Saturday, 15 September 2018

Sneer Targets

As society becomes more liberal, there are fewer legitimate hate figures. But we’ve got to sneer at somebody - haven’t we? There are groups of people you only have to mention, or make a feeble joke about, to get admiring laughs. If anybody points out that the sneer targets don’t really exist, or don’t do what they are rumoured to do, and even if they did it wouldn’t be funny, the original jokester is outraged.

So who can we sneer at?

grockles, emmets (visitors to the West country)
lefties (tree-huggers)
Ugg boots
American spelling
Apple users (snobs)
Comic Sans

Adele (beige)
Fiona Bruce (smug)
James Corden
Richard Dawkins
Brian Cox (smug, smiles too much)
Sandi Toksvig
Alan Titchmarsh
Myleene Klass
Caroline Quentin (loud and "a fishwife")

illiterates who misplace apostrophes
hipsters who eat avocados
journalists (liars and doorsteppers)
actors (luvvies declaiming Shakespeare)

Tescos and the people who shop there.
Those awful people in front of me in the checkout queue.

“Feral” children who run around and shout while their parents ignore them or fail to “keep them under control”.

Music liked by teenage girls (Some people even used the Manchester bombings as an excuse to sneer at music liked by teenage girls.)

Kids today (And some people even used the Grenfell disaster to point out that young people ought to imitate firefighters, not pop stars or footballers.)

Vegans (It's OK to tell complicated unfunny jokes and shaggy dog stories about them, and share them will all your friends on Facebook. It used to be "vegetarians".)

Here’s a quick question for my vegan friends: I’ve been buying vegan cheese and milk for two weeks now, and been learning how to cook a wide range of non-meat and non-dairy dishes. My question is, how much does it cost to go to one of those Swiss clinics? (Via Twitter. The jokes are always as funny as this.)

The Beckhams (He has a high voice and tiny eyes, apparently.)

Kirsty Allsop (Craft is middle-class, we don’t need her "jolly hockeysticks, headgirly" programme, complained writers-in to the BBC.)

Public mourners (Who stage silent demonstrations after disasters or terrorist attacks, and leave flowers at the scene.)

Black Friday, Christmas, Halloween, Valentine’s Day (Chavs buying chavvy things, hypnotised by the media. Somehow media hypnosis doesn’t work on us.)

Coca Cola (The bubbles are evil because the company is a branch of US imperialism and the stuff is "so aggressively marketed".)

the media (always "panicking" and "over-reacting" about the weather)

American spelling

Friday, 14 September 2018

Loopy Logic about Racism 4

Some of these comments are anonymous, but they are a paraphrase of views I've seen or heard expressed. I don't agree with any of them.

Anti-Semitism is not a problem because...

They're white.
They're rich.
And they run the world.

Many Jews are not Zionists, so generalizing about Zionists is not anti-Semitism.

Why aren’t you accusing the Tories of anti-Semitism? Or Islamophobia?

The IHRA definition of anti-Semitism is unnecessary.

There is no anti-Semitism in the Labour Party, it’s just an attack on Corbyn.

Hebrew isn't a Semitic language.

Jews are not Semitic, They are Khazarian (Ashkenazic, European). The Only Semitic Jews are Sephardis. (Via the Urban Dictionary. DNA evidence disproves this theory.)

Really, there is no such thing as anti-Semitism.

Mahathir Mohamad... says ‘Anti-Semitic’ is ‘an invented term to prevent criticizing Jews for doing wrong’ (Times of Israel)

Why have the Jewish people been persecuted over and over again throughout history. Why? I never get an answer. If we discussed this we would be accused of anti-Semitism, so better not, and so it goes on! (Baroness Jenny Tonge)

The Washington Post reported on White’s comments on his public Facebook page espousing a conspiracy theory linking the Rothschild family — a Jewish banking dynasty and frequent target of anti-Semitic propaganda — with a murky plot of climate manipulation. White later apologized and said he did not realize Jews might consider his comments offensive.

Since the dawning of the period of neo-liberal capitalism in the 1970s, elements of the Jewish-Zionist bourgeoisie, from Milton Friedman to Henry Kissinger to the pro-Israel ideologues of the War on Terror, have played a vanguard role for the capitalist offensive against the workers. (Gerry Downing)

[Yanny Bruere] tweeted 'Jews run the world', then complains when he's branded an anti-Semite. He's appearing on TV beside a balloon he's been allowed to fly, then complains he's been 'shut down'. (@IanDunt And his tweets were “taken out of context”. The balloon was a caricature of Sadiq Khan.)

John McDonnell tells journalists it’s been “frustrating” that Labour have been unable to get their message across this summer because of “heart-rending” difficulties with anti-semitism.” (@AdamBienkov)

Pol makes racist gaffe.
Protesters protest.
Apologists explain remark wasn’t really racist.
Apologists further explain that it’s the protesters who are really racist. 
Apologists conclude it’s a job well done.

What is racism, really? (Nigel Biggar)

You can accept that racism and prejudice exist in the abstract, provided you never concede that anything anybody ever actually says, does or thinks is a specific example of prejudice.

"These new immigrants aren't like the old immigrants." Every Generation of White People Ever. (Just Plain Michelle @dmichellebz)

Racism and sexism are just words that have been weaponised by the [bleeding-heart liberals, latte-sipping Marxists, Corbyniotes etc].

“People of colour” is meaningless because we are all some colour or other. There are no black and white people – they’re brown and pinky-brown, therefore nobody can be racist.

White man: “Calling me a ‘white man’ is racism and white bashing!”

Calling Nazis “Nazis” empowers them.

It’s the Chinese and Nigerians who leave litter on beaches!

We can’t be too nice to immigrants or there'll be a racist backlash.

If called out, or even arrested, for racism, claim to be a “performance artist”.

More here, and links to the rest.

And if you still have trouble understanding irony, read my book.

Wednesday, 29 August 2018

Outrageous Excuses 6

Boris writes his column very fast.
(That must be why he said women in niqabs looked like "letterboxes".)

Sorry for the racist tweet, I’d taken a sleeping pill. Roseanne Barr, paraphrase

He’s not the person he was then, he’s turned his life around.

Distressed children in detention centres are all “child actors”, says Ann Coulter.

He’s a good person so that must have been his shadow side.

Men do not abuse women because of drink, drugs, stress, narcissist personality disorder, sex addiction, low self-esteem, ADHD, OCD, jealousy, broken hearts, overwork, unemployment or any other b*ll*xology excuses. (
@FreedomProgramm. “I don’t care if his pregnant mother was frightened by a two-headed goat.” Daniel Mallory Ortberg,

Bravissimo make underwear for larger women, but use average women in their advertising. They say ““We would love to use a wider range of models but this can be a real challenge due to the difficulties in finding models with bigger boobs that are comfortable and confident in front of the camera especially when wearing underwear.” The original complainer says “Other lingerie brands... routinely feature models of a variety of sizes in their marketing, and agencies specifically for plus models exist.” Bravissimo responded: “We are not a plus-sized brand... we don’t make clothes above a size 18.” (Huffington Post)

Australian former deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce has written a memoir (Weatherboard and Iron) detailing past affairs that happened while he was married. He claims he was depressed, and self-medicated with “alcohol and carousing in bars”. A psychiatrist told him he needed “structure” in his life so he had an affair, and a child, with a colleague, though at one point he denied paternity. “Somehow I thought that creating doubt by not having all the details might switch this [media] frenzy off. You are not logical when under pressure for weeks,” he said. Finally he said that he wrote the book to “draw attention to poor, rural white Australians who struggled and felt ignored by wider society,” reports the Times. (Aug 2018)

Christopher Chope talked out a bill banning upskirting. He is pro capital punishment and conscription, and against same-sex marriage etc. But “it’s about lack of discussion of private members’ bills”. He has introduced several pointless PMBs himself with the aim of blocking others.

“We are very good pastorally" is one of the first excuses you hear in schools failing working-class kids. Also loads of references to ‘our type of kid’, and a constant reference to differentiation for the less able. (Ros McMullen @RosMcM)

A group of FTSE 350 chairs and chief executives were asked why they didn't appoint more women to boards: 

"I don't think women fit comfortably into the board environment"

"There aren't that many women with the right credentials and depth of experience to sit on the board — the issues covered are extremely complex"

"Most women don't want the hassle or pressure of sitting on a board"

"Shareholders just aren't interested in the make-up of the board, so why should we be?"
"My other board colleagues wouldn't want to appoint a woman on our board"
"All the 'good' women have already been snapped up"
"We have one woman already on the board, so we are done — it is someone else's turn"
"There aren't any vacancies at the moment — if there were I would think about appointing a woman"

"We need to build the pipeline from the bottom — there just aren't enough senior women in this sector"

"I can't just appoint a woman because I want to."
(May 2018)

The Flemish highways agency this week admitted it was cutting down trees to stop migrants hiding behind them. (April 2018)

Jeremy Hunt says he “forgot” to declare the purchase of 7 luxury flats, in an “honest mistake”.

