Saturday, June 30, 2012

Weekend Video: Eastenders Theme 800% slower

From cheesy bit of TV theme ...err... cheese to an Orbital-esque ambient classic. A thing of great beauty.

Friday, June 29, 2012

My South West Trains HELL

Bad things happened to me yesterday. Bad things, which involved rich, brown vomit and the actual feeling on the 0812 from Fleet to London Waterloo that I was not long for this world.

My pleas for help ignored, I react in the only way I know how: The writing of a letter of complaint deploying the twin weapons of SARCASM and BADLY-PHOTOSHOPPED IMAGES.

Dear South West Trains

Congratulations on being the number one train franchise in the south west! However, before you rest on your laurels, I must write to complain about my journey today. Warning: Contains vomit (me), pain (me), and dreadful customer service (you).

I had the misfortune of falling ill on my journey from Fleet to London Waterloo this morning. On arriving in the metropolis, having spent much of the commute locked in a toilet, bowking rich, brown vomit down the previously immaculately clean pan, I approached a member of station staff to seek assistance.

I might point out that I was clearly and visibly unwell at this time, bent double in pain, and sweating like a priest outside a boys' dormitory, my second-best shirt hanging off me like damp rags. However, my request for help and directions to a first aid post were met with a stout refusal. Here is an artist's impression of the encounter for illustrative purposes which you may find useful.

All I wanted was somewhere quiet to sit down (preferably in close proximity to a toilet and/or a bucket) whilst I contemplated the futility of my existence. The presence of a large-bosomed nurse offering me sympathy and lashings of sweetened tea was purely optional.

Instead, I was told "We're not a doctor's surgery, you know" and "there's a taxi rank out front, they'll get you to St Thomas's (hospital)." This is, I am sure you will agree, not the response I expected from your staff, and the kind of Premier League muppetry that gives businesses like yours a bad name. That name being "bunch of useless muppets".

Angry, unwell and confused, I instead abandoned my journey, got on the next service to Fleet and returned home.

Unfortunately, I did not have sufficient wits about me to record the name of this member of staff. All I can remember is that he had the air of Aleksandr Orlov about him, the celebrity meerkat from the popular Compare The Markets advertisements, except balding on top and with glasses. More like hapless meerkat computer-me-bob boffin Sergei, then. I've made a police-style efit for you, if it helps.

If I were a gentleman, I would offer this cur the chance to redeem himself in the traditional manner (Dawn, St James's Park, pistols, the loser being dragged around town on a hurdle); but in this modern age, a mere apology, and the words "clear training need" would suffice. And free tickets to the moon, obviously.

While I describe my misfortune to you with good grace, I was shocked by the lack of cooperation given to a clearly unwell customer. Sort it out.

Be lucky.

Your new pal,

Albert O'Balsam
Not a real letter? Here it is, out there in the wild (with my personal details removed). I will - obviously - let you know whether SW Trains have a sense of humour or not.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Web page of the Week

How to enter Miss South Africa

1. Sidle up to her, and offer to buy her a drink. Act smooth. Try not to be ugly

2. If necessary, treat her to a meal

3. Ask very nicely. Use protection


Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Another day, another stupid letter to a local paper

I've just thought of something OUTRAGEOUS and TERRIBLE, and it is my duty as a citizen to write to the local press to find some way of making sure the thing I've just made up doesn't happen.

Dear Southern Daily Echo

I am writing to express my outrage at Southampton City Council's plans to rename the city's Crematorium and Garden of Rest.

While one appreciates that "Southampton Crematorium and Garden of Rest" is a name devoid of all creativity, and dare one say it, soul, the suggested alternative is shocking in the extreme.

This letter, then, is intended to ask all people in this city to oppose with all their heart the new name that is SOLENT GREEN and remember that there are loved ones involved.

Solent Green is people! We've got to stop them somehow!

Yours Sincerely

Albert O'Balsam

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

On tasty, tasty funeral catering

So, driving in to work at the unearthly hour of a quarter-to-six in the morning. At least, one hopes, that the roads will be clear.

Not so. My heart sinks as my headlong foot-to-the-floor descent on Reading is slowed by a white van pulling out of a road junction. I am forced to brake and think of an amusing death for the perperator of such a crime against my good humour. It is a van belonging to a local catering company. And written on the back in bold Comic Sans, The Font Of Champions:

"We specialise in hogroasts, funerals"
Oh-ho! What if they do - oh-ho-! - a hogroast at a funeral? What - oh-ho! - if they get the stiff and the hog mixed up? What japes!

Then it pulled into the churchyard at Hartley Wintney, and I was a little bit sick in my mouth.

