Wednesday, 30 January 2013

A nation of twats

Amanda is worried that she might be a twat.

“Oh no darling, you couldn’t possibly be,” says Sara, as she places a reassuring hand on Amanda’s knee.

Jocasta and I exchange a knowing glance across the table. In private we have discussed how Sara is by far the biggest twat we have ever encountered in our lives. In the index of twats she is right up there with Magneto from the X-Men, or Darth Vader. She also figures prominently in The Eye-Spy Book of Wanker Drivers, that I compulsively fill-in during my cycle commute to work, as I ride no-handed through red traffic lights.

The reason for Amanda’s most-recent episode of self-doubt lies in her unbridled enthusiasm for a performance she witnessed at an Islington folk club the previous evening. A young man (whose antique clothing, flat cap and neatly-trimmed moustache were redolent of someone who had travelled forward in time from the year 1914, possibly to avoid being conscripted into the armed forces) had attempted to pass off the inane z-list nursery rhyme – Tom, Tom, The Piper’s Son  as an authentic a capella folk song, which he had re-titled: “Oh Tom [sung: “Torm”] he were [sung: “wore”] the Pipeman’s Son, and which he performed in a fake, over-enunciated Lancastrian accent.

“I was down the front clapping along and applauding like a mental patient...” says Amanda, who is clearly distressed and appalled by her behaviour.

“...That song is nursery school prattle and I know it. If Jeremy ever had the bare-faced nerve to come home from his playgroup singing that, I would instruct him to go to his room at once and to be quite, as mummy has a headache and needs to lie down for a while.

“The worse thing of all is the strained affectation. A year from now that boy will be over his folk music phase. The flat cap and the moustache will be gone. He’ll be on Dragons Den being scowled at by Duncan Bannatyne, while trying to raise money to fund a new app, designed by him and his twattish female business partner, who he’ll end up shagging and disastrously undermining what passes for their working relationship.” 

As ever, it is level-headed Giles who intervenes and re-establishes equilibrium: He brings us all back down to earth with his observation that the tendrils of twattery have insidiously wormed their way into every aspect of modern living, to such an extent that it is now impossible not to be a twat.

“We are a nation, if not a species, of twats,” he says, summarising his argument in the distinct baritone that he has unsuccessfully employed in auditions for roles as diverse as ‘The voice-over part in a Toilet Duck commercial’ and ‘The voice-over part in a Flash Power Bathroom Spray commercial.’  

The following week I find myself at the Twat Nation club night in Shoreditch, chopping out a line of the latest legal high (called ‘Chair,’ because it makes you feel like a chair) on one of the mirrors that have been thoughtfully embedded into the counter by the sink. Peering down into the reflective surface  I see the face of a twat staring back at me.

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Father Donald & the Unicorn

Father Donald was obsessed with unicorns. I was never able to uncover the reasons behind  his morbid preoccupation. Like many obsessions, I imagine that it can be traced back to some traumatic event that must have occurred during his childhood.   

“The unicorn is ruled by lust,” was a mantra that he repeated ritually and with such florid drama that it was to became his personal sacrament. Spittle would bubble up at the corners of his mouth, as if his admiration and celibate envy of the unicorn was permeating through his veneer of disapproval, like a polluted underground spring. 

One day I couldn’t take it any more.

“Father Donald!” I exclaimed “There are no fucking unicorns! The last one died at London Zoo in 1933! It was given a state funeral and is buried not five miles from where we presently stand, in the Nave at Westminster Abbey!”

It was this outburst that saw me moved from St Giles, in the capital, to the quiet rural parish of Marshbottom where (I have unofficially been informed) I am to see out my days as a priest.   

Father Donald was excommunicated two years later, after he was discovered having sex with an antique bible that dated back to the mid 1500s. I did not ask which particular book he had chosen to penetrate. Whatever one’s opinions are of his sexual deviancy, I remember him as a gentlemen, and a gentlemen never tells.

Sunday, 20 January 2013

The use of live Hip Hop performances as a tool in the early diagnosis of strokes

Enclosed below is the abstract of a study that I hope to submit for funding and peer review, with an eye towards publication in a reputable medical journal. Any criticism that you feel may improve the scope or efficacy of this research will be gratefully received. Meaningful suggestions and contributions will be fully credited in the final work.

