Why do I own a TV?

TV can be a place for excitement and art and joy and knowledge.

Remember The Singing Detective? Quatermass? House of Cards, or Edge of Darkness?

What about BlackAdder, or The Sopranos, or Our Friends In The North?

Talking Heads?

Oranges are Not The Only Fruit?

Doctor Who?

Of those, only Doctor Who remains (and it’s close cousin, Sherlock, which is often described as “Doctor Who for adults”, but which is essentially Doctor Who without the TARDIS).

Now all of that is gone, and our schedules are caked in shite. Too many channels spreading too little budget and talent far too thinly. I spent a good portion of last night searching for something – anything – worth watching. I have access to 50 channels. Not one of them showed anything good.

Instead, they showed variations on the following tropes.

The football programme

Thank God our airwaves are filled with this. If they didn’t regularly tell us that we had to be excited about Who Is Best At Kicking Things, we’d never feel obliged to pay £250,000 a week to Wayne Rooney.

Except, of course, we already know Who Is Best At Kicking Things. They have a competition once every four years to decide it. It’s called The World Cup. Apparently right now Spain are Best At Kicking Things, and will be until someone new is decided in 2014.

When scientists prove something in an experiment, they don’t keep on experimenting. Isaac Newton didn’t slump under a tree being bombarded with apples for 90 minutes every Saturday afternoon. So why the endless testing of Who Is Best At Kicking Things? And why does it have to be on my TV?

The reality programme

Perhaps the drugs have permanently altered my reality, but I’m rarely – if ever – locked in a house with 12 flamboyant strangers, or bellowed at by Alan Sugar if I fail to sell enough raspberry jam. For me, reality is getting up, drinking tea, working, and watching TV. If I’m lucky, I’ll find the energy to masturbate, but I don’t think that makes great television: it even repulses me, it’d certainly make your entire stomach leap out of your mouth, like a toad.

I’m sick of reality. Peter Bazalgette is responsible, he’s the dementor who brought us Big Brother. His great-great Grandfather was Sir Joseph Bazalgette, inventor of London’s sewer system. One generation pumps shit out of our lives, another pumps it right back in.

The soap programme

I saw the last 30 seconds of EastEnders once. A man with a head like a radish was wheezing “Get dahn them stairs, you slaaaag” at a crying woman. Apparently, this is pretty much all that happens in EastEnders.

I once had to sit through a whole episode of Coronation Street. It consisted of one-dimensional camp stereotypes talking about a sex change operation. Apparently, this is pretty much standard for Corrie too.

I haven’t seen Emerdale. I doubt I’m missing anything.

But if I was missing anything, I’m sure I could catch up. Corrie has been on TV for [checks watch] fifty-thousand years, and I’m sure I could catch up on the plot in less than a week. Which tells you something about how utterly wasted those last fifty-thousand years were. Nothing of note happened. So why make it?

The cooking programme

Cooking is a chore. You do it because you have to eat. Sometimes you do it well, and sometimes you stab the film lid on a lasagne and bung it in the microwave.

What’s next: the ironing programme? Five amateur ironers line up to be abused and judged by Rosemary Jewelcase, who irons the Duchess of Kent’s knickers and is a world-renowned expert in getting to that awkward bit in the middle of a double duvet cover? Oh, fuck off with your cooking programme.

The quiz programme

I’ve got little-or-no problem with a proper quiz. University Challenge. Only Connect. Mastermind. You get people in a room. and ask them stuff. But why do we have to have over seven hundred of the bloody things, with seven hundred minutely different formats?

And why do they all have to have celebrity specials? What’s so good about the bloke who tells you the weather during the graveyard shift on News 24? Why is he a celebrity? If you want a celebrity show, get Jack Nicholson and Kofi Annan to make up a team on Pointless. If it’s just some bloke you spotted in the BBC canteen, that really is pointless.

The cop programme

He’s a rebel. He doesn’t follow the rules.

Or he’s got a unique insight into the dastardly mind of the serial killer.

Or he lives in the 1950s, even though it’s present day.

Or he drives an interesting car and listens to jazz.

Or he’s a she, or Welsh, or non-white. Good God, whatever next?

Occasionally it’s a procedural show, which purports to show what the police actually do, but somehow always ends up with an office affair, and never with a complaint about sexual harassment or a bribe from News International.

