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Archive for the ‘humour’ Category

Food Fads and the SAS

I hear that members of the SAS will eat anything in order to survive, according to the SAS Handbook and Survival Guide I was thumbing through today. Good thing you’re not a member because if you were you would have to exist for long months in the jungles of Borneo on a diet of dirt, leaves, frog bellies and spiders. That’s if you weren’t chewing the bark off trees and strangling little indigenous [and unsuspecting] animals to eat raw or boiling up a few grubs in a hot spring in the same water you used to wash your feet in this morning.

What accounts for our unique food tastes? I had a cat once that went wild for pickled onions, another [current] cat who just loves Portobello mushrooms, and a dog who likes spicy stuffed olives in hot sauce.

 

Brits, like me, have long had an affinity for Marmite, which is an evil smelling yeast-based black concoction that you spread on toast and eat with your eyes closed and a peg on your nose. Chip butties are also very tasty [that’s a large handful of fries stuffed inside two hunks of bread with lashings of butter] and so are sarnies [sardine sandwiches]. When I was a kid one of the highlights at Christmas was to lather congealed turkey drippings straight from the roasting pan on to toast – or even, as a really special treat – to lather turkey drippings straight from the roasting pan on to several rounds of fried bread. This is why if you were to conduct a study, you would probably find that there are no Brits left alive over the age of fifty. They all died off from heart disease long ago before Jane Fonda and Twiggy decided that we should all be thin. We Brits just loved our fat. All recipes started off with the words ‘Take one pound of Butter’, even the ones for soup.

 

When I lived in England it was quite normal to eat about seventeen times a day – breakfast, elevenses, lunch, afternoon tea, dinner and supper – with very possibly five pints of lager down at the pub and a take-out curry just before bed. And yet I don’t remember ever seeing overweight Brits. It must be rapid metabolism or very possibly they just shrink in all that rain.

 

In Japan I believe they like to eat jelly-fish but I don’t know if they go for the tentacles because of the tripping hazard and Japanese restaurants tend to be small – just a few tables and a karaoke box. They also like to eat fish that contains a poison sack that kills you stone dead if you eat it. In order to counter the low attendance of patrons who want to try this there are special chefs who are trained in the art of cooking the fish in such a way as to render the poison innocuous – you hope. They also have people who are solely employed to massage best beer into the rumps of Kobe cattle to make them tender. “And what do you do for a living Mitsubishi san?” “I’m a bum massager you Gaijin”.

 

Of course we all know of those tribes in Africa who eat locusts. It’s called getting your own back for all those lost crops. Na Na Na Na Na – take that, little flying buzzard thing [I don’t know the word for it in Swahili but it probably has several loud glottal stops]. And in the Middle East people sit around in the desert talking about the weather, “Do you think it’s going to rain this century effendi?”, and popping sheep’s eyeballs like gumballs.

 

So if you’re going to join the SAS better start now and educate your palate. You never know when you will be dropped into the jungle with nothing but a shoelace and a rusty pen-knife and called upon to whip up a quick batch of ‘worm surprise’ for you and your mates as the sun goes down over the swamp.

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A sense of humour is a very strange thing. It appears that only we humans possess it. When was the last time, for example, that you witnessed a beetle having a real belly-laugh; or a red winged black-bird having a real knee-slapping moment? Well you couldn’t because birds don’t have knees but that’s another matter entirely. Chimpanzees do appear to exhibit a form of laughing behaviour and so do laughing hyenas of course, but that doesn’t mean that they have any deep appreciation for knock-knock jokes.

 

It also appears that humour is not only species specific but race and nationality specific too. Americans for instance find people sliding on banana peels inordinately funny, and if they break a leg while doing it well that just adds to the general hilarity. You only have to watch ‘Funniest Home Videos’ to witness the evidence of that. The more people being crushed by falling tree branches while wielding a flying chain-saw, or slam-dunking themselves into a wall or sliding off the stage into the wedding cake the better. And babies being terrified at the sight of dad in a Halloween mask is pretty hysterical too. Brits prefer sly, witty, sarcastic humour with lots of sexual innuendo thrown in. Ab Fab the TV show for example was so successful because it was filled with sarcasm heavily laced with pithy ‘one-liners’. Edina to Mother “Inside this body is a thin woman trying to get out” Mother “Only the one dear?”.

 

A friend of mine from Jordan would be convulsed with laughter at the site of us [his English-Canadian friends] being convulsed with laughter. He would laugh himself silly at the sight of us laughing ourselves silly even though because of the language gap he himself missed much of the dialogue and could only follow the actions of the actors on-screen. And of course the sight of him laughing himself silly at the sight of us laughing ourselves silly made us laugh ourselves silly even more. It was almost necessary to call an ambulance.

