Saturday, 7 April 2007

Mario Kart


Mario Kart had always seemed to be a practically flawless game, providing the perfect platform for fun competition between friends. There was, however, one aspect of the game that infuriated me. I hated the feeling that there was a malevolent overlord controlling the action, hell-bent on restricting the progress of the person in first place. I hated the fact that the ‘reward’ for reaching the front of the pack, the very pinnacle of your field, was to receive inferior items. I had worked hard, honed my skills and left the stragglers behind but I received no fanfare, no remuneration and no help from the mysterious deity figure in charge of the game. I would be fed endless bananas and green shells whilst the lazy, unskilled ne’er-do-wells dined out on lighting and golden mushrooms. This seemed completely unfair and left me with a jaded attitude towards the world. Why try in life when your efforts go unrewarded and the idle slackers get given everything on a plate? It was encouraging people to strive for mediocrity. The message was clear: don’t bother trying, because one day someone will drop a star into your lap and you’ll win on the home straight.

It’s only recently that I realised that I was wrong. Mario Kart is not the dystopian monster that I thought it was. It is, in fact, a perfect model for society. Imagine how boring the game would be if the front-runners got all the best items. The less skilled players would soon lose interest because they would have no chance. The game would quickly deteriorate because these people would give up. In life, when the perennial have-nots grow restless of their lack of opportunity, it causes civil unrest, boredom and crime. In Mario Kart, they are always afforded a glimmer of hope that they could be a winner. It means that eventually everyone will have their moment at the top. We would all have our chance to experience life as a leader, but only the best would have the necessary skills to stay at the top. It means that there would be no chance for talented people to slip through the net because there would be no elitism.

Applying the rules of Mario Kart to reality would ensure that life’s natural winners were required to constantly raise their standards and to avoid complacency. This relentless strive for excellence would result in benefits for all members of society. If their standards did fall then there would be someone at the back of the pack with three red shells in their box hungrily waiting to take over. At the other end of the spectrum, the have-nots would never lose interest in life because they would know that if they played long enough they would have a chance to topple the big man and have their moment in the sun.

Although this system is technically unfair, it’s one that works flawlessly in Mario Kart. The more opportunities that people are given to prove themselves, the further society will progress. My original thought was that the system promoted laziness amongst losers. What I have discovered is that it encourages excellence in winners. Life would be more fun and less predictable. Now all we need is an utterly fair, uncorrupted and emotionless overlord to cast their eye over the entire world and award help where it is due. Unfortunately, this person does not exist. It would have to be a computer, which is another issue altogether.

Edited to add footnote: There is one item in Mario Kart that I will never try to justify. It is an ugly beast, borne from jealousy and malice. It has no place at the table of equality and exists only to punish success. There is no reason for the blue shell to exist, it tips the scales of justice too far into the favour of the weak. I hate it.

Boring Druggies

Whether recreational drugs have a positive or negative influence on people is a tired, futile question. Some people like them and some don’t, which means there’s no point trying to establish a definitive answer. There is, however, one universal truth when it comes to those who have all-encompassing drug habits: they are boring people. There is nothing less inspiring than being in the company of someone whose every waking moment is spent thinking or talking about their drug of choice. As soon as you start to define yourself by your drug use then you may as well replace your face with a brass etching of a house brick and your personality with an ironing-board cover.

If at this moment you are thinking or talking about any sort of drug then I have bad news for you: if the person you’re talking to does not share your obsession then they are currently contemplating suicide. If, on the other hand, they do share your hobby then the very thought of the conversation you two are having makes me want to set off a Roman Candle into my face just to liven things up a bit.

