Saturday, August 30, 2008

Back at ya

About a week ago, my dear darling wife Sunny wrote a post about how she hates it when 'people' take bottles from the fridge, then 'they' put the almost empty bottle back.

We live alone...I wonder who those 'people' are?

Well, anyway, I thought this time I'd mention that what I hate is when 'people' get into the really annoying habit of consistently taking a cans of delicious, delicious orange soda from the fridge, taking a couple of sips and then leaving the rest.

Then, when I get a craving for citrus flavored deliciousness, I go to the fridge and find there's none left...and to add insult to injury I find two or three cans of almost full, but warm and flat day-old soda around the house.

Sometimes I wish 'people' would learn to only open a soda if they're going to drink at least half of it.

I'll Have A Steak...But Make Sure a Cow Didn't Die For It

Last night while Sunny was at work, I found myself watching a documentary on Animal Planet. Part of this documentary covered a major protest outside an animal shelter.

Apparently, this was one of the many shelters that puts animals down if they’re not adopted within a certain time period, and the protesters were not happy about that. They were holding signs that called the shelter’s staff anything from murderers to Nazis.

I watched in disgust. For me, people like these protesters represent a large portion of what is wrong with the world today.

Don’t get me wrong, I love animals (the fact I’ve taken in no less than five strays over the past four years proves that)…but I understand the concept of a necessary evil.

It’s easy to stand outside an animal shelter and shout slogans about how evil it is to put perfectly healthy animals down…but it’s another matter completely to come up with a workable alternative.

Think about that for a moment. What’s the alternative? Just turn all the animals loose? If we did that, these same protesters would be outside government offices demanding that ‘something be done’ about the packs of feral dogs roaming the streets. It’s just not possible to house every stray animal for its full life-span.

The thing that honestly makes me sick is that these same people comparing this animal shelter to Auschwitz would all find somewhere else to be if the Animal Shelter people stepped outside and told the protesters that if they were so concerned with these animal’s safety, they could save most of them if they all adopted one.

Basically, a lot more animals could be saved if, instead of standing outside the shelter and calling the staff the Third Reich, these protesters adopted some of the animals, or put their hands in their pockets and donated some money to help the shelter build a bigger facility where the animals could be kept for longer.

Long story short, the argument basically comes down to this:

“Killing animals is wrong and we demand you stop it immediately!”

“We hate killing animals as much as you do and we’d stop if we could, but there’s no viable alternative. If you could come up with something else we could do with all these strays, we’d be happy to hear it.”

“Quiet, you puppy-killing Nazi!”

That’s our biggest problem right now. We know what we want, and the fact it might be impossible or have unpleasant side-effects is someone else’s problem.

We want more police on the streets, better schools, better roads and more public services…but we don’t want to pay higher taxes to pay for them. We want our safety guaranteed during air travel, but we don’t want the searches, baggage restrictions or delays that comes with increased security measures. Everyone wants ‘green’ electricity production, but no-one wants to live near ‘eye-sore’ wind-farms.

Long story short, we’ve become a society that demands omelets while protesting against breaking eggs.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Can we get a break, please?

Last night, after Sunny left for work, I turned on the computer and checked my email.

First one that popped up was from my parents, and the first like was "Before I start, let me tell you both NOT TO WORRY!"

Great, the one thing guaranteed to make me worry.

Basically about a year ago my Mum got diagnosed with a cancerous tumor on her bowel. Luckily it was easily operable and after her operation and a course of chemo, she got the all clear.

She wrote to me yesterday to say that she'd been for a checkup, had a CT scan and they'd found a small lesion on her liver. They don't know what it is yet or if it's cancerous...but it's obviously a worry.

The only real bright side to this is that if it turns out to be cancerous, they've caught it really early again. She had blood tests a few months ago that also showed no signs of best case it just turns out to be something totally benign, and worst case she has another operation and series of chemo treatments. It's not like it's had time to grow and spread.

So as you can probably guess, I wasn't in the happiest of moods when I went to bed last night.

Then, I wake up this morning to find a note and a phone message from Sunny that her sister was in the hospital.

I won't talk about that here, because I don't know how she'd feel about me talking about it...but it's enough to say that could turn out to be serious as well.

Given that this coming Tuesday is both the day my Mum goes for more tests and it's the one-year anniversary of Clay's car accident, I'm sitting here thinking "What next?"

Over the past four years there have been three deaths in Sunny's family, my Mum got diagnosed with Cancer, Sunny had a breast cancer scare (which luckily turned out to be a false alarm), she also spent a week in hospital with a kidney infection so bad she nearly lost them...and now my Mum has a lesion on her liver, and my sister-in-law has been rushed to hospital.

I mean, isn' enough enough?

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Homicidal Weather

Well today’s post was inspired by my friend Kelly’s most recent post, were after mere weeks after moving to Sunny Florida, she’s already experienced her first tropical storm.

To understand this post properly, you have to understand something about use British people:

When you go on vacation, what do you actually leave your state or country for? Chances are you’re going away for a vacation because you want to go sight-seeing, experience a new culture and basically experience something ‘different’.

Pretty much the only reason that British people get on that plane is the weather. We could give a damn about sight seeing and other cultures…the only sight we’re interested in seeing is the sun.

You see, no matter where you live in England, about 60-70% of the days are totally overcast and it rains at least three days out of five. 75 degrees in midsummer is considered hot. To put it another way, you can literally go for months without ever seeing the sun, and for the majority of the time the world looks like a damp, gray, miserable place.

But you know what? I’m actually going to defend British weather today.

Sure, there’s nothing quite so depressing as getting up in the morning and heading to work while it’s still dark, cold and raining…but you know what British weather is? It’s consistent. There are no surprises. It’s never ridiculously hot, never ridiculously cold…in fact, British weather is a lot like it’s people are supposed to be, moderate and reserved.

Ok, I admit that British weather being consistent basically means that any time you head out of your door it’s going to be gray, wet and you’ll have to wear a coat…but whereas British weather is a depressed old lady who moans at you when you walk past her house…America’s is a crazy cat-lady who screams, throws things and might just be packing heat.

