This was originally meant to be an article but now I’d like to submit this as a formal letter of complaint.
I’m MEANT to be writing another Horror Heights book. Instead I’ve lost ENTIRE DAYS doing “research” for this column. It’s not that I couldn’t think of anything – on the contrary, I’ve had the opposite problem. You might as well have asked me to list “My Top 10 Favourite Family Members”. Sounds easy at first but, once you get past the immediates, you’re suddenly trying to work out if your mum’s cousin Andrew really is one of your favourites or if you’re only choosing him over Aunty Karen because he has a pool. (If you’re reading this, Andrew, obviously your worth isn’t measured by pool ownership. It was just a joke. We cool? Great. See you next heatwave.)
The key to completing this task was refinement*. While my background is in standup, the Horror Heights books are suitable for readers aged eight and over, so I figured I should take that into account when narrowing down my list. Had you decided to call this column “The 10 Funniest VIDEOS I Have Ever Seen on the Internet WHICH ARE SAFE TO WATCH WITH CHILDREN PRESENT” then we all could have saved ourselves a lot of time.
So here it finally is. I hope you’re happy with yourself, the Guardian. Please send your apology to my editor who now wants to know why my next book is late and suddenly features a grumpy unicorn called Charlie.
Yours in resentful love,
PS If you need any more content in the future, I’m working on an article titled: “The 10 Reasons Why Aunty Karen Should Get a Pool”.
* I was tempted to list all my flipchart videos but figured it was better just to slip in a subtle link and not look like a total narcissist.
1. Matrix ping pong
This hilarious 2003 entry on the Japanese talent show Kasou Taishou still cracks me up. The clip used to take ages to load on our dial-up connection but I didn’t care – the gasp from the audience when the entrants mess with their perception was always worth the wait. It’s pure magic.
2. Yeah, yeah, yeah the cow is back
Speaking of magic (whoa, Bec! You took that segue like a pro!), this 2004 animation about a magician by Weebl’s Stuff (of “badger badger badger” fame) is one of my favourite funny earworms.
3. Email is like a prison – with no walls
Another great 2004 animation (daaaaamn, Bec Hill! Back at it again with the segues!) comes from Homestar Runner dot net (“It’s dot com!”). If you’ve never seen Strong Bad before, you might find yourself asking, “What’s with the mask? Why boxing gloves? What’s this character’s deal?” and I’m here to tell you that as a longtime Strong Bad fan, I still don’t know (or don’t remember). It’s best just to lean into the lack of context.
4. Umbilical Brothers – The Flat
I first saw this when I was given SpeedMouse on DVD for Christmas in 2004 (what a year!) and since the Umbies uploaded it to their YouTube channel, I’ve showed it to everyone I know who hasn’t seen it. The whole thing is a masterclass in clowning and the hand-puppet fight at the end is <chef’s kiss>.
5. Cowboy Sandstorm
This sketch is such a simple, silly premise and beautifully shot – which isn’t surprising, as the cinematographer (and cowboy) is Matthew Santo, the director of photography on Spider-Man: Homecoming, Far From Home, and No Way Home.
6. My name is Marcel and I’m partially a shell
What I LOVE about this is that it’s essentially a standard joke formula which has been turned into a stunning and heartwarming short film. It was years before I discovered it was written and voiced by Jenny Slate (Jean Ralphio’s perfectly cast sister in Parks and Rec. “She’s the wooooorst!”).
7. Thumbs up for rock and roll!
Take this kid’s advice. I promise it will make you feel happy of yourself.
8. Welcome to Jurassic Park
I’ve watched this so many times. I know what’s coming. I know exactly what to expect. And YET it ALWAYS gets me.
9. Round, round, I get around
If you enjoyed No 8, then No 9 is very much in the same vein. I will never not find awkward dubs hilarious.
10. I wub you, wobot
A delightful clip to end on. You have to laugh to overcome the emotional lump which forms in your throat from the onslaught of innocence.