The Kennel Club says it doesn’t want to bring in stricter rules (on dog breeding) in case they deter people from registering.

Alexander Nix, boss of Cambridge Analytica, caught on camera explaining how to entrap politicians with prostitutes: “There’s an English thing about being slightly embarrassed when someone starts going off on one like this and you humour him a bit and then you leave.” (March 2018)

Norman Mailer was never accused of hurting any women.

He stabbed his wife!

Oh, he stabbed his wife, yeah. He... had a complex relationship with women, and he regretted many of the things he said about them. ... His point of view was, well, “I am doing this to create a debate”.

Interviewer: I've been told Dinsdale Piranha nailed your head to the floor.
Stig: No. Never. He was a smashing bloke. He used to buy his mother flowers and that. He was like a brother to me.
Interviewer: But the police have film of Dinsdale actually nailing your head to the floor.
Stig: (pause) Oh yeah, he did that.
Interviewer: Why?
Stig: Well he had to, didn't he? I mean there was nothing else he could do, be fair. I had transgressed the unwritten law.

BREXITWe voted Leave because we hated David Cameron.

We have an obesity crisis so it might be a good thing to have a bit less food. (Aug 2018, on a no-deal Brexit and food shortages.)

Apr 25 Conversation with Brexit voting Brit yesterday.
Him: I voted Brexit to shake things up. 
Me: But you export from the UK all over the EU, won't Brexit impact your business?
Him: No, the govt will cancel Brexit at the last minute, they're just teaching the EU a lesson.

More here, and links to the rest.

Monday, 27 August 2018

It Ends with Revelations

It Ends with Revelations
is a 1967 novel by Dodie Smith, author of I Capture the Castle and 101 Dalmatians. It has been reviewed by Clothes in Books, but look out for spoilers!

Smith was always interested in clothes. The heroine, Jill dresses older than her age in "off-black or gunmetal". The two teenage girls she befriends wear miniskirts, white boots and a home-made felt Modigliani shift. The elder has "veils" of long blonde hair, the younger a dark elfin crop that makes her look like a cat. There is a good scene in a coffee bar full of youths who all seem rather dirty or at least "sickly and pale". Angela Carter pointed out that beatniks and hippies stopped wearing the currently fashionable heavy, vividly coloured make-up, and to someone who hadn't seen a naked face since the 30s they did look "dirty and pale".

Jill is married to a famous actor, Miles. After her rough childhood and early life, Miles's money cushions her from unpleasantness. Their marriage is sexless, but loving. They are in "Spa Town" for an out-of-town tryout when Jill meets a handsome widower, Geoffrey, and his two teenage daughters. The girls immediately latch on to her in a somewhat overpowering way. They seem "precocious" and annoying, but it transpires that they grew up without a mother and have clearly educated themselves from books (probably Pelican paperbacks). There is another precocious child - Cyril, the boy actor in the play who seems unsure of his real age.

Apart from the convoluted plot, which reads like a compendium of problem pages, the interest for me was the light shed on pop psychology of the day.

The younger girl is sure she’ll turn out to be “frigid”, the other has feelings, but represses them in case she turns into a “nymphomaniac” like her mother, who was also a “dipsomaniac”. (She was an alcoholic and had many affairs.) They don't hold back when discussing all this with Jill. People can be "sex mad" or "thoroughly repressed".

Eventually Geoffrey tells her the story of his wife's alcoholism. “Her doctor said a psychiatrist would upset her and she just needed patience.”  She periodically “pulled herself together” (presumably "sobered up"), but “she wouldn’t cooperate, see doctors or psychiatrists”. Perhaps I “drove her to drink”, he wonders.

Miles's opinion of Cyril? "The boy’s just a drooling mass of self-pity."

The following year, homosexuality was legalised. Read the book to find out who ends up with whom.

Thursday, 23 August 2018

Technophobia 6

Txting is 25 years old. People predicted txt spk would destroy the English language, spelling, literacy… The Germans thought telephones would never catch on and called the directory “The Book of Fools”. (“Radio is here to stay!” Fred Allen US 20s radio star)

Twenty years ago people were puzzled by the idea that one day we would all be trading in information. Now they complain that we are “bombarded with information these days”. They are probably the same people who, in the 80s, called facts “trivia”, and said “Nobody likes a know-all!” Some people need to be bombarded with information.

There was a moment about 30 years ago when it was touch-and-go that men would ever demean themselves to use a keyboard. Some office staffed dragged their feet over the "new technology". But of course they didn’t want to work faster – they might have run out of stuff to do, and somebody would be made redundant.

It's 2018 and...
People are suggesting students shouldn’t be allowed laptops in lectures. For the last time, teach them to touchtype!

People are telling Mary Beard to link her own tweets instead of numbering them.

Deleted every single ‘al’ from the final edit of my little book because I messed up ‘find & replace’. Political becomes politic, also so, really rly & Donald Dond. This is going to take ages to fix. It rly is. (James O'Brien ‏@mrjamesob)

If only someone had told you about temporary files, version control and data recovery techniques. Or even “CTRL + Z”. (@davidjwbailey And search and replace for whole words only – it’s in Advanced Find and Replace. )

Another distinguished academic lamented on Twitter that he had lost "five hours of work" because it wasn't saved. When asked why he hadn't saved it, he explained "It must be this new laptop". Dear professor, name and save your file before you start typing, and then save it every five minutes. Command+S on a Mac, Control+S on a PC. Actually, set up Autosave.

Favourite thing about my job is that nobody else in my department knows how to use a computer, so I get treated like some kind of tech genius because I know where the AutoSum button is in Excel and can search the shared drive for documents. Last week I found my colleague doing a spreadsheet and she was manually adding up 60 rows of numbers using a calculator. (@RopesToInfinity)

Some never quite "got" direct input and typed their copy first on a typewriter, then went round the office trying to find some secretary to input it on the screens (yes, really). (MJ on journalists in the 80s adapting to the “new” technology)

It’s 2018. The Crown Court is fully digital. Why am I still having to decipher police officers’ abysmal handwriting on witness statements? (Max Hardy‏ @maxbarrister)

Isn't technology great? This is what I have to do each month because our FOI software is incapable of calculating 20 working days. (Picture of paper calendar) (@Schopflin)

It is completely unacceptable in 2014 for typing (on Facebook) to behave like the 30-baud dial-up days of 30 years ago. For me, it usually happens when I am trying to type in a status message... 5-10 second lags as I type. It's pretty sad that the workaround is to type a status message into notepad and then cut-paste it to Facebook. (via Google)

Old geezers discover the internet, years after everybody else:
Facebook is helping the left to eat itself: I’ve long suspected that the site is terrible for people’s mental health. (Spectator)

The internet is a powerful engine for increasing income inequality and lowering the level of public discourse. (Jonathan Franzen)

Facebook like an infectious disease, experiencing spike before its decline, say US researchers. (Jan 2014)

A: I will nevah – nevah! – use Facebook.
B: I will nevah – nevah! – use Twitter.
And nevah the twain shall meet.

Facebook users are afraid to join Twitter because they think it will be too techy and difficult, and vice versa.

Non Facebook users are still saying “But FB users all have thousands of friends – who are they? And I don’t want the whole world to see my pictures.”

Non Twitter users say that they won’t join because if they post one tweet, they will immediately get “trolled” – whatever that means.

Andrew Lloyd-Webber: "I never, never tweet, I never...", but he tweeted to say how brilliant Hamilton was.

Twitter is a torrent of vacuous bleating. (Says a non-user.)

Twitter has been around for about 12 years, but it’s well-seen to complain that news stories shouldn’t be about what people say on Twitter, and they definitely shouldn’t be about abuse on Twitter because, well, it’s Twitter and hence rather naff and not quite real.

Middle-class academics are still saying “I don’t do Twitter” instead of “I don’t have a Twitter account”.

But now “everybody” has a smartphone and “everybody” has email on it, they use email like texting. You have to remember which friends will send a vital message via email, Twitter, Facebook, text or Whatsapp.

People have stopped shoving their phones in your face and saying “Look at this funny video!” But your old friends join Facebook but all they do is post political petitions – or unfunny memes about how much better everything was in the olden days. The 80s is now "the olden days", when we were better people without all this technology.

Some people yearn for the olden days when things were “simpler”. Digital technology may be a bit complicated, but it makes life a lot simpler.

