Very Top Five... Ways to make bullets work against Undead

Monday, 28 December 2009
There is far too much emphasis placed on combat against zombies in modern culture. Effective combat against the full spectrum of the Legions of the Dead (AKA Undead) is a diverse subject, far more complicated than the simple “remove the head or destroy the brain” nonsense to which we’re all subjected with such regularity.

What would you do if Edward Cullen was all up in yo' grill, trying on his vampirey ways or whatever and all you'd brought were some regular bullets? You'd look a fool. You might be able to mess him up a bit, but he'd get you anyway, and have his filthy way with you. You'll need something a bit stronger to ensure that teen angsty vampires stay on the right side of your property line.

To remedy this and other, similarly plausible situations I have listed the five best ways to modify 9mm bullets for effective use against all types of commonly encountered Undead creatures, particularly zombies, werewolves, vampires, and mummies, while maintaining a degree of effectiveness against zombies, ghouls, banshees, and liches.
The finished bullet:
Aside: Choice of bullet
This article will detail the modification procedure for a solid 9 mm (.354in) diameter lead bullet with copper jacket, cartridge length 18.50mm (.728in), base 9.50mm (.374in) with no additional shoulder width and an overall case length of 26.16mm (1.03in). This is the standard ‘Ultra’ pattern bullet design (9mm calibre). Of course these procedures will apply equally well to bullets of different dimensions, although care should be taken to avoid significantly altering the calibre of the bullet in the modification process, which may cause loss of accuracy or jamming.

5. Applying a silver coating
Using a coal furnace, heat 100g of solid silver metal in a 300ml crucible until melting occurs (at 962˚C). Heat a steel tray (150mm length/ 40mm width/ 10mm lip height) to a temperature of 900˚C in the furnace.

Pour the molten silver into the steel tray. Roll each bullet through the molten silver once. After application of silver, immediately douse the bullet in cold holy water (See appendix 1). Applying molten silver which is close in temperature to this value will result in melting (or warping) of the bullet casing, which will detrimentally affect accuracy of the modified bullet and may cause jamming.

You may find it necessary to file the bullet at this stage to maintain surface uniformity of the bullet. Repeat for all bullets.

(Alternative plating methods: Lead bullets can be electrochemically plated with silver by removing oxide layer with conc. Nitric acid and plating in a hydrogen fluoride solution and silver nitrate solution.)

4. Carving of protective symbols

In this stage a sharp carbon-steel scalpel is used to carve religious symbols into the silver coating.
It is well documented that Undead are antagonistic to particular religions. Inclusion of the appropriate symbols will maximise the effectiveness of the bullet against Undead of the most widespread religions.

3. Creation of the explosive charge

In this stage an explosive charge is created using a lead azide fuse and a pentaerythritol tetranitrate (PETN) main charge. These two chemicals are packed into a mulched rosewood vessel within the casing of the bullet.

Main charge: PETN can be obtained commercially as a white crystalline powder. It can also be manufactured from other chemicals. PETN has a velocity of detonation (density of 1.7 g/cm³) of 8,400 m/s. The heat of explosion is 5.9 Megajoules per kilogram, 1.5 times that of (Tri-Nitro-Toluene) TNT, and as such it makes an ideal high explosive. It is a relatively inert secondary explosive, and a fuse is used to provide the minimum thermal and percussive energy required for detonation.

Fuse: Lead azide may also be purchased commercially, but in this review article the process of preparation is undertaken to allow the chemical to be prepared in a holy environment which greatly increases its effectiveness. Lead azide will detonate on impact at 15m/s (So while the pistol hammer does not supply sufficient force to detonate the fuse, collision with the target will, as modern handguns provide muzzle velocities of 1000m/s, leaving a massive margin for the bullet to slow when travelling to the target) and provides sufficient energy to detonate the PETN main charge.

2. Rosewood casing
A wooden case is used to contain the explosive charge for two reasons: First, it will physically contain the fuse and high explosive, stopping them for reacting with the casing or cordite; and second, when the bullet detonates the casing will splinter and impel slivers of rosewood into the target. When used against a vampire this shrapnel will cause extreme pain and disablement or, if a splinter pierces the heart, termination of unlife.

Shave thin slivers of rosewood from a sample, and mulch these to a paste-like consistency by the addition of small volumes of holy water (~5ml at a time) as necessary, using ~20ml for each 100g sample of rosewood. Add one clove of garlic at this stage, and mix well. Press the rosewood mulch halfway into the bullet casing and leave to dry for one hour. Then heat at in a furnace at 100˚C for a further hour, then remove from the casing and char.
After this time the casing will harden. Hollow it using a standard 4mm right-angled drill.

Note: The casing performs the role of physically blocking the lead azide from the copper casing, and should therefore be totally sealed. Contact of lead azide with the casing will cause formation of copper azide, which will explode with little provocation (light tapping). Care should be taken to make sure that this does not occur.

Aside: Synthesis of lead azide
The volumes/masses given will give a yield sufficient for 40 - 50 bullets. Do not attempt to make larger batches of lead azide. Doing so will increase the chance of spontaneous detonation during manufacture.

For this process it is necessary to have access to sodium azide, sodium hydroxide, lead nitrate and dextrin. If unavailable in its pure form, sodium azide can be synthesised from sodium metal, ammonia and nitrous oxide, and for this process the author refers you to the literature.
Dissolve 2.3g of sodium azide and 0.058g of sodium hydroxide in 70ml of holy water by shaking in a separatory funnel. Label solution A.

Dissolve 6.9g of lead nitrate and 0.35g of dextrin in 90ml of holy water in a ~250ml container, and add 2 drops of sodium hydroxide to bring the pH to ~5. Label solution B. Heat solution B at 60°C in a water bath and agitate gently with a rosewood stirring rod. Destroy crystals as they form and do not strike the sides of the container, as the friction may cause crystals to explode.
Add solution A dropwise to solution B while stirring over a ten minute period. Remove the beaker from the water bath and stir as it cools, a process which takes approximately 1 hour. Collect the precipitate of lead azide through filtration, and add ~150ml of holy water to wash the crystals (in ~25ml increments.)
Dry the sample for 8 hours at 65°C. Spherical, opaque lead azide crystals will form. The yield was 5g. gently mix with 5g of dextrin to reduce its sensitivity.

Addition of explosives to the bullet casing
Reinsert a half-charge of cordite, followed by a steel plate. Then insert the rosewood casing and pack 100mg of PETN tightly into this followed by 100mg of lead azide/dextrin, leaving enough room to replace the bullet.

Note: It is important to avoid getting crystals (of either explosive) into the thread of the screw of the bullet. This may cause a premature detonation of the bullet when the cap is re-attached.
1. Holy water
Holy water is used for cooling the coated silver, the manufacture of lead azide, and the rosewood mulching process. Effective use of holy water adds potency to the final bullet, and increases the accuracy of the bullet through the concentrated power of holiness.

Water which has been blessed by a priest or bishop is classed as holy water, and this chemical has a great many applications in combat against the undead.

Note: If holy water is unavailable, exorcism water can be created by a non-ordained person, and although it will be less potent than properly shriven holy water, it is of particular use against lesser Undead such as possessed creatures.

To create exorcism water, obtain 100 - 1000ml of water from a clean stream or river and pour into a container (preferably of a natural material such as leather, pottery or wood) and bless using the following incantation:

Exorcizo te, creatura aquæ, in nomine Dei Patris omnipotentis, et in nomine Jesu Christi, Filii ejus Domini nostri, et in virtute Spiritus Sancti: ut fias aqua exorcizata ad effugandam omnem potestatem inimici, et ipsum inimicum eradicare et explantare valeas cum angelis suis apostaticis, per virtutem ejusdem Domini nostri Jesu Christ: qui venturus est judicare vivos et mortuos et sæculum per ignem.

Translation: I exorcise thee in the name of God the Father almighty, and in the name of Jesus Christ His Son, our Lord, and in the power of the Holy Ghost, that you may be able to put to flight all the power of the enemy, and be able to root out and supplant that enemy and his apostate angels; through the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will come to judge the living and the dead and the world by fire.

Note: Undiluted Holy water may be diluted by any volume of unblessed water and will still retain the same concentration of holiness until a greater volume of water is added than was in the original sample, at which point the water will completely lose its holy properties.3
For this reason, when using holy water from an unknown source it is highly recommended that you do not dilute it unless absolutely necessary.


The modified 9mm bullets are vastly superior to the unmodified variety in the field despite a reduced range. They contain a concentration of basic holiness sufficient to destroy most common swarm Undead, and for stronger Undead the specific contents will cause additional damage: Silver for werewolves; rosewood slivers for vampires; incendiary explosives for mummies.

The physiological effect of the bullets on partially decomposed flesh of the undead (of varying degrees of dessication) is described elsewhere in the literature4, but in most cases it can be supposed that a bullet striking the core of a body will blow a fist sized chunk out of the undead creature at concussive velocities (causing further internal compression), and even a peripheral strike is likely to shear off a limb. This will seriously detriment the creature’s capacity to perpetuate Works of Evil.
Notes on field application
The authors recommend that modified bullets should be created in advance of any expedition which is likely to involve armed combat against the Undead. Failing this, a copy of this paper and vials of the rarer chemicals should be included in your baggage as a matter of course. 8
The fully modified bullet is capped with solid silver (with symbolic engravings) and charged with a pentaerythritol tetranitrate (PETN) main charge and lead azide fuse encased in a rosewood splinter vessel, and contains a half-charge of cordite.

