Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Art Shows in London, Paris, Cornwall and Chichester

The Scythians: uncivilized nomads
British MuseumLondon
The Scythians roamed Siberia between 900 and 200 BC. They were artists, metal-workers and observers of the natural world. Some of their tombs in the frozen tundra have preserved leather shoes and clothes, wooden head-dresses and even skin tattooed with leaping, semi-abstract animals. Many cultures borrowed from their art, including the Celts.

CanalettoQueen's Gallery
Buckingham Palace
to 12 November
The Queen is letting us admire her fabulous collection of early Canalettos.

Camille Pissarro
Musee Marmottan
Hurry, hurry, it shuts on 2 July. Pissarro was an impressionist painter of snow, floods, back gardens and Upper Norwood.

Jasper Johns
Royal Academy
23 September-10 December
Johns shocked gallery-goers in the 60s with his ironic version of the American flag in thick paint, and his use of targets, numbers and maps as subject matter. He included household objects and the human figure, moving into abstraction in the 70s. Since then he has used Greek vases, slanting rain and images from painters such as Grunewald and Munch to explore sexuality and memory. "Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns defined the quiet cool of gay culture," says The Daily Beast. This is his first British retrospective for 40 years.

SOS Brutalism
Deutsches Architekturmuseum

From 6 October
Photographs of endangered Brutalist buildings, for lovers of grimmigkeit.

Hayward Gallery
25 Jan 2018
The blocky concrete masterpiece, inspired by World War II bunkers and gun emplacements, will reopen in January with a major retrospective of photographer Andreas Gursky, known for his panoramic views of public housing, humans in the mass, and regimented beach umbrellas.

Tattoo: British Tattoo Art Revealed
National Maritime Museum
To 7 January
Daggers, dancers, ships, roses, skulls, scrolls.

A Different Light: British Neo-Romanticism
Pallant House
To 24 September
Between the wars, British artists like Paul Nash and John Piper looked back to William Blake and Samuel Palmer, and imbued landscape and buildings with "the light that never was on sea or land".

Austin Osman Spare

The Last Tuesday society
Mare Street
East London
Spare's portrait drawings are exquisite. He was a friend of the notorious Aleister Crowley and created his own language of magical sigils.

Hackney Museum
1 Reading Lane
E8 1GQ
Lived in London all my life and never knew Hackney had a museum.

The National Gallery of Dublin has re-opened, displaying restored and conserved pictures.

Latin Abbreviations

Kids today – they don't learn Latin any more! And they don't understand the Latin abbreviations that used to be widely used. Here's a quick guide.

Anno Domini or "year of the Lord". It's 2017 AD, or 2017 since Jesus was born in Year One, according Dionysius Exiguus, who worked it out our dating system in the 6th century. Alternatively, you can replace AD with CE (Common Era), and BC (Before Christ) with BCE (Before the Common Era).

am and pm: Before and after noon (ante and post meridian)

c. or circa: about, around

cf: compare, or see also

CV: curriculum vitae, resumé or vita (as the Americans call it). Curriculum vitae means "course of life", and "vita" means life.

et al.: and others (Short for "et alia".)

etc., etcetera: and the rest

e.g., exempli gratia: for instance

MO, modus operandi: method of operating

NB, nota bene: Please note.

pa, per annum: per year

per cent: for each hundred

PS, post scriptum: postscript (And when we wrote letters, we sometimes added a PTO at the bottom, meaning "please turn over".)

QED, quod erat demonstrandum: You can't argue with that!

Re: concerning (It's a word, not an acronym, and can be said "ree" or "ray".)

RIP, requiescat in pace:
Rest in peace.

stet: Let it stand.

vs, v., versus: against

Latin words that end in A (larva, vertebra) have plurals ending in AE (larvae, vertebrae).

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Literary Clichés 4

Riley Keough

In a Golden Age mystery, if a girl wears her hair parted in the middle and drawn back into a knot “like a Madonna”, she will not be the murderer.

In novels of 70 years ago, the old nanny inverts her sentences: “A young man to you seem he may! Insulted I’ve bin!”

In a bad historical novel, good characters are given contemporary attitudes and ploddingly spell out why slavery is wrong, democracy is good and witches wise.

Modern detective stories have to contain a dysfunctional (and young) computer geek to do the computery bits of the investigation. Sometimes she is female and an ex-hacker.

Beware the fringe play with a lot of unnecessary “multimedia” that nobody really knows how to work and that breaks down halfway through.

Look out for the person who only thinks they are paralysed. The converse is the wheelchair-bound character who walks about the house unobserved, or the “blind” person who can really see.

I just popped out to the chemist’s and now I’m in Istanbul. (Graham Greene)

Beautiful woman turns up and tells hero a long tarradiddle. It turns out to be a pack of lies – he challenges her and she tells another pack of lies. (Maltese Falcon, Playback)

The household that lives as if Queen Victoria was still on the throne. Sometimes ruled by a terrifying matriarch. (Police at the Funeral)

The old gods are still alive and living as normal people.

Modern mysteries: a distinctly modern inclusion of every form of perversion, along with the tendency to turn the detective’s lives into turgid serial drama... The problem with all modern crime fiction: the puzzle is almost an addendum to “larger” issues. (

Character arcs
Menus (lengthy descriptions of food)
Intriguing setting (monastery, police academy)
Two strands that intertwine (local crime, larger issue)
Outsider who integrates with the community as both come to understand each other
Outsider who wears the mask but inwardly is mass of seething resentment
Token waspish gay couple who run a B&B.
(Ah, Sweet Mystery on writer Louise Penny)

Stop with the orientalist book covers! If book is about Muslims in Brooklyn, no camels necessary! (Su'ad Abdul Khabeer‏ @DrSuad)

Optimistic futures were always, always vastly outnumbered by end of the world stories with mutants, Frankenstein creations that turn against us, murderous robot rebellions, terrifying alien invasions, and atomic horror. (

Over 90% of stories submitted to Galaxy Science Fiction still nag away at atomic, hydrogen and bacteriological war, the post atomic world, reversion to barbarism, mutant children killed because they have only ten toes and fingers instead of twelve. (H.L. Gold, editor of Galaxy Science Fiction, in 1952)

We never said “Was that a shot?” but always “Was that the well-known bark of a Mauser? ... As chapter gives place to chapter, and still no arrows stick quivering in the tent-pole, and still no tomtoms throb, the observant reader will get pretty fed up. (Adventurer Peter Fleming)

Murderous types who have gone to extreme lengths to cover up crimes will then confess for apparently no reason at all. (Moira Redmond)

“Well, I’ve met the crusty egomaniac, the ingenue, and the juvenile! But who’s the brains of the operation?” (Jessica Fletcher)

Every character is either headed for a padded cell, disappearing into a gaping maw or recording their final thoughts as murderous cultists descend on them. (Guardian arts blog on horror writer HP Lovecraft)

Plot of every book ever: Someone is looking for something. Commercial version: They find it. Literary version: They don't find it. (Novelist @matthaig1)

Stock characters – the gruff, lovable husband; the bright, spirited young girl... (LRB August 2014 on Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi)

"Bighearted" is the new "luminous." (Nancy Friedman ‏@Fritinancy)

The longer he or she has been in the public eye, the more likely are they to retreat into tired anecdotes that have already been rehearsed many times over ... cut through the easy laughs, the PR veneer ... cliché’s, banality, point scoring and psychobabble are discarded. (Guardian 2008 on ghost writing)

Tintin falls in love with Hans Castorp’s sexy Russian girlfriend and before you know it he’s waist deep in the horror that is “witty” postmodernism. (Kate Saunders Times 2009)

He is very taken by Anastasia, who in the time-honoured Mills & Boon style of demure secretaries with tempestuous plutocrats and nurses with hot-tempered brain-surgeons, is strangely unafraid of him. (Peter Bradshaw on 50 Shades of Gray)

There are endless scenes where [mystery writer] Dorothy Sayers puts her own opinions into approved characters’ mouths, and then has (less clever and attractive) others arguing with those views and being defeated. (Moira Redmond)

The idea of two contrasting assassins is centuries old. (Terry Pratchett)

Statistics show that you’re most likely to get your own story in a girls’ comic if you’re a sporty, disabled, artistic Victorian orphan who lives with a violent aunt or uncle, having a hurt sister/brother/pet who you need to earn money for, but don’t realise that your best friend secretly resents you, the snobs are plotting against you, and an evil mastermind is attempting to take over your school and you’re the only one who can resist her powers. (

PD James contended that, unlike Dame Agatha, she was attempting to use the mystery genre to enlighten us about the human condition... Who’s to say Christie did not accomplish this very thing? (

Has anyone else noticed how crime fiction that "transcends the genre" (understand: no plot, no detection, no fun) is now referred to as "literary crime fiction"? The label is bad enough, but the underlying idea that other forms are not "literary" and that being "literary" should be the aim of any serious, self-respecting crime writer is infuriating. (Xavier Lechard)

