BBC Dumber

BBC TV audiences can expect more repeats and fewer original programmes under plans to reduce the size of the corporation revealed on Thursday.  Up to 1,800 staff will also be made redundant – primarily in news, BBC programme making and regional centres.

“I can’t see how they can justify these cuts,” said Natasha Kaplinsky.  “I love working with Dermot, Mishal, Sian, Bill and Moira.  Besides, we need six for the darts team in case one of us is on holiday.”

John Humphrys was in a similar mood; “James, Sarah and Edward would be missed if the Today programme had to get rid of them, but we definitely need a team of four if they expect us to make our own tea and toast every day”.

The expected cuts will result in name changes for many programmes. ‘BBC 24’ will be cut to ‘24’, ‘Today’ will be shortened to ‘This Morning’, ‘The One Show’ will become ‘The One and Only Show’ and ‘Michael Palin’s New Europe’ will be renamed ‘Eastenders’.

‘Newsnight’ presenter Jeremy Paxman has voiced his fears that the show could not “survive in anything like its current form” if its budget was slashed by 20%.
Sir Michael Lyons promised hopeful journalists that it would definitely be at least that.

Sir Michael said that the BBC had been repeating the same twelve episodes of Eastenders for the last five years and nobody had noticed.  Similarly, with the Snooker Championships, the BBC has been editing and cutting together clips from different matches to create programmes that are more entertaining.  This explains the frightening speed of Ronnie O’Sullivan’s last 147 break and why his hair length and shirt colour kept changing between shots.

Nature programmes and Quiz shows will be combined to save money.  Rumours that Anne Robinson will wrestle apes in “The Weakest Chimp” or wild cats in “The Weakest Lynx” have not been confirmed.  “The Weakest Mink” in which the winner gets to keep a fur coat may also be a crowd pleaser.

OK. I’ll stop now.

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What is Dark Matter?

Down the ‘Slug and Philosopher’ last night, Old Ted was staring into his Guinness and frowning to himself.

“So what’s all this Dark Matter then?” he asked.
It’s a good question, there’s been a lot in the news about it lately.

“The scientists’ don’t know yet, Ted.” I said, “The world’s greatest physicists are working on it as we speak.  Wayne might know though”.
Wayne was practising his dart’s ready for the match against the ‘Slug and Film Producer’ later that evening.  Stupid name for a pub if you ask me.

“What do you reckon on ‘Dark Matter’, Wayne?”

“Well yer Dark Matter is basically a hypothetical form of matter that is believed to make up around ninety percent of the matter in the universe.  It don’t absorb light and it don’t emit light, which makes it invisible.  Furthermore it don’t collide with atomic particles which means you ain’t going to be able to touch it either.  However, we know it’s there because it exerts gravitational force.”

He threw two darts into the board.
“Scientists don’t know what it is yet.”

He threw the last dart and turned to face Ted and me.
“I however, do know.”
This didn’t surprise me, Wayne knows a lot of things.  I think he watches the Discovery Channel.

“What is it then?”  I asked.

 “Imagine that time is a straight line,” he said, “which it isn’t of course, it’s more like a ball of water, but that’s another subject.”
I nodded at him to continue.

“As we slide along the line we’re only conscious of the tiny speck of time that we’re currently in.  A speck of time that our brains hold for us so that we don’t go mad and see our whole lives happening in the one blinding instance.  But of course in yer wider universe all our history and all our future exists at the same time.  That’s what yer Dark Matter is.”

“So everything we’ve done and all we’re going to do is sort of ‘hanging around’ in space waiting for us to pass through it?”  I was trying to grasp onto it.

“Yeah, and if yer brain loses its ‘old on yer current time frame you become aware of all that ‘as been and all that will be.  That’s death that is.”

 “But are you saying that my future is all mapped out and that the universe already ‘knows’ what’s going to happen?”
“You mean is everything predetermined by fate or do we have free will?
No, don’t worry mate, you have free will all right and the decisions you make alter the substance of the Dark Matter hanging in front of you.  Funnily enough your decisions alter the Dark Matter behind you as well.”
“You mean I change history by what I do today?”
“Yeah, you do.  It’s all part of the great circle, but that’s another subject and I haven’t got time to discuss it now.  I must practise me arrows.”
Wayne went back to the board and retrieved his darts.

I looked at Ted.
“Does that answer your question, Ted?”

“Not really, I just wanted to know what all this mucky stuff floating in my beer is.”


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Good darts

The switch has been thrown on a telescope specifically designed to seek out alien life. Funded by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, the finished array will have 350 six-metre antennas and will be one of the world’s largest. The Allen Telescope Array (ATA) will be able to sweep more than one million star systems for radio signals generated by intelligent beings.
Its creators hope it will help spot definite signs of alien life by 2025.
“For Seti, the ATA’s technical capabilities exponentially increase our ability to search for intelligent signals, and may lead to the discovery of thinking beings elsewhere in the Universe,” said Seth Shostak, senior astronomer at the Seti Institute.”

Down at my local, ‘The Slug and Philosopher’ there was a different opinion.
“It could be that our friend Mr Allen has wasted his money with this one,” said Wayne, captain of our darts team. “Although wiv the more powerful equipment we can pick up signals from a wider and deeper section of the universe, that’s not the factor that will prevent us chatting with aliens.”

“Go on, Wayne.” I encouraged him.
“Yeah, yer main problem with alien contact is not yer first three dimensions but it’s yer dimension of time. Until man masters time and distance you can kiss those aliens’ butts goodbye.”

“What do you mean, Wayne?”
“To have two way communications with distant or near life forms you have to co-exist in the same time frame. What’s more both sets have to have reached an advanced technological state. If you live in different times then the best you can hope for is to pick up the historic signals of a long dead civilisation.”

