By Gareth Edwards

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

The smell of success and the socks of despair.


More from the blog that aims to answer every possible question in the universe as sent in by you, the readers. Although if you aren’t reading this then sorry to have been presumptuous.

Why did humans decide on business cards?
In these days of carpets and clothing it’s not practical for humans to introduce themselves by scent-marking or bottom-sniffing. Besides we just don’t have the right glands, and our sense of smell is too unsophisticated to make the nuanced distinctions in odour needed to arrange a pack or society. So people have had to fall back on the next most obvious solution, using small pieces of cardboard to make subtle judgements about each-other's status on the basis of things like choice of font.

Did history correctly answer the Schleswig-Holstein Question?
No. In the examination history ran out of time, panicked and answered A to all of the remaining seventeen questions, one of which was the Schleswig-Holstein question. So the fundamental problem is that history never actually read the Schleswig-Holstein question, the actual answer to which was C.

Blu-Tac or drawing pins?
Drawing pins for red meat, Blu-tac for fish and chicken. With game you can use either but I recommend Sellotape.

What about those bloody immigrants eh?
A frighteningly-phrased question from this reader, but immigration has always been a massive problem as far as the British are concerned. Take the Indians. Boat-loads of British people immigrated into India and killed lots of them. Then they took over loads of things and didn’t even open any decent restaurants.  On the other hand there have also been problems with immigration into Britain. The worst example that we know of was the Normans, who came over here taking our jobs and harrowing our North. Possibly the Angles and Saxons were worse but we don’t know because they killed all the Romano-Celtic scribes so nobody knew how to write down the subsequent outrages. Maybe this is a good argument for having a basic literacy element in the citizenship test. Fundamentally, some people have been coming over here/going over there and stealing our/their jobs/culture/mammoths for some time and I suspect it may now be too late to get everyone to go back to where they all came from (i.e. The Rift Valley).

Where do all the socks go once they enter the washing machine?
The washing machine doesn’t destroy socks, but it does literally turn their world up side down, and round about half way through the spin cycle many of them begin to yearn for a better life. Some of the socks go on to further education, or travel, others may pen a semi-autobiographical rite-of-passage novel. These last ones encounter a lot of rejection from publishers banging on about how it’s hard to sell anything these days that isn’t a “genre” and eventually become disillusioned. In the end they try a succession of low-paid tutoring jobs then go back to being socks, but kind of angry deep down, so they go at the heel.

If "nemo" is Latin for no one, who did the clown fish find?
The clown fish found only the endless sea of always-absent meaning that Jacques Derrida called Différance. Also a really funny but dumb blue fish called Dory.

So now hopefully the birthday-candle of knowledge flickers ever-so-slightly brighter in the malevolent catacombs of endless chaos.  Why not send in your own questions on any subject big or small, before the tiny flame gutters and all is infinite darkness?

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Watching Telly with a Giant Lizard.


More answers to your questions on the things that really matter in the universe.

Who's gonna clean up this mess?
After many centuries of trial and error society has arranged this as follows - if the person that made the mess is under thirty years old it will be the job of their parents to clean it up (eg. all that Plasticine in the carpet or chronic unemployability), whereas if the person who made the mess is over thirty it will be the job of their children to clear it up (eg senility or Global Warming).

Why haven't I won the lottery?
I’m sorry to say that this is your own fault. Like everybody, you have already won several major cash prizes and probably a bucketful of I-pods too. Like everybody you will have had letters and pop-ups and phone calls from Spanish robots telling you about it. But you haven’t shown ANY interest. You haven’t even replied. Automated junk mail distributors are people too, and inevitably you’ve hurt their feelings, and word has got round in the wider cash-prize-distributing community that you simply can’t be bothered. You may say that buying a lottery ticket is proof of a genuine interest in winning the lottery, but people often buy things not because they hope to use them but because they feel they ought to, otherwise why would we have dental floss?

