paying.
Well excuse me for releasing this a week later, but this is material which was submitted to Newsjack last week. Sadly, none of it was used. Here it is:
Corrections and Clarifications
A Canadian writer-friend sent me a link to this website: http://iwl.me/ called ‘I Write Like. The idea is that you paste some of your scrivenings into the text box, click he button, and you’re told which famous writer your work is like.
My accounts were like Margaret Attwood, Bottom Lines (a farce I wrote for my MA dissertation) like H.G. Wells (admittedly a big influence), The Scam (written when I was 22-23) like George Orwell (by the age of 15 I’d read everything he’d written, including volumes of journalism). Oh, and The Scam is an Orwellian black comedy. My latest novel, St Kathleen of Pop was like Dan Brown in the opening of chapter one but Ian Fleming in chapter five (I concentrate hard on a low fog index for the opening of a novel). A novel I wrote when I was 21-22 was like David Foster Wallace (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Foster_Wallace), as was my journal from January 1st this year. A children’s novel I wrote a few years ago was like Mark Twain, whose work I’ve never read. I tested the opening paragraph of Bleak House by Charles Dickens. He writes like James Joyce. Joyce should be so lucky…
What does it show? It shows that the internet is a terrible distraction for writers. This text apparently reads like Dan Brown. I’ve yet to see an option for ‘I write like Shit’, but maybe Dan Brown’s a euphemism?
Last night I had an email from Newsjack, the BBC7 satirical news show. Unknown to me, least one of my submissions had been performed the previous night in front of a studio audience. Unfortunately, my contribution(s) was/were cut from the final broadcast for reasons of time.
I felt that was a huge milestone in my writing life. Sure, I have no broadcast credit – but my writing was considered to be of a standard worthy of broadcast on the BBC. A writer-friend told me this evening that this is surely the highest accolade in the English-speaking world. Too kind, too kind.
I submitted some topical one-liners and a single sketch. I believe it was probably the sketch which made the grade because it was about Blair confessing to Pope Benedict XVI. Rather than let the writing go to waste, I thought I’d share it. You can view the sketch here: Tony Blair Confession. Here are the topical one-liners. I would imagine that in a few years these will be completely incomprehensible:
A new radio sketch is available. This one is Star Wars: No Hope.
Yoda’s lost hope and Luke’s confused… then Darth Vader turns up looking for a fight. Listen to this new episode of Star Wars here: http://markspeed.co.uk/Sketches.html
The British Freedom of Information Act is a wonderful thing. I’d heard rumours about this letter for the last decade about a letter from Sir Archibald Clerk Kerr (H.M. Ambassador to Moscow) to his friend Lord Pembroke. Today I am pleased to bring a copy of the original to my loyal readership. Enjoy.
If you find the image a little difficult to read, the text is as follows:
My Dear Reggie,
In these dark days man tends to look for little shafts of light that spill from Heaven. My days are probably darker than yours, and I need, my God I do, all the light I can get. But I am a decent fellow, and I do not want to be mean and selfish about what little brightness is shed upon me from time to time. So I propose to share with you a tiny flash that has illuminated my sombre life and tell you that God has given me a new Turkish colleague whose card tells me that he is called Mustapha Kunt.
We all feel like that, Reggie, now and then, especially when Spring is upon us, but few of us would care to put it on our cards. It takes a Turk to do that.
Sir Archibald Clark Kerr
Oh, and I know it’s Wikipedia, but here’s how notorious both Sir Archibald and his letter are/were: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Archibald_Clark_Kerr,_1st_Baron_Inverchapel
One could, of course, make all sorts of comments about Turks, but this is a classy blog…
My artist friend Roy F Peterson sent me these wonderful lame gags. No idea as to the origin, but I’d guess they’re American. Enjoy!
Who’s right – Austrian economist Friedrich Hayek or spendthrift Briton John Maynard Keynes? There’s only one way to find out: fight!
Except that it’s actually a rap-off between the two. Here’s the link:
I’m grateful to Halid Delkic, who sent me the above graphic earlier today. In fact, the above is incorrect – Blu-Tack will actually take a USB device. Indeed, it’s versatile enough to accept any connection.
