With the arrival of the Christmas season, we at As A Dodo Towers will be closing down our operations for a little while, giving the editors precious time to rush home to their nearest and dearest and the rest of the staff a good few days to fumigate the Dodo's nest (a process which, we hope, should only prove fatal to one or two of them).
In the interim, our readers should feel free to vote for the little annoyances of life they'd like to see shuffle off this mortal coil next year in our poll (above) - you can select as many items as you like, so do feel free to vote early and often. Voting closes at midnight on New Year's Eve.
A very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all our readers.
22 December 2007
With the arrival of the Christmas season, we at As A Dodo Towers will be closing down our operations for a little while, giving the editors precious time to rush home to their nearest and dearest and the rest of the staff a good few days to fumigate the Dodo's nest (a process which, we hope, should only prove fatal to one or two of them).
20 December 2007
Journalists are today handing in their rumpled Gannex macintoshes, removing the press cards from their battered trilbies and sloping off to the nearest pub for eleven or twelve "quick ones" (plus chasers) in memory of News, which has succumbed to a tidal wave of gossip, sports stories and infotainment after a long illness.
It was way back in about 100,000BC that Ug the Hack became the first person to realise that it might just be a good idea to actually tell his fellow cave dwellers about the stampeding mammoths heading their way, rather than just watching the ensuing carnage. Not only did his decision to beat out his message on the nearest available drum save his fellow Homo sapiens from a fate worse than death, it also resulted in the birth of News ... as well as leading to Ug being sacked by his boss, Ug the Editor, who pointed out that a bunch of cave men and women being trampled to death by mastodons would have made a much better cave-painting for the Paleolithic Gazette.
Undeterred by Ug's fate, foolhardy messengers continued to bring the News to all and sundry. Given that the News for the next several millennia consisted chiefly of stories about drought, pestilence, invading armies, stampeding beasts and crop failure, it is perhaps unsurprising that News was not universally popular and its bearers soon found themselves occupying a position in the people's affections slightly below venereal disease and just to the left of estate agents. Indeed, when Pheidippides dropped dead after running the 26 miles from Marathon to Athens to announce the defeat of the Persians he was regarded by most Greeks as having done the world a favour.
By the 15th Century, after having brought details of everything from the collapse of the Roman Empire, through the disastrous Crusades all the way to the arrival of the Black Death, News was so unpopular that its bearers hardly dared show their faces in public. Indeed, so many messengers were being shot for bringing bad News that by 1402 the Guild of Heralds could only muster three members, all of whom were mad. Just as things looked their darkest for News, however, a new dawn broke with the arrival of Johann Gutenberg and his miraculous printing press. Now it was possible for the News to be cheaply and easily transferred to paper - allowing messengers to deliver it and then run away very quickly before anyone could read it. Soon News was transformed from a pariah into the latest fashion, with everyone eager to grab hold of the latest items hot off the press.
The popularity of News became so great that it soon found itself granted whole newspapers all to itself, filled cover to cover with all the latest information from near and far (or, at least, as far as a carrier pigeon could travel without being shot and converted into carrier pie). By the 18th Century News was being printed out and stuck up on every stationary surface (a phenomenon which would lead to the unfortunate incident in which several acres of freesheets were pasted to the side of George IV one morning after he fell asleep outside the Brighton pavilion) and thousands of people were engaged in its acquisition and distribution.
As mass communication improved, News came to more and more people, and more and more people came to News. By the early twenty-first century, News appeared almost inescapable - available via television, radio, internet and mobile phones, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Yet all was not as it seemed. While the outlets for News were ever greater in number, News itself began to seem pale and worn out.
Pundits began to speculate - usually at length, across all 24-hour news channels and on the basis of absolutely no real information - that News was suffering from an eating disorder. Indeed many believed that, overstressed by the need to say something at all times, News had taken to binging on low-quality gossip about troubled minor celebrities, scandals involving overpaid soccer stars and underclothed women and entertainment "stories" merely repeating the exact event witnessed on the previous night's reality TV, plus unfounded scare stories based on inaccurately reported statistics and tendentious, lying and ill-researched rants along the lines of "Christianity banned to appease Muslims", "Measles jabs give kids AIDS" and "Diana assassinated by house prices". The classic five Ws of journalism "Who?", "What?", "Where?", "When?" and "Why?" found themselves transformed into "What?", "When?", "With how many footballers?", "Will you take your kit off for the photo?" and "Which wankers will read this rubbish?" and even genuinely news-based News became a shadow of its former self, with political reporting reduced to tales of tribal infighting and interpersonal conflict rather than policy, science news reduced to a few whizz-bang graphics or John Humphrys harrumphing about how gravity was all different in his day, and arts news reduced to half-hour specials on the premiere of the latest Adam Sandler movie.
As a result of this, it came as a surprise to no-one when News's body was discovered in the early hours of this morning, the cause of death apparently a heart attack induced by the strain of trying to come up with a story involving Amy Winehouse having a drug-fuelled affair with Victoria Beckham and the winner of the X-Factor whilst trying to cover up the death of Madeleine McCann with the aid of "canoe man" John Darwin.
News will be buried at St Trevor's Church of the Big Ben Bongs. The Reverend Fiona Bruce will arch one eyebrow à la Dan Dare before reading an overbrief summary of News's life, shortened in order to fit in the story about the skateboarding duck. The congregation will sing Hymn No 123, Mailman Bring Me No More News.
19 December 2007
As A Dodo regrets to announce The Failure of the Liberal Democrats has unexpectedly passed away after 19 sorry years in the shadow of parliamentary power following the election of David Cameron lookalike, Nick "Calamity" Clegg, as the new leader of the LibDems.
The Liberal Party had had a long history before its last glorious leader David Steel led it into obscurity with an alliance with the infamous Gang of Four. Unhappily, this association with the left-wing, new wave band failed to sweep the party to power, forcing them instead to form an alliance with the SDP, the infamous Single Doctor Party led by Dr David Owen. When that alliance proved to be about as popular and as useful as the proverbial chocolate teapot (or, indeed David Owen and David Steel combined), the two parties realised it was time to do the decent thing. At the last moment, however, they changed their minds and merged, giving birth shortly thereafter to the Liberal Democrats.
Led by former Special Boat Squad member Paddy Ashdown, the Failure of the Liberal Democrats got off to a cracking start as the party was beaten into fourth place in the European elections and, at its first general election in 1992, won an astonishing 20 seats. Despite such bright beginnings, The Failure had a scare when, in 1997, Mr Ashdown boosted the tally of seats to 46 a feat attributed by psephologists to Mr Ashdown's hands-on (and pants-down) approach to publicity. Luckily for the failure, after an abortive attempt to form a pact with Labour, Mr Ashdown decided to hang up his leadership pants in 1999 and pass the poisoned chalice of the Failure of the Liberal Democrats to popular Scotsman, Charles Kennedy.
While pretending to be the leader of a rejuvenated party hoping to challenge the bi-partisan stalemate of parliament, Charles Kennedy was secretly drinking deep from that poisoned chalice at every opportunity and quickly established a reputation in the House as the leader who put the Party into Liberal Democrat. Thus the Failure prospered - missing meetings, slurring its way through press conferences and taking a frank approach to the hustings (who can forget the great 2001 election campaign "We've All Had A Drink, Vote LibDem"?). Despite this there were signs that all was not well with the Failure of the Liberal Democrats as the party increased its minority first to 52 in the 2001 general election and then to 62 in 2005.
With the possibility of success for the LibDems beginning to hove, however distantly, into sight it became plain to all that it was time for Mr Kennedy to step down (an impressive feat given that he was already in the gutter). The resulting leadership election proved the beginning of a golden age of the Failure of the Liberal Democrats as first they washed their dirty linen in public (quite literally in Mark Oaten's case) during the leadership election and, secondly, elected as leader a man with years beyond his wisdom.
Sir Menzies "Ming" Campbell rose simultaneously from the grave and to the challenge of continuing the Failure of the Liberal Democrats. With Labour mired in sleaze and the Conservatives flirting disastrously with eco-friendly policies, Ming Campbell's failure to raise the profile of his party above cheap jokes about his advanced years led to more and more calls for his resignation - none of which he heard because he'd left his deaf-aid in his room at the residential home.
Eventually persuaded to spend more time with his jigsaws, Ming was gently led away, leaving the Failure in the seemingly safe hands of a man only two years his junior. But acting leader, Vince Cable, surprised everyone by proving himself an able and quick-witted leader - refusing to meet the Saudi king and comparing Gordon Brown to Mr. Bean (thus not only imperilling The Failure but also threatening to put hundreds of satirists and parliamentary sketchwriters out of work).
The Failure struggled to keep going by organising a leadership contest between two men who weren't Vince Cable. But despite the contest between Nick Clegg and Chris Huhne attracting less attention than one of Sir Ming's speeches, the Failure of the Liberal Democrats was mortally wounded when Clegg limped past his rival at the post by just over 500 votes - thrusting his party into the headlines once more and creating the real possibility that the public might, at some time in the future, begin to speculate about the possibility of one day, maybe, considering putting a vote in the box marked Liberal Democrat.