1. Variation within the Legio Necros,1909, M. Shelley, Combat of the Dead, 16(2), 12-167
2. Mut. Effects of modern chemicals and natural evolution of the Creatures of Dread, 1996, Dark Science, 165(2), 34-68
3. Holy water: Chemical properties and the effect of variation of concentration on holiness, 2002, C. von Dracula, UnNature, 234(3), 12-15
4. Combat use of religion against the Undead monsters, 1996, Necromancy today, 1235(3), 124-156
5. Listing and tabling of chemicals referenced in use against the Deathly Hordes, 2003, Journal of unnatural sciences, 134(1) 11-57
6. Physiological effects of holy woods on the cardiology of vampires, 1934, Necrotic News, 146(1), 36-39
7. Destruction of the Dread Commanders, 1998, Undead journal (monthly review), 1567(2) 17-25
8. Revyue of persnel effycts of necesity for the persuit of the hunt-eternal of the Undeathly, 1789, Wytchfynder Tome & Tomb, 1021, 2-5

Very Top Five... Very Top Five searches

Monday, 21 December 2009

Just a short update this week, what with me needing to get my wrap on in time for Festymas (That's my new portmanteau word for Christmas/The Festive Period, designed specifically to allow for inclusion of non-Christian faiths over the holidays, while at the same time being a damn sight quicker to say. You're welcome.)

Anyway, it's time for a bit of self inspection with a look at the strangest internet searches that led people to the Very Top Five blog over the last few months, as reported by my statistics software.

I imagine that most people get to this site through searches for things like "wisdom" or "I want to find someone I can admire who is also probably damn sexy into the bargain," but not all; some people have a different agenda coz they is crazies and there's no accounting for them crazies.

So here we are; what they type into the search engine and which of the site’s many and varied pages they ended up on:

5. “I have a smug attitude towards Christians”

Do you indeed? Well you can find additional justification for your attitude in my long and rambling comparison of Atheism to Christianity.

4. “I am wnting the pictures of the naked wimmens?”

Good for you, my semantically challenged friend. Fortunately, I also chose that spelling in my marvellously helpful article “Very Top Five ways to get more blog readers.” I hope my illustration satisfied your longing for the naked wimmens.

But this seems unlikely.

3. “What is TWATS an acronym for?”

Good question. And although most of you might suggest that twats is not an acronym at all, this article on the many uses of acronyms says different:

2. “What periodic table element is named after testicles?”

Not only is the answer “none,” but somehow this question linked to my article about the naming of the elements: Not entirely sure why as I never mentioned testicles; but hey, I hope they felt some satisfaction anyway:

1. “Cock shaped mushrooms”

Uh, why do you want to know about cock shaped mushrooms? What sort of recipe are those for? Actually, no, don’t share it with me please.

Despite my wish to distance myself from this strange googler and his (or her) fungophilia, it does just so happen that I used that exact phrase in my first ever post:

Merry Festymas and a happy Gregorian new year, (or Grenewr).

Very Top Five... Newspaper Comments (Day 5 of 5) Telegraph

Friday, 18 December 2009
The Telegraph, sometimes called the Torygraph by stock wags, published an opinion piece yesterday on the ongoing story about British Airway’s blocked attempt to have a big strike over Christmas.

Telegraph editor Jeff Randall wrote the article, and lost no time in jumping up and down on the “feather-bedded workers” and giving them a jolly good verbal booting. He then moved on to blame the Labour government. The readership concurred with this assessment. As one reader commented; Jeff Randall “tells it how his Tory fish in a barrel readers like it to be told.”

Now, that metaphor is rather poorly conceived and the semantics of the sentence are somewhat clunky and don’t read well at all, but give the man a banana for trying.

Anyway, here’s the article and here's what the Tory fish in a barrel readers had to say:

1. John Barkham
on December 17, 2009 at 10:47 PM

“Good article but the title is wrong. The country is being driven apart by a fifth column of Scottish socialists. Only by dividing the English against themselves can they stay in power. Their allegiance is only to their own socialist ideolog. The heroism of the armed forces is seen by them as a threat. Stalin used frequent purges to remove the more able officers. Brown is sending them into battle without adequate support. Unlike his legions of State dependendents of course, they generally don't vote Labour.”

Damn those Scottish socialists! I recall that yesterday a commenter brought up the same point, so it must be true! The evil Scots (with an allegiance “to their own socialist ideolog”) are out to get us by dividing the English, sending the best army officers to their deaths, and bolstering his legions of State (with a capital S) dependendents. Just like Stalin. Tsk tsk.

Also, “dependents” is a word that is easy to start spelling and hard to stop, obviously. Like bananana. Unfortunately, not only that but the word he meant was “dependants” (British English). What a fish.

on December 18, 2009 at 08:36 AM

“Well said Jeff. Except the community charge(poll tax) riots were orchestrated by leftwing activists who are now in charge. As we all know these same marxists have destroyed the country while the opposition has become bluelabour no wonder the country feels abandoned and fractured.Meanwhile, we are upto our armpits in snow while marxist Brown bleats on about global warming and wishes to print another few billions to give to his pal marxist Mugabe and others in Africa, what an absolute charlatan.”

Blah blah leftwing activists and Marxists blah abandoned country blah Brown blah Mugabe yawn snore. I’m bored with your boring boretalk, you boring moron.

3. rankin
on December 18, 2009 at 06:55 AM


Finally, someone with enough self-realisation to say “Hey, actually, I don’t understand this situation fully. The emotion I feel weighing most heavily on my soul is not anger, or sadness, or frustration at the unions; it is simple confusion, and a desire to know more. I shall express this using three question marks; the first to represent my need to know more, the second because I pressed on the question mark key for too long and the third because I truly wish people to understand the candour behind my supplicated plea for knowledge."

2. Spencer
on December 17, 2009 at 11:52 PM

“Jeff You should concentrate on the machinations of the Unions. Since Labour are doomed, are their cohorts planning one last act of destruction. Like Samson they wish to bring the temple down. Comment.”

This comment makes me want to snap Spencer’s crayon; The matter of fact tone, the short sentences, the use of the word “should” as an instruction, the use of big words like “machinations” and “cohorts” to show how thesaurical Spencer thinks he is, combined with the failure to use a question mark in the correct place and the vague attempt at religious allusion.

Then he says “comment,” in a one word sentence as if he has just rained mana of wisdom and we can but scrabble in the dirt around trying to catch it; knowing we will never be intelligent enough to attain full understanding of the mighty knowledge of Spencer the Great, all we can do is interpret his great work.

Nobody did comment.

You tool.

1. Steve Jacks
on December 18, 2009 at 06:11 AM

“Britain - the only democracy in the world where the ruling elites HATE the population.

Call me an old romantic, but I'd round up every Labour politician, every Blue Labour politician and all the Lib Dems, everyone on a Quango, every liberal-left senior civil servant, everyone at the BBC, all employees from the Guardian and anyone who has ever got a job from the Guardian job pages, all the tits in local government, then add in every unelected appointee in the House of Lords and the Mad Mullah of Canterbury - round them all up, and then shoot the lot of them.

If they're told it's a necessity to cut down on the nations carbon footprint a few of those annoying chumps might even load the gun.”

Call you an "old romantic"? Romantic in what sense? The Tsarist sense?

I particularly liked the inclusion of people who’ve got a job through the Guardian’s job pages. He could have just said “Everyone who reads the Guardian” and seemed nearly as ridiculously insane but he chose to be more specific. That takes chutzpah.

And everyone at the BBC? Do you work on a children’s programme, knitting adorable puppets? You god damn Marxist, get in the death van.

Also, when you say “all the tits in local government” do you mean “everyone in local government, as they are all tits” or “all those in local government who are tits”? If the latter, who chooses who’s a tit? Oh, you, I suppose.

(The third interpretative option is a literal one, but that’s probably not what he meant.)

Very Top Five... Newspaper Comments (Day 4 of 5) Independent

Thursday, 17 December 2009
The Independent was started in 1986, and so is one of the youngest British newspapers (most British papers started as cave paintings thousands of years ago to back up the cave-people’s vague prejudices with a take on the news that panders to the opinions they already held. “Ug kills Og with rock; whatever happened to morals among the young cave-people?” type of thing.)

The Independent is supposedly independent (they picked the name so they wouldn’t forget). That was the plan, anyway, but I think it’s drooped a bit to the left these days, like an ageing set of male genitals.

Today they published an article about the insidious majiks weaved by the home secretary to further his fiendish scheme of giving park keepers and security guards the power to hand out you fines for stomping on the flowerbeds, or something. This is equivalent to a private army, clearly:

And this set off a stream of well-thought out and considered comments in the same way that eating a dodgy curry sets off a stream of well-churned up etc.

Here we are:

5. Keep coersion nationalised.
Wednesday, 16 December 2009 at 10:05 am by had it
“Police are meant to be a coercive arm of the state - using the threat of force and other menaces to extort taxes & licence fees, and actual force to make citizens to behave in certain ways. Private police forces can be used to do the same thing: the mafia is a good example.”

So… is he agreeing that private police forces may as well be used because they do the same job anyway? Maybe the home secretary should consider getting the mafia in to help. Or give the park keepers tasers so they can ask you not to walk on the grass - with extreme prejudice.

