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Memo to All Idiots: Stop Being Idiots

10 Aug

This morning a friend sent me an email letter to which was attached a ‘hilarious’ photograph of something she saw on her travels across the US (I won’t say which state it was in, but if you assumed it was a Midwestern one, you would not be wrong). It was of a bumper sticker that read:

If I pass you on the right, your in the wrong.

The car displaying this sticker was unsurprisingly red and had hubcaps on its wheels which spun even when the vehicle was stationary.

Unlike in England where two-way roads are so narrow bicyclists barely have the space to travel down them, most roads in America are multi-laned in each direction. Americans drive on the right side of the road (and before any Britons assume that I mean right as in correct, rest assured I mean right as in not left: you will not find me in any motoring-based morality arguments like that). The general rule is that those driving the speed limit should drive in the right lane, and that the left lane be used only by those who are speeding (which happily makes it quite easy for coppers to spot lawbreakers).  The left lane therefore is also known (by twats) as the ‘fast lane’.

Clearly the driver in the red Ford displaying said bumper sticker feels strongly about this guideline. He is clearly so outraged by those in the left lane travelling at the speed limit that not only does he feel the need to overtake them, he also takes the opportunity to remind them that they are in fact wrong’. I can only deduce from his placing of a non-removable decal on his vehicle (not even on the bumper, mind, but across the rear window) that the ‘fast lane’ issue is a passion of his, something he feels in the very pit of his soul.

Perhaps I should admire his commitment. However, I do not. Because he is clearly an idiot, and idiots do not deserve admiration for anything they do.  There is one simple clue to his idiocy—though I’ve no doubt there’s plenty more evidence available—and I trust that you all spotted it instantly within my unbiased description above.

It’s the word your.

Not driving fast in the ‘fast lane’ may be frustrating and naive, but if you need a clear cut example of something that is across-the-board, out-and-out wrong, you need look no Stop Sonfurther than the word your.

Your means ‘belonging to you’. I assume the driver meant you’re, meaning ‘you are’. While I acknowledge the two words sound the same, they are in fact two completely different words. The bumper sticker might as well as read ‘tomato in the wrong’. Tomato does not mean you’re and your does not mean you’re.

God gave us the English language to use to communicate with one another. It’s a great language. It’s got words like crumbly and delicate and trumpery, fantastic words that incorporate a range of sounds and many shades of meaning. But the language only works when used correctly. Using words incorrectly destroys marriages (my darling, our love is so holey) or results in incarceration (I have the head of that old dear hanging over my fireplace).  Using words incorrectly is wrong.

If I ran the world (which as of yet, I do not), people driving slowly in the left lane wouldn’t give me much pause. But people who say your when they mean you’re would immediately be banished to Idiot Island (formerly Molokai) where they would be exiled until they learned to speak correctly. If that took their entire lifetimes, then so be it.

Hooray for Freedom!

4 Jul

Let’s celebrate the Founding Fathers’ commitment to ensuring the freedom of speech and religion of all corporations!

A Rose By Any Other Name

1 Jun

What’s in a name? you may very well ask. In fact, I will pause and wait while you do.

. . .

Now that you’ve asked, apparently “scientists” claim there’s quite a bit in a name. According to some clever clogs in Pennsylvania, boys with common names are less likely to commit crimes than those with less common names. (First let me clarify that as we’re talking about America, common means “more frequently found.” Therefore, a common American name is John Smith, a less common American name is Chucklenuts McGee. In England, I appreciate, common denotes something which would imply a distinction between the names, say, Wayne Rooney and Perciville Wilberforce DeMontford.)

So “science” tells us names can lead one to criminality. What I found quite interesting about this particular research is the selection of bad, uncommon names, particularly Ernest and Ivan. For, in my vast experience of male-female relationships, I have known (biblically) both an Ernest and an Ivan. And, I can assure you, they were far from bad. They were good, quite good, if you can catch the meaning of my drift.

