Fantasy Government

I believe in meritocracy, the people below mostly have qualifications for their posts.

Prime Minister: Jeremy Paxman
Deputy Prime Minister: James O’Brien
Health Secretary: Dr Phil Hammond
Science Secretary: Dr Ben Goldacre
Home Secretary: Brian Paddick
Chancellor: Martin Lewis
Foreign Secretary:Michael Palin
EU commissioner: Kenneth Clarke
Justice Secretary: The Secret Barrister
Defence: Andy McNab
Transport: Simon Calder
Pensions: Paul Lewis
Digital, Culture, Media and Sport: Sir Tim Berner’s Lee
Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy: David Fishwick
Environment, Food and Rural Affairs: Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall (Junior Minister Jamie Oliver)
Housing, Communities and Local Government
Education: Marcus du Sautoy
Scotland: Frankie Boyle
N. Ireland:Patrick Kielty

Podcasts redux

It’s been over a year and it’s time to review my last post. I’ve found some new favourites:

Mystery Hour with James O’Brien – Ever wondered about those everyday mysteries? Well so did those people who rang up James with questions. It’s quite funny when James go ape. Especially funny when he gets things wrong and is humbled. When I discovered this, I binged like 4 episodes consecutively.

The Briefing Room – The news is guilty of describing things in the present. Not on giving the whole picture or how we ended up to this point and then expanding into the future. This podcast does just that, in so much detail.

Daniel and Jorge Explain the Universe
– I’ve mentioned before, in my spare time, I like to study the universe. Cosmology is utterly fascinating when you think about it. Fundamental forces, aliens the big bang and many more. Daniel Whiteson has an excellent radio voice and he responds promptly to my emails which is nice.

Hometown Glory – A unique take on the interview podcast. Geoff Lloyd takes guests on a trip down memory lane, by looking at their home towns on google maps. A chronological journey through early life.

Today Explained / The Daily – They both explain current affairs. Very similar style and content, hard to separate the two. Though The Daily is more formal, as it is produced by the failing New York Times. Today Explained has some incredible puns for their episodes though, e.g. “Let’s talk about tax baby, let’s talk about AOC”.

What about those podcasts that I said I would check out?

Rex Factor – This is really good. So much so, I may even rip off the format for my own series. Sound quality is an issue still though. So I may output it on some decent speakers, which hopefully makes a difference.

My Dad Wrote a Porno
– Don’t believe the hype. I listened to the opening few episodes, it’s not as funny as everyone says it is. I always find it hard to like something described as:”so bad it’s good”. It’s difficult to look past the bad. The hosts are trying really hard to make fun of the mediocre writing.

As it Occurs to Me – Listened to a few eps and liked it. I’ll make an effort to listen to more.

Reasons to Be Cheerful – Highly enjoyable and informative. The hosts have good banter with eachother. Only criticism is, that it’s hard to listen to in the car because they sometimes have people on the phone in funny accents. Similarly to The Briefing Room, the hosts delve into the history of a problem.

Presidential – I listened to the inaugural episode. It was ok. If they followed the format of Rex Factor, it’d be better. I will try to beat my previous record of listening to more than 1 a year. Or at least match it.

Mythology PodcastsThe Mythology Podcast – best of the bunch, sadly the host hasn’t made any new episodes in two years. He spoke so slowly you could up the speed and still understand it. Myths and History of Greece and Rome – Worst of the bunch, quite drab really. Myths and Legends – Adequate.

Answer me this – My premise was right. The hosts do answer audience questions! Very entertaining and sometimes very informative. I am amazed at Helen and Ollie’s detective skills.

Worse than expected

Brexitcast – Take all the BBC’s political journalists sit them down and make them talk all over eachother obnoxiously. I’ve only managed to listen to one episode. I daren’t listen further.

My Brother,  My Brother and Me – Recommended by Jonathan Strickland. One of the hosts is the husband of Sawbones‘s Dr. Sydnee McElroy, Justin McElroy. I don’t know why I thought I’d enjoy a podcast with someone I think is annoying. I didn’t really know what was going on in this show (I wasn’t paying much attention). All I remember is they were swearing a lot and trying to be funny (unsuccessfully).

Danny Wallace’s Important Broadcast
– Spoilers: it’s not important, it’s also not very good. Ok, thats a bit mean. I just didn’t enjoy the one episode I listened to.

