Category Archives: Uncategorized

Killing to-die-for Food

Killing To-Die-For Food

I’d like to eat a butterfly.

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Let’s be honest, if I wanted to have open and truthful conversations about myself, then I wouldn’t be sitting here writing a blog. So being nominated by *slurps (go there for tea with Odin the octopus, you’ll enjoy it) for a Liebster Award brought some difficulties for me.

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As part of the nomination process, *slurps allowed me two options: answer a list of personal questions (what’s your favourite meal?, etc) or answer just one big question (If you had only one day left to live, where would you go and what would you do?). But my answers bored even me so much that I couldn’t see the value in inflicting them on others. However, the questions did get me thinking of another bastardised mutant mash-up of a question.

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What would you eat if there were no consequences to it?

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I don’t just mean eating loads of chocolate or chips if you weren’t going to get fat or sick from it. What I mean is, is there something that you’ve always wondered about how it tastes but that you can’t eat, like … music, or light, or a cloud, or the colour blue, or stripes, or sadness, or a memory? Or is there something more material that you would eat if it wasn’t going to hurt or do damage, like a lightbulb or a dvd or a ship?

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Or is there a thing that can be eaten but that you’re never going to eat in real life?

Everyone’s got different cut-off points about eating things. Most of us discount the potential pain of plants when considering food but then have very vague rationales behind what animals we will and won’t eat. (I have blogged before here  about the moral awkwardness of eating a chicken sandwich while watching birds eat). I’m generally against the idea of eating horse but I once had a casserole that was gorgeous and only found out afterwards that it was horsemeat. So I know that there are things that I don’t want to eat out of confused principles which are, nonetheless, possibly gorgeous to taste.

But if I could eat something and not have to worry about the consequences, eat it as if it was only happening in a dream and would not result in harm to either the creature or myself, then I would eat … a butterfly.

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Not SO strange, you may think. After all, insects are eaten across the world in many forms, it’s really only cultural traditions and financial considerations that prevent some western societies from snacking down on deep-fried little-things. (For some odd reason, prawns have fallen through the crack of those sensitivities despite looking like slugs that have been skinned by a particularly depraved serial-killer).

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And you might even accept that the majesty of a butterfly does indeed create an enticing prospect, were colour and pattern in some way to be transposed into taste.

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And then there’s the fact that I am a butter-fiend. As a kid, I would take a pound of butter from the fridge, grab a knife from the drawer, and wander round lopping off chunks of butter and popping them into my gob and letting them melt there. (I could eat half-a-pound in one go). So the implied notion of the buttery-ness of butterflies has always had an appeal*.

So far, a lot of you might be thinking why not do it, if only the once? It’s only one small butterfly and I squash flies and eat meat anyway so, what the hell, it’s not that much of a moral leap and it probably won’t kill me.

But here’s the kicker. …

When I imagine this delectable combination of colour and beauty, there’s one more detail …

… the butterfly is still alive.

You see I want to imagine the buttery beauty fluttering around inside my mouth, as if delivering the colourfully creamy sensations to different spots in a random and tickly manner.

And, bad and all as I am to be an insect-squashing carnivore, eating some beautiful defenceless thing ALIVE is just a step too far for me.

But I can still dream of tasting the beauty.

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And this is why you shouldn’t ask bloggers questions about themselves. But apparently the tradition of the Liebster Award is to take the opportunity of your nomination to in turn nominate some other bloggers whose work you enjoy, particularly bloggers who are relatively new to the blogosphere.

So I’m not sure if these good people would like to be associated with someone who wants to eat live butterflies, but you should check them out anyway and, if they don’t object, I am nominating:

 Honest to blog

She didn’t have any of her brilliant cartoon-drawings in her last post but we’ll presume that was a one-off aberration and forgive her for now. From ‘sub vaginas’ to ‘old-woman cats’ in one week, she’s not new to the blogosphere or in need of awards but this is one of the best things on the internet so have a look.

dora random

“I am here”, she says, in small letters. And, sure enough, there she is. A wonderfully mordant wit with a taste for the ghoulish and a vocabulary to die for. As dora puts it: “and i digress. extremely.”

word constellations

The Griff makes a wonderful, if ultimately doomed, attempt to keep me abreast of what happens in young people’s lives – gaming, graphic novels, music, drugs and orgies (I may have made up the last two but it’s still good). More big words here too.

barbarasfoodandfinds

Barbara makes a wonderful, if also ultimately doomed, attempt to keep me fed on more than just crisps and butter.

