New Year’s Eve’s Mental Exercise: Derailing The Conversation

It’s that time of year again; the time when the year ends. Traditionally, New Year’s Eve centres around mentally preparing yourself for an earth-shatteringly brilliant extravaganza, finding the evening strangely anticlimactic before drinking too much white wine and having a good cry.

But before that, it’s considered appropriate among human beings to hold conversations with one another, if only to fill those awkward gaps between gulps of liquor. And you probably still harbour a vague ambition to someday be considered a functional human being, or at least appear that way to the strangers you might run into tonight. Especially the attractive ones with fascinating and/or bewitching posteriors.

Small talk is never sexy, though. Unless you’re lucky enough to meet that someone, the special one who also understands that you’re only talking to each other to pass the time until it’s considered acceptable by society for you to rip off each other’s party outfits with your teeth.

If life has cruelly denied you a spontaneous mutual animal attraction of the sort that can bring down an empire, however, try trivia.

Trivia’s great if you enjoy little factoids and lumps of information that offer no real application in your everyday life. Being a predominantly useless, silly sort of person, I have a wealth of fun facts collecting dust in the dingy corridors of my mind-brain.


Shakespearean sonnet – A type of sonnet consisting of 14 lines – 3 quatrains and a concluding couplet. Not actually invented by Shakespeare but named for him because he is/was arguably its most famous practitioner.

Dom Perignon was the name of the man who invented champagne. He was also a Benedictine monk.

(The other person) “Really? How superbly fascinating, fancy a quickie?”

Happy New Year.

Friday’s Mental Exercise: Caption Competition

Typical caption competitions feature a picture and an invitation to provide a caption.

Instead of that, here’s the caption:

“No sir,” he said, “it was like that when I got here.”

You provide the picture, and post the link in the comments below.

This could be turned into a fun game for all the family, perhaps around the Christmas holidays, when even people who don’t do Christmas find themselves under pressure to eat too much food and sit around too bloated and fatigued to do anything more challenging than play games that lead to massive family feuds that cause unnecessary bloodshed and holding of grudges for years to come.

Or you could supply your own caption, and I could think about finding a picture and posting it but then don’t because I’m far too lazy.

Friday’s Motoring Mental Exercise

Motor skills – not just about playing with your Hot Wheels and Micro Machines even though your mum says that by 28 you should have long since grown out of all that and won’t you please try and get a job and/or a girlfriend or at least trim your nails?

To improve your motor skills, try clicking on this link HERE, which is about minor publishing disasters.

It’s damn funny and well worth it.

I promise.

PS: I think we should all take a moment to thank whichever crazy bastard was genius enough to find and upload all this stuff to the internet.

Friday’s Mental Exercise

Audiobooks.  Like reading, but you can play videogames at the same time.

I swiped an idea for a fun game from here – creating your own soundtrack to the film of the book in your head.

But that’s too labour-intensive, so instead, the object here is to find the perfect actor’s voice to narrate the book and save yourself the effort of having to read the damn thing.

To get you started, here are some examples:

Wuthering Heights

One of the million-strong Bronte sisters’ classic novels, this intense love/revenge story is one of the cornerstones of English literature.  Obviously the audiobook would be read by Sylvester Stallone.  I for one would love to hear his take on the thick Yorkshire accent of that old servant Joe chap.

Fifty Shades of Grey

Dignified, elegant Kristen Scott-Thomas has an accent most Americans would consider to be quintessentially British.  Mellifluous if slightly stuck-up with a wry undertone like she’s none-too-subtly taking the piss out of you and yours.

Basically, I just want to hear her say:

“I don’t make love … I fuck … hard.”

À La Recherche du Temps Perdu

AKA A Remembrance of Things Past. One of the most respected* novels of the twentieth century, all seven (SEVEN?!) volumes of Marcel Proust’s magnum-sized opus are impenetrably dense.  Flashbacks, motifs, separation anxiety, homosexuality, getting jiggy in front of a portrait of daddy and more themes than you could possibly want or need.  And who could forget the involuntary memories?

