Spoof News: White House to Arm Libyan Rebels With Sylvester Stallone

White House sources claim that the US is to arm Libyan rebels with macho film characters.

Vietnam veteran Rambo is to be sold to the Libyan rebels for a sum of $5.6m. Whitehouse sources claim that this is exactly what the rebels need to take and stabilise there power.

Plans are also in action to send Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson to Egypt, and Arnold “The Terminator” Schwarzenegger to Pakistan.

“Obama has been doing all he can the help in the Middle East, but it just has not been enough.” our White House source claimed, “They need something with bigger muscle power, more body oil and tighter T-shirts.”

The Whitehouse expect to make upwards of $96m with this arms agreement. Which is to be spent funding Rambo V.

Ludovico Einaudi, The Barbican Centre 23rd April

Originally published on The Daily Touch

Whether you have noticed or not, Ludovico Einaudi has crept into your life. His repetitive style of music has made him a popular choice for advertising, television shows and most recently the soundtrack to the French comedy film ‘The Intouchables’. As a fan of his since I heard ‘Nightbook’ one night in the library last year, I jumped at the chance to see him live at the Barbican last Tuesday.

At 7.35pm Einaudi walks casually over to his piano. Seated with his back to the audience he is the only one illuminated by spotlight. The small orchestra joining him tonight is currently in darkness, until they open the show with a performance of ‘Waterways’, and the first of many shivers runs down my spine.

The first half of the concert consisted entirely of pieces from Einaudi’s latest album, ‘In a Time Lapse’. It’s an album which has utilised the violin much more than previous Einaudi albums, and if the performance has taught me anything, it is that apparently violinists are a thing you can never have too many of. The instruments are designed with one goal in mind: to create as many goosebumps as possible to the largest number of people. This is perhaps best demonstrated in ‘Underwood’, with a beautifully heart-rending performance from the lead violinist tearing through the atmosphere in the theatre.

The second half of the performance sees a revisit to his classics. The lights dim and this time Einaudi is the only one on stage. Alone, he performs an exceptional rendition of ‘Nuvole Bianche’, the piece I had been waiting for all evening. The experience is nothing short of exquisite. I have heard the piece hundreds of times but nothing compares to watching him play it in front of you, one of his hands casually swaying to-and-fro to the tune of the other.

Gradually, the rest of his band return to the stage during ‘The Tower’. One seated at the front of the stage with a glockenspiel, taps away in unison with two others- they are creating something very far removed from what I was used to in year 5 music classes.

As the violinists strike out the final note of ‘Nightbook’ Einaudi and his band are greeted by their first standing ovation of the evening. A good five minutes of heavy applauding passes and Einaudi returns to the stage with a celloist to perform the first of three encores.

By the third encore Einaudi has the audience on their feet clapping out the beat to their final piece of the evening, ‘Lady Labyrinth’. Once the final note is struck the clapping turns into a raucous applause and the band join Einaudi at the front of the stage for a well deserve final ovation. With a grin on his face Einaudi accepts a bouquet of flowers from an audience member and departs, and with grins on our faces and sores on our palms we depart as well.

Margaret Thatcher and Death Parties.

Originally published on The Daily Touch

On the 8th April the Twitter hash tag #nowthatcherisdead started trending, sending a jolt of panic through Cher fans worldwide. Thankfully those who did not suffer heart attacks were on hand to inform everyone that it was in fact Margaret Thatcher who had died.

The whole thing initially resembled the death of Michael Jackson. From the moment news broke the Twitter-sphere predictably exploded in a torrent of jokes, vitriolic remarks, and hash tags. Everyone spewing out their own addition to the list of puns so they could say “I thought of this first”, “Thatcher? More like Twatcher #awesome #impopularonline”.

Even in death Margaret Thatcher has managed to dramatically split opinion. Her life and political career has been both commended and criticised. Many of those on the critical side have however taken things to rather questionable levels.

