(Originally posted on Facebook at 01:17 GMT on June 5 2009. Original post available here ).

1: You are not a “fan” of sleeping, cuddles or sex. What you mean to say is that you enjoy it, and that you’re doing your best to show everyone else how much you enjoy it. But you can put this in your interests, or join a corresponding group (it’s hardly as if there aren’t enough of them). You can be fan of a public figure, celebrity, creative entity or sports team. But you cannot be a fan of sex; unless you’ve arrived at that point where you wear a scarf emblazoned with pro-coital slogans and chant in its support. And at that point, I already have the right to put you away.

2: A status update – or moreover, the changes between them – should bear some degree of interest. If at ten o’clock you post “x is in work”, and then wait until another two hours before posting “x is still in work lol!”, that’s not interesting. It would be far more interesting if you ran with a series akin to “x is in work”, “x is downloading contraband materials”, “x is frequenting Jihadist forums”, “x is being questioned” and finally “x is being waterboarded lol!” – particularly if you get through all of them on the same day.

3: Facebook is not for bitching, in any format. You cannot get away with “x wishes some people weren’t such backstabbers!” or posting long notes ranting about your enemies, knowing full well that either they will come across it, or sympathetic parties will reply with “aww hunni whats ron?g?? xxxxx”. When you are below the age of eighteen, some level of gutter-sniping is acceptable. But given that everyone on Facebook is eighteen or over, you cannot get away with it. If I find you doing it, I will use my mastery of chi techniques to melt the inside of your head from a very long way away.

4: Setting your relationship status to “It’s Complicated” should be banned. What’s so fucking complicated? If you’re both human beings, the complication ends there. Either you are with a person, or you’re not. It is NOT complicated, and even if it were, it doesn’t befit you to mark such a relationship in that category, as such an act would be tantamount to bitching (see above). The only way it could be really complicated is if one of you were a battered old Enigma machine, and the other was a gryphon. Then, and only then, will I concede that the relationship is not one of smooth and solid ground.

As for the happy-go-lucky ladies out there, please do not invent a relationship with a female friend, unless you are genuinely indulging in lesbianism. Us blokes are always cheered by the possibility of such Sapphic engagements, but are brutally broken down when we find out it’s just a quirky joke. If you really care that much about the other girl, then feel free to expand and enrich your relationship in ways which only this new, liberal, tolerant and enlightened age will allow. And please send us the photographs.

5: Too many applications spoil the broth. While I agree there are some quite nifty ones out there which allow facets of your personality to be expressed beyond usual facebookian norms, many are just jazzed-up viruses. Things like Vampire Wars, Zombie Wars et al are at their core fancy ways of stating “x has sent this application to n amount of people”, and leave it at that. If this is an attempt to show one’s popularity, it’s a bit redundant given the fact that everyone is provided with the number of friends they have in a strategically smug locale. If it’s the gaming side of things you’re going after with such apps, then buy a sodding game. Chances are you’ll have to spend money in order to upgrade the game to a feasibly competitive point, and at that point it becomes stupid.

6: Only detailed archives of the Second World War are allowed to contain more than one-thousand photographs. If your own photo album stretches beyond this point, you have stopped being a person and have instead become a cultural curiosity. At what point do you find it necessary to have over a thousand pictures of yourself? Do you really need all of those memories to be recorded in photographic form? Surely you just couldn’t go through the old-fashioned way of remembering things? Granted, things like holiday snaps, baby photos and the occasional memorable night out are perfectly acceptable, but chronicling that many photos seems a bit narcissistic to me.

7: Please, for Christ’s sake, apply a similar rule of moderation to your friends list. I accept the fact that Facebook is a social network designed to link people up, but these networks are only good so long as the connections are valid. I know you may well have lots and lots of relatives, friends, best friends, colleagues, employers, exes, school friends, university/college classmates, drinking buddies, housemates, people met on holiday/at festivals etc. and that you might want to put them on your friends list so as to generate so massive a number of friends it will render your less-connected peers to damp and squalid hopelessness. But the main bugger of the thing is, so does every other sod. If you’re now sat there thinking “Hang on – I don’t know that many people!”, I hereby charge you to try and remember everyone you’ve ever met, and then list their names alphabetically. See? Buggering difficult isn’t it?

