The World… Explained #7: The Number 1 

Project Brainstorm is a rational being, as are the six voodoo priests it pays in used chicken feathers to fend off evil spirit levels. However, in these uncertain times, it is often tempting to fall back on the mythical rather than the logical. We are of course talking about superstitions. Stitions are the mystical belief than completely ordinary things will happen if you do something similarly mundane. For instance, a famous stition is that putting a piece of bread in the toaster on Tuesday will make a lady take her dog out for a walk by the canal. This is obviously nonsense, as canals have been extinct for many years.

A superstition, then, is a mystical belief that extraordinary things will happen if something unusual happens first. The extraordinary thing is often linked to the idea of luck: a broken mirror is seven years’ bad luck, as is a black cat crossing your path, especially if you happen to be driving along the motorway, and the black cat is in a tractor. People often associate good luck with symbols such as a rabbit’s foot. This is especially lucky for the rabbit, who becomes eligible for disability benefits. Bad luck is often simply a state of mind. People who say they have bad luck often ignore all the good things that happen to them because they are too busy trying to track down the new owners of their old house that their ex-wife has just sold so she had enough money to pay for the kids to study abroad.

One superstition that appears all over the place is that of a certain number, the number thirteen. The problem with it is that we are scared of almost any reference to it, thinking that its mere existence in whatever we’re doing dooms us to failure and misery. For instance, this sentence is the thirteenth of the article, and I am distinctly nervous as I type it that the keyboard will have a tragic malfunction and swallow my fingers under the escape key, so I’m going to do what most people do with the number 13: miss it out completely. Thus, the last sentence was the fourteenth, having skipped the thirteenth, and so this is the fifteenth.

Moving onto the sixteenth, the irrational fear of the number 13 (called atelophobia) manifests itself in many ways. Buildings often skip floor 13, having a floor 12a, floor 14 minus 1 or just a layer of strawberry sponge. Similarly, aeroplane companies build planes that don’t have a thirteenth row. Obviously, with tall buildings and aircraft, people are keen to avoid anything that could give them bad luck and lead to them flying into a mountain (especially bad luck for someone in a building). NASA would have done well to follow the same lesson: their Apollo 13 mission was a disaster, leading to the famous quote, “Houston, we’re stuck in six miles of tailbacks, I told you we shouldn’t have gone on a Bank Holiday”.

Other lesser events, though seemingly less deadly, also carry the fear of the number 13. Every Friday 13th is noted as a particularly unlucky day. On average, seventeen people die in some form of calendar related incident on Friday 13th. The most tragic of these was when three generations of the Sutton family in East Kent were killed after a buffet lunch, when the kitchen staff mistook the calendar for some luncheon meat and put in on all the sandwiches, uncooked. There have been many explanations for the origin of these superstitions. Some people claim that it is the uncertainty of the unknown that caused it to be considered unlucky: 13 is the first number than can’t be counted on ten fingers and two feet: back in olden times, people had no toes, only stumps.

There are also religious connections. The thirteenth disciple, who left before the other twelve got famous, is a notoriously unlucky individual. Not only did his solo disciple career go badly, leading to the famous declaration: “Does anyone need following tonight?” but his later work as a member of a the followers of the Prophet Cliff was derided as being highly derivative, as the miracle of the Starving of the Six Thousand attests to. In the Jewish faith too, reaching the age of thirteen signifies the coming of age for a male boy. This has often been considered unlucky, as Jewish boys of twelve years old or younger were usually overlooked for receiving thousands of years of religious persecution and racial stereotyping, and also hadn’t yet developed such a large nose.

This completes our study of the mystical number 13. If you or your family has been affected by the number 13, or you would like to talk about someone of the issues presented today, please call 45 Gibberbank Close, Thicham, West Dorset, and ask for the telephone number.

 

Breaking News: Wit Hierarchy Reshuffled 

There have been some major changes in the wit structure, it was announced yesterday. Most shocking of all is that sarcasm has been moved from its position as the lowest form of wit, to somewhere around mid-table. A spokesperson for sarcasm said “we are really, really happy with this. I mean, this is the greatest thing that has happened to any of us, ever.”

The change was long overdue. Sarcasm was originally placed at the bottom of the wit list in the mid-1860s, but pressure groups have long pushed for this to be reconsidered as new genres of humour are born. Sarcasm has been replaced by jokes that involve people being kicked in the groin. Noted groin kicker, Harry Scrocum, said, “I’m surprised, but I know it’s time I made some changes. Maybe during my next tour I’ll use some new material and try to branch out. I used to know quite a lot of good jokes about queers.” Queer-based comedy came in at a respectable eleventh.

Still considered the highest form of wit, and remaining at the top of the list is political satire. A leading group of political satirists, the National Institute of Political Satire (NIPS), commented, “Well, George W. Bush makes lists, and then he invaded Iraq, which wasn’t a very good decision at all, now, was it?” Other notable changes include slapstick falling down six places and a flight of stairs, and punning remaining in the same place, even though the fishmonger asked for it back.

