Monday, 29 April 2013

Fernando Torres

There's been a lot of sporting discussion over Fernando Torres ever since he left Liverpool for Chelsea. The man has been through a catastrophic loss of form. There's been several competing theories for this loss of form, some based on insider knowledge of the club, some based on internet theorising. I'm going to outline none of them here. What I am going to do is make up several possible examples:

1. Fernando Torres has been afflicted with existential nihilism ever since someone gave him some Kierkegaard and Schopenhauer (Because 'Nando has been obsessed with famous sideburns of the 19th century since he read a picture book on the Crimean war and saw Lord Cardigan in action, moments before his displaying his daring George Osborne-esque leadership capabilities) to read on the train to London to sign his contract with Chelsea, and since then has been stumbling around the pitch in a cloud of nihilistic despair, frequently shouting after mistimed shots "Goal, no goal, what does it matter?! It's all a decorative façade on the perpetual insignificance of my meaningless existence!" (Rafa Benitez has tried to coach this out of him to no avail, by shouting at him during training sessions "You lend your own life whatever significance it possesses! Each of your accomplishments may be insignificant on a grander scale but within your own existence, they are important and valued! You have an obligation to your own existence to try and take as much advantage of it as possible! Now run the channels and try to stay onside!", to which captain John Terry intervened with "Oh, you're taking a simplistic view of the matter, We have a fundamental need to have our accomplishments validated by other people, a need to feel important, and if we recognise that, ultimately on a grand enough scale, that need will never be satisfied, that we are unimportant and insignificant, it's as bad for us as asking us to go without our other needs, like food and drink. You can't ask this man, starved of importance, to play football!" to which Rafa replied "Ultimately, a skeleton doesn't need very much food, does it? His need to feel important will be satiated in his own lifetime, much like his hunger. After he dies, he may be forgotten, but he will also be hungry. He doesn't seem to be worried about that. Now get back on the pitch and practice picking up stupid red cards!").

2. In children's books related to football, frequently the protagonist, some sort of aspiring young footballer, usually one with an older brother with whom they play in the garden under the watchful eye of a kindly grandfather, gets a new pair of boots/goalkeeping gloves that magically improve his game (as opposed to the hard work and practice other kids have to do, the fools). This old story is not just a fable, it actually happened to Torres, a man with an older brother and a grandfather who loved Atlético Madrid, who had a magical pair of football boots. Sadly, on his move to Chelsea, he forgot to include the stipulation that he wore these boots, and, upon seeing these unsponsored monstrosities, Chelsea's kitman threw them straight into the bin before Torres' first game for Chelsea. Ever since, he has been unable to play football to the levels he once could, and can be frequently found scouring charity shops across the country for new boots, asking shop assistants to throw him a football and seeing if he can hit a left foot volley into the coat rack.

3. He has been distracted from his football because he is writing a new screenplay about a team of footballers from North Korea who win the World Cup, and announce their dislike of their dictatorial monarchy to an admiring nation, who begin to see through the propaganda and stage a rebellion within their own country, toppling Kim Jong-Un and ushering in a new dawn of diplomatic talks and international acceptance of a more democratic nation. Indeed, the captain of the side, who goes on to lead the nation, announces to a UN meeting "The craziest thing that Kim Jong-Un did was have nuclear weapons. We wish the US and Russia to remind the world that they are not like our old regime. We came to clarity and saw the flaws in such a scheme; we can only hope America and Russia can do the same. Mutual destruction is not the future we wish to see; There is a place in this world for mutual construction. Help us build a better world." leading to multilateral disarmament talks brokered by the North Koreans, and the eventual abandonment of all nuclear weapons programmes worldwide. It's called "Coup du Monde", because he thinks that's clever (A coup is the overthrow of the government, the Coupe du Monde is the World Cup in French)(I said HE thought it was clever, not that it was. Get off my back, alright?).

Those are just three potential stories for the tabloids to run regarding Fernando Torres' continued lack of ability to kick a football into a net. I expect a Sun special pull-out booklet on possible reasons for his loss of form ("Where has Torres gone?", with a picture of a dejected looking Fernando on the cover) which, as well as these listed above, also implicates Torres as the full-time head of a crime family, one of 5 players who had their talent stolen by the Monstars for a 5-a-side game versus the Looney Tunes
(Space Jam reference. The Sun would also name the other 4), setting up a sideline in personally hand-crafted mugs and building a 1:16 scale Delorean from toothpicks in his garage.


As a young man, I've reached a stage in my life where the idealism of my childhood has to have a jarring encounter with the pragmatic demands of reality. I'm considering potential careers for myself, and I'm in a position where I'm becoming forced to abandon the dreams of my youth and instead face up to the bleak drudgery of a job I don't really WANT.

