Thursday, March 31, 2011

SVP Poster Campaigns Through the Ages

One of the main political forces in Switzerland is the SVP, a right-wing party responsible for the world-infamous poster campaigns about black sheep and minarets.

What is less well known is that such SVP propaganda dates back hundreds of years. Here's a recently-rediscovered poster dating back to the 14th century, when the SVP's founder, William Tell, wanted to get rid of the Habsburgs:

The poster was phenomenally successful, and no foreigners dared to live in Switzerland in case they got shot at. Remember that all Swiss men carry knives and guns.

Despite being heavily armed at all times, the Swiss stayed neutral during World War 2. The SVP, famously opportunistic, used their marketing genius to turn the war to Switzerland's advantage with a series of posters along these lines:

Cash flowed in from all round the world, and especially from Germany. However, while the SVP were happy to grow rich on foreign coin, anti-immigration sentiment remained strong.

Economic necessity led to the first trickle of immigrants since the Habsburgs. In the mid-fifties, there was a grave shortage of expressive body language in the German-speaking parts of the country, so tens of thousands of Italians were shipped in. Rates of gesticulation increased by an average of six percent per annum.

After the Italian wave came a whole bunch of guys from war-torn Yugoslavia. The Swiss were annoyed by this until they realised the 'Yugos' would give the national football team some decent players.

The most recent trend, and the most troubling, is the flood - of biblical proportions - of Germans. Switzerland has a population of 7 million, and about 3 million of those were born in Munich, Stuttgart, or Berlin. They eat currywurst, click their fingers at waitresses, and refuse to learn Swiss-German. The Swiss are crying out for a latter-day William Tell to drive away the invaders.

But until such a hero announces himself, the SVP will have to make do with a new poster campaign. The message is clear - There's nothing we want from Germany:

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Why Men Love Die Hard and Women Get Fat in Winter

I had a fifteen minute wait for a train today, which almost never happens in Switzerland, so I popped into a bookshop to while away the time.  I noticed dozens of books with variations on the name 'Why Men Hate X and Women Love Y.'

I did some research and found startling sales figures:


Why Men Don't Listen and Women Can't Read Maps has sold six million copies, including an astonishing 1.3m in Helsinki - one for every man, woman, and child there.  Why Men Want Sex and Women Need Love sold four million copies in five months and caused book riots in Harrods.

So I've decided to stop writing Robots versus Vampires, and churn out this kind of shit instead.

Starting with -

Which will be followed, six weeks later, by -

And just in time to pay a deposit on a bachelor pad in Manila, I'll knock this one out -

Early retirement, here I come!


Sunday, March 20, 2011

Death Threats from a Nine-Year-Old Girl

I went to a party on Saturday night.  My friend's friend brought her nine-year-old daughter, a cute but malevolent girl named Ella, to the bar.  She saw that Cecile had been teasing me via the medium of post-it notes.

Cecile's Effort

"To ble or not to ble"

Now, I'm not saying that Cecile is a bad influence or anything, but Ella began producing disturbing post-it note cartoons at intervals of about forty seconds.

Ella #1 - Arsenic in my Beer

Ella explained this one by saying, "You're drinking a beer, and getting drunk, and then falling over and then you're dead on the floor.  Giggle."

Ella #2 - The Wolf and the Rabbit

"This rabbit is me, and the wolf is you.  And you're chasing me.  And I'm faster so you don't see the tree and you hit the tree and you're on the floor and you're dead."

Ella #3 - The Bigger Gun

"This is you and you've got a gun and you're shooting me.  But I've got a bazooka so I kill you and then you're on the floor and you're dead."

Ella # 4 - Slapped

"This is you and you love this girl and you give her some flowers but she doesn't like you and she slaps you in the face."

Ella #5 - Steer Clear of my Mum

"This is you with the drink and this is you looking at my mother and you love her because she's pretty and then my dad comes and he's angry and her punches you in the gob."

Ella #6 - Spiderman

"This is you because you're Spiderman and here you're doing a spider web and you swing on it but it breaks and then you're dead.  This is your grave.  All covered in spiders.  Giggle."

Ella #7 - A Tale of Two Funerals

"This is my grave on the left and everyone is sad and crying because they loved me.  And this is yours on the right because you're all alone and no-one loves you and there's lightning on it."

