Saturday, 31 December 2011


Originally, I was going to mark the New Year, and the first anniversary of this blog, my dear reader (singular), with a review of the past year, and a brief summary of anticipated events in the year to come. However, as a result of my unanticipated and surprisingly enjoyable night out I have decided instead to write a commentary of said night out, in the hope that a reflection on this social nucleus of our time: the nightclub, can prove more revelatory than a tedious recounting of global events from the year passed. A kind of written time capsule, captivating a moment in time to be preserved for the future. The 80s night of blogs.

My evening began in a fashion that suggested worse things to come. While enjoying an Indian takeaway with my mother and grandmother is not inherently a bad thing, at this moment in time I had not any substantial plans for the evening ahead, and when a minor conflict broke out over whether or not my grandmother should return home to get a jar of chutney, or pay 60pence for one from the takeaway (for which price, she maintained, she could purchase two jars elsewhere) I saw my final hours of 2011 stretch before me like a Penrose staircase.

However, a small coup emerged upon my sudden texting, once full of curry, by a friend of mine who was, at that moment, parked outside. Obviously, I couldn't leave fast enough, and leapt in his car before he could push the front seat forward. But once again my hopes were dashed, as we went to the home of someone I didn't know for some awkward four person predrinks, to which I had taken no drinks. After an hour or so of trying desperately to get a kick from hyperventilation, we left for a bar known as a tavern. Now pubs are not my favourite places, and the prospect of one that considers itself to be so authentic as to refer to itself as a tavern certainly does not fill me with joy, nor did the five pound double spirit and mixer. Add to this the DJ who only had the ability to press "pause" on one song and "play" on another, while failing to remember which song he had played only minutes earlier, and you begin to see the reason for my pessimism. However, I was out of the house, in the company of other human beings, so it was already one up on both the year before and my own expectations. Furthermore, I saw a number of people who had been in the year below me at school, but are now somewhat fatter than me as a result of having ballooned, which gave me a smug sense of superiority which, again, was an improvement on last year.

Following a brief interlude in which I attempted, unsuccessfully, to redirect the course of the evening of the direction of one of Norwich's few homosexual establishments, we proceeded to the biggest nightclub of the fine city know as Norwich, via an off-license. However, upon arrival, the length of the queue became apparent to us, and to me as an ill-prepared non ticket bearer with just 50 minutes until the clock struck midnight, I realised my fate appeared to be spending my first minutes of 2012 in a queue to get into a nightclub containing unpleasant people lined up like sardines, sipping on beverages even Midas wouldn't fork out for.

Then came the first piece of true fortune I experienced that evening. For those of you who know me in person, you will know that meeting new people is not something I engage in with enthusiasm, particularly people I expect to only see on on occasion. However, as a result of being suitably intoxicated, I had, through no fault of my own, pre-emptively engaged in conversation and formed acquaintance with someone I did not previously know (he said we had spoken on several occasions, but as a result of suffering from an extreme form of social amnesia I had no recollection of this), who also had neglected to purchase a ticket for admittance to said nightclub. At this point I was fully expecting to end up walking from queue to queue until the sound of the jubilation at a new, unblemished year filled the streets from the packed danceries, at which thought I struck upon the fitting analogy of Mary (of the Bible) going from hotel to hotel but nowhere letting her in. However, I don't have enough sex for the Mary analogy to work. It then dawned on me that this was the first time the story of Jesus's birth had occurred to me over the holiday season, and that it's odd that its only modern relevance is as an analogy for nightclubs. I digress. We abandoned our friends to the club that was more packed than the average tube train and departed to the road know as "Prince of Wales" where all the other nightclubs of any significance can be found.

The first club we came across was ideal. All year round it's deserted, as its total size is little more than an average-sized living room, and they attempt to lure you in with free entry and cheap drinks. New Year's Eve, I assumed, would be a different story, yet I was pleasantly surprised to find it full enough to be lively, but with no queue and free entry and cheap drinks still intact. I suppose the exact same reasons that no-one goes there all year round apply even more on New Year's Eve, as it's not a place many people would choose to spend time, let alone at a time such as New Year's Eve, where many photos that will eventually end up on Facebook will be taken. Nevertheless, a good time was had by all. All I heard from one of my friends who made it in to Sardineia was a text just after midnight reading simply "Grapes news tear". I assume that meant he was having a good time. Or a stroke.

After the "ball had dropped", the DJ clearly decided the greater portion of the club's clientèle were too intoxicated to be able to use self-invented dance moves, so elected to play a series of dreaded "routine" songs. I can cope with the macarena, and the YMCA, while frustrating when everyone looks at me and thrusts me into the middle at its playing, is just about bearable. However, one song that knocks the cheer out of the cheeriest cheerleader is "Saturday Night". This particularly annoying track has a routine that I have never been able to master, and needing to tie my shoelace during the Cha Cha Slide (two hops, anyone?) was frankly a health hazard.

Following that, for only the second time in my life I was forcibly thrust to the front of a conga. This isn't as fun as it sounds, when one is left with responsibility for the happiness of thirty drunkards. It is also surprisingly difficult to get rid of a conga. You try walking away. It's like trying to lose your shadow. If your shadow was a line of thirty overweight girls in clit-length mini skirts. Furthermore, this was the first conga I had been in since the release of the Human Centipede, and I was suddenly horribly aware of the similarity. At least if my film-induced fears came true I was at the front.

Eventually, after much of this sort of malarkey, I left the club in search of something that can be loosely termed "food". Even if there's a rapture, at least I won't be hungry. On the way home I was asked for directions to Nando's, and instilled with the goodwill of a thousand drunkards I offered my best guess, and waved in a general direction other than the one I was travelling in. If that's not good citizenship, what is?

There's a lot of criticism of nightclubs, drinking and youth culture in general, and New Years Eve should be the worst example of this. However, as I looked around I didn't see immoral sin or antisocial behaviour, I saw complete strangers linking arms to Cotton-Eye Joe, acquaintances hugging at midnight, and people buying drinks for their peers without any care paid to reciprocation. 2011 is over, and was good (For personal reasons. Globally it was a shitter.). 2012 sees the Olympics, some sort of royal thing, and the possibility of a Mormon President. It's all down hill from here.

