Monday, January 30, 2012

Note to Self: Only Piss on the Living

There was a bit of a furore recently about some video footage showing some US Marines abusing the bodies of dead Taliban fighters; specifically by urinating on them.  I agree it was rather gross but it does make me wonder about peoples priorities.  I, personally, would have been more disgusted if they had done it while their victims were still alive.  Apparently you can kill people, waterboard them, lock them up in Gitmo indefinitely but piss on one corpse and suddenly you're beyond the pale.

It has often occurred to me that we tend to treat the dead a lot better than we treat the living.  A group of corpses get a golden shower and its called an outrage.  If it happens to a porn actress its called an extra twenty bucks and a chance to wash up in a hand basin after shooting finishes.  Of course this is a grossly unfair comparison; the video of the marines doing their thing had much better production values for one thing.

There are cultures where it is traditional to eat portions of the deceased to ensure the continuance of desired family traits and give a beloved ancestor a form of immortality.  I can certainly understand those people being upset at pissing on corpses from a hygiene aspect alone.  Such cultural sensitivities aside I find it difficult to get too upset at such things being done to corpse while much worse things are being done to the living who might actually have an opinion about it.  Given a choice I would permit the whole world to piss on my corpse in return for a guarantee that they will check to make sure I'm actually dead before they start.

Before you get the impression that I'm some corpse abusing psycho I would like to point out that I don't actually support the wanton desecration of human remains.  I just think that if you have to wantonly desecrate somebody then a dead person is probably the most harmless place to start.  Judging by the reaction to the video, especially amongst those who might normally be expected to support the marines, I suspect I'm in a small minority (please don't send me links to internet sites, I'm not that interested).  Still I suppose on balance the reaction is a hopeful one.  If people can get that bent out of shape about atrocities committed on dead people it is just possible that one day they will extend their concern to the living as well.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Reality is the Place With the Food

Reality is one of those things we tend to put up with until something better comes along.  I have yet to meet anyone who was entirely happy with reality yet we endure it with varying degrees of reluctance and resentment.

One of the principal methods used to deal with reality is to get as far away from it as we possibly can.  The most common way of doing this is essentially to compartmentalise.  That is, slice reality into a small, self specific piece and focus completely on that interacting with the rest of reality only when absolutely necessary.  Others simply remove themselves from reality completely and operate according to an artificially constructed reality that exists only in their head.  I call this the Insane or Ideological approach to reality.  Such people while frequently gifted tend to be appallingly dangerous.

Something that has become increasingly popular in recent times is computer generated alternate realities; things like Second Life.  Originally thought to be of interest only to computer geeks and money launderers Second Life has become highly popular with a lot of people who probably wouldn't classify themselves as either (I'll wait for the jury's verdict before committing myself).  In Second Life people can take on different personalities, different jobs, build homes and generally behave as they would in the "real" reality.  Frankly I can't see the point, you can do all of that simply by living your life and you can save yourself the expense of buying a computer.  I suppose the appeal is in the nuancing, you can be yourself but that little bit sharper, smarter, sexier and happier than you are in real life.  Personally I find maintaining one personality to be hard work, I'm certainly not going to take on any more.

I think the idea of a leisure pursuit that duplicates the existence one is trying to escape from, albeit in idealised form, completely misses the point.  Slightly more understandable is something like World of Warcraft.  I emphasise the word "slightly".  In this game you wind up in a totally different world as (if you wish) a totally different species.  The sort of things you encounter are slightly more of a change than simply being a rocket scientist instead of an accountant.  Only not so much.  The situations may be different but the people aren't.  How could they be?  Short of a collective personality transplant any alternate reality is going to wind up pretty close to the real one because it is inhabited by the same types of people.  Finally of course reality wins because its the only place we can get food.