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

A Trillion and One Ways to Score Points with Chicks

Background to the Project

"Androo," said Cecile, "At what are you laughing?"
"Oh," I said, sipping on some black tea. "It's this list of things you should do for your girlfriend. Ways to score points with a girl."
"I'm sure it's very funny, but you're supposed to be helping me with my English. It's quite rude to have your laptop open and be reading a website while I'm telling you about my thoughts and feelings." She pointed her French eyes at me in an ambitious attempt to imprint the reprimand onto my brain forever.
"Hah! That's here on the list... wait... yes! Number nineteen. 'When she talks to you, put down the newspaper and give her your full attention.' Ridiculous!"
"Actually, that sounds like good advice."
"No way. It's all garbage. I wonder how many guys have lost girlfriends because of this shit?"
"If you're such an expert, why don't you write your own list? Although maybe one hundred and one ways to score a chick are too many for you to think of."
"Too many? Too many? I'll write a billion and one ways. A trillion and one ways!" I chomped on some cheesecake in a sexy, macho way. "Maybe I'll write it in sections though."


1. When a girl says something stupid, point it out.

Chick: I love Jon Bon Jovi.
Andrew: What's your favourite song?
Chick: The one about Frankenstein.
Andrew: Um... what?
Chick: You know.
Andrew: No, I don't. Sing it.
Chick: [enthusiastically] My heart is like an open highway, like Frankenstein I did it my way.
Andrew: Wow.

2. When a girl falls over or spills something, call her retarded.
3. If a chick is foreign, learn how to call her retarded in her language. She'll appreciate the effort you put into learning it. In German, it's 'bist du behindert?'
4. Eye contact is 68% of flirting and seduction. Wait, make that 86%. Never, ever look away from a girl until she looks away from you. A game I invented called Eye Win will help you improve:

Eye Win - Introduction
A game of skill and fun for all the family! Transform your weak-ass eye contact into smouldering 1940s-black and white-movie-quality eye sex in only five minutes a day! Minutes to learn, days to master, a lifetime of pleasure!
How to Play
For five minutes a day, stare at everyone you see. Gain one point for outstaring someone; lose one point if you look away first.  Use two points for policemen, guys who look scary, and extremely hot chicks you'd normally be too shy to look at.  If you have a negative score, no-one will ever love you.

5. Let your eyes do the talking.  You verbalize too much. An hour of being clever and witty won't get you as many points as just one smouldering glance. Once every twenty minutes or so, stop talking and just stare at the girl you're dating.  If you do it right she'll get self-conscious and say 'what?' Don't explain what you're thinking. For best results, add a slight shake of the head and/or an enigmatic smile.

6. It's okay to be mean to a girl. They like it. "You write like a boy." "You're such a geek." "I can't believe what a nerd you are." "You're such a hippy."  "You're soooo French."
7. The first time she expresses a liberal opinion, call her a hippy.
8. The second time she expresses a liberal opinion, call her a communist.
9. The third time she expresses a liberal opinion, call her a hippy communist.
10. Follow a piece of meanness with something nice.  Like, "I was thinking about you in the bath the other day," or "I like the way your express the emotion of frustration."  Note - don't do this if she asks for something nice.

The World's Worst Dating Advice?

Women are like video games.  If a man presses her 'forward' button, then the left, then lets his thumb sweep round the joypad while pressing the A button, his girlfriend will then produce a giant blue fireball.  This will score the boyfriend as many as five hundred points.

That's why this guide is so useful - it shows exactly how to keep the love and romance in a relationship.  If you do three things a day, your relationship is sure to prosper.

Assuming you are too busy and important to click on links, here are some highlights:

1.  Upon returning home, find her first before doing anything else and give her a hug.  [Even if you really need the toilet or if she's napping and hugging her will wake her up.]
3.  Practice listening and asking questions.  [Mirrors can be useful for this.]
10.  Validate her feelings when she is upset.  [Validating a temper tantrum is definitely the right thing to do.]
18.  Offer to build a fire in the wintertime  [Useful if your girlfriend lives in 1950.]
22.  When going out, ask if there is anything she wants you to pick up at the store, and remember to pick it up.  [It's not enough to just ask.  You have to remember to get the stuff!]
24.  Give her four hugs a day.  [Never three; never five.]
29.  Notice when the trash is full and offer to empty it.  [And prove that romance isn't dead.]
34.  Take her side when she is upset with someone.  [Especially if that someone is you.]
57.  Notice how she is feeling and comment on it, e.g., "You look happy today" or "You look tired", and then ask a question like "How was your day?"  [Women love being told they look tired.]
60. Surprise her with a love note or poem.  [But don't leave a post-it note on the keyboard of her laptop or she'll freak out.  I know.]
68.  Write out neatly any phone messages you make or take for her.  [Many relationships have been ended by poorly written messages.]
89.  Create special time to be alone together.  [Time machines are handy for creating time.  Also, starships with warp drives.]
99.  Eat lightly on romantic occasions so that you don't become stuffed and tired later.  [When she asks why you aren't eating, tell her it's because you are looking forward to some sexy time later.  Do your best Borat voice.]

