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Wednesday, 19 October 2011

the possibly impending 2012 apocalypse

    Walking down the street this afternoon I was treated to the sight of a sign stating that 2012 calendars and diaries were in stock. I’m not particularly sure where it was, but just the sight of those four digits in a line (as opposed to the 20 with a 12 underneath it more commonly favoured by the London Olympic committee) made me reminisce about the 2012 disaster movie and the Mayan apocalyptic prediction on which it was based.
  If memory serves correctly, and people who take witness statements are fairly adamant that it doesn’t, the world had ended three or four times

being proven wrong by wikipedia

  Well apparently the idea that the world will end in 2012 is pseudoscience and a gross mistranslation of Mesoamerican culture according to Wikipedia, which given the academic stylistics of the introduction I am quite prepared to believe. This was going to be a rye article, filled with my dry, hopefully humorous observations. Now however I’m only going to use it to break the silence I’ve maintained for so long.
  You win Wikipedia! 95%, it’s yours. If you were properly moderated you’d be bloody perfect!

Monday, 19 September 2011

other people’s lives from the outside

  I realise that what I’m about to write may possibly single me out as a potential candidate for a straight jacket and a padded cell, some form of mood stabilizing medication, or more likely just cement my reputation as a weirdo worrier, but I thought I’d take a small moment of your time to have a rant about the nature of other people’s lives viewed from the perspective of the outsider.

  Maybe it’s because I’m overtly insecure with constant sensations of inadequacy, maybe it’s because I go on facebook too often, but from my point of view everybody else’s life (with a few exceptions) looks better than mine. Regardless of marital status, age, location, earning capacity and education, it seems almost apparent from the outset that everyone is having a better time, going to more parties, having better sex, loving longer in more fulfilling relationships, and eating better food for cheaper than I am. I say this openly because I wish to be retorted at. I’m waiting for the paraplegic who lost his limbs under torture in Auschwitz and who lost all his friends and family in ‘Nam to wheel in to my room and tell me to stuff my insecurity up my arse, before returning to his luxury yacht with his hundred or so concubines. As you can see, my insecurity is even affecting my hypothesized counter-argument.

  I’m not making much sense I fear. But in a characteristically meta-fashion I wish to explore the nature of this paranoia whilst remaining resolutely paranoid about the whole affair. Firstly, the “better time” thing: My father always used to say (he really did. A LOT.) that if you admire and are envious of someone else for a certain aspect of their life, be it a skill, talent or ability, that part of you is reflecting the thing in yourself. For example, you may not be the next Bill Gates, but perhaps you have the capacity to run a reasonably successful computer company. You might not be a Brendel or an Ashkenazy, but there’s still a chance you could bash out “Hey Jude” on the piano once in a while if you put the time in. That sort of thing.  But where was I? Ah, yes. The better time thing is perhaps linked to my own wishes and capacity to have a good time once in a while, since I seem to be broke frequently.

                                                                But could I do that every night though?

God no! How is that possible unless you are of that lucky class who are financed by their forebears so that they might party constantly and are always on cocaine? Or perhaps you are an artist at scabbing all that you need?  Maybe. The chances are however that facebook, and the photos that usually go there as well as the stories the scars (and maybe a stolen bottle of vodka or two that are left on the mantelpiece as mementos) are all taken from the exceptional moments in one’s life – the one or two actually GOOD parties that one has had the privilege to attend in the last year/decade/lifetime, whilst the majority of us flounder in the pointlessness of trying socialising with people we barely know in search of the ultimate night out. The majority of these mementos are perhaps taken at opportune moments at dull parties, when there was nothing to do but take photos and try to look happy. I developed a theory during one of my lucid periods that the most photographed events had to be the dullest. Otherwise said photographers would have been busy taking part in the fun. Or perhaps they had asked someone to take photos. Who knows?

   As for sex and relationships, if you’re not in one or doing the other it’s always is going to seem more fun than it actually is. I’ve spent plenty of time on either side of the intersecting lines, looking back and thinking that the grass was more potent on the other side. The truth of the matter is that love and passion are tempestuous things. For every happy cuddle you see between a couple in public, you can spy a demoralising put-down later on, or can assume that there will be an argument regarding whether one of the party should be allowed to watch Dexter without the other, while the other goes to visit their mother or play tennis or go out dancing with their friends or some faff.
  In addition there’s the unbearable sense of restriction one feels in entering in to a relationship, whilst those who go round sleeping with as many people as possible, generally have intimacy issues. They are regularly refreshed no doubt, but reading Ron Jeremy’s autobiography has convinced me that  (unbelievable as it may sound) even sleeping with over four thousand women in a lifetime, isn’t a source of true contentment. Admittedly being single and not getting any pretty much sucks too, with the perpetual assumption that this is it for life and you had your fun, but you have the advantage of being able to get takeaway without adhering to someone else’s dietary regime, or being nagged that it’s incompatible with your five-a-day.  

