Saturday 30 May 2015

Parish Notice

It has not gone unnoticed by the author that this blog has been getting increasingly 'odd' over the past few weeks and the mention of 'ferrets' has ceased completely. This has been noted as a worrying trend and provides unique and illuminating  insight into my turbulent psyche. Consequently, I have gained the professional services of my erstwhile psychiatrist (he is not called Mugumbo) and after a lengthy and expensive/expansive consultation, Dr Mugumbo (steady Flaxen) has changed my medication. I have been assured that once the cheque has cleared the results will be immediate and long lasting. In anticipation, of relative sanity, I have been working on a very sensible post- honest. This will become manifest once the new meds kick in.

I thank my gentle readers for their indulgence and patience
Arse protrusions    

Friday 29 May 2015

The Beast of Dudley

Credulous Mugumbo contemplating dentures

Exclusive scoop from Dudley's only premier newspaper: 'The Egregious Albocracy Hippogriff Bloviate' (formerly, the Dudley Bugle). Terrifying news from the scenic, quaint, Market town of Dudley. Today it can be revealed/reviled that the good citizens of Dudley are in the grip of terror perpetrated by a beast of horrendous and unknown proportions. Mr Credulous Mugumbo takes up the story as if it was yesterday: "Yesterday, just after closing time, I was wending my weary, but wary way home after imbibing 15 pints of Dudley's finest ale, 'Old Carbuncle'- a fine hoppy ale with a pus imbued, purulent head. Not for the faint hearted and best enjoyed with a local anaesthetic. As usual, I've digressed. Anyway, as I turned the corner of a street leading to the town's cesspit, I was confronted by the hulking indistinct form of a phantasm, ill-conceived and consistent with the demented and alcohol formented (not a real word)/fermented, imbued contrivance of a simpleton. The form shifted and as my befuddled wits coalesced, I perceived with reckless and wanton abandon the shape of an indistinct fancy, which retreated and advanced in tune with my pulsating and rhythmic torso. Never, whilst sober, have I observed such an ethereal and incorporate monster. Surely I was in the grip of an inconsequential, substantial apparition and paradoxical, oxymoron". Arse.

There is no doubt that the beast observed by the Credulous is none other than the 'Beast of Dudley', quaintly known hereabouts as ' Cessy'. Cessy has been seen by the befuddled for over 12 centuries and there exists a description of the beast in the 10th century Town's chronicles, aptly called: 'Dudley Town's Chronicles from the 10th Century'. Here is the vernacular rendition attributed to Edbald, 'The Adled': "And lo did Thuckwid, the Thegn, did imbibe mightily in the Great Feasting Hall. His loins much girded with mead till he did stop and let his water gush asunder against a wattle and daub wall until flow, first waxed, then waned, then stopeth, in stutters. He then went forth in a wending way and staggered until he spied through the haze of ale, a spectre all dressed in diaphanous, inconspicuous garb……… etc".


Tuesday 26 May 2015

The Vowel Monument

Baby Akimbo!
Breaking news from the picture perfect, Alpine, Spa town of Tipton. Today, the ‘Vowel Monument’ was unveiled during a ceremony presided over by the recently elected Mayor, ‘Baby Doc’ Vowel. The monument is a full sized representation of the previous incumbent Mayor, ‘Pappa Doc’ Vowel. The life like statue was crafted from the finest recycled rubber tyres and inspired by Mr Vowel’s unceasing advocacy and patronage of the local orphanage, appropriately named: ‘Home for dispossessed urchins and sundry unwanted wastrel bastards ’. The statue depicts a naked, rampant and tumescent Mr Vowel fending off a frenzied attack by a cohort of ‘killer babies’.

The edifice was cunningly crafted by the renowned Tipton artist, Mr Poncyarse Mugumbo. Poncyarse gained perspective and inspiration by fully immersing himself in the concept and drinking copious amounts of absinthe laced with laudanum. Suitably imbued and fortified, Poncyarse (just call me Ponce) spent a whole afternoon fashioning the esteemed erection; the rest of the statue took a lot longer. Poncy had this to say regarding his sculptured rendition of the late Mr Vowel. In his own words: "It is an embodiment of all Mr Vowel represents and is the quintessential expression of his coruscating demeanour, notwithstanding his propensity for outre' comportment. I’m hoping that the good burghers of Tipton can effuse and relate to Vowel’s innate eleemosynary nature albeit expressed in the jocose vernacular". Anus.

Ponce in a rare moment of lucidity 

Saturday 23 May 2015

The problem with sex.....

This takes me back..........

Most folk would say that the problem with sex is that they are not getting enough. But this post is not about sex, the act, rather it is about sex, the concept. From a biological perspective, sex is troublesome. Why bother finding a mate when you can reproduce asexually. In fact many organisms engage in asexual reproduction. Bacteria, plants, and even higher order animals can produce genetically identical copies of themselves without taking off 'their clothes'. Sexual reproduction is universal however, and even creatures which reproduce asexually often have a sexual option, if required.