Monday, June 25, 2012

On telling life where to stick its stupid lemons

My last column for Huffington Post, on the possibility that close-harmony singing business Rock Choir™ might actually be a cult (it isn't, just in case you were wondering) was a first for me. It signalled the first time that somebody has actually reached out to me through the technological marvel that is Twitter and told me that I am not funny. Everyone's entitled to their opinion.

In this sense, I feel that I have made it at last, but only in a sense of writing stuff for laughs and not getting paid for it. Back in the day when I was a minor internet celebrity, I used to get abuse all the time, my favourite at the time being told by an anonymous troll that I was (and I can quote this from memory) "A turd-in-progress sucked back up the sphincter of your own prolixity", which I try to use in conversation whenever possible. It didn't go down too well in a recent job interview, mind you.

At first, the criticism felt like a proper old kick in the teeth, but an afternoon angrily whittling a railway sleeper down to a pile of matchwood with a teaspoon led to the realisation that the author was an unhappy Rock Choir™ cultist, not pleased at my choice of targets for a little light ribbing. I can take it, for I'm hardly going to be woken at three in the morning by the whole 15,000-strong Rock Choir™ singing "You're So Vain" at me in a tauting tone of voice. In fact, recounting the sorry tale to my Twitter followers, I heard of people getting far worse.

For example, from the excellent @ArmyofDave: "Someone told me I wasn't funny with their SECOND EVER tweet. Didn't piss around, that one."

And from @stebax: "Oh, congratulations. Have you had the "Drop dead you c***" yet? That's another bauble." (No, but I've had the blunt "You make me sick" from an angry Texan when I wrote something about George W Bush)

Then, after another sulk, I realised that there's 500 words in this. As they say in certain circles: When life gives you lemons, shove lemons up life's bottom for giving you stupid lemons when you asked for cake and chocolate and bikini-clad models offering you fivers.

Imagine, then, what it must be like to be a professional comic, paid actual cash money to be funny and get messages like that all the time. I recently witnessed a series of tweets aimed at the excellent Al Murray (who is far, far more than his pub landlord alter ego), chastising him for not being a constant stream of funny on his Twitter stream.

"Say something funny like your (sic) supposed to" said the disappointed follower, while another chimes in "your (sic) paid to be funny, how bout (sic) you say something funny?"

"Not now I'm not", replies the master, "Go online and buy a ticket for one of my shows". Touché. It's just not the done thing to prod funnymen when they're off duty.

In the same vein, I'm going out to poke a clown with a stick until he makes me laugh. As long as he's wearing the motley, that's alright.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Tonight on BBC1

Tonight on BBC1, Nic Cage and John Travolta star in a taut thriller set in the world of plastic surgery malpractice.

We should warn viewers that BUM/FACE contains, strong language, disturbing images of John Travolta, and a man with an arse for his face.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Mirth and Woe: The Bouncy Castle

"Shoes off lads," said the bouncy castle man, taking our money at the junior school fete.

We piled on and hurled ourselves about, careening off the walls, spanging around, bouncing off badly-drawn pictures of Disney characters, flying into each other and against other small children who went down like machine gunned. I was having a whale of a time until I realised that I was the only person left on the bouncy castle.

Then... Silence.

Someone had switched off the air pump, and eyes were upon me. The disapproving eyes of Mr Morgan, my former year head bore into me, and he beckoned me toward him. I sidled off the rubbery behemoth as best I could when the floor is sinking under your feet. Small children were pointing at me, and parents gave me that "You utter dick" look that I thoroughly deserved.

"Bit big for this, aren't you Coleman?" he said.

"Just a bit," I agreed, fleeing sans shoes to the coconut shy with the embarrassment of being told off by a former teacher making my ears glow red.

I was twenty-one, having left the junior school ten years previously, with a precocious wispy growth of facial hair and a white Top Man jacket. Twenty-one, and already too old for the bouncy castle.

On the bright side, at least he remembered my name.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

In which my luck turns at last

I am always intrigued by crappy spam email, and just had to open one with the subject line "Tara the Medium is watching you"

It turns out that Tara the Medium isn't actually watching me (that honour goes to a sixteen year old Jack Russell terrier who thinks there are cheesy treats to be had from the table), but instead, she is able - for a small charge - to offer me a number of so-called psychic services related to financial, emotional and "other" problems. All in comic sans, the font of champions.

And she goes on: "Why? Because I specialise in difficult and urgent cases. I will show you how to attract luck and bring about a new start in your life in this period of renewal which is springtime," with the words "how to attract luck" in bold, linking through to a page on how she will show me how to attract luck.

Lucky, lucky me.

Luck luck lucky luck luck.

Luck luck luckity lucky me.

So I click through.

Sorry, that offer is no longer available.
Oooh, unlucky.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

On the road to Atheism

My favourite quote in all of books:

The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.

Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion
It's not until you've sat down and read the Old Testament that you realise how true this is, and it beggars belief that people use it as some sort of moral compass.

