Friday, June 30, 2006


I Heart Porn, Except When I Don't

Sorry I've been so inactive. My life has become incredibly busy - I'm moving house the day after tomorrow, although currently I'm not allowed to move into my new one, which should be interesting. I also have two different jobs in two different cities 150 miles apart which take up about six days a week.

I've been thinking what to write about. I've failed to think of anything. I must have a dozen posts written and waiting for me to click 'publish', but I have problems with all of them, and they'll all have to wait.

The only thing that's pissed me off this week - the only thing I've had time to be pissed off about - is the wailing over 'lad's mags' that has started again this week. Oh boo-fricking hoo. Cry me a fucking river. I was going to write a post attacking Angela Phillips' snoozathon of last week, but I can't be arsed at all. Furthermore, I have decided to forswear writing about sex given the fact that there must be 30 million women in Britain, and not a single fucking one of them will sleep with me. See, everyone always thinks about the oppression of women, but no-one ever pauses to think about how shy and ugly men feel. Since this fact has made me angry at all women all of the time, I think it would perhaps be best if I didn't write something I'd only regret later.

I wrote more sensibly on the topic here and here and here.

Sunday, June 25, 2006


An Open Letter To The Manager Of The Road Chef Service Station On The M5 Near Bristol (Northbound Carriageway)

RE: The Pricing Structure In Your Cafeteria

Dear Sir,

Are you shitting me?

Let me tell you a story. Once, when I was a child, I joined some rich friends of mine at a Swiss Lodore hotel for the afternoon. I had a cup of tea, and a cucumber sandwich, and it came to about seven pounds. I didn't mind, because I thought I was being suave and sophisticated. I notice that you seem to feel you can charge similar prices at your service station.

There are, however, crucial differences which may explain why I'm a bit narked at you the way I wasn't at them. You see, that hotel was set in beautiful surroundings in the Lake District - your restaurant overlooks the M5. The hotel had obsequious waiters who smiled unctiously at me - I was served at your restaurant by a surly bitch who looked like she was on day release. Finally, and perhaps crucially, the hotel had a foreign fellow with a toothy grin tinkling sweet nothings on a grand piano - in your restaurant, the only audible sound was other diners complaining about the prices.

And who can blame them? Nearly nine pounds for a smothered chicken? Listen, mate, I could buy a chicken farm with a thousand birds and intensively rear them for a year for that sort of dosh. The steaks were over a tenner and looked like burnt leather. My mate paid four pounds for a prawn sandwich which had precisely four prawns on it - a pound a prawn? Who do you think you are? They were fucking tiny as well.

I plumped for a scone in the end, as if that were a meal for fucks sake, because I only had to negotiate a small extension to my overdraft for that, but - and why doesn't this surprise me? - it came with its own problems. It came with clotted cream. Now, I like clotted cream with a scone, but I don't like heart attacks, so why does a scone come with a tub of clotted cream twice the size of the scone? And don't say I didn't have to eat it all - of course I did. I urgently needed to get some value for money after having been robbed by you at the soft drinks machine.

All in all, mate, not too fucking impressive.

Frankly, you might be better off just starving to death.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006


It's Like Slowing Down To Look At A Car Crash

So I go away on holiday, and upon coming back I find that all blogs from all over the world are currently in the middle of a sixth-form debating society discussion over the qualities and practical application of humour, all to do with a hilarious post Hutton wrote.

How tedious has all this become? Some complete dunderhead, who claims that he is a 'stand-up comedian' retaliates, in the most prissily cuntish way he could possibly have done so, thereby neatly proving the point of the original post, which is that these chuffheads wouldn't know humour if it fell on their head in a cow pat.

I have always said that the reason the Internet won't change the world is that it is populated by precisely the same anally-retentive bloodclots who screwed up the real one in the first place. How right I am. The discussion has now descended into a tedious row of nationalistic bitching between 'condescending' and 'arrogant' Brits and 'humourless' Americans.

Personally, I reckon that the only certainty is that all the people making these preposterously large extrapolations from such a non-incident are toerags of the worst order. Rarely has the Internet looked quite so stupid. Anyway, I sincerely hope Hutton, who appears to have gone underground until the heat is removed, comes back as soon as possible, since his blog remains the funniest read out there.


