Thursday, 22 December 2011

The Christmas Spirit

In Focus The Christmas Spirit

'The Christmas Spirit'. It's one of those nebulous, ill-defined concepts that is nevertheless truly universal. Many of us think of the Christmas Spirit as a feeling of goodwill, or perhaps a metaphor for a lifting of the collective mood, a sense of fellowship and belonging.

In fact, it's none of these things. The Christmas Spirit is actually a severed head in a box, with a disembodied hand next to it that rings a bell whenever it wants attention. First discovered in Tenochtitlan (what is now Mexico) by 15th-century Spanish explorers, its name is Tlaxihuatl, and it is the ultimate source of all human suffering and misery. Under UN control, it currently resides in a vault below the Bank of Spain's headquarters in Madrid, where a rotating team of valets is charged with catering to its every whim, no matter how unreasonable, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Each time they fail in their duty, Tlaxihuatl barks up a cloud of unhappiness, which drifts aimlessly around the world and infects every human population it encounters.

In the weeks leading up to the winter solstice, the Christmas Spirit becomes more powerful, and harder to satisfy. As its valets struggle to subdue its rage, it leaks a constant stream of low-level misery, which accumulates in the atmosphere. Finally, at the point of midwinter, Tlaxihuatl's powers reach their zenith, unleashing a burst of uncontainable despair. There is, as yet, no way of preventing this.

Many cultures through the ages have told stories of a malevolent spirit that blights the earth in the dead of winter, threatening eternal night, killing the land and bringing a great sadness down upon the people. In ancient Gaul this spirit was known as Kaecht. The Norsemen called it Thröttir. In Britain and Anglo-Saxon America, it was called Santa Claat until as recently as the 1930s, when the Coca-Cola Company appropriated and subverted his mean-spirited image for its Christmas advertising campaigns, thereby introducing into our culture the more benign figure we know today as John Candy.

Another product of Coca-Cola's reprogramming of the culture is the widely held belief that Christmas has its roots in an ancient pagan festival of light, in which brown, caffeinated drinks were imbibed to stave off the winter gloom. In fact, until this rebranding, Christmas was pan-culturally recognised as a period of desolation and dread, and the celebration that took place on December 25 was a ritual of thanks for being spared its wrath - what we now know to be the annual winter tantrum of Tlaxihuatl. As all around, families and individuals succumbed to its cloud of misery, locking themselves away in their grimy council huts, wallowing in, and eventually taking their lives amid the dreary squalor, those who escaped unaffected would feast and dance and sing to celebrate their continued survival.

But what does the Christmas Spirit itself have to say? I am fortunate enough to have been the only journalist ever to be granted access to Tlaxihuatl, and it is my enormous privilege to bring to you its Christmas Message...

You humans think you're amazing, but you're not. You all think you're so complicated and sophisticated and magical and special, when really you're just dumb biological machines, gene-piloted mechs. There's nothing in your behaviour that can't be explained, and the only reason you can't explain all of it is that you're all too stupid.

You're slaves to your nature just like the lion, or the eagle, or the vole. The only difference is your ability to post-rationalise your actions. You've contrived and enshrined in your laws substitutes for certain social mechanisms which are superficially more 'civilised' than murder or rutting in public, but the instincts that drive them are still the same. Your art and your ideas and your commerce and politics - these are all just means of rising to higher social strata, in order to get more power, more resources, more sweaty meat action than your peers. When someone doesn't conform to the conventions of a given social group, no-one consciously thinks, "let's pull their arms off," but that's only because nature's simple, binary commands have been filtered through years of conditioning and so-called 'refinement'. Instead, they find other ways to destroy the misfit. The will remains. You're as transparent as you are pathetic.

After millennia of culture and civilisation, still you're no better than apes. And yet you walk around thinking you've somehow transcended nature, just because you have things like the aeroplane and the Game & Watch. But you don't know magic. You didn't conjure these things out of thin air. They were always there, simply waiting to be discovered, assembled from components already present in the world.

