George Michael at Christmas

A very messy Christmas to you all.

Yes, messy. It’s not a typo. It’s the same with orgies: the invitations should read “the more the messier“, not merrier. Messy is so much more fun. After all, who wants a clean orgy, or a clean Christmas? We may long for a white Christmas, but not a clean one – and we only want a white one so we can piss in the snow. I imagine some orgies end the same way.

I like my Christmas like I like my sex: we don’t have to get up too early in the morning, but as soon as we do let’s get on with the action: tear off the wrapping fast, get as messy as possible, laugh, shout, play with all the toys, and make sure the neighbours have reason to complain.

I probably won’t get that type of Christmas this year, because I’m suffering from Empty Nest Syndrome – and I don’t even have kids! I was hoping to spend Christmas drunkenly practicing the baby-making procedure in every room in my flat. Not too drunkenly, obviously. There’s a perfect amount of alcohol for sex: it should make you able to ignore the carpet burns for long enough to get the job done, but should not make Mr Happy become Mr Floppy. And it should definitely not make anybody accidentally sick into my mouth because they went on top.

That’s the amount of alcohol I had planned to consume – just the right amount to make everyone involved forget how they got those bruises the next day, but not enough to require a trip to hospital. And the moment I reached that perfect level of blood-alcohol, I was going to rip off my girlfriend’s knickers (because they’re really cutting into my hips) and make the beast with two backs.

Or at least the beast with one back and a front that’s bent over the kitchen table with a wooden spoon gritted between her teeth.

But it’s not going to happen because of somebody else’s empty nest syndrome, namely my wobbly old widow of a mother, who has inveigled her way into my flat for three days this Christmas, turning it from a sex den into a …. den. And I’m 42. What do I want with a den?

Actually, I very nearly made a den in the living room last week. The lady in my life has recently been pretty lifeless, and rather unladylike too. She’s had a cold, leading to a small tsunami of snot, a great deal of frustrated swearing, and some justifiable moping. And that’s just from me, cos I’ve had the horn and she’s been very much Out Of Bounds. The only way to make her feel her usual perky self has been to build a den out of the box my drums came in, or to put on a Harry Potter movie.

I did think about making a den, but the result would have been sitting in a small, warm box in my living room next to a plague carrier, waiting for her nose to explode all over me and make me sick during Christmas. So she can fuck off with her den: we’re watching Harry Potter.

I quite like Harry Potter. I’m far too old for it, but it served the same formative function in her adolescence that The Lord of the Rings and masturbation served in mine. You never get over that stuff, and to this day a quick wank over the mental image of Arwen and Galadriel lezzing up is enough to make me feel like a contented 12-year-old again. So although Harry Potter will never mean as much to me as it does to my girlfriend, I’m perfectly OK watching the last 6 movies. The first two… not so much. It says much that they’re amongst the worse things John Cleese has been in recently, and he was in the Liberal Democrats.

I even went with my girlfriend to the Harry Potter Studio Tour, which was jolly good fun and rather exciting for a movie buff like me. I wandered around it, amazed by two things:

  1. The level of craftsmanship and imagination involved in making a movie like that (I’d argue the design imagination is at least the equal of JK herself)
  2. Rupert Grint

The mere fact of Grint still amazes me. If he wasn’t famous and I told you I knew a ginger boy called Rupert Grint, you’d say “oh, the poor sod”. It’s like me telling you that the manager of my local MFI store was called Finlay Gentleman (he is – I saw it on a receipt once). You’d wince and laugh, and then wonder why his parents hated him so much. Grint’s name alone is enough to make him extraordinary and dismal. He’s the only person in the movies who has a real name more outlandish than his character.

But beyond his name there’s his face, and his hair, and his voice, and his… there’s no other word for it than this… his talent. You can determine the level of Grint’s talent by measuring it against what his two child-star friends have achieved.

Daniel Radcliffe has appeared naked in a challenging play on the London stage. He’s been rather good in a rather successful horror movie. He made a pretty good fist of being on QI, and has sung a complicated Tom Lehrer song about chemicals on live television. And he achieved all of this in spite of looking like a man who is learning facial expressions from a book. Have you seen him smile? I imagine that’s what Gordon Brown looked like before somebody released the bulldog clip that kept his face tight.

