The Three Rs – that self-defeating triumvirate of reading, ‘riting and ‘rithmetic – have been read the last rites, ‘rit their last will and testament and faced their final reckoning following the news that standards in basic maths and English for seven-year-olds have shown no improvement while even fewer pupils reached the expected level in writing skills.
It is widely believed that the The Three Rs were fathered by Mayor of London Sir William Curtis whilst giving a speech on education(1) in the early 1800s. Despite making his fortune in the ships’ biscuit business he remained illiterate – believing that ‘reading’, ‘writing’ and ‘arithmetic’ all began with the letter ‘r’, and that ‘biscuit’ was spelt with a ‘z’ – although to be fair, he could calculate the annual diminution of his stock value due to weevils to six decimal places without the aid of an abacus.
Yet this slip of a poorly-educated, biscuit-and-weevil-coated tongue caught the public imagination and soon Victorians across the country were taking up Sir William’s battle cry and instilling the basic principles of education into workhouse orphans with the aid of the Three Arrgghs!: the ruler, the cane and the strap. Thankfully, the Victorians' successors - at least those of them who did not gain a disturbing amount of pleasure from beating the backsides of young boys - preferred a gentler path and soon generations of schoolchildren were being raised to believe in the importance of multiplication tables and understanding why the cat sat on the mat(2).
By the 1960s, however, where once children were encouraged to calculate that two plus two equals four, now children were encouraged to talk about how they felt about the number two and what kind of flower it would be. Similarly, however and nonetheless furthermore grammar went out the f**king window as children were encouraged to express themselves without the need of orthodox syntax or punctuation.
By the new millennium (which only one in seven people could actually spell correctly) things had reached a parlous state. Some children could barely read the terms and conditions of their own Asbos, one in four boys didn’t don’t ain’t got the basic writing skills and many children lacked a grasp of straightforward fractions – several believing that the difference between an eighth and a quarter is about twenty quid.
Though many expressed satisfaction at this week's revelation by the Department of Children, Schools and Families that 80% of seven-year-olds had reached Level 2 in writing, few were aware that Level 2 involves holding a pencil without stabbing the child next to you. And so the full impact of the damage done by a lack of investment in state education by successive governments woolly-sandalled acid-drenched lefties in the 1960s came home to roost. With the realisation that most primary school children now prefer the three Ts – telly, texting and TWOCing – The Three Rs were excluded from school for the last time.
The Three Rs will be buried at St Gates Church of the Predictive Spellchecker, the service will be conducted by the Poet Laureate, Pam Ayres, and the congregation will sing Elvis Costello’s “Every Day I Write the Txt”.
The Three Rs are survived by the Three Degrees, the Three Amigos and the Three-Month Suspension from School.
(1) a feat unmatched even by Cecil Parkinson.
(2) which was, of course, because the cat had failed to pass its eleven-plus and could therefore find no gainful employment.
31 August 2007
The Three Rs – that self-defeating triumvirate of reading, ‘riting and ‘rithmetic – have been read the last rites, ‘rit their last will and testament and faced their final reckoning following the news that standards in basic maths and English for seven-year-olds have shown no improvement while even fewer pupils reached the expected level in writing skills.
28 August 2007
Today the vaudeville stage is missing one of its greatest stars. Yes, America, bow your collective head in tribute to Alberto "Mr Memory" Gonzales - the simple Attorney General of the United States from Texas who entertained a mighty nation with his astounding feats of non-existent memory.
Born (possibly, it was always so hard for Mr Gonzales to recollect) in or about San Antonio, Texas, and raised - serendipitously one might say - in the town of Humble, Alberto Gonzales's youth would be familiar to many of the great stars of vaudeville: he was brought up in poverty, one of seven children, and his forebears had come to the land of the free as immigrants. Indeed, it seems that Mr Gonzales inherited his great skills of memory from those forebears, grandma and grandpa having somehow forgotten ever to fill in the necessary forms to make their stay in the United States legal.
Where other vaudevillians found themselves on the stage from childhood, however, young Alberto preferred a more conventional path, heading first to the United States Air Force and then into a career in the law. Indeed, this comic genius might have been lost to the dry and dusty legal world had it not been for a chance encounter with the young George W. Bush who, like Alberto, had been called to the bar in his youth (though, unlike Alberto, he had been called there to pony up for several more beers and bourbon chasers). The future president asked Alberto his name and when he responded with the words "Andrew ... no, Alfonso ... no ... it's ... it's ... what would you like it to be?" Mr Bush knew he had his man.
Over the following years, Alberto was always to be found at Mr Bush's side ... whether as general counsel during Mr Bush's governorship of Texas or as chief White House counsel following Mr Bush's accession to the Presidency itself. Yet the young lawyer always found time to hone his comic routines and practise his feats of no memory: soon he was impressing and entertaining all at the Governor's mansion forgetting to mention Mr Bush's drink-driving conviction whilst getting him excused from jury duty. After this impressive feat he would go on to astound his audience by forgetting the unforgettable: his duty to examine in detail the pleas for clemency of the 150 men and women executed during Mr Bush's gubernatorial tenure.
