Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Why all wardrobes are bastards and cannot be trusted

Last year I returned home from work to find that my house had been completely emptied of its contents. The fold-away bed, that I keep in the spare room for guests, had sold all my possessions to fund its raging meth habit. Further investigation by my sceptical insurance company revealed that the bed had also sold my family into slavery. I am currently working three part-time jobs in the hope of raising enough capital to buy them all back.

Your house and garden furniture will, if presented with an opportunity, kill you as soon as look at you. If you don't believe me then grab the nearest Ouija Board and consult the blood-soaked spectre of General Henry Scott O'Callahan, of the King's Fifth Riflery.

His own armchair shot him in the back, following an argument over who owned a threepenny bit that was lodged partway behind the back of its seat cushion.

Show me one example of an armchair that has ever given so much as a single fuck. You can't, because such a thing doesn't exist and never will. There is a reason why you never hear about any armchair saints, or why an armchair has never been knighted by the Queen for services to the realm.


Now onto the important business of answering questions that I have received from telepathic members of the British public: 

Today, Mary from Stoke on Trent enquires: 'Can a human being ever form a meaningful bond with an item of furniture?'

Dear Mary,

The short answer to your question is an emphatic 'No!'

I once witnessed a wardrobe push in front of its owner and take the last seat in a lifeboat. It was a male wardrobe too; in accordance with centuries of nautical decorum, it should have held station on deck until all the women and children had been accounted for.

As a wooden object the wardrobe would have comfortably floated. It would have been at minimal risk of shark attack and, while adrift on the open ocean, would have been unlikely to suffer the unwanted attention of woodpeckers. The very worst that could have happened to it would be perhaps washing up on a pristine tropical beach, with a few garishly-coloured equatorial whelks clinging to its paneling. These could have been easily removed by a qualified furniture veterinarian.

I was ensickened by the selfish actions of the wardrobe, that I clearly witnessed from my vantage point high on the upturned prow of the cruise liner - The Marigold. Prior to it being sold into prostitution by my meth-crazed camp bed, I kept my own wardrobe chained-up in the basement and only allowed it to store my worn-out or irreparably damaged clothing.

Mary, the only relationship that you can expect with your furniture is one of treachery and backstabbery.

I strongly advise that you start storing all of your clothes in a big heap on your bedroom floor. But be careful, as your clothes also want to embezzle your life savings, and then kill you, and make your death look like suicide, which is why I have started walking around naked.

I hope this is of help in your journey through life.

~ backwards7

Thursday, 16 January 2014

Useless dating advice for Christian teens

Being a teenager with two men in your life can be tough, especially when one of those men is Jesus and the other is a really cute guy called Chad who plays on the school football team and who is pressuring you into having sex!

Don't despair. Simply allow the seven rules below to guide you through the does and don’ts of Christian dating. Plus get the low-down on the church youth scene from Christian Abstinence Advisor, Tina.

1. The name of the man or woman you are going to marry is your own first name spelled backwards.

It's true that God has a plan for everyone. But it is also true that God works in mysterious ways and hides his plan in his creation. For example, did you know that opposites attract? Well, what could be more opposite than your own name spelled backwards!

Tina says!
My future husband is called Anit, so I guess that he's from Eastern Europe, or maybe even Russia, which would be really neat because I am so totally into ballet! After we get engaged he will need to relocate to South Dakota, but I don't see that as being a problem because South Dakota is awesome.”

2. If Jesus or the Holy Ghost catches you in engaging sexual intercourse out of wedlock, they have a legal obligation to file a report at your local police station.

The police will pass this information on to your parents or legal guardians, and the pastor at your church. It will go on your permanent record at school, be disclosed to employers, and published in newspapers around the world. It may also may affect your credit rating. Don't risk it Kids!

Tina says!
There's a rumour going round my school that you can kill Jesus with a silver bullet through the heart, but that isn't true. Pastor Roberts says that all bullets bounce off Jesus. When the police find out that you tried to kill the son of God they will charge you with attempted murder.”

3. 'If You're Happy and You Know It' is a great song to dance to at Church events.

You can't put your hands down yours or somebody else's pants if you are singing a song that requires a lot of clapping and waving your hands in the direction of heaven.

Tina says!
I'd rather clap my hands in time to a catchy song, than catch the clap! LOL!”

4. Even in an ankle-length prom dress you can still out-run Satan.

You don't have to be a winner in the Camp Forbearance Christian Summer Youth Games (CSYG) to beat the devil in a foot race. Why? Because the devil wears high heels over his cloven feet. Remember the last time you put high heels on a goat and it got angry and chased after you, but couldn't catch you? Well, neither can the devil.

