The Evolution of the Stick and Why it Matters to Me

Once I was afraid – I was petrified.

So I armed myself and although the fear is still painfully real – at least I can express it with a bang so loud you can smell it.

Baseball bats.

“Baseball bats” is undoubtedly my favourite quote for a South African to say.

And that’s not the end of my opinion of baseball bats (oh brother – brace yourself).

You see, for a long time, as I mentioned earlier, I have had a distinct fear in my life of being eaten.

For me, the food chain is still very real and skin-splittingly apparent, though I may adjust to this fear better than other owing to being a cannibal.

Of course, I’m not about to eat someone any minute these days…but…should the bombs begin to drop and the lights start to flicker and the SPAM not make it to the shelves I rely on so heavily to find grub upon – you’re a gonna and I’m starting with your toes because even in times like these I still believe in the entrée.

Perhaps a tad off course from my original intent of direction, but I am glad to be rid of the burden of secret cannibalism and the fact that I’d start with your feet.

In a daring return to my original path, I may as well incorporate my cannibalism into my love of the great stick known as the baseball bat.

So, with anarchy rising out the window, and the window being full of other predators attempting to get in and chew (us)…I see two options.

  1. Lift my baseball bat from its snug bedding beneath the bed and wrap it thoroughly about the skulls, brains and all other neck-up interior sundry of the invading bears/lions/wolves whilst allowing you a fair few minutes to make the best use of either my turned back or the door.
  2. Retrieve the baseball bat from its nether-bed slumber and go about tenderising you in the hope of a satisfying last meal for a least something if not me. As for the intruding beasts of slaughter; close the window and ignore them viciously.

From the two options there you may have taken note of the reality inflicted upon both scenarios; the present presence of a baseball bat.

The baseball bat – the evolved stick that grew a handle and a capacity to devastate the nearby environment as best we can with either a pleasant or beastly temper…and thumbs.

Our thumbs have been utilised most completely, I feel, in their ability to grip a stick close to heart (of us), near to brain (of dinner) and right into the middle of something curious we’ve happened upon and are now righteously prodding as only our species knows how.

I have intentions, sweet friends, of bringing about a return of the walking stick known best as the staff.

Find a fault in the plan for me. Please.

Naturally, make them discardable, in that when the primal urge to inflict our thumbs into a scenario currently happening to us (or ‘us’ happening to a scenario) we may abandon our weighty-wood and proceed either high-tree bound or deep sea swam.

They would be tremendous as an additional weight to increase applicable strength in the arms, core, back and legs. This is therefore a health benefit although naturally it will somehow be a carcinogenic of some variety…because it’s a thing…and things give you cancer.

It would be decorative and can be added to by the owner of by trusted buddies of whom you are pleased to see them whittling your possessions – rarely do you receive this opportunity so embrace with all the hands you have.

A near-lost martial art of stick/staff fighting would return to the lonely fields of dueldom, wherein battles would largely end owing to bashed knuckles being a jolly-good cause for sportingly abandoning the day and instead seeking an alliance with your newly-made knuckle-basher pal.

You could pole-vault to meetings.

When you’d need a stick, you’d have one and this is likely the greatest reason for the invention yet. Having what you need; epitome of success of comfort.

And finally – I can get my chiselling-graffiti business on the up and up and further; bringing about a polite amount of affluence and thereby bring about…a brand new, super cool baseball bat.

And I’d even let you have a go on it.

I feel we’ve travelled far from the stick being a thing merely held, to the item of primal delight I now see it as, following a sincere and loving revert to our more ape-ish ways.

Now we have a grip around one end and I enjoy smashing the shit out of fresh fruit with it.

I believe I am doing things precisely as I should be, with a comforting baseball bat in hand and a grin held firmly between my nose and chin.

As for the true evolution; it is thus.

Once we prodded with sticks, and now we do it again.

Wonderful.

Sam.


The Meaning of Rik Mayall (These Days and Previously)

Do you have any idea what it’s like to have one of your heroes die on your birthday?

The effect is as follows: you realise ‘it’ – death – is going to happen again, particularly to you.

Rik was one of those aspects of my life that mattered, with direct influence in abundance and a great deal more depth to me than, say, the life of the Queen of England.

There is very little about me that is due to Her Majesty, whereas His-Much-More-Majestic King Rik made me the sort of individual that would write a sentence like this. Although Rik himself wouldn’t write it, he’d dictate it since he’s so gwreeaat.

My involvement with the man was about as meaningful as it is for the rest of us, although there is a difference between the old crowd and the new.

Rik Mayall was not introduced mid-way for me, nor was he something I happily happened upon in my adolescence. Rik was always there.

My brother, doing much as older brothers do (in between punches and acne) gave me the audio cassettes of Bottom’s Hooligan’s Island, as well as various other radio comedies (I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue and Just A Minute), and of course, Blackadder.

When I was a child, from about the age of 6, I was and am still unable to sleep unless there is some audio distraction to comfort me. For some reason I was born with a rather cruel ability to see the worst and to dwell on it in my quieter moments. In short, I’d think of death and the effect of that on my family and self.

Horrid and inconceivable, I would dwell till literal bursting and, as my mother puts it: “You just wouldn’t stop running. We’d just find you running around at 1am and we had to catch you to put you to bed.”

So, distractions were inserted vigorously into my ears and, following the charity of my brother, Rik Mayall arrived.

I can remember trying to swear by the time I was 9. I sought maturity and toughness and understood that cursing would signify this to those around me. I recall rehearsing the term: “Shit”, and once being very proud that I used it when I cut my hand. The occasion seemed honestly auspicious to me.

Indeed, I am much surprised that I didn’t pick up on the merrily thrown about ‘Cunt’ as Hooligan’s Island let loose with such compassion. In honesty, I had no conscious idea of the word until the time of my leaving high school, when in all actuality I had it nightly screamed into my ears by Adrian Edmondson (alternatively known as Edward Elizabeth Hitler).

