Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Things Can Only Get Not Better

Professor Brian CoxI’ve spent the last four Sundays having my weekends lulled into the great infinity of the past to the carefully modulated tones of Professor Brian Cox as he explains to me the Wonders Of The Universe.

There’s not a lot not to like about Professor Brian Cox even though one blogger has described him as having the “nasty wet lips of a rapist”. He’s kind of a human version of Bungle from Rainbow – only with the intellectual capacity of a young Einstein and the enthusiasm for the cosmos of a much thinner, more youth marketable Sir Patrick Moore.

My wife claims he has the perfect voice to fall asleep too (which may explain a lot of the late night phone calls she’s been making) though she’s at pains to point out that it’s not at all because he’s boring. On the contrary, what he says is incredibly fascinating and intellectually dynamic. It’s just that his soft, Rupert The Bear tones are endlessly comforting and after a busy weekend they can tend to have a pleasurably soporific effect.

Personally I stay wide awake to watch the computer generated representations of supernovas and black holes as Professor Brian talks about the end of the universe. That’s the kind of universal Armageddon renaissance man I am.

‘Cos the end of the universe is coming, folks. Professor Brian said so. All this starry shit we’ve got going on at the moment with galaxies and constellations... well, it’s just a passing fad. One day all those little lights are going to go out. All matter will dissipate. And the universe will become one unending stretch of darkness. Time itself will stop because there will be no more change.

Apparently it’s all down to entropy. Entropy is the natural order of things. Everything, given time will break down, collapse, fall apart and dissolve into a uniform state of formlessness.

This may explain my modus operandi at work but the less said about that the better.

I’m not sure how I feel about it really; the end of the Universe. I mean, one could take the bleak approach and think, “Well, what’s the point of it all, then? What’s the point of morality? Of caring? Of procreation? Of Katie Price?”

But the best thing about Professor Brian is his unfailing ability to see the wonder and the wonderfulness in all things. (With possibly the exception of Katie Price.)

Because as Professor Brian explained it, without entropy, without the end of all things being on the cards, we wouldn’t have a beginning of things. We wouldn’t have this miracle of life; this relatively tiny span of time in eternity where life in the universe is possible.

Of course, we wouldn’t have Katie Price, David Cameron and Eamonn Holmes either but I guess for the purposes of infinite possibility we have to accept the shit with the gold.

And so suddenly, it all makes sense. More than that, the preciousness, the sheer miraculous nature of life becomes clear. We’re lucky to be here. It’s amazing we’re all here, right now, together at this point in time. Although technically speaking, cosmologically speaking, this is the only time we could be here.

I think what I like the most about Professor Brian is the way he manages to imbibe hardcore physics with a truly non-denominational sense of spirituality. A sense of meaning, of higher order, of purpose. Without getting all God-bothery about it.

It’s a heady brew to partake of on a Sunday night and I shall miss it now that the series has come to an end.

But those lips... they are nasty and wet, I have to admit.



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Monday, March 28, 2011

Fuckwits

The anti spending cuts march in London on Saturday has left me feeling rather ambivalent though, I admit, I am leaning more towards the sour.

My own Union was well represented although I myself did not attend the march due to personal reasons. Ironically I joked to a colleague last week that I wasn’t going as, if I wanted to have my ribs smashed by a policeman’s truncheon, I could easily do that in my own hometown on a Saturday night merely by pissing on the windscreen of the police surveillance van (though the chances are they wouldn’t see me).

The legitimate portion of the march – the largest portion – was, I think, a success. A success in that it was well organized, peaceful and had something (if news reports can be believed) of a “carnival atmosphere”. (What? Bearded ladies? Fire eating dwarves?)

Not a success in what it achieved though. Some Government mouthpiece has dismissed the march and has said that no government would change its policies on the strength of a protest march – even one that keenly displays the vastness of public dissent. Really? This from the same Government that crowed with delight when Mubarak stepped down as Egyptian president due to public demand and who have gone to war (let’s call a spade a spade) in Libya to “defend the lives” of those protesting against their current government. Seems, we, the UK people, do not have the same rights or regard in the eyes of our own UK politicians. Our voices in the UK do not count.

Sadly, the side of the story that has claimed the most column inches is the disproportionately small element among the protestors who broke away from the main march to initiate their own agenda on the streets of London. Namely attacking buildings, smashing shop windows, letting loose industrial sized fireworks in crowds containing small children and grinding their stupid little crotches above the porticoes of high profile edifices when they knew the news teams were filming.

Twats. The lot of them.

One overriding image I have in my mind is watching some beleaguered news reporter trying to deliver his piece to camera while some cock in a hoodie danced in the background and waved his V’s in the air whilst shouting some guff about “revolution”.

Oh please. Not that old lame warhorse? I’m all for ideals and the hopeful aspirations of the young but really? Class war? Anarchy? Smash the system? Have people really not moved on from the 80’s, the 70’s, the 60’s ad infinitum? Plainly not. Because yet again here are the same half baked ideas being spouted and held up as justification for a good ruck with the coppers by the same dirty looking dickheads that have plagued every generation since the invention of the dick. The same flimsy political understanding being used as motivation to go on the rampage like giant 2 year olds and smash up some windows and lob a few bricks. British Bulldog anyone?

