30.8.08

FAMOUS

I'm famous at last. Well almost.
Kind of. Not really, only kidding.

Toyah was a guest presenter on BBC Radio
London's afternoon slot last Thursday and
Friday but as I knew I would be way
too nervous to call in and talk to
her I send an email instead.

About fifteen minutes later she read
it and also thanked me for buying
her new album. No, thank you
Toyah for making it!

Please click on the image
to view a larger version.


Davie mentioned this on his ever brilliant
Toyah website, and the fact that I've
written the show transcript in my
Interview Archive.

Thank you honey!


29.8.08

WORDS HURT

I must say I totally agree with this!

The old adage "sticks and stones can
break your bones, but words can never
hurt you", simply is not true,
according to researchers.


Psychologists found memories of painful
emotional experiences linger far longer
than those involving physical pain.


They quizzed volunteers about painful
events over the previous five years.

Writing in the journal Psychological
Science, they said evolutionary brain
changes which allow us to work better
in groups or societies could be key.


The volunteers, all students, were asked
to write about painful experiences,
both physical and emotional,
then given a difficult mental
test shortly afterwards.


The principle was that the more painful
the recalled experience, the less well
the person would perform in the tests.

Test scores were consistently higher
in those recalling physical
rather than "social" pain.


Psychological scoring tests revealed
that memories of emotional pain were
far more vivid.
Researcher Zhansheng
Chen, from
Purdue University in Indiana,
said that it was much harder to
"re-live" physical pain than to
recall social pain.


The researchers now plan to repeat the
experiment in older people, who are
more likely to have experienced
chronic pain.


LOAN

ALIGNED

It used to be a talent shared only by the
birds and the bees, but now scientists
have found that large mammals may
also be at one with the Earth.

German zoologists have discovered
cattle and deer align their bodies
in a north-south direction,
just like a compass needle.

They studied satellite images posted
online by Google Earth to find the
animals react to Earth's magnetic
fields when choosing
a grazing spot.

Sabine Begall and Hynek Burda
(below) of the
University of Duisburg-Essen
studied images of 8,510 cattle
in 308 countries.

They also looked at 2,974 wild
deer in 277 locations across
the Czech Republic.

The Proceedings for the National Academy
of Sciences study found two in three cows
oriented themselves to magnetic
north, and a similar percentage
among the deer.

The images also helped the scientists rule
out other conditions such as the position of
the Sun or the weather as factors
affecting where the animals lie.

Their discovery challenges long-held
assumptions that large mammals do
not contain organs in their brains
containing particles of magnetite.


Researchers have long been aware that
certain bacteria, birds, fish, whales and
even rodents can act like a compass.

Birds flying home will use their
polar awareness as a sort of
global position system.


But the findings offer the first indication
that bigger land-based mammals may
also carry such organs.


PORK PIE
ICE CREAM

I'm not too sure about this...I'm not a
great fan of sweet and sour tastes
together so don't think
this will be for me!

Harrods has launched a new range of
ice creams with 'traditional' British
flavours including Yorkshire
pudding
and Arbroath smokies.

The range of 20 tastes features Britain's
best-known delicacies which were
chosen after a survey.


Other flavours include clotted cream,
sausage and mash, pork pie, haggis,
Cornish pasty, Cheddar cheese,
Lancashire hot pot, Eccles cake
and Kendal mint cake.

Morelli's ice cream parlour at Harrods
made the ice creams after
Laterooms.com
polled 500 people to pick flavours
that best represented the UK.


Kathy Gwinnett, of Laterooms, said:
"It is interesting that the humble
Yorkshire pudding tops the list of
favourite
British delicacies.
We're lucky to be spoilt for choice
and the massive array of regional
flavours
that make up the taste
of Britain
shows just how
much the UK has to offer."



FUNNY SPITZ PIC
OF THE DAY

This photo of three Finnish Spitz pups
sitting looking at the lake like
some some hairy statues
just cracked me up!


SAHARA
AND ICE

Sahara the hooded seal should be used to
ice being a native of the Artic but weirdly
he has a phobia of cold water.

So now experts are trying to help him
in the form of an ice machine.

He has already been rescued twice after
spurning his cold native waters
in favour of warmer seas.

