Friday, 29 June 2012

Things I Just Don't Get (list of 5s)

Yes here we are again - Mr Inspiration is still out on his extended vacation and shows no sign of returning, despite having left the TV on and the central heating running - so it's time to turn to the spurious List-O-Fives that we have all come to love so well

As usual you should probably not expect anything too serious to pop up here, nor for the list to actually equal five.  Four or six yes - five, never.

This time we are looking at the list of things that I just cannot see the point of.  This may well be the railings of a grumpy man against a new world that keeps on changing so I can only refer you to the words of Douglas Adams who said "anything invented before you are born is in the natural order of things, anything between birth and middle-age is a new and exciting gadget: anything much after that is Against God And Must Be Stopped"

So - without further ado - here we go:

#1: The Continuing Success Of Ricky Gervais
Some years ago Mr Gervais and his writing partner Stephen Merchant unleased "The Office" on an unsuspecting world.  A curious mix of mockumentary and sit-com it spoke to a world of employees stuck in dead end jobs about over-enthusiastic bosses and the dreadful drudgery of many of our jobs.  It was a combination of genius and dreadfully hard to watch at the same time.

But even then it was fairly clear to everyone watching that Ricky Gervais was a one trick pony.  He was, to be blunt, more than a little similar to his comedy creation David Brent.

So really - explain to me how it is that years later he is still trailing out the same schtick, relying on the embarrassment factor, pulling the same gurning faces - and yet hailed as the new comedy messiah?

#2: Lady GaGa
Not doing anything that David Bowie or Madonna hadn't already done 10 years previously she has produced some moderately catchy tunes and put in a good play for the Annual Mrs Mad-person Competition with her famous meat-dress, but really???  All this talk of her being some creative genius just because she stuck a phone on her head?

(And by the way Lady G - Bjork and Kate Bush have already got the prize sewn up for some time to come)

#3: 3-D Movies (and, by association, 3-D TV)
Forced upon the world mostly by film studios as a way to halt piracy and as a sneaky way of raising cinema admissions prices I have to ask - what really does it add to a movie?  If a film is poor then the addition of 3-D will just mean that it is now a poor movie in 3-D.

Also - there seems to be a plethora of films that are now incorporating extended scenes just so the audience, complete with silly glasses and a vague feeling of an impending headache, can go "oooh, look at the 3-D"  (no names mentioned, but James Cameron should read this entry and do the world a favour by going back to low-budget Sci-Fi flicks)

A special effect, no matter how amazing, can never compensate for a lack of story

#4: The Sudden Decision By Motorists Everywhere That Indicating Where You Are Going Is Optional
It's a tiny stick, located right by the big wheel that you have to turn in order to steer - it really doesn't take any effort to press it in one direction or the other, thus starting a little amber light flashing that could save your life, of the life of a pedestrian - so until such time as Halfords, or RadioShack, start selling crystal balls that will tell us which way you are going - just use the bloody thing

#5: The Olympic Commissions Stance On Small Companies Using The Five-Rings Emblem
Over the last few months the papers have been rife with reports of florists, or butchers, who have put displays in their shop windows in the form of the 5 olympic rings (made from chrysanthemums or sausages according to shop)

And on each occasion the Olympic Committee has threatened to sue said shop for copyright infringement.

This stance appalls me.  I can understand that some bloke manufacturing knock-off mugs, toasters and tea-towels and selling them on the sly could be a problem, but really?  These are just people getting into the spirit of the Olympics - so get a life people and chill out

#6: Deep Fried Mars Bars

Friday, 22 June 2012

Growing Up

NB: This post was directly inspired by Lydia's OPW here

Sometimes the important moments of your life can happen when you're not even there.

It's true.  I wasn't there when the decision that would alter my school career significantly was made.  It was just a small thing: a tiny act of rebellion in an otherwise undistinguished time.  Whilst I was away for a week on a Geography excursion (I know: how rock and roll am I?) my two friends decided that hanging around the playground for an hour waiting to be attacked wasn't so much fun and began sneaking out for long walks around the country roads that lay behind the school.

Strictly speaking this was against the rules, but for the final two to three years of my school days we would go for extended walks, sometimes having to run to get back to class in time.

I guess it was this, in line with an act of sleepiness, that eventually led to our combined decision to bunk off the final day of school.  None of us fancied the idea of being thrown in the school pond, or covered with eggs and flour (where most schools now have expensive balls that make parents lock their wallets firmly away in boxes marked "not until your wedding", we had our own traditions for rites of passage) and had no one particularly that we wanted to sign their names across our shirts - so it was pretty much a given that the final Friday of that week would see us anywhere on earth other than at school.

And then, on the Wednesday of that week, two things happened.