Tina says!
Jesus wore sandals. Only jezebels, harlots and my uncle Mike (who we are all praying for) wear high heels.”

5. It's okay to have sexual fantasies about people from the Old Testament.

The Old Testament caters for all tastes, from bad boys like Cain and King Nebuchadnezzar, to totally-ripped hunks like Moses and Joshua.

Tina says!
You can keep The Jonas Brothers. Johanan and Jonathan, the sons of Kareah (Jeremiah 40:8) are totally hot.”

6. Attending non-church social events is a gateway to prostitution and methampetamine addiction.

According to covert research carried out by Father Lionel, at a non-church event (typically a sleazy, inner-city massage parlour, or crack den) you are never more than 15 minutes away from hearing an Elton John record, or something totally fucking mind-blowing from one of the early Black Sabbath albums, that makes you want to shoot dope and have sex with strange men at the same time!

Tina says!
The Ten Commandments have two less rules than the 12 Step Program that Father Lionel is legally mandated to complete as part of his state-ordered rehabilitation.”

7. Julian seems like a really nice guy.

Julian's just started working for his dad's agricultural feed business, which is really sweet. Okay he's a bit older and he has a beard, but girls mature faster than boys. Plus he plays guitar in a totally awesome Christian Rock band called Flaming Sword of Eden.

Tina says!
Remember rule number one! You can only marry Julian if your first name is Nailuj.”

Thursday, 9 January 2014

I want to tell you about this great girl I knew

I first encountered Cat Moore not long after I was diagnosed with Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis - the same disease that claimed her life at the age of 35, a few days before Christmas, 2013.

In the aftermath of my diagnosis I had searched online for fellow sufferers and support groups. It soon became apparent that sharing an illness with someone doesn't mean that you will find them tolerable, or want to listen to their awful survivors poetry, or endure their incessant prattling about “god's plan.”

In desperation I typed PSC into the search bar of the blogging website Live Journal. Two user accounts came up. One of them belonged to Cat.

Although our respective geographical locations (I live in the south-east of England/Cat lived in Vancouver, Canada) meant that we would have never crossed paths had it not been for our common ailment, our relationship was not defined by it. I like to think that, had we met under different circumstances, we would have been friends anyway.

Cat was a tiny, pale, strange looking girl. Her thick glasses and her fondness for wearing berets gave her the appearance of Buddy Holly reborn as an art-house film director. She was a self-confessed introvert who yearned to come out of herself - somehow this inner conflict made her a larger than life character, in way that was endearingly off-kilter. She often seemed to find herself in bizarre and unusual situations that were tinged with pathos:

One of my favourite Cat Moore stories concerns the time she took part in Team Make-Out – an event in which strangers engage in kissing and light petting on public transport. With no male partner available she ended-up in “an awkward, sloppy, and intensely gum-flavoured” clinch with another girl, which took place under the watchful gaze of a CCTV camera.

Cat loved music: Spiritualized, My Bloody Valentine, Sonic Youth, Stereolab... One of the highlights of her life was travelling to Austin, Texas, in 2010 for the SXSW festival. She later described her experience in a single paragraph of breathless prose:

My time in Austin was a mindblowing blur of movies, rule-breaking, food, IFC happy hours, meeting people, Motorhead, more movies, Broken Social Scene, weirdness, and fun. I got a swag bag, got sick, got better, got drunk, got a few shirts at Mondo Tees, and even got starstruck once or twice. (Bill Murray on the red carpet for Get Low.) I did and saw so much, there's no way I can regret the things I didn't get to do or see. Besides, they're on the list for next time. And there will be a next time.”

However, her main passion was for the cinema. She worked at multiple theatres around her home town, selling tickets, working the concession stand, cleaning the toilets. Few people had a better excuse to succumb to fatigue, but I don't know of anyone who worked harder than Cat did

Common interests and mutual suffering aside, I liked Cat because she was a good person:

Her mother died in 2003. Cat spent the remaining decade of her life in a succession of sub-par, rented apartments with her father (always referred to as 'the Dude') who she looked after and worried about and fretted over. Although she sometimes entertained notions of living elsewhere and wondered whether this might lead to a better job and a better quality of life, she was not a martyr to her circumstances. She maintained that her decision to stay with her father was the right one and the one that she felt most comfortable with.

Cat had an accommodating nature – the kind that people can take advantage of without meaning to. She routinely put the needs of others before her own well-being. I lost count of the number of times she would mention finding her beloved pet, Parker J Cat, asleep on her bed and, instead of waking him up, would squeeze as best she could onto the remainder of the mattress.

