With the arrival of the Christmas season, we at As A Dodo Towers will be closing down our operations for a little while, giving the editors precious time to rush home to their nearest and dearest and the rest of the staff a good few days to fumigate the Dodo's nest (a process which, we hope, should only prove fatal to one or two of them).
In the interim, our readers should feel free to vote for the little annoyances of life they'd like to see shuffle off this mortal coil next year in our poll (above) - you can select as many items as you like, so do feel free to vote early and often. Voting closes at midnight on New Year's Eve.
A very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all our readers.
22 December 2007
With the arrival of the Christmas season, we at As A Dodo Towers will be closing down our operations for a little while, giving the editors precious time to rush home to their nearest and dearest and the rest of the staff a good few days to fumigate the Dodo's nest (a process which, we hope, should only prove fatal to one or two of them).
20 December 2007
Journalists are today handing in their rumpled Gannex macintoshes, removing the press cards from their battered trilbies and sloping off to the nearest pub for eleven or twelve "quick ones" (plus chasers) in memory of News, which has succumbed to a tidal wave of gossip, sports stories and infotainment after a long illness.
It was way back in about 100,000BC that Ug the Hack became the first person to realise that it might just be a good idea to actually tell his fellow cave dwellers about the stampeding mammoths heading their way, rather than just watching the ensuing carnage. Not only did his decision to beat out his message on the nearest available drum save his fellow Homo sapiens from a fate worse than death, it also resulted in the birth of News ... as well as leading to Ug being sacked by his boss, Ug the Editor, who pointed out that a bunch of cave men and women being trampled to death by mastodons would have made a much better cave-painting for the Paleolithic Gazette.
Undeterred by Ug's fate, foolhardy messengers continued to bring the News to all and sundry. Given that the News for the next several millennia consisted chiefly of stories about drought, pestilence, invading armies, stampeding beasts and crop failure, it is perhaps unsurprising that News was not universally popular and its bearers soon found themselves occupying a position in the people's affections slightly below venereal disease and just to the left of estate agents. Indeed, when Pheidippides dropped dead after running the 26 miles from Marathon to Athens to announce the defeat of the Persians he was regarded by most Greeks as having done the world a favour.
By the 15th Century, after having brought details of everything from the collapse of the Roman Empire, through the disastrous Crusades all the way to the arrival of the Black Death, News was so unpopular that its bearers hardly dared show their faces in public. Indeed, so many messengers were being shot for bringing bad News that by 1402 the Guild of Heralds could only muster three members, all of whom were mad. Just as things looked their darkest for News, however, a new dawn broke with the arrival of Johann Gutenberg and his miraculous printing press. Now it was possible for the News to be cheaply and easily transferred to paper - allowing messengers to deliver it and then run away very quickly before anyone could read it. Soon News was transformed from a pariah into the latest fashion, with everyone eager to grab hold of the latest items hot off the press.
The popularity of News became so great that it soon found itself granted whole newspapers all to itself, filled cover to cover with all the latest information from near and far (or, at least, as far as a carrier pigeon could travel without being shot and converted into carrier pie). By the 18th Century News was being printed out and stuck up on every stationary surface (a phenomenon which would lead to the unfortunate incident in which several acres of freesheets were pasted to the side of George IV one morning after he fell asleep outside the Brighton pavilion) and thousands of people were engaged in its acquisition and distribution.
As mass communication improved, News came to more and more people, and more and more people came to News. By the early twenty-first century, News appeared almost inescapable - available via television, radio, internet and mobile phones, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Yet all was not as it seemed. While the outlets for News were ever greater in number, News itself began to seem pale and worn out.
