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Diarist’s dozen…

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Yes it’s day twelve, the penultimate trip down the tangent trail towards today’s tenuous target.
We start off by sampling a slice of psychedelic space rock, then our journey continues via some gloriously jangly pop and an inside look at one of the year’s nastiest new TV characters, to finish off with a wealth of audio amusement.

On our last outing we ended by paying tribute to the great scientific minds that helped us to find and identify that pesky little particle, the Higgs boson. So I thought I’d start this first leg of the home straight with an album by one of my all-time favourite bands;

Hawkwind named their 1977 album after some more subatomic particles and you can get your very own dose of cosmic radiation by listening to the whole thing right now – Quark, Strangeness and Charm
And where to go from there but to This Charming Man by The Smiths, fronted by Morrissey.
English actor David Morrissey has had great success in the States this year, playing new character The Governor in zombie thriller series The Walking Dead
…which stars another Englishman abroad, Andrew Lincoln, who had his first walk-on part in up-to-the-minute satirical newsroom sit-com Drop the Dead Donkey..
…which was co-written by Andy Hamilton, creator of Hell-based radio comedy series Old Harry’s Game and presenter of an irreverent documentary on the history and myths surrounding his lead character, The Search for Satan.
Hamilton is also a regular guest on BBC Radio 4’s “antidote to panel games”, the fabulous I’m Sorry, I Haven’t a Clue, now presented by Jack Dee.
But here’s the classic line up, with late, great jazz trumpeter and national treasure Humphrey “Humph” Lyttelton in the chair, recording the show in front of a live audience.

And I’m keeping to the radio comedy theme for my second-to-last choice of 2013 best bits, mainly because I love it and partly because not enough people listen to comedy on the radio nowadays, despite the fact that many of our most popular TV sketch and panel shows started off on the airwaves before making the move to the small screen.

This show is presided over by a man who is no stranger to TV himself, David Mitchell, who has graced this list once already.
Ladies and gentleman, I give you The Unbelievable Truth.

Enjoy, and I’ll return with the final episode of Tenuous Tina and her Lynx of Love tomorrow.

 
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Posted by on December 22, 2013 in Arts, Blogging, Humour, Music, Tenuous Lynx, TV

 

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And on the eighth day…

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Entering the second week in the company of Tenuous Tina and her Lynx of Love, I’m beginning to wonder if I’ll ever again have a thought which I don’t automatically try to connect to another by way of a tortuous route through cultural references trawled from my memory banks.

That being said, I’ve found some excellent stuff that I would not usually have come across in the normal course of writing a blog post, so I’m not complaining.

And today’s collection of multimedia nuggets are no exception; the full first episode of yet another of my TV highlights from 2013; the original ’80s pilot of one of my absolute, no competition, hands down, top TV shows of all time (no, not Twin Peaks this time); a hit single by the star of that same show AND two complete audio books by one of my favourite authors.

Don’t say I never do anything for you.

If I remember rightly, we ended yesterday on Boss, the drama in which Kelsey Grammer chews up the scenery as the mayor of Chicago.
So today;

A real life mayor who has been in the news of late and possibly the year’s most honest and frank politician, Toronto mayor Rob Ford admitted to smoking crack, although he did point out that he only did so whilst in an “alcoholic stupor”.
Well that’s okay then.
He was interviewed on television by Conrad Black, who was born in Canada but has a British peerage (he is officially Baron Black of Crossharbour)
Orphan Black was a top new science fiction series from this year and it was filmed in Canada but made by the very British BBC..
…and co-stars Matt Frewer, possibly best known as the man behind the glitching rubber mask of neurotic sci-fi cyber-clown Max Headroom and his real world alter-ego, Edison Carter.
Max Headroom provided the vocals for The Art of Noise’s hit single Paranomia and I think that’s the cue for a song.
Take it away Max…

Paranomia is a song about not being able to get to sleep, or insomnia, as the condition is known. Insomnia is also the title of a novel by Stephen King and you can listen to the whole audio book right here.

Bringing me to a much anticipated literary event, the launch of Dr Sleep, King’s long-awaited sequel to The Shining.

So at Christmas, when the turkey has been stripped to the bone and you can’t move from eating too many mince pies, settle into your favourite chair, plug in your headphones, close your eyes and listen to Will Patton read the latest chilling masterpiece from one of the world’s greatest writers.

