I can’t believe that Readitfor.me exists

Reading is one of the few pure joys left in the world.

Books don’t have ads in them. Books don’t have extra downloadable content after you’ve bought them. Books don’t stay in a state of disappointing ‘early access’. Books are good.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not one of those ‘I love nothing more than the smell of a new book, the feeling of turning pages, the rush of knowing you’re getting to the end’ kind of people. Even though my life’s ambition is to one day be rich enough to own a failing bookshop, I read everything on my kindle these days. It’s just more convenient.

But here’s the important bit: I still read them. I’ll spend months ploughing through a good book. Which in the age of 90-minute movies and meant-to-be-binged Netflix shows is pretty nuts. That’s a lot of time and attention to dedicate to one form of entertainment. But I don’t mind at all. A good book is a slow burn, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

But what if you’re too important to have the time to read books? Introducing: readitfor.me

Billed as ‘the #1 book summary service for entrepreneurs, executives, and business coaches‘ the pitch is this: WE READ BOOKS SO YOU DON’T HAVE TO.

They basically produce short twelve minute summaries of the kind of books that people who describe themselves as ‘serial entrepreneur’ in their Twitter bio go crazy over. Books with titles like HOW TO SCALE YOUR BUSINESS BRAIN AND SUCEED WITHOUT TRYING or POWER HACKS TO SUPERCHARGE YOUR MINDSET. So it’s not fiction, or anything good, just typical executive trash. But it’s still annoying to me.

Here’s a gem from their FAQs:

What sort of equipment do I need for this?
All of our videos and workshops can be accessed on your tablet, laptop or smartphone, and can also be projected onto a boardroom wall.

Ahhhh yes. The way books were meant to be read. Little did Dickens know when he put pen to paper and inspired generations of writers in the English-speaking world, that one day we might be reading books “projected onto a boardroom wall”.

Sure, the sting is taken out of this by the fact that the books aren’t any good. If this was attempting to reduce classic literature down it’d be outright offensive. But I think there’s a couple of assumptions being made here that I find distasteful:

  1. That the benefit of a body of work is solely the top-level content, which can be extracted without anything being lost.
  2. That reading as an activity can be outsourced.
  3. That you can be too busy to just a read a book.

Keep books great. Read them! Support libraries! And for the love of God, don’t pay something else to read them for you.

Hot take: polls are bad for democracy

Why do we vote?

It’s a pretty interesting question, with a long answer. The history of democracy is a good read, but what you need to know is that – like all good things – it was invented in Greece. The city-state of Athens around 5 BC is generally regarded to be the first implemented model of one-person-one-vote democracy as we would recognise it today.

It was a direct democracy in the sense that the people of Athens themselves were the voters on each decision, without further representation. (A footnote to say that ‘people of Athens’ referred to citizens – a somewhat non-inclusive group, excluding women, slaves, young people and so on). And for a while that was good.

Today, in the UK, we have a representative democracy. We don’t vote on each and every issue like the Greeks did – we vote for people who make those decisions on our behalf. Further still, our model is one of parliamentary democracy where we vote for representatives to form a government and the head of government is appointed by the head of state (Queenie!) to run things – that being whoever is the leader of the most popular party, as voted for by that party’s members. Yeah, it’s a bit complicated.

But the basics of it is that in the UK we vote for parties. We divide the country up into about 650 constituencies (voting areas), and the parties field candidates in each constituency. At a general election, whichever party wins the most seats gets to be in charge, since we have a dumb and stupid non-representational voting system.

So far so good. It’s fair, open, easy to understand, and about as democratic as you can hope for in the 21st century. The old Athenian system simply wouldn’t work in 2018. We can’t be expected to understand or have an opinion on every issue. We don’t even have referendums that often (imagine this current Brexit mess, but for EVERY SINGLE DECISION).

There’s some debate about whether MPs are meant to be ‘delegates’ or ‘trustees’. As delegates, they’d be the absolute instruments of their constituents will – perfectly channeling the voice of the people. But as members of a political party that isn’t really feasible. Yet having them as ‘trustees’ means letting them make decisions that might even be against the will of their constituents, if it’s actually in their best interests. For example: most constituents will oppose an increase in tax, but support better public services. A trustee can make the difficult decision to oppose the ‘will’ for the overall good.

BUT I DIGRESS I WAS GONNA TALK ABOUT POLLS NOT JUST REGURGITATE MY POLITICAL A LEVEL IN FULL SORRY

When describing how democracy works above, we haven’t mentioned polls at all. That’s because they’re simply not part of the concept. In fact, you could say that there’d an inherent idea core to democracy that is incompatible with political polling: the idea of the secret ballot.

The ‘secret ballot’ is the idea that everyone’s vote is a secret. Everyone has a voice, but nobody knows what everyone else has voted for. This is a good thing for democracy: it prevents voter intimidation or squeamishness. We always have a desire to fit in, and our votes being public might stop people voting from how they really want to. Yes, it helps extreme groups win more votes, but overall it’s a good thing.

Do polls violate the idea of a secret ballot? Clearly not. The secret ballot idea applies at the individual vote level, not overall. After all, we have to know the outcome! But there’s another idea at play here: that the outcome of a vote is uncertain.

Democracy works best when it’s a disinterested process. By this I mean that the result of a vote is up for grabs. After all, what’s the point in voting if it’s a foregone conclusion? Brexit and Trump were ‘good’ votes in that the outcome was surprising (what they demonstrate about the democratic process is another conversation). The will of the people needs to be a potent force, and that’s not possible when decisions are robbed of their jeopardy.

And yet this is precisely what polling does. By ‘polling’ I mean the forecasting and publishing of election results. Bodies like YouGov, ICM, and Ipsos Mori do this, attempting to predict the outcome of elections before they happen. And this is bad, for a couple of reasons.

Firstly, as said above, it robs elections of their jeopardy. If the outcome of an election is a foregone conclusion – which for polling to have any authority, it must consider it to be – then the process is likely not truly democratic. Sure, in a perfect direct democracy there would be issues with a 99% consensus already. But even still, publishing the result of an election, even a ‘predicted’ one, before the vote seems to betray the concept of uncertain outcomes that makes democracy effective.

And don’t think this doesn’t have an impact on turnout. Ask people why they don’t vote and you’ll likely hear “because it wouldn’t make a difference” anyway. I live in the Hackney North and Stoke Newington constituency – which elected Labour MP Diane Abbott to Parliament in the 2017 election with 75% of the vote. The Conservative candidate got 12% of the vote. So if I was a Tory voter, would I feel an empowered democratic citizen having this repeated again and again in the polls running up to an election? Clearly not.

