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I am reading a DELIGHTFUL book, A Renegade History of the United States by Thaddeus Russell: How Drunks, Delinquents and Other Outcasts Made America. Pirates, prostitutes, pimps, homosexuals, shit-faced Irish dock workers. It’s a badass read, and a fantastic subversion of the great American myth: that the country has been shaped by Puritan values from the start. Nuh uh – noisy sexy drunken rebels were just as if not more important in creating the nuttiest nation on earth.

In a fantastic chapter on early Jewish immigrants, the author points out that Jews only became stereotyped as nerds in the 1930s onwards – prior to this, they were renowned for being the nation’s top athletes, musicians, and dancers.

This passage caught my eye and brought me great joy.

Jewish immigrants took over vaudeville theatre in the early twentieth century and made it into a celebration of unseemly pleasures. Most disturbing to the disciplinarians of the time was the dancing of female vaudeville performers – in particular the undulations of female dancers and the “tough dances” in which copulation was simulated.

There you have it folks: Jews invented twerking.

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All my Jewish friends: you’re welcome.

For more check out this magnificent podcast with the author.

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It finally happened.

I got a tattoo.

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For 15 years I have observed my friends get blind munted, come up with fantastic concepts, and have weird ideas inscribed indelibly in ink on their skin.

For EVER, my friends. Forever.

I have always resisted the temptation to use my body as a Post-It-Note…

Until today my friends. Until today.

Behold: my first tattoo.

Long story short: One leg is longer than the other, so I have a variety of problems with my foot/leg/hip on the right side.

Think what you like about acupuncture. Every single specialist I’ve ever seen picks two specific points on my right leg to prick, and it always does the trick.

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Again: always the exact same two points.

My conclusions:

A) There’s clearly something to acupuncture,

and

B) Why can’t I do it to myself? I mean, it’s not open heart surgery, surely I can self-administer?

Initial idea: Two circles on one leg. There’s no reason I couldn’t make it f’ing cool. And after all, mummies are often found with tattoos marking their acupuncture points. It’s an ancient practice.

Result? Six tattoos. Six, my friends. Six.

Conversation:

Me: “Mum, sorry but I’m getting a tattoo.”

Martha (audibly in panic): “Surely your skin will move?! ARE YOU SURE THIS IS A GOOD IDEA.”

Me: “Look – I’ll ask my acupuncturist if it’s a bad idea, ok?”

Acupuncturist, Garry Trainer (who is a legend) – not only did he think it was an excellent idea, he suggested that instead of two points, I should get six.

 

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Et, voila.

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On this day of unusual snowfall in London, I am amused at how much people are whining about how COLD it is and worried about how DANGEROUS it is … when it’s a few inches of snow and just -1C.

But you know who isn’t whining? The city’s children. Because they know that snow is fun.

I am reminded of a day in February 2009, when I saw a bunch of teenagers building a giant penis out of snow.

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From my Flickr diary:

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All the kids got the day off school. I went for a park to see them enjoying the rarity of English snow.

Everywhere kids were making snow sculptures. I came across these teens –
who were putting waaay more effort into this thing than anyone else in the park.

Me: “So, how long have you guys been making your penis?”

“About an hour. And it’s not a penis, miss. It’s a slide. For kids.”

“Uh huh. Guys I wasn’t born yesterday.”

“Bruv, I can’t WAIT to see the slide get excited, innit.”

“Cute. I’ll catch you guys in a bit.”

I walked around the rest of the park and came back 20 minutes later.

“Man, so this is like the most snow you’ve ever seen in your lives, eh guys?”

“Yeah. You too?”

“Naw, I’m Canadian, this is nothing.”

“Aw shit, so your country must be FULL of huge penises!”

Cue applause, laughter.

“Have fun playing with your penis guys.”

“We will!”

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– – – – – – –

British adults – don’t whine. Learn from the children. Get drunk, wrap up, and go make some naughty sculptures out of the snow. This only happens once in a while. If I don’t see a giant vulva on my lawn by lunchtime tomorrow, you’re all grounded.

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Dear Santa, I know it’s been three weeks since Christmas, but can I have a belated present?

May I please have a crystal ball to tell me if the world is going to erupt in nuclear war or unlivable changes due to (take your pick) migration crises, climate change, economic meltdown, global war. I’d like to know now if I should bother with this whole “getting on the property ladder” malarky and all that, or if I should just pack in all my big projects and just spend the next decade having fun and helping the homeless.

Just don’t want to waste my time, you know?

Also, if I knew I wasn’t going to live to be old, I would totally get subwoofers installed on my headphones, as hearing loss would no longer be a concern, and I’d gorge on all the awful things that are bad for your body but oh, so lovely.

