James Explains The Fundamental Disappointment Of Existence Amongst Other Things

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Welcome to another James Explains, the bit of my blog where I answer questions that other people have asked. I don’t necessarily answer them correctly but an inability to respond to enquiries accurately doesn’t seem to be the barrier to success that it once was.

Indeed professing to be an expert in things that one knows nothing about seems to be almost a prerequisite for career advancement these days.

And so let the alternative facts begin…

Glen poses the following brainteaser:

“Do our idyllic childhood memories set us up for a life of disappointment when inevitably many aspects of adult life do not measure up to how we first conceived of them from our cocooned viewpoint as ‘babes in the woods’ or… are we all really on our own Wizard of Oz ‘Peak behind the Curtain’ journeys where the ultimate goal is acquiring wisdom and understanding without being brought undone by the occupational hazards of accompanying bitterness and disillusionment?”

To be honsest Glen, by the time I got to the end of that question, I had pretty much forgotten how it all began. I find that my attention span isn’t what it once was. Or is it? I don’t know. I can’t remember if I ever had much of an attention span. Probably not. More to the point, am I actually answering your question at all? Let me revisit the question again…

(Musical interlude while James goes back to read the question)

Right, I think I’ve got this. Adult life is inherently disappointing, and we are definitely prone to reminiscing about better times. But they never happened. Life was always rubbish, and the only reason we might not have thought that when we were kids is because we were stupid. Although, even as an infant I was a little world weary in truth.

Pete has more of a gripe than a question this week:

I wish to complain that you failed to answer my last question! I am incensed, and I feel that you have abused my human rights.

I cannot remember what I asked, but I’m sure that it was really important.

What compensation am I entitled to?

Well, Pete, we at James Explains endeavour to provide the very best in question-answering services and we are sorry that we have not met your expectations on this occasion. We will be taking a good long look at ourselves after this. As to compensation, you will of course be entitled to a full refund, and a substantial discount on any future questions you may choose to ask.

Suze, who seems to have no genuine grievances but can’t resist a bandwagon when she sees one, has this to say:

I’m with Peter…how much money are you going to pay me to go away and/or start asking additional questions?

Suze, I feel you are being a tad opportunistic here, but I can’t fault you for that. I’m prepared to offer you an additional 30% on top of your usual fee.

These Were Humans has this divine enquiry:

Can you explain why my favourite deity is the ancient Babylonian god Nergal?

In truth I’m not overly familiar with Nergal’s work, but having quickly looked him up via the magic of the internet, it seems to me he was quite a cheeky chappy. So that’s probably why you like him.

Haylee is konfused and asks the following:

Kan you please explain Kanye?

In truth Haylee I kan’t explain Kanye. I’m not even really sure what a Kanye is. From my research, I understand that he might be a person if that helps. There might also be a link with something called a Kardashian? Which, as I recall were the bad guys on one of the Star Treks. To be honest I’m way out of my depth here.

Right, that’s enough explaining for this week. If you ask a question below I might explain it next week.

Admittedly I might not.

Only time will tell.

 

James Explains Some Stuff That No-one Asked Him To Explain

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Welcome back to another James Explains.

It’s been a while since I last donned my explaining socks (which are, essentially, just ordinary socks that I’ve chosen to call ‘explaining socks’), to answer the questions posed to me by other people. People like you. Assuming you are people. Which is the only assumption I can make, given my (probably limited) understanding of the way things  work. Maybe you’re an alien, or a robot, or a dog that can read. Or all of those things. Or none of those things. How can I possibly know? What kind of crazy world do we live in now, where alien-robot-dogs are able to read my blog? And why would such a being even want to read my blog?

To be fair, the answer to that is probably that, in anticipation of a world in which we are taken over by alien-robot-dogs, all of my content has been specially crafted to appeal to such beings. It’s why, if you’re a human reading this, you might sometimes feel slightly alienated, almost as if this stuff was never really meant for your consumption.

But enough of this nonsense. Just so long as everyone understands that come the day our supreme overlords decide to take control, I will be in a position of significant influence and power.

But until such a time, lets pretend that this blog is meant to be read by people and that those people have questions that they need me to answer.

The only problem is that it’s been over a month since I last wrote a James Explains, so I don’t have any questions that need answering.

I don’t think I do anyway. I could go back and look at the comments section of previous James Explains to see if there are any questions I didn’t get around to answering, but that seems like quite a lot of effort to go to. Instead I could just use this post as an opportunity to announce that James Explains is back and if you do have any questions that you need answering, then post them in the comments section below and I might, one day, get around to answering them. Possibly even as soon as next week.

