The Lung Brothers

Hanging out at the extreme end of the long tail ...

Monday, December 24, 2007

Bah Humbug!

I woke up this morning with a slight case of the snuffles, the suggestion of a hangover lurking behind the eyes and decided to hate humanity for the day. It happens every now and then and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to everyone. Just let yourselves go for a twelve-hour period and actively despise the six and a half billion people who infest this blue turd of a planet. Purge all those bad feelings in one mighty catharsis and tomorrow you can get back to being your sweet altruistic selves, refreshed, with batteries charged and ready for the season of good will.

Of course to be a proper misanthrope one must remember to hate absolutely everyone, otherwise there’s always that risk of slipping into vulgar racism. Nonetheless, today I decided to pick out some of my all time favourites and hold a kind of beauty competition of pet peeves in my head. The candidates were limited to Europe as I’ve lived and travelled almost exclusively on this continent. There is also the added advantage that Europe is not exactly lacking when it comes to odious stereotypes.

So I made a mental list which included telesales executives from London, North African pickpockets, Rangers supporters, loud American tourists ... etc. But in the end, there had to be one winner. So here in reverse order are the people I most love to loathe:

Bronze medal:
Taxi Drivers Everywhere.
Do you ever have that urge to get short changed by a right wing fanatic with BO? Then just dial up your local cab service anywhere in the world. Why is it that I have such a natural aversion to taxi drivers? I suppose I’ve always assumed that they’re going to try and rip us off and so often they’ve proved me right.

Silver medal:
Anyone in Vienna who Deals with the General Public.
It took a couple of days of our holiday to realize that the Viennese person on the street can be quite nice and will usually try to help you if you’re lost. But the moment you step into a hotel, museum, gallery or restaurant and the staff suss that you don’t speak perfect German, you will be treated like something the cat coughed up. I’m not joking, this happened ‘every’ time without fail during our stay.
Now, under other circumstances you don’t mind this sort of thing happening occasionally while travelling abroad. For instance, getting the obnoxious treatment from a French waiter isn’t so bad because you half expect it, it’s done with a bit of arrogant flair and it only represents a small part of the holiday experience. But when an entire service industry of a capital city seems to be sneering at you from day one, it does begin to grate on the nerves somewhat.
On the last day, I finally lost my rag with the receptionist at the hostel and sarcastically complimented her on her country’s fine culture “I mean isn’t it amazing how everybody in Germany speaks Austrian as well. And goodness me, just look how many sensational brands of car your country manufactures.” I walked out before she had time to react feeling such a wonderful sense of relief.

Gold Medal:
Old Bourgeois Parisian Ladies.
Ah yes. The posh old dears from the city of lights. There will always be a dank little black spot in my heart reserved for this fetid species of humanity. But why choose them as the ‘haine du jour’ when there are probably more nefarious characters at large?
Well it wasn’t the fact that they would skip queues, park wherever they liked, let their little doggies shit all over the city without even entertaining the thought of cleaning up the mess, push their way onto metro trains before letting anyone off, argue for half an hour over a penny, practically shove you out of the way when you offered your seat on a bus with not even a hint of a ‘Merci’, make all the other customers wait while they abuse the waiter/bank teller/cashier/mechanic or bitch out loud about immigrants.

No - the reason that old Parisian ladies get to top the podium of chagrin is their pure and unadulterated hypocrisy. When they were not being obnoxiously rude to everyone around them, they were complaining about the rudeness of others. These bitter hags dressed in furs, with their Hermes handbags and polished high heels would gather in mid-morning groups in the cafés while their husbands (if still alive) were probably somewhere banging the secretary. Then, when comfortably seated, all they would launch into their whine-fest in those tired condescending voices about everyone else. “Oh, the young people today have no manners, the young women have no style, the immigrants don’t know how to behave in a civilised country, the traffic is so bad that I can’t park my Mercedes anywhere anymore, you just can’t find good service these days, I had to fire my Colombian maid for staining the silver, it was such an ordeal for me.”

After living in the sixteenth arrondissement for almost a year, these arrogant old biddies eventually wore me down and I developed what could best be described as a cultural allergy. For this reason I honour them with this award.

While writing this diatribe, I was reminded of a brilliant scientific theory put forth by one of the great Irish satirists, Mr. Flann O’ Brien. In his novel ‘The Third Policeman O’ Brien describes the peculiar anxiety of a policeman who spends most of his day on his bicycle. The copper has the strange sensation that, through the constant friction, the molecules from the bike were passing into his backside and that his own molecules were likewise being transferred into the saddle. The result of this was that over the years, the saddle had gotten softer and more flesh-like while the policeman’s rump had gotten harder and more leathery. The constable was terrified that he would eventually turn into his bicycle and vice versa.

Pray, scoff not at this wonderful theory as it could explain a lot of the above.

Just think about it. With what is a taxi driver in physical contact for hours at a time, sufficiently long enough for a sizable exchange of molecules? Why the taxi itself. So logically, after a few years the taxi driver begins to look slightly dented, starts to stink of smoke, piss and stale leather and has a tendency to growl when he’s not well oiled.

