... but I stopped. Now I'm a dad, and may blog again...

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

532: Beating a Bin with a Stick

There was a repetitive banging noise in the street outside my flat. It carried on in the background gradually drifting to the foreground of my consciousness until after about five minutes I decided to look out the window to see what in blimey was going on. A small child, about two and a half feet tall in his woolly bobble-hat, was beating on the side of a wheely bin with a stick. He seemed disinterested, as though it were a tedious but necessary task, like doing the washing up, changing a bicycle tire, or rooting around in the dirt for hidden caches of squirrel nuts. Gradually his enjoyment picked up, then cycled back down into it's a dull job, but someone's gotta do it.

Before you could say beating a bin with a stick I grabbed my favourite bin-beating stick out of the rack (the number 12a, I find it to be the most versatile), pulled on my bin-beating gloves, belt and boots, and high-tailed it out the door and down the stairs. I burst out through the front door and said that's my bin, step away. But in the time it had taken me to get together all my professional bin-beating gear and make my way down the stairs and out the door, it seems the little bin-beating junior amateur had lost interest and wandered off. No discipline, that's his problem. So I got in a good bit of bin-beating with a stick practise before retiring to my quarters. True story.

There was a repetitive banging noise in the street outside my flat. It carried on for quite sometime before I noticed it consciously. As soon as I became aware of it I grabbed my binoculars with the creepy night vision attachment, ran to the window tripping and stumbling over all the chicken carcasses and traffic cones, and sat in my peeping seat. At first I couldn't locate the sound. I scanned the gardens, rooftops and the road, eventually settling on a scene in the branches of a tree. Two squirrels dressed in spandex fought each other in a theatrical athletic spectacle; one adopted a clear role as protagonist (or babyface) while the other was a clear antagonist (or heel). A crowd of bloodthirsty pigeons responded to the roles and bayed for the blood of the despicable heel. It was good. I'm glad I was there to witness it.

531: "And," he said.

I was talking to this bloke just before this something happened, just before the incident with the Ovaltine and the student production of Hamlet, just before that, and he said "You know what?" I said, "No, what?" "You'll never guess," he said. "Go on," I said. "No, you go on. Go on, guess," he said. "Is it toothpaste?" I wondered out loud. "Are you talking to me about toothpaste," he asked. "I was only asking," I said. "No, not toothpaste," he said. "Guess again." "Is it a light bulb," I said. "No, it's not a bloody light bulb, is it," he said. "Does it look like a bloody light bulb?"

"I can't see it," I said. "Just tell me what's what, what's happening , or whatever." "No, go on, guess again," he said. "You like guessing, don't you," he said. "You're having fun, aren't you." "If you say so," I said. "No, I didn't," he said. "Are you guessing?" "Is it tarpaulin," I said. "You're getting warm," he said. "Is it a ground sheet," I said. "No, it's not a bloody ground sheet," he said. "You're freezing." "Is it a helicopter?" "Warmer." "An 'elicopter?" "Warmer!" "A bee?" "WARMER!" "A mouse?" "No, it's not a bloody mouse, is it? Are you having a laugh?" "No," I said.

"You know what?" he said. "No, what?" I said. "I'm just going to tell you," he said. "OK," I said. "Right, I hope you're listening," he said. "Cos I haven't got long," he said. "This is milkshake, that is ketchup, and that is marmalade," he said, pointing at various stains and smudges on his otherwise immaculate tunic. "Oh?" I said. "Do you follow?" he said. "I'm not sure I do," I said. "It's bleeding obvious, isn't it," he said. "Right, I'll start at the bloody start, will I," he said. "OK," I said.

"You know John," he said. "No, wait, you're not John, are you?" he said. "I'm not John, no," I said. "No, I didn't not think you were not," he said. "Good, cos I'm not," I said. "I never said you were now, did I," he said. "Why would I be talking about John to you if you were John," he said. "I wouldn't be doing it, would I," he said. "I suppose not," I said. "Anyway, forget about John," he said. "John's got nothing to do with anything." So I forgot about John. "I got a new telephone," he said. "One of them new ones with buttons on and a curly wire," he said. "The man at the shop told me it was a good one," he said. "You know about these things, don't you," he said. "Does it sound like a good one to you," he said. "Sounds fine," I said.

"You've met Mary, yes," he said. "Which Mary?" I said. "You know, Mary," he said. "Mary Mary, you know the one, Mary," he said. "Which Mary?" I said. "Don't be so bloody stubborn," he said. "She was helping them out," he said. "I think it was her," he said. "OK," I said. "Mary whose old man has a van," I said. "Don't be daft," he said. "Not that bloody Mary. Aren't you even paying attention?" he said. "I'm trying," I said. "Good," he said. "Cos I've made myself perfectly bloody clear," he said.

Monday, February 27, 2012

530: Another Asimov post

  1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
  2. A robot must obey the orders given to it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
  3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Laws.

After a few month hiatus, way too long, I have returned to Asimov, thank the Lord, Hari Seldon and R. Daneel Olivaw! Tens of thousands of years before the events of the Foundation series, and thousands of years from the non-fictional present day, take place the events of Robots and Empire. Tensions are building between the two factions of humans; the Spacers who first left Earth hundreds of years ago, colonised fifty worlds to live vastly elongated lives, in decadent luxury, served by armies of robots; and the Settlers, the most recent emigrants from Earth, who live normal lengths and despise and fear robots. Due to the Spacers' long lives and their dependence on robot labour their cultures face threat of stagnation, whereas the Settlers are on the rise. Spoiler alert: eventually the Settlers are to become the Galactic Empire which will rule for thousands of years and control 25 million planets. The Spacers will disappear from history, only to reappear in mysterious circumstances hundreds of years into the Foundation Era. Hope you're keeping notes.

I'm only half way through Robots and Empire, but due to having already read all the Foundation books I have a vague sense of where certain plots and themes may be heading. Maybe not within R&E but at some point, one day, in the far far future... R. Daneel Olivaw (the R is for Robot) appears as a driving force, an unseen guiding hand, at various points throughout the Foundation Era, and immediately prior to it. He may act similarly during the Empire but I haven't read any of those history books. Acting under the Zeroth Law of Robotics he attempts to guide humanity in order to protect it from arm. I sense that in the events of Robots and Empire R. Daneel Olivaw, during his discussions with the powerful telepathic R. Giskard Reventlov, formulates the Zeroth law as an addition to the fundamental Three Laws of Robotics. There's this little problem, with the plot to destroy Earth, that needs to be avoided, and only two plucky, free-thinking robots can prevent it!

