Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Masterchef Recap: Who Came First?

Immunity Day begins with George explaining to Billie, Matthew and Georgia that they were the top cooks in the invention test, but that was a couple of days ago, and that today is a different day. The three amateurs nod wisely, fully understanding the concept of today not being the same day as other days. This could be key.

Marco lifts a cloche to reveal an egg. One gets the feeling he's done this before. "Everyone can cook an egg," he murmurs threateningly, "but can they cook it well?" He tells a story from his boyhood, about the insane chef who asked for eggs he didn't want. "One piece of advice," he adds. "Don't crack under the pressure." The great thing about that sentence is that it is a joke about eggs. Pretty clever.

The first thing Billie does is get her egg on the boil. This is almost certainly a good move - she'll have an edge over any contestants who forget to cook their egg. Matthew had started wrapping asparagus in bacon, so he might have misunderstood the challenge.

Georgia is doing "everything I wouldn't normally do" - standing on her head, taking off her pants, shaving her friends' pubic hair while they sleep. She has placed her egg as far away from herself as possible, because she despises it. 

Shannon tells the story of when Marco taught him how to crack an egg - Shannon was quite inexperienced when he began his apprenticeship. Marco never, however, taught him how to brush his hair.

"Push, push, push!" yells George, voicing this season's Official Masterchef Catchphrase and being no help to anybody whatsoever, because what on earth does "push" mean when you're cooking an egg?

Distracted by George's inane blather, Billie has undercooked her egg and it's all gone kablooie. But they only get one egg! What's she to do? Clearly she will have to try to lay a new one. We cut to an ad break - when we return we'll see how she's getting along.

"How long did you boil the egg for?" asks Gary.

"I don't know," says Billie.

"You don't KNOW?" spits Gary in the manner of someone talking to a convicted dogfight-runner. Gary and George advise Billie to not put her egg in the water until it's already boiling, which is great advice to get after it's too late.

Georgia has never felt this nervous about cracking an egg, but to be fair that's not a high bar to clear. She's testing her pan to see if it's hot enough. "It can't be not hot enough," she informs us, getting a little over-technical.

Meanwhile Matthew is poaching his egg, incurring the wrath of Kenyan government patrols. Gary is surprised at the way Matthew is poaching his egg - he considers it an abomination, but Matthew sticks to his perverted guns.

With just a few minutes to go, Matthew realises that he's pulled a classic Billie, and undercooked his egg. His egg white breaks. It's an unspeakable tragedy. His dish looks like a vandal has thrown an egg at someone's breakfast. Anyway, time's up, he'll have to deal with his horrible horrible flaws.

Billie serves up her egg. Marco can't see the egg. He eats some of the egg. He can't taste the egg. The egg has disappeared, as if rescued by a chicken liberationist front. Her dish is tasty, but not eggy. Her chances are not good.

Matthew's pathetic mess is next. The judges find his broken egg repellent and offensive. Marco thinks he went wrong at the start - pre-school, perhaps.

Georgia's fried egg looks dodgy, but at least you can see it and it's not dribbling down the sides of asparagus. Marco lectures her about pan temperature as if he's some kind of supervillain monologuing to a hostage. He then stares at her, and stares at her, and stares at her some more. "Why do you look so worried?" he asks, Joker-style. The fact is he doesn't know who Georgia is, or why he is wearing a white jacket, or what all the cameras are for.

Anyway Georgia's egg didn't revolt the judges' soul quite as much as the others, so she goes through to the immunity challenge. George holds up the immunity pin. It is unimpressive.

To win the immunity pin, Georgia will have to out-cook someone whose name, according to Matt, is something like "Joffpeddle". Nobody knows who he is. It's very doubtful that even the judges do.

Georgia's choice of pantry is "above ground or below". Above is things like beef, poultry, fruit, spices and so forth. Below is potatoes, seafood and cicadas. She chooses below due to her devotion to the nether realms. 

