Monday, 20 September 2010

On Health and Safety

One day Common Sense was walking down the road, minding his own business, maybe thinking about what he was going to have for dinner when WHAM! He's down and bleeding, head split open from ear to ear. He rolls onto his back and looks into the face of his assailants and there, standing over him, is Health and Safety. Then it all goes black.

Health and Safety is like Morphine: A little bit can take your pain away but a lot will ruin your life.
I absolutely despise Health and Safety. In the half a century I have been alive, I have watched it grow from a Common Sense based practice to an exercise in utter lunacy.
Thanks to Health and Safety people can't do their jobs effectively. Bin men aren't allowed to handle rubbish; Window Cleaners are often not allowed to use ladders; TV Aerial fitters aren't allowed on roofs. It's fucking stupid. And who's fault is it? America, that's who. Their culture of Sue, sue some more, ask some questions and then sue again has come over to the UK and utterly buggered the place.

Must be worth a mil!
I think it's worst for kids. Sure, our insurance premiums are all sky high and a lot of us have difficulty performing our jobs, but Health and Safety wants to suck all the fun out of childhood.
I've heard cases of schools where children aren't allowed to run in the playground, in case they fall over. Seriously! How fucked is that? A lot of schools have had to rip out play areas because a kid has fallen and hurt themselves (like kids do) and the parents have sued.
When I was a kid, if you fell you got the fuck up and carried on. If it was bad, you went to the school office and, depending on the situation, they either gave you a plaster or called an ambulance. Now, most schools aren't allowed to give out things as simple as plasters anymore because 1 in a million people might be allergic or some such shit. It's fucking stupid. Many schools have banned Football and other ball games, deeming them hazardous. What are kids supposed to do now? Stand still in the yard and talk quietly?

When I was a kid we would spend our break times running around, playing football, chasing each other; generally having fun. I remember a few injuries, but not many! Me and my friends used to play full contact roller hockey in a school playground with almost no padding and we never had one serious injury. Not one. I spent most of my childhood either on a mountain bike, jumping over whatever I could find, or on inline skates; on the street and in skate parks. I saw many a broken wrist or ankle in the skate parks (though I never had one myself) and, nearly every time, I would see the skater back again, often still in a cast, as soon as was possible. What does a broken wrist really matter, in the long run?

But it isn't even about that, is it. It's nothing to do with the health and welfare of the child. That's the bit that annoys me the most. No-one actually gives the faintest fuck about someone getting hurt: They just don't want to get sued.

Judges need to wake the fuck up and stop awarding claims to idiots who fall over because they haven't the sense to look where they're going. It's not the Council's fault that you can't walk down a pavement without falling on your face. That's your fault.
It's not the schools fault if your kid falls over in the playground. That's just what happens to kids. They'll be fine.
It's not your employers fault that sometimes floors need to be cleaned and this makes them slippy. Look where you're fucking going.

The system is there to help people who are the victims of others being idiots. It's fair enough to make a claim against someone who rear-ends you at a traffic light because they were adjusting their eye make up or if a builder chucks something from a scaffold and it breaks your skull.

The problem is, of course, that the system gets abused: people make claims they shouldn't make and they win! It costs UK governments about £800 million per year and we cannot afford to spare that sort of money!
The bulk of these claims are from people tripping on pavements that have cracked or become uneven, the irony of course being that the councils can't afford to fix them because of all the claims being made.

"Had an accident that wasn't your fault?"
Look, I have fallen over many, many times in my life. I'm fallen over pavements, fallen off walls, fallen on my face whilst skating, and I have never sued anyone. I think ambulance chasing lawyers are parasites. They encourage people to sue over stupid things that are their own fault. The adverts drive me up the fucking wall, as well. They're so ubiquitous; you can't get away from them. TV adverts, radio adverts, billboards, posters; Accident and Emergency departments are strewn with posters and pamphlets for them. It makes me sick. They may as well have some greasy lawyer going around whispering to everyone like Grima fucking Wormtongue.

