Christmas Letter 2010

Dear family; friends; casual acquaintances; people who I don’t know reading this online and Google Spiderbots,

It’s that time of the year again. You know? The most wonderful one. That one. Christmastime. Yeah? You probably noticed what with all the pretty lights and tinsel and goodwill to all men and sudden inexplicable rise in quality of television. Which also means it’s time for me to write my Christmas Letter, a tradition which – despite the protestations of many –  shows no signs of ending. You know? Like mince pies.

Now for some of you this is your first time receiving one of these letters, and some of you who have received one before have preposterously short atten…Oh hey look, a bunny rabbit!

Where was I? Oh right, explaining the letter.

Every year, I sit down and ask myself a simple question: “What kind of year has it been?”.

Then, in the letter, I ramble on and on, at times quite tediously, in answer. And because I’m a wacky goofball, I usually litter it with jokes. Mostly the stuff I didn’t have time to say in the year that was. Why? Because why the hell not, that’s why.

So anyway, let’s set about answering that question. What kind of year has it been? Well…A damned long one! I don’t know about you, but January 2010 feels like so long ago I can barely remember it. Maybe it’s the quite preposterous number of things which happened this year, or the way everything seems to have changed, or maybe it’s the fact I’m a Student and therefore have consumed what is surely a dangerous amount of alcohol.

No, just kidding folks. The only DANGEROUS amount of alcohol is none.

Just think, this time last year, me and many of my peers were waiting around for the sadistic system known as “UCAS” to let us know our fate. I was in College and almost all my friends were 17, which means there was no nightlife to speak of.

How times have changed.

And look at all the other stuff. This year, amongst the achievements to my name are, sleep (Drunk) in a Disneyland Paris Hotel bathroom; move to University; spend an hour on a stage telling my fellow College leavers how awesome we are; go to Prom with a date AND pass Year 13 whilst basically sleeping through most of the Exam period – thank YOU inexplicably high marks in January Exams*!

*Seriously, I have no idea why they were so high. I thought I’d failed them.

Yes, it’s been one hell of a year. A year in which I, repeatedly, discarded almost all of my hair and started reviewing drinks on the internet for…Some reason. You know now that I write that down, it seems even weirder…Still…Go watch those reviews…

Still, by far the most exciting part of the year was moving to Portsmouth where, to paraphrase a song, I’ve got some friends that I may hardly know, but we’ve had some times I wouldn’t trade for the world.

Man, I hate it when people pretend to be deep by using the lyrics of a song, don’t you? Doesn’t that just make you want to punch them in the face? Well please don’t do that, I’m still typing. It’s hard to type with broken glasses and a black eye you know. I speak from experience.

Also, some stuff happened in the wider world, but it’s mostly very depressing. But…Uh…Hey, Toy Story 3 came out. So it’s not all bad. Oh and they brought Golden Grahams back. Some of you have no idea why that’s amazing, but I assure you, it’s like the best thing that ever happened in the world of cereal.

You know, speaking of Toy Story 3, I saw a lot of good movies this year…So there you go, there’s some good news from the wider world. It was a good year for cinema.

Still reading? Good…A lot of people duck out after the second or third paragraph after they realise I’m just as annoying in writing as I am out loud. In return for your persistence, I have some happy news: IT”S SNOWING! I literally glanced at the window as I was writing this paragraph and it’s started snowing again! on Christmas Eve ! That’s in-freaking-credible!

Yeah, as you may be aware, I never grew up.

I’m still a kid at heart.

Anyway, I think I’ve taken up enough of your time now. Plus I want to get this sent at about Midday. So then…Have a Merry Christmas; Happy Holidays; Happy Hannukah; Kwazy Kwanza; Solemn, Dignified Ramadan and a Happy New Year.

Yours,
Paul Douglas

PS: Okay, NOW you can hit me.

PPS: OW! Hey, it wasn’t mandatory! Jeez.


Drinks to Beverages: Mixxed Up

Drinks to Beverages is back with the penultimate episode taped at the old Yaxley studio. Which is to say, the penultimate episode filmed before Paul Douglas moved into University Halls. Anyway, Paul’s made a visit to Lidl (for…Some reason) and picked up another awful-seeming ripoff drink. After the “adventure” of Freeway Iron Brew, what fresh hell awaits Paul in his can of Mixxed Up Stimulation Drink? Watch to find out.

