Wednesday, October 29, 2008

We plan to lure one of your best Earth footballers...

I was intrigued by the spat between former Man Utd player Gabriel Heinze and Sir Alex Ferguson. The veteran manager claims that Real Madrid were only interested in Heinze as a way of luring Ronaldo.

Heinze's bizarre response was to accuse Ferguson of coming up with "an absolute work of science fiction". Not sure you really mean science fiction, Gabriel, my old son. Unless Fergie was claiming you'd been abducted by aliens and travelled via a wormhole to Spain.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

They didn't get away with it

I won't use this page to offer support for Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand, as what they did to Andrew Sachs would be pretty hard to defend. It does strike me, however, that part of the hullabaloo stems from the sacred status of Fawlty Towers in British popular culture. Undeniably the funniest sitcom ever written on this side of the Atlantic, its leading characters - Basil, Sybil and Manuel - have an almost mythical status. Is the problem really that Ross and Brand have made crude phone calls and said stupid and nasty things? Or is it that they've said them to the bloke who happened to play Manuel in Fawlty Towers?

I reckon a good proportion of the complainants have a picture of Manuel in their minds rather than Andrew Sachs. That poor little man. He got enough stick from Basil thirty years ago, didn't he? Doesn't even speak the Queen's English. And now he's being hounded again. Leave him alone. He's from Barcelona.

Before anyone gets carried away, I am NOT saying that the behaviour was appropriate or should have been broadcast. Just that if they'd done the same thing to someone else, maybe there wouldn't have been quite the same public outcry.

One more thought. I've read Russell Brand's autobiography and it opens in a sex addiction clinic on the west coast of America. The guy has a reputation for a lifestyle that is the absolute antithesis of old-style Radio 2. No one can say that the BBC weren't warned. Jonathan Ross is also known for humour which a Corporation executive would probably describe as being "near the knuckle". You gets what you pays for in this life. The fact you pays rather a lot for it doesn't mean you don't know what you're buying.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Toilet germs

There's a big message on Parozone bleach bottles which says "Kills Toilet Germs 100%".

First question: what exactly is a 'toilet' germ? How does a germ know that it is only supposed to occupy one room in a house?

Second question: do rival bleaches kill the germs with less than 100% efficiency? The germs are dead, but not 100% dead. A bit like in that movie The Hitcher when Rutger Hauer has to be killed about three times at the end before he's confirmed as toast.

I think (Jeyes may care to take note here) that the writer actually means "Kills 100% of all toilet germs". This means something rather different from the current formulation, but we don't want to open up a philosophy class here on Washed and Ready.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Skiing with the Nazis

Flicking through a tourist brochure for Bavaria that ran as an insert in last weekend's newspapers, I was a little surprised to see that the Nazis have made a bit of a comeback. The Zugspitze, we are told, sits above the twin towns of Garmisch and Partenkirchen. "It was Hitler," continues writer Arnie Wilson, "who linked them in preparation for the 1936 Winter Olympics - the first to include alpine skiing as well as the traditional Nordic events favoured by the Norwegians."

Now that we're in 2008, it's clearly acceptable to drop Hitler into the conversation as if he were just a regular celebrity. No need to qualify the reference with any mention of genocide or the destruction of large swathes of western Europe and the former Soviet Union.

To the right of the column, we're shown a Nazi poster for the Garmisch-Partenkirchen Olympics in which an Aryan athlete gazes skywards as he breathes in the rich Alpine air. The caption tells us that the resort is a contender to host the games once again in 2018.

My tip to Bayern Tourismus Marketing GmBH of Munich - and their publishing house, Publicom International - would be that Hitler and his 1930s Olympic propaganda exercises are not the best way of selling Bavaria as a modern tourist destination. Just a hunch on my part, guys. Particularly if you're looking to secure future Olympic deals.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Welcome to the body farm

I was a little disappointed with the first instalment of Stephen Fry's trip round the USA, but the second episode last night (9pm, BBC1) was pretty compelling. Britain's favourite upmarket funnyman spent time with banjo pickers in Tennessee and waltzed around a Florida dancefloor with New York's ageing Jewish diaspora. The most bizarre moment, however, came when he visited a so-called "body farm", where an earnest young lady spent her days monitoring the decomposition of human corpses in a walled garden. There were about 120 dead bodies in all and it seemed they didn't exactly smell too pleasant. From what we could gather, it had something to do with criminal forensic science.

Mrs W was wondering whether similar body farms exist in the UK. If you know of any, please email and we can maybe post a map of places to avoid.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Am I really that stupid?

