Sunday, 26 December 2010


This is a collection of cricketing statistics. Look away now if you don't want to take in this level of pointless analysis.

Australia all out for 98? That's the lowest first innings ashes score since England crumbled to all out for 77 in 1997 at Lord's, and the lowest Australian first innings Ashes score since their spectacular collapse in the 1909 series at Edgbaston, all out for 74.
A game I'm sure none of us can forget, where England cruised to a ten wicket victory after Hobbs was lbw on 0 in the first innings but smashed a triumphant 62 in the second to see England home. Shame we went on to lose that series after V.S. Ranford hit a stunning 143 in the second test. That 143 not out was actually his test best, far eclipsing his otherwise not extra-ordinary average of 37.84, which counts his single test hundred and sole test six. Vernon Seymour Ranford certainly raised his game for tests against England.

If you discount Ponting's only half-decent performance in this series, a knock of 51 not out, his average is a delightful 7. Including that 51, it's 93 he's made in 7 innings so, even with his 51, his average is 13.3. Ponting is a man on the wane. Even Mitchell Johnson has a higher top score (62) and a better average (21). Eat that, Ponting!

I have stats pouring out of me today. Uh oh, I feel another one coming... Ricky Ponting has lasted an average of just 28.42 balls against the English bowlers. Even if he were to hit a six for each of those balls, graciously including the .42, he would score only 170, a full 87 runs shy of his test best of 257!

Statistics are great. I always become an amateur statistician in the Ashes period. It's the best thing about cricket.

I think I'm saying what we're all thinking when I say Hussey (Average this series of 87.5) is the best batsman the Australians have and should be batting at 3, relegating Ponting to "Somewhere else, preferably not on the team".

Speaking of best players, England's finest, Alistair Cook's average is 115, but he still has the rest of this innings to raise that up to something ridiculous, hopefully by eclipsing his 235* test best against the Australians. Preferably raising his average to something around the 200 mark. His test average in general is 45.83, meaning he plays 2.51 times better against Australia (In this series) than all other nations. He's not even this good against Bangladesh (test average of 66.83 against them).

Let's take a moment to compare the two captains, shall we? Strauss has taken 5 catches this series, Ponting an unremarkable three. Strauss has racked up another test century (110), and could smash a passing bumblebee to the ropes with perfect timing, whilst Ponting couldn't knock a beachball lobbed to him by an elderly woman, or perhaps an infirm child, to mid-off for a quick single without edging it through the slips for four. Probably why his best is 51*. Strauss averages 40.33; so far, his innings hasn't yet ended in Melbourne, and I fully expect him to score that elusive triple century.

So Strauss is 1.66 times better as a fielder, and 3.037 times better on average as a batsman. What more do I need to say?

We haven't even LOOKED at the bowlers, but Graeme Swann has 5/91 against the Aussies in Adelaide, whilst their best spinner, Xavier Doherty, picked up 2/41, which sounds alright, but Swann's worst was either 2/128 or 0/51, whilst Doherty's worst was 0/107, or 1/158 (2/128 and 0/107 both coming in the same match, so not really a spinner's pitch). Siddle may have picked up 6/54 in the first test (Including that rare beast, the Ashes hat-trick) but also bowled 0/121 so "hit and miss". Australia's best bowling figures were Mitchell Johnson's 6/38 in the 3rd test off the back of his impressive batting (62), but without the confidence of solid batting to spur him on, he bowled 0/66 and 0/104 in the 2 innings of the first test, at 4.04 runs per over. Whilst England's Jimmy Anderson has been fantastically consistent, his worst figures being 0/15, his best being 4/44 and 4/51, desperately unlucky not to pick up a five wicket haul on either occasion. And Chris Tremlett, back in the side, has made a fantastic start, picking up 12 wickets in 3 innings for just 176 runs, including 4/26 and a five-fer. Even Bresnan's nipped in on the act.

The difference is, all of England's bowlers can have a good day, whilst only one Australian can. Yes, Siddle got 6/54 in the first innings, but he's picked up just one wicket since, and bowled a 0/121, and the best anyone else managed that test was 2/41. Yes, Johnson bowled 6/38, but he's only had 3 wickets in the other 3 innings, and bowled a 0/104. Hilfenhaus has picked up only 2 wickets in his 4 bowling innings. Ryan Harris is the only bowler who seems anything like a consistent threat, his worst figures being 2/84, his best, 6/87. The third test was the first the Australian bowlers dared to be in form at the same time, with Johnson and Harris picking up 9 wickets each, a six-wicket haul each in separate innings. As long as we can avoid that (And at 157/0, it's looking pretty likely that we have) England should be home and dry.

So, to summarise, England's batsmen have been on top, England's bowlers have been more consistent, and in general, England's fielding has been better (Trott's run out of Katich is a good example). It's no wonder, therefore, that England are destined to keep hold of the Ashes for at the very least, this series. Having made this bold prediction, I fully expect them to collapse to 201 all out, with an embarrassing run-out that'll be shown on Question of Sport for generations with that Inzamam-Ul-Haq wicket where the tripped over to Monty Panesar and basically fell over the wicket. I can imagine Sue Barker laughing at it now.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Banking Metaphor from Classical Mythology

Having read the title, you're thinking "He's going to tackle the thorny issue of modern banking by using a now outdated Greek mythological fable? Which one shall he use? Perhaps he shall compare modern banking's boom-bust periods to the seasonal whims of Persephone, wife of Hades! Perhaps he will use the boatman, Charon, who requires gold coins for passage across the rivers of the Underworld, as a simplistic analogy for the important but deplorable nature of mercenary banking! Perhaps he will describe their nature of allowing you to easily get into debt but making it hard to escape to that of Cerberus, three-headed hound who prevents escape from across the river Styx, making the point that it is a truly Herculean task to escape from the misery of debt, Hercules having defeated the dog as one of his labours! I wonder which of these three fine examples he will choose!" to yourself, possibly mumbling to yourself at the same time, and reminding yourself that you need to school yourself in the world of classics.

Well, you have provided three magnificent ideas, but since you largely thought them alone, I decided to go with Prometheus. You, of course, already know the story, Prometheus the Titan steals fire from the gods and gives it to the mortals, sentenced to be chained to a rock and have his liver pecked out by an eagle, liver grows back overnight, so on and so forth.

"Oh," you mutter "Prometheus. Okay. I guess so."

See, you can pretty clearly draw an analogy from this to modern banking, where you, Prometheus (Or the "Consumer of banking services") have stolen the fire (Or "Good interest rates or a high-rate instant access account") from the gods (Or "Banks"). They then sentence you to a cruel and unusual punishment, such as having your liver pulled out by an eagle everyday, if you dare stray into overdraft. The liver then becomes your finances through the magic of metaphors, whilst the eagle becomes the greedy collector. Each night, you grow a new liver, or each month you get another paycheck, but then the greedy eagle comes and pecks it away from you. And so the cycle repeats indefinitely, in perpetuity.

On reflection I think I liked your ideas more. Well done. You clearly know more about analogous Greek mythology than I do. I shan't question your authority on the matter again.

