Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Pop Culture Institute's First Annual Hall of Fame

The first-ever inductees into the Pop Culture Institute's Hall of Fame have been chosen by all of you out there in Internet-land for the part they've played in bringing readers to this site since it first came into being*; I'll attempt to sort them into categories, although I fully expect this endeavour to evolve over time, as has almost everything else to do with this blog during the past two years. Meaning that, in future years there may be no new inductees, or the categories under which they are inducted may be idiosyncratic ones; it depends mainly on the omniscient will of the great deity, Google, as It continues to sift the collective unconscious, and my ability to predict and interpret that will...

MAN FOR THE AGES: Porfirio Rubirosa

PhotobucketFar and away the majority of traffic I've gotten to this site this year is due to the Dominican Republic's former Ambassador Pleni-potentiary and renowned playboy, Porfirio Rubirosa.

As with all those chosen, the traffic he's driven has been both constant and widespread, not unlike the women for whom he served as a kind of socialite stud service; there have been many posts in the past year which have briefly brought about a flurry of interest - Bo Bice is the most obvious of these - only to subside after weeks or even days, but ever since I first posted about Rubirosa in July 2008 - on the anniversary of his 1965 death - not a day has gone by where at least a third of my traffic wasn't due entirely to him.

Runners Up: Kristen Bjorn, Stefano Casiraghi, Benigno Aquino, Jr.

As with most of the winners and runners-up, the frequency of their appearance in my stat reports startled even me; in some cases, it even altered the planned course of this blog's editorial policy**. The popularity of Kristen Bjorn prompted the inclusion of posts regarding other porn stars such as Ken Ryker, Jeff Stryker, and Joey Stefano; not only that, but many more such posts are planned for the future, since therein lies the zeitgeist...

WOMAN FOR THE AGES: Mimi Panzirer

Just three posts made following the August 2007 death of Manhattan socialite Leona Helmsley are still regularly contributing to the inflow of readers to the Pop Culture Institute; whomever these friends I haven't met yet happen to be, what I do know about them is that they haven't come here looking for information on the dragon lady herself, but rather on the reclusive widow of her late son Jay Panzirer. Yet Mimi Panzirer has no Wikipedia page and there are no photos of her on Google Images; once I manage to get up my nerve, I'm considering putting in an interview request to her - if, that is, I can find her. Hopefully my nerve and my research will successfully converge in the not too distant future...

Runners Up: Dorothy Dandridge, Edie Sedgwick, Gia Carangi

DYNASTY FOR THE AGES: Monaco's House of Grimaldi

I'm still not certain how or why I get so many hits about the Grimaldis - the whys and wherefores of Search Engine Optimization being an even greater mystery to me than the motivating manias of total strangers - but I do know that the post I made regarding the April 1956 wedding of Monaco's Prince Rainier III to American actress Grace Kelly still routinely shows up as a reliable hit-getter. It may have been the quality of the writing, it may be the ongoing interest in their story, or it could be the royal couple's wedding photo, of which my example turns up near the top of photo searches at Google. Either way, I too have had a lifelong fascination with the Grimaldis, and hope one day to turn the blog posts I've made (and will be making) about their fascinating lineage into a book.

POEM FOR THE AGES: Christina Rossetti's In The Bleak Midwinter

The Pop Culture Institute strives to be inclusive... I, personally, have never been fond of those people, for instance, who claim to like all music only to have their likely story fall to pieces under the most basic scrutiny. This is why I post videos of punk, country, opera and hip hop; I do it because I genuinely like all these kinds of music. It's also why I publish poetry, despite the fact that it is seemingly out of cultural favour. Yet, of all the poems I've published to date (40 at last count) this seems to be the one most people are looking for...

NEWSMAKERS FOR THE AGES: The Scottsboro Nine

At the time it occurred in March 1931, the arrest of the Scottsboro Nine elicited howls of criticism from most of the progressives in the world... So why then, nearly eighty years later, have those howls not faded away? Throughout our human history - indeed even just in the 20th Century - there have been travesties of justice that would seem to be far worse. Yet, for some reason, this is the case that seems to hold my readers rapt.