Some kids grow up saying "I want to be a vet! I love helping rabbits and I've seen Bambi.", and then those children end up working hard at school to get good grades, then becoming vets. However, I encounter significantly fewer children growing up saying to their parents "Mummy, when I grow up, I want to be a chartered accountant on £27k a year with 21 days of flexible holidays and a competitive bonus structure with opportunities across the country.", and yet, inexplicably, there are literally dozens of accountants all over the world.

There are two options for the people who have chosen a career that nobody appears to WANT to do from a young age. The first is fairly mundane: They didn't have any particularly strong aspirations as a child. Their self-image didn't really include a career (At a young age, it tends to revolve around allowing yourself to stay up late and eat as many chocolate digestives as you want want when you grow up), and so when the time came to pick a career, they were working with a blank slate, so to speak. They needed an activity to fund the sort of things they did aspire to as a kid (Television and chocolate digestives), rather than that activity being a desirable pastime in and of itself. The single most depressing statement I've ever heard another person utter is "I would sit in a dark room for 8 hours a day for £40k a year". For these people, work is a means to an end.

The second category is significantly worse. These are people who did have some sort of childhood dream, but the necessities of reality impinged on it, and they had to trade that ideal for a pragmatic reality. Perhaps our hypothetical childhood vet wasn't quite academically gifted enough to break into the world of animal practice. The career they wanted was closed off to them, and they had to accept the disappointing situation and from this, conjure up a new career. It's not really what they wanted to do, but hey, maybe telemarketing isn't so bad! And they do give you a decent salary and if you keep at it, you could be a manager inside two years and have your own office by the time you're 30. These people had hopes and ambitions for their careers that lie shattered by the wayside, and now spend 8 hours a day in a compromise, a perpetual admittance of the fact they betrayed their inner child and let him down.

The best way I've found for handling decisions is to ask myself what I would do when I was 10. When you're 10, the difficulties and complexities of life don't impinge on your decision-making. What your inner 10 year old wants is what you really want. You then have to obviously temper this desire with your adult viewpoint. For example, my inner 10 year old wants me to eat a chocolate bar and stay up late, but my adult viewpoint says "If I eat a chocolate bar, I'll get fat, and if I stay up late, I'll be tired tomorrow morning". In this way, I manage to try and work out what I actually want deep down, and then try to find a way to make it work with the adult reality of my situation (For example, I'll eat the chocolate bar and go for a run tomorrow, or stay up late and wake up late tomorrow).

I find myself facing a similar dilemma now, in terms of career. It's becoming increasingly obvious that I am, despite my inner 10 year old's desires, very unlikely to become a professional footballer and part-time rock god. It's one thing to have to make concessions in reality to move closer to the idealised wishes of the 10 year old. But it's quite another to have make concessions to the idealised wishes of the 10 year old to reach a compromise with reality. Especially in this case, as it isn't so much a concession as a complete demolition of the 10 year old desires. I understand that this is simply the pragmatic decision and one that has to be taken, but it's still incredibly frustrating and disappointing to feel you can't actually live up to your internal aspirations, even for reasons outside your control (I could be an excellent shepherd, but fiscally, that would be a poor move, for example).

I'll join the hordes in their compromise careers, filing on to busy motorways at 8:20 am, on my way to a job I don't care about. And I'll have to do this until I retire. Maybe I'll grow to enjoy that job, but it'll still always be a compromise, a reminder of the fact that when my ideals and realities came to blows, I had to shout "Stop the fight! STOP THE FIGHT!" and throw in the towel on behalf of my ideals.

PS. This has been very rambly. This is because it's exam time, and thus everyone I know is busy, and I am cooped up in a small room gradually getting cabin fever, and through The Sopranos.

Friday, 25 January 2013


My fears are not the tangible things that can actually kill you (I'm not afraid of great heights. I'm afraid of FALLING from great heights, or even more pedantically, suddenly not falling any more), but the more quirky, conceptual horrors. Obviously, I do have, to a certain extent, fears grounded in physical harm, but those are fairly standard, and thus not of note. These are my fears.

Failure. If you never try at something, you can rationalise it as, in some weird way, not failing, but the rather more ego-satisfying "not trying". "Oh yeah, well, I could be a world-class boxer if I dedicated four years to it, sure!" I can say, confident that I will never actually test this theory. Not trying is simply a much more energy-efficient method of not succeeding. It's a useful shortcut to failure, in which you don't have the soul-destroying experience of being bad at something before even getting competent. To come back to the earlier example, me taking up boxing would be several weeks of me getting punched in the face as I get gradually exhausted, fleeing and trying to hide from someone in what is essentially a small empty square. But if you never try at anything, you won't ever get past that terrible beginner stage, and reach the point where you are not completely awful at something, merely fairly abysmal. As an associate to this, there's the resigned indifference to your own failings. "Oh yeah" you mutter. "I'm just bad at that.", rather than thinking "I should try and get better at it by, y'know, working on it, rather than perpetually explaining I simply can't do it.".

