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.