Monday, February 26, 2007



I seem to be missing the boat on the latest trend, which is bashing the Conservapedia.

The Conservapedia is an attempt to produce an 'online resource and meeting place where we favor Christianity and America.' Hilarity ensues. It apparently isn't a parody site - it was set up by the son of far-right writer Phyllis Sclafly - but inevitably the parodists are moving in. I wish they wouldn't; most of the stuff is funnier serious. I can't believe the entry on the unicorn is in earnest (via, S,N!):

'The existence of unicorns is controversial. Secular opinion is that they are mythical. However, they are referred to in the Bible nine times,[1] which provides an unimpeachable de facto argument for their once having been in existence . . .'

'Post-Noachian references to unicorns have led some researchers to argue that unicorns are still alive today. At the very least, it is likely that they were taken aboard the Ark prior to the Great Flood.'


I just did a random search on the site, and came up with this:

'Christopher Columbus' ship, the Santa Maria, ran aground on the island of Haiti on Christmas eve, Dec. 24, 1492. Columbus named the settlement la Navidad. Leaving 40 men, Columbus then departed and promised to return the next year.'

'Columbus wrote this to Spain's monarchs: "In all the world there can be no better or gentler people. Your Highnesses should feel great joy, because presently they will be Christians, and instructed in the good manners of your realms."'

No more, no less. After this event, of course, the settlers settled down with the natives for a nice cup of tea and a game of Monopoly. Actually, that last part might be figuratively true.

My personal favourite comes from a debate page on BC/AD vs CE/BCE:

'England no longer has an established church and the United States never had one.'

Erm, really?

Anyway, I want the parodists and jokers to back off. Why waste a natural source of buffoonery? It's not subverting; it's vandalising.

Thursday, February 22, 2007


A Little Comment Goes A Long Way . . .

It's been far too long since we last checked out what the great and the good of modern Britain are saying:

Shorter Jeremy Leggett: We're being invaded by carbon dioxide, so we should take up war positions. Bagsy I get to do the sniping.

Shorter Bronislaw Geremek: French and Dutch voters weren't rejecting the European Constitution when they voted 'no' in a referendum on the constitution, which means we should carry on full speed ahead!

Shorter Matthew Yglesias: I've caught Hillary Clinton not telling the whole truth when she says she wasn't in favour of a "pre-emptive war" against Iraq and . . . what do you mean, I haven't mentioned my own initial support for Iraq either?

Shorter Norman Geras: I'd like to beg people not to misread Nick Cohen's new book.

Shorter Andrew Murray: I really disagree with everything in Nick Cohen's new book.

Shorter Nick Cohen: It would seem that people are misreading my new book.

Shorter Peter Wilby: It turns out that David Cameron isn't a single mother from Huddersfielfd after all.

Shorter Mark Vernon: It turns out that fundamentalist Christians love the planet because God made it. Huh, looks like the God Squad could be useful for something yet!

Shorter Felicity Lawrence: Peel away all the layers of globalisation, and what do we find driving it all? Poultry, obviously!

Shorter Edward Pearce: "Robert Walpole - You might consider him a detestable prime minister, but at least he wouldn't have invaded Iraq." [that's the by-line. Seriously. I can't make anything up that's better than that - ed.]

Shorter Natalie Bennett: All of human history and culture may very well collapse, and all that will last is plastic bags.

Shorter Morven Crumlish: I hate Amazon for providing me with a list of similar products to the one I've bought that might be worth a browse. How could they?

Wednesday, February 21, 2007


Wagamama Is Shit

EDITOR'S NOTE: This post was, in fact, not written by me, but by my good friend Mike, who has no blog or Blogger ID. I would just like to take this opportunity to say that if anyone who has no blog wants to email me something they've written, I will happily publish it, and I won't steal the credit. Honest.

I’ve been to Wagamama twice and both times it’s been depressing. I’ll take you through two examples I encountered on the menu:

Chilli Beef Ramen: Translation - Steak in a bowl of watery soup.
Menu Entry: Mmmmmmmm the steak tastes like it’s been boiled and the soup tastes like watery diarrhea after a night of drinking and vindaloo. All for the head hurtingly reasonable price of £9.95. Yay.

The person I was with at the time got this:

Chicken Katsu Curry: Translation - Rice, chip shop curry sauce and chicken nuggets.
Menu Description: As you eat you feel a sense of self loathing for just spending £7.50 on chicken nuggets, curry sauce and rice that has just been cooked for you by someone who, if he didn't work here, could be cooking the same chicken nuggets and curry sauce in your local chippy. You then realise the only reason it could ever justifiably cost this much is if the nicely shaped piles of rice are fashioned by a specially trained artist hedgehog who makes self-portraits.