Something that drives me crazy is the use graphs like the above in election pamphlets. “Can’t win here” is the catchphrase they use, and it’s awful. Every election is a blank slate, anyone could win. If every voter decided to vote Green in your constituency, you’d get a Green MP. And yet polls set an alternative narrative: that of the status quo. That the incumbent state of affairs will more or less be maintained. It’s no wonder that young people and other groups feel disenfranchised and powerless.

Polls also shift the way we think about voting, in bad ways. ‘Tactical voting’ is a symptom of a broken democracy. That’s when you vote, not for the party you actually want to win, but in order to help prevent someone else from winning. Cleisthenes must be turning in his grave. Vote-swapping systems and things like that arise because polls turn an election into a scientific game rather than a legitimate decision-making exercise.

And it encourages bad behaviour from our representatives too. During the election cycle, incredible levels of attention are paid to the polls. And the campaign strategy is informed by the poll results. Sure, it’s the sensible thing to do given that polls exist – but it’s a reflection that elections have become a vote-winning version of marketing. And that’s bad for democracy too.

Can we beat this? Can we claw back democracy from the damage polling has done to it? I don’t know. As with all technology and science, once the genie’s out of the bottle, it won’t go back in. On the TV debates they’ve started doing recently, they’ve now got those live ‘worm’ graphs, where support for each speaker is displayed live in real time along with the program. I think that’s too far – encouraging a safe, boring approach to politics where every word of every sentence is rehearsed to media-trained perfection.

Keep polls, sure. But for the sake of democracy let’s stop obsessing over them. Bring back the uncertainty to politics. It’s an open field, anyone can win. Trying to predict the future just sucks the joy out of it entirely.

Who should have really won Rat Race? A comprehensive study.

Rat Race is a near-perfect film. Coming out in 2001, the same year as Shrek, it was very much part of the peak of pre-9/11 wacky comedies that embodied the turn of the millennium. It even has Smashmouth in it – literally on stage singing All Star at the end of the film.

It’s one hundred and twelve minutes of pretty much pure nonsense. A crazy squirrel lady, a bus full of Lucille Ball impersonators, a song by the Baha Men, Hitler’s car… the film really has it all.

I remember first seeing the film in 2002 or so. We’d rented the DVD from the local village shop because they had nothing good available, and I was sceptical. The film looked like garbage. Just completely stupid and dumb. The cast were pretty much entirely nobodies to me, expect for Rowan Atkinson and John Cleese, and the fact that Atkinson was being wasted on a bizarrely offensive Italian tourist character put me off.

But do you what happened when the ending credits began to roll? I went back to the DVD menu and watched it again. In full. An entire second time. Something I hadn’t done prior, or since with any other movie. There was something special about this film, something I had to watch again. And I did, again and again. And now this movie lives forever in my dreams and soul.

And because of that, I’m particularly fixated on answering one particular question about it, which I’ll get to in a bit. But first, let’s review what the film’s actually about.

1. A brief overview of the plot

Rat Race is primarily a rip-off of the 1963 movie ‘It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World’ – a film I have never seen and have no interest in seeing. But the plot of that movie, as I understand it, is a bunch of strangers chasing after some money in zany ways. And yep, that’s pretty much Rat Race.

John Cleese plays an eccentric casino owner – Donald Sinclair – who wants to offer his highest rollers a new game to bet on. Instead of betting on cards or horses, he invents a new sort of race – where people chase across the country to win a prize. To do this, he plucks a variety of guests from the hotel and informs them that two million dollars in cash has been placed in a bag in a station locker in New Mexico. The first one there gets to keep it. And they’re off!

That’s it. It’s a very simple premise. Well, there’s at least one layer of dramatic irony going on – the participants in the race don’t know that they’re the subjects of a larger bet. But that doesn’t really play any significant role in the plot. It’s more just a contrivance for the setup to make any sense, and to give Cleese a few more scenes scattered throughout the film. The film could just as well be the same characters chasing the money without that element, and it’d be more or less the same.

So what the film represents is a logistical challenge. All the characters start off in the same spot, and each has to reach the same end point. What they need to do is find the most efficient way to manage that. Things go wrong, hilarity ensues, and that’s basically all you need to know to understand this film.

2. The most efficient way to win

To figure this out we need to determine two things: where the characters start, and where they end up. As Rat Race is a piece of fiction, it makes identifying this an interesting challenge. Thankfully, the first part of this is pretty straightforward: it’s explicitly stated that the characters are in the Venetian Resort in Las Vegas. That weird casino that has a mini-Venice built inside it. To each their own.

The end point is more difficult. They have to get to Silver City, New Mexico – which is a real place. But the train station containing the locker containing the money does not exist. Silver City just doesn’t have a passenger train station. The exterior shots of the station are actually of the Nevada Northern Railway Museum in Ely, Nevada.

So the most obvious approach would be to simply pick a central spot in Silver City and say that’s roughly where they were going. A problem with this is that Atkinson’s character (Enrico Pollini) is clearly seen travelling to the station by rail, and ends up nearly winning as a result. (OH SORRY I DIDN’T GIVE A SPOILER WARNING FOR THIS 17 YEAR OLD COMEDY FILM).

But the stand-in location above isn’t any good either, as the Nevada Northern Railway Museum is 800 miles away from Silver City. And there aren’t any really good rail stops nearby that could act as approximate locations. So let’s just say that Silver City in general is the location they’re heading to.

Let’s plug these coorindates into Google Maps and see what we get.

I’m not buying that ‘7 hour 10 mins’ travel time by plane that Google is giving me there. But I’m not able to find any actual flights that go between the two airports. Instead, as the characters in the film attempt, you’d be best off getting a flight to Albuquerque, taking about 1 hour and 25 minutes. Followed by a drive of just over 4 hours to Silver City. So your total travel time would be about 5 and half hours.

Let’s add in some time for general airport faffing. It’s a domestic flight so no border control, and they probably wouldn’t take any baggage: so about 90 minutes extra seems right. So maybe 7 hours total? And that’s if they could instantly get a flight the moment they reached the airport. Which seems unlikely.

So clearly a plane trip is the most efficient way to do this. Unless they just missed a flight, in which case the direct car ride is the best – at around nine and a half hours door-to-door.

All this is purely academic anyway, as none of the characters end up sticking to any kind of plan or take anything close to an ‘efficient route’. But it gives us an interesting yardstick with which we can measure the film’s correspondence to reality. If seven to nine-and-a-half hours is a realistic time range for getting from Vegas to Silver City under normal conditions, then we should expect at least ten hours and upwards for the wacky routes our heroes take to get there.

