Thursday, 28 April 2005

Raising Heckles

The Graun has a shortish article on hecklers and how to deal with them, in response, apparently, to a program on BBC 3.

David McKie, the article's author, is right when he says "What on earth does the shouting of these prearranged slogans have to do with the art of heckling? This isn't heckling: it is simply abuse, heckling's meagre and impoverished second cousin." Heckling is about more than being heard it's about being right or, at least, being witty. To follow up one of my own posts, shouting "Freebird" at a concert isn't heckling it's just mindless and often just abuse (it's abuse when I shout it, definitely, it's just a shade more subtle than shouting "you suck").

McKie's Harold Wilson story is pleasantly witty, though:

Perhaps the most famous heckle of the last 50 years was uttered by some anonymous hero in the dockyard town of Chatham, where Harold Wilson was making a speech. Having hymned the nation's maritime glories, Wilson asked what he meant to be a purely rhetorical question: "And why am I saying all this?" To which a voice from the back of the hall replied, "Because you are in Chatham" - thus teasing, if not yanking, out the essential truth that Wilson was simply buttering them up because he wanted their votes.

This led me to wonder if there was a classic heckle archive on the 'Net. Putting heckling in Google doesn't bring up doesn't bring one up exactly but it does show some comment worthy stuff. It seems split half and half between rules of heckling and dealing with hecklers. The rules I certainly don't get. They seem to be aimed at sports hecklers and a sample collection of rules goes like this:
1. No profanity.
2. Nothing purely personal.
3. Keep pouring it on.
4. Know your players.
5. Don't be shouted down.
6. Take it as well as give it.
7. Give the old-timer a chance - he was a rookie once.

Now, unless I've misunderstood heckling, rules 2, 6 and 7 are just about the opposite of a good heckle. The problem here it seems to me that a sports heckle should really be a chant and one bloke shouting at a team is futile -- unless you're trying to rile up Gary Neville and his big, full moustache.

The other problem is having rules seems to play into the self-importance of the heckler. He may well be a brainless dimwit, but he has a code. And thereby hangs another problem, most heckles aren't that good and the object of your heckle has had years honing his comeback skills. The comebacks, then, are often better than anything the heckler could have thought up. This page has some classics:
"That's okay pal, I remember when I had *my* first beer."
"It's all done with wires"
"look, I've only got 20 minutes to make a fool out of myself and you have the rest of your life, so shut up."
"Do I come to your work & tell you how to sweep up?" -- Billy Connoly

It also links to a canonical list of just about every prepared put down you could think of.

Then, though, there's the famous incident in Chicago where Bill Hicks finally has enough with the woman telling him he sucks and the guys shouting "Freebird" (whoda thunk it) and totally loses it. Search around it's on the 'Net somewhere.

Wednesday, 27 April 2005

U R Shit & U KnO U R

Just when you thought footballers couldn't possibly get any more childish Craig "lovely hair" Bellamy sends an SMS to Alan "Elbows" Shearer telling him that Al "was past it and his legs had gone". Big Al replied that he'd "knock [Craig's] block off if he ever set foot back in Newcastle".

Then again, if what Sir Alex does can be called "mind games" -- if the mind you are up against is Kevin "I'd love it, I'd really really love it" Keegan's, is it really worth it? -- the tabloids will probably spring on this as witty repartee of the highest order.

I Aim To Misbehave

The Serenity trailer is here. Shiny!

Get your Chinese up to speed by visiting the Firefly Chinese Pinyinary. Learn how to say "The explosive diarrhea of an elephant"! Da-shiong bao-jah-shr duh la doo-tze , apparently.

Tuesday, 26 April 2005

No Really, What's Your Name?

As mini follow-up to a post from way back, I've recently found out about a couple of people with unfortunate names. One is the sister-in-law of a friend who is called Fanny. I realise I shouldn't laugh and in Mexico it's probably an entirely acceptable name. This doesn't prevent me from asking my friend how his Fanny is every single time I see him. Cos, well you try to be sensitive and politically correct and everything, but when there's a Fanny in front of you, you just can't help yourself.

Anyway, my brother topped this by having recently played in a band with a German bloke called Peter Pfeil.