As a song once said: What the fuck am I working for? Just fall over in railway station and climb 2 mil in compensation.

If we all used our common sense and admitted to our mistakes the world would be a better place. We'd all save money on our insurance and we'd be able to do away with snivelling little Health and Safety workers and slimy ambulance chasing lawyers.

Monday, 13 September 2010

The Tale Of The Noise

There was once a high powered banker who became disillusioned with the cash-hungry, soul-sapping world he was living in. He decided he wanted to get away from it all and return to his real passion: Art.

So, one day he quit his job, pulled his dusty painting paraphernalia out of the attic and set out to find something beautiful.

He travelled for many days and many nights, he knew not where. Along the way he sold his big, fancy car and bought a dirty, old Landrover and all the supplies he would need for his quest of self discovery.

After weeks of travelling, he crested a rise in the landscape and ahead of him he saw exactly what he had been looking for. High up, clinging to the side of a mountain, was a Monastery. At the foot of the mountain was a wide lake of the most beautiful ultramarine. Starting at the edge of the lake and climbing up the mountain side was a deep, dark forest.

He made his way to the flat, soft grass a little way from the lake and set up his camp.
By the time he had set everything up and eaten it was too dark to start painting so he settled into his little tent, weary from so many weeks travelling, and fell straight to sleep.

He woke with a start. All around was darkness. He strained his ears to try and hear what had awoken him. He waited in the dark, hardly daring to breath. Then he heard it. A loud, piercing noise unlike anything he had heard before. He knew not what it was but was certain it was not of this world.

The Noise continued on into the night and, although he managed to relax a little when no danger made itself apparent, he could not sleep.

As the first rays of the sun climbed over the horizon, The Noise finally stopped. The former banker turned artist finally managed to get a couple of hours of much needed rest before he was to start his work.

After a meager few hours sleep he emerged from his tent and looked upon the day. It was beautiful beyond his wildest dreams. Looking upon the sunlight glinting off the water and the mists climbing over the forest, up to the Monastery, he almost forgot his harrowing night.

He quickly set about readying himself for a day of painting, setting up his easel and spreading all his pencils, paints and brushes across a sheet by his stool. The hours quickly passed him by and it was soon evening. Once again, exhausted, he cooked a small meal and retired to his tiny tent.

A little earlier than the night before, the sound started again. He bolted upright in his tent but it seemed to be no closer or further then the previous night. He tried to sleep, covering his head with his pillow, but it was to no avail. No matter what he did, he could not escape that sound.

Once again it stopped suddenly as dawn broke, he got a few hours sleep and then got back to working on his masterpiece.

The next night the same thing happened and the night after that, until, the following night, he just couldn't take it anymore. He ran out of his tent and spun in circles, trying to pin-point where the sound was coming from. Although it was reflected from the mountain side and the lake, he was fairly sure it was coming from the Monastery. He resolved that, first thing tomorrow, he was going to find out what the hell it was once and for all.

As the sun rose and the sound abated, he pulled his weary, sleep deprived body from his tent and set off towards the Monastery. At the base of the mountain he came to a gate. It was large in stature and made of thick, age-hardened wood. Upon it was set a huge knocker, in the shape of a head, but to what manner of beast the head belonged he could not say.

He lifted the huge ring, needing both hands, and let it fall against the metal plate with an almighty bang.

After a few moments a small opening appeared and a pair of eyes appraised him.
"Yes?" asked the eyes.
"Erm.. Hello. I've been camping down by the lake and every night I hear this terrible noise. It seems to be coming from the Monastery and I have barely had a wink of sleep in days. What is it? I have to know!"
"Oh, I see. Are you a Monk?"
"No... Why do you ask?"
"Well, if you aren't a Monk, I can't tell you."
And with that the opening snapped shut.