He first washed up on a beach in the
Canary Islands and was flown to the

National Seal Sanctuary in Gweek,
Cornwall, and was then released
near the Orkneys.


But animal care supervisor Tamara Cooper
said instead of heading back towards
Greenland, he turned south again and
made his way to Spain to be
rescued a second time.


Sahara is now a permanent resident at the
Cornish sanctuary and his carers have
been forced to use the giant ice machine
to try to cure his fear of the cold.

Staff said Sahara fled to the opposite
end of his enclosure when they first
started shovelling in the ice, but
the cold treatment seems
now to be working.


Ms Cooper said: “It took a little while,
but some memory from his pup-hood
eventually seemed to surface and
he came for a closer inspection."

"Once he’d had a sniff and then slid
over the top of it for the first time
he found he actually likes it.
We
don’t think it will be long now before
Sahara is a proper ice-loving
Alaskan seal again.”


Sahara is currently the only Arctic
hooded seal being cared
for in the UK.


FIFTY HIGHS
AND LOWS

As some of the world's biggest stars
turn 50 this year, including Michael
Jackson today, the BBC have done
interesting "Highlights and
low points" charts for them.

Madonna's high points include "Like A
Prayer" (1989) and "Ray of Light"
(1998), low points are the infamous
"Sex" book (1992) and her controversial
adoption of baby David in 2006.


Prince's highs include "Purple Rain"
(1984) and "Sign Of The Times" (1987),
lows came with the "Black Album" in
the following year and the death of
his newborn son Gregory in 1996.


Jackson's high points were naturally
the mega selling classic "Thriller" and
weirdly enough "burning hair", reference
to the Pepsi advert when his head
caught fire in a TV studio.

His ultimate lows are of course the period
of the child abuse allegations in 1993
and the subsequent arrest and trial in
2003. He was found not guilty but
has not made any attempt to
rescue his career since.


Other greats who also turned fifty
this year are my favourites
Toyah and Kate Bush.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY
KB!

It's KB's 41st birthday today.
Many happy returns!

PS: To celebrate we went out to eat in the
best Indian in London, Colliers Wood's
very own
Spice Of Raj. Yum!

SUNSET OF
THE WEEK

28.8.08

CATS AND DOGS OF
THE WEEK PART II

It's 20 weeks since I made the first
montage of all the Cats and Dogs
Of The Week so here are next 20.

(Please click on the images
to view a larger version.)


NICE COLOURS
OF THE DAY

The Sibelius Hall
in Lahti, Finland.


FINNTASTIC

This is an article from Reuters about
some of the funny things the
Finns do competitively:

In Finland they carry their wives,
sit on ants, throw milking stools,
boots and mobile phones.

They play swamp football and air guitar,
swat mosquitoes, see who can stay in the
sauna the longest and even compete in who
comes up with the best insults. It's the
home of weird world championships
and participants will do just about
anything to win their
offbeat crowns.


Normally reserved Finns say there is no
better way to celebrate the short summer
months than with contests that add
a jolt of adrenaline and silliness
to bright summer nights.


With foreign visitors growing by about
6% in 2007 and many oddball competitions
taking place in distant rural areas,
Finland's funny business is
also a spur for tourism.


Most of the 50 or so competitions that
take place over the three summer
months, many billed grandly as world
championships, started at summer
fairs or as village affairs.


But today the top competitions each attract
about 10,000 people annually to watch
or join in, staggering across hurdles
with their spouses clinging to their
backs or diving headlong

into ponds of mud after
a soccer ball.


Some events are so popular they have
prompted other nations to hold their
own contests to select who
will compete in Finland.


Many of the events allow top athletes to
add extra oomph - and fun - to their
workouts. They also get to show off
their "sisu" - the Finnish version
of perseverance and guts.


Finnish cross-country skiers use swamp soccer
to train in the snowless summer months.
Both work the same muscles, but slogging
through a mud-soaked field adds an
element of fun.
Self-mockery
is core to the mix.


Writer Risto Etelamaki said mobile-phone
throwing - which originated from Finland's
national strength in the sport of javelin
- combines recycling philosophy with play.

"The sport is also a symbolical mental
liberation from the restraining yoke of
being constantly within reach," he
says in his book "Funny
Finnish Pursuits."