I'm not doing it properly. Regardless of what "it" is. "Woah there, am I holding this burger wrongly?" (Yes. Ketchup fell down my sleeve, which is basically the standard for not holding something correctly, uncontrollable condiments), "Should I be brushing my teeth like this?" (If someone stabs you with a pointy stick and you start bleeding, it's not because you're not flossing efficiently. It's because they have stabbed you with a pointy stick. Similarly, even if you use shower gel and a loofah, if someone prods your chest with a dagger, you'll bleed. Copiously, I imagine). Should I carry my wallet in this pocket or that one? Oh, man, I've not got a Tesco clubcard. Better apologise! (I do this every time. As if the cashier is going to reach over the counter and grab me by the lapels, before shouting into my face "God, you useless wanker! You never shop anywhere else! You'd have enough points to be regional manager for Tesco by now as a reward! Just get your bloody life in order!" unless I include the contrite, mumbled appendage to my confession of not having a clubcard). Basically the haunting spectre of self-doubt and personal recrimination hangs in my thoughts. I've changed my handwriting three times in a bid to try and find one that can be considered neat and efficient, for example.

Everything I do is meaningless. Maybe that's why there's no point in doing anything. We are all Ozymandias. Most of us aren't revered in our times. None of us will be revered given a suitably long timescale (My legacy may well be pretty massive, obviously, but I sincerely doubt it'll outlast the eventual heat-death of the universe). Existential nihilism is a spectacular fear, making you disillusioned and cynical. You are meaningless, and everything you do is meaningless. Why do anything? So there's fundamentally no long-term advantage to doing anything. There's not much short-term advantage to it either because...

Creation leads to critique. Nothing you ever create can please all of the people all of the time (Even, astonishingly, these writings. I am as surprised as you are), and the people who aren't pleased are rarely shy in saying so. This, unsurprisingly, is a disappointing experience, and deeply dissuasive. If you never create anything, nothing you are responsible for and inherently therefore, proud of, can be criticised. It's analogous (Sort of.) to building a tower people occasionally knock down. It's such a dispiriting experience to have it knocked down, eventually you stop trying to build the tower at all. What's worst is the certain knowledge that I used to be ashamed of my own lack of tower, so I'd wander round knocking down someone else's. I guess this is one of the primary motivating factors behind it. This is inherently linked to the fear of failure, not meeting the subjective analysis of someone else being defined as failure, for some reason.

This one is a combination! I'm not particularly scared of either on its own, but when I think about them in conjunction, I panic. My mortality and my own lack of direction. I don't know what I want to do. This in itself is a pretty normal thought process, many of us spiral repeatedly in our little vehicle round the roundabout of life, looking for an interesting exit. The trouble begins when you realise your little car is running out of fuel all the time, and you have no idea what exit you want and there's definitely not a petrol station nearby. To extend the metaphor far too much. Then you panic about whether you should just take the next exit just to get off the roundabout. Or whether you should stay on, trying to find the best exit for you. Basically, I think "Hey, it doesn't matter that you have no clear-cut ambitions yet! You've got plenty of time." and my mind goes "Do we? I'm pretty sure that's not right. We've got like, 60 more years. Max. And only like, 30 more good ones. If you keep fit. Which you don't."

All of these make for awful Hallowe'en costumes. "What as you dressed as?" "The harrowing reality of your dwindling existence. You?" "I...I am a shark." "I hope you feel you spent the time making that wisely. You'll never get it back." "Goodness. Your costume IS good." "Thanks. More punch?" "No. No I think I might go home. And think. You know. About everything." "Okay. Have a nice night!".

Monday, 1 October 2012

Minors' Strike

In Fotheringhamton today, there was surprise news when the entirety of Fotheringhamton Gardens primary school unanimously voted to strike “until our concerns have been answered”. Class representative Tommy Smith (11) and headteacher Sandra Wilson (51), met to discuss a series of issues, including but not limited to, the number of benches in the playground, a discussion on the idea of allowing football to be played in designated playground areas, and “the weird smell in the male changing rooms” [sic]. According to both parties, things came to a head in a discussion over Mr Lowson, the PE teacher, and undisclosed activities within aforementioned changing rooms, and, with neither participant willing to budge on the issue, Mr Smith decided to walk out of talks and convene with his members to discuss further action. Miss Jenkins (8) told us that these talks were brief and “Within minutes, we decided the best course of action was a strike. When laid out objectively, the problems lay deeper than these superficial concerns initially raised and ran right at the heart of this school. We cannot continue to be treated like second-class citizens and ignored!”. We spoke to a spokesperson from the school board, who told us “If they don’t want to be treated like children, perhaps they shouldn’t act like them. We’re ready and waiting to reconvene talks when they are willing to grow up and be adult about necessary compromises”. Mrs Wilson was unavailable for personal comment, and Mr Lowson would only direct us to the school board’s comments, whilst repeatedly stating that “They are only allegations, and, need I remind you, until proven guilty, I am legally innocent, and on that I consider the matter closed”.

