Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Chewing It Over

It’s not something I ever think about but I have been chewing gum on and off (mostly on) since I was in school. It’s not quite as natural as breathing but I hardly ever think about it, it’s just an accepted thing. So what, right? “Well”, I thought, “I chew this stuff virtually every day and I don’t know an awful lot about it and I don’t like not knowing about something that I’m putting in my mouth.”
Here are some of the things I thought I knew about chewing gum:
  • Chewing gum originates from America. 
  • It was probably invented in the 1950’s. 
  • It comes from a plant. 
  • It’s secretly bad for you. 
  • It doesn’t really wrap around your heart and kill you if you swallow it.

Was I right? Well, let’s have a look.

Part 1 – Chewing Gum originates from America.


In 2007 an archeological student from Derby University discovered a piece of Neolithic chewing gum on a dig in Finland. The chewing gum was around 5000 years old and came complete with some pretty good tooth imprints.
It is well known that many cultures throughout history, such as the ancient Greeks, Mayans and American Indians, chewed gum.

Part 2 – It was probably invented in the 1950’s.


Well, clearly not, as we learned in part 1. It is true, however, that Chewing Gum was first sold commercially in America by John Curtis but that was in 1848 – more than 100 years earlier than my ignorant assumption.

Part 3 – It comes from a plant.


Say what? I really didn’t expect to be wrong about this. Chewing Gum has been made from various tree saps, resins and barks throughout history right up until the 1900s. The stuff we chew now is almost always made from synthetic rubber, wax and plastic. Sweeteners and flavours are also added. There are some gums that are made from plant extracts but these are uncommon.

Part 4 – Chewing Gum is secretly bad for you.


Am I wrong about everything? One of the main uses for Chewing Gum, throughout history, has been as a natural antiseptic and for fresh breath. Even the gum we chew today, which is made from a synthetic gum base, has known health benefits and a wide range of practical uses. As well as being proven to reduce cavities and plaque it can be used to provide the body with various beneficial things such as Guarana, Ginseng and Green tea (anything that begins with ‘G’).
According to the U.S. military, gum chewing also improves concentration.
Obviously some gum, like gumballs & bubble gum (which is heavily covering in sugar) poses a genuine risk to your teeth but generally speaking gum is found to be of benefit.

Part 5 – It doesn’t really wrap around your heart and kill you if you swallow it.


Of course not. Chewing Gum passes through the system at more or less the same speed as anything else, just don’t make a habit of swallowing it.

That proves that I didn’t really know much about chewing gum but makes me feel a little better about it all. I live in a permanent and probably unnecessary fear of having bad breath and I think that is what has led to my habitual chewing gum addiction. The best type of gum to buy is one that contains Xylitol, a natural sweetener which has shown significant oral health benefits. 

Other chewing gum isn't available

The one massive downside of chewing gum is when people discard it on pavements. It’s not difficult to put it in a bin or wrap it in a bit of paper or a tissue – that’s certainly what I always do. It’s quite horrible when you notice just how much gum there is on the pavement especially outside clubs and even if it gets removed it takes no time at all to be covered over again. There is but one positive story relating to discarded gum and that is the one of Ben Wilson, the artist who travels around painting tiny pictures on chewing gum which has been dropped and trampled onto the pavement.

Friday, 1 April 2011

The Declassified Archives Of LittleBirdMagazine

Something else that didn't have a place in LittleBirdMagazine - mostly because it's not really an article, it's more like part of a routine by some middle-of-the-road Jewish Comedian from the 90's. Anyway, here it is:

"It would be cool to have your own universe wouldn’t it? You know, one you control. You can arrange it just how you like. It’s getting a bit warm you just move the sun back a bit or you could really freak everyone on the planets out by making really large objects appear in the sky. It wouldn’t even have to be other planets, you could use your shoe - everyone thinks there’s a big foot going to squash them. Or your thumb, ‘it could be you’. Or you could just flick people. See someone walking along, you think ‘he looks a bit annoying’, just push him over. I get that a lot, walking down the street, I see people where I just wanna hit them ‘stop looking so stupid, stupid!’.

It wouldn’t take long for any of us to abuse the power if we had control like that though. It’s in our nature isn’t it, if we’re put in charge, we do what we like ‘cause we’re the ones with the power. It’s like having the remote control for the T.V. You have the remote, you’re the king!

Even God abused his power, twice as I recall, which when you think about it isn’t what you’re led to expect from the almighty doer of good. He made man in his image though, so if anyone is to blame for our abuses of power, I gotta blame the big fella. The first incident was in the story of Noah and the Ark where he told Noah to build a boat, stick a couple of each animal on there and wait for it to rain. He flooded the earth then after he did it said ‘Argh, I wish I hadn’t done that, tell you what, I’ll never do it again’. I don’t suppose he’d need to. He’ll try anything once.

There’s a few problems with this story for me. Firstly, how long did it take to make the ark? If God had made a snappy decision in deciding to flood the earth, I think the 6 or 7 years it would have taken to build the ark would have been ample time to reconsider. If Noah built the ark by himself it would have taken forever. I defy anyone to build an ark big enough for two of every animal on earth, with very poor tools and virtually no knowledge of ship building. And if he had help from friends did they not say ‘that’s a very big boat that Noah’s asked us to build here… do you think he’s up to something?’. ‘Well, I dunno but he’s put two of every animal on earth on it and he’s closed the door’. One of those people would have asked him during loading ‘what do you need all this lot for?’.

The next thing is, how long did it take for the earth to flood? Did it just start and whoosh, it's thirty feet deep? It must have rained pretty hard and flood really fast; I mean instantly. It must have done or I imagine a few people would have had time to jump into their own boats.

