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Nick himself

Modern Art & Godzilla’s Butt-Plug

Now, don’t call me old fashioned here. I am a liberal kinda guy butt (ho ho!) this shocked me…

This is Paul McCarthy’s “sculpture” “Tree” exhibited (this stuff writes itself) in France. The only reason I spotted that was I first misread the link as “Paul McCartney’s butt-plug in Paris”.

Anyway, it lacks any artistic merit other than the capacity to shock. Now, I note I said I was shocked but not in the way Paul McCarthy meant. It isn’t “challenging”, it’s just dreadful. It’s shocking in a way because it is so boring.

Marcel Duchamp produced “challenging” art a hundred years ago and some of it was quite clever. This is more sh’ite than an Ayatollah. Things that I am specifically interested in such as maths, physics, aviation and computing have made tremendous advances in the last 100 years but art seems stuck in a rut of childish petulance where you can win a Turner Prize (God knows what Turner would make of it) for puking into a jiffy bag and mailing it to The Pope.

So, this “installation” was vandalized by outraged Parisians and whilst I deplore vandalism I can kinda see where they were coming from. Oddly enough the first Dada exhibition actually provided a hammer for visitors to smash the exhibits. That was new and dappy and kinda cool back then. It has now become very serious. It has caused Mr McCarthy to do this…

McCarthy decided against re-erecting the Tree, which was deflated by security officials, and has instead planned an artistic response. Paris Mint spokesman Guillaume Robic said the chocolate factory was already up and running and had been producing 250 chocolate Father Christmas figurines, each with a butt plug, each day for the past few days. Eleven rooms where the figurines are stocked have been made dark to resemble a long tunnel. Visitors will be able to move through the halls, where there will be a strong smell of chocolate, and where a video and “aggressive sounds” will be playing. “It’s a dream, or a nightmare,” Robic said. “It reflects the aggressiveness that McCarthy felt after what happened in the Place Vendôme.”

The chocolate factory – a reproduction of a 2007 installation by McCarthy in New York – is operated by pastry makers who have been trained to perform by McCarthy.

Alas dear reader you can’t expect a butt-plugged choccy-wocky Santa in your Christmas box for they go on sale in January.

I shall re-iterate I am not a philistine and I like some modern art but what really shocks me is the capacity of these folk to get away with shock for the sake of shock. More than that the capacity of certain people to fall for it. I mean it isn’t shocking in the way intended. I mean you can buy a butt-plug in Anne Summer’s on Market Street in Manchester. There is nothing shocking about McCarthy other than he is considered shocking, provocative, challenging etc which he isn’t any more than a small child having their tenth tantrum of the day.

I might go out with my watercolours and paint landscapes of the Peak District. Now that would flummox the critics.

But before I go… I have to mention the “comedian” Jimmy Carr who apparently at a music awards do recently made some off-colour remarks about Oscar Pistorius. Oh, they were edgy! They just weren’t funny. To commandeer a phrase from the Duke of Wellington, “In comedy there is no substitute for being funny”.

Like Paul McCarthy (with his admittedly hilarious strop on (or should that be strap-on?)) Jimmy Carr has jumped so many sharks he ought to be working at Sea World.

It is the same thing. I am not offended except by the fact I am expected to take offence. If your only trick is to offend the Daily Mail and Nick ain’t leaping at the bait I couldn’t give a…

…I could have used some “bad words” there but what is the point?

I mean these are people who shouldn’t get a fuck in a monkey whore-house with a truck-load of bananas.


Yesterday I was at the Gauntlet Bird of Prey Centre in Cheshire.

I learned a lot. I learned how to handle a Harris Hawk called Pablo. I also learned that vultures are critically endangered. For a large animal they have had a decrease in numbers unparalleled in recorded history over the last few years.

