Spam story

May. 21st, 2010 02:45 pm
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Musing on the absurd and on parents who aren't really all that good with computers, we came up with an outline for a humorous, if not terribly original, short story over coffee.

After taking a computer class, the narrator's elderly father accidentally clicks on a piece of spam and ends up with a 19 year-old Russian mistress. Hampered by the language barrier and too polite to do anything overt about the situation, the parents modify their domestic situation into a sort-of ménage à trois that works around their slightly unwanted houseguest. There then follow any number of amusing scenes in which the parents, mildly baffled by their current situation, try to maintain the dignities of their existence whilst all the time trying to be scrupulously considerate of the cuckoo in their nest.

Well, it seemed funny to us.
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I didn't realise it was April Fools until around midday when I read Stross' post about his decision to start writing human/unicorn romantic fiction. I struggled to find any stories in the newspaper that were drastically less plausible than any of the others and, like the good good post-modernist I inevitably am but would like not to be, I was forced to conclude that when the world is quite as absurd as it is, it is pointless to try and separate truth from satire.

More importantly, I noticed — or, more accurately, it was pointed out to me — that Robin Milner's obituary in today's Guardian was written by none other than Martin Campbell-Kelly.
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Radio 7's comedy controller this week, Rainer Hersch, shamelessly picked a couple of his own programmes to feature in this week's compilation. One was an episode of All Classical Music Explained. The other, in an odd coincidence, featured a series of sketches about the Second Viennese School that Hirsch had somehow managed been pitch to R3; it was surprisingly funny, considering the extremely niche subject...
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Following the crowd, I too have flunked the UK citizenship test. I got 67 percent. I feel oddly proud of my failure — surely a true sign of Britishness!
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Via [ profile] jwz, this spoof acceptance letter from Singularity U made me laugh so much I thought someone was going to accuse me of drinking the anti-swine-flu handwash stuff. I was especially amused by Kurzweil's captcha-esque signature...
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During today's coffee discussion, which briefly touched on the philosophy of Henri Bergson, I struggled to recall part of Paul Valéry's discourse on Bergson, quoted in Pierre Bayard's How to Talk About Books You Haven't Read.

Here's the section I was trying to remember, starting with Bayard's snarky comments and leading in to Valéry's lecture, which we are told, was delivered at the Académie Française occasion of the Bergson's death.

The remainder of the text is far from reassuring:

The very ancient and for that reason very difficult problems with which M. Bergson dealt, those of time, memory, and above all the evolution of life, were through him given a new beginning, and the position of philosophy as it appeared in France fifty years ago has undergone a remarkable change.

Saying that Bergson worked on time and memory — what philosopher has not? — can heardly be passed off as a description, even a succinct one, of his work in its originality. With the exception of a few lines on the opposition between Bergson and Kant, the rest of the text is so vague that, although it describes Bergson perfectly well, it could equally apply to many other philosophers:

A very lofty, very pure and superior examplar of the thinking man, and perhaps one of the last men who will have devoted himself exclusively, profoundly, and nobly to thinking, in a period when the world thinks and meditates less and less, when with each day that passes, civilisation is further reduced to the memories and vestiges we keep of its multifarious riches and its free and abundant intellectual production, while poverty, suffering, and restrictions of every kind discourage and depress all intellectual enterprise, Berson seems already to belong to a past age and his name to be the last great name in the history of the European mind.

As we see, Valéry is unable to resist ending on a malevolent note, the warmhearted phrase "the last great name in the history of the European mind" mitigating only with difficulty the harshness of the one preceding it, which cordially consigns Bergson to "a past age." Reading these words, in full recognition of Valery's passion for books, one may well worry that he chose to emphasize the philosopher's out-moded position within the history of ideas in order to dispense with opening any of his works.

Bayard, P., (2008), How to Talk About Books You Haven't Read, Trans. J. Mehlman, Granta, 26–28

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Two amusing pieces of snark. The first, via CT, is an amusing take on libertarianism from Julian Sanchez:

Rachel: The dinghy WITH NO MAKER. Because I demand one and will pay, it shall appear.
Rachel: Or does that just take effect once I’m a’stead?

