Thoughts on Clarkson-gate

It’s quite risky to offer long-winded commentary on a rapidly developing situation, so I’ll be brief. Jeremy Clarkson is alleged to have thrown a punch at a junior producer, for not bringing him a sandwich quickly enough. I’m not going to spend too much time talking about this specific allegation – after all, at this point that’s all it is, an allegation.

First, my opinion of the man himself. Jeremy Clarkson is an extraordinarily talented motoring journalist. He possess a vast knowledge of cars, and the erudition to impart that knowledge to an intelligent, discerning audience.

That’s not what we associate Clarkson with, though. We associate Clarkson with clowning around, trying to see whether a Bugatti is faster than a tiger shark in zero gravity or whatever. Clarkson is a man whose every moronic blunder is met with cheers, and whose every racially-charged aside is hailed as a victory against the nebulous tyranny of political correctness: that ghastly force which seeks to deny middle-aged white blokes their god-given right to bloody well drive around the town in a bloody fast car by Christ.

This morning I heard him described as Russell Brand for the middle classes. A fair comparison, it seems to me (maybe you might throw Boris Johnson in there, as well); both are clever people, and both cynically command the adulation of morons. I hadn’t imagined that this adulation to be so strong that almost half-a-million people would be willing to overlook him throwing a punch at a co-worker. I had imagined – in retrospect, somewhat naively – that this sort of behaviour would cement his position as an international pariah, along with Mohammed Emwazi and Jean-Claude Juncker. More fool me.

Look, I get that a lot of people like watching Top Gear. I really do. I occasionally enjoy videos in which household pets attempt to play musical instruments. I appreciate that not everything has to be cerebral. But that’s not the question at hand. The question is whether a man who assaults a co-worker should be allowed to continue his job.

And the answer is, according to the hundreds of thousands of people who have signed Guido Fawke’s petition: yes. An emphatic yes. An unconditional yes.  And by the way, anyone who imagines that hundreds of thousands of people isn’t a significant number – you’ve clearly never attempted to create a petition to change something. The petition is so popular that it has, at the time of writing, broken change.org’s website. That’s fucking popular.

“He may be a dick,” runs one explanation, “but he’s our dick.” Curious. I cannot stress enough how self-evidently idiotic I consider this logic to be – that any wrong can be overlooked, provided that we belong to the same group as the wrongdoer. But I had not imagined it widespread outside of Chelsea Football Club. Incidentally, I wonder what team Clarkson himself supports?

No fucking way.

This isn’t the first Clarkson-related bullshit episode. This person has evidently been mollycoddled by the public – and, as a consequence, the BBC’s management – to the point where he thinks he can do pretty much whatever he pleases. If only there were some sort of precedent for this sort of thing, so that we might avoid future catastrophes.

I would like to think that the BBC might have learned from the Saville affair, and will now grow some balls, tell the half a billion dimwits to go and fuck themselves and that there are some acts of criminal stupidity which will result in a dismissal – and prosecution – no matter how many people would like to watch the perpetrator attempt to cross the English channel on an upturned Cadillac.  But I doubt it.

Belated thoughts on Charlie Hebdo, religion, free speech, and all of that jazz

“A shocking crime was committed on the unscrupulous initiative of a few individuals, with the blessing of more, and amid the passive acquiescence of all.”

Tacitus

I haven’t been much inclined toward blogging of late. Which is strange, as a lot of troubled thoughts have been rattling around my head – most of them relating in particular to the Charlie Hebdo murders. I’m sure you’d all like to know my opinion – however belatedly it might have arrived. And that’s what you’re going to get.

My overriding emotion is one of indignation. If there’s one thing more unedifying than a senseless massacre, it’s the pack of dribbling morons that follows – unable to offer any comment but a reflexive concession that senseless massacres are inevitable as long as we haven’t yet capitulated to those that might commit them.

Britain is a nation of weaklings. We value courtesy, tolerance, and – well – politeness. We do so at the expense of all other considerations.   Is there anything more hopelessly British than politeness toward those who deserve scorn, respect for those who deserve none? When someone bumps into you, isn’t your first instinct to say sorry? I’m not sure what ‘sorry’ means in this instance; the best I could come up with is “I regret that you are a cunt.” But I’d venture that this isn’t the sort of respect most of us would like to receive.

If you wanted a demonstration of this sort of respect, then you didn’t need to look very far. Shortly after the leaders of the not-quite-so-free world had finished their meaningless stroll through Paris, the King of Saudi Arabia, Abdullah bin Abdul-Aziz, dropped dead. Leaders of the free world immediately hurried toward Mecca, so that they might respectfully wrap their lips around the engorged Saudi phallus on our behalf, and imbibe the resultant black succour. Even Obama – who didn’t even bother with the Paris demonstration – took the trip to bend the knee. Would it have been naive to expect anything else?

