Showing posts from March, 2010

Funny by numbers

Last night, we went along to the Channel 4 Comedy Gala.  It’s been recorded and will be on TV next Monday evening. There were a LOT of stand-up comedians on the bill.  And I mean a LOT.  Each of them was given around five minutes and as you’d expect, some tickled my funny bone and some didn’t. But as this isn’t a review – I shall limit myself to saying Bill Bailey and Michael McIntyre good – but that was expected.  Lee Evans not as annoying as I’d feared and actually quite funny. More interesting was to note the same formula used by so many of the comedians on the bill.  Before we look at the formula itself, there’s a few things you need to know about the gig.  It was in the O2.  That’s a very big venue.  To get onto the stage, the acts had to walk up a few stairs The gig was in aid of Great Ormond Street Hospital Armed with just those three facts you could reconstruct the set of many of the comedians on the bill.  So let’s do that. First, walk up the stairs. 

Popular science need not be patronising

I’ve read a lot of “popular science” books.  Put me in a book shop and I’ll be headed straight for the section filled with books called “Shrödinger’s Something” and have a picture of a cat on the front.  (*) Time – and a lot of reading – has lead me to believe that many authors mistake the readers of popular science books for idiots and seem to think that making the science simple involves aiming for a simple readership.  To think that way is folly – most people pick up a book on quantum theory or relativity because they want to understand it – not because they want to read tabloid-style rantings about time travel and clocks slowing down in fast planes.  I’ve got a particular book in mind here which was so dire I was screaming at the pages during the last chapter… The problem with most popular science books – and many science documentaries on TV – is that they aren’t created by people who understand the science.  If you want an accessible depiction of a scientific concept then find

Seeing the world through my eyes

Everyone sees the world differently.  A shining example of modern architecture to one person may appear as a monstrous carbuncle to others.  This is how I see the world. I was sitting in a café having lunch on Sunday, and there were four stools lined up against the wall opposite.  They were not spaced equally.  You may ask why I was looking at the spacing of the stools and the answer is that I wasn’t looking at the spacing specifically – I was merely glancing at the stools and the asymmetrical arrangement leapt out at me. The imperfect arrangement of the stools looked wrong.  No – it didn’t look wrong – it felt wrong.  It was wrong. It’s not an obsession with neatness – anyone who knows me will tell you that’s something I don’t suffer from – but simply something in my brain which tells me that an asymmetrical arrangement of stools is wrong. There are other examples.  Hanging clothes out on the line on holiday once, I noticed that I was ensuring that identical clothes pegs were

Don’t get me wrong, but…

There’s been a lot in the press recently about one of the James Bulger killers who’s been taken back to prison for breaking the terms of his release. Also, stirred up by the tabloids, there have been increasing calls for him to lose his anonymity and face trial for these new charges under his real name.  There have also been people who really should know better claiming that the charges against him should be made public. I can understand the anger in this case.  I can understand how emotional it is.  But I disagree entirely with the notion that anyone not involved in the case has any right to know the nature of the new charges.   We may want to know – and indeed I’m sure everyone is curious – but that does not in itself give us the right to be told. Everyone in this country has the right to a fair trial for every offence of which they are accused.  The fact that Jon Venables has already been found guilty of a very serious – and truly horrendous – crime previously does not remove

Ga Ga Ooh La La

I’ve waited a week or so before writing this, just to ensure that the sheer delight from seeing Lady GaGa at the O2 didn’t fade with time, it hasn’t. I should declare now that I’m a Lady GaGa fan.  She’s completely nutty, but I like that in a pop star. The show at the O2 was even better than I had expected – and my expectations were pretty high.  There was a Rolls Royce with a piano under the bonnet, a fountain which shot flames, a grand piano which set itself on fire and of course the huge monster which she killed by shooting sparks from her breasts.  As you do.  But, amongst all the silliness, every song was sung live, with a live band.  She spent the whole two hours in fully choreographed dance routines.   Not only can she sing, she can play the piano and she writes almost all of her songs. I’m sick and tired of modern pop stars who seem to think a concert involves prancing around with a few dancers whilst someone back stage presses play on your latest CD and you move your