As a person in their mid-50s I’ve been pondering recently on just how much technology I’ve had to master in my lifetime, so much of which is now redundant: fax machine, tape cassette, video cassette recorder timer, electric typewriter, word processor and so on. It also struck me that all this was hardware development. Most new tech we have to master is software now, embedded in smart phones that don’t change in their interaction: swipe, touch, etc. The new tech hurdles for us now are how to behave around this stuff. (@MooseAllain)

I've worked with men who couldn't refill a stapler...

I stopped watching TV permanently years ago and refuse to go anywhere near iplayer. 
(via Twitter)

A friend has no photo ID (driving licence, passport), on principle. Says he knows it can’t last, but will “enjoy” it as long as possible.

With all their speed forward automobiles may be a step backward... in spiritual civilization. (Booth Tarkington, The Magnificent Ambersons)

Online facility for listening to music, storing your photos, finding your way has an “upgrade”, losing all the features that made it so useful. Facility says something about "improving the customer experience" while destroying their own product. It also says "It's find, you'll get used to it!" Eventually the lost features are restored one by one.

If you want to "improve the customer experience", do something about this:

To unsubscribe from emails from ebay saved searches, hover on the title of the search. There's nothing on the email itself that lets you unsubscribe. They really, really want to send you emails.

To review a book on Goodreads, you have to rate it first.

At one workplace, the writer of the software manual carefully left out useful information in case we got above ourselves, and spelled it "manuel" throughout.

TFW you discover a software feature that’s been there all the time.

More here, and links to the rest.

Monday, 20 August 2018

Syndromes We Don't Have a Name For 6: Mad Management

Most offices are cluttered, dull, too open-plan, too cold or too hot, impersonal, ugly – but the alternative does not have to be “install slides and bean bags”. Or stand-up meetings, walking meetings, hot desking, clean desks, stand-up desks, email bans, unisex loos, shoelessness, trampolines.

The BBC in Salford has “thought wheels” for meetings – lime-green padded caves like something out of 2001 A Space Odyssey.

The Home Office has just (2018) made ALL its toilets gender-neutral. Female staff now have nowhere to "go".

I think I've found the world's single worst workplace team building activity: Compulsory co-worker cuddling sessions in special tents. (Joanna Holman @joannamuses)

Doing without email because reading emails takes too long. Remember memos? And how do you arrange a meeting without email?

A friend's office has abolished phones and replaced them with “Skype for Business”.

New Broadcasting House has a no office policy and the green room is a corridor. Mar 2013

An internet company which wants staff to feel a bit more excited when they turn up to work has changed its office layout to make it more fun. A helter skelter to get between floors, an indoor tree house for meetings, a cinema and swings have been installed at the new headquarters in Southampton for web hosting firm Peer 1. (BBC 2013, pictured)

We moved to a lovely new building with little “meeting areas” scattered about: a few chairs and a table in “jolly” colours that took up space, were never used, and were quickly replaced by desks and cupboards. How soon do things creep back to normal? The lounging areas quickly got eaten up by desks and filing cabinets and we were left with a large figurative sculpture in a corner.

Innocent has consciousness raising every morning in an astroturfed canteen with a slide.

Chiat Day, which went through an ill-fated upheaval when it tried to do away with cubicles and desks in favour of absolute freedom and flexibility. The problem was, it was 1993, and blackberries were still nothing but a fruit: the technology simply didn’t exist to support founder Jay Chiat’s dreams of a virtual office. People often couldn’t find each other. One employee was known for trundling around the building with a little red wagon laden with papers; others, desperate to secure one of the few useable desks, resorted to sending their assistants in to claim them at 6 in the morning. Within three years, the grand experiment had been scrapped, and Chiat himself had sold up and left. (Independent, 2013)

 Ferrari is limiting the number of people employees can address emails to. (It thinks this will be “more efficient”, 2013.)

Amazon gave all its employees desks made out of old doors (to save money). Many got carpal tunnel syndrome.

Earlier this year, the … Barbarian Group unveiled its “superdesk”: one huge continuous single desk for all 125 staff… Like many such office innovations, it’s tremendously forward-thinking, and totally undermined by psychology research. (Oliver Burkeman Guardian 2014)

One Scandinavian firm introduced hot desking. Staff find each other with a GPS system that shows you which floor someone is on. It doesn’t tell you where they are – you have the excitement of searching the floor for them. And you can only stay at any one desk for an hour! And they aren’t allowed to call it hot desking!!

All the bins have been removed from a friend's office. Staff are supposed to take all rubbish to the tea point, but actually they use plastic bags.

We found that many organisational restructuring and change initiatives achieve very little apart from making employees miserable, building the reputations of a few managers, and fattening the coffers of consultants. (Guardian Dec 2016)

A new manager aims to “shake up” an organisation, destroys everything, destabilises everybody, the people who really run the place quit and it implodes. Manager goes off and does the same somewhere else. (Independent July 2013)

New owners bring in “real salesmen” who nearly destroy the business.

In the book 7½ Cents by Richard Bissell the manager won’t give the workers the pay rise they merit, or update the aged machinery, but spends huge amounts of time and money on motivating his sales force.


You are working away with colleagues when three men in suits carrying clipboards enter your office. They look around the room, ignore you, consult their clipboards and confer. 

Suspiciously well-dressed guys with clipboards started dropping in... (Article about the demise of the video rental shop)

You catch sight of the plan of the new offices your firm is moving into, and you notice that there aren’t enough desks for everybody. In our lovely new building, our meeting room didn’t have enough chairs for everyone to sit down. Nobody ever imported extra chairs. Somehow we couldn’t do that. If we suggested it, we were discouraged in an undertone. At least in the old place there had been cupboards to sit on. Within a few years, most of us had been made redundant.

Your desk is repositioned in a corridor. And then it disappears.

One colleague became strangely obsessed by a new floor plan, and charged about with drawings of “modules” in different shapes where editors, subs and reporters would sit. The only point of this was that the exciting, ergonomic new floor plan didn’t have enough seats for the current staff; the chairless would be made jobless. (Andrew Marr, My Trade)

A group of people has worked together at an organisation for many years. New management come in, and bring in new team members. The original members see their views ignored, their office space reduced, their work given to other people, invites to pub drop off until one day they turn up and there’s someone else at their desk who looks about 12. It may take several years, and the original team fight a constant rearguard action and form whingeing circles instead of taking action. (And their plans are never “Let’s streamline procedures and become more efficient”.) They are offered denigratory roles that the management knows they will turn down. They realise that they are pretty much being told to turn them down.

More syndromes here, and links to the rest.

Wednesday, 15 August 2018

Art Shows in London and Chichester

Garden Museum, Lambeth
Flower Fairies: Botanical Magic
To Sept 30
Original artwork for Cicely Mary Barker's Flower Fairies books. Children wearing stylish 20s outfits made of petals, leaves and stamens pose in front of botanically accurate paintings of garden flowers, wildflowers and trees. Young visitors can dress up, and there are demonstrations of cooking with edible flowers.

Pallant House, Chichester
Virginia Woolf: An Exhibition Inspired by Her Writings
To Sept 16
The paintings and sculpture are by Virginia Woolf's circle, but their connection to her writings is tenuous. The important thing about this show is that all the artists are women: Barbara Hepworth, Vanessa Bell, Gwen John, Dora Carrington, Wilhelmina Barns-Graham, Prunella Clough and some lesser-known names. Look out for a reflective muddy pool; a fugitive, wintry view of St Ives harbour; and an chintz sofa by Ethel Sands, empty but for a ray of sunlight. Vanessa Bell's paintings are pleasant, but are overshadowed by the skills of Carrington and John. Never mind the division into misty concepts like "the self in private" and "a room of one's own" – look at the pictures.

Tate Britain
Edward Burne-Jones
24 October 2018 – 24 February 2019
Late Victorian fantasy art, peopled by pallid maidens inspired by Leonardo da Vinci.

Tate ModernPierre Bonnard: The Colour of Memory
23 Jan – 6 May 2019
Colourful paintings of the artist's home, his breakfast-table and his wife, who spent a lot of time in the bath.

Centre Pompidou, Paris
17 Oct 2018 - 25 Feb 2019
The short-lived movement, led by Picasso and Braque, flourished in the early years of the last century, but had a lasting effect on painting, illustration and design, fizzling out in art deco light fittings and "jazzy" carpets. The artists, while claiming to create a new kind of pictorial space, recorded their bohemian studios with bottles of wine, guitars and fragments of stuck-on newspaper.

The scientific Crick Institute next to St Pancras Station has a café and there is always some art on show – at the moment an interactive display pondering the news. Fake or real?

Nîmes has a new Musée de la Romanité (Roman Museum).

