Teetering over the precipice of foolishness

I'd like to begin today's sermon by talking about the comedian Stephen Carlin. For anyone who doesn't know his stuff, follow that there link to some of his stand up videos on YouTube. Now, the reason why I feel the need to talk about him is to do with peoples' opinions of him - or, more specifically, one person's opinion of him, and how I reacted to it.

If you follow the aforementioned link, you can see full well what I think of one particular individual's opinion of him and how I responded to it, firstly out of feeling the need to stick my tuppence worth's in, and also as a way of combating the manner by which the Internet is overflowing with forced, inarticulate opinions over pretty much anything. Reading the comments/reviews people have left on the Internet can be at once an entertaining and also deeply frustrating thing. Sites such as Amazon pathed the way for (partially) democratic public recommendation of everything they sell. In theory, this should be a good thing: who are you going to trust more over the quality of a movie you have yet to see? A member of the public, perhaps from basically the same demographic as you who has something they feel the need to say about the film yet who has no financial gain to be made from voicing their recommendation, or an advert for the film produced by the studio who first and foremost want your money?

As a result (and I can clarify this from personal experience), for any item on sale, there are usually one or two reviews that are articulate, objective and help to swing a decision. However, these reviews are often beset on either side by an absolute mire of brainless, misspelled and reactionary opinions, which often miss the point of whatever they're mouthing-off about. Cynical-C blog has collated a brilliant list called One-Star Reviews, which catalogues some of the most thick-skulled reviews that have been published on Amazon (I recommend a look, but you might put your fist through your screen..)

Of course, there's nothing wrong with people being allowed to voice their opinion over things - in that way, the Internet is strangely much, much more democratic than in real life. Let's face it, one of the reasons why people like to sit down and write that they "know it will be shit" about a comedian's performance is in the vain, fantastical hope that the comedian in question will find this video, and be offended by it. If, in real life, the same individual was to go up to the same comedian and say "I know you'll be shit tonight", he may well be met with hostility - and why? Because it's a hostile action. To just flippantly review or criticise something or someone as shit is not a review, it's an inarticulate attack. But to cower behind the Internet and just spout abuse like some snotty little conjecture-sniper is pathetic, and has brought out the absolute worst in too many people.

You could say it was childish for me to even reply to this person's comment, let alone lampoon it. But, something in me couldn't bare the fact that I'd been hoping to find some Stephen Carlin material on the Internet for ages, and the first time I find some, it's already been publicly dismissed by some flippant, frustrated idiot. Also, the categorical, faceted statement of their disdain for his comedy (I actually like the way this person's opinion is been broken down into declarative statement, sub clause with retrospective examples, and ending with a conclusion dependent on former appraisal) felt ripe for lampooning, and I'm just the right kind of pedant to do it. As it happens, I'd seen Stephen Carlin twice also, and my experiences happened to be the exact opposite of the first reviewer's. I had somehow concluded in my head that my review was not only a decent piss-take of the other, but that it also brought some balance to what was being said about this video.

Then the reviewer posted this response to my review: YOUR WRONGGGG

Where to begin with this?

Firstly, I know what you're thinking; I shouldn't be beginning at all. I should just be leaving it alone, and not heed to the desperate attention-seeking devices of the lonely and YouTube-browsing. But this is my blog, and if you don't like it, you can go away and gloss over your life a bit more on Facebook.

Now, what's interesting about this person's reaction is that it's clearly initially a response to my, let's say, attack of their first review - therefore, it's nothing to do with Stephen Carlin anymore. This is where anybody being allowed to have their opinion on the Internet gets a bit dicey. There is obviously venom behind their reaction (everyone knows that excessive capital letter usage means the author wants to convey themselves as heated, or just simply shouting) and they've stopped using the basic grammatical principles by which the initial review was written (i.e, there is no full stop, let alone multiple exclamation marks - a missed opportunity for extra melodramatic pique, if ever I saw it) and instead, for some strange reason, they have gone for multiple 'G's as emphasis of just how wrong I am.

Take a moment here; if there's no one in your immediate vicinity who may be potentially alarmed by what you are about to do, just try shouting YOUR WRONG-G-G-G aloud. It is.. well.. it is a bit scary, granted. But the repetition of 'G' sounds very odd, and soon diminishes the threat. If, instead, the author had written WROOOONG, that might have been closer to phonetic pronunciation of an extended and dramatic wrong (however, they possibly considered WROOONG as looking too silly on the page - which it does - and instead opted for a word which still contains an unaltered wrong, at least up until the first and only required 'G').

Another, and some might argue, churlish, point to be made is the reviewer's use of possessive 'Your' - but this doesn't require anymore attention being brought to it than is already rigidly obvious, and any further attention may simply emphasise my aforementioned pedantry to the point of making you, dear reader, begin to soon lose not only interest, but faith in direction and objective pursuit, in this latest post.