Furthermore, Blu-Tack will work in most environments, won’t run out of power or crash just when it’s at its most useful, will fit any surface or space precisely, is compatible with PC, Mac or any other operating-system, is almost infinitely expandable, usable by young and old alike with no training, ultra lightweight and not cumbersome, won’t break and does not need to be turned off during take-off and landing. Although neither product will work underwater, Blu-Tack will work again when dry.
Oh, and for those who think the iPad is brilliant because the picture rotates to stay upright, let me just point out that it won’t work in zero-G. With Virgin Galaxy heralding in the age of space tourism later in 2010, Apple’s designers have at last shown themselves to be the has-been bunch of atavistic future-phobes that they really are.
I co-wrote this quick radio sketch with Nathalie Turton and Dominic Vaughan in November 2009. It is performed by me. The remit was to write an over-the-top trailer for a TV programme. For more of Nathalie’s work, go to: www.lollyandnat.com
The sketch is available to listen to at the bottom of this page: http://markspeed.co.uk/Sketches.html
The NHS today announced plans to introduce computers to help doctors screen for cancer. Brilliant – advice on diagnosing complex cancers from a machine that can’t even tell whether it’s got a virus.
I would like to thank my Belgian friend Alexandre Paternotte for sending me this photograph of a mousepad for onanists and sex-pests. It would seem that there’s a piece of technology to satisfy every taste.
I’m shocked and appalled by reports that a science teacher allegedly attempted to murder a 14-year-old pupil in Mansfield yesterday, writes Sir Victor Punchbag-Gribble. This is clear evidence that teaching standards have fallen to unacceptable levels in the last few decades. In my day, any teacher worth his salt would have been able to finish a child off with a single blow. Failing that, a coup de grâce with a pointer would have been delivered.
In the rare instances where a teacher had been incapacitated in the fracas, the form captain would have been expected to finish off the offending pupil. Of course, school rules would have demanded an immediate inquiry in such instances, since it’s normally the head boy who enjoys that privilege. However, the board of inquiry would almost certainly have found that the form captain was acting correctly in ensuring that justice must be seen to be both swift and final.
Discipline at St Mephisto’s was strictly enforced, with what are now deemed to be minor offences – such as walking on the grass, or the late return of a library book – punishable by the public amputation of a limb. Whilst it was not uncommon for some pupils to be reduced to mere torsos, the library was extremely well stocked, and the grass on the school lawns was much, much greener than its withered and trampled inner-city cousins of today. As for the most disobedient boys, let me assure you that they became much better behaved after the removal of the last of their limbs. The exception to that rule was Peter ‘Howler’ Thompson, who had his tongue cut out for the offence of screaming during the amputation of his left leg; the last of his appendages to be removed. Halcyon days…
London was shocked by this blog’s revelation that the borough of Harrow is a safe haven for vampires. Your intrepid reporter has once, again, chanced on a few pieces of seemingly unconnected information and mapped out the big picture that no other website dares to publish!
The first thing that raised your correspondent’s eyebrows as the complete lack of garlic in some garic bread served in the local Pizza Express in early April. Yes, there was butter on the hot bread, which looked perfectly normal at first glance. However, not one shred of garlic could be found on it, or the pizza that followed. Suspicions were raised further by the Chinese restaurant on Headstone Road, pictured below.
Note what it says on the sign: no eggs, no onions, no garlic, no animal products. A Chinese restaurant preparing food with no onions or garlic? Quite literally, absolutely unbelievable. And here at Bizarre World, we just weren’t buying it.
Examining the evidence, we have two restaurants in Harrow serving ethnic food in which garlic is a staple ingredient, but without the garlic.
The final damning piece of evidence is that the London Borough of Harrow claims to be the safest borough in London. And just how do you think a borough like Harrow can possibly be so safe? Easy: vampires patrol the streets at night, detering burglars and muggers. The local branches of Pizza Express and the above Chinese restaurant provide sustenance the fearsome creatures or, perhaps more likely, are where they sleep at night.
Bizarre World did not bother to contact Harrow Council yesterday for comment.
