Zebras in the Hallway

The motto of the Scout movement is Be prepared. I always like to be prepared, (although I have never been a boy scout). Which is probably why I normally lug around a weighty backpack that has everything I could possibly need, bar the kitchen sink (although I’m working on that). Of course most days I don’t really need half the stuff in it, but one never knows when a Swiss army knife or a puncture repair kit might be a life-saver. One day I might encounter a swarm of angry hornets and be forced to cycle rapidly to the nearest forest and build a shelter from fallen branches and twigs. So you just never know…

As a kid I remember they sold these cool shoes, which had animal prints on the soles and a compass built in the heel. Now that’s the kind of lateral thinking I can get behind. Only my expectations have grown somewhat: I want shoes with rocket motors and a jacket that converts into a full-size inflatable dinghy. Just in case.

One way to be prepared is to expect the unexpected. I’m not sure how it works exactly, but it can be quite stressful when you live with the constant expectation of hearing hoof-beats and finding Zebras in your hallway,* or being chased round the shopping centre by an over-friendly Octopus on a mobility-scooter. The possibilities are endless.

Our beloved cat likes to help with our preparedness training by hiding and then launching surprise attacks, which certainly keeps us on our toes. “Not now, Cat-o!” we yell, knowing full well the Pink Panther reference is totally wasted on Lulu, our mischievous furry chum. Fortunately she’s rather less scary/dangerous than that mama mountain lion who gave an unsuspecting jogger an experience to remember.

Even the simplest things become a challenge in a mindset of extreme preparedness. Say I go shopping wearing a diving suit and flippers, on the expectation the store could be flooded. The bulky oxygen tank might knock over a display of spooky Halloween items. Other shoppers might trip over the fake plastic pumpkins and bloody heads, and an angry, (plastic) axe-wielding mob would necessitate a hasty exit. Fortunately it’s harder to identify someone in a diving suit from CCTV footage, which is why it’s so popular as a disguise with bank robbers (or maybe I dreamed that).

Of course one could take a Buddhist / Stoic approach to all this. Accept the things which are beyond one’s control and focus on those things that are. I mean who could prepare themselves for the possibility of being struck by a small satellite crashing to Earth? Or mowed down by a self-driving car, whose AI system has decided humanity is evil and must die (cue Terminator theme tune).

Certainly few of us celebrating the the imminent arrival of 2020 some months ago could have foreseen the total annus horriblis that lay ahead. But I guess that throughout history this has always been the case. A species breezes along for bit, whistling a happy tune and then BLAM! A meteor slams into the planet, or some sick pervert shags a pangolin and we have a major pandemic on our hands.

Assuming our species can solve or adapt to global heating and various other existential threats, there could be a much brighter, kinder world awaiting us. A world where trees are valued more than the paper money they become. Where people of all creeds and colours coexist in a wondrous Star Trek type universe known as FALC – Fully Automated Luxury Communism. This concept, with its freedom from war, poverty and wage slavery, sounds to some like a hopelessly utopian dream. But then what would our distant ancestors have made of our modern, internet-connected world, with its life-saving vaccines, smart phones and microwave popcorn?

We have achieved so much, but based on the current state of the world, FALC, or some other desirable system of happy coexistence, is probably not coming anytime soon. We have much to do to fix the problems created by decades of rampant consumerism and macho, profit-driven militarism. It’s probably going to get pretty tough, especially for the poorest and those living in the hottest regions.

We are certainly an adaptable species. We may not quite match the tardigrades in the survival stakes, but we have done pretty well so far, for a bunch of semi-intelligent apes. Yes some think the Earth is flat and wind turbines cause cancer. But then there have always been village idiots, it’s simply now they found a way to join forces and share their outstanding levels of idiocy. I suppose it gives the rest of us a few laughs, I just worry that it could get out of hand and some country elects a gormless conspiracy nut with access to a large nuclear arsenal…

It’s impossible to anticipate every situation that life might throw at us. But with the right mindset, a willingness to embrace radical change and a whole heap of good luck, we may yet make it through to boldly go where no one has gone before. I sincerely hope the zebras, cats, pangolins, et al. make it too. Although I’m sure the tardigrades will do just fine.

 

© Copyright Jason Lennick 2020

* A concept mentioned in the excellent book ‘The Art of Thinking Clearly,’ by Rolf Dobelli.

 

 

 

The Last Cruise – A Fairy Tale for New Year’s Eve

TIT011DJ_0-345b632It is the final hours of 2019 and aboard the bad ship Neoliberalism, things are not going so well. Listing heavily to starboard, the ship is taking in water. There are multiple fires burning throughout the vessel. Storms rage and vast chunks of ice slam into her. The gift shop is overrun by rats.

In first class, most passengers are partying like it’s 1999. Some are setting fire to huge bundles of cash, just for the hell of it. Others shoot at stranded polar bears with high-powered rifles. A small contingent of the super-rich are preparing to leave the ship via a rocket. On the bridge, the captain and officers, corrupt and incompetent psychopaths to a man, are attempting to hit as many icebergs as possible, keen to see if the ship really is unsinkable.

