The worst Christmas TV merchandise

The worst Christmas TV merchandise | Television & radio | guardian.co.uk.

I don’t have much energy for blogging just now so I am taking advantage of WordPress’s little “press this” feature to highlight one or two articles of interest via my RSS reader. This one is a seasonally pertinent question: what is your worst nightmare for a Christmas (or alternative celebration) present? The Guardian article suggests:

“It is surely one of the last things you’d hope to find in your Christmas stocking. Matt Cardle: My Story – presumably told by someone else given the mere eight-day gap between his X Factor triumph and the book’s release – is a 224-page tome that tells the story of Matt’s meteoric rise from painter and decorator to global pop sensation.”

What’s worse is that some people will actually be receiving this book – as well as similar tomes by comedians, cartoon furry animals and “celebrities” famous for “getting ready to go out” (as Victoria Beckham’s claim to notoriety was once described to me).
Anyway, there are lots of useful (useless) suggestions with links (!) at the Guardian article, eg roaring, vibrating pencil sharpeners; sex-and-the-city pink/gold foldable shoes, Coronation Street cross-stitch kit; plus some not very funny suggestions in the comment section.

What would be your worst themed present? A commemorative tea towel? A 1970s kipper tie with a picture of Gene Hunt on it? A “prism” or an “urbon” drink bottle from the Apprentice? A TV tie-in novel by James Patterson?

Exclusive insider secrets of a baguette

A bird dropping a piece of bread onto outdoor machinery has been blamed for a technical fault at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) earlier this week, as reported in The Register. If the LHC had been operational, the machine would have automatically shut down for a couple of days. However, the LHC is still being worked on after the electrical failure and subsequent leak of liquid helium that caused such damage in September, so was not active when the baguette (as it turned out to be) fell into it.

Even so, intrepid Nature reporter Geoff Brumfiel obtained an exclusive interview, under strict conditions of anonymity, with a member of staff at CERN about the errant baguette. From the Q/A:

Can we say anything about the contents of the baguette? Did it contain any tasty filling? If so what type?
Looks to have been a plain baguette – no filling observed. It was very soggy when found.

Is there any indication whether this is a French or a Swiss baguette?
It was a French site – But a frontier crossing bird is not ruled out.

Has anyone considered the possibility that the baguette came from the future to sabotage the LHC? Is there any indication that this is a futuristic baguette?
The possibility has been examined by theoretical physicists – considered unlikely as they feel baguettes will not play a part in future cultures.

Read on at The Great Beyond (the Nature news blog).

Post for a silly day: book titles, updated

When you log into the Typepad dashboard now, you get to see all kinds of things, including a question of the day. Today's is: if you met yourself as a teenager now, what three things would you tell yourself?
I'll take a raincheck on that, but on a day when despite my best intentions not to mention the DB or TLS words, the internet and blogosphere is overwhelmed by Dan Brown — Waterstones and the Bookseller read and live-Twittered The Lost Symbol overnight and the Guardian (clearly not as dedicated in the line of duty) started the same exercise this morning – I feel like writing something silly.

So here is a post via Boing Boing which I think is a better challenge than the one posed by Typepad's question of the day. It is "if literary classics had been retitled", or as the source post at Your monkey called more aptly puts it: "Book titles, if they were written today". An example is:

Then: The Wealth of Nations
Now:  Invisible Hands: The Mysterious Market Forces That Control Our Lives and How to Profit from Them

As is so often the case, the best examples are in the comments to both posts. A few favourites:

Then: Dante's Inferno.
Now: Dante's Descent into Dummy Loan Felonies —With a Detour for Minimum Security Prison— and Amazing Redemption as an "Ethical Financial Advisor"

Then: The Art of War
Now: 13 Chapters of Highly Effective Warfare Techniques (Illustrated)

Here's two with Dan Brown themes:

Then: The Double Helix
Now: The Stuff of Life: The Hunt For the Code Behind Every Living Thing

Then: The Iliad
Now: The Trojan Code

OK – that's enough DB — ed.

Then: Moby Dick
Now: Sea Trek 2: The Wrath of Ahab

Then: The Bible
Now: The Dangerous Book for Adults. Lessons on Life, Love, War and Sin. Includes dream interpretation and The Bible II – revised edition with all 4 gospels.

Then : The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling
Now: The Jungle Book by Bernie Madoff/Ben Bernanke

And finally….

CHARLES J. DICKENS
The Twist Progression

CHARLES J. DICKENS
The Jarndyce Inheritance
BY THE AUTHOR OF THE TWIST PROGRESSION

CHARLES J. DICKENS
THE NEW INTERNATIONAL BESTSELLER
The Havisham Agenda

Feel free to add your own, here or at your own blog (or both!).

Scientific terminology

Via Dara Sosulski, highlighting a sentence from a scientific paper she was reading, “The ping-pong cycle acts independently of Piwi and Armitage but requires the function of Aubergine, the RNA helicases Spindle-E and Vasa, and the Tudor-domain protein Krimper.”

I, Editor, on the other hand, muses on the origins of the term "missing link", blacklisted from all reputable scientific discourse. All ancient suggestions welcome at the I, Editor post.

rENNISance woman asks: please define "other". Ye gods! Words fail me. (But do read the comments to her post.)

