'Out On The town With G. Roy Butler'


It was great. It is great. They are great. They were the greatest. They are the greatest. Whether expressed in the present tense or the past tense these exclamations mean much the same thing. They are expressions we hear all the time; I myself often hear them when I am Out On the Town. But who is to judge what is really great? Most people would consider themselves qualified to make that judgement but, unfortunately, they are not. Consider these scenarios: I show you my new pencil and say it is great but you are not so sure. I serve you a boiled egg and you say it is great but I know I you are lying because you always lie about things like this. A lovely couple I know have a baby and I go to the hospital to see it. ‘Isn’t she great!’ they say. ‘Yes,’ I say but I am thinking, ‘Maybe not’.
Unfortunately great is an Empirical term and not to be bandied about by all and sundry. All may judge what is good or okay but only history can say what is great. Consider these examples of the truly great: Alexander the Great, The Great Wall of China, The Great Fire of London. History does not say Alexander the Okay or The Good Wall of China or the Not too bad Fire of London. Fortunately I have at my disposal the Flywheel Supa-computer which can turn mere whimsy into hard code, opinion into data and passing fancy into binary information streams. I fed the entire contents of the Proquest online databases, the Encyclopedia Brittanica, the Grove dictionaries of Art and Literature, a century of World Book almanacs, the Golden Jubilee edition of Women’s Weekly, several Bunty annuals, an issue of The Face with Adam Ant on the cover, and a copy of Girlfriend featuring my interview with the drummer from Ugly Kid Joe, into Spa-computer to find five unarguably great things.

1. Peanuts – No-one could argue with that. The salty snack is a perfect accompaniment to any beverage. (with the exception of Bailey’s Irish Cream)

2. Beer – Supa-computer shows amazing consistency. Not only is beer great on its own but it serves as a perfect accompaniment to peanuts. Righteous, Supa-computer!

3. Ashtray – The ashtray is certainly one of mankind’s greatest inventions. Imagine how many houses – indeed, whole cities – would have burned down if there had been nowhere to butt out mankind’s cigarettes and cigars (and cigarillos)

4. Teacups – Okay. Great. Where else would we put our tea if not in a teacup? Spot on Supa-computer.

5. Nick Cave – I was beginning to get the sneaking suspicion that Supa-computer was not scanning the huge data store I had put at its disposal but merely itemising the things on my kitchen table. Fortunately number 5 proves me wrong. Nick Cave is not on my kitchen table. He is in the broom cupboard.