Snobbery is the worst attribute of all, in my view, and unfortunately detective fiction can have a bit of an inferiority complex sometimes. It's like when something science fiction is released and the author/actor/whoever says, "I don't consider it sci-fi," as though the work is in some way superior to others in the genre. As an aspiring writer, I try to make the story fun, with humour and exciting scenes... Sadly, publishers seem to prefer drug-overdoses, dead prostitutes, child abuse, gory crime scenes and a moody detective, with a bit of torture thrown in too. (David Jones)

"Plot is for precocious schoolboys. What matters is the imaginative truth, and the perfection and care with which it has been rendered. After all, you don’t say of a ballet dancer, ‘He jumped in the air, then he twirled around, et cetera ...’ You are just carried away by his dancing.” Edna O’Brien, explaining why 99% of what passes for "literary fiction" is unreadable. (Xavier Lechard)

In his foreword to the French edition of Sayers's Lord Peter Views the Body, Paul Morand says... The detective novel can't achieve genuine literary greatness because it is so carefully planned. "Real" novelists let their characters go and grow free whereas detective novelists have to make them cogs in a greater machinery; their behaviour and fate is fixed from the start. This argument seems to have been very popular with French critics, probably because of the local infatuation with the psychological novel... I find it flawed, though, as not all literary writers let their characters decide the course of the story - also it presupposes that the psychological novel is the only way to literary greatness, which I dispute. (Xavier Lechard)

For those interested in how life was before their time, contemporary films intended for short-life consumption can tell you more than any amount of memoirs and after-the-event recitations. And often more honestly. There's a lot of retrospective repainting that goes on. (RI)

The most interesting things are always done in the period when a medium is considered disposable trash. (

Saturday, 20 May 2017

Malaprops and Portmanteaus 7

Embodied in jello
70s cuisine – embodied in jelly! (embedded)
He had a prissy fit.
I tend to not really follow the general status qua.

Asked the boys how their first day back at school went — everything was fine except one said one teacher had a really "monogamous" voice. (JG)

In church doing carol concert yesterday. Lots of blue smoke. Elderly woman says "I quite like incest but there's too much of it here." True! (@Tony_Robinson)

bridgilantes (In favour of the doomed Garden Bridge.)
cathedracentric (Jonathan Foyle)
If ever I catch myself mansplaining, I make sure I immediately chapologise. (@richardosman)


That’s not news, that’s opinews!
Yup, chairdrobe, floordrobe, bannisterdrobe, bookcasedrobe, doordrobe ... we've got them all! (FT)

torterious for torturous
indiciferable jibberish
canaine mandabil for canine mandible.
rouge wave for rogue wave
manulipidation: manipulation
Audio typing: Bali for barley, Landseer for Lancia and “if so fatso” for ipso facto.
ridiculous humunculous wide trousers (humongous/homunculus)
You are a patronising pompost! (Pompous plus compost with a hint of bombast?)

I need more wine or more fiends or both. (via FB)

More here, and links to the rest.

Neologisms 17

Miranda Hart
wallpaper façade (brick panels)
Right-whingers (@Bobbi_Betamax)
On the medieval wing of the Tory party (Spectator)
Left-Pondian (for American)
goose-chasing (leg-work)
lackwit (It's safer.)

You create dark corridors. (Alex Hanscombe on police unaccountability)

We’ve got this perverse situation in which the vast analytic powers of the entire world are being spent trying to understand a guy whose thoughts are often just six fireflies beeping randomly in a jar. (NY Times on Trump)

vain and creepy nutters (who claim to be empaths) (via FB)

And yes, Southwold even had its own witch, but when I first encountered her it seemed that she had left only the faintest footprints in the occult sand. (Geoffrey Munn. Read about her here.)

Do feel free to curse the railway if you need the target practice. (LW)

Undergraduate flannel (for wordy, plonking, generalised political correctness)
Lowbrow Uni (for Loughborough University)

The hoary stylistic advice to avoid passive voice is bunk, uttered by people who can't tell a passive from a petunia. (@OliverKamm)

#Miranda. Occasionally very funny but mostly, what I call, excruciating. (Some Bloke in a Hat‏ @toolegs)

Decades of demented tripe (Daily Mash on the Daily Mail)

We have been instructed to celebrate Ivanka’s vanilla-bean bromides about workplace equality. (

That joke is so old everybody in the entire world has heard it, including lost tribes in the Amazon Rainforest! (AJB)

Menus the height of Richard Osman are brought. (Jay Rayner Guardian)

The accompany wall-text burbles will assure you that the artists were exploring “gender variant identities”, “transgressive desire”, “forms of gender expression”, “processes of deconstruction” and all the cobblers you would expect from the university of Pseudshire. (Robbie Millen)

A  tiny clique of ultra-conservative frilly old diehards in the [Roman Catholic] church – diehards that have missed the train in every conceivable respect. (Erich Lobkowicz)

Food fashion is a window into the mass delusions of dimwits that never ceases to amaze me. (Giles Coren)

I can't get through all of it, partly due to the weapons-grade pomposity, but also because it's incoherent to me. (LW)

whitesplaining (No, that’s not racism, and that’s not racism, and that’s not racism, and if you go on like this soon people will claim to be offended about absolutely anything.)

What I want to know is how much of my license fee it cost to bring Jacob Rees-Mogg to Question Time from the 17th century. (Alex Andreou‏ @sturdyAlex)

Calatrava’s sculptures “look like they were purchased at a high end Swedish furniture shop.” (VD)

The academic equivalent of a Vulcan death grip. (KL)

I do not have an inner child, but I do apparently have an inner colonel who lives in Tunbridge Wells. (LW)

More here, and links to the rest.

Friday, 19 May 2017

Similes 6

What is that thing actually like?

Fabric considered suitable for larger ladies "like pelmets from a static caravan circa 1992". (Sali Hughes)

I looked at the letter like a horse looking at a paper bag. (GN)

I kind of clung to him like a koala to a eucalyptus tree. (Model Penelope Tree)

A ballot paper the size of a small tablecloth.

Last night was spectacular. It was as if a giant unicorn filled a pipe with glimmer and plutonium and blew the smoke over the Icelandic sky. (Yrsa Sigurdardottir ‏@YrsaSig)

You kept sighing and shaking your head like a cross primary school teacher. (Tony Robinson on watching Skyfall with a friend.)

Went to @OfficialAdils for the first time last night. Great food and, as my brother-in-law put it, naans the size of bath mats. (Rick ‏@FlipChartRick)

Carpets, chairs and me covered in glitter, and I can't get it off. It's like pretty radioactive fallout. (@Tony_Robinson Dec 22)

Now the sun is setting, the trees are red like Martian weed or axolotl gills. (Regular Frog @FrogCroakley)

Baby stingrays look like raviolis stuffed with tiny damned souls. (@Globe_Pics)

She seemed to have arrived perfectly formed, as if she had hatched from a marble egg. (Hilary Mantel on Anita Brookner's debut in 1981)

Nightingales – if you told me it was an elf playing the flute I wouldn’t be surprised. (Ray Mears)

It was trite, banal and recalled a team-building exercise at a job where everyone is about to quit. ( on the Tate Modern’s extension)

The days skim by like a boat made of papyrus. (The Book of Job)

The salad couldn’t help tasting like some kind of Venusian breakfast cereal. (Giles Coren)

I bought earphones from Poundland & it sounds like all my favourite artists are singing into a haunted bucket. (John ‏@UpturnedBathtub)

I know so many offices that look like derelict army barracks. (M. v. Aufschnaiter ‏@mva_1000)

Silence fell like a bagful of feathers. (Raymond Chandler)

More here, and links to the rest.

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Outrageous Excuses 2017

Silly reasons for not voting, or voting Leave:

I’m voting Green to send the government a message.

I’m not voting because there’s no difference between Trump and Hillary.

I’m not voting for a politician ha ha.

Why isn’t there a “none of the above” option?

I’m not voting based on fear! (Current in the US 2016)

I'm not political.

They're all as bad as each other.

Here 'the Conservatives always get in', so any non-Con vote doesn't count.

It’s a sad day when you have to vote against people instead of voting for them.

I vote for the man, not the party. 

You can’t trust a politician.
Every vote is a vote for the kyriarchy.

I want to send them a message.

I’m going to leave my vote blank as a protest.

I’m going to spoil my voting paper to teach them a lesson.

Voting for someone who is the least worst is not my idea of change. (

I refuse to vote until [insert condition here].

I’ve just had enough of everything.

Voting never changed anything.

I don't care, I hate them all.

Running the country is too important to be left to anyone who actually wants the job.

Well I voted Democrat last time and they didn’t get in so I’m not voting because I want my vote to count.

Racists who voted for Trump/Brexit “are suffering economic anxiety and we should sympathise with their legitimate concerns”. (Leavers and Hillary voters, on the other hand, are just a bunch of moaning minnies who should shut up now.)

Spoke to 2 leave voters in my week in Devon.