You’re welcome.

Wow, there was some good stuff in there!
Make sure you check out the Max Headroom link to discover the origin of a cult TV comedy legend and I’ll see you tomorrow for more exhaustively researched randomness.

 

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Tina takes the fifth…

Hello there, welcome to day five of putting all sorts of stuff into a completely different linear sequence to previously.
In other words, a New Order.

No?
Just me then.

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Ok, here we go again.
Yesterday, my fourth instalment in this festive farrago of fabricated flowcharts ended with New Order and their Lost Sirens album.

New Order are from Manchester, as are Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds.
Another famous Gallagher from Manchester is Frank Gallagher from Shameless, which came to an end this year.
Earlier series of Shameless also featured a character called Kevin, played by Dean Lennox Kelly, who co-stars in Frequently Asked Questions About Time Travel
… a film that stars Chris O’Dowd who was in The IT Crowd, which also came to an end this year.
The IT Crowd first series included cameos from comedy terrorist Chris Morris, who created near-the-knuckle satirical offense-fest Brass Eye
…co-created with Armando Iannucci, whose toe-curlingly crass creation, Alan Partridge from The Day Today went on to star in his own series.

Bringing us to another movie highlight of the year, Alan Partridge – Alpha Papa.

Don’t forget to check out all the links in these posts. They are packed full of music videos, films, whole episodes of classic TV shows, entire albums and live performances, tailor-made to get you through the televisual dross that passes for entertainment over the festive season.
So bookmark yourself some virtual chunks of holiday cheer, compliments of Diary of an Internet Nobody.

Don’t touch that dial…

 
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Posted by on December 13, 2013 in Arts, Films, Humour, Music, Tenuous Lynx, TV

 

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Tenuous Tina and her Lynx of love…

Those of you who have been reading this nonsense for long enough may remember that I did my 2012 end of year review in the form of The Internet Nobody Awards, or TINA’s as I like to call them, which I bestowed upon my favourite stuff from last year.
TV, film, music, gigs, and blogs were all put through my rigorous rating system (all the rules of which are a closely guarded secret, to prevent me having to make them up them falling into the hands of unscrupulous bookmakers) and a lucky few received a custom made virtual Tina statuette.

Well this year, despite failing miserably to convince a single one of my nominees to attempt a daisy-chain sequence akin to my Tenuous Lynx Award from a few weeks ago, and because I enjoyed doing it, I’ve decided to combine the two.
As I write this I’m still working on the details, but as I’m not really one for following rules, (even my own) I’ll probably just make it up as I go along.

For a start, it isn’t going to be a review of stuff that necessarily has anything to do with 2013 per se, more a list of things that I’ve found and loved in the last twelve months, irrespective of when they’re from.

Make sense?
Well, we’ll see won’t we?

So, without further ado allow me to introduce; (fanfare please)

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As we are coming to the end of 2013, I think it only right that I should pick 13 things that I think deserve this deeply contrived and random accolade.
Of course each one should once again be connected to the next by 7º of separation and all the links should be stuff that I like.
With any luck, when the predictably dreadful festive TV kicks in, this list will give you a pre-loaded store of entertainment to fall back on between the few decent films and acceptable one-off Christmas specials that might just sneak in when the schedulers aren’t looking. (I have a feeling this may take more than one post)

But where to start?

I think it’s only fair that Tina herself finally gets some credit. Tina Weymouth that is, for it is her head that adorns the gleaming statuette I created last year.

So;
Tina Weymouth played bass in Talking Heads, who made the greatest film document of a concert of all time, Stop Making Sense, and you can watch the whole movie right here.
David Byrne from Talking Heads made My Life in a Bush of Ghosts with producer-boffin extraordinaire, Brian Eno.
Eno has worked on albums by artists as diverse as U2, Coldplay, David Bowie and James.
James and the Giant Peach is a children’s book by Roald Dahl, who also created and introduced Tales of the Unexpected which scared the crap out of us every week when we were kids.
One thing that’s always unexpected is The Spanish Inquisition
…which is a Daft sketch by Monty Python, who were famous in the era of Punk.

Which brings us to the first arbitrary highlight of my year, Daft Punk’s album Random Access Memories.