Now this is a problem. Obviously it is a problem for the vultures but it is wider. As the primary garbolists of the Animal Kingdom they are a vital link in the ecosystem. They can eat almost anything. But in South Asia a generally banned (but of course freely available on the iffy market – consider the prohibition of heroin for example) cattle drug kills ‘em. They eat a bit of dead cow and they die. Now lots of people don’t like vultures but things that clear the land of dead things help prevent disease in other animals including humans.

Now that is bad in Asia but the situation in Africa is appalling. This is how it goes. Our fun-loving criminal mates, the Russian Mafia, have taken a strong interest in rhino and elephant poaching. Now obviously they take the horns and tusks and leave the rest. Alas, due to the size of the game reserves of Africa, the only way the rangers patrolling them are likely to get a chance of catching the poachers is by spotting the vultures hovering over the remains. Now, if you are the sort of scumbag who will unload a clip of 7.62mm into a rhino to flog the horn to the Chinese (it is apparently worth four times it’s mass in Au) you are pretty ruthless and obviously you don’t want to get caught. Note that the park rangers pack some heat. You have to against Russian Mafia sponsored types with AK-47s.

So, to reduce the chance of being caught the Russian Mafia has been systematically eradicating not just their prey animals but the vultures. They have been doing this by lacing the corpses of the dead rhinos and elephants with cyanide.

Vultures have essentially no sense of smell or taste. This enables them to eat things that would make you and me reflexively vomit profusely. It is their strength in the whole chain of life and also their weakness when it comes to Indians drugging cattle (apparently this is a Hindu thing – the beef is not good for people to eat but the milk is OK and of course Hindus don’t tend to eat beef) or the Russian Mafia deliberately poisoning vultures.

The truly shocking thing. Well, there are a number. Deliberately killing a truly useful animal (with all the knock-on effects) is dreadful. And they are of course magnificent and very friendly birds. And as you can imagine (if you are regular you will know) that as a fanatic about fighter ‘planes I have a soft spot for our pre-Wright Bros. winged warriors. But it ain’t just my soft spot that is agitated here. The ecosytematic damage is extreme and via disease it also kills people. Imagine how healthy you would be if no-one picked up the bins? You’d be pegging it from dysentery and cholera. And vultures do this service for free in some of the poorest parts of the World.

But they are deliberately being killed by the Russian Mafia to sell the Chinese stuff that should be banned. Well it is banned but has that ever helped anything? I mean US prohibition only boosted the Canadian whiskey industry. How were the Feds to patrol a 3,000 mile border? How does a Kenyan park ranger patrol an enormous game reserve without spotting the circling vulures?

I am not saying theses vile trades ought to be legalized but very clearly the illegality has not helped.

I do not know what the solution is. How could I? But shooting some of the buggers might help. I mean they won’t do it again will they?

I’m only saying this because I suspect many readers will not know about it. Because vultures have an undeserved bad-rep, because I just love everything that flies because I just do and always have and perhaps when it is properly explained you begin to understand how complex ecosystems are not just to the critters but to us. I don’t want to see a rhino being shot and a vulture being poisoned so some Mafia oligarch can flog the horn to a Chinese plutocrat. I really don’t want to see this so completely innocent Africans die from diseases that nobody in Europe ever gets.

I’m quite serious here. If you support one animal charity this year – make it the vulture.

Apparently, and the guy who showed of his vultures had done a lot of work in Africa, at least one Russian Mafia boss has a plan. He wishes to stockpile as much rhino horn and elephant tusk as possible before eradicating both species entirely so he gets to corner the entire market. The destruction of the vultures is merely part of this insane (but lucrative) scheme.

That is what it is about. Extinction for temporary profit done by very evil people.

Quote of the Day

There is another name for “disproportionate response”.

It is called “winning”.

