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America–Playground Bully or Misunderstood Teenager?

       Some nations think of America as the menacing bully in the world’s playground. Whether you believe that to be true or not, it sure wasn’t always that way.

     In 1773, when America as we know it was merely a glint in George Washington’s eye, one of the most bizarre acts of rebellion occurred: The Boston Tea Party. This was no ordinary tea party, for not only was there an absence of cake, crumpets and scones, there was no tea. Unless of course you like your tea mixed with polluted, salty harbor water.

          An invitation to The Boston Tea Party was a request to help move large, heavy crates from three tea-laden ships, only to toss said dried tealeaves into the harbor.
Now despite being The Bay Area Brit, I’m no expert on tea parties, but it seems to me, it’s sort of like receiving an invitation to come over to a friend’s house for dinner, only to discover when you get there, he broke up with his girlfriend and has asked you, and three other friends (that you’ve never met) to come over to help him move all his crap into his new apartment on the other side of town. After which, you and his other friends will receive said dinner, in the form of beer and pizza as payment for five hours of manual labor.

         Well, at least you got the beer and pizza. A guest at The Boston Tea Party was perhaps to enjoy a strained back or a double hernia and never received tea or the aforementioned cake as payment.


In 1773 the British were having a hard time getting taxes from the colonists and so, as a (not so) cunning ploy, decided to levy the tea, figuring that they would reap their money back knowing full well that the colonists could never go without their morning cuppa. Wrong. The British overestimated just how good their tea was.
Thanks to America’s forefathers, things are different now; 21st Century Americans guzzle billions of gallons of tea per annum. Teahouses are now cropping up all over the Bay Area ensuring that tea drinkers can taste their favorite blend and try many eclectic varieties not readily available at their local market.

        The Boston Tea Party was historically significant, but probably only appreciated by Americans for its importance after the dust had settled. The action of dumping thousands of pounds of tea was a metaphor, like teenagers singing their favorite song of protest from an upstairs bedroom in their parents’ house.
“We’re not gonna take it. Oh no, we’re not gonna take it. We’re not gonna take it anymore!”
However, I can only imagine that the men that carried out the act of tea-tossing, when finished with their deed, rushed back to their meeting place and re-enacted the scene blow-by-blow, like obstreperous teenagers that had set off a fire alarm or tagged a school mural with graffiti. “I thought we were busted for real when that soldier shone his light my way.”
Of course, I’m making light of an important political and historical show of defiance. However, the next time you get ruffled when your child launches his creamed corn at a wall in protest from the dinner table, remember what Britain and America learned from The Boston Tea Party. Perhaps what your impetuous child is actually saying is, “I learned this behavior from America’s forefathers, and, Mom, I don’t want creamed corn for dinner again; I want tea and cake.” And as a parent you should consider that maybe your creamed corn isn’t that good, and by forcing it on your kid, it will bring resentment until one day they finally crack and empty the contents of the fridge and cupboards into the garbage can.

             Also, next time you get an invitation to a party, be sure to read the fine print or you might end up with a slipped disc or do something that will be remembered centuries from now as a turning point in which your country transformed from being a rambunctious child into a misunderstood teenager.

© Copyright Matty Stone 2010

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The Vampire’s New Love

       Since moving to the Bay Area from London, I have gained and lost many loves. Like a vampire who has had to watch his mortal lovers age and die, I have become hardened to the process of saying farewell, but I will always have a special place in my heart for you, iPod Shuffle–for I loved you once, much as I once loved my Sony CD Sportsman. Sure she used to weigh me down as I ran through the stinky, wet eucalyptus leaves that paved San Francisco’s Panhandle, but it was a love that was pure and true as she guided me through the long grueling slogs through the city as I trained for my marathon.
I haven’t seen my heavy CD player in years, but I know where she is right now. She sits in a hardly opened drawer in my office, right next to another former love: my cassette tape player, which I purchased from Walgreen’s for $10 in the 90’s. You know what sits next to that cassette player? Why a transistor radio from the 1980’s. She was small and tinny and you couldn’t quite make out if the song had a bass line, but I once loved her. Next to her is a beat-up long wave radio, which I bought to listen to the BBC World Service’s broadcast of English football games. The long wave radio took nine long, agonizing weeks to arrive in America after ordering. She was handcrafted lovingly by a team of Chinese assembly line workers who likely finished making it in the time it takes to lick a postage stamp. I spent hours hunched over that radio trying to hear soccer commentary as Bavarian marching band tubas and Aboriginal chanting shadowed in and out, making listening to the game quite unbearable. But I did love her, that long wave radio, even though we had our communication disagreements.

