Saturday, December 27, 2008

Why I go to the sales so you don't have to.

The French philosopher Jean Baudrillard wrote a book called The Gulf War Did Not Take Place, arguing that the first Gulf War was such a televised, unreal experience to us in the West that it could almost have been concocted with CGI graphics and a few actors. (See Wiki for more)

I feel a bit like that regarding the Credit Crisis.

I mean, a thousand apologises if you're already redundant or a Woolworths employee but the rest of us are just looking at you through the window. It doesn't feel entirely real. I hear about it on the news, but my life at least, carries on as normal. I watched the pennies before, I watch em now.

But isn't the Credit Crunch a little ummm unreal sometimes? Hard to get your head round... Stocks and shares and banks owing trillions. Who can twist that into anything more than ... fear, dread and a sense that you're not clever enough to make proper sense of it all.

Like seems a little bit like it must have been at the the start of a big World War - like in 1940 - where there's some really bad stuff going on abroad, but other than the fact that the government and the papers keep telling us how bad it is, we won't start feeling it till the actual bombs start dropping in our own backyards. We get our own redundancy notice...

If you're a college kid or a public service worker, it's made no difference, you don't even have the dread thought of redundancy on your mind. You'll have to wait till the next Tory chancellor starts cutting public services to balance the books before teachers and nurses start feeling the pinch. And that's gonna be a couple of years yet.

It might actually seem like a good time cos shops are selling stuff cheap. And Mortgage interest rates have gone down, house prices falling are a good thing for those that are thinking of buying their first home. Provided they can get a mortgage off the bankrupt banks of course. And yeah fuel bills have gone up, but now petrol's come back down.

It's all swings, roundabouts and a complex economic playing field that no one really understands.

But people are out shopping in the sales. And I doubt it's due to the daft VAT cut - if a shirt is now on sale for £37.65 I'm not gonna buy it any more than I would if it was £39. If it's nice, you'll buy it, if it's not. £1something saved isn't going to make much of a difference.

So why are people out shopping?

There's reason number one: everyone likes a bargain - and we've been told how cheap the sales are gonna be - so no one was gonna buy a new telly before the sales - you'd have to be daft. Now is the time to pounce and take advantage of the vulnerable, terrified retailers.

There's reason two: eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we will all burn in a credit crunch apocalypse. Spend it while you've got it etc. And why not.

There's reason number three: it's tradition! It's what we do. A nation of shopkeepers needs a nation of shoppers. It's our civic duty to buy. Hurrah! (I ran out of reasons there, but thought I should include a third. I'm not sure there's always a need for logic...)

Personally I was looking for a new pair of trainers for playing out in. Or whatever the grown-up equivalent of playing out is. I went in my favourite old sports shop - StreetSports - or something - it's cheap, it's closing down, it didn't have what I wanted. It used to be criminally cheap, now it was just full of young criminals trying to pocket the unsold stock. It was more post-apocalyptic than post-credit crunch in there.

So I left that trainer idea and bought random items that I don't need (see photos) gold trousers, green golfing jumper, lovely bright trainers, pink jeans, orange cardy................... ok, I didn't. I didn't buy gold trousers, I bought the silver ones instead. I went a little insane in a couple of shops cos it was ludicrously cheap, but mostly the sales stock was pretty crap.

The colours in this year's menswear sales: purple, orange, pink, silver, gold. Not a good luck all told. You wonder who was deciding that men were going to want to wear these colours when they were ordering the stock back in August.

"Men are definitely going to get into colour this season. Orange and gold are going to be big."

Ummm. Possibly it didn't happen. The new rave & new golf look hasn't really taken on in the way that they hoped, obviously. Men are pretty conservative generally. Sheep like. They'll wear any colour of football shirt (provided it's their team) but orange cardigans are less likely to sell. I could have told them that.

Personally, I like orange as a colour. Which is why I got some great bargains today. Yip yips. I'm gonna look lovely out on the golf course. Now I just need to learn to play golf...

Friday, December 26, 2008

Why Harold Pinter ended up influencing a bunch of muppets

Oi! Muppet, what you doing here? No, really, it's okay to be online at the festive period. You're allowed to check your emails, I think. Someone might be sending me some very important information. Earth shattering news. They haven't, but they might.

O my,
I need Bert & Ernie to cheer me up. I've been waiting for months to wedge this video in. But it's pertinent, right? Somehow... That is how I dance, just like Burt...

Isn't it amazing that you still get spam on Christmas Day? I wonder if the sales have started in Spamland? Can I get a really cheap Business degree or 40% off some herbal v1agr1a? I hope so.

Meanwhile someone at the Abbey National wants to know my account details. Good to see someone at a bank working hard! I don't know why they need my details but apparently "is importance we know password, plese sent for securitie reasons." You'd think they'd already know my password and account number, but I'd best just do as they say. So I'm going to send all my details. Hope they solve that security issue! Lol indeed.

I have some *Christmas inappropriate* thoughts but I will sit on em until the bright and shiny new year.

But surely Bruce Forsyth is in the New Year's honours list? Arise Sir Brucey? No? No, if he goes down on his 80 year old knees he'll never get back up again.

Other news just in: Harold Pinter went out in dramatic fashion. Christmas Day, way to choose a slow news day, Sir Harold. I saw 'The Homecoming' in the West End years ago with Warren Mitchell (Alf Garnett) as the cantankerous and evil old dad, Max, & Cherie Lunghi as his son's new wife. It didn't end happily. Well as far as I could make out. It was one of those great *restricted view* seats where you can only see half the stage. Hmmm. The play itself was a bit hmmm. Made you think, but I've no idea what it made me think. Made me think I had a sore neck. Or else that I wasn't clever enough to *get it*. But maybe there wasn't any *it* to get? Maybe it just was. There was a lot of stuff about nasty brutish ignorant people. Lots of violence and shouting. Maybe that was it. Nowt deeper. Just grimness unlimited. Cheery.

As Peter Cook said, “You know, I go to the theatre to be entertained. I don’t want to see plays about rape, sodomy and drug addiction...I can get all that at home.”

"I would never use obscene language in the office. Certainly not. I kept my obscene language for the home, where it belongs." HAROLD PINTER, from the play, Moonlight

Having said that, ultimate respect for his Pinteresque style, that will live on. Especially his early literate gangster thing; his comically violent men in black suits, white shirts and black ties. Like in every Muppet filled British gangster movie since Tarantino started copying Harold's tropes & all thems idiot British filmakers started sloppycopyin Tarantino. Yeah, I'm looking at you, Guy Ritchie. Then there's Memento & every film Michael Hanke has ever made. All just biting HP's scary style in one way or another.

Pinter, the only writer that will be remembered ...................

less for his words ........................................ and more for his pauses ..................................

Bet you can't watch that vid for more than a minute. Too scary. Too bloomin odd. I'm screaming by the 5 minute point. Claustrophobia. Horror. Menace. Panic.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Why Jesus was quite a nice bloke; some of these modern botherers, less nice.

