January 31, 2008

I Montelevision!

From Newsvine: Montel Williams' Talk Show to End
NEW YORK — Syndicated talk show host Montel Williams is being replaced by a younger version of himself.
MONTEL: How could you do this to me, Montel?

MONTEL: Face it, old man. You're past it. The public needs someone new, someone fresh!

MONTEL: But you're not new! You're just me from the past! The public have seen YOU before! I'm still ageing; I'm a new Montel every day!

MONTEL: Blow it out your ass, Montel. I'm twice the Montel you could ever be.

MONTEL: I knew I shouldn't have built that time machine.

MONTEL: Oh, yeah, THAT'S what you shouldn't have done.

MONTEL: What are you talking about, Montel?

MONTEL: You know what I'm talking about.

MONTEL: I— no... I don't. What's wrong, Montel?

MONTEL: You KNOW what's wrong, you [censored]! This is about you having that bizarre homopersonal affair with an older version of yourself and creating the cloned Montel foetus that would later become me in the past!

MONTEL: Oh... that.

MONTEL: Yeah, that.

MONTEL: I tell you what, let's bring future Montel out and we can talk about this.

MONTEL: Good grief.

MONTEL: Hi, Montels.

MONTEL: Hi honey.

MONTEL: [censored]

MONTEL: Montel, look: your mother and I—

MONTEL: Father.

MONTEL: Mother.

MONTEL: FATHER!

MONTEL: MOTHER!

MONTEL: Oh, for God's sake.

MONTEL: Okay, there's only one way to settle this. Let's bring out the alternate dimension Montel who became a cloning expert and performed the experiment that brought young Montel into being.

MONTEL: I knew I shouldn't have built that alternate dimension machine.

MONTEL: Shut up.

MONTEL: Greetings, fellow Montels.

MONTEL: Howdy.

MONTEL: Hi.

MONTEL: Nice of you to show up.

MONTEL: So, what seems to be the problem?

MONTEL: Which one of us is Montel's father?

MONTEL: It's me, right?

MONTEL: No wonder my childhood was so traumatic.

MONTEL: Go to your room!

MONTEL: Montel! Don't talk to Montel that way.

MONTEL: See, you always coddle him. No wonder he's usurping you.

MONTEL: Wait... I thought he was usurping you.

MONTEL: Well, I'm the past version of you, so, ipso facto...

MONTEL: You know, we could start a band, or something.

MONTEL: Montel and the Montels?

MONTEL: I'm pretty sure Outkast beat us to that one.

MONTEL: Um, guys, sorry to disturb you, but we've got half a dozen Maury Poviches out here waiting to use the studio.

MONTEL: Did they bring half a dozen Connie Chungs?

MONTEL: Perv.

MONTEL: Prude.

MONTEL: [censored]

[Fin.]

January 27, 2008

Pain In The Buttocks

From Newsvine: Nude Buttocks May Cost ABC $1.4 Million

Man, that is one pricey hooker.
WASHINGTON — The Federal Communications Commission has proposed a $1.4 million fine against 52 ABC Television Network stations over a 2003 broadcast of cop drama NYPD Blue.

The fine is for a scene where a boy surprises a woman as she prepares to take a shower. The scene depicted "multiple, close-up views" of the woman's "nude buttocks" according to an agency order issued late Friday…

The agency said the show was indecent because "it depicts sexual organs and excretory organs — specifically an adult woman's buttocks."

The agency rejected the network's argument that "the buttocks are not a sexual organ."
Um, perhaps I am getting overly semantic here, but I'm going to have to side with ABC on this one: the buttocks are technically just the fleshy bits at the bottom of your back, and while they do surround something that could be considered a vital part of the sexual act (depending on your inclinations, obviously), it's kind of a stretch to call them, in and of themselves, a sexual organ. (This is getting really semantic, but can you even call the sphincter an "organ"? It's more of a foramen, I would say.)

Besides, even if we concede that the buttocks can be used as part of sexual relations, if we put the kibosh on broadcasting images of anything into which a penis can be put for sexual pleasure, we're going to have an awful lot of blank screens on our hands, don't you think? Those Oreck commercials are going to be right out, that's for sure.

