Sunday 28 August 2011

Unhelpful Advice

Do your own thing

Unhelpful advice that is very easily disproved. Why do people mouth these platitudes? Do they just want you to shut up and go away? Or do they want to neutralize you, stop you rocking the boat and causing trouble?

99% of the things we worry about never happen. (I can think of things that I’ve worried about and HAVE happened and they add up to far more than 1%.)

Accept, adapt, carry on. (It’s very convenient for society if you do this. And there are some things you shouldn't accept.)

All you need is confidence. (So I don’t need a job, home, possessions, clothes?)

Be original. (Most groups insist that you fit in.)

Be outgoing/take the initiative. (Not all the time - that would be pushy and domineering.)

Be spontaneous. (Or fake it. They mean "be a little bit spontaneous sometimes". Or "make it look spontaneous".)

Calm down. (We all know what this means - "shut up".)

Don’t copy other people. (So everything you do and say has to be something no one has ever done or said before? I don't see other people doing this. Fortunately.)

Don’t imagine that people don’t like you! (You can probably tell if people don't like you - so don't stick around.)

Don’t think about it too much. (So how can you think up a solution?)

Don’t think about what people expect from you, think about what you expect from them. (They're probably expecting you to read their minds and they can get very cross if you don't.)

Don't worry about what people think of you, because they don't. Dr. Phil (Do you never think about other people? Discuss them with your friends to find out what A thinks about B? Quite a lot, yeah?)

Failing is good for you because you'll learn something about yourself. (Gee, thanks.)

If you feel right, everything will go right. (You try it.)

Just be yourself. (So why do people write self-improvement books?)

Just relax. (I won't bother getting up, then.)

Life’s not fair. (But you said I could have anything I wanted as long as I wanted it enough.)

Live in the moment. (That would make looking for a job difficult.)

Love yourself and people will love you. (Has this ever been scientifically tested?)

Make an effort/you can’t expect people to come to you/meet people halfway. (Haven’t they noticed that this directly contradicts “all you need is confidence", "just relax", and "live in the moment”?)

Most people are too busy thinking about themselves to notice you. (So why am I trying to make a good first impression?)

Never think about what other people are thinking about you. (Not even at a job interview?)

People take you at your own valuation. (Scientific tests have shown that people value others according to how they are valued by others.)

That which doesn’t kill me makes me stronger. (Traumatic experiences destroy many people's lives.)

There’s always an off button. (But I don't want anyone to see this crap. Are you telling me to shut up again?)

There’s no such word as can’t. (So you won’t mind if I drive your car even though I’ve never passed the test?)

Wait until you feel ready. (This has to have a sell-by date. And presumably you need to do something while you’re waiting.)

You can have whatever you want as long as you want it enough. (So why is the world full of poor, unhappy people? This is a classic Catch 22. If you don't get what you want, you obviously didn't want it enough. Feh!)

Lots more here.

Inspirational Quotes Part Five

To thine own self be true, thou canst not then be false to any man. Polonius in Hamlet

I joined an evangelical church to find a new social circle. Guardian July 31, 2004

Consider, dear child, consider!
The White Queen in Alice Through the Looking-Glass

Life is cruel, but unjust. Film maker Akki Kaurismaki

You can “enable people to fake confidence even when they are nervous". Mr Vit of the English Speaking Union

The old saying be nice ack like a lady dress propper has nothing to do with getting or keeping a man. (

They don't want the truth; they want you to validate their fondest wishes. (

Peer pressure is quite a suffocating and powerful influence. You have to fit in. Alan Hansford on coming out as gay after he left cricket, Daily Telegraph Feb 2011

One day we will look back on all this, laugh nervously and change the subject. (John O’Farrell)

This is important because unlike other traits that are associated with life outcomes - including cleverness, tallness, and beauty - lots of research suggests that self-control is readily amenable to improvement through training. BPS Digest May 17, 2011

Basic problem solving
on work and relationship issues may make a difference. Guardian February 27, 2008

We probably all have a story to tell when arriving new in a job. If it’s not the uniform we are supposed to wear, it’s another form of dress-code, the language, regulation of whom you are allowed to talk to, who you are ‘responsible to’ more than what you are responsible for.

