Friday, 30 December 2011

"For Normal Hair"

My shampoo has "For normal hair" written on it. This would normally be acceptable, but it sort of implies that there is such a thing as abnormal hair. I can imagine the scene now: Man walks into a chemists and says "Hi, I need some shampoo." and the woman behind the till gives him some, he looks at the packaging and goes "...Oh, no, this is for normal hair. I should have said really. My hair naturally assumes the shape of legendary English opening batsmen. Under my hat today I have Geoffrey Boycott playing a forward defensive. Yesterday it was Trescothick executing a magnificent square cut.", and the woman says "I'll see if we've got anything for that" and comes out holding a shampoo bottle that says "For hair that is NOT normal". I have a lot of time to think about these things in the bath. We also have something called Radox "Shower Therapy". I daren't use it lest I end up weeping on the floor shouting "Yes Dr Radox, I see it now, all my problems stem from my unrequited love in Primary 5! I need to let it go and be all the person I can be!". That's probably not what it does, but when it has such an ambiguous name I can never quite be certain, and why take that risk?

Tuesday, 27 December 2011


Jedward; We all know who they are, the cheeky, happy-go-lucky human equivalent of the puppy that occasionally runs into trees, and then has the temerity to look both confused and baffled by what is, to its simple mind, the sudden appearance of a 40 foot wooden pole from seemingly thin air. They are also, according to wikipedia "Proud possessors of hair so utterly magnetising it has drawn all 20% of a personality that they were born with, and sucked it directly to its magic follicles". It's fair to say that Jedward's hair is the best thing about them, which is a shame, because if you are outshone by your hair, you probably aren't very interesting. They are some sequiny clothes with hair. The only thing I could accurately tell you about them as people is that they are Irish, and so pale that, naked, they are invisible to the human eye in the Antarctic.

But we must come to the crux of the matter. I don't think it's an exaggeration to say this: Jedward have literally ruined my life. You see, all my personal and professional accomplishments, admittedly scarce and minor, lie scattered by the wayside to their unending success. My achievements have been stripped of all meaning by the knowledge that, no matter how great I am in my chosen career, I will never be as well-known as Jedward, despite their bottomless well of talentlessness. To be outstripped by greats of our time, and cast aside as sand to the winds of eternity whilst they live on, rocks of brilliantness that generations from ours will look back on in awe and respect, that is a noble thing. But to imagine that in 100 years Jedward will be better remembered than Nobel prize-winners and other luminaries of our generation? Well, by contrast, what chance do I have against the might of their captivating hair?

So why bother even trying to eclipse these gigantic planets of meaningless celebrity? My every action now is a futile gesture against their unending success in the face of millions and millions and millions of obstacles that should be holding them back. In a century they will be remembered and I shall not; in a millennium, we will all be forgotten, consigned to the books of history. They will impact more lives more heavily than I could ever hope to do. I could spend my every waking moment pursuing an impact on society as strong as theirs is, and never come anywhere near it.

My experience tells me effort and talent bring success. Logic dictates that this should be so. Yet around Jedward, this worldview is a shattered illusion, a lie invented to explain reality in a way I can understand, and I have become painfully aware of this. My new outlook on life is that silly hair and ridiculous clothing brings unimaginable success. As such, I have bought hairgel and a sequin-covered floral nightgown. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Kim Jong-Very Ill.

Well, it's been a bad year for dictators all round. North Korea is no exception, and now Kim Jong-Il has died of natural causes. The world mourns one of the greatest men of our times. Certainly, the world of golf is poorer for not having his ability to get 38-under par (11 holes in one) in it, but that is just one of many talents that the people of North Korea can no longer rely on. A prolific writer, it was said in his autobiography that he had written no fewer than 1,500 books whilst at university, but having mastered the art of prose, he turned his attention to alternative entertainment forms. He went on to write 6 operas, and became obsessed by film (Perhaps obsessed isn't quite strong enough to do justice for his love of film. He liked films so much he kidnapped a South Korean actor/director couple and made them make films until they absconded 8 years later), and apparently produced a 100-part series on the history of North Korea. In later life, having conquered everything that stood before him as a personal challenge, he had waterslides installed in his house, such that he may enjoy the relaxation of retirement. He leaves behind a legacy of an impoverished nation, cruelly misled by wild propaganda (He has reportedly convinced the people of North Korea that he can control the weather with his mood) and 5 children, one of whom will be the next to lead North Korea through another glorious 17 years of unending success.

Christmas news, now! Eastenders beat Coronation Street in the famous "Battle of the Soaps" for the hearts and minds of people who are too drunk to care what's on TV, and slightly hate adverts. Well done! Of course, the Battle of the Soaps is a long tradition, started when, in 1999, Ross Kemp smashed Ken Barlow over the head with a champagne bottle at the Baftas, leading to a ratings explosion as people were desperate to see what these shows were about. Barlow and Kemp came to a gentleman's agreement: Whichever soap got most viewers on Christmas Day god a mug engraved with "King of the Soaps" given to it by the other soap, containing the ashes of a pump handle at the Rover's Return, after an infamous poem in Hello! magazine, in which a reader mourned the death of Coronation Street, and said the Ashes would head to London. Since 2003, the real Ashes have been kept safely locked away in the BBC archives, but a replica is given to the winning soap each year.

Prince Philip has been ill, which has been bizarrely big news. The Sun went with "90 year old man in shock not-perfect condition horror!" while The Standard went with "Diana's Revenge: Philip in mortal threat after attack by Britain's best loved ghost!". Nobody seemed to consider an old man in not great condition a normal thing, somewhat irrelevant in the grand scheme of things, rather than a newsworthy headline story.

Since my last foray into writing about news, Hermain Cain has spectacularly imploded on the campaign trail for Republican nomination. Elections in America take about 30 years to complete (We're still not sure who won in 2000) so ignore the fact that a man can collapse in the election nearly a year before the vote, and focus on the brilliant things he has brought to us, including quoting the Pokemon song as something to inspire us, his flat-rate 9% tax on absolutely everything (Pointed out later to be pretty similar to SimCity) and, of course, the sex scandals. The man is single-handedly trying to capture every headline bulletin in the news at 10. He was the fore-runner before the trifling matter of him being almost catastrophically bad forced him to retire, leaving the way clear for Newt Gingrich, according to political pundits. Initially, what sort of name is "Newt"? Secondly, and perhaps more pressingly, the man is a known-philanderer and took a $1.6 million payment for doing nothing for a company (Smells a LITTLE like bribery). I shall repeat; He is the forerunner. His challengers have fallen by the wayside due to being crazy (Bachmann) then slightly less crazy, but quite stupid (Perry), being Herman Cain, with all the accompanying disasters (Cain) and worst of all "Being Mitt Romney" (Romney). Romney is realistically, the last hope of sanity in a Republican election that isn't so much littered with madness as a landfill of crazy. He is plagued by the issues of "Being a former Democrat", and "Being so wildly and unimaginably rich that all reasonable voters should find him utterly unelectable". But of course, these are republicans. There are two final candidates, the fringe Jon Huntsman, who has the worst thing possible: Good international experience due to being ambassador to China. And Ron Paul. Who is admirable in his consistency and desire to see through his libertarian ideals despite the fact states' rights went out the window as a concept sometime around 1865. He would gladly see Federal government vanish and states take precedence. His foreign policy is isolationist (Rather than invasionist). What's worst is not that his policies are dangerously bad, but rather more that they are so removed from the standard political process that people are deeply, DEEPLY disenfranchised (9% approval rating for Congress. Hitler probably ranked higher in 1940s West Europe than that) with that he may actually do quite well electorally.

That is your news. Fin.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Short Things That Are Difficult To Flesh Out

In the case of another cold winter, I have written to the BBC politely asking that News 24 and, indeed, the red button services, be dedicated to live footage and highlights of particularly slippy areas in built-up city centres. Not only is this more interesting than actual news, there could be a wonderful, post-Queen's Speech 2 hour special featuring the best falls from around the nation, for elderly relatives to fall asleep to on Christmas Day. I encourage you to do the same. Actually, scrap that idea: I've had a similar but better one: Winterwatch, like Springwatch, Bill Oddie and Kate Humble go round, set up some cameras in a town in Leicestershire or whatever, and then we get a daily round up of the best bits. I can imagine Bill going "This little old biddy is going to the shops for some cat food, we've tracked her with our cameras for several minutes now... and she's over! That was a good one! Look, she's lost her hat! Haha!" or "This young chap's nipped out for a pack of fags, but he's not properly prepared... Look out for that lamppost.".

Things that are fun: Trying to make a virtual pro in Fifa look like Nicholas Lyndhurst. I've also got a Gaddafi lookalike for "Dictators' Eleven", the safe hands of Mao in goals, Stalin organising the defensive line, Pol Pot bombing up and down the (very) left wing, Hitler out on the far right. Fidel "Goal Machine" Castro up front, sharing the line with "the Italian Steamtrain", Mussolini. General Franco at left back, with Idi Amin playing that crucial holding midfielder role. Bashar Al-Assad, creative with excuses for atrocities, creative with through balls. Attacking midfielder. Gaddafi at right back. Saddam Hussein playing centre back. Good side. Very much a side looking for world domination.

I went to McDonalds. Whilst there, the people behind me said "I'm going to drink my milkshake first." I thought "What a tedious anecdote.". It was difficult not to turn round and go "Christ, you should tell that story at parties" (I can be rather sarcastic if I'm in a bad mood). Of course, I then texted this whole terrifyingly dull anecdote to a friend. The irony was not lost on me. And now I'm telling all of you. The cycle of tediousness is complete.

Somehow, I have managed to procure a pair of socks that are uncomfortable. These feel like they've been designed for cloven-hooved mammals rather than a human. I don't know how it's possible to screw up socks, but the designers of these monstrosities have boldly succeeded in this ambition. Rubbish socks. Bah.

I've started hiccuping like my dad. It's a hiccup I've heard absolutely no-one else ever do. I'm pretty sure I've got some sort of genetic hiccup defect. It sounds like the noise I'd imagine a hippo to make when it comes up for air.

My mum has taken to playing her friends at scrabble online. Both of them will use Scrabble cheating software, to the point where it might as well be robot A v robot B. The fun bit is trying to justify the words. "Oh, glasnost? I was just thinking about the Soviet Republics under Gorbachev, and I glanced at my letters, and there it was: The period of maximum openness preceding the fall of communism. That's a bonus fifty for using all my letters", "Kakemono? It's a Japanese wall-hanging. Isn't that common knowledge?", "Ranarium? It's where I used to breed all my frogs as a kid." etc, etc.