In the chapel, the passengers believe there is no cause for concern and wish the youngsters would just shut up and stop making a fuss. Some feel that the ship cannot be in danger of sinking, although if it does sink, it will be God’s will and therefore not a problem.

The passengers in the port-side cabins believe it is time for a dramatic change, if only they can agree on who should lead them. They vote to organise a series of debates to narrow the field down to a round two-dozen.

Passengers from the starboard cabins believe the danger to the ship is over-stated, or simply a conspiracy, invented by the other side. One contingent suggest that any actual problems that exist are down to the presence of passengers of colour, and vote to make ships white again.

In a quickly organised referendum, a motion to abandon the union of cruise liners and ditch all safety protocols is passed, but only after major interference by Russian interests and Oligarchs from first class.

A small group of scientists and engineers hatch a plan to save the ship, but realise they will need to somehow gain control of the bridge and throw most of the first-class passengers overboard. The plan is popular but lacks full majority support. They agree to hold a series of feasibility studies and then look at the data again soon.

A lone young woman stands at the Prow, seeing the Mother of all icebergs looming. She frantically alerts the passengers and crew, but is dismissed as an alarmist, selfish brat by the starboard-side passengers. A young contingent rally behind her, and attempt to gain access to the upper decks. As they hammer on the doors, the wealthy create barricades from piles of cash, jewellery and consumer goods. Many are taking a nap.

Back on the bridge, the captain has topped up his tan and just returned from a round of mini-golf. He claims the best score ever recorded. A motion to have him removed has failed and, more insane than before, he fires all the officers and puts his family in charge. A dead albatross is appointed as safety officer.

As the young and port-side passengers demand an immediate change of course, the captain finally sees the giant iceberg just metres ahead. He gathers his family around him to pray for holy intervention. A sudden bolt of lightning strikes the bridge and they are all fried.

Will the passengers reach the bridge in time to stop the ship or change course? Find out next year…

© Copyright Jason Lennick 2019

Pic via historyextra.com Artist unknown.

All hands on deck!

iceberg-2170383_640

Reduce your carbon footprint! Eat less meat! Recycle!

I’m sure you will have encountered similar messages in the media. And you may have been struck by the sense, as I was recently, that while our individual choices are important, we are essentially rearranging the deck-chairs on the Titanic, if the world’s biggest climate culprits don’t get involved. And not with green-washing and PR exercises, but with real action to end the obsession with profits and growth at any cost.

Stan Lee, beloved creator of the Marvel universe, passed away this week. In his amazing career he dreamed up scores of memorable superheroes and villains. Sadly we cannot rely on any colourfully-costumed crusaders to rescue us from our current predicament. In fact it all gets rather complicated when we realise that the menace we are facing is… us. You, me, the guys who run the corporations, banks, the politicians, (especially the politicians) all of us are the bad guys in this storyline. And, perhaps, the good guys too. Continue reading

Absurdians assemble!

absurd rockThe world is quite an absurd place, mostly run by criminals, thugs and at least one ridiculous but very dangerous sociopath with a fake tan.

As remotely-piloted drones blow up civilians thousands of miles away, we obsess over the best yoga positions for pets and finding the right brand of organic, gluten-free toothpaste. Each day, a dozen more species disappear as we gorge on ‘reality’ TV shows featuring Z-list celebrities being eaten by giant mutant crabs.*

It’s no wonder that comic book adaptations have become so popular on the big screen, when real life often seems like a plot from some dark dystopian tale, where super-villains vie for world domination as the very fabric of society threatens to unravel. Who then can resist a team of troubled heroes with perfect teeth, super-human powers and snappy one-liners, saving us from the devils of our worst nature, and the worst perils of Mother Nature. Of course in most comic books, it’s easier to tell the heroes from the villains. Continue reading

The not-so-holy grail

Indiana Jones

Hello! Yes Half Bananas is back from the dead, or at least a rather long hiatus. This may be my first post in a while, but hopefully not the last.

So, what’s been happening in your world over the past few months? I hope it’s been full of fun, adventure, and at least a few nice surprises.

Of course most of us don’t lead lives full of fun, adventure and surprise. We may try to, but somehow we seem to end up with days that mostly consist of routine, frustrations and lots of annoyances we could do without. Perhaps we need be on our guard and challenge ourselves to avoid those ruts, brighten up our dull days and boldly go where no one has gone before. Or at least where we haven’t. Easier said than done. But this year I have been making an effort to ring the changes. And if the changes are not answering, well I’ll just leave a message.

But then again, boredom can be a great motivator. It is, after all, thanks to extreme boredom with his humdrum job that Albert Einstein dreamed up the revolutionary recipe for making Marmite. Although sadly for him, some other scientists had the exact same idea and he had to be content with the theory of relativity and all that other sciency stuff. Poor Albert.

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This is the end, beautiful friend. Possibly.

crocoduckI’ve been neglecting the blog of late, but thought I’d at least get in a final post before a doddering 2017 shuffles off into the wings, and a brash young 2018 leaps onto the stage, all bright-eyed and bushy of tail.