Gordon Brown, aged 19
Gordon Brown, aged 19

Gordon Brown
Daniel Radcliffe, aged 106

Emma Watson went to a top American university where she managed to avoid being killed by an American for 3 years, something few people can do. She then returned to the screen in a moderately good adaptation of The Perks of Being a Wallflower, in which she attempted a bold strategy for of shaking off her reputation for being every online pervert’s favourite teenager: she took off her sexy clothes off in a sexy dance while looking sexily at a sexy boy. And all of this despite being cursed with the vocal quality of a distressed and menstrual cookery teacher in the 1950s, and wild and irrational eyebrows that look like they’re attempting to escape her face and run amok across the moors of England.

Rupert Grint.
Milky Grint. Bad at snorting coke, or good at giving blowjobs? You tell me.

Rupert Grint, by contrast, is being paid to smile in an advert for Sky.

That’s all the Grint they want. Thank you. You can leave now.

He’s not invited to do any acting – God forbid! They just wanted to borrow his head for 3 seconds so they could use it to sell things, like a misshapen orange billboard. The Milk Marketing Board pulled the same trick a couple of years ago, leading to a spate of upchucking women as Grint-besmattered busses trundled by. To this day, the term “Milky Grint” can churn the stomach of the hardiest woman. Show your lady-friends this photo, and slowly whisper “Milky Grint” to them. I bet they shudder and make an expression. I bet they do. In fact, I’m off down to Ladbroke’s now to place that very bet.

Yet despite this, Grint’s net worth in 2012 is £24 million. You’d have to work for a thousand years to get that much money, and who has the time?

I’ll tell you who has the time: Grint has the time. After all, his diary is looking pretty empty. I suspect it always did, even during the Potter years…

Grint’s diary, from the set of “Harry Potter and the Ocelot of Disappointment”:

Tuesday: Said “Bloody hell, Harry”. Got paid £3 million. Did double maths. Hated self.

In truth, it’s a small miracle that any of them grew up to become even a moderate actor: they were between 9 and 11 years old when they began their movie careers, plucked from obscurity because they looked less gap-toothed than most of their contemporaries. Americans are, as we know, more terrified of gap-toothed people than they are of 200 million assault rifles, and the Potter movies would definitely have failed if the lead actors had standard British teeth.

But the kids had good teeth. It’s just the rest of Grint which was substandard. And when they started out they just looked like Cabbage Patch versions of themselves, which must be weird for them to look at now. You think it’s embarrassing when your mum shows your new partner photos of you aged 11? Imagine if you had a whole movie series, and every girl you ever meet thinks she knows exactly who you are, and what you can do with your “wand”. Engorgio!

In retrospect, £24 million seems like reasonable compensation for what fate has done to Grint. He can stop being Weasley, but will always be Grint. He will always be awful and look like he knows it.

Mind you, for the first few movies none of them looked comfortable in their own skin. Who is, at the age of 13? Your skin is your enemy at exactly the moment you most need a friend, and fame and fortune are no protection against the ravages of youth. I watched Romeo + Juliet recently, and Leo’s face seems to be undergoing a meteor shower. I think he spent half his salary on concealer. He looks like he’s been coated in Polyfilla in a few scenes, which I’m sure pleases a lot of blokes who were negatively compared with DiCaprio in their teens. Every generation throws up a pretty boy for the girls to idolise, and all the boys hate whoever it is. Right now it’s Beiber. Before that it was DiCaprio. My own nemesis was George Micheal.

In 1986 boys my age were considered cool and attractive if they wore a cross in one ear, strutted around in white jeans and cowboy boots, displayed several days of beard growth, and had bouffant hair with blonde highlights. Hard to believe people assumed it was the dress sense of a heterosexual man, but that’s what Gorgeous George wore, and he was very definitely a heterosexual man in 1986. He said so in Smash Hits, so it must be true.

My teenaged attempts at looking like George Michael weren't very successful.
My teenaged attempts at looking like George Michael weren’t very successful.

