Monday, 29 September 2008

The End of The Affair...

'I've told you, it's over'

'Is there nothing we can do to change your mind?'


'It's nothing that we've done…?'

'Look, you don't phone, you don't e-mail, you only write to enclose narcissistic jargon-filled leaflets about how wonderful you think you are - for years and years. And now four phonecalls in as many hours. Why the sudden interest, especially when your interest was previously dropping like a stone?'

'We just want you to be happy in the relationship. Perhaps you weren't taking advantage of all that we could offer. Perhaps we can offer more.'

'You mean like a higher interest rate?'

'Now let's not be hasty here. We gave you a bankety bank cheque book and pen and offered you a Treats Plus account'

'Oh the one for £20-a-month with all the free cr*p I was never going to use - the one you automatically 'upgraded' me to without my written authority…? Wasn't that illegal anyway?'

'The ombudsman found us merely ill-advised I think you'll find. But that's water under the bridge now - there's really no need to cheat on us with another bank. But we're prepared to overlook that.'

'Can I come back as a New Customer and get the free laptop?'

'Hmmm, we'd have to see. Might prove a tad unethical'

'I dunno, I'm just not getting fiscal satisfaction. I don't feel you value me.'

'Well the blunt truth is you're only a medium-value added customer madam - to any bank - not just us. But if you could just break through the £25k a year income barrier - you could qualify as one of our Premium Pewter customers.'

'What's in it for me?'

'The satisfaction of knowing you're with one of the last British banks standing on its own two feet. And a pewter paperclip pyramid.'

'So I'd have to take on an extra evening job to get a pewter paperclip pyramid'

'And a matching pewter Tutankhamun pen'

'Sorry but my mind is made up. I'm leaving you'

'Do you mind telling us who for?'

'My water company as it happens. They're offering me a higher interest current account, a lower interest mortgage and all the water I can drink. Oh and marriage, an iPod and a baby.'

'You mean those fifteen years we spent together meant nothing to you - what happened to customer loyalty madam?'


Friday, 26 September 2008

Bad Jeans

I have always regarded the trend for prolapsed 'Deputy Dawg' men's jeans as one of the vile-est (next to the tea-stain variety that make wearers look as if they've pee'd themselves - only a good look for alcies who really have), and wondered how on earth members of the male persuasion - previously notorious for shunning anything faffy - were persuaded by the fashion industry to be arsed to bother with jeans that were perpetually falling down their buttocks and worse still, make them all look as if they have stubby little legs, possibly webbed at the top, even if they are actually disguising quite a nice legs and arse combo in reality.

Some while ago I'd heard they were known as badass just got out of jail jeans, as real prison-issue jeans never fit and obviously get mis-shapen after a few months wear and tear out on the chain gang - though why a chap should wish to look as if he has just got out of prison is a mystery - so the Police can identify/re-arrest him for questioning more easily following every subsequent crime in the neighbourhood presumably...?

However the other week I heard a fellow poet reveal that the actual meaning of these slobby-yobby sloppies was to denote that a man was sexually-available to other men, owing to the ease of access as he bent down, and wouldn't heterosexual wearers be horrified to know and dumping their trendy jeans in droves pronto? tee hee. Could give a whole new meaning to the term 'boyfriend jeans', if not also 'fashion victim' and 'crack addict'!

These jeans have always acted as a sure form of contraception as far as this heterosexual is concerned anyway. I do not find off-the-bum jeans the sexy male equivalent of an off-the-shoulder dress on a woman in any shape or form.

Though I guess I should probably lower my standards re my insistence on a nice three-piece suit!

Joking aside, the couldn't-care-less attitude toward society and dearth even of self-respect embodied by this kind of clothing makes me shudder.

Evidently some states in the US share my concern and are now outlawing these jeans Lousiana's Saggy Pants Crackdown. Britain could do worse than follow suit!

Monday, 22 September 2008

The Dreaming Spirals of Oxford (and other scandals)

Oxford used to be known for this

It will shortly be known for this - the Softbrain Softbridge Middle East Centre

Yes, the best preserved Victorian suburb in England has been chosen in which to erect this abortion seamless brave but insensitive new architectural narrative.

