Better Understanding (Mostly) Humans


Listen to The Condition podcast on this site

Hey guys, you can now listen to the podcast here by heading to the ‘podcast’ tab on this site.

This will be updated as soon as a new episode comes out. Currently we are well into our 2nd season, with upcoming topics including cults, murder and conspiracies.

Thanks for listening, here is a picture of a goat:


Season 2 introduction video

Hey guys, just a quick video from us to you, introducing the 2nd season of The Condition podcast. Enjoy.

Season 2 of the podcast – out now on iTunes

Hey guys, I know it has been a while, but the second season of The Condition podcast is finally out now.

We kick the second season off with ‘Empathy’ a look at that which binds us to one another.

Check it out on iTunes by clicking this link.

Apologies for the sounds issues if there are any, I am working to make the quality better still this season. Any advice is always welcomed.

As a thank you for your support during Season 1, here is a picture of  2 elephants with a sun tan.


The Dying Languages

Every year, it is estimated that an average 20-25 languages disappear. This is often due to the last remaining speaker dying without any record of the language being made.

Back in 2010, this happened in the Andaman Islands when the last Bo tribeswoman passed away.

The Andaman Islands are a little-known archipelago West of Burma in the Bay of Bengal that now belong to India. Click here for my post on tribes for more information.

Worldwide, there are roughly 6500 spoken languages, although there is much debate about this. Some have similarities to one another; others such as arabic are considered one language, but differ greatly. Arabic is a great example of a widely spoken language where syntax, dialect and accent vary greatly. It is spoken across many countries and has evolved into its present form during a time when, other than trade routes, little connected the peoples of the different areas. Arabic differs to the point that often speakers of Arabic from different countries have difficulties comprehending one another. A Sudanese arabic speaker may not be able to converse with a Levantine arabic speaker (from Lebanon) even on a rudimentary level.

In the Pacific the Polynesian settlers, who moved eastwards from South East Asia to colonise many of the Pacific Islands, set sail from larger communities. The distance they traveled before finding land would sometimes be so great that old ties with the home lands would be severed, eventually leaving an isolated community for centuries. This isolation has led to unique languages developing that have a root, but little else in common with their ancestors further West.

Looking at the history of language, it could be said that all known languages at some point stemmed from the same root in East Africa, where we are thought to originate from as a species. Isolation of wandering tribes across the globe over many thousands of years accounts for the wide breadth of linguistic styles. Looking at the UK, where distances were not great between tribes, there are a multitude of dialects, and even 3 generally recognised languages besides English are still used in more remote regions of the UK: Gaelic, Welsh and Cornish.

On Easter Island, there is evidence suggesting that perhaps a unique religion or two competing kings from divergent tribes on the island led to the creation of the famous heads, before natural resources were exhausted and the population died out. This is another indication of the isolated nature of the colonies. Most likely, when these tribes dies out on Easter, so too did a unique language. One that likely no outsider ever got the chance to hear.

Another common factor present in the languages of these isolated communities is a lack of knowledge of certain concepts.

One example is the Pacific Island Tikopia:

This tiny island’s population had no concept of ‘inland’ or mountains because of its minute size. Their language does however, have a variety of words related to the sea, such as having the sea closest to your right/left side, which many of us don’t have any words for in our own languages.

Other recent findings from linguistic studies of a tribe from the Amazon, contacted first in 1986, suggest that the Amondawa tribe lacks any real concept of time. See this BBC article for more information. The reasoning behind this is linked to lack of development within the tribe, of any form of astronomical study, which therefore failed to recognise the passage of a year, and the reason behind the cyclical nature of day/night/day etc. This comes as no surprise given the location, where there is a less distinct seasonal variation over the year.

Both previous examples may now slowly become victims of globalisation. As the English language permeates the globe, so too does it permeate foreign language. Korea is a country with a wonderfully original language, whose writing system, hangeul has been given UNESCO heritage status. Today, many English words like television, coffee shop and many others are used more commonly than their original Korean counterparts in modern Korean speech.

Languages are often being lost due to this rapid globalisation. This is not necessarily a recent issue; colonists of the 17th-19th centuries would often enforce the use of their own language throughout a nation, which is why most Africans use English, French or Portuguese as their first language.

Over time all languages evolve. Understanding an original Shakespeare manuscript from 500 years ago is a challenge without explanatory footnotes as an aide. English itself is thought to have more words than any other language. Variously over time, French, Germanic and Latin have had prolonged influence over our syntax, sentence structure and grammar.

Even modern English speakers struggle to keep up with change, as worldwide social pressures mold English into new forms. If it weren’t for mass media: television, film, radio and music, then we might not have any concept of the modern American accent in the U.K. and vice versa (watch The Wire on HBO to better understand what I mean). Only by being in constant contact with one another can we follow the two as our languages evolve imperceptibly, and therefore continue to influence each other.

In the modern era, I would not be too surprised to see a common accentual consciousness slowly develop among native English speakers around the world, to the point where in a few centuries, all English speakers have a similar lexicon.

If you are interested in language history, two interesting gateway books are Bill Bryson’s ‘The Mother Tongue: English and how it got that way’ (1990, Perennial), and Jared Diamond’s ‘Collapse: How societies choose to fail or succeed’ (2005, Viking Press). The latter isn’t specifically focused on language but has a number of interesting passages related to the significance of communication systems in early civilisations, and their importance.

A Tribe Called…?

