Monday, March 15, 2010
  Broken Home
"Today, 65% of children live with both birth parents, almost 25% live in lone parent families, and 10% live within a stepfamily."

- Life in the United Kingdom (Home Office publication)

Hooray sanctity of marriage! The figures above were quoted in a 2007 publication by the Home Office (which I'm currently reading for my permanent residence exam) for children and young adults under the age of 20.

Britain's result of failed marriages and/or broken homes has stared at me for the last 10 years in the form of tracksuits, pram-pushing teenagers, drunk asbos, and mini-skirt wearing 12-year olds. But sometimes the figures speak for themselves and although not necessarily a direct factor in misguided youths of today, is indicative of this country's general attitude towards marriage and family.

65% is a shocking number, to think that over 3 in 10 youths do not live with both their biological parents any longer. And that 1 in 5 live with only 1 parent. With such fantastic role models, it's no wonder they grow up with noble aspirations and a better sense than to perpetuate family dysfunction...not. It is sometimes with great dispairity to feel that marriage has been diluted to nothing more than an impulse decision that takes little more thought than what pair of expensive shoes to buy. Like a fashion statement that you think will last forever. But the harsh reality is it doesn't.
Sunday, March 14, 2010
  New from Birds Eye...

...Crispy Chicken Dippers. They'll have you pissing fireballs in no time.
Friday, March 12, 2010
  Holiday Photos...from Afghanistan!
Sorry for the misleading title. I couldn't help myself. But here's a few snaps I took on a sleepy flight heading westbound back to the UK. Obviously when I awoke to the GPS map flashing on my in-flight entertainment system, I was shocked! But once all fears had subsided of missile attacks (mostly friendly fire from American planes I suppose), I began to appreciate the awesome landscape of Afghanistan. So here's a little tidbit. At 33,000ft.

Monday, February 22, 2010
  Martyr of the skies: Melanie Phillips' video nasties

Hey, do you enjoy those silly little personality tests? You know, “What kind of biscuit are you?” Well here’s a theoretical question to test your mental state: You have a daughter with a fear of tarantulas. Not common or garden spiders but exotic tarantulas that you’d have to go and search for, ones that she wouldn’t have a hope in hell of accidentaly stumbling upon. So, she has this fear and as a good parent you don’t want her getting all scared. So do you:

A. Keep her away from tarantulas and maybe skip the arachnids section at the zoo?

B. Decide you are going to eliminate, if not 'ban' all tarantulas, wherever they may be, by whatever means?

C. Bring one of these massive spiders home, summon your daughter and then mercilessly dangle the damn thing over her terrified face while describing in detail how poisonous it is and how it would kill her if it ever got within biting range of her, but it won’t because you are such a good parent and would never let that happen?

If you write for the Daily Mail the answer appears to be a combination of B and C. You will declare your intention to rid the world of these tarantulas and wipe them off the Earth while simultaneously running through all the reasons we should be shitting ourselves in fear over them, inflating their potency to a level where they seem more like twenty foot talk monsters that not even bomb shelters would stop. I suppose if the readers get too panicky you can always calm them with news of Michael McIntyre’s continued existence, but the key objective really is to keep the readers upset, scared and defensive with pent up feelings of dread and impotence.*

I’ve been ignoring Melanie Phillips lately – she’s hardly worth the effort of reading unless you want to read arguments which try to compensate for a deficit in evidence by overloading on adjectives pilfered from the Daily Mail thesaurus. But her rant in the Mail today is well worth the effort, simply to see her step on a rake and smack herself square in the face. You see, Melanie, who on a good day is a shrill, paranoid fantasist, is a little more distressed than usual. Something on a flight back home, she claims, had such horrific effects on her psyche that “in addition to the jet lag, I'm now having nightmares.”

