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Thursday 15 December 2011

The British Sense of Humour

As regular readers will know, I have, through no fault of my own, been in Italy for the last six months.

Italians, when you talk to them, have perfectly intact senses of humour, although they see no comedy value at all in the fact that here, the worst swearing you can do, is to call God a "cat in the snow" or a "frog with glasses". Honestly, this is the truth. You can use all the disgusting sexual and scatalogical weapons in your verbal arsenal and nobody cares, but say "God wolf" and the reactions vary from horror to the kind of gigglish awe that you would dare utter such a thing that you got from your mates at infant school if you said "boobies".

However, while you can have a laugh with the people, their television comedy is completely atrocious (I have been wanting to use the word "atrocious" since yesterday, when I was thinking about Mary Poppins and how she gave those kids such poor financial advice. Feed the birds instead of putting it in the bank? With the economy like it is? Stupid bitch. And as for being "positively perfect in every way", who does she think she is, Jose Mourinho?).

There is a show called "Gli Sgommati" which is basically a very low budget version of Spitting Image that we had in the 80's, and seems to focus solely on making Angela Merkel out to be sweaty, and this awful thing called "Colorado" which is like what Ant and Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway would have been like if it was written by the woman who invented the Teletubbies, and which goes on for about five hours because face it, who's in a hurry? It is hellish.

So, you would expect, with their homegrown comedy being as funny as taking your dog to be put down, they would seek their laughs from other countries. And they do. Half the channels here show nothing but imported shows, which are brought in and dubbed or subtitled from the country with the best comedy in the world. Britain.

No, not really. It's America.

This brings me to the main point of today's rant. In Britain, we have always had this belief that we have some strange understanding of what is funny that nobody else "gets". Irony. Banter. Del Boy falling through the bar. And we are wrong.

I am not saying we don't have some brilliant comedians and hilarious shows, we patently do. And we have mastered the comedy panel show genre with shows like Have I Got News For You, QI, 8 Out of 10 Cats, Never Mind the Buzzcocks and They Think it's All Over - they just don't have stuff like that anywhere else. Our stand-ups are great. But this is not an argument against the quality of British comedy. This is an argument for the quality of American comedy, by a British person.

So many people have said to me that they don't like American comedy. They find it cheesy. But this is because they have only ever been exposed to the cheesy, melted fondue end of it. They put Friends on around the clock in the UK, and sure, it has its moments, but it is comfort watching material. Nothing all that bad ever happens in Friends, and it's a big deal if anyone gets drunk or smokes. The comedy is kind of wholesome and everybody loves each other and it's nice. The same goes for the newer US shows we get in England now, like Modern Family. We're not going to think it's edgy and modern because there's a gay couple and an old guy married to a young Latina woman, they had that sort of shit on Eastenders when we were 7. So it's just nice, predictable, family comedy. This is the stuff they buy in for us, and so this is the stuff we believe America makes. Feel good, entertaining, gentle jokes, but ultimately unsatisfying. According to Jim. My Wife and Kids. Sentimental dreck where someone learns a lesson in the end. Yeah, I can see why people think it is all overly cheesy based on that.

But what we don't get, for no obvious reason, are the genuinely groundbreaking, clever and funny sitcoms coming out of the US. Or, if we do, they are on at some stupid hour of the morning when nobody watches them. I remember years ago during a bout of insomnia catching shows like Arrested Development and Curb Your Enthusiasm, both of which are innovative and dark in a way that is funny but hard to describe, and wondering why they weren't on at prime time.

If you don't think Americans can do non cheesy, ironic, intelligent comedy then just try watching It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia. You will get more laughs out of one episode than out of a whole season of Gavin and Stacey, Black Books or Green Wing, and those are all decent shows. Or try The League, or Community. These shows are the only things I download and watch here because I genuinely think that they offer better comedy for my cheapskate 3G modem's downloading buck than anything I could be watching in the UK.

Additionally, while we may have got the hang of the panel shows, where are our cartoons? We have nothing to compete with The Simpsons, South Park, or Archer, let alone the rapidly diminishing Seth MacFarlane shows (Family Guy, American Dad and the bloody Cleveland Show). I remember one in the 90's called Stressed Eric, but since then, have we produced any good cartoons aimed at a grown up audience? 2DTV was good, but that was years ago.

And as for satire, we make good weekly shows but can we really compete with the Daily Show? We haven't had a decent daily comedy show since the 11 O'Clock Show in 1999.

British sense of humour? Yes, it exists, but we don't own satire or irony or dark comedy. If you have been put off of US comedy because you think it's all moralistic and cheesy, take a look at some of this stuff, then tell me I'm wrong.

Saturday 26 November 2011

Fifteen Year Old Pregnant by Eleven Year Old

Surprisingly, I read this story in the Independent. I realise it sounds more like the kind of thing one would read in the bible than in the Independent, but there it was. A fifteen year old girl named Emma Webster from Bedfordshire (I know right, I was expecting it to be up north as well) is up the kennel after eleven year old next door neighbour Sean Stewart, who in my head looks like Harry Potter in the first film, apparently convinced her he was the same age and banged her. Blimey.

I don't want to get all judgmental and Daily Mail about this, I'm sure plenty of girls who end up pregnant in their teens end up being perfectly good mothers and all that and I'm pretty sure one more doesn't constitute the actual downfall of society, but this Emma kid, well, I have to say it, she's bloody stupid. Either that or Sean Stewart is some kind of mad tween superstud and the next time we hear of him will be in a month when he announces his engagement to Sienna Miller.

"It was not until I said I was pregnant to his mum and his mum turned around and said 'how can an 11-year-old be the father?' that I knew," she said. "I was shocked and I wanted to know why he had lied to me about his age."

See. She's fucking stupid. Nobody who isn't stupid ever uses the expression "turned around and said", for one thing, because it's fucking stupid (imagine if people really did turn around and say  things, it would be ridiculous), but there is plenty of other evidence of stupidity there too. She didn't know that the boy who lived next door who she was having sex with was 11. I mean, he's 11. You know when someone's 11. Even if he looked and sounded like Brian Blessed, he's bound to be into 11 year old boy stuff that would give it away. Wrestling, for example. They love that, the 11 year old boys. I'm not even sure how he managed to do it with her, biologically. Everyone knows that an 11 year old boy, if he even hears the word "boobies" let alone sees a pair, will be giggling too hard to do anything at all, yet this one faced out the boobies and managed to impregnate a person. It's a scientific wonder.

Then, she doesn't understand why he lied about his age. What is there to understand, you mouth breathing dummy? He wanted to get laid. People lie to get laid all the time, it's just that usually, when they are 11, people don't believe them. "I've got a Porsche.", "I definitely haven't got chlamydia.", "I am not 11." These are all things people will say to try and get you to have sex with them (well, not now, obviously, nobody is going to touch you now), and you mustn't believe them, you poor, ridiculous child.

This story does raise a lot of questions. Did this 11 year old boy become interested in tricking girls into having sex with him because of what Rihanna wore on the finale of the X Factor last year? That's one, obviously. All those people who complained about Rihanna and her skimpy outfit - bloody hell, if they were right about that then maybe I should stop calling them assholes all the time. Also, the couple are still together (Christ, Emma - have some self respect. When I was 15 I dumped people all the time, for no discernible reason. Everyone did. For lying about being 11, well, you'd be more than justified in, as those large women on Rikki Lake so often and so eloquently put it "kicking him to the kerb", love.) so when she turns 16 will she get arrested for shagging a kid? Also, real paedophiles - do they need to start worrying about birth control? Baffling doesn't begin to describe it.

Speaking of little boys having sex, has anyone noticed that in the current season of the Simpsons, there are quite a lot of jokes about Bart getting laid? Like in that Avatar spoof they did? It's funny, but in a way that creeps you out. Anyway, I digress.

Emma has decided to keep the baby (they always do, don't they), and her parents will look after it when she returns to school (where she will be bullied mercilessly I expect. I know, it's terrible. But you would, wouldn't you, when you were 15, have bullied a kid who shagged an 11 year old and then talked about it in the Independent.). They don't explain whether they plan to do some kind of delightful, Eastenders-esque thing where they tell the child that Emma is it's sister until it all comes out one drunken night after a curry in the Argee Bhaji, maybe they haven't decided about that yet, but Sean is going to support Emma as much as he can.  Which isn't much. Because he is 11. It would be funny to have an 11 year old dad though. You could do "Shit My Dad Says" style Twitter feed about it. I'll leave you to imagine how that might go.

Thursday 27 October 2011

Manchester City

It's all getting a bit out of hand, isn't it? Manchester fucking City I mean.

Throughout history, there have been only two reasons why anybody supported Manchester City. Either they wanted to make a statement about how much they hated Manchester United, or they didn't really like football but when pushed, opted for City because they liked the colour of their shirts. Seriously, you often hear that all real Mancunians support City. This isn't true. In Manchester, support for the two teams is split about 50/50, and up until recently, those that supported City seemed to be vastly more interested in whether or not United had lost on a given week than whether City had won (my research being broadly based on the brief period when I was a bookie in the North. Don't ask.).

Now, however, Manchester City have achieved something pretty difficult and special, which they have every right to be proud of. By which I mean, they have achieved the status of most hated club in the English Premier League.

Regular readers will know that I hate Liverpool, almost (but not quite) fervently enough to get the words to "In Your Liverpool Slums" tattooed on my actual arse. There are other teams I hate too, some for obscure and quite personal reasons (don't get me started on Reading). But at this moment, nothing makes my blood boil more than the mention of Manchester fucking City. And I would wager the Greek national debt that you're the same.

