Friday, 26 March 2010

Dear 'The Pope' (again), from Science (No. 16)

The guy just invites this sort of thing, doesn't he?

"Dear The Pope

Hello, it's me, Science. Did you not get my last letter? I know my tone was a little sarcastic, but then I long ago gave up bothering to sound serious and informed with your sort, it's a wasted effort on my part.
Just to re-cap, I was sort-of telling you off for saying how it's wrong for Gay people to do things like be Gay, and work for you. You set yourself up as the indisputable judge of all that is moral. I even had one of your followers having a go at me for confusing 'natural' and 'divine' law (which was in itself a dubious claim), where it's my job to say what 'is', and it's your job to say what's 'right'. Your way doesn't need evidence, apparently, just an elaborate hat.

I admit I wrote the last letter, and was chuckling to myself about your antics, thinking that you were making a spectacle of yourself. I remember thinking specifically, "he couldn't possibly make himself look any worse"

As you like to claim, I can be wrong. But, dude, seriously?

I admit, I don't like to shout about it when I get a null result or something, but... wow!

I mean, if I was the supposed divine representation of moral perfection, I'd, I don't know, not do certain... things?

Seriously mate, did you not think this was a bad idea? I'd have thought someone who was once in the Hitler Youth would have a little more regard for his public image in this day and age. But again, after my stern talking to on the differences between our responsibilities, I'm willing to listen to an explanation for how this sort of thing is OK by 'divine law' (assuming you have one?).

I mean, using contraception and/or pursuing a consensual, loving relationship with some with the same number of X chromosomes as you, these are things that will condemn you to hell for eternity? Whereas abusing children will get you... access to more children? I'm sorry to say I don't follow the rationale there (I realise asking for the logic behind the actions of you and yours is a bit like asking for the mode of action of homeopathy, but you, like them, usually claim to have one, however farcical).

Were you thinking like one of those old stories, where the child is found to be smoking their fathers cigarettes and is made to smoke several packs to 'teach him a lesson'? I, personally, would have said that the rights and innocence of children outranked disposable indulgences like cigarettes when considered as resources for punishment. But then, I'm not Catholic, and the rights of the individual has never really been something you guys have been bothered about (unless, as previously stated, he, and it's always he, has one of your elaborate hats, in which case any criticism must be condemned ferociously)

I don't approve of the 'make them keep doing it until they get tired of it' method of dissuasion anyway. Be it abuse or cigarettes, a child is going to end up severely damaged for the rest of their life. And it's not even punishment in the traditional sense, as it doesn't pair an action with a directly aversive stimulus. It essentially habituates the person to the stimulus which they previously found rewarding and makes them repeat the action until they lose the pleasurable response it normally elicits. Sex doesn't work this way of course, there's a lot of biological compensators in place to stop that happening. See what happens when you ignore evolution!

But then, what does my opinion matter? I'm only the personification of all human knowledge (that is evidence-derived and well researched)

I mean, I can't see the people in charge of the 'regular' law adopting this method for serious offences (child abuse is, by the way, regarded as very serious in terms of 'normal' law, rather than 'divine' law, which seemingly regards it as a mere bad habit).
And I know I said homosexuality is natural because it keeps occurring despite not having a reproductive element. At the risk of inciting controversy, this same argument could be levelled at Child abuse. I see it as different, in the same way murder is different; it involves severely damaged victims and the self-gratification of a sick individual, not social bonding and understanding. So, remember this, Homosexuality = good, Child abuse = bad. I'd have thought it was a simple system, I can't beleive you've been getting it wrong for so long.

Just to see if this is an isolated incident, perhaps you'd be willing to take a test? Tell me, if one of your priests was found to be one of those serial killers you get in TV dramas, the kind who preys on prostitutes, what would you do? Would you;

a) Punish him by sacking him from the church

b) Punish him by imprisoning him

c) Punish him by equipping him with a fresh knife and locking him in a brothel in a different area?

Now, as far as I'm aware, the correct answer is b). But According to your 'divine law', which is it? Getting the boot seems a bit mild a punishment for mass murder, but I don't know how well you guys pay. Or are you guys in it for the 'fringe benefits'?

