On Thatcher And Etiquette

Margaret Thatcher's papersMargaret Thatcher, the first and only female British Prime Minister is dead. There’s a saying I often hear in regard to Thatcher and it goes something like this: “Depending on who you are, Margaret Thatcher is either God or Satan”. I’m not a massive fan of branding famous people in such Marmite-esque diametric terms but it seems that with Maggie, this is somewhat true.

And so it can come as little surprise that on the occasion of her death, some people are sad and others are having a party with fireworks to, as one of my Facebook friends put it, rival the ending of Return Of The Jedi. The second of these reactions I fail to understand.

I mean, I hate just about everything that woman did when she was in power, and I was only alive for a year of it. I disagree on just about every point with Conservatives in general and Maggie was the greatest of them and so it stands to reason that I would quite happily happy slap her, but why have a party when she’s dead?

Now I’m not on a “respect the dead” rant because I struggle to logically justify that position. What I’m questioning is why people are partying now. Is Margaret Thatcher less of a political threat now she’s gone? Was she breathing threats and devising elaborate schemes to further impoverish the poor yesterday? No. The truth is, that Margaret Thatcher, an elderly lady who suffered from dementia, was no more of an influential figure alive than she is dead. Her time has been and it went many years ago. The party should have been in 1990.

You can whine about hurting her family’s feelings, or quote that you don’t rejoice in the death of anyone (though I find it hard to believe as I for one breathed a sigh of relief upon learning of the deaths of Osama Bin Laden, Col. Gaddaffi, and Kim Jong-Il) but the real mystery is why people are making this a bigger deal than it is. All that has happened is that a previously immensely powerful, influential, and divisive political figure who retired from professional life many years ago and eventually grew less and less herself due to illness, has finally and quietly ceased to be. The main show was over before I even knew there was a show.

Anyway, as much as I disagreed with Lady Thatcher’s ideals, I honestly have to hand it to her for being the first woman to smash through the glass ceiling, defy the patriarchy, and lead our country. That, ladies and gentlefolk, takes balls.

To Be Or Not To Be On The Internet

header 1I often wonder why we use social media. Well, aside from the obvious uses of keeping in touch with friends far away, organising events, and things of that nature. I mean, why tweet? Why write that status that you just know will annoy people and generate comments like bacteria swarm and multiply in a droplet of water? Why write a blog? Sometimes I think it all is simply a technological way of grabbing your friends, or indeed complete strangers from the internet, by the lapels and screaming “Love me! I’m important! Listen to my ground breaking opinions which I stole from somebody else!”

Of course, there is this side to things, and we are all guilty of such narcissistic technological sins from time to time (some more than others that’s for sure) but for the most part I think we can see why some people are like that when it really comes down to it.

But I find that the bigger question is “Why not?” Ok, so let’s all not ask why not when it comes to mind-numbingly moronic Facebook statuses; but when it comes to the question of whether or not to write something and put it out there, if you feel that you have talent as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this tweet “Be uprooted from the depths of my brain and be planted on the internet for all eternity”.

After all, how else can I fully enjoy this hilarious thought unless I share it with hundreds of other mindless internet pilgrims? That, at least, is how I choose to look at the world. I write because I can. I tweet in the vain hope that you find me as funny as I do. I blog because I have bugger all else to do with these words in my head. Yes, I appropriate phrases and sentences from other people to use in my writing (if you didn’t notice, I ripped off both H.G. Wells and Jesus in this one) but as I see it, art is made to be shared. In the words of our great and glorious king Oscar Wilde: “Good writers borrow, great writers steal.” Oh, and if you ever find a typo in my writing, it’s because I’m following another maxim from a literary giant: “Write drunk, edit sober” – Ernest Hemingway

Yet, for all this, there are just some things on the internet that we simply do not understand:

Game On

DiceI think one of the most revelatory moments for me was when I decided to embrace the concept of imagining life as one big game. Not a game where there are winners and losers like Monopoly (though if it were Monopoly I just know I’d be the guy clinging to the hope that although I only owned The Angel Islington, putting a hotel on it would make everything better. Also, I wouldn’t have my first choice of counter – I’d be the sodding wheelbarrow) but instead, I imagine life as one big MMORPG.