The Texas stage was clearly not enough for so great a talent and soon "The Great Fredo" as Mr Bush knew him, was joining the newly-elected(1) President in Washington where - as White House counsel and later Attorney General - he would stand in the centre of the political stage and forget everything from the provisions of the Geneva Convention to the meaning of habeas corpus, on each occasion rushing up to Mr Bush afterwards and triumphantly demanding, "Am I right, Sir?"
There was nothing that Alberto could not forget: he forgot the provisions of the Constitution, he forgot the separation of powers, he forgot that wiretapping was illegal, as Attorney General he forgot that his first duty was to the People and the Constitution and not to the President. Yet all this was as nothing compared to his final, greatest performance. In a bravura series of appearances before the Senate in relation to his dismissal of eight US Attorneys he achieved feats of memory unseen since Ronald "The Great Ronaldo" Reagan was questioned about the Iran-Contra affair. Alberto forgot who had authorised the dismissals, he forgot he had said it was his idea, he forgot the documents said it was the White House's idea, he forgot that attorneys had been fired for not being "Loyal Bushies", he forgot whether he had had any role in the dismissals at all, and he forgot forgetting whether he had had any role in the dismissals. On 74 occasions Alberto was asked questions by the Senate and on 74 occasions he was able to say he could not remember or did not know the answer in the first place. There had been no equivalent performance by a vaudevillian since the Marx Brothers quit the stage.
The strain of such an act tolled on Alberto, as it was bound to. His memory was now almost completely gone and he was forced to quit the stage forever, leaving us with his last words: "I want to spend more time with ... you know ... those folks I share a surname with ... my ... my ... er family, yes, that's it ... ... Where am I?"
Alberto "Mr Memory" Gonzales will be buried at ... er ... er ... I know I wrote it down somewhere ... look is it okay if I get back to you on this? He will long be remembered ... or maybe not.
(1) ironic quotation marks omitted for reasons of space.
27 August 2007
John Prescott’s Parliamentary Career – thought to have died last year under the enormous weight of personal scandal and political controversy – has been ended by the hand of John Prescott himself following his announcement that he is to step down as a Member for Parliament at the next general election in October, whenever that might be.
Though often considered an object of derision and frequently mocked for his lifelong struggle with the English language, it is little known that as well as being MP for Hull East, Prescott was also Deputy Leader of the Labour Party and Deputy Prime Minister, filling in for Tony Blair at the Despatch Box during Prime Minister's Questions, where his idiosyncratic performances were warmly greeted by the entire house and led to offers of a summer season at Bridlington, a show at the Edinburgh Fringe and many cries of "taxi for the Deputy Prime Minister"(1).
The Career itself was descended from a long line of working-class struggle: Mr Prescott's father was a railway signalman and his grandfather a miner and he himself served the cause - and assorted members of the upper classes - as a waiter on cruise ships. Politicised by his forebears and galvanised by his thrashing of Anthony Eden at quoits during a winter voyage to Egypt in 1956, young Prescott became a union activist – graduating from Ruskin College, Oxford with a diploma in economics and politics and a determination to enter Parliament. In 1970, he was elected to serve the constituency of Hull East - but failing to find a tray big enough to carry 150,000 pints of bitter, he ran away to Westminster.
A staunch defender of Labour’s proud socialist heritage, Prescott served his time as a left-wing backbencher before his election as Deputy Leader in 1994. Seen by many as Tony Blair’s attempt to keep in touch with Old Labour (something Tony was loath to do except during his periodic attempts to heal Old Labour of scrofula), Prescott proved his worth by spending many long years mediating between the warring Blair and Brown – keeping the peace by standing between them and reminding them of the need for unity, in lectures they would always remember but sadly - due to Mr Prescott's acknowledged difficulty in getting his sentences to begin and end in the correct order - never understand.
A series of scandals and controversies in the last few years of The Career's life caused many to question its claim to be in touch with the grassroots of the party – especially as that party was frequently in a garden and the grassroots were usually on his flannel trousers following a spectacularly mis-cued croquet shot. Despite this the doubters had cause to think again in 2001, when Mr Prescott made a real effort to get in touch with the working people of Britain - by punching a farmer who had thrown an egg at him. Aides later explained that Mr Prescott had resorted to violence not because his assailant had criticised his politics but because he’d forgotten to throw the bacon, sausages, black pudding, fried slice and beans as well.
In 2003 The Career reasserted its socialist principles by encouraging Mr Prescott to give up the flat he rented from the RMT union at a fifth of the market value in Clapham (that hotbed of socialist struggle) and instead to conduct his ascetic lifestyle in just his Admiralty Arch grace-and-favour flat, his official residence, Dorneywood, and his home in Hull(2).
Yet on occasion, The Career's radicalism could go too far. In 2006 it fell into disgrace when it was revealed that it had taken a stand against the hegemony of monogamy after it emerged that Mr Prescott had been conducting a two-year affair with his diary secretary.
Despite such controversies it was with a heavy collective (but not in the left-wing sense) heart that New Labour heard the news in June this year that Mr Prescott had resigned as Deputy Leader of the Party. As a mark of respect his position as Deputy Prime Minister was abolished. But retirement did not suit the career. Unable to face a slow decline on the backbenches, it decided to end it all by doing away with itself in front of a group of reporters at one of Mr Prescott's few remaining homes.