1: "I voted out but I didn't think they'd win"
2: "I just wanted out, don't really know why"
(Delicate Snowflake‏ @AndyBodle)

O/heard someone yesterday who voted leave because of "the damage done to the British sports car industry". (Sarah Shaw‏ @Dymvue)  

I voted leave because I go to the supermarket and the banana is straight.
 (Woman on Question Time She was going to vote Remain, but she saw a straight banana and decided she was sick of all the "silly rules they impose on us".)

When I was a young man in the '60s this country was a better place to live in, we had more things to do when we were teenagers.

Latest lame reason for not voting: Just saw someone saying they’re not voting because ‘voting gives legitimacy to politicians’. (Tom Hatfield ‏@WordMercenary)

I'm undecided because I don't know enough about it but I will be voting 'out'. (BBC News vox pop)

I voted against Brussels because I’m fed up with London.
I’m voting Brexit because I want house prices to come down.
I voted Brexit because I didn’t think my vote would count.
It's all smoke and mirrors.
I'm a Cornish fisherman.

Yes, honour killings, forced marriage, baby battering, child abuse, domestic abuse, FGM – they’re all against the law, oh yes, but you see it would be wrong to prosecute because children would have to testify against their parents, it would break up the family, children would see their parents go to prison, it’s a cultural issue, it’s colonial, it takes two to make a quarrel, [insert insane reason here].

Jallikattu (bull-running in Tamil Nadu) is necessary for the "survival and well-being of the native breed of bulls and preserving cultural traditions". BBC (It has just been re-legalised, Jan 2017.) See also “Hunting preserves the countryside”, “There’d be no coppices without hunting”, “Cattle and sheep would die out if we all became vegetarians”, “We should go on smoking cigarettes because the tobacco industry employs poor people”.

Silly reasons for not banning private fireworks:
I don’t like banning things.
It’s the people not the fireworks that cause the injuries (repeat with guns).
And there are 1001 reasons why we shouldn’t tax sugary drinks, and 1001 things we should do instead.

If you don't like banning things, you will be in favour of lifting the ban on:
Arsenic in wallpaper, arsenic in green paint, chimney sweeping by children, opium sold over the counter (and arsenic), flammable children’s nighties, naked-flame footlights, hunting, handguns (banned after Dunblane school shooting), keeping large exotic wild animals in your home, CFCs, smoking in pubs, tobacco adverts on the tube, alcohol adverts on the tube, tobacco adverts on the telly, people smoking on TV and in films, drinking and driving, not wearing seatbelts, bear baiting, hare coursing, badger baiting, cock fighting, bare knuckle boxing.

Explaining away:
Oh, ha ha, Facebook woman has just said people are only marching because victimhood is fashionable and also they want to get on TV. (Kate Long ‏@volewriter)

Thousands came to London for Diana's funeral because they "just wanted the attention".

Mariah Carey’s sound equipment was sabotaged at New Year “because they wanted a viral moment”.

Surely that ignorant sexist is just a parody account – nobody could be that stupid. The meninist who thought women menstruate through their bladders was an obvious hoax/joke/troll. (He seemed genuinely dense. “People have sent me hundreds of diagrams. I don’t know why they think I’d be interested. They say I should go to biology classes, but I can’t afford it!”)

Excuses, excuses:

Favourite excuse I have heard for being late: "Actually I was ten minutes early, so I went for a walk, and now I'm late." (Andrea Klettner‏ @aklettner)

What to say when you've overdone the filler: "I was allergic to it, I’m having it reversed.)

Conspiracy theorist who said Sandy Hook was a fake says he’s “Just a performance artist”.

Woman found with knife and cannabis claims she is “wearing ritual dress”.

I didn’t know I was a member of BNP. “It must have been one of those mindless mistakes you make when messing about on the computer.” On finding out his name and phone number were on a list of BNP members from 2008.

Settlements in the West Bank are an attempt to solve the housing crisis.

James O’Brien “felt sorry for Ronald Coyne [the Cambridge student who burned a £20 note in front of a homeless person] because the guy's life has effectively being ruined by one stupid, inconsequential, out-of-character, drunken act. Think of the worst thing you have ever done and imagine that it was recorded, broadcast and placed on social media to haunt you for the rest of your life instead of being left in the "best forgotten" corner of your memoirs.” And besides, his parents aren’t posh!

Debenhams claim the soaking of a homeless man by staff who then laughed at him was “an unfortunate accident”.

"That's not who I am" = the default excuse of the unrepentant. (Nancy Friedman ‏@Fritinancy)

That Farage “analcyst” typo was deliberate.

Dutch rapper says his “Jews like money” song is a compliment.

“You just cannot drive a Rolls-Royce in Beverly Hills anymore, because they have it in for you.” Zsa Zsa Gabor on being stopped for a traffic violation, being found with an open bottle of vodka in the car, and slapping a policeman.

Former billionaire who repeatedly called binman a 'black c**t' and a 'monkey' cleared after he said 'I didn't mean this in a racist way'.

"He's not a vicious dog." (He just BIT ME) "You startled him. (By walking quietly along a public footpath.) "He's never off the lead." (He was OFF THE LEAD.) "He's not a vicious dog." (He just RAN UP AND BIT ME.) (Kate Long ‏@volewriter)

“It was a moment of madness,” says doctor who stole a poster of Steve McQueen from a Belfast hotel.

More here, and links to the rest.

Saturday, 1 April 2017

Limericks and Non-Limericks

I always run but never walk
I often murmur, never talk
I have a bed but never sleep
I have a mouth but never eat

In marble walls as white as milk
Lined with a skin as soft as silk
Within a fountain crystal clear
A golden apple doth appear
No walls there are to this stronghold
Yet thieves break in and steal the gold

If you're feeling cannelloni 
There's mostarda di Cremona 
Tell the one who zabaglione 
That I can be sfogliatelle

Tell him life is all farfalle
Pomodori, papardelle
Da mi vostri ditalini
Swear eternal fedelini

Everything will be just fine
With Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein.
We will not vote, but we'll still pay
Our future's in the EEA.
(Celestial Weasel)

Our Father who art in Hendon
Harrow Road be thy name
thy Kingston come, thy Wimbledon
In Erith as it is in Hendon
give us this day our Berkhamsted
And forgive us our Westminsters
As we forgive those who Westminster against us
Lead us not into Temple Station
But deliver us from Ealing
For thine is the Kingston
The Purley and the Crawley
For Iver and Iver, Crouch End.

They might be small and simple,
They might not do a lot,
Just sitting shifting plankton
In some gloomy benthic spot,
But you can’t beat Nature’s logic –
She’ll always play the ace,
Cos for guts and arms in boxes
She’s found the ideal place.
For when you think about it,
Where better could they be
Than stuck to bits of scallop
At the bottom of the sea?

Few thought him even a starter –
There were many who thought themselves smarter,
But he ended PM,
CH and OM,
An Earl and a Knight of the Garter.

A little old lady, Miss Brine
Accepted an invite to dine
They gave her a meal
Of fish-skin and peel
And omitted to pass her the wine.

From here you can glimpse her downstream, her far charm,
Liberty, tiny woman in the mist –
You cannot see the torch – raising her arm
Lorn, bold, as if saluting with her fist.
(Thom Gunn)

Dear Abby, I thought I would write
To confess. Please consider my plight:
I had sex with my ex;
We were drunk—it's complex.
Please advise. Signed, Chagrined and Contrite.
(Jane Auerbach)

...Thy round towers are crumbling away ;
Proud castles sink fast in decay ;  
The palace is gone,
And where beauty shone,
Remains a lone hillock of clay.
(Irish patriot Dr TCS Corry)

You can’t remember which is which
Or where you put the one you need
Or else you’ve left the thing at home
Chargers really are a bitch.

EmphasisHe's stealthily pernicious,
But I'll know 'him when I see 'im.
That miscreant who furnishes,
Defective linoleum.

She never lived in stasis,
She was prone to prance and babble,
And always the emphasis
Was on the wrong syllable.

In Hampshire a UKIP contender,
Whose chances were anyway slender,
Was given the boot
For saying he'd shoot
The Tory incumbent defender.
(Mick Twister ‏@twitmericks)

Of parties there used to be two.
Now what's a poor voter to do?
It's so hard to select
Which is best to elect –
I don't really trust any, do you?

The world is all nonsense and noise
Fantoccini, or Ombres Chinoises
Mere pantomime mummery
Puppet-show flummery
A magical lantern, confounding the sight

Like players or puppets, we move
On the wires of ambition and love
Poets write wittily,
Maidens look prettily,
'Till death drops the curtain—all's over—good night!"
(Pierce Egan)

There once was a sculptor named Phidias
Whose manners in art were invidious
He carved Aphrodite
Without any nightie,
Which startled the ultrafastidious.

The deadly bubonic disease
Was carried to Europe by fleas
From gerbils, not rats,
According to stats
Collected from rings on old trees.
(Mick Twister ‏@twitmericks)

Him as takes what is’n his’n
Must give it back, or go to prison.

In pursuit of the utmost frivolity,
A poet with excess of jollity,
Wrote down, with eyes shielded,
Some words which then yielded
A haiku of questionable quality. 

I tried to write one.
It didn't have enough lines.
Not a Limerick.