Ernest was a boy from Louisiana whom I met one day in New York City as I was meandering through Central Park Zoo. We were both watching the mini Nubian goat kid being tended to so lovingly by its mother.  Although the zoo was bustling with children (as it so often unfortunately is), it felt like he and I were alone in this scene of nature’s beauty. I turned my delicate face towards his and noticed a single tear making its thoughtful way down the contours of his rugged but not unlickable face. His eyes met mine and, for a moment, we stood in silence, before quickly making our way to the nearest hotel. After, he said his name was Ernest and I felt that there could not have been a more perfect moniker for such a sincere and thoughtful lover. During the week that we spent in each other’s company, I was able to discern, with the help of a UN translator, that he had moved north from the bayou to learn how the big city folk lived and ended up the head of a charity devoted to protecting city pigeons from verbal abuse. My Ernest was not a criminal: he was a generous and compassionate do-gooder, who definitely could do it good.

I didn’t meet my Ivan until much later when I was touring the rugged landscapes of Montana. My expedition was hoping to reach Sacagewea Peak but got stranded without enough provisions. Ivan, as I’m sure you can imagine, was originally from Russia and had come to Bridger Range to do some skiing. He intercepted our calls for help and immediately rushed to our aid. After my group came back down the mountain, I felt I wanted to thank him personally before leaving town. He was staying in a little place near Devil’s Backbone and was delighted to entertain for me for the weekend. A lady, of course, does not like to kiss and tell, but, suffice it to say, the only crimes Ivan committed were against nature but they were so, so forgivable.

This quick, wet trip down memory lane has provided ample evidence to prove that said “scientific” theory about names is tommyrot (unless, I suppose, your name is actually Tommy Rot). In my own life, I have had some run-ins with a few Victorias, but they are definitely the exception which validates the rule that one’s name is of very little consequence as to whether one is likely to be unlawful or legit. No child should be condemned at birth simply because of thebaby-criminal name his parents chose for him. What one makes of oneself is what matters. After all what woman hasn’t met her fair share of bad Johns? And while “scientists” David and Daniel may be sitting pretty in their ivory research laboratories, I personally can testify to knowing at least two Davids currently serving rather long prison terms. I will admit to knowing a Daniel who was completely above board, but he suffered from premature ejaculation so I think I’ve proved my point sufficiently.

Darling Buds of May

1 May

As we turn over our calendars to expose the new month, we are unsurprisingly greeted with May 1, known as May Day in many cultures. People celebrate it in a variety of ways, but most festivities involve weaving flowers into one’s hair, dancing in an inordinately silly manner and/or the bashing in the brains of factory bosses. May 1 holds meaning for me as well, though I cannot bring myself to think of it fondly. In my family, May 1 is remembered only as the Day of the Incident.

It began, as so many unhappy stories do, with my mother’s Bridge Club. I’m afraid the competition between the women players extended far beyond the card game. The ladies were always trying to outdo each other in their personal lives: a husband’s promotion, a son’s sporting triumph or an exotic accent belonging to a cleaner—all were fodder for the rivalry. While often the bragging was greeted simply with patronizing nods, sometimes the afternoons would end with bitter silences and, on one occasion, actual bloodshed.

One Tuesday, something said really set my mother off. It came from the mouth of Deborah Bullwinkle, a relative newcomer to the group, who was married to a dentist whose hygienist’s attitude my mother found objectionable. This particular afternoon, Mrs Bullwinkle came in with the story of her daughter’s first menstrual period, a tale so fascinating that no one could deny that she had “won” (not at cards, of course—my mother almost always won at bridge because she is famously a cheat).

When my mother returned home, she was fuming. She began to pick on me—why hadn’t I cleaned up my room, swept the back porch or started dinner? She demanded to see my homework, something she rarely did as by then she had realised that my intellectual abilities had surpassed her own. She criticised my handwriting and noted that my dress was wrinkled. This abuse continued until she confessed that what was really upsetting her was the fact that I had yet to shed my uterine lining.

