Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Darwin and the evolution of psuedocide.

Psuedocide, that’s the buzz word ripping up the press at the moment (certainly in the UK anyway). It’s back in vogue following the disappearance and reappearance of that canoeist chap. The things people will do to get their hands on a pot full of cash. Hold on a minute though. If Darwin had simply taken a job at Burger King for the last five years instead of hiding in a wardrobe, couldn’t he have saved more than he got paid for dying? Getting back to psuedocide for a moment, this article makes a lot of sense about the reasons why, in future years (in a society that tracks individuals ever closer through financial, employment and even recreational records) we can reasonably expect to hear about more and more disappearances supported by false suicides. I wonder what actions insurance companies are considering in order to future proof their interests in this respect. I’d like to think that they’re going to be a bit more imaginative than simply increasing life insurance premiums for the rest of us. Maybe they should start insisting that any claim resulting from suicide should be supported by a body. In the absence of an actual body, how about accepting a short video clip of the event? Now that would be something wouldn’t it; a whole cottage industry built up around filming suicides? It appears that Jimmy’s idea may not be such a stretch of the imagination after all. Funny how reality often mimics fiction some years later isn’t it?

Monday, December 10, 2007

Gift Certificates...not as thoughtless as you may think girls.

I came across an article today that made an interesting point about how people are dealing with ticking off endless lists of ‘Xmas presents to buy’. A lot of us it seems are using gift certificates.

However, Judith Martin (known to millions as Miss Manners…apparently) dismisses gift certificates (and, by extension, gift cards) as "a pathetic compromise convenient to people who do not trust their judgment about selecting the right present for those whose tastes they ought to know."

Well bully for you Miss Manners, but I think that labelling people who send gift cards as dithering fools who can’t be bothered to empathise with their loved one’s is a bit harsh. What you seem to be forgetting is that a good percentage of the people who are tasked with buying gifts happen to be men.

What happened to that old axiom that ‘it’s the thought that counts’? We blokes have relied on that for years! For men, gift tokens are a welcome addition to a growing list of presents that we don’t have to think about too hard and yet still get heaps of appreciatiation for from girlfriends and family. Take flowers as an example. We go to the shop, grab a bunch of something bright and smelly and hey presto, we’re transformed into romantic heroes. You’d think that we’d scoured the Amazon, wrestled snakes and been chased by little men in skirts before picking the last orchid in the canopy. Chocolates for Grandma, another no brainer. Any Play Station game for the kids, although this is effectively a gift certificate anyway because you can guarantee that it’ll be exchanged within days for something rated 18. All these gifts have one thing in common; they have been developed by men over generations as the ideal, thoughtless gesture most likely to be received with kisses and hugs.

But it didn’t come easy this knowledge. Men through the decades have suffered slapped faces and endured cold lonely nights in the spare room as they searched for the ultimate in repeatable gestures. Just be thankful that ‘clothes iron’ and ‘washing up gloves’ did get struck from the list sometime in the early 1940’s. As for gift certificates Miss Manners, please leave my generation’s contribution in tact.

There again, if you really are against them and you’re looking for something hip and heartfelt, why not a copy of Recycling Jimmy or any of the other utterly brilliant Kunati titles………

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Debra Lafave: Sexual Equality for Paedophiles

Does anyone remember her? Must admit, I don’t recall there being much reported on this in the UK (back in 2004 when she was first arrested) but she caught my eye this morning when she was nicked again, this time for violating her probation. The reason? Apparently Ms Lafave bust her parole by talking to a co-worker who also happens to be a 17 year old girl and therefore a minor. Bit harsh that some would argue but what’s really wrong with this headline? Any suggestions? Well I’ll tell you what’s wrong; the fact that Lafave even has a bloody co-worker. What the hell is the woman doing at work? Why isn’t she in prison? Back in November 2004, when she was a teacher, Debra Lafave seduced and had sex with a 14 year old boy. Her punishment then? 3 years house arrest. What! Okay, I can understand that a 14 year old should maybe be grounded for being very very naughty but an adult who has sex with a child? Imagine if it had been a male teacher who had groomed and eventually raped a student in his classroom. Would justice be served then if the judge sent Mr Walker to his bedroom to think about what he’d done? If ever there was a cast iron case for sexual equality, then this is it.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Passive Excercise is killing us all.