Il Pleut

Okay, so, it's pissing it down. Time to remind myself of my holiday. Except, nitwit that I am, I managed to not take a single photo in four days. Pillock. Fortunately, my mate did take a photo. Unfortunately, the photo he took was of the cover of a box containing a heated air mat in Somerfield supermarket. You can see why it arrested his attention:

Frankly, I think something other than his attention should be arrested for that. Look at his face! What's he doing to that poor child, the sick bastard! He's positively leering. Besides which, it's a Ruth Rendell book. Who smiles like that at murder mysteries?

Just to prove that this isn't an elaborate, childish wind-up:

There it is on the shelves, next to a whole load of camping gear.

This travesty should have been prevented at four stages:

1) The man, or the boy, should have objected to this horrifyingly suggestive pose.
2) The cameraman should have refused to take the photo.
3) The store should have refused to stock the product.
4) A customer should have beaten the manager round the head with a seal club until he realised why this is just so creepy.


Common Censor, Simple Common Censor

Well, let nobody say David Cameron hasn't got cojones. He must be a brave, brave man, because he has attacked rap music as promoting violence, seemingly without any concern for his own health. After all, presumably these tooled up rappers are going to take a piece round his place an' pop a clip in his ass. Or something.

Melonfarmers: 'Cameron Sticks The Knife Into Radio 1'

'I would say to Radio 1, do you realise that some of the stuff you play on Saturday nights encourages people to carry guns and knives?' he told the British Society of Magazine Editors. Cameron said his remarks were an example of having the courage to speak up when you see something that is wrong 'despite the fact that you will get a lot of bricks thrown at you.'

Brave, brave man. I sure wouldn't want rappers to throw bricks at me. In fact, by daring to tackle this vile and pernicious problem amongst us, I feel that David Cameron is much like St George facing up to the dragon, or St Patrick chasing every single snake out of Ireland (yes, he chased all of them, all by himself). Where would we be without this courage?

Sam Leith: 'Notebook' (12/6/06)

''I wil b cocking back my steel strait, bullets bullets, run run, fire fire, bun bun, if u don't like killa killa. " So says Lethal Bizzle. And who, you might think, are we to disagree? The man seems to have some sort of weapon that fires buns, and he's not afraid to use it.'

'So we must applaud David Cameron for his courage in tackling Mr Bizzle - and his elliptical, but possibly threatening, pronouncements - head-on. Rapper Mr Bizzle has become the latest target in New Conservatism's culture wars, you see. Mr Cameron has criticised Mr Bizzle after Mr Bizzle criticised Mr Cameron for criticising a rap programme Mr Bizzle likes. It has, truly, kicked off.'

'"You're talking rubbish, Lethal Bizzle," Mr Cameron contended, unexceptionably, in a newspaper yesterday. Then he added: "Lyrics about guns and knives do destroy lives." If only Mr Cameron had been around back in the day, as rappers say, and if only people had listened to him, society might never have been scarred as it has been by, for example, Beowulf, the Iliad or Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.'

So the argument between Mr Cameron and Mr Bizzle was the real deal. Or real dizzle, perhaps I should say. Then it turns out that Cameron doesn't actually want to ban the lyrics, or the song, or Mr Bizzle, or rap music generally, or hold a moratorium on fun, but instead have 'a sensible debate' about the effects of lyrics that discuss steel straight backs (a great cure for sciatica!) and bun chucking. Ho hum. Well, all rather pointless, but then we get this:

Sam Leith: 'Notebook' (19/6/06)

'When first Mr Cameron fished this old chestnut from the brazier, Mr Bizzle wrote him an e-mail warning him that he was being a "donut" about the issue, and encouraging him to look at the positive side of rap music. He mentioned, for example, that he had signed 14 kids from East London to his record label.'

. . .

'What I didn't know - and nor, obviously, did Mr Cameron - was that the lyric he quoted isn't even by Lethal Bizzle. "Donut" indeed. If the man can't even be trusted to use Google, God help us when he gets his hands on something complicated, like the economy.'

The most hilarious thing about all this isn't that Lethal Bizzle, whoever he is, used the word 'donut' as an insult - though frankly that's rib-splitting, and I view the fellow as a latter-day Byron - but that Cameron can't even be arsed to perform a simple fact-check on an article concerning an issue about which he is supposedly passionate.

Welcome to the world of postmodern censorship, where morality has nothing to do with censorship, but getting a headline in the newspaper has. Hardly surprising from the man who raged against a clothes range that was withdrawn three years ago.

You donut!

Sunday, June 18, 2006


The Wonderful Wit And Wisdom Of Kevin, Part 2

Back in a day or so. Way too much shit to do, and mind in complete meltdown, so no real post today. Anyway, let's call upon the world's greatest pundit:

'The good news for Nigeria is that they're two-nil down very early in the game.'