Sure, the Saudis routinely brutalise people for crimes like blasphemy and sorcery – but they are important to our National Interest. Westminister even lowered the flag at the news – to widespread chagrin. I suppose if Josef Stalin had died shortly after VE day, we’d have given him the same treatment.  Maybe Churchill, whose funeral we recently commemorated in a typically British festival of second-world-war fetishism, was a monster to have ever held meetings with him.

Perhaps the most famous victim of the almighty Saudi sarlacc – at least in recent times – is Raif Badawi, a blogger who has become something of a hero among free speech advocates. For the crime of ‘insulting Islam’, he’s been sentenced to a thousand lashes, to be delivered in weekly chunks of fifty. He’s served the first of these chunks – but at considerable cost to his health, according to his doctor. And so the state has stayed its hand for the moment. This is the sort of mercy that obviously deserves our respect.

It’s hard to bring to mind the terrible reality of this sort of punishment: a big long whip rending the flesh of a person’s back into blood-sodden pieces. I’m sure in the Middle Ages, the people of England would have had a fairly clear idea of what brutal punishments entail – they would undoubtedly approved of them, in much the same way the Saudi populous does currently. But now it seems surreal.

Here’s a confession which might shock you: I’m not sure I’d be blogging if doing so would put me at the slightest risk of being flogged to death. Most bloggers cower in fear in the face of a menacing email – this guy is prepared to defy the world’s most well-financed brutality. He must have balls of steel.

The Pope voiced his opinion on the Charlie Hebdo affair, and drilled down to that which we all know is the real problem: gratuitous offence-giving. His solution – and, to his mind, the only solution – is to react with violent force against anyone who offends your conviction. His view would find much sympathy among the Saudi courts, I’m sure.

“If my good friend Dr Gasparri says a curse word against my mother, he can expect a punch. It’s normal. It’s normal. You cannot provoke. You cannot insult the faith of others. You cannot make fun of the faith of others.”

His Holiness seems to not only want to absolve those that might react violently to perceived slights, but to suggest that they had no choice but to do so. According to Francis, this is not only a probable consequence, but an inevitable one. You will get a punch if you insult his mother; he is as much to blame for this as, say, clouds are for rain. The puncher is thereby absolved of all agency, and the person being punched is the victim of some act of (ha!) God.

Think about that for a second. If you’ve ever at any point wondered how Christianity managed to mutate from a celebration of one heretic being tortured on a cross to a justification for thousands of them to be tortured on a rack, you’ll find an answer in this demented logic.

Could there be a more regressive, more stupid statement on violence? Isn’t this the precise opposite of ‘turning the other cheek’? This isn’t even an eye for an eye. This is an eye for an eyelash. This is a person who over a billion people look to for ethical guidance. I can’t be alone in finding that worrying.

Religion, eh? If it’s not a young man in a balaclava shooting cartoonists, it’s an old man in a dress spouting bland pieties about how cartoonists might avoid getting shot.

Ol’ Frank has, during his short time in office, picked up something of a reputation for progressiveness among (how can I put this delicately?) thick people. The Vatican PR machine deserves a lot of credit for this; Ratzinger left the building and every thought of raped little boys completely vanished from the agenda. Wow, this new Pope’s so progressive. He even says that gays might not be inherently evil? That’s so swell! Wow, according to this guy, dogs can go to heaven! What a cool pope! Catholicism seems just so sensible now!

The standard for Islam is similarly low. Islam can now be said to be tolerant because, if interpreted correctly, it might allow that apostates be permitted to live. I also once heard a story of how Mohammed gave his last Rolo to a Zoroastrian – how magnanimous of him. If I were to pick one seventh century warlord on whose values to base mine, it would be him.

From where do these terribly low standards come? The fear of being labelled bigoted is a powerful deterrent.  Just look at the spread of term ‘Islamaphobia’, which is like kryptonite for Guardianistas. Whether or not there’s any organisation behind this – and there is certainly reason to suspect that there is – makes little difference to the outcome. Islam is an idea – or collection of ideas. Some are historically suspect; some are morally repellent; some are plain nutty. Some, astonishingly enough, are even wise – the idea that the entire lot exists as some indivisible package, however, is not among them.

I desire a world in which people can bring themselves to say things like ‘I believe in freedom of speech’, without having to clench shut their jaws to prevent the escape of some ‘respectful’ caveat or other:  Yes, while we do all agree in freedom of speech, but it should have limits. Let’s be fair, the cartoonists did insult Mohammed. As for the Jews in the supermarket, well: they were Jews. Come on.