Friday, 10 August 2018

Euphemisms about Racism 12

When people say "you can't say anything any more, what about free speech?" what they mean is they wish comedians could still tell racist jokes on TV. (@gordon_struth)

Article seems to be a politically motivated attempt to further harm the standing of Western civilization and its classical roots. The last paragraph is especially telling: because of her baseless views on morality and politics, the Classics must be cast in a different light. Sad! (@Tweetophon)

Why even bother using phrases like “the standing of western civilization and its classical roots”? By this point, we all know that’s thinly veiled code for “white supremacy.” (@donnazuck)

I guess “overly offended” means not a racist, homophobic douche? (Facebook)

Common alt-lib tactic: tell us to accept "intellectual diversity" (i.e. more bigotry, white supremacy, etc.) but at the same time their entire schtick is telling everyone how dangerous "postmodernism" is and how it has to be vanquished from the university. (‏@OmanReagan)

There's nothing more hilarious (or annoying) than people in positions of real power co-opting the language of oppression: e.g. the Countryside Alliance describing themselves as a persecuted minority. (LW)

Multilingual white children: oh so clever!
Multilingual brown & black children: a burden on schools etc.

I give it three months before the Spectator runs a column arguing that "racist" is a slur. A further month before the Guardian runs several thinkpieces chinstrokingly agreeing in the interests of "nuance". (@kieran_hurley)

I thought this was a good neighbourhood. (US woman who called police because she saw a black man sitting in a car listening to a yoga podcast.)

I read a thing this weekend talking about how journalists (and everyone) can do better at understanding opposing viewpoints and the whole thing was all "you should be respectful and understanding of the furious racists because they just want to be heard". (@prairielaura)

An answer to the Roma question. (Far-right Italian deputy prime minister Matteo Salvini who wants to expel “illegal” Roma.)

“Everyone is so offended these days” AKA “marginalised people have a platform through social media, whereas it was previously easy for me to deny they have a voice and I’m forced to confront my own white supremacy/privilege and it’s the first time I’ve ever been made to feel uncomfortable and remotely accountable.” (SE on Facebook)

What the far right calls “identity politics” is identifying discrimination to end it. (James Mackenzie @mrjamesmack)

Intellectual Dark Web Translator:
Taboo Ideas: eugenics
Free Thinking: eugenics
[any statistic at all for any reason]: eugenics

Incomprehensible discussion of Renaissance art or European cities that seems totally performative and doesn't seem provoked by anything: eugenics

Is there a difference between "I deplore ALL forms of racism" and "all lives matter"? (@stevenpoole)

So maybe you (on both left and right and in the middle) can stop dressing up xenophobia as "concerns about community cohesion". (Laura O'Brien @lrbobrien)

That's MP David Lammy in the picture.

More here, and links to the rest.

Euphemisms in Quotes 12

Prince Philip “has a reputation for plain speaking”.  (BBC)
The new names for the old disorders.
(Margery Allingham, Police at the Funeral)

"There’s a lot to unpack here” is the academic equivalent of “yikes”. (paper bag @eggsandbread)

The markets are displaying "full-blown nervousness". (Feb 2018, markets are falling.)

Marks and Spencer to close 100-plus stores by 2022 in “radical” plan.

To perform a con trick that insults the people on the receiving end.
(Rob Cowan‏ @cowanrob)

It is a disturbing new fashion to describe people’s reasonable fears as “paranoia” or “phobia”. (@CelineDayJardnz)

"Independent" is the new word for "extremely opaquely-funded". (@mrdavidwhitley)

I used to describe him as exciting and dynamic, but now I feel flaky and selfish fits more.

‘The Secretary of State may remove the school from the Register of Independent Schools’. In DfE speak, this means shut the place down.
(Spectator Aug 2018)

Categorizing hate literature as “sensationalism” and “unsubstantiated rumors” is a deception.
(Liam Hogan‏ @Limerick1914)

States don’t set high expectations for teaching about slavery. “In a word, the standards are timid,” the report stated. (

Several friends are unfortunate enough to have MBAs, aka degrees in corporate pussyfooting. As far as I can see, one spends two years learning phrases such as: “He may have the odd skills gap”, translation: “He can’t do the job.”... “We’re going to have to sunset this project” [means] “It failed”. For all the stunted yobbishness of Alan Sugar’s “You’re fired!”, at least its recipients know what has happened. Less so those on the receiving end of “decruitment”, “rationalization”, “imbalance correction” or “negotiated departure”. (Times 2018)

On the up, 'influencer', 'chief operating officer'. Guessing that replaces 'promoter' and 'manager' respectively, but I could be wrong. (@BrynleyHeaven)

John Minton... was mocked for his “parochial and constrained draughtsmanship” — ie he could draw. (Times 2018)

"For how long will the rage of despots be called justice, and the people’s justice be called barbarity or rebellion?" (Robespierre)

Snowflake? Yes, I’ve heard this word. I think sociopaths use it in an attempt to discredit the notion of empathy. (John Cleese)

London’s skyline is set for a revamp. (City A.M. More skyscrapers. And I dread to think what "transforming Oxford Street" means. As a first step, Transport for London have cut half the bus services.)

When does a thorough investigation into wrongdoings [get] referred to as a "co-ordinated witch-hunt"? Possibly when you have something to hide? (@BremainInSpain)

Thus far seen Paul Dacre described as
- Outspoken
- Controversial
- Fiery
- Passionate
- Traditional
- No-nonsense

It's weird how many alternatives there are to 'raging bigot' when the subject's a powerful rich old white guy.
(Dean Burnett @garwboy)

"We aren't selling a product, we're telling our story." Yeah, well you can finish the story after you put my purchase in a bag there, O. Henry. (@Mededitor)

Reminder: "neoliberal" used in an opinion piece means "stuff I don't like". (Mark Hogan @markasaurus)

 Layman's Lessons in Translating the News: "Provocateur" = A**hole
"Controversial" = A**hole
"Polarizing" = A**hole
(Julie Lynn @bellafortunate)

Your Twitter biog says you’re an “independent, interdisciplinary scholar”, which means basically you have an idée fixe and an internet connection. (Oliver Kamm)

Weird how often 'I'm a free thinker' ends up just meaning 'I have a bunch of really basic conservative opinions which I don't think you should be mean to me about'. (@RopesToInfinity)

I once attended a workshop led by a FBI hostage negotiator about negotiating and his BIG SECRET was "tactical empathy" aka regular empathy but For Men and anyways I still think about that a lot. (Ronnie @rondoftw)

First, the candidate for bishop must be a ‘team player’. This is Anglican-speak for ‘yes man’ (or woman). Second, he or she must be a ‘focus for unity’. Translated into English, this means he or she mustn’t believe anything too strongly. (

Teen stabbed with scissors after pulling student’s dress up at Memphis school, police say. (Fox headline)
That’s a weird way to say “Sexual assault victim uses self-defense to escape her attacker”. (Twitter comment)

I always assume, thanks to bitter experience, when someone says “well spoken” they mean “not northern” or slightly obsequious... You give some anodyne statement like “She had a lot to say for herself”, or “She seemed really comfortable in her own skin” or something. Just a nothing statement, a verbal day without weather. (

The phrase in the biography by Janet Morgan is "helped by her secretary", but unfortunately in publishing world it has only one meaning... particularly if the quality is very uneven.
(IL on Agatha Christie’s late works)

Dame Athene Donald stated “that the university’s social media guidelines are ‘recommended guidelines and not rules’,” and that “‘nothing should be done to enforce them.’” ( April 2018)

The recently deceased professor once produced an illustrated guide to disco dancing, and had “an 18th century attitude to drink”.
Ahhh, I see, so ‘limited political insight’ does, in fact, mean you don’t agree with him on some things. (@pdsmith74)

Tech buzzwords explained:
Big data: data
Blockchain: database
Algorithm: automated decision-making
Cloud: Internet
Viral: popular

Some people use "big data" to mean something like "large-scale, fine-grained data about people that can be used to make harmful inferences about them."
(Arvind Narayanan @random_walker)

Cloud: someone else’s computer. (@AMShea)

It’s not gentrification. It’s becoming a more balanced community.
(Property Developer in the Guardian. He explains that a “balanced community” means your property’s value will rise, not fall.)

The clever thing rich right-wing people are doing everywhere is changing the meaning of the word 'elite' to 'educated people of any income or background who interfere with our vested interests'. (@matthaig1)

I've just used "inappropriate" correctly, but it has been ruined by people who use it as a euphemism for "I want to say 'wrong' or 'immoral', but I am weak-minded relativist". (Damian Counsell @DamCou)

I wonder how they describe people who don't qualify as 'pleasant? Do they just omit the word, or do they substitute another, like 'assertive', 'forceful', 'eloquent', 'determined'? (WUR ponders doctors’ letters.)

