Wednesday, 28 March 2012

O is for

...orangutan.

Orangutan

If you'd like to make this fellow orange, you can download an A4-sized version HERE.

Monday, 26 March 2012

Ennisfor

Today we look under the sea to discover that N is for Narwhal. Here's one now:

Narwhal

If you'd like an A4-size version to print out and colour in, or even just for evidence, there's one HERE.

Friday, 23 March 2012

M4

Today I am going to Cardiff, so as I head down the M4 you can all find out what M is for.

It is for moose.

Moose

For an A4-sized printable version, you can moosing well click here: MOOSE.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

L is for lions

Today's animal alphabet animal is the lion, which as we all know is the most sexist animal of all.

Lion

If you'd like to download an A4-sized printable version of this to wipe your arse on, you can do so HERE.

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Walking In Memphis is shite

There are no words quite adequate to express my loathing of the piece of shit song Walking In Memphis, which is 21 years old this summer and therefore old enough to buy alcohol in any number of particularly backward US States. In fact, it is so self-evidently malignant, such a cancerous growth on the very body of human society, I don't even really want to get too hung up on trying to explain why I hate it. I would ask instead why or how there could be people who didn't share my view. It is a disease, but unfortunately this is not the cure. Only the sweet, sweet, embrace of death is the cure for Walking In Memphis. And only then if you don't go to hell, where it is the elevator music.

Marc Cohn: enemy of the people

I first heard Walking In Memphis on Radio 1 in Summer 1991. We would have been on holiday at the time. I think we were probably in Somerset. Wherever we went, being a cool and hip 11-year old boy I would always petition my dad to let us listen to Radio 1 in the car instead of his usual station, Southern Sound, the local classic hits station based in Portslade near Brighton. Classic hits were just so square, man. Of course, my dad was completely right and the majority of the Southern Sound playlist from that era now live in the retirement home for popular music that is my iPod.

But back then, I was aware of the fact that I would like my finger to be on the pulse, and so would listen to Radio 1. The irony, of course, is that Radio 1 wasn't half as cool back then as it thought it was. Let's analyse the daytime schedule, which I'm appalled to say that I still remember: Simon Bates, then Gary Davies at lunchtime and Steve Wright In The Afternoon. OK, 21 years have passed but lest we forget that Simon Bates was already about 75 years old and if Gary Davies is the flag bearer for your "hip" credentials, you've got problems.

Steve Wright doesn't get spared. Oh no. Him and his ha-ha-ha-hilarious "Posse" are, in fact, the villains of the piece. It was on his show that I first heard Walking In Memphis. Quite taken with it, he was. He probably still plays it now on Radio 2. It's probably his ringtone. Frankly I sometimes wonder if we arrested the correct Steve Wright.

And herein lies the basis of my explosive hatred. Walking In Memphis is ADULT. It's GROWN-UP. It's SOPHISTICATED. A tale of spiritual discovery and redemption. This isn't a song to take lightly. This isn't throwaway bubblegum pop. This is something to listen to thoughtfully in your high-backed armchair with your fingers steepled. Perhaps take it a verse at a time as not to overwhelm your senses. Then maybe discuss it in a series of seminars at a new town university.

This was the summer of Right Said Fred's I'm Too Sexy and Salt & Pepa's Let's Talk About Sex. But these were merely ephemera. No, true music fans would turn up the bottom of their cords and enjoy Walking In Memphis, clicking their fingers with a single solitary tear rolling down from soulfully closed eyes.

So Steve Wright and his Posse would take some respite from the cavalcade of whimsy and comedy characters (Mr. Angry, he was one. He was angry), take a moment to settle down and then introduce this new life-changing record. Warning his drivetime listeners to park up their cars in case they had a Damascene moment in a built-up area, we then had to sit through 4 minutes and 20 seconds of what can only be described as soul death. Marc Cohn, you are my nemesis.