So what is it that makes them so fucking diabolical? It's not the fact that they have a lot of money. Well, it might be for you, but I can't very well be seen saying that on the internet, I'm a Chelsea supporter. In fact, I had always said that if a businessman wanted to recreate the Chelsea effect then rather than fucking about with the likes of Portsmouth, they should look to buy the second biggest team in a major city, thus guaranteeing a decent home following as well as the option of international promotion for their merchandise (face it, nobody in Asia has heard of Portsmouth, so you will have a job convincing the kids in South Korea it is a very cool place and they want to wear shirts declaring their affinity with it). Manchester City would be the obvious choice.

For the first couple of seasons, they were annoying but harmless. The strategy seemed to be the same one we all employed when we were kids, trying to fill our little Panini sticker albums with all the big names so they looked really cool (actually, the last time I bought a Panini football sticker album I was about 24, but it was right by the checkout in the McColls shop and I was mildly drunk), but with no real thought for whether or not you had twelve strikers and no goalkeeper. And none of the players seemed to really give a toss either. Who can forget Robinho's press conference where, after a last minute offer right at the end of the transfer window, he announced how happy he was to be going to Chelsea. I like to think that after that plucky journalist pointed out that he was actually going to Manchester City, he punched his agent square in the face. It was all quite the laugh.

Strangely though, they started to actually look, well, almost good. They won the FA Cup, and then this season, actually began to look threatening in the Prem. The players however, still didn't give a toss. Tevez, who is quality because he makes it so apparent that he hates Manchester and everybody in it, decided he would rather not actually play for them in the Champions League and as a result is being fined £1 million.

And this is where the hatred of a Chelsea fan can in fact, be very much justified. The situation is totally different. They are soulless, we are not. Don't believe me? Well, it's like this:

Chelsea may have been widely despised when Abramovich came in and allowed them to buy some new players and in the second season of his ownership, employ god himself as their manager and win some stuff (and this isn't the time and the place for me to explain that we had been a top six team for a long time before that and whatnot), and that I could live with. What would you do if the team you had always supported suddenly had loads of money, great players, a cool manager and were winning trophies? Would you go, "Oh, fuck this, I'm going to go and support Fulham - this is too mainstream" just so the Man U supporters who drink in your local in Reigate aren't mean to you? Of course not. What I didn't like, was people assuming I'd only started supporting Chelsea when they got "good". Like some sort of glory hunter. Ironically, this usually came from Liverpool and Man U fans from the South who had started supporting their teams in the eighties, but it was an easy mistake to make as suddenly, a lot of people were supporting Chelsea.

So where are all the new Man City glory hunters then? Why isn't everywhere from Bristol to Brighton awash with pale blue shirts? I think I have the answer. In starting to support Man City now, if you never have before, you would be opening yourself up to a lot of abuse, but you wouldn't really be getting the glory. There is no sense that the players are excited to be at the club, that they are working together towards something they can be proud of on behalf of their club and their fans. Can you imagine the open top bus celebration if City won the Prem? Sure, they would all be happy to add some silverware to their personal CVs, as any player, anywhere would, but Tevez would be cowering downstairs on the bus in sunglasses so he didn't actually have to look at any Mancunian people, and Balotelli... Well, Christ knows. The rest of them would probably lift their City shirts to reveal t-shirts saying "CHAMPIONS! OPEN TO OFFERS FROM BARCA". This is the thing. Chelsea may have had "no history", but there's no real sense that City have a future as this existing team. It looks like it will be a revolving door for big name players, with nobody for fans to really attach themselves to who feel like they truly belong to that club. Without Terry, Lampard, Cech, Drogba and the like Chelsea would have no identity, and would be no fun at all to support. All the other big clubs are the same. But City has nobody you can identify as being "of" Manchester City, and nobody you feel wouldn't be happy to fuck off to Spain or wherever at the first chance.

And it is that, and not the money, the sponsorship deals or any of the corporate stuff that makes them soulless.

If you have enjoyed this or any of my other articles, why not buy my ebook. It contains literally no opinions about football, but does take the piss out of a lot of other stuff. And it's cheap. And it'll work on your iPad, Kindle or, I don't know, Toshiba Handybook. Support independent publishing: Buy this e-book on Lulu.

Wednesday 26 October 2011

The Eurozone Crisis

This is the first new article for a couple of months, as I have been pretty busy with other projects (including the first in what I hope will be a series of Pony and Trap ebooks, which I will love you forever if you buy. £2.99 is pretty cheap for the love of another human being, it's certainly less than I would charge for sex, so you know, buy it.) and while I've been busy with other projects, I've been living in Italy. This came about because of a whole bunch of stuff, and I'm moving again early next year to the States so it isn't a permanent arrangement, but what it means is that I am reporting to you now from the actual Eurozone. My wallet has Euros in it. I spend them on wine in 2 litre cartons and these weird two tone biscuits called Ringo that I only buy because Kaka advertises them on TV. I'll buy anything a footballer endorses, except the services of elderly prostitutes, or the bible.

Italy is pretty pivotal in terms of the Eurozone Crisis. It is the third biggest economy in the Eurozone, and is also considered to be the next one likely to get into serious shit. And being here for any length of time you can sort of see why. Italians have their way of doing things, which all the Under the Tuscan Sun expats you meet seem to accept as a fair trade off for the agreeable climate, surroundings and "way of life", but for me, is a constant source of rage.

The town I live in is popular with tourists from Germany and Holland, who come in the summer months for the good weather and whatnot. Unfortunately for them, at the peak of the tourist season in August, the proprietors of all the local businesses decide that they too would like to go on their holibobs, and fuck off to the coast without arranging anybody to cover for them. So even during the arbitrary few hours a day when shops and other services would usually be available, they just aren't. Would a business owner anywhere else in the world completely close down their operation during the most profitable period of their entire year? Hell's to the no. They'd open around the fucking clock and take their holiday afterwards, going somewhere much nicer with all the extra readies.

Everything here is a massive inconvenience, customer service simply doesn't exist, and you get the distinct impression that nobody wants to take your money. Which is fine for them. In Northern Europe, if we are given the choice between making some money and not making some money but to make the money we have to do something not all that back breaking, like say, sit in our shop between the hours of 1.30pm and 4.30pm, we'll choose to make the money, or our bosses will choose to make the money and force us to do the work. Italians take the other path, and that's their lookout. As an individual, I can accept that if I don't like it, I can fuck off.

The difficulty comes, as it already has done with Greece, when the countries who work their pasty asses off and have very little fun, like Germany, have to bail out the guys who have been sitting in the sun drinking wine and sleeping all afternoon for all of time. Think about it, nobody moves to Germany for the agreeable climate or "way of life", do they? You might move there to make money though.

This is the problem with the Eurozone, and why it is proving so difficult for the leaders of the member countries to come to any agreement with each other (well, it's also partly because some of the member countries are run by cartoon 'Allo 'Allo type characters it is hard to believe actually exist outside of a farce writer's imagination, let alone hold any power on the world stage). Culturally, Europe is so insanely diverse that it just doesn't work. Whether you chop it up East to West or North to South, it doesn't make any sense for the countries at either end to be part of anything together. In fact, the only thing I think would be worse than a shared economy would be if people from the corners of the Eurozone formed a rock band. I'll leave you to imagine how that might go.

In the good old days, the differences were fun and you'd travel around and enjoy the good aspects of all of them, but now shit's got real, well, you can't blame the leaders of the different countries for resenting each other and the fact that now, they are going to have to pull together and come up with something that is unlikely to be fair for many tax payers in different Eurozone countries, because the alternative is even worse.

Tuesday 26 July 2011

Tributes to Amy Winehouse that aren't really...

Before we begin, I'd like to make it clear that the purpose of this article is to judge someone and find them lacking, and pick apart and crticise something they have done, rather than to pay tribute to Amy Winehouse. Why dress something up as being a tribute to Amy Winehouse when it is actually just a smug and hate fuelled commentary on somebody else's inadequacy?

Well, actually, that is the very question I would like to ask the subject of today's rant - some jive ass Clyde at the Daily Mail called Amanda Platell.

Platell's article is entitled "Genius, but Amy's was not a life to admire". I can't quite figure out what that even is. Is it patronising? Did she think that before she bestowed that wisdom upon us we were all greeting every one of life's problems by contemplating, "What would Amy Winehouse do?"? And what is with the "Genius" bit? Don't get me wrong, I bloody loved Amy Winehouse, but even to her biggest fan that is hyperbole, surely? In this context, it just sounds kind of insincere and apologetic, the dead rock star equivalent of when your boss says something nice to you just before the bollocking. "Amy was a good singer, but in no small way responsible for the downfall of society" would have been a more honest way of saying what she clearly bloody meant.

