Well, it isn’t me, let’s get that out of the way. ‘Women and children first’ may not be that good an idea either. And before you write to my mum and complain, let me elaborate: this is how they choose whether you get a hospital bed or ventilator.
Now, at the moment we have a pandemic yadda yadda, I know, you’re bored of it. Yet, when anyone gets really sick, hospitals have to consider a multitude of factors. How intelligent, good-looking and humble I am doesn’t matter, thank god! And if you’re thinking that sick people should get saved based on a first-come, first-served basis, then you’re a bucktoothed knuckle-dragging baboon. And you’re also me. In fact, the first-come, first-served strategy is probably the worst, according to those wonderful Freakonomics people speaking to professionals in the industry. So how do we prioritise? Well . . . the short of it is that I’m of no value whatsoever, very much first against the wall. I’d be hugging the anchor of the titanic for comfort, basically, my tears coalescing into heavy icicles, the weight of which won’t help my situation. The longer version is thus:
We currently hear a great deal about reciprocity: those that heal the sick are the first to be treated. In our current lives, an essential worker. So, take a doctor for example vs some slack-jawed twat of a human being. I don’t know, name a politician, basically. The doctor gets chosen, or bloody should do. So far, so easy. Then there is the theory of ‘quality-adjusted life years’ to consider i.e. the number of years left at full-health. Let’s consider two people get sick and there is only one hospital bed. If one of them is much older, the youth gets preference. Now let’s re-frame: two people of the same age are sick, but one of them additionally has the misfortune to have an auto-immune disease or is hideously stupid (take the British Prime Minster, for example). Their quality of life score will be lower despite being of the same age, and therefore they don’t get the hospital bed.
Other considerations are instrumental and intrinsic value for example, explained here, yet I like to think of this as social utility i.e. your contribution to the betterment of society. A doctor, a teacher, a policeman, you know, jobs of value, are important. I had a conversation along the same lines many years ago with a lovely human being, Shaun, that subsequently jacked in his salesman life for a job in the police force. He’s never looked back, even when arresting innocents. That’s a joke! He’s never looked back. As I said, I’ll be first against the wall. Where do you think you sit? Apart from ‘uncomfortably’ . . .
This week’s listening: Tim Ferriss’ podcast with the Grandad Jim Demther on life and love. Am a huge fan of Tim, but you can sense he’s feeling the feels on this one, a terrific listen.
This week’s reading: I finished Dumas' classic The Man in the Iron Mask last night - sooooo wildly different to the film! The book is available for free on the Gutenberg press, and I picked up Jem Demther’s 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership for this week thanks to Tim's podcast.
Take care of yourselves,
And then a plague of locusts arrived on top of a world already wracked with murder hornets and Elon Musk. Were the Kashmiri goat overlords taking over Welsh towns not enough???!!! You can almost hear God yelling to the human race, "Say Uncle!!!"
Good news though, football is back! Huzzaaaahh!! Whooop whoop!! Closed stadiums, disinfected balls, footballs also cleaned to within an inch of their lives . . . but it’s back, baby! But in Germany alone, so there. Despite fans across the world eager to see sack-loads of cash kicked around in the return of mighty moneybags Premier League, there has been a mixed reception from players. Danny Rose, the Tottenham left-back, has been quoted saying “people’s lives are at risk” and that he doesn’t “give a fuck about the nation’s morale.” Footballers can be so nuanced, can’t they? May well be the first time I genuinely like a Tottenham player.
But sometimes all you can do is just sit back and watch the world burn, reaching for marshmallows and a long stick. I picked up Dumas’ The Man In The Iron Mask this week, an excellent tome of a man locked away alone far from the reach of society and his family. Sounds idyllic, given the circumstances, and he gets brought food. And talking of people that should be locked up, the UK and US leadership in the last few weeks have been leading the way, again being beacons of light for governments and peoples around the world. At least, beacons of light that make you scream, ‘stay away from the fucking light!’