MMORPG stands for Massive Multiplayer Onine Role Playing Game. It’s basically for nerds and geeks (and that is fine and I embrace both these terms) but it is essentially life. With magic. On the internet. I feel any extended definition of an RPG is rather redundant I’m afraid.

To illustrate what I mean: Everyone is equal, we all start at the same point, though some people tend to go about things with the wrong attitude. Most people just play to bumble along and advance their story while completing sidequests like mastering a second language, learning to water-ski, and baking cakes just for fun. There are those who take advantage of the newer, less experienced and naive but those are frowned upon. The objective is not to win but rather to play out your particular story and get better and stronger along the way.

To be honest, I could continue to extend the analogy forever but for those of you who play RPGs you already get what I’m on about, and for those of you who don’t then I think I’d only bore you.

In short, while serious things may happen, taking life less seriously than most is a liberating experience. Regarding everyone as entirely equal takes some work but it makes for a better user experience. And when things get a little more difficult in life, it’s rather comforting to think that it’s only because you’ve managed to level up.

Sheesh this blog seems a little heavy. But then again its content isn’t. I think what’s moved me to writing this is that because of how I look at the world, I am increasingly puzzled by those who take things oh-so-seriously and don’t seem to realise that everybody else is just bumbling along the same as them and, in the words of Liz Lemmon: “I believe that all anyone really wants in this life is to sit in peace and eat a sandwich”.

But then again there’s absolutely no use pretending that we all don’t whip off our clothes and dance like we’ve just won the bleeding lottery every once and a while. Even saying “every once and a while” is also a humongous untruth because we all know that we’d do it every second of every waking minute of every day if we thought we could get away with it. Well, that and sex. But even then, that is just the no-pants-dance done by two people instead of one. And so in a way, finding a partner with whom you can settle down and live a long life of glorious lovelness with is essentially the quest to discover somebody willing to strip off their clothes and move their limbs quasi-rhythmically (we are all not so gifted as the young Thomas Cruise is in the video below) in time to the universal music of unadulterated pleasure. Even if it does happen to be adultery.

Vatican’s Got Talent

So apparently we’re getting a new Pope. Not that the current one died or anything, he just thinks he’s getting a little too mentally frail to be up to the task. The task of… sitting in a chair and pretending to be infallible. This is obviously a poor excuse, after all frailty or madness hardly stopped any of the other Popes from trying to brainwash the world with their particular brand of crazy, and even the last Pope to resign only did so because of scandal. Pity there wasn’t a handy storehouse of scandals that poor doddery old “Benedict” could latch onto as an excuse, imagine if he could claim that he used to be in the Hitler youth, or that he covered up multiple accounts of child abuse, or that he was just faking it all or something. Now that would be headline news. But no, he’s had enough so he’s packing it in to write a book or something. About time too, I could do with a new doorstop after I used George Bush’s autobiography to make paper mache Weapons of Mass Destruction.

Strangely, what some news outlets are focussing on at this time is the fact that the St Peter’s Basilica was struck by lightning only hours after the Pope’s announcement that he was resigning. I find myself very confused as to why on earth this is considered news. Well, to be honest, I find it difficult enough to comprehend why a textually unnecessary head of a sensationally misguided wing of a religion I no longer subscribe to stepping down is news either, but I understand that some people might find it mildly interesting seeing as Big Brother is over and Game Of Thrones isn’t back until the end of March. But why is lightning striking the Vatican newsworthy? Last time I looked, Catholics worshipped some form of Yahweh, not an amalgamation of Zeus and Thor. My Bible knowledge is struggling to find an example of God chucking a lightning bolt to get his point across.