Many thanks to my former colleague Will Hau for this photograph. You can see more like this at www.markspeed.co.uk.
This week’s downgrading of Pluto from its status as a planet was only a foretaste of today’s shocking revelation that astronomers have finally admitted that the universe outside of planet Earth is actually fake.
“Copernicus and Galileo were actually well-known hoaxers,” admitted Prof. Lowell of the Institute of Historical Astronomy — the only scientist willing to talk to Mark Speed’s Wizarre Borld last night. “Of course, when the church authorities placed him under house arrest, conspiracy theorists seized on this as proof that he was right. It all just snowballed from there. Scientists — and particularly astronomers — realised they were onto a good thing. There were grants, university chairs, then Nobel Laureates. It was greed. We kept having to feed the public’s imagination with ever-more weird and wonderful facts. Our theories got ever more elaborate — eventually we ended up inventing preposterous things like ‘dark matter’ to try to make our theories work.”
Galileo – ‘Bit of a joker’
In fact, the ancient theories with their over-complicated movements of the planets were correct: everything does in fact revolve around the Earth. After the astronomers admitted their hoax, NASA came clean about the structure of the heavens. “It’s all crystal spheres, each one inside the other,” admitted a spokesman. “The Russians were never in any danger of hitting the innermost sphere with Sputnik in 1957 because it was in a very shallow orbit. But we did begin to suspect something was up with the first manned missions when some of the crew reported seeing what they thought were reflections. You have to remember that this was at the height of the Cold War and neither side could blink first, although each side knew that the other must know the truth. The Russians were the first to send a spacecraft round the back of the Moon. It came perilously close to breaking the sphere which the Moon is attached to — if the craft had been any larger then they might have cracked it. Both sides then worked together to produce fake photographs of the other side of the Moon. There’s a reason you can only ever see that one side of the Moon that faces us — it’s stuck to its own crystal sphere.”
Copernican and Galilean theories had apparently proved that the complex movements performed by the planets could best be explained by the Earth and the other planets orbiting the Sun. Scientists now concede that each of the planets is planted on its own crystal sphere, revolving around the Earth in an erratic manner. “The only thing the ancients got wrong were the distances,” said a NASA spokesman. “The Moon is quarter of a million miles away, the stars are just over three million miles away and the furthest crystal sphere containing the galaxies is about five million miles from the Earth’s surface. In order to send probes to other planets we’ve had to use hi-tech glass-cutting equipment. It’s only a matter of time before we reach the outermost sphere. Who knows what we’ll find lies beyond that?”
NASA was keen to point out that the lunar landings by the Apollo teams were real. “Oh, we sent them there alright,” said the spokesman. “But the whole one-sixth gravity is bullshit. The guys would have fallen off under the Earth’s gravity but for the centrifugal force keeping them in place. For the sake of the nation’s morale we couldn’t reveal that the whole triumphant space programme was only a partial success, so we had to continue to pump more federal dollars into it. It was great for this country’s technological development, and provided employment to many highly qualified scientists and engineers.”
This publication understands that the stable nature of the spheres has been a boon for telecommunications and satellite navigation. “It’s easy,” said a spokesman from the European Space Agency. “You just have to get a rocket up there and then stick the satellites onto the inside of the sphere. It’s a piece of cake.”
The world of astronomy was thrown into turmoil yesterday as some scientists attending a conference proposed that the Earth be stripped of its classification as a planet.
“It has little in common with other planets within the solar system,” remarked one delegate. “There are oceans of water and a stable atmosphere, making it suitable for organic life. By contrast all the other planets in the solar system are either cold enough to freeze gases like carbon dioxide and methane, or are so hot that lead would melt on their surfaces. All of them are quite sterile.”
“Earth is very unspectacular,” said Dr Alfred Goring of the Royal Greenwich Observatory. “Other planets have interesting features like rings, giant red spots, spectacular volcanoes and dense, superheated atmospheres. Classifying Earth as a planet makes astronomy seem boring and discourages young people from taking up the subject. Even our Moon is boring — it’s in a stable orbit and always faces the same way towards Earth. Other planets’ moons like Titan, Io and Europa are actually far more exciting than the Earth. It’s quite embarrassing.”