NickM of this parish, coming down firmly on the side of the IDF

Just a normal day for Manc-ish folks…

Well, I had some shopping to do so I went into central Manchester. I know the city well enough that this is not really a chore. I knew pretty much where to go but I had a sit in Piccadilly Gardens to collect my thoughts. As is my wont I had a cigarillo. Now this moocher comes up to me and asks for a fag. I have to describe him. He looked forty-ish – much of it spent living in dumpsters – but I was feeling generous and gave him a tab and a light. He then insisted on paying me back. Now at this point you have to appreciate he was wearing a pair of trainers that would disgrbbace a Harold Ramp, a ball cap older than Abner Doubleday and a pair of ratty generic football shorts and nothing else. I was somewhat glad I was in a crowded place in broad daylight. He tried to offer me money (which I knew was a blind) and then rummaged in the front of his shorts (which by then I had noted without joy were packing some heat – Good Golly Miss Molly! I’d just gone into town to buy a birthday prezzie and now I’m about to be sodomized by some fucker with a cock the size of a bleach bottle. It was not how I’d planned the afternoon to pan out.

But he doesn’t whip his gentleman’s gentleman out. He has an already opened 2L bottle of Strongbow cider in the undercart and offers me a swig. I decline as politely as I can.

So I make my purchases and get the train back. It’s all good. Until I realise my wife is out and I have no keys. Locked out of my own home. You can imagine the swears. No you can’t – they were beyond comprehension in rapidity and violence (I can swear for England). So what does Nick do? Well, my house is co-extensive with the Quaker Meeting House and they never lock the ladies toilet window and I know that nobody is in on a Monday afternoon and the communicating door only locks from one side so I build a ziggurat of garden furniture and break in. I come close to spackering myself but I get in in one piece. It was dicey for a while because the window only opened to a vertical 45 degrees and I had to crawl, rotate and drop onto the toilet. And I did that with bust ribs (from an incident a few days back). And I’m 40.

So just an average day. But that was fucking Bravo 2-0. That was Sailor Malan on the R/T yelling “Tally!”. And why not? My wife is astounded at my window creeping. So am I. I had to take my trainers off to fit through. That is how tight it was. That is how cool it was.

Yes, there is an “Anus” in the Phillipines…

… and it is not that far from a “Bollock”.

And there is much more gold to be mined. I realised I was in the wrong job when my solar-system dynamics lecturer (he’s on the telly sometimes) Carl Murray used the phrase, “Semilatus rectum” and I was the only one to laugh. I blame Viz. And my Gran who had a turn of phrase that would shock you younglings (easily the worst line uttered by Ewan McGregor – evah).

H/T davidthompson.

Back in the land of the living…

I am with Sky for most everything – net, TV, landline… Now the modem/router has been “on the blink”* for sometime and finally joined the digital choir invisible on Saturday. So I’d got a TP-Link replacement. Top-notch piece of kit. Think fine – set it up – and all that – easy as falling off a log. Except I tried everything short consorting with wiser heads and virgin sacrifice**.

It turns out – and at no point did Sky or TP-Link make this clear that Skynet** only works with Sky modem/routers. And I’d spoken to Sky and they’d only told me to get a new gizmo – they didn’t tell me it had to be a Sky one! It was only later when my wife howled at them they said, “Er…” So had to buy one from them. I had originally thought they might replace their hardware buckshee but we seem these days to live in the land of negative customer loyalty. I mean they offer reduced deals for some months to new customers but if you have been with ‘em for years they couldn’t give a toss. I don’t like that. And they are all at it. BT, TalkTalk and all the rest of ‘em.

So, I’m back online. Thank the Gods of TCP/IP!

If anyone in the UK needs to buy a pretty high-spec wifi modem/router which is really nearly new then I am your man.

But being de-netted was dreadful. It was almost like being dead. It was like I kept on thinking things like, “There’s gotta be a solution online”. Then, “Oh bugger!”. It was like having a Speccy without a tape recorder. And it was really pissing me of because of my recent getting of a new laptop (8Gb Lenovo S440 with a Core i5 CPU). I was peeved.

*a techie term meaning roughly, “Circling the drain in the House of the Fucked”.