Shannon gives Georgia some advice - cook what Marco would eat at home. But where will she find crushed cigarette butts and flakes of Marco's dead skin? Georgia, driven mad by ambition, begins chopping sweet potatoes with no particular aim in mind. Shannon calms her and tells her "less is more", in keeping with his official role as Giver of Pointless Advice.

Georgia is flustered to the point of thrombosis, but Shannon cunningly hypnotises her with his magical eyebrows, and she calms down enough to plan a seafood broth. 

Meanwhile Joffpeddle says he's going to be "blanching marrons", so there's no point listening to him as he clearly doesn't speak English. Someone on the balcony asks what he's doing with his truffles, as if it's any of their damn business. He hurls truffles at them. The atmosphere is tense and violent.

The first thing Georgia needs to do is get her broth perfect. Shannon advises her to have a think about balance. But Georgia is beyond thinking. She is a being of pure broth-instinct. She adds in fennel, like a mad woman. 

Joffpeddle is teaching the balcony about marrons. The main lesson seems to be that marrons are hideous monsters that you only eat to absorb their magical powers.

On the other side, Georgia isn't cooking her scallops, a brave move, although not in the context of what firefighters and police officers do every day. Who's the real hero here? She hopes the scallops will cook in the broth. Shannon has a really good feeling, but this is mainly because Joffpeddle is faffing around with salmon eggs like some kind of weird fish husbandry professor. Also his potato and leek soup isn't doing what he wants it to, ie turn into something better than potato and leek soup.

Time is up, and both competitors have put onto a plate things which could possibly be food, but it's pretty hard to be certain. Georgia looks at her dish and can't believe that she made it, before realising she's actually looking at the cover of Taste magazine.

The judges try Georgia's scallops and prawns, covered in her hot sexy broth. Marco says the broth is full of flavour. George thinks it tastes like the sea, which actually sounds disgusting. Gary has problems with the prawns, which is just typical.

Next is Joffpeddle's dish, which the judges pretend they don't know whose it is but it's pretty damn obvious. It's very good but Marco hates salmon roe. He is a roe-cist. Will his bigotry cost the professional chef the meaningless prestige of winning a Masterchef immunity challenge against an amateur?

Judging time. The judges are big fans of both dishes, but Georgia suffers from having an uncooked prawn and for not being a highly-paid professional chef, so big frigging surprise, Joffpeddle wins, despite Marco's vicious denunciation of salmon eggs as counter-revolutionary. It's always a shock when someone who does something for a living is better at it than someone who doesn't it, isn't it?

Tomorrow: running!

Georgia reacting with astonishment to the contents of her egg

Monday, May 18, 2015

BREAKING: Joe Hockey admits wife has been giving interview answers without his knowledge

Treasurer Joe Hockey today stunned the Press Gallery by admitting that for some time, his wife has been providing his answers during interviews and press conferences without his knowledge.

Mr Hockey, who had come under fierce criticism for recent statements - including his speculation that the wives of government ministers Matthias Cormann and Josh Frydenberg may have "double-dipped" on paid parental leave schemes without informing their husbands - became emotional as he revealed that for the majority of the past year, his own wife had been living in his mouth and supplying all the words he spoke in public, unbeknownst to him.

"I can only apologise on her behalf," Mr Hockey sighed in a doorstop interview. "She hid her activities from me, and the fact is wives do sometimes keep things from their husbands. It's not uncommon for a man to be unaware of his wife's financial decisions or secret life inside her husband's mouth speaking on his behalf, and I'm afraid that's what's happened here."

It would appear that Mrs Hockey had engaged a contractor clandestinely to build a small alcove towards the back right corner of the Treasurer's mouth, from where she could manipulate his tongue and cause the emission of her own chosen words at any time she chose.