Because you see Amanda Platell thinks that Amy Winehouse has damaged us all, damaged the very fabric of our fair nation. She opens by saying that a friend of Amy's had commented that although Amy had had her problems, she never harmed anyone else. Fair point, you might think. Well, Amanda Platell didn't think so. I'll let her take over here, because I can't find the words to describe how annoying what she said was without going Orwellian and calling it "doubleplus sanctimonious":

If only that were true. The packets of cigarettes and bottles of vodka, beer and rum left outside her home in Camden, North London, by adoring fans bear testimony to how much she affected vulnerable young people.
Along with flowers and farewell notes, this was their way of saying goodbye to a woman they worshipped and emulated — not just because she was a musical genius, but also, I suspect, because of her car-crash lifestyle.
Ignoring the second appearance of the "g" word, I'm sorry but how fucking retarded does she think "young people" are? I bet you know lots of people who bought Back to Black, but I bet you don't know any who promptly went out and "emulated" Amy Winehouse by injecting heroin into their little pinky toe. If you had asked any of Amy's fans before she died what they thought of her I'd more than wager they wouldn't have said "It's so cool how she's all addicted to drugs and has a debilitating alcohol problem. That's my favourite, that is. How she's really ill and all. I'd totally get hooked on crack now she's made it look all awesome." any more than a Kylie Minogue fan will tell you they thought it was super cool when she had cancer and they wish they had cancer too. No, just like Kylie's fans wanted her to beat cancer, Amy's fans wanted her to overcome her addictions and get better.

As for the tributes, well, maybe the booze and fags could be construed as being a little tasteless but the intention was pure: to leave something that Amy would have liked. A few years ago I was in Mexico when it was the "dia de los muertos" or "day of the dead". People build little shrines to dead people, normally relatives and friends but sometimes celebrities, and place on the shrines things that that person would have liked, the belief being that at midnight on that date, the soul of the person can return and enjoy their favourite things once again. At the hotel I was staying in, for reasons that my sub Dora the Explorer level of Spanish wouldn't allow me to discover, they'd done a shrine for Pavarotti. And on it was the motherlode of all pasta. It made perfect sense. If you were going to do one for Amy, what would you leave on it - did she especially like Toblerones? Or those Scampi Fries you only see in pubs that smell like wee? Nobody knows. Give the girl some vodka, it's not going to hurt her now. That, I think, was the kind of thinking going on.

Amanda Platell (I kind of want to call her "Amanda Twatell" but I try not to go too far into that base sort of territory - "Daily Fail"? My, how droll...) for a moment forgets she's not writing for the Daily Express and muses how far downhill society has gone since the days when people laid flowers at Kensington Palace as a tribute to Diana, before continuing down this bizarre route of blaming Amy Winehouse for ruining the lives of "countless" imaginary young women she's made up in her head:

Her life was a lesson in self-destruction. The tragedy is that it wasn’t just for her, but for countless other young women who hero-worshipped her.
The result was that, for the vulnerable and impressionable, I fear Amy Winehouse made crack cocaine cool. She made alcoholism attractive. She made abusive, violent relationships exciting.
So, er, where's the evidence of this, Amanda? Which young women, specifically are you talking about? Because if you're going to rather tastelessly blame someone who's just died for having this horrific influence on a large group of people, you'd better have something to qualify it or it's going to look pretty bad for you. Oh, you do have evidence? Well, let's hear it then!
For an answer, you have only to visit  any High Street on a Saturday night to find countless wasted young women so drunk they don’t care what man they go off with, so out of their heads on drugs they’re anyone’s. 
And why should they think this is anything other than normal behaviour when their idol Amy Winehouse downed six shots of tequila for breakfast?
For all her talent, she was a role model of the worst kind. And her eight years in the music business mirror a shocking increase in alcohol among women. 
Figures published in 2009 showed 250 girls were arrested every day for violence, mostly fuelled by alcohol. One in four were aged between ten and 17. 
In the years Amy was a star, a generation of ladettes was born, out of their heads and out of control, but thinking they were  oh-so-cool.

Ok, well that all seems reasonable and scientific, doesn't it. Those drunk slappers you see in town on a Saturday night are all part of this strange, cultish horde of Amy Winehouse fans. That's why they go and get wasted in Flares - because they play a lot of Amy Winehouse up in there. And getting wasted on a Saturday night is exactly the same as being an alcoholic, after all. You know, except instead of having the horrible withdrawal symptoms every day that can only be alleviated by say, having six shots of tequila for breakfast you just wake up on Sunday in need of a bacon sandwich. It is exactly the same otherwise. This is the bit that really pisses me of - this inability to distinguish between addiction, which is a truly horrible state to find yourself in and in no way fun, and hedonism, which is quite the laugh. Comparing Amy, who had addiction problems so serious that they killed her, to someone who drinks twelve Bacardi Breezers at the weekend and has a bloody good time, is just screamingly ignorant, and to try and find some sort of causality there is insulting, both to addicts, because you're belittling their problems, and to party girls because you're implying they have some that they don't.

So, Amy's eight years in the music business mirror a shocking rise in alcohol among women, ergo she has had a sinister influence on the White Lightning consumption of girls who would otherwise no doubt be spending their Saturday nights working in a soup kitchen? Well, that is interesting, given that your very own article also contains the pictures showing her decline throughout her career, and those indicate that actually, she was doing OK health wise until around 2005, which was only six years ago. How about that - Amy Winehouse was making imaginary women become alcoholics before she even became one herself! The very nerve of the woman.  While we're on the subject of those pictures, it's not very classy to publish the ugliest pictures you can find of someone who has just died, is it? And as for the one where she's a little kid in a Minnie Mouse costume, what the Hollyoaks omnibus is that all about? And all the snidey comments about how the fact she had a load of tattoos meant she was going over to the dark side, because obviously only doomed people on a self destructive downward spiral have tattoos? Really? Better start writing the "tributes" for Cheryl Cole and David Beckham then, hadn't you?

The term "ladette" was coined in the mid 1990's, when Amy was still at school, to describe the culture of young women who enjoyed binge drinking and clubbing and all of those sorts of shenanigans. I'm not sure who the girls back then were emulating, or how this could possibly have happened while Diana was still among us, but it definitely, definitely did happen. A few years later, when I was 15 I used to go to a club where drinks were 20p for women before 10pm and everybody was hammered - some of the best nights out I've ever had. And even if Amy had tried to influence us back then, I wouldn't have listened because at the time, she was 14, and what kind of loser gets peer pressured by a kid in the year below, huh?

I don't know what kind of life Amanda Platell has lead but it must be quite a fucking joyless one (certainly not one fun enough to warrant that self satisfied countenance she wears in her picture), if she doesn't know the difference between a crippling addiction and a night out on the lash, and can't see why anyone would even want to go for a night out on the lash unless a singer they liked had done it first. And that my friends, is not a life to be admired.

Sunday 15 May 2011


In light of the fact that it seems like the Scottish want to piss off and do their own thing, it seems like a good time to discuss the idea that maybe nobody really wants to be British.  As a warning, this article may contain obscenely reductive national stereotypes.

I have been wondering about this for a long time.  You often see it on forms, the old national identity question.  Do you consider yourself "British", or do you prefer to be considered English, Irish, Scottish or Welsh?  I tick the English box.  It annoys me when my American friends call me a "Brit".  And this is because I am not sure what being a Brit would actually entail, though admittedly, I do like being called a Brit better than being called European, because fuck that.  They use that to mean you're either a pervert or you're hairy.

David Mitchell wrote a column in the Observer today saying that he very much considers himself British, and believes that if Scotland secedes and there is no longer the same concept of Britain, his, and many other people's national identity will be gone forever.  David Mitchell's Observer column is a bit of a bugbear for me, because I like him, but I fucking hate that newspaper with a passion usually reserved for hating the Twilight saga.  Sunday newspapers are the worst ones anyway, with the horrible horrible supplements with their reviews of fucking frying pans and interviews with people off of Waterloo bastarding Road in them and no bloody news whatsoever, and a Sunday version of the Guardian, well, I'd rather climb into the lion enclosure at London Zoo wearing Lady Gaga's meat dress than read that, and I thought that dress was really unflattering.  Every Sunday though, Mitchell puts his little link on the bloody Twitter and I grudgingly go and have a look at the damn thing.  Sometimes I send him a pissy reply of the "look what you made me do!" variety - you know, the kind of thing wife beaters say after they've pushed a woman down the stairs.  If you want to see this first hand you can follow me at  That's what the Observer does to me.  It makes me want to hit people I am usually quite fond of with frying pans.  It's like Stella Artois for the eyes.

Anyway, he says that he feels British because his mother is Welsh and his father is of Scottish descent.  Which makes sense.  But then lots of people have all manner of crazy combinations going on in terms of their parentage, and there isn't even a name for the majority of those.  I know a bloke who is half German and half Iranian.  So he's Geranian I guess.  Then there's a guy who is half Kosovan and half Swedish, who I like to call Skosovanavian.  I used to be jealous of people with interesting sounding genealogy at school.  Those kids who'd be all like "oooh, I'm a quarter Dutch and one sixteenth Fijian" or whatever.  I was just bloody English.  It was almost as bad as being the only only child in the French lesson where they teach you how to talk about brothers and sisters, and having to pretend your dog is your sister just so you have something to say and don't fail...  Pets are not children, and you should not have to start pretending that they are until well into your thirties.

The thing is, Wales and Scotland are quite different countries in many respects.  Wales has its singing, and its rugby and its, I don't know, Torchwood, and Scotland has its heroin and its disgusting food and, er, kilts.  Welsh rarebit may contain some of the same ingredients as a battered, deep fried pizza, but I don't know anyone Welsh who would eat the latter.   They are not the same as each other, and they are not the same as England either, where we have a far lower ratio of ginger people to normal people and are theoretically reasonably good at football (we're not though).  Yes, they are close together and maybe more similar to each other than to their next nearest neighbours, the treacherous French, but so are Spain and Portugal and they don't have some collective name for themselves to give to half Spanish, half Portuguese kids.

The concept of Britain as a thing doesn't really take into account that none of the countries that make up Britain really, if we're entirely honest, like each other very much, either.