So there you have it, the start of a rather unconventional look back at some of the cool things from my year.

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Hope you approve of at least some of my recommendations.
I shall endeavour to provide you with more cultural gems each day in the lead-up to the holidays.
A virtual advent calendar of audio visual delights will be my present to you, lovely readers.

So stay tuned for more from Tenuous Tina and friends, or yule be sorry…

 
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Posted by on December 10, 2013 in Arts, Blogging, Films, Humour, Music, Tina awards, TV

 

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Spamble on…

It won’t be long now before the festive-TV-special season is upon us. 
We’ve already had our appetites whetted by the 50th anniversary Dr Who film, Matt Smith’s penultimate outing as everyone’s favourite, increasingly quirky, timey-wimey alien cosmic wanderer, before the role is taken over in the traditional Christmas one-off episode by the brilliant Peter Capaldi, best known for his incandescently vitriolic turn as the monstrous Malcolm Tucker in Armando Iannucci’s scathing political satire, The Thick Of It.

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Peter Capaldi -“F**k the Daleks, F**k the Cybermen and F**kity Bollocks to the Ood”

But that’s not the only classic series due to grace our screens once more over the Christmas holidays.
One of the original founders of the new wave of British alternative comedy in the ’70s and ’80s, Rowan Atkinson, has revealed that he will revive what is arguably his greatest role, the various incarnations of Edmund Blackadder in a one-off special which will include the first in-depth interview with Atkinson about his years playing the devious scoundrel through history.

As if that wasn’t enough, the Godfathers of surreal British humour, the surviving members of the Monty Python team, have announced (at a press conference in the theatre currently showing Python-inspired musical, Spamalot) that they are writing a new live show for next year at London’s O2 arena.

Eager though I am to see new material from these giants of comedy, (I feel confident that there will be a DVD tie-in) I doubt they will manage anything as memorable as this national treasure of a sketch, still as unfathomably hilarious now as it was when I first remember seeing it as a kid.

And while we’re on the subject, something else which seems to have become more prevalent the nearer we get to the holidays is the other, less welcome sort of spam.
I am of course talking about the electronic variety, as opposed to the type celebrated at the almost certainly bonkers Spam Museum in America.

I have a filter that is supposed to deal with the badly translated, incomprehensible robot-generated comments that are so obviously trying to entice me into checking out a “very big fun website”, buying one of the “ultra discrete male enhancement devices” from an extensive online catalogue, or investing my money in get-rich-quick opportunities involving everything from timeshare apartments in Bulgaria and Nigerian lottery scams, to distinctly sinister pyramid selling schemes that appear to originate in Thailand.
But my spambot seems to have become rather lenient of late and more gibberish is slipping through the Net.

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Even as I write this post, another poorly worded pseudo-compliment arrived through the ether;
“It’s going to be ending of mine day, but before finish I am reading this great article to increase my know-how”

Now, given that said article is a story about youthful alcohol and weed-fuelled parties, resulting in Zippy falling over a wall and breaking his arm, I can only assume that my latest spammer wants to increase their knowledge of how to become a drunken idiot and get tips on creative ways of injuring themselves.

I fail to see how any of these virtual mailshots of mangled grammar could possibly persuade anyone that they were written by people who could read English written by someone who had read the article human beings, let alone convince them to part with hard earned cash.

Does anyone fall for this nonsense?
Well I pride myself on not getting conned by these Internet Shysters, but as I recently discovered, even that has a downside.

I received a comment on a post a few days ago from someone purporting to be a “new blogger” who had yet to post anything and who wanted me to contact her via Skype.
This unusual request, coupled with her (I thought) suspiciously over-French name, Monique Le Roux, which reminded me of something from ‘Allo ‘Allo, along with the absence of any evidence of a blog, convinced me I was being spammed.
So I was very cagey about doing anything except suggesting she get in touch via Facebook or joining BlogCatalog.com,

It wasn’t until the next day when I got an email from Miss Le Roux, proudly containing a link to her lovely new blog, that I realised what a fool I’d been.
So Monique, if you’re reading this, please accept my apology for mistaking you for a stereotypical comedy French maid intent on selling me something and allow me to welcome you to the blogosphere.

Spam’s off.

(“Internet Spam” cartoon by Ho)

 

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The anti-social network…

When was the last time you were offended or upset by something that a stranger did in public?