Rocket Lab has taken delivery of NASA’s CAPSTONE spacecraft at its New Zealand launch pad ahead of a mission to the Moon.
It’s been quite a journey for CAPSTONE [Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment], which was originally supposed to launch from Rocket Lab’s US launchpad at Wallops Island in Virginia.
The pad, Launch Complex 2, has been completed for a while now. However, delays in certifying Rocket Lab’s Autonomous Flight Termination System (AFTS) pushed the move to Launch Complex 1 in Mahia, New Zealand.
The wet dress rehearsal for the launch was completed last night, prompting CEO Peter Beck to say: “Next stop…the Moon!”
“I always wanted to say that,” he added. Beck has long dreamed of sending his rockets beyond Low Earth Orbit (LEO) and is planning a mission to Venus in 2023. However, the Moon is than the company has sent its rockets to date.
CAPSTONE is to be sent to a Near Rectilinear Halo Orbit (NRHO) around the Moon, a location planned for the NASA, ESA, and CSA Gateway. CAPSTONE’s primary mission is to verify simulations that the interaction gravity of the Earth and Moon will make for a stable orbit.
The milestone was hit as Rocket Lab announced its first quarter 2022 results. Overall, the company made a net loss of $26.7 million, down from the $15.9 million loss of the same period last year, but revenues jumped to $40.7 million from $18.2 million. Most interesting was the make-up of that revenue. Space Systems (the company’s Photon spacecraft and the components it sells) accounted for a whopping 84 percent of Q1 revenue. Actual Electron rockets fared less well; during a call with analysts, CFO Adam Spice said that launches contributed just $6.6 million.
Going forward, the company expects second quarter revenues to be between $51 million and $54 million. It is including three dedicated launches in that figure (of which CAPSTONE is one). Two have already happened, and there is potential for a fourth, but the company has opted to take a prudent path and not include it in the figures.
As for CAPSTONE, it will be integrated with the Electron rocket and Photon spacecraft bus ahead of the launch window opening on May 31. The Electron will launch the spacecraft into LEO and the Photon will take care of the ballistic lunar transfer via multiple orbit raisings. A final burn of Photon’s engine will occur on the sixth day, enough to escape Earth orbit and send CAPSTONE on a course for the Moon. ®
A DCU Alpha spin-out, UrbanVolt says it sells power generated from solar energy at up to 30pc lower rates than traditional suppliers.
UrbanVolt, a Dublin-based clean energy company, has secured €36m in financing to expand its solar panel business in Ireland and the UK.
The funding includes a €30m asset-backed seven-year loan from Swedish credit fund PCP and €6m from existing funding partners, BVP and Beach Point Capital.
Founded in 2015 by Kevin Maughan, Graham Deane and Declan Barrett, UrbanVolt finances and installs solar panels on the rooftops of commercial and industrial businesses, selling the solar electricity generated to the businesses at up to 30pc lower rate than traditional suppliers.
The company said it also guarantees the price for up to 30 years, protecting businesses against rising energy costs for decades to come, with no minimum amount payable or standing charges – meaning that customers pay proportionate to their consumption.
“This is a transformational deal, which will allow us to scale at pace to meet the significant demand in the market while also streamlining the process of installing solar panels for our customers’ benefit,” said Maughan, who is also the CEO of the DCU Alpha spin-out.
“This first funding facility from PCP will see our project output grow by 20x over the coming years. It is also happening at a time when the demand for renewable energy is rising significantly given climate and geopolitical crises.”
The loan facility will be used to fund the installation of solar panels and related equipment on UrbanVolt’s primary target of commercial and industrial client sites in both Ireland and the UK.
It started supplying solar-generated electricity directly to businesses in Ireland last summer, since when it has agreed contracts with more than 60 companies and completed seven installations.
Maughan sad that there is “simply no compelling reason” for commercial and industrial operators to opt for traditional energy sources anymore, adding that UrbanVolt offers “unparalleled” price security and clean energy.
