Category Archives: Stuff

Spam spam spam spam competition competition competition competition

Every week or so I open my spam folder and marvel at the illiterate, preposterous and often quite mystifying attempts to separate me from my money.

Here are just a few from today, selected more or less at random:

Screen Shot 2016-04-29 at 15.09.06

I come from a background of direct mail so I know a bit about how a marketing campaign needs only a tiny hit rate to pay for the entire enterprise.

But in direct mail, lots of skill and and money went into trying to make sure wastage was kept to a minimum. In contrast, the stuff that ends up in my spam folder seems to suggest precisely zero effort was expended on targeting, and somehow even less on messaging.

So it got me wondering what the sender’s name and subject line of a successful spam email might look like.

Have a go in the comments section. It doesn’t really matter what you’re selling. You could choose one of the above or anything from your own spam folder. The aim is solely to use your powers of persuasion and familiarity with the English language to get the reader to think that it’s a bona-fide email and click on the link. (Don’t actually include a link, we’ll have to pretend that one is there.)

Winners will be notified by email. (‘Yes, [name]! YOU have WON the spam competishun!!!!‘) Perhaps not. Perhaps I’ll just come back to this post a few weeks from now and choose one. Assuming there’s more than one to choose from.

Anyway, off you go. Your time starts NOW.

 

 

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A joke for St Patrick’s Day

Two Jewish guys are walking along 5th Avenue in New York. As they pass St Patrick’s Cathedral, one of them spots a sign on the steps outside.

‘Come on in! Convert to Catholicism and get $500!’ it reads.

‘Would you look at that,’ says Abby.

‘I know!’ says Dan. ‘Guys must be desperate.’

Weeks later the two meet up again.

‘Hey, Dan,’ says Abby. ‘Remember that sign outside St Patrick’s?’

‘Sure, I remember. What of it?’

‘After I left you, I went back and took a look inside.’

‘You did?’ says Dan. ‘What happened?’

‘Well, I got talking with the priest and decided to convert. I’m now a Catholic,’ says Abby.

‘Wow,’ says Dan. ‘Did you get the $500?’

Abby says ‘Jeez, you people are all the same!’

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David Bowie – the music never played second fiddle

It’s almost two weeks since the death of David Bowie and, if I wanted to, I could still quite easily well up. His songs touched my heart, my head and frequently – if embarrassingly – my legs. When I tried to dance to them, I mean.

Coincidentally, he was also the only artist I could confidently pull off at karaoke parties. He never mentioned this to anyone, of course.

He was by far my favourite musician. Those who know my near-obsession with Frank Zappa will question this. Whatever. They’re different, is all I can say. They’re both my favourites, and they’re both my favourites by a long way. Go figure.

One similarity, though, and an aspect of Bowie that no appreciation of him that I’ve read has mentioned, is that, like Zappa, Bowie really loved music.

No shit, Sherlock? Well, maybe. But for me the appeal of Bowie’s music is just as great when he’s not singing as when he is.

Like Zappa, he gave his musicians room to create, to let rip or to exploit a melody’s potential. He forced them into musical places they wouldn’t normally have considered. He experimented with unusual sounds and non-standard instruments. And he frequently explored music that required a modicum of patience and concentration before it bestowed its rewards.

I’m thinking of how long it’ll take to find examples of all this in his 27-strong album catalogue, when I realise that I could probably find them all in just one. Maybe even in the album I happen to be listening to right now, Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps). Let’s have a go, shall we?

The opening vocals of the opening track, It’s No Game (Pt 1), aren’t sung by Bowie. They’re not even sung in English. When he does start singing, it sounds more like a painful attempt to bring up his own spleen. Robert Fripp’s guitar is appropriately angry and discordant. It ends with Bowie actually bawling at Fripp to ‘Shut up!’ Can you imagine a Coldplay album starting like this?

Track 2, Up The Hill Backwardsstarts in what sounds to me like 7/4 time, again with Fripp on guitar, before settling down into a stomping 4/4 arrangement. Bowie’s knocked-back, almost chanted vocals share the stage with at least two other singers. At about 2:10 the listener is hauled back into 7/4 time for Fripp to return with more of his crashing guitar work. But this isn’t the middle eight. It just signals the end of the vocals. For the rest of the song we’re treated to a minute-long guitar workout, accompanied by Dennis Davis’ thunderous drumming. The singer whose album we’ve bought isn’t singing, but we’re still listening. Do you ever get this sort of thing on an Adele album?