Vodka, Unicorns, and Lincoln Logs

Short quirky snapshots of kinda famous people in history through a curious lens. For example, here’s Camel-girl and Bettie Page:

 

And in the tradition of the nominating process – but as adapted by *slurps and further mangled by me – perhaps the nominees would answer one or both of our two questions:

If you had only one day left to live, where would you go and what would you do?

Or

What would you eat if it was possible and there were no consequences?

Or make up an even better question that forces you, like me, to reveal things about yourself that will probably lose you followers, gain you haters, and possibly get you arrested.

 

*Apparently, butterflies – or at least one kind of them – taste like dried toast. See here for the scientific research by Esther Inglis-Arkell in io9.

Image thanks: Blue butterfly by Gregory Phillips,  red by Richard Bartz, others by charlesjsharp.  Award backdrop from Club Penguin

 

The Importance of Spongebumbles

The Importance of Spongebumbles
Or
“Why Women Are Bullying The Meek Out of their Inheritance”
with reference to Kim Kardashian, Charles Dickens, Tamara Ecclestone, and Bob-the-Builder.

pic 4in1 Heiresses

Welcome to my new educational reality-tv show, “Learning Through the Lives of Celebrities and Rich People”.
Episode 1: Statistics, Literature, and Spongebumbles.

100% of Kim Kardashian’s previous two marriages have failed. 100% of her mother’s two marriages have failed. So you’d think she would pick a name for her baby that will still work if she and the child ever end up reverting to her maiden name. ‘North Kardashian’ isn’t bad, but it does sound like the name of an American street-corner – which is a bit of a comedown from ‘North West’ which is a whole geographic area.

Kim Kardashian Fragrance Launch
Kim Kardashian

With more couples choosing not to get married or, at least, not marrying until after a child is born to them, the decision about a child’s surname is becoming a bigger issue. And with divorce rates of about one-in-two in both Britain and America, pregnant women are querying the wisdom of giving a child the father’s surname, especially when the mother herself does not (at least, not yet) have that same surname.
Names colour our perceptions of people, particularly of those we know little else about (tell me you didn’t think Benedict Cumberbatch must be posh when you first heard his name), which is why Charles Dickens popped into my mind while I was having a schadenfreud-ish chuckle to myself at Tamara Ecclestone bemoaning the lot of being incredibly rich.

The Butterfly Ball: A Sensory Experience
Tamara Ecclestone

“There’s a vicious attitude towards anyone who has inherited anything”, she said. She’s probably right but, if she’s smart enough to discern it, then she should also be smart enough to know that she’ll elicit little sympathy by pointing it out. Miss Ecclestone is also done no favours by the fact that her name is reminiscent of a character out of a Dickens’ story, one about people whose names make you think of buffoonish waddling puffing posh fatties – like Cumberbatch indeed, or Spongebumbles.

Benedict Cumberbatch
Benedict Cumberbatch

So anyway Tamara was doing the whole “Woe-is-me,-daughter-and-heir-to-Formula-1-billionaire-Bernie-Ecclestone”-bit and I thought to myself that it’d be interesting to see how she’d feel about being spared the drawbacks of inherited wealth if she happened to have a brother and if Bernie was tempted to act in the old-fashioned manner of handing on succession – and the bulk of the wealth – to the firstborn son.
It may be an old-fashioned notion but this is not an outdated issue. And don’t think it only applies to old farmers eeking a paltry and indivisible living out of a rocky outcrop on some Hebridean clifftop. In England, Mrs Susan Shield is divorcing her husband, Richard – an engineering tycoon with a €50million fortune – in an attempt to prevent him from cutting her and their three daughters out of succession in favour of the only son. After 43 years of marriage the family is now split along the gender-line with the pater-familias being accused of being mentally incapable of making decisions. Money may not buy happiness but it certainly pays for costly and dramatic court cases.