If England and Scotland both qualify for a World Cup, the English used to have Scotland as their second team by default, but we don't do that so much ever since the time in 2002 when we played Argentina and all those Scottish people supported them instead of us.  The Welsh and the English get on slightly better (in the land of colossal generalisations where this article lives) and I don't know what the Northern Irish think of us but Christine Bleakley seems to like Frank Lampard and he plays for England, so I reckon they must think we're pretty cool.

Still though, we're all different countries and I honestly believe we would all rather have our own teams in the Olympics to support and our own appalling entries in the fucking Eurovision retard song contest.  That aberration was on last night, and I watched it with a Welsh bloke and an American bloke.  Well, I say watched it, we sort of looked it up a bit while we were getting drunk and playing FIFA '11, where, like a bunch of 10 year olds, we re-enacted the FA Cup final, including the bits where Micah Richards and Mario Balotelli swore and Carlos Tevez hilariously put the lid of the trophy on top of his hideous head .  I just think it would have been more fun watching it together if Wales had had their own entry.  And come to think of it, America too.  I know they're not in Europe, but neither are Israel and they won it once with that ladyboy creature.  Poor Wales would probably end up in that regrettable situation Ireland used to find themselves in back in the nineties where they kept winning and having to host the damn thing, what with being good at the old singing and all.  Anyway, I digress.  My point is, I think people get more excited about supporting their own actual country's team or representative in a sport or competition than some kind of "Team GB".  Sure, those curling ladies were representing Britain, but they were, when all is said and done, Scottish, and therefore not from the same country as me.  Maybe that was why I didn't care, or maybe it was because I didn't know, at the time, what curling was, all I know is, come a World Cup I will quite merrily paint a St George's cross on my face and wave a flag around like a total chav, but there have never been any conditions under which I have felt entirely comfortable waving a union jack (yes, I know it is really called the union flag, but it's easier just to say the union jack for some reason, just like it's easier to call the BBC timelord guy Doctor Who and the monster with the bolts in its head Frankenstein even though you know those are wrong too.  It's just how it is.  Deal with it, pedants.)...  The St George's cross flag makes me feel like I'm supporting a football team, the union jack makes me feel like I'm on my way to some sort of BNP meeting or something to shout "don't unpack, you're going back" at the man who runs the kebab shop.  I don't know why that is.

It is for these reasons I think that the majority of people in the UK have a personal national identity that is affiliated not with Britain, but with the country or countries they and their family are actually from.  Of course you can have more than one, lots of people do, but the fact that some people are a combination of more than one home nationality does not explain what it is to be British or justify keeping things as they are if Scotland decides it isn't working out for them.  If you want a divorce, nobody is going to tell you to stay together for the kids, are they?


Wednesday 11 May 2011

Killjoy Cyberbullying Fears

Two posts in one night? Oh monsieur, with these Rocher you're really spoiling us!  Well, I can't go to the pub, since my wallet is probably in Glasgow.

Continuing the technology and social networking theme I seem to have inadvertently adopted this week with my coverage of the super-injunction leaks on Twitter and Microsoft's transparently desperate purchase of Skype, I have noticed that this thing I only found out about a few days ago has been attracting a bit of interest in the UK media.  Well, there was a brief thing about it in the Independent anyway, and that's good enough for me.

Formspring has apparently been popular among American teenagers for a few years now.  I only joined on Tuesday (, but I'm 28 and English so for my demographic I think that makes me an early adopter.  Oh yeah, I have my finger firmly on the pulse of the zeitgeist. Not that the zeitgeist has a pulse, being a ghost and all, but you know what I mean.  In fact, the proof of this is in the fact that despite there being 23 million people signed up to the service (which is more than Facebook's entire UK membership), when I searched for Facebook friends to connect with on Formspring only four people came up.  One was American, and one was a teenager (I groom teenagers on the Facebook.  It's just the way I roll.  Not really of course, he's my best mate's little brother).  I have a lot more than four Facebook friends.  Even my dad has more than that.  But only four are on Formspring.  

This suggests either that a lot of UK adults haven't heard of Formspring, or they have heard of it and gone "Balls to that for a game of soldiers".  I strongly feel that it is the former, and I will tell you for why.  English people are really fucking nosey.  

I used to work with a woman called Jo, who would routinely interrogate everybody every day about the minutiae of their lives.  You wouldn't eat a sandwich near Jo, because she would need to know what was in the sandwich, where you bought it, how much it cost, and whether it was "nice".  She was like the CID of banal things.  In all other respects she was very nice, but the fear that you might get waterboarded so that Jo might know what time you went to bed last night made the whole experience of working with her a bit "edgy" 

There are Jo types everywhere. I'm sure you know some. But if you go to the North, everybody is fucking like it.  When I lived in the North, I deduced that the legendary Northern "friendliness" was basically the product of some deep seated need to be right into everybody's business.  Someone in a pub might ask you where you lived.  In the South, it would be sufficient to just say the area, or kind of near the station or the university or the brothel or whatever, and then you could move on to talking about something else.  Do that in the North and I will bet you all the money I've made off of Google AdSense (which is 2p, because they keep advertising things based on the words I use, and I only write about things that nobody likes... And until Google develops an engine that understands irony it will ever be thus.  And they're too busy working on ways to make us live forever as concious data files to look at that.  To be honest, I would rather live forever than have AdSense that wasn't weird, so you crack on, you crazy autistic genii) that the next question will be "Which 'owse?".  

It's like some kind of Tourette's.  They don't need to know.  You're never going to see this person again, let alone invite them round for one of your candlelight suppers.  They're not going to judge you on it, because that is what a Southerner would do.  There is absolutely no reason for it.  But they bloody have to know.  This made conversations a bit boring, because you basically felt like you were filling in a loan application.  

Formspring is perfect for Jo, and everybody in Northern England, because it invites you to ask people anything you want.  You can even do it anonymously without being a member.  You could sit there in your 'owse in 'uddersfield with 25 million people to ask about boring shit.  Or, given you are given free rein to ask anything you could just ask all 25 million for their card number and PIN.  Throw enough shit at the wall and some of it will stick, my grifting friends.

The idea and the site, like Twitter (follow me at is very simple.  No apps, no sharing of things, basic profiles for users.  You just ask questions, answer questions, read other people's answers to questions by following them or searching, and if you enjoy someone's answer you click a button that says "Smile" which works like a "like" on Facebook.  

I can see a lot of uses for this beyond satisfying your need to know which flavour of Kellogg's Nutri Grain bar someone who sits across the office from you was eating this morning if you are mental.  Serious applications, like perhaps MPs using it to respond to constituents' questions, business applications, like maybe it could be used in place of a "queries" form on your company's website, or for market research, and stuff that would just be a really good laugh.

It's the stuff that would be a really good laugh that is concerning people.  Or at least the few people that know about it.  Or at least, someone at the Independent.

Apparently, people have been using the Formspring to engage in a spot of cyberbullying, and that is bad.  We don't want that here, it's really bad.  Keep it in America, where at least the kid that's getting cyberbullied can gun down their antagonists.  What are they going to do here, pelt them with scones? 

Obviously not, they would stab them, I was just playing up to my American readers there.

The thing is, I just don't buy it.  On Facebook you could bully someone in a way that could be quite destructive, due to the ability to share all kinds of content.  If you are handy with Photoshop or you have access to something that would be embarrassing to them like a very personal email or some spectacularly bad poetry they wrote (and is there any other kind, written by 14 year olds?), sure, you could humiliate them and even if they deleted their own profile so you couldn't harrass them directly, you can still share whatever you like about them with other people.  You know, if you were a bit of a dick.  Or they had it coming.

Formspring does not offer anywhere near as many opportunities to systematically destroy the weak and the ginger.  Sure, you could ask some mean questions.  But those questions will just appear in their inbox, and they can delete them if they don't want to respond and nobody else will ever see them.  You can't comment on people's answers either, you can just read them, so there is actually no way I can see of really bullying anyone beyond just harrassing them with nasty questions, and you can do that with anything, even email.  And we had that when I was at school and none of us killed ourselves.

I think more people should give it a try.  But only interesting people.  Because nobody, not even the most bullied of teenagers, is that grateful for any glimmer of attention that they will keep returning to answer questions about chocolate.

Train Companies...

...actually, not just train companies - bad customer service in general.

Today's rant, just as a bit of a change of pace, was inspired by something that actually happened to me today, rather than anything topical.  I don't usually do this kind of thing, but I reckon that if you can't relate to this theme then you live some kind of charmed life and your address is probably on Christmas Pudding Lane, where you live with your magical puppy that smells like the shampoo at a fancy gym and pisses tequila, because it is fucking ubiquitous.

I have to say, the events that transpired were triggered by me making a cock up.  Basically, I left my wallet on the train on the way to work.  Of course, I wouldn't have got my wallet out if the over zealous bloke who insists on checking your damn ticket (even though the station has ticket barriers, so either you have to have a ticket to get to the train, or you have spent enough time and effort masterminding a way of getting past the barriers without one that you have, in a fair world, earned the right to travel for free) hadn't come to distract me from reading about Nick Clegg and Fergie in the Metro just to check there was no chance of fining me a few grand.  Still, really, you know, mea culpa.   Hey, at least it was my wallet, not, I don't know, a memory stick with your personal details on it, but yes, I am an absent minded twat, and I did formerly work for the government so yes, they do hire the kind of person who could probably end up doing that.