I’m going to be writing more in the future, and on this subject. The alternative seems an act of near-complicity.  Fortunately, there already exists an healthy body of lucid writing on the matter; all that’s left is for a large amount of people to write, speak and draw whatever they like, regardless of any lingering fear of being censured, censored or shot in the head.

Until next time!

On Katie Hopkins and Free Speech

Greetings to you all. I hope the yuletide season brought much good cheer. Cherish that memory as you trudge through the dreary morass that is January, where, as ever, legions of narcissists scour the internet in search of things to be offended about and validating one another’s sense that some wrong has been perpetrated against them.

Their victim of late is Katie Hopkins, who, as I’m sure you’re all aware, is a person who pens cuntish words for a living.  Now, don’t get me wrong. If one were to embark on a witch-hunt in 2015, I can think of few more suitable witches than Katie Hopkins. She is a repulsive boil on the buttocks of England, whose gurning visage brings about many infant tears, and whose passing causes many flowers to spontaneously wither.

However, I am of the opinion that everyone should be allowed to say pretty much whatever they like. I’ll spare you all a long explanation as to precisely why. Conceited though it may sound, I feel as though my audience is far too sophisticated to benefit from one. You’re all doubtless nodding your heads while reading this over a tipple of evening port.

But perhaps that would be a mistake. Perhaps this is the attitude which has fostered this age of intolerance. I fear we’ve all become a bit lazy in our defence of freedom of speech. We recall its label, but rarely its substance. Someone will say ‘you can’t say that!’ and we’ll reply, feebly, with: “but, errrr….free speech?”

There now exists a twenty-seven thousand-strong petition calling for Hopkins to be arrested. Let’s examine a few of the arguments put forward by the petitioners, shall we? All the while ensuring that we treat them all with the required respect. I don’t, after all, wish to be arrested. However, I’d advise that you at least mentally read these comments in the sort of high pitched whining voice – as I certainly did.

I’m a Glaswegian, and I am deeply offended by Katie Hopkins and her racist views towards Scotland. Katie Hopkins is no different from Ross Loraine, a boy from Sunderland who was arrested for his vile tweets regarding the victims of the George Square incident on 22nd December 2014. Katie Hopkins should be held accountable for her actions, and should face the same consequences as everyone else who breaks the law using Social Media.

Gary Sinclair, Glasgow

Gary is a Glaswegian. What’s more, he is offended – nay – deeply offended. Well we can’t have that, can we, Gary. Let’s arrest everyone who offends Gary Sinclair.

If you don’t know who Ross Loraine is, then he’s a kid who said something unpalatable about that Glasgow bin-lorry crash and was subsequently arrested for it. Thanks Gary, for illustrating the inefficacy – nay, the dangerousness – of looking the other way while a person is bullied into silence.

I think we can all envisage the disastrous trajectory toward which this nation is pitched. This is like that priest who wrote that poem about the Nazis in his jail cell or whatever. First they came for Ross Loraine, then they came for Katie Hopkins, then they came for…well, not me, obviously. But eventually me. I feel as though I’ve done that priest a disservice by forgetting exactly what his name was. I like to think that if he were alive today, he’d call for my arrest.*

She is no different from the rest of us, man gets charged for saying offensive things about bin lorry tragedy the same should happen here.

Craig Davis, Glasgow

Craig Davis also cites the precedent of Ross Loraine, even if he can’t remember his name. He’s just the nameless Geordie knuckle-dragger who no-one cared before or since his run-in with the thought police.

This is all quite scary, isn’t it? I’m not personally in jeopardy, I don’t think. I don’t go out of my way to offend people on this blog, but neither do I take pains to anticipate offence which my words might incur. I just write whatever I think. I fear that’ll soon become an act punishable by the cat-o-nine tails.

This tweet is insulting and racist. If others get charged with tweets similar then so should this woman.

Colette Cunningham, Motherwell

Well, Colette, I think the first sentence is pretty inconsequential. But the second sentence is utterly terrifying, which more than makes up for it. In fact, it’s probably one of the most terrifying ‘if-then’ sentence ever written, in which an injustice inflicted on one person justifies an injustice inflicted on another.

Note, by the way, how Colette is not merely insulted. This is a common ploy to use this year, if you haven’t already picked it up. No right-thinking person gives two shits about someone being insulted. But if the insult is racist – then, by golly, that’s something to be taken very seriously indeed. The reason is obvious – racism is universally despised, and for good reason.

