Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Cobblers update!

Google shares suddenly nosedive 20%. Aren’t you glad I use my powers for Good?

I wouldn’t bother waiting for the stock to turn around. They’ll be a smoking crater this time tomorrow, after all.

A smoking crater yesterday. Purely illustrative, you understand.

Cobbler, stick to thy last

Google – corporate motto: “Do No Evil” – has been giving the world an interesting public demonstration of ethical Twister as it defies the US Govt on national security, but caves to the Chinese on censorship. Another red letter day for the West’s decadent cultural relativism. Google is lauded to the skies for taking a stand on civil liberties in its own country (where no gulags await its chief executives), but when faced with the determination of a foreign dictatorship to keep their befuddled masses safely corralled within the party line it folds faster than Superman on laundry day.

Nietzsche warned us that “if you gaze for long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you”. Now we at Vertucon (corporate motto: “An Evil Corporation”™) have a lot of time for Nietzsche. For a start, he’s German, and so pretty much guaranteed to be evil. But even the Tooth Fairy would have to give him some credence on this point. It’s axiomatic in physics too that every interaction, even observation, involves a change in both parties - a subtle drawing together, an unconscious compromise. Well, Google just compromised. Maybe China did too, but there’s umpty-two billion of them, and only a few thousand bucktoothed geeks at Google. When an asteroid swings past Jupiter, who do you think moves more?

Since Teddy Roosevelt’s time, Democracy has been accepted by the super-rich as the price they paid for stability and prosperity. If the Chinese go on like this, and succeed in creating a rich, free-market totalitarianism, how long before all our cherished rights and liberties are withdrawn from us here? Yet the Dems, MoveOn.org, Michael Moore and all those other crusading fatheads let the story die without comment. Like the British at Singapore, the Left have all their guns pointing in the wrong direction.

But fear not. While we at Vertucon normally take a relaxed view of others’ indiscretions, even we have our standards. For a start, Red China is ruthless and oppressive in its pursuit of total world domination, and frankly we don’t need the competition. In any case, tho’ it might be a bit unfashionable in today’s post-modern world, we take this whole Good and Evil thing very seriously at Vertucon. Demarcation should be observed. They don’t build any Doomsday Machines, and we don’t rescue kittens from canals or feed the homeless (unless it’s with the aforementioned kittens, which is a special case). So when a bunch of supposedly goody-two-shoes hippies like Google start sucking up to the ChiComs we have a right to feel that they are stepping onto our turf.

There’s no love lost between us anyway. We’re neighbours in that dusty, dessicated corporate parking lot known as Silicon Valley, and their employees are forever nicking all the best spots in the car park. Also they keep rearranging the letters of our motto, which wouldn’t be so bad if they were actually any good at anagrams. So far the best attempts they could come up with are PREVARICATION LOON, NAPOLEON AIR VICTOR, and COVARIATE LOIN PORN (which admittedly is probably very funny if you’re a Googly maths wonk). We would’ve done the same to theirs but they have fewer letters, and also dreaming up anagrams is too much like hard work.

So instead we’re just going to incinerate them with a giant frickin’ laser. Little do they know that, as they pore over their nerdy algorithms, our revenge draws ever nearer. No man knoweth the hour – but it shall be soon, soon…

Note to self: sell all Google stock before Thursday lunchtime.

Google headquarters yesterday, as seen from space. Just ignore those crosshairs, guys…

Monday, January 30, 2006

Welcome to self-awareness corner

More news of those whom my friend Gorilla Bananas charitably calls “alpha males”, as Donald Trump surfaces in a Time magazine article about effective working habits. He ascribes his phenomenal creativity and success (sic) to his strict routine of taking regular downtime for thought and reflection.

I’m sorry, but I don’t find this at all credible. A moment’s real introspection would immediately present him with two questions that he has quite obviously never asked himself:
a) why on Earth did I marry that hard-faced Czech bitch?
b) what the fuck is that thing on my head?

Photo finish though it is, I think the former question the most pressing. When I was living in Moscow in the late 80s, I was amused by the many pointless and Byzantine ethnic rivalries among the various Slav populations I met, but easily the most unpopular with all the others were the Czechs. They were universally condemned as Teutonic wannabes, effortlessly combining German charm and Slavic efficiency. This reputation is not entirely unearnt, as I discovered in Prague a few years later, but on the whole the Czechs are a friendly and pleasant bunch. But that Ivana Trump is stamped right through, like a stick of sour rock, with preternatural golddigger malevolence – Hillary Clinton with a beehive.

