Archive for the ‘Kunlun Mountains’ Category

Degrees; or, The Shitfuck Of a Generation

August 21, 2010

So, everyone who passed their final year of an undergraduate degree this year has graduated, the A-level results have been and gone, and the conclusion from the media and business sectors that run this country this year is:

  1. Having a degree is shit
  2. Some students aren’t allowed to do them!!!1!! (but don’t worry because they’re crap)

As it turns out (who knew?!?!), no one who has ever been successful in the world of business, the arts, government or academia has even so much as stepped accidentally onto a part of the pavement technically part of a university campus in a major city centre. The last Labour government fooled us: degrees are in fact massive success sponges that will leave an entire generation unable to ever find a job. And what with all their benefits being cut, they’d better find one soon! But they can’t because there aren’t any anymore and probably never were.

So, what can you do to counteract the negative effects of having a degree on your future career prospects? So far top government think tanks have come up with the following:

  1. Get an internship during your degree
  2. Get a summer placement during your degree (no one is sure whether or not this is distinct from an internship or not)
  3. Take a gap year, and use it to volunteer in your chosen field or do some travelling to expand your horizons, but only if you do this BEFORE your degree

The crucial thing to remember with all three of these is that if you’ve already finished your degree and not done any of them, you ARE fucked and may as well give up on applying for any graduate jobs and instead go for those ones giving hand jobs for pennies that you see right in the back of the Classified Ads.

Well, my new idea won’t help you if you’ve already finished your degree either, but it does have an advantage over the government’s ‘Big Three’ as it is less focused around stockpiling opportunities and networking and instead makes the link between beefing up one’s CV and intense physical pain explicit.

*** OK SO THIS IS THE IDEA ***

What we do is, in every student union across the country, is set up a room with a large wall covered in huge, deadly whips that are controlled with a pedal. The aspiring graduate job-attainer goes along to this wall, pays their money, takes off their shirt, and stands there whipping themselves by pressing down on the pedal. The facility can take up to 20 students at a time, although it will still probably be over-subscribed, so only the most impressive candidates will get any time on the whipping-wall at all. 15 hours of self-flagellation is deemed to be equivalent to one internship/summer placement/gap year. Photos must, however, be provided of the student’s back immediately after each flogging to check that it went deep enough into the flesh.

Alternatively, we rig up a lot of hoops and–

*** DO YOU SEE THE SATIRE ELEMENT OF THIS? ITS BECAUSE THIS IS WHAT THEY WANT YOU TO DO! THEY PROMISED YOU THE WORLD, THEY PROMISED YOU RICHES BEYOND YOUR WILDEST DREAMS OR AT LEAST JOB SECURITY ONE YOU HAD A DEGREE BUT YOU DON’T HAVE IT AND YOU NEVER WILL BECAUSE THEY KNOWINGLY DEBASED THE VALUE OF HAVING A DEGREE BY EXPANDING THE UNIVERSITY SECTOR TOO GENEROUSLY THEY LIED TO YOU BE MORE ANGRY ABOUT THIS ***

No money? No problem!

July 19, 2010

Of all the problems associated with the Global Financial Crisis, perhaps the most troubling is only just now coming to light: people have forgotten how to make money. Back in the late 90s through mid 00s, everyone had lots of money, but as the banks begun to collapse, a wave of collective amnesia has apparently descended on the population and everyone seems to have forgotten exactly what they were doing with it in the first place.

This is borne out, for example, in the lack of jobs being created even back when the government still bothered to claim the recession was over on various technicalities: the simple reason for this is that there is no real reason to pay anyone for anything, as people will do whatever you want them to for free. The pioneers in this new field of volunteer exploitation has ironically been a sector that many financial analysts have declared moribund: print media. When you next read a paper, particular a local paper, reflect if you will on the fact that nothing you have read has been written by someone who has been paid. Instead, it is all written by a team of travelling interns, mostly recent English Literature graduates, who move from paper-to-paper writing for each of them in turn for a few months for no pay on the off-chance they might one day be given some money for doing so, but of course they never are because these days even many senior staffers are paid in free CDs and foreign trips rather than being given a conventional wage, plunging them to the brink of poverty: The Guardian‘s Marina Hyde, for example, has been claiming housing benefit since March 2009, whilst her colleague Simon Jenkins has been forced to move back in with his parents in their former council house in Bromsgrove. And yet the model works beautifully, because despite the clear lack of proportionate remuneration, this has not deterred the stricken writers from continuing to write.

It is therefore no surprise that David Cameron wishes to roll out this model of employment on a country-wide scale. We all know that the government needs to make budget cuts: we know this because we are constantly told this, and then somebody mentions Greece. I think the whole of Greece is on fire because they didn’t cut the budget, or something. Hence: the Big Society programme. No longer will schools, post offices, libraries, public transport providers, housing projects, public houses, and so on, need to be run by people on expensive salaries. Instead, they will be taken over by charities and run by volunteers. It might be objected: “who will actually bother to do these deeply necessary jobs without any prospect of financial gain? Surely they’ll take up all of someone’s labour time and they won’t be given any money, so they won’t do it.” But that is, of course, deeply naïve thinking inspired by a pre-Credit Crunch mentality. No: there are tens of thousands of enthusiastic young people, recent graduates, out there who have no job, no real prospect of finding a half-decent job, who will do anything to beef up their CV and make it look like they are someone who deserves to be paid for doing a proper job like the one they might have imagined themselves getting when they started university. These people are young, bright, and eager to please. So, they will make perfect unpaid volunteers to run our essential services forever and ever.

