The As A Dodo Editorial team apologise for the following obituary. It would seem that, contrary to approved practice, our obituarist did not attend the scene from which he was reporting, relying instead on the in-no-way-hysterical reportage provided by the BBC, ITV News, Sky News and print media, all of whom chose to cover a small earthquake in which one person suffered minor injuries as the end of the world. The obituarist will be offered a pearl-handled revolver and asked to do the decent thing just as soon as he can be bothered to unstick himself from the sofa and trudge into the office.
There are no more bluebirds over the White Cliffs of Dover, after that ancient symbol of this sceptred isle crumbled and sank beneath the English Channel following the complete destruction of Kent, and everyone in it, during a massive earthquake on Saturday morning.
The White Cliffs of Dover were born 12,000 years ago at the end of the Devonian era as the Ice Age ended and the melting glaciers exposed those chalk edifices in their full, pasty glory for the first time. Within days, the Cliffs became a rallying point for patriotically-minded hunter-gatherers unnaturally proud of their new island status, sending out a message of British independence to those pesky Gauls across the Channel – not to mention becoming a popular jumping-off point for effete Guardian-reading hunter-gatherers who had already grown weary of patriotically-minded hunter-gatherers' intolerance towards their European neighbours.
Over the centuries the Cliffs guarded the gateway to Britain, warning off invaders from Napoleon to Hitler who schemed to add this green and pleasant land to their empire of subjugated territories, and completely failing to halt those invaders like Julius Caesar and William the Conqueror who had the nous to land at more gently-sloping beaches further along the coast.
During the darkest days of World War Two, The Cliffs had their “finest hour” – single-handedly defeating the Luftwaffe – and were immortalised (or so it was believed at the time) by Vera Lynn in her 1940 hit download, White Cliffs (Don’t Do It) in which she rapped about the dangers of becoming addicted to a powerful narcotic cut by profiteering spivs with large quantities of Dover chalk. (might need to check this bit, where's Wikipedia?)
But the war had taken its toll on the Cliffs and they no longer had the strength to raise two fingers to the Continent. Membership of the European Union led to the construction of a monumental folly – a railway tunnel linking France and England. Giant machines bored a huge hole through the Cliffs' heart, allowing millions of tourists to travel at high-speeds to London and thousands of desperate refugees dreaming of a better life to take up those really crappy jobs that Britons themselves refused to touch with a barge pole - much to the outrage of those very same Britons who kept complaining loudly about "these bloody people coming over here" even as they purchased their burgers from them, got them to fix their dodgy sewerage systems and sent them out to drown whilst cockle-picking.
Fatally undermined, the Cliffs stood no chance against the powerful earthquake measuring a massive 4.3 on the Richter scale (about the equivalent of two bluebirds colliding) which struck in the Straits of Dover. Panic ensued as Canterbury Cathedral collapsed, its extensive building insurance failing to protect it from an Act of God, the people of Tunbridge Wells were buried under an avalanche of disgusted letters to the Daily Mail about the incorrect use of the word "whom" and the town of Sandwich's plan to shelter itself between two layers of bread proved a complete and utter failure.
Kent slid into the English Channel and the Garden of England became the Sunken Garden of England, the White Cliffs of Dover hanging on until the very end when even they were submerged beneath the churning grey water and buried at sea, along with the last vestiges of Britain’s insular and arrogant attitude towards the rest of Europe and everyone in it. But still… at least we’re now a lot further away from the French.
30 April 2007
The As A Dodo Editorial team apologise for the following obituary. It would seem that, contrary to approved practice, our obituarist did not attend the scene from which he was reporting, relying instead on the in-no-way-hysterical reportage provided by the BBC, ITV News, Sky News and print media, all of whom chose to cover a small earthquake in which one person suffered minor injuries as the end of the world. The obituarist will be offered a pearl-handled revolver and asked to do the decent thing just as soon as he can be bothered to unstick himself from the sofa and trudge into the office.
28 April 2007
27 April 2007
Man’s Best Friend has rolled over and played dead for the last time following the announcement that Eli Lilly, the manufacturer of Prozac, has produced Reconcile – a chewable, beefy-flavoured selective serotonin reuptake inhabitor for dogs – freeing the canine world from the centuries of depression that fuelled its desperate need to buddy up to Man.
Man’s Best Friend, Canis lupus familiaris, is descended from wolves, those deeply unhappy creatures forced to sublimate their terrible inner turmoil and lack of self-confidence into growling, sheep-savaging and appearances in horror movies until they realised that by hanging around on the fringes of human settlements and howling forlornly at the Moon they might get Mankind to take pity and domesticate them.
Soon Man’s Best Friend was earning his keep by fetching and carrying Stone Age slippers (not easy for a Chihuahua), begging oh-so-cutely for scraps of food at the table and enthusiastically shagging the leg of any passing visitor, all in an attempt to disguise the terrible futility and endless ennui of a dog’s life.
Over the long, lonely millennia Man’s Best Friend sank into a deep pit of despair, exacerbated by its maintenance of a furry, upbeat façade as it chased sticks, wagged its tail and pretended that it enjoyed being done up like a dog’s dinner and paraded in front of its peers at humiliating dog shows around the globe.
Deeply frustrated at its failure to communicate its growing depression to Mankind, it spent increasing hours chewing the furniture, barking “and what time do you call this?” at the postman and sleeping in its basket – where its disturbing dreams clouded by thoughts of self-harm and the pointlessness of existence were, tragically, misinterpreted by its owners, who simply cooed, “Aw… He’s dreaming about cats…!”
Attempts by Man’s Best Friend to deal maturely with his Black Dog where cruelly thwarted when therapists refused to counsel him – sharply ordering the four-footed Freudian nightmare to get off the couch. That a turning point had been reached became clear last year, with claims that several hundred show-dogs – unable to cope with the burden of being in the public spotlight as they fought to mask their crushing loneliness – threatened a mass suicide at Crufts.
The announcement that the new prozac-like drug is now available in chewable form for dogs, has sent a (high-pitched and inaudible) signal to the doggie world that its unhappy dependency on Man is over. Dogs in their millions have besieged their vets begging (oh-so-cutely) for a prescription of the canine happy pill that puts the spring back in their step and the smile back in their bark… Thus it is that Man’s Best Friend has ceased to be a poodle.
Man’s Best Friend will be wrapped in his favourite blanket and buried at the end of the garden next to that tree he almost killed by urinating on it copiously every day. It is survived by Man’s New Best Friend – Man's cat, hamster, goldfish, Vietnamese pot-bellied pig, newt or stick insect – who really, really does love you… of course he does …! Look, he’s trying to tell you something…! Yes he is…! Yes he is….!