So let’s get to it. I’m now going to take each group of characters in turn, analyse the route they took, and attempt a fair approximation of their trip. A lot of guesswork is going to be involved, but I’m approaching this from a disinterested perspective (I don’t really like any of the characters enough to be rooting for them), so I’m not concerned about any impartiality on my part, conscious or otherwise.

3. The Journeys

3.1 – Duane & Blaine

Duane and Blaine are brothers, and they’re basically hustlers. We’re introduced to them as they attempt to commit some ‘personal accident compensation’ fraud. They’re probably the most ruthless of the group in their pursuit of the money, and willing to go to the most immoral lengths to win.

They start by driving to the airport. The Venetian Resort is a ten minute drive from Vegas’ McCarran International Airport. (We’ll use this as a standard for the other characters too).

At the airport they find they’re unable to get a seat on the next flight, as the others have got tickets first. So they decide to, erm, use their truck to destroy the ground radar and prevent anyone from flying. (As a reminder, this film came out in cinemas just 25 days before 9/11). Let’s rewatch that scene, a masterpiece of film-making, combing physical comedy and a classical score.

Let’s say this whole thing takes 15 minutes.

Somehow avoiding domestic terrorism charges, the pair head over to a car hire place (10 minutes) and hire a new car (10 minutes).

They then drive for an unspecified amount of time. Off-screen they meet the squirrel lady, but I’m not able to determine whereabouts she’s locate; the “Totem Pole Ranch” she references doesn’t seem to be a real place. Let’s just assume they’re doing the normal drive.

At some point along the way they stop to get a second key cut (15 minutes) but it’s stolen by the locksmith. They chase him down the road, into a hot air balloon festival. Again, this could be anywhere. Can we reverse engineer some of the missing times here from what else we see in the rest of the film? Maybe!

Following a 4 minute episode where they fight the locksmith for the key they end up back on the road, with a signpost indicating they’re 28 miles from Silver City. An interrupted drive from from Vegas to to the town of Buckhorn (roughly 30 miles from Silver City) would take 8 hours 40 minutes. So let’s assume that as a base amount of time to add everything else onto.

But they’re not they’re yet! Distracted on the road, they end up driving into a Monster Truck rally. Again, I can’t find a decent contender for this within 30 miles of Silver City. But let’s say they spend at least 20 minutes at the rally, for the both the events in the film and then stealing the truck off-screen. They then drive the rest of the way – about a 30 minute drive. They then run for another 2 minutes from the truck to the station. So..

  • Drive to the airport: 10 mins
  • Airport sabotage: 15 mins
  • Head to car hire: 10 mins
  • Hiring a car: 10 mins
  • Car travel: 8 hours 40 mins
  • Key cutting: 15 mins
  • Locksmith fight: 4 mins
  • Monster truck rally: 20 mins
  • Remaining drive: 30 mins
  • Running: 2 mins
  • Total: 10 hours and 36 minutes.

3.2 – Enrico Pollini

Enrico Pollini is an Italian tourist character, portrayed by Rowan Atkinson. Similar to Mr Bean, he’s a bumbling idiotic character that the others look down upon. He’s also a narcoleptic, which – rather than being used as a chance to highlight the impact this illness has on people’s lives – is basically just used as a punchline a few times to reiterate how useless he is.

He falls asleep pretty much immediately, in the hotel lobby. He then stays asleep for about half of the film before waking up and continuing. Sadly, there’s no accurate way to determine how long he was asleep for. We can see he’s amassed a crowd of children around him, watching him sleep – so he’s been there a while. But not so long that he’s received any medical attention or intervention by hotel staff. (They could of course be under instructions not to intervene by Sinclair, but who knows?).

From what I understand about narcolepsy, sleep attacks are common but not especially lengthy. These microsleep attacks can range from a few seconds to a few minutes. I’m going to give a generous high-end cap of 30 minutes on Pollini’s sleep, as that seems about right for the way the sleep is cut in the film, and the limit of what seems to be medically appropriate.

After his sleep, he leaves the hotel and is almost hit by Zack Mallozzi – an organ transplant driver played by Wayne Knight. Mallozzi is driving to El Paso, which does indeed go close by Silver City. They drive for a while, before stopping after Pollini throws a human heart out of the van window.

Mallozzi attempts to murder Pollini and take his heart (????) and Pollini escapes by jumping onto a nearby moving train (???). Can we figure out where this takes place?

I think so! On the Interstate Route 10, between Steins and Lordburg there’s a stretch of road that has a train track running alongside it. This is along the route they would have taken from Vegas to Silver City/El Paso, and also matches the geography. So it’s a safe bet.

To get here, it’d take an 8 hour 30 minute drive. Pollini escapes onto a train and is on his way to Silver City.

Now, since Silver City doesn’t actually have a train station we’ll have to use some imagination. This spot on the road is 45 miles from Silver City. In the USA, passenger trains are limited to 59mph. So, assuming they were travelling at top speed, the time it would take for a train to cover that distance is about 45 minutes.

Let’s assume him arriving there counts as winning, narcolepsy aside. So..

  • Initial sleep: 30 minutes
  • Car time: 8 hours 30 minutes
  • Train time: 45 minutes
  • Overall time: 9 hours and 45 minutes

By car, the distance covered by the train would have taken about an hour. So we can also give him a ‘realistic’ time of a round 10 hours if it comes to it.

3.3 – Owen Templeton

Owen Templeton is Cuba Gooding Jr’s character in Rat Race. He plays a disgraced football referee, universally despised for making a bad call on a coin flip. His is one of the most pitiful misadventures in the film, and particularly varied.

He also starts by going to get to the airport (10 mins), finds he can’t make the flight (5 mins), and goes to grab a cab. Meeting the same cabbie, he instructs the driver to head to Silver City. After some time,he’s left stranded in the desert by the cab driver, since he’d lost money on the football game Templeton had refereed.

Now, I doubt that the cab driver would drive over an hour to exact his revenge on Templeton. And while there’s no clues as to the exact part of the Nevada desert that Templeton was left in, I think somewhere around Boulder City would be suitable.

It’s surrounded by desert, on the way from Vegas to Silver City, and is only a 30 minute drive. Let’s add another 10 mins for the cab driver’s shortcut, plus another 1 hour for Templeton’s time spent wandering the desert – he’s clearly been out there a long time and is suffering from dehydration.

This also makes sense in terms of what happens next. He reaches a coach stop, where a bus is parked full of Lucille Ball impersonators, on their way to a convention in Santa Fe. If they came from the Vegas direction, it’d make sense they’d pass by Boulder City on the way too. So the facts add up.

After 5 minutes of coaxing the coach driver into giving him all his clothes, Templeton is on his way. The drive from Boulder City to Silver City would take about 8 hours 45 minutes. But since a coach full of Lucys is going to be slower than a car, and Templeton is shown to be an inexperienced coach driver, I think we can add another hour on top of that.