My first thought wasn’t, ooh that guy is protesting for my rights; he’s standing up for my freedoms. It was: great, there’s a stupid looking cock on my TV, wasting my license money, spouting the same hackneyed political garbage that used to infect the common room at my 6th form and only inspired the crusty looking dope-head in the corner who had joined the Socialist Worker party the year before and thought he was destined to be the next Karl Marx.

Twat. Twat. Twat.

These idiots have merely overturned all the good the legitimate march might have achieved. They’ve undercut the whole thing. Carnival atmosphere? A public grotesquery more like. A bestiary.

What also annoys me most is how blind these fools were in their targets. Some of the banking corporations they hit did not deserve the slander of these oafs. Some of them had actually been prudent and honourable throughout the current economic crisis and looked after their customer’s money. But no. These dunderheads were so high on the sound of their own primitivistic protest they didn’t care. They just wanted to smash and kick and destroy. And oh yes let’s lob a few humungous fireworks at the shoppers passing by and see if we can blind some of the children. Look, Mr Cameron! Look what you have made us do! Hulk smash!

You know what? I grew out of “anarchy” and “class war” about 3 hours after I first heard about it. I may not have been the brightest of teenagers but I could still tell a big steaming pile of shit by its smell.

And I can still tell a fuckwit by the faces he pulls in front of a BBC news camera crew.

And that includes you as well, Cameron.



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Friday, March 25, 2011

Meal Ticket

In for the long haul as we are in Austerity Britain I’ve been racking my brain cell for ways to come up with money saving ideas and sure-fire scams to ensure we get more for our hard earned moolah now that’s it’s plain the bankers aren’t going to flick us the crumbs from the banqueting table that we so unwillingly purchased for them last year.

One idea I’ve come up with should guarantee you free food at the favourite restaurant of your choice no matter where you live though it may also cause you to lose the meal should the restaurateur call your bluff.

It’s a brilliant idea and though I admit I came up with it in Leamington Spa’s Café Rouge I don’t want that fact in any way to slight the marvellous menu that they offer there. It’s just that upon my last visit they sat me and the wife right in the window so that we felt we had a bit of an audience as we ate. The passersby of Leamington Spa shared every morsel with us. And it got me thinking. Seeing me orgiastically stuffing my fat little face with their production line French cuisine was undoubtedly great free advertising for the restaurant. Therefore the inverse should also be true: i.e. seeing me pull horrific faces or even throwing up into the window would surely turn potential customers away in droves.

So what better way to bargain (or blackmail if you want to get all technical) a free meal than by threatening to throw up into the window of the eatery you have chosen to patronize? Or even better, just outside the door whilst waving a copy of the restaurant’s menu in your greasy little fist for all to see?

“Please, Mr Restaurant Owner, waive the bill or I shall be forced to release the dogs of wauuuugh...!”

I mean what could they do? Refuse? You merely introduce a couple of fingers to the back of your throat (if you don’t fancy doing this yourself it might be handy to invite someone along who is bulimic). Call the police? Merely throw up and then complain of feeling unwell... mutter something about the food not being cooked properly or food poisoning. The thought of all that bad press will see them bending over backwards to offer you all the freebies they can muster (as well as mopping up your spew).

I guarantee they’ll rip up the bill just to keep you quiet and your mouth literally closed.

So there you have it. The perfect way to take your loved one out for a meal but without having to dent your plastic or your wallet. Who says being a cheapskate can’t be romantic?

Look out for more money saving ideas on this ‘ere blog coming soon. I shall publish them just as soon as the medication wears off and I think of them.



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Wednesday, March 23, 2011

With Apologies To Harrison Ford

First off can I just say that I have nothing against Harrison Ford. Or indeed The Dandy Warhols. Nor can I explain how the two have become inexplicably linked in my mind.

Harrison Ford was Han Solo for God’s sake. And Indiana Jones. The man is a legend. And is married to Calista Flockhart. Which may explain his long and legendary interest in all things wooden. And as for the Dandy’s... well, all I know of them is their song Bohemian Like You. But believe me, that’s been enough.

Because for some unearthly reason whenever I hear it I find myself composing alternative lyrics about Harrison Ford’s interest in carpentry. It kind of happens organically. I don’t know why. Maybe I need to see a psychiatrist?

Here then are, firstly, the original lyrics to The Dandy Warhols’ “Bohemian Like You’. And then secondly, my version that pays homage to Harrison Ford, actor, lumberjack and all round wood turner.

Bohemian Like You

You got a great car.
Yeah, what's wrong with it today?
I used to have one too,
Maybe I'll come and have a look.
I really love your hairdo, yeah.
I'm glad you like mine too,
See we're looking pretty cool.
Getcha!

So what do you do?
Oh yeah, I wait tables too.
No I haven't heard your band
Cause you guys are pretty new.
But if you dig on Vegan food.
Well come over to my work
I'll have them cook you something that you'll really love.

Cause I like you,
Yeah I like you.
And I'm feeling so Bohemian like you,
Yeah I like you,
Yeah I like you,
And I feel wahoo, wahoo, wahoo!

