New Year Celebration Rituals

New Year Celebrations

2009 will be remembered for a lot of events. The inauguration of the first black American President, the death of a pop icon; Michael Jackson, and the worldwide spread of an infectious contagion that originated from a porker… no, not swine flu. SuBo (Susan Boyle).

Not only is it the end of the year, it’s the end of the decade - a period in which the phrase “I’m going to play with my wee (Wii)” became a normal thing to say, rather than something to be immediately sectioned for.

It’s now time to look forward to the new decade and that means the usual new year rituals. So, are you going out with friends, staying in with family, hosting a party, joining a party or burgling the houses of those people who are out celebrating? Here are the options, laid out:

1) Going out with friends

One of the most fun and eventful ways of seeing in the New Year is to go out with friends to a local pub / club / strip bar and have a drink / dance / young, naked woman / man / could be either (depends on how much you pay) dance and sit on your lap. You drink lots, party hard and see the new year in in style. Whoohoo!

For extra fun, have a bet with your friends, at the start of the evening, on which one of you will be the first to pass out with your head over the toilet bowl, with the smell of alcoholic wee wafting up your nose.

2) Staying in with family

As you get older, this becomes the preferred method of seeing in the New Year. Sitting in your lounge with a drink whilst people on the television do the wild partying and celebrating for you. It’s always such a long build-up to midnight, as you sit there sucking on a Werther’s Original or chomping on some of the sweets, mince pies and rotting fruit that are still left over from Christmas Day. Finally, midnight arrives. You hum a rendition of ‘Auld Langsyne’ to yourself, wish your family a happy new year and then, as the fireworks go off around the neighbourhood, you go to bed. New Year celebrations over for another year.

Unfortunately, you forget to switch off your mobile phone and are woken up at 3am by a message from your drunk brother… “Heppy Nu Yar

3) Hosting a party

So, you’re hosting a party. That means a lot of preparation - you need to ensure there are enough snacks, that you have entertainment and that you move everything that is precious to you… from the house and the surrounding neighbourhood. In fact, it’s probably best to be completely safe and move it all into storage… in the Netherlands.

You purchase a LOT of alcohol and the usual selection of party snacks - crisps, biscuits, sweets, chocolates and those horrid cheesy footballs that no-one ever eats (leaving you to feed them to the foxes the next day… who also reject them). Once the guests have arrived, you spend the entire evening running around making sure everyone is ok. This means that by midnight, you lie exhausted in the corner of the room, asleep, and miss the celebrations. Next morning, you wake up to find your lounge is a mess. The carpet is covered with cheesy footballs and red wine and, as you survey the devastation, you spot Wayne lying slumped over the arm of the sofa with a cocktail straw sticking out of his ear.

4) Joining a party

The New Year house party, without all the cleaning up. Fantastic. You make your way around to your friend’s house to join the party, only to discover that all of the fun people have changed their minds and absconded to the local pub. This leaves you to have a party with all the boring, unsociable people who sit there staring at the carpet all night, unable to decide whether the colour is light brown or beige. Still, at least Alan is there to chat to - the guy who spends every weekend adding to his impressive collection of jam jar labels.

Hey, it’s a party, you need to look at the positives - there’s food and wine. You pick up a wine bottle to fill up a glass and discover that it’s Tesco Value red wine, which tastes of squirrel piss (you should know, you accidentally drank some whilst out camping last year). You reach for a handful of snacks and… it’s those bloody cheesy footballs. Pissed off, you sling them onto the floor, spilling your wine in the process.

Luckily for you, your cheeky idea to post details of the party onto Facebook pays off, and the house quickly fills up with strange people that you don’t know. Things quickly liven up and before you know it, it’s midnight. So, you take another sip of squirrel’s piss, give a snog to the two woman hanging off either arm and then pass out across the arm of the sofa, with a cocktail straw sticking out of your ear.

Getting The Message Out

New Year - Mobile Phone

Whichever choice you make for your New Year celebrations, one thing is for certain. At midnight, you’ll try to wish all your friends and family a “Happy New Year”. You decide that you’re not one of those spoil sports who sends a text message BEFORE midnight, to try and beat the mad midnight rush (is there anything quite so pointless and disappointing as being wished a happy new year before it’s even happened?).

