Issue #540 - 15th November 2019
|^ WORD OF THE WEEK
^ ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY
Friday 15th November - Conquistador Francisco Pizarro arrived in the Incan capital city Cuzco, 1533. Explorer Martin Frobisher died, 1594. William Pitt, "Pitt the Elder", Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, born, 1708. Serial killer Dr Thomas Neill Cream hanged, 1892. Intel released the 4004, the first commercial single-chip microprocessor, 1971. Actress Virginie Ledoyen born, 1976. Saturday 16th November - Roman emperor Tiberius born, 42 BCE. Prince Edward acceded to the English throne while travelling with the Ninth Crusade, 1272. Thief and serial jail-breaker Jack Sheppard hanged, 1724. Writer Fyodor Dostoyevsky was sentenced to death by a Russian court for anti-government activites; it would later be commuted to hard labour, 1849. Voice actor Daws Butler born, 1916. Soprano Lucia Popp died, 1993. International Day for Tolerance (United Nations). Sunday 17th November - Artist Bronzino born, 1503. Elizabeth I succeeded her half-sister Mary I as Queen of England, 1558. Mathematician and astronomer August Ferdinand Möbius born, 1790. Catherine the Great, Empress of Russia, died, 1796. The Suez Canal was inaugurated, 1869. actress Gladys Cooper died, 1971. Monday 18th November - The Visigoths under King Alaric I crossed the Alps to invade northern Italy, 401. Outlaw Robin Hood died, 1247 [traditional date]. Artist David Wilkie born, 1785. Mark Twain's The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County was published, 1865. Comic book author and illustrator Alan Moore born, 1953. Businesswoman and philanthropist Phoebe Hearst Cooke died, 2012. Tuesday 19th November - Pope Urban II called for a Crusade at the Council of Clermont, 1095. King Charles I of England born, 1600. Artist Nicolas Poussin died, 1665. U.S. President Abraham Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address, 1863. Indira Gandhi, 3rd Prime Minister of India, born, 1917. Tennis player Jana Novotná died, 2017. World Toilet Day (United Nations). Wednesday 20th November - Princess Eleanor of Scotland died, 1480. Artist Paulus Potter born, 1625. British forces landed at the Palisades to attack Fort Lee during the American Revolutionary War, 1776. Astronomer Edwin Hubble born, 1889. Writer Leo Tolstoy died, 1910. The marriage of Princess Elizabeth to Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten, 1947. Thursday 21st November - Astronomer Ole Rømer presented the first quantitive measurements of the speed of light, 1676. Writer and philosopher Voltaire born, 1694. Composer Henry Purcell died, 1695. The Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, having the then world's longest bridge span, opened to traffic, 1964. Singer-songwriter Björk born, 1965. Actor Bill Bixby died, 1993.
^ THE WISDOM OF...
This week, Alan Moore, in The Mindscape of Alan Moore (2003):The main thing that I learned about conspiracy theory is that conspiracy theorists actually believe in a conspiracy because that is more comforting. The truth of the world is that it is chaotic. The truth is, that it is not the Jewish banking conspiracy or the grey aliens or the 12 foot reptiloids from another dimension that are in control. The truth is more frightening, nobody is in control. The world is rudderless.
^ FILM QUIZ
A selection of quotations from films with a common director. Answers next issue or from the regular address.
Last issue's quotations were from films directed by Robert Wise:
- Nancy, you are going to get some sleep tonight if it kills me.
- Everything's a dream when you're alone.
- People treat me like I'm the anti-Christ of television journalism.
- Christophe, I need you to remember what happened before you died.
- - Hey, man, my pops always said the quickest way to a woman's heart - the church.
- It's actually through the ribcage, but that's a bit messy.
- My oath of celibacy is on record, Captain.
-- Star Trek: The Motion Picture 
- - Juvenile delinquency is purely a social disease.
- Hey! I got a social disease!
-- West Side Story 
- Only grown-up men are scared of women.
-- The Sound of Music 
- A closed mind is the worst defense against the supernatural... If it happens to you, you're liable to have that shut door in your mind ripped right off its hinges!
-- The Haunting 
- I won't resort to threats, Mr. Harley. I merely tell you the future of your planet is at stake.
-- The Day the Earth Stood Still 
^ WEIRD WORLD NEWS
Strange stories from around the world, some of which might be true...
- Collins Dictionary have announced their word of the year. Beating out words like 'influencer' (someone who promotes lifestyle choices via socia media), 'rewilding' (returning land to a natural, wild condition), 'deepfake' (a software-modified image or video that appears unaltered), 'nonbinary' (or 'non-binary' - not conforming to either male/female or heterosexual/homosexual categorising) and 'hopepunk' (a literary or artistic movement celebrating positivity in the face of adversity') was 'climate strike', a protest where people absent themselves from work or education to demonstrate for action to counter climate change.
