Tag: humor

Snowflakes

How do you feel about Facebook? Is it a wonderful gift to improved human communication or a divisive force that’s driving us all into echo chambers and filter bubbles?

It’s certainly getting more hectic. At least, my feed is. I’ve never ‘unfriended’ anybody, you see, so get to read stuff from all sides of the political spectrum.

Most of the time I’m just a spectator, watching the clumsy wrangling and immature name-calling unfold like a slo-mo pie-fight – or else a desperate scrap in the dark that makes me feel somewhat nostalgic for my old school debating-society with its dignified dance of thrust and counter-thrust. A choreographed verbal joust conducted face-to-face and a friendly handshake at the end …

Maybe I’m looking back through rose-tinted spectacles. It’s tempting to paint our youth as a golden age when everything was hunky-dory, buffeted and bruised as we are by an ever-changing present. Something of this same injured innocence fuels the following Facebook post – received yesterday – although its increasingly bizarre and highly unlikely turn of events reveals the underlying message to be anything but innocent:

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Phew! Where on earth does one start? Well, we are expected to sympathise with the protagonist – a poor martyred victim of ‘political correctness gone mad’ – when the reality this implausible fable seeks to obscure is almost its opposite. In real life the social groups mentioned are victims of inequality, yet here they are implausibly caricatured as oppressors in a sinister conspiracy. If there’s anything truly sinister going on, however, it lurks between the lines of this hysterical little story.

That’s between you and me, of course. In the public arena of Facebook the mask must remain in place. Sometimes it seems that only two questions are permitted:

  • What’s the matter, can’t you take a joke?
  • What’s the matter, can’t you feel my pain?

Oddly, the passive-aggressive post above managed to combine them both. This stuff is fiendishly difficult to answer because it’s quite artfully done – it may be that art itself is the answer. If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em! Let the battle of the stories commence!

Image result for comedy tragedy masks

Bearing this in mind, I responded with the following Facebook reply:

By a curious coincidence … made a group of snow figures holding hands to represent tolerance between people of different genders, races, faiths, nationalities, political viewpoints and sexual orientations. Just woke up after a well-deserved nap and looked out through broken windows to see they’d all been flattened. Left here wondering who I could have offended …

So far, I’ve got one Like. Not being dramatic – well, OK, being dramatic! – that’s somebody else who’s stumbled into the soundproof silo … sssh! … perhaps another snowflake. Nothing wrong with snowflakes. I hereby take the word as a badge of honour …

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My favourite riposte to the derogatory use of this word came from comedian John Cleese:

After one unamused follower used the term ‘snowflake’ as an insult, Cleese, 78, couldn’t resist tweeting a response. Adding his trademark humour, of course.

In his cutting reply, Cleese said: ‘Yes I’ve heard this word. I think sociopaths use it in an attempt to discredit the notion of empathy.’

Next post: How to Tell a Good Story!

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The Big Ask

It was two years ago today that Bafflesby Borough Council – responding to the widespread perception that it was doing nothing much about anything at all – voted to hold a people’s plebiscite that posed a single, seemingly-simple question:

Are you in favour of change?                Yes                No                (tick one only)

The result was famously close. After several recounts Bafflesby’s Returning Officer, a very weary Ida Clare, gave the victory to Yes by one vote.

In keeping with the Town Motto Better Late Than Never, Bafflesbytes then began a furious debate which – arguably – they should have conducted before the vote, about how much change they actually did want when push came to shove. Some thought lots, lots thought some and lots more thought none. The only area of agreement was that nobody trusted anybody else either to change anything or to keep it the same.

Ever happy to serve our fellow citizens, we at the Bafflesby Bugle are throwing open the pages of our publication for all and sundry to have their four-pennyworth! Not getting your point across in the pub or over the breakfast table? Bursting with big ideas? Well, friends and readers, here’s your chance to let rip!

Today’s precious print platform goes to Curio Corner proprietor and part-time local historian Luke Backwoods, who reckons we can learn a thing or two from the distant past:

My big idea is to rebuild the medieval walls that used to go right round Bafflesby. Can’t beat heritage, can you, when it comes to pulling in the tourists? You could vet them at the gate to keep out undesirables. Any of them turn up with foreign bugs you just keep them in the gatehouse till they get better.

Or say the police are looking for shoplifters in Bafflesby. Put the word out. Lockdown. Besides, building up the walls again means jobs for local people. And you could stop all these cheap memorabilia products flooding the market. Charge them tariffs when they come over the drawbridge. Plus you’d have a portcullis when  things start to kick off with other places. 

Improve morale no end. Peace of mind all round. Easy.

 

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Image: Bluffton University

Scraping the Barrel


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This is an actual photo taken inside my head two minutes ago. It shows my inner progress chaser, who has just noticed my previous post is over a week old, hustling my inner creative director for a new one.

Hmm, could be a while, by the looks of it! Time to pour myself a beer. Perhaps the words will start flowing, too.