Or they’re American, and exist in crime HQ which is moodily lit by the police’s own crack team of cinematographers, and employs only devastatingly good-looking people… except for one cranky actor in his twilight years, who is brought in to lend a sheen of respectability to the whole farce. Oh, and they always have magic computers which solve the crime for them in exactly 1 hour (minus 18 minutes of adverts).

The only genuinely great TV cop show is The Wire, which isn’t about cops really – it’s about a whole city, the drugs industry, and the failure of capitalism. The rest of them are just episodic disappointments.

The property programme

Are you rich, middle-aged, middle class, white, married, and own an architectural practice or have recently retired? Do you own a vast house in Surrey, and need to sell it to buy an even vaster house in Norfolk, plus a flat in Kensington?

Then we’ve got the perfect show for you!

The rest of us can just fuck off.

Did you know – and this is genuinely a fact – that a person on an average wage needs to save 50% of their disposable income for 47 years to afford the deposit on an average-priced house? But the previous generation did just fine, thank you, and now they’re being shown around palatial villas by unctuous bastards like Phil and Kirsty, both of whom are major donors to the Tory party, and relish the vast inequality their industry and their politics have thrust upon the rest of us. Phil? Kirsty? Come here, I have a guillotine with your name on it.

The science programme

You know who watches programmes about science? Clever people who like a mental challenge. You know who doesn’t? Stupid people who like to be spoon fed.

So why make science programmes for idiots? They won’t watch them, and the people who do want to watch them end up feeling short-changed and patronised. How many times do we need Brian Cox to tell us that the universe is big? We know it’s big. Explain the maths behind leptons, or get off  my fucking TV.

The arts programme

Oh good, here’s Andrew Graham-Dixon with the latest news about all the arts that are happening in London. And here’s Clemency Burton-Hill, with more news about all the music events that are happening in London. Wait, here comes Mark Kermode, telling us about the film events happening in London. Followed by Tom Dykoff, telling us about the architectural celebrations happening in London.

London London London London London (brief pause for Edinburgh) London London London London London.

Thank the sweet lord for all that arts coverage. Oh, one small comment: fuck off.

The panel programme

Jimmy Carr says some hilarious things about fat politicians, or about female politicians who don’t meet his standard of hotness and availability for anal sex. The guest presenters have their reactions carefully edited to appear mildly shocked. No amount of editing can prevent the team captains from looking bored, but they fulfil their contractual obligations, and everyone feels good about things except for everybody not paid to appear on the programme.

Come back next week, when exactly the same thing will happen, but this time with Jamelia instead of Lorraine Kelly.

The dancing and singing programme

Oh, can I even be bothered? Is there any bile to spew about this that hasn’t already been spewed. Mind you “second-hand intestinal discharge” is a fair description of this crass bullshit.

Simon is the Karaoke Sauron, and must be destroyed. I suspect that his “ring” already is. I’d have respect for him if he’d just come out, but having all that power and money and influence, and still being in the closet just stinks. What’s the opposite of a role-model? Well, that’s Simon.

I don’t care which minor celebrity dances better than another minor celebrity, or which once-proud newsreader or politician is now being dragged around the dancefloor by a brillianteened Russian gigalo. But I’m actually too tired to even be angry about it any more. I just want it all to end. Please, I’m begging you, make it end.

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Get off your knees!

I’m going to bash you, Katy Red.

I’m going to come and getcha, because for once I think I’ve got close to the moral high ground, and I feel I should boast about it.

http://all-sweetness-and-life.blogspot.com/2012/02/on-your-knees.html

She’s funny, Katy Red. She really is. I like her blog, but in this instance I’m a little perturbed by the underlying assumptions.

  • All women want committment, and for them dating is just a means to an end: marriage and kids
  • All men want zero committment, and begrudgingly accept marriage so they have oral sex on tap

Very few women are actual princesses, brought up on a milky diet of Mills and Boon, and feeling that their lives are empty unless they limpet themselves to “Good Man”. At least I hope not. I’d lose a lot of respect for women if I thought their sense of self was tied up in an attachment to a gormless lump like me.