In response, North Korea’s Kim Jong-il and Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad have offered to help retain Earth’s status as a planet. “Our peaceful pursuit of civilian nuclear capability will guarantee that the surface of the Earth is reduced to a lifeless nuclear desert,” they said in a joint statement. “Not only will it be as hostile to life as the other planets, but the extreme radioactivity will be a unique and exciting feature.”
NASA revealed today that it has spent five years searching for the original videos of the Apollo 11 landing in 1969, which went missing sometime in the 1970s.
The original footage was beamed down to monitoring stations on Earth and taped. However, the only way to relay live images of the landing to the 600 million television viewers was to aim a camera at the screen showing the feed from the satellite link. The result was the famously blurry image of Neil Armstrong taking his first tentative step onto the lunar surface. However, the master tapes of the high quality download were sent to the office of public records and went missing when they were returned to NASA.
However, publicity from today’s revelation has resulted in the rediscovery of the tapes in a pornography shop in London’s seedy Soho district. “We found the masters tucked away in one of our ‘speciality’ collections,” said the store’s owner, who didn’t want to be named. “This spaced-out hippy came in talking about moon shots, and something about anus, penis and probes. He was out of money for drugs so we did him a deal. The images looked pretty specialist, even for the 70s — a bunch of guys bouncing around in what looked like freaked-out rubberwear — and they were only black and white. So we just stowed them.”
Mark Speed’s Wizarre Borld secured the tapes for posterity (£20 each, or three for £50) carrying them back to the editorial offices in a plain brown wrapper. We can exclusively reveal that the tapes didn’t just contain the masters of the Moon Shot. Also included were tapes of a Venus probe and plans for an unmanned mission to Uranus.
Further to this exclusive revelation, we can reveal that NASA has discovered that its archives contain the master tapes of Deep Throat, Debbie Does Dallas and Behind the Green Door. “We thought these were broadcasts from extraterrestrial civilisations that had been picked up by the monitoring stations,” said a drooling, half-blind NASA archivist.
Scientists have discovered the genetic marker for shirtlessness in men. “It’s important because of its link to aggression,” explains professor Clint Puffball-Smith of the University of South Carolina. “We believe that the propensity to take off one’s shirt evolved as a signal to other males that the shirtless person is dangerously violent, much as angry bulls will paw the ground in front of them.”
Congressman David Ribble, who recently introduced legislation on giving the so-called ‘vowel states’ consonants at the start of their names, is delighted (see https://markspeed.wordpress.com/2006/07/03/states-to-be-renamed-in-anti-crime-drive/ for previous story). “The problem is that there are a lot of states in the South which are violent, but which begin with a consonant. States like Georgia, Texas, Florida and South Carolina spring to mind. Clearly it’s not the name that’s the problem here — it’s something else. It can’t be the water, or tourists staying in those states would become violent. It’s obvious from police videos shown on CourtTV that most offenders in those states are shirtless when they commit violent crimes. If we can prevent shirtlessness then we stand a good chance of reducing crime. We could test the male populations of those states for those with this genetic trait and then either keep them under curfew or develop medical treatment. One immediate option is to ban men from removing their shirts in public, though that may not prevent the violent behaviour.”
It’s an established medical fact that laughter stimulates the body’s immune system and promotes faster healing. However, the latest Toon technology from the cartoon world is taking the concept one step further. (See previous articles for details of the licensing of cartoon technology into the non-Toon world.)
“Many cartoon characters can simply walk away from really serious accidents,” explains Professor Pat Pending of the Toon Medical Institute. “The key to this is making sure that the accident itself is comic in nature. We’ve noticed a direct correlation between the seriousness of the accident, how funny it is, and the survivability. If we can just add an element of last-second humour — or even irony — to everyday accidents, we believe we can save lives.
“For example, saying ‘Great driving weather, isn’t it?’ to an imaginary camera at the moment you become involved in a serious pile-up could mean the difference between serious injury and simply dusting yourself down. We could even replace the unpleasant traditional car horn noise with either a raspberry or a fart. It would have the additional benefit of making traffic snarl-ups more amusing, thus relieving stress. This would have longer-term benefits on reducing stress-related illnesses like heart disease.”