Google Earth is a revelation in many ways. Vast tracts of the world can be seen in such accurate detail that you can look at your own house from above; maybe even see yourself catching some rays in the garden if the photo was taken at the right time. Many countries now have Google Streetview, so that one can even see their house from various angles.

The internet has brought the streets and buildings of the world to our own rooms. Even secretive North Korea is unravelled to some extent. It’s possible to see in compelling detail the true hetmit kingdom’s countryside, towns and villages when it is almost impossible to get into the country, unless you pay a few thousand dollars to be chaperoned to sites of with nothing but propaganda value.

The Andaman Islands are a little-known archipelago West of Burma in the Bay of Bengal that now belong to India.

When the British arrived to set up a gaol for people in British India who had a problem with being subjected to autocratic rule, they discovered a number of tribes who inhabited certain islands. Each had their own language. Plato had desribed them as cannibalistic dog-faced people. Not so kind. Jacques Cousteau described the marine life as some of the richest in the world. A nicer sentiment. Even today some tribes are left alone, isolated on their own islands. Some attempts at contact have been made with certain tribes such as the Jarawa. See this video of Indians giveing coconuts as a peace offering.

I can imagine the first meetings between Christopher Colubus or Hernan Cortes in the New World having much the same feel to them.

There are believed to be five main tribes across the Andamans and Nicobars (South of the Andamans). The Shompens on Nicobar, then the Great Andamanese, Jarawa, Onge and the Matrix-esque named Sentinelese. The latter is openly hostile, reclusive and isolated on one island. Therefore contact has never been established with the Sentinelese people. They are considered one of the only Paleolithic tribes surviving without outside contact.

Elsewhere around the world, it is thought that there are still well over 150 uncontacted tribes. In the Brazilian Amazon, there are possibly 63 uncontacted tribes, many more elsewhere in South America and 40-50 on New Guinea Island and parts of the East Indonesian archipelago.

One thing about the expanse of the Amazon that impresses upon me, is the idea that there is a lot we don’t yet know about it. Old Mayan ruins are occasionally discovered deep in the jungle, tribes exist without any contact, completely untainted by world progress, and as a result have evolved separately. Anthropologically speaking it is fascinating, but part of me hopes they will forever remain ignorant of the outside world. They have survived on their own this long without our help.

As always, please support us by downloading our free podcast on iTunes:

Episode 11 delves deeper into language, how it has developed and how many more have died out.

Season 2 of The Condition coming soon

We here at The Condition have been working hard to get Season 2 ready, and we are almost there.

Season 2 of the podcast will be much the same as the last one, episode 1 (16 overall) is a corker: Empathy, and is the first in our look at the modern human civilisation. Episode 2 will look at further education and episode 3 deals with computer game addiction.

Also be on the look out for a couple of free vodcasts this season where you can meet Paul and Dave in the web flesh.


The Condition so far

Feel free to check out the latest episode of the podcast available now on iTunes. Maybe have a listen to it while you read this post.

Just been listening to the the new Radiohead album. Incredible as ever, but it takes a little patience to get it. There are only a couple of real stand-out tracks. It is beyond me how these guys can just keep it going so consistently since 1985 without ever losing integrity/having public issues or trying to kill one another. The sign of true artists, who do what they do for the passion of the thing. They are big inspirations.

The last few months have been a much welcomed challenge. The podcast is moving along nicely. You may have noticed the drastic improvement in audio quality over the past few weeks. It makes the show infinitely more accessible, and of course the content is as good as ever. No sweat. Hope you enjoyed the K-Pop episode, I was pretty pleased about the way that went.

If you didn’t check the podcast out yet, check it out now. Listen to it whilst you are checking facebook and/or twitter. download episodes for a later date, and of course subscribe to it on iTunes. Click on this handy link; whisking you straight to the iTunes page where you can get the show free of charge. DO IT.

Coming up in the next month, I will be doing a special episode about North Korea, how things look from here, just 50kms from the border, and a recording made whilst I was actually at the border. Made of course, in secret.

We have a deeper look in to gamers and the addiction that has led a number of people to die in Asia recently after playing online games for up to 3 days without a break. check out this South Park clip:

We also have Episode 15: Plastic fantastic, a look at the plastic surgery industry this Friday. Be sure to check that out, followed by a look at further education and what it does for you, not just academically speaking.

Thanks to everyone for your great comments, suggestions, compliments. It’s all very fortifying and always welcome.

Remember: DO IT!

K-Pop fail

Hi folks,

this week on the condition podcast we have K-Pop and the ordeal with the oranges. You can find it here on iTunes now, totally free of charge, along with all back episodes of the show. You’re welcome. We also have special guest Jesse Day, aka XYL on the show talking about his work in K-Pop and as a music producer.

Again the iTunes link is:
Although I am happy to commemorate the vast majority of good K-Pop music created in the past decade (read: that which has not been plagiarised), the dancing can be beyond me sometimes. Making anyone dance in high heels, or at least choosing to dance in high heels for fame and money is bound to end up in tears occasionally.

K-Pop fails:

This is a classic K-Pop mistake compilation:

If you want to learn more about real K-Pop, check out the website

And if you like the K-Pop podcast don’t forget, you can listen to all back episodes of the podcast by clicking on this photo:


Paul Stafford

Paul Stafford

The Mayans and the end of the world

Part 2 of the end of the world is now online 🙂

The end of the world – Exclusive

Hi people,

We are back with our latest installation of The Condition. The end of the world is our in depth analysis of all the 2012 nonsense that is floating around at the moment. We look at end of the world theories: past, present and future. Great soothsayers and natural “phenomenons.”