Any Brit moving to or visiting the states considers the weather to be a massive bonus. Then we get here and realize that there are worse things than rain.

For example, the Southern Heat is something that we actually expect, even if we aren’t prepared for it. As I said in a recent post, the midday sun in the dead of an SC summer is enough to reduce even the hardiest Brit to a cloud of ash in just a few minutes.

Then we get to the sting in the tail. To a Brit, it being way too hot is almost a good thing. You go back to England (where it’s inevitably been cold, gray and raining while you where away) and brag about how it was 110 degrees in the shade on your vacation.

However, when you’ve been here a while, there’s nothing quite like the experience you have that first time you find yourself legging it as fast as you can to your mother-in-law’s house because she has a basement. It’s like the whole state has become one big roulette wheel, and if that ball ends up on your number…it’s time to put your head between your legs and kiss your ass goodbye.

The one thing I certainly wasn’t prepared for was the freaking ice storms.

You see, I honestly laughed the first time I saw a road sign in SC warning about ice. My whole experience of SC was blistering heat, there’s just no way it could get that cold here, surely?

Then I experience my first winter and holy shit it was cold. I mean, epic cold. South Carolina is the place they make cold and ship it to other places.

In case you’ve never experienced the joy of an ice storm, here’s what basically happens. An ice storm is what occurs when you get rain mixed with uber-cold conditions. The rain literally freezes the second it touches something.

The big downside of this is that rain actually weighs quite a lot. Within minutes you have literally tons of ice stuck to tree limbs, power lines and everything else. So within half an hour of the ice-storm hitting, trees are falling over, power lines are coming down…which means not only is it minus thirty, you don’t have any electricity and you can’t go anywhere (Even if you could open the doors of your car that have frozen shut and cajole the engine to start, you might as well be driving on an ice-rink).

During the last one, we ended up having to go to my Step-Daughter’s house (who luckily lived less than a hundred yards away at the time) because she had a fireplace. It was like something out of ‘The Day After Tommorrow’. We had me and Sunny, my step-daughter’s family and one of my step-son’s family sitting in the dark, huddled around a fire trying to sleep and keep the fire roaring at the same time.

The saddest part is we actually got off easy. Our power came back just over thirty hours after it went out. Some people were still without power almost two weeks later.

My point is this:

British weather might be cold and miserable and it’s impossible to plan a cookout more than fifteen seconds in advance.

On the upside, it doesn’t actively try to kill you.

Monday, August 18, 2008


I was flicking through the TV last night and found myself watching ‘Men in Black’.

There’s a very good line in that movie.

Will Smith’s character, having just had the revelation that aliens are indeed real, asks Tommy-Lee Jones why it’s all kept under wraps.

“People are smart.” He said. “They can handle it.”

“No.” Replies K. “A person is smart, but people are dumb, panicky idiots who lose their minds for no reason.”

Ok, I know Men in Black is a throwaway, summer-time ‘chewing gum for the eyes’ movie…but that line is just about the perfect summation of the state of the human race right now.

You see, I’m not surprised that there are people out there willing to take advantage of just about anything in order to get attention. As regular readers know, I’ve written a lot about the bullshit moral panics created around video-games, movies, comic-books, rap music and any number of things. I mean, back in the 1700’s people were shouting about how disgusting and overtly sexual the waltz was.

No, what surprises me is how many people are actually willing to believe that shit.

I mean, we’re not exactly helped by the media. Fear and sensationalism sells, which is why you can’t pick up a magazine or newspaper without seeing headlines like “The Foods That Are Killing You”, “The New Craze Putting Your Children At Risk”, “Medical Incompetence : Is Your Doctor an Accident Waiting to Happen?” etc, etc.

The thing is, if we were to believe everything we’re told, we wouldn’t eat or drink anything, go anywhere, do anything or buy anything.

I mean, you can’t listen to music because it’ll turn you into a mindless killer. You can’t play a computer game for the same reason. Irresponsible farmers are poisoning all our food by genetically modifying their crops or spraying pesticides. You can’t read books, because they teach kids witchcraft and devil-worship. If you play Dungeons and Dragons you might as well be sacrificing virgins, TV is lowering our IQ, letting your kids near a computer is tantamount to dropping them at a pedophile’s house with a bow around their neck…and if we drive anywhere, we’re killing the planet.

Not only that, thanks to sensationalist media and reactionary assholes, we pick our leaders based on what God they worship, what they think of gay people, whether or not they smoked some weed once at college…but somehow managing to completely forget to check whether they’re actually qualified to lead.

Speaking of politicians, have you ever noticed that, in real life, someone who changes their opinion based on new evidence is intelligent and thoughtful, whereas in politics this same trait is seen as a bad thing? In politics, sticking to your opinions no matter what makes you a ‘strong leader’, and changing your mind makes you a spineless flip-flopper.

What honestly pisses me off about all of this is that we might as well be wearing shirts that say “We Are Idiots : Please Control Every Aspect of My Life.”

Think about it, people see something they don’t like and start campaigning to have it banned. You know what I do if there’s a TV show or book I find offensive? I don’t watch or read it.

I mean, when did we arrive at the decision that parenting is the government’s responsibility? If little Timmy watches an R-Rated movie, it’s not our fault for letting him watch a show that was totally inappropriate for him, it’s the government’s for allowing that show on TV in the first place.

I mean, we’re living in the 21st century. What does it say about us as a species that at this stage in our evolution, we’re demanding that a book about a children’s story about schoolboy wizard be taken off the shelves because it’s teaching our kids witchcraft? I mean, come on…Witchcraft?

Then we totally fail to ask the right questions. A 15 year-old kid shoots up his school then blows his own head off. Then we ask questions like “What music did he listen to?” and “He had an X-Box, why are stores selling violent games to kids?”

Yet, no one asks the real questions, such as “How did a fifteen year old get his hands on a shotgun?” “How did he get it past his parents and out of the house that morning?”…and “Why didn’t his parents notice their son was so goddamn unstable?”

Then the parents appear on TV acting like victims, pointing their fingers at the rapper their kid liked or the games he liked to play…talking about how something ‘should be done’. How about starting by actually parenting and paying attention to your kids?