And anyway, isn’t lightning from a deity supposed to be a bad thing? Like, a big “Hey you, stop dicking about or the next one will hit your head” kind of thing? Are we saying that God is displeased with the Pope’s resignation? Did he want him to die while still on the job? “Aw shucks, he’s not supposed to retire until the aneurysm I gave him pops in his head” Or is God so monumentally thrilled with Joseph Ratzinger’s time in office that this is a divine version of shouting “Encore!” at the end of a play?

Interestingly enough, lightening is a totally idiotic weapon for a god to use, at least in this day and age. One would have thought than an omniscient being would have foreseen the invention of the lightning conductor. “What is this devilry? They seem to be defying me with some sort of metal rod!” Aaaand this brings us round to the part where science takes over and says that a) if God really did have something to say in the form of a lightning bolt regarding the Pope’s resignation, he was quite a few hours too late – perhaps he was on the wrong time zone? and 2) It is no strange miracle of nature that lightning strikes a humongous metal rod sticking up high into the sky in the middle of a storm. It is no more surprising that it struck more than once because it is a myth that lightning strikes the same place only once.
Science, bitches.

Yet now we come to the hit reality TV show “Vatican’s Next Top Pope” or “Vatican’s Got Talent”. Let’s hope that the next Holy Father manages not to fall into the trap of praying for Africa’s “poor, sick and needy” while telling them not to wear condoms to stop AIDS, waving a solid gold incense burner about, gripping a six foot tall gold cross, and sitting on a golden throne while heading an international organisation estimated to be worth trillions of pounds.

The Prodigal Sun

I guess this year is a first for me.
The first Christmas without the Christ if you want to be blunt about it.
And while I hold no ill will to those who adore the story
Of a man come from glory to a shed here below, a great message to bestow,
I guess this is a first for me.
The first Christmas with a looking forward more than a looking back.

Not that those who love Jesus don’t spend some time to tease us
With the promise of life everlasting,
But their main focus in December is on a fire that became embers many years ago.
I love the story to be honest.
Two parents with only a promise that their love had been true
And their God had come, out of the blue, to give them a child – the child born of destiny,
One to heal all man’s iniquity.

But all that aside for a moment,
Can we take the time to get back to the Romans?
Way back when so few people knew the score,
Back to the dark ages of magic and lore.
Back to the time when we didn’t have a sodding clue,
Why nights grew dark and lips turned blue at the mere mention of winter,
We could have honestly done with a hint here and so we looked to the Sun.
That flaming brilliant ball of heat, that cooked our skin and spoiled our meat in the summer time, was dying – nay, gone!
And the winter’s bite was hard and snow shone,
Bringing smiles but yet frowns as the easy days had flown.

The sun would return we said.
We know it goes up and down and we’d bet our daily bread on the fact
That even if blinded by cataracts the fire would be there,
Drying the land and heating the air.
For summer comes e’re winter is gone.
Have faith, joy will return, we tell our little ones.

So I guess this year is a first for me.
The first time I look forward only one year, and take comfort in the knowledge
That come hell, high water, or orange flavoured chocolate (ew),
The sun will rise with vigour anew and heat our earth perhaps a little too much;
but perhaps that is something to think on come March.
And life will again, come and return
With the reign of flowers and leaves, strong rivers, streams,
Bees will pollinate, procreate, obfuscate the reason for nature’s palate vis a vis their fate,
And bring new spring in the step of winter’s demise.
Yes. Again the sun will rise.

 

AutoPlay

playbutton I love the internet. You know I do. If the internet was destroyed, I would spend all my newly found free time working on the international project called “Bring Back The Internet”. I would die for the internet. That’s odd. Mostly because I’ve only this moment realised that I would die for the internet. It’s rather disturbing to realise that you would willingly give your life for a collection of 1s and 0s. I think I need a moment, hang on.

Life shaking epiphanies aside, you need no further proof that I am an all out internet enthusiast. I mean come on, that’s even in my Twitter bio.

I stand beside the internet greats: the #Occupy movement, Annonymous,  all the glorious internet citizens who write, draw, film, sing, and create solely for the joy of sharing with everybody else. I accept the dark corners of morons who debate how right the Mayans were, scream obscenities at people thousands of miles when shot immediately after a respawn on COD, and even the pits of hell that house websites belonging to Westbro Baptist Church. Hey, the internet is for everyone – that’s what the creator of the world wide web said. That includes the crazies.