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I mean, it’s not as if there’s nothing to write about. If anything, there’s too much. The world is awash with woes and wonders. Where do you start?

And when you’ve started, then what? This, that and the other. Mostly the other, knowing your luck, after which you’ll scrabble around for a way to end the damn thing. Not with a bang but a whimper, more than likely! Then it’s Preview and … Publish!

Or Move to trash.

Question is, does the blogosphere really need another lament about how hard it is to come up with anything half worth saying? Should I not keep this guilty little secret under wraps and free up the ‘airwaves’ for those who really do have plenty to say for themselves?

Nah, feel my pain, peeps!

 

See the source image

 

PS  Well, that was nice. Fresh and hoppy with a hint of citrus. Pleasantly analgesic, too …

Meanwhile, on the wrong side of history …

 

Is that a frown, First Minister?

Your people are uneasy, Sire.

Wherefore? Are they tired of bread and circuses?

Our straw polls show that no amount of bread nor frequency of circus can assuage their deep discomfort.

Will they not accept their Sovereign’s gracious word that all is well?

No longer, alas, Your Royal Reassurance! Such soothing sentiments simply serve to fuel the fires of faithlessness. Your billowy blandishments are become red rags to rampant bulls of disbelief.

Fires? Bulls? You’re babbling, man!

Forgive me, Your Brightness, my lowly gaze is dazzled!

Cut to the chase, you chump, or those eyeballs shall peep out of tonight’s goulash!

Well, High-and-Mightiness, not to put too fine a point on it …

Spit it out, you nincompoop!

your subjects seem to have lost their simple faith in your omniscience, All-Knowing One.

How come I didn’t know that? Whatever happened to my enormous network of neighbourhood noses?

Bunged up, Your High-and-Mightiness, ever since your omnipotence was called into question.

And who would dare to defy that?

Pretty much everybody once your omnipresence grew so thin on the ground, All-Overness.

Ah questions, questions, questions! And to think how easily satisfied with any old answer those credulous crudscrapers once were!

Halcyon days, Sky-Blueness! But now it is the latest craze to perform autopsies on every dead, discarded philosophy and the platitudes from the pen of Your Royal Mindfulness have been much dissected of late.

So, Earhole, have they managed to penetrate the beating heart of my pronouncements?

Such a miracle of regeneration is beyond even their capabilities, Your Otherness. It appears that nothing is taken on face value but must be mined for deeper meaning. They say no man is to be trusted until his peers confirm his conclusions.

Peers? A ruler has no peers within his realm! His word is law, no evidence required! And as for these pedantic nit-pickers that seek a reason for everything, why, let them spend a dreadful night or three in the Caverns of Chaos and Old Night and pick the bones out of the bad dreams they find there! Ha, do they not know how often I inhale the embalmed bodily vapours of my mummified forebears?

It is not common knowledge, Your Royal Sniffiness.

Well, you puny pipsqueak, let us blazen abroad our olfactory intimacy with the Old Ones as proof positive of timeless credibility! We must rescue our poor nation from the icy clutches of pen-pushers and box-tickers by bringing a halt to so-called progress and putting the clock back to glorious yesteryear. Can a proud scion of Ulf the Uncompromising and Unk the Unstoppable bow his knee to straw polls and focus groups when he should be soaring with eagles far above the common clouds to build a new Eldorado, Shangri-La or Elysium for the truly worthy?

The flying machine is under construction as we speak, Your Loftiness. We only await the perfection of a heatproof wax to hold the feathers …

 

Related image

Pieter Bruegel “Landscape with the Fall of Icarus” Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts, Brussels

Image: novaziodaonda.wordpress.com

A Change in the Weather

With a little help from online friends, I’ve figured out that the glitch in my blog-post production-line is down to disappointment with the world.

Not the natural world, of course, but the rowdy human element that threatens its stability. Crown of Creation, my arse! Oh, we know enough as a species to make things better but currently we seem hell-bent on making them worse. We resemble nothing so much as a bunch of toddlers throwing our toys out of the playpen.

I say we but too often it’s us and them as our much-vaunted global communication network splinters into weird cabals, soundproof silos and oddball obsessions. Knowledge itself is under attack, with truth obscured beneath a toxic cloud of clueless prejudice and wilful falsification. Once upon a time rules governed what was published. Nowadays, it seems, anything goes! I suspect today’s most widely-read author is named Anon.

As a matter of indisputable fact, I have just become ruler of the universe and there isn’t a damn thing you can do about it …

Fake news, of course, because Donald Trump beat me to it. Probably.

As to genuine tidings, here’s an update. My loss of voice – notwithstanding this hysterical babble! – is really dismay that nothing I can possibly come up with will make a blind bit of difference. My mum’s withering comparison for something – or someone – utterly useless springs to mind:  like a fart in a colander!