Then, watching Bottom, Blackadder and the Young Ones as an 11 year old- I felt something astonishing: comedy that had always been there was now becoming steadily amusing, even hilarious, and by the time that we are now in, I listen, read and watch the comedy of my childhood with glee and admiration for the work that it was.

We truly are a lucky bunch with our comedy scene from the 80’s and 90’s.

The comedic body of work from the Oxbridge crowd to the alternative Ben Elton and the Comic Strip Presents, followed by all after, is a fortuitous privilege that I really haven’t earned. We have no right to the comic brilliance this nation has spawned, not that I’ll be giving it up at any point.

Of course, looking into the 80’s and 90’s comedy led me to the 60’s and 70’s by which I met Beyond the Fringe, Not Only But Also, The Goon Show, Monty Python and Billy Connolly.

With all these, as well as with arrivals from the states of South Park, the Simpsons and their stand-up greats, I was spoilt and happy.

Though for all these, from the literal genius of Peter Cook to the gasp-worthy edge of South Park, there was still that special connection to Rik Mayall that was never displaced nor over-shadowed by the prominence of any other.

For myself, and an enormous number of other Rik Mayall fans, there is something that Rik Mayall did that resonates with us. And it’s really hard to identify, but I think I have it.

Rik Mayall, aside from the comic and intellectual gifts, aside from the attitude of anarchic gusto (“Take that Thatcher!”), there was an expression of personality that us others feel also.

Rik, I believe, had an inner-wanker, and how lucky he was to have it.

Not to say that Rik was a wanker at all, but rather, he knew what was wanky about himself, and what was wanky about other people. And he nailed it.

From the superb (and personal favourite of mine) journey to the BBC in the Young Ones’ episode of ‘Bambi’, to the expression on his face as he acted a wank…all this was inspirational and extremely familiar. The astonishing ability for such a good looking guy to transform himself to the definition of ‘ugly bastard’ with a manic glee is something myself and others see within themselves and, although it’s bloody odd, are glad to find Rik there being them, for them.

A wanker on our behalf; as it were.

It was always a privilege, and for those around him the end of his life must have been an emotional and heart-breaking smack of reality such as I have now come to appreciate, though I do not doubt I could miss him as much as his loved-ones do.

The People’s Poet really should have a shrine where all the kids could come and read his poems and light candles – where the grown-up stiffs could wonder why all the kids were crying, to which they would reply: “He’s dead! The People’s Poet is dead!”. What a wanky idea. What a funny suggestion. I’d attend most thoroughly.

“And then one particularly sensitive and articulate teenage would say”: well. You know. The regular usualness.

At least we have his tapes.

Or, rather much more so: at least we had him.

And indeed, at least we have our own chance.

As Rik has shown us; you are going to die, so get all the frenetic energy from inside to out, and avoid quad bikes. Actually, fuck that, approach them: approach quad bikes.

Because you’re going to die. So live beforehand, you wank biscuits.

You swots – swotting away for teacher – like a girl.

Leave the room and enter something, preferably someone.

Thanks Rik. You’ve certainly left a mark on Earth, and it’s terribly sad that no longer can we leave the punch in this sentence to you.

I guess we’ll have to leave that to the kids.

Gwreeaat.

Sam


How To Watch The Simpsons…These Days

The Simpsons.

You might have heard of it?

The Simpsons is regarded by many to be the premier of comedic writing- the kind that could mix intelligence and silliness, darkness and hope, satire and sheer comic hilarity; all in beautiful yellow.

However, The Simpsons is alright becoming a name synonymous with a subject being past its prime and absurdly so.

Unfortunately for The Simpsons, this prime was supreme and the fall was slow, with an impact that is still yet to come and is longed for by fans the world-over.

There are a variety of reasons by which this decline in writing quality came about.

Wackiness. Wackiness kills me.

In The Simpsons of late, the wackiness goes on too long and is rather, in all actuality, rude. To keep a single joke going for the best part of a minute is for the writing to insist upon itself, as well as insisting on viewer either encountering humour or uncomfortableness. It is as though the writers are aggressive in their stance on this- you will either laugh or you have to wait for this private joke of theirs to end.

There is also a trend of breaking the 4th wall for humour’s sake. This occurs too often with sadly no humorous payoff and tends to be facilitated by the modern show’s biggest failing- the grating change of beloved characters so as to drive a change of the show’s current direction; wackiness.

Here’s the awfulness of the situation for me: Bart and Lisa saying, feeling and doing things that children simply wouldn’t do.

It sucks, and that’s a cheap criticism from me, but that’s because it sucks.

I do have a suggestion for all those involved in both watching and writing The Simpsons.

I’ll start with the writers and it’s likely that they’re suffering the most out of this ordeal.

I truly feel that the current writers of The Simpsons are a talented bunch, particularly with the modern style of writing (a focus on randomness and cheekiness) and the fact that writing an episode of anything is no simple task. Not only that but also they have been hired by The Simpsons to write The Simpsons- a compliment comedy writers dream of.

Therein lies the problem. Writing for The Simpsons is such an enormous goal achieved that it must seem impossible to walk away- to the same degree that executives at Fox would find it impossible to abandon such a money-maker.

Who wouldn’t want to write for The Simpsons’? It is perhaps the greatest television show of all time and is certainly a towering pinnacle of quality writing up to series 9- what writer wouldn’t expect great things to follow once they are part of The Simpsons’ writing staff? You’d be working for your heroes. Only, your heroes are now long gone and you are bewilderingly trying to improve and modernise the Mona Lisa.

I understand that modernisation is necessary to keeping something fresh and enjoyable, and perhaps The Simpsons could have used well such a reboot, but in this case the process of modernisation has clearly floundered and failed. Not to mention that the show did encounter a reboot in so far as writing and style went; it was this reboot that made it of the quality that it was.

However, for The Simpsons to thrive in regard by critics (you and I)- it must die and be only remembered as far as the quality went.

The writer’s attempts at humour and plot need their own show with different characters, instead of taking a show and characters in which people are lovingly invested and forcing changes in their direction and charm.

