THE BRITISH LIBRARY

In through the outfield blog

25 posts categorized "Humour"

17 March 2011

Kate Middleton to marry Prince Harry

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The most important activity for any start-up (or existing business come to that) is research. If you don’t understand your customers, your market, or your products properly, you will make mistakes. And these could cost your business.

With this in mind, it looks like Guandong Enterprises ltd failed to do their research when producing a piece of memorabilia to celebrate our forthcoming royal nuptials. Although the names are correct on the ‘Royal mug’, the image is of red-haired Harry, instead of his older brother, less colourful brother Will.

Ironically although this mug is not likely to be a best seller, its value is going to go sky-high due to the mistake.

Will and Kate

http://www.guandongenterprisesltd.com/

Kate Middleton ‘marries Prince Harry’ on souvenir mug

06 March 2011

Milking a story for all it’s worth

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The_Monster_Ball_-_Poker_Face_revamped2-tweak Last week I was admiring how successfully the Icecreamists have been at generating publicity for their Baby Gaga ice cream, made from human breast-milk, which costs £14 (Luxury foods in terribly bad taste). Then they had a set-back when their local council removed the milk for testing.

On Friday, yet another newspaper article appeared in the Evening Standard – Baby Gaga: Star takes legal action over London parlour’s breast milk ice cream flavour.

It’s a publicists dream come true. Probably the worlds most famous current pop star is threatening legal action over the ice cream, which her lawyers claim is infringing her Lady Gaga brand.

From a legal point of view, it seems unlikely that Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta, also know as Lady Gaga, will win her case against Matt O’Connor the owner of the Icecreamists. He claims the term comes from the early sounds babies make when trying to speak, and has applied to register the trademark.

However, thanks to the Lady Gaga name, this story has now gone global, appearing in American, Russian and Indian newspapers within hours. Mr O’Connor must be rubbing his hands with glee.

26 February 2011

Luxury foods in terribly bad taste

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One of the key pieces of advice I give to aspiring entrepreneurs is to ensure they have a recognisable unique selling point (USP to use the jargon).

Often this involves finding a niche which has yet to be explored commercially. Sometimes this can be a niche within a niche. If the topic is truly unique and even better controversial, this will help to generate interest from potential customers and the press.

Wild_Kopi_Luwak An example would be the coffee my brother kindly bought me back from Indonesia. Wild Kopi Luwak is apparently the world’s most expensive and low-production coffee. It is made from the beans of coffee berries eaten by the Asian Palm Civet.

According to Wikipedia, in its stomach, proteolytic enzymes seep into the beans, making shorter peptides and more free amino acids. Passing through a civet’s intestines the beans are then defecated, keeping their shape. After gathering, thorough washing, sun drying, light roasting and brewing, these beans yield an aromatic coffee with much less bitterness.

Not every coffee drinker will aspire to drink something which has been source from animal excreta. However, I can confirm that this coffee is definitely not ‘shit’, and has one of the smoothest tastes I have ever sampled.

Peter Dominiczak tasting the £14 ice cream in Covent Garden

Peter Dominiczak from the Evening Standard tasting Baby Gaga

A more extreme example would be Baby Gaga ice cream at a mind-bending £14 a go.

The Icecreamists have been at it again (Sex sells – but call it Maturialism for now), and this time they have scored a hat-trick, with extreme high price, and combining amazing taste and amazingly bad taste in one product.

Their unique selling point? The ice cream is made from fresh human breast milk. The contributors of the milk are paid £15 for every 10 ounces they provide, and apparently are queuing up to meet the demand.

The Evening Standard sent intrepid reporter Peter Dominczak along to try out the controversial new ice cream.