Said a bridge player splattered with gore
looking down at the corpse on the floor:
‘De mortuis nil
nisi bonum – but still,
he’s been caught out revoking before.’
(Via Katharine Whitehorn)

There was a commuter from Ewell,
Who feeling in need of renewal,
Commuted, poor sinner,
from Ewell to Pinner,
How fate is vindictively cruel!

Twinkle twinkle, small 5p
How I wonder why you be.
How I loathe thee 5p-piece—
How I dream of thy decease!
Fiddly, fumbly, far too small,
Through my fingers apt to fall.
(Lucy Fishwife/Chris Maslanka)

When falling through an atmosphere
You don't keep getting faster,
Eventually you reach a speed
Where friction is the master.

My vacuum has a healthy roar,
and it's 1200W.
I use it for the kitchen floor,
and hard-to-get-at spots.

I think that I shall never see
A thing as lovely as a tree
I think, unless the billboards fall,
I shall not see a tree at all.
(Ogden Nash)

When they beat your door down
And drag you away to an unknown fate,
That's the time to start complaining
About a Police State.

Some men make gods of red and blue
to rob our Saviour of this due.
The good shall go to heaven, the fell
Blasts of thy wrath shall send to hell.
(Thomas Babington Macaulay aged six and a half)

If I were Fortune - which I'm not -
B should enjoy A's happy lot,
And A should die in miserie -
That is, assuming I am B.
(via TI)

The rain it raineth all around
Upon the just and unjust fella,
But more upon the just because
The unjust has the just’s umbrella.

After the rise, the fall
After the boom, the slump.
You dance with the Prince at the ball
Then come down to earth with a bump.

Conspiracy Fruitcake (recipe)
Half a dozen nuts (assorted)
Three or more matching dates
Currants of suspicion and paranoia
Mix well. Half-bake, and decorate attractively.

The rich man in his castle,
The poor man at his gate,
Till peasants learn to read and write
And build a welfare state.
(via RG)

These shades are 'designer',
it says so on the sign
Where I got them in that Shell garage,
For three ninety-nine.
(Alan McGinn ‏@Chainsaw_McGinn)

What is matter?
Never mind.
What is mind?
No matter.

Thus Departed Derek
Derek lives in Newbold Verdon,
Separate from Kirby Muxloe
By a stretch of open country.
If you go past Newbold Verdon
You will meet a lot of nothing
Till you get to Market Bosworth, or
Maybe miles and miles of suburbs 
Blessed with not a single chip shop.

“Open? Desford is between us.
If you’re looking for a chippy
You should go to Newbold, Desford
Barwell, Ibstock, Hinckley, Groby,”
Signed, your humble servant, Derek.

And the Kirby-Desford bus route
Also goes through Newtown Unthank.
Thought I ought to add that – Derek.
(Sadly Derek now has left us.)

More here, and links to the rest.

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Reasons to Be Cheerful 19

Rose Heilbron

The Liberal Project continues, despite the efforts of the Far Right to unravel it. There are still some reasons to be cheerful. There’s a natural hair movement in Africa and beyond, only about 40 years after the last one. And we don’t lock up “mental defectives” for decades any more. (Some were released in the 70s after 30 years inside.) Tail docking and ear cropping in dogs are now banned in much of Europe and Australia. But not in North America, and many Americans think that’s what the dogs look like. Forty years ago women become pilots. (It had been suggested that periods would make them unreliable.)

And this doesn’t happen any more: When I started work in 70s, the old-timers still talked bitterly of 'gentleman's hours', when the toffs had swanned in & out as they pleased. (@PaulGibbens1)

In France, the 1920 Birth Law... criminalised dissemination of birth-control literature. That law, however, was annulled in 1967 by the Neuwirth Law, thus authorising contraception, which was followed in 1975 with the Veil Law. Women fought for reproductive rights and they helped end the nation's ban on birth control in 1965. In 1994, 5% of French women aged 20 to 49 who were at risk of unintended pregnancy did not use contraception... Contraception in the Republic of Ireland was illegal in the Irish Free State (later the Republic of Ireland) from 1935 until 1980, when it was legalised with restrictions, later loosened. In Italy women gained the right to access birth control information in 1970. (Wikipedia)

Record numbers of young people now have the chance to attend university; rates of crime, teenage pregnancy, and divorce are at 40 year lows. Even inequality, while a legitimate concern, has not increased dramatically since the mid 1990s. (Spectator)

1215 Trial by jury supersedes trial by ordeal in England.

1803 Toilet rolls invented.

1962 Elizabeth Lane appointed first female judge in the County Court.
1965 Elizabeth Lane appointed first female judge in the High Court.
1972 Rose Heilbron appointed first female judge to sit at the Old Bailey.

1982 France decriminalises homosexuality.

1986 Public Order Act makes it an offence to publish or distribute written material which may stir up racial hatred.

2016 The Church of England Synod votes to allow clergy to ditch the robes.

2016 A Parliamentary report says that firms can not impose a dress code on employees (short skirts, high heels).

Mar 2017 Beauty and the Beast to be shown in full in Malaysia after censors back down (the live-action film features a gay character).

2017 First woman in 1,000 years becomes full member of St Pauls Cathedral choir.

Feb 2017 Gohil, prince of Rajpipla, Gujarat, calls for homosexuality to be decriminalised in India.

2017 UK deaths on the road have halved in the last 15 years.

2017 From April, large firms must publish pay gap figures.

2017 Jan UK government pardons thousands of gay men for decades-old “offences”.

2017 FGM banned in Nigeria.

2017 Feb 24 Same-sex marriage legalised in Slovenia

2017 Men in Sheds (run by the U3A) goes unisex (The carpentry co-ops were set up to combat male loneliness and depression.)

2017 Irish Sexual Offences Bill stops the accused from cross-examining victims of sexual offences.

2017 Botox accepted as a migraine treatment in Scotland.

2017 Lloyd’s of London bans 9-5 drinking for employees.

2017 March Muirfield Golf Club says it will admit women.

Less than cheerful

The gender pay gap in the UK is narrowing – but not in the Civil Service.

1919-1971 yearly renewal of 1919 Aliens Act. German & Jewish workers post-WW1 the ones to blame in parliament for any UK 'decline'. Lab&Tory. (Mister Neil Kulkarni ‏@KaptainKulk)

Germany doesn't have marriage equality, you can't get an abortion after three months or without mandatory counselling.

Dissolution of monasteries robbed the poor of social security and health service. Not addressed until the 1601 Poor Law.

1876 A woman blacksmith is taken to court for “wearing men’s apparel”.

1945-74 British children sent abroad to abusive “homes”.

1967 London Stock Exchange voted against women brokers.

2012 Squatting becomes illegal.

2017 At the behest of the Russian Orthodox Church, Russia has legalised domestic violence. (So that parents can “discipline” their children. And wives can be beaten once a year. In Russia, a woman dies of domestic abuse every 40 minutes.)

2017 The Republic of Ireland's Sexual Offences Bill criminalises the purchase of sex.

2017, 29 March EU President Donald Tusk receives the UK's letter triggering Article 50.

More here, and links to the rest.

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Literary Clichés 3

Hard to read on the bus

Taking Detective Stories Seriously: The Collected Crime Reviews of Dorothy L. Sayers, introduction by Martin Edwards

If you are a Golden Age mystery fan, this is a lovely read. Sayers reviewed two to four books a week in the 30s – that’s how many of the genre were being churned out.

Thank heavens for recent reprints – but in many minds the greats and the Queens are the only Golden Age mystery writers. The accusations of snobbery, clichés, formula, anti-Semitism and cardboard characters that stick to Christie and others must have originally been aimed at a pantheon ranging from H.C. Bailey to E.R. Punshon.

It's also clear that the greats were deliberately writing in a genre that abounded in stock characters and stock situations. Someone should do a Golden Age TV Tropes, but meanwhile let Sayers be your guide.

It was “one of those embarrassing house parties” where a recent widow invites “all the mutually suspect and hostile persons” present at her husband’s death.

In another household “A nurse arrives... to look after a man who has been murderously assaulted. A grim-looking individual lurks in the drawing-room... An old mad-woman in antique costume calls the cook a creature of Satan... A face peers through the rain-streaked window.” It can only get better, with an armed butler, shots, a fainting woman, hypodermic-tampering, and then “two detectives burst in with a bedraggled prisoner”. And it’s only chapter three.

In Death Fugue, “We have the well-worn opening of the belated traveller and the lonely house with a corpse in it. An organ plays mysteriously...”

“The evil Egyptian with a formula for exterminating mankind, the idiotic female who lets herself be lured away by the bogus policeman, the languid villain who keeps tame cobras... and the final appearance (by aeroplane) of the whole cast on a lonely island.” All appear in F.A.M. Webster’s Gathering Storm.

“A mystical, Celtic-twilight sort of gang, with a pre-Druidical religion, blood-sacrifices, hypnotic powers... caves, secret passages, revolving bookcases, rats” populate Death by the Mistletoe by Angus MacVicar.

