Whimsical whingers

The Telegraph's Travel section (www.telegraph.co.uk/travel) features an amusing list of absurd complaints by tourists whose holidays did not meet their expectations. A visitor to a game lodge complained that the sight of an elephant in must had ruined his honeymoon by making him feel inadequate. Another, unaware that the ocean was inhabited by other life forms said: "No-one told us there would be fish in the sea. The children were startled." A tourist who had chosen to holiday in Spain, found the human population equally unsettling: "There are too many Spanish people. The receptionist speaks Spanish. The food is Spanish. Too many foreigners." There were the usual complaints about the food: too many curry dishes in Goa and a too thick soup which turned out to be gravy. Others were incensed at what they perceived as travel time prejudice: "It took us nine hours to fly home from Jamaica to England. It only took the Americans three hours to get home."

Some were just plain paranoid. One woman threatened to call police after claiming that she’d been locked in by staff. She thought the "Do Not Disturb" sign on the back of the door meant she had been confined to her room while another group hesitated when they noted that the brochure said: 'No hairdressers at the accommodation'. "We're trainee hairdressers. Will we be OK staying here?"

Craig Needs a Friend

The misadventures of "Craig" are chronicled in a gallery of photo's on the Funny or Die blog (www.funnyordie.com/blog/posts/14305). Craig dispensed with more conventional methods of finding a mate and posted his dating requirements on poles and post boxes somewhere in Oz. I know this because the post box in one of the pictures says "Australia Post". He also spells recognise with an "s" (for that I like him already).

Homeless in Tokyo

The repercussions of the GFC (Global Financial Crisis) have produced a whole new class of people in Japan, Matt Frei of the BBC discovered a cyber cafe outside Tokyo inhabited by 60 "cyberdrifters": people who have lost their jobs and have taken up residence (for $500 a month) in the cafe's tiny computer cubicles. According to the report they rarely emerge from the airless, windowless boxes.

Unbundling the Palin drone

There is something about the way Sarah Palin expresses herself that invites speculation about her suitability for the job of Veep. Kitty Burns Florey, author of Sister Bernadette's Barking Dog, a history of diagramming sentences (which means she is adept at the craft, I guess), demonstrates in an article for Slate Magazine how diagramming some of Palin's sentences is impossible, even for an expert. She likens Palin's use of language to the Bushisms made famous by George W and concludes that although one cannot expect spoken language to be as logical as written, she asks: "Do we really want to be led by someone who, when asked a straightforward question, flails around like an undergraduate who stayed up all night boozing instead of studying for the exam?"

This example comes from an interview with Charlie Gibson, anchor of ABC News:

"I know that John McCain will do that and I, as his vice president, families we are blessed with that vote of the American people and are elected to serve and are sworn in on January 20, that will be our top priority is to defend the American people."

In short, when Florey attempted to dissect this sentence, she gave up.

She uses one of Palin's sentences – menat to refer to the state of the US economy – to sum up what she thinks of Palin's mind:

Palin the poet
Another Slate writer, Hart Seely, suspects that Sarah Palin is actually reciting poetry when she speaks in public, "intensely personal verses ... that drill into the vagaries of modern life as if they were oil deposits beneath a government-protected tundra." He has composed these poems from words taken verbatim from Palin's interviews.

Secret Conversation

I asked President Karzai:
"Is that what you are seeking, also?
"That strategy that has worked in Iraq?
"That John McCain had pushed for?
"More troops?
"A counterinsurgency strategy?"

And he said, "Yes."

(To K. Couric, CBS News, Sept. 25, 2008)


These corporations.
Today it was AIG,
Important call, there.

(To S. Hannity, Fox News, Sept. 18, 2008)

Sad Guys on Trading Floors

This blog is devoted to "Turning the economic crisis into one of those clever internet memes." It capitalises on the expressions of anguish and sheer desperation on the faces of punters on the stock exchange floor as stocks take a tumble.

SUV cosy gets woman arrested

What began as a conceptual art idea to  expose America's dependence on oil and its love for big vehicles, got artist, Jerilea Zempel detained by border guards when they found her in possession of a sketch detailing her project.

According to Boing Boing.net, when  Zempel tried to re-enter the United States after exhibiting her creation at the Cultural Capital Festival in Sackville, New Brunswick, she was held in custody for more than an hour and was told by U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers that they suspected her of copyright infringement. Zempel had made a an SUV covered by a cozy, with its mirrors marked as "ears."

She spent an hour trying to convince her captors that she was in fact an artist and the sketch was for an "SUV cosy" to turn an "oversize, macho, gas-guzzling vehicle into a technological ghost by shrouding it in a white, fuzzy cover reminiscent of women's handiwork from another time, another place". Explaining the abstract concept to a bunch of paranoid border guards was no mean feat, but she eventually succeeded and was released.

The experience prompted her to christen her project the "Homeland Security Blanket".

Like a hole in the head

Joey Mellen, his partner Amanda Feilding and their baby son Rock, live in a London flat overlooking the Thames. They own an art gallery in King's Road. Feilding, apart from being a successful artist, has stood for parliament in Chelsea in the last two General Elections. Her chief political objective is to have trepanning operations made freely available on National Health.

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English AS AN INFINITELY user-modifiable technology

To make the job of reading the whole World Wide Web every week easier, I subscribe to RSS feeds from a variety of websites which I keep in my Google Reader. I have feeds from Discovery news that sends me stories about new scientific discoveries and feeds from Wired magazine to let me know if there is anything new on the technology front (there always is). One of the feeds I find particularly useful comes from Wordspy, a website that dredges the media for neologisms. This week they word-spied "burqini" which combines "burqa" and "bikini" to give us a word for a swimsuit that conforms to the Islamic dress code for women. The burqini or burkini, in sharp contrast with the bikini, is comprised of leggings, a loose top and a head covering.

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