Pundits began to speculate - usually at length, across all 24-hour news channels and on the basis of absolutely no real information - that News was suffering from an eating disorder. Indeed many believed that, overstressed by the need to say something at all times, News had taken to binging on low-quality gossip about troubled minor celebrities, scandals involving overpaid soccer stars and underclothed women and entertainment "stories" merely repeating the exact event witnessed on the previous night's reality TV, plus unfounded scare stories based on inaccurately reported statistics and tendentious, lying and ill-researched rants along the lines of "Christianity banned to appease Muslims", "Measles jabs give kids AIDS" and "Diana assassinated by house prices". The classic five Ws of journalism "Who?", "What?", "Where?", "When?" and "Why?" found themselves transformed into "What?", "When?", "With how many footballers?", "Will you take your kit off for the photo?" and "Which wankers will read this rubbish?" and even genuinely news-based News became a shadow of its former self, with political reporting reduced to tales of tribal infighting and interpersonal conflict rather than policy, science news reduced to a few whizz-bang graphics or John Humphrys harrumphing about how gravity was all different in his day, and arts news reduced to half-hour specials on the premiere of the latest Adam Sandler movie.
As a result of this, it came as a surprise to no-one when News's body was discovered in the early hours of this morning, the cause of death apparently a heart attack induced by the strain of trying to come up with a story involving Amy Winehouse having a drug-fuelled affair with Victoria Beckham and the winner of the X-Factor whilst trying to cover up the death of Madeleine McCann with the aid of "canoe man" John Darwin.
News will be buried at St Trevor's Church of the Big Ben Bongs. The Reverend Fiona Bruce will arch one eyebrow à la Dan Dare before reading an overbrief summary of News's life, shortened in order to fit in the story about the skateboarding duck. The congregation will sing Hymn No 123, Mailman Bring Me No More News.
19 December 2007
As A Dodo regrets to announce The Failure of the Liberal Democrats has unexpectedly passed away after 19 sorry years in the shadow of parliamentary power following the election of David Cameron lookalike, Nick "Calamity" Clegg, as the new leader of the LibDems.
The Liberal Party had had a long history before its last glorious leader David Steel led it into obscurity with an alliance with the infamous Gang of Four. Unhappily, this association with the left-wing, new wave band failed to sweep the party to power, forcing them instead to form an alliance with the SDP, the infamous Single Doctor Party led by Dr David Owen. When that alliance proved to be about as popular and as useful as the proverbial chocolate teapot (or, indeed David Owen and David Steel combined), the two parties realised it was time to do the decent thing. At the last moment, however, they changed their minds and merged, giving birth shortly thereafter to the Liberal Democrats.
Led by former Special Boat Squad member Paddy Ashdown, the Failure of the Liberal Democrats got off to a cracking start as the party was beaten into fourth place in the European elections and, at its first general election in 1992, won an astonishing 20 seats. Despite such bright beginnings, The Failure had a scare when, in 1997, Mr Ashdown boosted the tally of seats to 46 a feat attributed by psephologists to Mr Ashdown's hands-on (and pants-down) approach to publicity. Luckily for the failure, after an abortive attempt to form a pact with Labour, Mr Ashdown decided to hang up his leadership pants in 1999 and pass the poisoned chalice of the Failure of the Liberal Democrats to popular Scotsman, Charles Kennedy.
While pretending to be the leader of a rejuvenated party hoping to challenge the bi-partisan stalemate of parliament, Charles Kennedy was secretly drinking deep from that poisoned chalice at every opportunity and quickly established a reputation in the House as the leader who put the Party into Liberal Democrat. Thus the Failure prospered - missing meetings, slurring its way through press conferences and taking a frank approach to the hustings (who can forget the great 2001 election campaign "We've All Had A Drink, Vote LibDem"?). Despite this there were signs that all was not well with the Failure of the Liberal Democrats as the party increased its minority first to 52 in the 2001 general election and then to 62 in 2005.
With the possibility of success for the LibDems beginning to hove, however distantly, into sight it became plain to all that it was time for Mr Kennedy to step down (an impressive feat given that he was already in the gutter). The resulting leadership election proved the beginning of a golden age of the Failure of the Liberal Democrats as first they washed their dirty linen in public (quite literally in Mark Oaten's case) during the leadership election and, secondly, elected as leader a man with years beyond his wisdom.
