Very Top Five Reasons to Pretend to be Colour-Blind

Monday, 17 May 2010
Colour-blindness is a disability worse than losing a leg. After all, there’s no such thing as a wheelchair for the eyes, and at least amputees can colour-coordinate their wardrobe.

I am colour-blind myself, despite the title and, despite lacking the capability to choose wallpaper that matches my sofas, there are many hidden perks to colour blindness; enough to convince you to pretend to be colour-blind yourself. It’s the equivalent of being perfectly able-bodied but never having to take the stairs, and never being caught out as a damn cheat.

It’s easy to deliberately fail a colour blindness test by claiming you can’t see the numbers or can’t order the shades and then you’re all set to begin living the lie. You’d obviously be revealed as a fraud by a genetic test, but who’s going to insist you take one of those? Why would you lie about something like this, they might think.

Here’s why; you can enjoy the following perks:

5. You never have to cook

“Oh, this meat’s gone green,” the colour-sighted might say, “These vegetables have gone a bubonic shade of brown,” they might add. “Probably best to throw them away and have take-away instead.”

But the colour-blind would happily chuck them into the stew, cue explosive intestinal protests from the whole family. Obviously you can’t be blamed, that would be like blaming a one armed man for failing to tie his shoe laces correctly. So they won’t say it’s your fault, but they won’t want you to tie their shoes anymore (metaphorically speaking).

In fact, you’ll soon find your relatives have become habituated to leap up from the couch and sprint into the kitchen whenever you say “I’m hungry; how about if I make dinner this evening?” Leaving you free to watch television in glorious monochrome – or so you claim.

4. You can take your dog into shops and restaurants

Taking your dog out for a walk and decide to pop in to see a film on the way home? For most people, it’s an impossible dream; but not for you.

“It’s a guide dog,” you can say, presenting the colour-blindness disability card you made yourself as your pooch wanders around the cinema foyer, hoovering up spilled popcorn. Most ticket sellers will be too polite to say that you don’t look blind, but if they do then you can just say that you’re partially sighted and look at them with a mix of scorn and disappointment, before talking your seat in the disabled chairs, which boast excellent views and extra legroom.

However, some clever shop keepers might be aware that dogs are also colour blind and insist that you drop this charade forthwith. In that case, point out that the dog is not there to offer colour-translation advice but rather as a empathic psychological nostrum to your disability.

If you still encounter resistance from non-believers, you can menacingly suggest that the dog is there to aggressively savage anyone who mocks you for your disability. That should do the trick.
3. You’ll always have an icebreaker for corporate away days

“Think of something unique or interesting about yourself to share with the group.” When spoken by one of those clinically cheerful facilitators this phrase injects frozen terror into the minds of those who hear it, making it pathologically impossible to think of anything even slightly interesting. And as they go round the room, coaxing tortured responses from your colleagues about how they “um… quite like watching football?” or “well… I… uh… once went to Japan on holiday… will that do?” they will soon reach you, combined gaze pinning you to the seat and searing your neurons into a stupor.

And as the pressure mounts, you realise that someone’s already taken your (rather weak) football answer and you eventually blurt out “em… em… I think my wife’s having an affair!”

Ooh, bring on the raised eyebrow from your colleagues, a surprised nod and a shaky “okay…” from the facilitator and ostracising sniggers later on when you’re having your scheduled coffee break.

But imagine if instead, whenever pressed to reveal a personal factette, you could simply say “I’m colour blind,” and know that you’ve revealed a non-personal, un-judgeable, relatively uncommon and interesting nugget of info designed to shift the burden onto the next person as quickly as possible.

2. You’ll have an interesting hook when chatting up women

(This might also work on men; I've not tried it.)

It’s easy to introduce colour blindness into a conversation with a recently met lady friend with whom you are stoking the fires of new acquaintance; “What colour’s that?” you ask, pointing at anything at all. She’ll answer with an inflexion of curiosity tinged by the mystery of your apparent inability to identify colours.

This will lead to a deep and interesting conversation, because colour-sighted people are curious about the mechanics of colour-blindness; do you actually see things in black and white? What colour do things look to you? Can you tell the difference between any colours, or is it just some? Does it affect your life at all?

“Yeah, it can be quite a drawback, but I get by,” you can confide, all the while drawing her ever closer with your tendrils of emotional falsification, then impress her by revealing that colour-blind people have better night vision and a increased ability to detect camouflage. What a man, she'll think.

And if you want to charge straight down the chat-up line route and fast track all this emotional attachment stuff, simply approach a woman and say “What colour are your eyes?” while looking soulfully into them.

She’ll be all like “blue” or “brown” or whatever. Feel free to ignore her reply, it doesn’t actually matter, because you then come storming in with the coup de grace; “I’m colour-blind, but I can tell they’re beautiful.” And boom! No woman alive can resist that charm. Probably.

1. You’ll be more employable

Being disabled is good for your employment prospects, probably slightly more useful than having a relevant qualification and slightly less useful than being friends with the boss. All it takes is a little tick in the “Are you disabled?” box on application forms and soon you’ll be reaping the benefits of guaranteed interview schemes, disability employment quotas and legislative positive discrimination.

Also, colour-blindness will have no effect on your perceived ability to do most jobs, as even the most illegal flouter of disability discrimination law can see that colour-blindness is an ignorably mild affliction. It’s also an invisible one, so you won’t find yourself hitting the (tinted) glass ceiling along with the loonies and freaks. Lucky you.


So, success in work and love, human rights for your dog, icebreakability and never having to cook - all in all, colour vision sounds rather grey by comparison.

Very Top Five Ways to Make the Perfect Blockbuster

Monday, 19 April 2010
Blockbusters are the sprinkles on the cake of contemporary society. Some people don’t like sprinkles, but most do, since they are just sugar and food colouring and taste nice, and when future historians look back they’ll obviously be interested in the dry cake beyond the sprinkles, whereas normal people will just nibble at the sprinkles and maybe some of the icing and leave the rest behind a potted plant or something.

I’m sure that no one would disagree that when it comes to the objective ranking of films you can match them exactly with how much they made at the box office. It’s like the democracy of the cinema. One ticket price equals one vote.

By the way, blockbusters get their name from the behaviour of people who have just seen them; they become so angry knowing that they’ll have to wait until tomorrow to see these brilliant films again that they smash up everything they see in the streets on the way home, or “bust” the “block;” hence “blockbuster.” Possibly…

Anyway, do you want to know how they did it, so that you too can rake in a 10:1 return on investment, pick up your well deserved Oscar for biggest explosion of the year, and be admired by all but the staunchest of jowly faced film critics? Well, here we go:

5. Stars:

You know the line “All men are created equal” from the American Declaration of Independence? Obviously that was before the Famous Hollywood Amendment that added “Apart from A-listers, who are definitely better than you. And their entourage, who get VIP access too, of course. And their friends and family, and anyone they want to invite. So, yeah, everyone except you. You’re just common scum.” Although I think it was just a verbal addition that nevertheless everyone abides by.

Anyway, nothing gets the audience going like a star with a face smoothed by hours of make-up, and acting skills honed by years of people telling them how fabulous they are at it, as well as literally minutes of practising their lines before they came on set.

Not only that, but afterwards (or before, or during the film) you can read about what the star thought about being in the film, and what cereal they ate in their trailer, and whether they had “a really great time working with some really great people, y’know”. You can even join in the telephoto-fuelled speculation of which of their co-stars they are currently getting with, and look at the advanced computational photo fit of what their cherubic children might look like, and consider what they might be called (They’ll probably be named after that brand of cereal that the star loves so much).

And all the time you’ll be fuelling those who feed off celebrities with your money, and feeding the celebrities, in turn, with your soul. Just saying…

4. Quotable lines:

“I’m detective John Kimble.” “That’s a ferret.” “Stop whining.” “It’s not a tumour.”

