You mess with Harpo Marx, you get the horns.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Coming to America (The Queen that is)

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II is, even as I write this, encamped somewhere in the sunny Commonwealth of Virginia, no doubt quietly ensconsed in a 5-star hotel, and full of tea, biscuits, bangers, mash, pheasant, squib, and 20-year old Scotch whisky, snoring as only royalty can (with musical accompanyment). I suspect she is dreaming of the Arsenal's imminent return to footballing glory next year, being the full-fledged Gooner that she is, Lord bless's either that, or batting Camilla about the ears with a croquet mallet.

HM is visiting America to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the founding of Jamestown, the oldest permanent British settlement in the United States. Of course, back then it wasn't called the United States, it was called "His Royal Majesty King James I's Special Royal Playground", at least by those who weren't still under the impression that it was actually India and the Chesepeake Bay was the Ganges at flood levels. The Queen will be quite comfortable during her stay, as long as everyone keeps mentioning that she's in the "Commonwealth" of Virginia. Unless she thinks it's state business, she rarely sets foot beyond Windsor these days, her annual participation in the Caber Toss at the Highland Games notwithstanding.*

Being the Queen, she's already embarked upon a busy and elaborate schedule. She's kindly met with some of the Virginia Tech survivours, lunched with heads of state, had pleasant encounters with local citizens, etc. Tomorrow things heat up with the Jamestown celebration, where Her Majesty will put up with all sorts of jokes about how she learnt about the town's founding when she was just a little girl. Then, on Saturday, she heads over to Churchill Downs to take in the Kentucky Derby. Good sport that she is, she'll be riding in the 3rd race on Lumbago**, prior to taking her seat in the makeshift royal box that is in actuality Oprah Winfrey's luxury suite. The Queen will sample the traditional mint juleps served at the Kentucky Derby...primarily as that's the only way they'll get her on Lumbago.

After the races, it's off to Washington, where Good Ole' Bess will spend a day or two with President Bush, mostly playing pinochle and exchanging jokes about the French. She'll meet with a number of different people, most of whom will bow awkwardly, eliciting a girlish laugh from the aged, playful monarch before she's hustled past them by British security.

Still, while Her Majesty is going to get to fulfil an old wish and get to see the Derby***, it would be nice if, in her codgerly years, she got to see and do some of the things that regular old Americans like us see and do on a regular basis. So, here are a few things I'd include in the Royal Itenerary:

  • Boring as I find the sport, take in a baseball game. After the U.S. national anthem she could loudly shout, "Hey, it's Enrico Pallazzo!"
  • See if the tollways will accept British coinage
  • Hang-gliding in the Appalachians
  • Chili-dogs and lots of them.
  • Shoot some "hoops" in a local park. I'm betting the Queen "has game." However, you may want to explain beforehand that "shooting hoops" is playing basketball or she might think she's on a hunting trip.
  • Wear flip-flops and cut-off jeans to an official event.
  • Tube-skiing in the Metro. It's not legal in Britain, apparently.
  • When in Kentucky, one must have Kentucky Fried Chicken. Oh, I know they're all over Britain now (there's one in the Victoria Railway Station, of all places) but I can tell you from personal experience that it's not the same. Plus, you get to test two competing forces: "royal dignity" and "finger-licking good"
  • NASCAR. Again, it's not my cup of tea, but it would be a lark to see HM bantering away with Rusty Wallace in the ESPN booth about manifolds and how much horsepower the Royal Bentley has.
  • See "Blades of Glory" at a local drive-in cinema.
  • Karaoke night at a local bar and grill... Do a Beatles tune and joke about a "new British Invasion."
* She's a sprightly old bird for being 81 years old.
** See my previous point. Incidentally, she wanted to ride in the Derby itself, but she'd already bet heavily on it and apparently there's some sort of rule about that.
According to the BBC. I rather think she was talking about the upcoming Arsenal vs. Chelsea match.

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Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Toys that read your mind!

According to the Associated Press, a company called NeuroSky, Inc. is developing toys that can read your mind. For example, one product is a Darth Vader mask and light saber. The light saber stays on as long as the user maintains concentration. If the user loses concentration, the light saber goes out. It all sounds like a terrible Viagra commercial.

