Press Clippings From Hell No.2

Observatory

 

‘How did we get here from there?’ someone asked me in all seriousness. My 30-year collection of press clippings, kept to remind me of the context in which I wrote certain stories, highlights that slippery path…

There’s a plastic George W Bush toy that spouts some of his more scrambled public statements. Play them back now and they don’t seem quite as dumb as they once did.

Before he went, George Bush reneged on his few climate change promises and bade farewell to a disastrous G8 summit meeting with the words ‘Goodbye from the world’s biggest polluter’. He then punched the air and grinned as the French and British prime ministers looked on in shock. The scene is still quite popular on the internet.

On the subject of the environment, ministers announced that ‘Plan A’ (carbon reduction) had failed and that ‘Plan B’ (invent something fast) was now the only remaining solution. But planet management never gets easier. On the island of Macquarie, between Australia and Antarctica, cats left by ships got rid of the mice but preyed on rare flightless birds, so conservationists culled them, only to watch horrified as the rabbit population exploded and stripped the island of its vegetation, causing a landslip that wiped out a rare penguin colony. The chain of events is an example of ‘trophic cascade’ leading to ‘ecosystem meltdown’. Today, Australia is facing an even bigger plague of mice.

A devastating cyclone killed thousands in Burma and left many more without shelter, food, water or electricity, facing the ravages of disease. The Burmese militia responded to this by banning emergency aid imports and handing out DVD players to homeless villagers who had no food or power.

The fifth most read item on the internet was the crash of world stocks. But the most-read story was someone getting voted off the reality TV show ‘Big Brother’ for spitting. As the credit crisis deepened, columns about collapsing banks finally took the lead over tales of exploding hamsters or supermodel Naomi Campbell’s latest screaming fit.

Meanwhile, it was revealed that Sarah Palin, the gun-toting cartoon-brought-to-life former running mate of Senator John McCain, once asked her librarian how to go about getting books banned, as there were some she didn’t like. Oil-worshipping Sarah was Alaska’s biggest polluter, but promised to give everyone in her state a $2,000 cheque in return for destroying it.

In the last week before he quit the white house, George W Bush declared his intention to exploit the vast oil and mineral wealth hidden below the Arctic circle by extending America’s sovereign rights over the seabed. As he bowed out, I was reminded of his quote about books. ‘One of the great things about books is sometimes there are some fantastic pictures’. In the broadsheets, as is traditional during times of regime change, his apologists began his immediate rehabilitation. In years to come they would re-evaluate his presidency in the light of Trump, but not by much.

Meanwhile, the Czech artist David Cerny was paid £350,000 to commission artworks forming a huge sculpture of 27 nations for the atrium of the European Council, but admitted hoaxing the EU by knocking it up with his pals. Officials began to smell a rat when they noticed that Romania was represented by a Dracula theme park and Bulgaria by a Turkish lavatory, but in a typical state of indecision they went ahead with the opening anyway. Britain was represented on the sculpture as a blank space.

Mexico’s long border with the US, the world’s leading drugs consumer, became the site of more killings than Iraq. The chances of kidnap became so high that we heard about microchip tracking devices being implanted into the arms of wealthy schoolchildren.

On a lighter note, Adam Deeley, 34, a mature British student, choked to death in an impromptu challenge to see who could eat the most fairy cakes at the Monkey Cafe, Swansea. He managed five at once. Or rather, he didn’t. Paging Mr Darwin.

In Washington, a Christian group called Pray At The Pump started gathering around petrol pumps and praying to the Lord to lower prices. ‘If we keep this up,’ says its leader Rocky Twyman, ‘we can bring down prices to less than $2 a gallon.’

Thanks to rising oil and food prices, the production of a new food staple was stepped up in Haiti as mud cakes soared in popularity; the baked grey discs of dirt apparently taste like – well, dirt with margarine in, but stop stomachs from feeling empty. If the starving weren’t prevented from leaving by US coastguard patrols, they could have gone to stare through shop windows at the Hermes ‘Birkin’ handbag, which went on sale in New York for $37,000. It continued to sell well through the stock market crash.

And in case that’s not enough, Louis Vuiton started selling custom-made travel caviar sets, for all your urgent caviar-on-the-go needs. And spa treatment centres started including a ‘caviar face pack’ for old vultures with too much time and money on their claw-like hands.

