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 be 69 then – 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!

Morpheus on… Nigel Farage

History is filled with individuals who have made a Big Difference – Hitler, Stalin, Attila The Hun. And to that number, one can now add Farage.

For if he had never been born, it is highly likely that the Remain vote in the Brexit referendum would have WON by a whisker.

And the ramifications, both in Britain and world-wide, of what has become the end result – will be huge.

Already, the pound and western stock markets have taken a major beating and the descent continues.

The reasons for this fiasco are many, but in the main it was clearly Farage feeding on Britons’ fear of immigrants – and terrorists.

The latter effect needed no help from Farage. Since “7/7” there have only been a few half-arsed attacks in the UK – but everyone is just WAITING.

Not a question of if, but when.

However, in Europe and Stateside the carnage has been constant – and the Orlando atrocity occurred only JUST before the Brexit vote. And even though it had ZIP to do with the issue, it HAD to have influenced the result.

And as for immigrants, either way, leaving Europe will not change much – indeed, if anything it will make things WORSE.

Also to blame are Britain’s damned POLLSTERS. Having been WRONG about the Tories’ election victory, they were WRONG about the Brexit result. Both in the lead-up to the referendum – and even the exit poll.

On the night, most Britons went to bed believing the Remains had won. Only when the next day dawned did they discover the horrible truth.

And yet, the pollsters CONTINUE to distort reality; they claim most Leavers’ main reason for wanting to quit Europe was The Economy – with Immigration only being of secondary importance.

Well of course, those polled WOULD say that. How many are happy to admit – even to THEMSELVES – that they might be a little bit RACIST?

This is similar to how, in the Seventies, Japanese cars got a reputation for reliability in the UK. The TRUTH was that polled reps SAID that – rather than admit they had been SEDUCED by the Japanese manufacturers’ cunning plan to put “L” class TOYS in their entry-level models, “XL” in their “L” ones, “GXL” in… …and so on.

Anyhow, this is not about cassette-radios and electric door-mirrors – it is about the DISASTER engineered by Nigel Farage.

And now the deed has been done, there seems to be little political will to reverse it.

It would be easy, too. Until “Article 50” is officially lodged, the proceedings do not even start. Brexit was only a public opinion gauger.

Thus all the next PM would need to say is – “I believe that the narrow margin in the recent referendum provides an insufficient mandate to justify the drastic step of…(etc.)” and then point out that since the Brexit result, it is clear that if the entire UK population were polled TODAY, the Remainers would WELL outnumber the Leavers.

And at the moment, that is looking like Theresa “Maggie” May – although given the recent polling debacles, one should not rule out Andrea “True” Leadsom.

Both are dopey god-botherers; but May also helped screw up my last replacement passport, costing me HUNDREDS of pounds – so I am not a fan of HER.

However, my personal issues aside, BOTH of these hags have declared they will drag Britain kicking and screaming OUT of Europe.

So that is that, then.

And now Farage himself has QUIT – his work complete.

I wonder how long it will be before the conspiracy theorists begin to ask whether that work was purely his OWN…

Morpheus on… The Fallen

America has had a rough last twelve months or so.

And throughout it, Stephen Colbert has run a comic feature called The Fallen (based on “The Hunger Games”) detailing the SLEW of runners in the 2016 Presidential Race (most of them Republicans) who did not make it.

They have been: Scott Walker (not the singer) Rick Santorum, Rick “Oops” Perry, George Pataki (not Sulu) Rand Paul, Bobby Jindal (looks like an Indian Alfred E. Neuman) Mike Huckabee, Lindsey Graham (seriously – her?) Jim Gilmore, Carly Fiorina, (she should be on the stage – it leaves in five minutes) John Kasich, Ben Carson (a dopey psycho) Jeb (or JEB!) Bush, Marco Rubio, Chris Christie (really?) Ted Cruz – and Bernie Sanders is now only hanging on by the skin of his teeth.

But to the dismay of many, Donald Trump is STILL GOING.

Then earlier this year, they lost five beloved celebs: David Bowie, Garry Shandling, Tom Mullica, Frank Sinatra Jr and Prince (the artist formerly known as Squiggle).

And woven throughout this period have been a SLEW of terrorist outrages: Brussels, Paris (twice) Orlando, Kotoko, Tripoli, Chattanooga, Copenhagen, Bangkok, Sana’a, Tunis, Garissa, Charleston, Kobanî, Saint-Quentin-Fallavier, Kuwait City, Kukawa, Khan Bani Saad, Kabul (twice in one month) Baghdad (constantly) Ankara, Sinai, Colorado Springs, San Bernadino, London, Mogadishu (often) Kandahar Airport, Kamishli, Baga, Istanbul (twice) Maiduguri, Garland and many, MANY others.

