Wednesday, 29 April 2009

When Real Life And My Computer Collide

What with not having an absolutely excellent grip on reality, WhyNotSmile tends to forget that virtual people are not the same as real people, but that sometimes they do nevertheless have a common root in that curious thing known as Real Life, so that people on her computer are connected in some way to people she may meet at, for instance, her new housemate's housewarming party, which was timed to coincide with Anzac Day, which is not normally An Excuse For A Party.

Which is a roundabout way of saying I met Alan in Belfast the other night. He owns a zebra called Zeddy, which I thought was nice.

And this weekend I may at long last get to meet Ministry of Traybakes, who is married to Virtual Methodist, with whom I have been in a room several times, but to whom I have never spoken (I should clarify that there have always been other people in the room; it's not that I sat in one corner while VM paced the floor at the other end of the room).

So I might add them to the blogroll. We'll see.

Anyway, the occasion (do you know, I never know how to spell that) of meeting Ministry of Traybakes is that she is speaking at our church's Community Service this coming Sunday. I think it should have a better name than Community Service, because sounds like the sort of thing you might do in a mucky ditch while wearing a fluorescent jacket, and we wouldn't want to discourage anyone from coming, especially since that's not really what it's about. We would call it Community Sunday, but then, for completeness, we would have to weave it into the evening service somehow, and that makes it all more complex.

But the point is that I got talked into being interviewed for a video which will be shown at the service, and I talked nonsense and giggled a lot, and am therefore hoping the video gets axed, or at least that all the bits of me talking end up on the cutting room floor.

Monday, 20 April 2009


Still on the topic of TV. What is it with Susan Boyle? You know, the lady from Britain's Got Talent?

Now, I don't wish to come across as all cynical; nor am I trying to bash Ms Boyle - she seems like a lovely person, and she certainly has a good voice.

But, really. It's 2009. And we're patting ourselves on the back for realising that you don't need to pluck your eyebrows to be able to sing?

Saturday, 18 April 2009

TV Times

It has been some time now since I have owned a television. For reasons I have yet to fathom, this tends to surprise people ('But how do you survive?' 'How do you know what's happening in the world?' 'Isn't your house really quiet?' - er, 'I have a lifetime supply of canned goods', 'the internet', and 'yes, thankfully').

Anyway, one cannot avoid tv entirely, and every now and then I get top-ups in the form of The Guardian's Lucy Mangan, other people's Facebook statuses, and being at my parents' house. Most pleasing, of course, is when two or more of these combine into what we can describe as a 'fuller picture', and as you may already have guessed, one such moment has recently presented itself.

First, some Background Events.

I'm sure we have all heard of The Apprentice. Now, since I tuned out of televisual entertainment at around the time that Gareth Gates stuttered his way into the hearts of a million housewives, I had only ever heard of this via third parties. Many Facebook statuses had declared 'such-and-such is loving The Apprentice', 'such-and-such is lying on the sofa with a bottle of wine, watching The Apprentice', 'such-and-such thinks so-and-so should win The Apprentice', and so on; occasionally these pronouncements had even been by people for whom I had a level of respect, and therefore it had seemed that The Apprentice might actually be Not Too Bad. The premise, as you will no doubt be aware, is that a chap called Sir Alan Sugar wants to hire an apprentice for his business empire; he is keen on 'keeping costs down', and therefore decided it would be financially savvy to do this via reality television, rather than, say, a recruitment agency. So we all get to watch various over-confident people stuffing up what ought to be fairly straightforward tasks, and then blaming each other. Splendid stuff, frankly.

Furthermore, several weeks ago in The Guardian, Lucy Mangan was waxing unlyrical about 'The Speaker', another reality-tv programme devised by the BBC as, we can only assume, a warning on Where Things Will Go If You Don't Let Us Put Licence Fees Up. The premise of this offering is an attempt to find Britain's best young public speaker, by way of watching them audition. As Mangan says, already death seems like the better option.

So it was with great delight that I discovered that both of these delights are on on Wednesday evenings, and would therefore be available during the Easter Visit To The Parents.