Other variations on this technology would monitor concentration and calmless whilst making putts (or "a put" as the golf-impaired AP writer Rachel Conrad putt... ahem... put it) in Tiger Woods PGA Golf *, or whilst shooting bad guys in Grand Theft Auto, in between shooting everyone else (or, presumably, searching online for the excreable "adult" minigame that the producers thought it would be funny to waste company time on by putting it in the betas). Anyway, the theory goes that if you're not calm you miss the putt or miss the shots (or, presumably, get turned down by the virtual trollops).

Do they realise that this is the way things work already? I mean, if I'm nervous or have sweaty hands, or am distracted, my child will absolutely clobber me in one of those Driver minigames, where you try to outrun the maniacal police cars that smash into your 60's era Dodge Charger. I can barely muster up the concentration to be competitive in the Madagascar carpet golf or shuffleboard games, whilst my offspring demonstrates the cool single-mindedness of a Russian WWII-era sniper.

The other problem is that bio-feedback is utter nonsense as a science. Measuring the brainwaves of people is probably useful for something, but then applying it to any actual assessment of the individual's performance in question is of dubious value, or isn't that why lie-detector tests aren't generally admissable in courts?

The whole article itself seems a bit overhyped to me. The headline implies that researchers have developed toys that will respond to your mental commands. I'd like that in many applications, as it would end the wear and tear on my hands from all this typing. At least my thumbs would stop twitching.

The other possiblity implied is that the games would engage in some kind of bio-electric telepathy with you. Now that would be something, especially when I'm doing poorly in a game. I'd like to see exactly how Winning Eleven would respond after the mental signals I'd send it** as a result of losing to Chelsea in a match.

* So named because Tiger now owns the PGA Tour, more or less.
** Unprintable in a PG blog such as this.

Monday, April 30, 2007

April is like that

I hate to post another one of those "posting about posting" posts, but as there's been a dearth of posting around here lately, the subject seems harder to avoid than a pachyderm at a peanut festival.

April seems to be the month most likely to inspire the doldrums here at DOUI, at least based on the previous two years' experience. I'm not sure whether it's the occasional showers that accompany the month here in the States (what's wrong with a bit of dampness in the air, for heavens''d think it was the monsoon season or something the way people brandish their umbrellas) ... or perhaps the arrival of spring has so giddied the hearts of my fellow posters that they're spending all their time frolicing barefoot in their dewy gardens.

I realise that the previous two theories are somewhat contradictory, but when one is reaching for answers where the human psyche is concerned, one must occasionally make allowances. Freud certainly did, but he was as loony as a manufacturer of square footballs. I simply don't have a Jeeves about to work out the psychological aspects of my comrades in blogitude. Of course, Jeeves would just trick them into posting and then wryly confuse his employer into booking a South Seas cruise. Bertie Wooster would never pick up on it until it was far too late, and by that time he'd have found himself engaged to some daffy bird whilst simultaneously managing to make a mortal enemy of her father. I suppose it's better than hanging about the flat waiting for Aunt Agatha to drop in for the weekly beratement.

Yes, I have been reading a lot of Wodehouse these days. Why do you ask?

So the posting has been thin, my own contributions notwithstanding (yes, yes, I can hear all the "your contributions have been thin" jokes already, thank you so bloody much) and since my regular remonstrations have been about as effective as a Liberal Democrat television advert, I'm not sure what to do about it other than a severe campaign of ritual humiliation for the absentee posters. Ritual humiliation works better than simple name-calling, because the whole idea of a ritual is that it's something one can expect to be repeated over a relatively short period of time. Thus, the humiliation part becomes a constant menace to the individuals being denigrated. (Plus, how many times can you call someone a gormless twit before the sting wears off?)

So, if any of you out there have embarassing photos of Stew, Nuffy, or the rest of the crew, please forward them to and I'll post them as quickly as possible... unless there are any posted objections from my co-contributors? Hmmm...?

If no one responds, then I shall simply have no recourse but Photoshop and my own imagination.