Congratulations to the excellent NHS Blog Doctor for beating us a thoroughly-deserved first place in the politics category of this year's Brit Blog Awards. Apparently judge Ed Vaizey MP, in a sad departure from parliamentary protocol, was unswayed by either our offer of a free stay in the Paris Ritz or the large bundles of cash in brown envelopes we attempted to stuff into his pocket as he passed the building. Not even our attempt to outfit him with a nice, new Gannex macintosh was to any avail. Frankly, if this is the new politics we may be forced to take up whittling for a living.
26 April 2007
People throughout the country are today putting pegs on their noses and dragging out their pomanders as they prepare to remember the sweet(ish)-smelling streets of England that existed before the death of Weekly Rubbish Collection, which has passed away across much of the realm.
Weekly Rubbish Collection was born in Athens in about 500BC, when the sudden outbreak of democracy finally allowed the people of the city-state a chance to complain about the huge pile of rubbish that had been building up for the past few hundred years without fear of one of the tyrant's hoplites gently counselling them at spearpoint to "shut up and get back to the philosophising". Soon the world's first municipal landfill site was opened a mile outside the city gates, at last giving the Athenians a spot to dump unwanted gifts of philosophical tracts, spare Elgin Marbles and excessive packaging from pots of hummus.
Despite the Athenians' good work and numerous advances in waste technology by the Romans, the progress of rubbish collection was halted and then put into reverse by the arrival of the Dark Ages, so-called presumably because no-one wanted to put a light on for fear of seeing the great piles of ordure that surrounded them. By the late 13th century matters had become so bad in Britain that in 1297 a law was passed in England requiring householders to keep the front of their homes free from rubbish, which was marvellous news for anyone passing along the streets before the houses but not so good for anyone who happened to be playing in the back yard at the time.
In 1354 Weekly Rubbish Collection finally came to Britain, with each of London's wards employing "muckrakers" to rake rubbish together, load it into carts and remove it once a week (unlike today when muckrakers rake rubbish together, load it into their laptops and publish it in newspapers and on the internet every day). By 1407 householders were being required to keep all their rubbish indoors until the rakers could collect it and carry it off - in a move that would set a long-lasting trend - to Essex.
The glory days of Rubbish Collection, however, were ushered in by the Industrial Revolution - allowing Britons to produce such vast amounts of goods that it finally became possible for all strata of society to be able to afford to chuck stuff away. With the streets now filled with malodorous waste and malodorous freelance waste-collectors, in 1875 The Public Health Act was passed, requiring local authorities to arrange the removal and disposal of waste and requiring householders to store their rubbish in dustbins.
For more than a hundred years the system worked well. Each week the dustbin men would arrive at an ungodly hour in the morning and rouse the sleeping neighbourhood with an impromptu rendition of the louder bits of Stomp, before collecting up the rubbish bins and scattering a portion of their contents over the streets as an offering to the dusty gods.
Trouble lay ahead for Weekly Rubbish Collection, however. With new technologies and increasing wealth - not to mention supermarkets' desire to add value to their products by encasing them in more packaging than is required for the disposal of nuclear waste - came an explosion in the amount of rubbish generated by each household. Soon landfill sites were filling up, incinerators were overloading and councils were dragged low by the cost of waste disposal. In the end the only option open was to cancel Weekly Rubbish Collection altogether, replacing it with its younger (eco-friendly but rather less hygienic) sibling the Alternate Weekly Collection or AWC. With the AWC loudly proclaiming its green credentials to the people (and its cost-saving benefits to the councils) while merrily collecting rubbish one week and recycling the next and leaving the rest to hang around attracting flies, rats and tabloid hacks desperate for a scoop about what Z-list celebs throw away, Weekly Rubbish Collection found itself supplanted.
Weekly Rubbish Collection will pass away just as soon as there's no danger of its death harming any local election results. It will be cremated in a municipal incinerator before having its ashes scattered up and down the street outside your front door. It is survived by a surprisingly fat urban fox population, piles of bin bags on the pavement and a continuing unwillingness on the part of Brits to recycle rubbish anywhere other than their TV screens.
25 April 2007
We are grateful to a Mr J Reid of the Home Office (of whose passing Mr Reid has already informed us) for alerting the As A Dodo editorial board to the end of Terrorism, which he assures us cannot possibly survive the birth of the Home Office's offspring, The Ministry of Love The Office for Security and Counter-Terrorism.
Terrorism was born in 1793 in France, the younger brother of the famously attractive triplets Liberté, Egalité and Fraternité who at the time were the toast of the land thanks to their stirring performance during the ongoing French Revolution. Though it was later to set out on its own, Terrorism's early years were spent in close proximity to the state, ousting its elder sisters from the national bosom in the hope that false arrests, conviction on the flimsiest of evidence and a surveillance society could be nurtured in their place. Arm in arm with Citizen Robespierre and Madame Guillotine it wandered up and down France, stirring fear in the hearts of all it met and a desire to hide among all it didn't (a role today played by itinerant Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses and Chuggers). It was not long, however, before Terrorism (unlike the aforementioned Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses and Chuggers) tired of such behaviour.
It was at this time that Terrorism turned to philosophy, just as so many young people in France still do to this day. Thanks to the work of Immanuel Kant, Terrorism came to mean a pessimistic view of the destiny of mankind, in which guise it was swiftly seized upon by anarchists such as Bakhunin as a means of bringing down the state and providing Joseph Conrad with plots, as well as being seized on by the inhabitants of assorted colonial outposts as a means of ridding themselves of their various Imperial oppressors (and in the case of TE Lawrence, a really good excuse for mucking around on camels in a keffiyeh).
Soon Terrorism came to mean the use of the threat of violence to put people in a permanent state of fear, and was distinguishable from the behaviour of parents after catching their offspring playing with matches, really scary teachers discovering that one somehow hasn't quite managed to complete that extra tricky piece of homework they set and Governments eager to pass a few more laws by the fact that the people carrying it out usually had an indifference to the sanctity of human life combined with a different accent and/or political philosophy and/or religion to whoever was calling them "terrorists".
From the latter part of the 20th Century, Terrorism came to be a significant force in global politics, filling millions across the globe with fear, causing the death of thousands upon thousands and inflicting numerous episodes of 24 upon the world. Where once people merely had the prospect of nuclear annihilation to keep them awake at night, now they had the possibility of being shot, gassed tortured or blown up (either by the terorrists or by Jack Bauer) as they went about their daily business to keep them from the arms of Morpheus. Few, apart from some very disturbed people with uniform fetishes and/or a worrying belief that this year's most vital accessory was a semtex bandolier, could be happy about such a situation. Yet not even this was enough for Terrorism which, it turned out, had long regretted its decision to turn away from the ways of its youth and whose attention-seeking and destructive behaviour had merely been an attempt to return to the bosom of the state, where it could go back once more to practices such as placing the populace in a permanent state of fear, imprisoning the citizenry without trial, indulging in constant surveillance of the public at large and abrogating the liberty of the people.