Wagamma is described as fusion cooking… It’s a fusion of really easy to cook food, made badly, with rice or noodles, uncomfortable primary school benches and a crap name… Well done.


Instead buy some chicken nuggets (at most £2 if you want Captain Birdseye’s good stuff) some curry sauce (50p) and rice (fuck all) and then spend about £1.50 hiring someone for 10mins to cook it for you. Go sit on a bus shelter bench near a busy road during rush hour and eat it. It's that quality Wagamana experience recreated exactly, for less.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007


Radio Silence? If Only

My dad drove me back to the station the other day, and he did something I haven't done in quite a long time. He switched on a commercial radio station. Me, I only ever listen to Five Live these days, since the hours I tend to want to listen are around 1 until 4 in the afternoon, coincidentally the time that nice Simon Mayo is on.

The station he listened to was Kerrang, or perhaps I should say KERRRANNNGG!!!!, since the purpose of the station appeared to be as loud as possible. It's been quite a while since I used to listen to metal music, and I'd forgotten quite how proud of their own stupidity its followers are. The experience was very funny, I have to say.

First of all, a caller rang in with a request. They didn't have it. So he requested something else. They didn't have that. He requested another two or three things, all of which they didn't have. I should point out that these might have been album tracks, but they were by bands that even I had heard of, and I know nothing about any music that isn't house, electro or techno. It was becoming painfully obvious that they only have about one hundred tracks that they can actually play. So the caller requested something else. They couldn't play that because it had been on an hour earlier. So he requested something else, and they didn't have that.

'This is a joke, isn't it? I mean, this is a wind-up?' asked the bewildered caller.

'No', replied the DJ, trying to save what little face he could at this point.

'Oh well, keep on rocking'.

Then they played a song by Avril Lavigne, and then, after a few minutes of appropriately dreadful commercials (seriously, radio commercials are the absolute nadir of existence) they played a trail. It went something like this:

'We'd rather live in sex slavery in Manchester than ever play a bad song'.

The next track was the debut single of Sum 41. There was an irony in this that I suspect might have passed unnoticed by the station producers.

The whole thing reminded me of the parody radio station V-Rock that was on GTA: Vice City, but with worse music and slightly lower standards of professionalism. Certainly that trail was just as hilarious, though unintentionally, as anything from the parody.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007


Grumpy Redux

I watched 'Grumpy Old Men' the other night - for the first time since my rant, and I'm sad to say that, if anything, the situation has deteriorated. The 'grumpies' were busy complaining that they are now more famous for their appearances on the whinge-a-thon than they are for whatever else it was made them semi-famous in the first place. You may imagine my eyes boggling somewhat at this point, as I tried to process the fact that these men were trying to enlist my sympathy. This, I take it, is deified grumbling being given a postmodern edge, Grumbling 2.0 as it were. You see, expressing their annoyances has created a whole host of annoyances in itself!

Now, to most other people, this could be written off as Sod's Law, or as the price you have to pay for being indulged in the narcissistic fantasy that the programme constructs around its contributors. However, this is a programme on its last legs, with an ever-dwindling number of contributors, and the BBC is trying to drain the last milk out of the udders of this erstwhile cash cow, so there are no boundaries left to observe, no point at which a producer would step from behind the camera and say, 'hold on, do we really imagine anyone cares about this any more?'

The problem is it attempts to recast middle-aged men in the role of victim, but since its contributors are presumably comfortably off and living a life that must seem fortunate, if not glamorous, to many of the programme's potential viewers, it cannot help but seem like a trivial exercise in empty narcissistic self-indulgence. In Nick Hornby's 'How To Be Good', the protagonist's husband is a local newspaper opinion columnist entitled 'The Angriest Man In Holloway' or some such. Lacking much in the way of material deprivation to bemoan, and being rather shallow and self-centred, his columns complain most frequently about such trivialities as the small tubs of ice cream that you get in the interval at the theatre. He pours out invective far beyond proportion to the (mostly imagined) offence, and as a result, Hornby suggests, becomes a vain, empty, cynical shell of a man. Such, it would seem, is the fate of the 'grumpies', searching ever lower in the unwritten rules and roles of modern British life to find untapped material.

For I could almost forgiven the programme its cynicism and its relentless negativity if it weren't for its banality. This angered me previously:

'The programme cleverly frames its arguments in such a way that if you only half watch it, you find yourself vacantly nodding in agreement, but in reality their arguments don't stand a moments consideration. For instance, they spent five minutes going on about what a 'con' bottled water is. All of them admitted to buying it. Here's a radical idea - instead of whining, why don't you just stop buying it?'

