Wednesday, 1 October 2014

C & H

Calvin and Hobbes

Covert Children's Racism?

As the BBC comes under criticism for a children's television show which implied Florence Nightingale was racist, we look at other films which portray prejudice.
The corporation has admitted that its portrayal of Nightingale in a Horrible Histories series as discriminating on the basis of race was inaccurate, following complaints from viewers that it insulted her memory.
Disney films over the years have included racist undertones, including:
Aladdin The film portrays Arabs as barbaric savages. Jafar - the film's token villain - is depicted with far more striking Arab features than Aladdin, the star and hero.
Dumbo - Jet black crows appear, with one called 'Jim Crow'. There is also a scene featuring faceless black men who perform menial labour and sing about how they have never learned to read or write.
Peter Pan - Native Americans are portrayed in the characters of Tiger Lily and the Red Man, with only the male chief speaking in broken language. It is also not until they place a feather in their hair and start whooping that Wendy, along with Peter, John and Michael feel able to join in the dancing around the campfire.
Lady and the Tramp - the Siamese cats, Si and Am, are the film's villains. They are portrayed with typical Asian speech and slanted eyes, reminiscent of characters in The Aristocats where a Siamese cat plays the piano with chopsticks.
The Jungle Book - all characters in the Jungle Book speak in British accents, except for the monkeys which do not make sense and appear to be African Americans.These monkeys also sing about a desire to be human, "to walk like you, talk like you."
Negative stereotypes of race also feature in other films and books aimed at children, for example.
Despicable Me 2 - Eduardo, the villain in caricatured as a Mexican wrestler.
Happy Feet - despite winning Oscars, the street dancing underclass of penguins speak in Spanish accents.



Lists of Note

In the song "50 Ways to Leave Your Lover", Paul Simon teases us with the promise of a methodical rundown of all the potential ways to exit a failing relationship. But in the event, the short-changing scoundrel delivers only five to our eager ears.

1. Slip out the back, Jack; 2. Make a new plan, Stan; 3. You don't need to be coy, Roy; 4. Hop on the bus, Gus; 5. Drop off the key, Lee. The other 45 ways weren't even listed on the record sleeve for ease of reference, and since the record was released in 1975, this omission hasn't gone unnoticed by the list-obsessed.

For years, they have absent-mindedly tried to fill the void that Simon wilfully and intentionally created by neglecting his list-making duty, and for those of a certain mental disposition, it can be a productive way to while away an hour or so.

6. Fake your own death, Seth; 7. Get a facial tattoo, Lou; 8. Feign a health scare, Claire; 9. Hide in a cave, Dave.

Many people will have derived a curious satisfaction from mentally completing Simon's arbitrary list. It scratches an itch and, more importantly, it ticks a box. List-making is good for the brain. In an age of information overload, the list has become increasingly important as a means of coping with the world around us, but drawing them up is something that we've done for millennia; the oldest sets of sequential signs discovered by archaeologists were etched into rock in around 3200BC. That adds up to a hell of a lot of old lists, crying out to be anthologised into a list of their own, and Shaun Usher has made something of a start with his new book, Lists of Note, a sequel to last year's much-praised Letters of Note. It contains 125 beautifully reproduced lists, from excuses for workmen's absences recorded in Ancient Egypt ("suffering with his eye" / "drinking with Khonsu") to Christopher Hitchens' alternative Ten Commandments ("Turn off that fucking cellphone").

Usher is terrified to imagine a world without lists ("just a world full of things, muddled and overflowing, without a sense of purpose or collective identity") and so he tries, pretty successfully, to reaffirm their historical importance.

My own list-making is a well-rehearsed and instinctive procedure that kicks in whenever my mind becomes too crowded. Right now is a good example. A scrap of A4, folded and then torn in half, headed with the word "List", underlined right across the page, followed by a series of points I want to make, each preceded by a small arrow pointing to the right. (I hate to demystify the deeply fascinating creative process that's going on right now, but there you go.) And it's extremely soothing. Aside from heavy drinking, the creation of lists is the most effective temporary form of anxiety relief that I know of, and, as a bonus, it's substantially cheaper and results in far less nagging paranoia the following day.