Over the last few days many cities across the country have experienced people taking to the streets to celebrate the demise of the Iron Lady in so-called “death parties”. Participants chant along to the 1939 Judy Garland classic “Ding-dong the Witch is Dead” (causing utter confusion for those off to the cinema to catch Oz: The Great and Powerful) swigging from bottles of Prosecco or Adsa’s own Cava, depending on how they fared in the BBC’s Class Indication Quiz.a-reveller-holds-a-sign-to-celebrate-the-death-of-britains-former-prime-minister-margaret-thatcher-at-a-party-in-brixton-south-london-april-8-2013

If your local high street is not hosting a fun-filled Thatcher funeral extravaganza, fear not. Odes to Thatcher’s demise are everywhere. Yesterday as I walked past the local suspicious hippy shop I discovered that their window display, usually containing a shrine to the Russian feminist band “Pussy Riot”, had finally been replaced. The new exhibit included a poster exclaiming “Thatcher is Finally Dead!” adorned by a few empty bottles of champagne. I couldn’t help but wonder if they were against the death penalty. Surely if they were, celebrating someone’s death as if it symbolised their “just deserts” is somewhat contradictory.

Many people hold legitimate grievances with Thatcher’s policies. I’ve seen Billy Elliot and things didn’t seem great back then. Yet glorifying her death seems a rather childish form of criticism. While Thatcher’s death has brought her policies back into question in a big way simply coming to the conclusion that she was a “bitch” and a “whore” does not provide the nation with much to build on.

Maybe she was a bit of a bitch. She has been called it by countless people. Those in her own party, those in opposition, and citizens all across the country. These insults provide nothing new to the opinion there is of Margaret Thatcher. They do however provide something new to the opinion of those criticising her. Anyone who reacts to someone’s death by organising a street party so they can bellow slurs about the deceased to the Wizard of Oz soundtrack is not someone I want to know.

Assuming that everything is going to be a-okay now she is dead is short-sighted. Her policies and their effects will not be wiped away just because she is gone. People’s legacies can last longer than their lifespan. So it is probably best to re-cork that wine, pack up the party-poppers, and approach politics from a different angle.

¡Viva la Revolución!

Originally posted on The Daily Touch

As my third year of Politics at university began I started to feel as if I had not been as involved with the student political scene as I should have. As a 50 year old man who looks back on his life thinking “What do I have to show for my time on this earth?” decides to visit his nearest Porsche dealership, I decided to join a student protest.

The particular one I joined was around late November last year, rallying against further cuts across the country. It had been semi-hijacked by people calling for a stop to violence in the Gaza Strip, but telling them to go find their own angry mob seemed rude.

What first struck me about protesting was the intense anger generated by some. The Socialist Party in particular seemed to have drawn up an intriguing list of demands. Topping which appeared to be a call to “cut off the fucking Tories’ heads”. Whilst I have studied politics I am in no way an expert on the construction of political manifestos, but to me this seems unrealistic, problematic and messy.

Those calling for the removal of body parts were in a minority however. The majority had come to show their objection to increased tuition fees and further austerity cuts.

I was not disappointed once the rally started. Being part of a protest is a fantastic thing. You are one amongst a sea of thousands, with no-one particularly knowing where anyone is heading. It is the best way to understand the term “people power”. You are a people, and you feel powerful. Roads must be shut down to allow you to walk along them; you didn’t even need wheels, let alone a tax disc or number-plate. It took all I had to prevent myself from yelling “Fuck the police, no justice no peace!”

That said, the whole thing must have had the strength of papier-mâché, as once it began to rain people fell apart from the procession in damp clumps. We had already passed the Houses of Parliament and drifted into more suburban areas. Our performance had become something of a more private exhibition as there did not seem to be more than a few passers-by to demonstrate for. Those committed to the cause stayed with the parade through the oncoming storm, and those of a more fickle nature began to desert as we passed the odd café or pub.

We were among the first to go AWOL, diverging from the protest route after maybe the third drop of rain. Our shame must have inclined us to find a place far away from everyone, as by the time we finally entered a café we were sodden. Thankfully we were not the only cowards; within a few minutes around ten other students from the protest joined to share our guilt.

