Archive for the ‘humour’ Category

Rituals of Violence

Wednesday, June 25th, 2008

As a prelude to a radio programme on the rituals of violence, Laurie Taylor writes about his memories of following my own football team, York City. The last line is a great image…

I’ve supported York City ever since I took up my lecturing job at the university in the late sixties. There have been a few magical moments over the years since then – a 3-0 win over Manchester United at Old Trafford in the 1995-6 League Cup – but most weeks the fans have to dine on pretty thin gruel.

Like other supporters of lesser teams, though, they keep themselves going by telling jokes about their own team and its relative lack of success. They’ll talk about the time the new and much criticized striker finally earned a corner and the entire team did a lap of honour. And they’re bound to come up with the story of these two York fans fighting each other on the terrace. A policeman jumps over the barrier to separate them and says ‘Why are you two fighting. You’re on the same side.’ And then the fellow who started it all points to his protagonist and says ‘It’s not my fault. It’s his. He tried to shove a season ticket in my pocket.’

At some matches the only thing that enlivened the proceedings was the prospect of a little hooliganism. Even though visiting teams rarely brought more than a couple of hundred fans with them, these were routinely segregated from York supporters by a line of constables.

All was usually relatively quiet for the first half-hour of the match. Nothing much more than the routine chanting of insults between the two groups of fan. But then, after a particularly nasty foul, or a dramatic goal-mouth incident, matters would escalate and fans from each side would attempt to breach the police line, waving their fists in the air and shoving and pushing.

From close-up, it might have been disturbing but viewed from the other end of the pitch, it had a deliciously ritual quality. Half-a-dozen fans who were braver than the rest would shove against the police line, while their rivals would shove back the other way. And so it went on with neither side striking a blow until one fan – there seemed an element of arbitrariness about this – was picked on by the police and then, to cheers and chants all round, escorted along the touchline and out of the ground.

In the old days what added even more to the ritual quality of the hooliganism was that at half-time away supporters were often allowed through the police line so they could join home supporters in the queue at the tea stall.

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull: The Abridged Script | The Editing Room

Thursday, June 19th, 2008

This abridged script of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull pretty much sums up my feelings about the film:

HARRISON gets away, only to find himself in the middle of a NUCLEAR TEST SITE that is apparently located within walking distance of AREA 51.


Holy shit, a nuclear bomb! I’ll hide in this lead-lined fridge to protect myself from the radiation that will permeate the area shortly after the ten-million degree heat generated by the blast is done obliterating every single object in a 5 mile radius!

Somehow, this WORKS. HARRISON FORD emerges from the fridge with his face covered in black soot, holding a sign that reads ‘ouch.’

Read in full, especially the bit where


To hell via Chicago

Tuesday, June 10th, 2008

I just got back from a great conference in Dallas organised by the chaps on the Visual Communications programme at the University of North Texas. I’ll write more about that when my brain catches up with me – suffice to say I really enjoyed it and met some fantastic people.

But I thought I should share the hellish experience I had on the way back. I wrote this at Edinburgh Airport and haven’t had a chance to edit it – it was one of those ‘get it out of my head in one go’ things…
My thanks to American Airlines for making my journey so, erm, eventful.

I arrived at Dallas Fort Worth airport well before time on Sunday for the flight to Edinburgh via Chicago and Heathrow. When I got there I saw the flight was delayed by an hour (thunderstorms in Chicago – the news was full of floods in Louisiana and other states, quite bad), but as this was the flight to Heathrow anyway it didn’t matter. The poor buggers going to Brussels were given a choice: go to Chicago and hope, go to Chicago and stay over, or stay in Dallas.
For me it was just a case of getting to Chicago and waiting till they’d refuelled.
So the flight to Chicago is packed, mainly with domestic flyers. I’m sat next to a young lad who clearly hasn’t flown before as he asks me all sorts of questions, like I’m the Ancient Mariner or something. He’s going to Jordan.