And what’s more, this is a measure brilliantly in tune with the current discourse surrounding the salaries of public sector employees. In the wake of the incomprehensibly borish and still raging MPs’ expenses scandalgate, it is gradually becoming evident that the general public do not respond generously to ‘their’ money being spent on the wages of other people, even if they are doing essential jobs really well: just take the example of headteacher Mark Elms and his £240,000 a year salary, or this other one here in this Daily Mail article, who isn’t paid quite as much because obviously that would lead to a completely incomprehensible figure of money.  Now, once one would have thought the sensible argument would have gone: “but they’re doing really good jobs in very difficult schools and the public sector needs to attract the best people and what’s more they deserve to be rewarded.” But no longer. Obviously people who still think this way need to be sent into camps to be re-educated because actually how DARE headteachers claim more than classroom assistants? So you see if you think critically around the issue you will find that no one should ever be paid anything at all until they retire and receive generous pensions.

Is America the new China?

July 18, 2010

Well, what with the ‘rise of China’ being all over the financial news at the moment, the grand old lady of world politics, the United States of America, might perhaps take heart at being labelled “the new China” by this publication. But don’t celebrate just yet, Lady States, for you might be the new China, but this particular China is late-Qing imperial China.

Here are some key points of comparison:

Was once a great empire: Our cultural memories of the Qing dynasty are mostly those of chronic backwardness and decline, but it is important to remember that imperial China in fact reached its height in terms of territory during the Qing, incorporating Inner Mongolia, Tibet and Taiwan into the empire during the reign of the Kangxi Emperor, whose golden reign might be compared to Franklin Roosevelt or maybe Bill Clinton.

Isolationism: Old China was notoriously suspicious of foreigners, the place largely isolating itself from the world outside its field of influence from the Ming dynasty onwards and hence being outpaced in development by Europe (comparatively backwards at the outset of Ming). Likewise, the USA has always had a streak of isolationism about it, which has reared its head recently for example in the expressed wish of prominent Tea Partier Michelle Bachman for the United States to not “be part of the international global economy”.

Treaty ports: The USA doesn’t actually have any treaty ports, but on the other hand, it does have NAFTA, which is a bit like a massive treaty port stretched over three nations.

Over-centralised political system that is gradually losing control of the country as a whole: This is a more complex point of comparison because due to the extreme differences between the political systems of imperial China and the USA, any endemic problems that are dooming the country to long and drawn-out failure culminating in half a century of destructive revolution are bound to be very different also. Nevertheless, it is fairly obvious that democracy in America is broken and that it is only a matter of time before everyone notices and the country collapses. The political culture in America is so toxic that the mere hint that a Republican representative or senator might want to engage in bi-partisan co-operation can lead to serious questions being asked about their sexuality. The system of checks and balances is too complex and prevents urgent, country-propelling-into-future action being taken properly over issues such as healthcare. Debate over gun control and capital punishment reduces to what is written in a centuries-old document as interpreted by a panel of legal scholars appointed so as to reflect the unhealthily vitriolic (but not even politically that wide) left-right split in the country as a whole. It is only a matter of time before everything in the American political system completely breaks down and they all have to sell their police forces like in California.

Foreign encroachment: This is another inexact comparison because foreign encroachment in China came from merchants from the more developed west rather than illegal immigrant labourers from comparatively underdeveloped Mexico. The other reason the comparison is inexact is that in China it didn’t result in everyone speaking Spanish by 2050.

Dowager empress Cixi: Cixi was without doubt one of the top 10 most belligerent, right-wing, vain, ignorant and self-serving awful women of all time and during her long de facto rule all hope of peaceful reform in China was lost. Thus far, the USA can’t quite muster any horrible old cows to truly match her, but this is not through lack of trying: both Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachman have something of the Cixi about them, although if they ever do obtain power they are admittedly unlikely to last 47 years. You could easily imagine them imprisoning their nephews for ten years for attempting political reform, though.

Bizarre pseudo-Christian nationalist movements: From 1850 to 1864, as Qing power faltered, the Taiping Rebellion raged across southern China, the rebels occupying Nanjing as their capital. One the most fascinatingly odd things ever to have happened in history, it accounted for the deaths of some 20 million people, mostly through plague and famine (scorched earth tactics were practised on both sides), but more importantly for the discussion at hand, it was led by Hong Xiuquan, a failed student of the imperial examinations who had a nervous breakdown in which he received a vision of himself as the second son of God (only later made sense of by a Christian pamphlet lent him by his cousin), sent to rid China of Manchu rule. He preached an idiosyncratic, heavily Sinosised version of Christianity, and one of his most important generals was an illiterate firewood merchant named Yang who claimed to be able to speak with the voice of God. Such a movement can be compared to contemporary US Protestant evangelicals, who in super-churches preach what is essentially a uniquely American Christianity, based around self-satisfaction and the free market. Of course, it has yet to prove quite so directly destructive as the Christianity preached by the Taipings, but perhaps it is only a matter of time, and certainly born-again Christianity in the states, with its home-schooling, chastity rings and so forth, is fundamentally outside the mainstream political system and cultural discourse, even if Republican politicians may have tried to co-opt evangelicals as voters.