Ignorance can be bliss. But probably not in the middle of the world's worst financial crisis since 1929. One of the features of the ongoing credit crunch that alarms me the most is the sheer complexity of the derivatives and other instruments traded on global markets. Whenever I try to get to grips with credit default swaps and suchlike, I always end up losing the plot somewhere along the line. There was a great idiot's guide in the FT this weekend, with a journalist using analogies to do with haystacks and managing the potential risks of fire. But I felt as thick as Farmer Barleymow as I searched for a tiny needle of understanding. Twenty years ago, I was fortunate enough to study at one of the top social science institutions in the world. But I might as well have spent three years stacking shelves at Asda for all the good it's doing me now.

Watching programmes like Newsnight and listening to Today on Radio 4, I gain a small degree of comfort from the fact that even the brightest brains of the media world seem a little bit uneasy when talking to traders, academics and authors who are specialists in this obscure field. The BBC is fortunate to have people such as Evan Davis (Oxford and Harvard) and Robert Peston (Oxford and the Free University of Brussels) who really do understand this stuff. But the generalists - who would be quite happy analysing Turkey's potential entry to the EU or discussing the influence of Arthur Miller on twentieth century American literature - start to struggle when confronted with physical settlements and cash settlements in a CDS contract.

I've come to the conclusion that you just need a particular type of brain to get to grips with it all. And short of a transplant, I'm never going to be an owner of one of those brains. You could put me in a classroom for weeks on end and I'd still come out none the wiser. I just hope that some of the people trading in these instruments have a better grasp of it all than me.

I'm certain there are people who left school at 16 or 18 and started commuting into the City from Billericay, who just have a knack of picking up stuff like par quotes, reference entities and z-spreads. The fact that they're reading The Sun on the train is all part of an elaborate cover.

Friday, October 10, 2008

I have to say wtf?

Someone told me yesterday that it's now common practice in bars and pubs for people to say "brb" when they nip off to the toilet. For the uninitiated, this expression is text messaging lingo for "be right back".

It struck me that life could become a lot simpler if we were able to conduct all our conversation in text. We could, for instance, simply say "lol" or "rofl" rather than actually going to the effort of laughing. All suggestions welcome here on the Washed and Ready to Eat comments board. On the other hand, you may just shrug your shoulders and say yyrw.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Credit crunch swept under the carpet

The credit crunch is becoming a useful opening gambit for all kinds of businesses in their communications with consumers. This morning, for instance, a local carpet firm dropped a leaflet through my door telling me that I can beat the crunch through their unique service.

With free gripper rods and door bars on offer, there's no doubt that I'll soon be able to forget about the turbulence on the world financial markets. House prices collapsing? Unable to get a loan? Don't worry, mate. We'll dispose of your existing carpets free of charge.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

No nukes is good nukes

I was amused to read the 1970s BBC script, released by the National Archive in Kew yesterday, which was designed for use as an announcement in the event of a nuclear attack. In keeping with the prevailing view of the time that an 'all clear' would eventually sound, listeners were advised to stay in their homes, conserve water and fuel and await further instructions.

"Lavatories" (don't you just love the twee, middle-class period character of the language?) were not to be used. The recently nuked populace was encouraged to make "alternative toilet arrangements". In an emergency, one can imagine people perhaps being willing to build pits and latrines in their back gardens, but remember, they were also being told not to go out of the house because of the radioactive fallout. So exactly what the alternative toilet arrangements were supposed to be, God only knows.

The end of the announcement is particularly confusing: "We shall repeat this broadcast in two hours' time. Stay tuned to this wavelength, but switch your radios off now to save your batteries until we come on the air again. That is the end of this broadcast."

Note there's no mention of any actual update in two hours' time. Just another BBC repeat. I personally wouldn't want to listen to the message again for, say, another six months. After all, the content wasn't exactly cheery.

According to press reports, the BBC planned to follow the message with entertainment programmes, so that people would chill a little and be less inclined to pop their head out the door into a radioactive cloud. I'm just trying to picture the scene:

"Don't you think you should go outside, John? See what's happened to the street? We don't have any food."

"Don't talk so bleeding stupid, Pam. Steptoe's coming on in a minute."

Actually, it would probably have been The Two Ronnies.

It's goodnight from me. And it's goodnight from everybody else too.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

How to spot a restaurant with pretensions

There's something about the use of the word "jus" on a menu that tells you that you're not eating in the local Harvester.