I personally live in a fantasy world during most of my spare time.  I rewrite, reinterpret and put a gentle gloss on my life to make it a little more acceptable to me.  However I never fail to realise that it isn't real, just a gentle self deception to make my life a little more bearable.  It might not be reality but you can see it from there.  I'm not divorced from reality, we've just come to a mature decision to see a little less of each other.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Pele I Ain't

A couple of lunchtimes a week I play soccer.  To be more accurate I try to play soccer.  To be even more accurate I stumble about a field getting in the way of other people who are playing soccer around me.  Around me and sometimes through me; they generally apologise when that happens.

Our soccer crew is the usual mix; some of us are young, fit and obviously only missed out on World Cup selection through the cruel vissitudes of fate.  Others of us are paunchy, middle aged but still are surprisingly capable of running for fifty minutes, have mad ball skills and a keen tactical sense.  And some of us are me.

There we all are; the young guys leaping and shouting encouragement to each other, the paunchy middle aged guys saving their breath for running and making up for being slightly slower with a lot of guile and me, desperately hoping that I faint on a different patch of grass to the one I've just thrown up on.

Occasionally the ball comes my way.  No, that isn't true.  Occasionally I get in the way of the ball, generally as it is peacefully attempting to make its way between two much better players.  When this happens I try to kick it.  Sometimes I succeed but usually I don't.  My hand eye coordination is poor but it is a miracle of precision compared with my foot eye coordination.  I'm a better defender than an attacker which is to say sometimes I manage to get in the way of the person with the ball.  You'd be amazed how difficult it is for even the most skilful player to achieve his full potential when he is attempting to perform CPR on the physical wreck who has just collapsed in front of him.

Sometimes I kick people.  I don't do this deliberately, what I'm trying to kick is the ball.  "Try to kick the ball" is about the only rule of soccer I actually know.  I run (stagger, stumble, crawl; whatever) to where I last saw the ball wildly waving whichever of my feet I have designated as my ball contact mechanism.  It's not really my fault if, by the time I arrive the ball is twenty metres away and doing its best to put more distance between us.

Injuries are part of the game of course.  I still can't bend a toe that I damaged in a game last year.  However most of my "injuries" are little more than various muscle groups screaming at me to stop playing soccer and sit down in an armchair with a book.  Or my lungs pointing out that I should quit either soccer or smoking as they're having difficulty sustaining a lifestyle that encompasses both.  Perhaps I should fully embrace the sedentary lifestyle which is the only one my body seems designed for but for right now I'm actually enjoying the soccer.

Smile, You're About to Die

There are smiley faces drawn on the bags of coffee beans at my favourite cafe.  I looked up, saw them and for a brief moment there was a smile on my face too.  There's nothing that can't be improved with a smiley face.  I'm surprised they aren't employed more at funerals.  The military should paint them on their tanks.  A tank is sixty tonnes of fire spitting death machine but with a great big smiley face on it it becomes an armour plated goodwill ambassador.

Even the worst situation can be made marginally better if the tank currently destroying your home has a great big smiley face on it.  As the last bits of rubble come crashing down in a cloud of dust and asbestos fibres I defy anyone not to smile at least briefly as they see a big yellow smiley face lurching towards them out of the murk.  After that you can go back to more appropriate feelings of loss and fear.

What else could benefit from smiley faces?  How about police cars, prisons, schools and abattoirs?  These are all things that could do with a little cheering up.  With some judiciously placed smiley faces we could have the happiest society on earth as well as the most annoying to outsiders.  Because, let's face it, there is nothing worse than seeing a cheery grin when you're in a bad mood.  The day has been hard, your personal situation sucks and on your way to drowning yourself in the local duckpond one of those fucking smiley faces appears.  OK, if its on a tshirt you can simply punch the person wearing it but if its painted on the side of a building of some sort there really is nothing for it except to go on a killing spree until the police marksmen finally put an end to your misery.

Tourists from other nations will see the huge smiley face on the airport runway and will feel a little uplifted while at the same time deeply sympathetic with their infuriated pilot who has just aimed his airliner directly at the yellow target presenting itself.  Survivors will gaze upon our smiley face bedecked rescue vehicles and feel a little better about the fact that their hideous injuries are soon going to remove them from this earth.