The Boxer Rebellion: Another noted popular movement in late-Qing China was the Boxer Rebellion, a conservative, pro-Qing uprising led by the “Society of Righteous and Harmonious Fists” (or Boxers), whose members went into spiritual frenzies inspired by their practice of martial arts. Their aim was to rid China of foreign influences (ie: merchants, opium, missionaries), and they were co-opted by Cixi and other reactionary Qing forces in the wake of the Guangxu Emperor’s attempt at political reform. Mostly the result was the political situation in China got out of hand and a lot of foreigners got killed, before an alliance of foreign powers actually did intervene militarily in China (though stopped short of actively colonising it). Such a movement could easily be compared to the obviously mystically-inspired (for how else could it be seen as remotely viable?) libertarianism of isolationist nationalism of the Tea Party movement, which has been co-opted by the reactionaries (Republican Party) in the wake of political reform (Obama, esp. healthcare) and also seems likely to get completely out of hand and may yet result in people getting killed. Let’s hope an alliance of China, India and Brazil invades.

Widespread opium use: This one doesn’t hold up so much, but lots of celebrities are on prescription pain medication and suchlike.

Guangxu Emperor: This hapless would-be reformer, imprisoned by his aunt Cixi who was the one who thrust him in to power in the first place in order to prop up her own rule, could easily be compared to the luckless President Obama, whose obvious good intentions and European-esque good sense seem doom to see him imprisoned (politically speaking) inside a Republic house of representatives come November.

Puyi: Who, then, would be Puyi, doomed child-emperor of a moribund empire, forever walking, rumoured homosexual ghost of a bygone age of romantic glory: for the Chinese Puyi, imperial splendour; for his forthcoming American equivalent, a viable non-state capitalism and sparkling images of suburban prosperity. When America elects a toddler (possibly from an established political family? Is Chelsea Clinton pregnant?), we’re sure to find out.

Rough-Housed in the Razor Pit

July 16, 2010

This next entry begins an irregular series of posts in which I will be publishing for you the readers some of my favourite obscure pulp horror stories from the dark days of the first half of the 20th century. Today’s story, ‘Rough- Housed In the Razor-Pit’ is one of just two published stories by Edward St John Limbo, a financial clerk from Manchester, New Hampshire. Both stories – ‘Rough-Housed’ and its brother, ‘The Gray Door’, were published in 1939 through Cosmos’s brilliant (and prolific) ‘Adventures Into Mystery’ series of collections (‘Rough-Housed’ was the first one, in collection 12; ‘Gray Door’ followed three months later in collection 14). Furthermore, both feature some strikingly disturbed vaginal imagery. Here, the protagonist is kidnapped by two giant goons on the verge of consummating his marriage, only to be thrown into a heaving, pink, elliptical and somehow organic pit, complete with deadly teeth. Meanwhile, in ‘Gray Door’, behind the titular door in the protagonist’s house lurks an ancient crone so old that whenever she moves parts of her flesh fall off and turn to dust: in order to revive herself she proceeds to devour the protagonist and have him re-born through the house’s fireplace. ‘The Gray Door’ is well worth reading too and I will publish it eventually but first, enjoy ‘Rough-Housed in the Razor Pit’, here:

Rough-Housed In the RAZOR-PIT

by Edward St John Limbo

(Originally published 1939, Adventures Into Mystery 12)

I had been five years living in UNMOUTH when I took a wife from the village. Unmouth was a quiet, out-of-the-way place, and I had always thought the locals merely typically unfriendly. The small shop I had set up selling periodicals was never frequented by people from the village, and I had always had to rely on the sadly hardly regular traffic of those passing through just to stay afloat. In truth I should have known better, for back in my home town, the small port of ALLITYVILLE, Unmouth was always somewhere that there had been dark whisperings about. But in truth I had never believed them… if only I had given heed!

Her name was Catherine, a dark-eyed wench of 18, the daughter of one of the longest-established families in the village, the Trasks. Cedric Trask was indeed the current Mayor of Unmouth, a position which rotated bi-annually, usually between the patriarchs of three families, the Trasks, the Taylors, and the Coppingers. Unmouth being a small village, and hardly welcoming to new arrivals, this meant that almost everyone living there was (through their families, at least), accorded their share of representation. And, it was within these families that the children were expected to marry. My advances as a suitor were hardly to be welcomed.

And yet from the first moment I saw beautiful Catherine I was transfixed, and she with me. I caught her eye as we walked in opposite directions as I went to buy my weekly groceries (sold to me at a premium rate, of course, as my presence as an outsider was unwelcome). I did not have much to do with the village and she had never seen me before, nor I her. She looked at me with those shimmering black eyes and they seemed to blaze inside me. My heart raced, and I felt like I was going to collapse, but I managed to steady myself, and went on my way.

I was distracted all night thinking about her. The next day, half-asleep at the counter of my shop (where, it should be noted, I also lived), I heard a soft tapping at the window round the back. Her perfect young face was smiling through it. I went round to the back door to let her in.

“Sorry about that,” she said. “I couldn’t be seen going into your shop through the front entrance. It’s not allowed you see, because you’re an Outsider.” She pronounced that last word with a profound force.