New Generation not New Labour

I’m not gonna lie to you, I am incredibly happy about Ed Miliband’s recent election as the new Leader of the Labour Party. If you follow me on Twitter (@TVPaulD), you’ve probably seen me Tweeting in support over the past months as the Leadership Election has unfolded. And Ed’s speech on the result being announced touched strongly on the reason I feel I connected so readily with his campaign.

In David Miliband, and Ed Balls, I saw two (Very, very good) politicians. But they were just that, politicians. And what’s more, politicians of an era which I feel has had its time. When the Conservative Party was ejected in 1997, they spent the next 8 years or so pushing essentially the same old Tory orthodoxy.

Then they elected David Cameron, and much as I dislike his politics and generally disagree with him, you can’t argue that he was not a transformative figure for the Conservatives. He remade them into a modern Conservative Party that was much more in tune with what (certain sectors of) the population were feeling. Labour had done the same thing with Tony Blair – much later than they should have.

The risk with putting David Miliband or Ed Balls in as leader was that they would be seen as continuing the old New Labour era (Clumsy a phrase as that is) past its sell-by date. Tony Blair has been bleating that we should not move past New Labour. He’s very attached to it, it’s his legacy.

But Tony is as wrong now as he was when he began to mistake what New Labour stood for to most people around the time of the Iraq War. Ed Miliband characterises it as becoming the establishment, and that’s true. New Labour ceased, partway into Tony’s second term, to be radical or reformative.

This stagnation continued under Gordon Brown, but let’s be clear: the rot started on Tony’s watch. And we lost more voters on his watch than we did on Gordon’s. Gordon is a great man, and he was a great, but (like Tony) flawed Prime Minister.

Ed Miliband is younger than the other Leadership contenders. He’s younger than the Coalition Leaders. It may only be about half a decade, but it’s enough. Enough to signal a sea change. Tony Blair, Peter Mandelson and to a less overt extent David Miliband (Their heir apparent) wanted to continue the New Labour project because they feared going back to the old Labour orthodoxies.

In taking this stance, they forgot the fundamental reason the Labour Party turned to the New Labour project: staying the same is not Labour, will not get you elected and is, in fact, the very definition of conservatism.

Ed Miliband has built a credible case for a new generation. I hate to evoke the Obama cliché, but it applies somewhat here. Under Ed’s new generation of the Labour Party, Labour can be a transformative entity again, we can regain radicalism, we can return to progressivism. Making real changes, bit-by-bit, for the betterment of all Britons, as a collective.

It’s a younger, more vibrant Labour Party, a Labour Party which has turned a page, and shorn itself of the stagnation which got us ejected from power.

It’s what the people wanted, Labour back as the champions of The March of Progress.

And at the head of this New Generation of the Labour movement, we have Ed Miliband. An MP, the Leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition, yes. But, crucially, a man who is clearly a human being. The mantra of “Ed talks Human” rings true. Just as Obama captured my personal imagination because he is a stunning orator, Ed captures people’s imaginations and affections (including my own) because he comes across as someone who not only fundamentally gets it, but gets us.

The Conservatives are underestimating the importance of Ed’s human quality, and of the transformation of Labour, over night, into a generationally different movement. They are, wrongly, elated.

My advice to you Mr. Cameron, is this:

Run and hide. Run. And hide.

Drinks to Beverages: 7Up Vs. Sprite

It’s a showdown! Paul Douglas returns with his innovative beverage reviews show “Paul Douglas Drinks to Beverages”, and this time, there’s a fight…Our intrepid drinks critic seeks to find out which of the world’s two favourite lymon-flavoured beverages is better: Is it 7 Up or is it Sprite? Watch and find out!

Some Cliched Jokes And Why They’re Supposed To Be Funny (Or Never Were)

COMEDY! Now that I’ve got your attention, we’re gonna talk about…Well…Comedy…Um. Yeah. Anyway, as you may know, I am (Technically) a comedian. Note, I did not saysuccessful comedian. Technically, I am an internet comedian, otherwise referred to as “the lowest known form of life”. Nevertheless, I am taking it upon myself to take you through ten jokes which are totally played out and explain why they’re funny, why they’re supposed to befunny or, most likely, why they really aren’t.