         I tried to listen to my iPod Shuffle the other day and it wouldn’t work, and I think I know why. I suspect my iPod knows it’s a matter of time before she gets replaced or broken up with, like I broke up with all my previous listening loves. Maybe my iPod heard the rumor that there’s a new love in my pocket. Maybe it heard that my Blackberry Curve plays music AND videos and works as some sort of communicative device they call a telephone.
My iPod is making a bold move by deciding to break down at such a tenuous phase in our relationship. I have concluded that SHE is breaking up with ME. I don’t exaggerate when I say we ran thousands, (okay, I exaggerate) hundreds of miles together, although quite frankly, I was doing most of the work.

       The thing is I paid $120 for my iPod and well, jeez now I look at it, it looks more cheap-looking than a disposable camera. Hell even more flimsy than a disposable lighter. Was I that stupid? Did I really think that this little, white, plastic oblong thing could last? Was I so naïve in believing that this relationship could actually last longer than a year? I mean really.
Perhaps my iPod was set to die the day after the one-year warranty ran out.
I can hear the Apple store worker now. “Well, sir, that’s why we offer the extended warranty.” I didn’t get the extended warranty. I never get the extended warranty.

          So my iPod shuffle is dead to me. This time my love suffocated my iPod and after succumbing to my continual attention, I lost interest in her and she decided to leave quietly, graciously, and without warning.

         And so now my love belongs to my Blackberry Curve. And much like David Bowie’s character in the movie “The Hunger,” the iPod goes into the scary room at the top of the vampire’s mansion with all of Catherine Deneuve’s dead and dying ex-lovers.
“Hello, my loves, this is the iPod, she’ll be here with you all for awhile, so be nice. Just because she’s younger, better looking, and capable of more things than you could dare dream—don’t let that get you down. In your time each of you were my greatest love and nothing can ever take that away from you. I hope you all make sweet music together…sniff sniff.”

© copyright Matty Stone 2010

The Bloody Weather

      Not that I’m complaining but we’ve been getting a lot of rain here in the Bay Area. I suppose you could say it reminds me of my life living in England. I got to thinking of the differences in not only the weather, but the way that the news of it is passed along to us.

     In America, the TV weatherman, by which of course I mean, “Meteorological Person,” has the toughest job on the news. I’m not referring to the notion that they might somehow be responsible for what the sky offered us today. Nor that their professional incompetence might ruin your trip to the beach. No, I’m talking about how hard it must be, as a meteorologist, to try and make what you’re saying seem relevant in a news broadcast.

        “Bad news on the way I’m afraid. It’s going to rain tomorrow and you might just need an umbrella.” Even outside of a TV news broadcast setting that’s not bad news. It’s going to rain? That could be considered a minor inconvenience at best, especially when stacked up against other news stories; the phrase “bad news” seems sorely out of place.

            A wildfire spreading through your neighborhood is bad news. A garbage strike is bad news. Your childhood sports hero has to have both arms and legs amputated, that’s bad news. “Your hair and coat might get a little wet tomorrow,” is up there in newsworthiness with: “This just in… a man in South Dakota farted last night in his sleep. The only person affected by the incident were his wife who complained that the noise awoke her, and their dog who was curled up around the man’s legs at the time.”

       Often, the meteorologist (from here on out referred to as the weatherman) will have to follow a news anchor who might say something like this: “…leaving the orphaned children to fend for themselves in the snake pit. And now with the weather, here’s Chip…Chip.”

         To showcase what masters of trickery weathermen are, no one really notices the awful segue. Chip starts out soberly slow with a quick précis of the day’s weather in your region. Then his voice and tone pick up the cadence a little, with what he refers to as “some good news on the way.” He says that the weekend should be a lot clearer with temperatures in the mid-eighties.