Then again, it wouldn’t be a proper James Explains, if I didn’t at least answer some questions. I have been known, in the past, to answer questions that I’ve posed to myself, but even that seems like more effort than I’m really prepared to put into this today.

Instead I’m going to answer some Frequently Asked Questions that appear on some websites that I looked at. They’re all from different websites, because it turns out that people frequently ask different things of different businesses. In most cases the businesses have already answered these questions themselves, so all I’m offering here is a helpful second opinion.

Question 1, which may have something to do with air travel, is:

Can I bring infant equipment?

As opposed to fully grown equipment? If you think it’s up to the job then please do. I always say if it’s up to the task, it’s old enough, but you will be responsible for any equipment in your care, infant or otherwise.

Question 2, which might have something to do with TV licencing is:

How do I tell you about an unoccupied address or empty property?,

However you want to tell me. There’s no right or wrong way of doing this. It’s not especially bad news, so you don’t need to prepare the ground, particularly. If you’d like to compose a sonnet or a witty limerick to convey the information then that’s always appreciated, but a simple mundane email should suffice.

Question 3, which might have something to do with paying credit card bills, is:

What sort code and account number should I use for my payments?

It’s generally good form to use your own sort code and account number. I believe anything else might be construed as fraudulent. But I’ll leave it to your own discretion.

Question 4, which might be related to staying in a hotel, is:

Can I chat to someone in Customer Services?

I’d prefer you didn’t. They’re all busy people and they really don’t have time to chat. I’m not paying them to sit around chatting. Admittedly I’m not paying them at all. But I imagine the hotel chain feels the same as I do about this. Although you wouldn’t know that from their own answer, which provides a phone number and everything. That’s no way to run a business is it?

 

There we go, some FAQs answered, and answered well, if I do say so myself. If you have any LFAQs (or Less Frequently Asked Questions) for me, then do ask them in the comments below.

 

James Explains The Art Of The Nap Amongst Other Things

James Explains

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Today represents a tragedy for fact-seekers everywhere, as this will be the last ‘James Explains’ for a while. I might bring it back in a few weeks or I might not. Only time will tell. There’s inevitably going to be something of a grieving process for some of you at this news. We’ll get through this together somehow. There are lots of other people who are still explaining stuff on the internet. You’ll be OK. But, just to tide you over, while you try to find another site that quenches your never ending thirst for knowledge as well as this one does, let’s enjoy one last Q&A together.

Pete, who has managed a question every week, is back again with this query:

Can I ask a question?

Now, it’s abundantly clear that you can ask a question Pete as you have asked many before. You are quite the accomplished questioner. But, alas, there will be no further opportunities for you to ask me questions that I will actually bother to answer. At least not for a few weeks. But you can still ask questions. You can always ask questions Pete.

Bear R Humphreys, who may or may not be the same person as regular contributor Bryntin asks:

Why can’t you stop once you’ve popped? I would have thought that was pretty much the end of your balloon trip myself.

Well Bear, that is a question, and you’re absolutely correct, the popping of a hot air balloon would indeed result in a fairly imminent ‘stop’. But there are other forms of popping. Most of them can also be stopped. For example, if I pop to the shop, I tend only to need to do it the once.

Even in the context of the savoury snack Pringles, which is where the claim about being unable to cease post-pop appears to originate, the claim is misleading. Presumably one will inevitably stop when one runs out of Pringles. Also, I once had the misfortune to try Mint-Choc flavour Pringles, which were a novelty flavour released for Christmas one year. I had no difficulty stopping on that occasion. No difficulty at all.

Meanwhile my friend Andrew, who doesn’t have a blog but occasionally likes to heckle me from other social media (I wrote about him before in this awesome post about Glastonbury and David Bowie, and he was also the ‘Second Bow Street Runner’ in this post I wrote on Friday), queries my assertion from last week that there are multiple ways to nap while at work. Less a question and more of a demand he says:

There are more ways to nap at work? I want to know what they are.

Obviously I don’t actually nap at work. That would be incredibly unprofessional, even for me. But if I were to nap at work I would do any one of the following, and fully expect to get away with it.