“I understand,” I said. “I’m surprised to see you. I haven’t been able to stop thinking about you since yesterday when we passed each other in the street.”

“Nor I you,” she said. And then I couldn’t stop myself any longer. I grabbed her and pulled her full, plump lips up to mine for a kiss.

“No,” she said, though softly, drawing away from me. “Not now. I am of marrying age. My father wants to marry me off to Stanley Coppinger, as he has always planned, but I would much rather marry you. Would you like this?” she asked.

O, one thousand times my heart, beautiful Catherine! (although, at that point, I did not even know her name)

Either way, she informed me all about the matter, and the next day I marched over to the Trask house, where I was shown in to see Mayor Cedric, and he received my request for his daughter’s hand with grave countenance. Nevertheless, when Catherine, who was stood in the room with us, took it upon herself to express her wishes in this situation, he seemed swayed, and granted me her hand, though he was not happy at giving it away to an Outsider such as I.

The wedding was hastily arranged, and sparsely attended. Even though about to be married to one of their own, my status as having moved to the village from outside remained apparently too great a taint for any of them to deign deal with me.

“Don’t worry about it,” said dear Catherine. “Its just the way its always been here.”

O dear, darling Kitty! Sadly the way it had always been was all too terrible indeed.

Despite the general boycott of the wedding, myself and my darling bride returned to my shop in a giddy mood of passion for each other. No sooner were we home than our lips were locked in deep battle. We fought our way across to the bedroom, alternately embracing each other and tearing off bits of formal clothing, and when we were there I threw Catherine with full force onto the bed. She landed, giggling, on her stomach, as I climbed behind and hitched up her skirts to feel in my hands two soft, plump buttocks, and between them–

Suddenly, in the midst of our revels, a crash from the shop room, as the front door was kicked down, and now into the bedroom crashed two giant thugs, topping 7ft the both of them. One was wielding a wooden bat, which he proceeded to swing with a mighty wallop into the side of my head.

I don’t know what happened immediately after that, but the next thing I remember was coming to in a dark room, chained up-armed by the wrists to the wall, and my beautiful bride nowhere to be seen about me. My arms had a horrible numbness to them, and my hands in particular, the blood cut off by the cuffs round my wrists. There was a strange sound coming from the centre of the room, that sounded like air rushing fast into a deep hole, then being blown out slowly. After a time, one of the giant thugs entered the room through a distant door, from which blazed a crack of seemingly brilliant light (or, at least it seemed in the gloom), and paraded towards me.

I wanted to ask what was going on, but when I tried to speak my mouth felt like it was full of raw meat and all I could manage was a strained murmur.

“The girl is safe, if that’s what you were asking,” said the thug. “Don’t worry. It wasn’t a real marriage.”

I spluttered some more.

“You’re from outside the village,” said the thug. “You wouldn’t understand our ways. We’re just doing what we have to do.”

He unchained me. My arms flopped to my sides, the blood rushing back into my hands. I gasped for breath. He grabbed me by my forearms, from behind.

“Wha- what are you doing?” I choked out.

“We are taking you to be executed as all Outsiders have been who have attempted to have their way with women from our village. You will by taken to death… by RAZOR-PIT!”

The mere words, spoken by this huge man, caused a spark of terror to run through me. I struggled somewhat in his grip, though completely vainly- even in the fullest flush of health, I would never have been strong enough to fight away from this giant. I realized that he was rough-handling me in the direction of the horrible sound coming from the middle of the room. As we approached, it got louder, and more terrifying. There seemed to be something mechanical to it, like a chain being pulled slowly round a cog. But as I came nearer to it, I could see even in the faint light that it was something pink, even in parts hairy, and organic, at least ten yards across and elliptical. It was raised around the sides, but in the middle – which was where the noises were coming from – was a dreadful, panting row of huge, vicious teeth that seemed sharp and eager for the devouring.

“Die, stranger!” shouted the giant, as he threw me into the Razor-Pit. From above me in my final moments of something that might be called clarity I could see far above me a great gallery of people from the village, clutching candles and peering into the pit. Their faces stood stone-still and satisfied. My final, dying thought, as those horrible teeth tore into me, was that my beautiful Catherine might be amongst them.

Professor Maximus in… Planet of the Teenagers

July 15, 2010

So, Professor Maximus and the crew of the Excelsior land on a mysterious planet where the technology is far in advance of our own. However, wandering through a terrifyingly hi-tech metropolis, all the adults he and the crew come across are a gaggle of weeping, babbling, shell-shocked, gibbering fools. Suddenly zoom-screech, a brutalist, cyberpunk jeep blazes up and Prof M and the gang are captured by a vicious, roaming band of teenage thugs!

From this it quickly emerges that this planet has a terrible systemic problem much like our own: it has been taken over by rowdy, disrespectful teenagers who completely control the vestigial population of adults!

The teenagers are deeply confused by the presence of Gail amongst the crew (as she is only 16), particularly when it emerges that contrary to initial assumptions the rest of the crew are not her slaves. They cannot understand why she does not simply intimidate them with her youth into obeying her. As it would so have happened, Gail was having quite a bad time shortly before the Excelsior landed on this planet, feeling that the rest of the crew didn’t respect her as much because of her age, so suddenly wow! Here there is an alternative system for her. She seems rather tempted by the life that these parentless thugs lead, as well as not a little bit thinking that the leader of the teenagers is really quite dishy. Shortly she is freed by the teenagers on the offer of joining them while her friends in the crew remain in bondage.