So I get to The Parents, and find they are both at work (rather unfortunately, since I had mixed up their back door key and my own back door key, meaning I couldn't actually get into the house, and had to drive to Mama Smile's work before getting myself across the threshold). I curl up on the sofa, pick up the first in a pile of trashy magazines (which, in my mother's defence, she is given by my Great-Aunt, who likes them for the crosswords; we may at some point come back to said magazines in a future post), turn on the TV and wait. And wait, and wait. And realise I pressed the wrong button on the remote (because they hadn't invented DVD players and HD-thingy boxes when I stopped watching, so it's much more complicated now). And press the correct one. And am presented with some feck-awful show with that bloke with the orange face trying to flog antiques to chaps who wear jackets with leather patches on the elbows. But I watch it anyway, because there's nothing else to do.

Anyway, eventually (6 hours later) my patience is rewarded, and 'The Speaker' comes on. And oh. my. glorious. life. it. is. every. bit. as. bad. as. I. expected, and possibly worse. Excellent. The 8 young hopefuls are taken to Althorp House and given the task of conducting guided tours.

I immediately have nasty feelings towards Duncan, a boy with the sort of enthusiasm generally reserved for a WI meeting to which the Lord Mayor pays a long-awaited visit. I am also not keen on Jordan, who seems more confident than his talents would necessarily merit, and who delivered his audition speech on 'The Education System'. Gag. Add to the mix Irene (who could burst into tears at any time, and is virtually overwhelmed by there being a picture gallery), Keke (who almost threatens a takeover of the estate) and several others in a similar vein, and of course I am irretrievably sucked in.

Naturally, the Smile family expend much merriment in laughing at the contestants. There is, of course, a school of thought which says that you shouldn't mock people who are doing things that you couldn't do yourself, and indeed it is quite true that WhyNotSmile could never in a million years do the sorts of things these youngsters are doing on national television. I'm afraid I am simply too compassionate; I have too much concern for my fellow man.

For what it's worth, my money's on Thomas (?), who endeared himself to me simply by not saying much.

And so, on to The Apprentice. The contestants are almost unanimously obnoxious. My personal favourite is Ben, the Northern Irish one, who is so adorably self-unaware that he could be put in a little cage and people would pay just to see him talk. Furthermore, we are now - I believe - on series 5 of this programme, and you would think that the people who enter would at least have watched previous series and grasped some basic concepts which would help them to progress, but, thankfully, it seems not.

So the contestants are split into 2 teams ('Empire' and 'Ignite' - sorry, what is this? Ice breakers on a mission team orientation weekend?), and are tasked with producing some beauty products, and selling them. Whichever team makes the most profit wins.

Now, initially I am thinking that this looks quite hard - who knows how to make soap, after all? Where do you source all the plastic bottles for bubble bath? But it transpires that they are to be taken to the Lush factory, where they basically choose product type, ingredients and packaging, and then make it all into sellable products and flog it on Portabello Road. This, you would think, would not be a difficult task for the 'top young business minds in the country'; you would, of course, be utterly wrong, but at least you would be entertained by the resulting farce.

One team manage to decide that it would be a good idea to make soap with actual bits of honeycomb inside (I mean, seriously); thankfully, after finding that it disintegrates into a sticky mess on contact with water, they have the wit to lie to potential customers ('Once you use it a couple of times, it turns into proper soap'), and therefore manage to make a respectable profit. The other team mix up two different types of oil, inadvertently selecting the one which is 1000 times more expensive than they think, and then proceed to use too much of it; the best bit about this is when they realise that making their soap has cost them £750, rather than 'about a fiver'.

I was so hooked that when I got home, I went straight onto iPlayer and caught up on the previous episodes in the series. More gems, and yet so many more questions. Who in their right minds, for instance, when planning a sophisticated drinks party for important city lawyers, would consider it appropriate to have 4 pale young men dressed in togas serving the canapes? Ah, the 'top young business minds in the country', apparently. Or at least, half of them.