Now when my mother came back from bridge, she was usually pretty loaded so there was no point in trying to introduce any logic into the conversation. At the time, I had yet to reach double digits so my lack of menstruation was hardly my fault. But my mother was determined that I should be able to outdo the Bullwinkles. She then announced that the next day—May 1—I would not be going into school but instead she and I would be heading to Gatsby’s Department Store. She would become the first of the Club to buy her daughter a proper, grown up lady’s brassiere.

I shan’t go into great detail about the excursion, partly because I do not want to frighten my younger readers but also because the clerk has served her time and paid her debt to society. Suffice it to say that my mother was not amused by her suggestion that we start off with a training bra. My mother had not allowed me training wheels for my bicycle when I was learning (as evidenced by the still-visible-today scars on my knees), and “my daughter got her first training bra” would not earn her the respect she was expecting at next month’s bridge game. So the clerk, my mother and I bundled into the changing room with a pencil, a pad of paper, and a measuring tape, leaving little space for my dignity.

Ultimately, my mother’s bragging about my early entry into the world of intimate apparel gave her the triumph she had hoped for. The fact that my bosom didn’t properly fill the cups until quite a few years later was irrelevant. My mother had turned my tender breast buds into a weapon, and it’s a testament to my moral fiber that I was able to overcome such trauma and go on to develop the magnificent bustline that I still maintain today.

So this May Day be assured that I’ll be remembering the Incident and the hurt that it caused. Whether you’re dancing around with ribbons or demonstrating around a bonfire, you know I’d appreciate your taking a moment to think of me. Then, if you aren’t already doing so, think of my breasts.

Nice, aren’t they?

Just Don’t Wear Them Backwards

15 Apr

While I was out in the garden yesterday tending to some suckling clover, I was startled by a bit of a ruckus next door. Without any effort of my own making, I was able to overhear a conversation between the lad next door and his mother.  From what I could decipher, some chores of his had not been done (she had asked him to take the bins out the other night at approximately 5.45 and again at 6.30 yet he had left without doing so to go watch Clash of the Titans with that Liam Williams kid whose mother leaves a lot to be desired in the responsibility department). The lad’s defense was simply that he had not heard her request on either occasion or he would have definitely done his job.  A few mild swears were tossed about (coming from both parties so this gives you a sense of the kind of people I have living next to me). I was just about to abandon my activity when I heard Lady Muck make a comment which upset me terribly.

She said, “And take off that ridiculous cap, you look a right twat.”

Having been keeping tabs on this boy for a number of weeks (he is my prime suspect in the case of bicycle tracks through my tulip bed), I know the cap of which she speaks. It is commonly referred to as a baseball cap, and I feel it is an unfairly maligned article of clothing.

I have already spoken extensively about my love of baseball. The intelligence, bravado, and strength that it takes to be a great player, I feel, means that anyone wearing a hat in any way associated with this great sport always commands a certain amount of respect.

The design of these hats, of course, is based on a specific purpose, which is shielding one’s eyes from the sun. This is why you often see cricket players wearing similar caps, though their brims are just slightly shorter (if you know what I mean). Baseball caps also keep one’s hair out of the way, which could be helpful when one needs to focus on driving or performing keyhole surgery. That’s another feature which shouldn’t be sneezed at.

Because of their width, baseball caps are also useful for publicly stating your support in a team, musical group or cause. They come in so many varieties that they are a comfortable and useful way to advertise your philosophy of life to every Tom, Dick and Harry you pass on your way to the off license.

My shrew of a neighbour therefore was completely disregarding the cap’s historical significance and practical application when she made the above comment. And I know the reason she did this. It’s because the baseball cap is symbolic of America. When Britons aren’t fawning over America, they’re dragging it down. (You’re such a fickle country, you are, but I love you.)

True, America’s got its problems. I’d be first in the queue to admit that (well, actually, I’d probably be second behind Jeremy Clarkson). But it’s outrageous to assume that everything American is bad. That’s just racism. Just because millions of drunk, ignorant, and loud Americans sport baseball caps twenty-four hours a day (many of them even wear them while bathing) it does not mean that the cap itself is the problem. I wish my neighbour would realise that her son has in fact always been a right twat and probably always will be, with or without the baseball cap on his head.