I thank you, my dear reader, for a year's loyalty, and I look forward to getting 7 people accidentally stumbling upon my blog a week for years to come.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Headline of the Year

Throughout 2011 I've been keeping track of headlines and news stories that stand out for all the wrong reasons. Admittedly, I've forgotten to keep an eye out for most of the year, but here is what I got:

Firstly, the story that gave me the idea for this.  I confess to being a closet cheeky girl fan, so when I read the headline

"Cheeky Girl cautioned for shoplifting in Cheshire"

I was naturally taken-aback. What's so beautiful about this is that at first glance you think a non-entity has been caught shoplifting in a cheeky manner, which I find to be a pleasing image. It's also funny because they have to refer to her as a "Cheeky Girl" because no-one would know who Garbriela Imiria is, and because the Beeb found an excuse to dig out an old photo of Lembit. Plus, any BBC article that feature the words "Ms Irimia and her twin sister Monica had four top ten hits between 2002 and 2004. Their debut single Cheeky Song (Touch my bum) sold 1.2m worldwide." is funny.

Next up is this gem from 11th January.
The article itself is rather boring, simply because the entire story is explained by the glorious headline:

"Italian man shot in head sneezes out bullet and lives"

Oh, BBC, thank you for spending our license fees so wisely.

Now we move on to an article posted to Facebook by a friend of mine. The peculiarity of this story is matched only by the peculiarity of its headline: 

"Chainsaw wielding pyjama man attacks tree in dead of night"

If the purpose of this is to entice you to read the article, it certainly succeeds, as it leaves the reader with so many questions I actually thought reading this headline had sucked some information from my brain. It refers to "pyjama man" like this is a common expression, but frankly it just made me think of Banana Man. In case you can't be bothered to read the whole thing, it features this: "One resident, who declined to be named, said: “He was in his pyjamas. I just rang the police.""

We're onto the 20th of January now, and with it comes this headline: 

"Live chicken thrown at KFC staff in Nuneaton"

One of the many fantastic things about this headline is that whoever wrote it thinks "in Nuneaton" is relevant and interesting enough to the common reader to include in the headline. It's also great because it contains the sentence "The RSPCA is now looking for a new home for the hen, which it has named Mrs Sanders." No comment needed.

The Guardian now, with a headline that I found interesting, if not side-splittingly hilarious.

"Third of Zimbabwe's registered voters are dead"

And to think, in the UK only 60% of living people can be bothered to vote.

The next one should be of interest to followers of wacky Jacqui (or iffy Smiffy, depending on which you prefer). It's the kind of headline that makes you check the date isn't April 1st.

"Jacqui Smith to investigate porn trade for the BBC"

The article includes the line "Ms Smith's earlier brush with the porn industry..." which I'm sure is designed to conjure an unpleasant image in the head of less savoury-minded readers.

We're in May now, and another headline that just seems to have been created using a random word generator on hallucinogenic drugs.

"Severed head of patron saint of genital disease on sale"

Why is there a patron saint of genital disease? I have no answer. But the article does helpfully tell you when and where the auction is taking place, in case a 17th Century head relating to genital disease tickles your fancy.

You think our Deputy Prime Minister is crazy? What about this:

"Teacher Mohamed Ibrahim quits for Somalia deputy PM job"

What's more bizarre is that the article provides absolutely no insight into why a teacher was appointed to the Government.

Former Norwich MP Ian Gibson once claimed that inbreeding was a cause of heart disease in the region. He survived that particular scandal. Unfortunately this teacher did not meet the same fate.

"Teacher Suspended Over 'Inbred' Locals Slur"

I wonder how inbred your pupils have to be for it to be legitimate to say it.

Lastly, but by no means...leastly, this absolutely terrific headline:

"Man jailed after trying to turn faeces into gold"

What's interesting about this is that it's actually misleading. Reading the headline alone, one is instilled with a sense of sympathy for the hapless gentleman involved. Surely it's not a crime to attempt faecal alchemy? Alas, it transpires he was actually imprisoned for setting alight to a block of flats, while attempting to turn his shit into gold. And of course, the article includes some beautiful lines, such as "In his ruling Judge McFarland told Moran: “You were attempting to make gold from human faeces and waste products. It was an interesting experiment to fulfil the alchemist’s dream, but wasn’t going to succeed.”" 
Erm...I'm not sure turning faeces into gold is the alchemists dream. He is also described as a man of "considerable intellectual ability". Right, before or after he set fire to some flats trying to TURN HIS SHIT INTO GOLD???

Hope you enjoyed this. Sorry I forgot about this for most of the year. I will try harder next year. My personal favourite is probably pyjama man. How about you?

Saturday, 27 August 2011

Obesity and the Food Tax

It has been one of the biggest dilemmas since they found out smoking is actually really bad for you. What do you do about people choosing deliberately unhealthy lifestyles, who then burden everyone, even those who look after themselves, by costing the NHS a lot of money?

With the announcement this week that 40% of British adults are expected to be obese by 2030 this problem is bigger than ever. No pun intended.

What has been proposed is a tax on "unhealthy" food similar to taxes on cigarettes. But herein lies the problem. Eating is not the same as smoking, for several reasons.

Firstly, the vast majority of smokers are regular smokers, due to the additive nature of nicotine. This means that when you put a very high tax on cigarettes, you generally punish people who are putting their health at risk. This isn't the same with food. Everyone enjoys foods that have a high calorie content or that are high in fat sometimes, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with eating these things in moderation, or not in moderation if one does sufficient exercise or has a naturally high metabolism, so by putting a high tax on them you are punishing everyone, not just those who eat specific types of food in excess.

Another argument often used against smokers is the dangers associated to passive smoking, which creates health problems associated with smoking to people who aren't bringing it upon themselves. It's impossible to passive eat (unless you're being fed intravenously, I suppose), making it a self-regarding action on which imposition is much harder to justify.

It is also enormously difficult to define what constitutes an unhealthy food. On the clichéd news report I just watched on this they showed footage of chips and burgers in a similar way to someone who advocates the death penalty citing Hitler or Saddam Hussein as an example. What is more difficult to assess is, for example, a ready meal which includes some vegetables but also has high salt content, or dairy products, which are high in fat, but can also be an excellent source of calcium and are often crucial to vegetarian diets. Furthermore, if we try and price the poor out of buying typically "unhealthy" foods, but don't put any effort into educating people, it's likely that they will continue to consume the same foods anyway. Fast food takeaways and ready meals already work out more expensive than home made food and fresh fruit and vegetables. The problem is to do with education and culture, not price.