A spokesperson, 9 year old Jessica Floris, for Mr Smith said he would be releasing a statement later this afternoon that would cover a wider range of the issues involved. She allowed us to view an unfinished draft of the speech, which included such topics as “If David Cameron and his ilk are so fond of a voluntary “Big Society”, why must I be legally mandated to attend classes every day for no pay when I could, and some would argue SHOULD, be out in the real world earning a wage. If education was deemed to be vital to my success, surely I should have my university fees paid for by governmental contributions, and if it’s not considered vital, why must I attend for 11 years of my fledgling career? Who needs maths when you have calculators? I can already read and write; anything further seems excessive and superfluous to my requirements. I’m sure Mrs Wilson is sitting very superciliously in her ivory office while the plebs strike, but the fact of the matter is that she is part of the problem with this culture”. Ms Floris said that such inflammatory comments were likely to be edited down in the final version, but that this draft clearly showed the anger Mr Smith felt towards the “petty bureaucrats” limiting “the potential of every child entering the system”, and the “authoritarian stance” the school took on every issue being “indicative of a closed-minded, dogmatic society unwilling to advance as part of a more progressive society".

We asked some of the strikers what this meant to them, as they picketed the school gates. Trevor Pittins, aged 6, said “It’s scandalous the way they treat us in there! Do this, do that, pick that up, don’t throw that in here... Let me live my own life, Mrs Jones!”, while Harry Fligart told us “We’re in here, every day, 8:30 am till 3:15 pm, with a strictly regimented break system, for no money, and we’ve no choice in the matter. There are prisoners that get treated better than us, and I tell you what, I bet their cells are nicer than our bloody classrooms, pardon my French”, but these are counter-balanced by participants such as Patrick Gossomer, who said “Well, it’s a day off, isn’t it? I’m sure the powers that be will have the whole thing sorted out within a few days”. In a day of uncertainties, the only thing we can know for sure is that this isn’t the last you’ll hear about this story.

Friday, 31 August 2012

The Future-Phone

I hold in my hand, a smartphone. Now, like many people who have spent the last 5 years living in the past, yearning for the days when all a man needed to fix anything in his house was a screwdriver, a socket set, and a bit of mechanical knowhow, I have never had a smartphone before. Obviously, holding it in my hand is making it difficult to type, so I'm putting it down on the desk beside, but the point is still valid: I have a magic touchscreen device which can play music and make phone calls and has a built in VCR and all the other usual features.

After the minor hassle of sorting out a contract in order to get and use my phone (£853 a day or whatever it is), I received the phone the day after I ordered it. Well, hypothetically it was delivered then. DPD said they would deliver it between 08:00 and 18:00. "Fair enough", I thought. "Set themselves an ambitious ten hour window to turn up at my house for less than a minute. They love a challenge, don't they?". I can be witheringly sarcastic inside the solitude of my own head. Well, as if hearing my complaints that "Some time today" was a little vague, they sent me a new text telling me that Alex, "my DPD driver" would be there between "17:02 and 18:02". It's that extra two minutes either side which really lend it the glorified air of impending accuracy. "They've calculated this down to the nanosecond back at the transport lab!" I mused to myself. "I shall strive to be in during that very specific hour!". 17:02 rolled on, in the manner time is rather accustomed to, and I sat, nervously, excitedly, beside the door. 17:32 came and went, and the eager joy on my face started to turn to anxious panic, like a barometer that has shifted suddenly from "Set fair" to "Batten down the hatches, it's a big storm!". 18:02 flickered past my eyes, shamefully, embarrassed about its presence and the accompanying shame that came with it for DPD. They were late! "Well, now, what's a couple of minutes between friends, eh? Me and Alex! We're on first name terms. You can't blame him for being a couple of minutes late!". I had a thing to do that evening (For those of you wishing to keep fully informed, imagine it was, say, an ambassador's function, or perhaps a well-heeled millionaire's bachelor party. It really doesn't matter. It was an unavoidable event), but I wouldn't have to leave for that till 7:30. "88 minutes late, he'd have to be, for me to miss him! Haha! Can you imagine such a thing!". I chuckled to myself at the minorly amusing set of circumstances I'd laid out before my very eyes. Alex would never do that to me. He wouldn't betray me like that. And truth be told, he didn't betray me like that. He turned up fully 97 minutes after we had agreed, unilaterally from HIS side, that he would attend. I was already gone, so he put a little cheeky note through my door. "Sorry we missed eachother!", or words to that effect. Just a friendly note, with overtones of "Tsk, what are we like eh, me and you?! You go one way and I come in the other! Haha, Us, eh?!". No, Alex and DPD, YOU. I was in for 11 and a half hours waiting for my phone to arrive. I had sat, eagerly, to watch you crush my dreams to ashen dust in your misshapen paws, for nearly half a day. We live in a world in which I can hold a magical touchscreen device which connects to the internet, sends and receives messages instantly, and comes with an auto-rewind function, and yet you couldn't drive to my bloody house in over ten hours?! Fortunately, Alex and I worked it all out (I think we both said a few things we regretted, admittedly mainly me), and then, promptly the next day, Alex turned up with my phone.