Incidentally, in my quest for the definitive meaning of the word "buttocks", I consulted the OED, and their entry on the word is really quite delightful. Their standard definition sounds almost Biblical:
One of the two protuberances of the rump (of men and beasts)
But mostly I was amazed at the wealth of other meanings the word can have. It's a nautical term, a rare and obsolete neurological term borrowed from Galen ("buttocks of the brain"), a wrestling move (from which we also get the noun "buttocker", ie. one who performs a buttocking), and a term used in mining to describe a particular portion of the coal face. It's also used in a number of superbly whimsical compound words, such as:
buttock-ball, a ball attended by prostitutes; buttock-banqueting, harlotry; buttock-mail (Sc.), ludicrous term for a fine imposed for fornication.
These are all related to what the OED lists as the word's fifth meaning (in slang, natch): "prostitute" (though the OED gets a little more sesquipedalian about it, opting for the phrase "a common strumpet").

Strumpet, by the way, also has its own, charming entry. It's a noun, of course, meaning "a debauched and unchaste woman"; but did you know it is also a "quasi-adjective" referring to things that are strumpets (eg. "a strumpet princess"). Of course, if you'd like to be a little clearer, you can always go with the full adjective "strumpet-like", or even the adverb "strumpet-wise" (or simply "strumpetly", which can be both). You can also use it as a verb (though a largely obsolete one) meaning either to make someone a strumpet, call someone a strumpet, or (in "to strumpet it") to play the strumpet (which I assume has nothing to do with musical instruments, unless we're talking about rusty trombones).

Finally (this is definitely my favourite part), strumpet also features in a number of compound words that really strain the bounds of credulity:
Hence strumpethood, the condition of being a strumpet. strumpetier, a whore-monger. strumpetocracy jocular, government by strumpets
I think red light districts would be much jollier places if pimps started referring to themselves as "strumpetiers".

January 25, 2008

January 23, 2008

Travel Ugh

So, following my recent trip to Halifax (and earlier adventures with non-existent planes and trains), my 2008 record for successful encounters with commercial transit is nought for three.

I arrived at Halifax airport yesterday, having checked in online, and went to drop off my bags. At the desk, the woman asked:

"I don't suppose you'd be interested in travelling tomorrow, instead?"

Ha ha ha.

"NO," I said. "I would not." Gulp. "Is there a problem with today's flight?"

Well, it turns out that the plane I was supposed to be on was broken down in Goose Bay, Newfoundland, and thus nowhere to be seen (said the woman later, "They wish they were here, believe me."). Thankfully, there were enough people booked on the flight to Boston that they opted not to cancel it and instead dusted off the reserve plane from the hangar in Halifax — so I got my boarding pass and went off to wait in the departure lounge.

After a while, there was something of a commotion, and a group of loud Americans entered the lounge led by a wheelchair-bound albino with waist-length hair, a studded black cowboy hat, crossed eyes and, judging from his reaction to the news that the flight was delayed, a serious case of Tourette's.

It turns out that he was none other than Grammy-nominated blues singer Johnny Winter and his band and handlers. Their behaviour occupied that obnoxious nexus that exists where people are not actually that famous, but think they are the hottest shit for a thousand miles in any direction anyway. (Okay, so in Halifax airport this may have been true, but still.) I gave up reading my book and instead listened as they tried to extract special dispensation from every member of staff they set their eyes on.

Eventually we were boarded, and walked down a series of winding hallways to a door onto the tarmac, where we beheld our replacement plane in all its glory: not a jet, but a 37-seater turboprop, the smallest plane in Air Canada's fleet and one with a recent history of malfunctioning landing gear (SAS grounded all their aircraft of the same model a few months ago citing safety concerns). Not to worry, though! We stood watching for fifteen minutes as two fire trucks and their crew examined the plane inch by inch to make sure it was airworthy.