I have plenty more of these if you can stand it…

30 comments on “Press Clippings From Hell No.2”

  1. Jo W says:

    Chris,please keep these coming. I sometimes get the feeling – “is it me?” and I try to look on the bright side,which doesn’t always work. But these little nuggets of poo tell me that I’m ok,it’s everyone else who’s potty.

  2. Brooke says:

    @ Jo W… when that feeling comes over you, take a look at US popular press. You’ll immediately feel better.
    E.g. southern very conservative state recently lifted 35 yr bann on yoga in public schools with exceptions: students can’t meditate, say “namaste” and all poses must be named in English. Roy Moore, conservative justice, accused of sexual misconduct by several young (under-age) women, opposed lifting the bann on moral grounds.

  3. Paul C says:

    Yes, more please

    Meanwhile, here’s one :

    In 2016, bank employee Alberto Saavedra Lopez from Arizona was suspected of stealing $5,000 from his workplace over the course of 3 months. He was reported to authorities and promptly quit his job and moved to Phoenix.

    In 2018, despite being a fugitive, Alberto applied for job as a dispatcher for the local police department. On seeing his application and making the connection, the police couldn’t believe their luck and thought the easiest way to catch him was to offer him a job interview. When he arrived, suited up and ready to impress, he was arrested on the spot.

  4. Stu-I-Am says:

    In the “are you having a laugh” category — word that Jack Dorsey, the multi-billionaire founder of Twitter sold his first one (“just setting up my twttr”) as a Non-fungible Token (NFT) for close to $3 million — valued in the blockchain or cryptocurrency, Ethereum. For the uninitiated (by choice or happenstance…). An NFT is a unique digital asset on a blockchain — the Dorsey tweet being on the Ethereum blockchain or digital record keeping system — kind of a public ledger allowing the verification of the asset’s authenticity and ownership. Other cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, have their own blockchains or data bases. The digital “thing” can be endlessly copied, but the buyer has ownership. Before your eyes glaze over any further, I’ll leave any additional gory details to your research skills.

    A lot of the conversation about NFTs is as  an evolution of fine art collecting, only with digital art. In fact, one such piece of digital art actually sold in March for $69 million at Christie’s. The sale positions him “among the top three most valuable living artists” according to the venerable auction house. Uh…okay. I seem to recall something similar called “Tulip Mania” when prices for the then just introduced flower soared to extraordinary heights and then crashed just as dramatically. Of course., there have been many other “asset bubbles” since. Anyway — by all means do think about monetizing your children’s fridge art or better still,any old love letters.

  5. Jo W says:

    # Brooke,
    Thank you for that golden snippet. As my gran would have said, “you couldn’t make it up, could you?”

  6. Stu-I-Am says:

    A seemingly unstoppable Guinness World Records record-breaker from Idaho in the US, recently added to his titles by balancing a garden hoe on his nose for 1 hr. 41 min. This joins his other achievements of: the most tennis balls caught on one’s head in a minute (107); the most bars of wet soap stacked in one minute (34); and the most dice caught in 30 seconds while blindfolded (215). Amazing what Idahoers can get up to when WiFi or satellite/cable TV go out.

  7. admin says:

    NFTs are so ripe for inclusion you could fill a column with them. Let’s not.

  8. Brooke says:

    May we talk about bitcoin? Okay, thanks. Several years ago I took a class about digital currency and distributed ledger technology; the course was taught by the above mentioned Ethereum. Most of the course was promoting the security of DLT. Then in a lecture about how to use keys, course participants were advised to write down their encryted pass keys and put the document in a secure place so no one can access your digital wallet. There was even a question on the exam, “what is the best way to secure you pass key?” I laughted and forgot about the course…until reading in NYT “lost bitcoin passwords lock millionaires out of their fortunes.” And “$2B stolen in bitcoin by hackers in 2020-21.”

  9. Brooke says:

    @Stu-I-Am. Re: your query about Arizona ballot counting. Ballots were indeed scanned in order to: 1) find traces of bamboo, as the Chinese had dropped bags of marked ballots which Democrats mailed to election offices; and 2) find the secret ballots DT mailed. It doesn’t seem to occur to DT supporters that 2) will get him in even more trouble.