This ended up being a really long episode so I split it in to 2 parts, and as an exclusive treat, I have brought you Part 1, right here (just click on the link below).

Just a heads up on what we cover in part one:

Nostrodamus and his predictions – was he right, was he wrong? The dead birds and why there is nothing abnormal about their demise, and much more. Enjoy.

Nostrodamus and the end of the world

Visit our iTunes site for all the previous episodes, available free, and check back on Friday for the release of Part 2 of the end of the world.


p.s. Part 2 – The Mayans and the end of the world is now available. Click here to play the episode.

New Music on The Condition

In upcoming episodes 12 & 13 – The End of the World, the podcast features brilliant snippets of new music from XYL. You can check out XYL’s website here:

Check it out for full versions of all the songs.

Witches and Wizards in Past and Present Consciousness

A simple refined Google News search for witches and wizards will thrown up a number of stories from around this teeming globe. Witches are mentioned in these old-skool places: The Bible; Isis and Circe, as well as other Egyptian and Greek goddesses were believed to cast spells; Shakespeare writes the 3 witches into the opening scene of his MacBeth.

You see, whilst over time we in the West have slowly gravitated away from genuine belief in the occult to an active interest in its fictional representations, many places still take witches and witchcraft seriously, unless you’re Lady Gaga:

How seriously? Well people deemed to practice witchcraft in many places worldwide may still end up in prison or die at the hands of an angry, avenging mob for their beliefs. This very thing has happened on 3 continents at least in the past 2 years alone:

The Americas: Haiti – December 3, 2010 – “at least a dozen people” were murdered by a lynch mob in Haiti following the harrowing cholera epidemic which has claimed the lives of thousands of people. they were accused of using witchcraft to kill off rivals during the epidemic. Article in The Telegraph.

Asia: India – Schools in India were forced to include witchcraft into their syllabus in an attempt to debunk the myths and misinformation after more than 750 people accused of being witches were killed in Assam and West Bengal, just a small area of the country, between 2003 and 2008. Article on timesonline.

Africa: Mozambique – A 68 year old woman was arrested for trafficking human body parts, on suspicion of using them for witchcraft. Article on Daily Nation.

Looking back at our own histories, there are a number of different instances when women and men, accused of being witches and wizards were put to death. The most infamous being the Salem witch trials.

Many decades prior to this however, across the Atlantic near Preston, Lancashire, England, the little known Pendle witches were hung at the gallows. 10 men and women were the accused of witchcraft. In 1612 they were hung at the gallows for the alleged murder by witchcraft of seventeen people in and around the Forest of Pendle. My childhood home overlooked Pendle Hill, where the reputed witches were said to live in solitude, undertaking questionable practices mainly at night. The bare hill, that changes colour depending on the time of day was always a bleak place that inflamed my imagination as a young boy.

It’s an unusual thing to be raised in an area where the witch symbol (below) is seen daily; it seems to reinforce the absurdity of the belief in witchcraft. Among other things, the witch on a broomstick image is used in Clitheroe by many local businesses and as the badge for a primary school.

Once the “witches” had been made an example of things calmed down in the region. Salem on the other hand saw quite the opposite reaction. From June-September 1962, 19 men and women were hung in god-fearing, Puritan Salem after being convicted of witchcraft and one elderly man was pressed to death for refusing to submit to the trials. During the furore, dozens more were imprisoned as rampant accusations were flung around like platitudes. Little to no evidence supported any of the death sentences.

The idea of a witch-hunt is now commonplace in our societies as a synonym for an intensive search for people believe to have been disloyal or broken the law, without any real corroborating evidence. In the 1950’s Arthur Miller wrote The Crucible, which was an indirect critique of McCarthyism which was rife in the early part of the decade, whereby many people in government, the entertainment industry and elsewhere were accused of being Communist, again without any evidence to back it up. One case in particular, that of Alger Hiss, highlighted how this mentality was further motivated by personal grievance, greed and poor evidence.

Linked often to religion, “witches” have always been pariahs for tough times. Even today, as seen in Haiti, where religion is a strong presence entwined with society, when something happens to shake the faith, then a scapegoat must quickly be found to prevent people from questioning their faith, thinking outside of the box, or God-forbid, losing their subservience. In Haiti, such a disaster was two-fold. First came the earthquake that shook the country, then the Cholera epidemic that compounded the situation. It is only natural that people would ask why? What did we do to deserve this? Voodoo and witchcraft are inextricably linked in Haiti. Click here to read my previous post on zombies of Haiti.

Esentially what happens is what I like to call the witch conspiracy – a convenient solution for a governing authority (political or religious), to divert people’s attention away from them and pass the blame to somebody else. The fact that governments can still get away with this is beyond belief. Monty Python, as always, put it best: “How do you know she’s a witch?” – “She looks like one”

Let this be a warning to any of you who read this and enjoy going to caves, abandoned buildings or spinster’s houses to talk nonsense during the night. You are not safe. You may be accused, imprisoned, or worse still, forced to take the “leap off a cliff to see if you can fly” test. Also, Harry Potter isn’t real. Seriously!

Episode 11 – Language – Out Now

Oh my gosh! Thanks to Sami Biwer, our audio quality is now so good that I just pooped myself. Seriously! It is a huge improvement from before AND the size of the file is still low like before; so no problems downloading it in under a minute. iTunes podcast link.