Now then, what on earth do you think a Melanie Phillips nightmare even looks like? A burkha-clad Prime Minister forcing up to pray towards Mecca? An independent Palestinian state alongside Israel, with East Jerusalem as its capital and Jewish settlements under its custody? A throng of gays prancing around being gay and getting married together before adopting kids, who might in turn catch gay? Being ignored? No, strangely enough this apologist for the Gaza massacre and advocate of attacks on Iran, who maintains that the price of all the deaths in Afghanistan and Iraq is worth it, doesn’t like extreme violence. Not when it’s up close and personal, anyway. And not when it’s fictional. That disqualifies carpet bombings and errant missiles crashing into civilian homes that kill real flesh and blood people, but not Hollywood films where blood is generated by CGI or condoms filled fake blood. For reasons that one might initially consider perverse in the extreme, she decided that, having sat through Inglorious Basterds and been shaken by its bloody violence, she was then going to take a look at Law Abiding Citizen.

In a way these whingey columns about indecency are most suited to Phillips and her lack of talent. During the Bush years she was a cheerleader for its abuses of power, but having seen her team lose the US election she has been reduced to parroting boring teabagger conspiracy theories about Obama’s background. And given that she is a second rate internet cut and paste merchant when it comes to research it is hardly worth the effort to read her crackpot ideas about global warming, MMR or global politics. Generally the only field where Melanie Phillips can be guaranteed to note down the details with assiduous attention to detail is when it comes to informing her readers about all the latest indecency that has shaken her world. But that’s not to say that the reasoning underpinning this diligence is any more sane than usual. I wrote above that her viewing of these two films might seem perverse in the extreme, but that of course overlooks the overriding mentality of a Daily Mail hack – outrage is a gift. Like other Daily Mail writers she immerses herself in the filth and immorality of these films because it spurs her and her readers on, generating hysteria. It also allows them to bask in a collective glow of self righteous superiority, reassuring each other that their traditional family values, nostalgia for more innocent times and biblical-based morality puts them firmly on the right track. Never mind that the most depraved, callous, inhuman thoughts about celebrities’ private lives, immigrants dying on the way to Britain’s shores and victims of imperial aggression can be found in the comments at the bottom of each story on the Daily Mail website. Examples are all too easy to come by on the website, so let’s instead look at some samples from Melanie’s risible column:

“[W]e are shown a scalp being sliced off to make quite sure we get the point.”

“Brad Pitt character and his band of killers […] beat heads to pulp and twist fingers in open wounds”

“[W]hat makes it so repellent is the extreme sadism of the murders that the vengeful 'victim' carries out, slowly dismembering his family's attacker in order to inflict upon him as much agony as possible - and in which the perpetrator of this torture, the supposed victim of injustice, takes a psychopathic pleasure.”

Wow, that’s quite a lot of detail. She also took time to jot down what she had heard about another film that hasn’t even been released yet:

“Michael Winterbottom has defended scenes in his film The Killer Inside Me that portray extreme violence against women. This, apparently, depicts brutal scenes of rough sex and murder; the violence, carried out to a soundtrack of classical music, is depicted in close-up shots that leave little to the imagination.”

Well why would we need to use our imaginations when we have Melanie Phillips at hand to go through each violent scene in gory detail? And Melanie doesn’t just want to shield us from violence. She also popped up on Question Time a few weeks ago to tell us why John Terry was such a bad man. While most of us were content in the knowledge that footballers have no use as role models and that it was the chance of infighting in the England squad that led to Terry losing the England captaincy, Phillips thought a list of additional naughty things might help us form a murkier mental picture. According to Martin Kelner her list of reasons disqualifying him were summed up in this neat litany:

"[M]ass public debauchery, public brawling, public drunkenness, urinating into a beer glass, and having sex with a 17-year-old fan in his Bentley".

There’s something unseemly about this detailed point by point audit of Terry’s transgressions, which crosses the line of things the public ought to care about. Her newspaper, the tabloid equivalent of a pious high priest prone to bouts of sodomy with the altar boys, was even worse, tearing through the murky history of John Terry’s mistress while also moralising about their indiscretions. Here’s a map of her home, courtesy of the Mail, maybe so that if readers want to avoid John Terry’s fate and get snared by this harlot they can give it a wide berth. And the Mail provides photos of her in skimpy outfits too. Thank you Daily Mail, if you hadn’t pointed out what she looked like with very few clothes on I might have succumbed to her too. What a service you provide the public. And here we can see a picture of John Terry’s wife’s arse. It’s a funny kind of morality that this paper promotes. Maybe it’s just trying to immunise us against this filth so we will all stop caring.