This time also includes the coach breaking down scene, and Templeton somehow coming into possession of a horse.

Then the 2 minute run from the coach to the station. So…

  • Travel to airport: 10 mins
  • Time in airport: 5 mins
  • Cab to desert, including shortuct: 40 mins
  • Lost in desert: 1 hour
  • Coach stop: 5 mins
  • Drive to Silver City: 8 hours 45 minutes
  • Extra coach time and horse: 1 hour
  • Running to station: 2 minutes
  • Total: 11 hours and 47 minutes

3.4 – Vera and Merrill

This pair are an estranged mother and daughter meeting for the first time, played by Whoopi Goldberg and Lanai Chapman respectively. And they have a pretty wild time.

Like the others, they try the airport. Merrill is a wealthy businesswoman and is able to secure a charter jet. She offers a bonus for the pilots if they can reach their destination in under an hour. Was she heading for Albuquerque airport like the others, or the closer Grant County Airport? We don’t know, but it doesn’t matter as the flights all get cancelled. So let’s just work with the standard 10 mins drive to the airport, with maybe around 15 mins of faffing because they actually make it onto their plane.

Like the brothers, they go to hire a car (10 mins) and are frustrated by the slow car hire worker (let’s say 20 mins). Then they’re off!

Driving for a bit, they get a bit lost trying to locate the interstate. This is brought up several times in the movie and I’m not sure what it means. If they mean Route 10, then it should be clearly signposted after cutting through Phoenix.

Sure, they could be trying to cut onto the interstate early. But that would add extra time onto their journey (checkout Google’s wild suggestion that adds two whole hours onto the journey). So I’m not sure what their route is, or how they’re getting lost. But whatever. Crazy squirrel lady happens.

They take the squirrel lady’s directions and end up driving into a ravine. Let’s say they lose 30 mins for this detour / near-death experience. They then wander the desert for a bit – let’s give them the same hour we gave Templeton for this bit. And they come across the testing area for a high speed rocket car.

Since we can’t say where they start or end up during the rocket car bit, it’s a bit sparse in terms of the calculations we can do. But the scientists state that the girls break Mach 1 during this part, meaning they were travelling at about 767mph. So they definitely winning the ‘fastest moving at any point during the film’ part of the movie. Assuming they were in the car for 5 minutes, they’d cover about 63 miles. A car travelling at 75mph (the speed limit in New Mexico) would take 50 minutes to cover this distance.

So I propose that rather than trying to incorporate the rocket car in as an additional calculation, we simply deduct ’50 minutes’ from what would be otherwise be a standard trip.

They wander the desert a little more. Clearly still dizzy from the rocket car, they can’t have been walking around for more than 15 minutes, before getting bundled into a bus. Since we can’t tell where the bus started, we can’t say how long this would have taken. So let’s think about this.

Nine and a half hours is the average amount of time it’d take a normal car to do the full journey. Let’s deduct the fifty minutes saved by the rocket car, then add another 10 for the extra slowness of travelling by bus. That gives us a total ‘on the road’ time of 8 hours 50 minutes. Are you still following along?

Their bus actually ends up closer to the station than the other racers, so let’s give them 1 minute of running time. So…

  • Airport travel and faff: 25 mins
  • Detour: 30 mins
  • Desert time: 1 hour
  • Second desert time: 15 mins
  • ‘On the road’ (initial car time + bus time – rocket car time): 8 hours 50 mins
  • Running to the station: 1 minute
  • Total: 11 hours and 1 minute

3.5 – The Pear Family

The Pears are a mother, father, son, and daughter enjoying a family holiday to Las Vegas. The father, Randy Pear (Jon Lovitz), is recruited into Sinclair’s race but neglects to tell the rest of the family about it, thinking that his wife wouldn’t approve. The lie he gives instead is that he has a job offer in Silver City (working in “ink, for fountain pens!). His family all believe this lie and they set out for the airport (10 mins journey time, 5 mins faff).

Like the others, they end up grounded so opt to drive to Silver City instead. His daughter needs the toilet soon after, and Randy makes her go out of the window of the moving car. He’s stopped by police as a result, probably being detained for about 10 mins.

They stop off at a ‘Barbie Museum’ on the way – which instead of being a museum about the popular doll, is in fact a museum about the SS officer Klaus Barbie. They spend about 15 minutes at the museum (why did they take the tour) before leaving to find that Duane and Blaine have sabotaged their car. Somehow they are able to steal what in the universe of this film is explicitly actual Hitler’s actual car. Which is apparently roadworthy and contains petrol.

A series of highly-plausible events take place where Randy smears black lipstick on his upper lip, burns both his tongue and middle finger with Hitler’s cigarette lighter, is attacked by bikers, crashes into a WW2 Allied veterans rally, and is shot at. But I can’t imagine this adding more than 30 minutes to the family’s overall journey.

After this, the family are next seen in a truck stop, wanting to quit the journey. Randy refuses to let them give up and illegally drugs them all, before bundling them into the back of a truck. Sleeping pills take about an hour to take effect, so let’s say they were at the stop for 1 hour 15 minutes.

The family then arrive in Silver City and spend the usual 2 minutes or so running to the station. Despite the diversions along the way, the family spent most of their journey on the road (in their car / Hitler’s car / the lorry), so using the standard 9.5 hours as the base time feels fair, with some fuzzy lines around the speed of the lorry and the reliability of Adolf Hitler’s car. So…

  • Airport: 15 mins
  • Police stop: 10 mins
  • Barbie Museum: 15 mins
  • Weird Nazi stuff: 30 mins
  • Road stop: 1 hour 15 mins
  • On-the-road time: 9 hours 30 mins
  • Running to the station: 2 mins
  • Total: 11 hours and 57 minutes

3.6 – Nick & Tracy

Nick and Tracy are unique amongst the racers in that, although they travel together, they didn’t know each other between the film. They agree to travel together (mostly because they happen to be reading the same biography of Charles Lindbergh) and a romantic element develops. But we can count them as one unit because all their timings should be the same.

So they both head to the airport (10 mins) but faff around for a bit longer. They strike up a conversation over the book, and Nick is excited to hear that Tracy can still fly as she’s a helicopter pilot and only the airplanes are grounded. Let’s call this another 10 mins of chat/plan time.

Now, if they’d just taken the helicopter the entire way they’d have easily won. Assuming the helicopter travelled at 160mph they could cover the 450 miles in about 2 hours 48 minutes – and probably land right near the station. But they don’t.

