Monday, 5 February 2018

Did Scottish glaciers kick-start Cool Britannia?

In the early 1990s, a brood of Scottish glaciers advanced south across the border into England, their relentless forward creep bolstered by a current of cold air emanating from a new wave of cool Glaswegian bands; Primal Scream, Del Amitri, and Deacon Blue, to name but three.

The glaciers were immediately a point of interest to an upcoming generation of bands signed to independent labels, who were fixated on the sedimentary deposits left behind by the icy behemoths.

One of the first bands to visit the glaciers were the bi-curious-skag-glam ensemble, Suede.

“Since the late 1950s glacial expansion has heralded sea changes in the music industry,” recalls guitarist, Bernard Butler.

“We drove to the nearest glacier in Mat Osman's Renault. Brett (lead singer, Brett Anderson) sustained serious frostbite after he pressed his buttocks against the ice, with just a thin layer of Terylene to protect his bare flesh. At early Suede shows, he was continually slapping his own arse in an attempt to drive warmth back into his butt cheeks and rekindle the circulation.”

Another band to take advantage of the invading glaciers were Blur, who were on the back foot following an indifferent reception to their debut LP, Leisure. One draft of the icy water left frontman, Damon Albarn, talking like a cockney whelk vendor for years afterwards.

As Britpop gathered momentum, the glaciers were embraced, sometimes literally, by a second wave of artists, among them Gene lead singer, Martin Rossiter:

“Beside the glowing display of a vandalised cash machine, I tenderly kissed the finger of a Scottish glacier that had extended some way along a rowdy provincial high-street. It made me question my sexuality for years after, and informed our best records.”

Even seasoned old timers were not immune to the charms of the glaciers. Pulp frontman, Jarvis Cocker claimed to have written Disco 2000 after imbibing the cold water, filtered through a cardigan that had once belonged to an unrequited love, while mentally picturing three flying mallard duck ornaments, scaling the floral wallpaper of a front room in a 1960s terrace.

Not everyone welcomed the Scottish invasion. Liam Gallagher of Oasis notoriety berated an encroaching glacier as “a fookin' ice cube in a kilt that doesn't know a single Beatles song” and offered to fight it. Years later his brother, Noel, admitted to looking at photos of the glaciers online, but stopped short of visiting in person, fearing that any spark of inspiration might increase his band's plodding tempo or somehow harm his ability to repurpose tunes written by other people.

Others were more idealogical in their objections, as Peter Kimpton, formerly of Hut records, recounts:

“Luke Haines, then of The Auteurs, took to the pages of the NME to praise the 'superior' European glaciers, which he claimed were dyed red with the blood of radical Marxist terrorist groups who had operated during the 1970s. He once told me that the red ice was a cultural incendiary that had inspired pop revolutionaries such as Kim Wilde, Jaki Graham and Bananarama to subvert the pop landscape of the 1980s, though I am not sure this is strictly true. Ultimately, Luke's refusal to embrace the cool Scottish glaciers is what kept his Unsolved Child Murder EP from topping the charts and its parent album, After Murder Park, from cleaning up at the Brit Awards that year. Deep down I think he still regrets his decision.”

As Britpop ambled towards a premature death in the snug bar of dismal Camden drinking dive, The Good Mixer, a slew of opportunist nearly-bands, among them Menswear, Heavy Stereo and Fluffy, who couldn't be arsed to visit the glaciers, instead consumed Scottish ice shavings diluted in north London tap water. The impact this had on the quality of the music was predictably disastrous.

By the late 1990s, the glaciers that had defined a musical generation were forced into a timid retreat; the likes of Belle and Sebastian and The Yummy Fur causing the proud Celtic ice to melt from embarrassment into fey streams that were later culverted in pipes made from novelty hair-slides and twee friendship bracelets.

Matt, who was the drummer in Dodgy, or possibly Gene, recalls:

“At its peak Britpop embodied the pristine clarity that one sees in a top a quality lager - the kind where they stick a wedge of lime in the bottle neck. At the end, the music possessed the stodgy consistency of a fry-up. It still looked good on paper, or if you were in A&R for a major record company and had just snorted a massive line of coke, but it caused a blockage in the second-hand racks of record shops that still hasn't been cleared.

“Fortunately I invested all my royalties in red Saharan sand, which is going to inspire the next big music scene. I've got three tons of it stored in a lock up in Tooting if you want to buy any.”

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

How will the Brexit affect me? Your 16 point guide.

1. The white cliffs of Dover will be extended all the way around Great Britain and then raised 30 metres above sea level to create a porous wall that will keep out 'undesirables.'

2. The 50 million North Atlantic Cod who are currently being held hostage in the holds of the Spanish fishing armada will be released into the waiting nets of the British fishing fleet.