All of which makes you think: if these are the future speakers and top business minds in the country, we're fecked.

Sunday, 12 April 2009

Happy Easter

I think perhaps this is my favourite Easter-y song, at the moment (other than the classics, such as 'Thine Be The Glory', and so on):

I'm not sure whether it is legal for it to be on YouTube, so I shall suggest that you all go and buy it, and therefore this is technically a free advert for Robin Mark, and I am sure he will not mind.

Warning: there are some naff pictures in the accompanying 'video'; please do not be distressed. There are also some quite good pictures, which is unusual for a Christian video.


Thursday, 9 April 2009

Guide To The Resurrection

Now WhyNotSmile is not one to go with the flow, but when she heard of the Evangelical Alliance's Syncronised Blogging Day today, she had to admit to being sucked right in.

Today's topic is to be The Resurrection. WhyNotSmile is never good when she is forced to write on a given topic (or when forced to do anything really), so she is a little uncertain as to how to approach this, but will, as ever, give it her best shot.

I think the best approach is simply to provide a Guide To The Resurrection, for the uninformed. Indeed, with a recent survey showing that only 22% of people surveyed know what Easter is about, I think I would be providing a public service by doing so.

We will begin with the basics: Easter is a Christian celebration which was hijacked from the Pagans (who called it Eostre, but with a line above the E); Christians had been celebrating Easter for a long time before this, but just hadn't called it Easter. I do not know why they hijacked Eostre specifically (I could probably look it up on Wikipedia, but frankly, so can you), but I suspect it was for the chocolate eggs, and also the whole thing with Spring arriving (in the Northern Hemisphere anyway), and bunnies and chicks and so on reminding us of new life, which is a bit like resurrection. This would be because Easter marks the death and resurrection of Jesus, whose surname was Christ* and after whom Christians are named.

*not really; Christ means 'anointed', and is therefore regal.

Now, you may or may not be aware that this week (due to being the week before Easter) is Holy Week, and that today is Maundy Thursday (yesterday having been Spy Wednesday, Holy Wednesday or Great Wednesday, depending on your tradition). Maundy Thursday commemorates the Last Supper, which took place on the night before Jesus' crucifixion, and is therefore Solemn, but Not As Solemn As Good Friday. This is why lots of churches have services on Maundy Thursday, and when people come out they look a bit sad. Sometimes these services are held in one church with other churches in the area all attending in a show of Christian Unity; this is the sort of occasion which would normally involve tea, traybakes and polite conversation in a slightly-too-small-for-so-many-people church hall, and with the-ladies-don't-normally-cater-for-quite-so-many-and-are-having-to-use-the-big-dishwasher type conversations, but for Maundy Thursday there is not so much as a Rice Krispie bun, and although Holy Communion will often be served, it is not to be considered to be refreshments.

Now, the Last Supper may have connections with the Passover meal, but that is a topic for the Advanced Guide To The Resurrection and we shall not dwell on it here. Essentially it was the last meal that Jesus and the disciples (12 blokes who followed him about, mostly saying dumb things a lot) ate together before Jesus was crucified. Also it was supper, hence the name. During the meal, Jesus announced that one of the disciples would betray him and later said that Peter would deny him, which you've got to imagine was a bit of a conversation killer. A bloke called Leonardo Da Vinci painted a picture of them all and then a bloke called Dan Brown got a little carried away and wrote a book about it.

Also on this night, Jesus prayed in a garden which was called Gethsemane, while the disciples fell asleep. You will have spotted by now that the disciples do not come out of this part of the story entirely well; you may also be starting to see why Rice Krispie buns are not appropriate.

Tomorrow will be Good Friday, and this commemorates the day on which Jesus was crucified, and provides an excellent excuse to eat Hot Cross Buns. The original Good Friday was rather a hectic sort of day, with a full-blown attempt at a trial, a near-riot, and a crucifixion all happening before mid-afternoon; the essential point, however, was that Jesus claimed to be the Son of God and that the people of the day took exception to this. It is interesting to note that the whole issue of forgiveness of sins is not, in fact, an integral part of the story as originally told by Your Man On The Streets Of Jerusalem That Day, although that's not to say it hadn't been mentioned before then.