4. Private Police should be banned.
Wednesday, 16 December 2009 at 10:59 am by mh656
“This is absolute nonsense. They are wasting all this money messing about with training non-police people to do the job of the police. Instead of wasting the finances to do this, why not add those finances to what they are supposed to give to the police, so that the police can do their jobs properly.
As to a police state, this only happens when a people's freedoms and rights are reduced, while police powers are increased, thats when you get a police state. This Scottish led New labour has done more to instigate a police state than any other. Whatever we do, New Labour must not come to power again, otherwise Britain in general, and England in particular will be lost.”

The first paragraph was a good one. If only mh656 had stopped there, and switched off his computer, and hidden his keyboard, and… oh crap he continued typing…

Conspiracy! Scotland is trying to destroy Britain and in particular England with its malign plans to instigate a police state. Once they have control, the Scottish prime minister will come round to your house and piss in your English tea and punch a hole in your bowler hat. Then he’ll make you wear it while yelling “Whit are ye daein, ya tool, wearin a hat wi’ a hale in it? Now drink yer tea.” and getting his tartan army of park keepers to taser you in the face.

3. Wrong wrong wrong
Wednesday, 16 December 2009 at 12:14 pm by geo32
“There are far to many little hitlers and jobsworths in the community as it is. Who are next in line for Johnsons militia? Dustbin men? Roadsweepers? School crossing wardens? Or the tea lady in council offices? Will they be armed with batons and tazers or even guns!!
If he were to cut out all the extra paperwork and red tape of policemen he would be able to place millions of "on the street" man hours with real bobbies on the beat.Cut the crap Alan and take a genuine look at the problem of policing in this country”

Ah, the thin-end-of-the-wedge argument; because park keepers who can take down your name and address if you damage a flowerbed means soon we will have tea ladies with fucking Uzis forcing you to make the tea for her for a change. You bastard. With a chocolate biscuit. HURRY UP OR I’LL SHOOT YOU IN THE FACE! A harrowing vision. And there are two exclamation marks, which demonstrates geo32’s sincerity.

Also, is it just me, or does putting inverted commas around “on the street” make it sound unintentionally euphemistic? What are those "bobbies" doing “on the street,” eh? Wink.

And an extra prize for being the first to mention Hitler.

2. People will rise.
Wednesday, 16 December 2009 at 09:22 am by fewknow
“It can only end in tears.Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.”

Is this a quotation? I checked; it is; JFK. Revolution is clearly the answer here. I can see no problems with this quotation’s relevance.

Remember, “do not ask what your country can do for you. Don’t ask anything at all, or you’ll get tasered in the face by a binman.” - JFK

1. Re: More stasi UK to get ready for the EUSSR
Wednesday, 16 December 2009 at 05:02 am by prevessinman
"This is far more sophisticated than the STASI: labour haveé given us the best of both worlds - a snooping society policed by bodies that pay dividends to their shareholders.”

You will have noticed that this is labelled “Re:” as someone else had already brought up the inevitable comparisons with the Ministry for State Security. Prevessinamn agrees, but does on to suggest that shareholders will benefit in some manner. I’m not sure what this manner is, but it sure sounds ominous.

Very Top Five... Newspaper Comments (Day 3 of 5): Guardian

Wednesday, 16 December 2009
The Guardian newspaper is read by the sort of person who knows what a chiffon is, and who has ever eaten something at a restaurant that has the word ‘tartlet’ in its description, and so they consider themselves quite cultured and important

Yesterday this paper ran an article reporting that a vote is being taken by banks on whether to phase out cheques, and the middle classes responded in a tidal wave of indignance (it’s something the middle classes do so well.)

Most of these were along the lines of “It just won’t do at all, you know, how am I supposed to pay for my chiffons and tartlets?” but others went one step further:

5. 16 Dec 2009, 9:35AM by Napeg
“Speaking on behalf of the 6+ million senior citizens who may not be able to access electronic means of communication, the least one can hope for is that the final date for stopping written cheques will wait until these people have all "passed on " . It is very easy to become self centred in these matters.”

We are privileged; Napeg represents over six million senior citizens, by his own admission, and he has deigned to grace the Guardian comments’ board with his presence despite the fact that speaking on behalf of all those people must surely be a very busy job.

Then he adds his hope that all those he represents will have died by the time cheques go out of use. He does use a euphemism here, in some cheeky little quotation marks to show us that he is indeed using "a euphemistic expression." Thanks for flagging that up, otherwise I would have been confused.

Then the mysterious phrase: “It is very easy to become self centred in these matters.”

Is Napeg referring to the banks for not considering anything other than financial issues, or is he referring to himself for self-centredly assuming command of the Voice of The Elderly? We may never know.

4. 15 Dec 2009, 5:55PM by Bauhaus
“Pay cash everytime, dont let the buggers profile you by your spending.”

Nice ambiguity in the use of “buggers” here, Bauhaus. And a smidge of the paranoid is always to be expected in internet comment boards.

3. 15 Dec 2009, 6:10PM by decisivemoment
“I'm curious as to how people are going to pay rent. Or get gifts from their relatives, especially those that aren't online.”

How can people get gifts from their relatives? Well, maybe they can put a bit of thought into the gift and give actual things instead of money, those lazy grannies. You might say that perhaps granny doesn’t know what you’d like, so that’s why she gives you money. Then why don’t you visit granny more often, Mr decisivemoment, so she knows more about you?

Getting rid of cheques is a great step forward for learning how to empathise with people, clearly.

2. 16 Dec 2009, 8:45AM by grumpynurse
“c'mon you lot cheques are rubbish. anyone who has a bank account - i.e. anyone who can pay a cheque into an account from which they may then obtain the funds - can also accept payment electronically. it's also a pain in the arse trying to find my chequebook on the two occasions a year i need it because someone can't be bothered to look up their account details. good riddance.”

So, the crux of grumpynurse’s argument is that “cheques are rubbish because I can’t remember where my chequebook is” and, also, that no-one would use them if it they weren’t so lazy.

Clearly we should get rid of them and stop being so lazy.

1. 15 Dec 2009, 5:56PM by Erdington
“If the banks want it then I am against it.

If you do not have a computer connected to the internet, how will you make payments for say your electricity bill? Oh yes it will automatically be deducted from your bank account, but if the bill is incorrect, just imagine the gargantuan task of refuting it. When you phone to complain you will have to endure a ring a roses with a computer generated voice. Press one to go back to the beginning. If you are lucky you will be able to talk to a "live" representative in India after you have been kept on hold for thirty minutes.”

Ah, starting off with the good old “if THEY want it then it must be a terrible idea regardless of the details” argument.

Erdington then lays out a reasonable argument, suggesting that cheques save a great deal of potential hassle with your bank. But then rather ruins it by using inverted commas in the phrase; “talk to a “live” representative in India,” suggesting that he believes that these people are only alive in the most basic, cursory way. Is this racist? I can’t tell, as the concept of attributing different levels of vitality to different groups of people is a new one by me. (I think it probably is racist though.)

Very Top Five… Newspaper Comments (Day 2 of 5): Daily Express

Tuesday, 15 December 2009
Global warming; it’s a hot topic. Scientists are trying to dredge the lake of impartiality to get to the sunken boat of truth, but the politicians are jumping all over the scientists’ ship and fiddling with the controls, trying to sink that as well.

Anyway, the Daily Express has published an article called “100 reasons why global warming is natural” and as you might expect some of their readers are getting hot under the collar. So hot, in fact, that they feel compelled to share it with the rest of us.

By the way, the paper struggled a bit to get to 100 reasons. These include 36. “There is no scientific or statistical evidence whatsoever that global warming will cause more storms and other weather extremes.”

Regardless of whether that’s true or not, it’s not a reason why global warming is natural.

And the brilliant non-point 34. “It is a myth that CO2 is the most common greenhouse gas because greenhouse gases form about 3% of the atmosphere by volume, and CO2 constitutes about 0.037% of the atmosphere.”

So? Why can’t it be the commonest greenhouse gas? Even by those statistics, CO2 makes up 10% of the greenhouse gases, which is a pretty big chunk considering all the other gases swirling around up there. And why does that mean global warming is natural, as they are attempting to prove? Just because the numbers look small?

But anyway, I’ve been sidetracked, and that’s not why we’re here: Here’s what the readers think:

15.12.09, 9:10am by OLCROM
"If the right wing try to pour scorn on anything like global warming then I know for sure that it is man made.Also it is in the interests of the press to stir it up and try and improve circulation,and some people are swallowing the bait."

Ah, the old “if THEY believe it then it must be untrue” rule, where THEY are the political party, religious faith or football team of choice.

Look, though, at the brilliance of OLCROM’s extended water and fishing metaphor. “Pour scorn,” “stir it up,” “circulation,” and “swallowing the bait.” That’s some nice use of metaphor.

15.12.09, 7:24am by BobBull
"I applaud the Daily Express for showing the other side of the argument. It is essential that a full debate takes place before we are taxed to oblivion for no good reason."

Well done indeed, for showing some esnse. I don’t know where we’d be without your common esnse. Sorry if you think me poking fun at someone for a simple spelling mistake is esnseless.

15.12.09, 9:58am by Deldongo
"We don't talk about acid rain anymore because the problem has partly been solved. Via drastic measures we have reduced the amount of sulfate aerosols going into the atmosphere reducing acid rains. Also with regards to this article, I don't have time yet to reat the 100 reasons, but I would like to understand how the CO2 emitted from my car, or from burning fossil fuel or from a plane's engines is natural... I must admit I am scratching my head at the moment. "

Fantastic! A climate change believer come to save the day. And in what manner does he logically demolish the Expresses opinions?