I noticed it was gone when I went to get a cigarette out after getting off the train.  "Bollocks", I said.  Still though, I thought I would just be able to call the train company, get them to radio the guard (AKA "the bloke" I referred to earlier) and tell him to leave it with someone at my local, fairly large station when the train made it's way back through there.  No big deal.

So, at the office, I looked up the train company I thought operated the train.  Southern.  After explaining my situation to a lady with a horrible accent, I was informed that "we can only radio the guard in an emergency".  I proceeded to explain that I didn't actually want them to stop the fucking train, like they do when there is a fucking squirrel on the line or other such emergency scenario, I merely wished them to get a message to the guard.  No.  The guard's work is very important and he must not be distracted with helping people, lest he fuck up and cause havoc by say, not noticing that the guy whose ticket said Reigate stayed on the train all the way to Redhill, which should have cost him 30 pence more.   No.  Instead of having that five second conversation with the guard, the idiot woman instead opted to have a five minute conversation with me, explaining that the best thing to do is call their lost property office in Bristol (which accounted for the horrible accent) in three days as that is how long it takes for lost property to be "processed".  This gave me upsetting images in my head of my poor little wallet in some kind of Bristolian version of Auschwitz for wallets, phones and MP3 players, waiting to be "processed".  My poor little cards, even that Boots gift card I still had seven quid left on, being cut up by some awful jobsworth who talks like a farmer.  I explained that this "solution" would be far less convenient for everybody involved than my suggestion.  Even tried to appeal to her lazy nature by pointing out that my way also meant no paperwork.  But she was having none of it.  It was only after this lengthy exchange that she noticed that the train I had said I was on was not even operated by her company.

It seems two companies run up and down that route, and the one I was on was a First Great Western train.  Well, silly me for not fucking noticing the branding on the fucking train.  If only I had read the fucking safety poster or the free magazine with Stone-fucking-henge on the cover, then I would have realised I was on a First Great Western train, not a Southern train.  It's not as if it's all the fucking same or anything.  It's not as if I don't give a flying fuck about your fucking branding, I am just trying to get from the town I live in to the town I fucking work in and a train is just a fucking train...  At this point I began to feel I could method act the Michael Douglas character in a remake of Falling Down.

So I called First Great Western.  They were even less helpful, and the guy I spoke to seemed to have been in India.  I had said I had literally just left my wallet on one of their trains.  He asked me, when I said the time the train left from my station, if that was "in the morning or at night".  He didn't seem to have ever heard of Reading.  He told me to phone Network Rail and ask to speak to the station at which my train terminated.

Feeling a bit futile, I did that.  They put me through to a man who I think was called Craig (if he was, and you're ever at Gatwick Airport station and you see him, tell him I hate him) who was supposedly the Duty Manager.  This man was a wanksmith, and a master of the trade.  He said the train didn't get cleaned out at his station, it would go all the way back to Reading before that happened.  "Very well," said I, "transfer me to your counterpart at Reading".  I think I actually said something slightly angrier than that, but I didn't call him a cunt or anything so I was reining it in.  He said that he couldn't do that.  "Never mind," said I, "if you would be so kind as to give me his number I will call him myself".  

He said he didn't have it.  He only had an internal number.  Which, as we have established, he couldn't transfer me on. I asked if it would be on the internet.  He said he didn't have the internet.  I said that I did have the internet, I just wanted to know if the number would actually be on their site, or whether it would just be the number for customer bastarding services, who were the ones who had put me through to his worthless self in the first bastarding place, because evidently they didn't know where the train got cleaned, or that he was neither use nor ornament (three days in a row I've used that - there are just so many people for whom it is appropriate), or in fact anything that a customer might find fucking helpful.  He said he didn't know, but he reckoned it probably wasn't on there.  At this point I had gotten a bit sarcastic, much to the amusement of guys who sit near me at work.  But I still hadn't called him a cunt or anything.  He suggested that actually, what I should really do, is call the train company.  Normally I would have had a few suggestions for him about what he should really do, maybe something involving getting dragged behind one of his stupid fucking trains until he either dies or himself gets to fucking Reading, where the fucking train gets cleaned, whichever comes fucking first, but I was too shocked that he had even said such a thing.  "Are you trying to make me have some kind of stroke?" I asked him.  Then I hung up.

I gave up on getting my wallet back.  I cancelled my cards (had to speak to Santander - no article about bad customer service would be complete without a mention of good old Banco Bastardos! "I've lost my card". "OK, what is your card number?"), grieved for my lost seven pounds of Boots credit (now i will have to spend real money on boring old razors, damnit), and felt hungry because I couldn't buy any lunch, but it wasn't the end of the world.  

This is when it hit me.  It would have been better to have just done that in the first place - just written it off.  I would be in exactly the same position, but I would still be at my normal, manageable level of rage and frustration.  I wouldn't have wasted time, meaning I would have been further along with whatever thing it was I was doing at work (I'm not saying that that, in and of itself, would not have also been a waste of time, but you know what I mean).  

And this is the point of today's rant: it shouldn't be that way.  Even if they aren't able to give you any practical help, customer service people should make you feel like they are at least trying to help you, so even though you come away no better off you at least feel like everything that could reasonably be done to help you has been done and that someone out there cared just a little bit about your predicament.  You deserve that - you fund their company's continued existence (in the case of the train companies, because you have to, like some kind of uncapped "getting to the office" tax that they can arbitrarily make to be as much as they fucking like).

Honestly, look at any job advert for customer service representatives, or any other customer facing job come to think about it, and it will be asking for people with "good people skills", or even "a passion for excellent customer service". These qualities in humans must be as rare as rocking horse shit, because instead, these jobs seem to go almost exclusively to surly, arsey, lazy people who will not make themselves responsible for anything at all, or people who are just plain stupid.  When you deal with a good one, someone who actually seems to enjoy helping solve problems and is genuinely sorry when they can't, it feels great, whatever the outcome.  And I can guarantee that the people like that, the ones who are in the right fucking job, never go home and whine about how they get shouted at and called names all day.  Because no matter how much of a bastard you are, or how much the company has pissed you off, you don't call people like that names.  It would be like kicking a Guide Dog.

Tuesday 10 May 2011

Microsoft Buying Skype

OK, so this was actually only the second most interesting story I encountered on today's trawl through the news.

The most interesting was a little gem I found in a Metro I found on a train.  I am kind of fond of the Metro, apart from that bastarding Nemi cartoon.  What is the fucking point?  Just don't have a cartoon if it's going to be that ferociously shit.  As this phrase, borrowed from my mum, went down so well yesterday I am going to use it again: the Nemi cartoon is "neither use nor ornament".  Anyway, I digress.  The story was about how one of those fucking people who paints themselves silver and stands still near tourist attractions in London and for some reason think the world owes them a fucking living for doing absolutely nix, you know, one of those worthless codpieces, kicked the living crap out of another worthless codpiece, er, I mean, "street performer", for stealing his lucrative patch near the London Eye.  He got sent down for GBH with intent.  Apparently, tourists looked on "in horror" as a Bulgarian man dressed as a statue attempted to beat another Bulgarian man dressed as a statue to death. I bet they bloody didn't look on in horror.  If they did they are idiots.  The YouTube/videophone combination was invented for shit like that.  A mate of mine reckons he once saw a McDonalds employee dressed as Ronald McDonald beat the granny out of a drunk guy while he was queueing up to get a Big Mac, but nobody believes him because he didn't put it on the YouTube.  OK, so it supposedly happened in 1994, but that is no excuse.

Anyway, that brings us on to the less amusing but probably more important topic of Microsoft's $8.5 billion (which is 5 billion of her majesty's pounds or thereabouts) buyout of Skype, that thing that lets you talk to your bastard friends who have gone off travelling or moved to somewhere nicer than here for free.

For as much as they might say that it is a natural fit for them because it will integrate nicely with Outlook and, I don't know, proactively leverage some convergence synergies to create a new paradigm (they didn't actually say that, I nicked it from a PowerPoint presentation I will be giving tomorrow) this looks to me like a bid by Microsoft to look a bit more cool, because they are being left behind.

Back in the day, the big names in computer technology were Microsoft and IBM.  Microsoft won the day, back in the day, because IBM had this bizarre cultish thing going on where they would hire graduates with certain profiles, all the same, and turn them all into grey suited boring old IBM people, and Microsoft was a lot more cool.

Trouble is, now that the internet is used for everything, everywhere, by everyone, rather than just being logged onto for a bit in the evening to check your email, ask Jeeves about something and look at some pornographic stills that take 12 minutes each to download, the "cool" technology brands are the ones that have paved the way when it comes to how the internet is used now.  Web 2.0, essentially.  Which is apparently in the dictionary, even though I think that probably would require a redefinition of what a fucking word is, given that "Web 2.0" is two words. And one of them is a number.  This could lead to the number of words in the English language exploding to almost infinity as you would then logically have to include stuff like "Speed 2" as well...

Brands that people think are cool now include Google, who so monopolise the world of searching for everything that their name is now a verb, meaning "to search on the internet".  You don't say "he was slacking , off at work, he was just sat there Binging himself?" do you?  Or, "we'll win this pub quiz for sure, I'm going to Lycos all the answers on my iPhone"...  Facebook, which allows us to control the pop charts like sinister puppet masters, and find out whether our old classmates have ugly children.  Twitter, which I'm not entirely sure what the point of is, but which I bloody love (follow me at  I do sometimes, in my darker moments, suspect that the whole grand enterprise was developed by the British government to allow us to keep tabs on Stephen Fry, so we don't accidentally lose him again.  They know that without Stephen Fry a new dark age will fall on this nation, where all TV shows have to be about people called Kelly or Kerry or Katie who are orange.  Though to be honest they could just have done what they did with "the old Stephen Fry" Oscar Wilde and put him in prison if they're that worried he's going to run off.