She seems rather happy as she joins the gang on their patrols round the area of the metropolis they control, randomly roughing-up adults who seem to be stepping out of line, and shaking them down for cash. Her and the leader even share a fleeting kiss, and a passionate if chaste embrace. However, when the next day it is decided that the adult members of the crew must be put to death, Gail objects in the strongest possible turns. Suddenly she seems in line for the “Razor Pit” (the teenagers’ preferred mode of execution) too. But then, she comes up with an ingenious idea: too introduce the teenagers to the gospels of our lord Jesus Christ, and to the Ten Commandments that tell us to honour thy father and thy mother. So, the teenagers quickly realize the errors of their ways, and at once release both the crew and all the adults on the planet.

Back on the Excelsior, pacing through the stars, the crew cease to tease Gail for her youth, as she has gotten them out of this mess and realise she is very mature for her age, unlike the little monsters on the planet of the teenagers pre-Christian revelation.

Christian sci-fi allegory

July 1, 2010

So, Professor Maximus and the crew land on a planet where they encounter a human-like (biologically), though (intellectually) unutterably primitive culture that have no concept of God or gods. Now, here really are your pack of bloodthirsty savages, raping and killing one another on the slightest of urges or for the merest of reasons (if any form of rationality whatever can really be accorded to this pack of latter-day Calibans). Maximus and co. are all of them both disgusted and fascinated by this unusual culture, which rather seems to refute Descartes at least who would have said that an idea of the divine was innate, so such a situation as they find themselves in would be impossible (or, at least, would be impossible if these be human minds indeed, though can that really be true when these proto-men are in such a base state?)

Anyhow, it isn’t long before their leader (such as he CAN lead this motley bunch, that is) tries to kill the Professor, so our hero Prof. Max is forced to turn his laser pistol on him. Suddenly, the savages are turned around. They are so stunned by the power of this new weapon that they begin to worship Professor Maximus as an immortal god, who in the name of anthropological research of course begins to lord it over them.

And now the savages have something approximating to a civilization. They stop killing each other willy-nilly and build a great ziggurat for the Professor to sit atop. Eventually though the son of the old leader, seeing all this, gets jealous (oh petty savage mind! Thou must indeed be human, for thou art nothing but!) and sets out to off the Professor, reasoning he is mortal after all, and at a great public festival cracks the Professor’s head open with a big stone. The Prof. appears to be dead but of course as Bosley is carrying a Healing Pack from the Excelsior with him he quickly isn’t. Thus, the resurrection! Fascinated natives, and then of course Max. must depart, for further medical care on the ship, so he goes round blessing them all and then leaves. Several begin speaking in tongues and praising his name to the heavens. All have a profound sense of the holy infused into them.

Cut to 200 years later and the natives now have a great civilization, through the myth of God-Maximus and his divine resurrection, and thus message of eternal love and peace. Neat.

Next week: On the way to deliver an important message to the planet of Ninevos-6, the Excelsior is  swallowed up by a space-whale. Can Professor Maximus and the crew escape?

The REAL reason why England failed at the World Cup that they’re NOT telling you

June 29, 2010

Check out this pair of mongs (from TV coverage/Daily Mail website)

Much pen blood has been spilt recently on explaining to the general public exactly why their beloved brave boys in white or red disappointed them so comprehensively in the World Cup in Africa which is soooo good for the continent (and what pace those African sides have! Such enthusiasm!). It’s the manager maybe. Or its the lack of passion from the players. They’re all too tired from the long season, their talents diminished by osmosis due to protracted exposure to foreigners in their club teams. But no, NO IT ISN’T. They’re not ACTUALLY telling you the real reason why England failed at the World Cup. Yes, granted the so-called ‘Golden Generation’ are in fact a group of jaded, dead-eyed gambling addicts who have a three-hour daily commute to their training grounds from their vast country estates funded by the blood diamonds smuggled by the cackling, corrupt Moldovan billionaires who are what pass for a Premier League owner nowadays. And, true: Fabio Capello may have, offsetting a golden record getting Campagnia Roggerio promoted from Serie C.2 in 1969 after a poor early-season performance, a grasp of English so poor that it would preclude him from succeeding as manager of takeaway, let alone a national football team, but THAT’S NOT THE REAL PROBLEM. Or, at least, neither of these two factors: lack of passion/alertness of players, and problems with the manager, tell the whole story. The real problem is that England have built their team around Wayne Rooney, a BLIND MAN.

Wayne Rooney, the scouse rascal who thrilled the nation as an angry, functionally illiterate teenager made good, was once an electric, instinctive striker who pursued that ball like a bull and then, quite unlike a bull, would use it to score rather than maul the goalkeeper (most of the time). But he has long had his problems. Compulsory Meat Raffle was granted exclusive access to Paule Davidoff, former club optician with Manchester United. He has revealed that during the opening few games of the 2008-09 season, Rooney suddenly seemed to have trouble following the path of the ball overhead, and was complaining to his agent of headaches. “After he missed a sitting header against Blackburn, the management decided I ought to have a look at him,” said M.Davidoff, who is now a grinder with RC Lens. “The results of the eye test  were deeply disturbing. He was suffering from rapidly advancing tunnel vision. I estimated that his vision would be completely gone in two years.”