Bloody hell, there's loads of 'em. Those wacky Germans.

Making A Fire With A Coke Can And A Bar Of Chocolate

You know this should be a set-up to a joke about bribing boy scouts to get matches and wood for you, but apparently it's a real survival technique. It is amazing how he gets his bottom so shiny.

The site makes the obvious point so I can't joke about it:
The original concept was to investigate unique and unusual ways of making fire using everyday objects that one might be carrying around, should one be stranded in the wilderness. Of course, prudent hikers will probably be carrying a lighter or matches.

Even someone as allergic to nature as me could tell you that...

Yes I realise this has been all over the 'Net and back, but it's not like I'm above bandwagon jumping or anything.

Monday, 25 April 2005


I don't usually give over a post to just refferals, but I had these two right next to each other:

best looking actors in 2005


men fucking cows

Wednesday, 20 April 2005

On Hammers And Nails

Twice recently I've been reminded of a saying that I thought went: To a child with a hammer everything looks like a nail.

But if you Google Child Hammer Everything Nail it doesn't show up until a ways down the list. The wording you tend to get is "If your only tool is a hammer, everything looks like a nail" which, to me, doesn't have the same degree of implied gleeful destructiveness.

Also there's the odd "To a man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail", which Robert X Cringely attributes to Mark Twain, but, when you think about it, that form doesn't make a lot of sense. Today, for instance, many men will pick up hammers and the world will not instantly turn all nail-like for any of them. Well, not too many, you'd hope.

This page, on a site named Centerfield, calls it the Law of the Instrument, which it attributes to Abraham Kaplan (although most sites say Abraham Maslow) and renders the phrase "Give a small boy a hammer and he will find that everything he encounters needs pounding." They claim that the phrase is often given as "If you give a child a hammer, everything looks like a nail" which is probably the least coherent version so far and isn't backed up by my experience or Google's.

Centerfield doesn't mention Baruch, but thereby lies another interesting Google. It's variously called Baruch's Law, Observation or Organizational Principle and it's the "If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail" variant that this usually refers to. Maslow turns up again here and a further search on Maslow Hammer Nail[1] seems to suggest that it was the famed (well, I know him because he's connected to a famous, if unrelated, Herzberg) Motivational Theorist who coined the phrase. Which phrase, though, is a little open to question. There are three main variants:

"If the only tool you have is a hammer, you treat everything like a nail."

"If the only tool you have is a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail."

"He that is good with a hammer tends to think everything is a nail."

No-one seems to know where, or when, he said any of these, though. His Wikipedia entry just gives it as an interesting quote and leaves it at that. The last variant seems to be edging towards a more Biblical syntax, though, and it, again, doesn't make any sense when you think about it, as a person who is good with a hammer may also be good with something else, a chisel perhaps, so I think we can discount that one.

So we're not quite sure who said it, or quite what they said but I like the phrase, anyway, and I'm sticking with it.

Update: hannah says in the comments that a friend uses a variant to do with PHP. This, in turn, made we wonder if it has become a snowclone. A search for "if your only tool is" "everything looks like a" -hammer gives only 3 snowclones:

  • if your only tool is a cruise missile, everything looks like a target
  • If your only tool is a penis, everything looks like a blow-job
  • If your only tool is MSWord, everything looks like a .doc

"if the only tool you have" "every problem" -hammer also has 3:

  • If the only tool you have is C, every problem looks like an operating system
  • If the only tool you have is a shotgun, every problem looks for the nearest exit.
  • If the only tool you have is an AR-15, then every problem looks like a TARGET.

[1] Not, of course, anything to do with Maxwell's Silver Hammer. Bang bang!

Tuesday, 19 April 2005

We're In Hell, Apparently

As an Englishman abroad I often get told how bad English cuisine is. Normally I tell these people to fuck off. But only after asking if that's so, why are they watching Jamie Oliver and buying each other translated versions of Nigella all the time, you hypocritical bastards.

Of course, what they mean is that they've been to England and paid a lot of money for a distinctly underwhelming culinary experience. As if wandering in to a eatery at random and having a bad time makes the tired old cliché that "English food is awful" true.