Wait. Who's that guy just hanging at your pad?
He's lookin' kinda bummed.
Yeah you broke up that's too bad.
I guess it's fair if he always pays the rent
And he doesn't get all bent
About sleepin' on the couch when I'm there.

Cause I like you,
Yeah I like you.
And I'm feeling so Bohemian like you.
Yeah I like you.
Yeah I like you
And I feel wahoo, wahoo, wahoo!

I'm getting wise
And I feel so bohemian like you.
It's you that I want so please,
Just a casual, casual easy thing.
Is it? It is for me

And I like you
Yeah I like you
And I like you, I like you, I like you,
Yeah I like you.
And I feel wahoo, wahoo, wahoo!

Harrison Ford’s Carpentry Like You

You got a great lathe.
It's not turning right today?
I used to have one too,
Maybe I'll come and have a look.
I really love your chainsaw, yeah.
I'm glad you like mine too,
See we're looking pretty cool.
Lumber!

So what do you do?
Oh yeah, I make tables too.
Though people say I'm bland
I do some acting too.
But if you're big on power tools
Well come over to my shed
And I'll let you play with a tool that you'll really love.

Cause I like you,
Yeah I like you.
And I'm into carpentry just like you,
Yeah I like you,
Yeah I like you,
And I feel wahoo, wahoo, wahoo!

Wait. What’s that mess just collapsed round at your pad?
You bought it from IKEA.
And it broke up that's too bad.
Well never fear I'll just grab my wrench
Smash up that old bench
And I'll make you a new couch while I'm there.

Cause I like you,
Yeah I like you.
And I'm into carpentry just like you,
Yeah I like you,
Yeah I like you,
And I feel wahoo, wahoo, wahoo!

I'm getting high
On polyvinyl acetate just like you.
It's your wood that I want so please,
Let's make a casual easy chair
with swivel legs just for me

And I like you
Yeah I like you
And I like you, I like you, I like you,
Yeah I like you.
And I feel wahoo, wahoo, wahoo!



And here’s a link to the original song on YouTube for those of you that want to sing-a-long: Bohemian Like You.

Abnormal service will be resumed shortly.



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Monday, March 21, 2011

Elegantly Idle

How do you write with feeling about someone you have never met?

How do you write with feeling about someone you have never met who has died?

The internet is a curious thing. For decades hippies have wittered on about the global village, about global consciousness.

It all seemed like pie in the sky. An example of yoghurt weaving as it is known around these parts. How can people feel the same sense of connection with people hundreds if not thousands of miles away that they feel with their closest neighbours? It’s just not possible. It would be wonderful if it was but it just isn’t.

And then the internet happened. And social networking. And blogging. And for all the bad things they bring – yes, they can be as shallow, small minded and abusive as, well, people basically – they have also undeniably connected people at an emotional level.

We’ve seen it on the big scale. Revolution in Egypt. The outpouring of support for the disaster in Japan. People talking, responding, connecting. Caring. Suddenly we are all close neighbours.

It happens on the small scale too and the effects are just as big.

This morning I learnt of the death of a blogger whose writing I loved, dearly. I’d never met her. Never spoke to her. Never even Tweeted, Poked or Skyped. It was all in the blog.

Always archly funny, witty, pithy, Kaz’s words were always elegant, clever and incisive. A fiercely poised and intelligent lady. It was an honour when Kaz visited my blog and left a comment; when she took the time to express a feeling of connection.

She did so less as her illness took hold. She posted less on her own blog. Posted less words. Her energy was waning. Never her will. She knew what was coming. There were no sentimental “what if” posts. No wistful words published for posterity. The tagline of her blog still reads, “Even Idler”. I have no doubt that wherever she is now, she’d be finding that absolutely hilarious.

For those of you that frequented Kaz’s blog, I think today we will all be connected in our sadness, connected in our regret that the light of a real diamond has gone out. For those of you that didn’t, well, her blog is still there. A wonderful testament to an amazingly bright mind.

How do you write with feeling about someone you have never met?

The internet, this global consciousness, is a curious thing...



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Friday, March 18, 2011

Spellchecker, You Big Fat Wuss!

So I open up Microsoft Word, my application of choice within whose electronic embrace I am writing my second novel, and it does that thing where it kind of pauses. The egg timer doesn’t appear but you can tell it’s working hard at something in the background. It calculates the number of words (11,801 if you want to know) and then the little animated spellchecker book in the status bar starts turning its pages like billy-o.

This is all par for the course. So I wait. And I wait.

And eventually a little dialogue box pops up. One I have never ever seen before in over 10 years of using Microsoft Office.

Apparently there are now “too many spelling and grammatical errors” in my novel for Spellchecker to continue working. So basically it isn’t going to. Spellchecker is going to stop. It’s going on strike and is putting its feet up. If I want Spellchecker to check my document in future I will need to press a button to activate it, i.e. I have to go out of my way and ask it nicely in future.

Great. I have broken Spellchecker. Me, little me, who prides himself on having a decent grasp of English. Sure, I occasionally slip up. The odd typo will appear now and then. I have sometimes, in the heat of the creative moment, written “your” instead of “you’re” but on the whole I like to think I can string a sentence together correctly.