Sir Menzies "Ming" Campbell rose simultaneously from the grave and to the challenge of continuing the Failure of the Liberal Democrats. With Labour mired in sleaze and the Conservatives flirting disastrously with eco-friendly policies, Ming Campbell's failure to raise the profile of his party above cheap jokes about his advanced years led to more and more calls for his resignation - none of which he heard because he'd left his deaf-aid in his room at the residential home.
Eventually persuaded to spend more time with his jigsaws, Ming was gently led away, leaving the Failure in the seemingly safe hands of a man only two years his junior. But acting leader, Vince Cable, surprised everyone by proving himself an able and quick-witted leader - refusing to meet the Saudi king and comparing Gordon Brown to Mr. Bean (thus not only imperilling The Failure but also threatening to put hundreds of satirists and parliamentary sketchwriters out of work).
The Failure struggled to keep going by organising a leadership contest between two men who weren't Vince Cable. But despite the contest between Nick Clegg and Chris Huhne attracting less attention than one of Sir Ming's speeches, the Failure of the Liberal Democrats was mortally wounded when Clegg limped past his rival at the post by just over 500 votes - thrusting his party into the headlines once more and creating the real possibility that the public might, at some time in the future, begin to speculate about the possibility of one day, maybe, considering putting a vote in the box marked Liberal Democrat.
The Failure of the Liberal Democrats will be buried at St Paddy's Church of the Fallen Pants. The service will be conducted by the Reverend Charles Kennedy (just as soon as he can be prised away from the communion wine), and the congregation will sing hymn 392, Stuck in the Middle with Huhne.
17 December 2007
We at As A Dodo today wish to nod our heads in understanding at the tragic situation of parents this Christmas and offer you our sincere condolences for the imminent passing of Your Child's Happiness, which is expected to slip into the twilight on 25 December 2007 at precisely the moment they realise that "Santa" has been unable to secure for them a Nintendo Wii games console.
Your Child's Happiness was born shortly after his or her entrance into the world as a gurgling, blood-covered mass of pink flesh, in all likelihood at about the time he or she first managed to latch on to mum's breast and tuck in to a hearty, colostrum-laced meal (and certainly some time after that berk in the mask decided to give them a smack on the behind).
From that moment on, Your Child's Happiness grew and grew - taking innocent pleasure in anything from the new hanging mobile placed so carefully over their crib to all the swearing which putting the bloody thing up in the first place caused mummy and daddy to engage in. The sources of joy for your little one were many and various: being tucked up in a nice warm blanket, listening to bedtime lullabies, screaming itself hoarse in the middle of the night just when you'd finally got back to sleep, being sick all down the back of your best suit just before that interview for the new job.
As the years drifted slowly, oh so slowly, by so Your Child's Happiness burgeoned, safe in the knowledge that a single quivering lower lip at the right moment (or, failing that, several minutes of screaming in the middle of the toy shop on a busy Saturday afternoon) would get you exactly where they wanted you. Whether it be lengthy sessions of "I spy with my little eye" as you sat in the traffic jam outside Heathrow, endless hours of "The Wheels on the Bus" going round and round, or desperate attempts at bribery with E-number-laden sweeties whilst waiting at the supermarket checkout, you would do anything to ensure Your Child's Happiness endured.
Yet as Your Child grew, their Happiness became harder and harder to maintain. Soon exhausting sessions of tickling and Maisie DVDs lost their allure. Not even 19 seasons' worth of The Simpsons on a permanent loop (including the first 7 seasons when it was actually worth watching) could guarantee to keep a smile on Your Child's face, and ever more desperate measures were needed - right up to the point that you seriously considered selling that "spare" kidney of yours to fund the purchase of the necessary pony/computer/other-overly-expensive-item that would be heading off to the glue factory/eBay mere months after its purchase. Christmas in particular became a day fraught with danger, every second of present-opening time bearing the threat of a strangled cry of "But you KNOW I don't like Barbie/Grand Theft Auto/crack cocaine any more. I HATE you." and a tearful exit from the room, or your being forced to issue a series of dark and accusatory looks at your useless partner for failing to remember to buy the batteries as Your Child forces you to search through every remote control in the house for a spare set of AAAs.