The fact that sex has evolved under the ruthless and relentless mechanism of natural selection testifies to its biological usefulness. Evolution is not profligate or wasteful, therefore complex and energy expensive sexual reproduction must have earned its biological keep.

There are many advantages in reproducing asexually. Firstly, you produce an identical copy yourself. This is usually a good thing because the 'parent' organism will already be well adapted to its environment. Energy and resources are not spent on finding a suitable mate. The process is always faster than sexual reproduction and therefore organisms can rapidly populate their environment or colonise other favourable environments. Furthermore, all individuals have potential to reproduce. In sexual reproduction only half the population (females) can produce young. Also, the contribution to offspring in sexually reproducing organisms is one sided. The female carries and nourishes the young during in vitro development and in many species provide sole care for the youngsters until they can fend for themselves. In this context, the male's sole contribution is fertilisation. Once accomplished he is free to impregnate other females. Once a female is fertilised her reproductive option is closed. In this regard the male of the species can be seen as a parasite, exploiting females for his own reproductive advantage. The advantages of being an asexual female seem overwhelming. So why bother with sex?

The obvious difference between sexual and asexual strategies is that sexual reproduction provides genetic diversity. The melding of the genome of two genetically different individuals makes for endless genetic diversity. With the exception of identical twins, every organism produced is genetically unique. This diversity confers no particular advantage in a stable environment. The converse is true. Many of the sexually produced organisms are actually 'less fit' and will be removed from the gene pool by negative selection. Genetic diversity becomes a boon in circumstances of change, instability and catastrophe. By chance, the genetic configuration of some organisms will be best adapted to the new circumstances and therefore become successful. It matters nought to nature that most organisms can't adapt and therefore die. The few survivors will be left to pass on their better adapted genes to their offspring and populate the new environment.    

Another advantage of sexual over asexual reproduction centres around parasites. All species are infested with parasitic organisms. Parasites are creatures which hitch a free ride on or within their host. At best they do no harm and at worst they kill the host. There is an evolutionary war involved here. The host adapts by producing better defence mechanisms to prevent  parasitic infestation, in their turn, the parasite adapts to overcome the host's defence strategies. The key to the host maintaining the edge in this constant war is genetic diversity. Asexuality does not provide the genetic diversity to change and hence the parasite ultimately, wins.

All this brings me neatly to my own story. Many years ago I was involved in botanical research in an UK University and spent three years working on Dandelions (no shit). Dandelions are fascinating plants because the vast majority of sub-species set seed without recourse to fertilisation. Therefore, they reproduce asexually and the seeds from a particular plant will be genetically identical to each other and the parent plant. The Sussex Downs where I collected my samples were covered in Dandelions. An asexual strategy seemed to work for this ecosystem. Not surprisingly, the Sussex Downs are a very stable and predictable environment. On occasion, I needed Dandelions which reproduced sexually and the only place I could obtain these particular sub-species was next to coastal sand dunes. Asexual sub-species were completely absent in this environment. The sand dune system is subject to constant change and even catastrophe in the event of a storm. The sexual Dandelions thrived here because their genetic diversity allowed them to adapt to a precarious habitat. The sexual varieties were completely absent from the Sussex Downs. Here, stability reigns and the faster reproducing asexual Dandelions have the edge over the slower reproducing sexual plants.

Some organisms are just greedy and employ both strategies, as required. Bacteria are notoriously asexual and have a doubling time measured in minutes. This strategy enables bacteria to rapidly exploit any suitable environment. However, when things get tough, the bacteria get it on and engage in a form of primitive sexual activity which results in the exchange of genetic information. Aphids can also reproduce asexually and sexually when it suits. This bi-strategy gives them the best of both worlds. Higher organisms such as mammals don't seem to be able to choose an asexual mode of reproduction. Perhaps their complex biology and body plan prevents this.

So, hopefully, I've made a convincing argument for the utility of sex in biological systems. Pure asexual organisms have the potential to rule the world, but only when the going is good. When change comes along however, and if you wait long enough change will undoubtedly occur, it makes good sense to indulge in sex.            

Sex in a nutshell


Thursday 21 May 2015

George, meet Arthur. 'I thank you'

What style would be that be, then?

As my regular readers will no doubt recall, fullsome (not a real word), toothsome, George Formby enjoyed moderate success after inventing and marketing the 'George Formby Grilling banjo'. Unfortunately, his other cooking utensils did not enjoy flamboyant/flambé success. Who could forget the failure of the 'oboe baster' and the 'two minute noodle mandolin’. Malocclusion George was at a total loss at what to do next. He was virtually penniless and was seriously considering plying the streets as a novelty sex worker. Never underestimate the power of the niche market. There is always a call for prostitutes with an overbite.

