Comedian Mark Thomas brings his mischief to Croydon
11:43am Friday 13th December 2013 in Leisure By Andrew Bloss, Reporter
Not many stand up comedians decide to race Barbie cars outside the Saudi Arabia embassy, except for Mark Thomas.
The comedian certainly does not hold back when it comes to sticking his nose into politics and even became a Guinness World Record holder for political protests.
Following his award winning theatre show Bravo Figaro, Thomas is back and causing plenty of mischief.
On May 13 2013, Thomas set himself the task of committing 100 Acts of Minor Dissent, the name of his show, in the space of a year.
This means on the stroke of midnight on May 13 2014, the task will end.
The show is his catalogue of those acts from the smallest actions to the grandest confrontations. Some of these, he says, are legal while others push the boundaries of the law.
He has raced Barbie cars outside the Saudi embassy, he is taking the police to court and he has held a pro gay comedy gig outside the Russian consulate. Thomas certainly likes to push the boundaries.
He says: “I have one year to commit these acts and the show is about those acts as they go along. Some of them are small and some of them are a bit bigger.
“Some of them are legal and some of them are legal action. If I am successful with them then I will do a show where I detail all 100 acts. There is only one show dedicated to that.
“The show in Croydon will feature some of the stuff we have done, not all of it but certainly some of it. I will also talk about some of the things I am hoping to do.”
He adds: “One of the things I organised was a pro gay comedy gig in the street outside the Russian consulate in Edinburgh.
“It went great. We had 600 people turn up and completely blocked the streets done. We had a couple of bike generators powering the amps and police were exemplary.
“We had this enormous sense of fun and also righteous dissent. I enjoy that sense of mischief, I suppose it would be fairly pointless if I didn’t.”
Thomas also reserved some special praise for Matthews Yard, the venue where he first tried out his new show.
He says: “Matthews Yard is a really great place. It is where I launched the try outs of the show so it is nice to come back.
“I really like it. It is a neat place and I think it is something much needed for Croydon as it a creative community outlet and that is really exciting.”
Mark Thomas: 100 Acts of Minor Dissent, Matthews Yard, Surrey Street, January 21, 7.30pm, £10, go to www.bookwhen.com/matthewsyard to book tickets.
With the scent of Christmas trees permeating the area, Pembroke Pines’ Oasis Church set a new Guinness world record.
The church, at 12201 SW 14th St., has been hosting a large Christmas light display almost without interruption since 1994. In 2010, the church broke the Guinness record for the largest display of nativity sets with 2,150. The church has also used its Christmas light display as an opportunity to provide trees to families in need.
“We saw how many people were out of a job or down on their luck,” said Debby Brown, the church’s director of women’s and children’s ministries. “We wanted to bring in more trees.”
Brown said bringing in more trees developed into an effort to break another world record. After contacting Guinness, Brown learned that there was no record for largest display of lit Christmas trees. However, to be the record setter, the church would have to bring in at least 500 trees. Trees were shipped in from a supplier in North Carolina and decorated with lights. Several judges counted the trees and verified that they were all simultaneously lit for at least 10 minutes. By the end of the count, the church set a record with 546 trees, pending certification by Guinness.
With the Guinness effort over, the next step is a special Trees of Hope event for the families that will receive about 200 trees from the display.
“We want to give hope to the community and those who feel lost,” Brown said.
Once the donated trees are cleared out, some of the church’s traditional display pieces will take their place. Overall, the church’s light show includes about 500,000 lights across its campus. There’s more to the display than lights — the wall facing Flamingo Road is used as a screen to show Christmas classics like “Frosty the Snowman” and “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” Other attractions include a skating rink and a live nativity display with baby goats and a llama.
Some new attractions were added to the mix this year, including two lighted paths lined with trees. On one path, visitors can play a game where they count the gingerbread man decorations displayed on certain trees. A new train depot offers rides around the campus to children, complete with a decorated railroad crossing. Several pits provide an opportunity for parents and children to roast s’mores over an open fire.
The Christmas lights are what initially attracted church member Andrea Powell three years ago. Powell brought her son Dillon, 8, to see the display. Roasting s’mores was appealing for both of them.