**Problem is round here there is no way to find three wise men and a virgin so no second-coming for us.

***For that is what I call it.

Rolf Harris

Rolf Harris was a massive part of my youth. It would appear now that he was a massive part of other kids youth too – and not in a good way. I mean I always thought Saville was a sleazy sod but Rolf! Rolf was Aussie gold.

I use to watch his show “Cartoon Club” as a kid and as 19 year-old he headlined the end of year party at Nottingham University. He was great. He got bigger cheers than Dannii Minogue who was the second on the list. I was right at the front and she certainly was “well fit” in the live. I guess she was maybe (even then) too old for Rolf’s tastes and Kylie would have clobbered him with a knotty prop – always struck even from her days in Neighbours as a feisty one our Kylie.

So I saw Rolf with his wobble board and doing Jake The Peg, painted an Outback scene and did a few songs and told a few jokes. The consummate light entertainer – especially after a few tinnies of Fosters – yes there was a reason the evening had an Australian theme.

I just don’t get it. If you are a successful, wealthy, entertainer you can actually get a consensual sexual relationship with an attractive adult. So why all this nasty, grubby stuff? Is it to quote Wilde, “Dining with Panthers” or is it just egomania or what?

Rolf, you let a generation down. You let me down. Now you are going down.


Athina turned up today. She is a Lenovo S440 with an Intel Core i5, 8 gig of RAM and she runs like a beut. And she is slimmer than an underwear model. Nice keyboard (really nice) and the tit and clickpoint are ace. I just love this machine. I am struggling with it because I am getting over my epically buggered Toshiba. I had to type with an external keyboard on my chest. It was emotional I can tell. This is fucking magic. I love it. It feels like my wife’s Lenovo E335. I’m a bit of a Lenovo fan-boy. Apart from anything else they just have like the flight deck-of-the-Death-Star look and feel. Apple can go ‘eff themselves in their silver. Give me Lenovo in black anytime.

So that’s Athina. She is ace. I always give girl’s name to computers: Urania, Thalia, Hekate etc. But this is Athina – the Goddess of strategy. I adore her already.

I came close to calling her Athina Nike – the Goddess of Victory but when a name is done it is done. Atina Nike is my next deck. Bring it! But just not yet.

I can’t write any more.

It has been growing on my mind (and the likes of parents have commentated – “but you used to have such lovely hand-writing Nick!” – untrue, it was OK) but I can’t write anymore. My penmanship looks like Michael Parkinson sent a free Parker Pen to the fucking monkey house (just for enquiring). I struggle with it when it comes to birthday cards and such.

Why is this? I mean I’m educated and all… Well, sort of. Apart from a single 10 cred module in philosophy (Descartes) at University in 1992 I just haven’t really had to write anything more complicated than a shopping list. That was 22 years ago. I can type like a fury. I guess it is much the same way most British adults have a driving license but would have no idea what to do with a coach and eight. It’s called progress.

Having said all that I can still paint and draw in the oldie manner. It is not a loss of Manuel Dexterity (didn’t he have a bad game against the Dutch last night) but rather pure lack of usage of my hands for a pacific porpoise.

I can still do math stuff but nobody really judges you on that because it just looks like squiggles to most people anyway.

Oh, well, c’est la vie!

I don’t believe you want to do that Dave…

Well it would appear possibly, arguably, a computer at the Royal Society in London has passed the Turing test.

Read the whole thing. It is interesting. Alas I seem unable to copy and paste from the Guardian otherwise I’d dissect this because I am less than impressed. It would appear they haven’t released the transcripts. And it was impersonating a 13 year old boy. All very fishy. Certainly it ain’t as tough a test as proposed by Kurzweil. This had to be believed by 30% and got 33%. The Kurzweil test is much more rigorous.

Oh and Prof. Kevin Warwick was involved. Hmm…

My fave comment though on the Graun is this (I seem to be able to copy those)…

For a moment, let’s just forget whether and why some computer might pass the test and what that might mean. Suppose instead you wanted to decide whether a human is intelligent… What criteria would you apply? What rigorous and material or empirical definition could you come up with for “intelligent”? Or for “thought”, “objective”, “emotion” or any other noun relating to individuals inner lives for that matter?