And from there, I powered it up, and indeed, left it powering up as I went to do another thing (I'm a very busy man: These evening soirées with Gloria Hunniford or whatever it is you imagine I do; they don't attend themselves you know). And then, later that very night, I turned it on, and went through the tedious rigmarole of setting it up, which involved a more in-depth grilling than some policemen give prime suspects implicated in a gruesome murder (and which also involved transferring my number from my old phone to my new one, a process made about as quick and painless as an emergency enema with no anaesthetic). But then, THEN, I had a portal to the very future itself.

First thing I did, obviously, was try and load it with purchased music. Given that I have spotify (I may have been ignoring the smartphone revolution for nearly 5 years, but I can't afford to miss out on all that music), this means I primarily loaded it with music I bought legally in the past. This means, obviously, that it is shockingly bad. You only buy Kate Nash's hit song "Foundations" once, before you learn your lesson (This is accompanied by Lush Life's "The Music Sounds Better With You" and Bitman and Roban's "Despues de Almuerzo". But balanced out by the whole albums of "Low Vs Diamond" (Yes, I am that obscure. Get me. Oooh) and Jet's debut "Get Born", I reckon), so I'll need to rectify this at some stage.

Next thing I did was use it to get my mail. "Now I can get pointless updates from companies I deeply regret allowing to contact me WHEREVER I am!" I thought to myself, with a little wry smile. Witheringly sarcastic, see? That's sort of a call-back. This was surprisingly painless (I had to set up a similar thing once a while ago, and trying to get it to work was like having a tattoo done by a toddler, in that it was very painful, scarred you for life, and wasn't something you'd want to discuss with your neighbours), so this pleased me! Success, 1-0 to the phone in the game of life.

Then I had to insert my friend's contact details. This was a tedious process (I can hear you all shouting already, "I've got this one, I've got this one! "All your friends eh? Must have taken you nearly a full minute!". Nailed it! Haha! Come on guys!". A wittier man than me would have a scathing riposte prepared for that sort of obvious put-down, but all I've got is the factual correction that, because of my relatively low typing speed and the newnesss of the phone (and accompanying keyboard) in my hands, it took me almost 5 minutes. Schooled.) from beginning to end, not least because I had to dig out close friends' contact details. Phone numbers was fine. When the phone started asking for their addresses and childhood schools, I bailed on the process and left them with half-complete forms (I'm not sure how much information these things really need, but I filled in the fact one friend's favourite film is The Lion King, another friend's favourite breed of dog was the Maltese, and finally that one of my friends is 6 foot 1 inches tall.), which angered my OCD tendencies a little, but pleased the procrastination and laziness centres of my brain too much to let that worry me.

This suitably done, I sent out 5 test text messages, of which one person replied. "Good!" I thought. "Working at exactly the same rate as my old phone". One of these messages was a message to a friend about the fact I was using a smartphone. This is the sort of non-stop thrill-a-minute tedious information you can expect from me if you ever become a close friend. The point was rather, I was using my phone at that very moment to listen to a mash-up song (Dave Brubeck and Radiohead, since you ask. Sounds like a recipe for disaster, ended up being delicious. And that's where the recipe analogy breaks down. The more you know), and reached down to my pocket to get my phone and text a friend about it ("thrill-a-minute" was not overstated, clearly), when I realised "Oh my god! I'm ALREADY holding my phone!". This revelation caused me such delirious joy I sent out a text instantly.

I also checked that it does in fact, browse the internet. It does. I have been on the internet before, and was connected to the wifi in my house, so I was pretty underwhelmed by this (Despite the fact that I'm wirelessly receiving information from global servers directly to a small box in my hand, I am underwhelmed. What minor miracle of technology will I have to see before I am again, wowed?). When I'm out and about though, I'm sure I'll look at it and go "OH MY GOD. I'm using the internet. On a BUS! I can get a news source that ISN'T the Metro! And it might contain news, rather than poorly written articles about celebrity gossip, the traditional non-story, usually heavily pictorial ("Me and my waterskiing Daschund!", say, or "What happens when a parrot and a kitten become best friends!"), and some minor coverage of, say, civil war in Syria" (Witheringly sarcastic again! Can you just imagine what a laugh-fest it is in my head? No, you're wrong. You can't. Good effort, though).

