Thursday, November 22, 2012

You Can Be Brain Dead and Still Have Your Intelligence Insulted

I saw an advertisement for Evian today (I believe they sell water) which proudly proclaimed "Every drop sourced from nature."  Where did people think it came from?  That statement is about as helpful as "Made from stuff" or "Contains ingredients".  I think the thing that annoyed me most about it is that it is so obvious that either the people who created that ad were terminally stupid or they believe the rest of us are.  My money is on the latter.

The place my money won't be is in Evian's coffers.  OK, regular readers of this blog will know that getting me to buy bottled water is a pretty hard sell in any event.  I'm perfectly prepared to pay for coca cola or vodka or any other beverage that has been manufactured.  I'm even prepared to spend a little money on fruit juice in acknowledgement of the fact that people had to rip bits off trees and squash them up in order to provide it but I am deeply reluctant to pay for a bottle of something that I can lick up out of a puddle.

Still, Evian's advertisement has guaranteed that I will never drink their (sorry, nature's) product.  It is a total insult to the intelligence of the human race and in my case at least seems to assume I never even evolved to the stage of splitting into two cells.  You could piss into a bottle of Evian and sell the result with the same claim and the same accuracy.

I do understand the difficulties involved in marketing water.  Evian is essentially attempting to sell something that pretty much anyone outside the Sahara Desert can get for nothing with a little effort.  It can't be easy but guys, you have standards to maintain.  The advertising industry is pretty much the only thing still producing quality television these days.  If you sell out all we've got left is endless series of Geordie Shore.

At this point I can imagine the advertising team for Evian muttering things like, "It's all very well for you to criticise smartarse.  You have one blog which is essentially read by your parents.  We have to try and market this crap to the world."  That's a fair comment so in the spirit of helpfulness I have bent my not considerable brainpower to the task of producing a better tag line for Evian.

I will admit there were a couple of false starts.  My first concept was something along the lines of "Evian; when you're too fucking lazy to turn on a tap."  I liked it but I can see why others might not, including pretty much anyone who works at Evian.  My second effort was "Fabulous outfit? Check.  Electronic music? Check.  Bag full of pills? Check.  What's missing?" but I decided Evian was probably looking to expand their appeal beyond their traditional customer base.

Finally I came up with this.  I can't claim its particularly inspired but I honestly believe its an improvement on what they have now.  Evian logo at the top and underneath it the line "Water is Life".  No silly statements, no ridiculous claims.  Just the logo and a simple statement of fact.  Of course if the general public wants to conflate the two and rush out to buy 44 gallon drums of Evian to avoid dying of thirst that's entirely their affair.  I said Evian's original tag was insulting the intelligence of the human race.  I didn't say it was insulting it by much.  If anyone from Evian happens to read this blog entry please feel free to use this idea (assuming somebody hasn't already) and pass it off as your own.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

We Commend Our Brother to the Gullet

I honestly don't know why I haven't thought of sky burial before.  What a brilliant concept!  Forget expensive funeral costs.  Worried about the amount of valuable land cemeteries are taking up?  Worry no longer.   Concerned about what your cremation might do for your carbon footprint?  Sky burial is the answer.

All you need to conduct a sky burial is a small flat space outdoors.  Oh yes, and vultures.  Vultures are rather important to the whole process.  In fact, vultures are the whole process.  One rather suspects that the term sky burial was invented because it sounds a lot less grisly to say "we gave Grandma a sky burial" than to admit that a beloved relative was torn apart by carrion birds.

Traditionally sky burials have been conducted by Tibetans (where, perhaps not entirely coincidentally, the ground is rather stony and difficult to dig graves in) and by Zoroastrians for reasons connected with the polluting nature of corpses and the desire to get rid of them quickly and cleanly.  They dressed it up in religious mumbo jumbo of course but frankly it sounds thoroughly sensible in regions like Iran and India anyway.

Sky burial has gone into a bit of a decline in recent times for various reasons largely connected with governments.  In Tibet they got invaded by the Chinese who crushed all opposition, drove the Dalai Lama into exile and killed or imprisoned those who disagreed with them but nevertheless banned sky burial because they considered it barbaric.  The Chinese reversed this ban in the 1980s but made no comment on whether they no longer considered the practice barbaric or were merely striving for consistency.

In India the Zoroastrian community (or Parsis as I believe they are called for some reason) got on the wrong end of well intentioned government idiocy when the drugs that the Indian government were feeding to their cattle inadvertently wiped out most of the meat eating birds on the subcontinent.  At the time of writing burial arrangements for the entire Parsi community depend on seven morbidly obese buzzards who are actively contemplating vegetarianism.

