It is with great sadness that we at As A Dodo must report the passing - during our brief absence celebrating the impending publication of As A Dodo: The Obituaries You'd Like To See (soon to be available at all good bookshops, many bad bookshops, assorted remainder bookshops and many charity bric-a-brac stalls) - of The Second Michael Vaughan, the comically inept and permanently injured would-be cricketer whose farcical antics kept a nation entertained and appalled in equal measure during the enforced absence of Michael Vaughan from the England cricket scene.
The Second Michael Vaughan was born in 2005, when a desperate attempt to save the England cricket team from an inevitable descent into disaster following a severe knee injury to Michael Vaughan, resulted in a - frankly doomed - attempt to clone the inspirational England captain from a dodgy patellar fragment. That the attempt had proved less than successful was apparent from the moment that the newborn Second Michael Vaughan was tapped on the buttock by the midwife and immediately collapsed to the ground in agony whilst crying out "That's no way to treat The Second Michael Vaughan. England need The Second Michael Vaughan".
Moving with their usual swiftness, officials at the England and Wales Cricket Board ("the ECB") erected a cage in which to keep the misbegotten product of their tinkering in the gene pool. That this was to no avail was in part the product of the skill of their quarry but mainly down to the fact that the 17-month consultation process necessary before the ECB does anything meant the cage was only completed many months after The Second Michael Vaughan had fled and, in any event, lacked a lock following representations from the several county chairmen about locks being contrary to the spirit of the game.
Thus, while the real Michael Vaughan stoically set to work in the gym, undergoing hour after punishing hour of rehabilitation in an attempt to recover from an injury that could have destroyed the career of a lesser man, the Second Michael Vaughan was left to roam the outfields of cricketdom, amazing crowds with his extraordinary exploding knee and ability to refer to himself in the first, second, third, fourth, fifth and sixth persons during a single response in an interview.
Excluded from the England set-up following an ill-advised attempt to get a giggle out of England cricket coach Duncan "Less prone to laughter than a Yorkshire undertaker on Thorazine" Fletcher, The Second Michael Vaughan was left to loudly bemoan "The Second Michael Vaughan's" lot while the team went from disaster to disaster. With England suffering a drubbing in the Ashes and humiliation during the world cup, The Second Michael Vaughan's behaviour became increasingly erratic. Some even claim that the disgruntled clone was seen in the Caribbean hiring scuba-gear and an Acme junior torpedo-kit just before the tragic pedalo accident which saw Andrew Flintoff's national hero status going down with all hands.
By the summer of 2007, however, The Second Michael Vaughan was beginning to show signs of frailty. Even as the England team proved themselves unable even to beat a West Indies Test team with plenty of spirit but less cricketing talent than Sir Viv Richards's left testicle, the clone's protestations that England "need The Second Michael Vaughan" were sounding increasingly hollow. While The Second Michael Vaughan had been making a complete tit of itself with its pompous pronouncements, the genuine article had finally returned to fitness. Tired of being made a laughing stock by his William Wilson-esque doppelganger, on Friday 25th May 2007 Michael Vaughan set about mercilessly pounding his idiotic stand-in with a series of glorious and graceful cover drives, pulls, and laser-guided clips through the onside. Though police were called to the scene, all present were willing to attest that the returned England captain had merely acted in self-defence.
The Second Michael Vaughan will be buried at the Mike Gatting-Shakoor Rana Church of the Cricketing Embarrassment. The service will be conducted by an old buffer in a blazer making dodgy jokes about "getting caught by the googlies", "standing at leg slip, legs wide apart waiting for a tickle" and "the batsman's Holding the bowler's Willey".
30 May 2007
It is with great sadness that we at As A Dodo must report the passing - during our brief absence celebrating the impending publication of As A Dodo: The Obituaries You'd Like To See (soon to be available at all good bookshops, many bad bookshops, assorted remainder bookshops and many charity bric-a-brac stalls) - of The Second Michael Vaughan, the comically inept and permanently injured would-be cricketer whose farcical antics kept a nation entertained and appalled in equal measure during the enforced absence of Michael Vaughan from the England cricket scene.
18 May 2007
The As A Dodo Editors are happy to announce that we are about to jet off sneak ourselves into the overhead luggage area of a low-cost flight to enjoy an orgy of spending and sybaritic indulgence buy ourselves a half pint of shandy and a packet of pork scratchings, as we blow the massive understandably tiny advance we have received from the good (if clearly gullible) people at Summersdale Publishers who have kindly (if foolishly) consented to publish As A Dodo: The Obituaries You'd Like To See, a selection of columns from the world's favourite (which is to say the world's only) satirical obituary website. Any of our readers desperate to order this marvellous tome (doubtless alongside their supply of mood-altering pharmaceuticals and attachments for their straitjackets) can do so by checking out the As A Dodo Satire Store or clicking on the Amazon link to the left.
As we take Summersdale's money and see how far we can run with it(1) we leave you safe in the knowledge that we will return, refreshed and renewed on Wednesday 30th May. Many thanks to all our readers - we couldn't have got the poor unfortunate fools to pay us without you.
(1) the current estimate is Frinton-on-Sea
The football world has, for one day, abandoned its ridiculous pay demands, nightclub punch-ups and three-in-a-bed after-hours entertainments to mourn the passing of Jose Mourinho’s Cool, that air of tanned European style, tactical flair and a self-confidence that lesser mortals interpreted as arrogance, which in recent weeks has slipped away to be replaced by a grizzled figure in a tracksuit, much given to ridiculous declarations about opposing teams and claims that Mr Mourinho’s pet Yorkshire terrier, Gullit, was a better finisher than Shevchenko.
From the moment of its birth in Portugal in 1963, Jose Mourinho’s Cool was evident to all, as it held its first press conference (in both Portuguese and English) casually acknowledging the skill of the midwife, protesting at the failure of the referee to book the attending doctor for an obvious slap and, chiefly, praising Mourinho's skill in choosing to be born.
After a childhood of dismissing inferior teachers with a snappy putdown and enlarging upon the magnificence of Mourinho's innate talent, The Cool saw its charge gain a degree in Physical Education without breaking a sweat, or even once shouting at other students that they’d have to do the class in their pants.
Too assured of itself to need to chase a ball up and down the park for 90 minutes, Jose Mourinho’s Cool contented itself with hanging around the stands delivering withering looks to opposition players or admiring itself lovingly in the changing room mirror at half-time, whilst pointing out the manager’s tactical mistakes.
Word of The Cool began to spread, in no small part thanks to Jose Mourinho himself taking every opportunity to remind all and sundry of his superior intelligence, fashion sense and god-like footballing nous. Catching the eye of a desperately unfashionable Bobby Robson, languishing in purgatory in Portugal following England’s comically inept penalty shoot-out in the 1990 World Cup semi-final, The Cool accepted the offer to act as Robson’s interpreter at Sporting Lisbon, Porto FC and at FC Barcelona – where it learned Catalan overnight whilst redesigning Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia to make it more “tasteful” and playing an eight-hour sax solo with Miles Davis.
The Cool's self-confidence and personal magnetism drew players to Mourinho, as they sought alternatives to Robson’s tactical advice to “just hoof it up the field for the big lad to knock it in the back of the net”, alternatives which The Cool was able to provide by offering tips on dead-ball situations, physical fitness advice and clear directions as to where to get a really first-class suit.
It wasn’t long before a stammering and awed Benfica sidled up to The Cool and tugged on its four-button sleeve, shyly asking if Mourinho wouldn’t mind managing their team. Leading them only long enough to realise they were far too lacking in charisma or savoir faire for Mourinho to be their chief, after just nine games The Cool grew bored, shrugged nonchalantly and walked away – clicking its fingers at an adoring Uniao de Leiria who eagerly accepted his kind offer to turn them into a well-groomed outfit – and teach them something about football. A stint at FC Porto, where The Cool won the 2003 Super Liga all by itself after dismissing the team for turning out on the pitch with too much product in their hair, and a triumphant 2004 UEFA Cup final in which it easily outclassed Celtic by mocking their oh-so-last-season shorts and boots, led, ultimately to The Cool’s greatest role.