The Failure of the Liberal Democrats will be buried at St Paddy's Church of the Fallen Pants. The service will be conducted by the Reverend Charles Kennedy (just as soon as he can be prised away from the communion wine), and the congregation will sing hymn 392, Stuck in the Middle with Huhne.
17 December 2007
We at As A Dodo today wish to nod our heads in understanding at the tragic situation of parents this Christmas and offer you our sincere condolences for the imminent passing of Your Child's Happiness, which is expected to slip into the twilight on 25 December 2007 at precisely the moment they realise that "Santa" has been unable to secure for them a Nintendo Wii games console.
Your Child's Happiness was born shortly after his or her entrance into the world as a gurgling, blood-covered mass of pink flesh, in all likelihood at about the time he or she first managed to latch on to mum's breast and tuck in to a hearty, colostrum-laced meal (and certainly some time after that berk in the mask decided to give them a smack on the behind).
From that moment on, Your Child's Happiness grew and grew - taking innocent pleasure in anything from the new hanging mobile placed so carefully over their crib to all the swearing which putting the bloody thing up in the first place caused mummy and daddy to engage in. The sources of joy for your little one were many and various: being tucked up in a nice warm blanket, listening to bedtime lullabies, screaming itself hoarse in the middle of the night just when you'd finally got back to sleep, being sick all down the back of your best suit just before that interview for the new job.
As the years drifted slowly, oh so slowly, by so Your Child's Happiness burgeoned, safe in the knowledge that a single quivering lower lip at the right moment (or, failing that, several minutes of screaming in the middle of the toy shop on a busy Saturday afternoon) would get you exactly where they wanted you. Whether it be lengthy sessions of "I spy with my little eye" as you sat in the traffic jam outside Heathrow, endless hours of "The Wheels on the Bus" going round and round, or desperate attempts at bribery with E-number-laden sweeties whilst waiting at the supermarket checkout, you would do anything to ensure Your Child's Happiness endured.
Yet as Your Child grew, their Happiness became harder and harder to maintain. Soon exhausting sessions of tickling and Maisie DVDs lost their allure. Not even 19 seasons' worth of The Simpsons on a permanent loop (including the first 7 seasons when it was actually worth watching) could guarantee to keep a smile on Your Child's face, and ever more desperate measures were needed - right up to the point that you seriously considered selling that "spare" kidney of yours to fund the purchase of the necessary pony/computer/other-overly-expensive-item that would be heading off to the glue factory/eBay mere months after its purchase. Christmas in particular became a day fraught with danger, every second of present-opening time bearing the threat of a strangled cry of "But you KNOW I don't like Barbie/Grand Theft Auto/crack cocaine any more. I HATE you." and a tearful exit from the room, or your being forced to issue a series of dark and accusatory looks at your useless partner for failing to remember to buy the batteries as Your Child forces you to search through every remote control in the house for a spare set of AAAs.
This Christmas, though, was going to be different. This Christmas you were going to purchase the gift everyone told you was guaranteed to provide hours of pleasure to the recipient: a Nintendo Wii. And so it was that you set off in early December, confident in the knowledge that you would soon return with games console in one hand and a certain future for Your Child's Happiness in the other. That the dream was to prove as evanescent as a taxi's "for hire" light on a cold evening in December was not your fault. How were you to know that the mighty gaming giant seems only to have been able to manufacture seven of the consoles to supply the whole globe's demand? You spent hours trying to redeem yourself - scouring the internet for supplies, ringing round for any sign of this year's near mythical - yet absolutely mandatory - Christmas present, hanging around the alleyway behind HMV ready to mug the delivery men on the off-chance they might be carrying a Wii. Yet the RSI in your mouse-clicking finger and the chilblains on your extremities (not to mention the criminal record) were all to no avail. There will be no Wii for Your Child this Christmas.
Your Child's Happiness will be buried on 25th December under a mound of torn wrapping paper, floods of tears and a look from your offspring that will let you know that they will never, ever be able to trust you again. It will be survived by Your Child's Resentment, your partner's despair and several desperate trips to the drinks cabinet on your own part.
14 December 2007
Following the news that the Police Federation has passed a vote of no confidence in Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith, after her failure to backdate a 2.5% pay award, we at As A Dodo must sadly announce the death of The Bobby on the Beat, who has clipped his last ear, left his last bicycle unlocked outside the local pub whilst nipping in for a natter and a pint of mild and shot his last innocent victim in the face at point-blank range.
The Bobby on the Beat was born in 1829, the son of Sir Robert Peel. So proud was the then Home Secretary of his new offspring that he named it after himself. Sadly for Sir Robert, the name "Junior" did not prove popular with the public, who preferred to refer to the infant constabulary as "Peelers", "Bobbies", "Coppers" or, indeed, "fascist pigs". Given the understandable reluctance of the Victorian public to have a bunch of uniformed men wandering around the country armed to the teeth and frightening the living daylights out of people - especially as members of the army were already doing exactly that job so well - the decision was taken to arm bobbies with nothing more than a truncheon and a clip (the latter being used - if we've done our googling correctly - to attach to youngsters' ears).
Soon the Bobby on the Beat was travelling across the whole country as every borough and parish clamoured to appoint a jovial, overweight copper to prevent the theft of 'kerchiefs by urchins and to serve as the butt of jokes (normally involving the dismantling of his bicycle when he nipped into the local for a natter and a pint of mild). During the rest of the 19th century and the early 20th century the Bobby on the Beat became an integral part of local community life - calling everyone by their name and being called all sorts of, generally uncomplimentary, names by everyone in return.
For decades, the Bobby on the Beat was held up as a paragon of virtue, defender of the innocent and cheap alternative to the speaking clock. PC 49 smiled out from the pages of The Eagle, PC George Dixon patrolled the streets of Dock Green and The Laughing Policeman, fat though he be, was a hero of popular song. Yet all, in truth, was not well. As the 20th Century wore on, the Bobby began to withdraw from his beat, forced to replace his truncheon with a side-handled baton, his trusty whistle with a malfunctioning radio and his humble bicycle with a flashy police car. Driven (usually in that very same police car, at speed, with his siren on and in the direction of dreadful crime and/or his lunch) from the streets that he loved, the Bobby on the Beat had to find new pastimes for himself. Thankfully, his sharp mind and eager attitude had not been dulled by all the pints of mild and slow bicycle journeys he had taken in his youth. So it was that the Bobby on the Beat spent the Sixties and Seventies inventing exciting games to while away his dull days, such as "Chase the Irishman", "Beggar the Pornography Baron (Unless He Agrees To Give You a Cut of His Profits)" and "Snap ... Goes Your Leg, Sonny Jim, Unless You Sign This Confession". Unfortunately, these games did not prove popular with the public, and the Bobby on the Beat found his former popularity waning with everyone save only Dr Who, who continued to use the Bobby's police box as a handy refuge from the Daleks, despite the fact the Bobby himself usually preferred to be down at the station, carefully "examining the evidence" from that hardcore pornography raid.
Despite this - and the ever increasing amounts of paperwork successive governments loaded him down with in order to stop all that game-playing - The Bobby limped (or more accurately, drove) on as best he could, gamely venturing out to fulfil his quota of arrests ... usually by nicking people for driving 2 miles per hour over the speed limit or wearing a hoodie in a built up area.
It was not enough. The Home Secretary's decision to deny the Bobby on the Beat £200 a year extra in his kevlar-lined wallet was to prove a fatal blow. With his dying breath, the Bobby called for her resignation, announced his intention to have a think about reintroducing industrial action and threw himself down the stairs to the cells.
The Bobby on the Beat will be buried at St Jack Warner's Church, 999, Letsby Avenue. The service will be conducted by the Reverend Sir Ian Blair, who will later deny all knowledge of the event. The congregation will fail to turn up at all, having popped down the pub for a bit of a natter and a pint of mild.
The Bobby on the Beat is survived by Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith ... though not necessarily for all that long.
12 December 2007
Harassed home chefs are today knocking back the cooking sherry and donning their paper party hats in memory of Christmas Dinner, which has passed away at the ripe, old age of 2007 after being shocked at the sight of its carbon footprint, recently calculated by bored boffins at the University of Manchester as generating 55,000 tonnes of CO2 in the UK alone.