Do you have a friend that's a really good bloke, a good laugh, easy to talk to, but he's got these *friends* that are just total twats?

So you wanna go out for the evening with him but, in the nicest possible way - you need to know if the twatters are going to be there. Cos no way do you wanna spend an evening with that bunch of self-righteous, pompous know-it-all no-marks.

I feel a bit that way about Jesus. Lovely guy. Can't say a word against him. But his chums are way dodgy.

But weigh up Jesus. What was he like?
  • Bit of a hippy. Lived in a cave, wore sandals. Not that interested in winning the lottery or the new Katy Perry single. Y'know, he was a serious bloke. Had ideas.
  • Although he wasn't serious serious. He was always coming up with jokes and cheeky puzzles. He made you think did Jeez of Naz!
  • One big thing was that JC would give the time of day to anyone. Did not care who you were or where you came from. Didn't matter if you were a prostitute like Mary Magdelene or a money lender or a dead bloke like that weird looking Lazarus geezer. Always had a word for em. Looked em in the eye. No patronising, judgemental crap.
  • One of the few things that got him annoyed was people telling him what to do. What to think. Peoples telling the powerless plebs that they had to do this - they had to do that.
  • Bit of a rebel was Jeez y'see. Liked to think for himself. Damn, the fellow encouraged his mates to think. He encouraged them so much that one of them ended up betraying him. But Jeez just took it. Went with it. Que sera sera, what will be, will be. You don't get braver than that.
  • Tell you another thing bout Jesus, he wasn't greedy. He shared his booty. If he had a fish finger butty he would hand it round, let everyone have a bite.
  • Same thing when there was a party going on. Always the first to get the drinks in. It was always Jeez that turned round and magicked a big jug of wine from somewhere or other. Everyone else brought water, Jesus made sure there was wine for everyone. How can you not respect someone with that kind of attitude?
  • Still he wasn't one for fighting. He sorted out the wine but no matter what anyone said, he was always *turning the other cheek*. All the old geezers he hung about with were all "eye for an eye, Jeez. Don't be standin for that crap off that fella, y'know." But Jeez was just doin that *amused* smile of his. Like it was all beneath him. Not worth it, mate. Thing is, you do that and it is the violent fellows that look like idiots. Jesus knew that.
  • He could also whip you up a lovely set of shelves or a nest of tables. He knew how to work. Good with his hands. Proper decent carpenter.
  • Made him a bit of a unique combination. Sorta spiritual, in touch with nature and the world but practical at the same time. Not airy fairy. He was a proper bloke was Jeez. Man of the people. Clever. Thoughtful. Forgiving.
So how the chuffing heckers do we end up with people like Pope Benedict the Insane blabbing on about how gayers are twisted and men kissing is one of the worst things that can happen in the world.
"Defending God's creation was not limited to saving the environment, he said, but also about protecting man from himself." [bbc news] Protecting men from wanting to tongue kiss other men. Thanks for that Ben, but to be honest, personally, I'm a bit more worried about this global warming thing. Men and their tongues I can sort out for myself.

O, but, y'know, everyone's entitled to their opinions providing it doesn't cause pain and suffering and prejudice all over the world - think whatever you wanna think.

Freedom of thought, innit? And like Jesus, I'm all in favour of letting people have opinions.

It's a pity that these guys (always guys) with God's mobile phone number are always so certain of everything. They never say, "O, well, this is just my opinion, but... I find the idea of two men kissing a bit distasteful." Cos that would be fair enough, you'd be able to say, well that's okay, Benny mate, no one is forcing you to snog the Archbishop of Canterbury. Personally, I'll admit, that's not something I'd like to think about either, but y'know, each to his own.

I hereby invoke Internet Rule 34 on that one (if you don't know, don't ask...)

But anyway, forget all that. Happy birthday baby Jesus. Thanks for all you did, mythical or real. Nice story either way.

And a Happy Christmas to one and all...

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Why would anyone buy a pregnancy test from a Pound Shop?

When my nephews were little, I was the perfect uncle. I'd get them just what they wanted for Christmas.

"Well they always end up playing with the box anyway. So I thought I'd just y'know, get em a box each."

My sister thought I was a flippin idiot, but the boys were happy.

But now. They're these weird tall adult people. Of legal age for drinking and whatever else they want to get up to. It's odd what time can do. So now if I was to give them a nice empty crisp box, they'd look at me like I'm an idiot. Like they did last year. They've lost the old spirit of Christmas some how. They want me to spend money on them. Buy them *stuff* or else just pay the money into their bank accounts.

But I thought, y'know there must be something I could buy then that doesn't involve beer. And then I saw it. Down the Pound Shop.

*The circle of life Pound Shop Style*

Look at the products as they line up from left to right:
  1. Lynx (style) deodorant to *attract* a lady.
  2. *Extra Safe* pound shop condoms.
  3. *Very Reliable* pregnancy test for after the Pound Shop condom splits. This will obviously tell them that everything is okay. Nothing to worry about.
  4. NiQuitin Gum for when the lucky lady decides to have child and so has to give up smoking for a bit.
  5. Teddy bear for baby (not pictured - cos it's on another shelf)
All for a fantastic value £5 in total. It's the ideal present I think.
What a fantastic surprise it would be for them to open this array of items on Christmas morning.

Not only hilariously not-funny, but it would teach them a valuable life lesson.

But on reflection, I'd probably best just getting them a token of some sort. But they won't want books & they won't want a *Record Token*, so an O2 top up card? Ummm.... How about an empty cardboard box for keeping stuff in? That's an idea...

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Why Christmas is only one option on the festive smorgasboard, other religions are available

Right now, everyone has this pre-Christmas anxiety and sense that 'everything has to be perfect' la la la.

Well, not *everyone* cos anyone reading this clearly has time on their hands. Or at least a spare 5 minutes to wait before the mince pies are ready or the Morecombe & Wise Christmas Special repeat is on ITV3.

But really, some people do get fritzed out about Xmas: they don't have those suicide hotlines on the telly at Christmas for nothing.

I've said it before and I'll say it again.

(Sometimes*) Christmas = suffering.

It's also lots of happiness and hopefully a nice new Raleigh bike, if Santa's feeling generous, but we'll just have to wait until Christmas morning, won't we?

But my point about drunken tramps from Lapland or Scotland still holds. None of the tramps hangin round the city centre are Asian. There are no Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist or Hare Krishna tramps sleeping rough in city centre Manchester tonight.

As far as I know. So unscientifically speaking (talking bollocks, you might want to call it) Christmas might be to blame.

Obviously, I have no proof, but I bet the other winterish religious events are a bit less stressful and involve less sprouts. Although obviously, being an agnostic - I'm not really sure about anything.

How about Pagans?

The Winter Solstice. Hurrah! The nights are getting incrementally shorter. Already and it's only December! Let's have a big fire, stare up at the sky, wander round in a big robe and sacrifice a goat. Or a butternut squash if you're a vegetarian. Hurrah. Fairly simple all that. Could involve driving to Stonehenge and staying up late, so it's not all fun and games. No, hang on, it pretty much is all fun and games.

