Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Mystery of the Back-Stabbing Assegai Coded Symbol

I have just done my head in writing my latest essay for the Open University. Trying to think of something funny to put on my Blog after trashing my brain cells writing words such as, ‘dramatising phenomenology’, and clever-clever parts of sentences like: ‘… manipulate the child’s emotions which are in the stage of being trained and nurtured, whilst they are in a constant state of perturbational flux.’, isn’t that easy.

Don’t worry if that sounds just like gibberish, you are not alone.

I am presently reading (for leisure, rather than by order of the Open University), Frank McCourt’s third and last (he has kicked the bucket), memoirs, called Teacher Man. Obviously, by the title, it is about his career as a…teacher! And, an English one at that - considering he is Irish. Since I am also seriously contemplating going on and getting my own teaching certificate, the memoir, whilst not in the class of Angela’s Ashes, is of course for me rather fascinating. In one attempt to teach grammar to a bunch of ‘Ye oldie style New York ‘Hoodies’’, he has an eureka moment. And, this bit: ‘They were beginning to understand what grammar was. If I kept at it I might understand it myself.’ - did I sigh with relief or what? Salvation!

Anyway, staggering around feeling enlightened with enlightenment is always very enlightening, but I was now searching seriously for my sense of humour, which sadly, is not required in academic papers. Not unless you are doing a PhD in Toilet Humour of the Roman Empire. Er, oddly enough, I studied that as well.

So, as poor old (rephrase that to rich), Dan Brown gets serious stick from ‘those who know’ regarding his literal style, such as Richard Eyre’s polite review of The Da Vinci Code: ‘quite astonishingly badly written…It’s as bad as a bad novel by Jeffery Archer. It’s so bad that even Erich von Daniken would scorn its prose.’ - I thought, how bad can you write some tosh that is still worth reading to the end? (I am not referring to my entire Blog - just as a matter of interest,) Now that is a challenge. When I write my tosh, it attempts to incorporate techniques I am now supposedly well qualified in, but have unfortunately completely forgotten.

So, here is my attempt. It is rather a short novel for such a difficult subject, but c'est la vie! Actually, I scribbled the first draft in a matter of an hour, but when I read through it, I was shocked to see it wasn’t bad enough. So, with great skill, I have attempted to make this as insanely inapt as possible, but not to verge on the ridiculous, and, just like a Dan Brown novel, it has its roots in truth. It is up to the reader to look between the lines for that, - because in the words of Wolf Mildew: ‘The lie is out there.’

The Mystery of the Back-Stabbing Assegai Coded Symbol

Chapter, and only chapter, One.

Chigutu, Zimbabwe 2009, Wednesday, 17th of August, 14.43 and 7 seconds.

Professor Reverend Rabbi Doctor Theodore Blackman III (PhD, Harvard in Klingon Language for Advanced Studies in Extra-Terrestrials), eyes bulged out his square jawed, craggy face upon his six foot twelve frame of tensed muscle and bone, as he sniffed appreciatively at his fear sweated armpits. He gasped with horror, eyes squinting against the perpetual beating African sun, as he addressed 7 of 9 Assistant Commissioner of the Zimbabwean Republic Police responsible for efficient looting and disposal of stolen merchandise and ultra-violence,

‘Lordy me, the man lying on the ground (dressed like a farmer) appears to be wreathing in agony. Why is that?’

7 of 9 Assistant Commissioner of the Zimbabwean Republic Police Mathew Mark Luke John Mugabe (27th Cousin far removed), rearranged his gigantism frame inside his exploding Gucci suit of pure Scottish tweed. He gazed complacently the gently revolving end of the assegai making pretty circles in the Havana cigar smoke he was puffing at (a personal present from Fidel Castro), and spoke in a deep and scary type voice,

‘I believe this is a sign, but with my limited education due to the former colonial racists that once ruled and fed my people, I do not know what it says.’

Blackman’s face, that had gone white, returned to its normal colour of white as he gained control of his fear filled palpitating anus.

‘He appears to be pinned to the red soil ground through his lower spine’ he carefully analysed.

‘It is a spear called an Assegai, not a pin,’ replied Mugabe, picking his yellow teeth with a Yemen styled Rhinoceros horn handled knife.

‘Yes, yes’, replied Blackman, ‘and look - he is a whiteman! This is a sign, a symbol that if I can fathom it out, I will be rich.’