On that basis I can tell you, for a fact, that Austrian bar owners are so woefully lacking in people skills that it's amazing they haven't all been shot by disgruntled musicians. Musicians who, after having only 2 people turn up to a gig because the owner thought sending out an e-mail was sufficient advertising, have just overheard the aforementioned owner furiously blaming them for not being good or famous enough to draw in crowds. But I digress...

The trouble is as an Englishman you know what they mean. Eating in pubs, in particular, usually means that you'll be presented with food so agressively bland that the laminated menu is probably tastier. Curry houses, obviously, are exempt from this, but given that many Austrians would break into a heavy sweat over a Korma they are advised not to try them out, and, given that all Austrian Chinese restaurants -- including the seven or eight or so in Steyr -- seem to be supplied by the same canning plant, Chineses too.

But a number of the best meals I've had recently have been in English restaurants and it seems to be a trend others have noticed. Including, according to the Guardian, Restaurant magazine who have annouced that, this year, the best restaurant in the world is in England and that the number of English restaurants in the top 50 was a true reflection of an "incredibly exciting" UK restaurant scene.

Oh, by the way the title of this post was a reference to this old joke:

Heaven is ...

Where the police are British,
The cooks are Italian,
The mechanics are German,
The lovers are French and
It's all organized by the Swiss.

Hell is ...

Where the police are German,
The cooks are British,
The Mechanics are French,
The lovers are Swiss and
It's all organized by the Italians.

Random Management

As if to confirm my last two posts, I randomly came across an article in Skeptical Inquirer on randomness with this passage:
He confesses that he once joined the hunt for the secret of entrepreneurs who became millionaires. He found that success simply depended on taking risks (he called these people crisis hunters). Then he realized that if he had done the same study on bankrupts, he would have come up with the same answer. "The first counter-intuitive point is that a population entirely composed of bad managers will produce a small amount of great track records."

Thus, "if a twenty-five-year-old played Russian roulette, say, once a year, there would be a very slim possibility of him surviving until his fiftieth birthday-but, if there are enough players, say thousands of twenty-five-year-old players, we can expect to see a handful of (extremely rich) survivors (and a very large cemetery)."

Monday, 18 April 2005

Well, One Was A Weasel

The Guardian asks Is your boss a psychopath? To which your only answer can be "Isn't that part of the job description?" The Guardian gives a list of 11 personality disorders that are more common in managers than in disturbed criminals (apparently for the purpose of the exercise we have to assume that the distinction is less blurry than you would normally think). These are as follows:

The first was histrionic PD, entailing superficial charm, insincerity, egocentricity and manipulativeness. There was also a higher incidence of narcissism: grandiosity, self-focused lack of empathy for others, exploitativeness and independence. Finally, there was more compulsive PD in the managers, including perfectionism, excessive devotion to work, rigidity, stubbornness and dictatorial tendencies.

You know, apart from "excessive devotion to work" (unless we define that as "excessive devotion to powerpoint") I've worked for a manager who had all of those.

Ever the Liberal, the Graun tries to excuse some of this:
For many high achievers, the pursuit of status is a compensation for feelings of worthlessness and despair caused by early adversity. They want to be recognised by strangers because needs went unrecognised in infancy; want money to feel richer than others because they felt poorer, emotionally, as children; and want to have control over others because they were rendered impotent by parental care.

Congratulations! You're a cliché in a bad serial killer movie. "It wasn't is inherent shittiness that made him a walking sack of shit, it was his difficult childhood". Well boo-fuckin'-hoo. Quite a few of the under-achievers being ground down by their boss's personality disorders probably had difficult childhoods, too, but found no need to develop an egocentric, narcissistic, compulsive personality.

I dunno. Maybe it makes sense. An inability to deal with your own childhood trauma obviously makes you fit to manage other people. I can see, though, how many of the traits above would enable a manager to keep their job at the expense of their more competent, but less psychotic, co-workers.

Wednesday, 13 April 2005

Riding Tandem With The Random

Things don't go the way I planned them. I'm just going to put a few shorter things here, but it's not quite a "Short Shorts" sequel.