Finland, home of mobile phone giant Nokia,
boasts one of the most mature mobile
phone markets in the world: people
pay for pizzas, parking and
tram tickets using cellphones.

With tongue in cheek, some events purport
to have roots further back in history.


Organizers say the wife-carrying contest
comes from the legend of Ronkainen the
Robber, who in the 19th century tested
aspiring gang members by forcing
them to lug sacks of grain or live
swine over a similar course.


Another notion is that it stems from
an even earlier tribal practice of
wife-stealing, in honor of which many
contestants now take up the
challenge with someone else's
wife, girlfriend or partner.


Those hundreds of Finns who vie each
year to keep their behinds longest in
nests occupied by some 40,000 ants
are, it is claimed, actually following
an ancient health ritual - one
which keeps all their senses alive.


Boasting few disciplines in which its
athletes excel on the global stage -
Finland ranked 44th in Olympic medals
with four - Finns find victory in finger-
wrestling, mosquito-killing or
ice golf equally rewarding.


"The tradition started as a big joke,"
said Arto Murto, manager of the swamp
soccer championships. "It's our nature
to create fun happenings, probably
because our summers are so short."

Large parts of Finland are blanketed
in near darkness for much of the winter
and the weather in spring and fall is
often cold and rainy, prompting locals
to joke that the country has only
two seasons - winter and summer.


Finland's tourism board paid little
attention when the first contests began
10 years back, but says the events
are becoming a major draw.

"At first it was difficult to promote them
as they were small local events where
people did not speak any foreign
language," Liisa Renfors, a product
specialist at the Finnish
Tourist Board says.


"But now they are raising the interest
of foreign press and visitors - probably
because they are so different
from anything else going in
their own countries."



PEACEFUL, SMART
AND HAPPY

First we had the most peaceful countries,
now we also have "smartest" cities
in Europe and Britain's
happiest place.

The European cities were selected on the
basis that they have an urban population
between 100,000 and 500,000, at least
1 University and a catchment area less
than 1.500,000 inhabitants.

The selected cities have faced the challenge
of combining competitiveness and sustainable
urban development simultaneously and that
has had an impact on issues of urban
quality such as housing, economy,
culture, social and environmental
conditions.

Additionally these cities are covered by the
database of the
Urban Audit – a European wide
database on cities. At first there were 94
candidates but after further adaptation
and elaboration of cities and data
accessibility and quality, 70 cities
were chosen for the sample.


And as for the Britain's happiest place
researchers say it's the most sparsely
populated county in Wales.


Powys tops the list of 273 districts, with
Edinburgh apparently the most
miserable place in Britain.

Eight of the top 10 districts with the
highest levels of wellbeing are in
Scotland or the north of England.


But the team from the Universities of
Sheffield and Manchester stress that
happiness is more a product of personal
circumstances than physical location.


Using data from the British Household Panel
Survey, wherepeople were asked about their
sense of wellbeing, the researchers were able to
draw up a map of happiness down to district
level across England, Scotland and Wales.


After adding in factors such as employment,
health and educational qualifications, the
team found that the area of Brecknock,
Montgomery and Radnor in Powys was
the happiest place.


A SONG FOR JACK

Canine crooners have been auditioning
to take part in a special
doggy choir.

The choir will create and perform a new
song, called "A Song For Jack",
and also make a record.

The project is a musical tribute to
legendary dog
Swansea Jack (below).
The black retriever became a hero
in the 1930s for rescuing drowning
swimmers from Swansea's docks.


Judges auditioned dogs eager to earn a place
in the choir at the National Waterfront
Museum in Swansea.

The auditionees all had to start singing
after hearing a piece of music
or after a direct command.


The project is the brainchild of
Cardiff-based artist
Richard Higlett
who said the canine choir will hit the
recording studio in September
before performing a special
concert in October.


Legend has it that Swansea Jack saved
27 people from drowning over a period
of seven years. A monument to the
plucky dog, paid for by public
subscription, now stands
on Swansea promenade.


PING PONG IS
COMING HOME

When Boris Johnson said in his speech
at the ceremony to mark the handover
of the Olympics from Beijing to London
that "ping pong is coming home" most
people thought, including myself, that
it was just typical Boris humour.