She has a yacht, you know. She calls it Ivana. Further comment would be superfluous, but suffice it to say that while the East Germans had a wall to keep their folk in, the Czech border was mined to keep Ivana from coming back.

Donald Trump and unobtrusive accessory, yesterday. Obviously exhausted from all that thinking he’s been doing.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Bloody well hung

I’m home!

On my return trip I fly via Salt Lake City Utah, home of the Mormons. While there exists some residual danger of being murdered by church elders, or accidentally acquiring some extra wives, I thought it worth the risk just to avoid Atlanta’s bag-sucking vortex of misery.

There are no obvious signs of deviancy in the terminal. Maybe everyone here is in transit, while the natives shun the airport with its godless flying machines. I browse the t-shirts on sale while I wait for my connection. References to polygamy outnumber references to massacring defenceless women and children by a considerable margin. The Wasatch Brewery Co. extolls its Polygamy Porter Ale (motto: “Why just have one?”). “The plural of spouse is spice!” proclaims another popular item, which for some reason is not available in women’s sizes. I dare say they sold out. Winter and extreme sports are also well represented themes - mooses (meese?) snowboard, dogs leap into mosh-pits, and a creature that might be a beaver is doing something unattractive to a log. Everyone seems to be having fun and no-one is pictured perched on a sofa waving an ersatz Bible at their miserable browbeaten hosts.

Out the window all is cold and bright under a china-blue sky, and the snow on the surrounding mountains glitters and beckons. In the clear upcountry air they look close enough to reach out and touch. Maybe an extra wife or two is not such a heavy price to pay. I resolve to broach the subject with Mrs Terrible, but females, especially pregnant ones, are notoriously unsound on the topic. In deference to her delicate condition I decide to save the good news for another time – ie, when she is not within waddling range of any sharp throwables.

She greets my hero’s return with a heart-warming smile and a big hug, which I return for a full thirty seconds. Yes, wife #2 will have a lot to live up to…

Some Mormons, yesterday. Note the immaculately ironed shirts. Some serious wifely elbow-grease went into them, I’ll bet.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

It's not big, and it's not clever

Whales continue to thrust their way into the headlines, blubbery media-whores that they are, this time by vomiting some sort of fabulously over-priced intestinal treasure over some passing Australians. While one can understand and even sympathise with the desire to vomit on Australians, one wonders why they didn’t stick with the traditional suspicious-kebab-and-inexplicable-carrots variety, rather than something that sells for $20 a gram. What are they, stupid? Don’t they know that stuff’s valuable? These big floating lummoxes are beginning to get on my nerves.

"A period of silence from you would now be welcome." – Clement Attlee.

Yet another bastard whale, yesterday, hawking a 30lb prairie oyster over a boatload of horrified eco-tourists. Bloody show-offs, that’s what they are.

Friday, January 27, 2006

The Sisterhood of the Travelling Ponce

Michael Jackson is spotted in Bahrain wearing traditional women's clothing, we learn from the inestimable BBC News.

Not, we should make clear, the boob tube and mini-skirt of the British female, but the somewhat more sombre veil and gloves typical of his recently adopted home. Perhaps he feels that children will find him more approachable in this garb, although of course why he should want that is not a topic upon which one cares to speculate. He has previously wandered into ladies’ lavatories over there too, which suggests a marginally more innocent explanation for this latest display of wackery.

But simple charity prompts us to assume the best of everyone, and so we suggest, just for the sake of argument, that Mr Jackson is actually making a statement of solidarity with the females of that benighted region. After all, just beyond Bahrain’s narrow borders women are locked in the house and forbidden to maneouvre huge 4x4s around supermarket car parks in search of a pint of milk and some chocolate hob-nobs. This is generally agreed to be a Bad Thing.

So hats, gloves and abayas off to Michael for so bravely challenging patriarchal gender hierarchies. Hopefully this is a sincere personal choice, and not a case of making a virtue of necessity. Noses might not be the only thing hanging by a thread after so many operations.