This Christmas, though, was going to be different. This Christmas you were going to purchase the gift everyone told you was guaranteed to provide hours of pleasure to the recipient: a Nintendo Wii. And so it was that you set off in early December, confident in the knowledge that you would soon return with games console in one hand and a certain future for Your Child's Happiness in the other. That the dream was to prove as evanescent as a taxi's "for hire" light on a cold evening in December was not your fault. How were you to know that the mighty gaming giant seems only to have been able to manufacture seven of the consoles to supply the whole globe's demand? You spent hours trying to redeem yourself - scouring the internet for supplies, ringing round for any sign of this year's near mythical - yet absolutely mandatory - Christmas present, hanging around the alleyway behind HMV ready to mug the delivery men on the off-chance they might be carrying a Wii. Yet the RSI in your mouse-clicking finger and the chilblains on your extremities (not to mention the criminal record) were all to no avail. There will be no Wii for Your Child this Christmas.
Your Child's Happiness will be buried on 25th December under a mound of torn wrapping paper, floods of tears and a look from your offspring that will let you know that they will never, ever be able to trust you again. It will be survived by Your Child's Resentment, your partner's despair and several desperate trips to the drinks cabinet on your own part.
14 December 2007
Following the news that the Police Federation has passed a vote of no confidence in Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith, after her failure to backdate a 2.5% pay award, we at As A Dodo must sadly announce the death of The Bobby on the Beat, who has clipped his last ear, left his last bicycle unlocked outside the local pub whilst nipping in for a natter and a pint of mild and shot his last innocent victim in the face at point-blank range.
The Bobby on the Beat was born in 1829, the son of Sir Robert Peel. So proud was the then Home Secretary of his new offspring that he named it after himself. Sadly for Sir Robert, the name "Junior" did not prove popular with the public, who preferred to refer to the infant constabulary as "Peelers", "Bobbies", "Coppers" or, indeed, "fascist pigs". Given the understandable reluctance of the Victorian public to have a bunch of uniformed men wandering around the country armed to the teeth and frightening the living daylights out of people - especially as members of the army were already doing exactly that job so well - the decision was taken to arm bobbies with nothing more than a truncheon and a clip (the latter being used - if we've done our googling correctly - to attach to youngsters' ears).
Soon the Bobby on the Beat was travelling across the whole country as every borough and parish clamoured to appoint a jovial, overweight copper to prevent the theft of 'kerchiefs by urchins and to serve as the butt of jokes (normally involving the dismantling of his bicycle when he nipped into the local for a natter and a pint of mild). During the rest of the 19th century and the early 20th century the Bobby on the Beat became an integral part of local community life - calling everyone by their name and being called all sorts of, generally uncomplimentary, names by everyone in return.
For decades, the Bobby on the Beat was held up as a paragon of virtue, defender of the innocent and cheap alternative to the speaking clock. PC 49 smiled out from the pages of The Eagle, PC George Dixon patrolled the streets of Dock Green and The Laughing Policeman, fat though he be, was a hero of popular song. Yet all, in truth, was not well. As the 20th Century wore on, the Bobby began to withdraw from his beat, forced to replace his truncheon with a side-handled baton, his trusty whistle with a malfunctioning radio and his humble bicycle with a flashy police car. Driven (usually in that very same police car, at speed, with his siren on and in the direction of dreadful crime and/or his lunch) from the streets that he loved, the Bobby on the Beat had to find new pastimes for himself. Thankfully, his sharp mind and eager attitude had not been dulled by all the pints of mild and slow bicycle journeys he had taken in his youth. So it was that the Bobby on the Beat spent the Sixties and Seventies inventing exciting games to while away his dull days, such as "Chase the Irishman", "Beggar the Pornography Baron (Unless He Agrees To Give You a Cut of His Profits)" and "Snap ... Goes Your Leg, Sonny Jim, Unless You Sign This Confession". Unfortunately, these games did not prove popular with the public, and the Bobby on the Beat found his former popularity waning with everyone save only Dr Who, who continued to use the Bobby's police box as a handy refuge from the Daleks, despite the fact the Bobby himself usually preferred to be down at the station, carefully "examining the evidence" from that hardcore pornography raid.