If I were to be asked "Why did God create the world?", from this evidence my answer could only be "For The LULZ." From the very opening page, he's messing with the heads of mankind:

"Right, Adam. And you... err... Thingy."

"It's Eve."

"Right. Yes. I'm done here, and it's all yours to do as you wish. Just don't eat that apple."

"What apple?"

"That one. The one with the big sign saying 'Don't eat this apple' or you'll make me angry."

"Then why did you put it there in the first place?"

"Shut up."

"And why's this snake tempting me with evil if you - some sort of so-called benevolent deity - created it?"

Then there's the genocide.

Good grief, he really liked wiping out hole swathes of his creation like a ten-year-old turning over a chess board because he was losing.

"Hey Saul"

"Yes boss?"

"Bit of a problem with the Amalekites. Do us a favour and kill them for me."

"Wait... WHAT?"

"All of them. I created them, but they're not chosen enough. Kill them. The women. The kids. The animals. The lot."

"You're a fruitcake."

"I HEARD THAT. Just wait until I create Americans, they won't complain"
Look, if you're the perfect creator of all things, at least get it right first time. People - on the whole - don't take too kindly to being slaughtered in their thousands, their children sold into slavery and soiled ploughed with salt. It's not good PR.

And that's when reality kicks in. The Bible is, for many people, a superb advertisement for Atheism, and once read you wonder why you believed in the first place. I fully appreciate that others have read the same book and believe every word, and - hey - that's your choice.

I knew that I could no longer worship a god and follow any religion so deeply seated in cruelty.

Then, I realised they're all like that. You can live your life, be a decent example of humanity without spending half your time on your knees.

Then, I simply believed in one fewer god, and was free.

Other people may disagree with the above. Your mileage may vary. No animals were harmed. Except a couple of geese.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

FUN FUN FUN things to do in the office

Work. It's a drudge. But why not jazz up the old nine-to-five with these fun pranks - guaranteed to raise a laugh

Hang mistletoe over the lift doors, and ask colleagues if they are "going down"

Put a sign saying "Free seed" in a pile of bird seed on the office floor. Hang an anvil from the ceiling. Wait

Set the office microwave oven default setting to sixty minutes, full power

Draw a body outline in the meeting room

If they don't get the message, leave a body in the meeting room

Convince the temp that you are the 3rd Baron De Winter, and demand your droit de seigneur

Update the global auto-correct in MS Word to change the word "customer" to "quim-faced nuisance"

Re-record the weekly fire alarm warning message as a dubstep remix

Empty the fire extinguishers and refill them with silly string

Tell everybody you're working from home, hide, listen to them all talk behind you behind your back, then emerge to mete out your bloody revenge

On Bring Your Daughter To Work Day, claim you mis-heard and bring in Chelsea and England footballer John Terry

On Children in Need Day, claim you mis-heard and bring in Chelsea and England footballer John Terry

Sit at the front and pretend to be driving a bus, then organise a whip-round for the driver

Start every sentence with "I'm not racist, but..." "...what time are you going to lunch?"
Good luck in your future career!

Monday, June 18, 2012

On cults and the escape therefrom

So, what's a cult?

Wikipedia says the word cult in current popular usage usually refers to a new religious movement or other group whose beliefs or practices are considered abnormal or bizarre. Cults use mind control and coercive persuasion to entrap new members and leave them isolated from the world about them, making it near impossible to leave.

Some people say the Church of Scientology is a cult, although they have a number of highly paid and extremely effective lawyers that say that they are not. And if you can't believe the word of highly paid and extremely effective lawyers, then who can you believe?

When the former Mrs Duck fell in with Slimming World, I was convinced at the time that she had fallen in thrall with some sort of dieting cult. But I was wrong, she was merely a recruit - a footsoldier - in their ongoing war with those Weightwatchers bastards, and for that selfless sacrifice she should be praised and not condemned.

The same goes for Zumba. What else could it be but a cult? Willingly dress up in leg-warmers, pay money to prance around in a school hall, while the cult leader - also dressed up in leg-warmers - tells you what a great time you're having to a hypnotic beat. Then I realised that, compared with line-dancing, it could never be a cult.

Then I discovered Rock Choir™.

Or, at least, I ran into glassy-eyed followers of Rock Choir™.

These are grown people who are allowed to vote and live in general society with the rest of us, yet know all the words to the entire soft-rock canon. They sing "You Raise Me Up" and cheer at the end, as if it's a good thing. Their main weapons are close harmony, fear, a fanatical devotion to Rock Choir™, and a medley of the hits of Queen and Freddie Mercury.

I blame Glee.

"There's 15,000 of us," they told me, repeatedly, hoping to make it 15,001. Or crack open my skull and feast on my spicy brains, for this is the way to reach the trance-like state required to sing the harmonies for "Everything I Do, I Do It For You".