Plainly those years at school and university, those years studying poetry and prose, those painful years writing it have been a waste. I am incompetent at using my own native language. Bill Gates has effectively told me so.

Well, sod you, Spellchecker. Especially as, typing this as I am in another Word document, you have underlined “sod” in blue because you don’t recognize it as a legitimate word, you know naff all about English. You know diddly-squat (there you go again – diddly gets a red underline) about how real people talk, about colloquialisms, about the realities of human speech and the creative literary process. You’re just a big list of rules and regulations and if something doesn’t quite match up with your limited parameters you spit the dummy.

Well, if you don’t want to Spellcheck my novel, fine. I don’t need you. I had a literary life before you came along and I’ll get along just fine without you now that you’ve turned your back on me. Yoo’ll see. I don’t need yoo anymoor. I can cope perfektly well wivout yoo, thank yoo very mutch. Take your stoopid Spellchecker and sod of.

We’ll see who has the biger kareer in inglish wont we?



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Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Racist? Or Just Minority Interest?

Midsomer Murders racism stormWe have a long running detective drama show in the UK called Midsomer Murders. It’s been running for donkey’s years and the format never changes. And neither does the plot. Basically each episode runs like this: a quaint, idiosyncratic, stereotypical English personage of a certain age who on the surface has their roiling emotions constrained by their stiff upper lip suddenly goes on the rampage and murders another quaint, idiosyncratic, stereotypical English personage of a certain age with something profoundly incongruous like a Black & Decker hedge trimmer or a Moulinex hand blender. Cue police investigation led by grumpy, cranky genius detective who solves the crime just in time to enjoy a cream tea at the local cricket club with his bridge playing wife and university graduate daughter. Cue titles.

Do feel free to take me to task (those of you who are fans of the show) if I have missed out any important plot points; I don’t think that I have.

The show’s creator, Brian True-May has, this week, got himself suspended by ITV chiefs for comments he made along the lines of “Midsomer Murders is the last bastion of Englishness” and he’d like to keep the cast all white as he feels to bring ethnicity issues into the show would change what the show is about. Basically he sees the show as being a fictional representation of an England that, if we’re honest, has never really existed. It is a stereotypical view of what we (the English) and more likely what others (the Americans) would imagine is a traditional English village. Cricketing whites, tea and scones, old boys clubs, war veterans with walking sticks, toffs with chips on their shoulders and Mellors the gardener nobbing one of the posh ladies of the amateur dramatics society behind the back of her boorish husband.

It ain’t real, folks, and it’s never been real. But this is the show’s very successful shtick. It has after all been running for over 14 years and been sold to 231 territories around the world (I wonder if any of those are Indian or African?).

The question is: is Mr True-May being racist in his adherence to a formula that has earned those very same ITV chiefs an awful lot of revenue over the last decade and a half. Is Midsomer Murders as a concept, racist?

‘Cos the backstabbers are coming out of the ITV executive director’s office with their knives of righteousness gleaming and freshly polished. They are “appalled” by his comments. An “investigation” has been launched. The story has even made the papers and the internet – no mean thing when it’s hardly been what you’d call a slow news week.

I’m going to stick my head out here and say that, in my opinion, neither the show nor Mr True-May are racist. Not on your nelly. What he and the show are being, however, in non-representational. But that is very different from being racist. But – and here’s the rub – the show isn’t meant to be representational. It’s a work of fiction. It taps into a stereotype of middle class Englishness and runs with it. Metaphorically the show is like drinking a cup of tea with your pinky sticking out. Chin-chin. Fancy a game of croquet?

I feel quite annoyed at the unspoken suggestion that the show should suddenly acquire itself an ethnic family just to tick that particular demographic box. I can’t think of a more cheap, shallow and cynical reason to get a black actor onto the cast. And I’m at pains to point out here that I’m not a fan of the show. What I am a fan of though, is the freedom of writer’s to be able to write what they like without having to jump through hoops just to appease the politically correct brigade who are so scared of offending anyone that they feel the imperative to impose the same restraints on every single show until all shows tick the same tick boxes and everyone is happy but no-one is watching the bloody show in the first place because it lacks character or individual personality.

Maybe I’m wrong. Christ, maybe I’m being racist. Am I? If the show was about an Asian village and about Asian life and values would someone be demanding a white family move in? Would that argument even get aired? Maybe that’s over simplifying it – which is a bad idea as this topic is a bloody minefield as it is.

As far as I can see, the show is a cultural backwater. Literally. What sells the show is this fake, incestuous, closed-off Englishness that inevitably leaves little room for an ethnic dialogue. The show is not real and makes no attempt to engage with real life and the real culture of England which – thankfully – is wonderfully diverse and culturally rich. But that is this particular show’s selling point. I think True-May is right. To meddle with that formula – for all it does little to appeal to me – would kill it off and ruin it for those fans who wish to suspend their disbelief and wallow for a couple of hours in a dream of England that didn’t even exist in E. M Forster’s time.

Ethnic issues are well represented on other shows and in other dramas. Nobody is being hard done by. What is happening is that the fear of racism and the fear of being perceived as being racist is resulting in a good many Union Jack bloomers getting themselves tied up into a right royal twist.