Happily, we are told that Terrorism's time is now over. We are assured by John Reid, the father of The Office for Security and Counter-Terrorism, that his new offspring's "faster, brighter and more agile response" to Terrorism gives us the brightest prospect of putting an end to this dreadful scourge... and if that fails it can simply put Terrorism out of business by doing much of its work for it.
Terrorism will be buried in an undisclosed location by men in balaclavas. It is survived by freedom fighters, jihadis, rebel/freedom/liberation movements, militants, fedayeen, guerillas, paramilitaries, mujahadeen, participants in armed struggle and assorted other nutters in quasi-military dress who think the best way of resolving a dispute is to bomb the hell out of something (as opposed to those of the same opinion without balaclavas, who are often in government).
23 April 2007
As A Dodo presents a tribute to the former Russian leader from his close friend, former governor Yuri Oligarchavich Gargleov, a Kremlin barman who became one of the most powerful men in Russia by steering billions of roubles into his personal bank account state-owned company PotatCo into the post-Soviet free market economy and by owning most of Irkutsk.
Boris Nikolayevich Yeltsin is dead. I raise glass to memory of greatest man I ever meet. From moment he join Communist Party in 1961 he is party animal through and through. Wherever there is party - there is Boris!
In '85 I just humble barman at Kremlin when Boris stumble out of long Politburo meeting on Afghanistan shouting, "Stuff the Taliban! What are we drinking?!" I mix him Black Russian, White Russian... then he wash down lot with quart of my dear old mother's homemade potato vodka. After that we were insepa... inspa ... you could not keep us apart. It was like love. I love his political integrity, his tireless work for Mother Russia. He love my dear old mother's homemade potato vodka. Anyway, I now personal barman to Boris and nothing separate us.
I remember one night Boris turn to me. Beautiful Black Sea night full of stars and he turn to me with that face... What handsome man...! George Clooney is pig in comparison...! And he ask me would I like to head new Soviet department researching possibility of potato-based fuels...? Me! Humble barman...! Can you believe this...?! I say yes straight away - goodbye Lada, hello Zil!
Boris was busy man. Incredible stamina. Member of Politburo. Mayor of Moscow. But he always find time to drop into offices of PotatCo to sample study new potato-based fuels. No, really. Boris was martyr to cause. He think new potato-based fuel put Russian man as high up as Mars, or at least make him unstoppable karaoke champion on trade visit to Tokyo. What night and two days that was!
But then Boris, who love Russian country and people, grow impatient with Gorbachev - that bas... is not fit for print... Gorbachev's refuse to reform glorious Soviet Union. He make example of Boris. Boris ridiculed in press as unfit for office. But I know he is not drunkard. He come to me day he lose job as Mayor of Moscow and say, "Yuri Oligarchavich, if I am drunkard, hit me in face with shovel! If I am unfit, I crumble and fall to floor! Hit me again! Like man! Square in face with shovel! Again!" And is true. He take it like man. After that, he was unconscious unstoppable.
And then Berlin Wall fall after all-night discussions with Eric Honecker get out of hand. Boris lean against wall and... Oops! Goodbye Communism! But Gorbachev still drag feet - so Boris start to work round clock for freedom of beloved Russia and become president in 1991. And when hardliners imprison Gorbachev and launch coup against Russian people what did Boris do...? He no think of self or revenge against old blotchy head? No! He mount tank in front of parliament building. He always randy as state-owned goat after a few snifters! Little joke...! Seriously, after crushing bourgeois reactionaries Boris hero of Russian people and dissolve Soviet Union - which strange as he never add water to nothing.
Boris take on more and more work on behalf of Russia. He take whole responsibility of parliament, he say, "Thank you boys! You take easy! I do job for you!". He do everything as he drag country into new era of glorious market economy. And how did parliament repay? They refuse leave building! Is Boris's building! Boris he kind, he understanding. So he send in tanks to help re-educate political dinosaurs who not see sense in handing over vouchers for share of glorious state companies like PotatCo. So-called communists! Think only of selves! Lenin would turning in grave... if not in glass-topped sarcoph... sarpho... coffin.
No, Boris strong like bear! He never give up, not even when glorious people boiling shoes for food and selling kidneys for shelter. People say he bring nothing to Russia but crime and poverty. But this not true. He bring democracy! He bring tanks! He bring in billions of dollars from IMF. He bring me and all my friends big state-owned monopolies at knock-down price, not to mention governorship of... er, where was now, Yakutsk? Irkutsk? I know on Risk board somewhere.
But work for Russia is take toll on Boris. In dying hours of New Year's Eve 1999 he pause, put down bottle of imported Chivas Regal I give him as gift on expenses and confide in me it time to hand on baton of power to younger man who could continue great work. I agree immediately. Imagine surprise when Boris give power to that bas... is not fit for print... Vladimir Putin - who give him two bottles of imported Chivas Regal.
After that, I not see much of Boris. He busy in secure dacha, or conducting Berlin Philharmonic or Znaky's Jazz AllStars, and I always out of country on business or desperately selling assets and fleeing country to avoid being lock up in jail like Khodorkovsky.
Anyway, Boris dead. Raise glass or five to him and all pray he not being cremate.
As A Dodo note: Yuri Oligarchavich Gargleov currently lives in London, New York, Paris, Milan, and Hawaii, while his heart is officially resident in the Cayman Islands for tax reasons. Russian officials wishing to visit him should note that he hates sushi.
Waiting staff, pub landlords and other inhabitants of the city of Oxford are today breathing sighs of relief and downgrading their insurance policies, following news that The Bullingdon Club, Oxford University's most notoriously irresponsible "dining club", is expected to pass away after calls by its most celebrated member, Conservative Leader David Cameron, for a new "responsible society".
Born in the mid-19th Century (the details are, like so many members of the society, a little hazy) the Bullingdon Club was a late flowering of Regency irresponsibility in a more sober Victorian age. Though originally conceived as a sporting society, before its first year was out the club was already establishing for itself a reputation for drunkenness and debauchery previously only held by the Hellfire Club and now rivalled only by Premiership footballers and British under-30s on their summer holidays. It is understood that it is in order to distinguish themselves from the last two groups that the Club's members insist to this day on wearing an eccentric uniform of blue tailcoats (though, sadly for the club, this has led to many claims that former boxer and present-day oddball Chris Eubank is an honorary life member).