In 2004, Jose Mourinho’s Cool announced itself to a hushed and adoring world of English football as “The Special One”, immediately eclipsing third-rate purveyors of Hello! magazine ersatz cool like David Beckham. Over the next three years Roman Abramovich’s money The Cool’s superior footballing skills and know-how propelled its new club, Chelsea, to trophy after trophy. Yet worrying signs of stress were already beginning to show, with The Cool occasionally melting in heated verbal assaults attacking referees and fellow managers alike. With year after year passing and failure after failure to win The European Cup, questions began to be asked ... chiefly questions from Roman Abramovich like "Oi, Jose! What is happen to my billions of roubles?" Under greater and greater pressure from club board and fans alike, Jose Mourinho's Cool began to falter, its image tarnished as it battled on in the face of the disastrous decision to buy Andriy Shevchenko, Frank Lampard’s ever-greater delusions of midfield mastery and John Terry's "Village Idiot at Milletts" sense of style.
According to reports from eye-witnesses, The Cool passed away when animal welfare officers called at Jose Mourinho's Belgravia home to put his Yorkshire terrier, Gullit, into quarantine, leaving the once-adored manager to shout “No, please don’t take my lickle-wickle Gullit away!" while stamping on his pipe with his Marks & Sparks slippers and sobbing uncontrollably into the sleeve of his beige Primark cardigan.
Jose Mourinho’s Cool will be buried at the new Wembley Stadium. It is survived by Jose Mourinho’s new range of polyester cardigans and slacks with elasticated waists and Jose Mourinho Dog Biscuits – “For Your Special One”.
17 May 2007
Lovers of British films are today gathering to scatter soggy popcorn on the sticky floors of darkened independent cinemas up and down the country in memory of classic 1980s movie The Long Good Friday, which has passed away following news that it is to get a "Hollywood makeover" from director Paul W S Anderson.
The Long Good Friday was born in 1980, the gritty and resolutely unglamorous tale of gangster Harold Shand's attempts to give some legitimacy to his East End criminal empire by redeveloping London's Docklands in time for the 1988 Olympics, in the face of the threat from IRA terrorists(1). Starring Bob Hoskins, the man who stunned the world in BBC Adult Learning series "On the Move" and dumbfounded critics with his devastating performance in "Super Mario Bros", and Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II (or possibly Helen Mirren), The Long Good Friday was rightly hailed as one of the greatest ever gangster movies, able to stand shoulder-to-shoulder beside such legends as Mike Hodges's savage revenge tale "Get, Carter" and brilliant crime-caper "The Italian Job" in the pantheon of British cinema.
Together this triumvirate would inspire Britons throughout the 80s, 90s and noughties to believe that they could create movies capable of standing against Hollywood's best without always having to resort to long, slow pans across rolling countryside and Helena Bonham-Carter/Kate Winslet in a bosom-flattering Georgian frock or getting Richard Curtis to write yet another piece of heartwarming drivel about how a floppy-haired, repressed Brit living in a racially-segregated London where it always snows at Christmas can be saved from disaster by the presence of a moderately bankable Hollywood star name.
Yet the mere fact of greatness has never ensured proper recognition. Soon the British gangster movie was not merely inspiring the great and the good but also the not-so-great, the frankly-indifferent and the bloody awful. Where once giants like Harold Shand and Jack Carter had stalked Britain's grimy streets, now they were filled with British bratpackers, desperate to prove their serious acting credentials and get over the fact that daddy ran a drama school/was a former Doctor Who by dropping the odd aitch and "giving it large" ... and Guy Ritchie.
Such an end would be piteous enough but worse was to come. Concerned by the respect that was still being shown in some quarters to the ageing British threesome, the big boys over in Hollywood decided to send hitmen across the pond to sort the trio out. The first to fall was The Italian Job, knocked down by a BMW-owned Mini Cooper in a Los Angeles street far from its Milanese home. Next came Get Carter, mysteriously plunged into a river of bad notices, weighed down by a concrete-shoed performance from Sylvester Stallone.
Only The Long Good Friday was left. Hunted through the streets of London, it was eventually cornered in an East End abattoir, where it was hung from a meat-hook for days, its mangled corpse later being discovered dumped on a Miami Street by the director responsible for such luminous moments of cinema as "Mortal Kombat" and "Resident Evil".
The Long Good Friday will be buried alongside the rapidly-rotating coffins of Get Carter and The Italian Job. All three are survived by fond memories of the originals, dreadful remakes and, with any luck, a British version of Chinatown set in Somerset starring Justin Lee Collins, its final line "Forget it Jake, this is Nempnett Thrubwell"
(1) devotees of NORAID are requested to read "IRA terrorists" as craic-loving, happy-go-lucky freedom fighters, who never blew up an innocent person without a smile on their lips and song in their heart.
We at As A Dodo Towers wish to apologise to our readers for yet another massive cock-up serious errors in our obituary for Prince Harry's Bad Boy Reputation. We have been contacted by officials at Clarence House who have asked us to note that senior Army officers have now realised that it is entirely possible that as (a) a soldier in the British army and (b) in all probability the son of the heir to the throne, there is some slight chance of the young Prince being targeted by those opposing the British and American presence in that benighted land(1). Indeed we further understand from reports in the British press (apparently based on a conversation with someone in the pub, who knows a bloke who knows a bloke who once read Andy McNab's "Bravo Two Zero") that orders have already been issued to an unidentified (and almost certainly fictional) sniper to regard Prince Harry as his sole target(2). In the circumstances we have been asked to point out that Prince Harry will not now be joining his regiment in Iraq and, accordingly, his Bad Boy Reputation will, far from being dead, continue to get drunk at West End nightclubs, dress up in Nazi regalia and punch the odd journalist just for the hell of it.
We apologise most sincerely for any distress our report may have caused to either the Prince's family or to tabloid editors desperate for a Royal story for the front page.
(1) currently understood to be everyone in Iraq except the guy with the lucrative illicit booze contract for the US forces at Baghdad's Camp Justice.
(2) we are further advised that Mohammed Al fayed's lawyers are now seeking to have the current inquest into Diana, Princess of Wales, ruled a nullity owing to the refusal of the coroner, Baroness Butler-Sloss to allow them to call this same fictional sniper to give evidence.
16 May 2007
Hundreds of middle class parents are today tearing up their 11-plus practice papers and bitterly lamenting the thousands they forked out for extra tuition in a desperate attempt to get their Nintendo DS-addicted Julian and Poppy through the 11-plus examination, following the announcement by Conservative Education spokesman David Willetts that the Grammar School has failed its final test and been condemned to the great Secondary Modern in the sky.
Though it could trace its origins back to Anglo-Saxon colleges of Latin grammar - where young Aelwulf, Leofric and Bede could learn exactly how to say that the slave of Caecilius was serving dormice at the orgy of the Emperor - the modern Grammar School was only born in 1944, following the passing of the Butler Education Act, which offered the children of domestic servants the chance not to follow in their fathers' footsteps.
In its early years the Grammar School was a popular child, with many friends on both the left and right of the political spectrum. Alongside its brothers, the Technical College and the Secondary Modern School, it promised to sweep away class divisions, granting a proper education to all and offering a real chance of advancement to any child. All this was to be achieved by the "11-plus" examination, under which each and every child at the age of 11 (that is, each and every child whose parents could not afford to opt out of the system and buy Nigel a nice place at Eton despite his inability to add two and two together without making "zebra") was categorised according to their ability to say 'what is to "hand" as "hat" is to "head"' and what time the 11.32 from St Pancras will be derailed by the 12.27 from Nottingham if both are travelling at 120mph. Soon children up and down Britain found themselves being divided up and allotted to their appropriate schools, with those who passed their 11-plus going on to Grammar Schools and those who didn't instead being offered a more vocational education at Secondary Moderns and Technical Colleges, which process left them completely untraumatised and in no way conscious of failure.