  • Illusion of choice. If you search for a train on National Rail when you try and book it at the end you get a choce of 4 or 5 different vendors. Thing is they all use the Trainline system to do it. So why bother pretending there's a choice?
  • And while we're there if you try to register with an Austrian postcode it won't let you so it effectively doesn't allow overseas sales. Rubbish.
  • The Internet Archive is now stocking Warren Zevon concerts. Go there listen to his great music but also check out the covers he does: First We Take Manhattan, What's New Pussycat, Trouble and That's Amore. Great stuff.
  • I've had some fun refferals recently:
    Looking For Hookers, are they really that hard to find
    looking for containers for sandwiches, Ikea, is probably a good place to start
    Airbourne Scrotum, cos you know I added that for this very reason
    "60 drinks per month"+is not moderate", damn skippy!
    and finally inapproprite language in the classroom bad spelling OK, though
    I think the Internets has me all figured out.

Tuesday, 12 April 2005

Celebrity Deathmatch: Palin vs Clarkson

A bunch of Road safety campaigners, led by Michael Palin, have noticed that Top Gear is, well, just a little bit laddish. Apparently, it glorifies speed and yobbish attitudes. Because nothing else on TV is a load of escapist tosh is it?

Transport 2000 may have point, though, when they say:
"If we must have Jeremy Clarkson on the television, let's give him something useful to do, such as trying out public transport or road-testing new bicycles. Perhaps he would like to drive a bus; he'd find it just as much fun as a Ferrari."

And it does get you thinking. You're thinking "must we have that twat on telly at all?"

Or perhaps "If he must then can't he be on When Deadly Animals Attack Annoying Presenters or The Worlds Grizzliest Celebrity Assassinations?"

Monday, 11 April 2005

Kids These Days

I was shocked and a little disappointed today when none of my students had heard of Tom Waits. And I'm sure my impression of him did nothing to spark their curiosity. So, self-indulgently, here's a bit of Step Right Up:
Three for a dollar
We got a year-end clearance, we got a white sale
And a smoke-damaged furniture
you can drive it away today
Act now, act now
and receive as our gift, our gift to you
They come in all colors, one size fits all
No muss, no fuss, no spills
you're tired of kitchen drudgery
Everything must go

Speaking of which, Tom's new label, Anti, has MP3s for most of their artists -- including Nick Cave, Neko Case, The Frames and Solomon Burke -- on their site. So go there and indulge in some downloady goodness.

Sunday, 10 April 2005

MJ Simpson's Guide To The Hitchhikers Guide to The Galaxy The Movie

He really, really doesn't like it.
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy movie is bad. Really bad. You just won't believe how vastly, staggeringly, jaw-droppingly bad it is. I mean, you might think that The Phantom Menace was a hopelessly misguided attempt to reinvent a much-loved franchise by people who, though well-intentioned, completely failed to understand what made the original popular - but that's just peanuts to the Hitchhiker's movie. Listen.

And so on...

Friday, 8 April 2005

He Said, She Said

Keeping up with the Wainwrights could almost be a full time job, which is probably why I don't bother that much. Unfortunately it means I missed this Guardian interview with Martha:
Martha Wainwright came up with an effective way of dealing with having a singer-songwriter father who substituted looking after his family by writing about them in songs. She proved that those who live by the pen will die by the pen, and wrote a song about him called Bloody Mother Fucking Asshole. "For most of my childhood Loudon [Wainwright III] talked to me in song, which is a bit of a shitty thing to do," says Wainwright, who only started writing songs after becoming peeved at the amount of attention her brother Rufus was getting. "Especially as he always makes himself come across as funny and charming while the rest of us seem like whining victims, and we can't tell our side of the story. As a result he has a daughter who smokes and drinks too much and writes songs with titles like Bloody Mother Fucking Asshole."

Martha Wainwright's career might well be designed to irritate her family. Her first album is filled with unhinged, emotional songs that fall into what she calls the "woe is me" vein, and she requires no prompting to reveal the source of her inspiration and especially the effect her father's song I'd Rather Be Lonely had on her. "I always felt terribly sorry for the poor woman I thought it was about because of the line: 'Every time I see you cry you're just a clone of every woman I've known.' Then one time I was on tour with Loudon and he said to the crowd: 'I wrote this song about my daughter.' I had no idea. We lived together for one year in New York when I was 14 and it was a disaster, and I'd Rather Be Lonely was about that year. He really crossed the line there."