Christmas Dinner was born in 0 AD on the outskirts of Bethlehem in what contemporary estate agents described as "charming, open-plan accommodation with traditional straw and mud floor and en-suite camel, sheep and ox facility". Thanks to the unenlightened attitudes of the time the meal was whipped up by a somewhat irritated Virgin Mary - more than a little tired from the experience of parthenogenesis and dealing with the writ slapped on her by Richard Branson over the use of the trademark Virgin - from whatever lay to hand. Thus it was that the first Christmas Dinner had a notable lack of sprouts and bacon-wrapped sausages and instead went rather heavy on the lamb in gold sauce and camel à la frankincense with a glass of mulled myrrh to wash it down, and that it was eaten by a group of half-cut shepherds, kings and itinerant carpenters who had popped down the pub while Mary was slaving over a hot pile of straw. Notwithstanding this (and the subsequent severe bout of food poisoning the meal engendered, leading Melchior for one to spend the next seven days locked in the bathroom of his hotel in Jerusalem), Christmas Dinner became an instant hit, with Christians across the known world soon lining up on December 25 each year to stuff themselves silly, then feel unwell and irritable for the rest of the afternoon.
Over the next two thousand years, Christmas Dinner spread alongside the religion that bore it, travelling far and wide, often - like Christianity itself - on the end of a pointy sword, long lance or mighty cannon. As it travelled so it came to incorporate all sorts of exotic fare. By the time it had reached Britain a typical Christmas Dinner brought together items such as spices from the Orient, dried fruits from the Mediterranean, turkeys from some godawful shed in Norfolk and a vast array of drinks, including champagnes from France, wines from the New World and that horrible green stuff that tastes like Windolene your Aunty Sal gave you from wherever it was she last went on holiday. Yet even as these newcomers were admitted to the feast, still many old traditions lingered on, particularly the one about all the cooking being left to a harassed female member of the family while the blokes slipped off for a drink. New traditions too were added, from the sullen afternoon slump in front of the Bond movie and the ritual ignoring of the Queen's Speech to the late afternoon punch-up over what Bob said about that horrible green stuff that tastes like Windolene Aunty Sal gave you.
Yet all traditions must eventually come to an end and such was the fate of the Christmas Dinner. With the discovery that assembling the nation's yuletide repast pumped out the same CO2 as a small power station (not to mention the fact that the impact of all those overcooked green veg on a national stomach more used to pizza, chips and burgers had a similar environmental impact) it was plain that Christmas Dinner's time was up. Unwilling to face a slow decline, the Christmas Dinner picked up the hairdryer Mum had been using for the past three hours in a desperate attempt to thaw out the turkey and garrotted itself with the flex whilst attempting to choke itself on the 50p hidden in the Christmas pud just to make absolutely sure.
Christmas Dinner will be buried beneath a vast pile of roast potatoes, mashed potatoes, boiled potatoes, peas, sausages-wrapped-in-bacon, boiled carrots, sprouts, roast parsnips, cranberry sauce, chestnut stuffing, bread sauce, Christmas Pudding, mince pies, brandy butter and brandy sauce. It is survived by turkey sandwiches.
10 December 2007
A tribute to the pioneering German composer, by his close personal friend, popular band leader* James Last.
I first met Karlheinz at summer school in Darmstadt in the early 50s. I was working in the canteen serving up the schnitzels to the serious and spotty-faced youths hell-bent on bending the musical world to their serialist will, but there was something I liked about young Karly. When he dropped his metal tray on the floor spilling cutlery, crockery and sauerkraut everywhere he didn't do what every other student would do - ignore it and leave me to clean up the mess - he immediately took out his notebook and transcribed the sound. It later formed the basis of his ground-breaking work, TrayStucke.
Musically we were poles apart. He liked cutting up recording tape and reassembling it in a fashion that wowed critics and confused audiences across the Western world, while I dreamed of the day I could give up jazz to lead my own orchestra playing covers of light popular music that sounded as though they were recorded very far away at the bottom of a mine. But we had a lot in common: we were both German and we played the piano - I played it with my hands and my heart; Karlheinz played it with a tape recorder and a bratwurst. What a wunderkind!
While I was touring the bierkellers and airforce bases of West Germany, Karlheinz was spending days on end in the new electronic music studio at Westdeutscher Rundfunk in Köln. I would turn up from time to time to see how my great pal was getting on, but, of course, I understood he was too busy forging new musical directions to see me.
I'd met Paul McCartney in a nightclub in Hamburg and we'd hit it off immediately - especially when he confessed to me in the small hours of the morning his love for "a German composer, you've probably never heard of him, like... Karlheinz Stockhausen..." Well, imagine his reaction when I was able to introduce the two of them. They loved him so much they put him on the cover of Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, and he returned the compliment by writing Drumwerks - a 24-hour cycle of percussion and tape loops for Ringo in 3/4, 4/4, 5/4, 9/8 and any other time signature Ringo felt like playing.
Though he was critically acclaimed, a big hit still eluded Karlheinz. I begged him to just once compose something a little lighter, something a little more accessible like Burt Kaempfert's A Walk Through The Black Forest. He nodded, and then retired to his study to fast for seven days. I paved the hallway like an expectant father - back and forth, back and forth, my footsteps growing heavier and heavier. Sure enough, seven days later, Karlheinz emerges, leaner, paler, with that mystical look in his eye which always said he had composed something extraordinary, something exciting... He beckoned me into his inner sanctum and played me his latest work, Man Pacing Expectantly. I listened mesmerised for the whole of the seven days it took him to play it!
In the 70s, while film producers and directors were starting to exploit the potential of contemporary compositions for scoring horror films, Karlheinz would have no truck with it. My good friend, Stanley Kubrick wanted him to score The Shining, but Karlheinz was not worldly enough to see the potential for promoting his work and making enough money to keep him in quarter-inch tape for the rest of his life. Instead, I had to step into the breach and knock out the score in under a week. Still, I cannot tell you how proud I was that Karlheinz said it was the scariest film he'd ever heard!
He continued to tread his own path. he was a spiritual man but he understood worldly matters - as anyone who heard Helikopter-Streichquartett would know. Four string quartets in four helicopters hovering over the audience. It requires no explanation from me, naturlich, and was enjoyed all over the world - particularly by General Noriega - who listened to it broadcast by the American military for three weeks - transfixed, he never left his home.
Like every true musical genius - like myself, Burt, Ringo - Karlheinz was often misunderstood. So when he commented after 9/11 that it was a work of art, naturally, the reactionary media pounced on him and the premiere of his new opera Twin Towers Falling (based on Noh theatre and sung in Welsh over the course of two months... without a break...!) was cancelled. But they did not know the Karlheinz I knew. He was a fun guy, a party guy. He would stay up for days on end - just listening to the opening movement of Licht. He was echt, I was ersatz. But he was my friend. And I know he would have wanted me to play at his funeral. Which is why my orchestra will be performing Gesang der Junglinge on Stylophones in a jaunty upbeat tempo. It's what he would have wanted I am sure. Auf wiedersehen, mein freund, und ein, swei, drei, vier...!
* Not the James Last, you understand.**
** And not that popular either.***
*** In fact, he was bloody awful.
06 December 2007
Regular readers are advised that, regrettably, we will not be updating As A Dodo this Friday. Those seeking an explanation are advised to follow this link.
Normal service will be resumed on Monday ... once the wine stains have been removed from the As A Dodo office carpet and the photocopier has been repaired.
05 December 2007
Following the release of Liverpudlian teacher/agent of Western corruption intent on destroying Islam* Gillian Gibbons from imprisonment in Sudan, As A Dodo has discovered tragic evidence of the fate of the bear at the centre of the row, in a series of documents sent to us by a Mr BB Milne.
Piglet was walking through Hundred Acre Wood when he spotted his good friend the bear hiding behind a bush.
"Hello Mo...," began Piglet.
"Shhh," said his friend, urgently, "Don't mention my name, Piglet"
"But why ever not, Moham... ?" Piglet started to reply before being shushed into silence by a large and furry paw.
"It's not safe to say it, Piglet, that's why. It could get you into all sorts of trouble. Just call me 'X'."
"Alright ... 'X'." said Piglet, "But why? And why are you hiding behind that bush?"
X's round face emerged slowly from among the branches. "Oh Piglet," he sighed, "I should never have agreed to let that nice Mrs Gibbons change my name to Mo... to my new name".
"Ah," said Piglet, sounding suddenly very wise, "I did try to warn you that your assuming the name of the Prophet could easily be used by local extremists to whip up anti-Western sentiment and by their friends in the Sudanese government to try to distract from the attempted genocide in Darfur"
Pooh examined his friend in surprise. "Did you really, Piglet?" He asked.
"Oh yes Mo... I mean, 'X'. Only you weren't listening," replied Piglet.
"I remember now," X said, "I was distracted on account of pretending to be a cloud and trying to ignore Eeyore who was complaining how I'd changed since selling out to the Disney Corporation".
"That's right," replied Piglet, who was very proud of how wise he had been and not very happy that his old friend had ignored him.
"Anyway," continued 'X', "That's why I'm hiding. They locked Mrs Gibbons up, you know."
"Did they now?" Piglet responded.
"Yes," said X, who had come out from behind his bush and was now trying to bury himself in a pile of leaves, "Some of them even threatened to kill her."
"Gosh," said Piglet.
