Thursday, 14 July 2011

Death, Rockets and Linda Lusardi

You'll have to indulge me - I've come over all nostalgic for my childhood. Days of innocence, guileless optimism and good clean fun. Fuck you up the arse if you don't like it (see what I've become?).

Tonight, when I got home from what passes for my career, my four year old son greeted me at the door with the words "Daddy, why did your daddy die?" [Background: my old man died just over two years ago, at the age of 60, from a series of strokes caused by working too hard, drinking too much, smoking like a dirty chimney and foolishly having 4 kids in quick succession with his second wife. The strokes would probably have finished him off by themselves, but they were followed swiftly by a dose of the NHS house cocktail (c. difficile + MRSA, shaken over lack of interest with a splash of poor hygeine) so he never really stood a chance.] Anyway, this is the first time my son has ever talked about him dying, and to be frank it kicked the shit out of me. "I fink he loved you, Daddy, and he loved me too. Why did he die? You're not going to die, are you daddy?" (No, really, he actually said this. If I didn't know he'd been at school I'd think he'd been watching crappy daytime movies on Channel 5 all day.) Well, as you can probably imagine, it ever so slightly fucked me sideways.

This new-found interest my son has suddenly developed in human mortality is entirely my fault - over the weekend I showed him YouTube footage of the last ever launch of the shuttle - STS-135, or Atlantis as it's known to non-geeks (I'm a geek). He was utterly smitten, and I was suddenly very sad that he was going to grow up in a world without the Space Shuttle, so I showed him some more videos of the Shuttle and other space type stuff. Unfortunately, he then spotted an image of the Challenger disaster and asked me what it was. I showed him the video, and when he asked "where did the rocket go?" explained that it had "gone wrong" and that the astronauts flying on it had died. He didn't quite understand at first, but then he seemed to get it, and he asked "why did it go wrong?" I tried to explain that it was partly because silly people had forgotten to check important bits of the rocket, and partly that it was just something that happened when people try to do extraordinary things. He was sad for a minute or so, then asked to see "the gone wrong one" again. And again. And again. Evil-minded little tosspots, these four year olds...

Then it dawned on me that he's going to grow up in a world where people just don't do extraordinary things anymore. I know this sounds drearily whiney, almost Clarksonesque in its petulance, but if you think about it, it's true. I was born in 1973 and, as a result spent my formative years living in a special place called the 1980s. I remember being in awe of the huge number of unfeasibly cool things that human ingenuity and derring-do had wrought - Concorde, the SR-71 Blackbird spyplane, the DeLorean DMC-12 and the Lamborghini Countach, James Bond's submarine Lotus Esprit, Evel Knievel, the X-Wing and the Millennium Falcon, Formula 1 races where the cars actually overtook each other, the Raleigh Chopper... You get the picture.

Here's the picture just in case you didn't get it. Nothing this cool has ever been made since.

These things are all gone. Concorde because it crashed once and was a bit too expensive for the grey-minded beancounters at BA, the Blackbird because the CIA decided satellites were more useful (even though in the time it took to move an orbiting box into position over an area of interest, the Blackbird could've got there and back 10 times), the DeLorean because (okay) it was a bit shit, Formula 1 is a tedious parade of safety devices on wheels, and the Chopper disappeared after a kid fell off one in Droitwich (fact). James Bond's cars no longer fly, shoot missiles or go underwater - instead, they're equipped with defibrillators, first aid kits and a digital connection to Claims Direct. Evel Knievel broke every bone in his body and then inconveniently died, and no one's taken over from him. Lamborghini still makes fast pointy cars but they're now owned by the same company that makes the VW Polo. And the spaceships in the lastest Star Wars films look like they were designed by a committee of vegetarian manic-depressives.

The Challenger disaster was a major catalyst in all this. First launched in 1983, Challenger was by far the busiest and best of NASA's fleet of shuttles, the first to have a payload capacity large enough to attract commercial and military clients and thereby realise NASA's intention of running a profitable orbital delivery program. Its first mission (STS-6) saw the first space walk by any astronaut in over 10 years, and on its 4th mission in 1984, the astronaut Bruce McCandless did this:

Imagine the size of his balls
McCandless is completely on his own out there, strapped to a previously untested jetpack which might have left him stranded in space, floating around until he ran out of air and either plummeted into the atmosphere or got eaten by space sharks. Yes, space sharks. They existed in the 1980s, too. They did. Look them up if you don't believe me.

That image of a human man floating free in space is one of the most enduring images of my childhood memory, along with this:

This was an actual, real thing


We were told we weren't going to need roads where we were going. Tell that to the M25.

And this:

Linda Lusardi - in 1987 the sexiest thing most 14 year olds would see*
*outside of their mum's Littlewoods catalogue

Oh, Linda. Linda, Linda, Linda. The things I would have imagined doing to you if they'd been invented in 1987 and I'd been old enough to know about them.