"There is just no such thing as anyone’s real personality. Personalities are the product of the initial feelings or attitudes someone takes up and the needs of the situation they find themselves in...and, for that matter, the initial feelings themselves are the product of earlier conflicts of that sort." Gay spy Jeremy Wolfenden

“Weak ties” are as crucial to the flourishing of social networks as strong ones. More quasi-friends probably also means more job opportunities, and more chance of making real friends, or meeting the love of your life. Oliver Burkeman, G December 11 2010

[The music business] was a boys’ club. Lottie Mullan

Low point: Insufferable kooky outcast Luna Lovegood yet again reminding us that there's nothing more irritating than fierce individuality. Charlie Lyne in the Guardian July 9, 2011

Tenderness Important for Relationship Satisfaction

More here and here and here. And here.

Inspirational Mantras

A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.
A friend to everybody is a friend to nobody.
A job begun is a job half done.
Accept the things you can't change (such as harsh social realities).
Address the problem in small, manageable, prioritised chunks.
All unrealistic expectations abandon.
Always have a Plan B, C, D etc.
Appearances are often deceiving.
Are you intense? If so, lighten up.
Ask men for help.
Avoid “it certainly looked like progress”.
Avoid exchanging one prison for another.
Avoid having a vision but no strategy.
Be Prepared.
Be relaxed, breathe slowly and steadily, make steady but intermittent eye contact. (You’ll come across like an old hippy.)
Become a habitué of eg the cafe in the park.
Better late than never.
Birds of a feather flock together.
Bullies need a victim.
Call people by name. Say “Hi Bob”.
Call things by their right name.
Choose the lesser of two evils.
Civility costs nothing.
Cut the Tarot pack.
Cut your coat according to your cloth.
Cut your losses.
Do it now.
Do it your way.
Do nothing to excess.
Do something different.
Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.
Doing nothing is always a choice.
Don’t bite the hand that feeds you.
Don’t burn your bridges.
Don’t get in touch with your emotions, detach yourself from them.
Don't appear too independent or too helpless.
Don't look too eager or too indifferent.
Don't smile - sometimes.
Don't/do look back.
Effort may be wasted.
Effort may not be rewarded.
Experience is something you don't get until just after you need it.
Face facts.
Fact is stranger than fiction.
Fake it.
False Hope Springs Eternal.
Feel the fear and do it anyway.
Find your own level. If you’re not a top dog, be a middling dog.
Fish while the fish are biting.
Gather ye rosebuds while ye may.
Get a change of air.
Get over it.
Get things in proportion.
Give yourself a mantra a day: eg “Smile at strangers” “Practice your smile”.
Give yourself a talking to.
Giving too much too soon is codependent. Also pushy.
Go through the motions.
Go to art galleries when they're open late.
Go to private views.
Go where there are people.
Go with what you know.
Good fences make good neighbors.
Good judgment comes from bad experience, and a lot of that comes of bad judgment.
Have a secret life (or several).
Have a word and a smile for everyone.
Hopes may be dupes.
If at first you don't succeed, skydiving is not for you.
If doors don’t open, don’t beat on them.
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
If people stop talking to you, they’re trying to tell you something.
If you aren’t any good at gym, you'll never get picked for the gym team.
If you can’t beat them, join them (and vice versa).
If you can’t do anything about it, accept it.
If you can't believe it's happening, pretend it's a movie. (Andy Warhol)
If you tell the truth, you don't have to remember anything.
In this world a dog may become a lion and a lion a dog.
It could be worse - it could be raining.
It may be that your sole purpose in life is simply to serve as a warning to others.
It takes all sorts to make a world.
It's nice to be needed, but making other people need you is codependent.
Know your limitations.
Lie about the past. Or keep quiet about it. Lie about the present.
List all the options.
Look on the bright side. (The burglars took everything - but they left the bath! And now we can buy new furniture! etc etc)
Make up your own rituals.
Man pursues woman. Ie don’t be pushy or clingy.
Muddle through.
Necessity acquaints us with strange bedfellows.
Never test the depth of the water with both feet.
Nobody is perfect.
Observe people instead of worrying about your performance.
Other people are as afraid of you as you are of them - so intimidate them (not).
People don’t want to be made to think.
People expose their character in small actions (
Play dumb.
Play to your strengths.
Pray for strength.
Pretend you are a fictional character.
Quit while you’re ahead.
React, don’t act. And watch for people’s reactions.
Review the situation. Risk being disappointed.
Self-disclose, but not too much. And it doesn’t have to be true.
Share your hopes, dreams and goals.
Show your vulnerability - some people want to be rescuers.
Sit outside.
Smell of cinnamon and vanilla.
Some dreams come true and some fall through.
Some people are looking for a punchbag.
Some things never change.
Something is better than nothing.
Speak softly.
Start again somewhere else.
Strike a balance.
Take a different route.
Tell people about your life, even if it's mundane.
The times change, and we change with them.
The geek shall inherit the earth.
The squeaky wheel gets the grease (and vice versa).
There are tricks in every trade.
There is safety in numbers.
There’s nowt so queer as folk.
Things can get worse.
Think before you act or speak.
Think of solution(s).
This too shall pass.
Timing has a lot to do with the outcome of a rain dance.
Try on different identities.
Try something that you tried before - it might work this time./Junk that and try something different.
Walk round the block - you may bump into someone you know.
Want to establish rapport? Mention a current event.
Watch out for fair weather friends.
Watch the world go by.
Wear new clothes.
Wear pink.
When in Rome, do as the Romans do.
When you're in a hole, stop digging.
You can’t please everyone.
You have only one chance to make a first impression.
You’re known by the company you keep.