John Prescott’s Parliamentary Career will be buried at the St Professor Stanley Unwin Churchmolehode, deep joy. The congregation will sing hymn No. 473 “What A Friend We Have In Tony… No Really, He’s Me Mate He Is”.
(1) an offer which the quondam Environment Secretary was always able to turn down thanks to his many ministerial and non-ministerial gas-guzzlers vehicles.
(2) a generously proportioned £650,000 home and not, as some have cruelly suggested, a caravan he shared with Margaret Beckett.
26 August 2007
With the sun finally out (thanks, doubtless, to our insistence that Daniel Corbett and Siân Lloyd be sacrificed to the weather gods) and the Bank Holiday here, As A Dodo is taking the day off. Happily, our normal obituary service will be resumed tomorrow. Until then, we should advise readers that over on our Facebook group, we are this week seeking your nominations for music to be played at the funeral of Tim Henman's Tennis Career - feel free to add any suggestions in the comments section below or over on Facebook.
We should also remind our readers that the As A Dodo tome has already leapt onto the shelves at Amazon and can be ordered by clicking on the link at the side of the page, and from September 3rd will be available at all good booksellers and doubtless many bad ones - so why not venture into your local bookshop and loudly demand a copy? As a taster of what is in store, here are a few choice cuts from the index to whet your appetites.
and the immortal words: ‘In your face Neil Armstrong!’ 158
and discovery of democracy 64
and rubbish collection 121
and Queen Cleopatra 63
and violation of laws of physics 157
and cheekily self-satisfied grin 36
and dark arts of spin 61
British Broadcasting Corporation
and infliction of Jeremy Clarkson on nation 45
and irritating weatherman 160
and kangaroo testicles 49
Bush, George W.
and cunning plan to defeat global warming 117
and destruction of Donald Rumsfeld 130
and last possible reason for war with Iraq 144
and The Outsider 86
and plan to put man on Moon 170
and juggling balls withTony Blair 40
and environmentally friendly trident missiles 129
and radical assemblage of thrusting old Etonians 11
remake starring Justin Lee Collins 98
undesirability of pronunciation to rhyme with ‘musketeer’ 141
and beating Chris Martin about head 156
hope of crashing on the moon 169
role as Tom Thumb 56
heart-warming drivel 97
lack of interest in 64
Eighth Amendment to US Constitution
and unfortunate incident involving Dick Cheney 132
Eurovision Song Contest, The
and lyrics lifted from Esperanto greetings cards 94
Flintoff, Andrew ‘Freddie’
favourable comparison to Jeffrey Bernard, George Best and Oliver Reed 200
armed and paranoid nature of friends 68
punching in face of Socrates 69
and Isaac Newton’s apple-related lawsuit 157
Harry Potter books
mistaken belief in literary value of 179
and Celebrity Big Brother 39
and Jeremy Clarkson 44
and White Cliffs of Dover 123
humanity’s sense of superiority
and damned dirty apes 160
internal combustion engine
and frightening the people of Norfolk 163
and embarrassment of British Navy 141
similarity to watching Countdown 71
London’s glittering West End
and fatty deposits of musical theatre 46
and dead balls 207
and murder of Tooth Fairy 192
and fatal explosion of irony 86
inability to win Belfast Apprentice Boys’ Musical Chairs Contest 20
Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum
and embarrassing incident with the barbie 117
and scary columns 66
discovery by Walt Disney 165
and noxious emissions 31
addiction to ‘chasing the Murdoch’19
gangland murder of Home Office 18
Reith, Lord John
and Alsatians 101
and Graham Norton scouring the Internet for transsexuals 101
slow train, the
backbone of Britain’s transport system 167
Spears’, Britney; Hair
and Middle East peace process 36
and distressing lack of witch-burnings 84
giggling at name of 166
VHS Tape, The
ending half-way through recording of Bullseye 171
dullness of relationship with Kate Middleton 153
and 72-year-old Japanese gentleman lip-syncing to Green Day’s ‘American Idiot’ whilst wearing a Darth Maul costume 174
24 August 2007
As A Dodo must today report the grave news that the Withdrawal by America from the Bush Administration is almost at an end and that the last helicopters have been seen pulling away from the White House in scenes not witnessed since the end of the Vietnam War.
It was in the middle of the first decade of the 21st century that it became apparent to many Americans that the country's strategy in relation to the Bush Administration had gone awry. Though vast amounts of money and large numbers of young troops had been expended on keeping the Bush Administration in power and supporting its aims, the Administration itself - poorly led and indifferent to allegations of internal corruption and a casual disregard for either the rule of law, the provisions of the Constitution or the terms of the Geneva convention - seemed incapable of achieving America's desires and ill-suited to its stated aim of defending democracy.
There had been many previous calls for withdrawal but these had always been ignored - largely because so many of them came from Sean Penn - but by 2006 the atmosphere had changed and the demands that America step back from the Bush Administration were being heard from many people who were not members of the popular music or motion picture industries.