There is no such thing as the Mills And Boon “Good Man”. At best, there’s a “Reasonable Man”. A little more nuanced and complex than you’d think. Sometimes good, sometimes stupid, sometimes downright obnoxious. Woman have seen us farting and snoring and dribbling kebab down our front. Picking our nose and scratching our balls. They know full well that we’re not the answer to their dreams. Not unless their dreams are of a feckless oaf who only remembers your birthday when he’s at the garage on the way home.

What self-respecting woman wants to bind her life to him? Honestly, you don’t want a life-term. You want a short-term contract with an option to extend. But that’s not a marriage, that’s just a committed relationship between two trusting adults. That’s sensible. That works.

And it’s what men want too, at least most of the men I know. Sure, we like blowjobs (although speaking purely for myself, they’re OK, but not the greatest thing we can do together). And some of us would put our cocks into a pencil sharpener if you told us it would feel good. But we’re not all like that. I know a dozen men who have been 100% committed to a partner for 10 or more years. I was too, until recently – or at least, I was as committed to her as she was to me, which I think is fair.

I know some men who have been desperate to marry. My brother, for example. He couldn’t wait to get wed, and start a family. And he did. He married his girlfriend, and they had 2 lovely kids… both of whom he gets every other weekend. Marriage didn’t stop him from falling out of love with his wife, it simply cost £20,000 for the ceremony at the beginning and £20,000 for lawyers at the end.

The truth is, we’re all apes. We have animal behaviours, even if we don’t often think of ourselves like that. All apes live in social groups and have largely monogomous relationships, which last just long enough to mate and raise their young to an age where they can take care of themselves. After that, the parents split and look for new mates. It’s the best way to diversify DNA, and is therefore best for healthy offspring. It’s what nature compels us to do.

In the case of humans, the natural length of a relationship is around 16 years. That’s enough time to have 2-3 kids and raise them to an age where they can survive alone. After that, our animal instincts tell us we’ve had enough, and need to start again.

That’s what nature intends. All this marriage codswallop is just an artifice which was largely invented to give men property rights over women.

So it’s entirely natural for women to want to find a stong, reliable man who will help to raise young. And it’s also natural for that man to want to do so. But don’t expect it to last 45 years, because that’s not nature’s way.

Weird after-effects

I’m 100% over cancer.

Except of course, I’m not. I don’t know if I ever will be.

It affected me in several ways: as a medical emergency, as a psychological shock, and as a variety of minor changes to how I feel, who I am, and what I can do.

Medical stuff

The medical emergency part was fine. I wasn’t unsettled or concerned. There was pain, but there was also pain medication. And I took the view that everything that could be done was being done.

So I wasn’t too worried, because you should only ever worry about things you can change. And within 6 weeks the medical aspect was over.

Physical recovery

In the immediate aftermath, everything was wonderful. The birds in the trees, the kids playing next door, the feeling of rain on my face. Life was grand.

I struggled to move for a few weeks, but then suddenly one day I could do a sit up or two, and before you know it I feel more or less fine. It’s about 10 months since the operation, and my scar-area still feels a little odd. Slightly bruised, and slightly numb too. But physically I’m back to normal.

Side-effects

I’m taking part in the trial of a new drug, which is a smart chemotherapy that targets cells which mutate into the cancer I had. It’s shown a lot of promise in people who have the cancer, and now they want to try it on people who don’t, but who are at risk of it coming back. That’s me. So I take the drugs.

There are side-effects, but not terrible. My hands and feet ache. I sometimes get headaches, but not noticeably more than I used to. One of the side-effects is that the drug makes your skin itch, so to counter this there’s a steroid in it, which makes it difficult to keep weight off. I have to watch the biscuits (which is a problem when you’re addicted to HobNobs).

I found out today that I’m not allowed to go to Kenya. The drug reduces my resistance to yellow fever, and a vaccination would be useless. So I’ve had to cancel a trip that I was looking forward to. It was only business, and only a few days, but I’m disappointed. I’d been dreaming of an African sky.

Psychological stuff

I’m not immortal. I think boys believe they are, and even though I’m 41 now I still retained that sense that life would just bounce off me. That feeling has gone. I don’t tiptoe through life in constant fear, but I’m aware now that shit happens. Injury and sickness are not just abstract ideas now. They feel very real.