Moving on.

Two further untethered EVAs (geek speak) took place in 1984 - one more from Challenger, one from Discovery. This was the future - mankind floating around in space unconnected to anything. Then in 1987 Challenger blew up, and when NASA finally grew its balls back and started Shuttle operations again, it was decided that untethered EVAs were just too dangerous. Since then, any spacewalks have been conducted using technology not discernibly different from that used in the 1960s. Sadly, at the same time, the commercial sector and the military decided that they'd rather send their satellites up on rockets (strange, given that rockets were statistically far more likely to blow up) and the dream of a profit-making Space Shuttle died. From that point on, the entire Shuttle program was doomed. Last Friday, it shuffled off its mortal coil and another piece of my childhood died with it.

I suppose I'm just getting old, but it seems there's a lot less amazement out there for kids, even with all the technical advancements made in the last 20+ years. Consider how children today interact with computers - if they notice them at all, they're virtually part of the furniture. My kids treat my stupidly clever and ridiculously poncey MacBook as just another TV which happens to contain pictures, videos and games of every single thing they can imagine (known to us dreary adults as "the internet"). If such a thing had existed when I was a kid, I think my head would have exploded in wonderment. We had a Commodore 64, then a ZX Spectrum, then a BBC Micro and finally an Archimedes. These were awesome machines that did impossible things with cassettes and 8-inch floppy disks. My kids could probably build a Spectrum out of Lego and a deflated balloon, but back then it was like staring into the unfathomable visage of a strange and powerful god. Technology is now a right, not a privilege. Innovation happens every day but it's consumer-focused and mainly passes unnoticed. I remember being amazed when our old rotary telephone was replaced with a wondrous new device with a keypad. I get the impression if I was to come home tomorrow with a fully functioning battle droid, my eldest son would barely look up from his interminable AlphaBlocks DVD, and my youngest would pee on it before wondering off to dismantle the dishwasher. Again.

One day, I hope there will be tourism in space, and hypersonic passenger planes, and flying cars and R2D2s and a new version of the Chopper with laser wheels and holographic handlebars. My kids need more than 3D cartoons and interactive curling on the Wii...

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Johann Hari - The Lost Interviews: Kermit The Frog

Kermit The Frog has made an unusual journey in his fifty-six years of life - from a childhood in the Okefenokee swamps, where his mayfly-addicted mother died of bogflu, to lead performer in the late Jim Henson’s stellar but now-defunct Muppet Show. But when he glides past a large marble bust of Miss Piggy in marbled hall of his palatial Miami Beach home to greet me - a two-foot shimmer of green - he looks like something else again: a Gap model, perhaps, or the ballet dancer he once wanted to be. He holds himself with a perfectly straight posture, and speaks in a soft voice that forces you to lean forward a little to hear him.

Most people, when they look back at his career, are staggered by the diversity of his characters. After a number of years struggling to make ends meet as hard-bitten crime reporter for the Sesame Street news, he went on to front the prime time Muppet Show, appearing in numerous Hollywood films and being interviewed by all the greats (myself modestly included). His big break came when his friend and colleague Cookie Monster asked him to sing backing vocals on “C is for Cookie”. During the recording session, George Martin and Brian Wilson (who were co-producing the record) noticed the unique quality of his voice, and within weeks Rogers & Hammerstein had written “Bein’ Green” and a star was born.

After Sesame Street, Henson was looking for a new platform and came up with the idea of the Muppet Show, a weekly star-studded variety show featuring the biggest showbiz names of the time. The obvious choice for compère was Kermit, but the frog was suddenly stricken with self-doubt, worried that the still deeply racially divided America of the 1970s would not tolerate a frog fronting such a high profile prime time show. I ask him why he had such a low opinion of himself at the time. He looks at me with sadness in his eyes, but with a wry smile on his lips. “It's not that easy bein' green, having to spend each day the colour of the leaves, when I think it could be nicer being red or yellow or gold or something much more colourful like that.” I think I know what he means.

When I ask him about his life, he smiles, but it's a small smile, looking to the side. Then he says carefully: "I've had a pretty extraordinary life so far. I've met kings, queens, presidents and pigs. I've worked with some of the greatest talents of all time - from Bob Hope and Rudolph Nureyev to Quentin Tarantino and Robert DeNiro. I've made movies, TV shows, music, and the occasional tabloid headline. And through it all, I've been surrounded by some of the finest friends and fans a frog could ever want."