‘I have never been less excited by the thought of ice cream on a sunny day. I am served by a woman imitating Lady Gaga who pours the breast milk into a metal top hat before pouring liquid nitrogen over it. I am provided with a shot of Calpol – apparently to assist with any brain freezes – and some Bonjela for any issues with sensitive teeth. Even with two biscuits, I’m not sure it warrants the £14 price tag. But it tastes fantastic. Light and creamy with just enough of a vanilla tinge. I am told breast milk tastes like overly-sweet skimmed milk, but this ice cream tastes better than almost any I’ve had before. Despite the issues I have with drinking the contents of a stranger’s breast this might catch on.’

The Daily Mail also got excited about the story, One from the chest freezer: Restaurant sells breast milk ice cream

Bizarre: Company founder Matt O'Connor, 44, and the Lady Gaga waitress in the central London store

Company founder Matt O'Connor, 44, and the Lady Gaga waitress in the central London store - Source - Daily Mail - http://www.dailymail.co.uk

Update – 1 March 2011

Perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised that this story is set to run and run. Today’s update in the Evening Standard was, Breast milk ice cream seized for safety tests. Westminster Council staff took the Baby Gaga flavour at and sent it away to test for viral infections, after complaints.

The original story in the Standard has attracted quite a few comments, some positive, some negative, and some just silly.

My favourite so far is from MS in London who says;
Not very good marketing for the company. Next time I go to Covent Garden, I’ll make sure I don’t buy any icecream from this business (breastmilk or not).

21 January 2011

Comedy at The British Library – What’s So Funny Live

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It's Friday and so time to lighten up a bit.

Actually it was on Monday evening that I was lucky enough to attend What's So Funny Live, an evening of comedy as part of our Evolving English exhibition.

Five comics took over our rather serious Conference Centre with the challenge of making their audience laugh.

Each of them succeeded in their own way, with Ida Barr being particularly - or perhaps peculiarly, unique.

Doc Brown the rapper and performance poet-turned comedian (who prefers not to be known as the baby brother of author Zadie Smith), was the host for the evening, and contributed some excellent laid back humour. In particular his story about listening to his 'brothers' outraged tales of police harassment as they go about their illegal activities.

Susan Murray focussed on regional accents with some self deprecating jokes about the unimpressive nature of her West Midlands accent.

Old timer Arthur Smith followed with sketches about how everyone will eventually become a BBC Radio 4 listener - however hard they try to resist (certainly true for me). He also persuaded the audience to sing along to “I am the Mayor of Balham / oh yes I fucking am / I am the Mayor of Balham / I fucking fucking am”. Taking much delight in polluting the otherwise pristine air of  the British Library with foul language. However, he finished on a joke that was so clean it would be suitable for children and involved balloons and letting people down.

Next came Ida Barr, the creation of Chris Green. She is an 'artificial-hip-hopping' former Music Hall star, doddering around the stage but peppering her talk with the street language of 'innit' and 'aks'. Odd, but also hilarious.

 

Finally came Richard Herring, famous (or perhaps infamous) for his 2009 show Hitler Moustache, in which he attempted to reclaim the toothbrush moustache for comedy... by growing one on his upper lip. He was enormously relaxed and confident with the audience, and has a great deal of excellent material to call on. He successfully unnerved us as well as making us laugh at ourselves and him. He has a great sketch about the potato of the sky...

 

It's Friday and so time to lighten up a bit.

Actually it was on Monday evening that I was lucky enough to attend What's So Funny Live, an evening of comedy as part of our Evolving English exhibition.

Five comics took over our rather serious Conference Centre with the challenge of making their audience laugh.

Each of them succeeded in their own way, with Ida Barr being particularly - or perhaps peculiarly, unique.

Doc Brown the rapper and performance poet-turned comedian (who prefers not to be known as the baby brother of author Zadie Smith), was the host for the evening, and contributed some excellent laid back humour. In particular his story about listening to his 'brothers' outraged tales of police harassment as they go about their illegal activities.

Susan Murray focussed on regional accents with some self deprecating jokes about the unimpressive nature of her West Midlands accent.