Top stuff.

Saturday, June 17, 2006


Summarise This

Paul B has returned, and offers his thoughts on the BBC and ITV's coverage of the World Cup in this thought-provoking post. I've been meaning to weigh in on the BBC v ITV debate for a while, and so now seems as good an opportunity as any.

Paul opines that ITV have, for the first time, surpassed the BBC in terms of the quality of their coverage, and I think he's on to something. ITV has, of course, the inevitable, inexorable problem that much of the half-time interval and post-game summary has to be taken up by adverts. However, this disadvantage can be turned around if, and increasingly when, the BBC pundits find themselves on air for ages with nothing much to say.

Because of the sheer weight of games, and the fact that they are all on terrestrial telly of one channel or the other, some frankly amatuer pundits have been sent over to Germany to pontificate, and some just aren't making the mark. So, let's compare some of the main players, and see who is guilty and who innocent.

First, the presenters: when Gary Lineker started, everyone thought he was clueless, but he's gotten much better, and he brings the right level of humour to the proceedings. Over on ITV, they have managed to catch a very big fish indeed in the personage of Steve Ryder, who I notice is getting all the big games., as well as Formula 1. Jim Rosenthal, who was number 1, has been shunted down one, and is presumably spitting tacks behind the scenes. He's got quite a supercilious manner, and although I don't hate him - prepare to be shocked - I actually prefer Gabby Logan, who has been shunted even further.

Paul makes a good point regarding commentators:

'In addition, I think John Motson's finally crossed the line between unique and irritating. Clive Tyldesley and Peter Drury have now entered the nation's subconscious sufficiently to be an acceptable alternative, and not some strange young upstarts taking over from Motson and former BBC favourite Barry 'oh I say!' Davies. This serves to highlight Motty's mistakes and slightly odd commentary style as negatives rather than positives, and actually makes me prefer ITV's approach . . .'

I don't really feel the need to add much to that. On a personal level, my housemate plays the FIFA Playstation game a lot, and Motty the real man has started to sound irritatingly like Motty the computer joke. The computer game is blighted with Mottyisms, which appear during quiet periods in the play, such as:

'Of course, most of the senior teams have sponsors now, in order to increase revenue . . .'

And the dozy fellow is starting to turn up lines like this in the commentary. Diversions are great in slow paced commentary for games like cricket - 'Test Match Special' would be nothing without Blowers wittering about pigeons and red buses and people leaning out of windows half a mile from the ground - but in a fast-paced game like football, I don't see the point. On telly, you can just be quiet during these momentary pauses, or pass over for a bit of summarising.

Which leads me nicely on to the follwing statement: The summarisers are where the problems lie for both channels. There really is a serious dearth of quality punditry. Paul points especially to the BBC bringing in Marcel Desailly and Leonardo, both of whom I've seen little of but have been pretty helpless when I have. The BBC seem to have changed their line-ups quite a bit: I haven't seen all the games by any means, but I've yet to see Peter Schmeichel or Ian Wright at all. Wrighty can be really annoying, but he does at least have a certain infectious enthusiasm. Schmeichel was excellent during Euro 2004. Of the rest, Mick McCarthy is just grating, and pretty clueless, but it's the stalwarts, Alan Hansen and Mark Lawrenson, who are particularly bad. Hansen's grumpy, dour Calvinist persona just starts to make him seem a twat after a time, and anyway I'll never forgive him for how he bullied Adrian Chiles on MOTD2, but it's Lawro who disappoints the most. Bland generality follows bland generality. He continually states the obvious when doing the in-game summarising, and partnered with Motty, they make an increasingly unattractive team. ITV's coverage of the second England game was better than the BBC's of the first; as Paul says, who would have thought we'd be saying that even five years ago?

ITV have traditionally had summarisers who are BBC rejects, but increasingly, they look at least a match, and maybe have their noses out in front. Gareth Southgate appears to have that rare thing for a footballer, a sense of humour, and is slowly turning into a decent in-game summariser. In the studio, they fare a little better than the Beeb. Terry Venables is funny, but unintentionally so - he offers some serious analysis, but he's never looked more like his old tabloid persona of used car salesman. Andy Townsend and Ally McCoist are about passable. Stuart Pearce is really good. I'm not sold on Sam Allardyce, who is presumably on ITV because of his bust-up with Five Live, and Jay-Jay Okocha yesterday talked like Stephen Hawking. Their main problem is David Pleat, doing the in-game stuff, because he is so so so so so bad. I've already mentioned Pleat's disease, that habit of his of stating the bleeding obvious, but his voice is like nails down a blackboard too. They need to ditch him.