Who would have thought that all of those famous lines that we all use every day were from the same film, “Kindergarten Cop,” starring Arnold Schwarzenegger (The world’s most quotable man and a blockbuster unto himself)?

Anyway, films have quotable lines for a reason; because every time you say them the film gets a little bit of free advertising. You’ll drop the line, sound amazing, and all your friends will think you are super groovy for being so original as to use a line that was in a film possibly in a related or even in an unrelated context to whatever conversation you interrupted with your coolery.

For example, at every party you’ll still find at least one person who thinks it’s terribly clever to quote Monty Python and the Holy Grail, released a short 35 years ago, and never once has anyone got sick of it and wanting to stave their face in with a wine bottle every time they say “We are now the knights who say… Ekki-ekki-ekki-ekki-ptang-zoom-boing.”

3. 3D:

Why use one projector, when you can use two? Why see things in two dimensions when you can see them in three? Why pay the normal price for a ticket when you could be paying double? For years these questions had no answer; but now they do, and it’s so cool that it already has an acronym; “3D”.

Oh, and it’s much more realistic; you know how in real life when the focus suddenly pulls from the thing you’re looking at to something right in front of you so, or when something comes flying out of the background right at your face, or when everything seems to float eerily in mid air in front of you? Yeah, well 3D films have got that too!

“Why has no-one ever thought of making 3D films before?” you might ask, “It’s simply the best idea ever and certainly not a fad.” To you I would say, yes I’m sure it isn’t a fad. And I’m sure the annoying glasses will only become less annoying every time you have to put them on, rather than more so. Everything which is annoying becomes less annoying over time, like a mouse scratching in the wall, or an irregularly dripping tap, or tinnitus. And I’m also sure that it wasn’t a fad when they tried 3D films in the 50s, and the 80s, and the 90s. Oh, and the 1890s as well.

2. Comedy:

Some might say that making something very funny is very hard. Not only is their no definition of what is funny, but everyone has a different opinion, and you must walk the line between mundane and obscene, derivative dross and unconventional bewilderment.

Well of course those people who say that are over-thinking comedy killers who obviously ain’t never heard a fart! Then they’d know regular funny from blockbuster funny. Here’s a definitive list:

Obviously, anything to do with bottoms is hilarious. Falling over is hilarious. Belching is hilarious. Pulling faces is hilarious. Irreverent pop culture references are hilarious. Over-emphasised sarcasm is hilarious, and men screaming like girls when they have been surprised is extremely hilarious.

Conversely, clever wordplay is not hilarious. Subtlety is not hilarious. Bathos is not hilarious. Satire is not hilarious. Anything that takes more than a second to ‘get’ is not hilarious. Anything from an old film is boring cos it’s old like old people who are also boring, and is consequently not hilarious.

1. Explosions:

If you look at the top five grossing films of all time, you’ll find that all of them have explosions in them. Now think about the top five moments in your life; how many of those involved explosions? Ask yourself which is more exciting; your life, or the bit in The Dark Knight when the Joker blows up the hospital? Exactly.

Explosions make everything awesome. No matter how sophisticated you think you are, or how many subtitled films about intense dark haired lovers exchanging significant glances you’ve seen and claim to prefer, or how many independent cinemas you can name and give me directions to, there’s always that little bit of a human brain that refuses to come out of the cave, and thinks “Ooh! Big whooshy fire!” at the first flare of flame. Nothing ignites the interest like a high budget Hollywood explosion.


So as I’ve proved, Blockbusters are the best films from both the objective financial point of view and the objective superiority point of view, which do not only get to have their cake and eat it, but eat some of everyone else’s cake as well, even though their cake was much bigger to start with and even if it’ll make them sick.

By the way, a film blog which I enjoy is by Chantale and Angie.

Very Top Five Most Fashionable Dyes Ever

Monday, 12 April 2010
Ah, Fashion. If religion is the opium of the masses, then fashion is surely the cocaine of the cool, or at least the crack of the cultured.

Being fashionable means to be a willing participant in an unrelenting race to be perfectly stylish, poised and modern, while all the time the criteria shift and buck underneath you like an angry horse (one which you are trying to ride in terribly impractical and high maintenance clothes) which is constantly trying to throw you off before racing away into the future, leaving you covered in (always-unfashionable) dust and shit.

However, while fashion is fleeting, at least colours are a constant pin in the gown of contemporary loveliness. And what could be more important than choosing the most fashionable colour in the quest to look slightly more interesting that everyone else until they have time to buy the same clothes for much less money?

These days, with the underappreciated magic of modern chemistry giving us not only seven different kinds of sparkle in our hair conditioners and face creams with essence of rejuvenom, but also any colour of any intensity and stability we could possibly wish for, we easily forget that until relatively recently you would be thrilled to find a dye that didn’t smell like piss when it got slightly damp, or slowly poison you by leeching into your skin, or fade within about a day of purchase. And that’s before you even consider whether it makes you look as contemporarily chic as current custom commands.

Throughout history several dyes stand out, either because they were the best source of a particular colour for thousands of years, or because they were (and still are) highly exclusive and expensive, or just because they make you a magus of coolness in omne tempus.

5. Alizarin, red

Red; colour of blood, danger and traffic signs, is considered to be immensely cool.

Alizarin is still used today, and was first used thousands of years ago in its natural form, extracted from the madder root. It was found in Tutankhamen’s burial chamber, and in the ruins of Pompeii, and more recently a whole army took its nickname from it:

The British Army, from 1645 onwards, wore the distinctive alizarin dyed jackets which earned them the name “redcoats,” as well, I’m sure, as the admiration and adoration of opposing, jealous armies in their boring browns and greys.

The word alizarin is derived from the Arabic word for juice (using the usual rule that if something starts with “al” than it’s almost certainly an Arabic word; like algebra, alcohol, and almanac). If you want to try and introduce a cool new bit of slang (slang is the fashion of the mouth), try asking your friends if they want a glass of alizarin instead of juice. If they don’t know what you mean then just laugh at their etymological ineptitude and don’t give them any juice.

Alizarin was the first pigment to be duplicated synthetically in the 19th century, and it’s even used today in biochemical research as a bio assay thing. But only by fashionable researchers.

4. Crocin, yellow

Crocin is the yellow colour in saffron, which is a type of crocus. (Again, the word crocus actually comes from the Arabic word for saffron, and our word for saffron comes from the Arabic word for yellow. We’d all be lot less fabulous if it wasn’t for the Arabs.)

Saffron is a little delicate flower with red stigmas, and you have to collect about a squintillion of them to get a gram of saffron colour, which is why it’s so expensive. They are fussy little things too, and will die just to annoy their cultivators if they water them slightly wrong.

The stigmas of saffron and the crystals of crocin are red, but it turns a vibrant yellow when used as a dye because of chemistry or magic or whatever. A few thousand years ago the ancient world was using saffron as a wonder drug to cure gastrointestinal diseases, and as a food (and bath water, in Cleopatra’s case) colouring, and as a cloth dye in the happening fashion capital of Tyre, in Lebanon (more to come on Tyrian fashion later).

Saffron is surely set become everyone’s favourite supplement as, apparently, crocin has recently been found to be an anticarcinogenic antioxidant with antidepressant and aphrodisiac properties. Astonishing.

3. Dragon’s Blood, red

Red again; danger, blood, the colour of lips, etc, no-one ever gets bored of red.

“Dragon’s blood?” you say, “Back the hell up, you’ve got some ‘splainin to do.”

Indeed. Both the Romans and the ancient Chinese called this dye Dragon’s blood, as it was brought to them by Arab merchants who claimed that that is what it totally was; the blood of dragons. The cleverest Romans and Chinese LOLed at this silly gimmick, but most people saw the sticky, runny red liquid and decided that Dragon’s Blood it most certainly was. This was an early example of a hype campaign, which have plagued fashion ever since.

