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I’m a Facebook follower of Upworthy, the social media site that sets out its mission: “To make meaningful stories go viral.” A particular story arrived today, clipping an interview on Monday night between Piers Morgan and Alex Jones, a pro-gun campaigner and radio host who co-organised a petition to deport Morgan from the USA (where he has a regular presenter’s slot on CNN) for offering supportive gun-control comments in the wake of Sandy Hook.

I’m not a fan of Morgan – but he exemplifies everything that is right in a calm and measured presenter. By contrast, Jones is frankly terrifying.

I hope Upworthy don’t mind – I am going to reproduce their commentary in full.

Piers Morgan decided to advocate gun control after Sandy Hook. That caused this radio host, Alex Jones, who has millions of listeners (listeners I’d prefer to never meet), to create a petition to have Piers deported.

Being the reasonable bloke he is, Piers invited Alex on his show to have a civil debate about guns. What follows is the most jaw-droppingly incoherent interview I have ever seen, in two deranged parts. The fact that this interview actually made Piers Morgan the most tolerable person on TV for 14 minutes isn’t even the craziest thing about it.

If this is what we’re up against in the reasonable gun law debate, no wonder nothing gets done. Piers should get the Medal of Honor for not requesting a medical team to come tranquilize Alex and have him committed.

Upworthy – Act I: The Dumbening

  • At :30, in a hint at what’s about to happen, Jones gets things started by changing the subject completely, and then crafting a disconnected slew of sentence fragments.
  • At 2:10-2:36, Alex threatens to burn America to the ground if he doesn’t get his way.
  • At 2:50, Alex reminds Piers (for the first of many times) that Americans once fought a war against the British. Piers responds with the kind of scathing, passive-aggressive restraint that the British have spent centuries mastering.
  • At 3:48, Alex talks about marine biology.
  • At 4:25, Alex talks about his favorite part of “Mad Max.”
  • At 6:40, Piers gives up on getting anything coherent out of him.

Act II: All Aboard The Conspiracy Train

  • From 0-0:18, Piers suggests calming things down and actually having something resembling a coherent conversation. And then Alex starts speaking again, thus anything resembling healthy discourse ceases to exist.
  • At 1:33, Alex thinks an AR-15 will protect him from the largest military in the world and accuses all American soldiers of being potential traitors. Also, HITLER.
  • At 2:35, no judgment here, I just want to transcribe what Jones just managed to say, “A study out of Hawaii killed 292 million people.” He also requests that you google “Democide”, so for balance sake, click here.
  • At 4:22, Alex quotes his favorite part of “Soylent Green” or “Dawn of the Dead.”
  • From 4:51-5:40, Piers decides to let America in on the inner workings of Alex’s brain.
  • At 5:40 … 5:40. Don’t cheat and skip ahead to this. Just be ready for it. Trust me on this one. It’s like “Masterpiece Theatre.”
  • Aaaaand at 6:27, Piers finally says what the rest of us are thinking.

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We stopped and stared – young and old,
city shark and office cleaner,
the sensitive and the usually oblivious –
each hoping we might fix this small
and broken fearful bundle
hopping madly through the crowds,
its frailty and incompleteness
drawing out our wishes
for a healing or the serendipitous.

We walked on by – rich and poor,
business sort and volunteer,
the parent and the usually compassionate –
each hoping to forget the tall
but broken fearful bundle
huddled in the doorway,
his frailty and incompleteness
authored by a sad misfortune
or, uncomfortably, by chance and us.

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Marist Poll, the polling organisation that works out of Marist College, has released details of its survey of the most irritating words in the English language. Obviously, this has a US slant, though it’s surprising how they actually tick a box on this side of the Atlantic, too (perhaps because some are clearly American):

  1. Whatever
  2. Like
  3. You know
  4. Just sayin’
  5. Twitterverse
  6. Gotcha
  7. Unsure

I’d like to chuck in the following words/phrases:

  1. Aks (the word is “ask” – and no, you don’t sound “street”)
  2. Lulz (it’s not a word – it’s derived from the text speak acronym “lol” and you sound a prat)
  3. Fleg (don’t even go there)
  4. I personally (grrr)
  5. Shouldn’t of (have!)
  6. Absolutely (yes…)
  7. Sick (it does NOT mean good – it is what happens after you’ve been a dick and drunk too much – or caught the norovirus)

Please feel free to add your own pet hates.

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The phrase “The law is an ass” was coined in a play entitled “Revenge for Honour” that was probably written by Henry Glapthorne and published by (and frequently mistakenly attributed to)  George Chapman in 1654.

