Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Ankh-Morpork in the Jungle

There are some amazing parallels between Terry Pratchett's Ankh-Morpork and Papua New Guinea. Jim Austin's tales of being an active member of the Royal Papua New Guinea Police Force in the 1980s attests to that.

We have the old, pre-'Guards Guards' Night Watch in action:

To call their procedures non-confrontational was an understatement. Both cops stood on the road and began hurling gravel on the roof.

The roofs were all corrugated iron in our neighborhood so the racket was deafening. The idea was to alert the criminals to the presence of the police and then leave them a convenient escape route. In this case they could run out the back door, scamper over the fence and be gone. It worked. After ten minutes of rock throwing the police entered the house in a tentative manner and sure enough, no criminals. Now was my chance to join this cadre of crime fighting professionals.

And a touch of the old Night Watch, when it was run by street monsters:

When I finally climbed up the bank I saw Andy with his shotgun about halfway up the nose of the evil driver's passenger. The driver himself was in a fetal position on the road where four of PNG's finest were vigorously putting the boots to him.

It was sort of like a Rodney King deal without the caring gentility of the LAPD. Eventually the cops tired of stomping our suspect and tossed him and his pal into a waiting paddy wagon. On the way home I advised Andy to have an ambulance waiting for us at the station as I was sure our man was severely injured if not dead.

PNG highlanders still retained a strong element of traditional dwarfish clang:

[I] returned to see Andy in heated discussion with the head man. He was demanding that all of the men leave their spears behind before they entered the town.

The head man argued that the spears were merely ceremonial and were necessary to complete their tribal dress.

Traditional Ankh-Morpork activities are a big part of life in the PNG highlands:

The road was blocked with oil drums, logs and boulders. On the other side of this barrier were about 1000 screaming people and two flatbed trucks whose beds were crammed with so many people that the tire were virtually flat and going nowhere. We all stepped out and Appelis, our regular force member parlayed with some of the more prominent members of the mob.

The problem was that everyone wanted to board a PMV to get to town to see the dead politician and take part in the traditional rioting and sacking of the town. By the time the PMV's got to their part of the highway they were already full and just sped by the growing crowd.

And my favourite line in the story?

Most PNG mechanics know that six lug nuts on a rim is a waste of four

If you like that story, there are more by the author here.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Looks like April Fools but aren't

Wikipedia's "In The News" for April 1st looks like it's nothing but April Fools pranks, but in fact all the stories are true -- despite Faux News' usual quality reporting:

Every item on the home page of the user-generated site Wikipedia is fake. The featured article is about the "Museum of Bad Art" in Boston. The headlines include such stories as NASA monitoring diamonds falling from the sky and the Irish prime minister streaking in public — both of which barely stretch real recent news events.

In fact every one of those is a legitimate, real news story. The April's Fools prank was to fool people into thinking the stories were pranks:

  • Ireland's Taoiseach [President], Brian Cowen... is seen publicly naked in Dublin, following months of economic uncertainty.

  • NASA reports a shower of diamonds from the sky.

  • German scientists unearth a row of suckers belonging to an ancient order.

  • A revolutionary new online tanning service receives one million hits within two months of being established.

  • Henry Allingham of the United Kingdom credits cigarettes, whisky and wild, wild women for his seemingly impossible longevity.

  • A newspaper discovers that pay-per-view porn is amongst a number of unusual things being purchased by British MPs on their claimed expenses.

  • The merging of Hartford and New Orleans is found to have severe environmental consequences.

For those who don't know their US geography, Hartford, Connecticut is about 1424 miles away from New Orleans, Louisiana.

The real stories:

The nekkid Taoiseach: an artist snuck naked portraits of Brian Cowen into two of Ireland's most prestigious art galleries.

The NASA shower of diamonds: a meteor that exploded over the Sudan included nano-diamonds in the fragments remaining.

Row of suckers: the discoveries of three ancient extinct octopus species.

Online tanning service: a viral PR campaign to alert people of the dangerous of tanning salons.

Cigarettes 'n' whisky: Britain's oldest man, and the oldest surviving World War One veteran, really did credit his longevity on cigarettes, whiskey, wild women... and a good sense of humour.

Politician claiming pr0n expenses: Come on now, are you really surprised?

And the merger of Hartford and New Orleans actually refers to the collision of two ships.

Wikipedia's "On this day" for 1st of April are amusing too. Go check them out here.