NEWS STORY FOR THE AGES: The 16th Street Baptist Church Bombing

I have always considered it my responsibility as an artist to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable, which is why the Pop Culture Institute has always and always will contain as much information as possible regarding the struggles of minorities not only to exercise their rights but to be written into the history they've helped to make... To this end I've written about the Montgomery Bus Boycott and the murder of Emmett Till, as well as the Stonewall Riots, suffrage, and the end of the colonial era... None of these stories, however, has garnered me half as much traffic as the story of the four little girls killed by members of the Ku Klux Klan in September 1963.

SONG FOR THE AGES: It's Like That by Run-D.M.C.

One of the things I like best about the Internet is the way that it brings people together, even as it seems to push them apart; certainly, the 12-year-olds leaving their idiotic comments all over YouTube have nothing on the interactive social studies inherent in Facebook. The Internet, though, leaves its gold nuggets scattered around; finding and mining them for this blog has become my principal activity, and hopefully will one day provide my main source of income.

One thing my research seems to have uncovered is that people on every continent save Antarctica have, at one time or another, passed through the Pop Culture Institute while searching for this very song - proving what every Baby Boomer knows about the power of music to unite and heal as well as entertain.

EDITORIAL DECISION FOR THE AGES: Publishing Serial Fiction

At the risk of tooting my own horn, I really feel that both this blog and my life took a major upward trend when I decided to publish The Barington Encounter on November 2nd of this year; though it is, in relative terms, a latecomer to the proceedings, this ersatz tale of aliens encountering modern Britain - which began as a response to the May 2001 death of novelist Douglas Adams - seems to have won me readers around the world, in places as diverse as China, Australia, the United Kingdom, and Kansas.

Thank you all for your visits, your patience, and most importantly your comments over the past year; I don't know about you, but I can't wait to see what 2009 has in store!

~ MSM

*Originally I began posting as the Pandora Institute on January 26th, 2006; it became the Pop Culture Institute on Christmas Day of that year.
**Yes, believe it or not, all of this is being meticulously planned.

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Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Willie O'Ree Named To Order Of Canada

One of Fredericton's favourite sons, Willie O'Ree, has been named to the Order of Canada today, affording him at long last just one of the plum accolades he so richly deserves; O'Ree is known as 'the Jackie Robinson of hockey' for being the first black player in the game*, which he became when he took to the ice for the Boston Bruins against the Montreal Canadiens in January 1958.

PhotobucketOnce there he encountered some hateful speech, although he later admitted the problem was much worse in the US than Canada**; many of those fans - the sort of enlightened intellectuals who were unable to grasp the concept of a black man born in Canada - would yell at him to go back to the South - of New Brunswick, obviously. O'Ree's reaction was philosophical: 'It didn't bother me,' he is reported as saying. 'I just wanted to be a hockey player, and if they couldn't accept that fact, that was their problem, not mine.' Now that's what I call class...

O'Ree scored 4 goals and had 10 assists in his NHL career, which reached its pinnacle with the 43 games he played in 1961; at that point he returned to the minor leagues, where he played with the Los Angeles Blades and San Diego Gulls of the Western Hockey League. He retired in 1971, and there wasn't another black player until fellow Canadian Mike Marson was drafted by the Washington Capitals in 1974; O'Ree blazed a trail, though, which has since been taken by such players as Canadians Jarome Iginla and Anson Carter and American Mike Grier.

The Gulls later retired his number, and hung his jersey from the rafters of the San Diego Sports Arena; given the tenor of the times, we should all be grateful he wasn't in it at the time. O'Ree was inducted into the New Brunswick Sports Hall of Fame in 1984, and since 1998 has worked for the NHL's Diversity Task Force, which aims to bring more minorities into the sport.

*Although Art Dorrington was the first black player to sign a pro contract, in 1950, he never left the minors.
**Surely he's only being diplomatic here; Canadian bigots are just as good as American ones, there's just fewer of them per capita so it seems like there's less of them.

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Sunday, December 28, 2008

The Barington Encounter: Part Nine

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[1] * [2] * [3]
* [4]
* [5] * [6] * [7] * [8]

However you might have imagined an alien invasion of Earth would go - with your brain poisoned by a lot of xenophobic blather courtesy of Hollywood and fed a similarly toxic diet which like American movies consisted almost entirely of additives and filler - well, you’d be wrong in this case...