And then, just as dire despond descended dejectedly downright upon his rejected shoulders, fate intervened and propelled George into an orgasmic writhing frenzy of rapture. For who should wander into his life, but the diminutive, cheeky chappy: big hearted Arthur Askey. 'Hello playmates'. Arthur, without further ado, offered our bicuspid hero a place in his, vaunted, by the pundits, Vaudeville show, aptly called: 'Arthur Askey's Cheeky Chappy Compendium Conundrum of Comedic Crescendo' (no punctuation required). Arse.

At this time, Arthur was  complete/replete with a full set of natural appendages and had not yet succumbed to an unceasing cascade of unnatural amputations. Accordingly, he pranced and careened about the stage like a demented ferret fortified with amphetamines. Intermittently, he would gush/rush forth a wailing refrain about a strenuously employed hymenoptera (or to be exact- Apis mellifera). In the melee, it was George’s role to accompany a gyrating Arthur on the grilling banjo by supplying an unending supply of freshly cooked comestibles and hot sweat meats. They were an instant success amongst the deaf, hungry, itinerant community. I have not digressed.

                                                                     Bugger nuts

Thus, the most unlikely of duos formed an unholy alliance. The entertainment industry would never be the same again. The world became captivated by the boldness of their invective and vituperation. They were destined to be feted throughout the West Midland metropolitan area, excluding Smethwick South and Dudley West, where the act was judged too 'avant garde' for the conservative denizens. But, little could Arthur and George, or ‘Geoart’ as the were collectively known, portend, that fickle fate was about descend with fevered aplomb upon their resplendent bonces.....  soapy tit wank.

To be continued. 

                                                                 Watch and Weep

Tuesday 19 May 2015

Tipton to Mars, Akimbo!

The Martian probe

Breaking news from the beautiful Spa resort of Tipton. It can be exclusively/conclusively announced today, that the Tipton West Astronautical Team (TWAT) will be sending a manned mission to Mars by the end of the decade. Mr ‘Baby Doc’ Vowel, Tipton’s recently and democratically elected Mayor, pontificated thusly: “Denizens of this great town of ours, little more than a couple of decades ago most of you were living in mud huts plastered with animal dung and straw. Whilst  the medium allowed for free artistic expression, it did pong something awful. Subsequently, some of you have moved into brick houses with running water down the walls. No longer are our citizens clad in goat skin. Everywhere, couples can be seen in matching spandex shell suits pushing little 'Dallas' in his ‘day glo’ perambulator. Gone are the days when lamentably deformed wretches stalked our streets. Nowadays they are kept stacked in a special enclosure before being whisked off for an invigorating Zyklon B shower- never to be seen again.

We choose to go to Mars, not because it is easy and inexpensive, but because I have a vested interest in the local company supplying bespoke space suits, 'Mr Khan’s Space Paraphernalia and Cyanide Gas Emporium'. This goal will concentrate the will of the people and make me a fabulously wealthy man. Let me state now, that this incredibly expensive programme will in no way be funded out of your pockets, but will be paid for directly out of  council funds".

After a rigorous and demanding selection process, Mr Intrepid Mugumbo has been chosen to man this prestigious venture. He will undergo an extensive training programme by being confined to a cardboard box throughout and fed liquidised faggots and peas by straw. He will be given an empty fizzy pop bottle for the express purpose of passing liquid waste. Once full, the bottle will be discharged from the ‘capsule’ with casual abandon by a deft flick of the wrist. The removal of solid waste presents more of a challenge. It is hoped that by cutting a hole in the posterior of the space suit, Mr Mugumbo (there is no other) will be able to direct a blast of faecal matter into a suitably placed receptacle. This will have the added benefit of providing additional thrust for the space capsule.  

Intrepid Mugumbo demonstrating the principle of propulsion

Once on the surface of the ‘Red Planet’ our intrepid voyager will embark on a rampage of discovery, boldly ferreting about the Martian landscape on a specially adapted skate board. In order to traverse the alien environment, solar panels, affixed at a tangent will provide the necessary power to drive the skateboard with suitable aplomb. Once our ‘Martianaut’ has satisfied himself he will supplant the Tipton flag upon a suitable prominence. Go, Tipton!       

The Martian probe continued

Saturday 16 May 2015

On Homosexuality

Where it all begins
A few weeks ago I wrote a post about how homosexuality could be maintained in a population even though it appears to violate some central tenets of Darwinian selection. I proposed two simple models which could conceivably explain why homosexuality is maintained, albeit at relatively low population levels. In this post, I'll be reviewing why homosexuality occurs at all. Although, if I'm being totally honest, the answer should be: 'We simply don't know'. Of course, because we are ignorant, doesn't mean we shouldn't try to unravel this intriguing and most obtuse of conundrums. 