  1. As discussed last week, I might  pretend to have a meeting but, instead, not have a meeting and nap in the meeting room.
  2. I might sleep in a cleverly constructed den under my desk, like George Costanza does on that episode of Seinfeld
  3. I might well pretend to have a medical condition which necessitates the wearing of sunglasses at work, and then just sleep wherever and whenever I feel like it, while also looking cool.
  4. I could also make a mask of using a picture of my ‘awake face’, and then wear it over my actual sleeping face.
  5. I could design and make a robot that looks and sounds exactly like me, as per the trope of many a sci-fi film and TV show. Then I could have the robot live my life for me, while I stay in bed. Technically I wouldn’t even have to go into work for that one.
  6. Most likely though, I would just openly sleep at my desk without any form of pretence and see if anyone even notices or cares.

 

And that’s it for James Explains. Possibly forever. But maybe not. You can still ask questions in the comments section below. But those questions could be in vain,

James Explains Probability Amongst Other Things

James Explains

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Hang on to your hats, it’s explaining time!

Although if I’m brutally honest, I can’t begin to explain why I opened with that particular line.

But I will try and explain some other stuff that people have asked me this week.

And I will do it right now!

First up, and inspired by last week’s scatalogical insights, Pete asks:

How come some people do not believe in the poo fairy?If it was utter **** , fairy nuff, but we all know it holds water. Which raises another question…..why does poo hold water?

To be honest Pete, I found it difficult to research an actual answer to your question without making myself feel a bit ill. So I think you may need to ask the poo fairy yourself. Although I did actually make the poo fairy up, so I would suggest we just forget this whole unpleasant episode.

Jay, meanwhile, is more concerned with matters preceding digestion and asks

How do people make it on baking shows who have no baking skills?

I’d like to imagine it’s a philanthropic gesture by the show’s producers to improve the state of baking as a whole, by allowing inferior bakers to learn and be inspired by more able bakers. But it’s probably just a cheap and cynical attempt at retaining viewers by injecting some ‘comic relief’ into the show.

Bryntin imagined that someone else asked him a question that he was unable to answer so he has now kindly passed the imaginary person’s query on to me. It is as follows:

If you are deciding something ‘on the balance of probabilities’, by definition, being balanced, the probabilities are exactly 50/50. How do you then decide which of the things you are deciding between is ‘on the balance of probabilities’ when the probabilities are obviously balanced?

Now, I should be able to explain this, having been a secondary school maths teacher at some point in my, admittedly chequered, career. But my lessons were so boring, even I wasn’t paying all that much attention. I do remember something about probability trees. Maybe you should grow one of those in your garden.

Gigglingfattie meanwhile is disturbed by this question:

James, why is it, when at work 1.5 hours after you were supposed to go home, you are rightfully exhausted but after the 3 minute walk home and getting into bed, I will be wide awake hating myself for not being able to go to sleep?

I think the problem is the hating yourself. Don’t do that. Own the insomnia. Get up, have a coffee and spent the night writing poetry instead. It doesn’t even matter if the poetry is actually any good. Bad poetry is an art in itself. Just look at my regular Wednesday posts…

On another note, you really need to stop doing the ‘working late’ thing. That kind of work ethic will only ever end in tears. Or, if you are going to work late, then do what I do and nap at work. It probably helps to have a meeting room available, and a key to that meeting room, and a work calendar that proclaims that you have a meeting scheduled, when really you don’t. But there are other ways to nap at work.

These Were Humans left this question in last week’s comments, but perhaps should have sent it to me via Twitter instead, (because, yknow, it’s bird related…):

Is it just me or is the concept of birds suddenly appearing every time someone is near (as in the song Close To You) utterly terrifying (as in the Hitchcock movie The Birds)?

I’d have to agree, it does feel like those birds have more of an agenda than just wanting to be close to the aforementioned person. Unless the person is actually the ‘feed the birds’ woman off of Mary Poppins, or the slightly strange, but ultimately kindly bird woman off of Home Alone 2: Lost in New York. But I don’t think anyone other than birds would especially want to be close to either of them. Although tuppence a bag is an absolute bargain…

 

 

Do you have a question that only James can explain? Well don’t just stand there gawping, ask it in the comments below!