Cher: "I am still going to rock you, soulfully"

But there is an old saying in the music world: never say anything is the worst it can be until you've heard Cher do it. And this old truism maintains here. In 1995, Cher put on her most serious face and laid down the worst cover version of anything since World War II. Listening to that glassy-eyed bint warble out the now-familiar completely meaningless and empty "soulful" sentiments honestly made me want to smoke crack. And just look at the cover for the single. Just look at it. It's Cher saying "hey look, it's me, glamorous pop star Cher. But wait, put your lustful feelings towards me to one side. I'm going to be serious here. I've got things to say. But I'm still going to rock you. Soulfully." It's a face that I could punch and punch all day every day and never tire, but for my overwhelming concern about what its nose is made of.

I hate Walking In Memphis. I hate the original. I hate all subsequent covers of it. I hate anyone who bought it or owns it in any form. I hate anyone who has ever listened to it without weeping tears of pure bile and blood. I want to go back in time and prevent the birth of Marc Cohn's mother.

It is the worst thing that has ever happened. The end.

Monday, 19 March 2012

K is for koala

It's not a bear.

Koala

If you'd like to download an A4-sized version to print out and colour in or wrap round a brick, you can do so HERE.

Friday, 16 March 2012

J is for the rinky dink leopard

OK, so let's clear this up. A jaguar (Panthera onca) is one of those spotty jobs who live in trees and eat children and deer but live in South and Central America. A leopard (Panthera pardus) is smaller than a jaguar but still eats deer and children and live up trees. However, leopards live in Africa and Asia. A panther, meanwhile, can be either of them. Or indeed any other big cat, such as a tiger (Panthera tigris), with the recessive gene which causes melanism, i.e. black colouration.

So, J is for that.

Jaguar

If you would like to download an A4-sized version of this to print out and learn about the genus Panthera, you can do so here: CLICKUS DICKUS.

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Let's laugh at other people

First they came for the Gypsy weddings, but I did nothing for I am not a Gypsy who is getting married...

Actually, no, that's not true. But I was able to do what any reasonable person would do when faced with a great theatre of finger-pointing, snuckering, prejudicial, sub-school playground bollocks on television and paid it no mind, least alone actually watch it. Perhaps it was just an aberration? Perhaps some prankster slipped PCP into the complimentary muffin basket before the schedulers' meeting?

But no. Because next they came for the Jewish mothers. This time, I am doing something, even though I am neither Jewish nor a mother. So, this is going to be an ongoing series of programmes based on crass, lazy, racist stereotypes, is it? On British national television. In 2012. On Channel 4.

Channel 4, I expected better of you. I don't know why, after you brought us My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding but I don't know, perhaps I had some residual good feeling towards you? And perhaps I will retain a little residue of that residue after My Really Really Jewish Jewish Mother, right in time for Britain's Most Curry-Smelling Pakistani Household or whatever masterstroke you come up with to follow this? Although this time, I suspect not. Once was very, very definitely enough.

I am trying to imagine the full horror of this programme. The makers say they're after the "ultimate Jewish mother". I see absolutely no way around that not being a completely overt admission of racist intent. For me, a human being, I would imagine the thing which really makes anyone stand out as a Jewish mother would be: one, Judaism; two, being a woman and three, having a child. Anything beyond that is just going to be straight out of the sketchbook of Josef Goebbels. Perhaps the winner will have a big nose and circumcise their children with their gold teeth, whilst making matzah balls? Who knows? It's bound to be compelling television.

My friend Lolly, who you probably remember from these pages, comes from a Jewish family - a fact that I am sure a number of elements behind the scenes at Channel 4 may find completely unbelievable to note that I don't hold against her - and was saying on Twitter this morning that she was trying to express exactly what it was about this programme she found so loathsome but couldn't find the right words. I suggested that "lazy, stereotypical, exploitative racist garbage" might be a good starting point. "BUT you see," she replied, "there will be a MASSIVE proportion of the community who will relish it and love it."