Is there a benchmark for inappropriate public behaviour that most people can agree on?

For instance, if a topless woman got on the bus you were travelling on, would you expect anyone to be offended?

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Ok gentlemen, bad example.

How about breast feeding?
Perfectly natural. Nothing unacceptable about that.
At least you wouldn’t have thought so.

Once you get online however, all the usual rules and logic seem to go out the window.

Hypocrisy appears to be the order of the day when it comes to the policies of Facebook in particular.
Only this week the social networking platform flip-flopped their ruling on gratuitously violent content, when they first defended the already once-reversed decision to allow the posting of an incredibly graphic video featuring the beheading of a woman by a Mexican drug gang, then re-reversed the ruling when there was a public backlash that such extreme violence could be so easily accessible by anyone with a Facebook account.

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Yet posting a photo of a woman breast feeding is expressly (no pun intended) forbidden by their nudity policy. In fact the policy, which specifically bans the depiction of a “fully exposed breast”, was rather confusingly cited as the reason for giving me a 24 hour ban from the site after posting the picture below, under the heading “Does anyone think this is an appropriate pose for a family photo?”

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See any breasts?
No.
Ok, it’s wrong on many levels, but it does not contravene the boob law as I understand it.

Even more bizarrely, I received a stern warning from the Fb taste police after posting a photo of a topless woman which most definitely does not contain breasts.
Posted in relation to a story on breast cancer awareness, the following photo shows the beautifully tattooed chest of a woman who has had a double mastectomy.

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See any breasts?
No.

The rules governing what is and what is not acceptable are so arbitrary they seem to have been pulled out of a hat at random and selectively applied to equally random content, without any rhyme or reason whatsoever.

Despite, or perhaps because of, this peculiar interpretation of their own policies it is still entirely possible to view other, similarly gruesome decapitation videos on Facebook without any special access being required.
Not only that, there are pages dedicated to everything from making tasteless jokes about babies dying of cancer to those that promote dog fighting and graphic cruelty to animals. Blatantly racist and misogynistic content seems to sail invisibly past whatever passes for the Fb decency filters, which only ever seem to be activated by mild sexual titillation and the hopefully obvious category of threatening other users with rape or personal violence.

Other platforms are often guilty of comparable lapses of common sense in applying their own rules,  most recently illustrated by Twitter‘s lamentably slow response to the raft of rape and death threats suffered by women such as the history teacher I would have loved to have had at school, Mary Beard, over something as ridiculous as whether or not we had a man or a woman on a bank note.

Really? Bomb threats over something like that?
You wouldn’t have thought the sort of moron who makes anonymous threats on Twitter would have that passionate an aesthetic appreciation of the engraver’s art would you?

And don’t get me started on the self-harm and bulimia glorification showcase that occupies an alarmingly growing percentage of tumblr content.

It’s true that we should have the freedom to watch, read and listen to whatever we want, without the censors second-guessing our moral standards for us. But the fact remains that anybody, including children and anyone else who can access a computer, laptop or smartphone, can join one or more of these ostensibly inoffensive social networks and within minutes be exposed to the type of graphic images once vilified as Snuff Movies.

I don’t claim to have any answers to the dilemma of how to regulate what makes something too offensive to publish, nor do I expect the situation to get anything but more complex as the sprawling embrace of the World Wide Web encompasses more of our daily lives.

But I do have a tenuous link to finish on, with two excellent videos for your entertainment.

The first is most certainly “all done in the best possible taste” showcasing as it does the comedic talents of one of Britain’s best loved and sadly missed performers, Kenny Everett
(Ron from Vent, this is for you)

… and the second most certainly isn’t, because right here you can watch the full length movie of Peter “Lord of the Rings” Jackson‘s outrageous debut feature length alien/zombie comic horror masterpiece from 1987, Bad Taste.
(Hilarious, but not for those of a delicate disposition or those easily offended, blah, blah, etc, etc..)

Enjoy.
And let’s be careful out there…

 

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Intermission: Brand new world…

I’m not in the habit of doing short posts attached to viral videos, on the basis that if it’s that good, you’ve probably seen it already. 

