Tuesday, 30 June 2009

A Night of 400 Billion Stars



Couple of things.

First of all, An Atheist Guide to Christmas is available for pre-order.



I’ve written a contribution, as have many other, better, and more well-known people like Richard Herring, Charlie Brooker, Richard Dawkins and Ben Goldacre.

And secondly, last night I performed at a Night of 400 Billion Stars at the Bloomsbury Theatre, London.

It was a really fun gig in aid of the Rationalist Association, the organisation which publishes New Humanist.

They were giving out free issues as the audience left, and were encouraging people to subscribe by telling them they’d get a free pack of my God Trumps.

Robin Ince played a few rounds of God Trumps with the audience between acts to promote them, which I watched from backstage. Very surreal!

Anyway, if you couldn’t make it down, here’s a transcript of my set. Remember, it’s how I tell them:

(I had considered opening with “Is this still a physics night or has it been commuted to a Michael Jackson special” but thought better of it)

Hello! Do you like my tights?

(In honour of the theme of the night I wore sparkly silver tights)

I wore them because they looked like the kind of tights people might wear in outer space, or the future.

So anyway, yes, comedy, comedy about physics...

Ok, I’ve got one;

What do you get when you cross observed frequency and actual frequency?

...and the speed of sound, the velocity of the observer and the velocity of the source?

The apparent (observed) frequency of an object in motion.

Yeah. Physics jokes. Hard to write.

Although if you’re familiar with the principles of the Doppler Effect you’ll probably be chuckling away to yourself, because you’ll know I should have added that if the distance between the source and observer is decreasing, then you’ll need to adjust your equation, forward slash, joke.

Just a bit of fun.

Just a bit of fun. With physics. Of a Monday. Hmm.

I actually Googled physics jokes before the gig – to see what one would look like – and found a website which uses physics jokes to teach physics.

What they do is they have the joke, like this:

Question: What did one quantum physicist say when he wanted to fight the other quantum physicist?

Answer: Let me atom

Right, and then underneath it says ‘click here for an explanation’ – as well you might.

You click through and it says “atom should be read here as ‘at him’ as in ‘let me at him’” – just explaining the pun there – and then it goes on to explain what an atom is.

Hilarious and educational.

There was also “What was the name of the famous electricity detective?” “Sherlock Ohms”

Ohms. Ohms. You know, like an Ohm.

You then click through, there’s a laborious explanation of the pun and you learn what an Ohm is.

Not a method of teaching you see often. I wonder why.

So you all like physics yeah? All of you? Wow there’s loads of you. That’s...wow. You all like it?...

I hate physics.

It's rubbish.

I realise this might sound odd coming from someone standing on stage at an event which is ostensibly a celebration thereof but, we’re in a credit crunch. A gig’s a gig.

So, yes, I hate physics and my reasons are threefold, as all good reasoning systems should be.

Firstly, before physics came along, everything was really good.

The Universe was Earth centric which was lovely. Made me feel really important. And God was up there in His Heavens, which I think was the clouds or outer space or something.

But thanks to physics we now know that the Earth goes round the Sun and that there’s nothing up there except condensation and vast nothingness.

Thanks for that!

You happy?

Although I’m not convinced about Heaven not being real. Because Nicky Campbell, and he’s off Watchdog so he should know, said that Heaven is real on last week’s Big Questions.

And better than that, animals join us in Heaven.

I suppose you’ll want to spoil that with your physics now won’t you?

He had a vicar on the panel who took animal prayer groups. Yes really. And she confirmed that animals do go to Heaven. Then Nicky asked “what’s the species cut off point? Do wasps get in?” And she said “Yes. Wasps do get in. Although I don’t claim to understand the logistics of it”

That’s good. She’s reserving judgment there. Not just saying any old thing.

Secondly, I don’t like physics because the Bible clearly states that the Earth is flat, fixed and at the centre of the Universe. And other such things that have since been disproved by science such as women being made out of left over ribs.

And it’s very embarrassing for religious leaders like the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Pope. No wonder the Pope always looks so stressed. He has to defend his, increasingly spurious corner, against all your ‘facts’ and ‘evidence’ with a book wherein a man has an argument with a donkey. A talking donkey. Where if a woman intercepts in a fight situation and grabs testicles she should get her hands chopped off. And where God pops down – you know, like he used to – and advises people on how to bake bread.

