Snarky Essays

The Social (media) Contract

With the rise of this website I opened a Twitter and Facebook account, purely to get a little of that free marketing juice. I spent a time reading into the finer points, and learned how to link up my ramblings over here, so they can appear over there… in the social media multiverse.

Anyway, I had lunch a few weeks ago with a friend who runs a very popular website, and knows things about SEO, PPC, and other acronyms’ that she could have made up in order to make me feel stupid. Telling her of my recent triumphs, and expecting some congratulations, she responded with a smirk.

  ‘Is that all you’ve done?’

I was a little hurt by this response, and suggested that surely that’s enough, isn’t it?

She explained that to get anything out of social media, you needed to be “out there”. It’s not enough to flash up every Tuesday, only to be seen by whoever stumbles upon the site. I should be attracting visitors all the time. Building the brand by commenting on hash-tag topics and whatever is trending with the masses.

In short, I should be tweeting and facebooking every day… every hour if possible!

Now I’ll be honest; the thought of being “out there” was not appealing. In fact, my views on Facebook, and the saps that seem to be cemented into their various profiles – nosing around other people’s business – don’t exactly fit the sensibilities Mr Zuckerberg is hoping to reach!

As for Twitter, it appeared to be populated with a technologically advanced lynch mob of hate-filled, self-righteous prigs – as if the Daily Mail and Katie Hopkins had gotten together to create a virtual purgatory for people who don’t have the ability to read anything longer than this sentence.

Putting aside these feelings, I drew my plans for laying siege to the cyber soapbox.

I would be witty, clever and relevant – every day. My tweets would be delivered like surgical smart bombs, and armed with payloads of pure mirth and sneering cleverness.

This lasted 3 days.

During this time I read Jeremy Clarkson’s name more than I ever wish too again, and learnt way too much about Elton John’s synthetic family squabble with a couple of clothes sellers from Italy.

Not exactly a glowing representation of the future of mass communication!

On occasion, when I did manage to enter the inner circle of something remotely interesting, I found the whole experience to be quite cliquey… almost tribal. It seemed that anyone stepping outside of the general views being expressed by the group were quickly cast aside and mocked.

I was beginning to question whether I wanted any of these people heading to my site – they all seemed way too touchy, devoid of any sense of humour, and a bit high maintenance for my taste.

Also, I couldn’t handle the pace of what was going on. I kept getting lost in different timelines, judgment and condemnation was fired in with all the fevered urgency you would expect from a wacky cult, and when I did think of something funny to say, the group had moved on to something else – leaving me with a punch line and no audience!

I’ve since reverted back to my estranged relationship with social media. An automated tweet on a Tuesday is all I can manage. I can’t say I’m disappointed, and I’m sure my would-be followers feel the same way.

To quote Johnny Rousseau, “We are born weak, we need strength; helpless, we need aid; foolish, we need reason” – but I’m still not sure why we need social media!

Paul Millard 2015

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David Letterman

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With David Letterman retiring from The Late Show tomorrow night, I wanted to write a little something to mark the occasion.

For a show that ran 5 days a week, for 33 years, and was considered by pretty much everyone as the best of its breed – the UK never aired it routinely. Yeah… pretty stupid!

I remember it showing on Channel 4 back in the late 80’s, then for a few years with Sky One, ITV2 and ITV4. It seemed the UK audiences didn’t get the humour (dumb asses!), and because of this lack of support, I can’t help but feel a little cheated out of my time with Dave.

In spite of this, I have been watching The Late Show (one way or another), for a large portion of my life. It provided a slice of Americana that was utterly intoxicating – particularly to an impressionable 13 year-old kid from London!

30 years later, David Letterman sits with the likes of Bob Newhart, Phil Silvers, Harvey Pekar, P. J. O’Rourke and Mark Twain when it comes to providing a glimpse of US life, with a light dusting of irresistible snarkiness.

During my various trips to New York, I never got to see a taping of The Late Show… but I did get to worship outside the church a few times!

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A very young Paul Millard, doing a very bad Johnny Carwash impression – circa 1992!

Thanks, Dave.

Paul Millard 2015

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Britain’s Got Talent?

Here’s something I wrote a little while after the 2010 General Election, and in response to the Prime Ministerial Televised Debates that aired during April 2010. I’ve published it today for reasons that should be pretty clear.

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Only a few months ago, we were all treated to the Prime Ministerial Debates.