His upbeat attitude belies difficult, not to say tragic, beginnings. His mother had him and his 3,265 siblings when she was very young, and crashed into mayfly addiction soon after. He was forced to fend for himself in the harsh surroundings of a Southern American swamp. When he turned eleven, he had an epiphany, and realised he had to escape the swamp if he was to have a chance of making something of himself. Walking into town, he had a chance meeting with a young Jim Henson, also down on his luck and looking for a chance. Over coffee, the two of them realised they shared the same vision. I ask Kermit how he felt when he realised he had found a kindred spirit. “If just one person believes in you, deep enough, and strong enough, believes in you, hard enough, and long enough, it stands to reason, that someone else will think “If he can do it, I can do it.””

I ask him if he still thinks about the swamp. He looks up, seemingly surprised to be asked the question, fixing me with a glare before softening. "The swamp will always be a part of me. The swamp is who I am and where I come from. It’s my birthplace and my hometown, my refuge and my strength, my past and my future.  Plus, it’s one heckuva great place to hide from pigs." He falls silent for a moment, and I realise he has inadvertently touched on the delicate subject of his much-publicised love-life. For it was while working on the Muppet Show that he first met Miss Piggy, diva and prima donna, porcine Juliet to his Romeo.

I pause too, wary of stepping over an invisible line. The on-off-on again nature of his relationship with Piggy has been examined from every angle, and I am concerned that by taking the interview down that route, my credibility might be damaged. Kermit seems to sense my unease, and smiles. “Who said that every wish would be heard and answered when wished on the morning star?” I ask him what he means, but he has said enough on the subject and waves me to silence, turning to gaze out of the window. I worry that the interview might be over, but after several minutes he appears to remember I am here, and turns his attention back to me. I am relieved, and not a little irritated – after all, does he not know who I am?

And then he apologizes for getting angry, sweetly, with another of his full smiles. He's like a whirring empathy-machine, constantly trying to soothe and charm and woo the people around him: at the end of the interview, I see him doing it with everybody else in the offices too. Meeting Kermit is like drinking a strong alcoholic drink on hot, stormy day - it's soothing and intense and anxiety-making all at once, and leaves you feeling a little woozy.

As the interview comes to an end, and I start to pack up my notebook (realising as I do that, once again, I have been so engrossed I have forgotten to take notes), he grips my elbow and fixes me with that intense stare again. “I am green and it'll do fine. It's beautiful! And I think it's what I want to be.” 

So do I, Kermit. So do I.

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Modern Nursery Rhymes

Old Mother Hubbard went to the cupboard 
to get the poor doggie a bone. 
When she got there the cupboard was bare 
as she’d spunked her entire pension on the bingo.
I've bleedin' pissed meself

Oh,the Grand Old Duke of York, 
he had 10,000 men, 
but half of them were laid off in the Defence Review 
and the rest had to buy their own boots.

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall, 
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall. 
Stupid fat fucker was pissed off his tits 
but he still got 5 grand from Claims R Us.
These grapes are fried in cheese

Mary had a little lamb, 
its fleece was white as snow. 
The EU adopted a policy of positive discrimination and Mary lost her subsidy due to perceived racism.
Whatchew mean I iz adopted? 

There was an old woman who lived in a shoe, 
she had so many children she didn’t know what to do. 
Luckily she got 36k a year in benefits 
so they had Sky+, and XBox 
and when they ran out of money 
they burgled their neighbours' shoes.
Fuck off, yeah? I like well know my rights an' shit.

What are little boys made of? 
Tartrazine and sodium benzoate and polydimethylsiloxane –
that’s what little boys are made of.
Do you want your kid to turn out like this? WELL DO YOU?

Hey, here's an idea, kids: why not add your own modern twists on classic nursery rhymes in the comments. If I like them, I'll steal them and pass them off as my own. Can't say fairer than that!!

Disclaimer: If you've already seen these on Twitter - tough shit.

Friday, 17 June 2011

Pay Attention At The Back

Settle down, children. Settle down. Come on, now, settle down. Children!


Thank you.

Wayne, put that away. Yes, I'm sure Shaznay wants to see it, but that's why Shaznay already has two children of her own.

Now, today's lesson is on "Hypocrisy". Who can spell "Hypocrisy"? Anyone? No? Oh well, I suppose it was a vain hope. Does anyone know what "Hypocrisy" means?

No, Spatula, it is not the name of a ganster rapper.

I'll tell you. Hypocrisy is when someone says they think or believe one thing, but then does something diametrically opposed to that thing. "Diametrically", Rambo, you horrible little oik, means on the opposite side. Yes, like United and City, if you must.

Now, who can give me an example of hypocrisy? Anyone? Anyone at all? Well yes, I suppose Ryan Giggs saying he's a family man then "sticking his cock up some mingers hole", as you so delicately put it, Violencia, is one example. Well done. Anyone else? No, Carling, it's not like when Chavnika said she'd let you touch her vajayjay if you gave her 10 Bensons but then wouldn't let you touch it cos you could only get Mayfair. See me after class, both of you.