So irresponsible was the Bullingdon, indeed, that to this day those invited to join the Club's 20-strong membership are welcomed by having their rooms trashed (something which, admittedly, many students are capable of achieving without the aid of some chinless types in dinner dress) and then required to book a private room at a local establishment where the Club's members can drink themselves into near insensibility before reducing the room to a state where it would look far from out of place in Central Baghdad.
Down the years the Club's reputation grew and grew. Lampooned by Evelyn Waugh as the Bollinger Club and attracting such (usually only briefly) upright members of society as bad artist and zookeeper Lord Bath, fraudster and thug Darius Guppy, gleefully caddish former minister Alan Clark and er, David Dimbleby, the Club spent its time in glorious irresponsibility, throwing bikes through windows, smashing street lights and carrying out assorted other activities which lead lesser mortals to criminal charges and Club members to throw large amounts of daddy's money at the victims.
With members such as Shadow Chancellor George Osborne, Shadow Minister for Higher Education Boris Johnson and Mr Cameron himself all poised to take power, a future of untrammelled irresponsibility seemed assured. Who could have predicted that one of the Club's own offspring would forsake his vows and turn against it, using a speech to the Royal Society of Arts and an article in The Guardian to espouse the virtues of social responsibility and condemn those who cause wreck and ruin in their failure to offer others the respect that they deserve?
The Bullingdon Club will be buried at a secret dining event at St Alan Clark's Church of the Extended Wine Tasting. The Vicar will read from The Book of "Dear Lord You Can't Really Be Doing That In The Font Can You? Oh, 'Here's £500 For The Church Roof', You Say? Just Carry On". The church itself will be condemned as structurally unsound tomorrow.
22 April 2007
20 April 2007
A Simple Cup of Coffee has been drained from its simple cup for the last time after being swamped by the planet's unchecked demand for increasingly baroque and bastardised coffee hybrids including frappaccinos, mochaccinnos and latteccinos served by overworked East Europeans and South East Asians living in eternal fear of being docked pay for failing to say "Have a nice day" with the proper company-approved sincere expression.
A Simple Cup of Coffee was first brewed from the roasted beans of the coffee plant in Ethiopia in the 9th century, proving so stimulating that, after drinking just one cup, coffee exporters stayed up for six straight months, only falling asleep after flogging gallons of the new beverage as far as Egypt and Yemen.
After expanding steadily throughout the Middle East and thus helping to promote the calm and relaxed attitude which pervades the region even to this day, by the 17th century the new brew had reached Europe, with the Dutch in particular enjoying the benefits of increased blood pressure and heart rate of A Simple Cup of Coffee in their world-famous coffee houses, so much so that they were soon forced to start taking massive tokes on the nearest available spliff to calm themselves down.
Soon London merchants were gathering to discuss shipping news in Lloyd’s Coffee House, where their massive intake led them to become so excited that they set up a whole stock market, whose vast profits were able to fund the expansion of the British Empire as well as allowing the traders to afford ever greater quantities of their favourite stimulants, thus encouraging major South American exports... and several coffee growers as well.
The practice of stumbling from one’s bed half-dumb with fatigue towards the stove to brew up an energising cup spread to the New World – but not until the third cup of coffee had hit the spot. Indeed, the American War of Independence was started by the craze for a good cup of mud after jittery Bostonians rejected a shipment of tea, angrily throwing it into the harbour – even though the water wasn’t boiling and they hadn't added the milk first.
Soon the world was enslaved by this narcotic drink, with only a few plucky Britons holding out against its tyranny – preferring a refreshing beverage made with just dried leaves and boiling water... plus a large side order of gin. But as the British Empire crumbled and Britain’s rightful role as a leading world power began to fade, even this bastion of tea-drinking limeys succumbed to the great roasted flavour and became a nation of coffee-heads thanks to A Simple Cup of Coffee's addictive allure and the persuasive powers of the late actor and item of celebrity rhyming slang Gareth Hunt’s dubious wrist gesture.
But even as Britons began to crave a cup of the hard stuff in the mornings, Americans were growing tired of A Simple Cup of Coffee and began experimenting with new ways of ingesting their favourite drug, mixing it with cold sugary colas, adding it to the water supply and cross-breeding it with flavoured syrups and giving it faux Italian names with the suffix -ccino.
The fatal blow was dealt this week with the introduction of Shower Shock soap, which releases the same amount of caffeine into the bloodstream as a couple of cups of coffee – as you lather yourself in the shower to achieve that just scrubbed roasted fresh smell in the mornings. Appalled at the news, A Simple Cup of coffee expired in a wave of bitter suds.
A Simple Cup of Coffee will be buried at the St Arbucks Church of the Decaf Super Grande Skinny Mochalattefrappaespressoccino. The service will be conducted by Gunther from Friends. It is survived by a decaf super grande skinny mochalattefrappaespressoccino… and a nice cup of tea.
19 April 2007
We regret the tardiness of the following personal tribute to the late science fiction writer. Unfortunately its author, a test pilot and native of the planet Tralfamadore who knew the author well, exists in all time periods at once and decided to submit his piece to us in 1892. Having now managed to unearth it from among a pile of discarded copies of Punch, a collection of top hats and several bottles of Josiah Ackerthwaite's patented balsam, we are pleased to publish it here.
Kurt Vonnegut was an author, more or less. He was one of those people who turn facts into something more than fiction and fiction into something a lot like fact. When we met he wasn't at all old, except for his eyes which had seen too much. He called himself Billy Pilgrim. He called himself Kilgore Trout. You can never trust authors. Once he said he ran a Saab dealership without telling Saab themselves. It made him bankrupt. He said it cost him the Nobel Prize. He said a lot of things like that.
In the war, the big war, the one where you Earthlings tried to blow Europe into nothingness and your society into nowhere, he was a soldier. He fought against the Germans, which was funny because his family was German-American. That's the sort of irony aliens who live in all times at once can appreciate. Kurt or Billy or whoever wasn't trained very well for war or for German snow. He was captured and locked up. That's when he got unstuck in time.
He spent some time with us in our zoo. He was about as happy there as he was on Earth. We locked him up with Montana Wildhack, a motion picture star. She had great breasts and Billy Pilgrim had a tremendous wang. Authors get to write things that way, it's part of the fun.
In Germany, Kurt Vonnegut saw the bombing of Dresden from the wrong side. He saw thousands upon thousands of people killed in just two nights by other people who thought they were fighting evil. It changed him. He wrote Slaughterhouse 5 about what happened and people liked it. Most every English student in the United States had to read it. Students liked Slaughterhouse 5 because it had lots of short sentences and was kind of like science fiction. Professors liked it because it told an important story and even Professors of English like short sentences now and again.