Chill out, people! It’s a minority interest show! Doesn’t that tick a tick box too?

For those of you that are interested here is the opinion of a Midsomer Murders viewer from India: Ramana's Musings...

P.S. Thank you for all reading my 700th post.



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Monday, March 14, 2011

Boycott Stupid Blogs

Most of us accept spam now like we do litter on the street. We don’t like it. We wish it wasn’t there. We wish we knew who the people were who scatter it all around so we could rip off their heads and piss down their necks (or is that just me?) – but by and large we put up with it. We grit our teeth and accept that it is the natural consequence of sharing the world with inconsiderate, lazy, self serving idiots.

We get used to it. The offers of cheap Viagra. The invitations to join casino syndicates. Those “hello darlink, I want to be your love-woman from the Ukraine” emails from people who speak to us with an intimacy lifted straight out of a 1970’s top shelf magazine.

I turn a blind eye. I hit delete. I wash & go.

But occasionally, just occasionally, one gets my goat (or gets right up my goat if you’re of an Australian persuasion). I bet as soon as I type the title of this insidious piece of blogging spam at least 50% of you are going to put your hand up and say, “Ooh, I’ve had one of those too”. The other 50% of you will put your hand up and ask to go to the toilet. Well tough. You should have gone before you came in here, shouldn’t you?

Boycott American Women.

Or as the perpetrator writes it: BOYCOTT AMERICAN WOMEN. ‘Cos those capitals make all the difference, don’t they? You wouldn’t notice it otherwise. The entire message would get lost in the mindless, knee-jerk invective that swirls around this piece of blogging spam like a particularly nasty huey in a centrifuge.

I’ve lost count now of how many times I’ve had this “comment” suddenly leap out of nowhere at me for moderation. Plainly a cut and paste job, it doesn’t change at all.

But bizarrely it does actually link back to a bona fide blog / web site. It is not some yank-phobic computer trying to sell me Viagra. Behind this one-track publicity campaign is a real person. A real person who not only is vociferously swearing off American women himself but feels so passionate about the ill-health effects of dating American women that he wants us all to swear off them too.

Why should we boycott American women? Well, visit this guy’s web site and allow him to count the ways. No, I am not going to link to it – a basic Google search will no doubt encourage this particular floater to rise to the top of the toilet – and I suspect I am merely asking for trouble just by giving this dope free publicity by writing about it on my blog.

I just want him to stop proselytizing his [frankly] bigoted, sexist, chauvinistic, primitive creed on my blog. Not that he reads my blog, you understand, he just sees it as a gratis advertising platform for his own ego-rotting vendetta against the female members of his own community. And I object to that. To be honest, I’d much rather collude in the selling of fake Viagra or Russian mail order brides than participate is this guy’s “I’ve got a really small dick” smokescreen. And no that isn’t an invitation to the Viagra companies and the Kremlin to get me to play business footsie with them under the table.

Now, as it is, I have never dated an American woman and am not ever likely too (when I was in the market for Cheryl Ladd I was only 10 years old and now that I’m old enough I suspect she is too old to care for the idea). I am a happily married man. But every time I get one of Mr Boycott’s missives (is his first name Geoff? I’d love it if it was) I feel an almost overwhelming desire to go out and speed date Sigourney Weaver, Natalie Portman and Heather Graham all in one night. Just to be bloody perverse.

‘Cos this guy’s campaign is just not working. It is risible. It is sad. It speaks volumes about this guy’s inevitable loss of esteem, secret low self worth and perhaps a doomed date with a busty Valley Girl who took one look at this guy’s shrivelled Empire State Building and laughed so hard her retainer shot out of her mouth and performed an impromptu vasectomy.

This to me is the only explanation for this guy’s bizarre standpoint. Given enough time and money I could probably prove it empirically.

So to be short, my plan is to boycott Boycott American Women. And I’d like to invite you all to do the same. Not by infecting your blog with my manifesto but by using my own blog to exercise my own freedom of speech. Just as this guy is entitled to do on his own blog. Because, at the end of the day, he can write what the hell he likes on his blog. I just don’t want it on mine. I don’t want it foisted on me to the point where I have to take action to remove it again and again and again.

And to all you American women out there... I’m sure it would have worked. The sex would have been great (once I’d got you properly trained), the good times they would have rolled and we would have made beautiful non-Justin Bieber-music together... but the fact is, I’m married.

This isn’t a boycott. I’m just honouring the precepts of true love.

And as for reasons not to date American women go, that’s possibly the best reason there is.




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Friday, March 11, 2011

2012 Is Gonna Suck

2012 Olympic LogoNo. Seriously. It is.

As soon as I saw our magic red dancing bus containing David Beckham emerging from the smoke and the glory of the Beijing Olympics I just knew that London 2012 was going to a be a teensy bit wince inducing. I’m sure the racing and the jumping and the yachting and all the other stuff that the athletes do will be fine. It’s sport, goddammit. You just get up and do it.

It’s the ceremonial aspect that worries me. Because, let’s be honest, we as a country are not cool. We had a brief spell in the limelight in the 1960’s and that was it. We lost it again. We are the geeks of the world. Our greatest global export in recent times has been the Beckhams. If they are the best and the most noteworthy that our country can produce then we really are foobarred.