 

A Fourth Letter 

After such a lengthy time, I was beginning to think my sponsored child in the developing world, Jahab, was going to stop writing to me. To fill the gap this left in my life, I took up balloon arranging, but was not very good at it. My problem was with tying the knots, which left me heavily married. However, this morning, I got a letter from the young head of state.

————————–

Dear Mr Craig

It has been several months since we last spoke, and there is much to tell you about. I myself have been have been as busy, as you say in the West, as a bee. I do not understand this saying myself, because bees in Kualatumba are very lazy creatures, which occasionally take part time work providing sound effects for broken household appliances.

You may remember last time that I told you about our new health care policy. In the last few weeks, we have opened a fully staffed hospital and in the last few days have decided it should be fully staffed with doctors. Previously, it had been fully staffed with gardeners, but this led to a shortage of flowerbeds. Thankfully, the skills of the gardener and the doctor are fairly interchangeable, so the decision only required a new uniform and wellington boots. Already, we have had excellent results. Last week, the first operation was completed with a trowel. Before that, a man with a spinal problem was put in traction for a week, tied to a trellis running up a wall. Not only did this straighten his back, but he also experienced a growth spurt and spread into the next garden.

Our medical experts understand the importance of educating the population about health risks. Each person has been given a book on the basic health and safety risks called “Avoid Holes and Pointy Sticks”. While providing a quick guide to spotting a hole or a pointy stick, there is a list of places not to take a pointy stick (such as in the bath or in the lion), and a selection of tips for those times when you find yourself falling down a hole. The best advice we can give is to land on the hair, which is most springy part of the body.

This is all a huge problem in my country. The laws of the country allow everyone to carry a pointy stick by right. Many deny that the widespread ownership of pointy sticks has anything to do with pointy stick related deaths, but that in many cases, these deaths are caused by people running away from the sharp end of a pointy stick, into a hole. This in turn is defended on the grounds that every man has the right to bear holes, which sometimes get into the hands of people who don’t use them in the ways they were intended. Other people say that if there were fewer pointy sticks, there would be fewer holes anyway, especially those holes in the chest and lower abdomen regions of the country.

With backing from our neighbouring countries, we have recently begun to connect our country together. A major road will be completed soon, once the layers of concrete and tar are covered with dust track. Also, we have begun to build our first railway line to allow people to move more quickly from A to B. The two cities of A and B have been regular trading partners for a long time. A, in the north, is rich in weeds, desperately needed by the inhabitants of B, whose gardens are currently devoid of such crops. B, in exchange, is the largest producer of time pieces in the country, which are in short supply in A.

Before the new railway, deliveries of sundials were late by weeks or minutes (no one was really sure). B has also been developing a new solar powered sundial though there are concerns that this would not work on a dark day, so in many ways the old technology is superior. As yet, our train service does not have any locomotives to drag the cargo, but we are hopeful of hunting down a few on the plains fairly quickly. We have several men following their tracks right now.

I was honoured in the past month when the local people of my home village decided to build me a new hut as a tribute to the success of our country since I became president. The five-storey building was built entirely on the ground floor to save on ladders, and I am finding it comfortable, though the stairs are confusing. In my new courtyard, there is a statue of the infamous Battle of Dagabora, where our nation successfully defended itself against a hostile neighbour that has since been dissolved away by acid rain. The statue shows Kualatumban hero Rakadim in full battle gear throwing acorns at the fleeing enemy. The inscription below, written in Kualatumban, roughly translates in English to “The heroes of Dagabora send the enemy fleeing in terror of their mighty nuts.” The actual nuts that were at the battle are kept in a pouch at the history museum, where they are often held by the public with great pride.

Yours,

Jalab Rumadumanana
President of Kualatumba

 

Breaking News: Wit Hierarchy Reshuffled

There have been some major changes in the wit structure, it was announced yesterday. Most shocking of all is that sarcasm has been moved from its position as the lowest form of wit, to somewhere around mid-table. A spokesperson for sarcasm said “we are really, really happy with this. I mean, this is the greatest thing that has happened to any of us, ever.”

The change was long overdue. Sarcasm was originally placed at the bottom of the wit list in the mid-1860s, but pressure groups have long pushed for this to be reconsidered as new genres of humour are born. Sarcasm has been replaced by jokes that involve people being kicked in the groin. Noted groin kicker, Harry Scrocum, said, “I’m surprised, but I know it’s time I made some changes. Maybe during my next tour I’ll use some new material and try to branch out. I used to know quite a lot of good jokes about queers.” Queer-based comedy came in at a respectable eleventh.

Still considered the highest form of wit, and remaining at the top of the list is political satire. A leading group of political satirists, the National Institute of Political Satire (NIPS), commented, “Well, George W. Bush makes lists, and then he invaded Iraq, which wasn’t a very good decision at all, now, was it?” Other notable changes include slapstick falling down six places and a flight of stairs, and punning remaining in the same place, even though the fishmonger asked for it back.

