Monday, 31 August 2009

Head Lines

Long-winded TV comic Stewart Lee has made the Daily Mail cross by joking about hobbit-esque insurance risk Richard Hammond. Specifically he said he wished Hammond had been decapitated when he had that accident.

Now I bear little malice toward the man off Top Gear. I certainly wouldn't want to see him dead, whether through decapitation, poisoning, a nasty javelin accident or even natural causes. He has a family. And it would decimate the television channel Dave.

I would hate the man in charge of scheduling at Dave to have to rely on repeats of Fifth Gear, or vintage episodes of Top Gear with Noel Edmonds. He'd probably have to move all the programmes later in the day forward an hour, and then he'd have to fill up the gap with another episode of Live At The Apollo. Although that would be useful as I have a few small holes in my otherwise word-perfect memory of that episode with Jimmy Carr and Alan Carr. No! Damn you, Satan! Even then I wouldn't want him dead.

I think that Stewart Lee has pushed the bounds of humour a little too far. I'm not saying that decapitation jokes can't be funny. Some of them are so good you laugh your head off. But some targets are simply unacceptable.

Here is my guide to whether the butt of your joke can stand up to the Acceptable Decapitation test:

Hitler - yes
Stalin - yes
Jade Goody (pre-cancer) - yes
Jade Goody (post-cancer) - no
Robert Mugabe - yes
The Queen - no
Prince Charles - yes
Peter Mandelson - yes
Noel Gallagher - no
Noel Edmonds - yes
Jeremy Clarkson - yes
Richard Hammond - no
Terry Waite - no
Terry Christian - yes
Margaret Thatcher (pre-doolallyness) - yes
Margaret Thatcher (post-doolallyness) - yes

I think I have covered the range of prominent people. If you would like to add a celebrity, I will happily update the list.

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Crisp Cross 2

No, I'm sorry. I can't get over the crisp business.

When I was a child, life was simple for the crisp-muncher. Red for ready salted, blue for salt and vinegar, green for cheese and onion, browny-red for smokey bacon, pink for prawn cocktail. Didn't matter which company made your crisps - you knew exactly what you were getting.

I imagine that there had been a big meeting where Mr Smith of Smith's Crisps, Mr Golden Wonder (presumably Stevie's snack-orientated brother) and Mr Tudor got together and thrashed out a treaty. It probably took days of negotiating around the clock. Possibly Mr Golden Wonder suggested that orange was a more logical colour for cheese and onion? Maybe Mr Smith wanted a royal blue for ready salted, given the colour of the bag of salt in Salt & Shake? Probably, as is often the case in these situations, nobody was entirely happy with the outcome, but everybody got something they wanted. The point is that there was a crisp packet colour accord.

Then along came Mr Walker of Leicester, probably encouraged by Mrs Thatcher's dismantling of the corporatism of the 1960s and 1970s, with his BLUE cheese and onion crisps and his GREEN salt and vinegar packets. How dare he? How bloody dare he? Yes, it's all very well smashing the cartels, but what about the consumer?

We didn't WANT that choice. When you're rushing into a newsagent's shop you don't have time to read the flavours on the cardboard boxes with the perforated circular holes on the front. You just want to grab a colour-coded snack, fling coins at the shopkeeper, then leg it for your bus. It shouldn't be Russian roulette, only with crisps.

Of course, Mr Walker was more successful than he could have dreamed, and he pretty much dominates the crisp field in the United Kingdom, with the result that the colour blue is now associated with cheese and onion and green with salt and vinegar. So when I picked up a blue packet of crisps, I think I was well within my rights to expect cheese and onion, and not the salt and vinegar with which I was confronted.

I apologise for my anger. As it happens, I like both cheese and onion AND salt and vinegar in pretty much equal measure. But there are people out there who have a strong preference and don't have a voice. Perhaps illiterate people. I am speaking for them. Of course they won't know I'm speaking for them as they are illiterate, but perhaps you could pass the message on.

Don't get me started on Pringles. Purple for cheese and onion? What on earth were they thinking?

Crisp Cross

The man who picked up a blue packet of crisps thinking
they were cheese and onion, only to discover upon opening the packet
that they were in fact salt and vinegar.

Saturday, 15 August 2009

The Friday Interview: The First One You Can Listen To

Literally as many as some people have enjoyed and been mentally stimulated by my series of Friday Interviews.

But I have long been concerned that it has not been easily accessible for those unable to read, for whatever reason, perhaps pressures of time, or lack of intelligence. That ends today.

Now there is no excuse for the busy, or the stupid, not to be absorbed by the Friday Interview. You can even listen to it at the gym. As long as you don't go on about it afterwards. The gym, not my blog. You can go on about my blog for as long as you like, or longer. In fact, I'd encourage that.

Honestly, though, it's just paying somebody so you can do your exercises. I don't want to hear about your gym experience. I don't bang on about breathing, which is also pretty necessary. "Oh, look, everybody, I've exhaled. I must put it on the Twitter." I mean, how dare they? How bloody dare they?

Anyway, I think you’ve grasped the tenor of my argument. Here’s the interview.

