Tuesday, May 23

Ode to the Anal Sphincter

The Gnome is currently in Los Angeles attending a medical conference on gastroenterology, charmingly entitled 'Digestive Disease Week'. Oh how he bets you all wish you could be here with him enjoying such a glamorous existence...

In recompense for his failure to invite you along to discuss clinical trials where participants mail their morning stool samples to doctors and the global economic cost of faecal incontinence, the Gnome will share with you a little homage to the that most neglected of bodily muscles, the anal sphincter. Alas the author's name never made it into the Gnome's memory, but his words shall live on in this blog for eternity...

They say man has succeeded where the animal fails because of the clever use of his hands, yet when compared to the hands, the sphincter ani is far superior. If you place into your cupped hands a mixture of fluid, solid and gas and then through an opening at the bottom try to let only the gas escape, you will fail. Yet the anal sphincter can do it. The sphincter can apparently differentiate between solid, liquid and gas. It apparently can tell whether its owner is alone or with someone, whether standing or sitting down, whether its owner has his pants on or off. No other muscle of the body is such a protector of the dignity of man, yet so ready to come to his relief.

Who says bowel disease can't be fun...

Eighties One Hit Wonder

For some reason best not examined too closely, the Gnome has, languishing in the deep uncharted depths of his iPod, a song by an eighties one hit wonders Matt Bianco.

Seeing their name spring up at him from the backlit screen this evening he was reminded of a wonderful incident from his childhood when, one fine Saturday morning long before the advent of 5-second delays on telephone calls to live shows, Matt Bianco were guests on Noel Edmonds 'Swap Shop'.

American readers will of course have no recollection of the important part this programme played in the upbringing of all of a similar age and nationality to the Gnome, nor of the intense rivalry with 'Tiswas' - the equivalent Saturday morning entertainment on the opposite channel, but let us not digress too far from our main message with talk of custard pies, swapping a complete set of Top Trumps for a Scalectrix set and of course Sally James.

Matt Bianco were, as is always the case with pop groups on such programmes, taking questions from viewers. The interview started well with the typical banal questions 8 - 13 year olds ask of their pop idols but then a magic moment occurred. Noel introduced Joe Bloggs from Nuneaton on line 5 and invited him to ask his question.

"Matt Bianco?" queried Joe, in as friendly a manner as one could wish for, "I'd just like to say you are all a bunch of wankers" and then (quite understandably) slammed the phone down.

You don't get TV like that any more - kids of today don't know what they're missing...

Sunday, May 21

Ask and Ye Shall Receive

The Gnome is impressed. Less than 24 hours after his concern about a lack of Argentinian and antipodean readers was published, small (but significant) dots have appeared within Argentina and Tasmania.

G'day and/or buenos tardes to you both.

Calling New Delhi

Perhaps if you are one of the 104 brave souls to have ventured onto this blog you will have noticed a world map to the right of the screen. A simple, yet to the Gnome fascinating, pictoral representation of the locations his musings have been accessed from.

One might not be surprised given his country of birth and current residence to see the large (well okay, not large per se, but larger than most...) dots straddling New York and dear old Blighty, but these are not the ones that fill the Gnome's heart with excitment and wonder.

It is the occasional visitor from exotic locales that intrigues him. For what reason did an itinerent surfer from Singapore access the site? What googled parameters could possibly be typed to ensure 'The Life of a Gnome' was a prominent enough result to warrant a mouse click from the Dominican Republic? Why has such a result not yet enticed any antipodeans or Argentinians to Gnomeland?

Pray tell us oh visitor from New Delhi why you were here. The Gnome, and through him the world (or at least a little bit of it), is waiting in breathless anticipation for your return...

City of Angels

The Gnome finds himself in Los Angeles. Not in the true southern Californian sense of spiritual enlightenment, but the rather more mundane definition of happening to be there.

Taking a taxi from the airport he found himself with a driver as locquatious as a former Trappist monk making up for lost time. A rare event, for unlike London where cabbies are renowned for a constant stream of pessimistic babble on the psychological trauma inflicted upon them by under-performing sports teams or government edicts, taxi rides in the USA are usually conducted in sullen silence. Indeed within the metropolises of America it is rare to discover a driver for whom English is even a second language, leaving the Gnome believing the famous poem on the Statue of Liberty reads:

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore,
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
So they can all become cab drivers.

In this instance though the cabbie was a veritable goldmine of witty repartee and one liners. For the 30 minute drive an abstract, free-flowing stand up routine was provided. A comedic journey from the foibles of small statured Hummer-driving Asian grandmothers, passing momentarily via a diatribe on the evils of cell-phone possessing Christian evangelists, to the atavistic pleasures of late evening fares involving young, attractive, drunk women (he claimed to have spent his entire life being told where to go by the latter, but at least he was now being paid for it...)

Rising to the occasion the Gnome mentioned he had been told LA stood for 'lots of arseholes' - a point upon which the driver readily concurred. Pausing momentarily for effect, he looked through the mirror to catch the Gnome's eye and continued '...but of course assholes are like oil. Technically we are self sufficient, but we still seem to import lots.'

At the time the Gnome joined in the laughter at this riposte, but as the daylight dims over the Hollywood hills has come to the conclusion it might well have been a rather subtle insult.

If so, then the driver is to be saluted. It is not often the Gnome is caught on the wrong end of an ironic comment and he feels all the more fondness for the States and its taxi drivers because of it.

Sunday, May 14

American Sports

The Gnome supposes it is inevitable he will have to write about American sports eventually, so feels it is as well to get it over with now.

What are they all about?

No, really- somebody explain it. How does the world's only superpower end up with a monopoly on the world's most boring sports? Sports that virtually nobody else plays, or has any interest in?

American Football
A game resembling rugby with all the speed, skill and excitement surgically removed. American Football had a brief moment in the sun a decade or so ago in England when a (then) new television channel started showing highlights. It did very well, and understandably so. It is a great spectator game when something is happening. The trouble is, things only actually happen for about 30 seconds and then there is a 5 minute break. As soon as games were shown live everybody turned off through boredom.

As an avid cricket fan, the Gnome can sort of understand the fascination with baseball. The traditions, the history, the slow pace, the arcane rules. All of these are familiar to anyone brought up on cricket. But you have to ask the question - why not just play cricket? All the other ex-colonies took it up, what made the USA think rounders was a more suitable sport? And as for the concept of a 'World' Series between Toad Suck, Arkansas and Glory Hole, Montana, no comment will be made.

NASCAR racing
Come on, be serious now. Driving round and round an oval track for two hours is not a sport. It's dull. More fun can be had watching the M25 around London - at least people occasionally try to overtake each other and sometimes even change lanes. There's also more chance of seeing a life threatening accident which, let us all be honest, is the only reason anyone watches motor car racing of any kind...

The Gnome's strongest dislike is for this 'sport'. Grown men (rather too well grown if one is to be truthful) run up and down a small court and score every single time. So the score goes from 0-0, to 2-0, to 2-2, to 4-2, to 4-4 etc etc ad infinitum. Thirty seconds before the final whistle, every game the Gnome has seen has been tied on 110-110. These last 30 seconds determine the winner of every game... Basketball could, and should, be reduced to a 30 second game. Everything that went on before is pointless.

Whatever sport is watched on American TV, it is constantly interrupted by adverts. Despite his profession, the Gnome does not generally approve of adverts interrupting sports, but in the case of American style sports, he is sad to say the adverts are often far more entertaining than the sport they interrupt.