Susan & Richard Shields
Susan & Richard Shield

It has long been mooted that the meek will inherit the earth. A half-day in any family-law court would suggest that this will only happen in the unlikely scenario that the meek have absolutely no relatives who aren’t themselves meek. And even if they didn’t, they’d probably just be easily bullied out of their fortune by non-meek total strangers anyway. So, one way or another, the meek are not going to end up with the human-family jewels. And they’re probably just as happy about that since they’d have a hard time coping with the vicious attitude of people that Miss Ecclestone was so generously warning them about. But what I realised, as I thought of Tamara’s words, was that the real reason that the meek won’t inherit the world … is because women will.
(I’m not saying this because I’ve just heard some Beyonce song on the radio and now have some vague but unstoppable urge to fistpump the air while shaking my righteous ‘boot-eh’ and shouting “Girl-power”. Being a skinny white Irish bloke, I think we’re all safe from that – if only because of the implied need for co-ordination and a sense of rhythm.)

Bernie Ecclestone  with his daughters
Bernie Ecclestone
with his daughters

Tamara and her sister will probably inherit their Dad’s tremendous wealth because they are his children. (I’m ignoring, for the sake of simplicity, the notion of Bernie dispensing largesse to others through his will). Even if they had a brother, we would expect them all, in our modern society, to inherit an equal amount, regardless of gender or age.
And so there is no longer any financial advantage to being the firstborn son – or indeed being male at all. The only advantage to having a son rather than a daughter would appear to be that old chestnut of ‘keeping the family name alive’ since, in the absence of male children, if the daughters marry and take their husbands’ names, then the family name is lost – at least to this branch of the family tree.
But … since more and more women are not taking the name of their husband but rather retaining their ‘maiden’ name, it is now only the female who can GUARANTEE the passing-on of the family name. A couple must AGREE for the child to be given the father’s surname but a woman can INSIST on it being hers. A woman can have a child either without getting married or just without taking the name of her husband and that child can then carry on her name rather than the father’s. And if both the parents just happen to be the end of their family lines, then it is the father’s family-name which will die out.

Miss Victoria Luckwell
Miss Victoria Luckwell

And a recent court case gave further cause for rich women to consider not getting married at all. Miss Victoria Luckwell has reverted to her wonderfully ironical maiden name (Dickens would have approved) after a court awarded £1.2million pounds to her ex-husband despite him having signed a pre-nup – and several updated versions thereof – declaring that he would never, in the event of divorce, come looking for any money from Victoria’s family fortune (largely derived from the creation of the Bob-the-Builder tv series by her father’s company). With a sense of outrage and indignation that can possibly only be summoned by someone who has hardly worked a day in their life but who has inherited great wealth and has the prospect of even greater wealth to come, Miss Luckwell seethed outside the courthouse after the judgement. Having cattily disparaged the man who was once the love-of-her-life as a lifelong money-grabbing scam-artist (“He liked rich girls; he used to date Stella McCartney.”), she went on to speak up for the capitalist branch of the feminist movement by declaring: “Sadly I am left to conclude that there is a strong financial disincentive for a wealthy woman to marry if she cannot be assured of protecting her family’s assets”.

Bob the Builder.  Can he fix this? No.
Bob the Builder.
Can he fix this? No.

