Monday, July 16, 2007

Handcuffed Blue Dwarf for stag / bachelor party prank

This is a photo from a four day party (the equivalent of a US Bachelor Party) where a group of British lads party to celebrate the imminent marriage of one of their friends.

Basically they rented a midget for the four days and handcuffed him to the stag.

They painted the midget blue and dressed him like a smurf and the poor guy had to be handcuffed 24 hours of the day for four days to the stag party.

The guys on the stag paid for all the midget's food and drink and paid for his flight etc (cost around £850 if you wanted to do the same) but the guy had to do everything with the, drink, swim, shower, sleep, pee etc etc.

Apparently no midgets were harmed during the weekend.

This has got to be one of the best stag pranks ever. Good work fellas.

But how is the bride to be supposed to live up to the standards set by a four-foot tall blue beer-swilling machine?

And what happened to the old saying: "What goes on the stag, stays on the stag."


And here is a link that teaches you how to say: "I have a blue homosexual dwarf up my ass" in just about every language imaginable.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Where have all the Edinburgh slums gone?

Anyone at all who has lived, worked or spent any amount of time in Edinburgh will know the closest it has ever come to "slums" were the peripheral housing estates encircling the city.

While major English cities (and even our Weedgie pals in Glasgow) have inner city problem areas, Auld Reekie conveniently tucked its sink estates well out of the way. Miles away from Princes Street, the Castle, the glorious New Town and the annual arts jamboree known as the Festival-Fringe.

A bloody good idea it was too. Niddrie, Craigmillar, Wester Hailes, Muirhouse, Pilton, Sighthill and Broomhouse never suffered from being on the edge of the town.

And Edinburgh's reputation as centre of excellence in terms of both heritage and financial institutions was never compromised by having to live cheek-by-jowl with scuzzy, dreary estates peopled by the unwashed, the unhinged and the plain unlikeable.

No slur intended. I know there a plenty decent, hard-working, honest sorts living there. Indeed, they have to put up with the scumbags on a daily basis.

From my middle class bastion I can spout all this with confidence. I was there, you see. Muirhouse AND Wester Hailes are my Alma Mater. I peed in the stairwells, lipped teachers and old ladies with gay abandon and went on the chorie (shoplifting) in the concrete monstrosities masquerading as shopping centre. I know these places inside out. Or so I thought.

Truth be told I haven't had much reason to be in any of these former ghettoes for, woooohhhh, well ages. Until the past week, actually. So what did I find on my sojourn into my own past? Jeezo! These places are being positively gentrified. Just check out this link to a story that ran in the Edinburgh Evening News (it was the front page splash, no less!):

Not only does this story suggest Wester Hailes is a "boom town", but look at the debate it has provoked among online readers. Bloody hell.

£100k is a serious amount of wedge to pay for a hoose in an area which will attract nothing but pitying glances when anyone from Edinburgh's establishement learns your address (I haven't lived in Wester Hailes since 1988, but at times I'm still made to feel that part of my history is some squalid and shameful burden that leaves me slightly sullied when in polite company).

Wester Hailes has been the subject of a giant-sized makeover project for at least 20 years. In the 80s Labour's city fathers nicknamed the estate "Treasure Island" because of the amount of money poured in, particularly from Europe. Nothing ever seemed to come of that money. But in the 90s the worst of the damp, unpleasant high rises were demolished and replaced with far more attractive hooses.

Then, at the Millenium, the Union canal was rerouted right through the Hailes. That watery feat aside the highligh of the estate's renaissance was probably the opening of a state of the art bingo hall. Point is, it looks much better now than it ever did before. and I hope the people living there have a better quality of life than they did during its 80s low point (17,000 people in an estate - the population equivalent of a town the size of Musselburgh - with one just one, extremely dodgy pub!).

With all these improvements and hooses selling for £100k plus, a place that was once considered one of the worst estates in Scotland hardly qualifies as a slum any more, does it? Which means we Edinburghers instead have to look to to Pilton/West Granton to provide our number one slum.

Except that whole hellhole has been razed and replaced with all sorts of fancy-dan, attractive new modern buildings. Which are also selling like hot cakes. Meanwhile, the same process seems to be taking place just over the road in Muirhouse as well. The flats on Pennywell Road (where I once lived) are currently being demolished. No doubt to make way for yuppie flats.