I like it when emails say "Please find attached". It lends an element of desperation, as if the person sending the email is sitting going "Oh my god, oh my god, is it working? I really hope this works. This is a vital email. PLEASE attach!" at their screen. And yet, even now, I still do it, just on the off-chance that the recipient of my email finds it as inherently funny as I do.

I used to have a sweet holder with Hassan Nasrallah's face on it. I did always like my Pezbollah dispenser.

There you are. Those were things I liked initially, then quickly went off, until it got to the point that I couldn't be bothered fleshing them out properly to justify them as their own blog post so they are all lumped together. Think of this like the bits I cut out of regular blog postings. And a pun about a Lebanese political group. Everything you'd love to read, I'm sure. Enjoyed it? Great!

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Lenin's Schooldays

Recently I have found myself pondering the bigger questions in life: "Which of my hands do I prefer?" (The left, I find the vein pattern more aesthetically pleasing), "Name all post-war prime ministers who have 4 syllable names?" (Answer: Clement Attlee, Winston Churchill and Harold Wilson (Will also accept Anthony Eden, provided you call him "Tony", similarly Tony Blair provided you call him "Anthony")) and, most importantly "What would Lenin's schooldays have been like?".

Initially, I imagine he'd have come into school full of hope and idealism. He would arrive, and find that the class began with 2 pupils owning 85% of the pencils, and the other 24 having make do with 6 pencils between them. Immediately struck by the unfairness of this system, he would organise the 24 pupils into a workers' collective, and overthrow the traditional hierarchy of the classroom, demanding pencils for all. He would then get the most violent children in the classroom and form them into a small group designed to suppress the students, and demand that the teacher become little more than a propaganda wing, spouting his rhetoric directly into the proletariat whilst pretending to be an unbiased figure of authority.

Ultimately several of the other students would try to have Lenin wedgied, but those who opposed him would face a fierce and unknowable group that would silently stalk them and ultimately, wedgie them in retaliation. These would be some of the darkest days for freedom in Lenin's classroom until classmate Stalin took over, when they would seem like positively ebullient days of happiness and joy by contrast.

He would collapse the workers' essay-producing capabilities by paying them a pittance for their harvest of essays (which would obviously force them to give less to the collective and sell their essays on the black market in order to make ends meet), leading to a communal essay-famine that would leave people having to drop out of the class for not getting enough essays. This would be whilst he was fighting an interclass war with 2C, trying to get them to adopt his policy on pencil-sharing despite their own ambitions for the spread of pencils throughout their class, but this was ultimately part of his ideal; to have the whole school share pencils evenly. He would rebuild essay-writing capabilities with the New Essay Policy (NEP), but little Joseph would scuttle that when he came to power.

Ultimately, he would find it hard to deal with the political and economic realities of communal pencil ownership (and, indeed, the bureaucratic overhead demanded to ensure that pencils were truly shared amongst the students) and, compared to the old system, his idealistic yet almost hopelessly naive system would seem both cumbersome and complex. He would eventually leave the school, passing the baton of a system that could have worked to Stalin in 3P, but Stalin would ultimately damage this pencil-sharing collective irreparably, leading to it falling apart under Mikhail Gorbachev, the last student to lead the collective, and the only leader not in school when the collective was first formed, who would then smash the system, and allow the school to use whatever pencil-dispensation method it wanted. (There you are: Fun fact about communism in Russia, it really was a single-generational thing. Gorbachev was the only leader who was born into Communism, all the others were born pre-1917).

Ultimately this is analogy that breaks down in multiple areas, such as portraying assassination attempts through the medium of wedgies, portraying a devastating famine as some sort of dearth of essays, and is let down my general lack of knowledge about the communist era in Russia. However, like many of the world's best politicians, I do not let trifling facts stifle what I find a fundamentally agreeable idea, and so I present this to you. If you wish, you may put it on the BBC as "Little Lenin", and try to use it to teach kids 20th century history (Arguably, you should get an ACTUAL historian in to fact-check, rather than rely on quickly read Wikipedia articles and my loose understanding of Animal Farm). At worst, it is equal with Byker Grove, and significantly more enriching. Consider it!

Friday, 9 December 2011

Accidental Racism

I was doing what I always do while walking along the street, that is, obviously, rate my top 5 Popes (JP2, St Peter, St Leo, Pope-ELECT Stephen (The pope that never was) and Gregory the XII (For resigning), since you're wondering. I would include Boniface, but that's less of a name, more of a Scottish compliment). Anyways, I was so distracted, I accidentally bumped into someone while walking home. It would have been fine if I'd just done my usual thing of mumbling "Sorry", but I said loudly and confidently "I didn't see you in the dark!". This would also have been fine, but for the fact he was black. I was accidentally racist. I couldn't face saying another word in case I inadvertently lynched him, so I just left in awkward silence while he presumably thought "What the hell just happened?!". I am terrifyingly awkward at times.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Predictive Text

I have predictive text turned on on my phone. Not for any reasons of usability or speed, but in equal measure: Because I'm already used to it, and secondly, because it means I occasionally get that joyous thrill of having to insert a word the phone doesn't know. It's the biggest confidence boost you're likely to unexpectedly receive in your day to day life. "Oh, hallo!" you think (That makes it seem a little camper than it is) "The phone doesn't know this word. Logically, the fact that I have to put it in means I am using a rare word, and rarity inherently implies coolness when it comes to words.". I'm sat there typing in "satiate" thinking I'm the cleverest man ever to hold a Nokia 6303. The downside to this is once you've added a word, it stays added. This means you have to think up more and more obscure ways to describe things just to get that rush of adding a word. "How far away are you?" "About 200 cubits", for example, or desperately shoehorning the word "Gregarious" into conversation. Describing something as egregious just to type it into the phone. It's a slippery slope.

But these unexpected confidence boosts come at a price. My phone automatically places "Riot" before "Pint". I'm secretly convinced this is the reason for the London riots. Someone with a Nokia texted a friend saying "Fancy coming out for a riot? Bring along your mates." and it all got out of hand. I hope Nokia is happy with this system.

My phone will occasionally trick me, by looking like it's typing one word, then at the last letter, freaking out and switching to a totally different word. "A" "An" "Bon" "Boop" "Compr" "Conspi" "Conspir". When I type the last letter, I assume it'll go from "Conspir" to "Conspire". But it doesn't. It goes to "Comprise". Which leads to sentences in my texts like "I'll somehow comprise to die of exposure in a crowded town centre" (Jokes about me dying of exposure; just imagine the lucky people who actually who receive these texts, it's a rollercoaster of joy with me), which clearly makes no sense, and renders a somewhat amusing sentiment meaningless.

I also typed "Birmingham" (For reasons best left unknown: Perhaps I was amusing some other lucky friend of mine with a fact about canals) and accidentally typed and an extra "O" on the end. This gives you the new word "Birminghano", which I'm pretty certain is a spice deliberately made to taste like despair. I like that it clearly has a system for trying to logically guess the word though. But when I put "ed" after "Compris" you get "comprised". However, it'll allow you to keep doing this for 12 "ed"s and an e, before it goes "I don't recognise that word". Oh, you recognise comprisedededededededededededede, but comprisededededededededededededed would just be CHAOS? In the interest of science/boredom (The building block of all human advancement is boredom) I pressed a single button (Yes, my phone isn't touchscreen. I like the tactile sensation of a button, and I don't need my phone to get my emails) until it stopped giving me a suggestion just to see how long the word I could get was. Answer? "Tuvuttutuvutuvutuvutuvutuvutuvut". Rolls off the tongue.

That is my opinion on my phone's predictive text. I like it.

A Syriad of Human Rights Abuses / It's Assad State of Affairs in Syria

Syrian leader Bashar Al-Assad (I've said it before and I'll say it again, he's a poor man's Basil Fawlty, especially given that he runs Syria in roughly the same manner as I would imagine Basil would) has been on the news lately to dispel the rumours that 4000 Syrians had died. He said "No government in the world kill its people unless it's lead by a crazy person", which, on the face of it, is little more than a curious admission of insanity. This would explain his next statement of "Who said the UN is a credible institution?". It's almost like he's pre-emptively preparing his "Insanity" plea for the Hague. "Yeah, well, I AM crazy. Only a crazy person would go on TV and say that someone in his position must be crazy". Apparently the 4000 dead people are all just unlucky victims of rogue officers (That's his defence) who are over-zealous. One dead person, I could understand. Hell, even a dozen could be reasonably ascribed to bad luck. But 4000 seems a stretch too far for that logic, reasonably.

In other Dictator-that-won't-admit-it news, Vladimir Putin has been under scrutiny after protests against the ever-so-slightly rigged elections. He's blasted his critics with a 4 and a half hour question and answer session. According to his spokesperson, Putin might "reinvent himself and show the world Putin mark 2". This does not surprise me, as he is actually a robot built by the Kremlin. He will, actually, literally reinvent himself and build Putin Mark 2. Election officials at the Kremlin are probably shouting "Gentlemen! We can rebuild him! We have the technology! We have the capability to build the world's first bionic politician! Better than he was before!". Vladimir Putin is the 6 billion ruble man. This four and half hour question session was his longest ever. As if you need any more evidence that he's an improved robot.

Apparently, Japan has utilised some of the funds allocated to recovery after the tsunami to whaling. I suppose it makes sense. Where did the tsunami come from? The sea. Where do whales live? The sea. It's all adding up here against the whales. I'm personally inclined to call this rather more of a police investigation than a hunting trip. There's no accusations yet, but if those whales have nothing to hide, then they have nothing to fear. Except being harpooned, dragged onto land, and cut into bits, then sold to the public, all in the name of scientific research ("Which sauce goes best with whale flesh: A study" is due out any time now). I guess that is a legitimate whale-concern.

Economy news (The whole catastrophic meltdown thing has rather dragged on), and the IMF has decided to wade in and spread a bit of Christmas cheer! Hooray! What sort of good news do they have for us? Oh. The economic outlook is "Gloomy". Brilliant. Well, thanks for that. Apparently George Osborne has been VERY good this year, and he's sent a letter to Santa asking him if he could have a stronger economy for Christmas this year. Press reports describe him as "Hopeful but not expectant" and he also stressed just how good he was, saying "I haven't taken any cocaine with any hookers this year, unlike 1993" and giving an enthusiastic double thumbs-up. We should be out of the woods by New Years, I expect.