The album’s title track is more like a straightforward rock song, but that’s straightforward in a Bowie way. There are weird clangings, staccato electronic dog barks in a descending scale, Fripp’s snarling guitar and, again, an extended section at the end of the song (some 30% of its duration) in which the only vocals are an anthemic la-la-la-ing. The whole thing sounds very much like…no one.

But, oh dear. The rest of the tracks unfortunately do little to lend weight to my thesis. Bugger. Perhaps this whole exercise has been a mistake. Maybe I should have chosen Low. However, Ashes to Ashes does include a glorious vocal technique that I can’t imagine any other artist even thinking of doing. From 2:44, Bowie repeats his own lines in a flat monotone, like a bored church congregation responding to the vicar. It’s a world away from the girly chorus you’d expect. Best of all, this structure compels Bowie to sing the last line, a rock ‘n’ roll exclamation, in a similar style. So at 2:57 we hear his lifeless response ‘Woe-oo-woe’. Did Elton John ever try anything so audacious? Jackson? Madonna? Presley? The album throws up other examples of Bowie’s vocals being anything but run of the mill. Check out the slowed down/speeded up split vocals from 2:39 in Scream Like a Babyfor example.

Better still, take Scary Monsters off your Spotify Music Centre and play Aladdin Sane instead. The title track. That piano solo. If you want audacious, this takes the biscuit. Dissonant, seemingly random yet coherent and, to me, utterly majestic. How did it happen? Here’s the pianist, Mike Garson, talking about the day it was recorded back in January 1973.  “I played a blues solo and David said: ‘No, that’s not what I’m looking for.’ Then I played a little Latin solo. ‘No, that’s not what I’m looking for. ’ Then he said to me: ‘You told me about playing on the avant-garde scene in New York. Why don’t you try something like that?’ I said: ‘Are you serious?’ He said: ‘Absolutely.’ That whole solo was one shot, one take – boom, that was it. But it came about because he got it out of me.”

And here’s Bowie himself, talking to Angus MacKinnon in a 1980 edition of NME“To digress completely for a moment – I still adopt the view that music itself carries its own message, instrumentally I mean. Lyrics are not needed because music does have an implicit message of its own; it makes its case very pointedly. If that were not the case, then classical music would not have succeeded to the extent that it did in implying and carrying some definite point of view, some attitude which presumably can’t be expressed with words…

… the lyrics taken on their own are nothing without the secondary sub-text of what the musical arrangement has to say, which is so important in a piece of popular music. It makes me very angry … when people concentrate only on the lyrics because that’s to imply there is no message stated in the music itself, which wipes out hundreds of years of classical music. Ridiculous.”

So, yes. Bowie was clowns and make-up and androgyny and all that reinventing himself malarkey. But he was also a staggeringly creative musician with a Gestalt vision of what a song should be – music and lyrics coming together to create a whole greater than the sum of its parts.

This must be my longest post ever. Thanks for reading if you kept with it. Thanks anyway, even if you didn’t.

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My 2015 Facebook Year In Review

28 Snarky Comments
34 Jokes That Unaccountably Fell Flat
7 Jokes via Timehop That Unaccountably Fell Flat Second Time Around
30 Moans About Things In General
11 Weird Comments That No Doubt Made Sense At The Time, To Someone
23 Invocations To Visit This Or That Blog, Especially That One About My Bloody Holiday
78 Links To Funny Things That Everyone Else Linked To The Week Before
4 Thinly-Veiled Cries For Help And/Or Approval
17 Bravely-Resisted Opportunities to Post A Withering Putdown To Someone’s Racist Comment
1 Failed Attempt At Above
3 Invitations To Sign A Petition, Because Petitions Always Work
1 Photo In Black & White Showing Charming Interplay Between Light and Shadow
1,348 Photos Of Me With A Drink
3 Updates Designed To Suggest My Job Is Occasionally Interesting
42 Occasions Of Banging On About Heartless Tories Etc

Merry Christmas, everyone!