You’re also not someone who actually likes to talk to your friends and family. So, that leaves you with two options:

1) Wish all your friends and family a Happy New Year on Facebook… you miserable sod. Where’s the effort in that?

2) Join the fight for mobile phone network space and attempt to send a standard ‘Happy New Year’ text message to the 443 people in your contact list (no time for personalised text messages). Based on past experience, you have come up with an ingenious plan. You prepare the text message a couple of minutes before midnight, put your finger on the ‘send’ button and hold the phone by your side. Then, at the very second of midnight, you hit send and… “message sending failed.” You then spend the next hour hitting the ‘retry’ button until, at 1.13am, the message goes through. Ok, so that plan didn’t work very well.

Maybe next year you could try sending carrier pigeons instead? That’ll work… as long as everyone else in the world doesn’t send carrier pigeons too. It could get very messy!

However you celebrate the New Year, I wish you a happy one…

Heppy Nu Yar

Christmas Shopping Nightmare

Christmas Shopping in Shopping Mall

Some people do it in January. Others leave it until much later in the year. No, I’m not talking about the shameful breaking of New Year’s Resolutions. It’s Christmas shopping. You can certainly tell it’s Christmas. The women featured on the covers of men’s magazines are all wearing red thongs… ;)

What is it with Christmas shopping that makes it become such excruciating torture? Never mind about jail sentences for convicts, send them out with a difficult Christmas shopping list on December 24 instead. That’ll sort them out.

Perhaps those traumatic feelings are caused by the way in which the festive season has been taken over by retailers; continually pushing their Christmas offers in our faces from as early in the year as possible. “There are only 242 days of our Christmas sale remaining…”

Your Christmas shopping story…

After beginning your Christmas shopping ordeal expedition, you invariably end up in a shopping centre full of chain stores. You enter a shop and walk around, hoping that something will pop out and hit you in the face, saying “I think I’ll be an ideal present for Auntie Mabel. Buy me!” Whilst browsing the tat on offer, the shop offends your ears with a horrendous selection of cheesy Christmas music to get you in the ‘spirit of things’. However, all it seems to do is irritate you to the point where you want to grab a piece of tinsel and hang the shop manager from the end of it….  “Chipmunks roasting on an open fire…” Bah humbug!  You walk out and into another shop, where you encounter a refreshing change: this store is playing non-festive music… “why do birds suddenly appear, every time you are near?” (that probably has something to do with the box of Trill that I emptied into your back pocket this morning)

1 hour later

Having left it to the last minute (a month before Christmas) to shop for Christmas presents, you find yourself buying items at twice the price that they were three months ago. Sure, the shops have “SALE” plastered all over their windows, but it’s certain that the stuff that you’re interested in isn’t reduced.

We’re in a recession, so you’re looking for a bargain (defined as something no-one really needs at a price you can’t possibly resist) and the shops are quite happy to push all sorts of stuff at you. Being under pressure, you’re considering everything, including the sort of crap that ends up down the charity shops two days after Christmas, or the female pampering packs that are left to rot in the receiver’s bathroom cupboard before being passed back to you three Christmasses later. You can bet your bottom dollar that eBay will be full of that stuff on Boxing Day (so, a great opportunity to shop early for shit presents for next Christmas!).

3 hours later

You’re beginning to lose the will to live - you’ve bought presents for so many people. But you still have to find something for that difficult person who seems to be impossible to buy for. Auntie Mabel - a woman who doesn’t eat chocolate, has a hayfever allergy, changes waist size like a puffer fish watching a horror film and doesn’t have any hobbies, favourite foods… or a bath! To frustrate you further, whilst scouring the shops for a gift for Auntie Mabel, you spot brilliant ideas for those people that you have already bought for!

5 hours later

You enter Poundland for the fifteenth time. Whilst walking around with a bewildered look on your face, a member of staff, wearing a silly Christmas hat, approaches you to try to assist you. “Are you ok, sir? Can I help you at all?”. The guy acts so jolly that you instantly hate him. So, you turn to him and say, “Yes, I’m looking for a present for a 3 foot tall midget with webbed feet and eyes that look in different directions. Can you suggest anything?….. hello?”