“It’s something different,” said Powell, of Miramar. “We’re inside Florida, so we don’t get to do this.”
The display was a new experience for Olga Renna and her two daughters. Renna heard about Oasis from a friend and said ice skating and the train were highlights. For 2-year-old Angelina, running around was the most interesting activity.
“She’s hopped up on cupcakes,” said Renna, of Hollywood.
The display runs from 7 to 10 p.m. Dec. 13-15 and Dec. 19 to 25. For more information, visit http://www.oasischristmas.com or call 954-433-4838.
Chris Guanche can be reached at email@example.com.
For Mexican food enthusiasts, it would be like winning “the Superbowl of tamales” contest, said Micki and Jeff Smith, owners of the Texifornia Tamale Company in Blue Jay, and that’s just what the couple did on Sunday at the Indio International Tamale Festival.
“We were so excited to hear the news,” said Micki. “To have walked away with two awards is pretty fantastic!”
What the husband and wife team accomplished was winning both the Best Gourmet Commercial Tamale award and the Best Overall Tamale award, beating out 17 other entries in each of the two categories with their unusual dessert tamale offering.
But not only did they win top honors, they swept the contest voting at the festival, which sees more than 100,000 visitors each year.
“This was the first time we’ve ever seen an entry get a clean sweep of five points from all the judges,” said Jim Curtis, special events coordinator for the City of Indio.
Entries are judged on appearance, texture and taste, and judges can give a score from zero to five points in each category. “There were 15 judges, and all of them scored the highest marks for all the categories,” Curtis said about the tamale entry from Micki and Jeff.
The Indio International Tamale Festival in Riverside County, now in its 22nd year, is a tamale lovers delight, offering visitors a carnival-like setting where folks can eat a variety of tamales, enjoy music and beverages, shop and have a good time. There’s even a tamale eating contest, Curtis said.
Curtis said the festival has entries from all over Southern California, Northern California, Nevada and Arizona. Entries come from nonprofits, such as churches, as well as restaurants and food vendors. Along with the 17 vendors who entered the contests, there were 60 vendors who set up tents or booths to sell their tamales.
Along with the two categories that Micki and Jeff won, there were tamale categories for traditional nonprofit, traditional commercial and gourmet nonprofit.
“We ask every vendor to bring at least 5,000 tamales with them,” Curtis said, “and they usually sell between 250,000 and 300,000 tamales. In fact, we hold the Guinness record for the biggest attendance at a tamale festival.”
Micki said the Texifornia Tamale Company crew brought 6,000 tamales with them this year, and they had two tents and an eating area at the festival.
The idea for their dessert tamale was a last-minute creation from the Smith’s daughter, Skye.
“She asked me if she could create some ideas for a tamale, and I said sure, write down what you need, and run it past mom,” said Jeff. “Skye came up with list of eight tamales, and one was a peanut butter banana tamale.”
Micki thought it was a great idea, but wanted to test it. “We were going to try to make some before we left for the festival, but it always comes down to the last minute,” she said. “We looked at some ideas, and the first time (we prepared it), it came out terrible. We tried it a second time and it was great. The third time we prepared it was at the festival.”
The new dessert tamale is really a gourmet treat.
Jeff said they don’t have a name for the new dessert tamale yet, but he tried to describe it.
It’s based around a champurrado, a Mexican chocolate masa, he said. The recipe includes a caramelized banana with a mixture of peanut butter, almond butter, hazelnuts and Ghirardelli chocolate on the inside. A chocolate cappuccino sauce goes on the plate before the tamale is plated.
Indio’s Curtis said it’s the first time that he’s seen a dessert tamale winning best overall.
“It’s a great compliment for them,” he said. “Their booth got overwhelmed with people after the news of their awards. Next year people will be asking for them. People tend to flock to the trophy winners.”
While the content holds your attention, the name behind this earnest endeavour raises the curiosity level. As a copy of the Bhagavad Gita — Rendition in English, Hindi and Urdu meets the eye, the mention of Saloo Choudhury in the credit, does introduce an element of surprise. To put it in clear words, Mr Choudhury, the man behind this translated version of Hinduism’s most sacred scripture, happens to be a devout Muslim.