And I’m going to die. This is different from simply not being immortal. The immortality thing is a feeling that I have a certain vulnerability. When I say “I’m going to die” I mean that inside me, at the back of my head, there’s a clock ticking. It’s going all the time. It’s reminding me that a year ago I thought for a while that I was on my deathbed, and that a whole army of regrets swarmed up around me.

I don’t want to regret anything. I want to grab hold of life and shake it up. I find myself frustrated and saddened by people who do exactly what I wanted to do a year ago – sit on the sofa after work, and forget about the world.

I’m aware that this makes me a total hypocrite. A couple of years ago I would be happy to get drunk or stoned, and lie around all day watching TV. I still like to lie in bed longer than I should, especially when it’s cold outside. But that’s a definite pleasure in itself, not the refusal to do anything else. As soon as I’m up I want to make the day count.

Oddly, people who know me say I’m much happier and more positive about life since the cancer. I thought I was happy before, but apparently I’m full of beans and smiles and action today. Who would have imagined that illness, vulnerability and intimations of doom would make a person so happy?!

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.

Evolution in a nutshell

It’s pretty simple.

Do you look exactly like your parents? I mean, literally identical? You may have your mum’s nose, and your dad’s ears, but you’re not a carbon copy. You are different.

What happened there, you see, is evolution. You were created by mixing two sets of genes, and the result was something pretty similar, but not exactly the same. You may have the colouring of your parents, or if they’re tall it’s quite likely you will be too. But you’re not literally identical.

It’s called mutation.

Now multiply that by a few thousand generations. Bingo. Evolution. And the earth has been here for 4.2 billion years, with life for the last 2 billion. There’s been plenty of time!

“Ah”, I hear you say, “I accept that evolution might make humans have darker skin or be taller, but it can’t change a mongoose into a squirrel”.

Let’s imagine a herd of grazing animals on the grassy plains of Africa. They’re a kind of antelope. Just as with humans, there is some small variation between individuals. Some are taller. Some are weaker. Some have better eyesight. It’s only a tiny difference, and most of the time it doesn’t count.

Then a lion attacks. The antelope with the best eyesight sees it first, and runs into some trees.

The taller one has longer legs, and can run faster, and he heads out onto the plain.

The weaker one gets eaten.

The antelope with the good eyesight hides in deep undergrowth, and meets another “good eyesight” antelope, and they have kids. This continues for many generations, with the eyesight getting better, and the animal getting smaller so it can hide in bushes. In time, you have a Dik Dik. Huge eyes, tiny body, timid.

The antelope with the long legs ran onto the plain, where there were taller trees. He met another tall antelope, and they had babies, who inherited some of the features of their parents, including being tall. The tall babies survived when a drought came, because they could reach leaves that were higher up. Over many generations, the trend was for the antelope to get bigger and bigger. Zip forward 200,000 years, and you have a giraffe.

In the meantime the lions are also going through an evolutionary arms race. Getting faster, stronger, smarter. One species pushes the other. Different environments produce different results.

It’s called Evolution, and it’s the truth.

Intelligent design.

Some people say “OK, we believe evolution happens” (because frankly, to deny it is like denying the sun exists). “But”, they say, “it’s happening because God directed it according to His intelligent design”.

And my answer to that is: the laryngeal nerve.

The laryngeal nerve is a nerve which goes from the brain to the larynx, and helps with swallowing (and in animals that can make sounds, it controls vocalisation).

It first developed in fish. It took the shortest route from the brain to the larynx. In a fish the heart is close to the brain, right up behind the gills. So the nerve travelled down from the brain, went behind the heart, and then to the larynx. Note it goes behind the heart. That was the shortest distance.

When fish evolved onto land (something the lungfish is still doing today, evolution fans) they needed to be able to move their head in new ways, so they could spot predators. So they developed more of a neck, and that meant some of the organs got pushed down into the torso. Including the heart.

The laryngeal nerve still went behind the heart, but had to take a longer route. It’s much easier to adapt something than to scrap it and start again, so that’s what evolution did: it just kept extending the nerve in each generation, tiny change by tiny change.

Every land animal, dinosaur, lizard, bird, mongoose, bear, whale, cat and human has evolved from those early fish. And in every one of us, the nerve that controls our swallowing and vocals starts at the brain, leads down the neck, wraps around our heart, and back up again to the larynx.

Even the giraffe. A 22 foot long nerve to pass a signal to the larynx, which is only 4 inches away from the brain.