Despite her illness, and the fact that part of her bowel had been removed, she continued to indulge an unhealthy lifestyle that included Coca Cola for breakfast, Slurpees, fried chicken and pulled pork – all things that you really shouldn't consume if you have PSC. I admired her for doing it; for leading the life she wanted to live. If you can't give the grim reaper the finger once in a while then what is the point.

We both left Live Journal around 2011. I was disillusioned with the site. Cat, I think, was coming to terms with having less energy. The 140 character limit of Twitter was less draining for her than the prospect of composing lengthy blog entries.

In mid-December of 2013 I noticed that she hadn't posted on Twitter for a couple of weeks. On the 21st of the month I sent her a direct message:

How are you Cat? I worry.”

When there was no reply I assumed that she had been admitted to hospital. Her condition often seemed to deteriorate around this time of year.

On the 5th of January, with a heavy heart, I typed her Twitter handle into the site's search engine and learned of her death through one of the cinemas that she worked for. After getting in touch with one of the staff there I was able to fill in the gaps:

Cat had been admitted to hospital either in late November or early December, where she underwent a number of unsuccessful surgeries that were aimed at saving her liver. Her other organs began to shut down and the consensus among her doctors was that another surgical procedure would be too much for her. She was suffering and her father made the decision to turn off her life support. She died on the 20th December, 2013, the day before I wrote to her.

When I heard the news of her death I felt swamped by a tidal wave of grief that couldn't be expressed in words; it was the kind that builds up inside faster than you can get it out and is physically painful. In the days that have followed I have felt the occasional aftershock. They always seem to catch me off guard. My eyes filled with tears at the mention of a forthcoming new season of Mad Men and the thought that Cat will never know the eventual fate of Don Draper.

I visited her Twitter account. She is still following me. Nothing has changed and it as if she is on a long hiatus.

I read her penultimate tweet from the 24th November:

The good news is, I'm not dead. The bad news? Still living this life.”

Her last written words appeared the following day: 'Thanks!' in response to a comment posted from a protected account.

I felt guilty that we had not communicated more, and in more depth, since we left Live Journal.

I returned to our last flippant exchange on Twitter (which occurred on the 3rd and 4th November, 2013) and wished that I had said something more comforting:

Cat: Haven't got the spoons for much today. Work and disease do not a good combo make.

Me: I'm (sic) intend to re-brand my PSC as 'Liver Away' and market it with the help of investment from the millionaires on 'Dragons Den'.

Cat: I'll look for you if I can get the UK version...

I found a recent tweet – one where she mentioned not being able to imagine a world without Lou Reed in it. In another, that I had overlooked, she described sitting on the couch answering email when something had “popped/snapped” inside of her. X-rays at the hospital revealed nothing. One of the hallmarks of having a chronic, ultimately terminal, illness is how quickly you acclimatize to the horror of your situation. You learn to shrug off things that would appal and disgust a normal, healthy human being.

I visited her lastfm account which had been inactive for many years. The last track she listened to there, way back in 2010, was The Fox In The Snow by Belle and Sebastian. I don't think I will ever be able to hear that song again without being reduced to a sobbing wreck.

I read her old Live Journal entries:

I'm not afraid of dying. No sense in fearing the inevitable, really. What's the worst that could happen? Besides a slow, painful, lingering death that brings out the depression and angst in everyone including yourself, that is.”

The thought that, in her final weeks, she might have been scared, or conscious of the scale of her pain and suffering, is unbearable to me.

I half-watched The Matrix and wished that we lived in a computer simulation, and that somewhere in an alternate reality Cat was still alive.

I bargained pointlessly with an unnamed, benevolent deity for the opportunity to swap places with her. Cat stood up to her illness. She had hopes and dreams and things that she looked forward to. This past year I have felt like it's enough. I am coasting along on my own diminishing momentum. I think if a doctor said to me 'We've done all we can for you' then I would welcome it. Cat had more to live for and she died before she was ready. It wasn't fair.

I never met Cat in person or heard her voice. Our strange relationship unfolded on disparate strands of social media and the occasional email.

She leaves in her wake the faintest of footprints. An iPod Touch (which she would periodically lose) containing her favourite music; a few possessions in a rented apartment.

Those who knew her in person and worked alongside her, remember her fondly.

I remember you too Cat Moore. 

I did and saw so much, there's no way I can regret the things I didn't get to do or see.”

26th June 1978 - 20th December 2013