Firstly I did that thing that you sometimes do in the morning - where you're not fully concentrating, and you get dressed in a hurry - and I got into my weekend clothes instead of my uniform.  The fact that no one noticed until the second lesson of the day should tell you something about how much care and attention my teachers put into my education and well being.

Secondly, and before the Cordoroy Trousers Incident, we were all called into a final Assembly and told that the final day of school would not, as advertised, be Friday - but had been brought forward to Thursday...presumably in a misguided attempt to avoid the aforementioned dunking in the pond/egg and flour experiences.

And so at lunchtime that day myself and one of my two friends (I really should ask the other one where he was that day) decided just to go home.  His parents were both at work, so we just spent the afternoon playing Connect 4.

And that, aside from a few exams, was that.

The next day we had decided to go swimming at the local baths - skiving out of school for only the second time in my entire stay - but when we arrived we were in for a shock.

The whole pull was bursting at the seams with kids: all ducking out of their various lessons, intent on returning home in one piece, sans eggs and flour.  It was quite impossible to swim, so we caught the next bus home and watched in relative safety from the window as a series of eggy, floury kids made their way home.

And there again those walks changed my life - for without them i might not have said to my friend "Hey, lets meet up on Saturdays and go for walks in the morning".  Without that skive, and without that shared history of those walks (sometimes running into quick runs) we may have simply lost touch - faded out of each others lives in the same way we faded out of school

As it is many, many, many (and a few more manys to boot) we still go for those walks

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Pomp And Circumstances

Believe it or not there's a rumour going around that once, some years ago, England won some football match or other.

For a nation so usually reserved you'd think that, when questioned, we would shamefacedly admit that yes, the controversial second goal was a bit of a fluke and then quietly never mention 1966 again - but it seems that this is one of the areas where we are curiously happy to keep banging on about our victories.

I've been thinking about this recently as the Ukelele group were asked to play a patriotic medley of songs at some fete or other (and no, it wasn't a fete worse than death - and possibly not even worse than Chiswick, which i hear is a very bad fete indeed) - I immediately made my excuses for the day on the grounds of Terminal Indifference (UK is a nice place to live, don't get me wrong and i can't think of anywhere else i'd rather live (well....) - but i can't find it in me to have any great surge of pride in the place - i mean, we did invent the fried mars bar after all)

But the thing is - that after exhaustive discussion - they mostly came up with a bunch of World War II songs.  Pack Up Your Troubles, Hang Out Your Washing On The Siegfried Line, Bless Them All, It's A Long Way To Tiparari (you can't just dump them at the recycling centre apparently, they have to go to a specific rari plant) and Who Do You Think You Are Kidding, Mr Hitler (actually not a WWII song at all and specially written/recorded for classic sit-com Dad's Army)

OK so there was also Land Of Dope And Tory (erm...Hope And Glory), and all that Elgar stuff - but I, for one, found it a bit depressing that more than seventy years on we're still going on about how we kicked the arse of Naziism - and that's the best thing we can think of to say about ourselves.

Clearly we like to sing about our victories - so perhaps its about time to stop banging on about it and pick some other campaigns

Agincourt - how once, many years ago Henry V took the throne of France
Who Do You Think You Are Kidding Julius Cesar - a song about the brave resistance under the Roman rule
War of the Roses - how one bunch of people with silly haircuts beat another bunch of people with silly haircuts

And then there's our national anthem - well, it's a bit of a dirge isn't it?  Four verses of yodelling on about looking after the monarch and lets face it no one knows verse 2 or 3 and we quietly forget the one about "all rebellious Scots to crush"

So - what about a new anthem? Why not adapt some new songs for us to sing joyously as a nation that don't go on about how we won some war, how nice it is to wear a crown for a few years or any such stuff?

Well, frankly I can't imagine anything worse than allowing the likes of Gary Barlow, Lady GaGA or the composers of today to try and cobble together some new song - so the only option is to look to the past and, in the spirit of utter mischievousness I recommend the Yorkshire classic On Ilkley Moor Baht' at (translation: on Ilkley Moor Without A Hat)

We'd all have a great time singing along, no bugger from anywhere else would have a clue what we were on about and most important of all: it would make the medal ceremony at the Olympics more interesting

Wheear 'ast tha bin sin' ah saw thee, ah saw thee?
On Ilkla Mooar baht 'at
Wheear 'ast tha bin sin' ah saw thee, ah saw thee?
Wheear 'ast tha bin sin' ah saw thee?

On Ilkla Mooar baht 'at
On Ilkla Mooar baht 'at
On Ilkla Mooar baht 'at

Tha's been a cooartin' Mary Jane

Tha's bahn' to catch thy deeath o` cowd

Then us'll ha' to bury thee

Then t'worms'll come an` eyt thee up

Then t'ducks'll come an` eyt up t'worms

Then us'll go an` eyt up t'ducks

Then us'll all ha' etten thee

That's wheear we get us ooan back