It’s in Ezekiel; “Prepare and eat this food as you would barley cakes...bake it over a fire using human dung”

At which point the Israelites go “oh no way, yuck!” But in biblical speak of course.

And then God says “All right” – I love that! The idea of God saying “all right (calm down)” – “All right, you may use cow dung instead of human dung”

God there, popping down to tell people how best to cook bread and with what kind of excrement.

This is the same God who didn’t ‘pop down’ when there was a holocaust going on. Weird.

And my third and final reason for not liking physics is Mr Potts, my GCSE physics teacher. But I won’t go into that here. You really had to be there.

The one thing I do like about physics is the possibility of time travel. And I was reading in the Metro recently, yes, the Metro. They are a good newspaper. I was reading that time travel is possible!

“Scientists have discovered that time travel is possible, but, quantum theory does not allow for paradoxical situations, what this means in lay terms is that you would not be able to go back and change your future”.

A shame.

Then the journalist felt it necessary to add:

“This theory makes a nonsense of the adventures of Michael J Fox in the Back to the Future movies"

Do you see? Do you see what your physics has done? It’s made Michael J Fox look a right twat.

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Take a letter Miss Jones



I carry a writing pad with me wherever I go, and from time to time I'll note down funny or strange letters that I've seen in tabloid newspapers.

I've compiled quite a few recently, and thought I'd share some of my favourites here:

If children think themselves old enough to get pregnant, they are old enough to be made to give birth, with the fathers made to watch and the babies given up for adoption. Perhaps then they won't be doing it again. (An evil solution to the problem of teen pregnancy there)

Were those two actors dressed as toast filming a remake of 'It's a Wonderloaf Life'?" (Wonderful Loaf would have at least worked)

Why do sportscasters refer to our competitors as Team GB ? Has the PC brigade banned the words Great Britain in case they offend viewers? (Someone offended by the notion of abbreviation there)

Brits are not overweight or fat. They just look it because they are all wearing stab-proof vests. (My favourite type of Sun letter – a strange combo of a joke and genuine outrage)

Lindsay Lohan may have accidentally showed her bottom but what a lovely bottom she's got. It makes a change from some of the heartbreakingly sad pictures we've been seeing lately. (My second favourite type of Sun letter - total nonsense apropos of nothing)

Do not believe Rose West's dead guinea pig was murdered. I really think it was suicide. It must have lived in terror of the time Rose got bored and did what she did with her daughter and the other victims. (I can't work out the intent behind this one - it doesn't succeed as either a joke or a serious comment)

Reading about all the mistakes the Portuguese police force have made - and are still making - in the search for little Madeleine McCann makes me glad to be British because we have such an efficient police force. (If that's a joke it's quite good, but it almost certainly isn't, given the fact it was written by someone who reads the Mail and therefore has no concept of irony)

After getting robbed by 4 hoodies and beaten at the weekend, I hope they choke on the chicken or drugs they bought with the money. (Chicken or drugs?)

The police should not be allowed to do all these stop and searches. They're taking the law into their own hands. (No comment necessary, not even this one)

Friday, 19 June 2009

God Trumps



Just a quick blog to say that my God Trumps are now available.

To get a pack you'll need to follow this link and subscribe to New Humanist.

Told you it was a quick blog!

Thursday, 4 June 2009

Viz

Not much in Viz this month, just a couple of letters:

I’ll tell you something those Sheila's Wheels women don't sing about in their advert – the £25 administration fee for merely phoning up to change your address.

When Susan Boyle came out on stage looking slightly shambolic and odd, people booed her. But when it turned out she could sing they showed her some respect, because of course they had learned a valuable lesson – don’t judge Susan Boyle before you have heard her sing. Only Susan Boyle mind. This is not a lesson they have been intelligent enough to apply as a general rule, and they continue to boo people each week, apropos of nothing, before they have even opened their mouths.

Church leaders were complaining about a football match scheduled on Easter Sunday, saying it was disrespectful. What hypocrites! Whenever I walk past a church on a Sunday they’re always open. They should practice what they preach.

And as usual here are the ones that didn't make it:

A German Bishop has said that Atheism was responsible for the Nazis. That Hitler bloke took a lot of the heat for them didn’t he? How unfair.