 

A Post In Which I Answer A Load Of Film-Related Questions That Someone Asked Me In the Comments Section Of A Different Post I Wrote

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It’s Thursday, which in recent months has been the day I have posted an unnecessary review of a film I watched when I was younger. But this week I’m posting something a little different. Because a few weeks back, in the comments section of one my Tuesday ‘James Explains’ features, I found a load of film related questions from a fellow blogger called Paul S. It seemed rude not to answer them, but as there are so many and as they are so film related, I thought I’d answer them on a Thursday, when I tend to write about films, as opposed to on a Tuesday, when I tend to write about…erm…well other stuff…

So, here are the film-related questions and my film-related answers:

1. What film has been sitting on your shelf for the last six months waiting to be watched?
Alas, more films than I care to mention. Thor Ragnarok and Baby Driver are two recently acquired movies that I really should already have seen, but still haven’t quite managed to find time to watch. I’ll probably get around to watching them soon though. There are others that I bought a while back that I still haven’t managed to watch. Logan is the most surprising of those. I bought it when it first came out and still haven’t seen it, even though it’s exactly the kind of film I would definitely enjoy. I’m quite particular about the conditions needed for the first time I watch a movie, so on the rare occasions I do have a spare two hours, I’m as likely to put on a film I’ve already seen, on the basis that I’m slightly less irritated by interruptions if I already know what’s going to happen.
2. What is the one film you know word for word?
There’s more than one I fear. I’m pretty good on all three of the original Star Wars Trilogy as well as The Princess Bride, the first Die Hard movie, Airplane, The Commitments, and the first Austin Powers movie. Also quite a lot of Christmas films.
3. What screen character breaks your heart?
While I tend to towards the often-quite-mindless blockbuster, I have watched a few more worthy films in my time. La Vita è Bella has always stuck with me and the character of Guido Orefice is definitely heart-breaking.
4. If you could bring an actor back from the dead, and had to pair them on screen with a current actor (who is no older than 40), what would your combo be?
Not sure about actors under 40 – they all look under 40 but turns out most of them aren’t. Emma Stone is pretty good though. As for dead actors – there are lots of those I could choose from too, (although turns out some I thought were dead are very much not). Maybe James Stewart. That could work right?
5. How often do you check your phone in the cinema?
Never! People who do that are beneath contempt.
6. What film do you love which no-one else quite seems to ‘get’?
I’m fairly mainstream in my tastes so there aren’t many films that I ‘love’ that are generally lambasted by others. Having said that, I definitely don’t hate The Phantom Menace as much as most people seem to, but it’d be a stretch to say I love it. I love Star Wars in general too much to hate it though. There’s loads wrong with it, but if you ignore the excessive CGI, annoying characters and unnecessary plot-devices, there is a good film hiding in there somewhere. It’s just really well-hidden a lot of the time.
7. What is your favourite Al Pacino film?
A lot of my friends would say Scarface, but I think for me it’s probably Heat, as much for when it came out as anything else. Movies from the mid-nineties tend to have a special place in my heart.
8. Why do they always manage to make us go one size bigger with the popcorn?
It’s because they call the middle-size ‘regular’ and when you order pop-corn, they ask you if you want ‘regular’, as if that’s the ‘normal’ one to go for. It’s really hard to then ask for ‘small’, without seeming a bit miserly. Even though ‘small’ is usually still massive. I never have any trouble eating it all though…
9. Share one memory from a cinema visit long ago
To be fair, most cinema experiences are pretty unmemorable. The film might be good, but the rest of the experience is often not much to write home about. That said, I do remember going to see Groundhog Day with a friend back in the early nineties and we accidentally walked into the wrong screen. By the time the film started and we found ourselves watching 3 Ninjas we were too embarrassed to leave. To be fair we were stupid teenagers and therefore we did quite enjoy 3 Ninjas, but I’ve never watched it again since. We went back to watch Groundhog Day the following week (is there irony in there somewhere?) and that continues to be one of my favourite films of all time.
10. Have you ever used a line from a movie, in your life, without anyone knowing you stole it? Give details.
Almost certainly. Probably more than I’d like to admit if I’m honest. Back in the early days of our courtship when my now-wife but then-girlfriend told me she loved me, I’d sometimes reply with “I know”. These days she knows I’m just channelling my inner Han Solo, but I think she used to find it quite perplexing at the time. She still married me though…

So that’s all those questions answered. I think the world is now a more knowledgeable place. It’ll be back to the rubbish film reviews next Thursday (as in rubbish reviews of films that may or may not also be rubbish) but I’ll be answering questions on a range of topics on Tuesday, as is my way.

James Explains Onomatopoeia Amongst Other Things

James Explains

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Hello truth seekers, and welcome back to the bit of my blog where I answer the difficult questions that other blogs choose to ignore.

Mostly because they weren’t asked them.

But I was asked them.

So I will answer them.

Because that seems like the polite thing to do.

To kick us off, Pete asks:

WHY NOT?

