Thursday, May 31, 2007

Die reinste freude ist die schadenfreude

I am currently reading a book called "Haunted" by Chuck Palhniuk, most famous as the author of "Fight Club", which was made into a successful film. As might be expected, "Haunted" is a slightly odd book made up of a selection of short stories. I came across the title of this post in one of them.

I don't speak German, but I believe the phrase translates roughly as "Our purest joy comes when we view the misfortune of others." Ninjawords translates schadenfreude as "the malicious glee experienced from someone else's misfortune". It is by far the most popular word listed on Wordie (one of my internet obsessions), and forms the basis of much that we think of as humour. Even Dogbert has been known to "get in on the act."

Although I suspect most of them do not analyse it, shadenfreude is the reason why so many people buy their doom-laden newspapers every day. To use the vernacular, "I may have a crap life, but I can read in here about loads of people whose lives are even worse!"

Schadenfreude is an intrinsically lovely word and it carries, or at least used to carry, an air of learning about it. The discussion about the word on Wordie is interesting. Alguien suggests that:

"Due to flagrant overuse, schadenfreude has been depreciated from a twenty-dollar word to a dime a dozen. If only the supply of words could be restricted in the same manner as currency."
But why is the word, or at least the tendency it describes, so popular? It's hardly our most attractive characteristic! Dbmag9 on Wordie puts it very well, in my opinion:
"Schadenfreude seems to be one of the most primal pleasures. Television shows abound are filled with examples: man falls off ladder, child flies off swing, bucket falls onto woman. In one sense it is a valuable learning experience: you are glad you weren't in that position, and make a note not to be in it yourself. But why is it so funny? The only answer I can give is that it expresses the joy you have, build in by millennia of evolutionary conditioning, that you were not the weak one who ended the chain, that, whilst others may fail, you go on to live another day."
Odd creatures, we humans, aren't we?

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The Fat of the Land 2

I've referred to the global obesity epidemic before, and living in the UK you only have to look around you to see the growing bulk of your fellow countrymen and women. However, I think this web page illustrates so graphically to what extent the USA and the UK lead the World in this regard. This league table does raise some intriguing questions, however. Why, for example, does Ireland do so much better than the UK? Why does Turkey do so much better then Greece?

The other thing that prompted me to think about obesity was not gazing at the bathroom scales this morning, but reading about this 32 stone man who had to be airlifted from a luxury cruise ship by helicopter recently.

Suddenly I feel quite svelte...

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Do You Want An Argument?

I'm working tonight, so I thought I'd give you this video to keep you amused.

Monday, May 28, 2007

I Feel Quite Queasy Already

It may surprise you to find out that I am not much of a thrill-seeker. As a child I was never really a fan of fairground rides. Even going on a fairly sedate Ferris wheel in the Kelvin Hall in Glasgow as a teenager made me feel sick, and the idea of subjecting my body to various unnatural forces at somewhere like Alton Towers fills me with horror.

Bearing this in mind, you will not be surprised to discover that this new attraction at the Kennedy Space Center would definitely not be my "cup of tea". Astronauts are paid (quite well, I suspect) to have their bodies thrown around in this manner. Why anybody would pay the center for the experience of "being in a dragster, peeling out from zero to 100 in three seconds, then keeping your foot to the floor for a full six minutes until you reach 17,500 mph." is quite beyond my ken! According to the Wired article, "Inside the capsule, riders are subject to an onslaught of 13-channel sound, from the roar of the engines to the commander barking instructions. Low-frequency sound vibrates the riders' chests, evoking the feeling of being unable to breathe." Now that's what I don't call entertainment!

But then I am an old fart.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

The Problem With Scotland

People often ask Wosog and I why we always go on holidays abroad when we live in such a beautiful country. Today's experience is a perfect example of why we behave in this way, irresponsibly expanding our carbon footprint in the process.

This being Summer (or so we had been led to believe), and having recently joined the National Trust for Scotland, we decided to set out in the car for Culzean Castle in Ayrshire. Wosog had been there before and we knew it was an interesting building set in a country park that had other attractions. The weather was slightly overcast as we left but Wosog, the eternal optimist, was confident that conditions would improve by the time we got to the other side of the River Clyde. In fact the sky got steadily more and more grey as we headed towards our destination, and (surprise! surprise!) the rain was bucketing down as we ate our lunch in a hotel just outside Ayr.

The rain continued all the time we were at the Castle. Unfortunately the National Trust, in its "wisdom", doesn't allow photography inside their buildings. Photographs of the exterior of the building were snatched at odd intervals where shelter allowed. Overall, it was hardly the enjoyable photographic experience that we had planned.

Scotland is a beautiful country, and I'm sure the coastal route to Culzean would have been stunning on a sunny day. The difficulty is that we seem to get so few sunny days----and I always seem to be at work during them. That is a problem, and until it's solved I'll continue to spend my hard-earned holidays in sunnier climes!

Saturday, May 26, 2007

For Those Who Remember The Lone Ranger....

This is an interview with a guy called Jay Thomas, who I don't know, but I do remember the Lone Ranger.

It's a funny story.