This is the sad truth. The majority of people in this country are bloody idiots, I'm afraid, and will lap this up. To be fair to most of them, I reckon at least 90% are too stupid to even realise that there is a whole questionable element of racial sensitivity and would be terribly upset if anyone considered them to be racists, because they are not. But all you need are 10% of people to be truly malign, eh? It is the result, as Lolly pointed out, of fishing in a very small gene pool - which with the ultimate irony is precisely what the rogue 10% accuse the Jewish, or Asian, or whoever else, community of Great Britain of engaging in. Indeed, it is a way of thinking that is the motivating factor behind this whole initiative, whether people like to admit it or not.

I personally would rather have a gene pool limited by race; containing dimwits and geniuses, binmen, park keepers, scientists, newsagents, chefs, musicians, businessmen, politicians... than a gene pool where the sole characteristic required for inclusion is nothing but blinkered stupidity, fear and hate. But perhaps that's just me, who knows?

I think everyone should be ashamed and angry that this programme could even be mooted, in our time and in our society, let alone made. I know I am.

I is for ibex

Today's animal is the ninth in the animal alphabet and as such begins with I. Also, it's got the horn.

Ibex

If you would like to download an A4-sized version for printing out, colouring in or darts practice, it may be found HERE.

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Brought to you today by the letter H

My print-it-out-and-colour-it-in-if-you-wanna animal alphabet continues today with the letter H, which is for hippopotamus. Hippopotamii are very fat and should lose weight or else they risk heart disease and type-2 Diabetes, putting an unnecessary strain on the health service.

Hippopotamus

If you would like to download and print out an A4-sized version of this fatso, you may do so HERE.

Monday, 12 March 2012

Won't somebody think of the glory hunting children?

The business end of the football season is upon us, and that is the time when big fat bouncers and people who list "armed robber" as their occupation on tax returns don't mind crying in public. People get so invested in their football squadrons, I find. I think the fact that I don't - that I don't feel that relegation from one league into another is particularly likely to be the cause of the earth ceasing to go round the sun (or vice versa, if you are a Catholic) or suchlike - is probably one key reason that helped me come to the realisation that my interest of football is a fleeting affair at best.

However, I reckon these big fat maniacs can pretty much take care of themselves. They own firearms, for one thing, but also they are adults - they know the way of the world and the way that, essentially, we're all ultimately fucked.

Little children, on the other hand, I do feel sorry for. On the train home the other day, surrounded by Portsmouth fans (some disguised as human beings) on their way home from watching their team get their arse handed to them on a plate by Brighton and Hove Albion, I saw a boy. He was probably 7 or 8 years old. He was intently reading the official Chelsea FC magazine.

I know enough about football to know that Chelsea are currently the laughing stock of British football. A man who looks like a Muppet bought them 10 years ago and started a craze for unimaginably wealthy people from foreign lands who don't give a shit about football buying English football teams to play with. Unfortunately for Chelsea, as they were the first, others have now superseded them and Chelsea look a bit tatty round the edges, a team full of no-hopers, people who look like the Predator, people who have to go to court on suspicion of saying racist things at the point of orgasm with someone else's wife, the elderly, the useless and a brilliant Dada performance artist called Fernando Torres.

It is the nature of people that they will always want to follow things which are going to be successful. It's why the Labour party need to get rid of Ed Miliband as leader if they want to win the next General Election. However, it is also the nature of people that once they have made the decision, a modicum of loyalty is expected of them. Floating voters in football may be a lucrative market (urgh) but they are not people who gain an awful lot of respect from their peers.

