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Bloke.

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A more civilised age.

(Fri 2nd Mar 2012, 10:56, More)

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» War

Nightclub
As a callow youth I collected glasses in a nightclub. Think late eighties, all expensive imported bottled beers, Miami-Vice style pastel colours and neon lights in the shape of saxophones on the walls, very swish. Oh, and in Wigan. Yeah.

The door staff looked like clones, stamped out of a mould labelled "six four, nineteen stone, none of it fat, mid-twenties, buzz cut, big grin". They all wore white tuxedos to stand out in the crowd and were all jovial rugby playing lads.

Now, rather tragically, there was a bloke who used to turn up to the club dressed in a white tuxedo too. He was about five foot eight, probably about nine stone when he was damp, in his forties with thinning hair and Mike Read-style glasses. He'd stand by the dancefloor with a tonic water but never chat anyone up or dance, and the poor fella didn't seem to have any friends.

One night a punter was leaning over the bar harassing one of the barmaids, pointing and shouting obscenities about didn't she know who he was and he WOULD get what he wanted, etc. etc. Tragic little fella was standing behind him, and tapped him on the shoulder to attract his attention. The punter glanced round, spun on the spot and delivered a punch that would have taken tragic fella's head off... if it had connected. As it was, he just kind of leaned back slightly and swatted it on its way like it was an irritating mosquito, and then in the space of no more than a second hit the guy in the face AT LEAST a dozen times. It was almost funny - he looked like he'd been speeded up like the end of a Benny Hill show. I could hear the sound of the impacts over the music and it sounded like a drum roll. Mouthy punter literaly had absolutely no idea what had hit him and crumpled to the ground. I have literally never seen anyone move that fast. If the Matrix had come out in 1986 I'd have been able to use it as a reference - as it was I'd just never seen anything like it.

Two of the clones came over, one took the shoulders and the other took the legs and they got him out of there. Tragic fella got himself another tonic water and went back to the edge of the dancefloor.

In conversation with one of the clones later I learned that tragic fella was not, in fact tragic at all, and was, in fact, also one of the door staff, hence the outfit. Bearing in mind that the man I was talking to spent his free time carrying a rugby ball at a sprint into oncoming mountains of muscle intent on doing him injury, I was impressed when he described the little bloke as the hardest man he'd ever met. Vegetarian teetotal non-smoking Buddhist, apparently. Quite the conflict resolver, as well - apparently I'd witnessed something very very rare, as he hardly ever had to actually hit anyone.
(Fri 1st Jun 2012, 13:15, More)

» Midlife Crisis

I've got a theory...
... that my generation (early forties) and younger won't have mid life crises like they used to be. Here's why:

In the olden days (i.e. when I was a kid), blokes in their forties had often left school at sixteen or eighteen, or if they were lucky and/or posh had gone to uni. In any case, firmly on a track. They'd meet a girl, get married (quite possibly to one of the first few women they ever had sex with), and by their mid-twenties there'd be kids in their house. They'd get their heads down and pay a mortgage and start working their way up the ladder at work.

And then when they got to be about forty, in the mid seventies, their kids would be in their mid-teens. Girls would be flowering and bringing friends home. Boys would be getting girlfriends and bringing them home. Either way, these men would be reminded of the freshness of youth. Kids would getting independent, learning to drive, and taking advantage of new opportunities available to them due to increased affluence. At exactly the same time, their parents, who would by now be in their sixties and seventies and getting decrepit and dependent, would serve as a reminder of where their life was inevitably headed. Their wives, naturally, would be concentrating harder on running the house and possibly their careers than on making themselves look like sex kittens, and to top it all, after twenty years or so, their career would likely have plateaued. At this point, they'd look in the mirror at their greying temples and the beginnings of wrinkles, and they'd start to think about all the things they'd missed out on because they married young. And they'd think "this is my last chance". And they'd get a sports car, or a motorbike, and start wearing age-inappropriate clothing and chasing younger women, all in a bid to recapture something they felt they'd missed out on - an independent youth.