It's believed that Mrs Hockey's actions are responsible for many of her husband's most controversial statements of late, including: the assertion that accessing an employer's PPL scheme and the government's scheme at the same time was "fraud"; the claim that he had never said that it was fraud; and his agreement to appear on the Today Show with Karl Stefanovic.

When asked whether Mrs Hockey was also to blame for past gaffes such as references to "leaners and lifters" or his claim that poor people don't drive cars, Mr Hockey said he would have to check his records, but noted that "certainly my wife seems to have a penchant for saying incredibly stupid things that an experienced and professional politician certainly wouldn't say". He implied she may also have rigged some kind of apparatus that caused him to smoke cigars and dance in his office at the time of last year's Budget, but replied "No comment" when asked whether that entire Budget was delivered by Mrs Hockey.

At time of writing, comment was being sought from Social Services Minister Scott Morrison as to whether Mrs Hockey had gained access to his mouth when he declared that accessing two parental leave schemes was a "rort" but that people who did it were not "rorters"; and from Prime Minister Abbott regarding his entire life.

Masterchef Recap: Marco's Lambs To The Slaughter

Marco Week. It is one of the world's foremost religious holidays, a time when people of culinary faith everywhere join together to worship and adore Marco Pierre White, one of the food industry's foremost psychopaths. This great enigma of the kitchen, who year by year grows more mysterious and less able to say with any certainty where or who he is, inspires powerful emotions in the breasts of aspiring chefs: fear, love, fear, nervousness, inspiration, anger, fear, shyness, hunger, fear, and terror.

Tonight is an elimination: Andrea, John and Jacqui cook off under Marco's watchful yet slightly confused eye to stay in the competition. But not only will they have to cook, they will have to butcher the saddle of lamb themselves as well, a challenge combining the two essential elements of Marco's own career: gourmet cooking and dismembering of corpses.

Early on Andrea runs into a problem: she has confused the lamb with her own thumb and cut deeply into the latter, a development so traumatic she suffers a soft-focus flashback. But ever the trooper, she carries on, reasoning that the lightheadedness that comes from blood loss can only help her cook in the true spirit of Marco.

Apparently it's a night for flashbacks: Jacqui now has one, remembering the gorgeous kids that she so eagerly abandoned to get on the show. It's terror of seeing them again that drives her tonight.

John is rushing. We know this because Marco is staring at him and saying, "John...you're rushing". He reminds John of what happened to the tortoise and the hare, a pretty bad analogy given that the hare's problem was its failure to rush. Nevertheless John says he wants to be a tortoise because if he doesn't Marco will definitely punch him, so he slows down.

Marco wanders over to tell Andrea not to rush either. It's quite difficult for the contestants, what with Marco constantly telling them not to rush and Gary constantly yelling about how little time there is left.

"I'm here to observe you, not to help you," Marco rumbles to Andrea in the manner of a man on the set of a snuff film. Andrea can't read Marco's stony, mad face: she thinks lack of expression is a good sign, but actually it's a sign that Marco has had a stroke.

Marco is taking off his glasses and putting them back on repeatedly, trying to remember what they are and why they're on his face.

"Do I smell something burning?" Marco asks, fearful that his time has come at last. But Marco is like Rasputin: he cannot be killed by conventional means, and he cures haemophilia.

Jacqui is taking her caramelised bones out of the oven, but it doesn't make her any more interesting. "Amazing what can be achieved with a bit of care and thought and love, isn't it?" says Marco, who now believes that he is actually a priest presiding over a wedding. Jacqui decides that Marco's cryptic pronouncements mean she should ignore the recipe, a move which pretty much always works on Masterchef.

Marco, now under the impression he is an obstetrician, walks up and down the room shouting, "Push! Push! Push!" The amateurs are chopping up their enormous lamb-and-glad-wrap dildos. Apparently you leave the glad wrap on while you cook lamb noisettes, which seems very wrong to me, but I am no famous crazy chef.

