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Gangs, Guns, and Flying Humans: Why the Winter Olympics are Better than the Summer Olympics

The Winter Olympics for Britain means finishing a "creditable" 65th in most events. Indeed, keeping track of the British athletes requires a separate box on the screen: yes the 1st, 2nd 3rd places are on display, but then we also have a special box where we Brits learn how far behind the leaders our athletes are trailing. In fact we have only reallyproduced onefamous winter Olympian: Eddie the Eagle.

Despite Britain's lack of success, I love the Winter Olympics. Let's face it, the Summer Olympics are boring as fuck; running, cycling, and even walking in circles over miscellaneous distances seems less the pinnacle of human perfection than a two week long exercise in torturously dull television. In contrast, the Winter Olympics, while technically undertaken in along the same Olympic principles, is like a one month trip into the psychedelic dream-world of criminal genius lunatic.

Now, I realise that this might not resonate with Norwegians to whom launching oneself down steep icy hills on two narrow bits of plastic and then shooting stuff appears perfectly natural. Indeed, looking at the medal count, Norwegians probably like it because they are remarkably good at it. However the Olympics has a unique appeal to the wider, non-snow-expert audience that Norwegians and Scandinavians do not seem to recognise.

Flying Humans
First, while the Summer Olympics technically involves pushing human performance to the limits, the Winter Olympics goes much further, and then some. This is because seemingly most winter Olympic events contain some flying-human component. Yes, flying; humans aren't meant to fly, but one would not know this from watching Sochi. Ski-jumping itself is basically a tribute to human capacity for defiance and blind optimism; it is hypnotic watching these humans hurling themselves one after the other into the sky literally giving an elegant V to rationality, gravity, and anyone on the ground who might consider their sport a dangerously bad idea. I do not know exactly how the Winter Olympic committee decides on new events, but nothing new seems to get in without a giant ramp or three with which to launch people from. And this brings me onto the next brilliant thing about the Winter Olympics.

Extreme Danger
The almost permanent prospect of death is ever present in most winter Olympic events. Usain Bolt may run very fast (well done Usain), but he is unlikely ever to crash. So while his speed-feats are sort of impressive, they pale in comparison the way the remarkably cheery kamikaze downhill skiers, bobsleighers, snowboarders face their doom whenever they practice their hobby. Indeed, the best bit of the Norwegian coverage is when TV tells the family story of the Norwegian ski-jumpers: specifically whenever they show old pictures of 5 year olds shooting off ramps, while their proud parents watch in the background, blissfully oblivious that in most countries they would be liable for child neglect.

Utilization of household objects for sport
But even if watching humans try to fly does not appeal, you can always switch over to curling, an event that has somehow managed to turn brushing into a sport. Like everything in the Winter Olympics, I love imagining how it was conceived. Presumably sometime around 1900, some bored peasants were sitting around one cold January morning looking for something to do. All they had at hand was rocks, ice and brushes and so, curling was born. But curling also has important social benefits, providing a source of escapism for depressed housewives and housemen who thanks to curling can imagine they are in the Olympics whenever they are doing the kitchen floor.

Gangs
The final element that marks the superiority of the Winter Olympics is the open gang culture. The Skiers and the Snowboarders clearly dislike other. And, like all good gangs - the Mods and the Rockers, the Bluds & the Cribs, the Jets & Sharks - they take great care to differentiate themselves from their rivals by clothing. The Skiers are perfectly pragmatic in their condom-suits optimized for everything except style. The Snowboarders meanwhile, to whom aero dynamism would also be an obvious advantage, have collectively decided that they would rather go baggier and therefore slower, than win dressed like the enemy. Indeed, the Snowboarders are almost unique in global sport in the way they have privileged style over speed. This irritates the Skiers who look down on snowboarders like the AA on alcoholics, while the Snowboarders, clearly having too much sex to care, consider skiing about as cool as a dad at a wedding disco. Sadly, the Summer Olympics lacks this gang subplot, and are instead all united by a dull homogeneous professionalism.

Russia
In sum, what is not to love about the Winter Olympics? What other global event combines flying, brushes, guns, and gangs? None, and thus nothing compares. The only downside to this year's event is that it is being held in Russia. But even that seems to have had a silver lining. Indeed, the event has provided a unique opportunity to shine a light on the Russia's anti-gay laws, bringing protest to the country in a manner that would otherwise be impossible. Moreover, the impressive array of online memes mocking Putin, surely cannot have passed by a man with such an ego without irritation. Indeed, it is always amusing to see how vain leaders' desire for the prestige of hosting large scale sporting events frequently ends up biting them in the ass.


"Putin ona Purple Horse" Courtesy of Hja, Norwegian culture in English


The Future
Ultimately, it seems obvious that if the Summer Olympics expects to survive it needs to learn from its weird winter cousin. That is why in Rio 2014, I dearly hope to see Usain Bolt running along in baggy trousers with a brush strapped to his back.



Follow me on Twitter at your leisure @beaumontpaul

Why the Fuck Did You Move To Norway?



Why did you come to Norway?

Is asked again and again every time I encounter any Norwegian for the first time. An understandable question (If a little tedious to answer repeatedly) and a natural choice to begin conversation with someone who you discover is non Norwegian. The trouble is that it is always asked with a confused uncomprehending frown; like a cat trying to do algebra. This expression gives away the real question which is "Why the fuck did you come to Norway?!Are you insane or just merely stupid?" The implication being that Norway is a strange country to choose for an English person migrate to.


Equally, whenever I am in England and explain to people that I've moved to Norway I get the same thing, except they quite often do actually say ?Why the fuck did you move to Norway??. This question never arose, or at least not with the same incomprehension when I moved to Argentina and Japan, the reasons for moving there are apparently self evident. The question I got was more along the lines, "Wow! What are you doing over there?" implying a kind jealousy. Nobody ever expresses the slightest jealousy when I say I live in Norway.

Now, the Norwegian confusion could be ascribed to false modesty, or in the English case could be a result undue arrogance. While there might be a certain amount of truth in both explanations, I think a large part of it can be explained by sheer ignorance on both sides about the reality of life in Norway compared to England. This is essentially a public relations issue. For the rest of the world Norway is just a very cold and expensive country with a weird hatred of whales and to a certain extent Norwegians believe that themselves This article will attempt to debunk some of the myths that perpetuate this popular misconception.


Weather suicide myth: Norway is a such freezing dark country where everyone is so miserable that they spend most of their time silently plotting how to kill themselves often with great success.

I have heard this myth of suicide rate from both Norwegians and English stated as fact. The truth is that it originally stems from American propaganda aimed against "Socialist Sweden in 1960", when President Dwight Eisenhower gave a speech on why the US shouldn't develop a welfare state. The reasoning being that they would end up like Sweden where "following a socialistic philosophy their rate of suicide has gone up almost unbelievably and is now second in the world".

Initially Norway's reaction was one of amusement (at their neighbours expense), but over time this propaganda got repeated and eventually reified into accepted truth and because much of the world thinks that Norway is a county in Sweden, this myth of Sweden's high suicide rate became Norway's (and Finland's and Iceland's). The reality today, and pretty much for as long as records have been kept, Scandinavian countries' suicide rates have been distinctly average (Sweden's was high in the 1950's if only because they had the bureaucratic and secular will to acknowledge and count it). Today for example none are in the top 20 and Norway sits at 34th, a full 13 places below sunny utopian France. With their wine, food and incredible sense of superiority this doesn't make any sense if you buy the weather suicide unhappiness theory. In fact, the opposite is true, Norway is actually ranked 3rd in the world (just behind the Finns and the Danes) in terms of peoples perception of their own happiness.