I mean, look at me. I'm just a fucking head in a box. But I can still reason and communicate. And look at my hand. It isn't even attached to me, and yet I still have complete control over it. Watch it ring this bell. See? That's amazing. I don't have a spine or knees or any of that fancy shit, and I'm more powerful than all of you combined. But because I can't eat or walk around or play golf, you treat me like I'm an inconvenience. Maybe I don't need to do these things. Have you even considered that? Perhaps I'm just designed more efficiently.

You humans really fuck me off. What a bunch of arrogant cunts you are. Has it never occurred to you that I might just want to be included? But no, I'm a bit weird and I jar with your simplistic conceptions of what forms a functioning, conscious being can take, so you lock me away and keep me out of sight because you're not yet sufficiently evolved to overcome your petty, self-centred shit.

Certainly something to think about.

But in order to really find out what makes the Christmas Spirit tick, I decided to perform a series of simple experiments with the help of Dr Meriel Wissenschaftler from the Life Sciences division of the Frankfurt School of Biofrenafrichtestat.

  • 500mg 3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine
  • Wooden planks
  • Large bowl of boiling water
  • Machete

Having each ingested 250mg of MDMA to mitigate the effects of unhappiness, we set about applying heavy blows to the subject using planks of wood. The subject responded with visible signs of anger and pain, releasing misery into the atmosphere as it did so. The blows themselves left bruises, cuts and splinters around the surface of the face, collapsage of the nasal protrusion, and some caving in of the left temple, causing the left eye to bulge out of its socket. After 5 minutes, the subject began to cry.

We then placed the subject carefully into a large glass bowl of water, at a constant temperature of 100°C, and held it there for 2 minutes. The subject initially showed signs of panic and extreme pain, then ultimately pacification. After removing the subject from the water, we could see that the skin had reddened and blistered. The subject appeared to have expired.

In order to examine the brain of the subject, we hacked into the head using the machete. As a sizeable chunk of the head broke and fell away, we became aware of movement inside. On closer inspection, it became apparent that the subject was full of what we estimated to be many thousands of tiny Christmas Spirits, with legs much like a spider's. It was impossible to do a precise count as they immediately crawled out of the subject's brainial cavity and escaped the vault through the air vents. At this moment, I experienced a sense of panic and, against my partner's advice in the name of science and safety, attempted to stamp on as many of these as I could with my right foot, each time feeling a tingling sensation shooting up the length of my leg.

Once all of the subject's offspring had exited the vault or otherwise perished, I then - once more against my partner's advice - removed my trousers and undergarments and, standing over the subject, set about stimulating to orgasm my own genitals using my right hand. Having applied several wads of seminal fluid to the face of the subject, I sat down in a corner of the vault, whereupon, as my partner later reported, I demonstrated outward signs of distress, including weeping, convulsions and muttering in a language not known to anyone else present.

After approximately 60 minutes, I started to feel a burning sensation in my right leg. As the sensation intensified, the leg began to visibly twist and shrivel. Over 30 minutes, the leg withered away and disintegrated in the manner of a dying plant.

After 24 hours, several thousand brief sightings of what appeared to be a previously undiscovered breed of spider had been reported in various science journals and online forums. The sightings had no obvious geographical centre. Approximately 3 hours later, mainstream news media reported multiple epidemics of spontaneous depression all over the known world.


Scurferens will be back on January 9

Monday, 12 December 2011


There is, sadly, no Scurferens this week due to circumstances. Here instead is a guest piece by one of our most prominent fans, Brod Horspipe, civil engineer...

Hey, now listen. I don't know who this Scurferens cat thinks he is, dig, or why he's going through my garbage late at night. And I don't know what he's doing parked out there in the street right now, pretending he's an undercover cop doing surveillance. And I sure as heck don't don't know why he left the paper bag on my doorstep that time with a little note saying: "Please shit in here."

But what I do know about is good car park design. And I know that ever since I was chosen to lead the Blackburn Mall renovation project - well, suddenly, everyone wants to be old Brod's friend. And this Scurferens is no exception.

But I don't care for the trappings of the celebrity lifestyle. What I care about is cats being able to get out of corner spaces during busy periods without scratching theirs or anyone else's automobile. And I care about ensuring that every inch of that car park is adequately lit. Turning up to regional awards ceremonies smoking cigars and wearing fur coats might be good for the likes of Davien Pocock, but not me, no way. Old Brod is an artist.