Love
Zoe

Last year I wrote a feature for the BBC about “pirate spiders”, which don’t make their own webs but prey on other spiders and then steal their webs (“little bastards” my friend Peter remarked).

One of the scientists just emailed to say they’ve discovered a new species of “intertidal” spider from tropical Queensland, which they have named after Bob Marley because his song “High Tide or Low Tide” inspired them as the spider lives in a “high tide low tide” habitat.

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Charming or what. They even quote Bob in their actual abstract:

“None but ourselves can free our minds.”

Bob Marley, Redemption Song (1980).

https://evolsyst.pensoft.net/article/15735/

More scientists should be able to quote legendary musicians in academic papers. Just saying.

 

I’m finding it hard to contain the joy that this bit from Bojack Horseman has brought to my life.

Transcript:

Mr. Peanutbutter’s House [80s family sitcom] featured a pair of twins, Zoe and Zelda. Zelda was the sunny, fun-loving extrovert.

“Look at my pumpkin, Mr. Peanutbutter.”

“Pretty smile, Zelly-belly.”

Whereas Zoe was the smart, cynical introvert.

“My pumpkin’s throwing up because Halloween encourages excessive consumption of refined sugar at a time when obesity rates are sky high. Plus, Halloween costumes are a gateway to casual racism.”

“Why don’t I keep the knife, Zo-bo?”

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Not only does Zoe’s disdain for Hallowe’en align with my disdain for Christmas, as a kid I always made a pumpkin that was either throwing up or oozing brains out the top of its head from a lobotomy. Always with a frowny face, never smiling or scary. Always with a frowny face, never smiling or scary.

One year I took it up a notch and deliberately picked one that had a rotten patch, which I used to create leprotic sores all over my pumpkin’s face.

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Also, people have been known to call me Zo Bo.

This alignment of brainwaves brings me no end of satisfaction.

So, my friend Alexander Parsonage and I were watching an episode of John Oliver about Putin and Trump’s love affair, and we were astounded at the number of parallels between Russia and America:

– egomaniacal uber-macho leaders
– imperialist ambitions
– romantic attachment to nukes
– domination of country by super-rich oligarchy (despite both nations claiming to be a land based on the concept of equality)
– love of busty blondes
– have produced some of the world’s most amazing culture – think Russian ballet, American Motown, Russian classical music, novels from both nations – but have also produced some of the trashiest forms of music and television in human history; utterly sublime crap

So we thought, why not have a party to see which is the craziest country on earth??

Alexander’s description for the Facebook page for the event:

– – – – – –

So America has moved on. It was a ‘Special Relationship’ we had for a while, but they’ve decided they need space to explore new sides of themselves. Let’s be blunt, they just like it more rough than we do… but isn’t it great that they’ve got a new playmate to experiment with their new human rights BDSM fetish? Sure, we’d all much rather they’d agreed on a safe word before they started, but I for one think we should be celebrating their new found companionship with the Russian Bear.

So assuming we haven’t been incinerated in WW3 by then, let’s have a night of US-Russian inspired fusion cooking, cocktails and satire watching. As an inspiration for fusion dishes to bring:

– Putine (sauerkraut topped poutine)
– Stroganoff loaded fries
– Borscht burger
– Deep fried chicken Kiev
– Loka-her-up (potato latka pancakes with bacon and maple syrup)
– Trumpplings

Obviously Moscow Mules, White Russians, Manhattans and vodka-bourbon chasers will all be encouraged.

Plus, the photo for the event:

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Essentially we made a feast of meaty American-Russian fusion food, loaded the bar with vodka and whisky, and ate, drank, and laughed ourselves stupid watching insane shit on Youtube. A perfect way to spend a cold January night if you ask me. I mean, if we’re all going to die imminently in a hailfire of nukes, we might as well be nicely sozzled to cushion the pain, and a bit fattened up to prepare for nuclear winter. M’I rite?

Behold our nuclear bunker comfort food:

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Putine. Technically this is a Canadian dish, but I allowed it because Canada is the only country between the US and Russia.

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Borscht Burgers, with ketchup made from beets and the patties made from pork, with sour cream (natch). Inspired.

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KFC Fried Chicken Kiev – proper chicken kiev deep fried with a spicy coating using the actual Colonel’s secret 11 herbs and spices (which were leaked last year).

Hats off to my mate Dan Garber of Record-Play for bringing the most bizarre food of the evening: pickled herring and microwaveable French fries.

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And for creating a truly bizarre music playlist: a Spotify collection of songs containing the word “Russia” or “USSR” or “America”. There’s some great stuff on there – Back in the USSR being an obvious one – but a lot of fucking weird metal. It was a good prelude during cooking to get us in the right mood for twisted humour.