Without wishing to sound evangelical, the list-averse should embrace the list. Many people will bemoan the prospect of packing for a trip, but packing isn't about packing, really. It's about making a list, and that can be a pleasurable process done over a cup of tea, during a period of relative calm. Once that list is made, the packing is, in effect, done. There's no lingering anxiety over forgotten items. You just bung everything into a case, ticking things off as you go. You've averted a minor crisis via the humble list, the "shortcut to accomplishment".

With a short-term working memory that can only hold around seven (give or take two) items, lists can be crucial aides memoir, and in recent years a whole industry has grown up around their construction. The American writer Sasha Cagen, who a few years ago labelled herself with the extraordinary moniker "todolistologist", will have watched her chosen field of study widen at an alarming rate, with app stores bursting with to-do list software such as Wunderlist, Teux Deux, Carrot, Todoist and so on. Usher picks a handful of to-do lists for his book, including Leonardo da Vinci's: ("Have Avicenna translated" / "Get hold of a skull") and Jonathan Swift's anti-list: ("Not to be covetous" / "Not to talk much"), but any retrospective analysis of a to-do list will always pose the same question: did it actually work?

There is a phenomenon called the Zeigarnik effect, named after the Russian psychologist Bluma Zeigarnik, which notes our tendency to have nagging thoughts about something that we started but didn't complete; to-do lists are perhaps constructed in the knowledge that they will prompt that effect, because the act of writing tasks down should prompt us to get them done. Our unconscious will nag us to complete things, simply because the list exists. But we can start with the best of intentions only to see them evaporate; New Year's resolutions are the perfect example of noble aspirations that are conveniently forgotten three weeks later. And, of course, we cheat, by including things on to-do lists that we have already done.

My own peculiar indulgence is to begin such lists with "1. Make List", which I can cross off immediately. We also, somewhat self-defeatingly, draw up to-do lists that we have no hope of completing. The relatively recent phenomenon of bucket lists (lists of things we hope to accomplish before we die) are frequently so aspirational as to be pointless. Visitors to dating websites will have observed the phenomenon where romantic hopefuls list the countries that they've already been to this year (Peru, Indonesia) followed by all the ones that they hope to set foot in before the year is out (Equatorial Guinea, Costa Rica, Vanuatu, Mongolia, Chad). These read less like aspirations and more like advertorials, lists of other people's experiences that look good on paper but are resolutely unachievable within the allotted timeframe. Bucket lists are often just that, and it is the more mundane, realistic lists that feel more compelling and revealing. Usher's book begins with one such to-do list from Johnny Cash: "Kiss June" / "Not kiss anyone else".

But the bucket list and its showcasing of potential experiences has ended up becoming a successful media trope. Albums to listen to before you die, waterfalls to gaze upon before you die, hotels to stay in before you die – these are accessible, bullet-pointed magazine articles, precise in their remit, authoritative in tone and broken down into digestible chunks. As the internet began to challenge us daily with the "paradox of choice" (too much stuff, not enough time), we gravitate towards this kind of reading material – snappy pieces that dovetail perfectly with the F-shaped way the human eye has been shown to scan web pages.

And so the listicle – "as much about psychology as editorial", as the writer Jack Marshall puts it – has thrived by purporting to separate the interesting stuff from the dross. As a strategy, it may now be on the wane; "23 Life Changing Ways to Eat Chocolate Chip Cookies" does not a compelling prospect make. But Usher demonstrates that the roots of the listicle go back centuries; in Lists of Note he includes a 1592 pamphlet extract entitled "The Eight Kindes of Drunkennes" by Thomas Nashe ("The thirde is swine drunke; heauie, lumpish and sleepie..."), which is essentially Elizabethan Buzzfeed, and no worse for it.