Weather news! Apparently, we should be prepared for snow! In winter of all times! How absurd. I was expecting 23 degree heat and glorious sunshine. Thank god the forecasters warned me, I'll have to cancel the golf game I'd scheduled for December 21st. Seriously. It's winter. It's not a cataclysmic, world-ending snow. It's as devilishly high as 4 inches in some places, apparently. Will the nation cope with this positive ice age? It's hard to tell at this early stage.

Made Up News makes a welcome return (He says, optimistically), with the news this week that David Cameron and fellow Cabinet minister George Osborne are to release a rap CD about the economy. Cameron, or as he wishes to be known now, Davey C, said to the press "One really mustn't come across as a fuddy-duddy to the electorate", before Georgie O leapt in with "Yes, and it's about the economy, so it's an educational tool more than anything". One track, "Mao Money, Mao Problems" focuses on the growing Chinese market, their strict control over their currency's value, and the effect this has had on worldwide markets. Backed by "M.C. NC" Nick Clegg, the trio hope to be more successful than Parliament's previous efforts into rap (in which Tony Blair, Tony Benn, and Tony Baldry formed "Tony! Tony! Tony!", with 1996's must-have album "Members of the House of Music"), and are aiming for chart success with "Country-House Grammar". The first single "Boom Boom Pow", a look at the driving forces of a strong military in supporting a good economy, is out on December 19th and is hoping for the Christmas number one spot.

This policy is similar to Thatcher's desire to be seen as "in touch", in which she, Geoffrey Howe, John Major and Nigel Lawson released a 3 hour prog-rock concept double-album called "Troubles" about Northern Ireland. The album was released under the band name "Iron Lady", and was followed up by the 1982 foreign policy concept "Argy Bargy", and their third and final album 1989's "Minor Miner Kerfuffle", a 75 minute single-track tape. The group split up when Nigel Lawson left to form Leftfield in 1990, with whom he still tours to this day.

And Finally (This is a new section that's not about the news, and is instead, just about my life): I heard "Friday" by Rebecca Black on Radio 4. Everything I thought I knew about the world, a relatively minor amount, has been disregarded in light of this evidence. The previously unthinkable is now, by contrast, eminently thinkable. If this can happen, what next? Monkeys learn to talk, the sun darkens and endless night falls across an uncaring Earth, the Conservatives win a majority in Scotland? I JUST DON'T KNOW ANYMORE.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

No Need to Go Russian Into Anything...

Russian election news tops the headlines today! According to some of the press, the Russian political system might be a teensy-weensy, itsy-bitsy, infinitesimally small bit corrupt. Hardly worth worrying about really. Chechnya, ruled by what some pesky fools would call a "Warlord", who promised 100% of his people would vote for Putin, had a 99.5% turnout, of which, generously, 99.48% of the vote was to Putin. It's quite one thing for a despotic maniac to promise 100% of his citizens will vote for someone, it's quite another to very nearly pull that figure off. Some tedious allegations of electoral fraud came up. Russian TV indicated turnouts of 146% in some places, but in Russia, like Zimbabwe, dead people retain the right to vote, so we can't really find it too surprising that turnout was so high. Also some ballot boxes arrived ready filled, but the deliverers probably just saw some youths and wanted to save them the inconvenience of actually going to the polling station, so let them vote there. Also, apparently some pens used invisible ink, probably just a practical joke by notorious japester Vlad "The Lad" Putin. Also, one person filmed an election officer filling in votes at his desk, but I'm pretty certain his opinion counts the same as about a thousand of the proles. Also, apparently some voters were bussed to several polling stations to vote repeatedly. But these are just a couple of minor indiscretions that every election has. To claim that there is systemic abuse just because of repeated and widespread examples of it is just foolish.

Next up, Khmer Rouge go to trial! Not Pol Pot (Figurehead of the group) given that he is dead (A difficulty for any modern day trial), but fortunately, his sidekicks are all there! Today, one said that they "were not bad people". Now, if you ever find yourself in a scenario where you say that, it does undermine your case, and maybe I'm just being picky here, it's probably just me over-analysing, but it does weaken your position of not being bad people, if you are saying that whilst on trial for genocide. I generally like to think of myself as "Not a bad person", and yet, somehow, I don't have two million dead Cambodians to explain from two years of appalling leadership. The figures just don't quite add up. I can count on 0 hands the number of times I've been on trial for genocide.

Chaos reigned in Britain for a day. It was so mad, I went to the library to hand back some books, and when I got there, it was CLOSED. Anarchy in the UK, The Sex Pistols have never sounded so right. This was a momentous turnout of a third of public sector workers on strike over pensions, which was hugely eclipsed by the biggest news story of the day: Professionally offensive man Jeremy Clarkson said something offensive. I think they were going to lead with "Footballer plays football" before this other story fell into their laps, and they couldn't turn it down. The media exploded over this, despite the fact that it was an ill-judged (and bad) joke. Curiously, though, for one of the first times ever, they managed not to be the biggest over-reactors in this scenario, with Unison angrily comparing him to Gaddafi (Pro-tip: Your argument loses validity when you compare people involved to dead dictators. Just a memo for next time) and demanding he be reported to the police (For a bad joke. What were they going to do, take away his license to lampoon?). Extraordinary.

Finally, onto a mildly silly story now. This story isn't in itself amusing, but if you look closely at the copy of FHM India's cover, you'll note that, apparently what sells lad's mags in India like hot potatoes is "7 TIPS TO ACE SNOOKER". Part of me secretly wishes British magazines had more snooker tips as cover stories. The other part of me is amused at how antiquated the concept seems. It's like a 19th century lad's mag in the UK. I wouldn't be surprised if you open it up, and there's tips on how to maintain your beard, naughty pictures of a lady's exposed ankles, and "Stories from the Frontline: My Crimean Experience" by Lord Cardigan*, with some poetry by Tennyson (He seems like a maverick poet. I bet he'd be up for it). I actually want this to exist now. It could have a section on John Wisden, "Bowler of the Century?", for his performance in the season as leading wicket-taker with 106 wickets. Perhaps a segment about the "New-fangled football: Will it catch on?". It'd be lovely. If I was born 160 years earlier, and rich, this would have happened.

*You don't need me to tell you that Cardigan was the leader of the Charge of the Light Brigade, so his experience would largely be "Got my men massacred", but to be honest, I imagine that'd be the case for most British army officers throughout the 19th century, so he's as good as any. Tennyson also wrote "Charge of the Light Brigade", the poem about the tragedy. This was a deliberate inclusion by me, but I'm putting these two facts down here so as to ensure that you can see they interweave nicely, and thus assume this is a real, December 1854 edition of whatever this magazine may be called. Perhaps "Victorian Gentleman". I've not really thought this through totally.

Anyways, that last bit clearly isn't news. But it's news-inspired. Good enough for me. That's enough. We're done here.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Social Butterfly

The expression "Social Butterfly" is one of those rare things: A metaphor in which the true meaning is obfuscated by its use. At first glance you'd think "Well, someone who is a social smoker is someone who only smokes around other smokers, so a social butterfly must be a person who briefly turns into a butterfly when around others who have undergone a similar transmogrification", and I applaud you for your ruthless application of logic, but since this is a metaphor, we can throw that out of the window.

No, "Social Butterfly" is an analogy for someone who is gregarious, and socially-adept. And as we all know, no creature better personifies the affable nature of these people than the notoriously chatty butterfly, so it really is an ideal fit for this role. Can you imagine how silly you'd sound if you described someone as, say, an "Amiable Giraffe" (The giraffe, of course, being well-regarded of his stand-offish nature and well-guarded private life)? Such nonsense could surely not be tolerated in the English language.

I, for one, am not a social butterfly. I am, at best, an awkward moth. I am trying to popularise that as the opposite of a social butterfly.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011


I've recently become an addict of cereal again. In particular, Shreddies. Here is the typical process for eating Shreddies:

Bleary-eyed, I get up, get the milk out of the fridge, come back, get a shower (If you're wondering why I do it in this order, it's because it seems that nudity isn't wildly popular as a habit in my flat. I could joke I have learnt that the hard way, but I don't want you to get the wrong impression, so just assume I divined it using careful application of my knowledge of social norms) and then hop out of the shower, feeling fresh. Then I pop on my towelled dressing-gown (I'm a man of ostentatious opulence, I cannot deny my desire for the finer things in life) and sit in it, whilst pouring my Shreddies, then my milk. This is where things start to go wrong. I cannot get the milk level right. Get the right amount for the end to still be crisp, and my first few mouthfuls are like shovelling dry weetabix into my face. Get the right amount of milk for the first few mouthfuls to be nice, and by the end of the bowl, I've ended up with some sort of wheaty pulp, like cold Shreddie-porridge. Once I've decided which of these two outcomes seems least unappealing, I pour and consume. "Delicious", I think. I then pop the bowl to the side, and go about my day (For the purposes of time, and to save you from the tedium of my actual life, feel free to imagine I'm a Soviet spy, and I spend all day trying to gather information on top level government ministers).

Then I arrive back, and look at that bowl and think "Tsk". But if my other bowl is beside it (I'm a two-bowl man. One must make cutbacks in crockery in order to afford towelled dressing-gowns) then I usually go "Oh. Bollocks", because this means I have to wash up. And something that always escapes me after I eat a bowl of Shreddies is that, as we all know, Shreddies + Milk + Time = Superglue, in fact, it is the strongest glue known to man, and is used in the construction of major structures instead of relatively weak alternatives, like rivets or welding. I swear, I'm relatively certain the Shreddie remains have chemically fused themselves to the bowl on some sort of atomic level. I might as well try to clean the carbon out of steel with soapy warm water. I have to dig out my jack-hammer to get these tiny pieces off. 40 minutes later, I've finally cleaned my bowls with a combination of power-washers and a small army of trained bowl cleaners.

Then I go to bed and look forward to the whole cycle the next. Shreddies: The bane of my life.

Surprise Jazz!

I think we, as a society, have taken jazz as far as creative licence allows us whilst sticking to the regimented and frankly old-fashioned system of having people attend shows in order to see it. It's why it gives me great pleasure to unleash the artistically-valid yet somewhat whimsical notion of "Surprise Jazz" upon the nation. Jazz is limited by the expectation that jazz will happen, and I enjoy the concept of unpredictable jazz. Consider it a live version of jazz unexpectedly coming up in "Shuffle" mode on your personal choice of media player.

