Fashion: Style of The Day

What does Fashion have in common with Scottish weather? The answer of course being that if you find yourself wearing the wrong clothes, just wait five minutes.

Fashion, eh? What possible use is it? The only thing that springs to mind is that it makes us look stylish while we’re being dragged into the lathe by our couture. But that doesn’t happen, because, like concept cars, catwalk fashion never makes it to the street. We never see women in see-thru tops in the street. But, unlike sleek motorshow mockups, it is probably just as well see-thru tops aren’t more common, as the promise of a wonderbra-enhanced cleavage is usually a far cry from the pancaky or pendulous reality of the average unfettered bosom.

If one was of a mind, one could report catwalk fashion to OFCOM for unrepresentative advertising under “The Control of Misleading Advertisements Regulations 1988 (2000)”.
The impression is that one can walk down the street on stupid shoes beneath a stupid hat wearing a see-thru plastic onesy and no knickers and the only impact would be appreciative mumurs from discerning shoppers. When in reality, one would be plagued by laughing kids, drooling teens, coarse workmen and tutting grannies, and would leave a trail of men nursing slapped faces and thunderous girlfriends while you were bundled into the police van, wearing fetching policemen’s helmet accoutrement, for Public Indecency.

It appears that most quotes about fashion are derisory. Fashion, it seems, is merely this weeks interpretation of style. Style is eternal; fashion is transient, ugly and vulgar. So Fashion, then, is like taking up smoking aged twelve, or getting your ear pierced, or dying your hair black. They’re fashionable at the time, but as you move on, these traits are abandoned in favour of fresher lunacy in the endless pursuit of style; your own interpretation of “cool”.

Having watched Sacha Baron Cohen‘s fictional fashion reporter Bruno interviewing fashion types, my opinion of Fashion as a home for those arty types who didn’t make it in the cut-and-thrust world of digital homeshopping channels is only enforced.
Cohen masterfully manages to ask questions that makes them visibly have to make something up, only for his next question to make them refute and debunk their previous statement in its hastily-constructed entirety. Sort of like the government establishing a task force to tackle the public bon mot du jour, only for it to implode messily a few years on when, ironically, everyone is looking.

Indeed, catwalk fashion and the stick thin women from the Ministry of Silly Walks probably play a large part in the modern “thin equals beautiful” image that forces women into ever more desparate eating disorders and financially-draining gym memberships. It appears that I have been brainwashed by Fashion into being attracted to thin women, rather than the “earth mothers” who would historically be the better choice when it came to the bearing of children. These days, it looks like someone opening a side door at the wrong moment would be all it took for an ubermodel to take flight, lifted from the ‘walk by a particularly floaty hat. They have to be careful how deeply they breathe as well; one ill-advised breath and they could suddenly displace more than their weight and float off. I submit that this is the real reason Naomi Cambell fell off those shoes a while back: she breathed too deeply, someone opened a side door and down she went. A series of unfortunate events even Lemony Snicket could not have forseen.

And the hats. Take the above for example. Who could possibly buy this with the thought of wearing it where another person may see it? Presumably you would have to wear the see-thru number next to it to take the focus from the frozen explosion on your head. Maybe that’s the point of fashion. Each piece is carefully crafted to take the focus of every other piece. A devious fashionista could arrange an ensemble that would induce violent headaches in anyone unlucky enough to look straight at it. Like a Medusa in training, or a WW2 battleship, or an M.C.Esher woodprint.

I think the idea is that catwalk fashion is what drives high street fashion a few months down the line. But are we likely to see anything like the “AIDS-virus-in-ice” hat on the high street? The closest we’ll get is a white fleecy hat with bobbles on it to be worn by toddlers, whose attempts to remove the offending item will be foiled by matching mittens joined together with elastic.

Either way, fashion only really matters to the people in fashion. It is self-sustaining, its value only driven by the insistence that it has value. If someone were to point this out, the whole thing would unravel and we’d all have to wear leather and carry sawn-off shotguns. That’s how it was in Mad Max. There was no nuclear war. The cast of Priscilla, Queen of The Desert happened to walk past a mirror, saw what they really looked like and the whole thing went South from there.

