Out Now!

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Athens got off lightly

Barak Obama declares he ‘wants a strong Britain in a strong Europe.’ That’s telling us. Like many phrases it has a glib resonance that doesn’t make sense when generally applied. The Irish lobby being what it is in America, would any of his predecessors have similarly declared that they wanted 'a strong Ireland in a strong UK’? How far might this tidying up of loose and untidy islands go? Will we ever hear: A strong Cuba in a strong US’….A strong Taiwan in a strong China’ or perhaps ‘A strong Japan in a strong China’?

Another quite important American phrase is: ‘no taxation without representation’ with, presumably the caveat that this doesn’t apply to other countries if it suits American interests as defined by the State Department.

The question is whether it really suits our interests, and here it becomes as baffling as Ben Jonson’s The Alchemist. Two Jacobean con-men, Captain Face and Subtle along with the prostitute Dol Common conspire to rip off Sir Epicure Mammon and a lawyer’s clerk named Dapper. Sir Epicure Mammon is fooled into thinking Subtle and Face possess the secrets of the Philosopher’s Stone which can turn base metal into gold. Dapper is fooled into thinking he is favoured by the fairies and if he should but:
Three drops of vinegar, in at your nose:
Two at your mouth; and one, at either ear;
Then, bathe your fingers’ ends; and wash your eyes;
To sharpen your five senses; and cry hum,
Thrice; and the buz, as often….
The fairy Queen will make him lucky at cards.

I suspect Captain Face and Subtle would have had an easy time with contemporary politicians.

Since 1979 Britain has paid in £228 billion to Brussels, amounting at present, £50million a day. This is to an organisation unable to audit what it spends, to an organisation that no one in Britain gets to elect. 

Those business men who do well from Europe remind us that 50% of our trade is with the EU and that catastrophe would ensue should we leave. The democratic deficit doesn't figure on their books. Others argue that our total trade surplus with the rest of the world in 2011 was a positive £17.6 billion as opposed to a total deficit of £46.6 billion with the EU. 

Around 1800 BC the city of Athens paid an annual tribute to Crete in the form of seven men and seven girls. These were ‘fed’ to the Minotaur.  In my mind Athens got of lightly - at least it did then.

Friday, 18 January 2013

Cut off. Bliss. A slide show

 It was very quiet this morning.


 My suspicions confirmed

 Best check.

Hmm, shopping won't be easy

'There must be some way out of here'
That's not Tescos

Ah, Monmouth, not so far now

Monday, 14 January 2013

Online toilets, it's the way to go

 What are they queuing for? I have one idea.

We were in Waterstones, Oxford, my son spending a fortune on books whilst I spent a smaller fortune on coffee. The inevitable outcome was a trip to the toilet, but, engrossed in my Kindle – ‘Mammoth Book of Horrors’ – I left it to the very last minute. Never mind, the toilet was but a few strides away.

The key to horror is the unexpected.

When the pain became almost unbearable, the anticipation of pleasure in release overwhelming, I closed my kindle and strode – no more briskly than necessary -  to the toilet.

There was a small keyboard attached to the toilet with a polite notice informing me that only customers of Waterstones and the coffee bar would be allowed admittance. I would need my receipt. I would need to punch in the code at the bottom of this receipt to gain admittance.

I galloped back to the table, trampling over prams and old ladies, a small tsunami gathering strength in my nether regions. The receipt was still there. Thank you, God. I made it back to the toilet and stared hard at the receipt. There it was - my key to salvation in very small letters.

Only it wasn’t.

First of all the keyboard in question was small, the letters positively tiny. A sharp-sighted Lilliputian would have experienced difficulty – and worse – it was at chest level so you had to both stoop and squat, oscillate the eye from keyboard to receipt, and contain a mutinous bladder whilst doing so. It might have worked for a hobbit with spy glass, a dwarf with a toothpick. It wasn’t working for me. I was sweating. Why were they doing this? Which officious twerp was responsible? Was Waterstones suffering from an influx of tramps and itinerants swarming up two floors to use their special toilet?

And then the devil laughed. I heard it, though it may have been urine on the brain: One of the code letters on the receipt wasn’t on the keyboard. I checked - twice - three times -before with a roar I charged out of Waterstones and made for the nearest pub – where toilets don’t come with star-trek keyboards designed for elves.