There can be only one voice to sustain you through all that.

Adam West.

*To quote Evelyn Waugh “I am reading Proust for the first time…and am surprised to find him a mental defective”

Friday’s Dictatorial Mental Exercise

Here’s a fun-for-a-given-value-of-fun game next time you’re in the pub and run out of things to say to your companions.  I call it ‘dictator’.  For reasons we don’t need to get into here, you’ve become the king/queen of the world, a benevolent overlord and/or vicious tyrant.

The object of the game is to make a list of the petty things you would ban and/or the petty things you would make people do, for no reason other than the fact that you can.  You then exchange your list with a friend’s.  Then you bicker drunkenly into the night about how ridiculously petty your friend is and how it’s a damn good thing that your friend isn’t king/queen of the world because, frankly, what’s so bad about Pinterest?

If I were king of the world, here’s what I’d ban:

  • Pinot Grigio
  • People who talk too much about how fond they are of cheese (camembert is demonstrably not the same thing as an orgasm)
  • Any talk of a sequel to Bladerunner
  • Any sequel to Bladerunner
  • Chalk-striped suits and polyester generally
  • Media coverage of the Twitter spats of minor celebrities engaged in a ritual dance of mutual self-promotion

And here’s what I’d make happen:

  • I’d require newspapers with which I disagree feature a large disclaimer on the front page explaining how the entire contents of the paper are fictional, even the bits that are true
  • I’d change the British national anthem to When the Brits Come Rolling Back by Tom Robinson
  • And the American one to the version Hendrix played at Woodstock
  • Calamari in elementary/primary school meals – squid breed like absolute bastards, so we might as well all get a taste for them when we’re young
  • Standardised power cables for all electronics across the world, because I keep losing mine
  • I’d require some level of production values on the deliberately leaked sex tapes of minor celebrities engaged in a ritual dance of self-promotion.  Because if you’re gonna’ do it, you might as well do it properly

And please do feel free to share your own lists – don’t pretend you’re not as self-righteous as everyone else on the internet.

Friday’s Fighty Mental Exercise

Inspired by what will go down in the history as the Comic Con where DC owned Marvel’s ass, (Days of Ultron? Push off, we’ve got BATMAN FIGHTING SUPERMAN), this week’s Mental Exercise is all about the question: who’d win in a fight between…

Marvel vs Capcom, Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe, videogames have shown the inevitable mash-up future.  As did I, here in this shameless plug (Editor’s note: it’s crap, I wouldn’t bother).

SO anyway.

Pick your fighters, then explain in your mind which one would win and why.

Some examples to get you started:

Darth Vader vs BA Baracus from the A Team.  Do you pity the fool that messes with Mr T, or does he end up fixing the breaks on the Death Star?

Buffy the Vampire Slayer vs Edward Cullen from Twilight.  It was going well until he cracked out his sad face and diamond skin, then Buffy totally killed him without breaking a sweat.  Because he’s a creep and a wetbag.

Wolverine vs Bugs Bunny.  Basically, bring a chair and some refreshments because neither can die so this one might take a while.

As ever, fighter combos, winners and reasons welcome in the comments below (don’t all rush at once).    

Friday’s Neoligistic Mental Exercise

And finally on this verbal diarrhoea Friday, because it’s vaguely that time again, here is this week’s mental exercise.  This one is simple enough: invent a new word and use it in a conversation or twelve.

Here are some ideas to get you started.

Confound others with compound words, such as:

Flabbergusted – flabbergasted plus disgusted: the sensation of being rendered speechless by something because said something made you feel seriously nauseous.

Confuse others by adapting an existing word but giving it a slightly new meaning:

Locomotion – derived from the word ‘motion’ as in movement and loco as in Spanish for crazy.  Literally: the act of walking in a random but crazed fashion.

Do a Douglas Adams and give a meaning to a location:

Chiswick – the feeling of extreme light-headedness one sometimes feel if one stands up too quickly.