I have my limits too, but if I think something is going to offend me I don’t watch it, or I stop watching it. I don’t feel this pressing need to launch a broad crusade for the cause of decency. I assume that those that do enjoy these violent works of fiction can handle it. I can bear in mind that, while nobody can comprehensively stop young people getting their hands on material that is not intended for them, the system of classifications for strong content is as good as we’re going to get. At the Daily Mail they struggle to comprehend this and, along with their loyal readers, closely resemble a litter of shivering kids at a sleepover, hiding under the duvet and shining torches in their faces while they recount slivers of gory details they have gleaned that may or may not be true depending on what their mates at school told them. These huddled, goose pimpled kids would be sharing second hand information on things like horror films, but in the world of the Mail this activity extends from everything from violent computer games to the latest pronouncements from tasteless comedy acts. After the Brand-Ross scandal several Daily Mail writers slapped on their tin hats and went over the top to assault a whole host of comedians, seeking out jokes in settings as obscure as year-old repeats of Mock the Week and far flung stand-up gigs that their readers wouldn’t have even heard of if detailed accounts weren’t reproduced on the pages of their paper. Unfortunately these crusaders would have found that beyond their hardcore base, few other members of the silent majority would have heeded the call to leave the trenches and charge over the top because most reasonable people have a moral framework that allows them to distinguish between the effects of an offensive crank call, basically harassment, on an unwilling participant, and a rude joke. They can work out where the line is themselves and understand that if a film comes with warnings of violence then it might be best avoided by those unable to handle it. Meanwhile, the broader crusade that the Mail attempted to launch against the BBC, in which tasteless, but ultimately harmless jokes contained within TV shows were filed alongside the harassment and humiliation of Andrew Sachs in the real world demonstrated that the Mail didn’t actually understand just why the phone calls to Sachs differed from these other jokes or why they had crossed the line and generated such anger.

Back to the plane, and maybe, in her particular case, Phillips deserves some sympathy. After all, she claims that the violence in these films was unexpected to her, that she was a “hapless passenger” and “captive” to films that presumably were so powerful that they had the ability to override the off switch, not just once but twice. And she couldn’t run away and hide or jump out of the plane to escape these nasty films. And it’s not like there was any warning from the airline entertainment guide:

“True, they had a 'V' for violence warning in the airline entertainment guide. But this also suggested that these were high-quality, well-reviewed films. There was no indication of quite how disturbing were the images I was about to see.”

Okay - firstly, she’s an idiot. Secondly, that’s a rubbish sentence, because it reads as if the ‘V’ for violence suggested these films were high quality, whereas she surely meant the airline entertainment guide. Thirdly, if she was expecting the airline entertainment guide to tell her which of its films were rubbish then she should give up her last tenuous claims of living in the real world. My in-flight guide on the way back from Venezuela last year claimed that Transformers 2 was an exciting film for fuck’s sake. But finally, there is this preposterous suggestion that a film can be high-quality, or violent, but not both. Terrible commentator that she is, Melanie is an even worse film reviewer, failing to grasp the most basic principles of film making. “What else is a film like this supposed to be if not entertainment?” she asks, ignoring that films are made for a range of reasons, not just to entertain but also to inform and provoke. Sometimes violence is necessary to add realism or shed light on a character’s background. And yes, sometimes violence is there for escapism, irony or to shock. This is reflected in the classification, which for both of her nightmarish films was ‘18’. I didn’t find much to appreciate in Funny Games by Michael Hanecke, but I understood that it was intended as a thought experiment and an irritating lecture on film violence, not as entertainment. And while I struggle with the lack of empathy and vacuous use of violence in Tarantino films or the way human bodies are treated like pieces of plasticine to be fed through rusty machinery in the Final Destination series, I can keep my contempt for Kill Bill in perspective. I don’t see others appreciating it as symptomatic of a wider problem. The same goes for Law Abiding Citizen. It’s a film with a misguided idea at its core, just like all revenge dramas, which despite any contention from Melanie Phillips, are certainly not a new development. The average Tony Martin supporting DM reader could have told her this. But you don’t ban the idea, you challenge it, and remind yourself that if this happened in real life the average man on the street would be disgusted. Have a little faith in humanity.