Stormzy has been utterly co-opted by the chattering class. He’s now a Guardian editorial made flesh. His every utterance conforms to their drab, elitist worldview. Grime needs a new, more genuine voice. (Brendan O’Neill of Spiked)

Chattering class: lefties.
Drab, elitist: lefty.
New, more genuine: screamingly right-wing.

Theresa May wants to reintroduce “a sense of fairness” to the student loan system. Does she mean “make it more fair”? Or “make it seem more fair”? (Feb 2018)

Are you always this confrontational? Try anger management! (via Twitter. Translation: I seem to have lost the argument.)

"We don’t know what the rules are” is always, always code for “your rules don’t matter to me”. (Charlotte Lydia Riley @lottelydia)

Now that my retirement is coming up, she has been making noises about “Grandma bonding with the grandbabies,” meaning they want to stop paying for their expensive day care by making me do it for free. (

I invested in @VirginCare to help transform the NHS for the better and to improve patient and employee experience. (Richard Branson. He means “privatization”.)

Toby Young tweeted about w**king over pictures of starving children. Twitter objected.

God, tweeple today, you're a nasty bunch of moral fascists with no belief in redemption, shades of grey, irony or forgiveness! (Libby Purves)

Toby Young is “edgy” and “gauche”. (Andrew Lilico)

I would always stand up for women but I don’t want women’s rights and all that sort of thing.
(Mary Berry)

You know, it's almost like there's a different standard for the white guy that "speaks his mind," and for women, who are immediately labelled "vulgar" and "insulting."

Remember: when Americans wear silk dresses it's cultural appropriation, when people in other countries wear Levis it's American cultural imperialism. (David Burge @iowahawkblog)

“Earnest” is one of those words which may appear at first sight gender neutral but aren’t. Like ‘ambitious’ ... generally good when referring to man, bad when referring to woman. “Earnest” is a pat on the back for trying hard. (Mary Beard)

And have you noticed that Corbyn supporters are a ‘cult’ but Tories who are ride or die for the PM are loyalists or traditionalists or just, you know, Tories. (Mic Wright ‏@brokenbottleboy)

More here, and links to the rest.

Thursday, 9 August 2018

Grammar: Mixed Metaphors 16

She follows the well-trodden but not hugely accurate party line… (You don’t walk along a party line, you all stand with your toes against it. “Toeing the line” was already a metaphor. A “party line” was a shared phone line before it became Communist Party orthodoxy.)

Arlene Foster and her party had the chance to lead and make solid the shallow path forged by Protestant Irish-language activist, Linda Ervine… (If something is too shallow, you need to deepen it, not solidify it. But paths aren’t shallow or deep – metaphorical paths are usually wide or narrow. So she could widen the path. But paths aren’t forged – chains, links and agreements are forged. Also swords, ploughshares and horseshoes. How do you create a path? If you build a better mousetrap, people will beat a path to your door – by wearing it down with their feet. If you stray, you leave the beaten track. So how about “Arlene Foster and her party had the chance to lead, and widen the narrow path beaten by Protestant Irish-language activist, Linda Ervine… Comma necessary because Arlene is not leading the path.)

We must be prepared to reap the social media trail that we have sown. (If you sow a crop that you are planning to harvest, you don’t sow it along a trail.)

the pitched fork Twitter mob (Murderous mobs carry pitchforks and lighted torches, according to the 1932 film of Frankenstein.)

There's been a slow trickle of gathering momentum that has been building over the past couple of years, I believe. I really do think we are reaching that tipping point, the paradigm shift which will begin the true change that is needed for the planet and living things.

You may be “American” by citizenship, but you are a bite from a melting pot. (Sarah Parcak. Melting pots are full of molten metal which is about to turn into an alloy.)

click up your heels (You kick your heels against the wall you are sitting on because you have nothing else to do. You kick up your heels when having a wild time – dancing the cancan, no doubt. Very polite Germans used to click their heels together when bowing.)

A conspiracy with more holes in it than the Grand Canyon. (Amazon commenter That’s “Swiss cheese”, or “sieve”, or “moth-eaten jumper” or anything else that is full of holes. The Grand Canyon is one huge hole.)

The mall shuttered its doors in 2015. (It shut its doors, and pulled down the shutters. Americans talk about defunct enterprises being “shuttered”.)

Since Kim Jong-il's death, the shutters have been drawn even tighter in N. Korea. (Globe and Mail A shutter is either open or closed.)

Looks like the theory of evolution was like a house of cards built on sinking sand. (@PlainTruth777 A house of cards is likely to collapse. Jesus talked of a shaky house built on sand. You don’t want to sink into a quicksand. Shifting sands are found in deserts.)

We mustn’t stain our blotter! (Blot our copybook – but when did children last write in copybooks, with a pen that might leave blots? A blotter is the thing you blot the blots with. You also don’t want a blot on your escutcheon or coat of arms.)

Tasmanian devils are on the cliff of extinction. (Cliff-edge perhaps, but it’s usually “brink”.)

Farley’s joined Clarks’ shoes on a long rollcall of big local businesses in Plymouth. (Guardian 2018 On a long roll. “Rollcall” is when you read out the roll and everybody replies “here!”.)

The proof’s in the pudding. (The proof of the pudding is in the eating. “The proof’s in the pudding” is meaningless.)

The needles are getting ever so close to breaking the camel's back. (Via Twitter, confusing needles in a haystack – difficult to find – with the last straw that breaks the back of the overloaded camel.)

If you can’t stand the heat, get back in the kitchen. (It's "get out of the kitchen". The kitchen is hot because the Aga is lit.)

Did Hitler survive? There is the silver bullet of “no body”. (A “smoking gun” is a strong indication that a gun has just been fired. A “silver bullet” is the only thing that will kill a werewolf.)

A number of bastions have bowed to the pressure to change. (They mean “holdout”. A bastion is a fortified tower manned by soldiers.)

Agatha Christie is at it again, lifting the lid off delphiniums and weaving the scarlet warp all over the pastel pouffe. (Contemporary review of The Moving Finger.)

There’s an elephant in the room here that undergirds all of this... (Twitter)

This parson’s egg of a book... (Times. It is very specifically a curate’s egg. The curate is having breakfast with the bishop. Bishop: I’m afraid you have got a bad egg. Curate: I assure you, my Lord, parts of it are excellent!)

More here, and links to the rest.

Received Ideas in Quotes 11

Believe it nor not!

Unreplicated psychology experiments
Power posing will make you act bolder.
Smiling will make you feel happier.
Self-control is a limited resource.
Revising after exams can improve your earlier performance.
Exposure to aging-related words will make you walk more slowly.
Washing hands will wash away guilt.
A portrait with staring eyes makes customers more honest.
Being reminded of money makes us selfish.
(BPS Digest, digested)

A horse's 'canter' is a shortening of 'Canterbury pace', the gentle rate at which medieval mounted pilgrims made their way to the shrine of St Thomas à Becket at Canterbury.

It was tradition for the bride's father to provide enough mead to last the newly married couple through their first month of marriage. As mead is made with honey, this is where the word 'honeymoon' comes from. (@AlysWestYork "Moon" meant "month".)

Apparently, Catholic children tend to say haitch, so it was used by Protestant children to identify Catholics
. (SP)

Knock on wood: Sailors knocked ship's biscuits on the table to shake out the weevils and now we knock on wood for luck. (And I thought it was because the Druids worshipped oak trees.)

The facade of Principal Hotel, Russell Square. Designed by Charles Fitzroy Doll it's supposedly what gave us the phrase “all dolled up!"

What are the "cockles of your heart" and why do they need warming? In the Dutch language, the word for fireplace or heater is "kachel" and the word for home or hearth is "haard". There is an old Dutch saying "eigen haard is goud waard", meaning your own home is worth gold. Of that, make what you will. (Ben Hewitt, Lismore)
The origin of this phrase could be "cochleae cordis", a Latin medical term referring to the ventricles of the heart, or cockles, a type of mollusc, which can be heart-shaped. (Ben Cooper, Abbotsford

The idea that Martin Luther King won by sitting back and waiting for moderates to become outraged by what they saw on TV was written into the history books by white moderates after his death to ensure that no one could repeat his success.
(frank furtschool @kulturalmarx)

Hey, Medievalists! John Milton called your ENTIRE PERIOD "a dreary tale of battles between kites and crows". (Adam Roberts @arrroberts)

The Wizard of Oz was in fact a satire of the French Revolution. The Tin Man, the Scarecrow, and the Lion represented different members of the royalty, and the various witches were somehow opposing factions.
( question Straightdope says: “The story I got about The Wizard of Oz was that it was an allegorical treatise on the Populist movement in the U.S. in the 1890s.” Also, the Yellow Brick Road equals the gold standard, the Tin Woodsman the ordinary working man, the Scarecrow the Midwestern farmer, the Cowardly Lion politicians in general and specifically William Jennings Bryan. Dorothy is the “Little Guy, naive but feisty”. The Emerald City is Washington DC, the Wiz is the president. The Wicked Witch of the West represesnts the “malign forces of nature in the American West”. The winged monkeys are the plains Indians. “Our heroes learn they should look within themselves rather than to the government for the solution to their problems. The End.”