But as the clip in question involves Russell Brand, someone I’ve become increasingly fond of over recent years – and who I have featured in a previous post –  (surely some sort of post-ironic national treasure status can’t be far away) and he does such a sterling job of disarming the BBC’s resident news rottweiler, Jeremy Paxman, I could hardly resist posting this interview.

For those of you unfamiliar with Mr Paxman, he is the BBC’s most notorious politician-savager, although here he appears in slightly more relaxed mode. Perhaps it’s the effect of the cuddly beard.

And if you don’t know who Russell is by now,….. how did you manage to find the Internet today?

Apart from anything else, Mr Brand talks a lot of sense and very nicely articulates what a lot of people think about the state of our current political system.

Watch and learn (and laugh)

 
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Posted by on October 25, 2013 in Blogging, Humour, News, Social comment, TV

 

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Shampooing about shamanism…

In one of the very first posts on this blog I stated that I would not be using it to evangelise about my taste in music, nor would I try to convince you that you should be listening to the new tune by my current favourite band, or that your liking for Sting or Phil Collins is an unacceptable abomination, (which it clearly is) because, as the brilliant (but, in the UK, largely unknown) comedian Martin Mull once pointed out “Writing about music is like dancing about architecture”.

In case you aren’t familiar with his work, here’s a clip –

I’ve always thought his quote was excellent, perfectly summing up the total subjectivity of personal taste and, at the same time, illustrating how pointless it is to try and explain something as ephemeral as music. 
However, it was only recently that I discovered the genesis of the saying.

Despite the fact that it has been attributed at various times to people as diverse as Frank Zappa, Elvis Costello, and even Steve Martin, the phrase (or at least the formula for it) has been in use since as far back as the 1920s, when any two activities were juxtaposed in a similar way to emphasise incongruities in the name of comic effect.

For example; “Talking about ice hockey is like pot-holing about gynaecology”

Ah, ok, that’s not a good example.

How about; “Singing about accountancy is like wanking about politics”
or “Whispering about gardening is like skydiving about cookery”

You get the idea.

Anyway, given the tangential way my mind works, I somehow managed to make the leap from the “a about b is like x about y” formula to a 1940s parlour game called Winkle’s Wedding which I used to play with some friends in Sussex.
The connection being missing words.

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The idea of the game was very simple.
The tale of Winkle and his sweetheart’s wedding was printed in a booklet that was read out by one of the players, but which also had strategically placed gaps in the text.
The other players (up to six if I remember rightly) were dealt a hand from a pack of cards that had words or phrases printed on each one, and at the point at which the narrator reached a gap in the story, the next player in turn spoke the word on their card.

So, for instance, you might end up with;
“Winkle presented his bride with a _______ from which she pulled an __________.”

And the next two cards in order of play could be “duck” and “umbrella”, causing much innocent hilarity.

Now, it occurred to me that in this age of smartphones, computers, predictive text and auto-correct, it should be possible to construct a 21st century version of the game whereby a word is chosen at random from a list of suggestions provided by your device.
Unfortunately this method didn’t work quite as well as I’d hoped, the difficulty being that it’s remarkably hard to intentionally misspell words with the hope of getting comical suggestions from a silicon brain with no sense of humour.

So I’d like to set a challenge to any of you that have some time on your hands over the weekend.

I shall provide a list of words at the bottom of this post which can be copied onto bits of paper, shuffled, then placed face down in front of anybody willing to help with this experiment.

You should pick a well known passage from a book, song, poem or any other source material you fancy and then remove some carefully selected words from the text, (anything up to a dozen or so should do it) leaving gaps to be filled in afterwards.
As you narrate your chosen passage, the other player (or players) must pick random pieces of paper and read out the words on them to fill the gaps.

You then copy the words in bold into the text (to show where the gaps were) and post the result in the comments section of this post.

If you so wish, you can also provide me with your own list of insertable words, with which I shall attempt to do something similar at this end.