“As people come to tolerate the ever-more intolerable, the violence has to be ratcheted up another few notches in order to shock audiences and censors whose moral sense is being progressively dulled."

I personally find tipping white phosphorous on civilian houses to be intolerable, but then again, that only happens in the real world, and who gives a damn about that? Anyone who is familiar with Phillip’s writing will recognise the casual insertion of the word ‘moral’ in front of any old noun, but a cursory glance at her writings shows Phillips knows nothing of morality; she lacks a moral framework that stretches beyond her own prejudices and self-preservation, leading to her weird opinions about gays, Palestinians, Muslims and anyone deemed to be a terror suspect, whether there is evidence for their detention without charge or not. She closes her argument by claiming that everyone who watches and enjoys violent films is degrading and brutalising themselves, while also once again showing that the barrier between fiction and reality has become indistinguishable to her:

“It is striking that, with torture now elevated to the ultimate crime of crimes so that scarcely a day passes without some fresh attempt to arraign British or American forces for colluding in the mistreatment of terrorism suspects, some of the most fashionable movies have been labelled 'torture porn'. If torture is held to degrade and brutalise those who carry it out, then torture and sadism in even Bafta or Oscar-garlanded films degrade and brutalise those who watch them.”

That’s right, the torturers of terrorism suspects at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo in the real world can be filed alongside fans of video nasties. Phillips neglects to mention that some British and American personnel have not only colluded in torture but have also been found to have carried it out themselves. Her attempts to be ironic about the torture of other members of our species being “now [sic] elevated” to the status of a serious crime is the giveaway. On the one hand Phillips wants to shield us from the evil of fictional torture, on the other she reveals she has no idea why exactly torture is so evil or for how long it has been recognised internationally, universally, as being evil.

“Next time I fly, I'll stick to a book.”

Good idea Melanie. Why not read American Psycho and the Torture Garden back to back and then save your jittery flock of sheep the trauma of stumbling upon and accidentally reading them cover to cover by noting down all the violent parts and then recounting them in methodical detail.

Seeing the latest Daily Mail at home is always a weird experience for me. Seeing it unopened on the table, alongside the shopping, is not so different from learning that there is a dead body in the cellar. At some point curiosity is going to overpower me, I have to check and predictably the results are so appalling that it sends me reeling and I need time to convalesce. The racism, sexism, prurience and volcanic concentrations of spite inside don’t come accompanied by a certificate indicating that this newspaper is designed to whip up rage in its readers. But it does come with a bold warning across the front saying “DAILY MAIL”. So when I do pick it up and get offended I can’t claim I wasn’t warned.

*I quite like Michael McIntyre

Saturday, February 13, 2010
  Two ways to learn languages
Learning languages is awesome. Both of these fascinating videos could inspire you to learn another one. I'm not sure which of these two I'd rather have as a teacher:

Sunday, February 07, 2010
  The 'other' c-word
Further tidying up at home has unearthed a few more relics from my past. Today for show and tell I present a cutting I extracted from the 14 July 2007 edition of Britain’s leading serialised Diana obituary, The Daily Express*.

The most appropriate long-term home for this particular exhibit is in a shiny, white time capsule alongside some Jim Davidson DVDs, Prince Harry’s swastika armband and the attempt by the Daily Mail cartoonist ‘Gary’ to emulate Der Stuermer from July last year**. But for now the Internet will have to sustain the memory of this little beauty from the games and puzzles page, the only part of the Express worth paying attention to. If the circle I drew around it isn’t a big enough hint, you need to level your eyes at the previous week’s answers. The ‘c’ word in question is the ultra-offensive BNP shibboleth, rather than the name that Nick Griffin goes by when he appears in public.