Thus the merely insulted aspire to become the racial aggrieved. This way, they’ll have many more ears bent toward their tedious whinge-athons. Is Scottishness a race? Is Islam a race? Is monstrous obesity a race? Well, arguably, they all are. If they’re not technically races, they’re races in spirit. Races in the ‘you there, stop saying that shit’ spirit.

She is being racist towards Scottish people and I being Scottish have taken offence and it has really upset me that someone could actually say this and get away with it.

Dianne Mason, Blackburn

Dianne is similarly convinced of Hopkin’s racism (or whatever) against Scottish people – to say nothing of the Palestinians, Muslims, fat people and people whose children’s names do not meet the demented Hopkins standard. It’s okay to be upset, Dianne, really. For example, it upsets me that you’ve said this (or, more accurately, the prospect of you getting your way upsets me), but it does not upset me that you’ve ‘gotten away with it’.

As a health professional her comments offend me. She is a disgrace to all that is British.

Cathy Mcarthur Coventry

Cathy does raise an interesting point – she is a health professional. Well, consider your profession acknowledged, Cathy. Anyway, she’s offended. Katie Hopkins will doubtless, in her private moments, reflect on this while weeping and perhaps sodomising herself with a bloodied crucifix while inside one of those transparent ebola quarantine tents. This scenario might also involve her singing ‘Scots Wa Hae’ during the act, but that’s inconsequential. She’ll be upset – and that’s the important thing.

This woman is just simply racist and is a vile example of humanity. It’s time she was gagged, permanently.

Gail Mackay, Hamilton

Well, that’s a little sinister, isn’t it?  I’d like to think that Gail Mackay isn’t advocating that another person should be killed, but it is difficult to read this in any other way. Perhaps Hopkin’s tongue should merely be cut out and fed to ravenous gulls; perhaps her lips should be superglued together. She is, after all, a ‘vile example of humanity’.

Gail may be subtly calling for a person’s death; she may be calling for mere disfigurement. Either way, this is a pretty ironic choice of venue for voicing such an opinion. Presumably freedom of speech should be lax enough that you can advocate that someone be killed (or at the very least, maimed) yet not so lax that Gail should be offended.

I am signing because Section 127 of the Communications Act 2003 makes it an offence to make improper use of a public electronic communications network such as grossly offensive, indecent, obscene, menacing or annoying phone calls and emails. In addition the Malicious Communications Act, 1988, purpose and scope is to make provision for the punishment of persons who send or deliver letters or other articles for the purpose of causing distress or anxiety.

Section 1 of the Act covers the sending to another of any letters, electronic communications, photographs and recordings that are indecent, grossly offensive or which convey a threat (which may be false), provided there is an intention on the part of the sender to cause distress or anxiety to the person who receives them.

The offence refers to the sending, delivering or transmitting, there is no requirement for the communication to reach (or be read by) the person who is intended to read it.

I believe that there is no doubt that Katie Hopkins is in breach of both Acts and must be charged by the Police in order that the law is upheld.

Alasdair Lamont, Edinburgh

Probably best to conclude with this lengthy defence of the indefensible. I’m not sure acts passed in 2003 and 1988 can be expected to cover Twitter. Hopkins has not, after all, sent thousands and thousands of malicious letters or emails out. She cannot be said to have targeted anyone, she has merely voiced her opinion via a medium which reaches people who have chosen to read them.

The situation is not helped by the legions of outrage-vampires fervently retweeting her bullshit to one another, nor by the news media using her bullshit to lure us all in to their non-news articles. But then, I doubt that anything can be done about that.

Enough of this, anyway. A conclusion is in order. The police should not be in the business of arresting (or even questioning) people for voicing an unpopular opinion. And any law which allows them to do so is in dire need of review. Consider that when you’re all dreaming up your wanky election manifestos, party-political types.

Until next week.

*It’s Martin Niemöller, by the way.

Racism!

I’m guessing most of you will by now be familiar with the death of Eric Garner. I can’t help but notice that America is a land where you can kill someone, provided that you are a policeman and the person you are killing is a black guy. Fortunately, this time the evidence is right there for anyone with a computer to see. It’s on YouTube! Thank God for that, right? Justice through technology.

Except no. It was decided – through some process too insane to be comprehended – that the people who killed this person should not even face trial. I’m struggling to think of a way this killing could have been more unnecessary. The man doesn’t resist at all, and instead complains repeatedly of being unable to breathe until eventually suffocating; what the fuck more need happen before criminal proceedings commence?

There is a temptation, no doubt felt more keenly by white people, that the cop must be given the benefit of the doubt in these instances. Some situations are just crazy, you know? Sometimes it’s absolutely unavoidable that you kill the guy, and sometimes the guy is a black guy.