The scale of Asimov's fictional universe blows my mind (for want of a less cliched cliche). From the present day spoken of in the Robot short stories, the Robot novels reaching to 12,500 CE (1 GE), the Galactic Era to 24,063 CE (12,063 GE), the Foundation Era to 24,583 CE (520 FE).... and even on to the end of time, past the death of all the stars in the universe, in the short story The Last Question in which the godly combination of trillions and trillions of human minds, and a super advanced computer which exists outside of normal spacetime, ask the question "can the workings of the Second Law of Thermodynamics be reversed", and answer with the command "Let there be light".... I don't understand how he managed to put such a work together. Even though the robot stories, Empire novels, and Foundation series were originally conceived separately, they gradually fit together so perfectly, exactly like a genuine epic narrative history would. I love Asimov.

poster design by Jake Huhn

529: Me, My Meme & I

If I was the pope, with untold wealth and influence, the ears of world leaders (not literally, like in a bag or something), an undeserved place at the United Nations, loyal followers on every continent including Antarctica (...penguins), a beautiful dress and gorgeous hat, and the default respect of the religious and irreligious alike, I would totes use my awesome powers to subvert state, sovereign and international law to protect child rapists from prosecution lol tht wld rok (^o^)

If I was Secretary of State for Health, like Andrew Lansley or some shit, I would totes use my position to dismantle one of the UK's finest, most valuable and revered institutions. Give me a National Health Service -one which since the 1940s has been offering services provided free at the point of use, financed from central taxation, and to all who need them (even temporary residents and visitors)- and I'll give you a business opportunity, wicked yeah? I'll privatise the shit out of that bitch. (^_-)-☆

If I was like god or whatever I would be so totally vague as to be meaningless to all but they most pious, or the most confused between depth and non-specificity. I would totes be all over the place and try and to make it seem intentional by claiming to be all things to all people, or some shit. I would be like the most awesomest god since Jehovah, challenge accepted! (╯°□°)╯︵ ┻━┻

If I were half the writer I could be I would be a hundred times better than the writer I am, and stuff that I have written would be pretty good and maybe better, instead of this dumb shit. ^_^;

Here, have a meme:

Thursday, February 23, 2012

528: Anatomy of a Blog Post

Sometimes it's hard to start writing a blog post. Things I can see: a This is Spinal Tap DVD, an empty toilet roll tube, a Jew's harp (or Jaw harp if you prefer), 30th birthday cards all pushed together and standing atop the FreeSat box, a small red plastic chair for a child, How Not To Grow Up by Richard Herring, a pocket hardback about Hokusai with The Great Wave compulsorily on the cover, a glass of delicious Kraken black spiced rum, an empty and a half full bottle of nail polish remover, a child's toy accordion still in the colourful cardboard box, a Peppa Pig height chart. That is everything of importance. Everything else in the room fits under the umbrella term "miscellanea and trivia".

Sometimes it's hard to continue a blog post smoothly into the second paragraph. Either one communicates too much in the first paragraph leaving little else to be said, or one communicates too little in the first paragraph meaning the second has little to go on. So now is as good a time as any to admit I have become addicted to Failbook ("Social Media from Facepalms to High-Fives"). Conservative estimates judge the time I spend flicking through Failbook, further and further back in time, to be too much. They also judge it to be puerile and time wasting, but then again those conservatives are so judgemental. I assume.

By the third paragraph I often find myself checking the word count (245) to see how close I have come to an acceptable minimum length. The usual result is to discover that there is not nearly enough words being counted by word count, and I'll have to work a bit harder, push a little further, in order to give word count more words to count. Word? (299) (300) By this point I'm usually approaching the end of paragraph three and just beyond paragraph four I can see the tedious conclusion looming.

Paragraph four's role is usually that of a summation or conclusion. Or, if you prefer, a denouement. So at around this point I am writing more words to extend the word count, doing a call back or two to an earlier allusion (or two), and hoping, if at all possible, to end on a joke. I like jokes; they are funny. Sometimes it just seems more appropriate to just cut to the chase, cut my losses, give up the ghost, stop. Just skip to the end, i.e. the bit that says The End, or if you prefer, Fin. At this point I've not worked out which of the two options to take. (436)

527: Parenthood... for Dummies

Come on, come on, come on, big push, comeoncomeoncomeonCOMEON, push, come on screams fill the air from the other side of the room. One Born Every Minute is a thing on telly for people who have decided they want to expel their offspring before a national audience of three million brooding ladies and tolerant boyfriends. I'm neither a brooding lady nor a tolerant boyfriend; I'm nearly a husband, but I am pretty tolerant. Maybe I'm a bit broody too, but don't tell anyone I said that; it's embarrassing for a man to admit. "Broody" is a word usually only used to describe a woman who wants kids but I can see no shame in applying it to a man too. So at a push I may be a brooding-tolerant-nearly-husband, but I'm definitely not a lady-boyfriend. Glad we cleared that up. I'll hear no more about it.

A large portion of my job currently seems to involve listening to work colleagues talking about the pros and cons of lugging around a gestating foetus, and their methodological preferences with regards to de-wombing it. My role in this is to listen, or pretend to, while alternating my facial expression between understanding, impassive, shocked and embarrassed. I accomplish this with aplomb and with no extra charge. Occasionally I get distracted by a bee or a laser pointer and wander off, but I don't think anyone has noticed thus far. I just slip back into the discussion unnoticed, with a remark about birthing pools or breast feeding, and it's like I never disappeared in the first place.

When I have my own babies, forecast for 2013/14, they're be much more to it than just nodding my head and interjecting with the odd conversational bullet point. There's foot rubs and mixing formula milk. Measuring hot water for various mysterious purposes and wiping goo off body parts and household surfaces. Having panic attacks and running screaming out of play centres and into oncoming traffic. Buying baby stuff at inexcusably extortionate prices, using them for three months until the kid outgrows them, then mothballing them until the next child/spring-clean (whichever arrives first). That covers everything I think; if there's more to it I don't want to know. Unless I've missed anything important. It's ok to leave a baby on it's own for a couple of hours, right? As long as it's for something important like buying cigarettes? From a duty-free shop in an Australian airport?

Do babies come with a limited edition number and a certificate of authenticity?

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

526: Oxfam Bookshop, Chorlton

Whilst performing a repetitive menial task today, in exchange for a gratefully received monthly amount of money deposited into my bank account, I thought long and hard about the content of today's blog. After apparently staring into space, while my legs and arms did something to assist the ticking tocks of high street commerce, I believe I had concocted one or two interesting and important subjects which I would now be committing to eternal bloggery. At some point between then and now – it may have been napping on the bus, or snoozing on the sofa – I appear to have forgotten. But the mention of the bus-nap perhaps jogs a little memory. Before my eyes grew heavy and my head lolled repeatedly against the window, I was reading.