It’s actually the sap of a family of trees, named Dracaena (after the sap). Romans used it as a gastrointestinal medicine as well as a dye, just like with Saffron. Oh, those gassy Romans.

2. Carmine, red.

Red again; colour of magma, hot iron, and flaming passion, etc, etc.

After the discovery of America, Spanish merchants came back to Europe with this rather good new red dye that didn’t fade like boring old alizarin and was much more vivid. In fact, it became Mexico’s second most valuable export after silver. They didn’t tell anyone what it was though; it was just these little red balls which released dye.

Turns out it was from a bug, cochineal, and after everyone found out they said “Ew!” but kept on using it since it was just so fashionable.

But then the whole carmine industry was nearly ruined after the invention of synthetic alizarin, which was cheaper and didn’t have any bits of wing and chitin in it. Oddly enough though, the British replaced alizarin with carmine as their redcoat dye, and used it until 1914 when they decided that wearing a bright red coat was just asking to be sniped.

Carmine is back these days though, in sweets, as the only “natural” red colour available. This is your fault as a consumer for saying that chemicals are bad. Now instead of lovely pure processed artificial colours we have to eat the secretions of bugs.

You might say; “well, if lots of people think that having chemicals in food is a bad thing then they must be right.” I’d say, “Yeah, well most people think that water isn’t a chemical, so most people’s chemistry intuition isn’t to be relied upon.”

1. Tyrian Purple, purple

Tyrian purple was a very rare, very expensive and very exclusive dye that the Romans prized above all others. It was also known as Imperial Purple. Sounding pretty fashionable already? It was also non-fading and highly luxurious. Imagine that you’ve got your hands on some and you’ve had a sexy toga made with it. I imagine you’d be feeling rather fashionable. Fasten your new toga with your most stylish brooch and glurk! You’d get stabbed for treason. Only the Emperor and his family may wear Imperial Purple. That’s why it’s called Imperial Purple.

Ever heard the phrase "blue blood," meaning aristocratic or royal? Roman historians talked about purple blood, meaning the same thing. (Our modern phrase "blue blood" comes from Spanish skin colouring, by the way; medieval noble light skinned Spanish families would not mix with darker skinned Arabs, and so they said that they were blue bloods because they could see the light blue veins in their pale wrists. Not very friendly of them, particularly after all the Arabs did for colours in fashion).

Tyrian purple is milked from Snails called spiny-dye murex. And, like saffron, each individual gives a microscopic amount of dye, leading to ridiculously high cost and consequent great attraction for the rich and senseless. Talk about Emperor’s new clothes…

Very Top Five People Who Are Almost As Clever As Jesus

Thursday, 8 April 2010
(Sorry for the post-nudiustertian update; I really am a bletcherous slubberdegullion. If I wasn’t so callipygian I’m sure you’d have no time for me.)

If the number of public holidays attributed to a person are any indication of their fame, then Jesus comes out an easy victor; with the chocofeast of Easter a close second to the presentfest of Christmas as everyone’s favourite day of the year. And Jesus is so Christmassy that they even stuck his name on it.

So, if the bible is to be believed, Jesus was a pretty special chap; wandering about curing people of blindness, deafness and even the dreaded dropsy. By the way, he had a pretty manky way of curing blindness; he spat in some dirt, then rubbed it in the blind person’s eyes. Try the same technique at with the next blind person you see (don’t worry, they’re easy to sneak up on) for a memorable and acrimonious reminder that you aren’t as good at curing people as Jesus.

Know any paralysed people? Try telling them to get up and walk. This rough love worked for Jesus, but I reckon if you tried it you’d forever be known as that bastard who mocks cripples.

So by now you are starting to think that Jesus may well have been performing genuine miracles (or the bible made it all up…) but here are another five people who managed the impossible, performing miracles worthy of Jesus. But rather than be all mystically cryptic about it, they revealed how the trick was done. Accordingly, they are thought of merely as very clever, rather than the son of God.

Here we go;


5. Guy Henry Faget cured leprosy

Dr Guy Henry Faget (don’t laugh) is widely credited with discovering the powerful effect of the drug Promin on leprosy in 1943; the first effective cure since Jesus’s secret hand waving technique.

Anway, after Jesus swanned in and effortlessly cured a few lepers, everyone said “Howdedodat?” and wandered around looking puzzled and awed in a suitably biblical manner. Then they decided to have a go at it themselves; cue the usual hall of horrors-type historical progression where almost anything is tried to cure a disease, and where even the most horrendous ‘cures’ are used for hundreds of years despite no evidence that they work.

These included: drinking or bathing in blood, chopping out fallopian tubes or performing vasectomies, washing in the faeces of the climbing fish, scarification, bee stings, and latterly radiotherapy and electro-shock therapy. The bible pitched in by describing a very specific and totally unhelpful recipe involving birds’ blood, ceremonial shaving, sacrificial lambs, and much more: (Leviticus 14:2 onwards, if you want to know. Leviticus, by the way, is the equivalent of an angrily written Facebook message after a heavy night’s drinking. It’s the part with all that bitter stuff about homosexuality, and says dwarves can’t be priests, and I’m sure God regretted it very much in the morning.)

Then Dr Guy Henry Faget (Don’t laugh) came to the rescue of lepers with the first properly effective treatment. He was then generally lauded and admired until his untimely death of heart disease shortly afterwards. Seems God doesn’t like a copy cat. (I am trying really hard not to say something like "and after all, God hates Fagets". Damn, I said it anyway. Sorry.)

When Dr Guy Henry Faget was looking for participants to try his drugs out on, he wrote the following message; “This is the Modern Age, the Age of Light. Let us have the truth. Leprosy is not a dirt disease. Leprosy is not due to any sin committed by those who contract it. It is not a retaliation of God against its victims.”

Messianic, no?

4. Clayton Jacobson II walked on water

You know how at parties some fun loving ass might suggest a game of dares? Well, there is often a particular cadence to the way that these are phrased; the dare-asker will often start their dare with an innocuous sounding action, since these are the first verbs which pop into their head, such as “I dare you to eat…” or “I dare you to say…” or “I dare you to go…” as their alcohol-puckered brain frantically ticks over, trying to fire into life and think of something suitably outrageous to eat, or say, or do; the proclamation of which will delight their fellow party goers who, for the first time this evening, (or possibly ever) are hanging on their every word.

How about, “I dare you to walk… on water !”

Anyone but Jesus and Clayton Jacobson II would blanch in fear at the prospect as everyone rises with a unified cry of “Yes! To the lake!”

Clayton Jacobson would also so be able to go much faster than Jesus, because he invented the Jet Ski. After all, why walk on water when you can ski? You don’t even have to be on the piste (unlike our aforementioned party goers. Zing!)

Maybe you don’t consider using a jet ski to be quite the same thing as walking on water. Clayton is still living today, so clearly God doesn’t consider it a threat to Jesus’ hydrambling either.

3. David Blaine survived crucifixion

David Blaine is a magician who stopped doing tricks and started doing endurance stunts, removing the element of wonder since the answer is always “by force of will.” He was then was surprised when people got bored with his stunts.

Of course, Jesus didn’t actually survive crucifixion; so David Blaine didn’t take the trick far enough. If only he had.

2. Steve Jobs is idolised.

It takes cultural momentum to have a crowd hanging on your every word, and debating all possible interpretations of what they might mean in the fora of their age. This momentum is built up over years, with each new story attracting a few more followers to the admiring flock. Jesus performed miraculous miracles, Steve Jobs released miraculous products.

Steve Jobs is idolised by millions, and we all know what God thinks about false idols. So long as nobody draws any comparisons, he should be ok…

1. Dr Victor Frankenstein resurrected the dead.

This is literally the ultimate trick. Some would say it is impossible, whereas others would point to Jesus and say, “Well, he could manage it.” Then the first lot of people would say “Yeah, well, that’s fine if that’s your belief, but it might be better to interpret it figuratively rather than literally.” And the second lot would say “And what about zombies?” and we would know that they were just taking the piss.