(You will of course have an advantage over previous players of the game, having already seen the list of words and possibly being able to pick the source text accordingly. Not that I condone cheating, except for the sake of decent comic effect anyway)

Here are my word suggestions for insertion, please use as many or few as you like, but each word must only be used once:

Aardvark.
Spandex.
Carrot.
Huge.
Terrifying.
Run away.
Plastic.
Tuesday.
Enraged.
Fishing rod.
Estonia.
Nigel Farage.
Hospital.
Assistance.
Chicken.
Roughly.
Makeshift.
Hilarious.
Towel.
Existential.
Mother-in-law.
Soft.
Why.
Foam finger.
Plentiful.
Jet wash.
Inclination.
Yogurt.
Giant squid.
Policeman.
Thanksgiving.
Average.
Miley Cyrus.
Accurate.
Undignified.
Virginity.
Badger.
Ice cream.
Please.
Ladder.
Auditorium.
I-phone.
Interesting.
War.
Drugs.
Guilty.
Pulling.
Slap.
Dribble.
Forced.
Affronted.
Faster.
Headache.
Don’t do that.
Probability.
Barack Obama.
Irrepressible.
Testicles.
Brown.
Vibrating.
Ouch.
Don’t stop.
Family reunion.
Humble.
Excreted.
Squeeze.
Treacle.

I have no idea whether this silly game will work.
For all I know, blogging about Winkle’s Wedding is like tobogganing about palaeontology, but it’s worth a try.

Update – 29/09/13

Whilst chatting to Ho the other day, I urged him to go and see an event near him in Sussex where a literary hero of mine, Terry Pratchett is giving a talk this weekend.
Ho is not a fantasy fiction fan, but I assured him that it would be worth going to see Terry speak anyway, as he’s a fascinating man.

I’m glad to say that he took my advice and will be attending the talk. And in the spirit of this post, earlier today Ho sent me this message:

I have enraged your advice and spandex a ticket to badger Terry Pratchett this treacle. I will foam finger your testicles later to let you dribble how it excreted.

A fine first attempt at my hybrid parlour game, I’m sure you’ll agree.

Over to you…

 
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Posted by on September 28, 2013 in aardvark, Blogging, Computers, Humour

 

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Faith, dope, and hilarity…

This week I watched this wonderful interview, the last given by the late, great Scot, Iain Banks talking to the not late but just as Scottish Kirsty Wark, in which he refers to himself as “an evangelical atheist”.

Now, I have touched on my complete lack of any religious faith before, but I have made a point of steering clear of theological discussions as I find that I tend to antagonise people who do have faith.

This isn’t always intentional I might add.

Much as I applaud Iain Banks’ stand on behalf of sanity atheism, and his desire to knock on people’s doors and ask if they’ve heard the good word facts, I always find that this sort of approach is counterproductive.

Because the argument from some believers is that if you’re going to go around promoting atheism (instead of quietly sitting there not believing to yourself, presumably) then you’re probably over-compensating for your fervent religious beliefs as some sort of panacea to your inner heathen.

Although obviously that is an outrageous argument to use in defence of atheism.

For instance, I could say that people go to church on Sunday to loudly and publicly declare their faith in God by praying and singing hymns in order to supress their utter denial of His existence.
Simply to blot out the gigantic screaming void left in their psyche by the sheer gibbering terror brought on by the thought that maybe, to put it simply, Shit Just Happens.

But I wouldn’t say that because I recognise that those people actually believe this stuff.
So why is it that so many of the faithful have such trouble getting to grips with atheism’s insistence on relying on things that we can see, hear, taste, touch, and smell for our view of the world?

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One thing that I didn’t agree with Iain Banks on was that it was a good idea to have “just that half a percent of agnosticism” to account for the infinitesimally small chance that you might be wrong.
To me that seems like defeating the point of atheism. It’s pretty much an all or nothing deal as far as I’m concerned.

However, that particular point does give me an excuse to crowbar in this classic sketch from pre-Bean Rowan Atkinson.
Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Hell…

The other thing about the freedom of religion/atheism divide that irks me is the apparent right of all sorts of beaming, glassy-eyed devotees of any number of faiths/cults to knock on my door while I’m eating my dinner and ask me if I’ve heard The Word (you can hear the capitals) and if not, have I got just a few minutes to spare so they can enlighten me.

In most cases what they’re basically saying boils down to; “We think your way of life is wrong and we’d like to educate you as to how you can live a better, less morally bankrupt existence. All you have to do is follow all these rules.”

Which is fine as far as it goes. Free country and all that.

