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You Can’t Put Funny In A Bag

I went to see a stand-up comedy show last night. It was a particularly brutal affair, a competition where new and inexperienced acts have five minutes to impress the audience or they get ‘booed’ off. Nasty stuff; the constitution of a rampant lion would be required to participate in this kind of game.

It made me wonder how many comics of potential worth have been destroyed on their first time out because they were in front of the wrong audience. Last night’s crowd was a middle class melee of mummy and daddy’s money. I was probably the oldest in the audience, and I’m 31; so when a working class guy approaching 60 wandered onto the stage, I felt a rising sense of dread on his behalf.

He’d obviously made an effort to converge with his impression of the demographic by wearing a suit, which only served to make him a joke in the wrong way, as he and the doormen were the only ones not wearing trainers. His woes were impacted by his obvious nerves and the fact that the previous act, a trendy Scottish girl, had had the audience eating from her sporran.

The beginning of his set was weak, he didn’t slag himself off for a start, which is clearly the done thing (done by EVERY other contestant), but then he moved on to material that could have turned into a clever and political line of gaggery. Sadly, it turned into soul crushing silence as drunken heckles about his suit caused him to forget his set and blunder about until the compere gallantly saved him from the rising boos. He walked past me on his way off the stage, and his face was a wounding picture of fear and defeat.

He was followed by a short guy, short enough to make his entrance in a black rucksack, who then launched into a set that would have been offensive from a full size man. Anyone who has a passion for stand-up has seen the kind of set I mean, a set where a differently abled person makes it okay to laugh about their disability and the way it affects their life. I don’t have a problem with that type of humour per se, but I still want the same as I want from any comic; material that is fresh, and funny in an unexpected way. This guy didn’t have that.

Nobody booed him, because who would? How is okay to boo a disabled guy? It’s okay to try and destroy an Everyman, they really need taking down a peg or two, but we’d better not upset the disabled, because that’s bullying. I would have preferred to hear the rest of the suited man’s stuttered set, and lose the two minutes the short guy spent making ‘hilarious’ faces because he was 1m tall next to a 2m mic stand.

At the end of the show I felt sorry for both suit man and short man. I felt sorry for suit man because he was too average for anyone to listen to his words, and I felt sorry for short man because he thinks he’s a great comedy writer and he’s not, he just looks unusual and is happy for people to laugh at that.

The end of the show also brought about a personal resolution to have a go at open mic stand up, so watch another space, because this one’s about to get booed.

Feel the Fear and Suppress It Any Way

There was a child in my flat this weekend, a real child of eight years old. A child of questions, answers, unfiltered opinions and energy. As a woman who bounces between overdosing contraceptives and enforced abstinence, this was a capacious culture shock.

The first problem a visit like this poses is physical. There are books, booze, ashtrays, bin bags, bills, false eyelashes, shoes, porn, horror movies, ornaments, wires, dimmer switches and underwear all over my general area. Everything I own is either a danger to, or in danger from, an eight year old.

The second problem is that I’m inherently jealous of children. It just isn’t fair.

I took my niece (we’ll say niece to avoid a ‘Modern Family’ style explanation) to Alton Towers (that last parenthesis may imply I swipe children, not so, just go with niece). There is a ghost train there that is so lame that I exited it feeling mostly scared that I paid £40 to get into Alton Towers. After the ghost train my niece was the white faced and blubbering level of terrified; and I was really jealous of that.

If I was in any way maternal, I would have consoled her, but I’m not, so I didn’t. Instead, I badgered her with probing questions about what she had found so scary. Was it this particular plastic skeleton? Those foam decapitated corpses? The booming sounds of tortured deaths? Tell me, whimpering infant, exactly what was it that really frightened you?

Between the sobs and reignited memories, she couldn’t explain the specificity of her fear. The fear came from the sum of the Ghost Train’s parts; it had all been so frighteningly stimulating.

After I’d decided the kid had learned more phrases to describe methods of demise than I could reasonably explain to her mother, we went about our day of roller coasters and extortionate food outlets.