Intelligent design? If that’s as good as God gets, He’s not intelligent at all. And that’s not a design. That’s the result of unplanned chaos.

The truth is, evolution is random and uncontrolled, and only has the appearance of being “designed” in the same way that the water in a puddle fits perfectly into the depression in the ground. Nobody designed the water, it just works that way because of the laws of physics and chemistry.

Similarly, nobody “designed” a Dik Dik, it’s just the best solution for the environment it’s in. Change the environment, and the animal changes too.

You are all atheists!!

I have accepted the Lord Jesus as my personal saviour.

No I haven’t, I just wanted to know what it felt like to use those words in that order. It’ll never happen again, because I believe in God about as much as you do.

Which is hardly at all.

You: No, that’s not true, I really believe in God a lot!

Mole rat: There are over 3000 Gods currently being worshipped. You don’t worship 2999 of those. So you’re 99.93% atheist. And that’s even ignoring the old Gods that nobody follows any more, like Baal or Thor or Zeus. In Namibia there’s a God of Cabbage. Worship him too, do you?

This is the real history of the Bible.

Most of the Old Testament was based on a series of existing myths, including some Baalism and some Zoroastrianism. A few names were changed, and a whole bunch of different legends were merged to form the character of Abraham. But essentially, the Old Testament it’s an amalgam of about 20 or 30 local stories from various tribes in northern Egypt, Syria and Palestine.

At the time it was begun, only about 1 in every 100,000 people could read or write. Writing was in its infancy, and most of the Old Testament was oral history, passed from generation to generation. And you know how accurate Chinese Whispers can be. Try doing it for 1000 years, and see how much the facts get warped.

Then along came the New Testament, which was begun in the year 130 AD. Until then, as with the Old Testament, it was just oral history. The first Bible as we’d know it is called the Sinai Codex, and was written around 160AD. In it, Jesus was not the son of God. That bit was added later.

In fact, a lot was added later. In the Old Testament, it was predicted that a Messiah would be born in Jerusalem. So it became necessary to show that Jesus was born there, or the whole myth falls apart. Therefore, somewhere around the year 300, some unknown scribe decided to add that story about the Roman census, which forced Mary and Joseph to travel from Egypt to the land of their great, great, great, great, great grandparents; and the whole business with Herod killing the babies, etc.

Four small problems:

  • The Romans didn’t hold a census that year. Records exist. They had a census in Palestine in 48BC, and another in 80AD. But none in the year zero.
  • If the Romans held a census, they’d want to know where you live. Not where your great, great, great, great, great grandparents lived. It’s like having a census now and asking you to register at the address your forebears lived at in the year 1862.
  • Even if, for some insane reason, the highly organised Roman Empire decided to hold the craziest census ever, and you really did have to register where your great, great, great, great, great grandparents lived, the question remains: which set of great dot-dot-dot grandparents? You’d have 64 of them. Do you go to visit the graves of the ones in Jerusalem, or the ones in Kent? What are the rules? Has anyone in a church ever thought about this shit?!
  • Oh, and Herod was dead by the time of Jesus’ birth. He’d been dead at least 12 years. Even his wife, Doris (I’m not making that up, she really was called Doris Herod) was dead.

The insane “birth” lie is just one example of the garbage that was added to the original Bible. And a lot was removed too. The Book of Judas, for instance. Scrapped. Didn’t fit with the story the church wanted to tell.

You see, the early Christian church was simply absorbed into the Roman Empire, which used the Jesus story to consolidate power. Roman Empire > Holy Roman Empire. Bingo. Just like that. Rebranded. And to seal the deal, Jesus was given some of the same back-story as the existing Roman god, Dionysus Bacchus. Such as:

  • Virgin birth
  • Born on 25th December
  • Dad was a god, Mum was a mortal
  • Changed water into wine
  • Encouraged his followers to take Eucharist (“this bread is my body” was his catchphrase)
  • Nickname was Yeusus. Not a million miles from Jesus, is it? Even closer in Arameic, where the letter Y is pronounced J.
  • Rode into town on a donkey, welcomed by adoring crowds bearing palm leaves
  • Was known as the King of Kings, and the Lamb of God
  • Died and came back to life after 3 days

You can trust the Bible like you can trust Fox News.