But what I will not stand for is auto play. This idea spawned from the depths of corporate greed and sheer senseless inanity is one of the few things that sends me into a blind rage. Ok so there are a lot more than a few things that make me see red but let’s move past this*. Autoplay, for those of you blissfully as yet unaware of this threat to freedom and decency everywhere, is when a video or a song automatically begins to play on a webpage when you didn’t ask it to. This slightly includes YouTube preroll ads but what I’m really talking about are news stories that have hidden video content at the bottom of the page that plays for no reason (Huffinton Post I’m glaring at you dammit), blogs that have very loud songs of the worst genres imaginable that blare out their crass garbage and then hide the bloody pause button. If this is the way the internet is going then the terrorists have already won ladies and gentlemen.

But one odd gem from the autoplay world is this website. (go on, click it – you know you want to) What should be a relatively innocuous visit to a sushi restaurant in downtown LA, turns into an oddly erotic background ear raping that gives a whole new meaning to the phrase “food porn”. I mean, if I want dodgy Japanese pop with cringeworthy lyrics all about how good food is, I’ll just put on some anime. Unsure as whether to laugh or cry at this travesty, I did both.

*The longer list of things that send Andy off on one is as follows: Twilight, 50 Shades of Grey and other awful literature, homeopathy, people who stubbornly refuse to “get” sarcasm, the NRA, members of the Conservative Party, members of the Republican Party, Westbro Baptist Church, people who think that irregardless is a word, slow walkers, Sean Penn, unforgivably bad films that are so bad they go past the “so bad it’s good” and just head on into the “dire”, people who think that Of Mice And Men and The Catcher In The Rye are bad, horoscopes, creationists, paparazzi, football, people who think that The Beatles are objectively better than other bands (I’m ok with the opinion that they’re spectacular, just not with the idea that they are on some sort of pedastal that no other band can reach), people who can’t argue properly, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, climate change nay-sayers, the Pope, people who ask me to speak French when they’ve known me for all of five minutes.
I’ll stop now I promise.

Unrelated Video Of The Day:

Scattered Showers With A Chance Of Apocalyptic Flooding

_50265949_uk_snow_dundeeuni Here in Britain we’re used to the weather being about as faithful as Taylor Swift’s boyfriends. It’s up and down every which way all the time and that is why we Brits, when stuck for other meaningless conversation, find it perfectly natural to witter about the weather. This is a cultural phenomenon you couldn’t really see evolving from north African nomads in the Sahara as their conversations would be painfully short: “Hot isn’t it?” “Yes. And this will not change. Ever.”

Despite British weather being as changeable as is meteorologically possible, we still act surprised when we end up soaked in July with our BBQs being rained off as simply a matter of national happenstance. Surely we’d all be used to it by now? I always get confused when I see an old granny complaining about the weather. Surely, love, you’ve had more unexpected downpours than I’ve had hot dinners and if anything, not being suddenly soaked would be more surprising?

Yet the one season that really gets our collective goat is winter. Winter can bugger off back to Santa’s armpit for all we care. We were enjoying the fuggy damp of autumn – at least that was incrementally warmer by a quarter of a degree. Of course the winter chill can be quite effectively combated by an age old ritual called Putting More Clothes On but ain’t nobody got time for that.

What really confuzzles me however is why people watch the weather forecast. I don’t mean watch it like it’s on after the news and you sit through it because there’s no point turning over before Doctor Who starts in case you miss something, I get that totally. I’m talking about those people who would actively change channels or shush people because they want to hear what the weather is supposed to be tomorrow. This is madness in this country.

Sure, the science chaps have been working incredibly hard to be more and more accurate but let’s face it, the Weather Forecast should be now renamed The Weather Best Guess We Could Do But Don’t Bet Your House On It.

Better still, to know if it’s raining or not, look out the sodding window.