Now, I should stress, I am not an economist. I went to London and purchased a three-stringed violin with a broken bow from a car boot sale, so it is pretty clear I am to financial astuteness what rickets is to international athletics. But debt seems like a pretty bad idea. I offset the minimal cost of a broken violin by travelling by coach, in which karma decided "John, you helped an old woman put her things on the trailer. You deserve a double seat!" so I'm only mildly exhausted. Besides, at least I bought a broken violin rather than a watch I saw at Harrods (I went there to take in the shocking opulence and exorbitant prices. I'm pretty certain they nearly didn't let me in because my shoes weren't carved from solid ingots of gold) which was a pretty pricey £459,000. I can't actually think of anything that watch could do which would justify except stop time itself, like Bernard's Watch. £459,000. I'm still...£459,000. For a WATCH. That's more than a pretty decent Atomic Clock. That's more than a pretty decent house! Although, I saw a house for rent in SW1. A mere £16,000 a week. It came with 2 staff rooms. I'm genuinely struggling to envisage a scenario where anyone has enough money to buy a £459,000 watch and take it to their £832,000/annum house. But what if you want to buy rather than rent? There was a nice little place for £5.25 million. And instead of mere ROOMS for the staff, it has a whole annex. I have not the words. Just...I have to go lie down.

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics

In 1972, West Germany hosted the Olympic games (Famous, sadly, for the assassination of 11 Israeli athletes, rather than, say, home-grown West German female high-jumper Ulrike Meyfarth, who became the youngest woman to win the Olympic gold in high jump (And indeed, any individual athletics gold) with the Fosbury Flop, a technique that was, at the time, not particularly popular (It is, of course, now ubiquitous in the modern high jump) when she equalled the world record of the time), and a mere two years later, went on to win the 1974 World Cup (A thrilling 2-1 win over the more creative and exciting Dutch team in the final, a cup victory which could have not have been more of a robbery if Gerd Muller was holding a shotgun to Cruyff's head whilst waving his balaclava-clad team-mates to put the world cup trophy in the back of one of three coloured, unmarked Minis, which then darted through the city of Munich, at one stage driving through the sewer network, to arrive at the meet point. Indeed, the last anyone ever saw of Muller after this game was him walking towards the back of a bus teetering over the edge of a cliff in the Alps mumbling "Hang on a minute lads, I've got a great idea!" in German).

Greece too, hosted the 2004 Olympic games (In Athens, no less. Zeus himself won gold in the discus over Norse god Thor, who claimed to be better in the hammer throw. The Norse got their own back when Loki and Odin won a hotly contested men's double sculls against the experienced pair of Greeks, Apollo and Hermes. Moses and Jesus were adjudged to have cheated and fell foul of the rules after parting the river and sprinting along the empty gap and running along the water respectively. They retaliated to this accusation by the turning the river into blood and putting a plague of locusts o'er the land, to which the Olympic Federation responded by calling them "Worse losers than the 2018 England World Cup bid"), and that SAME year, Greece lifted the European cup (The 2004 tournament being labelled the dullest football cup since records began, but popular opinion holds that the pre-record 1908 FA Cup was almost as dull, and if Richard "Dickie" Smith hadn't accidentally performed a Cruyff turn around the Arsenal left back whilst attempting a simple backpass in the quarter finals, it would have been a dead-heat in terms of monotony.)

So, as you can see, England's 2014 glory is practically guaranteed already, but if more proof were needed, London has form with this, having hosted the 1948 Olympics (The handover of the Olympic torch from the 1936 games in Berlin was a little troubled) and then, a mere 18 years later, England held aloft the Jules Rimet trophy in their moment of triumphant jubilation.

Coincidence? I think not.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Technically, this is probably treason

Prior to her 1952 coronation, Queen Elizabeth (then merely Princess Elizabeth Windsor, Lizzie to her friends) found herself with a good deal of time on her hands, and she was inspired by her husband, Philip, whom she was dating at the time, to partake in the electoral process and try to do some good. As such, she fought hard for the candidacy of the Conservative party in Buckingham, but was ultimately turned down and went on to compete in the election as an independent, famously touring the streets of her people in a horse-and-cart driven by Philip, who went on to win the world horse-and-cart championships for Great Britain. Elizabeth, of course, was beaten to the seat by the Labour MP, Aidan Crawley, who went on to support Clement Attlee's 1945 government in creating the NHS (1948, fact fans), something Elizabeth always campaigned against. She went on to attempt to compete in the following, 1951 election, but after a comprehensive smear campaign against Frank Markham (accusing him of cowardice in the 1944 D-Day landings, an activity which the future Queen shone admirably, saving the lives of over 40 British servicemen, as well as meeting Admiral and future-husband Philip) she was promptly dropped from the electoral register and from that point on all royal family members were considered ineligible to stand as an MP in any seat. Many of her supporters went on to accept her as a beloved monarch after a contrite speech in June, a year before her eventual ascension to the throne.

Thin Lizzy were originally called "Queen Lizzie", after the now-beloved monarch but were forced to change their name after the success of 1970s icons, Queen, because their manager feared confusion between the two bands (And, of course, Thin Lizzy went on to release their most successful single, The Boys are Back in Town in 1976, just as Queen were really breaking through). They originally considered several other alternative names, including "Queen Vicky" (too similar to TV tavern The Queen Vic) and "Mean Lizzie" was considered by their manager to be a personal affront against the regal figure (Thin Lizzy, as an Irish band, weren't overly fond of British Royalty). "Lean Lizzie" was eventually settled upon, but recording studios were trending away from alliterative names, and, under pressure to release their debut album, they quickly settled on Thin Lizzy outside the recording studio. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Some of this may be factually inaccurate. I cannot guarantee factual accuracy or verify that this is not all largely fictional, but hey, neither can the Bible, and that's caught on like wildfire.

Friday, 12 November 2010

Twitter Joke Trial

Good news! Robin Hood Airport has been declared safe from the threat of jokes. They're cracking down very hard on this, just last month I was flying through there and was found to be in possession of a squirty flower and an exploding golf ball (According to the packet, the funniest joke in the world) with the express purpose of eliciting humour. I was appropriately detained for forty-two days on no charges, whilst police investigated me on the assumption I was secretly funny. Fortunately, after six weeks they had found no evidence of humour and therefore released me with no apology, and ironically, a strong anti-British sentiment I didn't have before, motivating me to be the comic genius I clearly am today to spite them. Nyah.

I am, of course, talking about the so-called "Twitter Joke Trial", where a joke, for some bizarre reason, was taken as a serious threat. Because, I'm sure I don't need to inform you, terrorists are well known for [a] publically announcing their plans on twitter, and [b] attacking largely unused airports of the North. Not a day goes by when I don't get a tweet from Osama saying "Look out Preston!". That said, I also get his other tweets "Fail Whale?! Typical decadent West!" and "Soz about the terrorism. Not! Lol."