Me and my mate Malcolm spend quite a bit of time stood outside the office these days. The reason for this is that we’re both smokers. Now before you run off and tell the police, perhaps I should just clear up a few popular misconceptions about people who smoke. Firstly, we do not all carry a small puppy around in our pocket to stub cigarettes out on. Neither do we purposefully flick lit matches through the open windows of old people’s homes (that was an accident and no charges were brought). Never the less, we remain social pariahs; stared at like carnival freaks outside restaurants, chased from public parks by angry mobs. This is our life now, thanks to the over hyped phenomena that is passive smoking. Anyway, that said, we do abide by the rules and we try not to moan and, getting back to the shelter outside the office, we kind of enjoy the regular opportunity to grab a chat. This morning’s conversation (we have to have equal amounts of topics and cigarettes so here’s a tip girls: if you’re serious about finding Mr Personality, go get yourself a twenty a day man) was about global warming, specifically that frequently misunderstood and much maligned gas, carbon dioxide. During the course of the discussion we roughly calculated the contribution of CO2 in the atmosphere from you’re average set of lungs, and this totalled up globally to about 30% of the annual USA CO2 emissions. Big number that, but what struck me was that this is the figure calculated at rest. Imagine how much this increases during exercise when your lungs are pumping hard to drag 200lbs of flab round Central Park. My point is this. If we, the smokers, are to feel the full brunt of the law because of a possible link between poor health and passive smoking, shouldn’t those same agencies who persecute us be banning sweat suits too? The people who jog, sweat and grunt their way through life are not only, for the most part, offensive to the eye but also breathing too much and hurtling our world ever quicker towards its ultimate demise. Just a thought.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Memories...fact or fiction?

Yesterday was a good day. A couple of pals from way back when paid me a surprise visit at the lodge. Now normally these things freak me out because, in spite of what you girls think, blokes do have some personal pride and inviting visitors in to a place that looks like it’s just been burgled always puts me on edge. Fortunately though, when the visitors are ex-flat mates, this doesn’t apply as ex-flatmates are never concerned about anything other than how their mate is and how much beer he has in. ‘Place is looking good’ was about the only comment passed, that from Higgy as he crouched in front of the fridge to inspect his options. We never left the kitchen, save for the obvious reason, and as the lodge is small that didn’t have to mean leaving the conversation. Unsurprisingly, it wasn’t too long before the topic of that conversation came around to Recycling Jimmy. Crabber’s came across a copy in the bathroom. Neither of them had seen it nor read it and, whilst both knew that it had been published, I guess it hadn’t really meant anything until they actually held and flicked through the pages. After the initial round of piss taking (mainly targeted at the dust jacket picture which does make me look a bit like a Dale Winton impersonator) came the obvious question, asked by Crabbers but on behalf of them both.
‘So am I in it then?’
‘Nah, it’s a story mate. Pure fiction about suicide for profit. Not really our bag that was it?’
‘Well this sounds familiar Tilley. It’s my scooter isn’t it?’
Higgy read out the brief description of Kev’s scooter from the book and I had to agree; it was his scooter, something that really pissed Crabbers off. He snatched the novel, told Higgy to get more beer and began flicking through the pages. It didn’t take him too long to find a riposte.
‘Page 158. I did that. Ran off with your trousers that time in the night club.’
It was true, and Crabbers’ account of what had happened in the Tropicana that drunken, devastatingly embarrassing night opened the flood gates to another round of piss taking and, as we ploughed through our past experiences as Manchester student’s, on more than one occasion I found myself thinking, ‘hmmm, that’s in the book too.’
So here’s me thinking that I’ve consciously written a piece of dark, fictional comedy when it turns out that, in reality, a large amount of it appears to be based on flashbacks from nights best forgotten! But believe me, I am almost certain that we never dressed someone up as a rabbit and dropped them off a cliff.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

English Mutha F*!*a! Do you speak it!