I don't know, given her level of whining through one short interview, you can sort of see Loudon's side. Then there's this:
"It's completely dated now because he uses a crappy synthesizer, but [Leonard Cohen's] I'm Your Man was a revelation because it was clear that the words are more important than the music."

Which is wrong on all it's important points, not least 'cos Laughin' Len's synth was crappy and dated even in 1989 when the album was released.

Thursday, 7 April 2005

Surely You're Dead, Mr Feynman!

The Scientist Is Gone, but Not His Book Tour.

Actually, this looks good as what they're doing is having "a series of panel discussions with scientists, several of them Nobel laureates, who were close to Feynman". Which I'd definitely like to see.

I Have The (Re)Touch

Boing Boing, who got the link from City Rag[1], link to the work of Glenn Feron who describes himself as a retoucher.

Retoucher doesn't really cover it, though. The site's BoingBoinged at the moment so it's painfully slow, but even after the first three pages you're already reeling at the egregiousness of it. Given Glenn's retouched pic of Alicia Keys you would be hard pressed to recognise her in person in the street. Not so much a retouching as an entire remodelling. The sad thing is that because she looks real in the untouched pic she seems much more interesting. The photoshopping just smooths out everything until there's no personality left. Which might also stand as a comment on her music...

There is fun to be had, though. On the second page it's you can watch the woman's arse go from nicely round to ridculously huge and back again. I spent far too long doing that.

[1] City rag, in turn, got the link from Rock on Lock. O, what a tangled web we weave...

Wednesday, 6 April 2005

"Enormous Throbbing Todger!"

Is something you might want to search for, and, well, it looked like I had theme going on today and I didn't want to break it just to give you news of a useful print-out-and-keep (as well as bookmark, obviously) page with advice on which search engine to use if you have specific search need. Eg:
I need to find websites that I can trust:
Pinakes provides a list of Virtual Libraries with links to sites chosen by experts
Librarians' Index to the Internet sites are chosen by librarians
The World Wide Web Virtual Library provides access to virtual libraries

Useful info.

Via Robot Wisdom, one of the very first blogs and, I'm happy to see, it's active again -- how long has this been going on and why did no-one tell me?

Spot The Difference

This is how people on the web got it:

And this is how newspaper readers got it:

Posted by Hello
Marmot's not really beaver, is it?

(Click on the images for larger versions)

Via Making Light

Asshole Bleaching

I thought this was some kind "tar and feathers" deal, but apparently it's not. As the article says:
Well, I’m not going to throw a march over this (a blog post is more to scale), but I will say that my hearty feminist perspective makes it easy enough for me to say that I know when too much is too much. When you have your ass in the air and someone is scooping bleach between your cheeks, it’s too much. Call me a crazed man-hater if you like, but that humiliation is beyond anything that I’m willing to undergo.

And, you know, she may have a point....

Via Suburban Guerrilla

Friday, 1 April 2005

I Was Totally Lied To By The Trailers, Man!

The Graun takes a quick fun look at the art of the trailer. They manage to do it without mentioning The Phantom Menace, which I find a little odd.

TPM The Trailer was a finely crafted piece of Cinema which hinted at very much while giving you just enough to believe that Episode One would, indeed, be a Movie Event. Bastards.

This bit is interesting:
[T]here's an argument - made by David Lynch, among others - that seeing any trailer automatically ruins the experience of the film to which it relates, because once you've seen the highlights, you'll be subsconsciously checking off the scenes that were featured in it as you watch the full-length movie.

Which I know I sometimes do. It doesn't particularly ruin the movie, though, unless the trailer actually shows you images from the film's ending and you realise at some time earlier in the movie that you know exactly what's going to happen. Then again if you are watching a movie where having seen the trailer you know what the ending is, then you should almost definitely be able guess the ending anyway, without any hints.

Which actually makes it odd that trailers should worry David Lynch so, because I've seen whole movies of his and been none-the-wiser afterwards so a trailer's hardly going to spoil anything is it?