This week, we take a look at languages, how it has evolved, how we use it to make sense of our surroundings, how some isolated Pacific communities have no concept of mountains, and therefore absolutely no lexicon to deal with that. Kind of like when I first saw the program Jersey Shore; just no words to describe what I was watching.

Some languages are dying out and we also take a look at why, how and what we are losing, if anything, with their disappearance.

We also have special guests on this week in the form of three Germans (Conny, Alex and Harry – see above). We covered quite a lot, from German language, Bavarian slang, Oktoberfest and I also quizzed them about German comedy, in an attempt to debunk the myth that German people don’t do comedy well.

Dave’s 100 Day Challenge

Dave has finally gotten his 100 day challenge under way and so far has been very diligent in keeping up to speed with it. His challenge consists of, among other things:

  • Losing 20kg (44lbs.)
  • Drinking 2.5 litres of water a day
  • Cutting out fast food/soda and unhealthy stuff.

Personally I think part of the motivation is to be in good shape for when things go down in 2012 – be sure to check back for our forthcoming End of the World podcast out later this week on iTunes.

It will be a 2-part episode because we had so much to cover. Part 1 – Nostrodamus and the dead bird ‘mysteries’. Part 2 – polar shift, solar flares, the Mayan Count Calendar and the predictions for December 21, 2012.

You can  check out Dave’s daily progress on his blog here:

I’m sure any messages of support will be greatly appreciated.

A big see-saw and a tightrope

Thanks to David Mann for the new information about Chuseok customs from Episode 1. Click the link to listen again on iTunes, 100% free.

We talked about a custom where two people stand on a see-saw type thing then jump up and down. Neolttwigi/nol-ttwigi (널뛰기) as it is known actually has a defined purpose.

Explanation: Neolttwigi is a giant see-saw that you stand, rather than sit on. By jumping up and down on it, you can, providing that both people (most usually women) are roughly equal in weight, get some serious air. The custom is only really likely to be seen in Korea during the Chuseok festival, usually around September or October (changes due to the Lunar Calendar). The historical point of it was that womenfolk, who were not allowed outside the town walls during the day, were able to get fleeting glimpses of what was going on in the outside world.

If that does not sound challenging enough as a way to see outside you home, then the acrobatic performance of Jultagi (tightrope walking), takes things to another level. Performed around the same time, Jultagi (줄타기) involved musical accompaniment (and sometimes a clown) whilst the performer uses a variety of techniques to walk along the rope. Some of these may include lying down, kneeling then jumping up into a cross-legged stance, and walking backwards.

If you have any feedback about our podcast, as always, we are really glad to hear it. Email us at

Thank you for your support

Just want to say thanks to everybody who downloaded and subscribed to our podcast:

Now that it’s the new year, we want to move The Condition in new directions. Coming up in the near present we have some new music to be featured in the podcast from local Seoul-based acts.

Now I acknowledge that my audio quality could improve, so I’m very excited to announce that we have Sami Biwer on board to help with the audio quality. Starting with Episode 11 – Languages and German Comedy (featuring 3 real German people) – out later this week, we will have a crisp clear sound to match the quality content. I’m really excited about this latest podcast, it’s one of the best so far.

So, again thanks a million for your support, please continue to spread the word to your friends, local community police officers, cobblers, gym instructors and, if you wake up early enough in the morning, milkmen.

As a special thank you this is a photo of a really really fat person that I took at Berkeley Uni, San Fran. with the smallest dog. Just look at the dog’s expression.

Berkeley USA San Francisco, an incredibly fat person with her terrified Chihuahua

How’s that New Year’s diet going? Paul

12th Week – New Year starts today – unique resolutions

It’s Monday, it’s January 3rd, now the New Year officially starts. Hang overs have dissipated, mostly, many of you will be back at work now, and there is no better time to start putting that New Year’s resolution into practice. This year, I have a resolution list with about 7-8 bullet points on it. Practicing Korean for an hour every day is one of those points. Dave has his own list of 3 also. But aside from our over-ambitious aims at self improvement, it seems our resolutions fall a few apples short of a full bushel when it comes to these inventive, unique resolutions.

Here are a few of my favourite – note these are ones that I actually think are cool, scroll further down for the pointless ones:

1 – Learn a Useless Fact Every Day.

Such as the meaning of the Buddhist saying Om Mani Padme Hum. You never know when it might come in useful. Useless today, but a pub quiz winning answer every Monday night at the local.

2 – Get Back to Nature.

Living in a city like Seoul, with very few open green spaces at all, just an urban nightmare of concrete and human bodies has never made me yearn for the countryside more. Getting out and appreciating it all is a must for everyone. It’s 2011 now, that gives us just one year left to make the most of it if Roland Emmerich and the Mayan Count Calendar are to be believed. Plus, nature is bloody awesome.

3 – Stand up and Perform in Front of People

The hardest and bravest thing to do if you have never done it before. To perform to people is not easy. You have to get past the ego and the fear of failure, but if you do it, you will not regret it. It will make you stronger, and improve self-confidence. Be it stand up comedy, music, open mic or theatre (see below), try to perform something to the people.

There are also some resolutions which seem slightly pointless, but non the less endearing. Here are just a few of them:

1 – Invent a new trend – This could go horribly wrong, and will just end up looking daft. Once in high school I rocked a piece of extension cord instead of a belt. It caught on for all of a week, before people realised how stupid the idea actually was. Steven Merchant famously has had little luck with the ladies, including wearing a bow tie to school for 6 months to appear more debonair, and having issues with a Volvo and a pig.