"I know I have to dig deep inside to create something as great as Marco," says John, his experiments in gene splicing proving frustrating. He flashes back to his life as a flight attendant, praying Masterchef will mean an end to his days of helping people.

Meanwhile Andrea's noisettes are bursting open due to rough handling, just like Marco's sous chef. Will this cost her? At least she's not as dumb as Jacqui, who forgot to tie up her noisettes with string, like the worst kind of moron. One of Jacqui's noisettes bursts open too. The carnage is horrific. It's like Saving Private Ryan. Noisettes are exploding everywhere, strong men are weeping, children scream for their mothers. It's a sobering reminder of the most important element in cooking: string.

The last thing John wants is crunchy artichokes, which I assume is some kind of underground fetish club slang. Marco is quizzing Jacqui about her artichokes. Jacqui took it for granted that they'd be cooked. Marco finds this "interesting", which is almost certainly his way of saying "I am going to gut you like a fish". Although it's equally plausible that he only even talks to the contestants so he can lean on their benches and have a rest, since any movement at all seems to take enormous effort.

John needs to push through and get these on a plate, and nobody can seriously argue that this is a valid goal at the moment. Andrea is feeling the pressure and cutting it fine with her mushrooms, unlike Marco, who took all his mushrooms hours ago.

"You haven't got a second to waste," Marco lies. With five minutes to go, the contestants are for the sixtieth time urged to "push", as if that means anything whatsoever.

"Read the recipe, read the recipe, read the recipe, read the recipe, read the recipe," Marco barks. Jacqui wonders idly if he is trying to tell her something. She's worrying the balcony with her failure to remove the fat from her noisettes, but she refuses to bow to conventional standards of beauty.

Reynold is concerned that Andrea isn't going to get her mushrooms out in time, but given Reynold is incapable of making any dish that doesn't include ice cream and salted caramel, don't know why anyone would ever listen to him.

John bursts into tears as he sees his partner's face floating before him and realises that ghosts are real.

Jacqui now realises her failure to trim her noisettes and that she has shamed her family. Emotions are running high for the three amateurs, who are rightly disgusted with themselves.

Gary has no idea how they're going to go. He doesn't really even know who they are. He has not been paying attention to anything that's been happening since the auditions.

John plates up his noisettes first. They look good. Marco smiles at him erotically. John tells them how he left a job that he loves to pursue his dream of getting a job that he doesn't love. Marco thinks John doesn't like following recipes. Marco's fingers are crossed. Marco will consult the entrails of a boar and get back to John.

John has done a very good job. The judges can't stop talking about how white the artichokes are. It's kind of creepy. Marco thinks John has shown off who he is - a small round piece of meat in a brown sauce.

Next is Jacqui, with her fat-lined noisettes, one of which has burst. "Pressure's an amazing thing, isn't it?" Marco says, inviting her to his bed with his eyes. Jacqui loves to cook and wants to do more, which should be pretty easy because it's a free country and nobody is going to stop her from cooking if she wants to.

Matt thinks Jacqui's done a really good job. "Lamb loves garlic like a shark loves blood," he cries, which is a fairly sociopathic thing to say. The judges agree: she's done lots and lots of things wrong, but given their incredibly low expectations, she's done OK.

Andrea's turn. "It was amazing watching you today," says Marco, mentally carving her into thin strips. He pokes his noisette with his fingers, as close to foreplay as he ever gets.

Andrea's lamb is undercooked. Except Gary's bit. Gary is the favourite. Marco says he's "nitpicking" by noting that Andrea, an entrant in a cooking competition, has cooked badly. I guess he would rather we look at the big picture, like Andrea's posture and dress sense.

John's dish was the best. Andrea's was the worst. Which was saying something, because Jacqui's sucked. Andrea thanks the judges for an amazing experience, in the voice of someone who wishes she was at this moment walking into the sea. Marco tells Andrea again how much he loves watching her cook, and it is as always incredibly disturbing. There is a definite implication that Marco is going to follow Andrea home.

