I delved into the history and the rules of Blue Plaques for CityMetric: read this if you want to ensure you get one of your own.
Is it possible to make railway station platform numbers interesting? I attempted it.
I reviewed Nic Cage’s latest film ‘The Trust’ in a special installment of Winning The Lottery With Nicolas Cage for Comedy Central’s internet website.
Exploring the history of British royalty via boozers.
Not a joke, despite the date.
I spent 2016 engaging in one of the most powerful tests of character that any human can experience: attempting to watch every Nicolas Cage film, in order, because I believed that it would have some mystical effect on reality that would change my life for the better. Also I bought lottery tickets and picked the numbers based off the films.
I wrote about it over on medium.com for whatever reason, so go there if you want to see a man’s spirit rise higher than it ever has before, or more likely crash back down into the bin again.
I am going to review all the things I watched at the cinema this year, again.
It turns out mainly I watched quite a lot of cack this year.
Birdman – I liked how they pretended it was all one shot and the drums all went thunk a thunk thunk but I think it got boring after the man was all in his pants and then there were four endings? Calm down Boohoo Batman!
Jupiter Ascending – Never has something so passionately made so little sense. Sean Bean played a bee. A bee. A masterpiece.
Seventh Son – I was hoping this would be enjoyably bad but it was in fact indescribably boring. Some witches want to turn a realm into gold or something, Jeff Bridges looks like he’s lost a bet.
Furious 7 – Film of the year. The cars parachuted out of the aeroplane and then they jumped out of a building into another build and then into another building and then Paul Walker DROVE A CAR INTO HEAVEN.
The Voices – Ryan Reynolds is a “funny” serial killer or something? He cuts the women’s heads off, it’s a black comedy laughing out loud!
Avengers : Age of Ultron – Some more boring shit with robots, I expect.
Pitch Perfect 2 – Not enough singing, and all the bits where they were not singing were really amazingly bad!
Ex Machina – Domhnall Gleeson kisses a robot or something? I imagine it made me think!
Mad Max: Fury Road – Every single thumbs up emoji. All of them.
Jurassic World – You know how unhappy nerds make versions of The Phantom Menace where they edit out all the scenes with Jar Jar Binks or whatever? They should do a version of this where they edit out everyone who isn’t a CGI dinosaur.
Terminator: Genisys – Oh, just fuck off.
Everest – This was extremely stressful and bummed me out a whole lot because it turns out climbing up Everest is a really dumb idea and it doesn’t go at all well! Do not watch this film or try to climb up a mountain!
Inside Out – The people used the computers to make my brain feel emotions!!! U GOT ME AGAIN COMPUTER PEOPLE!!!
Death Of A Gentleman – I spent a lot of time this year watching cricket and according to this film it is going to die soon because of capitalism so that’s bad.
The Man From U.N.C.L.E. – Yeah, I really gave a shit about the origin story of The Man From U.N.C.L.E., thanks all. Guess what happens at the end? SPOILERS: HE BECOMES THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E.! Still, I would probably sit through another one.
Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation – Tom Cruise and Simon Pegg did something? In a car? Not as good as the last one but absolutely fine, probably? I expect some people were disavowed.
Ant-Man – Top tip: put loads of good jokes in your superhero movies and they are actually fun to watch! (Meanwhile Ben Affleck growls about his city while Superman does 9-11 again, etc.)
Legend – It was sweet that they let some 13 year old boys write a film about their favourite gangsters. Tom Hardy was really good as London Bane and the Gay London Bane and then it turned out to have been narrated by a ghost?
Irrational Man – It is by Woody Allen and it has Joaquin Phoenix and Emma Stone and a murder and Neelix from Star Trek: Voyager in it. Did I like this film? Who knows!
The Martian – It was exactly like the book but you got to see many film stars who you recognise from other films doing it. Well done!
Christophe Waltz: James Bond you kissed my dad and now you must die.
James Bond: I disagree.
Black Mass – Johnny Depp played a sort of vampire gangster who hangs out with some very naughty policeman until things get too naughty and he has to wear a hat. 3 stars.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens – I liked seeing all the things that I remembered from the past when Wagon Wheels were bigger and also some new things that were a bit like those things but different! Then I watched it again and I liked seeing all the things again again!