Yes it gets cold and dark here, but if you have the correct clothes then its fine, its not like people in countries with mild winters of 5 or 10 degrees spend their spare time outside picnicking. They spend it inside as well. As for the light thing, lightbulbs are pretty universal in Norway these days so its largely irrelevant unless you buy into quasi-science arguments about the psychological need for natural light. Also, living in a generally warmer country doesn't even mean that people get to wear summer clothes for longer. People who live in warm countries become wimpy; the slightest chill brings out thick winter clothes and complaints that its "freezing". Furthermore people in these countries don't like the hot weather much better either, complaining that its too hot to even work, hence the institution of the Siesta which sounds great from afar but in reality it just means its considered so hot that its unbearable to do anything except sleep in the shade. Basically, it doesn't matter what your climate actually is, nobody is ever happy.

Norway's freezing winter brings with it some objective advantages. Namely, regular snow. With snow comes snowmen, snowball fighting and all manner of enjoyable winter pursuits (skiing, skating etc). However, in the UK the temperature generally floats around zero, not cold enough for proper snow, merely extremely cold rain. There is no outside activity that is improved by rain. This means we suck at the winter Olympics (albeit in quite an amusing way) and at the summer Olympics. Also, because Norway is always extremely cold in the winter they have developed the necessary capabilities to deal with it (house insulation and heating, measures to counteract snow) When it does occasionally snow properly, it is so unusual that England ceases to function.

Myth 2: Norwegians are "cold"

Not literally cold, although I would suggest that the reason why this expression is so often used is subconsciously because of the temperature. This is not so much of a misconception that British people have about Norwegians (we don't really have a stereotype of Norwegians except as whale hating suicide candidates) as much as Norwegians have about themselves. But as a British person, who suffers from the same stereotyping I have developed a hypothesis as to why this belief is so prevalent. Having been an English teacher of foreigners for 5 years before coming to Norway I have lived in three different continents and taught hundreds of people from across 5 continents and I noticed that it was specifically people from "latin" countries that seemed to be most vocal about this stereotype. The reason being, I suggest, is merely to do with the clashing social conventions of greeting. In countries where people routinely kiss on the cheek to greet each other, to celebrate saying goodbye, goodmorning and the opening of a biscuit tin, not doing so suggests unfriendliness. However this is just shallow social formalities. It isn't a genuinely good representation of the friendliness of a person, or more importantly, how likely it is that they will become your good friend.

It is difficult to make good friends in any new country you go to and having lived in Japan, Poland, Czech Republic, Scotland and Argentina I am better placed than most to say that Norwegians are not noticeably more or less (genuinely) friendly in general than anywhere else. However would argue that it is actually easier in Norway as a foreigner and specifically an English speaker than most places due to multi generational and unrivalled bilingual nature of the Norway's inhabitants that allows genuine conversation with locals even if you can't speak Norwegian.

Myth 3: Its so expensive!

One gets the impression when talking to a Norwegian, that when they go on holiday to the rest of the world and discover that things cost less, that they believe it is part of some global conspiracy against them, possibly carried out by Russia. This is not the case. Expensiveness only makes sense when measured against income. The GDP of Norway is 56,000$ per capita, 3rd in the world and 5 times the median and nearly double that of the UK. That wouldn't matter if it was unevenly distributed, but Norway is the 5th most egalitarian country in the world according to the world bank. For example, a good measure of the expensiveness of a country is food which represents just 11% of average household expenditure in Norway. This is the second lowest in Europe (again losing out marginally to the Danes). In real terms that means that anyone with a job, no matter how unskilled, can live quite comfortably. I work part time as a dish washer and earn almost 3 times as much as a similar job would pay in the UK (150kr/18 an hour compared to roughly 50kr or 6 in the UK). Even when you take into account alcohol, prices are not 3x or even 2x as much in Norway than in the UK. When you consider the average level of pay, the lowest level of pay and the living standard that it affords, Norway is an exceptional place to live as a foreigner.

The difference for students is even more pronounced. The modern English bachelor student has to pay around 9,000pounds (82,000kr) in fees alone per year to go to university in England (even a rubbish university), in Norway it is 350kr. And you can study in English. There is no other country I know of that provides such high quality education to foreigners in the none native language in the world. (If Norway marketed itself more effectively, they could suck the brightest and best students from the UK and America, improve their universities reputation and force the UK and US to rethink their education policies for the benefit of the people in all the countries concerned.)

Thus, Norway is only expensive for tourists. Inversely, those that work in Norway get to go on holiday and literally EVERYWHERE is cheaper and therefore it makes holidays and holidaying comparatively more pleasant. In contrast, everyone else in the world thinks Norway is extortionate. This is kind of funny and it keeps tourists away. You might think that you want tourists, but its not true. Being cheap for tourists induces other countries to use you like brothel come booze cruise. Ask any Eastern European country what they think about tourism and you'll understand. Even if you don't get prostitution you'll get tourist shops selling exclusively reindeer jumpers, I love OSLO snowdomes and your national dress but made out of polyester. This will ruin your town centre. Tourists also move incredibly slowly, so slowly in fact that in London they tried to introduce a "tourist lane" along Oxford Street so that locals could avoid the dawdling Japanese and Italian hordes.

The funny thing is that Norway has quite a lot of tourist in spite of the expense, but geniously put them on boats and send them off to look at the fjords. This is the best tourist industry imaginable- you get their money but you never have to give them directions.

_________________________________________________________________________

It is not a strange decision to move to Norway from England but perhaps one of the most logical choices of destination of all the world. If the rest of the world knew what Norway was really like then they would realise that the question that should be asked is

Why doesn't everyone move to Norway?

Note: I still have no idea why Norwegians hate whales so much.


Follow me on twitter at your leisure @beaumontpaul for a little more quasi-political-humour and opinion.

This article has been translated into Norwegian and published in Aftenposten under the new title ?Tre Myter om Norge?

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Secure World Problems

Passwords are the bane of modern existence. I have at least 37 ongoing at moment, mostly variations on football players that once played for Huddersfield Town AFC. I would like to unify my catalogue of passwords into one ber password, but the IT online security departments have created insurmountable obstacles to my one password utopia.

Indeed, there is no rhyme or reason to the level of security, the level of difficulty required for these passwords. My bank would let me use PASSWORD, meanwhile my university requires that:

1. It is not a fucking word

2. It has random capital letters

3. Those capital letters are not at the beginning of the password.

4. It must have numbers, but they cannot be in any recognisable sequence

I am beginning to think that my university does not want me to sign up for courses. Maybe that is how modern universities force you out. There are too many rules and regulations to actually expel someone, much better to just irritate you into leaving by making the criteria for your passwords so difficult that you just give up. It works to an extent, I do not spend my time writing my masters thesis, as much as I spend my time organising my passwords.

I do not meet that many criminals, but I it is difficult to conceive of someone working day and night to be able to sign me up for miscellaneous university courses . Or perhaps they are:

“BINGO” Tony the mobster shouts to his compadre,”I have finally hacked into Paul Beaumont’s StudentWeb!”

“At last”, Jimmy  exclaims, “I have waited for this day my whole working life. Sign him up for Advanced Development Studies!”