As a professional geneticist, I'm fascinated by human sexuality and especially the mechanisms involved in determining our sexual orientation. Most of us are heterosexual and sexually attracted to the opposite sex. This makes sense from a pure biological perspective. But sexual preference is a complex matter and a minority of individuals are homosexual (perhaps as many as 8% of people), whilst an even smaller category are attracted to both sexes- twice the fun with only half of the equipment.

Homosexuality can be an emotive topic. Luckily, in the civilised West, most folk have become enlightened and homosexuality is no longer seen as a 'disease' begging for a cure, except amongst the fundamental Christian fraternity. This change in attitude is a relatively recent development. A practising homosexual in Britain a mere 50 years ago faced the reality of being sent to gaol. This is not to say homophobia has disappeared from the mind of man. There will always be people who express distaste for homosexuality even in the most civil of societies. As for the rest of the world- no comment.

After that rather long preamble, I can move onto the interesting science (really Flaxen?). The early embryo in the womb is sexless. Sexual differentiation does not kick in until the 8th week of gestation. If the embryo is destined to become male, testosterone is produced by the gonads which act on various locations in the developing embryo sending it scurrying down the male pathway. If the foetus is destined to be female no testosterone is manufactured and the outcome is a girl. Therefore, the default pathway is always female. Something has to happen and 'signal' maleness in order for the foetus to get a willy.

At the current state of knowledge scientists are unsure of the mechanism(s) underlying homosexuality,  however, there are biological clues. You can learn a lot about biological processes by observing what happens when it goes wrong.

There is a condition called Testicular Feminisation (TF). In TF, although the chromosome sex is male (XY complement), the embryo develops along the female developmental  pathway. A gene on the Y chromosome  (SRY) causes the primitive gonads to differentiate into testes which then go on to produce the androgenic hormone testosterone. Although testosterone is produced as expected the end point organs are insensitive to the hormone, due to a genetic mutation, and so the embryo is feminised rather than masculinised.  At birth, they look like perfectively normal girls. As they grow and develop nothing seems amiss. They undergo puberty and develop breasts. Generally they get discovered when they are referred to an obstetrician due to infertility or because of failure to menstruate. On examination, they are found to have a blind ending vagina and a total absence of ovaries. But they do have testes which are present in the abdomen. This is the only vestige pointing toward their true gender. And what is interesting is that they are psychosexually attracted to men. To be accurate, this should be called homosexuality as from a chromosomal perspective they are male. Studies have shown that there is a lower incidence of sexual preference for women in TF individuals than is observed in the normal female population. Again, to be strict, an attraction to women in TF individuals is a heterosexual orientation - confusing isn't it?

All these women have Testicular Feminisation

I've outlined a model below which is entirely consistent with what we know to date. However, a caveat must be applied: how homosexuality is determined is mostly unknown and my proposal should be seen as a plausible theory, although a simplistic theory at that.

Evidence from studying TF individuals suggest that testosterone has an important role in defining our sexual preference. A pulse of testosterone at a critical stage in embryonic development assigns our sexual identity and our sexual preference. Remember, TF individuals produce testosterone but the hormone has no impact on the developing embryo.

Embryonic development is a complex choreographed interaction between tissues and hormones. Any slight deviation results in embryonic malfunction. I suspect that the pulse of testosterone comes either too late or too soon subtly influencing the brain of the embryo. The resultant outcome is that the  individual becomes attracted to members of the same sex. All this sounds way too simple. If there is one thing I've come to realise as a practising biologist is that biological processes are mind numbingly complex. Therefore, I suspect there are other factors involved (multi-factorial) and this is particularly true for highly complex behavioural traits. Positing that sexual preference is down to testosterone alone, just wont do. I suspect other hormones have a role to play and I also suspect that maternal chemicals entering the foetus via the placental connection are important factors as well. Furthermore, compounding the situation, hormones may also interact with each other resulting in a bewildering interplay of influences (my head hurts).  

One thing we do know is that sexual orientation is fixed in the womb, or shortly after birth, and we have no choice when it comes to our sexual orientation. Once set it does not change. The religious nuts who think they can 'cure' homosexuality should take heed.  When male babies with deformed genitalia are raised as girls and given female hormone therapy and even surgery to produce female genitalia, they almost always grow up being sexually attracted to women.    

The brain is the seat of sexual preference and the brain is the most complex organ we have. How it forms and how it functions is not well understood. Translating the grey matter to human behaviour such as sexual attraction is a labyrinthine quest and I expect we won't unravel all its mysteries sometime soon if at all.

Two sensible posts in a week FS, either you are losing an already tenuous grip on reality or you have finally teetered and fallen into the abyss of madness. Arse.  