Paul offers this in conclusion:

'Having said all this, I still find the best all-round football experience is to either mute the sound on ITV, or use the fabled 'red button' on BBC, and watch the video feed on the TV and listen to the commentary on BBC Radio Five Live, particularly if the God-like Jimmy Armfield is summarising. He could teach all of these young whippsnappers a thing or two about how to talk about the beautiful game.'

Agreed. Jimmy Armfield is indeed God-like, as has been discussed here before. Together with the two other summarisers at the tournament who stand out head and shoulders above the rest, Jim Beglin and, believe it or not, Graham Taylor, what he offers is actual analysis. Not just generalities. Not just simply stating facts that could be divined by anyone watching the game. Not just quoting statistics that have appeared at the bottom of the screen. Not just repeating what the commentator has just said. Above all, actually suggesting ways the managers could change things, substitutions and formations, and providing reasons for those assertions. Of course, the job is somewhat easier for the radio summariser, particularly if you as the viewer haven't a telly with you, because you have to take their word for it, but even when you do mix the radio commentary with the telly picture, the radio summarisers get it right more often than the telly ones.

I really have been impressed with Graham Taylor this tournament, and nobody is more surprised to hear me say that than I am.

Friday, June 16, 2006


'I Only Like Them When They're Frightened And Fragile, As Is Only Natural For A He-Man Like Me'

Clairwil has only done one post in the time I've been away, but it's a cracker.

Poor old Heather Mills-McCartney has been getting a bit of stick over the fact that she posed nude at some point in the distant past. First to fire off the broadsides were 'The Sun' who were shocked, just shocked at these 'filthy', 'depraved pornographic clinches', but, as has been pointed out, were not so disgusted as to avoid printing the pictures.

'The News Of The World' got involved as well, with a story that Heather used to be a prostitute who charged £5,000 a night. Per Clairwil:

'However the allegations against Miss Mills are more serious. The wicked witch is alleged to have enjoyed the sex. I feel unclean just typing that!'

Exactly! What sort of woman could possibly enjoy sex?

Now 'The Daily Mail' have waded in, and boy, does this get slightly disturbing.

Daily Mail: 'Heather just stood there, naked, unashamed and unabashed'

'Heather has attempted to dress up this latest embarrassment as an educational exercise - a 'lovers' guide to caring relationships'. An early foray into humanitarian work, then, for the woman who has compared herself to Princess Diana.'

'Not according to Peter Wilson, Heather's 'co-star' on the tawdry shoot. Speaking exclusively to The Mail on Sunday from his home on the outskirts of Palma, Mallorca, Wilson has given his own version of that now notorious shoot.'

'The events he describes provide a devastating insight into both that seedy photographic environment and the character of the woman who is now embroiled in Britain's highest profile divorce.'

'Wilson dismisses Heather's assertions that the shoot was ' educational' as 'laughable'.'

'Asked what one might learn from the book in question, Wilson says: "Absolutely nothing."'

What is slightly frightening in this article, of which you really should read the whole, because it has to be seen to be believed, is that it appears in the 'Femail' section of the newspaper and is written by a lady named Laura Collins, yet it has absolutely no qualms in accepting whatever the man says, never critises him and then proceeds to vigorously attack her.

For what? Well, it seems she had the gall to not be frightened by the experience:

'"I thought I was a bit of a Jack the Lad at the time," Wilson admits. "I was older than her, I'd been about, I'd been with a lot of girls, but I'd never encountered anything like her. Normally a girl always shows a fragile side, whether it's physical or emotional. But she was just standing there naked, unashamed and unabashed. I've never seen anything like that.'

'"She was absolutely confident and in the beginning it was fun, but as the day wore on it became less fun. It just became sleazy. I didn't like it. As [the shoot] became more explicit she wasn't shying away from it. There was never any objection from her. It was just like, 'Next shot.''

What's this? A woman who is happy with her body? The horror, the horror! Because of course, a man couldn't possibly find a woman sexy if she was confident about her appearance and sexuality. There is a horrific misogyny in what he says, magnified by the implicit approval of his statement in the article, that only men should be sexually confident and skilful, and that women should be timid and diffident in the bedroom. Her body is her's to do what she pleases with, and if what she pleases is showing it off - and I'm not complaining - then I fail to see why she shouldn't.