Anyway, apart from Jesus and zombies, Dr Frankenstein was the only man of science to have a successful go at resurrecting a dead body; queue unholy lumbering around and roaring with much consecutive chagrin and embarrassment all round; probably caused by God teaching Dr Frankenstein a valuable lesson in leaving well enough alone.

When Jesus was miraculously resurrected he wasn’t back for long, only a few days, and visited people only briefly, probably so they wouldn’t have a chance to notice the strings.

Of course, Dr Frankenstein was fictional. He didn’t really resurrect anyone. He’s just some dude in a book that spins one tall tale after another. Whereas Jesus, of course… oh…

Ways to Raise Your Employees’ Morale

Monday, 29 March 2010
Pleasing employees is like second-guessing the stock market; you have to work extremely hard to get it right, most experts agree you can’t do it consistently, and if you get it wrong then you’ll end up with no money and hated by everyone, particularly yourself.

Fortunately, unlike the ungovernable and incorporeal stock market, employees are both governable and corporeal; meaning that you will be able to govern them into a real corps of happy, hardworking staff. Follow these rules and you’ll get consistent, positive results; because, just like in the stock market, an employee really is just a number.

5. Speak louder

There’s a simple reason that your employees act like morons, and that they never do anything properly; because you’re not speaking loudly enough. In the last war film you saw, when the officer said “fire!” did any of the soldiers go, “oh, sorry, did you say fire? I’ll get to work on that right away, but because I only just found out that firing is what you want from me I’ll not be able to get it done today. How’s Wednesday for you?” No, they damn well fired, and the only difference between you and that officer is that you aren’t shouting loudly enough.

Shouting reduces the need for your employees to ask questions. If they do ask one, repeat what you just said, but louder. Nine times out of ten, they are just asking for re-affirmation, and how better to explain what you said than by saying it again, but louder? Try standing closer to them as well. That’ll make it seem louder still.

Also, shouting means that everyone near you will hear you all of the time. This creates a network effect, where everyone knows what you want and can work together as a team to meet those needs. Anything to make the shouting stop. This hectic drive to complete their tasks will give your employees occupational value, and consequently they’ll feel meaningfully employeed.

4. Efficiency savings

Efficiency savings can be made everywhere; and an efficient employee is a happy employee. I will make an efficiency saving in this paragraph by not explaining what they are, but will instead demonstrate them. Here are a few tips:

Reduce power consumption; Make your employees work in the dark, or limit the maximum temerature of coffee to lukewarm – all helping save valuable utilities money - and reducing the likelihood of scalding injuries. An employee with burnt genitals will not have high morale.

Why not ban the use of adjectives and adverbs from written documents? This makes documents clearer, quicker to write, and cheaper to print. Ban adjectives and adverbs from employee conversations too to reduce the time it takes them to speak. In fact, why not ban nouns, verbs and conjunctions, and ban employee conversations altogether?

Why not make them bring all of the documents they have printed to you before they can get more blank paper, just to show that they have used it wisely. Also, get them to drop a few font sizes on printouts and get them into the habit of checking pictures and diagrams with a magnifying glass, allowing a 90% reduction in size. Colour ink is especially expensive, so remove it from the printers.

Why not draw paths on the floor to illustrate the shortest distance between every part of the office? Then if the employees deviate from the pre-set paths you can force them to explain why, which will make them think about personal efficiency as a penance for taking slightly longer to get from one place to another. Remind them that this isn’t a Sunday stroll; it’s a busy workplace environment.

Why not efficiensize the phonetic alphabet? The existing alphabet (alpha, bravo, charlie etc, etc.) is very boring. It has no contextual consistency, making it difficult to remember, and the words themselves are mundane, so when your employees use them their voices will slur with ennui, soon leaving them a hollow shell of their potential, efficient selves. You need to replace it with a new phonetic alphabet; one with a strong thematic link running through it and memorable words which trip off the tongue delightfully. Why not get your employees to use this new Phonetic Alphabet (With Dinosaurs)?

3. Masturbation Fridays:

Masturbation Fridays speak for themselves, I feel.

2. Laugh everything off

One man’s harassment is another man’s banter. Just laugh it off when you hear that an employee has been harassed and they will surely follow suit. After all, it’s impossible to fill in a complaint form if your hand is shaking with all that laughter (or possibly from the emotional devastation, but probably with laughter).

Also, if you fail to make good on a promise, such as forgetting to refill the fire extinguishers or distribute last week’s wages, then just say “woops!” and laugh cheerfully, which will encourage everyone else to see the funny side and join in. If they don’t, fire them, then laugh. You don’t need their sort around here, glumming everything up with their misery.

1. Concentration boosting:

Did you know that drinking lots of water improves your concentration? This is because water swooshes around your brain, washes of the dust, and restores it to a shiny pinkness.

So force your employees to drink more water. Here’s what to do; secretly record everything they do for a day and add together all the times they drop a pen, make a minor spelling error (even if they fix it, they're still wasting time), or otherwise lapse from total concentration. Add all these numbers up, then present them with the number, tell them it is their lack-of-concentration score, and let them know that you expect this number to go down significantly if they drink another 2 or 3 litres of water during the working day.

Then fire them if it doesn’t. After all, they obviously disobeyed your instruction to drink more water.

To assist your employees, install new water fountains and secretly pop a few handfuls of caffeine in them to further increase their concentration. Make these new fountains the hubs of the office, where people go to liaise with colleagues over a mind-boosting cup of bitter, caffeinated water. Give them a name; how about energy hubs, or brain zones, or concentration camps?

Soon your employees will be efficient, cheerful, focussed and, most importantly, hard working. If not, then keep doing all of the above but using an even louder voice.

Very top five worst people to speak to on a train

Monday, 22 March 2010
I quite like taking the train, but I can’t seem to pass a train journey without someone sidling up to me and spilling their life story all over me a like a simmering cup of bitter coffee. And I didn’t even want coffee. I just wanted to do my crossword.

Maybe you too have a big friendly face, honest eyes and a smile permanently creasing your cheeks. If so, damn; people are going to assume that you’re always up for some jolly banter, the selfish bastards.

5. The Bores

Some people are starved of attention for a reason; because they are boring. These people are so hungry for a conversation (or: to speak at you for hours without stopping to breathe) that they will literally take any opportunity handed to them. Don’t smile at them, don’t make eye contact, don’t even look…! You looked!

“Hello,” They will say, in a disarmingly friendly and normal sounding way. It would be churlish not to acknowledge them, even with the most cursory nod. But by now it’s too late, and you’ll be sucked into their vortex of ennui-inducing chatter like a pube down a drain.

The narrow focus of their interest will also betray their status as a bore. It won’t just be “cars”. It will be “Saabs manufactured before 1989.” (That’s before General Motors bought Saab from Scania after the restructuring of Saab into an independent company during a time in the company’s history when … (I stopped making notes at this point as my fingers deliberately snapped the pen and tried to slit my throat with the sharp plastic shards)…)

The best way to deal with these people is to simply pop in your mp3 player and turn up the volume. They’ll probably just keep talking, either at you or else effortlessly slide the focus of their conversation to someone nearby.

4. The Crazies

When it comes to the most foul of the racists and bigots, you want to watch out for that harmless-looking old woman, squinting rheumily into her bag of boiled sweets and perched rheumatically on the edge of her seat.

If you sit next to her, she might call you “dear” and offer you a sweet. All will be smiles and chuckles, then suddenly her wrinkles will deepen into scowled trenches of disdain and her eyes will narrow crustily. Don’t even look at what she’s looking at, I can tell you that it will be either; a teenage mother; anyone who looks even slightly foreign (by any measure, whether it’s skin tone, choice of clothes, or general shiftiness); or a youth (who is doubtless ‘hanging around looking for trouble’).