3. The Dunkirk spirit, that will be required to endure the UK's waning global political influence and evaporating economy, will be recreated by covering the country in six feet of sticky grey mud.

4. British farmers will be able to shotgun invasive plant and animal species from the continent without fear of being tried as war criminals in the Hague, as has routinely been the case since we joined the E.U.

5. The Sun will dedicate more column inches to vegetables that resemble members of the 1966 English World Cup squad.

6. After four decades, your old school tie can, once more, be used as evidence of good or bad character in criminal trials.

7. It is legal again for boys, aged between 10 and 14, to be press-ganged into Morris Dancing troupes.

8. Islands in the middle of private lakes now automatically qualify as tax havens.

9. A northern powerhouse will be created, where the bodies of the poor will be burned and the energy generated used to keep the lights on in London.

10. £350 million a week will be added to the profits of the private companies who now effectively run the NHS.

11. Focus on global trading will shift emphasis to exports of Diana, Princess of Wales memorabilia and framed photographs of Geri from the Spice Girls in her Union Jack dress.

12. The baffling array of foreign muck masquerading as cheese in the dairy aisle of supermarkets will be outlawed and the choice limited to mild cheddar or Red Leicester.

13. A gaudily-framed photograph of Nigel Farage, drinking a gin and tonic, will hang over the bar of all licensed premises. Henceforth establishments licensed to serve alcohol will be limited to English Pubs, Golf and Yacht Clubs. Men will be required to wear a blazer when ordering spirits.

14. An end to European pavement cafe culture and the resurgence of the ploughman's lunch, hard-boiled eggs, limp green lettuce, and metallic-tasting tea, with bits floating on the surface, served from giant tartan urns.

15. TV channels will be limited to BBC1, BBC2, and ITV (for homes that fall below the average national income bracket). Programmes will end between midnight and 1 a.m. with Gary Barlow singing the National Anthem.

16. Gibraltar will be towed into British waters and bolted on to the Isle of White. In a bid to confuse the pro-independence lobby, Scotland will be renamed New Norfolk. Britain will appear on all world maps bearing the logo of its sponsor, G4S.

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Rising ball pit levels will engulf coastal cities by 2026

Iconic bastions of progressive ideology, New York and San Francisco, could soon be submerged beneath six-metres of multi-coloured spheroids if steps are not taken to address rising ball pit levels.

The stark warning was issued by scientists who have expressed alarm at the unprecedented increase in over-flowing ball pits, caused by meltdowns among those in the social justice community.

Marcus Dove of the Sagres Institute said:

“Social justice warriors, claiming to have developed PTSD after encountering somebody with a differing opinion to their own, are amassing in ball pits in record numbers. They regard these children's play areas as safe spaces where they can confidently bury their heads. However their collective mass is causing extraordinary displacement of the spheroids that is leading to significant flooding and chaos in the wider environment. If we do not turn around this trend then major urban centres will be engulfed within the next decade.

“The high levels of salt exuded by these individuals has effectively rendered many of the ball pits hostile to other forms of life. A number of children who formerly played in these areas have been hospitalised with suspected sodium overdoses.

“Digging deeper and deeper ball pits is a short term solution to this problem, which can only be sensibly addressed by asking those within the social justice community to avoid conflating criticism with harassment and melting down at the slightest provocation.

“On a personal level, I would like to request that these individuals hector and harass their idealogical opposites using their indoor voices.”

The recommendations have been greeted with outage by progressives with many, claiming to have been triggered, converging on ball pits, leading to flash floods in downtown areas across America.

Progressive campaigner, Theresa Nevis, said:

“I am at home, stark-naked in the ball pits of Barney's Box Fort children's softplay warehouse in Trenton, NJ, among the brightly-coloured, asexual, plastic spheres. It's like being massaged by Skittles, which are my favourite sweets. I will not leave.”

In a separate report, scientists have also warned that peak Play-doh has likely been reached, citing the high demand for the material from social progressives as a stress relief tool and means of avoiding confrontation with hard realities.

“In the future we may have to look to other materials to ice fake cupcakes and create wacky hairstyles on plastic, colander-headed figurines,” said James Spenlow, Professor of Plasticine Studies at the University of Missouri.

Responding to the crisis, U.S. President and self-styled God-Emperor, Donald Trump, announced on Tuesday his plans to drain the nation's ball pits into the Grand Canyon, and to deport any of the balls made outside of the United States back to their countries of origin. In a speech given to a Delaware chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, he stated:

“The empty pits will be transformed into colosseums where warriors from across the 50 states will battle to earn my favourable responses on Twitter.”