Despite this, the Grammar School had barely entered its teens when questions began to be raised about its fitness, as more and more people began to notice that larger and larger proportions of the pupils at Grammar School (by now usually referred to by their parents as "the clever ones") were middle-class while more and more of those at the other schools (by now usually referred to by the parents of the children at Grammar School as "the thickies") were working-class. Despite this, the Grammar School's fond parents in Westminster continued to dote upon it (and upon the votes of all those middle-class parents), even to the extent of lavishing money on it at its siblings expense. While the young Alan Bennetts of the Grammar School were enjoying after-school clubs where they discussed classical music recordings and enjoyed the attentions of fat, fond teachers with a liking for conducting lessons in French and quoting lines from "Now, Voyager", teenage children at London Secondary Moderns were sitting on chairs made for nine-year-olds and learning how to hit pieces of wood with a hammer.
Matters went from bad to worse as the 11-plus system itself came under fire, when it was found that the main test for whether a child on the borderline of passing should be sent to the Grammar or the Secondary Mod was to take him or her to the nearest WC and see if they referred to it as a lavatory or a toilet. With the frightening realisation that if the results of an IQ test really did reveal who would be the future rulers of the country then we could soon expect our sceptered isle to fall into the hands of the selection-of-biros-in-the-right-shirt-pocket geeks and weirdos from Mensa, the writing was on the wall for the Grammar School - in the form of a derogatory statement hastily scribbled by a pupil from a new rival, the Comprehensive School, which outrageously offered every child the same education irrespective of their background.
Nonetheless, the Grammar was to struggle on. While it soon found itself unwelcome in many parts across Britain, it still had many powerful friends. For decades it was able to rely on the support of thousands of parents eager to see Toby and Pippa do better than those children on the council estate they met at primary school while at the same time being reluctant to splash out thousands on public school fees. Even stauncher was the support the Grammar received from the Conservative Party. Yet all seemed doomed when, in 1997, the Labour Party swept to power and with it arrived an Education Secretary, David Blunkett, pledged to end all selection and break down class barriers - a goal he bizarrely attempted to achieve by mingling with the upper classes at parties held by The Spectator.
Even at this darkest hour, The Grammar School somehow found strength to struggle on, quietly whispering to senior members of the Labour Party how badly its death would play in the Daily Mail and how well the children of those very same party members might do if they got to go to a nice selective school rather than the local "bog-standard" Comprehensive.
Yet how often the best laid plans gang agley. The Grammar School had sown the seeds of its own destruction. Even as the Government reneged on its promises to end selection, so it created a new rival for The Grammar: the Academy. Young and fresh, the Academy was unhindered by the Grammar's historical baggage. It was backed by rich and powerful businessmen, eager to indoctrinate the young give something back to the community. It was able to select its pupils in more under-the-counter ways, seeking "aptitude" where the Grammar had clung to "IQ" and even interviewed pupils to check their suitability where the Grammar had been increasingly forced to stick to the arid results of an exam. It was little surprise when the Academy won even the heart of the Conservative Party and, increasingly unloved, ever-more-confused and unable even to find the hidden four-letter-word in the sentence "Roger paid over the asking price for his peerage", The Grammar School sang the school song (in Latin) no more.
The Grammar School will be buried at St Cameron's Church of the Apostasy. The Reverend David Willetts will preside. The hymn will be the number that completes the sequence 12,12,13,15,18.
The Grammar School is survived by the Academy, the Faith School, the Public School, the Trust School and, just barely, by the Comprehensive School.
15 May 2007
Gordon Brown’s Dourness, the permanent scowl which resided upon the Chancellor's face for so many years has died, passing away - by some strange cosmic coincidence - at exactly the same time as his best friend, Tony Blair, announced his decision to stand down as Labour leader.
Gordon Brown’s Dourness was born in 1994 when a perfectly good lunch with Tony Blair at Islington’s Granita restaurant left a nasty taste in his mouth. Before that dreadful moment when he nearly choked on his organic glass of water and small piece of stale bread julienne, Gordon had been the life and soul of every Labour Party meeting and late-into-the-night trade union function – entertaining party members and comrades alike with his hilarious impression of Tony Blair impersonating Margaret Thatcher. The meal at Granita at which Tony claimed first dibs on being Labour leader was to change everything – including the wind – which is why Gordon’s face stuck like that for the next 13 years.
Over the years Gordon Brown’s Dourness deepened, particularly when in the company of his best friend Tony Blair. In public it presented an unchanging granite mask to the world and called for “fiscal prudence”, whilst privately hammering on the dividing wall of Number Ten in the wee small hours and shouting drunkenly for Tony to “Give me back my party, you lying, back-stabbing git”.
It was when Tony Blair finally set the date for his departure from office that cracks began to appear in the stony visage that had for so long been a gift to Britain's leading impressionists (and Jon Culshaw). By the following day Gordon Brown himself was even overheard cracking a joke (“Knock, Knock, Tony … Who’s there…? The removal men … !”). Things went from bad to worse for The Dourness as it suffered the indignity of a new, trendy haircut and, during a walkabout, Gordon Brown was seen cheerily tousling the hair of a small boy – although this was later discovered to be Ruth Kelly, who had to go home immediately and whip herself clean.
Even a challenge to Gordon’s leadership bid from left-wing Labour MP, John McDonnell, failed to halt the rapid decline of The Dourness (indeed, the comical surprise of discovering that the Labour Party still harboured a left-wing MP left it even more weakened). As Gordon began to skip merrily from press conference to photo opportunity, humming “This is the Dawning of the Age of Aquarius” and expounding his vision of a new Britain full of eco-towns, LSD on the NHS and tie-die uniforms for the British Army in Iraq, Gordon Brown’s Dourness fell into its last sulk and was no more.
Gordon Brown’s Dourness has already been buried in an unmarked grave. Close friends and family sang an up-tempo version of “Dear Prudence” – though best friend, Tony Blair, was unable to attend. It is survived by Gordon Brown’s Mirth, Gordon Brown’s Delight, Gordon Brown’s Ecstasy and David Cameron.
14 May 2007
As A Dodo regrets to inform its readers that the following obituary for the much-loved Eurovision song contest was compiled for us by our popular music correspondent, who has now been invited to make use of the pearl-handled revolver we gave her or, even worse, apply to be Britain's entry in next year's competition.
The Eurovision Song Contest has met its Waterloo, warbling its last “boom-bang-a-le-boop-boop “ and fielding its final trans-gendered contestant dolled up in the kind of spangly costume not seen since Space 1999, after tactical voting saw Serbia snatch victory from more deserving musical talent ... and Britain’s Scooch.
The Eurovision Song Contest was born in the post-war years to foster European co-operation and unite a continent torn asunder by the First World War (started after Bosnian would be pop-idol Gavrilo "the artist formely known as" Princip assassinated Austria's Arch Duke Franz Ferdinand over the rights to their single "Take Me Out" [might need checking]) and the Second World War (when Germany and Britain fell out again over Nena's failure to use a razor and/or depilatory cream before making her video for "99 Luftballons" [Hmm ... might need checking too]).
It was in 1956 that Eurovision first chose to abandon the continent's vast musical heritage and take up the mittel-European oompah-oompah beat and the nonsensically onomatopoeic lyric in a seven-nation tussle in Switzerland – a contest won by the Swiss (thanks to strong support from a grateful German jury) with their enchanting rock ‘n’ yodel number “The Laughing Gnomes of Zurich”.