Remember that scene from Pulp Fiction? The one where Jules is frustrated by the little white punk who’s stolen Marcello’s case (what was in that by the way??). Well I’ve seen that film countless times and always understood that Jules delivers the line, along with a tirade of other deliciously dark threats, because he wants the young dudes that have crossed him to feel real fear before they die. However, having recently spent a couple of days in one of Europe’s capitals, I realise that Jules’ anger was simply an expression of his frustration at not being able to communicate. Believe me, if I’d have had a gun last weekend, you would have been reading about my experience in the Daily Star and not my blog. To explain, I’m reasonably well travelled; America, Asia, Africa. I’ve seen a few places and naturally I’ve had to bumble my way through most of them using pigeon English and mimes (only any use if you want a long piece of rope or a large box by the way) but never have I been so frustrated at the local people’s lack of ability to understand me as last weekend. And where was I? London! And I’m not talking here about stopping some one in the street and asking them for directions. That I could understand. Alright, it would be bloody unlucky to pick 12 tourists in a row but statistically, I could deal with it. No, I’m talking about people working in the service industry. Taxi drivers who don’t understand ‘Covent Gardens’. Bell boys who don’t know the word for stairs (which luckily I can also mime although the first time I tried I was offered directions to a night club) and fast food joints where the people working there couldn’t say anything unless it was on the menu.
I love the fact that London is multicultural. I love the fact that people from every continent can feel confident enough to come here to live and work. But I would love it so much more if this didn’t mean that I couldn’t go to the shops unless I have a phrase book. Of course, there is another side to this. We are told time and time again that the immigrant communities are a drain on the British welfare system. Seems to me that they are the only ones doing any bloody work!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Ryan Air: doing their bit to disintegrate Europe.

Budget airlines are great aren’t they? These days a person can, for example, read a book and, if sufficiently intrigued by the place that they are being shown, simply jump on a plane and experience it. And all for less than the cost of the hardback that inspired them. That’s a good thing isn’t it, integration? Opening up Europe to one and all and removing the financial borders that had until now limited access to those with the correct visa (or mastercard for that matter)? Well in principle it is, yes, but somewhere along the line things have got really screwed up. The planes that trawl western Europe, moving people indiscriminately between Liverpool, Gerone, Perpignan and Riga aren’t filled with underprivileged, decent people with a thirst for travel and knowledge. They are instead filled with undereducated scum bags with a thirst for beer and cheap fags. Offended? Well I guess you must know who you are then. You’re the cropped haired thug demanding a seventh vodka from the busy air hostess only minutes after take off. You’re the bleached blond divorcee screaming abuse at your kid in the middle of Prague as you drag him round in search of an English breakfast. You’re the stag party pissing up ancient monuments in the centre of Rome. You are a disgrace. Think I’m exaggerating here? Well try telling that to the MP from Riga who found himself with no option but to write to the city of Liverpool and plead with its leaders to stop their hooligans from trashing his city. And Liverpool’s response? Not our problem pal.

For me, the sooner oil prices drive these people back into the pubs and slums of their home towns the better because frankly, travelling in Europe these days with an English passport makes you about as welcome as bird flu.

Monday, November 19, 2007

So where the hell has France gone then?