It is unpleasant to take these established characters and alter them for the purposes of their own plots, at least in as far as the quality of the show went. It was great for the show to change Homer over time and to portray him a little more dopey and tad more nutty, but this personality change only exaggerated the point that he was kind, loving, and adorably incompetent at all else. Recently, the changes of character have been to engage plot-loops, rather than the audience.

Other than that, the humour sadly is sub-par and that is the final fault- regardless of The Simpsons’ format being used and abused. I have no advice for this- just move on with your writing career and practise…maybe read some books.

Ultimately though, the writers are selling themselves short by writing for The Simpsons. They are never going to match the class and innovation of humour- all intelligent, silly and touching, that The Simpsons writers up to series 9 were producing, using a much later and soiled product. We have here some young writers, attempting their own modern humour and innovation of plot, who are being consistently shot-down by every critic owing largely to them working on The Simpsons’ format.

Certainly The Simpsons’ should have died over a decade ago- likely with a finale viewed by the most of the world in possession of a television, but as much as that affords you in artistic merit (e.g. Breaking Bad), it doesn’t bring in the assured pennies. The Simpsons- a most regrettable Cash-Cow.

I feel a great deal sorry for the current Simpsons writers- I’m sure they’re trying to maintain quality and loved the show as much as we all did. But it’s not often I recommend someone to flee but I do so now to The Simpsons’ writers with a hope that they can bugger off and succeed with their own product. I’d look forward to watching it.

My advice to those that miss The Simpsons’ for what it was is as follows: watch up to series 9 only, and the never, EVER, watch even one single episode of the latest seasons. To not watch it to remove their audience, and with no audience there is no money and without the money that The Simpsons’ perpetually assured simply via name: The Simpsons’ shall finally die and belong only to its past and lovers- you and me.

The Simpsons’ from series 1-8 is a pedigree of what people like me want to do to you: make you laugh, make you admire, listen and feel touched by characters and plots that can honestly alter one’s perception of oneself and how we seek to continue. Mostly laugh.

What we must not forget that for as long as The Simpsons’ was distressing us past-quality, it was still bloody good for an awfully long time- 8 years. For 8 years it was what it was and we should not only be grateful for the good times, but also bask in them.

Still; always a fan.

Sam


The Christmas Day Truce is OURS and the Sainsbury’s Forgery

This November of 2014, in the usual early run-up to the Christmas advertising frenzy (and I do mean ‘frenzy’- this term referring to the rushed absurdity prevalent in promoting the push), there have been the regular additions to the regrettable art form.

These have included the rather sublime idea of inserting a penguin into the scheme of things- meaning that sheer adorability is prevailing as it should not (when the panda’s gone- you really won’t care compared to the loss of your hair, or democracy). Thank you John Lewis.

Another has been the suggestion of ‘Christmas Dinner Tables Across The Nation’- with a cleverly-cut panning shot along several dinner tables- suggesting that Christmas is a time to be around the dinner table eating ‘our’ products with the people you care about, and that if you’re not– then something’s very wrong with you as you’re not part of our advert. Thank you Aldi.

Then Sainsbury’s did something for which I hate them.

And let’s not confuse ourselves with some minor definition, as though I find their actions really rather awkward for me to watch, possibly even to the point of annoyance.

I refer to hate of the romantic kind. I now detest the supermarket brand with a power inconceivable to those persons without any serious genital damage. After another fashion- I hate Sainsbury’s as though they sort to make profit from tales of the actions of my terribly-late ancestors.

The Christmas Day Truce- 1914

On the 24th of December, 1914, a century ago this year, there was a tragically temporary and soul-shakingly inspiring truce between the war-devastated men of Germany, France and Britain for several hours.

The Christmas Day Truce, as it came to be known, began as the realisation of the time of year dawned upon the entrenched soldiers in some field in northern France.

Hearing the German troops singing, the soldiers of all sides came to know that though different words were being sung in strange accents, they were in fact being sung to a comfortingly familiar tune.

There was a great deal of carolling across No Man’s Land on this day.

Time passed, and eventually a German soldier clambered from his hole in the ground, to stand tall as though as natural a thing as breathing-in deeply on a beautiful day, and began calling to the opposing side.

Startling courage, and utterly heart-breaking, when considering the likelihood of murder in the process.

The French and British slowly climbed from their own hellish holes, to stand as men in greeting a friendly neighbour they’d been sharing the same few square meters of land with for the past many weeks.

What followed was a mass evacuation of all trenches, as the soldiers walked through No Man’s Land, to meet their brethren on Christmas Day. The beginning few minutes of awkward niceties gave way to utter unity between all men there, with football being played (score unknown to us and probably debated by those in the know), barbers attending to all customers- no matter the language of their home, and exchanges of gifts, laughter and honest thoughts of the war that each nation’s generals would have ordered execution upon those “stirring up trouble”.

It was fear of this latter aspect of the day, as well as a grotesque concern that the men would not fit back to fighting well following such jovial meetings as football and spirits in No Man’s Land.

Therefore, as the light began to fail, troops from both sides were ordered to return to their trenches; the Truce was over.

Soon after, those troops involved in the Truce were replaced with battle-ready troops fiercely instilled hatred for their opposing nation’s mankind.

The war continued. Several years, and several million deaths down the cold and lonely road, the war came to an end.

The Truce of Christmas Day in 1914, however, was not forgotten.

It was remembered, as it is to this day, as a shining definition of humanity.

The men on that day made a choice, in the midst of horror, chaos and the ugly-probability that your most proximate friend would suddenly explode, to disobey orders and to lay down their arms, shake hands, exchange pleasantries and play football.

Haircuts and fears of not returning home. Madness of war was put aside by some outstandingly courageous men, so as to demonstrate unity as a species.

Note also that this was no event of Christianity ‘poking’ through the fog. This was humanity arching over No Man’s Land, certainly singing Christian hymns, but uniting over circumstance and shared traditions of their homes and their current circumstance across the continent.

They united in hope against our thus-far perpetual insanity of leaders in war, and that is not forgotten.

And this…THIS…is where Sainsbury’s needs to fuck off and read a book.