It was with the defeat of Republican Troops under General Rove at the Battle of Capitol Hill in November 2006 and the taking of Congress by the troops of the DemoCong, that it became clear that America had now decided to step back from the Bush Administration. It was not long before Republican Congressmen and Congresswomen were to be seen packing up all their belongings in the nearest available pork barrel and preparing to flee. All the time, the Administration itself was suffering heavier and heavier losses: once important figures such as Donald Rumsfeld, Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Dan Bartlett, Harriet Miers and Sara Taylor all fell by the wayside, while others such as Attorney General Alberto Gonzales were left fatally wounded. Even senior Republican figures such as respected Virginia Senator John Warner now advocated withdrawal.
The rush to quit the Bush Administration became rapid, with politicians of all hues frantically battling with each other as they sought to make their way to the helicopters and put as much distance between themselves and the President's policies as they could. Finally there was only President George W Bush himself, left standing on the roof of the White House as friends, aides and officials, among them even such old allies as General Rove, leapt to the last helicopter and humiliatingly fled the scene. Mr Bush was heard desperately begging for America to come to his assistance and warning of "a new Vietnam" and the takeover of Washington by DemoCong troops under Ho Chi Clinton and Barack Vo Nguyen Obama, just before his voice was drowned out by the sound of the helicopter blades.
A nation will mourn the Bush Administration ... sadly no-one is yet sure which nation it will be.
(1) inasmuch as getting Iraqi insurgents to stop bombing Baghdad and start blowing up other bits of Iraq instead can be said to be a success.
22 August 2007
Dave “The Windmill” Cameron, “the upper class twit with the upper cut hit”, has finally met his match in the bare-knuckle fighting world of politics after his latest political bout to settle an argument about the poor performance of NHS hospitals ended in a fatal knockout delivered by one of his own backbenchers.
Born in the middle of that most peaceful decade of modern history, the Sixties, young Dave (or “David” as he was nicknamed by his peers(1)) turned his back on the Summer of Love when he won his first trophy, a silver spoon, after returning his midwife’s slap.
His reputation as a belligerent baby preceded him as Dave enrolled at the School of Hard Knocks – or Eton as his peers(2) preferred to call it. Whilst there Dave dealt severely with any challengers, eschewing the Marquis of Queensbury’s rules, saying “hold my tailcoat, mate” and directing his fag - a shadowy figure known only as "Big Boris" - to affix the unfortunate opponents' testicles to the floor of the junior common room with his crumpet toasting fork.
At university Dave's bare-knuckle career continued as he and his famous “Band of Scrapping Toffs”, "The Bullingdon Club", frequently challenged dining rooms, public houses and restaurants to go mano-a-bricko.
After graduating, Dave began throwing his weight around for the Conservative Party. Rapidly establishing a reputation as a quick-footed and handy fighter he rose through the rankings and, despite being tarnished by mentor Norman "Black Eye" Lamont’s defeat in the big-money Black Wednesday prize fight, young Dave eventually fought his way, in 2005, to replace Michael “Bite Yer Neck Off” Howard as all-Conservative champion.
However, a number of high-profile wins against Tony “Fist of God” Blair were followed by a string of defeats - often at the hands of his own MPs - which left the once-proud champion in desperate need of a big win. Staking everything he had, including what was left of his once unassailable authority as Conservative Party leader, he threw down the gauntlet to the NHS. Some mocked Dave for picking an opponent that was already on its last legs and as he stepped into the ring accusing the Government of planning to cut emergency and maternity services in 29 hospitals, all expected the NHS to throw in the (unwashed and blood-stained) towel. Instead it called for its second, Tory backbencher Henry Bellingham MP, who felled Dave with the news that - contrary to Dave's claims - his local hospital had no plans to cut services. Stunned and bloodied, Dave fell to the floor.
Even after so bruising a defeat, however, Dave refused to give in. His characteristic belligerence held out to the last as, bloodied yet unbowed, he accused the Human Rights Act of spilling his pint and looking at his wife, challenging it to fisticuffs "just as soon as I get my breath back". Fortunately for the Human Rights Act, the ambulance from the local NHS hospital was delayed as the driver had been asked to demolish the maternity ward during his tea-break, and so Dave passed away amidst the boos and jeers of his former supporters and the chuckling of David Davis.
Dave “The Windmill” Cameron will be buried at St "Iron" Michael Tyson's Church of the Bitten Ear. As a mark of respect his family have asked that all should fly their solar-powered windmills at half-mast.
20 August 2007
Office Work, the ceaseless toil in darkened rooms which has kept workers occupied from nine-to-five each weekday has finally been chucked into the "out" tray of life, after being crushed by the pressure of the many other vital office activities such as gossiping, playing minesweeper, social-networking and staring out of the window.
Office Work began - in the Western World at least - in Ancient Rome, whose rulers were among the first to decide that the task of sorting facts and figures, keeping records and preparing accounts was far too onerous for the priests who had been carrying it out (a strain perhaps evidenced by the fact that - whatever had actually happened - the facts, figures and records always showed the rulers were wrong and the priests were right and the accounts always showed the rulers owed the priests another 400 goat sacrifices and half the contents of the treasury).