I know, I know, they didn't mean it like that. After all, 'coon' can have other meanings. It just happens that none of them are used around here. It was a sort of Freudian slip. I'm sure that back in 2007, as they jotted down those four letters to raise their score by one word, Express readers thought to themselves "Coon? Ah yes, racoon!"

*Or as it’s known in my godforsaken little town – the newspaper you buy when the Daily Mail runs out.

**If they ever find that home recording of Richard Littlejohn and Gary Bushell oiled up and stripped down to what look like thongs to the untrained eye but are actually loincloths, in which they wrestle in a slimy vat of baked beans for David Yelland’s pleasure, then they can sling that in there too. It seems no less real or distressing for having just been made up in my head.
  Anti-War Protest Washington DC
A short and playful video shot in March 2008 by Marion Toruno, when the US Administration was still very much in the firm grasps of Bush and Cheney. It doesn't say much, but I've always had an interest in videography and this one is beautifully edited together with music and seems to capture a mood of dancing hippies and patriotism that you will rarely see on any of your news networks, cabled or non-cabled.

  An Ode to Shannon Lowry
For a not-so-unusual reason, I always believed the "1 Follower" icon on my Blogger dashboard was always a reference to the Leech. That's why whilst updating my profile and curiously clicking on this for the first time, I was quite surprised to see that we do actually have a following of 1.

And since this icon has been on my dashboard for quite a long time, I think we owe it to Shannon a special commemoration of sorts. Because most people don't really read banner-less blogs.

We don't have much really. So please accept the gift of song.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010
  Rage Against the Cuisine
The cheapness-motivated genius of this concept here reminded me of Leech:

"A nice little success story comes out of England today, about a group of aspirant restauranteurs with little means or previous experience, who opened up a popular new eatery thanks to hard work, determination, and a mutual hatred of "the man." The restaurant you see, is a pop-up run by an anarchist collective, and operates illegally in an undisclosed squat in Bristol. The place has proved to be so popular that the collective won't even reveal its name to the press for fear that the crowds would be too overwhelming.
The Set-Up, The Menu, "Lady Hop" >>>

The cooking, bartending, and front of house duties are all shared by collective members, and the set-up shifts from night to night. Says one of the group members, who goes by "Lady Hop":

Kitchens and the service industry are very hierarchical set ups. The classic image is of the head chef barking orders. We organise horizontally, there's no leaders amongst us...I think it's more about everyone taking a lead in doing certain stuff. This is a shared dream of many people.
What's the menu like? Mostly South American fare, but the menu changes nightly, because the chefs change nightly as well. Also, in true anarchist spirit, smoking is totally allowed in the spot, all electricity is stolen from a nearby source and piped in via a long electrical cord, and, the entire meal is "pay what you will." The restaurant is closing soon, but the group has future plans for another pop-up in another squat. Says "Lady Hop":
Each building has a different character, each time of year is different, it's nice not to be constrained to open all the time."
If your rice is served slightly undercooked/inedible, you know that you've just been served by a fellow blogger here at Bastardisation of the East.
Monday, February 01, 2010
  My next exhibit: The Football Atlas, 1997-1999 edition
Thank heavens for the internet. Where else can I file my youthful creativity for safe-keeping? Our exhibit today is my football atlas, which has lived for the past few years in a carrier bag under my bed. Several hundred A4 pages of hand-drawn maps, club badges and football shirts with hand-written histories of the game in almost every FIFA member between 1997 and 1999 can be found here. While it all looks like a waste of youth now, my current geographical knowledge, interest in travelling and foreign languages and opinions on self-appointed experts, patriotism and chauvanistic nationalism formed throughout this period, slap bang in the middle of my angsty teenage years.

The atlas (and yes, I will continue to call it that) is divided into continents, and then into countries. Some countries contain profiles of prominent teams, stadiums and historical annecdotes that I would generally have read about rather than seen. Being a teenage boy the countries were arranged in the order of the strength of their football leagues, because ranking things was important. Important enough to get angry with those of lesser knowledge. Italy's Serie A came first, followed by La Liga in Spain, which is on the left here. Well, the map sort of looks like Spain. All the points correspond to cities where the more significant teams played.