Instead, Tracy begins by flying the helicopter north – which Nick expresses some concern about. Tracy explains that it’s so they can visit her boyfriend. Where they end up isn’t clear, but it’s presumably a bit far east as well. After Tracy fights her boyfriend, they crash the helicopter and steal his truck.

In the next scene we see them, they’re sitting in a diner where Nick brags: “If everybody else had to drive, we have a three-hour head start.” Nick’s got a map in front of him, so we can take his word on that. So, let’s take our usual 9.5 hour calculation and subtract three hours to get six and a half hours driving time.

Not much else happens to them along the way. They spend a scene arguing with a mechanic who’s trying to rip them off. Call that 30 minutes. And they run out of petrol and stop to siphon some from a police car. But that can’t be more than 5 mins as the policeman drives off pretty sharpish to chase the brothers.

Does that all add up? This scene in the film geotemporally locates Nick, Tracy, Duane, and Blaine in the same spot. We could attempt to reconcile this all into one consistent timeline, but it doesn’t matter too much. We’re interested in how long each group would have taken, independently of each other anyway. Remember that the brothers still have to deal with the Monster Truck bit. We don’t see Nick and Tracy again until the end, with two minutes of running time to the station. So…

  • Airport: 20 mins
  • Driving: 6 hours 30 mins
  • Policeman: 5 mins
  • Mechanic: 30 mins
  • Running to the station: 2 mins
  • Total: 7 hours and 27 minutes

4. The Winners

We have a winner! Here’s the countdown:

Sixth place: The Pear Family (11 hours 57 minutes)

The Pears spent a good deal of time hitting the road, but racked up way too much stoppage time. The lag on the sleeping pills is a particular hard-hitter. And the Nazi Museum was just unnecessary altogether.

Fifth place: Owen Templeton (11 hours 47 minutes)

A surprisingly high ranking for someone left to die in the desert. But even a solid commitment to driving a coach under stressful conditions sees Templeton just missing out on a spot in the top four.

Fourth place: Vera and Merrill (11 hours 1 minute)

The rocket car wasn’t enough to help the girls out and claw back time from two separate sections of them carless in the desert.

Third place: Duane & Blaine (10 hours and 36 minutes)

The brothers ruined everyone’s plans with their airport sabotage and this ruthlessness saw them through to making up good time on the road. But it wasn’t enough in the end.

Second place: Enrico Pollini (9 hours and 45 minutes)

Incredible scenes from the plucky Italian. Despite falling asleep at the starting block, Pollini really ‘hauled ass’ to almost make it into first place. Of course, within the film itself he makes it there first, but we can’t ignore the reality that there is no rail station in Silver City. So he just misses out.

First place: Nick & Tracy (7 hours 27 minutes)

They had a bloody helicopter. Of course they won.

Whether they used it all the way or not, the “three hour” head start is simply too much of an advantage to ignore. We’ve established that travelling by air is the most efficient way to win this race and since they were the only two able to take advantage of it, they were the clear favourites from the outset.

5. Concluding remarks

Rat Race clearly isn’t a film meant to be taken this seriously. The fact that all the characters end up in basically the same place at the same time isn’t the result of careful and deliberate planning by the screenwriters – it’s just a convenience for the sake of the plot.

But I think we can conclude that if an eccentric billionaire offers you the chance to win $2m dollars in a race, you should probably go find a helicopter pilot as soon as possible. And don’t trust women who sell squirrels.

I’ve probably made some basic errors in the above, so please do let me know if you spot anything. Or have a go at doing all the calculations yourself. It’s only taken me five and a  half hours!

Now, let’s all enjoy some Smashmouth.


Further reading:

In my research for this… thing, I really enjoyed this article about the plotholes of Rat Race. It really is a very silly film.

Why is Foghorn Leghorn called Foghorn Leghorn?

Foghorn Leghorn is a terrifying chicken monster featured in the Warner Bros. Looney Tunes cartoons. He speaks with an inexplicable Southern accent and is generally pretty unlikable.

But why the hell is he called ‘Foghorn Leghorn’??!?!!  I don’t understand why this is his name. Why does he need to have the word “HORN” twice in his name.

Like…. his first name is FOGHORN? As in the actual thing that warns ships about fog during fog? That’s not a good name for a rooster. It’s pretty much the worst name. Don’t call your chicken monster Foghorn.

And if you MUST give your chicken character the first name ‘Foghorn’, then WHY ON EARTH would you give him the surname LEGHORN.

A LEGHORN IS NOT EVEN A THING. WHAT WOULD THAT EVEN BE??? LIKE… A HORN FOR YOUR LEGS?

NO NOT A SHOEHORN. A SHOE HORN IS A REAL THING. IT’S NOT A HORN, REALLY. BUT AT LEAST IT’S AN OBJECT THAT EXISTS WITHIN OUR UNIVERSE. THERE ARE NO LEG HORNS.

Ok. So I looked it up and apparently he’s named after a character from some 40s radio show called Senator Claghorn. I guess that explains one of the horns. BUT NOT TWO.

He should be called Chicken Man. 

The most embarrassing thing that ever happened to me.

Get ready to cringe.

It was a hot summer’s day. About thirteen years ago. And 15 year-old me was doing what 15 year-old me would typically be doing on a hot summer’s day: staying inside playing computer games.

Somehow, I managed to tear my eyes away from the screen to go look out a window. Specifically the window from the computer room (mother’s bedroom). And who do I see from the window? Our sweet little cat: Splat.

Splat was having a little sunbathe. It was a lovely sight. She was on her back, soaking in the warmth. So I gave her a little wave.

A nice little wave. Just trying to get her attention.

For some reason I started throwing in some coos. Like “coo-ee! hello there! coo-ee!!”. Y’know, like baby talk for cats. It didn’t do much, because cats hate attention and live to ignore you. But it made me happy – waving and cooing.

But then I noticed something.

The window from my mother’s bedroom didn’t just overlook our garden. You could also see into next door’s garden. And in my excitement about the cat, I hadn’t looked next door. And I really should have.

Because someone else was also sunbathing that day. Out next door neighbour. He was having a little lie down with his top off, just catching some rays.

And he was staring right at me.

I can only imagine what he must have thought. A young teenage boy leaning out a window, smiling and cooing at him. (Because he could see there wasn’t anyone in our garden).

Needless to say, I ducked down below the window with a speed I don’t I’ve ever matched again in my lifetime. I think I was lying down entirely flat on the ground for about five minutes. And I knew I’d just have to repress the memory until either they moved out, or I did.

And now I’ve shared it on the internet for the whole world to enjoy. Thanks for reading!

Please enjoy this selection of All Star meme videos

There was a trend early last year of making meme videos around Smash Mouth’s 1999 hit “All Star”. And today I want to revisit some of the best content that came out of that trend.