Monday, 10 August 2009

Eats Stabs And Leaves

A fragment of a transcript of an early Hells Angels meeting has recently fallen into my hands. I think it's a fantastic historical document which sheds new light on this most infamous of gangs, and I hope you won't mind if I eschew the usual ramblings on unlikely soup and cardboard tubes on this occasion - GB.

All present? Apologies?

Nigel - sorry, Thunderskull - can't come as he's been busted by the fuzz. And Asscleaver's had to take his mum to the bingo, so he'll be late.

All right. Item 1 - Corporate Identity. Bloodsucker, you had some thoughts on this...

Thanks, Scorpion. A number of members have come to me over the vexed question of apostrophes.

Oh, not that old chestnut?

No, it's becoming serious now. Hear me out. When we could keep it in-house, it wasn't an issue. But our members really do need guidance now that tattoo artists are involved.

How do you mean?

Well, the tattooists are asking if there should be an apostrophe in "Hells." Now whatever we decide is fine by me, but I really believe we need to be consistent. Otherwise we look stupid. Strictly speaking, of course, we should use one.

This is just opening a can of worms. Where would it go?

Well, between the 'l' and the 's.'

Well that's where I'd disagree. I always assumed we were the angels of many hells. For example the Islamic notion of hell is subtly different from Christian conceptions.

I think it's quite clear that we're talking about the traditional fire and brimstone Judaeo-Christian version. It appears that you're being obstructive, just because your own tattoo has no apostrophe.

You could have one inserted.

No, it would totally mess up the effect of the blood-soaked dagger. I mean, it'd look like I'd stabbed a slug.

Badgerbaiter actually makes a decent point. We're an inclusive organisation. We shouldn't be in the business of putting off new members. And that apostrophe might not look much, but any extra tattooing is extra pain. My recommendation is we go for "Hells Angels," without the apostrophe. All in favour? Against? Motion carried.

Well, obviously my main concern was consistency. But I would like my dissent noted.

Let's move on. Item 2 - Approved Stabbing Techniques...

Sorry, just to be clear, what exactly is brimstone?

Friday, 7 August 2009

The Friday Interview: The Third Man On The Moon

In the latest of our series of interviews, Graham Bandage talks to Todd Cleethorpes, the third man on the moon.

Graham Bandage: Todd Cleethorpes, thank you for this telephone interview. Now, you were the third man on the moon.

Todd Cleethorpes: Tell me something I don't know, asshole.

GB: What? Erm, Alan Arkin wrote The Banana Boat Song.

TC: What?

GB: You asked me for a little-known fact.

TC: You're yanking my chain! The Day-o song?

GB: The very one.

TC: That's amazing! Hey, Louette, did you know Alan Arkin wrote The Banana Boat Song?
What? Yeah, "Day-o, Daaaaay-o, Daylight come and me want to go home." So it wasn't Harry Belafonte?

GB: No. I can't help feeling we've gone off on a bit of a tangent.

TC: Well, you threw me that stick of dynamite. I don't suppose you know what a tally man is?

GB: No. Anyway, back to your being the third man on the moon...

TB: I always liked that song. Don't know many other Harry Belafonte songs. Now, Johnny Mathis, he was great. "Look at meee... I'm as helpless as a kitten in a treeeee....."

GB: Erm, the moon ...?

TC: Look, what do you want to know? It's big, it's round, it's made out of rock. It's the moon, for Chrissake. Do you have any more of those facts? They're like gold dust.

GB: Or moon dust.

TC: Just shut up about the stinking moon already.


GB: Sorry. Erm, the distance between your wrist and your elbow is the same as the length of your foot.

TC: Yeah, knew that.

GB: Oh.


GB: It's just that, well, I really did want to touch on your trip to the moon.

TC: Moon! Moon, moon, moon, moon, moon! That's all anybody wants to talk about. It was 39 years ago. Get the hell over it.

GB: Maybe just a couple of questions?

TC: One question. Just one. And you've bought it with your, frankly sensational, Alan Arkin fact. And then you can crawl back under whatever rock you came from.

GB: Ace! OK, my question is, what's Neil Armstrong really like?

TC: Do you know what? Do you really want to know what Armstrong is like? Do you? Do you really, huh? Do you?

GB: Erm... yes?

TC: That man is the messiest sonovabitch I ever came across. You wanna know why I went to the moon? To clear up. You have no idea what sort of state he left it in. Coke bottles, Mars bar wrappers..

GB: Pfft.

TC: What?

GB: Mars bar. Were there any Milky Way and Galaxy wrappers as well?

TC: Just shut up. Shut up. Newspapers, cigarette butts. He must have brought them with him! Aldrin was even worse. He dumped a mattress. A freakin' mattress! Third man on the moon. The THIRD man on the freakin' moon and I have to tidy up. Didn't see the earth hanging in an inky black sky carpeted with glittering stars like a beautiful bright blue marble. Wanna know why? Because I had to get chewing gum off my moon boot. I spent four hours on the moon. And three hours of that hoovering.

GB: I see...