The Ince Murder Case is written entirely in clichés.... Vision of feminine loveliness – finely chiselled features – some subtle sixth sense – surging mass of humanity – workings of a malign fate”. And everybody has a “white, set face”.

“Anybody who talks sentimentally to dogs or was anybody’s batman in the war” can be trusted, but not “anybody who behaves haughtily to an attached old Scottish retainer.” (Murder on the Moors by Colin Campbell.)

More tropes: missing wills, lost heirs, a “seedy adventurer who masquerades as a parson”, murder victims who leave cryptic clues, actors who are shot on-stage mid-performance, the least likely person dunnit, the amateur detective who insults everybody, good and evil twins with substitution a la The Scapegoat, the body in the library, the shabby provincial waxworks. But we shouldn’t forget that the greats frequently sent up these conventions.

Too many authors fall back on “the stilted style of the 90s”, with sentences that start “Small wonder is it that...”. And it is hard to tell, at this distance, whether this is supposed to be parody. Sayers is hard on polysyllables and over-writing (“Horror and anxiety twisted like heraldic snakes round his heart.”), but her sense of humour is not always reliable. She loves Mr Rosenbaum, a character in Victor MacClure’s Death on the Set who talks like this: “Ere’s Mr Morden gone and bin moidid!”, also a nautical character who tells stories in a Dutch accent while passengers in John Dickson Carr’s The Blind Barber drink a lot and indulge in “hilarious horseplay”.

“To combine the novel of mystery with the novel of manners was the great achievement of English writers in the past...”, and we wish they’d take it up again. Sayers is perceptive guide to the fads of her times, taking in spiritualism, glands, and even 12-tone music. The catchily titled Obelists en Route by C. Daly King includes two rival psychologists, one of the “purposive” school and one a “gestaltist”. Another example features a fascist movement known as the Purple Shirts (They aim to “Make Britain Free”.)

This is a fascinating book on many counts, and if you’re stuck for plot, characters or incident, it might provide inspiration. Its only drawback is its size and weight: 16cm by 23cm; printed on thick, heavy paper; in large type with generous leading. And the paper cover is smooth and slippery, which doesn't make it easier to hold.

Dear publishers: if the Penguin paperback format was good enough for Sayers... For comparison, I’ve used William Donaldson’s Great Disasters of the Stage (Simon Brett must have a copy). It’s 18cm by 11cm, printed on poor-quality paper, in small type and close leading, but it’s readable and I can easily hold it in one hand. I can even slip it in my handbag. Dear, dear publishers, remember that some of your readers are little old ladies with arthritis, who like to read on the bus or train.

More here, and links to the rest.

Bring back proper paperbacks

Friday, 17 March 2017

Misunderstandings 5

"Pitch perfect" became "picture perfect" became "picture postcard perfect" due to confusion with "picture postcard village". If your singing is "pitch perfect", it's perfectly in tune.

It’s like the paediatrician being beaten up because he was he was mistaken for a paedophile. (Angus Jackson, RSC director Mar 2017 quoted in Times. The female paediatrician had "paedo" scrawled on her house has become an urban legend. The BBC has the details.)

hairy shirts for hair shirts (The penitential shirts, woven out of goat hair, were itchy and hot. You wore luxurious clothes over the top and hid your suffering.)

Like the druid and bardic movements in Wales, a few proselytising enthusiasts became the bottomless butt of jokes for the metropolitan masses. (AA Gill on Morris dancing. The “butt” in “butt of jokes” isn’t the one in “butt of Malmsey” – a cask; it’s a butt as in Newington Butts – a target for archery.)

Tenterhooks are still holding people aloft, whose breath remains baited. (Tenterhooks stretched cloth on a frame, didn’t hold things aloft.)

The British colonial army in India, whose favourite laxative was a spoonful of gunpowder in a cuppa ‘ot tea. (Florence King, Wasp, Where Is Thy Sting? (Is she thinking of gunpowder tea – dried green tea rolled into pellets? Saltpeter – gunpowder’s active ingredient – was used medicinally in the 18th century for asthma and arthritis, but it is toxic and of no medical use. Soldiers used to pass round the story that the army was dosing their tea with saltpetre to dull their libidos.)

Rurophilia crops up in the strangest places... including murder trials. The psychiatrist who testified for the Crown in the trial of mass murderer John Reginald Christie described the defendant contemptuously as “an insignificant, old-womanish city man”. (Florence King, Wasp, Where Is Thy Sting? Surely he called Christie a “City man” – someone who works in the City, London’s financial district? Christie had worked as a clerk in a radio factory, and for the Post Office Savings Bank.)

What a busy week for trolls typing away in their parents' box bedrooms. (Carol Midgley Box rooms are not rooms with a box bed or boxlike bedrooms – they are very small rooms intended for the family’s “boxes”, or trunks and suitcases. When a servant left she took her “box” containing all her belongings with her. They could only be carried by two men or strong women, but there were porters with trolleys at railway stations, and men and boys who hung about the streets offering to carry heavy stuff, load and unload carts etc for a few pennies. We have shoulder bags and pull-alongs now, but tiny boxrooms remain, and some have been turned into bedrooms.)

Infantile sectarian anarchist throwing windmills with nothing useful to say. (Does this tweeter think “tilting at windmills” means “chucking windmills about”? Don Quixote "tilted at" some windmills, thinking they were giants – he rode at them with a lance, like someone jousting in a tiltyard.)

Fiona Bruce thinks Edinburgh was called “Auld Reekie” because it suffered from “a particularly smelly smog”. It just means “Old Smokey” in the local dialect.

Africans sleep with their heads on uncomfortable wooden “pillows” or neck rests. (They’re stools.)

Gone was the palatial edifice of the Euston and Victoria hotels that looked like they'd been carved from sugarloaf. ( Baroque and post-baroque architecture is often called “icing sugar architecture” because it looks like a wedding cake covered in piped swirls and filigree.)

A Julian Fellowes’ heroine “has a 'cut-glass set' to her mouth.” (Explained here.)

More here, and links to the rest.

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Received Ideas in Quotes 4

Wild hogs: Journalist Henry Mayhew recorded one of the most remarkable bits of folklore common among the toshers: that a “race of wild hogs” inhabited the sewers under Hampstead... These black swine “have become almost as ferocious as they are numerous”. (Smithsonian Magazine Toshers were men who made a living fishing in London’s sewers for coins, rope, metal or anything they could sell.)

Noah Webster was vehemently anti-British, and went out of his way to use as many variant spellings as possible. (MML Webster was a spelling reformer.)

The Myth of the US Immigration Crisis: The country doesn’t have a wave of undocumented workers. That ended a decade ago. (

And that music they all listen to is just noise and you can't tell if they're boys or girls half the time here's my invoice. (Jon Dryden Taylor ‏@jondrytay)

European culture, in contrast to crass American and Soviet materialism, was idealist and anti-materialist, defined especially by literature and the arts. (

Head-itching fact of the day: in the immediate post-war years René Magritte supported himself painting fake Picassos, Braques, de Chiricos. (Hamish Thompson ‏@HamishMThompson)

Housing minister says first-time buyers should rely on inheritance from their grandparents. (Independent)
This reminds me of that thing about cake that Marie Antoinette famously never said. (M. v. Aufschnaiter ‏@mva_1000)

The Cat and the FiddleOrigin theories abound, linking this nonsense poem to everything from Hathor worship, to the naming of constellations (Taurus, Canis minor etc), or even the annual flooding of the Nile. Some have argued that it describes priests urging the working poor to work even harder. (

It was the duty of the god-parent to buy their god-child a pair of boots/shoes on the child's birthday, so that should the child's parents die by any and various means, then the child would be able to walk the distance to the god-parent's house. (Guardian commenter)

The caged birds [in Goya’s The Red Boy] may symbolize the soul, the cats may be an evil force. (Wikipedia)
It is said that Michelangelo included a concealed human brain on the Sistine Chapel ceiling. (MJ)

Modern society is going through a transition from the old mythologies and traditions to a new way of thinking where a global mythology will emerge. (Joseph Campbell, Wikipedia paraphrase)

Sylvia Sim was more famous than “Dickie”. While Attenborough was portrayed in the media as the “ultimate luvvie”, liable to weep at any time in public and especially in homage to fellow thespians, Sim escaped parody. (A Times obituary of Sylvia Sim, Lady Attenborough, drags in clichés about her husband, making a tenuous connection to Sim herself. Why mention them, unless the Times just wants to get in another dig at “luvvies” who have a nasty habit of caring about other people and voting Labour?)

Prince Charles never leaves home without his white leather loo seat, a Christmas present from his sister... Other packing essentials include a silver-plated porcupine-quill toothpick, a small red-and-gold cushion for his bad back, and solid-gold collar stiffeners, all stowed in his Louis Vuitton monogrammed luggage with a selection of 60 suits by tailors Anderson & Sheppard costing £3,000 a pop, and more than 200 handmade Turnball & Asser shirts at £350 each. ... A fussy eater, he likes vegetables steamed in a particular mineral water, and takes tea between 4pm and 5pm: muffins with boiled eggs - the chef boils seven eggs at a time to ensure at least one is perfect. (Condé Nast Traveller It was three boiled eggs last time. And it’s TurnBULL and Asser.)

