Archive for March, 2007

…something wicket this way comes.

Saturday, March 24th, 2007

So, the coach was murdered after all… Far from me to suggest murdering coaches is ever a good idea – well, okay, not often, it’s not; or not always, anyway – it must be said that Pakistan has a long history of livening up an otherwise incredibly boring game, whether the stories their teams are involved in have to do with (alleged, alleged – of course; don’t come and strangle me: – alleged!) match-fixing, ball tampering, crowd control problems, the occasional, sheer nuclear exchange with their Indian rivals or, as now, with the murder of their coach.

One has to admit that Pakistan does its best to liven things up a bit. At the very least, the stories they generate are way more entertaining than the ordeal of having to watch some of the more traditional, white-dressed, inbred, public school gits drink tea while they wait for it to stop raining – or, when it doesn’t rain, wait for something else – anything else – to happen. ‘Watching grass grow’ must be a term coined by some hapless cricket commentator.

Being a cricket commentator must be a bit like being on meteorite watch. You wait for thousands and thousands of years for something – anything – to happen and then, of course, you take the eye off the ball for just a moment, so when the big one arrives, you sleep right through it and all the other (ghosts of) dinosaurs are pissed-off at you for not having seen it coming and given fair warning of the event.

Anyway, back to the case in hand. It is passing strange that it wasn’t a football coach who was strangled. For one, there are so many more of them who’d be more deserving of this hands-on approach than the actual victim – and two, football, much more than cricket, has always offered enough occasion for raised voices, riots and even murder. It once was reportedly a cause for war.

What’s more, with players from all over the world crossing themselves publicly and asking God to lend a helping hand, and even the late pope admitting he was more than an average fan, it is a small wonder not many more football coaches get murdered or wars get fought in the name of God.

So, maybe it’s a good thing that the new pope doesn’t seem to care for sports all that much and has other weighty matters to keep him concerned. When he (and his staff) are not busy frowning upon Dylan or smiling on Tom Waits, he’s condemning one blasphemous novel and praising the other.

It will ultimately not be much of a relief to the murdered Pakistan coach but his football colleagues will be glad enough to know that this pope’s stern eyes are not on them but on the even gaudier world of popular music and bestselling airport novels.

Dead Seat Award

Friday, March 23rd, 2007

Ever since the first monkey picked up a stick to beat up another monkey, people have enjoyed competitions. We pay athletes incredible amounts of money to pick up ever more sticks to beat up their millionaire colleagues and go to tremendous lengths to see them do this live, in all types of depressing weather and death trap stadiums, where the drinks are tepid and expensive and the food, if available, tepid, expensive and quite frankly as disgusting as most footballers & their wives’ behaviour off the pitch.

As people keep inventing ever new ways to kill time before time kills them, ever more and ever weirder competitions see the light of day. There are contests for the oddest book title, beauty pageants for plague-carrying vermin and even one competition for the best church poster of the year. When it comes to ways of fighting ennui, the human race can get quite inventive – not to say demented.

However, there’s always room for yet another competition, so, without much further ado, let me invite you to take part in yet another variant of that old Throw momma off the train thing. I’ll call it the Dead Plane Seat Awards.

In a Times online article a British Airways spokesman claims that each year ten out of 36 million passengers die on board of planes. Planes that don’t crash, that is, but fly peacefully from point A to point B.

My idea would be that each year two Dead Seat Awards should be given to representatives of those two most deserving of professional groups: politicians and TV news presenters. So, one newsreader would win a first class seat on the longest, non-stop commercial flight available, to go ask his or her most mind-bogglingly stupid question over and over again to the other winner: the dead body of the person chosen to be that year’s most vile and/or incompetent politician, now strapped in the seat next to that of the winning newsreader.

The selection and reading of the yearly shortlist of the nominated politicians and newsreaders could be done live on TV, in the manner of any Idols’ competition, while the actual selection of both winners, the ritual killing of that year’s chosen politician and highlights of the subsequent flight could be shown on a Pay Per View basis, the proceedings of which could go to the victims of – no, sorry, forget about that.