Michael’s handlers take a break from sweeping up the bits he leaves behind to berate the press. Apparently Michael doesn’t want the photographers to scare the children, which is a bit rich coming from a mass of scar tissue dressed like a Tusken Raider.

Michael Jackson has two sons, both called Prince Michael. I’m beginning to think there’s something a little bit odd about him, you know…

Michael Jackson yesterday. I am Wacko – hear me roar!

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Hate Ashbury

I fly to California.

Many people would consider this an exciting, possibly spiritual, experience. The sun, the surf, the hippies on Height Ashbury. The pneumatic lifeguard babes. I however am travelling on business, to Vertucon corporate headquarters in San Jose, and my hideously delayed flight via the Black Hole of Atlanta dumps me at scenic Norman J Mineta International Airport after 10pm local, which is about as mundane an environment as it is possible to imagine without actually being an accountant.

No-one is wearing a bikini or waxing a surfboard. And my bag is still in Atlanta.

A very nice girl called Dawn checks me in at my hotel. I consider asking her to wax my board, but it’s gone 2am according to my bodyclock, and I’m feeling too rumpled to turn on my undeniable charisma. She tells me how much she loves my accent, as it reminds her of Hugh Grant. “Shame he’s gay” she adds, hermetically sealed on Planet Cretin. I take my frozen smile off to bed.

A subtle combination of threats, tears, phantom pregnancies and hysterical allegations of racial discrimination deter all but the most determined managers from winkling me out from under my cubicular rock in NC. Yet every now and then I am forced by mocking Fate to board some bankrupt’s rattling death-trap and suffer alongside hundreds of business school zombies, all crackling with static from their bry-nylon suits, shirt cuffs and tails trailing like circus chimps, bellowing nonsense into their cell phones. I feel like the Flying Dutchman condemned to round the Cape for eternity with a crew of financial advisors from Solihull.

Now they haunt my dreams, striding with entirely unwonted confidence through the departure lounges of the world towards the meetings and deliverables that hedge their straitened horizons round, while yawning at their feet are the unmarked graves to which they will go unwept, unhonored, and unsung. They call to me to join them, but I resist, resist…

At this point, Dawn of the Brain Dead calls me from Reception to tell me that my bag has arrived at the hotel. It is four in the morning. “Have a nice day!” she adds.

California. “Not far from Heaven” the old ads told us. Not far enough.

Some typical Californians, yesterday. In accordance with local dress codes, the girls’ tops are cantilevered to resist quakes of up to 8.1 on the Richter Scale. Although of course there’s a lot of swaying.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Score one for the working stiff

Richard Branson pops up on my personal radar again, extolling the entirely hypothetical virtues of his new as space tourism company, Virgin Galactic. Expect delays due to the wrong type of aliens on the launch pad. Almost instantly my knuckles start to itch, so I seek solace elsewhere, by googling the phrase “years of loyal service”.

Soon we are consoled and inspired by the moving story of a young boy who, at the age of fifteen, decided school had no more to teach him, and instead went to work as a humble apprentice mechanic in a motor company. Forty eight years later, that same young man retired as a fully qualified mechanic!

What a refreshing change. No disrespect to the distinguished gentleman concerned, but it’s a bloody relief not to have to hear how he worked his way up to become the billionaire chairman of a colossal multinational corporation, with the private jets and the homes in Mustique and the endless succession of curvaceous, orally-fixated young trophy wives. In my opinion there’s far too much of that kind of feckless social mobility going on nowadays, and quite frankly it’s bad for morale. How are we supposed to sell our kids on the long hard slog of academic study and the humiliating rat-like existence of the cubicle farms with those jammy rags-to-riches bastards like Trump, Branson and Sugar waving their bling in front of everyone? They make us look like chumps.

It wouldn’t be so bad if they had any redeeming personal features, but no – they run the full gamut of human personality from A to B, trundling along the narrow arc between smarm and arrogance and acting like they’re creatures of dazzling genius, when in fact they’re just the far end of the probabilistic bell-curve of those who just happened to have guessed right every time so far. For each one of them there’s a couple of thousand identical asswipes who didn’t quite manage to bluster their way into that sweet job, or rip off that patent, or land that ridiculous government subsidy to run Britain’s worst train service. But we never hear of them precisely because they never made it.