Yours in science


The use of live Hip Hop performances as a tool in the early diagnosis of strokes 

Author affiliations 

The second album by Public Enemy - It Takes a Nation of Millions To Hold Us Back - blew my teenage mind, although its impact has been diluted by subsequent lesser works,  released mainly during the mid-late 1990s/early 2000s. 

I think that I once saw Wyclef Jean from The Fugees out and about in London , but I can’t be sure whether it was actually him, or somebody who looked a bit like him.


Objective: To determine whether live Hip Hop performances can play a role in the early detection of strokes.

Hip Hop and its derivations have come to dominate contemporary popular music. The genre’s emphasis on tight rhymes coming at you hard from the mic, courtesy of its most accomplished MCs, make it a reliable diagnostic tool. It is largely thanks to groundbreaking research by Flavor Flav, and his choice of an analogue clock as over-sized medallion, that we can confidently state, with a high degree of accuracy, what the time is at any given moment.  

In recent years a common feature of the live Hip Hop performance has been the incitement to “Throw your hands in the air and wave ‘em around like you just don’t care.” 

The primary aim of this ritual is to generate a party vibe. Since the inability of a subject to raise their hands above their head is also a dependable indicator of a stroke in progress, it seems likely that this well-established staple of Hip Hop performance might play a key role in the early diagnosis of strokes, and therefore hasten the speed with which medical treatment can be administered. 

Design: Meta-analysis of stroke-related symptoms among Hip Hop audiences. Control groups composed of audiences of bands such as Godspeed You! Black Emperor, where open displays of enjoyment of the music, beyond a subtle nodding of the head, are frowned upon, and the arms of the audience typically remain folded throughout the performance.   

Data sources: Party Hip Hop playlists or compilations. Basically anything with phat beats on it. Dubstep and any satellite genre that sounds like Techno leaking through the wall of an adjoining residence while, outside, rain falls on the plastic roof of a bus shelter, will be discounted as unsuitable, due to the unlikelihood of such music inspiring much care-free hand-waving. 

Review methods: Randomised trials correlating a live Hip Hop audience’s participation in hand-waving rituals with incidences of strokes diagnosed at said performances. 

Great care must be taken to exclude other factors that might repress or prevent hand-waving. On a basic level these include an unwillingness to join in due to shyness, an uncooperative personality, or known conditions such as autism or depression. 

The age of participants must also be taken into account. For attendees past the age of about 35, making any kind of abandoned spontaneous movement without warming-up first is inadvisable. Even allowing for a well-implemented pre-exercise regime, violently throwing your limbs in any direction is, in general, a very bad idea for anyone who is no longer in the flower of their youth. 

When reviewing elderly audience members, a slow and deliberate raising of a subject’s hands into the air, in preference over a sudden jerking movement that might conceivably throw their back out, may indicate a prudent sense of caution, as opposed to the gradual onset of a stroke.  
Another factor, again related to old age, that might prevent feckless hand-waving, is that accrued knowledge and experience can make it harder not to care about things. 

We must of course recognize that a responsible, fully-licensed and accredited MC will request that the audience wave their hands around “Like you just don’t care.” He or she is not for one moment suggesting that they should cease caring; only that they convey the general impression that, at this singular point in time, the fly rhymes coming from the mic have ushered them into a communal state of euphoria, in which their everyday concerns are of secondary importance to the performance currently unfolding on the stage.

Even so, pretending that you “just don’t care” can present a major challenge for the middle-aged, when in the back of their minds linger nagging doubts about raising children in a world where the boiler keeps going out and the price of apples on the open market consistently gallops ahead of inflation. 

It should also be noted that, in a club environment, other symptoms synonymous with the onset of a stroke, such as slurred speech, may be attributable to intoxication.   

Possible outcomes: New avenues of research. Possible endorsements by Doctor Dre and sponsorship deals from trainer manufacturers such as Nike and Adidas. Greater survival and recovery from strokes among fans of Hip Hop.