The Sainsbury’s Foul Forgery

The Sainsbury’s Christmas advert shows handsome, clean and apparently un-embattled men missing their loved ones at home, whilst they sit in a fairly well-kept trench.

One of them opens a care package from home to find a photograph of his best girl back home, and a fucking huge bar of SAINSBURY’s chocolate.

He smiles this tedious little Mona Lisa smile to demonstrate that he’s handsome and just like you…you cute little consumer you.

The hymns are then sung, followed by a BRITISH troop emerging from the trench first, to wish a Merry Christmas to the Germans.

Note, just fucking-well note, that in the Sainsbury’s forgery it is a British soldier to emerge first from the trench. This is historically inaccurate, but having a German being brave and leading the noble way probably wouldn’t have sold so well.

Nor would having the French present either, as no French are apparent throughout.

I feel that either Sainsbury’s doesn’t do business in Germany and France, or that this advert simply won’t be aired there.

From here on the handshaking is shown, the barber giving shaves is displayed, as is the famous game of football.

The day, as in history, comes to an end, and the two sides go back to their holes in in the ground.

A German soldier climbs back down his trench ladder and places his hands in his pocket. In there he finds a fucking huge bar of SAINSBURY’s chocolate.

Then something appears on the screen.

It is a logo.

It is a brand logo.

It says…SAINSBURY’S. #Christmasisforsharing

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………Eeew.

EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEWWWWWWWWWWWWWW.

The revulsion was hard to fight through as I made efforts to vocalise my anger.

Branding The Christmas Truce by Sainsbury’s

In this advertisement Sainsbury’s have taken an astonishing example of humanity in history, in which men laid down their arms to shake hands, have haircuts and play football in the midst of the horror and chaos of war, and Sainsbury’s have smeared their logo over it- claiming this historical event for their own and inserting their own definition of the event over the top.

The meaning of the Christmas Day Truce, in the eyes of Sainsbury’s is: “Buy our shit. We’ve just played a touching piece of historically inaccurate footage prior to our brand name…so buy our shit.

Taking a truly inspiring historical event and smashing their brand name into it is the worst advertising I can think of. Those men that laid down arms to shake hands and play football that day, to later live or die, have been USED by Sainsbury’s to sell turkeys.

Can you think of a time when a company has perpetrated a lowlier act?

This is typical Association Advertising- the motion of airing a piece of footage, often totally un-relatable to the company paying for it, and then ramming a brand/product name on the end of it in the hope that the viewer will remember the name whilst enjoying the emotion instigated by the footage.

This is weak, uncreative, and in this case- thievery.

The Charity Effect- The Buying Of A License To Sell

There are those in favour of the advert.

There are those that feel that since Sainsbury’s are donating a portion of their Christmas profits to a charity dedicated to serving those suffering from the effects of war, that this is all therefore tolerable and decent.

The monetary amount donated to charity is not comparable to the amount of money Sainsbury’s will be making this Christmas.

The effect of the money donated is that Sainsbury’s have bought a licence to brand the historic event with their own name and to play with the facts and the heart of the tale in favour of selling their own Christmas products.

Sainsbury’s here are flogging the cuteness of the humanity out of the Truce so as to flog products. Flogging to flog, as it were.

If Sainsbury’s were donating money purely for the sake of commemorating the Truce and donating money to charity, then they wouldn’t put their brand name on it.

A beautiful event in history has been stolen to sell Christmas products.

It is in no way respecting the event- it’s about nothing but profit- otherwise they WOULD NOT HAVE DONE IT.

Sainsbury’s wouldn’t hashtag #christmasissharing, they wouldn’t put their name in the commercial and they wouldn’t alter historical facts for any reason other than to use the event for profit.

“The Christmas Day Truce- brought to you by Sainsbury’s two for one Christmas Crackers and Party Food.” Eeeew.

This is nothing but the most cheap and lowly thievery of an inspirational event that belonged to all of us…and still does.

From Here Onward

Now, I am extremely hurt by Sainsbury’s- but that is irrelevant.

I do not want that advert banned, nor do I wish to receive an apology from Sainsbury’s supermarkets.

However, I do feel that due is an apology to those simple men whose actions prior to their deaths have inspired people around the world for 100 years, and whose deaths Sainsbury’s have used to encourage greed and profit.

I will no longer enter a Sainsbury’s as I can Taste the Difference in morals here and there is a distinct muddiness that goes even deeper than that on the boots of the boys in their holes.

All that is left is to remember that the Christmas Day Truce is ours- being as it is a beautiful example of dignified humanity that must be taught to all. No generation must suffer to go without this essential demonstration of unity in the face of dictated madness.

And no company can claim what belongs to us all.

The Christmas Day Truce is OURS. And we will never forget it.

Sam


How to Use a Pumpkin Instead of Latin.

Some say that “these days” (urgh) teenagers are a waste of life- a blotch of folk in the human tapestry- a clumsily-bred generation that do not know how to work hard and are satisfied with sitting-down as a pastime.

I can’t disagree, the only difference between myself and the elderly complainers here being that I’m not confused by new things.

In previous generations, the dead language of Latin was forced onto the young minds of school children who were to listen, repeat and bloody-well learn it if they didn’t want to receive the birch to the palm or buttocks. I feel…I’d have to choose the buttocks.

I suggest that the lack of option in having to endure this unpleasant practise of useless Latin, with no reason other than the fact that it built character, may have actually…built character. I’m not about the suggest that the benefits of Latin were the architects here, but rather the fact that no option but to proceed with the boring and inapplicable did.

Whether there is a decline in constitution over the past few decades or not, I recommend that those amongst us with the necessary true grit with which to achieve a little personal ambition…do it.

It must be easier whilst the competition is watching a dog do what it’s told. Think of it as reacting before the rest of the population was clever; their choice being not only one of lack-luster experience, but also favourable stupidity in the view of those looking to achieve.

As long as reality television exists; intelligent folk with be paid more than their dull neighbour.

I have found some personal reasons for living that I am particularly fond of. I am, however, unfortunately tragic in my outgoings owing to repeated attacks of that well-known opponent to progress (yet loving ally to sofas) known as procrastination.