Rather annoyed, he turned away from the door and headed back to his tent to continue his masterpiece but try as he might, he could not paint. His mind was too distracted.

He retired early, figuring he could get some sleep before The Noise started, but he had slept barely an hour when The Noise once again reached him on the night air. Unable to control himself any longer he flew from his tent and up to the gate. He swung the huge knocker and waited.

The slit opened and the eyes appeared once more.
"Yes?" asked the eyes.
"Look I can't take this anymore! I must know what that damn noise is! Please tell me."
"Are you a Monk?"
"NO! I'm not a Monk! I told you that earlier."
"Oh I can't tell you then."
The opening snapped shut but he would not be turned away again.
He hammered on the great door with his fists until the eyes reappeared.
"Yes?" asked the eyes.
"How do I become a Monk, then?"
"To become a Monk in our order you must complete two gruelling tasks, designed to show you are worthy."
"Well, what are they then?"
"For the first task you must venture into the forest and seek a Giant Boar. Fierce and wild he is, with tusks three meters long and a voracious appetite for human flesh. You must find and kill the boar and, from it's hide, fashion the robes you will wear for the rest of your days. Go now and do not return until this task is completed."
With these words the opening closed and the eyes disappeared.

He made his way back to his tent and spent the rest of the night contemplating his task whilst The Noise continued, unabated.

When dawn eventually arrived, bringing an end to The Noise for another night, he allowed himself a few hours of sleep and then set off into the forest, armed with the only thing he had: A Swiss Army Knife.

He crept through the wood for hours uncountable; day and night was irrelevant under the thick canopy. Sometimes he saw signs that a creature of giant stature had passed by and these he followed until he came to a clearing.
On the opposite edge loomed a creature unlike anything he had seen before. It was easily as tall as two men, it's huge tusks catching the light as it rooted in the foliage.

As if sensing his presence it turned and fixed him with a black, beady eye.
Snorting and stamping it let out a huge bellow and charged across the clearing, straight for him. He just managed to dodge behind a huge, twisted tree as the Beast slammed into the other side. The impact shook the tree and he took the opportunity to run, whilst the Beast was stunned.

He had run only a short distance, skirting the clearing in the deep undergrowth, when he became aware the creature hadn't moved again. He edged back towards it and saw that both it's enormous tusks had penetrated the tree and it could not loose itself; could barely move at all, in fact.

He carefully worked his way back to it's massive flank, avoiding it's mighty hooves, which it was kicking out at him with great force. He could see the rage in it's eyes as he slipped the Pen Knife from his pocket. The Beast's jugular was clearly visible from exertion and he dove forward and plunged the knife into it, to the hilt, needing all his strength to pierce the thick hide.
The Beast loosed an almighty bellow and thrashed around, but to no avail, and it was soon motionless and still in a crimson pool.

He then set about the arduous of skinning the great creature, using only the tools on the Swiss Army Knife. Once he had removed it he cleaned it as best he could and, using a piece of tusk broken off in the struggle, secured it about him.

That done, he set off back to the Monastery on the Mountain by the Lake.

Once again he raised the great knocker and let it fall and once again the eyes appeared.
"Yes?" asked the eyes.
"I have done as you ask. I stand before you in a robe made from the hide of the mighty Boar. What is the next task?"
"You have slayed the bore? Not many get that far. For your next task, look yonder."
He pointed to the centre of the lake where a small island could just be seen above the glimmer from the water.
"You must swim to that island and there you will find a grave. You must dig until you find a Key. Then you must bring it back here."
With these words the hatch closed, the eyes disappeared and away he went.

As he approached the lake he could only just see the tiny island but he knew he had no choice but to complete the task. He waded into the water until the the floor fell away under his feet and then set off swimming.
It seemed to take hours to swim the distance to the island and, just as his strength was failing, he felt the lake bed under his feet once again.
Exhausted and bedraggled, he hauled himself onto the island, which was no more than 30 feet across. In the centre was a grave with a large stone at it's head, inscribed with runic figures he did not understand.