Saturday, 3 December 2016

Three U.S. state senators who were also minor background characters in the original Star Wars films

Saxby Chambliss (Republican) Georgia 2001-2015

A sponsor of bill H.R. 2335, "to exempt from solid waste designation resources that are recycled," Chambliss can be witnessed campaigning on this very issue in the trash compactor scene in the original Star Wars film.

Unlike Chewbacca, Han, and Luke, Chambliss does not emerge from the compactor and makes no further appearances in the film, leading some viewers to speculate that he was crushed between the encroaching walls before he could escape.

Chambliss added fuel to these rumours while campaigning in favour H.R. 2335. In a televised press conference he stated that he was the only serving U.S. senator to have died in a trash compactor on the first Death Star, in the original cut of Star Wars, before it was re-titled Star Wars: A New Hope.

On a separate occasion he voiced his opinion that Han did indeed shoot first and was entirely justified in doing so. 

Vance Hartke (Democrat) Indiana 1959-1977 

As an early supporter of Medicare and Medicaid, Hartke was a natural choice when it came to casting an assistant to the 2-1B Surgical Droid in Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back.

Originally, George Lucas had intended Empire to focus on Luke Skywalker's long rehabilitation, following injuries sustained during a wampa attack – treatment that he would have been unable to afford under the Emperor Palpatine's draconian health insurance bill.

When the film took a different direction, the majority of Harkte's scenes were left on the cutting room floor, where they were eaten by scavenging beetles.

Fortunately some footage has survived. In the photograph above he is pictured assisting in the autopsy of a tauntuan.

Lucas said of Harkte: “Vance could dissect a tauntaun in his sleep. I am in no doubt that, had he not been a long-serving U.S. Senator, he could pursued a very successful career as a veterinarian on the ice planet of Hoth.

Orrin Hatch (Republican) Utah, 1977-present

In 2000, Hatch failed to secure the Republication presidential nomination, with the popular vote going to George W. Bush.

He fared little better, politically, in Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, where he can be seen clad in the traditional Utah blue and beige national dress, at the head of a coup to depose the Rebel Alliance Leader, Mon Mothma, while she is distracted by plans for an assault on the second Death Star.

Before he can dispatch Mothma with his ice-pick, Orrin is wrestled to the ground by her formidable amphibious mon-calamari bodyguards and dragged away. In the digitally remastered versions of the film, this scene occurs off-camera.

Sunday, 28 August 2016

A review of the Lego guns manufactured by my nephew during a recent visit

A couple of weeks ago I was visited by my nephew, Stellan. At the age of three he is already a competent and inventive gunsmith. Over the course of his stay he produced an impressive arsenal of Lego firearms that challenged my many deeply-held notions of what a gun can be.

While some of Stellan's creations have been lost to the ages, broken up on the unforgiving jagged tides of the big box where we keep all the Lego, a few examples of his work do still survive.

Below I examine this extraordinary cache of weaponry, made by a young man who knows in his heart that the most efficient method of inflicting injury with Lego is to leave individual bricks scattered where they will be trodden on by bare feet, but whose aesthetic sense intuitively reaches towards something more beautiful and refined.

 (1) The diminutive aspect of this simple weapon, with its three non-moving parts, begs the question: Is this a firearm at all? Stellan, its creator, claimed that he “couldn't remember,” before shooting me with it from the cover of the kitchen doorway.

The bulk of this piece and the absence of a handgrip leads me to speculate that it may be a shotgun of some sort, with an external magazine incorporated into the 6-studded white brick that rests atop the barrel. 

It is possible that that slender blue tile could be repositioned so that it protrudes from the rear of the long red brick to create a shoulder stock. One wonders whether this delicate plastic slate, attached to the body of the weapon by only one or two pairs of studs would withstand the recoil associated with a shotgun, without detaching and potentially injuring the shooter. 

(2) “You've got to ask yourself one question. Do I feel lucky? Well, do ya, punk?”

A bold fusion of the brash and the elegant, this high-calibre handgun would have blended seamlessly into the shop-soiled Big Apple of Clint Eastwood's Dirty Harry films. 

A flimsy handgrip may lead to difficulties holding the weapon steady during firing. 

The 1970s car headlamps and radiator grill bulking out the butt of the gun, while of little practical purpose, provide a retro flourish – a nod of the head to the violent cop films of the 1970s and early 1980s that inspired this fearsome piece.

Here we see a common motif in all of Stellan's designs; the concealed trigger which is incorporated into the grip. 

(3) This stocky sub-machine-gun, reminiscent of the KRISS Vector SMG, incorporates an extended magazine within its bulky and protruding handgrip. However, what this misshapen weapon gains in ammo capacity it loses in ease of use.

I initially mistook this portable, rapid-fire, bringer of death for a penguin, earning me the ire of its creator. 