But the club, needing to protect their prize asset, decided to cover it up. The decision was taken to hide the results of the eye test from everyone- including Rooney himself. “Rooney was their hot young star, the British bulldog, but they did not think he had the capacities to understand what was happening to him. I thought that the decision was unethical, personally, but after a discussion with Sir Alec, I withdrew my objections.” Rooney’s vision defect, then, would be covered up, and his performances corrected for by the use of a special scent that Manchester United had the match ball coated with at all games that allowed Rooney to recognise the ball: the young star was known for having an unusual sense of smell, having been a junior smelling champion at local level before deciding to concentrate on football, and whilst still at Everton’s youth academy he had a Saturday job as a truffle-boy at a Cheshire truffle farm, smelling out the truffles deep under the ground. Therefore, despite his rapidly advancing disability, Wayne Rooney was still able to put in the magical performances of pure football that saw him named both the Premier League writer’s and player’s player of the year last season.

But the story was not the same for his performances with England. Manchester United had taken the decision to withhold details of Rooney’s condition from EVERYONE- and that included the FA. Due to his continuing high performance at club level, nobody questioned the fact that Rooney’s name was the safest on the team sheet, despite his complete inability to look anything like competent for his country. Balls hoofed his way were overran dramatically. Shots were made with power out for a throw-in. Frank Lampard was asked to guide Rooney onto the pitch from the dressing-room. He was caught bitching about the fans to-camera after the Algeria game because he thought it was actually Glen Johnson. Most of the time in South Africa Rooney spent the matches wandering around the pitch feeling for obstacles. The REAL problem with England’s performance in South Africa was staring everyone in the face, but we have all been as blind as Rooney’s no-longer-functioning eyes. “No…” everyone watching the match thought. “Wayne Rooney… he can’t be, can he…? Be blind? No… no, he’s one of the best players in the world, he couldn’t possibly…” But it’s true. Time for Manchester United to own up so that the FA can get on, scent the balls, and rebuild the team around this magnificent sightless savant.

Cruciate Ligament Virtual Reality: Nozick’s Experience Machine and the problem of career-ending injury

January 19, 2010

If any further proof was needed for the insane cosmological odds up against man in a godless universe where all success and happiness is based solely on chance, one needs look no further than the sad cases of two promising potential England football stars: Matt Jansen and Dean Ashton. When I was younger, I was always frustrated equally by two things: Tony Blair’s political policies, and the players Sven Goran Eriksson picked for England. As far as I was concerned, both were out-of-touch sociopaths in the pocket of some unspecified big man of established order. Blair went to war in Iraq, Eriksson played Jermaine Jenas. Same difference. Of course both men’s successors, Gordon Brown and Steve McClaren, proved infinitely more incompetent but we can’t just get some talented Italian politician in who can actually run a country because no such Italian exists. (but that’s not my point)

The worst thing though was strikers. I mean, Heskey over Beattie? What was he thinking? It seemed that by playing for a lesser club like Southampton, James Beattie would never get picked while Emile Heskey, Darius Vassell etc etc would continue to underperform up front for England time after time. Wayne Rooney always struck me as singularly overrated when I was younger, I think because everyone went on about him all the time when he only had about 8 goals for Everton one season or something (I can’t even remember whether or not this is accurate but regardless). In short, the cosmos were on the side of Heskey and Rooney and against Beattie. Fuck the cosmos.

But James Beattie probably wasn’t actually that great despite a few good seasons with Southampton (being from Winchester, nearest Premiership club though I didn’t support them, my footballing worldview was in fairness coloured red and white) and still has a successful footballing career to this day. He was, in fact, quite lucky. But what about Jansen and Ashton? These were two talented strikers who, years apart from each other, fought their way up from the lower leagues- Carlisle, Crewe- to Premiership potential stardom. Ashton even commanded over £7million when West Ham bought him. And then, just as they were about to break into the England team, Jansen suffered a near-fatal motorcycle accident and Ashton got his knees fucked up by known newsreader stepston Shaun Wright-Philips.

Perhaps they’d been blessed to get to the position where they were, but their luck ran out, and neither of them was ever the same since. Apparently Matt Jansen plays for Leigh now. Dean Ashton doesn’t play at all. But they were both brilliant on Championship Manager and probably so in real life as well. In Championship Manager, though, depending which season you’re playing (and in some, it could be both would do well), they both invariably become big international goalscoring sensations. So, in this small sense at least, Jansen, Ashton, and underdog-fans like myself are all justified in turning away from reality and towards the Nozickian Experience-machine comfort of virtual reality. It’s a cold world out there, and frankly I’m beginning to get a little frosty myself. So it looks like you’re not just wrong about your weird extreme property rights-prioritising conception of libertarianism where the actual outcome is far less liberty than Rawls would guarantee, Bobbie- you’re wrong about the experience machine thought experiment too. I for one would definitely plug in, and drop out. At least in the Experience Machine, the universe wouldn’t be incomprehensibly cruel. And no one would ever rate Jermaine Jenas.