There is the worship bit, but obviously, I'm not really qualified for commenting on that. Apart from that it's bonfires, roasted goats, dancing in robes, Stonehenge: sorted.

Verdict: more fun than Christmas; less sprouts and gravy.

How about Muslims?

Their big religious event of the winter period is Ramadan. And that is really easy to cater for - let's do a shopping list for the family during Ramadan:

breakfast....... Ummmm, nothing

lunch .... Yeah, i was thinking, maybe, nothing?

High-tea ..... Prayer. Nowt to eat, cheers.

dinner time........ Eh? We're fasting, hello? And it's not sundown yet, so, no thanks.

eveningtide.......... Listen we're all so hungry and fainting we could eat a horse.

Shopping list: no sprouts. Lots of dates for energy after sundown. And ummm anything, just anything, we're just so hungry we'll eat anything. Just no sprouts, thanks.

Compare that with the Christian festival of Lent. What do Christians do during the 40 days of Lent? Give up chocolate? How about give up eating and drinking for 16 hours a day - now that's devotion my friends.

So on balance, I'd say, probably not the easy option. Though you do get Eid at the end of it which is a reet big knees up - with obviously lots of eating.

Verdict: much harder than Lent.

How about Hindus?

Their big event is Divali, the festival of lights. Again, based on my extreme ignorance, I'd say you're probably gonna have some Indian food. Some nice sweets. A bit of serious prayer, a bit of dancing, then watch a Bollywood film. Or do some dancing. And explode some enormous fireworks and drive around the streets in your cars beeping your horn.

Verdict: the driving around the streets is more fun than it is at Christmas, cos you're not actually stuck in traffic on your way to your Auntie Eileen's. You're deliberately stuck in a traffic jam full of revellers all beeping their horns, waving flags & playing bhangra music. Huzzah!

How about Buddhists?

For Buddhists, as far as I can work out, without actually doing any research: Life is a celebration. Every day is a gift. Just be happy, y'know. And hope that you're not reincarnated as a stick insect.

But what's on the menu for a Buddhist religious feast? Buddhists are probably easily satisfied cos they have to make the best of things. Buddhist's seem to go with my mum's old saying, "Eat what you're given and be thankful for what you get."

So you can give Buddhist's anything and they'll be happy. Probably. But they're all veggies, so no Turkey. Just sprouts, carrots, spuds & vegetarian gravy. Buddhists are alarmingly charming and positive people in my pathetically limited experience. They will not turn their noses up at sprouts.

Verdict: as I don't actually know if Buddhists have a ceremony in the winter, I can't really comment. But Christmas is way more famous. And no Buddhist is ever going to worry about this sort of competition thing, they're far too laid back. Probably.

How about Jews?

Happy Hanukkah! It's today I think. Or it starts today. Hanukkah is pretty symbollic in the Jewish religion. But without looking it up (I will in a bit, I promise) I can't actually say what it's symbollic for. You light a lot of candles on a nice candlelabra. I think it's to celebrate how the Jews made it through the desert against the odds. Those pesky Pharoahs chasing them. Charlton Heston leading them towards the Promised Land. So I guess it's another one of those *be thankful for what happened to our people in the past, be thankful for what you've got* celebrations.

Verdict: the actual celebration bit is pretty similar to Christmas actually, just without the tree. Or Jesus. But with more religion.

In Conclusion: the only difference seems to be some festivals encourage you to remember and be thankful by giving you stuff & others by not letting you have stuff. I think I should probably remember the words of my Mum when I whined about how crap my 2nd hand one-legged Action Man was, or how my *new* bike only had one wheel - or whatever it was I was complaining about that particular year, "You need to count your blessings, young man. You don't know how lucky you are."

Aye. True. God,
this is turning into the blog equivalent of one of those modern American Christmas films where the grouchy bloke realises the true meaning of Christmas at the end. Damn. Humbug...

Why these are the best Podcasts of 2008

People admire firm opinions, I find. Hitler, in his time, was popular, as was Stalin. And today in Britain we have Mark Kermode, whose views - in his own narrow subject area - are similarly unwavering.

But more about the good Doctor Kermode and similar *wittertainment* later. After a bit more mindless preamble. Heck, this is like the Podcasting Oscars, so we have to pad it out a bit. Make it a bit more of an event... There won't be any acceptance speeches.

Anyway, my point is that if you want to be an Opinion Former, you're probably best to have a point of view - and stick to it. So people know who you are, what you do and where you stand. If you brook different points of view and suggest that what you say may NOT always be true, then you'll rarely do well.

Look at the Liberal Democrats. Go on, look at them. No one ever looks at them. Even if Vincent Cable is the best politician in Britain, bar none. No one knows, no one cares.

Here is my advice to the Lib Dems - get 5 really good opinions - all simple to understand and have them tattooed to your foreheads. Probably as a bulleted list. Then every time we see a member of your party walking down the street or on the telly - we can go, "Oh, look, it's one of those tattooed Liberals that believe in ... whatever it is. Those 5 things."

There you go, Liberals. Simple tactics. Excellent marketing. Just don't do your tattoos while you're looking in the mirror. That would be a big mistake, Libs.

So. I'm still being positive and I'm still accentuating the bestest stuffs of 2008. It's therapeutic at this time of year. It's either this or the weather or the credit crunch or how winter isn't as good as it used to be in the olden days... bla bla bla.

So, here are some more Bests of the Year. And what I say is law, frankly.

I'm right and you're entitled to your own opinions, but your opinions are wrong and worthless. When I say that Very Mature Cheddar was The Best Cheese of 2008, you could disagree. But you'd be wrong. So if you have any opinions on the year in cheese - angry arguments you'd like to make about this year's Stilton crop - don't bother, I'm not interested. Brie is rubbish in the autumn: nice on Boxing Day, good in the summer, but somehow pointless in October - unless deep-fried. That is just a fact, so don't go there.

The same applies to my list of Podcasts. Generally it's fair to say: Comedy Podcasts. I don't think there even would have been enough for a list in 2007. Podcasts didn't really exist. As far as I was aware there were only 2 worth listening to in 2007. And even now it's a short list. I meant to do this list a week ago but got confused by my own brain and ended up writing a bloggage about 'Why are all comedians men?"

I got a bit annoyed by myself for doing that, but, y'know, we all get sidetracked and confused. So long as I don't start wandering around Piccadilly Train Station in my pyjamas, dribbling and wittering on about why Brie is an over-rated soft cheese - I'll be fine. No one can complain. The list that no one was asking for is now here!!!

So then. Where were we? Podcasts? What are podcasts? Why should you care? In all honesty, I could understand if you didn't care, imaginary reader. As far as I can work out the comedic podcasts in this list are either exerpts from radio shows with the music/travel news/time checks cut out - or else a couple of blokes sitting in a broom cupboard talking. That's it. Simple. Sometimes dull, sometimes world shiftingly hilarious.