This sort of rationalisation doesn’t quite cut it when you’re presented with this sort of footage. If this video doesn’t cast an enormous shadow of doubt over the other bajillion instances of cop-on-black-guy crime, for which we don’t have video evidence, I don’t know what will.

That’s pretty much all I want to say about that heinous shit. I’ve never really seriously tackled racism in this blog, mostly because I don’t have a great deal of value to say on the subject. When, at a tender age, I first came to understand what race and racism was, I imagined by the time I was twenty-eight there’d be absolutely no mind paid to skin colour at all.

Well, me-from-the-past, you are an idiot. We’ve seemingly gone in the other direction – everyone’s obsessed with skin colour. Apparently what we really need is a Chinese James Bond, and a black Sherlock Holmes. Not because it might make the films better, but because it will serve some societal good. Obsessing over skin colour, you see, is the only way we’re ever going to fight racism.

I didn’t really think most of you had seen the Eric Garner video. But I do think all of you have by now seen the Star Wars trailer, which sounded a note of controversy as it had a black stormtrooper in it. This became hugely significant, both among the sort of racists who don’t want black people to be stormtroopers, and among the other sorts of racists who condescendingly applaud the fact that a black man can be a stormtrooper. Well done, John Boyega. You’re black.

Can stormtroopers be black? Well, yes, obviously; this one is. Besides, stormtroopers live in a galaxy far, far away, they could conceivably be luminous orange if JJ Abrams so desired. Can any of the characters from The Hobbit be black? Yes. Are they? No. Are Peter Jackson and JRR Tolkein massive racists? Probably not. There just aren’t any black people in Middle Earth.

But wait, aren’t all the stormtroopers meant to be clones of Jango Fett? Well, no, look – all of this shit was explained off-camera. If you watch some shitty CGI spinoff cartoon or read some book you’ll discover that they aren’t really clones anymore. Or, even better, don’t watch or read any of that shit, and don’t watch any of the prequels either. Just forget the whole clone thing.

There was one line in ‘A New Hope’ where Luke says ‘you fought in the clone wars?’ and from that throwaway utterance was vomited forth the entire atrocious arc of the prequel trilogy. I doubt Hamill suspected when uttered that line that it would one day spark a racial controversy. Boyega probably isn’t even a stormtrooper, anyway. This whole scene on Tatooine might be a cosplaying incident gone awry.

Lucas fucked up the first time. No black people. I suppose that all the black people in the galaxy happened to be nowhere significant during the events of the first film. In fact, wasn’t Lando going to be some sort of alien before they realised – hey, um – there aren’t any black people in this film? I think they threw an Asian pilot guy into the Battle of Endor as well. Yay for diversity.

Except now we’ve gone in the other direction, and have no white guys at all! Apparently the guy in the X-Wing is Latino? He seemed pretty white to me – Christ, I’m not so sure anymore. We must launch a protracted investigation into this person’s ancestry to prove how not racist we all are.

In conclusion, you’re all racists except me.

Until next week.

In which I lament the wrath of KHAN!

Well, it’s happened. Black Friday has been imported from America, along with obesity and Adam Sandler. Thanks for that, guys. You bunch of apes. How does anyone profit from this insanity? Surely this will adversely impact demand for things on the remaining days of the year?

I am wholly convinced that this is a symptom of a disease. A contagious disease. Now, most people would say that the disease is consumerism – and guess what? I agree with them. The disease is consumerism. The symptoms include monomania, and a complete loss of regard for the well-being of your fellow human beings.

Hey, I get that buying things is a necessary part of life. I don’t want all my things handed out to me by some government department. I’m all for wanting and buying shit. But buying things should be done slowly, as and when things are needed. Not in freakish, spasmolytic binges. Fuck. What would life be like if you did a yearsworth of salivating in one day? You would be hospitalised.

The only bargain I netted so far has been Mortal Kombat, in the Steam sale. The contents of this game remind me quite a bit of the encounter I witnessed on YouTube, of one girl C’MERE-ing another in order to rob a modestly-priced handbag.

The story mode seemed like the best way to enjoy the game. It’s just a series of fights, interspersed with Shakespearean drama, in which the female characters look like slightly-jaded glamour models, who, struggling to find work after the demise of Nuts magazine, have migrated into the world of BDSM.

The male characters are similarly implausibly proportioned, and slightly thicker. Jonny Cage is meant to be the stupid comic relief character, but in truth they’re all equally stupid – especially Raiden, who manages at one point to accidentally burn someone to death with lightning.