The year in the same albums every music website everywhere liked (but I’ve mostly not actually heard)

December 16, 2009

1. Grizzly Bear- Veckatimest

This time last year GB and the lads were still in lengthy hibernation after a four-year absence following their last record, ‘Cold House’. But rumours were already a-stirring that this one would be a show-stopper. They were, for once in the life and times of Grant ‘Grizzly’ Bear-Roberts and his three intrepid hangers-on, not greatly exagerrated. With an album title meaning ‘a large and thick fog formation most commonly found in the forests of British Colombia (noun)’, the boys brought us a sparky chrysalis- a folk-rock-pop record as undeniably brilliant as it was winsomely subtle. The best of the year? Heck, I’d go so far as to say it was almost as good as some of the records that came out the year before. – Glenn Ziffler


2. Animal Collective- Merriweather Post Pavilion

Early 2009, and two words were on everyone’s lips: ‘Animal’, and ‘Collective’. And then three more: ‘Merriweather’, ‘Post’, and ‘Pavilion’. Were we all just taken in like a particularly impressionable group of twelve year-olds by the shiny op-art cover or was the music actually better than Feels or Sung Tongs were? But, in the words of Panda Bear, “I don’t care about things like that.” Eventually of course PB and best pals Avery Tare and Geologist were embroiled in the deep controversy of their suspected murdering of former member Deakin in a ritualised attack motivated either by a) royalties or b) an abortive attempt at staging a bacchanalia which he wasn’t allowed to attend but they ended up killing a farmer and he found out because they arrived home all bloody. But that will always be logically independent from their beautiful music. – Marcus P. Eldritch


3. The xx- Quattro Fromaggi

This summer, The xx seemed to come out of nowhere to become the biggest buzz band on the planet. Legions of children would flock together to drown themselves at great sacrificial ponds shaped like two ‘x’s placed directly on top of each other while everyone else looked on and hummed and ‘Islands’ played dimly in the background. It seemed impossible that four teenagers from south London could be making this music- sung entirely in Tagalog and with the lyrics all referencing deeply the social and political climate of 17th-century Persia, it seemed as if the band were trying to justify the hype by doing the almost elastically impossible. And yet they succeeded, more than many of our ears could possibly handle. Mine personally lie torn-off and bloodied on the floor underneath my desk as I write. – Amy Tobin

4. Fuck Buttons- Tarot Sport

On every album, Fuck Buttons seem determined to invent a new sport. Last time around it was ‘Street Horsing’, a sort of urban human gym equipment melange, but this time the sport was a card game- poker but with the gimmick being that you use tarot cards instead of the traditional deck. I played it once and got a full house of Deaths. The music, like the hypothetical sport associated, couldn’t have been more different- where once Fuck Buttons were a sort of OK not-quite-noise band with two good songs, now they’re some sort of crazy dance landscaping concern. ‘Flight of the Feathered Servant’ revealed that the other major theme on the album (besides tarot) was pre-Colombian mythology. Let’s hope that Andy and the boys don’t get destroyed by jaguars any time soon. (although since time is cyclical, presumably they’ll come back around and do it all over again!)- David Pegasus


5. Atlas Sound- Logos

Bradford Cox spent most of the latter half of the past decade baiting us into listening to the boring bits where he just meanders and uses delay a lot by writing some really powerful pop songs with amazing lyrics demonstrating an adept understanding and use of the sex/death fascination. Things looked all set for Logos to be one his best releases yet when he was seen on tour with three drummers and a full gospel choir, and would routinely enter concert halls on the back of a crazed, whinnying gelding named St Peter the Great. However, St Peter the Great had to be put down after he accidentally crushed a fan to death at the National Hockey Stadium in Milton Keynes and Cox reacted by retreating into the studio with his acoustic guitar and really ‘getting back to basics’- the core of what makes him great. Just one man, one guitar, and an endless array of superfluous effects that fail to disguise he’s having trouble coming up with hooks.- Miranda Barton-Levy


6. Phoenix- Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix

This year was the year that Phoenix will always be remembered for being responsible for John Maus not seeing my band support him at his own gig, because he was waiting for them to be ready so he could bring them along after he was supporting them in a different band earlier in the night. But they will also be remembered for this album, a tribute to everyone’s favourite fictional character, giggling practical jokester Mozart from the 1984 smash hit film ‘Amadeus’. – Jacob Flint


7. The Horrors- Primary Colours

The Horrors might have named their record ‘Primary Colours’ but they may as well have called it “I can sing a rainbow.” For this was an album of a much vaster array of colours than just three, causing the synaesthesiac in me to have a delighted freak-out. But this was not just an album- this was the rock-and-roll comeback story of the year, five previously maligned lads from east London showing all the haters that they could imitate something much more effectively than the Nuggets-compilation-as-vaguely-heard-by-someone-who-mostly-likes-vintage-organs absolute MESS of a JOKE of their previous record: The Chameleons, that classic 80s band so (not) cool that (not enough people haven’t heard of them for the rest of the people to not realize that actually everyone is not not stealing their knot ideas (or not). – Glenn Eldritch


8. Sunn O)))- Doom Altar

It is becoming increasingly clear to me that Sunn O))) are the greatest geniuses that have ever walked the earth. Prior to them no one ever thought that they could base a career around making guitars go ommmmm noooom ommmm duuuuum ommmm nooooooomm ommmmm REALLY slowly for hours on end and then get people to call it good. But on the other hand, someone bought the Statue of Liberty off at that guy too. Oh also this is really really amazing and stunning and brilliant and (I can’t actually even do an IMITATION of the type of person who likes Sunn O))) thats how genuinely, unironically terrible I think they are). – Kunlun Mountains