“…And what’s the deal with airline food?”

Ah the airline food joke. The stereotypical last refuge of the hack standup comedian. You’ve probably seen this joke used more frequently for ironic purposes than as an actual joke itself. You all know the bit, there’s a comedian on the stage and the characters on some sitcom are watching him tell unfunny jokes, then he pulls out “And what’s the deal with airline food?”. It’s the quintessential cliched observational humour joke, the kind of thing you expect Jay Leno to come out with.

In fact, this joke is so famous amongst the comedy circles for sucking out loud and basically summarising everything wrong with hack observational comedians, you’ll frequently see it used (Again, ironically) in response to an example of an unfunny joke or standup routine – particularly on the internet.

But honestly, have you ever wondered, what are the comedians who originally started making this joke even getting at? Well to start off with, let’s name the guilty. It was Seinfeld. Jerry Seinfeld. He made this joke famous. Now, admittedly, when he told it, it was pretty funny. But that’s just because he’s Jerry Seinfeld.

The reality is, it’s a pretty lame joke even if it hadn’t become such a cliche. “The deal with airline food” is that it sucks. That’s literally the entire premise of the joke. This is an example of failed observational humour. The idea behind observational humour is, really, to notice something absurd and/or something we can all relate to but might not think about. Airline food…Yes, it sucks. We know.

Now yes, I know, technically this is just the setup to the joke and you’re supposed to go on and recount a story about how much airline food sucks or something. But answer me this. Is there a single person who is going to hear this story that isn’t going to be able to guess the punchline before it even starts.

NO! Because the punchline always boils down to “Airline Food sucks”. There’s no payoff to this joke! Speaking of which…

“You ever noticed that a white guy does X and a black guy does Y?”

Oh god, now we’re into the dregs. This my friends is the quintessential racial joke. Almost every hack comedian with a racial theme to their comedy will make a joke using this exact formula – and it’s (For some reason I cannot possibly fathom at all, no way no how) especially common if the comedian in question is black.
An example of this joke being mocked which you’ve probably seen is when, on The Simpsons, Homer watches a black comedian on TV pantomime how white guys and black guys drive. The black guys drive like they’re in a movie, the white guys drive like dorks making “dee-de-dee” noises. Similarly, Homer himself tells a very poor example of this joke in the episode where Mr. Burns is trying to make himself popular:

“You see, white people have names like Lenny, and black people have names like Carl!”

The sad part is, that’s about as funny as these jokes get. The problem here is the joke is playing off a pretty well-known stereotype – black people are cool, white people are dweebs. And yes, there’s an element of truth in it.

But the fact is, it’s just not that rich a vein for comedy. I think at this stage, just about every contrasting stereotypical mannerism of white people and black people has been hauled onto a stage by some hack comedian standing in front of a faux-brick wall. Oh don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot of great racial comedy still to be harvested, but this formula is just dull.

There’s plenty of ways to make fun of white people without resorting to this tired old joke. Look at Deon Cole, one of Conan O’Brien’s crack team of scribes, for an example of innovation in this field.

“Did you know Rap Music used to have a C at the beginning?”

Okay, now this joke is just straight up dumb. This is obviously just idiots trying to be clever and take the piss out of rap music, but it just comes across as idiotic. We get it, Rap Music is divisive. Could you honestly not come up with a funnier way to express that? I mean, seriously.

All you have to do is read out the lyrics to most rap songs in a deadpan voice, with no rhythm, and it’s automatically funnier than this.

Also, Empire State of Mind is one of the greatest songs ever recorded and 8 Mile is a fantastic music-themed motion picture. So FUCK YOU rap haters.

“How do you get Pikachu on a bus? Poke ‘im on!”

Oh haha, very funny. This is possibly the lamest pun in the history of the universe. Unfortunately, it’s spread like wildfire. It’s a corruption of the same humour found in the favourite joke of maths students the world over:

“Why is six afraid of seven? Because seven eight nine!”