They’ve announced that they’re Bringing It All Back to perform a medley on Children In Need, but will they be singing through gritted teeth? We decided to find out, using INTERNET SCIENCE – we looked at how often ‘the gang’ talk to (or about) each other on Twitter – measured by @ mentions.
My name is Ed, and I have a problem. My problem is that I can’t stop making terrible Twitter accounts, of which I have approximately 7,000. One time I pretended to be some sandwich spread and it got a bit out of hand and I ended up writing for the Guardian about it.
But, because I am quite lazy, another thing I do is make robots to do the terrible Twitter accounts for me. For example:
1. The Sausages Robot
@allthesausages was the first Twitter account I ever created (well, excepting my actual Twitter account). It searched for every mention of the word ‘sausages’ on Twitter and retweeted it (manually, it was all we had in them days). I didn’t really know how to write code back then so I bodged it together with a now defunct service called ‘Yahoo Pipes’ but once it was working it was easy enough to copy, so I made a few more.
First was the broadly similar @allthecheeses, then someone I worked with suggested @allyourmums, which searched for and retweeted anything containing the phrase ‘your mum’, and turned to be an effective way of creeping people out for no particular reason.
— Jamie Hacker Hughes (@profjamiehh) August 1, 2015
There was also @houseofsausages which tweeted every time someone in the UK parliament said ‘sausages’. They don’t say ‘sausages’ in parliament very much it turns out.
2. The Competition Robot
This happened because Ste Curran suggested it to me while we were drunk in a park. You know how companies do marketing exercises where they tweet something to effect of ‘Follow and retweet this and you could win a DVD of Tron!’? Well, what you can do is write code to search for those kind of tweets, and then automatically follow and retweet them, thereby entering competitions without even having to know that they existed in the first place.
So I did that. Even splitting our winnings 50/50 it seemed reasonable to assume that we would soon be very rich men! Well, it was not even as successful as this guy’s similar but more fruitful version, but over the course of a year or so we won:
- A Call Of Duty poster
- The latest in a series of alphabetical crime novels called something like G Is For Gun
- 2 tickets to an event at Ministry Of Sound (I missed the message about this, sorry Ste)
- 3 books of video game art (if anyone wants these I believe they are currently in a drawer in the offices of The Daily Mirror newspaper)
3. The Josh Whedon Robot
Once upon there was a man named Joss Whedon who invented space cowboys and lots of people on the internet cried because a) the space cowboys had their television programme cancelled and b) he would get referred to as Josh Whedon by people who were either less interested in space cowboys or specifically wanted to wind up the space cowboy fans. This eventually resulted in a Twitter account called @itsjossnotjosh that would look for people who said ‘Josh Whedon’ and correct them.
@mutilato It’s JOSS Whedon, not JOSH Whedon. Thanks.
— JOSS Whedon (@itsJOSSnotJOSH) March 9, 2011
Because I am an actual child, I set up an account called @itsjoshnotjoss that did exactly the opposite. It’s gone now. It was probably kicked in by some nerds.
4. The French Robot
When I was first learning to tinker with Twitter robots I created a few accounts to test things, so I now have a series of intermittently functioning accounts that respond to my own tweets in different ways – there’s one that tweets them again, but in reverse and one that tweets them again, but with every word turned into a #hashtag (I read in a #webinar that this was #good for #twitter #SEO).
But my favourite one is the French Ed, who sounds a lot classier and more intelligent than me even when he’s talking about the bloke from Smash Mouth eating eggs.
@lajoelgolby, vous devez connaître l’histoire de l’oeuf juste ? Qui aurait pu deviner bouche smash deviendraient les légendes du rock du…
— Le DJ Pomme (@leedjeff) June 15, 2015
It’s not working right now, because of something to do with Bing, I expect.
5. The “Annoy Alain De Botton” Robot
Remember when for a bit the hot new thing on Twitter was mashing up celebrities and philosophers, e.g. @KimKierkegaardashian?
Today's look: A terrible, insatiable existential hunger, plus my new favorite boots.