Instead it’s to the blameless Mr Hawker and his ilk that we must look for counter-examples and comfort, and we salute them for it.

Happy retirement, Mr Hawker. And kids – do your damned homework.

Richard Branson, yesterday. A terrible role model for young people.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

No fat chicks

I’m sure that we are all grateful to the Economist for a valuable insight into the subtle interaction of diet and reproduction. Conservationists in New Zealand, attempting to save a species of flightless and nocturnal parrots called kakapos, isolated them on predator-free islets and fed the females as much as they wanted to aid them in breeding. Unfortunately, the immediate side-effect of this all-you-can-eat buffet was a generation of fat females producing many more male offspring than female, with predictable results in terms of the parrot equivalents of violence and social cohesion. Only when the scientists cut the ladies’ rations back to being just enough to maintain fertility, and no more, did both gender balance and peace return.

One wonders if there is not some wider application to this lesson. If
free food + lazy females = too many preening males

then perhaps also
state-subsidized chips + idle welfare whores = too many 50 Cent wannabes and knife-wielding ratboy hoodies

Now as the Good Book says, the poor are always with us, as are the stupid. For ease of identification the two are usually the same, with the obvious exceptions of the Royal Family and your boss. No-one minds that there are lots of poor people. But it does become an issue when they are mostly dangerous vermin, and there are not enough dim-bulb scrunchied slappers to ring up your purchases in Boots and jack you off in nightclub car parks. The natural order is at risk.

Wherefore we turn to Mother Nature for answers, and she offers us the example of the humble kakapo. Round up your slappers - she seems to tell us with a benign smile - dump them on some barren offshore rock, and feed them just enough to keep them fertile, and soon cashier lines and cosmetic counters throughout the land will echo once again to the happy trilling of that simple yet decorative creature, the Great British Bird.

Let’s listen to Mother.

A shameless welfare sponger and her hoodlets, yesterday.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Stupid pet tricks

Whales having been much on our minds lately, there was a certain sense of narrative satisfaction when I found the Book of Jonah among one of yesterday’s appointed readings at church.

Jonah is one of the shortest books of the Old Testament, but also one of the most amusing. It’s a little hard on Jonah that he’s become a by-word for bad luck, when in fact his true defining quality is annoyance. He seems pretty pissed off throughout, and it’s hard to blame him…

- God tells him to go to Nineveh (the Middlesborough of its time for filth and degeneracy) and tell the Ninevites that they suck and will be destroyed in forty days.
- Jonah says “Bollocks to that – you’ll go soft and forgive them, as usual, leaving me looking like a ranting fleabitten nutcase. I’m off to Tarshish instead.”
- God says “Tarshish? I don’t think so. Meet my mate the whale.”
- Jonah sits in the whale’s stomach for three days, weighing his chances with the large intestine, but eventually accepts the inevitable.
- The whale hawks Jonah up on the beach, nice and close to Nineveh.
- Jonah goes to Nineveh and, ignoring some choice commentary from his audience regarding the overpowering aroma of curdled krill, preaches doom with the fervour of the recently regurgitated.
- The Ninevites immediately repent (which is where the whole “Middlesborough” analogy falls down).
- Sure enough God forgives them, leaving Jonah looking like a ranting fleabitten nutcase as fire and brimstone obstinately fail to deluge from the sky as advertised.
- Jonah explores new dimensions of irritation as he drags his sorry arse out of town. “For crying out loud, Lord!” he moans, “This is just what I said you’d do. Just kill me now why don’t you?” (Jonah, IV 2)
- Finally, Jonah literally hangs around outside the city for a few days asking God to smite it anyway. Will God cave to the teenage whining? No.

What I find so authentic about Jonah is that he’s just converted and saved a city of 120,000 people, but he’s actually disappointed because they’re not getting wiped out like he said they would. No doubt we all have a little of the Jonah in us. There’s nothing more annoying than when you warn someone of the dire consequences of this or that, and they go and believe you. How much more fun when they scorn your excellent advice and promptly crash and burn, and you finally get to say “I told you so!” Truly there’s a lesson for us all here – principally that you don’t have to be a saint to be a prophet.

