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Satirical review of Brian ‘Wonders of the Universe’ Cox & Niall ‘Is the West history’ Ferguson March 10, 2011

Posted by larry (Hobbes) in humor.

This is by Sam Wollaston of the Guardian and the review appeared in the Monday issue.  It is so good and impossible to summarize that I thought I would put up this laugh fest in its entirety.  Check out the rest of the Guardian for that day and the rest of this week – some good nuggets though the events themselves may eventually prove indigestible.


Brian Cox … in Gore-Tex, by Berghaus, with a Patagonian glacier as a backdrop. Photograph: BBC

Hi, I’m Professor Brian Cox, I’m one of the Wonders of the Universe (BBC2, Sunday). Here I am, on top of a mountain, triumphant in outdoor clothing. Why are we here? Where do we come from? These are the most enduring of questions. And why is it that you are a little bit in love with me? Is it my enormous mind? Or my boyish good looks, the NME hair, the expansive wardrobe coupled with exotic locations, the soft modest enthusiasm with just a hit of Lancashire, the winning smile . . . this winning smile – ah, that’s got you, hasn’t it? Look how proudly I stand, while the helicopter circles. I’ve conquered this mountain, just as I’m conquering your heart.

Now I’m somewhere else, in a cream-coloured safari anorak and stonewashed jeans, in front of the sun, bathed in light and glory. I am the golden boy, the sun god, I am the sun. Now I’m staring out to sea, in an aubergine T-shirt, thinking big thoughts. And very big numbers. A billion billion billion billion billion billion. That big. Look, I’ll write it in the sand, to show you how massive my number is. It’s all about the vast sweep of cosmic time and astrophysics. And turtles. As the story of time unfolds, a fundamental truth is revealed: nothing lasts for ever.

Now I’m back in Gore-Tex, by Berghaus, with a Patagonian glacier as backdrop. And posing next to a picture of the death of a star. The death of one star, the birth of another – that’s me. Because time goes only one way, the arrow of time says the future, like my clothes, will always be different.

The second law of thermodynamics demonstrates everything that is profound and powerful and beautiful about me, and physics too. It explains why I’m so hot, but also why time goes forward and why there’s a past and a future. Entropy – that’s something as well, a gradual decline to disorder, like my hair in the wind. I’m now in the Namibian desert, wearing an apple-green T-shirt. And some kind of technical neoprene hoodie.

For a moment, you thought you understood what I was talking about didn’t you; you thought, you got it? Maybe you did, or perhaps you just got me, you’d fallen under my spell. Here’s another enormous number, even bigger this time. A billion billion billion billion billion billion billion billion. Amazing, isn’t it?

It won’t last, nothing does. Things Can Only Get Better, someone once sang, naively. Because things can only get worse. The most profound consequence of the arrow of time will be when the cosmos cannot get any more disorderly, it will eventually fade and die. Nothing will happen, and it will keep on (not) happening, for ever. A final thought: here’s me, on the beach, at sunset.

And hi, I’m someone else: Niall Ferguson. In Civilization: Is the West History? (Channel 4, Sunday) I’m asking if this is the generation on whose watch western ascendancy is going to end. I may not look like a pop star, as Brian does, but I’m dead clever, and I’m much hotter and younger than a lot of television historians. I’ve got a cute posh-Glasgow accent, so when I say nook – as in “a little nook of western Eurasia” – it rhymes with spook. And I can engage with the kids, use language that’s going to make them sit up and listen. So the six things I’ve identified that have made the west dominate the world for the past 500 years I’m calling killer applications, or “apps”. And I refer to this new phase we’re entering as “western civilisation version 2.0” That’s got you, hasn’t it?

The other brilliant thing about this is that you can get your head round what I’m saying, and because this momentous power shift is going on right now on this planet, you could say it feels more relevant and urgent than Brian with his billions and billions of T-shirts. It’s possible you’re actually looking forward to my next one more than his. Ha!

And just to complete the trio of Sunday-night hunks . . . Hi, I’m David Morrissey, as moody heartthrob Robert Carne in the surprisingly enjoyable South Riding (BBC1, Sunday). Obviously, being a mere actor, I can’t compete with the others’ enormous brains, so I need to appeal on a baser level. So here I am, on a magnificent black horse, on a cliff, in the rain, and a boiling sea. Phwoar. But oops, the cliff has given way, and I’m now dead. Death by erosion. Or maybe even by entropy, the cliff’s decline into disorder. I’ve been slain by the arrow of time . . . maybe.


1. Melanie Jean Mayfield - October 17, 2012

Aw, jeez- you mean I’m not the only one with a massive gravitational crush on Brian Cox? :]

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