This brings me on to another point. Those who support measures to try and change the way people consume to make them healthier are generally (but not always) on the left, and are similar voices to those who oppose indirect taxation for impacting on the poor to a greater extent than on the rich. However, taxes on food or cigarettes or alcohol do the very same thing, effectively saying it's fine to be unhealthy as long as you can afford it.

So what is the solution? The answer is, there is no easy solution, which is why we end up with bad ideas like taxing "unhealthy" food. A lot of it has to come from education. I'm a firm believer that parents should have to take responsibility for teaching their children about things like nutrition and cooking and that it shouldn't be the job of the education system. However, we now live in a culture where an alarming number of parents clearly don't share this view, needless to say that many don't have that knowledge themselves so are unable to pass it on. Education appears to be the only way to change people's habits without hiking up taxes in strange places. I also feel I should point out that I was not a fan of the awful and patronising "Change 4 Life" campaign that was mercifully ended just over a year ago.

Changing the laws on advertising junk food to children may also help. It's much harder to tell adults what to eat in a liberal society, but the need to guide children's decision making is much more widely accepted, and if children learn about healthy eating, they are more likely to stay in good habits late in life.

But education will only work in the longer term. The problem facing us immediately is one that cannot be fixed in schools. Changes in lifestyle are resulting in greater pressure on our health services which costs everyone, not just those who choose to keep in a bad state of health. I think that a solution to this would be a kind of health MOT. Every couple of years everyone should have to have a brief health check-up on general health and fitness. People who are obese, or heavy smokers or drinkers, should be given time and support to improve their health or face being automatically placed at the bottom of NHS waiting lists. Those who are consistently in a good state of health should have to go less often. This scheme would probably (this is a big assumption) save the NHS money as people seeing a doctor regularly would result in early diagnosis diseases, and the improvement of the health of the general population as a result of the support and education they would receive would also be in the long term financial interests of the NHS.

This probably sounds a bit too radical and is no doubt full of flaws, but we have a big problem in this country, and making people pay more for for foods which the majority enjoy responsibly seems to be difficult, unfair, and quite probably ineffective.

Sunday, 24 July 2011

How to tell if someone is drunk.

I have worked in a pub on two occasions now, and from this I believe I have established a means of assessing drunkenness as reliable as the breathalyser. It is explained on the following flowchart.

Saturday, 23 July 2011

The 27 Club: Amy Winehouse

As many people, including, unbelievably, the BBC, were keen to point out, a number of popular singers have died at the age of 27. Those most frequently mentioned are Kurt Kobain, Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison and Janis Joplin, with Amy Winehouse now being added to that list; a dubious honour.

This is clearly more than coincidence. It points to some sort of conspiracy. But it doesn't end here. Is it not odd, for example, that Tupac was 25 when he dies, 2 years younger than "the 27 Club"? Because if you multiply 25 by 2 you get 50, the age at which Michael Jackson died. And if you add the subraction of Tupac's age (25) from 27 (2) to the subtraction of Biggie's age (24) from 27 (3) you get 5. Subtract 5 from Michael Jackson's age (50) and you get 45, the age at which Freddie Mercury died. THIS CANNOT SIMPLY BE COINCIDENCE

Furthermore, if you add the difference between Freddie Mercury (45) and Michael Jackson (50), 5, to the difference between Biggie and Tupac's ages, 1, you get 6. Add 6 to 27 and you get 33, the age at which Stephen Gately died. CONSPIRACY??

If you take the difference in ages between Stephen Gately and Biggie, 9, and subtract it from Freddie Mercury's age, 45, you get 36, otherwise know as the age at which Marilyn Monroe died. THIS IS GETTING WEIRD

Finally, if you multiply the difference between Freddie and Michael plus the difference between Biggie and Tupac by the age of Michael, then add it to 33, the age of Stephen Gately, then multiply it by 2, the difference between Tupac and the "27 Club" you get....I warn you this is scary.........666


Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Top Comedy Characters

There was a 50 greatest on telly which I disagreed with. That, coupled with an abundance of spare time, has led me to construct my own list.

This list is not definitive. I haven't seen every comedy show or movie, and can't remember all the ones I have seen and on any other day this may be ranked differently but here is my personal top 50 comedy characters.

You may want to read from the bottom up for best effect but it's really up to you.

1.Homer Simpson- He seems an obvious choice but Homer Simpson combines numerous elements of the best comedy characters. He is a pure parody of the stereotypical American and a critique of some of Americans' less flattering attributes. Having said that he remains thoroughly likeable and ticks many comedy boxes with both slapstick and clever throwaway lines ("If we don't watch the commercials it's like we're stealing TV"). Dan Castellaneta has also given one of the most underpraised comedy performances ever bringing the character to life. Also, his high ranking here is partially in response to the absence of animated characters in the Channel 4 list that inspired this one.

2.Dame Edna- One of the few characters high up in my list that doesn't fall strictly into the parody bracket, Edna ranks so highly for Barry Humphries' improvisational abilities as well as the fact that after 50 years the character remains fresh and consistently hilarious.

3.Jim Royle- The Royle Family is arguably the British response to the Simpsons. In many ways Jim is similar to Homer, lazy, fat, self-interested, but instead of slapstick and stupidity Jim has the dry humour for which Brits are famous and a quick and scathing tongue.

4.David Brent- The Office so brilliantly perfected the mockumentary and Gervais the lame boss-as-friend blue-sky-thinking boss that in many ways defines modern society. And is bloody hilarious in the process.

5.Borat- I've never been too keen on the idea of Borat as satire. People from poorer parts of the world who appear uncivilized to Westerners are not exactly the most pressing of targets, but if you can go to that place where you stop giving a crap about who is offended and embrace the premise Borat is side-splittingly funny both as a character himself ("In Kazakhstan football nuclear retardation disease where man grow foot from testi-satchel") and in the responses he gets from his hapless and not-so-hapless victims.

