Friday, 30 May 2008

Friday Grab Bag: Monkey Brains Mashup

Do we really want monkeys able to control robotic arms with their brains? I mean, do scientists even think these things through? To them, it's all "Wouldn't it be great if monkeys could control robotic arms," giving little thought to how it might all end: bionic monkeys rampaging, Terminator-like, through our streets, smashing our doors down with one swing of their mighty robotic arms.

Much better, I think, for researchers to figure out a way for Sharon Stone to control her brain. So far that's eluded science, which is how she ends up saying things like "bad karma" caused the Chinese earthquake. Of course, first they'll have to find her brain. It won't be easy, but once they locate the small, vestigial organ (last seen, briefly, in "Basic Instinct") they can wire it up so it can control a robotic arm, plucking marshmallows from the end of a skewer and popping them into her, um, mouth.

BritNews RoundUp
From Sharon Stone to Kirsty Wark. Who's she? A presenter on "Newsnight," the BBC's bestest current affairs program. Like Stone, Wark got into a spot of trouble with her legs, at least according to the Daily Mail: "Viewers watching the Newsnight Review show from the French Riviera last Friday were treated to the 53-year-old mother-of-two flashing her legs in a black dress with a hem several inches above the knee." This unleashed a "flood" of complaints to the program's Internet message board, said the paper.

How would you like to be the Daily Mail person in charge of scouring the BBC's message boards. Don't think there isn't such a person. How else to explain the story headlined "BBC viewers attack Bill Oddie's 'smutty' and 'almost perverse' Springwatch innuendoes." Springwatch is a nature show. Oddie is a birdwatcher and former comedian. The show in question featured footage of birds and insects mating, with commentary from Oddie that included him saying "Oh be gentle with me" as two stag beetles copulated. Wrote one viewer: "I am sick to death of the constant innuendo being offered by Bill every time a scene of mating appears."

One shudders to think what Bill Oddie would say when describing the mating habits of the great tit. Great tits are in the news after a nest was found inside an ashtray on a Scottish nature reserve. And let's hope Oddie never gets his hands on an Australian trouser snake of the sort that bit a tourist on the wild and rugged Cape York Peninsula of Queensland. Actually it bit the tourist on his, well, let's just say it bit him "down under." The tourist had stopped for a toilet break when the deadly brown snake lunged at him, sinking its fangs into his, um, didgeridoo. According to the Telegraph: "The man, whose nationality was not released, was extremely fortunate to be alive but also 'shocked and embarrassed' about where he had been bitten, an ambulance spokesman said."

Moving to New Zealand, where 27-year-old William Singalargh was found guilty of assault and offensive behavior after asking a 15-year-old if he wanted to "wear a hedgehog helmet" and then throwing a hedgehog at him. The Telegraph story is a marvel of understatement, allowing the facts to speak for themselves: "Singalargh was holding a hedgehog and asked the boy: 'Do you want to wear a hedgehog helmet?' When the boy indicated that he would rather not, Singalargh threw the animal, leaving a large red welt and four quills lodged in the teenager’s hip."

"Wearing a hedgehog helmet." Why does that sound dirty, like something Bill Oddie might say?

At times like these it's nice to return to good old human sex, or at least what passes for it in England. The Sun reports that a Watford dentist shares office space with his girlfriend, "Tiny," who offers sex shows upstairs while he fills cavities downstairs. Actually, it sounds like she fills cavities, too. (Rimshot, please.)

Gargoyle of the Week


Now that's a proper gargoyle. I snapped him at Keble College, where My Lovely Wife and I lunched as guests of Malte and Jette. You'll notice the sky was blue, something that happens occasionally around Oxford, though not today. I suppose if it was always sunny they wouldn't need gargoyles and then what would I do every Friday? Sundial of the week?

Thanks for reading during this spotty week. My paper still isn't completely finished but it's almost done. And that means I'm almost done, too. In preparation for my return to Washington and the unpacking of my mothballed column I invite the Washingtonians among you to submit questions to Answer Man. That's the weekly feature in which I answer questions about the D.C. area. E-mail them to me at john[at]voxford.com. Thanks and have a great weekend.

13 comments:

mark from alexandria said...

Regarding Ms. Stone, it appears that John Lennon may have been right, instant kharma did get her!

Regarding the Dentist-full disclosure says we have to own up to his being an American.

And returning to the musical theme of my first sentence, above, and this is completely irrelevant to the blog, if you're one of John's UK readers, don't miss "The Story of the Supremes" at the V&A in London. If you like classic Motown, you will love this. It was the highlight of my flying visit last weekend.

Richard said...

Are there any gargoyles in DC?

mark from alexandria said...

Hey wait a minute, maybe Sharon wasn't so wrong. According to "The National Journal" computer hackers in China, including those working on behalf of the Chinese government and military, have penetrated deeply into the information systems of US companies and government agencies, stolen proprietary information from American executives in advance of their business meetings in China, and, in a few cases, gained access to electric power plants in the United States, possibly triggering two recent and widespread blackouts in Florida and the Northeast, according to US government officials and computer-security experts.

Candadai Tirumalai said...

When I lived in Philadelphia I read the "New York Times" and largely missed out on "local" news. In Oxford too I read one of the national papers and did not get much news about the town. For the first time I am living near a city whose national newspaper, "The Washington Post," has a Metro section. I have read and shall continue to read "Answer Man."

John Kelly said...

@Richard: I think the only reliable source of gargoyles in Washington is the National Cathedral, a huge cathedral in the gothic style that was only completed a few years ago. Of course, it wasn't started till the 20th century.

@MarkfA: Don't the Chinese know we can mess up our powerplants on our own, without their help? Not to mention losing laptops full of information.

Richard said...

"Mollusc", John, "mollusc". I dare you to slip it in to the paper.

When I was a lawyer people regularly used to rise to challenges such as this. The (probably apocryphal) high point was someone who claimed to have got the whole of the Lord's Prayer into his closing speech to a jury, in the correct sequence of words, without the jury or the judge noticing.

Paul said...

Richard, there are plenty of gargoyle's in DC - up at the National Cathedral - they do tourshttp://www.cathedral.org/cathedral/visit/gargoyle.shtml

mark not from alexandria said...

John, in response to your "what to bring back" Twitter query, might I suggest some Hafod Grange paperweights?

http://www.hafodgrange.co.uk

Some of them are sold in the US, but there is a much wider selection available in the UK. They should be harvesting the late-spring flowers about now.

mark from alexandria said...

Actually, the hacking into anything that has to do with our power grid is a very serious and is much more dangerous to our national security than you might know. Those chuckleheads who lost their government issue laptops couldn't have caused nearly the kind of catastrophe that pulling down a section of the grid would. I would say more but there is a tall muscular man at my door who looks alot like of the security guards who accompanied the Olypmic Torch during the protests against Chinese opression in Tiiiiiiiiiiii

Old Lady said...

Will you keep on blogging after your return? I've gotten accustomed to reading it and its original slant on the news. For answer man: how did they get the statue on top of the Mormon Temple? Scares me to think of it. I eagerly await the return of your columns.

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