“I don't have time yet to reat the 100 reasons”

Oh… but then, surely your second-guessing of the content and subsequent dismissal of it looks rather as if you’ve already made your mind up. Why would any of the climate change sceptics that read the Express care what you think if you don’t care what they think?

“I must admit I am scratching my head at the moment.”

Right, because you are confused. Confusion is the best stance from which to offer opinions.

15.12.09, 8:57am by Jac16
"If TAX wasn't involved I might just believe some of it."

You’ve hit the nail on the head there, Jac16. Whenever tax is involved, the best thing to do is completely disbelieve every justification offered.

15.12.09, 10:01am by Mr Sitter
“ – “

I’m not going to print this massive comment, because it would take up too much space which could instead be taken up with me referring to it and having a jolly good sneer. I’ll talk you through it:

Initially Mr Sitter casually compares climate change to the Tiger Woods scandal, before settling into a series of rhetorical questions suggesting that journalists are making the story “juicier” and “scandalous” so they will get paid more.

Then the BBC “propaganda machine” is accused of “brainwashing” (It must be a washing machine) and then Al Gore’s film gets a kicking as well. Finally, after setting up all of these concerns he suspends a single “Why?” in lone supplication between two large paragraphs, and Mr Sitter shares his conclusions…

Which turns out to be that if the internet didn’t exist, we would not have heard of the leaked “climategate” emails. This has little to do with his developing thesis, but this doesn’t stop Mr Sitter from ending by offering his congratulations to the Express for the candour of their article.

Very Top Five… Newspaper Comments (Day 1 of 5): Daily Mail

Monday, 14 December 2009
Daily Mail:

So, apparently London’s Kensington and Chelsea council put a council house tenant and her family into a £2.6 million mansion in Notting Hill. Oops. It seems they couldn't find any other houses in the area, and the alternative was to put them in a hotel. Clearly the council have a lot of 'splainin to do, but this is the Daily Mail’s take on the story:
This is a story which is very hard for rent-paying working taxpayers to shrug off without feeling a bit annoyed. The Daily Mail editors must have cackled and gibbered with triumphal jubilance when they heard about this; a negative story involving immigrants, the government, housing benefits and Islam. All of their favourite things! Christmas has come 11 days early!

Anyway, let’s take a look at the reasonable and considered comments from the Daily Mail website readers:
(I should also point out that all of these comments had overwhelmingly positive ratings from other readers. In some cases hundreds of 'thumbs up'. This is probably because some Daily Mail readers can't actually write, so they just hack the "I like this" button to violently agree with someone else.)

5. “living in council housing is supposed to be unpleasant - to urge you to get a gd job you lazy woman! So Brits - what are you going to do about this garbage? This is an outrage!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
- mishel24, Lower Sackville, Nova Scotia, 14/12/2009 1:08”

Nothing says outrage like 23 exclamation marks. Apparently council houses are supposed to be unpleasant. The council are letting themselves down with this mansion, which is clearly not horrible enough. They should bring in some yoofs to loiter outside to make the area more like a sink estate and spray the mansion with excrement using one of their industrial leaf blowers.

Notice also mishel24's use of the second person singular "you" to make it clear that she is directly petitioning the woman in the article. Then she masterfully switches to the 2nd person plural "Brits" and inquires what is to be done? Such crafting of speech; It's almost as if this was written by Churchill himself, if Churchill was a Daily Mail reader.

4. “fed up with this???
The answer starts with B and ends with P.
steve, norwich england,, 14/12/2009 1:01”

Three question marks, good choice: This highlights Steve from Norwich’s genuine wish for deep rumination on the issue.

And what’s this “starts with B and ends with P” mystery??? Could it be the oil giant, British Petroleum??? Or is it more likely to be a not-so-cryptic reference to the British National Party???

3. “Another state sponsored NuLab baby machine, encouraged to breed out the non-Labour voting population, not unlike the plans of Edward Longshanks in Braveheart.

S.E., Haywards Heath, 14/12/2009 0:03”

Yup, the government is making babies in their baby machine. That's clearly the case.

Very similar to the plot of a film based on true events, so it must be true.

2. " "Where would people rather my family was - out on the street?"

- rob, derbyshire,uk, 14/12/2009 0:27"
Right, cool, so that's fine, then. Off they go, onto the streets. That's a tidy solution to the problems of finding local council housing for families. Off onto the streets, where they will disappear forever and cause no more trouble for anyone.

Just to make sure we all know where you stand, put the whole word in caps. YES, just like that.

1. "Stay at home, make up a spurious condition, something unprovable like depression, and milk the system dry. If everyone does it the lunatics (that's not a euphemism) who run Britain will be forced to do something about this rampant, obscene, runaway Welfare State.
Bring back the workhouse and make people earn and value their handouts.

- John Ward, MCR, UK, 13/12/2009 23:51

I see. Depression is a made-up, spurious condition designed to allow people to drain the bulging udders of society. It's all so clear now, Mr Ward. Well done for pointing that out.

Further congratulations, Mr Ward, for pointing out that "lunatics run Britain" is not a euphemism. It's a dysphemism, as I'm sure you are well aware.

It was hard-going, John, hearing your criticisms of a "Rampant, obscene, runaway Welfare State," but I just can't think of any viable alternatives. Can you, John?

"Bring back the workhouse and make people earn and value their handouts."

Inspired. The workhouse. I simply can't think of any criticisms. Abolishing workhouses was surely the most foolish move of the current government. After all, you don't need expensive education for children you've worked to death. Win win...

Very Top Five... Ways To Get Medieval

Monday, 7 December 2009

The medieval battlefield was a smorgasbord of spiky dismemberment. A knight had to tool up, or before he could scream he’d have been glaived in the gonads, billhooked in the bollocks, spetumed in the scrotum and voulged in the family jewels. And that’s just the guy in charge; his privates will get poleaxed as well.

The medieval period was a time where opposing groups of angry men put great effort into developing new ways to kill one another. (In this regard, it was like all other times in history.)

Anyway, what I hope you take away from this list of medieval weapons is another reason for the “I’m-sure-glad-I-didn’t-live-back-in-the-medieval-period list”, along with disease, bad diet, nonexistent education, famine, witch burnings and dying before you were 40 of "old age".

5. Grenades

“I’ve never heard of them using grenades back then,” you might suspiciously assert. Well, that’s probably because the people that actually used the grenades didn’t have enough fingers left to write about them afterwards.

The first ones were really just stone containers full of burny liquid, as used by the Byzantine Empire from the 700s, but when gunpowder reached Europe from China the grenade industry exploded (hah!) into new and exciting areas.

Although grenades themselves were invented by the Byzantines, the word ‘grenade’ was first coined much later by Scottish highlanders in the 1700s. The Scots were keen on grenades as they fitted well into the overall highlander corporate strategy, which was to recklessly charge in a big angry hairy mass of kilts and sporrans with blades sticking out of all the gaps.

4. Caltrops

The simple design paradigm says that the most elegant, efficient, iconic inventions are necessarily the simplest; like the elastic band, the brick, and the pizza.

A caltrop is a simple piece of shaped metal; a spiky tetrahedron which, when liberally scattered on the ground, causes a great deal of annoyance to any passing dudes or ponies. And the brilliant thing is that however you drop them, they always land spiky point up.

These were the landmines of their time. They would make an area literally impassable to cavalry, as any warhorse which stood on one of these would be highly likely to let you know about it in the only way it knows; throwing you off and giving you a good stomping for having the temerity to order it through the spiky ouchy hoof hurty thingies. You dick.

3. Flamethrower

Medieval flamethrowers worked like modern flamethrowers, and it really says it all on the box, doesn’t it? They throw flame, or rather flaming oil in a big splashy burny whoomph. The Byzantines (of earlier grenade fame) invented these too, and it strikes me as somewhat surprising that they didn’t conquer the world what with their terrifyingly varied access to the mighty power of fire.

I can only assume that these weapons were as dangerous to the people using them as they were to their enemies, which is why if you look at any modern census form you won’t see “Byzantine” anywhere on it. I dare you to put it in as your choice for “other” at the next census. The new Byzantine revolution starts here!

2. Elephants with cannons on their backs

You know the joke: “How do you get an elephant into the fridge?” Answer: “Open the door and put it inside.”

It was never an amazingly good joke, and now it’s not even an option; this elephant will just blow the fuckety door right off the hinges and emerge triumphant through the wreckage, ready to let you know what it thinks of your futile refrigerant plan in a big trumpety gunpowdery explosion of pachydermal death.

Elephants were fitted out with cannons for only a slim period in history, during the time just after the realisation that elephants were indeed strong enough to carry cannons but before the realisation that elephants made a fucking massive target for the enemy’s own guns. And hitting an elephant with a cannon ball makes a mess, let me tell you.

1. Longbow

“Gi’ me ma gun any day ‘n’ ah’ll show ya what I fink aw yer stoopid wooden bow, hyuck hycuk hyuck,” you may drawl foolishly. But in the right hands longbows were far deadlier than most people realise, certainly more so than guns until as late as the 20th century. Hold those gasps, here’s some stats;

Ignore everything you know about girly modern bows. Proper medieval Longbows were taller than a man, at 6’6’’ (2m). They had a range of around 650 feet (200m) and were able to pierce any piece of contemporary armour you might care to slip on in precaution of the expected penetrative shaft (know what I mean, ladies?). They are eerily silent, particularly when compared to their spluttery barking cousins, and have a rate of fire of perhaps ten aimed shots a minute, in the right hands.