When you ask yourself 'what would Jesus do?' how the hell did you come up with this answer.

Thing is, I could provide a lot of rationale and reasoning for why this sort of behaviour occurs. Not as an excuse, but as an explanation, and with the hope of preventing it in future. I can list psychological causes, impetus, disorders, mental instabilities that lead to this sort of thing. But I won't. Because, as you've been so keen to point out in the past, this isn't my place.

So I'm going to sit here, in my place, and watch your place as it falls apart.

Is it OK if I make some popcorn before the next scandal breaks?

Fond regards

Science (BA hons)

P.S. After I was mocked for (deliberately) mistaking you for right-wing fundamentalists in my previous letter, I wrote this entire thing with 'Duelling Banjos' playing in the background. I'll say this for the psycho's, they'd probably string up the child molesters, not supply them with more victims. You're currently ranking below the lunatics. What's that like?"

e-mail: Humourology (at)
twitter: @garwboy

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

"Dear Light-speed, from Science" (No. 15)

Before anyone feels the need to point it out, I'm aware that this one probably contains numerous errors and incorrect applications of the laws of relativity and so forth. If you feel upset by these things, please leave corrections in the comments, or maybe go off and write your own? A bit radical, and a lot harder work than relentless nit-picking I know, but it's always an option.

"Dear Light-speed

Hello. I'm writing this letter, but I've got a sneaking suspicion that it's a pointless effort on my part. Even if you were willing to read it (not guaranteed by any means), how exactly am I going to deliver it to you? I hope I'm not unfairly maligning them, but I sincerely doubt that any of the postal services available have vans or trucks capable of catching up with you (although I have my suspicions about the Royal Mail, given that their delivery times and schedules are so wildly erratic that I can't help but think it's the result of confusion introduced by relativistic time dilation).

Saying that, even if I do somehow manage to get this letter to you, by the time it reaches you it will have achieved close to infinite mass, and that will prove to be some heavy reading!

(Ha ha, see what I did there? A reference to exponentially increasing mass, and I used a joke to 'lighten' the mood! Which is itself a joke with many meanings! 'Lighten' implying that I can use a humorous reference to increasing mass being 'heavy' in order to offset the effects of the increasing mass that I am making jokey references to, and 'lighten' also references 'light' which you are the speed of. Get it?....

COME ON! Even for the anthropomorphic personification of all human knowledge and research and understanding of natural processes, that's bloody clever!)

I suppose I could just write this electronically and transmit it into space via radio waves, so you can read it whenever you like. Admittedly, it might end up confusing any alien race that picks up the transmission, but that might be helpful; they may spend a while trying to determine what it means, rather than deciding that humans are clearly a race of time-wasting idiots and wiping us out as a matter of principle.

And that's where the point of this letter comes in. I know you might be loath to speak to me, seeing as I spend so much of my time trying to work out how to break you, but can you blame me? Seriously mate, is there any chance you could relax the restrictions a bit? I understand the need for universal constants in the formation of a habitable and functioning cosmos, but do you have to be so bloody draconian about it? Speed cameras are bad enough, but a monetary fine and points on a license doesn't really come close to an infinite increase in mass, and near total loss of time seems somewhat harsh even by cosmic standards.

Thing is, I have a lot of things I'd like to get on with, and I can't because you keep putting your infinitely heavy foot down when I try to do something that gets involved with relativity. Fiction and I have been working together and envisioned a lot of potential realities and scenarios where space travel is common (although there are those guys who wear the pointy ears or wrinkled foreheads who seem to be taking it a bit far), but because of you none of it has happened yet. And nobody expects fiction to chip in with solutions, no no no, it's all on muggins here to get us out to the stars. I'm doing my best, but it's bloody hard work. And people insist on being pampered too! They've not even gone to Mars yet, and probably won't unless they're convinced they'll definitely survive the journey. This means I've got to figure out how to cart all their precious mod-cons along with them across the vast reaches of space. Stuff like Oxygen and food, I ask you! Babies, the lot of them.

