Friday, 18 December 2009
For me, the noughties began homeless on the streets of Cardiff and ended with finding myself to be considerably older, fatter and poorer than I was at the start… but the last decade’s been quite fun really. I managed to somehow get a degree in sleeping and drinking, buy thirty cars or so, go on holiday a lot, get engaged, drive the Nürburgring, and convince my betters that it was a productive use of my time to write this shit every week. Mind you, I can’t actually remember anything else that I’ve achieved...
So, what was going on in the wider world over the last ten years?
The millennium bug turned out to be bollocks, India's billionth living person was born, Rage Against the Machine closed trading early by playing on Wall Street, Harold Shipman was convicted of choking grannies, George Dubya Bush was elected (as was Vladimir Putin), the Tate Modern opened, it was quite hard to buy petrol in the UK, France won Euro 2000 with a Golden Goal, the Mini ceased production, raiders attacked the Millennium Dome with a digger and we saw the last date (October 30th 2000) when there was no human presence in space.
A nine-foot black monolith randomly appeared in a park in Seattle, Mandelson resigned for the second time, Ariel Sharon was elected Prime Minister of Israel, a US submarine accidentally sank a Japanese fishing vessel, Bush flared up the Iraq disarmament crisis, the UK suffered a foot-and-mouth outbreak, Slobodan Miloševic was arrested for war crimes, Temba Tsheri (16) became the youngest person to climb Everest, Tony Blair’s Labour party won the general election, Jeffery Archer was jailed for perjury, bootleg liquor killed 68 people in Estonia, the world’s first successful artificial heart implant occurred, nearly 3,000 were killed in the September 11th attacks, the US invaded Afghanistan and Bush signed the highly dubious Patriot Act into law.
The Euro came into use, the Odyssey probe started mapping Mars, the Queen Mother died, a new insect order was discovered in Africa, gay Canadian teenager Marc Hall was granted a court injunction to attend high school prom with his boyfriend, East Timor regained independence, Estonia hosted the first Eurovision Song Contest in a former Soviet republic, Jacques Chirac escaped assassination at Bastille Day celebrations, floods ravaged central Europe, the president of Turkmenistan passed a law to rename all the months and most of the days of the week, Iran banned the advertising of US products and United Airlines went bankrupt.
BBC Three replaced BBC Choice, the WHO issued a global alert on SARS, 350,000 year-old human footprints were found in Italy, US forces seized control of Baghdad, the Human Genome Project was completed, the world’s tallest & fastest rollercoaster opened in Ohio, Martha Stewart was indicted, the largest ever recorded hailstone fell in Nebraska, David Kelly’s body was found (leading to the Hutton Inquiry), production of the original Volkswagen Beetle finally ceased in Mexico, the UK’s highest ever temperature was recorded (38.5° in Faversham, Kent), Birmingham’s Bullring opened, Ian Huntley & Maxine Carr were jailed and Concorde made its last commercial flight.
A whale exploded in the street in Taiwan, the CIA admitted that there was no imminent threat of WMDs before the Iraq invasion, Facebook was founded, the US lifted their travel ban against Libya, terrorist attacks devastated Madrid, the production of Oldsmobiles ceased, a news helicopter crashed in Brooklyn, Arsenal completed a whole Premiership season unbeaten, North Korea banned mobile phones, Boscastle flooded, Michael Schumacher won a record seventh F1 World Championship, construction of the Burj Dubai began, TV show Lost aired its pilot, the Millau viaduct opened and Southeast Asia suffered a massive earthquake.
Adriana Iliescu (66) became the oldest woman in the world to give birth, Ireland completed metrication, Iraq had its first free Parliamentary elections since 1958, YouTube went live, the Kyoto Protocol went into effect, Steve Fossett completed the first non-stop non-refuelled solo flight around the world, the Prevention of Terrorism Act was given Royal Assent, Pope John Paul II died, MG Rover went into receivership, Prince Charles married Camilla Parker-Bowles, Airbus A380 made its first flight, George Dubya Bush escaped assassination in Tbilisi, Live 8 happened, London suffered four near-simultaneous terrorist bombs, Lance Armstrong won the Tour de France for the seventh consecutive time, Jean Charles de Menezes was shot by police, the Provisional IRA disarmed itself, Hurricane Katrina struck the US, England won the Ashes, cartoons of Muhammad were published in Denmark, France experienced civil unrest and the first human face transplant was carried out.