“So if they are so amazingly super, how come everyone in the early modern historical period was toting muskets and whatnot instead of longbows then?” you might enquire, in a rather supercilious tone because you feel proud at having used the phrase “early modern historical period” in a contextually valid manner.

Well, it’s because you can give an untrained man a gun and he’ll suddenly have the power to unleash a lead bullet with face splattering power right into your supercilious moosh, but give an untrained man a longbow and all he’ll have is a curved stick (Which, nevertheless, I would encourage him to beat you mercilessly with. That’ll teach you to be condescending when I’m trying to educate you.)

Alongside the fact that making arrows is laborious, difficult and expensive, learning to be badass with a longbow takes years of frequent practise, as well as massive upper body strength. Here’s a simple home test for you to see if you have what it takes; Stage 1: Pick up a cow. Stage 2: Tear it in half. Stage 3: Repeat.

The Very Top Five Carnival

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Welcome to the December 1, 2009 edition of the top five carnival.

I'm doing a carnival. Hurrah. And magically there were five entries which I liked (And I do things in fives, as you know), so here they are:

emancave presents 5 Must Have Android Apps for Guys! posted at, saying, "Top 5 Android apps for men and most of them are silly and humorous."

Tom Kent presents Top 5 Funny Animal videos of all time! posted at GFX-Core Blog, saying, "Just a post I put together including what I think are the top five comedy animal videos ever" (edit: The link to the post doesn't work, just scroll down the main page to find it)

Engelbert Hudson presents Top 10 Celebrity Pets: Famous Cats and Dogs posted at Online Veterinary Technician Schools. (edit: ten's not five, y'know, but go on then, just this once...)

jerklogic presents Top Five Annoying Shoppers posted at Jerklogic, saying, "Top five annoying shoppers and the the stupid things they do that make our shopping experience, well, memorable."

JL 4 Media presents 5 Effective Listening Barriers posted at Live Life to the Fullest, saying, "Effective listening is not about the words having delivered, it requires more than hearing the sounds transmitted. We should listen for meaning and we can do this by focusing on the people and not only on words."

That concludes this edition. Submit your blog article to the next edition of
the top five carnival
using our carnival submission form.
Past posts and future hosts can be found on our blog carnival index page.

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Very Top Five… Ways to be a good driver.

Monday, 30 November 2009
Being a good driver is all about perception. I don’t mean how you perceive the traffic around you (that’s basic stuff for losers who don’t have sweet rides), I mean how you perceive yourself.

Here’s a quick way to see if you consider yourself a good driver: When you look in the rear view mirror do you just see the boring boring boring traffic behind you? Or do you flicker yourself a cheeky grin that says “Look at you, you own this road and you know it. Yeah. I would definitely make love to you, if only I could, right now over this dashboard.”

If you perceive yourself to be a good driver, nothing that goes wrong is ever your fault, any mistakes made are surely not yours; any problems are out of your control, since no one else could have dealt with them any better than you. Even if the court disagrees with you, at least you’d know the truth, like a warm glowy squirmy thing deep in your heart where the guilt should be. You’re too good a driver to cause an accident, after all. That's just common sense.

Would you feel liberated to be so good at driving that as soon as you start the engine you instantly know that there is no one out there with better reactions, greater skill or a deeper knowledge of driving and therefore no one more deserving to be on the road then you?

To attain this level of triumphant vehicular majesty, read on:

5. Assert your dominance over other road users:

Let people know that YOU have to be somewhere NOW; drive up close behind them and be ready to rip past as soon as they drift even slightly closer to the kerb.

Or are you waiting at a red light for that foolish old lady who chose to begin crossing near the end light? Give granny a blast of revs to keep her moving smartly along and edge forward a bit to let her know that if she’s not off the crossing as soon as the light goes green that she’s getting shunted, wheelchair or not.

Accelerate into corners like they do on the racing on the TV. If your passenger politely asks you to stop because it’s apparently ‘uncomfortable’ and they are worried it ‘might be quite dangerous’, give them a reassuringly contemptuous sneer and let them know that the rotational acceleration creates sufficient down-force to stabilise the vehicle. That’s just basic physics, which they might know if they’d paid more attention in physics classes instead of moaning about how ‘uncomfortable’ and ‘quite dangerous’ physics is. If they find it uncomfortable, you can drily quip, they can try walking in the rain and see how comfortable they find that. Or they can belt up and belt up.

Intimidate cyclists into the gutter; either get behind them as discussed above or barge past them, giving them just enough space to get knocked into a ditch, like they deserve. They have no right to be on the road anyway. Get a car, you carbon-neutral hippy, or get off my roads. You’re the sole reason our roads are congested, going all slowly like that and slowing the rest of us down. And congestion means pollution, you fool. It’s because of you that all the polar bears are melting.

4. Get an air-horn:

Horn: Do you get it when you sound yours?

As all good drivers know, the immediacy and importance of your grievance is in direct proportion to the loudness of your horn. ‘Drown out the rest, air-horns are the best,’ as the well-known rhyme goes.

Or maybe go one up and get a siren. You’ll feel like a highly trained emergency driver, with lightning reactions. And as we all know, feeling like a successful driver makes you automatically better. That’s just basic psychology, which you’d know if you’d paid more attention in psychology classes instead of moaning about how ‘uncomfortable’ and ‘quite dangerous’ psychology is.

With your air-horn blasting you will become a more proficient driver. It’s like magic. You are a wizard of the road, and your horn is your magic wand. Squeezing it blasts decibels of sorcery into the ears of the goblins who want to take your pointy wizard’s hat off you. (The hat is representative of driving prowess in this metaphor.)

3. Pimp your ride:

Paint bright stripes on your car and put huge speakers in the boot – it just makes it better. It won’t make you better, but people will associate you with amazing driving and give you sufficient space to work your skillz.

Insurance companies put their premiums up for modified cars, but that’s nothing to do with reduced safety; those pencil-pushing Volvo drivers are just jealous of your sweet-ass ride and are trying to punish you for you being better than them.

As if you needed any further proof that pimping your ride makes you a better driver and your car safer, consider this; Why would you spend so much money on it if you were only going to go out and have an accident? That’s just basic economics, which you’d know if you’d paid more attention in economics classes instead of moaning about how ‘uncomfortable’ and ‘quite dangerous’ economics is.

2. Make like a canal barge, and bounce:

Speaking of crashes, have you ever seen any dented canal barges on the roads? No, of course not, and that’s because they’ve found a brilliant new use for tyres. What they do is hang a garland of them over the side so no harm befalls them if they happen to nudge the edge of the canal, another barge, a canal lock or a drowning man batting with shameless futility at the sides of your mighty ship as it slips effortlessly over his kayak. That’s just basic canal etiquette, which that drowning man would have known if he’d paid more attention in canal etiquette classes, etc.

So why not use overhung tyres on your car’s body? Obviously you’ll never be so stupid as to cause a collision, but what if some idiot parks too close to your usual spot outside the shops and you give him a little shunt through no fault of your own, the idiot?

In fact, is that parking space just a little too tight? Well, that’s no longer a problem; gently nudge the other car, sliding it out of your space, back into the road where it would have parked if you’d been in your space, like you always are. Your rubbery dangly new friends will protect your paintwork throughout.

Worried about getting a puncture? It’s no longer a problem when you have sixteen spares. Such protection means you can be constantly relaxed, maybe stick a bit of Bryan Adams on, and let the road’s dangers melt away to an inconsequential background.

1. Don’t get insurance:

Have a little faith in yourself. You’re a good driver, right? And good drivers don’t have accidents, so why bother with insurance at all? It’s just another pointless tax on good drivers to subsidise bad ones. It might be against the so-called law, but since when did you let The Man tell you how to drive your car?

Remember the insurance dodgers’ motto: “I’m never going to crash, and saved a ton of cash.”

And when you go to prison for insurance fraud and dangerous driving you’ll wish you’d paid more attention in not-getting-raped-in-the-showers classes (which can be uncomfortable and quite dangerous).

Very Top Five... Twin Cities

Monday, 23 November 2009
Twinned city agreements (also called sister cities) are designed to foster international cooperation, by which I mean give town officials a pleasant place to play golf and relax for a week whilst on their yearly ‘culture mission’. And you can’t do culture without margaritas.

Most cities will have one or more sisters. The will to foster international links with as many cities as possible is as strong as the desire to have more than one yearly free holiday courtesy of public funds. Also, you get to make signs with your city's name on them in big writing, and 'twinned with some other city' in smaller writing underneath, showing what a cosmopolitan hub you are.

Most cities have realised that these are the essential points of the sister city agreement (Fancy sign, golf holiday), and keep quiet about it in case anyone notices. However, some five cities dared to stand out from the crowd. It may be that they have an unusually large number of twins, or twins in strange places, or have totally missed the point of twinning altogether, but all of them stand out in such a way that makes them as great a twin as Romulus was to Remus. (i.e. quite willing to beat your brother to death with a shovel if it means that it's your name that gets to go on the sign.)

Let’s tee off…

5. London, UK

There are 46 places named after London. This is because in the past the British investigated new lands with nothing but a map, a pink marker pen to illustrate which parts of the map now belonged to the Empire, and several thousand cannons just to make sure that the surviving natives agreed with the man with the marker pen.