Oxfam bookshops tend to be of exceptionally high quality. Bibliophiliac and knowledgeable managers carefully sift out the donated dregs to reveal the near-microscopic flecks of gold, and the book donating public responds by sending interesting and exciting books their way. The Oxfam bookshop in Lancaster used to be excellent, but rumour has it the quality is draining away. Shame. Doesn't bother me much because I don't live in Lancaster anymore. My closest is in Chorlton and fortunately it is excellent (except the science fiction section, which is shit). It reaches into your mind, finds exactly the sort of thing you know you want, or didn't consciously know you wanted until you saw it, and provides it on a shelf.

I went in on Saturday with an interest in fiction written by comedians, and accompanied by my niece. Fresh in her mind was a trip to Manchester Museum -the vivariums, the stuffed wolves (HOWWWWWWWWWWL!), and above all the T-rex skellington- and what did she find in Chorlton's Oxfam bookshop? Maisy goes to the Museum: awesome! She found that, and I found The Gun Seller by Hugh Laurie, and The Perfect Fool by Stewart Lee. When I bought my books the bearded hipster behind the counter said "I didn't know Stewart Lee wrote a book". I advertised, "He wrote three. This is his novel, the other two are about comedy. There is a fourth out later this year". "Oh," he responded, absorbing my knowledge.

We gave some pounds to my niece (she's four) to buy her Maisy book. She handed the money over, and I encouraged her to put the pennies change into the charity box. "Say thank you," we told her. "Thank you," she said to the hipster, and then just stared at him. Quickly he grew uncomfortable, moved away slightly by rocking backwards on his heels and leaning back. "Erm..... cheers," he eventually managed. I expected him to say "I didn't know Maisy went to the Museum," and for my niece to say, "Yeah, she went three times. The first and second times she was a baby and toddler respectively. On the third occasion she was a little older and could appreciate it more. Also she didn't get tired so quickly". "Oh," he would respond.

I think that was it. Before I forgot what I was going to write about, I may have intended for today's blog to be about The Gun Seller by Hugh Laurie. It feels like a further adventure of Dirk Gently, the detective from Douglas Adams' brilliant books Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency and The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul. The Gun Seller tells the story of a sort-of PI, general man-for-hire, whose job description is vague at best. He gets muddled up into a difficult and rather odd situation, regaled to the reader with humorous detachment. And I read it on the bus. The blog was going to be about that I think.

Monday, February 20, 2012

525: BZZZ!

Quiz shows, I love 'em. There used to be a soft spot in my heart for The Weakest Link but thankfully I got over that a long time ago. There was the enjoyable later rounds with the more difficult questions fired rapidly for a minute or two at a time. Unfortunately there was also the offensively bad segments during which the malformed, witless, facially-twitching old hag Anne Robinson grimaced out patronising filth to the line up of stammers and desperates. These took up more and more time, becoming increasingly unbearable, until the programme disappeared right up Robinson's dog's-bottom mouth. Same applies to Chris Fucking Tarrant and Who Wants to be a Millionaire?

A quiz show should be about questions. Questions, questions, questions. As much and as many with as little filler as possible. This is why the biggest and best quiz is obviously University Challenge, despite the questions being so damn hard. The weekend before last I got two questions right during an entire episode. The first was an art question about IKB and Yves Klein, the second was a science question, the jist of which has slipped my mind. Each time I got one right I leaped for joy and shouted my victory into the night sky, huzzah. It's on tonight, Manchester against some team who isn't Manchester, and I will again be trying to get a handful of questions right.

Much easier, but just as fun is ITV's excellent The Chase, where a small team take their turns to individually tet-a-tet with a big-brained giant. They each have an individual round of one minute in order to build a prize pot, then they take on the chaser who attempts to eliminate them. If they get through unscathed they take their prize to the team pot and return to the group. Once all have played, the remaining members have two minutes of solid questioning to get as many correct as possible. Then it's the chaser's turn. If the chaser matches the team, they lose; if he doesn't they win. Simple format, loads of questions, minimal amounts of amusing banter. It's good.

As you were.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

524: I always thought Dawkins looked kind of slave-ownery

According to The Telegraph today, it turns out Richard Dawkins isn't in fact Britain's greatest living public intellectual and liberal secularist (as people like me believe), but he's actually a carrier of the evil slave-owner gene. That explains why he is so militant and smug; it's to distract us from the unpaid cotton-pickers he's got chained up in the cellars and stables of his vast hereditary estate. Of course he doesn't really have slaves, and nor does he have a vast hereditary estate, but let's not get facts, reality, proportion, or obvious ulterior motive get in way of a good blog post.

Is it news that a living person has ancestors who did things that would be considered unacceptable by today's standards? Aren't something like one in two hundred of the world's male population supposed to be descendants of Genghis Khan? On the very real chance that I am one of them I would like to apologise and offer reparations to all descendants of his raped and pillaged victims. Except that I'm probably descended from those people too. And what about the high probability that I'm also descended from slave-owners, and slaves. And murderers, rapists, inbreeders, cannibals, small vole-like mammals, lunatics and single-celled lifeforms. The only thing my ancestors have in common is that they all lived to reproductive age and successfully bred; an unbroken chain of billions of years of baby-makers.

And guess what. You all share that exact same line with me. You only need to go back a few generations before we all have the same names and faces in our tree. You, me, Richard Dawkins, the wacky-doodle author of the Telegraph blog, the catfish I ate from a tin yesterday, Adolf Hitler, Jackie Chan, and Justin Bieber. We all descend from slaves and slave owners (except maybe the catfish, I think it might be not guilty of that charge). Some of us can trace this directly, by being a member of historically significant, wealthy, and influential family. Dawkins is a member of a minorly significant family who made money and kept good records. Unfortunately for him, a more recent ancestor than his rich slave-owner ancestor, pissed it all away on frivolous law suits. Now the family riches is a share in a struggling working farm, and a weird attack in a broadsheet newspaper. Dawkins' money is his own, not the ill gotten gains of the proverbial father.

There are larger, wealthier, better documented, and more powerful families who owe their current wealth to a history of violence, oppression and slave-ownership. The founding fathers of America, the royal families of Europe, the Catholic Church, the Church of England, the... oh wait, it's everyone. But if everyone is a descendant of slave owners and slaves, who do we pay our reparations to? Our friends? Our family? A random stranger from across the planet? People who have inherited the surname of a slave? People currently enslaved? Do we have a mass mess of money being sent willy-nilly in the name of reparations?