  As for the better cheaper food... I shop at Lidl and know full well that every now and then that the cheap vegetables will occasionally go off without warning. I had such an incident with a bag of potatoes the other day, leaving behind a residue that would have even the most devout Catholic reaching for the butterknife. Ultimately the lesson I am trying to learn is that the bad things in people’s lives tend to go unreported (unless the individual is of the whiney type – I’ll put my own hand up here) and we should therefore not be intimidated by all the apparent good that is happening to people as it tends to even out. My uncle, the most content person I know in my family and a Hindu monk, once quoted The Phantom Menace as a source of inspiration: 'Your perception determines your reality'.
  So on the universal percentage scale, other people’s lives from the outside gets 25% - because despite the fact that none of us should concern ourselves with how other people live their lives and should run our own races, we invariably do the more of the former and less of the latter... or at least I do :P.

P.S. For those of you who wrestle with similar insecurities, my housemate loaned me a laminated poster with this on it. I find it helps. 

Sunday, 14 August 2011

the key ring

 The locks of our lives are the means by which we guard that which we consider precious and safe behind doors. We gain access through these doors by possessing the carefully crafted pieces of metal which move these mighty bastions of safe-keeping (or with the help of some nifty tools or a crowbar). Inevitably these things remain small, that they might be carried but as such become easily lost. Mankind's solution: The key ring!

  By the key ring I intend to refer to the single thin rod of metal, bent upon itself that it might resemble a hoop, but in fact is cleverly crafted to allow the able user to add and remove keys at his or her will by bending the metal out, yet not distorting the circular motif. What simple yet effective genius is this?! What a masterpiece of craftsmanship! I should add that for many years I hated key rings of this type.

As a man I am now blessed with marginally weak academic's hands - hands capable of writing for up to twenty minutes without a break - but as a child I found I could barely move the damn things before 10.30 am. Any attempt to access a key ring (please bear in mind that I chewed my nails vigorously) would be met with tears of frustration. I mean "just how the hell do people open the damn thing?" was my cry. So to compensate for this fault of the fake-hoop key ring I was offered one of these.

Sadly it didn't have a fake bullet attached, but it did have an easy open and shut clasp, demonstrated in the bottom left hand corner of the above picture. This was far easier to use, allowing me to add and remove keys, much in the same manner as one adds and removes obituaries from one's top twenty collection. All was well. Then it broke in about three months. I chalked this up to chance and acquired another: It broke too. 

 It seemed as if one could not have an easily manageable key ring and eat it - or rather, use it for any length of time. Luckily I grew older, got a gardening job, built up a modicum of strength in my hands, so that when I was eventually given a more traditional fake hoop key ring (or whatever they are really called) by my friend Ian, I was capable of using it. These quite honestly are the only true key ring for anybody with any desire to hang on to their keys. Even when the fiddly decorative faffy bits break off they are still perfectly functional. The only time I ever saw one lose it's shape it was being hammered by a neanderthal with toothache on steroids.

  Which brings me to the conclusion of this rather tame review: As much as I feel I should award the subject of our scrutiny with a flawless victory, the weak and weedy child in me still harbors resentment for the wrongs I felt it inflicted. As such I award it 85% on the universal percentage scale. Key rings are, like Yorkie, damn good stuff - endurable to the last and one of the most practical things ever made... but not for weak handed little sissy boys who chew their nails. 

Monday, 11 July 2011

current affairs

  Inside four months I will be as old as my paternal grandfather was when he died. He died suddenly, leaving behind him a successful career, a wife and two children. Having only lived a quarter of a century he had obtained what I in all likelihood never shall. Nevertheless, despite lacking on all three of the salient indicators of maturity, I have recently taken it upon myself to improve in this regard by reading the news on for a minute or two before I go to bed. Which brings me to the main current of this particular piece: IT SUCKS!

  With the exception of things like “Odd Box” or tales of the amazing, such as a man who managed to leap from a burning building whilst juggling a crocodile, a kitten and an electric fan, all the stories seem to point to one conclusion: That all things are becoming irreparably worse. It’s not to dismiss the tragedy of life: the wars, the murders, the unfortunate occurrences and the natural disasters, it’s simply to highlight that all the information we receive seems to be geared to be in one of the above categories. Every government transaction is detrimental for everyone, every technological development in alternative energy seems unaffordable or yet more detrimental to the environment, which (let’s face it) always seems like a lost cause the way it’s represented in the media.