It had never been done before. For the first time ever, a live debate would be held on the economy, foreign policy, voting reform and environmental promises. Nothing was going to be out of bounds. We would witness our future decision makers face the music and answer the big questions.

So, before I go on, did anyone see the debates described above?

I’m not talking about the half-arsed dinner theatre we all got, but rather the fascinating delve into the minds of our political leaders that was advertised by Sky, the BBC and the other one (Channel 5)?

What the fuck happened here? Did I miss the meeting where it was decided that rather than treat those who give a shit about such things, as intelligent, informed and diverse citizens, we’ll instead screw them with their pants on and throw them something we scripted earlier!

Talk about hype, this thing could have been produced by J. J. Abrams… although at times a J. J. Abrams script would have seemed far more realistic and closer to reality.

We had David Cameron looking like a disgraced Geography teacher, Gordon Brown looking for the buffet trolley, and Nick Clegg looking just happy to have been invited.

So with the room paid for, and the band well rehearsed, we all settled down to watch four and a half hours of mutual agreement.

We need more nurses… we need more police… we need more teachers… we need better schools… we need better hospitals… we need a well-equipped army… and we need to cut taxes while paying back billions of pounds in loans.

YES! We all know this!

Honestly, the stuff being discussed was so fucking obvious my pet guinea pig could have stood in for any of these cardboard cut-outs!

These guys were so desperate not to rattle anything, they pretty much echoed each other on everything… and when one of them did forget the script, and foolishly wandered into an actual debate and challenged an opposing policy, they immediately back-paddled to safety.

It was so frustrating. We had the opportunity to seriously debate issues that are going to shape our country for many years to come. We had a stage made up of academics and experts in their chosen fields. And an audience itching to ask questions that will challenge each party.

Fuck that! Let’s just agree that nurses do a difficult job, schools are very important for education, and the police are quite handy for arresting bad people. Holy shit!

This was dumb-down TV at its best.

At a time when stupidity is so readily accepted and catered too on TV, why couldn’t we have used these debates to raise the bar a little higher, and ask people to stretch for it?

We don’t always have to revert to the Wife-Swap formula for lobotomising a nation. If we expect our political leaders to do better, shouldn’t we??

Fast forward a few weeks and Election Night arrived.

The papers and pundits were already calling a hung parliament before a single vote had been cast. In the end, the Conservatives gained 100 seats, Labour lost a ton… and Clegg, the saviour of British politics, actually did worse than ever.

True to form, we found ourselves with a hung parliament – and eventually got a government no one, by a single majority, elected.

And to add insult to injury, Nick Clegg sold out the Liberals and became the Egor to David Cameron’s Victor Frankenstein!

After millions being spent on advertising, even more money spent on boring pundits to cover every boring sentence, and lord knows how much spin and rhubarb, what did the Prime Ministerial Debates provide?

For me, absolutely nothing! All that airtime and money would have been better utilised in an attempt to get Katie Price and Peter Andre back together.

In short, the joke was on us… and continues to get funnier.

Paul Millard 2010 (revised)

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Election Special

I’m not one for getting all political, but this election could be a landmark one for this country – and not in a good way.

Now it might be all well and good for multi-millionaire, and ex-Los Angeles resident, Russell Brand to tell us misguided fools that voting is rubbish.  And I’m happy that Russell Brand (multi-millionaire, ex-Los Angeles resident), is using his popularity to announce such opinions to whoever is willing to spend £16.99 for the hardback.

However, on those occasions when Russell Brand (multi-millionaire, ex-Los Angeles resident), talks such a heightened level of bollocks, I can’t help but see him as nothing more than a South Bank street entertainer who has shagged his way into a very successful career in show business.

As such, I’m not entirely sure we should be taking advice on overthrowing an entire parliamentary system of rule, only to embark upon a torturous reformation of a new socio-political ideal, from a bloke who is a few steps up from pretending to be a statue in Covent Garden.

I intend to be one of the first in line next Thursday – not to register my vote towards a particular party I support, but rather away from one I utterly despise.

These reptiles are largely responsible for an air of tolerated racism and xenophobia in this country.  Basking in opinions that should be shameful and embarrassing, they seemingly appeal to a growing group of supporters who are either too ignorant to cast aside their own outdated and vile prejudices, or too stupid to see past the “good for Britain” rhetoric being promised.

Yep.  I’m referring to those lovely men and women over at UKIP.  The voice of the uninformed voter.