Of course, the African and Middle-Eastern incidents have been quickly forgotten, but Paris and the domestic ones have STUNG.

Then there are the plane crashes (America is a big country – so despite having to endure all SORTS of indignities, many Americans still have to FLY) which have included Germanwings 9525 (pilot suicide) TransAsia 235 (which provided the Interweb with a SPECTACULAR dashcam video) and EgyptAir 804 – the flight-recorder for which has now been recovered.

And finally, there has been the bemusement over Britain’s “Brexit” – and the apparent impending break-up of the UK and EU – which they call Europe.

But I’m BRITISH. Thus, my experience has been different – and MUCH WORSE.

For us, the 2016 US election run-up has proven to be merely HILARIOUS.

However, America’s five dead celebs were only the thin end of the wedge. Yes, we liked Garry Shandling, Frank Sinatra Jr and Tom Mullica too (although most of us thought Prince was a prat). But David Bowie was OURS. And during that two-month period, we also lost Keith Emerson, Paul Daniels, Alan Rickman, Lemmie, Sylvia Anderson, Terry Wogan, Ken Adam, Cliff Michelmore, Ed Stewart, Sir George Martin, Douglas Slocombe and Alan Haven.

Which was approximately one dead legend every FOUR DAYS.

While we are just WAITING for the next terrorist attack on Britain. It is not a question of if – merely WHEN.

And yes, OUR list of The Fallen is WAY bigger than America’s. The 2016 would-be poti (plural of POTUS?) Fallers were EXPECTED – and the Yanks only lost five celebs to our THIRTEEN (seventeen, including theirs).

It includes a SLEW of politicians. Following the 2015 General Election (the results of which the polling organisations proved SPECTACULARLY inept at predicting) ALL the leaders of the losing parties – Ed Miliband, Nick Clegg and Nigel Farage – up and RESIGNED (although Nigel later retracted).

Then we have the Fallers after Brexit (which AGAIN the pollsters SPECTACULARLY failed to predict). From hero to zero; Boris Johnson – GONE. British Prime Minister, David Cameron – GONE. Opposition Leader, Jeremy Corbyn – like his American eq, ALSO hanging on by the skin of his teeth. Nigel Farage – bloody LAUGHING [next day update: now HE has gone – AGAIN].

Plus Britain and Europe THEMSELVES – as INSTITUTIONS – falling apart before our very EYES.

And in addition to all of the above Fallers are another group, who are peculiar to Britain; a SLEW of showbiz celebs who have been indicted, or at least interviewed, by the British police (see “Operation Yewtree” and other, similar ops) concerning an assortment of historical SEX offences – many against children.

This group is mostly unknown to Americans; it began with Gary Glitter, then took in Jimmy Savile – after which it spread to Dave Lee Travis, Max Clifford, Rolf Harris, Freddie Starr, Jim Davidson, Paul Gambaccini, Stuart Hall, William Roache, Jimmy Tarbuck, Jonathan King and Cliff Richard.

However, in the interests of fairness (and my not wanting to be sued) it must be said that some have since been VINDICATED.

Then there are those from the POLITICAL world. Anthony Blunt, Leon Brittan, Sir Cyril Smith and a SLEW of other “knights” – now including Clement Freud.

Plus some bizarre stories concerning old Ted Heath and his “Morning Cloud” have emerged – however, those beggar belief.

But this is not ABOUT them – it is about US. We, the people – who expect there to be certain CONSTANTS when it comes to the World. AND the figures, organisations, places, institutions and values that inhabit it.

And when all of that FALLS, we begin to PANIC.

Which results in the rise of people like Farage and Trump.

So what of the future?

Well, for Baby-Boomers such as m’self, our heroes will continue to peg out – they are all at least in their seventies now. And clearly the SLEW of them we lost earlier this year was just a statistical glitch. After all, the Stones are still around (Blues bands never die) – and half of the Beatles too.

And one SUPPOSES that America WILL see sense – and put Old Ma Clinton into the White House in a few months time. With all of that Trump hoopla (and them having previously elected a BLACK man whose middle name is Hussein – TWICE) it is easy to lose sight of the fact that she will be the FIRST US FEMALE PRESIDENT EVER.

Also, there is a LOT of resistance to Britain leaving Europe (with Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales and even LONDON all threatening to SEPARATE from England; they voted AGAINST Brexit) – so maybe it will not happen.

But even if it does, life will go on (albeit with a MASSIVE SLEW of political and social upheavals, complications – and the occasional total and utter clusterf**k).

The main problem will be terrorism. ISIL, Al-Qaeda, Al-Shabaab and Boko Haram are CONCEPTS more than organisations. And every country has its own nut-jobs who just LOOK for legitimacy for their insanity. Thus it is hard to see what more can be done to counteract THEM.

So all in all, we will CONTINUE to “live in interesting times” (Wiki it).