Throwing in the towel

Once again we must start by voyaging back through time to the author’s boyhood – still, the temporal transition does provide gainful employ for this country’s hard-pressed harpists.  Back in that bygone era, my grandparents kept a dog: a golden labrador called William.  He loved most of the things which might be considered typical of his kind: eating, going for a W-A-L-K and sleeping.  I find myself in full agreement when it comes to all of these passions – though I have rather different tastes in food: or at least a broader range of opportunities, as I recall William was quite willing to take anything edible he was offered (even when the offering was – at best – implicit).  He would also rarely turn down the opportunity to enter a body of water – however filthy it might be – an urge which I have little trouble in resisting (assuming it afflicts me at all).

The subject of this post will be another canine habit – and one perhaps especially strong in a gun-dog like William – the desire to fetch.  Back in those primitive times, the items to be violently discarded and then restored by a very willing companion were limited to sticks (usually available “as found”) and balls (normally carried with a game of ‘fetch’ very much in mind).  Taking a mild digression, I find the relationship between many (perhaps even most) dogs and the tennis ball a fascinating one.  Our best friends™ clearly love tennis balls and will go to significant trouble to obtain or regain one – however, this love seems to be expressed at its purest in the toothy destruction of its object.  I cannot help but wonder how our millennia of breeding experiments on the wolf have led to this savage bond twixt their descendants and the humble tennis ball.  Is it perhaps our development of the modern tennis ball which has cemented our role as ‘master’ in the collective canine consciousness?

As a dog returneth to his vomit, so this fool returneth to the plot (such as it is).  In those halcyon days, I would cast the stick or ball out into the world using just the power of my strong (OK, fairly weedy) right arm.  This seemed to generate more than enough separation between myself and the projectile to satisfy William and his desire for the chase.  Scroll forward through four decades (or just hit SHIFT-END) and I find very few of today’s dog-owners (or companions) seem willing to launch a projectile, for their dog to fetch, unaided.  All now seem to favour a plastic stick some 18 inches in length, which, like a modern-day atlatl, boosts the throwing force which can be brought to bear.  These modern atlatls seem to be used only for throwing balls, I’ve not seem one used on a stick – I suppose the lack of standardisation in the world of the brown and sticky has precluded mass production of a similar throwing aid.

Have we, as a species, become so physically degraded that we can no longer hurl a tennis ball far enough to satisfy our pooches’ fetching needs?  Is the happiness of our pets now dependant on access to augmenting throwing technology?  That the victors of Agincourt have sunk so low.  Why is this not a source of national shame?  The more reactionary elements of the political class are always bemoaning the loss of ‘British values’ – whatever they may be – so could it be time to restore the longbow to the National Curriculum?  A fitter nation with improved upper body strength has to be a positive outcome – and we’ll be able to satisfy our four-legged friends without the need to import plastic tat from China (improving our balance of trade).  As a bonus, the link to Agincourt would probably annoy the French: surely this must make for an almost perfect piece of public policy in this land of physically-enfeebled, dog-loving Euro-sceptics?

We ask the questions…

that others fear to ask.  Or, alternatively, need an excuse to cover random thoughts that have occurred to me during the past day.

When I went out this morning, I saw a dog urinating against a lamp-post – nothing unusual there.  However, uric acid is a component of urine – whether human or canine – and as an, albeit weak, organic acid will presumably eat away at the base of any street furniture used as a convenient territory marker over time.  Does street furniture in popular dog walking areas erode faster than elsewhere?  It will also be increasing the eutrophication of our urban spaces.  Surely, dogs should be charged council tax to cover the damage?  Or perhaps they could be fitted with collection equipment?  Not so long ago, urine was a valuable industrial feedstock…

More recently, I saw a television programme trailed as being “adrenaline fuelled”.  Ignoring the failure to use either the proper IUPAC name or the now preferred “epinephrine”, I found myself wondering how effective adrenaline would be as a fuel.  It is an organic molecule and so would burn, though I have been unable to ascertain its calorific value via a web search.  I would guess it has a similar CV to glucose or protein – so perfectly respectable, but hardly a go-to choice for fuel and it would probably make unleaded look quite cheap.  I suppose if it could be extracted from the stressed – perhaps harvested from a rollercoaster or at horror movies – it might be considered a renewable or low-carbon option – but, frankly, there must be better ways to tackle climate change.