Well, let me tell you a story. Once upon a time, not so very long ago, the country was ruled by a wise old king called Tony. Under King Tony, everything was lovely. The sun shone, the birds sang, and everyone was able to get cheap credit to buy things they didn't need. This was because Tony's friend Gordon, who was responsible for managing the economy - "economy", Fistula, it means the country's money - thought it would be a lovely idea to borrow lots and lots of other peoples' money, even though the country already had lots of money of its own. Gordon thought this would be a good idea because he wanted the economy to look as healthy as it possibly could so that he would look like a very clever man and eventually he would get Tony's job. So he borrowed and borrowed, and encouraged everyone else to borrow and borrow, so that they would feel like they were very rich and later they would all thank Gordon for looking after them so well. And because everyone felt so rich, and because the people who ran the banks thought they were on a never ending streak of fortune, people borrowed more and more and more, often borrowing more than the entire value of their house, and no one ever thought their good luck would come to an end.

Unfortunately, Gordon was a psychotic lunatic - yes, Kebabron, that means "nutter" -  and the banks were all run by people who were even greedier and even more stupid than the general population. So of course the winning streak did come to and end, and suddenly all that money wasn't there anymore. No, Pritstik, we don't know where it went. No one does. But it went somewhere, and the country was poor. Worse, we owed lots and lots of money - all that money we'd been borrowing - to lots of nasty people in foreign countries, and they all wanted their money back.

Now, for a long time the Labour Party had survived due to the fact that the majority of people in this country are very, very stupid - yes, Polycysta, that does include you, you can't even count to five without pissing yourself - and enough of them were persuaded to vote for Tony and his friends in return for lots of free money. When the money ran out, a small but significant minority of these morons realised they had been duped, and when it came time for an election - "election", Bendybus, you filthy minded squirt - Gordon lost and a man called David took over.

It very quickly became clear to David that Gordon and his gang had left us all in a dreadful mess and that if something wasn't done soon, we'd all end up being owned by the Chinese. So David and his friends set about trying to reduce the amount of money the government was spending, so that they might be able to pay back the money owed to the nasty foreigners more quickly and we wouldn't have to learn Mandarin. This seemed like a good idea to everyone who works in the private sector - that's all the companies that make all the money to give to the government so it can pay for the public sector - that's bin men and nurses and firemen and diversity coordinators and social workers - yes, Shiznit, including the one who comes round to see if your mum's injecting Mr Sheen again. After all, people in the private sector were having to make sacrifices  - prices of food and petrol and everything else were going up faster and faster, and any money they'd saved for retirement wasn't going to be worth anything, so they'd have to tighten their belts and make do. They thought it seemed only fair that the public sector workers - whose salaries and benefits had, for the first time, overtaken those in the private sector - should do their bit too.

Now, as you can imagine, this didn't go down at all well. Us public sector workers have got used to above inflation pay rises and final salary pension schemes, so why should we have to take a hit now just because there's no money left? And that's why, children, on 30th June the school will be closed and I and all the other teachers will be having a well-earned day off. Yes, it's term time, yes, it will mean you miss school even though we tell parents it's essential you are here every day, and yes, we've always bleated on about how we don't do the job for the money, but for the satisfaction of educating the next generation. Well yes, Yobetta, I know we don't do a very good job of it, but it sounds good at dinner parties. So today's lesson is "Look after Number One, and if you don't get what you want, throw your toys on the floor and walk out".

And that, children, is hyprocrisy. Any questions?

No, Gobshyte, you can't feel my tits.

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Britain's Got Coalition and the Nick Clegg Connection

I have been sent an explosive email making serious allegations against a high-profile production company which relies heavily on audience participation to make money, but which (according to these allegations) has been systematically fixing the system for its own gain. I'll let the email speak for itself. None of what follows has been verified as true:

For reasons which will become obvious, I can't reveal my full identity. But let me just say that, I am a Conservative MP with many years experience in shagging my secretary. My work involves close liasion with David Cameron's TORYCO company and, as a result, I have seen what goes on from the inside and this has left me increasingly uncomfortable about the integrity of Britain's Got Coalition and the workings of TORYCO.
It's long been known that there is a quite a degree of "fixing" in BGC but press reports on "fixing" are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to TORYCO's manipulation of the electorate and hopefully, in this blog post, I can shine some light on the smoke and mirrors trickery of TORYCO.
Take Election 2010 for example. Scouts working for TORYCO first saw Nick Clegg (the 12 year old plonker) some two years ago when he was just 10 and was appearing in a farce called No Government Please, We're Liberal Democrats.
Fresh-faced, young, full of hope. Poor bastard...
Following that, Nick was privately auditioned by TORYCO scouts on several occasions and, as is usual practice on BGC, he was "invited" to audition, as a "preferred" candidate, for the part of Patsy in the Conservative's new production, The Importance of Being Arseholes. At the same time, Nick and his parents (Paddy and Vincent) were "required" to enter into a contract with TORYCO. Like all TORYCO contracts, it is heavily weighted in favour of the Conservatives. David effectively signed Nick for life and he's got little or no chance of ever getting out of it...unless David decides to terminate. As one senior Tory MP said to me recently. "These people are mugs. They'll sign away their own mother just to get into government. It's a fucking turkey-shoot and then we own their arses!"
It's no big secret that David had been looking for an idiot who could be used to take all the shit for TORYCO's bad decisions. A development package, which included professional whinging, excuse-making and U-turn tuition was arranged for Nick.
Until now Nick had been encouraged to "boy-up" and it was planned to present him as an everyday Tory-boy. But with his girliness still showing through, the image just wasn't believable. So a decision was taken to encourage and allow Nick to "release" and enhance his uselessness . Disgustingly, TORYCO planned to fuck him over. They were well aware of course, that if they fucked over a young girl all hell would let loose. But with Nick, as one MP put it, "no one has ever seen a Lib Dem get arse fucked before, it'll be a novelty." As for the core Tory voter market, it was accepted they wouldn't care if Nick appeared useless or not...most probably don't know what Lib Dem is anyway...
Nick Clegg today - look at him. Look at the EYES. 
The email continues, providing further details which point to a massive conspiracy to manipulate the British public into believing that Nick Clegg is something he is not. If true,  TORYCO has some serious questions to answer. Not that they will, of course - they'll just tell everyone to fuck off, as usual. 

Monday, 23 May 2011

Injunction Busting - Who's Next?

Where did it all go wrong?

Now that the Ryan Giggs injunction is out of the way, it's time for Twitter to turn its collective attention to other holders of injunctions preventing details of their private lives being published or discussed in public. In the interests of justice, your fearless correspondent has decided to reveal the identities of several individuals and companies currently misusing the legal system to hide their disgraceful activities. I ask nothing in return other than your undying admiration and love, and any spare change you might have lying about the place.

1) Harry Garry, professional shagger and occasional footballer. Has been having an adulterous affair with erstwhile Sunday Sport model Trixie Wibblytits. Injunction granted by Lord Justice Flugelhorn prevents any discussion of Garry's extramarital activities or of the fact that he has a tiny, tiny penis.

2) Sir Bob Banker - former Chief Executive of the Bank of Wank, took out a so-called super-injunction preventing his being referred to as a "useless cunt" and any publication or discussion of his extramarital affair with a member of staff, the dirty, dirty boy. The injunction granted by Mr Justice Bassoon prevented any mention of the existence of the injunction, any acknowledgement of the existence of the word "injunction"and any mention of the word "shameless Scotch prick" by anyone to anyone. Also prevented any discussion of the fact that Sir Bob had personally and directly overseen the virtual collapse of the bank, leading to thousands of "little people" losing their jobs, an absolutely obscene amount of money being spunked up its ungrateful corporate flue in the form of a government bail out and, as an indirect result, the advent of those fucking Halifax adverts.
This poor woman didn't deserve to end up doing that god-awful "ISA ISA Baby" ad.  She's a trained actor, for God's sake. 

3) Travestyra PLC - enormous global corporation engaged in digging stuff up, watering it down and flogging it on to investment banks and sovereign funds at a ridiculous mark up. The company in 2003 loaded a great big supertanker with ebola virus, copies of The X Factor Winners' album, hundreds of gallons of battery acid and 10,000 tonnes of rancid beef. It sailed it to a poor African country and dumped the lot in a reservoir next to an orphanage and kitten sanctuary. Emails unearthed in a subsequent investigation revealed that the company had done this "for shits and giggles". The company sought an injunction to prevent anyone anywhere ever publishing or discussing its actions in any form, including via the media of dance, mime, abstract sculpture or during a game of Pictionary. Lord Justice Totaltwat granted the injunction but MP Farrelly Brothers tabled a question in parliament detailing what a complete set of bastards these people really are, and the injunction was lifted. Travestyra was subsequently fined 0.000001% of the Finance Director's biscuit budget.

4) Gideon Shouty, celebrity chef and creator of cuntish cuisine. Shouty built his reputation around being an insufferably rude, intolerant, foul-mouthed, sexist prick, and made a fortune by building a business empire around his ability to make people cry. Took out an injunction to prevent publication of details involving his being insufferably rude, intolerant, foul mouthed and sexist to a member of staff and making her cry. Mrs Justice Fannybatter granted the injunction because she thought he was a bit dishy and, having heard that he wasn't terribly good at keeping his bratwurst in his lederhosen, was hoping for a shag.