2018 memes are pretty boring for me. They’re standardised to the point of redundancy. I’ll write a longer blog post about this at some point, but I’m sick of seeing ‘three thing’ memes consisting of a trifecta of me // thing i like or should do // thing i don’t like or shouldn’t do. Literally they all follow this format: distracted boyfriend, ‘off ramp’, ‘bowling’, ‘gru’s plan’, ‘Jason Momoa Sneaking Up on Henry Cavill’, ‘is this a pigeon’. It’s all awful and contributing the internet hellscape we are all living in.

So 2017 Smash Mouth video memes an oasis of purity in this desolate wasteland of content. Let’s start off with something simple.

‘All Star’ by Smash Mouth, but all notes are in C

This is fun! I love when people take songs and mess around with the keys and stuff, like the major version of REM’s Losing my Religion.

This is especially fun because of how annoying it immediately gets. You’re so used to hearing the song rise and fall in pitch that hearing it entirely in one key is extremely frustrating. Good luck making it through the whole thing.

All Star but the melody is digitally remastered to be 200% more depressing

Actually quite moving.

SMASH MOUTH – ALL STAR BUT IT’S 1 BEAT OFF

This is so so so annoying. But it must be the hardest thing in the world to do, so I have nothing but respect for it.

“All Star” but it’s Sweet Home Alabama

This is when things start getting real good. Changing Smash Mouth to fit a different song. Especially when it’s a song as stupid as Sweet Home Alabama.

All Star but it’s Walking On The Sun by Santana feat. Rob Thomas

But it doesn’t have to be another band’s song! In this video, All Star is crunched up to fit into the lyrical tempo of another Smash Mouth song: ‘Walking On The Sun’. And in the video it’s played by Santana feat. Rob Thomas for some reason.

“All Star” by Smash Mouth, but only using the sounds and beats on my synth (and Ten Second Songs)

Here it is in a whole bunch of different genres! How fun!

All Star but it’s Donald Trump saying “covfefe”

Lol, I’d forgotten about the whole covfefe thing. Was that ever explained?

All Star by Smashmouth but every other word is reversed

Now we delve into the sub-genre of “but every word” videos. In this one, every other word is reversed. Why not every word? I don’t know!

“All Star” by Smashmouth but every word is someBODY

Sure, make EVERY word somebody. Why not? God is dead.

Allstar but every word is in alphabetical order

They sure do say “All Star” a lot.

All Star but the words are ordered by scrabble score

Just very very good.

All Star but “star” is replaced with Gordon Ramsay insults

Lmao. I love how long some of the clips are.

All Star but it’s played on the sharpest tool in my shed

Does what it says on the tin.

All Star But It’s Beethoven’s 5th Symphony in C Minor (1st mov.)

Similar to the ‘Smash Mouth mixed up with other pop songs’ genre, there’s another genre of All Star in the style of classical music. Sorry to all musicians.

All Star but it’s a Bach chorale following the conventions of the Common Practice Period

This is the one that convinced me All Star videos would be the greatest meme of all time. Not only is it a fantastic idea, but it’s perfectly executed. It’s not just a cheap joke, it’s fully backed up with knowledge and expertise. Kudos to the creator.

“All Star” by Smash Mouth but it’s Pachelbel’s Canon

The absolute pinnacle of the form. A modern masterpiece. The perfect bridge of modern and classical music. The zenith of human creativity and perfection.

And an honourable mention goes to…

Steamed Hams but it’s All Star

Delightfully devilish!

Review: Gibraltar

This is a travel blog now.

Just joking, I still hate travel bloggers. And there’s nowhere more ‘wanderlust’ than the glorious sights and sounds of the overseas British territory of Gibraltar.

Again, I’m joking. But I did actually go to Gibraltar this week and I have some thoughts about it. So I’m just going to leave them here if that’s ok with you.

Why Gibraltar?

Good question! Every single person I’ve told about my holiday has asked why on Earth I’d go to Gibraltar. The answer is a bit complicated, but basically boils down to this: I wanted to go somewhere abroad, it’s an easy country to visit, and it’s always kinda fascinated me.

This is a postcard I bought in 2010, and I always found it really interesting. You can see pretty much all of Gibraltar there (it’s only 2.6 square miles big). And you’ll notice that it’s dominated by a MASSIVE GREAT BIG ROCK. Just the idea of there being a settlement living under the shadow of this nightmarish geographic landscape is really cool, in my opinion.

And in person it’s even more amazing. Here’s the view from outside the hotel I was staying in:

Wherever you are in Gibraltar, the Rock looms over you. Ever-present, ominous, quasi-Lovecraftian in nature. Like imagine if Brighton just had a huge mountain in the middle of it, and everything had to be built around it. It feels like some rule has been broken. It’s distinctly unnatural, and genuinely spooky at times.

But yeah, that’s probably reading too much into what is basically just a big rock. It’s just very impressive.

It’s also COVERED IN ADORABLE MONKEYS.

Well, I say ‘adorable.’ They’re still wild animals, they’re just used to being around humans. So they’re not friendly in any sense. They mostly just ignore you, unless you have food – in which case they turn into the most vicious claw and tooth machines ever known. So yeah.

There’s even more mysteries to be found within the rock itself. Like these gnarly caves:

Or these old war tunnels:

There’s apparently more miles of road within the Rock of Gibraltar than outside/around it – which is pretty nuts. A lot of it is still secreted away, and used for various military purposes. So that’s fun too!

So that’s the Geography of Gibraltar. What of its history? Turns out it’s ALSO REALLY INTERESTING.

Gibraltar was first permanently settled upon around 711 AD by the Moorish, led by Berber general Tariq ibn-Ziyad. They named the place after him too: ‘Jebel’ being Arabic for ‘mount’ and ‘Tariq’ being the dude’s name. Thus Jebel Tariq (Tariq’s Mount), becoming Gibraltar over the years.

HOW INTERESTING IS THAT.

Oh, and Gibraltar stayed under Muslim rule for about SEVEN HUNDRED YEARS. The legacy of these centuries can still be seen today with things like a pretty battered Moorish castle on the Rock, a beautiful mosque to the south, and – of course – the monkeys, brought over from North Africa.

Then like French and Spain and the Netherlands for some reason and the British fought over it for a few hundred years. And since 1713 it’s been under British control.

I spoke to a few Gibraltans, and they’re a very proud people. They’re proud to be British but not in the flag-waving ‘well EDL’ sense that we associate with that phrase. Gibraltar is a unique part of the world, with a dense history. The people there understand how unusual their situation is and couldn’t be happier to be living in a little part of Britain out in the big wide world.