A quick search into a random public figure's ancestry: I have chosen David Cameron. There is a Wikipedia page about Cameron's family with a link to his great x4 great-uncle Admiral Sir James Hanway Plumridge, KCB, MP (1788-1863). During the Crimean War, as a Rear-Admiral, Plumridge attacked Finnish settlements, receiving criticism for targeting civilian populations and destroying Finnish goods which had already been purchased by British customers (ie pillaging his own nation). Even after this he continued rising up the ziggarut. Look forward to hearing about this in the Telegraph as a personal attack on David Cameron.

The original Telegraph piece (if it hasn't been edited or deleted):

Dawkins' own response:

Some tweets:

523: A Bit of Bibliophilia

Books are best. The pile beside my bed is now a full foot above the top of the mattress, and that's not even including my new copy of Arguably by Christopher Hitchens. The vast breeze-block of a book arrived on the morning of my birthday as a surprise gift from my in-laws, and will take pride of place on book shelves and biblio-piles [sic] for, at least, the rest of my life. The portrait of Hitchens on the cover shows him standing defiant despite looking weakened, his head losing its hair through chemotherapy and his shoulders not as broad as they once were. He stands in a dimly lit room that I believe to be in his own home, surrounded by his own books; the "beautiful apartment in Washington DC" mentioned by Peter Hitchens in his touching obituary of his brother.

On the shelf behind Hitchens' head can be seen the gorgeous five volume set Books that Shook the World, including Hitchens' own contribution on Thomas Paine's The Rights of Man. It is a series of books about books, each volume focusing on a single revolutionary book. (The other volumes, by different biographers, are about Plato's Republic, The Qur'an, Darwin's On the Origin of Species, and Marx's Das Kapital.) The entire right edge of the cover, from top to bottom, is a pile of books, blurred into the foreground. On the floor beside Hitchens' feet another pile is embryonic: an unknown volume sits under Vanity Fair Portraits and a tea tray with cup, milk jug and cafetiere.

Hitchens was a bibliophile. A writer and reader of astute talent and relentless hard work; a true role model for the aspiring writer, intellectual and/or free-thinker. He was a giant, just like Arguably his final published work, a great tombstone of a book. I received as a birthday gift another book of essays with a literary bent, Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader by Anne Fadiman, an American author totally unknown to me. It's a quaint and lovely book full of anecdotes and personal essays about bibliophilia, words and literature. The "you are there" experience of reading a book in the actual location it is set in, such as reading The Dubliners or Ulysses by Joyce, while washing down oyster with Guinness, in a pub in a side street off the banks of the Liffey. The joy of discovering archaic words entirely new to you. The power of words. The raised consciousness of being aware of the roots and use of words. The preferences and love you develop for certain words the more you read and write. It's all there in this great little book.

But Fadiman seems to me much more than the "Common Reader" she claims to be (or a sub-editor claims for her) in the books subtitle. She is a professional author, married to a professional author, the daughter of authors, brought up quoting poetry and literature; that to me is no common reader. That is a gifted reader with a privileged upbringing; a situation I am shamelessly envious of. But nonetheless, I must make the most of the fair-to-middling mind I have, and read what I can, when I can. Today two more books found their way onto my currently-or-about-to-start-reading pile. Two novels by ludicrously talented comedians, The Perfect Fool by Stewart Lee, and The Gun Seller by Hugh Laurie. Both of these come highly recommended as being annoyingly good. Now time for me to go away and read.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

522: Cough .... coughcough ..... cough

You know when you have that feeling in your bronciholes and your bronchioles? The sort of stretched, achy, gooey feeling which causes painful spasmodic leaps of the chest, in turn causing the expulsion of a thick muchoid substance and a sound like cough or hack? Of course you do, we've all been there. It's called a cough, isn't it; you've all had one. Many of you probably have one now, what with it been winter in the northern hemisphere and the probability of any random person in the world living in the northern hemisphere being approximately 9/10 (or whatever, I don't understand betting odds at all... point is, I think, 90% of the world live in the north, where it is winter. In winter human beings get this thing called the common cold, it's pretty common and often results in a cough).

There is one person in this room, me, and I am coughing. From this small sample I infer that 100% of the world's human being population are coughing. I know I am. But perhaps it is not the cough and the humanity that are linked. It could simply be that 100% of the worlds blond-haired, bespectacled, 30-year old males are currently coughing. Or it may be indication that 100% of people with a little bit of dry skin on their left ring finger, who have no known Transylvanian ancestry, and who have eaten pizza in the last week, are coughing. Suppose that is the case. Go on, suppose it. I have only my self to observe, therefore can only assume that everyone is like me. I will refuse to believe otherwise even if presented with evidence that negates my conceptions. Evidence that doesn't back me up is not evidence at all. Ignore it. I know I will.

Remember that strange phenomena I explained earlier? The thing I referred to as a cough? The thing with coffing, is it's just so moreish; it's almost addictive. Even though I want to quit I just keep going back to it. I try to go cold turkey, to just plain quit: stop. But after a few minutes I feel the urge, the black dog, the dead cat clawing at my back; that tickle that tempts one. I've tried water, toddies, methadone, mephadrone, but nothing helps. They just postpone the inevitable. The water and/or the toddy give moments of release and then soon again the cough comes back as if it never left.

Cough medicine exists, it is a thing you can buy. It comes in many different brands, in different bottles aimed at different target markets, but they all have one thing in common. They are a big fucking cunting shit-faced fuckery of a waste of time and money. They do not fucking work and are a complete rip off. F'act. Her is what happens: You pour yourself a spoon~ or capful and knock it back. The instructions inform you it will provide hours of instant relief by coating your red-raw throat with a silky-smooth wash of medicated goodness. They tell you to only use every few hours, and imply that you will only need to.

The reality is that you receive relief lasting a few moments. Just as with a sip of water or toddy the tickle that precedes the cough returns after seconds or minutes. With water and, to a lesser extent, toddy you can keep sipping as and when required. With cough medicine, that is it. Wait a few hours for your next ineffectual hit. Don't be fooled by the adverts. Don't believe the hype. And don't, if at all possible, start coughing in the first place. It's like a downward spiral, the proverbial tube of pringles. One you cough you just can't stop. Take it from me. I've been there; to hell and back. I've been to the very bottom, and now with god's help I can get through this......