So, what on earth has motivated this man, who was apparently so incredibly intimated by a confident woman who didn't cower before him, to make himself look like a pillock and tell his story to the papers?

Well, I guess money probably has something to do with it, but another explanation lurks in the subtext of the article:

'In the same way that he admits initially trying to impress Heather with his flash car, his jewellery and what he thought passed for worldliness . . . he says: "It was usual for a day's modelling to end with me going out with the girl, taking her for a meal, to a club and then having sex. But for the last couple of hours of that shoot all I could see when she opened her mouth was Jimmy Nail's face - Auf Wiedersehen, Pet was on telly at the time.'

'"I don't know if it was her accent or her language - she was really foul mouthed - but, believe me, by the end of the day I would have rather gone out with Jimmy Nail than her."'

Aha. So, basically, he tried to pull her, she said no, and no he's spotted a chance to be all bitter about it, and has cannily realised that if he sells his story to the most morally prurient newspaper on Fleet Street, and acts disgusted about her, the paper will take his part in the story.

Still, it was all alright in the end:

'"Well, I'd seen everything she had to offer and, by the end of it, I didn't want it."'

Fortunately for the women of the world, they can now see everything he has to offer, and I sincerely doubt if they'll be impressed by it.

Friday, June 09, 2006


Totally Wonka-ed

Quick final post, before I go on holiday to Nookie for a week, and there'll be no more updates until I get back - please leave comments though, the comments sections seem to be hotting up a bit recently, which is all to the good.

Unfortunately, I will be travelling to Manchester tonight, to go to the penultimate ever night of my favourite club (in its current state) mentioned here, and as a result I'm going to miss 'Big Brother'. I'm well annoyed, mostly because tonight is the night they do the draw to decide which Golden Ticket winner goes on the show.

On that post, I asserted:

'Personally, I hope that the 'lucky' winner is old and boring - that'd teach the programme makers, wouldn't it?'

BBC News: ''Big Brother' holds housemate draw'

'Winners include Tim Slessor, 28, an audio visual editor from London, who claimed the first golden ticket.'

'Sue Carter, 34, found her ticket after buying 13,000 Kit Kats in a radio promotion.'

'Grandmother Su Lindsey, 50, would be the oldest person ever to take part in Big Brother if she is selected.'

'Also on the list is professional gambler and journalist Ed Murray, 28, former internet stripper Matt Oakes, 22, from Coventry, and 25-year-old self-proclaimed playboy Mohammed 'Nad' Butt, from London.'

'Philip Colaco, 21, from Dundee, Deby Dakers, 25, from Norwich, and unemployed Martyn Hilliard, 23, from Market Harborough, are among several of the hopefuls who bought their tickets on an internet auction site.'


1) If old and boring really is what we have to hope for, then Su Lindsey sounds like the most likely candidate to fulfil that.

2) I wonder what Sue Carter intends to do with 13,000 KitKat bars. I'll buy 1000 off her for re-sale if she'll knock the price down.

3) Can you really make a living as a professional gambler? If you can, I want to do that full time.

4) The house doesn't need an internet stripper or a playboy - what was the point of getting rid of Sezer if they win?

5) Finally, like Sue Carter, I hope all those who spent money on buying these tickets off eBay lose. It would serve them right.

Fingers crossed for granny!

Your thoughts welcome!


The Da Vinci Goad

There's one thing I don't get about 'The Da Vinci Code'. Shouldn't it just be called the Leonardo Code, since 'Da Vinci' simply means 'Of Vinci', and calling something 'The Of Vinci Code' doesn't make much sense?

Anyway, to other matters. I see that the Chinese are the latest nation to decide to ban the film. They join Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka, and - you'll love this - the Solomon Islands, despite the fact it has no cinemas! Why? Well, the official explanation is to forcibly make way for Chinese films. Let's hope banning foreign films in China helps the quality of the film industry there in the same way banning foreign car imports helped the quality of transport in the USSR.

The real reason, however, is that China's miniscule Christian population were actually going to see it, and the Chinese government's position relating to Christianity is 'if we don't acknowledge it, it doesn't exist'. This statement failed to convince my GCSE English teacher when I didn't hand my coursework in.

I really do fail to see why 'The Da Vinci Code' has drawn the ire of so many foreign nations with miniscule Christian minorities. Are they really worried about a film that is hardly Christian propaganda? Yes, I can really see it being a revolutionary text. Bah!