"And that's why I'm hiding," said the bear formerly known as Pooh as he slumped down into a sad heap among the leaves. "Now I think about it, I realise I should never have changed my name from Winnie".
Piglet looked at the sorrowful bear, feeling a sudden anger rising inside him. "What was that you said, 'X'?" he asked, his little eyes flashing red.
X looked at him. "I said, 'I should never have changed my name from Winnie'".
Piglet stared back. "That's what I thought you said, X. Take the nickname of Britain's great wartime leader in vain would you?" he shouted. And as he yelled at his friend he stabbed him repeatedly, casting bits of stuffing across the wood, before throwing him into a large Heffalump trap.
What is left of the bear currently known as 'X' will be buried inside a large pot labelled "Hunny" in the middle of Hundred Acre Wood. He is survived by Rupert the Bear, Barnaby the Bear, Paddington Bear and the Three Bears but definitely not by Mo...well you know who we mean... the Bear.
* delete according to preference.
03 December 2007
As A Dodo pays tribute to America's greatest motorcycling daredevil, Evel Knievel, with this moving obituary by his long-time friend and personal physician, Marty "Memphis" Stopholes III, MD.
I first met Evel back in the late 40s. He'd fallen off his bike while trying to pull a wheelie outside the drugstore in Butte, MT. Trying to impress a young lady, he told me as I patched up a shattered collar-bone, fixed his broken shoulder and set both his smashed arms and rebuilt his left leg. Whether he impressed her or not I can't say but something about that kid's self-belief sure as hell impressed me. I knew he was destined to go somewheres ... and that by the time he got there he'd surely be in need of urgent medical attention.
Through those early years that boy tried everything from ice hockey to athletics (and he would have broken the world pole vault record too, if he hadn't knocked himself unconscious on the pole on the way up and missed the landing mat on the way down) but it was when he took up with the motorbikes that he found his true calling ... and I found my medical practice flourishing like it never had done before.
Back then we didn't have time to sit back and take things easy, no sir! No sooner had I patched Evel up than he was back out on the road again getting smashed up real bad for real good money. This was the 60s, and while John F Kennedy had said America would put a man on the moon by the end of the decade, Evel was already reaching for the stars ... generally after losing his grip on the handlebars and zooming up, up and away from his bike. Evel knew my services wasn't cheap, but he knew they was the best, and that I'd always fix him up so he could get back out on the road - inside an ambulance, mostly.
Still, the public loved him and he loved the public - particularly the ladies - and why not? He was young, handsome and damn, was that boy smart! He may have been smacked in his head more times than George W was dropped on his by his pappy, but Evel sure made some great decisions. And he was always one step ahead of me - even when he was on crutches or in traction. I no sooner had to mention that folks might like to see him leaping a dozen buses on his motorcycle, than he would be revving up trying to leap 13 buses. Sure he often fell flat on his face - or his coccyx, or his ulna, or both as he went coccyx over ulna straight into the side of a bus or a bridge - but he went straight into the hearts and minds of his fans around the world at the same time.
I think it was during one lengthy stay in my hospital that he hatched his most audacious stunt. Waking from his coma he turned to me and whispered those three immortal words, "Snake River Canyon" ... which had coincidentally featured on the tape loop I'd left playing under his pillow. Well, he seemed so set on the darn thing I just had to put him in touch with some old NASA buddies of mine who eagerly agreed to build him a skycycle that would propel him over a mile across the canyon and into the record books.
Well, as you all know, things didn't go quite to plan. We'll never now how it was that that parachute of his deployed early, sending him plummeting to the canyon floor below ... as my lawyers have made clear to a number of journalists investigating me. Somehow (and despite the allegations that someone had sawn through his safety harness with a medical scalpel) he escaped with only minor injuries. Still, despite the lack of a severe maiming, that leap made him the biggest star stunt riding has ever known. Next thing you knew they was churning out Evel Knievel dolls, games, autographed bandages and personalised stunt-crutches that would make my boy one of the richest men on two wheels, even if those wheels was on the side of his chair.
Now I know that many folks say "Sure, Evel was a fine man, but did we really have to encourage the youth of America to put their life on the line trying to be like him?" Luckily, I didn't have much time to dwell on that kind of talk, mainly 'cause my hospital was soon brim-full of kids suffering from broken ribs, arms, legs, backs, necks... but all of them speeded toward that long ramp to recovery by the knowledge they was just a few beds away from their hero.
Sadly, time took its toll. Even Evel had to throttle back eventually. Why, only a few years ago he even rejected my scheme for him to leap into an electric saw and acid bath factory on a jet-propelled Zimmer frame. I tell you, the world of thrills will never be the same ... and nor will the world of emergency medicine. Still, if all goes to plan, I know the next time I see Evel he'll be lying in his stars-and-go-faster-stripes coffin waiting to make the greatest leap of them all ... as his rocket-powered coffin shoots up the ramp and soars over 24 hearses - most likely clipping the roof of the 25th, bouncing over the open grave and accelerating up and up and up into the wide, blue yonder.
Shoot, I just know he'd want me to release it on DVD for all his loyal fans, just as sure as I know he's up there listening. I know he can hear me. And if he's fallen just short of Heaven and smashed into those Pearly Gates breaking every damn bone in his stubborn ghostly body - I'll soon be there to fix him up. Just like the old days.
30 November 2007
Purveyors of fake tan and mini-skirts, underperforming football clubs and philanthropic property developers desirous of a favourable outcome at the planning committee are today fleeing southward, following the tragic death of the North-East of England, which has slipped into the fog-covered Tyne mere days after giving birth to a spectacular series of cock-ups ranging from the loss of 25 million child benefit recipients' financial data through the spectacular collapse of Northern Rock and all the way up to a series of "unlawful"(1) donations to the Labour Party (not to mention recent performances by Newcastle United FC, Middlesborough FC and Sunderland AFC).
The North East was first discovered by humanity in or around 7,500BC, when wandering tribes - smitten by the region's beauty and frozen in place by its biting weather - decided to settle near the Tyne and Tees. Little is known of what they did over the next few thousand years but when the Romans arrived in the region in about 46AD they described a people covered in strange dyes and little else, travelling round in small warbands ... a tradition still upheld in Newcastle town centre every night around pub kicking out time.
Over the millennium that followed, North East England would be a place of conflict, seeing scores of battles between Roman and Celt, Celt and Pict, Angle and Briton and Viking and Anglo-Saxon. To this day experts continue to question the causes of so many battles, though the heavy betting remains on the bloke in the silly helmet from the stag party knocking over the mead-flavoured Bacardi breezer of "the fit bird with the big jugs" from the hen night who'd been dancing with the squaddie back on leave and everything kicking off from there. Things carried on in much the same way following the arrival of the Normans, with North East England spending the ensuing centuries being fought over by Scots and English rulers, most of these conflicts ending in the ceremonial handing over of Berwick-on-Tweed to the winner.
Despite all this fighting, North East England was also a thriving cultural centre, with a strong monastic tradition. The monks were initially based at Lindisfarne, though they were to flee inland from the island in the late 9th Century due to fear of Viking attack (apparently one of the monks had made the mistake of "looking at Ivar the Boneless's bird"). Over the years North East England gave the world The Lindisfarne Gospels, the poetry of Caedmon, the Venerable Bede's History of the English People and Paul Gascoigne's rendition of Fog on the Tyne.
With the Industrial Revolution, North East England's vast coal resources were to fuel Britain's foundries and help the birth of new technologies (so much so, indeed, that the phrase "taking coals to Newcastle" came to mean much the same as today's "bringing idiots to The Weakest Link"). The North East also gave birth to George Stephenson's legendary Rocket, the early steam locomotive that - at a top speed of 29 miles per hour - could outpace many a modern GNER intercity train.
In the 20th Century the North East, one of the world's greatest centres of industry, became home to a powerful labour movement. As Britain's power began to wane and its industry was ravaged by the Great Depression, hundreds of Geordies set out from Jarrow to walk to London to lobby Parliament ... though when they got there it turned out that Parliament was otherwise engaged and Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin was "washing his hair".
In the 1960s and 70s the region went from fame to infamy following tales of council corruption and dodgy building deals funded by bungs from architect John Poulson. By the 21st Century, however, as our lawyers have asked us to make clear, the North East of England was, happily, no longer associated with allegations of corruption or improper payments. Instead it was to become irrevocably connected with the cock-up, giving birth to a series of managerial errors that would astonish even The Office's David Brent. Whether it be the kind of management that encourages civil servants to pop discs containing secret data in the post, with the password handily written on the discs themselves, that allows banks such as Northern Rock to rack up debt faster than a failing NHS Trust even in the face of a global credit crunch, or that happily channels political donations through third parties even after the "loans for peerages" scandal - all were to be found in the North East. With the stumblebum nature of the region confirmed by the performances of its leading football teams and its reputation now centred on the inability of Newcastle's inhabitants to understand that freezing weather entails wearing more than a boob tube, the North East of England became too ashamed to hold its face up in public any longer and sloped off into the North Sea after weighting its boots with the last of the region's coal.