But I can forgive this, along with the game’s generous view of the human body’s ability to withstand broken bones. This is, after all, a game where people can teleport and cast fireballs and lightning from their fingers.

Anyway, after you’ve beaten the living snot out of everyone, including your nominal allies, you get to fight Shao Khan. Something might happen after this – I don’t know, as I have yet to best this monstrosity. I’ve won perhaps four rounds out of the fifty plus I’ve played against him. My girlfriend listens from another room to the sound of Raiden’s bones being repeatedly broken, and lightning attacks being blithely swatted aside by this absolute bitch of an end boss, intersperesed at roughly forty-second intervals by the announcement that Shao Khan wins.

Raiden has the ability to fly across the room and tackle people around the middrift – a doubtless essential move, and one which I’ve been abusing to all hell. But if you do this and it doesn’t work out, Shao Khan will just go to town. It’s like watching a youtube compilation of the most one-sided, injury-resulting UFC encounters.

Occasionally I come very close. But for every close-fought round there are three or four where he just molests me in the face. The chances of me ever winning more than one out of every three rounds is remote. I feel like James Rolfe when I play this game.

The injustice of it all is maddening – and of course, anger makes you lose more. This fight prompts surges of anger I haven’t felt since a round of FIFA* prompted me to smash open the bottom of my Xbox controller and bite a huge hole there. It’s a vicious circle.   This is like some lesson in Zen – how does one remain calm when faced with this shit? Is this game trying to impart some knowledge which I can’t hope to grasp?

Sometimes he blocks it, sometimes he doesn’t bother; he just sort of glows gold, disregards my puny attempts to fight him and proceeds to batter me in the face. What an absolute fucker. The pattern in which this effect occurs seems entirely random, or so arcane that it might as well be. Maybe I’m supposed to refrain from attacking whenever a rogue magical wombat is present atop a skyscraper in the far distance.

“It’s official!” he bellows, having just smashed me in the face with his glowing green sledgehammer.  “You suck!”

Just what the hell is your problem, Shao Khan? I’ve just kicked you in the shin, really, really hard. Fall the fuck over! In Mortal Kombat, as in other fighting games, hitting someone should interrupt their attempts to hit you. If you get there first, then the animation will cease, and they will stagger back a bit. Shao Khan doesn’t do that shit.

Am I supposed to just disregard all of the game mechanics thus far? When I get to the final race of F1 2014 season will I discover that everyone’s brakes have been cut except for Alonso’s? When I get to the end of Tetris, will all the blocks turn momentarily octagonal? Fuck! What’s the end boss of the next MK going to be? Shao Khan in an M1 Abrams tank? I’d have the same chance of beating him!

I feel like I’m just running away from a horrible monster. My nightmares are going to be haunted by my foolish attempts to jump over his hammer uppercut, forgetting that he is tall as shit.

I bet Shao Khan doesn’t have any problems at Black Friday. I bet he could just wander into any shop of his choosing. If anyone told him he couldn’t have a 60” plasma, he’d have no problems. The prospect of having him stamp on their head before tossing their inert body aside would be sufficient.

I’m sure if you are such a person, Black Friday would be immensely profitable. You could simply push people aside like the puny thunder-gods that they are. For next year’s Black Friday I’m just going to go down to the nearest sweaty-gym. You know, one of those weird beefcake gyms which only rugby players, professional wrestlers and characters from Mortal Kombat can enter, and all of the very-heavy weights are mounted on the tusks of a mastodon. I’m going to pay them two-hundred pounds to go and get me a two-grand TV at 20% off. An excellent deal.

Or I could just start lifting weights now. I don’t know.  In more immediate future, i’m going to make another attempt to beat that motherfucker.  I must be a masochist.

Until next week.

*I think they were playing as Real Madrid, who are like the Shao Khan of the football world.

UPDATE:  I BEAT HIM!!!!1

Bleh.

Bleh is the word with which I describe today. It is grey outside, and I’ve contracted some condition which makes the rear wall of my throat feel like an antelope’s inflamed anus. And worse, some technical fault in my Printrbot – the details of which I’ll spare you all – is delaying the loosing of my latest project onto this unsuspecting world. It delayed this blog, as well – hence its breivity.

I note that most things that have been happening in the world have been similarly disagreeable. But in the last few weeks a number of events have given me cause for good cheer. The approach of Christmas is – spoiler alert – not one of them.

There was the Rosetta mission, which captured everyone’s imagination – albeit for different reasons. There was the release of Interstellar. A splendid film, made all the more splendid for its political message – which I happen to wholly agree with. Human beings should be exploring space. I feel this strongly enough that I feel compelled to now write about it.