Now whilst I might, should such a furry-occasion arise, be able shrug-off a tiger bite to the ready-to-shrug shoulder, it does not mean that I’m going to have the personal fortitude to keep retrieving that anti-tiger spray from my bundle as long as I can find something slightly less productive to do. Like brushing my hair. Or having a good hard think. Or watching that tiger get fascinatingly near.

Perhaps this is owing to my upbringing. I was only hit once, in a vicious attack by my father with a rolled-up copy of The Radio Times, which really did not hurt but the message was well conveyed. As it turns out, he wanted me to stop talking. The fact that he was wearing a kimono at the time made the incident doubly amusing, if only with a decade of hindsight to aid my guffaws.  My parents were and still are liberals in kimonos. They’re why I wear jumpers and they’re why I know who Desmond Morris is.

Oh…the middle-class…

I have wanted to find something to do that is hard, like the old days of hard Latin- for the sake of doing something monotonous and tough, mostly pointless, save for the strength gained from regularly doing something un-enjoyed.

So, I began to carry a pumpkin around with me. It’s fairly weighty, is a great conversation starter, can be applied to various situations (footstool, medicine ball and a humorous fake-head) and makes me stand out. And it has its restrictions; being that I have to place it done carefully before I vault whatever I seek to vault (I’m one of nature’s vaulters).

In the vein of making a difference, I think I’ve found a tactic for tackling obesity (a term I love if imagined to be happening physically. Picture those Greys on the television speaking with grandfather-clock sternness about the need to “tackle obesity” as though they have an urgent urge to knock the tubby to the ground and proceed to mount).

As a personal and, perhaps therefore, short-lived campaign to integrate my own idiosyncrasies with the sheer suggestion that I’ve had a tough-time at some point, I went about carrying a pumpkin with me whenever I went hither. And sometimes thither. Usually both.

‘Usually both’ was the point of it in entirety, as by injection some discipline into my life (via such means as a powerful wife that would offer me and my pumpkin no quarter to be left sitting, as well as colleagues at my place of work who are undoubtedly ‘wifey’ according to many pros and cons) might accomplish something a little further than my list up-till-now. Till now, the best of me had been realising that there’s no shame in scratching yourself with what you’re eating.

Two days back and forth I made the experiment last, with a somewhat weary arm and a multitude of gazes in the street, before I finally lay her down (leave me with an object for long enough and I’ll give it an appropriate gender for my ambitions) upon the 7th stair down of the flight in my house.

Then, the weekend began, and I somewhat ended. Responsibility and procrastination likely grin to one another, as one departs via the window and the other slams it behind them on entry. The pumpkin was ignored for the following two days, whilst I slept and ate- at times enjoying becoming confused. Then push-ups. Followed by more confusion. Pleasant.

The little black hole, which I had two days earlier considered something like a beauty-spot for her, had not merely ‘widened’ but… ‘gapened’, and this was sad. The pumpkin had wept.

This was saddening because by the evening of the Sunday, as I made my way downstairs to shine my shoes (I’m a good boy)- I could smell pumpkin in a way that I never had, nor had ever yearned to, before.

Fishy.

Fishy…to the point of anger.

The black-hole beauty spot, some form of puncture I was neglectfully ignorant of and likely responsible for, had leaked and streamed down her side and down, down, down the stairs of my home.

Fishy is a smell pleasant only when realising your nose finally works once again, after all these years. My nose had been operating well within its regular confines of appropriate sniffing, and so the fishy smell was both unwelcome and overly-pungent.

Of course, this was not actual fish- rather the stench of a penetrated vegetable rotting on the stairs.

As I said earlier: “Fishy to the point of anger”…and so I took it out the back of my house and taught her a damn good lesson.

With all my might, which is considerable when versus a pumpkin, I threw her (who was hurriedly returned to ‘it’) against the brick wall with a squelched thud so satisfying that I was tempted to purchase another pumpkin.

And here, sublimely, I was reminded of my childhood. A bag of shabby old golf clubs and a bushel of broad green apples.

The squelchy thud brought it all back.

My father, brother and I (and more lately my friends and lovers) have, with three-wood, baseball bat and at least 1 sword, brought a distinct lack of mercy to various fresh and rotting fruit over the past 17 years.

There is an excitement in the splash and spray of the fruit, as well as a taste to the debris which can delight or repulse you, good sportsmen or not.

The weapon becomes sticky, as do your hair, glasses and more-proximate friends. For a while, you are all flavoured. My preference is apple. Or pineapple.

Plus it spreads seeds in a natural, if irregular, way. My natural, if irregular, way.

Good exercise too, and- as again previously stated: the exhilaration is tremendous to the point of this…

You don’t want a cake.

Now then, now then, now then…here we are in a position where you are pumping your heart, your are eating a literal spray of fruit (albeit of varying freshness) and…you have the idea of burgers by far removed as a thing to eat as it has been violently usurped by being ‘a thing to do’.

So my suggestion is this:

  1. Take your cuisine-vice and then make your way to either a field or some disused location.
  2. Along with this bring a bat of some form- I recommend baseball.
  3. A music player of any kind, for this shall make it all the more jolly, though you may find yourself jolly enough.
  4. Be it pie, burger or chocolate cake, toss it high into the area, whilst your brethren stand back, and SMACK THE SHIT OUT OF IT WITH A BASEBALL BAT.
  5. Retrieve your breath. Remove remnants from your hair. Ensure your friends are coping with this well.
  6. Do it again.
  7. Enjoy the sensation of your heart in full motion and of cake, the now repugnant luxury of wasters, being far from your mind, mouth, stomach and baseball bat.

What you have there is a free tactic to override the enjoyment of eating unhealthy foods with the ludicrously good-feeling of beating it to smithereens.

With your friends and family it is a tremendous movement and celebration of not-eating-food together. You’ll think to yourself: “Damn I’m hungry, but it’s going to be so good when I go whackamamy with the chocolate pie! Gosh! Just gosh!”