Saturday, February 11, 2012

521: Me & Herring

Monday night in Lancaster. We drove up after work from Manchester to pay a brief visit to my parents so they could wish me a happy birthday, then we said farewell and went to the Lancaster Grand Theatre to watch Richard Herring perform his current show What Is Love, Anyway? The previous night he had been at The Lowry, Salford which is about ten minutes walk from my house. It had been sold out when I was looking for tickets a few weeks earlier, and anyway I much preferred the idea of watching him perform in a much smaller venue in my beloved/despised home town Lancaster. It was his first visit to Lancaster and this seemed to be reflected in the embarrassingly large number of empty seats. However the mood was good and the laughs came loudly and often.

As usual for a Richard Herring stand-up routine there is a theme (this time is obviously Love, following on from Jesus in Christ on a Bike, fascism in Hitler Moustache) that is rigorously dissected. The theme is the focus and the stories he tells are the source of the humour; there is little time of gags. It's not good form to go into too much detail about the content of a comedy show when writing a review, and it is especially wrong to give away any of the jokes, so I will skim over this bit. There are personal details such as a Valentine's day card Herring's father gave to his mother when they were both 13, Herring's own diary entries and a poem he wrote as a teenager, and a touching yet hilarious story about the mental decline of his grandmother.

Me & Herring (note Chuckle Brothers in the background)
It's a wonderful, hilarious and thoughtful show. I'm glad it was this one I went to see with my fiancee, as opposed to say Hitler Moustache. When I watched the DVD of Hitler Moustache with her she quickly became exhausted and exasperated by the shouty ranty manner of Herring, and the way in which he doesn't finish a sentence before starting the next one when he gets worked up. Richard Herring is getting married (in April I think) and I am too (in May), so perhaps we are getting sappy, soppy, wimpy, girly. I hope not.

After the show Herring appeared spontaneously in the theatre foyer to sign the free programmes and punt his DVDs (which can be bought from Go Faster Stripe, a fantastic independent producer of comedy DVDs). Four years ago he did a show called Oh Fuck, I'm 40 so I got him to sign my programme Oh Fuck, You're 30 and I also got a happy birthday for good measure. I apologised "on behalf of the idiots of Lancaster for not turning up," which he said didn't matter. I bought Lee & Herring's Fist of Fun series one DVD on which he wrote something which looks like "MCR," or ""MGR"... maybe "MBR".... I have no idea. After I had my picture with him I said "I hope you were smiling," to which he replied "I was, but it was insincere". OK, fanboy section over.

Great birthday, great show. Hope Herring returns to Lancaster next time around, although I fear that all the old school Lee & Herring fans of my generation have, like me, moved away to Manchester, London or further afield. We'll see next month when Stewart Lee performs his current show Carpet Remnant World at The Dukes in Lancaster.

520: Brainstorming in the Inventor's Lab

Watching series three of 24 and there is a new face; one that I was almost certain I recognised from something else. You know the situation: you think who is that, what have they been in so using Wikipedia or IMDB you find the character, follow the link to the actor's page then see what else they have been in. In this case the character was Jack Bauer's new assistant in the CTU office, Chloe O'Brian, played by the actress Mary Lynn Rajskub who I have never heard of. I was sure I recognised her from something, but the only roles she has portrayed that I have seen are a minor character in shitty film Road Trip and an Art Garfunkle fan in an episode of Flight of the Conchords. Neither of these were strong enough links to be the place where I recognised her from. This leads me to the conclusion that I didn't actually recognise her at all. So maybe she just looks like someone. She looks very slightly like Juliette Lewis, but I don't think that's it. Which leads me to my amazing new invention:

I have invented (but not in any way built, made, manufactured or planned) a piece of software on that internet that tells you who people look like. You take a screen grab from a film or TV show, or a photograph of your face, or the face of a friend (we all have them... faces I mean, not friends), and the software analyses the face with all technical stuff and internet power, and then provides a list of similarly appearanced famous people who you might be thinking of. That way you will always be able to get an answer to the important question who does she look like? Now all I need is a piece of string, some double sided sticky tape, an adult to help me with the scissors, a blow torch and a nail gun and I can build this shit. Yeah, I'm on it.

Invention number two: shovel gloves. Shovel/spade heads that you wear on your hands; useful for picking up piles of litter or leaves and depositing them into a bin bag that someone is holding open for you. I would be utterly amazed if these don't already exist somewhere, but a very brief google of the term "shovel gloves" reveals only the bizarre and unrelated website Shovelglove.com. This is a very basic html website describing a physical workout that involves wrapping a jumper around the head of a sledgehammer and waving the thing about a bit. Genius, in no literal sense of the word. It's very funny including such gems as "The only other exercise I do is walk (I say only, but I think walking is even more important for long term health than shovelglove) ," and "I didn't want to grovel on my stomach on the floor, like some degraded beast. There must be some kind of movement I can do standing up, with the dignity of a human being, I thought". And thus we have one kind of shovel glove, in a very different form than the one I have postulated.

End of brainstorming session.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

519: an offered opinion on a thing

“I believe that decisions about the timing and manner of death belong to the individual as a human right. I believe it is wrong to withhold medical methods of terminating life painlessly and swiftly when an individual has a rational and clear-minded sustained wish to end his or her life.” 
Professor A C Grayling, Dignity in Dying Patron 

I was guided via twitter, as happens, to a blog post I find so baffling and stupid I just had to speak up; so here goes. It's written by a man called Simon Duffy and is called How Euthanasia leads to Eugenics. I've never heard of Simon Duffy and know nothing about him; that's not meant to be a snide who is he comment, just a statement of fact. According to his biography he is leader of The Centre for Welfare Reform, of which I also know nothing about, but it seems decent. It aims "to increase social justice, promote citizenship, strengthen families and enrich our communities," which sounds good to me; and although I am going to comment negatively on Simon Duffy's blog post I make no similar comment about the good work of the Centre for Welfare Reform. (At least, I assume they do good work, because as I mentioned I've never heard of them!)

How Euthanasia leads to Eugenics
…a [Nazi] Ministry of Justice Commission on the Reform of the Criminal Code drafted a similar law sanctioning "mercy killing" of people suffering from incurable diseases. The law read, in part:
"Clause 1: Whoever is suffering from an incurable or terminal illness which is a major burden to him or others, can request mercy killing by a doctor, provided it is his express wish and has the approval of a specially empowered doctor.
"Clause 2: The life of a person who because of incurable mental illness requires permanent institutionalisation and is not able to sustain an independent existence, may be prematurely terminated by medical procedures in a painless and covert manner."
From Forgotten Crimes by Susanne E Evans
Notice that the first clause is almost exactly what those seeking to advance euthanasia in the UK are putting forward as a reasonable legal measure. And notice the easy and natural step to by-passing the question of voluntary choice for those who might be deemed lacking mental capacity.
There is hardly a break between euthanasia and eugenics - the first creates the licence to ignore the dignity of human life, the second gives others the duty to ignore it.
I really don't know where to start with the blind, vicious and bloody embarrassing stupidity of this statement.  (I quoted Simon Duffy's post in full as it is short and appears convinced of its own completeness. Read the original here.) The title How Euthanasia leads to Eugenics sets out a difficult and bizarre idea and claims that it will offer evidence How.

