Archive for July, 2009

In Memorium

July 26, 2009

Dead Red

If you’ve been to Highgate Cemetery you’ll doubtless have seen Karl Marx’s headstone.  Well in fact you can’t miss it; It’s the biggest stone in the entire cemetery.  Ironic for the grandfather of communism.

To be fair to Marx himself the headstone was bought with the money of the British communist party to replace the modest stone bought by Marx’s own family.

This must mean that the British communist party was able to hold these three ideas in their noggins simultaneously:

  • “Marx taught us that all men should be treated equally.”
  • “What Marx taught us was of so much value that he deserves a much bigger headstone than everyone else.”
  • “We clearly have no idea what Marx taught us.  Have you tried reading his books?  Jeesh, what a fucking snoozefest.  Wake me up when the revolution comes.”

Tom Brown’s Ghoul Days

And here we see what goes wrong with memorials.  It’s unlikely anyone will be remembered the way they want to be.

I remember when I first walked through a local cemetery as a child.  I was horrified to find gravestones with photographs on them.  For one thing being able to see the faces of the dead is pretty haunting.  Even creepier though was the fact that the photos used for the children were their official school photographs.  No child wants to be remembered in their school uniform with a nice neat parting in their hair.  On the plus side this was the only thing that stopped me committing suicide.

War!  What is it good for?

I don’t think we really need war memorials.  Wars are pretty memorable.

“Do you remember that war where there were loads of explosions, and planes and ships blown up and loads of people got killed in lots of horrific and horrible ways and loads of soldiers came home with missing limbs and parts of their faces missing?  Do you remember that?”
“Uh, Yeah”

What I can never remember is the reason we went to war.  What we really need are War Reason Memorials.

I think it would lead to healthier attitude to war.

Compare the following:
“What’s that over there?”
“That’s a memorial that reminds us of all the soldiers who died in the Iraq war”
“Oh.  Tragic”

With this:
“What’s that over there?”
“That’s a memorial that reminds us of all the soldiers that died because Tony Blair is a coward who would say yes to anything as long it was politically expedient”
“Blair sucked!”
“Yeah!  Let’s go and buy and buy some hammers and pay him a visit”
“Sing it brother!”

I would say the latter version is preferable.

MPs Expenses: I apologise for the late arrival of this article

July 6, 2009

The controversy about MPs expenses has taught me something: the difference between ethics and morals

An ethical man knows he shouldn’t sleep with the aupair
A moral man wouldn’t sleep with the aupair
An MP doesn’t care who fucks the aupair as long as someone else pays her wages

Recently the House of Commons has published MPs expenses in the most half-arsed way imaginable.  They’d been almost entirely obscured by black squares.  In fact they had more black squares than the Nigerian Linux Users Group.

The expenses scandal, and the denials that followed, showed us just how out of touch MPs are.  Most people experience of expenses is probably more like mine.  I remember I once got into an argument with an accountant about my expenses because he said it was against company policy to reimburse me for alcohol.  I suggested that a beef and ale pie wasn’t really alcohol.  Further, I said, if I tried to get drunk on pies I’d probably die of clogged arteries before I got tipsy.  He got annoyed and swore at me with an upside down calculator.  Bloody accountants – poor social skills.

A lot of attention was given in the expenses scandal to moats and duck houses however I was most stunned by how Gerald Kaufman managed to spend £8000 on a television.  That is totally mind boggling to me.  I didn’t even know you could spend that much on a telly.  I imagine it must be a special telly that gives the user an experience similar to Alice Through the Looking Glass: the viewer can step through the screen and join in the action on screen.  I bet Kaufman would watch the news channels waiting for himself to appear so he could step through the screen and snog himself.  If he had a long boring speech on BBC Parliament he could step through the screen, stand next to himself and toss himself off.

If you toss off a clone of yourself is that still onanism?  If you have a wank and get it wrong is that eronanism?

Anyway, I digress.

Do you remember when you were a kid and you heard the story about the genie in the lamp?  You’d all ask each other what you’d do with your three wishes and eventually some smart arse would say they would wish for more wishes.  I’m surprised the MPs didn’t do this.  An MP could employ themselves as their own assistant.  Brilliant!  An extra salary!  But it gets better: they could now claim expenses!  They could claim expenses as an employee of themselves on their expenses!  Come on – that’s evil fucking genius!  And if an idiot like me with meagre intelligence can come up with that plan what the hell have our MPs been doing?