‘And I get 80%,’ chortled Mugabe, ‘tax free in Obahma dollars,’ he muttered into his bottle of imported South African Castle beer.

Blackman stared around at his surroundings of rows of rows of six foot nine growing maize. He could see nothing of interest besides a few starving nine year old war veterans from the 1970’s liberation war, helping themselves to some mielie cobs.

Just then, Rhodesian born, 73 year old farmer John Brown’s eyes fluttered into life for a brief second before they died.

‘I know now,’ said Blackman as his professional gaze took in the shocking detail of the farmer’s naked and beaten to a pulp feet. ‘His shoes have been stolen!’

Mugabe glanced guiltily at his new ‘veldskoens’. The evil man flared his broad nostrils wider than a Rwandan gorilla and squirted a stream of vile smelling, nicotine stained phlegm at the still twitching form’s feet.

‘So much for being smarter by wearing Bata’

Blackman contemplated for a while, scanning his amazing academic memory for similar comparisons amongst the ancient rituals of the Aztecs.

7 of 9 Assistant Commissioner of the Zimbabwean Republic Police Mathew Mark Luke John Mugabe (27th Cousin far removed), burped, and scratched at his brown eye with a grubby finger, still covered in sadza from last nights meal.

‘Listen Blackman, this whiteman is dead, but before he died he donated his farm to me. You are trespassing.’

Blackman looked into the blackman’s bloodshot eyes that reflected his fear, and instantly released his bowls into his Sainsbury’s £4.50 ‘Made in China’ by child labour, bright pink silk trousers.

‘You do not frighten me Mugabe, there is still the law on my side,’ declared the brave but rather stupid professor, defiantly in a very defiant tone.

Mugabe raised his Russian made, folding butt Kalashnikov 47, from where it had been hidden in his rear pocket, and with much ado about nothing, emptied the entire magazine of thirty rounds into Blackman’s torso.

‘Law? In this country - that is just whiteman’s lore.’

The End.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

A bedtime story about drowning kittens and puppies

Consider this guidance note for my present assignment in Children’s Literature. (By that I mean all arts – films, TV, books, magazines, etc.)

‘[G]o on to discuss the issue of ‘instruction through delight.’

So, what do I see the other night that made me want to throw the TV out the window – the Government's latest Global Warming, Save The Planet ‘advert’. I was just waiting for the complaints to appear before I put the proverbial boot in.

I refer to New Labour’s bedtime story about drowning kittens and puppies.

Energy and climate change minister, Joan Ruddock, denies that the six million pound advert is aimed at children. (Just like the Iraq war has nothing to do with oil.) It is a bedtime story read to a little girl by her father involving drowning kittens and puppies because we don’t turn our light bulbs off or, in more technical terms – reduce our carbon footprint.

What kind of nonsense is this? Forget for the moment the scientific controversy around increased CO emissions and our energy consumption, whether it is or not, isn’t the issue here. Anything that reduces the wasteful use of our dwindling resources is obviously a good thing and best of all; saves loads of dosh. ‘Seemples!’

Whatever team came up with this advert complete with cartoons being used to show a terrifying account of drowning puppies, rabbits dying of thirst and the end of the world as we know it; must have been taking a leaf out of the writings of Professor of Children's Literature, Kim Reynolds, of Newcastle University, who wrote:

If children’s literature fails to offer young people ways of thinking about themselves and their world that suggest that they can make a difference (Yes we can – Obama 2008), and help them construct discourse of their own to empower them as political subjects, it can not be excluded from the other social forces implicated in the gelding of youth and youth culture. (Keenan and Thompson, 2004, p147)

Now if that means frightening kids to death, so be it, the Labour government seems to think so but American fantasy and science fiction author, Ursula Kroeber Le Guin, in Language of the Night, wrote ‘But what, then, is the naturalistic writer for children to do? Can he present the child with evil as an insoluble problem … To give the child a picture of …gas chambers … or famine or the cruelties of a psychotic patient, and say, “Well baby, this is how it is, what are you going to make of it” – that is surly unethical. If you suggest that there is a ‘solution’ to these monstrous facts, you are lying to the child. If you insist that there isn’t; you are overwhelming him with a load he’s not strong enough yet to carry.’