5) Mr D'Arcy Buggery - actor, not terribly well known but has been in that thing with the people in the house. You know, the one with the war. And the boat. And that posh bird who was in that other thing. Buggery sought and won an injunction to prevent any publication of some rather unpleasant details involving his having a prostitute insert things into his bottom. Mr Justice Fang granted the injunction out of sympathy as he too enjoys being pleasured by brass tarts with great big plastic strap on cocks. They're all at it, apparently.

These are all the details I am able to divulge, at this time. There are other far more stringent injunctions in force - so-called Mega-Fuckoff-Hyper-Bastard-Fucking-Hell-You're-Joking-Injunctions, but to report on these would leave me vulnerable to state-sanctioned assassination (Case in point: Bernard Matthews, just before he mysteriously and suddenly died at the young age of 80, was about to reveal details of a serving member of the House of Lords and ex-Prime Minister who had for a number of years been borrowing prize Norfolk Bronze turkeys and returning them in a state of some disrepair).
Sort of like this but up the other end
I have done my bit, Twitter. Now it's your turn. Let battle commence!!

Giant Cloud of Noxious Ass

A volcano going off on one
Reports are coming in of chaotic scenes in the country's more credulous and idiotic towns, following the release of a huge cloud of ass from Dåǽïlÿmặîl, an enormous fountain of hot shit which caused widespread problems for tourists last summer by convincing them that if they went abroad they'd catch superAIDS and their houses would be overrun by rabid Eastern European squatters while they were away.

The toxic ass cloud was released over the weekend when a mountain in the country of Iceland went bang, causing journalists to immediately re-file the same copy they spunked out of their gaping shit-chasms a year ago, about how anyone getting on a plane was as good as committing suicide and how it was all the fault of gypsies and brown people.

Meanwhile, in the other Iceland - the purveyor of rock hard chunks of mechanically-recovered animal by-products - hordes of fat, greasy fuckwits, convinced that they were witnessing the start of "that Rupture thing" they'd heard about, fought pitched battles to get at the last few remaining multipacks of battered chicken-flavoured lumps and mini hamlike-and-cheese-motivated chicken-textured breaded kievballs.
Yum yum yum.

One of the looters, 14 year-old single-mother-of-8 Spazmodia Clunt, said "I dint read it cos I carnt read of nuffink but my mate Chlamydia said she erd someone dahn the Bingo oo's cousin done a exam in reading and she said it was the end of the world so I fort well I ain't dyin ungry so I came darn ere to load up on bacon-coloured shitsticks."

Meanwhile, a large cloud of ash pumped out by the Grímsvötn volcano was heading towards the UK, where it was predicted to have absolutely no detrimental impact whatsoever on anything or anyone. The volcano, in a statement released via its lawyers, said that it was dismayed that its "private eruption, an entirely personal matter" had been leaked to the press and that anyone discussing it on Twitter would be tracked down and murdered in their beds.

Ryan Giggs is 37.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Defending Ken

Warning: This is going to be long, and serious. My intention is to examine the frankly infuriating way in which Ken Clarke's interview on BBC 5 Live yesterday morning has been reported, and more importantly how (in my not remotely humble opinion) it has been misquoted, misrepresented and latched on to by a number of different (but all self-serving) individuals and groups.

Everyone has their opinion, and an awful lot of people have already aired their views, either on telly or radio, or in the press, or by blogging or tweeting. I get the sense that a lot of these people haven't bothered actually to listen to or read exactly what it was he said. So, because I have nothing better to do, and in the safe and certain knowledge that no one will read this anyway, I'm going to break it down (not in the style of MC Hammer, I'm afraid). What follows are extracts from the BBC transcript of Ken Clarke's interview, verbatim. If you have a life I'd get on with that rather than wade through this, but if you are interested - read on. I'll be referring to Clarke as KC and Victoria Derbyshire, the interviewer, as VD (not the ideal initials, particularly given the subject matter, but what can you do?).
KC: Most people don't realise you get a discount for pleading guilty. And until you think about it you wonder "Why do you do that?" when he's actually done it. Now rape is actually the strongest example in my opinion of why you do it. Somebody who stops messing about, stops accusing the people accusing him of being liars, stops a great long trial, relieves the victim and the witness of going through the whole ordeal again and being called a liar - that's why we give a discount. That's why we have always given a discount. We still have far too many people who don't plead guilty in the first place. And it, you know, wastes police time, and costs money and all the other things. But the thing that's most compelling with me is, just, we will give you credit if you put your hands up, stop messing about and don't make things worse for the victim. And in the case of rape, I can't think of a better example. If you plead guilty...
I think all of this is sensible - don't you?
VD: (interrupts) Have you met women who've been raped?
Sorry, but what the fuck has this got to do with anything? Really? He is trying to explain why criminals who plead guilty early in the process get a discount on their jail sentence. Why ask if he's met women who have been raped if she isn't pursuing an agenda? 
KC: I've taken part in rape trials. I was a lawyer, sort of, yes I've met women who've been raped.
VD: And have you put this idea to women who've been raped?
KC: No I haven't put this idea to women who've been raped because I haven't met one recently. My experience of rape trials….
VD: Wouldn't it have been…it was a long time ago….
KC: that the trial…Contested rape…
VD: ...which was a long time ago…
So fucking what? It's more experience of rape trials than she has had. 
KC: What I think happens is that the woman finds that another ordeal is now being imposed upon her. The woman's already distressed and traumatised enough by the rape finds she's now in a witness box, in front of a jury, the lawyer accusing her of lying, going over the whole thing again.
Valid point, no? Clarke is by no means trivialising the ordeal of being raped - quite the opposite. 
VD: Under your plans that woman could find… that woman could find the rapist back on her street in a year and a bit. It's an insult to her isn't it?
This is a hypothetical woman we're talking about, remember. She doesn't actually exist. Yet Derbyshire is suggesting to Clarke and to the audience that he is actually insulting her. Actually insulting a hypothetical woman, who DOES NOT EXIST. 
KC: The rapist is going to be….very light sentence for a…a year and a bit?
VD: Yes. A rapist gets five years.
KC: Rapists don't get… rapists get more than that.
VD: Hang on a minute. Five years on average, yes they do Mr Clarke, yes they do.
KC: That includes date rape, 17-year-olds having intercourse with 15-year-olds.
Listening to the interview, it seems clear that Clarke is not saying date rape and 17 year olds having sex with 15 year olds is the same thing. He has, however, gone wrong here as while having consensual sex with a girl under 16 (and older than 13) while a criminal offence, is, under the Sexual Offences Act 2003, no longer classified as rape. This is, of course, a technicality but it does serve to undermine his point that the five-year average sentence encompasses "all rape convictions".