  It’s quite possible that as a self-confessed pessimist I’m seeing the worst in a good thing, but I get the feeling that all this talk in the so-called news about the ever-increasing levels of depression found in the British population might not just be due to the weather. Every fact based headline seems to be a negative. Putting ‘Faith Healing: Myth or Miracle’ as a title somehow seems to suggest that Myth is the more likely outcome. Every second word seems to be “cut”, “lost” or “did” - and when I say did, it’s usually in the context of “did teachers really think that letting children play with surgical equipment was a good idea?” -  to which the answer was of yes, and then tragedy ensued.

  Another idea about current affairs that particularly grinds my gears is the perpetual assumption among the devoted followers that they somehow “know what’s going on in the world” - a fear of ignorance led me to read it myself, but the second thought eventually hits you like a enraged drunk that you are being informed of selected snippets. The first instance I knew of there being a Kurdish independence war in Turkey was when Top Gear went there for their Christmas special. To know what was happening everywhere in the world, you’d have to read every local newspaper or parish gazette ever written, every week. The advantage of course being that local news has stories about good things in it as well, such as “£20,000 raised for new church roof” or “local shop owner’s wife delighted at giving birth to quintuplets”. Somehow in the transition from local to global though, the bad news tends to be predominant. The shock factor seems to be what sells national papers, which leads us to only receive the bad news about life on mass, with an occasional rocket-skiing panda story at the end to make us think ‘Awwwww, it’s not all that bad’.

  Occasionally however, one does find a story which is entirely devoid of negativity: ‘Owl leaves imprint on Kendall woman’s window’ is an example today which particularly took my fancy. It describes the phenomenon that when a bird flies in to a window it leaves a very artistic window imprint through the depositing of feather powders. Nevertheless (and this might lead one to ask what would make me happy) the fact that this is national news at all seems rather odd. I remember a similar incident when a blue-tit flew in to my window once and left a similar imprint - Yet the event failed to become national news. The only possible source of value in the story is the mirth it might inspire when one images a fully-fledged predator of the night colliding with Anglian’s handiwork.

  Regretfully, I now feel I should begin to argue in the favour of current affairs, but I can’t bring myself to do it. The plain truth of the matter is that if anything newsworthy ever takes place, someone, somewhere will tell you about it. As long as people have the mouths to speak and you have the patience not to spend your life in a cave, YOU WILL BE INFORMED! So it is with a grim satisfaction that I pronounce current affairs 10% on the universal percentage scale, which it only gets because of paper rounds – a valuable source of income for the young, which keeps them from doing drugs out of sheer boredom.... that and hurricane and tornado alertness. But that’s the weather - which is something entirely different... I hope.


Sunday, 19 June 2011

sarah michelle gellar 1997-2003

  Well, there was going to be some kind of argument to this: I started watching Buffy for the first time last week and .... it's not that she's probably not equally gorgeous now, it's just that the series has stopped and ................... ah hell, 110%, nuff said.

Sunday, 5 June 2011


  Yeah... guess why I’m writing on this topic. It’s because I have it, yet I don’t want it, yet I do want it, just not the work I have. Not that the work is bad per se, I’m just shit at it. I do apologise dear reader for the use of such profanity – it appears I am using this blog as a sort of a vent for my own insecurity. I’ll be discussing sex next week.... no... no I won’t. But I digress.

  Confucius apparently said “[c]hoose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life”. By contrast, Charlie Sheen said “We're going to shoot one Polaroid per show. I'm going to sign this before it even develops because I know that once it develops with my signature on it, it's worth a fortune. I'll make this a work of magic warlock art”. I’m not overly sure why I quoted that. They’re quite close together in the dictionary, Charlie Sheen and Confucius. It seemed like a good place to start.

  So. I have taken a job – the first I could find. I make seven pence an hour more than the national minimum wage and I wish somehow to improve my lot further by finding a job with an increased rate of pay and a schedule that adheres to the rules of the 9 to 5 week, which seems to be the standard. Yet I myself have only come close to this supposed ideal once in my life, and even that was an 8.30 til 5 day with an hour long commute either side. But what is my point here? Do I have one? Are these the unfortunate ramblings of a migraine addled man with the vestiges of a bad cold? Perhaps. But perhaps there is more to be found here than this. Perhaps there is a question that must be raised: WHY DO WE WORK AT ALL?

  In the first instance I am prompted to answer that I must needs work in order not to have to return home and live under the aegis of my darling mama and papa: or indeed on the street. But Mr. Brain comes along and offers the alternative of getting in the dole queue and signing up for GIRO, living a life of comfort whilst my food, rent and bills are taken care of by the government and the tax payer. It’s a fine system - the ability to remain alive whilst between work and not place financial strain on any friends or family members is truly one of the greatest achievements of our species. Such a shame that it is then given a bad name by idle scroungers such as myself who view it as a chance to finally build that full-scale model of the pyramids out of matchsticks. It’s a compelling argument, yet there is an answer to this one too.