In short, it’s a padded cell where people can make dresses out of cardboard and shoes out of buckets and be applauded by the rest of the loonies. Just don’t give them any scissors. I dread to think what an escaped fashion designer would do with a pair of scissors when pushed to come up with a Fall line at short notice.

Public Penitence: Bringing Society to its Knees

As Sean Connery so eloquently put it, as Prof. Henry Jones in Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade, “Only the penitent man shall pass.”. But was he right? Are we really forgiven our sins when we repent? If our name is spread across the tabloids, does the Average Joe care or remember if we say sorry?

The most obvious sign of this societal trait is the most Poisoned of all Poisoned Chalices, the position of England Football Manager. Sven-Goran Ericsson, a man who has seen England through a few good years and good results, is being hounded out by the press, and for what? Making some comments to this “fake-sheikh” about members of the team? So what? Sven is a victim of his own stubborness. That he and his team have enjoyed a few years of good results has granted him some leeway with the press, but the pressure in the media has been growing.

Like a kettle boiling over, the pent-up fury of the press has escaped and Sven is being forced to walk. What confuses me is what the tabloid in question hoped to gain from these sheik-y shennanigans. They get this guy to lure Sven into some apparently “ill-advised” comments and then tell everyone about it. Why? Is it because they feel that a stint of over a year is too long for an England manager and it’s time for a change? Is it because his results have been poor? Have the recent previous England managers been so brilliant that they feel the need to get another one in?

All the most qualified people in English football have been tried and then publically hung after their 6 month grace period. You could put a small dog in charge and it would last as long as any other manager. In fact, once the current crop of English managers have been culled, the only things left for the job will be club mascots.

It appears to take a non-Englishman to run England. How many of the top clubs in the Premiership are helmed by home-grown managers? The top five clubs are run by non-English. What does that tell you? Either, English managers suck or you need a foreigner to get the best from a team. I can’t imagine why any sane person would drink from that cup. It’s not like it’s the World Cup anyway…

The ousting of the Swede aside, public apologies are all the rage these days. Anyone whose name is known to people outside their office and who make a mistake are forced to publically say sorry and then usually resign. These people are usually in positions of responsibility and all share the same personality fault: they are human beings. This means that people make mistakes, they make bad decisions. While we can look furtive and wipe it up, these people have to quit their job.

I can’t help feeling that a lot of time and money is wasted this way. These people have been trained and worked their way to where they are. If you fire them and get someone else to do it, you have lost some value from your organisation. Plus the replacement can be rubbish for the first year and blame it on the mess left by the last guy. It’s like cabinet reshuffles; every so often, they play musical chairs with the Cabinet positions, the proviso seeming to be that you can’t do the same job you did last time. This means that by the time you’ve got your head round how to do Education, or the Home Office, whoops!, time for a re-org. You’re Department of Sandwiches now. The only explanation I can think of is that they are giving everyone a taste of each area with the view to them becoming Prime Minister. But how many Prime Ministers have been any good? Have more than a handful of World Leaders ever been any good?

I don’t know about the rest of you, but can you remember who, in the last few years, has been forced to leave a position of prominence, and why? Me neither. I don’t think the man in the street gives the tiniest damn who is in charge of what, as long as they can have chips for dinner, watch Corrie of an evening and go to the footie on Saturday. So forcing people they’ve never heard of, who work inside the most complex and convulted institutions in the country, to apologise for making a simple, human error which probably wasn’t their fault, is a waste of everybody’s time and of their money.

So if we don’t care, to whom are they apologising? It’s like a parent getting an errant child to apologise to a dog for throwing a stick at it, only to find that the dog is now a hundred yards away humping a tree. The parent may feel all parenty, and the child suitably chastised, but the dog really does not care. All it does is make the child feel childish and more likely to cover up the evidence next time.