Come to think of it, that’s a handy descriptor for a fair few things you read on social media. Wind and hot air. Let’s hope the warming doesn’t go global … whoops, too late!

Ha, now there’s an example of my problem. Everything, it seems, plays out on the big stage. And here am I, waiting in the wings for a walk-on part afraid of fluffing my only line and dropping my spear.

Those encouraging responses to my cry for help previous post come back to me … start from where you are … stick to what you know … keep it short and sweet … write what makes you happy … all of them solid-gold suggestions when the currency of public discourse is so debased. A world in uproar is a good place to set your own house in order. Home truths hit hardest, they say, and shine brightest … enlightenment is the only thing denialists truly fear.

This isn’t to limit what you can write about. Reading some short stories by Herman Hesse, I learn that his childhood ambition to be a magician stemmed from a dissatisfaction with what people conventionally called ‘reality’. Later in life, by magic he came to mean the transformation of reality – the creation of a wholly new reality – in his writing. Northrop Frye observed that ‘fantasy is the normal technique for fiction writers who do not believe in the permanence or continuity of the society they belong to.’ JRR Tolkien defined fantasy as ‘the making or glimpsing of Other-worlds’ and Hesse’s stories often display the ‘arresting strangeness’, the ‘freedom from the domination of observed fact’ that Tolkien called the essential qualities of fantasy.

All of that leaves plenty of wriggle-room, I reckon. Truth doesn’t have to be mundane. The other day I was puzzling over my very young grandson’s invariably scatological response to perfectly reasonable questions like Who did you play with at nursery today? and What would you like for your dinner? Instead of admonishing him, I decided to have a little fun myself. Adopting a cod French accent, I would launch into something along these lines:

Ah yes, your words, zey take me back to zose far-off times in gay Paree – in 1923 – ze Café Royale in Montmartre – oh, such music, such dancing! – and ze most beautiful dancer of zem all, ze leetle French ballerina Pupu – what was eet we call her for short? – ah yes, Pu – and Oui we cry as her lurvely leetle dance ends Oui Oui Encore Une Fois Pupu Oui Oui …

You get the idea. It wasn’t long before my peculiar little outbursts started to do the trick. Now he gives a straight answer, more often than not. Like most audiences, he may be aware something has gone on but he won’t know exactly what …

 

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Image: Amazon.ca

Fare Thee Well! (3/3)

Greetings, Earth Dwellers!

Zog from Alpha Centauri here. May it bring some consolation amid the inescapable trials and tribulations of uncommon sentience to know that your musical artistry, travelling at the speed of light, has inspired us to make the most of our final days. To dance and sing as if this could revive our sterile oceans, our polluted skies, our dying flora and fauna – as if we had somehow remembered just in time the blessings of a simple life before our crazed stampede to the edge … the eve … the brink of  …

Ah, for once I cannot blame my communication breakdown upon this old steam-driven inter-galactic language-transposer of mine! The words are there if I can only bring myself to use them. And now our last log is in the wood burner to keep the water bubbling – the stream of translation flowing – a little longer.

Our very last log.

Oh, with life itself at stake I expected a battle but in the end … well, none of us could come up with a better idea than to send you this token of our gratitude. All the more surprising, perhaps, as our message to love is no more than a shot in the dark with no expectation of ever receiving a reply.

Send us your response, by all means, although there may be nobody here to listen. Eight Earth years is a long time when your place in nature is so imperilled. Please think of us as you celebrate your own narrow escape from the jaws of extinction, hearkening just in time to the piper at the gates of dawn who smiles and plays our death knell.

I watch the embers darken.  Too late now to open the subsequent boxes of delight you beamed through careless timespace and perceive for ourselves the renaissance unfolding like a universal flower that surely must have followed your Aquarian awakening – a golden age where new communities discover how mutual sharing and sensitive collaboration can create aesthetic and scientific wonders far beyond the scope of mere self-interest?

How it hurts to realise that runaway competition and its concomitant over-consumption wrecked whole words with idiotic duplication and insane destruction when all we really needed was the infinite variety of nature left to her own mysterious devices. The choice was ours – to learn at her feet or lead her by the nose. We grew impatient and chased quick kicks instead of slow satisfactions.

Almost the only relic of our better days was the compunction to smile, forced where once it was freely given. Who wants a world, asks one of your Woodstock organisers, where you are afraid to smile? Or, I might add, where you are afraid not to smile? Perhaps we can agree – who wants a world where you are afraid?

Our lights begin to flicker and the steam-gauge falls. These words are raindrops on a drydust desert … wo whoa woe a turning point has passed … has past … the past is never dead – it’s not even past … 3 days of loving peace … 3 million years … waterproof that it can happen … the I that is all of us … forget yourself and live together … it’s only the beginning … but whatever it is, you can’t buy it, man!

Zzzzog out …

Post Scriptum … hell and high water, post every damn thing, did Brian Wilson ever get to Smile?