Both the title and the wrangle over identity are bitterly ironic, following the decision of the Los Angeles-based 2nd District Court of Appeal to overturn a three-year sentence for rape on the basis of an arcane legal anomaly dating back to 1872.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the Court of Appeal has interpreted the statute thus:

A man who impersonates someone in order to have sexual intercourse may be guilty of rape only if the victim was married and the man was pretending to be her husband.

You can read the full opinion of The People v. Julio Morales here, where a picture is painted of a young woman (identified only as “Jane Doe”) enjoying a night out with friends, going home, deciding not to have sex with her boyfriend as they had no condoms – and then being raped by a man pretending to be her boyfriend. It is quite clear that in any right-thinking understanding of the concept of rape, Julio Morales is guilty without question. Indeed, reading the judgement, the prosecution contend that he admitted his guilt. Yet, because she was unmarried, and he was impersonating a boyfriend, not a husband, he is apparently not guilty of rape.

So what the hell sort of legal system allows this sort of specious contention to come between a young woman, whose life has been wrecked, and justice?

As a non-lawyer, who could scarcely believe what he was hearing on the radio this morning, I can only think that it is a legal system in which the moral compass of those who interpret the law is subordinated to the irrelevant technicalities of archaic legislation, almost certainly written by men, to benefit men, at a time when General Edward Richard Sprigg Canby was chasing Indians back across Lost River in the Modoc War. Had you heard of General Edward Richard Sprigg Canby? I hadn’t until I started looking at this case and what else was going on in California in 1872. I doubt that “Jane Doe” had either.

Take time to read the opinion.

And forget the technicalities for a moment. Think about those involved as merely people. The victim. The lawyers. The perpetrator. Think about them as merely people in a civilised society. Think about the purpose of the law in that civilised society. Think about its purpose in a modern, socially-aware Western democracy that contends it is working to make its communities secure places in which everyone, regardless of gender, can live, love, play and work safely. Contrast that purpose with what we can only imagine its nascent role to be in the early 1870s, four years before the last stand of George Armstrong Custer and the Sioux Nation at the Battle of Little Bighorn in 1876.

Which of those lawyers behind the appeal could possibly look that woman in the eye and say that the in 21st Century Los Angeles of today they were acting in all good conscience, believing that their client did not actually rape her?

So there we have it. A young woman in 2012 is brutalised and subsequently denied justice because legislators and lawyers derive their basis for legal decision from a past that is completely irrelevant to her life experience today.

Yes, the Court of Appeal urged legislators to act. Yes, legislators have agreed to act.

And yes. The law is an ass.

I hope the retrial of Julio Morales proves otherwise – and provides a measure of justice for “Jane Doe”.

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The Fun Theory is a very entertaining little site that looks at ways of encouraging healthier or more civic-minded behaviour by making things fun to do. Yeah, yeah, there’ll be a bunch of kill-joys who’ll mutter and moan about social engineering as they choose to throw their litter on the ground or break the speed limit (check out the site for that one), but it’s an intriguing idea that turns many ideas of functional municipal design on their head.

Here are two of my favourites.

In the first clip they ask if they can persuade more people to throw their rubbish in the bin if they make it fun to do. In the second, they ask if they can encourage more people to use the stairs than the escalator if, again, they make them fun to use.

I think this has something going for it.

The world’s deepest bin

Piano stairs

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It happens at least three times a day, according to my telephone’s log. Sometimes it can be three times an hour.

Someone I don’t know, in a place I have never been to, places a call through a robot dialler and attempts to convince me that, despite a suspiciously subcontinental accent, they are called Belinda – or jauntily assures me with a pleasant Scottish twang that I signed up to receive marketing calls from their clients (what sort of imbecile would knowingly do that?!).

Who are these people who make these calls – and how has it become socially acceptable to force yourself on someone’s time like some irresistible cyber-pedlar? When did it become okay to ignore the pitifully ineffective Telephone Preference Service system so that a student in Glasgow or a housewife in Bangalore can drag you out of the loo, only for you to hear the ghost in the machine click and the line fall dead, your tormentor waiting until you resume your thronely duties to try again?

Sometimes, in my more conspiratorial moments, I wonder if TPS sells lists of numbers just to piss us off.

It is yet another mark of the slow and painful death of manners in the modern age (see Kino rage: the death of cinema etiquette (or… Be quiet!)). It strikes me as quite ironic, really, that while political parties – generally not the most popular of organisations – go to great lengths and expense to ensure their phone lists are TPS-compliant, following the guidance of the Information Commissioner’s Office, it is companies, sales canvassers and charities – yes, even sodding charities – that regularly show a maverick disregard for the law.

So, in an act of defiance which makes me feel a little more like Han Solo (assisting rather than leading the Rebellion), I have taken to rarely answering my land-line unless I recognise the number – or I want a little sport.

