Morpheus on… oops…


You know, when they rent out a double-deck bus, they really should make a point of reminding the man who’s going to be driving it that it’s over FOURTEEN FEET TALL!

Morpheus on… War Crimes

I got nuthin’ this week, so here’s a little piece I penned eight years ago that’s as true today…

War Crimes? Humbug. War IS a crime.

And ploys like the Geneva Convention only serve to legitimise it. Is anybody REALLY naive enough to believe an all-out conflict can be waged in a “gentlemanly” manner, without sadism, rape, pillage, genocide and assorted atrocities taking place? Where only professional 18+ soldiers are involved and those captured will be treated well?

Get real. War is hell. Fought between governments, winner take all. And how often do those on the winning side find themselves in front of a War Crimes Tribunal?

In this Third Millennium, it is absurd that nanny-state governments will on the one hand give Mr Health And Safety carte blanche to write rules restricting every factor of our lives – whilst on the other hand, stick guns in our hands, telling us to go out and shoot at people who’ve done US no harm – but who they, said governments, dislike, with the advice that, should they shoot back, it might be advisable to DUCK.

And these are the same governments who claim they only have a military force – which cost us BILLIONS – for DEFENCE. But if ALL the World’s military forces are only used for defence – WHO’S DOING THE ATTACKING? Someone must be. Aliens?

The reality is that no matter how you dress it up, the military serves one purpose only; to kill and maim people. And destroy their minds, homes, businesses and infrastructures. They are obscene organisations who perpetuate man’s primitive desire for blood. And no amount of sanitisation will disguise that fact.

Morpheus on… “Qi” …Exit Fry, Enter Toksvig

Yes, after thirteen years and with the first half of the alphabet done and dusted, Mr Stephen Fry has stepped down from the Qi Chair, to be replaced by Ms Sandi Toksvig.

Qi was first envisaged as a radio panel show, with its creator – writer-producer John Lloyd – in the Chair. However, this never happened and John hawked the show around the Beeb for a while, eventually getting a pilot booked with Michael Palin in the Chair and two teams – Cleverclogs and Dunderheads – featuring one regular panellist and one guest in each.

The Cleverclogs were to have been Fry and Kit Hesketh-Harvey, with Alan Davies and Bill Bailey as the Dunderheads.

But then something happened which turned out to be CRUCIAL to the programme’s success. At the last minute, Palin backed out and Lloyd moved Fry into the Chair and whisked Eddie Izzard in to replace him as a panellist.

And the reason this was crucial was that immediately, in that pilot, Alan Davies and Stephen Fry BONDED – establishing a relationship in which Fry was the classically-educated Teacher with Davies as the Class Clown/Unruly Schoolboy.

Which proved to be the driving force of the show.

And John Lloyd NEEDED the show to be a success. Back in the Seventies, as a BBC radio producer, he had been largely responsible for The News Quiz (of which, more later) The News Huddlines and many others – leading up to the radio version of Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy, created by his friend and some-time flat-mate, Douglas Adams.

Then, when Hitchhiker’s transferred to TV, he had dominated the Eighties TV scene with shows like Not The Nine O’clock News, Spitting Image, the Blackadder series and Have I Got News For You.

This last was again to have featured Lloyd in the Chair – but that never happened either. One day, John!

Anyhoo, after two decades at the top, Lloyd’s star unaccountably SLIPPED during the Nineties – despite his earlier successes, he could NOT get anything MADE.

Thus Qi’s success was CRITICAL for him. And fortunately, he immediately saw the potential in Fry and Davies’ connection and DUMPED the idea of Cleverclogs and Dunderheads. The pilot was never aired (although it can be viewed on YouTube) but the show began shortly after, with Fry in the Chair, Davies heading up the team to Fry’s right – and guests occupying all three remaining positions.

And this “lop-sided” arrangement has continued ever since – a thirteen-year triumph which would likely not have happened, had Lloyd returned to the originally-intended format.

However, CHANGE is now upon us. Each series (season) of the show has (loosely) featured a LETTER. Thus the first series was called Series A – the next, Series B and so on (the American film and TV service IMDb can NOT get its collective head around that and insists on detailing the series as Seasons 1, 2 and so on!)

And with the last series/season having been “M” – the programme has essentially reached a half-way point. Thus it is that Stephen has decided it is now time to “move on” – one assumes amicably.

Enter Sandi Toksvig. She was a natural choice for the vacant Chair, having known Lloyd since their Cambridge Footlights days – and having Chaired The News Quiz (I told you) for nine years. Last year, she reluctantly left that Chair to pursue a part-time career in POLITICS; continuing to Chair a topical satirical quiz would clearly have been a MAJOR conflict of interests.

But with Qi, there is no such conflict. Therefore, it is the dream job. And she may well see it through to the END.

I mean, Stephen has helmed the show for thirteen years – and Sandi will probably only have to do eleven (X, Y and Z are bound to be truncated into one season). She will then be 69 – then again, Nic Parsons is still Chairing Just A Minute at NINETY-TWO (he and it will be celebrating their half-centenary together, late next year).

And as for Alan; he approached John, offering to stand down with Stephen, in order to give Sandi a “clean slate” – but John declined his offer; so Alan will remain, at least for now.

Which leaves us with a fairly rosy prospect; how Alan’s relationship with Sandi will pan out is anyone’s guess – but SHE SHOULD BE FINE. Nine years of Chairing The News Quiz and decades of experience on a myriad of other panel shows (including Qi itself) means she is hardly short on experience (albeshe in stature).