This next bit is where it all starts to go properly wrong for Clarke. He doesn't really think it through.
KC: Serious rape, I don't think many judges give five years for a forcible rape, the tariff is longer than that. And a serious rape where, you know, violence and an unwilling woman, the tariff's much longer than that. Secondly, half way through they are released but they are released on licence so they're still supervised. They can be recalled if they do anything wrong on licence - all this 'they're let out after half the time' which is… really right I didn't introduce that but that's where we are, but it is subject to licence and subject to recall. So they are the idea is at that stage you're trying to stop them doing it again and eventually they will finish the sentence and they're let out.
It's his use of the phrase "serious rape" that has been latched on to by those who are demanding his resignation/sacking. It could be construed that he considers there to be a type of rape that is not serious. I strongly doubt this is actually the case, but it is a massive open goal for anyone looking for an excuse to have a go at him.
VD: If I had been raped why would I be encouraged to go to the police when I know full well that the rapist could get just over a year in jail. Why would I put myself through the trauma, the examinations, the hell of it, when he might be out in 15 months?
Oh, I dunno. Possibly because if you don't go to the police, the rapist won't get any time in jail at all? And if you want to know why a rape victim might be discouraged to go to the police, it could be because they've heard rampant bullshit from the likes of you, trying to convince her that the perpetrator won't go to prison for very long... Just a thought.
KC: Well, I must stop you repeating this total nonsense…assuming you and I are talking about rape in the ordinary conversational sense. Some man has forcefully, with a bit of violence...
VD: Rape is rape, with respect.
KC: No it's not, and if an 18-year-old has sex with a 15-year-old and she's perfectly willing, that is rape. That's 'cause she's underage, she can't consent. Anybody has sex with a 15-year-old, it's rape.
Not true. Clarke, as Justice Minister, probably ought to know this, frankly. 
KC: So what you and I are talking about, we're talking about a man forcibly having sex with a woman and she doesn't want to. That is rape. Serious crime, of course it's a serious crime. 
Let's stop here and consider, in I hope not too salacious a way, how different offences of rape could attract different sentences. I'd just like to put in on record that I consider anyone who forces themselves on a woman for any reason is an odious little fucker who deserves to be subjected to the full force of the law. I am no apologist for rapists, of any description, but I do agree with Clarke that there is not just one "sort" of rape. 

Consider: a man goes out at night, carrying a knife, dressed in dark clothing and making deliberate attempts to conceal his identity. He follows a woman from a train station or bus stop, waits until he is confident of not being observed, and attacks her, using the knife to threaten her with injury, and forcefully and completely against her will has sex with her.

Compare this to a man who goes to a bar, carrying on his person some sort of drug which he intends to use to sedate or otherwise chemically influence a woman, for the purposes of having sex with her. He selects a victim, drugs her, takes her to some private place and, in the certain knowledge that she does not consent, has sex with her.

Compare this again to a man who goes to a party, meets a woman, they both get drunk but she much more so than he, and they end up having sex to which he wrongly thinks she consents. He may or may not have had doubts as to her consent at the time.