In its early years, winners of the Eurovision Song Contest were guaranteed to go on to even greater success as mature, ground-breaking songwriters and performers. The cream of popular musicians fought to take part in the contest with, for example, The Beatles proudly representing their country in 1969 with “All You Need Is Boom-Bang-A-Le-Boop-Boop Ob-La-Di, Love”. Although, sadly, they finished second to France who romped home with Jacques Brel’s up-tempo number “La Vie Est Mort” – thanks to douze points from his home country Belgium, and most of the permanently depressed Scandinavian nations. [Actually, I'm not too sure about this bit either]
Slowly, the sweet music of a harmonious musical competition began to be drowned out. The complex harmonies, sublime melodies and profound lyrical subtexts of the early Eurovision performers soon gave way to simple Euro-disco rhythms, grating vocals and inane choruses lifted from Esperanto greetings cards. Baltic states and former Soviet satellites shared out their votes in a collective fashion, Greece and Cyprus supported each other through thick and thin and everyone voted for Ireland time and time again in order to avoid the crippling financial burden of hosting the contest.
It was in Helsinki, however, that the once-great competition was finally reduced to a mockery. Throughout the evening, plucky Western European band after plucky Western European band was felled in its prime by the massed texted votes of the Eastern Voting Bloc. Even Scooch, Britain’s plucky band of crapck musicians, cunningly disguised as a bunch of Butlins redcoats dressed up as cabin stewards on Air Latex, received nul points after nul points, leaving Serbia to snatch the laurel crown. Thus was the death knell sounded (in the wrong key) and so Eurovision was no more.
The Eurovision Song Contest will be buried at the European Broadcasting Union Church of St Jude the Pointless. The service will be conducted by two perma-tanned celebrities you’ve never heard of, with a mocking audio commentary on their performance provided by the Reverend Wogan. The congregation will sing Hymn number 278 "Oobie-Shalala-Bim-Bam-Bom-De-Doo-Doo-Doo-De-Dah-Dah-Dah-
Awopbopaloobop-Doobie-Tra-la-la", accompanied by Mr Harris on the Church Souzaphone..
The Eurovison Song Contest is survived by Coldplay, U2, James Blunt, ringtones, advertising jingles, singing in the shower and laryngitis.
12 May 2007
11 May 2007
As A Dodo is sorry to relay the bad news that Burying Bad News itself has died following an unsuccessful attempt by the new Ministry of Justice to announce a massive increase in the cost of the ID card scheme on the day that the media and every man, woman, child, cat, dog and budgie (except Gordon Brown) were paying their last respects to the glorious Premiership of Tony Blair.
Burying Bad News was born over 100,000 years ago, when news of Ug the Hunter's decision (having been advised by Thrug the Lazy) to dig his mastodon trap only one-foot deep – thus endangering the whole tribe - was released just after the neighbourhood volcano erupted, in a piece of news management so successful that it buried not only the bad news about the ineffective and dangerous mastodon trap but also the entire village and everyone in it.
Burying Bad News quickly became a popular method for damage limitation. At first it was mainly used among small groups, such as the time the bad news about burning down the village (itself only recently reconstructed after that nasty incident with the mastodon trap and the volcano) was announced on the day of the discovery of fire. Soon, however, the practice came to the attention of politicians and personalities in the public eye. It was not long before anyone who was anyone was Burying Bad News: Jesus's disciples announcing the financial collapse of their Christmas Club scheme on the day of his crucifixion, King Harold revealing his long-concealed "large-piece-of-wood-in-the-eye allergy" on the day of William the Conqueror’s victorious Hastings away match, and Galileo confessing he had been using his newfangled telescope to spy on his neighbour’s comely wife on the same day the newspapers were full of his claims about the Earth revolving around the Sun.
By the 20th century Burying Bad News had truly came of age. News of Neville Chamberlain’s ingrown toe-nail, which had been kept from the British public for fear of a causing a loss of faith in the government and a run on the Stock Market, was finally announced to the press on September 3rd 1939 as Hitler’s tanks rolled into Poland (a story that was itself almost kept off the front pages by a crushing defeat of the England cricket team in a friendly match at the hands of the St Barnston’s C of E Primary School 2nd XI).
In the 1960s, news that Paul McCartney had died at the age of 28 (knocked down on a zebra crossing in Abbey Road) was deemed of lesser interest to a nation in the grip of Beatlemania than the terrible news that Ringo had written his first song. And in the 1970s all sorts of bad news about three-day weeks, the threat of nuclear annihilation and the decline of Britain as an international power were buried under dire warnings of the possibility of new singles by the Goombay Dance Band.
It was with the arrival of Tony Blair’s New Labour government in 1997 that the dark arts of his spin doctors exalted Burying Bad News to the position of a new religion – as everything from Peter Mandelson's manifold "resignations" to the Prime Minister's desire to destroy the threat of Weapons of Mass Destruction by invading the Moon was kept from the British public by being announced on the day of either a major plot twist in EastEnders or news of a David Beckham haircut.
However, when a leaked email from Labour spin doctor Jo Moore suggesting that the attack on New York on 9/11 might be a “good day to bury bad news”, the age-old ruse began to weaken. The media became ever more cynical about news management and Burying Bad News found itself frequently blinking uncomfortably in the public spotlight.
And so it was that on a day of national gnashing and wailing, as Mr Blair announced his plans to stand down in six weeks time, the news of a further £840 million increase in the cost of taking a digital fingerprint of every man, woman, child, cat, dog and budgie in Britain (and charging them for it) was released to jaded and mistrusting journalists and broadcasters who, desperate for some real news to report, pounced on the story like a herd of angry mastodons. And so it was that Burying Bad News passed away.
Burying Bad News will be buried on the day of a much more important story – like Tony Blair rising on the third day or Paris Hilton’s release from prison. It is survived by bad news broadcasting, especially on BBC News 24 and Fox News.
10 May 2007
The streets of Britain were today filled with weeping hordes as a great portion of humanity gathered to greet the passing of the Premiership of Tony Blair with tears of unalloyed joy.
To understand the Premiership, one must first understand its parents. Its father was a Labour Party desperate to return to power after the bruising humiliation of defeat in 1992 by John Major's Conservatives (a group who had the economic know-how of George IV, the political savoir-faire of Neville Chamberlain and the deep moral sense of Aleister Crowley). Like so many beings of a certain age, the Party decided that the best way to prove its continuing virility was to abandon its long-term partner, Socialism, and take up with younger lovers, in this case two bright young MPs - Gordon Brown and Tony Blair.
Soon the Party was shucking off its cloth cap, sticking its whippet in a bag with a couple of bricks and locking itself away with Tony one night, Gordon the next, to make mad passionate love to the free market and globalisation. It was following one of these wild nights with the Party that Tony met Gordon in Islington's "Granita" restaurant to announce that he was expecting the party leadership. Luckily for all, Gordon took the news stoically, pausing only to stab his hand with a fork in frustration and extract a solemn pledge from Tony that he would one day hand over the leadership to him, before congratulating his rival for the Labour Party's love whilst keeping his fingers crossed behind his back.
And who was the Party's new paramour? Anthony Charles Lynton Blair had the assets to turn any ageing Party's head: he was young, he had a nice smile and he had an extraordinary ability to fully and honestly believe what he was saying at any given moment - an ability he showed from an early age, casting himself as a through-and-through Englishman despite having been born and educated in Scotland(1), not to mention watching Jackie Milburn play for Newcastle United from the, completely fictional at the time, seats behind the goal at St James, stowing away on the utterly non-existent Newcastle-Barbados plane service and - most impressively of all - standing four-square behind the 1983 Labour manifesto's call for nuclear disarmament and for the country to quit the EEC while privately informing his selection conference that he disagreed with both policies.