Despite the fact that her attitude would seem sexist and misogynistic if the gender-roles were reversed, her conclusion may well strike a chord with women who stand to inherit wealth (the Misses Ecclestone might be sympathetic to Miss Luckwell’s plight). And perhaps the perceived ineffectiveness of an existing pre-nup will have an effect on women who have amassed wealth through their own work, and they might choose not to marry.
And if rich, successful, independent women start doing it, then other women will follow the example of these role-models (while possibly shaking ‘boot-eh’ and singing old Destiny’s Child anthems) and it will become a societal norm. And by extension, through proportional statistics if nothing else, it will become more common for women to retain their maiden name throughout their life. So it will become more common too for women to pass their own family name on to their children rather than giving them the father’s name. Or at least the choice to do so will lie more deliberately within the woman’s grace. And so it is the female who will become the determinant of the family line. The pre-eminence of the male child is gone. Any daughter now has more importance. The family-name will come to be passed down through the female side.
Even if that name is Spongebumble.

 

 

Shouting on the Inside

‘Shouting on the Inside’: The Art of Non-Verbal Management in Football

Following his post-match interview at the weekend, which basically consisted of him saying “I prefer not to speak” over and over, it has been announced that Jose Mourinho will henceforth manage Chelsea football club through the medium of mime. His decision is partly based on hoping to avoid getting into trouble with the English F.A. for criticising referees but is also a recognition of the fact that his team got beaten, whereas they turned their previous game around after Jose had, according to himself, said absolutely nothing to them at half-time.  “I have also been inspired by Alan Pardew’s embrace of Physical Theatre”, Jose expressed – through a series of fluid gestures – in reference to the Newcastle manager’s recent headbutting of an opposing player.

pic jose mimeObviously no-one wants to be left behind in utilising new approaches which may yield results, so it’s no surprise to discover that other Premiership managers have quickly announced similar initiatives. Liverpool’s Brendan Rodgers has enlisted in clown-school, saying, “Well, I’ve got quite big feet, and you know what they say about big feet … that you may as well get clown shoes”. David Moyes has claimed that his pale vacant gaze is not borne out of fear but rather of the fact that he has all along been managing Manchester United through the medium of Japanese Noh-theatre. While Arsene Wenger has expressed annoyance at Jose’s appropriation of what he considers to be a specifically French artform and has instead had to make do with ‘jazz-hands’ at Arsenal.

pic clown Robert Lawton  pic noh Moyes

Chris Hughton has been talking calmly and rationally to footballers for many years but, after a frustrating season with Norwich, he has decided to give his team-talks from now on through interpretive dance. And Gus Poyet is currently in the process of having himself covered from head-to-toe in plaster-of-paris in order to inspire his Sunderland players through Marina Abramovic-style performance-art.

Many managers claim that non-verbal management is an idea that is of-its-time because of the make-up of modern dressing-rooms. One manager commented, “Half of the players can’t understand English. And the other half are foreign”. Indeed some of the managers are not fluent English-speakers themselves and, in order to cut down on the costs of interpreters, Southampton’s manager Mauricio Pochettino has for some time now been communicating with his players solely through a selection of inspirational images such as a lighthouse withstanding a huge wave and a sky-diving team joining hands in mid-flight. Pochettino admits that one week some photos from his summer-holidays got mixed up with the inspirational pictures, but they won that week so he has kept up the habit of slipping in photos of himself on the beach in swimwear whenever he feels the squad need a lift.

Tony Pulis is derided by many for producing football that, though organised and effective, can sometimes seem rudimentary. But imposing order on the disorganised rabble of players you might find in the lower-half of the league is no easy feat, and this explains why every summer Pulis can be found doing refresher training-courses at sheepdog trials around Britain. The control he exerts through staccato whistles and barked commands is such that it’s suggested he could be a genuine contender if the BBC brings back ‘One Man and His Dog’.

Sam Allardyce, as always, belies his gruff ordinary-bloke exterior by claiming to have been ahead of the curve. “I learn from the best”, says Big Sam, explaining that he has taken on the technique of Alex Ferguson, who for years was expressing his feelings to his players through nothing more than the way in which he was chewing his gum.

Steve Bruce played under Ferguson and realised that, when he made the transition into management himself, he would need a similar technique of his own. And so, for years now, he has been letting his players know how he feels purely by controlling the blood-flow to his head. As his dissatisfaction rises, so too does his face become redder and redder until it appears to be on the point of bursting which acts as an urgent call-to-arms to his players and their positive response will cause his face to return to a paler hue.