Now that joke’s legitimately funny. And so is the Pikachu Joke…At first. But unlike the Seven Joke, the Pikachu Joke has no staying power. Once you’ve heard it, it stops being funny, and it becomes more unfunny the more you hear it. The problem? People tell it all the time. It’s a safe bet no comedian would ever bother pulling this out on stage, but unfortunately non-comedians use it at every opportunity.

The Seven Joke enjoys the same ubiquitous status, but is somehow timeless. Much like South Park’s “Funniest Joke In History” candidate:

“Would you like some fish sticks, sir? What? You would? What are you, some kind of gay fish?”

Get it? Fish sticks sounds like fish dicks!

…It’s funnier out loud.

“So a bear walks into a bar…”

There are a lot of jokes which start in a similar manner. The infamous “A priest, a rabbi and a Scot” (And variations thereof) have ascended to the heights of “most overused premise for a joke ever”. Everyone has made up a joke using this premise. And almost all of those jokes involve either a bar, a genie, or god. And the punchline is always the third guy coming out better than the other two.

But there’s another version of this joke, which usually goes a lot like this:

“A bear walks into a pub holding a newspaper. He saunters up to the bar and takes a seat whilst the other patrons, terrified at the sight of him, edge slowly towards the door. He lays his paper on the bar and orders a beer and a packet of crisps (Chips to you Yankee Doodle Dandies) and the terrified barman charges him £10. The bear sighs, lays down his money and begins reading his paper. Tentatively, the barman observes ‘we don’t get many bears in here…’ to which the bear sighs, laying down his paper, before replying ‘Well at these prices I’m not surprised!”

This version of the “people walking into a bar” joke is infinitely funny and has unlimited scope for re-purposing. Family Guy ably showed it being used as a joke on a sitcom. The great thing about this version of the joke is that the humour is one, seemingly innocuous, detail and not really the “elephant (Well, bear) in the room” which you expect it to be.

Another great version goes thusly:

“A man walks into a bar and sits down, ordering his drink. He sits there, drinking it, then he suddenly hears it…A small, squeaky voice telling him how good he looks and what a great guy he is. He looks around for the source of the voice and is surprised to discover it appears to be coming from the bowl of peanuts. Unnerved, he heads to the toilet to splash some water on his face. Once there, he hears a gruff voice hurling abuse at him. To his (Semi) amazement, the voice is coming from the hand dryer. He heads back to the bar and the barman asks him if he’s okay. He reports these oddities to the barman who responds, easily ‘Ah, yes, well…The hand dryer is out of order, but the peanuts are complimentary.’”

Technically, that’s just a cheap double pun. But the execution is what sells it. All that buildup really bulks up the payoff. So, next time you wanna make a “some guy walks into a” joke, use the premise for something a bit cleverer than “these two kinds of people are idiots and this other kind of person is smart”.

“Why did the chicken cross the road? To get to the other side!”

It’s a crying shame that so few people get this joke. Because it’s actually really really funny. When I was first told it, it was framed as “the first joke ever told” and had an additional punchline tacked on – “I guess people used to be a lot easier to please”.

But this joke is actually exactly the kind of humour which is popular these days. The problem is, it became so ubiquitous so fast most people stopped thinking about why it might be funny and began fixating on the fact that it’s supposed to be un-funny.

So, would you like to know why this joke is so funny?

Because of course that’s why the chicken crossed the road. What other answer is there to that question? Millions, literally millions, of idiots have spent years trying to re-write this punchline to “make it funny again” (“to get away from the KFC”, “because he saw a black guy coming” – seriously, someone’s made that one, “because Oprah told it to”, “because the duck did it first and it wanted to fit in” ). It’s not necessary!

The joke is, the person asking is asking a stupid question and your inability to supply the simple answer makes you looks silly. Here’s the reason so few people got it: it’s on the listener! “Why did the chicken cross the road?” is one of the earliest and best examples of making the audience the butt of the joke in an entirely good natured way, as opposed to, say, this next gem.

“A moronsayswhat?”

Not being a moron, I couldn’t tell you, however, mumblemumblemumble.