Also check out Pilkipedia.

2 – Say Yes to all Questions – Just a really good way to get yourself taken advantage of.

Friend 1 – Hey yes man, can I borrow you car?

Say Yes jerk – <pause> yes

Friend 2 – Alright mate, is it okay if I crash at your place for a couple of months?

Say Yes jerk – yeeees

Friend 2 – But I can’t help with any house work because it would be against my new’s years resolution of not helping around the house, is that okay chief?

Say Yes jerk – yep!

Friend 3 – Hey if I try to kiss your girlfriend tonight would that be okay matey?

Say Yes jerk – right piss off all of you’s

Not worth it!

3 – Go on a diet – No, do more exercise, or just put down the fork. Jesus!

Episode 10 – Witches and wizards

Out now…

All other past episodes are also available here:

Also, don’t forget to check out the trailer to the latest Harry Potter movie: The Deathly Hallows trailer for parts 1 & 2

Common Scams – Travel Tips – Part 2

A continuation of the travel scams to avoid segment from a few weeks ago, here are a few more things to be aware of, to ensure your trip is a great experience throughout.

6. Dodgy currency exchange blokes.

I have seen men and women walking around town carrying thousands of dollars in many different currencies offering money exchange services to foreigners in the street.

The scam: You change your money and get either a) a rate much lower than you should. b) You are told you will receive the fair price, but are given the wrong amount of money, and before you have had time to count and realise you have less than you should, the money changer has disappeared.

Avoidance: Check the going exchange rate. Use google before you travel to work out where to find a good bank close to where you are going.

7. The Transportation Ticket Scam.

They have gotten me with this one in the past. Often your hotel/hostel or local people will show an interest in where you plan to travel to next. this may lead to a conversation where you are offered ticket for the transportation.

The scam: Often this scam is not all that bad, you will often get a legitimate ticket for the public transportation, but you will pay a grossly inflated price for it. Also be sure that your get the class of ticket you asked for. Sometimes you may pay for first class and receive a third class ticket. Always check the moment you receive your ticket.

Note: There are many false travel agents in a lot of poorer countries too.

Avoid: Buy from registered travel agents and station ticket offices only. Better still, as soon as you arrive in a place, try to buy your onward ticket in the station or airport to avoid later hassle.

8. The Dodgy Tour.

Another classic example of false or illegitimate travel agency scammage.

The scam: You are sold a tour package but don’t see or receive everything you were told you would.
You may also end up paying more to areas that are less stable or safe E.g. parts of Thailand and Kashmir, for example.
If you want to visit these area, either find a legitimate tour agency who specialises in the area, and who have a proven track record (look online for reviews for example), or organise the trip yourself.

Avoid: plan your own trip or go with a specialist bona-fide agency and be sure that the place you want to visit is safe at that moment. Check your country’s foreign office information online before booking anything.

9. Drugged and Mugged.

It’s often tempting, but if somebody comes up to you, acts friendly and offers to buy you a drink, then there are two possible negative outcomes to be aware of:

1) The drugged drink – Common in parts of Latin America, including Mexico, and elsewhere is S.E Asia, the drugged drink ploy is rare but also a very serious encounter which may leave you very much out of pocket or worse. Be wary to not accept any food or drink you think may be suspicious, and politely decline invitations to drink from locals you don’t trust, or have approached you without good reason.

2) The whole bill – You may be left to pay the whole bill yourself as the local who brought you to the bar/restaurant never had any intention of paying.

Avoid: Be careful who you drink with, and try to avoid getting too drunk if you are unfamiliar with your surroundings.

10. ‘Free’ bracelet or ring scam.

The scam: You are in a lovely European city, E.g. Paris, marvelling at the architecture when somebody approaches you and offers you a free bracelet. What could be better? You can even choose the colours of the thread you want.
When all is done and the bracelet is tied on, so tight that it can’t just slip off, you are then told you need to pay. Wait a minute, paying means it’s not free? That’s right, most things rarely come for free.

Another is where somebody slips a ring on your finger before you even have the time to object, and with that, you then are told you must pay for it.

Okay so you don’t lose too much money, a couple of euro perhaps, but it is still unpleasant and can be avoided; how?: walk away, say no firmly before it is too late. Often this happens in crowded areas so you can be sure it is safe to just walk off, but do so promptly. Avoid getting angry. Angry people with big, bright red faces look very silly.

There are others which I may include in a Part 3 further down the line. If you know of any other common pitfalls for the intrepid traveller, maybe something that happened to you, please drop us an email at

Thanks guys,


The 13 badass Santas of Icelandic Christmas and the slightly racist Dutch Santa

Happy Christmas – our gift: Episode 9 of The Condition looks to the U.S. and Europe for how to celebrate Christmas this year. During the episode, (available from iTunes for free here: ) we learned about the Krampus, an evil sidekick of Santa who deals with all the kids who have been naughty in Germany and Austria.

My favourite two however, were the Santas of Iceland and the Netherlands respectively. Here’s what they’re all about:

Iceland – The 13 retarded Santas of Icelandic Christmas

This is perhaps the strangest traditional celebration of Christmas I have ever encountered. It is rooted in Icelandic folklore, a land of fire, of ice and of, it seems, intense boredom.

On December 12th through to December 24th, every day one of the thirteen will arrive at your house. They are basically ragamuffins with nothing but time on their hands, and have maybe had bad childhoods, perhaps they were neglected, and now all the 13 Icelandic Santas have turned to verious forms of petty crime. They actually spring from the womb of a giant ogress – eww gross mental image – and live in a mountain cave, so I guess that works too in Iceland.