People who define themselves by one activity are losers. This rule applies to those who can only talk about their degree, football, clubbing or whatever.As soon as you classify yourself in terms of one activity that you do it’s time to re-evaluate your trite little life. In this sense recreational drug users are the worst offenders of all. There is something intolerably odious about a room full of people talking about where they bought their drugs, how much they paid for them, what effect they’re having on them and where their next batch is coming from. In a way, the losers who can only talk about football or their ludicrously dreary courses are bearable, because they don’t alienate outsiders to the same degree as drug-obsessives do. If I know that I am about to meet someone who can only talk about 19th century Russian agriculture, then I will make an effort to learn something about the subject so I can engage in a conversation on some sort of level with them. It is not so easy for an outsider to infiltrate a group of drug users. The only route in is to take the drug, and that is a much bigger commitment than typing in ‘sickle’ on Google and learning some facts about soil.

You should never have to affect the state of your central nervous system in order to feel comfortable amongst a group of people. Everyone knows by now that you should only do things that you really want to do. If that includes getting obsessed with drugs then by all means do it, just don’t alienate those people who aren’t so keen. If you don’t have that burning desire but still find yourself feeling tempted to join in, think again. Take a look around the room and listen to the inane drivel pouring out of people’s mouths. Do you really want it that badly? Spend your time with people who talk about things that are accessible to everyone, not just the exclusive members of their mind-numbing clique. If you’re going to take drugs then make sure that you maintain interests in the real world too. Because if you don’t then you’ll soon become a pariah and the deeper you plummet into your tiresome bubble, the harder it will be to reintegrate into society.

Obesity

It’s about time that seriously obese people who have destroyed their perfectly good bodies decide whether their affliction is the result of mental illness or the consequence of being lazy and greedy. In the worst cases, it is self-harming. A morbidly obese person stuffing themselves with junk food is no different to a self-mutilator cutting themselves or a bulimic person making themselves sick. The only distinction is that obesity is more widespread and less easy to hide. It has all the hallmarks of a mental illness, so perhaps obese people should seek professional help before they eat themselves into oblivion. If indeed it is the consequence of greed and idleness then it should be cracked down upon. I’m a firm believer in individual freedom but watching people destroy themselves and becoming a burden on others is deplorable and it needs to stop before the situation becomes endemic. The days of the jolly fat man are over. If you’re clinically obese through nobody’s fault but your own then you’re irresponsible, lacking in self-discipline and slovenly.

Pop Idol winner Michelle McManus said in an interview that she used to eat 12 packs of Doritos every night. This seems incredible. Did she reach her 11th bag and genuinely want more? Even if she did, why didn’t she restrain herself? It’s pure greed, in its most childish and vulgar form. Addiction to food isn’t a disease, just like alcoholism and sex addiction aren’t diseases. If you become dependent on your vices then it means you’re out of control and self-centred and it could be argued that you don’t deserve any help. If you can’t grasp the concept of moderation then there’s something seriously wrong with you. Luckily, we live in a society that is actively trying to solve the problem, but if you abuse this support then there’ll be nobody to blame when you drop dead at 30.

The consequences will affect your life in more ways than simply ruining your health. Like it or not, the world we live in is tough. If a fit person and a 25 stone behemoth with similar credentials apply for the same job who do you think it going to get it? Wake up and smell the donuts, the fat boy’s going home. That’s the way it is and it’s not going to change. Before you pipe up with ‘but that’s what it was like for black people 50 years ago’ I suggest you punch yourself in the face very hard until you realise how stupid you are. It’s totally different and you know it, this is a health issue, not a discriminatory one. You’d no sooner employ someone who has no control over what they eat as you would someone who has no control over what they drink, they’re both liable to drop dead at any moment.

It’s so sad to see people lose their self-respect to such an extent, but the situation doesn’t seem to be improving. If fat people got the same level of abuse that skinny people get in the media then they’d soon shed a few pounds, but for some reason the clinically obese are untouchable. Pick up any women’s magazine and I guarantee you there’ll be more scathing, sensationalist pictures of bony celebrities than the chunky ones. No doubt these articles are written by big, fat, lazy hacks who sit in front of a computer all day. Forget about the people who aren’t eating enough to try and get skinny, they’ll be fine. There’s a far bigger problem staring us in the face in the form of gluttonous, inactive, lethargic obese people and if we’re not careful they’re going to become so widespread that their affliction will ingrain itself in society and start being normal.