In a sneaky deft move, Oxford University has chosen the world's most iconic woman architect Zaha Hadid, who just happens to be muslim so that Oxford City Council daredn't reject the planning application for fear of looking backwards-thinking or worse, was obliged to take their hat off to OU for this daring international design coup showing just how forward-thinking and cosmopolitan Oxford is - a coup which is excitingly anticipated to put our little backwater of Oxford on the map.

Thousands of both public and University users will be welcome in the massive 125-seat lecture theatre with only three days rigorous security checks to undergo to prove they belong to the University and can demonstrate a genuine thesis in Middle Eastern Studies.

A spokesman for Oxford City Council said 'For far too long Oxford has languished forgotten in the shadow of Canary Wharf unable to compete and desperately short of underutilised lecture theatres and libraries.' He refused to confirm that Saudi money is backing the project before hopping into his gold plated, bullet-proof SUV vehicle and speeding off.

To think Oxford denizens ever complained about this cutie landing on a terrace in the less-upmarket suburb of Headington twenty years ago.

In a separate scandal initiative, (not to mention in a falling housing market), Oxford City Council is planning to rob 530 hectares of designated Green Belt land from South Oxfordshire District Council outside the city borders to the South to build up to 12,000 new houses on an area which aside from being legally designated 'green belt land' is an area of scientific interest and bang next to a Sewage Farm. Let's hope some sue-age of another kind ensues, as if this goes through it will set a potentially disastrous precedent for the protection and future of green belt land around all our cities and towns up and down the country. I for one shall keep painting the frogs purple with silver spots to beef up the 'area of scientific interest' protection. Spraycan anyone?

*For those readers not in the UK, 'greenbelt land' is the protected/undeveloped belt of land around each British city and town which was intended to offer a 'green lung' to these conurbations in addition to ensuring that the urban sprawl did not spiral out of control to ruin the character and shape of the countryside or the communities they were intended to protect.

Friday, 19 September 2008

Trying To Be Venus

Time for a poem I think! Here is a little number from my back catalogue as work is so crazy at the moment (start of academic year), but I hope you enjoy. And doubtless there are plenty of chaps out there similarly afflicted with the desperate-to-please thing - as I used to be!

All The Things I'm Not

I'm not a nag
I'm not a drag
Don't obsess about my weight
Or manipulate
I'm not moody
Uptight or broody
I'm not too bossy
Or loud and brassy
I'm not suspicious
Or overly vicious
Not 'eek' and clingy
Who won't do her own thingy
And I'm not boring
Petty or warring
A chop and changer of mind
Nor the dithering kind
I don't cluck or fuss
Constantly analyse us
Don't drag blokes shopping
Impose lads' night out stopping
Don't demand 'I love yous' on the hour
Or count a man's devotion by the flower
Don't insist on talents in DIY
Issue ultimatums, sulk or cry
Or turn the cricket off.
'Not feminine enough'
He said.

© Laura King

*I have no idea what the book is like by the way - merely stole it to go with the poem!

Monday, 15 September 2008

Two Legs Good, Four Legs, a Conspiracy!

Creator of the World Wide Web, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, is concerned that the WWW is getting out of hand with 'disinformation' and wants each website (presumably including blogs) to be bannered with a stamp of trustworthiness.

Of particular concern to Sir Tim was the recent Hadron Collider story which apparently spread real panic about the creation of a black hole. And parents of brain-damaged children questioning the MMR vaccine/drug company assurances also bother him, as do conspiracy theorists.

Nice to know that paedophile, terrorist and suicide sites are obviously fine and dandy with him, eh?

And where pray, would our slow-summer media be without all the conspiracy stories to get them through, when the weather, sport and celeb goss (equally reliable obviously) isn't providing enough to fill their pages?

At the risk of being ahem, controversial, I would question Sir Tim's motives for trying to discredit those who dare question medicine/science (shareholder in either, perchance?). As for conspiracy theorists, anyone with a brain knows at least 80% of conspiracy theorists are complete loony tunes! However those remaining 20% might just be doing a valuable job in keeping us questioning things/exposing that which ought to be exposed.