Relativity, quantum physics, string theory etc etc have restored doubt, mystery and humility to the quest for knowledge and understanding - or at least that should be the effect. (DT)

Scientism is notorious for being its own echo chamber and having names for keeping other opinions out, like “peer review”. It’s just another #FakeReligion filled with fanatic zealots. (via Twitter)

The true meaning of Christmas is being drowned out by materialism.
(Pope Francis)

Unlike some others, Van Mildert college at Durham University was trivial to navigate, and very pleasant, centring around a lake that was rumoured to have been intended as a car park that flooded. (AG)

Why is it that Labour is often said to have a 'soul', over which there is always a 'battle'? It's never struck me as anything but weird. (‏@PolProfSteve Steven Fielding)

In the 17th Century Coffee houses sprung up around the City and were places of debate, gossip, business and promotion. It’s also worth bearing in mind that before then, people were mainly drinking weak beer all day (which was far safer than disease-ridden water) so it was basically the first time anyone was having fully sober discussions! ... A tradition developed whereby ships were sold ‘by the candle’ which meant it was an auction governed by the time it takes for a candle to melt. The final sale was confirmed when a pin (stuck into the candle wax before melting) dropped in front of the eager crowd; hence the phrase “You could’ve heard a pin drop”! (

Boxing DaySamuel Pepys talks about the 26th as 'Boxing Day' because the wealthy would give their servants the day off, sent home with a box of treats. (Dan Snow ‏@thehistoryguy)

In the days of rich gentry in England, they would go visiting each others' mansions for weeks at a time, living off their hosts. At the end of the visit they would leave some money in a large wooden box near the front entrance. Every year on Dec 26th, the servants would open the box and split the money. You know this if you read a lot of Jane Austen. (MC)

The residents of the manor would bring food and small gifts to their tenants. (EB)
It's the day you gift your servants with a "Christmas box" and switch places with them for the day. (AS)

(Another says job-switching happened in the Army. According to former nurse Monica Dickens, doctors and surgeons served patients and nurses their Christmas lunch – and carved the turkey. A "Christmas box" was a tip given to regular tradespeople who called at your door - bringing mail, bread, milk, coal, groceries and collecting trash. If the tip wasn't big enough, coal or trash would be accidentally spilled on your path or doorstep.)

Sense and SenilityIn Sense and Senility, an episode of Blackadder, two old actors demonstrate what to do if anyone quotes from the “Scottish play” (Macbeth) or whistles in a dressing room. You face each other and chant:
Hot potato
Orchestra stalls
Puck will make amends – ow!

"Ow" because the ritual ends with pinching the other’s nose. This has become Chinese whispered to:

Pluck to make amends!

Obvious, they’re plucking each other’s noses, aren’t they? No, it’s from Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream, which ends with the character Puck, aka Robin Goodfellow, promising “And Robin will restore amends!”. (Footnote: “Orchestra stalls” is rhyming slang.)

Or, per Sir Tony Robinson,

Hot potato, take off his drawers, pluck to make amends!

Some suggest that the BBC subtitles/Ceefax were misleading. But didn’t Sir Tony have the script? Or perhaps he didn’t read scenes he wasn’t in. Meow!

The curse of Macbeth, which forbids actors to name the play, only goes back to the late 19th C, & Max Beerbohm. (historian Tom Holland)

Rich Beggars

Street beggars are making "up to £200 a day" on the streets of Yeovil, according to a South Somerset District Councillor. ( Local homeless pregnant woman says more like £2.)

A lot of people have tried to tell me that the homeless people by our shop "aren't really homeless, they're just pretending to get money". (Dee Dee ‏@deedeelea “Tramps choose their way of life” has become “Homeless people don’t want to be housed, they prefer to be free”.)

“That ‘homeless’ woman outside Tescos is dropped off every morning by a Mercedes!” (In this urban legend, the car is always named. But if you were a Fagin running a begging ring, would you risk one of your operatives being seen getting out of a car as conspicuously expensive as a Mercedes? Every morning?)

More here, and links to the rest.

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Self-referential Statements 3

Nostalgia ain't what it used to be

President Donald Trump's Treasury Secretary used his first senior staff meeting last month to tell his new aides he would not tolerate leaks to the news media, sources familiar with the matter said.

I don't understand anyone who doesn't have empathy. (Wu Ming ‏@twlldun)

The excessive use of hyperbole in modern media is the worst thing to ever happen to humanity. (Dean Burnett ‏@garwboy)

I'm the most hyperbolic person in the world. (Karl Sharro ‏@KarlreMarks)

People who don't know the difference between describing cultural norms and generalizing people are so tiresome. (Brienne of Snarth ‏@femme_esq)

I long for the days when nostalgia wasn't so culturally omnipresent. (Karl Sharro ‏@KarlreMarks)

Latinisms became trendy in Eng with Augustine (eg as a modus operandi which adds gravitas passim to 1's magnum opus, inter alia pace Orwell) (Byzantine Ambassador ‏@byzantinepower)

Tweeting from new age aggressor can be summed up as "thickoes like you just do ad hominem attacks, which disgusts me, you idiot". (@robinince)

I can't stand people who don't finish their (Karl Sharro ‏@KarlreMarks)

Short words are good and old words are best. (Winston Churchill)

Free speech trumps feeling offended.
So you say, you pigeon-toed, fungus-faced lusus naturae!

Reification. Is that, like, a thing? (Sam Leith ‏@questingvole)

BBC sees the Hollande affair as carte blanche to use every passé French cliché and démodé bon mot, en masse in one montage. (‏Alex Andreou ‏@sturdyAlex)

I didn't know what Stockholm syndrome was but the man in the balaclava who broke into my house was kind enough to explain. (@blmayne)

There aren't enough revivals these days. Bring them back! I say. (Dave Roberts ‏@DLequeu)

One day I'll figure out what 'autodidact' means. (@MikeHypercube)

BBC1 news on its veil non-story tonight: "There's growing concern that this is being blown out of proportion." (Lee Jackson ‏@VictorianLondon)

Recently a friend told me that my public persona in general was a bit "negative". Of course, that's bullshit. Like everything else. (@stevenpoole)

Don’t talk to me about freedom of speech! (@RogerQuimbly)

A false analogy is like a cream cake. (AG)

People overuse hyperbole a million times a day. (@PetrosofSparta)

I absolutely ADORE understatement! (Private Eye)

"I prefer to eschew obscurantism" it says here. I'm not sure you're trying hard enough. (sumit paul-choudhury ‏@sumit)

Scotland independence vote would be 'divisive': Downing St. (@AFP)

There are two things I don’t like, prejudice against other cultures, and Dutch people. 

We do not stock this product you are asking for because there is no demand for it.

This message has no subject.
I’m speechless.
I’m not being defensive!
I’m not going to dignify that with a reply!
We just shouldn’t mention trolls!
You make your own luck.
There are no absolute truths.
All generalisations are false.
Metaphors are a dangerous tool in the wrong hands.
The statement on the other side of this card is false.

More here, and links to the rest.

Monday, 13 March 2017

Illogical 3

Ouija boards (Surely "oui-non" boards?)

Whales have breeding grounds and feeding grounds. (They live in the sea.)

It’s always in the last place you look!

I could care less.

set in stone (You set things in concrete, you carve them in stone.)

Temperatures approached 30C. (Temperatures reached 28C.)

PM makes 360deg rotation on cigarette packaging. (You mean 180 degree – 360 degrees takes you back to where you started.)

The total mileage stands at about 4000km.

priceless (There's a price and it's very very high.)

an empty bottle of brandy (an empty brandy bottle)

Uprooting themselves and moving to the other side of the world would be the toughest decision they’d ever have to make. (It would be the toughest thing they’d ever have to do, if they decided to do it.)

"The time is rapidly approaching..." No, it's not. Time passes at the same pace. (@franosch)
Except at the edge of a black hole. (@FastMacsTweet)

including the likes of X, Y and Z (You mean including X, Y and Z, not people like them.)

flammable and inflammable (Both mean "likely to catch fire".)
boned and deboned (Both mean "with the bones removed".)

There's more than one consensus. (Brexiteer)

Ken should fall on his sword and walk. (Andrew Dismore)

15 photos that will convince you that Iceland belongs on another planet.

I think she wore some disguise – such as one of her trademark silk scarves – while driving, so that she would not be recognised. (Queen’s dog trainer Roger Mugford)

I'm undecided because I don't know enough about it but I will be voting 'out'. (BBC News vox pop Perhaps she thinks “undecided” means “ill-informed”.)

We don't cater gay weddings. We serve everyone.

If he was alive today he’d turn in his grave.

Surely your enemy's enemy is, er, you? (@lucyfishwife)

Gold standard dross. (Dross is what’s left over after gold is refined.)

This very comfortable 'hideaway' is located in a sunny 'undiscovered' quiet Mews... (Well, somebody must have discovered it – no point hiding there now.)