I’m not sure I possess the necessary eloquence to put across how excellent all this stuff is – nor how ceaselessly irritated I am by how little there is of it. Why are we not doing this shit every week?

Because money. Space exploration, and science in general, was grossly underfunded even before this never-ending age of tightened purse-strings. Now any mention of blasting a rocket toward some distant rock and poking our noses around is met with indignation. Aren’t there better things we should be spending our money on?

Some like-minded eggheads have gotten together and come up with a plan so obvious it’s a wonder it wasn’t thought of sooner. The government not spending enough on space exploration? Well, we’ll just fund our own!

Ah, crowd-funding. Is there anything it can’t do? Maybe in the future it will replace taxation; instead of giving over money in exchange for roads, laws and errr – police and crime commissioners, we’ll simply crowd-fund the stuff we want. If the roundabout near your flat suffers from congestion, then crowd-fund a bigger one. If the local constabulary is implicated in a decade-spanning child-abuse scandal, then crowd-fund an independent inquiry.

It seems very bizarre that we should go to the moon and then not return for fifty years. In ‘69, one might reasonably have projected that the year 2014 would see space exploration concerned with colonising Alpha Centauri, and the moon accessible via EasyJet. I can’t help but wonder how this lack of progress might look to a disinterested observer. A historian in the distant future, say, or some alien with a lot of time on its tentacles.

There is a limited pool of money which will be given to charity, for which this project is competing with cancer research and Shelter and Water Aid and whatever – charities which have a direct impact on human lives. In that context, this seems like an indulgence – almost offensively so, in fact.

Of course, it’s not a matter of choosing between different causes – you have to do everything at once. Space exploration benefits everyone. What this mission really needs is a viral stunt: something akin to the ALS ice bucket challenge would do nicely.

Fortunately, public interest in science is enjoying something of a resurgence. We have popular Facebook pages like IFLS, and million-selling authors who write exclusively about all things scientific. One can only hope that this will translate into more space exploration.

Lunar Mission One has presented exactly that – though the rewards seem as tokenistic as they always are with this sort of thing.

You can now put your name into a time capsule on the moon. I’ve always considered the idea of a ‘time capsule’ to be somewhat twee – and a little conceited. I can imagine, on Christmas Day of the year 3014, some life-form opening their time capsule, and throwing their arms aloft. Rejoice! Presumably this will occur after everything of historical interest on Earth has been pored over to the extent that everyone’s bored with it. Another reward is that your name be ‘inscribed’ on the website’s wall of thanks. Well, I don’t want to condescend a group of elite scientists, but nothing’s getting ‘inscribed’ on shit. Why not just write our names on a piece of metal and leave it on the goddam moon? I’d much prefer that.

It seems sad that any reward be offered. No, the reason to fund a mission to the moon is that you think there should be a mission to the moon. It should ideally be a manned (or womanned, since you’re asking) mission to the moon, but whatever. Maybe in another decade’s time, we can crowd-fund that.  The name given to this mission – Lunar Mission One – implies a hope for a sequel or two.  Maybe then Mars and the rest. Then beyond!

That’s not to say, by the way, that I wouldn’t enjoy a visit to mission control, if anyone wants to put that under my Christmas tree. If I bother buying one.

Until next week.

On feminism (again)

Every year, TIME magazine launches a poll in order to determine what their readers thought was the most worthy of being banned. This year, the list of candidates featured phrases like ‘om nom nom nom’ and ‘said no-one ever’. You know, shit we’re now bored of.

Also included was the word ‘feminism’, with this commentary appended:

You have nothing against feminism itself, but when did it become a thing that every celebrity had to state their position on whether this word applies to them, like some politician declaring a party? Let’s stick to the issues and quit throwing this label around like ticker tape at a Susan B. Anthony parade.

TIME readers agreed, and the word quickly sailed to 45% of the total vote, with its closest competitor languishing at around 10%. Wow, I guess people agree with what you wrote, TIME magazine. Which is why you had to remove the word from the poll.

Yes, the fact that this word was included in the poll was enough to prompt a severe backlash in the same vein that prompted Matt Taylor into a grovelling apology over a bowling shirt. TIME’s editor, Nancy Gibbs, weighed in with a grovelling apology of her own:

TIME apologizes for the execution of this poll; the word ‘feminist’ should not have been included in a list of words to ban. While we meant to invite debate about some ways the word was used this year, that nuance was lost, and we regret that its inclusion has become a distraction from the important debate over equality and justice.

I can see why this apology was warranted, after all. “Let’s stick to the issues” is the sort of radical woman-hating rhetoric I would expect from Dapper Laughs. I disagree, Nancy; I suspect the distraction was provided by the word itself, which is why everyone is so sick of hearing it.