Oh, and another thing. The Chinese decision is clearly preposterous, but lest we forget, they aren't the only nation to restrict foreign imports in order to cultivate their own industry - the French do it too. I was somewhat annoyed at Wossy today who has suggested that we should follow this example. The French system is a double-sided coin, but we only ever hear about one side of it. On the one hand, it causes a load of homemade product, quite a lot of which is of a very high quality. On the other, that product itself doesn't fill up all the time the tariffs empty, so there is quite a lot of French films that are complete dross. The only reason we never hear about them is because they aren't good enough to limp across the channel. Further, since American blockbusters are always booked in French cinemas, and a significant chunk of their foreign percentage is used in this way, the films that suffer are independent films from other countries. Give me the choice of a decent foreign indy, or a British TV hack making a travesty like 'Sex Lives Of The Potato Men', and I know what I'd choose, as I've indicated before.

The Da Vinci Gone.


Our Friends The Germans

The other week, there was an enormous article by a man named Richard Johnson in the Sunday Times Magazine about basically, whether or not we should take the piss out of German people, and also quite a bit of stuff about the state of Anglo-German affairs. Since the article is far too long for me to go through with a fine toothcomb, I should like to address a couple of issues it raises.

Firstly, our most invincible stereotype about the Germans - that they have no sense of humour. This gives me the chance to reveal to you something I've been working on:

Steve's Iron Law Of Stereotypes

'All stereotypes contain a grain of partially-reasonable summation inside an awful lot of nonsense.'

If we examine some traditional stereotypes that we hold, and that others hold about us, then you may see what I mean. So, for instance, the Spanish are traditionally stereotyped as lazy. Why? I guess beacuse they start work later in the morning and doze off in the afternoon, but they also carry on going late into the night, and anyway, this is the only reasonable reaction to the climate.

We see Americans as being fat, and quite often as being greedy. In noting that America has a higher proportion of obese people than most European countries, we are correct, but the reason for this is not so much greed as that in America life is cheap and its fruits plentiful. That a large percentage of its population can afford to live comfortably is hardly a bad thing.

We stereotype the French as arrogant, and, to be fair, sometimes they are, although its worth noting that French people in general have become very good at trading ironically on this image. And if they are, why shouldn't they be? France has produced a weight of philosophical thought far out of proportion to its population, and any number of great artists, essayists and film-makers. French culture is an embarrassment of riches; why shouldn't they be proud of it?

What of us? Well, I suspect most people see the British as prudes. After spending the last six months reading Victorian novels, where sex is carefully consigned to the gaps between chapters, I can see why. In 'Jude The Obscure', for instance, Hardy continually negatively contrasts the carnal, fleshy Arabella with Jude's mostly intellectual attraction to Sue Bridehead. Indeed, though Sue bears children with Jude, the actual process by which this is achieved is so studiously avoided that you begin to suspect that Hardy might have preferred it if she could have had an immaculate conception.

Yet what a contrast to today. People talk about sex most of the time. People read about sex much of the time. People buy videos depicting sex frequently. And when people have sex, they discuss it afterwards, with each other, with their friends, with the world. A Channel 4 TV series shows films real couples having sex and employs experts to tell them how to enjoy it more. The agony aunt of the nations most widely-read newspaper suggests starting sex education as early as possible, and I agree with her. Queen Victoria famously told her daughter to 'lie back and think of England'. These days, she'd be giving her son-in-law tips on how better to satisfy her.

So, what of the Germans? It's hard to work out at exactly what point in history our conception of Germans as humourless began. Probably it has its roots in Germany's lack of a stand-up comedy culture. That's certainly the direction Richard Johnson takes:

'Germans know the problem with German humour. They make fun of it in their adverts. In one, a young blond man walks on stage at a dimly lit comedy club. He walks up to the microphone and says in a dull German accent: “Good evening, ladies and gents, I just flew in from Berlin. And, boy, are my arms tired.” Silence. He flaps his arms like a bird. More silence. As he prepares to continue, the voice-over intervenes, sparing the audience any more routine. “Germans don’t do comedy,” says the voice-over. “They do beer.” It was an advert for Beck’s.'

Still, this is far more likely to be a cultural difference than a humour one. Germany has no history of stand-up comedy. It does have a history of cabaret, and of communal drinking. Unlike Britain, where drinking is becoming increasingly Sovietised - buy lots, take it into a corner and drink it on your own or in a small group - drinking in Germany has always been communal, and much better for it it is too. If you go to a bier keller in Munich, you won't find individual tables, but long tressle benches, and those sat there are just as likely to be cheerily singing the 'Horst Wessel Lied' as they are to be sat there moodily without talking.