There's this episode of The Simpsons where they go to Australia, and the Prime Minister is just some drunk guy in an inner tube who lives next door; well, as we stood waiting, the Air Canada groundstaff, trying to quell our anxiety, informed us that (this is definitely my favourite part of the story) the Head of the Department of Transport himself was on the plane, "dotting every i and crossing every t". How reassuring.

When we finally boarded and took off, the stewardess helpfully informed us that because of strong headwinds and the fact that turboprops can't fly as fast as jets, the normally eighty minute flight would take a full three hours. As compensation, she was going to supply an open bar, except that for the thirty or so people on board there were only six beers to go around. Miraculously, I got the last one, which I suppose was small solace.

Anyway, now I'm back in Boston and safe and sound, but I have to admit, I'm a little terrified to even take the T anymore.

January 18, 2008

Conversations With Greatness CLXIV



A bit early, this week, as I'm off to Halifax at the ass-crack of dawn tomorrow morning — but pretend this strip takes place on Friday because that's how I wrote it.

You may well ask, "What kind of crazy bastard would go to Halifax in the middle of January?" and you'd be well within your right to do so. The answer is: THIS kind of crazy bastard. Look out, Nova Scotia!

January 14, 2008

Vernon Coleman: The Definitive Companion
Part 1

When I was at home in November (this was the same day as the infamous earcandling flyer), a circular came through the letter slot for a book by "author" Vernon Coleman, entitled Oil Apocalypse: How To Survive, Protect Your Family And Profit Through The Coming Years Of Crisis. The ad was hilarious, and I'll get to it in a moment, but first an introduction to what I hope will be an entertaining and recurring segment here on the blog.

The flyer mentioned Dr Coleman had a website, which I duly visited, and I must say I was delighted at the sheer volume of pure, unadulterated CRAP on it. Dr Coleman is perhaps the most prolific conservative moron to design a Geocities website that I have ever come across, and I look forward to many happy hours of systematically lampooning some of his more ridiculous statements over the coming weeks (months? years?). For instance: "Requiem For UKIP" [=UK Independence Party, possible the most bigoted and obscene political party in Britain], "Nurses Aren't Competent to Make Resuscitation Decisions", and the surreal classic "Don't Trust The Telephone". But for now, OIL APOCALYPSE!!!
Fact 1: The world’s oil supply is running out?
Fact 2: facts don't end with question marks?
Dear Reader,

The world you know is going to change dramatically and permanently. There will be no cars, no lorries, no buses, no aeroplanes and no supermarkets. The rich will travel by horse and cart. The middle classes will use bicycles. The poor will walk.
My God, that does sound apocalyptic! Bicycles! Walking! Apparently Holland has already reached the apocalypse.
The disaster inexorably heading our way will make any natural disaster, any tsunami, seem inconsequential. Forget global warming. Forget terrorism. They are, as you will see, trivial problems.
Because, apparently, according to Dr Coleman, five BILLION people will die as a result of the oil crisis — far more than any wussy tsunami could even hope to wipe out.
In Oil Apocalypse you will learn how to survive and how to protect you and your family through the coming years of crisis. You will also learn the following:

* Why there will be millions of people living on the streets - Page74
* Why our gas supply is also at risk - Page 92
* Which towns will survive in the near future - Page 92
* Which homes will survive better than others - Page 97
* Why supermarkets won’t survive - Page 18
* Why people will have to stop eating meat - Page 101
* The effect global warming will have on our health - Page 101
* What every home with a garden will have to do in order to survive - Page 102
* What jobs will be redundant and which jobs will be successful (anyone with children or grandchildren ought to read this!) - Page 103
* What will happen to our food? - Page 92
* The shocking truth what the Government might do to our currency - Page 74
* Why Britain is going to be one of the countries that will suffer the most Page 103
Page 92 sounds pretty awesome! What will happen to our gas supply, which towns are at risk, AND the fate of our food stockpiles. That must be a mother of a pie chart!

The other two items I found interesting were:
* What thieves will be stealing in the future - Page 96 . . .
* The disgusting truth about palm oil Page 67
So, I'm guessing thieves won't be stealing palm oil.

