Monday, 26 October 2009

It's been a hard day's night.

At the end of last week I Saw Elvis was saddened to hear of the death of Mac Tonnies. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family.

I've decided that I'm never going to a cocktail party again. Not that I get invited to many you understand. It's just by banning myself from attending these events in advance, I'm actually serving a greater good. You see I'm a very clumsy person, and so putting me in a room with nice suits and glasses full of brightly coloured liquid is like giving Kiefer Sutherland a bottle of Jack Daniels and the keys to a Ferrari. For example two days ago I was in a supermarket, placing my items on the till conveyer belt, and somehow I managed to accidentally throw a tub of Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream at the head of a rather startled woman in the next aisle. If it wasn't for my forewarning of "OH TITS!" and her cat like reflexes, the entire situation could have got rather out of hand.

Now being this useless is a tough old row to hoe. And, even though I really should be used to it by now, there's only so much social embarrassment one man can take. Which means I'm always on the look out for hair brained schemes that might - just might - allow me to take a romantic stroll on a beach with a loved one and, oh I don't know, not get stung by a scorpion. However, never in my wildest dreams did I think that the Pentagon would be the ones to step up to the plate in this regards.

According to a report on the BBC website, a pair of scientists in the Pentagon named Michel Maharbiz and Hirotaka Sato made a beetle fly around a room. Which isn't that big of a deal I guess. I mean give me a beetle and a rolled up newspaper and I can accomplish the same thing. However what is a big deal is that these dudes managed to do it by punching in some keys in to a laptop.

That's right folks, allow yourselves to be introduced to the world's first remote controlled insect (Gee Note: Not counting Paris Hilton). Now I’m not going to pretend to have any earthly idea how they did it, but apparently Messers Maharbiz and Hirotaka implanted beetle larvae with some sort of mechanical device. Then once the beetle reached maturity they discovered that with a flick of a switch they could get it to perform the Macarena at will.

Bare in mind that this is actually not as fun as it sounds, at least not for the beetle. The beetle’s thought processes aren’t altered during this entire experiment. Instead it’s muscles are the ones being controlled by the men in white coats. Which strikes me as kinda cruel. Say you’re a beetle and you spy off in the distance a lovely bit of jam. You set off on your way to acquiring that tasty treat, but then all of a sudden you’re flung up in to the air and are buzzing around like a maniac. All because some nerd with nothing better to do wants to show off to his friends. “Hey guys watch this,” he says “The beetle thinks it’s going to get the jam. And now it’s flying away from the jam. Ahahahahahahaha. Stupid beetle”. Speaking as a man who enjoys his jam that’s not cool bro. Not cool.

But there’s something even crazier to all of this. A cyborg beetle has absolutely no useful military application. I mean like none. Partly because as well as the various bit and bobs the beetle would need to be loaded with for this whole muscle control deal, it would also need to fitted with a tracking device. Which, while it might make a very entertaining real life version of the board game Buckaroo, would probably weigh the poor bastard down so much it couldn’t take off. And even if it could, the ratio as to what the beetle could carry would be so small - just 4.0 grams on the largest beetle tested by the Pentagon - that it would render it rather pointless. So unless they’re planning to get all Biblical on Iran’s ass by manufacturing a plague of, er, beetles with which to terrorize them into not making nuclear warheads, the whole thing seems a wee bit redundant.

Unless of course they manage to create a version of this for humans. Then I might get one and pay someone to follow me around the supermarket. Hey at least then I know I won’t assault innocent shoppers with some Mint Chocolate Chip.

Another story that caught my eye recently was in Wales’ very own Western Mail. It turns out that in the Brecon Beacons, which is a scenic mountain range running throughout South Wales, a new water treatment plant has caused quite the commotion. Locals from the Glyntawe area, which is about a stone’s throw from where yours truly lives, are exceedingly grumpy about the fact that the new plant looks like, well, a water treatment facility and not a pretty tree or something. Anyway they’ve gone and kicked up a fuss and formed a protest group called “We Want Out”.

One of the leaders of the group, 77 year old retired farmer Elizabeth Tyler (Gee Note: The first time I read this I did it too quickly and had to stop and ask myself “Why would Elizabeth Taylor give a toss about a building in Brecon? Is it a Richard Burton thing?” It turns out, no, no it isn’t) claims it represents “the lost beauty of the area”. She places the blame firmly on the Brecon Beacons National Park Authority, or BBNPA, for not denying planning permission for the plant.

“We all need clean fresh water but this building is a disgrace to the park. The scale of the structure is completely out of character with its location in the beautiful Welsh mountains. Local people are disgusted that park officials have allowed this concrete building to dominate our village and countryside.”

And so the folks in We Want Out have decided to riot protest by spending the night on one of the cranes used to build the plant, complaining to media outlets, and hiring a local shaman to place a curse on BBNPA.

Dude… wait. What?

"This curse will only be lifted by the shaman when a public apology is issued by the BBNPA to the residents of this area." Says Tyler.

For a start where the hell do you find a Shaman around these parts? Bare in mind that I live here, and I’m in to all kinds of weird things (Gee Note: Reading up on sea monsters and UFO sightings I mean. Not stuff like “and the safety word is banana”) and I’ve never heard of anyone claiming to be a shaman. I mean just how do you find these guys? Do you just walk in to a pub and say:

“Excuse me, I’m looking for someone to place a curse on a governing body.”

“Oh I’m sorry love, I’m Dai the Glass. I fit windows. You want Dai the Shaman over there in the corner.”

Also how bloody harsh are these people? Curses used to be placed on thorough rotters who raped livestock and killed women (Gee Note: It’s just occurred to me I typed that the wrong way round. Screw it I’m not changing it now). Not on inept National Park administrators. You can imagine the folks at the BBNPA waking up one morning to find that their arms had fallen off and that their youngest child had been struck down with consumption. “Oh my God! My arms! Little Jimmy’s cough! Aaaaaarrrrggghhh! It’s the curse! The curse I tells ye! If only we’d have painted the water treatment plant green so it could blend in with a really large bush!”.

Still, even if they are horribly cursed, there is one consolation for the BBNPA.

At least they’re not beetles.

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