The all singing, all dancing blog of Alex Guite

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Leftfield caption

Excellent caption in this BBC News article about the second racism row to engulf Channel 4 in a week. Shipwrecked contestant Lucy Buchanan, who has described black people as "really bad", lesbians as "sinister" and called for the return of slavery has been the subject of over 500 complaints to Ofcom. Fortunatley for Channel 4 it's apparently fine to broadcast these views (and hence make money as a commercial channel) since "when [she] airs her opinions they are immediately criticised, so viewers are instantly aware that her peers find them offensive and unacceptable". That's OK then.

Anyway, it turns out that her position in the photo accompanying the article probably also accurately describes her political stand point.

Friday, January 12, 2007

A bit of a grunt

Disclaimer: this blog post contains strong language, situations of peril and if I can work them in somehow, sexual references. You should wait until after the nine o'clock watershed to read it.

As I was cycling into work on Wednesday I got badly cut up by a yellow van driver. There is nothing particularly news worthy about this, this sort of piss poor driving happens daily across the Capital. I often get cut up by cars and vans when cycling, but because by cutting me up he'd pushed me into the side of a stationary lorry I was sufficiently pissed off to give him the finger. This wikipedia article will explain the meaning of this slang if you are unfamiliar with what I did (it even lists some famous examples of this hand gesture).

I merely hoped that by flipping him off that he would pause to reflect on the error of his ways and that perhaps in future he'd give cyclists a bit more space. Instead he screeched to a halt in the middle of the carriage way. I reversed out of the side of the lorry and began to cycle around the driver's side of the van to continue my journey. No such luck: he opened the door in front of me and jumped into the road, with an almost impressive amount of arm gesticulation.

"Oi! Have you got something to say to me? Do you want to say something?" he shouted as I came to a stop in front of him.

Fortuitously the answer to his questions was "yes", I did indeed have something to say. So I told him that he hadn't given me enough room and that he had dangerously cut me up.

"Of course I didn't give you any room" he shouted back. I noted that he was still doing the arm gesticulation thing, but this time he was almost in my face. "You don't pay road tax and I do. You don't deserve to get space on the road".

Seriously, what the fuck? I'm rarely speechless, but this really threw me. I should have asked him about pedestrians, does he try to mow them down because they don't pay road tax? I should have asked him does he give cars who pay less road tax less room? I should have asked him whether he thinks children who have never made national insurance contributions should get treated on this NHS. And really, would he ever explain to a parent that they lost their child in a road traffic accident because they were quite legally cycling along, but didn't deserve space on the road because they didn't pay road tax? Seriously, what the fuck?

"Next time, keep your fingers to yourself, otherwise I'll break the little fuckers off" he told me. [Note to readers: by "fuckers", he in fact meant my fingers. I guess he was just conscious to avoid repeating the same noun in the same sentence.] By now an impressive queue of traffic had formed behind us and some of them had even started beeping. I wasn't sure if this was out of appreciation for the impromptu vignette of human drama playing out in front of them, or whether they thought that using their horn would get this guy out of my face.

He concluded by calling me something I didn't quite catch. I know it started with c, but maybe his enunciation wasn't up to scratch because it just sounded like a bit of a grunt. Don't worry, I think the same of you mate.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Patron Saints: awesome

Yesterday evening my sister and her friends celebrated the new year by going to a "Saints and Sinners" party in the Millenium Stadium. I had other highly exciting plans and didn't feel at all jealous that they had paid twenty quid for a ticket.

But then I thought it through: how excellent would it be to go as an actual saint, with flowing robes, sandals and everything? I reached for my copy of "The Wordsworth Dictionary of Saints" to select a patron saint (seriously this book exists, the publishers describe it as "a cornucopia of the righteous, pious, holy and divine").

There were some obvious candidates to dress up as: what with being in Wales and everything, St David was a natural choice. Also as I'm a physicist, the patron saint of "all the natural sciences", St Albertus Magnus, stood out. But as cool as these saints are, my attention quickly turned to others.

If someone was going to make Patron Saint Top Trumps (someone, please do), there are three core properties of saints: the date of their feast day, the things they are the patron saint of (some are even patron saints of many different things) and under what circumstances they can be invoked, which is often not related to what they are patron of (for instance you should pray to St Fiacre, the patron saint of taxi-drivers, if you are troubled by haemorhoids).

There are some pretty hard core patron saints out there who deal with some big issues, like St Genovefa who in addition to being patron saint of Paris also has the entire "disasters" topic to deal with. St Gregory Thaumaturguas is the patron saint of "those in desperate situations" and gets called in during floods and earthquakes. St Jude really has his work cut out as the patron saint of "desperate causes".

Other patron saints are a bit more specialist with some pretty well defined portfolios. St Vincent de Paul's field is finding lost articles whilst St Cornelius can help you deal with earache. Jesus' foster father, St Joseph, can be invoked when house hunting which I guess isn't too surprising as he has some experience finding places to stay. Meanwhile, if St Hilary of Poitiers didn't help you against snakes, you can always fall back on St Vitus for problems with snake bites. One of my favourite movies of 2006, Snakes on Plane, would probably have turned out a whole lot differently if those guys had been on board. They would have probably called the film Saints on a Plane instead.

There are also some saints who are patron saint of some pretty cool things. St Ambrose, for instance, is patron saint of Milan, bee keepers, wax refiners, domestic animals and most braggable: the French Commissariat. He does a job share with St Cornelius on domestic animals, presumably so he can spend more time on Gallic bureaucracy.

I was trying to find the patron saint with the biggest work load. I thought St Barbara was in with a shot at this title, who is patron saint of architects, builders, arillerymen, firemen, military engineers and miners and can be invoked against sudden death (not sure how this one works), lightning, fire and impenitence. But I think the title has to go to the Virgin Mary, who probably has to work weekends as patron saint of the entire human race.

Finally in this post about saints, I'm going to mention Carlos. Even though I dedicated a whole post to him back in August in 2005 (making him one of only two people to have a post dedicated entirely to them, Gav being the other) he complained to me last night that I hadn't blogged about him enough. If Carlos ever gets canonized my guess is that he'll be the patron saint of tax officers and could be invoked in case of lack of vodka doubles.