An epilogue informs us that Andrea is "exploring her food opportunities", so I guess she's basically given up. It says she hopes to stage pop-up dining events for charity, but that sounds a lot like something someone who has no plans would make up when a producer rang them up.

Tomorrow: an egg.

Andrea learns her fate

Sunday, May 3, 2015

On The Revival Of Principle

For as long as there have been politicians, the greatest problem society has struggled with has been the question of how to attract outstanding candidates to a life in politics. Given the moral and ethical compromises necessary to build a successful political career, and the fundamentally corrupting nature of power, how can we encourage talented, upright people of integrity to engage with politics and thus change the system for the better?

So it’s a slice of luck that the current golden age of political commitment has come along to inspire a new generation of would-be statesmen and women. Where once young people would look at their elected leaders and bemoan the way their principles melted like ice in the sun once subjected to the realities of democracy, now they can see the modern political breed and say to themselves, if I enter politics, I’ll never have to give up my firm commitment to torturing children.

That was always a bit of a sticking point for talented youngsters seeking their way in life. So many of them wanted to devote themselves to public service, but were afraid that realpolitik would hold them back from expressing their deep moral belief in the virtues of child torture. “If I stand for election,” they would ponder, chewing their lips in trepidation, “electoral imperatives and party-room manoeuvring may force me to water down, or even abandon, my ambitions to torture large numbers of children, preferably foreign ones, in island prisons.”

No need to worry any more, MPs of the future! As the success of a generation of red-hot parliamentary operators proves, principle and pragmatism CAN co-exist. The days of an honest devotion to the practice of systemic child abuse being incompatible with ultimate electoral triumph are over.

For this we can probably thank the previous Labor government, and their willingness to stand up for values. We all remember when Julia Gillard and Chris Bowen came before the Australian people and said, “Enough is enough. No longer will this government be guided by shabby expediency when it comes to deciding whether to imprison innocent children in offshore camps with no regard to their safety. No, from now on it is the dictates of our conscience that will guide us in regard to the facilitation of physical, mental and sexual abuse against people of all ages from other countries who wish to improve their lives.”

And since then, well, almost every pollie from either major party has picked up that ball and run with it. Of course there are some standouts when it comes to leading by example, like Scott Morrison and Tony Abbott, but even those you might have imagined would never sacrifice short-term political gain for freedom of conscience, like Malcolm Turnbull or Wayne Swan, have embraced the new paradigm of idealism.

So to the younger generation, I say: don’t be afraid! If you want to help shape the world from the corridors of power, don’t hold back for fear of having your deeply-held beliefs compromised. Don’t think that just because you’re dependent on broad public appeal for your position, you’ll be asked to give up fighting for the right of your country to brutally destroy the lives of children. The truth is, despite what the cynics tell you, you can make a difference, as long as you are steadfast in your principles and never forget the reason you entered politics in the first place – a sincere and honest desire to condemn children to live blighted lives bereft of hope in far-flung hells on earth while suffering daily degradation, agony and psychological trauma.

So get out there, kids, and make your dreams come true! And, obviously, stop other kids from doing the same. 

Monday, March 30, 2015


Would you like to be a comedy reviewer? Are you hoping to get paid for watching funny folk, and then telling the punters what their hard-earned cash should be spent on? Do you dream of your byline appearing in the Age, or Herald Sun, or one of those stupid websites or something, above some well-considered views on the art of performance and the nature of humour?

Luckily, as someone whose diverse activities involve both the art of comedy AND the art of criticism, and as someone who is generally very clever, I am uniquely well-placed to provide you with the essential tips that will help turn you into a skilled comedy-reviewing machine. Sit down and take notes, kids, it's my


1. Remember to include as much detail as possible. Audiences don't like to be surprised, and comedians don't like to surprise them. Your job is to be absolutely explicit in telling potential ticket-buyers what they're in for. Most importantly, make sure that if you remember any good punchlines, you quote them verbatim - comedians love it when you do this, as it helps create a "buzz".