This is something of a callback to a question that Pete posed a couple of weeks ago, and like then I will refer you to the answer my parents gave me to this question back in my youth, which in this case was… BECAUSE I SAID SO!

Pete also asks:

My cat, sitting on a mat, has just had a urinary accident………Is this onomatopoeia?

Alas Pete, it isn’t. Onomatopoeia is when a word sounds like itself. Which is, to be fair, all words. They all sound like themselves. I may have misunderstood what onomatopoeia means. There must be more to it than that. But I know it doesn’t refer to cats urinating on mats. The word you’re thinking of is catonomatopoeia.

Bryntin asks:

James, why haven’t I got any questions this week?

I had so many last week.

I tried but I simply couldn’t conjure one up, even when I looked in my wardrobe.

I must admit, I was perplexed to discover that you didn’t have any questions Bryntin, but I think I understand why. It’s because questions aren’t kept in wardrobes. Fictional lands with witches and lions and never-ending winters are kept in wardrobes.

Stolzy’s five year old son is back with this scatalogical question:

Why is it that my poop is brown when I ate nothing brown?

I was going to come up with a silly answer to this, but then I realised that I was answering the question for a five year old boy and so I feel that I would be doing him a disservice by not taking the question seriously.

So Stolzy, please read the following answer out to your son, in order to further his education.

Poop is brown because of a tetrapyrrolic bile pigment called sterconilin.

Or it could just be because the poo fairy likes brown.

Take your pick.

Suze asks:

“WHY do men collect crap?” Model parts, dried out glue bottles, modeling paints that are dried up with the cap on crooked…none of which can be thrown out as it “might be needed later”.

Now I can see why you’ve asked me this question Suze, because, as a man I’m fully qualified to answer. Although I don’t actually collect any of that stuff, because I’m the kind of maverick who hurls caution to the wind and throws stuff away. That said, I’ve often been left to rue my cavalier attitude when I’ve desperately needed some dried out modelling paints and haven’t had any to hand. What a fool I was.

And that’s it for this week’s James Explains. As ever, if you’d like me to explain the seemingly unexplainable then pop a question in the comments below.

 

James Explains The Early Signs Of Madness Amongst Other Things

James Explains

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It’s Tuesday and therefore it’s time for me to get my ‘explaining hat’ on and do me some explaining.

Although, alas, the ‘explaining hat’ is entirely metaphorical. I couldn’t afford a non-metaphorical ‘explaining hat’. Also they don’t exist.

So hatless I come to explain. And what questions I have to answer this week.

Well these questions as a matter of fact:

These Were Humans asks:

Isn’t it possible that John Lennon was factually correct when he said the Beatles were bigger than Jesus given that there were 4 Beatles and 1 Jesus, whether you stack them lengthwise or side to side, the Beatles would almost certainly be bigger?

Think you’ve answered your own question there, which is marvellous. It saves me having to think of anything, so thanks for that. Still I feel I should offer a little something. It seems only fair. And in truth, I think you’re right, I’m sure that all four Beatles working together would definitely be physically bigger than Jesus, although we can’t be certain because there are no records of Jesus’ height and weight as far as I’m aware. Also Jesus was quite good at miracles as I recall, so he could probably still be bigger than four grown men if he so chose, I expect. And even if he wasn’t bigger than four Beatles, he would definitely have been bigger than four beetles.

Unless they were Volkswagen Beetles of course.

Pete is back with another query which is:

I  thought the first sign of madness was a hairy palm? …..and we all know what the second sign is don’t we?

As I stated two weeks ago Pete, the first sign of madness is talking to yourself. Hairy palms might be an unfortunate affliction but they have nothing to do with mental health as far as I’m aware. Although I would question the sanity of someone who elected to shave their palms. It just seems like an odd thing to do. That’s probably the second sign of madness.

What do you think James?

As ever James, I concur. Now where’s my razor?

Jay E is back with another intriguing question, which is:

What if there weren’t any hypothetical questions?

The only way to answer that question is with an hypothesis. And my hypothesis is that in the event that there weren’t any hypothetical questions, I might occasionally get some work done, rather than pondering whether or not I’d rather be a bee.

Suze is here again to ask:

Which is better..a chocolate hobnob in the hand or two in a bush? What IS a chocolate hobnob anyway and why does the Dr. (dr. Who…BBC…LONG-TIME television show?) like them…the tenth one did in any event. or was it the eleventh?