Eventually other nations won't be able to stand it any longer and they will take drastic action to remove us from the face of the globe.  As the bombs and missiles tear our civilisation apart it shouldn't be beyond our abilities to arrange for the rubble to fall in the shape of a series of smiley faces; a sort of final "fuck you" and "have a nice day" to the rest of the world.

Friday, January 6, 2012

No, This Isn't About Cricket

It's been a long time since I wrote a blog entry about cricket.  I'm not going anywhere with that, I just happened to notice it.  Now that I've got that out of my system I can get on with my life or at least this blog entry.

Writing a blog is tougher than it looks although, to be fair, it isn't much tougher than it looks.  It would be different if I actually put some thought into it.  As it is I merely swap some time I would have spent doing nothing doing almost nothing instead.  I know, how can I bear the strain?

I do sometimes have difficulty thinking of things to write about.  On these occasions I tend to do the lazy thing and write about the blog itself.  This is a handy cop out and means I can ramble on for ages without having to do research (because that's such a huge part of what I do), form an opinion or even construct a coherent animal cracker.

Naturally such a self indulgent, shambling, pathetic excuse for a blog entry runs the risk of irritating my readership.  I take comfort from the fact that I know both of them and they really should know better than to expect anything else by now.  Bring me a silver bowl and I will wash my hands.

Now that my hands are all nice and clean I can kick start this entry which seems to have gone into a bit of a nosedive.  Since it didn't have much altitude to begin with it is entirely possible I could hire it out to farmers to plough fields or dig an escape tunnel for shot down airmen.  Do we still have any of those?  If we do this blog entry would be a godsend or at least a Neilsend.  This is the blog that keeps on giving, even if you don't want it.

I have now written five paragraphs and not even I know what I'm talking about anymore.  This should be disheartening but actually I find it rather liberating.  Without the unrealistic and, frankly, ridiculous requirement that one sentence should actually bear some connection to those on either side of it I can give full reign to my creative and artistic nature.  From this point on this blog entry will be one of the most exciting and challenging I have ever written.

Hip Hip Beret

When did berets go out of fashion?  Come to think of it were berets ever in fashion?  They've always struck me as a bit of a niche garment worn by film directors, Frenchmen conforming to cultural stereotypes and people who think they look good in berets.  I wonder if I would look good in a beret?  Perhaps it would make me instantly cool, stylish and irresistible to the opposite sex.  Or, far more likely, I would just look like a prat in a beret.  I think I just answered my own question really.

A beret, I think, is one of those things you really have to be able to wear.  It's no use just sticking a beret on your head and hoping for the best.  The wearer has to be unshakeably convinced that they look good in a beret, convinced to the point where it isn't a conscious decision any more.  I beret therefore I am.  Without that the wearer really is just a prat in a beret.

Revolutionaries and special forces soldiers tend to wear berets as well.  Revolutionaries wear berets, I think, because they like to think they're channelling Che Guevara when they protest about the fact that their job opportunities are slightly less than they were a couple of years ago.  Che in turn wore a beret because he liked to think that he was channelling the oppressed proletariat despite the fact that he was a fairly typical member of the wealthy middle class albeit perhaps a bit brighter than most.  The only reason for special forces members to wear berets is because they look really cool rolled up and tucked through an epaulette.  Special forces members can get away with wearing berets because few people are prepared to make fun of someone who can kill them with their nostril hairs.

Can I think of anything else to say about berets?  It should be a rich topic replete with a social and cultural history of berets in particular and headwear in general.  I should have delved deep into the history of beret wearing and at least made a passing acknowledgement of some of the great beret wearers of history but I decided I really couldn't be bothered.