That said, some are more Jonah-like than others. Is it mere coincidence that our whale turned up just beside the Houses of Parliament? If it had only occurred to someone to heave Tony over the side, what might not have been revealed to us? For a start, we’d have learnt what hilarious panic noises he makes.

On the other hand, maybe next time it’ll be a school of sharks.

Jonah, yesterday. Over the lips and past the gums, look out stomach - here he comes.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Where the wild things are

More on the subject of inter-species adoptions, as my attention is directed to Pyrénée, a charming work by Philippe Sternis about a young girl raised by a bear. Petit à petit, j'ai trouvé les caractéristiques graphiques de Pyrénée, de l'ours et de l'aigle… Sternis informs us breathlessly in an interview.

Being French, they bang on at length about la beauté de l'histoire, la simplicité et la profondeur des dialogues, la poésie du dessin, and I’m sure we all agree with those fine sentiments. But they take an interminable length of time to get to what for anyone else would be the first question asked… why is the poor creature butt-naked throughout? Sternis acknowledges his debt to Kipling’s Jungle Book, but even Mowgli had a loin-cloth. Those raised by wolves are indeed typically naked, but somehow one expects better things from bears.

Sternis says he and his partner saw her as a fée clochette (the sort of fairy who lives in bell-shaped flowers), which is probably enough to get them banned from a teaching post in any British school. Win-win for them, then.

Humans have long had complex relationships with bears – Grizzly Adams was notorious in going beyond what one would consider the limits of normal interaction. One can see his point – presentable females were thin on the ground among those untamed peaks, and I dare say he saw it as an elegant combination of the sex and the fur rug, needing only to supply the roaring fire. Fortunately, Pyrénée bolts back to civilization before anyone thinks to develop the plot in so unhealthy a direction in her case.

Pyrénée yesterday. She’ll catch her death like that, so she will…

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Stir crazy

Harry Hutton remains AWOL after nine straight days. Last we heard of him, he’d just gotten some hot prison survival tips from a chance acquaintance in a bar. Impetuous youth that he is, I fear that he could not wait to try them out and has rushed off incontinently to pound on the door of the nearest clink, demanding entrance.

Harry does not seem to fall into the standard ethnic categories for inmates of English gaols (namely Scouse or Scottish), so one begins to fear the worse. After a week or so, people in his situation are usually said to be sitting up comfortably and taking solids, but in this case the former is likely to be an issue, depending upon where and how many of the latter were applied.

Are you in gaol, or maybe you know someone who is? Perhaps you’re a Scouser temporarily between nicks? If so, keep your eyes peeled and let us know if you see Harry. There’s a shiny new penny in it for the first confirmed sighting!

And if you must do those disgusting things to him, at least give him a reach-around with our regards.

An inmate yesterday. Seen Harry, mate?

Friday, January 20, 2006

And the lion shall lie down with the lamb

The trusty Beeb provides us with an entertaining list of cross-species adoptions in the animal kingdom, often by predators of prey. Curiously, they list alongside them the story of how the locals warmly welcomed a surprise visit from a whale in Tokyo Bay.

There’s surely something vaguely libellous about the association of the Japanese item with the others – it somehow suggests that all Japanese are predators whose instinctive reaction to meeting a whale is to start hacking it to death on the spot. The fact that a few of them stopped to enjoy the sight of one in a bay is therefore equated with some sort of bizarre freak of nature.

It’s quite unfair, of course. The Japanese are an extremely cultured and sensitive people, as evidenced by the exquisite haiku they would compose, tears in their eyes, to celebrate the memory of those allied prisoners they had just spontaneously beheaded for raking the sand the wrong way, or whatever:
Cow eyed foreigner
Thought that there were rules to war
Unlucky for him

…and so on. See? Beautiful. Almost an honour to be turned into sushi by such sophisticated folk.

Personally, I think that the offending link should be removed forthwith. Now if a Japanese man adopted a whale, that would be another matter entirely. The lion and the lamb lie down together often enough – but usually only the lion gets up again. At least if you’re lying next to a whale the odds are more even. About 50-50 really, depending upon which way it rolls.

Update! Synchronicity works overtime as a whale turns up in the Thames. Aren't you glad I use my powers for Good?

Will we be as soft a touch as the people of Tokyo, or will it be eaten by chavs? Watch this space...