But for people now in their forties, the average age we got married - if we even got married at all - is much higher. More of us are delaying having kids, or not having them at all. We grew up in a time of relative prosperity, and the rise of Loaded and FHM were symptomatic of a society where it was acceptable for men in their twenties and thirties to behave like teenagers, playing computer games and buying toys and chasing women. Fundamentally, as a generation, we didn't miss out, because our adolescence was extended into our twenties and thirties. So we arrive in our forties and what do we find? We work indoors in an office, we always slathered on sunscreen, and we followed that skin care regime in "Men's Health", so we don't look that old. If we're married, our wives did similar and they look fabulous. Our kids, if we got any, are still toddlers or at least ten or under because we delayed breeding - and we get to play with their toys. And our parents, far from being decrepit, just Skyped us from bloody Thailand because their ludicrously generous final salary pensions mean they're better off than us. There's no such thing as a "career plateau" any more because there's not the same concept of a "career" - work is far more fluid than it used to be, hardly any jobs for life any more. Nothing about this scenario is telling us we have a last chance to grab something we never had, because anything we wanted, we had and to an extent still have. Also, in the event we find ourselves single and wishing for female company, the internet means meeting someone compatible and age-appropriate is simplicity itself.

My only vaguely MLC purchase was a left-handed electric guitar, which I bought, plonked about with briefly, then placed on a stand in the corner of my movie room, there to gather dust because I can't be bothered learning to play it. Other than that, at 44 I can't see the need for a crisis because life's been pretty sweet up to now, and the same goes for most of the blokes I know.

And yes, I know we're lucky.
(Fri 3rd May 2013, 9:20, More)

» The B3TA Detective Agency

I swear this is true.
The oddest and most mystifying thing that ever happened to me happened in a motorway service station near Bristol. Me and the g/f had stopped for a Red Bull and a nap to prevent a sleep-induced crash (this is probably relevant). We were standing in the shop, looking idly at the choccy bar display.

And then money appeared.

Nobody was standing anywhere near us, and in fact apart from the woman behind the counter there was nobody else in the shop at all. There were no hanging displays, no low ceiling, no shelves at head height or close to it. But suddenly, and sharply enough to make me take a step back in shock, I was hit in the face with four wadded 20 notes, as though they'd been thrown at me with some force.

G/f asked what was wrong, and I showed her the cash. She asked where it had come from, and I answered honestly that I had absolutely no idea. We hadn't been to the cash machine. There was nobody about. There was nowhere for it to have fallen or been launched from, and in any case what kind of nutter would fire eighty quid at a random stranger? We both walked right round the shop to see if we could see anything untoward, but everything seemed normal. I examined the cash - it was real. At that point, I decided to keep quiet and get the f.ck outta dodge.

To this day I have absolutely no idea what happened, where that money came from or why. I'm torn between going back to the services because thin air there throws money at you, and avoiding the place like the plague because there's an invisible demon there whose cash I nicked.
(Fri 14th Oct 2011, 14:57, More)

» Trolls

Christian Robot
So this Christian turned up on a messageboard I used. Even by normal Christian standards he was a monomaniacal bore. It was apparent his religion - or as he had it his personal relationship with the actual living Jesus Christ - was a crutch to compensate for some crisis or twelve in his earlier life, including but not limited to alcoholism and having beaten and been unfaithful to his wife (this info from him, not a guess). He offended a lot of people with his bluntly homophobic, racist, sexist and generally misanthropic attitude, but was so linguistically dull with it he barely seemed human.

So I started another account on the same messageboard. I went round apologising on his behalf. I explained that he was not, in fact, a human, and that I was a programmer who'd written a self-running chatbot. Like Kenneth Colby with Parry, I'd decided I couldn't simulate a normal human being's conversation, and instead of choosing a paranoid schizophrenic I'd chosen a Fundamentalist Christian, on the basis people don't expect them to be intelligent and are therefore more likely to be fooled.

Plenty of people on the messageboard believed it. The MODERATORS believed it, at first, including my lame excuses as to why I didn't know the username and password "he" had signed up under.

It was quite a chuckle over the next few days watching people try to "break" him by asking him weird questions. It was even more of a chuckle watching the dumb f.ck respond in exactly the same way he responded to everything else, which was to say pretty much as you'd expect an amateurish chatbot to respond.
(Tue 24th May 2011, 8:10, More)

» Protest!

Trident
March 4th, 1992. The launch of HMS Vanguard, first of a fleet of unlimited range nuclear powered ballistic missile submarines. Five hundred feet long and fifteen thousands tonnes. A seriously awesome piece of engineering.

The student branch of CND were laying on coaches to Barrow to protest the launch. So of course quite a lot of students went. Were quite of lot of those students engineering students? Yes. Were they there because they held a deep, sincere ideological objection to the concept of nuclear war? Maybe. Were they mainly there because it was a chance to see one of these beauties up close, and be awestruck? You bet your ass. Let's just say not everyone was "protesting" as enthusiastically as some of the hippies were. The ones who actually CHEERED got some funny looks on the coach home...
(Fri 12th Nov 2010, 13:47, More)
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