Thursday, October 20, 2011

One for the laydeez.

In these enlightened days of equality, equanimity and . . . er . . . equipment, we pride ourselves on our modern philosophies and contemporary paradigms. Gone are the days of slavish devotion to the supernatural. Away with you bigots and begone, foul taint of xenophobia. There's no place for you here, not in these times.

Fortunately, we have museums to remind us just how primitive we used to be, which is good because it would be easy to forget that we are descended from people who had very different values to us. Once, it was seen as the very epitome of manliness to rape and pillage. Once, it was lauded to denounce long-time associates, friends and even family to the authorities for dubious religious practices. Once, it was expected that a person must claw their way to the top by crushing those who had helped them in the past, life a desperate, merciless struggle for survival, the mark of the winner being nothing less than seeing who had collected the most stuff when they died.

Happily, the nineteen-eighties are long in the past now, and we have moved on.

These days I can, in the gentle serenity of pleasant museum surroundings, look at the exhibits and interactive displays whilst trying to avoid the enthusiastically bright-eyed history graduate just itching to tell me what the GDP of Great Britain was in the 1700s. Here, I can wile away the time reminding myself that things were not always so civil.

In this picture, for instance, the heinous attitude to women is amply demonstrated by the presence of the well preserved Scold's Bridle on the right:

Has anyone seen my key? Yeah, it's about a foot across?
A Scold's Bridle, for those of you not in the know, is a cage that was placed over someones head with a metal plate that went into the mouth to prevent talking. It was used as punishment for those judged to be a nag or a gossip.

Actually, I've just read on Wikipedia that they were used on chaps as well, so I suppose it wasn't quite as sexist as I initially thought. That's very, very surprising.

Using it on men doesn't make it any less repulsive though. The Scold's Bridle is classed as a mild form of torture and was used as punishment in workhouses until as late as the nineteenth century, which shows how primitive we were until quite recently. At least these days we use mains water and electricity to torture folk, which is far more contemporary.

Any perusal of a history book or walk through a museum of human activity will demonstrate the elaborate and ingenious ways people had of causing one another, for whatever reason. Even those implements designed for medicine often had the opposite effect on the patient. Thought and effort has, for generations, gone into improving methods of inflicting harm on other sentient beings. It's a sad state of affairs, and a damning indictment of the state of the human mind.

Wait a minute, what's that thing on the left? Some sort of torture device intended for humiliation and degradation no doubt:

Hand cranked vibrator. Just apply woman.
Oh wait, it's a vibrator.

Seriously. A hand cranked, metal vibrator.


The presence of the vibrator actually encourages warm feelings towards our predecessors. Maybe people of yore weren't constantly thinking up new methods of punishment and torture then. Not all the time anyway. It would appear that they also put their minds to betterment, and not just for themselves but for society as a whole. Occasionally, someone would invent something that made life a bit nicer, be it helping out with the tedious chore of self-love, or perhaps providing immunisation against deadly diseases. This is something we should remember when we rush to dismiss good deeds, altruism and positivity in our species as unusual, or even as an aberration. There is good stuff out there, and always has been, even if we occasionally have to look hard to find it.

The hand cranked part seems a little superfluous though. I mean, it does a deed that is generally hand cranked anyway. Presumably you'd want to warm it up a bit as well, unless you're into that kind of thing.

I'm well aware that such items were originally designed as a medical innovation to combat the hysteria that the so-called 'weaker' sex experienced, men apparently having moustaches and big hats instead of emotions, so it doesn't exactly take away the negative view of women that pervaded society in those days.

Of course, we're much more enlightened today, and the barriers between the sexes are breaking down, the age-old distinctions in jobs and duties traditionally seen as 'male' or 'female' no longer apply. Most new doctors are women. Male nurses abound. No one is surprised by a male primary school teacher or a female mechanic. My wife can nearly parallel park.


I was in a domestic kitchen recently and noticed that Seimens, who make kitchen appliances amongst other things, demonstrated their considerable grasp of modern gender politics with this model of dishwasher, named to encourage equality between the sexes, obviously:

Made by Siemens. So . . . many . . . jokes.
The LadyPlus 45. Men obviously being too simple to operate such devices.

As a man, I shall continue to try and clean my dishes using a rock in the local stream. I get through so many gravy boats that way, but what's the alternative?

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Virtual things to do, imaginary places to be.