The other thing I think about is that it’s a bit unfair that while most animals and people were drowning the fish were actually like ‘hey, this is pretty cool, there’s loads more space to swim about in’. Ducks and stuff too, they’ll have been like ‘What’s the big deal? I float!’.

So that’s Noah, the other time God famously abused his power was in the story of Job. Just to show that he could do whatever the frig he wanted he killed all Jobs family, made him sick, put a bucket of water over his door so when he came home and opened the door he got wet. That’s pretty harsh, just to prove a point that people will worship you harder when things go badly.

There are other things I find myself wondering about God; for example, why did God make Jesus a Jew? Is that not some kind of mixed message there? I don’t get it."

Friday, 25 March 2011


A couple of years ago I thought ‘I want a bike’, and so I got one. It looks like this:

My primary reason for buying it was to get about but I also use it every day just for keeping fit. I hadn’t had one for years but now I rely on it, which means it’s a real nuisance if there are any problems and I’ve had rather a few recently.

In two weeks I had four punctures – almost every time I went out it would seem to get another flat tire – tragic, I know. Then I got puncture-proof tires and rode about happy as Larry (whoever he is*) until yet another puncture – a slow puncture this time, which caused me to keep pumping it up and then getting trapped in places after my tire had gone flat again. I got a new inner tube on Monday and by Tuesday night it was flat again. Am I cursed? I don’t know but I’ll soon find out as, after another long walk to the bike shop, I have had it fixed again. The bike man actually made me do half the work myself – which was very useful cause now I know what I’m doing… sort of.

A typical road in Liverpool
No Road to Somewhere
One of the main causes of bike problems and also one of the things that makes cycling such a battle is the state of the roads at the moment. The picture above clearly shows what cyclists in Liverpool contend with every day. In all seriousness, there are currently roads in Liverpool where even the 4x4s have to swerve as they navigate the lunaresque surfaces.
Aside from the potholes there are all kinds of bizarre cycle-lanes, which appear and disappear with neither warning nor consistency; some of them run for just 10 feet and then disappear completely.
The final menace to the cyclist is the motorist and blah blah blah, we all know about that so I wont go on about that rivalry. 

The work of a genius

F**k the Environment
Despite all the problems I have had with my bike, I’m going to carry on cycling cause the financial and health benefits to me are considerable and also, yes, I do like knowing that I can travel without making the air less breathable. It’d probably be quite a good idea if bikes were cheaper so that they become a more attractive option for people living in cities. Real cycle-lanes would be nice too – anyone who has been to mainland Europe knows they’ve got cycle-lanes sorted everywhere else and surprise surprise, loads more people cycling as a result.
Eco-friendly bamboo bicycle
I was reading about Bamboo bikes recently. They’re a good idea aren’t they, cause bamboo is the world’s fastest growing plant and it’s really strong so you can make bikes out of it quickly and cheaply and they will last years. The process of growing bamboo and making the bike also doesn’t use a ton of energy or a lethal mix of chemicals, so they are ultra clean and ecological. Bamboo bikes are ideal also for developing countries where aluminium, titanium and steel and whatnot are too expensive. Brilliant, that’s it, the future of cheap cycling sewn-up, save for one thing – the price tag. If you want to buy a bamboo bike in the UK then you’ll have to part with £3000! Quite honestly, for that price they can keep their bamboo, I’d buy a motorbike and just join everyone else in destroying the planet. Why is everything ‘Eco’ always so expensive when we’re constantly told it’s all about using recycled materials and things? A blog for another day, I feel.  

*Most likely, Larry Foley (1849-1917), an Australian boxer who never lost a fight and made a bit of a fortune for himself in the process.

Monday, 7 March 2011

The Declassified Archives Of LittleBirdMagazine

You may have noticed that the URL for this blog is LittleBirdMagazine. The reason for this is that I used to write a magazine called LittleBirdMagazine (it’s all starting to make sense, no?). Production of LBMagazine will resume this year but I think I’ll keep this blog as my own personal ranty, ravey, writing graveyard. Whilst writing the magazine I produced all kinds of things that weren’t in keeping with the mood or theme of the mag. I thought it would be nice to post some of these non-articles on here. It’s worth noting that they were all written in 2007/08 and so may contain some slightly dated references.

The first unpublished, bile-fuelled, tirade I’d like to share with you is this one regarding John Barrowman:

“Thought I’d spew some bile about John Barrowman. Nothing to provoke this, I just actively despise him. For a couple of months he appeared, like a particularly virulent STI, all over every panel quiz show on T.V. There he was, looming in a visible ooze of smugness; pervasive and vile in the extreme. The intensity of his odiousness somehow reached out from the screen and suffocated me. I was paralysed; mummified by the ectoplasm that is his personality. It was like watching a car crash only far, far worse. My eyes simply couldn’t adsorb enough of his image to allow my brain to comprehend just how totally grotesque he is. That smile, his tedious self-indulgence, his baffling apology for a sense of humour, the harrowing combination of both seeing and hearing him laugh…

The odious Barrowman
I was left shell-shocked. No amount of therapy will be able to restore my mind. I have been damaged due to exposure to John Barrowman. If you have been damaged as a result of witnessing John Barrowman on television then please, please seek professional help. You might never be cured but there are people out there who can provide some reassurance and put you at a relative degree of ease.

I have managed to avoid his wretched face for months now and, torchwood, I won’t ever see him again."

I hope you enjoyed this previously unpublished gem of highbrow journalism. Look out for more of "The Declassified Archives of LittleBirdMagazine", in the near future.