I’m getting to the point where I’m honestly starting to get scared. When hurricane Katrina hit, not only did we get the lunatics claiming that they saw helicopters dropping bombs on the levees (helicopters flying in a hurricane, mind you), we also had a whole bunch of people claiming it was ‘God’s Wrath’ because New Orleans was obviously filled with homosexuals.

It honestly wouldn’t surprise me that in another fifteen years, not only will some politician be able to somehow blame a natural disaster on some foreign power that has something we want…but people will be burning ‘witches’ in the street for bringing down ‘God’s Wrath’ upon them.

Enough’s enough.

How about, just for a change, we try to go for a whole week without any of this bullshit and actually use our brains for once?

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Come On!!!

I hear this week on a British Radio show that a town council has made the decision to prohibit the word ‘brain-storming’ in council meetings.


Because it may offend the mentally unstable.

I have a few questions about this:

1) What sort of mind thinks this shit up?

2) Who thinks this is a good use of time and taxpayer’s money? Think about it, someone had to bring this up and they had to hold a meeting to discuss and reach this decision.

3) Which council has mentally unstable people in their meetings?

In other British news, some idiot politician has put forward the idea that when police are conducting raids on places like drug dens or terrorist hideouts, they should do everything in their power to make sure the people in the place they’re raiding aren’t allergic or afraid of dogs.

Yeah, these people are filling the streets with crack or planning which building they’re going to blow up, but it would be totally wrong to use a K9 unit in case one got bitten when they were younger.

The politicians also thought that police raiding suspected Islamic terrorists’ homes should do so barefoot, because apparently it’s a huge religious faux-pas to walk into a muslim home wearing your shoes.

Before you start laughing at the Brits, it turns out the America can be just as ridiculous:

On July 9th, Dallas County Commisioner Kenneth Mayfield noted that central collections for the county "has become a black hole" because of lost paperwork. Since then County Judge Thomas Jones has demanded an apology from Mayfield for using ‘Racially insensitive terminology’.

Now correct me if I’m wrong here…


I mean, these people must have so much white guilt that they literally spend every moment of their lives listening for anything that could in any way, possibly be misconstrued as something prejudiced…just so they can jump up and down, draw attention to it and say “Look how un-prejudiced I am!”

There’s racial sensitivity and there’s ridiculous over-sensitivity…usually demonstrated by rich white people who are not only wasting everyone’s time, but don’t realize how downright patronizing they are to the people they seem so determined not to offend.

I mean, ‘Black hole’? A black hole is a theoretical scientific phenomenon that occurs when a massive star dies and creates such high gravity that everything gets sucked in.

It’s a hole, because it sucks stuff in and nothing can get out, and it’s black because not even light can escape, which makes it…well…black.

Not a bad metaphor for an office that keeps losing paperwork. Paperwork keeps going in and is never seen again.

So why is a judge more concerned that a Commissioner used the word ‘black’ in a metaphor than central collections for the county loses most of it’s paperwork.

Where does this end?

When I’m drawing I use black India ink. Is that offensive? Am I offending black people and people from India? I also use grease-pencils that are known as China Markers…is that offensive as well? I mean, am I reducing the culture of China to nothing more than a manufacturer of grease pencils?

It’s bullshit, plain and simple.

(Only I shouldn’t say bullshit in case I upset any ranchers.)

Thursday, August 14, 2008


A few months ago, he environmentalists started pointing their fingers and grumbling at Paul McCartney because he bought a hybrid vehicle…and then had it flown halfway around the world to him on a jet because he didn’t want to wait for it.

They pointed out that the jet trip basically cancelled out the environmental benefits of owning a hybrid.

Well, it’s time to point something else out.

The Toyota Prius has basically been the environmentalists’ wet-dream. Less pollution, better gas mileage and less damage to mother earth.

I call shenanigans.

As I’ve pointed out before, the mileage these things are supposed to get is totally overblown. They’re supposed to get 55-60mpg, but this number was arrived at with a brand-new Prius driving at a constant speed on a test track. Once you take real-world conditions into account, this number drops considerably. Average milage is actually around 40-50 miles per gallon.

But sure, it’s lower, but it’s still great right? Look at those big trucks and hummers that get less than 8mpg!

Well, that’s just comparing the two extremes. It’s like getting stuck with pins and calling it luxury because it’s so comfortable compared to being stabbed over and over again with a pitchfork.

For example, know what also gets 40-50mpg? Almost any midsize diesel car. For example, USA Today took a Toyota Prius and a Diesel engined VW Jetta GLS 2.0 from Washington to Detroit.

The figures speak for themselves. The Prius managed 38mpg, while the Jetta managed 44mpg.

In other words, the Jetta has better mileage, without the total lack of horse-power that comes as standard with all hybrids. (For comparison, the Jetta has 170 horses under the hood while the Prius has 110, but that’s only when both the gas engine and the electric engine are running. As soon as the gas engine cuts off, you might as well pedal).

Speaking of performance, here’s something else you might find interesting.

The british car show ‘Top Gear’ did an experiment where they put a Toyota Prius and a BMW M3 on their test track. The idea was that the Prius had to drive around the track as fast as it possibly could, while the BMW M3 just had to keep up.

When driven as fast as possible the Prius managed 17.2mpg…and the 4-liter V-8 BMW managed 19.4mpg!

Just to really hit this point home, my car at the moment is a ’94 Ford Aspire. After it’s last tune up a few weeks ago, we tested its mileage. It’s getting roughly 37 miles to the gallon. That’s right, a twelve year old Ford is getting only 1mpg less than a brand new Ford Aspire

Ok, I’ll be fair here and say that if you’re buying a Prius you’re probably not going to be taking it to the local track or driving it as aggressively as possible. It’s designed for slow, in-city driving and actually does really well on mileage under those conditions.

However, here’s something to put Paul McCartney’s actions into perspective.

As I said above, environmentalists blasted McCartney because putting a Prius on a jet to ship it cancelled out its environmental benefits. Unfortunately, manufacturing a Prius already does that.