The British Prime Minister, taking a break from having affairs and talking rubbish, has decided to concentrate all his efforts on talking rubbish full-time in a national address to alter the tensions of a people still exalting over the good old days of only worrying about Brexit. From concerned they are now utterly worried and confused. Fresh from recovering from COVID himself, the PM has rushed to implement a radical fourteen-days isolation policy for incoming air-passengers, two months after many other countries did the same. It’s like advocating the sanctity of family then having six children with three different women. Only one of which you’ve married. #StayAtHome #SaveLives #MakeLives And if you’re thinking, ‘well, at least they’ve done the right thing finally after letting in 100,000 people since the March!’ you’d be wrong. They haven’t actually implemented the policy. Instead, they’ve talked about implementing it, ‘putting the world on notice’. I think the world has already had enough notice, don’t you? Not even trumped up trumpeter in chief D Trumpeton has been that colossally stupid. Actually he has, I take that back, as he advocates ‘inner light’ to tackle the virus. Perhaps my marshmallows can be toasted using my inner flames?
Well if I thought one-minute cold showers was emasculating in producing considerable shrinking of ego, then ten minutes produced ungodly results. The stuff of nightmares! But surprisingly it’s not the cold that kills, it’s the boredom. Three or four-minute showers are the norm in Chez Reed, ten minutes and I was running out of body parts to wash. If anything, the cold made for less surface area to clean. Still, when starting the program I never thought I’d be doing perfectly balanced headstands without tipping on my ass, so there are positives to the Wim Hof Method exercises.
The tome this week is Malcolm Gladwell’s Tipping Point, identifying how a product, idea or indeed infection become a pandemic. Alas, he doesn’t cover headstands. The expansive book even covers the evolution of mammalian brain size. Not all mammals, clearly. Robin Dunbar postulates it’s due to social grouping volume: humans live in significant communities, needing to form complex social relationships with not only twenty people, for example, but also how those twenty others interact with one another. In effect, our society demands more processing power. So, if your entire interactions for the last eight weeks amount to exchanging conversation with a succulent about cold showers, like mine have, chances are shrinkage is happening on multiple levels.
Given a busy week at the office, expectations were dialled down this weekend. Activities wholly involved some reading, falling asleep on the couch, waking myself up dribbling (hold yourself back, ladies!) and some walking around the neighbourhood so my belly doesn’t look like I’ve swallowed a cabbage. Or rather, less so. Avoiding the general public remains a hobby. Then of course it’s Week 5 of Wim Hof! I think my flexibility has improved, even if my drawing hasn't. That succulent looks like a hairy biscuit in a cup of tea. Oh, my Christ! I’ve just seen that next week I’m due for ten minutes of cold shower every day. Oooooofff!! I may as well just lop my bits off now.
Favourite Quote this week – “It’s all good talking about staying at home, but we need to start walking the walk. But at home” Colbert.
‘We are all going to die.’ Uplifting, no? Is that buzzing sound positivity zinging through your veins? Oh right, it’s just buzzing. Moving on. Reading affirmations of mortality is shocking, yet hearing it being yelled on an aeroplane by a friend laughing his head off as we try to ‘land’ in horrendous weather will stay with me for eternity. And yes, if you’re wondering, I peeled them off and threw them away afterwards, they were just too soiled to be recoverable.
The truth in the above however has nothing whatsoever to do with the current climate (apart from the buzzing, that’s got plenty to do with it). Our impermanence is inevitable. Far from being negative though, this should be a release, an unbridling of inhibitions that sets you free from restraint. You can do anything! Apart from meet people, or hold hands, or drink in a pub. But anything else! Wearing trackies for weeks at a time? Having a shower once a month whether you need it or not? Live that dream! COVID has launched a resurgence of self-improvement, of people rekindling simple loves like drawing, fitness, reading books you didn’t even know you owned, helping neighbours by giving back all that shit you borrowed over the years. We’re also spending more time with family and making sure we get valuable exercise outside. Naysayers may point to those two being interrelated, reminiscent of Captain Oates’ “I may be some time” and just never returning.
The outpouring of emotion seen across the world, the ‘we’re in this together’ pact is wonderful, albeit mostly ‘together’ in the same house. Far from shutting down, we have become a more caring race, showing compassion and empathy. Well apart from this guy, who remains an epic weapon. For every buck-toothed dribbling baboon of a President there is a counter-balance such as leaders we most want running our own country like Jacinda Ardern and legends like Colonel Tom Moore, fundraising at one hundred years old to raise £30million for the NHS. Let’s put aside the fact he’s raising money for a nationally funded entity bereft of cash, equipment, adequate testing or adequately paid staff, and instead concentrate on the fact he’s captured the hearts and minds worldwide. Leading through example, even at a hundred.