Basically, across the country, small jazz groups (Quartets or quintets, maximum) carefully attire themselves in bush camouflage, and hide, unseen, behind benches in the park. Perhaps a couple of old ladies sit down to feed ducks and discuss their grandsons, and, I dunno, the latest advancements in blue-rinse technology, I don't know what little old ladies in the park talk about. Anyways, it's at this moment that the Surprise Jazz quintet strike, leaping from the bushes and playing an assortment of jazz classics (I'd open with Dave Brubeck's Take Five) to the delighted nans. They'll talk about it for weeks. "We were sitting in the park, discussing cardigan prices, when, suddenly, jazz!". You will not only brighten their day, but I'd dare say make their week. The unexpected element of the jazz will only heighten their joyous delight.

I've taken the liberty of making up several reviews from mainstream papers, this is what they might have to say about this concept:

"Bigger and more artistically daring than the early punk movement" - The Times
"Unprecedented artistic freedom playing to an unsuspecting audience gives the quartet whole new directions in which to take jazz that were previously closed to mainstream forms" - The Independent
"Immigrant music ruining our parks!" - The Daily Mail
"Conceptually brave, smashing the cultural conventions that jazz belongs in jazz clubs, this new medium opens up a whole new world to jazz, one which deserves to be fully utilised by modern jazz musicians and fans alike" - The Guardian


Sampling is the process of taking part of one song and slamming it into your song. It's considered fine to be done. Inspired by the fact that Leona Lewis has sampled Penguin Cafe Orchestra, and ruined one of my favourite songs, I think it's fair to call it "Theft". If I "sample" someone else's essay, suddenly I'm hauled up on charges of plagiarism.

It strikes of a creativity-impairment. "I can't think of my own melody.. I'll just take this one from another song". Usually a song so old that it's no longer really recognisable. Do you think MC Hammer wrote the riff for "U Can't Touch This"? You're wrong, it's from 1981's Super Freak, by Rick James. He had to sue to get some of the credit he deserved for basically writing the song. I was once listening to Talk by Coldplay, when my dad overheard it and went "Why are you listening to Kraftwerk?". I was pretty certain I wasn't. Turns out I was wrong, I was listening to the main riff from Computer Love. He dug out a tape to show me this. I'd have had no idea if he hadn't have told me, there was no indication in the song that they basically used Kraftwerk's song and added some other words. At least, according to Wikipedia, they received permission to use it.

In any other industry if you "sampled" a colleague's piece, it'd be rightly criticised for outright theft, or at best, unacknowledged borrowing. You wouldn't have a comedian use other comedian's jokes without ever mentioning it. You wouldn't have a journalist lift 200 words from an old column someone else wrote. You wouldn't get seemingly endless repeats of old TV shows pretending to be new content(Oh wait, sorry BBC, I forgot. Zing. Don't think I didn't see you play Yellowstone on BBC Four, then move it to BBC Two this year. If I watched it then, I don't want to watch it again. If I didn't watch it then, it's because I didn't want to watch it. Unless the BBC assumes I just watch documentaries by accident and assumes it has to put them in the place I'm most likely to trip over them).

I wouldn't have recognised Leona Lewis as having thieved Penguin Cafe Orchestra if I didn't already know and like the original song, which is slightly obscure. I'd have thought "My, Leona Lewis knows how to write a good song! That does surprise me.", but instead I'm thinking "My, Leona Lewis knows how to ruin a good song! That doesn't surprise me.". I had to listen to the song (Pity me) to find out it's just the main riff from Perpetuum Mobile (Released in 1987), repeated, over a thudding, jarring drum beat (Not in the original song because it ruins it), with some singing over the top. And occasionally an aggressively annoying bass line. Enjoy.

Wallpapering Leagues

Wallpapering league. Like football league, but for wallpapering. “Oh my God, you see the way he did that corner?! Right on the seam! Unbelievable". Kids wallpapering in the streets. Mums saying "Tim! How many times have I told you not to wallpaper in the hall?!" Lads down pubs, saying "What do you think of the new Melchester lad?" "Struggles a bit on fiddly banisters, but he's got potential. Good work on the open walls, really knows his way around a standard corner."

You'd get some classic commentary from decorating league icons Handy Andy and Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen on Sky Sports:
"What do you think of the Brighton laddering formation?"
"Risky strategy, but it's a bold one. you wouldn't expect to see a double ladder plan this early on in the papering, but it gives them an advantage if it's executed well.... Oh and that one's come straight from the training stairwell! Brilliantly done!"
"Oh, and look at that, he's got paste on the skirting! He'll have to clear that up, he won't be happy with that. And you can see the manager's livid on the sidelines! Unbelievable! A man of his wallpapering calibre making such a simple mistake! Is he losing it? Oh, he's tried to fold an embossed roll! It's all going wrong here for Brighton!"

Offices would arrange fantasy pasting leagues, chatting to each other about that weekend's results."I can't believe the Doncaster Decorators beat the Tyneside Trimmers! Everyone thought that the Decorators would go down this year!", picking their favourite players and saying to each other "Picking the Dutch Master Van der Stroom for an away tie on a fiddly stairwell? What were you thinking!?".

I've just picked up the advertising pamphlet for EA Sports Wallpapering 2012, which promises all the biggest name stars from the English Wallpapering Premiership, the Italian Lega Tappezzeria, the German Tapeteliga and the Scottish Decorating Division 1. It also promises a whole new method and dynamic as you control your multi-millionaire decorators against some of the biggest wallpapering sides in Europe, and manage your team to the very highest level. With a whole new pasting-table mechanic that promises to deliver more realistic coverage of paste, and additional brush coverage controls, this is the best Wallpapering simulator ever! Create your own character and work your way up from reserve side at your favourite club, say, the Preston Pasters, or the Wigan Wallpaperers, to become the best decorator in Europe. And an all-new Manager mode that allows you to train your decorators in your own, specially designed hallway set-pieces makes sure this is an unmissable addition to any wallpapering fan's game collection!

Saturday, 12 November 2011

A Man, Stalling

Today was a day unlike any other, a day that will go down in the annals of time for all eternity. For on this day, a man stalled in such a catastrophic fashion as to make me evaluate my entire life.

First, let me set the scene, paint you a delicate watercolour of the events, if you will. The location was a local road, relatively major. I had just crossed onto the central island, and cursed fate as I saw the lights had turned to green. Little did I know this was actually the gods offering me a chance to witness the brilliance, for had I crossed, I surely would have missed it.

Scene suitably set (And alliteration duly implemented), let me tell you of the events the unfolded before my very eyes. The lights turned to green, and the small queue moved, the first two cars shot casually through the lights, but the third, the third car, a white Vauxhall Astra, was stationary. Upon realising this, the driver panicked. The pressure got to him, and the stares of a few passers-by set his nerves on edge. He stalled. He's abandoned, a lone car, miles from the lights, holding up the entire world behind him. The tension is palpable. What was a couple of pedestrians staring innocently becomes a small crowd, watching, ogling, gawking. He nervously starts the car under our shared gaze. There has never been a more high-profile car start in the entire city's history. He tries to find the biting point. The engine revs wildly, but he can't handle the power of the mighty Astra. He judders to a halt again. Entire empires have risen and fallen in the time it has taken this man to leave away from the lights. He tries a third time. He gets a clean start this time. He, and only he, gets through the lights.

The crowd cheers. I am moved to tears by the witnessing of this man's heroic struggle to move his car in the face of such unrelenting adversity, and from that moment on vow to live my life as he does. The crowd are aware we have witnessed something magical, and all bask in our shared joy of this moment, smiling at eachother as we cross the road. Before this happened, happiness was just a word to me, but now, I have known the raw elation of unfettered joy, and I know what it is to live.

Monday, 7 November 2011

Energy Crisis

I've discovered the cure for the world's energy usage crisis, and the rising rates of obesity amongst western countries: cut back on central heating. In order to fully test this theory, I have decided to go without any heating for the last three days. Here is a rough outline of my diary over those three days:

10:45 pm, Day 1: Heating goes off. Curl up in bed. Lovely and toasty. Sleep, or, realistically, watch Life (With David Attenborough) until sleep overcomes me.

7:45 am Day 2: Wake up earlier than expected, due to desperate desire to urinate. Get up hurriedly and rush to the bathroom. Seconds later, regret getting up. Finish, and sprint back to bed. Cold is overwhelming. Get up 15 minutes later, and get into shower. Try and avoid as much time as possible outside. Get dressed faster than ever before. Go to Tesco, if only to steal their warmth. Buy energy food: bananas, apples and pasta.

6 pm Day 2: Have eaten considerable amounts of banana. Still not warm. Consider a third jumper.

7:20 pm Day 2: Already in bed. Have eaten enough pasta to keep me full until 2012. Consider hibernating. Reject the notion as outlandish, and rather too "Bearish".

10:00 pm Day 2: It gets even colder at night. Become convinced man is yet to invent an adjective suitable to describe the conditions. Settle for "Cold", in a deliberately understated way.

9 am Day 3: Wake up. Regret it. Get up to go to class. Get into shower. Leave sanctity of warming shower, and enter arctic wilderness that my bathroom has become. Convinced I saw a caribou. Flee pack of hunting wolves clad in towelled dressing down. I was I mean. Not the wolves. That'd be silly. But a very good camouflage in my bathroom. The cold is leading to mental degradation.

10 pm Day 3: Shivering. Begin writing this. Still haven't eaten since pasta meal. Still, bizarrely, feel full. Consider a second pair of socks in combination with my slippers. Reject the notion. Consider thermometer in order to accurately measure temperature. Laugh at the thermometers in one of my lecture halls that go from -30 Fahrenheit to +130. Giggle at this for ten to fifteen minutes. Finish this. Go to bed. Shivering replaced by a dull acceptance of the cold.

I am dedicated to seeing this through as an experiment. If I can do it, anyone can do it. I'm saving the planet. What are YOU doing?

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

The Butter Debacle

A chat I had with a friend about my thrilling life:

"I heard noises in the kitchen, so I went to investigate, and there were people in there, doing checks, but it meant I had to pretend I had gone in there for another reason, to get something. I panicked, and got out butter. I now have to sit and watch my butter slowly melt until they leave, or have a bread and butter slice I don't REALLY want. This is the sort of hectic activity my day entails."

"'Oh, sorry, I was just wondering what the noise was'?!"