          Chip doesn’t pause to accept credit for the better weather to follow, but by now everyone has forgotten all about the grisly demise of a family of four’s doomed camping expedition which went horribly awry thanks to a short-sighted cartographer’s dyslexic condition. At this point of the news broadcast, the TV viewing audience is wondering whether they should throw a pool party this weekend. “Fire up those barbecues,” beams Chip. “It’s gonna be a scorcher!” He flashes his white teeth, which showcase his tanned skin and handsome features; he holds the expression for a second in the hope that the best casting agents in Hollywood are watching the broadcast.

         In Britain there are no such dreams of Hollywood stardom for our depressed weatherman. His glumness fits right into the news seamlessly. “Tomorrow it’s going to rain. I’m sorry; it’s not my fault.” Then the weatherman whose name is usually Michael or Robert, but never Mike or Bob, places a little cartoon cloud over where the word London should be on a map of the United Kingdom. It simplifies the science of weather perfectly. Here’s the country you live in, and here’s a cartoon grey cloud which signifies that tomorrow the weather will be cloudy, and will remain so, until it’s time for me to fish out one of those little yellow and orange cartoon suns from a cardboard box in the back of the studio somewhere. The British have a love/hate relationship with their weathermen and their weather, and without its almost terminal grayness would give the Brits one less thing to complain about—which they would in turn probably complain about. Michael doesn’t have to worry about how his audience feels at the end of the news broadcast, his job is done; all the little cartoon clouds have been placed onto the map and it’s time for him to go home and eat his supper.

        Back in the U.S. much like a well-acted drama or book, Chip wins the TV audience back at the end of the broadcast with some good news. After all, they did just sit through an hour of stories about death occurring all around the world in the form of wars, earthquakes, bridge collapses and closer to home shootings on their city’s streets. The viewer rode all that way, guided by a team of reliable reporters and appropriately serious anchors. It is now up to Chip to leave the audience with a happy sense of wellbeing. At the end of Chip’s work day, he can put down his pointer and walk away from the green screen knowing that he made the world a better place by cheering a few hundred thousand people up. But wait…there is a breaking news story. This is usually pretty meaty, because the news team genuinely wants you to feel happy at the end of the news broadcast. They want you to come back and watch again tomorrow, but at the same time they can’t risk missing the story when their rivals will surely be on the same trail and so have to tell you about it. After all, the story might be about a three alarm fire at a pet store.
“…leaving the orphaned kittens to fend for themselves in the blazing inferno.”

© copyright Matty Stone 2010

Oh My God They Killed Matt!…You Bastards!

      As some of you may be aware, The Bay Area Brit spent the first three-quarters of his life being known as “Matt Stone.” But in 1997 a life-altering event occurred, after which, nothing would be the same.

I always thought I had a cool name, you know, kind of private detective-like: “Matt Stone P.I.”

In the mid-Nineties I decided I wanted to be a cartoonist. I entered a couple of cartoon competitions and won–most notably the top prize at The San Francisco Bay Guardian’s annual contest. I drew for a local monthly music newspaper for two years and kept improving at my craft in the hope that one day I might become a syndicated cartoonist.

     After many, many rejections, King Features eventually wanted to publish some of my cartoons, and did in newspapers from San Francisco-to-Orlando. Matt Stone the cartoonist from Britain was finally making things happen across the pond.

And then this happened…..

Trey Parker and another man (also named) Matt Stone created South Park, a cartoon about four kids living in Colorado.

What the Hell?!?!

      My phone started ringing off the hook.
“Oh, my God, Matt, I just saw your show! It was fantastic.”

“That’s not me.”

“I just loved the fat kid…’Screw you guys, I’m going home.’ Just amazing, Matt! Oh, and I love the part where you kill Kenny every week. ‘YOU BASTARDS!’ Hilarious, Matt, just great. I knew you’d make it. “

“It’s not me. I haven’t made it.”

“Oh, are you sure?”

“Yep.”

“Hunh, well that’s weird. It’s totally your sense of humor.”

“I know, but it’s not me.”