2. Make helpful suggestions whenever possible. If you're sitting in the audience of a show, and you think of a really good joke the comedian COULD have made, or a subject you'd like them to talk about, slip that into the review. It will be good constructive criticism for the performer, and act as a good warning for the reader that this is a comic who has a tendency to not make the same jokes that the audience came up with while watching them. Knock off a star or two for any comedian who fails to make a joke that you thought of - they're clearly not quick thinkers. Plus it lets the reader know you're a pretty funny peep yourself!

3. Describe the venue. This is crucial: nothing kills a comedy show like a comedian who refuses to perform in a big enough room, or provide comfortable chairs. The audience will want to know exactly what the venue will be like, and will hold you responsible if you recommend a comedian with a bad room. Don't let them get away with this.

4. Use lots of clever comedy-related phrases. For example, saying something "is no laughing matter" is a great way of indicating: a) that you know that comedy and laughter are connected, and b) that the thing you're talking about is no laughing matter". You could also use "tears of a clown" when a comedian talks about sad things, or "tickle the funny bone", if you want to indicated that something is funny, but need a more interesting, skeletal way of conveying it. Also, try to work in the term "belly laughs" as often as possible: it will tip the reader off that you know what you're doing to a very strong degree.

5. If a comedian is making jokes about things that, if they weren't making jokes about them, would normally be pretty serious, you should not only mention the fact, but really try to express, in the strongest possible terms, how surprising it is that this should happen. This will responsibly inform potential audience members that hey, here is a show where serious things in life will be discussed and don't be alarmed if this happens.

6. Make careful note of how often the comedian says swearwords. Many people decide which comic to see based on how many times swearing happens, and a strict accounting will help them make wise decisions.

7. Tell us what the comedian looks like. Clothes, hair, smile, everything. Nobody enjoys going to a comedy show without knowing beforehand how attractive they'll find the comedian - it can lead to all sorts of awkward moments. This is especially important for nice-looking people who say things that aren't nice. If that kind of cognitive dissonance is likely to be triggered, people need fair warning. It should be noted that this is mainly for girls, although it can be applied to men sometimes, particularly if they're fat.

8. Remember that if you don't understand the jokes, it is never your fault. Make sure everyone reading your review knows how angry you are about this.

9. If you can think of any comedian who in any way resembles to the slightest extent the comedian you are seeing, mention the fact that they are extremely similar. If you can't think of anyone, pick one at random: it is almost impossible for a person to understand what a comedy show will be like without reference to something they've seen before.

Happy reviewing!

Thursday, February 26, 2015

It's not a bug, it's a feature

In a profession for which dishonesty is common currency, from a government to whom the big lie comes more naturally than the blue tie, there are few falsehoods more pernicious, malicious and grotesque than this: that what occurs to asylum seekers in detention is a cause for sorrow.

Assaults on detainees? Murders? Suicides? Children driven to madness and self-harm? Terribly unfortunate, they will tell you, a saddening byproduct of policies put in place for the greater good. The current government preens and boasts that there are fewer children in detention under them than under the previous regime - we are caring more for these youngsters, they proclaim, we are lessening their suffering through our efficiency, strength and compassion.

The idea is that what happens to these children - and moreover to their parents, their siblings, and anyone else caught up in the gears of the detention machine - is terrible but unavoidable as long as people insist on coming by boat, and the only way to stop it is to stop those boats. We do not abuse these children, the government gasps - heavens NO! In fact we work assiduously to prevent the abuse. By...stopping the boats, of course.

Except, of course, they do not. Oh yes, they try to stop the boats; they will strain every sinew and work from dawn to dusk in the interests of boat-stopping. And yes, if the boats don't come, the detention centres don't fill up, in the same way that a prison will be closed down if you shoot all the criminals.