Wiki describes the podcast phenomena thus:
"A podcast is a series of audio or video digital-media files which is distributed over the Internet by syndicated download, through Web feeds, to portable media players and personal computers. Though the same content may also be made available by direct download or streaming, a podcast is distinguished from other digital-media formats by its ability to be syndicated, subscribed to, and downloaded automatically when new content is added."
Thanks Wiki, my old buddy & source of occasionally dubious information. So let's press on and get to the meat of the matter... People (men) talking. Download em from iTunes & listen to em on your compy or your iPod***
***other Mp3 players are available.

And a drumroll, please, for ... the Best of 2008 + the most notorious + The Worst of ALL Time, The Best of ALL TIME & the 1 I just am not liking even though it's the most cleverist.

The Top 5 Podcasts of 2008***
*** Note, this list is pure fact and based on truth. All other lists are wrong.

In 5th place for the year - but obviously the BEST OF ALL TIME: The Ricky Gervais Podcast: More or less the original comedy podcast, and now available as an 'audiobook' - which means you have to pay for it. Gervais, Steve Merchant and the oddbod little alien on a stick look-a-like Karl Pilkington. A man with views so backward you would think his brain had been fitted by a blind mechanic wearing boxing gloves. A man who Gervais, cruelly, of course, describes as having a "head like a fucking orange." The man who brought us 'Monkey News'. A definite kind of genius product is this podcast, but they've not done too many this year and now you have to pay. So 5th place. Not that they would care.

Sample Pilkington quote:
On cutting open avocados- "It's a food that ain't worth injuring yourself for. If it's a hassle to get into, leave it to the experts." [from the Pilkipedia]

4th Place - Phill & Phil's Perfect 10 - Jupitus & Wilding are the Phil(l)s. Classic "wrong" pub conversations. Often inspired, occasionally self-indulgent or just offensive, but sometimes *wallop* you're listening to it in Asda and rocking with laughter like an imbecile. All I can say is: Bob Hoskins - what an image, ooooohhh....

3rd Place - Collings & Herrin Podcast - Andrew Collins & Richard Herring talking shite about the news, but mainly just about bumming (o boys!) and their love of Jon Gaunt. Longer than the others and they get lost a bit at times. But there are flights of fancy that are quite fancy. (None of these descriptions is much good, I now realise. Listen to em & find out what you think. You may decide that Collins sounds too much like Mr Bean.)

2nd Place - Adam & Joe - 6 Music Podcast. It has the advantage that it's a 3 hour radio show distilled like, like an alcoholic beverage that gets distilled. Lots of love and attention goes into it. Two ex-public school boys and childhood friends. Silly voices, silly songs, silly arguments, silly text-in competitions. It sounds really crap when I describe it. But it is - like all of these - one where you either get it or you don't. Don't go to the gym and listen to this as you might end up falling off the running machine. Adam & Joe are just talking - then conversation takes a turn for the bizarre and you've forgotten where you are and you're hopelessly falling backwards.

1st Place in my affections - Mark Kermode's Film Reviews -
Keeping the description short - Mark Kermode ranting in an insanely rational style about rubbish films and elugizing any genius films that come along. Absolutely essential. He is a genius. The end. As Kermode would say, "You can disagree, but you'll be wrong."

  • On Guy Ritchie's Revolver: "Things got so bad I half expected oxygen masks to drop down from the ceiling while red and white lights guided us all to the nearest exits."
  • "Is that a nest of tables? NO. It's Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley having some red hot passionate embrace that is positively teaky."
  • Norbit - "If you paid to see Norbit, look deep inside yourself. Look deep inside yourself and take the same amount of money you paid to see that movie and give it to a good cause because believe me, you're karmically unbalanced if you paid to see that film."
The Most Notorious Podcast of 2008
That'll be the Russell Brand Podcast then <<- see previous bloggage. Good ole BBC. It's all quite funny in retrospect. The young lady involved in the scandal has made lots of money taking her clothings off. Andrew Sachs will make money from his biography selling more. Brand is off in Hollywood. Jonathan Ross gets to have an extended holiday & rewrite his autobiography. "Sticks & stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me. " As I was told to tell the boys that were teasing me when I was an 8 year old. I can't even remember what they were teasing me for, so it can't have been that bad.

The Podcast I know I will hate without even listeningclick to see Viz's George Lamb cartoon

It's a tough one this. Obviously the Chris Moyles Podcast would be the natural 'unheard' hate object. But there is a man I hate more. A man so handsome, so tall, so full of natural self-love that he needs a few of my sticks & stones just to bring him down to the level of us mere mortals. Yes, it's Ray Davies' best friend - the gorgeous and pouting George Lamb with 'comedy' excerpts from his execrable 6music show. The nadir of Zoo radio. Lovely George and his equally nice sounding mockney posse laughing at each other's jokes. Lovely. My brain hurts re-imagining listening to him. If I hadn't made a vow to P O S I T I V I T Y, I'd be tempted to slag it off. In the circumstances, I'll just say, it might be quite good, it's just not my thing... in the same way that sticking a carving knife in my sternum isn't my thing...

The Podcast I should like but can't listen to
So. Stephen Fry. Always good on the telly, but I find his novels unreadable and his podcast, sorry, *Podgram* unlistenable. It's just him talking and that's it. He's very clever, but... not for me, Steve. Soz.

Too many words. We're out of time. Goodbye...

Friday, December 19, 2008

Why I used to think all tramps were Scottish.

When I was growing up, all the tramps that hung around the city centre, were Scottish. Or so I thought at the time.

All of them.

I have now realised that I was wrong to think that, as I shall explain. They did come from the north, but not from bonnie Scottishland.

But what is a real definite fact is that all the tramps (or homelessers, if you prefer the more politically correct term) were old, male, had beards, wore long shabby coats, and smelled of turps. Not one of em had a dog on a string.

They all seemed quite happy to be tramps as well, there was none of this guff about 'helping the homelessers'. They liked sleeping in bins. It was what we refer to nowadays as a *lifestyle choice*.

And they all always wanted 10p for a 'cup of tea' off young kids like me.

You could get a cup of tea for 10p back in the olden days. So it seemed like a reasonable request. They weren't trying to sell you a magazine that you didn't want. That you only buy so you can carry it about and show other people how *generous* you are.

But at the time, I did wonder if there was a Careers Officer in Glasgow advising young alcoholics that if they wanted to advance their careers in the world of hard drinking, the obvious *next move* would be to travel south, to say... umm Manchester? Y'know, it might be a good place for a man to live rough and carve out a career as a professional meths drinker.

Or that's how it seemed to me as a naive 13 year old walking through Piccadilly Gardens on my way to the record shop. But the thing I just didn't get - I couldn't understand how an adult could end up like that. The long white beard, raggedy red coat, sack full of belongings slung over his shoulder...

Now, that I am old and wise and drunk, I think I have all the answers.

Tis Christmas that is to blame.

Now with only days to go (exciting isn't it?) you can almost feel the rush of excitement everywhere. The shops full of happy shoppers, as determined as crackheads needing a fix. All wanting to buy lovely irrelevant nicknacks for people they don't even particularly like but are somehow unfortunately related to.