Here’s the deal, I’m just going to list them in order, and I’ll leave it to you to make up your mind on them:

1 – December 12th – Stekkjastaur or Gimpy/Stiff Legs – already a great start – he hobbles about, pissing off the sheep and trying to suck out their precious milk.

2 – December 13th – Giljagaur or Gilly Oaf – this guy hides out until he sees an opening to the barn, runs in a steals all the cow’s milk. So now, no cow milk, no sheep milk, what are we going to do about the cheese?

3 – December 14th – Stúfur or Stubby/Itty Bitty – an angry dwarf who steals pans to eat the burnt food on the inside.

4 – December 15th – Þvörusleikir or Ladle Licker/Spoon Licker – Steals the spoons to lick. Not surprisingly, this one is really thin, he might even have scurvy.

5 – December 16th – Pottasleikir or Pot Licker – Similar to Itty Bitty, he prefers to steal then lick the pans.

6 – December 17th – Askasleikir or Bowl Licker – Probably roams around in a gang of kitchen ware thieves with the previous 3, but again, steals bowls; licks them.

7 – December 18th – Hurðaskellir or Door Slammer – This guy is just a pain in the arse. He goes around banging and slamming doors all over the place. Just a nuisance as he likes to work at night.

8 – December 19th – Skyrgámur or Skyr Gobbler – Skyr (pronounced ‘skeer’) is a yogurt that is not unlike Greek yogurt. This guys likes it, but instead of getting a job and buying from the supermarket like everyone else, he knicks it.

9 – December 20th – Bjúgnakrækir or Sausage Swiper/Sausage Pilferer – Goes around stealing peoples sausages. He especially likes smoked or cured sausages.

10 – December 21st – Gluggagægir or Peeper/Peeping Tom – The dirty little Santa of Icelandic Christmas (the only one with a restraining order and a registered sex offender) comes along on the 21st to watch you getting changed.

11 – December 22nd – Gáttaþefur or Door sniffer – Not as annoying as number 7, he just has a really big nose  which is put into good use detecting the presence of a type of Icelandic bread called Laufabrauð.

12 – December 23rd – Ketkrókur or Meat Hook – Sounds like the Santa from a horror movie, this guy just picks up steaks and blocks of meat on his meat hook and runs off into the night with them.

13 – December 24th – Kertasníkir or Candle Beggar – Follows children, not in a dodgy way like number 10, he is just after their precious light, and often steals their candles.

So there we have the 13 Santas who roam about Iceland. It’s little wonder why Reykjavik isn’t much of a winter holiday destination.

But given that Iceland was uninhabited until colonised by the Vikings around the 9th Century, it’s no surprise that Santa (or as it seems, all 13 Santas) are angry and dangerous.

The Netherlands – Santa the slave owner?

So the Dutch are famous for their laid back, friendly attitude, being tall, tulips, great pot and now, racist Santa (or is it just equality in the work place Santa?).

How it all happens: The Netherlands actually have two special days. Christmas on the 25th, and St. Nicholas Day on December 6th. Sometime during November, Sinterklaas comes to town on a steam boat that inexplicably travels, not from Greenland, but from Spain, offering gifts to the children. Every year a different town along the coast is chosen for Sinterklaas to dock at.

This is by far the least unusual aspect of the spectacle. Now everyone knows, Santa couldn’t possibly do it all by himself. Especially when you’ve got to pilot a steam boat from Spain. He needs his helpers. Now here’s the thing about his helpers. They’re ALL black, and all called Zwarte Piet (Black Pete).

It’s just that, when ALL the ‘helpers’ are black that, well, come on, they’re slaves. Dutch Santa keeps slaves!So long as they have equal rights in the work place, 4 weeks paid leave each year and health benefits, then I guess it’s okay with me.

What’s more, the old songs remark how naughty children where put in a bag and carried back to Spain, when all the nice children had received their candy.

Here is this year’s video, watch the first 30 seconds then skip to about the 4th minute to see what I mean:

11th Week – Eggnog!

Hope you all enjoyed the Christmas Special of the podcast.

If you didn’t get the chance to catch it yet, you can still follow this link to iTunes:

Dave graced us with a story about his exploits with eggnog over the Christmas period in Michigan. We have the exclusive photos right here to back this up.

Happy holidays!

10th Week – Merry Christmas from The Condition

Hello one and all. A very merry Christmas to you from myself and Dave. We hope you are all some place warm and comfortable, surrounded by those you care about. If not, we are here for you. The podcast is still free (always will be), so if you feel lonely, pop it on and listen to the ranting of two borderline maniacs talking about the human race.

Festive love and a lot more to come in the New Year. A huge thank you to everyone who has downloaded and subscribed in the past two months.

Here is a picture of myself on or around Christmas Day in a Buddhist monastery in 2008 (we had an earthquake that day too), and Dave last Christmas in his Santa imp, onesie.

Much love.

Episode 9 – Christmas Special

Part 2 of our supernatural series: witches and wizards, is out later this week. Today, our Christmas Special came out, with a look at the way Christmas is celebrated around the world, from eggnog in USA, the evil Krampus of Germany, the 13 retarded santas of Iceland and a slightly questionable (on politically correct grounds) Dutch celebration of Christmas.

Click here for that and all other podcast episodes, as usual, completely free.