In shocking new research, archaeologists discover that Indigenous people knew how to do stuff before encountering Europeans. This challenges previous theories that Europeans were responsible for all technological developments in human history. (@adamgaudry)

The Victorian groat (coin representing four pennies) was "also called a Joey , after the MP Joseph Hume, who recommended the coinage for paying cabbies because the minimum cab fare was fourpence and it was common to pay them with a sixpence, twopence of which they usually kept as a tip." (Via Facebook. According to George Orwell, a Joey was a threepenny bit.)

Mental health problems are not: A bandwagon. Fashionable. A fad. A celebrity trend. (Matt Haig. Distressingly, people with severe depression are still being told to "change their mindset", "adopt a glass half-full attitude" and "go for a brisk walk".)

A study I was told about where someone is blindfolded and told they will have their arm burnt by a hot poker. Instead, an ice cube is placed on their arm but it still blisters as though burnt due to the power of the mind. When I looked deeper into this "study" I couldnt find any details at all. ... The story may have originated in a novel called The House of Sight and Shadow by Nicholas Griffin. (Ashles @Ashles3000 Earlier mentions in print involving a fake bloodletting in which the subject died, says @ULTweets.)

My favourites are the strangers scolding you for "poisoning yourself with medication somethingsomething just eat kale BIG PHARMA". (yrna @SailorSoapbox)

All politeness paradigms are designed to preserve and perpetuate existing relations of social power and prestige, including any race, ethnicity and gender inequalities. (@RoseLemberg)

The reason women's clothing doesn't have pockets is that male politicians around the time of the French Revolution were afraid women were carrying and distributing seditious and/or erotic writings. (Via Twitter)

So Carole Cadwallader accepted a prize named after a racist, sexist, homophobic elephant-killer? Wow - congrats! (@piersmorgan)

Orwell literally wrote about how brutal and traumatic elephant hunting was, using it as a metaphor to condemn racism and white supremacists. "when the white man turns tyrant it is his own freedom that he destroys.” Orwell
(James Wong ‏@Botanygeek)

A cab driver told me if he saw any of those Remainers or Tory sell-outs he’d spit in their face or something worse. This is not the first time I’ve heard this angry language. The betrayal May has inflicted will cause more angry division than ever before and who could blame them. (Steven Woolfe MEP)

My uber driver, who is also my six year-old daughter and a veteran of three world wars, delivered a powerful monologue about not disrespecting the flag! (Patrick Blanchfield ‏@PatBlanchfield)

More here, and links to the rest.

Monday, 6 August 2018

Grammar: Neologisms 20

New turns of phrase that improve on the old ones.

Professional confessional
Analysis paralysis
Holding the folding
Fool on a stool (The guy with the guitar singing cover songs poorly in the corner of a bar)
And others on this template.

That’s the Bertie!
I had a care factor of zero.
Weapons-grade idiocy.
(James O’Brien)
The emotional range of celery (or a teaspoon).

Here’s where the rubber meets the road.
(via Twitter)
It looks like they filmed it with a potato. (Mike Williams, panther researcher)
Prisoner in the appalling castle of woe (on Melania Trump)
This is about as edgy as mozzarella. (Twitter)

Not the brightest of lamps on the boulevard of life. (
The cars threw up thick whiskers of muddy water. (Simenon)
Get back in your lane! (For “Who rattled your cage!?”)
He went over the mountain. (Meaning “He died”.)
Vague, surface-level soundbites. (

At the risk of sounding as if I’m shaking my cane at what’s here now... (Jeff Chu)
Your constant equivocating is giving us all whiplash. (@suehallie)
Various preset humorous phrases were uttered. (RM)
Absurd interpretive machinations. (
A deadly "love conquers all" radiation cloud. (imdb commenter on Howl’s Moving Castle)

Platitudinous media bilge. (Kevin maher on the royal wedding)
Heavy dimbleboid solemnity. (Libby Purves ditto)

The awful trash called Mainstream novel will inglobate and destroy the beautiful Mystery genre, the most beautiful literary genre ever created by men. (IL)

Our tattered surrogate of a church... a vague, frozen, withered agglomerate of social rites and functions. (IL)

David Davis is a puff of smoke who will blow away like a dandelion. (Anon)

Tinfoil millinery wallahs (Internet conspiracy theorists who are reputed to wear tinfoil hats to protect their brains against harmful rays.)

X is one of the nicest people I know. You on the other hand are not exactly Miss Personality. (Via Twitter)

The messages may have weathered with time, but we get 10/10 for trying, right?” (@LGSMpride on on a 1985 Gay Pride poster)

I see The Innocence of Father Brown (1911) providing most of the molecules from which the Golden Age was built. (Scott K. Ratner)

Endless streams of free-form sociologese. (Clive James)
A production number of riveting fatuity occurred nearby. (Clive James)

A miasma of sociological cant, higher trash, overwrought sludge, undergrad-type tricksiness, half-educated academe-speak. (Clive James)

Trying not to wax my own car too much but I think Shanghai Red and Crowded are my two best books yet. (Christopher Sebela @xtop)

I feel like that sequence is playing on a constant loop in certain inner circles of hell to torture lost souls. (Imdb commenter on the Gotta Dance sequence of Singin’ in the Rain)

Alan Rickman's final encounter with Grenouille was enough to make me want to put a brown paper bag over my head and whinny like a tormented pony. (Guardian on the film of Perfume)

Does that one skip back and forth? I thought it just skipped forth, so to speak... (Jim Noy)

Yet another mastodontic private data breach should come as a significant warning for our democracy. (Guy Verhofstadt)

39 (!) projects shortlisted for the Old Street roundabout reboot. Has ever a mere roundabout inspired such outpourings of effortful, futuristic wibble? (Catherine Slessor @cath_slessor)

More here and links to the rest.

Sunday, 5 August 2018

Guide to Facebook

Moans about Facebook and what to do about them: Twitter users love to say that Facebook is only used by illiterates and right-wingers, but they need it to keep in touch with their family. Why, they ask, is their newsfeed full of stuff they don't want to see from people they barely know?

Because you haven't curated your Facebook experience, that's why.

1. My newsfeed is full of stuff I'm not interested in.
So, you don't want to see any more from the East End Preservation Society? Click on the three dots top right of the post. And you'll see this:

Pick your option. (You can do this with people.)

Now click on "News Feed" (top left of the Facebook screen.)

Click on the three dots.

Pick your options.

2. I keep seeing stuff from strangers. Create a Friends list and give it a name. (See the left-hand column.)

When posting, you can choose to post to Public, Friends, your lists.

It's a good idea NEVER to post just to "Public".

One more tip. If you interact with anybody, Facebook will think you want to see posts from them, or contributions to their conversation. If you don't interact with someone for a while, their posts won't appear in your feed. So drop in and "like" their photos from time to time.

When you click on Notifications
(icon of the globe, top right), you'll see a list of notifications – people who've liked your pic, reacted to your post etc. You can always choose not to click on them.

Happy Facebooking!

Here's another useful tip. When writing anything in Word, name your file and give it a location before you type ANYTHING. And then save it (Ctrl S on a PC, Apple S on a Mac) EVERY FIVE MINUTES.

Wednesday, 11 July 2018

Loopy Logic: Racism 3

Everybody should have equal rights – apart from THEM.

Everything would be all right if only THEY would go away.

The Labour Party's disciplinary guidelines are explained here. Some of these comments are anonymous, but they are a paraphrase of views I've seen or heard expressed. Again, I don't agree with any of them.

Every time I speak up for the Palestinians, or criticize the Israeli government, I get told I’m anti-Semitic. Therefore there is no anti-Semitism in the Labour Party. (Argument sometimes continues “These complaints are just a plot to attack Corbyn”.)

There is no anti-Semitism in the Labour Party because there is anti-Semitism in the Tory Party.

I don’t understand anti-Semitism because I really don’t understand who Jews are – there’s no such thing as a “race”, and they don’t all belong to the religion. 

If you accuse me of anti-Semitism you are really anti-Semitic because [reasons].

Complaining about anti-Semitism is anti-Semitic because it’s exploiting the suffering of Jews for centuries.

Anti-Semitism is OK because Jews think their religion is better than all the others.

Anti-Semitism is OK because Israel.