Just send the money to the one who thought of this new and wonderful form of entertainment first: me.

Thursday, March 22nd, 2007

“And then the prince kissed the handsome farmhand, pulled the boy up behind him on his horse and, to the fading music of some Elton John song, they rode off together, out of the closet and into the future, happily ever after,”

The cat gave me a look.

“Well, it’s the new big thing, you dumb beast: gay fairy-tales. Next thing you know Martel & Lucas will bring all the little kids anatomically and politically correct Ken and Darth Vader dolls, forever together in one pretty box.

The cat yawned.

“Have you been texting again all night?” I asked.

The cat gave me another look.

“Like those Belgium teenagers. Masturbation is out, it seems; instead, they’re sending text-messages all night. So, now those poor kids don’t get enough sleep, which is bad for… – well, whatever, really. Maybe they sleep-crash their scooters or don’t have enough strength left to beat up their teachers, or steal and vandalize stuff. Very sad, that.”

The cat yawned again, jumped off the bed and disappeared through the huff side of the cat flap.

Only for its head to reappear through the contraption half a minute later.

It gave me yet another dirty look.

“Yes, your food: I know. I thought it might perhaps be better if I stopped feeding you.”

“You thought what?!

“I read this article about that German polar bear…?

So?

“Well, some very nice animal protection people decided that since little Knut was raised by people, it wasn’t really a proper bear anymore. So, they thought it would be a much better idea to stop giving it food. In fact, now they want to give it an injection instead and send it back to its mama, who is waiting for her little baby bear in Heaven. Isn’t that the sweetest thing…?”

“Right.”

“You don’t want to go to Heaven?”

“I want my food. Now!

“Ah well, it was worth a try, I suppose.” I said, to no-one in particular, since the cat had already left for the kitchen.

Whistling that old dance hall favourite, The Teddbears’ picnic, I followed in the slipstream of impatient feline noises.

With a little help from my friends

Wednesday, March 21st, 2007

While reading a Simon Jenkins column about Iraq and some new international initiative to help this hapless country, I was reminded of a very old cartoon I once saw.

First, we see what people used to call an Indian brave (before political correctness turned him into a Native American, a term both meaningless and mean-spirited.) The man is standing on some beach, staring out over the ocean, looking scrawny and somewhat listless, which, on the whole, is not terribly surprising.

Then, an honest to God flying saucer appears, with a little green fellow on board. (Though I’m sure, these days one shouldn’t use words like small or green. In PC terms the l.g.f. would be called a vertically challenged, environmentally correctly coloured, Native Universe Type person – or N.U.T. Or nutter.)

So, the green nutter person reassures the red, listless one that he and his spaceship have come in peace. The Indian brave answers:

“Oh no, not again.”

Which probably is how most Iraqis would feel if they heard of yet another group of foreigners offering their helpful services to Iraq.

Iwo Jima, mon amour

Tuesday, March 20th, 2007

Recently, Dick ‘The Vice’ Cheney went on a bits-of-the-world tour. Amongst a select few countries where he wouldn’t be arrested, shot or blown-up on the spot, he visited Japan, where he was welcomed like bird flue. There he spent some time ‘worrying’ about China – not about that country’s human rights’ record or Tibet (though he could have done with some pointers about successfully invading places and then keeping some kind of order there) but about China sending a rocket into space. Since China has been sending off rockets even before the Vikings discovered McBush world, this seemed a waste of a good worry but never mind – it’s nice to see that Mr Cheney does worry about some things.

So, while pax Americana blooms like a million bloody zits all over the face of planet earth, in Russia, Mr Putin, newly inflated by sharp intakes of a few billionaires’ cash & freedom and Russian gas, warned the USA about that country’s unipolar adventurism and told the U.N. that poor Serbia’s feelings must be taken into account over the final status of Kosovo.