By the time of his maiden speech he was informing the Commons and the nation that he believed in socialism because it stood for "cooperation, not confrontation; for fellowship, not fear. It stands for equality" - words which can happily stand in the Hall of Historically Ironic Speeches alongside Margaret Thatcher's quotation of St Francis's Prayer in 1979, "Where there is discord, may we bring harmony. Where there is error, may we bring truth. Where there is doubt, may we bring faith. And where there is despair, may we bring hope" not to mention General John Sedgwick's "They couldn't hit an elephant at this dist...".
Utterly infatuated by the youthful Blair, the Party cast aside all that it once believed in, whether it be promises to raise income tax and restore trade union rights, pledges to pursue nuclear disarmament or even its long-held desire to "secure for the workers by hand or by brain the full fruits of their industry and the most equitable distribution thereof that may be possible upon the basis of the common ownership of the means of production, distribution, and exchange, and the best obtainable system of popular administration and control of each industry or service" (a desire which was in any event so wordy that the Party usually managed to forget what it was going on about half way through reading it), all in the burning need to be seen as "New".
And so, having reduced his lover to a besotted devotee, ready to do anything its new leader wanted for the slightest chance of successfully getting up an election, and aided by a Conservative party which, under John Major, evinced all the togetherness and discipline of a member of the Yugoslav Federation, Tony Blair found himself ready to give birth to his Premiership.
The Premiership was born on 2nd May 1997. Like the Roman people, exhausted by the cruel and incompetent rule of Tiberius, gleefully saluting their new emperor Caligula, so the British people, exhausted by the cruelty of the Thatcherites and incompetence of the Majorites, gleefully saluted their new Prime Minister as, flanked by his loyal Praetorian guard of spin doctors, he swept into Number 10 Downing Street.
Young and bold, the Premiership moved with a reckless pace, acting swiftly on its greatest priorities - such as evicting Downing Street cat Humphrey from its long-time home for fear of aggravating Cherie's allergies. Sadly, the Premiership's greatest enemy - the very same Gordon Brown who had given it his blessing in Granita - was already acting with even greater swiftness, choosing to prove his own New Labour credentials by throwing away years of party tradition and centuries of governmental responsibility by privatising the Bank of England.
Though briefly distracted by the need to produce the appropriate strained expression and catch in the voice around the time of the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, the Premiership was soon to strike back at Chancellor Brown. While the brooding figure at Number 11 contented himself with taking benefits away from single mothers, the wholesale privatisation of both the nation's assets and almost all public-sector investment, and restricting pension increases to 75p, Mr Blair was embarking on a series of wide-ranging reforms, introducing devolution, removing peers from the House of Lords, passing the Freedom of Information Act and creating the post of Mayor of London. All were hailed as great successes. Unfortunately the Premiership itself was later to regret each and every one of them, even trying to nobble the mayoral vote by putting up a joke candidate, former Health Secretary and full-time Santa impersonator Frank Dobson. Happily, the Premiership had other strings to its bow. Unhappily one of them was the Millennium Dome, a folly on an (this being prior to the attempts to win the World Cup 2006 for England, the Olympic funding farce and, indeed, the Iraq war) unimaginable scale, which sought to commemorate the past thousand years by putting a big tent on some disused wasteland and filling it with exhibits so staggeringly tacky they could have been "lovingly handcrafted" for the Franklin Mint.
By the end of its first term, however, the Premiership was able to boast one unalloyed success(2): the Northern Irish peace process. At last there was an achievement Mr Blair felt able to call completely his own, even despite the fact much of the spade work had actually been done by Mr Major.
Buoyed by this knowledge, the memory of the dark days under John Major and housing prices rising faster than a city trader's bonus, Tony Blair's Premiership was swept back to power in 2001.
With Mr Brown once more seeking to demonstrate his mastery of domestic politics, this time by giving oodles of cash to educational and health bodies whose idea of fiscal planning was to drop all their new money into a big hole in the ground in the hope it might grow into a money tree, Mr Blair knew he would have to look elsewhere to make an impression.
Having already discovered the enormous kudos that could be won by blowing places up following his intervention in the Yugoslav conflict, he was delighted to find that the new President of the United States of America was intent on destabilising as much of the globe as possible, by tearing up any treaties he could find and sending troops to anywhere Dick Cheney told him to Halliburton could find reconstruction work democracy needed spreading(3). Soon Bush and Blair were bringing the benefits of all their skills to bear on Iraq, seeking to convince the world that it constituted an imminent threat to peoples across the globe - despite there being absolutely no credible evidence to back them up - and, when the world refused to agree with them, going ahead and blowing Iraq up anyway.
Not only did the Iraq war have the effect of giving Mr Blair the opportunity to pose with tanks and try to sound Churchillian, the hatred and suspicion it stirred up, combined with the activities of groups such as Al Qaeda, also gave him - along with a succession of Home Secretaries all of whom regarded Genghis Khan as a namby-pamby liberal - the opportunity to bring in more and more repressive legislation and restrict further and further the freedom of the individual. With more and more ASBOs, instant fines, powers of detention without charge, supervision orders, soon the prisons were filled to overflowing.
Despite all this and more(4) the Premiership somehow succeeded in returning to power once more in 2005. However, none who looked upon it could doubt that it was wounded, even as they noted that the majority of the wounds were self-inflicted. Worse was yet to come when it became clear that, in accordance with immemorial practice, the Government had been merrily sending major party donors towards the ermine outfitters and seats in the House of Lords with all the speed and urgency normally associated with one's bladder suddenly realising that it contains eight pints of Special Brew and it's a long journey to the lavatories. Thus it was that the Premiership saw Mr Blair become the first Prime Minister to be interviewed by police whilst in office, even as eternal rival Gordon Brown at last plucked up courage to insist that Mr Blair set a timetable for his departure.
So it was that, despite a sincere desire to do good, Tony Blair's Premiership passed away, Mr Blair having found himself in charge of a country where the rich have got much richer, widening the gap between themselves and the poor to an unbridgeable gulf; where our children are increasingly segregated by race and/or religion from the moment they enter their schools, at which they may well be taught that the world is mere thousands of years old and the theory of evolution is a lie; where our streets are littered with CCTV cameras and our every detail is recorded on computer; where the poor cannot afford a home and the young cannot afford an education; where Muslims feel themselves vilified by their fellow Britons and other Britons feel fear of their Muslim compatriots; where destitute refugees seeking succour are reviled as spongers and denied the basics of existence; where our prisons are bursting while a hysterical media whips up fear of crime in the streets; and where our armed forces are sent to die on foreign fields in a hopeless cause.
The remains of Tony Blair's Premiership will tour the globe over the next seven weeks, before being buried on 27th June at St Gordon's Church of the Best Served Cold. Buried alongside it will be the corpse of its pet bulldog, John Prescott. It is survived by a country which is more confrontational and less co-operative; for fear, not fellowship and is far, far less equal than it should be.
(1) This is the reverse of the ability of certain university students to insist that they are Irish - running around in heavy sweaters, swilling pints of Guinness, listening to folk music and going on endlessly about "the craic" and "me da''" - despite having been no nearer to Ireland than an accidental trip to Kilburn after failing to get off at Finchley Road on the tube.
(2) or two if you count the brilliant way Mr Blair made sure the smoking ban didn't apply to Bernie Ecclestone's Formula One championship.
(3) unless the place democracy need spreading was North Korea, China, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Burma, Oman, Qatar, Florida &c &c
(4) top-up fees, the David Kelly affair, Foundation hospitals to name just a few
09 May 2007
Shopkeepers are today ringing up their tills, bank tellers collecting their P45s and the homeless asking passersby if they can "spare an electronic cash card reader" as they lament the passing of Petty Cash, which has today fallen out of the pocket of history and plummeted through the grating of oblivion, following the announcement of a new generation of touch-and-pay cards.