The North East of England will be commemorated at St Jimmy Nail's Church of the Crumpled Viz. The congregation will sing Dance Ti Thee Daddy from When the Boat Comes In and the theme from Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads? before getting into a punch up after someone accidentally knocks over the communion wine.
(1) "unlawful" is a technical political term - it means exactly the same as "illegal" but somehow sounds better.
28 November 2007
As A Dodo can confirm that Reincarnation has died and not passed on to a better place, and most certainly isn't coming back as a worm, a lottery-winner or a cute ginger cat called Mr Fluffykins, following the news that the Dalai Lama has decided to end the 600-year-old Buddhist tradition of selecting his successor by a series of spiritual tests and replaced it with a ballot of monks across the Himalayas and Mongolia.
Reincarnation was first recorded in the Hindu scriptures, the Upanishads, around 800 BC and quickly became popular with Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains and anyone else keen to escape a life of grinding poverty by dropping dead and returning a few rungs up the social ladder, or eager to see the utter git who kept lording it over them come back as a slug.
Meanwhile, when they were not pitting tortoises against hares in metaphysical races or eyeing up the pool boy, the Ancient Greeks were also busy pondering the subject. Even that great thinker Socrates said he was "confident that there truly is such a thing as living again, and that the living spring from the dead" - a concept much discussed over subsequent millenia and only recently proved with Tony Blair's escape from his scandal-plagued government without a scratch.
Over in the Middle East, Reincarnation was also proving popular with Judaism, with some rabbis giving each soul three chances to make it in the world - a belief the truth of which many believe is evidenced by the careers of Peter Mandelson and Noel Edmonds. With the arrival of David Blaine-wannabe, Jesus of Nazareth, the coming-back-after-your-death-thing really took off. (Although Jesus blew it when, after being taken down from the cross and banged up in a cave for three days, he came back as himself rather than anything more exotic - we have it on good authority, for instance, that Judas wanted to come back as "a bird ... maybe a nightingale ... or even a heron")
Later many Britons (particularly peasants) would dream of a quick release from a hard life and the chance to enter the spiritual lottery that was Reincarnation, though there was very little proof to substantiate the theory other than the occasional pig that bore a passing resemblance to Cardinal Wolsey or a sideboard that, in a certain light, looked just like Anne of Cleves. Indeed, by modern times thousands of people were claiming to have lived previous lives as Joan of Arc or Julius Caesar (but somehow hardly ever as Ned the manure-carrier or Wat the turnip-minder)
Not satisfied with the mere transference of a gone-before soul to a new-found body, Reincarnation did exactly what it said on the tin and reinvented itself. Concepts that were thought to be long-dead, such as putting innocent people in jail and throwing away the key, were resurrected under the new guise of the "war on terror", nations that were thought to have faded from power and influence, such as Russia, began to flex their muscles in London sushi bars and, astonishingly, the British Conservative Party saw itself reincarnated as a group of people who actually could organise a piss-up in a brewery ... though not necessarily a very enjoyable one
The move away from spiritual reinvention to cynical old re-treads left Reincarnation a shadow of its former self, forcing it to admit that it had little hope of coming back as something more profoundly meaningful to the modern mind than belief in the rejuvenating powers of plastic surgery, a big lottery win or a much younger girlfriend. With even the Dalai Lama suggesting that a form of election might be a better way to find a leader than seeing if that kid in the corner liked to play with the old Dalai Lama's walking stick, it was plain that the wheel of life had become wonky and worn bald. Reincarnation gave up the ghost for the last time and headed off to permanent retirement in Nirvana.
Reincarnation will be buried at the Status Quo Church of the Just One More Farewell Tour. It will be cremated and sealed in a lead-lined casket before being encased in cement - just in case it tries to come back as something else.
26 November 2007
Many psephologists, politicians and policy wonks are today declaring that Gordon Brown's government - once hailed (chiefly by Polly Toynbee, Jackie Ashley and, weirdly, the leader writers of the Daily Mail) as the bright, new hope of British politics - has died.
News of the death came this weekend when pollsters, kitted out in brown plastic macs, marched into the media bearing the remains of the lifeless creature in a gilded cage, bellowing that they wished to register a complaint about the government that they had not been allowed to vote for, "not five months ago".
Those concerned about the leadership of the country will be happy to learn that these claims were met by Lord Chancellor and Justice Minister Jack Straw, who repeatedly stated that the government, or New Labour Brown, was not dead but "merely resting" and noting its beautiful plumage. In an effort to persuade the pollsters and, indeed, the public not to return the New Labour Brown, Mr Straw then went on to insist that any signs of political death it may have shown - the first run on a bank in over a century, the loss of 25 million people's data, the employment of illegal immigrants in security jobs, a 700,000 slip in employment statistics, and the development of severe cataracts in Gordon Brown's political vision, not to mention the fact that The Brown's political birth was marked by the arrival of at least three of the four horsemen of the apocalypse - the Brown was simply pining for the votes. Mr Straw then went on to demonstrate the beast's lively state ... by repeatedly hitting its cage to get it to move.
Mr Straw went on to point out that The Brown has not yet fully emulated its predecessor - the Major Blue - whose signs of death included losing £27 billion on propping up the pound (rather than a bank) and assorted allegations of money being delivered to MPs in brown envelopes (rather than money being delivered to the party in false names).
Despite Mr Straw's protestations, pollsters continue to insist that the New Labour Brown only continues to stand up because it is nailed to its perch and that it is, in truth, dead, deceased, an ex-government and has kicked the bucket, shuffled off this mortal coil and gone to join the choir invisible.
The New Labour Brown will be buried at St Monty's Church of the Apposite Metaphor. It will be mourned by all those who took assurances of spin-free and competent government at face value. It is survived by a lame duck.
23 November 2007
It is with some glee and no little relief that As A Dodo must mark the passing of the, now, quondam England Football Manager Steve McClaren - a man for whom the words "over-promoted" and "gurning idiot" might well have been invented (the invention doubtless being attributable to a "source close to Terry Venables").
It was in 2006, amid the ashes of England's World Cup hopes, that the Football Association moved swiftly to dissociate itself from the lacklustre campaign masterminded by noted sexual athlete and part-time football manager, Sven Goran Eriksson, by appointing the man who had been beside him for every faltering step. True, some suggested McClaren was ill-suited for the job, having never managed at the highest level or, indeed, succeeded in his time at Middlesborough in achieving much beyond the occasional assault on the middle of the Premiership table by means of football so grindingly dull that even George Graham in his pomp (or Rafael Benitez in his frankly rather silly beard) would have been driven to bite his own face off at the sheer mind-numbing tedium of it all. However, driven by blind faith in the desirability of an English team having an English born manager (a faith notably not shared by the owners of any of the Premiership's top clubs) and the fact every top-level foreign manager had drilled his family to turn off all the lights and pretend to be out every time someone from the Football Association called round, the FA was left with little choice but to select the man with the frozen smile as the great beetroot-faced hope of English football.
Mr McClaren rose immediately to the challenge of his new post, revealing his priorities as manager by the rapid appointment of PR guru Max Hastings to act as his eminence
grease gris. Tragically, Mr Hastings was to be the only silky-skilled appointment that the new manager was to make during his 18 matches at England's helm and even his smooth tongue and media savvy would never be enough to turn a draw at home to Macedonia into anything other than an unmitigated disaster.
McClaren's time as England manager has been described by many as a roller-coaster. Such a description is, of course, wholly inaccurate, given the total lack of any highs during the rapid journey towards oblivion that was his tenure. Indeed, anyone seeking a source for an appropriate metaphor would be best directed towards The Last of the Summer Wine, the sitcom in which misguided fools under the direction of a bemused Yorkshireman bugger about for half an hour before travelling downhill at great speed in a tin bath or giant carrot.
As England's campaign to qualify for Euro 2008 accelerated toward its inevitable doom, it soon became plain that McClaren's rival managers had him by the balls (which were generally long and headed in the vague direction of Peter Crouch - at least when they were not hoofed towards the toilet block behind stand C). With England's defeat by Croatia it became clear that the most golden thing about the nation's oft-hailed "golden generation of footballers" was the taps in their Cheshire mansions and the brightest thing about their manager was his teeth.
Unable to stand to watch so many dumb animals suffering any longer, the FA at last decided to put an end to the team's suffering (and the frequent anti-McClaren briefings from "sources close to Terry Venables") by putting their England manager down.
Steve McClaren, England Football Manager, will be buried under the hallowed turf of Wembley, just before it's dug up and replaced with a surface that wouldn't disgrace a junior school playing field. It is survived by overpaid Premiership stars, thuggish England fans who boo their opponents' national anthems and devastated TV companies, kit manufacturers and pub chains who face a long and quiet summer 2008. He is expected to be succeeded by a high quality manager, such as Alistair Darling.