It's not just space travel, relativistic time effects seriously interfere with my Sat-nav network, it's really hard work adjusting the time difference between a whirring satellite in LEO and a ground based vehicle. I have my hands full just keeping it running perfectly (well, I would if I bothered, but I honestly have better things to do than make sure people who can't be arsed to read a map get to where they're going on time, or at all).

So, I was wondering, any chance on easing the restrictions for a bit? Not everywhere, obviously, I know the Universe would fly apart if your limits were repealed (and fly apart pretty damn fast, probably), but how about just in a few areas. Like satellites and particle accelerators. Purely for curiosity in the latter, I just like to see what happens. That's basically what those things are for in the first place.

Seems a bit harsh though, this universe-wide speed restriction. Obviously, I can't speak for areas 'outside' the universe, such as inside a black hole. But obviously, even if you can go faster than light in a black hole, you need to know how to do that in order to escape in the first place. So you need to know exactly how to get out before you get to go n and figure out how to get out. It's sort of like dating an attractive psycho, really.

But don't you think, fast though it is on the human scale, 300,000 km a second is a bit low for a Universe this size? That means the stars I can see are, on average, thousands of years old. and I'm sick of watching repeats! Part of me even worries that Astrology might have a point after all, it's just that he makes predictions based on info thousands of years old. It would be ironic if there were loads of Neanderthals who regularly 'faced challenges today' (which I imagine they did, quite regularly, given that they are extinct).

And in case you try and shift the blame, I can see that 'light' isn't the one that sets the rules here. Light is willing to slow down to accommodate the medium, I can see that ('I can see the light', geddit? Well? Oh screw you!)

So, what do you say mate? Any chance of looking away for a minute or two while I try to get some things done without your interference? In return, I'll keep tachyons in the realm of 'theoretical' for a little while longer, lest I prove they exist and make you look stupid.

Love and kisses

Science (BA hons)

email: Humourology (at)
twitter: @garwboy

Thursday, 11 March 2010

"Dear Chiropractors, from Science" (No. 14)

I'm having a thoroughly annoying time of it at the moment, so what better way to vent than through the medium of Science?

“Dear Chiropractology (that right?)

It’s me Science. Can you refrain from suing me for 5 minutes and read this?

I really didn’t want to have to do this, but you’ve pushed me to it. I’ve tried ignoring you, I’ve tried using reason and logic to dissuade people from listening to you, I’ve even taken another look at the fundamental nature of biology, chemistry, physics and anatomy on the off chance you may have a point.

You don’t, by the way. And it didn’t take long to look up the basics, I left the bookmark in my notes from when I last looked after Homeopathy started making noise again.

So, Chiroprology, it’s come to this. Me writing you a bloody letter, like some sort of 18th century scribe, just so you’ll have what I’m telling you in a visible format to double check for hidden meaning and all that. I’m the anthropomorphic personification of Science, I don’t have time to write pointless sarcastic missives to my detractors (and yes, I realise that plenty of evidence to the contrary can be found on this blog, but since when is evidence important, right?)

Basically, this is your last warning. Cut your crap and know your place, or you’ll get to see what I do when I’m REALLY angry.

You want to sue my boy Simon Singh? Shows how stupid you can be, I wouldn’t dare start on someone with the initials SS; I won’t be restraining him, and trust me, he’ll go Gestapo on your ass!

(Too soon?)

So listen, Chiroproctor and Gamble, we both know, as does Simon, that what you claim to be able to do is bogus. Yes, that’s right, I dropped the B-bomb! What you going to do? Sue me? You genuinely think you can sue an abstract concept? Admittedly, it’s only marginally more absurd than thinking you can cure bedwetting with a back-rub, but either way it won’t work.

What is it about the word ‘bogus’ that bothers you so much, anyway? Do you thing, we’re using some offensive acronym? Chiropractors are bogus (Blatantly useless guff, obviously stupid?)

Thing is, you campaigned for so long to be regarded as separate from medicine when you first started peddling your wares, so you could get round the whole inconvenient 'having to prove you have the first clue about human biology' thing that medics need to deal with, but now you want the same level of credibility? You can't have your cake and eat it!