But don't let yourself believe for one second that when people do come by boat, when they do end up in the centres, that what happens there is by chance and not by design. What you read about what happens in these hideous places is exactly what is supposed to happen: pain, fear and anguish amounting to mass torture. When you hear that people from far-off lands who tried to reach our shores are being beaten or raped, that those paid to protect them are brutalising them, that their sanity is slipping irretrievably away, that small children are giving up on life and wishing for death...

When you are made aware of all this, don't let yourself believe that any of it is, to the slightest degree, in opposition to the government's plans. In fact, nothing could be more convenient for them. If the Immigration Minister did not specifically plan for the facilities under his control to become playgrounds for child abusers, it certainly worked out beautifully for his stated aims.

This is the entire purpose of the detention centres: they are there to cause suffering. They are there to ruin lives. They are there to turn existence into a waking nightmare for all who are imprisoned. They are there, most of all, to inspire terror across the world. They are designed to make even the most desperate and miserable of our planet's inhabitants accept their lot. They are calculated to cause people who see their future as so bleak and hopeless, if they stay where they are, that they will risk their own and their families' lives in dreadful ocean journeys, to believe that bleak and hopeless future is still preferable to what will be done to them in an Australian detention centre.

The system was set up specifically to inform anyone thinking of hopping on a boat in an attempt to make a better life in Australia that what we will do to you and your children is so awful that giving up on a better life altogether is a preferable option.

That is the intention. That is what the government is doing. And assaults, abuse, suicide and murder fit the plan to perfection.

It's not a bug, it's a feature. And it seems to be working quite marvellously well.

Not working to save lives, of course. Not working to help people. Not working to increase the net happiness in the world, or reduce the net unhappiness, by even the most infinitesimal amount.

But working to stop the boats? Yes.

Working to ensure we don't have to worry about unruly foreigners scurrying around in our nice clean country without the proper paperwork? Absolutely.

Working to make sure that any refugees who die do so neatly and well out of sight, fading away in foreign lands without hope or relief or meeting their fate in perilous voyages to countries yet to inspire as much fear as Australia does, beyond the reach of photographers who can remind us of the uncomfortable facts of the world? Without a shadow of a doubt.

It works to keep people in their place. It works to save us the bother of caring for anyone different to ourselves. It works to cement the idea in the local populace that the government in well-fed, luxurious Australia has the right to tell people in less luxurious places - who want to try for a share of the riches that are ours by nothing more than dumb blind luck - that they are unfit to make any decisions about what risks might be worthwhile taking to improve their lot in life or build a future for their families.

Cruelty is government policy. Not secretly, but trumpeted from the rooftops as proof of our rulers' muscular competency. Not cruel to be kind, but cruel to be terrifying: so terrifying that eventually we won't have to actually inflict the cruelty; the knowledge of how cruel we are will be enough to keep everyone well away from us.

And the best part? There's nothing we can do about it. We can complain, we can protest, we can rage and we can harangue - and we should do all these things because they are the only things we can do. But we are outnumbered, and outgunned. Cruelty is popular and terror is beloved. At the next election one side might win, or the other might, but either way the ship of state will continue serenely on its current bearing, steadfast in the now-indisputable view that brutality is the only way to protect this country from whatever it is we were told we needed to be protected from, all those years ago.

Vicious, sadistic, unapologetic abuse of the innocent is now bipartisan, and for the foreseeable future, immovable and untouchable as the foundational principle of strong government. So ingrained is it that we'll be complimentary of the man or woman who wears a sad face while they torture. We'll appreciate the leader who we believe abuses out of a fear of polls rather than a native hatred. We'll be grateful for mercies so small they can't even be seen.

The world will move on, and the atrocities will continue, and the sadness of the world will grow. We must keep speaking and we must keep hoping that the tide will turn some day. We have to believe that a sliver of decency can find its way through.