The whole thing is pretty disturbing, but alas, such is the state of the world we live in. The police are pretty schizophrenic about what is and isn't inciting violence. Students riot at the Conservative headquarters, crazy Muslims Against Crusades group burn poppies on Remembrance Day, but let's go after the guy who made a joke on Twitter. Bah.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Coach Journeys

Because of the governments comprehensive spending review and decision to increase student tuition fees, I decided I had to economise or risk crippling student loans, so I took the coach to London where a lesser man would have taken the train or flown. "No no" thought I, "I shall take the coach. It is a mere £15." (This isn't strictly accurate, since my tuition fees are paid by the SAAS, but I wanted to briefly seem topical).

As I headed to the bus station, my heart was light and my spirits jolly. Anyone walking past me would have instantly surmised from my jaunty demeanour and hastily constructed and therefore musically weak whistled tune (A future number one, doubtless. Perhaps I shall licence it to Lady GaGa and eagerly reap the rewards) that I was in an almost unparalleled good mood.

Except one little girl (She looked about eight) who challenged me to a fight for no particular reason , which I declined graciously. Good to the statistics though a win is, I would have felt mildly like I was deliberately rigging improbably easy street fights to artificially boost my street cred, so I carried on, notable by my lack of fighting 8 year old girls.

Anyways, I arrived at the station in good time and settled onto the coach, an overnight double decker to London (Instantly, of course, my first thought was that as it was a double decker, and intending to travel on the motorway (Specifically the M6, fact fans, although the M1 down the east coast would have clearly been the better option) we were going to fall over and be killed. I could see the headlines in my head. "15 killed in bus accident, 12 page pull out on sport" although a mere fifteen deaths would have been pushed off the front page by Wayne Rooney breathing heavily or something).

Interestingly, Sian Lloyd, Welsh weather presenter (And on How 2, one of the most under-rated shows of my youth. Bring back How 2 I say) was on the coach. I would have felt she could have afforded more luxurious travel, but in these troubled times, how is a weather girl to get to and from the nations of the UK? (Disappointingly she is only the second most famous weather presenter I've ever seen, having seen Michael Fish competing in a 1997 village fete charity "It's a Knockout" competition, with actual host Frank Bruno refereeing, assisted by John Anderson in the peak of his Gladiators refereeing days. I recall them all being hit in the face with custard pies for donations, although I could be making this up/dreaming it in one of my many Bruno-Anderson-Fish trio of dreams (Particular gem, Michael Fish is the contestant on the final segment of Gladiators (The event was called "The Eliminator", named after ZZ Top's famous car, of course, although some claim it was named after their studio album. No one argument has won conclusively, but as an aside, I like to think it's the car that John Fashanu, legendary host and long-time fan of ZZ top named it after.) against Frank Bruno, refereed by John Anderson, obviously. Fish wins by the merest of whiskers after an unexplained hurricane knocks Bruno to the floor just yards from the zipline) so I was largely unimpressed.)

Anyways, for the Dundee to Perth segment (A gem of a journey down the M90 for fact fans eagerly digging our road maps to accurately understand the trip) I had a double seat to myself, but as the hour was still fairly early (8:40 pm, for those of you who are curious. Don't let it be said that I don't pander to the every whim of a fact fan), I made no effort to sleep, a move I later regretted because, at Perth bus station, a man so vast and gargantuan he had his own gravitational pull got on the bus and, as per usual, opted to sit next to me.

Now, I don't want to seem like I'm moaning, but Perth to London is a longish way, particularly when you go the crazy route of the M6 southbound and then off at Birmingham (To explain this, we also stopped off at Preston (Initially, I thought it was Manchester) so briefly, I felt I was on the wrong bus and was actually doing some sort of night tour of crap towns of the North of England) , so to be pinned to the window (I briefly considered having that faintly erotically charged fling over the armrest that two strangers occasionally have, but sadly he swelled well past the armrest, and that segment of the journey was written off, a shame as I had been slightly looking forward to it. There's nothing I enjoy more than gentle challenge for the armrest. It's one of the few thrills between two strangers.) for literally 9 and a bit hours was a tad dispiriting.

There was the briefest of relief when he flitted off to the toilet, but sadly, he came back after no more than 15 minutes, and with his disgraceful size had brought with him a new facet to his hateful personality: A smell. I shan't be vulgar about this smell, but to put it politely, it was not a smell you want to be pinned up against for several hours.

Also, on his return, he appeared to insist on ditching the vaguely meek legs together and went for the all-out legs spread apart. Frankly, I was becoming so miffed I very nearly told him that if he had to adjust his seating position to compensate for his grossly enlarged plums, there was very little chance he would be a balding 40 something on a coach from Perth to London. But I didn't, because [a] he was asleep, a quality I found triply annoying in him since it was his actual presence that was stopping me sleeping, and [b] I'm too polite and mild-mannered.

Sleeping! Most men put their efforts into sleeping as a single-task, but this man found time to fidget and snore loudly too (So loudly that at one stage he woke himself up, causing me to laugh. He glared at me, and I told him I had seen the face of Ron Atkinson in a pork pie, and it amused me) thus doubly keeping me from sleeping. The man was and always will be a one-man-anti-sleep-band.

Thankfully, on the journey back up, I had the double seat to myself, and thus, thankfully, had a lovely sleep on the way home,, despite waking up in a storm of wind and rain and thunder during which my driver thought it judicious to overtake on the motorway (M6 northbound, fact fans) whilst I merely opted for pinning myself to my seat in terror and gently moaning, considering sending texts to loved ones.

Fortunately though, we made it. So Coach Trip accurately reflects coach journeys. You'll be next to someone you don't like for an extended period of time, but it's cheaper than flying and makes good TV. If I get the chance, I'll implore the driver to let me vote off the guy sitting next to me.

As a caveat, some or all of this may not be true, and I reserve the right to completely make stuff up.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Real-Life Monopoly

As part of my reworking of classic board games (See Strip Scrabble), I turn the pointless eye of reality to the much-loved gem, Monopoly. This game has saved lives in WW2, it's blighted lives (Notably my grandparents when I had an unhealthy obsession with the game in my youth, much like, I expect, every child concerned with fiscal planning. My motto was much like that of Barratt, build fast and leave desolate wastelands in the cheaper areas. Pro-tip: always get Mayfair and Park Lane. I don't care if you have to promise to give a relative a liver donation to deal with alcoholism from raising a child so emotionally involved in Monopoly. Just do it) and it's been a household name for generations (Hence the archaic pricing. £60 for Old Kent Road? If you can find property for £60 anywhere, chances are there's an army unit clearing it out).

Still, whilst reliving my youth, and begging people to play Monopoly with me, I felt that this unrealistic slant against the modern world was less reminiscent of a better time and more a delusion to first time buyers.

First off, you start with an income but minimal savings. You don't start life with £2000, you start with nothing. Your income is £200 a board-rotation (Cheerfully, I decided you earn more than this, but you obviously have to take some money away for living costs. Food, petrol, insurance, it's not cheap). Therefore, in order to buy your first house (Your board-person is still living with your parents, and if you're playing monopoly, chances are so are you) you need to get a crippling loan from "Royal Bank of Halifax Natwest Rock", at an almost punitive interest rate. Then you buy your first house! Yey! Except it's ten times the price it was in the original game, because it's a seller's market, the housing business. No-one can go without a house.