9. Fever Ray- Death’s Head Love Affair

The girl one from out of The Knife stepped out of the shadow of the boy one and became so successful her music was even given away free with newspapers across the land. Her solo moniker comes from a dread apparatus that her brother once attempted to construct as a troubled teenager which would re-spread smallpox throughout the land after being placed at the top of the Eiffel Tower and aimed at everyone’s immune system. Luckily, she persuaded him out of it by agreeing to form a band with him, and the rest is history.- Dom ‘Coolio’ McIntyre


10. Bat For Lashes- I Am… Sasha Fierce

Natasha Khan was born into a life of oriental luxury in pre-Musharaff Pakistan in 1983, where her family had a beautiful ex-colonialist villa just outside Lahore with its own mechanical water-garden and a staff of 123 slaves whom the young Khan was taught to inflict random, torturous punishments on from a young age. She takes a similar approach to her music- one minute calm, playful and eerily soothing, the next loud, bitchy, and gratuitously profane. Allegedly, during the recording Natasha burst into a rage with producer Steve Lillywhite after he failed to get the notes recorded at the right pitch and flipped out, doing a poo on the studio floor whilst shouting “I am Sasha Fierce!”, from whence the title arose.- Marcus P. Eldritch

Last night I dreamt that somebody folked me

December 11, 2009

London’s folk-pop scene is perhaps the hottest hotbed of musical talent in the known world. Compulsory Meat Raffle travelled down the other day to talk to a handful of its most significant stars.

devib

Devon Tulips

22 year-old Devon is a plucky young troubadour, strumming his guitar as if it were Orpheus’s lyre itself while his full, soft voice pillows the notes with his becalming lyrics about down-to-earth everyday topics like being stuck in traffic on the way to the bus on the way to a job interview. Just what we need to relate to at the close of the noughties. With his trademark beard and chequered shirt, it looks like opportunity knocks for young Devon, as he was recently bought by Chrysalis Jive Records for a cool £40,000. “Devon looks forward to a productive and professional working relationship with Chrysalis Jive,” commented a spokesperson.

Laurelie Britton

22 year-old drama graduate Laurelie hadn’t even so much as seen- let alone touched or played- an instrument until last March, when her much-older record executive boyfriend took her to the National Museum of Acoustic Instruments as a birthday treat. She was immediately spellbound, and resolved there and then to become a nationally-renowned folk singer. So far so good for young Laurelie, as she has recently been purchased by Johnson & Michaelmas Management for a generous £55,000 upfront fee, with an additional 30% sell-on clause.

Andreas

The 22 year-old troubadour known simply as ‘Andreas’ was born in Sweden 22 years ago but moved to London for university and hasn’t looked back since, particularly as he brought his trademark acoustic guitar with him. Although unattached at present this hasn’t stopped Andreas from causing quite a stir with a select few gigs in and around London’s hottest folk-spots. “I’ve always listened to music,” admits a candid Andreas when I sat down with him. “Many record labels have offered to buy me but I don’t like being tied down by the man. That’s why my manager has told me not to sell myself for anything less than £100,000.”

Bo Hansen

A five-person collective comprising five 22 year-olds, Bo Hansen sing big, uplifting songs featuring banjo, ukulele, violin, acoustic guitar, accordion, and bass. “We don’t really see ourselves as a folk band per se,” explains band leader Chaz Hickson, 22. “I prefer to think of us a folk collective.” Whatever they like to call themselves, its certainly been working out for Chaz and the lads (and one lady) recently- they’ve just signed with the John Davis Group for £60,000 upfront and £80,000 in yearly instalments of £20,000 across four years consequent on continued good working relations and co-operation.

“Folk slavery”

Unfortunately, the realities of life as a folk superstar are not always as hip and pleasant as they might be made out to be. After purchase by a record label or sometimes large management group, these young performers are routinely made to jog endlessly in circles naked for the hooting pleasures of fattened, cocaine-addled executives, a number of whom have used their vastly inflated marketing budgets to fashion vast, underground auditoria for the entertaining of themselves and their equally depraved friends. The folk artistes of different genders are routinely coupled so as to produce superior offspring- it is in fact usually the offspring who make it to the album stage, after being given special drugs to speed up their growth. The coupling is usually done in public, in the auditoria themselves, the male spurred on to mounting the female by the cheers and guffaws of their gluttonous, masturbating audience. Same-sex shows are also popular, although these are less common as they do not have the added reproductive benefits. The folk singers are kept in oversized rabbit cages still to small for them (as they are humans) and fed a tasteless high-protein, low-fat diet in dog bowls with water drips hanging from the side of their bars. The side-effects of such a lifestyle are obviously deeply unpleasant. “When Laura Marling began her career, she was a fresh-faced young waif with her whole life ahead of her,” testified an in-house trauma psychiatrist who wished to remain anonymous. “But now she’s full of what is referred to in trauma psychiatry as ‘artificial intravenous fuck-holes’.” The Metropolitan Police Authority acknowledges that folk-slavery is a problem but says there is little that they can do about it as “the record labels are just too powerful.” It seems even John Law is deep in the pockets of Big Folk. For shame, old Jackie. (Law)