Sunday, 21 September 2008

Trashy Novel Covers of Yesteryear

Let us take a trip down memory lane when books were books and the female of the species was well and truly respected on their pages. Hardly, but trash was trash and you have to respect it for that. Brazen women abounded and the front covers of these novels helped sell the, er, social issues that were contained within. It is almost shameful to think of the trash produced these days when, to be honest, they did it far, far better in the way back when.

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Shocking! If only to instill in the youth of today that drugs are bad but, hell, they didn’t invent them, all teenagers reading this are referred to the above tale of moral downfall. You too could end up like this poor unfortunate girl if you keep on smoking that naughty stuff!

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This one was a real shocker! Who would have thought that paving stones could be at the heart of a story? Those girls must have developed shocking piles!

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Desperate Housewives was only a dream in its maker’s mind when this book was published. Probably the series; founder was only a glint in his father’s eye when the public was caught unaware by this splendid read. Eat your heart out, DH Lawrence!

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Have you ever read such a brilliant title for a book? That alone should have gotten this one on Oprah! Well, maybe not but it leaves you in no doubt that this book has its tongue firmly in its cheek. No? You mean it was serious?

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Just when you thought it couldn’t get any better, it does! Why the devil anyone would want to read this is anyone’s guess but the name certainly is tantalizing! Perhaps this was a kind of precursor to “Reaper”. No such thing as new ideas, so they say!

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Here’s a girl who knows what she wants and how to get it too! Modern readers may find it almost implausible that people would read this sort of rubbish. I have one word for you. Mills and Boon. Oh, sorry, that was three.

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Any book that has the words ‘feverish’, ‘thrills’ and ‘jaded’ on the front must be taking the moral high ground, right? This book was obviously written for plain straightforward educational reasons and not for any kind of second hand prurient voyeurism. Right.

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And no one has ever taken the subject of lesbianism and treated it as titillation for the heterosexual (male) masses, have they? This angsty novel must surely have led to a whole generation of young men respecting the same sex partnerships of some of their girl buddies. Absolutely!

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These aren’t bad girls really; they’re just drawn that way. A long way before the films of the eighties portrayed the sorority in all its vivid glory, none college goers were devouring this beautifully written literature and believing every word of this. College grads out there, you knew girls just like these, yes?


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‘She made men pay for what they wanted’ – so goes the byline on the cover of this page-turner. Isn’t there a word for that?

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Friday, 19 September 2008

Happy Smiley Anniversary!

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You may want to send a death squad after this man, so if you and your evil plans are discovered, please do not mention the name of this website! However, it was in September 1982 (the 19th to be exact) that a certain computer scientist created the world’s first smiley! Read on to discover more!

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Scott Falman was trying to find a way to communicate a little more tone than emails would otherwise allow. It was, as it is today still, easy to misunderstand the mood of the person when reading electronic messages from them! He suggested that a hyphen, a colon and a closed bracket sign would be perfect to indicate when something was supposed to be funny. The guys at Carnegie Mellon University where he worked must have been a dour bunch for him to have to think this up, but the rest is history. Shame it i sonly the smiley he is remembered for, because it seems to be a dual invention. His preliminary message went like this!


At least he had already realised the humor limitations of most academics! The discussion on the boards of the university had gone on for quite a while about what signs would be the most appropriate, but it is towards Falman that the finger of blame is pointed. However, who was it who had the inspiration for the yellow hue of the smiley face? Forest Gump may claim the fame for that, but perhaps the truth is a little closer to mother nature than we might expect.
Was it a case of life imitating art imitating life, oh, Whatever! The Jewel Box Weave Orber above is also known as the Smiley Face Spider. Perhaps this is where the unknown 'someone' go the inspiration!

Although Vladimir Nabakov had yearned for a typographical sign way back in '69 it wasn't until that dull day at the university that someone put it in to permanent electronic form. Could he have foreseen the amount of copies he may have begat, even if nature did (as usual!) get there first!

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Back to the yellow color for a second. For this we have a certain Harvey Ball to blame. He was a commercial artist and way back in 1963 he thought up the yellow smileyness that we all know and – cough – love today. It was created for an internal marketing campaign for an insurance form. It fell in to the public domain before Ball got a chance to trademark it and the rest is history! A 1967 marketing campaign for an insurance company featured the face too, but the creator of that, David Stern Inc, did not think to trademark it. Fortunate, because who would have wanted Ball V Stern a year or two later?

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If we think like that, perhaps it won't be long before we start seeing smiley faces everywhere we go. No, surely not. Are we that suggestible?


No, that would be silly, wouldn't it?