There was no sky blackened by a flotilla of ships, no anarchy amongst the about-to-be-subjugated, and an almost disappointing (and certainly un-entertaining, at least in Earth terms) lack of people being evaporated to death by laser cannons. In fact, Felicia Fripp's invasion of her own front garden was considerably more terrifying than anything these five could have ever devised. One lady outside a nearby pub did scream, but it turns out she’d just bought the regular crisps instead of the bacon; just to be on the safe side, she was sectioned.

On that very ordinary day it was just five very ordinary Andromedans and an awful lot of flat pack from the local outlet of ├╝ber-costermonger DIYnot?, which had only recently turned ten hectares of uniquely lovely English countryside into a million square feet of entirely ordinary yet cheerfully fascistic retail space, complete with generous pourings of tarmac - all of it located not five miles away from the house that was the only place on Earth the Andromedans had any intention of occupying.

Possibly the reason for the less-than-stellar reaction to the arrival of these particular interstellar travelers is the fact that a great many aliens were already here. Better (or worse, depending upon your world-view) than that, even more had been here before, given the amazing exchange rate. Space - and not just according to Einstein either - is a very inflationary place indeed, making Earth a bargain even at many thousands of times the price; to put things into perspective, a litre of petrol on Beta Centauri cost the same as the annual gross domestic product of Cameroon on a good day, so you can imagine what they’d gouge you for a bottle of water.

Scientists, missionaries, and tourists of every kind and from every sector of the galaxy had been making their way to Earth for the better part of the past hundred million years, often on fancy dress excursions in which they would all play Japanese businessmen, for instance, or triceratopses. The Centauris alone had made so many movies about the toga party they held during that one fateful Spring Break which succeeded in levelling Troy that it was officially recognized as its own genre; the actual wooden horse they’d partied in then was today a major tourist attraction, the centrepiece of the Hard Rock Cafe in Gordlinginin, their capital.

So while some came for edification on a spiritual quest, and still others came strictly to see the sights and thus record them documentarily - although, since none of them were Andromedan neither deadlily nor dully - truth be told, most of them came for a super cheap piss-up and a bit of upsy-skirtsy with slappers whose reputation was legendary across the galaxy; on these delightful pleasures was built Earth’s reputation as the Blackpool of the Milky Way. One popular slogan on travel brochures was ‘Earth: Home of the Easy Anal Probe’, which made the place as well-beloved amongst them as was into that sort of thing as it was well-feared by them that wasn’t.

Many of these same aliens, of course, had taken to decrying how touristy the place had gotten lately, how completely overrun by such uppity locals, even though neither offense was ever adjudged terrible enough to make even one of them stop coming; others bemoaned the removal of the unicorns or the Ancient Romans, or else some other favoured exhibit from yesteryear that they could now only experience in their personal photograph albums or lavishly illustrated souvenir tomes. Yet still they came; in fact, you've undoubtedly seen them yourselves. You just didn’t recognize them because a) you weren’t expecting to see them, or b) you yourself were pissed, up to your ears in labia (or both), or otherwise couldn’t be bothered to notice.

* * *

An ordinary constable, PC Gary Carlisle, was first on the scene (as they were so fond of saying in the American cop shows which were his favourite viewing material) then taking place in Juniper Mews...

Out on patrol, where ordinarily he might find a couple of truant fourth formers arsed on Alco-Pops and/or a beggar wandered away from the favoured spot - outside the Balls chemist in the High Street - Gary Carlisle instead saw three men in turbans struggling to fit a nine foot mattress through an eight foot door while what appeared to be their employer, a willowy bloke with blue skin in fancy dress - stood in the next garden over being argued at by a middle-aged housewife who appeared to be committing several sorts of hate crimes and/or grievous bodily harm simultaneously upon him. Fortunately for Gary Carlisle he hadn’t come by a few minutes earlier, as there’s no telling what the sight of this blue person sneezing like a cat would have done to his delicate police constable’s psyche.

‘ ‘Ello, ‘ello,’ he might have said, or even ‘What’s all this then?’ - both of which were recommended by the aptly-titled self-help book Police Work for Dummies - but he did not. ‘Take me to your leader,’ they might have responded if they were feeling particularly old school, or even ‘Resistance is futile,’ if they were in the mood for a little whimsy (or indeed known anything about sci-fi). But they were not (and they did not) so they could not. Gary Carlisle might have even offered that he’d earned an O level in geometry, not that it would have mattered now since the vast blobby thing with which they struggled seemed irrevocably jammed in, well, the jamb; he might have even loaned them his protractor, which he carried upon his person at all times for just these sorts of conundra (not that one had ever come up, but it never hurts to be prepared, as he'd learned in the Boy Scouts). But he would not so they did not so he did not.