I’ll end with this, from the ludicrously good Sam Harris’ End of Faith which inspired this blog post:
“Consider it: every person you have ever met, every person you will pass in the street today (within social distancing guidelines), is going to die. Living long enough, each will suffer the loss of his friends and family. All are going to lose everything they love in this world. Why would one want to be anything but kind to them in the meantime?”
Among my favourite questions ever directed at anyone came this week when billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates was asked ’in 2015 when you warned us of a pandemic and no one listened . . . what else have you said recently that we haven’t listened to?’ That question from Stephen Colbert made me guffaw loudly. Moving from genius to a different type of intelligence, President d’Orange stepped up his attempt to stop the masses cashing in their unemployment cheques through advocating using disinfectant to clean lungs. Unsurprisingly the Trumpter in Chief refused to answer any questions in his next daily briefing, which was very brief indeed.
Sticking with the United States, so long a beacon to the world of freedom, technological advancement and florid, brazen obesity, they’ve continued to make the world feel better by being an unmitigated disaster. The country will soon have a million cases of COVID, which makes my investment in fifteen pairs of underwear online seem prescient. The only disappointment is that they’re not made of rubber and don’t come up to my nipples, as the extra reinforcement may be needed as the months draw on.
Remaining upbeat, the second series of After-Life, about a man continually crying and contemplating the point of living, began on Netflix. Viewers should be warned there are scenes of an explicit nature such as people gathering in pubs enjoying themselves and strangers shaking hands in public. Perhaps wait for the children to go to bed first. In slightly better news for beleaguered parents facing serious challenges in home-schooling, the BBC have bought education to the masses by creating programs covering the school syllabus. A collective ‘thank god!’ was heard from the mothers and fathers across the world. ‘If we’d known that one day, we would be responsible for the education our own children, we would never have had them!’ they didn’t add.
Taking advantage of the quieter times, I have tried to improve general fitness and lumbar lordosis i.e. having a back like a rippled carpet. Recommended by a good friend, I have found Athlean-X superb for home-exercise videos. Another warning: the host is ripped to fu** and therefore spends an inordinate amount of time with his top off. Send the kids to bed again. I have also found this week that if you do as many push-ups as you can whilst holding your breath, there is a period where a deep, unsettling blackness envelopes your brain. Suffice to say, the Wim Hof Method is taking its toll: seven more weeks to go. I have to admit that the minute-long showers in cold water, intermittent hot then another minute of cold have become easier to tolerate as the week has trudged by. I am fairly certain though that my counting has picked up apace: oooooneee, twwwwoooo, threee . . . thirty-six . . . fiddy-ate, fiddy-n, sxty and out!! The emasculation process has not improved.
Leaving on a high-note, Bill Gates’ response, by the way, was bio-terrorism. Not all doom and gloom eh? Stay home, stay safe, help others.
As we quickly approach midway in 2020 (less than six weeks away!) it’s heartening to know that time travel is possible. Thank fuck for that, I thought we were going to be screwed! Yes, it does involve some graft, granted, but a few weeks in the shed with some strong Yorkshire Tea should about do it. In theory, if we travelled out from Earth for five years at the speed of light then back again (u-turn at Proxima Centauri), although 10 years would have elapsed on the spacecraft, 29 years would have passed here on Earth. It’s an effort, I grant you, but Trump would definitely be out by then. But looking at the basics, for a year to pass . . . Yorkshire Tea, spacecraft, speed of light, four months. Send donations to my Kickstarter page #LetsGetTheFuckOutOfHere
Talking of time moving more slowly, I’m at the end of the second week of the Wim Hof Method, the amazing Iceman performing ‘superhuman’ feats in sub-zero nature. Wim comes across as an honest, scientific, energetic man, but I’ll be honest and say that starving myself of oxygen to start my day isn’t as appealing as it sounds. It’s almost as if our bodies want us to breathe! Two weeks down, cold showers embraced, breath holding for two and a half minutes. As a pick me up I started Sam Harris’ End of Faith, which is shaping up nicely to ruin all religion if Tom Paine’s Age of Reason didn’t stamp any last scintilla of faith already. Incidentally, cold showers leave much to be desired and have a time-travel experience all of their own: if I wanted to recall what I was like when five years old, all I have to do is look down in a cold shower. Totally emasculating. Am barely a male.