  I once spent a year living at home, working part-time in a co-op and doing precious little else the rest of the time. There have been few times in my life during which I have been more depressed. Admittedly one of them was working for the summer in a cake factory, but I fear that had much to do with living at home as well. With such an abundance of time on my hands, I didn’t have the first clue how to use it and when one has an abundance of a thing it loses its value. Gold is very shiny admittedly, but it’s also rare. As Prof Bri Cox pointed out in one of his awesome programmes, all the gold discovered by mankind would fit in to three Olympic sized swimming pools, an amount surely representative of the quantity of coca cola that has passed through my alimentary canal. But I digress.

  Work is necessary (aside from the big things like food, clothing, warmth, comfort, freedom etc, etc) in order to make time precious and ensure that when we have time off we spend it only on those things that are necessary and prized, such as family, friends, hobbies and don’t drive ourselves mad trying to match the curtains with the cushions on our living room sofa like some crazed, lonely, middle-class, nineteen-fifties housewife. On the other hand, it is a pain in the ass when you don’t enjoy your job. As such on the universal percentage scale I dub work a solid 76%. I shall now attempt to sleep, so that next week’s blog might be less simplified and more pretentious. 

Sunday, 8 May 2011


 I realised a few years ago that I seem genetically programmed to develop a new - albeit minor - physical problem every few years. At the age of nine I was diagnosed as partially asthmatic, at 12 I had my first migraine, at 16 I became short sighted, at 18 depressed and at 21 I got hay fever. Now on the scale of human suffering in the world these are, quite clearly, minor problems. I have not been repeatedly beaten against my will, forced in to slavery, used for hideous genetic experiments or been surgically operated on by a man possessed by the Devil who had gouged his own eyes out and then decided to cut open my rib-cage and hang my skin by steel wires like the guy who spoke Latin in Event Horizon (a bloody good film if I recall). Nevertheless, not having much suffering to draw upon for inspiration other than these minor problems, I feel beholden to have good bitch about them once in a while, hence the topic of today’s title.

  For those of you unfamiliar with the concept of the migraine (you lucky, lucky bastards!) people have varying symptoms, lasting for varying lengths of time. In my particular case the initial sign of a migraine is a sudden partial loss of vision, which makes it very hard to see all of somebody’s face, or read anything at all. This area of partial blindness then proceeds to wander all across my field of vision, treading wherever it wishes with lots of flashing lights, before buggering off and leaving me with raging headaches, an aversion to light and loud noise, weakness, nausea (which can often lead to vomiting) and in one case numbness down the length of my left arm. These will usually last me anywhere from forty-five minutes to three hours, leaving noticeable residual effects for about twenty-four hours. 

  To offer an example of how a migraine might affect your vision here is a picture of Scarlett Johansson’s face:
    Beautiful, isn’t it? Who would not want to look at it? ; Its subtle curves, the perfect proportions in harmony with the golden ratio.... But now look at the same image through migraine vision:

  Alternatively you can stand up quickly after you've sat still for a few hours and probably experience something closer to the truth. I guess I just wanted an excuse to look at Scarlett Johansson’s face. It’s an awesome face.

  But I digress.

  Usually the only cure for such a malady is to lie down in a darkened room and drink water. As lame as this may sound however, this has allowed me to listen to many of the dramatised works of Charles Dickens and a lot of Melvin Bragg’s In Our Time (as music just tends to make the headaches worse) providing me with knowledge of the literary history of good and evil and the evolution of the whale. Another advantage is the obvious excuse it provides you for not having to do anything useful, as physical exertion almost always makes you sick. In this hectic day and age, where we are forever pressed to work ourselves to the bone before burning off stress by drinking ourselves in to a coma every weekend, migraines can be argued to be something of a circuit breaker or surge protector, as excessive living (including excessive laziness, stress and alcohol) forever triggers them.

  However, the main disadvantage is that excessive living forever triggers them. Indeed if I even eat too much cheese, chocolate, ice cream, drink too much coffee, or enjoy a night at a house party playing ring of fire, there is a good chance that I will get one the next day. The only real preventative seems to be to lead a healthy life, keeping your body hydrated, eating well, sleeping neither too much nor too little and not drinking to excess... which I suppose is also an advantage. Damn it. I've just disproven my own argument.

  By having reached something of a dichotomy I fear I can go no further. Suffice to say that I consider them a pain in the ass, but they seem to offer some sort of measuring stick for telling me when I need to slow down or speed up. As a result I feel I can’t damn them to Hades, as was my intention. Therefore, on the universal percentage rating, my migraines get 50%. Scarlett Johansson's face naturally gets 100%.