Norwich: twinned with Rouen, Koblenz and Novi Sad.

Painted in loose bravura sweeps like the modernism Goya presages. (Laura Cumming, Observer 2015-10-11 And many other examples. He wasn't ahead of his time, we are behind his.)

Fillet of a fenny snake/In the cauldron boil and bake. (Boil and bake? Make up your mind! And you can't bake anything in a cauldron.)

People should produce, instead of passively consuming! (Who will consume their products?)

Indian giver (It was the British who gave and then took back from the Native Americans.)

2001 was groundbreaking, wasn’t it? Yes – at the time! (BBC Breakfast)

Chinese house prices are shrinking. (The market is shrinking as the numbers fall.)

He is one of the only thespians on the planet who possesses a Ph.D. yahoo news (One of the few.)

Gays have enough equality! (Said some bishop.)
It would right an equality imbalance. (The BBC on women in the theatre. Equality would mean 50% men, 50% women.)

Professionally pedicured feet at your fingertips! (TV ad)

three-week anniversary

You rush to the door, frozen in horror.

You could hear a pin drop! (You can only hear a pin land.)

Marketing bull that irritates me "An almost infinite number of possibilities". So not infinite in any way at all, but entirely finite. Grrr! (Brian Lawton ‏@MrBLawton)

build the deep levels of stamina (You build up, dig deep.)

How can there be self-help groups? (LC)

We’d like to introduce our children to a global world. (Head teacher on BBC Breakfast. Unless you teach them that it's flat...)

Next we'll be hearing about how the average Homo Erectus IQ was 150. (Web discussion about Neanderthals – don’t go there.)

fully lined, fully fashioned, fully licensed

It's come to the point where its now almost impossible to turn the clock back. (Eric Pickles, 2013-01-25)

The future is already here.

I pay someone to come and do my DIY for me. (Nick Knowles)

If our lives are more "fast-paced" than ever before, we should have more free time, not less?

deceptively spacious (more spacious than it appears at first sight), deceptively deep (deeper than expected – ie deceptively shallow)

You really need to think about reinstalling some original features. (Lucy Alexander on Homes under the Hammer, June 2012)

The experiment has failed! (It didn’t produce the results we wanted.)

World records won’t be broken, they’ll be shattered into a million pieces. (You can’t do more to a world record than break it.)

More here, and links to the rest.

Monday, 6 March 2017

Political Euphemisms (in Quotes) 3

Dear attention-hungry journos: your Hot Take on #WomensMarch, translated, is 'I don't like ordinary people expressing an opinion in public'. (Jon Dryden Taylor ‏@jondrytay)

Why do tories have "safe pair of hands" and "grown up" narratives as default? (McDuff ‏@Mc_Heckin_Duff)
Every time I hear a Tory say we need a "grown-up" NHS debate I know they really mean "private health care". (@Rachael_Swindon)

@RealDonaldTrump needs to purge Leftists from executive branch before disloyal, illegal & treasonist acts sink us. (Steve King @SteveKingIA)
Some people have been waiting years for their big chance to speak fluent fascist. (@Dorianlynskey)

You just know when Brexiteers say "commonwealth" they are itching to say "empire". (Sathnam Sanghera‏ @Sathnam)

Creeping emasculation (Piers Morgan): He mens women have more rights, there are more women in public life, women organize marches, men feel their position at the top of the tree wobbling slightly.

Libertarians fight for freedom. Freedom to kick minorities out of your store, to not accommodate the disabled, to not pay living wages, etc. (Existential Comics ‏@existentialcoms)

I love how everything that isn't troglodytic dog whistle bigotry is automatically "rabidly left wing". (@AlexPaknadel 28 Jul 2016)

"Don't want to get into politics" = "The current system has worked really well for me so please don't ask me to examine it critically". (Greg Wilson @gvwilson)

Lisa Nandy says we should stop “picking sides” in strikes. She means “We shouldn’t side with the strikers”.

Trump’s “terror attacks go unreported” is morphing into “the reports weren’t alarmist enough”. (Feb 2017)

The government’s Sustainability and Transformation Plans (STPs) are a smokescreen for a massive programme of hospital and community service closures, and are its latest instrument for privatisation. (Unite)

Shami Chakrabarti is one of the most self-righteous, least likeable political figures on the scene. Sums up Labour 2017. (@Michael_Heaver She’s a socialist, she’s a woman, and she’s black.)

From Ad Sinistram:
spiv: entrepreneur
talking bollocks: thinking outside the box
unemployed: scrounger
public sector worker: scrounger
European: foreign scrounger
bigotry: mainstream political thought
scientific consensus: anti-business scaremongering
endangered species: vermin
right wing: moderate
moderate: communist
left wing: communist traitor
local opposition: nimbyism
safety regulations, environmental protection, employment law: red tape
greedy bastard: wealth creator

From Paris Lees:
Style Guide for 2016
Neo Nazis: Alt Right
Propaganda: Fake News
Civil rights: Identity Politics
Decency: Political correctness
Abuse: Free speech

These Hollywood elites wouldn’t know average, every day hard-working Americans if we bit them in the ass. @TomiLahren (I think this means “You just don’t understand that racism is necessary”.)

I only went into politics because politicians have made a mess of things. (Barbara Fielding, 78, Stoke independent candidate. She means: Politicians have failed to rid the country of brown people and Jews, who by the way run the world. And we were on the wrong side in the War. It's all on her website.)

Political dictionary: "outsider" = bigot; "elite" = any person opposed to bigotry who isn't so poor they live in an actual ditch. (‏@johnb78)

Dear @BBCr4today - Please, please start saying like it is! Bannon is a *white supremacist*. 'Right-wing firebrand' simply doesn't cut it. (Katy Cooper ‏@DecSop1)

West Virginia mayor resigns following controversial Facebook post referring to Michelle Obama as an "ape in heels". (@NBCNews) 
The word you are looking for is not "controversial". (John Whitehouse ‏@existentialfish)

Why do all minority groups have to be so tribal, blinkered, paranoid and devoid of common sense? UK would be better place if they calmed down. (Jon gaunt @jongaunt It's irony.)

You know when the media report on someone (Clarkson, Trump, JTerry etc) making sexist or racist comments the phrase is always 'caught out'. (Mister Neil Kulkarni ‏@KaptainKulk)

Nuttall says unlike Islington Lab, UKIP will speak about matters that affect "real working class people and real working class communities". (@MrHarryCole)
That's "real" spelt with a w, h, i, t and e. (Stephen Bush ‏@stephenkb)
When Bannon and Trump's Breitbart say "Soros" they mean "Jews." (Dan Murphy @bungdan)

Would like it if press stopped referring to bigots as "provocateurs," like they're Madonna in a cone bra in 1990 instead of fans of the KKK. (@summerbrennan)

Brendan Cox’s initiatives to get communities together is a “Disgusting attempt to politicize communities. Might work in trendy London Labour enclaves, nowhere else.” (@UKIPCANDA Where “politicize” means “indoctrinate with left-wing politics”. Because everywhere apart from London, different communities hate each other, as is right and proper.)

More here, and links to the rest.

Sunday, 5 March 2017

Neologisms 16

What a polyp. (Ian Martin on Trump)
Bill, you absolute pudding. (BD Sixsmith)
You irredeemable prunes! (James O’Brien on Leavers who think Remoaners want to abandon Brits abroad)

Donald Trump is "factose intolerant". (William Francis on FB)

Their insanity is starting to glow in the dark.
(RK on the White House)

Your train of thought has been cancelled.
A replacement bus of thought is available. Your thoughts may arrive five hours later than planned. (@jeffnoon)

Shall I go to London and blow around like a feather in a pillow factory? (Gruntfuttock ‏@peasmoldia)

It's hard to think of another PM who created such ruinous, lifechanging chaos before practically evaporating into mist, than David Cameron. (@AliCatterall)

artwashing: using artists to make an organisation appear more friendly, and provide good PR for practices that may otherwise appear negative.

"Where's Corbyn?" Smashing PMQs every week, but dust bowls and cobwebs from our media. (@Peter_Nicholls)

It's no good when crisps aren't. (HB)

There's a veneer of culture and second homes, but it's essentially a mill-town graveyard. (Don Morrison on his hometown)

Is somebody going to get a chance to get in front of the microphone and put over our point of view in accents slightly less reminiscent of well-bred motor salesmen down on their luck? (Columnist Cassandra [1909-67] complaining about BBC announcers “mincing” through the news)

Shame they replaced it with a Tupperware greenhouse. (‏@JamesNonchalant on Stoke Newington Station)

Angela Rayner any moment she's going to go full red head everyone run. (Fat ‏@Bloke_On_A_Bike)
wounded rhino time (Someone has screwed up and landed you in it – time to charge like a wounded rhino and demand an apology, compensation and a free holiday.)