Lot’s of chocolate hobnob questions there Suze. And to answer your first one, there is no point in keeping chocolate hobnobs in a bush. So it’s always better to have one in the hand, but even better to have one in the mouth. Because, in answer to your second question, chocolate hobnobs are like regular hobnobs, but with chocolate on them. The combination of chocolate and hobnob is a heavenly collaboration, which renders it a biscuit that may be the greatest of them all, or at least the second greatest after the wonder that it is the noble Jammie Dodger. Incidentally the Eleventh Doctor enjoyed more than his fair share of Jammie Dodgers but it was the Seventh Doctor who was known to enjoy a chocolate hobnob. Although I’d be surprised if they both didn’t like both.

Stolzy’s five year old son is currently concerned with the following issue:

How is it that Pinocchio’s nose can grow if he is made out of wood?

It’s very simple Stolzy’s son. Pinocchio is a liar and when wooden boys lie, their noses grow. It’s basic biology. Also when they smoke they turn into donkeys, but that also applies to real boys.

When I was five I watched the Disney animated film and it gave me nightmares. But to this day I’ve never smoked a cigar.

Except on certain occasions when I’ve been drunk.

But I didn’t turn into a donkey.

Which is a relief, all things considered.

It is, however, more than probable that I made an ass of myself.

And that’s all I can be bothered to answer for this week’s James Explains. There are many more questions to be answered, however, and I’ll probably deal with some of those next week.

 

James Explains Rin Tin Tin Amongst Other Things

James Explains

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Hello fact fans and welcome back to another ‘James Explains’, the bit of my blog where I answer the questions that other people have asked me. And, after the unfortunate business of last week, I can confirm that this week I do have questions to answer. Indeed I was inundated with so many questions that I can’t fit them all into one post. Or at least I can’t be bothered to fit them all into one post, which is essentially the same thing.

But let’s not dwell on such matters of indolence and move, instead, onto the questions I can be bothered to answer, which this week are as follows:

Longtime questioner, Pete asks:

WHY?

Great question Pete, and one I’ve often asked myself. I’ll refer you to the answer my parents always gave me, which is, quite simply, BECAUSE!

Habitual hobbyist Haylee asks:

Do you feel it would be more dangerous to suppress a sneeze whilst driving around a roundabout or let it out, close your eyes and hope for the best? It happens frequently to me and it’s terrifying!

A tricky one Haylee, but in most situations I find that the most pragmatic solution to any given problem is to close my eyes and hope for the best. It’s worked out pretty well for me so far so I certainly won’t be changing tack now. Furthermore, the best piece of driving advice I was ever given, is to drive as if everyone else is an idiot. But occasionally I think it’s ok to be the idiot and suppressing a sneeze is never a good thing. Let the sneeze out and assume that other drivers will get out of your way should you lose control of the car.

Bryntin is back this week to ask:

James, it is often said that you can ‘conjure up something from thin air’. What I want to know is, how thin is the air normally from which things can be conjured? And do you know where the things come from? As a side question, how often do you have to say the word ‘conjured’ to start thinking it sounds pretty odd because it seems to be about five to me?

Actually Bryntin, it has been scientifically proven that ‘conjured’ starts to sound odd on the third repetition, so clearly you have a greater tolerance than most to the word.

Congratulations.

In terms of the thinness of the air from which things can be conjured, I’d estimate the air should be no more than 3mm thick, but ideally less than 2.4mm, and I have based these figures on absolutely no evidence whatsoever so you can be certain they are as reliable as any information that is currently purported to be fact in the popular press and indeed that which comes out of the mouths of politicians. As to where the things, which are conjured, come from, I can only assume that Narnia is the most likely scenario. Some scientists have recently mooted the possibility that Narnia isn’t real, but that is a controversial theory that doesn’t stand up to much scrutiny in my opinion. I mean there are seven books about it for goodness sake.

Long time commentator but first time questioner, Smilern asks:

Hi James, it looks like Bryntin, who is probably a relative of Rin Tin Tin (the dog) has asked too many questions. Is he barking mad?

It’s not for me to question Bryntin’s sanity Smilern, but a quick check of the comments section from last week’s ‘James Explains’ does confirm that Bryntin is indeed a relative of Rin Tin Tin. But which one we don’t know. Cos there were loads of them. Or more specifically there were four. Although actually all four Rin Tin Tins were supposedly related so they could feasibly all have been related to Bryntin too.

