Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Halloween Divination Food

There are several games traditionally associated with Halloween parties, most of which are played as forms of divination. The most well known being apple bobbing, which is called "dooking" in Scotland.  A bunch of apples float in a tub of water and the someone must remove an apple from the basin using only their teeth.  After the person has rubbed their germ filled mouth and drool all over the apples trying to get one, it's the next persons go.  If you put the apple under your pillow you are supposed to dream of your future spouse.  A more hygienic variant involves holding a fork between the teeth and trying to drop the fork into one of the apples.
A traditional Scottish form of divining one's future spouse is to carve an apple in one long strip, then toss the peel over one's shoulder. The peel is believed to land in the shape of the first letter of the future spouse's name.  In the early 1900s a Halloween game that was played involved walnut shells. People would write fortunes in milk on white paper and, when dry, the paper was folded and placed in walnut shells, a bit like a fortune cookie. When the shell was warmed, the milk would turn brown and the writing would appear.
One custom that continues in Ireland is the baking of a barmbrack (often shortened to brack), which is a light bread with raisins and used as a sort of fortune-telling game. Baked into the barnbrack is a ring, a pea, a stick, a piece of cloth, a small coin (originally a silver sixpence) and a medallion, usually of the Virgin Mary.  Commercially produced barmbracks for Halloween still include a toy ring but not a filthy rag or a dirty stick from they yard.  Each item carried a meaning for the person who received it in their slice.  The pea meant the person would not marry that year; the stick meant an unhappy marriage or constant disputes; the cloth meant bad luck or poverty; the coin meant good fortune or wealth; the ring meant they would be wed within the year; the medallion symbolised going into the priesthood or joining the nuns, however, the medallion is not widely continued today. 
Another similar old Irish Halloween tradition is to serve colcannon with a ring and a thimble hidden in the fluffy green-flecked dish. Prizes of small coins such as threepenny or sixpenny bits were also concealed in it.  Mush like x-mass pudding, there are probably many stories of people finding their coin by choking to death.  Colcannon is a traditional dish that is made from mashed potatoes and kale (or cabbage), with scallions, butter, salt and pepper. Occasionally it contains other ingredients like milk, cream, leeks, onions and chives.
Yet another fortune-telling game involved paper cut out symbols on a platter and some ice.  The paper symbols included: a dollar sign or a penny for wealth, a button for bachelorhood, a thimble for spinsterhood, a clothes pin for poverty, rice or a ring for a wedding, an umbrella for travel, a cauldron for trouble, a 4-leaf clover for good luck, and a key for fame. Someone would enter a dark room and would put their hand on a piece of ice then lay it on the platter and their "fortune" would stick to their hand.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Burning Clown

The Fire Clown by Michael Moorcock.

Acording to the book cover: He was a mysterious cosmic presence who came out of nowhere with the incredible promise to free the dying planet.

His promise to free the planet involves everyone undressing and making a bonfire with their clothes and all their money.  This is not going to end well.

Never trust a clown, never turn your back on a fire.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Rancid Shopping

Listening to Action! Not Words by Def Leppard, Joe Elliott is singing:

"I'm sick and tired of the dancing tree,
 I'm gonna make my own movie"

"Shopping! Make it rancid
 Shopping! Make it last"
The thing about Def Leppard is through most of their career they've had a surplus of hair (enough hair to support more than three bands) but have suffered a shortage of arms.  On the 1984/85 new years eve, drummer Rick Allen swerved his Corvette off the road and went through a drystone wall, he lost his left arm in the car crash.  Allen endeavoured to continue as Def Leppards drummer, realising that he could use his legs to do some of the drumming work previously done with his arms and designing a custom electronic drum kit.  Allen practised in a separate studio with his new drums for several months before rejoining the band.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Superpowered Perception