Anyway, I guess I'm here to entertain you, so maybe I'll tell you all a story or something. Here it is.

A fella goes into a bar, buys a drink, sits down with the newspaper - beer on table, legs crossed at the knee, left arm resting on back of seat, newspaper held two-handed in front of the chest - classic style.

His name is Foldirol Casgrove, he's 34 years of age, works in insurance, thin, boyish features, no kids, wife doesn't love him, but that's not important right now. What's important is that after about ten minutes, he starts to feel a dull ache. It begins on his left cheek, so subtle he barely notices it, though he's dimly aware. Before long, his whole face is hurting.

Now, he's thinking, what's going on here? Young Casgrove is getting a little concerned, and can you blame him? So he puts down that newspaper and concentrates on the pain, which by now is spreading rapidly around his whole head and neck. He can feel it fanning out, millimeter by millimeter, taking his shoulders, his chest, his arms. He looks down, sees his skin turning purple.

The pain intensifies to the point of agony. His flesh feels soft and delicate, kind of like bruised fruit. He struggles to stand up. The barman can see him and is already calling for an ambulance, with a weary look on his face.

The man makes it about three steps before his feet give way, followed by his legs, like a man with no shins trying to stand on two eggplants. They're collapsing, turning to mush beneath his weight! He topples over, face-first on to the ground, where he bursts like a bag full of meat and faeces, all over the stone tiles.

The paramedics arrive. Too late. We'll be no use now, phone for a cleaner.

"What happened to him?" asks one of the paramedics, clearly the less experienced of the two.

Well, the other paramedic (older, manly, good-looking), he just gives a resigned shrug and says: "happens all the time in this place, kid. You see - this is an iron bar."

Iron Bars - A History
The iron bar featured in the story you have just read was actually the first of its kind. It is situated in Brooklyn, New York, and was opened in 1932 by Pondo Strawberry, a local real estate developer and an active member of the Republican Party.

The Depression had reached its nadir, and it was Strawberry's belief that America's only hope was to embrace wholeheartedly the principles of rugged individualism that had made the country so great in the past.

For his part, Strawberry made a number of investments in local building projects, in an effort to attract to the area the kind of red-blooded, good-looking men he believed embodied his personal philosophy. Deciding that the men would want an exclusive venue in which to relax and socialise in their spare time, Strawberry opened his bar with a strict policy against weak, anaemic men such as those he considered responsible for his country's economic woes - stockbrokers and financiers, for example. (The irony of a property developer embarking upon such a venture was, alas, utterly lost on Strawberry.)

But there was a problem. Money was tight, and door staff something of a luxury, even for a man of Strawberry's means. And so he hit upon an ingenious solution: by attaching iron atoms to helium molecules, he realised he could make the atmosphere in his bar so dense and oppressive that only strong, good-looking men with sufficient iron content in their blood would be able to tolerate it. Weaker men would keep away or suffer the consequences.

Thus, the iron bar was born!

Man, wasn't that a trip? Well, you've probably had just about enough of old Brod, so I guess I'll be leaving you now. See you round.

Monday, 5 December 2011

JG Ballard

Reviews Nights Out

JG Ballard gained a fresh appreciation for the baser aspects of the human experience on Mark's birthday. So why does he feel so empty after the event?

I must confess to some trepidation as I cross the threshold of Revolution to join young Mark and his friends in celebrating the anniversary of the day of his birth. The venue is gloomy and tastelessly appointed, and it soon becomes apparent that the soundtrack to my evening will consist mostly of dated electro-house, which may have sounded mildly edgy in 2005, had you been easily frightened.

However, I'm pleased to say that most of my misgivings are dispelled the moment I meet Mark, who greets me warmly before introducing me to the rest of the group: Chugger, Knobber and Todd, known collectively for this evening as Pussyman's Cock Boys (Mark is Pussyman, of course). Here I am, a frail, old, dead man, confronted with four perfect specimens of alpha-masculinity - tanned, athletic and dressed, as the fashion dictates, in block-coloured shirts, untucked, with rolled sleeves and raised collars - and for tonight, they are willing to accept me as one of their own. Though I have - successfully, I think - created, and lived according to my own definition of manhood, theirs is a classic, pure, perhaps innocent form that has always held a fascination for me. Like many others who share my disposition, I have often stayed up until the early hours of the morning, watching hardcore pornography or World Wrestling Entertainment, marvelling at the raw, unrefined visions of maleness presented therein and wondering, what if?