Still, none of these issues should stop us from introducing sky burial into Australia.  If anyone objects we'll just say we're embracing multiculturalism (there's got to be a few Tibetans or Parsis in the country).  Yes, its a sky burial for me.  The only thing I haven't worked out yet is how to persuade the vultures to eat the headstone.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

The Jealousy of Bats

I'm waiting for bats to swoop down and carry me away.  This may sound unlikely but they've been gathering outside my apartment and I'm sure they're up to no good.  Actually I think there's only one bat but its been moving about a lot and making that leathery swishing sound with its wings.  I'm also not sure if bats do actually swoop down on people.  My knowledge of bats is limited to horror movies and old Scooby Doo cartoons.  All I can say for certain is that bats tend to concentrate around the smart girl and knock her glasses off thus rendering her blind and helpless.  I know I'm not a girl but I've switched to contacts just to be on the safe side.  No bat is going to send me blind.

It's all jealously of course.  Bats are almost blind so they're probably envious of people who have managed to overcome their own vision impairment by wearing glasses.  Thus they spend their time trying to even up the score.  Which is grossly unfair of the bats because they get sonar.  We don't get sonar, not even the most blind of us but with bats it comes as standard.  Even the rare bat with twenty-twenty vision gets sonar.  We have to build our own.

Now that I come to think of it bats must be great at finding submarines.  I wonder if anybody has considered exploiting that?  Rather than spending immense amounts of money on high tech equipment we could simply equip every naval vessel with a cage of bats to be dumped over the side to hunt for submarines.  Of course there is the minor drowning issue to be overcome but surely equipping the bats with scuba gear would still be more cost effective than an entire sonar array.

If the bats won't do it for us maybe something else will.  Manta rays look a bit like bats, has anybody investigated whether they have sonar.  If they do we could save a fortune on bat seasickness pills.  If it turns out that mantas are sonar challenged perhaps a little genetic engineering could help.  I think I left my gene splicer in the drawer with the other cutlery.

So in conclusion if, while out walking at night, you are suddenly mobbed by a flock (herd? swarm?) of bats don't worry too much.  They're probably just irritated because you're wearing glasses.  Either that or they were spooked by a low flying submarine.

Another Silly After Action Report

On the 18th of November 1941 the British launched Operation Crusader, designed to destroy the Afrika Korps and relieve the siege of Tobruk.  As part of this plan the British 7th Armoured Division charged into the open desert to meet and beat the Afrika Korps on ground of its own choosing.  Unfortunately the Afrika Korps completely ignored them leaving the 7th Armoured in the rather embarrassing position of not knowing what to do next.  On the 19th some decisions were made one of which involved sending the 22nd Armoured Brigade south to clean up a position at Bir el Gubi which was defended by the Italian 132nd "Ariete" Tank Division.

So here we are with ASL Scenario 56 "Half a Chance" which pits the Italians of the Ariete against the British of the 22nd Armoured.  Historically the Italians handed the British their arse in a sack.  As commander of the Italian forces could I repeat history?  Six desert map boards stretch before me but I can set up on only the three most southerly.  To defend against the oncoming British I had five anti tank guns and eight squads with a collection of machine guns and anti tank rifles plus a telephone with a direct line into a nearby artillery battery.  The desert before me was interspersed with tank unfriendly boggy patches (apparently it had rained recently) thus reducing the amount of ground I would have to cover.

My opponent, Richard Weilly commanded fourteen crusader tanks (fast but mechanically unreliable) of various types.  He would have the choice of either attempting to thread his way through the solid patches of ground covered by my defences or swing round to the north where the ground was solid but where my second turn reinforcements in the shape of sixteen M13/40 tanks (slow but mechanically unreliable) were due to arrive.  He chose option two.

I set up sprawled across all three southern boards.  The rules stated that I had to allocate at least one anti tank gun and two squads to each board thus guaranteeing that at least a third of my force would be hopelessly out of position.  Assuming, accurately, that Richard would attempt the northern flanking route I set up my three 47mm anti tank guns on board 30, the northern most of my set up area and allocated one 37mm gun each to the other boards.  Squads with machine guns also lurked in the vicinity while my phone operator got the artillery on speed dial.

Dividing his tank force into two sections Richard poured onto board 30 where I swiftly discovered how useless 47mm guns are at long ranges.  Dropping smoke to cover himself Richard turned north and headed for the firm ground.  I successfully brought my artillery down to absolutely no effect, a level of efficiency it would maintain throughout the entire game.  By the end of Richard's second turn his tanks were nicely positioned on the eastern part of boards 29 and 31 largely safe from all but the most fluky of anti tank shots and waiting the arrival of my tanks.