At Manchester City, Manuel Pellegrini boasts that he can command his team through nothing more than the wriggling of his impressive eyebrows. It’s well known that Pellegrini studied as a civil engineer, but it’s less well-known that he also instructed those two kids in eyebrow-wriggling for that Cadbury’s ad on tv.

pic cadbury eyebrowsHowever, not everyone is enamoured with the new trend for mixing physical art-forms and football management. Spurs gaffer, Tim Sherwood said, “I may not know a lot about football, but I know what I like. … I mean ‘art’. I meant to say ‘art’, not ‘football. … You’ll put that in the right way round, won’t you?” (before folding his arms in a bloke-ish man-of-the-people manner whose effect was undermined by the fact that he was wearing a shiney sleeveless gilet jacket).

(clown pic by Robert Lawton, Moyes face by Eddie Lennon, BohemianFC)

Undress for Success

Undress for Success

I’m in training for the next Olympics. And so are you – you just haven’t realised it yet. You’re practising at least twice a day – possibly more than that if you’re female. And, no, this isn’t because you walk and walking is a sport (we all know that Olympic-walking and everyday-walking are like The Corrs: they’re related, but one of them is messed-up and ugly-looking).

What we’re all in training for is the triathlon. Yup, that’s the one where they swim, cycle, and run. Now most of us manage a swim or two every year on our summer holidays, and have a bike rusting in a shed out the back, and might run if we were in danger of missing our bus home (though not necessarily the bus to work). You might think that leaves you a little behind the triathletes who are already training in these disciplines every day. But you’re already training every day too. Because an important part of triathlons is simply getting dressed. And undressed.

pic triathletes out of waterAthletes about to strip (pic from Pixabay)

In triathlons it’s what they call ‘the changeover’, which is a posh way of saying ‘getting out of your swimsuit and into your other clothes’. There is also a second ‘changeover’ which involves getting off your bike and putting on your runners. As you can now appreciate, this is the sport that you’ve been in training for since you were a kid. And imagine how much more quickly we’d all have learnt to tie our shoelaces if only someone had told us we could win an Olympic medal for it.

pic tie lacesThis is Olympian!!! (pic from Pixabay)

Personally, I’m against anything qualifying as an Olympic event if it includes everyday tasks as part of their makeup. The Olympics should make us aware of the awe-inspiring capability of the human body in ways that we can’t imagine emulating. The Olympics should not make us aware of the fact that we’re lying on the couch in the afternoon with the curtains still closed while dressed in a onesie and covered in crisps.

pic olympics logo

But, if it’s going to be allowed, then we should go the whole hog. Let us make the Olympics a celebration of mastery of both athletics AND everyday tasks. Half-way through the 100-metres sprint, the athletes should have to stop and make a toasted-sandwich before carrying on. Boxers should have to do ironing between rounds. Weight-lifters should not just pick up heavy things, they should also stack them neatly on shelves and label them clearly so as they can be easily found again.

We could even take the events out of a stadium and hold them in the real world. Javelin-throwers would first have to make a list of everything that’s needed from the shops and then try to throw that list on the end of the javelin as far as the supermarket. The monotony of 10,000-metre runners endlessly circling a track could be replaced by them just being handed heavy shopping-bags and pointed in the direction of a car on the farthest side of the supermarket car-park. And the 200-metres sprint could be a 100-metre dash to an off-licence just before closing-time, with the second hundred-metres being completed while carrying back a six-pack of beer, a bottle of wine, two packs of fags, four large bags of crisps, and an oversized Toblerone.