Which brings me back to the little glory hunting kiddie. Maybe I have done him wrong. Maybe he was born in Kensington or Knightsbridge. But if he was, what was he doing on a train to Littlehampton (replacement bus services to Portsmouth) past his bedtime on a Saturday night? With him was his hatchet-faced ma, carrying a Chelsea bag. Maybe they'd been up to the Bridge that day. People from Sussex supporting teams in London is fairly common, after all. Chelsea and Arsenal tend to be the favourites, something of an overhang from the days fifteen years ago where Brighton were rubbish, homeless and teetering on the brink of non-league status and oblivion. However, now they are not (observe):

The Albion, lustily chasing Premier League football because we like humiliation on a massive scale

but LOYALTY (and the chance of actually winning things, admit it you filthy glory hunting bastards) by then has kicked in. Fair enough. If you've been watching Chelsea since 1998, as well as being poor, you will have been there through varying fortunes (well, relatively speaking).

But the little kid! The little kid! He's only known Chelsea the soulless husk who buy their way out of trouble (yeah, right) going for the league and the cups and the European Cup (yeah, right). Eventually the realisation is going to hit him that his beloved Chelsea are, in fact, shit. He's too young to understand football economics, or even the fact that to be discussing business and economics in the context of football is obscene. All he'll know is that his Manchester City and Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur (yeah, right) supporting friends in the playground are now laughing at him, for however long that lasts. And then he will cry.

So, my message to the new breed of owners of English football clubs is, you are making little kids cry. Maybe not now. Maybe not for five years after you invested £286 million to win the League Cup. But it will happen. And you know it, don't you? Maybe you like that. Maybe it gives you an erection. Shame on you.

Thursday, 8 March 2012

The Digital Switchover Blues (or: Sally Taylor, A Lament)

Yesterday was phase one of the Digital Switchover here in Sussex, or at least the bit of Sussex in which I live. All TV signals in the United Kingdom will soon be digital only because we live in the future and are cutting edge and think nothing of bewildered old dears wondering where Coronation Street has gone. This whole thing has sort of passed me by to be honest. I've had digital television for years so I've largely put it to the back of my mind as an irrelevance.

Oh what a fool I was. Come the time I did what every obedient digital television consumer had to do and re-scan their box or television, the horrific reality of the matter was revealed. People served by the Whitehawk Hill transmitter are now considered to be in the BBC South East region rather than in BBC South. Woe is me.

I used to complain bitterly about BBC South. I felt that, due to the unique way the BBC is funded, every time they ran out of money because Jonathan Ross said something to an elderly man or suchlike, BBC South bore the brunt. BBC South sprawled out to eventually encompass places as demonstrably not south as Oxford and Swindon. It was exquisite madness. But it was OUR exquisite madness, you know?

BBC South East smells. It covers East Sussex, a little bit of West Sussex, Kent, Surrey and Essex. To be honest, I live much closer to Surrey and Kent and Essex than I do to Oxford or Rhyl or Dublin. BBC South East will probably prove to be more relevant local news to me, if I'm completely honest. But I don't like it. BBC South Today used to provide you with a delightful numbing cushion of distance. "A MURDERER HAS ESCAPED," the bulletin would roar. "HE IS ANGRY AND FRANKLY WANTS TO KILL YOU warn Oxfordshire police". Phew! Oxfordshire!

It just doesn't feel right. I was used to the local news that was happening miles away which I didn't care about being in Winchester or Banbury. Now I have to adapt to it being in Rochester or Canvey Island. To give BBC South East their due, yesterday's brave new world bulletin did throw Brighton a bone by featuring them as their second story. But it was about how far above the national average we are for teenage pregnancy rates. Tomorrow: do men in Uckfield have smellier balls than chimps? It was a bone, but it was a pretty manky bone with a maggot on it. And a pube.

But as well has having to recalibrate my moping rants about "local" news covering things which are actually halfway to Saturn in a south-easterly direction (I'm sure I'll cope), there is the more troubling issue. No more Sally Taylor.