Taking advantage of spending more time at home, I’ve started drawing again, with the aim of adding cartoons to the blog. Bear with me! In trying to get more exercise over the last few weeks, I’ve started running, beating my personal best around a local track of four kilometres. It sounds great, but near the end I was passed by a tub of lard, shuffling along eating ice-cream. I had a sprint finish, thrashing my nemesis by inches. As I panted for breath at the last post, my heart climbing out of my mouth to get some fresh air, he just kept on plodding, lighting a cigarette. Utterly demoralising.
What am I listening to? The Grudge by Tool.
What am I watching? The occasional Steve Colbert and Have I Got News For You
What am I wearing? Same as everyone else, nothing from the waist down.
Does anyone else hold their breath when passing others in the street? A glimmer of sunshine and everyone is out, so I’m wheezing like an asthmatic set of plump bagpipes out there! Trying to remain upbeat as death-tolls hit 100,000 worldwide is, admittedly, a challenge. On the other hand, all those times I woke up and declared loudly, “God, I don’t want to go to work today!” Well, it seems the Lord heard me. It may have taken a while, but they were listening. For most the act of physically going to work has been eradicated, go Jesus!! Also, you may have in fact lost your job entirely. #MysteriousWays
The current situation around the world is remarkably shit. I admire British Prime Minister’s Boris Johnson’s undercover investigation into the NHS, although for a minute he looked like he would be a bit too undercover. Health services are on the brink, cities and parks are abandoned or being used as makeshift cemeteries, governments struggle to piece together pay-relief for the unemployed, and I am down to my last three sheets of toilet paper. Should be all right for another week, if I clench. But there is good news! Firstly, covid is all lies, so . . . phew, ammarite! Secondly, there has never been a better time to buy into stocks! Or hold. Or cash-out. Basically, no one knows. As legendary hedge fund manager Ray Dalio confirmed, we’re in the worst situation humanity has encountered in ninety years and although the current situation feels bleak, things will only get worse. Awesome.
Being sickeningly optimistic, I’ve been keeping myself busy: starting Wim Hof’s 10 week course to become a snowman, which essentially involves holding your breath a lot so far, which the world is collectively doing anyway; writing daily to finish the second book; running again (away from COVID, mostly); reading about the Blitz to understand my father’s childhood; and surfing the internet for a plethora of crap I will never need or use or even want, but purchase anyway. The latter is about 90% of my day. However, the remarkable rise in unprecedented global philanthropy hasn’t escaped me: thousands of free ‘get-fit at home’ videos flood the internet; neighbours across the globe introduced themselves, apologised for ignoring one another for the last ten years, and asked if they needed anything; Jack Dorsey donated $1bn to Covid-19 relief; celebrities sang a song as a nice gesture; the world was repulsed by said gesture; British comedians in true fashion set fire to it, danced on its ashes and used the remnants of the idea as loo paper.
Apropos of nothing, I am down to two sheets. Fortunately, I won’t be shaking hands with anyone for a while anyway. Or ever. Always a bright side! Stay safe everyone x
It’s hard to see positives in a pandemic, but there are some. A bucketload of negatives, naturally, but here are my Top 5 to bring some sunshine!
“For the love of God, stop going out!” and “you have to stay away from those people, they are bad news!” isn’t what I envisaged yelling at my parents at any point in my life. And yet here we are, the class of 2020, where we’re now all reminiscing at the clusterfuck of 2016 with doe-eyed happiness. Remember when only all those celebrities we really loved died? Sigh! Stock-markets are tanking, governments the world over are foundering for coherence under the mildest of questioning, and with some irony, people are selling their ass on street-corners for a clutch of toilet paper. If that surprises you, you should see what they’re offering for the unused stuff.