The reason I ask is that I have just spent the last 3 weeks in a country that the sat nav’ insisted was France and that the bloke who welcomed me at the border confirmed was indeed France (‘Bienvenue au Francais’ he slurred) but that couldn’t possibly have been. My confusion arises from the fact that, during my visit France (and in particular the French people) smashed every cliché that I had squeezed in to my luggage. To be fair here, I guess this is partly because the majority of my English preconceptions were based on only two things; the French arrogance displayed at Agincourt and a Mony Python sketch I saw once. Looking back, perhaps this wasn’t such a good frame of reference; a bit like judging the Japanese nation based solely on Pearl Harbour and a Godzilla flick (….hmm, now that’s got me thinking actually). But back to the French. I spent my time travelling through the Languedoc region in the south west; dominated by the Pyrenees and defended by countless medieval walled towns and villages, each with its own cheese and boasting the best wine in the world. Who am I to argue? At the outset, I must admit that the place did initially support my conviction that the Anglo/French war was still in progress. The steep sided valleys with their crumbling walls and sharp, forbidding peaks do make you feel unwelcome, a bit like an invader, but from the moment that you stop the car and enjoy a coffee or a glass of wine surrounded by village life, those same features suddenly feel protecting and inviting. Weird feeling really that, having to unpack all my prejudice to make room for local produce, phone numbers of new friends and leaflets of houses to buy. It was an experience that also made me think a lot harder about what I write in my novels too. I mean, is it possible that if I’m not careful I could reinforce or even create new prejudices about, for example, the people of Liverpool? More on that soon.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

I still don't know my RSS from my elbow....

And why the hell would I? After all, I’m just an author and an author writes stories doesn’t he? Shit, how I sometimes wish that this were true, for it’s become clear to me over the past 2 years that actually writing the bloody story is just the start of it! You see, once the prose are finished and the characters happy in their new place, these days the author then has to spend pretty much all of his time presenting himself and his work to the world outside of his book. Now that used to mean occasionally sitting around in carefully selected book stores (preferably near your house), sipping crap coffee and smiling at browsers in an effort to convince them that your book about assisted suicide would be a better buy than the cookery book that they actually came in to the shop for. It used to mean, if you were lucky, radio interviews and newspaper ads. Today though marketing means blogging and any author who tells you otherwise is in denial (as I was until my publisher recently and rather brutally beat me into submission). So now I have my own blog. I guest post to blogs. I read blogs. I comment on blogs. I still don’t know my RSS from my elbow but I will do one day; and this from someone who only six months ago thought that blogging was for losers. In fact, thinking about it, now would be a good time for me to set the record straight on this point because, in my ignorance, I could not have been more wrong. It turns out that the blogging community is ram packed with vibrant and talented people who simply couldn’t produce the quality of work that they do without fully engaging the world outside the blog. For me bloggers are producing some of the best writing, the funniest observations and the sharpest comment (political or social) that you can read today and I personally am pleased to be able to contribute to that achievement at whatever level. But aside from the fundamental things that blogging provides (whether it be commercial opportunity, freedom of expression, communication of ideas, friendship or just plain fun) I still gotta ask, where the hell is all this going? Big question I know, and it isn’t one that I intend to try and answer here, although I would like to close by putting a rather strange thought out there.

You see, last weekend I was reading the latest issue of New Scientist. Now I’m not a regular subscriber but me and the girlfriend were on our way to Greece and she likes me to look clever at the airport (this while she fills her boots with copies of Heat magazine and pictures of celebrities without make up…..and by the way, have you seen Cameron Diaz without filler? Scary shit). Anyway, there was an article in the mag’ that laid out an alternative way of considering reality (bear with me) and a possible answer to the question of life, the universe and everything. If the boffin is to be believed, it turns out that the answer could well be 42. He argued rather convincingly that, whilst the scientific community generally accepts that the universe and everything in it can be defined by maths, more fundamentally than this, the universe is maths. As far as I understood it, his theory would mean that you, me, everything we see and experience is simply the result of some as yet undefined (but very simple) mathematical operation. And here’s the crunch. If you can accept this, or even consider that it may be possible that reality is a mathematical expression, then it may go some way to understanding why humanity seems to be moving, with every new fangled gadget and dogs bollox processor, ever closer toward representing itself in a digital format. Weird I know, but maybe not such a stretch if you put the ideas of evolution and a mathematical reality together because after all, wouldn’t that be the result; a super species that disappears up its own digital arse?