Of course there’s no real definition for “intelligent” that doesn’t rely on other abstract nouns, e.g. if you decide it’s “problem solving ability” then you only shift the question along to “what’s a problem, then?”.

But we all agree as a linguistic convention that there is such a thing as intelligence and that humans possess it. But if that’s true and a computer and successfully disguise itself in some open-ended way as a human then we’ve no grounds for denying the title of “intelligent” to the machine.

You may still deny that this has any metaphysical significance. On the other hand, you can’t deny that in that hypothetical the computer has transcended your ability to distinguish it from other entities you agree to be intelligent. That makes the machine categorically distinct from all others in history, at least from your perspective and is surely a significant fact in itself. Without the Turing test, you’d be stuck in a quagmire — what the test does is isolate this significant observation from all metaphysical or linguistic confusion, reducing the matter to observable behaviour.

In the end, it’s a definition of intelligence. Do you have a better one?

No, I don’t but I have never felt sure about the Turing test in general – and yes I have read a lot about it. Does it have agency? Does it have imagination? Can it make mistakes? Mistakes are important for creativity. They seem to me to link tightly with creativity. I have for a long time thought it is probably in principle to compare genuine thought with the perfection of computers in a way almost analogous to quantum complementarity. I have no idea why I feel this except I feel it which perhaps is the point. I also tend to think the Turing test is just too instrumentalist. It in a sense doesn’t get to the heart of consciousness. It’s Searle’s Chinese Room. It is sort of a search for pure empirical proof without theory.

I never trust pure empiricism without theory. I think that might have been Eddington but I can’t track it down and I am writing in a rush. There is a saying (a joke really) in the AI biz about whether you can take it apart with itself? And that is the problem. Can we really understand ourselves properly, scientifically? I feel it is an impossible task and more to the point pointless. Shakespeare couldn’t predict comets arriving but he knew humanity better than any trick-cyclist. Just look at Freud. Or Kinsey or any of those preverts. I’ll believe in the Turing test when it can explain why I love Donne’s 20th elegy but can’t stand Tennyson’s romantic musings. I’ll leave the last word to Albert Einstein…

It would be possible to describe everything scientifically, but it would make no sense; it would be without meaning, as if you described a Beethoven symphony as a variation of wave pressure.

Crassology – Dixon style.

Last night I watched the final of “Britain’s got Talent” on ITV. It was primarily a collection of profound tosspottery. But this act stood out (even above the pro-mawk that was teenage rappers “Bars and Melody”. It was “Paddy and Nico”. An elderly British woman being chucked around the stage by her much younger Spanish dancing instructor – “Oh, young man!”. The act itself reminded of a Quote by TS Eliot along the lines of it being fascinating “If you concentrate on the essential horror”.

But that was not the point. Paddy, the geriatric hoofer, had almost missed the final due to some (clearly) minor injury and Alesha Dixon (one of the judges) praised her “courage” and explicitly compared it to the courage of the troops on D-Day. Epic fail.

So, doing a three minute dance routine is equivalent to charging Sword beach with a rifle at a German machine-gun nest? Alesha, get your dictionary out.

I dunno who won. Frankly I was past caring so put the footie on only to see England secure a goal-less draw against those titans of the game – Honduras. Yes, Honduras. When it comes to the real thing Italy are going to murder us and stack the bones in the shower before breakfast.

I did quite a lot of swearing at the telly last night. And yes, there is a literary ref there which I’d be interested if anyone knows. And I mean knows, not Googles.

I was going to say something serious…

… but the Cat’s server was playing Les Buggeurs Risible. Anyway this is a shorty. I used to live in Leeds (dreadful by and large – if it ain’t the Devil’s arsehole it is well within the CEP farting zone of it). Anyhoo, one day, to relieve the sheer horror*, I take a trip to Harrogate. Most genteel it was too. Didn’t like that much either. Rather too much up itself if you ask me. I apologise for the arse jokes though we shall shortly enter another orifice.

