26 August 2010

Ava Vidal

Comedian Ava Vidal on the Michael McIntyre Comedy Roadshow in 2009:

People say what Madonna's actually done is that she's gone to Africa and bought a black child for £1.5 million. Someone said to me, 'Surely you find that offensive?' Not really - I find it exciting, because I've got two black kids at home. I can't lie to you - I skipped home that day. I was like, 'Kids, you need to get your coats on'. And their faces lit up, they were so excited. They were like, 'Ooh mummy, where are we going?' 'I don't know, but with a street value of £1.5 million each you're not staying in my house'.

18 August 2010

Too short to be decent

'This year, my favourite has been the announcement by the headmistress of a school in Hereford that the girls there were wearing skirts "too short to be decent" and from September they will line up every morning and have their skirts measured by teachers. If a girl's fingertips come below her hemline, she will be sent home to change. Some parents have vigorously objected to the new rule, with one mother claiming that "the idea of lining them up is straight out of the Gestapo handbook. It's disgraceful."

A few things.

Number one – the need for an intermediate historical analogy to which one can liken modern inconveniences is becoming pressing. So few things are, after all, really like six million people being systematically slaughtered across a continent. I nominate, "It's like the rule of Napoleon III! A moderate police state, but civil liberties are increasing and people are, on the whole, taken in the round, becoming better off!" Or, "I feel like Myrna Loy during MGM's golden age, forever under the essentially benevolent but still tyrannical eye of Louis B Mayer!" Press your buttons now.

Number two – I remember being a teenage girl. Well, no, that's not true – I remember being surrounded by teenage girls. I was, until the age of about 22, technically a mineral – but I do remember the steaming, roiling tide of hormones that swept everyone (normal) along in an all but unstoppable headlong rush and against which onslaught the entire adult world united in order to mitigate the damage. Even with their best efforts, my educational establishment generally looked like a specialist brothel. Black bras under white shirts were de rigueur, as was enough eyeliner to drown a mouse, and waistbands rolled over so many times you would have thought genitalia were actually part of the school uniform. "Suzanne, where is your vagina today? Oh, you forgot it, did you? That's the third time this week. Once more and you'll go on report."'

- Lucy Mangan, Guardian, 14 August 2010

12 August 2010

The moribund Senate

'Filibusters, once rare, are now used to block the most routine procedures, ensuring minimal cross-pollination of ideas. The obstructionism and crankiness are laughable. Senator Jim Bunning of Kentucky, while vowing not to leave the chamber as a procedural move to hold up unemployment benefits for millions, complained about the personal hardship he suffered for his parliamentary stunt — missing a college basketball game on TV.

“Free smoothies for crazy people in the lobby,” was Jon Stewart’s suggestion to get Bunning out of the chambers, not an unreasonable idea for this gilded nursing home of people muttering into C-Span cameras [...]

Little has changed since Mark Twain offered this assessment: “Suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself.”'

- Timothy Egan, New York Times, 11 August 2010

09 August 2010

The most enjoyable aspect of lecturing

'The most enjoyable aspect of lecturing, I discovered, were the staff meetings -- which the Head of Department conducted as a sort of homage to avant-garde cinema (a genre to which he was excessively devoted). Plot and chronology had been abandoned years ago in favour of expressionist flow-charts and long, meaning-filled silences. At times, his presentations seemed to be taking place in sepia with French subtitles.

Surrounded by the most socially retarded people in a 100 kilometre radius, I experienced an exhilarating sense of eloquence. As my colleagues gazed at their laps -- carefully avoiding eye contact with anyone else and pretending to be invisible -- I found myself making erudite suggestions for the running of the department.

At one meeting, I casually dropped the word 'pedagogical' into the discussion. There was a murmur of approval around the table. At another meeting, the Head of Department asked me to assist with a party of 15-year-old school pupils who were touring the college. "You're just the sort of extroverted person who would inspire these children," he said, without apparent irony.

Alas that his recommendation provided a brutal lesson about social limitations. Two hundred school pupils were gathered in a lecture theatre to receive a speech by the vice-chancellor, who -- at the last minute -- was called away to deal with a crisis. I suddenly heard the Dean of Engineering announce that he was going to prevail upon me to give the talk instead.

My recollection of the next half-hour is hazy. I recall telling the children that the importance of school was over-rated, and that it was better for them to enjoy themselves than pass exams. I may have mentioned that a 'gap year' might be useful to some of them, so that -- in an unfortunate choice of words -- they could try out "having sex and taking drugs". I've blanked out the rest'

- David Haywood, 'Confessions of a Social Retard', 8 August 2010

05 August 2010

A vast bicycle conspiracy

'Colorado's Republican gubernatorial candidate Dan Maes has accused his likely opponent, Democratic Mayor John Hickenlooper, of "converting Denver into a United Nations community" by promoting bike riding and other sustainability issues.

According to Maes, who is a Tea Party favorite, Hickenlooper's bike plans are "all very well-disguised, but [they] will be exposed."

Specifically, the plans that Maes is raising the alarm over include the city's B-Cycle program which makes a network of about 400 red bikes available for rent at locations throughout the city. B-Cycle's website touts that, "bike sharing makes it economical and convenient to use bikes for trips that are too far to walk but too short to drive.... With your magic red bike, you don’t have to look for a parking space or bring your own bike with you everywhere you go. Plus, riding a B-cycle is good for you and good for the environment. It’s the newest and best way to get around town."

However, Maes warns that B-Cycle is "bigger than it looks like on the surface, and it could threaten our personal freedoms."

Additionally, Maes, who made these comments during a campaign rally and also to the Denver Post, worries about Denver's membership in the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI). The ICLEI, which is an international association of local governments dedicated to sustainable development, has over 600 US communities as members.

Maes, however, says he is not being fooled — “At first, I thought, ‘Gosh, public transportation, what’s wrong with that, and what’s wrong with people parking their cars and riding their bikes? And what’s wrong with incentives for green cars?’ But if you do your homework and research, you realize ICLEI is part of a greater strategy to rein in American cities under a United Nations treaty,” adding "some would argue this document that mayors have signed is contradictory to our own Constitution."

Responding to Maes' accusations that Mayor Hickenlooper is leading Denver down a path towards UN rule, a spokesman for the mayor noted that Denver’s membership in ICLEI dates back to 1992, while Mr. Hickenlooper was elected mayor in 2003'.

- Greenanswers, 4 August 2010