That's when the trouble starts. Living costs increase. Your income is now £180 a board rotation. And you've got to pay your mortgage from that. Interest per board rotation is 14%. You better wave goodbye to putting money in that savings account. This new house better be in Spain, because you have nothing for a rainy day.

Let's be honest, how often do you win a beauty contest (I've only ever won 6 in my entire life) or have an aunt unexpectedly bestow some wealth on you? Maybe you've won a crossword competition for £100? Since random wealth is so rare as to be unheard of, Community Chests and Chance cards are replaced by the new "Bad luck" cards. These list a financial expenditure which you weren't expecting. For example, your boiler breaks down, and you have to pay a man to replace it, or you're in a minor car crash and the insurance refuses to pay out, or you have to fight a law case to protect your intellectual property, because Strip Twister has taken off and you want a slice of the profits.

Instead of going to jail, there's "Debtor's Prison" (Archaic, but what the hell, I tuck my shirt into my trousers, I'm clearly from 1812 anyways) where you go if you land on the "Go to Jail" square (Renamed "Overdraft charges", and instead of the policeman, there's a picture of Fred Goodwin frowning, possibly holding out his hand. We'd see at the photo-shoot, which we would do for four pence, because he can't keep his grubby hands off money. The overdraft charges on my account are testament to this). you can get out by paying your debt, or rolling a double. After three goes you get out free (I didn't want to be too harsh with this element of the game, as chances are you have no savings to pay with).

Anyways, it's less board game, more gritty real-life drama. Done.

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Jew puns.

I recently converted back to Judaism from atheism, and I felt born again, Rejewvinated, you might say.
As part of my training I had to go to the Hebrew library, but I couldn't find the books I wanted because they hadn't converted to the Jewey Decimal system.
They did have some books about dinosaurs, that's all I could find, but only about the Jewrassic period.
Although one book about the Native Americans did make it in there, something about Jewronimo.
Anyways, as I was leaving, I saw a library guard chase a man outside, but once the man had left the grounds, the guard stopped. I asked him why, and he said it was outside his jewrisdiction.
The police came in carrying the man and asked the guard if it was the person who was stealing books. The guard said he was. Jewstice at last. Apparently he's up for trial by jewry.

Obviously none of this is true, but I felt I had to put that disclaimer on the end.

Friday, 24 September 2010


Two rabbits got married. I hear they're going on a bunnymoon.
A monk married a girl. I hear they're going on a nunnymoon.
Two bees got married. I he...Wait a minute!

...I've outstayed my welcome. The punnymoon period is over.

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Seating positions

Choosing your seat in an sort of theatre (Lecture, Movie, Operating ("Who are you?! Get that popcorn out of here!")) is always a nightmare. You come in, and a quick scan of the surroundings give you a pretty good idea of where to sit.

You don't want to over-commit. Too close to the front, and you're practically involved. Too far back, and you won't be able to see. If you're in a theatre to watch a play (Or other theatre-based activities, perhaps you're into contemporary dance. It's really up to you) you'll mill around half-heartedly somewhere in the middle, being forced into one row by a decisive family member or perhaps a particularly impatient passer-by, desperately trying to get to a seat before he is left to sit at the front, isolated and alone, like a dog left out in the rain, his eyes displaying unknowing disappointment. "What did I do wrong?" he seems to say. "What did I do to justify this torment?".

Or, worse, you could sit too far back. A nightmarish scenario. Perhaps the passer-by himself committed early to a row and this forced you back a row or two whilst you made up your mind. It's a scenario I can scarcely begin to imagine before shuddering in horror. All of a sudden you're struggling to see, and if you're in a class of any sort, the lecturer consigns you to the scrapheap of slacking failures.

So you've gone in and eventually sat down. You think it's a decent seat, perhaps 4 rows back. All of a sudden, from the other end (This is a dual-open row, a hasty decision to sit there can leave a man feeling overcome with remorse merely seconds later) comes a person whom it is unlikeable to sit next to. Perhaps he has a particularly pungent body odour. Perhaps he insists on using his phone. Perhaps he talks to you. I can only speculate on these matters.

Being as you are a person of class, it's too late to back out without being rude. The second you step into that row you are committed to a brief fling of a relationship with whomever you end up paired next to.

Speaking from personal experience, I was seated next to what I like to affectionately term a Querier, and in my less fond moments, describe as a shaved gibbon foolishly let into a class.

You know the type, of course, and it seems pointless and needless of me to elaborate, but for those of us who have not had the honour and privilege of having someone relentlessly interrupt a riveting lecture (In my particular example, Relativity and the effects it has. Your lectures may vary) with their self-involved "Look how clever I am" questions. They're mainly rhetorical, with an overarching theme of "I'm really trying hard and I'm clever!" which is almost specifically designed to make me go back to my flat with a sense of burning passion to undeniably thump him in the final exams, to serve him right for being such a brown-noser.

As it was, of course, the Querier usually sits at the front, so I felt relatively safe sitting as far away as possible from his usual location as I physically could without being dreadfully rude and sitting like a leper in the corner. Sadly, however, he sat next to me, and, being as I was fully-connected with the seat, to back out at such a late stage would have been nothing short of a social faux pas on a par with eating with your fork in your right hand. Perhaps even worse, as if such a thing is imaginable.

Then, as if such a thing would have even crossed your mind, he spent the majority of the lecture pretending he had friends by texting. "Dear Mum...", I imagine they all begin. To relieve the tedium of texting his mum with updates, he asked pointless questions (Largely about the Doppler effect with regard to light. The excitement got to me too.) and shuffled awkwardly in his seat, frustrating me to a degree.

However, the final coup de grace came only at the end of the lecture, when, whilst packing up, he asked me to move to allow him past. "Excuse me, could I please get out?" was precisely what he did not say. "Man," he opened, and my teeth ground gently. "Could I just squeeze past?" he muttered as his final pointless question. It was only with the greatest of self-restraint I found myself letting him past instead of shouting "You sat next to ME, you horrendous man." at him.

Anyways, I hope this tale of woe guides you in your seat choices. I know for certain I shan't risk it, and I hope you can learn from my experiences.

Saturday, 11 September 2010

24 hour shopping

Since I have an almost unprecedented level of free time on my hands, now seems as good a time as any to turn my attention to 24 hour shopping. 24 hour shopping has been catering to insomniacs and the deranged as long as I can remember, so I opted to test the facilities on offer to me and go shopping at three am, because that's the kind of impulsive man I am.

Firstly, the place is eerily emptily. I felt less like a customer, and more like a half-hearted ghost haunting the place on a whim. Drifting silently through the empty aisles is a bizarrely disturbing experience. It's akin to that whole "What would you do if you were the last man on Earth?" hypothetical scenario, but instead of say, racing a trolley up and down the aisles, you just go gently mad and feel desperately alone. Still, in the interests of science, I wandered through the shop and collected my things, occasionally bumping into night-stockers, who completely ignored me (emphasising the ghost thing).