Then suddenly it will turn out that Mrs. Old Lady has a whisper like a knife being enthusiastically steeled as she offers you the opportunity to concur with her that something ought to be done about this by someone. It’s a disgrace, she’ll conclude, as you radiate lack of agreement while not inciting her to further explanation by trying to look as neutral as possible.

Also, watch out for views that sound harmless. It might not sound like what you are agreeing to is intrinsically repulsive, such as “young people should take pride in their appearance.” But don’t look as if you agree quite yet, because then you’ll get swept up in her upcoming justification. For example, people say an awful lot of bad things about Adolf Eichmann, but at least his uniform was always spotless. Very neat man, good posture. We need more youths like that these days, taking a bit of pride in themselves.

That sort of thing.

3. The Flirts

When someone sultrily whispers; “Hi there, is this seat taken,” then if you were to shut your eyes and imagine what you’d like them to look like before actually looking then you would never be pleasantly surprised. For one thing, they tend to have more chins than you’d have anticipated.

It is usually quite nice to be flattered, but as they remark on how much they like your haircut, or your shirt, or your magnificent blue eyes, you cannot shake the mental picture of a farmer stroking a pig’s back to calm it down as his other hand reaches for the stun gun and knife.

Unlike the bores and the crazies, the flirts will ask you questions. Ceaselessly, in fact. About every damn topic they can think of. This is because they once read a book that said men love the feeling of importance they get when they are asked questions, but I always feel that since I know that they know that, the effect is rather spoiled. Also, if they know that I know that they know that, then it just feels like they are going through the motions like a horny automaton, going by the book time and time again in the hope of one day snaring someone as ugly and lonely as they are.

Good luck to them. The same book must also have said that perfume should be applied until you have reached saturation point for the fabric of your ghastly clothes, and that make-up should be applied with a grouting trowel.

2. The Woebegone

They sigh as they scale the slight step onto the train, hand shaking on the rail, and when they do sink slowly into a seat it looks remarkably like a sped up video of a decomposing body recorded in time lapse.

You might try to get on with your crossword puzzle, but your concentration will wither. There is something quite un-ignorable about a person who is making wheezing noises a few inches from your ear. Their damp cough is giving you concerns, and your brain’s internal thesaurus, normally rustling away on your morning crossword, feels suddenly overwhelmed by words like “contagion” and “infection” and “leaking”.

Sneak a look, and you’ll notice that above that shiny slimy nose are two haunted pools of ocular distress. Oops, you looked up, and now they will almost certainly try to engage you in conversation. Their opening gambit will inevitably be “How are you?”

Innocuous sounding, perhaps, but it is designed to illicit the easily given “fine.” This then gives them the liberty to tell you how they are feeling. And as you might have guessed, it’s not “fine.”

Boom, suddenly you’re getting hit with lurid details about the side-effects of their new prescription that wouldn’t sound out of place in one of those documentaries about wasting diseases in the 1800s. They seem to almost relish the description as they tell you that their doctor doesn’t know what to do with them, and that they’ve been though three bandages for their wound this week already. “It’s all the pus, you see, it’s soaks through quite quickly,” they’ll earnestly confide.

The best response is not to offer advice, but rather to say “uh-huh… yup… oh dear… uh-huh…” until either you need to get off the train or they finally die of whatever is making them cough so phlegmatically at the end of every tortuous sentence. (That same hacking pause is also your window of opportunity to vacate your seat, should you reach the former before the merciful latter embraces them.)

1. The Merry

“Woooooooo!” they’ll say, as they grin at you from about three inches away.

A modest volume of alcohol will worsen the traits of all of the people described above; the bore, the crazy, the flirt and the woebegone; as their inhibitions are lowered and they feel that they absolutely must tell you all about Saabs before 1989/ where foreigners can go/ how long it’s been since they indulged in physical carnality/ what the colour of their mucus signifies.

A larger volume of alcohol produces a new monster, more terrible than any that have gone before. This monster is one that primarily wants to be your best friend, but might also be sick on your shoes, divulge all of its personal secrets and start a fight with you, all in the same ten minutes.

They might have been drunk when they got on the train, or they might have bought their alcohol from the trolley; giving rise to the fantastically tautological statement; “I’m drinking to celebrate my discovery that they sell alcohol on trains,” reinforced by another “Woooooooo!”

Any attempt to ignore them and get on with your crossword will be rebuffed with “You don’t want to do that. Have a drink. Woooooooo!” and any attempt to listen to your mp3 player will be countered with “What are you listening to? You can have one earphone in and I’ll have the other, then we can both listen! Have a drink! Woooooooo!” and any attempt to gently coerce them into silence by dint of disinterest in anything they say or do will be rendered pointless with “You don’t say much, do you? But that’s ok, I’m the chatty one and you’re the silent one. That’s what makes us such a good match for each other. Woooooooo!”


Then, one day, you might finally get some peace. There’s hardly anyone in the train carriage, and astonishingly no-one seems interested in talking to you. At long last, you get to do your crossword. But a few words later, and you’re bored. You look up. There is someone sitting across from you, and they aren’t doing anything except looking out of the window and smiling. As you open your mouth to speak, spare a minute to wonder; should I perhaps just leave them alone? Can random conversations with strangers lead to interesting discussions on topics of mutual interest, or friendships that would otherwise have slipped away forever, or even a wonderful romance that started in the middle of nowhere on the 1800 train to Edinburgh. So, should I say hello? Or should I just leave this person alone, looking out of the window?

If the person sitting across from you is me, then yes; you damn well should.

Top five ways to improve your next business presentation

Monday, 15 February 2010

“Presentations are the business of business.” Put that on your business cards, and everyone will see that you mean business. Or possibly buzzness, since buzzwords and buzzphrases should be at the top of your list of things to try to change your presentation from a time killer to a killer time. (buzzwords are important at every stage of your career.)

Anyway, ever do a presentation and feel the energy sapping from your colleagues and your strategic momentum just dry up? Of course you haven’t, because those phrases make no sense, but if you can learn how to turn the power of buzz to your advantage then soon your presentations will be helping you to “get” that “go” you need to be go getting with the best getters of go. Synergistically.

Making sense yet? Let’s check to see if your presentations currently have what it takes with a few questions:

During your presentations, are your colleagues currently characterised by their sleep ‘n’ lethargy? Soon they’ll characterised by their leapin’ energy.

Does your lack of content make you look facile and moronic? Streamline those same few facts into a concept-driven seminar which makes your selection of the essential gist look freestyle focu-centric.

Is your data so foreboding that you don’t know where to start? Chuck almost all of it away, and make a colour-coded flowchart.

Have I hyped this sufficiently? Then let’s kick off;

5. Use a pie chart

There are 360 degrees of reasons to use one of these Circles of Knowledge; too many to explain with mere prose, unfortunately. Explanation of the many reasons to use a pie chart cannot be done without (ironic) recourse to a pie chart. (Click to enlarge)

4. Power Suits

content is one thing, how you deliver it is another. You’ll agree that we’ve got content covered with pie charts (pie covers a multitude of sins) so now, how to deliver it with poise, energy, and massive shoulders?

That’s right, reach back into the 80s and kit yourself out with the finest in shoulder- elevating, waist-constricting tailoring that tapers from neck to toe like an elegant, pinstriped carrot of confidence.

3. Concept driven content

So it’s the night before the presentation, you’ve got your diagrams, you’re ironing your power suit, you think you might run through your talk and oh my god! You forgot to think of anything to say!

Calm down, or you’ll crease that exquisite suit. Having nothing to say is not a problem; in fact, it is exactly what you want.

Just think about your presentation from your colleagues’ perspective; they don’t want to be burdened with facts and words and blah blah blah and such; they want to leave that room feeling enervated, as if a contribution has been made, as if they have had their mind expanded. You can’t do that with facts.

