Second Thoughts About Busses

I must admit I’m suddenly having second thoughts about getting onto busses or the tube. Before we first heard of the Omicron variant a few days ago, I had grown fairly relaxed about using public transport. As I’ve said before, it’s not really practical for me to wear a mask, but I nonetheless think they are vital if we’re ever going to get over this pandemic. If you can wear a mask, you should. The problem is, these days, everyone seems to have grown so lackadaisical about mask wearing, these days I struggle to see more than two people wearing one on a bus these days. The result is I have begun to think twice about going on my usual trundles, preferring to keep within easy powerchair distance, or not going out at all.

The Office

I was eighteen or so in 2001. I vaguely remember, watching TV in bed one night, catching the end of a program I initially took to be a documentary. It was about people working in an office. I watched a bit of it, but soon found the main boss character so nauseating, so up himself, that I couldn’t watch any more.

I hadn’t watched The Office since then. Even after I twigged that it was a comedy, it just sort of crept under my radar. In the twenty years since it first aired, I had caught clips of it of course; but I’d never sat down to watch a full episode or series properly. Last night, however, I noticed that the beeb were re-airing the first two episodes of the first series on bbc2, introduced by commentary from various celebrities, including Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant. What they were saying piqued my interest, so I decided to watch the episodes properly in full today.

My parents paid me a visit today. I hadn’t seen them in ages, and it was a lovely visit. As independent as I like to be, Mum and Dad still have a knack of sorting things out. After a very nice lunch, and after they had said goodbye, though, I settled down to see what The Office was about. I now honestly believe that what I found myself watching was a work of genius: I’ve only watched the first two episodes so far, but they made me laugh out loud harder than I have done in months. The observation and characterisation was sublime. David Brent is still a monster, but what I once found nauseating I now recognised as a great, great comment on human nature and the kind of sickening lack of self awareness we see in so many people these days.

Indeed, it occurred to me that we could detect whiffs of Brent in the pompous prick currently running the country. Both men are hideously un-self aware with grossly inflated egos; both think they are far more popular and likeable than they really are. If that is so, though, then it makes me wonder if the BBC could be repeating this series now specifically to make a political point.

Another Picture Idea

Just to follow up on yesterday’s entry a bit, would it be cool to get a large, framed tube map to hang on my wall somewhere? I rather like London’s tube map: I look at it online when I need to work out how to go somewhere of course, but I also find it quite nice to look at. It’s like a multi-coloured bowl of spaghetti, at once chaotic and logical. I like to look at it whenever I go on the tube, as it kind of reminds me how enormous and fascinating this city is. On the other hand, would having a tube map hanging on my wall be a bit passe? I’ll also need to wait a bit until the new tube maps start including the Elisabeth Line.

Decorating

So far I haven’t really done much to decorate my flat. I mentioned the bouzouki player painting a while ago, which still hangs proudly on the wall to my right, but other than that the walls are blank I do, however, have an idea: for a while I have been trying to find a way to get a large copy of the photo below, preferably printed on a substantial canvas. As a Bond fan, I think it would be awesome to have it on my wall, say 150cm by 150cm. If anyone has any suggestions about how I could make this happen I’d appreciate it.

I Know A Lawyer

Just to follow up on this entry from a couple of years ago, I’m enormously proud to report that my old school alumnus Dan Holt is now officially a barrister. He passed his last exam a few weeks ago and should be called to the profession sometime this month. I find that incredible, I must say. His new profile pic on Facebook, of Dan looking smart in his curly white wig, looks awesome. I would just like to take this opportunity to congratulate him heartily and wish him the best of luck. I officially know a lawyer!

Stop Cleese Stealing Python

Is John Cleese trying to steal Monty Python and it’s legacy for the Right? I just came across this article outlining how he is now saying that programs such as Monty Python would never have come about under contemporary conditions. As the article points out, his recent right-wing pronouncements have attracted the ire of many, including from most of his fellow Pythons. By arguing that political correctness stifles free speech, Cleese is trying to claim that avant guard, barrier-challenging comedy programs such as Python could not have happened in contemporary PC culture. Yet it was precisely the liberal, educated left wing philosophies which brought about Python which now underpin Political Correctness. Python was a rebellion against the very conservatism Cleese now espouses. Python broke barriers, but there is a huge gap between challenging social norms and the type of crass, offensive humour that cleese and those who think like him are arguing is now being censored. In trying to argue that Political Correctness stifles humour, Cleese plays directly into the hands of those who would use comedy as an excuse or disguise for intolerance.