With that thought in mind, we set out to meet him. As we settle down for a conversation, the first query begins with a predictable “why?” In his inimitable style, Mr Choudhury responded, “Na tha kuch toh Khuda thakuch na hota to Khuda hota. (When nothing was, God was…If nothing were, God would have been).”
A moment of pause later, he elaborates, “I feel the Bhagavad Gita is a manual for the entire humanity. Standing in Kurukshetra, Arjun was reeling under the reluctance and consequence of facing his own brethren in the battle field. As he faced the biggest dilemma of his life, that moment lord Krishna came to his rescue and delivered the words that remain a lesson to humanity. The story may belong to ancient times but its message and relevance have stood the test of time. The Bhagavad Gita is a detailed and inspiring guidance on living a highly principled life and the message certainly has a universal appeal.” Mr Choudhury’s reply reflects his aversion to religious demarcations for something that is so morally personified.
“Every religion leads to goodness and prescribes a better way of life. During my research, I realised that Hinduism and Islam have many doctrine and beliefs which walk on similar lines. If a door is opened which leads the followers of the different faiths on a common ground of discovery, then nothing better than that,” he hopes.
Better known as a Guinness Book Record Holder for circumnavigating the world in a car, the impetus to explore the subject was underlined by the urge to disseminate the divine message as much as possible. And in this pursuit, the septuagenarian has invested nine years to bring to the table, a translation that’s simply written and easy to understand. The effort included intense research work and detailed study of the original and the translated versions of the Geeta. Some of the reference books that figured in his scheme of things include the Bhagwad Gita by Mahatma Gandhi, Bal Gangadhar Tilak, W. Douglas P. Hill among others. In fact Mr Choudhury has been particularly keen to maintain the simplicity in language and essence, well aware that attempts like these are usually lost in translation.
On a more personal note, he does offer another interesting reason behind the effort. “I was born in an orthodox Muslim family in Kolkata. Having said that, most of my close friends happen to be Hindus. And it won’t be an exaggeration to say, friendship remains a life long bond between us. The religious divide never played spoil sport. Along with the passage of time, as I kept discovering their basic goodness, somewhere down the line, the thought of getting familiar with their faith, on a more closer level was creating space in my mind. As the idea was born, it set course the desire to strike familiarity with the sacred books of their faith. For now the journey has culminated into the translation of the Bhagavad Gita in verses.”
Acknowledging the fact, that there has been innumerable translations of the Gita, including some in Arabic Persian and Urdu, he raises a pertinent point. “Although Khuaja Dil Mohammad, Hassan uddin Ahmad and Mohammad Ajmal Khan’s Urdu translation are available, the language remains essentially chaste. Let’s keep in mind, Valmiki’s Ramayana which was in pure Sanskrit did not reach the popularity level, which Tulsi Das achieved with a more reader friendly version,” he points out.
The book has been receiving an overwhelming response, with the who’s who of culture, literature, sports and politics, appreciating Mr Choudhury’s effort. Also invites for book tours are pouring in from Europe and the US, as overseas Indians are keen that their younger generation draw a connect with their religious roots. And a holy book available in a language easy to understand has a definite vantage point.
10 December 2013
A team of scientists analysing 32 years of satellite data say they have recorded a new record low temperature on earth. But what are the top ten coldest places on the planet?
10. Snag, Yukon, Canada -63C
Snag is a village located near the Alaskan Highway in Canada. It holds the current record for the lowest ever temperature recorded in continental North America.
9. North Ice, Greenland -66C
North Ice was a research station of the British North Greenland Expedition (1952 to 1954) on the inland ice of Greenland. The station recorded the lowest temperature ever in North America on January 9th 1954.
8. Klinck research station, Greenland -69.4C
The Klinck research station is located within the Arctic Circle. Direct observations of temperatures as low as -69.4C have been made at the station.
7. Verkhoyansk, Russia -69.8C
Verkhoyansk, Russia has around 1,434 hardy residents. In winter average monthly temperatures are around −45.4C, though lower have been recorded.
6. Oymyakon, Russia -71.2C
Officially recognised as one of the two coldest regularly inhabited places on the planet (along with number seven Verkhoyansk), the town of 472 people is known as one of the candidates for the Northern Pole of Cold.