Friday 15 May 2015

Kim Jong Un is still an ugly fat slope

The first Official photo of 'Baby Doc' ('Sparks' audition reject)
Exhilarating news from the sleepy, picture perfect, West Midland town of Tipton on Canal. As revealed by Tipton's only independent and succinctly named newspaper: 'The Tipton Bugle incorporating South Dudley and the Marches approaching Sedgley, but not including Smethwick West or Merry Hill, North', the glorious leader of the glorious democratic republic of glorious North Korea, General Kim do Poo is destined to visit our hallowed town on a state inspired visit. During his time in Tipton, the glorious leader will inspect Tipton’s fledging nuclear facility currently teetering on the Tipton-Dudley seismic fault. In addition, he will find time to visit local hairstylists before wheezing his way to the local dog pound. Kim eat Chow is an animal rights advocate of the highest order and is expected to take a culinary interest in our four legged and succulent friends.

After a busy morning, he will stop off at ‘Mr Khan’s Cheap Greasy Food  Emporium’. There he will dine on non-canine inspired fancies, such as, fresh mould fish served directly from the black waters of the local canal; frog fritters, a local delicacy prepared from only the healthiest mutant frogs from the cooling pond at the Tipton nuclear facility. Dessert will comprise of mud cake prepared from only the finest mud from the cooling pond at the Tipton nuclear facility.

During his visit, Dim does Pong will be escorted by the new incumbent Mayor, ‘Baby Doc’ Vowel. As you will recall, ‘Baby Doc’ was unanimously voted Mayor after the tragic death of his father, ‘Papa Doc' Vowel in a Siamese brothel. In fact, not only did ‘Baby Doc' command 125% of the vote he was also inaugurated into office the day before the election. All this attests to ‘Baby Doc's’ astonishing foresight, popularity and ability to control a band of intimidating thugs.     

The Glorious Leader posing with a typical Tiptonite

The similarity between the great Larders is uncanny. They both possess a dignified and agreeable paunch. They both give off an ethereal, divine glow, although some doubters, no longer with us, declare that this is due to tarrying too long at their respective atomic piles. But the similarities don’t just end there. While Cum up Bum was born atop a sacred mountain, ‘Baby Doc’ was conceived on the roof rack of a Ford Cortina. Both leaders are academic prodigies. Kim un Twat gained several PhDs during a single semester at 'Kim does Pong' University, whilst our exalted leader, 'Baby Cock' (All Hail our Glorious Leader!) obtained CSEs in both geography and woodwork after his third attempt (grade 6).

A trade agreement is imminent  between our great nations. In exchange for pot noodles, faggots, peas, mould fish and  a dog called 'Lassie', the North Koreans will supply, on an irregular basis, assorted novelty figurines of their glorious leader, posing regally and looking at stuff, in lycra.  

Citizens, we truly live in wondrous times.


Thursday 14 May 2015

Conspiracy Theories and other Bollocks

Don't say I didn't warn you
Is there anything more entertaining and invigorating than a good conspiracy theory. Generally they are inventive and full of narrative and drama. Unfortunately, like all the best stories, they are simply not true; most of them anyway. To my mind a great conspiracy theory should come in two distinct flavours: The implausible, but possible, and the implausible and impossible. Or to put it another way, conceivable bollocks and just plain unadulterated and unmitigated, bollocks. In the first category I would place 'The faked Moon landings' and in the second, I would slot the stuff of nightmare, such as: 'The world's leaders are shape shifting aliens'. Clearly, there is a huge gap in believability between these particular examples. So, let's take a deeper look and drink deep from the imponderable and fecund well of madness. But before we begin, before continuing, suspend your sane world view and place your tinfoil hat, firmly but jauntily on your head. Arrrrrrrrrrrrrrrse.
World Leaders are Reptiles
This is hardly news. I think most folk acknowledge that successful politicians are reptiles in speech and deed, if not actually in the flesh. Although, the Australian Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, is particularly reptilian looking and I’m sure there is a video of him on You-Tube licking insects off a wall. I’ve digressed. This particular conspiracy owes much to an ex English league footballer, turned football commentator, turned bona fide certifiable loony. Sometime in the early 1990s David Icke (for it is he) started to wear turquoise and began to warn the world about alien reptilian world leaders- I blame the series ‘V’; remember? Key leaders, come reptiles, include Queen Elizabeth II and Barack Obama. Both are actually blood sucking aliens from the Alpha Dragonis system. What is strange about this ‘theory’ is its popularity. Icke, may well be mad, but he belongs to a very dangerous class of madman- he is plausible. Not only is Icke articulate but he is clearly a man of some intelligence. He also looks, superficially at least, normal and does not fit neatly into the ‘swivel eyed’, odd looking, category of nutter. Consequently, he has attracted a large following which has evolved into a cult. In the US, 4% of people polled believed in David Icke’s theory. Frankly, I find this statistic highly disturbing. However, if you would like to learn more and perhaps sign up, here is the site:   

Moon Landings Faked
This nonsense is particularly persistent considering the wealth of evidence to the contrary. This conspiracy gained traction in the mid 1970s and advanced the view that the six manned landings between 1969 and 1972 were a complete fabrication by NASA in evil collaboration with the US Administration. Because this sort of scenario is perhaps possible it has gained credence amongst the 'Conspiracy Community'. When I mean possible, I mean that if a powerful US Government Agency wanted to implement such a deception it is within the bounds of their power to do so. Furthermore, it does not violate any rational precepts and thus is consistent with what we know about nature and its workings. Contrast this with the previous example, which not only requires a suspension, of reality, but also a number of known, and often irrefutable, scientific principles.