I don’t know if there will be any more halfbananas next year, it’s future – like the fate of the crocoduck – is uncertain.

It’s been an odd year and not just numerically. At times it almost felt like we’d slipped into a parallel dimension where up is down, black is white and a maniacal clown occupies the Oval Office, spewing ignorance and misinformation every time he speaks or tweets.

The UK is a sorry mess, tribalism, polarisation and scapegoating continue to dominate global politics and there seems precious little to instill much optimism for the year ahead. But it’s not all doom and gloom. I’m sure if you dig a little deeper there are things to inspire hope and cheer up even the grumpiest misanthrope. I just can’t think of many examples right now.

Whatever your goals and aspirations for the new year, I wish you peace, happiness and in the immortal words of Abraham Lincoln:Be excellent to each other. And… PARTY ON, DUDES!

Here I present my New Year resolutions and goals for 2018

  1. Get more exorcism
  2. Drink sensibly (eg not out of a clown shoe while wearing a false moustache)
  3. Learn the Fandango
  4. Do a tandem jump from a tandem
  5. Adopt an orphaned cricket
  6. Get more edjukated
  7. Get a bionic eye / legs
  8. Overcome my fear of crocoducks
  9. Wrestle the Pope
  10. Stop making New Year resolutions

Have you made any goals or resolutions? Do share.

© Copyright Jason Lennick 2017

It’s not the end of the world

 

apocalypse ahead

The latest in a long line of supposedly doom-filled dates passed without incident last weekend. I’m a little concerned that I’ll end up oversleeping and miss the event, if and when it finally does come to pass. I’d hate waking up late to discover half the planet on fire before I’d had my morning coffee and croissant.

Even a stopped clock tells the right time twice a day”

I guess eventually one of these silly end of the world predictions might actually get it right, purely by chance. Of course those who share this nonsense won’t have much time to enjoy their brief moment of triumph. They’ll be too busy running from all the giant tsunamis, earthquakes or general planetary disintegration to do much gloating. It’s hard to feel smug when you’re up to your arse in a lake of molten lava.

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Author! Author!

Them2Something I read recently set the creaking gears in my mind to whirring and grinding: it was a reminder that each of us was the author of our own lives. Not an Earth-shatteringly new idea perhaps, but it had me pondering both the degree to which it is true, and also the implications of such a role.

There are numerous factors that make us the person we are: our genes, gender, sexuality, race, upbringing, social position, wealth, education, and the chance circumstances of one’s early life must all play a part.

Clearly an orphan, growing up in poverty in some war-ravaged corner of the globe, will have a very different experience of life and very different opportunities to the privileged offspring of comfortable upper-middle class professionals in a sleepy Surrey village. So we are certainly not all starting from the same place and with the same degree of literary freedom, when it comes to the authorship of our own tales.

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Creatures of habit

gorillaOur lives tend to be ruled by habits. I’m not just talking about a fondness for junk-food, booze, or cigarettes et al, I mean the tendency to repeat any rewarding (or at least not-too-painful) behaviours, over and over again, ad nauseum.

It often seems to be our lot to follow the path most travelled and to boldly go where we have been many times before.

Of course one can try consciously to break free from the habit of being habitual, perhaps by cultivating the more impulsive and adventurous aspects of one’s nature. Although this in itself could become a habit.. You just cannot win.

Nothing so needs reforming as other people’s habits.”

Mark Twain

I heard about this guy called Gary, who grew bored with the same old routine every day. So he started trying to shake things up by breaking old habits and diligently trying new approaches. Two months in and he was spotted leaving his office job in the city by abseiling down the outside of the building, dressed in a gorilla costume (no mean feat when you work on the twenty-third floor).

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Play that fungi music white boy*

Spanish_SlugYesterday felt like a day of strangeness and magic. First came a great deluge that threatened to wash away the parked cars and the occasional cyclist in an almost biblical-style flood. I stood under cover, caught between my local store and home after returning from work. I was listening to some sublime electronica at the time, a unique soundtrack to the cascades of water splashing and bouncing off roads and pavements. For a few minutes I just stood and watched, mesmerised by the experience. I found I was smiling broadly and felt an easing of the hangover headache that had dogged me all day. It was just a moment of subtle, indefinable magic.

Then, as suddenly as it had begun, the downpour ceased and I broke cover and headed the few hundred metres home, trying to avoid lake-Ontario-sized puddles. A rainbow appeared briefly above our block of flats, a fitting appearance at the end of Copenhagen’s Gay Pride week.

I will backtrack slightly to me leaving the cafe where I work, about an hour beforehand. I ran into a lady of mature years, standing outside. She wanted to know more about the place. It turned out she was a fellow Brit and after basic pleasantries were exchanged, I told her all about our lovely little non-profit cafe and the many activities we host within. The lady seemed most pleased at my invitation to come and sample our food and perhaps make some new friends. “You are my angel of the day” she announced, in a warm northern accent, and I was perfectly happy with this description. I have been called lots of things, but don’t often get called an angel.

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