- Iowa resident Benjamin Schreiber, 66, was sentenced to life in prison without parole in 1996 for murder. He has been in court again recently, claiming that he has completed his sentence and should be freed, because in March 2015 he suffered from kidney stones which led to sepsis and he had to be revived five times in hospital before undergoing surgery and treatment with antibiotics. His lawyer argued that because he had "momentarily died" and been resuscitated his sentence was served to completion. The judge disagreed, saying "Schreiber is either still alive, in which case he must remain in prison, or he is actually dead, in which case this appeal is moot."
- Scientists at the University of Oxford and Fusan University in China have developed a technique to create fake rhino horn from horse hair to "confuse the trade" in illegally-poached horn, particularly in China where it is claimed as an aphrodisiac in traditional medicine. The researchers hope that by flooding the market with fake horn they will undermine the financial incentives for both poachers and smugglers. Not everyone is in agreement with the tactic; Save the Rhino International has warned that it could inadvertently lead to a stimulated market and increased demand, and that it is more important to directly focus on stopping the poaching and reducing demand.
- In 2009 the McDonalds fast food chain closed all of its restaurants in Iceland. Burger lover Hjortur Smarason decided to keep his last cheeseburger and fries; "I had heard that McDonald's never decompose so I just wanted to see if it was true or not," he told reporters. The burger and fries are currently kept in a glass cabinet in a hostel in southern Iceland (having spent the first three years in a plastic bag, then a couple of years in a museum) and appear remarkably fresh, apart from the paper wrapping which is showing its age. The hostel claims that people have come from around the world to see the meal and a live stream gets up to 400,000 hits a day. "It's a fun, thing, of course, but it makes you think about what you are eating. There is no mould," hostel owner Siggi Sigurdur said.
- In the midst of the "catastrophic" bushfires burning across New South Wales, Australia, Paul Selky returned to his evacuated home to find a note on his kitchen table, which he happily shared online. It read "It was a pleasure to save your house. Sorry that we could not save your sheds. Urunga RFS [Rural Fire Service]. P.S. - we owe you some milk." The post eventually reached Kale Hardie-Porter, the firefighter who wrote it, and who commented on Facebook that "we took refuge in your house and that's when we discovered the fridge" adding an apology for his handwriting as "it was late and I could not see a thing!"
- Controversy has long raged over a scene in the original Star Wars film where Han Solo is confronted by bounty hunter Greedo in the Mos Eisley cantina. In the original 1977 release Han fired first, killing Greedo, then in the 1997 Special Edition release the scene was altered to show Greedo firing the first shot, because director George Lucas did not want to show Han as a "cold-blooded killer", prompting angry fans to produce "Han Shot First" t-shirts. Now, for the release on Disney's streaming TV service it has been altered yet again. In this latest version both fire at the same time, Greedo appears to say "Maclunkey!", and, odder still, that word is left out of the subtitle track, leading to #Maclunkey briefly trending on Twitter. There was initially much confusion over what Maclunkey means, but according to some fans it is actually "ma klounkee", established in The Phantom Menace as meaning "I'll end you".
- A glitch at an American telecommunications service company last week led to almost 170,000 customers of T-Mobile, Sprint, AT&T and Verizon receiving text messages originally sent on Valentine's Day, causing confusion for some as they received messages of love from ex-partners, and concern for others, best expressed by one recipient who said "I just got a text from my best friend's phone, the only issue is she's been dead since February." Syniverse, the company behind the glitch, apologised and blamed it on an "internal maintenance cycle".
- The U.S. Army is planning on deploying high-powered lasers to battlefield situations by 2022 to combat drones, helicopters and incoming missiles. Initially deployed as a platoon of four 'Stryker' vehicles the lasers, which have been in development for several years, will require 50 kilowatts of power each, enough to power three homes.
- Artist and amateur paraglider Laura Melissa Williams recently woke up to find that she had thousands of social media messages - all from Malaysia, where teenagers had recently sat their SPM exams (equivalent to GCSEs). One of the English comprehension questions had been about a fictional paraglider called Melissa who hit a storm cloud and had to be rescued from a barn roof; one student had looked up the question online and discovered Williams' paragliding adventures leading to "the real Melissa" trending in the country's social media. Initially the posts were humorous but as the day went on they became more sarcastic and questioned whether she worked for the Malaysian government, until Malaysian influencer Arwind Kumar saw what was happening and asked his 200,000 followers to "stop cyber-bullying Melissa" after which apologies began to flood in, along with invitations to visit Malaysia and go paragliding with a local flier. In all Williams received 210,000 messages on Instagram, 30,000 tweets, countless direct messages and has acquired 5,000 new followers across the platforms.