But back to the Olympics.

They’re going to suck. And I now have proof. Probably subconsciously, possibly deliberately, the UK’s official 2012 Olympic logo proves it beyond all doubt. I must point out at this juncture that this visual gag was brought to my attention by the 10 O’clock Live team last week. It’s great television at the best of times (though the interviews and debates are frustratingly brief) but this was an absolute clincher.

Look at the picture above. What do you see? Officially you are supposed to see “2012”. Some nutters claim it spells out “Zion”. Ignore them. They don’t know what they’re talking about. What the image actually shows, ladies and gentlemen, is “Lisa Simpson sucking somebody off”.

You’ve looked again, haven’t you? Just to make sure. And it’s there, isn’t it? It really is there. It’s Lisa Simpson and... er... somebody else.

I now cannot look at this logo without seeing Lisa Simpson not having sex with a Bill Clinton stand-in. Though oddly I can still watch The Simpsons and not make any obvious sexual connection at all.

Funny that.

So. The 2012 Olympics.

They are going to suck. Big time.

And that may be a very hard thing for this country to swallow.



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Wednesday, March 09, 2011

One Man Can Make A Difference

Rest easy people. The Statesman is at work.You gotta love Scott Cooke.

If you've been brought up on a diet of superheroes and vigilantes; if you've ever wanted to have a spidey-sense that actually tingles when criminal trouble is near then you've got to take your hat off to the guy in the picture above.

Because he's living the dream. He's seized the day. He built it and is waiting for them to come. Scott is a bona fide vigilante.

And he has a proper superhero's outfit and everything. And just check that mean hombre "don't mess with me, purp" moustache motif. Yup, Scott Cooke is the man. He has it going down.

The people of Birmingham (UK) can rest easier in their beds at night. 'Cos Scott Cooke, aka The Statesman, is on the case. He's on the prowl.

He patrols the mean streets of 'Brum' just looking for lowlife scum to perform a citizen's arrest upon. According to news reports (here and here) Scott, a former Territorial Army soldier (hey, anyone remember Mike from Spaced?) spurns utility belts and web slingers and Iron Man techno-costumes in favour of a more down to earth crime fighting arsenal.

We're talking notepad and pen. We're talking torch (probably one of those Maglite things). We're talking a first aid kit choc-full of Elastoplasts and those weird thin bandagey things that no-one knows how to apply properly. And we're talking mobile phone for when, you know, Scott has whupped some mean spotty criminal ass and needs to call in the boys in blue to help cart off the bruised and bloodied hoods to the state penitentiary. Job done for another night. Rest easy citizens.

Of course, some people - some unpublic spirited people - take the pee and claim that as an effective crime deterrent, Scott falls a little short of the mark. A few cynics have tweaked and misinterpreted the crime stats and pointed out that Scott failed to stop "99 crimes in his own neighbourhood in the last month alone".

I think this is unfair. Let's look at this from a wider perspective. The police were also on duty during this time and they too failed to stop 99 crimes taking place in that very same neighbourhood. Shame on them. Meanwhile, there may have been a 100th crime that Scott did stop. That Union Jack jumper may have been the only thing between a wheelie bin being upturned in the road and rubbish all over the highway.

Yeah. It's easy to mock. Easy to snigger. But at least Scott is doing something. He's putting his time and money where his mouth is. He's out there. He's out there for us. For you and me, man. Well, you and me if we happen to live in Nuthurst Road, West Heath. But hey - if you want to live in a safer neighbourhood, maybe you should think about moving? Cut Scott some slack here; make it easier for him.

As for me. Well, I'm thinking of joining him. Not joining him in Birmingham 'cos getting back to Leamington Spa from New Street station is a real nightmare at the moment. But joining him in spirit.

I am going to patrol the mean streets of Leamington Spa. I'm going to get all vigilanted up. I'm going to call myself The MP For Justice. Though the local bad boys may call me The MP For Medieval Retribution On Our Asses. 'Cos I'm plannin' on getting all Biblical on the wrong doers and the ne'erdowells. I got me a torch. I got me a Victorinox penknife / bottle opener thingy (though I may have to leave this at home as apparently it's illegal to carry one on the street). I've got me a bottle of still spring water which can double as a rehydration device and a quick and easy way to wash grazed knees clean. And I have my wife's Kindle (well, once I've wrestled it out of her hands) ready for those quiet times when, through no fault of my own, I happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time (i.e. the crime is happening elsewhere) and it gets a bit slow and I have time on my hands and get a bit bored. Oh and I may knock off at 9.30 'cos I like to be in bed by 10. Don't get snidey about this; just remember I'm not actually getting paid to do this. It's purely voluntary. Think yourself lucky that I'm willing to give up some of my free time to ensure your safety in the first place.

I just need someone to design a costume for me. Maybe some kind of pinstripe motif? Though I want a cape as well. And a utility belt that can hold a thermos flask. And, in a break from superhero tradition, I want to wear my pants on the inside of my trousers.

'Cos, you know, I don't want people laughing at me or anything.