Actually, that saying seems quite logically flawed to me, as having and eating a cake are intrinsically linked. What would be the point of having a cake if you couldn't eat it? They do sometimes look nice, but if used as ornaments they could only fill this role on a short-term basis. And it's logically impossible to eat a cake without 'having' it. If anything, consuming something and incorporating it's mass into your own is as extreme a degree of 'having' something as you can get, I think. Of course you could hurl yourself and the cake into a black hole, thereby merging yours and the cakes mass into the singularity at it's heart and unifying in one space-time flaw, but that seems needlessly complex a manner for disproving the whole have/eat cake cliché. I don't think we need to involve quantum physics in baking, it's tricky enough already. Ever tried making a flan? The mind boggles.

Bloody hell, got distracted again. Thing is, Chiropractus Rex, I'm willing to take on any wild notion as long as there is some proof of it. So you can see how extreme it is when I tell you that you're demonstrating yet another alarming case of colonic vocalisation (figure it out).

Thing is, that thing where I use big, complex words and make it hard for everyone to understand what I'm talking about? I try my best to not do that, it makes my job a lot harder in the long run, but sometimes it's unavoidable. It's an unfortunate side effect, it's not the thing that makes me credible. To put it more succinctly for your already bilge-filled brains, I'm not doing it on purpose!

I've had to point that out to Homeopathy, Nutritionism, Gillian McKeith, Fundamentalists, and now you. You're one of the worst, Chiropratacomefromalanddownunder. Vertebral Subluxtion? Sounds like something you'd treat with high doses of fibre.

If you genuinely believe that all that stuff about 'blockages' in the spinal column being responsible for disease, I can point you in the direction of spinal trauma victims who'd dearly love to make your acquaintance. Their bodies seem strangely reluctant to heal themselves, and seeing as you have the ability to help them along then perhaps you could spare them some of your talents? I know you have a lot of vitally important bed-wetting and colic to deal with, but could you take a moment to help out the paraplegics?

You're right though, the body does have a tendency to heal itself. While it's doing that, it might not be a great idea to keep pummelling it randomly though.

Seriously though, do you need some pointers on how the human body works? I'm happy to help if so. And this isn't me offering a 'contrasting opinion', this is facts, this is based on stuff you can see, and change, and adjust, and pull out and have dribble all over your hands.

If you want some cadavers to see what I'm on about, I'd happily provide some. Please, take them off my hands. I've got loads. In fact, I'll take a tip from your book and keep badgering you until you submit and just admit I'm right. I want you to take a look at my cadavers, so I'll be flinging them at your establishments, on the hour, every hour, for the foreseeable future. You want people to think you're buildings are just like hospitals? Then you need more dead people in them. Although if you keep offering to treat serious illness with your biobabble, you'll probably have more than you can deal with soon enough.

This is your last warning Chiropracorganic produce. You drove me to this, the gloves are off, and I'm sorely tempted to make some spinal adjustments of my own with a variety of my heaviest and bluntest tools.

Fondest regards

Science (BA hons)

P.S. Are you and Osteopathy related? You look sort of the same"

email: humourology (at)

Twitter: @garwboy

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Had a breakdown, nearly quit, didn't, but why?


Just to point out, this is NOT one of my science letters. They'll probably resume shortly. This is a personal blog. You can still read it, but it's not the same thing is all.

If you've been glancing at my facebook/twitter updates recently, you may have noticed a sudden crash in my confidence and aspirations following my first attempt at a solo show. I genuinely thought about quitting comedy for good. While I've received much support/chiding/blackmail in an attempt to convince me to change my mind (which is appreciated), the reasons behind my questioning my comedy commitments weren't made clear, so most of the responses I got were irrelevant or misjudged (understandable, as I didn't give any useful info to anyone).

So, in order to wrap up the whole sorry affair in neat self-contained package, here's the chain of events and the rationale behind my behaviour.

I decided to do my first solo show. It's normal for acts, when they get to a certain point (or in some cases, well before) in their careers, when they feel ready, to do a solo hour. It's useful for many reasons; it shows that you can entertain an audience for that length of time, it shows you have that much material, it reveals that you can construct a longer set effectively, it indicates you have the sufficient writing ability.