Instead, when ordinary constable Gary Carlisle first rounded the corner from Castlewood Avenue (where there was neither a castle nor a wood) onto Juniper Mews (where no juniper had ever grown, nor no horse ever been stabled, although it had been the site of much gin drinking and the home of many noisy cats) he let out a small shriek. The tallest, bluest alien - always eager to get along - shrieked back, a high-pitched girly sound being an informal Andromedan word for ‘greetings’.

Then the entirely ordinary alien (who nevertheless possessed extraordinary powers of leadership) gave the mattress the subtlest of shoves - really more of a glancing hand gesture than any concerted effort - whereupon it fell through the doorway and landed with a sighing thud in the centre of the kitchen. As the movers scrambled to remove it even further into the house he then invited the even more ordinary police constable into 14 Juniper Mews for a spot of tea and to meet his four friends who were, at least compared to either of them, even more incredible...


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Friday, December 26, 2008

Friday Watchlist - December 26th

Irma Thomas - Time Is On My Side
Dishwalla - Nashville Skyline
My Chemical Romance - Early Sunsets Over Monroeville
Six Feet Under - Shadow of the Reaper
Robert Johnson - If I Had Possession Over Judgment Day
John Mayer - Clarity
AFI - Perfect Fit
Royal Crown Revue - Inner City Swing
Bruce Cockburn - The Coldest Night of the Year
The Smiths - Death of a Disco Dancer
Peter Schilling - Major Tom
Sass Jordan - Make You a Believer
Jason Mraz - Geek in the Pink
Billie Holiday - Fine and Mellow
Azis - Pisna mi
Haircut 100 - Love Plus One
Les Rita Mitsouko - Andy
.38 Special - So Caught Up In You
Frank Crumit - What Kind of a Noise Annoys an Oyster?
Hole - Miss World
Madonna - Everybody
The Rolling Stones - Paint It Black
The Magnetic Fields - My Only Friend
Jan & Dean - Ride The Wild Surf
Big Mama Thornton - Ball and Chain
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Thursday, December 25, 2008

The Queen's Christmas Message (2008)



There are few events I look forward to in any given calendar year more than the annual message of hope delivered by my sovereign lady; this year's speech - delivered as it is on the opening cusp of what promises to be difficult times - has given an extra boost to whatever impulse there is within me to keep on keeping on despite what sometimes seems like overwhelming odds.
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Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Barington Encounter: Part Eight

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[1] * [2] * [3] * [4] * [5] * [6] * [7]

The alien, of course, was unoffended.

He was relieved, of course, that he’d not only remembered to put on his assault vest but also to set its force field to maximum before leaving the ship, and resolved now to leave it on permanently until such time as he and his crew could become accustomed to the local customs, or otherwise be reasonably certain they could be free from sudden, unwarranted violence. Fortunately, it was a flattering garment... Some vague hunch told him he’d be wearing it for awhile.

Unoffended though he was he would, however, have admitted to being a tad confused; his new friend’s heartfelt attempt at attempting that ancient Andromedan custom - namely welcoming formerly absent friend or complete stranger alike with a pithy yet poignant performance piece - had left him as baffled as he’d been only that morning trying to find an inconspicuous place to park an alien space craft in Sussex.

So while very few Andromedan nursery rhymes actually featured interactive assaults with either implements of cookery and/or religious artifacts (Princess Crock-Pot and The Yarmulke of Death being the obvious exception), most of them do sound rather like women’s doubles tennis; and while he’d been having a bit of trouble following his neighbour’s welcoming narrative (something about a pony lost in a strange city who befriends a golden frog) the alien appreciated the exchange, as well as the clumsy attempt to speak Andromedan, and in response offered his people’s customary sign of thanks (a loud raspberry accompanied by a V-sign made, palm up, with the index and middle fingers) to her closed door.