From the time of its birth, Office Work thrived, with Roman office workers throwing themselves eagerly into the tasks of gathering data on everything from the latest building works at Ostia to fluctuations in the lark's-tongue market and the rise and fall (and rise and fall) of the orgy sector, their enthusiasm reinforced by the head of human resources frequently being also the chief recruiting officer for the gladiatorial arena.
Over the following millennia, Office Work did well in the Near and Middle East, where it was supported by the extensive bureaucracies of Byzantium and the Islamic Caliphate, ensuring that there would always be a suitable workplace for hard-working scribes, accountants and a good place to keep middle-managers away from the rest of humanity. Things did not go so well in Europe, however, where Office Work proved less popular than having wars and dying of plague. It was not until the arrival of the mediaeval chancery that Office Work could find a place to go about its business in Europe and even after the Renaissance there was still confusion about the office's role, with the inhabitants of Florence foolishly deciding to fill their offices with paintings by Leonardo, Michelangelo and Raphael(1) and charge people to see them.
Nonetheless, by the nineteenth century, Office Work was as popular in Britain as anywhere else, with clerks happily quitting their meagre beds, bidding fond farewells to their consumptive wives and crippled children and dashing into work at 5am in order to spend the next 14 hours perched before high desks on high stools, warming themselves in the glow from their candle as they toiled away for enlightened masters such as Mr E Scrooge to keep themselves out of the workhouse.
Steadily the lot of the office worker improved and Office Work became far more popular, reaching its height in the late 1980s and 1990s thanks to better working practices and employers (as well as the tragic death in Britain of Factory Work following a series of industrial accidents(2)). True, there were distractions - samizdat lists of "50 Best Essex Girl Jokes" had to be passed secretly from desk to desk, clandestine affairs had to be conducted, groups of secretaries had to gather with their Diet Cokes to ogle surprisingly well-toned and constantly-shirtless hod-carriers - but yet Office Work got done.
It was the rise of the office computer during the 1990s that was to prove Office Work's undoing. At first it seemed a boon - doing away at a stroke with a scores of trips to the stationery cupboard for a new pen and countless hours spent struggling to insert a new typewriter ribbon - but its effects were insidious. No sooner had Office Work found a vital job to be done than the computers would fail, condemning office workers to hours spent twiddling their thumbs and having staple gun fights while the heroic forces of the IT department did battle with recalcitrant servers. Even when the computers functioned, matters were no easier for Office Work: with the advent of email, workers were forced to tear themselves away from their spreadsheets to catch up with the latest round-robins from their mates about hilarious new videos on YouTube or answer urgent money-transfer requests from Nigeria, with the advent of Microsoft Windows untold ages simply had to be spent playing minesweeper and solitaire. With the arrival of Web 2.0 and social networking software it was all over for Office Work: there was simply no time for completing spreadsheets, drafting documents or sending out request sheets and invoices when office workers had to spend all their time "poke"-ing their friends on Facebook, listing their cats' favourite pasta shapes on MySpace and trying to fend off enquiries from middle-aged men pretending to be teenagers on Bebo. So it was that Office Work passed out of existence, unnoticed and unmourned.
Office Work will be buried at St Reginald Perrin's Church of the White Collar. The Reverend Ricky Gervais will perform that David Brent dance ... again. No one will attend as they're all listing their favourite movies on Facebook.
(1) as well as other artists who were not also members of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
(2) the accidents being incompetent management, strike-addicted unions, poor government, globalisation, Thatcherism and the fact that traditional British production standards meant that by 1976 the content of most scrapyards had been "Made in Britain" about six weeks earlier.
18 August 2007
As A Dodo is proud to announce that it has been dragged (kicking and screaming) into the 21st century and now has its very own Facebook group, where members can express their deep and abiding love for extinct-avian-related satirical obituaries and take part in weekly untimely-shuffling-off-this-mortal-coil-related polls. If you're on Facebook and would like to join in, just type in "As A Dodo" in the search area to look us up. If, on the other hand, you're still clinging to the wreck of The Medusa that is MySpace, why not come on over to Facebook anyway, free yourself from irritating emails from unsuccessful indie bands and young ladies who "can't show you full pictures on MySpace" and want you to "click on this link" and "hand over credit card details to Russian mafia", and sign up to a load of irritating pokes instead?
As a sample of what we've been getting up to, among the topics discussed this week was, "Which weather forecaster should be sacrificed to appease the gods of summer?" With the votes now in and duly adjusted for seasonal factors (the seasonal factors this summer being wind chill and torrential rain), the results are ...
1st= Daniel Corbett
3rd Carol Kirkwood
4th= Rob McElwee
6th= Tomasz Schafernaker
Accordingly we must now call on Mr Corbett and Ms Lloyd to present themselves to Stonehenge so that their hearts may be torn from their living bodies and offered to the weather gods Frey, Zeus and Jack Scott in order that some of us can get to see more than half an hour of sunshine before winter sets in. Thanks to all who voted. This week's virtual round of applause goes to Siân Lloyd's first nominator, Mark Daydy. *APPLAUSE*
17 August 2007
The Advanced or A-Level Examination, that measure of whether sixth-formers should be packing their trunks with medieval French text books and punting poles in preparation for a trip to Oxbridge(1) or buying new trunks for a BA in Media and Beach Studies at Bournemouth University (including modules on Summertime Special and the Semiology of Butlins), has passed away following a crash in its academic value which, tragically, rendered it of even less worth than a US sub-prime housing loan or the singing career of David Hasselhoff.