Future podcasts

Invention – I want to know how they came up with technology we use today. So this is great.

Science Vs– I think this is about science debunking famous bollocks, that was commonly believed to be true.

The Brink – How businesses came back from the brink of bankruptcy

End of the World – All about the exitential threats to the world out there.

Control Group – Some sci-fi series about psychological disorders I think.

Parliament Explained
– Ever wondered about the conventions around the palace of Westminster? Me too. With Meera Syal.

Serial S3 – A season on how the legal system is broken in America.

– Satirical comedy about a referendum in a country where they narrowly (52% Vs 48%) to legalize capital punishment. Where have I seen those statistics before?

Surprisingly Awesome – I think this is about interesting facts.

Honourable Mentions

Techstuff – Strickland has a good radio voice, he goes into the right amount of detail most of the time. Some of his topics are sometimes really dry though.

Behind the Bastards – Tells you about the evil people from history. The sound quality of this one on my phone isn’t great so I don’t listen too often.

Part Time Genius – Feel good podcast about general shit. Will Pearson introduces the show by saying “As always I’m joined by Mangesh Hattikudur”, which isn’t even true.

Evil Genius – BBC’s version of Behind the Bastartds with Russel Kane. I don’t like how they have to vote on historical figures in a binary fashion (evil or genius). Kane needs to get some better sound effects too.

How Not to Grow Up – Reviewed

How Not to Grow Up: A Coming of Age Memoir. Sort of.How Not to Grow Up: A Coming of Age Memoir. Sort of. by Richard Herring
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book is required reading for any Richard Herring fan, though don’t get your hopes up too much. Two thirds of the book is him wallowing in self pity so it’s not very entertaining. There are a few very funny moments thankfully. The start of the book was incredibly funny, the author regaled all the fights he’s had in his life. After that, it gets a bit verbose and dry. All in all, it is good to know how he ended up finishing his life of debauchery to settle down with his soulmate. He is a skillful writer and given his potty-mouth on the comedy circuit, I was actually impressed with his level of diction.

All right they might have been fifteen, but I was only looking. That’s not a crime. We can look. As long as we don’t touch. They can’t stop us looking! This is our democratic right. If a 39-year-old man can’t stare lasciviously at the bare legs of a fifteen-year-old girl then Al-Qaeda has won.

I just need to recuperate. To take stock. All right?! And if decide that that it will help if I am wanked off by a ladyboy then it is no one’s business but my own!

And yet it struck me that so many people who use ‘childish’ as a pejorative term and who see themselves as sensible and grown up, also believe in life after death and a big man in the sky who is watching over them always and judging everything they do. These people however are rarely chastised for being puerile or silly or at least take great offense when they are.

But then maybe the Virgin Mary likes to use her magical powers to make inanimate, tacky objects weep for a short period of time, rather than cure sick children or banish world poverty. Anything is possible.

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We Have No Idea: A Guide to the Unknown Universe – Reviewed

We Have No Idea: A Guide to the Unknown UniverseWe Have No Idea: A Guide to the Unknown Universe by Jorge Cham
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book would be excellent if it weren’t for the cringeworthy “jokes” and lack of detail, nevertheless it is still quite enjoyable. 90% of the footnotes are terrible jokes and can be skipped entirely. If your eye notices a longer footnote than usual, it is likely a useful addendum to aid explanation and should be read. The true footnotes are actually hidden away in the bibliography at the back but sadly I only discovered those after being 3/4 of the way through the book. Here you’ll find more detail of how they know the facts in the chapters. The diagrams are mostly useless too and are again just bad jokes in illustrative form.

Examples of lack of detail: when introducing the standard model, they show the 13 particles but do not name half of them. When talking about standard candles they talk about only one i.e. Type 1A Supernovas. Helpfully, they do offer further reading in the form of Mex Tegmark, Sean Caroll’s From Eternity to Here and Seven Brief Lessons on Physics by Rovelli.

After reading this book, I am less skeptical about dark matter because of the evidence presented (gravitational lensing, simulations, galactic spinning, galactic collisions). I also learned that space is not a vacuum or void, it’s a “goo” which can be bent, stretched and expanded. The idea of the Big Bang starting from a singularity is outdated and the evidence for inflation is in the cosmic microwave background radiation.

There is significant overlap with the authors’ podcast but refreshingly more explanation here. Their jokes seem to work better in the audio format but do not translate well to prose.

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