Los Angeles, CA. A conglomerate of animation studios announced today that it will be licensing cartoon-based technologies to the non-‘Toon’ world.
“Cartoons have been breaking new ground since their inception in the 1920s,” said a US government scientist, speaking on condition of anonymity. “Cartoons have always characters to do the seemingly impossible. The first time it really captured the imagination of an audience was Walt Disney’s Fantasia. Here we saw Mickey performing what was apparently real magic, admittedly, within the confines of an alchemist’s laboratory — but that was the breakthrough.”
During WWII, Mickey Mouse was co-opted in US government propaganda to raise morale, contributing significantly to the US War Bond drive. In what looks now to have been an amazing oversight, the cartoon world began to showcase technologies far beyond anything imagined in the real world. “For example,” says Professor Pat Pending of the Toon Medical Institute, “Toon medical technology has advanced to such a level that a man like Homer Simpson is apparently invulnerable to almost any medical condition. We have seen him forced to eat radioactive waste, exist for years on junk food, fall several hundreds of feet into ravines, be torn to pieces by a wild badger — and more. Yet his constitution is such that just seconds later he is back on his feet and displaying normal function. Admittedly, ‘normal function’ for a man like Homer is not quite what we would understand in the real world. But up until this point, we believed that the only organisms capable of surviving this sort of punishment were cockroaches.”
For years, mainstream cinema was used as a proving ground for many of these hi-tech solutions. “But what you still see now are essentially special effects,” said Prof. Pending. “It’s an illusion. The characters only appear to come back to life, grow new limbs or survive major falls without injury. What makes cartoons different is that there is no use of special effects. These paint-and-celluloid-based characters are experiencing these dangers in their own world, just as we experience the sharp steel of a knife in the real world. The key has been to understand how we can achieve the crossover into the non-Toon world.
“Cartoons are essentially two-dimensional. Add another dimension in for the real world and you go from a squared to a cubed relationship. But with powerful computer processors we’re now able to work around this problem.”
Amongst the first innovations slated for widespread non-Toon use are ‘air brakes’, which allow an individual to stop in midair towards the end of a long fall, and then to step down safely onto the ground. These are an advanced version of the comic device which allows cartoon character to walk or run in mid-air after going over a cliff unawares — widely used in Road Runner by Wile E. Coyote, as well as Tom and Jerry, Goofy, and Inspector Clouseau in the Pink Panther cartoons. It is hoped that air brakes will be an effective anti-terror device for civilian aircraft. In the event of a hijacking, passengers will be able to return safely to Earth without the use of bulky and difficult-to-use parachute equipment. Another version of the brakes will be used to save lives on the roads. Cars fitted with the device will be able to stop instantly, with the body of the car concertinaing to absorb the momentum. Early tests have been hampered by the sensitivity of the system, with cars often screeching to a halt for ants.
Washington, D.C. A controversial new law looks set to be passed by Congress this week. The Anti-Crime State Consonant Act proposes that all state names will hereafter begin with a consonant, with states currently beginning with a vowel being forced to rename themselves by the addition of a consonant at the beginning of their name.
“Night after night on Court TV we see video footage of crimes being committed in the so-called ‘Vowel States’ of the Mid-West, with Idaho, Oklahoma and Ohio being the most featured,” said Congressman David Ribble (R., NJ), who proposed the act. “The solution is obvious when you figure it out. The simple addition of a consonant to the beginning of the name would see an immediate diminution of crime to levels seen in more law-abiding states like Maine and Vermont. There are 21 consonants to choose from, so they’re not spoilt for choice.”
However, there is still disagreement about the detail of the act because some languages vary in their treatment of vowels. “Most instances of the letter H and all instances of Y at the front of words are treated as vowels in French,” explained Carl Vorderman, Professor of Modern Linguistics at Maryland State University. “You wouldn’t want to go through a name-change, only for the problem to surface again through the inadvertent use of a non-English language vowel. Between H and Y, I would see Y as posing the biggest problem,” he continued. “For example, the newly-named state of Yoklahoma or Yohio could become a magnet for gang-crime if they were to attempt to market themselves as ‘Yo! Klahoma’ or ‘Yo! Hio’ in an attempt to increase tourism or to encourage businesses to relocate there. Indeed, with Oklahoma, you can see the precedence has already been set with the hit musical Oklahoma! You already have the exclamation mark there, and the opening song emphasises the letter O at the start of each of the first two lines.”