21 November 2007
Men and women across Britain are today frantically checking their bank statements for fraudulent withdrawals in memory of The People's Data, which has been tragically lost in a sea of Whitehall incompetence, taking with it the bank records of 25 million individuals and the chief of HM Revenue & Customs, Sir Paul Gray.
The People's Data was first collected in ancient Babylonia in around 3,800BC. Every seven or so years the Babylonian rulers took a census, recording the number of people, their stores of butter, honey, milk, wool and vegetables and their livestock, the data not only giving a useful index of Babylon's prosperity and aiding tax collection, but also explaining where all that dung filling the streets had come from.
From the Babylonians onwards, the collection of The People's Data proved a popular pastime for kings, emperors and other rulers, not only keeping them informed of the health of their city states/kingdoms/empires but also providing a useful distraction from their other favourite pursuits such as wars and having sex with close blood relatives. Indeed so popular were censuses that even God himself got in on the act, ordering Moses to take the number of all the men able to bear arms of the tribes of Israel(1) - a process which proved particularly difficult for Moses as God, being omniscient, could always tell when he'd miscounted.
And so The People's Data continued to be gathered up all the way through history, through the time of the Romans and the Domesday Book and on towards the present day. With more and more data being collected, its storage became increasingly problematic. Indeed, by 1890 the data for the US Census had to be recorded on punched cards - the holes recording either the data of each individual or the passage of the buckshot directed at the census taker when he attempted to obtain that data from backwoodsy types with a hatred of big government and a love of the Second Amendment. Many feared that the collection of so much data in such a small place might lead to it falling into the wrong hands, though such fears were allayed first by the many precautions taken by the US government and, secondly, by the fact that any attempt to read it would have required a card-reader the size of a small house.
It was the arrival of computerisation that saw an explosion in The People's Data. Soon governments across the world were trying to record every last bit of The People's Data they could. And no government was more enthusiastic in this regard than that of the UK, which sought to record everything from people's financial details to the weight of their rubbish bins, their DNA fingerprints, inherited diseases, inside leg measurements and (doubtless) their favourite football teams and sexual preferences. Yet all the while they insisted that the ever-swelling People's Data was in safe hands, despite the fact that those hands belonged to the same people who gave us The Millennium Dome, The Northern Rock Crisis and Government Statistics.
Perhaps, then, we should not have been surprised when those safe hands proved to be butter-fingered, allowing the financial records of more than 25 million Britons to slip from their grasp and into the choppy waters of the Customs and Revenue internal mail system. So it was that the Government was forced to declare The People's Data lost, presumed in the hands of internet fraudsters and identity thieves.
The People's Data will be buried in several computers in Russia, where it will rest in peace until such time as things have quietened down a bit and it can be flogged off to the highest bidder. It is survived by The People's NHS Records, The People's CCTV images and The People's ID cards.
(1) Except the Levites(2)
(2) Who were instead told to go and manufacture denim jeans, or something ... we may have nodded off at that point in our RE lessons.
Child Benefit has been found dead after HM Customs and Revenue lost the personal information of nearly 25 million UK citizens in the post - fatally compromising the integrity of both the government and the Child Benefit system and leading to the impending bankruptcy of the nation's children in a financial disaster even more embarrassing than the Northern Rock cock-up.
Child Benefit was the proud baby boomer offspring of the Family Allowances Act, as Britain struggled to raise itself from the rubble of World War Two, determined that every child in Britain should escape the crushing poverty of pre-war generations (who can forget the financial ruin caused by the collapse of Lord Snooty plc or the day Billy Bunter's tuckshop franchise business was passed into the hands of the receivers?). Now parents could have five shillings a week extra for every child to spend on powdered milk, powdered egg, 10 powdered Capstan Full Strength and a bottle of black market rum (powdered).
But ten years later Britain's children had never had it so good as they wised up to the fiscal opportunities presented by Child Benefit and set about boosting the economy as they invested heavily in The Eagle, Meccano and gobstopper industries.
As the government doled out the pounds, shillings and pence throughout the Sixties every child was able to experience the white heat of technology for themselves as they purchased Lego like there was no tomorrow, all the while listening to the latest The Pink Floyd album on their new stereo record players whilst dropping some of that really good acid they could now easily afford.
By the Seventies, child poverty was definitely a thing of the past only dimly remembered by one's parents, as kids cycled to school on brand new Chopper bikes (flashily buying a new Chopper every day) or bounced to their investors' meetings on Space Hoppers whilst high on speed.
During the Eighties, as pensioners grumbled about their meagre handouts, children across the country managed their portfolios on brick-sized mobile telephones - buying heavily into shoulder-pads and cocaine off their brick-sized mobile telephones - and, in the Nineties, chilled out on some really good E, moved into more ethical investmnents and emerging new dotcom and gaming businesses.
By the noughties, the nation's children were living the high life as The Benefit ensured that the nation's children did not go without the essentials of modern life - text bundles, knives and crack pipes. So when the National Audit Office asked HM Revenue and Customs for the Child Benefit database a junior official at their HQ in Tyne and Wear burnt it onto 2 CDs (filling up the extra space with the new Arctic Monkey's album) and popped it, unrecorded in the post, in a breach of government security guidelines not seen since John Prescott was told where and when Cabinet meetings were taking place.
Chancellor, Alistair Darling, led the frantic search for the disks but when they failed to turn up down the back of the sofa or being used as coasters on the coffee table he called in the Metropolitan Police. Fortunately, further embarrassment was spared as the Armed Response Team hurtling towards Tyne and Wear was recalled at the last moment before they could "stop and search the Brazilian bastard".
But the damage had been done and the security of Child Benefit had been fatally compromised - the system that had promised to care for Britons from the cradle to the grave had dropped the cradle in the grave and Child Benefit was no more.
Child Benefit will be buried in a pauper's grave at the St Charles of Dickens Church of the Means-Test. The service will be conducted by the Reverend Jack Douglas after the Reverend Darling lost his eulogy somewhere between the vicarage and the library, turned up for the funeral on the wrong day at the wrong church and his trousers fell down. The congregation will sing Hymn 312 You've Got To Pick A Pocket Or Two as the hat is passed around.
Child Benefit is pre-deceased by the nation's confidence in the government and is survived by the laughter of David Cameron, the laughter of Tony Blair and the scheme to introduce Identity Cards - but probably not for very much longer.
20 November 2007
Following Channel 4's "Death of a President" - the fictional account of the assassination of President George W. Bush - winning Best TV Movie/Miniseries at the International Emmys, we at As A Dodo towers decided this was a marvellous excuse to reprint an old favourite from the archives: our obituary for Fictional George Bush, which first appeared here in September 2006.
Fictional) George Walker Bush, (fictional) 43rd President of the United States has been assassinated in a (fictional) British television programme to be broadcast next month. The news of the death of one of the greatest (fictional) Presidents has led to scenes of piteous lamentation across a grief-stricken globe.
(Fictional)George W. Bush was born in 1946 into an old, established New England family. Despite the advantages afforded to him by his upbringing, (fictional) young George preferred not to rely on his patrician background, keen instead to get on in life by hard work and the application of his keen intelligence. It was these qualities that led him to Yale, from where he would graduate cum laude in 1968. Despite his academic brilliance, (fictional) George was ever eager to serve his country and, despite his misgivings about the conflict in Vietnam, immediately enlisted in the armed forces, ready and willing to serve on the front line.
Returning from war after several tours of duty and having refused all military honours - including the Purple Heart - despite his heroic service, (fictional) George quickly set himself to work on home territory. Wanting to avoid the feckless life of booze and drugs so common among the scions of America's ruling families and raring to make his own way in the world, (fictional) George chose not to accept repeated offers from his father's friends in the oil industry, instead choosing to put his deep scientific knowledge to good use by setting up a self-funded environmental technology company. It was, of course, the invention by that same company of the "(fictional) George W. 'Hydropower I' motor" that led to the abandonment of hydrocarbon-burning engines in the automobile industry.
Despite the heavy pressures on his time caused by his scientific and environmental work, (fictional) George was still insistent he had more to do. In 1994 he stood for and was elected Governor of Texas. Few Texans will forget his many successes in that role, including vast reductions in pollution, enormous improvements in educational standards for rich and poor alike, a massive fall in the State's prison population and the near-eradication of poverty. All this while displaying such probity that he insisted on refusing the blandishments of lobbyists and such local favourites as Enron's Kenneth "Kenny Boy" Lay.
Given his astounding achievements it was certain from the moment he was reluctantly persuaded to stand that (fictional) George would become President of the United States in the year 2000. His record-breaking 50-state victory was made all the more remarkable by his decision to persuade brother Jeb Bush to stand down as Governor of Florida for the duration of the election, in order to avoid even the suggestion of any possible impropriety. Truly he was the man to bring a new light to the new millennium.