Nestlé


New students may have noticed that the union shop is deficient in products made by Nestle, the hugely successful baby-murderers from Switzerland. This is the result of a boycott that was imposed in the aftermath of the substitute breast milk scandal. If you don’t know about it then it’s worth reading up on but I can save you some time by telling you that it’s pretty terrible. It is possible that when you find out the details, you may never buy Nestle products again from anywhere. That is your choice and it is nobody’s business but your own. This, however, is where my grievance lies.

The union may represent me, but it cannot think for me. If I read a 1000 page report on Nestlé’s immoral behaviour and decide that I still want a Toffee Crisp then by all means disapprove of me, but don’t take away my freedom of choice. A far more effective boycott would be to stock the products but watch them go unsold and then never buy them again.

So I lay down a challenge to the union shop. Forget the embargo for a week and buy a few boxes of Nestle goods. If they remain unsold then congratulations, you represent the student body admirably. If, however, they all get bought then my suspicions are correct and the union doesn’t speak for the people, it merely represents a minority of busybodies.

Still, at least the Nestle decision is clean-cut. If there’s one thing more annoying than freedom-snatching it’s fence-sitting. The union’s stance on Coca-Cola is laughable. Either ban it outright or keep your mouths shut. Either way, get some conviction and stop representing us with such weedy opinions. No-one cares that you ‘frown on’ the company, it feels like we’re being represented by a disappointed parent-figure. Frowning on Coca-cola has all the effectiveness of shaking your fist at an atom bomb.

I know people will point out that we’re a democracy, and that the union represents the view of the majority so in theory the policy could change, but really, how likely is that? On the one hand you have human rights activists who are appalled by Nestle’s third-world shenanigans. On the other, you have people who quite enjoy a Lion bar with their lunch. Who do you think is more likely to come out and vote? You shouldn’t need to go to the polls to earn the right to eat a Milkybar. Most people don’t even bother leaving their house for a general election, why would they change their ways for confectionary?

This may seem like a minor issue, but where will it end? If I turn on the news tonight and discover that Powerade are operating a sweat-shop in Thailand will they get banned too? What if (god forbid) salt and vinegar Discos are exposed on Panorama as the financiers of an eastern European prostitution-ring? Eventually the union shop will only stock Fairtrade pine-nuts and toilet paper.The fact is, as long as a company is untouchable by the law, it is the right of the individual to choose to avoid them or buy from them. By taking that choice away, the minority of protesters are empowered, the people are frustrated and the boycott is weakened.

Congestion

This university is too congested. It’s simply not designed for so many people and the resources are being precariously stretched. Have you ever found yourself in a queue for a computer because diabolical simpletons are checking their facebook accounts? It’s not much fun is it? Luckily, I have recently been made aware of a secret cluster that is perennially empty, so my problems are over for now, but I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before the gurning hordes of mouth-breathers drag themselves to my personal retreat and soil it with their idiocy. There are too many people here and too many of them are doing nothing except getting in the way and drying up resources. The bottom line is that this University needs to start clearing the deadwood. We should take inspiration from the glorious spring of 2001and instigate a foot and mouth-style cull. I’m not suggesting that we actually burn people like sickly lambs, but merely clear them out and start afresh.

There are queues literally everywhere. I don’t even know where to start with the union shop. If you go there during the afternoon you’ll find yourself in a queue snaking round the entire premises that wouldn’t look out of place at Alton Towers. This wouldn’t be a problem if there was an exhilarating ride waiting for you, but there isn’t. There’s a flimsy, overpriced sandwich and a rude checkout girl. The shop isn’t even good, or cheap, or anything that a union shop should be. It’s the biggest waste of space since Anne Frank’s drum-kit.