Public trial-and-execution-by-media serves no-one but the media. The media in the UK are like the US in the World. They have taken it upon themselves to force their views of right and wrong upon the rest of us and, let’s not forget, make us pay for it in the process. They can print their own agenda and if they get sued, well, tomorrows run will pay for that and the next one.

So please give it a rest. We’re all fallible. We’re very bored of hearing about people we don’t know about who work for companies we’ve never heard of making mistakes we don’t care about. Leave justice to the courts and print some actual news. There must be something going on out there! What’s behind that tree over there? Well, look, you lazy tabloid bastard!

Blogger goes Baby Bonkers!

I’m a big fan of Blogger’s “Next Blog” button, but someone has hijacked it. Pretty much every third site it takes me to today is something to do with babies. Now, either someone out there is sending a bizarre message to bloggers (“Stop typing and start having babies!”) or my sub-conscious has managed to connect to Blogger on some unseen level and is presenting me with baby information.

I’m happy to receive baby information; having been one myself, it’s nice to know how babies are doing these days. It’s like a newsletter for former pupils, letting you know just you successful the school bully is these days. The problem is, the information is garbage. Here’s an extract: “is 1276834 I into which normal I a I 2 time though is baby gift list a bankroll of Just the Lady MSBC times $30+$3 are + BABY GIFT LIST Limit smart the also never need the When (1988) will post…”

This isn’t even Engrish. It’s garbish, that’s what it is. There are barely a string of more than three words which are allowed to live next to each other within the rules of English grammar.

Just tried again: “What it out there And we up From included others have the have what? and pay talking lie, has have for folds”. Again, garbish. If they’re trying to sell us something, it’s not working. If its Marketing, or PR, its not working. The only thing that springs to mind is that aliens are sending us plans for interstellar spacecraft and somehow Blogger is interpreting these signals as baby information, which it is then presenting to the world as blogs. Its like the Hollywood Sci-fi Carl Sagan motion picture experience Contact. We need Jodie Foster up in here.

I want to analyse this stuff, but it defies analysis. OK, fragments. “What it out there”. Could be a typo, “What is out there?” is a lucid, if broad, question. “And we up From”. Has From fallen over? Are you helping him up? “pay talking lie”. Politics? “has have for folds”. Obesity? My brain hurts.

Now its giving me nothing but porn! I should state that at no point have I specified “babies” or “porn” when using Blogger. At my age, I have enough experience with babies and considerable experience with porn. I do not need to be presented with either in a work environment. It is also spawning lots of other windows and minimising in a corner. These are all symptoms of psychological disorders: Multiple Personality Disorder with at least two dominant personalities, one baby and one pervert; cowering in the corner sounds like child abuse or some such.

Someone somewhere is being very mean to Blogger and I want them to stop. I’m getting mixed messages here…

Cultural Knowledge: Blog Society Onwards

Trying to articulate this one has been a proper bastard. Every time I think I’ve got an angle on it, it spins round and fires Righteous Blocks at me.

This year, I hit thirty and RocketBootDad will hit sixty. Some people don’t like reaching these ages with a zero on the end. RocketBootDad and I are of a mind on this. His take on hitting these milestones is that he is the age he is; everyone else is either older, or younger. Or, least probably, the same age.

Obviously, this type of epiphanic statement can only come after decades of experience. The children may be our future, but the elderly are our past, our memory, our conscience. They have seen it all come and go; the current generation really have seen it all. In fact, those alive today have witnessed some of Man’s greatest achievements, interspersed with our most heinous crimes.

The fact that old people have more time and experience means they know most about life and how to live it. They would love to pass on this knowledge but the young do not want to hear it. Elderly people are not valued in most Western Countries.

It seems to be a common factor that older civilizations and societies that exist in the Arab and African do value their elders greatly; more so than in First world countries, excepting Japan. Since practical skills are more applicable in Arab and African countries, and the adults are the most adept at these skills, the youth understand that to survive, it is imperative to respect and learn from ones elders, rather than cut a new furrow and reinvent the wheel themselves.