"I'll quote the original text. "I panicked". Now, if you'd presented the scenario to me again, and said "How are you going to handle this?" I'd do what you recommended above. But at the time, my brain shifted from "Helpful" to "Panic mode". I'd overheard someone saying "I really like the smell of butter, is that a crime?!" earlier today, so butter leapt to my mind. I announced "Just, uh, just getting some butter." to the assembled crowd in the kitchen, who stared at me in silence till I got the butter out. I then gestured at the butter, as if to go "See? Butter!" in the hope this would break the tension. I shall admit now, it failed spectacularly in this regard. I don't imagine that could have gone more awkwardly."

Thrilling conclusion: I had to put the butter back, the people were still in the kitchen. In my naivete, I tried the "Gesture at butter" move again. I even threw in an eyebrow raise (Suggesting "Butter, eh? Tsk!"). In case anyone wasn't thinking I was mental, my mouth opened without me knowing about it and the words "Just putting the butter back. I like butter." had tripped out of my mouth. Aggressively bland and stupidly inane. I stopped myself, but I could feel an "mmmmm" about to come out too, so at least I salvaged something.


"Have you ever seen a royal box at the theatre?"
"No, but I once saw Princess Anne go 4 rounds with Barry McGuigan in a Leicester bar."

I was a pretty famous silent performer for a while, but I had to give it up. Didn't want to hog the mimelight.

I saw a vulture playing with some sort of meat puppet. Must have been a carrionette.

Another bird one, I saw a man killing hundreds of seabirds on his lawn. Well, it was an albatrossity.

Obscureish music references now. Cypress Hill have recorded a political biography of Iraq's longest serving leader. It's called "Hussein in the Membrane". As part of the album, they've also recorded "Blair De Loon", a new remix of Clair de Lune, which pokes fun at Blair's record as Prime Minister, and "Bush It", which, as you don't need me to tell you, is a new take on Salt-N-Pepa's classic seminal hit, obviously aimed at George W Bush. Should be good, I'm looking forward to it. Since we're on the topic of music, this isn't a pun as such, but I'm beginning to suspect Sir Mix-a-lot and Lady Gaga haven't ACTUALLY been knighted.

I'm opening a travel agents/fish and chips shop. I'm calling it "Going Plaices". That or an Elvis Presley themed Travelodge with it's own small race-track underneath, called "Kartbrake Hotel".

Where do letters go to worship God? Commanion. Except the letter K. He's too busy running a protection bracket. I got given a date rape drug in my mail this week. It was apostroofie. Apostrophe? A post roofie? "Date Rape drug" is just a roofiemism. Euphemism? Christ, this is harder than I thought. I met up with my relative Miss O'Nim. She's a bit of a black sheep, completely the opposite of the rest of us. Aunt O'Nim, we call her. Go easy on me, I've got irritable vowel syndrome. I'm trying to fix it with my diet, I'm becoming a verbivore.

[Caution: Not a pun] If I ever have kids, I'm going to leave cryptic messages written in child's handwriting for them to find in later life and be completely baffled and confused by. Ideally, they'd ask me "What do you think this means? I found it in my room when I was clearing it out. It... It looks like I wanted to overthrow capitalism aged 7. Was I displaying communist tendencies then?" and I'd say "well, when we played snooker, you did refuse to break up the reds, declared the black fundamentally wrong for being so high value, then demanded we make every ball worth the same".
Alternative endings to that include "Whenever we played chess, you demanded that the pawns stop infighting, unite, and overthrow an outdated political elite that ruled them. We had to stop playing with kings and queens. You didn't like chess much."

"You hated monopoly, repeatedly shouting "All property is theft!" and when I charged you rent for landing on my square, you demanded the other players work with you against me. We had to make all the land publicly owned, in the centre of the board. It was a bureaucratic nightmare, but you seemed to enjoy it."

Apparently they're going to swap the hour and minute hands from small and big, respectively, to the alternative (ie, big and small, respectively). All I can say to that is "Not on my watch!".

Extreme tidying, it's the new craze sweeping the nation. Buster "the Duster" Johnson is brushing aside his competitors and mopping the floor with them. He's really cleaning up in the leagues.



Hallowe'en is fast approaching. What I like about it (The only thing I like about it) is that it immediately divides everyone into "Is prepared to dress up" and "Won't dress up". I am very much in the latter, and my plan is to make fun of people who think it'll be fun to go out as the archetypal slutty nurse, Florence Nightingale, or early 20th century ace president, William Taft, with bitter comments, which they'll be too busy having fun to notice. Worst, though, I can see a pumpkin in our kitchen, which suggests that a flatmate is actively encouraging people to get into the "Hallowe'en spirit". I am to Hallowe'en what Scrooge was to Christmas, without the ultimate redemption of the changing dreams. Bah, humbug.

Of course, sometimes with costumes, they represent a deeper or more intangible point than the mere costume being worn. "What are you dressed as?" "I'm dressed as the cutbacks to an already stretched NHS." "Are you sure you didn't accidentally pick up the skimpy nurse costume?" "Oi! The lack of length in this skirt is a METAPHOR, alright, and my eyes are up here! Pervert."

Or occasionally they're a deliberate attempt to be ironic, which is intended to be cool, but almost always comes off as incredibly annoying. That includes the gem "What are you dressed as?" "The guy who doesn't dress up for Hallowe'en" "Oh, haha, you're so VERY clever. Was the shop all out of 'someone who isn't an unrepentant arsehole?'".

As a final Hallowe'en gesture, I'm going to include a concise list of people I'm not expecting to see people dressed up as this Hallowe'en:

1980s darts sensation Bobby George.
Governor of the Bank of England Mervyn King.
5th century BC "Father of History" Herodotus.
1980s Australian cricketer Mervyn Hughes.
The last Pope to have resigned, 15th century sex-symbol Pope Gregory XII.
19th century British Prime Minister Spencer Perceval.
James Brudenell, who, as you don't need to tell me, was the 7th Earl of Cardigan, famed for leading the Charge of the Light Brigade.
Only president to have served non-consecutive terms in the US, Grover Cleveland.

I could go on. But for your sake, I shan't.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Clearing out Fail Farm

The biggest news on the lips of the nation: Dale Farm "travellers" have been evicted! The last time an eviction was this big in the news, Big Brother was still popular and relevant (A far cry from our modern times). Yes, the travelling folk who meticulous set up full-time homes that weren't going anywhere (It's good to know I can randomly ascribe myself qualities I don't possess if they're in my heritage at some stage. On that basis, I'm a God-fearing war-mongerer, and probably addicted to opiates too. My relatives were surely alive in 19th century Britain), have been evicted from their illegally occupied land. This is just a warm-up for Britain's police force, as we plan to evict Israel from their slightly illegally occupied territories too. Consider it a pre-season friendly for the force, get to work together again, competitive fixture with no risk of failure. It couldn't go wrong. The residents soon staged a mass walk-out in protest at being made to, uh, walk out, in a bizarre twist. They've been there 10 years and sort of walked out after the police stormed the place going "If you wanted us out, you only had to ask! Tsk. We don't want to make trouble. You silly people.".

Sticking with surprising evictions having an inevitable conclusion, Libya's ex-leader Gaddafi is now dead. France said "It's an end to 40 years of tyranny" conveniently forgetting to add "Which we just stood by and watched for decades because Gaddafi was a politically expedient leader, despite his close ties with terrorism.". Britain's PM, Cameron said "I think today is a day to remember all of Colonel Gaddafi's victims" carefully not adding "Which we as a nation forgot when Tony Blair was the first major world leader to endorse him, and hung out with him, signing neato oil deals.". Of course, like all good tyrants (To take Alain Juppe's use of "Tyranny") we, that is to say, Britain and France, supplied him with weapons deals for decades. What Cameron meant to say was "This is a day for conveniently forgetting our roles in the rise and maintenance of Gaddafi, and instead remembering that we helped bring him down! Can we help the National Transitional Council, perhaps by selling you arms or buying oil?". Of course, this death was inevitable, like the sun coming up, or Britain exporting arms to people who eventually use them on their own citizens. There would have been no sense of conclusion without it, and there's nothing worse than an unfinished civil war. Of course, we're totally helping out nations under tyranny. So we're solving North Korea, right guys? No? Well, Zimbabwe? No? We must be too busy with Iran then? No? But only because we're stopping off and sorting out Syria first, right? No? Huh. I guess we're nothing better than despicable hypocrites who make politically expedient moves and claim we did it because it was "right", whilst letting the world do what is pretty obviously wrong right in front of our faces. Brilliant.

Side note: I don't want to suggest I'm bad at picking a fantasy team, but when I picked my fantasy dictator team, I went for experienced, old hands who would rake in the points, and then Mubarak goes and retires, ruining my strike force, and from nowhere, Gaddafi's out for the rest of the season with a niggling death wound he picked up in a pre-season friendly against his own citizens. Not to mention the surprise move by Ben Ali. I'm pinning my hopes on Bashar al-Assad (Captain) and Ahmadinejad (Vice-captain).

In other news, people in America and Britain have gathered in order to protest.. uh, stuff. In general. Some of the stuff they're complaining about includes fiscally irresponsible behaviour by banks, which were let off the hook from both regulation and having to be responsible for their own failures. Also complaining about the corporate influence in modern politics (For £50,000, you can spend the night with David Cameron, and talk to him. It's easy to make the lewd comparisons to him being a high-class prostitute, obviously, but I'm better than that. I'm sure campaign donations to large political leaders in America is equally shady, possibly even more so thanks to corporations being people, and political donations being free speech, bizarrely), which seems reasonable enough to me. "We'll give you, the man who is supposed to be impartially deciding the rules of the nation, loads of money in exchange for time spent telling you what we would simply love it if you did. We may do this fairly frequently if it gets results." has the ring of untrustworthiness to it. Far be it from me to suggest giving politicians thousands of pounds would influence their decision-making, I'm merely saying it MIGHT. Protests thus far have been met in New York with the tiniest smidge of police brutality, and widespread condemnation at the fact that these people "Look funny" and "Don't have a cohesive message", despite the fact that the majority of Americans agree with the general thrust of the message which is "The American Dream is dead, and American Politics killed it". "Work hard, do your bit, and one day you could have YOUR retirement plan generously donated to global banks because of their shortcomings!" seems to be the gist of their social security system just now.