Turn Left, Go Forth

In the run up to the 2008 Presidential Election, I outlined why it was that I, an out-of-country observer, felt that it was so important that Barack Obama be elected to the highest office in America. Now, it is time for the United Kingdom’s General Election. And once again, I want to get my thoughts down in writing.

My politics are best summarised in the phrase “March of Progress Socialism”. I am unashamedly Left Wing, because I believe that the existence of The State is right, and necessary. People simply cannot be expected to do everything for themselves all the time. It’s not right. It’s not fair. It doesn’t work. We all need a helping hand from time to time. And whether it’s as small as a little extra money to pay for our children’s wellbeing or as large as our time in Education, it’s all important.

Right is Wrong

The right wing would have us believe that all The State does is meddle in our affairs and give out handouts to scum. They are wrong. They’re fundamental politics are wrong. They have lost sight of the bigger picture.

It’s not always their fault. Many of them turned to the right for good reasons. Perhaps because of some injustice that was done to them, perhaps because they have been misled by the press into blaming the left or a left-wing government for something that has happened in the world.

But the fact is, the right wing simply doesn’t represent the views and needs of the many. In fact, in a lot of cases (See the Tea Party Activists in the United States for an example), the right wing isn’t even a good deal for the people who support it. It’s built on ideas which sound great, in theory, but which really don’t add up in the real world.

David Cameron’s Conservative Party is the embodiment of this disconnect. David claims to stand for “The Great Ignored”. He claims he understands our problems, he says we need change to Fix Our Broken Society. All three of these insinuations are completely false. Cameron the Chameleon is nothing but a spin doctor working for the interests of his corporate paymasters like Lord Ashcroft. This is a man who claims Nelson Mandela as a personal hero – but who was only too happy to be wined and dined by the leaders of Apartheid South Africa whilst the great man was still imprisoned for daring to question Apartheid.

Who are the Great Ignored? Cameron pretends the majority of Britain’s Middle and Working Class folks are. That’s not true. They’re not conservative at all. In fact, “The Great Ignored” just means the rich and privileged, the bigots & the posh, the dying breeds of a forgotten era. The fact is, Cameron and his supporters are a minority. We have a relatively Democratic system. Those people are not ignored, but their collective will is less than that of the rest of the population – who are Left and Centre-Left.

And Cameron knows it. And he hates it. David and his cronies know that with a truly democratic system, such as the alternative vote system, their kind would never again control this great land. And so they oppose it. They don’t want us to exert the full extent of our collective will, because they can only win under the First Past The Post system we currently have. So, unique of the three main parties – and despite pledging to “Fix Our Broken Politics” – they oppose the Alternative Vote System

The right wing is selfishness personified. The actions of the Tory Party show nothing but self-interest. They have no compassion. They want to give massive tax cuts to the rich, whilst they pull vital financial support from needy families and cut spending in our state schools.

In essence, they want to create a New Age of Privilege. David calls it “The Big Society”. I call it abhorrent.

And I won’t be a part of it. This is not the time for Cameron and his Short Change. Progress must go on.

Turn Left, Go Forth.

I support The Labour Party for Government.

Labour’s agenda isn’t based on self-interest or pie-in-the-sky idealism, but on offering real help and support to people who really need it. A Future Fair For All is the only future which will help the March of Progress. We cannot afford to turn back now because mistakes have been made. The way to win is to learn from the mistakes, correct the strategy, and plow on ahead.

Labour will not Tax the poor to offer a break to the rich. Labour will have the rich pay their fair share to help provide vital services, as well as help for those who need it most. Labour is not going to cut teachers from our schools or nurses from our hospitals.

The Tories would plunge us back into a Thatcherite Dark Age. Labour would lead us further on the path to prosperity.

The March of Progress is so important. The March of Progress creates equality – it’s what killed slavery and is helping to kill racism and sexism in the world. Only through working together can we achieve it though. David Cameron says that’s what The Big Society’s about. It’s not. What he’s not telling you is when he says “People need to work together” in The Big Society, he’s missing the word “you”. As in “You People need to work together”. Because David isn’t one of us, and he doesn’t care about what we need. The Big Society doesn’t require David and his Privileged friends to do their part. They get an Inheritance Tax Cut, an Income Tax Cut and their Businesses can go on making massive profits even at our collective expense.