One day this woman will be on the stamps
Sally Taylor is local news royalty to people from the south coast of England. She is the reassuring presence who has been with me pretty much my whole life, telling me about a beer festival on the Isle of Wight or a particularly rude-looking tree in Bournemouth. Sally Taylor has been reading the local news for the south for so long that she actually appears in the Bayeux Tapestry, reporting on William of Normandy's landing at Pevensey.

Brighton has expanded in recent years. All sorts of new people have arrived, attracted by its proximity to London, it's trendy image and the fact that it is the best place on earth. Moreso even than accents or "I *heart* Cambridge" sweatshirts, asking people their opinion of Sally Taylor was the most surefire way of gauging where in Britain people have come from and when. If they said anything critical in the slightest - "I don't like her shirt", or something - we would know that they were a newcomer. Proper southern people hold Sally Taylor in the highest regard. For Brighton folk, she would be one chair at our dream dinner party.

At mine she's sat next to Hitler.

But alas. My bitter rivals in Portsmouth will still get their daily local news from Sally Taylor on South Today, the programme she first presented when the dinosaurs ruled the earth. People in and around Brighton will have to make do with Hugh Opinions or Muriel Spank or whoever the hell it is. I feel deeply disenfranchised.

It's almost enough to make me want to move to Southbourne (as close to Hampshire as I am willing to get) just so I can get back to shouting at Sally about how Abingdon isn't in the bloody south. Oh Sally.

It's been real.

Monday, 5 March 2012

These are the good times

Friday 2nd March 2012, a date which will live in infamy. It was a day that nothing changed but everything did. The weekend which followed saw me as low as I have ever been in my life. Today sees my efforts to try and restart myself in the face of the new because I have to.

My mum got ill at the end of 2009. Having never had any breathing difficulties before, suddenly she found herself out of breath at the merest physical exertion. A trip to the doctor and a chest x-ray later discovered that she had fluid on the lung. This is really never a good sign.

On Christmas Eve 2009 she had over a litre of fluid drained from her chest. Although she was back home for Christmas, by New Year she was back in hospital for a similar procedure. By this stage it was pretty clear that all was very much not well. At the beginning of January 2010, it was confirmed that she had cancer. A particularly elusive cancer, mind you: it wasn't actually discovered until the middle of April after a chest operation at the Royal Brompton Hospital in London. The diagnosis was not good, the prognosis likewise. Mesothelioma, an incurable but "treatable" condition.

Good times 
These are the good times
Leave your cares behind 
These are the good times

Almost two years have passed since then. That in itself is pretty good going. The fact that my mum has actually been, if not bouncing around with health, then pretty much entirely able to function normally even more so. But last Friday was the day that we all knew was coming, the day that the doctors at the Royal Marsden said that there was nothing more they could do, treatment wise.

Good times 
These are the good times
Our new state of mind 
These are the good times 

Given that I knew that this day had to come eventually, I am pretty stunned as to how badly it has affected me. Stunned, too, as to the sort of livable paradigm that I had gladly entered into whereby a nameless, faceless doctor would fill my mother up with snake oil, moonbeams and rat poison every week. As if that was just the new way of things, when the real new way of things has been with us since the start of 2010.

But a lot of the flamboyant black cloud of gloom is due mainly to the fact I know I have to snap out of it, for everyone's sake. So far, life is not all that different. The sun comes up and my mum wakes up and everyone does their best to make it in one piece to the end of another day. That is what we all do, ultimately, whether or not we are aware of what is killing us. No good - for anyone - can possibly come of me suddenly starting to act differently, or worse, rolling myself up tightly into a hedgehog ball and withdrawing from all family or social life, a self-defence mechanism whereby I figured if I don't speak to or see or spend any time with my mum then it will hurt me less. Which is, truthfully and completely shamefully, what I was doing yesterday.