Be safe, people, be safe.



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Monday, March 07, 2011

I Mean It Ma’am!

Her Majesty The QueenLeamington was overrun by the boys in blue last week. Or rather boys in high visibility vests. The pigs were everywhere. Coppers. Rozzers. The Old Bill. The Fuzz.

You couldn’t move without risking a truncheon up the jacksy.

They left no stone unturned. Or stonehead.

Bins were checked and taped up. Sewers were probed. And then the big boys came in. The narks with peaked caps. The ones who mean real business. The proper coppers.

You’d be forgiven for thinking that Leamington was about to become a hotbed for cultural revolution. That the battle lines had been drawn down the length of The Parade and today would not be a good day to purchase a new divan mattress from John Lewis.

But you’d be wrong.

Because instead of cultural revolution Leamington was in fact the venue for one of this country’s great cultural traditions: waving a little union jack flag at a lady in a big hat who waves like she’s been taught to do so by Mr Miyagi from the original Karate Kid, “wax orn, wax orf.”

Friday saw Her Maj The Queen visiting my home town of Royal Leamington Spa. She came dressed in shocking pink with Prince Philip in tow to formally open Leamington Spa’s brand new Justice Centre building.

That’s right. We no longer have a magistrate’s court. We have a Justice Centre. Sadly my suggestion to have a statue of Judge Dredd erected outside was met with askance looks and murmurs of “can we please relocate this geek to another country please?”

Leamington has at last put itself back onto the Royal map. You see, I’m pretty sure that the last time we had a Royal visit was in the 1800’s when Queen Victoria popped by to sample the spa waters and graciously allowed Leamington Spa to name itself Royal Leamington Spa. I find it somehow ironic that our response to civil disobedience has at last brought the currently reigning monarch back to our sleepy little backwater town to renew our regal connections.

Though I doubt the coppers of Victoria’s day checked the sewers quite so avidly (probably because there weren’t any sewers back then). What were our coppers looking for? Bombs I suppose. Or perhaps Royal souvenir poo hunters who were squatting down beneath the loos of the Justice Centre hoping that Liz or Phil might crack a little something off in the cells that they could sell on the black market. If any Chinese doctors are listening Royal poo has amazing healing properties but only if taken orally. Trust me, it’s true.

So did I go out and join the flag waving throngs? At first I thought no, sod this for a game of soldiers, I’m not against the Royals but I’m not a Royalist automaton either. I’ve got work to do. But the sun was shining and then I thought I’ve got work to do I’d rather be outside. So outside I went and joined the crowds. ‘Cos let’s face it, Liz is getting on a bit. The chances of her living long enough to ever have a justifiable reason to come back to Leamington Spa are pretty slim.

The crowds were as you might expect. Screaming school children waving flags, old ladies muttering, “Ooh she does a lot of charity work, she does, heart of gold she has, don’t she duck?” and cynical teenagers hanging around whilst cursing themselves for not having the courage of their convictions to moon in the face of a stern faced policeman or give the Royal convoy the finger.

The picture above is my own. It is the closest I am ever likely to come to England’s current monarch (unless my Knighthood comes through before she carks it). Annoyingly I was concentrating on operating my camera phone so much that I didn’t actually look upon her with my own eyes. I’m sure there is a life lesson in there somewhere but I can’t for the life of me be bothered enough to think what it is.

So there you have it. The Queen. Real news of national importance on this ‘ere blog. Proper journalism (almost). History recorded. The stuff of news. The fabric of our national identity interwoven with my own.

God Save The Queen! I mean it most heartily ma’am.

Though, of course, you do all realize there is little or no future in England’s dreaming...



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Friday, March 04, 2011

Survival Of The Fittest

Dr Alice RobertsSo are we still evolving?

This was the question posed by the BBC’s Horizon on Tuesday night (apologies to my non-UK readers). I don’t often watch Horizon but I did this week because, as you will have surmised by the many posts on this subject that I have published on this ‘ere blog, our evolution as a species is a subject that regularly keeps me awake at night and had nothing at all whatsoever to do with the fact that this week’s show was presented by flame-haired, curvy, science ingénue, Alice Roberts who, according to my wife, I have a “thing” for.

Ha! As if. Ahem.

So are we still evolving?

Well, then we look at the behaviour exhibited by Wayne Rooney, Colonel Gaddafi and Bible bashers in the mid-west of the USA, it would be fair to assume that no, we are not. If anything we have entered an evolutionary cul-de-sac or, quite possibly, are returning to single celled amoebas one brain cell at a time.

But this, of course, is just the cynical blog writer in me talking and isn’t factually true. The gorgeously honey-voiced, Dr Alice said so. More or less.

We are still evolving as a species. In fact we are changing completely as a species. Us folk today are technically a different form of human being than our ancestors were a thousand years ago.

With the amazing advances in technology that have revolutionized our existence and affected the existence of practically every other living thing on the planet some have posited the theory that natural selection as a process is dead. It has stopped. We have somehow removed ourselves from its melting pot.