Normally, acts do a solo show to take to the Edinburgh festival, hoping to be seen by the higher ups and picked up by TV/Agencies/crack dealers/all three.

I don't plan to go to Edinburgh any time soon, financial, career and familial commitments don't permit it for the foreseeable future. But I've been meaning to do a solo show for a few years now. I know I have the material, but did I have the stage presence, ability, delivery etc. to keep a set going that long? I felt I'd sat around with my thumb up my comedic arse for too long, so I should find out. As I've suddenly become more known in the science communications field, and also because of the interest in my Science Letters, I felt it would be worthwhile having the piece of mind that yes, I can do a solo show. In case it picks up for me even more, you know?

However, I am not one for self-promotion. I have never headlined a gig, I have never been the main focus of attention, I have organised several popular events but approval of my efforts was based on my organisational and planning capacity. That's fair enough. But I've never been able to tell what will happen if faced with a crowd that are there to see me specifically. And I wanted to know! Arrogant? Maybe, but welcome to the comedy world.

However, my self-criticism is quite powerful, and my self-belief is quite under-developed. I only opted to take the plunge and do a solo hour because so many people said they'd want to see it. I figured it would be worth doing. I coordinated the timing so it didn't clash with anyone else's gigs (apart from Ronan Keating's, but that was out of my hands). I gave several weeks notice. I invited all my friends, all of the Cardiff Comedy group, all of my Humourology group (over 1000 people all told), I got plenty of confirmations. As a result, I spent almost an entire week of my life preparing and planning this evening.

Ended up with 9 paying customers. 5 complete strangers, plus a couple for whom English wasn't their first language (an issue when it comes to me, admittedly). Add the acts and their friends, family and close friends who just come to my gigs because I grovel, 16 people there. I put a brave face on it, but the embarrassment was crushing. It was this and the thought processes that transpired that made me think about quitting

This might seem melodramatic. Let me elaborate. And bare in mind, I'm a qualified scientist, so I have properly thought about this in a thorough and analytical manner.

I had at least 35 people promising to attend, several more unofficially telling me they'd be there (which is plenty for a gig), all of whom were really enthusiastic about doing so, which in turn made me work as hard as possible on the show to justify their support. Around 6pm, I started receiving cancellations. Some felt I was worthy of an explanation or excuse. Almost everyone else just never turned up.
I am incredibly grateful to those who did attend (at least 3 of whom are registered disabled), but you did serve to emphasise the number of people who didn't show.
This hurt, it really did, I can't lie about that. There was no other comedy on that night. Sunday night (contrary to what some people have suggested in a generous attempt to make me feel better) is a very good night for Cardiff comedy. Any new event announced by the Cardiff comedy facebook group gets about a dozen people in as a matter of course. My show didn't.
Perhaps I'd pitched it in too 'scientific' a manner? Yet my Humourology gigs get ample people in via the same approach. The only difference is that this gig was focussed on me. And suddenly, the numbers evaporate.

I've been chastised for overreacting to the fickle nature of people. I agree, perhaps in many cases I've just been thwarted by unreliable 'friends'. But the fact that people were so enthusiastic when I suggested doing a show, but then opted not to attend? I can't help but feel that requires more effort than mere unreliability can account for.

I know full well that I could speak to each person who promised to come and they'd all have a genuine reason for not being there. I don't believe this was a conspiracy to make me feel like shit. I'm sure everyone thought 'it's just me, it won;t make a difference'. That's the logic that's causing the environment to go to shit.
Look at it my way; Several dozen people said they'd come, and all of them, ALL OF THEM, suddenly had something else to do that outranked seeing my début solo show. My comedy colleagues would know what a big deal this is to me, my non-comedy friends would too as I told them.
Assuming that they weren't acting together, that's a very large group of people who rank showing support for my (considerable) efforts below things like fatigue, or 'early start in the morning', or visiting a mate, or travelling some distance, or any number of things that I've seen be put aside countless times in order to attend other gigs/events.