Essentially what I’m driving at1 is the question: Why does the World work such that the people with the knowledge cannot pass on this knowledge? Why, in the main, are young people dismissive of their elders when it comes to imparting knowledge? Why are we resigned to taking five steps forward, four steps back?

People prefer to find things out for themselves, learning things through bitter or painful experience, for it is only through experience that knowledge is truly learned. One can read all the books in the world, but unless the world is experienced, one has no real-world hooks on which to hang the book-learned knowledge.

I can’t help feeling, despite having been the same in my youth, that not learning from our elders means that their life’s work, their brain, will have been for naught. They spent every waking moment learning and experiencing, and then the next gen comes along and starts all over. As I seem to be repeatedly saying at the moment, history is what made the World today what it is and we who live in it what we are. Old People are History that can talk.

The only solution that comes to mind is that people should make an effort to change society for the better, to hardwire their experiences and knowledge into the fabric of society. That way, each new generation will pick up these advances and drive them forward. This is why I think blogging is such a great idea. I’m writing my memoirs as I go, not waiting until my twilight years when events are hazy and lessons distant.

So, welcome to my part of the attempt to make a difference, to ensure that the lessons learned by this generation are not lost. I hope you’re all taking notes. Come the time of reckoning, there will be a test.

1 …with my synaptic satnav on the fritz…

Sci Fi writers have postulated a contruct into which the memories of dying indivuduals are loaded on their death, their collective personality becoming a cultural memory which then serves as the conscience of a society.

History: Blast from The Past

The worst thing about being a blogger is when you don’t really know that much about what it is you are writing about. You have an idea for a post, but when you think about it, you find that what you think you know has no grounding in fact and cannot be borne out by your own experiences. So, do you can the post and wait for something you do know about to raise its ugly head? Or do you press on and write any old rubbish? Yes. That’s what I’m about to do. Its not like anyone ever comments on this stuff anyway.

So to History. I never took History at school. Couldn’t see the point. Will being able to recite the Kings of England in order get me a job at Burger King? Doubtful. It may get me a job in the press, but who these days can go home to their parents, hold their head up high and say “Mum, Dad, I work for a newspaper.” without being disowned? Its society-sponsored lies. Here’s fifty pence. Print what you like.

I never did History when I was a kid because I couldn’t see the point of learning about things that were done and dusted. How can something that happened hundreds of years ago be of any interest to me? Looking back, knowing what I know now, this is a short-sighted view. But I was only in my early teens, and this was back when being in your early teens didn’t necessarily mean you smoked Malboro Reds and had a kid with Kevin from 3B.

As I’ve said before, History explains why people do what they do. Society is the result of everything that has happened in the World to date. Which is why I don’t think teaching children History has any benefit. Having no personal history means that you don’t appreciate how history applies to you. It’s not until you have some History, and appreciate how History has shaped you, that it begins to interest you.

I know nothing about how the Israel – Palestine situation came about. I know very little about the make-up of the World before Dubya Dubya’s One and Two. But being a product of society might mean that the reasons for everything to date becomes hardwired into you brain. For example, being a cynic, product of a cynical society, I would guess that the Middle East is a mess because of post-war share-outs between the victors. This is what screwed up Korea. This is what screwed up Europe.

My point exactly. I have said “This is..” and been very sure all through this post, and I have no knowledge to back it up. So this is what it is like to write for a newspaper…

Wind: The Ultimate in Peer Pressure

Where is it all going in such a goddamned hurry? Basically, rumour of a new low pressure area spreads throughout the Wind community, like the opening of a new Ikea, and all the Wind flocks to see it.

Low Pressure areas are like new malls. And like new malls, everyone goes there when it opens, only to find that, while it is twice the size of the old mall, this just means that there are twice as many crap shops in it.

So when all the Wind gets there, it goes “Is this it? Somehow I was expecting more this time around. Don’t know why; seems like we’ve been running around this planet forever looking at new low pressure areas, and they’re never any good!”. And then word arrives of another one and, disappointment forgotten, they all clap their nebulous hands together and bugger off somewhere else.