What adults believe is suitable for children are an extremely complex social network that is very vulnerable to censorship. Remember the recent furore over Tintin in the Congo. (As a result, Amazon’s sales of the ‘offensive’ literature shot up 25000%.) There is still the problem exactly what the child reader understands.

Joan Aiken, English children’s novelist, recipient of the Guardian Award (1969) and the Edgar Allan Poe Award (1972) said ‘What terrifies one child may seem merely comic to another, or may be completely ignored; one can’t legislate for fear. Exercising any degree of control over the kind of books written for or read by children is a highly doubtful policy.’ (Haviland, 1980)

So, returning to the advert- does it have a happy ending? Is there ‘education through delight’ after all. Does the little girl say to daddy ‘If I listen to an audio book in the dark, will Peter Rabbit be saved from floods?’ Hardly, he has more chance of being shot by a farmer or ripped to shreds by a fox. As for drought - in Australia they would be delighted to get rid of the myxomatosis riddled pests from lack of water.

So what beggars belief, as far as I can figure out by this advert, is that all involved with the project have absolutely ZERO knowledge of what is ‘instruction through delight’, nor are they very clued-up on children’s literature.

Were we as children delighted by Big Billy Goat Gruff killing the troll, or were we sad that he was rather stupid and should have just eaten the Little Billy Goat Gruff , hence prolonging his life and perhaps then procreate and make more trolls who would grow up to become Labour MPs? Are trolls, along with dragons, bad because Tolkien says they are? But Puff the Magic Dragon lyrics tell a story of the ageless dragon Puff and his playmate Jackie Paper, a little boy who grows up and loses interest in the imaginary adventures of childhood and leaves Puff alone and depressed. (Amazingly some critics believed it was all about smoking marihuana.)

So is the ‘delight’ actually just the delight a child has when actually learning something new and exotic and successfully understanding the plot - regardless of the theme. Surely children’s literature should create more questions than it answers. As Peter Hunt, Professor Emeritus in Children's Literature at Cardiff University, in his essay Instruction and Delight writes in conclusion ‘To understand what is happening to narrative and our children we need to understand the process of decoding texts, as well as their history and their contemporary forms; the study of children’s literature can provide us with this understanding.’

Now, take this headline from today’s Telegraph. –

Babies who suck dummies and their thumbs for too long could damage ability to speak

So if the Office of the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs decided to make a little advert about that topic, I can help them out. I would simply use some 150 year old German children’s literature, animate it a bit, and then they can flash it out every ten minutes on CeeBees and Nickelodeon – job done, loads more of traumatised kids and at just one million pounds, a real bargain. It goes like this –

Die Geschichte vom Daumenlutscher

"The Story of Little Suck-A-Thumb".

Konrad, speaks Mrs. Mamma,
"I go out and you stay here.
Be nice and well behaved.
Until I come back home again
And especially, Konrad, listen!
Don't suck on your thumb anymore;
Otherwise the tailor with his scissors
Comes very quickly along,
And cuts off your thumbs
Just as easily as paper."

Just as soon as mother left-
Wupp, the thumb is in the mouth.

Snap! The door opens,
And at lightning speed
Jumps the tailor into the room
to the thumb-sucking boy.

Wow, now it goes snip, snip
With the scissors the thumbs come off,
With the big sharp scissors!
"Oh boy" Konrad hollers loud.
Just as mother comes home,
Konrad looks very sad.
Without thumbs he is standing there,
Both of them are gone forever.

Acknowledgment: Translation and pictures lifted from here

So, finally, what is the difference between the advert and the German fairy tale? Well, one tells you it is a bad idea to suck your thumbs and the other is brainwashing pre-election propaganda.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Riding Red Little Hood

Little Red Riding Hood in a purple dress combing her hair.

Lordy me, woe is me at that. I have just read several versions of the fairy tale of Red Riding Hood. (No fairies, and the wolf isn’t gay.) I also had to read several analytical essays ranging from the reasonable to the semi-deranged. Think of some hood (could be her father), riding little girls till they bleed – that’s how crazy some of the ‘Freudian’ deep thinking into what is a relatively simple tale.

The original earliest known printed version was known as Le Petit Chaperon Rouge and had its origins in 17th century French folklore. It was included in the collection Tales and Stories of the Past with Morals. Tales of Mother Goose (Histoires et contes du temps passé, avec des moralités. Contes de ma mère l'Oye), in 1697, by Charles Perrault.