 

Writers can be pretty funny too. Sometimes I just crack myself up. I have to keep going back and reading that last bit to see just how funny it was. I bet Shakespeare did it too. Not that I’m comparing myself to Shakespeare, that would be like a small kid with a stubby pencil comparing herself to – well – er – um – well, Shakespeare. I bet he fell off his stool laughing when he had those three witches stirring the cauldron and throwing in the odd bits of chicken bums and lizard brains. Of course, had he been an American rather than a Brit he would have preferred the bit when Julius Caesar got his in the back from his bumbling pal Brutus. And if he fell down the steps of the senate with his legs in the air and his toga up around his ears that would have brought the house down.

 

So obviously humour, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. You can take it any way you like it – nudge nudge wink wink.

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The difference between art and ART is a subjective one. Some of us believe that Leonardo da Vinci, or Rembrandt van Rihn, or Vincent van Gogh [it’s obviously necessary to have three names to be a great artist], made ART, while others of us believe that Julian Whatsisname who submerged half a goat [mercifully a dead one] in a vat and coloured it purple created ART – likewise, when Rauschenberg nailed a sheep to a board with what appeared to be a tire around it’s middle he was hailed as ‘The most important American artist since Jackson Pollock’. And Jackson Pollock of course was renowned for throwing paint around on the floor while in a drunken frenzy – he may even have dragged a few nudes across his canvases, I can’t remember. Which reminds me of another artist who dragged nudes around. His name was Benvenuto Cellini. He tells us in his autobiography that he lost his temper one day when his model wouldn’t sit still and wouldn’t stop talking so he dragged her around the floor by her hair until she shut up. Fiery blokes these Italian Renaissance types and not averse to a bit of bitch-slapping once out of sight of the Carabineri. Mind you – they probably wouldn’t have cared too much – women’s lib being the last thing on their minds at the time. They were too busy quelling drunken bar fights and stopping people running each other through with their rapiers, or dragging people like Michelangelo back to the Pope so he could finish painting the ceiling in the den.

Rauschenberg was also famous for erasing a drawing done by de Kooning [you know him – the one who made violent slashing pictures of women looking like they had been torn apart by wolves. You can see them in MOMA in New York – a raving misogynist or what?]. Of course we only have his [Rauschenberg’s] word for it since we now only have a blank page. How do we know he didn’t erase someone else instead? Perhaps some doodles his kid did or his grocery list. We only have his word for it – and how far can you trust the word of a man who goes around bolting sheep to boards? Maybe de Kooning got one over on him and erased one of *his* sketches in retaliation. Then we would probably end up with de Kooning erasing Rauschenberg erasing de Kooning – so there!

Andy Warhol painted soup cans and Coke bottles and became famous for 15 minutes – Ducharme hung a urinal from a wall and Picasso turned people inside out [shades of de Kooning] and gave them a couple of extra eyes in the middle of the forehead for good measure. So is it ART? You tell me. ART is what we say it is whether it be a sublime landscape or a wondrously sculpted Pieta that could only be inspired by the hand of God – or perhaps it’s just a stuffed goat with a nude model on it’s back singing Dixie.

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Minnie is the latest edition to our army of animals. She is a small black cocker spaniel – smaller by half than most of her breed because she was once abused, starved and beaten. Seemingly as a consequence of this she can eat non-stop, possibly until she bursts, which is what I hear goldfish do if allowed unlimited use of the Nutrafin flakes. But since they only have a 3 second memory presumably they don’t remember that they’ve eaten already and just keep going until they pop. I’m tempted to put this theory to the test but am afraid that if I do so the sounds of exploding goldfish might alert the neighbours and any passing security forces.

Minnie is called Minnie because she’s tiny – because she’s *really* tiny when compared to our other spaniel, Charlie the Chunk [enough said] – but mostly because she’s a dreadful mooch – hence “Minnie the Moocher”. Names are important in the scheme of things aren’t they? They absolutely define us, dogs and humans alike. What’s more they go further than this, they absolutely determine not only who we are but *what* we were, what we are, and what we will become. In ancient times descriptive names were all the rage. For example, Eric the Red – who no doubt had red hair and a nifty auburn beard – either that or a red face from all that raping and pillaging and strong Viking grog. Then there are all those Welshmen called Jones the Post, and Jones the Police, and Jones Who Pulls the Pints Down At The Pub. No problem with keeping up with the Joneses down in Abergerwennybivvygivvy then.

Can you even imagine the most sublime artistic talent that ever lived being called Luigi Paintabrusha instead of Michelangelo the Divine? Oy! And how could Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart have made such wonderful, soaring, courtly music if his name had been Hans Wiffleburger? What about Joe Green instead of Guiseppe Verdi, or even Freda the Really Really Insignificant instead of Katherine the Great. Manny the Monk instead of Rasputin, or Freddy the Shit-Disturber rather than Savonarola the fiery orator. It would hardly have been worth burning him if he had had a name like that. The turn-out would have been too small.

