Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The curious tale of the bare bears

This week I've been pondering several topics. Firstly, why is it, dear reader, that we no longer seem to get quite so many spectacular new photos of things like UFOs, Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster ... despite the fact that almost everyone now has a decent camera on their phone or owns a digital camera or camcorder? The arrival of affordable camera technology should surely have led to a plethora of new sightings? But it hasn't has it? Odd that.

I used to watch programmes like The Mysterious Word of Arthur C Clarke through skeptical eyes because most of the 'unexplained' items featured - even to a modestly intelligent person like me - were so obviously complete arse-gravy. While I'm more than happy to believe that the universe is teeming with life - it would be far more extraordinary if we were its sole inhabitants - the reality of time and distance precludes the reality of little grey men flying all the way here just to buzz some hick farmer in Pigsknuckle, Arkansas and stick technology up his bottom. And even if they did somehow break the speed of light barrier and sort out the whole time-dilation/relativity thing, they wouldn't be little grey men. The fact that we look like we do is the culmination of an almost infinite number of tiny genetic mutations over four billion years. As discussed in previous blogs (here and here just for starters), we cannot possibly predict what they'd look like. I'm sorry people but UFOs are just that - unidentified flying objects. But the fact that we cannot readily identify them doesn't automatically mean that they're spaceships.

Nessie seems to have been laid to rest this year too. Back in April, the BBC arranged for satellite navigation technology to aim 600 separate sonar beams through Loch Ness in an effort to find the Scottish beastie. Not one part of the loch was missed ... but Nessie was. The research team hoped their instruments would pick up the air in Nessie’s lungs as it reflected a distorted signal back to the sonar sensors. The only signal they got was from their test buoy moored several metres below the surface. 'We went from shoreline to shoreline, top to bottom on this one, we have covered everything in this loch and we saw no signs of any large living animal in the loch,' said Ian Florence, one of the specialists who carried out the survey for the BBC. Oh dear.

Bigfoot is the one chap who might possibly have some chance of being real. Sightings are scattered but numerous. It still seems strange though that in 2009, when I can use Google Earth or Streetview to see what flowers people have in their gardens, that there is still no good photographic evidence for tribes of enormous apemen. Mind you, Brian Blessed has pledged to find him so maybe Bigfoot is hiding deep in a cave system somewhere with Bin Laden.

I have also been pondering the strange world of cartoon nudity. Have you ever noticed how many animated characters are semi-naked? No, nor had I. But once I did, it all became very odd indeed.

Walt Disney's Steamboat Willie is traditionally held up as the granddaddy of modern animation. Made in 1928, it wasn't the first ever cartoon (it was Mickey Mouse's third for a start) ... but it was the first with a fully realised plot and synchronised sound. The star, as you can see, was partially clothed. I've often wondered why. Was it the prudishness of the 'Roaring' Twenties that insisted on Mickey covering his genitals? Was it because, by anthropomorphising their stars, Disney felt that they should share the same views on public nudity as people? If so ... why does Donald Duck only wear a hat and sailor smock but no trousers? Ironically, the duck is one of the few species of bird that actually has a functional and visible penis (in fact the Argentine Blue Bill has the longest penis of any vertebrate in relation to body size. True. Read this.)

Disney usually clothed its animal characters but Warner Brothers was quite happy to have Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck and Tweety-Pie running around in the nip. Porky Pig occasionally wears clothes but, again, he is usually naked from the waist down. Sense a theme developing here? Now look at Hanna Barbera's output. Yogi Bear wears a hat, collar and tie but no trousers (and, bizarrely, no shirt). Huckleberry Hound dresses similarly except it's a bow-tie. Pixie and Dixie and Mr Jinx the cat wear bow-ties and waistcoats but that's all. Snagglepuss even went so far as to wear the cuffs and collars of a non-existent shirt ... but still no trousers. What I don't get is why, if you're going to bother clothing a character at all, why only cover the non-naughty parts? Even Paddington Bear and the Clangers wander around with their arses out. It's all very strange.

Or maybe it's just me.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Now you don't see it ...

Amnesty International has released a pretty high-tech public awareness campaign against domestic violence. The poster has an 'eye tracker' making the image change from a seemingly happy couple (if you’re looking directly at it) to an image of violence when you look away. A time delay means that you actually do see the domestic violence image for a split second before the image changes.

Getting it wrong in style

This is, without doubt, the very best apology/errata I've ever read. Well done The Sun!

'In an article published on The Sun website on January 27th 2005 under the headline Gollum joker killed in live rail horror we incorrectly stated that Julian Brooker, 23, of Brighton, was blown 15ft into the air after accidentally touching a live railway line.His parents have asked us to make clear he was not turned into a fireball, was not obsessed with the number 23 and didn’t go drinking on that date every month.

Julian’s mother did not say, during or after the inquest, her son often got on all fours creeping around their house pretending to be Gollum.Also, quotes from a witness should have been attributed to Gemma Costin not Eva Natasha. We apologise for the distress this has caused Julian’s family and friends.'

If I could write stuff like this, I'd be a comic genius.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The paperback is here!

It's out on Friday. Buy it in your droves. Help make a fat old Cornishman a happy fat old Cornishman. x

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Colgan's Walking Tours of London Part 2

A wander through Regents Park today. A place of bosky shrubbery, clear water streams and lakes, the golden dome and minaret of the mosque and the zoo of course. I hardly know what to write so just enjoy these photos as I enjoyed sitting in the sun drawing some pictures for my forthcoming Cornish faerie tales book.

You'll never get closer to a heron than here. and the Bewick's Swans, various geese and ducks and pigeons are hand-tame too.

I just happened to catch it on a gloriously sunny but crisp Autumn day. The flowers are still outrageously colourful and there are still bees buzzing around. It's like someone forgot to tell them all that Winter is on its way.

Colgan's Walking Tours of London Part 1

The last few days have seen me travelling all around London for various meetings, jobs and social events. And as the weather has been unseasonably warm and mellow, I've rattled off a few photos so you can share my jaunts. Today saw me in Camden in North London, specifically around the area of Camden Lock and Market.

Rather like Carnaby Street in the 1960s, Camden became a focal point for the fashion-conscious 1980s Punk and New Romantic youth of London. Traditional market stalls soon gave way to fashion stalls and, as time has gone on, the styles have become ever more eclectic and anti-establishment.

In 2009, it's closely associated with alternative music and fashion, particularly Goth and Emo (NEVER mix them up ...). You will never see higher boots or more leather anywhere else in the UK. There are tattoo and piercing parlours everywhere and a sprinkling of sex shops just to add the required soupcon of seediness to proceedings.

Saying that, it's also an arty-farty kind of a place too and there are galleries, furniture shops, classy restaurants, clubs and bars and even pubs with poetry readings.

Threading through it all and providing the 'Lock' part of the name is a branch of the Grand Union Canal. If you need a break from all of the creaking leather and pale faces, you can take a stroll along the towpath and there are some nice waterside pubs, restaurants and coffee shops.

I ended my time in the area by watching a genuine rooftop drama. I don't know if it was a real incident (it seems unlikely as it brought the entire area to a standstill and caused traffic gridlock) but the fire brigade had to put a man up onto a shop roof ... to rescue a dummy. A very odd end to a very nice day.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

On the Lamb

And so begins the promotion for the paperback edition of Joined-Up Thinking ...

I'm probably breaking all kinds of copyright rules and regulations here but if you didn't catch my appearance on the George Lamb Show on BBC Radio 6 Music yesterday, here's the edited broadcast.

Thanks to Mikhael Shields for the screen grab from the studio webcam.