Er, what about Niddrie and Craigmillar then? Surely nothing can improve them? Actually, desirable new properties (with balconies and fancy advertising slogans) are sprouting up round there faster than fungi in a damp high-rise bedroom. Apparently the area has enjoyed something of a renaissance thanks to the creation of the new Royal Infirmary hospital, with staff (especially nurses) snapping up the attractive-yet-affordable new properties.

Anybody passing through on the way to Fort Kinnaird "retail park" cannae help but notice that all the old blocks have been sealed up in readiness for demoltion - while US sized glossy advertising hoardings at the roadside promise that even more super des-reses are on the way.

It's the same story in Sighthill and Broomhouse as well. Property prices soaring while any new buildings appearing are, well, downright attractive looking. I even ventured into Oxgangs yesterday. It was never as bad as some of the places already mentioned. So I thought it might just be the kind of place that would be going through a downward spiral - the flip side of all these other places being on the up.

But naw! The high rises are gone. All the fevered activity in Oxgangs is in the construction of some very swanky looking new flats - complete with glass, metal and timber frontages and french windows opening onto nice wee gardens. Obviously there are other estates I haven't visited recently. Southhouse, Burdiehouse, Gilmerton, Gracemount, Craigentinny etc. But I strongly suspect the story will be the same in them all. Gentrification on a grand scale.

None of this should worry me. Afterall, we should celebrate the economic and social tsuanmi which appears to have swept through these areas causing untold millions of pounds worth of improvements. Except I do have one, nagging, niggling little concern.

While all the slums have gone, the scumbags most certainly haven't. In fact, we seem to be plagued more than ever by workshy dole cheats, the criminally intent, the morally dubious, the mealy mouthed, the substance addled and the downright feckless.

So my question is this - with nae slums left to speak of, exactly where are the slack-jawed, the white-socked, the mono-eyebrowed, the cheap-bling-encrusted, the shellsuited and the Burberry-behatted living now?

Old Media v New Media. John Smeaton shows the power of both

So John "The Smeatonator" Smeaton is likely to get some sort of gong says Alex Salmond, Scotland's First Minister.

Is this down to the power of web 2.0, social networking and the rise of the blog? Or is it simply down to the power of the old fashioned press?

I might end up with a spike up my a*se here, as it sounds like I'm about to sit on the fence - but the answer is both. Like almost everyone else, I first came across the Smeatonator when a link to his site started zooming round the world via email.

When it got to my office and went round everybody within 10 minutes it was clear it was a net phenomenon. However, when, a couple of hours later, I got the link from my (virtually web illitereate) missus I knew this was going to be a big story with crossover into the mainstream media.

I don't pretend to know what lies in store for the printed press, magazines, TV news etc. There doesn't seem to be any argument that they are haemorrhaging readers and viewers. And the main reason is the alternative options, particularly for the young, available on the web.

But let me get off the fence. In style. There is no way Smeats would have been in line for a gong or any other parliamentary award on the strength of the website alone. Not a chance.

Whaterver it has become now, let's not for an instant pretend this site was anything other than a tool set up to ridicule Smeats. Little wonder. He came over in the early TV footage as a complete poltroon. Some sort of over-animated halfwit spouting electrified Weedgie patois. The original site wasn't doing the rounds (certainly among anybody I know) to celebrate his "heroics".

It was being passed on at the point with one clear message. Look and listen to this Weedgie ar*ehole talking the kind of patter normally reserved for TV comedy neds. The same sort of chat you hear from Scottish street alkies, who get cash out of passers-by using a veneer of comedy to mask an underlying menace - so allowing both parties pretend it's not really a mugging.

Smeaton's antics got hijacked by the people who set up the website to have a right good laugh at his expense. Part of the comedy value since then is that the site has now been hijacked seveal times over. The tongue in cheek congratulations offered to Smeato quickly turned into a wave of genuine bravos.

In short, the irony was entirely overshadowed. A wildly gesticulating figure with a rapid-fire line in gibberish and a happy propensity for swedgin' was suddenly elevated to an altogether different status. He's been imbued with the credentials of a folk hero, from selfless bravery through all the romantic qualities that might define Scottishness and nationhood. Aye, a real paragon of virtue, right enough.