Having gathered everything I need (Beef mince and pastry; how very exotic), I trudged wearily along the checkouts till I found the one manned by the distinctly tired and disinterested woman, who idly scanned my things, but gave me a curious glance. "£3.20" she said, and with a cursory nod, I handed over the exact change (That's how I roll) and hauled my things away, leaving behind the silent, cavernous solitary isolation unit that was the 24 hour shop, the fluorescent lights combining to emit a glow of quite staggering mundaneness, lighting up the depressing pre-dawn world.

Ordinarily, this would have been the end of my little adventure, and I would have sauntered home listening to the squawking of seagulls, but on this occasion, being as it was three in the morning, I was accosted by a man who told me he had been fighting, and the police couldn't help him, and did I have 80 pence he could have. Generally, the correct response is "No. No I do not. Terribly sorry." and to continue, but since it was dark, I was catastrophically alone, and the man looked like asking for the money was merely a polite stage before getting the money by other means, I consented and generously donated 80 pence like a buffoon.

So! Shopping in the darkest and dreariest hours of the day. Highly un-recommended, unless you enjoy being completely alone in a huge, vast expanse of usually busy, but now unnervingly quiet shopping aisles, and you can budget extra money for the hazards of massive tattooed blokes asking you for it, in which case, it's ideal.

Wednesday, 11 August 2010


Beards. All the best paedophiles and serial murderers have them. Perhaps “best” is the wrong word, since it implies an air of moral authority that killings generally deprive you of. A better term, I suppose, would be “Most successful”. Obviously, I’m growing one, if only to show I don't pander to the whims of society and I am a maverick; doubtless enviable on many fronts except, it will quickly become apparent to strangers, for my ability to grow a beard.

You see, in keeping with my vaguely anachronistic life, my beard is faintly reminiscent of a late nineteenth century teenager desperately trying to emulate his father's illustrious beard, which, inevitably, wouldn't have looked out of place sitting on the face of Zeus himself. Sadly, my beard wouldn't look out of place in a news report about bodies found in a garden, but I persevere regardless with my wispy beard.

There’s good reason to persevere, though. After a certain point, you become ashamed to shave it off, as it’s almost an admission of beard failure. “I have shaved!” your clean, smooth face screams to the world at large. “I am unable to grow a beard. Pity me”. Those who saw your initial efforts will be forced to avert their gaze, and your distinct lack of beard will become an elephant in the room. Instead, I feel I have to endure it on the basis that “It’ll fill out!” and “It’s hard to see because it’s blonde”. I’m veritably a martyr to my beard now. It’s been 7 months. Months of hard beard-related work would be, literally, down the drain if I shaved.

So I haven’t shaved, and as such, I have a beard, of sorts. The whole thing is at best, patchy and asymmetric. At worst, it looks like a drunken child specially chosen for his inability to artistically create any sort of meaningful pattern has idly stapled clumps of hair to my face in the visual representation he thinks most represents chaos, only granting me the slightest of graces in ensuring I have sideburns on both sides.

And you know what? I'm glad. Because society has these weird little rules called social norms, which seem to restrict me in what I can and cannot do without appearing like an idle malingerer, or dangerously insane cretin. Fundamentally, these are good; I never think “Hey, I should go around naked!” but when society has this norm wrong, for example, when we eagerly adopt, say, a weird and obsessive addiction to celebrity culture, I cannot help but question it, much like how I started to question the association of facial hair with seedy 70s porn stars and paedophiles.

The social norm seems to be against beards, with people in positions of authority almost always being clean-shaven. In a sense, I’m taking back the beard from society’s norms, wrestling it away like the mischievous scamp I am, and giving it to the people. I am Prometheus, and the beard is my fire. Enjoy it mortals, for I am destined to be shamed at every shop visit for eternity. I’m doing this for you.

Sunday, 8 August 2010

Household Tasks

Household chores. I am not a man notably inclined towards performing these simple day to day tasks, but sometimes on the whim of the moment, I like to spontaneously perform some. My glaring failings as a human being are never more notable than during these misguided efforts to look after myself to any degree.

1. Cooking
Surprisingly, this is my strong point. I have three dishes, mostly revolving around "Brown Mince, add sauce, add vegetable/pasta", but I have yet to physically cause harm to anyone, although a brief foray into sausages could have ended badly, but fortunately, I appeared to cook everything adequately in some sort of massive cumulative fluke, not unlike a man wandering into a bookies, throwing his money on the desk and saying "Accumulator for the next five races on any horse numbered 4, please" and winning.

2. Dishes
You'll rarely find someone with so experienced a hand as mine with regards to dishwashers. I have many years of practice under my belt and am now sufficiently honed at this task that I hardly ever send the crockery spiralling towards the unforgiving tiles to their shattering demise, spreading dangerous shards across the floor like glinting desert islands illustrating my failure, isolated in a sea of my despair. Hardly ever.

3. Cleaning
Tidiness is not a trait I am well-documented to possess, but despite this, I am pretty certain of where roughly 50% of my stuff is at any one time. Sadly, inevitably, anything I ever need is in the 50% I know is "Somewhere in my room", or even more ominously, I am certain it is "Just around here". Cut to footage of me rootling around in one corner of my hovel, whilst the object I need (Or more likely, desire. At some stage, I just need to accept I have lost my copy of Pokémon red, and it's never coming back.) glints gently in a completely different part of my room. For added hilarity, the object should be wildly incongruous with it's surroundings (My red hat, for example, highlighted against my distinctly blue walls) and should be directly behind me.

4. hoovering
Another strength provided I avoid stairs, which leave me so flummoxed I can only stare in bewilderment, with a blank middle-distance gaze. whilst hoovering, I hate stairs even more than the Daleks hate them, and they really hate stairs.

5. Bedmaking
This is my biggest failing. I recently returned from a camping holiday (Where I visited the delightful Cumberland Pencil Museum, all 3 rooms of it! I've seen the world's largest pencil. That's not a euphemism.) and, reasonably tired, attempted to make my own bed. All it involved was putting on a sheet. I eventually managed to do it, but the end result looked like it belonged in a collection of photographs from an early 60s experiment into training gibbons to perform basic household chores to free up housewives' time. Next to a picture of a gibbon standing between a pile of shattered dishes and a pile of excrement-covered laundry would be a photo of my bed (But it'd be in a surprisingly well hoovered room. Gibbons look like they'd take hoovering seriously). Any video footage of me making my bed wouldn't look out of place in a documentary about the heartbreaking effects of oxygen deprivation.

A round up of my total inability to perform even the basic of tasks and which surely document my inevitable slide towards living in what can only be described as a disgusting hovel. Still, onwards and upwards, eh?

Thursday, 29 July 2010

Penguin Island

I sat down this morning with a heady mix of excitement and delirium, as I had just received news of a television show. Now, I didn’t have anything other than the title to go on, so I frantically searched iPlayer while idly imagining what the show would entail. After all, a name like Penguin Island inspires this in any reasonable, right-thinking man.