Either way, it is surely our job as intelligent human beings to filter these things into the relevant mental boxes rather than Sir Tim's...?

*This posting is rated 3¾ % sq for trustworthiness.

Friday, 12 September 2008

It's a Rap!

As a poet I've always been intrigued by rap music, though have often struggled to find great artistic/literary merit in much of it. However these two tracks - Coolio's 'Gangster's Paradise' and Miss Dynamite's 'It Takes More' stand head and shoulders above the rest. I reproduce the lyrics below each one so you can sing along. Gangster's Paradise is a track which part revels in 'da hood', part questions its tendancy to hurt itself more than anyone else.

In It Takes More, (aided by an extraordinarily Austrian vibe) Miss Dynamite challenges her black 'brothers' to be known for more than drugs, crime and pimping and points out that it takes more than that 'to impress a girl' like her!

Somewhat ironic that my two favourite rap tracks are those questioning the very roots that gave rise to them! The silver lining of the bad-ass culture I guess.

As I walk through the valley of the shadow of death
I take a look at my life and realize there's nothing left
Cause I've been blastin and laughing so long that
Even my mama thinks that my mind is gone

But I ain't never crossed a man that didn't deserve it
May be treated like a punk, you know that's unheard of
You better watch how you talking, and where you walking
Or you and your homies might be lined in chalk

I really hate to trip, but I gotta lope
As they croak I see myself in the pistol smoke, fool
I'm the kinda G that little homies wanna be
Like on my knees in the night
Sayin' prayers in the street light

been spending most our lives
Living in a Gangsta's Paradise
been spending most our lives
Living in a Gangsta's Paradise
keep spending most our lives
Living in a Gangsta's Paradise
keep spending most our lives
Living in a Gangsta's Paradise

Forgot the situation, they got me facin
I can't live a normal life, I was raised by the strip
So I gotta be down with the hood team
Too much television watching got me chasing dreams

I'm an educated fool, with money on my mind
Got my ten in my hand and a gleam in my eye
I'm a loped-out gangsta, set-trippin banger
And my homies is down, so don't arouse my anger, fool

Death ain't nothing but a heart beat away
I'm livin life do-or-die ah, what can I say?
I'm twenty-three now will I live to see twenty-four?
The way things are goin I don't know

Tell me why are we -- so blind to see
That the ones we hurt -- are you and me

been spending most their lives
Living in the Gangsta's Paradise
been spending most their lives
Living in the Gangsta's Paradise
keep spending most our lives
Living in the Gangsta's Paradise
keep spending most our lives
Living in the Gangsta's Paradise

Power and the money, money and the power
Minute after minute, hour after hour
Everybody's running, but half of them ain't lookin
What's goin on in the kitchen, but I don't know what's cookin

They say I got to learn, but nobody's here to teach me
If they can't understand it, how can they reach me?
I guess they can't -- I guess they won't
I guess they front that's why I know my life is out of luck, fool

been spending most their lives
Living in the Gangsta's Paradise
been spending most their lives
Living in the Gangsta's Paradise
we keep spending most our lives
Living in the Gangsta's Paradise
we keep spending most our lives
Living in the Gangsta's Paradise

Tell me why are we -- so blind to see
That the ones we hurt -- are you and me
Tell me why are we -- so blind to see
That the ones we hurt -- are you and me

Tell me why are we -- so blind to see
That the ones we hurt -- are you and me
Tell me why are we -- so blind to see
That the ones we hurt -- are you and me

click here for Miss Dynamite video - rebellious to the last - she's not proving very embeddable!