Yet if bottled water was bad, the edition that aired last night, which I will charitably assume has been screened before, reached so far into the barrel of cliche that they complained about peoples enthusiasm for Tim Henman, and Wimbledon devotees' apparently counter-intuitive willingness to cheer on 'Tiger Tim' despite the fact that he loses (used to lose) in the quarter or semi finals every year. This is such a frequently repeated meme in popular culture that it was passe even before it became irrelevant (Andy Murray is now the crowd-drawer at Wimbledon). There is simply no way in which observations on this subject can be presented as new or fresh, and wholly unsurprisingly, these banalities disguise the cynical negativism of attitudes that Britain must always be an also-ran in sporting events. I couldn't care less about rugby, but you never heard the 'grumpies' praise England's win the rugby World Cup - of course not, because the very title of the programme insists that every utterance must be negative, must be accusatory.

There was one other grumble I saw before my friend switched the channel in disgust - the 'grumpies' complained that the liquid that comes out of coffee-machines tastes the same no matter what button you press. Those with even a faint recollection of the works of Douglas Adams will recall that he made a similar observation in 'The Hitch-Hikers Guide To The Galaxy', which entered the public domain 29 years ago. Typically, Adams fictionalised observations are a million times more humorous, as Arthur Dent is forced to explain to the alien drinks machine that refuses to give him a decent cup of tea, all about Ceylon, the East India Company, the British empire, tea on the lawn and so forth. Dent's exchange with the machine is one of the highlights of the novel, a microcosm of the bureaucratic obstructionism that is the novels key theme. Contrast that with some playwright I'd never heard of saying that he thought these cups of tea might be made of cat-shit. Arf Arf.

Somebody, please put this lame programme out of its misery.


A Bad Doctor Joke

Would you believe it, I was actually considering giving up blogging, but then I switched on the radio today and a very joyous sound emerged. It was the sound of self-proclaimed "PR Guru" Max Clifford beating a hasty retreat.

For those not British, Max Clifford is a very famous publicist. He is very good at getting celebrity clients into newspapers or out of them depending on their mood. He is extremely good at his job. He is also a horrible, sleazy little man, famous for representing some not exactly wonderful people, like OJ Simpson.

However, most of my personal distaste for the man comes on a more abstract level. To demonstrate, let me quote a sentence from his Wikipedia entry:

'In light of Clifford's view of the deteriorating state of the NHS, and the moral difference with members of the John Major Government, Clifford worked to expose stories to help the Labour government in to power.'

Unfortunately, the personal views of this man end up being troublingly important in national life. I don't suppose he has a greater idea about the state of the NHS than I do, but obviously, if He thinks so, then it must be true, and the stars must be re-ordered to give the heavens a new look.

One of the not-too-nice people Max Clifford represents is 'Dr' Gillian McKeith, who is a snake-oil salesman television nutritionist. Her programme consists of her volubly berating fat people for their poor lifestyle choices, and dressing up a certain amount of common sense diet advice (eat more fruit and vegetables, eat less crisps and meat, that sort of thing) with a whole host of pseudo-scientific nonsense about chlorophyll in your intestines and the belief that complex dietary information can be gleaned from examining facial pimples or the tongue, or, most famously, by examining her subjects' fecal matter.

What so annoyed Mr Clifford today is that Mrs McKeith is no longer allowed to call herself a doctor in her advertising materials (don't suppose she'll change her URL though), owing to somebody complaining about her questionable 'academic' qualifications to the Advertising Standards Authority. Obviously, I don't hold with things like that, but to the extent that it appears to be causing a wider debate about the worthlessness of her advice, with a four-page demolition of her by Ben Goldacre in the Guardian today, I'm happy as can be.

My personal reason for disliking Mrs McKeith is that she is part of a new television trend that not only allows bullying and humiliation, but positively encourages it. Every week on her show, various fat people are cajoled into denouncing themselves and their lifestyles, with the shrewish Mrs McKeith loudly chiding them for all their transgressions. It is sanctimonious, nasty viewing, and the fact that much of it is wholly unscientific only compounds matters.

It is somewhat ironic that Mrs McKeith specialises in examining people's shit - though whether doing so is much more accurate than reading the future from tea leaves is up for debate - since she is represented by Mr Clifford, who is of course something of a turd himself. Their dual misfortune cheered me up immensely.


Monday, February 05, 2007


First, Get Your Own House In Order . . .

Back in Stourbridge to watch the Super Bowl, and found an advert in my parents' for a company called Richards Roofline Ltd. They may, for all I know, be the best roofing contractors in the Midlands. What I do know, however, is that the front of the advert is mostly made up of a list of local addresses the company has recently fitted stuff at. One of these addresses is 94 Wassell Road. At the top of the advert, in very small lettering, it says:

Reg Office:
94 Wassell Road

Is it not perhaps not a tiny bit disingenuous to list any repairs you, as a building contractor, have done on your own property as some kind of CV-boosting achievement?

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