*Ringing sound*

Me: "Wotcher?"
Internet: "Slacker!"
Me: "Uh oh. Is that the Internet?"
Internet: "Who else would it be?"
Me: "A random insult delivered in a disappointed tone? You could've been my Mum."
Internet: "Good point. But no, it's the Internet here, and you know why I'm ringing?"
Me (Blowing cheeks out): "Maybe."
Internet: "There's a whole universe in here, and you're ignoring it?"
Me: "I've been busy in the real world . . ."
Internet: "Not that daft fantasy land of yours again. Give it up will you?"
Me: "I go on Facebook."
Internet: "Pfft. Facebook. That's not the internet. That's just harvesting."
Me: "Er, Twitt . . ."
Internet: "Don't say Twitter! You're not ALLOWED to say Twitter. Twitter is a privilege, not a right, and you're abusing it by not showing up, by ignoring it."
Me: "I do read it occasionally!"
Internet: "Occasionally? OCCASIONALLY! It's there twenty-four seven. Never tiring, never complaining, never asking for anything in return. For you."
Me: "I . . ."
Internet: "You made Twitter cry!"
Me: "Oh."
Internet: "Yes. Oh indeed. And look at the weeds on the Gravel Farm."
Me: Yeah, I know about them. I was going to tidy up, freshen the place up a bit, but I've got so much on . . ."
Internet: "We've had this conversation before, haven't we? The last time I had to give you a bit of a talking to. Remember this?"
Me: "You've managed to put a link into a phone conversation?"
Internet: "I'm the internet.
Me: "Fair enough."
Internet: "So what are you going to do about it?"
Me: "About what?"
Internet: "About getting back on line?"
Me: Well, I suppose I could cut down on looking after the children. Maybe get them a load of ready meals in, or just leave plates of porridge oats on the floor"
Internet: "Hmm. It's a start."
Me: "Or I could stop spending my spare time on my current favourite website in all of the internets, because it's a massive time waster."
Internet: "Here we go.  I bet I don't need to disable your Private browsing function to guess what sort of website that is eh? Lots of pink? Eh? Lots of epidermis? Eh?"
Me: "Porn? I wish. I don't have time for that. These days I get my kicks from the lingerie page of the La Redoute catalogue."
Internet: "Not porn. So what is it then?"
Me: "This." *Strains to put link in conversation* "It's a flash game called GunBlood and it's got all fake blood and gore in it."
Internet: *Sighs* "You've been wasting time on a flash game?"
Me: "Well it is part of the internet.
Internet: "Let's have a look then . . ."
Me: " . . . "
Internet: "Holy superhighway that's addictive!"
Me: "Isn't it though?"
Internet: *Silence*
Me: "Internet?"
Internet: *Sounds of shots being fired* "Damn!*
Me: "Internet?"
Internet: "Eh? Oh. yes." *Sound of eyes being torn away from game*
Me: "See?"
Internet: "It's no excuse. You need to make up for your lack of internettling."
Me: "I know, I know."
Internet: "Good. Well, I've made my point."
Me: "I do actually have a reason for my recent tardiness?"
Internet: "Oh really? I'd like to hear that."
Me: "A good, solid, water tight reason that means you will forgive me utterly"
Internet: "Can't see it myself, but go on. Humour me."
Me: "I've got a Blackberry."
Internet "A Blackberr . . .Oh. Oh I see."
Me: "You do?"
Internet: "Yes. Yes of course. I'm so . . . you know, sorry."
Me: "That's okay." *Tear-filled voice* "These things happen."
Internet: "Yeah. Yeah they do. But still, I shouldn't have been so . . ."
Me: "Hey forget it. You've got a job to do . . ."
Internet: "I have. And sometimes, it gets in the way. No prisoners, you know how it is."
Me: "Yeah, sure."
Internet: "I'll leave you to it then."
Me: "Okay. Bye."
Internet: "Bye"


Actually, the Internet is right, which is very unusual. I have been neglecting the worldly wide wonders of the webby wide web (WWWOTWWW), apart from playing GunBlood, so I need to buck my ideas up. The middle of September is occurring, and I have yet to post somehting on The Gravel Farm. Which is a shame, because there's plenty of daft stuff out there. Just a quick click through my phone photos shows me stuff to get irate about, be it bad grammar in graffiti:
Some sort of very deep, almost impenetrable philosophy?
Or a zoological anomaly in a cookery magazine:


I could quite easily see a fight between David Attenborough and Rick Stein over something like this.

But really, the thing that I'm most ashamed about, is that I took a photo of a perfectly good tea stain on my kitchen workshop and didn't have the decency to post it. Let me, in some small belated way, make up for it now. Behold:

I'll have to rub this hard to get it off
I know what you're thinking. It totally looks like an uspide down version of the African Sub-saharan country of Benin. That's what I thought as well.