Despite this, nowhere called ‘London’ is also twinned with the real London. This is not because these lil’ Londons have never suggested to their eponymous big bro’ that twinning would be a jolly good idea, but because London has always refused these twinning requests.

However, London has to be seen to be making foreign friends these days, to make Britain look less insanely imperial. People look to London to set the British example due to its tremendous influence, particularly in the UK, since one in five people in Britain would say that they live in the Greater London area. (Actually they wouldn’t. They’d say “Why the fack d’you care where I’m facking from? Fack off.”)

Anyway, London has twinning agreements with New York, Moscow, Berlin, Johannesburg, Kuala Lumpur and Kuwait city. This seems like a good number, but London has also got so called ‘friendship agreements’ with 18 more cities. Friendship agreements are awarded to places with which, although London wants to be associated with them, it doesn’t want to go all the way. This is similar to when someone breaks up with you and says “Hey, I still want to hang out with you, but let’s be friends, yeah? Cool? Cool, I’ll ring you. Don’t ring me; I’ll ring you. I promise.”

4. Keighley, Yorkshire, England

Keighley is a medium sized town whose claim to fame is that they started the whole twinning thing back in 1905 with Suresnes in France. They didn’t really get the hang of things straight away though, and in 1920 claimed to have ‘adopted’ Poix-Du-Nord. This talk of adopting another town sounds vaguely patronising, and if there is anything the French hate it is being patronised (Probably because they are annoyed that they didn’t get the chance to do it first).

3. Coventry, England

Gosh, these English towns are getting a lot of mentions, aren’t they? They seem to have a problem with just picking a couple of nice places to play golf. Coventry bucked convention by not only picking a flamboyantly ostentatious twenty six twins to twin with but also has a strange understanding of the word ‘nice,’ believing it to being synonymous with ‘had the shit bombed out of it.’

Coventry itself was bombed quite severely during the Second World War, so it feels some empathy with its brothers-in-bombing. Among its twins are Dresden (Razed in 1945 by 4000 tons of allied bombs), Sarajevo (besieged for 4 years in the 1990s and smashed by surrounding tanks) and Stalingrad (Twinned with Conventry in 1943 a few months after the Battle of Stalingrad, where 2 million Soviet and 800,000 Axis soldiers died in a massive campaign to seize the city, which ended with the city being mostly destroyed.)

Coventry has developed a kind of deranged solidarity with its woebegone fellows (probably because they got brain damage from all of those bombs). It does bill itself as the city of peace and reconciliation, but maybe it’s all a ploy so that no one can say the arrangement is just for the benefit of a few officials’golfing holidays. And besides, these bombed cities are among the most interesting places to play golf. They’ll certainly have a lot of new bunkers.

2. Baghdad

Poor Baghdad; Although nine cities are listed as twins for Baghdad on Wikipedia, none of these are reciprocated on the apparent twins’ own pages. These supposed twins include London, who doesn’t even include Baghdad as one of its many ‘friends.’

This is surely rather disappointing for a city which, for hundreds of years, was the largest in the world and was also once the centre of science, culture, and medicine (But not golf, tellingly). Throughout its history angry men have repeatedly turned up and set fire to it, from the Turks and Mongols at the start of the last millennium through to the most recent incursions at the start of this one.

On the plus side, it can surely only be a matter of time before Coventry extends a cheerful invitation of twinning on some bomb-scarred notepaper.

1. Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Until recently, Dubai was a few shacks and some hardy farmers traipsing around in the desert. Then one of them pointed out that while farming sand is still as hard as ever, it may be easier to encourage other countries to take this sticky black stuff that just pours out of the ground off our hands. Then whoomph, insta-propserity.

For Dubai, bigger is better. Bigger buildings, bigger hotels (with bigger bills), and a much bigger list of twins than any one else. Dubai has thirty one twin cities, and has amassed them in a timescale quicker than it takes Coventry to say “Excellent, Baghdad is on fire. Fetch the official humourous novelty bomb-shaped invitation envelopes.”

Dubai's twins include loads of global big-hitters, such as Moscow and Geneva, but also some rather curiously small places like Dundee in Scotland, which does rather suggest that the Dubai planning authority used a strange technique to pick its new twin; looking up the index of an atlas and picking the town next on the list after Dubai.

Dubai is a relatively new face on the world stage, and is quick to make new friends. That’s the spirit! Except, I expect that it’s spirits that might be the problem, because as soon as the other cities’ mayors actually visit and realise that Dubai is an alcohol free emirate, they’ll rapidly cool on the whole idea. What fun is a round of golf on your free holiday if there aren’t any mojitos in the clubhouse afterwards?

Very Top Five... things Atheists and Christians have in common

Monday, 16 November 2009
“Knock knock.”
“Who’s there?”
“God who?”

First, let’s just sort something out: I’m not a Christian or an Atheist. Nor am I an Agnostic, Muslim, Jew, Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, or adherent to any other belief. Good. Right. So don’t be tiresome and claim I’m biased one way or another.

So, as I am neither Christian nor Atheist, I have decided to alienate y’all, for a laugh. I will do this by claiming to be making an attempt to bring you together under the glitzy umbrella of intended unification, when actually I’m just being bloody minded. For this audacity, you might suggest that my pharisaism will make me a pariah, or rather you might once you’ve looked up a word or two.

Atheism and Christianity are very similar in practise, even if they claim to be far apart: For example, consider two football teams who share a powerful and long running enmity. I might sit on the sidelines and say that the similarities are plain to see. And they say “I see no similarities? What similarities can there possibly be?!” To which I respond; “Clearly you’re both playing football.”

You know that glint that true believers have in their eyes? Real, fervent atheists have that too.

So that's where I'm coming from and before you get all worked up, do remember that of course I’m not suggesting that all of these attributes are true of all Christians or all Atheists (just most of them) so, you know, just chill and take it on the chin like Jesus would have done.

Oh my, some of you are not going to like this at all, but it's not too late to read some lovely factettes about fungi or big animals instead.

5. Holier than thou attitude (aka smugness):

Atheists and Christians both feel that they have made the right choice. This burning passion separates the pure metal of truth from the dross of lies in the great foundry of the soul (or perhaps an analogous, purely psychological alternative to the soul). It also allows you to slag off the alternative views which lie around your adamantine island. Steel yourself for my analysis of what ‘being right’ means to each group:

Atheists derive their smugness from knowing that organised religion is an outdated, old-fashioned, chimerical contrivance, one which the pristine engine of secular science has long left it in its tracks. Surely anyone who can’t understand this is a fool?

Christians derive their smugness rather more simply: God is all powerful. I love him and he loves me. Surely anyone who can’t understand this is a fool?

Christians are also smug because they live moral lives, according to the word of God, with the greater reward promised at the end of it.

Atheists are smug because they say that being moral because God ‘told you to be’ is poor logic indeed, and consequently an Atheist would claim that his morality and ethics are of a higher calibre, enforced as they are by conscience rather than Christ.

How can you be so sure, say Christians, that living to your own standards of morality are moral at all, and not just a personal and flawed perception? That is arrogance indeed.

And both groups get a nice warm glowy smurfly feeling from being around people who share their views so they can concur on how right they all must be. At the end of the day, both sides say, “our humility is better than yours.”

4. Pretending to understand each other’s point of view by reading bits from the other group’s books and quoting the bits they like the sound of for the purposes of point-scoring:

There’s a word for people who read through a book looking for the bits that make most titillating reading and then comment exclusively on those bits out of context; journalists. And we all hate journalists, so why should you be allowed to do it?

Atheists will skim scoffingly through the bible and pick out bits like those in Leviticus and Romans about how naughty homosexuality is, or the bit that says humans have ‘dominion’ over animals. Then they’ll go “Aha! The rickety house-of-cards you call a religion has been toppled by my daring exposé of your pathetically barbaric views.”

And perhaps the Christian response will be “you clearly don’t understand the Bible. By the way, we just came out of nowhere, did we? Life just magically appeared, did it? Go on then, make some ‘life’ with your science.”

And the Atheists would say “you clearly don’t understand biology.”

“You can’t explain Love with science,” retorts the Christain, feeling that he is onto something of winning streak.

And then the atheist wades back in with “Idiot, yes you can. The brain is an immensely complicated object, with a complexity beyond current understanding, but…” and the Christian retorts, “Nope, you admitted it! Science doesn’t understand it; it’s God’s work.” And the Atheist is all; “You can’t just say ‘oh, because we don’t know how it works right now it must be God wot done it’.”

And the Christians go, “Yes you can. I just did.”

And so it goes on, until whenever the final whistle is blown. But until then, point scoring is to be encouraged.

3. Caring about how we got here (creation myths):

Why do people care about why we got here? So they can have a good marvel at the beauty of nature? Fair enough. But then why is the next step in this plan to immediately assume that either “We might not understand it, but God did it” or “We might not understand it, but Physics did it”? You don’t expect bacteria to be able to understand the complexity of how your stomach got to be there, so why should we feel equipped to appreciate our place in the Universe (aka stomach of God)?

Anyway, this whole thing is a brilliant excuse for a big fight between the “God-did-its” and the “No-He-didn’ts,” and after everyone has got bored of the creation of the Universe angle (which is a bit dry) there is still evolution to discuss (Which is far moister).

Want to annoy an Atheist? Then say, “evolution is only a theory, even biologists admit it,” because although they consider this a very trite and common misconception of the definition of a scientific theory, it never fails to annoy the hell out of them.