If your presentation is a gold mine, then facts are the beams and concepts are the explosives, and you’ll admit that you can’t open a rich new seam with a beam. That’s just ridiculous. You’ll need some high grade conceptsplosives to blow that seam wide open. Hell yeah!

(You might equally argue that you can’t hold up the roof of a mine using explosives, but hey! let’s not over-consider the metaphor. Remember, if you have to think twice, it’s not worth thinking at all.) Alternatively, just blow the roof off for an open-cast mine of glinting concept.

Stick to concepts so that if anyone asks any difficult fact-based questions (So what were your sales figures? Did you produce any results whatsoever? Why do our accounts have an unaudited £100,000 hole in them?), just advise them to stop getting so bogged down in details, refer back to the grand concept and explain it again, as if they didn’t understand it the first time. They might persevere, but keep giving the same answer and they’ll give up eventually.

2. Audience interactivity

“What do you think?”

Ask this question to a colleague, suddenly, a few minutes into your presentation, and watch as all of the sphincter-meltingly intense concentration of everyone in the room re-focuses into the face of the hapless recipient of your so-simple sounding query. Oops, turns out they weren’t paying attention.

“Uhn, um, er,” they’ll gibber, as you patiently wait with absolutely no facial clues to what they should say as they literally shrivel up and die of embarrassment. Once they’ve managed a faltering sentence or two that vaguely suggests agreement with whatever you were just saying, thank them earnestly and continue as if nothing happened.

Now everyone is paying attention with the same level of adrenaline-pumped perfect memory for your next words as if you’d just shot their colleague in the chest. They don’t want to be the next fool to make a twonk of themselves by being caught daydreaming, and they'll remember what you said.

Be warned; don’t try this either on interns or on that chap from accounts who’s making notes. They are taking in every word you say, in the former case in the same way that a new sheet of fly paper catches every fly and in the latter case in the same way as a spider catches all the juiciest flies to quote back to you later at the meeting when you have to justify spending hundreds of pounds on “power suit expenses.”

1. Provide drinks and biscuits

“Oh, we have catering staff for that, it’s out of my control” you might say. “The biscuits are always terrible, but there’s nothing we can do,” you would chortle knowingly, before clapping me on the shoulder and getting your fucking arm broken for touching me as if I’m your friend or care about your patronising dismissal of my advice.

I know that the normal biscuits have a taste that makes your face do that twitchy-inward-sucky thing without you even meaning it to, and the coffee tastes like it’s been filtered through a cat rather than cafetiere, but I’m telling you to do something about it yourself.

For a little extra expense, your colleagues’ stupid little faces will light up with delight. “Ooh, nice biscuits!” they’ll cry joyfully. “They’re for us, right?” they’ll add worriedly, before falling on them like chocolate-deprived wolves at your slightest nod of assent.

With nice biscuits, it doesn’t even matter what you say. When they think of your presentation, they will remember bliss and happiness.
Promotion and a handy dismissal of those rather curious account gaps in your department will be yours before you can say, “yes, they were from Mark’s and Spencer’s. I agree, they do taste better than the normal ones, sir. Ha ha, good one sir, of course I’ll join you for golf this weekend.”

When they said no one ever made it to the top without getting their hands dirty, this is what they meant; crumbs under the fingernails.
Monday, 8 February 2010
No new article today, as I've been spending all my time fiddling with two of my existing articles for a competition which is being adjudicated today ( Very Top Five Horrific Stories Which Became Disney Films and Very Top Five Freaky Funguses). I’ll update this post to say how that’s gone.

Update: Mighty victory! I was 1st in the competition for Funguses. The judge didn't like the Disney films one (personal lack of preference for the subject matter, he said.)

The competiton was the Edinburgh Writers' Club Article competition.

Very Top Five Carnival 2nd Edition

Monday, 1 February 2010

It’s blog carnival time. This time around, almost no-one could count up to five. When I said funny top five lists in the blog description, people chose to interpret either one, two or all three of these as voluntary; so we have some lists, and some lists of five, and some of them are funny.

Shamefully, only one managed all three; a list of five that is intended to be funny. I’ve put that one at the top of the list. Well done.

Some managed zero out of three; I was sent some posts on “sheet metal specification” and “default G codes for user application”. These all failed to make the grade for being neither a list, a list of five, or funny, or even interesting. If I wasn’t so spiritually generous I would almost think they hadn’t read the carnival submission notes.


Chris presents Top 5 Reasons Why Pro MMA Fighters are Like Prostitutes posted at Martial Development.

nissim ziv presents Career: Quotes about Careers Goals & Inspirational Career Quotes posted at Job Interview Guide

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."

Chris Dolley presents Fashion: The Spring Lamb Catalogue posted at BOOK VIEW CAFE BLOG.
swagat presents Did u really mean that buddy??? posted at Its all in here

Gracie Turner presents 100 Little Ways You Can Dramatically Improve Your Writing posted at Online

swagat presents Wittiest One Liners.... posted at Its all in here, saying, "Wittiest one liners"

Joshua Seth presents The 3 Es Of Professional Speaking posted at Joshua Seth Blog.

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.

Technorati tags: the top five carnival, blog carnival.

Very Top Five... Rude Poems of Robert Burns

Monday, 25 January 2010

January 25th is Burns Night, and round the world you'll see great fatty puddings tucking into some haggis. People in Scotland will be reciting Burns’ “Ode To a Haggis,” and others will be celebrating the Diaspora, thinking pleasantly of the country in which their ancestors clearly couldn't stand living, while trying not to wonder too much about what those pink wobbly bits in their haggis are (diced sheeps' lungs, if you’re curious).

Anyway, Burns night is a celebration of the 18th Century poet Robert Burns, also known as Rabbie Burns, Scotland’s National Bard (or just The Bard) and the Ploughman Poet (and, as Burns might explain; “it’s not fields I’m ploughing! Whoar! Know what I mean, missus? Honk honk. Ooh er.”)

He popularised Auld Lang Syne (A song performed by everyone yearly, leaving just enough time between renditions to make you forget the words but think you can remember them. New years' alcohol doesn't help this.)

Burns was extraordinarily prolific, and wrote hundreds of poems before his death (from heart disease aged 37). He wrote the poem “My love is like a red, red rose,” and “Ae Fond Kiss”, and others which are all very romantic and that’s all good and fine. But he wasn’t called the people’s poet for nothing, and there’s nothing that the proles like more than rude jokes, particularly if it’s a celebrity telling them.

I’ve helpfully translated some of the Scottish words into English as I go along. Just to explain, Scots is a separate language from English, and although modern Scottish people speak English instead of Scots, they still use a large number of Scots words, seemingly designed to irritate everyone who thought that they could understand English, such as foreign tourists, English people, and most other Scots.

All of these words feel immensely solid and satisfying to intone, particularly when spoken in a broad accent. E.g. “Och, git oota ma pus, ya bawbag! Jings!” which literally means “[general exclamation], get out of my face, you testicle! [general exclamation]!” (That’s not a Burns original, I should mention). Of course, Scots sounds very similar to English, but because of those misplaced-sounding vowels and different contractions and words, hearing the Scottish language makes you think the speaker has suffered a devastating stroke, and even seeing it written makes you pity the writer for the terrible, intractable dyslexia which has rendered their words so illegible.)

Anyway, let’s kick aff:

5. Twa wives:
"There was twa wives, and twa witty wives,
As e'er play'd houghmagandie,
And they coost oot, upon a time,
Out o'er a drink o brandy;
Up Maggie rose, and forth she goes,
An she leaves auld Mary flytin,
And she farted by the byre-en'
For she was gaun a shiten.

She farted by the byre-en',
She farted by the stable;
And thick and nimble were her steps
As fast as she was able:
Till at yon dyke-back the hurly brak,
But raxin for some dockins,
The beans and pease cam down her thighs,
And she cackit a' her stockins."