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The pub where ‘gastro’ leaves a nasty taste

Source: The pub where ‘gastro’ leaves a nasty taste

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The pub where ‘gastro’ leaves a nasty taste

The local boozer is having a refurb! This is good news. Like many pubs, the Royal Oak has been hit by falling trade and has also suffered a number of ‘incidents’ prompting visits from the local plod. Permanent closure and conversion into flats could have been the alternative, so any kind of determination to keep it open is a good sign.

Speaking of signs, there’s one on the wall announcing that the Royal Oak was an Evening Standard Pub of the Year back in the late ’70s. That probably meant you got an assortment of affable pipe-smoking gents who used the word ‘marvellous’ a lot.

‘Affable’ too, probably.

I hope the refurbishment plans allow for the retention of that dying institution, the separate public and saloon bars. Mind you, the distinction between the two was getting a bit blurred at the Royal Oak. The former used to show football on Sky and could get noisy, especially when Chelsea were playing. The saloon bar used to be somewhere you could escape football on Sky. Then the management adopted the retirement home model of reckoning that people needed to have TV on at all times, wherever they were. So they put up TVs in the saloon bar, and tuned them all to show football on Sky.

The pub served a range of traditional hearty pub fayre. You know the sort of thing. Burgers, steaks, pies and so on. All pretty good value and, thanks to weapons-grade microwaves, delivered to your table virtually before you’d finished placing your order.

But whatever else is changing, it looks like the food side of things will stay the same:

See that?

GASTRO PUB, NOT US!

Dubious grammar aside, I was struck by what these four words say about how the ‘gastro pub’ is perceived. Well, badly, obviously. Perhaps with a deep sense of distrust and suspicion. ‘We’ll be having none of your fancy London ways around here’ is the subtext. Or maybe it’s a veiled reference to the refurb carried out some years ago at another nearby pub, The Railway.

If there’s one thing I’ve learnt about drinking in pubs, it is to avoid any whose name contains the words ‘railway’, ‘station’ or ‘travellers’. Sure enough, The Railway was a seriously dodgy venue. After one disturbance too many, they shut the place down and reopened it months later with a new name, new decor, new prices and a new menu:

Does this shout ‘gastro pub’ to you? It doesn’t to me. But maybe the drinkers at the Royal Oak got terrified that their pub would reopen selling, not burgers, but black cod fillet in a Japanese tamari and manuka honey reduction, served with locally harvested micro greens.

Fair enough, but why so virulent in the denial? Why mention it at all? Is gastro food, whatever that might be, really such a terrible, terrible thing that you have to highlight the fact that customers needn’t entertain the slenderest fear of encountering any?

It’s like trying to reassure customers with signs saying things like:

SALMONELLA & BOTULISM? NOT HERE!
FILTHY CARPETS & STINKING BOGS? I DON’T THINK SO!
RISK OF UNPROVOKED GLASSING? NOT REALLY OUR STYLE!

To me, the sign is stating in a passive-aggressive way that the pub will under no circumstances serve the kind of food many people enjoy. They may as well have a sign reading:

CHEERFUL AMBIENCE? NOT US!
LOG FIRE IN WINTER? GET OUT OF HERE!
or
GOOD RANGE OF ALES? WHAT PLANET ARE YOU ON?!

I’ll give it a try when it reopens, though. Of course I will. It’s the local.

UPDATE 1: I visited The Royal Oak shortly after it reopened. Verdict: They’ve kept the good stuff (antique mirrors, unusual tiny wooden doorway through which one has to stoop to get from the public to the saloon bar, good range of beers, general layout,) and got rid of some the bad stuff (old fashioned furniture, heavily stained swirly carpet). All the TVs are still there, and they’re all showing football. There were plenty of unoccupied tables and chairs. But dim lighting made it impossible to read the paper, which has always been one of life’s pleasures, and a pair of children were allowed to run around and yell at the tops of their voices. THAT I could just about have coped with, but the constantly barking dog in the adjacent bar proved too much. Plus, the owner attempted to stop his dog barking by shouting at it. So I drained my pint and left.

UPDATE 2: Maybe I was unlucky, so I give the pub another try. This time I takeBounder (my cocker spaniel) and a backlit iPad. The place is just as empty as before. But the barman takes one look at Bounder and says that dogs are no longer allowed, except in the public bar. From there I can hear the barking dog above the sound of two teams battling it out on Sky 3 Plus Football Euro Extra, so I leave and strike the Royal Oak off of my list of locals. Shame.