The evidence centres on flag waving in an airless atmosphere and anomalous lighting effects and shadows. Often there is an assumption that physical properties on the Moon should be directly comparable to those experienced on Earth. This clearly is not the case. Moon gravity is considerably less and there is an absolute absence of a gaseous atmosphere. Apart from this I will travel no further into specifics. But here are a few points to ponder.

It has been estimated that up to 400,000 people were employed, in some capacity, in the Apollo Moon project, although it is admitted that many employees were in subsidiary projects and may not have been involved in critical areas of research (need to know). That said, it would require a colossal undertaking to make sure that those in the 'know' remained quiet in the event of a faked Moon landing. No leaks? No negative testimony?  It should be noted that those who promulgate this conspiracy theory are never NASA or ex-NASA employees (or are they?).    

You would have expected that the old Soviet Russians would have jumped on any sniff of impropriety concerning the Moon landings. But not an iota of criticism. And this is during a time when Soviet propaganda would have relished a conspiracy such as this. But the Russians said nothing because the Russians believed the Moon landings actually occurred.  

Here is something else to consider. I suspect the Americans were very lucky to achieve what they did, considering the technology of the time. The margin for success must have been slim. It is be noted also, that no one has returned to the Moon since 1972. This reflects the enormous cost in sending a small capsule with three souls out on a complex and extended Moon mission. At today's money the total cost of the Apollo programme is in the order of 100 billion dollars. This explains why the Americans never went back and why contrary to predictions, there is no 'Moon Station'. Perhaps the money would have been better spent elsewhere? I'll leave you to judge.

For a good exposition of the arguments for and against the Moon landings, I suggest you look at the following resources. 

There are many disparate elements which drive belief in the 'unbelievable' and consequently it is difficult to identify all the motivating strands. It is interesting to note, that folk who believe in one conspiracy theory have a tendency to believe in others also. Why this is the case is best left to professional psychologists. The following provides an entirely rational and sound reason for belief in conspiracy: Governments, can and do, lie to their people and suppress information. And I'm not just talking about the usual suspects such as North Korea and the ilk, I'm talking about all governments, regardless of their level of 'enlightenment'. Therefore, citizens are critical and suspicious of government inspired initiatives and the information they release, or don't release, for that matter.

The internet is a vast repository of information instantly available at the click of a mouse. But herein lies the problem. Not all information is equal. There is a lot of  information out there of uneven quality and veracity. Knowledge on the computer screen has an authority which is often not deserved. Some folk like to be told what to think and have an inclination to accept 'computer' information without engaging their critical faculty.

The internet is great at uniting like minded souls. There are millions of folk, 'out there', who will oblige and reinforce any madcap idea you have, regardless of intrinsic merit. Remember, there are a lot of nutters out there and most of them are online. Personally, I don't believe much of the stuff I read on the net. As for the voices in my head- well, that is another matter..........       


Saturday 9 May 2015

Dudley has decided/divided

Image by Margarita:

The election is finally over and the good burghers of Dudley can sleep tonight reassured in the knowledge that the borough is in firm solid/stolid hands. As predicted by no one, and especially not the political pundits who are paid vast amounts to pontificate on this sort of thing, the National Bolshevists have regained control of this picturesque principality as it nestles in the loins and spleen of the glorious West Midlands. The National Bolshevist leader, Mr David Cometoosoon, had this to say on the day of his affirmation as Dudley's leader: "I intend to heal the lesions and divisions which have rent this great town from North to South. The good citizens of  North Dudley should not feel disenfranchised at my stunning and largely bewildering victory. After healing the gaping wounds with a soothing salve and the wave of a magic wand I will lead a united Dudley into the 22nd century. Remember, in the land of the stupid, the half-wit is king".

The leader of the opposition, Ed Milletseed, was thoroughly trounced by an electorate who turned their heavy posteriors (Arse, big fat, Arrrrse) to the opposition leader and farted gratefully in his general direction/election. Although the darling of the unbiased media, Millisecond, failed to inspire or convince the electorate that he was not a smarmy, oily, toad of a man with a speech impediment. However, it is conceded, that generally, this has never been an obstacle for most politicians. Mr Milledeed, acknowledged defeat today and is expected to step down as party leader for someone less foreign looking.