Of course, time and internationalisation has brought familiarity. In Manchester, there is a place called the 'Bier Keller', which has the traditional long wooden benches. Familiarity, however, can't necessarily change habits - the only night people I know go there is Wednesday night when they clear the benches to the side of the room, and have a very popular electro night with great music and cheap drinks.

There has been the usual squawking protest from the Comment pages of The Guardian as to how English people flying English flags before the World Cup shows how nationalistic, racist and xenophobic we are. In reality, English football fans don't object to modern Germany, which is much the same as modern Britain but with cheaper beer, better scenery and signs in a funny language. Indeed, I would go so far as to guess that most will be impressed by the quality of the stadia, the friendliness of the people, the cleanliness of the streets and any number of other civic virtues. Instead, as our chants reveal, we mock the Germans for old Germany - so we sing songs to the Dambusters theme, and we sing 'Two World Wars and One World Cup', etc etc. This may conceivably be called nationalism, but it's hardly dangerous.

Some well-meaning soul at the Foreign Office even suggested English fans should sing in German at the World Cup. They would be wasting their time - last time Germany beat us at Wembley, their fans burst into a chant of 'You're shit and you know you are' in perfect English.

I'm really tired of people who are reading too much into the World Cup. Their concerns about our alleged 'nationalism' spring from the same impulse as do those of Mediawatch. They assume that everything is meant in deadly earnest. They ignore the pageantry that is 95% of football chanting. Above all, they have a very dim view of human nature, particularly the sort of fan who will travel abroad to see England play. We should ignore them. Other than that, all I have to say is: COME ON ENGLAND!

Traditional German culture.


Matt has, as usual, many interesting thoughts about the flag as symbol.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006


A Film Review Of 'United 93'

A couple weeks ago, my mate and I got a three-day job handing out leaflets and sticking up posters for 'United 93' around Manchester. I was kind of expecting people to react to this, either positively or negatively. In the end, only one person commented on what the film was we were advertising, rather than on the mere fact we were giving out free film tickets. He was a Canadian fellow who looked to be on what Aerosmith might call a 'Permanent Vacation', who insisted that the film was 'propaganda for the American government.'

I'm a twit, so I managed to forget to order my free ticket, and had to join the punters paying today. I'm quite glad I did - I think I'd probably have felt a bit shabby getting in on a freebie.

I would venture to suggest that there hasn't been quite so much pressure on a filmmaker to 'get it right' for quite some time. 9/11 has acquired something of a totemic state in western culture - no matter how big the events were, what they symbolise is something bigger - kind of like a negative version of the demolition of the Berlin wall. The protests came thick and fast to start with, as people wondered how anybody could dream of making money out of such an event.

I disagree with this attitude. In my humble, no tragedy should ever be beyond the boundaries of representation. Cinema offers its spectators a privileged view that news media doesn't, and mostly this view consists of the ability of cinema to generate empathy, in a way that an impersonal news report never can. It obviously also helps considerably that it can show the events leading up to the tragedy, and the tragedy itself, instead of just the aftermath, divorced from any context that might give it meaning. Anyway, I'm suspicious of people who claim that any money made out of 9/11 is particularly immoral, since I read somewhere the other day that the widow of the ringleader of the passenger's fightback has trademarked his cry of 'let's roll' and sold it to Wal-Mart and the Florida State University football team, or some such august institution.

So, what of the film? Clearly with a film of this nature, you are hardly likely to enjoy what you see on the screen, so the films relative value or otherwise has to be seen through its importance, which is a difficult and nebulous concept. I have to disagree with the Canadian - divorcing for a moment gut reaction, I believe that the film offers a fair and balanced look at the events of the day. Some have gone so far as to say too balanced; I don't agree. Director Paul Greengrass has a track record of making films that record events, and forswear making easy and pat judgements. It would have been easy to make the film a jingoistic cry for muscular American nationalism. It would have been much harder, but still not impossible, to make a film purporting to address 'root causes' that may or may not have driven the hijackers to it, but both attitudes would have been wrong. They would have placed a wider meaning that doesn't exist on an individual atrocity and an individual act of great courage.

Yet I did have a gut reaction to the film, far away from the political import, and that reaction was fright. I can't really explain it. Not since 'Titanic' has there been a film the outcome of which is in so little doubt, yet I was genuinely tense throughout the whole thing. As the passengers boarded the plane, I was dully saying to myself in my head, 'dead, dead, dead', and yet I found myself somehow believing against every logical faculty that someone, just someone, had to survive.