Last night I saw Paul Ross selling Carry On DVDs on Bid TV. Have any of your readers had a tackier televisual experience? I very much doubt it.

I read in the news that the Vatican has installed a Latin cash machine for Catholic priests. I wonder if the advice slips will tell them to stop abusing children.

During a recent episode of Jeremy Kyle one guest, asked another guest “Are you thick or are you just stupid?” What a masterful trick question! Ostensibly trapping the other person into admitting idiocy whatever their response. You’d have to get up very early in the morning to outfox him.

In response to the letter above, I think that rather than being evidential of great wit, that question actually came about as a result of that person not having many adjectives in their repertoire.

I got recommended a ‘good book’ recently by a Christian friend of mine. I have to say I was disappointed. In my view a ‘good book’ should have a decent, realistic plot, be well written and far less homophobic. Although I did like the bit where they killed off that annoying preachy character. He had it coming.

Ant and Dec. Stand behind Stephen Mulhern gurning and making sarcastic comments whilst he tries, ineptly to present the Britain's Got Talent spin off show on ITV2. It’s what he does to all the acts he interviews, so he should find it hilarious.

I saw in the news this week that more than 50 firemen were called out to tackle a blaze at a firemen’s college. Irony doesn’t begin to cover it.

They say you shouldn’t believe everything you read, but having just seen that written down I don’t know what to think.

It’s funny how different people have different reaction times. For instance, the parents of the newborn baby and young toddler who turned up at York Dungeon last weekend. Everyone in the queue immediately noted their wildly inappropriate choice of family day out. However it took them 35 minutes of their children crying and showing obvious distress, for this revelation to finally permeate both of their pea brains.

Am I alone in finding it slightly sinister when the bloke in the new Morrison’s advert says, "I like bakers better...when they're trained"?

I cooked potatoes for the first time ever today. I'm nearly 30. Should I be proud or ashamed?

The question on this week’s Quiz Call was 'things you would find at a crime scene'. As if this on its own didn’t do enough to encourage sick enough answers, the presenter kept saying "There's been a murder...what can you see?"

Andy Abraham, who failed to win the X Factor, has said that the music industry “is not interested in supporting contestants who fail to win The X Factor" Imagine that.

"Where would Hollywood musicals be without sound?" A good question there from Paul Ross as he tried to shift a surround sound DVD player during his slot on Bid TV last week.

On Nicky Campbell's Big Questions this week, they were asking 'Do animals go to Heaven?' One of the panel was a Vicar who runs animal prayer groups. Nicky asked her where the species cut off point was, 'do wasps get in for example?' It was at this point that I had to leave the room.

Further to the letter above, it wasn't as stupid a debate as you make out. Whilst the Vicar did go on to say 'yes, wasps do get in' they did temper this silliness with the more sensible '...although I don't claim to understand the logistics of it all'

I once received a birthday card from my Aunt and Uncle after my Uncle had died. My Aunt, instead of not sending it, had chosen instead to scrawl over my deceased Uncle's signature in red pen, which incidentally made it look like she had perhaps killed him. Anyway, has anyone received a more sinister birthday greeting?

There's a snack food shop near my work called Coffea - wordplay on the fact they sell both coffee and tea. And wordplay that only really works when seen written down. When they answer their phones it just sounds like they're offering you a coffee.

Today's Jeremy Kyle show was called 'I'll prove to you I only cheated 3 times'. Not only is that a set of lie detector results you couldn't be 100% smug about at the best of times, but what's more, the person in question failed the test.

I saw that episode. The best bit was when one of the guests accidentally called Jeremy Kyle 'Graham'. He didn't like that at all. "Do I look like a Graham?" he shouted. Shame his guests are all slow witted chavs as I would have been straight in there with "No, but I'll tell you what you do look like..."

In her latest slating of a fellow celebrity, Lily Allen has called Susan Boyle ‘overrated’. Funny, she doesn’t seem to mind when being overrated works in her favour.

In response to the letter above I’ll have you know that Lily Allen is most certainly not overrated. It is a universally acknowledged fact that she’s rubbish.

Russell Grant has produced a list of the top ten signs that your house is haunted. Number 7 is “you see someone in your house who shouldn’t be there, probably dressed in old fashioned clothing”. Accordingly I plan to burgle him in period costume.