It's possible that Several dozen people suddenly had something vitally important to deal with on a Sunday evening. A few is likely, but all of them? As a scientist, I can't delude myself that that's the case. Which suggests that almost everyone, when it came down to it, ranked seeing my show below something else that required less effort.
I know most of the people who promised to come, they aren't bastards (in general). I don't think this was malice against me, but it does logically lead to the conclusion that, despite 5 years on the circuit, people just aren't that fussed about watching me perform. Either they've seen me many times and are of the opinion that to see me again would not be something they'd enjoy, or they've seen me a few times and decided I'm not what they'd enjoy.

Either way, this is a damning indictment of my standing as a comedian.

And yes, it's possible that people wanted to come, but opted to attend to less desirable matters because "it's Dean. Dean won't mind". I know I have a reputation as a soft touch, I'll always help out where needed, I'll let things go rather than cause a fuss. But I'm still a human, so fuck you if you think I'm just a door matt.

The main thing was, I planned my show to account for all the variables people have been telling me are to blame. It was on a day which is arguably the most popular for the Cardiff comedy scene. It didn't clash with any other gigs. It was publicised and promoted in a manner that has been shown to work several times. Even failing that, I was for the first time taking advantage of the bare minimum of goodwill that would obviously result from 5 years of getting involved, helping out, and generally contributing beyond the call of duty to the local scene (to the detriment of my Scientific career, which is not something I ever feel the need to tell my comedy cohorts, but screw it).

I failed.

This of course led me to question my standing in the comedy scene. And it wasn't good. I've tried to stay out of the 'politics' such as it is, but this has probably led to my being more of an outcast than anything. I'm not asked to be involved with any new projects or big gigs, unless someone has to stand in. I've stormed gigs ahead of several other acts on the bill, but when the audience come to talk to the acts after gigs it's never to me. I average about 1 audience member a year telling me they enjoyed.

I don't make an impression, not a lasting one anyway. Either that, or I put people off

I can make a claim to 5 years of doing comedy (simultaneously with a PhD), a serious effort to top writing top flight material (I'm an excellent writer, I will say that much and have witnesses to back me up), countless contributions to the local scene, an eagerness to help out whenever I can and an unwillingness to screw people over to get ahead.

All that. Yet I couldn't scrape together an keen audience in the double digits.

I'm currently unemployed (a big part of which is due to my commitment to the comedy), I have no offers, no work lined up, corrections to complete. I was able to deal with this situation because I felt at least I was appreciated in the comedy world. That is no longer the case. Hence, I didn't think it worth throwing away another 5 years in order get maybe 20 people to my next show.

Now, all of these things are my issues, not anyone else. And I've decided not to quit, but to try and turn this around. But you may notice a few changes in me over the next few weeks.

(Whingeing little prick, aren't I? No worries, I'm better now)

Also, before I finish, some responses to the things people said to make me feel better.

I'm not. If I was the sort that was, I wouldn't have lasted 3 weeks. Ironically, the show itself went surprisingly well for a first effort. It needs a lot of work of course, but people seemed to enjoy. There's plenty I can work with. It's the massively disappointing lack of support I got for my efforts that utterly humiliated me.

Yes, I'm aware that 16 people or so is a very good number for a solo show by a relatively unknown act taking place in a busy festival. But it's a fucking shocking turnout for a debut solo show by a regularly gigging act who has been encouraged to do it by his presumed supporters in a context where other shows could easily expect an audience. Let's not forget I had support too, 3 good acts who also tent to bring along several friends. This time, it seems like my being the main act actually sapped their usual followers. That hurts.

I'm not. But see the massive rant that precluded this.

I could be a poet, good singer, good bloody philosophiser, if nobody wants to see me do it it's still just me talking aloud to an empty room. And that's mad

Reformed junkies miss heroin, it doesn't mean quitting isn't good for them

Yes, it's nice to know that at least 25 people, one of whom I married, find me amusing (thanks Ted). But it was the massive disparity between my apparent on-line support and my actual, physical, real world support that led me to this. Thanks for the nice messages, but you were just highlighting the issue for me.

There, that's off my chest now. I'm not quitting, but I am adapting to this. Let's move on.

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