My initial concern with the concept was that a claustrophobic look at merely the flight would struggle to maintain a sufficient level of interest. After all, even a journey so eventful of this one consisted for a large chunk of its length of nothing abnormal whatsoever, and I couldn't see how this portion of the film could really sustain interest or suspense. What I hadn't realised was how much of the film would be set in various control rooms, as those with the responsibility for making sure planes don't bump into one another inevitably failed to comprehend the scale of the action taking place. If there's just one impression you can't help having in these lengthy scenes, it is an impression of doomed helplessness, of people caught in the middle of the most important day of their working lives who were powerless to significantly alter the course of events.

Finally, I should like to add that the idea of not casting any big names, and using unknown actors, pays handsome rewards. The film remains about the characters, not about the actors. Later this year, we will get 'World Trade Center', Oliver Stone's look at the events of the day, which features several big name actors - Nicolas Cage, Maria Bello, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Jay Hernandez - will the film manage to avoid being somehow about their portrayals rather than the people they portray? I suppose only time will tell.

Well worth seeing - just don't expect a barrel of laughs.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006


Busy Busy Man

Goodness me, I am sooo busy. Therefore, in lieu of a proper post, I'm just going to link to other, funnier people than me. So, without further ado, why not read:

*Mark on The Sun's oh-so convincing stand against filth and depravity.

*Vague rails against Bob Marley and bumper stickers. God, I hate bumper stickers.

*Shuggy has a particularly good reason for suggesting you become a republican.

*Finally, for anyone who hates U2, have a gander at this.

I also have some sad, heartbreaking news to announce:

RIP Fling The Cow

The world's best flash game,, appears to be no more. This was a particularly great game, where you had to click on a catapult, containing a cow, and try and make the cow fly onto a bullseye. Meanwhile, a farmer stood close by with a speech bubble coming out of his mouth, making such comments as, 'Bullseye!', 'Cow-ard' and 'You're bullocks at this'. I seem to recall holding a high score record for a while.

If you've found any bizarre and fantastic games on your net travels, please leave a link in the comments.

This is Schloss Neuschwanstein in Bavaria. I went there a few years ago. Absolutely amazing place. There's no reason for this picture - just thought you might like to see a place that, frankly, should be one of the wonders of the world.

Friday, June 02, 2006


Spotted Out And About

This sign is over my local McDonald's:

'Filet'? Who do they think they're kidding?

This is a Manchester Evening News bill MattyG spotted outside our local (Asian-owned) newsagents:

I'm saying nothing.

Thursday, June 01, 2006


'. . . And Winnie The Pooh Taught Me How To Forge Passports.'

In the Telegraph, Shaun Bailey is busy suggesting solutions to knife crime. Fair enough. Some of them are reasonable; others aren't. What drew my ire is that he falls ino the old standard of blaming 'youth culture' for whatever people do wrong, so we get the following paragraph:

'We need to look at the material that youngsters have rammed down their throats every day. Magazines such as Zoo, Nuts and MaxPower. Programmes and films such as World Wrestling Entertainment, Get Rich or Die Trying, and MTV, City Gangster flicks and the whole music culture in general. If we want our youngsters to stop being violent, we need to stop showing them violent material, especially so early in their development. As a colleague said to me, the music industry is "peddling death to our children".'

That sound you can hear is my Nonsense Alarm going off.

Where - where - in MaxPower magazine does it suggest that carrying a knife is cool? Do you seriously believe people are inspired to assault by watching Stone Cold Steve Austin over the head with a chair? 'The whole music culture in general'? Perhaps the solution might be to ban music, or at least any music that doesn't tell you to 'listen to what the flower people say'?

Scott Wickstein is spot on:

'I am certainly no expert on 'popular culture', but I would question the idea that 'culture' forces anything on young people. Cultural industries like magazines and music and television programs really are businesses just like any others; they have to respond to what the market is asking for. The point is that cultural industries are a lagging indicator, not a leading one.'

If there is one thing that really does piss me off no end, it is this suggestion that musicians and footballers and so forth have some kind of 'moral responsibility' because they are in the public eye. No. At the end of the day, I wouldn't trust Eminem to bring up my children even if he was preaching love and tolerance. Disconnected superstars and celebrities are no substitute for parents and teachers telling kids the difference between right and wrong. After all, why would 50 Cent care whether or not you go to prison - your parents just might.

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