“One step ahead of you Jimmy, I have signed him up for that and Intersectional Feminism, in a post conflict nexus”

And so it went, the criminal masterminds put aside their plans for making money through scheming and cheating, and signed me up for several courses that I was only vaguely interested in. When the news got back to the heads of security at the university they were distraught. They could not understand how their remarkably complex criteria for passwords had been broken. The problem they had not considered of course, was that:

The harder you make the password, the more likely professional idiots like me will write it down and lose it.

In conclusion, let us fucking make the passwords we want and deal with the consequences. Yes idiots will lose, but idiots always lose. University students do no need the security one typically associates with tactical nuclear weapons.

Defending Norway from The Guardian

Norwegians should know better than anyone else not to feed the trolls. But it is hard to turn the other cheek when they jump above the line - not only to opinion pieces, but to the “news” section in the UK’s Guardian newspaper.

Michael Booth’s hatchet job on Nordic Countries entitled “Dark Lands: The Grim Truth behind the Scandinavian Miracle” has gone viral at the time of writing to the tune of 20,000 shares on Facebook. Intended to “redress the imbalance” of pro-Scandinavian articles in the UK press, Booth, a resident of Denmark, sets himself up as an expert on all the Nordic countries’ social woes. Predictably, our hero Booth misfires badly. As one commentator on the Guardian explained, Booth’s article is what you get when you “take a stereotype, blend it with a pinch of ignorance, add a smattering off rather desperate humour and try and sell it in book form as real insight.”

Living in Norway in Munch's and Booth's imagination

I am not qualified to offer a riposte on behalf of the other Nordic countries slandered. But as a long-term and extremely grateful English immigrant to Norway, a land Booth calls “xenophobic”, “scrooge-like” “a-social” and “inward looking”, I feel a duty to defend my adopted home. Indeed, Booth appears unable to write a sentence on Norway unburdened by a faulty premise or willful misrepresentation. The following is a dissection of the article, point by point

1. The conflation of Breivik, anti-Islamism and the “rise” of Progress (FrP)

Booth: in September the right-wing, anti-Islamist Progress party – of which Breivik had been an active member for many years – won 16.3% of the vote in the general election, enough to elevate it into coalition government for the first time in its history. There remains a disturbing Islamophobic sub-subculture in Norway.

There is so much wrong with this, it is difficult to know where to begin. (To start), Breivik left Frp ages ago complaining it was not radical enough. Moreover, if we judged collectives by their most extreme individual members, then the Republican party in the U.S. has thousands of “links” to extremists of every stripe. But even if you accept the dim-witted simplistic premise that Progress are a one policy “anti-Islamist” party, their percentage of the vote has fallen by a third since the last election. If one assumes that FrP’s voters are a homogenous gang of extremist racist right wingers, as Booth implies when it linking Progress FrP to Breivik, then such a vast drop in 4 years suggests that Norway is doing a pretty good job of dealing with its anti-Islamist subculture.

However, labelling FrP as merely an “anti-Islamist party is hopelessly reductionist; they have a broad populist platform that promises low taxes, cheap booze, more roads, more money for the police, “freedom of choice” (read privatisation) as well as anti- immigration policies . The most we can say is that their anti-immigration policies did not put off 16% of Norway from voting for them.

Furthermore though, Booth’s “grim truth” in Norway is also the norm in the UK. The policies and rhetoric of “the anti-Islamist party” in Norway are the staple of the UK’s mainstream parties.The UK loves to look down on continental Europe whenever a far right party gets into office, but in fact, the UK’s “disturbing anti-Islamic subculture”, is hidden about as well as a racist elephant a rug. The UKIP are hardly enlightened, yet regularly poll around 18%; while the violent anti-Islamic British Self Defence league counts its members in the thousands. But perhaps most tellingly is that many of this “anti-Islamist” party’s polices were born in Britain: Progress’ plan to intern asylum seekers while their application is processed was introduced 10 years ago in the UK by New “Labour”. The reason the UK has no “anti-immigration” party in power is because it has an undemocratic election system that very deliberately marginalises the small parties (right, left, racist and green). Ultimately, though, the UK’s current coalition government makes FrP Progress look moderate: after all this British government is the one that recently introduced a migrant repatriation scheme in which giant billboards with “GO HOME” were driven around ethnically diverse areas of London. If Norway has a disturbing anti-Islamic subculture, as Booth suggests, then the UK simply has a disturbing anti-Islamic culture.

I kid you not: this van was driven through London's most multicultural areas.

2. Proving prejudice with prejudice

To apparently prove his claim about Norwegians especially xenophobia nature. Booth writes:

Ask the Danes, and they will tell you that the Norwegians are the most insular and xenophobic of all the Scandinavians

This must be one of the most dim-witted statements ever to be published in The Guardian. It uses prejudice as evidence of prejudice; Booth is essentially saying that "generalizing from what can only be the tiny sample of Danes I have met, they seem to frequently and unpleasantly generalize that Norwegians make the most unpleasant generalizations".

Can we expect the Guardian to report on miscellaneous English people’s observations on Scottish spending habits, the French’s penchant for garlic and America’s collective IQ when it comes to other "international news", then? The answer of course is no, because that would be stupid.

3. Imaginary trends, imaginary correlations

Booth: it is true that since they came into a bit of money in the 1970s the Norwegians have become increasingly Scrooge-like, hoarding their gold, fearful of outsiders.

Booth has a lot going on here: Norway Hitting oil (or coming into money) is correlated with both 1) Scrooge-like hoarding and 2) fear of outsiders. Let’s break this down: First of all, the notion that Norway came into money is misleading. Norway did not just come into money, it hit oil, something very different. Oil, counter-intuitively, is actually correlated with under-development and war, not wealth. Norway is pretty much the only country that has escaped the “Oil Curse”, and managed to spread the benefits across its whole society; hence why Norway now rests top of the UN development index and has long sat amongst top five most equal societies in the world. Norway has certainly shared the oil money with its general population, then.

But what if Booth means hoard in the sense of not sharing it with the world?

Well, again, Norway has also long resided in the top 5 of aid giving countries. So, unless Booth expects Norway to just give away its oil money at unprecedented levels, Booth is again misleading his readers. Meanwhile, Norwegian Universities provide fee-less education in English to the 10% of its students from abroad . In this regard, they beat most of Europe (and certainly the UK) in terms sharing their education services to “outsiders”.

Perhaps when Booth suggests hoard he is making a reference to Norway’s Pension fund, the world’s largest investment fund. Granted, you could call that Scrooge-like if you consider saving money for your general population to cope with the latent pension time bomb threatening all social democracies, , but I think that might better fall under the adjective “prudent”. It certainly beats privatising the North Sea stocks and spending the windfall to spend on a self-inflicted recession like Margaret Thatcher did.

Booth’s second claim is even more dubious: Fear of outsiders in Norway he claims has apparently increased since the 1970s, and this is correlated to swelling of the oil fund. How precisely is he measuring this fear of outsiders? Norway has a lot more “outsiders” living within its borders these days due to globalisation, and like all Western Social Democracies, it is experiencing teething problems marked by a growth in nationalist parties like Progress. However, it is huge leap to pin this un-sourced growing “fear of outsiders” on Norway’s oil wealth. Indeed, it would be obvious to roll out the old “correlation is not causation” clich here, but it does Booth’s argument too much credit, as he offers nothing compelling to support his claim the fear of outsiders is growing.