If you want to supervillan level perceptual skils and mental reflexes, video games are the way to do it. But just clicking away at simcity isn't going to cut it, you needs to be playing fast paced action first person shooters for measurable results.  Several studies in recent years have shown that action-heavy video games can dramatically improve a skill known as visual attention, the ability to pick and choose relevant visual information from a chaotic environment.  Proof that some of my misspent youth was not as misspent as it would first appear.
Research published in Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Cognitive Science March/April 2011 showed that those who habitually play video games have been documented to outperform novices in a variety of visual attentional capabilities, including attention in space, in time, and to objects. Training studies have established similar improvements in groups of nongamers who trained using games improved their visual attention scores, leading researchers to believe that games of this sort could be used for education, workplace training, and in accident rehabilitation.  So ask your manager to make that next training workshop an inter-office Halo match.
A previous studey at Leiden University in 2010 showed that playing first-person shooter video games is also associated with superior mental flexibility. Compared to non-players, players of such games were found to require a significantly shorter reaction time while switching between complex tasks, possibly because they are required to develop a more responsive mindset to rapidly react to fast-moving visual and auditory stimuli, and to shift back and forth between different sub-duties.
Yep, the research is in, supercharge your visual perception skills and speed up your mental reaction time between tasks by playing the latest Doom.  Go boost your workplace skills, get on the phone to HR and tell them they should buy you a copy.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Pleasurable First Contact

Just a word of advice: if you meet an alien from another world, don't go grabbing and pulling any of his appendages if you don't know what the are for.  Even if he does look happy to see you.

Friday, October 12, 2012


Philippic means a verbal denunciation or condemnation, often in a speech, characterised by harsh, insulting language.  What I like most is how positive it sounds.  To me its sound invokes feelings of the word terrific.
The word also refers to any of Demosthenes's speeches urging Athenians to rise up against Philip II of Macedon in the fourth century BC. which is the origin of the word.  Ironically though, these speeches failed to effectively warn the Greeks of the danger of Philip of Macedon, who turned out be Alexander the Greats Dad.  Later in 44BC Marcus Tullius Cicero of Rome consciously modelled his own series of verbal attacks against Mark Antony on Demosthenes's and several of these speeches were referred to as The Philippics during the time.
But, for a modern Philippic orator you can't go past Bob Dylan.  A fact which his contemporaries Simon & Garfunkel acknowledged in their 1966 recording of the song A Simple Desultory Philippic (or How I Was Robert McNamara'd into Submission) for the duo's album Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme.  In the song Simon complains about a man who is, " unhip, when you say Dylan he thinks you're talking about Dylan Thomas," the next line in the songs says, "It's all right Ma. Everybody must get stoned." which is a reference to the Bob Dylan song Rainy Day Women No. 12 & 35.  At the end of the song Simon says, "Folk rock," and, after an audible noise, "I've lost my harmonica, Albert." This again refers to Dylan, his music, his harmonica and his manager Albert Grossman.
Have a listen.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Kung Fu Cafe

One of the places we stopped to eat when I was overseas recently was the Kung Fu Paradise Cafe.  It had lots of  kung fu named items on the menu like Kung Fu Masters Salad, The Art of Wok and Kung Fu Stylo Coffee, but the best value items on the menu are the large burgers.
The thing to take not of though, is that Kung Fu Paradise doesn’t have burgers, they have bumgers.  Beef bumgers, chicken bumgers and the must try signature Kung Fu Bumgers.
Bumgers beat burgers hands down, there should be a restaurant chain called Bumger King. Their advertising campaign could say “The juiciest bumgers around. Come in and put your mouth on our enticing bumgers.”

Saturday, October 06, 2012

Pink Pickles

The two Japanese women are obviously very happy at the prospect of enjoying some pink pickles. So much so that they've written a song about them.

Oh, just so you know, pink pickles are the little bits of ginger that you get with sushi and not a European mans penis like you were thinking. The traditional Japanese pickling process turns the ginger a yellowish pink. These days it's sometimes enhanced with pink food dye. Occasionally other things like eggs are pickled using the same process resulting in pink pickled eggs.

Tuesday, October 02, 2012