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

My Guide to Haggling in China

1. Deal with Shock

The first thing you need to do is prepare for the shock. Walking into a Chinese market can be a dizzying assault on the senses. There are too many people, the sales people are too aggressive and don’t respect your personal space, and all in all there is a palpable atmosphere of mayhem.

As soon as you get past one person who grabs you shouting, “Rolex Rolex DVD DVD looky looky”, another one tries his luck. “Bag bag bag looky looky Nike Nike Yellow DVD.”  Yellow DVDs are pornos.  But mostly Japanese ones with the good bits pixelated out.

If someone grabs you, you can shout 'bu xing!' (Which pompously translates as 'That won't do!')

2. Learn to Ignore

You're in a situation where normal standards of politeness aren't going to work.  You have to ignore everyone.  You have to!  It's hard to accept at first, especially if you've been taught to, like, respect other people and stuff. But you have to ignore everyone and focus on what you want.

If ignoring people offends your sensibilities, you can politely decline what they have to offer. 'bu yao!' (Don't want.)

3. Walk Around a Bit

It's important not to go straight to the first stall. Let's assume you want a fake Louis Vuitton handbag as a gift for your mistress. If you walk past a few bag stalls you can try to play them off against each other. Liang bai kuai? Ta shuo le san shi kuai! (200 bucks? She said thirty!)

4. Carry an Umbrella

Haggling is acting. You need props. An umbrella is the perfect wingman. You can point with it, drop it in astonishment, tap it impatiently, or hit yourself on the head with it.

Or, importantly, lean on it:

5. Begin Haggling

The first step of the process is pointing to something with your umbrella and asking the price. Duoshao qian? (How much?)

It is VERY IMPORTANT that you laugh at whatever he says. If you don't understand Chinese numbers, don't laugh at this stage. Shrug, and the stallkeeper will type the price into a calculator and show you the screen. Laugh now. This is his first price for really stupid foreign devils and you are sharing his joke. What a character!

But now you want the real price. As a rule of thumb, you can probably expect him to accept 10-20% of the first price. If he says 300, he means 30.

6. Go Slowly

When serving food, a Chinese person will say 'man man chi' (eat slowly) to his guest. Haggle slowly and you'll get more discount. The more theatrical your performance, the greater the discount. The more friends you have acting along with you ('bad cop' is the best supporting role if you only have one friend) the greater the discount.  If you have more friends, get them to play more roles.  I once went with three friends and we did the cast of Seinfeld.

7. Case Study

You want to buy some trainers. The woman asks for 400 RMB. You laugh, she laughs. Now what?

If she has a little stool, sit down, and get settled. Offer 50. 'Wu shi'. Sit forward on your umbrella, preferably leaning your chin on the handle.

Begin pleading, shaking your head, looking to the heavens, sighing, leaving long silences, pretending to be angry, shrugging your shoulders, and mumbling instructions to your team mates (“Point to your own shoes and talk quickly in English… Put your hands on your hips… Try to get me to leave…”)

8. Nukes

If things aren't going well, try these useful phrases:

wei shen me ni bu xi huan wo? (Why do you hate me?)
wo bu shi you qian ren (I'm not a rich guy)
tai gui le! you liangge er nai (That's too expensive. I have two mistresses to keep)
ni shi huai dan! (You're a bad egg)
wo gei ni san bai kuai, wo diao lian (If I give you three hundred bucks I'll lose face)

9. Final Tip

Walk away. If you agree on a price before walking away, you are paying too much. If you can't get the stallkeeper to go lower than 50, walk away. She will call you back and say 'okay 40'. If she doesn't call you back, it means 50 is her lowest price. Go back and pay it!