North Korea now has nukes, which will please their neighbours no end, of course, while in the Middle East, just to make things a bit more entertaining, Israel is thinking about burying their latest Lebanon mishap under the rubble of some Iranian nuclear reactors.

So, nostalgia rules again, as, like the daft remake of a dubious art movie, the Cold War comes to a theatre near you. Still, with even more idiots in positions of power than the last time round, cold may run into hot quite fast – so maybe Clint Eastwood will get to make his third World War movie soon enough.

Not mentioned in most guidebooks

Monday, March 19th, 2007

 I despair. Utterly and truly, I do despair. If I were prone to religious bile or revolutionary cramps, right now I’d be licking the last envelope in a series of very-angry-letters-to-the-editor – and those letters might well have contained explosives rather than expletives.

Even without Una-bomber spots or Mad Mullah mumps though, I can say I truly detest any travelling programme on TV or  how-to-spend-your-holiday article in newspaper or magazine that contains the following or similar words:

- unspoiled
- virgin
- off the beaten track (and yes:)
- not mentioned in most guidebooks.

What is it with these people? They complain about tourist traps – and how this or that tropical island was such a great place before the cheap charters and tourist buses came and yet they go out of their way to tell us about their latest great Columbus or Marco Polo moment.   

With Abraham Lincoln these monstrous morons seem to think: It’s not me who can’t keep a secret; it’s the people I tell that can’t.

For these limelight loving lunatics, it is obviously not enough that most of our planet has already become a movie set for any product placement. It’s a long way to Tipperary, they used to sing. Well, not really, mate; just follow the road, past those six Tescos and eight McDonalds, then take a straight left at yonder Starbucks and a sharp right after the third KFC outlet et voilà!

Anyway, not nearly satisfied with the deeply deplorable fact that 99% of planet earth is already one big theme park for clinically bored fast-foodies, these tacky travel trolls need to prove their elitist tracking skills by telling the whole, wide world about those few places that as of yet do not have a Hilton, a golf course or a Hard Rock Café as one of their asinine assets.

Thanks a lot, guys. No, you can sleep easy. I won’t organize a letter bomb campaign or put out a fatwa. On the other hand, I do sincerely hope that when you die, you will find yourself in some very hot and overcrowded,  heavily polluted place, where all the cocktails have cute names and the staff will be most happy to charge you an arm and a leg for them – in a non-proverbial and yet profoundly Biblical manner.

Sunday, March 18th, 2007

It’s not every day you get your cat’s breakfast in bed.

You get the remains of a cat’s breakfast sometimes splattered all over the hall – in the form of dismembered moles, mice, marmosets and, in one memorable case, some years ago, even a terminated macaw. You get it in the form of sicked-up cat food, mostly inside your slippers. You can get bits of it in your hair, in your first (hello, what’s that?!) cup of tea, on ‘wish-you-were-here-haha-no- we-don’t’ postcards, or on angry letters to the lonely hearts’ editor of the ever faithful morning paper.

There’s many a place a cat’s breakfast can end up, including, I dare say, inside the cat itself.

What you don’t see that often is that the cat’s intended breakfast hops on your bed, sits down at the foot end of same and then, in a rather offended tone, asks you what the Hell you’re staring at.
“Er, at you, actually.” I admitted.

“So, what’s your problem?”

“Well…”

Where to start? It was small. It had a beard. Its dress & colour sense were a bloody ‘Give me a woodpecker in the eye any time of day‘ disgrace. I could see why the cat might have attacked it on general principle but why it would have wanted to drag the eyesore home was quite beyond me.

“Where’s your whatchamacallit?” I asked; “The wheelie thingie…?”

“I threw it at that cat of yours!”

“Ah.”

“It was stalking my betrothed.”

“Oh?”

“She could jump in the pond just in time.”

“She didn’t sink?”

The little pest threw me a look that said it had rather had something else to hurl at me.

“Why would my beloved sink, you fool?”

“Well…; she wasn’t made of stone then?”