Mr Hick Nag of the 'Inconsequential Party' and erstwhile coalition leader, lost the seat of his trousers and was soundly ignored by the electorate. The 'Limp-Hens' have never been serious contenders and failed to ignite the bonfire of apathy in an electorate who could care less. Mr Hag, will also step down as leader after his party's dismal showing at the polls. He is expected to disappear into political limbo and is unlikely to be offered a lucrative and cushy post with an ineffectual, but revenue wasting, international agency.
The surprise of the today must be attributed to Mrs Kranky of the succulently/succinctly named: 'Party for the Independence of North Dudley and Environs'. The North Dudley folk have always seen themselves as 'special' and unconnected from the suave and sophisticated South. North Dudley has, over time, become a repository for those  favouring a wan complexion and a leaning toward a ginger crown. 'Ginger' is seen as an affliction by the 'European Commission' and is well known to segregate with pugnaciousness (not a real word) and a fondness for the grape (surely some mistake) and consequently is eligible for ridiculous amounts of other people's money. The North Dudley electorate, in a breathtaking sweep of defiance, have seen fit to elect a conclave of Mrs Kranky's cronies. The result is seen as a resounding poke in the eye to the elitist and Southern led National Bolshevist Party. Mr Comeroundtomyplace is expected to concede, at least rhetorically, and then do nowt. As he has the majority in the 'Council House' he can say and then do as he likes, at least until it comes to be being re-elected, once again. The watchword will be: 'Take heed by word if not by deed'. The refrain of every successful politician.

The 'Silly Party' came an inglorious second      

'Goodbye and good riddance'
           "Politicians, like nappies, should be changed often and for the same reason"

Friday 8 May 2015

Mr Vowel's Demise

Artist's impression of ferret in a barrel

Terrible news from the picturesque Alpine Spa town of Tipton. Sadly the incumbent Mayor, Mr Enoch Vowel, died suddenly during a fact finding mission to Thailand. Initial reports suggest he suffered a massive heart attack during an important meeting with local prostitutes. Unfortunately, the prostitutes in attendance were unable to revive/raise the exalted mayor, although they tried, long time; apparently he had a happy ending. No ping pong balls were damaged or lost during the tragedy.

Mr Vowel’s body will be embalmed in a barrel of Bank’s bitter and returned on a slow boat, via China, up the Manchester canal, turning left at Dudley before finally alighting at Tipton Wharf. Local dignitaries are expected to meet the barrel and roll it in solemn procession up Tipton High Street. The local paramilitary will ensure that the street is thronged with ill wishers and professional mourners. After lying in a state, Mr Vowel will be incarcerated before being incinerated at the local power station. The ashes will then be unceremoniously shot into space on the ‘Tipton Space Probe’. Professor Tosspot Mugumbo, spokesman for the Aeronautical Rocket Space Enterprise (ARSE), vocalised airily: "Mr Vowel's ashes will be sent soaring, by rocket, as soon as we find a bottle big enough and some matches that haven't been pissed on by Shagger, the ferret. It is hoped that Mr Vowel's ashes will be scattered in the constellation of Orion or the local cess pit, depending on trajectory".         

Mr Vowel has had a career spanning many expense accounts and will be sorely missed by his cronies and assorted hangers on. Mrs Fanny Akimbo, Mr Vowel’s life-long secretary and buttressed mattress reminisced, between swigs of babysham, as follows: "Ficking bastid has left me high and dry, stitched up like a beached bloater and bereft of purpose" . (mixed metaphor edition).

In remembrance, Mr Khan of 'Mr Khan's cheap and tacky memorials', has commissioned a plastic memento to commiserate/celebrate the event. It will consist of a plastic Mr Vowel, 'en rampant', standing next to a plastic barrel full of cheap cologne. A beautiful addition to any mantel piece or toilet bowl. Mr Khan counsels placing an early order before the police move in and confiscate.     

Plastic rendition of Mr Vowel as found at time of death and barrel 

Mr Vowel’s son, ‘Baby Doc' Vowel, will be democratically elected as ‘Mayor of Tipton’, next week. 

'Baby Doc' and his delightful family

A life-long Tipton resident, Mr Poncy-Arse (arse) Mugumbo, has penned a poem in remembrance of this momentous event........"Take it away, Mr Mugumbo".

The Funeral Party

White is his features,
Cold is his fingers,
Lying in a box in funeral attire dressed.

Gone is the laughter,
Here is the sadness,
Offer condolence to a widow distressed.

Bear the man slowly,
Lift the man gently,
Take him to a place where he may rest.

Short was his passing,
Long is his resting,
Sing out his praises and tell it in jest.

Warm to his memory,
Mention him fondly,
And say all this about a man you detest.

Monday 4 May 2015

All hail the baby Princess!

'God bless you, MAAAAAAAAM'!
Breaking news from Tipton's Royal Palace. The Queen of Tipton has managed to squeeze out Royal issue. Already there is intense speculation concerning the new addition's name. King Barry (for it is One) is said to favour the name, 'Vegas', while the more conservative Queen Kylie is known to prefer the name, 'Isis'. Queen Kylie in a recent interview, held forth regally: "I think Princess Isis has a lyrical quality and is evocative of peace and serenity. The Princess is a welcome addition to the family and a playmate and potential organ donor for her severely afflicted and ailing brother, Prince Mugumbo."