But it turns out he is actually right!

After trumpeting Britain's role in the development
of most of the world's top sports, Boris launched
into a brief but colourful history of the
sport of table tennis, known to its
Victorian pioneers by the name
of whiff-whaff.


As with so many other games, its exact
origins are obscure, but it seems likely
that the first forms of indoor tennis were
played in the 1870s and 1880s
by Army officers in India
and South Africa.

Mimicking the outdoor version of the sport,
they used lids of cigar boxes as bats and
rounded corks from wine bottles as balls,
while a row of books placed in the
middle of a table formed a net.


London Mayor Boris Johnson holds up a new
£2 coin released by the Royal Mint to mark the
official handover of the Olympic Games
from Beijing to London.


As the officers returned home from
the far-flung corners of the Empire
this improvised activity soon became
a popular after-dinner parlour game.

It acquired the name of ping pong or
whiff-whaff from the noise that the
primitive bats made in hitting the
makeshift ball against the table.

Victorian entrepreneurs, never slow to
see a business opportunity, were soon
trying to exploit its popularity
and the rest is history.


22.8.08

MISHEARD

Rock band The Police have written some
of the most
commonly misheard lyrics
of all time, a poll suggests.

Two of the band's songs feature
in a top 10 of misunderstood tracks.


A line from The Police's Message In A Bottle
- "a year has passed since I wrote my note"
- is often heard as "a year has
passed since I broke my nose".


Number one in the chart is Police song
When The World Is Running Down from
their album
Zenyatta Mondatta (above)
in which "you make the best of what's
still around" is misheard as "you make
the best homemade stew around".

Some 2,000 people were polled by hearing
aid providers
Amplifon. "Some people go for
years singing the wrong lyrics to their favourite
songs," said the company's director Enrico
Vacca.
"We heard some brilliant
misquotes duringour research that
had us in stitches."


At number two, a line from Bee Gees
song Stayin' Alive - "it's alright, it's
okay, you may look the other way" - is
translated as "it's alright, it's okay,
you make love the other way".

The Beatles also make the top 10 with
Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds.

The line "the girl with kaleidoscope
eyes" is misinterpreted as saying
"the girl with colitis goes by".


More misheard lyrics
in
HERE and HERE


THE BEST MUSIC
VIDEO EVER?


What is the best music video
of all time? Cast your vote at

MTV's Gretest Video Ever


First MTV Base, VH1 and MTV TWO
unveiled their Top 100 lists and then
whittled them down to
their Top 10 Greatest
Videos Ever.

Personally I don't rate many videos in
the list, the only one's that I would
consider worth a vote are a-Ha: "Take On
Me", Jamiroquai: "Virtual Insanity",
Michael Jackson: "Thriller"
and Peter Gabriel:
"Sledgehammer".

In the end I voted for....
(drum roll)....
JK


.
PEACEFUL

Want to go and live somewhere peaceful?
Well, this study is a good start.
Finland ranks 8th, the UK 49th!


The ground-breaking Global Peace Index
(GPI) has been expanded and updated
with the latest available figures for 2008,
a year on from the completion of the first
GPI, which ranked 121 nations according
to their relative states of peace.


The index is composed of 24 qualitative and
quantitative indicators from highly respected
sources, which combine internal and external
factors ranging from a nation's level of
military expenditure to its relations with
neighbouring countries and the level of
respect for human rights.

These indicators were selected by an
international panel of academics,
business people, philanthropists
and peace institutions.


FUNNY SQUIRREL
PIC OF THE DAY


MORE PHOTOS
PART V


I have just added some new shots to
thesubstanceoflondon.blogspot.com


SUNSET OF
THE WEEK


21.8.08

CORK IT

Albanian painter Saimir Strati is yet
attempting to break a Guinness World
Record. This time it's for the largest cork
mosaic ever made, with his work called
The Guitarist in which he is going
to use some 300,000 corks.


He has broken records previously
also with nails and toothpicks.


DOLPHIN TALK

A wild dolphin is apparently teaching
other members of her group to walk on
their tails, a behaviour usually seen
only after training in captivity.


The group lives along the
south Australian coast
near Adelaide.