Some forms of documentation are not necessarily constructed as lists, but just happen to adapt themselves perfectly into list format. The most moving of these in Usher's book is "How My Life Has Changed", by Hilary North, who used to work in the south tower of the World Trade Center but was not there on the morning of 11 September 2001. It's a simply stated list of things that North can no longer do, following the death of 176 of her co-workers. "I can no longer complain about Gary," she writes. "I can no longer trade voicemails with Norman." It's a mundane series of observations, but when listified it becomes an astonishing document of loss. The French novelist Georges Perec, meanwhile, intended to provoke no such emotion with his Attempt at an Inventory of the Liquid and Solid Foodstuffs Ingurgitated by Me in the Course of the Year Nineteen Hundred and Seventy-Four, but it's still an extraordinary catalogue of one man's potentially gout-inducing consumption during one year, including 14 entrecote steaks and one orange. All these lists may be constructed line by line, bullet-pointed or numbered, but they are rarely ranked in any meaningful way.

Indeed, Usher dedicates his book to "1. Karina 2. Billy 3. Danny". But he's not suggesting (at least, one doesn't imagine so) that he's less fond of his second-born son than his first. But the ordering of phenomena, people and objects into lists of what are notionally deemed "best" is another reason for the surging popularity of the list in recent years. The first list of best-selling books was printed in the literary journal The Bookman in 1895, best-selling music was first documented by Billboard in 1930 and The Sunday Times Rich List was first published in 1989. But today, we're less interested in facts and figures and more in arguing with critical assessments of art or achievement. Every list that is published of the 100, 200 or 500 "Best Albums Ever" will be accompanied by scoffing at "that ridiculous list", and contempt for the idea that The Smiths' The Queen is Dead is better than The Beach Boys' Pet Sounds, or vice versa. Our list, we reckon, would be way better than their list, but it doesn't make their list any less compelling. (Lists of Note, by the way, contains Picasso's handwritten list of top European artists alive in 1912. Art historians may want to rip it to shreds.)

A few years back, the Italian author Umberto Eco curated an exhibition at the Louvre entitled "Infinity of Lists". "We have a limit," he wrote, "a very discouraging, humiliating limit: death." He saw lists as a way in which we shrug off the finite nature of life and embrace the infinite, while also making it somehow comprehensible.

I don't share Eco's view; my own to-do lists – those ones that begin with "1. Make List" – very frequently end with something along the lines of "14. Rest of Life; 15. End". Less a celebration of the infinite, more a tongue-in-cheek acknowledgement of the finite. But that is no less reassuring for an atheist like me, living in a world characterised by chaos. Blessed be the listmakers.

'Lists of Note', by Shaun Usher (Canongate, £30), is out on Thursday


Tongue Twister

24 Dumbest Scientific Questions

Travel Tipples- 10

1. Johnnie Walker

Johnnie Walker defended its position as the world’s number one travel retail brand this year, despite suffering a decline of 4.5%. The whisky brand’s slide was attributed to the “massive declines” in important Asia-Pacific markets. It is still the world’s most powerful and the second biggest spirit brand in the world.
Owner: Diageo
2012 volumes: 2,319,600
2013 volumes: 2,216,2
Change: -4.5%

Top Heavy

24 Dumbest Scientific Questions

Travel Tipples- 9

2. Absolut

The world’s number two travel retail brand is Absolut which sustained a decline of 10.4% in 2013 with losses said to have come largely from a drop in sales across the Americas. However its was able to maintain its number two position by some 20,000 cases.
Owner: Pernod Ricard
2012 volumes: 1,001,800
2013 volumes: 897,500
Change: -10.4%

Round & Round

24 Dumbest Scientific Questions

Travel Tipples- 8

3. Jack Daniel’s

Jack Daniel's
Jack Daniel’s saw the biggest growth in 2013 with volumes increasing by 20%, overtaking Chivas to take third place. Its owner, Brown-Forman, reported strong growth in its travel-retail sales for 2014 noting in its most recent annual report: “Global travel retail collectively delivered 13% underlying net sales growth (+18% reported), driven by price increases, successful innovation and new product launches.”
Owner: Brown-Forman
2012 volumes: 730,500
2013 volumes: 876,500
Change: 20%