In commemoration of this momentous event, Mr Khan, of 'Mr Khan's Plastic Memorabilia Emporium', has instigated the production of a celebratory life-size  rendition of 'Baby Isis' fashioned from the finest and cheapest plastic. Each 'Baby Isis' doll comes with detachable heads. Critics have pointed out that Mr Khan's 'Baby Isis' has an uncanny resemblance to the 'Baby Jesus' (dicephalic edition) and is a blatant ploy by Mr Khan to shift his shoddy and unsold consignment of deformed 'Baby Jesus' dolls.

Two heads are better than one

On purchasing a Princess Isis doll, Mrs MacMugumbo had this to relate: "I expected the baby Jesus to look a lot less Jewish and he appears to have more than the requisite number of heads necessary for the resplendent one".          

Prince Shagger is not amused

Sunday 3 May 2015


I have a problem with so called 'alternative medicine' and especially with those who peddle their 'practitioner skill' for profit. Whilst it is true some areas of alternative medicine have become respectable in recent years, such as acupuncture and are even utilised by conventionally qualified medics. That said, the majority of alternative therapies are patently ridiculous and based on pseudo- scientific principles which do not stand up to cold, hard, rational scrutiny. Previously, I posted a piece concerning the 'Alternative Medicine' industry. I'm all for individual choice when it comes to medicine, or anything else for that matter. I only wish that it is informed choice. Conventional medicine has evolved and is based on sound scientific principles and backed by a wealth of empirical evidence. Is it perfect? - of course not, but I'm of the firm opinion that it is all we have and if practised with skill and aplomb (steady Flaxen), it is able to cure, or at least ameliorate, most conditions afflicting the human race. Enter alternative medicine. Often the 'therapy' emerges fully formed complete with theory. It generally comes from the mind of one man. There is no evolutionary process and more to the point no evidence for its efficacy. It is often peddled as a 'cure all' (caveat emptor ). And finally there is a cost. Ineffective 'medicine' does not come cheap. However, this does not stop the desperate and gullible from seeking its embrace. The alternative medicine industry is big business and bestrewn with fraudsters and scam artists.

Homeopathy was conceived in the mind of a German physician, by the name of Samuel Hahnemann, in 1796. Homeopathy is based on the doctrine that 'like cures like'. Hahnemann thought that the application of something which causes an ailment has the power to cure that ailment. Yep, sounds sensible. Methinks the good doctor had been drinking deep draughts from the laudanum bottle. To be fair to Dr Hahnemann, modern medical science was in its infancy and though his principles were unsound he at least made an effort at scientific discovery. His attempt should be called a hypothesis. Unfortunately, for his legacy, no evidence has ever been proffered to propel the hypothesis into the realm of reasonable conjecture.   

Homeopathic remedies are prepared according to the principle of dilution. The supposed therapeutic compound is repeatedly diluted in water or alcohol (hic). Thereafter the container is repeatedly struck against an elastic surface (succussion). The whole process is termed, 'potentisation' (not a real word). Each dilution is a factor of x100 and is referred to as C. So, for example, a 6C dilution results in a substance diluted 1 in a trillion. The successive dilutions effectively remove the original compound until no molecules remain. Paradoxically, the higher the dilution the more potent the therapeutic agent is considered. Hahnemann normally used 30C dilution, but on occasion went as high as 300C. To gain some perspective: a 12C dilution is equivalent to a pinch of salt in the North and South Atlantic oceans combined. So much for the so-called practicalities, now for the evidence.

Advocates of homeopathy are not dismayed by the fact that there are no molecules of the original compound in the final preparation. They argue that the water retains a 'molecular memory'- whatever that means! This is counter to all scientific principles both from our understanding of physics and biology. Generally, therapeutic drugs have a positive dose-related effect. Thus administering little or no 'drug' at all makes no sense in the rational, real world.

Of course scientists and medical folk have always treated homeopathy with the contempt it truly deserves. There is an absence of any sound mechanism for why it should work and more importantly there is a complete absence of sound statistical evidence or convincing data supporting therapeutic efficacy. To date, no empirical evidence or data has been advanced to support any positive effect over placebo. In common parlance: it is complete and utter bollocks. Or in less colloquial terms: Anything advanced without evidence, can be dismissed, without evidence.

Perhaps we should smirk at a system which visibly shakes. If everyone dealt with homeopathy with contempt then there wouldn't really be a problem. No one would be fleeced and no one would receive ineffective therapy. This does not happen. A substantial minority take credence and believe this quackery to the extent that they start to waddle. To be denied effective medical treatment because of a sincere belief in nonsense is enough to make a sane man cry.   

Quack, bloody, quack

This quack remedy is so dubious it lays eggs....... Through its ARSE.