According to a report I read yesterday (once again, in the Metro... I'm a bit broke this week) due to social networking four out of five people admit they have online friends they have never met who they feel as close to as their "real world" friends.  Ten years ago you'd never fucking admit to that...  That would be embarrassing.  Even online dating supposedly isn't considered that lame and desperate anymore.  Though, let's be honest, it still kind of is.  The internet is all about being social, sharing stuff, making connections.  Today I joined Formspring, which seems to be this thing where people can ask you any question they want, which I reckon could be a right laugh (if you have any for me, ask at - now is a good time because it's new and I want to play with it).  Could be the next big thing.  But probably won't because, truth be told, it's quite boring after ten minutes if nobody asks you anything interesting.  "Yes, I prefer cats to dogs." "Actually, I can take or leave Marmite." "My favourite dinosaur is the brachiosaurus"...

None of that has anything at all to do with Microsoft.  This is the point.  I am not even anti Microsoft.  In the PC or Mac argument I stand by Windows every time, even though that is not the trendy thing to do, but with each year that passes it gets just a little bit more embarrassing to say "actually, I er, prefer a PC"... And if I'm noticing that, surely they are too?

Thing is, although I use only Windows operating systems, outside of work I never use any Microsoft applications or services.  Microsoft is for Office, and Office is for using at "the fucking place"...  When I'm not at "the fucking place" I don't use anything of theirs.  Not IE, not Hotmail, not Bing, not whatever blogging thing it is they have, because unlike their business applications they are not the best available - Google's stuff is.  I have become just as smug and cuntish about the fact I use Chrome as the Apple wankers that used to piss me off so with their fucking Ocelot OS or whatever the hell it was called.

So yeah, Microsoft isn't cool because it's for work, which isn't cool.  But that's OK right, that's a pretty good niche to fill, every corporate computer in the world?  Well yeah.  But this is where Microsoft get a bit schizophrenic.

All of their advertising seems to be targetted very much at the home user market.  If I recall correctly, their current TV campaign involves scenarios such as a plain woman using her Windows PC to edit a photo of her boring looking family so it looks like her kids aren't ginger, or texting or something.  The catchphrase in these commercials is "to the cloud!"...  It's not what you want.  You want aspirational, not accessible.  Ooooh, if I use Windows, I will be like a woman with three kids who knows fuck all about computers but can still edit her fucking stupid fucking photo because Windows has the most patronising interface known to man and big Fisher Price buttons will tell me what I need to do and then make sure I'm sure with more big fucking Fisher Price looking buttons because I'm a fucking imbecile who is scared they will bring down the New York Stock Exchange by clicking on the wrong fucking thing in my picture editing software.  And "to the cloud" is the gayest catchphrase I've ever heard uttered outside of a 1960's Batman movie.  You can't even say it ironically.

For Microsoft to thrive they need to somehow change their image.  Either go totally corporate, ironically, like IBM, or get some useful offerings and lose the family friendly schmaltz and become cool again.  Maybe the buyout of Skype is supposed to be a step in the latter direction, given that Skype has millions of users all over the world, and that is why they have gambled by paying what looks like way over the odds.  70% of Skype was sold for $2 billion just two years ago, and given that its most popular service is offered for free, it will take some creativity to turn it into a big revenue generator (the same argument used to question why Twitter was valued high when it doesn't appear to do anything that would make money).   If it solves Microsoft's image problem, none of that should matter - they can afford it, much like Chelsea could afford to spend 50 million pounds on Torres in a bid to solve their "our strikers are really old now" problem.

Trouble is, I can't help expecting them to launch their Skype offering with an advertising campaign showing someone in England using a Skype video call to let their kids wave to their grandparents in Australia...  I can literally see it in my head.  Yeah, we know it can do that, and we know that's what most people will use it for, but for the love of fuck, show us something a bit more Minority Report looking and some people with lives that look interesting using the fucker!  

Monday 9 May 2011

Super-injunctions and Twitter

If you are a Twitter user, you have probably noticed that there are quite a lot of other Twitter users who are morons. Obviously you don't follow any of the morons, so you don't notice it most of the time, but if you ever click on one of the things that is "trending", or on some days, just look at the list of things that are trending, there is quite a lot of shit on there. Not shit like the shit I post, like when I get drunk and decide to type random Bruce Springsteen lyrics, but shit like - and these are just some examples I have plucked from what was trending at the time of writing:

@justinbieber stay strong Biebs. You can do better than get mad and lose your mind with those people. #killemwithkindness

Which was posted by someone calling themselves a "belieber" which sounds like some new kind of menace we really should be concerned about...

can i ask why is megan fox not in the new transformers ?! her and shia labeouf make a gorgeous couple !

Yeah. I think the bigger question is "Why is the new Transformers movie a thing that exists?" rather than why Megan Fox would not want to be involved with such a thing. You know, given that the last one was a total fucking abortion.

#5factsaboutmymom she made her own Dildoe

I assume the hashtag "5 facts about my mom" was trending because yesterday was Mother's Day in America, so American people, who call their mums moms wanted to pay tribute to their mothers - you know, just like we do here in fucking March. So why it is now trending in Birmingham (and why there is even an option to see what is trending in Birmingham in the main part of the interface) I cannot explain. But this guy, who looks to be from Newcastle, well, his "mom" is probably the type of lady contributing to the fact that "MILF" is also trending right now...

Now, hopefully that has established for anyone who doesn't use Twitter that it has been adopted by a large quantity of people who, as MY mom would say, are neither use nor ornament. You need to know that to understand the point I am now, finally going to get to.

Following the news that many, many, possibly all, celebrities have now got "super-injunctions" that prevent hookers, mistresses, rent boys and just about anyone else represented by Max Clifford from speaking out and ruining their carefully cultivated reputations as family men, general good eggs or heterosexuals. Personally I think it's great, because we no longer have to have our news peppered with horrible things like "I shagged Andrew Marr", and whenever you do see a story about a footballer and a hooker you can tell by the fact he hasn't taken out a super-injunction that it is all just an elaborate set up to cover up the fact he is as gay as a daisy. Yes Ashley Cole, we all worked it out a very long time ago. Also, prostitutes will no longer be all over the papers, causing the Daily Mail to become concerned that all of our girl children will decide "Juicy Jenni" was onto something and start hanging around sketchy Northern nightclubs in the hope of making a few quid out of sucking off Rio Ferdinand. Jesus, if we went on Rooney stories alone it might not just be the kids. It might be your nan as well.

Yes, the super-injunction is a good thing. Not because it protects the privacy of people in the public eye, but because it protects the public eye from stories about Andrew Marr's privates.

Still though, some people feel it is a right, possibly a constitutional right, maybe even a human right, to know whether, I don't know, Huw Edwards or Pete Waterman or that bloke that plays Ian Beale, has committed any form of indiscretion ever (disclaimer: I have no reason to believe any of the aforementioned people have taken out super-injunctions, nor am I claiming to have slept with any of them). The super-injunction deprives them of their fix of gossip about people nobody normal is remotely interested in (because all they do is present a daytime antiques show), and that's no fun! Sure, I can see why someone might be interested to know that someone extremely famous, like say, Tiger Woods, or David Beckham, or someone extremely unexpected, like John Major had been up to something juicy, but seriously, what kind of fucking weirdo cares that Jeremy Clarkson might have been photographed with Jemima Khan? I don't, and as you might have noticed, I bloody love Jeremy Clarkson.

But these very weirdos are the same morons I was on about earlier. When a canny Twitter user announced they were going to leak the names of loads of celebrities who had taken out super-injunctions, people who say "OMG" a lot were on it like, well, me on any rumour that Jose Mourinho might be coming back to Chelsea. At the time of someone else writing an article about this which I just read, they had 44,000 followers, despite the fact that most major news outlets (who are, rather ironically, informed of the details of super-injunctions so that they don't accidentally publish them - yeah, so no risk of leaks there then, you can definitely trust those guys not to get coked up and tell some random punter down the pub) are saying most of it isn't true anyway. But then they are always saying Tom Cruise is straight as well, so who the hell knows.

Some of the very best people to follow on Twitter are liars, but what on Earth is entertaining about reading a random list of names of not very exciting people who might have a super-injunction but probably don't.

Still, if you see Katie Price on the list at least then you'll know once and for all that it is total bollocks...

You can follow me on the Twitter if you should care to do so, at I don't out people very often... And I'm not a belieber.

Saturday 7 May 2011

Talent Shows... And People Who Cry at Them

So, my sources tell me that tonight Britain's Got Talent is on the television. I can only assume from the stuff they are saying on the Facebook and the Twitter (follow me at about how astonishingly moving it is, that this programme is a graphic and harrowing documentary about the genocide in Rwanda, Chinese orphanages, or those babies in Africa that get raped because it cures the AIDS (disclaimer - it doesn't).

Oh no, wait, it's not that at all is it? It's that show where people put ferrets down their trousers while David Hasslehoff watches.