Chinese twhispering

Via The Digitalist, I learn of a new game called Frankenstory "the game where two heads are better than one" (did Frankenstein or his monster have two heads?). It seems quite easy to play – you write the start of a story and sent it via the Frankenstory site to a friend. The friend continues it, but can see only the last few words you wrote. Write two parts each and the story is finished, whereupon you can both see the whole thing. Apparently the game is hilarious: The Digitalist says that in combining "the short text style of twitter with Chinese whispers storytelling this is fiendishly fun. The end product may not be the most readable thing, but it will make you laugh."

Sunshine and showers

I'm somewhat overwhelmed by April Fools' Day jokes and spoofs – the online world and RSS subscriptions do give old traditions a new meaning in volume if nothing else -  I've filtered here a few of the ones that I've enjoyed the most.

Having read recently about the loneliness of (even celebrity) book-signing writers (this post is but one of many examples of the phenomenon, but is a very nice post), I was intrigued by the Big bad book blog's solution: seven tips to make your next in-store signing a success. The advice includes letting readers know the book is available on Amazon in advance, thus saving the hassle of inventory at the shop; hiring actors to queue; and using invisible ink.

In a publishing coup this week, Picador acquired the rights from Evelyn Waugh’s estate to publish a previously unknown novel, Perfect Tense, which the author wrote in the early 1930s. According to the publisher's blog: "Although nearing completion on it in 1933, Waugh was distracted by his travel writing and began A Handful of Dust instead, never to return to the project. All the more remarkably, any knowledge of it had eluded not only his biographers but also his estate, until it was discovered among his papers late last year while they were being documented at the University of Texas."  

Keen investigative journalist Brian Sibley reported at 0001 hours this morning that Disney is involved in marketing Viagra. (Warning, link goes to illustration!)

“While admittedly unusual, the case of dwarf tossing illuminates several themes central to the field of bioethics including the issues of human dignity, autonomy, and the protection of vulnerable people,” write Carlo Leget, Pascal Borry and Raymond De Vries in the latest edition of Bioethics. Read on at The Great Beyond, the blog of Nature's intrepid news reporters.

Nature Network, of course, is replete with the darn things. I'm sure I've missed a few, but try Twitter for peer review (beats the Guardian's feeble effort); are you SLOGging today?; what gives planets their red colour (long, long, ago, in a galaxy far, far away); and perhaps my favourite, journal surprises. A few more science-related gags are collected up at Questionable Authority. Yet another Twitter-related joke here, and John Battelle reports that Rupert Murdoch's Newscorp is buying the service for $750 million cash: what's with that Twitter?! Isn't anything else funny? Is it even funny, in fact?

Getting back to a more usual topic for these parts, Janet Rudolph has come up with the goods again with her post round-up April Fools' mysteries. Happy reading!

Famous literary hoaxes.

Sadly, not an April Fool.

Also not an April Fool, but happy:  "Palaeontology is like that. You know, nothing for thirty million years and then it all happens at once"

Also not an April Fool but shouldn't it be? Apply to be head of MI5.

Web 2.0; Da Vinci 1.5; readers 0

Via 101 reasons to stop writing blog, I learn that Dan Brown is to revise the Da Vinci Code to correct various minor and not-so minor errors in the previous version. Although small changes have been made in various print runs, this new project is a proper revision, named Da Vinci Code 1.5,  that will be "like re-reading the book for the first time".
From the stop writing post: "When asked if the revisions made substantive changes to the plot of the novel, Brown replied, "Oh sure. When you take out all the factual errors, baseless conjecture and flawed reasoning, the whole storyline basically collapses. All you’re left with is a guy who’s good at solving puzzles running around Europe for no reason. I don’t even like Europe. The new version is entirely set in Connecticut, so I could fact-check everything myself without having to drive more than two hours." "
Read on at the link for the full horror. Unfortunately, owing to work load, the publication date of the revision has slipped from 1 April to 31 April. Can't wait.

Yes we have no tomatoes

Via Books, Inq, I read a story in The Telegraph 'Row over shepherd's pie ends in court':

"A row over the correct way to make shepherd’s pie ended up in court after a disagreement between two brothers turned violent. After a day spent drinking, Michael Garvin cooked his brother John the traditional English dish for dinner, expecting a grateful response. John, however, voiced his disquiet that the pie was not topped with a layer of sliced tomatoes. His brother, a chef, claimed a layer of tomatoes was not the appropriate way to finish off a shepherd’s pie, and responded by hitting him over the head with a shovel."

There is quite a back-story to how the two brothers ended up in the dock, described in the article: kind of hard to countenance all the fuss. Thankfully, we have an in-touch and intelligent judiciary in this country, capable of making a ruling in the form of a code (Da Vinci plagiarism case), and not a collection of people who can't follow the plot of a Harry Potter novel. "District Judge Peter Ward told the defendant that, in his view, there was no need for a layer of tomatoes on a shepherd’s pie". Maybe the judges should follow the Lords' excellent example and start their own blog.

[Even if the shepherd's pie story hadn't been so funny, I would have had to write about it so I could give the post this title.]

Are short men more jealous?

The Great Beyond: Short men are the jealous type.

From the post: ‘Original research in the Nature office does not support a height-jealousy axis. One short Nature reporter said: “I’ve had several girlfriends cheat on me and I didn’t really care.” ‘

I would not know if short men are more jealous than tall ones (being a tall female myself, I have opted for tall men in my brief and mainly (thankfully) forgotten dating career). But I have often wondered if there is a correlation between height and aggressiveness of potential authors in attacking you (or attempting to charm you, which quickly changes to attack if charm offensive unsuccessful) in trying to get their paper published in your journal.