4. Lies, Damn lies, Statistics and Sweden

Instead, what Booth does offer is this wilfully disingenuous comparison with Sweden’s asylum policy:

though 2013 saw a record number of asylum applications to Norway, it granted asylum to fewer than half of them (around 5,000 people), a third of the number that less wealthy Sweden admits (Sweden accepted over 9,000 from Syria alone)

The first thing to note is that Norway is half the size of Sweden, so comparing absolute numbers is unfair. But making amends for what I will generously call Booth’s “oversight”, we can see that Norway accepted about ⅔ of the asylum seekers Sweden did relative to its whole population. This is still not as good as Sweden, but then Sweden is top of the list in terms of the number of asylum seekers accepted per person, so the comparison does not really show that Norway is bad, as much as Sweden is very good. Norway actually came a pretty decent 3rd. Thus if Norway is becoming more fearful of outsiders (accepting Booths dubious criteria, or accepting asylum seekers), it still seems considerably less fearful than the vast majority of the rest of the world.

5 Harder, Longer, Sicker

Booth: “his countrymen [Norwegians] have been corrupted by their oil money, are working less, retiring earlier, and calling in sick more frequently.”

Booth demonstrates here that he might well be a sociopath. In Booth’s world, Norway could improve by working 12 hour days until death and never calling in sick - unless you happen to die. Earlier in the piece, when damning Denmark with nonsense, Booth suggested that Denmark’s shorter working days caused low labour productivity (this is nonsense because productivity is measured by output per hour), here Booth fails to grasp rudimentary social policy, or more bluntly, the raison d’tat of the state: to make people’s lives better. Ideally, this involves - you guessed it - working less, retiring earlier, and calling in sick when you are sick. That is not “corruption”, it is progress.

__________________________________________________________

None of this is to say that Norway is some sort of Utopia. However, it has many flaws. And the original premise of Booth’s article to look beyond the “unblinking idolatry” of all things Scandinavian is a good one. The trouble here is the execution and the executioner. Booth’s text is at its best when writing about Denmark - not surprising since that is where Booth lives – and worst when regurgitating stereotypes about Norway, where he has not lived. The Guardian should have found experts for each Scandinavian country if they wanted credible nuanced reporting. Unfortunately, The Guardian loses close to 1m a week, and given the choice between click-bait trolling, and quality reporting, clicks won. A sad day for a once proud newspaper.

Norway's New Age of Mean

The dust is now beginning to settle following the Norwegian national election. It is over a week since Norway voted out Jens and his red-green, social democratic government, doubling down instead on the conservative blue parties. For people who have been in a coma, this unholy blue alliance of Good Bear Erna and Bad Bear Siv has caused quite a kafuffle in the media.

Much to Norway’s collective chagrin, the international press went berserk. National catastrophes and national election catastrophes are pretty much the only time Norway shows up on the international radar. Turning to the near empty room in their collective imagination labelled “Norway”, the international press googled FrP and Breivik and rustled up nonsense like this by the Guardian: “The anti-immigration party's electoral success shows the country has not dealt with the roots of Anders Breivik's crimes”. Meanwhile the more monetary-minded dwell on the apparent oddity of Norway voting out a government that steered them through international financial crisis with barely a blip in growth. “Given that,” The Economist argued, “Mr. Stoltenberg’s looming defeat suggests ingratitude”.

Back in Norway, where the election result was not much of a surprise, Norway’s best political minds have been busying themselves on the big question “What the f*** was Siv-bear wearing on election night?” When pressed, wise old commentators sagely pointed to boring things like historical precedent and mumbled about voter fatigue. Some of the highbrow left blame the linguistic sleight of hand of the Good Bear’s team. One gets the impression however, that many believe that this is just a natural, temporary switch in government, and normal social democratic service will be resumed at the first opportunity.

The Guardian’s judgement is obvious codswallop, but it also seems that Norwegian explanations, perhaps wilfully, miss the broader more alarming pattern.

Racism Red Herring

First of all though, the Guardian’s argument deserves to be mocked. To start, Breivik left FrP ages ago complaining it was not radical enough. Moreover, if we judged collectives by their most extreme individual members, then the Republican Party in the U.S. has thousands of “links” to extremists of every stripe. But even if you accept the dim-witted simplistic premise that the FrP are a one policy “anti-immigration” party, their percentage of the vote has almost halved since the last election (as many have pointed out). Therefore, if one assumes that FrP’s voters are a homogenous gang of extremist racist right wingers, as the Guardian implies when it links FrP to Breivik, then such a vast drop in 4 years suggests that Norway is doing a pretty good job of dealing with “the root causes of Breivik”.

But, the whole premise the Guardian’s argument is flawed. FrP are much more than an anti-immigration party, they have a broad populist platform that promises low taxes, cheap booze, more roads, more money for the police, “freedom of choice” (read privatisation) as well as anti- immigration policies. The most we can say is that their anti-immigration policies did not put off 16% of Norway from voting for them.

Bears will be bears

Bringing Good Bear’s rise back into the equation, the picture looks a lot clearer. Erna and Siv are just two bears with the same intention. They want to get their hand in the honey jar: Norway’s taxed income, Norway’s state ran services, Norway’s social transfers, Norway’s oil fund — everything that will make individuals richer in the short term and society poorer in the long term. I was going to use “cop” instead of “bear” but the goal of cops is to protect whereas Good Bear and Bad Bear have no such honourable intentions. Bad Bear Siv does not screw around with niceties, she tells everyone what she wants - the honey goddammit - and she doesn’t want to share it with anyone else, least of all foreigners. Good Bear Erna is more diplomatic, but she doesn’t want the honey any less. However, she prefers to tell people it’s for society’s good that the honey is taken.

This is potentially where the leftist critique that Good Bear has conned Norway with its friendly right wing euphemisms and vague language might seem appealing. The trouble with this line of argument is that it insults Norwegians intelligence. Everyone knows that if you reduce inheritance tax, the wealth tax and privatise schools that it will increase inequality, reduce social mobility and in general calcify privilege in society. For example, the results of the “Swedish Model” were broadcast on NRK before the debate on education. It demonstrated that introducing Free Schools (or whatever the euphemism) has resulted in rapid broadening in the gap between the best and the worst schools, leaving those with money the chance to segregate their kids from the poor. Equally, horror stories come thick and fast from the Swedish experiment with putting government services out for government tender, in nursing homes and day care. If you turn to the UK similar disasters with public tender contracts are everywhere: quasi competition in state paid for services leads to a race to the bottom where both services and the staff employed suffer. Norwegians in general are aware of this, and no amount bullshitting about “freedom of choice” can hide it. The trouble is not that Hyre and FrP voters have been misled; it is that they do not care.

The Meanwards Shift

Now, take a closer look at the numbers and the election result is not “a lurch to the right”, it is not “voter fatigue”, and it is not due to Good Bear’s soothing rhetorical tricks. It is the culmination of a long term trend towards individualism. Although the swings between Hyre and FrP hide it, if you aggregate the percentage of the electorate who voted for economically right parties (Good Bear and Bad Bear’s parties respectively) it shows a clear long term steady rise (See graph). The main loser in this shift has not been Arbeiderpartiet, but the Socialist Left. If it was a question of voter fatigue, voters would be moving away from the leading party in the coalition. Instead they managed to cling on to their voters, but only by adopting a number of the privatisation and anti-immigrant polices of the right.