I’m not really in favour of banning words – and neither, I suspect, is TIME. This exercise was conducted with a tongue placed firmly in-cheek. The backlash, however, was not. Could there have been a more emphatic proof of the merit of the original complaint? That a word is now actually banned from being involved in a list of things that aren’t really going to be banned?

Here’s Wikipedia’s definition of what constitutes a feminist:

A feminist advocates or supports the rights and equality of women.

Now, I consider it perishingly unlikely that 45% of the people who responded to this poll disagree with feminism of that sort. The word ‘feminism’ clearly has broader, more annoying connotations – which is why people roll their eyes whenever it is mentioned.

“Oh god, here we go again,” say men, women, children, dogs and cats alike; “another hectoring rant about something inconsequential”. Now it’s associated with obsessive whining about the most trivial shit imaginable – shirts, banknotes and Bayonetta’s arse.

Feminism, as a movement, has a huge PR problem. It is blighted by dogmatism, a lack of self-criticism and an unwillingness to engage with contrary viewpoints – preferring instead a sort of sneering contempt at the idea that it should even have to.

In this sense, it has much in common with religion. It has reasonable proponents, and it has its extremist sects; it has its heresies, and it has its sacred cows. Indeed, Feminism has more sacred cows than India. Assumptions which, when challenged, result in a spasmolytic fit of outraged shit-flinging. I don’t have to listen to that, because you’re a sexist/misogynist/feministophobe/blasphemer.

Anyway, since we’re banned from banning feminism, I thought I’d go through a few other words and phrases which I don’t much care for – though that doesn’t mean I’d like to ban them. I just don’t swing that way, baby.

If you’re not part of the solution, you are part of the problem

Though the saying preceded him, I think this line of reasoning was made famous by George Bush Jr. It is enjoying a resurgence, in a variety of forms, among feminists. I can think of only a single sane riposte to this sort of thing: A problem can have more than one solution – yours is a shit one. Now fuck off.

Mansplaining

As far as I can tell, this when a man explains something. If you’re doing a degree in physics or something, and you have to study the laws of motion, you can explain that Newton was simply mansplaining about the conservation of energy and whatever. His sneering condescension dribbles from every page of Principia.

Or maybe it’s when a man explains something which only a woman is allowed to have an opinion on, like rape or maternity rights or feminism. The word provides a means of ignoring an unwelcome fact or opinion. Indeed, I probably shouldn’t even be writing this blog, as I don’t have a womb.

Problematic

Now, I don’t consider the word ‘problematic’ to be problematic; I simply think it has acquired a euphemistic usage. Declaring something to be ‘problematic’ cunningly avoids explaining exactly what the problem is. Indeed, the fact of the problem is often taken to be self-evident.

I’m pretty convinced there’s a linguistic cause behind this; someone more studied in this sort of thing may be able to shed some light on it. “I have a problem with cheese” is a statement of personal viewpoint, about which you can either care or not care. “Cheese is problematic” presents a whiff of broader, more serious connotation. What the hell is wrong with the cheese? Does this problem affect us all? Perhaps I’m about to suggest you all become vegans. Whatever.

Lewis’s Law

Popular writer at the New Statesman, Helen Lewis, noticed that lots of the people commenting beneath articles on feminism were not feminists. In many cases, she considered their input most unwelcome. She posited a law to describe the problem.

Comments on any article about feminism justify feminism

As you might have noticed, Lewis’s law is not really a law, as it’s not testable. But leave that to one side, she’s obviously noticed that there are lots of total wankers on the internet. Well, on this much we agree.

But whether something is ‘justified’ a matter of opinion. You have to justify something to someone; you can’t justify something to thin air. So this is all subjective. You can substitute pretty much any position you like, with much the same outcome:

The comments underneath an article about ethnic cleansing justify ethnic cleansing.

The comments underneath an article about the hokey kokey justify the hokey kokey.

The comments underneath an article about moderating the comments section justify moderating the comments section.

Now, you may already be inclined toward genocide, over-gregarious communal dance and censorship, and the ire of your detractors may reaffirm that inclination. That does not say anything about the justness of the cause, in and of itself. Declaring it that it does, because of some immutable ‘law’ of the universe, is, shall we say, problematic.

I did notice, while researching the exact phrasing of Lewis’ Law, that she has attracted the ire of the wiki where it was listed, on the grounds that she is an ‘intersectional’ feminist. What the fuck this word means, I have no idea. Another schism within the church of Feminism.

Anyway, that’s it. I’m done. In conclusion: Feminism, this was not a good week for you.

Until next week.