Kurt Vonnegut wrote other books too. Some were great, some not so good. For a time he was a humanist but then he changed his mind. For a while he went about defending Intelligent Design, which just goes to prove that even novelists can make mistakes. He became a kind of conscience for a certain type of American. After Dresden he didn't have much time for war, which just goes to prove that even novelists can get things right. Someone named an asteroid after him, which was nice.
Kurt Vonnegut is dead now. So it goes.
18 April 2007
Blairites and Conservatives eager for a Labour leadership race are donning their mourning weeds and belabouring their underused ballot boxes and overused spin doctors today as they mourn David Miliband's Labour Leadership Challenge, which emerged from the womb of the political media stillborn last night.
David Miliband's Labour Leadership Challenge was born in early 2007, the child of the fondest fantasies (in the case of former Home Secretary and present barrage-balloon Charles Clarke, the fondest non-food-related fantasies) of Blair loyalists and the Chancellor's reputation for not suffering fools, rivals or indeed members of the human race gladly.
The Challenge was the product of the artificial insemination of a surrogate leadership challenger - Environment Secretary and part-time Captain Scarlet imitator David Miliband - with large amounts of hype from friendly columnists in the press, in a process overseen by a shadowy group of Blairite insiders known only as John Reid, Charles Clarke and Peter Mandelson. In what has been hailed by psephologists as a particular breakthrough, the procedure was carried out entirely unbeknownst to Mr Miliband, who, according to the medical team, was far too busy making TV appearances and publishing lengthy articles about his vision for the future to realise what was going on.
For the first three months of the pregnancy all seemed to be going well, with many senior New Labour figures - along with many others without such a shameful past - eagerly promoting Mr Miliband's virtues as a potential leader: happily citing his youth, his quaint lopsided smile and his ability to get the numbers of S.P.E.C.T.R.U.M.'s Symphony, Melody and Harmony Angels off Commander White quicker than you can say Mysteron, not to mention the very important fact that he was not Gordon Brown.
Despite the valiant work of the medical team, however, such a highly complex procedure was always bound to be at risk of failure. Tragically the Challenge failed to make it to term when the anaesthetic effects of a looped tape of the Chancellor's speeches wore off and Mr Miliband came to and insisted that those overseeing the Challenge's birth cease their attempts to give it the oxygen of publicity, after realising that - contrary to the doctors' assurances - continuing with the birth could lead to his political death or, even worse, John Reid becoming leader.
A memorial service for the Challenge will be held this weekend at the Church of St Nick Robinson of the Shining Pate. A weeping Reverend Peter Mandelson will preside and the hymn will be an unusually plaintive rendition of that old Blairite favourite, number 375 "Lead On, O King Eternal".
David Miliband's Labour Leadership Challenge is survived by David Miliband's Blog, Charles Clarke's Doomed Charge at a Group of Windmills and a Conservative Leadership Who Will Stop Laughing Just As Soon As Labour Stop Behaving So Hilariously.
17 April 2007
The Prospect of Defence Secretary Des Browne Falling on His Sword, following the media and political furore over his decision to allow the 15 sailors captured by the Iranians to sell their stories to the highest bidder, has passed away following a statement by Mr Browne in the House of Commons, during which he apologised for making a mistake but failed utterly to plummet on to the assorted sabres, daggers, katanas, zweihanders, rapiers, spadones and schiavonas proffered by members of the opposition parties, much to the disappointment of the large crowd that had gathered to witness the death-defying-enabling feat.
The Prospect was conceived rapidly following the release of the Iraq hostages when the Defence Secretary chose the aftermath of one of the more significant naval cock-ups since Robert Maxwell accidentally took up deep-sea-diving to go on holiday and thus failed to question the Navy’s ruling that the sailors could profit from their tales of derring-do and attempts to escape their captors by doing exactly as they were told.
The Prospect was a popular child from the moment of its conception as the newspapers that had failed to offer enough money to secure the sailors’ stories called instead for Mr Browne to thrust his breast forcefully on the nearest pointy object, claiming that sensational tabloid revelations about the sailors' plucky plan to outwit the Iranians – by agreeing to be paraded on Iranian television praising their captors, calling for Britain and America's immediate withdrawal from Iraq and having a nice cup of tea – had caused more damage to the reputation of the Navy than the carnage resulting from a Saturday night in a Plymouth public house.
Despite the Prospect's popularity, it was clear from the outset that the child's father, Mr Browne, had little time for it. Within days of its birth he was already denying he was its father and seeking to smother it by reversing his earlier decision and halting the further sale of stories by the nation’s greatest military heroes since Captain Mainwaring and Corporal Jones.
Despite - or perhaps even because of - its father's callous attitude towards it, the Prospect remained dear to the hearts of large sections of the press, the opposition parties and Iran's President Ahmadinejad. Speculation reached fever pitch as a nation held its breath for Mr Browne's Commons statement, fully expecting him to the decent thing, acknowledge his parentage of the Prospect and allow it to fulfil it's destiny by dropping him on to the nearest sharp implement from a great height.
It was not to be. Expressing "a degree of regret that can be equated with an apology”, Mr Browne failed utterly to acknowledge his offspring, leaving it to pass away as peacefully as a boat full of Royal Navy ratings and Marines surrendering to an Iranian boarding party.
The Prospect of Des Browne Falling on His Sword will be buried quietly at sea, but not too close to Iranian waters. It is survived by the Prospect of Des Browne Being Brutally Assassinated in Gordon Brown's Cabinet Reshuffle.
16 April 2007
As A Dodo departs from its reports of bereavements in the public eye with the following obituary of an ordinary relationship between two hitherto unknown twentysomethings.
The relationship of ‘Prince’ William - an officer in the Household Cavalry’s Blues and Royals and the son of an eccentric biscuit manufacturer and a kindergarten teacher - and Kate Middleton - a fashion buyer for a high street store born into a middle-class family of toy manufacturers - has ended after failing to attract any interest whatsoever in the media or, more crucially, with the public at large.
This very ordinary relationship began, as so many do, when the couple first met at the little known University of St Andrews in Scotland (a small, insignificant country off the coast of England whose chief claim-to-fame is its cuisine traditionally deep-fried in North Sea oil1). Soon the couple were sharing a house in order to make the most of their meagre student loans and eking out an impoverished life as they studied art history.
Keen to capitalise on their relationship and hopeful of becoming the kind of minor celebrities whose every movement and fashion faux pas is picked over by the tabloids and daytime television, William and Kate began to cultivate a lifestyle normally associated with the over-privileged and under-educated. They visited racecourses, hung out in nightclubs and took jobs as chalet maids at Klosters (a ski resort popular with eccentric biscuit manufacturers and the aristocracy) – but to no avail as their faces remained as unknown as the other members of David Cameron's shadow cabinet.