The Great in Great Britain

I love this country. This wonderful country with its diverse people and its hard work and its sense of humour and its beautiful land. I am a proud patriot. And as a patriot, the Conservative campaign offends me at least as much as it offends me as a March of Progress Socialist. David tells us we need to fix this country, that it’s full of scroungers and immigrants and scofflaw youths. And it’s all Labour’s fault.

This, he says, is Broken Britain.

And he can fix it.

Britain isn’t Broken, David. And if it ain’t broke, we don’t need you to fix it.

I don’t look around and see a broken society. I see a wonderful nation full of wonderful, hard-working people. I see families going out of their way to give their children a chance at University and a better life, I see a diverse range of people coming together in a country world-renowned as a cultural boiling pot. I see the young campaigning and fighting for equality, justice and the greater good. I see them all laughing and joking and drinking together.

And it’s good.

But times are tough, we all know. And that’s why now, more than ever, the way forward is left.

A vote for Labour is a vote to take away some of the burden weighing on all these wonderful people’s shoulders. These are the real Britons. Not billionaires like Ashcroft who don’t live here or work here or contribute to our society.

If the Tories win, we lose, not Labour and not the Lib Dems.

Vote for Labour, A Future Fair For All.

Drinks to Beverages: Red Bull Cola

It’s time for more drink-related nonsense with another episode of Paul Douglas Drinks to Beverages! This week, the fluid deemed fit for human consumption is Red Bull Cola…You can probably see where this is going. Watch in delight as Paul Douglas succumbs to the torment and terror known only as “Drinking Red Bull Cola”!

The Final Stretch

Well today is the very last day of my Easter Holiday away from College. Tomorrow, it’s back to the Sawtry Community College for the home stretch. Three weeks this coming Thursday, I’m onstage wrapping up our official time at Sawtry with the SCC Sixth Form Leavers 2010 Final Assembly. I promise a show like no other. This is going to be one helluva spectacle folks.

A couple of weeks alter, on Friday the 28th of May, at Twenty-Five to One in the afternoon, my last ever lesson at Sawtry ends. After that, all I have there is four exams. The mind boggles that in less than six weeks, it’s all over. Seven years on, as by far the longest-lasting constant in my life outside of my immediate family, my time at SCC comes to an end. Naturally, that means I will have a lot of spare time for some three months. And that in turn means I’ll have more time to spend on doofy crap for this here website.

Then, it’s on to Uni. Which leads me neatly to the other thing which will take up my newfound spare time, the pursuit of money. Yes, it seems I’ll have to pick up at least a few days’ overtime each week as summer rolls around in order to build up a nice lump of spare money to spend on life in Pompey.

Man, writing this all down, it steal feels unreal. I am simultaneously overcome with amazement at how short the time left is and an overwhelming lack of comprehension of that fact.

It’s a weird time of life, you know? Everything’s basically done here but the closing number. We’ve got plans to end it all with a succession of show-stoppers though. The Final Assembly I’m putting together is an extravaganza. It’s a celebration, a variety show, a trip down memory lane, a massive pat on the back and more all crammed into an hour. I’m shooting for the full range of emotions. They’ll laugh, they’ll cry, they’ll cheer, they’ll be proud, they’ll be embarrassed, they’ll smile, they’ll cry & of course, they’ll smile. This is the biggest thing I’ve ever done. And I assure you, I take it very bloody seriously.

Then, a bunch of us are going to tear it up at a Theme Park for the day. Alton Towers is, I think, again the plan. And then we’ve got the End of Year Ball in early July. We call it a ball, but it’s being deliberately organised to allow us to go to the clubs & bars afterwards, so I’m, not certain “Ball” is the word. But it’s going to be one helluva party. Later that month, in a last hurrah before the exam results day, I’m off back to Disneyland Paris with some mates. Imagine the high spirits!

…And there it is again. I’m writing this partly to try and make it all sink in but…It just seems unreal to me.

Oh well, maybe it’ll sink in tomorrow when I hit the College. I’ve got a surprise for everyone which will be immediately apparent, and I have some unfinished business to take care of. It’s the home stretch, and it all kicks off in less than 15 hours. Here. We. Go.