The things that you promote
Fighting, violence
Like you don't want to grow old
You talking so much sex
But you na tell the youths about AIDS
You na tell them of consequence, no
Your talking like you a G
But you killer killing your own
You're just a racist man's fossey
Tell me who wants to know
What when who where
Or how you lose control

Certainly not me
Certainly not me
'Cos baby personally
I like to be challenged mentally
I've heard it all before
Gangsta's pimps and whores
Quality is born
A girl like me is born

It takes more (it takes more)
To amuse a girl like me
So much more (much more)
To confuse a girl like me
They've got you (got you)
'Cos while you braggin'
About your badness you're just
Avoiding, adding to the real sh*t
That's happenin' to us

Now who gives a damn
About the ice on your hand
If it's not too complex
Tell me how many Africans died
For the bagettes on your Rolex
So what you pushing a nice car
Don't you know there's no such thing as superstars
We leave this world alone
So who gives a about the things you own

Certainly not me
Certainly not me
'Cos baby personally
I like to be challenged mentally
Content's insignificant
And it don't help to pay my rent
It's pure negativity
That you impose on me

It takes more (it takes more)
To amuse a girl like me
So much more (much more)
To confuse a girl like me
They've got you (got you)
'Cos while you braggin'
About your badness you're just
Avoiding, adding to the real sh*t
That's happenin' to us

Now I can sit
And chat a spit about how I sex
But my business is my business I got self respect
I can talk 'bout how my press could pimp man's dough
Get the keys to his ride and his home
But I looked it up and that would make me a ho'
Little sisters now I really got to let you know
Real women ain't sexin' for no man's dough
Real women work hard to make their dough
And we can all chat 'bout gats and blacks
On blacks and force the hypes and all the stereotypes
We used to watching that ain't what I'm here for
Show them to think higher and aspire to be more

It takes more (it takes more)
To amuse a girl like me
So much more (much more)
To confuse a girl like me
They've got you (got you)
'Cos while you braggin'
About your badness you're just
Avoiding, adding to the real sh*t
That's happenin' to us

It takes more (it takes more)
To amuse a girl like me
So much more (much more)
To confuse a girl like me
They've got you (got you)
'Cos while you braggin'
About your badness you're just
Avoiding, adding to the real sh*t
That's happenin' to us

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

The British Government Endorses Polygamy

Once upon a time in the post-war era an entire family could live and pay their mortgage on a husband's salary - which was just as well since the wife was expected to leave work the moment she married and the husband also expected and wished to support his wife to stay at home and iron his newspapers/children - it being a pride thing.

This state of affairs endured until the early 1970s when feminism came along.
A good concept in many respects as chaps had definitely had it all their own way for far too long, an unexpected side-effect of greater female earning power was a sudden lurch upwards in house prices.

With the countrys' women taking to the workplace in their droves, more and more families started to benefit from the additional income to enjoy their first wondrous luxuries such as their own family car on the driveway and straw donkeys on the mantelpiece from their first package foreign holidays to Benidorm.

However someone somewhere noticed all this going on and thought, hmm, we'll soon put a stop to this extra income lark!

Suddenly houses began to shoot up in price until within a decade it became necessary for not one, but two, full-time salaries coming into a household to cover most mortgages.

Since then things have gone from bad to worse and however much a woman may want to stay at home to raise children, unless her husband/partner is wealthy these days, she will often have no choice but to return to work full-time, often without even the luxury of being able to remain at home until her youngsters start school (and feminism was supposed to be about having a choice of choices, right?).

But house prices didn't stop there. Oh no! People started finding they were being priced out of property altogether, particularly in certain areas of the country. For a while ingenious 100% + mortgages, terrifying 'interest-only' mortgages and cheap loans papered over the cracks by offering first-time buyers the chance of an unsustainable-if-rates-ever-rose home ownership opportunity.

However at least it was an opportunity and many grabbed it, even going so far as to tell whoppers on income self-disclosure forms to secure ever more perilous piles of finance to afford their 'house of cards'

Increasing numbers are today facing repossession or having to radically-downsize in a sinking market now that rates have shot up and the fixed-rate mortgage bonanza is coming to an end. Meantime the banks responsible for the credit crunch through their short-term speculating/reckless lending to the feckless/feck'd continue to award their CEO's obscene annual bonuses, rather than the Order of the Boot for their gross failure, and penalise the poor householder through increasing interest rates on the one hand while that same poor householder is bailing those selfsame banks out through the Government raiding their taxes to prop up them up on the other, thereby hammering the poor householder twice over.