If someone is "out of your league" does that mean football or cricket?
Neither. It’s a reference to the Hanseatic trading league of Baltic city states from the 13th to 17th Century. This is good news for romantics because it means you can entice someone you find attractive into your league by offering them lucrative trade in furs, rye and resin. If that doesn’t work then a punitive military expedition to set fire to their navy could force them into some kind of treaty arrangement leading to nights out, country walks and maybe more.

When should you swap your camel?
This kind of insensitive question makes me very angry. Camels are not some commodity to be swapped and bartered at the nearest oasis like so many carpets, basket of dates, or daughters.

What is Bad Science?
“Bad” Science describes science midway between “Evil” Science and “Perfectly Fine” Science under the Wissenshaftsmoralit√§t Klassifizierung, which was the old system for measuring mad scientists before that all went metric and we had to start talking about Boffins and Kilo-boffins (thank you Brussels). Under the old system, a mad scientist who created a giant lizard to destroy New York would be an Evil Scientist whereas a mad scientist who created a giant lizard to watch repeats of Have I Got News For You? on the Dave Channel would be a Perfectly Fine Scientist. A Bad Scientist would typically create a Giant Lizard that would tag park benches, play its music too loud on the bus and end up with an ASBO.

Is it time yet?
It is time yet, and has been since the beginning of time. The more worrying issue is that at some point it won’t be time anymore, but until that happens we’ve still got time.

So hopefully that’s cleared a few things up, but if anything is still bothering you within the great sphere of all creation, then ask away.


Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Vince Cable and the Kaiser's poorly zebra


More answers to your questions on the subject of everything in the universe.

Who owns the gang of horses currently roaming free in the otherwise quiet cul-de-sacs of Ashford, Kent?
The Kaiser does. In 1860 Queen Victoria conferred on her infant grandson Wilhelm the title of Procurator-Royal of the Kentish Horse, which gave him a theoretical right of requisition over all hoofed mammals of the four ancient towns of Sandwich, Margate, Rochester and Ashford. At the outbreak of hostilities in 1914 the Kaiser duly put his claim to the 413 horses, 8 donkeys and a poorly zebra in writing to George V, but George in a bid to avoid having to snub his cousin pretended to be out, and continued to do so for the next four years. The Treaty of Versailles expressly demanded that the Kaiser withdraw his claims on the animals, but in the treaty Ashford was mistakenly recorded as Ashtead. Thus the claim was never legally rescinded, and the horses of Ashford are still technically at the disposal of the Kaiser.

When is Jeremy Paxman?
By day mild-mannered Jeremy works as assistant manager for an artisanal cheese-makers’ co-operative near Stroud. But should democracy be in danger, or students need to be snorted at derisively while trying to answer questions about Keats and the formation of Triphosphorous Heptachloride, then the BBC puts out a special coded signal. Only then does Jeremy become Paxman. The rest of the time he keeps his special sneering suit in the cold-store, and he has a secret Paxphone shaped like a truckle of Double Gloucester.

Why did God invent moths?
God loves all forms of holiness, and this even extends to homonyms. It’s that kind of thoroughness that got God where he is today, ie everywhere.

If it is true that many surnames originated as a result of one’s occupation what is the history of Vince Cable’s family?
Certainly some surnames have their origins in the occupations of our ancestors, hence names like Tim Smith, Daisy Mugger and Saffron Loss-Adjuster. Other names find their origins in personal traits: Dennis Brown, Liam Ottersmell and Samantha Horrible. And a third category of names denote the places our ancestors came from: The Outlaw Josie Wales; Olwen Chatanooga; and Xarglfax  Horsehead-Nebula. Vince Cable does indeed fall into that first category, having had an ancestor who was three thousand miles tall who spent some time submerged under the Atlantic passing on messages, then went on to have a successful career designing and knitting jumpers.

And following on from that, what are the origins of the surname Battery?
Most likely this refers to an ancestor who was a clumsy apprentice in a pancake factory.

Do keep the questions rolling in or we’ll never get the universe comprehensively explained before time itself shall cease, and so we won’t know whether any of it mattered or not, which would be a shame.