Callers for my ex-wife, who left ten years ago, or my ex-partner, who left a year and a half ago, are met with a stunned silence and a stifled sob, before being angrily told they have just dredged up the most painful of memories that I have spent many years trying to bury. (Just to be clear, for anyone who might be concerned I am suffering relationship-related PTSD, this is not true.) In the wrong moment, callers for “Is that Mr Williams?” may simply encounter the version of me that has suspended all rules of civility and receive a stream of epithets worthy of the bluest sergeant major. More mischievously, I might assent to their request to speak to him if they provide the right password. That can be a source of some bafflement.

Or asking extremely technical and detailed questions, before declining.

Or simply answering “yes” to every question.

And finally, those concerned people from Windows (yeah, right) who are at pains to tell me that there is a problem with my computer and that I need their very expensive computer services are usually flummoxed if I request details of the IP address they logged for my computer. Or better still, if I deny the existence of the computer at all and express my concern that there is clearly one planted in the house and operating without my knowledge and request their assistance locating it.

I don’t buy this crap about them “just doing their job”. Of course they are – but their job is intrusive and bloody annoying. If I were being paid to walk around behind people in the street in a giant sausage suit and stick Bockwurst in their ears I would be rightly pilloried for being an annoying arse. “Just doing my job” is not a defence that would get me very far – particularly if those people had paid for a service in all good faith that expressly prohibited people from following them around in giant sausage suits and sticking Bockwurst in their ears. Therefore, when you interrupt the film I am watching, or the book I am reading in the bathroom (currently the rather brilliant collection of short stories by William Trevor), or the long-range sniper shot I am just about to take on the Operation Firestorm map, you’ll have to forgive me if my reaction abandons socially acceptable norms.

In responding like this, I realise that the last laugh is probably on me. I am adopting behaviours that further erode the Blyton-esque values of trust and politeness and goodwill and friendliness that were the bedrock of my growing-up and which seem increasingly absent in many of today’s social transactions.

But they started it. They broke the rules first. Not me.

So. Game on.

Other tips for dealing with cold callers greatly appreciated.

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What is it about cinema? I’ve always loved it and we are spoiled today with an array of multiplexes. With their smaller studio screens they have even recognised that there is a market for art house and foreign cinema, as well as the latest blockbuster, so even those of a more discerning taste can find something to watch.

However, today’s excursion to Skyfall, a second viewing, mid-week and starting at just about tea time, was an eye-opener as far as the behaviour of other cinemas-goers  went. Perhaps at 40 I am becoming a curmudgeonly old git. On the other hand, perhaps my twat toleration levels are severely depleted. Anyway, herewith some handy thoughts to make communal viewing a more pleasurable experience, inspired by unprecedented levels of cretinous behaviour at today’s screening.

Start time

It used to be that you had to buy a local newspaper to find out what was on at the local cinema. Now, though, with a little initiative, you can find the start time listed online. Ain’t technology great? Knowing when the film begins is Very Handy. It means you don’t have to walk in after the adverts, after the trailers and after the opening sequences. Yes, that goes for all TWELVE of you that did that today. You can actually enjoy the whole film (!) if you turn up on time.

Seats

Cinemas generally allocate seats. You can find your seat reference handily printed on your ticket. Don’t be a twat and pretend that you didn’t know you were sitting in the premium seats when you only paid for standard. It’s only embarrassing for you when you are asked to move.

Fidgeting

Sit still. I realise this is a challenge in our ADHD-addled 21st Century world, but honestly. The length of the film can be found online. If you can’t sit still, don’t bloody ruin it for the rest of us by fidgeting like an arse and making your chair squeak.

Food and drink

It’s a cinema. Not a restaurant. Of course have a snack or sweets. But EAT QUIETLY. And certainly with your mouth shut, unlike the munching fules that insisted on rustling their popcorn today before chomping away with their mouths open, so we could all share in the sonorous delights of their mastication.

The loo

Go before the film. Trust me. It’s the best plan. As above, you can tell how long the film lasts. You know how long you can usually go without going. So go before. And don’t order that bucket-sized Pepsi which is a diabetes bomb waiting to explode. You never know when you are going to rub up against the person who won’t move or stand up to let you out. Plan ahead.

Phones

Does this really need saying? Turn them off! You are not James Bond, even if you think you are. You are not going to be called into action. If you are awaiting an important call, or are concerned about the welfare of someone else, get your priorities right and get out of the cinema. It’s not like you have to wait years for it to come out on DVD. You are NOT more special than the rest of us and you really can survive without a text message for two hours. There was a time when people went their entire lives without sending or receiving texts. No, honestly. It is true.

Talking

Don’t! Again, does this really need saying? The odd whisper? Of course. A gasp of surprise? Definitely. Laughter? If appropriate. Talking? NEVER!

And finally?

Follow these simple rules and enjoy the film. Or else…

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