But w***er banks aside, if we are to return to the sensible days of a sustainable 3 and a half x salary calculation for a mortgage and most houses are still around £200k, I calculate I will need at least 2.5 similarly income-endowed husbands to afford a modest two up, two down in a reasonable area of Oxford - 3.5 if they want a bigger house with a room each! Hence I might just have to opt for blogmate Mrs G's unthinkable solution! As for children, I might just be able to afford to rent a couple at weekends tho' they'd have to get a Saturday job once they hit 5 years old.

To be reduced to polygamy though - what is our government thinking of? ;-)

On a more serious note, 70% of UK citizens not yet on the property ladder are now 'poopers' (priced out of property) - ie; earning too much to qualify for social housing, but not enough to acquire a mortgage. As a co-operatively minded individual who believes in citizens getting together to fight back against an overly-greedy system I have joined my local Community Land Trust, who seek to provide a community-led solution to genuinely affordable housing.

Thursday, 4 September 2008

Martin Sheen for President!

In the time-honoured British tradition of interfering in the affairs of other nations, I feel now is the time to interfere in American politics and say forget Obama and McCain, cut straight to the chase and vote for Martin Sheen! You know it makes sense. Who better to elect after all than someone who's spent enough of his career playing politicians to know exactly what to do. And more importantly, exactly what not to do. He's literally been rehearsing most of his professional life for the role of a lifetime, but can genuinely say he 'never sought high office'

Aside from playing President Bartlett in West Wing, anyone also remember him as Kennedy in 1983?

Other reasons to vote for Martin Sheen;

He survived Frances Ford Coppola's Apocalypse Now (apparently under tougher conditions than the real army)

He puts his money where his mouth is and has variously been arrested for peace protests and threatened and nearly killed by hunters while trying to save baby seals.

He has a brain, and despite a modest High School education, has gotten himself a degree late in life and been awarded several honorary degrees as well.

He's been married to the lovely Janet for 47 years, whom he credits with 'saving my life' after she helped him win battles against both booze and drugs earlier in his career and also nursed him back to health following the heart attack that nearly killed him while filming Apolcalypse Now. Together they have also helped their actor offspring through various (very public) crises and always been there for them, no matter what.

He has a faith - rediscovered after surviving and confronting his demons/health crisis - which he takes pretty seriously, but without shoving it down other people's throats or bible-bashing.

He's cooler than James Dean (as you'll know if you've ever seen him as 'Kit Carruthers' in Badlands).

Finally, who could fail to trust Marty with that marvellous reassuring American voice of his just made for saying 'justice'? I'd buy a secondhand chevvy off him any day!

Show your support for Martin - get your car sticker here!

In Martin We Trust

Monday, 1 September 2008

British Comedy Is All The Poorer

Britain may not have much to shout about anymore, but just occasionally we do still manufacture a great comedy show as our nod toward a GDP.

Last Friday one of the writer/producer lynchpins of our comedy world (and former BBC Head of Light Entertainment) who had a hand in many of our comedy hits over the last 20 years - Geoffrey Perkins - was tragically killed in a hit and run accident on Marylebone High Street in Central London, at the age of only 55, and still at the peak of his career.

There is not a great deal I can add to this excellent Telegraph obituary of him, except to say that it shouldn't be forgotten that Geoffrey was also an excellent performer in his own right, co-writing and co-starring in the precursor to The Day Today - KYTV - as 'Mike Flex' - taking the mickey out of how terrible digital TV was going to be, back in the days when most of us only had 5 terrestrial channels - which makes KYTV's version look a REALLY quality digital TV channel now! (see clip below)

Reading the obituaries over the weekend, it is clear that Geoffrey was much loved in the television industry, and his judgement, highly respected. In addition he was not of the faceless bland accountancy or bean counting ilk who sadly run so much of television these days, but someone who came from the performing arena himself and could see things from all sides, but particularly the all-important creative side, without which there is not a great deal of point in commissioning a TV series!

RIP Geoffrey - I do hope Father Ted (aka Dermot Morgan, whom we also lost far too soon) was there to meet you after all you did for him!

Geoffrey Perkins fan tribute site