But I think that it would only be fair to allow people such as myself the right to go round to my local Jehovah’s Witness’ house and ask him if it was ok for me put my feet up in his living room, roll a spliff, crack open a can of cider and watch Life of Brian on his telly, whilst discussing the relative merits of the latest Trent Reznor and OMD albums, as his life was sadly lacking in exposure to popular culture.

(And while we’re on the subject, how come the moral outrage frequently displayed towards enthusiasts of the occasional “jazz cigarette” isn’t swayed by the obvious argument of;
“If you believe God made everything, how can something this natural be wrong?”
In response to this, I was once told, by an especially self righteous example of this type of knee-jerk faux-Christian;
“Ah, but did not God make the apple too?”
“Oh I’m sorry, are we not allowed to eat apples now either then?” I enquired.
He suddenly looked confused, and then remembered he had somewhere else he urgently needed to be.)

We used to get bombarded by unwelcome visitors when we first moved here, but since then I think the word (no capitals) has gone out that we’re a lost cause.

I once answered the door to a couple of matching blond male godbots, wearing identical black trenchcoats, identical blinding white maniacal grins, and carrying matching black leather briefcases.
My original fear – that they were a pair of android hitmen, sent from the future to whack me for as-yet-uncommitted crimes against morality – were unfounded though, as they identified themselves as disciples of the Church of the Latter Day Saints.

Ah, Mormons. Ok.

Me – I’m not interested thanks, I’m an atheist.
Godbot 1 – But you believe in the afterlife don’t you?
Me – No, I’m an atheist.
Godbot 2 – Ah, but you’d like to belive in it wouldn’t you?
Me (patiently) – No, as I said, I’m an atheist.
Godbot 1 (wide eyed) – My, you really are an atheist aren’t you?
Godbot 2 (hurriedly) – Sorry to have bothered you, goodbye.

You’d have thought I’d grown horns, right there in front of him.

It may be worth pointing out that Elaine was raised as a Jehovah’s Witness (she left the minute she was able to and has had no connection with them since she was 18) and is not their biggest fan either.

One morning two Jehovah’s Witness droids turned up on the doorstep just as Elaine had popped out for a couple of minutes.
Thinking she wouldn’t be best pleased if she came back and found them there, I was getting rid of them when she came up the drive and, recognising them for what they so obviously were, invited them in for a chat.

You should have seen the looks of  amazement the pair of them exchanged as they crossed the threshold (a fairly unique experience for them I suspect) and were shown into the living room.

They soon got their confidence back when they went into their spiel however, but that faltered somewhat as Elaine began picking them up on points of their own dogma, which was when they probably realised they’d made a mistake taking us up on our invitation.

That’s when I started asking them about dinosaurs.
People who take every word of the Bible absolutely literally (or like the JWs, rewrite their own version) really, really hate it when you ask them how they explain dinosaurs. And these two weren’t any exception,  getting very agitated in having their sermon being hijacked by a couple of smartass heathens.

We managed to keep them captive (by now surreptitiously glancing at their watches) for nearly an hour before one of them finally surrendered and said they had to meet the rest of the swarm, or whatever the collective noun is for pedestrian evangelists, thanked us (through gritted teeth if I’m not mistaken) for an interesting debate, and scarpered.

Now when the briefcase-toting army descend upon our neighbourhood, they always consult a little black notebook whilst standing at the bottom of our drive, look up at the house as if to check for evil auras or sulphurous fumes rising from the chimney, and then move on while averting their eyes.

To conclude this unplanned diatribe, another couple of clips of comedy meeting religion head on, and winning.

First some more Monty Python..

…and finally, from the mind of the great Douglas Adams.

As Dave Allen always used to say,
“Goodnight, and may your god go with you”

 

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The write stuff. Back on track…

One thing I’ve discovered about blogging, when I finally think of an idea and start writing, I rarely have any control over what direction it takes.
So an aside about favourite childhood books can lead to the whole post being hijacked by my tendency to ramble…See? I’m doing it again.

So, as I was saying before I went off on a tangent, I’m going to pick five books (this is a lie) which have in some way stayed with me, and which I have returned to with as much pleasure as when I first discovered them.

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Phillip K Dick is one of those authors whose work you’re probably familiar with, even if you’ve never heard of the great man, due to several high profile movie adaptations, Blade Runner and Total Recall being the most well known.
But my introduction to his dystopian world was through one of his even stranger tales.