The UK’s largest ever cash robbery occurred, Charles Kennedy admitted he had a drink problem and resigned, the Blu-Ray format was released, the first case of avian flu in the UK appeared, Alfa Romeos went on sale again in the US after a 13-year hiatus, Lordi won Eurovision, Italy won the World Cup, commuter trains in Mumbai were targeted by terrorists, liquids were banned from carry-on baggage on commercial flights, Natascha Kampusch escaped from Wolfgang Priklopil’s cellar, North Korea conducted its first nuclear test, Google bought YouTube, Pinochet was arrested, Saddam was executed, the PS3 and Wii were released, lots of murdered prostitutes were found in Ipswich, and the Met Office labelled 2006 ‘the warmest year since 1659’.
Apple released the iPhone, Ban Ki-moon became UN Secretary General, Shilpa Shetty was racially abused on Big Brother, avian flu was found at a Bernard Matthews facility, the Virginia Tech Massacre happened, Sarkozy won the French presidential election, the Cutty Sark caught fire, the Millennium Dome reopened as the O2, a crashed Jeep set fire to Glasgow airport, floods ravaged Britain, foot-and-mouth was found in Surrey, the Writers Guild of America went on strike and Gordon Brown became Prime Minister.
Petroleum hit $100 a barrel, Iran opened its first space centre, Northern Rock was nationalised, Fidel Castro resigned, India launched ten satellites simultaneously, Mugabe was controversially re-elected, Bill Gates stepped down as Microsoft chairman, China hosted the Summer Olympics and won 51 golds, Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy, Russia loaned Iceland €4bn, the Large Hadron Collider was switched on (and subsequently broke), the US elected its first black president and the QE2 took her last voyage.
Russia shut off Europe’s gas supplies, gunmen attacked the Sri Lankan cricket team, Woolworths closed, it snowed a lot in February, the second G-20 summit was held in London, Air France flight 447 crashed into the Atlantic, swine flu was given ‘global pandemic’ status, Comic Relief raised a record £57m, Michael Jackson died, Roman Polanski was arrested, Slumdog Millionaire won loads of awards, astronomers discovered 32 exoplanets, Harry Patch died and a goat was arrested for armed robbery in Nigeria.
…and some other stuff happened too.
So, here’s to another decade of intrigue, diversity and interest. All we need to do now is come up with a decent name for it. Tens? Teens? Tweens? Whatever. Remember – you only get to do it once, so enjoy yourselves and don’t work too hard. And, of course, a very merry Christmas to you!
Friday, 11 December 2009
The 25-year-old's disfigured remains were discovered at his parent's home in the northern Ukrainian city of Konotop, reports in the Eastern European country said.
The young man, who studied at Kiev Polytechnic Institute, was working at a computer late on Saturday when the alleged explosion happened.
"A loud pop was heard from the student's room," the ukranews.com website said, citing an aide to the city's police chief.
"When his relatives entered the room, they saw that the lower part of the young man's face had been blown off."
A forensic examination established that the chewing gum was covered with an unidentified chemical substance, thought to be some type of explosive material.
The student apparently had a bizarre habit of chewing gum after dipping it into citric acid, Russian news agency Ria Novosti said.
Officers found both citric acid packets and a similar-looking unidentified substance, believed to be some kind of explosive material, on a table near the body, the agency continued.
Investigators suspect that the student simply confused the packets and put gum covered with explosive material into his mouth.
Forensic experts were to travel from Kiev to investigate the substance, as local authorities feared it may explode if transported.Source
COPENHAGEN — Prostitutes of a Danish sex workers association will offer their services for free to delegates of the UN climate summit in Copenhagen, an association official told AFP Saturday.