8: Facebook stalking is wrong, in exactly the same way that real-life stalking is wrong. In your head, you’re like Hugh Jackman in Swordfish – you’re rapping away at the keys, joining the right networks and connecting up to the right circles of friends in order to view legions of sexy photographs of sexy people: and what’s more, the subject doesn’t know you’re doing it! They may even have one of those open profiles which you can access via Google, making you completely invisible to them. Yes, just lay back, sip another measure of expensive whiskey and admire their sexiness without any fear of reprisal – you’ve earned it, you suave hi-tech lothario you!

In actual fact, you’re just some pervert with a computer, desperate for a bit of masturbation that has some meaning behind it: neither the aesthetically pleasing but empty world of net pornography, or the possibility-laden but awkward path of abusing yourself to images of friends. You want to find someone who’s very sexy, but still remains tantalisingly accessible due to the fact that you have the same “friends” (I.e. your mum and her mum go to the same Mother’s Union meetings).

If you still fail to see the reprehensibility inherent in this, then imagine how you’d react if I told you I’d paid a man to watch you with an x-ray telescope, and that he’s wanking right now. But of course – this is completely mad, and is a purely hypothetical and impossible scenario. You and I would both be disgusted!

As if I’d pay the lucky bastard.

9: As with the rest of the internet, keep bloody chain messages in mind and do your best to restrain them. If you’re genuinely bothered by a paedophile moving into your street, rainforests being felled or some murderers being released back into the community, do NOT regurgitate the same stuff everyone else has said – take a step back and make a genuine effort to assert why you, personally, are pissed off. This will make your argument far more valid and give them a damn sight more integrity. Whether or not you’re bleating for a good cause, being a sheep is still not laudable.

When it comes to the somehow magic stuff of which the internet is apparently capable, exercise a bit of that long-abandoned human characteristic known as common sense. Karma will not care if you send such-and-such a message to ten people and make a wish – you’re still not going to kiss the love of your life, or inexplicably win a car. You’ll have far better luck getting off your arse and out into reality.

This is also true for supposedly “cursed” or “haunted” messages. Guess what’ll happen if you don’t send such-and-such a message to ten people? The girl from The Exorcist will leap out of your nose the next time you sneeze? Jack the Ripper will knife you in the dark? Nope. Do you really want to know what happens? It’s terrifying – but ten less people get that message!

(ASIDE – if your chose to send these messages on regardless, I hereby issue my own counter-curse, in which – just before you go to sleep – the sound of Sir Christopher Lee and Dani Filth accompanying one another to “Ring-a-Ring-a-Rosies” will emerge from nowhere, and the assorted puppet cast of Thunderbirds will drift out of your cupboard and hold an orgy).

10: No photo tags can ever be removed – unless it is confirmed that the person, item or animal in question is visibly not you. If you looked bad, or were too drunk to care, then it’s your own fault, and you must therefore suffer the consequences. Please note that this rule applies equally to both men and women, and that lady-folk have no more a right to de-tag themselves than men do. We must follow Cromwell’s example and be painted “warts and all”. While there are plenty of photos out there which make me look like the raised-by-forest-animals protagonist in a 1950’s film entitled Caveman in the City (“Can this outcast denizen of nature and yesteryear survive in the world of today?”), I am happy enough with my image to not delete them or urge the poster to sever my connection with such pictures. The ugly pictures are what make the good pictures look good.