The Exam was born in 1951, the child of the Higher School Certificate(2), and offered the chance for children from Prime Minister’s sons to coalminer’s daughters to spend two years studying a range of fascinating subjects including Mathematics, English, French, Biology, History, Physics and Politics before proceeding to university at tax-payers’ expense to spend three years studying duffel coats, alcohol, jazz, the opposite sex (or indeed, the same sex depending on preference) and the life-cycle of whatever that thing is that's growing on the plates piled up in the sink.
The Exam was held in high esteem as swotty teenagers from all backgrounds studied long into the night in order to gain an understanding of the world around them and win a place at a university far, far away in order to acquire knowledge, develop their personality in new surroundings and escape parents who kept saying things like, "If t’pit was good enough for your mother, it’s good enough for you, John-Thomas", or, "Tarquin, why oh why must you persist with this ridiculous fancy of going to university when you know your uncle Charles will give you a job in the City?"
Despite claims in the late 1960s and 70s that The Exam had become devalued, following evidence that several members of the Royal Family had actually managed to pass it, The Exam proved to be not only challenging yet popular with many teenagers but was also an enormous boost to Britain’s lucky gonk industry every summer.
By the 1980s, however, rumours were circulating that all was not well: despite The Exam's claim to be the "gold standard" in education, capable of identifying the very best of young students, the number of students gaining A-grade passes began to rise steadily year-on-year thanks to new modular courses including Watching Television, Getting Your Teacher To Fill It In For You and A-Level History (The History of the A-Level). Matters became even worse in the late 1990s and Noughties with increasing access to the internet leading to the most common answer to an A-level exam question being "HTTP Error 404 - File Directory Not Found".
By 2007, with exam results showing that the percentage of A-level pass grades had risen for the 25th year in a row, the credibility of The Exam's claim to be "Advanced" was fatally wounded ... particularly as most of the A-level pass grades were obtained in the subject "Turning Up For Two Hours And, Like, Chatting About Big Brother". With statisticians projecting that at the current level of grade inflation everyone (including your cat) will have to have an A-level in future and an A***** with bar will be required just to be qualified to drink soup, A-level certificates were no longer worth the text message they were sent on and The Exam found itself facing deletion.
The Exam will be buried at the Nokia University of East Cheam Multi-Denominational Chapel and Chill-Out Zone. The service will be conducted by Professor Emeritus Dermot O’Leary and the congregation will sing hymn 412 Know Nothing by Travis from the Multiple Choice Book of Past Papers.
A-levels are survived by the Baccalaureate, the Pre-U(3) and the new National Lottery Year 13 scratchcard.
(1) an ancient university town halfway between Oxford and Cambridge renowned for its alumni’s influence on British politics, light entertainment and Anglo-Russian relations for the last 800 years.
(2) which our usual extensive research suggests could only be obtained at educational establishments at least 800 metres above sea-level.
(3) a new university entrance system cooked up between Oxford, Cambridge and “Independent” Schools absolutely in no way designed to keep the non-U out of Oxford and Cambridge.
15 August 2007
A grief-stricken Barbie was today reported to be locked deep inside her ramshackle mansion on Sunset Boulevard, mourning the death of what was perhaps her last and closest friend, her pet dog Tanner. Neighbours of the reclusive billionairess, once beloved of every little girl's heart,(1) report that yesterday they heard the sound of a single gunshot followed by sobbing long into the night. Representatives of the Los Angeles Police are understood to be investigating.
Who can say why it was that Barbie Millicent Roberts - the former nurse, fashion model, teacher, princess, geisha, top female executive, Hollywood star and astronaut whose smallest fashion choice once sent millions of children(2) rushing to the stores - decided to spend her final years with a pet dog? True, the ageing diva had been behaving ever more eccentrically since her unfortunate break-up with off-and-on life-partner Ken(3), allegedly becoming involved in a torrid affair with her surf-loving pool boy Blaine and indulging in one-night stands with a series of rugged military men with grasping hands including GI Joe and Action Man. True again, her failure to match the box-office success or tabloid notoriety of the new breed of sassy starlets such as the notorious Bratz girls - two of whom were recently arrested after being found in the back seat of their White RC Cruiser while their driver was under the influence of Tixylix - had led to more and more frequent visits to the plastic surgeon (where her decisions to have her breasts reduced, waist enlarged and head shrunk flew, it must be said, in the face of both modern fashion and the existence of Angelina Jolie). Yet with her many horses, ponies, cats and other pets many were shocked when Barbie's representatives at Mattel announced in 2006 that from now on she would be devoting her time to caring for her new pet dog Tanner and that shock was redoubled when it was learnt that Tanner was such a disturbed animal his favourite pastime was eating his own plastic faeces.