Some of them were doing Jazz Hands, and I knew it was time to make my excuses before acts of "Don't Stop Believing" took place in public.

I fled for my life, a terrifying, yet somehow uplifting version of the Phil Collins classic Against All Odds (Take a Look at Me Now) following me down the street.

There is only one way to fight Rock Choir™. Join me in PUNK CHOIR™ , singing the best in punk, post-punk, Oi!, psychobilly, anti-folk and rastabilly skank.

We are not a cult. Honest.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Weekend Owl

"Hey, Lloyds TSB," I rant on that there Twitter after watching their owl-heavy television advert, "I've been a customer for over thirty years, and you've never once offered me an owl. WHERE'S MY OWL?"

And by return of post, I get this:

He is, I am told, called Oswald. And despite not being told his surname, I presume it is McOwlface.

Let's hear it for Oswald McOwlface! Oh, and Lloyds TSB.

Now, if you don't mind...

...I squeezed an owl and a bottle of beer came out. Result.

Friday, June 15, 2012

A short list of things I'd pay damn good money to see, mostly involving painful death

Do you know what I'd pay damn good money to see? I'd pay damn good money to see a pack of dogs chasing a one-man band down the street. Double the cash if they catch him.

In fact, I'd also like to hear a pack of dogs chasing a one-man band down the street, record it, and release it as the latest dubstep anthem for the musically cloth-eared.

In a similar vein, I'd also pay damn good money to see a bagpipe player in a one-on-one duel with a starving leopard.

With the Proms season coming up, I'm sure the BBC and those art-loving wallahs at the Royal Albert Hall could oblige.

Also, a bunch of accordian players versus a T-72 tank.

Also also: Jedward vs Ebola.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

A short note from Ryanair

Please note you have been charged a £40 'Reading this on the same internet as the Ryanair website' surcharge by Ryanair

Also, a £30 'Breathing in 30 molecules of exhaust gasses from Ryanair aircraft every time you draw breath' surcharge by Ryanair

What do you mean you're not a Ryanair customer? That'll be a £40 'New customer' surcharge

Leave your comments in the box below (£10 commenting surcharge, £100 not printing this item to read on the train surcharge)

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

One of the many reasons I support gay marriage

"It was Adam and Eve", say the opponents of gay marriage, unwittingly quoting that colossus of radical thought that is Sir Patrick Moore, "Not Adam and Steve."

And some role model for stable family life they were.

1. Evicted from their home for anti-social behaviour after breaking the one and only rule given to them by their landlord

2. Had so many children nobody know quite how many - clearly they were cheating their local benefit office

3. Kids running rampant - with one even killing his brother completely and utterly to death in a fit of jealousy

4. Brothers marrying their sisters and begetting mono-browed children all over the place

5. Adam was only knocking around with Eve after Lilith refused (and I quote from Hebrew tradition) "to get in that kitchen and make me a damn sandwich, woman"
More Jeremy Kyle than the Book of Genesis if you ask me. Not even that - The Jeremy Kyle USA version.

And they say it's the gay agenda that's destroying the sanctity of marriage. We breeders have managed that perfectly fine by ourselves.

Another of the many reasons I support gay marriage

Because it's right.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Thirty-two things to do if you're bored

In honour of Phil Lucas' epic blog post, 36 Things To Do If You're Bored, I thought I could add a few ideas of my own, and list some ideas for those of you who need to get out of the house a bit more. Yes, you. You with the pasty face.

And it took me bloody ages. Which was lucky, because I was bored.

1. Go and see Ultravox

2.Embark on a rescue mission

3. Re-create famous websites in the privacy of your own garden

4. Take your equine friend to the vet

5. Take your elephant to the vet

6. Spin round and round until you're sick

7. Become a masked superhero

8. Learn to drive a truck

9. Dress in the latest fashions

10. Get a pet

11. Lose your pet

12. Draw Rolf Harris

13. Visit a theme park

14. Mock a transvestite clown

15. Mess with your workmates' heads

16. Try to become the next Banksy

17. Entertain a children's party with your comedy teeny dictator act

18. Grow a tree that looks like Hitler

19. Make yourself a cup of sexy tea

20. Buy a sweary cake

21. Snigger at foreign languages

22. Visit an alligator for tea. Don't be his tea

23. Mess with the planet's climate

24. Measure your dog's nose to win a bet

25. Feed your pet zombie

26. Buy AWESOME hats for your entire family and wear them in public

27. Eat a sad pie

28. Outrage your local Sunday school

29. Visit your local tourist trap

30. Dress in the latest fashions (again)

31. Hunt and kill a sloth

32. Go to the village fete


33. Write a stupid long blog post

All pics except for no.32 (Credit: Tom Cox) are from my own collection.