We crowded around one small table over mugs of coffee discussing how everything had been ruined by the weather, it all felt incredibly British. No one had much hope of change being brought about on account of our actions. It was more a rite of passage. To go through student life without complaining about the state of our own country and being a public nuisance while you do it was unacceptable.

I do not foresee ever joining a protest again, simply because I do not yet have a cause to rally under, but I would recommend every student tries it. Standing up against the government somewhere other than the seat at your computer or the family dinner table is an excellent feeling, weather permitting of course.

How Exactly Does One Pope?

Everyone knows what a Pope looks like: that killer smile, those beautiful Daz-white robes and that strange little hat. However, not everyone understands what exactly the point of him is. As the burning bush enlightened Moses, let me try and enlighten you as to what a Pope does.

He re-hydrates baby’s foreheads.

Just in time, this one was drying up.

Everyone knows that babies have notoriously dry foreheads. Their incessant crying results in the need for regular moisturising. Without this each successive tantrum will cause them to increasingly resemble a raisin. Unfortunately parents’ hectic schedules often just do not give them enough time in the day. Thankfully a combination of devout piety and copious amounts of holy-water means the pope is essentially a walking tub of Nivea cream.

He dresses to kill.

As the Pope is the figurehead of religious community numbering approximately 1.2 billion members he must be dressed appropriately. His dress sense typically resembles an advertisement for Persil washing-powder, not a single grass stain is to be seen on that beautiful robe and even his hair is as pure as the driven snow. This is all offset magnificently by an abundance of gold. Catholics do love their gold. In fact word has it both the Pope and Kanye West shop at the same jewellers.

He works crowds.

Pope Francis I held his first gig at St Peter’s square to a crowd of approximately 200,000 people. This guy has so much stage presence he can hold his gigs in Latin. Who the hell speaks Latin these days? People don’t care about understanding what it is he says, all they want is to catch a glimpse of his holiness. Move over Justin Bieber.

The new Papal range by D&G (Davidé and Goliáth).

He is pretty fly.

Not only has he got one sweet ride which allows him to gaze out upon his adoring fans, but he also has a personal workforce to cater to his every need. These include a team of nuns who cook and clean, a valet, two secretaries and a team of speechwriters. That is one lavish lifestyle.

He washes feet.

While he may have a small army to cook and clean for him, the Pope is not one to shy away from humility. Word came to Pope Francis I that some prisoners were suffering from dirty feet. With the speed of a biblical flood Pope Francis I snatched up his holy water and swept to their rescue. And before you all cry in disbelief: “surely tradition dictates that only lay-people may have their feet washed by the Pope, and even this may only take place within specific Basilicas inside Rome?!” Yes it does, but tradition is no excuse for below standard podiatry hygiene with this Pope. Good on him I say.

I Voted for the Other Guy, Unfortunately He Sucks As Well!

Originally published at The Daily Touch

Typically in Britain there is culture of, to put it lightly, mild dislike towards our politicians.  The mere mention of the word “politics” can spark a list of reasons why many of them, again putting it lightly, can shove their head up somewhere irregular. Why is this? Are we a nation of citizens disillusioned with our politicians, and if so, what needs to be done?

Switch on your  television, open up a newspaper or fire up the internet and you will be knee-deep in political sleaze. Stories of money being exchanged for honours, unelected influence, or spent on replacement toilet seats, duck ponds and hotel room pornography. Some of those who did not require state-funded pornography engaged in less than appropriate sexual relations with co-workers.

It does appears that there is no end to the stupidity of some politicians. As I am writing this it has just been announced that former cabinet minister Chris Huhne and his ex-wife, Vicky Pryce, have been jailed for attempting to pervert the course of justice. In a cunning plan devised by the pair Vicky Pryce would take Chris Huhne’s speeding points, thus allowing him to continue his career unabated by the fact that he is a complete idiot; because that is the intelligent thing to do really. It is this kind of ingenuity from British politicians which reinforces the belief that our economy is in safe hands.

