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Meet the uncyclopedia

The trouble with writing a column like this is that I am forced, every now and then, to reveal aspects of my personality that are best left hidden.

india Updated: Sep 17, 2006 05:07 IST

The trouble with writing a column like this is that I am forced, every now and then, to reveal aspects of my personality that are best left hidden.

I mean, here you are, living from Sunday to Sunday in the belief that mine is an utterly frivolous temperament, and now, because of the websites that I shall shortly introduce, I have to expose my deep, dark secret.

Oh well, might as well get the confession over with. Far from being the local version of a dizzy blonde, I am actually a deadly serious, dreadfully earnest person, the kind who reads books like Karen Armstrong’s A History of God and Robert D Kaplan’s Balkan Ghosts: A Journey Through History for fun. There are mitigating circumstances, though, with the latter. A huge part of the joy I got from Balkan Ghosts came from cutting half a mark for every spelling of a place name that was different from those I had mugged up when I did ‘Causes of World War I’ in school. Having lost half a mark each for every missing accent mark, or for the addition of a vowel in a word made up only of consonants – such as Vzšný – in my history essays, I often wound with up results like minus 15 on 25. This still annoys me. Robert D Kaplan, I am pleased to announce, got minus 80 on 1,000.

Before you pass out with shock and horror at this, my latest revelation (I seem to be in a rather confessional frame of mind of late. Maybe it is time to call myself Ma Kushalrani and open an ashram in the mountains), I must clarify that my idea of a night on the town has always been, and always will be, a dark, smoky pub where the music, preferably ’70s rock, is so loud that my friends and I have to communicate by SMS. And my idea of the ideal colour for hair continues to be electric blue.

But in spite of these definite signs of frivolity, I am sorry to report that I spent most of last month’s salary not on pitchers of beer (though I did buy a lipstick so red that the whole office, one by one, arrived at my desk to check me out, thus proving, once and for all, that no one in this organisation has a life), but on Richard Dawkins’ The Ancestor’s Tale, a fascinating cell-by-cell breakdown of how I — though clearly not my colleagues — got a life.

Naturally, this unremitting stream of non-fiction has influenced my choice of websites this week (it has also done wonders for my biceps. Books of non-fiction tend to be on the heavy side). So to begin with, I suggest that you head to http://paul.merton.ox.ac.uk/science, which answers some very important questions such as “How do you hunt elephants?” and “Is Hell hotter than Heaven?” There are also some very intriguing studies, such as the one which proves that Santa Claus does not exist; as well as the one that proclaims the discovery of a new element, the heaviest known to science, Administratum. Its source, apparently, is Bureaucratite.

Now that you are all excited about the wonders of the universe, check out http://uncyclopedia.org, the content-free encyclopedia that anyone can edit. This will tell you everything you may need to know about why a bird in hand is better than crabs in the bush; it also features a history of weapons, including the lance with a brick on the end, once a marvel of contemporary war technology. And finally, since you are now bound to be so excited that you will wish to contribute your own little mite to the Unclycopedia (they will accept absolutely anything in any language), beef up your vocabulary at the Undictionary, a sister project of the Unclyclopedia. This site gives you the real definition, for instance, of the word ‘Yak’: “A large, hairy, cow-like animal that lives in the Himalayas and talks too much, mainly to Yetis.” And since I seem to be talking too much (or so Ye Ed complains), I shall be off.