* 200 articles. Two years. Whelk. The best of Upsideclown. Might be reprinted.

I say I say I say

20 August 2001
Dan is trivialising writing for Upsideclown.

My uncle once told me a joke. That's not unusual in and of itself. My uncle had a better sense of humour than people generally gave him credit for. It's just that a cataract operation gone horribly wrong deprived him completely of his ability to see the funny side. But that's not really the point.

The point is, back in the day, before the accident, he was always coming back from his travels and travails with little snippets of international comedy. One of which was this:

A Spanish man is visited one day by his Portuguese friend -

OK, stop here. Quick explanation. The Spanish tend to look at the Portuguese in much the same way as the English are supposed to look upon the Irish, at least for the purposes of bad jokes. And the Irish are supposed to look upon the Western Irish. And the Western Irish are supposed to look upon people from Kerry. And people from Kerry are supposed to look upon people from one particular part of Kerry, who look upon people from Southern Kerry, who look on people from the dark side of the road, who look on people from number 12, who look on people from the flat upstairs, and so on and so on in an endless chain of microcosmic piss-taking.

And incidentally, why do Englishman, Irishman, Scotsman jokes never specify whether the Irishman is from the North or the South? Does it suggest that all such gags originated before the partition, which I can well believe, or possibly that this troubled land can only be truly united when used as a source of lazy stereotypes? One nation under prejudice?

But anyway, this Portuguese guy pops round to his Spanish friends flat. It's never explained how he can let himself in without disturbing aforementioned amigo. Possibly a spare key from when he fed said amigo's goldfish. More probably they are lovers. Sadly, after a botched attempt at laser therapy to correct his myopia, my uncle became almost entirely blind to subtext.

So, he lets himself to find his (boy)friend sitting on the sofa, leaning forwards to stare into a tank containing the "oh, yeah, he has a key to let himself in to feed my goldfish when I'm away. We're certainly not going out or anything" goldfish. Remember, this was a more innocent time.

So, Spaniard is sitting with his back to the door, staring at the fish and moving one upraised finger in a slow clockwise circle, apparently following the motion of the fish as it traverses endlessly its watery circuit, eternally surprised by its apparently endless journey until the day it dies. Being a goldfish fucking sucks.

"So," says the Portuguese fellow, "the Hell are you doing?"

"Watch and learn," his friend replies enigmatically, before changing the clockwise finger-spin to widdershins. At which point the goldfish flips neatly over, and begins to swim anti-clockwise.

Not a massive lifestyle change for the goldfish - on your left, some water, on your right, some more water - but the friend is intrigued.

"How did you do that?"

"The power of my mind. Using my superior willpower, I can impose patterns on the motion of the simple creature. Check it out...."

And he does. In a display of fine and somehow entirely Hispanic prestidigitation, he makes the fish his yo-yo. Circles. Loop-the-loops. Figure eights. Signing his name. Moonwalking. The rabbit caught in the rain. Obscene lithograph. It's a virtuoso show, and Portugal Boy is damned impressed.

Tiring of this game eventually, the Spaniard heads off to the kitchen, and returns with steaming mugs of coffee to find his chum sitting on the very same spot he recently vacated, staring into the goldfish bowl.

Rhythmically opening and closing his mouth.

Yeah, it's more of a sight gag, which makes my uncle's ophthalmic catastrophes yet more ironic. But it's all leading up to a terrible, terrible truth. As some syphilitic German (the Germans look down on the Bavarians and the Austrians) once said:

When you gaze into the decorative miniature plastic castle,
The decorative miniature plastic castle gazes also into you.

And why is any of this at all germane, I hear you ask with commendable patience? Well, because the same oft-misquoted Teuton also commented:

Battle not with noncers,
Lest ye yourself become a noncer.

Which brings us neatly to the recent furore about Brass Eye. Now, to the best of my knowledge nobody has accused Chris Morris of actual noncery, or inciting the machinery of kiddyfiddle. However, the general consensus is that he is guilty of trivialising acts of nonce.

Which is a terrible thing to do. Already, friends of mine who teach in Primary schools have become quite literally criminally lackadaisical, taking children on geography trips and then letting them wander off into the woods with instructions to find a fern, spot at least one squirrel and stroke some puppies. The school board probably should have reprimanded them more forcefully, but it all seemed so...trivial.

Likewise, the tabloids, despite feeling a certain obligation to whip up a bit of a stink, really couldn't be fucked. Seized with ennui, they ended up just seeing how far they could take the piss. Articles of condemnation next to leery close-ups of underage chest puppies. More condemnation, juxtaposed with shots of Sarah Ferguson's pubescent princesses in bikinis. A few people worked out what was going on, but couldn't summon up the interest to write in.