6.Nigel Tufnel- The best character in one of the best comedy films ever made, Christopher Guest gets the British accent and pretentious rock-star spot on. There's really not much else to say without re-quoting lines.

7.Nessa-Gavin and Stacey is good, and a lot of people love Smithy, but as someone who thinks James Corden is fairly talentless and quite overrated it's no wonder I think the star of the show is Nessa played by writer Ruth Jones. We all know someone a bit like Nessa, who you get the impression has more to her than meets the eye (often alluded to with references to relationships with John Prescott and Richard Madeley) but who is humourless on the outside and apparently very unaware of their own peculiarity.

8.Eric Cartman- Some shows are made up completely of fantastic characters. I've never felt South Park is one of these shows. Don't get me wrong, there are some great ones, but a lot of characters also seem to fall into a homogeneous blob, something that's well avoided by a show like the Simpsons. The one character that stands out over all the others is Cartman who can be best describes by Wikipedia: "Cartman is an overweight, immature, spoiled, outspoken, lazy, foul-mouthed, mean-spirited, racist, sexist, anti-semitic,sociopathic, narcissistic, and ill-tempered third- then fourth-grader".

9.Victor Meldrew- I don't believe it. Before the 'Grumpy Old...' franchise milked the cow of grumpy older people dry there was the many times more funny One Foot in the Grave with a surprisingly likeable protagonist who people of all ages can relate to in some way.

10.Ted Maul/Chris Morris- These are both fictional reporters played by Chris Morris in the Day Today and brass eye, strong in both scripted sections and interactions with real people for which Brass Eye became famous. The sublime and accurate parody of these shows is more true today than ever with increasingly dumbed-down news coverage relying more and more on graphics and bizarre metaphors.

11.Sheldon Cooper- The nerd character has been done before. Indeed, Moss from the IT Crowd appears in this very list, but the reason the Big Bang Theory's Sheldon comes so far up is partly because of how very extremely nerdy he is but also because of the fantastic performance of Jim Parsons. It's impossible to imagine anyone else in the role, and the time he must take learning all those lines is worthy of recognition in itself.

12.Bernard Black- Black Books in not a remarkable sitcom. It's often confused about the direction it wants to take and seems to have a certain amount of identity crisis, but the character of Bernard redeems the show. The highlight of the character is his elaborate physical comedy. He is the first of several alcoholics in the list.

13.Marsha- She may not be familiar to my reader as Spaced is a very under-rated sitcom which is worthy of more than a small cult following. There are two Spaced characters in this list, but Marsha comes first because of the tremendous performance of Julia Deakin, twisting her face into something that's not quite Janet Street-Porter. A depressing past is alluded to with the end of a story in the fist episode where her husband chose the dog over her, accompanied by the amount of alcohol she consumes.

14.Ali G- Ali G has become so much part of the fabric of our collective conciousness that it's easy to forget his beginnings and what a satire he was of white people attempting to embrace black culture to a ludicrous extent. He manages, like Borat, to tease ludicrous statements out of his interviewees and is just an all-round funny character, particularly to those familiar with Tim Westwood.

15.Mrs Doyle- Wasn't keen to include her in the list but a voice in my head kept saying "go on....go on.....go on go on go on go on go on go on". The top character from Father Ted in this list, Mrs Doyle is another example of a character ranking highly chiefly due to their actor. Pauline McLynne more than holds her ground in the masculine world of a priest-based sitcom and manages to create an unedrlying sympathy for what is on the surface just a wacky caricature.

16.Mrs (Mandy) Cohen- It's fair to say women aren't as well represented on this list as their male counterparts and Brian's mother from Life of Brian certainly doesn't accentuate the most positive aspects of femininity. However, memory of the high-pitched shriek of Terry Jones invokes such iconic scenes as the stoning and asking the three wise men "what star sign is he?". Brian's mother gets many of the best lines and she is probably the best character in the film.

17.Barry from Eastenders- There's something beautiful and depressing about tragic clown Shaun Williams in Extras. Technically Shaun plays himself so isn't really a character, but he's mostly referred to as "Barry" and if what we see in Extras isn't a character, Williams deserves to be in the list purely out of sympathy. What better way to highlight the useless agent than have someone who genuinely has had a failed career as his client?

18.Father Jack- The second of out Father Ted entries, Father Jack is a mixture of all the worst stereotypes of the priesthood: alcoholism, perviness and general self-interest. The character of Jack remains an enigma throughout but every now and again we get glimpses of the man beneath the "drink, feck, arse and girls" such as when he sobers up and shouts "Am I still on this fecking island??"

19.Gareth- Uptight, overserious, humourless and just generally a tosser, everyone knows a Gareth. Brilliant Gareth moments include the stapler in jelly (interesteringly, replaced with cheese in the French version), (territorial) army stories and his investigation into who has put boss David in a porn photo.

20.Joy Turner- A brilliant sketch of white trash, Joy is one of the best characters in My Name is Earl, which is saying a lot because every character is worthy of their own show. I would include one of the many brilliant quotes, but they don't really work out of context.

21.Ben and Sam- Comedians have tried and failed to satirize modern youth. The only thing funny, for example, about Catherine Tate's effort is that she thinks she can pass for a teenager. Ben and Sam from Lead Balloon, however, captivate the lack of enthusiasm, imagination and motivation of middle class yoofs while providing more than their fair share of laugh-out-loud moments in the show. They are included together on this list for obvious reasons. Reading Wikipedia, I have just discovered that their actors are 26 and 29 respectively, which surprised me.

22.Frank Spencer- Taking it back about thirty years, repeats of Some Mothers do Ave Em was one of those rare telivisual gems of my childhood, mostly for the slapstick, but also for its main character, fantastically brought to life by Michael Crawford. I may not even find it funny now, but at the time it was absolutely side-splitting.

23.Edmund Blackadder- I haven't watched Blackadder in a while but "we're in a stickier situation than when sticky the stick insect got stuck on a sticky bun" sums up the vicious and sarcastic British wit embodies by the marvellous Rowan Atkinson as Edmund Blackadder.

24.Darren Lamb- Shitty agent to previously mentioned Barry from Eastenders, Stephen Merchant was sadly not in the Office,but does a great job of making up for it here.