But for a a lot of women Christmas is a time to work. Women have to cook big massive roast dinners. Women have to bother about buying presents. Have to send out cards.

It seems like Christmas is all work for *mum*.

It seems like it is and, yes, it pretty much is. Cos men have it easy. Not Santa, obviously, he has to work. And there in lies the problem...

The man's job, going from my own perspective, which is the only one I have to go on, is to basically just get pissed. My dad was a pisshead, I've been brought up in the pisshead culture. And at Christmas it's positively encouraged. Drinking cheap champagne at 10 in the morning is fine, whereas at any other time of the year drinking cheap wine is not encouraged. You're supposed to wait until lunchtime at least.

So how do you think Santa feels, looking round at all those other men, having fun. Enjoying themselves, while he's got all that work to do. Everyone is gettin pissed & Santa is pissed off.

Cos Santa is a man that likes his ale. He can hold a jug of wine or two. He likes a flagon of sherry.

Santa: the alpha-male of the Christmas period. He's the only man working (apart from that nice Noel Edmonds busy giving out presents to kiddies in hospitals). And boy does Santa resent it. He is meant to be jolly, but he bears a grudge...

The rest of us, males, what do we have to do at Christmas?
  • Maybe go shopping once. At the most. Then stand around looking bored. Keep looking at our watches, make comments about football scores, and say things like, "Yeh, it's looks lovely. Get it. Definitely, just get it." Come on! It's expected. It gives women a sense of moral superiority. Gives them the chance to say things like, "At least try and PRETEND you're interested!" Women love saying that.
  • We don't have to really pretend we're interested in shopping. We just have to smile every now and again & agree to everything that is said. It's not an easy job, but iPods do help.
  • Being a man and enjoying shopping is slightly looked down on by society. It's a bit *gay*.
  • You don't even have to buy Christmas cards. Even if you receive them. It's not expected. *You're a man*. LOL. Don't bother giving a fuck, you're a man. LOL.
  • Sure, you're supposed to feign an interest in the whole Christmas thing on the actual day itself. Maybe help some little anklebiter assemble a Scaletrix, but you don't have to do much more than that. Drink, eat, snooze, watch Harry Potter, drink, eat, snooze, James Bond, drink, sleep...
Come on, I know what you're thinking, men have a role at Christmas. Men have to do stuff!!!!
  • They have to buy a present for their significant other. Probably best done when out shopping with the significant other. "Well I don't want to get the wrong thing! You know what I'm like. I'm hopeless!" ;0)
  • I'm also hopeless at cooking and washing up btw. And DIY in case any of that needs doing.
  • But men do have to go to the works' Christmas do and get pissed.
  • They have to meet up with their friends and get pissed.
  • They have to go round to relatives' houses and get offered a drink of whiskey at 11am.
  • "I don't mind if I do! Thanks Uncle Charlie! What? What you lookin at me like that for??? I thought you said - you - were gonna drive!? I thought you didn't mind about not drinking? God! Why do you have to cause an argument. Ok, I'll drive. Yes, I'm having a whiskey. And a beer. I'll only have a couple... Lighten up, it's only Christmas once a bloody year for God's sakes..."
  • And then there's some more drinking, just because.....
Look at the Royal Family as a for instance. As an example of how the British family works.

Prince Philip, for instance, he won't even help with the washing up. He won't even set the table. He won't do a thing till Boxing Day and - even then - he'll only play charades if he doesn't have to stand up. He's comfy in his chair, leave him alone.

Meanwhile of course the poor old Queen has to get up at 4am, put the turkey in, peel some tatties, make the stuffing, then wipe her hands, put a bit of lippy on and make that bladdy speech to the *Commonwealth*. With the accent on *common*. A woman's work is never done, etc.

Have a sherry, Liz, love. Put your feet up for a few minutes.

It's all go, isn't it?

"Have a sherry!"

If only.

The Queen's got the plum pudding to make - and - and - when she looks in the cupboard, there isn't any blinkin sherry left, is there?

Santa's had it all last night. Christmas Eve. Cos while he does his deliveries, what does the fat fuck want? A high carb snack to keep him going through the night? Some Powerade & a handful of Brazil nuts?

No. Santa wants his sherry.

In a glass or in a syringe, he doesn't mind. Mr Claus will mainline that sherry if he has to. He needs his sweet wine fix.

Yeh. Santa is a tramp in waiting. All tramps are ex-Santas. Think about it: the long white beard. The tarnished old coat held together with a big belt. The fat belly and the idea that it's pay-back time. Asking kids to give em 10p for a cup of tea. They're bound by the Code of Santa so that they can't reveal their true identies, but they're all bitter, twisted, resentful - out-of-work 364 days a year - unemployed Santas.

Those tramps in my youth, they weren't from Scotland, they were from Lapland....
See! Now it all makes sense...

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Why I love Opera

O, I am sad and boring. This is my saddest and most boring post of all time. Geeky. Opera. I love Opera. I really do. And it's wrong. It's like a love that dare not speak its name.

A man and an tiny underused web browser - how can they experience love? But Opera loves me back, I know she does. We have a *relationship*.

What? You thought I meant, the fat lady singing in Italian thingy? Well, that's nice too. Laaaaa la laaaa laaaaaaaaaaaa. What I know of it, is nice, if occasionally a bit confusing. But I mainly know it through adverts, Nessun dorma and Malcolm McLaren's Fans album. That Madame Butterfly, that's great that is.

But little Opera. How many times must I say how great it is. Small, resilient, multi-functional, stripped-down, unfussy; takes up hardly any room. Ideal for someone with a PC as old and rubbish & small brained as mine is.

But why should you care - you Internet *Explorer* users. Why? Because you're in big big doo-doo, baby. Listen to the wise words of the bbc techy site people:

"There is a real danger that Internet Explorer 7 users could be opening the door to cyber criminals to allow them to ransack the contents of your hard drive. In other words, it is a pretty serious situation." [bbc techy blog]

This is like one of those situations where there's flooding in the South West of England and you sort of feel sorry for them, but it's sort of a bit... *funny*. Like - why did you by a house next to a river that floods every year - and then you start complaining? Buy a houseboat.

Or in this case: Use Opera...

"Because IE is used by seven out of every ten computers in the world, the flaw is potentially very serious. Microsoft is trying to put together a patch, but in the meantime computer users have been advised to update their security settings or switch to unaffected browsers such as F***fox or Opera." [the guardian tech blog]

And it will happen again, cos Microsoft is like a red rag to a hacker. They loves messin with those Windows. Always looking for the *back door* to sneak in through. Big brash Internet Explorer, thinks he's so cool n modern. He's asking for it. Not like quiet little ole Miss Opera, she's from Norway, don't ya know? She keeps herself to herself, she don't be troublin no one and she's got some big ass locks on all the doors. So you hackers can just eff off, mateys.

