By Gareth Edwards

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Al Capone and the Ministry of Drab Awfulness.

Welcome, dear readers to another scramble through the unmapped cave system of knowledge. I’ve got a torch, a fistful of your questions, and a poorly thought-through metaphor, so it should be fun. Let’s go.

Who would win in a fight between a polar bear, a velociraptor, and Al Capone?
This is an age old conundrum. Aristotle was convinced that the fight would start slowly, with the velociraptor ducking and weaving and occasionally flicking the bear with his tail, and the bear growing increasingly frustrated and trying to lash out while Al Capone ran a book on the whole gruesome proceedings having already “suggested” to the velociraptor that he was going down in the fourth. Marx believed that over the course of the fight the veociraptor and bear would achieve “class consciousness” and overthrow Al Capone and possibly nationalize him, rendering him loss making. In the end history tells us the winner was the polar bear after the velociraptor was successfully prosecuted for income tax evasion and Al Capone was killed by an asteroid.

Is the right answer to this question “no”?
This demonstrates the superiority of the human intellect over evil computers in science fiction stories. Faced with this paradox an evil computer will tend to flash all its lights and say “Does not compute” in its special evil voice before self-destructing, whereas a person will think about it intensely for around three minutes and then get distracted by cats that look like Hitler on YouTube. Cuh. Look at him, with his silly moustache. Bless.

Orange juice and grape juice and apple juice are mere juices, but cranberry juice is a cocktail. Yet it has no alcohol! Please explain.
Cranberry juice is a metaphorical cocktail, such as we often hear of on the news, and rarely in a good way, for example “a cocktail of barbiturates”; “a cocktail of flammable liquids”; or “a cocktail of lethal cocktails”.  It is only a matter of time before we hear “Generic Celebrity found dead following a Massive Cocktail of Cranberries.”

What will be the last question?
Can anyone else smell maximum entropy?

Why do we drive on the left?
For a long time people drove according to regional custom so for example in Devizes locals avoided accidents by driving downhill in the mornings and getting drunk in the afternoon. All that changed in World War II, when driving was standardized by the Ministry of Drab Awfulness. Various systems were tried, including everyone driving on the North; and cars on the bottom, tanks on the top, until the present system was selected by Paul McCartney, a young civil servant who went on to a very different post-war career. Since the war many have argued for a return to the old ways but apparently we can’t change back now because of something to do with farmers not wanting to get up in the dark.

Thanks for all your questions. Do keep them coming. Then once we’ve covered every possible facet of this universe we can squeeze in explanations of all the other infinite parallel universes, one by one, which is bound to come in handy.


  1. Is life meaningless and will you write my dissertation? =)

  2. How do they put the stripes on toothpaste?

  3. If the number four, when turned upside down, looks like a chair, what does the number eight look like?

  4. How many constellations aren't there?

  5. Excellent level being maintained on this blog. Good also to hear of McCartney's original career taking off at the age of three, you can really see how gifted he was.

    Zoë wants to know, why is the moon wrong? It often comes out in the early evening.

  6. When will all grocery stores agree on where, generally, to put the plum sauce?