By Gareth Edwards

Sunday, 30 December 2012

Hollywood musicals and the Metropolitan Rat Board

More from the blog that sets out to provide an explanation for everything in the universe by answering your questions. New special safety feature: in an emergency this blog can be printed out and used as paper.

@tghelani How do islands stay afloat and in place?
Although islands do indeed seem to be afloat this is actually not the case. Islands are lumps of rock, sand and millionaires that are in an extremely low geostationary orbit; so low in fact that they are mostly stuck in the sea with only a bit sticking out. Like other moons and satellites, islands feel the pull of gravity but their angular velocity is sufficiently high that they move around Earth rather than falling towards it so it looks like they are fixed in place. You should always take care when going to an island that you don’t slow it down or it will fall out of orbit and sink, drenching your tent and ruining your holiday, unless you’ve gone to Anglesey in which case you won’t notice.


 Why was good King Wenceslaus out looking on the feast of Stephen?
This is a slight misquotation, as the popular carol begins thus:

Good King Wenceslas looked out
On the Feast of Stephen.

The Feast of Stephen was a notoriously dangerous day for the Bohemian nobility in the 9th and 10th Centuries. In Czech tradition the martyrdom of Stephen was commemorated by the giving of cakes but over time this charming tradition had become a conduit for feelings of social discontent, with the ruling classes being given heavier and heavier cakes at higher and higher velocities. Thus in 891AD Duke Vratislavalamp died when he was hit on the head by a suet and iron pudding dropped on him from the spire of St Vitus cathedral and in 913AD Wenceslas’s cousin Elastovlast was run through by a metal pudding in the shape of a giant arrow fired from a giant crossbow. Thus on that day of all days Wenceslas decided he had better “look out”. The monarch was no doubt alarmed by the sight of an approaching peasant with an armful of wood and fearing a high-velocity “Yule Log” he immediately set off to shower the man with gifts taking with him a page as a human shield.

@helenarney Is it true that we're never more than 3ft from a rat in London?
Yes. Up until 1947 rat distribution in Britain’s cities was appallingly haphazard. Indeed the rat supply throughout Europe had hitherto traditionally been left to unregulated private enterprise, so that the entire rat supply system could easily be manipulated for profit by maverick entrepreneurs with magical pipes. Citizens literally had no idea where the next rat might be coming from. Step forward Evelyn Sysor, MP for Norwood who championed the establishment of London’s Metropolitan Rat Board, a state-run system of pneumatic tubes under the streets and houses of London. Now twenty-four hours a day rats can be shoved up drainpipes by trained staff and are propelled swiftly and silently to any part of the capital where there may be two consecutive rat-free yards. There has recently been talk of a statue commemorating Syssor’s remarkable achievement, but detractors have pointed out that actually nobody really wanted him to do any of it.

@Testudo_aubreii Would life be better if it followed the rules of Hollywood musicals?
Life does follow the rules of Hollywood Musicals, just not the ones that have been commercially successful. Executives at MGM still wince at the memory of Rodgers and Hart’s box-office fiasco Those Kids Have Been Getting On My Tits All Day in which Shirley Temple sang “Mommy, I Hate this Broccoli”, but it set the benchmark for children’s behaviour for the next five decades. Warner Brothers’ lost a packet on Burt Bacharach’s Me and My Crappy Job and even Disney were left licking their wounds after the straight-to-video disaster Admin of the Arctic, the tale of a lemming whose pension documents are in hopeless disarray until he is helped by a kindly auk. The lemming’s song “Filing Without Wings” was later re-versioned with some success by Westlife.

That’s all for this year but do ask a question in the comments below as I am confident that 2013 will be the year we get the universe explained once and for all.


  1. 'I am confident that 2013 will be the year we get the universe explained once and for all'

    - How do you explain 2014?

  2. I wish you a happy new year (without high velocity puddings).

  3. Whenever I see a sofa left at the curb -- no matter how ratty or old -- all the seat cushions have disappeared. What's happened to them?

  4. candyflossandvodka13 January 2013 at 20:56

    What is the probability that llamas will take over the world in 2013?

  5. How do you get snow into a snow globe?

  6. I think this is among the most vital information for me.
    And i'm glad reading your article. But should remark on few general things, The web site style is perfect, the articles is really great : D. Good job, cheers
    My web site -

  7. 1. Do you know how I can buy property in Turkey?

    2. On a hot summer night, would you offer your throat to the wolf with the red roses?