And remember, if you like it, please spread the word. This week tell your money lender, local mafioso, dog handler and Mexican slave servants. Thanks

Common scams – Travel tips – Part 1

One of the biggest drawbacks of travel is the possibility of somebody trying to scam you. There is often a difficult distinction at times between who is genuine and who wants your money. Possibly the saddest aspect of this is that some travellers, especially ones who have had bad experiences before, become less willing to interact with local people, and therefore miss out on some of travel’s greatest bonuses, like this guy:

1. Gem scams

General rule number one! If it sounds too good to be true, it is.

If anybody offers you anything, especially if THEY APPROACH YOU, and this deal has the potential to make you money, question it.
It may sound obvious, it may even seem condescending to some of you, but many have succumbed to the promise of a quick buck. I’m sure most of us have in the past.

One of the more common ploys is the gem scandal. Pay a low price for precious jewels that are worth thrice their price abroad. Only abroad, the gem dealers know a ruby from a booby, sadly.

This may also happen with other “precccccciiiious” items such as carpets and porcelain etc.

2. Poop squirters

Incredibly inventive, rather grotesque, and yet a genuine threat in parts of India, especially Delhi, is the poop squirter.
How it would happen:
You might be rather shocked when a man taps you on the shoulder and directs your attention to your shoes. Lo and behold, there is small mess on them.
How did it get there?
Well, this kindly gentleman will direct you to the closest boot polisher to clean your shoes up. How convenient; the shoe polisher is close by!
Wait a minute! How much? $50 dollars to clean shoes? Are you joking?
It’s too late of course, the shoes have been cleaned and causing a fuss will get you nowhere when you are the outsider.
It turns out the man who smelt it dealt it! The man who directed your attention in the first place was the culprit, his shoe cleaner cohort just lying in wait for the unfortunate out-of-towner.

Avoid: Well the actual act itself may be hard to prevent, I’m not going to suggest that you watch your shoes constantly, but if you are unfortunate enough to come a cropper to the plopper, then hail a taxi and move away from the area before getting cleaned, and of course agree the price before the cleaning.

3. I’m hot and want to practice my English with you.

It is hard to know sometimes when somebody genuinely wants to reach out to you and express friendship. This next scam is one that upsets me most, because it really does make me more cautious about talking to people when I travel. However, I cannot stress enough that one should not withdraw from the chance to meet local people.

The scam: You have a meal/drink, then get charged an extortionate amount when the bill arrives.

Never-the-less in parts of Asia, China in particular, especially the tourist locations, it is not uncommon for tourists to be approached by a friendly looking local who wants to speak English. This is fine. You can have a lovely chat. But if you are asked if you would like to go for a meal of coffee etc. then politely decline and find an excuse, say goodbye and move on.

4. “The hotel is closed”

Another very common scam is the lying taxi driver routine. In certain countries, you will inevitably get a taxi/rickshaw driver who wants to make a little commission from bringing tourists to a friend’s hotel.

The scam: You could be told any number of things, including:
“the hotel is closed for during this season”
“It burned down last week”
“The hotel is full due to there being many tourists in town at this time of year”
“It is closed due to riots/water main burst etc.”
They are all lies. The taxi driver will sometimes also try to take you to his friend’s/brother’s/father’s establishment and claim that it is the place you asked for.

How to avoid:
1) Insist strongly, but politely that you be taken to your chosen destination anyway.
This could go one of two ways. First you are taken. Second, you get out, pay and find another taxi (note: this is not advisable if you are travelling at night, or in an area with few people and other taxis around).
2) Check the sign on the hotel to make sure it is the location you requested. All major hotels and hostels worldwide that accept tourists will have signs in English.

5. “The taxi meter isn’t working”

Taxi drivers worldwide are notorious for their rather immoral attempts to make a little extra scratch, especially out-of-town types. Even in the safer tourist havens of Korea and Japan where there is very little petty crime, taxi drivers have been known to be untrustworthy.

Never believe that a taxi meter is not working. If you make no progress, find another taxi.

How to avoid: Always ask for the meter to be put on BEFORE you set off. If you really can’t make the driver turn it on and there is no other option, at least agree a price before you set off.

Travel on the cheap – travel tips

Hey guys, here are just a few tips for travelling on a budget that were detailed further in Episode 8 of The Condition this week. Which can still be downloaded free from here, because we feel there is something more hands on about travelling on a budget that is really lost in the comfort of expensive planes and hotels.

Hitch hiking – glorified and romanticised during the 1950’s Beat Movement in America, today hitching has a stigma that dissuades most hardened budget travellers from thumbing their way around. Stay safe by putting yourself in a position where you can choose who takes you and not the other way around.

  • Ask for lifts at gas stations rather than at the side of the road.
  • If you can avoid it, don’t travel alone.
  • Know the law – in some countries, hitch hiking is illegal (this is now also true of some US states), a simple google search will tell you whether you can or can’t hitch where you are.
  • Be clear about where you want to go and don’t be afraid to politely decline a lift if you have any doubts.
  • Of course, you must be fully prepared to wait for long periods of time, and in averse weather conditions. Warm clothing, food and sun cream may all be necessary.
  • Many drivers in parts of the world are more concerned about giving a lift to people these days. It won’t hurt if you look as presentable as possible.
  • If you speak a common language with your driver, then attempt to make conversation. Most of the lifts I have taken were with single travellers who were driving a long way and wanted some company. If they have a good experience of taking a hitcher, then they are more likely to offer a lift again in the future. Remember you travel brethren who may want to get a ride some time in the future.
  • Craigslist and other sites offer ride shares on certain routes, check out who is going where as this is a more controlled environment.