All this to-ing and fro-ing does have consequences for us on the ground. If word of a particularly juicy-sounding low pressure area gets around, the effects of Wind can be severe. Entire oceans, forests, mountain ranges and herds of animals can be consumed and liberally sprinkled across the world, like an out-of-control game of British Bulldogs in Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory.

If the low pressure area is Up North or Down South, those returning, shivering and disappointed from yet another crappy low pressure area experience, get under the feet of those still hurrying to get there, and you end up with a hurricane.

Even a gentle breeze carries with it an air of possibility unrealised. The Wind gets in sight of the low pressure area: “Is that it over there? It can’t be. It is, you know. Oh, man! Again?” and slows down to a disconsolate crawl.

Wind is the ultimate in peer1 pressure. Forget kids smoking in toilets, or sheep; wind is worse. Imagine you were shopping in Oxford Street, and word arrived that Steve Jobs was distributing free iPod Nanos from the top of Nelson’s Column, wearing a naked Pamela Anderson as a rucksack. That’s the kind of mad, group hysteria, run-or-die situation Wind finds itself in nearly every day. Like the running of the bulls in Pamplona; you can’t decide not to go see the low pressure area this time. That isn’t an option. You have to go, or risk being trampled by everyone else.

So next time you feel the need to jump on that bandwagon and “be one of the gang”, think about the Wind, be original, look The Risk Of Being Trampled in the eye and say “No!”.

1 Surely the word “peer” implies someone who pees? You know, Number 1? If a skier skies and a Seer sees, why doesn’t a Peer pee? Of course, everyone pees. It does, however, make the House of Lords and the Hereditary Peers look even more ridiculous. “Yes, I inherited my peerage from my father.” Yeuch!

Inadvertant Undressing: The Worst Things about Winter

Due to the fact that only Scandanavia has proper insulation in its buildings, Winter for the rest of us involves wearing fifteen layers of expensive, North-face-of-the-Eiger-type clothing. Indoors. Unless you populate the North East of England, where it seems a single cotton layer is sufficient, indoors or out. And since the operation of the HVAC systems in our buildings requires the intellect of a child, who are normally absent from most responsible organisations and whose intellect has evapourated by the time one reaches adulthood, modern office life involves much putting on and removing of clothes.

Which means that, at any one time, several bared torsos, usually hairy and post-Christmassy, can be seen across the open plan office. There are ways by which this corporate flashing may be avoided, but require either a patient and digestively robust colleague or a trip to the bathroom1, both of which are deemed too difficult to contemplate. So we go fast, and hope that no-one notices. The human eye, attracted by movement, instantly locks onto the danger and their owners are treated to the sight of a middle aged man struggling to extricate himself from the several layers of supermarket fleece jacket wrapped round his head.

This is my Number One Worst Thing about Christmas. Are there any others? Oh, yes. So, in no particular order:

1. Having to traipse round rammed shopping centres behind people doing one lightyear per year. It’s not purely a Christmas-related problem, but surely if you’re going shopping, you must have some idea what you want, and which shops might have it. So why prolong the communal agony by doddering around with your head up your arse? Have a plan, people!

2. Having to put some effort into buying presents. Probably a big factor why the above is such a pain. You get to the mall really early, but still spend three hours trying to figure out what to get people. It’s only at this point do you really comprehend how little you know about your family. RocketBootGrandpa has always taken the safe, if soft, option of giving everyone cash. Much less hassle, and no-one is disappointed.

3. Having to see your family. Its great for the first half and hour and it’s only at this point do you really comprehend how little you like your family1. You realise how much you’ve grown apart and how little everyone has really changed, which seems contradictory, but somehow isn’t.

4. Having to maintain your car. Most of the year, you can get in your car and head off somewhere and not worry too much about whether it’ll start or whether you can see where you’re going. In Winter, you have to actually do things before you can leave; check fluids, scrape windscreens, get new tires. And you can never find all the scrapers and de-icer you bought last year, even though you only took them out of the car in August.