Petty Cash was born in about 100,000BC, the smallest and weakest child of Money - the revolutionary scheme to exchange livestock, shiny things or unwanted family members for goods and services. No sooner had early man found a way of purchasing the necessaries of a neolithic hunter-gatherer's life, from simple tools and weapons all the way up to bashful (in the literal sense) brides or even flatscreen cave paintings, than he began to ponder how he was to purchase the littler things in life, such as the odd root, a few berries, or a swift pint of fermented mammoth milk without having to break the piggy (or, rather, wild boar) bank. So it was that he hit on the idea of dividing up his shells/lump of red ochre/bits of jewellery/smilodon teeth into smaller pieces, and thus Petty Cash was born.
Petty Cash was to prove an instant hit (except with smilodons, who quickly became tired of being punched in the mouth by passing cavemen in search of some spare change for a packet of mammoth scratchings from the bar). It was light, it was portable and - unlike previous forms of wealth such as livestock or slaves - it didn't start to smell funny if you forgot to feed and water it regularly.
By around 550BC, money was being doled out around the Mediterranean in the form of salt, making Petty Cash even more popular as medical advisers realised that using more than a teaspoon of your wages a day was likely to cause a massive rise in blood pressure.
It was with the arrival of coinage that Petty Cash was really to come into its own. Not only was it now easily portable, it was also in a form ideal for sticking in the Samian vase in the consortio's vestibulum to cover minor expenses such as an emergency new thong for a broken sandal, a couple of lark's tongues for lunch or a minor bribe to a petty official to ensure no one sent in the centurions to break up the orgy. Even better, with all those coins looking so similar to each other, less honest employees soon realised that it might be quite a while before anyone noticed if one or two went missing, and thus the ancient and noble pastime of fiddling the Petty Cash was born.
For centuries Petty Cash enabled mankind to carry out minor transactions without needing to open up the great money chest, unlock the safe or, as the case may be, plead for hours with accounts department. And yet, despite its extraordinary usefulness, by the 21st Century Petty Cash found itself unloved: its coinage ruined the lines of ultra-skinny jeans and bulged out of micro-clutchbags, its accessibility opened it up to the light-fingered and its simple existence in physical form threatened to force banks to do something more than merely bunging ones and zeros round on the internet whilst charging their customers vast amounts for the privilege.
For years the downfall of Petty Cash had been predicted but now the forces were in place to ensure such predictions would come true. By the mid-noughties, Petty Cash found itself assailed on all sides, by micropayments on the internet, by instant transactions on mobile phones and even by London Underground, with its Oyster card payment system. The death knell was to come with the announcement by Visa and Mastercard that their credit cards would soon double as electronic cash, allowing owners to charge them up with small amounts of money and make payments up to £10 simply by touching them to a special reader. With even minor cash fiddles being quicker and easier to perform with a click of the mouse than a dip into the till, Petty Cash found itself alone and unwanted. And so it passed away.
Petty Cash will be buried at The Church of St Stephen the "What do you mean there was ten quid in there, I'm sure it was only a fiver", in a black-lacquered tin with a broken lock next to the stationery cupboard. Well-wishers are requested to send flowers and definitely not electronic money.
08 May 2007
The Compilation Tape, that marvel of magnetic sound recording that allowed a generation of men to woo women with a collection of their favourite tracks – and a generation of women to listen for two minutes before recording Abba's Greatest Hits over the lovingly-crafted tribute – has passed away following electrical retailer Currys decision to stop selling audio cassettes.
Though the audio cassette was born in the early 60s, it wasn’t until the 1970s that the male of the species hit upon the romantic potential of ham-fistedly hitting “Play” and “Record” just after Peter Powell stopped his intro and, psychically, hitting “Stop” before he started talking again – a technique which if completed successfully could result in a swoon-inducing 40-second version of 10cc’s “I’m Mandy (Fly Me)”.
For years men plugged on relentlessly at their task, despite the fact that thanks to Peter Powell and every other trans-Adlandically toned DJ, from Tony “Don’t leave me, Tessa” Blackburn, through Dave "The Hairy Arse" Lee Travis, Simon “You Won’t Feel A Thing” Bates and Bruno "Oh Dear God Please Make It Stop" Brookes – the chances of a lovestruck, hormonally-confused male recording anything other than a couple of bars of the latest smash from the Hit Parade were about as slim as the chances of the aforementioned male getting his leg over.
With the advent of separate cassette decks and turntables, the Compilation Tape found its popularity growing ever greater. Now men could spend hours, if not days, locked in the dank fug of their bedrooms, beavering away feverishly in order to demonstrate their encyclopaedic musical knowledge, cultural sophistication, emotional depth and desire to get their end away with prove their undying and noble love for the barmaid who had smiled at them… no really… whilst handing them a bag of pork scratchings with their pint of Double Diamond.
C-90s (sometimes, daringly, even C-120s) were painstakingly filled with lovingly sequenced music from Motown to Morrisey, from that criminally overlooked Bulgarian psychedelic B-side to obscure cover versions of unknown songs by even lesser known bands (only available on rare Japanese imported 45s… in pink vinyl) – and all punctuated by the seductive thump, hiss and crackle of the needle hitting the vinyl too hard.
With the advent of younger, more exciting recording technologies – such as the minidisc, the rewritable CD and mp3 – that could do it longer, more frequently (and oh-so-much-more quickly…) The Compilation Tape suddenly found itself out-performed and, soon thereafter, cruelly spurned. Crushed by the knowledge that the wow and flutter wasn’t the music of the inamorata’s quickening pulse but the mechanical failure of the cassette player as it chewed its way through the definitive live version of Bruce Springsteen’s “Hungry Heart”, it slurred slowly to an end as The Tape became caught in the mechanism, crinkling its last.
The Compilation Tape will be consigned to the dusty cardboard box in the attic or, worse, cruelly dumped. The service will be conducted by the Right Reverend Nick Hornby and the congregation will sing along with Dave’s “I Love You, Cheryl - 1987” C-90, wiping away a tear of joyous reminiscence to Human League’s “Love Action”, sniggering into the hand-written liner notes at Englebert Humperdinck’s “Lesbian Seagull”, guffawing uncontrollably to Salt ‘n Pepa’s “Push It” and thinking “Ooh, that’s a bit creepy” to The Police’s “Every Breath You Take (I’ll Be Watching You).
It is survived by the CD Compilation, the iMix and the continuing failure of men to understand that if they spent some time with their significant others rather than locking themselves up with their mp3's they might stand half a chance of getting somewhere.
As A Dodo Note: The Compilation Tape was predeceased by the Computer Tape, which itself had given millions of socially-alienated 1980s teens one more reason to consider suicide as Manic Miner/Chuckie Egg/Way of the Exploding Fist - their only escape from a cruel and uncomprehending world - failed to load for the thirteenth time.
07 May 2007
The As A Dodo Editorial Staff would like to thank noted man of French letters French man of letters Jacques Derigueur for penning the following obituary for this year's French Presidential Elections, which passed away yesterday. Sadly, having read the piece, we feel unable to do so.
Ah oui. Today la belle Marianne, symbol of our great country, lies back in her bed, exhausted, satiated, as she ponders the deep mystery that has passed between her and the French Presidential elections.
Where did it all begin? Let me, like Proust, savour for a moment a tea-soaked morsel of madeleine and be invaded by the sudden pleasure of memory. I can picture the scene even now: it was but a few weeks ago that Marianne found herself in peril. While perfidious John Bull sunned himself in the light of his economic stability, poor Marianne was left to skulk in the shade, afflicted by high unemployment and sporadic rioting, with only the consolation of her appallingly high living standards, her superb health service, her generous pensions, her thriving intellectual culture, her low divorce rate, her good food, her shorter working hours but higher productivity, her still-extant automotive industry, her extensive support for the arts, her excellent education system not yet wholly devoted to utilitarian ends and her football team capable of reaching World Cup Finals.
