Friday, 21 December 2012

On this day to end all days...

...apparently(!), here's what's been on my mind in the planet's final moments.

Starting with a serious note, it seems that the latest gun atrocity in the States has been sufficiently shocking that, finally, there may be some real debate on gun control. The President is openly supporting a ban on assault weapons which, while hardly a cure-all, would at least be a start and suggest the conversation was beginning to happen. Let's hope some small good comes out of what has been an unimaginable horror for those of us detached from it.

But turning to the forthcoming apocalypse (as I write there are just a couple of hours to go). It seems there are now two mountain redoubts built by aliens to shield the believer from the end - one in Serbia, one in France. The small French village at the foot of one of them has had so many visitors (over 10,000!) that they've had to seal the area off and the Mayor had called for people not to go there. This raises questions:

How are people supposed to get into the hideout once they get there? How does one enter a mountain? Is there a door? Some sign, invisible to those of us who think these poor souls are deluded nincompoops, pointing the way?

What do they think they'd emerge into? I've read tales of the end coming about in various ways, from another planet hitting us, through rapture to zombie apocalypse (which plenty of people seem positively itching to happen). What exactly do those, assuming they'd got in, think there'd be left to come out to? Would you even want to?

Anyway. I was thinking about all this in the Post Office queue the other day, as you do. I was waiting to collect a parcel that they'd been unable to deliver, and it being near Christmas - why are people bothering? The world's going to blow up. - there was a bit of a wait. So I perused the various posters etc., adorning the walls. One of them, helpfully, informed one that the little cubby-hole from which undelivered parcels could be collected would be open extra days and longer hours in the build-up to the festive period, in order that people could 'collect there parcels' (sic).

This at the Post Office. The very deliverer, at least until recently, of the written word no less. Makes me wish I were sealed in a mountain sometimes, it does - fair gives me the shivers.

Happy apocalypse, all.

Monday, 10 December 2012


I've had to leave this one a couple of days because it made me so angry that I couldn't trust myself to write about it either coherently or, frankly, within the bounds of the libel laws. So I hope that what follows is at least vaguely cogent.

I've always hated prank calls. Always. That whole type of comedy escapes me completely, and hasn't been funny since it was new, Candid Camera style. But that was basically sixty years ago. All the modern incarnations of that type - Fonejacker, Dom Jolly, Gotchas and the like - I can't stand them. They irritate, humiliate people, get their laughs at others' expense and, worst of all, simply aren't bloody funny.

Or at least, worst of all up to now. Now, of course, as part of the fall-out from such a 'prank', a nurse is dead at her own hands and two DJs in Australia find themselves suspended, vilified worldwide and accused of having blood on their hands. Called murderers, even, by some of the more hysterical posters on the website, Twitter feeds and Facebook page of their employers. Advertising suspended as sponsors rush to pull out. Threats against the two DJs and the digital security of Austereo. They've paid a high price for this phone call.

Not as high, of course, as the now bereft family of Jacintha Saldanha. It may well be that she was suffering with mental health issues beforehand. It may well be than any other person answering the phone would not have reacted in anything like the way she did. The tragic outcome could not possibly have been foreseen, 2Day FM's owners said. No, no they couldn't. But, quite apart from the fact that they're not funny, they're tasteless and they're unoriginal, that's exactly why you shouldn't do these things in the first place. You don't know who you're dealing with. You don't know how they'll react, what sort of trouble they'll have to deal with in the aftermath, when you've got your laugh and hung up.

All you can do, if you go ahead anyway, is accept the consequences. 2DayFM may rightfully claim that the extreme consequences couldn't have been predicted, but it's not inconceivable that anybody falling for their jolly jape could have lost their job. They must have known this would cause a very large fuss - this is the Royal family, for fuck sake.

Their protestations that they couldn't know what was coming ring pretty hollow, regardless of how truly they may mean them, especially in the light of their previous in this regard. Their licence has twice been placed on probation under threat of closure, and another of their efforts went horribly wrong when a 14-year-old girl revealed live on air that she'd been raped when she was just twelve. Then there's Kyle Sandilands, responsible for that poor girl's revelation, who has a string of misogynist, hateful and generally unpleasant incidents behind him - calling a journalist a 'fat bitch' and the Australian Highway Patrol 'scum' live on air among them. So I don't think it's being unreasonable to expect a modicum more care from the radio station when they're considering something like this.

Have some compassion for the DJs, I've been told. They didn't wake up that morning intent on killing somebody. They're distraught, beside themselves at what's transpired. Well, yes. Perhaps in time I'll feel some compassion for the two, who must indeed be feeling absolutely terrible. But just at the moment, rightly or wrongly, I think that's exactly how they bloody well should be feeling. And, but for the fact that it would only put people out of work who had nothing to do with it, I'd be pretty pleased if their wretched radio station closed down as well.

Friday, 7 December 2012

Scouts' honour

A welcome bit of news to update a piece I wrote a few weeks ago about George Pratt, the eleven-year-old thrown out of the Scouts for being an atheist.

It seems the Scouts are reconsidering their position, and are thinking about amending their pledge to recognize that some kids have no religious affiliation. I applaud their willingness to at least talk about it, and can only hope the change is pushed through. I'd be very happy to withdraw my criticism of any organisation that shows right-mindedness in this regard, and open their doors to everybody. Fair play to them.

Let's see if it actually happens - perhaps Master Pratt would do them the honour of rejoining, if, ironically enough, he can practice one of what is supposed to be the main tenets of Christianity, and forgive them what they've done.

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Countdown to the apocalypse

This handy countdown clock has been set up on the interweb for those wanting to keep tabs on how long Earth has left. It seems the world is to end, as 'predicted by the Mayans'™ at 11.11:11am on 21st December, so any plans you had for Christmas you'd better not pay for up front, people.

I have questions, of course. Why such a specific time? Were the Mayans getting their predictions mixed up and confusing the end of the world with the Armistice? How's it going to happen? Does that time represent merely the start of the end of the world, or is everything simply going to blink out of existence at that precise second? Does anybody really believe that's going to be it?

The answer to that last one is, of course, regrettably but rather inevitably, yes. Check this page out. It brings news that the Russian government has had to make official announcements on the matter, and various cults around the world are no doubt preparing for the end. Among my favourites, though, is this lot. Their enigmatic leader 'AB' suggests he doesn't necessarily believe in this end of the world, of course, but he is preparing for an inevitable something. He does acknowledge, though, that some of his group do indeed think that 21.12.12 is it. How exactly those members are preparing to survive the end of the world, one can only guess at. What I imagine is the usual assortment of kit for survivalists – tinned food, water, a gun, an underground shelter and some warm weather clothing – are not going to get you through the planet exploding.

Anyway, with end of the world dates piling up (remember Harold Camping, whom I wrote about earlier this year? He's finally knocked it on the head, but others will no doubt be along in his stead in due course.), pretty soon we're going to have to count down to pretty much any date you care to mention if we gather them all together.

I'll see you, if not before, on the 22nd.  :o)