5. Having to put up with reams of Chrismtas advertising through your door for the entire months of October, November and December. As if it wasn’t bad enough that we cut trees down at Christmas, we then have to cut more down to post through people’s letter boxes. Then the Christmas tree looks all smug and twinkly; “Hey, fliers! Bet you wish you’d tried harder at Christmas Tree School now, eh?!”.

6. Buying a Christmas tree. Or stealing one, if you happen to see a nice one at the side of the road. You go surreptitiously at night to get it, only to find five cars cautiously circling, all waiting for the rest to leave so they can snaffle it. So much to consider; height, branch density vs decorative level, will it fit in the car / house, attendant insurance premium increase due to risks associated with inadverant Timber! or Pound-Shop-tree-lights-induced inferno.

7. Having to queue for Santas Grotto. Or ‘grotty’, as they invariably are. You queue amidst thousands of bawling infants and irate parents, pay your five pounds, and your child, your pride and joy, then spends their alloted minute in the grotto either destroying the place, spreading the contents of Santas sack evenly pan-grotto, or screaming at the top of their tiny but mighty lungs.

8. January Sales. If the early payment of December’s paycheck didn’t leave you skint in January, the sales will. To misquote Joe Pesci in Lethal Weapon, “First they sell you stuff, then they f*ck you with it!”. There is a fundamental human need to get a bargain, even if it’s for something you don’t need. So you get home with nice, weighty boxes, aflush with the joy of participating in the Capitalist feeding frenzy, to discover that you already have half the things you bought, half the rest are some ludicrous luminous colour3 and the remaining quarter won’t work without buying more things that aren’t on sale.

9. Turkey Curry. Its nice on Boxing Day, but gets a bit samey by Easter.

10. Eggnog. What’s wrong with beer?

Any others you can think of? Post a comment.

1 When was the last time you had, or even saw, a bath in a bathroom? Or had a rest in a restroom, for that matter? No, me neither.
2 Don’t fret, RocketBootFamily. Pure journalistic licence. Surely one of the less contentious ends to which journalistic licence has been put.
3 Like Dynorod Orange, which is a trademark, by the way. Which is why I carefully said like.

Respect: Find out what it means to me

In the wake of recent race-related riots in England and France, both countries are trying to pump a bit more R.E.S.P.E.C.T. into their respective populaces. But while America can inject enthusiasm into proceedings on command, can their European forefathers engender respect just by asking for it? Can anyone?

In my ‘umble opinion, Respect is like the stock market. When you are born, you float on the market, given the respect that is due all human beings. As you age, gracefully or otherwise, your value in the Market of Life is driven by your actions. Do good deeds, and you gain respect and, maybe one day, a statue and keys to a city. Do them not, and your respect crashes like all your Black weekdays come together, down to a minimum dictated by your basic human rights.

Given my take on Respect, I find it hard to see why governments think they can wave a magic wand and say “Be excellent to each other!” and have us comply1. Even if it was something more concrete, mandating cultural change at a government level never works. Cultural change springs from the grass roots, from the people, not from heads of state.

From the lofty heights of 30, I can understand why the stereotypical youngster of today bangs on about ‘Re-spect!’, even if I am projecting my thoughts onto the actions of others. If you take it that everyone, as a human being, is due a certain level of respect, then can you blame people for being proactive if they don’t think they are getting that respect? If kids feel let down by the government and all points beneath, we should listen, rather than ignore their concerns because we think nothing can be done or that their opinions are worthless.

Respect is also modern society’s equivalent of establishing a pecking order. We are ranked among our peers by the respect we can command. In our past, deciding who was top dog was a martial affair. However, even modern animals, humans included, prefer to rely on displaying and bravado to settle things, rather than resort to violence which could lead, directly or indirectly, to death.

While we can all expect a certain level of respect, anything more than that must be earned. It cannot be commanded, as the government is sure to discover; indeed, as the monarchy has discovered. Even in a monarchy, constitutional or otherwise, where respect for the monarch was historically demanded and enforced, modern society and its attack dog, the media, has seen to it that even a royal family is not absolutely respected.