And my conclusion is therefore that by the tough-time of carrying a punctured pumpkin to the point of it weeping juice upon my stairs, the vengeance distributed against a wall, and a memory recalled from a distant creative childhood…I have detailed an extraordinary exercise and weight-loss programme that is free for all.

There, is how to use a pumpkin instead of Latin.

Smooch,

Sam


Everyone’s dying…even Hamster

Famous folk have been multiplying for the past 20 years.

In a sense- everyone could be famous with the internet being such a method and audience for ourselves; talented or hilariously-otherwise.

However, the fact that the pop-culture hero has been an increased branding for an overwhelming number of people, it also means that those famous individuals of the past 20-30 years are starting to pop-their-clogs…and die.

That’s what’ll happen if you watch things as opposed doing things. Not that there’s anything wrong with listening to your favourite band or viewing a black-and-white classic, it just means that you’ll know who we’re talking about when we say a person has died. You’ll know the year of their screen debut, the theme-song of their most popular series and you’ll say again and again: “I remember him! He had that thing with the actress, you know her name, the one who had that thing with that actor. And that cult!”

These people become a part of your life; either as important cultural aspects for enjoyment or as alternative babysitters.

The twentieth century- with the arrival of great archival technology (the damned internet) we are now, all of us, far easier to remember. So long as we have a computer.

As far as we can see, our digital footprint is eternal.

So: well done us. I suppose we’ve achieved what the alchemists of immortality never could- we are forever.

Good.

If all of Peter Cook’s comedy had died with him then I would not be the man-child I am today. Shakespeare would merely have been a dead-man who lived with inky fingers and Robin Williams would simply be a man who appeared to be in quite a hurry. Rather, Robin Williams was a man who taught me to laugh at such things as death (such as by suggesting that Robin was one of those rare men suffering from too many belts).

Looking back at his stand-up, post-mortem, I know that he might not have laughed owing to the joke being a tad-shit, but he wouldn’t have minded the cause. Humour is here to be forgiven.

These days, death is not quite the disability that it used to be. Communication ‘during the grave’ (since ‘beyond’ the grave might not be as far as some presume) is a lot less spooky than we might have thought.

But what of those without a computer or a Top 10 Hit? Like a Tudor electrician- a man who didn’t have much to do and didn’t know how to do it anyway. He is not remembered (not just due to him being fictional), but neither is the ancient caveman who had no talent for murals.

I’m afraid their memory must be only that the species is currently where it is. Without them, we would not be. And that’s all. Almost seems hardly worth being a peasant really. Other than this, all the tales and experiences of their lives simply fall in the beginnings and ends of eternity. Extraordinarily private moments and lonely thoughts in forgotten actions. Or joyous- yet still alone.

I have a hamster. His name is Hamster.

He’s just the best. My little champion. I’d trust him with anything- I’m sure he’d be on my side when the teeth begin to bite all around me.

He’s dying.

We’ve even got the shoe-box ready.

My wife made a point of putting it next to his little enclosure, to which I objected. You wouldn’t start digging the hole in full view of your almost-deceased relative; it’s hardly encouraging and equates to yawning and continually peeking at your watch towards the end of an evening with colleagues. To yawn and peek at my watch in front of Hamster with subtle nods to entering the shoe-box prematurely would be of no effrontery in the slightest towards him since he only hopes that I will continue to put him on my head when in high-spirits, though I could not bear to appear rude to such a comforting friend.

However, I’m sure to bury him somewhere smelly- he enjoyed busy nostrils. Plus I’m sure the foxes would appreciate the corpse to nibble on. I’m sure they’ll enjoy his once-busy nostrils too.

Or….or….I could use him for something. Like lobbing him at an enemy. That’d be pretty insulting.

Or I could render him for fat- that’s something I’ve heard you can do with the dead.

Personally I’d like to leave my body to science. Rocket-science.

But I’ll probably just bury him. In a shoebox. Old fashioned.

The only alternative would be that he didn’t die, in which case there’s no reason that anyone should die and now we are being wishful and fictional. I don’t know about you, but personally I adore to be able to swing cats, and the thought of that right being taken from me owing to the elderly-gentleman on my right eating up my elbow room with his sheer mass and numeracy freaks me out. That’s not how swinging a cat should be. It’s should be noisy, but it should not be compact. It’s expressive for all parties; just listen to it in motion.

With too many people comes too many problems, like we’ve always had. Our social-species is programmed to be concerned over how many of us there are. I’m not sure what the perfect number would be but whenever we dip below or rise slightly above, we worry we’re going to run out of oxygen or there aren’t enough of us to overwhelm a bear.

This is the ultimate issue however- running out of oxygen because too many new or old folk are inhaling.

This is one of those situations that can be solved either by murder or sex- thankfully not as one.

My advice to you all is to stop procreating. As politely as possible- we don’t want anyone to be offended by our sudden genital removal.

Although we’re not running-out of anything yet, we no longer have too-much as we used to. Remember all that buffalo and tuna? Well, although I’m sure you could go and get yourself a buffalo and tuna sandwich, the bread is becoming the easiest part of it and this is a negative.

In all seriousness, bread is peasant food and none of us are peasants.

Fuck bread. If you don’t pull it out of the ground or pounce on it from a super-secret hiding place then I shall remain uninvolved.

If this hamster dies then I’ll have to insist that this plant keeps the ghost going.

My last plant- Claire- had a massive stroke and died. If I’d have stroked her a little less heavy-handedly, she might still be blooming and green, rather than barren and an unpleasant shade of “You-did-this-to-me-Sam’ brown.

Hamster’s starting to turn a little that colour. A colour you can smell before you can see.

The new plant is a southern beauty named Barbara. And she will survive.

It’s what Claire would have wanted.

But what else is there to do aside from to die?

The ‘meanwhile’ is all that exists between now and then, so whilst I implore you to politely cease all procreation- remember that it is for the joy of swinging a cat as fervently as one’s human nature allows.

Be sure to live prior to what is likely unending-death.

Swing the cat and rub its tummy afterwards. Permit it to nuzzle into yours if agreeable.

Dance, sing, laugh, love and ‘all that’- but remember the point of man in the enlightened definition is to die upon your own terms: following the life you chose to have led or had died fighting for.