Determined to finish his task he set to work, using his hands to dig into the soft earth. The hole started filling with water after only a few feet but he carried on until he eventually felt unyielding metal beneath his fingers. He pulled and tugged and with one last, great effort pulled free an enormous key.

Securing it inside his Boar-skin robe he once again waded out into the lake and began the long swim back to shore. Straight away the key started feeling heavier and heavier and it continually dragged him under the water but he fought valiantly on until, at last, he reached the shore and collapsed onto his back, gasping for air.

Once he had recovered somewhat he slowly made his way back to the gate. He had no strength left to lift the gargantuan knocker so he just fell against the gate with his shoulder until the hatch opened and the eyes once again appraised him.
"Yes?" asked the eyes.
"I have the key. Now can I see what makes that noise?"
"You have the key, you say? Well, in that case, come on in!"
The eyes disappeared and the gate creaked open to reveal a very hairy man in his own Boar Skin robes.
"This way." He beckoned our weary ex-banker on and set off down a passage behind the gate.
Almost immediately the thin passage became a steep stairwell and he soon started to lag behind the hairy Monk. Exhausted and weary he slogged on and on up the seemingly never ending stairs until eventually he came out onto a wide landing with the Monastery ahead of him. It seemed to give him renewed energy and he rushed to the door, where the hairy Monk awaited him.
The Monk turned to him and pointed towards the door of the monastery.
"Through that door is a passage way that runs into the mountain. This corridor has many doors and you will be tempted to enter them but you must continue to the last door. Do not deviate for if you open any other door you will never find what you seek. Upon reaching the last door, you may use your key and find what you seek."

The Monastery door was heavy but he opened it eventually and beheld the Corridor Of Many Doors. He could not see the end of it, though it was well lit with torches. Being so close to his goal lifted his spirits and he set off at a good pace.
As the Monk had said, there were many doors on each side of the corridor and emanating from them he heard many things. Voices called to him, promising untold riches and wanton hedonism but he ignored their siren song and kept on walking, though he was sorely tempted. He tried to keep his goal in mind and kept walking.
After what seemed like miles he finally saw the great door at the end of the corridor and, brandishing his mighty key, hastened towards it.
The key slipped into equally mighty lock and turned with ease and with a puff of warm air and barely a sound the door swung inwards.

There, in the room, before his very eyes was the thing he sought and do you know what it was?

I can't tell you. You're not a Monk.

Author's Note: If you have read this far, congratulations and I am so, so sorry.
This was a Shaggy Dog Story, comprising over 2,300 words but I hope you enjoyed it.
I may start doing these occasionally, so be prepared. 
Wait... Where are you going? Please come back. I'M SORRY!!
I may start doing these occasionally, so be prepared.

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

On Censorship and Political Correctness

Censorship and Political Correctness are invading all our lives.

They're everywhere and have now gone so far beyond the realms of sanity that they have ceased to be useful and have actually started to offend a lot of people. Ironic, eh?

It has got to the point now where they force kids in school to sing "Bar, Bar, Green Sheep," you can't use the term Brainstorm, you cant say Bedlam, manila or bulldozer; You have to consider every word you say in case it offends somebody.

This would actually help them blend in a lot better.
Well, I say fuck that. I subscribe to the view of "They're just words; grow the fuck up."

Take Swear Words as an example.
The only reason swear words offend people is because they're taboo. Most adults these days will gladly swear and probably have been doing since they were kids, yet they try to shield their children from swearing. It's hypocritical and backwards.

I tend not to censor myself. I don't see why I should. As a lover of the English Language, I feel all words were created equal (with the exception of words made out of truncated names, such as Brangelina) and that they are not innately offensive.
I believe the offence is created by context, not the individual words themselves. Any word can be offensive if used in an offensive manner. For instance, Sheep is not an offensive word (again with the sheep?) but if you call someone a sheep, they may well be offended because you are implying they have no real individuality, and simply follow others in order to 'fit in'.