Despite this - and the ever increasing amounts of paperwork successive governments loaded him down with in order to stop all that game-playing - The Bobby limped (or more accurately, drove) on as best he could, gamely venturing out to fulfil his quota of arrests ... usually by nicking people for driving 2 miles per hour over the speed limit or wearing a hoodie in a built up area.
It was not enough. The Home Secretary's decision to deny the Bobby on the Beat £200 a year extra in his kevlar-lined wallet was to prove a fatal blow. With his dying breath, the Bobby called for her resignation, announced his intention to have a think about reintroducing industrial action and threw himself down the stairs to the cells.
The Bobby on the Beat will be buried at St Jack Warner's Church, 999, Letsby Avenue. The service will be conducted by the Reverend Sir Ian Blair, who will later deny all knowledge of the event. The congregation will fail to turn up at all, having popped down the pub for a bit of a natter and a pint of mild.
The Bobby on the Beat is survived by Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith ... though not necessarily for all that long.
12 December 2007
Harassed home chefs are today knocking back the cooking sherry and donning their paper party hats in memory of Christmas Dinner, which has passed away at the ripe, old age of 2007 after being shocked at the sight of its carbon footprint, recently calculated by bored boffins at the University of Manchester as generating 55,000 tonnes of CO2 in the UK alone.
Christmas Dinner was born in 0 AD on the outskirts of Bethlehem in what contemporary estate agents described as "charming, open-plan accommodation with traditional straw and mud floor and en-suite camel, sheep and ox facility". Thanks to the unenlightened attitudes of the time the meal was whipped up by a somewhat irritated Virgin Mary - more than a little tired from the experience of parthenogenesis and dealing with the writ slapped on her by Richard Branson over the use of the trademark Virgin - from whatever lay to hand. Thus it was that the first Christmas Dinner had a notable lack of sprouts and bacon-wrapped sausages and instead went rather heavy on the lamb in gold sauce and camel à la frankincense with a glass of mulled myrrh to wash it down, and that it was eaten by a group of half-cut shepherds, kings and itinerant carpenters who had popped down the pub while Mary was slaving over a hot pile of straw. Notwithstanding this (and the subsequent severe bout of food poisoning the meal engendered, leading Melchior for one to spend the next seven days locked in the bathroom of his hotel in Jerusalem), Christmas Dinner became an instant hit, with Christians across the known world soon lining up on December 25 each year to stuff themselves silly, then feel unwell and irritable for the rest of the afternoon.
Over the next two thousand years, Christmas Dinner spread alongside the religion that bore it, travelling far and wide, often - like Christianity itself - on the end of a pointy sword, long lance or mighty cannon. As it travelled so it came to incorporate all sorts of exotic fare. By the time it had reached Britain a typical Christmas Dinner brought together items such as spices from the Orient, dried fruits from the Mediterranean, turkeys from some godawful shed in Norfolk and a vast array of drinks, including champagnes from France, wines from the New World and that horrible green stuff that tastes like Windolene your Aunty Sal gave you from wherever it was she last went on holiday. Yet even as these newcomers were admitted to the feast, still many old traditions lingered on, particularly the one about all the cooking being left to a harassed female member of the family while the blokes slipped off for a drink. New traditions too were added, from the sullen afternoon slump in front of the Bond movie and the ritual ignoring of the Queen's Speech to the late afternoon punch-up over what Bob said about that horrible green stuff that tastes like Windolene Aunty Sal gave you.
Yet all traditions must eventually come to an end and such was the fate of the Christmas Dinner. With the discovery that assembling the nation's yuletide repast pumped out the same CO2 as a small power station (not to mention the fact that the impact of all those overcooked green veg on a national stomach more used to pizza, chips and burgers had a similar environmental impact) it was plain that Christmas Dinner's time was up. Unwilling to face a slow decline, the Christmas Dinner picked up the hairdryer Mum had been using for the past three hours in a desperate attempt to thaw out the turkey and garrotted itself with the flex whilst attempting to choke itself on the 50p hidden in the Christmas pud just to make absolutely sure.