I haven't even added any apps to it yet. And they're probably the best bit! But I will. And when I do, hoo, boy, the world better be ready for me, because let me tell you, me and my smartphone will be ready for the world.

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Frankie Says Retax

Woah, what's that?! Biting satire from nowhere? Weren't expecting that, were you? I didn't think so.

Nick Clegg is asking for an emergency tax. The emergency being an economic disaster that was widely predicted, and easily preventable. It's a bit like living in a flood plain, in a house made out leaky bricks, that everyone tells you will flood when the rains come, and after it floods, going to your neighbours and saying "Oh my God, my house has flooded, can you believe it, please, lend me a couple of billion pounds, just to help a poor man like me get back on his feet". I'm not sure when we (ie: Politicians, in particular Gideon Osborne) started calling already very rich people "Wealth Creators". If someone hoards newspapers in his house for a decade, he's not a "newspaper creator", he's mental. This is apparently "Pre-Conference Talk", which in generalised terms, is that bit before a minor scuffle in which one party accuses the other of "thinking he's hard", and the accused responds with "Oh, yeah? Wanna go? We'll go right here!", before increasingly specific threats ("I'll shove my boot so far up your arse, you'll think Clarks have started making hats.", etc) that will inevitably, come to nothing and fizzle out amidst complaints of "Leave him Terry, he's not worth it!" and "Back off Darren, you're already on probation!". I'm idly waiting for the Tories to respond with something like "What are these benefit cheats doing eating more than stale bread and water! Unbelievable!" and calling for an end to "Compassionate Conservatism" (They already did that. If this is compassion, I am deeply worried as to what they would be like enraged), and for Labour to complete the Holy Trinity of poor politics by accusing the coalition of "Infighting" and saying "If they can't work together, how can they expect to work with the nation?". 

Other news in Britain includes the revelation that the honours are going too heavily towards celebrities and businessmen (And indeed, civil servants, Sir Jeremy Heywood or Sir Bob Kerslake, for example), simply for doing their jobs, rather than going above and beyond the call of duty. Certainly, if the Chief Executive of a FTSE100 company saves an orphanage with his own wealth creation programme, it's more than fair to reward him with a gleaming trinket freshly minted by the Queen herself (That's why they apparently limit it to a quota: Because the Queen stays up overnight once a week minting medals. In 1974, she had to stay up for 4 days in a row before the New Year's honours, having fallen behind earlier in the year, leading many people to claim they had misshapen and incorrectly spelled awards), but if he's simply come into his office everyday and sat at his desk and done his job, that deserves a reward no more than turning up to McDonald's everyday entitles the man in the crap cap to an OBE (I'm a little bitter: I've been rejected by McDonald's 6 times).The honours are supposed to reward those who make a real effort to improve life in Britain, and unless Sir Fred Goodwin did all his work voluntarily, I'm inclined to think he, and I know this might seem outlandish, was motivated solely by greed, heaven forbid such a thing to be true.

Still, it could be worse. We could be living in the Islamic Republic of Iran, where Blizzard have just cut off access to that most vital of services: World of Warcraft. US Trade Sanctions have led them to cut off their service in Iran. Surely now, the clamour in Iran for them to stop trying to build a nuclear power station will be overwhelming. Millions will be out in the streets, every day, and won't rest till they get their virtual game back. Iran will be forced to cave. It's not like they've ever had to face protests before. Except when they did, over Ahmadinejad "winning" an election. But they kicked him out straight away, because the people's word is law in Iran. Wait...Wait, I'm just getting message in now that Ahmadinejad is still in power there, and weeks of protests changed absolutely nothing. Tsk.

Finally, a joke. I haven't been writing much of late because the police stopped me. I'm still on Proseation.

Sunday, 26 February 2012

The Sun on Sunday!

I'm a man who, history has documented, is willing to try new things, and this week, I thought "I've never actually bought, and read, the Sun!". Well, when you combine that with the release of the brand-new and not-at-all-like-the-News-of-the-World Sun on Sunday, it was an ideal opportunity to dip my toes into tabloid water. In the interests of a fair comparison, I also got The Mail on Sunday, its main rival in the Sunday paper market. Here is a comparison of each against each other.

The Sun
has the newstritional (Deliberate pun) content of a cereal box. If you want a series of insightful, thoughtful articles, examining the biggest issues society faces today, with relevant examples from this week, The Sun is not the place to look. It's like a kid's "My First Newspaper", with big, exciting pictures and small, simple words. Of the opening ten pages, 5 can be considered "News", and three of them are about the "Indy" debate. Seriously, they shorten independence to "indy". It's got 12 letters, I can't be expected to read all of them. They also have "Celebrity" endorsements littered throughout the paper, as this is the glorious first edition, to quote them; "A new era has dawned". One such celebrity endorsement is The Krankies. Oh yes, the ever-relevant Krankies, thank God you sought out their opinion of the paper, I couldn't imagine doing anything without their agreement. Another celebrity was Barbara Rafferty. You know, from Rab C Nesbitt? The wife, of a supporting character! Don't tell me you don't remember! She was on River City, till about 3 years ago? Come on! No? She's one of 3 former River City stars to say the Sun's great. I wouldn't expect you to get the other two either.