There's been a Greek general strike. Obvious jokes at the ready: "How did anyone notice?" and "What did they do differently?" and "Didn't that start around 440 BC with the release of Histories by Herodotus?". This is in protest at the aggressive austerity measures enforced in the face of their somewhat laid-back lifestyle (Retirement age of 61, the minor issue of not really paying the taxes they owe, etc). I sincerely doubt the strikes will cause Greece to go "Fine, let's go bankrupt! THAT'S a good idea! Jeez. For the country that invented democracy, we're not very good at it.". The Greek finance minister must be spending his days alternately hiding beneath his desk and telling his secretary to clear his appointments, and weeping in a therapist's office, saying "It all started when I was a boy, and I bought toys with money I didn't really have, on credit! You're right!".

That's enough news. We're done here.

Monday, 10 October 2011

LibDems are a lot like a First Love (Part 2)

The LibDems are a lot like first love. But there's always got to be a point where it all goes wrong. Where you're left wondering "What did I do? What could I have done better?". You've built up an identity around being a LibDem voter. All of a sudden, with a few injudicious choices that's not an option anymore. Sure it's fair to say there's blame on both sides. Did you really do everything you could do to be a better LibDem? Did they really do everything they could do to keep you voting LibDem? It's hard to say.

You start by looking at yourself, blaming yourself. "I could have done more. She let me down because I didn't give her any choices. I was a terrible party-voter.", but you soon snap out of it. You switch to denial. "She'll come back. She can't go on without me. It'll be fine. I'll be a better voter this time. I can change.", but after a bit of time has passed, it switches to anger. "She sold me out! I can't believe that two-faced cow of a political party! She said she loved me! She was just paying me lip-service! She was just using me! she's used people before me and she'll go on using people after me. I don't need her anyways!". Then you go to the classic third stage of grief: Bargaining. "I'll take her back if she repeals the Digital Economy Act. I'm sure she will. I can trust her if she does. Who cares about Tuition Fees? Everyone makes mistakes. She fell in with a bad crowd, what could she have done?".

Then you switch to depression. You wake up every morning thinking "God, I wish there was a political party that truly represented the best interests of me and the common man. Goddamn it!" and then roll over. They dominate your waking moments, the loss you feel. You've always identified yourself as a LibDem voter. What are you now? Just a floating voter? Back on the political market? You go out to political rallies, trying to see if another party will catch your eye, but you don't really feel it. There's only one party for you in your heart. The LibDems. But that's not an option anymore.

Eventually you arrive at acceptance. This is the stage where you write annoying blog posts comparing a seemingly meaningless political mishap to the genuine heartbreak of a relationship ending. You know that, perhaps, political monogamy isn't for you just yet, it's maybe too soon for you to be settling down with a political party for the rest of your life. You're still young. Perhaps there will be a time when, a few years from now, you bump into the LibDems at a news broadcast held by your mutual friend. You say to each other "You look well.", and there's still a little spark there. Time heals all wounds, and you begin to see the saucy glint in her that says "I'm as left wing as you're going to get from mainstream parties", and the chemistry flows. You've both grown up a little. Perhaps there's still a chance for the LibDems in your heart.

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Dead Baby Jokes

Hi. This is a public service announcement. It's about Dead Baby Jokes. You know what I mean. Here's an example. I googled "Best Dead Baby Joke", got redirected to a site DEDICATED to them. The gem they picked out: "What's the best sound in the world? Hearing dead baby's hips crack under pressure!".

I think it's fair to say NONE of us could possibly deny the humour in this joke. It's clearly hilarious. It's the funniest thing I've heard all day, but all these dead babies don't talk much. Haha, I made one of my own. These are great!

The dead baby joke is one of society's worst inventions. It's the last refuge of people who want to sound edgy and interesting without actually being edgy or interesting. They're a joke, in the same way as anyone who tells one honestly thinking it's funny is a joke. I'll admit, comedy is very subjective, it's hard to determine what's funny and what isn't. But I think we can all agree, collectively that "Hearing dead baby's hips crack under pressure" isn't ever the punchline to a joke. If you find the idea of a dead baby's hips breaking funny, you're seriously wrong.

"But it's funny because it challenges the social norms"
"Haha, I just punched you in the face, totally unexpectedly, because it's not a social norm! Haha! You're right, this IS fun!"

Breaking a taboo with a message or even some sort of wit is fine. But this is just saying something to be offensive and get a reaction. People DO laugh, because it isn't acceptable, and they feel a frisson of excitement, but it isn't funny. The reason people have to resort to saying dead baby jokes is because they don't actually have anything interesting or edgy to say.

Prepared Edginess ©: Saying things society won't let you say™, available at all good shops.

I sincerely hope this becomes the top link on Google for "Dead Baby Jokes", so that they read this and go "Christ, he's right, I'm hiding behind this shield because I can't interact in a manner which makes me seem like the person I want to be, that is, edgy and dangerous, without relying on someone else to tell me what I should say to be outside social norms. Perhaps I should just pack it all in, and get some of my own opinions, and decide who I am, not make up a fake persona for myself derived of who I want to be clashing wildly with who I am. Some people are just normal people. I am one of those people.".

If this compels at least one person to stop telling dead baby jokes, I can consider it a success. If YOU'RE thinking about making a dead baby joke, STOP. Thanks.

A Thousand Milibands in a Band.

It was the Labour Conference! I expect you watched little else, glued as your were to your screen by an unwavering support for the left wing. Ed Miliband gave his best rendition of someone who isn't hateful (Although didn't manage to portray someone who isn't boring. His speech is below the "Public loos with views" video story. Ed Miliband is objectively less interesting than the developments in portable excretion devices). He opened with some jokes (If I ever make a political speech to an audience thousands, I think it'd be an ideal place to test out how good my scriptwriters' jokes are too), which pained me. It's a Labour conference, not the Edinburgh Fringe. Just tell me what overarching and unachievable policies you'll idly promise the nation. And what a great bunch of policies they were. Starting with "Journalists' Register", a licence for reporters. And if they misbehave, that licence gets revoked. Similar to doctors and drivers, except when they screw up, someone/some people die, whereas when a journalist screws up, either ethically or factually, they get sued for libel or criminal activities. Logic dictates that if a journalist keeps getting sued, people won't want to hire him. Still, fundamentally bizarre as an idea, seemingly put in there deliberately to garner public support after the phone hacking fiasco (Far be it from me to suggest Labour are doing things with anything other than the purest of intentions). Speaking of not doing things with the purest of intentions, Miliband attacked companies for being ruthlessly capitalist, despite the fact they don't exist to make friends, or act as a force of moral good upon the nation, they exist to accumulate wealth. Portraying them as requiring morals simply isn't fair, it's up to governments to enforce morals on them. Corporations are like toddlers, specifically toddlers who really, REALLY love biscuits. you've got to smack their hands when they steal your biscuit tin, or you'll be left going "Who's had all my custard creams!?" with a toddler covered in crumbs going "It wasn't me" with biscuits in their mouth. The Government needs to protect biscuits. If corporations were moral beings, I doubt their sole reason for existing would be the gathering of wealth.

General, non-policy points made by Miliband: Labour wants to regain the trust of the British public. They want to make this clear, because some of us might have been confused by their lies. I was personally surprised, because I expected them to try and alienate me further. (This sort of thing annoys me. It's like when all the major parties say that they're going to be tough on crime. Of course you are. You all are. But you've all got to tell me this, individually, in case I go "My god, the Tories haven't explicitly stated they're going to be tough on crime. I guess this means they're going to let murderers run riot with a chainsaw and no remorse.". Honestly, we get it, you're all very tough on crime. Let's stop babbling on about this and go to stuff you actually disagree on so that I can differentiate you, although that's increasingly hard with identikit politicians and everyone moving to a centrist-right position. We don't have to keep saying the obvious).

Factfile on Ed Miliband

Ed "The Head" Miliband was born in 1969, and went to the same school as other, more famous luminaries, N-Dubz, where he earned his nickname, for having an unusually large head. After this, he went to Oxford and studied PPE (Unusual for a British politician). Little is known of his life between this and working for the treasury, although some Labour fans speculate that he spent 40 days and 40 nights wandering alone in the desert, and that he wrote all the Spice Girls' hits under a psuedonym. Whilst working for the treasury, he was granted a twelve month sabbatical in order to teach a course at Harvard, whereupon he was granted access to then-Senator and presidential-hopeful John Kelly. Upon his return, he was made chief economist for the country. He left this post to run for parliament in Doncaster North, a place dear to his heart, as he had spent exactly no years living there before the election. After winning the safe Labour seat, he was quickly promoted into cabinet. From there, his rise to stardom has been meteoric.

Other Stories that are thankfully not Miliband related include:
The EU wants to bring in a new financial levy of one thousandth of every transaction between institutions, or one ten-thousandth on trades in derivatives. This is, of course, an unthinkable sacrifice for the poor, defenseless banking sector to make, and Britain, last bastion of hope and joy, has vowed to protect this charming little infant from such ludicrous taxes of 0.1%. Ostensibly, the fear is that, such an insane tax hike on the poverty-stricken financial sector (Which, as well we know, more than pays its way already with the current taxes it pays) will cause it to up sticks and leave the expensive, shiny buildings in London and move elsewhere. Personally, I'm pretty certain they're bluffing. HSBC repeatedly threatens to move to Hong Kong, in the face of more financial regulation (Of course, regulators are like Dementors in Harry Potter, swooping in and destroying everything banks know and love, like the ability to shove the global economy towards a cliff then go "Look out, you'll knock it off! Would you look at that. You just broke the economy. What's the world coming to when you can't leave nice things on the edge of a cliff?", and threatening to leave completely is sort of their last Patronus spell. That is a Harry Potter-tax analogy. you do not see many of them in the wild), and increased taxes ("Pay to use the services you provide by making this an ideal place to work? Are you mad. No no, we'll have none of that nonsense") which apparently makes it financially unsuitable for them to work here. I bet Somalia could lower its taxes to 0% and it wouldn't encourage HSBC to move their operations out there.

That's the news. Ish. Two stories. I'm rusty. Give it time. I'll get it back.

Sunday, 28 August 2011

The Roman Times review of the Bible

I recently found the Times from 36 AD, carrying a review of the Bible. What follows is a translation from the original Latin.

"The Bible: God (20 Denarii)
God, 3600 time Deity of the Year, turns his hand to novels in his ambitious debut piece. The 36.73 test batting average omnipotent being chose to express his first piece through a mixture of burning bushes, parables, and interpretative dance. Essentially a stage piece reworked for general consumption, this book is certainly a hefty tome, split into two portions, the "Old" testament, and the "New" testament. God's writing style is indicative of a self-indulgent piece, at one stage suggesting that every action you perform is unto the glory of himself, and whilst he attempts to sway us with a more humanity-centric second half, you sense that ultimately, the focus never shifts from the omniscient one. The Almighty seems to be resting heavily on the laurels of creating the earth, the heavens and the seas, the opening segment reading rather more like his brief memoirs than an objective viewpoint.