Now it could all have ended there, and indeed on Easter Saturday there is a sense of not a lot happening (although it's probably worth taking the chance to get some bread and milk in, cos the shops will be closed till Tuesday at least), but then on Easter Sunday, the disciples and some women, or a combination thereof, went to the tomb where Jesus had been buried (which had been sealed up and had guards posted on it because Jesus had said he would rise from the dead, which was a bit of a giveaway prediction and yet still didn't stop it happening, thus demonstrating contemporary parallels with the current financial situation, having been anticipated months ago and carrying on regardless), and discovered several unexpected features, such as:
(1) the stone and guards having disappeared
(2) there being no body in the tomb
(3) a ruddy great angel sitting on top of the whole shebang, or weeding the garden, or something.

Now, points (1) and (2) could perhaps suggest that the disciples had followed the wrong map or something (hardly surprising given their performance so far), but the fact that they had women with them and the inclusion of point (3) do not lend weight to this theory.

Anyway, this is called The Resurrection, and is celebrated on Easter Sunday, and gives rise to the tradition of egg rolling, in which boiled eggs are rolled down hills to commemorate the stone being rolled away from the tomb. They are also decorated, but I do not think this is to commemorate anything; I think it is to keep the children quiet for longer.

The Resurrection is also the central point of Christian belief, what with the whole 'Jesus conquering death' thing and how Jesus took upon himself God's punishment for the sins of all people everywhere and therefore we can all conquer death and live forever, but also have life in all its fullness because of the forgiveness of our sins and the Holy Spirit and so on.

And this concludes the WhyNotSmile Guide To The Resurrection, but it is probably not as good as the version in the Bible, and you should maybe go and read that now as well; you will also discover that the disciples got it together in the end, and this may give us pause to wonder whether we would have done anything differently.

Edit: I am also supposed to direct you all to Slipstream, which is where this whole thing is organised (the simultaneous blogging, not the resurrection). And they have podcasts. With Experts.

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

An Invitation

I have just spent the afternoon in our church youth centre, building a prayer room. Well, not building the room as such, but turning the existing room into a room in which it will be a pleasure and an inspiration to pray.

And YOU are invited.

We're having 40 hours of prayer, starting 6am on Thursday morning, until, oh, I dunno, what would that be? - 10pm on Friday? I think. Everyone is welcome to call in at any time and pray, read, think, play (there's a craft table!! With paint!!!) and have tea/coffee (you have to make your own, mind). So please do. It would be nice to see you.

Cregagh Methodist, opposite the Co-op on the Cregagh Road.

Tuesday, 7 April 2009


I love Easter. And spring. And daffodils and tulips and bluebells and longer days and it being a little bit sunny.

I think Easter is my favourite time of the year. Christmas is OK, but spoiled by everyone pitching in and making us all materialistic. Halloween I hate. The summer is generally a disappointment. But Easter is splendid.

A question: why does everyone worry about over-indulging at Christmas but not at Easter? Cos I think, with all the Easter eggs, I'm more likely to over do it at Easter. And at least Christmas dinner has nutritional content; in fact, it has almost your full 5 daily portions of fruit & veg in one meal (although admittedly it helps if you count the grapes in the wine). Easter just has tons of chocolate. Not that I'm complaining, mind.

Monday, 6 April 2009


WhyNotSmile has a Bad Cold®, with symptoms including (but not limited to) blocked nose, sore throat, runny nose, tiredness, sore muscles, temperature and sneezing.

I really hate having the cold: you feel awful, but you are expected to get on with things and not complain. Colds do not do well in the 'Amount of discomfort' vs. 'Level of sympathy' stakes.

For instance. You would expect that the more ill you feel, the more sympathy you could expect, like this:

Of course, WhyNotSmile would like sympathy to be distributed like this:

which may be why her life will be one continuous disappointment.