All Jews are responsible for the actions of the IDF/Israeli government. All Muslims are responsible for knife crime and paedophile gangs.

It appears that you cannot deplore Israeli treatment of Palestinians without being labelled 'anti-semitic', which is odd, since Palestinians are semitic. (Via FB)

Making false allegations of antisemitism is in fact antisemitic in itself, by belittling a very serious matter for political purposes.
(Via Twitter)

Israel has nothing to do with Jews, Ben Gurion forced Jews to go there, Jews have no history in the land, Hitler persecuted Jews because they were money-lenders. (Mahmoud Abbas, paraphrase)
Split hairs. Debate etymology. Gloss over the abuse of your fellow citizens by attacking the actions of another country's government. Would your response to any other form of racism or bigotry be to squirm, deflect or justify? (JK Rowling)

"The thing about racism is, it's not racist when I do it, because I'm anti-racist. I make racist things unracist by doing them. What's outrageous is not what *I've* done, but that anyone should dare accuse me of racism over it." © every "Rothschild"-ing "Zionist Lobby"-er ever.

We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights.
(The American Declaration of Independence did not include women and slaves in its definition of "men".)

WE don't have labels, THEY have labels. All labels are pejorative. I’m not a racist/bigot but...

Guys it is never OK to call people racist or to use swear words at them. These thing are worse than any actual racism... (Rachel Shabi She claimed she was being sarcastic, but many agreed with her.)

Bahar Mustafa, Goldsmiths welfare and diversity officer, explained that she could not be guilty of sexism or racism against white men "because racism and sexism describe structures of privilege based on race and gender and therefore women of colour and minority genders cannot be racist or sexist, since we do not stand to benefit from such a system." (Independent)

Lefties all live in gated communities and so won't have immigrants "imposed" on them; or else they live in mixed areas and have become "used to" different people. Hence it's unfair to house huge numbers of immigrants in rural villages (as if that was likely), planting them next to people who have neither gates nor acquired immunity. These country folk aren’t racist, it’s just that they live in a more mono-cultural area and have had less opportunity to mix with brown people and discover that they are people (or “all right really”). And their feelings must be respected. And don’t forget that there are more of them than there are metropolitan latte-sipping quinoa-munching Corbyn-worshipping blah blah blah like you.

I’m just trying to have a rational debate about...
We can’t be too nice to immigrants or there'll be a racist backlash.
A racist joke isn’t racist, because it’s a joke.

There are some situations where it is socially acceptable to use the N-word.
I’m not being racist, you’re being ultra-sensitive.

Neo-Nazis: The alt-left (which I have hastily made up) are the REAL bullies! 
Yes, but that was the past. (I was talking about MODERN fascists.)

By calling people racist, you've introduced the concept of race, but race doesn’t really exist, so YOU’RE the racist.

Americans are racist because of “economic uncertainty”, not because of slavery, the KKK, Biblical justification, “scientific” racism, decades of propaganda about white races being superior etc.

Someone suggests that the way to deal with bigots is to be “civil” to them, June 2018. They’re only bigoted because we’re so rude to them, you see.

This is what happens when people’s genuine concerns are not addressed and called fascism, you get real fascism. Happy now luvvies? (Via Twitter, in response to the resurgence of fascism in Italy. The concerns are genuine, but they are based on prejudice, not fact.)

Don’t tell me that your racist relatives are “the product of their time.” If they’ve figured out how to use cellphones & the internet, they can figure out how to not be racist. (@harikondabolu)

‘I’m not prejudiced, I really am not prejudiced. It’s just that I can’t help noticing that all Roman Catholics are the most terrible liars. It’s not prejudice, it just is so.’ (Agatha Christie, parodying prejudiced acquaintances in her autobiography)

Allow me to clarify: [name redacted] is a vicious racist who deserves to be pilloried as such. As a refugee from a totalitarian country, and a student of its authoritarian heir, I find the mob unsettling even if it’s a mob whose motives I agree with. (@juliaioffe)

“Racism? Oh, that’s a thing in the heads of black people!” “Oh, that’s just another form of mimimi (whining) by blacks who don’t want to take personal responsibility for their situation”. “We Brazilians aren’t racists.” (Black Women of Brazil website)

POC: Hi guys, erm, sorry to bother you but can you please stop shouting Paki at us and beating us up? 
Columnist: Snowflake culture will be the death of millennials. 
POC: Haha gammon memes! How funny.
Columnist: 4000 words explaining why left wingers are the REAL racists.
(Kavya @Kav_Kaushik)

There's a belief here – a dangerous and pervasive one, I think – that any racial prejudice tamer than snarling dogs, fire hoses, and "Whites Only" signs isn't really racism, but something ingrained in a lost culture, something not malicious or active, but embedded, covert, and therefore forgivable. ( on South Carolina)

School PE is racist because it celebrates “white privilege”, a study claims. Traditional school sports uphold elitist ideas that were an extension of nationalism and the British empire... giving advice about fitness could be racist by imposing cultural norms. (Times 2018. Lord Ouseley, former CRE chairman, says the study is “crazy”.)

More here, and links to the rest.

Saturday, 2 June 2018

Received Ideas in Quotes 10

In Ireland, it's said that you leave a bit of your soul trapped in everything you crochet. So to avoid this, you should always work in a hidden mistake so that your soul can escape.
(Liza Frank @lilithepunk)

The Earl of Morton was executed in 1581 on a guillotine he had himself imported from France. (Twitter)

NEWSPAPER is the abbreviation for *NORTH , EAST , WEST , SOUTH , PAST And PRESENT EVENTS  REPORT. (Twitter)

"Pinny" comes from pinafore, referring to the old method of pinning an apron into place on the chest. (Lucy Adlington, Stitches in Time)

By 1868 the design [of the Plimsoll shoe] included a horizontal line around the sole, reminiscent of the lines newly marked on British ships, thanks to the 1876 Merchant Shipping Act (these were to show the limit of displacement, following scandals of overloading)... The Act had been introduced by Samuel Plimsoll, who therefore indirectly gave his name to the shoes, now affectionately known as plimsolls or plimmies, regardless of whether or not they have the line. (Lucy Adlington, Stitches in Time)

There is a widespread belief that "daps" [for Plimsolls] is taken from a factory sign – "Dunlop Athletic Plimsoles" which was called "the DAP factory". (Wikipedia It also says that they’re called “sand shoes” because wearing them is like walking on sand. And they are really "plimsoles" because you wear them on your soles.)

The two-tone co-respondent shoes of the 1920s and 1930s were so named because they were associated with the sort of person who would be named as a co-respondent in a divorce petition. Divorcee Wallis Simpson, future bride of Edward VIII, wore them – and that was enough to give a taint of scandal to the style. (Lucy Adlington, Stitches in Time)

‘Reticule’ is supposedly a contraction of ridiculous, which was the alleged male response to this frivolous accessory. (Lucy Adlington, Stitches in Time It's from Latin rēticulum, diminutive of rēte, says the dictionary. Reticules were sometimes called “ridicules”, but that was a joke.)

Haversack, which was originally a soldier’s bag to carry haver-cakes – oat rations. (Lucy Adlington, Stitches in Time It does derive from "oat bag".)

The first cravats are widely supposed to have been introduced to France and England by dashing Croatian mercenaries in the early 17th century, but there are other less romantic etymologies that suggest mangled forms of Turkish and Hungarian words – kyrabacs and korbacs – both of which mean a long, slender object. The French cravache, or horsewhip, is another source given for the English term ‘cravat’. (Lucy Adlington, Stitches in Time Croatia is Hrvatska.)

She had read somewhere that if you ate pigeon every day for forty days you would die. (A Tale of Two Families, Dodie Smith)

Beau Brummell spent nine hours a day in the preparation of his toilet, sent his laundry to France, and wiped his razor on pages from first editions of the classics. (Cecil Beaton, Glass of Fashion)

Digestive biscuits are called “digestives” because it was believed that the large amount of baking soda they contained would act as an antacid. ( They contain bran and wheatgerm, and large amounts of baking soda would make them inedible.)

Barbers used to double as surgeons, “which is why surgeons today take the title Mr rather than Dr - being a doctor used to be a much more respectable profession than a surgeon.” (RM)

Aldi checkouts are the fastest, but “How does Aldi propose to hurry up those dozy shoppers who take an age to produce their wallet/purse/card at the end...? It’s almost as if having to pay shocks some people anew each time." (Carol Midgley in The Times lifts an old slur from Bill Bryson's Notes from a Small Island, 1995.)

The story is widely told that the borough council demanded that Wren should insert additional columns within the covered area [of the Windsor Guildhall], in order to support the weight of the heavy building above; Wren, however, was adamant that these were not necessary. Eventually the council insisted and, in due course, the extra supporting columns were built, but Wren made them slightly short, so that they do not quite touch the ceiling, hence proving his claim that they were not necessary. In fact, the gaps are filled with tiles smaller than the capitals. (Wikipedia)

That story is told of St Paul’s Cathedral too.