Let's be clear: Eugenics is an awful idea and one that has no place at all in a civilised, humane and egalitarian society. But euthanasia is a good thing; the right of a terminally ill individual to choose the time and place of their own death, to allow them the dignity of choosing the end over a long and painful drawn out death.

Simon Duffy seems to believe that because a statement numbered "Clause 1" about euthanasia is followed in some list somewhere by a statement numbered "Clause 2" about eugenics, that this some how magically constitutes evidence of 1 leading to 2. I'd like to test this logic and see if it holds up to scrutiny by writing my own list:
Clause 1: All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

Clause 2: Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.
The first clause is Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the second is from the bible, Exodus 22:18. They clearly have nothing in common; I have just semi-randomly chosen them to appear in a list together. I chose the first because I agree with it, and the second because I don't. It's a stupid and pathetic point I'm attempting to make, but no stupider or more pathetic than the one Simon Duffy fumbles with.
(From now on whenever I mention clauses I'm talking about the ones Simon Duffy quotes, and not the irrelevant ones I just picked.)

He claims there is an easy and natural step between the two clauses, from voluntary in the first to involuntary in the second in the case of individuals whose mental illness does not allow their consent. I can see no easy or natural step there, nor any evidence that their may be one lurking in the shadows. One is voluntary, the other is not; these are not similar, they are opposite. Where is this easy and natural step? Where is it?

After his weak, fleeting and begging the question argument to support his hypothesis comes the poor conclusion: "There is hardly a break between euthanasia and eugenics - the first creates the licence to ignore the dignity of human life, the second gives others the duty to ignore it."

I argue that the right of a terminally ill patient, in full mental capacity to understand their choice, to choose to die is demanded by human dignity. Personally if I was in constant agonising pain, immobile in a bed, living with the knowledge of a certain imminent death I would demand the right to choose my own way out. If I was suffering from a degenerative brain disease, during the time I was still with it I would like to request that when it got to the point when I was no longer able to think, write, and recognise my loved ones I be euthanized. At that point, I believe there would be nothing left of me.

The second clause needs further consideration before a conclusion can be reached. A point that Duffy has failed to mention is that it refers to "incurable mental illness requir[ing] permanent institutionalisation". If this was on the Criminal Code of Nazi Germany it was written not only in a part of the world where illiberalism was destroying millions of lives, but it was written in a time when mental illness was much less well understood.

In the past just about any mental illness was considered incurable and people were institutionalised with all sorts of things that today are treatable. They even considered all sorts of crazy things to be mental illness that we don't in today's more enlightened times; homosexuality for example.

Of course the second clause is disgusting, but its probable meaning when it was written bears little relation to how it can be interpreted today; and above all there is no reason to suggest it logically follows from the first clause.

In conclusion:
Reasonably consented euthanasia: good
Eugenics: bad

(If my argument comes across as rambling or confusing, don't worry, it probably is. It's not supposed to be an essay; I'm not handing it in to be marked. I've just rushed it out. It's more of a rant than anything.)

“I wish to be treated as a responsible adult and believe that people should be legally able to register their wish for an assistance with suicide, if needed. I support Dignity in Dying primarily to help change the law on assisted suicide.” 
Sir Michael Holroyd CBE, Dignity in Dying Patron

518: All the W's: Writing, Whisky, Work, Wondering, www

I was lazily on my way to sleep, reading in bed, after having a glass of my birthday whisky (a thirty year old single malt Highland MacDuff), having already set my alarm for 6:30am, well aware that I will struggle to drag myself from the pit in a little over six hours from now. I was doing that, but then realised that I really ought to put in a little bit of time on the typewriter. The blog, which I have spent so much time on over the last year and a half, is in danger of slipping away. Recently over the weekend I have neglected it, but generally over the last few three or four months (maybe longer) there has been a creeping lack of dedication. I used to be able to do one, on the day, every day, without fail, regardless of how I felt. And that was absolutely the point.

It didn't matter if what I wrote was dreadful, exhausted, needy, pitiful shite as long as I wrote something; it was the eternal exercise in writing something, anything, every day. Recently I have found myself becoming self conscious for now particular reason. I worry that a blog post may be uninteresting and so I make my excuses and ignore my responsibility; I just don't bother. Ten I find myself desperately trying to catch up a couple of times a week, usually at the weekend. This goes against everything I started the blog for. I decided to do it daily, as opposed to just a few times a week, so that I would do it daily and not be rushing a few every Sunday night like so much ignored homework. I'm doing this, essentially, for the future; for my future, and that of my soon-to-be wife, and the children we will one day have. If I don't read and write every day I will eventually be dragged back into the laziness of the non-writer; excusing inactivity away with the imaginary affliction of writer's block. Writing is a habit; this blog is that habit. Keep up the habit and use the acquired skills for commercial gain at some point in the future: novels, stories, columns, articles, radio script, TV?

Some days, at work or in the shower, fully formed ideas for blog posts leap into my mind, often accompanied by the prose to compose the opening paragraph, leaving my a convenient jumping point to complete the article. When this happens I can't write fast enough to keep up with my racing thoughts, but I give it a good go. When this happens I need to grab the opportunity to move onto the novel I am writing, which exists variously as a complete chapter, two incomplete chapters in two states of incompletion, some characters with traits and relationships, approximately three interweaving plots, themes, and bits and scraps of other stuff.

So now that I have jumped from my bed and written this blog post (as well as one I started earlier, but haven't finished yet, but am about to), I would, were I a free man, stay up for many more hours writing (and possibly having another nip of birthday whisky). But I am not a free man, I have a day job to get up for and minimum wage to earn; so it is up to me to find reasonable and realistic times to write, lest I spend the rest of my life making excuses and writing a 'daily' occasional blog about nothing.