Hats off to our mate Janet for bringing what basically amounted to an entire bar (only bourbon and vodka based drinks allowed).

And of course Alex and my flatmate Gwynne for spending what must have been two hours with the deep fryer.

And an EXTRA SPECIAL thank you to my darling friend Neon Kelly for sending us a special message, as he couldn’t be there in person with his Russian impression, which I adore.

Also, I guess we should thank Putin for orchestrating a global takeover of the world by the Russian mafia and getting the Orange One into power. You sure pulled a fast one on us this time!

I could have spent like 36 hours just watching weird crap from the world’s batshit crazy superpowers and eating myself stupid.

For your interest, here are some of the weird things we decided to watch.

We kicked off the evening with a couple of the majestic Samantha Bee’s bits on Russian interference in American politics:

Samantha Bee on Russian Thinkfluencers

Full Frontal is Scared: Masha Geesen Edition

Then we moved into the weird, the wacky and the truly terrifying.

Soviet Anthem on Eight Floppy Drives

The Donald Trump Cheerleaders

Hugh Laurie’s Song For America

CNN: A look at the snake handlers of Appalacia

Dash Cam Russia

John Oliver on Nuclear Weapons

Borat – Throw the Jew Down the Well

Worker and Parasite!

Happy Together: Red Russian Army

One Like Putin (he has his own pop song didn’t you know)

Russian pop star Vitas

 

And many more.

Honestly, we really did only scratch the surface of insane crap to watch from both superpowers. This bears repeating.

 

Here is a photo of me during my first Christmas in London in 2002.

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And here’s a photo I took at 3.45 today.

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From the 2002 pic, note the look on my face: a mixture of confusion and resentment. Confused that the grass in England is greener in winter than summer. What?! HOW. Grass dies and goes yellow in autumn – this shouldn’t be possible. What’s going on. Am I an in an alien realm.

And resentful because it was so blissfully warm. I can’t bear the cold, and though snow is pretty, growing up in Toronto was miserable for me during the winters – the cold (down to -35C for weeks at a time when I was a kid) always just sucked every ounce of happiness out of my body.

Christmas in England to me felt fucking weird.

And it still does – and it never will stop feeling so fucking weird. This pic of a slate grey sky, the streetlights coming on, children playing without sweaters, and electric green grass… none of it computes. Head hurts. THIS IS NOT WHAT CHRISTMAS LOOKS LIKE, my brain screams.

And yet… I adore it. England, my heart is yours. And always will be.

Happy Holidays everyone, from my lovely polite robust Canucks to my snaggle toothed drunken Pommies, I love you all.

You know how restaurants will have glossy B&W 8X10s of famous celebrities who have eaten there, with a swish signature to say “David Hasselhoff Endorsed” or whatever.

So, I live in Clerkenwell, about a 15 minute walk from Boris Jonhson’s house over in Islington. I just noticed that a barbershop near me has a flat screen monitor in the window with a shot of Boris getting his hair cut there. (It’s called The Bay Room if you want to go harass them.)

Now, I know his hair is famous, but it isn’t famous for being good.

I would cut off a toe to have been present when he gave the hairdresser instructions:

“Please make it look flouncy as though I’ve just rolled out of bed, windswept like I’ve biked twelve kilometres, and cut using a cereal bowl on top of my head, a la the proles, to hide the fact that I’m a racist, entitled, Bullingdon Club twat.”

Thought I’d share this visual treat for you all.

HAPPY HOLIDAYS

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Growing up in Toronto, I had a golden retriever named Norton, who was the sweetest, most darling dog in the universe. I can’t imagine owning any other breed.

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Every single winter when it snowed for the first time, he would absolutely lose his shit: because he had the memory of a dog, he reacted to every single first snowfall as though he’d never seen snow in his entire life. Even when he was 14 years old, he still went absolutely apeshit at the sight of snow, responding with a mixture of excitement, terror, confusion, joy, and befuddlement. He’d trot around the garden staring in awe at the white ground, not knowing what the fuck to do with himself. It was an annual ritual and it made me laugh my ass off every year.
 
Dear British people: thank you for reminding me of my lovely dog. Your annual response to an inch of snow is pretty much the same – especially the crippling confusion and inability to know how to react to the mysterious, otherworldly white stuff. (Tip: create an urban infrastructure that doesn’t grind to a halt when it’s 2C and the snow instantly turns to slush anyways.) It’s annoying the way you whine and crumble – but gosh darn it, it’s pretty cute.
 
Bless you.

PS This is what a real “snow day” looks like. It snowed five feet and people who didn’t have porches like ours couldn’t even open their front doors for a couple of days.

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