The comedian Frankie Boyle is what the Americans would term an ‘asshole’. An unfunny, attention-seeking asshole. Lately he’s been trying to gain attention through offending people (sensitive disabled people, and hysterical politically-correct people) by making unfunny jokes about the Paralympics on Twitter. Sure enough, sensitive disabled people have been offended; and hysterical politically-correct people have wailed about ‘hate crime’ and what have you.
In response, and as always in these cases, libertarian types like James Delingpole then get outraged on Frankie Boyle’s behalf. I’m not sure whether they feel that sensitive people have an inalienable right to express their annoyance at being offended, nor whether the politically correct have a right to wail hysterically about hate crime, but they have praised Frankie Boyle as a sort of hero of free speech.
I expect that in the past and even still today in many parts of the world there have been heroes of free speech who’ve spoken out on profound and worthwhile matters. These days they heroically try to offend disabled people with unfunny jokes on Twitter, and anyone who goes on telly to defend free speech always finds himself trying to defend an asshole.
This might be indicative of our society’s maturity, or of its decadence, or of its progress, or of its irredeemable triviality. I’m not sure but I am getting tired of Twitter-manufactured mainstream news stories, in which liberal stand-up comedians are treated like pseudo-intellectuals. It’s an insult to real pseudo-intellectuals, like Alain de Botton.
Signs that one’s youth is over: having children (check). Admiring Margaret Thatcher (check). Going on diets (check). Becoming very fussy about lager (check). Buying a Vauxhall Zafira (check). Worrying less about death but much more about debilitating illness (check). Gaining a genuine appreciation of Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours. Laughing out loud at the idea of going to a nightclub. Realising that everything you used to know to be true is wrong (check, check, check).
And now I’ve bought a Brennan JB7. It’s a wonderfully retroprogressive piece of technology designed for uncool people with very large CD collections who like Later with Jools Holland. Jools even features in the ads for it on the back of the Radio Times. Basically it’s a CD player but it sucks all your songs onto a hard drive and becomes the greatest jukebox in the world. The advantage over using an iPod-plus-speakers is that it cuts out the middleman (a computer) in the loading process and it has a remote control. It also has a pleasingly amateurish feel. The controls are awkward as hell and there’s a really crappy ‘digital watch-circa 1989’ LED display. Steve Jobs would vomit at first sight. But I love it. In fact it’s been a life-changer, because all the music I’ve accumulated over the years now fills the house every day, instead of gathering dust in inaccessible racks, and by God I’ve got brilliant taste.
To Bristol Zoological Gardens, Clifton. We have an annual membership so we go pretty often. So often that I’m actually on nodding terms with most of the monkeys. Some still take a dim view of zoos. Images of sad-eyed lions pacing concrete prisons, the theme to Born Free playing accusingly in the background. This was always a little bit misguided since underpinning it is a romantic notion that animals are ‘happier’ and more spiritually fulfilled in the wide open spaces of nature, whereas in reality nearly everything in the wild lives a very short, terrified existence on the brink of starvation. But zoos have also changed beyond recognition (at least in the UK) from the days when they were essentially stationary circuses. They’re extremely well-regulated and devoted to animal welfare and conservation projects. Without them, a whole load of species still just about hanging in there would be now extinct.
That said, they are businesses and do have to attract visitors. Bristol’s latest wheeze is dinosaurs. Bloody great life-sized animatronic monsters scattered around the park, growling and squirting water at frightened infants. The T-Rex is astounding, with a roar like a Centurion tank sliding into a lake of gravel. They’re in the uncanny valley of realism, where the kids both believe and don’t believe they’re alive. When I went up to pat the Triceratops (always been one of my faves) Brit Jnr Major cried out “Come away, Daddy!” She does look out for me.
It seems we humans have an odd, deep regret not to have co-existed with the dinosaurs. Let’s call it the Jurassic Park Syndrome. Much as I enjoyed them I can’t help thinking there’s something a little sad about having to stick a load of fake beasts in a zoo to get people through the turnstiles. How tame, how provincial our lions and gorillas seem, compared to the real monsters!
Talking of dinosaurs, the Brennan’s random playlist feature has proven the theory that a pomp-era Rolling Stones track will generally blow whatever preceded it out of the water. I’ve been teaching Brit Jnr Major to Do the Jagger with tips picked up from that incredibly useful episode of The Simpsons in which Homer goes to Rock Camp and Mick conducts a seminar in strutting, pouting and finger-wagging (“everybody’s naughty [wag, wag, wag]..and freeze-finish!”). The Beatles are objectively the greatest pop band but I’ve long believed that they never made a song to touch Gimme Shelter. Importantly, for posterity, I now add to the list Jumpin’ Jack Flash, Honky Tonk Women and Sympathy for the Devil.
Slightly more up-to-date, Kasabian are a very good band, being extremely groovy, riffy and hooky, and also unfashionable with Twitterati types who consider them a bit thick and chavvy. Nonsense, it’s just that they don’t mess about when it comes to lyrics. The title track of their most recent album is called Velociraptor! And the chorus goes like this:
Velociraptor! He gonna find yer!
He gonna kill yer!
He gonna eat yer! […]
Peerless stuff, I’m sure you’ll agree.