"I am beautiful and unique."
One of the main reasons censorship is generally absurd is that the ones we're trying to protect from these evil words wouldn't know the meaning of a swear word if it dressed as a dragon and raped their nostrils. Plus, swear words don't tend to be very prevalent in shows meant for Children. I don't know about you but I don't remember the episode of Sesame Street where the theme was F for Fuck.
No, it's usually shows aimed squarely at adults but aired during the day that get poked with the censor stick. Take House, for instance. I fucking love House (and no I don't care that every episode is basically the same). House is a pretty adult show, aimed at adults. If you're the sort of person who believes in censorship, it is probably not the kind of thing you would let your kids watch. Yet they censor words like 'Ass' or 'Bastard' for the day-time repeats. Not only that, but the censorship quite often seems to be continued well after the watershed which I think is plain out of order. As a fucking adult, watching a show aimed at fucking adults, after 9pm, I do not expect the word Fuck to be censored.

"I hate it when they cut the swearing... Ruins the realism."
My personal opinion is that the offensiveness of swearing could be eradicated in one generation, by just treating the word Fuck, and words like it, in the same way as any other word. Rather than finding the word fuck offensive by default, note the context used before becoming offended.
The phrase, "Fuck! I banged my toe" is not offensive. However, the phrase, "Fuck! I banged your Mum" is. The word Fuck has not moved, nor has it's meaning changed. It is still an exclamation. In this case, it's the noun that changes. The new noun, in itself, is still not offensive, but when coupled with the preceding Verb... Well, you get the idea. Take away the taboo and you quickly learn that one word is no more or less offensive than any other word, if used in a non offensive context.
You can be just as offensive without using any swear words, at all, e.g. "Your Mum loves it when I do her in my Sheep costume."

Loves it!
I know this seems to be more about censorship than Political Correctness but the two things are often mutually inclusive. A lot of censorship happens for Political and Religious reasons and nearly all political correctness requires some form of censorship. It's utter crap and needs to stop. The world in general could greatly benefit from everyone being less sensitive.

This is not to say I support racism or anything like that, but I do feel that people look for Racism in places where it simply doesn't exist and thus make ridiculous decisions that are racist, in and of themselves.  One of the most recent ones I heard was 'Coffee Without Milk' instead of Black Coffee. Look, I know some people in the world have skin that is a different colour to mine, and that's cool. I know the evolutionary prerogative behind skin pigment and see it as no more than that. By making people say things like 'Coffee Without Milk' you are not being racially sensitive. You are emphasising that skin colour is a big deal to you. And we teach this to our children!!
Earlier I used the example of Bar, Bar Green Sheep. A lot of overly PC authorities make kids sing it that way so they don't offend any black children in the class. At least, that's what the (probably racist) authorities think they're doing. What they are actually doing is drawing attention to the fact they have changed a word and therefore making that word all the more obvious, not to mention woefully mis-educating children on the subject of sheep.
Nearly all censorship basically does the same thing. Rather than masking the word, it emphasises it. For instance, I am far more likely to notice a swear word if it's blanked, bleeped or whatever.
'F**k' will always capture my eye faster than fuck and, whereas I wouldn't usually notice the word 'ass' in a spoken sentence any more than the other words, if that one word is blanked or beeped it grabs my attention.

Turns out you can make a lot of analogies with sheep...
Censorship and Political Correctness do nothing more than highlight whatever they are trying to mask.
In the case of Censorship, this makes words more taboo which only encourages their use.
In the case of Political Correctness, it only serves to draws attention to whatever you are trying to be 'sensitive' about.
If we all just use a modicum of tact and a small helping of common sense, maybe we can act like adults and just get on with our fucking lives.

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