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The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch is a unique blend, part sci-fi, part mysticism, and part druggy, hallucinatory trip.

The story revolves around the idea of “layouts”, which are physical accessories – in effect, interactive dollhouses –  to be used in conjunction with a virtual experience.
This is brought about by Can-D, an addictive hallucinogen which is chewed by the human colonists of Mars, enabling them to project themselves into the layout.

Palmer Eldritch returns from a distant world with an alternative to Can-D, Chew-Z

From there onwards, things get very strange indeed.

The images from the book, especially Eldritch’s “three stigmata”, played a big part in my dreams for a long time after I finished the final chapter. 
Having read it again since, it’s power has not diminished one bit from when a stoned 17 year old first found it on a friend’s bookshelf all those years ago.

Right, that was one of the five books that I’m choosing..
Trouble is, my next choice is five books.

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Although originally adapted from a BBC radio series, there is no way I could make any list of books that did not include Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy and, despite the fact that I will almost certainly make this assertion about any number of books later, I think it’s my favourite series of books ever.

There, I’ve said it.

Such is the scope of the story – quite literally, Life, the Universe, and Everything – that the best way to describe it is this:
A man called Arthur Dent, who is almost permanently bewildered, angry, or both, wakes up to find his house, and his planet, are being demolished. Furthermore, he finds that his best friend, Ford Prefect, is an alien.
This turns out to be for the best however, as Ford saves Arthur from certain death by teleporting the pair of them aboard the very ship doing the demolishing.

After that, things tend to happen in rather an unpredictable order.

The subsequent four books that make up “trilogy in five parts” by the late, very great Douglas Adams, sparkle with inventive, dry wit, action, adventure, oh, and towels.
Technical and philosophical topics wind through the deliriously bonkers plot. Characters with names like Slartibartfast, Zaphod Beeblebrox, Vroomfondle, and Majikthyse populate a universe powered by Adams’ distinctive humour, where there’s never a dull moment, and a laugh out loud moment on nearly every page.

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A True Original – Douglas Adams.

I must have read the first three books a dozen times or more, and I never get tired of them.
And, unusually, the series has been continued since Adams’ untimely death. Artemis Fowl author, Eoin Colfer was given permission by Douglas’ family to write And another thing…, cleverly echoing the style of the original books, and staying faithful to the story.

Come to think of it, I haven’t read them for a couple of years…

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More comedy from another of my heroes now, in the form of seven volumes of memoirs (see, told you the five books thing was a lie) dating back to the second world war.

Any book whose first paragraph contains the line: “…my father and I watched my mother digging the air raid shelter” is always going to be a winner in my opinion.

That book is Adolf Hitler: My Part in his Downfall by comedy genius, author, poet, star of radio and TV,  and all round legend Spike Milligan, and I first read it when I was about 13.

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You know when you laugh so hard, and so uncontrollably, that your face hurts and the back of your head feels like it’s going to fall off?
That’s what Spike’s War (and Peace) memoirs do to me.

The first book begins in England in 1939, and tells of Spike’s time in Bexhill-on-Sea, training in the artillery after his call up. The cast of characters, some of whom will accompany us throughout the series, assembles, both in real time and in flashback.
The book ends with the newly minted gunners leaving for Europe and an uncertain future.

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All through the seven books, Milligan provides prolific detail through vivid description, photographs and drawings from the time, and sketches he made later.
A lot of the stories revolve around the regimental band, (Milligan was an accomplished jazz trumpeter) and the shows he and the others put on to entertain the troops, and his love of music, especially jazz, comes through strongly.

There is also a lot of pathos and melancholy in the books. The loss of close friends, the horrors of war, and Spike’s own traumatic time hospitalised with shell-shock are all related with bold honesty, the madcap comedy acting as a jester’s mask.
Nevertheless, it’s easy to see a germ of an idea that became The Goons in the horseplay of army life, and after all, he did meet Harry Secombe while serving overseas.

I believe these books, more than anything else he did, reveal the genuine man behind all the insanity, and they are a joy to read. Both brutal and innocent, hilarious and moving, honest and complete fantasy, anyone wishing to know more about a truly influential comedian should start here.

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So, that only leaves two of my five choices, (I don’t think there’s any need to kid ourselves it’s only going to be two books do we?) and I’ll cover t

 

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