I don’t give a fuck about being fashionable now, as anybody who knows me will definitely confirm. But I can remember how ostracised I felt back then for being unable to grow sufficient stubble or persuade my mum to let me get my ear pierced. I want to seek out Darren Gilmore, my college’s number one George Michael lookalike, show him a photo of Wham! and shout “I told you so” into his unrealistically handsome face. Except by now his face is probably like mine: gradually sliding down his skull like a slow-motion avalanche. I can’t really blame him for being fooled by Wham! I was as fooled as anybody else, I just had my ambitions stymied by my mum and some terrible NHS glasses.

More than quarter of a century later, and my mum is still pissing on my chips. My Christmas will be polite, with only moderate consumption of wine, absolutely no spanking paddles or handcuffs; and then bed before midnight on my second-best lumpy mattress.

Thank you Jesus, you absolute twat!

I thought Pentecost was bad (I received the Gift of the Holy Spirit, but I don’t have the receipt, so can’t take it back and swap it for a cardigan). But Christmas is going to be a wash-out. So Jesus, I’m sorry to break the news, but your parties are always shit and I’m not coming to any more of them. I’ve given up on a rowdy Christmas, and all I can say is: roll on New Year. Because believe me, I’m definitely going to roll on someone at New Year.

Brace yourself dear.

A contented cat

Dangerous things, words. They have so many meanings.

Here’s a prime example: the word theory. You know what it means: you have a theory that Google are in cahoots with your other half, because no matter how often you clear your browser history, they always seem to spot the porn you were looking at. There’s no proof about Google, it’s just a guess at an explanation. It’s not a fact. It’s a theory.

But you’re wrong. Theory doesn’t mean that at all. It means (and I quote):

a coherent group of tested general propositions, commonly regarded as correct

So essentially, theory means a set of demonstrable facts. Google are innocent, you’re just inept at hiding your masturbatory habits.

(This is why I hate the gormless, flat-headed argument against the Theory of Evolution – that it’s “only a theory”. Gravity is “only a theory” too, so go jump off a cliff and see if you can pray your way into a soft landing.)

Words are dangerous because their meaning is slippery. They change, sometimes doing 180° turns.  When George Galloway won his recent election I watched in horror as his vast, unwieldy ego rampaged around the news like Godzilla on a charm offensive (more offensive than charm, I think). And then I realised I was wrong: George doesn’t have a big ego at all. The common meaning of “ego” is the polar opposite of what Freud defined as:

the part of the mind that… is responsible for reality and a sense of self

So let me be the first person in recorded history to say George Galloway has a tiny, tiny ego. He has absolutely no sense of reality.

But his powerful sense of self is still a problem. It’s a problem for all politicians, because most of them make laws based purely on personal considerations. Most of them have too narrow a personal experience to know the effect their idiotic decisions have on the rest of us. So they legislate in ways which only improve their own reality.

If they were bright, they would be able to abstract. This is a really good definition of intelligence: the ability to create abstract laws from real-world examples. Real world is “I found an apple under a tree”. Abstract is “apples grow on trees”.

Politicians need to be better at using personal experience to construct abstract rules which apply to us all. But they’re not bright people, really: they’re just fluent and good at maneuvering themselves into powerful positions.

You see, I like abstracts. I think they’re important. And that’s why I rarely mention anything about my private life. It’s too specific.

Q: What do you learn when I mention specific stuff about my sex life?
A: You learn about my sex life.

Q: How does that apply to you?
A: It doesn’t!

So when I do mention my private life, it’s just as a litany of failure for you to laugh at. Nobody wants to read about success. People succeeding makes for very poor comedy, and I like to make people laugh. So I’ll very quickly and quietly mention this…

I’ve met someone. I’m as surprised as you are. She’s very nice.

And that’s all you get.

But even if she was awful, and the whole experience had been a hysterical farce which could only lead to a classic comedy blog, I would still keep my mouth shut. I’ve made mistakes in the past, by mentioning things which I thought were sufficiently abstract, but which appeared to be recognisable. I can’t take it back. I wish I could, because it turns out it was hurtful. It’s never intended that way.

I’m really uncomfortable with blogs which tell all about dating, at least in specific ways. Drawing general conclusions is fine. Having 3 bad dates, identifying the common factors, and establishing rules and guides for avoiding it again – all fine. But telling the world about Date number 2’s terrible teeth – I just don’t know what anybody gains from that. Date number 2 feels awful. You gain no friends. Your readers learn nothing. It’s a hat-trick of own-goals.