Cold Collation

Some posts benefit from a high concept and offer the reader a single unify theme – well, we can all dream.  Other posts rely on me trying to shoe-horn a bunch of disparate (some might say desperate) ideas under a fig-leaf of unity (whilst merrily mixing my metaphors).  The title may have given you a clue, but this will fall into the latter camp – and will even dispense with the fig-leaf.  It will just collect together a number of my recent musings which the day job has prevented me from developing into fully-fledged posts (but, then again, who wants a feathered post?).

A little before Christmas, I found myself crossing the men’s underwear department of John Lewis on my way to an assignation with the ties.  As I passed the under-crackers, one packet caught my eye – not for its contents or the graphic depiction of a chap modelling the product, but for its strap-line.  This garment promised a “body-defining fit” – even some four weeks later, I still have no idea what that might mean.  In what way could the fit of my boxers define my body?  I struggle to find an adjective that could be shared by both fit and my body – so far “good” is my only serious candidate (unless, any readers consider my body to be “snug”).

We find ourselves in the midst of the annual orgy of prize-giving once more.  Despite my usual disinterest in such matters, I was interested to see that Ron Weasley has been nominated in several categories at the Brits.  I’m really not sure an alumnus of Hogwarts should be participating in a muggle competition – and certainly not under a pseudonym (Ed Sheeran).  He hasn’t fooled me, and I really don’t see this ploy fooling the Ministry of Magic either.

In the world of film, The Artist seems hotly tipped to collect the lion’s share of the awards.  Now, I’ve seen the film and it’s perfectly enjoyable and does have a rather nicely trained dog which (just, only just!) avoids the cliché of bringing help to someone who has fallen down a well.  It has the novelty (for 2012) that is is both silent and in black-and-white – though 80 or so years ago, this would have been nothing special.  Otherwise, it didn’t strike me as anything exceptional – the plot was pretty predictable and I can see people (well, myself at least) mugging at a camera every time I use Skype (or record a vlog).  I do wonder if its popularity derives from the fact that it is a film about film, and this appeals to the film-literate critics who vote for these awards – or perhaps my comparative lack of appreciation is just a symptom of my limited critical faculties.

I am not the only person who likes to bring things together under the umbrella of a common theme.  It is popular device in the wacky world of television, where theme nights seem to come round at least once a week.  I’m not generally a fan of these as either (a) I have no interest in the theme, and so the entire night’s televisual offerings are a write-off or (b) I am interested, and so am stuck in front of the television all evening with no chance to garner snacks or a hot beverage (or indeed, deal with the after-effects of consuming said snacks or beverages.  I have, so far, resisted the colostomy bag).  However, last night at nine, the even-numbered BBC channels offered a new take on the theme night.  We had the choice of a documentary on Pugin or one on Putin – quite a contrast in subject matter.  I rather like the idea of using themes that rhyme or perhaps themes which differ only in a single consonant – and why stop at two?  I think I may appropriate this idea for GofaDM: private and primate? miner and mixer?  lifer, liger and liner?  The possibilities for juxtaposition are endless.

Finally, I notice that the world (well, the English speaking, non-mobile world) was robbed of access to Wikipedia earlier in the week.  GofaDM stayed up throughout with its treasure-trove of obscure knowledge and dodgy puns.  This led me to wonder if I should be expanding my efforts to form a more complete encyclopaedia of all the knowledge needed by the right-thinking.  If any readers have requests for subjects they would like me to cover, prior to the next loss of more traditional sources of half-baked facts, they should submit them via the usual channels and I will consider them…