24 Dumbest Scientific Questions

Travel Tipples- 7

4. Chivas Regal

Chivas Regal
Chivas Regal saw travel retail volumes slip by 4.6% last forcing it out of the top three and into fourth place. However its position within the travel retail sector is impressive given that it does not even rank in the world’s top 10 biggest spirits brands. 
Owner: Pernod Ricard
2012 volumes: 897,900
2013 volumes: 856,900
Change: -4.6%


24 Dumbest Scientific Questions

Travel Tipples- 6

5. Bacardi

Jumping one place to fifth and knocking Baileys to fourth is Bacardi, which managed a slight 0.1% increase in sales in 2013, the same year it entered into a new Scotch whisky travel retail partnership with World Duty Free Group – Glen Deveron.
Owner: Bacardi
2012 volumes: 695,300
2013 volumes: 696,100
Change: 0.1%


24 Dumbest Scientific Questions

Travel Tipples- 5

6. Baileys

Baileys Chocolat Luxe - Bottle
Sales of Baileys within the travel retail sector dropped by 3.6% in 2013, with its global sales remaining flat at 6.5m nine-litre cases. Earlier this year the brand was awarded the Design & Packaging gong at The Drinks Business Awards for its rococo design for Baileys Chocolat Luxe. The whisky-infused chocolate drink, made using 30g of Belgian chocolate, has been described as the “ultimate molten chocolate drinking experience”. Last summer, the brand launched a vanilla and cinnamon expression in the US.
Owner: Diageo
2012 volumes: 698,400
2013 volumes: 673,300
Change: -3.6%

X-Ray Vision

24 Dumbest Scientific Questions

Travel Tipples- 4

7. Smirnoff

Despite being the world’s biggest spirit brand, Smirnoff only manages seventh place in the travel retail line up. The brand saw its overall global sales, including those outside of the travel retail market, dip last year dropping to 26.1m nine-litre cases from 26.3m in 2012. This year the brand launched what it claimed to be a “pioneering new vodka variant” in the form of Smirnoff White in travel retail. Most recently, the brand launched Smirnoff Gold Apple, an apple-flavoured vodka flecked with edible gold.
Owner: Diageo
2012 volumes: 623,000
2013 volumes: 620,700
Change: -0.4%

Reasoned Question

24 Dumbest Scientific Questions

Travel Tipples- 3

8. Ballantine’s

The first of Pernod Ricard’s three top 10 brands, Ballantine’s increased its volumes by 3% in 2013 securing its eighth place position in the travel retail market. Outside of travel retail Ballantine’s is the world’s second biggest Scotch whisky brand.
Owner: Pernod Ricard
2012 volumes: 564,400
2013 volumes: 581,200
Change: 3.0%

Well, Would They?

24 Dumbest Scientific Questions

Travel Tipples- 2

9. Hennessy

Hennessy achieved a modest 1.3% volume increase in 2013 within the travel retail sector  helped in part by its first House of Hennessy pop-up boutique which ran at Heathrow’s Terminal 5 earlier this year for five months. Its stay was extended by a month longer than anticipated following “extraordinary interest” wrapping up in March. Travellers were given the chance to sample the range, which included the rare eaux-de-vies used to create Paradis Imperial.
Owner: LVMH
2012 volumes: 476,600
2013 volumes: 482,800
Change: 1.3%

Outside the Box

24 Dumbest Scientific Questions

Travel Tipples- 1

10. Finlandia

The second fastest-growing brand in the top 10 is Finlandia which grew 14% in 2013 to tip the 400,000-case mark, making its debut in the top 10 by pushing out Courvoisier which declined 7.3%.
Owner: Brown-Forman
2012 volumes: 354,400
2013 volumes: 403,800
Change: 14%