Some of these songs are only rude because the words used in them have gained new meanings between the 16th century and today. Others are genuinely foul-mouthed, written intentionally as such by Burns. Bonus points for guessing which is which.

This one is about two women enjoying an affair (“houghmagandie” means something like hanky panky) possibly with each other, the poem isn’t entirely clear on this, but it seems likely as they then go to sleep together after a drink of brandy.) Maggie then gets up to go to relieve herself, but alas! She has left it too late, and while looking for some dock leaves (rather good for wiping one's bottom) she shits down her legs (“cackit a’ her stockins.”).

4. Reply to a trimming epistle: Robert Burns Answer:

"What ails ye now, ye lousie bitch,
To thresh my back at sic a pitch?
Losh man! hae mercy wi' your natch,
Your bodkin's bauld,
I did na suffer ha’f sae much
Frae Daddie Auld.

What tho' at times when I grow crouse,
I gi’e their wames a random pouse,
Is that enough for you to souse
Your servant sae?
Gae mind your seam, ye prick the louse,
An' jag the flae.

King David o' poetic brief,
Wrocht 'mang the lasses sic mischief
As fill’d his after life wi' grief,
An' bloody rants ,
An' yet he's rank'd amang the chief
O' lang syne saunts .

And maybe, Tam, for a' my cants,
My wicked rhymes, an' drucken rants,
I'll gie auld cloven Clooty's haunts
An unco slip yet,
An' snugly sit amang the saunts
At Davie's hip yet.

But, fegs, the Session says I maun
Gae fa' upo' anither plan,
Than garren lasses cowp the cran
Clean heels owre body ,
An' sairly thole their mither's ban
Afore the howdy.

This leads me on to tell for sport,
How I did wi' the Session sort—
Auld Clinkum at the inner port
Cry’d three times, ‘Robin!’
‘Come hither lad, an’ answer for't,
‘Ye're blam'd for jobbin’.’

Wi' pinch I put a Sunday's face on,
An' snoov'd awa before the Session—
I made an open fair confession;
I scorn't to lie;
An' syne Mess John, beyond expression,
Fell foul o' me.

A furnicator lown he call'd me,
An' said my fau’t frae bliss expell'd me;
I own'd the tale was true he tell'd me,
‘But what the matter,’
Quo' I, ‘I fear unless ye geld me,
‘I'll ne'er be better!’

‘Geld you!’ quo' he, ‘an' whatfore no,
If that your right hand, leg or toe,
Should ever prove your sp'ritual foe,
‘You shou’d remember
‘To cut it aff, an' whatfore no,
‘Your dearest member.’

‘Na , na,’ quo' I, ‘I'm no for that,
‘Gelding's nae better than 'tis ca't,
‘I'd rather suffer for my faut,
‘A hearty flewit,
‘As sair owre hip as ye can draw 't!
‘Tho' I should rue it.

‘Or, gin ye like to end the bother,
‘To please us a' – I've just ae ither,
‘When next wi' yon lass I forgather,
‘Whate'er betide it,
‘I'll frankly gie her 't a' thegither,
‘An' let her guide it.’

But, Sir, this pleas'd them warst ava,
An' therefore, Tam, when that I saw,
I said ‘Gude night,’ and cam' awa',
An' left the Session;
I saw they were resolved a'
On my oppression."

This poem was written to a specific recipient, and since the first line is “What is your problem now, you lousy bitch?” you can probably imagine that it isn’t a friendly poem. And no, Burns goes on a massive rant where he mercilessly berates the poor person to whom this is intended. It would clearly take a long time to explain all this; if you're interested, a full English translation is here.

3. Johnie Lad, cock up your beaver:
When first my brave Johnie lad came to this town,
He had a blue bonnet that wanted the crown;
But now he has gotten a hat and a feather,
Hey, brave Johnie lad, cock up your beaver!
Cock up your beaver, and cock it fu' sprush,
We'll over the border, and gie them a brush;
There's somebody there we'll teach better behaviour,
Hey, brave Johnie lad, cock up your beaver!

Disappointingly, “cock” means feather and “beaver” means hat. So the line “cock up your beaver” means a feather in your hat. Aw.

Try saying that to your friends instead of “that's a feather in your hat” and then try explaining to them that actually you are being cultured and using 18th century Scots’ words. I bet they won't believe you.

2. My girl she’s airy:
"My girl she's airy, she's buxom and gay,
Her breath is as sweet as the blossoms in May;
A touch of her lips it ravishes quite.
She's always good natur'd, good humor'd, and free;
She dances, she glances, she smiles with a glee;
Her eyes are the lightenings of joy and delight,
Her slender neck, her handsome waist,
Her hair well buckl’d, her stays well lac’d,
Her taper white leg with an et, and a,c,
For her a, b, e, d, and her c, u, n, t,
And Oh! For the joys of a long winter night!!!"

This one is in English, and also just pure filth. Burns loves that sort of thing. Although he clearly thought that putting commas between the letters makes rude words magically not rude and acceptable in a poem. and three exclamation marks!!! That's very gauche.

Gay means happy in old fashioned English, remember. This isn’t Maggie or Mary from the poem above.

Hey! Try reciting this one to a loved one on Valentine’s Day instead of Red, Red Rose. She’ll love it.

1. Epitaph to Hugh Logan:
"Here lyes Squire Hugh--ye harlot crew,
Come mak your watter on him,
I’m shuir that he weel pleased wad be
To think ye pished upon him."

This one says “Hey everyone, Squire Hugh is buried here, come and piss on him. He’d like it if you pissed on him.”

This is an epitaph. Burns wrote this as a suggestion of what he thought should go on this recently deceased man’s headstone. Burns is a very naughty man.

Very Short Five... Favourite Metaphors

Monday, 18 January 2010
I'm writing an extra-special Burns night spectacular for next Monday (which is Burns night) so this week I thought I would whet your whistle with a collection of my five favourite metaphors (and similes) from my previous articles.

5. “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.”

4. “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.”
3. “I am sans vagin, which may lead you to question my authority when it comes to dispensing womanly advice like some sort of demented agony aunt. But that’s just the point; I’m the man on the other side, as it were. I’m a defected agony aunt, like during the Cold War but without the threat of mutually assured destruction (Or maybe that’s not so far off the truth, fellow relationship cynics? No? Zing!).

2. [Advice for attracting a man]: “Old fashioned muskets were notoriously inaccurate, and useless at ranges of over 50 yards or so. However, aiming at waist height would increase the chances of a hit, and when a whole battalion of soldiers fired in a concerted effort, some of the shots were bound to strike. Same advice goes for you: Get together with your friends, go out in large groups, aim low, specifically at the groin, and take them by surprise.”

1. “Interviews are the crusts on the toast of society. Nobody likes them, but you have to bite through them before you reach the moist goal of buttery employment.”

Very Top Five... Real-life knights who’d save you from a dragon

Monday, 11 January 2010
Back in the day, if you got kidnapped by a dragon, you couldn’t move for knights charging in to slay the evil fire lizard and rescue yo' ass. These days you might be concerned about the conspicuous lack of dudes in armour, but there are knights even now; every year, the Queen elevates a few worthy chaps to the rank of Knight of the British Empire.

Which is just as well, because we’ll need someone to save you from that dragon. Such as…

5. Sir Chris Hoy

Chris Hoy was knighted in 2009 for winning three gold medals at the 2008 Olympic games, so he’s just the sort of all-round action hero type you’d want to come to wrest you from the dragon’s grasp.

He’s a cyclist, so although knights of yore would have horses to tank around on (big destriers that breathe in corn and breathe out steam) Chris Hoy would have a bike instead (which is pretty much just as good as a horse except he can also do wheelies, which are rad.)

However, despite these plus points, those heavy gold medals would weigh Sir Chris down and, even worse, dragons are able to smell gold, so it would know he was coming. Then, before you could say, “Quick! Strangle it with your inner tube, Chris!” he’d have been disappointingly disembowelled and his medals chucked onto the horde (because all self-respecting dragons have a horde.)

