Strange Times IV: Nothing Changes
Skin colour matters. It transpired that Tanzanian albinos were living in fear of their lives because people were seeking their body parts for witchcraft. There are over 200,000 albinos in the country, and with over 30 murders in 10 months, many were frightened they would be skinned alive and partially dismembered. Meanwhile, Southern Australia held a ‘Sorry Ranga’ day to celebrate its ginger-haired population, Ranga being short for Orangatangs.
Channel 4 aired a ‘child reality show’ in which 20 primary school children were left without adult supervision for a fortnight. Unsurprisingly, this led to cries of abuse and an outcry from psychologists, as the parents used their own children as leverage for fame. The show flopped. The producers are still out there somewhere.
As economists announced the financial end of the world and climatologists paced up their doomsday scenarios, the world’s insect population started to decline massively and Australia’s seagulls headed for extinction, whereas the formerly endangered kiwi is thriving thanks to conservation funding. This is a familiar tactic, say conservationists – survival of the cutest.
The Jade Goody (1981-2009) Official Tribute Issue of OK! Magazine appeared, featuring her final words and bearing the banner ‘In Loving Memory’. There was only one problem; Ms Goody was still technically alive at the time. Magazine lead-times were apparently to blame.
Google street-mapping arrived in the UK. Across the country, a million cries went up: ‘Why did they have to film our street while the scaffolding was up at number 57?’
A German couple abandoned their three children in an Italian pizzeria because they had run out of money on holiday. They thought the authorities would probably figure out where they lived and send them home. Luckily, money is just something poor people have to worry about. On the same day, a Thai jewellery designer displayed a $4.2 million dog tiara at a canine fashion show.
The massive expenses scandal engulfed MPs from both sides of Parliament, as Tory MP Douglas Hogg revealed he spent £2,000 of taxpayers’ money getting his moat cleaned (see above). Another was caught having a duck-house built from public cash, and complained that the ducks had never really enjoyed using it anyway. Best of all was Tory MP Anthony Steen, who shoved the inspection of five hundred trees on expenses and had this to say about being caught out; “I think I have behaved impeccably. You know what it’s about? Jealousy. I have got a very, very large house. Some people say it looks like Balmoral, but it’s a merchant’s house from the 19th century. It was this government that introduced the Freedom of Information Act and it is this government that insisted on the things which caught me on the wrong foot.”
As decades of financial abuse come to an end, some MPs were defended in the national press by kowtowing members of the public who clearly relished the prospect of returning to a feudal system. The exposure of MPs’ expenses threw up some wonderfully odd claims; Conservative leader David Cameron claimed almost seven hundred pounds on ‘burning oil’ (presumably for his Aga cooker). Others claimed for biscuits, jellied eels, a wig, orchids and a hedge trimmer for a helipad.
Susan Boyle, a middle-aged woman with a pleasant singing voice and a face that could send a dog under a table, became one of the most-viewed internet sensations of all time, but failed to win a television talent contest. Her overnight ‘career’, from rise to fall, ended with a breakdown and her admittance to The Priory clinic – a microlife that eclipsed even Jade Goody’s.
Amidst global financial hardship, Turkey’s £1 billion Mardan Palace opened its doors with the biggest Beluga and Bollinger party in history. Sharon Stone, attending with other fading stars like Richard Gere, Mariah Carey and, with grim inevitability, Paris Hilton, said it was a ‘moment of potential profundity. We have come together to make the world a better place.’ That’s the beauty of celebrities; they’ll say or do absolutely anything.
The line between PR and reality vanished with a staged tiff between Sacha Baron-Cohen and Eminem at the MTV Awards (Cohen was dropped into Eminem’s face dressed as a half-nude gay angel and the rapper called him a faggot before storming out) Both were selling new products, and later confirmed the ‘accident’ as a publicity stunt. ‘This is very exciting television,’ said the show’s presenter.
AEG, the promoters of the O2 concerts which were to feature Michael Jackson’s record-breaking forty-plus appearances, came up with a great way to save on refunds. Punters were offered replacement memorial souvenir tickets somehow ‘inspired and designed’ by the dead singer. Meanwhile, Jackson’s death sparked a massive internet campaign of hoax celebrity death reports that included Jeff Goldblum falling off a cliff and George Clooney crashing a plane.
Oh, and Prince Charles gave the planet just 96 months left to survive. Phew, thank heavens that deadline passed.
But if the world ends, that’s okay too, because it turns out there’s an afterlife! The August 3rdissue of The Sun ran a front page headline announcing that Jade Goody, once so used to speaking through the medium of television, was now speaking through a television medium – from beyond the grave.
So there you go. Plus ça bleeding change. The privileged are outraged when their sense of entitlement is threatened, the jackals move in on the wounded zebras and those who fly too high to the sun get their wings clipped by the press. No real surprises after all.