Listen to me, England, you are some of the most compassionate and accepting people I’ve ever known. Don’t blame baseball hats for the idiocy of some who wear them. That’d be like blaming hooded sweatshirts for youth crime, and I know this great nation would never entertain a foolish idea like that. Not only should the lad next door be able to wear his baseball cap, he should do so with pride. And he should do so while reimbursing me for the emotional pain his reckless cycling has caused me and my tulips.

Another Innocent Victim of Ignorance

1 Dec

I made the mistake this weekend of venturing into the city to pick up a few bits and bobs for the upcoming Christmas party season (I always feel it’s polite to arrive at a do with a dish, gift or floral arrangement that is equal to if not better than anything the hostess has prepared). I cannot say I enjoyed my trip out. I’m not going to bang on about the commercialism of the holiday season, for this has been done ad nauseam elsewhere by people more qualified than I to pass such judgments. Suffice it to say that I agree we should all be less materialistic. However, I also know that people will indeed continue to spend money at the holiday season so instead I would like to speak for a moment on what I see as a terrible injustice. And this is the unfair marketing of other precious stones over the beautiful emerald.

EmeraldNow this may seem a small example of villainy in a time when wars abound and bad people are continually doing bad things. And I suppose it is. But I have always believed that inequality at any level should be challenged and therefore I have nominated myself to this role of advocate for a jewel that cannot (and should not have to) speak for itself.

I cannot comprehend why emeralds are so often overlooked when one is shopping for jewellery. Rubies, of course, are red which we all know is the colour of whores, so why anyone would buy one of those is beyond my comprehension. Sapphires are a dime a dozen. Amethysts are pretty but I’m afraid have just too many new age connotations. Pearls are disgusting—do you know how they are created? I am not going to even pretend that an opal is precious, now that’s just silly talk. And I bet you’ve never even heard of a spinel, have you? Diamonds get serious press coverage, what with their inclusion into a deck of cards and their support from Miss Elizabeth Taylor. However, need I remind you that having violet eyes does not automatically qualify one as an expert in gems? Surely, something as important as a jewellery purchase should not be influenced by some celebrity’s opinion. Besides Leonardo DiCaprio once told me that there are some pretty dodgy dealings behind the diamond trade. What’s the worst that could happen when purchasing an emerald—a leprechaun might get his wings?

This leads me to what I think is behind this exclusion. Racism. Pure and simple. When people think of emeralds, they don’t think of their exquisite colour, their glorious clarity or the lovely way they set off a woman’s décolletage. They think of the Emerald Isle, and they want no part of it. Now it is not for me to judge whether theIrish are bastards, what with their ginger hair and penchant for overindulgence. That is for God alone to judge. As you know, I am an open-minded woman who abhors bigotry. This is why I beg those of you who are considering purchasing a piece of jewellery for a special lady this holiday season to put your petty prejudices aside and consider the emerald.  And to remember that my ring size is 4.5.

Please don’t let hatred spoil my Christmas morning. Is that too much to ask during the season of peace?

The Forgotten Victims of the US Government Shutdown

4 Oct

404 ShutdownWe’re a few days into the US Government shutdown, and quite frankly it’s a wonder there are any Americans still alive at this point.

The shutdown is no joke, people. It’s not for me to say who is to blame for the situation (it’s the Republicans), but every day that it continues, the more bad shit that’s coming America’s way. NBC estimates that the shutdown costs $12.5 million an hour. That’s a brilliant way to solve budget disputes, isn’t it? No wonder the rest of the world thinks Americans don’t understand irony!

It’s not just a vague disgrace that’s going on — it’s one that affects many Americans in very real ways. Hundreds of thousands of government employees have been furloughed and are not receiving paychecks. Services like food programs for low income pregnant women and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention flu program aren’t running. National parks are closed; even the National Zoo is affected. Animals can’t even vote yet they’re feeling the pain of the GOP’s childish behaviour.

However, when talking about groups of people (or pandas) affected by the shutdown, we can’t ignore the individuals — the ones who don’t get mentioned in the papers — whose lives are being tragically altered forever.