  10. Stu-I-Am says:

    @admin Well, whatever your feelings about NFTs, I’m sure Sidney Hargreaves is a supporter — while AB probably thinks a Non-Fungible Token has something to do with a mushroom substitute. Anyway, here i am hoping for a Daily Mail headline to the effect: “Book by Best-Selling Author of Bryant & May Mysteries First to Go Direct to NFT. Earns Enough to Buy and Close the Mail. Sale Also to Subsidize Cost of Copies at Independent Booksellers” If Warner Bros.and Disney (and soon-to-be others, no doubt) can take their films direct to streaming, why not books as NFTs ? Authors could still own the copyrights and reproduction rights and,conceivably earn far more than the traditional hit-or-miss approach. Or could combine the two distribution methods.. Of course, I would advise doing this sooner rather than later.

  11. Helen+Martin says:

    Oh, yes, do let’s have some more. I need laughs right about now. I remember the Haitian story and remember the horror it created. How much food aid went to Haiti at that point?I am constantly amazed by the extremes of stories that surface so you can switch from the Haitian starvation to the excessive Fairy Cakes or hot dog eating stories without a pause.

  12. Roger says:

    If a mature British student behaves like Adam Deeley, what do immature British students get up to?

  13. admin says:

    A problem with NFTs, streaming services and the new digital revolution; ownership.
    In the 1970s nobody realised that Hammer Films could be worth something digitally, so the rights were virtually given away and have still not been fully clawed back. The same with books (I speak as someone who does not own all his own character rights, thanks to one bad deal I made when I was broke). Film studios will be purchased by Amazon, Google et al for their catalogues, and punters will find themselves without ownership rights.

  14. Stu-I-Am says:

    @admin The law on NFT ownership and the rights it confers is still being explicated. And while there is a kind of “gold rush” mentality out there now, what is clear is that buying an NFT doesn’t confer copyright ownership. Owning an NFT, by itself, also doesn’t technically grant the right to print or distribute the work without the copyright holder’s permission. Buying an NFT is far more like buying a limited-edition poster or an autographed copy of a book. It is special and perhaps more unique to the buyer but doesn’t mean that the original work is now the buyer’s. The real issue is infringement and enforcement of the artist’s copyright and will likely be years before the courts significantly address this issue, if NFTs are even still around.

  15. Stu-I-Am says:

    @admin Since I’ve managed to bore even myself with this NFT business, let me conclude my end of things by saying, it is probably too fraught from a general legal and copyright infringement standpoint, in particular, to consider perhaps anything but a short story or two or maybe a one-of-a-kind character sketch. Given your prolificacy, you can probably knock something out over breakfast (if you even want to bother).

  16. Joel says:

    Despite all the prior explanations, I still do not understand (not that I’m trying hard to) NFTs. Can I ‘own’ this response for example, exclusively? Please explain in words of one or fewer syllables. I do not see what stops anyone else using these items.

    The ‘Tulip Bubble’ reference sums it up, as does/did repackaging debt / subprime mortgages, which led to the 2008 financial crash. When the next crash happens, those buyers will have nothing of value and emptier wallets (digital or otherwise) than before.

  17. Brooke says:

    Your tweet says you just delivered “Total Midnight.” To whom? Is it out for bid?

  18. Peter+T says:

    I vaguely remember a case a few years ago concerning ‘ownership’ of a photo taken by a chimpanzee.

  19. Stu-I-Am says:

    @Peter +T A great story. Back in 2011, Naruto was just an anonymous macaque in the jungles of Indonesia. One day the photogenic primate happened upon a wildlife photographer’s camera and snapped “monkey selfies.” (see the link below to one)

    Who owned the images Naruto took, the monkey or the photographer? Six years later, PETA, who filed an ownership lawsuit, settled with the photographer. Under the deal, he agreed to donate 25 percent of future revenue from the photos to groups that protect crested macaques and their habitat in Indonesia. Both sides also asked a U.S. appeals court “to dismiss the case and throw out a lower court decision that said animals cannot own copyrights,”

    https://media.npr.org/assets/img/2017/09/12/macaca_nigra_self-portrait-3e0070aa19a7fe36e802253048411a38f14a79f8-s1300-c85.webp

  20. Stu-I-Am says:

    @Joel Whether you can own your comment depends on what rights or restrictions are placed on comments by the copyright holder of the web site — presumably Christopher Fowler. I know it is hard to get one’s head around the concept but what you’re actually buying with an NFT is something called “ownership” or, more specifically, the “ownership of authenticity” (however described) of a digital asset, not the original digital asset or piece of intellectual property on which it is based. Absent any additional terms or written agreements — like the transfer of the copyright itself or the rights for you to reproduce the digital asset — all you get is essentially a record of ownership or authenticity that’s stored on the blockchain or digital “ledger.” That’s what you’re buying and selling — something someone is saying is “authentic.”