Susanne Moeller said the move was meant to protest an anti-prostitution initiative undertaken by Copenhagen city hall.
The city, host of the December 7-18 UN climate summit, distributed postcards in Copenhagen's hotels that said "Be sustainable: Don't buy sex." It also sent letters to hotel managers inviting them to take measures to avoid prostitutes meeting clients in their establishments.
The prostitutes, whose work is not illegal in Denmark, promptly reacted to the move.
"All delegates who come to Copenhagen for the world climate summit will be able to use the postcards for payment after making a request on our website," Moeller, of the Danish association for the defense of sex workers, said.
"We do not expect many delegates (to make use of the offer), but we want to protest what we consider discrimination," Moeller said, adding the offer was good for the duration of the climate talks.
The Copenhagen summit aims to craft an international climate accord to replace the Kyoto protocol, which expires in 2012.
Let's see if we can get Killing in the Name to no.1 for Christmas - think about it... what could be more than festive than screaming "fuck you, I won't do what you tell me!" while your grandma gently slumbers in a comfy armchair by the fire?
Or if you just want to confuse people, try this...
His chosen theme for this week is:
Father Christmas: The unbelievable truth
Now, before you get too excited, this isn’t anything to do with the band ‘Unbelievable Truth’, featuring Thom Yorke’s little brother, who released the sublime ‘Higher Than Reason’ in 1998. I suspect what he’s after is a cutting critique of everyone’s favourite obese festive housebreaker. Fortunately for me, that’s quite an easy one.
You see, Father Christmas is tremendously lucky to enjoy such a favourable reputation. Over the years, quite a rosy picture has been painted of him and his associations with the yuletide festivities - a man who’s always happy (unless you’re a Raymond Briggs fan, obviously), working with cheery elves to make free toys for kids and personally delivering every one. What’s not to like?
First of all, he couldn’t possibly be that happy. Logically speaking, he should be a very unwell man. Have you seem the size of him? Jolly old St. Nick is a right fat knacker. His obesity will undoubtedly have led to heart disease, type-2 diabetes, osteoarthritis, high blood pressure, gout – it’s pretty unlikely he can get out of his chair unaided, let alone climb down your chimney. Living on a diet of brandy and mince pies takes its toll.
Father Christmas is not an equal opportunities employer. His workshop is staffed exclusively by elves (none of whom appear to be black, disabled or lesbian), but even worse than this, they’re slaves. They have to live with Santa – he’s given them no other option. They get food and a roof over their heads in return for spending all year hand-building toys for the children of the world. Do you know how many children there are in the world? Fucking loads.
SantaCorp is a very poor business model. Think about it – he houses an army of midgets who spend all their time building toys from materials that he provides, which are then given away for free. Combine this with the spectacular travel costs he must incur, you’ve got to wonder what his agenda actually is. Where does his funding come from? Al-Q’aeda? It’s possible, think about it.
Father Christmas is the most prolific criminal that the world has ever known. He makes detailed plans to break into every house that contains a child in the entire world on an annual basis. Literally no-one has ever committed more crimes than he. And he doesn’t just break into the houses. Oh no. He makes a bee-line for the kids. In an age when paedo-fear is rife and you can’t even become a male teacher without people wondering what you’re up to, it’s astonishing that his peculiar behaviour continues to go unchecked. This is not just a charming peccadillo – he’s after your kids. And he will break into your house.
Furthermore, while he’s on the premises he’ll be getting up to all kinds of odd things. He’s got a present for your little ‘uns, which he’ll encase in a stocking for them to discover in the morning. Imagine if your neighbours did that, you’d call the filth post-haste. He’ll also root around the place looking for booze and junk food and, perhaps worst of all, he’ll park his sleigh on your fucking roof, which is in no way designed to take that sort of weight.