Negative Time

24 Dumbest Scientific Questions

Travel Tipples- Intro

Total volumes of spirits in the travel retail market increased 1.4% in 2013 to reach 21.6 million nine-litre cases, with the top 100 brands accounting for 85% of this volume.
This year’s list is compiled against the backdrop of an increasingly unpredictable Asia-Pacific duty-free market, which dipped in 2013 following years of strong growth.
The previously “fast-growing” market declined by 4.4% in 2013 compared to 2012 with a number of key key markets, including Singapore, South Korea, Thailand, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Malaysia, recording a drop in volumes.
The IWSR said this was the first time since 2009 that a region had seen a loss in volumes. In contrast, travel retail across Europe and the Americas continued its upward trend.
The Americas saw a 4.2% rise in volumes, with Latin America, the Caribbean and North America all enjoying growth, with the region’s share of the global market set at 19.7%, ahead of Asia-Pacific at 17.7%.
Growth in Africa and the Middle East increased by 3% driven by the expansion of the Middle Eastern market, while Africa suffered the sharpest drop in sales down -9.6%, attributed to a recent downturn in tourism to Egypt.
Sales in Europe grew more slowly in 2013 than in the previous year (+1.5%), but the region increased its share of total volumes to 54%, reversing 2012’s drop in market share.
Eastern Europe and the Baltics was the fastest-growing sub-region posting a 9.7% increase in sales with a “revival in tourism” in southern Europe helping sales to rise by 2%, while central Europe and the Balkans also grew by 2%.

Disc Discussion

On Wednesday (today), more than 90 years of motoring history will come to an end as car owners are no longer required to display vehicle tax discs.

Road users are being warned to be aware of what the changes mean for them – and failure to take note could see you hit with a fine of up to £1,000 pounds.
But the tax disc is a little more than just a receipt to show you’ve paid your dues – as is shown by the number of people who’ve said they are going to “really miss” them when they are gone.
Here are five things you probably didn’t know about the almost-obsolete little piece of paper – and why you shouldn’t throw yours away just yet.

1. Your tax disc could be worth up to £1000
If your tax disc is in good condition and its colour hasn’t faded, you may want to consider holding onto it in a safe place.
“Velologists” – that’s tax disc collectors – are on the lookout for pristine examples of the last ever discs. In particular, a run of very recent emergency-issue, non-perforated discs – produced in the last month or two when supplies of special perforated paper ran low – could appreciate significantly in value.
The most expensive disc ever sold is one of the first, from December 1921, and went for £810.30. One expert told the Telegraph that a pristine example of such a disc could sell for £1,000.
At the moment, your disc is not likely to go for anywhere near that much. But velologists predict that the market for novelty, rare and vintage discs will boom now that millions of drivers have nothing to put in their windscreen holders. So watch this space.

2. Replacement tax discs cost drivers up to £7 million a year
It seems that many of us are set to benefit from the change to an all-digital system for vehicle tax – because we’re so forgetful and careless.
According to new figures released by the DVLA, in the three years from 2011 more than one million duplicate tax discs have been ordered after originals were lost, stolen, damaged or destroyed.
Replacements cost £7 each - though officials say the fee is waived in some circumstances.
Alan Mason, director of the IT services company Ricoh UK that obtained the figures from the Government, said scrapping tax discs “has the potential to save time and money”, and represents a “significant milestone in the journey towards digital by default”.

3. It pays to go vintage
As well as generally looking fantastic, classic cars that are more than 40 years old are actually exempt from vehicle tax altogether.
The exemption originally applied to any vehicle over 25 years old on the basis that they would be incapable of racking up much mileage. It was frozen in 1997 as the longevity of cars improved – and now only applies to vehicles built before 1 January 1974.
The DVLA has always insisted that these so-called “historic vehicles” still need to be “taxed” – that is, registered and displaying a “nil value” tax disc. Even though tax discs are being scrapped, historic vehicles will need to be registered so they show up in police systems.

4. The police don’t actually need to display tax discs – though many do
The change to the law will provide at least one added bonus for police, removing once and for all the accusations of hypocrisy they face about not even paying their own car tax.
As “Crown vehicles”, police cars don’t actually need to pay vehicle tax – but that doesn’t stop people “snapping police cars with out-of-date tax” and complaining if they don’t display a disc at all. As a result, many display them anyway.
From Wednesday, police can expect fewer arguments when they stop people to “check the system to see if they have paid their own tax” – it doesn’t quite have the same ring to it as: “Where’s your disc, then?”

