Archive for February, 2009

Seven things you may not know about monkeys (and apes)


Seven Monkey facts

1. People from Hartlepool are called Monkey Hangers

The story goes like this. During the Napoleonic Wars, a French ship called the Chasse Maree was wrecked on the coast at Hartlepool. There were no survivors, with the exception of a lone monkey, wearing a French uniform, supposedly dressed to amuse the sailors. Odd, but better than some other rumoured sailors’ habits from the time. The monkey was found by some locals and questioned. When the monkey wouldn’t answer, the locals concluded the animal to be a French spy. The poor beast was sentenced to death and hung from the mast of a fishing boat. Whether it’s true or not, this has remained a source of amusement for people in nearby towns ever since.

Hartlepool United are known as The Monkey Hangers and have now turned the joke around and now have a mascot called ‘H’Angus the Monkey’. H’Angus stood for election as Mayor of Hartlepool in 2002 and won. One of the promises he made was to give all school children free bananas, a promise which he later had to go back on. Typical.

2. We share 96 per cent of our DNA with chimps.

The chimp was the fourth mammal to have its entire genome sequenced, after the mouse, rat and human. According to the journal Nature, the first detailed genetic comparison between humans and chimpanzees shows that around 96 per cent of the DNA sequence is identical in the two species. But there are significant differences, particularly in genes relating to sexual reproduction, brain development, immunity and the sense of smell. The scientific analysis of the 3 billion chemical “letters” of the chimp’s genetic code highlighted its amazing closeness to that of humans. After 6m years of separate evolution, the differences between chimp and human are just 10 times greater than those between two unrelated people and 10 times less than those between rats and mice.

3. But women are genetically more like chimps than men

Since our ancestors descended from the trees, the genes involved in being male have evolved at great speed since we split from chimps and the Y chromosome has shifted far more from our common ancestor than has the X. Women, who lack the Y chromosome, are hence genetically more like chimpanzees than men. I don’t make the rules.

4. Like humans, the great apes – chimpanzees, gorillas and orang-utans – all can catch colds, but monkeys do not. Heurelho Gomes (insert other name if you like) couldn’t catch a cold either. 

5. Missing Monkey

The BBC only dubbed 39 of the 52 episodes of Monkey, the cult Japanese television show of the early 1980s. Which will be a big disappointment for those of who couldn’t get enough of it. Incidentally, the role of the monk Tripitaka in the programme was actually played by a beautiful Japanese actress called Masako Natsume.

6. Do do do the Funky Gibbon

Bill Oddie, who wrote the thing, claims that you ‘wouldn’t believe the musical pretensions that went on in my head. With ‘Funky Gibbon’, I started off – it’s almost unbelievable considering how stupid the song is – trying to get the feel of a Miles Davis track, I can’t remember which, probably just after Bitches Brew and that sort of era: some really choppy Miles Davis-type rhythm, again with a Sly Stone influence. It sounds like Parliament on a bad day, or something like that, that kind of thing.’ Right. 

7. Monkey brains

You have heard the tale of the Johnny Foreigners who pop the head of a live monkey through a table, crack it open and scoop its brains out. Like a bloody, hairy boiled egg. You have probably even seen it in films like “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.”

The problem is that it’s not true, but a classic urban legend. It’s a way of demonising foreigners. Americans say the Taiwanese do it. Indonesians say the Taiwanese do it. Taiwanese say that Hong Kongers do it. Hong Kongers say it is rural Chinese on the border with Vietnam. Historical versions by officials from Beijing in the North of China report that it is Southerners who do it. People from Stoke would say people in Crewe do it but the reality is much, much worse.

7a. Cheeky chimps

What bonobos get up to would make Jack Nicholson blush.

A load of old Barnum

barnumPlace your hands on the screen and let’s see if I can gain an insight into what sort of person you are.
Here we go.
You have a need for other people to like and admire you, yet you tend to be critical of yourself. While you have some weaknesses you are generally able to compensate for them. You have considerable yet largely hidden strengths that you have still to turn to your advantage. Disciplined and self-controlled on the outside, you tend to be slightly insecure on the inside. At times you have serious doubts as to whether you always make the right decision. You prefer a certain amount of change and variety and become dissatisfied when hemmed in by restrictions and limitations. You also pride yourself as an independent thinker and do not accept other’s statements without satisfactory proof. But you think it can be unwise to be too frank in revealing yourself to others.
Sound familiar? Well it should because that is how most people see themselves. You are not alone in feeling this way. Far from it. While we all harbour some fantasy of ourselves as completely unique, the kind of people who peddle this sort of tripe – astrologers and psychics among them – have always known that most people have far more in common with everybody else than they’d like to believe. What makes you genuinely unique is your relationships with others.
In fact, the above passage is largely made up of ‘Barnum Statements’, which most people think are true of themselves but not so true of others. Coupled with people’s generally poor grasp of the laws of probability, this creates a fertile spawning ground for psychics, astrologers and spiritualists.
You can pull a similar stunt when you’re writing about particular professions. If you regularly read the trade magazines for civil servants, lawyers, marketeers, accountants, architects, designers, engineers, consultants, call centre managers and people in IT, HR, FM, PM, QS, CS and BS*, you’ll daily come across an editorial making a fairly common sort of point about the way in which that profession sees itself. We can Barnumise it thus:
What you do is of significant strategic importance, yet you do not receive the recognition you deserve. You tend to be under-represented at boardroom level where you could add significant value to the organisation. Unlike those bastard architects/surveyors/accountants/project managers etc, when it comes to major issues you are not consulted early enough so decisions are made on the basis of bad information or no information. As a result the organisation invariably screws up big style. And just guess who’s going to have to put it right? That’s right- muggins. You’re not paid enough for the great job you do, either. And another thing: people have got completely the wrong impression of you. You’re not geekish/ difficult/ socially inept/ arrogant/ closeted/ unattractive/ middle aged (delete as appropriate). You’re the nice guys.
The fact that everybody thinks this about the job they do makes life a little bit easier for two groups of people. Editors of trade magazines can repeat this sort of stuff all they like and probably win awards for it with the thanks of a grateful profession. Suppliers can also use it as a key part of their marketing message. For a start, it offers an easy PR opportunity for those vendors keen to show how much they empathise with their customers through a ‘we-feel-your-pain’ piece in an appropriate journal.
As an extension of this, there is a tendency for professions to demonise each other. For example – and it seems to be difficult for both sides to discuss this out in the open – there’s an undercurrent of bad feeling between facilities managers and architects. Facilities managers in particular seem to resent the fact they have to manage the results of the creativity of other people, feel they aren’t involved in the creative process soon enough and possibly resent the high profile enjoyed by architects.
I’ve always seen the difference between building design and FM as the difference between conception and parenthood. One is an act of creativity that takes a relatively short amount of time to complete (speak for yourself, I know) but which people think about a lot. The other is an act of responsibility that never really ends and which people may talk about a lot but nobody else is really all that interested in. There’s a reason why Channel 4 televises the Stirling Prize and leaves the BIFM Awards alone. What seems to make all this harder to bear for FMs is that they are often in loco parentis, so are often managing a building not of their own making.
So my point is this. The ideas and feelings that unite us both as individuals and as professionals are far greater than the things that divide us. We may think we’re all one-offs, but any uniqueness we may possess is apparent mostly in our relationships with others. Worth remembering when the guy from IT is getting on your tits.

*I made the last one up. I think. If you’re a BS, you’re not alone.

February 2009

Desk Jockey