- Archaeologists in Mexico have uncovered the skeletons of at least fourteen woolly mammoths in what are believed to be the first-discovered man-made mammoth traps. Until now it had been thought that early hunters only killed wounded mammoths, but the discovery in Mexico suggests that they dug the two 5'6"- (1.7m)-deep, 82'- (25m)-wide pits and herded the elephant-sized animals into them, probably with burning branches.
IN BRIEF: South Carolina man claims iced tea from McDonald's was spiked with cannabis. ● First edition of Darwin's On the Origin of Species auctions for $564,000 (£439,000). ● Yorkshire town currently underwater after flooding is called Fishlake... ● Patek Philippe watch auctions for record $31m (£24.15m). ● Severed hand found in shark caught for research purposes off Reunion identified by wedding ring as from Scottish tourist who disappeared while snorkeling. ● WWII US submarine USS Grayback discovered near Okinawa, Japan, 75 years after sinking. ● Venice suffering highest floods in fifty years. ● Brain implants to reduce cravings being tested on patients with severe opioid addiction in U.S. ● Last month was hottest October on record, globally. ● AI developed to predict where lightning will strike; currently only works for within 18 miles (30km) and 30 minutes of previous strike. ● Fossil of ape with legs adapted for walking upright and arms suited for climbing discovered in Bavaria. ● Finnish beach covered in rare 'ice eggs'.
UPDATES: "Ultima Thule", the distant Kuiper Belt object visited by the New Horizons space probe earlier this year has been officially named Arrokoth, meaning 'sky' in the Powhatan and Algonquin Native American language. ● A United States National Safety Transportation Board report has found that the Uber self-driving car that knocked down and killed a woman walking her bicycle across a street in March had software that was not designed to recognise and react to pedestrians crossing the road other than at designated crossings.
Last Friday Trump said he was considering attending the Victory Day Parade in Moscow next May; then on Monday President Bone Spurs addressed the US Veterans Day parade in New York standing in what appeared to be a cross between a bulletproof box and an ice hockey sin bin, to chants of "lock him up" and within view of a massive "IMPEACH" sign on a skyscraper [For more on his attitude towards veterans, see below]. ● Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani tried to defend him in a Wall Street Journal op-ed piece by writing that "out of a five-page transcript [of Ukraine phone call] Mr Trump spent only six lines on Joe Biden"; Twitterati reactions include "out of a whole lifetime, John Wilkes Booth spent only six seconds assassinating Abraham Lincoln" (@KristerJohnson) and "out of all the days he was president, Nixon only spent a handful orchestrating a burglary and cover-up" (@brianklaas). ● Trump launches into rant decrying "fake news" (which in his book must be almost every news service by now, even Fox), claiming again that he won the 2016 election by a landslide (he lost by 2.8 million votes, but won thanks to the electoral college system), that he has "created the greatest economy in the history of our country" (untrue) and said that the Ukraine phone call whistleblower's lawyer should be sued for treason, a perfect example of how Trump deflects criticism of him onto other people. ● The public phase of the Congressional impeachment inquiry has started as this issue was being written, with a new claim that Trump pushed the Ukrainian president to investigate Joe Biden as further sources confirm that Trump did not release the military aid to Ukraine, the State Department did after a legal determination that Trump's withholding of it was illegal.
Trump tweeted to his followers to vote for former spokesman Sean Spicer on Dancing With the Stars (the American version of Strictly Come Dancing); Spicer promptly got voted off the show and Trump deleted his tweet (but fortunately there are official and unofficial records of his tweets). Trump's record on endorsements is not good - as previously reported he attended a Washington Nationals World Series game last month only for them to lose, a rally to endorse Kentucky governor Matt Bevin was followed by Bevin being voted out of office and last Sunday Trump attended a collegiate American football game between the University of Alabama and Louisiana State University. Louisiana had not beaten Alabama since 2011, a streak of eight game, until Trump went to Alabama to watch. At least he got a warm welcome, only thanks to Alabama University warning its students that anyone booing him would lose their rights to free tickets. The American "Baby Trump" balloon was also in attendance outside the stadium; a Trump supporter stabbed it and was arrested - a crowdfunding campaign to raise money for his defence was ended by GoFundMe on the grounds that it was the result of a criminal act. ● Trump has been accused of defrauding his supporters after running at least 15 lotteries where the winner would get to eat breakfast, lunch or dinner with him, and get free travel and accomodation. There is no evidence that any such meetings ever took place.