The letter ends with the extraordinary promise:
I know that this book will help you and your family to survive the desperate years ahead… I don’t believe it is any exaggeration to say that this is the most important book you’ll ever read.
Clearly you haven't read Horton Hears A Who.

Man, seriously, randomly sample some of the tripe on his website. Some of it seems almost too absurd to be credible.

January 11, 2008

Conversations With Greatness CLXIII



By the way, if anyone is keeping track, that post I wrote griping about commercial air travel yesterday was my 300th post on pundigrions and my 911th post overall — both of which seem oddly appropriate.

January 10, 2008

Virgin On The Ridiculous

I think I may have used that post title for something before, but frankly I am beyond caring.

Today I turned up at Heathrow to check in for my 2:40pm flight to Boston, only to discover (not without some horror and, admittedly, a rather-too-loud utterance of the word "fuck") that Continental flight 8231 from Heathrow to Boston does not, in fact, exist.

Or, rather, it did exist once (presumably, since they charged me a grand to book a seat on it), but had been rescheduled for tomorrow and nobody had told me. (When, in a panic, I tried to check the flight status on the Continental website, it sternly asked me to acknowledge my change in itinerary.)

Because Continental doesn't actually have any staff at Heathrow (their flights are codeshared with Virgin Atlantic), I called their customer service number and explained the situation to the woman at the other end of the line. (She, at least, knew what a state was.)
ME: Hello. I was supposed to be on a flight from Heathrow to Boston today, but I've just got to the airport and apparently there is no flight from Heathrow to Boston today.
HER: Oh no! That's terrible!
ME: [Bitter chuckle]
She was actually very helpful, and rebooked me on to a flight to Newark, with a connection to Boston that arrives at 10:15pm — only about five hours later than I was expecting to arrive, which is actually pretty impressive considering I had a ticket for an imaginary plane.

The real bonus, though, was that my ticket was refundable and the flight via Newark cheaper, so I saved a whopping $27.93! (The woman at Continental seemed pretty excited about this. I perhaps would have been if not for the pink haze creeping into my field of vision.)

The funny thing is, when I took the train down to London last Saturday, exactly the same thing happened: I arrived at the train station only to discover that the 11:30am train I'd booked a ticket for (five days earlier!) was nothing but a figment of an overly creative web reservations system. In the end I had to take a train to Newcastle, a bus to Darlington, and then a train to London. Which was surreal, if nothing else, as Darlington seems to consist entirely of hair salons.

So, anyway, long story short, I am never booking travel in advance again. It just seems like a bit of a waste of time, really — I'd be better off drawing a picture of an airplane and turning up to check in with that.

Sigh.

January 09, 2008

Not Fit For Her Post

I fly back to Boston tomorrow and I've been having trouble closing my suitcase, so today I stuffed a bunch of stuff in a box and took it to the post office to mail instead.

When I got there there was a sign on the door that I think pretty much epitomises the British approach to customer service:
Many of our staff are on sick absence today, but we chose to open in order to provide you with some service — albeit a slow one, so please be patient.
That's right, they're doing us a favour, so mustn't fucking grumble.

Anyway, my real gripe was when I got to the counter. The woman needed to input the destination address into the computer to calculate the rate, and because we were having trouble understanding each other already, I decided to just pass her the address label I'd prepared so she could copy it down. It read (with the specific details subtly changed to avoid angry internet randoms hunting me down):
20 Andrew Street, #14
Boston, MA 02116
USA
She tapped away at her keyboard for a minute, then stopped, looking puzzled.
HER: What's this #14?
ME: Um... it's the flat number.
HER: Oh, so it's #14 Andrew Street?
ME: No, it's 20 Andrew Street. 14 is the flat number.
HER: The what?
ME: The flat number. The apartment number.
HER: So it's flat number 20.
ME: No, 14. 20 is the street number.
HER: The what?
I swear to God, we went back and forth like this far more times than you would believe plausible for someone whose job is 90% address related. In the end she just shrugged her shoulders and gave up.