Looking at the bigger picture, the election result is the democratic will of the now nearing majority of Norwegians who have finally fallen prey, perhaps inevitably, to the corrosive influence of their growing wealth and the sense of entitlement it brings. Given the median income is about 39,000 NOK per month, a growing number of Norwegians probably presume they are rich enough now to offset the individual costs of inequality in society and still be better off. The result is a very modern morally vacuous nihilism that seeks to preserve their privilege by kicking away the foundation that made it possible. The policies of Good Bear and Bad Bear phrase it differently but their policies have something in common: they allow the individual to opt out, or share less with society. Tax breaks, roads, free schools, getting tough on immigration, cutting social welfare, privatisation are all sides of the same coin: policies appealing to meanness. This turn is sad, probably damaging for society, but not strange.

No longer Anderledeslandet

Rather, it is remarkable that it has taken so long: the richer people get the more they resent tax and the less they appreciate government. Norway deserves credit that the swing to the right didn't happen earlier. The rest of Europe has long been far to the right of Norway. In a wider international context, voting in the blue bears therefore cannot be seen as a “lurch to the right” but rather a regression to the mean of the rest (mathematically and figuratively). But while the rest of Europe generally moved rightwards in times of recession, Norway’s social democracy is a victim of its own economic success. In the last 30 years Norway has moved to top in the UN development index and its GDP - the 2nd highest in the world per capita - is shared around more equally than almost any country. Thus the 43% of Norwegians voting for FrP and Hyre have effectively said “Thanks for the good work government; I have enough money to take this from here”. This is the collective decision for Norwegians to chase their own hares, while society forgets that hunting the stag together was once possible.

The sad thing is that damage to social cohesion that will result, will only be fully felt once it is too late to reverse. Inequality is correlated with almost every social problem from violent crime to teenage pregnancy, from drugs to mental illness. Unfortunately inequality is also extremely difficult to address once institutionalised. Instead, the only policy choices available once the rot has set in will be expensive and futile measures to deal with the symptoms: tougher and tougher policing and sentencing. Indeed, Bad Bear, perhaps seeing into the future, campaigned on more police and longer sentences.

The beginning of the era of mean

The future looks, if anything, even gloomier. The scariest moment in the election was not September the 9th but the School election the week before. The images that accompanied the results of the school election were harrowing: Hyre’s cheering supporters looked like a gang of Goldman Sachs interns. The young are supposed to want to save the world; instead, Norway’s 21st century youth care about lowering taxes. One has to ask, if you are passionate about conservative economics when you are 17, where will you be in your mid-life crisis?

Ultimately then, Norway’s Election result does not look to me like a blip or a lurch, but a long delayed changing of guards: the end of social democratic principles and the beginning of a new era of meanness. I just hope I am wrong.

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This article was originally written for and published in Hja magazine, while an edited version translated into Norwegian was published in Dagsavisen. You can follow me on Twitter @beaumontpaul

In the press

So, old media is notoriously slow to pick up on talent. That is the only way I can possibly explain why I haven't got a book deal yet.

Nonetheless, Aftenposten, Norways biggest selling "serious" newspaper have translated and published two Love in the Time of Facebook originals. Minusthe jokes of course. They don't have their serious reputation for nothing.

Skal Vi Ta Noen Bruson the problems of sobriety in January 2013. Originally published in English here as The Perils of Giving up Alcohol

They also publishedTre Myter om Norgeon why it is perfectly logical to move to Norway. Originally calledWhy The Fuck Did You Move to Norway

Hja publishedNorway's new era of mean, while Dagsavisenkindly translated itwith incredible proficiencyand published it in Norwegian as Egoismens Nye Tidsalde

By:Larm News published my ode to those poorunder-appreciatedsouls we know as Bouncers.: You Name's not Down You Are Not Going In(pg 7)

The Foreigner published"Norway's Oil and Easter Bunnies", a curious combination of economic history revisionism and a critique of Easter conversation.The longer version, this time without any additional jokes, just a bit more depth, can be found here.

I am also all over nuclear weapons. The International Law & Policy Institute have published two papers of mine. I co-wrote "An Introduction to Nuclear Weapons in Latin America and theCaribbean"and wrote "Iran's Nuclear Program"

Lastly, in my day job Iaggregateand create academic writing resources for UMB'sWriting Wrongs website.

Richard Dawkins vs Brandon Flowers

Last Friday the Killers' frontman, Mormon and personality vacuum Brendon Flowers appeared on Norwegian chat show Skavlan to promote his band's upcoming new album Battle Born. There is nothing particularly interesting in an American popstar plugging his shitty record in Scandinavia. In fact, perhaps it was the numbing prospect of interviewing the dullest man in music about his dull music that prompted the production team into making an editorial masterstroke of ruthlessly cruel genius. They added Richard Hawkins to the panel and teed up a debate on Mormonism. Oh and for some reason Ulrika Johnson was there too.Yes, Richard Dawkins, Brandon Flowers and Ulrika Johnson. The results were predictably gruesome. Warning though, viewing is not for the faint hearted and yet more distressingly, as impossible as it might sound, you may find yourself sympathising with Brendon Flowers (Dawkins enters and the good stuff begins on 8.20m).

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xjwsG36XTZ8#t=2m48s]

Personally, I just like to imagine the producers conversation beforehand:

A. This is a fucking boring interview we have lined up here.

B. Yes. Brandon Flowers makes Justin Bieber look like Pussy Riot. How could we make this interview more exciting?

A.Why don`t we get the world's most aggressive atheist on the panel as well?!

B. Richard Dawkins! Yes that would put the shit up him

A. And Ulrika Johnson?!

B. Why do you always suggest Ulrika Johnson - Yes okay, but never again.

A. YESSS! (Producer A has been a long term fan of Ulrika Johnson since way back in her Gladiator days)

If you can't view the video it is summarised below.

About 2 minutes in, Fredrik Skavlan the interviewer begins to gently ask Flowers about his Mormon faith, warming him up with puff questions like "Can you please explain the beauty of faith to the audience?". Flowers clearly uncomfortable obliges but struggles to retain his trademark placidity as the line of questioning continue. At one point, clearly peeved at being asked yet another question about his faith he answered "It's difficult, because I am here to promote this band and then I get questions a lot about being a Mormon".

In retrospect, Flowers probably considers that a highpoint. A few moments later Skavlen introduces Richard Dawkins to the panel and all pretense of civility is removed as the editors master plan in its full glory is revealed.

Immediately quizzed about his thoughts on Mormons, Dawkins pulls no punches and declared the book of Mormonism "an obvious fake" and the founder "a convicted charlatan, a convicted con man". To which Flowers, struggling to hold back his tears, retorts with the unintentionally brilliant line " These are all falses, you should do your research". Dawkins then continues to insult Mormonism some more before the mismatch is mercifully brought to an end when Skavlan interrupts the "debate" to inform Flowers that "We have to throw you out... because the band would like you to get ready with them". Yes, to play their god awful song; all Flowers had wanted to all along.

10 Tips For Not Making Enemies of Bar Staff

1. The guy collecting glasses is not trying to steal your drink.

2. Drinking fizzy soft drinks after 8pm makes you look like a thief. Sorry it’s true, that’s why we have told the bouncer to keep an eye on you.

3. Complaining about the prices to the bartender is tantamount barking at the moon; pointless and embarrassing.

4. Girls - sitting on your lover’s lap while there are plenty of seats available is seriously lame.

"Am I hurting you? God I'm so fat? Are you sure you're okay?" Shut the fuck up and sit on one of numerous nearby available chairs.