My niece’s reaction had made me desperate to remember the last time I had been so openly fervent about something. When had I last been so ardent about a situation that I had an obviously noticeable physical response? After thirty years trying to reduce the amount of public embarrassment caused by my emotions, I now need a massive hit of stimulation to behave like I did when I was a child. I’m chronically jealous of an ability to be publicly unrestrained and not be labelled  as ‘mad’ or ‘disabled’. Only children hold this privilege.

About four hours after the Ghost Train incident, while we were in the queue for the Guaranteed Whiplash, my niece looked up at me and, unprompted, said:

“Oh… I’ve forgotten all about the ghost train.” She looked a little bit worried and stared past me thoughtfully. I think she was right to be worried. I wanted to tell her that she should try to remember, not forget the fear, not become immune to low budget stimulation. Instead I said:

“Good.”

As the nearest responsible adult, I’d stuck the knife of reinforcement in. I may as well have said, “That’s excellent, you’ve died a little bit inside. Now just keep doing that over and over until you’re all grown up and being really stimulated by simple things is almost impossible.”

My niece is a clever girl and I have no doubt she will rationalise her ghost train experience very quickly. She will ‘grow up’ a little bit and I will be a little bit less jealous of her.

 

Tram Random 1

I got talking to a girl yesterday, and somehow the conversation turned to Science Fiction. Here’s a little bit of the chat transcribed.  I’ll circumvent the early introductions, because I start talking to random people a lot, and the beginning bit is the boring bit.

Me: “… yeah, it’s a great book. You’ll probably like it.” [Marge Piercy’s ‘He, She and It’.]

Her: “Not if it’s about Science Fiction. I don’t like Science Fiction.”

Me: “Well… it’s not about Science Fiction… It’s a love story, it’s just that there’s also a robot. But it’s not just the science… or the fiction… no, hang on. Erm… it’s just a really good story.”

Her: “Why does there have to be a robot? That’s what I mean. Why?”

Me: “It’s set in the future, but… Why does there have to NOT be a robot?” [I display the smug face that I wear when I’ve convinced myself that I’ve made a great point.]

Her: [She looks at me blankly. Then her face shifts as the realisation dawns that she is at the tram stop, late at night, talking to a strange woman about robots. She has a little look around and then shrugs while searching my eyes for any further, undetected madness.] “Each to their own, I suppose.” [She picks up her glossy mag, I stare at the tramlines; our meeting ends].

When I chat to randoms, I respect the clear social indications that the other person has had enough of the conversation. I believe it’s what separates me from the drunks and mad people who also enjoy striking up dialogue with strangers in public places. On this occasion, and some others, I have wanted to push the conversation, having become genuinely interested in a stranger’s opinion.

How could someone dismiss something on the grounds that it’s ‘Science Fiction’? What do they think this ‘Science Fiction’ is? The girl was a 2nd year biology student and was reading a celebrity magazine; clearly a fan of both science and fiction, but not of Science Fiction.

We both got on the Eccles bound tram and just after she sat down, she looked up and I smiled at her. She gave me the mouth flatline and raised her magazine slightly. She got off before my stop, and as she walked past the window, from the safety of the other side of the glass, she gave me a smile and a nod.

Two complete strangers meet at a mass transport intersection, and travel across the surface of a solar orbital in a metal pod. They have a tiny human moment. One of them recounts the moment into her palm top communication device and projects the message into cyberspace.

It’s the story that counts, not the genre.

Gay Rights v Miserable Wrongs

Gay Rights. What a pile of raw bullshit.

It is the 21st century, and ‘Gay Rights’ should be a phrase that is consigned to the history books. Those words should be nothing but an embarrassing reminder that there was once a time when we made rules about what people could do with their lives based solely on who they rubbed against in their bedrooms. It should not be a contemporary issue; and yet it is.

In March 2012 the European Court of Human Rights declared that same sex marriage is not a universal human right. Homos apparently don’t deserve the right to display their love like heteros.

This bowl of stupid soup should be offensively unpalatable to everybody, wherever you fall on the sexual spectrum, because what it suggests is that your sexuality entirely defines you. It carries the implication that something as personal and trivial as how you get jiggy bears some relation to the rest of your social abilities.