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The mystery of the canopy towel

Some new neighbours arrived a while back. They immediately set about modernising and improving their 1950s semi-detached house. In the garden they repaved everything that wasn’t grass and returfed everything that wasn’t paved. They planted flowers in neat rows, sprayed the outside of the house with white paint and bought a staggering variety of primary-coloured outdoor toys and games for their two young sons.

I don’t know about inside the house, but outside everything is transformed. Their garden furniture is modern and comfortable looking. Everything is clean and contemporary. The little glass canopy they erected over their back door, for example. Nice.

It’s a bit like this. Or was.

Speaking as one with a patchy, lumpy lawn, a brick BBQ held up by gravity alone and  an old pub-type picnic table stained by bird shit, I look at what they’ve done with some envy.

And then one day in early summer I noticed that an old kitchen towel had somehow found its way to the top of their new canopy. I figured that maybe it had been dropped by someone while they’d been cleaning the upstairs windows. A towel to clean windows? Well, yes, MAYBE. Or maybe a workman had somehow contrived to accidentally throw it up there. Regardless, given the owners’ love of everything being clean and well-ordered, it would only be a matter of time before they got the ladders out and removed it.

But no. It stayed there throughout the summer, looking all grey and dirty and dishevelled. It’s well known that a good place to hide is up in a tree as people seldom examine the lofty altitudes. But surely they’d have noticed it by now. I started to wonder if it had been left there on purpose, but failed to come up with a single plausible reason.

Then a strange thing happened. Even stranger, I mean. The towel was joined by a friend.

This new adornment to the canopy is no kitchen towel. It looks more like a beach towel to me, although I don’t claim any expert credentials in this regard. If the first towel wasn’t spotted because it was camouflaged perfectly against the grey summer skies, that surely can’t be the reason nobody has noticed this colourful newcomer.

The two towels have been sitting there for more than a week now. It’s utterly baffling as to why they’re there. Any ideas? Have YOU ever placed a towel in an unusual spot? Tell me now, while I’m still interested.

UPDATE

The neighbours are having scaffolding erected. Not sure why. Something noisy and disruptive, no doubt. But the days of the towels’ presence on the canopy are now surely numbered. A scaffolder, roofer, painter, plumber, glazier, window-fitter or loft converter is bound to see the towels and remove them, isn’t he? (Or she?) I’ll keep you posted.

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Think twice before breaking into this van

‘NO TOOLS LEFT IN VAN OVERNIGHT’ is the familiar sticker on white vans up and down the country. It rarely has its desired effect, of course. A van with this message is probably more likely to be burgled than one left completely blank.

As soon as a tradesperson adds Trusted Trader, Gas Safe, Checkatrade, ECA, TrustMark or any other accreditation onto his vehicle, he’s probably increasing his chances of some wanker breaking into his van and nicking everything with a plug on it, before selling the lot for beer money at the next car boot sale.

So here’s an alternative to the please-rob-me white van favoured by painters, builders and plumbers across the UK.

The green lights are probably a bit over the top. A silly personalised number plate is optional. You certainly won’t want your phone number on the side. The key bits are 1) it’s a black van with no windows, and 2) it has PRIVATE AMBULANCE on it, which as everyone knows is a more acceptable way of announcing that this is a hearse with a dead body in it.

Now who’s going to break into that in the hope of finding the odd pipe bender or concrete grinder?

 

Pic courtesy Ivan Barefield on Twitter.

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‘It’s all right, I’m not going to beat you up’

Lately I’ve been commuting to a station in Islington called Essex Road.  The trains that pass through it don’t go anywhere near Essex. They run from Moorgate in central London to places like Letchworth and Stevenage. It’s called Essex Road Station because it’s situated near Essex Road.

Essex Road doesn’t lead you anywhere closer to Essex, either. The whole Essex thing is a bit of red herring.

So that’s one thing you already know about Essex Road Station.

The other is that it is the only deep-level underground station in London that doesn’t see any Underground trains. The trains that stop here are all operated by First Capital Connect, part of the above-ground rail network. (Confusingly, Essex Road used to be part of the Underground, then in 1975 it suddenly went all high and mighty and switched to being overground.)

Anyway, it’s also one of those stations that’s served by lifts rather than escalators. Summon a lift and it effortlessly transports you down to platform level. Except that it doesn’t. It takes you beyond platform level. For reasons I cannot fathom, when you exit the lift you then have to take about 20 steps back up to where the trains are.