This is not true. Natural selection is still occurring – just perhaps not at the life or death, cutting edge of evolution that it once inhabited. Our species is no longer being shaped by the “survival of the fittest”. The weak not only survive in our society now but also survive long enough and ably enough to pass on their genes to the next generation. We also, through our grasp of genetics and embryo manipulation, can select the traits of our future generations ourselves and not leave it up to the good old fashioned Darwinian process we’ve all come to know and love.

But this does not mean that evolution has stopped or that we have freed ourselves from its reins. Evolution is driven by the dialogue all species unconsciously have with their environment and each other. Sure we have changed our own environment, made it more comfortable and almost dove-tailed it to our needs – mauled it almost into an image of our own likeness – but that does not mean that the environment is still not working on us in ways that we cannot yet perceive.

And also, perhaps more pertinently, we have the evolution of other life forms on this planet to consider. They impinge on us very directly sometimes and the effects of this may well drive our own evolution in ways that could be sudden, drastic and unimaginable in their end results. Viruses evolve a lot quicker than we do. No sooner do we come up with a vaccine against them than they evolve in response and we find ourselves dealing with a virus that has suddenly become highly resistant to human control.

It is not beyond the bounds of reason that a particularly nasty pandemic could one day make a good stab at wiping us all out. But as the programme posits, should such an event occur, there may well be some survivors. Some survivors whose genetic make-up contains a previously useless and overlooked genetic anomaly which suddenly renders them immune from the new virus. It is these survivors whose genetic code would be carried forth into the future generations of our species and change its course forever. The evolutionary process – the survival of the fittest – would once again claim ascendency over our arrogant attempts to control our own destiny.

So. In short: we are all of us still evolving. Even Wayne Rooney.

And that single fact just blows my mind.

Just like Dr Alice.



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Wednesday, March 02, 2011

My Bloody Valentine

Logistics is big business these days. You know: getting an item from A to B. B preferably being the address that has been stamped all over A. It is surely an indication of how advanced we have become as a society that we can send an item half way around the globe in 24 hours and deliver it to a specific postal code in the middle of nowhere. Talk about precision bombing of the friendly sort.

So. Logistics then. It’s an amazing concept. A global concept.

And we’ve all heard of a few of these companies that specialize in logistics. FedEx. DHL. Erm... and some others.

We are all dependent on them at some point. We are all pinpoints in the vast logistical web that is the human race; part of the logistics network in a mostly passive sense.

We wait for these guys to find us and render unto us that which someone else has deigned to make ours.

Things like Valentine’s Day presents.

My wife bought me one of those this year – as she does every year.

I have yet to receive it. It has yet (at the time of writing) to be delivered. Because the logistics people can’t seem to get their heads around the simple logic of reading an address label and assigning the package to a correct delivery route or even – and this makes me gasp – finding the right package with the right name and address on it.

I do not yet know what my Valentine’s present is. Only that my wife is as cheesed off as I am that we are still waiting for it to arrive. She has, bless her, bought me a second extra present to keep me going in the interim so you could argue I have benefitted from this balls up. But that isn’t the point, is it?

The first attempt to deliver the package was a non starter. DHL subcontracted the delivery to a local logistics company who, ironically, were located a mere mile away from my house. If I’d known this at the time I could have walked round to the depot. I wish I had. They’ve “lost” the package. Not that they’re admitting to this, mind. It has been “loaded onto one of their vans for delivery”. This status was apparently flagged up on the 16th February. So, I can only assume the driver is coming to my house via The Maldives and will arrive as soon as he can get someone to haul his van off the coral reef.

My wife rang and notified the vendor who were as cheesed off as we were. They sent out a second version of the item express delivery. This time DHL would deliver it themselves personally.

They didn’t. They called when my wife and I were both at work (surely a common occurrence these days), didn’t try the neighbours who were all in and took the parcel all the way back to their depot in Sutton effing Coldfield which is miles away from my house. It is not a part of the world either of us are familiar with so we did not fancy having to drive all that way, with the kids in tow, after a hard day at work. Could we come at the weekend? No. They are closed Saturday and Sunday. So if you are working parents you are pretty well stuffed.

We opted to have the package delivered to my place of work. I had to email them to do this – or so the automated telephone message informed me. I did so. I gave them every piece of information that a true logistics-head could want. Things like my name and my work address; the delivery code of the item, the original address, the service route, my mobile phone number, etc. Everything.

Yesterday DHL delivered the wrong package to my place of work. A package not addressed to me, with not my name on it and looking nothing like the package my wife had bought for me. Gregory Beavis if you’re reading this... I apologize for the delay of the delivery of your own package. It is currently in my possession.

Cue tightly voiced phone call to DHL (once I’d navigated the automated telephone firewall and actually got to speak to a living breathing half-thinking human being). Cue many apologies.

They could see straight away what they had done wrong. They had delivered the wrong package. They had not delivered the right one. This from a logistics company whose whole raison d’être is to deliver packages to the addresses printed on them.

Apparently they’re going to call again today and we are going to swap packages. Kind of like a dodgy drugs deal at an international airport. Only this time, I hope, without further foul ups.

I am not holding my breath.

I guess the moral of the story is this: if you want to guarantee that something is delivered to some specific person in some specific place you’d better bloody well start walking now and deliver it yourself.

Trust me; it’s the only logical thing to do.



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