517: Surprise

Now I join an elite group of people. No, I'm not a member of the Privy Council, the chess grandmasters, or the mile high club. No, I am now a person who has had a surprise party thrown for them. I'm a person who has walked into my own flat, wondered why all the lights were turned off, and then screamed fuck me at the sudden explosions of party poppers, flash bulbs and cries of surprise! Then realised the dark room I had just shouted fuck into included very young talkative children - my niece and the two boys of a friend. Fortunately for me the party wasn't hampered (or enlivened) by children loudly and repeatedly proclaiming knowledge of their explicitly expanding vocabulary. "Happy Birthday, and thanks for teaching my kids how to say fuck, you dick."

It turns out my friends, family and fiancee are a scheming bunch engaged in midnight trysts in deserted multi-storey parking facilities to exchange briefcase and cipher for bundles of cash with non-consecutive serial numbers. Jack Bauer and Mr. Monk couldn't have telegraphed this conspiracy. The snipers on the rooftops should have tipped me off, but my defences were lowered because of the sodium pentothal that was administered to me against my will and knowledge. I'm sorry friends, family and fiancee but I will be reporting you all of tribunal at The Hague International Court of Justice for crimes against something something mumble mumble, yeah.

Then I was forced to enjoy imbibing alcohol and having fun; forced to have fun! With bossy games of pass-the-parcel and all music that I like; it was terrible. Music that I like, played in a room I feel comfortable in, surrounded by people I like and love, eating food, moving around and making laughing sounds with my face. It was just awful. You should have been there. It was like a party, for my birthday, and I got to spend the day doing nice things and having a good time. If that doesn't sound suspicious I don't know what does.

Regularly throughout the evening people expressed disbelief that I had not cottoned onto the conspiracy, but I really had no idea. At no point in the weeks, days, hours and minutes leading up to the party did I suspect anything at all was going on. This is a testament to the ingenuity of my friends and the amazing hard work and dedication of my fiancee. I must really be fucking amazing to deserve all that. Now I have a year and a half to plot a birthday to remind my fiancee how fucking amazing she is... Oh no, why has she set the bar so high!?

I had a great birthday; thanks everyone :)

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

516: 1,700 tweets later

I started writing this on Friday night and for some reason, probably sleep-related, I never finished it. Then over the course of an unprecedentedly jolly birthday weekend, the whole blogging enterprise became sidelined. It's all over now; I'm a decrepit old man, picking up the broken pieces of his neglected blog. So here's the thing wot i wrote on Friday:
Those 1,700 tweets I've sent off into an almost entirely unresponsive world, my ever-oscillating clutch of between 251 and 257 followers, have now become worth it. I have had my first direct reply from a celebrity, a highly respected stand-up comedian who "just wants to be on telly". I tweeted "It's my 30th birthday on Monday and all I want is tickets for @herring1967 in Lancaster," and he replied "@iblogeveryday you'll be glad to hear there are plenty left! Hopefully 200 of your friends will all buy you one".

The last time I got a little star struck was aged 13 coming back from the school trip to France; the coach stopped at a service station somewhere in the middle of England and Tony Robinson was sat in a cafe drinking coffee and smoking roll-ups. We formed a disorderly queue for autographs while our teacher apologised for the inconvenience. I got a signed rizla and biazrrely nicked his docked out roll-up. Don't know why, but it seemed like normal behaviour at the time.
I received a card in the post from my nana and grandad with a pair of socks printed with the wording 30 and cool making it entirely official; I am 30 (nearly) and, apparantly, cool. The socks don't make it entirely clear about whether I have always been cool. I haven't always been 30, and will not be for another two days. So will I magically become cool on Monday, have I always been cool, or will I only be 30 and cool when I'm actually wearing the darn socks.

Friday, February 03, 2012

515: Make mine a Top Totty

Instead of doing something important like sorting out this country's fucked-up libel law, you know like they should be, some MPs, well, one, is engaging herself with something entirely more trivial, and all together more overstepping the mark and impinging on free speech and free enterprise. That was a rambling and overlong sentence I know, but I'm full of petty and futile rage. According to MEN, Metro and BBC News, Labour MP shadow equalities minister Kate Green took offence to a beer called Top Totty being sold at the Westminster pub, The Strangers' Bar. The pump has a cute drawing of a blonde lady in a white bikini and a description of Top Totty, a blonde beer, as a "stunningly seductive, voluptuous variety of hops with a fruity, fresh finish".

Kate Green saw it, was offended, (or perhaps didn't actually see it because the BBC says she was "'disturbed' to hear it was on sale" my italics) and within 90 minutes her actions had somehow lead to Top Totty being withdrawn from sale. This can only be described as a gross misuse of her influence to stifle free speech and free enterprise. No members of the public she represents were offended, she was acting entirely on own whim, and even if it is offencive, so fucking what? Free speech is of paramount importance, even if it causes offence. Being offended by something does not give you the right to remove it from the public domain; it gives you the right to complain and be upset. The right to cause offence should always trump the right to be offended.

What makes this especially disgusting is Kate Green's abuse of her power. Today I walked past the main entrance to the shop I work in. I rarely see in the windows because I enter and leave via a staff entrance on the other side of the building. I noticed a very very large poster advertising underwear and comprising entirely of a photography of a staggeringly sexy model looking sultry in her bra and knickers. Sights like this are common and I am confident in saying that Kate Green sees them as often as we all do. Is she constantly staggering around in a persistent tut of indignant offence? Does she fight against every commercial sexualised image of a semi-clad female? Or is she merely flexing her muscles against Top Totty and The Strangers' Bar because she knows she has some direct influence?

Every single person, or official body, she took her complaint to should have said, "you are entitled to be offended, but you have no right to remove this from sale. It is none of your business; if you don't like it, tough." What I really hate about this whole thing is that the most sensible statement appears to have come from Mike Nattrass, a MEP for horrid populist right-wing party UKIP: "This sort of knee-jerk Puritanism does more damage to the cause of equality than a thousand beer labels. It suggests that to be in favour of equality you must be a dour-faced, insult-searching misery".

As an aside I would like to address anyone who wants to complain about the objectification of women as sexual objects: I would like to suggest that women are sexual objects, as are men; indeed humans are sexual objects. How could we be described as anything else? We are objects who think about sex, have sex, think about sex, have sex, ecsextra, etc, &c... Of course we are so much more than just sexual objects, men and women alike. We are thinkers, workers, friends, scientists, artists, geniuses, idiots, and everything else and in between.

514: Hiya

I say "thank you" to bus drivers because as a lot of people say "cheers" or "ta" and the first time I decided to say "thank you" (instead of "cheers" or "ta" as I used to say) the driver replied "thank you for saying thank you; it's nice to hear a thank you, instead of the usual cheers or ta". That story is not entirely true; it was a work colleague who had that conversation with a bus driver, not me. I do say "thank you" to bus drivers. If you are interested in "thank you" and bus drivers you can get more information by reading the short story Thank You by Yasunari Kawabata.