As the flight lands in Chicago, the pilot tells those of us going to Heathrow that we need to go to gate L8 and get a plane from there instead. So a few of us confirm what we’ve heard and, not knowing what time it’s going (the information screen just, very helpfully, says ‘on time’) we all leg it to L8 which is about half a mile away in the same terminal. You have to go through all the shops and things and step over people sitting down on the floor using their laptops or calling on their phones.
Eventually I get there and discover the flight to Heathrow isn’t going until 6pm, so an hour to kill. So I kill it – having gone to the desk to check this is the right flight. It is.

Come 6pm the flight just starts to board and as the guy at Dallas helpfully moved me forwards in the plane I’m one of the last groups to be called forward. I give the woman my boarding pass, she swipes it and… a red light flashes.
“You’re not on this flight you need to be on AA86” she says. That’s the flight I was on before, the one they told us to change. She shouts to another woman “is AA86 gone?” They’re still boarding, apparently. “You’d better run”.

So I run. It’s half a mile at least and everyone’s really slow and really fat and I’ve got my laptop bag on and my leg’s sore from a cramp that morning, and it’s hot hot hot.
I don’t think I’m going to make it but I run to the desk and see the words ‘Heathrow boarding” and throw myself in front of them, breathless. “Calm down sir, you’re fine” says one of the staff there. I don’t feel fine, I tell her, through gasps.

She scans my pass and checks me in and I go to join everybody else in the departure lounge. I don’t see any of the other people from the earlier flight and I wonder what happened to them.
There’s another flight letting people on and an attendant goes up to the girl and says ‘all done, let’s go’ and they both step on to the plane and I watch the bridge retract, leaving the plane alone on the tarmac. By now I’m beginning to catch my breath and I look around and see another passenger looking at the screen I’d seen earlier. “7.45” she says and I assume this is when my flight is going, which is too late for my connection to Edinburgh. So I get up to go to the desk to check I can make a later flight at Heathrow and I see the words “Heathrow: Boarded”. I look back to the window and I realise: that’s my fucking plane! And it’s going!

There are two passengers talking to a lone attendant at the desk and a religious-looking guy behind him. I decide not to be British and interrupt: “Excuse me, that’s my flight! I’m not in it!” I’m staying calm inwardly but screaming like a madman externally.
“Didn’t you hear the call?” she says. There was no call, I say. I was waiting for the call. In Britain if you check in but don’t get on the flight they shout your name from the rooftops. “I can’t get you on the flight, sir, there’s nothing I can do.”
“But my bag’s on there,” I say, at which point she thinks. The thing that surprises me about the US and Chicago in particular: the security is tight. At DFW I had to go through a body scanner that puffed compressed air at me and made some grinding noises, which interestingly had no one staffing it, so I suspect it was just some bicycle pumps and an old washing machine.
And there are no calls. At Chicago the only calls I heard were that members of the military service were welcome in the smoking area (which is public, so it’s hardly a perk) and that the current threat level is amber. And I think that’s what’s got her concerned so I press the issue: “How can the plane leave with my bag on it? Surely that’s a security risk?” One thing I know after Lockerbie is that they introduced rules that say baggage that’s checked in by a passenger can’t go if the passenger isn’t on the plane. Which is one of the reasons they make all those calls for “Passenger X” to get out of the bar or the duty free shop and get to the gate before they have to go through all the bags to get theirs off.
This hadn’t happened here, and they hadn’t even done a head count: 500 passengers checked in, only 499 on the plane equals, as Dickens might have said, a might cock up.

She took my name and disappeared for a minute, then came back with a man. “You’ll have to get the bridge back out there” she told him and he rushed me to the door. I stopped to gather my stuff, dropping bits everywhere.
Now you know that scene in Star Wars where Luke and Leia are running from Stormtroopers and they come to a retracted bridge? Luke nearly falls in but Leia pulls him back.
Well this was very nearly what happened as I ran after the little fat man but didn’t notice that he sidestepped into a control booth while I clattered towards the open door leading to the tarmac. He started moving the bridge while I steadied myself. Eventually it hit the plane and he, get this, *knocked* on the door! Like he was just popping round for a cup of sugar. God knows what they were thinking inside but after a few seconds the door opened and I fell inside, completely unable to speak, dropping things everywhere. The attendants smiled at me and asked for my boarding pass – but I’d lost it! I only had the ones for the first and last leg of the journey, not this one! “I’m in seat 23H” I said, remembering it from the ticket.
“I trust you” said the head woman – you trust me? It’s bloody amber alert out there and you TRUST me??
Suits me, I thought, and went to get to my seat, still dropping then picking things up.