I mean, to make a point about the slow, catastrophic,deterioration of the English language due to the widespread and continual abbreviation, bastardisation and unfounded, throwaway, even bizarre etymology by uncaring, and downright lazy (there is no proof these people are uneducated) individuals on the Internet, as well as mobile phones, internal business emails, and quite frighteningly in exam halls across the land, would be redundant and perhaps betray a certain propriety I clearly stand by. And if, for further example, I were to perpetuate this laboured (and no-longer entertaining) point further, by asking what's wrong with expecting standards, or even a level of excellence from individuals - people lucky enough to be bestowed with the gift of reading, writing and confidently and articulately conversing with others around them - and why should it be accepted that text-speak and frugal, unintelligent statement be the language of the net-browsing world?


SOZ :(

Accidentally pushed my car into a stream the other day. Not drove, pushed. Four other men, plus me, accidentally pushed my car into a stream.

So, Ted, Ben and I went camping on Wednesday to Asher's Hollow, just outside of Church Stretton. After we'd pitched the tents and all that, we took a bit of a trek along the stream (quite exciting and tricky at times. Ted slipped and cut his hand at one point), then we climbed up to the top of the Longmynd, and then we headed back down the valley around the other side. Good, getting back to nature kind of thing.

When we got back to the camp, we just decided to sit round the tents drinking coffee until we fell asleep. I had the genius idea of using my car as a stereo. Hour and a half later, the battery died. Ben, being the bottomless source of common sense which he is, said not to worry, and that we'd push-start it in the morning.

So, the morning came, and we packed the tents and got ready to push the car. As we began pushing, two other guys came along to help us; the four guys were now at the back, but I was stood outside the driver's door, also pushing, and not in the car anywhere near enough to leap in and apply the hand break when, after we'd pushed it over a small incline at the entrance to the campsite, the car started rolling towards the stream. Ben was shouting "Rich! Handbrake!", but a combination of fear (of having my legs pulled from under me if I changed position), panic and just general uselessness instead made me turn all my energies towards shouting "Fuck" really loud and for an inordinate amount of time, with children and families all around, and watch my car helplessly crash into the stream and its bumper hit the farmer's fence over the other side.

The camp site owner and wife came out and were very understanding. They towed the car out, and jumped it for us, and we were away, with just a bit of damage to the driver's side grill. It wasn't that bad an experience, really, but judging from my reaction at the time, you would have thought that I'd sent it into a full-flowing river, after first ripping down a few tents and slaughtering a handful of disabled orphans. And scratching the body work to shit.


There was a lurking devil in his deep blue eye

If I was the sort of person who took advantage of their spare time wisely, utilising every microbe as if it were the very last drop of their own precious life, uncontrollably and invisibly dripping away, never to be retrieved, regained or properly appreciated, I probably would have taken some time in the last twenty-seven days to have discussed, at varying degrees of length, embellishment, emotional intensity, sarcasm, cryptic intonation, with a southern Irish slant, whilst sat on the toilet, confidentially, with mine own unfathomable propensity that:

1. I was thinking at one point of actually calling the blog either Feargal, You Prick!, or This Palpably Gay Internet, or even What's Not To Love?

2. I'm left feeling somewhat sad that the passing of a family member seems to take up less space in one of these here posts than Flossy did (and she was just an old cat). Suffice to say, Rodney was a popular and loved man, and people from all over the globe came to pay their respects, including his son and daughter (who were in Burkina Faso, Africa and New York respectively), several European countries and Japan; yes, Sonoko came all the way from Kyoto to say goodbye to the man.

She stayed with us for the time she was here, so it was great that we got to see each other again even if the circumstances were so sad.

3. I got pig flu for a bit (as in forty-eight hours to be exact) and it went like this:

sore throat...

bad night's sleep full of trepidation regarding the impending illness (and continuing sore throat)...

day of wanting to die due to feeling like limbs were full of mashed-up cake, near throw-up-in-my-own-car experience on the way to the shops, back to bed until 8pm...

drag myself into the spare room to hopefully have a sound night's sleep (sore throat persists, the bastard)...

following day slightly better, enhanced by notion of buying a new double bed (sore throat makes way for annoying cold)...

first night in new bed spoilt by cold and slowly dwindling illness affecting my dreams, making me first believe that a friend and I are solely responsible for the traffic flow up and down the Longmynd, even though the traffic consists of mental pensioners driving 4x4s at 80mph, which are the size of shoe boxes, then making me believe that I was in a haunted house...

4. I saw
twice, because it was very good. Here's the times to watch it in Falkirk this week.

5. Ayumi and I went to the Lake District, and camped for three nights at Great Langdale. Below are some pictures of the event.

Special mention must go the woman in the local shop/cafe in Chapel Stile (where I stopped and asked for directions) for bringing me down a peg or two by countering my point about not finding our way to the camp site because the roads tend to "Meander a bit" by unstintingly pointing out that "You're in the countryside now, not in the town anymore" (ie, piss off back to your murder and All Bran and rape).

And rightly so, as I was wearing sunglasses indoors (although in my defence they were prescription).

These pictures were taken around Blea Tarn, which was a good couple of hours trekking or more from the campsite and back down again. Ayumi took the pictures with me in, I took the ones with her in. She took the one with sheep.

Ayumi also showed me how to make a proper campfire from scratch. The townie I am, the expert on impromptu barbecues I am not.