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HAS anyone actually read any Tolkien recently? It’s been years since I read Lord of the Rings, and I can’t quite remember whether or not I read it twice. However, though I still appreciate Tolkien’s ability to write such a massive book and effectively create a world inside his head, some of the stuff in that book nags me. Like the fact that the orcs are an innately evil race who just HAVE to be killed, sort of like the bad guys on 24. You don’t ask them what they’re doing; you don’t give them any quarter; you don’t even stick around long enough to double-check what those chaps in Gondor High Command told you. Those bastards are just EVIL and if you don’t kill them you’re a measly, left-wing orc sympathiser who needs to be bombed out of recognition before you can stamp any more on our lovely freedom-loving society! Yeah! Never mind the fact we’re still all ruled in feudal castes and eke out a living on turnips – them orcs’d have us all in the cookpot as soon as look at us! Yeah! Bastard orcies!

Also, in radical contrast to my earlier admiration of the wizard, I am now deeply suspicious of Gandalf. Further examination of Gandalf’s methods give away some interesting ideas. Whereas normal characterisation makes him out to be a benevolent genius, who wars tirelessly against Sauron and the forces of evil, I now believe him to be a diabolical mastermind hell bent on ruling all of Middle Earth through puppet kings and articles of power.

Gandalf in darkness

"He has been the mover of all that has been accomplished, and this is his victory" - Aragorn

Think about it. All the way through, Gandalf seems to have a very big hidden agenda, which he gradually reveals through outward actions. Naturally, there will be those few naïve people who argue that this agenda ostensibly links up to the destruction of the One Ring and with it the death of Sauron, who represents a major threat to Middle-Earthian peace and prosperity. If Gandalf gave anything away too early, the spies of Sauron would suss things out and cater their plans accordingly. His secrecy is necessary, rather than evidence of wizardly malpractice on his part. But these poor, deluded saps have missed out on something rather obvious: Gandalf doesn’t just keep his plans from potential agents of Mordor, but from everyone. This can either be linked up with paranoia (and that wouldn’t surprise me in the case of an epic stoner such as Gandalf), or genuine evil. And for the reasons of inspection, I’ll assume it’s the latter.

Throughout the trilogy, Gandalf appears to be steering certain players into particular positions of power, and a lot of the associations he builds up are uniquely linked with systems of dynastic control; for example, Aragorn is descended from the Kings of Gondor, Legolas is a prince of Mirkwood, Gimli has relatives in dwarven royalty and even Bilbo is a landowner with a fair bit of clout. And to further bolster his oddly powerful social network, Gandalf has pride of place in the White Council. Although this body was originally formed with the intention of defeating Sauron, my guess is that they probably had a second plan in action, outlining how Middle Earth was to be run after Sauron was subdued. And luckily for Gandalf, the White Council’s future has an awful lot to do with him; Elrond and Galadriel, being elves, are going to vacate the territory fairly soon. Saruman, who is RIGHTLY paranoid of Gandalf’s activities and seeks to insure himself against them, comes across as a deluded whistleblower and ineffective traitor, and as such he is ousted for his apparent silliness.

Saruman: Victim of Early Cases of Internet Pedophilia

Saruman the White, seen here in engaging in the first recorded case of internet pedophilia.

Plus, consider the people who end up dead or become quietly subservient along the way, and how such things might work for a grab for power by Gandalf. The elves, as mentioned above, are leaving. Though they might otherwise be considered as viable threats to Gandalf’s inevitable rise to power, he has been dealt a lucky hand. The old guards of social hierarchy (as represented by Théoden, King of Rohan and Denethor, the Steward of Gondor) are either killed in battle or commit suicide. Though Boromir, who is a well-respected leader of men, might originally have buggered Gandalf’s plan to install Aragorn as King of Gondor, he’s killed fighting Uruks in the first book (we will assume, naturally, that Gandalf tipped them off). And while Boromir’s younger brother, Faramir, could have constituted an equal obstacle, he turns out to be something of a wet blanket.