Below are maps of Russia and Greece. Not only two of the more accurate maps but also two of my favourite international sides. A fantastic snob I was back then, and very passionate about footballing nations that I felt were good but did not get the attention they deserved, usually because they repeatedly let themselves down.

My opinions on global affairs hadn't crystalised just yet. Here we see a map of Israel with both the West Bank and Gaza incorporated into it. This would have made me eligible for membership of Binyamin Netanyahu's Likud party, but would have seen me chased out of many of the social circles I hang out in nowadays. I didn't bother with a Palestine entry, even though Palestine became a member of FIFA in 1998.

Spain, Russia, Greece and Israel are all handy European footballing powers, to varying degrees. Things got a little more obsessive further on in the atlas. Below are country profiles for Liechtenstein and San Marino, and a profile of the Ta' Qali National Stadium in Malta. Does this sound like the work of a nerd? We're just getting started...

On the right is a profile of Soviet goalkeeper Lev Yashin. I profiled players the greatest players from each continent too. These are arranged alphabetically rather than in order of who was best. What do you take me for, some kind of geek? Yashin was the greatest goalkeeper in the history of the game, though.

The maps of South America are ridiculously small and generally pretty awful in terms of accuracy, so let's skip to Africa. Here we have Eritrea, the Gambia and Sierra Leone. Putting things in order of bestedness permitted me to bunch three geographically distant nations onto one page. There are fewer arrows pointing to these more obscure footballing nations, largely because sources were scarce. Back then the internet meant nothing to me beyond some mythical device paedophiles utilised to masquerade as young children (not exactly joking here, but be considerate and bear in mind which alarmist newspaper I grew up with). Instead I used World Soccer magazine, some esoteric football books and late night football shows from Channel 5 (remember, in its infancy C5 offered a cornucopia of sport, softcore pornography, Nazi documentaries and little else).

On to Asia now, with a wonky photo of Iran celebrating qualification for the 1998 World Cup. The leading Asian footballing powers were all pretty easy to research. The J League received good international coverage, while Channel 4 went through a strange period where it broadcast Chinese football highlights very early in the morning (at seriously antisocial hours. And on school nights too, the bastards). But I didn't just stick with the big Asian nations. Below, on the right, are 'maps' of Guam, Maldives and Singapore. Green blobs with arrows pointing to the capital cities rather than maps, if we're being honest. Channel 5 sometimes showed The Asian Football Show, so I got my fill of S-League action.

The final two football conderations were CONCACAF (comprising North and Central America, along with the Caribbean) and the Oceania Football Confederation (OFC). Apart from Australia and New Zealand the OFC was a real pain in the ass to research. Here are maps of Tonga and French Caledonia, complete with a picture of Christian Karembeau, who was born in French Caledonia but who played with relatively little distinction for France. Tenuous. Tonga doesn't appear to have any teams listed next to it. I probably just wanted to draw the map.

So despite my hostility towards it at the time, the internet is now a fine nursing home for this ageing piece of youthful creativity. This is only a tiny sample of a work that is so eccelctic that even I now wonder what I was thinking back then. It includes team profiles of the now defunct J-League team Verdy Kawasaki and Kaiser Chiefs from South Africa (nearly a decade before they became better known as a band), footballing maps of the Seychelles and Madagascar and player profiles of Wagner Lopes from Japan, Jürgen Sparwasser from East Germany, Marco Antonio Etcheverry from Bolivia and Lefter Küçükandonyadis from Turkey. Wikipedia does it all so much more thoroughly now, although I'm willing to bet there are several things here that slipped through its clinical filters.
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
  Weird use of the word 'warned'
Not only does this Guardian article start off more like a Zen Buddhist koan than a news story, it also finds something new for us to be afraid about:

"Human beings are making it harder for extraterrestials to pick up our broadcasts and make contact, the world's leading expert on the search for alien life warned yesterday."

Oh no (..?)