Christmas Dinner will be buried beneath a vast pile of roast potatoes, mashed potatoes, boiled potatoes, peas, sausages-wrapped-in-bacon, boiled carrots, sprouts, roast parsnips, cranberry sauce, chestnut stuffing, bread sauce, Christmas Pudding, mince pies, brandy butter and brandy sauce. It is survived by turkey sandwiches.
10 December 2007
A tribute to the pioneering German composer, by his close personal friend, popular band leader* James Last.
I first met Karlheinz at summer school in Darmstadt in the early 50s. I was working in the canteen serving up the schnitzels to the serious and spotty-faced youths hell-bent on bending the musical world to their serialist will, but there was something I liked about young Karly. When he dropped his metal tray on the floor spilling cutlery, crockery and sauerkraut everywhere he didn't do what every other student would do - ignore it and leave me to clean up the mess - he immediately took out his notebook and transcribed the sound. It later formed the basis of his ground-breaking work, TrayStucke.
Musically we were poles apart. He liked cutting up recording tape and reassembling it in a fashion that wowed critics and confused audiences across the Western world, while I dreamed of the day I could give up jazz to lead my own orchestra playing covers of light popular music that sounded as though they were recorded very far away at the bottom of a mine. But we had a lot in common: we were both German and we played the piano - I played it with my hands and my heart; Karlheinz played it with a tape recorder and a bratwurst. What a wunderkind!
While I was touring the bierkellers and airforce bases of West Germany, Karlheinz was spending days on end in the new electronic music studio at Westdeutscher Rundfunk in Köln. I would turn up from time to time to see how my great pal was getting on, but, of course, I understood he was too busy forging new musical directions to see me.
I'd met Paul McCartney in a nightclub in Hamburg and we'd hit it off immediately - especially when he confessed to me in the small hours of the morning his love for "a German composer, you've probably never heard of him, like... Karlheinz Stockhausen..." Well, imagine his reaction when I was able to introduce the two of them. They loved him so much they put him on the cover of Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, and he returned the compliment by writing Drumwerks - a 24-hour cycle of percussion and tape loops for Ringo in 3/4, 4/4, 5/4, 9/8 and any other time signature Ringo felt like playing.
Though he was critically acclaimed, a big hit still eluded Karlheinz. I begged him to just once compose something a little lighter, something a little more accessible like Burt Kaempfert's A Walk Through The Black Forest. He nodded, and then retired to his study to fast for seven days. I paved the hallway like an expectant father - back and forth, back and forth, my footsteps growing heavier and heavier. Sure enough, seven days later, Karlheinz emerges, leaner, paler, with that mystical look in his eye which always said he had composed something extraordinary, something exciting... He beckoned me into his inner sanctum and played me his latest work, Man Pacing Expectantly. I listened mesmerised for the whole of the seven days it took him to play it!
In the 70s, while film producers and directors were starting to exploit the potential of contemporary compositions for scoring horror films, Karlheinz would have no truck with it. My good friend, Stanley Kubrick wanted him to score The Shining, but Karlheinz was not worldly enough to see the potential for promoting his work and making enough money to keep him in quarter-inch tape for the rest of his life. Instead, I had to step into the breach and knock out the score in under a week. Still, I cannot tell you how proud I was that Karlheinz said it was the scariest film he'd ever heard!
He continued to tread his own path. he was a spiritual man but he understood worldly matters - as anyone who heard Helikopter-Streichquartett would know. Four string quartets in four helicopters hovering over the audience. It requires no explanation from me, naturlich, and was enjoyed all over the world - particularly by General Noriega - who listened to it broadcast by the American military for three weeks - transfixed, he never left his home.