In his desire to seem encouraging, in fact, he offered it several times in rapid succession, and using both hands as well; on Andromeda such a greeting was usually reserved for VIPs - well, basically just the Emperor, since he was pretty well their only VIP - but he felt that, despite the live video feed he carried in his pendant camera watching his every move, (and, in theory, a good many of his fellow planetarians back home watching what it was watching) his fellow Andromedans would want to see him treating his hosts with the utmost respect, which was a surefire ratings grabber on Andromedan television, unlike anywhere else.

Once more unsure what to do, and unwilling to give offense besides, he turned again to face the crew of movers, this time his body moving fluidly and his head moving jerkily. Since, he reasoned, they would be more familiar with human customs than he was (being ostensibly human themselves) the alien looked to them for some sign that what had transpired was supposed to have happened. If any of them - let alone all of them - had seen the odd exchange between the new neighbours and thought it odd, that was not reflected now in their array of studiously disinterested miens. In fact, their expressions remained as precisely arranged as the coloured cloths wound about their heads, and were focussed at that not on him at all but upon their own unfolding crisis.

As previously indicated, if the workmen were in any way flummoxed by their temporary employers or the situation into which they had become employed they betrayed no sign of it; they just kept on trying to push a too-large mattress through a too-small door, stopping occasionally to yell at each other in a strange language which was so complex it took the alien as long as twelve seconds to fully comprehend it.

‘Push harder Jasbir,’ said Narinder, who was easily the most frustrated of the lot.

‘What does it look like I’m doing Narinder,’ said Jasbir, whose frustration was rapidly gaining on that of Narinder.

‘It looks to me like you’re not pushing hard enough.’

‘May I suggest you look a little harder?’

‘May I suggest you push a little harder, rather than peppering me with quips?’

For his own sake, Satpreet appeared to be staying out of it, preferring instead to concoct a particularly vivid (not to mention potentially blasphemous) daydream starring himself, Shilpa Shetty, and Aishwarya Rai - a dream in which Jasbir and Narinder (let alone his wife Bhupinder) didn’t feature in the least. He did, however, offer his pithiest rejoinder: ‘May I suggest you both shut up?’ Say what you will about Satpreet’s manners, at least his methods were effective; following that brief exchange they resumed their labours in silence.

The three of them, the brothers Grewal, originally hailed from a slightly more nerve-wracking region than the front step of 14 Juniper Mews, namely that bit of ground between Pakistan and India they always seemed to be fighting over while those who lived there only seemed to fight over how quickly to get out. They’d seen some strange things and met some even stranger people in their first British decade - all of it not just strange but British strange, meaning it was weapons-grade - so that nothing and no one, not even Andromedans, was apt to faze them now; or, they could have been under the mistaken impression they were working for Blue Man Group, and had somehow unwittingly been tricked into participating in some form of performance art, which ought to be a hate crime yet somehow isn't.

The point is, we will never know. Unless, of course, we bother to learn Punjabi; which, to be honest, is highly unlikely.

Either way, when they got home tonight they were sure going to have them some laughs remembering the crazy white lady and her naked Jew on a stick and what she did with it to the skinny blue bloke who paid them five times more than they were worth without blinking... In fact, come to think of it, he never blinked at all - how weird is that! Still, when they told their wives the story, they might leave out the bit about being overpaid - strictly for their own good of course; women, as was widely known (especially around the Grewal house), were unable to deal with money, which is the only logical reason why they spent it faster than their husbands can earn it.


*That's Shilpa Shetty on the left and Aishwarya Rai on the right, which is the exact same way Satpreet Grewal prefers them.
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Sunday, December 14, 2008

The Barington Encounter: Part Seven

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[1] * [2] * [3] * [4] * [5] * [6]

Outside, in the vibrant sunshine of the garden, the alien managed to shake loose some befuddlement of his own - oddly enough, none of it related to the fact that he was in England and for some unknown reason standing in brilliant sunshine.

‘What an odd woman,’ he said, in Andromedan, to no one in particular; not that it would have mattered if he had been heard, let alone overheard, because ‘What an odd woman’ in Andromedan sounds to human ears exactly like a cat sneezing. As shocking as it might have been to any random passerby to see a bright blue stick insect with a silver pompadour wearing a boiler suit made of oven mitts sneezing like a cat while standing on an inadequate patch of suburban front garden and staring up at an ugly house simultaneously trying too hard and yet failing miserably to be quaint, it can be safely assumed that surely no one this side of Sirius would have understood even vaguely what he'd meant by it.