25.Earl Hickey- As previously mentions, all My Name Is Earl Characters could feature in this list. Earl is not particularly remarkable. He is an everyman (albeit a rather simple one) for other characters to bounce off, like Father Ted, Andy Millman, or Tim Caterbury. However, he gets in some good lines himself and is much more proactive than some other 'everyman' central characters.

26.Brian- The second Spaced person in this list, Brian is brought to life by Mark Heap. Clips of Spaced on YouTube are thin on the ground so unless you're familiar with it you'll just have to trust me on this one.

27.Maggie Jacobs- The third and final Extras character in this list, Maggie is your classic sitcom idiot (in the same lineage as Phoebe, Joey, Dougall, Randy...). But there are a couple of reasons why I've included her, one being because I love Ashley Jensen in Ugly Betty too and another being that I like shows where they have a man and a woman who are friends and there's no romance involved (and neither of them is gay). The only other example of this I can think of is Daisy and Tim in spaced, and while perfectly good characters, neither of them really qualify as a comedy creation by themselves.

28.Karen Walker- It's years since I watched Will and Grace, but I remember Karen being one of the main reasons to watch with her funny high-pitched voice, treatment of her maid, and general weirdness.

29.MC Vagina- That's right, I included an internet character. While I enjoy 90% of the songs of Jon LaJoie, his creation of insanely over-the-top rapper "MC Vagina" is, of course, what makes it to the list. He started with "Show Me Your Genitals" which had a sequel, a threequel ("I Kill People") and "Very Super Famous" where he went down the Dame Edna route of claiming megastardom, as well as a brief cameo in WTF Collective 2. Jon, while playing Vagina, suffers from actually being a good rapper. He can't help but do good rhymes.

30. Maurice Moss- Marginally less nerdy than Sheldon, Moss is much more likeable and child-like than his American counterpart. Another example of a brilliant actor bringing a character to life.

31.Harry Monroe- No, that's not Moss again, or Sideshow Bob, it's another character with massive hair, and another character from My Name is Earl. Harry, AKA Darnell, AKA Crabman, is calm good natured, and for some reason chose to marry Joy. You get the impression there is more to him than meets the eye, and Mr Turtle is cool too.

31.Amanda Tanen-Summers- Ugly Betty, why did they have to cancel you? Not the funniest show ever, but the characters are all excellent and pretty-but-dim receptionist Amanda along with best friend Mark gets all the best lines, mostly about Betty's weight or Mexican heritage.

32.Magda- Magda is very much like Borat, except less of a cartoon and more grumpy.

33.Lily Savage- Paul O'Grady successfully brought what was effectively a traditional drag act from the gay scene to the mainstream by being very funny. Also, anyone else think Lily reminds them of Pete Burns?

34. Mr Bean- Bean falls into the same category as Frank Spencer for me. Although it's rare I watch either now, I'm fairly sure I wouldn't find either as funny as I did as a child. However, Rowan Atkinson riding on an armchair on a mini is timeless.

35.Jen Barber- I really like Jen. While she may not be an iconic character that will be remembered for centuries, she is much better than air-headed Penny in the Big Bang Theory. Ok, she doesn't know about computers but in other areas she is much more competent than Roy and Moss, and it's refreshing to have a young female character that's not afraid to look a bit silly or shout "Taxi!" every episode.

36.Patsy Stone- Ab Fab hasn't been on in ages, but I remember the incessant bickering of the fabulous Saunders/Lumley duo. Lumley is better know now for her efforts with the Gurkhas.

37.Barry Rumack- I wanted to include someone from Airplane, and who better than the late, great Leslie Nielsen?


39.Janice- None of the core cast of Friends, while likeable and entertaining, are really 'great' comedy characters. Janice, however, despite of her infrequent appearances, has established a cult following. Her appearance and catchphrase "Ohhh myyyyy Gawwwwwd" never fails to bring the house down, and that's just my house.

40.Donkey- One of the main reasons to watch Shrek. Eddie Murphy. It's certainly not Mike Myers' Scottish accent.

41.Babs- Another animated one. Chicken Run is great, and Babs is probably the funniest stand-alone chicken. "Are we going on holiday?"

42.Fletcher- Porridge.

43.Kermit- I love the muppets. Gonzo, Miss Piggy, Animal, Cookie Monster, Rizzo, Fozzy, Sam the Eagle, Bunsen Honeydew, Beaker. They are all great but unfortunately only chief mupper Kermie made the cut.

44.Brian Butterfield- The Peter Serafinowicz show was criminally cancelled. It was the best of the surge of sketch shows of the last ten years. Better than catchphrase-based Little Britain, even worse catchphrase-based Catherine Tate, "people saying things out of context"-based Armstrong and Millar, as well as the slightly better Harry and Paul and the hit-and-miss Kevin Bishop. Peter Serfinowicz was the most consistently funny of all these, and the best non-impression character (see Simon Cowell, Derek [Barry Scott] Bum, Darth  Vader) is Brian Butterfield. Here is the Butterfield Detective Agency. See also Butterfield Diet Plan and Butterfield Time Line.

45.Fry- I really wanted to include a Futurama character and I was torn between Fry, Leela and Benda. In the end I went with Fry because he takes idiocy to a new level "I never told anybody this, but a thousand years ago I used to look up at the moon and dream about being an astronaut. I just didn't have the grades. Or the physical endurance. Plus I threw up a lot, and nobody liked spending a week with me."

46.Miranda- Miranda is sort of a real person so I'm not sure if she counts. I was not initially enamoured with her sitcom "Miranda" but I've changed my mind. It falls solidly into the "so bad it's funny" category, and I mean SO bad. But the only reason anyone puts up with such an immature and silly sitcom is because Miranda is so likeable and seems so desperate.

47.Chef- Who doesn't love Chef? I wanted to use the prostitute song here but the quality was really bad on the video so I'm afraid it's audio only.

48.Geraldine- I'll admit I'm kinda scraping the barrel now. Thinking of 50 comedy characters is harder than it sounds so I've gone for Dawn French's character in the Vicar of Dibley because it's quite a good sitcom and I'm running out of ideas.

