Answers to life's mysteries? We've got 'em

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The Independent Online
Today we look at some of the biggest unanswered mysteries of modern times - and we answer them!

If Colonel Tom Parker signed Elvis Presley to a contract which diddled the singer out of millions of dollars, and diverted half Presley's fortune Parker's way, what on earth happened to all the money which Colonel Parker got?

Colonel Parker spent a large part of his income on buying and maintaining a huge plantation home near Memphis called Parkerland, which to this day has never been open to the public, and which is a shrine to the genius of Colonel Tom Parker. It is full of unsmoked cigars and dollar bills.

If you build more roads, we are told, it only creates more traffic. A road-building programme to relieve traffic congestion tempts more people on to the roads, and so on. But we can all remember that things used to be worse than they are now. There may have been queues on the M25 yesterday, but what about the appalling bank holiday queues that used to form around Exeter before they built the motorway, queues which regularly made the news headlines? Surely there were worse holiday jams 20 years ago? Things do get better, don't they?

I am afraid it is true that more road-building creates more traffic. But the reverse is true as well. Less road-building creates more traffic just as much as more does. The queues on the Exeter bypass of 20 years ago were created by less road-building. Today's queues are created by more road-building. Whatever you do it is going to create more traffic. So clearly less road-building is just as bad as more road-building, but at least it's cheaper.

Why don't we put more money into British athletics and recapture the great triumphs of yesteryear?

Another fallacy here, I'm afraid. In the days when Britain had such world-beating runners as Bannister, Brasher, Ibbetson, Chataway and Pirie, nobody put any money into sport at all.

Then why don't we put less money into British athletics and recapture the great triumphs of yesteryear that way? Couldn't we be the best runners in the world again?

Another fallacy here, I'm afraid. There never was a time when we were the best runners in the world. There was only a time when we had the best five or 10 runners in the world. The rest of the nation was no better at running than it had ever been. The best distance runners today come from Kenya, but do you think the average Kenyan today can run five miles without getting puffed? Or indeed being shot at by the Nairobi police?

Is Radio 4 really being "dumbed down" to make it more downmarket and get the listening figures up?

No. What is happening is that the BBC has made an enormous loss on its crazy decision to spend vast sums of money covering the last days of Hong Kong and James Boyle, the new controller of Radio 4, has been under instructions to pay for the Hong Kong fiasco by making radio as cheaply as possible. The cheapest radio of all is that provided by the listeners, and that is why more and more programmes are taking contributions from the listeners themselves - you've probably notice how PM gives more space to "your letters", how Feedback is back again, how Jazz Record Requests is getting more space, how Pick of The Week now welcomes listeners' tips, and so on.

In what way is the end of the century going to ruin all computer packages? I fail to understand why going from 1999 to 2000 will bring the world of technology to a close.

Don't you worry your pretty little head about the reasons why - what is important is how we are going to get round it. Luckily, Peter Mandelson has been heading a secret committee looking into how we can get round the problem, and the solution is one that will appeal to all spin-doctors. We are going to rename the year 2000 and call it AD 1999a, and so on.

If it was so very wrong for all those MPs to accept money from Mohamed Al Fayed, why was there nothing wrong in Mr Fayed giving them the money? Why has he come out of it some sort of hero for stuffing brown envelopes full of money? And what about his son? Is Dodi Al Fayed paying Diana sums of money in envelopes to answer certain questions? And what about his magazine, Punch? Why has that fearless satirical organ made no mention of Di and Dodi, which is the biggest story in weeks?

I have no idea. It is certainly very curious. I will let you know if I find out.

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