Update update! That Thames whale was pants, actually. With that bottlenose it didn't look like a whale at all - more like a dolphin that had really let itself go. If the best we can muster is Flipper's fat friend then we might as well stop issuing them visas.

A poet and his captive audience, yesterday.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

They eat storks in Norfolk

Congrats to JonnyB on the birth of his first child, Servalan. For those of you who didn’t waste the seventies watching low-tech British sci-fi, she’s named after the sexy yet evil nemesis of Blake’s Seven. Perhaps Jonny thinks of it as a fighter’s name. I fear that that will prove to be a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Sadly for wealthy, powerful and talented parents like Jonny, the mockery of their peers at kindergarten is not the worst threat that faces their precious bunnies, as evidenced by recent rumours of a plot to kidnap young Leo Blair. The BBC has found space for a breathless examination of the security arrangements the Beckhams and Abramovitches of this world can purchase. Admittedly Jonny is not connected with football in any way that I know of, but apparently that does not automatically disqualify him as a potential client.

That said, fees of 750 quid a day might be beyond the resources even of Mr B. Fortunately, rural Norfolk has its own burgeoning personal protection industry to fall back on. You can get a cardboard cut-out of trigger-happy local farmer Tony Martin for 25. Or, for slightly less, you can get Tony Martin.

Tony Martin, yesterday. Also available for Weddings, Bar-Mitzvahs, and children’s parties.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Arrr, Jim lad

News reaches us of an indiscreet parrot that has broken up its owners’ relationship by shopping the female for bonking another man while her mate was out at work. Apparently the bird took to imitating her passionate cries of “Gary!” in front of the increasingly suspicious boyfriend, who is a Chris. Given enough time, even a Yorkshireman can join the dots.

It’s difficult to know where one stands on cases like this. No-one likes a sneak, but on the other hand the parrot belongs to the man, and so arguably was showing simple loyalty. After all, we don’t object when Lassie pulls children out of wells, however much we might fantasise about leaving the noisy little bastards down there, and maybe chucking a few rocks in after them for good measure. Mother Nature has not equipped the humble parrot for such feats of strength and daring, but on the other hand she has gifted them with the power of speech, which this one has used to excellent effect.

However, it still smacks of the dirty and the underhanded, and parrots have form in this regard. They are, of course, inextricably linked to piracy, sitting on every captain’s shoulder, directing every villainous scheme, and maintaining their rule of fear by savagely ripping out an eye at the slightest sign of defiance. But when their underlings finally fell into the hands of the authorities, it was all “Pieces of Eight!” and “Polly wants a cracker!” Whoever ended up swinging from the yardarm in Greenwich, it was never the parrot.

Perhaps it’s time that the parrot community followed the example of the Anglican Church, and issued a formal apology for those long-ago crimes. Somehow, I feel that the spirits of Blackbeard and Teach would rest a little easier for it.

A parrot yesterday. Best not to turn your back on him for too long.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Slaves to fashion

For reasons that escape me, the Anglican church has taken it into its head to apologise for slavery. I must say that, as an Anglican (or rather an Episcopalian, as we are called over here) I take a certain offence at this. I never got to own any slaves, and now I find that while I was mowing my own lawn like a chump my bishop probably had a barn-full of human chattels doing his laundry, mixing his martinis and polishing his mitre all the live-long day. Small change only in the collection plate from now on, then.

UPDATE: On closer reading of the text, it seems that the bishops are planning to apologise for the actions of long dead churchmen of the eighteenth and nineteenth century, rather than for their own personal forays into human bondage (which if consensual are perfectly ok in today’s modern church). Well, we don’t know if those profiteers of the past were sorry when they were alive, but being a Christian I suspect that they’re very sorry now, so it may be that they’ll appreciate the gesture.

Anyway, now that we’ve apologised for the Crusades, colonialism, slavery and bad hymns, perhaps we can shut up for a minute and give someone else a turn. There must be other religions with things they'd like to get off their chests, if they could only get a word in edgeways. I don't think I'll wait up by the phone, tho'.

The Anglican Archbishop of York, yesterday. Implacable and unreconstructed racists, all of them.