Why Complain?

Like many British folk, I don't like complaining. On a number of occasions in the past I've been in a restaurant, say, and been served food that was not quite up to par, but I've just eaten it or left it, rather than make a fuss about it. Many Brits don't like to attract attention to themselves in public places, and in restaurants there is always the possibility that your food may return to you having been, let's say, adulterated in some way.

I've been in a few hotel rooms that I wasn't entirely happy with too. Again, I don't remember complaining often: too embarrassing. I much prefer the anonymity of slagging them off on Expedia when I return home.

On the subject of hotel rooms, some people seem to love all the little soaps, bath oils etc. that are commonly found there. I've recently developed hand eczema, so I now have a little collection of bottles of moisturisers from hotels, but apart from this aspect these things don't really register with me. I recently came across this account of a hotel guest's unhappiness with the soap supply in his hotel bedroom. It certainly wouldn't encourage me to start doing any more on-site complaining!

I think the moral of the story is "If you find yourself in a hole, the first thing to do is stop digging".

Friday, May 25, 2007

Sky Reflected

Sky Reflected
Originally uploaded by Son of Groucho.
Evening sky reflected in the River Clyde.

[Click on the photo to see comments and where it was taken].

Thursday, May 24, 2007

A Loada Balls

Under the headline "Happy eaters of the week" last week's Sunday Times' "This life" section had an article about people attending the ninth annual Testicle Festival in Elderon, Wisconsin. The menu included the relevant parts of goats, lambs and bulls. Apparently the festival founder Nancy Fenske said testicles were "not so different from regular meatballs" and posed the question "What else can you do in a small town?" What else, indeed?

As part of my extensive research for this blog post, I put "testicle festival" into Google (if you pardon the pun). Imagine my surprise at finding 4850 hits detailing, amongst other things, festivals in Montana and Illinois. For those keen to pursue the subject further, here's a search for "testicle recipes".

For some reason writing this post has made me squirm uncomfortably in my seat.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Stand By Your Man

After the successes of the Women's Liberation Movement there are now few activities that are the sole preserve of men. Naively perhaps, one might have considered that peeing standing up was one of them, but no more, it seems.

Enter the Shewee----a brilliantly simple (and cheap) device that "allows women to urinate whilst standing or sitting without removing clothes". Apparently, "For the backpacking woman, there are many times when exposing bare flesh to the conditions can be unpleasant or embarrassing. Also the late night wander can be avoided and peeing into a bottle is now possible - bliss!"

Ah, the Simple Pleasures of Life, indeed!

Tuesday, May 22, 2007


I recently came across this site, which I think is absolutely hilarious. It allows you to send electronic greetings cards (eCards). "Nothing new in that!" you say, but many of these particular cards have a sting in their tail. One of my favourites is "Congratulations on not getting me pregnant." Another gem is "Get well soon so that I find you attractive again."

Which veiled insult do you think is the best?

Monday, May 21, 2007

Diminished Responsibility

Diminished Responsibility
Originally uploaded by Son of Groucho.
I have worked as a Police Surgeon for many years. Most of the time the work involves seeing prisoners, usually drug addicts, in the cells, but we also have to see patients who have died unexpectedly, partly to see if there are any suspicious circumstances to the death.

In the early hours of 15th June last year I was asked to visit an address in Dumbarton. An emergency call had been made for an ambulance. The initial gist of the panicked phone call was that an elderly lady had collapsed in her home, but when the crew arrived to find the lady lying dead in her bedroom surrounded by blood with a large hole in her neck they surmised that something might be amiss.

I’ve been to a number of crime scenes over the years, but this was probably the bloodiest. Details of the subsequent court case can be found by clicking on the picture, but the outcome was that the poor woman had been stabbed while she slept by her grandson, who was only 15 years old at the time.

We will probably never know exactly what went on in that house but, on the surface of it, McAlpine stabbed his grandmother after she threatened to “wash her hands of him” if his behaviour didn’t improve! You really wonder what provocation would drive a 15 year old into such a rage that he would stab an elderly woman 23 times.

On the way home in the car this evening I heard how a teenager had been killed in Blackpool by a single stab wound to the chest. We clearly have to convince our young people that carrying knives can lead to tragedy---for all age groups.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Back from the grave---again!

I've decided to revive The Voice of Reason. It's the fault of my brother in law, Bilosog. I met him in a shop in Glasgow at the weekend and he berated me for not blogging. He's retired, the lucky bugger, while I am still dragging myself out of bed every day to earn an honest shilling or two. I should be telling him to take up blogging since he's got plenty of time to do it!

I'm not sure what has made me "take up the cudgel" again. Many (both?) of you probably think it's a false dawn, and that I won't keep it up---well, we'll see! Anyway, I've decided to change to Blogger's new, improved system and appear to have lost many of my page elements (including all the old comments) in the process! Please bear with me while I try and find at least some of them. I've got a funny feeling that the old comments are gone for ever, though, since I'm probably just going to use Blogger's commenting set up.

Anyway, there we have it: the new, improved (well, eventually) Voice of Reason: God bless Her and He who rants in her!