Either die fighting or loving, for that enormous shoebox coming to claim you will give no glinting eye nor slightest smile in concern for your words and deeds. Only those remaining on the blue-green rock have a concern for your passing, aside from one more: you. You are the greatest judge of a life well or poorly spent and my recommendation is that you give less of a damn considering the end and more of a moment exploding yourself all over everything you want to do prior.

If a man can choose and enjoy his poison then he is so: a man. Have you any idea of how much your body would prefer it if you were to continue what you’re doing: sitting? Even exercise is bad for you in the singular; only when it is regular is it of decent consequence. Your body craves for lack of danger in the form of you sitting most contently and eventually procreate. Sitting till procreation would be the dictation of your genes if only those predators would stop blending in with the Savannah-sofa and doing that splendidly provocative pouncing they do.

Why is it that only bad things (predators) in nature pounce, whilst pouncing is in all appearances and phrases a good thing? There’s nothing better than a physical pounce to make an argument memorable. Pouncing was how I met my wife. All of a sudden.

The people you love are on the final call of the stage, your parents and pets share a similar fate and you are sitting there- vaguely wondering.

Cease wonder and attack with all the ferocity that our species is known for, with aim focused mightily upon the experience of living with…only one more recommendation. Tolerate no tyrants, and enjoy the weather.

Tolerate no tyrants; forgive and love all weather for… really…weather is all there is.

Pounce.

Sam


How To USE A Panic Attack

There is a current format recently taken on since the death of Robin Williams to talk about mental health. The format is that there is no weakness in mental health.

Well, evidently there is. There is no benefit to mental depression; it cannot help. And of course, this weakness is nothing to be ashamed of- in the same way that a man may suffer from fragile bones, another might be unable to see in bright light, whilst one more continually feeds coins into a machine of bright lights- unable to stop, perpetually about to win (if the winning actually matters to a gambling addict when compared to the thrill of the risk).

These are weaknesses. The point is that there must be no shame in having them.

Of course, you might not wish to admit having them, nor should you at all have to, but openness is always an aid to diagnosis and treatment. In most of the West anyway- I wouldn’t recommend it in The Badlands.

However, the weakness of a mental illness is not what I aim to focus on here.

I’m going to make clear, from what I have learnt through my own issues, that there is a strength that can be taken up through the momentous energy of a Panic Attack.

I have suffered from these things throughout my late-teens up till now and they have been a despicable hindrance to my fun and pride as a young man.

My own triggers for a Panic Attack centre on being unable to escape- in terms of a great distance to make or a social obligation. If I feel I have to do something, or that I feel as though my comfort is a great distance away, then I feel a sharp energy beginning to flow through me, leading on to the failure of despair.

Other sufferers might recognise the other typical triggers such as: having little option in what is about to happen, fast and manic activity out of their control, and what we might regard as normal stressful situations (E.g. An interview, a test, receiving a large responsibility, public speaking…etc.).

When a person feels unable to control what is happening, they will feel a dark sense of energy coursing through them as the aspect of their stress they are focusing on becomes increasingly tense until the reality of the situation goes completely out the window like lost luggage and we suddenly feel as though we are one or more of the following:

  1. Having a heart attack (which makes our hearts beat faster, which feels like a heart attack, which makes our hearts beat faster, and so on via this tortuous psychological cartwheel).
  2. About to vomit. This also causes fear in that we might vomit in view or earshot of people, which at the time seems totally unacceptable in your mind and so goes further to cause you to freak out. Essential we fear vomiting on our friends, family and work colleagues.
  3. About to faint…in front of everyone…down some stairs or into the wedding cake (again- something which causes you to feel even more stress).
  4. Something else odd. Such as your head swelling and the pressure on the brain killing you, whilst also being obvious to passers-by who will surely mutter to each other: “That guy’s head was throbbing. That’s unacceptable! If he needs medical care we’ll have to ignore him”. This seems crazy, and it is.

It seems crazy because it’s not reality. It’s as crazy as your bountifully-imaginative brain can conceive.

You are not having a heart attack.

You’re having a Panic Attack.

If you feel you’re about to vomit then go about it- you’ll feel grand afterwards and the tension will relieve itself.

Feeling faint? Lie down and attempt sleep. It will pass much like sleep does.

To begin with, your body is a sturdy thing (even if right now you’re telling yourself it’s not). It can, and always has, coped and in all honesty it would probably prefer it if you did pass out so that it can get back to being in control and sorting your innards out. As I said before, you are not having a heart attack. Rely on your body for the powerful and adorable little engine it is. Most chemicals and injuries unpleasantly introduced don’t stand a chance against a pissed off human body.

Most of what I listed above was a concern for your own physical health whilst, actually, the issue being fought is concerning how embarrassing this might seem in view of those around you- be they strangers you don’t know if you can rely on or old friends you don’t want to let down.

This is why talking about it helps- so that your friends know what’s happening and strangers might be familiar with what you’re going through.

If you’re not a fan of suffering from the Panic Attacks, my advice is to begin with the long-play strategy.

Diet and exercise.

For your diet, just eat healthy. You know exactly what I mean by that- we’ve all seen at least pictures of vegetables and fruit so go forth and acquire. However, the main part of this is to cut out that which actively deteriorates your wellbeing: caffeine and sugar, alcohol and tobacco.

These might seem to make you feel better; calmer. These things are addictive poisons only to be had when in a sound sense of mind and body. If you’re having a bad series of Panic Attacks, which can happen, then you should drink alcohol to the same degree as a patient with liver damage.

Exercising is a tremendous bit of medicine for the mind and body. Get your heart and lungs to hump each other and your skin to sweat you wet and you’ll feel the warm rush of endorphins throughout your body all the way down to your toes. Why do I mention toes? Because they’re a great distraction from a Panic Attack. Focus upon and give sensation to the toes (you’re welcome) and time will pass in your favour.

With a regular exercise routine of cardio and weight-lifting (particularly the buttocks- also very distracting to behold and get involved with and not just on other people) you will develop a much greater control of your emotions and what you do with them.