Disappointingly, however, Penguin Island, is not, as the name suggests, a blatant rip-off of the Orwell classic, Animal Farm, except this time with Penguins and a complex allegory about the pitfalls of a capitalist society, with Gordon Brown played by a penguin named Scott, Lehman Brothers bank played by a group of daredevil risk-taking penguins named, as a troupe, The Wings, and society’s gradual demise and collapse represented by the slow melting of the icecaps. Nor is it, in fact, a brief Batman-based spin-off, finally giving Penguin his own television show with an island he has bought with his copious amounts of crime money, only to be foiled by Batman in his plans to hold Russian missiles just off the coast of America (Oh, a Cuban missile crisis joke? How topical am I?). It is, sadly, neither of these things, and is in actuality, a show about penguins. Who live on an island. Tell me if you can’t follow this.

Anyways, the very precisely and teutonically accurately named Penguin Island is ostensibly a show about penguins, but to be honest, it’s taken the Meerkat Manor (Remember those heady days of television greatness?) approach, and turned it to penguins. So it’s a curious penguin-based soap opera as narrated by Rolf Harris, who is casually sidling in to sully David Attenborough’s unmatched excellence (And by extension, the BBC’s Natural History unit) with his voiceovers.

It features a star-studded cast, of Rocky, a typical telegenic penguin. And Spike, who is near identical. And Bluey, who is also pretty similar. And Sheila, a doppelganger for EVERY OTHER PENGUIN. Seriously, if you’re not a pretty serious devotee of penguins like Marg, who looks after the orphaned penguins and tells them apart by name (“Every penguin I’ve ever met has a different character, heehee”), you will just have to trust Rolf Harris’ voiceover. Which, being as it’s Rolf Harris, I would trust less than the Yorkshire Ripper upon finding him in a specialist hammer shop going “I’ll need four. I’m going to do a lot of…nailing”.

So we see Spike have sex with Tash. And then Tash, filthy little penguin slag that she is, runs off to frolic with Rocky. A fight ensues between Rocky and Spike, and after a certain point Tash comes out and starts hitting them both. This could only be more British if a bloke called Brian was holding Rocky back going “Leave ‘im Rocky! He ain’t wurf it!” They couldn’t make the show more like a soap opera if they revealed one of the penguins was an alcoholic mate-beating penguin.

This is a soap opera masquerading as a documentary, much like the penguin is a bird masquerading as a fish. However, while the penguin pulls this off with admirable aplomb, the docu-soap is atrocious.

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Another simplistic joke

I saw a stationery coup the other day. Apparently they were going to overthrow the ruler. Of course, with a coup, there's no margin for error.

Shush, I'm funny, okay. I get it, you're laughing WITH me. Good.

Thursday, 15 July 2010

Victorian Pharmacy

In a week dominated by the past in the form of a Take That reunion which finally incorporated Robbie Williams, you may remember, between tear-soaked heartbreak of Take That's initial collapse, and the pure ecstacy they surely brought to your life, that in the dark and distant past, I wrote about the spectacular "Victorian Farm Christmas". Well, if you're sitting there eager with delight, going "I love that show, but I'm not sure how much more we can examine the farming process from the Victorian era, having covered hay to the fullest possible extent", I have some tremendous news for you! There's a spin-off show, "Victorian Farm..acy", about, surprisingly, a Victorian Pharmacy.

This show follows the adventures of, and I fear you may have leapt ahead of me and worked out what this is already, but in the interests of stragglers, I'll continue. It's about a Victorian pharmacy, opened by Patrick Stewart lookalike and sometime television presenter Professor of pharmacology, Nick Barber, and his able and willing assistant, Tom Quick. Also featuring loosely is someone called Ruth, whom, I must admit, I took a pretty bitter dislike to after about ten seconds, pretty much solely for her love of inane chitter chatter. Thus, I spent the whole show making callous jokes about her appearance to myself, but people in glass houses shouldn't throw stones and all that malarkey. But you're pondering to yourself, pontificating as follows, no doubt "The name Ruth rings a very faint bell somewhere in the deepest recesses of my nightmares. Ruth...Ruth...Good LORD!" you exclaim internally, only letting a single gasp indicate your true emotion to the world at large. "Could this be the very same Ruth from the initial Victorian Farm, brought in to make the change utterly seamless?" you doubtless wonder. Well, I have some simply stellar news for you, curiously avid Ruth-fans, she's back!

I jest, of course, there's no way you could possibly remember Ruth from that long ago, but perhaps, just PERHAPS, you're thinking "What I really loved about Victorian Farm was that everyone, regardless of location or pifflingly tiny role in the show, was fully clad in period dress. I think the show as a whole would suffer if they were to even let the facade that this were not reality fall for even the briefest of moments, and the magical element of suspense would surely have been cast asunder like a wax-plaster stuck to an elderly gentleman's chest". You may possibly be reminiscing about those great times of elaborate outfits. Luckily, they're still consistently in place, so you may stop reminiscing and savour their glory in televisual magnificence once more.

Anyways, onto the actual documentary element of the show, which seemed to focus on "Person A comes into shop exhibiting symptoms. Pharmacist recommends treatment, but then says "We can't use that, obviously, because it has opium in it". Interesting alternative treatment is made up on camera. It is given to the patient. The patient is then largely unhealed at the end of the show.", which was repeated for four people, all with varying degrees of cough. What I really ended up with in terms of knowledge from the show was "Victorians all had coughs, and as a cure, they all took opium. Also, they thought cold water was good for you".

That said, I alarmingly really enjoyed it. Perhaps it was Ruth having cold water poured down her back by a delightfully malicious old man, who was practically giggling as he did it. Maybe it was the vague seeping in of weird little facts and knowledge (Worcester Sauce is fermented and was initially a medicine, for example) that I now have in my head for Victorian-era medicine based dinner party anecdotes. "That's a funny story about Leeches, Dave, but you know they were used as medicine in the 19th century? So was Worcester sauce! No, really!" and, from there, inevitably, the dinner party is a roaring success.

Anyways, drink from the bowl of documentaries. It might taste horrible, but unlike most of the medicines on display in the show, it really is good for you.

Tuesday, 13 July 2010


All caterpillars start out on the straight and narrow, but fall into bad ways and develop a cocoon habit.

A great pun for David Attenborough to use in his next documentary, no doubt. Okay, fine, I like it though, so he can take it or leave it. Probably leave it to be honest. It's up to you, David (I assume he searches the internet for puns based around possibly feature animals. He's got to think outside the fox. Another one for him.

Monday, 28 June 2010

Another one

My friend is allergic to whipped cream, so when I saw him get some double cream out the fridge I went "Brian, no, don't whisk it!".

Not very good. Seemed funnier in my head. Enjoy.

P.S. This didn't actually happen. I don't even know anyone called Brian, that's a pretty specific allergy, and besides, Brian would have an Epi-pen on his person, or I literally could not be friends with him on the constant assumption he would inevitably consume a huge amount of Whipped cream and go "My Epi-pen, no, I left it at home, where I'm least likely to eat whipped cream! I'm a fool!" and I would have to watch this. It would suck for me.

Another little pun

When I started this, there were little puns. They have gone out of favour, but they're back with a cracker today.

I had an ice cream and the world ended. Damn Apocalypsos.

That is all. Begone with you.

Sunday, 27 June 2010

World Cup

Despite struggling through a chest infection almost specifically designed to make consumption-sufferers look like unrelenting pansies, I managed to drag my phlegm-coated carcass to a television screen to watch a football game. Boy, am I glad I did!