Now, we all know how warm and accepting Nigel Farage is.

His party effortlessly attracts the worst kind of racists and bigots to their numbers, he is good friends with groups such as the rightwing Italian Northern League, to say nothing of his much trumpeted hatred for the European Parliament – who he freely accepts an £83,000 salary from.

Add to this the endless catalogue of racist, sexist, xenophobic and two-faced displays provided by his underlings, and we have a party of forward thinkers, led by a man with oodles of integrity and compassion.

So when Nigel speaks of his sorrow towards drowned immigrant children, I don’t doubt his motives for two seconds… and would never consider his choked comments as a veil to cover his real feelings – a veil so thin I could use it as a fucking contact lens!

These people are absurd, embarrassing and truly poisonous with their intentions.

Every time a UKIP zealot opens their mouth and spews the party line bile, I can’t help but feel sympathy for them.  Sympathy towards how they manage to live a life so terrified and intolerant.  It must be hellish.

However, with such a level of apathy in this country, and with multi-millionaire ex-LA residents telling us not to bother voting, I’m concerned.

Look.  If you place a tick next to UKIP, then fine… congratulations… you’re an idiot.  But at least you have used your right to make that choice, and my tolerant lefty mind-set can’t slam you for that.

However, if these hate mongers get a foothold because too many of us just couldn’t be bothered to vote at all… then we are the idiots.  Willing architects towards a county that will be horrifyingly disconnected and entrenched in fear.

So get down to the booth and vote for anyone other than this lot.  Go Green, go Conservative, go Labour… just make sure you go!

Paul Millard 2015

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Running Costs

A few months ago I wrote about my desire to be less people. If you recall, the Christmas weight gain had raised questions towards the structural support afforded by my floorboards, and as a means of avoiding costly building work, I decided to slim down.

However, Easter started in January, and in that early celebration of our Lord’s resurrection, my Mini Egg eating had managed to reach startling heights of excess – that’s how efficient I was at being subservient to God!

So a few nights ago, whilst sitting on the sofa with my wife, I couldn’t help notice how she was slowly moving towards me. At first I thought she was shuffling closer by design, perhaps to instigate a little fooling around! But she started to fight against the movement – she was clawing at the cushions in the hope of stopping this unintentional display of affection.

Trying to understand the phenomenon, we both reached a worrying conclusion – I had developed my own gravitational field! People getting too close to my planetoid’esque stomach were unwittingly dragged into its orbit and consumed.

I needed to lose weight.

Dieting alone wouldn’t cut it; I needed to take some exercise. Time to get the cardiovascular system working independently, and without the need of a massive coffee kick-start each morning. It was time to maybe do a little jogging? I was scared.

So I spoke to few fit people at work, and asked what I needed.

  “You need the right pair of running shoes. Something that will give a little bounce and is the right measurement.”

I kinda figured that one out for myself. In fact, I had already ordered a nice pair of trainers with bubbles in the soles – the marketing literature explained how the bubbles provided the wearer with improved shock resistance, better levels of endurance, and a healthy dose of concentrated pretentiousness.

I would also require the right kind of socks, something to let my feet breath. This sacred me again! I immediately had visions of “trench foot” and Victorian methods of amputation, administered by a fearsome local butcher who hates “bubble shoes”.

The list continued.

Good running shorts to avoid any chaffing to those areas that I certainly wouldn’t want amputated. An iPod, so I could listen to the kind of energetic music I would normally run away from regardless of the expensive trainers on my feet. A decent water bottle, to ensure I kept hydrated. If, like me, you consider exercise as a form of torture, shouldn’t self-administered water-boarding resolve the exercise/hydration issue in one fell swoop?

Whilst listening to these well-toned bastards, I calculated that my pursuit of a fitter body would be more demanding on my wallet, than on my hamstrings!

It went on like this for a while, and I soon became bored and started thinking of home… and the bag of Mini Eggs I had hidden behind a box of firelighters under the stairs.

I drove home that night already planning my excuses for not taking this stupid idea any further. Maybe this is my ideal weight, and tinkering with the system will only lead to more problems, like a disgruntled pizza man who has seen his profits disappear overnight and is now unable to take that family holiday. How could I knowingly cause such a horrible butterfly effect?

However, whilst getting out of the car and spying my shadow – one that seemingly belonged to a herd of Space Hoppers – I thought better of it all and had a little jog to my street door.