During exercise, you might feel a tad dizzy, breathless, as though your heart is jumping out the window and that body parts suddenly feel very light. That’s because this is normal. The only advice is this: remember that this is what happens to everybody during a workout and so you might as well try to enjoy it.

That brings us very nicely to the end of the long-term strategy (although a quick workout might help relieve some building tension in the short-term as well) and bring us to our immediate remedies for a Panic Attack.

Before I go into detail of the life-changing methods of ruling your world, here are some quick aids I have come by before arriving at where I am now:

  1. Remember what this is- a Panic Attack. Don’t deny it- accept it. Now we can actually deal with it.
  2. Study your reflection and remind yourself that this situation is actually fine and that it will end.
  3. A sudden sharp slap to both facial cheeks. Do it to yourself to regain self-control.
  4. Cold water applied to the hands, feet, face and (most effective of all) the back of the neck. Feels great too.

Going about the last two is a method of bringing you back to a sensible reality. As well as this, getting cold water and achieving a jolly slap will distract you from what unpleasantness you feel is happening.

Now here we are- the methods of dealing with a Panic Attack that will make your life a little better if you let them.

As it turns out, the key to your happiness is good body posture…

Sure- sitting up straight is just swell and all, but there are some other postures that we associate with some happy victory, which will win the day for us here.

First of all- smile!

Smiling is not only the result of happiness, but as you will discover by experimenting with yourself, it can be the cause of happiness too.

By smiling, our facial muscles are triggering nerves which release endorphins into our bloodstream, much as exercise does only a great deal faster.

Sit where you are now, and flash your pearly-whites for us (in other words…smile) and don’t continue to read or do anything else until you have about 60 seconds of hard, constant smiling under your belt. See you in a minute. Go.

See.

Not only are you feeling happy, but you are finding things genuinely funny. I’ll bet the first thing you laughed at was the thought of yourself sitting there with a silly smile all over your face, right?

That’s what I always laugh at first anyway.

So we have this- already a great help in treating a Panic Attack and a bringer of ‘immediate happy’. You can’t even get this in bottles it’s so good. It only comes in brains…

The next piece of treatment I learnt from watching a truly fantastic TED talk by the inspirational Amy Cuddy.

In her talk (which I’ve linked at the end of this article) she speaks of the various poses our species, and other apes, take part in when going through certain emotions.

For example, when stressed and nervous we literally try to make ourselves appear as small as possible via hunched shoulders and lowered heads (sound familiar?). This is a ‘weak’ pose.

When indulging involuntarily in moments of joy and pride (say for example: winning the race, getting the job or “SHE SAID YES!!!!”) we throw our arms up as though we were the ‘Y’ in the ‘YMCA’. Not as though you were a construction worker or a Native American of course…or even a bad boy biker. This is a ‘power’ pose.

Amy Cuddy put people through trials in which those in a ‘weak’ pose and those in a ‘power’ pose were asked to hold these positions for roughly two minutes and to then have fluid samples taken.

The results showed that those in a ‘weak’ pose had an increase in the chemical known as ‘cortisol’- essentially: ‘fluid stress’.

Those grinning volunteers in the ‘power’ pose were also tested and were revealed to have a significant decrease in their cortisol rate and a distinct increase in their testosterone levels- also known as liquid balls for the brain.

Testosterone, as you likely know, is a chemical that gives your body, brain and personality such ‘Oooomph’ that it has been regulated by sporting promotions and has even be known to do that thing that it does to teenage boys.

In smaller doses however, such as in the quantity granted by the ‘Y’ without the ‘MCA’, will bring about a sense of confidence and optimism- basically as good as you’re naturally meant to feel without enjoying the latter stages of a hefty bout of sex you can be proud of.

You feel good.

I know this not only from Amy’s marvellous talk, but from trying it for myself.

It works. You feel slowly filled with a subtle confidence and optimism that you can do as you please with.

And, once more, let’s do for ourselves some experimental self-treatment.

Stand, with your legs straight and your arms outstretched high as though forming a ‘Y’ with your body. Hold this for two minutes, and focus on something pleasing- like a Labrador or 70’s fashion.

Do this now.

See you in two minutes- I think I’ll take part too.

How social of me.

Welcome back!

As I said in my article on the feeling following skydiving… “I feel goooooooooooooooooooood”.

Now this might not feel quite the same rush as a 12,000 foot drop at 130 miles per hour. But I know I feel swell.

And so do you. You feel a little more ready to take up a challenge and to win, though losing is no loss. You feel like you got what it takes and that you could take it anywhere.

You’re in control and you feel goooooooooooooooooooood.

Amy Cuddy recommends that, when feeling the need before as stressful situation, you should spend two minutes doing this- wherever you feel most comfortable- and then reap the benefits.

My suggestion is that you do this ‘Y’, with a big old-fashioned grin, when enduring a Panic Attack.

These measures will go some distance in either helping you through it, or using that natural energy your brain sees fit to give you to do whatever you want with. Remember, you are in control and you feel goooooooooooooooooooood.

As I always say: “Mingle”.

Only now, rather than panic, use this natural energy of yours to distract yourself from the dire and inject yourself into what’s happening with a gusto that will make people either want to avoid you or try to meet you.

Talk to people and be involved in anything that is happening. Be interested in many things and you shall become what is interesting about many things.

And this is why I say that whatever psychological reason causes us to have a Panic Attack is no weakness- it is a strength. Within you there is an obvious power of energy that permits you to enjoy yourself via only a few very simple means of control…smiling and ‘Y’ing.

Smiling and ‘Y’-ing.

Great writing.

My final suggestion to you is that you no longer refer to these bouts of energy as ‘Panic Attacks’. Rather- do as I do, and know these cases now as ‘Power Attacks’.

In any case- however you choose to take my advice- be sure to talk to people and do not forget that the option to turn your ‘Panic’ into your ‘Power’ is entirely yours.

Congratulations on all that power.

Have a blast.

Smiling and ‘Y’-ing…

Sam

For Amy Cuddy’s brilliant talk, go to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RWZluriQUzE