Of course, it's all downhill from here. Justin Timberlake trivialises the plays of Timberlake Wertenbaker. Britney Spears doesn't so much trivialise the desire of middle-aged men to spurt sterile, beer-poisoned jism all over their fur-lined paunches while thinking of teenagers in school uniform as institutionalise it and provide a multimedia presentation on the benefits of phasing it in. Phil Collins trivialises the idea of human existence, just by being a part of it.

O tempora, o mores, say I, except in English, obviously. Just as Morris' blustering celebrity victims were forced, goldfish-like, into capering and aping by his superior will, so we, will-sapped excrescence of the new millennium, are driven from wretchedness to hopelessness to nothingness by the dreadful, empty weight of evil celebrity role models. Faced with such a barrage of trivialising the pretty-trivial-to-begin-with, what other option does one have but to sit down in front of your rust-red aquatic chum and see if you can at least assert a little control on this tiny goldfish-shaped corner of your personal kingdom.

Best watch yourself, though. Should you find yourself perched motionless on the edge of the sofa, opening and closing your mouth in imitation of your piscine playmate, try to keep some measure of self-control. You never know when your cataract-ridden, Wertenbaker-dissing, kilt-wearing uncle will stagger into the room, muttering about the impossibility of hurrying love and strung out to the second star on the right with junk sickness.

And stick his cock in your ear.


This is the fucking archive

Current clown:

18 December 2003. George writes: This List

Most recent ten:

15 December 2003. Jamie writes: Seven Songs
11 December 2003. Dan writes: Spinning Jenny
8 December 2003. Victor writes: Rock Opera
4 December 2003. Matt writes: The Mirrored Spheres of Patagonia
1 December 2003. George writes: Charm
27 November 2003. James writes: On Boxing
24 November 2003. Jamie writes: El Matador del Amor; Or, the Man who Killed Love
20 November 2003. Dan writes: Rights Management
17 November 2003. Victor writes: Walking on Yellow
13 November 2003. Matt writes: Disintermediation
(And alas we lost Neil, who last wrote Cockfosters)

Also by this clown:

11 December 2003. Dan writes: Spinning Jenny
20 November 2003. Dan writes: Rights Management
30 October 2003. Dan writes: My only goal
9 October 2003. Dan writes: The Knot
18 September 2003. Dan writes: The Engelbart Elephant
28 August 2003. Dan writes: The Amity Index
7 August 2003. Dan writes: This Sporting Life
17 July 2003. Dan writes: Touch
26 June 2003. Dan writes: Metadata
5 June 2003. Dan writes: Street Mate
15 May 2003. Dan writes: Usher's Well
24 April 2003. Dan writes: Medicamenta
3 April 2003. Dan writes: Weapons of Mass Construction
13 March 2003. Dan writes: David Sneddon, Bukake Secret Agent
20 February 2003. Dan writes: Mary Sue
30 January 2003. Dan writes: Bait and Switch
9 January 2003. Dan writes: What Never Happened
19 December 2002. Dan writes: Sermon on the Mount the Face
28 November 2002. Dan writes: Ballroom Blitz
7 November 2002. Dan writes: The Photographer
17 October 2002. Dan writes: Diaphragmatic
26 September 2002. Dan writes: A life in the day
5 September 2002. Dan writes: Different Class
15 August 2002. Dan writes: Story and sequel
25 July 2002. Dan writes: Fellatious
4 July 2002. Dan writes: Skin Mag
10 June 2002. Dan writes: The Ibizan book of the Dead
16 May 2002. Dan writes: The Sissons Situation
22 April 2002. Dan writes: UpsideClown and Out in Hollywood
28 March 2002. Dan writes: Nereus' Daughters
4 March 2002. Dan writes: Diomedes
7 February 2002. Dan writes: Text Only
14 January 2002. Dan writes: Civil Engineering
20 December 2001. Dan writes: Nativity
26 November 2001. Dan writes: The Wedding Band
1 November 2001. Dan writes: what dreans mecum?
8 October 2001. Dan writes: Stop me if you've heard this one before
13 September 2001. Dan writes: Mother of the Muses
20 August 2001. Dan writes: I say I say I say
26 July 2001. Dan writes: Bigger, Better, Brother
2 July 2001. Dan writes: Hecatomb
7 June 2001. Dan writes: Dispassionate Leave
14 May 2001. Dan writes: Small Town Boy
19 April 2001. Dan writes: Maintaining the Driving Line
26 March 2001. Dan writes: Cut and Paste
1 March 2001. Dan writes: Redemption
5 February 2001. Dan writes: Blyton the Face of the Earth
8 January 2001. Dan writes: Smoke Signals
18 December 2000. Dan writes: The Loa Depths
23 November 2000. Dan writes: The Limits of Melissa Joan Hart
30 October 2000. Dan writes: Shiftwork
5 October 2000. Dan writes: Dawson
11 September 2000. Dan writes: Testing Times
17 August 2000. Dan writes: Onanova
3 July 2000. Dan writes: Roboto il Diavolo

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