49.George Dawes- The Shooting Stars score keeper played by Matt Lucas. His weekly songs are what has earned him his place in this list.
50.Sarah Palin- John McCain's sense of humour should have won him the presidency. Creating a comdey character like Sarah Palin as his running mate is one of the greatest practical joke in human history. Since it was revealed 2 months ago that Palin is actually actress Heather Donahue the world has been in awe of how she maintained the wacky, happy-go-lucky newsroom psycho act so consistently for almost three years. Now the joke is out of the bag, it's fair to say she deserves a place in the list of greatest comedy characters.

Shit. I forgot Brüno. While his film wasn't great, he did a great job of lampooning the fashion world in the TV show. And I was going to include the dad from "Friday Night Dinner". Never mind.

Friday, 8 July 2011


Everyone should be allowed to name 5 jobs that they would rather live on benefits than do, and face no ethical or social repercussions. Working in a slaughterhouse and a call centre are on my list so far, but while job seeking yesterday found a new one. I say job seeking, actually I was shopping while keeping half an eye out for "staff vacancy" signs. Anyway, I found a new addition to my list.

The beauty industry is constantly looking for new and desperate ways to flog their useless therapies and treatments, whether it's shampoo with "pearl protein" or "coffee extract", or making up scientific words complete with CGI graphic explaining how "pentapeptides" (not recognised by Chrome spell check, I might add) fill in the vast gorges in your face like some kind of anti-ageing poly-filler. Anyway, the most recent phenomenon that represents both a desperate attempt to come up with something new by the beauty industry and a massive success for advertising as well as the gullibility of the British public, is having people PAY MONEY to have their feet eaten at by fish. I cannot imagine anything worse than putting my feet in a tank of water filled with animals and have them nibble away at my feet. If it was on I'm A Celebrity people would be cringing and gurning at the disgusting trial, yet the people who decide what's good for you have actually managed to make people pay for this. If anything they should pay you. You are, after all, feeding their fish. It's a bit like when you go to a petting zoo and they charge you for animal food to feed their animals with.

I'm also surprised this has succeeded on animal rights grounds. What kind of life is it for a fish living in a  boring plastic tank having the disgusting feet of shoppers? If that was on I'm A Celebrity...

And what's more weird is not that these places were conceived of, but that they've spread all over the country to ordinary people who shouldn't be pretentious enough to buy in to such rubbish. Now they're a common feature of every Mall. Primark. Starbucks. HMV. Hungry-fish-foot-eating place. Argos. Superdrug...

So working in one of those places goes on my list. I would rather stand in a dole queue than suffer the indignity of saying the words "this is where you put your feet so the fish can eat them" or "is this the first time you've had your feet nibbled at by fish?".

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Obama's congestion charge

I know this isn't the most exciting thing to write about, but everything else about Obama's visit has been analysed repeatedly. (Huw Edwards was so desperate to make it historic that he kept repeating "This is the first time a US President has addressed both houses of Westminster Hall", like the room it took place in makes any difference to its historic-ness. Next time he will probably be saying "This is the first time a US President has addressed both houses of Parliament in Westminster Hall...on a Thursday afternoon", but I digress)

Before he arrived Boris of London mentioned the US embassy's unpaid congestion charge. Now I'm all for the US paying the congestion charge like anyone else, but apparently they are exempt due to diplomats not paying foreign taxes. Boris argued that the congestion charge is not a tax. The reason the congestion charge is not a tax is because it is a "charge for services". Maybe he should look up what a tax is. All taxes are indirectly charges for services, and I'm pretty sure the money from the congestion charge doesn't go directly into road building.

The next point Mr Johnson made was slightly more absurd. The reason the Pope did not pay the charge but Obama was expected to was: "Unlike the Pope where we didn't charge the Popemobile because we closed the roads, when The Beast rolled through London that Beast paid a congestion charge." If anything is bad for congestion it's closing roads. What Boris essentially said is that had Obama insisted on private roads he would not have had to pay, despite the enormous extra expense of closing off roads, policing and the money lost to the local economy through people being stuck in traffic jams. The Pope should have had to pay an extra charge for closing the roads. And an extra charge for being a doofus.

Friday, 6 May 2011

May 5th

It's currently 4.22 in the morning after polling day. I am tired and supremely pissed off. The following blog will come under the following headings:
An account of my day
Do people get what they deserve?
AV fuck up, who is to blame?

An account of my day
Well, first of all I voted. I put a little mark on my ballot so I could spot it if I counted it later.
Then I was sent to a polling station by the organization formerly known as "Yes to Fairer Votes". I was there for three hours in the warm weather giving out leaflets to about 10 85 year olds who turned out to vote. However, I did have the pleasure of the company of the UKIP candidate for the area. He knew a lot of people in the area through his business and family. We talked about everything from the EU (obviously) to feminism, party funding, national debt and electoral reform. Personally I am instinctively pro-EU because of my lefty upbringing, but I don't have any strong arguments. I actually agree with a lot of what UKIP say on Europe. It is too undemocratic and we don't need the EU to tell us what kind of lightbulbs to use or apples to eat. However, my answer to this is to reform the EU, not to leave it altogether as I think the trade benefits, movement of labour and the need for a strong unified global voice are important. I also find it strange how UKIP argue for more trade agreements etc. with the commonwealth. I don't see why they prefer the commonwealth over the EU and can't help but think that there may be some underlying imperialism at work. I also put it to him, after he had commented on the beauty of free markets, why he opposed the free movement of labour. The markets, surely, are capable of ensuring a well-balanced population with people where they need to be. He replied that it actually doesn't benefit 3rd world countries to be allowed free movement as we end up stealing all their doctors and nurses. (Don't quote me on this, I'm paraphrasing a bit [or would be if I knew what paraphrasing was])
As for party funding, we both agreed that there was too much money in politics and favour a low cap on donations by individuals so parties would need many donations, rather than a few big ones. I've said this for a long time, but I was surprised that a UKIP candidate agreed with me. I get the impression that UKIP, even more so than the tories, rely on wealthy backers. I have done my fair share of political campaigning but have never seen a UKIP volunteer delivering leaflets or canvassing. However, they do have big billboards and signs on the back of trucks. Also, the UKIP £ logo is probably meant to be a symbol of Britishness, but one can't help but speculate that it may be an in-joke by the party's wealthy leadership.
So after three hours and having persuaded literally no-one I headed back to uni to shout at people on the concourse for a bit.