“Like one day little green guys will pick up Eastenders?”
“Yeah, and they’ll be glad our civilisation died out, but imagine that the life of the universe is the double ring around the edge of a dartboard, circular and vast, and that the life of our civilisation is a dart hole in double one. Now imagine that the alien civilisation’s lifespan is measured by the point of a dart and that the dart is thrown at random towards the dart board. Wot are the chances of it landing near our hole?”

“About as likely as you buying me the next pint?” I ventured.
“Yeah, and that’s no chance!”

It’s nice to know you can rely on some things in an increasingly dodgy universe.


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Light Sabre

As part of Star Wars’ 30th Anniversary celebrations, Space Shuttle Discovery will carry an unusual cargo in the form of Luke Skywalker’s light sabre as it lifts off with seven astronauts on its way to the International Space Station later this month.
The famous sci-fi prop was given to NASA officials by some of the main Star Wars characters including Chewbacca, Boba Fett, Jango Fett, Princess Leia, Luke Skywalker, various X-Wing pilots, Jedi, and storm troopers from the Golden Gate Garrison of the 501st Legion.

These are the same crack storm troopers that allowed themselves to be humiliated by a kid with a sword, a girl, a hippy with a pistol and a seven-foot tall teddy-bear.  Known throughout the galaxy as the ‘storm pussies’ their embarrassment means that they may never remove their helmets.  Darth Vader said of them that “never have so many been so outwitted by so few, only the X-Wing pilots have been more of a disappointment to me.”

“Yeee aaahh ooooo!” said Chewbacca, which is Wookie for “You came, You saw, We kicked your arse!”

Doug Mattice, of Space Centre Houston, NASA’s visitor complex, said:
“We hope the Discovery crew get it out while they’re up there and spend some time mucking about with it.”
What’s he talking about?
“It would be funny to think there were astronauts up in space attacking each other with the Star Wars light sabre.”
Oh yeah, the light sabre.

Yeah, that would be hilarious, perhaps they could dress up in some of the uniforms as well, that would scare the Russians when they meet up in the Space Station.

Help us Old Ben Behind Me, you’re our only hope.


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I had a stalker on the walk home from work last night.  One of those blue and yellow police helicopters was taking the same route as me across the town.  It kept flying in little circles and I could see the crew looking down at me.  I wasn’t concerned at first.  I was eating an ‘individual’ pork pie that I had bought for lunch but then decided to eat as a treat on the way home.  (What the hell is an ‘individual’ pork pie?  Has it no friends?  Has it a unique character all of its own?). 

Moreover, I was on the way home from work, so everything was ok. 

The police swooped lower for a closer look and I could lip-read what the observer was saying into his radio;

“He is wearing a black jacket and he has a bun.”

The Control Centre crackled back at him through his headphones.

“What do you mean ‘shoot to kill’?” shouted the observer,“He’s just some fat bloke!”

The pilot had heard some of that and I saw the machine gun at the front swing around to point at me.

The headphones crackled again.

“No!” replied the observer, “Not a flack jacket and a gun!  A black jacket and a bun!”

Control was silent for a few seconds then sent another burst of static into his ear.

“I don’t know what sort of bun!  Do you want me to ask him?”

The megaphone on the helicopter came to life and bellowed down at me: “What sort of bun is that you are eating?”

Several other pedestrians were looking now.

“It’s a Melton Mowbray pork pie!”  I yelled, spaying crumbs from my mouth.  I waved the pie in the air.

The observer reported to control, “He’s a foreigner; I didn’t understand a word of what he said”.

Control gave him his orders and he relayed them to the pilot.

“We’ve got to leave him and go back to base; we can’t be seen to be harassing immigrants.”

“It’s a pork pie!”  I shouted at the retreating helicopter.

 A little old woman who had been watching, glowered at me, “Bloody foreigners!” she muttered.


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Shibboleth 2007

Sculptor Doris Salcedo has unveiled a hole at the Tate Modern – the latest installation in the art gallery’s Turbine Hall.

The work, entitled Shibboleth 2007, runs the full 167 metres of the cavernous hall on London’s South Bank.  It begins as a crack then widens and deepens as it snakes across the room.  Colombian artist Salcedo said the work symbolised racial hatred and division in society.

“I always try to relate my work to tragedy,” she said.
And I know that many of the rest of us will do the same.

In trying to comprehend this interesting piece, it is important to understand the title.  Shibboleth is Hebrew for ‘stream of water’ but it has come to describe an arbitrary test or custom that distinguishes one group from another.

For example, one group who understand why a crack and hole in the floor of the Tate Modern is art but a crack and hole in the street outside my house is ‘essential maintenance.’

And a second group who don’t understand it and have no intention of setting foot in the Tate Modern, especially now that there is an additional Health and Safety hazard to contend with.

Salcedo claims that the work took her over a year to make and apparently spent the past five weeks installing it in the Tate, but she refused to reveal how it was achieved.
“What is important is the meaning of the piece.  The making of it is not important,” she said, adding that the work was “bottomless… deep as humanity”.

I disagree there.  I think the making of it is very important.  What was the hole in originally and how do you pick up a hole that you have made, carry it somewhere else and ‘install’ it?
Also, if it is bottomless, surely there must be a corresponding hole in Australia, China or somewhere?
Perhaps that’s what she’s done, perhaps there’s an identical installation in the Sydney Museum of Modern Art and if you drop a fruit gum or a pencil into the hole in the Tate it pops out in Sydney and frightens the night watchman.

It needs testing.
Next time you’re passing the Tate pop in there and stuff something down their hole. I’d volunteer but my life has enough holes in it already.



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