I get to my seat and I’m sat next to a young woman who smiles at me like “bugger I thought I was going to be sitting on my own” but then an attendant comes up to me and says “that row’s free” and points to the back row in the front cabin, lots of lovely seats all unoccupied except for one American woman who spreads herself over three of them and says “they’re mine” while miming sleep. Fine, I think, and sit down, still sweating from the half mile jog.
After this the flight seems to go smoothly except there’s a screaming baby up the front and across the aisle from me there are four American lads who don’t know the meaning of the words ‘quiet whisper’ who talk and laugh all the way through the flight. The woman next to me knows them (turns out she’s their teacher) and tells them twice to be quiet so others can sleep, which they are for about five minutes. At about 4am UK time I tell them to shut up too and that works for about three minutes. Bastards.

The flight makes up time and we land an hour late. I notice my connection to Edinburgh is actually half an hour later than I thought so I have time to make it. I rush off the plane to get the bus to Terminal 5 (third visit now, still don’t see what the fuss is about) and then through security, which is held up, as last time, by a lack of trays to put stuff in. Unlike last time I don’t have to hold a random baby while his mother folds up the push chair, but I do worry about the large old American lady who’s puffing away behind me while telling the staff she can’t go through the metal detector because she has a pacemaker.
I get through all that and rush to the gate… and the plane’s delayed anyway. Of course.

On the flight to Edinburgh I find I’m sat next to a compulsive throat clearer. But not just a normal bit of throat clearance – he makes a meal of it (well, not quite literally) getting a good run-up to it. Every few minutes. For the full 55 minutes of the journey plus the 20 minutes sitting on the tarmac. But at least I made my flight – I’m going to be on time getting back home despite everything!

The flight lands (during the flight the staff try to wheel the breakfast trolley up the aisle while the plane’s still ascending and all the meals slide out on to the floor, but as I got mine I don’t chalk that up as a personal event in teh catalogue of disasters) and we all go to belt 6 to get our bags. Now I remember joking with the guy at DFW as my bag disappeared behind him. “Will it get transferred all the way to Edinburgh?” I asked him. “It should” he said, “but this is an airline”. I watched it go off fearing I’d never see it again and wondering if I’d been insured for the trip.
Belt 6 goes round and bags appear. Last time I did this the first thing that appeared was a suitcase handle. Just the handle, with the airline luggage tag attached to it. No suitcase. Poor bugger, I thought and, judging from everyone else’s faces they were thinking the same too.

The belt went round. More bags. More bags. Then not so many bags. Then just a couple. Then more bags! But this was the next flight. Eventually I gave in and went to the baggage office.
“Was there any problem with the flight?” the guy asked me. “Any delays?” I wanted to tell him the full story but I thought it might get in the way of any film rights I could exploit, so I just murmured something about delays in Chicago. He typed something in to his computer. “It’s on the next flight” he said, “should be here at 12.30. Do you want us to send it on?” When he learned where I lived he said it wouldn’t arrive with me till tomorrow so I said I’d wait the 90 minutes. “You sure?” he said. “Oh yes” I said and then I went to have a little cry but couldn’t. So I sat down with a cup of tea (a real one! Yes!) and typed this.
I’m going to be writing a brief letter to American Airlines soon to suggest that their boarding procedures might need a little bit of tightening up. And maybe a few useful announcements in the airport instead of telling us we’re good to smoke if we’re soldiers or that we need to keep our baggage with us at all times. I’m beginning to think I learned that particular lesson.


Monday, April 14th, 2008

(Via Geek and Poke.)