Can we be surprised that Marianne was feeling a certain ennui? Oh yes, she had a lover, but Jacques Chirac was not the man he once was. No longer was he the smooth-talking former Mayor of Paris with a devilish look in his eye and an impressively large amount of funds in his pocket. Now he was bent by age (not to mention the prospect of some interesting times ahead in the courts to deal with that impressive trouser bulge) and no longer capable of satisfying Marianne's needs. What could she do but look elsewhere?
Soon she found herself being courted day and night by her would-be lovers. Swiftly she rejected the attentions of Jean Marie Le Pen, having tired of his far-right ways (not to mention his chat-up line "Vous avez des origines françaises? Pourquoi pas une descendance français?"(1)) during their last dalliance in 2002. Next she refused the protestations of desire from stolid centrist farmer François Bayrou ... largely due to his being so boring that she continually fell asleep while he stolidly made love to her.
And so the people of France waited with bated breath as Marianne was forced to make her choice between her two remaining suitors: the dashing Nicolas Sarkozy, eager to open Marianne's eyes to the dark and sensual pleasures to be found in fiscal fetters and a firm hand, and the striking Ségolène Royal, keen to spend her way to Marianne's heart. In the end there could be only one choice, with Marianne unable to bear the thought of her new love not being able to get half-way through a treaty-signing without all the assembled French men attempting to pinch her bottom, she had no alternative but to turn away from Ms Royal and settle down to make love, tout fou, tout passionné with M. Sarkozy and his mighty water cannon.
And so, my English friends, the deed is done and L'Élection Presidentielle Françaises 2007 have passed away. Marianne has her new lover and only one question yet to decide: who will be doing the screwing and who is about to get screwed?
The As A Dodo Editors add: The French Presidential Elections 2007 passed away on 6 May. They will be buried, along with Jacques Chirac's political career, just as soon as the funeral cortège can make it through the traffic jam at the Arc de Triomphe and the attendees end their strike calling for increased crematorium regulation and a minimum three bottles of 1982 Chateau Lafite per mourner.
(1) "Do you have any French in you? Would you like some?"
05 May 2007
- Walter Schirra 1923-2007 - space pioneer and one of the first American astronauts to orbit the Earth
- Jack Valenti 1921-2007 - aide to President Johnson, legendary Hollywood lobbyist and censor
- Zola Taylor 1934-2007 - Platters singer known as The Dish
- Tom Cartwright 1935-2007 - brilliant Warwickshire and England cricketer and lifelong socialist
- Sir George Pinker 1925-2007 - Royal gynaecologist
- Carl Friedrich von Weizsäcker 1912-2007 - physicist who worked on "Hitler's A-bomb" and subsequently campaigned for disarmament
04 May 2007
100,000 Scottish Votes have been cast into the Great Polling Station in the Sky after massed ranks of Scottish ballot papers were spoiled in a debacle on a scale rivalled only by Jeb Bush’s “Hanging Chads 2000” Tour of Florida.
Scottish Votes were born amidst a fanfare of nationalist triumphalism from SNP leader Alex Salmond who predicted a bold new future for Scottish votes, a future in which Scots would determine their own political future and no longer migrate to Westminster to bugger things up for the English (a phenomenon believed to be the Scots' revenge for the decades when English votes buggered things up for Scotland with things like the Poll Tax, not to mention all those jokes about deep-fried Mars Bars).
Within minutes of the polling stations being opened, however, Scottish voters were thrown into confusion by multiple ballot papers whose complexity was on a par with the Schleswig-Holstein question and whose incomprehensibility was on a par with the popularity of Noel Edmonds. Matters were made yet worse for the Scottish Votes when they found themselves faced by a new method of electronic counting. The new counting machines were to prove disastrous – particularly in the Highlands and Islands where electricity only reaches the communities sporadically, chiefly during lightning strikes.
Meanwhile in the Western Isles the count was delayed by fog, which grounded the helicopter carrying the ballot boxes to Stornoway. Ballots will now have to be transported in the traditional manner, each vote placed in a bottle and thrown in to the sea. All islanders are being urged to empty suitable bottles as quickly as possible and cast their votes into one of the two wobbly Atlantic Oceans in front of them.
With initial returns suggesting Boris McYeltsin's election as the Scottish Socialist MSP for the constituency of Tommy Sheridan (South) and Nessie being returned as First Minister for Bournemouth, it quickly became apparent that the new system made the calculation of how many votes had been cast and for whom - hitherto understood to be the purpose of elections - even more difficult to add up than the cost of the Scottish Parliament Building.
Less than 24 hours after their birth, 100,000 Scottish Votes were found dead, bludgeoned by electoral incompetence. Following a lengthy court process they will be folded (incorrectly) and marked “spoiled” before being buried at a place of worship and in a service which has not yet been determined, thanks to a funeral ballot form modelled on a national lottery scratchcard.
100,000 Scottish Votes are survived by a Labour victory in the Scottish Parliament, an SNP victory, an SNP led-coalition, a Labour-led coalition and none of the above... all at the same time.
02 May 2007
As polling stations open across Britain today, it is hard to exaggerate the sadness that will be felt (outside political circles) at the death, confirmed today by a group of senior psephologists, of Democracy in Britain and America.
Democracy, or "force of the people", was born some time around 508BC in the Ancient Greek City State of Athens, where it granted power to all the people - at least insofar as those people weren't unreliable types like slaves, women, children or foreigners - to govern themselves. The Athenians established several important democratic traditions, including the practice of ballots, the separation of the legislature, executive and the courts and, during the Peloponnesian war, the tendency to try and suspend the whole idea of Democracy at the first sign of trouble.
Assailed on all sides by those who felt that letting the people govern themselves was about as wise as leaving your wife alone with Zeus for more than a picosecond, Democracy was to become distinctly unfashionable due to its tendency to fall to whoever could pay their soldiers the most. Throughout the Ancient world it was replaced by the rule of Emperors, who at least tended to dress in chic purple outfits and have the kind of social lives that could keep a whole empire's worth of people gossiping for centuries. Unfortunately for the togated-types, they too fell out of fashion. In Europe they were largely replaced by Kings, who were quite like Emperors apart from having much worse table manners, a tendency to go round in armour all the time and a preference for beheading and burning at the stake as opposed to crucifixion and throwing to the lions.
Despite such attitudes Democracy was content to bide its time, sure in the knowledge that the tide of fashion would turn once more in its favour. Gradually it crept back into the public gaze in such places as the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and Iceland's Althing. In England it gave rise to the creation of Parliament, for which all people were allowed to vote, at least insofar as they weren't unreliable types like women, children, foreigners, the landless, the poor or anyone the King wasn't keen on. Soon democratic institutions were emerging elsewhere, reaching their finest flowering in the institutions set up under the Constitution of the United States of America, whose aim of preventing the good people of the USA from being ruled over by dubiously-installed, hereditary leaders named George was achieved for the next 200 years.
