Wednesday 31 May 2017

The Science Fiction Cult

I have a tale for you that sounds like it comes out of the Star Wars saga.

75 million years ago, Xenu, the tyrannical leader of the Galactic Confederacy transported billions of his own people to a distant rock floating around in space, in ships that resembled the aircraft that we know and love today. When they arrived at the rock, they were unceremoniously dumped out in the vicinity of volcanoes and wiped out with hydrogen bombs.

He sounds like a complete bastard, this Xenu character, doesn’t he?

Worse, the spirits of the billions of the dead aliens became immortal and after all of this time still roam the rock, which is now a lovely little blue planet teeming with life and beauty. That planet is our own beloved Earth and the spirits of the murdered billions, called Thetans, float around our planet and attach themselves to human beings. 

Basically we all have an inner Thetan and this is analogous to our soul.

Sounds like a great idea for a science fiction story, doesn’t it?

Except there are a large number of people who actually believe this story to be real; these people are called Scientologists.

The originator of this story is L. Ron Hubbard, a science fiction writer, who has somehow managed to convince thousands of people that their souls are immortal alien spirits that operate their bodies. Amongst those people are Tom Cruise and John Travolta.

L. Ron Hubbard is now dead but his legacy lives on. Scientology leaders announced his death as if he had shed his mortal body allowing him to continue his amazing research on another planet somewhere out there in the depths of space.

The leader is now a rather mysterious man called David Miscavige.

Scientology claims to be a religion but in reality it is more like a cult. I have to be honest with you, here – I am absolutely fascinated by it, not because I believe any of the rubbish that David Miscavige and his followers are trying to peddle (for huge sums of money I hasten to add). Rather, I am fascinated about how people can be taken in by all of this utter nonsense and actually change their lives to immerse themselves so deeply into it that they cannot escape without potentially having vile facts published about them, or worse, being totally ostracised by their own family members who choose to stay as part of the religion.

When I was a young naïve student, the church of Scientology tried to recruit my friend and I when we were backpacking around Europe. The incident occurred in Amsterdam and their “expert” tried to convince me that I was a manic depressive who was about to commit suicide. She claimed that only they could help and that rather than leave Amsterdam as I had planned, I should enrol in their course to help guide me away from such evil thoughts.

You see, I was wondering around Europe and as such was fair game. I was young and naïve, but not so naïve that I believed it.

Deep down I knew I was tremendously happy and that their words were ridiculous. I may have been naïve but I was not stupid.  They attempted the same thing with my friend who found the entire experience hilarious.

Since then, I’ve followed the exploits of Scientology with interest. Initially, I found it all amusing but in recent years, events have taken a disturbing turn for the worst and I no longer find it funny.

We even have a Scientology “church” in the centre of Manchester. One time, I saw a few people protesting outside and handing out leaflets.

There are a few accusations that have been directed at the Church of Scientology but, to be honest, I’m a bit wary about mentioning them.

Why? Because the first one is “attack the attacker”. Allegedly, anybody who attacks Scientology must be treated with hostility, which means that the church will investigate those who accuse them of wrongdoing and publish any findings to the press, employers, friends and family and even make counter accusations against them, potentially leading to things like running their career. There is no “turn the other cheek” philosophy in Scientology. Such people are labelled by the church as “suppressive persons”.

We also have “disconnection”. If you are a “suppressive person” who still has family who are Scientologists, then the church basically causes your family to cut you off completely. There are many examples in the documentaries that I have seen where people have left the church and been totally disconnected from family members who are still part of the church, Worse, those family members are allegedly so brainwashed that they completely disown them. Parents have been banished by their own children.

If you are a member of the Sea Org, the most dedicated elite within Scientology, and you don’t live up to the high expectations of the church then you are “rehabilitated” which involves being locked up and isolated and subjected to intense physical hard labour and “auditing”, an activity that involves a weird kind of question and answer session while you are gripping a metal cylinder in each hand that is connected to a contraption called an E-meter – a sort of strange emotion detector.