In the evening I was counting votes for the local elections. On the one hand this is an exciting experience as there is the feeling of being at the heart of the election, but it is also quite tedious, particularly by 3 in the morning, and there is a lot of waiting around. It's also ironic that by being at the count you get less of an idea what's going on than if you were at home watching events on telly.
What I like about events like that is seeing all the people in different coloured rosettes chatting politely to each other. That is, apart from the single BNP candidate, who was circulating the room trying to taunt Labour and Lib Dem candidates and make a scene. He opted for calling the elderly Labour volunteers at my table peadophiles. What a lovely man.
Party-political slave that I am, it was quite distracting to hear the feral hoots of Labour members as their councillors won ward after ward while I was trying to count, but what was more uplifting was how close a lot of the results were and as a counter seeing the sheer number of Lib Dem votes. You get the impression in the media that there are no Lib Dems left, but this simply isn't true.
The massive Lib Dem defeat was not exactly fun to watch but it's not like it was unexpected. It's like when your 110 year old great grandmother pops her clogs. You knew it was coming but it's still hard to come to terms with when it happens.
The next day I was counting for AV. This took less time but was oh so much more depressing. I knew already from opinion polls and seeing referendum ballots the day before that it was lost and counting all the no votes on only a few hours sleep was not a bundle of laughs.
I pity the Lib Dems and Yes people at both counts. It was depressing for me but at least I was getting paid good money to be there.

Do people get what they deserve?
I watched a documentary once on call centres featuring depressed call centre workers and angry call centre customers. At the end, one of the customers summed the situation up well. He said that the cheap, impersonal, battery farming approach to customer service was the fault of the big companies for trying to increase their profit margins, and the fault of consumers for always demanding lower prices and not being prepared to pay for the extra bit of service. I think the same can be said of British politics.
People complain that they're all the same. Cameron, Clegg, Milliband. Which fresh-faced, political cliché do you prefer? You may as well flip a coin. People complain they try and appeal to the lowest-common-denominator, having broad, meaningless policies like the 'big society' summed up in vacuous soundbites that fit comfortably into headlines or YouTube clips. This is true. But we deserve it.
The very same people who complain about style over substance consistently vote for just that. Personally I don't dislike Ed Milliband as a Labour leader. He's not as self-servingly tribal as many and seems to be moving the party in a better direction. But all that is meaningless. He will never be Prime Minister, least not if he keeps along his current trajectory. If he ever wants a chance of election he needs to change his voice, style and learn to make a witty speech.
It's the classic market dilemma. The consumers blame the producers and the producers blame the consumers. What we all need to do is grow up.
You can't force people to take an interest but there must be a solution. 60% of people not voting in the second national referendum in our history is shocking, and by rejecting AV the British electorate have shot themselves in the foot again. Next time people are complaining about all politicians being the same they can just fuck off as far as I'm concerned.

AV fuckup: who to blame? 
This AV referendum was a fuck up, and don't let anyone tell you otherwise. But who, or what, is to blame?

  • The No campaign
The Yes campaign is angry, and rightly so, at the no campaign. The sheer level they stooped to with the £250m (that Blunkett admitted was made up on polling day) and their various other lies such as the BNP getting multiple votes, the end of one person one vote and people who come last actually coming first. However, it's likely that even if we had an honest debate (the Yes campaign wasn't perfect either) No would have won. What I want to know is why they chose this tactic instead of legitimate argument. There are some reasonable arguments against AV. For example, they could have pointed out that Ed Milliband was behind his brother in every round of voting and only one because of the in-some-cases next-to-last preferences of voters for other candidates. This is quite convincing. They could have also pointed out that it wouldn't have actually made a difference in a large number of seats, or that it can sometimes be even less proportional. If they had gone for this approach instead the Yes campaign would not be left with this niggling feeling of having been cheated. Anyone who thinks the public were given fair information and a clear choice must have been out of the country for the last few months.

  • Circumstances
In many ways this referendum could not have come at a worse time, both in a large sense, at a time of big government cutbacks and when the strongest advocates of electoral reform are disliked across the political spectrum, and in a more random sense that the royal wedding was last week and Osama bin Laden was captured three days before the referendum, stifling whatever limited debate we might have hoped for. Without information, voters are likely to go to a polling station, see something they know nothing about and vote against it. Also, with the lack of proper broadcasting on the subject, voters had to rely on what they were told by the yes and no campaigns, which can't be a good thing.

  • The Yes campaign
As I said before, the Yes campaign hasn't been perfect. However, I don't think it is 'to blame'. It did not have the resources of No to AV, or the newspapers on-side, or the majority of politicians. I read a comment, I think it was in the Guardian, criticizing the Yes campaign for having to enthusiasm for AV. I think this is unfair. Certainly in my experience there was loads of people prepared to pour time, energy, money and dignity into the Yes campaign. Some of us wanted PR, some were happy with AV, but we all knew that this was a better system than FPTP, and if we failed electoral reform in the UK would die for the foreseeable future. I don't think you can fault thousands of volunteers trying to improve the country for the better in the face of the fear and lies of the establishment.

  • Nick Clegg
People have blamed Nick Clegg for a lot of things, should AV be one of them?
There is quite a convincing case that Nick Clegg should not have agreed to an AV referendum. Whether that meant saying "PR or nothing" or having no referendum and looking for more concessions in other areas. This was likely to be the only referendum on the voting system in our lifetimes whether won or lost; should it really be wasted on AV? Also, there is a stronger case for PR and it may have rallied more people to the campaign. However, having said that, if there had been a referendum on PR which was lost, people would have said "maybe we should have made a smaller change to begin with". There are also stronger arguments against PR, such as constituency links and hung parliaments. 
The personal unpopularity of Clegg may have damaged the campaign. Unfortunately some people are tribal or ignorant enough to vote against a positive change because someone they don't like supports it.

  • The electorate
There is a major problem of people simply not caring about voting systems. In fact, I wonder why they always pick the worst issues to have referenda on. Who would have actually read the Lisbon treaty before voting on it? But even so, 40% turnout is bad. I know that I've already criticized the media for providing the necessary information, but people's reliance on the media is also a problem. They should be able to take the responsibility of finding out the facts for themselves and making up their own mind. And, again, we're back to supply and demand. The media doesn't talk about electoral reform because it doesn't sell papers. It's a vicious cycle.