So far things had been reasonably event free with Richard maneuvering with relative impunity out of effective range of my impotent defenders.  But now my tanks were arriving!  Sixteen of Mussolini's finest clattered slowly onto the board and proceed to get shot to bits by their British counterparts.  OK, I admit it.  I screwed up badly.  I entered my tanks as close to the western edge of the board (and as far from the British) as I could intending to take up positions to cover Richard's exit locations and force him to come to me.  I had neglected the fact that the guns on Richard's tanks were somewhat better than mine, particularly at longer ranges.  The next few turns were gruesome for me as Richard methodically shot my tank force to pieces without my being able to give an effective reply.  In retrospect perhaps I should have charged on as close to his tanks as possible where my guns would also have been able to score kills.  Using my artillery to drop smoke would also have been helpful since it was proving useless at actually killing enemy tanks.

The next several turns consisted of Richard cheerfully reducing my tank force to scrap while edging his forces a little closer to his exit board.  It wasn't all one way.  I got some hits in and killed a few crusaders but turn seven found me reduced to four tanks huddling behind the wreckage of their comrades as Richard moved in for the kill.  Only it didn't quite happen like that.  To win Richard had to exit approximately six tanks off the board.  He had started with fourteen and had lost about four.  He lost another to my surviving tanks as he closed the range and I could get off some effective shots but the real killer was that previously mentioned mechanical unreliability.  I had managed to immobilise one of his tanks with a lucky hit.  Now two more that he had stopped in order to fire effectively failed mechanical reliability rolls when he tried to restart them.  With three tanks immobilised, four destroyed and one recalled for breaking its main armament Richard was left with the necessity of exiting every remaining tank.  When a lucky shot from an anti tank gun immobilised one of his remaining runners I thought I had the battle won but Richard was up to the challenge.

Bailing crews out of his immobilised tanks he led them on a foot charge to the exit following those of his tanks as he had been able to exit.  These lovely calmly strolled through long range machine gun fire to give Richard exactly the number of victory points he needed for the win.  Sigh, defeat is bitter although to be fair after the tank screw up on turn two I was probably lucky it wound up as close at it did.  On that note both Richard and I seemed to love the number six.  Richard broke three guns and recalled one tank in addition to immobilising two of his own tanks during the course of the game.  I recalled one tank, broke two anti tank guns and then destroyed them while trying to repair them just as Richards surviving tanks were waltzing off the board.  Still it was a good game which for quite a while I thought I was going to win as Richards tanks spluttered to a halt.

God Should Just Get a Twitter Account

In religious news a farmer in India has a goat whose hide markings spell Allah in Arabic script.  He has been caring for it lovingly and hopes the beast will fetch a good price in the Eid al Adha festival.  I suppose the farmer was fortunate that the name of God was written in a language he could understand.  If the name had appeared on the goat's hide in Chinese script he might have committed an unwitting act of sacrilege.

God has this tendency to appear in strange places.  People see him in rock formations, oil slicks, the occasional toasted sandwich and now a goat.  The one place I've never heard of anybody encountering God is in a church.  Possibly he's a little cautious about the company he keeps.

Still the name of God appearing on a goat hey?  It's obviously a sign, it might even be a portent.  A portent is basically a sign with ominous music attached.  A sign might mean anything but a portent means bad news.  A sign could be an indication of joyful news for mankind but a portent pretty much guarantees that the phrase "rivers of blood" will be popular in the coming days.  Portents are bad news.  Here's an example; if a door has the word "Welcome" written on it that's a sign.  If it has the words "Abandon all hope ye who enter here", that's a portent.

So, is this Allah touched goat a portent?  I fear it might be.  There is a rather obscure passage in the Book of Revelations which goes, "and all these things shall come to pass when the iron king shall reign.  The righteous will fall like wheat beneath the scythe, the rivers shall be red with the blood of the faithful and the name of God shall be lost to all but the beasts in the fields".  All right I will admit that it doesn't specifically mentions goats.  I'll also admit that I made the whole thing up but you've got to admit that it sounds pretty damn portentous.  I even managed to get in a "rivers of blood" reference.  On an unrelated note the Book of Revelations is pretty much proof that while hallucinogens might help your creativity they do nothing at all for your comprehensibility.

But back to the goat.  I think the staggering weight of evidence provided in the previous paragraph pretty much establishes the goat's portent credentials.  Let the last word go to the farmer himself.  "We have looked after this goat like our own child.  His meat will be very good."  Obviously the appearance of the name of God on his hide was a portent for the goat at least.