"Will I ever be famous"?
In order to rise up the rankings you basically have to throw money at the church and study religious doctrine for every hour God sends.

No wonder they want somebody like Tom Cruise to be the acceptable face of the church.

Allegedly, their “pope”, David Miscavige is said to behave like a psychotic despot, sometimes physically assaulting people working for him.

I hasten to add, all of this comes from documentaries and films about the “church” – I have to say this in case I suddenly find myself being followed by Scientologists or have the name “Plastic Mancunian” splashed over cyberspace as an evil liar.

Oh well – if such a thing happens then maybe we’ll see whether the “attack the attacker” accusation is true or not.

I’m really looking forward to seeing “My Scientology Movie” by one of my favourite documentary makers, Louis Theroux. Here’s a trailer for it:

Let’s hope I am not labelled as a “suppressive person” as a result of this post.

Monday 29 May 2017

The Hipster

I quite like eccentric people, particularly those who are genuinely intelligent and slightly odd. You know the kind of person I mean; somebody who is so intelligent that they don’t have time for things like fashion, style, mainstream hobbies and conventional culture.

My kind of genius
Sadly, there is a particular breed of pseudo-intellectual that tries to emulate these eccentric geniuses by being odd just for the sake of it. These people are known as hipsters. I’m sure you have heard of them.

During my life, I have encountered many flawed geniuses who simply don’t have the time or patience to worry about their dress sense, hairstyles and don’t feel the need to become a normal social animal, choosing instead to immerse themselves completely in the subjects that fascinate them.  

For example, a university professor with wild uncontrolled hair whose fashion sense was born (and remains) in the 1960’s or the computer nerd who spends every waking hour on his computer devising amazing software for fun and, when he’s not fully engrossed in that will plunge into hours of science fiction and become an absolute expert on everything relating to Doctor Who, Star Trek and Lord of the Rings.

I like these people.

My kind of genius
Over the years, people like this have started to get more respect and others are seeing the light, choosing to embrace them rather than mock them.

Hipsters are latching onto this and trying to portray themselves as – well – weird – but in a cool, fashionable and trendy way. I know for a fact that they are pseudo-intellectuals because, unlike flawed geniuses, the only things that come out of their mouths is a blend of philosophy and bullshit.

Hipsters go one step further – they purposely go out to make themselves stand out as eccentric. They actually fail miserably though because the genius will not spend a fortune on his weird attire and has no desire whatsoever to attract people to them because of their unconventional dress sense.

A hipster is the kind of person who will go to a pub and be positively thrilled that his fish and chips is served in a bucket or his full English breakfast comes on a shovel.

Hipster Breakfast
Hipster coffee
Hipsters look down on people like me who like conventional things like sport and rock music, although they will be interested in my travel exploits, particularly to the more exotic places I’ve had the good fortune to visit.

You see, the hipster tries to portray himself as a cool, open-minded intellectual who is fascinated by everything and anything, as long as it is avant-garde.

A hipster will dress in, frankly, weird clothes – the weirder the better.  

His musical taste is bizarre. Your typical hipster will buy a record full of Peruvian pop songs (even though he doesn’t understand Spanish). Note – it has to be a record that he can play on his 1970’s record player because a CD is too modern and mainstream.

The hipster will also like to portray himself as an intelligent creative genius who will try his hand at absolutely anything from writing bizarre poetry to playing weird instruments. He is the kind of person who will buy a penny farthing and voluntarily go to underground theatres to watch strange meaningless plays. His house will be full of bric-a-brac that he “found on his travels” but in reality cost a small fortune from Camden Market. He will also not understand anything he owns, says or creates, but will boast about it all using philosophical evidence to back his long descriptive words, which will make no sense to truly intelligent people, impressing only those who are trying to be hipsters themselves - pseudo-hipsters if you like.

The hipster will want to travel where his heart takes him, choosing to visit strange countries with nothing but four hipster T-shirts, a pair of sandals and a pair of garish crazy shorts. He will acquire strange tattoos that he claims came from local people who rarely see tourists because, of course, a hipster simply cannot go to a place where conventional people go! Oh no! That wouldn’t be cool.