Pleasure truly is the release of pain and I resolved there and then never to visit Waterstones again. I’d have had more success with an online toilet.  

Monday, 7 January 2013

The ugly side of comedy

Bernard Manning’s humour was working class humour. It appealed to most working men but especially those of the North, where immigration was heaviest. Liberal ideologues welcomed immigration; capitalists, too, applauded it as a source of cheap labour, but neither had to live with the outcome, and those who did hadn’t been asked.  Immigrants understandably gravitated towards the cheapest areas and settled amongst those least equipped to deal with it. 

The British working class is tolerant but not without its faults. They’re not saints. Why should they be? What they do have is humour, and it was humour that alleviated former waves of Irish immigration, and successive waves of further immigration from other countries. The working men’s clubs and comedians like Bernard Manning were safety valves, letting of steam and unease in laughter and beer. In short, like Les Dawson and his mother-in-law jokes, the humour was essentially defensive, reflecting and deflecting insecurity via the communal belly laugh.

 “I saw six men kicking and punching the mother-in-law. My neighbour said 'Are you going to help?' I said 'No, Six should be enough."

“I said to my wife, 'Treasure' - I always call her Treasure, she reminds me of something that's just been dug up.”

Where am I going with this?

In his day, Manning and his ilk were lambasted by the ‘opinion makers’. Their humour was beyond the pale. New comedians made a point of differentiating themselves from its crudity and racism. Crude it was. Racist too, within the parameters I earlier described. But, like those earlier Irish jokes, the humour was generalised. It didn’t go for individuals.

Compare it with today’s comedians. Ricky Gervaise targets the less than glamorous singer Susan Boyle:

 “I don’t think she’d be where she is today if it wasn’t for the fact that she looked like such a f*****g mong. There is no better word to describe Susan Boyle.“When she first came on the telly, I went, ‘Is that a mong?’ ” (A term on this side of the pond for Downs Syndrome) Cutting edge or cruel? Satire or pointless?*

Frankie Boyd gets his laughs by picking on the disabled. Sure, Katie Price aka Jordan, has made her living by exploiting the media. Call her a ‘media whore’ if you want – but her disabled son, Harvey, does he deserve this ? Does any mother deserve it? Can Frankie Boyd even use the same defence as those Northern comedians? Does he feel threatened by waves of the severely disabled? To appreciate the effects of mass media bullying it’s worth reading this article.

Patrick Kielty reduced his audience to silence with a series of jokes about missing toddler, Madeleine McCann. His joke was in the context of some Newspaper speculation that the McCanns  may have murdered their own daughter – the problem being where would they hide the body:
 ‘If the McCanns wanted to dispose of the body of their daughter, they should have checked her in as luggage on a Ryanair flight.’ 
The mother’s grief was still raw. She could have done without insensitive media speculation, but hey, a laugh is a laugh and at least it’s not racist or sexist or attacking mother-in-laws.

The most recent example comes from the ‘Big Fat Quiz of 2012’. Here the latest bunch of ‘comedians’ joked about the Duke of Edinburgh contracting a urinary infection from intercourse with the Queen, and ‘Susan Boyle loving it up the arse’.

 I’m sorry?

What’s equally interesting are the email comments in the newspaper that criticised these particular comedians. 90% of them vociferously attacked the newspaper, and defended the ‘Big Fat Quiz’ Stars. Fair enough. Comment is free. But surprising because the Newspaper in question is the Daily Mail, a rightwing paper and not the natural reading matter of ‘cutting edge’ comedians and their followers. So what caused this alien constituency to pick up a rag they despise and take to the barricades?

I suspect the answer is twitter. And this article is well worth reading.  It analyses how some of today’s comedians orchestrate their twitter followers to shit-bomb any who have the temerity to criticize them. I’ve recently experienced a similar experience and know how it’s done ‘X has said something terrible about me. I’m so upset’ This is followed by the occasional encouraging response as the mass bullying takes off - poking the fire as it were. For those who don’t want to read the entire article scroll down to the twitter comments of Ricky Gervaise and Noel Fielding.

 My rant is over.
Happy New Year

Susan Boyle was deprived of oxygen at birth and as a result has experienced mild learning difficulties. At school, bullies nicknamed her “Simple Susan” — Ricky Gervaise though has a larger audience and is not a bully but a comedian.