It has been a more historic than usual set of local elections this year, aside from the predictable drubbing of the Lib Dems, we have been left with the very real possibility of Scottish independence as a result of the unthinkable happening: an overall majority in a proportional assembly. This would have a seismic impact on British politics. Any hope of a Labour shift to the left would be thwarted as they would need to appeal to the more conservative English electorate in the absence of their Scottish stronghold, and even without independence Scotland has been proven to no longer be as reliable to the Labour party as it has been. Whatever happens they will now need to look further afield for support. Those people who declare a permanent Tory majority in a Scotlandless UK I feel are mistaken, however, as sooner or later the English will want a change of government whoever is in power. This may also provide a niche for the Lib Dems who could exploit their perceived shift to the right in an independent England to become the second party and main opposition to the Tories, although this is wild speculation.
More important, however, is the future of electoral reform or lack thereof. There won't be another referendum on electoral reform in this parliament, and even if there's another hung parliament at the next election, would either Labour or Tories offer a referendum, and will the Lib Dems even bother to seek one after they have been defeated so comprehensively? It seems futile even to keep it in the Lib Dem's manifesto, as reform seems to have been rejected so wholeheartedly.
My view is that the British electorate are probably not as opposed to reform as it may appear and the proPR anti AV impact may have made FPTP look stronger than it is, but all that is irrelevant now. RIP electoral reform and any chance of Britain ever becoming a democracy. *transferring all eggs to basket of Lords reform*

If you know who is to blame for AV, please post below. And tell me their postcode and any achilles heels they may have.

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Giving a platform to a bigot

It's a while since I've complained to the BBC, but the Pope's Easter message being broadcast was enough to get me riled. "Giving a platform to a bigot" is how I summarized it in under 20 words. This is the extended special edition:

The views of the Pope are homophobic, sexist, possibly anti-semitic and extremely dangerous when it comes to the spreading of HIV. Why is someone who would be marginalized if he was a political leader, or condemned if he was a Muslim cleric, given 34 minutes to air his views at the expense of the license payer, with no-one given a right to reply? You decided to let Nick Griffin on Question Time as an elected MEP, but the Pope has no right to a platform on similar grounds so how can this be justified?

I got a reply from the BBC. This is their justification:
Dear Mr Chafey

Reference **************

Thank you for your correspondence regarding the BBC One programme ‘Urbi et Orbi’.

I understand you’re unhappy because you believe the Pope’s views are homophobic and that the BBC shouldn’t broadcast him on its network.

Given that the occasion was Easter, this was a live broadcast from St Peter's Square in Rome, Pope Benedict XVI gives his Easter message and blessing "to the city and to the world".

We would also check our broadcasts, in that they don’t breach editorial our guidelines, however it would be more difficult in a live rolling environment. Yet the Pope represents hundreds of millions of Catholics across the planet and as Catholics make up a big percentage of the UK population, we need to reflect the interests of our audience while also trying to offer various other interests across our network, for viewers who may not prefer to watch the programme.

I appreciate that you may continue to hold a different view and I'd like to assure you that I've registered your complaint on our Audience Log. This is a daily report of audience feedback that’s made available to all BBC staff, including members of the BBC Executive board, channel controllers and other senior managers.

The Audience Logs are seen as important documents that can help shape decisions on future BBC programmes and content.

Once again, thank you for contacting us.

Kind Regards

BBC Complaints

Is this adequate justification? Your views please...

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Terry Jones and "Rowan Williams v the WBC"

I was never quite sure why this man made it on the news. I can only assume that he was mistaken for his Monty Python namesake.

I had assumed before he first gained notoriety last year that Koran burning was a not-unheard-of activity amongst fundamentalists in the USA. I should say that I disagree with Koran burning. Not for any religious reason: if people get offended by a particular book being burned frankly they should stop being so silly. I only disagree with in on the basis that it is fairly pointless, not a good use of paper and emits carbon into the atmosphere.

Don't get me wrong, Terry Jones is a tit. A big tit. He's almost a pair of tits he's that much of a tit. But he has the right to burn a book if he wants.

"People will die because of this". True, the burning of a Koran may lead to deaths, but the moral responsibility for those deaths lies squarely on the vile human beings who kill someone (not even involved) for something as trivial as a book being burned. These people must not think their faith to be very strong if it can be threatened by a mere book burning by some fool on the other side of the world, and we can't allow ourselves to be held to ransom by them.

My attention was drawn to this article, by a member of the Westboro Baptist Church themselves'. To have been referred to a Guardian article by a Phelps (Jonathan to be precise) was not something I ever thought would happen. But the article itself makes rather a strange point. It acts like Rowan Williams is a staunch and vocal defender of moderate Christianity wielding Biblical quotes against his foes and silencing fundamentalists. Williams is none of these things. Williams is a man who is almost too scared to admit to having any faith at all. He fits in to the category of Christianity mostly found in the UK that has watered-down their beliefs to such an extent as to be impossible to argue against. Rowan Williams is so ludicrously moderate that he advocated using some aspects of Sharia law in the UK. So ecumenical is he desperate to appear that he actively endorses other faiths, despite the fact that the scripture of his own clearly says that everyone else is sinning.

Rowan Williams going to Westboro to interview the Phelps family would be his saying how much he respected their beliefs and concluding that as long as they sort-of believe in Jesus, or even if they don't, God will love them and everyone will be happy. Williams would say that he does not have any specific belief on homosexuality, and he agrees with both sides of the argument. They might even get him to hold a sign.

Why would Stephen Bates want to send Rowan Williams? I would much rather see Christopher Hitchens or Richard Dawkins go and talk some sense into them.

Monday, 4 April 2011

Westboro Banter


@ You God Haters @ SS had/have platform 2 tell kids Not OK 2 b gay. You promote filthy fags/whores above God's word. 

 Axel Yachef 

@ SS probably wouldn't teach many kids to read/count if they started ranting about homosexuality. Cut them some slack.


@ NAMBLA say 8 is too late. WBC say as soon as babies born in pew & raised in nuture/admonition of Lord.

 Axel Yachef 

@ Wouldn't there be a problem if no kids could read cos all they were told was WBC doctrine? Noone could read Bible/your signs