And that’s why I may be very bad at a “relationship” blog. I hate to discuss others specifically, and when I try to be abstract it seems I fail – my abstractions are still too personal. Maybe this is why I’m not a politician: I’m no better than Galloway! But at least when I spend my time crawling around purring like a contented cat, I don’t do it in public.

Am I a sociopath?

In an earlier post about my strangely numb reaction to cancer, I jokingly suggested I might be sociopathic.

It’s been pointed out to more than once: I often seem to have a very low level of emotion. I just appear to breeze along, making crap jokes and singing little songs to myself. But when the shit hits the fan… I make crap jokes and sing little songs. I even do it when coping with tough times, illness, personal crises, arguments and fallings-out.

So. Am I a sociopath? Am I really utterly unfeeling? Is it weird that I’m not even having an emotional reaction to the accusation, I’m just pondering it and writing a blog? Probably!

Maybe I’m broken inside.

But I don’t think so.

It’s tricky to discuss because of the age-old “platform problem”. There’s a great discussion on this subject in the life-changing Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. It’s about how some people respond to surface (Robert Persig, the author, calls these people “Romantics”) and others think more about what’s going on underneath (he calls these “Classics”).

To a Classic person, a Romantic is flimsy, lightweight, shallow, obsessed with packaging and surface and gossip, and unable to do proper assessments of the important stuff in life.

To a Romantic, a Classic is cold, callous, obsessed with nerdy things, unfeeling, uncommunicative, and doesn’t have any appreciation of art or beauty or loveliness.

Both sets of people are equally wrong and equally right. But in order to talk about it you have to stand on one of the two platforms: Classic or Romantic. And just by standing on a platform you immediately offend the other set of people.

The problem is exacerbated because on the one hand we have Classic people, who are unlikely to get offended (or even see the point of being offended) by the words used to describe them. They’ll hear them and analyse them, but won’t feel any offence.

But on the other side are Romantics, who are more likely to take offence, even if the words used are no more offensive than the ones they use to describe Classics. It’s entirely normal to be a Romantic, and to have a strong experience of the surface meaning of the word. A Classic hears “calculating and emotionless” and writes a blog discussing it, with references to source materials. A Romantic hears “hysterical and over-emotional” and gets hysterical and over-emotional.

See? Even when I try to avoid the platform problem, I still use terms which are bound to offend some people. Totally unintentional. But try talking about this stuff without using those terms!

Thinking about this made me look back on moments when I really should feel something. If I felt something, then I’m not a sociopath; I’m one of Robert Persig’s “Classics”.

My dad died. I should feel that, right? The hospital had phoned to tell us we should hurry to his side. I knew that probably meant he was already dead. That’s how they do it; they don’t tell you over the phone, they get you to come to the ward urgently.

I picked up my mum and took her with me. When I got there my brother had already arrived, and was crying. I didn’t cry. A day or so later, when I was sorting out clothes for him to be buried in, I bawled my eyes out.

Does this make me a sociopath? Or does it just mean I (entirely subconsciously) recognised that everyone in the room needed someone to do the tough stuff, and so I boxed my emotions up until the pressure was off? I think the latter.

I can think of other instances:

My disappointment at losing a job, which I had to control because I needed to act fast to secure another.

My anger at being mugged, which I had to control so I could focus on defending myself against 3 attackers.

My genuine fear in the middle of the night about a week before my cancer operation, when I had lain awake for hours listening to Alzheimer’s patients singing at 4am, and considering how debilitating chemo might be. Not death: that seems easy. But a tough life, that’s really hard to face.

Did I feel these things? Damn right. But it’s part of who I am to be in control of emotions, not – and this is the platform problem again – not a victim of my emotions. Not overwhelmed by them.

It’s not a trick or a strength. It’s not a boast, any more than you can boast about being tall or having big feet. You don’t wake up every morning and practice being 6’5″, it’s just who you are. And my controlled emotions are who I am.

And if that hurts people around me, then I feel genuine sorrow, but you’d never know it to look at me.