You mess with Harpo Marx, you get the horns.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

My Friends, We Are All Interested in the Future...

...but some scientists have taken it beyond the usual, "What's for lunch?" phase.*

According to Time Magazine, two highly respected scientists have claimed that the recent power disruption to the Large Hadron Collider (or LHC**)near Geneva, Switzerland may have been caused by a bird sent from the future.

Go ahead, check your calendar. It's not April 1st.

Perhaps the big picture will offer a little insight into this otherwise daft sounding proclaimation.

On the third of November, the collider's energy supply was scuppered by a piece of baguette, apparently dropped by a passing bird. To begin with, this is an extremely silly thing to have happened. I realise French bread is substantial, but I have a whole new respect for the piece that can knock out an entire electric substation and the muscular pigeon that can hoist it.

Nonetheless, the operators of the LHC fished out the baguette (and had a substantial warm snack, I suspect) and set back to work. Meanwhile, upon hearing the news, the two respected scientists - or as Time calls them "eminent physicists" - Bech Nielsen and Masao Ninomiya, began to develop their peculiar and highly entertaining theory about time traveling birds.

The theory goes something like this: The researchers at the LHC are trying to find the Higgs Boson. While this sounds like a moderately dry brand of Danish beer, it is in fact the subatomic particle theorized to provide mass to all matter in existence. However, some people think that creating a large group of Higgs Bosons could lead to all sorts of troublesome results: black holes, space-time ruffles***, and giant man-eating velociraptor shaped poodles.

All right, I made those last two up. Still, "black holes!" Not exactly as trivial as the local town council asking to put a rubbish bin on your block. We're talking about the mother of all celestial sinkholes.

Anyway, the esteemed physicists' theory holds that this Higgs Boson generating outcome is so troubling and problematic that God Himself or the universe, depending on your religious outlook, is intervening to do something about it. (Count me in the former camp, as if it's important enough, I know God is not going to sit around waiting for the universe to get off its lazy bum. Matter is a bit of a slacker, in my humble view. I think Newton would back me up on this, and maybe Einstein, if I could drag him away from the violin for a second.)

So, in short: LHC, massive collisions of atoms, Higgs Boson (not a Danish beer), potential black holes, God or universe steps in from the future to put a stop to this nonsense.

I should add that the Time piece assures us that this theory is backed up by complex maths. Well, of course it is! You don't think esteemed physicists just whip up this sort of thing between treatises on pan-dimensional probabilities, do you?

Where the theory breaks down for me is the whole bird/baguette bit. Poetically, I suppose it is a bit like the dove and the olive branch, but only in the same way that The Di Vinci Code is a bit like Great Expectations in that they are both works of fiction that were written in English and use punctuation.

Surely, if the supreme being of the entire universe is going to prevent a cosmic catastrophe, one would expect something a bit more direct than a wayward time-traveling budgie lobbing a crust of baked dough at the problem. Yes, God is obviously more than clever enough to use economy of means to resove the problem, but would that include the flourish of sending the bird back from the future?

As to the notion that impersonal universal forces delivered the bird and bread, that seems about as likely as them showing up in the flying Delorean with Christopher Lloyd at the wheel, or for that matter a flying Gran Torino with Hutch at the wheel. The imagination reels, doesn't it?

Still, the idea of fowl from the future attacking pernicious potential predicaments for the universe does have some charm for me. Call me egocentric, but the theory and my own experience give me a bit more optimism regarding the potential grandiosity of my future contributions to existence.

Or maybe that bird just mistook me for someone else?

* Yes, that was an extremely vague Douglas Adams reference.
** This actually stands for "Large Hadron Collider," but only because I couldn't think of a funnier definition.
*** These ruffles don't have ridges. Terrifying, isn't it?

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Monday, November 09, 2009

Sweet Empty Calories

I should have known there were just shy of a thousand Hey There Delilah/Aunt Jemima parodies out there when I first mulled the idea over. Nonetheless, I went ahead and finished my own offering to the rapidly growing sub-sub-genre. I've not read any of the others besides a line or two of one I glanced at, so this is as original as I can make it.

Hey There Aunt Jemima

(based on Hey There, Delilah by Plain White Ts' )

Hey there Aunt Jemima, who knew syrup could perturb me?
Well, your taste is quite delicious, but your packaging disturbs me
Yes you do, stereotypes can’t come plainer than you
We know it’s true.