Harrogate has many bijou shops selling crap to the sort of people who have more money than sense. One of the noted (by me anyway) galleries of over-priced crap was called and I swear I’m not making this up called Godfrey and Twatt.

I almost expired from laughter after leaving it (well I had to go in). It was so full of pretentious shite it needed a colonic. Fortunately there was a place for that round the corner. That’s Yorkshire for you. Urban hell-holes and rural places that think they are Chelsea with scenery. Oh, and Compo going down a hill in a tin-bath. I hated that show. From the dreary theme tune to the geriatric pace and all ports between.

Here endeth the ramble.

*I once lived on Meanwood Rd. If that sounds Dickensian that’s because it was. My landlord was Rory Aikins. I saw him on telly not that long since. I once torched a chair of his in the back yard. I swear to God, Allah and Shiva that there were “things” living in it. So I took it outside and with the aid of a newspaper had a bonny. I’d asked him first, mind. He may have had some sentimental attachment to this dreadful thing but he said OK. He took it off my fucking deposit mind. Cunt. Utter cunt.

Things Nick Finds (Sort of).

Strictly speaking not Nick…

Today we had the sparks round to trace a dubious cable in the garden and during their excavations they discovered a car battery charger. A little recherché I think. The best explanation any of us could think of is that the former warden (a noted bodger) buried it for reason or reasons unknown. He might have just wanted rid or possibly it was like those old Egyptians who inhumed funereal goods. Hell of an afterlife if you got a Ford Escort that won’t ever start in the morning – for all of eternity.

Reminds me of my mate Spanner. He was in the ATC (RAF cadets) at school and he was on exercises in the wilds of Northumberland and he gets the job of digging the latrine. Anyway his spade bit into a collection of bones. Well, it’s night and the coroner’s lot turn-up at 3am. You can imagine he was Mr popularity. It was like, “Spanner you had the whole National Park to dig in and you had to find the boneyard!” Well, everyone is kept up very late (during which Spanner’s stock falls further) and the police etc do their thing.

It turned out it was the remains of four greyhounds with no heads or feet. Personally up on those windswept moors at the dead of night I’m not sure I wouldn’t have preferred to find human remains. That would have made sense at least. Oh, and as Spanner trudged off to dig the khazi the ATC lads and lasses had been telling ghost stories. You can picture the scene as he runs back into camp having dug-up bones.

The sparks took the battery charger away. They did ask if we wanted it. It didn’t look exactly straight out of the Halford’s box.

The end of the footie…

Well, I had my Dad on the phone… He’s a Liverpool fan and was gutted they were pipped by Man City. Well, they finished second and in the final game they had they beat my team (NUFC) 2-1 at home. Now, if Stevie G hadn’t fallen over a bit back in a “schoolboy error” (I quote St Alan of Hansen) then… Anyway, more to the point we wouldn’t be in this position (10th) if (a) Alan Pardew (the manager) didn’t feel the need to chin people on the field and (b) our long-playing striker Shola Ameobi didn’t, in the final game of the season, with nothing of substance to play for, (against Liverpool at Anfield) feel the need (why Shola? why?) to call the ref a, “Fat Dwarf Mong!” and get sent off for his trouble. Possibly his last game for the club. He is out of contract now. Way to go! I mean he could have lapped it up as a fine player and servant of the club in the centre circle and then been lamped by Pardew as the confetti fell.

So, my Dad was complaining about finishing second and not having won for donks. Well, fair enough up to a point. It was the 1920s when the Toon Army last won the Championship. It was 1969 when we last grabbed silver-wear (Fairs Cup) and I was born in 1973. Anyway, we have that “Hazard Blunt” Mike Ashley conning the ship and Pardew running the team.