Unless you’re a teenager, (or other kind of sex addict) you probably aren’t constantly aware of your sexuality. Do you think about it when you do a presentation at work? While you’re reading an interesting article about the economy? When you’re disciplining your child?

Most of adult life doesn’t revolve around sexuality; it’s part of you, but so are your tastes in food, clothes, houses, music and art.  “The world is sorry Miss Jones, but you aren’t allowed that set of choices because your innate preference is for Dali and we’re a Picasso kind of establishment.” That is obviously inane, but for those who identify as homosexual it’s a silhouette of reality.

If the marriage argument was turned around and anyone who identified as straight was actively forced to marry and procreate then that discussion would be laughed out of any Court of Human Rights; and rightly so, because any unfairly biased restriction of choice is an clear infringement of human rights. One individual having less human rights than another is only acceptable in a scenario where one individual is less human than the other.

It becomes clear that this is a distillation of the statement made by the European Court of Human Rights to a whole new generation of children – people who identify as homosexual are slightly less human than people who identify as heterosexuals.  You could put any amount of elbow grease into polishing that little turd, but it is exactly what’s been said; by an institution wielding massive power and respect.

A statement made just three months ago. In 2012. In Europe.

The Family Education Trust are now seriously gay for the European Court of Rights, bleating worn out, celebratory waffle that includes trite phrases on the themes of ‘child welfare’ and ‘moral force’. Specifically from Norman Wells, a spectacularly bigoted and self righteous mouthpiece who pops up far too regularly in discussions of teenage girls’ sexuality to be credible. Ten minutes spent reading some of their leaflets will leave any reasonable individual convinced that the best way to deal with human sexuality is to sterilise everybody, just in case any more of their type are spawned.

What depresses me is that I’ll be subjected to this guff for years, even my offspring will be stuck with the pointlessness of making sexuality an important public issue, when it’s not; it’s an incidental, private issue.

The whole notion that sexuality is a reason for anything other than intimate pleasure needs to be dumped on the human historical pile of shame along with holocausts, slavery and the repression of females.

I don’t care who you want to fuck, unless I want to fuck you, and even then I only care that you want to fuck me; I honestly can’t find any other relevant interest in another person’s sexuality.

Why Would I Write a Blog?

I like writing. I like reading blogs. I like the word ‘blog’.

I can’t write a whole long book.

I’m pretty sure I can rule out having a lot to say as my reason to write a blog. (Ha! ‘blog’, great word!) I’m not reporting anything. I’m not a traveller, or an activist, or a scientist, or a philosopher, or a chef, or a spoken word poet, or a credit to any field anywhere.

The internet brought me here against my will. It’s kidnapped me by putting brilliance, wit and learning at the tips of my fingers, and unlike books, it doesn’t end up with my chocolaty finger marks all over it after use.

The internet never stops. If you go anywhere else and stay there, eventually you’ll stop finding new stuff. Not the case on the internet. Everything links to somewhere and something, and even if it’s shite, it’s something else, something new; a never ending satisfaction of the biological itch for finding a peculiar existent and stabbing our brightly coloured flag in it.

I’m probably getting a bit excited about it there, but I am a recovering luddite and I’m just recently part of the technological revolution. I’ve used the internet regularly for only five years; with three and a half of those exclusively spent gambling. Five years sounds like a long time, but it doesn’t feel that way when you get shown how to work stuff by a six year old. “Look Auntie Kat. You can animate that text… watch…”. “Oh. Really? But I don’t want to. Is that okay?”

Old habits die onerously, and my old reading and writing habits involved paper. I used to think publishing could only be printing. Publishing used to be a massive personal achievement involving the labour of many men and machines, seeped in the smells of dead trees and ink. Then I realised the modern world offers the opportunity for publishing words by pushing a button, or more accurately, ‘clicking’ something named after a button.

If the information revolution means I can be a published author, or at least a publishing author; then I’m joining up, albeit in a tardy fashion.

I’m going to write a blog because other people do it. I do things that other people do. I’m going to write a blog because maybe just one person, 3000 miles away will read it and imagine what I’m like without ever having to meet me. I’m going to write a blog because I can.

And finally because I do really like the word ‘blog’.