He’s a workshy layabout. We’ve already discussed the human rights atrocity that is his elf-slave production line, in which he lounges in a (presumably substantially reinforced) chair eating Christmas pudding while the midgets do all the work. Yes, he does one day’s really hard work a year (if you can call breaking and entering ‘work’), but what the hell’s he up to for the rest of the time? Sod all. He’s an evil despot and nothing more.
I don’t actually agree with any of the above points, they’re just Darren Keen’s opinion.
I love you, Father Christmas. Please don’t put me on the naughty list, I still really want that 1/24-scale Fujimi flat-nose 911.
Friday, 4 December 2009
“The commercial virtues of a last-Thursday-of-the-month free bar”
Well, what do you make of that? This is one of those situations where a courageous and valiant protagonist is forced to fight a corner for a cause he doesn’t agree with, like that poor sod who’s defending John Demjanjuk in court this week. See, I don’t agree with the logic of a monthly free bar. Some of you may be surprised to hear that (it’s no secret that I’m an utter cheapskate who heartily relishes a free drink) but, to be honest, rather than frittering away hundreds of pounds on employee booze each month, I’d far rather said cash was being channelled into something more constructive, like pay rises or subsidised Christmas lunches or fixing the third floor toilets that are always fucking blocked. Nevertheless, I’m under instruction to discuss the ‘commercial virtues’ of such an endeavour so, nolle prosequi aside, let’s soldier on…
There is much to be gained from doling out free booze on the last Thursday of the month. For one thing, it’ll rekindle a sense of excitement within the more established employees for two old and respected traditions; the Leo Burnett monthly staff meeting (which would invariably lead to some sort of debauched mess in the bar afterwards), and the Arc Last Thursday Drinks (which was presumably the same sort of thing, I guess).
It really galvanises your staff – as in ‘brings them together’, rather than ‘electrochemically coats them in zinc’ – to allow them to regularly socialise with one another. It stops them hating each other so much. And the way to really grease the wheels is make sure everyone’s nice and tipsy; sure, on some occasions this may mean that someone ends up shagging someone else who turns out to be a litigious blabbermouth, threatening to sue when it gets out into the public domain, or they might be a violent nutjob who smashes the bar up and carves the name of their favourite football team into the lift mirror, but for the most part it just thickens the already rather chunky sense of camaraderie. Your work friends can become your real friends if you drink enough.
What other benefits can there be? Well, it’s sort of like announcing a house party on Facebook. The gatecrashing possibilities are endless. Being a big-ish company, there’s no way that everyone knows or recognises everyone else, so why not start your weekend early and plan a banger for Thursday night? Get all your mates down to the work bar (greet them at the gate and tell the security guard they’re here for a meeting, he won’t give a toss) and get them all nailed on free booze. This works really well, trust me.
There’s also a lot to be said for being utterly mindfuckingly rat-arsed in the office. All of the things that you dream of doing on a daily basis suddenly become an exciting reality. Always wanted to evacuate your bowels on Harry Dromey’s desk? Fancy unplugging Marc Giusti’s mouse to see if he calls IT to get it fixed? Feel like half-inching a couple of the big plants and a comfy sofa for your living room? All of these things are acceptable if you’ve had a few.
Finally, I have it on good authority that the ExCo are keen to get another charity on board. We’ve done very well in our work with Shelter, in large part due to the method acting of certain employees. Tim Harvey, for example, gave up his home and all of his possessions months ago to live on the street. That’s why he looks like that. But what Paul, Giles, Jon and, um, the other ones really want is a nice juicy disease charity... and what better way to get a disease than by drinking shitloads on a regular basis? OK, this didn’t work for the Sexual Health pitch (you’ve only got yourselves to blame, you weren’t rogering enough of your colleagues – if you’d all got crabs we’d’ve won it easy), but we can definitely bag one in the liver disease/throat cancer area if the pursestring-holders lets us have enough free booze.
So just to recap the main points… Darren wants to force Craig to make you all terminally ill so that Paul can crack jokes about your condition and Jon can draw pictures of it. I think.