Travel Hipster
You see, hipsters are a paradox. They like to portray themselves as outsiders and social pariahs but the only reason they do so is to be cool and popular socially. They love to bore you with tales of their exploits.

Here are some things you may hear a hipster say.

“You’ve never heard of Emilio Lugazi’s authentic Chilean classical jazz masterpiece “Soy la evolución del mono y la máquina”? It is exquisite!”

“Oh this tattoo? It means “I am eternal light!” in Thai. It is the work of a 92 year old elder in a remote village near to Chiang Mai. She did it for nothing because she liked a poem I wrote for her.”

“I’ll have the Messy Combo Vegetarian Burger with Melon Fries and Mustard Mayonnaise please. No, it’s fine if it comes on a roof slate. It’s more authentic that way.”

“Here’s a novel I wrote last week. It’s about a woman on a journey of self-discovery in the caves of Izca. I wrote it on a typewriter in Cossack’s Coffee shop. It’s called “The Imagination Cube”. I don’t want to sell it; I needed to write it for my own self-discovery.”

Finally, if you still don’t recognise a hipster – here are a few photos I have found on the web.

Finally, if you want to annoy a hipster, all you have to do is imply that they are now mainstream. For example, if you ever see a hipster typing poems on a 1960's typewriter in Starbucks while drinking his latte out of an avocado skin, just say, within his earshot:

"Wow! Writing your own poetry in Starbucks. That's so mainstream. There's a guy in an independent coffee shop on the High Street, who's just parked his penny farthing outside and is tattooing his arse with original poetry while singing traditional Uruguayan opera. And what a beard he has - five feet long, and dyed in the colours of the Brazilian flag. What a cool guy!"

He will freak out, I promise you.

Wednesday 24 May 2017


When I woke up yesterday morning I was stunned because the first words I heard on the radio were:

"I know that some people will only just be waking up to the news of the horrific attacks in Manchester last night. This was a barbaric attack deliberately targeting some of the most vulnerable in our society - young people and children out at a pop concert. My thoughts and prayers go out to the families and the victims who have been affected and I know the whole country will share that view."

I raced downstairs to watch the news and discovered, to my horror, that a suicide bomber had detonated an Improvised Explosive Device in the foyer of the Manchester Arena, the city’s biggest concert venue, just minutes after an Ariana Grande concert had finished.

This would be a sickening and evil thing to do normally but in this case it was even worse, if that’s possible because the audience were mainly young people and children. Over the past day or so I’ve watched the news with a heavy heart as events have unfolded. I have seen the faces of children and teenagers in anguish as one of the pop events of their lives, an event that is meant to bring happiness and joy, suddenly became a terrifying real life nightmare.

Amongst the victims were young children, in particular a girl of 8 years old.


I still don’t know what to say and the horror of what happened is still at the forefront of my mind.

Three weeks ago, my eldest son was at the Manchester Arena watching Iron Maiden. In fact, in the past five years, I have also been there on numerous occasions. It could have happened to any one of us.

I am shocked and upset and my heart goes out to all the victims of this tragedy.

I know exactly where the explosion took place and I know that it would have been really crowded just after the gig had finished. I can barely imagine how people who witnessed the carnage felt.

Knowing Manchester and its people as I do, I was not surprised to discover that people rallied to help.

The police and ambulance service were magnificent.

People heard about the tragedy and drove into the city to see if they could help, offering food and refreshments to the emergency services and people who were clearly distressed.

A hotel opened its doors for those stranded by the event and gave them a room for the night for free.

Taxi drivers took distraught people home for absolutely no charge.

Others gathered up young people and offered them refuge in their own homes until somebody could come and pick them up.

This is what Manchester is and why I love living in my adopted city.

I still cannot fathom why anybody would target such a vulnerable crowd of people. There is no cause on this entire planet that is worthy of such an atrocity.

Since the terrible events of Monday night, the police have made some arrests – in particularly in a suburb called Fallowfield where I used to live and is not far from where I live now.

