Wednesday, September 17, 2008


Horizon, the BBC’s flagship science show, of which I have been an avid viewer since childhood, has just lost me.

A run of shows (which will presumably be narrated by the same person) has just started, with the theme of educating the next president of the US as to what science is, as well as how it can be best used as a tool to improve lives, reduce pollution, provide power and prevent catastrophes (or at least minimise their effects). Entitled The President’s Guide to Science, it aims, with the assistance of (among others) Richard Dawkins, Sir Paul Nurse, Michio Kaku and Richard L Garwin to highlight why ignoring science, cutting funding and somehow thinking that science has provided nothing for humanity is not exactly the way to go...

Let’s face it, US presidents since Kennedy are not entirely known for their loving embrace toward any science other than getting elected.

However, humorous mock-the-yanks reasoning aside, the show has become unwatchable due to one, seemingly minor, thing. The female narrator cannot pronounce the word “nuclear”. Yep, you guessed it, it’s coming out as that delightful noo-kyoo-lar mangling that seems to be prevalent in pockets of northern America these days.

Now, this sounds like a tiny and rather pedantic reason to stop watching a show (and it probably is, being honest). However, if the show is attempting (even in a wry, self-deprecating and ironic manner) to teach a Septic President how that complicated science thing works, an effort could have been made to get the narrator to fucking pronounce a simple word correctly. Especially one that comes up so often in the show. And even more as it’s one which doesn’t have British/US alternative spellings (I’m completely with the US on aluminum, by the way, it was first). What the holy fuck was the director doing when he/she should have been checking this during recording? Fuck quality control, eh?

An educational programme can’t educate when you get stuff wrong. You’re not talking about Ghost Hunter Extreme, Gillian McKeith’s pseudo-scientific diet-related crap, or even those right-wing creationist Politically Incorrect Guide to... books. This is supposed to be factual programme-making.

An apposite example, brought to you by our correspondent for Van Halen affairs:
Demanding M&Ms of a particular colour to be in their dressing-room as part of the contract with a venue for playing a show was nothing to do with fuelling egos (mighty though Diamond Dave’s evidently is). Instead, it was a canny little check that everything else on a lengthy contract had been done as promised. This would include all of the safety and fire regulations checks, along with security personnel requirements. Most of this would be checked out anyway by the manager on arrival, but the lack of the M&Ms would highlight that there might be other things missing that might be a lot more serious.
Back to reality: if a factual show about science can’t be bothered to get the narrator to pronounce a scientific word correctly, what else is wrong with it that no-one’s noticed?

You wouldn’t get this sort of crap on The Wire...

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Because Will made me do it...

This is all Dixon’s fault...

Create Fake Magazine Covers with your own picture at

So it’s got nothing to do with my towering ego. No sir...

Caught by the fuzz

Got pulled over yesterday by the pigs...

Actually, it was my own fault, as I’d been driving a short distance with my phone next to my ear, and thoroughly deserved to be dragged from my car and beaten. Getting a new phone meant that I hadn’t sorted out the Bluetooth pairing of my little earpiece thingy, so when it rang in the car, I answered it. Cutting the conversation down to a minimum is all well and good, but I’m not sure we would have missed a shuttle launch or a cure for cancer had I waited until I got back home and returned the call.

Funnily enough, the hands-free kit is now well and truly sorted and that sort of thing won’t be happening again, m’lud. Lesson learned.

This all came to mind as a post, due to coming across a blog that concerns itself with how the UK is essentially a police-state and that we’re all going to be killed into oblivion in our beds by the British equivalent of the Stasi.

You see, I’m as rabid a supporter of chav-sterilisation as the next person, but I’m not all that sure we are living in the “End Times” (or whatever your local branch of the god-botherers are calling it). When confronted by the two cops in the car, I sheepishly got out, admitted I’d behaved like a twat and proceeded to talk to the guy about how great rear-wheel drive cars are for power-sliding round corners, while the WPC filled out my ‘don’t do it again’ form. Though disappointed that the description section of the form didn’t include words like ‘devastating’, ‘eye-wateringly rugged’ or ‘hysterically manly’, I have to say that the two of them were pleasant, courteous and respectful and never once did they patronise or attempt to intimidate me.

There was no expectation from them that I was likely to be any trouble, or that I might be involved in a plot to overthrow the government. In fact, we ended up talking about police procedurals and I recommended they take a look at The Wire.

You see, I’ve been pulled over by traffic cops in the US and, frankly, they scare the shit out of me. Everything about them screams I want to shoot you, please please please give me a reason to empty the clip into your head, motherfucker. There seems to be a presumption not only of guilt in relation to a traffic violation, but that you’re probably a chainsaw-wielding, anti-American terrorist who ought to go back wherever the fuck it was you came from...

This contrasts greatly with the former Sergeant Cam Woolley of Toronto, who I watched with great affection on Canadian TV (in a simply fantastic hat), explaining driving skills when in the vicinity of trucks that seemed blindingly obvious to me. But then I’m from Europe, where we all drive teeny-weeny cars, and are most likely a lot more ‘truck-aware’. The enormous things that were humming down the freeways in Canada were gargantuan in proportion, and by that I mean the family vehicles. I once briefly spotted a Smart car amidst the steel leviathans, and silently offered up a prayer for the driver - he seemed lost amidst the wheeled behemoths.

So, PC Healy and your companion from Hitchin police station, I salute you for your commendable dealings with a scruffy old git who ought to know better, and won’t do it again. ;-)

Monday, September 08, 2008

Technology news

Can those of the population who actually seriously think the Large Hadron Collider will create a black hole capable of destroying the planet/universe on Wednesday, please raise their hands?

It’ll make the cull much, much easier...