6 hours later

Christmas Shopping - Photograph of Older Lady

After another hour of looking, you’re now dribbling profusely and leaning to one side with only one eye left open. Then - miracle - you spot that there’s £10 off a George Foreman grill. Perfect. Afterall, it’s been a while since Auntie Mabel had a Lean Mean Machine in her house…

You snatch the box off the shelf with both hands, causing a stack of other grill boxes to avalanche down onto the elderly couple standing to your left. Your focus remains intact as you turn around to search for the checkout. You spot the checkout far away in the distance and, inevitably, there is a queue. It’s not a small queue either - the line of people snakes around every aisle, from one end of the store to the other. So much so that whilst your eyes follow the line, your head rotates 360 degrees around your neck.

After three months of walking, you locate the end of the queue and join it. Infront of you is a little old lady and, after joining the line, a group of teenagers join the queue behind you. Standing there, promising yourself that you won’t leave it so late to do your shopping next year, you get battered from all sides by wafts of pungent smells. First, the little old lady’s perfume, ‘Musty Barn’, enters your nostrils, hammering on your sinuses like a woodpecker on a tree. Then, as your headache builds, you get hit from the back by the stench of teenage deodorant. The so-called ‘Lynx effect’, presumably because it sinks its teeth into your neck area and suffocates the life out of you. Why is it that teenagers feel that spraying an entire can of deodorant on to themselves makes them extra attractive to young ladies? Yes, they probably do seem attractive; if the girl in question is wearing a gas mask or has a heavy cold.

Thankfully for you, standing in the line, all that practice in your bath at home has paid dividends. Not only are you the world record holder for holding your breath underwater, but it means that you are able to survive the nasal bombardment.

7 hours later

Having bought your item, you stagger out of the store, navigating your way through the Christmas clowns, stilt walkers, jugglers, thieves, murderers and men in tight shorts (yes, there’s always one, even in winter). Then you spot one of those ‘wrap for charity’ stalls, where, for a small donation to charity, a little kid will wrap your present for you. You decide that it’s worth a pound of your money to get them to wrap the present that you bought for your Great Grandmother earlier. So over you trundle. “Hello, can you wrap a present for me, please?” you ask. “Yes, sure, where is it?” he replies, with a polite smile. He isn’t smiling for long, as you open your shopping bag and reveal a giant cactus…

8 hours later

Exhausted, you head off home and find yourself summing things up with a Churchillian line: “Never, in the world of shopping, has so much effort been given by someone, for so little!”

Conclusion

Christmas shopping can be horrendous. It should come with a public health warning and a free shot of valium. Perhaps the answer is to get pissed on mulled wine beforehand? Just don’t throw up in Poundland… (would it cost you a pound if you did?)

Funny Google Search Suggestions

Google’s Autocomplete service has provided some fun and quirky suggestions since Google fully launched the service back in 2008. For those who don’t know what Google Autocomplete is: when you start typing words into the Google search engine, Google provides a list of possible suggestions to complete your query. I tried a few searches today, using google.co.uk, and here are some screenshots of the funny results…

Today’s health and safety tip…

 1-Never-put.gif

I’ve been wondering a lot about this lately…

2-What-do-I-do-if

Well, it’s a good question. There’s something else I really need to know…

3-Is-It-Wrong

Whilst I’m on the subject…

4-Why-Does

I’m desperate for the toilet, but my friend’s flat has triple velvet toilet paper…

5-I-want-to

I know 3 people called Paul… now, that’s what I call choice!

Hang on, what’s this little round sweet I’ve just found? There’s a note with it…

6-Please-use-th

I really love my cat. But he has a very unusual appearance…

Google - My Cat

Listen, I’ve got a friend who is vertically challenged. We are planning a late night burglery, so I really want to know…

Google Autocomplete - Midget

Enough of this nonsense. It’s time we asked some important questions. As someone who uses Facebook, I feel I must find out…

Facebook-Is-For

That seems rather harsh! I’m also a fan of Twitter…

Twitter-Is-For

Well, I’m not sure which of those applies to me… ah, yes, all of them.

Let’s finish off with a comparison. I know a lot of American and British people. So, Google…

why-are-americans why-are-british-people
Other websites: Laura's List
Autocomplete Me

So, what causes these spurious suggestions to appear when you type a search into Google? Well, it’s all down to their algorithms finding these phrases in pages throughout the Internet. That’s right, somewhere on the Internet the phrase “I want to do a poo at Paul’s” has been mentioned a large number of times.