Then:
HER: Postcode... So the postcode is, what, MA 021...
ME: No, the postcode is just 02116.
HER: So what's the MA?
ME: That's the state.
HER: The what?
ME: The state. Massachusetts.
HER: Wait... So what's the town?
ME: Boston. The town is Boston.
HER: And the postcode?
ME: 02116.
HER: And the MA?
I mean, look, I'm not some kind of imperialist American who believes that everyone in the world should be intimately familiar with all the intricacies of American address-writing conventions, but lady, come on: you work in a freaking post office! People will occasionally come to you wanting to mail things to other countries!

So, I laid down £50 to send this damn package, and frankly I don't have much confidence that I will ever see it again. Good thing it was mostly dirty laundry.

January 08, 2008

Trash Talk

Jesus, has anyone else been following this? Naples is officially overflowing with garbage (and for Naples, believe me, that is saying something). The city's landfills are all, um, full, and so the authorities have just stopped collecting any trash. Now there are an estimated 100,000 tonnes of the stuff just lying around the streets, attracting packs of wild animals and narrowing many of the roads down to just one tiny lane in the middle (and again, for Naples that is saying something).

Meanwhile the Neapolitans are rioting (understandably), attacking police and lynching effigies of the mayor. Oh, and they're just setting fire to their trash heaps in an attempt to get rid of them. Prodi (the Italian prime minister) has kindly sent the army in, but mostly as glorified garbage men.

Now, look, as you may have guessed from my snarky parentheses up there, I don't hold a very high opinion of Naples. But this seems pretty appalling by any standards. I mean, wild animals roaming in between piles of burning trash? It's straight out of some second-rate dystopian sci-fi novel. Except that it's actually happening, in Europe, and nobody seems to really know what to do about it (other than, I guess, get the hell out of Naples).

Not that I really know what to do about it either. So rather than propose any kind of useful solution, I will instead share a couple of ironic quotes from the Naples Tourism website:
Senza alcun dubbio Napoli è diventata negli ultimi anni una meta privilegiata per tanti turisti italiani e stranieri che amano trascorrere le proprie vacanze nelle grandi città d'arte.
(In recent years, Naples has, without a doubt, become a favourite destination for tourists, from Italy and abroad, who enjoy spending their vacations in the cultural capitals of the world.)
A differenza di altre città… Napoli si caratterizza per il suo proverbiale e scenografico "vissuto quotidiano"
(Unlike other cities, Naples is characterised by its renowned and scenic "everyday life".)
il turista che sceglie Napoli come destinazione delle proprie vacanze deve essere adeguatamente accolto ed informato su tutto ciò che è indispensabile sapere per vivere e conoscere la città.
(The tourist who chooses Naples as his or her holiday destination needs to be adequately informed on all the essential knowledge for living in and getting to know the city.)
Benvenuti a Napoli quindi… dal quale potrete ogni giorno dirigervi verso un Museo, una strada, una Piazza, un Monumento, o passeggiare lungo il più grande centro antico d'Europa, vero e proprio Museo a cielo aperto, dichiarato dall'UNESCO patrimonio dell'Umanità.
(Welcome, then, to Naples, where every day you can find yourself at a museum, a street, a square, or a monument; or where you can stroll leisurely through the largest historic town centre in Europe — a veritable open-air museum, and one of UNESCO's designated World Heritage sites.)

Man, if this is how we treat our world heritage sites, I'm a little terrified to see where the rest of the planet is going.

January 04, 2008

January 03, 2008

Sometimes Truth Is Stranger Than The Simpsons

From Newsvine: "Hearty Eater" Claims Buffet Banned Him
A 6-foot-3, 265-pound man says a restaurant overcharged him for his trips to the buffet line, then banned him and a relative because they're hearty eaters.
Simpsons buffs will recognise the story as almost a carbon copy of the subplot from Simpsons episode 9F06, "New Kid on the Block"; the similarities are really striking.

In the episode, Homer visits an all-you-can-eat seafood restaurant ("The Frying Dutchman") and is forcibly ejected by the owner for eating far too much (" 'Tis no man. 'Tis a remorseless eating machine!"). The real-life restaurant owner was particularly peeved because "[Borrelli] made a habit of dining exclusively on the more expensive seafood dishes", and eventually taunted him by saying "Y'all fat, and y'all eat too much." Even Barrelli's weight (265 pounds) is only two pounds off Homer's weight in Simpsons Comics #1 — 263 pounds — though admittedly in the TV series Homer's weight fluctuated between 239 and 260 (episode 7F18, "Brush With Greatness").

