Sunday, December 12, 2004

Utilitarianism and The X Factor

You'll be wanting to know how I voted in the X Factor Final. (That was a statement not a question, so please try to be civil).
Well, it was far more difficult than deciding how to vote in any General Election. I consistently thought that Steve (the winner) was very mediocre but every time he sang he won me over. And it was tempting to vote for him after Sharon Osbourne's vicious personal attack on him. I'm glad now that I called her a bitch in an earlier posting. I could almost forgive her if it was done to add some drama to the occasion but we later learned that she had hurled abuse at him when he was trying to rehearse.
In the end I voted for G4 for two main reasons. I 've never much liked 'Nessun Dorma' which has been done to death and I never liked those histrionic renditions by the Three Tenors. But to see four young English boys singing it with genuine emotion was like hearing it for the first time. That performance alone should have clinched it for them.
Secondly, I decided to be guided by the old Benthamite principle of the greatest happiness of the greatest number. If G4 won it would make four people very happy rather than just one. G4 also had a broader and more cross-generational appeal so that too would mean that their albums would add more to the sum of human happiness. So who says that philosophy has no relevance to everyday life?


The local god-botherers of all denominations put a card through my door today. 'Jesus Christ Is Born' it says, that present tense suggesting that they're only 2,000 years late in announcing this news. Unless there was a second coming while I was engrossed in the X Factor.
I've always thought the churches might have slighlty more success if they didn't use such odd language. There's all that stuff about 'bearing witness' and that baffling phrase about 'the redemptive power of the Holy Spirit'. I once asked a chap who had abandoned the priesthood for social work what that meant as we were sharing a post-coital cigarette. I suppose it was an odd thing to bring up at such a time. He said people were always asking him that but then changed the subject and asked me if I'd seen that fab new boy in Brookside and had I seen his socks anywhere because he had to be at a case conference by nine o'clock.
The card from the village churches informs me that the Methodists are having a 'Musical Carol Service', the adjective either meaning that people like me who can't sing a note in tune will not be welcome or that the carols will be sung to show tunes by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Stephen Sondheim.
The Catholics are having a 'Service of Reconciliation' which made me think they'd gone into the marriage guidance business. But then I noticed it said in brackets: (confession). I had no idea they'd started re-branding the sacraments. How very New Labour.
The Catholic confession is arguably one of the oddest things in Christianity and probably needed some fine-tuning if they are to stop the exodus of young people from the church. It always posed a problem for pubescent boys. Saying you'd been 'impure in thought' meant you'd done nothing more unnatural than think 'I'd like to give him or her one'. This wasn't too bad because it usually passed without priestly comment. But 'impure in deed' was the really tricky one. The silhouette of the priestly head that had appeared to be half asleep would often jerk into life at this phrase and you would be pressed for more details. Purely, of course, in order to fix the appropriate tariff for your penance. If you said it was on your own you'd still be home in time for tea but if you said it was with most of Form 3B you'd be on your knees for hours - and that might have been how you got into this mess to start with.
There was a scene in Mary O'Malley's stage comedy 'Once A Catholic' where a young girl tells the priest she gave her boyfriend a 'Metro-Goldwyn Mayer'. There's a long pause and then the elderly priest says "Are you sure it wasn't an 'Arthur J. Rank'?"


We have to make a correction to yesterday's correction to an earlier correction.
The correct name of the apparently litigious mass murderer is Dennis Nilsen. That's NILSEN. That's NILSEN with an E, not LIZA with a ZEE.
Our legal team have also advised us to say that Mr Nilsen has no equal in the annals of mass murder. He was a serial killer without peer. We fully understand what drove him to commit these so-called crimes. If we'd had a boring office job and sometimes went to the Golden Lion in Soho, we might well have done the same. Oh, shit. We did have a boring office job and sometimes went to the Golden Lion in Soho. Ah, but we didn't have the guts, you see. We sometimes passed the time of day with Soho rent boys but we never took them home and cut them into pieces and boiled their heads in saucepans. We might even have passed the time of day with you, Mr Nilsen, Sir. If so, can we apologise for not accepting any invitation you may have proffered to accompany you to Muswell Hill, thereby denying you the opportunity to put a noose round our neck, dismember our body, flush our remains down the sewer and keep our head in the fridge to smile at you every time you got the milk for your cornflakes. We assure you, nothing would have given us greater pleasure.
Hope that keeps the sick bastard happy. Psychotic little murdering creep.
That should be fine. But remember to delete the last two sentences - Legal Dept.

Carlo and I eventually found the entrance to the nightclub, sandwiched between a boarded-up amusement arcade and an Oxfam shop. There was a small line of scantily-clad girls outside, none of them - judging by appearances - any strangers to a family-size bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken. But all of them, presumably, the girlfriends of garage mechanics.
Our flyer said we had 'guest-list admission' so we went to the front of the queue to shouts of "Oi Grandad, where do you think you're going?"
After a few minutes a large man in a dinner suit came out. "BRU-NO, BRU-NO, BRU-NO", the girls started chanting, and "Hurry up, it's fucking freezing out here."
Bruno told Carlo to raise his arms and started patting his torso. Carlo smiled and started patting the man back. "Are you taking the piss?" said the doorman. "It's an old Filipino custom", I said quickly. The man looked me up and down in a most unpleasant way and then said into a microphone under his chin "Frankie, camera two." After a brief pause, he said "Sorry, mate, but there's a dress code."
I couldn't believe his impertinence. I was wearing light brown chinos, brown Oxford brogues, an almost new brown corduroy jacket and a tie I'd bought at Tie Rack on Paddington Station. Admittedly, the tie was somewhat outré by my standards, brightly coloured yet still, in my opinion, tasteful.
I thrust the flyer under his nose, pointed at the single prohibition which was 'No Trainers' and wiggled my gleaming Oxford brogues at him. "Do you think I wear these to the gymnasium?" I said, "and, given the nature of the function, 'No Boiler Suits' might have been a more sensible sartorial injunction."
He frowned at me then folded his arms and stared into the middle distance while slowly chewing gum. At this point, a small man of Maltese appearance emerged from the door and put his arm on my shoulder. "It's not about age as such" he said "but we have shall I put it.....create an atmosphere in which everyone feels comfortable."
"He's with him, Frankie" said the doorman, pointing at Carlo.
"Yeah, he's top man", said Carlo, trying to be helpful.
Frankie looked at Carlo and then looked back at me. "Listen, my friend, The Pink Elephant has a late license and a drag act on a Friday. You and your little friend might be happier there."
Enraged, I thrust the flyer into Carlo's hand and told him to go in and wait for Lee and not to be too late home.
As I walked away with as much dignity as I could muster, the girls at the front of the queue started singing 'YMCA'.

Next time: the morning after


At 9:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Have you ever come across Doing Business (GMP, 1990), a flawed but entertaining novel by the late Jeremy Beadle (no, not that one) set largely in the Golden Lion?


At 5:55 AM, Blogger Willie Lupin said...

No, I'll try and get hold of it. When I first knew the Golden Lion it was a 'spit and sawdust' pub - literally with sawdust on the floor. But my 'local' was the Duke of Wellington - not then a gay pub.


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