Tuesday, 10 May 2011

#24 Groupon

Few corporate success stories offer better proof of the Western world's enduring sinistry than the rise of Groupon. The website is said to be preparing an IPO valuing it at $25bn. Consider the creepiness of the services the company provides, and you begin to realise just how dark a world we are living in.

It seems harmless enough. Every day users of the site simply receive a couple of emails. But all is not what it seems. These missives arrive in the dead of night, like storks delivering babies, or Scooterman (on whom more later). Each advertises a special one-off deal, more often than not an activity suitable only for someone using a date to counteract crippling natural deficiencies. As a general life rule, the suffix 'for two' should be avoided wherever possible.

If you think this is an exaggeration, some recent examples speak for themselves: Thai massage, woodworking, sleep-pod relaxation, Garra-rufa fish pedicure, go-karting, hang-gliding lessons, Brazilian blow-dry, falconry. I say again: falconry.

On one hand it is probably healthy that these eerie niche pursuits be taken out of the hands of idle trust-funders and Geography teachers from match.com. On the other, however, this democratisation not only makes it easier but - thanks to its deposit/voucher system - actually entices the dilletante to take someone on a creepy night out. It encourages people to do, in pairs, things they wouldn't normally dream of doing but which 'sound nice' when presented in the right way.

In short, it is a factory of sinistry: $25bn of dark feeling the world was quite happy without.

Attic Rating: 7.8

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

#23 Valentine's Day

One of the main tenets of sinistry is that it confers on its instigator a hidden sexual advantage - leverage for deviancy that is clear to everyone bar its victim, who instead simply thinks the sinstigator is being ‘kind’, ‘generous’, ‘thoughtful’ or, worst of all, ‘lovely’. There is no more telling sign that sinistry is at hand than the recipient (often female) saying to her friends (also usually female): “Oh yeah thanks it was really lovely, he was so thoughtful and sweet”.

In fact, he (as it usually is) was being neither sweet nor lovely. He was being deeply sinister. You might say he was being thoughtful, but only in the sense that he had successfully conjured a plan that combined in the correct measure financial generosity, emotional blackmail and some kind of horrendous faux-cultural visitation, and then executed this plan efficiently. Not thoughtful out of consideration for her feelings, except if you count offering her dignity sufficient anasthetic for what he has in mind for later.

Valentine’s Day is without doubt the yearly highpoint of this behaviour. Though in the weeks leading up both men and women will say things like “oh we never do anything for Valentine’s Day, it’s so commercial”, or “we’re just going to have pasta and watch a DVD at home”. Neither of these is remotely true. Firstly, no self-respecting Western woman has eaten pasta since 2002, and secondly the men have in fact been working feverishly to draw up an itinerary of unparalleled sinistry. Mini-breaks are considered and then dumped on grounds of cost, lavish meals served on heart-shaped plates are booked. Theatre tickets to see terrible shows are arranged, and treasure trails laid around Royal Parks. Hotel rooms are booked around the corner. Why? So that for one night the happy couple can go on a mini-break to the Deviant’s Republic of Sinistry, just like all the other couples.

Men do not do this because they are thinking “it’ll be nice to give her a nice day and make her feel special” They do this because they are thinking “It’ll be nice to fuck her in the ass after tying her spread-eagled and gagged to the rickety aluminium bedposts of the Southwold Premier Inn and get away with it”. As the famous saying goes, it’s not degrading if you’ve been taken to the Botanical Gardens that day.

It should be noted that women, in their own way, can be equally as sinister as the men on this day, particularly with regard to other women. Though it reveals a shocking naivety with regard to the intentions of their menfolk, women’s Valentine’s Day stories are deployed as a shocking and debilitating blow to other women’s reproductive organs. With an innocent grin, women happily embellish, omit and lie in order that other women will feel bad about themselves. These statements are meant to make those women with boyfriends feel like they’re second-class citizens, drawn from the bottom of the Tesco basics shelf of the sexual hierarchy. To single women they merely say – “you might as well go and drown yourself in a bin, love, for all the shagging that’s coming to you”.

Attic Rating: 8.1

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

#22 - Paris

“We’ll always have Paris.”