5. That door that only the bartenders keep going into, that is notthe toilet.

6.Hey buddy, it doesn’t matter how long you ruffle the gel in your hair, you won’t be getting laid tonight, now step away from the mirror by the stairs.

This is what a collection of you look like. Now do you understand? Its not that they don't like your personality, (although in all honesty, its probably that too) - but clinically you are unfuckable.

7. No charming man has ever hit on a barmaid unprompted. Yes, the bargirl is obliged by their employment conditions to talk back to you, but that should not be taken as a sign of interest. Anyway, just so you know, you have precisely 0.0007% chance of success and a 100% chance of becoming an object of ridicule of the rest of the bar staff.

8. Leave old snus or gum in your glass and we will have to kill you. Sorry.

9. Drinking Jack Daniels is douchey. Referring to it as just “Jack” is even douchier. And this already world class douchiness is multiplied by one million if you are wearing a Jack Daniels T-shirt while you do it. If you then order by pointing at your T-shirt, nodding and smiling like some sort of simpleton bourbon connoisseur, we will again sadly have to take your life for the good of all mankind.

What could be better for demonstrating what a crazy alcoholic one is than by wearing the largest bourbon corporations logo as a T-shirt while holding not one but two bottles of their product?

10. Dancing with that strange old guy while all your friends laugh and take pictures make you all dickheads not heroes of comedy.

Everyone who ishuman and not a twitter porn spambot, You may follow me on Twitter at your leisurehere. Spambots,you are not to follow me at your leisure but instead commit some kind of painful cyber suicide.

Trouble on the Megabus - The Great Fish Hunt

The Megabus has become a modern institution in the UK. For anyone with more time than money their buses criss cross the country transporting passengers at remarkably low cost but with unprecedented discomfort and duration. It would also make an exceedingly easy if unglamorous target for any junior terrorist. Trouble is, blowing up a Megabus would carry about as much kudos as kidnapping Leo Sayer. Furthermore should they fail it would make the terrorist less of martyre than a world famous laughing stock, perhaps only on par with that dedicated incompetante who set himself on fire and drove into Glasgow airport (killing no one except himself). Besides, who would want to be known as "The Megabus Bomber"?

Nonetheless, Megabus take the terrorist threat extremely seriously. Recently it was reported a man on board was noticed to be emitting a smoke of some kind. Before you could say “Maybe we should ask him or at least take a look before we call the police the anti-terrorist squad, stop the bus and close the motorway” The driver had stopped the bus, called the police and the anti terrorist squad had closed the motorway. The driver no doubt well drilled, took no chances and herded the passengers off the bus and onto the layby where they were "made to wait cross legged" for 4 hours. They eventually set off on their journey again only oncethe police had confirmed that it was not a bomb but an electronic cigarette and the smoke was in fact just water vapour.

The moustached officer in charge of the operation later deadpanned “Following an initial assessment, we can confirm that no-one has been injured and that there is no danger to passengers at the scene or any other travellers” helpfully assuring reporters that "We are also not treating anyone as a suspect." The megabus driver was sadly unavailable for comment.

Now this would have all sounded ludicrous to me except I had just a couple of weeks earlier witnessed something not altogether similar on the London Liverpool Megabus. Certainly one can’t fault Megabus drivers’ enthusiasm for battling the trivial.It began abruptly when the driver announced just before departure "I can smell fish on this bus; It is not allowed under Megabus policy to bring fish onto the bus, I am not leaving until the fish has been found and removed!"This sparked something of a witch/fish hunt, for there was widespread agreement that there was indeed a heavy fishy odour hanging in the air. Accusations went flying around "there is woman who went past, at the back I think, who looked like the sort who might be carrying fish". And so the the driver went sniffing up and down the bus and a carnival atmosphere ensued. That is until he suggested checking everyone's bags for fish. Then the mob swiftly turned and remembered that they all had to get somewhere. And so it quickly became consensus that there in fact was no fish smell after all. A middle aged woman, bought the episode to close when she loudly suggested that the smell might be emanating from the drivers socks. Amidst much laughter, our humiliated bus driver gave up on the fish hunt and set off.

This contrasts quite sharply with another Megabus journey of mine, this time from Liverpool to London. I ended up sitting next to a youth who must have been the least discreet drug runner imaginable. Within 5 minutes of sitting down he promptly started snorting coke from the fold down table, offering a line to me before showing me his rucksack which he claimed (and I see no reason to doubt) 3kg of the stuff. Sweating profusely, he later repeatedly heckled the driver to stop for a cigarette in the aggressive manner of one clearly under the influence. This warranted little concern or suspicion from the driver who just carried about his business of driving the bus.

I am not sure what lessons can be drawn from these three incidents. Perhaps only that the Megabus is the most exciting mode of transport in the UK today.

You can follow the Megabus on Twitter hereor me here..

For an amusing headline from the smoking cigarette controversy click here

The Gay Law Of Google

Google autocomplete is a window into global society's collective mind. What did we do before Google? Apparently we never got our nagging questions regarding the sexual orientation of various politicians and celebrities answered - that's what.

Lets start with Mr President

Naturally there are more pressing questions that needed answering first. Only once we have ascertained whether he is a muslim-antichrist-freemason who's doing a good job is it time to ask - Yeah, but is he a gayer?

It goes without saying that Hitler's sexuality has been Googled ad infinitum but what about Tony Blair's?

Sure enough, fifth one down, one above war criminal one below Jewish.

People called David seem to be especially under suspicion.

Gay gay gay, dead dead dead. If you are called David statistically speaking it's almost certain that someone somewhere wondering whether you are either dead or a gay.

Vinnie Jones can't be gay. Look at him for fucks sake.

Man's man Vinnie Jones ready for action

Clearly the internet isn't convinced.

Shit! if we can't be sure about Vinnie Jones then surely the question we have to ask is:

??!!

The Rick Santorum Post-Mortem Quiz

Now he is safely out of the race, we can relax and enjoy a look back at our dystopian hero’s unlikely run. Come on - he was never going to be elected, apart from the anti-gay, anti-poor, racist world view; he is against contraception for Christ sake (sorry Rick). Or put another way against all the people who like to have sex without risking aids or babies - 98% percent of the American female population at the last count. This added to the gay, the black and the poor thing meant he had already alienated more than 156% of the electorate. Statistically he didn’t stand a chance, yet he won in 11 states. Before we think about that too much, what better way to celebrate the termination of his candidacy than with a quiz.

How well do youknow Rick Santorum?

1. Rick is a simple guy, with simple ideas and that come from his simple mind. So we are going to start this quiz nice and simple. Where does Santorum come from?

2. In removing a sweater vest from his closet on virtually every day of the campaign trail, Rick popularized the item in a way many thought impossible. Can you spot Rick amongst these other famous sweater vest wearers? Bonus half point for naming each of the others.

Would the real Santurom please stand up?

3. What Rick doesn’t know about the world , isn’t worth knowing. He’s got Europe down pat. According to Rick what do old Dutch people wear to protect themselves from the state. What is written on them? (1 point for word perfect half point for the general idea)

4. Rick is not a racist, he is just a lexical pioneer. Complete this famous Santorum sentence from a speech with (Hint - it's a word that starts with B.)

“I don’t want to make ______ people’s lives better by giving them somebody else’s money, I want to give them the opportunity to go out and earn the money and provide for themselves and their families”

5. According to Rick, what is the difference between gay sex, paedophilic sex, bestial sex?

6. Rick on global warming: Instead of talking to a scientist about the harmful effects of CO2 emissions the wise should instead talk to whom?
Scroll down for the answers.