Like every true musical genius - like myself, Burt, Ringo - Karlheinz was often misunderstood. So when he commented after 9/11 that it was a work of art, naturally, the reactionary media pounced on him and the premiere of his new opera Twin Towers Falling (based on Noh theatre and sung in Welsh over the course of two months... without a break...!) was cancelled. But they did not know the Karlheinz I knew. He was a fun guy, a party guy. He would stay up for days on end - just listening to the opening movement of Licht. He was echt, I was ersatz. But he was my friend. And I know he would have wanted me to play at his funeral. Which is why my orchestra will be performing Gesang der Junglinge on Stylophones in a jaunty upbeat tempo. It's what he would have wanted I am sure. Auf wiedersehen, mein freund, und ein, swei, drei, vier...!
* Not the James Last, you understand.**
** And not that popular either.***
*** In fact, he was bloody awful.
06 December 2007
Regular readers are advised that, regrettably, we will not be updating As A Dodo this Friday. Those seeking an explanation are advised to follow this link.
Normal service will be resumed on Monday ... once the wine stains have been removed from the As A Dodo office carpet and the photocopier has been repaired.
05 December 2007
Following the release of Liverpudlian teacher/agent of Western corruption intent on destroying Islam* Gillian Gibbons from imprisonment in Sudan, As A Dodo has discovered tragic evidence of the fate of the bear at the centre of the row, in a series of documents sent to us by a Mr BB Milne.
Piglet was walking through Hundred Acre Wood when he spotted his good friend the bear hiding behind a bush.
"Hello Mo...," began Piglet.
"Shhh," said his friend, urgently, "Don't mention my name, Piglet"
"But why ever not, Moham... ?" Piglet started to reply before being shushed into silence by a large and furry paw.
"It's not safe to say it, Piglet, that's why. It could get you into all sorts of trouble. Just call me 'X'."
"Alright ... 'X'." said Piglet, "But why? And why are you hiding behind that bush?"
X's round face emerged slowly from among the branches. "Oh Piglet," he sighed, "I should never have agreed to let that nice Mrs Gibbons change my name to Mo... to my new name".
"Ah," said Piglet, sounding suddenly very wise, "I did try to warn you that your assuming the name of the Prophet could easily be used by local extremists to whip up anti-Western sentiment and by their friends in the Sudanese government to try to distract from the attempted genocide in Darfur"
Pooh examined his friend in surprise. "Did you really, Piglet?" He asked.
"Oh yes Mo... I mean, 'X'. Only you weren't listening," replied Piglet.
"I remember now," X said, "I was distracted on account of pretending to be a cloud and trying to ignore Eeyore who was complaining how I'd changed since selling out to the Disney Corporation".
"That's right," replied Piglet, who was very proud of how wise he had been and not very happy that his old friend had ignored him.
"Anyway," continued 'X', "That's why I'm hiding. They locked Mrs Gibbons up, you know."
"Did they now?" Piglet responded.
"Yes," said X, who had come out from behind his bush and was now trying to bury himself in a pile of leaves, "Some of them even threatened to kill her."
"Gosh," said Piglet.
"And that's why I'm hiding," said the bear formerly known as Pooh as he slumped down into a sad heap among the leaves. "Now I think about it, I realise I should never have changed my name from Winnie".
Piglet looked at the sorrowful bear, feeling a sudden anger rising inside him. "What was that you said, 'X'?" he asked, his little eyes flashing red.
X looked at him. "I said, 'I should never have changed my name from Winnie'".
Piglet stared back. "That's what I thought you said, X. Take the nickname of Britain's great wartime leader in vain would you?" he shouted. And as he yelled at his friend he stabbed him repeatedly, casting bits of stuffing across the wood, before throwing him into a large Heffalump trap.
What is left of the bear currently known as 'X' will be buried inside a large pot labelled "Hunny" in the middle of Hundred Acre Wood. He is survived by Rupert the Bear, Barnaby the Bear, Paddington Bear and the Three Bears but definitely not by Mo...well you know who we mean... the Bear.
* delete according to preference.
03 December 2007
As A Dodo pays tribute to America's greatest motorcycling daredevil, Evel Knievel, with this moving obituary by his long-time friend and personal physician, Marty "Memphis" Stopholes III, MD.
