By Gareth Edwards

Monday, 23 May 2011

Where all the Flowers have gone, and an Otter in Danger.

Come, bold internauts, and set sail with me across the sea of ignorance. With your questions for our oars and this blog as our ship let us discover new islands of truth amid the waves, and maybe build hotels on them.

Where have all the flowers gone?
Archeologists recently uncovered several overgrown graveyards full of the remains of a large group of soldiers. It’s hard to put an exact number on the bodies but it may even be as many as all the soldiers. Perhaps most remarkable however is that though these young men seem to have been dressed for battle their efficacy as a fighting force must surely have been compromised by the fact of their apparently carrying a large number of flowers, possibly even all the flowers. Experts have conjectured that all the young men may have been given all the flowers by all the young girls, but it’s hard to be sure as this was a long time ago.

Is terracotta red, orange, or brown?
No, that’s autumn leaves. Terracotta is a Sardinian dessert made out of milk and clay.

Why does it take me so long to draw spaceships?
The problem may be that the spaceships you are drawing are travelling at a significant proportion of the speed of light, so time passes at a different speed. Thus five minutes for the drawing of the spaceship will feel like many years for the person drawing it. You should be careful though because your drawings of spaceships are likely to have almost infinite mass. If you drew slower spaceships it would be quicker.

If a plus times a plus is a plus and a minus times a minus is a plus, why aren't minuses dying out?
There is very unlikely to be a shortage as the Government has been stockpiling them for years, ever since the minus strike. No? Oh please yourselves.

I'm suspect of the phrase, "You can't go back again". Are my feelings of unease justified?
Like so many things it depends on context. For example, at a family party my son reacted to exactly this phrase with rage when it formed my reply to his request to make a third trip to the dessert buffet. Likewise, if you were leaving your much-loved pet otter Fifibelle in the care of an avant-garde chef you were friends with at university because you were going away at short notice for a weekend in Minehead and nobody else was available, and then just as you were leaving the premises your eye was drawn to a blackboard bearing the legend “Chef’s Special Today: Mustelid Marinière” and then you heard a muffled squeal and suddenly felt an urge to return to Fifibelle “for one more cuddle”, but no sooner had you uttered this request than you were firmly propelled out of the restaurant door into the cold grey high street as a pitiless voice growled “You can’t go back again”, you would be right to feel unease.

So that’s that for now. Do keep the questions coming in, as nobody wants to live in a world where that stops being that in the future.

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Painted Cats and the inner Colin Firth

More answers to your questions about everything in the universe.

Why doesn't my local Sainsbury's have Taste The Difference Pastrami any more?
I’m guessing that at some point you purchased a packet of Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference Pastrami from your local Sainsbury’s and then tasted it. For the staff of the Sainsbury’s Paradox Minimisation Department this was very much the Doomsday scenario, for if you enjoyed the taste and wished to experience the same thing again you would naturally return to the store to seek out a packet of Sainsbury’s Taste the Similarity Pastrami. But then how would they attract more new customers? Faced with stocking two identical products labeled “Taste the Difference” and “Taste the Similarity” next to each other or withdrawing the linguistically-troubling pastrami forever they chose the latter option, and who are we to blame them?

How important is it to pronounce words correctly, even when reading silently?
It’s best not to get too hung up on this. Doctors have known for a while that a person’s internal monologue can have a very different accent to their speaking voice.  Though he spoke with a rich Welsh timbre redolent with gravitas Richard Burton suffered his whole life long from an internal monologue that was both squeaky and lisping. In her thoughts Radio 4’s Charlotte Green has a comical Italian accent. Most famously of all, inside his own head George VI didn’t stutter at all, but instead sounded exactly like the actor Colin Firth.

Are there more questions than answers?

Why don’t Rembrandt’s pictures have enough cats in them?
The tulip craze of the Dutch Golden Age sparked a fashion for flower painting which by 1632 had grown so popular that paintings of flowers were changing hands for more than the cost of three Hollands. But with so much paint being poured into flowers the bottom dropped out of the cat-painting market and by 1638 two dimensional cats had become worth less than the cost of the paint needed to depict them.  That meant that every time he painted a cat Rembrandt fell deeper into debt, and was only able to retain his sense of self-worth with almost ceaseless self-portraits.

What are the words 'predcule' and 'patess' that I have just had to type in? And now 'resso'? and 'Shoronpa'?
It’s probably easiest to demonstrate the meaning of these words if you see them used in a typical conversation, as follows - 
TIM                                Did you predcule the patess?
SHORONPA                   I’m sorry, I don’t understand what you mean.
TIM                                Patess. Did you predcule it?
SHORONPA                   Will this wait? I’m watching Real Housewives of New Jersey.
TIM                                Why did your parents call you Shoronpa anyway?
SHORONPA                   You are so bloody insensitive.
TIM                                I just don’t understand why you still have that photo of Steve.
SHORONPA                   Oh not this again.
TIM                                Please... hold me until the pain goes away.
SHORONPA                   If you're going to the kitchen can you get me a resso?

How soon is now?
I’m afraid now is finished. If it’s any consolation you’ve only just missed it.

Why does Katie Melua speak Georgian?
Although at the age of 8 Katie Melua moved to the United Kingdom in 1992, she was actually born in the United Kingdom in the 18th Century and her early years were spent during the reign of George III. Famous for her ability to sing idiomatically about astrophysics and bicycles she is nevertheless equally fluent discussing the Corn Laws, the lamentable late loss of His Majesty's Colonies in the Americas, and how she has set her cap at a dandy in the Pump Room.

That’s all for this week, however please remember the universe is expanding at colossal speed, and so probably is the number of possible questions that may be asked of it. Do please keep them coming in or we’ll fall seriously behind.