Invention improv is a challenge I have come up with where you start typing without a topic in mind and by the end of the article you need to have come up with a useful invention. This is attempt 1.
So take a piece of wood and cut it into a long plank shape. Let's call this a plank. Now make three more of these planks, and put them all down on the ground in a square formation. In the middle of the square, stand up a longer tree-shaped piece of wood with branches and leaves. I’ll call this a tree. Ok so far we have a square of wood, with a tree in the middle, and at the moment the tree is feeling very uncomfortable as it’s surrounded by planks, which it basically sees as the skeletons of murdered trees. So to make this fair we need to do something for the tree, so take some candy floss and wrap it all around the tree like those candy floss wand things you get at tacky fairgrounds. Now the tree is comfortable with the situation because it’s got a lovely sugary jumper on. And I call this invention a tree jumper, or trumper for short.
This didn’t really work did it… I will try again another day...
I was at a friend’s house the other day and after dinner he mentioned that he had got in on a once in a lifetime opportunity, and he was willing to share that opportunity with me.
I listened to him talk about it for about an hour and a half, and this is the basic summary of how it works:
First of all, you have to be an idiot. And you need to be a special kind of idiot who has somehow gathered a lot of friends but now wants to narrow that friend group down to just the idiots.
And from here it’s really easy. Basically all you have to do is assume all your friends are those idiots, talk to them all as if they are idiots, and you’ll probably find that there are at least four who are.
Then you teach those four idiots to do the same thing, they find four, then their four find four, and basically doing this takes most of the hours of the day, for the rest of your life.
Here's the trick: along the way you take a little bit of each of the idiots’ money, because that’s not so hard to do with idiots. Although you also have to pay money to the idiot who found you, who pays the idiot who found them, until it goes up to the top of the pyramid and most of the money goes to one smart person who came up with the idea in the first place.
So who’s in?
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I was in a meeting a while back about a project I was involved in, and I made a suggestion that because of some things that had recently gone wrong, the project should be cancelled. An advocate for the project turned to me and said “Don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater”.
I was not happy with this response. First of all it assumed a certain attitude toward babies and bathwater, namely positive toward the former and negative toward the latter. Personally if I had the choice between having a baby and having bathwater, at this time in my life I prefer the bathwater. I like baths, they’re nice and warm and relaxing, and quiet, and they don’t throw up. I’m not saying that if I had a baby that I would throw it out, but I consider myself in control of my life and I know the things that lead toward having a baby and I know the thing that lead toward having a bath. Therefore I am able to discern between these two processes and am capable of choosing the appropriate actions leading toward the outcome of my favour.
And anyway, when was the last time that you threw out bathwater. No, you throw out a banana skin, you throw out the bucket from your KFC, but throwing out bathwater would be foolhardy. First of all, it would cause your bin to leak. And “Ah,” you say, “I might throw it in a public bin so it doesn’t matter it leaks!” No, that introduces another logistical problem in which you’d have to transport the bath to the public bin and that would be more trouble than it’s worth. In fact much of the water would probably fall out in transit and therefore you wouldn’t have thrown that specific water but have spilled it.
But most of all I didn’t like the guys shirt and therefore I would have disagreed with him no matter whether his response was metaphorically flawed or not.
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A month ago I decided that it was time for some new unspoken social norms for travelling on the train, so I wrote them up, and sent them to the Queen for approval with a note saying "Dear Mrs Queen, please get back to me if you don't agree with these unspoken train rules, but if you have no problem with them just ignore this letter." Anyway, it's a month later now and no letter from the Queen so it's time for me to let you all know these new rules that have now been accepted and are officially part of the unspoken train rule lore.
Rule 1 - If you're getting off the train and there are loads of people getting on, and they don't make room for you to walk through, it is now okay for you to barge your way through. And you're allowed to enjoy it.
Rule 2 - If someone is talking too loud on the phone in the train, someone in the carriage is obliged to pretend to be the person on the other side of the conversation and loudly respond appropriately (or inappropriately).
Rule 3 - If you're on a train and an elderly person boards, you don't have to pay attention to a sign that tells you to give up your seat but you are obliged to actually happily give up the seat out of the goodness of your heart. Because elderly people are brilliant and shouldn't need a sign in order to prompt you to be nice to them.
Rule 4 - If you are approaching an iPhone ditherer, you know the kind of people who are walking along while using their iPhone and therefore not walking in a straight line and dithering from left to right, you are no longer obliged to politely dodge around them and if they walk into you then it's their fault.
Rule 5 - If someone with a disability enters the train carriage and starts talking or making noises that make you feel uncomfortable, and you then stand up and leave the carriage, then you should not be allowed to use the trains because you are a terrible person.
So there you go, those are the rules, share it around and let everyone know.
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People ask me, "What's doing standup comedy like?"
The language used to metaphorically describe standup comedy is rather dire. If the audience like them, the comedian "killed", and if they don't, they "died". Comedians say "You smashed it" and deliver "punchlines". The language tends to be conceptually similar to a battle between the comedian and the audience.
But is comedy like a battle? And is it useful to think of comedy this way?
To me, comedy is like doing little word puzzles and sharing them with others. Sometimes these puzzles may be impossible to complete, and sometimes they may be possible but not aesthetically pleasing to others. Often, the puzzles work just right, and when shared the right way are enjoyed by most people. Sometimes an audience will like whatever puzzles they see, and sometimes audiences just don't like your kind of puzzle.
And there's little point getting overexcited if people really like your puzzles, or disappointed if they don't. They're just puzzles for gods sake.
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