Monday, January 16, 2006

The female of the species

Do women make better leaders? asks the BBC in its usual insufferably po-faced fashion. Angela Merkel, Michelle Bachelet, and Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf are all mentioned, with a sub-text that if they fail male chauvinism will somehow be to blame rather than, for example, being crap or, in the case of Ms Johnson-Sirleaf, being a puppet for psychotic limb-chopping kleptocrats and crap.

I dare say the Beeb are hoping to lure a few neanderthal male chauvinist knuckledraggers out of their caves for some healthy ridicule, although I notice that the same short shrift is not applied to those who believe women are superior.

Some examples of successful female leaders are cited by the right-on crowd. I've taken the liberty of adding some of their crowning achievements in brackets:
- Queen Elizabeth I (religious genocide)
- Eleanor of Aquitaine (serial treason)
- Cleopatra (had her own brother murdered, then Paris Hiltoned her way through the Roman Civil Wars until forced to commit suicide)
- Roxanna (who? Is this meant to be Alexander's wife? She never ruled. Some mistake?)
- Empress Wu of China (who again? Whatever, she's a Chinese ruler, so something involving mass slaughter is a given)
And last but not least...
- Evita Peron (is this a joke? This woman was literally a fascist)

Strangely, Margaret Thatcher does not make the list.

The BBC guide to choosing your next national leader:

Wrong =>


Oooh - just right. Lovely! =>

Aaaargh! No! Nooooo!

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Come dancing

I take my mum to the airport for her flight back to the UK. Apropos of nothing, she says she likes my navy blue corduroy jacket. Turns out that when she and my dad were first going out, in 1955, my dad had a bottle green corduroy jacket that she found very fetching. She would wear a brown corduroy coat of her own to match, making them a very good looking pair. Or so she assures me.

Well, those were simpler times: the hottest venue in town was the Irish Dance Hall in Leytonstone, which ended every evening with the Irish national anthem. Large parts of East London were still rubble from the war, and food and petrol were rationed, as were clothes, which latter point might explain this unaccountable fondness for corduroy. Still, it's a little alarming to think that you might only be here because your parents had matching coats.

My jacket, on the other hand, is of course very fashionable...

The Fifties, yesterday.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

But we are the people of England; and we have not spoken yet

Off to Swindon, where something akin to dialogue is taking place between Rulers and Unruly. Tony Blair hoses off a wall and demands respect, favourite word of role models like Vito Corleone and 50 Cent. The next day the reply comes, in 3ft-high letters - "Fuck off keep off our land Blair". Will Tony go back to clean the wall again? No.

GK Chesterton's predictive skills were certainly spot on so far as Blair goes:
"Lords without anger and honour, who dare not carry their swords"

But I don't think that these are quite the people or the riposte that he had in mind...

Some people of England yesterday. Probably just as well Chesterton was spared the sight.


A lot of people seem to be upset by the sight of a middle-aged demagogue making a prick of himself doing cat imitations. From a purely political point of view I fail to see the problem. Anything that degrades and humiliates such people has to be a positive, if only to highlight how despicable they are for the benefit of the slower-witted members of the electorate. Like almost everyone in Bethnal Green and Bow, to pluck an example out of thin air entirely at random. After all, would the Wehrmacht have leapt to reoccupy the Rhineland if they'd just seen newsreels of Hitler fetching a stick for Marlene Dietrich? I think we all know the answer.

On the other hand, no-one seems to have considered how the feline community might view the matter. I can't imagine they're happy about it. Remember when Prince Harry dressed up as a member of the Afrika Korps for a party? Their veterans' association was seriously pissed off about that. According to their official spokesfuhrer, elderly Nazi stormtroopers were upset to be associated with anything as indefensible as a hereditary monarchy. Same deal with the cats. They're Nature's nobility - arrogant, sadistic, and not as smart as they think they are - and of course they have claws. If I were George I wouldn't go down too many dark alleys for a while.

A cat yesterday. Not amused.

Friday, January 13, 2006

11-year-old "could read" shock

It turns out that the planet Pluto was named by an 11-year-old girl, who used her already solid grounding in Greek and Roman mythology to suggest the Roman God of the Underworld. Of course, this was in 1930, when children were schooled in the classics, rather than media studies and benefits fraud. What would the 11-year-olds of today name a new planet, I wonder? Planet Hollywood? Mike Hunt? Paris? (For Hilton, not France, natch). Fortunately none of them can write, and Lowell Observatory doesn't go in for texting.