What I am now wondering is whether a new phrase could be added to Google Autocomplete if it is mentioned enough times. Shall I start a campaign for people to add the phrase “I want to lick Barack Obama’s armpit” into their blogs and web pages?

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The Self-Importance Of Facebook, Twitter

Self Important Flag-Bearer

Is Social Networking Breeding a New Culture Of Self-importance?

So, you’ve got 200 Facebook friends and 20 Twitter followers. You feel important - right up there, in celebrity status, alongside Tom Cruise, Pope Benedict XVI and… Susan Boyle. People seem to want to follow your every move - and you oblige by telling them when you eat breakfast, visit the toilet and wash your best pair of pants.

Then, one day, you go through your friends list and it hits you - 195 of your 200 Facebook friends are actually made up of the following:

1) Former classmates from school (who you didn’t really know because you were busy studying in the library or hiding in the janitor’s cupboard whilst they were fighting, smoking and having teenage sex behind the lockers)

2) Old work colleagues (who regularly taunted you for your unusual dress sense and over-large nose).

3) People you met once at a social occasion, but never really spoke to. You just remember their name and the fact that they like bird watching.

4) People who mistake you for someone else (well, you did put a picture of Scooby Doo as your profile photo) and then can’t be bothered to remove you when they realise you’re not who they thought you were.

Despite discovering all this, you still find yourself needing to log on to Facebook and Twitter at every available opportunity to check whether someone has written on your wall (technically, graffiti), posted a follow-up to your comment, or to see if someone has re-tweeted your earlier 140 character creation of genius. Later that day, your only real friend goes through your Twitter followers list and breaks some extra bad news to you: 18 of your 20 Twitter followers are actually just porn pedlars.

The Lives Of The Self-Important

Social Media - Holding Hands

So, why do social networking websites make people think that they must share everything with the world? Perhaps it is down to the questions that they ask: “what are you doing?” or “what’s happening?” (Twitter) or “what’s on your mind?” (Facebook). It’s a dream come true for people with over-inflated egos.

I’m amazed when people tweet that they’re sitting in traffic on the motorway, washing their hair or about to go out and buy a new pair of knickers. Now, if they were about to meet Pope Benedict XVI (or Susan Boyle, I don’t mind which) and present him (or her) with the fore-mentioned pair of knickers, I would be interested (and would probably even re-tweet it to my own tens of ‘interested’ followers). For me, these people put the “twit” into Twitter.

When out in public, the behaviour of the self-important is extraordinary to watch. I observed one such person on Friday night. I was in a busy cocktail bar and as it got towards the end of the night, I glanced to the side of the room to observe a rather inebriated man sit down at a computer screen and log in to Facebook. You could tell he was drunk - it was a real struggle for him to locate and type each letter of his username and password. If that wasn’t a complete giveaway to his drunken state, his next action certainly was, as he got up shouted out “I’ve got my lasagne” and then proceeded to pull a small plastic bag out of his pocket (containing said lasagne) and whirl it round and round his head in celebration…

Now then, at that point I could have considered it to be a monumental moment worth sharing with the Internet world, taken out my iPhone and tweeted ‘just stood in a cocktail bar and watched a man whirl lasagne around his head". Did I? No… damn, why didn’t I?

To conclude this rant, an idea: Perhaps Twitter should change its initial question to say: “so, what makes you think you’re so bloody interesting today?”

Maybe someone should also start a list of ‘self-important people’ (not to be confused with ‘self impotent’ people - that’s a different blog post altogether), gather them all in the same place, with their computers and mobile phones, and see what happens. Forget the Hadron Collider and the Maya 2012 predictions  - this idea could really cause the destruction of mankind!

Traditional British Pub Quiz Night

Can I have a ‘p’ please Bob? No, you bloody can’t, Bill, you’ll just have to wait for the interval. Monday night wasn’t Blockbusters for the over 70s, it was Quiz night at a traditional old pub in Hastings Old Town.

I joined a team of regulars to do brainiac battle, in what turned out to be a rather competitive and controversial contest of knowledge and wisdom. Just to clarify the difference between the two - knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is not putting one in a fruit salad. Got it? Good.