The talent show genre is not a new thing. When I was a kid, it was all about Stars In Their Eyes (or, as morons would call it, "Stars In Your Eyes"... God I hate people who do that. See also "Sex In The City"... To be fair, I keep getting the name of that new sitcom Shit My Dad Says wrong and just calling it "Shit Nobody Laughs At", but that may not be quite so accidental. Honestly, a sitcom based on a Twitter feed? Seriously?) where that really tall beardy guy who might have been a paedophile (I think he was cleared of having done anything, but they still got Cat Deeley to do the kids' version instead of him...) welcomed people with mundane jobs (I remember one where a man worked in a factory that made tights, checking that the tights didn't have holes in them. Sounds like either the worst or the best job in the world, depending how "fetishy" you are) who would then be transformed to look "uncannily" like singers they fancied they could do a bit of an impression of. This very occasionally involved the use of blackface. Eventually, someone would win, and they would get some kind of trophy, and then they would kindly fuck off to wherever they came from (usually the Midlands), only to be heard of again if you were the kind of person who enjoys going on holiday to Butlins, where you could see them basking in the glory of their changed lives every night at 7 before the bingo. And that was good enough for them.

It all changed at the turn of the century (I like saying that when I mean 2001, it still kind of confuses people for a second...) with Popstars. Popstars featured a man called Nasty Nigel, who as the name suggests was a bit of a dick to everyone, and a bunch of people who wanted to be, well, pop stars. And they weren't 43 year old shop fitters from Wolverhampton who could do a mean turn as Chris de Burgh, they were young and fresh. And the winners didn't just get a trophy and a job as a redcoat in Bridgend, they got to actually be pop stars. Well, sort of - they got to be more like pop stars than other people are, but less than say, Blue or Atomic Kitten. Popstars was the first, so if you wanted to go back in time and stop Cheryl Cole from taking over the world, you would basically need to terminate this Nigel bloke.

Popstars was followed by Popstars: The Rivals, where a girl band and a boy band were formed. One of them was Girls Aloud who did very well despite having the shittest band name ever, and the other one was... Actually, I'm not even going to type their name, I'm going to let it bug you. Besides, what's the point, nobody is Googling them, not even their mums, so it won't help me any on the traffic front to speak of them here.

Then you had Pop Idol, which launched Gareth Gates and Michelle McManus (I resist the urge to make any "fat people" jokes involving the concept of launching Michelle McManus, but if you want to make any in your head, this would be the right point to do so). And it was here that the phenomenon of the sob story made its first significant appearance.

Gareth Gates had a bit of an affliction, which made the nation sympathise with him and root for him. Gareth Gates had a stutter. It only affected him when he spoke, and not when he sang, so really in a singing contest it was pretty irrelevant, but it was milked and milked and milked with endless footage of him trying to get a sentence out (it stopped just short of forcing the boy to say "I'm not the pheasant plucker, I'm the pheasant plucker's mate, and I'm only plucking pheasants 'cos the pheasant plucker's late" on live TV, but only by a small margin) until he won. He then got speech therapy, which cured him of said affliction, and shagged Jordan, which probably caused him to gain a few much more nasty ones.

I think it was at this point that it became absolutely compulsory for every contestant on the raft of shows that followed (X Factor, Britain's Got Talent) to have something a bit tragic about themselves if they were to stand a chance. OK, so not all of them were orphans, or had overcome leukaemia, because where are you going to find enough people like that with passable voices and who are prepared to shamelessly bang on about it on TV to make two seasons of the awful crap a year for the rest of time, but at the very least they would be a struggling single parent or someone who had been bullied at school or who had a horribly depressing job. I can only recall one contestant, a guy called Rhydian who was on the X Factor, who basically went on there and said " I am a happy, confident person with a good job, a nice family who are all alive, lots of friends, and quite a pleasant life" - I mean, he didn't literally say that, but you know what I mean... Everybody hated him and he went out, despite being one of the best, from a technical perspective, on the show. He didn't have the "ahhhh, bless" factor.

The rule seems to be that you either have to say you want to win to get your family out of crushing poverty, or dedicate each song you sing, even if it's Bat Out of Hell, to a deceased loved one.

I guess I'd pick Mewsley, my cat who died 12 years ago: "She was struck down in her prime, but she loved Toni Braxton and I'm sure she will be looking down on me in heaven where she lives with the angels... It's going to be hard to get through the song, but I'm going to try and be really brave and make her proud"... OK, so it doesn't sound that moving here, but you need to imagine the slight cracking of the voice and the brave, fighting back the tears smile.

Seriously, it would take a lot less than me and my dead cat to make the majority of viewers cry like one of those children you see looking up as their balloon drifts out of sight. Things that have made people, real people I actually know, well up on Britain's Got Talent this week have included "a kid dancing". A kid dancing is not fucking sad, is it? It could be sort of funny I suppose. Could even be impressive, if they are really good. But it's never sad. I asked for an explanation of exactly why people are bawling away in their droves and here is one response, as an exact quote:

"it's the emotional music that gets me. Lol and when you see someone like the kid tonight who has actually improved his physical condition through something he enjoys it's hard not to be a little overwhelmed with compassion and empathy"

What? So, the kid is fit and healthy and loves dancing? A fit, healthy, happy child? Yeah, still not really seeing the sad in there. As for being overwhelmed with compassion and empathy, I don't think a dancing kid on the telly would overwhelm me with anything. This person is obviously someone who flips between emotions quite easily though, given that there was a little "lol" in there for no discernible reason. Cries at children being happy, laughs at nothing. Probably mental.

I just don't get it. If I cried that easily I would be scared to leave the house in case I saw a particularly moving shop window display in Debenhams (perhaps where one of the mannequins had only one arm and three child mannequins to support with no male mannequin in sight) or a really sad queue at a bus stop... I certainly wouldn't be able to go to work because on the way to the station I sometimes see this cat that has a leg missing.

There were apparently a bunch of dog based acts as well, but those won't win, even if they do something really cool like make the dogs bite Amanda Holden's face off, because Simon Cowell hasn't yet figured out a way to make money out of dancing lurchers.

Tuesday 15 March 2011

Fernando Torres Struggling in London

In writing this, right before my beloved Chelsea's crucial Champion's League game against FC Copenhagen, I appreciate I am taking a bit of a risk.

If I say that Fernando Torres is crap now, and that the only word fit to describe the sheer scale of the waste of money that his purchase by Abramovich will turn out to have been is one I just made up and it's "Shevchenko-esque", then, should he score a hat trick not only will I look like a damn fool, but I'll have to be pleased about it. It won't necessarily make me like him though - I've been hating Ashley Cole for years and he plays well for us all the time. Shit, he even sometimes plays well for England. The pony is not for turning.

In order to mitigate this risk, I have chosen to focus on an aspect of Fernando Torres about which I definitely can't be proven wrong - how much of a whiny little gimp the bloody manchild is.

As you may have seen reported yesterday, Torres is attributing his lacklustre performance since joining Chelsea to how hard he is finding it having to live in Chelsea.

This is very weird, because I have always held one belief to be true above all others, and that is that Chelsea is a much nicer place to live than fucking Liverpool. Honestly, it's really good - the bin men come three times a week. If you live in Liverpool, chances are the bin men never come, because bin men by their very definition have jobs as bin men, and everybody knows from the football chants that nobody in Liverpool has a job as anything.

Why is he finding it so hard then, if his bins are being emptied three times a week? Do Spanish people not spend as much time obsessing about having their bins emptied as English people?

Well, he claims he is "in awe" of living in the capital. Which is the kind of thing you might expect Susan Boyle or someone to say, you know, someone from some kind of weird, inbred hamlet, but he's from fucking Madrid! That is also "the capital". In that it's the capital of Spain (just clarifying that in case anybody who went to school in Liverpool accidentally ends up reading this).

He goes on to say that if the traffic (which they don't have in Madrid, or Liverpool... Well, they probably don't so much in Liverpool because all the cars are up on bricks and... Oh, alright, I'll stop it) is good it takes him forty minutes to get to training (Chelsea's training ground isn't in Chelsea. Neither is their stadium, actually, but we'll gloss over that), but some days it can take ages. Bloody hell. Imagine that, a commute that takes forty minutes or sometimes, even longer. Sometimes, ages.

Well, you probably can imagine that. You've probably done that. You've probably done that today. Except, at the end of your journey you probably got to do something you hated for shit money, whereas he gets to play football for shedloads of the stuff. And yet, I bet you didn't piss and whine about it half as much as this nancy boy... Imagine if he had to work in a fucking call centre? He'd have a fucking breakdown every morning.

Torres has also complained of the rigours of having to "do paperwork" and "find somewhere to live". Well, yes, those things do suck, too, much like the commuting, but I suspect they suck a lot less when the paperwork is a record breakingly large Premiership contract and the finding somewhere to live involves picking out a fucking mansion. I'd quite enjoy spending a day or so doing things like that. God, I used to just think he looked like a woman (specifically Britney Spears, circa 2001), but now we know he whinges on like one too.

If this is how much these things upset him, imagine how hard Torres is going to cry when John Terry shags his wife?

Good luck tomorrow night though, lad.

Monday 14 March 2011

Watered Down Booze and Plain Fag Packets

One of the reasons I was so glad the Labour party got knocked out in the last election was that I was under the misapprehension that the Conservatives were less into the interfering in your general business, less keen to be the much criticised "nanny state", and therefore life would be a bit less frustrating for people who like a smoke and a drink and don't wear a pedometer or weigh broccoli before putting it on their plate to ensure that indeed, it is a proper "portion".

But it would appear I was very wrong. More wrong than I was last week when I said, on International Women's Day, that men didn't get a day. Apparently they do, and it is called "Steak and Blowjob Day", and it is today. Use this information however you see fit.