Ah Casablanca, a cracking if pretty sinister movie in that it’s in black-and-white, romantic and therefore just the kind of thing you put on if you invite a girl back to your room to watch a DVD and snuggle (a high SnI – see later)… I think we’ll always have Paris on a list of things that are sinister. But can a place be sinister? Maybe it’s best to work up from a few different angles on this one.

Books and Films

For this I’d like to introduce the Snuggling and the Starbucks indices as indirect markers of sinistry. The Snuggling index (SnI) is exemplified above and works for films. Paris has several that score in the high 9s – Before Sunset; Paris Je T’Aime, Amelie; Moulin Rouge to name just a few that I have used. Ok, maybe La Haine less so but it’s set in the banlieues anyway, and I’m not man enough to call anything there sinister. The Starbucks index (StI) is pretty similar in concept – how likely are you to read a book in Starbucks in the hope of looking intelligent/wordly to onlookers? Well any book in French scores damn high on the StI and books involving Paris like Tale of Two Cities probably do if you’re 11.

Tourist Destination

But is it just books and films that make Paris sinister? I’d argue no. Look at the number of couples who go there for romantic getaways, to bask in the glamour and romance of it – probably paying a passing poet on the Left Bank to compose a few witty lines about their love. Could there be anywhere more sinister and less original to go? It’s just the sort of place I’d pick if I wanted something from someone. Like anal. Or the students on Modern Languages / History of Art courses who go there in the hope of picking up a sophisticated French boy/girl, but end up getting drunk in English bars instead. That’s just a less successful and probably more expensive form of sex tourism than going to Thailand for lady boys, and probably with hairier armpits. Sinister? I think so.

Finally, the other group who go to Paris, are the sinister boring old farts who actually want to be French and drive over in their Jaguars on their way to the Dordogne, and always have a favourite restaurant that you absolutely must try as it’s the best in Paris but no one knows about it… I’ll trust the fat bloke made of tyres to find me the best restaurant. Thanks.

The French

The people are sinister in their dislike for but reliance on tourists. The landmarks themselves are so clich├ęd from films etc that they’ve developed a sinister edge. The French, and particularly Parisians, hold haute-cuisine as the pinnacle of their art: a sinister foodstuff dripping with morceauxs of this and that. Look at some of those Paris idolizes – Toulouse-Lautrec, Picasse, Nicolas Sarkozy, Napoleon. Sinister, sinister men.

In Conclusion

Finally, Les Miserables is about Paris. And it’s the longest-running musical. Which means the most popular example of the most sinister art-form is about Paris. Sinister.

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

#21 Children

Ah, children. They don’t mean it, the poor bastards. They’re just skipping along, living their life, waiting not to be children any more; little do they know how sinister they are by their very existence. And I don’t even mean the violent little shits whom you cross the street to avoid: at least they are straightforward, easy to understand. No, it’s the ‘normal’, ‘well-behaved’ ones who really creep me out.

One reason for this is the unsettling quality associated with almost everything associated with childhood. Toys; skipping; shorts; ice-cream; playdates; paper rounds: all these phenomena are seen as distinctly bizarre when applied to anyone over the age of thirteen. Yet this is an artificial distinction: these articles are in fact inherently sinister, and it is merely hypocritical to allow their use to children, but not to adults. Still, the kids can’t get enough of them.

Worse is the way that children claim to be little humans. I know humans: humans are rude, boring, pissed and depressive. Children, by contrast, are friendly, charming, sober and perpetually excited – WHAT ARE THEY HIDING? Childhood is a fundamental denial of human nature; beware of taking it at face value. There’s something sinister going on behind the mask.

Attic rating: 8.2

Friday, 5 February 2010

#20 P.E. Teachers

In order to fully understand the uniquely sinister nature of the PE teacher I have compiled a list of well-known PE teacher maxims:

‘There is no such thing as bad weather just inappropriate clothing’.

This maxim is used almost exclusively on Duke of Edinburgh expeditions to the Brecon Beacons where the weather is never not adverse at best. It is about as helpful as an Orange Lodge in the Vatican.

‘Failing to prepare is preparing to fail’. Alternatively- ‘prior preparation prevents piss poor performance’.

Neither are particularly helpful when stated seconds after you have impaled your testicles on another piece of antiquated gym equipment, as humiliating mal-coordination and gravity deal you another shitty hand.

‘Positive Mental Attitude’.