Digging themselves deeper in debt, the couple were forced to resort to more daring tactics to fund their dreams of fame, with William even going as far as to claim that he was somehow related to Britain's deeply-respected Royal Family.
Thinking that a nobler and heroic gesture would garner the recognition they craved, William joined the Household Cavalry’s Blues and Royals and began training for a tour of duty in Iraq . When this failed to excite either journalists or gossip columnists Kate, in desperation, complained to the Press Complaints Commission about the lack of media intrusion. The PCC, however, refused to instruct the newspapers to publish paparazzi photographs of her on a bus, walking down the street or, sensationally, holding a cup of coffee.
An emergency meeting of William’s family struck the fatal blow, when his grandfather, ‘Prince’ Philip (an old sea dog with a deep interest in world wildlife) urged William to do the decent thing. William, however, declined to dispatch Kate with a 12-bore or a white Fiat Panda and decided instead to break off his relationship citing the pressures of his military career and a woman he met in a Bournemouth nightclub.
After four failed years of striving for public recognition, the relationship will be buried on the front pages of the tabloids and the inside pages of the tabloids and the broadsheets for the next six months before being completely forgotten about when William manages to hook up with someone else.
1 The As A Dodo editors wish to point out at this stage that the author of this obituary is of Scottish descent and that his embittered state is, apparently, the product of years spent as a youth believing that his country might actually fail to make fools of themselves in the World Cup. Happily, today this distressing delusional state is found only among English football fans.
15 April 2007
The inhabitants of As A Dodo Towers are pleased to announce (a) their return from their brief Easter absence, (b) their enormous pleasure at the, now confirmed, presence of As A Dodo on the politics shortlist for the estimable Metro/Ask.com Brit Blog Awards 07 and (c) lastly (and almost certainly leastly), the results of the As A Dodo Easter Webpoll, seeking readers' nominations for the relic from the 1970s they would most like to see resurrected:
The constant fear of nuclear annihilation
The Tomorrow People
Jacob Bronowski's Ascent of Man
The Muppet Show
Which data reveal - somewhat disturbingly - (a) that our readers would rather live in constant terror of three-minute warnings and atomic Armageddon than wear tank tops, listen to an Abba 45 or bounce around on the much-maligned Space Hopper and (b) a brilliant and groundbreakingtour d'horizon of the development of human society and the science which helped to create it is nowhere near as fondly remembered as a felt frog with someone's hand up his rear. It's good to be back!
07 April 2007
With As A Dodo Towers closing down for the Easter Break, we regret that we will be unable to provide our readers with the updates they so deeply crave until Monday 16th April. In an effort to minimise the enormous stress this will place upon our readership, we have provided the As A Dodo Easter webpoll (to the right of this page). The results will be announced on our return.
Readers will note that, in the spirit of the season, we are not asking for nominations for an obituary but rather seeking to discover what our readers would like to see resurrected. And in the spirit of exploiting the incomprehensible nostalgia some seem to feel for that decade, we have chosen the 70s as the source of our potential resurrectees.
Until our return, we hope all our readers enjoy whatever festivals their religions or lack of them encourage them to celebrate at this time of year.
06 April 2007
Members of the Catholic church, along with the veil-sellers of Abruzzo, are today mourning the passing of St Veronica's Veil, following the decision of Pope Benedict XVI to remove any reference to it from the Stations of the Cross.
The tale of St Veronica's Veil begins in the 6th century AD, at a time when churches across Europe were all letting it be known that they were stuffed to the rafters with holy relics, which they would be more than happy to allow pilgrims to gawp at or fondle for the price of a small, "well, I say small but, let's not beat about the bush, we're talking about improving the chances of avoiding your soul's eternal confinement in the lowest pits of Hell here" donation to the Church restoration fund.
It was surely a happy coincidence that at exactly this time the tale of St Veronica, a pious woman of Jerusalem in 33AD who wiped the face of Jesus with a cloth as he struggled under the weight of the cross, instantly imprinting a perfect image of Jesus's face upon the cloth ("only three groats a touch, keep the queue moving please"), arose.
The tale of the Veil soon spread throughout Christendom. By now hundreds were willing to asseverate that Veronica had travelled to Rome and used her Veil to heal the ailing Emperor Tiberius (a particularly miraculous event given the fact the Emperor was living on Capri at the time). Veronica's Miraculous Veil was now said to be able to quench thirst, restore sight and even resurrect the dead, though unlike Jamie's Magic Torch it was unable to create a magical helter skelter allowing one to go "over and over, faster and faster to Wonderland".
By the early 8th Century the shroud was so popular that it was given its own Chapel at old Saint Peter's in Rome by Pope John VII. For centuries it moved about Rome (presumably with human aid but who can tell with miraculous objects) until it was brought to Saint Peter's in 1297 by order of Pope Boniface VIII, who was outraged that the Chief site of the Western Church should be facing competition in the relic stakes from several hundred saints bones, enough splinters from the one true cross to build a fleet of ships and all three "one true" holy grails.
During reconstruction work on the basilica in 1506 the Veil disappeared, causing outrage in the Vatican and ensuring the Pope would never use that firm of cowboy builders ever again, however low their quote for the work be. Happily there were on hand many artists with an amazingly exact memory of the appearance of the Veil, all of whom were willing to make copies of it for the Church to sell. Unfortunately the industry reproductions of the Veil for the use of sincere pilgrims soon got out of hand, with so many copies being made that by 1616 Pope Urban V was forced to ban the practice altogether ... unless made by a canon of St Peter's Basilica, of course.
For centuries, the whereabouts of the miraculous Veil remained in question. In 1999, however, Father Heinrich Pfeffer announced that he had rediscovered it in a Capuchin monastery in Manoppello in Italy. All who saw the image were immediately struck by its miraculous nature - particularly as none had expected the true image of their Lord to look so exactly like a bog-standard Mediaeval forgery. Even more miraculous was the fact that St Peter's in Rome, Jaen and Alicante in Spain and the basilica of Sacré Coeur in Paris all claimed that they had the one true version of the Veil locked up in their own churches. Indeed, Pope Benedict was so moved by the sight of the Manopello Veil in 2006 that he went off straight away to have its role in the commemoration in the sixth station of the cross expunged as part of a move to remove the apocrypha from the "authentic" story of the Gospels.
The Veil of St Veronica was buried on Good Friday. It is survived by a new set of Stations of the Cross stripped of their Mediaeval traditions, a modernising Pope who speaks in Latin and thousands of distraught sellers of genuine reproduction Veils of St Veronica (guaranteed 100% natural rayon).
05 April 2007
Having received the following obituary for the recent Iran Hostage Crisis, we at As A Dodo wish to make it plain that we now recognise that entrusting it to our religious correspondent may have been an error, especially at Easter time when his blood sugar was running at a rather higher level than normal, pumped up on Hot Cross Buns and Easter Eggs. We apologise.