Monday, January 25, 2010
  The next mission
So Clyde, that was a highly successful round of Modern Warfare 2 on Sunday morning. Ridiculously early on Sunday morning, I should add. And having checked out the competition I believe that our numerous successes, particularly in the Terminal stage, were quite an accomplishment. Certainly our tactics were far superior to those exhibited in this video:

Sure, he was playing solo, but I bet he had had a good night's sleep before playing through this stage, rather than a full day rushing around London followed by six hours of gaming powered by tea and Jaffa Cakes.

And so on to the next challenge. With the possibility of a rapidly increasing cash reward in mind, prepare yourself - to arrest Blair.

(This shouldn't be too hard - I don't think he sleeps so easily these days either).
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
  Oooh, regulating sarcasm. What a useful idea...
Where has this indispensible piece of punctuation been all my life? I can't for the life of me think how I survived without it:

A cartoon of a pierced ear designed to denote sarcasm - so useful, so necessary, so exquisite. I suppose the Nobel Prize for Literature is a forgone conclusion this year. And on a personal level, what a joy for me. After years of flailing in the dark for meaning my friends can now see when I'm being sarcastic and follow my instructions to act as I deem appropriate, ultimately allowing them to empty the storage space in their brains clogged up with data accumulated through them getting to know me. In truth, I would have preferred some kind of written disclaimer, maybe: ''The following sentence is a product of sarcasm, please do not take it literally; please do feel stung and diminished.'' But no, I'll take this accessible symbol and clasp it to my bosom. After all, where's the fun in making sarcastic statements if you cannot telegraph them in a nice, orderly, obvious manner.

This sainted device is intended for written sarcasm, but it shouldn't be limited to this medium, no sir. One can blunder with sarcasm and make faux pas in spoken conversation too. Perhaps I should print my very own Sarcmark, blow it up and make flashcards to hold up
so I can draw on its powers in conversations in the real world too. I could even plaster it across my chest and rip my shirt open to reveal it, so that whenever someone asks me my opinion about the proposed Bad Boys III, I can reply ''yes, it will certainly be a work of genius to match the first two. A work of the High Renaissance'', and onlookers will comprehend that my thoughts belie my words and that in fact I am slightly less than favourably inclined towards another round of that crap. I could stamp the Sarcmark on my forehead. That certainly would aid communication. That would make me more likeable.

TV executives could use it too. A flashing Sarcmark could pop up in the corner during those snooty comedy shows like Curb Your Enthusiasm and The Office, where a studio audience has not been granted to viewers to signpost the laughy bits. Look, here's birthday boy Tim, evidently pleased with his new hat. He's even saying so. We should all feel really happy for him, despite that odd tone in his voice. But, uh-oh, with Sarcmark flashing in the bottom right corner of the screen you can see that...hehe...Tim is in fact, not pleased with his new hat. Audience, commence laughing now.

And look at me - being sarcastic about the Sarcmark, that's original. Pretending to overreact to generate meta-sarcasm. I trust no one else on the internet will do that. And I do hope nobody abuses the Sarcmark, attaching it to statements that are not intended to be sarcastic, therefore using the Sarcmark in a sarcastic manner. The multiple layers of sarcasm would build on each other and propel us into a black hole of sarcasm. But if used sincerely...well, the Sarcmark could raise our collective state of being, end wars and propel us to a brighter future. Oh thank you Sarcmark, thank you, THANK YOU. THAAAANNNKKK YOOOOUUUUU

(Seriously, thanks a lot...)

(Seriously, seriously, I really am very happy about this idea, and eagerly anticipating the first signs of it in my inbox)

(But seriously...)

Saturday, January 16, 2010
  These turtles aren't reptiles; they're am-fib-ians
I don’t keep a diary, I don’t jot down all my inspired, important thoughts and I don’t have a hilarious sitcom to work them into, so this site will have to bear the responsibility of filing my random thoughts. This one concerns a theory that I recently put forward to a small group concerning the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. And pizza. And how the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles didn’t love pizza that much at all.