Then the site also attracted the usual bilious racists, xenophobes, warmongers and curmudgeons, each with their own invective to impart. Unpleasant, yes. But in cyberspace this is as it should be - the smeaton website is really just one big pub chat turned into html. Every man, woman and their dug is represented, regardless of their views. True, web-based freedom of expression.

It doesn't disguise that the site set out to be cruelly-mocking, albeit in a humorous way. However, it was smart-alecky to a point too far as it relentlessly poked fun at its victim and what it perceived as the qualities and values (or lack thereof) that Smeatster represented. Now the site creators have been forced to pretend there was no irony intended and it has become a straight-faced champion for everything it originally set out to ridicule (now THAT'S an irony).

The people behind the site have performed this remarkable volte face without even a grudging admission of how or why they've been turned. Which makes them crafty, slippery, graceless and cowardly.

Back to my original point. Salmond and co aren't daft. That Smeats touched a nerve in the Scottish psyche is inarguable. But to grant him some sort of official public honour at the behest of a website founded on mockery and ridicule, overtaken by natonalist schmaltz and anti-terror hokum, all liberally sprinkled with ill-informed, quasi-racist sentiment? Nae chance.

The web gave us the perfect vehicle to enjoy, celebrate - and yes, ridicule - his antics. To endlessly replay the Smeatmeister's inexplicable, incomprehensible, insane retort to an event where we'd expect just about any other possible reaction than what he (joyfully) gave us. But The website - like the man himself, I suspect - is distinctly dark and vaguely unpleasant beneath its veneer of humour and matey likeability.

So thank God for the good, old-fashioned mainstream media!

TV news gave us Smeats in all his windmilling, waving, waffling glory. without his appearance on teatime news bulletins we'd never have had anything to talk about in the first place.

And make no mistake. It will be thanks to tabloids and BBC online if Smeats gets official recognition. They have done what they do best - tapped the zeitgeist and reflected Scotland back at itself in a manageable, palatable format. Celebrated the jaw-dropping wackiness of Smeaton's TV appearance, recognised the timeless appeal of eccentricity, and given a knowing wink to the fact that Smeats has fuelled every pub, club, watercooler and bedroom conversation across the country.

All without having to mock the man, then pretend that wasn't the intention; or without giving a platform to every odious xenophobe or do-gooding antiwar protestor with a spleen to vent. It might have been TV that gave us John Smeaton and the web that turned him into an unlikely icon. But it will be the old fashioned tabloids who ensure he gets a gong of some sort.

A genuine moment in The Sun.

Monday, July 2, 2007

What's the wisdom in having teeth removed?

Congratulations to my dentist - Julie Smith of the Links Dental Practice in Bruntsfield, Edinburgh.

Today she managed to remove one of my wisdom teeth and I felt not a thing. It was a big bugger too! Marvellous.

Stopped bleeding within minutes. Needed only a couple of painkillers in the 12 hours since.

I expected to have a face like Quasimoda by this evening, but it was so smooth my jaw hasn't even swelled up.

That's the third wisdom tooth I have had removed - and it was lower jaw. I'm led to believe the lowers are the problem molars when it comes to extraction.

Certainly that was how it seemed when I had the previous one whipped out. That time my face swelled so badly I looked like a tennis ball smuggler and lost loads of weight cos I couldn't eat properly.

And my good mate Galutski had his out earlier this year and sure enough it left him with a massively lopsided coupon.

But thanks to Julie Smith (I salute you!) I feel obliged to big up the dental profession.

And it only cost my 28 quid.

Now that I know it's that cheap AND painless, I might have all of my teeth extracted! Then again, I'm quite proud of my pearly whites. Though as you can see from the photo above, there's nothing white about the tooth I've just had out. Maybe I should keep my teeth and just have this one made into a necklace.

And for all those who suffer from dentophobia (yes, apparently that is the correct term for fear of dentists), look on the bright side. Soon the Care Commission in Scotland will be regulating the lot of them. which should mean you can soon find out who is recommended and who aint by checking the regulator's website. Here is a link to the Care Commission (and a few other dental links)

Care Commission TEXT

British Dental Health Foundation TEXT

Beyond Fear TEXT