Being a Newcastle fan is an act of self-harm. We got beaten by the fucking Mackems 3-0 at St James’ Park this season. Have you ever been to Sunderland? Jesus Christ on a bicycle! They haven’t invented the fucking wheel in Mackemshire! If Hull is the land where dreams go to die Sunderland is where nightmares kick the bucket. Just don’t go. And we got beaten by them, 3-0, at home. And then there is Peterlee (a town where there is something gynaecological wrong if you’re not pumping out numero 3 by your 15th birthday. And Blythe, or Consett… Or even Tynemouth. On the headland there is a beautiful ruined abbey. The Vikings did a number on it but that had nothing too North Tyneside Council who built a coast guard station next to it. Built in the ’70s. It looks grand.

The quantity of destruction of architecture done deliberately by councils is stunning. They have got better but some things aren’t re-jiggable.


I knew the song and I knew it was Paul Simon but I didn’t know the title. Which is odd because I know Kodachrome film very well. I’m now entirely digital but I still have a dear old Pentax so I’m more Sandisk than Kodak. Are Kodak bust? Actually I have a Kodak camera. 5MP from way back but still trogging on and great ergonomics – better than my current darling – a Sony Alpha 55. 10fps@16.1Mp – bring it!

Anyway, this is for Julie. Julie posted on Nedumaction recently so I thought I’d share some thoughts from my class-room experience. Now, I might be showing my age (I’m 40) but my “careers” lessons were a bad joke with a film-strip. Do you recall those? You get a projector, a moron and the strip. It is synched to a tape to provide the soundtrack and then it goes “Bong!” and you advance the frame. This is the theory (and by Jesus I know fucking ergodic theory and the bastarding disturbing function and if those parts of mathematical physics sound nails that is because they are). Alas we had Brian Edwards on the spool and he was thick as two short planks. His alleged day-trade was as a wood-work teacher but he was deemed too dense for that so he got the Set 1 careers gig instead and nawsed that up brilliantly. Now you have to imagine this in a high-pitched Geordie accent and by “high-pitched” I mean verging towards the end of the last cry of a less-than-aveargenaut going through a event horizon*. Now you’d think advancing a frame every time it went “Bong!” was fairly simple. Not to Mr Edwards. The quantity of huffing and puffing and (muted) swearing this veritable Manhatten Project of a gadget caused him is stuff of (local) legend, hence the phrase, “Eeeee, get out silly noise!” Fuck and all his pals know what he was doing to that poor machine. I don’t. Me and my mates just chuckled. He briefed us on our “Options” (choice of GCSEs) which was presented like it was the most important thing to plan since D-Day. He offered (and this is verbatim) this jewel of wisdom, “Eeee… man there is no point doing biology unless you want to be biology-ist”. Thicker than a whale burger.

Interlude: I was once summoned from an English class to see the Head. I was not a happy camper here and on the walk there I did the mental inventory of what they might have on me (I hadn’t. Well, quite the reverse actually). Wally Pearson, for that was his name, was chatting with kids to find out who to move to less strenuous duties said something that stunned me. He told me he believed that there were teachers at Ryton Comprehensive that were positively deleterious to education. Wow! I mean it was abundantly true but for the Head to say it to a 14-15 year old kid is Wow! Not what you expect the Head to say but there you go. I suspect Brian Edwards was near the top of that hit parade. Now Wally might have meant well but he talked the talk but either couldn’t or didn’t walk the walk. He promoted the head of Geography (who was a cad and bounder) to head of Sixth-form despite him having to have left previous schools in the area over “wandering hands” with Sixth Form girls. I know this for certain because my parents were teachers in the same LEA. Steve Brent was his name and apart from teaching geography and groping (and he allegedly did more than that) he also sold dodgy used cars from his drive. Dubious geezer if ever there was one. There were rumours of hushed-up private abortions performed on Sixth Formers. Making him head of Sixth Form was like giving George Best a bottle of single malt.