Or maybe we won't. Maybe we'll grow to accept this all as so many of our countrymen and women have, and one day it'll seem normal, and we'll end up nodding wisely and saying, like good patriots, "Mm, strong borders. Has to be done."

But what we can't do, what we can't forget, ever, is that this is not happening by accident. This is not a side-effect of necessary measures. Always, always remember: what is happening in those godforsaken camps is exactly what our leaders want to happen.

Suffering is the heart of their plan, and they will go to their graves clutching it fondly to themselves, smiling at how well they handed it out.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Harris Wittels, 1984-2015

Last year one of the funniest men on the planet took his own life. He was 63 years old and had spent his whole life fighting his own pain until he was too exhausted to keep it up.

This week, again one of the funniest men on the planet left us. He was 30 years old, and I don't know why or how he came to leave. He'd had his problems, he'd told the world about them, and it had seemed that he'd come through them to somewhere better. I don't know what happened that made it all fall apart.

In fact I don't really know anything about him, and it's kidding myself to act like I did. As much as I wished I could have met him, I never did. I didn't know him, but we so easily come to feel that we do know people who can make us laugh, even when it's just through the sound of their voice, recorded on the other side of the world. I didn't know Harris Wittels at all, I just knew he was brilliant and funny and what he did made my life better. There are countless people who would say exactly the same.

If losing someone so young and so suddenly is inexplicable, it feels all the more so when it's someone so full of that supreme talent for creating laughter. But there never was a way to turn the ability to make jokes into the ability to make yourself happy. Comedy doesn't protect you from pain or diseases or addictions or stupid meaningless accidents or any of the monsters that come to steal away young lives. All it does is paint the tragedy with a kind of sick irony, make it look on the surface to be so perverse that it paradoxically becomes easier for us to process - the juxtaposition of laughter and tears so extreme that it's somehow fitting.

But no, that's not all comedy does in these times - it also leaves something behind. Harris Wittels could have, should have, would have done so much more, but he'd also done so much already, and he's left us all a lot of beauty to remember him with.

That's something, but it's hard to see right now. Right now my heart hurts and all I can see is that there is so much sadness in the world, and it might be insurmountable.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

2014: The Definitive List Of Retrospective Things

Wow, what a year! There were ups, there were downs, there were laughs, there were tears, there were days, there were months, there were low pressure systems, there were sandbanks. But most of all there were things. And though others may have impressed you with their looks back at the things of 2014, none of those OTHER lists are as comprehensive and definitive as this, my specially curated List Of The Things Of 2014, a retrospective of  the things that in 2014, we could say without fear of contradiction, were.

1. These sheep

Wow, remember these sheep? No? Well, someone does!

2. Oranges

If there's one thing you can say about 2014, it's "wow, this year people ate some oranges". Have truer words ever been written?

3. The guy from Blue's Clues

What did THIS guy get up to in 2014? Nobody knows! Apart from presumably his family and friends!

4. Exercise bikes

When we look back at 2014, will we remember it as the year of exercise bikes? We might!

5. Bricks

Some people might have thought we'd be "over" bricks by 2014, but no, bricks carried on as strong as ever!

6. An angry leopard

It's amazing how often this year our lives were impacted by the existence of an angry leopard. I sure didn't see that coming a year ago!

7. President Barack Obama

A lot of good judges think 2014 was the year that President Barack Obama was more president than he'd ever been. The thousands of people abducted by Mr Obama during the year would agree!

8. Trains

Whether you live in the city, the country, or the bottom of the ocean, one thing's for sure: 2014 had trains in it!

9. Hunting in bright clothing

It was almost like an epidemic in 2014, as millions of people suddenly put on bright clothing and hunted!

10. Machines

If you're like me, you were stunned by how many machines were in places in this past year!

11. Writing

Against all expectations, writing kept happening!

WOW! What a year!