The alien was about to return to work (well, supervising anyway, the word ‘supervisor’ being Andromedan for ‘failing upward’) when he heard a peculiar kerfuffle coming from inside his new neighbour’s house. Stepping down from the van as though floating, he hopped the adjoining hedge Nijinskily and Jehovah’s Witnessly approached the handsome walnut door adorned with their 1 and 2 of piss-elegant brass. Retrieving the fallen knocker from the put-upon doormat and rehanging it, he came at last to rest upon said doormat which, while not having had such a good day itself so far, once again very Englishly - despite its having been made, like everything else, in China - wished him ‘Welcome' nevertheless.

That's when the alien first beheld in front of him the face of a man in brass surrounded by equally brassy leaves. He'd already made a mental note to enquire as to the meaning of the image at some later time, and was still admiring his brassified reflection up close in it, in fact certain he'd just seen it wink at him, when the front door upon which it was precariously nailed flang open. This time when Felicia Fripp appeared on her doormat she was holding a sizable cast iron skillet over her face with one hand and an even sizabler crucifix in the other.

‘Begone demon!’ she shrieked, eyes shut tight behind the skillet, crucifix suddenly flailing - which startled the alien, as it might anyone, although he dared not flinch for fear of giving offense.

‘Howdy neighbour,’ the alien said, uttering the most banal sentiment in the poshest of accents, otherwise unsure of the socially correct response and even less certain of the culturally accurate verbiage/accent combination. Still unaware as to what else to do, he smiled very suavely into a low bow.

In fact, he was still smiling and bowing when she gobsmacked him with the skillet and immediately thereafter began pummeling him with the crucifix; with each blow a noise more suited to Steffi Graf than her usual Sybil Fawlty emanated from Felicia Fripp, yet none of her worst fury seemed to budge him in the least, even though she was well known for her ability to clear meetings of the local Women’s Institute with nothing more than a slightly raised eyebrow. After ten or twelve good thumps with the skillet, and an equal number with the crucifix - any one of which wallops she knew from experience was force enough to kill most house pets - he refused to so much as flinch, the supercilious bastard...

Suddenly, her fury spent in a moment of profound self-revelation - in point of fact, she'd just seen her reflection in the picture window - embarrassment bloomed like English roses on her once sallow cheeks, which glowed with new youth in the same way they'd only just sagged with middle age; likewise, her formerly mouse-coloured hair seemed to hang lank and shiny down her back where before it had been spiderwebby and clenched into a bob. Whereupon she slank back into her house and breathlessly slamt the door shut behind her, feeling a right prat for engaging in hostilities in the first place - and on such a flimsy pretext! - not to mention a proper wally for having done so without a suitable exit strategy in place.

As anyone would. Well... Almost anyone.

And yet, even laying in an exhausted heap against the door to the lounge, breath heaving around her heart so marvellously alive beneath breasts pert where they’d only just seemed deflated, all of which and more her hands had begun to explore with a rising thrill, she had to wonder if it hadn’t all been worth it...


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Sunday, December 07, 2008

The Barington Encounter: Part Six

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[1] * [2] * [3] * [4] * [5]

What the aliens couldn’t have known before arriving on Earth - since it’s never mentioned in tourist brochures - is that while everyone on their planet would have looked alike to humans, to human eyes they were nevertheless abnormally beautiful... Even with blue skin and silver hair, which was far from a mainstream look even before they’d arrived, although greyish skin and blue hair was often quite popular in art schools. It turns out the Andromedans wouldn't have had to develop celebrity technology at all - in fact, could have saved themselves all the time and money and scandal and documentaries involved - since they already possessed the key (and some say only) necessary ingredient inherently...

First, they’re tall and thin; since most Earthlings, or Earthacacians as they are more commonly known, are either short or fat or both the lucky minority who are not are worshipped. Likewise, the Andromedan face is angular and without blemish, with perfectly symmetrical features and large, pale eyes. Not to mention the single-digit body mass index, sculpturally elegant buffness, and the sort of posture that could make a balletomane weep with joy. Oh, and super cute bottoms... Mustn’t forget those. (Providing you’re into that sort of thing, that is.)