You see, the game I watched was England-Germany, a feud dating back from some World Wars. Sadly though, Germany are much more competent at football than they are at global domination, so this game was all set to be a rout.

England came into this game on the back of a disappointing draw with Algeria and a barely acceptable win over Slovenia (A country with a population of 2 million, near enough, which makes it about 30% of Greater London's population, so the playing group to pick from was about level), so expectations were high. After all, England didn't do well in the group in 1966 (Just had to google that to check it was right, after all, we literally never hear anything about it), and they still won it.

After the Algeria game, the England team were booed off the park. Rooney responded to the cameras, rather petulantly, "Nice to see your own fans booing you", which deserves, obviously the rebuttal, "If you weren't so crap, they wouldn't boo you off the pitch", but no-one offered it, because he's clearly making big steps with his grammar, and no-one wanted to knock him back.

Rooney was unimaginably appalling. If only he was as good at football as the adverts portray him as being. He managed to go an entire World Cup campaign without scoring, which is almost impressively bad, given that Jermaine Defoe only managed to play for 22 or so minutes against Slovenia before succumbing to the urge to score.

But the responsibility for consistently playing Rooney comes to Fabio "Fab" Capello, who was so heavily stuck in his ways that if I was in South Africa, I would find him, kick him in the testicles, and say "So sure of your decision now? Or do you want to change it up at half-time? Based on your record of never changing your plan, you have 15 minutes, then I'm going to kick you in the balls again". I'm a metaphor for the German team. He is symbolising his own stupidity and the England team. I feel the kicking in the testes metaphor is so abundantly obvious, if you don't get it, you're probably thick enough to play for England. Fabio will call you soon with your shirt number and tell you where you will start every match despite the fact you are losing consistently.

But that position won't be goalkeeper, the only position about which there should have been no uncertainty, and yet there was lots. David James was the standout hero of the entire squad, and yet, his position was given over to some young whippersnapper who promptly threw the ball into his own net with delight (Great pick, Fabio).

Anyways, to the game, and with my hopes artificially raised by a media who seem curiously obsessed with the notion that England are the best at football despite the 44 years of evidence to the contrary, England promptly conceded the sloppiest goal in a World Cup Finals.

However, fortunately, this record was quickly eclipsed by the next goal, which was, incredibly, even more embarassing. I haven't felt this ashamed in the England team since Barnes' rap.

Still, I persevered, because I am a man of iron resolve, and Mark Lawrenson's commentary is hilarious ("He got a decision right? He'll be writing home to his mum" - a classic) so I was still kicking around when England got an equaliser through the ever-present offensive danger of Wayne Rooney. No wait. Sorry, it was Matthew Upson, central defender. Just the man I would expect to have a better goal-scoring record than Rooney, what with playing less minutes than him, and also being a centre-back.

The nation was imbued with a sense of hope, and then, 54 seconds later, Frank Lampard scored! And the linesman didn't see it, which is incredible, given that I saw it, and I am several thousand miles away from South Africa (Luckily for a certain England manager's testicular region), and he was only 20 or so yards away.

Obviously, I could launch into a tirade about how goal-line technology is needed, but to be honest, Sepp Blatter is an imbecile, and I have the feeling he would allow shootings on the pitch on the basis that they'd make the sport unique and wouldn't interrupt the flow. "Player down for more than 25 seconds?" he thinks, "Must be a broken leg, put him down" (Actually, that's a pretty cracking rule I wouldn't mind being brought in, although Italy's team sheet would get a little shorter.)

Anyways, second half underway, England's centre-backs poured forward in search of the equaliser, as they were the offensive threat. However, this did leave the slight problem of "Being pretty open to an attack of a countering nature" which is a mistake against Germany. They ruthlessly finished the game by scoring two more goals in about 14 nanoseconds, and that was it. 4-1.

Anyways, I have a feeling the papers will go "Well, yes, England weren't very good, but omg, referee, goal scandal!" rather than "Fabio Capello is a nonce" or, possibly, "Wayne Rooney subjected to exile: Queen utilises powers for first time in decades, in other news, John Terry seen talking to Wayne Rooney's girlfriend".

So, long and short, England were crap, as always.

P.S. In terms of technical details, if I were the England manager, which judging by the calibre of their previous incumbents, cannot be far away, I'd have played a 3-5-2 with Crouch and Defoe up front, Terry, Johnson and Cole in defence (Since we had no real centre-back options after King and Ferdinand were out) and Barry acting as the holding midfielder, with Gerrard and Lampard in the middle (Call me crazy, Fabio, but I like to play players in their positions) and then some actual wingers on the wing (I know Fabio, I'm crazy like that) like Aaron Lennon and Shaun Wright-Phillips, or possibly Joe Cole.

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Lee Nelson's Well Good Show

Are you sitting at home, thinking "I miss the classic 20th century simplistic jokes with punchlines so easy to spot I wrote them down on paper and put it in an envelope before the show started and got them all right, because I, at times, like to feel like some sort of comedy Derren Brown."? Then I have some incredible news for you! Lee Nelson's Well Good Show, aired on BBC 3, delivers all of these demands and more!

"But," I hear you introduce your list of unusual, yet oddly specific demands that would make a serial hostage-taker proud. "But I haven't had an old woman pull funny faces at me since I was, at most, two years old. I feel the absence of this factor in my otherwise idyllic life has caused me to become emotionally repressed and socially awkward!". Well, help is at hand, because this show features and old woman gurning at the audience for nearly a minute, curing you of your crippling phobias and possible impotence instantly.

The show, hotly tipped to win the coveted "Misnomer of the Year" award, famously given to Alanis Morrisette's "Ironic" in 1996 (The award's peak, of course), features Simon Brodkin as lovable cockney Lee Nelson, and also features Simon Brodkin as unrelenting irritation with stupid cockney accent, Lee Nelson. Also, there is his best friend, Omelette, a man so gargantuan in stature he thinks about little but food. Indeed, when Lee Nelson asks him "What's it time for?" he responds with "Pudding?". "Ohohoho" I chortled maniacally, and not without a goodly amount of sarcastic hatred. You see, it's funny because he's fat. I say "Funny". I use the term loosely. A better expression would actually be "Not very funny at all". But then, if we were to be as specific as that, the show might lose its "Comedy" status.

The show also has a moment where an audience member (Read "Stooge") wearing a waistcoat has to pick from 4 women and gets 5 minutes in the disabled toilet with whoever he picks. They were facing with their backs to him. Stop me if you've guessed the punchline. Oh? Already? Yeah, me too. I know, right? Who would have thought it, these 4 people masquerading as gorgeous women weren't actually gorgeous women! Two were men, one was an old woman and the other was ACTUALLY a gorgeous woman put in there to pretend she would have been, and I quote, "Well up for it", and the audience member, nick-named Stoogey McStooge was really unlucky to pick the bloke with a beard and not her. Oh, how I laughed. "How unexpected!" I managed to splutter out with gasping breaths as I giggled with uproarious laughter, the room veritably thundering with my glee.