Initially, you're on God's side, but as the character develops, you shift against him as he unveils unimaginable wrath for seemingly minor sins. In essence, God's character is the worst flatmate in the world, silently hating you, then leaving a thousand page note outside your door with a list of dos and don'ts. "And Lo, God said, there shall be one fridge drawer left open for my things, and he saw that this was done, and that this was good.", then condemning you to an eternity in damnation for putting your milk in his section. The character shifts towards the end of the book to someone who only wants to be loved, and will love you back, but by this stage it's hard to like him. "Don't eat shellfish! What did I tell you about eating shellfish!? It's right there in Leviticus! Are you sure you read this thing cover to cover? It's SPECIFICALLY an abomination to eat anything that lives in the sea that doesn't have scales or fins. Does this crab have any fins? Scales? I don't see any! You know how I feel about this, Dan. Eternal damnation. It's the only way you'll learn.".

His son, on the other hand, is rather more likeable. The 4 time Messiah of the Year, and Middle-East Miracle Worker of the Millennium, is rather less strict with trifling sins, instead focussing on forgiveness and absolution for these things. The 26AD Ice Skater of the Year (From where he picked up his nickname, "the Water-Walker", due to his ease and casual grace out on the ice), performs miracles for fun, yet keeps his humble exterior, which is eminently more desirable than God's vicious envy. Chronicling the life and times of Jesus, the new testament is rather more parable-based, with plenty of stories for the keen reader to bear in mind whilst trying to live a better life. That being said, he's insistent that the best way to be better as a person is not to merely do good things, but to do good things for God, indicative of the author's egotism. Although, you get the sense that if you were to leave your milk in Jesus' drawer, he'd probably just say "Hey guys, try not to leave stuff in my drawer, okay? I'll let it go this time.", rather than, say, condemning you to an eternity in the bowels of hell. It's the little things that count.

Some of the book is a little far-fetched, it must be admitted. The revival of Lazarus in particular, is hard to believe, but then again, it's a pretty accurate summary of God's career in recent years. Create world, lie low, publish Bible. Jesus' comeback, too, was unexpected and hard to believe, but then I said the same of Cicero, and his last trial was a real ripsnorter, so I guess we live and learn.

All in all, a strong basis for a worldwide religion, looking forward to God's follow up, "The Crusades and Me: My role in Middle-Eastern conflicts". 4/5"

There you have it. Pretty well-received in its day, and still going strong a mere two millenia later. The Bible, everyone.

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Britain's Got Talent 2011: World's Worst Audition

I'll link you to this video, despite it being explicitly banned under the Geneva Convention as the world's most awkward thing to sit through (Along with Jim Davidson videos in an enlightened era, and video footage of Piers Morgan doing absolutely anything) in recorded history. I know what you're thinking. "How bad can it be? It's presumably a link to a Britain's Got Talent audition. At worst, it'll be mediocre.". But your confidence is misplaced, for this is no ordinary audition, this is an audition by an aspiring stand up comedienne, who's deluded herself into the frenzy of optimism required to go on this show.

Initially, it starts well. Then that dizzying 2 seconds ends, and the real nightmare begins. "What a wonderful audience". Well, she gets them onside early, a good ploy. Then she tells her first "Joke" (I had to put that in quotation marks, I tried not to, but my conscience wouldn't let me do it) and very quickly, the crowd turns from faint amusement to bafflement. "Because, I'm worth it" was possibly one of the most confusing things I've ever heard. "Still," I thought, "perhaps I'm being mean! I shall persevere.".

She launches confidently into her next "Joke", unfazed by the general audience confusion at what appeared to be, to all intents and purposes, a joke, with a delivered punchline, bar the usual funniness that comes with a joke. In the echoing silence, she drops her next bombshell of a crowd-pleaser, the line "Garlic Bread". There's nothing worse than the sound of several thousand people being quiet. I can only guess at her thought process, but it must be as follows: "I've delivered the punchline, but they're not laughing! Garlic Bread! I mean, this is GOLD! What sort of morons am I dealing with here?! They don't even laugh at the Garlic Bread line! Wait! Maybe they didn't hear me, despite them being almost eerily and unnervingly hushed, and me, armed with a microphone which is perfectly functioning. I know what I'll do! I'll say the line again. They must not have heard me. I'll say it slower too, just in case that was the problem." and out of her mouth dutifully trip the words "Garlic. Bread.".

But there was a faint air of relaxed confidence about it, which started to disturb me, and it slung the onus back on the viewer to get it. "Maybe...Maybe she's right and I'm wrong.... Maybe that IS a joke and I just can't tell... Is it? It can't be... But she's so confident! It MUST be! But it isn't! I don't know! CURSE YOU WOMAN." was my thought process. The faint ripples of laughter certainly didn't help, since they were aimed at her, but could have been people going "Oh, GARLIC BREAD! Hehehehahahoooo...".

By the time my internal monologue had wrestled itself to the conclusion that this was definitely not a joke, she'd launched cheerfully into her next joke, a classic line. It's the only one that I actually recognised as a joke. It's noticeably a joke, because it came from Peter Kay's "Live at the Manchester Arena" show. Part of me is thinking "If you're going to steal jokes, at least give them the the required context of teletext holidays. Or more realistically, if you're going to steal jokes, you might as well steal better jokes." whilst another part of me was thinking "...I suppose I should at least be thankful she told a joke.". She then gets booed off, and for some bizarre reason, swears at the audience, as if it's somehow our communal fault that she was terrible.

I could easily link this in to misplaced confidence in your own abilities, but that would leave me wildly open to scathing attacks on my writing capabilities ("Like a capybara trotted across a keyboard, and the resulting text put through a special scanner to remove anything even encroaching on witty or interesting, with the final result being what he churns out. His almost impeccable streak of talentlessness is faintly impressive." - The Times) or I could turn this on the terribleness of a joke falling flat (In my opinion, more terrifyingly hard to deal with than TB), but that would be a similar outcome ("For one so scared of jokes falling flat, his jokes are all like chords on a piano which has been specially tuned so that every note is flat by half a semitone, or like pancakes which have been placed under the heavy roller at lords before the first morning session of a difficult third test" - The Independent), but I choose to do neither of these things. I can only show you this, and hope that you recognise the terrifying world that is my existence, that I have had bad dreams about that video, and obsessed about it for months. It is not an easy life I lead, but someone has to do it.

Friday, 29 July 2011

Coop Norway

Norwegian Coop has taken down several videogames and toys that Anders Breivik may have used to become a terrorist. Brilliant. He also breathed air. Clearly, air is for TERRORISTS. I for one will NEVER BREATHE AGAIN. And if you do dare to breathe, the only logical conclusion is that you're only ever thirty seconds from minor genocide. I bet he also ate FOOD, the monster! Special TERRORIST food. I'll never eat anything he has ever eaten, and to see them on shop shelves for other terrorists to eat and train with disgusts me. What are you doing about it, Co-Op Norway!?

The worst thing is, this isn't even a Norway-wide ban. It's just a cynical, TERRIBLE attempt to garner publicity from the death of innocent children by a terrifyingly callous Norwegian company. It's a bit like a security firm advertising itself on the back of "We wouldn't let a crazed madman shoot kids on our watch! We've never had that happen at any of our events. Can our competitors say the same?", or a clock company going "Anders Breivik never used our time-keeping devices to work out when to commit atrocities. Use Watchico, exclusively not for terrorists!".

Perhaps I'm being unfair. Perhaps Coop have spent the last few years blissfully unaware that the violent videogames it sold contained the images of you shooting another person, and they've only just found out. But this thing is healthily enjoyed by a large proportion of the population, with absolutely no mass-murders, and yet Hitler grew up completely without them. It's obvious to see that insane people will do insane things, and if you keep banning things that 99.99% of people can enjoy perfectly normally, we'll end up shouting about terrorists training with sticks as rifles, and how society should protect itself against these stick-trained monsters by chopping down every tree, with, no doubt, Coop Norway saying "We refuse to sell any arboreal devices in this store, and no doubt or competitors will follow suit so as to stop terrorists, unless they are secretly supportive of it.". Correcting this isn't curing the actual problem at all, merely shifting blame onto a largely blameless third party. Surely if these games were so WILDLY engrossing he couldn't separate them from reality, he'd be halfway across Russia trying to defeat communism. And for God's sakes, he played World of Warcraft, which Coop removed from its shelves. What was he going to do with that information, dress up in a cloak, leap out and try and magic them to death?! "I use a fire spell against you! Why aren't you burning alive? Hey, does anyone know how much HP I have? I can't see my bar.".

Or perhaps it's fair to say that the videogames played no part whatsoever in the crazed acts of a right-wing lunatic, who was intent on doing this regardless of what videogames he played.

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Factipedia: Rupert Murdoch

Born in 0AD in Australia as Satan's answer to Jesus, Rupert Murdoch lay dormant until 1770, when he was discovered by James Cook in Botany Bay. He spent the years between 1770 and 1784 learning to read and write English, Dutch and, rumour has it, Klingon. In 1785, he floated across to Britain on a raft made from the shells of tortoises and hollowed out trees. On his arrival in London, he immediately founded the Times, under the alias of John Walter, and then used a variety of puppets to control the company until he felt powerful enough to use his own name, uniting all his industries (Including, by this stage in his career, News of the World, and Fox entertainment) under the overarching branches of his News Corp tree. News Corp has a 14% shortfall in its accounts every year, money that shareholders are assuming Rupert Murdoch is using to fund his own personal Death Star, complete with bottomless pit, for him to keep his money in. Rupert Murdoch has been declared illegal in Italy thanks to a confusing by-law introduced by Silvio Berlusconi. Rupert Murdoch has never been seen dancing, but legend has it he is the only person to attain a perfect score on every single song in Dance Dance Revolution, a rumour he has neither confirmed nor denied. He supported WE Gladstone in all of his election victories, with The News of the World running the headline "It was The News of the World which did win it for WE Gladstone!" in 1892, because William and Rupert shared the same middle name, Ewart, a fact Murdoch has worked incredibly hard to keep out of the public eye, but many suspect the band "REM" were named after Murdoch's initials. It's said that Rupert Murdoch personally shot Archduke Ferdinand because sales of his papers were flagging, and it's not said whether he expected the ensuing chaos, but sales of his newspaper were never higher than in 1914. In 1971, he met the love of his life, Margaret Thatcher, but just as fate giveth with one hand, he taketh away with the other, and after a disastrous one night stand, Satan told them they were both related by blood to him. That night produced the slightly satanic and quite inbred James Murdoch, although this fact was little-publicised as the press never found out about his real mother. Being a naturally poor parent, Rupert Murdoch is alleged to have used his powers to have granted life to a raggedy-anne doll that James adored, calling it Rebekah and watching it grow up with his son. When the time came, they both got jobs within his papers. Rupert Murdoch dismissed any cries of nepotism with "If it's good enough for God, it's good enough for me".