The Prius’ batteries use Nickel which is mined in a very ‘environmentally unfriendly’ way in Canada. Then it’s trucked to the US, loaded on a cargo ship and taken all the way to Europe for refinement, then transported to China where it’s processed into a type of foam…then to Japan where it’s put into the batteries and put into the car. Then, of course, when the battery needs replacement, it’s non-biodegradable casing and all the toxic chemicals inside it spend eternity in a landfill.

So, what all this boils down to is that in the long term, these super ‘environmentally friendly’ hybrids actually do more damage to the environment than a LandRover Discovery.

Oh, and one final point. Human action is only responsible for 3% of the carbon dioxide production on the planet…and the methane produced by cows does more damage to the environment in a day than all the cars on the planet combined.

So…all I can say is the next time you’re driving your gas-guzzling muscle car through town, be sure to look smugly at the hybrid owners and farmers, safe in the knowledge that they’re doing more damage to ‘mother earth’ than you are.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Do Not Feed The Rednecks

I’ve been doing a little light-hearted America-bashing recently, so I thought I’d follow that up with another story that not only makes fun of America a little more, but also highlights a little of the stupidity of my own nation.

In England, there’s a car show called ‘Top Gear’. It’s a weird show in that you don’t really have to be into cars to enjoy it.

Basically, they drive Supercars, do the occasional review of them, and generally dick around.

For example, on one show, each of the three presenters had to buy a second hand car and make it amphibious, leading one to fit a forty-foot mast to the middle of an old morris minor. In another, they decided to ‘prove’ that no one in England really needed to buy a four wheel drive car by driving across the spine of Africa in some thirty year old, two wheel drive wrecks. The best thing about that episode is that they actually made it (after a few million breakdowns, of course).

Anyway, the story I want to tell you is about an episode where they came to America.

The premise of the episode was that fly-drive vacations are a gigantic pain in the ass because of the rental car process. So the challenge was to arrive in Florida, buy a used car for a thousand dollars and then drive across four states, doing mini challenges along the way…and then see if they could then sell their cars for around the same price they bought them for.

Then one of the challenges they had to do on the American show made my mouth drop open.

You see, they make fun of pretty much all country’s stereotypes, but they do so in a very light-hearted, non-serious way. For example, in a show where they competed in challenges against the hosts from a German car show, they arrived for the first day of challenges in WW2 Spitfire fighter planes.

Basically, they pick the most blatant obvious stereotypes and then act as if they’re fact, even though they know that’s not the case.

With the American episode, they should have taken it a little more seriously.

One of the challenges was, and I quote:

“You may not get shot at or arrested in the following challenge, although getting one of the other’s shot or arrested will score you points. To do this, you must each ‘decorate’ the others cars.”

So that’s the setup. They could write things on each other’s cars, drive through an American town and get lots of good shots of people ‘reacting’ to the things they’ve decorated their cars with.

In other words, this would be like an American car show coming to England and driving around with things like “We saved your ass in WW2” or “Soccer sucks” on the side of their cars.

However, the show’s hosts wrote things like “Hillary for President” “Country and Western is Rubbish” “Manlove Rules” and other things of that nature on their cars.

Then…they decided to drive through rural Alabama.

As you can guess, it started off pretty much as they expected. They were driving along a freeway and got lots of shots of people’s shocked expressions, a few angry motorists honking their horns at them, basically what you’d expect…but then they had to pull into a gas station.

As you can guess, their cars did not go down well. He segment ended with a pick up truck full of shirtless rednecks screaming into the gas station, people throwing rocks at their cars and thehosts literally having to run for their lives.

You see, that’s the thing with stereotypes. They’re usually not true in the sense that everyone is like that…but the stereotypes themselves wouldn’t exist if some people weren’t like that…and rural, country Alabama isn’t the place to find this out.

Basically, if an American show like I mentioned above drove around with their cars decorated like that through the center of Liverpool, chances are all that would happen would be people mostly pointing and laughing. People would see the cameras and realize they were on TV.

If they tried that in a place like Moss Side in Manchester or Toxteth in Liverpool (both notoriously rough areas…they’d probably get stabbed.

Monday, August 11, 2008

The Southern States : A Survival Guide for Britons

Recently a friend of mine left England to move to the USA. Like me she moved to one of the Southern States.

So she doesn’t have to learn from my mistakes, I thought I’d write the following ‘survival guide’ and post it here for her, and all the other Britons out there who are thinking of moving to the Southern United States.

1) Do not venture outside between 11am and 4pm.

Heat? Pah! American puffs! Can’t take a little sunshine? You’ll show them, right?

Unfortunately, this is not the case. You may think you’ve experienced high temperatures on your last holiday to Spain, but the average midsummer temperature is enough to make the average Brit simply explode into a cloud of ash within seconds of setting foot outside.

2) When you finally realize just how hot it is, do not comment on this fact.

This is simply because what you’re likely to hear in return is: “Yeah, I suppose it’s a bit warm, just wait until we get into the dead of summer!”

The sudden realization that the blistering, sweltering, 140% humidity pressure cooker that you’re barely managing to tolerate is, in fact, the ‘mild’ bit before summer really starts has been known to kill.

3) Be prepared to psychically sense Shakespeare spinning in his grave on a daily basis.

The average southerner can literally butcher the English language using less than three syllables. Brace yourself for when they say you ‘talk funny’. The fact you’re from england and speak english doesn’t register. The only way to deal with this is to realize that while you speak English, southerners talk in a totally different language called ‘ayyyynglish’.

4) Brace yourself for the day you first realize you’re being linguistically corrupted.

There will come a day when you hear yourself say ‘Y’all’. Don’t panic. Simply lay down and wait to die.

If you hear yourself say ‘yewins’, don’t wait to die, but expedite the process with whatever’s close to hand. At this point, it’s too late and there’s no turning back.

5) Always make sure you understand everything that is said.

There are people in the southern states who have accents so thick, they sound like an aging basset-hound trying to eat a pillow. Your sense of British politeness and reserve will make you resist constantly asking people to repeat themselves, so you may find yourself going to the old standby, which is nodding and smiling.


I did this once and found out later that I’d agreed to watch cars drive in circles for five or six hours, in the hundred degree heat while breathing pure car exhaust. Apparently, this punishment is called ‘Nascar’, which is like racing, only they only ever turn left.