I’m also sick and tired of getting stuck behind people who walk slowly. If there’s one thing that we need to instil at this uni it’s a compulsory standardised speed of walking. It doesn’t matter where you’re from or what you believe, walking pace is the one facet of life that simply cannot be multi-cultural. Walk faster or I’ll push you down the stairs.

An even bigger problem than the slow walkers are the loiterers. I am offering a bounty of £5 to anyone who identifies and captures the person who causes the bottlenecks on the red route corridor. As I stand gridlocked amid the sea of people, I often wonder what’s going on at the front of the queue. I imagine a troupe of sloths, chatting leisurely to each other, standing four abreast, casually listening to ambient jazz. If you’re the person stuck behind them, do your community a favour and unleash a fanatical torrent of abuse. It was politeness that got us into this ghastly mess, so you must forsake it and let the loitering fools know exactly what you think about their scandalous lack of urgency.

It shouldn’t be this way. There should be enough space for everyone. I propose draconian measures to ensure that this dream becomes a reality. Walking slowly should be punished by a 20% penalty on the culprit’s final degree mark. Loitering and chatting on the apex of a corridor whilst people are trying to get past should constitute automatically having to repeat the year. Checking your facebook account whilst there is a queue for computers should be disciplined by being skinned alive, thrown into a vat of salt and vinegar discos and then getting pissed on by a dehydrated racehorse. Our streets will soon be free of the amblers, the loiterers and the idlers and our university will run like the well-oiled machine it was meant to be.

Animal Charities

Whilst queuing in a shop last week, I noticed two charity boxes next to the till. One box was collecting in the name of famine relief and the other was raising money for a local donkey retirement home. I assumed the latter was some kind of hoax until I witnessed a woman shun the famine box and instead give her remaining coppers to the donkey charity. This, to me, is incredible. The only thing in this world more useless than a donkey is a retired donkey, yet their luxurious lifestyle is being funded by the general public whilst humans are dying unnecessarily. What is wrong with us?

I struggle to comprehend the thought process of a person who would commit such a heinous crime of twisted generosity. I can only assume that these people are moral deviants who get a bigger kick out of providing an ancient donkey with soft hay than they do saving a child’s life. They are so removed from the real world that a donkey seems worthier of their help than a human. These people are perverts and should be treated as such.

Until every human on this planet has the sufficient food, shelter and healthcare to survive, I will not give money to animal charities, and neither should you. I’d have set fire to Noah’s ark if it meant making one deprived human’s life one per cent more bearable. Just think of the good that could be done with all the donations received by these pointless charities. Think of the cures that we may have found and the human lives that could have been saved.

The madness doesn’t stop there. I’m sure you will have received a pamphlet through your door inviting you the opportunity to ‘adopt’ a baby animal. You may also have had a similar leaflet offering you the chance to do the same thing for a child. Personally, I have responded to neither. This makes me apathetic. Some people respond only to the animal option. This makes them sinister.I understand that some people have convinced themselves that they love animals, and by giving money to these charities they feel like they’re helping a cause that it close to their heart. These are the same people who refer to their dogs as their ‘best friends’ and give them proper funerals when they die. I have news for you; you don’t love animals, they’re just replacing something that is missing in your life. Figure out what it is, fill the void with human interaction, and get some perspective on the world.

Raising money to train guide dogs is an obvious exception to the proposed embargo on animal charities. This is perfect example of what animals should be used for. If we’re not eating them then we should be using them to drastically improve the standard of human lives. When was the last time a retired donkey improved anyone’s life?

So when you are faced with the choice to donate your last pound either to stressed dogs or cancer research, stop and think carefully about where your money should go. If you genuinely care more about animals than humans then you’re misanthropic, confused and deeply disturbed. There is, however, a glimmer of hope that you may be able to change your ways. Wait until a close relative gets struck down by an incurable illness; it’ll be intriguing to see where your money goes then.