Same question for the old Parisian biddies. If you’ve ever been to Paris, you’ll no doubt have observed that this breed of urban dame is never, ever seen on the street without her fur coat. Animal rights be buggered, anybody who gets between a mature Parisienne and her mink is likely to have their eyes clawed out by perfectly varnished fingernails. However, if you look even closer, you’ll notice that after a few years most of these furs begin to look faded, wrinkled and should you examine the eyes of the dead vermin up close, you are quite likely to see the onset of glaucoma. The reason for this is that the animal’s carcass has absorbed too many of its owner’s molecules and it is therefore beginning to resemble her. Likewise, over the years the old French lady begins to take on the aspect and behaviour of a vile and vicious little rodent.

I haven’t figured out exactly where this theory fits in to the Viennese service industry yet. One can only suppose that as a job requirement, these people have to take a poker out of the freezer every morning before going to work and shove it where the delightful Austrian sun doesn’t shine.......

.......actually now that I think of it, that would also explain where yodelling came from.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

A Seasonal Verse for my Chums Back in the Auld Sod.


The Yuletide's in and by the fire,
Our toasty toes are toasting,
I'm sending this to wish you well,
And save the cost of posting.

I've got a little news to tell,
You'll all be glad to hear,
That just to spite the airlines,
I'm staying put this year.

So of all the Christmas visitors,
You'll be happy not to see,
Upon the list feel free to stick,
Bin Laden, Twink and me.

And open presents, gorge and quaff,
With extra fun and cheer,
Knowing you wont have to see,
My ugly face this year.

When down the pub, on Krimbo Eve,
United shoulder to shoulder,
All drunk and sentimental,
And feeling one year older.

Spare a thought for me while staring,
Into the celtic night,
And thank Christ I'm not around to talk,
The usual ex-pat shite.

And on the stands on Boxing Day,
All freezing mud and dirt,
Think of me and whimper,
While losing all your shirts.

And ponder me when crossing arms,
The last day of December,
I hope for you it is a night,
Worth trying to remember.

I'll celebtate here, all on my todd,
For in foreign soil I'm stuck,
With cava, turron and chorizo,
And all that dago muck.

But it's not the same without your mates,
Despite the latin sun,
So I'll raise my glass to my dearest friend,
Whashisface, him, yer one.

As it's the time of year when one is free,
To peddle shameless tack,
I'm sending you the kitchest card,
Please don't send it back.


Sunday, December 02, 2007

I Had a Funny Dream the Other Night.

I dreamt of meeting a famous Greek in a Dublin pub of an evening.

There I was at the bar, enjoying the first pint of the night when I noticed the strange old fellah propped up beside me. He seemed to be wrapped in a white towel with coloured food stains down the front and was finishing a large glass of pale liquid that smelt vaguely of rat urine. It took me a while to suss who he was but eventually the penny dropped.

“Aristotle, star graduate of Plato’s Academia, tutor to Alexander the Great and father of modern scientific thinking, look at the state of you. What’s the story? For a minute there I thought you were that mangy slob Socrates.”

“Ah, don’t talk to me about that pikey old Athenian Nancy and enough cheek out of you. You don’t know the day I’ve had. Listen, you wouldn’t have the price of a glass of Retsina on you, would ya? I spent all my loose change on bus fare."

What could I do? He was after all the originator of logical thought, so I spotted him a refill of the rancid yellow nectar and noticed how the gesture made him warm to me.

“So tell me my kind young fellow, when are you from?”

“You mean where.”

“No I mean when.”

“Oh right. I get it. Well I suppose I’d be mostly from the end of the twentieth century. That’d be a little under two and a half thousand years after your stint.”

“Fascinating. And tell me if you please, in this century of yours what was the greatest advancement in civilization. What leap in knowledge most changed the way people lived, from the lowest pauper to the most powerful emperor?”

I thought about it for a moment.

“Well Risto, I suppose it would have to be television.”

“Tele-vision? And pray tell, what is this tele-vision?”

So I tried to give him a concise description of the electronic transmission of sounds and images through cables, airwaves, cathode ray tubes and finally onto the illuminated screens of household boxes. It never actually occurred to me to simply point out the giant flat-screen monstrosity that was showing the match at the back of the bar. But dreams can be illogical like that.

After finishing this description I studied the old man carefully, not sure whether he hadn’t understood me or if he was merely lost in deep thought. Suddenly his face lit up like a fluorescent wart and he sat bolt upright on the stool.

“But, but this is marvellous my friend, simply marvellous! You must have lived in the most enlightened age in history. Why with this tele-vision the most brilliant thinkers of your time would be able to communicate all their deepest meditations to the entire population. Everyone in the nation would naturally become the most knowledgeable philosophers and finest appreciators of art. Existential debate would be the norm in the fish markets, grain mills and iron smiths throughout the land. There would be no need for our old Academia, as instruction and wisdom could be issued through this miraculous tele-vision.

And how democracy must have flourished in your time, with senators and kings being able to issue decrees and explain their decisions directly to the masses. Why, civil unrest would become a thing of the past as would war. After all, what are wars but simple misunderstandings between cultures that get blown out of proportion? But with this tele-vision, all the peoples of the world would understand their common humanity and put aside their weapons and.....”

I sighed and felt that an interruption was called for.

“Listen Risto, sorry to have to break this to you but...”

And I went on to explain reality TV, Paris Hilton, soap operas, advertising, spin doctors, the Bush administration, Iraq and Vietnam, Fox news, daytime talk shows, Ben Stiller, Stock, Aitken and Waterman,...etc. etc.

The rest of the dream is a bit of a blur.

I just remember waking up with a vague feeling of unease and a slight stench of Moussaka vomit on my jammies.