The city is still shocked but Mancunians will eventually recover – we have done so before after the IRA bomb in 1996 destroyed an area of the city centre. Manchester evolved and grew after that and it will do so again.

We love our city and this will not change a thing.

I will leave you with a poem read out by poet Tony Walsh (known as Longfella) called “This is the Place” which he recited at the vigil following the tragedy yesterday.

This sums up the city and its people perfectly.

Manchester will always be wonderful. Mancunians will always be amazing people.

We will prevail.

Saturday 20 May 2017

Being A Guy

I often hear women saying things like “You don’t know how lucky you are being a man.”

I kind of agree with this because the truth is I absolutely love being a guy.

I have been a guy for 54 years (and counting) and I have loved every second of it. Mrs PM also claims that being a woman is fantastic – but I have no experience of that so can’t possibly comment. Besides, I wouldn’t want to risk the wrath of an irate Mrs PM.

Having said that, I may just risk that with this post. I recently rediscovered a humorous list from the 1990s which listed 100 reasons why it’s great to be a guy. Whilst it is meant to be a joke list, there are some elements of truth in it.

I thought I would share some of my favourite reasons from that list with you.

1. Phone calls last only 30 seconds.

This is true. When Mrs PM talks to her mum she is on the phone for what seems like hours. I don’ actually know what they talk about but I daren’t ask. If I were to ask she would reproduce the entire conversation to me including her thoughts, her mum’s thoughts and, worse, she would ask my opinion on everything – which could lead to danger if I said something wrong.

Conversely, when I make a phone call I am short and to the point – as is the man on the other end of the phone. If happens to be a woman then I can struggle to make the call last 30 seconds. Either way, Mrs PM usually wants to know exactly what was said, my thoughts, the other person’s thoughts etc.

I have no idea why. And if I say “don’t be nosey” I can get into serious trouble.

2. A five day holiday only requires one suitcase.

I only pack what is necessary for the holiday, which usually means that I have the minimum packed away. If I run out of stuff, I can buy some more. I don’t plan what I am going to wear every day – I just wear it.

Women on the other hand pack their entire wardrobe into the suitcase (or suitcases) and are oblivious to weight limits on aircraft. The argument seems to be that they don’t know what they are going to wear so they have to have a choice – for every single day. Worse, the entire contents of the cosmetic bag and bathroom have to fit in too – as well as the army of shoes.

I once travelled abroad for business with a woman and we were going for just two days. I had a tiny suitcase that I could take on the aircraft as hand luggage. She had a huge suitcase that had to be checked in. Being the gentleman that I am I also hauled the bloody thing around when we arrived.

I didn’t dare ask what she had in there – in case she either thumped me or listed the contents and the reasons why she felt the need to pack her entire house into a tiny suitcase.

3. Haircuts are cheap.

When I get my hair cut I usually say “Short at the back and sides and slightly curly on top please.”  The whole thing is over in about five minutes and costs about £8.

Women, on the other hand, are totally ripped off even if they want a trim and can expect to pay at least £20, rising up even more if something more sinister is involved, like dye.

I once went to a unisex hairdresser with my ex-wife. All she wanted was a trim the same as me. She paid about three times the amount that I did.

Why is that?

4. You can get ready in ten minutes.

If Mrs PM and I are going out, she usually starts getting ready an hour before we are due to leave, leaving me downstairs watching TV. As she is preparing herself, she shouts downstairs at ten minute intervals.

“Are you going to get ready?”

Finally, ten minutes before, I go upstairs, take a quick shower and change. I am ready before her as well.

This infuriates her. I love it.

5. Hot wax never comes near to your body.

At work, for charity, we persuaded my boss to have his legs waxed for charity. It was the funniest thing I have ever seen. He flinched and grimaced and yelped as his leg hair was ripped from his skin with maximum prejudice.

The women we work with had front row seats and kept saying “Now you know how we feel.”

I can safely say that this will never ever happen to me.

And, I have to ask, why on earth would any human being put themselves through such a traumatic experience?

I think that’s enough for now – but bear in mind there are 100 in total. I may share some of them with you in future.