In Monty Python’s Life Of Brian for example, Python exposes the absurdity of religion, yet it did not intentionally cause offence or reinforce stereotypes. Political Correctness is an effort to steer cultural discourse away from outdated stereotypes which people may now be offended by. It is an attempt to prevent people wantonly laughing at and belittling those they perceive as different, simply because they are different. Python sought to make people laugh and question, not offend; yet the brand of humour cleese says is now being censored does just that. In effect he is attempting to hijack monty python to fit his own anachronistic right wing views, but in doing so totally distorts what python was all about.

I love Monty Python and always will, and watching them live in 2014 will always be one of the greatest moments of my life. It was a type of educated, informed humour: absurd, yet underpinned by a huge intelligence. While it challenged barriers it did not set out to offend. Political Correctness would thus have had no issues with it. By arguing that it would, however, Cleese is trying to reposition Python onto the political Right, when in fact it is squarely on the left. After all, it is conservatism which stifles creativity as it seeks to preserve the social and economic hierarchies which allow thee rich few to dominate the poor many; it is liberalism which seeks to tear such structures down. As he becomes ever more ingrained in Outism and right wing politics, Cleese grows ever more desperate to claim Python for himself, when in truth Python was the antithesis of what Cleese now advocates. After all, while Cleese made a great contribution, he was just one of six great comedians to make up Python, all with unique, highly intelligent personalities. It disgusts me to see this once great, intelligent, funny actor try to hijack possibly the greatest comedy program of all time for himself.

Dogmatic Speech Apps

I’ve mentioned here before that I use an Ipad instead of a dedicated communication aid these days. While they aren’t specifically designed to assist people with communication like my Lightwriter was, I find using the Ipad has various other advantages: having one on my lap when I’m out and about is extremely useful, allowing me to do anything from make notes to – when I’m connected to a Wifi network – checking my Email or Facebook. I find it practical and handy. The app I use for communication is called Proloquo2go, very kindly installed for me by the teachers I work with at school. It’s a very cool app which I can’t really fault. It has both minspeak and ordinary typing modes, the latter of which I use. It has a very good prediction system, meaning I can say what I need to quite quickly.

However, I have noticed something odd (and slightly disturbing) about it which I just want to note: the prediction system seems to have a religious, christian bias. It constantly suggests christian words for me. That is, when I type J it always suggests ‘Jesus’; when I type G it suggests ‘God’ and so on, irrespective of the context. Perhaps I shouldn’t mind, but as an atheist I resent having religion imposed upon me in this way. The app seems to assume that it’s users want to talk about religion and religious figures they might not believe in – I certainly don’t. Of course, this is only a minor issue, and no reason to start looking for another speech app; but I really don”t like the way in which whoever designed this speech app chose to force their faith upon whoever uses it.

First Contact at 25

Perhaps I should have noted on here that yesterday was the 25th anniversary of the release of Star Trek First Contact. It’s still, more or less, my favourite Star Trek film, made even more special for me by the fact that it played a major role in my MA. If you ask me, First Contact was just about Star Trek’s peak in terms of films; it was all pretty much down hill from then on. Insurrection and Nemesis were pretty dire, and then came the awful Abrams reboots. Mind you, I must confess it hass been years since I last watched First Contact, so perhaps this anniversary gives me a good excuse to dig out the DVD.

Why Is Top Gear Still Being Made?

I had just decided on what I want to blog about today and thought I better check what I’d already written about it, but it seems I just need to direct everyone to this four year old entry. I watched Top Gear last night, but I think that might be the last time I do so: it is now a pathetic, nauseating shadow of the program it once was. Even guys like me, who can’t drive and are strong advocates for good, clean public transport, enjoyed it. But now, hosted by three chavvy caravan-advocating morons, it really has lost it’s way. As much as I loathe the right-wing p’tahk, Top Gear hasn’t been the same since it lost Jeremy Clarkson, and the longer the show is fronted by three idiots who don’t actually like cars but think the program was just about juvenile stunts, the more ridiculous it will look. The thing is, I was obviously saying the same thing four years ago, yet the Beeb still insists on airing this washed out husk of a once great motoring program.