“By incorporating an ‘as a service’ business model, our customers only pay for the energy they use without a standing charge, and the cost of our equipment and its maintenance is kept off their balance sheet.”
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Digital investors have withdrawn savings in the “stablecoin” tether worth $7.6bn (£6.2bn) since the cryptocurrency crisis began last week, suggesting the company has paid out a sum almost twice its total cash holdings to spooked depositors.
Stablecoins are supposed to have a fixed value matched to a real-world asset, in most cases $1 a token. However, faith in the concept was rocked last Tuesday when another big player, terra, broke its peg to the dollar. That has fuelled a wider sell-off across the crypto sector, which relies on stablecoins for much of its financial engineering.
Tether, the third biggest cryptocurrency by “market cap”, experienced a short-lived crisis on Thursday when its value dropped from $1 to 95¢ as savers feared it would follow its fellow stablecoin terra and collapse. However, the token, which is controlled by a private company with close links to the crypto exchange Bitfinex, has since largely restored its dollar peg by honouring a promise to allow savers to always withdraw $1 for every tether they give back to the company.
The company only allows direct withdrawals of at least $100,000 for each request, and charges a fee of 0.1% on redemptions. Anyone with less tether than that minimum can only turn their money into dollars by finding someone to buy it from them – a disparity that fuelled the temporary collapse in value.
Despite the difficulties, according to public blockchain data, $7.6bn of tether has been reallocated in this way since Thursday. That is almost twice the cash that Tether had in its reserves at the end of last year, according to accounts published on its website.
Most of the rest of its reserves are held in “cash-like” assets, the majority of which are $35bn of US government debt and $25bn of corporate bonds. However, the company has refused to share any further details of the investments, with its chief technology officer, Paolo Ardoino, telling the Financial Times: “We don’t want to give our secret sauce.”
There have long been fears as to Tether’s ability to honour all redemptions. The company had once said it backed its currency with “US dollars”, a claim the New York attorney general said in 2021 “was a lie”. Now, it simply claims its currency is “backed 100% by Tether’s reserves”.
By contrast, terra was backed by a complex algorithm that required the value of a sister cryptocurrency, luna, to constantly rise in order to maintain the dollar peg. When the crash hit last week, the system went into a “death spiral”, automatically printing more luna, which crashed the price further, until luna lost 99.9995% of its value in a matter of days and terra was left languishing at $0.11.
The charismatic founder of the Terra project, Do Kwon, has said he wants to relaunch the currency. In a proposal posted to the project’s message board on Friday, he suggested wiping all ownership of luna, and redistributing 1bn new tokens, with most going to those who hold the stablecoin, or who held luna before last week’s crash.
“It is a hard balance – and no easy answers in redistributing value within the network,” Kwon wrote. “But value must be distributed to allow the ecosystem to survive, and in its current state it will not.”
Kwon also faces questions about how the vast sums of bitcoin that his project had amassed to back terra were spent. According to a breakdown shared by the organisation, it sold more than 80,000 bitcoins, worth more than $2.4bn, to unnamed parties in exchange for terra valued at $1 – at a time when the public price of the currency was under 75¢.
The jitters around stablecoins have combined with a general slump in tech stocks and the wider US downturn to trigger a wider crisis of confidence across the crypto sector. Bitcoin and ethereum, the two biggest cryptocurrencies, are down more than 10% over the last seven days, with ethereum dropping 17% to less than $2,000. Smaller currencies have, as always, been more volatile, with dogecoin falling 26% over the week.
Even some of the most vocal backers of digital currencies are now querying the promises of the sector. The founder of the crypto exchange FTX, Sam Bankman-Fried, said in an interview with the Financial Times that bitcoin has no future as a payments network because of the inherent inefficiencies of its blockchain, the public digital register that records its transactions. Instead, he argued, it could only function as a gold-like store of long-term value.