The Mail isn't exactly content-heavy either, in fairness to the Sun, but it does at least have a token effort at including news (Judging by the randomness of the articles, largely by accident. "Oh no, Mr Dacre, I accidentally ran an article containing news!" "It's too late now, we've already started printing!" is probably a common exchange in the editor's office).

Both papers rely heavily on celebrity tittle-tattle to make up for their stunning lack of news. there is however, one news story that featured fairly prominently in the columnists pages for the Sun: Fellow News International war correspondent Marie Colvin's death came up twice, separately. Katie Price (In her articles on page ELEVEN. That's ten pages of sort-of news then "Woah there, but what does celebrity topless model Katie Price make of this!?". The tagline is "The Price is ALWAYS right!", and she talks about private education versus state education, using the damning line "I went to a state school and look how well I've done!". Quite. But if I don't want my daughter stripping for money...) says "She is just the sort of woman who impresses me", while Catriona Shearer also sings her praises. Nothing mentioned of the award-winning war photographer who died with her. Presumably he was just freelance rather than working for NI.

The Mail didn't focus on this story much, but how could they with space at such a premium that the story about Tara Palmer-Tomkinson telling Kate that William would come running back to her could only take up a (full) single page? That's a four page spread at least, but they must have somehow whittled it down to one. The Sun weren't quite so economical in their story about Amanda Holden giving birth, unable to get that down, somehow, to less than two pages.

Having criticised Katie Price, The Mail's columnists aren't much better, in fairness. Liz Jones looks around the world, sees plague and pestilence across the world, looks at the issues in Syria and Bahrain, looks at the big issue of the day, the Scottish independence debate, glances at the NHS debate, and indeed, the "Slave labour" issue rearing its head, and thinks "The world needs an article, and I am ready to deliver". She sits down at her desk, is presumably briefly possessed (It's the only logical conclusion) and churns out "Someone has to tell the truth about fashion (...Even if it does cost me that lovely olive greatcoat)". Brilliant. Well, thank god you stepped up, Liz, because it doesn't seem particularly likely that anyone else would, and now that Marie Colvin's dead, someone has to nail these big issues. Unbelievable.

Mercifully, though, The Sun is slightly less right-wing than the Mail (I kid you not, the Mail has some sort of weird article about the Socialist Worker's Party and its front organisations. Apparently whatever side they are on, "Sensible citizens" should be on the other. It reads like a 1920s piece against the rise of communism. "Sacrificed on the altar of Leftist dogma" may be the weirdest way to end an article since about 1953) but it's hardly the Socialist Worker. Both papers lose marks for showing clear bias here.

Additional pull outs and so on, as is standard for Sunday papers, were adequate in both. A decentish sport section, although nothing remarkable. The Mails "You" magazine featured the rest of the aforementioned Tara Palmer-Tomkinson interview which didn't fit in the newspaper. To show you that I've done my reading, she describes herself as "secretly clever". Oh really. I'm secretly very handsome. No, no, I know I don't look it, but that's because it's a secret. I didn't realise we could ascribe ourselves qualities and then put "secretly" before them, and thus, it becomes a perfectly valid statement. The Sun's pull out was "Fabulous" magazine, which had the story article "99 Buy Me Now Shoes". I'll let that speak for the general tone of the thing. Nothing more to say about them, really.

In short then: The Mail wins, but only because, at fifty pence, The Sun on Sunday is the best value toilet paper I've ever bought. Don't buy either if you can avoid it.

Friday, 27 January 2012

Small things occasionally about the news

David Cameron said: "I often say to my children 'No need to go to the Natural History Museum to see a dinosaur, come to the House of Commons at about half past twelve'.", which Labour took offence at, so Conservative Mark Pritchard said: "I wonder whether this House of Commons would be better with more or less humour?". Judging by the first statement I'd start with introducing some humour, then working our way up. Given that parliamentary footage is explicitly not allowed to be used for comedic purposes, it's a shame Cameron's non-stop gag-reel of a mind is so wasted on an audience of "Politicians and to a lesser extent, people who care about politics". He really zinged that 79 year old, to the extent that he never even knew what hit him. Possible return zings "I often tell my kids that if they fancy hot-air ballooning, it appears the PM has an excess of fuel that they can pick up about now.", or "I tell my children that instead of going to the local farm on the off-chance of seeing a cock crowing to his loyal following chickens, they might as well be certain of it by coming to Prime Minister's Questions". He said neither of these things, by the way.