After sitting down with my new team mates, I was handed a piece of paper and a pencil. This, I was told, was not for me to draw funny caricatures of my team mates, but to use to write down my answer to each question, before showing it to the team captain. The idea was that it stopped us from all shouting, at the same time, "I know the answer, it’s errrrr, what’s his name, you know, the guy with the funny limp and the glass eye" or blurting out the answer in earshot of the other teams. I did attempt to use the ‘accidental blurting out of the answer’ as a tactic to put off the other teams, but they saw straight through my “it’s a seagull” answer to the question “what bird is traditionally used by Asian fisherman to help catch fish?”

The quiz lasted eight rounds, each consisting of six questions. Eight multiplied by six, that’s…. err…. nearly a thousand questions. Wow, it went fast. The rounds ranged from the usual ‘general knowledge’, ‘sport’ and ‘geography’ to ‘murder’ and ‘initials’. I had hoped that the ‘murder’ round might have been the perfect opportunity to bump off some of the other teams, but, alas, they spoiled my fun by reading out questions instead. I have to say that none of the rounds were really in my specialist field of knowledge. But then I guess I shouldn’t expect quizzes to have rounds like ‘famous tiddlywinks champions of the 90s’, ‘fruits beginning with the letter q’ and ‘indoor decorating for eskimos’.

A short way into the quiz, it become apparent that I was about as much use (to our team) as chopsticks in a soup kitchen. The other team members - serial quiz buffs - were doing very well without me. It didn’t help that all the questions seemed to be about the two billion years leading UP to the 1980s. It’s not that I didn’t know some of the answers. For example, I knew that the acronym NATO stands for the ‘National Association of Transexual Organists.’ It’s just that the other team members knew the answers already - damn them to hell!

To give you an idea of my quiz prowess - the last time I took part in a pub quiz was about five years ago and we relied  heavily on a great new tool called WAP (Internet on your phone). Some of our team members sat drinking beer and looking down under the table. Others sat drinking beer and then took regular toilet breaks. We must have seemed like a load of depressed alcoholics with bladder problems. The reason for the ‘depressed look’ was that our ‘WAP’ members were madly typing into their mobile phones under the table, trying to get answers from Yahoo! The pub owners were gobsmacked at how a bunch of drunk twenty-somethings managed to win the contest several weeks in a row. In this week’s quiz, however, we had a much more useful tool than WAP - his name was John (his surname may well have been ‘Wap’ - I didn’t ask!)

Going back further in time, like Doctor Who on an episode of ‘Who Do You Think You Are?'… in the first pub quiz I ever attended, we didn’t take things very seriously at all. If we didn’t know the answer, we simply entered something ridiculous. In fact, I recall one quiz night where we entered nearly every answer as Danny La Rue (the drag act). This got a few murmurs of hilarity from the other teams throughout the evening, so it was worth the little effort involved.

So, how did we get on last night?

Well, there was a moment of controversy that lost us the contest. The question “name the longest river in England?” had our team wondering which of two answers to go with. Without boring you too much, there is the River Severn, which is the longest river, but it flows partly through Wales. On the other hand, the longest river to flow entirely through England is the Thames. So, we went with Thames (but also added that if it included Wales, it was the Severn)… and the answer given was Severn. Now then, try a Google search and it leads you to several pages that tell you that Thames is the correct answer. In actual fact, we were 100% correct with the answer we wrote, as this article proves.

Despite much protest from our team, and much more protest (leading to hatred and utterances of an unpleasant nature) from one particular team member, the Quiz Master stood his ground, like a fat man at the dessert trolley, and wouldn’t give us the point. We ended up losing by that single point. If only we were able to obtain proof that we were correct. This got me thinking, in my own mischievous way…

With the power of Wikipedia being all about human editing, how easy would it be to look something up on your mobile phone, change the information for that entry, then present it to the Quiz Master and say, with an honest face, “look, look… this says that I’m right?” I found a good example of that just the other day, in fact. Someone had altered Wikipedia’s entry for Lumber to include the words genitalia and penis (see screenshot below). To be honest, I can’t see a question about that coming up in a quiz contest anytime soon.

Anyway, to sum up: We lost by a point and by the end of the night my piece of paper was as blank as a Blankety Blank cheque book (and pen)

Wikipedia Funny Lumber