6) Never turn down food.

So you go to a new friend or relative’s house, and they offer you a local delicacy, but you’ve just had a very big lunch and couldn’t eat another bite.

Eat it anyway, even if it means you’ll throw up on the way home. Turning down food (especially home-cooked food) from a southerner, is the etiquette equivalent of taking a massive dump on their living room floor.

7) Accept America is a gun culture.

Basically, if you live out in the country, get used to the sound of gunfire. The urge to throw yourself on the ground and call the police every time your new neighbor decides to take some target practice mostly goes away after a few years.

8) Re-learn to drive.

Not only do all Americans drive on the wrong side of the road and have the steering wheel on the wrong side, there are plenty of new road-rules to learn.

For example, while in England there are signs and road markings to designate right of way, in the Southern states, right of way always goes to the guy in the oversized truck with the gun rack on the back of it.

9) Don’t criticize America, ever.

I mean this. Even if you’ve just listened to a Southerner take two hours to express jus how much they despise the American health-care system, do not say anything, even to agree with them. Even an answer as mild as “Yes, I agree that the American Health-care system is not perfect.” You will hear the following:

“Yeah? Well if you don’ like it, why don’t you just go back where you came from!”

Southerner’s only tolerate one type of immigrant, and that’s an immigrant that will categorically state that America is the world’s most perfect nation and is vastly superior to the immigrant’s country of origin.

10) Avoid social faux-pas.

Drinking in the southern states is viewed in one of two ways. Either it’s a religion in its own right, or it’s roughly on a par with raping a senior citizen while simultaneously mugging them and freebasing crack. There is no way to tell which type of personality you’re talking to…so it’s best not to mention it at all.

11) Get used to religion.

In most of the southern states, there are more churches per mile than there are people. Regardless of your own personal views, if asked if you have ‘been saved’, answer: “Yes, I have, Praise Jesus!” or risk being forcefully converted/stoned/burned at the stake/all of the above.

The only thing more plentiful in the southern states that churches are Walmarts.

12) Enjoy the wildlife, but do it carefully.

In other words, while you’re looking up, marveling at the eagle or hawk circling overhead, there’s probably a copperhead or cottonmouth near your feet.

Also, no matter how cute they look, no matter what you’ve seen in the cartoons, do not attempt to pet the raccoons. They only look cute. The average raccoon is, in fact, approximately seventy-three and a half insane serial-killer, rapist nazis in a snuggly-wuggly teddy-bear body.

Also ‘possums’ only sound cute. In reality, they look like a genetic experiment gone wrong and make the raccoons seem downright friendly.

13) Avoid sarcasm at all costs.

Americans simply do not understand sarcasm or irony and this is especially true in the Southern states. What is an obvious, playful joke in England is simply being incredibly rude in America.

For example, do not repeat my mistake of wishing my new inlaws a ‘Happy Colonial Ingrate Day’ on the fourth of July. I took almost six months to fully heal.

14) Food.

Food is incredibly strange in the Southern States. The call biscuits ‘cookies’, many eat ham instead of Turkey at Christmas…and they drink tea ice cold, without milk, and approximately twenty-five pounds of sugar per liter…which is just wrong.

Also, there’s the weird belief that it’s not really food unless it’s been breaded, deep fried and smothered in cheese. There is also not a single food item in the southern cookbook that does not contain bacon grease as a main ingredient. Most southerners have never even heard of curry and those who have consider it disgusting.

Do not get offended by this. Just remember that this is a culture that believes coffee mixed with (and I shit you not) bacon grease is a valid recipe for gravy.

15) Verse yourself in the Southern version of geography.

For example, many people will give you directions based on detailed knowledge of local folklore and where landmarks used to be. IE “Turn left where the gas station used to be, then hang a right at where ‘ole willie got attacked by the bear and if you pass a fence with a dog sitting next to it, you’ve gone too far.”

Also bear in mind that to most Southerners the terms ‘England’, ‘Europe’ and ‘London’ are interchangeable. They also believe that England consists of an area of only a few square miles. Prepare for questions like “Hey, I knew a guy from England! His name’s Steve. Do you know him?”

Sunday, August 10, 2008


A few weeks ago our car gave up the ghost. Sunny’s mom introduced us to a mechanic who was a friend of a friend of a relative of a friend, etc, etc.

Anyway, after he had fixed the car he came into the house so we could pay him and he could cool down in the air-conditioning (It was about 100 degrees outside).

The guy was interesting to say the least.

Apparently, he used to work as a photographer and had traveled all over the world, even living in central America for a year or so. He enquired about my accent and asked where I was from.

“England.” I said.

He looked at me like I’d grown an extra head.

“You’re from England and you moved here? Out of choice?”

I thought he was joking. “Yeah.” I said. “Sunny’s obviously an American citizen, and I moved here to be with her.”

He looked at Sunny and said: “Sunny, I’m sure you’re a great person and all…but if I lived in England, there’s no way I’d move here, you should have moved to England instead.”

I think I can say I’m fairly well traveled. Obviously, I’ve ‘traveled’ to the USA, but I’ve also visited a lot of Europe as well. The thing is, today I can spot people who have done some traveling in their lives at twenty paces.

One of the attitudes I’ve just never been able to understand is the people who say things like “I was born here, I’ve lived my whole life here and I’m gonna die here!” I mean, you only get one ride on the roller-coaster we call life, so why would you want to spend your entire time on the planet never going more than a hundred miles from your own front door?

So the mechanic guy, I could tell he’d been to England (it turned out he’d spent a few months in London), but I could tell he’d never lived there.

You see, when you just visit somewhere, you never get a proper sense of what the place is like. For example, when I first visited the US, I returned to England thinking that America was quite possibly the best place on the entire planet. Like the mechanic guy, I’d see the odd American in England and think “Why are they living or even visiting here when they live in America? They must be batshit crazy!”

A visit just can’t give you a real sense of a place. When you’re on vacation, you’re visiting somewhere for fun. When I first visited the States I had zero worries, a whole new place to explore, and a wallet full of disposable income. You know how people talk about how awesome it would be to win the lottery? A vacation is a mini-version of that feeling. You don’t have to work, you can spend your money on whatever you like because you don’t go on vacation with your rent money. All you do is leisure activities and if you’re going to a tourist resort, that feeling is tripled.