It’s hard to capture exactly what I’m trying to say here, but my overriding sense was that the people aren’t just a bunch of nationalist ex-pats who have a weird thing for British colonisation – which I think is the assumption most people have. They’re mostly pretty cool.

So let’s quickly talk about the whole British thing. Sigh.

In Gibraltar I went to Morrisons, Marks &  Spencer, Costa Coffee, Debenhams, and a WH Smith. How horrific I hear you cry, going all that way just to go to the same shops we have here. Remember, Gibraltar is a British territory. It’s not actually Spain. Of course it’s going to have the same shops as us. Likewise with the red letter boxes and British policemen. What do you expect them to do differently?

If it helps, don’t think of it as abroad at all. Just think of it as another part of the UK that takes a while to get to, and has much much nicer weather. Because that’s basically what it is.

BUT HOW WAS THE FOOD RICHARD

Meh. The default cuisine seems to be ‘fish and chips’ – partly as a result of the whole ‘British heritage’ thing, and partly because it’s a coastal region so fish is like all they’ve got. I had some VERY NICE seafood though – like these skewers.

Or this very tasty paella:

I also had this weird thing, which is a fillet steak stuffed with king prawns:

The brininess of the prawns kinda ruined the steak for me, but I had to try it. Holidays are all about new experiences after all, right?

But yeah, don’t go there for the food. Go there for stuff like this:

This is Catalan Bay – a small village on the eastern side of the rock. There’s a few bars/restaurants along the seafront and a big hotel (where I stayed), but apart from that it’s super quiet and mostly residential.

When I first arrived I thought I’d screwed up. I was on the wrong side of the Rock to the rest of town. That meant I couldn’t easily just walk in and check things out. But this turned out to be a good thing. The main town area is really busy, loud, and touristy. On the other hand, this quiet little bay was pretty much perfect for just chilling out. And buses ran every 15 minutes into town (a 15 minute journey itself), with a day rider ticket costing £2.50.

I’d recommend doing the same if you visit. Staying in town looks like it might just be a bit too aggro.

So in conclusion

Gibraltar is a really interesting place. It’s got a rich history, fascinating geography, and a unique blend of a tropical climate with British culture. It might not be for everyone, but it’s for more people than I think would expect to like it. And I’m glad I went.


Why Gibraltar?

I want to return to this question. I didn’t just go to Gibraltar because I wanted to look at a big rock and some monkeys. It was also a personal challenge to myself. I’ve never been away on holiday on my own before, and I wanted to see if I could do it, or if my anxiety would win. Because being alone on holiday is involves a whole load of things that trigger my anxiety:

  • Travelling alone
  • Eating alone
  • Being alone in public
  • Navigating unfamiliar places
  • Logistical organisation (booking flights, hotels, etc)

And I find it really hard to relax in general. The GAD-7 questionnaire for anxiety (which I have to do every week at the moment) asks if you’re having trouble relaxing as part of the scoring. And honestly, I find it difficult to relax most of the time! Like, I can’t just go and sit down and chill – I have to be occupied. (I’m no good at just ‘going to sit in the sun’ for example, which makes summer difficult). On this holiday, I wanted to see if I could actually do it: relaxing, in an atmosphere that is extremely conducive to relaxing.

That’s why I picked Gibraltar. Having a familiar language, and a shared currency means visiting it was super easy. The usual things I worry about on holiday (the language is a big one!) were eliminated. I could just get a taxi from the airport, explain where I wanted to go, and pay using the same notes and coins I already had in my wallet. The place is small enough that you can’t really get lost, and there wasn’t too much worry of being ‘late’ for anything. (There was just one point where I got anxious because I couldn’t find a coach I needed to get). Basically, I set myself an easy target.

I even managed to relax! I spent half a day just sitting in one of the restaurants by the sea, drinking beers, eating seafood, and reading in the sun. And I felt kinda… content? Like I didn’t need anything else in that moment. And that’s weird for me. I wish I could feel like that more often.

So I succeeded. I proved to myself that my anxiety doesn’t have to stop me from doing things. And I learnt that I am capable of feeling relaxed (in the right circumstances). Of course, now I’m back in London I’m immediately feeling stressed and worried again. But at least I know it’s possible.

What’s the deal with Mr Mime?

This frickin’ guy.

What on earth’s going on here then?

Mr Mime is the 122nd Pokémon character in Generation I of the Pokedex (the Pokémon encyclopedia). It’s a Psychic type Pokémon, and it’s Pokedex entries reads as follows:

If interrupted while it is miming, it will slap around the offender with its broad hands.

It specialises in producing psychic barriers, in a mime-like fashion by creating invisible walls.

So, it’s pretty clear then: Mr Mime is a Pokémon, not a human. Even though he looks exactly like a human. It’s a Pokémon that is just called “Mr Mime” as if it was a human. Because… reasons?

See, that’s why it’s confusing to me. Why does a Pokémon get a honorific as if it was a person. And why is that name so descriptive of their behaviour? It’s like if Charizard was called “Mrs Fire-Breather”, or Pikachu was called “Dr Lightning”.

And that’s another thing! “Mr Mime” is the name of the species. And yet obviously the species contains both male and female specimens. What kind of cryptopatriachial nonsense is going on here where all members of the species are assumed male by default?

OH AND IT GETS EVEN MORE CONFUSING

Like all Pokémon, Mr Mime can only say one thing: its own name. SO MR MIME WALKS AROUND MIMING AND SAYING MR MIME.

POKEMON I DO NOT UNDERSTAND YOU

Also Mr Mime supposedly evolves from this hideous thing.

Image result for mime jr

I hate it.

An appreciation of Andy Kaufman’s SNL Screen Test

The subject of Andy Kaufman is one which it’s pretty trendy to be into these days. As Neutral Milk Hotel are to music, or Infinite Jest is to literature, Kaufman is the go-to mainstream obscurity of comedy.

But, as with those other two things, I can’t help but be fascinated by him. So I voraciously devour any and all content to do with him. Just this year I’ve watched Man on the Moon twice (and adored the Jim Carey doc about its production – “Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond”), watched countless interviews with him, that legendary Carnegie Hall show, and read Bill Zehme’s comprehensive biography: Lost in the Funhouse.

But this post isn’t about Andy Kaufman’s life, or why he’s so amazing. ((Of course, it is really)). Instead, I want to focus on one short piece of video that to me is the pinnacle of what he was about, and just an incredible performance in itself. Not necessarily of performance comedy per se, but of a performer doing something and getting a reaction from the audience. It’s that relationship between the two that is fascinating to me, and something I think Andy had complete mastery of.