In the episode, Homer is banned from the restaurant (in real life, Borrelli "was told not to come back"); with the help of attorney Lionel Hutz, he then takes the management to court ("Mr Simpson, this is the most blatant case of false advertising since my suit against the movie The Neverending Story"). In real life there was no court battle, although the police were called to arbitrate.

Yeah, there's a reason I've never dropped a Simpsons question at trivia night.

January 01, 2008

Reverse Stalking

Yes, it's that time of year again — that magical statistical moment — when I review the startling information that has been gathered, over the last twelve months, by the treacherous Google imps at the wheel of my web-tracking wagon. What personal secrets do I have to reveal about my visitors, this time round?

It's been a bumper year for readership, with a frankly overwhelming 13,751 pageviews, during 9,537 visits, from an estimated 4,261 unique visitors. Because I only tracked the last seven months of 2006 I can't do a direct comparison for the whole year, but comparing the same period like-for-like the number of visits to the blog increased by about 50%, with a whopping 209% increase in unique visitors.

The surge in readers is down to a number of factors. Most obviously, I moved, and as I met new people in Boston they began to check out my blog — October had 25% more visits than September (many of these from Facebook), and September had 10% more than August. Visits from the US also overtook visits from Canada for the first time since I started keeping track.

I also got two new big sources of referrals this year (one of which I've already mentioned): Facebook (alas!) and Said The Gramophone (boffo!). Combined, these two alone accounted for almost a tenth of all visits, which is doubly impressive considering links to my blog only started appearing on these sites around June. Getting linked on these sites also gave a big burst of Google Juice to my own, with my search referrals in general up almost 300% from last year, and my Google referrals up 500%. In total, Google provided 1,764 hits this year.

Which brings us to the most interesting part: what Google search terms brought people to my blog? Generally, gross ones. Sadly, this is the danger of increased Google visibility (well, that, coupled with the preponderance of perverts using the internet). A smattering of the worst offenders (in every sense of the word):

•Ask Jeeves is it possible to sex a goldfish
•Hamlet and necrophilia
•Ogling a nun
•Psychology of gangbangs
•Plug socket death man penis

Also, the curiously gloating:

•I hadsex with a fat man

And the morbidly fascinating:

•Social pooing

Perhaps the most unsettling proof of the internet's perviness is this: after I blogged about FHM accidentally publishing photographs of a 14-year-old girl topless in September, I received a flurry of hits from people searching for various combinations of the words "topless" "fourteen" "nude", "FHM", etc. ("FHM" was actually fairly optional in these searches — the key point was clearly the naked minors.)

Some of the old favourites are also still around:

•Cock in pussy (7 hits)
•Hasidic porn (32 hits)
•Johnny Knoxville naked (4 hits)

And, of course:

•Colin Farrell's cock (1 hit)

I also got a bunch of hits for "Demetri Martin shirtless", which I suppose must tell us something about the sorts of women who search for porn on the internet.

(By the way, if you were wondering, I've tagged this entry so that it won't be indexed by Google and thus won't bring in even more prurient searchers.)

Back in August I mentioned that I had started getting referrals from the phrase "I don't want to search for anything". This has now ballooned, for some reason, to my third most common search referral, bringing in over 150 visits.

Finally, a couple of other good ones:

•Ministry of douchebaggery (aren't they all?)
•What happened to Yanni? (four different people wanted to know!)
•Crazy man shits in woods (shouldn't that be "the Pope"?)
•Royal blood line has dandruff (I think that's the least of their problems...)
•Ethnic background of Kelly Ripa (um... white?)

And, on a related (if confused) note:

•Gender differences between Regis Philbin and Kelly Ripa

But, absolutely and by far my most favourite search of the entire year:

•Andrew Ladd girlfriend

Hey, ladies.