I think they’ve displayed a total lack of ambition.

Tip Toe Flu the Work Sick

July 3, 2009

There is a bizarre male fantasy.  It’s bizarre because it doesn’t involve sex.  I’m as inclined to relive this  fantasy as any other man.

It goes something like this:  I feel very ill indeed.  It could be flu but somehow this just feels worse and so I decide to get medical assistance.  I struggle manfully to get to the doctor’s surgery through cold sweats and blurred vision.  As soon as I arrive the receptionist looks at me in complete horror.  “Oh my god!” she says “you look terrible.  We must get a doctor to see you straight away.”  “But” I say while I survey a waiting room full of equally concerned looking patients “all of these people have been waiting and I’m sure they’re in just as much need of attention as me.”  The receptionist is convinced my need is much greater than everyone elses, even the other people in the waiting room agree.  For a while I resist her offer to jump the queue – I am British after all – but eventually I feel too weak to deflect her pleading and so I agree to see the doctor immediately.

I walk into the doctor’s office and he is immediately shocked by my deathly appearance.  He rushes to help me into a chair and then he runs some tests.  “You shouldn’t even be able to stand, never mind walk into a doctor’s surgery!” he exclaims.  He continues to check me out all the while shaking his head in disbelief at my incredible stoicism.

It turns out I have a rare and ultimately fatal disease.  A lesser man than me would be dead by now.  No one else has survived this illness for more than a few hours.  But the medical experts agree that with my incredible strength and will power I could live for a few weeks.  I am a medical enigma.

I am also a fucking idiot.

I’m only too aware of what the reality would be if I ever went to the doctor’s.  A two-hour wait in a waiting room full of pregnant women, sad-eyed elderly people and angry toddlers who do nothing but run about and scream at the top of their lungs (the toddlers that is – the pregnant and elderly, not so much).  A surly receptionist who can’t say anyones name properly which just makes me paranoid and anxious because I suspect that my name has been called and I just didn’t hear it because she’d translated it into a series of sighs and low mumbles.  Surely my name must have been called by now.  Finally when I do see a doctor they spend most of their time looking at their desk only occasionally shaking their head in disbelief that I’m wasting their time with this shit.  They then sarcastically offer to prescribe paracetamol.  Yeah, thanks.

In my mind I’m Captain Oates (“I’m going to the doctor’s.  I might be some time.”) but it seems in reality I’m a sweating, feeble-voiced hypochondriac.

Now this sounds like I’m complaining about doctor’s but I’m really not.  I’m pretty healthy for a slob.  I don’t really need to go to the doctors and so I don’t.  This is a good thing.  And I’m sure I’m not the only person who has learnt not to bother doctors with untreatable viruses.

So how in the hell do people work out they’ve got swine flu?

This has recently appeared on my radar because this week two of my colleagues were quarantined with swine flu.

In fact it’s a bit weirder than that: one of them came down ill last Thursday in the office with a fever, I came down with a nasty cold over the weekend, and now this week I find out that person has swine flu.

Did that son of a bitch give me swine flu?  Have I now got swine flu?

The rational part of my brain is convinced I don’t while the paranoid part of my brain, the bit that delights in making my life a bit spicier, says au contraire.

Rational me knows I haven’t been sufficently ill to have flu, while stupid me reckons I’m such a fucking hard arse I can have flu and barely even notice.  “Yeah I once had a day off with testicular cancer but I cured myself by punching myself repeatedly in the balls.  I BEAT CANCER! – LITERALLY! – WITH! MY! FISTS!!!”

But I still find myself on the NHS Direct website using what Microsoft would describe as a “troubleshooting wizard” to try and diagnose myself with swine flu.

That brings me to another thing: NHS Direct is a wonderful piece of doublespeak isn’t it?  The whole raison d’etre for NHS “Direct” is to keep you as far away as possible from over-worked doctors and hospital staff while simultaneously appearing to bring you closer.  If there was a Fire Engine Direct website it’d probably show you a picture of some fire and ask you if what you have in your house looks like fire.  If it looks like fire you should call for a fire engine.  If it doesn’t look like fire then there might still be fire so you should speak to a fire specialist.

Anyway, the wizard seems to say that I don’t have swine flu.  Probably.

Fuck it – I’ll keep going to work and make my colleagues ill anyway.  I never did like those bastards.