Now the feast of Passover drew nigh, as did the anniversary of the birth of the Prophet and of the crucifixion of the Lord and the feast of the giant chocolate eggs, when the Thorntonites do celebrate their profit-spike and do fail to apologise for pronouncing "chocolatier" to rhyme with "musketeer".
And lo fifteen men and women of the British Royal Navy did sail upon the waters of the Gulf, where they did carry out a UN mandated patrol. And while they were patrolling upon the waters a force of Iranians did come among them and did seize them, saying that the waters upon which they patrolled were the waters of Iran, whatever their GPS might say. And so the fifteen did go with them, for they had had no training as to what to do in such circumstances save for a twenty-minute videotape advising them "not to do anything stupid".
And so the fifteen were taken unto Tehran where they were sore afflicted, being forced to wear ill-fitting Iranian suits and to play chess and smoke cigarettes and lark about a bit for the cameras.
And lo there was a voice crying in the wilderness, which is Texas, and that voice did cry "That ain't no way to conduct a snatch operation! Thou shouldst have seized the sailors and placed them in garments of orange and bound their hands and gagged their mouths and hooded their heads. And verily thou shouldst then have rendered them up unto the tender mercies of inquisitors in Egypt or Eastern Europe where the inquisitors might smite them about the head and the body and might attach electrodes to their testicles and set dogs upon them and then baptise them for many minutes at a time, until they do admit whatsoever sins the inquisitors may counsel them, in their mercy, to admit. That is what thou shouldst have done with these enemy combatants for that is what I would have done".
But the lone voice went unheeded and instead there was a wailing and a gnashing of teeth at the viciousness of the conduct of the Iranians towards their captives. And there was a general feeling among the people of America and Britain that they would have acted much better, despite all the evidence that they wouldn't.
And lo upon the thirteenth day the President of Iran, who is Ahmadinejad, and who does believe himself to be an instrument of the Lord most high, in which he is like unto the President of America and the Prime Minister of Britain, did go unto the peoples of the press. And Ahmadinejad did speak unto the peoples of the press, saying "And now is the anniversary of the Prophet's birth and of the crucifixion of him that is called Jesus and the feast of the Passover and a really good time for me to get some good publicity for myself after doing unto the economy of my nation what the peoples of Sodom and Gomorrah didst unto each other and unto their sheep and their goats. And lo, as a show of good will towards the British people and some great PR for myself, I shall release these sailors".
And all the people did cry out saying "Yes, release them", save for one voice that did cry "No, welease Bwian", but the people mocked him for he was a Pythonite.
And so it came to pass that the fifteen were made to appear before the President and shake his hand and thank him for his kindness and then they were returned unto Britain, where they will be hailed in a manner like unto the Lord coming into Jerusalem on the back of an ass before, if I am any judge of the British media, being crucified by the papers in a few days time for having failed to give only their name, rank and serial number, for the British press are a wicked people who shall do anything for a story.
The As A Dodo editors add: The Iran Hostage Crisis will be buried under a large pile of newsprint and a lengthy inquiry into GPS readings. It is survived by a very self-satisfied Iranian President.
04 April 2007
The Slow Train – the backbone of Britain’s “integrated transport system” for nearly two hundred years – has reached its terminus following the news that a French TGV (Train à Grand Vitesse – one of those French phrases which cannot be exactly translated into English but means something like "non-British train" or "untortoiselike means of locomotion that will not break down five miles out of Paddington") has broken the world speed record after travelling at 356mph between Paris and Strasbourg.
The Slow Train was born in 1825 – the offspring of Richard Trevithick’s steam locomotive (which was so slow it was practically stationary) and the desire to transport goods and passengers between points A and B faster than a team of sloths on Diazepam. George Stephenson’s optimistically-named Rocket travelled between Stockton and Darlington at speeds of up to 29mph, although when encumbered with passengers and goods it could only manage a measly 12mph… if moving downhill and with a following wind.
For nearly two centuries, the Slow Train became a feature of everyday British life, much-loved by comedians… and much-hated by anyone who had to make a connection at Crewe by midday, travel between Cardiff and Swansea in under three weeks or failed to appreciate the delights of having their nose pressed into a stranger’s armpit whilst the train stopped inexplicably between stations for longer than even Tantalus had to endure.
With the privatisation of British Rail in the mid-1990s, the Slow Train reached its finest hour (which occurred at least forty-five minutes later than the time printed on the timetable), as first the Conservatives and then Labour ensured that passengers would never again have to experience the horror of travelling faster than a nun on a bicycle or suffer the shock of arriving at their destination on time.
With the news that the French TGV had broken the world speed record for a train on rails1 – moving along the line faster than Keith Richards snorting his father’s ashes – the last Slow Train in Britain (last Tuesday’s 17:42 from Guildford to Woking, expected to arrive a week on Thursday) pulled into a siding and died of shame.
The Slow Train will be buried at the John Major Church of the Privatised Railway. This Service has been delayed and mourners are advised to use other forms of transport to reach their final destination.
The Slow Train is survived by The Stationary Train, The Train Withdrawn From Service and The Train Now Standing At Platform Nine Isn’t a Train – It’s a Virgin Express.
1Despite attempts to prevent the record by three men speaking only schoolboy French, and wearing stripey jumpers, berets, false moustaches and strings of onions, who were later arrested for impersonating French train drivers and named as Jeremy le Clarkfils, James Mais-Oui et Ricard Hammond-Legume.
03 April 2007
Digital Rights Management for music files – the software locks that prevent you playing iTunes music on your Sony Walkman, using your iPod to store tracks from Windows Media Player and makes it much more annoying to make illegal backup copies for personal use of your favourite tunes – has been declared dead following the decision by Apple and EMI to abandon the copyright protection system. Now, for an extra 20p “audiophiles” will be able to download the “music” of Robbie Williams, Coldplay, Joss Stone and Lily Allen and make as many copies as they like for others, thus threatening to drown the globe in an unprecedented deluge of the musical equivalent of magnolia paint.
DRM was born in 1996, the youngest of a whole family of corporate killjoys including 'Home Taping Is Killing Music', 'I Say, Making Copies of Wax Cylinders Just Isn’t Cricket, You Know' and that bit at the beginning of old episodes of Mission Impossible, where Peter Graves only gets to listen to his tape once before it bursts into a puff of smoke.
Like most other music companies, Apple wholeheartedly embraced the use of DRM to prevent piracy, but the plan backfired when they found that once people had downloaded Robbie Williams, Coldplay, Joss Stone and Lily Allen, they didn’t want to make endless copies of the tracks but instead found themselves overwhelmed by a desire to smash their brand new iPod into a thousand pieces before running down Chris Martin with his own Toyota Prius and beating him about the head with a branch hewn from one of his own carbon-offset forests.