However, even disallowing H and Y as vowels leaves some room for dangerous misnomers. The DEA is advising the Oklahoma state legislature against adopting the letter T at the start, fearing that Toklahoma would see its cornfields replaced by acres of marijuana. There is widespread unease at the prospect of Illinois fronting its name with the letter K, with Chicago’s image still blemished from the mafia killings of the Prohibition era. Elsewhere, Fox Television has already threatened a lawsuit if Ohio adopts the letter D, seeing a potential infringement of copyright with Homer Simpson’s famous “D’oh!” catchphrase. “They already have a town called Springfield in Ohio,” said a Fox executive. “If they went for Springfield D’Ohio — with or without the apostrophe — we would see them in court.”
We’re driving east on River Road, towards Santa Rosa on a sunny Californian morning. The driver of the oncoming Highway Patrol car waves at Shannon and she raises a hand in reply.
“You know him?” I ask.
“Sure, that’s officer Hiss,” she says. “I owe my last two speeding tickets to him. We’re cool. The one that did piss me off was a couple of weeks ago when he was driving in the opposite direction. He spun around and then stopped me right there. I always feel like I’m in Smokey and the Bandit with him.”
“So why don’t you stick to the speed limit – then he’s just Hissing in the wind?” She cackles with laughter. “You must have been pretty Hissed about that second ticket. Boy, that was really Hissing in action, wasn’t it?” We’re both laughing our guts out. “But what you really need,” I say between laughs, “is a Hiss-terectomy.”
“Zoiks!” said ten-year-old Scooby-Doo fan Mark Speed, 40, of London, England (pictured, centre). “I remember the original 1969 series. Those were amazing times. I had watched Neil Armstrong walking on the Moon back in July of that year, but to me the real televisual event of the year was Scooby-Doo — at last we had a superhero with real human flaws, even though he was canine. We were petrified of the monsters, and so was Scooby. Often, he was so scared he would even end up jumping up into Shaggy’s arms and they would both — to quote the theme song — ‘shake and shiver’. I could certainly empathise: the episode with the ghost in the deep-sea diving suit had me running from the room. But with some temporary courage from the consumption of Scooby Snacks, plus a little serendipitous accident-prone chase on foot, he and Shaggy would always end up beating the smart members of the team — Velma (often incorrectly called Thelma) Dinkley, Freddie Jones and Daphne Blake — to solving the mystery. The monster would always turn out to be the old caretaker, who’d have been wearing an elaborate mask. There was a certain soothing predictability to it. They were simpler times.”
“But that’s not so true of more recent episodes,” said Scooby-Doo aficionado Zoe Falk (pictured, right, partially obscured), aged nine (nearly 10), of Forestville, CA. “For example, in the episode with the dragon there was no villain to unmask.”
Both Zoe and Mark saw Scrappy-Doo as an unnecessary and unwelcome addition to the team. “I just didn’t like him, and I was glad to see him go,” said Zoe. “It was great that he was exposed as evil in the first movie,” added Mark. “He sucked. Badly.”
One element of the show that has remained constant has been the Mystery Machine. “I’ve never seen it emit any exhaust in 37 years,” said Mark. “It’s not just a Mystery Machine — it’s a Clean Machine. Scooby-Doo and the team deserve to be recognised as early pioneers of zero-emissions vehicles. It’s so great finally to be photographed in it. The only mystery that remains is why the non-cartoon world is only just getting around to adopting the Hannah-Barbera studio’s pioneering non-polluting technology some four decades after it was developed. I know we owe a lot of technology to the Apollo Moon Shots, but it would appear that Scooby-Doo delivered the really important environmental breakthroughs. It was tens of billions of dollars cheaper, and a lot more fun too.”