*Sigh* It's love, y'see. I mean, other browsers are available..... Mac users have that Safari thing (no idea) and then there's the other two *alternative* choices:

G00gle Chrome

Hurray. I love everything G00gle. I would have G0ogle trousers if they sold them. Go0gle soup in a can. G00gle shoes. I would live in a GOOgle house, sleep in a Googly bed.

If I wasn't obscenely in love with Ms Opera, I would want to marry Miss Google. Every time I lost my slippers, Mrs Google (now Mrs Google-Sullivan) would find them for me. But the Google browser - G00gle *Chrome* is pathetic. It's a neurotic mess. It don't do nothin. It wakes up. Tells you it can't cope. Freezes. Wants some Prozac. Then starts cryin cos the world is such a harsh place. "Ooooh. This is a bit difficult. I don't want to open this page it's dangerous." G00gle Chrome is roobish. Come back when you've grown a pair, Chrome-io.


Firefox, that's what the *cool kids* tell me I should use. The geekios. I wonder if they like to crash their cars. Cos that's the principal benefit of Firefox. Firefox is like you're driving along on a happy sunny day, pootling along in your nice orange Honda Civic, enjoying the scenery, enjoying the music from your excellent stereo, smiling to yourself, looking across at your partner who's happily snoozing away in the seat next to you. And then you're involved in a hideously massive motorway pile up. Time stops. The world stands still. All you can feel is pain. Your loved one is dead. All your belongings are on fire. The only copy of your recently finished novel: up in flames. You're still alive but all you can feel is pain and horror. You wish you were dead as well.

That's life with Firefox. Cos here's how it goes: fill in an enormous job application form online. Press the Send button.


Press it again. Press it again. Press it again. Press it again.
Press it a effin gain..

Please don't make me *Alt-Ctl-Delete*... You bastard. Come on. Get with it. Revive yourself. Do something...... No. You have to smack it down like you're punching a dumb animal. Bang bang bang. Even though it's dead to all intents and purposes, it will not completely die. It's no use to you, but it sits there, filling up the screen a with startled frozen images of a world you once understood....

So you start again, more in hope than expectation...

"Would you like to restore the previous session?" I know that off by heart from using effin Firefox (for a few months this summer). Yeh, I would, as it goes. I would like you to effin jeffin restore the piggin previous session. Thank you.

Blank form. Firefox couldn't give a shit. It denies you ever filled in any forms. But no. I'm not bitter.

The add-on widgits are nice, I'm not disputing that. But it's like a lovely Alfa Romero car. Nice stereo, lovely walnut dashboard, but the engine's fucked. It will break down without any warning or reason.

I don't need that from a browser. I like my Scandinavian reliability. Built by people who drive Volvos and drive around in snow. They're used to comfort, reliability and coping with hardship.

And that's why I love Opera. I like my web browsers like I like my women... ummm... comprised of binary code? No. Reliable, fast, and safe. (Ok, that analogy was crap, but let's move on...)

So, Opera, lovely Opera. Consider this a recommendation. And if it crashes on you, well, that's because Opera loves me, not you. We're getting married some time in the new year.

We might play some nice opera at the wedding. Or else this other hit by Malcolm McLaren, so that I can show off a few of my breakdancing moves at the reception. It won't be the first time ...... ahem.....

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Why George Bush should have watched more Patrick Swayze films

So I was watching Marcel Orphuls' magnificent 1969 documentary
The Sorrow and The Pity. A film about the German occupation of France during the Second World War.

There were lots of interviews with noble German soldiers who were in the Wehrmacht and just doing their job. There were interviews with British undercover operatives. There were interviews with Frenchies who had collaborated & and with French resistance fighters - who by 1969 were more likely to be rambunctious pensioners drinking beer and smoking Gitanes by the dozen. Come to think of it, they were probably doing that in 1943 as well. Albeit they were a bit younger. Their lives were probably pretty similar. Spend the morning looking after their cows, eat some cheese on a baguette, have a glass of wine, then nip out to blow up a German train.

The resistance fighters seemed very heroic in the circumstances. Fighting for your country & fighting for freedom are noble causes.

But if you're 15 years old it's probably hard to judge what the right circumstances are: are these invaders hideous Nazis or pro-democracy nation builders - and do you really care?

In fact, aren't you probably just doing what your elders have told you to do? Like some kid that gets taken to church - you're taught to believe. In this case taught that you should blow up a bunch of soldiers by any means necessary.

After all what would we have done if the Soviets had ever managed to have the gumption and necessary military hardware to bother invading Britain at some point during the Cold War?
(Well, I guess the answer to that is that we would have fired nuclear bombs at them. Like that would have helped anyone.)

But I think there'd be a lot of people (me included I would hope) that would be working to get rid of our foreign overlords - like in an episode of V - the sci-fi tv series of the 1980s that was basically about a brave bunch of humans fighting a heroic fight against a load of evil Alien lizards. It was all very *anti-communist*. The aliens ate humans. Standard propaganda used in many wars in the past. They probably say similar things now about the Americans in Iraq.

Same applied to the magnificently absurd 1984 film Red Dawn, where a bunch of teens led by a young Patrick Swayze fight off the invading Soviet forces. Soviets who were at the time busy invading Afghanistan (they gave up eventually - that's what you do in Afghanistan - you invade - everyone hides in the hills - then they come back in the spring and fight you some more - then you give up & go home).

So while the French seem heroic and the fictional American heroes of Red Dawn seem ridiculous, the insurgents in Iraq and, more often these days, Afghanistan, seem almost unstoppable.

You can kill the fathers, you can kill their brothers, but they'll keep breeding boys and bringing them up to hate the foreign oppressors. They're not that bothered that British soldiers are keeping them free and bringing a shade of equality to the women of their country - and after all - if there was anyone who deserved a good kicking in the face it was the Islamo-fascists of the Taliban.

All the young kids can see are foreign faces & guns.

You need a good idea of why you're invading a country and ideally you need to get the heck out as soon as you can. But I mean, what do I know about military theory, but there's lessons from history and bad drama.

As a footnote:

Possibly the most urbane and sensible thing George Bush has ever said was after that Iraqi journo chucked a pair of shoes at him: this is what happens in a democratic country, people have the right to make their feelings known. Except, you throw shoes at someone - someone I would instinctively abhor, like George W. Bush - and I start feeling sorry for him. Throwing shoes isn't nice. Blowing people up even less so.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Why these are the best books of 2008

Of course they're not. Not these books. Not really. On about a million levels. Cos I've not read every book that came out in 2008. I believe that new Geri Halliwell book for little kiddies is very good, for instance. And, who am I be to choosing the *best* books of 2008?

Who made me *The Boss of Books* all of a sudden?

Who? NO ONE, THAT'S WHO. But in my own little world, I am. So nerrr.

The other thing is - who reads just books from the current year? Other than book reviewers. So my little samizdat version of a Best of/Top Ten List has books in it that might be a couple of years old. But they're mainly quite new. But heck, this is purely for my own amusement (probably literally as well as figuratively).

But so what? So there. So here it is. So pppppt to you, matey.

I'm writing a big lot of lists and I don't care who's interested or who isn't.