So in other words, the people who ask me why I’d consider moving to America when I already lived in England, I can tell have traveled. Maybe they’ve never been to England, but they’ve visited other countries and have England on their ‘want to visit’ list. If they have been to England, I know they’ve gone to London, marveled at some of the architecture, soaked up the atmosphere of a busy pub, talked to some interesting people, stuffed their luggage with souvenirs…and got back on the plane talking about how awesome London is.

If they’d lived in London, they’d probably have a different attitude. If they lived there for a few years, they’d be talking more about the insane amount of money it costs to rent a tiny apartment, how gas costs over eleven dollars a gallon, etc, etc.

Long story short, it’s easy to love a place when you experience it without worrying about paying bills or taking part in the 9 to 5 rat-race.

I can always tell the people who are on the opposite side of the coin, the ones who have never traveled and have no intention of traveling by the first question they ask me after finding out where I’m from.

The people who have traveled or would like to ask me where I’m from and follow it up with how they’ve been to England and loved it, or ask me what England’s like.

The non-travelers always find out that I’m from England and ask “So what do you think of America?”

I’m never quite sure what to make of that question. To me, it’s like they assume that America is the absolute best place to live in the world and believe that the rest of the planet naturally wants to live here.

I’ll be complete honest here and say that after living in the States for almost five years, my answer to that question is “It’s pretty much like England, only hotter and with less rain.”

That’s the difference between living somewhere and visiting somewhere. My first visit to the States lasted six weeks and I left thinking it was the greatest place on Earth. After living here for five years, I put it on a par with England. Everything basically comes down to a trade off. Basically, you start out by appreciating a country for all the things it has that your home country doesn’t…after living there for a while, you start to take into account the things your new country doesn’t have that your old country did.

Basically, my thoughts after those six weeks were:

“Wow, the weather is awesome and everything is so cheap. Free drinks refills in restaurants! You don’t get that in England and the people are so friendly!”

After living here for five years:

“What? $850 for a throat swab? Health care is free in England, and what’s with all these billboards and TV ads? Can I not go for five minutes without someone trying to sell me something?”

Long story short, you notice the good stuff first…it takes a while for the downsides to sink in.

Friday, August 08, 2008


Got bored, sketched this:

Quick five minute sketch, but I really liked the way it came out...decided to learn to draw Adam Hughes-style eyes.

Who You Know?

For those who don’t know, there’s a writer named Mary Roach who has a regular column in Readers’ Digest.

Today I was flicking through the aforementioned magazine and found myself reading one of her articles. I normally skip past them because they’re so ridiculously uninteresting.

I mean, her articles are meant to be funny, but the last one I read was an incredibly boring tale about how her husband wanted to buy a dedicated pasta pot…and the one I read today was about how she likes bird-watching, her family doesn’t… and when she dragged them along one a bird watching expedition anyway, they complained and wanted to leave.

As I was reading one of her articles today, something popped into my head. This reads like a really boring blog entry. I thought.

It really was. Imagine the type of person who’s only just discovered the internet and forwards those ten year old jokes to everyone they know five times a day, and you have Mary Roach. The kind of person who will tell everyone the hilarious story about the time their cat burped, or the time her husband wanted to watch sports instead of going to the garden center.

“My husband wanted to buy a three hundred dollar pasta pot, and I told him we already have pots you can use to cook pasta! It…was…hilarious!!!

This made me ask the question…how in the blue hell did this incredibly boring woman with distinctly average writing manage to get a regular column in one of the world’s best-selling magazines?

In all honesty, every single blog I read is a hundred times more interesting and has better writing than Mary Roach’s. I mean, how much did she get paid for her 700 word wonder on the time they bought a trash-can with an automatic lid, but sometimes the lid opened when they didn’t want to throw anything away!

I decided it has to be a case of ‘not what you know, but who you know’. There can’t be any other explanation. Put simply, the people who run Reader’s Digest would only have to spend about fifteen minutes on the internet to find about a hundred better writers.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Put Brain Into Gear Before Opening Your Mouth

Doing a little late night websurfing, I stumbled across an excerpt from ‘Wizard’s Best of Basic Training’ in a forum.

This is basically a comic-art ‘primer’ style book, with lots of information and tips on how to draw comic book males and females. The excerpt shown focuses mainly on the females.

What surprised me (although it probably shouldn’t) was the absolutely visceral reaction from people on how ‘sexist’ and ‘chauvinist’ the book is. The page is here if you want to check it out, along with the reactions.

What honestly cracks me up is how people can call comic-book females (and by association, ‘best of basic training’) sexist. Sure, the book talks a lot about how to make your female characters look sexy, etc…but I don’t see how that even comes close to ‘sexist’.

Ok, I know that there’s no such thing as an ugly comicbook heroine. They have perfect bodies, tiny waists, gravity defying breasts, thick full lips and tend to wear outfits that are a little revealing, to say the least.

My first reaction to this is that while comicbook females almost exclusively look like Victoria’s Secret models…comic books are also one of the few media where you’re guaranteed to find strong, independent intelligent female characters.

Barbara Gordon, Black Canary, Huntress, Supergirl, Wonderwoman, Spider-Woman…need I go on? All of these are highly intelligent characters and are portrayed as equals to their male counterparts.

The main point I’d like to make here though is if you think comicbook women are sexist…before you decide to comment in a public forum...take a look at the comicbook men.

You see, feminists just love to point at pictures of perfect-bodied comic book women and say “No real women look like that! These women are just hyper-exaggerated male fantasies! This is sexist!”

Keep that in mind and look at the following picture of Superman and Supergirl (drawn by Michael Turner, who took the brunt of the abuse in the above forum):

If you really look at this picture, is the representation of Supergirl any more ‘sexist’ than the representation of Superman?