Disney then named their new dog after the planet, and in typical American fashion claimed five minutes later that the planet was named after their dog. Right. And you liberated Burma and broke the Enigma code too, you colossal cockbiters.

Venetia Burney in 1930 yesterday. Not pregnant, no ASBOs. A young life tragically wasted...

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Reminds me of a girl I knew

End can't-find-your-bacon-in-the-dark" misery with RONCO GlowPork(TM)!

As if flourescent pigs were not enough, now the mad scientist community has moved on to human-rabbit hybrids. When will you humans learn? Well, probably around the point where Flopsy pulls a knife on you and lifts all your carrots.

A mad scientist yesterday. Probably shouldn't fall asleep under the cloning machine like that.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

With your help, we can stamp out rain forests for good

Let's see Greenpeace talk their way out of this one...

A plant yesterday. Bastard.

Johnny Hallyday awarded Nobel Prize for raising the average IQ of two countries

Johnny Hallyday, tired of being French, has decided to trade up to an exciting new nationality. Belgian. I don't think he's really put much thought into this. I give you the phrase "sexy Belgian rocker" just as an example.

His decision abruptly doubles the number of vaguely famous Belgians. And - added bonus - he's real, unlike Hercules Poirot, who sensibly left the miserable little rat-hole at the earliest opportunity and showed no inclination to return. Mind you, Hercules didn't like being called French either. I guess there's a natural pecking order even at that bargain basement level...

Jonny Hallyday yesterday. Apparently he'll have to lose the goatee to get Belgian citizenship, as it's a bit too racy for them.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

To soothe the savage breast...

Apparently doctors are playing Mozart to the comatose Sharon to aid his recovery.

If they wanted him up and about quickly I'd've thought that Wagner would be a better bet...

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Piccalilli Circus

JonnyB has met yet another moral dilemma, and succumbed which his usual lightning speed. Good show that man - a modern Oscar Wilde, except for the latter's exquisite command of the English Language. Also, Oscar succumbed to buttocks, whereas Jonny seems to have stumbled at the obstacle of breasts. Turkey breasts. Factory farmed turkey breasts at that.

It is a tribute to the advances of the modern age that his admission has been greeted with all the same disgust that Oscar's little indiscretion met a century ago. Perhaps next time he should just bugger a turkey instead of buying one. But only a free range turkey, natch.

Yet I come away from with tears in my eyes, not in sympathy with the turkey in that last sentence, but because of one innocent little word in Jonny's post - piccalilli. Lumps of crispy vegetable entombed in jars of thick, vomit-yellow mustard-and-vinegar pickle. Only the English could have invented such a thing. And only the English could have had the effrontery to blame it on the Indians.

I haven't seen or tasted piccalilli in years. When I was a kid of around seven or eight, I was judged just old enough to be trusted to come home from school on my own. A twenty minute walk through the shittiest part of London's East End, at the end of which I'd let myself into the house and amuse myself until my mum got home from work. It occurs to me now that I was a latchkey kid. I dare say I should've been out mugging someone, but those were simpler times - oil shocks, power cuts, bread rationing, three-day weeks, and a fortnight in '74 when there were troops billeted in our school and most others nearby for reasons no-one seemed inclined to explain.

Anyway, the first thing I'd do, every evening, would be to grab some bread and cheese, make a sandwich, and slather it with piccalilli. Then I'd go watch Hawaii Five-Oh until the power cuts started. That piccalilli brought tears to my eyes then, I remember.

To my surprise I find that it still does.

Some piccalilli yesterday. Yummy!

Monday, January 02, 2006

"Freeing" Willy

Heartening to see New Zealand starting the New Year with a bang. Or rather a fusillade. Apparently they're taking an unexpectedly tough line on illegal immigration this year. A New Year's Resolution, perhaps?

Bloody whales. They flounder onto our beaches, expecting state-subsidized fish - I've no sympathy for them at all...

Some benefit scrounging whales, yesterday. Note the brave conservation volunteers helping to drive them onto the beach, thus making it easier to shoot them. Who says today's youth has no social conscience?