I've also decided that I can't wear a beret.  I'm neither a soldier nor a revolutionary and I don't channel anything except anxiety.  Which is a pity because I would look really cool in a beret if it weren't for the fact that I'm sure I would look like a total prat.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

I Wouldn't Eat the Honey From this Lot

My apartment is overrun with bees; stupid bees.  Bees that wander in through a wide open door and then bang themselves repeatedly against a few inches of glass right next to the equally open window.  I must admit I thought better of bees than that.  Bees have always struck me as being one of the more intelligent insects.  To see them indulging in idiotic window banging like common flies was rather disappointing.

Unless I'm wrong about the average intelligence of bees there is only one possible explanation; the tree outside my flat is home to a community of mentally retarded bees.  Although a source of personal disillusion such a settlement is rather encouraging from the overall bee point of view.  Since these idiot bees could not possibly build their own hive it stands to reason that other, more functional, members of bee society built it for them.  Once this halfway hive was constructed all the idiot bees had to do was move in.

It says a lot about the social conscience of bees generally that they would create a cheery community for their less accomplished kinfolk.  A place in a nice tree surrounded by all sorts of interesting windows for the inhabitants to beat themselves against.  Obviously bees are far in advance of humans when it comes to caring for the mentally challenged members of their society.

Wait a minute.  I just had an ugly thought.  It is just possible that this herding together of all the stupid bees has nothing to do with an advanced social conscience and everything to do with a rather nasty form of social darwinism.  They build a nice hive, dump all the stupid bees into it and make sure they do it in a location richly provided with windows for the hapless fools to beat their brains out against.  I never realised how truly horrible bees are.  They have subcontracted a forced euthanasia policy out to unsuspecting humans who don't realise that our predilection for windows is playing into the hands of a grim racial purity policy.

I have been blind.  Never did I suspect that my desire for a light airy apartment might make me an unintentional accomplice to such horrors.  Let this blog entry be the proof that I shall not stand idly by and tolerate this in silence.  You know the old saying, "First they came for the bees and I said nothing...".  This then is my gesture, a token of my refusal to be silent in the face of such cruelty.  I would do more but I'm flat out picking dead bee carcasses off my carpet.

Monday, January 2, 2012

2012 and Still No Flying Cars, Thank God

Well, the new year has arrived with its usual flurry of unrealistic expectations, futile regrets and insincere protestations of improvement.  This, to my mind, is the most important benefit to changing our year every three hundred and sixty five days or so.  It allows us to officially put a years worth of disappointments, failures and other various catastrophes behind us with a clear conscience and focus on those to come.  It doesn't seem to occur to anyone that they are also placing a temporal barrier between themselves and any success or happiness that might have occurred in the previous twelve months as well.

With 2011 now torn from our reality and cast adrift like an iceberg on the ocean of history we can focus on inching our way painfully up the glacier of the future.  Ignore that ocean liner of potential consequences approaching the previous year, it will probably turn in time.

So, this is the future huh?  Hmm, still no flying cars I see.  It would appear that ever since The Jetsons first graced our tv screens flying cars have been the sine qua non of a successful future.  In the absence of these harbingers of developed civilisation we will just have to struggle on as best we can.

Perhaps its a good thing that flying cars aren't on the agenda just yet.  People already complain about the amount of pollution in the atmosphere, how are they going to react when they can't draw a breath without the risk of inhaling a quarter of a tonne of metal and plastic?  That's before we factor in accidents.  Life is going to be just that little bit more interesting when the weather reports have to include the phrase "possible showers of auto parts".  I recommend a sturdy umbrella.  Breakdowns will become a lot more significant when they occur a couple of thousand metres up in the air as well.  A car will have engine problems, the driver will attempt to put it down on an aircraft runway but will overshoot with tragic consequences.

All in all perhaps the best sign for a hopeful future is the absence of flying cars.  When people start doing pre flight checks before driving to work you know that humanity is doomed.