“A stone stork?! Why would I have a stone stork as a girlfriend, you idiot?

“Because… Well, I thought… Oh, never mind.”

“Racist!”

“Now what?!”

“Why can’t I have a normal, flying, flesh-and-blood stork as a girlfriend? I’m not good enough, huh? Too small? Too working class perhaps? You don’t like beards, maybe?”

Oh, bugger and blast. Here it was… what?!... 6.24 in the bloody morning and I was getting an earful from a frigging…

“Is there any reason why a hard-working, law-abiding, church-attending person like me couldn’t have himself a stork for a girlfriend?”

Right, I really had enough now. I was even vaguely hoping the cat would return to finish its botched breakfast job.

“No reason whatsoever. For all I care you have Marlene Dietrich’s dancing bones as your girlfriend, or the head-banging, tear-away daughter of Pinocchio, president Pinochet’s stuffed poodle…”

“Racist! Racist! Racist”

“Right!”

“Admit it: you hate our kind.”

“I wouldn’t put you in my garden, if that’s what you mean.”

“Aha!”

“Not that I have a garden.”

“Racist! Racist! Racist!”

“I wouldn’t mind a bit of fried stork though, to be honest.”

“Aaaarrgh…!!!”

And off it ran, through the huff side of the cat flap. Minutes later the cat walked in through the hug side of same contraption.

Prrrt, went the cat.

“Yeah, right.”

Prrt.

“Next time you catch one of those…” I said.

Prrt.

“Just kill it – and the stork it rode in on.”

Prrt.

“Now, piss off and go kill something else – quietly!”

“Yes, boss.”

Then the cat went off again. Divine, hark-the-angels-have-shut-up quiet ruled.

Hmm…! Time to sleep – perchance to dream of the girlfriend. Anything but storks really.

Or any more bloody garden gnomes, of course.

Saturday, March 17th, 2007

I woke up to mournful bleats. Some people have alarms. Rumour has it some are kissed awake by someone warm and special. I have a cat who takes care of this Charon-shaped passage between the land of the dreaming and the land of the mostly stressed or terminally bored.

The bleats still travelling through my auditory canal were not cat-launched, of course. Whatever you might say about the cat, Mary’s Little Lamb it ain’t – nor does it, ever, bleat, like those thorough(ly)-(in)bred Siamese.

“Stop messing about with your food,” I said, eyes still firmly closed. “Eat it or release it back into the wild.”

More bleats:

“Bleat bleat bleat help bleat bleat get that stupid bleep bleep cat away from me bleat bleat… BLEAT!!!

I raised one weary eye-brow, yes, with my eyes still closed: now what?!

The damn animal was dragging in a bit of talking breakfast, this ill-begotten morning…?

Then some more bleating & cursing, followed by a resounding slap, resulting in an insulted & pained & furious hissing.

So, whatever the cat had brought home to come and play with was not willing to go gentle into that good night.

Now this I had to see!

I opened my eyes: nothing there…

“You’re the owner of that stupid cat?” a voice asked, from somewhere behind one of my many, many overflowing bookcases.

“The owner? Not really. We just share the rent.”

“It’s a frigging menace, that beast is.” the voice said.

“True. Though it’s the first time that one of its road kills makes a formal complaint.”

“I kicked it right in its balls, you know.”

“Ouch.”

“That will teach it.” the voice said triumphantly.

“Oh no, it won’t.”
Some thought-frought silence, then:

“Is it gone though?”

“For now, I would think so, yes. But it’s an extremely sore loser, so, it will be back.”

“…”

“Still, it should be safe to come out for a bit. It will be busy licking its wounded pride for a while.”

“You think so…?”

“Well, yes – I hope. I won’t eat you anyway.”

“Ooh-kay…”

Then the word became flesh – or the voice turned to stone – or…

“Bloody Hell…” I said.

“What?!” said the word-flesh-voice-stone-whatever.

(To be continued.)