Interestingly, the fourth Rin Tin Tin wasn’t much of an actor so he was replaced by a dog who wasn’t called Rin Tin Tin in real life but who apparently made for a more convincing  ‘on screen’ Rin Tin Tin than the actual Rin Tin Tin.

Suze, who clearly read all the comments in the comments section last week, asks:

How could anyone with taste call a perfectly nice dog “Rin Tin Tin”? Why repeat the “tin”? Was the person that named that poor beast a stutterer?

Granted Suze, Rin Tin Tin is a pretty stupid name for a dog, but I struggle to get on board with Rin Tin either. I don’t think it’s the extra ‘Tin’ that makes it a stupid name. Even the original Rin Tin Tin thought it was a bit daft and he went by the nickname ‘Rinty’ for most of his life. Which is also stupid. In the end I think we have to forgive him though because he was a German Shepherd dog who was actually from Germany but named after a French good luck charm, and then moved to America. The poor dog clearly had identity issues so who are we to begrudge him an extra ‘Tin’?

 

And that’s all we have time for on this week’s James Explains, but if you did ask a question of me that has gone unanswered then worry not, I’ll get to your questions next week. Although do feel free to ask more in the comments below. We don’t want a repeat of last week do we?

 

James Explains Nothing Very Much At All

James Explains

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Admittedly it was something of a risk when I started a regular feature on my blog that was entirely reliant on ‘audience participation’ that there might come a day when the audience chose not to participate.

Or more specifically when I started a feature, which was entirely dependent on other people asking me questions, that there might come a week when no questions were asked.

And that time has arrived, for I have no questions to answer this week.

Or very few anyway.

The ever-reliable Pete did ask a question this week, and actually I believe there remain some unanswered ‘Pete’ questions from previous weeks.

But this is not all about Pete.

It’s a bit about Pete obviously.

But it’s not all about Pete.

Yet.

So I’ll answer one or more of Pete’s outstanding questions next week, but this week I thought I might try my contingency plan for when the day arrives that even Pete can’t be bothered to ask me any questions.

And my contingency plan is that I will ask myself some questions.

Because, if I’m honest, I am the kind of person that talks to myself quite regularly anyway, so there’s really no harm in doing it in blog form. They say it’s the first sign of madness, but in reality I’m pretty sure that the ship of sanity sailed a long time ago for me.

I mean I’m obviously not claiming to be mad, because that would be conclusive proof that I’m boringly sane and a bit on the dull side. And while I offer no denials that in real life I am a mind-numbingly dull person to spend time with, I’m not sure I always make the sanest of choices.

I’d give you an example of what I mean, but actually that might save this car crash of a post with something resembling interesting content and I’m far too committed to making this as perplexingly bad as I possibly can to allow for anything resembling an interesting narrative at this juncture.

Instead, in for a penny, in for a…

…well a pound seems like bit much, but I’ll certainly go as high as 20p…

So, without further ado, here are this week’s questions:

James, from James Proclaims asks:

What’s going on right now?

Well James, you appear to be having something of a breakdown on your own blog. It’s all quite distressing really.

James, who is also from James Proclaims asks:

Seriously though, why is this happening?

Great question James, and truthfully I’m not sure. Maybe this is some kind of self-aware satire that is genuinely meant to be funny, or maybe this is the very worrying decline of a man in his late thirties, who has finally realised that many of his long-held ambitions are pipe dreams.

James, who to be clear is still the same James as before and is in fact me asks:

Am I going to get through this?

I’m not sure James. Only time will tell. Perhaps lay off the red wine for a few days though eh?

And that’s it for another James Explains. If you never want to see anything quite as tragic on these pages again then please ask a question, any question, in the comments below.

James and I are depending on you.

Disclaimer: I actually did end up getting asked a few questions this week but I’d already written the above nonsense and decided to post it anyway, so apologies if your question went unanswered this week, I’ll definitely answer it next week! Although still ask more questions below and consider the above a cautionary tale of just how low I’m prepared to sink on these pages if I don’t get my own way…

 

James Explains Morality Amongst Other Things

James Explains

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Hello, and welcome to another James Explains, the regular feature on my blog where I answer the seemingly unanswerable. Remember, if you have a problem, if no-one else can help and if you can find them, maybe you can hire the A-Team. But if you just have a question and you can’t be bothered to Google the answer yourself, but you can be bothered to leave a question in the comments below, then maybe I’ll answer the question. For free. Which is definitely cheaper than the A-Team. Although if you lock me in a warehouse I won’t be able to fabricate a tank out of an old bathtub and bits of a bicycle. So really I‘m not in direct competition with the A-Team. We offer very different services. But we do both pity fools.