Anyway back to Brian Edwards (or “Satch” as we called him – Sod knows why). He wasn’t malicious or depraved like the aforementioned. He was just utterly, spectacularly, useless. Anyway, as I said, he taught careers for there was nothing more pointless to give him to do**. What I am going to say now I swear on the holiest of holies I am not making up.

Anyhoo. The film-strip was called “The Sponge Mix” (a shiticism that amused Satch greatly for no apparent reason but as I said we are not talking the wit and wisdom of Oscar Wilde or even Kim Wilde) and chronicled the adventures of school-leaver Neville Sponge on his quest to become a mastic asphalt spreader. I am not making this up.

Now the even odder thing is the intro song to the “Sponge Mix”. It was Paul Simon’s “Kodachrome” and it goes like this…

And the opening lyrics are…

When I think back
On all the crap I learned in high school
It’s a wonder
I can think at all
And though my lack of education
Hasn’t hurt me none
I can read the writing on the wall.

Careers lessons were an irony-laden zone. Now you have to imagine that along with Satch muttering as he fails to work a simple machine (and it was a projector, not a nuclear reactor) – “Eee, Man what’s up with you!”

Now it is not true I learned nowt at school but Dear Gods it was slow. Careers was a total wash-out (obviously), PSE was beyond a joke and RE was taught by a pair of atheists who between showing wild speculation about the Shroud of Turin wittered on about protesting the Vietnam War. What is more disturbing (because in the grand scheme of things none of those matter) is that out of a year group of c.180 only 5 of us got an A at Maths GCSE (this was well beforer A*). I was one but I didn’t know how few we were and thought myself mediocre at the subject. I disliked my maths teacher for the entirely bizarre reason that she looked like Zelda from “The Terrorhawks”. Well, I guess she must have been doing something right. I am post GCSE largely self-taught at da sums. It gives me a perspective. I guess in a way I’m glad I didn’t do A-Level Maths – though it made the first term at University doing Physics nails. It got better and I did electives in discrete math which is a heck of a lot of fun. No, seriously. I thought I would minor in philosophy but one course on Descartes did for me on that. It was utter bollocks and packed to the rafters with pretentious wankers. There was a Bellendius maximus called George who didn’t speak English. I don’t mean he was foreign. He was English but he’d never be caught saying “thinking” when he could say “cognitive processing”. Epic twat. One of them pissed off to India for a year to “meet Indian philosophers” (whether they wanted to meet him is moot) and got Casevaced back to Blighty with a case of terrible guts. I dunno if he found enlightenment (or even a toilet) but it caused me a chortle. He was so up himself and he fancied my bird – they would discuss Wittgenstein at length. And he was Welsh not that I held that against him. Not that I would have held anything against him seeing as he was “letting go at both ends” so to speak. He also claimed to be a Druid. Which is why I mentioned Welshness.

*I appreciate that ought to reduce the pitch but it was years later I was taught relativity by Stan Clough and others who like knew there stuff.
**The dole office might have been an idea but you couldn’t sack teachers just like that then. He should have done the “walk of shame”. That was my mate Mick’s term for the walk from Blaydon bus station to the dole-office and back via Kwik Save (incorperating Liquour Save) and a number of bookies through a piss-stained pub(l)ic space. Fucking shit-hole is Blaydon (where they had the races). They now have a McDonalds and a gaff that sells second-hand baby impedimenta. The only fuckers who ever missed Blaydon were the bloody Luftwaffe. I went to school with the daughter of the (Labour, natch) MP and she got knocked-up in her first year at Goldsmiths in SE London (an Academy for Bell Ends it must be said). Anyway she gets knocked-up and gives birth to – I am not making this up – a son called “Storm Bruin”. My alma mater, Nottingham, had the largest Helium fridge in Europe. That was cool. Seriously cool. My London college had space missions. Goldsmith’s had a pickler of sharks. One of my bosses at Nottingham, Sir Peter Mansfield, won the Nobel for his work on MRI. Toss-up isn’t it?

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