5. Mount McKinley, Alaska -73.8C
Denali, or Mount McKinley, the highest peak in North America, has long been considered the coldest mountain on earth. Winter air temperatures regularly fall to -40C, and lower have been unofficially recorded.
4. Amundsen–Scott South Pole Station -82C
A scientific research station in the southernmost place on earth the Amundsen–Scott South Pole Station has recorded temperatures below −73C.
3. Dome A, Antarctic Plateau −82.5C
Dome Argus is an Antarctica plateau located near East Antarctica at 4091 meters above sea level. The coldest temperature ever recorded there was -82.5 C (or -116.5 F) in July 2005. It is the highest point of ice sheet in Antarctic region.
2. Russia’s Vostok research station –89.2C
The Vostok Station is a Russian Antarctic research station at 3488 meters above sea level. It still remains officially the coldest place on earth having measured a bone shattering -89.2C (or -128.6 °F) on 21 July 1983.
And the winner is……
1. Dome Fuji ridge East Antarctic Plateau –93.2C.
A high ridge located between Dome Argus and Dome Fuji on the East Antarctic Plateau saw the lowest ever temperature on earth according to Nasa satellite data. As the temperature was not recorded directly, however, it is not counted as a new Guinness World record.
The new record low temperature smashed the previous low of minus 89.2C, set in 1983 at the Russian Vostok Research Station in East Antarctica.
Newly analysed data showed the temperature plunged to an astonishing -93.2C (-135.8F) in August 2010
A Chinese factory worker says walking in huge iron shoes weighing more than 440 pounds each can cure back pain, but faces hefty competition in his bid to build the country’s heaviest footwear.
“I’ve been walking with iron shoes for seven years,” said Zhang Fuxing, before strapping two crudely-welded iron blocks to his feet.
“After they reached 400 kilograms (882 pounds), I felt very proud. Next spring I plan to add 50 kilograms.”
Zhang took a deep breath before each wrenching step in the towering footwear, with every impact leaving him struggling for balance.
It took him over a minute to take 10 paces, but he claims to walk up to 15 metres each day in the shoes, which he has gradually increased in weight, and touts them as a cure for back pain and hemorrhoids.
Zhang, 52, credits his ability to move the shoes – which he leaves outdoors, safe in the knowledge that they are close to impossible for most people to lift – to the Chinese spiritual martial art Qigong, said to involve controlling the flow of supposed bodily energies.
RELATED: ‘IPOSTURE’ BLAMED FOR SURGING BACK PAIN AMONG YOUNG ADULTS
“It’s not strong muscles that make you able to walk like this, the power comes from internal organs,” he said, adding: “When you walk with your heart it will work.”
Zhang believes his shoes to be the heaviest in China, but admits that competition from a number of other eccentrics renders his claim uncertain.
One of two Chinese iron shoe wearers to share a Guinness World Record for walking 10 meters backwards in heavyweight iron boots is Zhang Zhenghui from Changsha. According to a 2010 report by the official Xinhua news agency he has gold-painted shoes weighing more than 200 kilograms.
Lai Yingying, an entertainer from Fujian in the east, was shown by state broadcaster CCTV wearing shoes tipping the scales at a total of 300 kilograms.
A runner, Liu Mei, took to exercising in metal footwear after growing bored of tying sandbags onto his trainers, the state-run China News Service reported, and challenged other exponents to compete for the title of “Iron Shoe King”.
His call “hit the world of eccentric stunt people like a tidal wave”, the report said, but there is no record of the contest having taken place.
RELATED: RUNNING DOC: DON’T LET YOUR BACK BE A PAIN
Zhang Fuxing – who runs a workshop making machine parts – says he was inspired by one of these pioneers. “I saw someone wearing iron shoes on TV. They said it was good for the heart and bones,” he said.
At the time Zhang was suffering from back pain “so bad that I couldn’t bend over to wash my face,” but claims his symptoms disappeared just months after donning the footwear, an experience which left him wanting to share them with a wider audience.
He now manufactures a range of weighted metal footwear, which users strap over their existing shoes, in a small factory near his hometown in the northern city of Tangshan, and sells them online.