I was in a shop that was playing Falco's seminal German hit "Rock Me Amadeus". It was as close as I'll ever get to time-travel. I felt like going up to the cashier and yelling "WHAT YEAR IS IT?!". At some stage in 2030, someone is going to make this precise joke about current hit "Party Rock Anthem". I sometimes like to remember that one day, that'll come on Radio 2 as one of the "hits from the past" while I'm driving, and I'll sing along, and the children in the car will be horrified. Partly because they're not mine, but mostly because of the song thing. That's a joke obviously; that song will still be cool in 18 years.

The Duchess of Cornwall launches a new initiative for kids on Jubilee day: A cooking competition! "Cook for the Queen", presumably shortened from the original title "Cook for the Queen like the worthless peons you are, she demands it of you and who are you to resist the demands of a divinely-chosen being, you pleb?!", aims to unite the children of the UK through their shared love of baking into one joyous nation again. This should single-handedly stop the Scottish independence referendum in its tracks, and grind republicanism to a halt. Anything less and it can only be considered a failure.

People have been "Flooding" MPs with questions via twitter for Michael Gove. Over four billion people from around the world have tried to get MPs to ask him "Why are you so hateful?", as well as "A royal yacht?! What sort of austerity measure is handing out free boats?!". One person got halfway through a sensible question about the government's new academy policy before descending into using his remaining characters on "IHATEYOUIHATEYOUIHATEY". Sadly, it closed at 11am, so you've missed your chance to ask a question to Michael Gove.

Ed Miliband, as ever a man of the people has had a go at David Cameron about what this week? Let's make it a multiple choice quiz!

[a] Swingeing cuts to core services that will leave many in Britain who are reliant on a system of social security, those are the most vulnerable in our society, out of luck as the system abandons them in a desire to save money?

[b] The intractable war which Britain has been waging for nearly a decade in the Middle-East, and the PM's position on the apparently growing threat that is Iran?

[c] Chocolate Oranges.

It's a tough one... Got an answer? Good! If you said [c], well done! If you said [a] or [b], I'm afraid you simply have too much faith in the leader of the opposition to address issues that are actually meaningful or important. You grow out of it, it's a phase, like having faith in the political process, or liking George Michael. Yes, Ed "Fathead" Miliband has pointed out that David Cameron was aghast, appalled and angered by the cut-price chocolate oranges available to fat people at WHSmiths, only 6 years ago, in 2006. And yet, in 2 years of power, he has not found time between battling the political fires of the middle-east and economic woes of neighbours to address what is, CLEARLY, a burning issue. "If he can't sort out the chocolate oranges, he's not going to sort out the train companies, the energy companies, the banks, is he?". In a wide-ranging interview, he was also asked about whether he would donate to a privately-funded Royal Yacht. He said "I give money to charity in different ways. There are obviously lots of deserving causes.", carefully neglecting to finish that with the sentence "And a new yacht for a woman who literally lives in a palace isn't one of them.". Very politically astute of him.

Finally there has been a hubbub over RBS giving someone a bonus of £963,000. On top of his regular salary of £1.2 million. I've said it before and I'll say it again: I will do the job for a paltry £100,000 a year, and not ask for ANY bonus. And given that, due to the joys of shares, the £45.5 billion investment has now lost £27 billion under his reign, it's hard to imagine I could do a worse job. Consider this my formal application, RBS. I await your response with anticipation.

Monday, 23 January 2012

My Own Magdalen College Rejection Letter

Dear Magdalen College,

I, like many other candidates who have not been accepted to your university, am writing pre-emptively to reject any offers you may put my way. I sincerely hope you understand that you were in competition with many other universities who have not accepted me, and I simply cannot accept all possible offers that are not yet put to me.

I hope you find many other not-accepted candidates who are willing to attend your university in my stead.

Yours Sincerely

On a side note, I read the (actual) letter, and the final sentence is "Perhaps you should offer a glass of water in your interviews; it is rude to torture your guests". The use of torture there is bold, to say the least. One could suggest that real torture victims in Guantanamo might say they get arguably too much water during interviews. It's a fine line between "Satiating Thirst" and "Waterboarding", and frankly, if a college doesn't want to accidentally stray across that line, I can respect that.

Monday, 16 January 2012

Song Puns around Communist Leaders

New Music Update! Robbie Williams has released a new album of communist remixes of his old songs. "I'm loving Engels instead" is to be the title track. Also included is a brand new version of Fatboy Slim's seminal hit "Right here, Right Mao", advocating an immediate change to Maoism in Britain. Another twist on a new song with "Just the Che you are" remixed with the aid of Bruno Mars. And a change on the classic "Sparks" by Coldplay, called, you guessed it, "Marx". Say what you like about his music, you can't argue with the underlying political messages in his songs. Nothing in there for fans of Liebknecht, but it's hard to rhyme, I can't blame him really. THAT JUST HAPPENED. Get on board.