Now, I liked this version because the wolf doesn’t mess about, and first eats the grandmother (yuck) and then LRRH. Serves her bloody well right. Loads of other versions have some hunter/woodsman riding (hah-hah) to the rescue. Load of bollix.

So, in a Last of the Rhodesians exclusive, and till now, never in print, is a German version from the Nazi era. I heard it about two decades ago whilst blasted out my skull in some dead-end knieper (pub), called the Oktoberfest. Don’t think this will be grim my brothers, this is the real shit.

So, translating, it sort of goes like this -

It was a dark and stormy night and when daylight broke, Frau Hitler said to her daughter

“Raus aus die sack, you lazy cow, and bring zee Oma her Pampers so she not wee in zee bed. And brush your hair before you go out.”

Fraulein Hitler did as she was told because the alternative was to be shot. Snatching up the only garment she owned, she traipsed out looking like some hoodie in red drag. Schlepping four dozen, get one free, pampers from Lidl she wandered off in the direction of the Black Forest, very mindful of her mother’s warning.

“Don’t dilly-dally and talk to any Jews. They are all wolves in stolen clothing”

Being slightly hacked off that she had to visit Oma (who did smell of wee), instead of playing with her Nintendo Wii, the fair maiden took her frustration out on a couple of fairies she caught dogging behind a tree and kicked the dirty dogs to death.

The Black Forest is full of green trees and sure enough after a while she spotted a wolf amongst them. He was actively busy wandering around in a small circle. (We are not sure how we know it is a he wolf, but that is legend.) Anyway, the wolf was just getting his leg ends into place when Fraulein Hitler (er…we don’t really know what her first name is), said, in a voice full of fear (no idea what that looks like, but Dan Brown uses phrases like that, and he has made shit loads),

“Herr Wolf, wat are you doing?”

The wolf, shuffling around a bit, arched his back till it looked like the Sidney harbour bridge, and bulged his eyes till they almost popped out his skull. Not quite finished with the ritual, he then curled his cruel lips cruelly back, exposing glistening fangs of saliva dribbling fangs and… er, teeth!

Fraulein Hitler then expressed horror and some more of that fear mentioned previously.

“Gott in Himmel, what huge eyes and teeth you have! I am sure you vant to gobble me all up and down”

The wolf, (who incidentally wasn’t Jewish, but a Russian Orthodox Siberian wolf who was positively gay until the annoying Fraulein turned up), was forced to pause in his twice daily ritual (depending on his diet), and howled Hitler a woeful heil-

“Can not a wolf have a shit in peace and not knots of interrupted pieces of faeces?”

The End.

Well, erm…where is the moral in this story? I am open to all suggestions.

Please note: To write such unadulterated crap takes years of study at university. If you have any complaints; keep them to yourselves or the tabloids.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Gigabyte Genie – The Digital Delights of Erik Johansson

I stumbled across this today and think it is worth a mention.

Loads of people are rather adapt with their cameras and using Photoshop. This young man (24) is self taught, but what makes him stand out is his unique lateral thinking approach. He somehow takes the obvious and ‘paints’ a different picture. Some of his work is very simple, such as the Ikea pic.

Others are so intricate in their impossibilities. The detail is fantastical -

In this picture, although we do not see the shocked face, the release of the knife says it all. And – just look at the reflections – brilliant stuff.

Jimmy was having another boring Sunday afternoon at home. Pissed and stoned out of his skull whilst watching assassin Geena Davis in Long Kiss Goodnight slicing vegetables at the speed of light, he decided to have a go. Sadly it took his inebriated brain a while to register that his pet rabbit didn’t eat meat.

More can be seen Here

Friday, October 09, 2009

Why We Love Africa

One of the biggest problems I have is lateral thinking. I am not sure if this is documented, but in my case; it’s a one way street. Confused? Well, think of cryptic crosswords. I can create the clues but cannot solve any. Weird, huh. Anyway, wandering off now, I wish to bring you up to speed on almost everything, but perhaps I will stick to Africa for the moment.

Why We Love Africa

The other day I was watching a documentary about Nigeria. What was different from the usual style of reporting was that the channel, Currant TV (an independent media company led by former U.S. Vice President Al Gore and businessman Joel Hyatt), lets the viewers send in their own documentaries. Brilliant stuff. Anyway, this was about Nigeria.