Yet it must be admitted that from the moment she acquired him, Barbie and Tanner were inseparable. Wherever Tanner went Barbie was right behind him, pooper-scooper in one hand ... and feeding bowl in the other. It was this inseparability, rather than his odd eating habits, that was to cause Tanner's downfall for it was while he was accompanying his mistress on a tour of the sweatshops factories of China (happily unconstrained by the sort of Red Tape whose passing was so recently announced in this very organ) that Tanner first showed signs of illness. Bringing her skills as a former veterinary surgeon to bear, Barbie swiftly realised that her pet, though having escaped the toxic effects of the lead-laden fumes from the paint which filled the factory, had ingested an unsafe magnet and would have to be put down. Despite her grief, the 49-year-old former airline pilot leapt into her plane and flew herself and her beloved pet back home, where it is understood Tanner died at the hands of the former sharp-shooting cowgirl.
Tanner will be buried at St Rolf's Plastic Animal Hospital. He is survived by billions of other Barbie accessories, all available at a store near you.
(1) not to mention the hearts of many older women and men with a worrying devotion to the doings of a 29 cm high plastic doll.
(2) and those worryingly-devoted adults.
(3) rumoured to have been caused by Ken's refusal to "accidentally" release a sex-tape of himself and Barbie in order to get her some coverage in the tabloids.
14 August 2007
Thousands of mourners have gathered in the Pennsylvania Avenue twilight before the White House to hold a candlelit vigil in memory of President George W Bush's Brain, which passed away following complications arising from its transplantation in 1994 into the head of Mr Bush's campaign manager, hip-hop MC and life-model for the Staypuft Marshmallow Man, Karl Rove.
When the two men first met, after the young Rove was sent by the ever-patrician George Bush Senior to carry some car keys to the young Dubya, few could have suspected the fateful operation that would one day be carried out. Yet George Junior's lobes had already had a powerful impact on Mr Rove, who was later to describe how he was bowled over by the cerebral matter's charisma and swagger, as well as Mr Bush's tight, tight flight jacket and calf-hugging cowboy boots.
Over the following years Bush and Rove were to work together to support Mr Bush's remarkable brain - Mr Rove trying to bring its message to the world by guiding George W. through the machinations of politics, Mr Bush keeping it fresh with a selection of stimulants and preserving it (along with his stomach, liver and most of his other organs) in large amounts of alcohol. By 1994, however, it was becoming plain that - perhaps due to a lack of oxygen supply caused by the tight boots, flight jacket and crotch-enhancing harness straps Mr Bush favoured for public-speaking engagements - Bush's Brain was failing. Desperate to avoid the loss of such a vital organ, the decision was taken to extract The Brain from its former host and place it inside Mr Rove.
The effect of the operation was immediate. Not only was Mr Rove now in possession of grey matter raised in centuries-long tradition of political service and connected to half the Presidents of the United States but George Bush himself was transformed from a Connecticut-born, Yale-educated, scion of one of America's most blue-blooded families, descended from passengers of The Mayflower itself into a good-ole-boy Texan so down-to-earth he wouldn't even be able to spell the word "privilege" without the aid of a dictionary. Following a few lessons in how to say "I want your vote" in Spanish Bush's Body was ready for political campaigning and, safe in its well-padded new home, Bush's Brain was in the perfect position to assist it.
Thus it was that George Bush made it to political office, aided by Bush's Body's willingness - like Peter Sellers's Chauncey Gardener in Being There - to shake voters' hands for hours on end and smile gormlessly into the middle-distance while delivering meaningless platitudes about hope, and Bush's Brain's willingness to mislead the public and traduce the opposition by asking questions such as "would you be more or less likely to vote for Governor Richards if you knew her staff is [sic] dominated by lesbians?"
By 1999 the Presidency itself was beckoning. With Bush's Brain happy to look on as racist innuendo was used to smear Republican opponents and Bush's Body happy to sit on Dick Cheney's knee and say "gottle of geer" while the Vice-Presidential candidate drank from a glass of sulphur, the assumption of the leadership of the free world was inevitable. With the Presidency in hand and Republican control of Congress in place, Bush's Brain had achieved its dreams.
Yet as anyone who has studied the history of brain transplants(1) will know, no brain transplant can ever be carried out without risking infection of the organ by the virus known to medics as "black-hearted evil" ... and such seems to have been the fate of Bush's Brain. While jovially wandering the corridors of power during the day, by night The Brain was seen savaging Democrats as woolly-minded milquetoasts waving terrorists into the heart of America, throwing CIA agents from the cliffs of secrecy and howling victory cries as it quietly buried the careers of "insufficiently-loyal" US Attorneys under cover of darkness.
Even The Brain's campaigning genius was fading. After one last flowering in 2004, when it managed to cast as a war hero a man whose military service during the Vietnam War saw him heroically protecting the bars and golf courses of Texas from attack by Vietcong disguised as bartenders and caddies, The Brain seemed ever more feeble. Following the foundering of attempts to reform pensions and immigration, doctors were called in to examine Bush's Brain, only to discover that the faithful organ had decided to skip town ahead of a posse of citizens angry about the war in Iraq and their lame duck President died with the passing of the dream of a permanent Republican majority in 2006.
Bush's Brain will be buried at the Unreformed Disunited Church of the Unholy Campaign Manager. Bush's Body will preside and the reading will be whatever Vice-President Cheney chooses.