Go for broke and just stick some random letters together:

Cludgeblethle – descriptive word meaning a person who used to be fun but has now become prematurely middle-aged and also worryingly fixated on the importance of fibre to aid one’s unmentionable biological processes.  Example: that guy is such a cludgeblethle.


PS: for the sake of all that is good and holy, please don’t simply take a noun and turn it into a verb.  Even though that’s probably how most of my native tongue developed.

Friday’s Mental Exercise

People in general have more than the 5-senses-plus-ESPN mantra we recognise. Here are 2 examples: you can feel heat emanating off things without touching them. You always know where your hand is in relation to your body, even if your eyes are closed.

For this week’s mental exercise, close your eyes and try hitting yourself in the face without knowing it’s coming. That’s right, make a fist or an open slappy hand and ambush your own face.

In order to achieve this, you may need to disengage your conscious mind in favour of your subconscious, which would only be too delighted to make you hit yourself in the face. Your subconscious hates you, which explains all those dreams you keep having.

There is no prize for winning, except the knowledge that you’ve done something that’s theoretically impossible. Go you.

Time Travel’s Mental Exercise

At a Galactic summit about 37 of your Earth years ago, it was decided to outlaw time travel for non-tourist purposes.

The reasoning was quite simple: history is in a near-constant state of flux, a chronology not just of events but of interpretations thereof. The 3rd law of revisionism is yet to be discovered by your Earth scientists and I’d hate to spoil the surprise. But it’s enough to know at this point that there is in fact no such thing as the past unless you’re not an historian.

Consequently it was decided that it’s bad enough trying to keep track of your own history let alone the histories of so many other civilisations in the Galaxy and that accordingly it is massively illegal on pain of pain to tamper with the events of the past.

Of course intra-Galactic horse trading is on a level of complexity beyond your human comprehension. But suffice it to say that where there are interplanetary bureaucrats there are highly profitable legislative loopholes.

Therefore it is permitted to travel backwards in time and mess around with the events of the past provided one does so in a time machine product of the human imagination* for the express purpose of pun-based tomfoolery involving screenplays, song lyrics and so on.

Your task is to do the following:

• Select a time machine
• Work out when and where you’d go
• Insert pun
• Come home, laugh quietly/maniacally to yourself every time someone unwittingly draws attention to the fact that you’ve changed the timeline.

That’s why I always smile when I’m in the pub and I hear someone say “These aren’t the druids you’re looking for.”


*This was a highly successful criterion because a) most of the inhabitants of most of the civilisations in the Galaxy haven’t a clue who or what a human is and b) none of them speak English despite what Star Trek reruns would have you believe. Finally c) what do you mean there are other languages besides English?

Friday’s Mental Exercise

Invent a conspiracy theory and attempt to convince someone else that it is a) a genuine conspiracy theory that exists (ie that you didn’t just make it up) and b) that it’s the truth but was covered up.

An example:

Everyone knows the funny story of how Elvis tried to convince J Edgar Hoover to take him on to spy on his fellow celebrities and uncover potential communists. What’s always been covered up is that in fact Elvis was retained for such a purpose; but he didn’t make the initial approach – J Edgar did.  Instead, the whole ‘stoopid Elvis wanted to be a spy’ story was fabricated as a double bluff in order to reassure the famous that Elvis was both trustworthy and a little naïve.

In later life a disillusioned (and increasingly cash-strapped) Elvis intended to publish a tell-all memoir about his experiences. This would’ve caused no end of embarrassment to a US government then very publicly critical of the levels of paranoia in the USSR.

Within a week of his first meeting with HarperCollins he died in a manner so outlandish, embarrassing and silly that no one thought to look any deeper than whether or not he died through his prodigious intake of food or his equally prodigious intake of various narcotics.

If you look on the internet you can find evidence that traces of sodium pentothal were found in his bloodstream but that this was covered up in favour of focusing on his mild allergy to codeine.

Please do share your own invented conspiracy theories and stories of success in the comments section.

Finally, because the internet is a crazy frontier town of swivel-eyed madness and paranoia, I would like to reiterate once more that the conspiracy theory set out above is a total fabrication.

Or is it?