    Like any other market, the value conferred on something is what you and others agree it is — there is no predetermined intrinsic value. Owning a certificate or record of authenticity for your comment (again assuming you can do with it what you wish) is what provides its value. What you can do with that digital “asset,” depends on the what the owner of the original asset has allowed you to do. Now whether some “other ” out in the ether believes it has value, of course, is another matter. That’s what makes a market. Think of this as something akin to mass hypnosis.

  21. Helen+Martin says:

    I think I’m beginning to get a shadow of an understanding of the shape of an idea about these NFTs. It still seems silly but I can sort of see where this authenticity thing might go. I think. (And because I think I can certify that I am.)

  22. Stu-I-Am says:

    @Helen + Martin That’s right. Think of it in the same way as the USD or GBP — and some 178 other national currencies. They’re called “fiat” currencies and are backed by the faith in, and stability of, the governments and trust in the central banks — not physical assets. So likewise, faith and trust is the true “currency” of the NFT market, as it is for any financial market. History shows us this, of course, can come undone very quickly.

  23. admin says:

    Brooke – it’s a slow process. It took me five years to track down and clear copyright on all the stories, then transcribe them all. My existing publisher has first refusal and in the time-honoured manner of British publishing will take forever to get back to me. I’ve had feelers out and have received a couple of somewhat dubious UK offers, but we’ve yet to start properly looking for a buyer.
    Health issues have prevented me from taking the bull by the horns on this one, but if I do get a respite from treatment I’ll get back on it.

  24. Stu-I-Am says:

    @admin Without knowing which stories (and genres) are in the “Total Midnight” collection and more importantly, whether you have any interest — Netflix seems to be on a book-buying spree, having purchased the rights recently to something like 50 for screen adaptations. Maria Campbell Literary Associates UK Ltd (London) is one of two Netflix designated “global literary scouts” and many of the recent book-to-screen deals originated there. You and your agent may already know all about this but, thought I would pass it along in the event somehow you did not.

  25. Keith says:

    The so-called Monster in a Box collection of your stories would look so good if published by Centipede Press. Their reissues are phenomenal. Unfortunately you’d have to be a pretty wealthy customer to shell out the cash for it.

  26. Brooke says:

    @Chris. I admire your patience and courage. I vote for your idea of crowd-funding; let fans pay for access and keep your creative product intact. The illustration on Twitter is brillant.

  27. Keith says:

    Hear, hear. What Brooke said. The illustration is indeed quite something.

  28. Stu-I-Am says:

    The human mind is endlessly fascinating. Three years ago international headlines told of a visitor to the Uffizi Gallery in Florence who had a heart attack while contemplating Botticelli’s “The Birth of Venus.”  It turns out that this was not a mere coincidence. Apparently, there is a fairly long history behind the notion that art can be so overwhelming as to cause physical illness.

    This phenomenon — called the “Stendhal syndrome” — was first named by an Italian psychiatrist in 1989. The name refers to an episode described by the French writer Stendhal (“The Charterhouse of Parma” and “The Red and the Black”) in his travel memoir about the journey that he undertook through Italy in 1817. He relates that the sense of awe he experienced by being in the proximity of so many impressive historical and art monuments in Florence gave him heart palpitations and made him feel faint.

    “As I emerged from the porch of Santa Croce, I was seized with a fierce palpitation of the heart (the same symptom which, in Berlin, is referred to as an attack of nerves); the well-spring of life was dried up within me, and I walked in constant fear of falling to the ground.”

    Other anecdotes describing the pronounced effect of great artworks on the human psyche also date back to at least the 19th century, although the “Stendhal syndrome” appears to be unique to Florence because of the sheer concentration of great art there. And evidently, it only affects foreign tourists.

  29. Stu-I-Am says:

    I was so determined to explain what the value of an NFT actually is, that I managed to leave out of previous comments the fact that you do get a file of a digital something for your ETHs — the Ethereum cryptocurrency (most NFTs presently reside on the Ethereum blockchain or digital “ledger.”). But again, the value is in the authenticity conferred on it by the original creator. Now that your eyes have fully glazed over, I can finally leave the magic kingdom of Non-Fungible Tokens..

  30. Tim+Lees says:

    Reading this, all I could hear was the voice of John Laurie proclaiming, “We’re doomed! We’re doomed!”

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