However, after a survey of WhyNotSmile's levels of illness vs amount of sympathy received over the years, I am led to conclude that this is not how it works at all. I decided to exclude sympathy from parents, which is always generous, and from my doctor, who is lovely and very sympathetic no matter what I throw at her*, and to base this on amount of sympathy from others. Furthermore, I divided it into childhood illnesses (green dots) and adult illnesses (red dots). This is what I discovered:

* I mean this in a metaphorical sense. WhyNotSmile does not condone throwing things at doctors.

Saturday, 4 April 2009

A Survey of Attitudes of Readers of This Blog

Ship of Fools has published the findings of a couple of surveys which show that Christians love porn and atheists love Jesus. My favourite statistic is that of the 21% of American atheists who claim to believe in God.

Anyway, in light of this, I decided to conduct a survey of my own:
When you take part in a survey, how do you answer?
With the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. My opinion is too important to not be shared.
With comedy answers, for my own entertainment.
With whatever will get rid of the surveyor as quickly as possible. My time is precious.
With the exact opposite of what I think they expect; I like to mess with their results.
With whatever I think makes me sound good. Especially if I fancy the surveyor.
I do not do surveys. I am above such intrusions on my time.
Ugg Boots

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

April Fool

When we were little, my sister and my cousin and I used to play April Fool tricks on each other that consisted of shouting things like "You have pen on your face!! No you don't!! April Fool!" ad infinitum. This line was dispensed at lightning speed, without giving the other person time to even wonder whether there was pen on their face, never mind to fall for it and check it.

This is about the level of April Fool that I can be bothered with. 9 year-olds being silly. I quite like a well-exectuted joke on telly as well, my personal favourite being that one about the spaghetti plants that the BBC (I think) did many years ago. I also have fond recollections of 'That's Life!'s' Lirpaloof - an animal resembling (if I recall correctly) a hippo, which they claimed had moved into some zoo or something.

However, we now seem to have reached the stage of evolutionary development which requires every publication everywhere to run an April Fool story every year, and while some attempts are admirable, mostly they are dire. For your convenience, I supply a round-up of those I have found so far. Do feel free to add to this list, or to correct me if I'm wrong.

1. The Guardian claims it is abandoning paper and moving to Twitter format. They are also putting their entire archive into Twitter format, including such gems as "JFK assassin8d @ Dallas, def. heard second gunshot from grassy knoll WTF?". I can't help feeling that this could have been funnier, but the most impressive thing about it is that a chap called swanstep actually claims to have fallen for it.

2. The Belfast Telegraph reports that the Westlink is to be made one-way during rush hour. I'm fairly sure they did some variation of this last year; it is also reminiscent of the year the Newtownards Chronicle said that the one-way system in Ards was to be abolished. Thankfully a chap called Phil has already expressed doubts about it in the comments ("April Fool...?") - on the ball there Phil.

3. The BBC is harder to call. CBBC has 'Kitten's Got Talent', which cannot possibly be real, but will no doubt lead to lots of small children turning up at Broadcasting House with cat baskets and being turned away disappointed, and then parents trying to sue, and then the BBC deciding it's actually not a bad idea after all and running with the idea.
Other than that, there are several candidates for The Joke, and I'm honestly not sure. I suspect that they are taking us for fools, however, when they show the Presidential Limo being turned around in Downing Street and the caption says officials 'struggled' to execute a three-point turn. That is not struggling to do a three-point turn. They want struggling to execute a three-point turn, they should watch me drive some time.

Edit at 1.45pm: I forgot to mention an email which was in my inbox this morning, which is presumably an April Fool, and an excellently dire example. There's some company called Laptops Direct who keep emailing me; no idea how I ended up on their mailing list, except that maybe they were the people I bought my laptop from, or something. Anyway, today's email was entitled 'Funerals from Laptops Direct'. On going into the email, there was a picture of a hearse with 'Laptops Direct' painted (well, photoshopped) on the windows. And then their standard email about laptop offers.

A poor attempt, and badly executed.