Unless there's a lovely bespectacled librarian walking past - in which case - Whit wooooo - here, darling, look at the size of my big bookshelf. Look at the hardbacks on that, eh? Fancy a quick bit of Hornby, do ya? I'll give you a good Burroughs...

Etc. Because we know, from the previous post, books make you sexy and cool

So here they are, here it is ... without further a doo-doo -

The Top 10 Books of 2008***
*** note, this list is purely for my own entertainment
  1. What is the What by Dave Eggers & Valentino Achak Deng - Dave Eggers says he tried to write a biography of a boy soldier/refugee from Sudan, but he couldn't get his head round it. So he just started making it up a bit, to make it seem more realistic. And it does. The true life story of Valentino Achak Deng gets you right inside his head. Normally Dave Eggers is a bit show-offy and overbearing, but here it's all about Valentino. It'll make you laugh, it'll make you cry lots and lots. Book of my year. Hurrah.
  2. Motherless Brooklyn Jonathan Lethem - Lots of Lethem's books are amazing, but a few are a bit merrrr... I also loved You Don't Love Me Yet, but when I lent it to someone else she thought that it was merrr at best. Motherless Brooklyn is one that everyone should like. A big fat book for the whole family. If a bit blokey. It's a *romp*. A limo driver with Tourette's syndrome works for a dodgy dealer in Brooklyn. Orphans, Buddhists, shouting your thoughts out loud & love. It's a bit of a detective story as well, which I managed to like despite my previous bloggage about hating detective stories. Whoops.
  3. What was Lost Catherine O'Flynn - Probably the best young writer in Britain. This will be made into a film in about 6 months. I'm sure. A little girl pretends to be a detective in a Birmingham shopping mall. She watches people and searches for criminals. Then she disappears. 10 years later a woman working in a record shop & a security guard have some odd experiences in the shopping mall. I wouldn't call it a ghost story, but I would call it very good.
  4. The Book Thief Markus Zusak - Ok, yeh, so it's another one of these *The Holocaust - for Kids* books, like The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas but the story is a bit more complicated than that. It's a little bit fairy tale-ish, it's about a lad growing up and not fully understanding what's going on in Germany as the Nazis take power and yeah, it's a bundle of laughs, but it's almost too well written. It always feels well written, maybe it's too much like a fable, too poetic. That creates a bit of a distance at times - for me - but it's still beautifully done. Wanted to hate it, but couldn't help myself from staying up late to try and finish it. And then I was sad cos it had ended. Emotionally affecting. It will probably make you cry if you are a crying sort of person.
  5. The Uncommon Reader Alan Bennett - "Once I start a book I finish it. That was the way one was brought up. Books, bread and butter, mashed potato - one finishes what's on one's plate. That's always been my philosophy." So says the fictional version of our dear, beloved Queen in this light, silly, daft little book. See previous blog for slightly more details. I started it expecting it to be silly, daft and pointless. It is, but it's still brilliant.
  6. The Year of Yes: The Story of a Girl, a Few Hundred Dates, and Fate Maria Headley - How did I end up reading this? It must have been the snappy title. She says yes to everyone that asks her out. A bit like that guy who ate Super-sized food whenever he was asked. She went on a date with everyone who asked. The postman. A tramp. I forget who else, but there were a lot. Entertaining and intriguing - and as utterly pointless as most of these sort of books, but I think we all came out at the end of it having learnt something. Can't remember what it was though.
  7. Netherland Joseph O'Neill - Possibly should have won the Booker Prize (not having read many of the others on the list it's hard to comment). It's very languid, it's not very plotty, it's slightly emotionally stunted - well the narrator is trying to recover from the break-up of his marriage by working and playing cricket in New York. I know! A laughter riot! But again, it's very well written. I almost didn't like it while I was reading it, but couldn't stop reading it. That's weird.
  8. Two Caravans Marina Lewycka - Didn't enjoy her first book, A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian as wonderful as most other people did. I thought it was a bit too *Carry On* comedy full of wacky foreigners, but Two Caravans surprised me & forced me to read to the end - with the great Sheffield scene. A story about migrant workers coming to Britain and earning nowt and getting abused from all directions. Makes you laugh & makes you think, which is always a good combo, I think.
  9. No Second Chance Harlan Coban - I've already done some commenting on this book here. In some ways it's my absolute best book of the year - when it comes to entertainment value. A guilty pleasure that I'm not even guilty about. I salute you, Mr Coban with your big golden typewriter, as you sit in your big house made of diamonds. Well done, sir. I do wonder if all your books are kinda exactly the same, but taken one at a time, in their detectivey context - wonderful.
  10. That's Me in the Corner Andrew Collins - Mr Collins, or Saint Andrew, as he is known in these parts was the blogging inspiration for me to start writing this bit of bloggage. I have really just copied everything off him. Except he's quicker and obviously very successful in his life. Whereas I am very slow and - no hang on - I've got to be *P O S I T I V E* all the time - whereas as I am maybe lying in the gutter but I am looking up at the stars. In this book, Andrew, in his music journalist guise, gets to hang out with lots of stars. It's my personal favourite out of the three volumes of his autobiography. (In volume two, Andrew seems to be having too much of a good time. I found that very hard to relate to. Being a teenager and being happy? Merrr. Besides, happiness writes white. O the joy of having a crappy life - it gives you something to write about!)

Why reading a book can make you more attractive to the opposite sex/same sex* (choose as appropriate)

"Men are twice as likely as women to exaggerate their reading habits to impress a potential partner, mainly in order to appear more romantic or intellectual." according to a highly scientific new survey by the National Year of Reading.

Is the National Year of Reading about to end incidently? Will 2009 be the National Year of Watching Telly? Let's hope so.

"A quarter (26 per cent) of adults use reading to clinch the deal with a prospective lover in the bedroom by strategically leaving evidence of reading material they’ve talked about during the date by the bed."

Well done Britain. I salute you. Except, as a proper reader who does read books (some of them all the way through without skipping), it strikes me that if you're staying in reading books you're not gonna be going out going on dates. Unless you meet a sexy bespectacled librarian at the book club.

"Almost one in five adults (18 per cent) would read whilst waiting for their date to arrive in the hope of making a good first impression."

Women are impressed by men reading Shakespeare, cookery books, Nelson Mandela's autobiography & poetry.

Hmmm. Really? I mean, men that read poetry? Good luck with that, ladies. Are they sitting in a coffee shop in the 1950s looking like James Dean? Ok.

I do, of course, read poetry, but I don't like it very much. Where's the story?

It's just words ...
In a line.
And then another line.
Then it ends.
But I keep thinking I should give the poetry thing another go. It's good for you. Like spinach, but not as good with gravy on top.

Interestingly, while we're on surveys & lists - and we are cos it's December and that's stocktaking time - there was a similar sort of list complied in 2007 by where:

"Two out of three Brits surveyed said they would perceive someone who read Jordan's and Beckham's biographies in public as 'unattractive'.