When was the last time you saw any male with a physique like that? What we have here is a male with zero bodyfat, gigantic muscles, abs you could strike a match on…all wrapped up in an ultra-tight spandex wrapper. Hell, his thigh is probably as big around as my waist! (Oh, and before you latch onto the fact that it’s Superman, but Supergirl…the reason for this is Supergirl is just that…a girl. She’s a teen.)

Anyway, it’s true that the average woman would probably need some major plastic surgery to even come close to her comicbook counterparts…but the average guy could work out 24 hours a day and pump himself full of steroids and still not even come close to looking like Superman.

Basically, you can’t say comicbook females are sexist because comicbook males are represented in exactly the same ‘unattainably perfect’ way…it’s not sexist, it’s just the exaggerated over-the-top style of comic books.

Basically, comicbook women look the way they do because they’re comicbook women. There’s nothing sexist about it. Sure, you can complain at the skimpiness of Supergirl’s skirt…but if I was so inclined, I could complain about Superman’s Spandex.

I mean, those muscles in that ultra-tight outfit? That’s objectifying men, right? No real man could pull off an outfit like that, or even come close to his level of physical perfection. That’s sexist as well, right? I mean, Superman has Super-strength, but I’ve never heard anyone talk about his intelligence or what he’s like as a ‘person’.

In fact, as much as Supergirl is a ‘male fantasy’, but can’t the same be said about Superman? I mean, he’s the most powerful man in the world, but as Clarke Kent he’s a ‘mild mannered’ newspaper reporter who lets Lois Lane take advantage and walk all over him. Powerful, sexy…but completely under the thumb of his girlfriend who he’ll literally fly to the ends of the earth for.

I can imagine the reaction if we swapped Superman and Lois Lane’s sex. A Superheroine who lets her boyfriend walk all over her? Can throw planets out of orbit, but will do anything her boyfriend says on a whim?

What it boils down to is this: Who wants to read a comicbook about a Superhero with a beer-gut, hairy back and pidgeon-chest, who fights crime with his female partner who has the body of a high school lunch lady and fights crime in sweatpants?

No-one, that’s who.

Yes, so comicbook females have gigantic boobs, perfect bodies and fight crime in revealing outfits. What is also true is that comicbook males have gigantic muscles, chiseled bodies and fight crime in spandex. What's the difference?

Sexism only occurs when one sex is treated differently from the other. Both females and males are represented as over-the-top caricatures of their sex in comic books. That's just the way comic books are, and there's nothing sexy about it.

Amazing Artwork...wait...I mean 'Shit'

This morning I was doing some random websurfing when:

“Jesus Christ! You have got to be shitting me.” The words left my mouth before I could stop them.

“What?” Said Sunny from the couch.

“Come take a look at this shit.” I said.

When I’m clicking that oh-so-addictive ‘Stumble’ button, I tend to land on a lot of online artist’s portfolios. Normally, I don’t judge. I have quite a few of my drawings up online, and I’m not a great artist, so who am I to call someone else’s artwork bad?

This one, however, took the cake.

Ok, I know that art is subjective and open to interpretation. You can go to any number of real-life art galleries and see paintings that make you think “I could do that in ten minutes myself!” But this actually, genuinely pissed me off.

This so called ‘artist’ had a website that was filled with what can only be called ‘doodles’. Know when you’re on the phone and just happen to have a pen in your hand, and by the time the conversation is finished you’ve drawn a cube, that star thingy and a smiley face? That’s what this gallery was filled with.

…and she was selling them…and people were buying them.

They weren’t exactly expensive (around fifty-bucks each), but a handful of them were stamped ‘sold’.

I mean, I can understand someone buying a ten second sketch on the back of a napkin if it was by someone like Picasso because there’s history there. It might be a crappy sketch that anyone can do, but in that case, you’re buying it more as memorabilia than as ‘art’. It’s worth a decent amount of cash in the same way a three dollar baseball is worth a lot more with Babe Ruth’s autograph on it.

My question is who spends fifty dollars on a ‘ballpoint pen on copier paper’ sketch by an absolute nobody with zero artistic talent?

When it comes to art, I’m my own biggest critic. That’s why I have sketchbooks and folders full of drawings that I have no intention of ever sharing. As I’ve said before, if zero is someone who’s never picked up a pencil and ten is DaVinci-level artwork…I’m at about 1.2…but I can say in all honesty that I am about a hundred thousand times better than this ‘artist’.

I can’t stress this enough, and I wish I’d saved the URL instead of just closing my browser in disgust so I could show you…but this shit was terrible. Give a ten year old a piece of paper and a marker and in five minutes you’d have something better.

Ok, I know a lot of people reading this will be thinking about paintings by artists like Picasso that were incredibly simplistic and childlike (Just do a google image search for ‘Cubism’ to see what I mean)…but there’s a huge difference.

Picasso started off painting ‘realistic’ paintings and was creating beautiful, realistic artwork when he was still in his teens. He made a conscious decision to leave that behind and break all the established ‘rules’ of composition. That’s what made his work interesting.

My point is that some idiot doodling on copier paper does not an artist make.

Just to illustrate my point (pardon the pun), I decided to emulate this ‘artist’s’ style. You’ll just have to take my word for it that this piece is every bit as good as the shit he has on his site for sale.

So here it is:

Fifty bucks, anyone? Any takers? Technically, this is better than that other artist’s work, because this was drawn with an Pitt brush-pen with archival quality ink! That’s gotta make it at least worth $75, right?

If you want to buy it, there’s a paypal button on the top right of this page. Just donate $75…and don’t forget to include your name, shipping address and explanation of why you’re retarded enough to buy a doodle off a complete nobody over the internet.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

"Smash Lab"

Idiot: “This 'Mythbusters' show is going through the roof! We need another Mythbusters!”

Sane Person: “Why do we need another Mythbusters? We already have Mythbusters.”

Idiot: “But if we have two shows like Mythbusters we’ll make a ton of money!”

Sane Person: “Not really, a copy will never be as good as the original, people who don’t like Mythbusters won’t like a copy of it…and people who do like Mythbusters won’t like it either.”

Idiot: “Nah, we know what makes Mythbusters popular, so we can do it again!”