Want to annoy a Christian? Hide their bible.

However, as for creation and intelligent design “scientists”: Seriously? Now come on, your position is indefensible. You can’t just take the complicated jigsaw of biology and throw half of it away, take the scissors to the rest so it fits, re-paint over some pieces and say “Ta-dah! It’s a picture of god, just as we always knew it would be.”

2. Clinging on to one concept like it’s the end of the world:

These two concepts are faith and the scientific method. Neither is infallible; this is something which both sides often forget about their own views but are quick to mention it when they spot a flaw with the other’s.

Both sides are also keen to point out that actually yes, their concept is infallible; Faith because although discussion and disagreement on interpretation is perfectly acceptable within the teachings of a religion, this is not fallibility as you are merely continuing to weave the framework of continual assessment of faith led by the teaching of the Bible allowing you to move closer to truth; and the scientific method because although individuals make mistakes, sticking to the concept of a method of continual assessment of evidence will always move towards greater knowledge of truth. D’you see what I mean?

Faith’s been around for longer, and has seen more people from cradle to grave than any new-fangled atheistic, humanistic construction, the Christians might argue. The scientific method is based on logic, truth and a curiosity to discover more about the world, the Atheists might respond, and consequently is at least as old as faith. They then might have a discussion about the comparative power of faith versus science, or perhaps just take turns at bludgeoning each other with their metaphorical clubs.

1. Worship of those who explain the organisation’s tenets eloquently:

He is our leader of leaders, our teacher of teachers. His words help us live our daily lives, and we take solace in His words. We use those words against the unbelievers. He is our saviour, our messiah, our Lord and our hero, and His name is Richard Dawkins/Jesus Christ.


Overall though, I like Christians because hardly any of them use opposition to atheism to define their own belief system’s existence, and they often show a seraphic ignorance towards Atheists’ snide sniping with a level of quiet patience beyond that of their atheistic antagonists.

Conversely, I like atheists because I don’t think that we need a God for existence to exist, and I agree that many Christians only label themselves as such because that’s how they were brought up, and they haven’t thought about it properly for themselves.

I expect that Christians will pity my lack of belief, but forgive me (hate the sin, love the sinner). Atheists will pity my indecision and seeming inability to use my self-professed knowledge of the scientific method to a logical conclusion; after all, what do you feel for someone who cannot or will not allow themselves to be convinced of the truth; the absolute truth, knowledge of which improves your understanding of life every day? I imagine you would feel pity.


My name is Christopher, which means bearer of Christ, which you might think is hypocritical. But no, it’s true, I do bear Christ. I can put up with him as well as anyone.

So let’s end with a lovely pair of quotes. And whoar, what a lovely pair they are:

“I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.” C.S. Lewis

“The patient typically finds himself impelled by some deep, inner conviction that something is true, or right, or virtuous: a conviction that doesn't seem to owe anything to evidence or reason, but which, nevertheless, he feels as totally compelling and convincing. We doctors refer to such a belief as 'faith'.” Richard Dawkins.

VT5... uses of acronyms

Monday, 9 November 2009
Acronyms are the LASERS of language, the SWAT teams of succinctness, and the semantic equivalent of filling your SCUBA with TNT instead of O2. OMG, acronyms are amazing (as are alliterative annexations).

Acronyms, as you may know, result from taking a group of words, hacking some of the first letters off, and using what results as a brand new term of reference. E.g., AIDS is quicker to say than “Argh! It’s Diseased Severely.”

Businesses do love ‘em, and occasionally sue each other over them. Like when the WWF sued the WWF, even though the WWF used to be the WFN and still is in some countries, and that’s not even considering that the WWF has recently merged with the WCW and ECW. Anyway, the WWF beat the WWF, and now they are the WWE. See how confusing it can get when they have the same name? That’s why it came to court. In fact, you might say it got acronymonious. Eh? Might you? No? Like acrimonious, obviously.


5. Internyms

Don’t know what internet acronyms are all about? Well, RTFM you FOAG, and soon we’ll be BFFs, IMHO. (BTW, FOAG doesn’t mean anything rude; but it sounds like it does, which is what matters.)

Internet acronyms were invented because really cool people were too busy being cool to type whole phrases, and then everyone else started using them because they also wished to appear cool. Alternatively, they were invented by paedophiles trying to corrupt your kiddies by using a code unbreakable by worried parents. (Did you know that that one of the ‘L’s in LOL stands for lick?)

4. Recursonyms

Computery people, particularly those of the Open Source (OS) community, like being clever. They like writing efficient programs, they like sticking two fingers up at the proprietary business model, and as it turns out they also like acronyms.

But! Because they are clever, and pride themselves on their ability to understand things that others do not, they consequently wouldn’t stoop to use regular acronyms when they could instead use recursive acronyms, and in doing so make a hilarious parsing pun and fan the in-joke flames.

For example, GNU means “GNU’s Not Unix,” as does that GNU, etc, etc, ad infinatum, ad hilarium ensuium. There are more, here are some; WINE is “WINE Is Not an Emulator”, and EINE is “EINE Is Not Emacs” and TWATS is “TWATS With Acronyms That Suck.” Although I’m not so sure about that last one.

(I always feel concerned when I bait people online who know more about programming and the internet than me. It’s like jumping into the ocean and telling the sharks that they have stupid looking fins, LOL.)

Actually you shouldn't lick sharks, their skin is very abrasive.

3. Backronyms

Sometimes, words are not acronyms, they are just words. This is fine. But occasionally they are made into acronyms later. This concept was pounced upon during the Second World War, when soldiers would use secret acronyms to delight their sweethearts back home. So FRANCE meant ‘Friendship Remains And Never Can End,’ HOLLAND meant ‘Hope Out Love Lasts And Never Dies,” and so on. How lovely. However, if Wikipedia is to be believed, and I have no evidence to suggest otherwise, then you want to watch out for SOMALIA, ENGLAND and TIBET. Those filthy, filthy sodgers.

(What’s always puzzled me, though, is surely the censors would be far more likely to blank out an apparent place name on a letter than actually writing My Ardent Lips Await Your Arrival (MALAYA)?)

Also, another sort of backronym is when the words of an existing acronym can be modified without changing the acronym itself, like DVD (Digital Video Disk to Digital Versatile Disk.) This is because businesses sometimes want to change their name without having to replace any of their expensive signs and logos.

2. Macronyms

What’s the point of an acronym? It’s supposed to be quick to say. This basic concept flitted briefly through the minds of those who renamed the American Navy’s Administrative Command, Amphibious Forces, Pacific Fleet Subordinate Command. ADCOMSUBORDCOMPHIBSPAC isn’t really what you’d call a handy alternative, though.

Russia is the world’s biggest country, so how fitting it is that they should have the world’s longest acronym to their name too, according to The Guinness Book of Records: NIIOMTPLABOPARMBETZHELBETRABSBOMONIMONKONOTDTEKHSTROMONT "The laboratory for shuttering, reinforcement, concrete and ferroconcrete operations for composite-monolithic and monolithic constructions of the Department of the Technology of Building-assembly operations of the Scientific Research Institute of the Organization for building mechanization and technical aid of the Academy of Building and Architecture of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics."

Oh those Soviets, they were well known for their jokes.

1. Contrivonyms

Acronyms are very 21st C. You want a groovy acronym to make yourself sound all hip. But occasionally fate conspires against you and your acronym of choice, formed from the words which describe your business or product best, unfortunately reads as something hilariously misleading and salacious.

For example, two Regional Technical Colleges in Ireland (Galway and Tralee) had to think fast when they were upgraded to Institutes of Technology, otherwise they would have gone respectively from GRTC and TRTC to GIT and TIT.

Saying that, there is the Technological Institute of Textile & Sciences in India which decided to go with TITS.

As for the Canadian ‘Conservative Reform Alliance Party’, and the German telenovella ‘Alles Nur Aus Liebe,’ they didn’t think far enough ahead, did they?


I’d end with an acronym, but C U l8r is a group of contracted homophones, and I wouldn’t want you to think I was into that sort of thing. TTFN.

Very Top Five… Skills for journalists

Monday, 2 November 2009
Did someone not once say “if the pen is mightier than the sword, then journalism is the whetstone”? I’m sure somebody must have done.

Anyway, do you want to check out the skills zone for current trends or indications of paradigm shifts?
By the way, if you can use the words ‘paradigm shift’ without your face sagging into a grimace under the weight of all the sarcasm, then you will make an excellent political journalist.

Journalism is a cavalcade of caustic, faustic drudgery. It even says that in the dictionary (Any journalists reading this won’t check, they’ll just copy and paste it and take my citation for granted.)

Journalists have a surprising combination of tenacity and laziness. That is to say, they flatter themselves with the belief that they have the ability to discern the wheatiest stories from the misleading, irrelevant and uninteresting chaff. In practise this means they’ll superciliously scan through a report and make up their ‘story’ by pouncing on one wildly unrepresentative strand and spinning it out to cover three pages.

There are many different types of journalists, from political journalists (Who report how terrible politicians are) right through to opinion columnists (Who give opinions on how terrible everyone (including politicians) is.). Regardless of what sort of journalist you end up being, you’ll need easy mental access to the following grab bag of skills.

5. Headline creation

Headlines are supposed to get you to buy the newspaper, and they should hook readers in a punchy way.