Results

6 out of 6- Congratulations you are ready to run for president!

.4-5- Impressive but maybe just the senate for you

2-3- You’ve got potential but I am sorry its the school board for now

0-1- Get out of my site, just go - okay, just go.

Answers:

1. I will accept either Virginia or the ass.

2. C is of course our man, but could you identify the rest? A = Ferris Bueller, B = Artie from Glee, D = Brad Pitt In Inglorius Bastards.

3. Bracelets with“Do not euthanize me!”written on them.

4.The answer of course is “Blah”, but incase you are not sure don’t take my word for it take Rick’s(He is God’s little soldier, he physically can’t lie)

5: .Ha ha! Trick question -there is no difference!

6.Obviously you should gotalk to a plant

Karaoke in Japan

Karaoke fans in their natural habitat

I found this old draft I wrote a long time ago when I didn't seem to understand the utility of full stops nor the lack of utility of excess capital letters. In fact I seem to demonstrate comprehensive problems with grammar. Regardless, I think its still informative for anyone going to Japan so thought I would post it.Originally it was meant for this review blog Tokyo Reviewwe used mostly as a ruse to get free stuff in Japan: "We have a sign and a camera with a large zoom function - of course we should be on the guestlist!".

___________________________

Whether you’re from the drink-all-you-can-physically-injest-and-murder-Radiohead school of Kareoke or the sit quietly-at-the-side sipping-a -cocktail-waiting-your-turn-before-knocking-out-a-note perfect-Maria-Carey school of Kareoke. It is without doubt THE essential past time that any self respecting resident of or visitor to Tokyo; culture vulture, pisshead or otherwise must engage in at least tri-weekly for the duration of their stay in Japan

You might guess at this point that Tokyo Review is a little bit of a fan of the Karaoke and you would be right – IN JAPAN. Tokyo review hates Karaoke in the UK as much it hated The Passion of the Christ. But Karaoke is karaoke oui? NON!

In England Karaoke is synonymous with tacky bars, football teams singing Wonderwall and student nights. The poor wailing protagonist has to sing in front of a bar of strangers with inevitably humiliating results and when they aren’t singing they must sit listening to tone deaf strangers do the same. In a nutshell this can be described as at best extremely un-fun and at worst tortuous to the ordinary civilian (To make matters worse there is almost always the Pop Idol wannabes that populate the Kareoke bars warbling half rate ballads in the delusional hope of getting “spotted” by a passing EMI executive.)

In Japan by contrast, in accordance with the reserved nature of Japanese national character they rent you your own room (or if there is only a few of you, it's more accurate to call it a booth) – at a stroke eliminating the problem of humiliation in front of strangers and of the torture of said strangers rendition of Whitney Huston making your ears bleed.

The most important element however that comes largely as standard is the nomihodai by drinks deal. This, for those not in the know, means unlimited drinks for the duration of your stay. They are provided by waiters who work at the beckon call of the booze hotline telephone that is stationed in every room. Given that it costs on average 1000yen an hour per person to rent a room, and that a beer in a typical bar costs a minimum of 600 yen consequently makes Karaoke clubs comfortably the cheapest place to drink (or more accurately get drunk) in Japan.

Thus what that leaves you is a room, a karaoke machine with only your mates, and a five by five metres room free from embarrassment. Much like dancing naked in the mirror to Rod Stewart (or whatever) you can really let go without a worry nor listen to some hapless stranger kill songs. When its just you and your mates devoid of the inhibitions induced by strangers I guarantee you will be shocked at the results. You will witness previously quiet mates giving an unbridled rendition of Paint it Black with full on Jagger dance and pout. You will see your female friends throb to Like a Virginand you will discover that you actually only know the chorus to "Rio". Whatever Tokyo review is certain you will agree that its an unbeatable lark.

Yes!

If you haven’t already experienced the joy that Karaoke in Japan yields then Tokyo Review recommends that you drop whatever at you are doing at this very moment round up some friends and commandeer your nearest Karaoke house’s nearest room.

You can follow me on twitter here.

El Boludo y El Idiota

El bolludo solo piensa en el corto plazo el boludo siempre despierta con nuevos problemas el boludo hizo para que su mismo el dia anterior. Al boludo no le gusta piensar sobre sus problemas antes que ellos lo matan.

El Bolludo

Consequentamente el boludo va vivir una vida feliz pero corta

El boludo hace problemos para todas las personas que el se encuentra. Algunas personas les gusta el boludo porque las problemas del boludo ellas piensen divartido entas personas los amigos de boludo.

Hay otera gente que se preucopan el boludo y piensan que el esupidez del boludo es perigrosso para el y sus amegos. Estos personas son en general lo amen o estan enamorados con el.

Piensan estas puedan cambiar de bolludo, pero el boludo no puede cambiar de color. (Que siempre una rojo alegre )

Hay albunas gentes piensen el boludo es muy molesto y egoista.

Estas personas no comprenden como el boludo piensa y porque el bolludo no cambia a ver mas similar a ellos mismos. Ellos compadecen se del boludo y el boludo compadece se de ellos

Estos personas piensen el boludo es una boludo. el boludo piensa estos personas son idiota.

El idiota

Es afurtunadamente, por lo tanto, el boludo y el idiota pueden reconocer que son distinctos uno a la otra. El idiota es nunca tarde y es una muy persona saludable . Al contrario, el boludo es el opuesto.

El habitat naturtal de boludo y el habitat natural del idiota a menudo no se, mezclan entonses la vida es tranquila.

El problema es cuando vos teines una familia de muchos idiotas y boludos

Se dedicado mes amigos idiotas; los queiero a todos

El Boludo Y La Maana

Saturday Mornings

Waking up, your alarm clock goes at 8.22. The time you usually have to get up. Except today you don’t have to get up because it’s a Saturday. The alarm clock, your phone is in your trousers at the end of your bed. It goes off for quite some time and you consider the benefits of stopping it because it really is very annoying. Eventually you decide to get up and as you move towards your trousers it stops. Thank fuck. You go back to sleep for 4 happy minutes before it goes again. This time though, you are on to it and stop it immediately. Slumping, you fall to sleep again on the wrong side of your bed. Unfortunately however, you have forgotten to turn off your emergency alarm which goes off 15 minutes later. It wakes you up again and you stop it again but now the people digging up the street by your house have begun banging. You consider the possibility that they might be there solely for your displeasure and then dismiss it rightly as paranoia. You are very tired, but you smell your pillow, or it could be your hands and it’s rancid and you can't fall back to sleep. Suddenly you are aware that poisonous treacle is seeping through your skin and your dirty bedclothes are wet with human bin juice.

The banging continues for a length of time, until you concede defeat and reach for your cigarettes that are in the pocket of your trousers which you are now using as a pillow.

Why are they menthol?

You fucking hate menthol but they are better than no cigarettes being in your trouser pocket and so you smoke 2 and tap the ash into a ornamental pot that came with the room. The effort of aiming your ash in the ornamental pot eventually becomes to much and so you ash on the floor instead. You don’t know when you fall asleep again but you are woken up unpleasantly

Who’s that?

Your girlfriend interrupts your sleep more crudely than a dustman ever could

What?

Who’s that - There?

Who’s what where?

Your girlfriend always asks stupid questions, maybe its not a stupid question, I hope it is a stupid question, it probably isn't a stupid question.

Please be quiet I feel like shit

I don’t’ care if you feel like fucking Gary fucking Glitter – who the fuck is she?