5 Tax discs don’t give car owners any more of a right to the road
The first tax discs were issued in 1921. Then, vehicle tax was used as a way to make the UK road system self-financing – meaning all proceeds from it were ring-fenced and put towards maintaining and building roads.
In the 1920s, Winston Churchill is said to have described this system as a privilege for road-users that was “an outrage upon common sense”, and in 1937 the law was changed to make car tax proceeds go straight to the Treasury.
Despite this, car owners have historically often referred to their tax disc as proof of paying “road tax” – thinking it means they have directly paid for the road system in a way that, for example, cyclists or pedestrians have not.
This is nonsense – and referred to as being like smokers saying they were more entitled to the NHS because they had paid “hospital tax”.

Now, if a driver tells a pedestrian or cyclist that their “car tax” paid for the roads and therefore gives them right of way, they’re talking nonsense. And perhaps, as another positive, the removal of tax discs will also take away a little of this sense of entitlement.


Ripping Yarns

 00:27            04:07  

There are lots of reasons why you might want to rip and copy a movie from a DVD and store it on your computer. You might want to watch a new DVD on your iPad or tablet(which do not have DVD drives); you might just want to backup your expensive movie collection; another reason might be that your DVD collection is bulging and you want to free up some room in your house (a terabyte hard drive full of movies could save a huge amount of cubic meters in your house). Whatever the reason, here's how to rip DVDs to your Mac or PC.

How to rip a DVD with Handbrake

Step one
To rip a DVD you have to download specialist software, don’t panic though, we’ve found some DVD ripping software that is free and works brilliantly. Simply go to and select the link for your operating system (Mac, PC and Ubuntu), then install the Handbrake software when the download is complete.
How to rip a DVD: Step 1
Step two
The next thing you need to do is insert the DVD you want to rip into your PCs optical drive and then open the Handbrake program. You then need to click on the Source button located in the top left of the window.
How to rip a DVD: Step 2
Step three
From here you need to locate and select the DVD drive and click open.
How to rip a DVD: Step 3
Step four
Now that you have select the DVD that you wish to rip, you need to set a destination folder for the ripped content to be saved in. This can be done by clicking on the browse button on the right hand side of the window.
How to rip a DVD: Step 4
Step five
The last thing of note that needs doing is choosing the file preset for your ripped DVD. Handbrake comes with a good list of standard presets for you to chose from (like mp4), so you can rip a DVD to the correct format for popular mobile devices (iPad, Android and more).
How to rip a DVD: Step 5
Step six
Now you have the Source, the Destination folder and have set which file format you want the DVD to be ripped to, the next and final task is the easiest off all; simply hit the Start button at the top of the Window and let Handbrake do the rest.

How to rip a DVD with DVD Shrink

Note: some poeple - but by no means all - have reported issues with DVD Shrink installed malware onto their computers. If in doubt do not download this program, instead use the Handrake software featured above.
Step one
Download a DVD ripping program. There are hundreds of these programs available for download on the internet, some will require you to pay for them, some won't. We've found and tested a program called DVD Shrink, this is free and easy to use.
Step two
Once you have installed DVD Shrink, click on the 'Open Disc' icon near the top rleft of the window, then ensure you have selected DVD drive you want to rip the movie from.
How to rip a DVD step one
Step three
Before you start ripping a DVD you might want to 'Shrink' the file size of your ripped DVD. The smaller the file, the more the quality will be affected. If you wish to do this, click on 'Edit' > 'Preferences' and in the drop down box on the new window select 'Custom' and then enter your desired file size.
How to rip a DVD step three
Step four
To avoid ripping unwanted DVD titles of trailers to your storage device, click on 'Re-author' at the top of the window, then open the 'DVD Browser' tab, after that you need to locate and select the file that is the biggest. This will more often than not be the movie/content you are looking for. If you are unsure, you can preview the file in the bottom left of the screen.
How to rip a DVD step two
Step five
Click on the 'Backup!' button at the top of the window. A new sub-window will then open asking you where you want to save the file. Once you have chosen the file's destination, click 'Ok' and DVD Shrink will start to rip the content on your DVD. A normall DVD should take between 30-50 minutes to rip.
How to rip a DVD step four