Getting the words to rhyme is excellent form, as is including the sorts of puns that would disgrace even the worst sort of dinner party bore. For examine, imagine if John Locke, the philosopher and physician of the 17th century, had been seen wearing a dress. The headline wouldn’t say “Locke seen wearing a dress,” it would be “LOCKE FROCK SHOCK.”
And the journalists would go into paroxysms of delight.

4. Misrepresentation

This is most common in areas in which most people don’t have an adequate knowledge to evaluate the worth of a concept on their own, such as science, medicine or law. The brilliant thing is that the journalist who’s writing the article doesn’t have to understand it either!

Let’s say you want to write a story about GM foods, or a pharmaceutical product. All you have to do is find a scientist with a crazy opinion about how long-life cabbages give you brain cancer and present it alongside conventional wisdom (that they don’t) and suggest that these two opinions represent the two leading equally-weighted alternatives in a contentious field, and ta-da! Instant hysteria, and the chance to write dozens of follow up articles on how YOU, the readers, reacted to hearing the ‘news’ about cabbages, letters from concerned parents, discussions between experts on the pros and cons of each side of the argument, etc etc.

And you can’t be sued for libel even though you have practically invented a scare out of nothing, because, “hey! I’m just reporting leading researchers’ opinions here. You can’t interfere with the public’s right to know information that might be important to their health.”

3. Leaving your options open

Did you hear that a celebrity turned down an invitation to attend a charity dinner for dying orphans last week? Did you report it, and deride him as a massive wanker for being a no-show? If so, woops, turns out he couldn’t come because he was at a dying kiddies home, making a massive anonymous donation, which another paper has just reported.

No problem! Your initial story should have been written with enough leeway to report both stories with the journalistic integrity required to do ‘em justice.

If you’re an editor (A person who is to journalists what a giant bloodsucking bat is to regular-sized bloodsucking bats) then just change writers for this new story, and juggle around your writers in future as necessary depending on whether you want to pan a celeb or laud them with obsequiously brittle candour.

If this happens in an opinion column, then oh no! You can’t just change writer to report your massive change of tack. But if you're in this situation you could still be in the clear, just write the new story as if it’s the first time that the celeb has revealed himself not to be a massive wanker, and discuss the significance of this as if it’s a real thing rather than something you made up to save face.

Alternatively, just say “oh, that first piece was sarcasm, everyone knows that celebrity is a jolly nice guy,” if you can stand the g-forces tearing on your morals with such a huge change of direction.

2. Attract stories

Make yourself the go-to person for your area of expertise by greedily claiming to have an opinion about every little thing to happen in your chosen field for several years, and eventually everyone in that area will come to tolerate your consistent inability to just go away, like a stain on the toilet that just shift, regardless of how hard to scrub.

Next thing you know you’ll be attracting stories like a media magnate. Eh? Eh? Geddit?

1. Hounding

Realised that most of the things that happen to most people, even celebrities, are mundane? You can get into trouble for making stuff up, so your job is to make the boring, irrelevant or personal stuff that happens into news.

So follow a celebrity around and make notes on everything they say, form a firm personal opinion about how sensible and normal they seem; perhaps the sort of person you might go for a drink with. Be secure in the knowledge that like most sensible, normal people, they will eventually something a bit stupid, unkind or offensive that they probably don’t mean and wouldn’t have said if they’d had a chance to think about it. Pounce! And publish that.

Speed this process along by asking them barbed questions, or by barracking them, or by barricading yourself outside their house with a telephoto lens and long range sound recorder. Eventually, by you and your colleagues grinding insistence, you’ll slowly shift their perceptions of normalcy so they won’t know what’s right and what’s wrong, and will trot out these crazy out-of-touch nuggets of newspaper gold as a matter of course.

So there we go, a handy how-guide to journalism. Feel free to use this as the basis for careers talks at schools.

Very Top Five... horrific stories which became Disney films

Monday, 26 October 2009
Disney have been delighting fickle kiddies for generations with tales of heroism and fabulousness. But just where did Disney get those zany story ideas from? Sometimes they made them up specially, but often they adapted a book, fairytale or myth.

Like strong coffee, these stories were often too hot and bitter for Disney’s taste, so they added saccharine and watered them down a bit, leading to this; the very top five horrific stories which became Disney films.

5. Hercules (1997):

This is from a Greek legend and they are always seriously messed up and usually involve a bit of incest or patricide (or both) or similar.

In the Disney film he does some quests, kills the Hydra and shiz, marries Megara, and the film ends. Happy happy.

But the fun is just beginning in the Greek version; Hercules and Megara have children and live together for many years. “That sounds lovely,” you might say. But then that naughty scamp Hades slips Hercules some potion, which drives him temporarily mad. “What fun this sounds,” you might delightedly purr, “but I’m sure Hercules wins out in the end, doesn’t he?” Well, sort of. He murders his Megara and their children in a fit of rage though. Woops.

Then he is all like; “Well, can’t be helped,” and gets married to another woman called Deianira. Then he starts having it off with Iole on the side, so Deianara soaks Hercules’ clothes in the Hydra’s acid blood, so that when he puts them on he is horribly burned. Now, as you may recall from the film, Hercules is immortal, so the burning just means that his skin is ripped off, and he survives, albeit in terrible agony. So he decides to voluntarily immolate himself on a funeral pyre, finally divesting himself of his mortal shell and joining his parents as a God on Mount Olympus.

Epic win for Hercules. But I can’t see Disney making that story into a sequel any time soon, to be honest.

4. Aladdin (1992):

Quite apart from the fact that Aladdin has a laughably (but apparently consolingly) white face among the other, swarthier denizens of Agrabah, this is another story based on an old legend. This one’s Arabic, from the Book of One Thousand and One Nights.

One main difference is that in the original story there were more genies, which might strike you as surprising. Surely Disney wouldn’t miss out on the chance to add to the cacophony of fun that is Robin Williams? Well, apparently they did.

Also, the Princess is called Badroulbadour, which has been sanitised for Western ears to the far less alien-sounding Jasmine. The change in name means that we are provided with a waft of exoticism, while actually it’s quite familiar and non-threatening. Plus Badroulbadour sounds quite like an embarrassing disease.

This logic of making the characters and setting as Western as possible did not apply to Jaffar the evil Vizier, who isn’t even in the original story and was caricatured to be as Arabic as Disney’s artists could manage before their pens split under the malign forces of xenophobia throbbing through them. Disney clearly thought that the original story had fewer evil Arabs than was suitable for a children’s story.

3. Snow White (1937):

Snow White is based on a fairy tale by the brothers Grimm, two writers who were renowned for having a good long think about stories that were completely unsuitable for children and then writing them into stories for children.

Although Snow White the film actually does contain many of the same elements as the book; An evil stepmother who tries to kill Snow White because she’s better looking (according to a magic mirror), and she gets some dude to take Snow White into the forest and chop her heart out as proof of death. But he takes pity on her and lets her go, and kills a pig instead. This is all in the film and book, and surely now that you’ve had a think about it you’ll agree that’s pretty intense. Oh, but in the book it’s Snow White’s actual mother, not her stepmother. Somehow a bit worse?

In the book, Snow White is encouraged to try and kill her mother, an aspect notably lacking in the film. One other difference with the book is that at the end the evil Mother comes to Snow White and Prince Charming’s wedding at the end. “They patch up their differences?” you say, “How jolly!” Well, no, actually, because the dwarves force the stepmother to wear iron shoes and dance until she drops dead. She conveniently dies in the film too, but due to falling off a cliff rather than being tortured to death at a wedding by some angry dwarves.

But Snow White the film and Snow White the book are daringly similar, on the whole.

2. The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996):

This one’s based on a book by Victor Hugo, a 19th century French writer (and all round dreary git.)

The book has a complicated plot and lots of moping. Some highlights are that Esmeralda is hanged for attempted murder, and Quasimodo, who she has been totally blanking all the way through the book, lies inconsolable with grief at her grave until he starves to death.

The book is littered with killings; many of the central characters are murdered by Quasimodo for looking at his cathedral in ‘a funny way’.

1. Tarzan (1999):

A poor English infant is left in the jungle, and adopted by apes. The book (1912, Edward Rice Burroughs) and film are in agreement on this, except the film involves more Phil Collins music.

In the film, Jane is the first human that Tarzan meets. Not so in the book. Here, despite being brought up by apes, Tarzan is well aware of humans from an early age. Black natives, in fact. And this is where the whole story starts to take a nasty turn down a very dark alley.

Most of the book involves Tarzan swinging around the jungle killing black people for fun, either by dropping out of the trees and stabbing them in the chest, or by garrotting them with one of his vine ropes. Then he steals their bangles and swings off again, laughing at his skills and the natives’ stupidity compared to those of “the white race”. Seriously.

Then there is the chapter unapologetically called “His Own Kind” where Jane and some other white people turn up. Jane has a Louisianan maid called Esmeralda who, perhaps not coincidentally by this stage, is black. She is seemingly there only for comic effect, and screeches things like “Oh Lawdy!” when she gets a fright. Which is most of the time. Jane tries to shoot Esmeralda in the chest with a revolver at one point because she thinks it’s a kindness to put “The negress… the poor, faithful, thing… [out of her misery].” Bit harsh…

Tarzan doesn’t even get the girl, she goes off with his posh cousin Clayton from England instead. And Tarzan learns French from naval Lieutenant D’Arnot (with whom Tarzan spends far more time than he did with Jane, even when Jane was still in the jungle) and sets off onboard a steamship to Paris with D’Arnot. WTF?