Further blows to DRM came when it was realised that they had absolutely no effect on professional pirates who - unimpaired by their peg legs and hook-hands - always managed to break any form of copy-protection in less time than it takes for Steve Jobs to pull on a black turtleneck, leaving only the humble consumer to suffer. And suffer they did, especially in 2005, when it was discovered that some Sony CDs were surreptitiously installing copyright protection on listener's computers, thus interfering with their privacy and affecting the smooth running of Microsoft Windows, even more than Microsoft Windows itself affected the smooth running of Microsoft Windows.
Soon, music-lovers were clamouring for the right to download their favourite tracks to listen to as they pleased – whether on their computer, iPod, MP3 player, burnt to CD, cut to vinyl, taped onto an old C-90 found in their shed or banged out by that spare symphony orchestra they'd left in the attic. As critics began to argue that DRM did less to thwart pirates and more to punish innocent consumers – but not quite as much punishment as being able to listen to Lily Allen’s ironically titled single, Smile over and over again – EMI made the decision to remove the software locks from its digital downloads and DRM was deleted for the last time.
DRM will be buried at the Jolly Pirate public house this weekend. The congregation will download Robbie Williams’ Angels for 99p … and then bury that as well. It is survived by Robbie Williams, Coldplay, Joss Stone and Lily Allen. This Dodo will self-destruct in five seconds.
02 April 2007
The legacy of former Director General of the BBC John Reith, the belief that the purpose of the British Broadcasting Corporation was to "inform, educate and entertain" passed away this weekend after suffering an apoplectic fit while reading that the BBC considers itself "too upmarket".
Lord Reith's Legacy was born in 1938 when the Director General quit his former BBC home for pastures new1 leaving behind him a broadcasting organisation imbued with the, perhaps naive, belief that sometimes people deserve more than they want and that, by producing a broad range of programming including material that might occasionally be in danger of stretching viewers' and listeners' minds and exposing them to new thoughts and ideas, the Corporation could perform a great service to the nation.
For decade after decade, Lord Reith's Legacy saw the BBC building its reputation as one of the world's most respected broadcasters, cleaving to such traditional values as tolerance and respect for others and to its belief that the communication of knowledge is a noble goal, while seeking to bind together the whole nation even in the face of the blight of war, national disaster and the birth of Noel Edmonds.
Year after year the BBC went about its business of informing, educating and entertaining the nation, showering it with the plays of John Osborne, David Hare, Willy Russell, Mike Leigh and Dennis Potter, ground-breaking series like Jacob Bronowski's Ascent of Man and Kenneth Clarke's Civilisation, the satire of That Was The Week That Was and Not the Nine O'Clock News, comedy like Hancock's Half Hour and and the genius of Morecambe and Wise, popular science programming like Tomorrow's World and QED, innovative and penetrating arts programming like Monitor and Arena, films by Ken Russell and Ken Loach, popular dramas from Troy Kennedy Martin, Nigel Kneale, Alan Bleasdale et al. And all this in the face of unending attack from left, right and middle, whether as a "slave of the establishment" or a "member of the politically correct subsidariat".
Despite threats from elected leaders as diverse as Harold Wilson and Margaret Thatcher (not to mention unelected ones like Alastair Campbell), John Reith's legacy soldiered on, willing to fight for some semblance of quality programming, encouraging ITV to follow suit with such excellent programmes as World in Action, Survival, The Jewel in the Crown and Brideshead Revisited and moving Channel 4 to heights of radical invention as it sought out new ways to speak to the less represented members of the nation.
As the years passed, however, the old lion of broadcasting began to age. As its mane became shaggier and its claws less sharp, so a young rival began to bare its teeth. Roaring out a cry of "Foul" at the BBC's license-fee funded programming (whilst making no mention of its own ability to cross-fund itself from the profits - barely taxed by any country - of News International) BSkyB leapt in to make its challenge. Bellowing its buzzwords of "choice" and "diversity" (and keeping absolutely schtum about "low quality" or "expensive subscriptions") it offered a new kind of leadership to the broadcasting pride, a leadership built on the desire to lay one's paws on the largest possible audience, whatever the price. Unhindered by any duty to public service broadcasting, proudly boasting a flagship channel built solely around repeats of The Simpsons and imported sci-fi and backed by the furious might of The Sun, The Times and The News of the World, Sky assaulted Lord Reith's Legacy again and again. Unchallenged by a spineless and spavined regulator, enslaved by an unthinking love for a market most free, or by an eternally prostrate government, desperate to be anointed by the blessed Murdoch, Sky's ascendancy was unstoppable. Soon the other channels fell into place, shuffling their documentaries off to the outer boundaries of the schedules, quietly murdering their arts programmes in their sleep, bludgeoning their science programming with voyeuristic tales of freaks masquerading as sensitive explorations of medical problems.
At last, even the BBC itself - Lord Reith's great gift to the nation - was to fall. Beaten into submission by the unceasing attacks of the press, the vindictiveness of a government unable to forget the BBC's temerity in questioning its desire for war in Iraq, a Chancellor eager to sit at Mr Murdoch's right hand and the cack-handedness of its leader, Mark "Bite Your Arms Off" Thompson, the ageing Corporation at last buckled at the knee and bowed its head. Its concession in an official report that it provided too much "Today" programme and too little Chris Moyles was too heavy a burden for Lord Reith's legacy to bear: on reading the news, the Legacy was stricken by both a heart attack and the massive electro-magnetic forces generated by Lord Reith himself revolving in his grave.
Lord Reith's Legacy will be buried at All Souls Church, Langham Place opposite Broadcasting House. It was predeceased by foreign language films on terrestrial TV, intelligent science programmes on TV, original plays on TV, high-quality arts programming on TV, probing celebrity interviews on TV, intelligent documentaries unrelated to the Nazis or Al Qaida on TV and any kind of programming which might - however briefly - force the viewer to do anything beyond sitting slack-jawed on their sofa and letting the last of their atrophied brain cells drool out onto the floor from their limp lips whilst watching Graham Norton scouring the internet for transsexual Alsatians and alfalfa farmers who dress up as Wonder Woman.
Lord Reith's Legacy is survived by an unmitigated diet of soap opera, cop shows and hospital shows, endless Big Brother, a half-hour Panorama, Horizon presented by Tinky-Winky, Fearne Cotton, Celebrity Fame Academy and Chris Moyles's jackboot stamping on the face of humanity - for ever.
1 (and, admittedly, the chance to write extensive diary entries praising Adolf Hitler)