And it didn’t stop in the year 300. Up until the Council of Bishops in 1650, bits were still being added. We all know you can go back and edit your CV to make you sound a bit better, but if you’re writing a history of the creator of the universe (which is what Christians claim), surely you don’t just make it up? Surely there’s some alternative source for all this new material?

So where is that source?

Well, there isn’t one. For 1650 years, it was just invented.

We’re used to thinking about the past, and for some reason 1650 AD doesn’t seem too far away from the year zero. So put it into perspective. Imagine the story of Nelson Mandella, a modern-day figure who is widely respected and has great ideas about peace and freedom and social justice.

Now imagine giving that story to a bunch of people who want to use it to preserve their power and dominate others, and telling them they can add or subtract anything they want from the story until the year 3,650.

Think it’d still be accurate?

Think the Bible is true?

I’m not saying every word in the Bible is wrong. Or that ideas about peace and justice and equality are bad. There is plenty in the Bible that is admirable, but it’s all stuff that we already believe, Jesus or no Jesus. Do you think we just went around slaughtering each other without moral consideration before the Ten Commandments? Have we stopped doing it since? Of course not.

And before I finish, a brief word on the Ten Commandments. Which ten? Somebody chose the ten. Yes, they all appear in the Bible, but they’re mixed in with over 600 other Commandments. There’s nothing that says those ten are the best ones. One of them is that it is a mortal sin (i.e. you spend the rest of eternity in Hell) if you wear mixed fibres. Leviticus 19:19. Check it out. It’s insane.

I hate Valentine’s Day

Is there a worse thing in the universe than Valentine’s Day?

Every year Hallmark, the greetings card fascists, force men into pretending they give a big rubbery toss about flowers and pink champagne.

We tart ourselves up and spend money we don’t have on meals we don’t want, all to conform to an utterly invented excuse for selling more cards. Which, let’s face it, is just junk mail that you deliver by hand. Straight in the fucking recycling on 15th February.

Men hate Valentine’s Day. All of us. It’s not that we lack romance, or dislike spending time with our wives and girlfriends. We just hate doing it to order.

When I want to show somebody I love them, I do it. I take you somewhere special on a Wednesday in August, because it feels right. I spend an hour going down on you, because I want you to have a wonderful time. I make your favourite meal, and wash the pots, and give you a foot massage. I listen to you! (Believe me girls, a little bit of listening is a big commitment from most men. It’s not that we disrespect you, we’re just too busy fighting stormtroopers in our heads.)

So I’ll do all of that. But what I won’t do is wait until some state-sanctioned bullshit celebration, so I can buy a rancid £25 rose, as though a dead flower means anything to either of us. Because that’s no more an act of love than Christmas cake is an act of religious devotion.

And it’s not as though women enjoy it any more than men do. Oh sure, there are some women, (who for the sake of simplicity I’m going to refer to as “vacuous bints”) who buy into all of this cod-romantic bollocks. They probably also like Reece Witherspoon movies, and think the best type of dog is one which fits into your tiny, pointless handbag.

If you believe that, I’ve got a bridge you might want to buy.

But actual women, with actual brains? They hate Valentine’s Day too. They hate being made to feel the cause of so much male angst. They hate the flimsy lies and candle-lit mooning at each other in a violin-sodden restaurant. They hate the awkward, stunted conversation that just has to be about lurve, and not about what’s on TV or gossip at work.

Both men and women hate it. It’s a passionate, vitriolic and cowardly hatred: just enough hate for everybody to dread the whole event, but not enough for anybody to dare speak up.

This year, hold each other’s hands, look deeply into each others eyes, and make a solemn vow never to go through this bullshit again. You’d be doing yourself a favour.

And you’d be helping single people too. They hate Valentine’s Day too, because they’re sure they’re missing out on something. Many of them stay home and weep, but they ought to be leaping for joy. I will be!

I recently became single for the first time in 10 years, so for me the hell of 14 February with a partner is still fresh. I’m relishing sitting at home, drinking tea, and watching a war movie on my own. And I don’t even like war movies! But knowing I don’t have to put up with insipid romcom shite just because it’s Valentine’s Day fills me with glee.

My resolution is to bring down Valentine’s Day, for the sake of humanity. Delivering a fatal blow to greetings card pushers is just a happy side effect.

Fuck you, Hallmark!