“Bonk” – This is Chris Huhne for all those interested. Not much point remembering this face though, he probably won’t be around much anymore.

It is not just their short-sightedness and immaturity that leaves people grating their teeth over the morning paper. Money talks and the newspapers talk about money. Political scandals are almost always followed up with figures on how much it has cost the taxpayer. Chris Huhne’s prosecution process cost a total of £117,558. To put that in perspective, that would buy you 107,851 packs of Rich Tea biscuits (or 59,074 packets of Duchy Originals if you are Chris Huhne). This is the kind of information that will infuriate the public, who are busy struggling to pay gas, electricity and water bills. No-one wants to hear in the midst of an economic crisis that the money from their wage packets has been spent slapping a politician across the wrist.

So what can anyone do? Surely we, us individuals, are powerless. How about voting? Well we only have three parties to realistically choose from, and one of those, the Liberal Democrats, have now become a synonym for the word “unreliable”. General Election turnout figures seem to suggest that a huge proportion do not regard voting as important. A massive 35% of the country did not bother to vote in 2010. Depressingly this was a better turnout than the 2005 election, where 39% of the country decided that their vote was about as strong as Nick Clegg’s spine.

Maybe though, we can take some comfort in the fact that politicians caught up in scandals are torn apart in a fantastic display of public scorn and media fury. They inevitably lose their job and end up the butt of every joke until the emergence of the next scandal. Yes, it is disgraceful that many of our politicians can’t help but spend tax-money on candy bars, visiting Nazi fancy dress parties and generally make fools out of themselves. I will truly start to worry however, when the public is not outraged by such things. So long as the public demonstrate they can be angry, they are emotionally engaged, and whilst they are emotionally engaged they can make a difference.

That was all a bit depressing. Here is a photo of Boris Johnson throwing a small red ball to make you all feel better.

What Makes John Steinbeck a Literary Icon

I have come to decide that writing about a personal hero or an influential figure is something quite scary. I do not know how I can convey the messages, emotion and joy I have received from reading this particular author’s work. It seems simpler to urge you to go out and read them yourself. I have however suggested this to various friends and acquaintances and in light of my successive failures I wish to at least try and explain why I love this man named John Steinbeck.

I use the term love, suggesting I have some kind of connection or relationship with him. In a sense I do, but so do millions. When we read an author’s work we are, in many cases, reading an essay about that particular person. Some form of treatise on their soul. A read through Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley creates something that feels close to a personal conversation. His thoughts are described with relatable depth, each one accessible and beautifully philosophical, conveyed as if the travel memoir was written for you and you alone.

What is special about Steinbeck’s work is the use of language to portray people. Personalities seem clear. Unique qualities, both good and bad, are drawn to the surface. Take the psychopathic character Cathy Ames in East of Eden who stokes a hateful fire deep within the pit of your stomach; or Ethan Hawley in The Winter of our Discontent, a portrait of an affable human-being disillusioned by the hypocritical process of financial success. Both these characters are defined by the loathing or empathy you feel towards them. This is how all characters in Steinbeck’s works are developed. A whole medley of personalities are invented, all of them believable. The only sign that they do not exist is that you have not met them yet, however this is not strictly true. One could quite easily find a Cathy Ames within their community, or even a George and Lenny from Of Mice and Men. Steinbeck’s characters seem so human because simply put, they are human.

Not only does he have the ability to paint accurate representations of people, his brush is also cast across nature. The opening chapter of East of Eden is dedicated to a sprawling painting of the Californian Salinas Valley where Steinbeck grew up. In the chapter the valley is made to feel almost tangible. Seasonal descriptions of flowers and foliage give the valley a colour, descriptions of weather a climate, and the mustard fields even give it a taste. He mixes and manipulates his words into paragraphs the same way Van Gogh spread paint on a canvas, creating both bold and truly beautiful scenes.

I admit again that nothing I write here will accurately or even appropriately describe the delight you will find reading Steinbeck’s work. Instead I am going to leave you to find out yourself, in the hope that this may have helped you do so.

salinas

Salinas Valley, California