This is the call from the touch line whenever the opposing rugby team look as though they all hit puberty in the womb and stand at least a foot taller than the only boy on your side with hairy legs.

‘It’s not the winning that counts, it’s the taking part’.

For an opposing view of this statement, ask any of the dads on sports day who turn up wearing running spikes

‘Walk it off’.

This is never said ironically, nor is it said with pity, empathy or in any tone indicating concern. Instead, it is a method by which the PE teacher asserts his own hardiness, as if your compound fracture of the tibia pales into insignificance next to that time he took 5 wickets with a concussion/dislocated shoulder/collapsed lung. He will further manifest his sinistry by firmly slapping you on the back or bottom, as if his magic caress will avert the need for several months in plaster.

‘Healthy body, healthy mind’

This belief is somewhat weakened by the fact that PE teachers never teach any other subject but geography

PE teachers are almost certainly the most sinister institution within schools in this country. The pain they inflict on their pupils in pursuit of fruitless and archaic exercises is the price paid to swell the ego of those that teach physical education, to assert their divinely held status as the alpha males of the staff room.

Attic Rating: 5.2

Thursday, 4 February 2010

#19 Young Clergymen

Once upon a time, joining the Anglican clergy was a reasonably respectable career option. The church was still the centre of the community, and being its head came with a certain cachet. Yet in 2010 the landscape is much changed. The only people who take religion seriously nowadays are the Moslems and some of the Jews, the other monotheisms having had their edges dulled by years of financial prosperity and tedious bomb attacks. Though this makes them less influential on society, it also serves to accentuate their sinistry. In the case of the Papists this is so much so as actually to disqualify them by our own rules, which forbids explicitly illegal behaviour – e.g. Chris de Burgh = sinister. Gary Glitter = convicted paedophile.

In the Church of England, however, there are fewer such issues. Perhaps because of their traditional policy of encouraging vicars to indulge their sexual desires on women of their own age, or perhaps because there’s less incense *shiver*, but the C of E team have a better prison-avoidance rate than their buddies across the Channel. Ultimately, this only accentuates the deep-seated sinistry of the profession. The villages. The vicarages. The pulpit. The nave. The ‘choir screen’. ‘Vestibule’. Vestibule, I mean really. The tea parties, the cucumber sandwiches (often with the crusts cut off, the most sinister of all sandwich presentation techniques), the handshakes, the dog collars, the parties

In the elderly you can forgive this: they know not what they do. Unforgivable are those men in their late 20s, naff of haircut, pink of cheek and palm, who have signed for life to this dying anachronistic boys’ club. Rather than have a life, these men have decided to spend their years walking around being constantly, savagely mocked, both by the people around them and, more ironically, by God. They hold jumble sales and hospital visits, host the scout troop, talk at schools, a horrendous lifelong search, in vain, for evidence that they are doing the world some good, They work all week on a sermon to give to five dying spinsters each Sunday except on the rare occasions where they are bribed by poshos looking for a wedding venue.

And yet through it all they remain smiling, the flatly menacing smile of a man whose whole life encourages people to believe that anything, anything, can be forgiven. If you can do all this then you will be a man, my son, but my Lord you will be a sinister one.

Attic Rating: 6.7

Thursday, 7 January 2010

#18 Driving Gloves

You might think that accessories came no more sinister than the non-military night vision goggle (see below). You would be wrong. For deep down, at the very bottom of the proverbial draw of sinistry (or more literally the basement) lies a pair of the most insidious items ever to be hand-stitched from the skin of baby calves: driving gloves.

Some sorts of glove, clearly, have clear practical applications: surviving extreme cold, handling radioactive isotopes, medical examinations, that sort of thing. Note that none of these are situations typically found in motor vehicles. Pray tell, then - for what purpose exist these driving gloves?

Is it so the wheel slides through the hands more easily? Is it so you look like a sinister human incarnation of Toad of Toad Hall? Is it so you can feel the cashmere lining gently caressing your clammy palms? Is it so you don't leave any fingerprints? Is it easier to wipe them clean afterwards? It is, of course, all of the above. No aspect of this is unsinister.

And even if the above weren't enough, let me deliver the coup de grace: there exists a 'string backed' variety. And that, you don't need me to tell you, is the most sinister of all.

Attic rating: 8.1/10