Not Now, I'm Doing My Make Up

There is nothing I like better than the feeling of delighted revelation I get when I work out the answer to a small and mundane mystery.  The great, unsolved mysteries of life are beyond my ken (and, for the most part, interest) but why a certain table at the cafe was arranged in a way that made it difficult to walk past exercised my mind for a number of pleasurable minutes until the answer presented itself.

Of course the reason such discoveries please me so much is because it allows me to think that I am capable of deductive reasoning without having to do much in the way of actual deductive reasoning.  I take comfort from the fact that I'm sure other people do this as well.  For somebody who is probably intelligent and definitely lazy this is very helpful for my self esteem.  It could be a little concerning that so much of my self esteem consists of delicately lying to my self but I take comfort from the fact that most other people do it as well.  Perhaps "lying" is too strong a phrase (it isn't but I'm going to pretend that it is), I prefer to see it as highlighting the positive and allowing that to gently obscure the negative.

The most obvious example of the above is make up.  Most people wear something that could broadly be defined as make up.  I wrote this entry in my favourite cafe while I watch the owner go about her business.  I doubt if she would consider her short cropped hair, multiple piercings and heavily tattooed torso to be make up (and it takes more courage than I possess to suggest it) but it all helps her present herself the way she wants to be seen.  This, to my mind, is the very definition of make up.  I have another friend who will not leave the house without applying her, more traditional, make up.  She refers to it as "her armour".

This is the other thing that make up does; it protects us.  It prevents others from seeing our flaws and weaknesses and thus provides us with a measure of confidence in our dealings with the world.  Do I wear make up?  In a sense; at work I wear suits because that helps my employers present the sort of image they want for their firm.  Outside of work I don't particularly dress to look good but I would never wear anything I actually thought I looked bad in.  That is make up at least in a negative sense.  Oh and occasionally I paint my nails, something which I can only describe as an affectation.

If you have ever wondered why the make up industry is so vast and reaches into the fashion, exercise and diet industries as well then think on this; there are seven billion people on the planet all of whom at some point will want to look at least slightly differently to the way they appear when they roll out of bed in the morning.  That's before we factor in vanity, insecurity, cultural imperatives and peer pressure.  Frankly, I'm amazed we have any money left to spend on anything else.

Sunday, January 1, 2012


Well Christmas has come and gone (after a mere eleven months of build up) and now I am sitting waving goodbye to the new years celebrations as well.  Christmas was enjoyable,  I'm not even going to pretend it has any religious significance for me but it provides a useful cultural peg to hang a visit to my family on.  I suppose, on balance, I am glad that the Romans crucified somebody politically significant although celebrating his birthday isn't as grim as handing out chocolate eggs on the occasion of his gruesome death.

The crucifixion angle got me thinking though; I can't help wondering if circumstances were a little different whether we might be celebrating the birthday of Spartacus instead.  Think about it for a moment; Spartacus hacked off the Romans (literally in many cases), he fought for freedom and he was a champion of the downtrodden because, after all, you don't get much more downtrodden than slaves.  He certainly made an impression on the Romans (literally in many...oh I've already done that joke), after all not even the Romans would crucify seventy thousand people for no reason at all, probably.

I think the big mistake Spartacus made was not tossing a few money changers out of the odd temple.  He had the opportunity (after all, the Romans had some very odd temples) and this would have given the religious edge he needed to guarantee his immortality.  I mean immortality in a figurative sense, he was always going to wind up on a cross on the Via Appia.  Unfortunately Spartacus was too busy slaughtering Roman soldiers to pay proper attention to his posthumous image.

A lot of water has flowed under (and in some cases over) a lot of bridges since Spartacus was roaming Italy impersonating Kirk Douglas so its probably too late to book him a slot in our public holiday calendar at this late stage.  This is all to the good really if only due to the fact that it is very difficult to say Spartacusmas without spitting.  Let's face it Spartacus sounds like a dinosaur and it seems a little rude to celebrate the birthday of something that's extinct.  After all, we don't celebrate the birthday of smallpox.