In with the old, out with the new

Friday, March 16th, 2007

We do live in odd times. Caught between the Rock of Ages and the hard-headed Gospel of Change, we no longer know what to do with ourselves in the immediate here and now.

There’s a desperate urge to move on, yet, at the same time, nostalgia has become a booming business. So, on the one hand we see that some of the most faddish people around, the gurus of the food & lifestyle industry, have lauded the arrival of a new cookery book that deals with truly wild-eyed retro fare, like boiled cow’s udders and Sumerian ale. On the other hand, bad boy Jeremy Clarkson, who hates most new-fangled things & gimmickry and often has Greens for breakfast, now has composed his personal Ode to Joy, singing happy dirges about the death of that oldest and most nostalgic of games: darts.

This struggle between the old and the new is taking place all over the world – and all cultures seem united in their confusion. In the East, countries are in a furious competition to become the fastest growing, the most modern and rich and industrially advanced societies on a face-lifted planet. And yet, they also want to hang on to bits of the past: the rediscovered roots and old certainties of faith. In Indonesia a trial has just started against the editor of a local version of Playboy. They love the loud and garish ads for perfumes and cars and watches but would rather not have people lift that shiny surface veil that tries to hide and to deny the world of the naked and crass, commercial flesh that lies beneath.

Meanwhile, in America, that land of the brave and the free, the most modern and daring of heart, isolationism is on the rise again. The skylines still glimmer and stand tall and proud, yet again a disastrous war has many eyes turning inwards, turning down. The outside world is wicked – and more threatening than ever. Many Americans again start to long for some shared past they can make their own. No wonder then, perhaps, that there were such furious and bitter protests, when a Boston museum decided to sell old artworks, to enable it to buy new art. This, in America, the country that from its untidy, revolutionary birth made a virtue of and always celebrated the changing of the guards, the sometimes violent, sometimes vandalistic but always truly optimistic replacement of the old with the new.

While America, grown weary, looks inwards, sometimes backwards, searching for a new direction and new meaning, a redefining of its position in the world, the East is still enamoured with the trappings of modernity, the virtue of greed and the prestige of new-found wealth, with its trinkets and its temples (if not its new, official temple art, courtesy of Playboy.)

Still, whatever might have changed, whatever changes we still want or fear, one thing will never change: whatever it is we (can’t decide we) want, as always we want it delivered to us, without cost, right now.

Friday, March 16th, 2007

“I wish we had a garden.” I said.

The cat gave me one of those looks.

“Okay. I wish I had a garden.”

The cat yawned a Bored, bored, I’m very bored. Please someone, shoot that guy yawn.

“No, really. Then, when I’d like to go senile for a bit, I could potter about – potter, potter, potter – and talk to the flowers, admonish the leek, feed the birds…”

Swish, goes the cat’s tail; flubblub, goes the cat’s tongue.

“Okay, it would probably save both us some time if I fed you those birds directly. But then, when the girlfriend arrives…”

“What?!” said the cat.

“The girlfriend – when she arrives…”

“Yesss…?”

“Then you could stay out there, in the garden, till she went back to Tokyo again.”

“Over your dead body!”

“Ah, but I’m so much bigger than you. Over your dead body: now, that would be real easy, if we had a garden. And then I could plant some flowers on top of you. Or a bird feeder – yes, that would be nice: all those pretty birds visiting your grave each morning. Quite touching, really.”

(Insert some unspeakable cat noises here.)

“So, no garden then?” I asked the cat, when it had run out of expletives and out of the room, through the huff side of the cat flap.

Silence.

One Mississippopotamus – two Mississippopotamus – three Mississippo… and yes: one very annoyed and very paranoid cat’s head peeped through cat flap space.

“So, when will she get here?” it asked.

“Who?”

“That bloody woman, of course. You don’t want a stupid garden.”

“I don’t?”

“Not on your life. You’re much too lazy to want a garden.”

“True.”

“So, when is she coming?”

“Next week.”

“Right, I’m off. But I’ll be back!”



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