— KimKierkegaardashian (@KimKierkegaard) March 13, 2015
Well if someone else is doing something amusing on Twitter you should obviously immediately start doing the exact same thing except worse, so I decided to mash up jumper merchant Alain De Botton and George Costanza from Seinfeld. But I couldn’t actually be bothered to write funny tweets, so I made a Twitter robot called @GeorgeDeBotton that just took De Botton’s tweets and changed the nouns to words like ‘Jerry’, ‘Kramer’ and ‘airline food’. I’m not sure it amused anyone else but me, but it definitely ticked someone off as it was eventually suspended.
Oh, and one time I made an account also copied Alain De Botton’s tweets but just transformed them all into capital letters so it looked like he was SHOUTING ALL THE TIME. That one didn’t last very long at all. Sorry Alain.
Anyway I guess the moral is that automating Twitter accounts is an excellent way to annoy Alain de Botton and get free stuff that you don’t actually want. If any venture capitalists want to help me monetise one or both of those things, let me know!
There is a joke.
You probably know the joke, because it is a fairly famous joke.
It goes like this:
Question: Why did the chicken cross the road?
Answer: To get to the other side!
The mechanism of the joke is this: the listener, on hearing a question about a chicken crossing a road, will naturally assume that a humorous punchline is about to follow. Especially if the question is preceded by the questioner saying something like ‘Would you like to hear an extremely funny joke?’
The actual joke part of the joke is that there is no humorous punchline. You have been tricked. Your expectations have been confounded, assuming you have not already heard the joke, which is, at this point in human history, unlikely. Unless you’re a child or your memory’s broken or you’re from somewhere foreign and have an equivalent joke about an elephant crossing a railway line or something.
Anyway, lately I keep seeing the suggestion that it’s not a trick at all: the meaning of the punchline has been misconstrued, and it is in fact a play on words.
Here’s the earliest example I could find on Twitter of someone making this ‘realisation’, in 2011:
woooaahhhh i just had the biggest mind fuck. why did the chicken cross the road? to get to the other side (THE AFTER LIFE-DEATH, OTHER SIDE)
— A (@banapple95) March 10, 2011
And in 2009 someone asked Yahoo Answers to settle a debate she was having with her daughter:
(From her Yahoo Answers history we can tell her daughter was 15 years old at the time, by the way. Her husband is an alcoholic, and her aunt had a vaginal cyst. Learning sure is fun with Yahoo Answers! Bing it!)
So the idea is that the chicken, having considered all available options, decides to end its life by crossing the road. This activity, presumed to be fatal, will allow it to get to ‘the other side’, i.e. the afterlife.
This reading of the joke makes sense in linguistic terms, but it does rely on the chicken being able to understand concepts like death, and the afterlife, and also to understand enough about road traffic to pick the moment where the probability of road death is highest.
You could make this claim about the more standard reading, vis-à-vis chickens even understanding what roads are, but I don’t think we really need to assign much knowledge to chicken. It is here, it wants to go there – it may not particularly matter to the chicken that ‘here’ is one side of the road, and that ‘there’ is the other.
(Given the fairly strict stance of many religions on suicide, one could also question the wisdom of using it as a mechanism to reach the other side. Is there a chicken hell?)
The oldest recorded printing of the ‘joke’, according to Wikipedia, which is never wrong, appeared in a New York Magazine called The Knickerbocker. The March 1847 issue contained the following, excellent, version:
There are ‘quips and quillets’ which seem actual conundrums, but yet are none. Of such is this:‘Why does a chicken cross the street?’
Are you ‘out of town?’
Do you ‘give it up?’
Well, then: ‘Because it wants to get on the other side!’
I don’t know much about road safety in 1847, but I’m going take a punt and say that roads were probably quite a lot less dangerous than they are today. Maybe the chicken would be at risk of being trampled by a horse. But if I was a mid-nineteenth century suicidal chicken, I’d have to consider other options if I was looking for an efficient death.
The chicken joke is one people learn early in their lives. For some, it may be the first time they learn that life doesn’t necessarily make sense. But it’s okay. We’re grown-ups now. Look yourself hard in the mirror. Then go outside and, carefully, cross the road. For no other reason than to get to the other side.
Are you ‘out of town’? Do you ‘give it up’?