And so on with today’s questions and they are as follows:

Regular contributor Pete asks:

 What was the name of the first vegan aardvark and why was it significant in helping to explain Pythagoras’ theorem?

Phew, Pete, that is quite a question. At first I thought this was a trick question and that there was really some sort of link between aardvarks, veganism and Pythagoras. So I Googled all those things and found nothing obvious. Although interestingly there is a suggestion that Pythagoras was actually vegetarian and indeed in the days of yore, before the term ’vegetarian’ was widely accepted as the way to describe that particular lifestyle choice, people referred to themselves as being Pythagorean. Obviously that might not be true at all, I haven’t taken the time and trouble of verifying my source for that particular claim, but I quite like it so I’m going to choose to believe it. I couldn’t find much to do with aardvarks though, so instead here are some pictures of some well known anthropomorphic aardvarks who might well be vegans (although the blue one is only so because he consistently fails to catch the anthropomorphic ant that he wants to eat) and who probably understand Pythagoras’ theorem quite well. Take your pick:

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Related image

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Next up, first time contributor Suze asks:

If electricity comes from electrons…does morality come from morons?

At first glance the answer would seem to be a definitive yes. But that, alas, is not how language works. Although it is fair to say that both electricity and morality are dangerous things in the hands of the wrong people.

I’m not sure morality is solely the purview of morons, it’s probably not a bad idea for all of us to live by some kind of moral compass. However, where morality and moronity often cross paths is when someone insists on inflexibly imposing their own moral code on others, without any acknowledgement of the subjective nature of morality.

So in a way, yes, morality does often come from morons and like electricity morality can sometimes be shocking and unpleasant. But equally, used in the right way, like electricity, morality can also be illuminating.

Another regular contributor of questions, Haylee asks:

How do you keep finding such interesting flavours for biscuits? You must live in the centre of the biscuit universe!

Now to be fair, Haylee was not asking this question in the context of requiring an answer on ‘James Explains’ but merely asking a rhetorical question in light of the fact that I have mentioned various biscuits on these pages that she hasn’t come across despite living in the same country as me. However, in the absence of any other questions this week I am going to answer Haylee’s question.

Alas I don’t live in the centre of the biscuit universe, although that does remain a lifelong ambition, but I feel my my consumption of interesting biscuits has a disappointingly simple explanation. While it’s possible that the disparity of our biscuit experiences could possibly be explained by the fact that Haylee lives in the north of these fair isles and I live in the south, when it comes to groceries, regional differences are increasingly a thing of the past. Mostly I buy my biscuits in major supermarket chains which exist throughout the UK. But it is fair to say that I am a fan of novelty and whenever a limited edition or seasonal product is made available, I will often purchase it in lieu of more regularly available items and in the field of biscuits I employ this strategy almost exclusively. This can pay dividends and I have enjoyed some delightful cookies, wafers and shortbreads over the years. It can also go awry however – for example my biscuit tin currently contains some banoffee caramel digestives which are nowhere near as nice as I thought they’d be. I’m going to have to go back to the tried and tested realm of the chocolate hobnob for a week or so just to get over them. But once I’ve recovered I’ll be back in search of more avant-garde garibaldis.

And that’s it for this week’s questions, but before I go and while we’re on the subject of biscuits, I must just address one linguistic point that was brought to my attention by a friend of mine in relation to last week’s ‘James Explains’.

Last week, I made reference to the greatest of all the biscuits, the noble Jammie Dodger, and claimed that they are manufactured in Wales. My friend took umbrage with my use of the word ‘manufacture’ in relation to biscuits, claiming that the word ‘manufacture’ should really only be used in relation to the production of cars and the like, and I should have said that Jammie Dodgers are ‘produced’ or simply ‘made’ in Wales. And he may have a point. But I would argue that while convention might dictate that ‘manufacture’ is implicitly linked to larger mass produced items such as cars, biscuits too are made on a large scale using machinery so my use of the word ‘manufacture’ was not technically incorrect and only a true pedant would pick me up for it. That said, I’ve always felt that pedantry was an admirable quality in anyone so I apologise to my friend if my linguistic choices offended him but as I am also quite the pedant, I will also insist that I was absolutely correct in my use of the word ‘manufacture’.

So I hope that settles that.

And if you’d like me to ‘manufacture’ some answers to your unanswerable questions for next week, then please leave them in the comments below.