Donald Trump, Jr launched his left-baiting book Triggered: How the Left Thrives on Hate and Wants to Silence Us at an event at the University of California in Westwood, Los Angeles, with girlfriend and Trump, Sr, adviser Kimberley Guilfoyle only to get booed when it emerged that he would not be answering questions. He launched into a diatribe against the perceived left-winger protesters and left the event early; it later emerged that the heckling was from right-wing supporters angry that he was not going to take questions. There were protesters against him - almost all of whom were outside. ● A duo of an artist and a comedian going by the name TGL - "The Good Liars" - have been replacing the dustjackets of Trump, Jr's book in bookshops with one bearing "a more honest title" - Daddy, Please Love Me: How Everything I Do Is Try To Earn My Father's Love. With his book launch the same week as Veteran's Day the Trumpling also attracted the wrath of US veterans after writing in it comparing what his family went through in the run-up to the 2016 election with the suffering of those who died in service. ● A New York judge has ordered the president to pay a $2m (£1.6m) fine for misusing funds raised for the Donald J Trump Foundation to finance his 2016 election campaign instead of funding charities including one for veterans. ● The Trump International Golf Club Scotland Limited has been ordered to pay the Scottish Government's £225,000 ($289,000) legal costs after losing a three-year court attempt to block an offshore windfarm development near the course. The company has failed to make a profit in the last seven years. ● District of Columbia judge Carl Nichols has ruled that Trump cannot sue the State of New York in a further attempt to block the release of his tax returns after the New York state legislature passed a law allowing Congress to request his New York tax returns. Nichols was nominated to be a District Judge last year by Trump. ● The New York Times has found that between 1985-1994 Trump lost more money than anyone in America, his "genius" apparently being to lose more money than he would otherwise have to pay in tax... ● Trump has told the Economic Club of New York that his daughter Ivanka has personally created 14 million new jobs in the U.S. - more than double the actual total number of new jobs created in the country since he took office...
Trump compared to "your elderly uncle running pantsless across the [nursing home] courtyard and cursing loudly about the cafeteria food, as worried attendants tried to catch him" according to anonymous author of A Warning. ● CNN fact-checker overwhelmed by number and rate of lies at Trump's Louisiana rally. ● District Court Judge Paul Friedman slams Trump's personal attacks on judges as helping "undermine faith in the rule of law itself." ● Pair of Oklahoma state lawmakers introduce bill to rename 13-mile stretch of Route 66 the "President Donald J. Trump Highway", get responses including "will it be poorly maintained and riddled with potholes? Because that would make sense", "change it to Route 666 and I'm down" and "hell no. Unless it's the road leading to the dump!" ● Programmers create text generator that 'writes' two paragraphs of text in the style of Trump; only 40% of online testers could tell the difference between it and genuine Trump speeches. ● Trump's plan to allow blueprints for 3D-printed guns to be shared online declared "arbitrary and capricious" and a violation of the Administrative Procedure Act and the Constitution by federal judge. ● Somebody keeps hiding the books critical of Trump at the Coeur d'Alene library in Idaho; librarians are on the case! ● John Cleese issues scathing criticism of Trump supporters: "[T]he people who support him are basically so ignorant because they only ever get news from Fox News. I don't know what you say to people like that. To me, it's like people who go and watch professional wrestling and don't realise that it's fixed. If they can't see it when it's right under their nose, I have no idea how they're going to realise how wrong they are"; also describes Trump as "an extraordinary caricature of an asshole", which reminds us of Jeremy Harding's 2015 comment on Radio 4's The News Quiz that "Trump is a good name for a man with a face like a startled anus, who produces a lot of foul, stinking, noisy emissions." As we have previously mentioned in the Word of the Week, 'trump' is also British slang for 'fart'...
Journalist Tazeen Ahmad (BBC News, Channel 4 Dispatches, NBC News, 48), businesswoman Annie Hall (High Sheriff of Nottingham 2017-2018, first woman president of Derbyshire Chamber of Commerce, 69), politician Frank Dobson (Secretary of State for Health 1997-1999, 79), politician Sir Brian Mawhinney, Baron Mawhinney (former chairman of the Conservative Party, former chairman of the Football League, Secretary of State for Health 1992-1994, 79), photographer and graphic designer Robert Freeman (A Hard Day's Night, Rubber Soul, With the Beatles, 82), Field Marshal Edwin Bramall, Baron Bramall (Normandy D-Day veteran, Chief of the General Staff 1979-1982, Chief of the Defence Staff 1982-1985, 95).
^ DUMBLEDORE BEAR'S LOTTERY PREDICTOR!
Dumbledore Bear, our in-house psychic predicts that the following numbers will be lucky:4, 7, 24, 31, 38, 56[UK National Lottery, number range 1-59]
You can get your very own prediction at http://www.simonlamont.co.uk/tfir/dumbledore.htm.
^ AND FINALLY...
Little Jennifer and her family were in church, and sitting in front of them was a family with a four-year-old son, who kept giggling, singing and talking out loud. Finally, Little Jennifer stood on her prayer stool, leaned forwards and whispered to him "You're supposed to be quiet in here".
The little boy looked at her. "Why? Who's going to stop me?" he asked.
Little Jennifer pointed to the back of the church. "You see those two big men standing there? My mummy told me they're the hushers!"
^ ...end of line