        Friends and ex-girlfriends couldn’t wait to tell me how great my show was. It sucked. I hated it. This faker, this pretender to my throne, this complete and utter bastard is running around and making cartoons using my name.

      Oooooh… I wanted to hate it, I really did, and when I finally sat down to watch it, I seethed like mad for all of about a minute. Then I started laughing and laughing and laughing.

     So loving South Park was all well and good, but I needed to change my name; after all despite the fact that I had cartoons published well before South Park came along, he was now “Matt Stone” and I would have to find another name to publish under.

       For a while I went by Matt Poe Stone and then M.P. Stone but eventually landed on Matty Stone. I have many friends whom have called me “Matty” through the years, and I kind of like it.

I embrace my “Mattyness” for you. I even have the website:

www.MattyStone.com

so I must be “THE” Matty Stone. Even though it’s taken a backseat to this site.

Matty Stone: The Bay Area Brit, trying to make a buck and a name for himself in the U.S.A.

Matt Stone as you knew him is gone, but Matty Stone lives.

Give Something Up For Lent? Thanks, But I Already Gave

      Around this time two years ago I became a vegetarian. Why? You ask. Well, apart from  the obvious desire for self-improvement in some areas: heart, mind, body and soul, it’s mainly because my wife is a vegetarian, and I do all the cooking in our home. Now I know what you’re thinking, Mr. Bay Area Brit, British people can’t live without their tripe, haggis, blood pudding, and steak and kidney pie, and they sure as hell can’t cook food for humans. Oh sure, they know how to yell at people and get all purple in the face like that scary looking Gordon Ramsay creature on “Kitchen Nightmares.” But actually cook? Leave it out, mate.

      Anyway, I have always loved vegetarians, I really have, and I think that they are working on a higher level of evolution. Sure, I cared about animals, the environment, and yeah, I would hug a tree if given the option. Alas, my whole life I loved the flavor, smell, and texture of meat, which meant I was completely 86’ed from the Vegetarian Club, of which my wife Michele is a card-carrying member. I always tried to be sensitive to her needs: when cooking, I created dishes for her that were delicious and completely devoid of anything that was born rather than grown. However, in one of the three or four pans lurking on the stovetop there was one that contained meat: a side dish for me. I felt guilty over it and would hide the uncooked flesh in the fridge in a place she wouldn’t look (wherever the hell might that be)? I always feared one day she might find my cache of meat and I might come home one night to discover that my office walls were smeared with the blood from an uncooked steak “MURDERER!!!” the bloody walls would scream.

       Two years ago, while watching the Puppy Bowl (of all things,) my friend Stephen announced that he was now a vegetarian, and he and his girlfriend Jessica smiled at each other lovingly. He did this thing, this bizarre, weird self-sacrificial thing for her. He loved her, and he knew that this act would make her happy. I admired him; he is a good person. Me? I am a bad person. At the time, I told him that if he told Michele that he has done this, I will have to kill him…and then eat him, and then kill and eat his girlfriend Jessica, and then his parents, and then her parents etc, etc.

     For four years I subjected my lady to the sights and smells of animal flesh on my plate, yet she still loved me and put up with it, because she knew I liked it and it made me happy. She would sit with me as I watched The Iron Chef on TV. I breathed a sigh of relief when they announced that the “secret ingredient” was “TOFU!” or “LENTLS!”
However, it would usually be less than a minute before they cut to a shot of a sous chef coring the eyeballs out of a little lamb’s head, and I’d be embarrassed for my fellow carnivores, while Michele hid her eyes in horror, recoiling, as if feeling the pain from the knife herself. Heartbreaking.
I started to consider the possibility of never eating meat again. I knew that the toughest thing about being a vegetarian–apart from not getting to eat meat, of course–must be the way that vegetarians are treated when surrounded by carnivores in a communal dining situation, as if they’re odd, unusual, or in some way “being difficult” because they want to be a better person by choosing not to eat animals. Realistically it should be the other way around. And this is where I thought I could make a great vegetarian. I would use my skill and wit in conversation to make them see that they are wrong to treat vegetarians this way. But how could I be such a hypocrite? You can’t have your little baby lamb and eat him too. So what was I to do? There was only one thing to do. I had to become a vegetarian. And so, two years ago I threw my hat into the ring and announced to the world that I was going to become a vegetarian. And so I feel that on this day: the first day of Lent that my sacrifice two years ago should be carried over for a few years more.
“What are you giving up for Lent?” they might ask.
“I’m still not eating meat,” I’ll say.
So yep, two years on I am still a vegetarian. I sure do miss eating meat though.