The tabloid media is a primary mechanism for the proliferation of disrespect. Everyone who falls under their scrutiny is treated extremely harshly, their actions reduced to ridiculously alliterative malapropisms. The readers, who, like all media consumers, take it as gospel, assume this treatment to be the norm, and the “dissing” spreads. And where Jeremy Paxman gets his fingers slapped for being a bit pointed to an interviewee, the tabloids can say what they want, for the price of a lawsuit or two.

I’m not sure whether to cringe at the two-facedness, or applaud the intent, of Tony Blair in his speech about respect. This from a man who disrespected the entire country when going to war without the blessing of those who elected him or the say-so of the UN. Anyway…

As usual, the answer is to sort the kids out. It is up to parents to engender in their offspring respect for all living things, sentience aside. The dangers facing children these days are considerably more urban than before, and are the indicators of what is wrong with society. Children could argue that it is our problem and that we should deal with it, but the sad truth about Old Dogs holds, and the First World Adult is generally unwilling to shake the tree under which they shelter.

Respect needs to bred, nurtured, earned, all words that suggest some kind of effort. In the world of the TV dinner and the nanny state, I fear there just aren’t enough people willing to go the extra mile. And adding a Tony Blair or a Nicholas Sarkozy to that list isn’t enough.

1 Having listened to Tony Blair’s speech, he was not trying to force respect upon us. I did agree with all he had to say. He and his cabinet must know that their attempts to engender respect will be met by sneers and jibes, but, politically, to do nothing would be worse.

Righteous Block: Time for Reminiscing

“Righteous Block” is one of those things you get in Readers Digest, where people subvert words or sayings slightly to give them a new meaning. “Righteous Block” is when, halfway through a virtiolic tirade, you can’t remember what you were banging on about. And, having spent a couple of weeks away from The Palace, I have returned to find a Righteous Block on my virtual desk. And it’s a big sucker…

So, time for some navel gazing. At the end of 2005 I hit 50 posts to The Palace. When I started, it was more out of morbid curiosity than a desire to put the world to rights by venting spleen. I didn’t know how long I would stick at it or if anyone would care what I had to say. So, what have I learned?

I’ve learned that there are three blog demographics: Sales, Poetic and Other. Sales blogs are split into two main categories: Stuff no-one wants and Religion (which, in my opinion, are the same thing, hence the grouping). Poetic blogs are usually small, arty and contain a suicidal haiku or two. Other blogs are by far the smallest demographic and are of the most interest to me, especially as this is the category into which I fall. It is hard to find a good Other blog these days…

I’ve learned that the main bloggers appear to be Malaysians and Americans who both post in broken English about their progeny and going out, and show us pictures of the whole rigmarole.

I’ve learned that, while I don’t care if anyone cares what I think, I do care that people at least look. You might only blog for yourself, in the altrusitic hope that someone may take strength from your words, but at some level, you really want millions of people reading it every day.

I’ve learned that I had rather a lot to say, not all of it sensible, and that it needed to get out. Most are the kind of thoughts that are only vocalised in the grown-up discussions that sometimes occur after dinner parties or sit-down family meals. Others are spur-of-the-moment derisive commentary on the stories of inanity that infest the news.

Having been only a sporadic diarist in my youth, I’ve learned that commiting one’s thoughts to (semi)permanent media, with the possiblility of a voyeuristic frisson when someone reads it, is a liberating experience. It’s like moving into a smaller house and having to throw out all the junk in the attic. Having a minimalistic brain (in terms of clutter, not capacity) is as freeing as having a minimalistic lifestyle.

While I’ve understood for some time that the concepts of Right and Wrong depend on ones point of view, I’ve learned that the world is full of people who do not. People vehemently decry how others live their lives, calling it “morally corrupt” or “disgusting”, while those people brandish their civil rights, complain about the persecution of minorities and generally mutter about a free world. Both are right; who is to say who is wrong?