Flashback to 1904:

“OK boss, we’ve reached the platforms, can we stop digging now?”

“No, keep going!  Another twenty feet should do it.”

“But this is perfect, boss! We’re exactly in line with the trains.”

“I told you to keep digging, dammit!”

Under the heading ‘Disabled Access’, one website says of Essex Road Station: ‘Partial’. I suppose this means disabled people can ‘partially’ board a train or ‘very nearly’ leave the station.

I mentioned this to the man who didn’t beat me up.

We’d both been at street level awaiting one of the lifts. He with his tracksuit, his golden, jangly adornments and the various piercings about his person; me with the bag that I was suddenly aware contained my whole livelihood. He had the darting eye movements and the rapid, jittery body motions of someone who’s totally wired on something other than café cortado. The lift doors opened and we both walked in. After a moment the doors closed.

“Umeddmimmasmaffkintren,” he said. I pulled off my headphones.

“Sorry?”

“You made me miss my fucking train.” Oh, great. I was in a lift with someone using the past tense to describe something that couldn’t have happened even in the future.

“How did I manage that, then?”

“You held me up. Getting in the lift.”

This was bollocks, of course. “Going somewhere good, are you?” Change the subject. Get him talking about him.

“Yeah,” he said, without elaborating. Then: “I could have beaten you up. But it’s all right, I’m not going to do that.” The lift completed its descent and the doors opened. There was no one else about. He glanced at me as if he was about to reconsider.

“Weird about the stairs, isn’t it?” I said.

“Eh?” I talked about the madness of the lifts taking you to a point way below platform level. He said he’d never noticed that before.

It  has since occurred to me that imparting London trivia might be an effective way of disarming would-be attackers.

“Wait! We’re in the only ‘road’ in the City! Everything else is a lane, street, way or square!”

“Don’t hit me! See the Monument over there? Do you know more people have died falling from it than in the Great Fire it was built to commemorate?”

Or even

“Guys! Guys! We’re in the only Tube station that doesn’t contain any letters from the word ‘mackerel!”

Think I might be on to something?

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Born in ’54

2014 is the year I turn 60. No, I can’t believe it either. I wanted to know who and what I share my anniversary with, so here are twenty or so examples of others celebrating their 60th birthday this year.

SUNSILK SHAMPOO

Unilever first launched this famous shampoo in the UK. Now it’s the biggest name in haircare and is sold everywhere. A 1960’s ad campaign for Sunsilk featured a jingle composed by John Barry that was subsequently released as a pop single. Don’t look it up, it’s awful.

UNIVERS

Univers is described as a neo-grotesque sans-serif typeface and was designed by a Swiss guy called Adrian Frutiger. Frutiger also came up with, er, Frutiger. Alas, Univers isn’t on the WordPress menu so you’ll have to settle for whatever this is. Palatino?

THE GEODESIC DOME

A strong yet lightweight structure consisting of a lattice of interlocking icosahedrons, patented (but not invented) in 1954 by American hippy hero R Buckminster Fuller. The best examples in the UK can be seen at Cornwall’s Eden Project.

SLIDING DOORS

Not the movie, the actual thing. One breezy day in 1954, a couple of Texan dudes noticed that the wind was always blowing swing doors open. So they set about inventing the world’s first automatic electric sliding doors. Today it is estimated that there are lots of sliding doors everywhere.

THE MOGEN CLAMP

A tool used in circumcision procedures and invented by Brooklyn rabbi Harry Bronstein. Bronstein’s invention had an inherent design flaw in that the very act of applying the clamp made it impossible for the circumciser to see what he was doing. So Rabbi Bronstein is probably known as ‘that goddamn bastard’ by the various men who lost more than was religiously necessary.

PHOTOVOLTAIC PANELS

Also enjoying its 60th birthday is the photovoltaic or solar panel. Back in 1954 you needed a whole square yard of solar panel to power a single domestic light bulb. Today it’s more like 0.836 square metres.

TRANSISTOR RADIOS

The original transistor radio was called the Regency TR-1 and entered the US market costing £29.45, or about £250 in today’s money. Surviving examples are much sought after by collectors but rarely by music fans. I mean, look at it.