BUT IMMA SHUT UP AND LET YOU WATCH THIS

The title of the video claims that it’s Andy Kaufman’s SNL audition tape, but I don’t think that’s 100% accurate. From what I can gather it’s more of a screen test – just checking how you look and come across on camera. In any case, it’s a chance to perform something on camera like a monologue, which is what Andy does here.

Well, I say ‘monologue’. But technically he’s reciting a song. Specifically, MacArthur Park – a song by Jimmy Webb, and most famously performed by Richard Harris (aka FIRST DUMBLEDORE). And what you’ll probably notice is how incredible mad the lyrics are.

Like, it’s a song about leaving a cake out in the rain? Listening to the Richard Harris version you can easily gloss over the lyrics, and come away with the impression that it’s a pretty standard love song or something. But really focussing on the lyrics – as Andy forces us to do in this clip – reveals how asburd they are.

According to Wikipedia: ‘The Jimmy Webb-penned “MacArthur Park” is popularly held as the worst song ever written‘ [source]. The lyrics are patently nonsense, even by the standards of the 1960s. So is Andy just picking a deliberately awful song and doing a dramatic reading of it? Is that the joke here?

Sure, dramatic readings of songs are a staple of comedy. It’s pretty much standard fare for American Late Night Talk Show content. And it’s usually pretty fun.

But there’s something extra about Kaufman deliberately picking an unpopular song. A song that’s widely ridiculed and disregarded. Taking that and treating it with the upmost seriousness. So the joke isn’t just “ha ha these lyrics are dumb lol” but “what if this song was actually amazing?”. It’s the classic Kaufman manoeuvre, to not only subvert your expectations, but to make you question them in the first place. As I’ve seen other writers say: Kaufman knew how to make you wonder.

And it’s that sense of wonder that shines through in this piece. It literally radiates out from his eyes – those bright beacons of child-like excitement. Look at him at the start, hands-on-the-table looking around the room like a toddler sitting in front of a birthday cake. How he never breaks character throughout, flashes a ‘dumb’ grin to the people around him, seems to have an alien-like fascination with what everyone is finding so funny. It’s so far removed from “I am comedian and here is a joke”, it’s a fully realised and expertly-delivered performance. And the performance itself is a performance, if that makes sense.

Diving a bit deeper into the details, watch the actual delivery of the monologue – which he goes through twice. Watching the first pass, it appears awkward and unprepared. He fumbles the very first word (“s… spring was..”), and mispronounces “striped”. But then they ask him to do it again.

And the second time is exactly the same as the first. The ‘s’ is fumbled again, ‘striped’ is tackled in the same way. We have to conclude that these are deliberate parts of the performance, expertly rehearsed and included. Why fumble the first word? Maybe to start the whole thing off badly, or to create awkward tension for the rest of the rendition to inhabit. Only Andy knows for sure. And it’s the idea of him knowing these secrets that I find compelling. Again, he make you wonder.

And then there’s the weird Superman bit at the end. It kinda comes out of nowhere, which I like. We go from two tenderly performed monologues, to a completely random piece with the weirdest southern accent. It shows Andy’s range, and his ability to make comedy out of just about anything. And again, afterwards he smiles and looks around at the reaction, seemingly oblivious to what we’re all finding so incredible – like a dog happily looking up as strangers fawn over it.

Is it comedy? Sure. If we take something, hang it up in an art gallery, and critics respond to it, that seems to be enough to call it “art”. Likewise, a performance for SNL that makes its audience laugh, seems to fulfil the sufficient conditions to be considered “comedy”. Call it anti-comedy or surrealist humour if you want. But there’s more to it than just the absence of traditional comedic elements like punchlines or even jokes.

Kaufman himself often rejected the title of comedian and would sometimes refer to himself as a “song and dance man” (or was that, too, just part of the bit?). A lot of his stuff was just him singing songs, or doing other traditional performances – like his bongo drumming. But at a fundamental level, it’s the same: establishing a relationship between performer and audience.

Andy didn’t care what the nature of that relationship was. If they liked him, fine. If they hated him, fine too. His Tony Clifton persona was deliberately obnoxious. His wrestling career (where he did things like fight women live on TV) was an exercise in garnering hatred. SNL audiences eventually voted him off the show, such was the level of vitriol he ended up generating. In a sense these were all successes: the audience were feeling something.

And that’s what we get from this tape. We feel confused, amused, entertained, full of wonder. We want to see more, but we also don’t really know what we’re seeing. Even taking a step back and viewing it ‘as a performance’ doesn’t help, as for Andy the lines between performance and reality were so blurred.

His whole life a performance, and we’re still his audience. And we’re still wondering.

The best kids sweets that I can remember

Happy bank holiday weekend. Let’s do this.

1. Zappers

Image result for zappers sweets

These ultra-sour bubblegums were like my favourite thing ever. Seriously, these things could turn your face inside out. They were sweet, and lost their flavour after like five seconds. But they were delicious and I loved them.

2. Campino

Image result for zappers sweets

These were just great. Individually wrapped hard candies about the size of a 50p coin – which had a kind of vague ‘strawberries and cream’ flavour. And they lasted a while too. One of these suckers could keep you busy for half an hour. Yum!

3. Bubbaloo

Image result for zappers sweets

Bubblegum with delicious juicy sugar juice inside. Errr….. YES.

4. Melody Pops

Image result for melody pop

These were great! Lollipops that also worked as a functional whistle! They even came with a little musical score in the wrapper that you could follow along to play a little tune. After a while, the tube would become clogged up with what I can only describe as ‘your own spit’, but until then it was a lot of fun. Tasty too.

5. Rainbow Dust

Image result for rainbow dust

Absolute crack. A super long tube of sherbert, which changed flavour as you went down the tube. One of these and you’d be running around the garden all afternoon long. Again, the tube could get spit-clogged pretty quickly – but a handy pair of scissors would fix that right up.

6. Roll-up bubblegum

Image result for rollup bubblegum

Do they still make these? Well, in any case, it’s a long strip of bubblegum that rolls up into a little case. So you could unspool the amount you wanted to eat, and save the rest for later! Or be like me, an absolute madman, and just take a full bite out of it anyway.

7. Frosties

Image result for 90s sweets

These were great. “Kola flavour” candies, that were hard on the outside – but chewy inside. Probably the quickest and cost efficient way to destroy your teeth.

8. Toffo

Image result for toffo

Toffo! What ever happened to Toffo? It was literally just a bar of individually wrapped toffees, and they were delicious. Sure, the wrappers would stick to the toffees like 95% of the time, but it was worth it!

9. Candy Sticks

Image result for 90s sweets

Just the king of sweets. Specifically these soft candy sticks from Barratt though – none of those hard ones.


Thanks for reading, I guess. (I only wrote this to stop my brain my atrophying over the BHW but hopefully you enjoyed reading it too).