So grand names relate directly to grand design in the future memorability stakes. If you want your offspring to go far in life forget about the Joshes and the Chinas, the Dakotas and the Shatoquas, go for the Arabella von Furstenburgs instead. You won’t be sorry.

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Dogs are sweet souls. Dogs don’t cheat you, dogs don’t lie to your face, dogs don’t burgle your house and dogs don’t steal your car. Well, I have had dogs who steal my seat and shred my Hullo magazines all over the living room floor but these are minor infractions on the canine criminality scale. You can tread on a dog’s paw , you can cut his nails too close and make his bathwater too cold, you can forget to fill his water dish and put his collar on inside out so the nubs stick in his neck, you can make him wait until bursting for his morning pee, you can pull his fur out with the comb with the tines too small but he still loves you.

You can’t say that about too many humans now can you? Humans in general, other than Saint Theresa and Princess Di of course, are petty and vindictive, jealous and angry, and mean. They are always whinging about something. I do it too – I moan about the weather, I moan about my bank balance, I moan about my house and the state of the garden, I moan about the roof leaking and how the less desirable neighbours are out there again building a bonfire the size of Mount Everest and threatening to wipe out London in the fire of the century.

Everything costs too much – have you checked out the price of cereal lately? And what about gas prices? Those gouging greedy bastards the oil companies are always at it – a finch farts in Venezuela and they say, “Hey Guys – let’s jack the pump price up”. Poor sods like my husband, who has to drive 200K each way to get to work, have to just take it – again. They don’t even ask if you want your complimentary jar of vaseline with that.

And jobs? There aren’t any. Sorry but your experience is too narrowly focused – sorry, your experience is too broad. Do you have two Master’s Degrees? One of course should be a subject specialization in the mating habits of the Macaw because it’s absolutely essential in order to secure this ten dollar an hour job shelving books at the local library. Can you relocate to Nunavut? Sorry but we’re really looking for candidates who are [check one] taller than you, shorter than you, fatter/thinner than you, older/younger than you, anyone but you. And anyway the job’s already gone to the manager’s cousin who is just out of high school and will work for cheap.

Employer/employee loyalty? None of that either. Once upon a time, so the mythology goes, it was possible to start in the mail-room, work your way up to be the managing director, or at least the senior secretary if you happened to be female, and get your solid gold watch and your carriage clock at the end of it. Now you’re lucky if anyone knows your name. You have no benefits, no security, and no personal life because you are expected to give the proverbial 110 percent to the firm. However, if you chance to have a heart-attack in the middle of the shop floor after giving your all to the company for the last 30 years, the hiring manager will just step over your body to get to the phone to post an ad on Workopolis. That’s of course if you haven’t already been replaced – four years before retirement and your pension – by the latest, newest, and cheapest model, fresh off the assembly line.

And that’s another thing – dog’s aren’t cynical either.

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I was driving up Adelaide the other day, dogs in the back, on the way to the off-leash doggie park and thinking of life, the universe, and everything – as you do. Not in the Douglas Adamsian sense – where the answer – 42 – is clear – but in the sense that haven’t you ever thought just how bizarre this little life of ours really is? I mean – here I was, tooling up Adelaide, trying not to swerve too much around potholes to avoid ‘flying doggies in the back’ syndrome when it struck me that what I was really doing was driving around on a big round [ovoid actually] ball that was rotating around other big, round flying balls, which were rotating around other, big round flying balls, and on and on forever, out amongst the stars – or God knows where. And God? What is that? Don’t get me started.

Anyway – here I am on this big round flying ball – and you too. Isn’t it completely absurd? And what’s most absurd about it is that we don;t think about it at all – we just go on with our tiny lives as if we were actually just driving up this road with a blue sky overhead – well, not here in Canada, more likely to be snow clouds – but you know what I mean. Is there an end to the universe – will we suddenly fall off once we’ve rotated around enough? And another thing – there’s no ‘up and down’ is there? ‘Up’ or ‘down’ is meaningless – it doesn’t exist at all. We’re all just stuck on this ball like flies in amber thanks to gravity. I’m sure the Australians – and the Chinese for that matter – think *they* are up while *we* are down – or vice versa. And why *does* Australian water go down the plug-hole the opposite way to Canadian water?

Time is the same – it’s just an idle idea someone had eons ago upon suddenly noticing that the sun appeared and disappeared at regular intervals with bits of dark in between. Some cave-man was probably lying around an antediluvian field somewhere sucking on an incipient angiosperm while counting very tiny mammals when he suddenly thought to himself – ‘Oy – that big round fiery thing has gone! And ‘Oy – it’s back’ – and what’s more it seems to do it every 12 hours or so. Well not hours because they hadn’t been invented yet – neither had ‘eons’ come to that – but you know what I mean.

Weighty questions indeed – I think I’ll go and watch Oprah.

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