Let’s also look at Gandalf’s potential plans for the next generation of Middle Earth’s rulers. The crew with whom he hangs during the events of the trilogy are indeed a useful bunch, but at the end of the day they’re all fighters, each of whom have had to contend with the existence of an enemy as strong as Sauron and live their lives in the according levels of fear and vigilance. Once Sauron is gone, Gandalf knows full well that his current roster of puppets will become nothing more than indentured veterans, and the people will get rid of them in order to encourage prosperity during an ensuing era of peace (consider the way Churchill was voted out of power after the war). The only possible exception to this rule is Aragorn, who has Messianic qualities enough to ensure a long-lasting association with his superstitious and ill-educated subjects. Therefore, Gandalf is not only going to need to mine some political usefulness from the current generation, but also their heirs.

However, fate seems to play out in Gandalf’s favour where this is concerned. Aragorn hitches up with Arwen, thereby uniting the otherwise disparate factions of humanity and elvenkind. Any child they have will not only inherit the throne of Gondor but also the amazing longevity of its mother and the renown of its father. Bloody handy kingdom-ruling material there as far as I can see.

"No, I'm the King now. You don't have any decision over whether or not you'll do anal."

"No, I'm the King now. You don't have any decision over whether or not you'll do anal."

The same applies to the aforementioned Faramir, and the eventual fate of the kingdom of Rohan.The fact that Faramir eventually marries Eowyn, who is directly linked to the royal line of Rohan, can also be seen as working well for old Gandalf, as this allows him to create a marriage of political convenience between the two kingdoms. If the battle-weary Eomer doesn’t have any kids of his own (and it’s safe to say he won’t, given his warlike belligerence), any child born from the marriage of Eowyn and Faramir would inherit the titles of both King of Rohan and Steward of Gondor, effectively dissolving Rohan’s sovereignty and making it a protectorate of Gondor – again working well for Gandalf, given that Aragorn, the King of Gondor, will be dancing to his tune. Already, he’s set up Gondor as the primary power, and we can be sure he’ll be running it from behind the scenes once everything else dies down.

Some might cry that this wouldn’t be a fool-proof plan. There are still other types out there whom Gandalf couldn’t directly control, namely the ents, the dwarves and the hobbits. But once more, Gandalf seems to have done his homework with this one, and the attitudes of each race deserves discussion.

Gandalf, in an early case of being caught reading pornography by a close relative.

Gandalf, in an early case of being caught reading pornography by a close relative.

As seen by their reticence to engage in any kind of war against Saruman until he made a direct attack on their territory – and even then only with a great amount of prior consideration – the Ents can be ruled out as a potential protectors of Middle Earth against Gandalf’s tyranny. Despite their strength once roused, it is very difficult to get them to act on anything. Not to mention the fact that like everyone else, the Ents trust Gandalf. After their seizure of Orthanc, they even go so far as to keep Saruman in captivity until Gandalf says otherwise. Oddly enough, given that he’s belittled and taken a pretty agressive stance towards his old wizardly drinking buddy throughout the previous portions of the trilogy, Gandalf decides to let Saruman go, under the guise of mercy for a fallen friend.

(Aside: While this might ring soundly with some readers, I believe this is Gandalf’s effort to create a sustained enemy once Sauron falls. Like the Eurasia/Eastasia  switching in Nineteen Eighty-Four and the belief of many conspiracy theorists that Roosevelt allowed the attack on Pearl Harbor in order to rally the Ameircan public to war, the continued threat of Saruman will keep the people of Middle-Earth on their toes, whilst paradoxically providing Gandalf with a threat symbol who can be easily neutralised).

In the case of the dwarves, Gandalf has long since placed himself in their friendship. The events of The Hobbit were quite visibly an attempt of Gandalf’s to inure himself to dwarf leadership, helping them go on a big quest to find a massive stack of gold – not to mention dragon-slaying and ring-finding. And like Elrond remarks (with no small measure of racism), the dwarves don’t have much of a vested interest in current events, keeping to themselves and spending much of their time mining. Unlike men and elves, the dwarves don’t send any massive armies to contribute in the defeat of Sauron. So long as he keeps them happy until he can stab them in the back, the dwarves don’t represent a massive threat to Gandalf either.