A rumour has it that 
It's getting late
Time marches on 
Just can't wait

None of us know how much longer my mum has to live. She has very wisely steered well clear of the old TV show cliché of wanting to know how many weeks or months or years or days or hours she has to go. No good can come from getting into that mindset. No-one knows how much longer they have left. I could die today. So could you. Or we could both laugh about how I suggested we might both die today in a blog post I wrote 75 years ago one day in a pissy rest home. The important thing is just to make the best of everything. That is all anyone can do.

The worst part of this is actually knowing that I am right. Right, right here. That my deeds now need to match my sage words and thoughts. That is the hardest part. Harder than knowing that my mum probably won't be around for much longer. Because I know that I will be alright. That is credit to her. I now need to be a credit to her for however long it is she has left.

The clock keeps turning 
Why hesitate
You silly fool 
You can't change your fate

And frankly I am terrified. I've not cried yet. I've not really felt anything yet. I don't know if I've got anything left to give. I hope that I will come out of this pleasantly surprised in myself and proud. In fact, I know I will. But I'm not looking forward to it, because it is going to hurt.

Good times 
These are the good times.

Sunday, 4 March 2012

The America Project - Montana

Montana (MT) size 147,165 sq.m population 1 million


Bordering states Idaho, Wyoming, South Dakota, North Dakota (4)
State capital Helena
Most populous city Billings
Other notable places Bozeman, Butte, Great Falls, Missoula, Kalispell
Notable landmarks and natural features Glacier National Park, Little Bighorn Battlefield Monument, Yellowstone National Park, Beartooth Mountains; Bighorn River
Statehood 8th November 1889 (41st)

Eight famous Montanans
Jeff Ament (musician; born Havre, 1963 -)
Judy Blunt (author and academic; born Malta, 1954 -)
Gary Cooper (actor; born Helena, 1901-1961)
Barbara Ehrenreich (writer; born Butte, 1941 -)
Chet Huntley (journalist and newscaster; born Cardwell, 1911-1974)
David Lynch (writer and director; born Missoula, 1946 -)
Peter Voulkos (artist and ceramicist; born Bozeman 1924-2002)
Lones Wigger (Olympic champion rifle shooter; born Great Falls, 1937-)

Two important events

1. Custer's Last Stand (June 25th 1876)
The most famous of a series of battles which made up the Great Sioux War of 1876 was the battle of the Little Bighorn, which gave everyone a Big Horn and was a particularly chastening blow for one of America's greatest military Generals, George Armstrong Custer. Attacking a huge combined force of Native Americans, the 257-man US 7th Cavalry division was routed within 3 hours, outnumbered for much of the battle by three men to one. General Custer controlled one of three companies charged with attacking the Native Americans at the Bighorn River. His fate has gone down in history and legend because of the completeness of his defeat: every man under his charge that day was killed, leaving no definitive witnesses to his actions or his death. A number of Native fighters laid claim to have fired the fatal shot to Custer's chest. After his death, Custer became a controversial and divisive national hero: to some he was a martyr to the American way of life, to others a reckless leader who sacrificed his troops to a questionable cause.

2. Standing Rock (December 15th 1890)
Chief Sitting Bull was a great holy man of the Ghost Dance movement and leader to the Hunkpapa Lakota Sioux Indians and a leading figure in the Sioux War of 1876. After that conflict, the majority of Montana's Native Americans were rounded up into controlled reservations. Sitting Bull's continued influence over his tribes was a continual concern for the government forces, so when it was suspected he was about to lead a mass escape in December 1890, a warrant was issued for his arrest. At 5.30 a.m. on December 15th, police officers came to collect him, but a skurmish broke out, during which a police officer, Lt. Bullhead was shot by a Sioux. In reply, Bullhead shot Sitting Bull in the chest and another police officer called Red Tomahawk shot Sitting Bull in the head. In the ensuing fight, 6 police officers and 7 Sioux Indians were killed.

Thursday, 1 March 2012

What is G for?

G is, of course, for giraffe.

Giraffe

If you want to download a copy to colour in or just wallpaper your house with it, you can get an A4-sized version of it here: CLICK

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