But as of tonight, I need wonder no longer, for I am permitted to taste it: the beer-soaked sleeves, the aggressive pheromones, the gym-cultivated sweat lightly washed and masked by a liberal application of Joop! Homme. I feel a slight stirring in my trousers. My mumbled apologies are met with benign laughter. It seems that phallic activity of this nature is tolerated in this world, indeed positively encouraged, taken as a sign of healthy virility. The boys pat me on the back, and together we down our first shots of the night: foul, violently-coloured stuff that tastes of cough medicine and diesel.

Every close group of friends has its own peculiar set of codes and conventions, and Mark's is no exception. As the evening begins, we place hands on hearts and solemnly vow to sound the 'Titty Klaxon' upon any sighting of naked female breast during the course of the evening, thus alerting the others to its presence. Superficially, the Titty Klaxon is little more than a guttural "arooga!" sound amplified through cupped hands, but encoded within it is a sacred bond of trust, a declaration of comradeship and a willingness to involve others in one's masturbatory experience.

Yes, we are the Cock Boys. Young, thrusting gunslingers out to sexually assault the night - but only in that cheeky, grey-area way that a sympathetic male judge might shrug off as boyish hijinks. In this particular area of society, it is standard behaviour to lift the skirt of a young lady, or else why would they wear such tiny dresses, eh? At worst, they shall simply appear wearied and annoyed. Other times, they might just be game enough to play along. But if you are especially fortunate, the Pussyman tells me, you may even get a slap. That means she's a feisty one!

My world is suddenly alive, fizzing and squealing with fresh possibilities. Everywhere is flesh - perfect, taut, youthful flesh. Temptation at every turn. My penis by now is straining against the fabric of my trousers - or at least it would be if I hadn't had so much to drink. In fact I am rendered cruelly, ironically impotent by the very source of my renewal. I am a rampant spirit trapped inside an ancient, atrophied body. I am Tantalus, ceaselessly beguiled by things forever out of reach.

Pussyman, his Cock Boys and I are swaying in our seats, trying to make sense of our surroundings through cloudy, blunted eyes. Chugger demonstrates the provenance of his nickname by casually vomiting down his duck egg blue shirt. I am dimly aware of two large figures approaching our table through the alcoholic mist, and in a seeming instant we are out on the street. Chugger is urinating into a bin. Mark and Knobber are engaged in a rousing chorus of the Kaiser Chiefs hit I Predict A Riot. Todd is standing in the road, pulling his shirt up with one hand and his trousers down with the other, which he then reassigns to the task of tugging uselessly at his limp penis. Very slowly, the friends regroup and we part ways as they wander off back to their halls of residence. I hail a taxi and stumble, alone, to my hotel bed, where I half-heartedly attempt masturbation until I am snatched away by sleep, fingers still wrapped around my lifeless rod.

I awaken to a powerful nausea, a monstrous headache and a profound sense of shame and inadequacy. Over breakfast, I try to recall the events of the previous evening. Dim, smeared shards of memories momentarily bob up to the surface before sinking back down into the depths of my unconscious. A lascivious comment here, a pinched bottom there, my head wedged between the squirming (possibly with delight, most likely not) thighs of a girl young enough to be my granddaughter. When I was a Cock Boy, such behaviour was appropriate. Now, however, I am but an ordinary fellow, with healthy social reflexes, a code of ethics and no more than a justifiable level of self-esteem. The world seems flat and colourless, the whole night feels now like a strange and wonderful dream, and I realise that I am experiencing something akin to a drugs comedown.

I cannot recommend Mark's birthday highly enough! Indeed I have made arrangements to go out once more with the boys next weekend, so that I may know again what it is to be a twat. Perhaps I shall see you there.