Free roof over your head for the night – It is possible to find a bed/couch and save on the hotel costs worldwide, thanks to Couchsurfing. A controlled environment that relies on other people’s ratings to provide a good reputation for hosts and guests alike. Another benefit is that you will stay with a local who can offer a far greater insight into the area you have arrived in than any guidebook can. Be aware that although Dave and myself have had exclusively great experiences with this site, there are some who have not. Stay safe by only hosting, or staying with a couchsurfer who has at least 5-10 reviews from other people. Again tell people where you are going before you head there.

Cheap food – Eating is one of the greatest joys of travel. I have literally eaten my way around Asia. Street food in many countries is unique, affordable and delicious. To reduce the chance of the dreaded Delhi belly, the monstrous Moctezuma’s revenge (aka Aztec two step), or the yucky yalla-yalla, follow hese simple guidelines:

  • Don’t tuck in to food that has different properties from what you are used to straight away. For example, if you are used to eating a lot of bland, starch-based food (potatoes, bread, rice or pasta) then don’t go spice-mad initially. Allow your body time to adapt to the new cuisine slowly. After a few days of taking it easy, your body will naturally become accustomed to dealing with a different diet.
  • When in doubt, eat where the locals eat. A popular place is better. Why? Because they sell their food quicker and so their ingredients are fresher. A place with a questionable health record will not be popular.
  • When eating any fried food, check out the colour of the fried item before and after it comes out of the fryer. The darker it is, and the darker the oil used is, then the older the oil is. Fresh oil is much better for you.

The top 10 all-time film franchises

Following up on our wizard talk in Episode 10 of the Podcast on iTunes, here are the top-grossing 5 film franchises of all time. Harry Potter is now the highest grossing film franchise ever, and it is still growing, with yet one more film to come out. Now of course, figures are not relative and in fact the Star Wars franchise has probably grossed more if we are talking today’s price of money, still, Star Wars was initiated light decades before Rowling magiced Harry up.

These figures are for worldwide revenue grossed.

  • Harry Potter (6 Films, $6.21 Billion – and still rising)
  • Star Wars (6 Films, $5.49 Billion)
  • James Bond (23 Films, $3.55 Billion)
  • Shrek (4 Films, $2.94 Billion)
  • The Lord of the Rings (3 Films, $2.91 Billion)
  • Pirates of the Caribbean (3 films $2.68 Billion)
  • Batman (6 films $2.63 billion) – Dark Knight $1billion
  • Spiderman (3films $2.5billion)
  • Indiana Jones (4 films $1.98 billion)
  • Ice Age (3 films $1.98 billion)

Addressing the inflation issue:

There are quite a few complications with adjusting for inflation, the main one comes from the studios themselves who put out these numbers. One theory which is most supported is that studios purposefully don’t release the grossing numbers adjusted for inflation because in doing so it would adversely affect their marketing strategies. How many times have you read the headline “*** breaks the record for opening weekend ticket sales”. If inflation were accounted for, this would happen infrequently. It’s all because of the bloody marketing.

Also, if I were including single movies on the list instead of franchises, Avatar would be 6th on the list as it has grossed $2.77 billion alone, but 3D movies have a higher charge for their tickets in cinemas.

9th week – hiatus over + new podcast – witches and wizards

Hello one and all.

Apologies for the written and auditory hiatus over the last weeks, Paul was back visiting family in snowy ‘ol England (see photo), and Dave has been busy gearing up for his upcoming 100 – day self improvement programme. Mysterious. If you want to find out more about that and listen to us wax lyrical about witches, wizards, Harry Potter and more, then check out our latest podcast, to be released later this week, here on iTunes.

It’s all free. It’s all gravy; although you can give us money if you wish. It is Christmas after all and the starving children in Africa also want to listen to the podcast on their fake iPods.  Enjoy.

8th week – Footloose in London

Hey the Conditionites and all you sufferers of the condition,

this week, Paul is away in London avoiding the new Korean war, but just because we love you, we have a new episode ready to go: Footloose. Out now on iTunes.

How lucky you are! As a gift have a lovely song!


Thanks for the response on iTunes to Episode 4: Inter-cultural marriage, here. Got  some great feedback about the Norwegian village with a disproportionate number of Thai wives. Remember you can subscribe to and download the podcast free on iTunes.

As mentioned, there IS a small fishing village in the North of Norway with an unusually high number of Thai brides. It goes by the name of Tresfjord. Population: 218.

Tresfjord is a small fjord village that earned its nickname Thaifjord because so many men there have met Thai women over the internet and married with them.

For a deeper insight into the nature of these relationships, there is an awesome Norwegian documentary series. It goes into love, loneliness and what the Thai immigrants bring to their new landscape.

You want to know who would marry a Thai bride that they had barely met? Well you can now meet a whole group of them. Check out the trailer (for the movie, rather than a trailer that Norwegian/Thai couples live in) here:

Et lite stykke Thailand/Thaifjord from Skofteland Film on Vimeo.

Also visit their website here. Keep the great feedback coming in.

All other episodes, past and recent are available free here:



Cheers mi dears.

7th Week – Special guest this week

Hello The Conditionites,

this week’s episode, Homophobia, is out now. Get it here. It features our first ever special guest, as Dave was away in Boracay.

Allow me to present to you, Larry Summers:

This is him strutting on Korean national television. (NB – he is not actually a time traveller from the ’70’s). Love.