Apart from one brief glimmer with a character, Dr Bob. Possibly the only bit I found funny, I put it down to sheer chance. Unless you're showing me a gritty real drama or, perhaps, a documentary on the ravages of worms in Africa, I'll probably laugh at something, anything, once in any given half-hour period. Credit where's it's due, that was tolerable.

Then the show took a turn for the worse, impressively. The show was already classed in my mind as "Pretty abysmal" when, suddenly it plummeted in estimation to "Hand-crafted by some demons who clearly are out to wreak havoc upon my life" (Then I saw Russell Kane was a writer, and all became clear). This, obviously, happened with "Faliraki Nights", a sketch which so soured the whole show so much, it was like they'd announced that watching it caused blindness (Some might say a blessed relief, during this sketch. That's right. This sketch was worse than blindness). It was so bad I actually complained to the BBC. Obviously it was intended with great dollops of irony poured on a culture which glorifies drinking and sex, or "Club 18-30" as is its technical name. They tackled this with all the subtlety of a channel 5 shock-doc on the boy with no fingers , or whatever. "Hey, there's a certain group of people we could parody by showing them the extremes of their lifestyle" works within the laws of good taste, and this sadly fell so far outside the boundaries of good taste that, briefly, I toyed with the notion of hurling my own shoes at the screen to make it stop, as the remote was fully 6 inches away, and that was too much time to endure of it. Fortunately, though, I blacked out for 2 or 3 minutes, and can only assume I actually died of embarassment before coming back.

This sort of thing is fine, provided it's funny. If it's hilarious, but in poor taste, I don't mind. If, however, it is appallingly unfunny and in poor taste, it amplifies the "Poor taste" thing by a factor of about 62,312. "This is meant to be funny?!" you find yourself thinking, rhetorically, because you know it is, but you can scarcely believe it. Anyone who found this section of the show funny should claim a refund for their lobotomy due to the unwanted side-effects.

Seriously, who at the BBC stood up, cutting a lone figure across the office floor, and yelled "I've got it! A solution to the disenfranchised youth population! We'll lure them back in with a comedy sketch where people race to ejaculate! That's what young people like, right?". Rather than this man being gunned down (As would be the logical thing to do), for some reason, I can only assume the entire office burst into applause. "God bless you, sir." they said with their eyes welling up with tears of joy tinged with admiration, "For you have surely saved the BBC!"

Anyways, finally, Lee's Nan, a small white woman, sings us out to MC Hammer. You see, it's funny because she's a small white woman, and not an angry black rapper. Almost as hilarious as the rest of the show.

Thursday, 10 June 2010

Grapes of Wrath

I don't mean to alarm you with some surprise literary analysis of a text that's already been so heavily critiqued that most people know of the book, without having read it. And really, that's how they should have left it. Steinbeck's greatest work, apparently. Having read both Grapes of Wrath and Of Mice and Men, I beg to differ. Caution, spoilers, but since you've had 71 years to get round to reading the book, you probably don't care about it.

In order to spare you the tragedy and weeping agony of reading the book, I have done so in uncountably many short bursts, before frustration took over and I hurled the book away in a blind rage. This book may unquestionably have been "Of its time" in 1939, but, kindly it has aged badly. Less kindly, it is more outdated than the Amish.

First of all, a note to authors. Don't actually type dialogue as it would be spoken. It makes English a confusing mess of apostrophes, surrounding lone letters deemed too important to the main word to be dropped. It is like reading a book in 1940's text-speak. There is a character called Rose of Sharon (Of course, you already knew this, you well-read audience. you were probably just waiting eagerly for me to get to specifics, weren't you? Of course you were.) who is referred to as "Rosasharn" in every speech. First off, Rose of Sharon is a stupid name, but I would forgive 1930's America for this if I didn't have to spend at least 5 minutes wondering who "Rose of Sharon" was when she was referred to in non-dialogue prose, and if she was related to Rosasharn. Just tell me they have an accent. I will imagine the accent, and you can write it properly, to avoid confusion. You're right Steinbeck, I knew they were from Oklahoma but I gave them all West Country accents in my head. Thank God you wrote it out properly, or who knows how different the book might have been! Might have been briefly interesting, and you clearly don't want that.

Secondly, John Steinbeck, accomplished author, deemed it a valiant effort to randomly insert generalised chapters into an otherwise tragic story. The few moments where the story became engrossing, a random chapter appeared telling you about a turtle's struggles (Yeah really. Tom Joad picks up the turtle, so I thought the turtle would become a complex running metaphor for the struggle of the working man, but apparently Steinbeck forgot Tom picked him up, so that was that) or perhaps, the viewpoint of a car salesman, selling cars to poor people for as much as he could get, that heartless git earning money for his family. What an utter monster.

Obviously, these chapters are great for literary analysis (Turtle - working man, etc) but they make the reading tedious at best, and downright frustrating at times. Fundamentally, the story should come first, and the surrounding overtones should come second. This book is decidedly the other way round. "Look at these poor people!" it bellows at you. "Look at their plight! Isn't it tragic?!" it hollers across the empty expanse of your brain, while you go "Well, a bit, yeah, but shouldn't there be a story here? I mean, I know they're going to California to get a job, but...but..." and then you peter out because it's a classic and, CLEARLY it must get better somewhere. It doesn't. No really. I couldn't believe it too.

It tantalises you with the idea of an uprising from the moment they get into California. The oppressed workforce in appalling living conditions who all have rifles. It couldn't yell "Uprising coming soon!" if it tried. There is a moment where they tell a tale of a town where the workers had a turkey shoot, marched through the town with their rifles, and got no bother from the cops since then. "Perhaps we should have a turkey shoot" is the speech (Written in English so you could understand it. If you want to read the real thing, look at Woodstock's speech bubbles (From Peanuts, it's not all high-brow literature in my life). Then you go "Ooooooh, uprising and story development soon!" and the Joads MOVE AWAY. Rebellion quashed, the book continues in a depressing manner.

It was at this point where I finally snapped, and began reading it to the end purely as an exercise in willpower (Akin to giving up smoking and heroin at the same time in terms of difficulty), and to show off how brutally masculine I am. "I read Grapes of Wrath by choice" should be a special sticker they give to people who have. Perhaps a certificate to stick on the wall, next to their other manly achievements, like "Has chopped down a tree with a chainsaw" and "Once repaired his own car".

I eventually made it to the end. Or at least, where the pages ran out. There was no end, the book just STOPS. Briefly, I thought I had gotten a faulty copy of the book, but apparently that really is it. It is singularly the most unrewarding book I have ever read. I think I would rather bludgeon myself to death with it than read it again. And it's so depressing, I might just do that to make a point.

Apparently this book is comprehensively studied across America by most High School students, and, oddly, I can't think of many popular American authors from the last, say, 20 years. Stephanie Meyer excepted. I could be harsh and scathing about Twilight, but I have never read it, so based on popular opinion; "ZOMG Twylyght 4 lyf".

Anyways, if you have a choice, go read Of Mice and Men instead. It is equally depressing, but at least the book is interesting enough to finish without requiring the willpower of a Grecian Adonis.