Now, Nigeria is anarchy with a large A, especially when it comes to oil. In a brilliantly funny memoir Don’t Tell Mom I Work on the Rigs: She Thinks I'm a Piano Player in a Whorehouse, by Paul Carter, has him on a Nigerian rig. That particular chapter is as funny as telling God jokes to the Devil. Graft isn’t just rampant, it is de facto how the economy works, along with a little kidnapping and murder; it is a great tale of derry-do. The author got out asap, with barley his skin on his back intact; never mind loosing a shirt or two.

Now, going back to the documentary. So, this petrified young woman is filming around the Nigerian Delta. It is one huge slum surrounded by pollution and over swarmed with armed gangs. Then she reports (and this bit made me choke on my beer), a commission set up by the Nigerian government themselves into the investigation of corruption, concluded that –

In the decade 1996-2006, revenues from oil totalling - hang on to your hair – 400 BILLION dollars disappeared into accounts unknown of ruling party officials.

This was equal to the entire amount of donated ‘aid’ by Western governments to the continent of Africa during the same time frame. Not one cent was invested in the area. Cool Beans! Give this some thought next time you fill up at a BP station.

Okay, jumping laterally, but staying with Africa and whitey pass out the dosh, I quite happily admit I am a Barack Obama fan (he is the guy that picked up some type of clever award today). Barack knows his stuff when it comes to Africa. I will never forget his famous speech at some begging bowl summit organised by Smelly Bob Geldorf and Bonehead Bono –

“And I have a message for all my fellow Africans. The bucks stop with this black – go get a friggin job - I did.”

At that same summit, was a woman whom (according to Time magazine), is the most powerful woman on earth. I refer to recently re-elected Angela Merkel of Germany. I will never forget what she said to the Irish pikies, when those twat-twins took it upon themselves to champion the rights of the starving (as long as they are black).

Unlike Tony Blair, who would suck cockles with them just to have a photo opportunity, Merkel can’t stand the media circus. Blocked into a corner at the summit, she presented the two terrible tossers with a 50 Euro note and a cheque for half a billion. As I understand German, I was able to pick up what she said quietly to her finance minister seconds after the beaming bum bandits waved the cheque triumphantly at the cameras.

“Fritz, blitz zee cheque to go bouncy-bouncy.”

Changing subjects, I was reading an article in the Times suggesting more disabled children should be represented in their fiction. Er…More! I say less actually. As the subject I am studying covers all children’s arts, not just books, I beg to differ. The film Slumdog Millionaire had scenes that crippled me, never mind the cripples. Even my hardcore children, brought up since the age of two on such gore as Starship Troopers, were shell shocked by Slumdog. If you haven’t seen it, please do. It is most definitely NOT a feel-good movie.

As for literature, I just finished the classic Treasure Island. I read it four decades ago and recall I didn’t like it. This time around I was gob smacked. One beggar is blind and gets trampled to death by horses. Presumably, because it seems he was one of the bad guys, we can laugh at that. Besides the motley lot of alcoholics (they are presumably disabled too), there is Long John Silver. He is the pirate with one leg…and a parrot that swears.

It turns out that LJS whilst amputated at the hip (a serious operation with a cutlass in those days), could hop about like cooking popcorn.

But it was what he could do with his crutch that amazed me. In one scene, he spins it out from under his arm and hurls in the back of some back stabber pirate scally-wag and, it snaps the bloke’s spine! Just like that. Stops him stone dead. Nice one! Me thinks - he would win Gold at the paraplegics Olympics in Javelin throwing.

Doing some research, it turns out that the great-great, twenty times removed, grandson of LJS thought along similar lines. Here is the YouTube.

Finally – The latest decree to come out of the lips of President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, made me lift a Spok eyebrow. With his hatred of whites well into paranoia, he instructed the Zimbabwean Broadcasting Corporation to broadcast the zillion times repeated, ancient drama Peyton Place, to be shown only in the original negatives. So you have all the people being black, with black teeth, dressed in ghostly white suits and dresses. Weird, but - it gets better. Somehow, the technicians also managed to negative the sound track. Everyone speaks backwards. Amazing! The local paper was deluged with complaints that the program was in Chinese.