I first met Evel back in the late 40s. He'd fallen off his bike while trying to pull a wheelie outside the drugstore in Butte, MT. Trying to impress a young lady, he told me as I patched up a shattered collar-bone, fixed his broken shoulder and set both his smashed arms and rebuilt his left leg. Whether he impressed her or not I can't say but something about that kid's self-belief sure as hell impressed me. I knew he was destined to go somewheres ... and that by the time he got there he'd surely be in need of urgent medical attention.
Through those early years that boy tried everything from ice hockey to athletics (and he would have broken the world pole vault record too, if he hadn't knocked himself unconscious on the pole on the way up and missed the landing mat on the way down) but it was when he took up with the motorbikes that he found his true calling ... and I found my medical practice flourishing like it never had done before.
Back then we didn't have time to sit back and take things easy, no sir! No sooner had I patched Evel up than he was back out on the road again getting smashed up real bad for real good money. This was the 60s, and while John F Kennedy had said America would put a man on the moon by the end of the decade, Evel was already reaching for the stars ... generally after losing his grip on the handlebars and zooming up, up and away from his bike. Evel knew my services wasn't cheap, but he knew they was the best, and that I'd always fix him up so he could get back out on the road - inside an ambulance, mostly.
Still, the public loved him and he loved the public - particularly the ladies - and why not? He was young, handsome and damn, was that boy smart! He may have been smacked in his head more times than George W was dropped on his by his pappy, but Evel sure made some great decisions. And he was always one step ahead of me - even when he was on crutches or in traction. I no sooner had to mention that folks might like to see him leaping a dozen buses on his motorcycle, than he would be revving up trying to leap 13 buses. Sure he often fell flat on his face - or his coccyx, or his ulna, or both as he went coccyx over ulna straight into the side of a bus or a bridge - but he went straight into the hearts and minds of his fans around the world at the same time.
I think it was during one lengthy stay in my hospital that he hatched his most audacious stunt. Waking from his coma he turned to me and whispered those three immortal words, "Snake River Canyon" ... which had coincidentally featured on the tape loop I'd left playing under his pillow. Well, he seemed so set on the darn thing I just had to put him in touch with some old NASA buddies of mine who eagerly agreed to build him a skycycle that would propel him over a mile across the canyon and into the record books.
Well, as you all know, things didn't go quite to plan. We'll never now how it was that that parachute of his deployed early, sending him plummeting to the canyon floor below ... as my lawyers have made clear to a number of journalists investigating me. Somehow (and despite the allegations that someone had sawn through his safety harness with a medical scalpel) he escaped with only minor injuries. Still, despite the lack of a severe maiming, that leap made him the biggest star stunt riding has ever known. Next thing you knew they was churning out Evel Knievel dolls, games, autographed bandages and personalised stunt-crutches that would make my boy one of the richest men on two wheels, even if those wheels was on the side of his chair.
Now I know that many folks say "Sure, Evel was a fine man, but did we really have to encourage the youth of America to put their life on the line trying to be like him?" Luckily, I didn't have much time to dwell on that kind of talk, mainly 'cause my hospital was soon brim-full of kids suffering from broken ribs, arms, legs, backs, necks... but all of them speeded toward that long ramp to recovery by the knowledge they was just a few beds away from their hero.
Sadly, time took its toll. Even Evel had to throttle back eventually. Why, only a few years ago he even rejected my scheme for him to leap into an electric saw and acid bath factory on a jet-propelled Zimmer frame. I tell you, the world of thrills will never be the same ... and nor will the world of emergency medicine. Still, if all goes to plan, I know the next time I see Evel he'll be lying in his stars-and-go-faster-stripes coffin waiting to make the greatest leap of them all ... as his rocket-powered coffin shoots up the ramp and soars over 24 hearses - most likely clipping the roof of the 25th, bouncing over the open grave and accelerating up and up and up into the wide, blue yonder.
Shoot, I just know he'd want me to release it on DVD for all his loyal fans, just as sure as I know he's up there listening. I know he can hear me. And if he's fallen just short of Heaven and smashed into those Pearly Gates breaking every damn bone in his stubborn ghostly body - I'll soon be there to fix him up. Just like the old days.