I’ve learned that people are broadly either Realists or Purists. Purists have a haloed vision of a verdant nirvana populated by perfect humans, which they view as their divine birthright, and are understandably miffed when the Real World fails to measure up. Realists understand that the limitations of history and human nature mean that perfection will remain the providence of the gods, keep doing their best and try to do better.

Looking at it like that, I think that the last circumnavigation of Sol by the Earth was fruitfully spent. No dictators were toppled, no monopolies overturned, no wrongs righted. But it feels like they were.

American Football: Rugby for Girls

I don’t know how or why American Football came to be. The reasons are probably incidental. There are, however, quite a few things that seem completely bonkers through the North Atlantic haze.

1. Why is it called “Football”?
Only one guy can kick the ball, and you have to stop the game to bring him on. In order that he can swing his leg above ankle-height, he is only lightly encumbered by body armour…..

2. Why do they have to wear body armour?
I know America has more gun crime than everywhere else combined, but do athletes really have to wear bulletproof vests when competing? I guess not, or the record for the hundred meters would be a fortnight, rather than sub 10 seconds. Plus, American Football predates a prevalent gun culture. Overprotective parents? Well, your ancestors moved to a new continent to start from scratch; not the actions of a risk-averse group of people. Rugby manages to do without it, although shoulder pads have started to creep in. Maybe that’s how the rot starts: it starts off with shoulder pads and ends up looking like Rollerball. Or Dynasty..

3. Special Teams
I know America is chock full o’ big people, but there must be more constructive ways of utilising them than having nineteen different groups of players who are wheeled out each time their speciality play comes up. For example, the Roster of the Dallas Cowboys lists over sixty guys, to make up a team of 11. There’s an O-ffensive Team, a D-fensive Team, a Kicking Team, a “First and Ten” Team, a ” Fourth and Inches” Team, a “Look Behind You!” Team, you name the situation: they have a team. And no player can be on more than one team. Otherwise there would be more fat people in the stadium than on the pitch, which would be stupid.

4. Time
A game lasts one hour, split up into four fifteen minute “quarters”. However, elapsed time is anywhere from six to eight weeks, because every time the ball hits the ground, the clock stops. Another peculiarity in a “Football” game. This is necessary, because the linemen, each of whom weighs in excess of five hundred of Ronald McDonalds finest pounds, can only move for short periods before having to stop for a fag, at which point they bring on the next eleven guys after their fag break. Basically the two groups of linemen crash into other like elephant seals and have quick wrestle before collapsing. It looks like the final of the Robot Sumo Championships, or an earthquake in the Giant Weeble factory.

5. Statistics
In order to fill the time while they wheel off the knackered elephant seals and wheel on some fresh ones, the commentators, of which there are always three, one of whom Shall Be Named Bob, throw statistics at us. It stops short of minutiae like “Kilos of Lint found in LineMan Belly Buttons” and “Number of Revolutions by Spiked Ball in End Zones”, but not by much. So here’s some real ones;
Time spent by Player on field of play: 10 seconds
Time actually spent moving about: 1 second
Proportion of Gameplay to Advertising: 0
Number of Commentators with own hair: 0
IQ of Viewer Expressed as Percentage of Advertising Revenue per Minute of Gametime: Who knows, or cares, or would understand, but they’ll still tell you.

6. Rushing
“rushing”? Is that the same as “running”? It is, isn’t it? So what was wrong with “running”? Didn’t that convey speed enough for you? “Hey Jerry Rice, how’s your Uncle Ben? Can’t stop now, I’m in a rush!”. While we’re at it, why did you change “pants” to mean “trousers”? You’re just confusing everyone. What do you call your underwear, “epidermis”? That’s the next layer down, isn’t it? “Yeah, just got me a pair of them new Calvin Klein epidermis from K-Mart”.

As I have clearly demonstrated, it’s a very silly game. So, you are faced with two options. Either go back to your “rootz” and ditch the Kevlar, or go for it Yankee-style, strap on some spikes, get some internal-combustion wheels and do it properly. Then, ditch the whole stadium / teams / advertising malarkey and play wild across the whole country. You could call it…..oooh, “America”.

What do you mean, you already have?