Old timer Arthur Smith followed with sketches about how everyone will eventually become a BBC Radio 4 listener - however hard they try to resist (certainly true for me). He also persuaded the audience to sing along to “I am the Mayor of Balham / oh yes I fucking am / I am the Mayor of Balham / I fucking fucking am”. Taking much delight in polluting the otherwise pristine air of  the British Library with foul language. However, he finished on a joke that was so clean it would be suitable for children and involved balloons and letting people down.

Next came Ida Barr, the creation of Chris Green. She is an 'artificial-hip-hopping' former Music Hall star, doddering around the stage but peppering her talk with the street language of 'innit' and 'aks'. Odd, but also hilarious.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rPXNU2LZBHA&feature=player_embedded#!]

Finally came Richard Herring, famous (or perhaps infamous) for his 2009 show Hitler Moustache, in which he attempted to reclaim the toothbrush moustache for comedy... by growing one on his upper lip. He was enormously relaxed and confident with the audience, and has a great deal of excellent material to call on. He successfully unnerved us as well as making us laugh at ourselves and him. He has a great sketch about the potato of the sky...

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Iu7dfHhaHA]

14 January 2011

The stupendous language of sport

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Davidcoleman As part of our Evolving English exhibition, we are running all kinds of related events.

In November I was lucky to be able to watch a recording Just a Minute, the wonderful radio panel game that has been running since 1967. One of my early memories is listening with my granny to Clement Freud and Kenneth Williams.

More recently we hosted an evening devoted to the Language of Sport, which generated some excellent coverage on the BBC – The art of talking a good game. The event was also reviewed on the In bed with Maradona blog.

Not surprisingly much of the talk is about the clichés that surround football commentating, which is related to the live nature of the coverage.

There is a brilliant example from the BBC, of the commentator who ‘went too early’, resulting in over-excited screaming when the ball finally went in the net – The stupendous language of sport.

Then we have Colmanballs,  a term coined by Private Eye magazine to describe verbal gaffes perpetrated by (usually British) sports commentators. It is derived from the surname of the now retired BBC broadcaster David Coleman and the suffix -balls, as in “to balls up”.

The Parryphernalia blog has collected a set of amusing misuses of the term literally, which he calls LiterallyBalls.

Here is a short selection:

  • “After the first goal went in you could literally see the Derby players shrinking.” Alan Shearer commenting on Derby’s latest capitulation.
  • “Craig Bellamy has literally been on fire” Ally McCoist.
  • “The Liverpool defence have literally been caught with their trousers down.” Andy Townsend on an Andy Johnson chance against Liverpool.
  • “Koller was literally, literally, right up his backside there.” Andy Townsend again, commenting on Jan Koller’s positioning in the Turkish penalty box.
  • “Terry Venables has literally had his legs cut off from underneath him three times while he’s been manager” Barry Venison.

Last, but by no means least, is the commentating legend that was Alan Partridge. Although a fictional sports reporter on The Day Today, his football commentating contains pearls of English that will stay with us. Here is an example that includes, “he must have a foot like a traction engine”, and “that was liquid football” (a comment I have since heard from real-life commentators).

 

 

22 September 2010

Read or Die (R.O.D) and the coolest librarian in the world

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read_or_die_coverI’m wondering if my quest for the most exciting librarian in the world (Cool librarians, More cool librarians) has now ended with the discovery of Yomiko Readman, codename The Paper, an agent for the Special Operations Division of The British Library. Yes you read that right, but may have realised that Yomiko is a fictional character set in an alternative future, where the British Empire has managed to maintain its superpower status.

In this fantasy world the British Library is an institution devoted to the promotion of literacy (so far so believable), but is also home to The British Library Special Operations Division who run operations around the world to fight book related crime and terrorism. Their slogan is ‘Peace to the books of the world, an iron hammer to those who would abuse them (I have some colleagues who would support this part), and glory and wisdom to the British Empire’.