President’s Day, Or Is It? I’m Confused.

Dateline: Third Monday in February S.F. Bay Area    President’s Day

In these allegedly “united” states of America, today marks the celebration of George Washington’s birthday, (even though today is the 15th and his date of birth was actually February 22nd.) And since we’re celebrating Washington’s day, why not throw in Lincoln’s birthday too, after all he was born on the 12th of this month. So why not kill two birds with one stone (sorry Abe).

Well that’s a bit confusing, because now instead of President’s Day it becomes “Presidents’ Day” because there are now two Presidents being celebrated. Okay, so Washington and Lincoln share a day. They are probably the only two Presidents the rest of the world has heard of from previous centuries, so that makes sense… unless of course you live in Alabama, in which case, Lincoln is not included in the Presidents’ Day celebration.  Instead, Thomas Jefferson is recognized alongside Washington, even though Jefferson’s birthday is April 13th. Those crazy Alabamians and their banjo adorned knees. As an outsider I can only conclude that Alabama still has misgivings about losing the Civil War, and not to mention that whole resisting the Abolition of Slavery thing. President Thomas Jefferson was a pro-abolitionist, but still owned over 600 slaves. A contradiction indeed. However more astoundingly he was reputed to be the father of some of his slaves’ children. Founding fathers indeed. It’s all so confusing.

In Massachusetts, any former President with roots in that fair state is celebrated on President’s Day.  John F. Kennedy, John Adams, John Quincy Adams, and George Bush. Which is not to say that people in any state celebrate President’s Day in any specific manner, except for the closing of some stores, Post Offices, Government buildings, and banks. In New Mexico, however, they celebrate President’s Day the day after Thanksgiving (the traditionally biggest shopping day of the year) Obviously, banks and stores are open on their President’s Day. Now I’m really confused

At least some former elected officials get recognized in this country. In Great Britain there is no such thing as Prime Minister’s Day. We do however celebrate a holiday the day before Ash Wednesday. The day is known as Shrove Tuesday, or “Pancake Day” and this year, like people all over Britain, the Bay Area Brit will eat pancakes in celebration. The pancakes are not thick and fluffy like American pancakes but thin like crepes. And they’re not eaten at breakfast but at dinner.

I am sure that there is one thing that every state can agree on: On this long weekend, I call on every person in every state in this great land to show your patriotic duty and honor all the men that have led this country by eating a stack of pancakes of Presidential proportions.   

My Funny Valentine

No single calendar day–not even July 4th–screams “You are in America!” more than today. For on this day: February 14th, people who are happily in love celebrate the joy of amour, and those who are miserably and reluctantly alone, commiserate with a sneer of disapproval as they gaze at today’s date on their sad appointment-free calendar.

It’s a day when American consumerism knows no boundaries, especially for the wealthy and in love. After all, nothing says, “I love you” like bestowing your Valentine a diamond the size of a crystal doorknob or lobbing them the keys to a luxury sedan wrapped in a giant red ribbon. According to the telly, it’s the American dream.

Valentine’s Day ultimately sums up life in these United States of America: The Haves and The Have-nots.

Mr. Have has a beautiful wife, a secure job, and 2.3 children; one of whom is miffed at being a mere fraction of the child it could have been. Sorry, Junior, them’s the breaks.

Ms. Have-not has a cat named Senor Sparkles, a pint of Ben & Jerry’s in the freezer, and a lifetime supply of Valium prescribed to her by a psychiatric doctor who secretly fantasizes she swallow the entire bottle one night, so she no longer visits her with depressing stories of loneliness and ongoing abandonment by anything she has the misfiortune to feel affection for.

So happy Valentine’s Day everyone!

Love it or hate it, my friends, it’s as American as it gets.