Hey there Aunt Jemima, you make pancakes such a sweet feast,
But I can’t forget the look you had when you were first released
So degradin’. Like the poor lady who won the Oscar in
Gone with the Wind. But…


Oh it’s what you do to me, all these empty calories,

Oh it’s what you do to me, Oh, sweet, empty calories
Sweet, empty calories

Hey there Aunt Jemima, now you’re quite contemporary
While I’m glad your smile is up to date your history’s rather scary,
You don’t agree? Ask Uncle Ben, but it’s no mystery
He’ll side with me.

Hey there Aunt Jemima, I feel so guilty at the fridge,
Could it be I’d feel much better if you looked like Dorothy Dandridge?
I don’t know. Your tasty syrup would pour just as slow,
Pancakes still would glow.


Oh it’s what you do to me, all these empty calories,
Oh it’s what you do to me, Oh, sweet, empty calories


Now there are other brands to try, I’ve heard Log Cabin’s pretty fly
But Mrs. Butterworth’s is kind of strange
You open up that woman’s head, and syrup pours out like she’d bled,
I’m glad that Hungry Jack’s not that deranged.
Aunt Jemima could it be, my conscience will run over me,
And breakfast will just never be the same, and you’re to blame.

Hey there Aunt Jemima, loved from Rome to Oklahoma
I can’t help myself, I’ll wind up in a diabetic coma
Drinking you, straight out of the bottle, yes it’s true,
I don’t even like pancakes, do you?
Hey there Aunt Jemima here's to you, One more shot of you.


Oh it’s what you do to me, all these empty calories,
Oh it’s what you do to me, I'm getting weak at the knees
Sweet, empty calories.


I'm also working on a Yellow Submarine parody at the moment. I expect I may even record a few of these at some point (heaven help you all).

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Sunday, November 08, 2009

Mysterious Menus

The folks over at Mental Floss reveal that several American chain restaurants have secret menu items.

This does not mean that Q from MI6 is sitting in the kitchen of an In-and-Out Burger working out ways to build an invisible flamethrower into a Double-Double. Rather, there are apparently several items available at many well-known fast-food eateries that aren't listed on the written menu.

My favourite: Wendy's Gland Slam or "The Meat Cube:" Four square patties on a bun with all the fixins. Not that'd I'd actually eat one, myself, due to my fear of sudden meat-related heart failure, but the idea is stupendous.

Still, the Mental Floss article reveals a decided lack of imagination on the part of the restaurant chains. A tiny cup of Starbucks coffee? Small jitters, so to speak. They could do much better than this on the old secret menus.

So, here are a few suggestions:

  • McDonald's Secret Salad Shake - Who cares about a simple Neapolitan shake? McDonald's should offer their salad line as a series of fiberiffic milkshakes. Get your ice-cream and your veggies in one go. Who hasn't dreamed of lettuce you can eat with a straw?
  • Starbucks Caffeine Explosion - The mother of all espressos: Espresso-energy drink-Jolt cola combo. The whipped cream topping is optional, not that you'd notice the sugar rush in this case.
  • Pizza Hut Sliders - Little bite-sized pizzas with onions and cheese that you can scarf like Milk Duds at Halloween. Comes in plates of 10, 20, 50, and 250. Anchovies optional, as usual.
  • Outback Half-a-Cow - Plenty of chicken places offer half a chicken, so why can't a steak place offer the same with a cow. Surely, this wouldn't be any more calories than the giant steak at Big Texan in Amarillo? Sweetbreads and "oysters" very optional.
  • Waffle House Smothered with Everything - You can already get hashbrowns smothered with onions, cheese, and a few other things. Why not extend that to everything in the restaurant. Bacon? Chili? Coffee? Toast? Belgian Waffles? Packets of saccharine? Sprite? All of the above? You got it, hon!
  • Kentucky Fried Candy - What if KFC took the British novelty of frying up candy bars and applied their own 11 herbs and spices and extra-crispy batter? I mean besides a dramatic increase in dine-in cardiac arrests?
  • Burger King Creepy Meal - By this I mean that every normal menu item come in optional packaging that prominently features the very disturbing Burger King himself. You know the character. He's the one who's been sneaking around in people's homes and behaving ever so perversely. The adverts are creepy, so why shouldn't the meals be too?

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