The achievements of (fictional) President George W Bush while in office are, needless to say, too numerous to mention. His farsighted choice to bring all his efforts to bear on the resolution of the Middle East conflict, combined with his decision to resist all those who called for an attack on Iraq following the terrible events of 9/11 and concentrate instead on the reconstruction of Afghanistan, undoubtedly contributed to the stability and peace the whole region enjoys today - especially following the capture of Osama bin Laden in 2003 by a US Special Forces group led by (fictional) George himself.
Thanks to (fictional) George's tireless championing of the Kyoto Agreement, his commitment to the sciences, leadership on the eradication of poverty throughout the globe and his belief in using America's might only with the greatest of care and planning, it came as no surprise when, earlier this year, the (fictional) President was awarded the Nobel prizes for Physics, Chemistry, Medicine, Economics and Peace. Indeed, many had expected him to complete the clean sweep next year, winning the prize for Literature with his moving novel based on the life of a poor black man struggling to rebuild his life after the destruction of home and family by Hurricane Katrina.
(Fictional) George W Bush will be buried on 9 October. A world will mourn.
19 November 2007
The Hardback Book now sits sadly beside the papyrus scroll and vellum codex upon the remaindered shelf in the great discount bookshop in the sky, following the decision of publisher Picador to issue all future novels in paperback, paperbacks being so much easier to pulp when an indifferent public prefers to spend its gift tokens on the new Leona Lewis CD.
Printed Material had been knocking around in libraries from Alexandria to Alnwick for centuries before some bright spark had the idea of collecting these loose pages and binding them between two hard covers. Indeed, monks had been illuminating manuscripts for hundreds of years - normally by dropping a candle on their painstakingly crafted vellum whilst half-blind from years of rising before dawn to knock out another chapter of The Book of Hours You'd Really Like To See and St Ethelburgha's "Be Everythinge inne Life Shitte or Be Itte Juste Me?". But, as William Caxton claimed in his book How I Inventedde Ye Booke - a bestseller in its day shifting almost 13 units and staying at the top of Ye Very Longe Rivere in Ye Undiscoverede Continente charts for nearly two hundred years - it was he and not "yon lying slagge" Johannes Gutenberg who had invented the modern Hardback as we remember it today.
Whilst printed material was taken up with gusto by medieval early adopters these technophiles remained a small minority as books failed to catch on with the public at large, thanks to their excessive cost and the failure of Ye Conservativves plan to ensure that every child in Britain would be able to read by the age of six (normally because, by the age of six, nearly every child in Britain was dead of ye plague).
The Hardback truly came of age in the 19th century when a more enlightened and educated middle class (and some uppity working class types) clamoured for something heavy and absorbent to line the walls of their libraries, parlours and drawing rooms and keep the cold at bay until a six-year-old could be shoved up the chimney to find out why the fire wouldn't draw.
The advent of the mass-produced Paperback in the 1930s proved the catalyst for the Nazis, allowing them to hold big book-burning rallies - as The Paperback burnt so much better than The Hardback. But despite its early flirtation with fascism, and despite being less weighty (and thus useless as a doorstop or as an accurate missile to project across a classroom to wake Timson Minor during double Latin) The Paperback proved more popular with the public as it was smaller, lighter and easier to dry out on the radiator after being dropped in the bath.
With sales plummeting over the decades, The Hardback desperately tried to adapt itself to modern life - hollowing itself out to offer aspiring spies a place hide their Walther PPKs or faking itself in plastic to give VHS pornography buffs a respectable place to hide their tapes on the living room shelves.
In desperation The Hardback swallowed its pride and turned to the fiction of Dan Brown and JK Rowling to reverse its ailing fortunes, but when even award-winning novelists (that award being the Olympic Medal for Literature - designed, judged and awarded by one J. Archer) such as Jeffrey Archer struggled to shift more than a few thousand in hardback, the publishing world realised the game was up and took a suicide pill (believed by some to be several thousand copies of As A Dodo: The Obituaries You'd Like to See, the perfect Christmas gift for all the family, available now in all good book stores).
The Hardback Book will be pulped at St Naomi Campbell's Church of the Remaindered Book. The service will be conducted by the Right Reverend Mariella Frostrup and the congregation will sing Hymn 47, Paperback Writer. The Hardback is survived by The Paperback, The Audio Book, the e-Book and Dan Brown, JK Rowling and Jeffrey Archer.
16 November 2007
It is with huge relief and no little thankfulness that As A Dodo can confirm the death of The "Muffin Top", which was first announced by the BBC on 15 August 2007.
The Muffin Top - the unsightly excess of flab spilling over the top of a pair of trousers, was born at some time in the early noughties. It was at this time that a Western population used to levels of activity more usually seen in a three-toed sloth and individual levels of food intake usually found only in Biblical-scale swarms of locusts first came into contact with large amounts of expensive, low-slung and tight-hipped trouserage originally designed to adorn the bodies of fashion models whose monthly ingestion consisted only of a piece of lettuce, several thousand cigarettes and enough white powder to mark out the pitch at Wembley for all eternity.
The early meetings of these two - one an irresistible piece of designer-inspired clothing, the other an almost immovable piece of lard - did not go well. Those who witnessed the early attempts to mate obese bodies and slim denim still recoil in horror at memories of twisted bodies, ripped fabric and shop assistants rendered blind by rivets popping free of their blue-jean homes. Yet somehow, union was achieved - hundreds of pounds of adipose tissue were eased slowly inside denim sheaths, copper riveted buttons were slipped into the appropriate holes and vast amounts of fat, together with wholly unnecessary inches of buttock crevice, leapt upward and outward in exuberant celebration.
For years, the new child went - like a child in a David Pelzer book - unnamed, wandering the streets of the Western world (and anywhere else obesity and poor fashion sense went hand-in-hand) lonely and unloved. It was in Australia that it first found its true home, after an irritatingly fit Aussie popping into Starbucks noted the similarity between the midportions of the American tourist in front of him and the overspilling extra large muffin she was holding and finally gave the phenomenon its name - just before being whacked in the face by the American tourist in front of his equally large husband.
From there on The Muffin Top went from strength to strength - seeing off such phenomena as the whale tail - and finding a place on streets across much of the globe, often just outside the nearest fast food restaurant. Many assumed that The Muffin Top would always be with us, a handy reminder of the evils of consumerist society, but it was not to be. Bored at last with their hipster jeans, designers now decreed that the world should wear high waisted skirts and trousers, forcing the overspilling flab within a new casing and starving it of the exposure it so obviously craved.
The Muffin Top will be buried in an overly small coffin at midday, only for most of it to pop out seconds after the lid has been banged on. It is survived by the belly bulge, the turkey wattle, the banana fold, the love handle and the bingo wings.
14 November 2007
Golf has played its last stroke - a massive and terminal one - with the news that elderly golfers are hogging the courses at golf clubs up and down the country.
Although the Chinese may claim to have planted the first long drive onto the green in the 11th century and, a hundred years later, the Dutch were busy thwacking a leather ball into a hole (through a giant windmill - thus inventing Crazy Golf), it is the Scots who lay claim to the true invention of the game in the 15th century, when Scots began using a small mashie niblick (or any other deep-fried snack to hand) to whack a ball across the country.
The game quickly became popular with Scots of all ages and all classes taking it up with great enthusiasm, with even Mary Queen of Scots reputedly playing at the Musselburgh Links in 1567 - although her lack of a head meant she had trouble playing out of the bunkers onto the green.
While the Scots were arguing about the correct ratio of holes for playing golf to watering holes for refreshment, the rest of the world was mastering the basics of teeing off, chipping out of the rough, shouting at the caddy and breaking a putter over their knee at the difficult 17th. By the time 18 holes became standardised and the 19th was introduced, the game as we know it could be said to have finally arrived - as bores, boors and bigots knocked back the whiskies while telling taller and taller tales about their drive and revealing their smaller and smaller minds about the wisdom of accepting anyone who didn't possess the right sort of golfing qualifications - usually white skin, at least one testicle and the ability to prove ones pure Anglo-Saxon parentage back sufficient generations to get you into the SS.
Despite the existence of a bunker mentality (that bunker being located deep beneath the Reich Chancellery just before the dogleg onto the green at Potsdamer Platz), Golf raised its game and ditched its plus fours and argyle sweaters for a golden age as players such from Jack Nicklaus to Tiger Woods entertained spectators across the globe by powerfully driving up the fairway and delicately putting in, and Colin Montgomerie entertained spectators across the globe by disembowelling caddies with a glowering look - frequently, and unsportingly, without first uttering the warning cry of "Fore!"
However, this popularity was achieved not without cost. For every birdie chipped in from off the green by the likes of Ernie Els, two or three superannuated middle managers, solicitors or comedians took up the game with gusto and hacked their way slowly towards a G&T in the clubhouse. So when the Golf Club Secretary Newsletter reported that retired golfers were paying less and playing more than younger members at their golf clubs - clogging up the courses as they searched for their driving spectacles, their putting zimmer frames and remembering loudly "when this was all fields" - Golf sliced its last shot into the water and, feeling well below par, sank without trace. Thus was a good walk spoiled no more.