And while she may not QUITE be one of “Britain’s Treasures” (in any case, despite sounding like the young Margaret Rutherford – she was going for Celia Johnson – she originally hails from Denmark) she is nonetheless Qp – quite popular!

One last thing; Qi stands for Quite Interesting – and is obviously the reverse of IQ.

But it is also an Oriental word – qi – which literally means breath.

Or more expansively; life-force.

So now you know.

Morpheus on… Seventies American TV Ads

I am nothing if not topical! But if you are over 55, read on…

The Seventies was a CRAP decade if you were British, but at least you could rely on America’s TV ads to lighten your mood.

They were unintentionally HILARIOUS! And the leader in the field was undoubtedly Playtex.

While Brits enjoyed modern, sensual ads from companies like Berlie, American bra ads were still grounded in the FIFTIES.

And the clueless clods on Madison Avenue thought if they ran their ads dubbed from American into English, no-one would notice. Well, dummies – we all DID!

One suspects the RADA-trained British voiceover artists must have CRINGED as they delivered their dialogue. However, from the anonymity of the booth, they could just dream about what they would do with the MONEY.

Of course, while Playtex ruled ridiculous American ads, they were not alone. In fact, every now and again, Britain’s TV companies would run a compilation of the more absurd examples – and the TV audiences would HOWL with laughter.

One imagines that when they obtained clearances, they failed to describe the context in which the ads would be shown!

Footnote: this writer has watched FEW ads since the halcyon days of British Sixties TV. (American) “Mad” magazine ran a piece showing how you could “render totally impotent, insulting ads that cost millions to produce and air, with a device costing less than a buck.”

It was a box with a toggle switch and lead – which simply open-circuited the TV’s speaker. And while the piece may have been a joke – I BUILT one. I put a label on the side that read “idiot box” and used it for about ten years, until remote controls with a “mute” button came onto the scene.

Then VCRs became affordable (followed by HDDs) and I have not watched anything LIVE since – thus for the last 35 years, I have always SKIPPED ads completely.

Does ANYONE still sit there and watch those things?

Morpheus on… Naked Donald Trump

naked Donald Trump statue

“NYC Parks stands firmly against any unpermitted erection in city parks, no matter how small,” a parks department spokesperson said. I wonder how long it took him to compose THAT.

Of course, when The Donald sees it – THEM; there are FIVE – he will FREAK!

He already displayed his LACK of humour (particularly when HE is the recipient) in 2011, when Seth Meyers ripped him a new one at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner.

I would NOT have wanted to be the one who broke the news about THIS to him…

Morpheus on… You Learn Something New Every Day…

We have all heard of “deforestation” – loss of trees. But here is one this scribbler only heard today and felt like sharing; “defenestration” – which is the act of falling (or being pushed) through a WINDOW.

Of course, “fenestra” is Latin for window, from which the French get their word fenêtre” (but then, you knew THAT, didn’t you?)

And thus, by extending it, we get My New Word.

Furthermore, by extending it even further, we can get auto-defenestration – which sounds so much cooler than jumping out of a window!

Morpheus on… The Ever-Lasting Light-Bulb

Thirteen years ago, on VT, this observer predicted The New LEDs would eventually replace all light-bulbs – and give us giant TV screens. And as usual, he was right.

But this is not about that. It is about the good old incandescent light-bulbs – a few of which were claimed to have lasted FOREVER. Well, for a number of decades anyway.

We all read those local newspaper reports on bulbs which granddads had installed in sheds before WW1 – and which had only now gone phut.

But those pieces were written by hack journalists who had no idea what they were talking about. However, having long ago earned a sheaf of City & Guilds electrical qualifications, THIS writer DOES know.

And the fact is – those accounts of ever-lasting lightbulbs were BOGUS.

You see, the way a bulb works is this; you take a thin wire (the filament) – install it in an envelope of glass, in which all of the air has been replaced by a gas which does not support combustion (burning) – then run current through it, which causes it to glow brightly. Simple.

However, while the filament may not immediately burn out, it does EVENTUALLY die through degradation.

But the time that will take can vary ENORMOUSLY. And it totally depends upon the BRIGHTNESS of the bulb – which in turn, depends on the ratio of voltage to filament.

What this means is that the DELICATE BALANCE which enables it to glow brightly enough to light – but also allows it to LAST a reasonable time – is only a FEW VOLTS.

Which is how “double-life” bulbs worked – their filaments were merely LONGER, meaning they burned DIMMER.

And the WIRE between your ring-main and an appliance also makes a DIFFERENCE.

Just like the bulb’s filament, it has RESISTANCE – which warms it up. And this uses POWER – which DROPS THE VOLTAGE.

Now assuming a standard lead – only a few feet long and with wire of an adequate SIZE – the voltage drop along its length will be MINIMAL.

But what you will ALWAYS find is that these so-called “everlasting” light-bulbs were at the end of a LONG lead!

Typically, the afore-mentioned garden sheds, plus remote stock-rooms in builders’ merchants’ yards, basements, cellars and the like.

Thus, while their light output – with nothing else to compare it with – seemed quite normal, they were actually running UNDER-VOLTAGE for all those decades.

And in so doing, merely gave the APPEARANCE of being extraordinary.

But no.

Sorry, granddad!