I’m talking about the children who just a few short days ago saw politics as a high calling, a career path for those who care about and want to help others. Who will explain to the little ones how terribly, terribly American politics has gone wrong?

I’m also talking about the nail technicians, telemarketers and tabloid journalists around the country. They wake up in the morning eager to get started on their life’s work and read that the government has deemed so many of its employees “non-essential.” If working for education or the environment isn’t seen as an essential task, well, that really puts other jobs into perspective, doesn’t it? It wouldn’t surprise me if people started topping themselves left and right. Sadly, this will only lead to more problems since the Federal Department of Suicide Clean Up is currently running on a skeleton staff.

And, of course, I’m talking about all those Americans out there who were taught in elementary school to look towards elected officials as models of responsibility. Those models of responsibility have decided that if they don’t get to play their way, they’re shutting the whole operation down (while still collecting their pay, natch). Why should Lenny over at the liquor store have to pull three late night shifts in a row; why shouldn’t he just lock up early and head home? Steve in an accounting might just up and say screw it and his company will be powerless to conduct business. Who will sponsor the t-shirts for Jerry’s daughter’s softball team then, I ask you? All of these little effects have roll on effects which could, quite frankly, bring the world’s most powerful nation to its knees.

Which would be a shame. Because I’m American and I hate to see this happening to my country.

My Apologies

23 Aug

wish-you-were-here-east-of-india-postcardI am so sorry, my dears, for neglecting you. I have been off on my jollies , but was unexpectedly delayed. Unfortunately, I had the bad luck of choosing the same guesthouse as a formerly famous American rock god who caused a disruption to my rest and/or relaxation. I don’t want to give him the publicity by mentioning of name as his antics clearly indicate a desperate need to be back in the spotlight. Why exactly he released what he released into the pool, I do not know, but the quarantine meant that I missed my flight home and had to reschedule a number of appointments, which might not have been important to one Axl Rose, but which really mattered to me, thank you very much.

It might take a few days for me to get back to my normal schedule, but know I’ve missed you more than I can say because, I swear on a stack of bibles, it is you — and your love — that sustains me.

Harm Prevention

4 Aug

The other day I was in the library and was confronted with a rather unsavoury situation. Now I greatly admire the staff at our local branch: they have always been polite —  in fact as a show of respect for my frequent custom, they often allow me to take home books for free as long as I show my loyalty card. However, my experience this week was quite shocking: inside the library was a large and perpetually annoying fly.

fliesNow as a rule, I cherish all sentient beings, even disgusting ones, and I’ve got no problems with flies when they are out in nature or buzzing around someone other than myself. But I am sorry: I just cannot tolerate them near my face. Call me a Nazi, I don’t care. Flies in my face are simply unacceptable.

Obviously, my first strategy was to move away. I left the periodicals and moved to a more central location, hoping that if he were to follow, at least there would be other people present for him to annoy. However, the fly did not take the bait. Fine, I thought, I am free from torment, and I sat quietly, reflecting.

Shortly thereafter, the library began to empty and I soon found myself alone in the big, book-filled room. Lo and behold, who shows up? That’s right, it was the fly. The dastardly little devil obviously just wanted to avoid having witnesses to his harassment. A war was now on.

I grabbed the first book I could and prepared to send the fly to his maker. I won’t detail the delicate dance of battle, but I can assure you that only one of us walked away still breathing.

As I sat down to wait for Christopher’s play group to come to a close, I found myself skimming through the book-cum-murder-weapon. It turned out to be Careful Now! The History of Health and Safety Laws. And I must say, I found it surprisingly interesting.

Buttloads of people currently find Health and Safety laws oppressively restrictive and generally stupid, and, quite frankly, they frequently are. I now know, though, that it’s incorrect to assume these rules are evidence of today’s Nanny State. Actually, H&S has been around for a long time and it used to be much worse than it is now.

NOW: East Riding Council restricts kite-flying on beaches because it is a risk to others.