Golf will be buried at the bunker on the 18th hole of the St Jimmy of Tarbuck's Pro-Celebrity Church of the Royal and Ancient. The service will be conducted by the Reverend Peter Alliss ("Oh... Ah...! The coffin has pulled up just two yards short of the church... Monty, Monty, Monty...!") and the congregation will sing hymn 365, Lalo Schifrin's theme from The Eagle Has Landed as Colin Montgomerie defenestrates the vicar after smashing the crucial putt into the font.
12 November 2007
Playwrights, sketch-writers and garrulous foodies from Stoke Newington in the north to Brighton in the south are today fumbling mutely with the remains of Julia's lovely spinach roulade ("it's a Nigel Slater recipe") and knocking back the remains of that rather good organic Vin de Pays d'Oc, in memory of Dinner Party Conversation which has been silenced by the arrival of a guest carrying an iPhone.
Ever since the arrival of servants and gas lighting in bourgeois homes in the 19th century allowed the middle classes to pop round for an evening meal at each other's homes, Dinner Party Conversation has been heard in dining rooms across Britain. Down the decades it has covered a vast number of topics - from the relative merits of the latest instalment of Mr Dickens's new tale in Master Humphrey's Clock and the way Mr Peel's awful Health and Safety inspectors prevent hard working parents sending their children up perfectly good chimneys, to the relative merits of the latest Will Self short story in The Independent and the way Mr Brown's Health and Safety Nazi's won't let you read a book while driving at a perfectly reasonable 65 mph in your own car, including more than nine trillion references to the current state of house prices and the difficulty of getting Tom and Jocasta into a decent school along the way.
Perhaps Dinner Party Conversation could have carried on in this manner forever. That it did not was the result of the sudden invasion of its natural territory by an unexpected rival. On Friday 11 November 2007 and during the evenings that followed, vast numbers of Dinner Party Conversations were suddenly and ruthlessly silenced by the arrival of guests smugly clasping in their hands the latest product of Apple Inc, the new iPhone. Bearing the shiny new piece of technology before them as if it were the host at a mass, each of these guests was at once awarded the place of honour at the repast, while their fellow diners silently queued up before them to touch the beautiful new mobile communications device.
Unwilling to go meekly to its death, Dinner Party Conversation tried to put up resistance - launching conversational gambit after gambit as it sought to speak of "the nine solid months of church attendance necessary to get little Toby into that CofE school", the "inexplicable reverence shown towards Stephen Poliakoff's bloody awful dramas" and even to "Stephen Fry's paean to Steve Jobs's new marvel in The Guardian". Yet all its efforts merely resulted in it being shushed into silence as otherwise sensible people partook in the sacrament of delicately stroking the new phone into life ... and choosing to ignore the sticky fingerprints on the screen, easily scratchable body, inadequate camera, lack of 3G connectivity, ridiculous contract lock-in, fixed battery, dodgy text entry and high price, as they wondered how quickly they could buy themselves one.
Dinner Party Conversation will be buried after the coffee and mints at St Nigella's Church of the How Did You Whip Up That Marvellous Starter? The congregation will be too busy marvelling at "the way the phone can tell which way up you're holding it" to notice.
09 November 2007
Belgium, the European country which has done so much to enliven so many dinner parties as couples vie to name six interesting things about that sovereign state before the cheese goes off, is believed to have fallen apart after nearly six months without a government.
Formed from the remnants of the Low Countries in 1830 following a, frankly, hard-to-believe Belgian revolution, Belgium quickly found its place in Europe as it inherited none of the flair and flamboyance of its southerly neighbour, France, nor any of the edginess and excitement of its northern neighbour, Holland, instead promoting itself as the national equivalent of a pair of sensible shoes or a wet weekend - or, preferrably, both.
With King Leopold I installed at the head of its constitutional monarchy, the people of Belgium - whether they be Flemish, Walloons or confused travellers who stopped off before reaching Paris or London - settled down in the traditional trades of brewing, chocolate-making or the burgeoning waffle R & D sector based around the capital, Brussels.
Having been invaded by Germany in 1914 (innocently letting the Kaiser's troops across the border to "retrieve a mislaid bratwurst...") Belgium made sure that before the kick-off of the next world war everyone knew it was neutral and "would be taking no part whatsoever in any future conflicts" only to be interrupted by Hitler's troops rolling across the border in order to take the rat-run to France.
Culturally Belgium was best known for the works of surrealist painter Rene Magritte and his most famous painting Ceci N'est Pas Un Waffle. To the surprise of many, several of France's best-loved musicians were in truth Belgian, though, less surprisingly, Django Reinhardt and Jacques Brel preferred to spend most of their life in France.
But without a doubt Belgium was most famous when it was most fictional. Made-up detectives Hercule Poirot, Tintin and... er... Snowy all raised the profile of Belgium abroad and for a brief instant made readers think it was a hotbed of international intrigue when, in reality, it was a country so dull that M. Poirot had to find work in London to escape the tedium of being asked to investigate yet another mysterious case of the disapperaing waffle.
When the Flemish Christian Democrats won last June's general election no one foresaw that they would fail to establish a ruling coalition. Despite the absence of a government in Belgium for nearly six months the country did not descend into anarchy, instead waffle prouduction at EU and NATO waffle mills exceeded projected targets month-on-month and the people of Belgium continued to drink beer, eat chocolates and look down on the unruly Swiss.
With the realisation that the 150-day run without a government was not an attempt to get into the Guinness World Book of Records (as that had been banned in Belgium since 1967 for fear of over-exciting the populous) talks between the 11 political parties became more protracted. But a split began to develop between the Dutch-speaking Flems and the French-speaking Walloons, and a move to end the right of French speakers in Flemish suburbs of bi-lingual Brussels to vote for French candidates proved so boring that the country shrugged its shoulders and returned to its jigsaws of giant waffles as the country split asunder in utter silence.
Belgium will be buried in two separate ceremonies at La Maison du Waffle and at Den Wafflehaus.
07 November 2007
The death of Gordon Brown's Political Vision has come as a grave shock to all those who knew it and as a particular cause of grief to those members of the Labour Party who once held it up as a beacon of hope in a world of political ennui.
It would be impossible to recount the stirring tales that have been told of the Political Vision, many of them by the Prime Minister himself. It was a vast and noble thing, encompassing everything from the fate of the planet, nay the universe itself, all the way down to the tears of a single child born in poverty and even taking in the complex machinery of post neo-classical endogenous growth theory on the way. Thanks to its prodigious strength and mighty intellectual force, those who walked beside it - or perhaps it were better to say, "those who walked in its shadow" - could do so without fear that any harm might come to them.
The Political Vision was born on the knee of Mr Brown's own father, the Church of Scotland minister Dr John Brown, who lectured his son even as he dandled him in his hands, reminding the wee Gordon of his duty to his fellow man, to remember that many a muckle makes a mickle and - as the Prime Minister himself recalled - "to treat everyone equally" (whether Dr Brown added that "everyone" did not include either young Muslims suspected of terrorism or the super-rich is sadly unknown).
Throughout his time at university, and on into his early life in politics, Gordon was to cleave to his Political Vision. He was often seen parading it in public, whether as editor of The Red Paper on Scotland or as a rising young star of the Labour Shadow Cabinet of the 1980s and early 1990s. Gordon Brown's Political Vision took in all it surveyed: it was for fairness to all, hard work and duty, it stood for the poor against the rich and the downtrodden against the privileged.
It was in 1994 that the Political Vision was to suffer the tragic accident that would affect it for the rest of its life, running into the sharp end of Tony Blair's butter knife in the dim lighting of a fashionable North London restaurant. This accident, it would appear, left the Political Vision so hideously scarred that it fled the political stage, leaving it to the rival - we are assured inferior - vision of the young Tony Blair.
For years, Gordon Brown's Political Vision haunted the Labour Party - only bursting from the shadows at Budget time or during the party conference season, when its shocking appearance served both to remind the Labour party of the glories it had once been promised and to send a shiver down the spine of Mr Blair. Indeed, it was only with Mr Blair's own political death - tragically crushed under a large political machine that had somehow worked itself loose - that Mr Brown, and his Political Vision - emerged once more.
The years of isolation had clearly taken their toll. The Political Vision - so long masked from view - turned out to be a pale and paltry thing, little different from the vision of Mr Blair or - indeed - Tory leader David Cameron. As it stepped fully into the light with its first Queen's Speech, Gordon Brown's Political Vision crumbled into a ragbag of bills to detain people without trial, build on green belt and a bit of fiddling round the edges with school leaving ages, waste disposal charges and parental leave, all wholly ununited by any overarching theme.
Gordon Brown's Political Vision will be scattered by a light breeze. Mourners are asked to send donations to offshore tax havens.