1717 ARLON*

Discovered in 1954 but actually born much, much earlier, 1717 Arlon is a small asteroid with its own tiny moon. It’s visible to the naked eye, but only if you’re viewing it from a spaceship that’s cautiously threading its way through the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.
* Asteroid shown may not be 1717 Arlon

NUCLEAR STUFF

1954 was a big year for all things nuclear. America launched the world’s first nuclear-powered submarine, the USS Nautilus, while Russia built the first ICBM, opened the first nuclear power station and exploded its first hydrogen bomb. Thanks, 1954!

NON-STICK FRYING PANS

Widely and wrongly believed to be an offshoot of NASA’s space program, the trusty non-stick pan was actually invented in France by one Marc Gregoire. However, it is true that US scientists one day saw Marc’s frying pan and thought to themselves ‘wait a minute – space travel!’

WEIRD CULTS

Scientology was founded in 1954. With their belief that everyone on Earth is descended from the souls of murdered aliens, they make practitioners of the Wiccan pagan religion, also founded in 1954, seem positively rational. Tom Cruise is a famous Scientologist, while Alan Whicker was a Wiccan*.
* Wasn’t

THE BLACK BOX

The guy who can probably claim most credit for the invention of the modern flight recorder is an Australian called David Warren. There are two things we know about the black box. One, they aren’t black and two, we’ll probably never find the one from flight MH370.

BLOOMSDAY

The annual Dublin event (read ‘pub crawl’) celebrating the life of Irish writer James Joyce. The day is named after Leopold Bloom, the main character in Joyce’s book Ulysses. Have you ever read Ulysses? Neither have I.

LOVE HEARTS

When I was growing up in the 60s, these iconic items of confectionery carried messages like ‘Groovy’ and ‘Swing it’. There’s currently a competition to dream up aphorisms for their 60th anniversary, so expect to see lots of OMGs, WTFs and ROFLMAOs. DYSWIDT?

1954 MOVIES

There were some good ones, like On The Waterfront and Rear Window, as well an abomination called The Silver Chalice, starring Paul Newman in his first role. When the film ran on TV in 1966, Newman took out ads in the trade press begging people not to watch it. His plea inevitably backfired.

MUSIC OF 1954

Mantovani, Dean Martin and Max Bygraves were the year’s big hitters. Bill Haley briefly lit up the charts with Shake, Rattle & Roll, but it wasn’t until 1955 that rock ‘n’ roll really took a hold. The number one when I was born was ‘Cara Mia’ by David Whitfield. I considered adding it to my party’s playlist. Then I listened to it.

THE ROUTEMASTER

Who doesn’t love the iconic Routemaster? Apart from people in wheelchairs, I mean? Some 2,876 Routemasters were built between ’54 and ’68, with 1,280 still in existence. They’re still operated on the ‘heritage’ routes 9 and 15 – plus there’s a phantom Routemaster that occasionally ‘appears’ in W10.

MONSTERS OF ‘54

Specifically, Godzilla and The Creature from the Black Lagoon, both of whom made their first appearance that year. Godzilla dealt with the prospect of humanity unleashing something beyond its control, i.e. atomic weapons. The Creature from the Black Lagoon was just a monster movie, although a 2014 remake is slated to be about the pollution of the Amazon.

FALSE NAILS

Artificial nails had been around for centuries, but the type used today came about by accident when US dentist Fred Slack broke a nail and used the tools of his trade to make a false one. The rest, as nobody says, is history.

THE ELECTRIC TOOTHBRUSH

The first one was called the Broxodent and it was invented by a Swiss dentist named Dr Phillipe-Guy Woog. Dr Phillipe-Guy Woog never met Dr Robert E Moog, or who knows what we’d have been subjected to whilst brushing our teeth.

SUBARU

Subaru is part of the Fuji Manufacturing Corporation. Not a lot of people know that. Subaru is the Japanese name for the Pleiades star cluster. Not a lot of people know that, either. And in the US, Subarus are popular amongst lesbians. Who the hell knew that?

FAMOUS DUDES

Simpsons creator and massive Zappa fan Matt Groening was born in 1954, along with John Travolta, Neil Tennant, Denzil Washington, Elvis Costello, Ang Lee, James Cameron, Ray Liotta, Annie Lennox, Angela Merkel, Arthur Smith and Jermaine Jackson.

Arthur Smith provided the comedy for my 40th birthday party. He was brilliant.

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