It was at the turn of the twentieth Century that it became apparent that Democracy was beginning to suffer signs of ill health. The first of these was the fact that, despite its frequently proclaimed popularity, many countries continued to show no interest in it whatsoever, even when that interest was invited at gunpoint. The second was the realisation that, thanks to a combination of first-past-the-post elections, the ever-greater sophistication of pollsters and political machines and ever-greater emphasis on attracting so-called "swing voters" politicians had increasingly concentrated on ever smaller parts of the electorate. Indeed, by the early Twenty-First Century, throughout Britain and America Democracy found itself dependent on just two people. In Great Britain the one person upon whom it depended was a man called Dave who had 1.2 kids, had recently upgraded his Vauxhall Vectra to a BMW 3 series and bought the Daily Mail each day - despite being scared witless by Melanie Phillips's columns - because his wife liked the human interest pieces and faddy diet tips; in America, it was a guy called Bud from the Mid-West who drove an SUV, believed the best way to stop people killing each other was to buy more semi-automatic weapons and who watched anything with Ann Coulter on because his wife thought she talked a lot of sense and he had a bit of a thing about dominant blondes. Having realised the enormous power Dave and Bruce wielded, the pair were instantly crowned rulers of the Anglo-Saxon world, after which they dropped bombs on Canada, Australia and New Zealand just to prove they meant business.
Democracy will be buried at the Church of St Tony the Straight Kinda Guy. Bud and Dave have requested that no flowers be delivered, only oil (Bud) and Marmite (Dave). Democracy is survived by US Plutocracy, Russian Oligarchy, British Cronyism, Chinese Corporatism, Iranian Theocracy, Iraqi Anarchy and assorted Despotisms, Tyrannies and Kleptocracies.
Four years to the day after he, somewhat prematurely, donned his best GI Joe fighter-pilot outfit to report the death of the War with Iraq (we must confess that at the time of his announcement the President was As A Dodo's Washington correspondent. Having thus contributed to our already dubious reputation for accuracy (for an example of which see eg here) and having developed a habit of leaving copies of the Gideon bible in our bedside tables and improving homilies about the dangers of alcohol all over As A Dodo Towers on every visit, we regret that we had no alternative but to fire him), President George W Bush has now confirmed the death of Congress's Timetable for Withdrawal from Iraq.
The Timetable was born in the final days of April 2007, when a Congress eager to be seen to be doing something about the war with Iraq (and even more eager to have a multi-billion dollar bargaining chip to back up its negotiations with the President) insisted on attaching a timetable for withdrawal to a bill providing funding for the continued US presence in that benighted part of the globe.
From its first moments it was plain that the Timetable could not hope to survive beyond a few days. The merest glance at its delicate frame revealed it to be not merely a transparent attempt to gain political capital but also a bid to humiliate the President, the Timetable containing as it did not merely detailed plans for withdrawal from Iraq but also a requirement that Mr Bush attend double English lessons in the morning and Geography lessons in the afternoon (the latter presumably aimed at persuading him that - contrary to the assertions of Vice-President Cheney - Iraq could not be confused either with Al Qaeda's former base of operations in Afghanistan or the home of the 9/11 suicide bombers in Saudi Arabia).
Indeed, so lacking in strength was the Timetable that it took it some five days to struggle the mile from Congress to the White House. By the time it arrived, the President made it plain that he had no alternative but to put it out of its misery, consigning it to oblivion with a stab of a pen which he let be known (in an in-no-way utterly distasteful manner) had been given to him by the father of a marine killed in Iraq two years ago.
Seeking - like Brutus on the steps of the forum - to justify his actions, the President announced that the bill had sought to "substitute the opinions of politicians for the judgements of military commanders" - an action which he wholly condemned (unless the politicians in question were Paul "I could be so good for you, baby" Wolfowitz or Donald "I see no torture" Rumsfeld) - as well as "setting a timetable for chaos and confusion" that would "demoralise the Iraqi people and encourage killers across the Middle East", which tasks the President's administration already had well in hand.
Thus it was that the Timetable passed away. It will be buried quietly this weekend at the Church of St Mike Dukakis the Politically Hopeless. The Reverend Hillary Clinton will read from the Book of "What Me? Vote for the War? 'Fraid You've Got the Wrong Person, Squire. I was Tying my Shoelaces at the Time" and the hymn will be Number 582 "There is a Baghdad Far Away Without a City Wall, Reliable Electricity or Working Plumbing".
01 May 2007
Smokers from the Castlerock to Crossmaglen and from Bangor to Belleek are today shouting short-temperedly at their partners and downing their Guinness with extra haste in memory of Smoking in Public, which has gasped its last, wheezy breath following the introduction of a ban on public smoking in Northern Ireland. The province's ban affects workplaces, pubs and restaurants but not sectarian bonfires or smouldering rubble. With public smoking already banned in Scotland and about to be outlawed by CCTV, Asbo and threat of extraordinary rendition to Guantanamo Bay in England and Wales, Smoking in Public is on its way to the Great Ashtray in the Sky.
Smoking in Public took its first puffs in the 16th century after Sir Walter Raleigh finally gave up his attempt to convince Elizabethans to adopt the practice of smoking potatoes and putting lashings of salt and vinegar on their deep-fried tobacco, and instead filled his pipe with some rough shag he’d brought back from the New World.
Thanks to its addictive qualities (as well as the fact that it makes you look dead sexy ... usually about 30-40 years before it just makes you look dead) Smoking in Public became hugely popular. It was not without its critics, however: in 1604's A Counterblaste to Tobacco King James I himself was moved to warn that smoking was “A custom loathsome to the eye, hateful to the nose, harmful to the brain, dangerous to the lungs, and in the blacke stinking fume thereof, neerest resembling the horrible Stigian smoke of the pit that is bottomelesse”, much to the amazement of courtiers who were unaware that he had ever been to Birmingham.
It was in 1605 that Smoking in Public really caught the public’s attention, when Guido Fawkes(1) attempt to "poppe into the cellares for an crafty one" nearly blew up King James and the whole of Parliament. Luckily for him and everyone else in the building, guards prevented Guido's carelessly-discarded cheroot from accidentally igniting the pile of old barrels stored in the cellar. As a warning they took the foolish Guido aside and had a quiet word with him about the dangers of smoking, while hanging, drawing and quartering him just to make sure the message got home. And that is why, to this day, Britons burn bonfires on November 5th to remind themselves of the dangers of smoking.
Despite the early knowledge of the harmful effects of inhaling the smoke of cured tobacco leaves, 17th century man, woman, child and, in some circuses, chimpanzee took up the habit with gusto – puffing away on their pipes and roll-ups without a care in the world – assuming that the blood they were coughing up was just the harmless first sign of tuberculosis or plague.
Smoking in Public caught on like wildfire, as - during hot, dry summers - did much of the surrounding countryside. By the 20th century, stoked by popular images of Hollywood stars moodily inhaling a Lucky Strike or Chesterfield whilst eyeing up the femme fatale, looking at the dead body or relaxing after the train had entered the tunnel, everyone – from new born babes in their mothers’ arms to grandfathers (quite literally) breathing their last – was sucking on a fag, meerschaum or hookah.
In the post-war years, however, people began to realise they were alone with a Strand and that the smell of a busy day at the crematorium that hung about them might have something to do with it. With the arrival of new scientific evidence that nicotine was more addictive than Deal or No Deal (but not quite as harmful), Smoking in Public came under heavy pressure to pack it in, knock it on the head, go cold turkey and try patches, hypnotism, and that silly ceramic pipe that everyone’s too embarrassed to use.
Eventually, even the appearance of increased intellectual activity and emotional intensity derived from inhaling a Gauloises with the filter broken off began to pall. With the increased awareness of the fatal consequences of smoking – that unique kipper-factory odour, Judith Chalmers-style leathery skin and a voice deeper than Mariella Frostrup’s – Smoking in Public began to cough, hack, wheeze and expectorate colourfully. Complaining of a lack of breath, Smoking in Public exhaled a final plume of blue-grey smoke and was extinguished.
Smoking In Public will be cremated behind closed doors in a private ceremony with a special licence to smoke. There will be regular five-minute intervals – every five minutes – for smokers to step outside and bang another nail in their coffin. The congregation will sing “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes… And Your Throat, Lungs, Heart, And May Harm Your Unborn Baby”.
(1) No, not this one. (2)
(2) Or even this one.