And now…

I ask for your urgent attention, because this message will be relayed only once, or until the baton is dropped. After that, one acclaimed female author Marian Keyes will be exploded every hour until something resembling a normal Sunday service is resumed.

This is not a dead site. It is very much alive, approximately four alive. In the past two months, it has existed through the medium of mime, which your browser may not be compatible with. The problem has now been rectified with vitamins and mineral and taken twice daily. Twice daily is the verbal equivalent of three times nightly, eight times noonly, eleven times esoterically, or once with a spoon. We ask for your understanding and trousers in this matter, where this matter has the dual properties of light and sound and can be examined with a toothbrush.

This is an important lesson to be learned, and you should take two things away with you. The first is to be returned, but the second is for keeps and secret meetings. Please find enclosed a picture of brass band, slightly rusted but still in its original packaging. Replicas of the band can be ordered, but not delivered, except on proof of delivery.

We conclude with a contribution from our poetry mouse:

Odd is the man, who says ‘Amen’,
But doesn’t have a prayer,
Odder still the cure for baldness,
From the tortoise to the hare.

Anon (a mouse)

A Fourth Letter

After such a lengthy time, I was beginning to think my sponsored child in the developing world, Jahab, was going to stop writing to me. To fill the gap this left in my life, I took up balloon arranging, but was not very good at it. My problem was with tying the knots, which left me heavily married. However, this morning, I got a letter from the young head of state.

————————–

Dear Mr Craig

It has been several months since we last spoke, and there is much to tell you about. I myself have been have been as busy, as you say in the West, as a bee. I do not understand this saying myself, because bees in Kualatumba are very lazy creatures, which occasionally take part time work providing sound effects for broken household appliances.

You may remember last time that I told you about our new health care policy. In the last few weeks, we have opened a fully staffed hospital and in the last few days have decided it should be fully staffed with doctors. Previously, it had been fully staffed with gardeners, but this led to a shortage of flowerbeds. Thankfully, the skills of the gardener and the doctor are fairly interchangeable, so the decision only required a new uniform and wellington boots. Already, we have had excellent results. Last week, the first operation was completed with a trowel. Before that, a man with a spinal problem was put in traction for a week, tied to a trellis running up a wall. Not only did this straighten his back, but he also experienced a growth spurt and spread into the next garden.

Our medical experts understand the importance of educating the population about health risks. Each person has been given a book on the basic health and safety risks called “Avoid Holes and Pointy Sticks”. While providing a quick guide to spotting a hole or a pointy stick, there is a list of places not to take a pointy stick (such as in the bath or in the lion), and a selection of tips for those times when you find yourself falling down a hole. The best advice we can give is to land on the hair, which is most springy part of the body.

This is all a huge problem in my country. The laws of the country allow everyone to carry a pointy stick by right. Many deny that the widespread ownership of pointy sticks has anything to do with pointy stick related deaths, but that in many cases, these deaths are caused by people running away from the sharp end of a pointy stick, into a hole. This in turn is defended on the grounds that every man has the right to bear holes, which sometimes get into the hands of people who don’t use them in the ways they were intended. Other people say that if there were fewer pointy sticks, there would be fewer holes anyway, especially those holes in the chest and lower abdomen regions of the country.

With backing from our neighbouring countries, we have recently begun to connect our country together. A major road will be completed soon, once the layers of concrete and tar are covered with dust track. Also, we have begun to build our first railway line to allow people to move more quickly from A to B. The two cities of A and B have been regular trading partners for a long time. A, in the north, is rich in weeds, desperately needed by the inhabitants of B, whose gardens are currently devoid of such crops. B, in exchange, is the largest producer of time pieces in the country, which are in short supply in A.

Before the new railway, deliveries of sundials were late by weeks or minutes (no one was really sure). B has also been developing a new solar powered sundial though there are concerns that this would not work on a dark day, so in many ways the old technology is superior. As yet, our train service does not have any locomotives to drag the cargo, but we are hopeful of hunting down a few on the plains fairly quickly. We have several men following their tracks right now.

I was honoured in the past month when the local people of my home village decided to build me a new hut as a tribute to the success of our country since I became president. The five-storey building was built entirely on the ground floor to save on ladders, and I am finding it comfortable, though the stairs are confusing. In my new courtyard, there is a statue of the infamous Battle of Dagabora, where our nation successfully defended itself against a hostile neighbour that has since been dissolved away by acid rain. The statue shows Kualatumban hero Rakadim in full battle gear throwing acorns at the fleeing enemy. The inscription below, written in Kualatumban, roughly translates in English to “The heroes of Dagabora send the enemy fleeing in terror of their mighty nuts.” The actual nuts that were at the battle are kept in a pouch at the history museum, where they are often held by the public with great pride.

Yours,

Jalab Rumadumanana
President of Kualatumba