The world over, the virus has struck with equal veracity. Tens of thousands of cases are evident in China, Italy, Iran, Spain, Germany, the United States and France. Yet one country stands our cleanly above the rest, with those canny Deutschlanders only having deaths in their scores instead of hundreds. Asked how they did it, the German Ambassador claimed, “Well we are all very clean people, we wash our hands very much. Isn’t that right, Hans?”
Awful puns aside, as if there are any other kind of puns, many women of course are welcoming the virus with both sweet-smelling hands, the female species seeing the outbreak of a pandemic the last-ditch attempt for men to finally wash their fucking mitts after going for a pee. Guys, letting your hands “air-drying” isn’t a thing! Go on, don’t wash your hands, I double-dare you! But before you do that, just sign this small piece of paper here . . . and here . . . and here. And date it there. And good luck!
And lo, with the world gone to hell in unclean-hand-basket, we call on the leaders of the free world to show the righteous path. Jacinda Arden, the Prime Minister of New Zealand and seemingly one of the only world leaders radiating a modicum of trust, read a message to the nation. Look how measured, composed and assured Jacinda is. Oh, and in her first ever term as leader, Jacinda has made decriminalised abortion, banned semi-automatic weapons and been seen as a beacon of light for the Muslim world under a terrorist attack. Doesn’t every country deserve a Jacinda?
#LetsGetMoreYoungWomenInOfficeCosIAmSickOfTheseUselessBastards is not trending. Yet.
Aside from coughing all over everyone, the most important thing for me was simply not ruining the wedding with anything inappropriate. Any onset of Tourette’s would at best be perceived as a wry-joke, at worst a total clusterfuck. It’s good to start off with lofty goals like that when embarking your first ever, and maybe last ever, Master of Ceremonies gig.
I had been asked by a dear friend months ago if I would MC her wedding, and immediately said yes before the fear could set in. Once you’re committed, the rest will just ease on by . . . right? I spent the next few months jotting down ideas, culminating in a whopping three tiny paragraphs. I had known them ten years and had three paragraphs – pathetic! Since preparation is key for these things, so I imagined, I expected the bride and groom to send through things like run-sheets and speeches in advance. Alternatively, I could receive the finalised schedule the night before and the one speech I was to make on the morning of the wedding. Saaa-weet.
The day continued to be full of surprises: the bride and groom were very, very relaxed and calm, which was odd but welcome; driving the bride to the wedding and learning her family hadn’t arrived, I did laps of the countryside with said a sweary bride; expecting forty guests, there were a team of ninety-strong to usher, corral and harangue; my duties would span almost eight hours instead of a few introductions and sitting-the-f***-down. And boy, did those guests need herding, like children at a party: “Oi, what did I just say? What did I JUST say?! . . . Dinner was supposed to be at 7, where have you been?! . . . You can’t smoke there, go around the side of the building! . . . Put that chainsaw down right now!” Kids, eh?
And you know what? It was great fun. Far from being fearful, I thoroughly enjoyed myself, speaking with as many guests as I could, shaking-hands like a presidential hopeful, and fully acted the confident MC I wanted to be! Pushing myself into uncomfortable once again providing worth the cost, in this case quite literally since I’d had to travel from New York to Melbourne, over twenty-five hours of flights for this event.
It did reignite though the love of writing, of crafting a joke and the need to stand up and speak, basically a want to make others laugh. When crowds aren’t a thing with coronavirus tearing the arse out of the world, laughs and public gatherings are going to be hard to come by. Maybe people can email in their mirth. Or lack of it, a stony silence being as good a measure of enjoyment levels as any. That or a cough.
Am getting back on the wagon after my hiatus: writing my book again; writing anything again; reading Tom Paine’s Age of Reason; curating my hundreds of photos taken in North America (above); gym; tennis; swimming; eating healthy; walking lots; spending time with friends and family; wrestling pasta out of the hands of families in the supermarket. Just because the world is falling over, no reason to stop pursuing your passions (the past one is a new hobby, admittedly). Apropos of nothing, on a serious note, when you do go shopping, just because you’re worried there may be little supplies, try not to be a complete arsehole: treat others kindly; share a 24 pack of toilet roll; encourage the elderly to the front of the queue. Go to it.
Writing and writing...