Finally, we come to the hobbits. As expected, these little buggers are no more of a threat to Gandalf as the above-mentioned races. He’s had rangers keeping an eye on them for ages, he doesn’t interfere when Saruman nearly burns the Shire down in his last-ditch attempt at control, and there’s even some talk at the end of the trilogy of the Shire coming directly under Gondorian authority, what with Aragorn being such a bloody lovely king and everything.

Given his clear path to power, some might ask how Gandalf expects to execute or utilise his control once he’s advising all the rulers, carefully weaking possible enemies etc. My reckoning is that Saruman hits the nail on the head when he makes a brief speech during his incarceration in his old fortress – in a scene which was later deleted from the cinema release of The Return of the King (I bet Gandalf had some say in that, too).

Upon finding out he'd been cut from the final film, Sir Christopher Lee was livid, and director Peter Jackson had to hand over Liv Tyler as way of apology.

Upon finding out he'd been cut from the final film, Sir Christopher Lee was livid, and director Peter Jackson had to hand over Liv Tyler as way of apology.

What do you want, Gandalf Greyhame? Let me guess. The key of Orthanc? Or perhaps the keys of Barad-Dur itself? Along with the crowns of the seven kings and the rods of the five wizards?

With this little tantrum, Saruman nails home the possibility that Gandalf might well be more then he seems. Luckily for the Grey Wizard, nobody believes Saruman, given that he is supposed to be the power-hungry magician who turned against his old allies. Gandalf is undoubtedly after the articles of power which make up the authorities of Middle Earth, not only for their symbolic associations but also for the actual magical powers which they carry. Much like Sauron made the Rings of Power and attempted to control them with his own One Ring, Gandalf’s plan is to obtain the artefacts of rule and rapid communication, such as the palantir seeing stones (remember how he pockets those of Saruman and Denethor once they’re gone?). But in contrast to this, Gandalf will not unite these objects with a single object of equal power, but rather with himself, giving himself far greater power and control than idiot Dark Lords like Sauron could dream of.

Of course, some (again, those lily-livered types in the pro-Gandalf camps) would argue that my entire argument is bunkum, given that by the end of the trilogy none of these things have come to pass. Gandalf allows everything to settle down naturally, and leaves Middle Earth along with the elves and a couple of the hobbits. He makes no visible grab for power and indeed expresses a belief that things have to get along without him, given that this new age is no longer his age.

I can reply to this with one simple answer: Bilbo.

"Where am I? Who are you? And what's Christopher Lee doing to Liv Tyler?"

"Where am I? Who are you? And what is Christopher Lee doing to Liv Tyler?"

Consider it thus; Bilbo spent sixty years as owner of the One Ring. Tolkien hammers home the detrimental effects which the Ring has on Bilbo, but no-one considers the kind of benefits it would provide. For one thing, much like the Ring’s previous owner Gollum, Bilbo has been given long life through his prolonged exposure to the Ring. It gave him the ability to become invisible whenever he wore it. Let’s also consider the power of the One Ring to control the remaining rings of power, one of which (Narya, the ring of fire) was secretly in Gandalf’s possession for a very long time. As such, though Bilbo might not have had willpower enough to control Gandalf, given the One Ring’s connection to the other ringbearers, Bilbo might well have been privy to the secrets which were otherwise locked away within Gandalf’s mind. Gollum would have been a similar threat had he not been killed, and Frodo would also have counted were it not for the fact he only owned the Ring for a comparatively short length of time.

Though such things might not seem important to Bilbo himself, given that he is rapidly going senile, chances are that he might spill Gandalf’s secrets to some other figure during one of his usual rambles, thereby seeding a potential uprising against Gandalf and royally buggering up everything he already has planned. As such, Gandalf plans for Bilbo to head westward with the elves, and also deigns to go along with him, making sure he keeps his mouth shut until old age finally takes him.

In the meantime, Gandalf will keep planning. And we can be assured of one thing: he’ll be back

Gandalf