Morris dancers are one of the most riotously risible and despised groups in Britain. Yet they caper on regardless... (A A Gill)

The idea of a theremin ensemble is both intriguing and just slightly scary maybe one day I too will own a vintage theremin.... but until then I shall keep on soldering on till my mini one is built! (Amazon reviewer of Theremin by Albert Glinsky)

It's always a bit odd being back in Oxford, a perfectly normal Midlands city that got married to Gormenghast. (@WillWiles)

Failure of western democracy is what aviation safety calls the Swiss Cheese process. No one single big failure, lots of holes aligning. Usually followed by process called  "gravestone regulation", which I won't dwell on. (Rupert Goodwins ‏@rupertg)

Amazon are the Satan du jour for some people. (GFC)

You don’t have to sit him down for a full come-to-Jesus moment. (Dear Prudence commenter)

They are as valid as serving chocolate risotto on a cutting board followed by prawn and peas ice cream. (End Of Daze ‏@EndRoadwork)

rusted-on cronies ‏(@EndRoadwork)
We’re on spongy ground here. (JP)
at a speed of one angstrom per eon (AJB)

He is too lacquered in anecdote to communicate properly. (@byzantinepower)

the private language of academia (HP)

It’s mediocre in a weak way. (imdb comment on 50s Dors vehicle Man Bait)

If anyone becomes a therapist for money they need their bumps feeling. (Rhiannon Georgina Daniel)

May’s patina is already beginning to peel. (FL)

A lot of men in suits with their fingers in their ears. (Steph McGovern on BBC Breakfast on security guards)

Can I just press pause for a moment? (Sally Nugent on BBC Breakfast)

More here, and links to the rest.

Sunday, 26 February 2017

Movie Cliches (in Quotes) 2

'Here are dragons' did actually appear on two 16c maps. Next week I'll find out if any mad scientists really said 'the fools, the fools'. (@edwest)

My favourite bad horror/sci-fi movie trope are regular-sized human masks that easily disguise much, much larger alien/monster heads. (Allan Mott ‏@HouseofGlib)

It is stuffed with implausibilities... ending with an aspiring actress being offered a dream role in a movie on the strength of doing a one-woman show attended by about ten people. (Times on La La Land)

‏Even by the standards of Radio 4 dramas the heavy breathing on this nonsense they're playing right now takes the p***. (@IanDunt 30 Dec 2016)

Bring me one documentary that features an Arab country that doesn't open with [a call to prayer] and a panorama of houses & minarets. (@areyoudone)

After series 2, every franchise becomes a soap opera. (GC on Sherlock)
It has started to feel oddly like a clipshow of itself. (Jonn Elledge on Sherlock, New Statesman)

Filmmakers in the past have made the mistake of loading Agatha Christie adaptations with actors chosen simply because they are big box office stars and not necessarily on the basis of their suitability to play the parts, and this is another aspect which has probably made the David Suchet series so popular with TV audiences everywhere. (imdb commenter)

Churches in soaps are always inexplicably rural. Seriously this one in Eastenders would take minimum an hour to reach in a car. (Matthew Whitfield ‏@mwhitfield80)

I guess I’m just an old mad scientist at bottom. Give me an underground laboratory, half a dozen atom-smashers, and a beautiful girl in a diaphanous veil waiting to be turned into a chimpanzee, and I care not who writes the nation’s laws. (SJ Perelman)

According to the Times, Stephen Poliakoff’s latest hero is "a handsome, shrewd, single-minded and utterly ruthless maverick who is able to function on no sleep. He thinks outside the box; he has a background in engineering, a distinguished war record and the air of someone who does 'incredibly important secret things'. Only he is much more than that. He loves jazz and swing, he knows how to talk to children, and given half a chance he will sit down and play the piano." (This was supposed to make me like it; it made me suspect it was dire. I was right.)

Toning down his usual Shakespearean and Sherlockian grandeur, Cumberbatch takes to the burgundy-red superhero cape with a bracing dose of irony. Times on Dr Strange (Once any actor has appeared in Shakespeare, you can taunt them for being “grand” and a “luvvie” or “thesp”, and express surprise that they can subsequently play anything else, or return to the modern world. And Sherlock isn’t “grand”.)

Nothing I fear more than a film where the cast were "one big happy family" and everyone had lots of fun on set. (@Andr6wMale)

Why do the plots of cash-in Hollywood prequels to children's literary classics always involve a messianic prophecy? (@AlexPaknadel)

Where is this storyline with the young policewoman going? Are they setting her up to marry Anton Lesser or to die horribly? #Endeavour (Della Mirandola ‏@dellamirandola0)

Nobody wears white unless they’re going to get blood on it. (@lucyfishwife)

Movies are more likely to portray men’s stalking as charming and women’s as crazy. (Atlantic)

Man in this cafe looks just like my late father. His ghost? According to TV pilot law, we must now team up and solve crimes together. (@paulwhitelaw)

"I want my movie to be dark"
said every single director. (@AndrewSabisky)

Portraying real people, actors typically say that they will not attempt an “impression”, then do. (Andrew Billen Times Feb 2016)

But who’s actually REALLY in control” is to videogames what “but it was all a dream” is to movies. (Jack ‏@notquitereal)

I'd rather not see so many pictures of cats, Big Ben, poppies, white balloons, tattoos and Amsterdam. (Steerforth on Instagram clichés. He also lists pictures of coffee, pictures of feet, and inspirational quotes. A commenter: “A lot of people who post on Instagram seem to want to be professional advertising stock shot photographers.”)

SOUNDIn the front seat of the OCTA bus on which I'm riding, a semi-transient is playing soulful wails on his harmonica, as if we were all preparing to walk the Last Mile in the Big House. (Scott K. Ratner)

Pet hate #96184. When some clot decides it would be a good idea to write a modern soundtrack for a silent movie. (@richard_littler)

It is a central principle of sound editing that people hear what they are conditioned to hear, not what they are actually hearing. The sound of rain in movies? Frying bacon. Car engines revving in a chase scene? It’s partly engines, but what gives it that visceral, gut-level grist is lion roars mixed in. (Guardian June 2016 I think by "grist" they mean "grit", but they have let go a lot of their sub editors.)

One side effect of imminent Nestene invasion is that for the only time ever all human voices become echoey. (@TobyHadoke)

Tips from the Horror Movie Survival Guide   

If you find that your house is built on  a cemetery, move away immediately.     
If your children speak to you in Latin, shoot them at once.
If the gang plans a fun midnight party in the town's old abandoned mansion, don't tag along. Especially not if you're the odd guy/gal out. And if you're the gang's jokester, write your will now.   

As a general rule, don't solve puzzles that open portals to Hell.     
Don't fool with recombinant DNA technology unless you're sure you know what you are doing.     
Never try to communicate with something icky because "there's so much we can learn from them".     
If you walk into a church and notice that the crucifix is upside down, leave by the nearest exit.     
If you realize that the people in your town have been taken over by some strange force, DO NOT call the police as they are a) already taken over or b) will just laugh at you.

When you land on a distant planet and find some objects that look like eggs, leave them alone.     
Don'g go in/out/down there (attic, closet, barn, basement, dark alley, woods, empty house, castle).
Generators will  run out of power, just as the nasty space-vegetable climbs onto your jury rigged electrical grid.

Ask why the estate is being sold so cheap.     
If the Master does not approve, neither do you.     
Skeptics are always proved wrong in some horrible way.
People driven by vengeance always die.     
ALL atomic weapons cause normal creatures to grow huge and carnivorous.

A small-town's little summer celebration sounds like fun, but if the locals say things like, "Why you're the guest of honour! We couldn't even have the barbecue without you!" run like hell.     

Quaint rural corn ceremonies are NEVER really about corn.    
Don't work the night shift.     
Under no circumstances remove any unusual item from glaciers or large blocks of ice.
If an iceberg appears to be radioactive, do not crash your submarine into it.     

Don't explode A-Bombs in the Arctic, South Sea atolls, or deep beneath the ocean. These locations are thickly inhabited with survivors from the prehistoric past. (Not to mention the blob, giant octopi, etc.)     

Stay on the Interstate.     
If you are trapped in a house surrounded by demons, making coffee will not help anyone.     
If you really must run screaming through the woods, dress for it. Avoid high heels.
Always be nice to the shy, quiet, unpopular girl in school.     
Never tease anyone. They'll either gain extraordinary powers, or go psycho.     
Don't bother telling another character to "Stay in the car."
Avoid people with pale complexions who moan and sway.     
Blondes with visoble roots are the food of choice of 9 out of 10 aliens.

When investigating a house or place shunned by the whispering townsfolk, don't try on the clothes in the trunk in the attic, don't look in the mirrors, and don't read the diaries.     

If the barber remarks on the "666" tattoo your buzzcut kid now has, abandon the kid and move to Irkutsk.     

Do not poke strange steaming rocks with sticks.     
Never announce openly that you're not afraid, you don't believe, or that you're fully prepared.  
Follow all care instruction of strange animals to the letter.     
In archaeology class, stay home for the unit on local folklore.     

Do your community a favor and torch the local occult bookstore. They're usually more trouble than they're worth.     

Don't buy antiques from strange magic stores.
If someone screams "None of you know whats really going on around here", listen to them.     
Never say, "It's over".     

More here, and links to the rest.