Why did I give her a fucking key

You look up and see your girlfriend staring at a point behind you. You look around and see greasy curly hair sticking out of large mound of duvet. Oh fuck.

Err – you try to think, you didn’t - its impossible, who the fuck is that, you went to the pub you talked about football with that old friend you don’t like any more. He said something about the foreign ownership of football clubs being the beginning of some kind of end, he’s an idiot and British owners are equally barren of morals, but that’s not important now. Shit, is that Sasha? please don’t be Sasha, shit it is Sasha. She fucking hates Sasha. Please be wearing a clothes Sasha.

A gutteral groan comes from the duvet mound. Your girlfriend removes the sheet.

It’s worse than Sasha it’s a naked Jim.

Why are you naked Jim?

I’m not naked

I can see your cock Jim you’re naked… she turns on me – you said it was just a phase. I immediately regret my liberal facebook profile declaring my interest in men and women.

I’m not naked I’ve got my socks on Jim retorts

I’ve got to hand it to Jim; he has a lot of chutzpah

I know what you’re thinking and your wrong, I’d never fuck anyone with my socks on.

I took this opportunity to give my defence;

And I’m not gay.

You can shut the fuck up. I shut the fuck up while she thinks and Jim reclines. After a few moments she says

Jim you’ve won him a reprieve, let’s have breakfast; I’ve bought some nectarines and 2 croissants.

Yes - I sigh a breath of relief; a croissant is exactly what I need right now

Sebastian you are not having any of the fucking croissants.

Fuck.

Dedicated to no one.

Death To The Free Press

Its raining and morons carrying umbrellas clog the entrance to the tube. My eyes are in mortal danger. This is potentially problematic; it’s difficult to find work without sight. But people have haircuts to protect, coats to keep dry, eyes to gauge out. Socially irresponsible, those under 6ft shouldn’t be allowed umbrellas – my advice - just get wet dickhead. Get damp, stay inside, I don’t care; stop trying to blind me. The water from the rain runs off a 5ft half-wit’s umbrella and intomy shoe. Gah - your anger melts into the sea of sodden irritation. Only one is untouched by the situation:

Fresh copy fresh copy, Free Standard Free Standard

The Good Old Days
The newspaper man, middle aged with a turkey neck doesn’t feel the cold. Like a stalwart he calls it like it’s a pleasant August evening. Only if you look closely can you see the sadness in his eyes. His profession is moving backwards into oblivion. For 30 years he sold the Standard, seated. People came to him; people paid. Times changed with the Metro. Now he’s just a man who hassles people on the beginning and the end of their commute. The only thing that allows him his dignity, and that separates him from people handing out gym membership coupons, is his gusto

Breaking news, get it here now, get your Standard

The sorrow inside only grows though. He counts down to his retirement in newspapers given away.

The Standard was never a good newspaper. Ran by Paul Dacre it was available to everyone willing to pay 35p for pseudo racist propaganda sheet. But at least it wasn’t free. People chose to buy it; sovereignty of news was with the commuter. Some people brought it, some people brought something else, some people went without. Now no one buys anything, they accept what they are given. Sovereignty gone, content has become irrelevant. All the free paper revolution has proved beyond doubt is that people will read anything (if it’s free). Good for PR agencies; awful for the print newspapers, journalism and the collective wit of the populace at large.

Having seen off the purple mackintoshed, London Lite amateurs and the London Paper, the newspaper man’s solitary fear is that i-phones and internet on the underground will precede retirement and the evening he gives out his last Standard.

Dedicated to the newspaper man at Holborn station

A Short History Of Smoking

When the smoking ban came in it gave Sebastian new resolve to smoke. Smoking in the rain has a certain dignity to it that complaining about second hand smoke doesn’t. The moral high ground was surrendered. Now non smokers are just people who never went out before, who don’t go out now, saying how much they love not going out and not smelling of smoke. Very similar to before, except now smokers have the moral high ground - feels good; though admittedly a lot chillier.

Don’t worry though non smokers will be enjoying life (To The Max) when they’re 90; long after you’ve coughed your way into a cancer-soddened grave.

There were downsides; you didn’t know who smoked and who did in sparsely populated bars and confusion would arise about your motives. Sometimes, when you ask a girl for a light all you want is a light. Sometimes when you ask a girl for a cigarette all you want is a cigarette.

Some pub somewhere in London sometime between midday and midnight BtB (Before the Ban) this, or something not dissimilar to this, is occurring ad infinitum.

May I perhaps trouble you for a cigarette….

Of course, just give me a sec.

The girl begins to rummage in her bag for a light that never existed and then looks up with a windowpane thin veneer of feigned surprise

Shit! I don’t seem to be able to find it – give me a sec…

Nevermind I’ll just….

The girl coils her mouse brown fringe around her index finger and interrupts before Sebastian can finish.

So what’s your name anyway? Sebastian sighs, his eyes glaze over as he thinks of a distant future of self lighting cigarettes.

Its Belvedere the Second – now look, I’m sorry but I have explosive diarrhea that is about to erupt so I really have to run.

In complete befuddlement the girl tries to piece together the information.

Belvedere… the second?

Sebastian turns and makes for the toilets before he has a chance to hear her reply.

This is only one of the unwanted occurrences that occur when you are looking for a light; unwanted conversations. It’s even worse when they actually have a light and you’ve the obligation to speak to them. However it can be worse.

Sometimes it goes like this;

Could I perhaps trouble you for a light?

No problem.

Man nearby smacks Sebastian in the jaw and he falls down.

Don’t fucking hit on my bird again or I’ll fucking kill you…. fucking poof.

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A reminder that smoking has never been an entirely trouble free pastime.

This is where you find out nothing

Hosni Mubarak looking at me floating over a cornfield.(Courtesy of Denis Laner

To be honest,I have no idea what Love in the Time of Facebook is meant to be about any more. Norway, politics and absurdity in general these days I guess. Google doesn't see it that way though judging by the weird search terms that have people led to my blog. Some selected highlights:

68 people looking for Tom Sellec,

15 for "cathedrals",

8 "Norway fuck"

6 " is Tom Selec tall?"

5 "is Tom Selec gay?"

4 "Ken Monkou",

3 "Kim Jung Il pizza",

2 for "toothbrush, propaganda technique (perhaps the same person that searched "toothbrush up vagina"

2 "eve pvp shit shit shit"

1 "creaking trampoline"

1 "Can you use a toothbrush for anal fingering?"

1 "Marcus Stewart and the chairman's wife"

1 "cunts donkeys"

1 "why did morway get lightbulbs?"

1 "Norwegian women fucking on boats"

1 Danger wank gone wrong

1 Fucking Scandinavian women

1 "Tom Selec smoking a cigar"

And my favourite 1 "come inside catholic polish girlfriend tits"

If you want in on Tom Selleck, danger wanking and creaking trampolines then follow me or contact me on Twitter @beaumontpaulfor fortnightly updates of the blog and naturally some other stuff.

If you want to contact me using more than 140 characters email me at loveinthetimeoffacebookyeah@gmail.com.

Contributers

Gina, my editor (of all the stuff that doesn't have mistakes), muse and joke censor. She can be found saving the world here: http://www.slettgjelda.no/no/english/

Shy; my one time photoshopper andpicture contributer. Available here http://shy-lies.tumblr.com/

Gio Jincharadze - Contributing artist and never as grumpy as he appears. Available here: www.jagasite.com