Yomiko, the hero of the stories is a half-Japanese, half-English papermaster. This means she has the ability to manipulate paper in a wide variety of ways, including creating paper darts that can carry people, paper-rope stronger than steel, and BL_LLLU_logosamurai swords. As a result, she never goes anywhere without her case full of stationery supplies.

Although polite and friendly with very few exceptions, she does have a licence to kill, and does so with her deadliest technique, death by paper cuts!

joker_smileYomiko reports to Joker, a stereotypically stiff upper lip Englishman who needs a proper cup of tea in a china cup to help him in a crisis. He reports to Gentleman, an aged, one eyed man, who is the power behind the throne of the British Empire (no sign of the Royal family here).

Although not generally a fan of Manga comics, I greatly enjoyed watching the Read or Die DVD animated version of the stories last night (many thanks to colleague Matthew Shaw for the loan).

In particular I loved the way that Yomika always asks so politely for her books to be returned to her. And the almost sexual excitement with flushed cheeks she shows when coming across a special book. Needless to say her apartment is piled high with books, to the extent that she is covered by them as she sleep on her sofa.

Here are some links about this exciting (for a librarian) new discovery:

Please give back my book! Welcome, fellow readers, the newly revamped ReadorDie.org

Internet Movie Data Base

Wikipedia entry

Read or Die Wiki

01 February 2010

Sex sells – but call it Maturialism for now

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Springwise and its sister publication Trendwatching always seem to have their finger on the pulse of emerging business trends. So I was somewhat surprised to see what must be one of the oldest tricks in the book repackaged under the term Maturialism in their report on 10 consumer trends for 2010.

Let’s face it: this year will be rawer, more opinionated, more risqué, more in your face than ever before. Your audiences (who are by now thoroughly exposed to, well, anything, for which you can thank first and foremost the anything-goes online universe) can handle much more quirkiness, more daring innovations, more risqué communications and conversations, more exotic flavours and so on than traditional marketers could have ever dreamed of. In short; audiences in mature consumer societies no longer tolerate being treated like yesteryear’s uninformed, easily shocked, inexperienced, middle-of-the-road consumer. We’ve dubbed this MATURIALISM (mature materialism).

My favourite example of this racy new breed of business are The Icecreamists, who seem to me to have combined anarchist tendencies, punk design, fetish wear and ice cream into one unholy whole.

http://www.fuule.com/wp-content/themes/thesis_16/custom/images/icecreamists.jpg

The Icecreamists are an anonymous troupe of provocateurs and iconoclasts with a background in staging dramatic high-profile events.

Whilst engaged on these clandestine and legally dubious pursuits, they would on occasion be discovered by law enforcement officers, enjoying illicit chills with a tub of freshly-made artisans gelato. One day they read that ice cream could be subversive and was being used to undermine the government of Belarus, a state in the former Soviet Union.

Organised ice cream eating as political protest had begun, and the The Icecreamists were born; sub-zero missionaries destined to convert a cold, cruel unforgiving world to the life-enhancing gospel of freshly-made artisans gelato. Today, the founders are still hopelessly foul-mouthed, anti-establishment and politically incorrect, but they have purged themselves of their old law-breaking ways and dedicated their lives to pioneering a new ideology, what they describe as ‘Icecreamism’.

The Icecreamists sasys it’s a bit like socialism, only funnier, more addictive and tastes better. Now aficionados can enjoy Icreamism anywhere they fancy. Against the bar, against the wall or against the law.

icecreamists

22 December 2009

My favourite Einstein quotes

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A colleague has recently been using the following brilliant line quite a bit recently, with regard to people who keep making the same mistakes. It didn’t take much research to find it came from that wonderful scientist and philosopher Albert Einstein.

* Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

Einstein also came up with quite a few quotable quotes on the topic of knowledge:

* Information is not knowledge.

* The only source of knowledge is experience.

* Imagination is more important than knowledge.

* The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination.

The Brainy Quote website has a whole A to Z of Einstein’s one liners.