(4) Another sub-machine-gun. A mysterious gap between the handgrip, where the magazine is presumably housed, and the barrel, raises the pertinent issue of how ammunition enters the firing chamber. One tantalizing possibility is that this tunnel accommodates a belt feed, allowing a user to fire on full-automatic, while drawing from a pair of bandoleers, criss-crossing his or her bare, sweaty chest, like a pair of brass anacondas.

The unusual stair-casing design of the barrel forces the bullet to climb a short flight of internal steps prior to exiting through the muzzle. This results in fitter ammunition, capable of travelling at greater speeds over longer distances.

(5) Whether you have just been caught cheating at poker in a late 18th century El Paso saloon bar, or are simply hoping to assassinate the 16th President of the United States of America during a visit to the theatre, this handsome derringer, sponsored by the Shell Oil company, will more than likely meet your requirements. 

(6) Holy fucking crap! Is that a railgun?

Why yes, now that you mention it Edith, it is a railgun. Capable of magnetically accelerating a Lego brick along its smooth-bore, 1.5cm barrel faster than you can utter the words: “Oh fuck.”

In the words of Ordell Robbie, from Quentin Tarantino's uncharacteristically tepid adaptation of the Elmore Leonard novel 'Rum Punch' (Jackie Brown):

When you absolutely, positively got to kill every motherfucker in the room, accept no substitutes.” 

After Stellan returned home to Preston, I dismantled his Lego guns and fashioned the remains into this monument to peace.

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Day five inside a lion costume

It is my fifth day inside a lion suit. Last Tuesday, Donald Trump ordered two of his bodyguards to hold me down while his Columbian maid sewed me into the costume. Later that afternoon I was presented as a gift to Trump's nine year old son, Barron, who rides me around the house and occasionally hunts me with nerf guns.

At breakfast I ask Donald how long I must stay inside the costume.

How long do lions live?”

I don't know.

When lions invent the internet you can look it up.”

The conversation takes a disturbing turn towards the recent activities of Trump's two older sons, Donald Jnr and Eric, who are both avid big game hunters.

I am lying down on my haunches at the foot of the table, beneath the loosely-pleated hem of the gold-embroidered cloth. Barron bends down in his chair and proffers a cupped hand filled with milk-sodden Cheerios.

Don't worry,” he whispers loudly in my ear. “You are a magic lion who will never die.”

As I slink away between the marbled Doric columns and pad out of the breakfast room, I hear Barron ask his father:

Daddy, can lions breathe underwater?”

In the east gallery I encounter Warren, a former member of the secret service who has been sewn into a bear costume. He tells me that he has been sold to the Russian Prime Minister, Vladimir Putin. He is due to be shipped out to Moscow tomorrow.

Phone the Democratic National Convention,” he says. “Tell them to get word to Bernie Saunders. In the past he has always stood up for lions and bears.”

He scratches the number into the zebra-skin wallpaper. It takes me three attempts to dial it correctly with my cumbersome paws.

A woman who introduces herself as Debbie Wasserman Schultz answers the phone. When I ask for Bernie Saunders she tells me that nobody by that name works there and hangs up.

Later I read in the paper about an intercepted email from the League of African Herbivores to the DNC, offering to endorse Hillary Clinton to the tune of $2million, if she runs for President on an anti-lion platform and appoints an antelope as head of the United States Postal Service.

That evening on The Daily Show, Trevor Noah asks Bernie Saunders for his opinion on Hillary's willingness to throw lions under the bus for the sake of a couple of million in change.

That is why we must we must elect Hillary Clinton, so that can she can address the corruption in the Democratic Party,” replies Bernie.

In the adjoining room I hear Trump and a potential campaign donor discussing the possibility of dyeing my fur red.  

Monday, 18 July 2016

Alex Fiedler writes to The Beach Boys on the subject of tomatoes

I know that you'll feel better when you send us in your letter and tell us the name of your favourite vegetable.”

- The Beach Boys (Vegetables)


Dear Brian, Carl, Denis, Mike, Al, Bruce, and Mr Van Dyke Parks,

As suggested in the lyrics to your song 'Vegetables' I have written this letter informing you of the name of my favourite vegetable, in the hope that doing so will make me feel better about life.

You know, if I am being completely honest I have to say that it's the tomato. Now there are some people who claim that the tomato isn't a vegetable but a fruit and these are generally the same people who pronounce it “tomayto”.

In my heart I feel that this is a communist plot against our hard-working American tomato farmers, both at home and on plantations overseas in Vietnam. If the tomato is a fruit then why don't we eat it with ice cream?

You know what? I'm feeling a little better already.

Give my regards to Rhonda, Barbara Ann, Caroline and all the other swinging California girls.

Alex Fiedler.

September 27th, 1967