Percentage wars

Sunday, March 30th, 2008

Anna Pickard in The Observer:

Marvellously, The Apprentice brings with it a welcome return of moronic businessisms, as candidates trot out trite examples of things that sound fine in brightly coloured motivational books, but idiotic when tumbling out of mouths.

A favourite is the search for the highest percentage. You may have thought that the highest percentage would be 100, but that would be naive and non-managerial.

For some time, it has not been enough to give 100 per cent effort. To impress, nothing less than 110 per cent is necessary. Or 150 per cent. Or 200 per cent. Percentage wars have broken out and 1,000 per cent is bandied about.

At this point, the notion of percentage flies out of the window and the contestants find themselves stuck in a ‘who can think of the biggest number’ competition. These are, apparently, some of the best new business minds in the country. Which terrifies me 38,476 per cent.

If medical education had progressed at the same rate as design education

Friday, March 14th, 2008

I started writing a post on this subject and it got to a 1000 words. Then I thought a picture would do so cobbled this together. It sums up my thinking far more concisely.

Click the image for a larger version.

What does no tip signify?

Tuesday, March 11th, 2008

I’m going to New York in April so this handy little guide (via Passive Aggressive Notes) is well-timed. But if a 10% tip indicates you hate the server and they suck, then what does no tip signify?

What a weird system…

‘Many struggle’ with arithmetic

Monday, March 3rd, 2008

According to the BBC “A quarter of adults have difficulties with mental arithmetic, a survey suggests.”

Presumably the other two thirds of the population are okay.

It’s magic!

Tuesday, February 12th, 2008

I’m giving a paper in New York in April on the way in which some design writers and designers describe creativity in almost magical terms.
Last night I woke up with an idea floating round my head – I want to do something a bit different from the usual dry conference paper and thought it might be an idea to write ‘extracts’ from books that feature magic but reinterpreted slightly.

Here’s my first attempt:

Gandalf looked at Frodo carefully. “Where is the ring?” he asked the hobbit.

“The ring?” stammered Frodo, trying not to look over to the fireplace where he had left the letter from his uncle.

“The ring” Gandalf repeated, moving slowly towards his little friend.

“Oh, that” said Frodo, giving in under the pressure of the wizard’s stare. He pointed to the hearth. “It’s over there. I don’t see what’s so special about it.”

Gandalf rose up – or as far as he could in the small burrow – and took a deep breath as he turned to see the open envelope. His eyes narrowed as he glimpsed a glint of cold metal. The ring!

In a pace he was there, picking up the envelope and allowing the ring to fall inside. But as it touched the bottom of the envelope and came close to his palm it seemed to burn him. Cursing, Gandalf let go of the package and it fell into the fire, incinerating the paper and leaving the ring sitting nestled in flame. “Now you will see what is so special about the ring,” he murmured to Frodo.

The hobbit crept forwards and, half hiding behind Gandalf he gazed in to the flames, expecting to see the ring melting on the coals. Instead he saw… “What’s happening?” he whispered.

“Magic!” exclaimed Gandalf. “No! Better than magic!” he corrected himself, grabbing a poker and pulling the glowing ring from the ashes. Frodo leant forwards to see a mysterious Elvish script engraved onto its surface. “ The ancient magic!” shouted Gandalf, “Typography!”

He stopped suddenly and peered intently at the cooling metal, grabbing it from the poker and, wincing slightly at the heat, he let his eyes drop, giving out a disappointed ‘Oh”.

“What’s wrong?” said Frodo, worried at the disappointment in his friend’s normally sparkling eyes.

Gandalf turned to face him slowly, a look of disgust on his face. He showed the ring to Frodo, the strange Elvish words still dancing with flame. “It’s Comic Sans”, he said. “I hate that font”.

The difference between broadsheet and tabloid

Monday, February 4th, 2008

The Guardian reports:

Chinese court upholds death sentence against businessman accused of defrauding investors in would-be ant-breeding scheme

Or as the Sun would report it if they cared about such things:

Ant and Dec-apitate

(Only British readers will get it)