Monday, October 8, 2007

Well done Jason Lewis....and indeed you have been

Yes, well done Jason Lewis. Marvellous achievement, of that there can be no doubt but I have to ask; what the hell have you been doing for the last 13 and a bit years?

Officially we’re told that you’ve been pedalling, roller blading and cycling around the globe but by my reckoning, you’ve only been averaging 0.39 miles an hour. Okay, if I give you some time off and assume that you were at it for 8 hour’s day like the rest of us, this gets you up to a blistering 1 mile an hour. On a bike? Did you have the dynamo on and not realise? Tell you what, first thing I’d do is take it back where you bought it mate.
You have indeed been well done.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

It doesn't get any better than this!

Six months ago, Andy Tilley getting involved in the blogging community was about as likley as England beating the Australians in the rugby world quarter cup final.
And guess what; England 12 - 10 Australia

Yes, it has been a mighty fine day out here in the desert, I can tell you. Kirk, an Australian colleague of mine, had been so confident in an Aussie win that he already had his tickets bought for the semi final at a cost of £1000. Additional to that, he'd lashed out £50 on a new rugby shirt.
As my very knowledgeable friend Jonesy put it:
New rugby shirt, £40
Semi final tickets to see England vs New Zealand, £1000
Kirk's face as he storms out of the room........PRICELESS.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Ancient Greece...It'll be lovely when its finished.

So that’s me back from Greece. More specifically, Rhodes, which is a crumbling rock of an island pinned between the Agean and the Adriatic seas. Great time had by all too, especially my mum and dad who celebrated their golden wedding anniversary whilst we were there. We stayed near Lindos, which I’m told is the ancient capital of the place. Lindos is akin to a rat maze. The streets are white and narrow and defined by a tumble of low, square buildings (scattered like feta cubes) each with a roof top restaurant served by white shirted greek boys. Magnificant place but with only one public piazza large enough for the hundreds of coaches to empty their loads of map clutching tourists, entering the town is frantic at the outset; everyone squeezing urgently into the run to sniff out and gather the cheese. Above Lindos there is an ancient acropolis (no doubt where the scientists observe from!) and it dominates today as it did when it was first built over 2000 years ago. It looks broken now, beaten down by shaking ground, harsh winds and the occasional invader. At least that’s what we are led to believe. To be honest, I don’t buy it. You see, having driven around the island and seen the quality of the modern day greek work ethic, I don’t think that the acropolis is in fact a ruin. No, I’m willing to bet my bollocks that they never bloody finished it in the first place.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Celebrity Suicide is just not what it should be.

So did we ever find out what this was all about? More specifically, does anyone know how he attempted to take his life? I ask this because I think that if celebrities (Owen being one of many) are going to insist on trying to kill themselves, then shouldn’t they be doing a better job of it? And just hold on, before you label me as cruel and heartless, I’m not saying that I wish he had pulled it off but only that his attempt should have been a little more, let’s say, showbizzy.

These people have masses of resources at their disposal; money, cars, boats, planes and stunt coordinators for Christ’s sake! I personally feel a tad disappointed when I see on the news that Mr A list was found lying on his bed by the cleaner, feeling slightly poorly after gobbing a handful of valium. Pathetic.
Actors and rock stars owe us. They are celebrities created by us. If they’re really serious about checking out, then surely they should be putting a little more effort in, for their fans if nothing else. The news footage Owen Wislon’s public deserves is images of him leaping from a burning helicopter into a shark infested pool, naked and smeared in fish guts. Celebrity suicide should be just that; spectacular and mind blowing. So come on Jackson, let’s see if you can step up and do a better job.