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Monday, 21 December 2015

Centre of the universe

Londoners awoke this morning to the shocking news that their city is not the centre of the universe.

"We've been checking our calculations for months," said NASA scientist Dr Scott Hardsum. "There's no doubt about it. London is not even close to the centre."

"Do wot?" commented taxi driver Roy Winston (45). "You're 'avin' a bubble, aintcha?"

On being assured the news was genuine, Roy's incredulity only increased. "You can't trust scientists, mate," he said. "Saw one on the telly claimed he'd discovered an Oxoplanet. 

"Bleedin likely that, aintit?" he added. "Whole world made of beef cubes."

"Bit tasty though," commented Roy's colleague Mike Caine (35).

Residents of London seemed wholly uninterested in the most exciting aspect of the new discovery - the true location of the centre of the universe. 

"It's in Glasgow," said Dr Hardsum: "Celtic Park to be precise."

"Arse," commented Rangers fan Alex Govan (29). "Now I'm gonnae have to move to another universe."

Saturday, 12 December 2015

Question of time

When workload is heavy, Friendly Encounters become less frequent. So we've enlisted experienced reporters to fill the gaps with short, topical news stories. (But remember what Walt Whitman said: "Whatever satisfies the soul is truth.")


Reports that David Dimbleby has turned into a hot-air balloon have been greatly exaggerated, say experts.

"He's not mature enough," said Dr Turnovah Newleaf, a biologist at Sussex University. "Metamorphosis into a hot-air balloon is part of the life-cycle of the Dimblebys. But David hasn't reached that stage yet."

His father Richard Dimbleby did his best work after the change, she added. "He used to float above Royal Weddings emitting a sonorous, incomprehensible rumble. It was very soothing."

Dr Phil McCracken, a Glasgow psychiatrist, said: "Close study by scientists resulted in the discovery of Dimbleby Waves. These led to a breakthrough in the treatment of mental disorders, when a machine was invented that could create the waves electronically."

Dimbleby Waves make humans feel secure, said Dr McCracken. "They bypass the bullshit deflectors in our brains. So hospitals use the machines to pacify disturbed patients who believe Britain is run by psychopaths."

Although David has not yet metamorphosed, the change is inevitable, said Dr Newleaf. "You might as well try to stop a caterpillar becoming a butterfly as a Dimbleby turning into a hot-air balloon. 

"It's his destiny."

A good deal of plain gibberish

  A MacDog by Will Brenner.
"You have to be nice to them," I try to tell my son, as he curses his computer for the tenth time in an hour. But he's not listening. Essay writing is always fraught at Blane Mansions, and this term it's worse than usual because the subject is postmodernism, which is quite frankly bollocks.

Here's what Noam Chomsky had to say on the subject. "A lot of it is simply illiterate, based on extraordinary misreading of texts, argument that is appalling in its casual lack of elementary self-criticism, lots of statements that are trivial or false, and a good deal of plain gibberish."

Chomsky knew a thing or two. But. 

And it's a big but.

Given an essay assignment on postmodernism you have to convince yourself, for the couple of weeks it takes to research and write, that these people are among the most profound philosophers on the planet. You have to engage with their arguments, such as they are. And you have to be especially nice to your computer. 

"Because it doesn't like postmodernism any more than you do," I tell my son. "So it's suffering too. If you want your computer to perform well, you have to treat it like ....."

"A woman?" he scoffs. "You're going to say I have to treat my computer like a woman, aren't you? That's the kind of shit you ageing hippies always say."

"I am not now and never have been a hippy," I say. "No I wasn't, unless you want it to interrupt you every five minutes to ask if you've put the dustbins out. To get your computer to behave, you have to treat it like a well-loved pet - like Katy here."

Young, smart, hyperactive, Katy is a large Alsatian who is still trying to decide if I'm a member of her pack or a dangerous outsider. She is convinced the answer is hidden somewhere in my groin.

"Gerrof," I tell her and she throws me a look of reproach from big dark eyes, turns her back on me and flops on the floor. 

"See what I mean," I tell my son. "You and Linda get the best out of Katy because you're consistently kind with her, but firm when you need to be. You react to your computer, on the other hand, the way I just reacted to Katy, and with the same result. It sulks.

"Let me tell you something," he says, having clearly had enough motivation for one morning. "When I'm trying to work at a computer I spend a fifth of my time working and all of the rest of the time trying to make the little plastic turd DO WHAT I TELL IT TO DO! 

"It's a good thing Steve Jobs is dead or I would feel compelled to take all of the hours I've spent swearing at this piece of shit Mac and use that time rowing to California purely so I could KICK HIM UP HIS CALIFORNIAN ARSEHOLE!"

He stops for breath and looks around. "Where is my computer, by the way?"

"Long gone," I tell him. "Shot out the front door in the middle of your rant. You won't see it again, I'm guessing. It's run away to join one of the bands of feral computers that have been rejected by humans and now haunt the echoing halls of skyscrapers, airports and mainline railway stations, stealing electrons and playing games with each other."

"Computer games?" he says.

"Nah. That's work to a computer. Football."

He grins. "Well if that isn't post fucking modern I don't know what is. Fancy a cup of tea?"

Friday, 11 December 2015

Cause of December flooding found

At times of heavy workload, Friendly Encounters become less frequent. So we've enlisted experienced reporters to fill the gaps with short, topical news stories. Here is the first:

The severe flooding that has hit Britain this month has nothing to do with climate change, says a prominent scientist.

"It's all Jeremy Corbyn's fault," said Dr Nikolai Moss. "This isn't politics. It's science." 

Rain forms around negative particles in clouds, Moss explained. "So all the negativity in the media about Corbyn is floating up into the clouds and acting as condensation centres for rain droplets."

Asked to comment, Richard Dawkins, the biologist whose brain is famously so big it can be seen from Pluto, was unimpressed. "I had never heard of Nik Moss so I looked him up," he said. 

"He claims to have a degree in climatology from the University of Auchinleck. But I was on a train once that went through Auchinleck and it's just a couple of crofters' huts in the Scottish wilderness. The man's a charlatan."

"If Nik Moss is a scientist, my arse is an ancient Greek philosopher," he added.