The London Underground was deliberately designed to bar the disabled. At the time of its Victorian design there were great numbers of disabled soldiers and there were concerns that their invalid carriages would clog the carriages and tunnels. (Via FB, source possibly Londonist)

The name HAND OF GLORY comes probably from French "main-de-gloire", a corruption of "mandragora" (ie. mandrake). (JN)

Thursday, 31 May 2018

Agatha Christie's Postern of Fate

Postern of Fate by Agatha Christie 1890-1976

Published 1973, written when she was 83

The title is taken from a poem by James Elroy Flecker, and also features in a Parker Pyne story (The Gate of Baghdad, 1934).

Even Christie’s fans agree that this book is a mess. It is possible that she was suffering from Alzheimer’s when she wrote it. Wikipedia says that she struggled, and the book was knocked into shape by her husband and secretary.

This is a book about clues found in books, and it’s a book full of clues. Tommy and Tuppence, the one-time Young Adventurers and wartime chasers of spies, are in their mid-70s and retired. They have bought a shabby old house in Hollowquay called The Laurels. It is transparently Christie’s beloved family home in Torquay, Ashfield, and her own toys and children’s books are still there in the attic and in a grimy conservatory that no-one has opened for years.

Tommy is permanently worried about Tuppence and doesn’t even like to let her go shopping on her own. Tuppence claims she can barely remember their old cases, let alone what she’s come into a room for. A lot of the story, such as it is, is conveyed by muddled conversations between the two of them. But Tuppence has a theory that it’s through such rambling talk that the past will be remembered and the truth become clear.

The “plot” starts off when Tuppence finds a message hidden in an old copy of The Black Arrow: “Mary Jordan did not die naturally.” The writer thinks “one of us” did it. T&T set off on the trail of Mary Jordan, but it quickly transpires that the villagers know all about her. She was an “au pair” in the house before World War One, who turned out to be a German spy. She died when the cook picked foxglove leaves instead of spinach. One of the children, Alexander Parkinson, suspected foul play, and then HE died. Foxglove leaves don’t look very like spinach, and would probably taste foul. But they formed part of the murder method in Mrs Bantry’s contribution to the Tuesday Night Club.

I suppose people might pass down a story like this, especially if it had “got into the papers” – later in the book it’s referred to as “the Cardington scandal”. But that wasn’t much of a mystery – what now?  There are a couple of slightly odd accidents – a pane of glass falls on Tuppence, and the wheels come off a child’s cart she has taken to joyriding in. But the telling is confused. The cart is one of Christie’s old toys, and she must have enjoyed revisiting it. But it’s not clear how many times Tuppence rolls down the hill and falls off into the monkey puzzle tree.

Tuppence continues picking up fragments of chat from people she meets, while Tommy visits London and visits old colleagues like Colonel Pikeaway who fill him in on the past and mention a charismatic fascist with a bunch of acolytes: “Really the fellow seemed such a noble man. Had some wonderful ideas. Was so terribly keen to abolish all poverty.” (Peace organisations were always suspect: see Foreign Correspondent and Ministry of Fear.)

However, we are not given many details. Tommy hires an elderly researcher (Miss Collodon), and mentions newspaper libraries, but he never looks up contemporary accounts. Prewar census entries are a possible lead, but this is never followed up.

The clues are all there, but they are deeply hidden in waffle. The secret service – represented by Colonel Pikeaway, Mr Robinson and Henry Horsham, who all appear in other books – is worried that the pre-WWI fascist cell never quite died, and has re-activated. Colonel Pikeaway rambles for pages about the way current crises have their roots in the past. In 1973 the resurgence of the far right must have seemed a distant threat.

Isaac, the ancient gardener, gets murdered on the Beresfords' doorstep. The younger generation, hearing through the grapevine that T and T are famous spy-catchers, are keen to help. The kids take Tuppence to meet some pensioners, who sing World War One songs, and throw out fantastic ideas about what went on at the Laurels, even mentioning gold from sunken Spanish galleons (which featured in Raymond West’s contribution to the Tuesday Night Club). Tuppence brushes this aside, also the idea of anything being hidden in a smuggler’s cave (from Evil Under the Sun).

One of the old folk mentions “Oxford and Cambridge”. This refers to two oriental china stools decorated with swans, one dark blue, one light blue, from Christie’s old home. Tuppence has also just happened across a message in another old book that reads “GRIN HEN LO”. Backwards it’s Lohengrin, a Wagner hero famously associated with a swan. It all clearly points to the stools. One of them is broken, but in the other they find a tarpaulin-wrapped package of “papers”. But they seem to have forgotten they earlier found some "papers" in the stomach of Mathilde, the old rocking horse.

The papers that might revive an old scandal are lifted from a short story that Christie wrote twice (The Incredible Theft), and based on a Conan Doyle tale – The Adventure of the Bruce-Partington Plans, which really does concern blueprints of a submarine. In Christie’s stories the “papers” are usually aeroplane designs, or letters that indicate a political rapprochement that the parties have since denied.

Christie’s brother Monty features in an old photograph, and his later career is touched on. Isaac reminisces about the strange things people hang on to, like a revolver brought home from East Africa by a son. In this version it’s the old lady who takes pot shots out of the window at visitors, but in real life it was Monty Miller. He had become addicted to morphine after an injury, and soon after this incident he was found a quiet cottage on the moors and a reliable “keeper”.

The old lady who hid valuables in her mittens and thought everybody was poisoning her was Christie’s grandmother. As well as "papers", there’s a rusted needle-book inside the stool “Cambridge”, and one of Tuppence's elderly informants talks about a forebear who used to buy needle-books in bulk to give to servants as presents, but hoarded them until rusty. Christie’s grandmother again, who also hid tins of sardines on the top of the wardrobe, and bought lengths of fabric at sales for maids’ dresses, but kept them until they rotted away. Christie found all these things as she cleared out her old home after her mother’s death, while her marriage fell apart.

Tuppence jokes that she’s jealous of Miss Collodon.

“You know, Tommy, now that you’re getting on in years you might – you might get some rather dangerous ideas about a beautiful helper.
“You don’t appreciate a faithful husband when you’ve got one,” said Tommy.
“All my friends tell me you never know with husbands,” said Tuppence.
“You have the wrong kind of friends,” said Tommy.

After Christie’s death, “Mallowan married Barbara Hastings Parker, an archaeologist, who had been his epigraphist at Nimrud and Secretary of the British School of Archaeology in Iraq” says Wikipedia.

There are moments of clunky exposition: “Betty, our adopted daughter, went to East Africa,” said Tommy. “Have you heard from her?”

Tommy suggests adding a veranda. Later, helpful young Clarence is found on the veranda. Tommy suggests that Tuppence might find something in a dull old book of sermons because nobody would ever read them. She says she hasn’t found any – but she has, in an early chapter. Is this where she finds the "Lohengrin" message, which she just produces? And why would anyone hide a crossword clue to hidden "treasure" in a book nobody was ever going to read? Who was the message intended for?

Tommy and Mr Robinson, the “man who knows all about money”, arrange a code word – “crab-apple jelly” – but never use it.

We hear no more about the papers found in Mathilde. One is a note about a meeting in a London park, but T and T don’t even read them all. Tommy tells Pikeaway: “Tuppence thinks something might be hidden in our house”, after they’ve made this discovery. The scene is repeated later with the blue stool “Cambridge”. This time the package is passed on to the authorities, but in the last scene Tuppence says:  “And it’s all thanks to what we found in Mathilde’s stomach!”

What do Pikeaway and Horsham gain from this farrago? They are on the trail of the revived fascist cell, now lurking in Bury St Edmunds, and presumably have more clues to their past history.

There are moments when Christie is back on form. Gwenda the post office girl recounts the irrelevant experiences of a friend of hers in wartime London. “She used to love the tube. She said it was ever so much fun. You know, you had your own particular stair... You slept there, and you took sandwiches in and things, and you had fun together and talked... She could hardly bear it when the war was over and she had to go home again, felt it was so dull, you know.”

And Tommy has a pointless, but funny, conversation with a young functionary:
“Cold afternoon,” said Johnson...
“Yes,” said Tommy, “It always seems to be cold in the afternoons.”
“Some say it’s pollution, some say it’s all the natural gas they’re taking out of the North Sea,” said Johnson.

The Beresfords are still assisted by Albert, once their office boy: “You wouldn’t believe it – eggs have gone up, again. Never vote for this Government again, I won’t. I’ll give the Liberals a go.”

More Christie here, and links to the rest.