4. Sir David Attenborough

David Attenborough, the 83 year old doyen of nature programme narration, might not seem an obvious choice for the sort of chap to save you from a dragon, but that’s because you’ve failed to consider Sir David’s animal powers.

He could call his animal buddies to help rescue you, but to be honest there’s no other creature that could go one-on-one with a dragon. Maybe a troop of baboons or something could distract it while Sir David snuck in round the back and climbed into the tower on a rope (you’re being held in a tower, obviously). But he’s an old man, so there’s not much chance of that sort of rescue attempt.

Alternatively, David Attenborough would probably empathise with the dragon using his great natural charisma, meaning he could convince it to calm down and let you escape. Unfortunately, he might appreciate the dragon’s need to take prisoners as part of its natural behaviour and leave you to be eaten. Sorry, that’s just how nature works.

3. Sir Richard Branson

Sir Richard Branson, billionaire owner of Virgin, certainly has the cash necessary to tool himself up in preparation for his scrap with the dragon. And he likes challenges, if his extreme sailing jaunts are anything to go by.

Also, he has a spaceship, Virgin Galactic’s Spaceship One. I’m not sure how this helps fight the dragon, but perhaps if they got involved in some sort of high altitude dogfight it would come in useful?

However, despite these plus points, Sir Richard Branson loses kudos for his repeated previous failures to tackle another fire breathing monster; the hot air balloon. He tried and failed to circumnavigate the globe several times in the 90s.

You’d want someone with a spotless record in this area before you were totally comfortable with them riding to your rescue, spaceship or not.

2. Sir Tim Berners-Lee

Sir Tim invented the internet, putting him in a prime position to fight that dragon. He could look up Wikipedia to find out all about different types of dragon; or go on Ebay to stock up on dragon lances and fire-retardant underwear; or log onto Facebook to ask for dragon-fighting advice.

He could organise a flash-mob to save you with his internet buddies. All these things are no problem for sir Tim, after all, he invented the interwebz with his l33t skillz, lol. That dragon’s going to be pwned. All your base are belong to Tim. Etc.

1. Sir Patrick Stewart

Need rescued? Sir Patrick Stewart will… make it so.

Cue Star Trek Music!

While it’s true that Richard Branson has a spaceship, it can barely make it out of orbit. Patrick Stewart has the USS Enterprise, a Galaxy-Class ship with phasers AND photon torpedoes. Hell yeah! Any dragon tries to fight him; he’ll just photon torpedo it in the face. Maybe all the dragons in the galaxy have turned up? He’ll just set phasers to kerblam! and lay waste, Captain Jean Luc Picard style. Yeah!

And he’s Professor Charles Xavier as well, so he’d just use his mind powers to airlift you to safety from the tower.

Alternatively, he could just impress the dragon with his marvellous acting. It would be so enraptured by his commanding stage presence and rich, mellifluous tones that it would gladly acquiesce to his demands to release you, in between the calls for encores and rapturous applause.

Very Top Five... materials for religious buildings

Sunday, 3 January 2010
Throughout all of prehistory and right up until the 1880s the tallest buildings in the world were religious ones; first the pyramids and then cathedrals and steeples and whatnot.

This was pretty much until the commercial buildings of the 20th century displaced them. “Ah ha,” you might postulate, “but didn’t commerce effectively replace religion in terms of unparalleled societal grandeur and hence one could suggest the tallest buildings of any epoch are a sure indicator of the main driving factor of a civilisation?” Quite possibly. That’s a wee sideline of anthropological analysis for you there.

So anyway, back in the day, getting the building materials right for your religious buildings was pretty much top of your list of priorities and, generally speaking, stone is pretty good stuff for building with; it’s hardwearing, abundant, weatherproof and strong. Just ask any engineer, and he’ll tell you. (Actually he’ll probably say “How do you know I’m an engineer? And who the hell are you? How did you get into my house? Get out! Argh!”)

But sometimes God demands specific materials. So when some sweaty prophet staggers from his manky shack and starts gibbering about towers of stacked horse livers then suddenly the construction logistics have gone right over the engineers’ heads.

Then if the engineers moan about it you can quite justifiably set fire to them and hire newer, more suitably religious ones who trust God’s dictats more than they trust the so-called laws of physics. God built the world out of nothing but honest hard work. Explain that, physics.

5. Rongbuk Monastery, Stone (Tibet)

Let’s start off with stone. As I said, one of the main reasons for its use is its abundance. The chaps who built Rongbuk Monastery made a savvy choice in picking the part of the world with more rock than anywhere else; the Himalaya mountains.

This is a fantastically religious site, as there is little else to do apart from sit around, look at the great big silent mountains and compare yourself to them in a vaguely spiritual manner. Ta-dah, instant religiousness, plus it would feel like penitence to just reach the place, since at 17,000 feet it's the highest temple in the world. Surely any religion would be proud to have it as one of its temples.

As it happens, it’s Buddhists who are fortunate enough to own the place. Buddhists are excellent religionists in that they are dead keen on the praying and dedication aspects of religion, although they lose points because they hardly ever have holy wars, and how can someone be serious about their religion if they aren’t willing to stab someone in the face to establish their brand of peace and tolerance?

Ha! That was irony.

4. Tōdai-ji, Wood (Japan)

Buddhists again, having a go with another building material that’s as common as trees in a forest; wood.

Wood compares unfavourably to stone in one aspect, in that it is infinitely more flammable. The temple has burned down twice, although that’s not bad considering it’s over a thousand years old. There have been hundreds of earthquakes in that time, and stone is not famed for its ability to bend and sway. So I feel that wood was a good choice.

The Great Hall of the Tōdai-ji is the biggest wooden building in the world; good going for a building which was built in 1709 (After one o’ them naughty fires destroyed the old one.) But if you think it's impressive that the largest wooden building is over 300 years old, wrap your mind around this next factsicle; the old temple was 30% larger than the modern one.

3. Harmandir Sahib, Gold (India)

“Right, this temple is to be the spiritual centre of Sikhism,” the designers were clearly told. “Bear in mind the following two points; 1. Build the place out of a material that looks really, really impressive, and 2. Money’s no object.”

So they built it out of gold. Nice one. Makes the marble and paint of St. Peter’s Basilica looks like balsa wood held together with chewing gum.

I remember once hearing that the Harmandir Sahib, if melted down, would have a massive effect on the international gold market, but I can’t find the statistic, so I am increasingly certain that whatever I heard either A.) was made up or B.) I dreamt it. But there is an awful lot of gold there.

2. Sedlec Ossuary, bones (Czech Republic)

Stone; it’s hardwearing and easy to find. It’s just lying around. However, you need a lot, and while not everyone will know where to find the nearest quarry anyone you ask will know where you can get your hands on a few bones. Every little helps, and if it’s in the name of God you don’t even have to ask them at all, brilliant!

Actually, what happened was the abbot at Sedlec sprinkled some particularly holy soil in the graveyard, and suddenly Sedlec was the “it” graveyard. Anyone who was anyone wanted to be buried there, and soon the place was full.

Then a dude called Frantisek Rint had a marvellous idea. Why not dig up the skeletons and use them to make chandeliers, coats of arms, and garlands of skulls? The answer would probably be “Because that’s an insane idea, Mr Rint, you crazy madman,” but no-one was around to offer this counter-opinion, so that’s what happened.

The ossuary contains the skeletons of 70,000 people. Makes that box you keep your baby teeth in look pretty sub-par.

1. Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady of Seven Sorrows, Mud (Ghana)

Well, mud is not as tough as stone, and it’s not as impressive as gold (or even bone), and it’s not as flexible as wood. But something has to be said for using what you have. And Ghana has a lot of mud and even more sunshine, which dries the mud into a quite-tough, almost-weatherproof covering. Good enough, nuff said.