THEN: In the early twentieth century, word went round about an old woman who had died after swallowing a fly, a spider, a bird, a cat, a dog, a goat, a cow, and a horse, so a small Cornish village ordered all farmers to slaughter their animals to ensure such a circumstance did not reoccur.

NOW: A school bans triangle-shaped flapjacks because they could thrown at children.

THEN: For almost a month in 1923, children were not allowed to eat any solid food as the chewing motion was deemed “potentially threatening to others.” Parents were only permitted to serve soup and applesauce for twenty-six days before the law was reversed.

NOW: The Royal British Legion stops supplying pins with its poppies to avoid being sued by those who prick themselves.

THEN: Although the most famous of these cases is the American woman who sued McDonalds because her coffee was hot, it was not the first example of this type of litigation. In Victorian times, Lord Stephens of Stephanie brought a case against a five-year-old child who was playing with a stick in the street. Lord Stephens’ argument was that the stick could have flown from the child’s hand, turned the corner and continued into the window of a building where the good man was purchasing a piece of jewellery for his mother. The Court agreed that Lord was assuredly more important as a human being than any dirty child could ever be and awarded him the boy’s newborn sister (who was quickly deposited at the nearest poorhouse).

I am hoping, of course, that the fly’s family does not press charges against me. It’d be a bitter irony to have the book thrown at me for throwing the book at the fly. Bitter, but admittedly poetic.

Something I Just Felt You Should Know

7 Jun

You know I prefer to bring you cheer: exciting episodes from my usually fun-filled life, presented as a counterbalance to the depression-inducing reality that fills the pages of the mainstream media. However, I’m about to tell you of an experience so alarming I genuinely suggest that, before reading it, you sit down. Or if you’re already sitting, stand up and then sit down. Now read on.

With the recent publication of my book (you have already ordered your copy, yes?), the Council—never one to ignore a chance to get their grubby hands on someone else’s triumph—rang to invite me to open this summer’s village fete. Naturally, I was flattered, and naturally, I agreed to take part.

TedsTeesYesterday was the first meeting of the Fete Committee, and I was asked to attend, meet the group’s members and get a feel for the festivities planned. In all honesty, I don’t give a rat’s patooie about what exactly is going to go on; I’m the type of gal who can enjoy herself whether moles get whacked or not. But what I saw at that meeting has me very worried about the event’s success and, in some ways, the future of our entire nation.

Apparently, there’s a rumour going round that a minor royal—I won’t mention names but I can tell you it’s not her, or him, or the other two—might be in the village that weekend, and the committee spent more than fifty minutes (I counted) debating about what to do with this person: should they hold a parade? should they make him a judge of some contest? and yes, should he open the fete?

Now I remained silent throughout. I understand the importance of a visit like this: it could be a real coup for shops that sell royal-themed junk, our community foundation might get a boost, we might get mentioned in the national press, etc. My own self esteem does not rely on the village’s adoration (and if it did, I still wouldn’t be troubled since my book’s been at the top of the Village News’ Bestsellers List every day since its debut). I’m not even worried that the meeting ended before any decisions were made. I am happy to pencil in the day on my calendar and rub it out if the Committee decides to go in favour of Sir Blueblood.

What blew my effing mind, though, was the fact that the name of the village—the village in which all of us present at the meeting live—was misspelled on the agenda. And not one single person commented on it.

Whether they noticed and were just shy, I cannot say.  But what I can say is that this kind of outrage cannot go by unremarked upon. Needless to say, I wrote up a quick but shaming note which I left in the Council’s suggestion box as I left.

Please know that I am out there, fighting for all of you who care about civic pride and precise spelling. When we refuse to speak out against ignorance like this, it can lead healthy people to suicide, religious people to corruption and friendly nations to world wars (read your history books, if you don’t believe me).

What you’ve just read here is shocking I know, but sometimes the truth is. I just felt it was important to tell you what occurred. That way, if you happen to hear that the police were at my house this morning to arrest me for making terrorist threats, you won’t be confused. I mean they didn’t even issue an official caution, so why this is even an issue I cannot comprehend.

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