Sane Person: “What makes Mythbusters popular? You mean the scrutiny of conventional wisdom? The spectacular experiments? The interplay of Adam’s child-like cheekiness and Jamie’s ultra-serious, no-nonsense approach? The schoolyard atmosphere? The downright comedic moments mixed with occasional hard science? The amazing mix of complimentary personalities?”

Idiot: “No! Building stuff and blowing stuff up! Get a show with some inventors that break things and it’ll be awesome!”

Sane Person: “I resign.”

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Rant Time

It really is getting to the point where I can’t watch TV without getting my blood pressure up.

Take yesterday for example. Sunny was watching HGTV and he host said:

“A basketball hoop doesn’t just belong on the court, put up on the wall in this room, it becomes an interesting piece of art, and these clear collector’s boxes turn these basketballs into an awesome sculpture!” (Cue shit-eating, self-congratulatory grin)

“NO IT DOESN’T!!!!!” I scream at the screen.

I’m sorry, but I’m tired of these micro-celebrities who think an evening course in interior design and a daytime slot on TV makes them rock-stars who are the final authority on art and design.

Yeah, I know art is subjective…but putting ten basketballs in separate plastic boxes and stacking them on a table is not sculpture. Screwing a basketball net to a random position on a wall does not automatically make it ‘art’.

It really does seem as if art has gone from a means of self expression to a load of random bollocks that people make up to make themselves feel ‘intellectual’, safe in the knowledge that no-one will contradict them through fear of being labeled a ‘plebian’.

Anyone can shit in box and say it’s a ‘commentary on the human condition in the 21st century’…but it doesn’t make it so.

This was followed shortly by ‘What not to wear’.

I’m sorry, but if that dozy bint walked up to me in the highstreet and started slagging off what I was wearing, I’d punch her in the face. Believe it or not, I don’t get dressed up to the nines to go shopping, and I flat out refuse to change my entire wardrobe every three months so I can be like the rest of the sheep and wear clothes because other people say they’re stylish.

Finally, I ended up watching a thing about ‘sensitivity training’ in the workplace.

What a complete load of ass-covering bollocks.

Sometimes I feel like we’re slowly turning into an Orwellian society. It’s like we’re surrounded by the thought-police and have to learn special double-speak in order to make sure we never offend anybody, ever.

Ever heard of ‘The Bill of No Rights’? This is a satire piece that’s circulating the internet that’s basically like the Bill of Rights, only it outlines the things we don’t have a right to. It’s my honest belief that it should be put into law.


Because number 2 on the list is “You do not have the right to never be offended.”

This is something that should be taught in schools and the world would be a much better place if people understood that simple concept.

People are getting fired from their jobs for telling a ‘racy’ joke within earshot of the wrong person. A guy tells a joke about a midget in a brothel, someone overhears and runs to the boss…meaning the guy who told it either has to spend two weeks being patronized by some douchebag charging five grand a day to say ‘be nice’, or ends up in the unemployment line.

Here’s the deal. If you’re working age and find an off-color joke so offensive that you think it creates a ‘hostile working environment’, you just don’t belong in a work environment.

What this boils down to is that ‘equality’ means that you have to put up with other people’s shit just as much as they have to put up with yours.

Forget sensitivity training. I think the world would be a much better place if rather than making it all but illegal to ever offend anyone ever, people where downright encouraged to speak their minds.

For example, in my last job, no a day went by when I didn’t answer the phone and spend twenty minutes being called a ‘racist’ or ‘fascist’ by some douchebag who claimed unemployment on Monday afternoon and decided to call up on Tuesday morning to accuse me of racism (despite the fact I didn’t know the guy’s race and he didn’t know mine) because he didn’t have his free money yet.

Our ‘call policy’ meant I had to call his guy ‘sir’, and try to get him off the phone happy…meaning that the message we gave was that if you call up and scream long enough, you’ll get your way.

How much better would my day have been if I’d been allowed to tell these idiots to shut the fuck up? Scream at me and you get hung up on.

The reason I get so worked up about this is because I have personal experience of it, again from my last job.

Here’s one of the many things that happened.

Basically, we where having a meeting about ‘sensitivity in the workplace’ and my boss was going on for two hours about all the things we weren’t allowed to say. As I said above, two hours to say ‘be nice’. However, this talk was directed firmly at the guys in the office about the things we weren’t allowed to say in front of the females.

After a while, when they asked if anyone had any questions, I put my hand up and said:

“Well, the thing is, you’ve talked a lot about off color jokes and respecting women, but this is a two way street.”

“What do you mean?” Said my boss.

“Well, the staff here is predominantly female. This morning in fact, I was sitting at my desk while three of the women on the opposite section talked about how bad their periods where. Listening to three women talking about the frequency and severity of their ‘discharge’ makes me uncomfortable…but because I’m a mid-twenties, white male, if I were to ask them to stop talking about it because it was making me uncomfortable, it’d be me who’d get accused of being insensitive. You see, that kind of thing is totally acceptable for them to say…but I’m supposed to run every thought that comes into my head through a multitude of filters just in case something I say could possibly be taken the wrong way or out of context and offend someone.”

Can you guess what happened next?

The next day, I got called to my boss’s office because what I’d said in that meeting was deemed offensive. Apparently the women who were talking about their periods felt like they were being ‘singled out and held up for ridicule’.


Saturday, August 02, 2008

Either Terrifying or Hilarious

I’d like to use today’s post to draw your attention to ‘The Ricky Gervais Podcast’.

In case you’ve been living under a rock, Ricky Gervais is the creator and star of ‘The Office’ (The original British version) and ‘Extras’.

The podcast is free and as it’s description says ‘occasional’, so don’t expect it to update every few days. That being said, there are ten episodes currently available with enough comedy meat to sate even the largest comedy hunger…including a two-hour ‘best of’ episode from ‘The Ricky Gervais Show’.

The main reason I want to draw your attention to this is just so you can experience the wonder of Karl Pilkington.

Put simply, I haven’t managed to work it out yet. Karl Pilkington is either one of the dumbest, most nonsensical guys who’ve ever lived, or he is quite simply the world’s foremost deadpan comedy genius.

I’ll leave you to work it out.

‘The Ricky Gervais Podcast’ is available through iTunes. It’s free and awesome.