Trivia about Rupert Murdoch

He invented the flared jean, but took no credit for it, bestowing it upon the people as a gift.
He survives only on cubed pineapple and koala meat.
He once outstared Winston Churchill, in a four hour epic over the cabinet table. Both men had to have sandwiches brought in, and at one stage around 2 hours in, it looked like Murdoch had got the giggles, but he regained his composure.
He has clean bowled WG Grace and Donald Bradman, both for 0, with his tricky medium-pace off-cutters.

I'm still allowed to edit wikipedia.

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Factipedia: Rhinoceros

The Rhinoceros, briefly classified as a unicorn due to a complex filing error in taxonomy in 1994 (granting it "mythical" status in the IUCN Red List and leading to the myriad of Rhinoceros defence systems in place across the world, and also (thanks to a by-law written into the Epsom rulebooks after a horse with an unusual growth wanted to compete in the 1922 derby and had to be waved through as a unicorn) leading to "African Dreams" winning the Derby before goring a fellow contestant and being disqualified) is one of the most famous species in the world, particularly the White Rhino, regularly papped out and about in southern Africa, usually grazing on grass, or, occasionally, trying to rub the cake from inside his skin. The Rhinoceros was invented as a cruel practical joke by Pliny the Elder, who wanted to trick his son. The joke backfired, and the 84-tonne prototype went feral on the streets of Rome (Several carvings illustrate this, with one such depiction showing a skulking horn round a corner, and the caption "Rhinoceros Urbus?!") before fleeing to southern Africa via Turkey (Constantinople is veritably littered with illustrations of the "Beast of Rome"). It bred, as rhinoceroses continue to do to this day to the bemusement of the scientific community, by asexual cell division. Recent skeletons show that it was originally 412 feet tall, but that decreased over time as food scarcity increased due to overpopulation. The modern rhinoceros, whilst not as big as its impressive forebears, still holds itself at a majestic 6 feet. The rhinoceros skin is considered harder than diamond and is used to make armour-plating for tanks, whilst its bones are all made from pure graphite. Popular culture depicts rhinoceroses as being hunted for their horns, but in reality, this is a myth. They are actually hunted and killed because they contain 4 gallons of printer ink inside each animal, and thus are the world's leading source of printer ink, contributing over 99% of the world's printer ink supply. The remainder is made up of expensive substitutes, and the small amount that elephants contain. the rhinoceros spittle is, on average, 2 on the pH scale, but has been recorded as low as -1.6, and has been known dissolve rock. Rhinoceroses are also notoriously long-lived, with some being as old as 157 years old, whereupon, to the constant bafflement of science, they die instantly. No-one has ever seen a rhinoceros less than 4 months old, even whilst watching the parent figure divide, and so they are considered "Provisionally invisible" by science, and are said to form the basis of ninjas.

I am allowed to edit Wikipedia. This is a situation that cannot continue if Wikipedia is to consider itself/be considered by others as a valid source of information for important work. I stress, not all of the above facts are true.

Friday, 8 July 2011

It's the End of The (News of the) World as we know it!

Ding Dong, the witch is dead, which old witch? the terrible newspaper that blighted British society like an unwanted wart on the face of an otherwise plain but not necessarily unattractive woman! Okay, so it doesn't scan correctly, but people are singing it up and down the street here. There are people burning effigies of Rebekah Brooks (Or possibly starting a hate campaign against raggedy anne dolls, it's difficult to tell with these things) and marching across the nation. I'm going to four different street parties to celebrate. People have said "goodness, we should be mourning the death of an institution" to whom I say "Just because it was an institution doesn't make it good. Slavery was an institution." and they say "Are you honestly comparing the News of the World to slavery?!" and I say "Both are highly morally questionable but enjoyed by vast swathes of the public." and they say "...Fair point".

Of course, this isn't REALLY the end, it's just a little breather till Rupert Murdoch gets his minions together and launches "Sun on Sunday" (Expect puns galore when that starts, along the lines of "It's SUNday!" etc), ideally by shouting "FLY my pretties!" at a boardroom meeting. But still! The NotW is GONE. I feel excited. Amazing. I'd say delirious, but I don't want to go to far. I'll settle for dizzy with giddiness. Finally, Parliament and the British public tag-team to slam Murdoch. It's a shame David Cameron is so woefully ingrained in News International that he had to pull his head out of their arse to hear the shouts of anger. MPs who've previously done nothing were vitriolic in their rage. Even Ed Milliband managed to briefly be possessed by a better Labour leader in his calls for an inquiry and Ms. Brooks' resignation.

I fully expect that one day, people will go into Wapping towers, or whatever they're called, and find a beam, on the roof, with "Brooks Was Here" written on it (Shawshank reference). There's no possibility she won't go, surely. It's like being in charge of a ship that has crashed, leaked, and is currently exploding and going "I had no idea we were doing any of this.", and then hoping to get away with it. And Andy Coulson looks set to be arrested. I guess figures of authority in a Tory government can't, despite their best efforts, actually help getting arrested in an international scandal. Brilliant. I'm going to upgrade my happiness levels to shaking with delight. I just hope that now something will be done about the terrible PCC. That would be the only thing to make this day more perfect.

Friday, 1 July 2011

The Trams

Trams are an ongoing issue in this city, with the good news now that the council have to find £200 million in order to pay for the trams, given that it's £215 million over estimated budget, and delivers considerably less capabilities than, say, buses. I won't say I'm always exactly right on my estimates for shopping, but if I nip to the local shop to buy dinner, I reckon I'll spend about a fiver. It's very rare that I'll come in and put my dinner on the conveyor and then get told "That'll be £200,000,005 please. Do you have a clubcard?". So you can see people's frustration at this level of incompetence. The trams are about as undesireable as a shaved chimp wearing lingerie would be in bed, but impossibly cost £770 million. I don't think I've ever seen a council spend close to a billion pounds and be more disliked for it. "We're fixing all of the roads, which look like they were made in 1842 and haven't ever been repaired since!" would have been a better option. Or "Increased funding towards primary schools to help our youngest citizens develop into the flowers we know they can be". Or "Increased funding to police to cut down on crime in your area: Edinburgh Council, keeping YOU safe.". Hell, they could even have just given us back the money, which, at 2001 census levels, would put £1716 back in your pockets (Or £1215, if the project had remained perfectly on budget). It takes a spectacular level of incompetence to analyse the options, and then go "No, this money goes to transport, despite our well-funded and efficient bus service. Which we will not dedicate this money to improving, expanding the network or delivering an improved service. No, what we will do is devise a sort of... a sort of bus train, that can only go places on rails, so it's trapped on one route. Perfect. Lunch break, anyone?". Spectacular.

Other things that money could have been reasonably spent on, provided that it was reasonably well invested and so on: A free ridacard for every citizen, every year, with interest/returns from the remainder hopefully being enough to cover the next year's costs, which would encourage usage of public transport much more than, say, a trapped bus living on rails and yearning to be free. A free pony for every household to cut down on car use for small journeys. Hay expenditure not covered. Just some of the ideas of the top of my head, that are better than trams.

Thursday, 30 June 2011

Fixing the World: Press Complaints Commission

In this, dare I say it, SERIES of writings, I will outline my proposals for fixing the world (A brief outline, clearly). Today's topic is the Press Complaints Commission, the body for ensuring British Newspapers follow the editorial code of conduct.

First off, the PCC advertises itself as an independent body. Interesting use of independent, given that 7 of the 17 (41%) members of the board are editors of the newspapers that they are independently judging. Perhaps this sort of logic will allow me to stand as a juror in my own trial, with 4 of my work colleagues standing alongside me. Of course, they only have to enforce the rules laid out in the "Editors' Code of Conduct", written by, um, editors. So I get to be on the jury at a trial of laws I decide? Brilliant.

Well, given that we've got the independent body, what punishments can they throw at editorial infractions? Ceremonially smashing a golden pen over their head? No. They have to print an apology. Usually in small font, somewhere in the middle of the paper. The power the PCC feels must be dizzying. Put simply, the PCC is so weak compared to other independent bodies, it's like a 78 year old woman accidentally walking in on the Olympic men's weightlifting and having a go.

So the independent, powerful body has total control over the press, right? Oh, it's voluntary? But, like, everyone does it, though, right? Oh. Richard Desmond's papers all pulled out, so they have no regulation at all other than themselves. So, in the court of the PCC, if the jury of me and my workmates decide I am guilty of laws I helped write too often, I can just declare myself outside of their jurisdiction? God, the PCC must be getting nosebleeds at their awesome power. They're like the Greek gods, in that they basically don't exist.

Self-Regulation they call it. This system is, of course, known to never fail. IT traditionally keeps everything under control and curbs the worst excesses of any industry. The financial industry was largely self-regulated, but that global economic disaster could hardly be blamed on that!

But what could be done to fix this demonstrably impeccable force, which we have shown is independent, feared and in total control? Well, publishers pay a levy to be a member, which makes it self-funding. Perhaps if the publishers gave the money to a government body, set up to deal with this, which would be mandatory for publishers of newspapers to sign up to (Consider it a news tax) so that it continues to not burden the taxpayer, and that government body had the ability to say, impose realistic punishments (such as fines, or actually printing an apology in the same place as the offending story) and there were no editors serving on the panel of judges, then there would be less noticeable bias and lies in the British media.

The press would surely say that this impinges on their rights to free press, but I could equally argue that the laws impinge on my right to punch them in the face. Government regulation for the good of society as a whole happens frequently. I see no valid reasons why it shouldn't also include the press. Perhaps, with the additional oversight of an external regulator for the press, they could be trusted with stories which currently receive super-injunctions, as a win-win for both parties.

Problem solved. Next time, fixing the House of Lords.