There is no denying the all-pervasiveness of the image though!


The smiley face has been taken on all over the world. Even artists such as Banksy, whose work can sell for tens of thousands of dollars, are not averse to a little dabble with the shape!

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Wherever, you go, there they are, multiplying in ever increasing numbers. It's like the Invasion of the Body Snatchers, only with big yellow faces! Did the guy at the university in 1982 know what he was unleashing upon the world?

It could almost be classfied as a medical condition! Does Smileyphobia exist, or maybe Smileyitis? Can we be at that point where the little guy with the big smirk appears in almost every aspect of our lives, peering at us and smirking inanely?

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That of course would be ridiculous. If that were the case, surely we should all just simply give up the ghost and do a good impression of those thingies in "Twenty Eight Days Later". Society would surely crumble. Wait! It can even get worse! The two main scourges of modern, contemporary living have been seem coming together in an unholy union!

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The smiley and the motivational poster in unholy unison! It's almost enough to make you go to the Doctor and plead temporary insanity. Of course, he would sit you down, tell you to be calm and then proceed to prescribe you some lovely little pills to make it all feel better!

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Aaaagh!

So, thank you, Scott Falman. You will be remembered and celebrated each September! Anyone for a Smiley Face Day. Come on, Stevie, sing that song!


My thanks to my on-line friend and fellow writer
Glynis Smy for the idea for this blog post! Thanks, Glynis!

Sunday, 14 September 2008

That Sinking Feeling...


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One minute you are minding your own business and the next you are disappearing in to a whole that has suddenly appeared in the ground at your feet. It may sound like the stuff of science fiction but it happens, perhaps more regularly than you might have thought. A sinkhole can appear without any notice and if it does, it’s time to get out of the way!

In January 2008 all was normal on Montrose Avenue in Chicago’s Ravenswood area. A thirty six inch water main became faulty and eventually snapped, which led to the collapse of an eighty foot section of road. The Torito restaurant was one of the victims. The sink hole has now been filled in and made safe, but not before some of Chicago’s wackier residents formed a faux campaign to save what they saw as a new city landmark.

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A late night drive can sometimes lead to unexpected consequences. A driver in Brooklyn, New York discovered that sometimes you have to watch more than just the traffic lights.

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It was early March 2006 and Ms Nancy Batista was waiting for a red light to change on Fourth Avenue. Suddenly her journey took an unexpected turn when her SUV plummeted through a sudden sinkhole. Fortunately, the vehicle landed on a gas main four feet down – the while itself was ten feet deep. Nancy had just a few cuts and bruises and a sudden desire to walk places in the future.

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However, when injuries occur, sinkholes have to be taken a little more seriously.

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In February 2007 over a thousand people had to be evacuated from an area of Guatamala City when a gigantic sinkhole suddenly appeared. Several people were killed when their houses literally disappeared down the hole. The hole was blamed on the heavy rains that had fallen recently and the flow of sewage underground, spilling out from, yes, you’ve guessed it, a ruptured main.

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Some residents of Deltona, Florida, will never forget December 2004. A central road suddenly opened up meaning that twenty homes had to be evacuated. The collapsing asphalt had been noticed a few days earlier and workmen were pumping liquid cement in to the hole when the event happened.

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Sunday, 7 September 2008

What An Ugly Bird!


We have the birds of paradise but are you like me? Do you get bored with images of beauty all the time? Here are some of the world's ugliest looking birds, all ready for you to go "ew" to!

Let's start with a common bird and one we eat regularly on special occasions. The Turkey: it isn't obvious why the name has become one to deride other homo sapiens with yet?

If the turkey isn't enough to put you off your dinner, why not try this one?

The Guineau Fowl is trying too look clever, but the lights are on and nobody is home!

Some people find new born human babies inexplicably attractive and if you fall in to that category you probably let out a sound that goes something like “aaaw”. Go on, admit it, it's just you and the computer, no one will know. If you belong to the minority of sane people on this small blue planet, then replace the three instances of the letter "a" with an "e" to form a completely different noise.


Let's zoom to South America for a while, the above is a fine example of a male Condor. Related to the vulture family (though you would never guess) the Condor is in fact a vegetarian. Got you there for a second. The growth you can see is called a caruncle: the person who named it obviously missed out a letter. Ah, to “b” or nor to “b”. To “be”, I believe!

Next, the King Vulture. A very regal bird, but boy, he sure is ugly!

Here is a face only a mother could love!

This Wood Ibis looks like it is made of wood - very old wood!

And one more for the road! This Shoebill is possibly the most handsomely ugly bird ever!

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