One of them spent a short time after
illness in a dolphinarium 20 years ago
and may have picked up the trick there.
She received no training, but
may have seen others
tail-walking.


Scientists studying the group say
tail-walk tuition has not been seen before,
and suggest the habit may emerge as a
form of "culture" among this group.


"We can't for the life of us work out why
they do it," said Mike Bossley from the
Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society
(WDCS), one of the scientists who have
been monitoring the group
on the Port River estuary.


"We're doing systematic observations
to determine if there's something
that may trigger it, but so far we
haven't found anything," he said.


SYNCHRONIZED

My favourite sport in the Olympics
is probably synchronized swimming.
Yes, you may laugh.

Here's a nice pic of Jiang Tingting
and Jiang Wenwen of China
competing.

LONG LOST
MESSAGE


A message in a bottle has been reunited
with its sender - 23 years after he threw
it into the sea from a remote
beach in
Orkney.

Donald Wylie was 11 years old in 1985 when he
threw the bottle into the sea with a message
asking its finder to pass it onto
a boy of similar age.


He did not receive a reply until more
than two decades later: the bottle was
unearthed by a team of volunteers
cleaning up a beach at West Sands
in St Andrews.


The group, which included students and
staff from the University of St Andrews,
were startled to find the message inside,
and launched a search for the sender.


They tracked down Mr Wylie, now aged 33, still
living in Orkney and working as a house builder.

He confirmed he was the sender and was
invited to St Andrews to collect the bottle
(below) and see for himself where it
eventually surfaced.

Mr Wylie recalled how his mother encouraged
him to throw hundreds of bottles into the sea off
Sandside beach at Deerness, a tradition
she continues at the same beach
with her grandchildren.


"Over the years I've had a few replies,
usually from Norway or Denmark, but
never one from St Andrews and never
one that's taken this long
to wash up," he said.


Roddy Yarr, environment and energy
manager for the University of St Andrews,
said: "The message in a bottle was really
quite a find and surprised us all, and we're
delighted to be able to reunite the
owner with this piece of history.


"It really is quite remarkable that the
bottle should be found after all this time -
who knows where it has travelled to
in the last quarter of a decade."


THE MAN WHO CYCLED
THE WORLD


My favourite telly program this week has
been a
four part series on BBC1 about Scot
Mark Beaumont, who decided to break
the world record of cycling
round the world.


On Friday 15th February 2008
at 1530 he completed his
circumnavigation of the globe.

Mark arrived back at the Arc de Triomphe
in Paris 194 days and 17 hours after leaving
there on 5th August 2007.

The total distance he cycled is 18,297 miles
through 20 countries. Guinness World Records
have verified all the data and confirmed
he is the new holder.


It's been absolutely amazing watching
the documentary, the highs and the lows,
the incredible endurance. Mark said himself
in last night's episode: "It's amazing what
the human body can do when you
really pur your mind to it."


Well done mate,
you deserve your title!


20.8.08

FUNNY CAT PIC
OF THE DAY


YODA'S EARS

A four-eared cat is so rare his owners
keep him indoors to prevent
him getting catnapped.

Yoda, the two year old feline has
two extra “flaps” behind his normal
ears, but is otherwise in good
health and appears to have
perfect hearing.


The extra ears are not attached to the
base of his skull but with one placed
slightly behind the other. They are
believed to be the result
of a genetic mutation.


His owners, who picked him out from
a litter of eight-week-old kittens being
handed around in a bar, say that local
vets were mystified when they
took him for a check-up.


"We began to realise that we had something
very special,” said Valerie Rock, 65.

"As a result, he has been an indoor cat
and has a chip installed in case
he gets lost,” she added.

"Yoda is so different that we were
concerned that he might
be catnapped.”

Valerie and her husband Ted, from
Chicago, Illinois named the cat Yoda after
hearing that the Star Wars character
was based on George Lucas's cat.

"People do a double take when they see
him or his picture. It is great fun
showing him off,” Mrs Rock said.

EDIT 22.08.2008:
Yoda's ears have made him
a bit of celeb round the world...


DIRTY LAUNDRY

I'm loving Lisa Marie Presley's
"Dirty Laundry" at the moment!

I've got both of her albums and
they just get better and better
on each listen. Recommended.