Julian: Time and causality have no meaning in a frictionless market
Julian: As God constantly creates Himself outside of spacetime
Julian: So supply creates its own demand
Julian: Your desire for a dinghy is merely the tesseract shadow cast by the four-dimensional dinghy itself

The second, via Bookslut, are some delightfully unflattering comments about Charlotte Roche's Wetlands:

My first imperative with this post was to insure that no one could ever corner me, in person or online or elsewhere, and accuse me of having prodded them, in any way, toward reading Wetlands.

Thankfully, I think Ayelet’s post ("It’s just bullshit for bullshit’s sake") and Jessa’s ("a total failure as a novel") have gone a long way toward providing the proper disincentives. Even Sam’s weirdly feeble praise (i.e., alternating between moments "when I was 100 percent sure this was the worst thing I’d ever read" and moments when "I came somewhat close to maybe slightly respecting" it) should be a sufficient dose of "abandon hope all ye who enter here."

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Today's episode of Old Harry's Game was particularly enjoyable. Annoyed at the presence of a baby and a dog in Hell — apparently due to a problem with the afterlife assignment software — Satan went to the High Places to discuss the problem with Gabriel. But in place of the archangel, he found God Almighty, played by Timothy West, enjoying his sabbatical and painting water colours of the Himalayas.

The Lord's response, when confronted with the news about the dog, was particularly good:

God: A dog? In Hell? What's his name?
Satan: Scamp
God: [ reflectively ] Scamp... You know, I used to call Jesus Scamp... Back before the Pharisee and the...
Satan: [ hastily interrupting ] Don't think about that. You'll only upset yourself. Take some deep breaths...

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This is interesting: Atlas Shrugged is gaining in popularity. I'm not sure why. Maybe people are worried about the environmental impact of their usual brand of lavatory paper...
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I know it's childish, but I keep getting the giggles whenever I consider reading my tutor's latest recommendation: Foucault's Discipline and Punish. I wonder if the title hasn't gained something in the translation...
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The boffins have done it again. This time, they've developed a breakthrough cure for annoying perkiness:

Fortunately, thanks to the NHS, this sort of pharmaceutical treatment is no longer necessary in the UK. If you show up at a British hospital feeling overly chirpy, trained medical professionals will give you a photograph of Alan Johnson and tell you to contemplate it until your levels of hope and optimism return to normal.
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Could this be the opener in an advertising campaign targeted at exclusively at computational scientists?

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Via Boing Boing, I've finally discovered the delights of Platitude for the Day an almost perfect series of parodies / summaries / distillations of the absurdist ramblings that compose Thought for the Day.

Far, far better than the real thing.
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This is no more absurd than the real thing:

But it makes you wonder just how far Bugs would have gone had his helmet not fallen off a particularly opportune moment...
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Steve Bell just keeps on getting better. Today's If... made me laugh out loud:

I particularly the details on the voucher...

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A cruel but rather funny gallery of LOL photos of President Bush at the Olympics. Bless.

But at least Bush can do LOL. I doubt that any of our own political leaders have ever given rise to any image worth of the treatment. I mean, can you imagine LOL Brown or LOL Cameron? Or LOL Miliband or LOL that bloke from the Liberal Democrats who isn't Vince Cable? Exactly.

The Gordon

Jul. 1st, 2008 07:46 pm
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The first edition of the new series of the Now Show featured a particularly piece of satirical poetry, superbly delivered by Jon Holmes, entitled The Gordon. Here then, with apologies to the writers, is a transcription:

The Gordon )

Far funnier than the original. Edgar Allan Poe could learn from these guys...

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Today being Trafalgar Day, the cathedral green was thronging with members of the Senior Service in their Sunday best. Rather unpatriotically, they reminded me of the Round the Horne sketch where Mr Horne is dressed up in uniform by Julian and Sandy. When his new clothes result in arrest, says in his defence, "How was I supposed to know it was WREN's uniform? I was in the RAF!"
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Today's Guardian featured an interesting article on bootleg Tintin comics including Breaking Free, an anti-Thatcherite take Hergé's original.
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Classic comment from [ profile] drspleen that perfectly sums up the nature of myspace:

it's like the worst of the internet. these people put up this page, attach a stupid song that you have to stop playing every time you load it up and stick tonnes of stupid pictures and gifs all over it... it's like that simpsons episode where homer makes a website and all it is is annoying animated gifs that make annoying noises that he's stolen from all over the internet...

And yes, I do fully appreciate the irony of criticising myspace in a blog entry. Now, where did I put that annoying music clip...


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