Come on - they're not reading, they're looking at the pictures. You'll know if they're reading the words because you'll be able to see their lips moving. But my favourite bit in that survey was this:

"Meanwhile, over a third of women said they would actually be physically repulsed by a man they saw reading The World According To Clarkson in public."

Ahhh. How sad. And yet most of the women are probably married to men that read Jeremy Clarkson's books, so what are they trying to tell us? Personally, I might read the Clarkson book but I'd keep it hidden if anyone came round. Hidden underneath a pile of Swedish pornography. "No, don't look under there! Listen, I swear, it's not mine. I don't even like that sort of stuff. I hate cars. I've never watched Top Gear in my life. I'm looking after it for a friend."

So what would be the worst book you could read while waiting for a date to turn up:

American Psycho?
Serial Killing: A Beginner's Guide?

Probably the last one.

"What am I reading? O, this. Book called Lolita. Have you not read it? Yeh, it's a classic of 20th century American literature, the metaphors and the general writing are just brill. Amazin. I'm on page 10. O, what is it about? Ummm. Well, it's about this guy that fancies this 11 year old girl. But not in a bad way. In a sort of poetic way. I mean, yeh, it is a bad way as well. Then he kills her mum, runs away with the girl, then later she gets pregnant n grows up a bit and he doesn't fancy her any more. But it is a good book. Wait, where you going - you've not even sat down yet..."

*Sigh* Don't they all look so lovely reading their big fat clever books. Guess I should have read Al Gore like boring old George Clooney...

Wait, no, that reading Lolita on a date thing - that never happened. No. Really. But I wish I'd read these surveys first though...

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Why are (virtually) all stand-up comedians male?

It seems almost too obvious to ask. If not slightly stupid for pointing it out. They are though, aren't they? There are female character actors that are very funny. There's Caroline Aherne, there's Catherine Tate, there's Sharon Horgan from the utterly utterly utterly fantastic *Pulling* - but out of the top of our heads - collectively here - let's try coming up with some female comedians that don't wear wigs and put on silly voices. That just appear as themselves and tell jokes.

There's Jo Brand and... there are a few others, but mainly it's Jo Brand. Victoria Wood? Whoopi Goldberg? There are some younger ones who I've seen on the telly - that have been pretty good - but they're not famous enough for me to know their names off the top of my head.

So why is that? Is stand-up comedy some sort of male peacock behaviour? I used to think that the best comedians were somehow damaged or socially inept, that comedy was a release valve for those that would normally get bullied or ignored. *Class Clown Syndrome*. Or the youngest in the family needing to get attention. So historically (if we go back into the end of the last century) the best (male) comedians usually had a chip on their shoulder about something or other - something chafing them and forcing them to be successful and funny:
  • They were from socially deprived areas like Ken Dodd (Knotty Ash, Liverpool), Charlie Chaplin (the slums of Cockneyland), Billy Connolly (tenements of Glasgow) It was a bit like all the best footballers & boxers of the time - the theory was - you don't get hungry for success, if you've never *been* hungry.
  • Alternatively, the best comedians were a bit mental & depressive like Spike Milligan or Tony Hancock. Mental isn't the polite way of terming it, but... a bit nutty.
  • They were often pretty ugly. Les Dawson & the rest of the comedians on the 1970s Granada tv show 'The Comedians' were never likely to be presented with the GQ Man Of The Year Award for style & grooming. Jimmy Tarbuck was never, to my knowledge, asked to appear as a centrefold in *PlayGirl* wearing only a gap-toothed smile.
  • Or else they had another reason to feel agrieved about the world. They got picked on cos of their ethnicity; they were Jewish like Woody Allen, Seinfeld, Lenny Bruce & a host of other New York comedians.
  • Perhaps they were hiding their secret homosexuality like Kenneth Williams & Frankie Howard. Or just into wearing ladies' clothes like Eddie Izzard.
  • Whatever it was - these inner demons or repressed memories of childhood abuse - gave them a comic edge as performers. You could even create your own comic edge by being angry about political & social issues like all the *Alternative Comedians* of the 1980s. People like Ben Elton, Bill Hicks, Denis Leary.
So Richard Pryor, black, poor, uneducated, not the most handsome, brought up in his grandma's brothel, prone to depression, addicted to every drug he could get his hands on, eventually sick as his sickest jokes - was probably as legendary a comedian as you could get. He had nothing and he had everything at the same time. The comedian's comedian.

Is the most important thing out of all of those facts that they couldn't get off with women (or men if appropriate)? On a sociobiological level that seems to work as a theory. All these socially troubled men, with just the odd - and she usually was *odd* - woman like Joan Rivers to prove the rule.

So is that fair enough? It's a fairly conventional theory. And seemed to work. Sad faced clowns = funny performers.

But haven't things changed? And if they have, why have they? (hang on, that sounds like the essay I should be writing right now, instead of this billshut...)

But when you turn on one of the myriad of comedy gameshows - the comedians on there - the likes of Russell Howard & Jimmy Carr & Marcus Brigstocke don't seem to fit the pattern. Or they don't fit the working-class underdog comedian pattern.

That's possibly where I've made my mistake. These gameshow fellas are educated middle-class chaps like Dudley Moore (club-foot), the Pythons (homosexual or borderline insane), or Alan Bennett (homosexual, poor as a church mouse). No. The theory still works with them old fellas.

So while Howard, Carr & Brigstocke might have the occasional funny line or two, they don't have the scary, vibrant presence of comedians that have that edge of suffering, of danger, or anger that you get from Chris Rock, Sarah Silverman, or even Frank Skinner. And handsome as he is, there's a touch of Spike Milliganesque insanity in Russell Brand (ex-smack head & non-recovering sex addict).

But it's like *being a stand-up comedian* is more of a conventional job these days. An option to consider post-university. One that a previous generation of University graduates wouldn't have considered if it meant that to succeed as a stand-up they had to start off by getting a job as a Butlins' red coat, and get booed off stage at working men's clubs in Rotherham.

It's not like I'm saying it's easy. These comedy chaps still have a job to do, but they're probably a wee bit less likely to get beaten up. Probably. And these joke teller fellows, they're like Bob Monkhouse or Clive Anderson; they're funny, but they don't have funny bones. They're handsome - well, maybe not Jimmy Carr - they could probably succeed in other jobs. They don't have to be comedians. They could work at Shell like millionaire's son Jimmy Carr did. (Though to be fair to Carr, he has enough oddness to fit into quite a few of the earlier categories.)

So if it's more of a conventional job these days - when are we going to see more women at the top of the profession? Is it a simple biological issue - the Damaged Male Peacock Theory of wanting to stand up on stage and get attention? Or is it simple prejudice?

Or can women just not be bothered? Do they prefer to dress up and do sketches?

If anyone knows any fantastic female comedians, thus far unmentioned, I would be happy to listen. But perhaps the producers of 8 out of 10 Cats, QI, Mock The Week might want to know the names as well. Cos Jo Brand needs a day off every now and again...

N.B. Anyone thinking that this blog is basically an excuse to bait and goad lurking fans of the very handsome Marcus Brigstocke are entirely correct.