Paul Millard 2015

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Suicidal Gardening

Snarky Tuesday Paul Millard Gardening

Around this time of year I like to consider myself an expert gardener. With whatever know-how I have gleaned from YouTube that morning, I stride into the wilderness of my backyard, and start killing things with dangerous chemicals and gardening implements I’m too stupid to use safely.

The grass is looking particularly haggard this year. Winter months of harsh weather has taken its toll, and my once green and pleasant land now resembles my Father’s head – bald, lumpy and would benefit from some decent drainage.

In all honesty, my fireworks display from last November didn’t help much either – with more than a few bare patches remaining from the ignition sequence of a dozen rockets I launched at the neighbours.

That, coupled with a clowder of stray cats that take turns to shit all over my lawn, has led me to get my house in order, and return my garden to the suburban oasis I think it is (so my son can enjoy destroying it over the summer months).

One of the YouTube videos suggested I rake the thatch out of the grass and aerate the soil with a fork. It looked quite straightforward… almost easy… the kind of thing you can get done in a spare hour.

It turns out YouTube is full of shit and lies to people.

Honestly, the raking alone ensured each disc in my spine felt like a poorly placed Jenga brick! I hobbled back into the house, looking like I had messed my favourite gardening pants. Simply untying my shoelaces felt like a torture process lovingly employed by the CIA on people who look a bit terroristy and foreign!

I admit it. I’m not built for such manual labour, and have in fact been known to break into a muck sweat just by standing still. So the sight of my pathetic form attempting to be horticultural can only result in a trip to the chemist for a vat of Deep Heat, and enough Ibuprofen to stop a team of wildebeest in its tracks.

Anyway, after a week of convalescence and the third season of House of Cards taken from my sickbed, I felt strong enough to do a little more groundwork.

Not one of my best ideas.

If the raking sent my body into shock for a week, the forking of the ground (every 6-8 inches to ensure any winter compaction is alleviated), was enough to have me reconsider the benefits of pouring concrete over the entire sodding area and painting it green!

Oh, and that’s just the first stage. Once I’ve watched the entire first season of Better Call Saul from my sickbed, I have to reseed the ground – this will require a few bags of compost, grass seeds that I can’t smoke, and preferably an experienced gardener to do it all for me.

Ok, so the garden will look fantastic after all this hard work, but how am I supposed to enjoy that from the confines of my iron lung!

Paul Millard 2015

Snarky Tuesday Paul Millard Gardening3

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Elton vs. D&G

The absurdity of celebrities reached amazing levels last week. Employing everyone’s favourite method of witch hunting, Twitter, Elton John launched a scathing attack on cloth-cutters Dolce & Gabbana, encouraging the whole world to boycott their stupidly expensive clothes.

The reason – they said something mean about IVF babies and surrogacy during an interview.

Now.

I’ll be honest; I didn’t know Dolce & Gabbana were actual people. I thought it was just a name, like Burger King or Pound Land.

Furthermore, it seems they have an immense amount of power, enough to influence the entire planet. Well, Ricky Martin seemed to think so. He tweeted the following in light of Elton’s call to arms;

Martin Tweet

Putting aside Ricky’s astonishing talent for “text speak”, the fire didn’t stop there, and only a few hours later a crusader called Ryan Murphy lent his views on Messrs Dolce & Gabbana;

Murphy

Now here is a perfect example of outrage, à la social media.

Not satisfied with showing his upset at the interview, Mr Murphy gives a little fashion advice on the side. Not only are their views unfashionable, but their clothes are ugly. I’m guessing he went on to sing a song about how Mr Dolce smells of poop, and followed it by stealing several of Mr Gabbana’s Pokémon cards at playtime!

I followed this twaddle with genuine fascination. But it got to the stage where I couldn’t keep up with the amount of double standards and two-faced dreck being spouted by these people.

It seems animal testing and using real fur is fine… but not agreeing to couples in love having IVF babies all over the place? Now that’s a bridge too far! Boycott the bastards! How about we slag off their clothes (that we all used to wear and promote!).

Look, Dolce & Gabbana were offering their opinion – granted a pretty dumb one and not particularly well judged or informed – but an opinion all the same. It wasn’t a piece of legislation, or a change in government policy… it was just an opinion.

During the fallout, everyone seemed to forget a very important luxury we all possess – the ability to simply ignore this kind of horseshit and move on with our day.

I guess what interested me was the motivation that caused those to speak out and join the boycott?