It turns out these five had unwittingly arrived on Earth tailor-made to be worshipped, albeit entirely without the skills to handle such adoration, which is much the way it is with most celebrities, even the homegrown ones. Despite the fact that their programme was getting truly dismal ratings back on Andromeda (already, after less than two hours on the air) on Earth the Andromedans would become stars. Quality stars, too, for they had star quality.

All of which is intended to explain why Felicia Fripp acted as she did...

Mrs Fripp, you see, was originally the aptly named Miss Bland, from Newcastle; she'd come to London as a mere slip of a girl to work as a stenographer and ended up marrying a man who, by his accent alone, ought to have been quite posh, and who was also, it should be said, a handsome rogue in the Laurence Harvey mould.

Alas, Denis Fripp was anything but posh in reality and in addition to looking like Laurence Harvey, treated women like Laurence Harvey's movie characters did, which is to say, shittily. He was, in fact, also from Newcastle - truth be told, from a far worse neighbourhood than that from which Miss Bland herself had so recently scarpered - only he'd studied more than law at the London School of Economics; he'd got himself A levels in posh manners, posh accent, and all that posh bosh although only an O level in success and a U in ambition. He’d even pledged a fraternity - Alpha Rho Posh Epsilon - signified on jumpers by an A, an R, a $ and an E. Not that any of his fraternity brothers needed to wear their jumpers; then, as now, even in the most crowded place in London - Leicester Square on a Saturday night, say, or Russell Brand’s boudoir - one can inevitably spot an AR$E a kilometer off.

The sound of the alien’s plummy voice, then, had utterly melted Felicia Fripp, in a way that would tomorrow prove disconcerting to her laundress, in the same way that Denis Fripp's own voice in her ear had once cunningly done, in the back seat of what she later learned to her dismay was his best mate’s Alfa Romeo. Closing the door between herself and the alien in the unintentionally slapstick way she’d done, now she felt a clenching hatred forming in the remaining, nearly-vestigial cockles of her heart - the majority of which for once had nothing to do with her incipient embarrassment. Mostly, it was pent up hatred of her husband Denis. Then again most of the emotion on Earth (the majority of which is anger anyway) is misdirected - it’s something to do with sun spots. So, nothing unusual about that.

There, in the tatty foyer of her petit-bourgeois semi-detached house filled with second-hand reproduction furniture posing as antiques bought on hire-purchase, where dwelt a couple of sold out geordies awash in would-be middle-class smugness pretending to be soft southern bastards, the alien's voice and her husband's became the same. That’s when the implications of that voice began to highlight the disparity between her current situation and the one she'd hoped to find herself in by the age she'd attained, namely wallowing in privilege, reeking of gin, and possibly even Ladying it over a couple of servants. Once the cognitive dissonance had become more than she could bear, in the all-too-common parlance of the street where she grew up she ‘went fookin’ mental like’.

All she knew for sure at that moment was that if she didn’t do something drastic she’d have a bloody thrombo... In a fury, then, Felicia Fripp tore through her house to the kitchen, nearly pummeling the Hummels on the whatnot into dust in her all-too zealous zeal for revenge. After prising most of her prized collection of copper-bottomed pots off their custom built rack on the largest wall in her kitchen - and nearly prising the custom-built rack from the faux-brick wall along with them - she then tore up most of the cupboards in the imitation oak veneer kitchen island before finding the ancient cast-iron skillet her mum had always called ‘Big Ben’ - so named for the bonging sound it would make when colliding with her father's skull. It was with Big Ben that Mother Bland had once punished her family and neighbours for all their transgressions, however minor, and it was with Big Ben that she afterwards made them all a knees up in front of telly for tea by means of consolation - her favourite being plump pork sausages wrapped in bacon and fried in suet - or ‘cloggers’, as she called them.

Waving the heavy pan about like a veritable Boadicea on her way into battle, Mrs Fripp swiped pictures of her so-called friends and family off the walls in the front hall and up the stairs to the landing, yawping and gasping for air as she did. There she snatched her mother’s crucifix off the wall, the one that had been to Lourdes and dunked in the water there with Mother Bland’s very own hands. With these two mighty weapons, Felicia Fripp returned to the site of her previous abashment to engage her new enemy in battle, and a-bash him some herself.


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