I often find myself saying "hiya" instead of "hello" or "alright". I don't enjoy saying "hiya"; every time I hear it pop out of my mouth I cringe ever so slightly. It usually pops out to shop assistants, takeaway delivery men, or the security guard on the staff entrance at work. I feel extra special levels of shame and embarrassment when the person I say it to is of Chinese appearance. What if they think I was being racist, I worry; saying "hiya" like I'm making a bad joke about kung fu or something.

There used to be a TV programme hosted by Jimmy Carr, one of his early efforts, called Distraction. It was a quiz show where competitors had to punch cactuses instead of buzzers and received electric shocks when answering questions. I'm sure it was all very distracting for them. The prizes were usually a bit shit. In one episode a Chinese-looking lady won a fairly decent sum of money, say £1000, however it was all in pound coins, and the coins were in a wheel barrow and embedded in solid concrete. To illustrate the concrete was dry he tapped it with a trowel and said to the lady something along the line of "listen, you can hear it chink," or "it makes a chink when you tap it". Her eyes widened in surprise at the unexpected racial slur and moments later Jimmy Carr realised what he had said and apologised genuinely and profusely. I really don't think he noticed the unfortunate double meaning of the word he chose until it was too late. I remember this every time I hear myself say "hiya".

While we are on the subject, I'm fed up of hearing the word "Jap's Eye" to describe the male urethra. I hadn't heard it in years and I'm ashamed to admit used to use it myself when I was younger. I have heard it a few time recently but haven't felt the opportunity has been right to challenge it. I work a lot of the time in a sort of warehouse/store room place where talk of genitalia is fairly common. Isolated outcrops of coral used to be called Niggerheads by British sailors, and Ian Fleming uses the word frequently in the James Bond novels. I doubt very much that people who still unthinkingly use the word "Jap's Eye" would be comfortable describing something as "looking like a nigger's head", and rightly they shouldn't.

Thursday, February 02, 2012

513: "Look at me, I've got a phone! Here, have some music!"

 What better way is there to inform a gathering of commuters that you are a first-class prick, the biggest prick on the bus, than by polluting the airwaves with the tinny sound of piss-weak popular music? We've all been there; I'm not pretending to have observed something, and I'm not attempting to put a funny spin on it. I'll leave that to the shit observational comedians like Michael McIntyre, or the excellent ones like Sean Lock. I've just been on buses a lot over the last twenty years and, before mobile phones came along and developed into mp3-infested boom-boxes, they used to be quiet somber areas where the public could gather in comfortable mass meditation. Sometimes there would be spontaneous poetry readings or, on a cold day, the sharing of a flask of hot coffee and a packet of chocolate digestive biscuits. How I long for a return to those halcyon days.

Then along came mobile technology, "cell phones", bringing with them a plummet in social responsibility. Suddenly there would be a clamour to break the meditative silence with the sibilant splash of 4/4 four-to-the-floor, unimaginative melody and unchallenging lyrics that mention love but appear emotionally void. One technology wielding scrote on every bus, tram, train and subway across the land now claims the right to subject the rest of us the their poor taste in music. They're never even that excited by the music; it's not as if they are passionate and enamoured by the delirium inducing magnificence gifted to them by Erato, Euterpe and Terpsichore. No, the music is a substitute for chewing, smoking, sniffing or picking scabs. It is a pointless little unsociable habit so far removed from any real love of great music. The people who love music have headphones.

Everyone hates this (they must, I can't fathom it any other way) yet most people carry upon their person a handy piece of technology which can easily be used to lodge a protest. I have heard tutting, and seen derisive glances directed at public-mp3ing, yet I have never seen anyone just get out their own phone and start playing, equally loudly, an entirely conflicting piece of music. How would the original mp3er react; would they get the fucking message? Or would they miss it entirely, lean over to the second mp3er and say "excuse me, you wouldn't mind turning that music off, would you? It's just I'm trying to listen to some music and, well, I was listening first."

I propose an experiment. Get a group of people, I think they are called 'friends', each possessing a phone loaded with a particularly antisocial, loud, or dramatic piece of music. Pile onto a bus and sit near the person playing the pop music. This would work especially well if you gave the impression that you were all separate individuals and not a conspiring group of friends. One of you starts playing some music; may I suggest Beethoven's 5th, or Pantera's The Great Southern Trendkill. Then when the person with the pop music starts getting uncomfortable and is visibly thinking "what's going on here?", then the next person can join in, then the next and the next, gradually building to a cacophonous chorus of mismatched dirge. Give it a go, and remember to film it and stick it on YouTube. Thanks.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

512: Where's Aethelred?

What ever happened to all the old names?

I don't mean old people names -granny and granda; nana and granddad- Dierdre, Edna, Edith, Dot, Hilary, Donald, Walter, Eugene, Clarence, etcetera, etc, &c. No, those names come and go in fashion and people of my generation are naming their children after their grandparents and great grandparents. I'm interested in Old English names (as opposed to old English) like Cynric, Aelfweard, Beowulf, Balthilda, Eoforwine, Aethelred, and the like. My favourite is the Old Norse king's name Cnut, which sometimes appears euphemistically as Canute to prevent delicate people from FCUK-style offence.

Before William the Bastard (as opposed to William the Fucking Cunt) conquered these shores you couldn't take two steps without bumping into an Aenglwoart, a Gunricfulf, or an Ooflbraog. Now it's all Alfies, Evies, and I can't think of any more names. There seems to be an exact cut off point of 1066 when almost all of the native names from England (or whatever it was called by the illiterate, silly-named, mud farmers who lived here) disappeared and we were left with all Frenchy names given a slight British twist. Guillaume became William, and Beowulf went the way of the British wolf.

It's fun to make up new ones -like Aetseltron, Morbausort and Weselsaut- and I'd love to burden my children with these beautiful British, bully-attracting names. It'd be fun for a while, then I'd look like a twat if I was still laughing when, as they gradually grew up, the name began to burden them. Instead I'll have to do what every good writer should do and give these names to characters instead of actual real people I have made. As long as I don't start writing fantasy fiction; that will hopefully never happen.

Sorry I'm a bit distracted; I've just discovered that loads of Aphex Twin albums are now on Spotify and in celebration I'm listening to Selected Ambient Works '85-'92 and The Richard D James Album. Ahh, utter bliss. But why not The Beowulf ð Pendraig Aelbum?