(1) a subject dealt with at length in seminal medical texts Young Frankenstein, They Saved Hitler's Brain and The Simpsons.
13 August 2007
Red Tape, the bureaucratic binding that has for millennia tied up the people of Britain in rigid rules and regulations, has today been pronounced dead by Conservative MP and multilingual karaoke star John Redwood.
Red Tape was born in around 100,000BC following Ug the Bureaucrat's decision to insist that Ug the Hunter fill in a twenty-seven page risk assessment form before building his new smilodon trap ... sadly resulting in Ug the Hunter's death after he was savaged by a sabre-toothed tiger whilst still trying to work out what to put in section 3(b)(iv)(aa). Very quickly it became an important part of Neanderthal life and local government, providing a common evil for the community to grumble about yet, at the same time, providing health and safety conditions which proved vital – especially following Ug the Inventor’s discovery of fire.
Throughout history nothing got done without Red Tape: King Harold had to file a claims form following his accident with William the Conqueror’s arrow, Henry VIII’s divorce papers ran to so many volumes that he had to build Windsor Castle to house them (but only after a 12-year legal battle with local peasants who claimed it would spoil their panoramic views of the Slough plague pits) and even Neville Chamberlain wasn’t allowed to appease Hitler without having in his hand a piece of paper.
Always controversial, by the 20th century Red Tape had become the Marmite of the political and economic world: beloved of faceless bureaucrats, trade unionists and anyone who didn't fancy being sacked on the spot for failing to come in to work after losing their head in that unfortunate accident with the defective electric fire their boss ordered them to use to dry the toxic lead paint with which he'd insisted they cover over the cracks on the cut-and-shut job for the new kiddies' school bus, whilst loathed by industry, employers who didn't see why the loss of an arm should prevent someone working the rest of their 20-hour shift on the meat-packing line and politicians of all stripes eager to find an easy way to promise billions of pounds of savings.
Down the years politicians of all stripes - provided such stripes had been properly applied in accordance with the Political Stripes Act of 1937 as amended by the Journalistic Cliche (Amendment) Order of 1993 and the EU Striping Standardisation Regulations of 2004 - sought to win over the public by promising to do away with unnecessary bureaucracy and liberate the people from the tyranny of Red Tape and somehow free up vast amounts of money without ever having to mention tax cuts. Thus it was perhaps unsurprising that in 2007, with the Conservatives lagging behind Labour in the polls for the first time since the election of David Cameron as party leader, Mr Cameron contacted John Redwood - one of the Tories' most feared Vulcans senior figures and invited him to do away with Red Tape, ushering in a new era guaranteed to free ordinary Britons from the kind of petty-minded governmental meddling that had stopped kids happily climbing up chimneys and pensioners licking dustbins for sustenance.
Eager for the kill and belting out his battle cry of "Easing the restrictions on data protection, employees’ hours and health and safety conditions will provide the equivalent of a £14 billion tax cut and incentive to businesses", Mr Redwood levelled his trusty nuclear laser pistol at Red Tape and doubtless would have blown it halfway across the universe had he not been asked to fill in the necessary forms for his nuclear laser pistol licence first.
Red Tape will be buried at St Kafka’s Church of the Bureaucratic Nightmare following production of docket Z678907/34/X/iv, stamped by the relevant authorities and countersigned by the deceased. On its final, duly certified, expiry and interment it will be survived by As A Dodo's newly hired six-year-old asbestos sweeper, chimney cleaner and chainsaw juggler ... though probably not for long.
03 August 2007
That point in the year has come when the inhabitants of As A Dodo Towers must briefly quit the premises and emerge blinking into the sunlight. With any luck - and assuming we haven't all instantly turned to dust at the first touch of the sun's rays - we should be back and posting again by Monday 13th August.
Those of you left bereft at the thought of being starved of extinct flightless birds for so long will doubtless already be dashing over to Amazon and pre-ordering As A Dodo: The Obituaries You'd Like To See in a desperate effort to ensure that in future you need never be Dodo-less again.
Those of you looking for yet more ways to show your love for dead avians might also be interested to know that we have been overwhelmed by literally hundreds of tens of two emails telling us we should pull our fingers out get off our arses inform you that that doyen of political blogging Iain Dale is currently seeking nominations for the Top 100 Political Blogs and that anyone who wants to add their voice to the hundreds tens twos of loyal readers who have put forward As A Dodo for inclusion can do so either by posting a comment on Iain Dale's Diary here or by emailing iain [at] iaindale [dot] com with "Top 20" in the subject line before 15th August.
Iain has asked that nominators put forward at least ten and up to twenty blogs dealing with UK politics for inclusion. Blogs will be granted points based on the order you nominate them, with your first nomination getting 20 points, second 19 and so on down to 1 point for nomination 20 - be assured our own eternal modesty need not prevent you from putting us at or near the very top of your own nominations. And if you can't come up with ten political blogs, then we can wholeheartedly recommend a quick scan of the many excellent blogs that are our fellow members of the Blogpower initiative.
As an added bonus, anyone taking part in the nominations stands a chance of winning £100 of political DVDs. No news as yet on whether 2nd prize will be £200 of political DVDs but we'll keep checking.