TC: No, you asshole, you don't see. Listen, I fly to the moon - and that's not easy, let me tell you - just to clear up some other guys' mess. And who remembers me? Armstrong? Sure. Aldrin? The nearly man. Michael Collins? Everybody remembers him. Sonovabitch didn't even set foot on the moon. Jim Lovell! JIM LOVELL! Bastard messes up, didn't even make it to the moon and Tom freakin' Hanks plays him in a movie! But number three - me - I get no respect. And the gum gets all stuck in the ridges.

GB: Could I just ask one more question?

TC: Depends on whether you have a great fact, because now, RIGHT NOW, I want to rip your stupid head off..

GB: I've just remembered one! Hedy Lamarr invented radar.

TC: The actress from the golden age of Hollywood, or the guy out of Blazing Saddles?

GB: The actress. The guy was Hedley Lamaar.

TC: Gosh willikers! Hedy Lamaar. Hey, Louette, Hedy Lamaar invented radar. What? Oh, she knew. All right, one more question.

GB: Have you ever been to Cleethorpes?

TC: No.

GB: Todd Cleethorpes, thank you.

Thursday, 6 August 2009

Confucius, He Did Not Say...

The ancient Chinese philosopher Confucius is famous for his wise sayings and that. But not everything he said could have been that profound. I reckon 24/7 wisdom would be a massive drain on mental resources. In the end, you'd have to watch an episode of Hotel Babylon just to recharge the old batteries.

- "Would you like a nice cup of tea, Confucius, love?"
- "Tea is like the... The dried leaves are ... Oh, flip. Yeah, all right, thanks."

Here are some Confucian sayings that did not make the cut, despite being true:

Drain the water from a grape and you get a raisin. But put water in a raisin and you do not get a grape. You just get a big swollen raisin.

If you guide a man, make sure you know where you are going or you will look a tit.

A sheep cannot pull a plough. But put a sheep on a tractor and it can pull two ploughes. However you will have to drive as sheep are unable to operate heavy machinery.

It is acceptable to cry at a wedding. But it is unacceptable to laugh at a funeral.

Thirsty is the man who believes that milk is cows' wee-wee.

Saturday, 1 August 2009

The Friday Interview: The Florist's Saviour

In the latest of an occasional series, Graham Bandage talks to James Burrage, saviour of Britain's flower shops.

Graham Bandage: James Burrage, you are the saviour of Britain’s flower shops.

James Burrage: I’m delighted to confirm that you are indeed correct, you beautiful little man.

GB: Nevertheless, I am a bit baffled. I mean, flowers are lovely and people traditionally like them. And people with hayfever, for example, often have the hump because they can’t have a prolonged sniff of them. In short, I suppose I’m saying, flowers are extremely popular. So why did flower shops need a saviour? Did they not have much of a fuchsia?

JB: No. They did not.

GB: Heh, I said “fuchsia.”

JB: Very good.

GB: It was OK. I’m a bit out of my comfort zone. Say more words.

JB: Well, it was back in 1994. The bottom had fallen out of the floral tributes market because everybody was being cremated. It was dismal. Somebody had to do something.

GB: So what did you do?

JB: I took a picture of myself and put it in a gold frame, and then I nailed it to a tree on the central reservation of the A756. And then I tied a bunch of flowers to it. A day later, I tied another bunch to it. When I went back the next day with another bunch, there were more flowers tied to the tree.

GB: No! Really?

JB: Really.

GB: Was it elves?

JB: No. My hunch is it was people. Anyway, before long the tree was festooned with flowers. My takings were up 48%. So I tried another tree. I used a picture of Charles Grodin from the film Midnight Run.

GB: Why Charles Grodin?

JB: Well, he’s one of those people who have a vaguely familiar face but wouldn’t pull in many people if you got them to open your jumble sale. Like Alan Arkin.

GB: Did you know Alan Arkin wrote the Banana Boat Song?

JB: What, the Day-Oh song? Are you being whimsical for effect?

GB: No. It is actually true.*

JB: Crikey. Anyway, trees. I put a couple of bunches on that one. And that got filled up too. Somebody even wrote a poem and had it laminated.

GB: It sounds too good to be true.

JB: Well, of course, people started to talk. And nobody could remember any actual accidents happening near the trees. So I had to up the ante.

GB: What the flip did you do?

JB: I got a dirty great electro-magnet, and stuck it inside a tree. And lay in wait. And when a car went past, I flipped the switch. Instant smash. First flowers were on the tree before the ambulance was on the scene.

GB: You killed somebody just to sell some flowers?

JB: Well, when you put it like that, it sounds evil.

GB: It sounds brilliant, that’s how it sounds.

JB: OK. It worked, the trend spread, and the floral tribute business skyrocketed. But it just wasn’t enough. I wanted more and more. That’s how I ended up in Paris in August 1997.

GB: And now nobody from the lower classes can die horribly without a carpet of flowers cluttering up the street.

JB: That’s right. It’s worked beyond my wildest dreams.

GB: Hang on. Paris? August 1997? You didn’t?!?

JB: Ask me no questions and I’ll tell you no lies. I’ll just say that was a bloody good month for takings. And I get a card from Elton and David every Christmas.

GB: James Burrage. Thank you very much.

*It’s true. He really did.