A snazzy red pair weighing 10 kilograms each costs 550 yuan ($90), while the heaviest 60 kilogram boots sell for 1450 yuan.
He claims to have sold several hundred pairs, including at least 10 to his neighbors, several of whom gathered around on a chilly morning to watch Zhang take his wobbling steps.
“We’ve all worn his iron shoes, it makes your legs feel better,” said Chen Guanghua, a woman in her sixties. “We can’t all play badminton, but anyone can wear shoes.”
JUST under 400 food parcels have been delivered to Derbyshire’s most vulnerable people this year, thanks to the efforts of schoolchildren.
Members of Derby Lions Club spent hours sorting tins of soup and boxes of cereal into 396 bags for its Christmas appeal.
The campaign, supported by the Derby Telegraph, had youngsters from 48 playgroups, infant, junior and primary schools in Derbyshire collect non-perishable food in tins, boxes and packets.
They filled up collection boxes sent to their schools during November.
These were then picked up by members of the Lions Club, before the items were sorted into bags, with each containing about 10 items of food and drink.
The final number of parcels delivered to county charities was down from last year’s total of 440 but Lions member Brian Burke, who co-ordinates the project each year, said he was still pleased with the total.
He said: “We did have fewer schools taking part this year, so it shows that those who did take part were still as determined as ever to collect plenty of goodies for us.
“Last year’s number was a record total, so we weren’t necessarily expecting to match that.
”We were just grateful to have as many schools as we did sign up for the appeal in the first place.
“In these difficult economic times, the demand for help from vulnerable people is greater than ever, so the support we receive during the Christmas appeal is even more important.”
Charities to benefit from the appeal included the city branch of the Guinness Partnership Housing Association, Derby’s Morleston Day Centre and Umbrella, a charity in Derby which works to improve services for disabled children and their families.
Alison Williams, information co-ordinator for Umbrella, said: “We’re so grateful, on behalf of all our families and carers. Umbrella was chosen by the Lions club to receive parcels.
“We were given about 50 and they really are lovely, these carriers bags filled with a various assortments of tins and packets. And, while the food is great and such a boost for them, I think what the families really like is that somebody is thinking of them this Christmas.
”It’s a gesture which carries them through this time of year.”
The parcels were packed at Alvaston Methodist Church and Lions members received a helping hand from former Mayor of Derby Lisa Higginbottom, who also helped them with the sorting last year during her time in office. Mr Burke said: “We could do with a few more people like Lisa around – it was so kind of her to volunteer her time to help us.
“We were also really grateful to the Alvaston Co-op for donating the carrier bags. It made such a difference.”
9 December 2013 Last updated at 23:07 GMT Coldest spot on Earth identified by satellite By Jonathan Amos Science correspondent, BBC News, San Francisco Antarctica’s dry and clear conditions allow heat to be radiated very efficiently out into space
The coldest place on Earth has been measured by satellite to be a bitter minus 93.2 Celsius (-135.8F).
As one might expect, it is in the heart of Antarctica, and was recorded on 10 August, 2010.
Researchers say it is a preliminary figure, and as they refine data from various space-borne thermal sensors it is quite likely they will determine an even colder figure by a degree or so.
The previous record low of minus 89.2C was also measured in Antarctica.
This occurred at the Russian Vostok base on 21 July, 1983.
It should be stated this was an air temperature taken a couple of metres above the surface, and the satellite figure is the “skin” temperature of the ice surface itself. But the corresponding air temperature would almost certainly beat the Vostok mark.
“These very low temperatures are hard to imagine, I know,” said Ted Scambos from the US National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colorado.
“The way I like to put it is that it’s almost as cold below freezing as boiling water is above freezing. The new low is a good 50 degrees colder than temperatures in Alaska or Siberia, and about 30 degrees colder than the summit of Greenland.
“It makes the cold snap being experienced in some places in North America right now seem very tame by comparison,” he told BBC News.
Dr Scambos was speaking here in San Francisco at the American Geophysical Union (AGU) Fall Meeting, the largest annual gathering of Earth scientists.