As regular readers will know, I am not a fan of the anti-smoking lobby, and this, I'm afraid, is those bastards again. A few weeks ago it was announced that fags would have to be sold in plain packaging (translation for foreign readers - "cigarettes will be sold in plain white boxes", in case you thought I meant "rent boys will have to dress like accountants"). This is to make them less appealing I guess, but it is bullshit for the following reasons:

1) People buy them because they want or need to set fire to them and inhale the resulting smoke. They do that because it is enjoyable, and because the smoke contains an addictive drug. They do not buy them because they really want a little picture of a camel, or because "ooooh, shiny!".

2) The new packaging actually means you can smoke more, because you can buy one of the cheap, embarrassingly pikey brands and your friends won't notice from the box. It's pretty simple maths - if the fags are cheaper, you can have more!

3) The new packaging is useful. Now, if you want to design something, say a logo for a major sporting event or the Liberal Democrat Party manifesto on the back of a fag packet, you have much more white space.

4) Of course, if you don't like having your cigarettes look all bleak and sad, like they come from some kind of communist nightmare, you always have the option of buying a cigarette case anyway. Or just using an old Marlboro Lights box. I'm saving mine up. Antiques o' the future.

In addition to this pointless new ruling, it was also reported today that drinks companies have made an agreement with the government to reduce the amount of alcohol in the booze, to always display how many "units" there are (because obviously we can't be trusted to work out how pissed something will make us by how strong it is, percentage wise, we have to use the seemingly quite arbitrary system of units, which most people ignore because if you follow it you can only ever have hardly any booze and that is depressing), and also, there will be a 3p "health tax" on those weird super strength lagers.

It seems, from what I've seen, that nobody is happy with this. Alcohol consumers are unhappy because why shouldn't people be allowed to have a pint of Strongbow in 2013 that is as strong as a pint they can have in 2011, or could have probably had in 1975, and because the new weaker drinks won't cost any less, so basically your pants are being had down in the "how drunk can I get for twenty quid?" stakes. Health organisations aren't happy either because they don't think these measures are enough to combat the harmful impacts of alcohol abuse on the nation's health, and because they believe the drinks companies and supermarkets are dictating the terms of the changes. All six organisations in the government's thrilling sounding Responsibility Deal Alcohol Network have refused to partner with the government on this strategy. Drinks companies and supermarkets, in reality, would probably rather things stayed as they are.

There have been many weaker alternatives to popular premium lager brands on the market in recent years, such as Becks Vier and Stella Artois 4, so it's not like there are no options for people who want to drink a weaker pint without having to order the dingo's piss that is Fosters, but essentially, they do taste weaker. Some people do actually drink stronger beers because of the flavour, not because they are in competition with the late George Best. They already made crisps taste all bland by taking all the MSG out of the Skips, why do it to beer, too?

The flavour argument isn't true of course, of the 7.5 per cent plus beers, or "tramp fuels", but I doubt anyone in the grip of a severe enough alcohol addiction that they are drinking that stuff will be put off by a 3p "health tax". Their health is already fucked. This is not how to help them. It's really more of a "piss artist" tax. A tax for being a piss artist. Seems a bit of a bastard thing to do.

Most reasonable people do see that cigarettes and alcohol cause harm, but just making it more expensive and the packaging less attractive won't deter people from doing things that they enjoy (well, it might work with hookers, thinking about it) - are they saying that only poor people ever become alcoholics or die of liver failure? Because that is quite obviously not true. To stop so many people dying you need to make it easy for people for whom drinking has become a problem to get help, and to accept that those problems arise not because alcohol is cheap or strong, or because the people behind Jaegermeister are up to some sort of evil conspiracy, but because people have issues.

And then, to leave everybody else, as in the majority of drinkers, and the pubs and shops who serve them, free to make their choices as adults and as businesses.

Sunday 13 March 2011

Celebrity Mum of the Year

It's actually taken me several hours of trawling the news for anything to annoy me enough to write. It's been a couple of days like that. I guess that this is partly because so much of the news has been devoted to the earthquake and tsunamis, and there's nothing to take the piss out of there, apart from the fact that these events have convinced some people that the second coming of Jesus (who follows me on Twitter now, which is nice) will take place on the 11th of November. Because it's 11/11/11. 10/10/10 and 9/9/09 were all fine. Even 6/6/06 was alright. But 11/11/11 is going to be the one because the earthquake happened on the 11th of March and September the 11th happened on the 11th of September. But I already did the rapture.

Other people said the earthquake was caused by something called an "extreme supermoon". That just sounds like a stunt from Jackass to me.

Horrible global events notwithstanding, even the columnists that usually rile me right up haven't managed it this week. It turns out I only get pissy with Mary Ann Sieghart when she's slagging off men and Richard Littlejohn when he's being really racist. These things happen a lot, but not this week. In the end, I decided that drastic measures were required, so I went on the website of The Sun.

Even as the Japanese disaster was occurring, the Sun still had, under "Top Stories" something about some women from something called The Only Way is Essex mud wrestling, Kim Kardashian eating some carbs even though she had just been to the gym (the crazy bitch), and the highly unshocking news that the ginger girl out of Doctor Who? used to get bullied for being ginger. This happens to all ginger people, because taking the piss out of ginger people is lots of fun. If John Galliano had stuck to ginger people he wouldn't be in all this mess.

I knew The Sun wouldn't let me down, and sure enough, it had a vote on who its readers think should win the coveted "Celeb Mum of the Year Award", sponsored by Foxy Bingo.

That sounded very shit, but it was actually even worse than anything I could have expected. Drumming up some suspense, they reveal that last year the wonderful statuette went to Holly Willoughby, but did she deserve to win twice in a row? I didn't even know she had kids. Admittedly, I only sort of vaguely know who she is, but still. Some of the competition she's got if she wants to hang on to the title (which I'm sure she probably really, really gives a shit about... Wouldn't we all?) is quite amazing.

OK, so Victoria Beckham is in there. She definitely has three kids and appears to be up the kennel with a fourth, so she definitely classes as a mum, and she is definitely a proper celebrity, but that means she couldn't possibly win. Can you see Victoria Beckham coming all the way from LA to collect an award sponsored by Foxy Bingo? Fuck that. The Queen is also on the list, but again, chances of her showing up and making a tearful acceptance speech are nil. They need someone with fuck all better to do, which probably explains why the list includes such colossal non-entities as:

Colleen Nolan (is that the one off the Iceland adverts? Isn't she really old? Are her kids in their thirties? Can you still win for being a good mum to people in their thirties? I guess she's younger than the queen.)
Kym Marsh (not sure, think she might be in Coronation Street.)
Danielle Lineker (apparently that's Gary's wife)
Stacey Solomon (I know this one, she was in the X Factor - finished behind Olly Murs. And he didn't win.)
Danielle Lloyd (nope, no idea - I'm going to go out on a limb and say "some slag".)
Danii Minogue (the shit Minogue sister, who I think Kylie is secretly embarrassed of)
Amanda Holden (cries at everything on Britain's Got Talent. Creeps me out.)
Miriam Clegg (so that's who Cleggyweg is married to)

This is probably the real shortlist, as all the other people are far too famous to win. Actually, the last three on that list probably are too, given I have heard of them. Well, I didn't know Miriam Clegg was called Miriam and I have no idea what she looks like, but I knew there was some sort of wife situation with Nick Clegg there.

So, by dividing up the list into "far too famous" (the Queen, Posh, Samantha Cameron), "a bit too famous" (Charlotte Church, Coleen Rooney, Myleene Klass - no, I don't know why either but she's fucking everywhere) and this lot, we have the full compliment of the best examples of motherhood to be found among our national role models?

Not quite. There are two more.

If I said "Kerry Katona and Katie Price", that would sound ridiculous, right?

No, really, they are in the list. The Celebrity Mum of the Year List. Kerry Katona and Katie Price might be the best celebrity mums. Kerry Katona. And Katie Price. If the contest was to find the Worst Person in the World or the Most Common Person on Television or Hideous Frightening Hell Slag of the Year, sure, they'd be front runners, but Mum of the bastarding Year? Who made this list? Shannon Matthews' mum? Those social workers who fucked up the Baby P thing? Jesus wept...

Ah yes, doesn't everyone look back fondly at the time in their childhood when their dear old mum was on TV, coked out of her bonce? Or when she went out with no knickers on. Magical moments. If anything, I just wish my mum had been a bit more orange and picked me up from school in a Barbie pink Range Rover more often, and I'd had a few more nice "uncles" to whom I was in no way related. Do you not also wish that instead of your fairly normal dad, you'd had a string of awesome male rodels like Dwight Yorke, Peter Andre and Alex Reid? Of course you do. It's what every kid wants.

I wonder if there is an American equivalent and if so where I can stick a wedge of cash on it going to Britney Spears.

"I think the whole problem is, until Cheryl Cole has kids, we can't just give it to her, like we really want to", you can hear whoever is behind this saying to their pointless mate at some pointless PR company. "And everyone else is either shit or wouldn't touch the award ceremony with a ten foot barge pole.".
"Has Amy Winehouse got kids?", the conversation might have continued.
"Britney Spears?"
"Not British."
"Er... That prostitute, Belle du Jour?'
"Not sure. Billie Piper does have at least one though, and she plays her on ITV."
"Good. Get her. Hopefully it wasn't with Chris Evans though, the ginger kids scare me. No souls, apparently."
"Who else?"
"Kerry Katona and Katie Price. Everyone enjoys those two."
"Shall we do some more coke and play on Foxy Bingo?"
"You read my mind."

Complete pony.

I voted for the queen. Lots of times. For the LOLs.