All of these are rapes, without question, but are they all deserving of the same jail sentence? I don't think so, Clarke doesn't think so, and I suspect most people, giving it due consideration, also don't think so.

But to listen to or read the torrent of approbation, condemnation and in some cases vicious bile poured forth in the media, you'd think that Clarke had actually suggested that unless violence is used in the perpetration of a rape, it's not a serious offence. He has very clearly said no such thing, or even a thing which, in a certain light could be reasonably mistaken for such a thing. Yet we've got Milliband demanding, like a petulant schoolboy demanding his pocket money, for Clarke to be sacked. We've got otherwise seemingly sensible journalists completely ignoring the facts and making out that Clarke is an apologist for rapists, and we've got people on Twitter casually stating that they hope he himself is raped, or that because he is posh and a Tory that he thinks rape victims are all responsible for their ordeals. It's insane.

I find it deeply worrying that it seems impossible to have a debate about any serious issue in this country without it immediately descending to mindless, knee-jerk tabloid-fed reactionism. 

If anyone is actually reading this, I'd be interested to know your thoughts. Comments below.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Four X Four X Fuck Off

Firstly, straight off the bat, I am by no means an eco-hippy. I don't believe that CO2 is going to murder my children, and I don't believe the world is going to catch on fire if we don't all stop using electricity and replace it with rainbow power.

I do, however, really really REALLY fucking hate 4x4s and I'll tell you why (like you give a shit).

I hate 4x4s because I live in one of the many suburbs of London (in my case, Wimbledon) where an increasing number of people who live nearby (I'm loathe to use the word "neighbour" as that implies I have to be "neighbourly") have decided that having hand-made wooden "plantation" blinds in their windows and organic Free Trade gravel in their front gardens is not enough. Oh no. Not nearly enough to satisfy their need to show the world that they are not just Middle Class, thank you very much, but Upper Middle Class. Yah, y'know, like, we used to have Ikea furniture and John Lewis saucepans but now it's all bespoke rosewood pedestal units and yak skin sofas, well we can afford it now Jerry's finally been promoted to Executive Vice President and Manager of Pointless Wank.

None of this is ENOUGH, do you hear? People might not notice, and then what would be the POINT? No, the only way to satisfy that yearning deep within their hollow, empty hearts is to buy a fucking great big car that shouts LOOK AT ME, I'M A SUCCESS. Cars such as this:

Audi Nob Jockey 4.2 XL

Porsche Piss Wizard STD

Range Rover 4.8 Turbo Fuck Basket "The Footballer's Friend"
Notice how the utter cuntedness of this model has caused all
the vegetation in the area to wither and die. 

Now look. I really, honestly have no issue with wanting to flash a bit of cash, I'm sure you've worked hard to earn it and it's yours to do with what you like. Let's ignore the fact that you can pick one of these ludicrous twat-wagons up second hand for £30k or so, thus somewhat diluting the suggestion that you've "made it" by being able to afford one. Similarly, let's brush over the undeniable fact that having an off-road 4X4 in London is about as idiotic as having a submarine at the top of Ben Nevis. And just to reiterate, I absolutely do not have the slightest interest in your car's fuel consumption, or the amount of CO2 it pumps out, or even whether 13 Guatemalan school children were killed in horrible and pointless fashion during its manufacture. Couldn't give a fuck.

But what I DO care about is not being able to park my own car (a dreary and soulless family hatchback, since you ask) outside my own house because YOU, you hopeless FUCKER, have plonked your ruddy great cockmobile right fucking there. Not only in MY FUCKING PARKING SPACE, but taking up THREE spaces because the fucking thing is so huge, it has the turning circle of a cross channel ferry and you can't see how much space you have in front or behind.

I believe that it should be illegal to own a 4X4 if you live in London and can't prove that you spend at least one weekend per month herding sheep. Up a mountain. In Mongolia. And if you park outside my house again, I'm having your wing mirrors.

Monday, 16 May 2011

A few simple rules to help you choose a dog

If it is less than 3 feet tall at the shoulder, it is not a dog.

If it can comfortably lie in your lap, it is not a dog.

If it is called Pixie, Snookums, FrouFrou or Snowdrop, it is not a dog.

If it cannot carry a branch (not a twig) which is at least twice as long as itself, it is not a dog.

If it needs a coat in winter, it is not a dog.

If it might ever require a trip to the hairdressers, it is not a dog.

If it couldn't scare off a burglar, it is not a dog.


is a dog.

As is this:

This is not a dog:

It is a hairy rat.

Generally, if it isn't big enough to eat you if it wanted to, and it doesn't look thicker than a plank (and act twice as thick as it looks), it's not a dog. Bear in mind, looking "stupid" is not the same as looking "thick". 

Finally, please get your dog from a rescue centre, not a breeder. If you insist on having a pedigree pet, get a fucking koi carp. And then fuck off.