You may mock this idea, but bear in mind that we have just finished the Winter Olympics which includes a sport that is basically ski-ing and shooting. It’s called biathlon but they might as well just call it “what I did on my holidays” and introduce it to the summer Olympics as well. The summer version could consist of clay-pigeon shooting from the window of a moving caravan. Or getting drunk and trying to drive a scooter through an obstacle course made up of other drunk tourists. Or just trying to put up a tent at a music-festival in a muddy field in the wind and driving rain – surely one of the feats of human achievement most deserving of a medal (though drug-testing may result in no medals being awarded in this event).

pic wet trainingIrish triathlete in training

Actually, the mention of bad weather reminds me why I’m so excited about my prospects for the triathlon. Yes, I am years behind the other athletes around the world in terms of training at swimming, cycling, and running, … but nobody gets out of their swimming togs and into their other clothes as quickly as an Irish person on a beach. The double-whammy of appalling weather and a Catholic-induced fear of the naked body compels us Irish to complete such ‘changeovers’ so much faster than anyone else that, in this aspect at least, we’ve surely got a massive advantage over our competitors. Bring it on.

Let me get undressed for my country!

Scaremonger(sign)ing

Scaremonger(sign)ing

Sometimes The Authorities go a little too far in their care for us. For example, is it really necessary to warn us that people may be using tuning-forks in this area?

pic tuning forkSure, it would be disconcerting to suddenly be aware of a strangely metallic ringing in G-flat as you drive along, but is it really worth being warned about? It may just serve to make you begin to worry about it, becoming anxious about the possibility of developing tinnitus. Life is stressful enough without unnecessary worries being foisted upon us.

Granted there are certain situations where warnings are necessary. For instance, this sign, which warns you to prepare to dodge bullets as you pass through what is obviously a very dangerous area (or a wormhole in time to the old Wild West).

pic bullet-dodge

However, sometimes the signage can just create anxiety for no reason.

This is just scaremongering:

pic exclamation

It’s the signage equivalent of someone just running into a crowded room and screaming in terror for no reason. It’s basically just shouting “BE AFRAID!!!” without saying what you’re supposed to be afraid of. I don’t need that, there’s enough scary stuff without worrying about all the stuff that we don’t know we might need to be worrying about.

Things That Go ‘Bump’ In The Road

Things That Go ‘Bump’ In The Road

Sometimes the Authorities warn us of a potentially dangerous situation without telling us what to do about it. When confronted with a sign alerting you to immediate peril, it can be hard to think clearly and quickly. So as you won’t have the same problems, here are my ideas on two road-signs which left me unsure as to how to react.

 pic bump

WARNING!:

There is a pregnant woman lying in the middle of the road up ahead.

 Please slow down enough as you drive around her to ascertain if she is:

(a) just tired from being pregnant and having a bit of a lie-down for a minute;

(b) actively in labour;

(c) off her face on booze and pills and convinced that she is flying through the Milky Way on the back of a golden unicorn named Dobbin.

Then just carry on your way again but with a vague niggle at the back of your conscience that maybe you should have done something.

If you can’t handle the guilt, reverse back to where she is and run her over so that she doesn’t give birth to a crack-baby that’s gonna mug you some day in the future and make you wish hadn’t let her carry her pregnancy to full term. It may seem harsh but, in fairness, remember that this only applies in case (c).

 pic bumps

WARNING!:

Several pregnant women are lying down in the road up ahead.

 Either (a) there is a Lamaze class in progress,

or (b) a group of pregnant junkies are all on the nod together with no idea that they’re in danger of being run over.

In either case, you’re well advised to turn around and find an alternate route.

Yes, if it’s case (b), their junkie offspring – or indeed their drug-addled selves – may end up mugging you at some stage in the future, but you’re unlikely to have more than a hundred quid on you and you can always cancel your cards. Whereas, if their syringes or broken crack-vials puncture all your tyres, that’s going to set you back considerably more money in the short-term and waste up to a half a day on you. You’d have to be seriously unlucky to be mugged enough times by the junkies and their offspring to make it financially more viable to take the risk of running them over.

But this is just my advice.  It’s your call, it’s your money after all. The Authorities are just warning you. It’s not a proscriptive nanny-state telling you what to do. If it was, they wouldn’t allow Lamaze classes to be held in the middle of the road, would they?