He and colleagues have been examining the data records from polar orbiting satellites stretching back some 30 years.
They find the coldest moments in Antarctica occur in the dark winter months at high elevations, where the extremely dry and clear air allows heat to be radiated very efficiently out into space.
It is evident that many super-cold spots are “strung out like pearls” along the ridges that link the high points, or domes, in the interior of the continent.
They are not quite at the ridge crests, but set slightly back down the slope.
“Air chilled near the surface flows downhill because it’s denser; and it flows into these very shallow topographic pockets,” explained Dr Scambos.
“If you were standing in one of these places, you’d hardly notice you were in a topographic low – it’s that gentle and that shallow. But it’s enough to trap this air.
“And once in those pockets, the air can cool still further and get down this extra three or four degrees below the previous record air temperature in Vostok.”
The cold pockets run in a line for hundreds of kilometres between Dome Argus [Dome A] and Dome Fuji [Dome F]. They all achieve more or less the same low temperature between minus 92C and minus 94C. The minus 93.2C figure is the temperature event in which the team has most confidence. It was recorded at a latitude of 81.8 degrees South and a longitude of 59.3 degrees East, at an elevation of about 3,900m.
One of the spacecraft instruments being used in the study is the Thermal Infrared Sensor on the recently launched Landsat-8.
It has very high resolution, but because it is so new the team says more time is needed to fully calibrate and understand its data.
“I’d caution Guinness not to take this result and put it in their world record book just yet, because I think the numbers will probably adjust over the coming year,” Dr Scambos told BBC News. “However, I’m now confident we know where the coldest places on Earth are, and why they are there.”
By way of comparison, the hottest recorded spot on Earth – again by satellite sensor – is the Dasht-e Lut salt desert in southeast Iran, where it reached 70.7C in 2005.
The coldest place in the Solar System will likely be in some dark crater on a planetary body with no appreciable atmosphere. On Earth’s Moon, temperatures of minus 238C have been detected.
Jonathan.Amos-INTERNET@bbc.co.uk and follow me on Twitter: @BBCAmos
Holiday cheer in Texas has become even sweeter thanks to a giant gingerbread house that has broken a world record for confectionary construction.
Coming in at 35.8 million calories – after nearly a ton of butter was incorporated – and covering an area of 2,520 square feet, or nearly the size of a tennis court, the 21-foot high gingerbread house in Bryan, Texas, northwest of Houston, has been declared the biggest ever by Guinness World Records.
The house, with an edible exterior over a wooden frame, was built by the Traditions Club to help raise money for a trauma center at the regional St Joseph’s Hospital.
“We think big around here and we are competitive,” said Bill Horton, the club’s general manager.
The Texas creation topped the previous record holder for gingerbread houses, a 36,600-cubic-foot model made last year at Minnesota’s Mall of America.
The bakers tried to cut back on the butter and baking soda as much as possible to help the gingerbread better stand up to the weather.
A campaign to promote the versatility and value of wool has made it into the Guinness World Records, after backers from around the world flocked to help.
The Wool Room, in Stamford, put out a call to make small woollen sheep or Shaun the Sheep and send it in.
Within months the Pom Pom Parade campaign saw thousands of sheep-shaped knits arrive from enthusiasts from as far afield as New Zealand, Australia and Brazil, who were equally keen to promote the benefits of the fibre.
In 12 months the total number of pom pom sheep sent in stood at 8,998 – setting the world record for ‘the largest collection of handmade sheep’.
The project began a year ago in support of the Campaign for Wool, a global endeavour backed by Prince Charles, to raise awareness about the sustainable benefits of wool.
Project manager Jennifer Warr said the idea for the Pom Pom Parade came from ‘Join the Flock’ campaign in 2011 by Eden Arts, which also supports the Campaign for Wool.
At the end of August the woolly sheep were displayed at London Zoo at a Little Creatures Family Festival aimed at educating children about wool, which was attended by more than 24,000 visitors.
Ms Warr, who is also marketing manager for The Wool Shop, in Star Lane, said: “The festival focused on fun and enriching activities for children, with an emphasis on nature, natural materials and conservation.”
Since the record breaking display the flock have made several appearances across the UK to educate children and adults.