Let’s put it this way. Exactly how many people do you think Dolce & Gabbana have corrupted with this interview? Are you going to tell me that a couple (regardless of sex) going through IVF treatment or surrogacy will read these opinions and become shamed into changing their minds?

If they do, then trust me, it has little to do with a fashion designer boring us with their take on things, and more about a larger uncertainty that was already there to begin with.

The inner thoughts of Dolce & Gabbana are not going to rock the world into criminalising IVF. Nor will they alter the opinion of those who already see the innocent and inherent joy surrogacy can provide those who ache for a family. So let’s all take a breath!

As for Elton John and his merry band of Twitter bullies – calm the heck down! Do you not realise how distasteful it is to gleefully engage in this social media “piling on” behaviour?

Elton had his children by whatever means suited him, not as a result of some endorsement from a fashion designer. And not for nothing, no one is calling your kids anything, Elton, but you are by rising to this rhubarb and lending a voice it simply doesn’t need.

You don’t believe me? Well, let’s see how many people are still talking about this nonsense a month from now.

And as for Victoria Beckham, John Barrowman, and all the other celebs that slithered out and bundled onto the issue like spiteful lemmings… can someone do the planet a favour, and destroy their smartphones!

Paul Millard 2015

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Arresting 4-Letter Words

I had a run in with the police a few weeks ago. Yeah… that’s right… I’m so gangsta!

However, if you’re expecting to hear about car chases, my time in prison with a big bloke from Norfolk who kept calling me Doris, or the witty repartee only an obnoxious police officer with a Napoleon complex can provide – I’m sorry, but you’re backing the wrong horse.

You see, my beef was with the internet police, and it happened on a Tuesday morning, at my desk in the office, whilst eating a delicious biscuit.

After publishing that week’s Snarky Tuesday over breakfast, I had taken my 40-mile wacky race into work and started the daily toil in earnest. After shuffling papers for a while, I grabbed a coffee and checked in on the website to see how the early morning traffic was looking.

With an entire Jammy Dodger wedged into my stupid mouth, I clicked on my website, and nothing happened.

Not one to give up that easily, I clicked on the link a further fifteen times, just to make sure. Nothing. I slammed the mouse on the desk and threw it to the floor… to check it wasn’t a particle of dust blocking the circuit board thingy. Still nothing. Just as I reached to unplug the screen (in order to give it a rinse in a bowl of warm, soapy water), I noticed a message:

This page has been blocked because of suspected offensive page content (fuck).

It seemed my website had been blocked because I had used a potty word! One single use of the f-bomb, within a 700-word, skilfully crafted, totally sexy, mind-bendingly funny, essay had gotten me disavowed from the internet.

Now.

I have an issue with this.

Let’s start with how many times you think that word appears on the internet? I’m not sure, but I’m guessing it’s more than once – and not always by me.

And how offensive is that word anyway?

It’s been employed within canonised works of literature for centuries, shouted a thousand times a day at most North London comprehensive schools, and by way of several variants, frequently used to describe every politician on the planet.

You’re telling me that Islamic State can jump on YouTube as a means of repulsing the world with their shenanigans, but due to 4 letters arranged in a certain way I can’t reach a two-bit website that gets the same kind of viewing figures Educating Joey Essex got (before being canned)? This is a joke, right?

I was curious. Who gets to decide what is considered offensive?

I spoke to the IT guy. I wanted to understand the justification behind being blocked in such a way. With nerd juice flying in all directions, he told me it was blocked by software used by the company that was based on a matrix of words and a particular set of algorithm’s that sets a redundant “cost” on something that I didn’t understand, at all!

I think he was still talking when I wandered off and bought a Mars bar.

Techno babble aside, surely there are repercussions towards this annexing of certain parts of the English language? It smacked of the overbearing result of a nanny state – one that seemed hell bent on indoctrinating a charter of unsolicited standards towards what is deemed acceptable and what isn’t?

However, at that moment of rallying my thoughts, and getting a bit political, I remembered a salient and very critical facet to all of this.

The computer I’m using, and the time in which I’m using it, is not mine. I’m at work for Christ’s sake! I should be, ya know… working.

In short, it’s all well and good to have lofty ideas towards how language is being embezzled by faceless censors with absolute power, but do it in your own time, eh!

Oh, and stop eating all the Jammy Dodgers!

Paul Millard 2015

Snarky Tuesday Paul Millard Blocked

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