As one would predict, this bold thesis was initially shot down. The Turtles loved pizza! Remember? They couldn’t shut up about it. Yet my memory of how the Turtles behaved rather than what they said gave me cause to believe that there was something to this theory. Vague recollections from the show had given me cause to shoot my mouth off, but before doing so any further I needed proof. And, lo and behold, having checked the archives I think I was right. With an admittedly small data sample and research conducted by nothing more scientific than watching a few episodes of the cartoon and drawing the logical conclusions I can conclude that if anything, the turtles couldn’t stand pizza.

It doesn’t take long for the evidence to trickle in. In their first appearance in the very first episode one of them orders a pizza coated with ice cream while another goes for a jelly bean topping. Maybe they do like pizza. And maybe people that gorge on Terry’s Chocolate Oranges enjoy fruit. It doesn’t even look like pizza. It’s like alien roadkill. Look at that shimmering, sickly paste spread across the surface. What is it exactly? And why do they need salt, or whatever condiment is inside that salt-shaker, to accompany it?

Just as strange for would-be pizza obsessives, they repeatedly gorge on the pizzas, with their disgusting toppings, but leave the crusts. They never ate the crusts, but tossed them away with the box. So not content with adding extra ingredients to warp the concept of a pizza to a level that Willy Wonka would find disturbing, the turtles actually dispense with one of the fundamental parts of the original pizza. They want a dough-based product without the structural constraints of thick crusts or the flavour constraints of a cheese and tomato base. That’s a sandwich. Or a cake. The turtles liked sandwiches and cakes. They probably couldn’t have given a shit about pizzas.

Even in the later episodes, the really, awful ones, the implausible, nonsensical free for alls, we consistently see the turtles slavering over pizzas with overpowering, inhuman, anti-pizza toppings, hankering after them like a dog hankers over his worms medication provided that it’s buried deep in the centre of a rolled-up ball of tripe. Fast forward to 3:00 in this
disappointlingly half-arsed installment to see what gets them excited. And at the start of this episode they reject free pizzas as a “punishment” because they are too small. Sure, a likely excuse. Coke addicts can snort it off the seats of public toilets, yet these picky bastards don’t want their free bite-sized pizzas? There’s obviously no pizza fixation here. Perhaps what none of them were prepared to admit is that they hated pizza. Perhaps the pressure of living up to their inappropriately selected Renaissance names and fitting in with New York City forced them to shovel pizzas down their throats, just like it compelled them to wear those unconvincing trench coats and spout their trendy catchphrases. They're living a lie, fibbing just to fit in. They’re not fooling me.

To finish, here is a special fruit pizza I endured in Colombia. No, of course it doesn’t work. I had to scrape the strawberries and blueberries off to enjoy it. That’s because I actually like pizza. The Turtles, on the other hand, liked cakes.

PS: Lots of Turtles episodes are available on YouTube

Wednesday, January 13, 2010
  New Moon: If ever there was turd at the box office...
... This one would be sinking right to the bottom.

Have you ever seen a poster for a movie promo and immediately thought "that looks like a shit film"? If not, there's always a first time and a poster for The Twilight Saga: New Moon might inspire just such thoughts. Here it is.

Ok, perhaps the poster does not fully sway your opinion without at least some idea of a synopsis. It is essentially a romance drama (I find the Rotten Tomatoes categorisation as "Action/Adventure" very, very unlikely.) that centers a love triangle between a young woman and two young men. One's a werewolf and the other a vampire.

Is it just me or do authors and movie writers nowadays love taking classic storylines and shitting all over them with their cheesy teeny romance... That's right, what young teenage girls need more of these days are movies and books about superficial relationships with superficial men in a romanticised take on the vampire and werewolf.

Hollywood took a big dump on the Terminator franchise with the Sarah Connor Chronicles with enough she-bots to make my iMac look inadequate. And Smallville, which I actually enjoyed for the first season or two before tiring of the teenage drama, also was responsible for possibly intiating this trend of heroes/villains regurgitated into something for the mass of hormonal teenagers.

And yes, if you have read all the books to the Twilight series, watched the movie and find yourself somehow infatuated with the idea of a love triangle between a woman, a bat and a dog, then you are a bestiality empathiser. It is what it is no matter how many tight fitted t-shirts you want to slap onto those once unruined concepts of werewolves and vampires.
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