Saturday 20 August 2011

Received Idas about The King James Bible

The King James, or Authorised, Version of the Bible was published in 1611. And it seems to have attracted both myths and criticism ever since.

It is written in a poetic and archaic form of English – archaic from our point of view, because 400 years have passed; and poetic possibly because the original is poetic. The KJV was largely based on an earlier version by William Tyndale (a marker near the Houses of Parliament shows where he was burned to death for his work). “Saint” Thomas More condemned him for "discharging a filthy foam of blasphemies out of his beastly brutish mouth" (i.e. he translated the Bible into English).

A new book on the translation of the King James Version (from the original Hebrew and Greek) seems to be apologising for it: it was archaic even when written, the committee of scholars lacked the common touch, the 18th century hated it, some bloke compiled a “greatest hits” of silly verses about sewing pillows to armholes. And nobody spoke like that even at the time.

And yes – I haven’t read Campbell's book, only the reviews - but they led me to compile some of the myths about the KJV.

“Some of the most hateful e-mails I get are from professing Christians who hate the KJV.” says (I think he's an "onlyist" who thinks that only the KJV will do.) goes on to give a sample of those hateful emails: " is a quote from Britannica concerning the KJV...'it avoided uniform literalness of translation in favor of a rich use of synonym.' In other words, it abandoned the normal or street language of the Biblical manuscripts. [The KJV gives the word of God] a highly theatrical taste, and theatre has a way of distorting real-life situations."

The “people of its time” did not speak the English of the King James Bible (often referred to as “Kings English”). The KJV was translated into this already “archaic” form of English because it was the most perfect form of English, our language is not getting better over time it’s getting worse.”

And the says: “The KJV was a monumental work for its time and its language exceptional; it is extremely literal and yet is written in a form of polished English not found in modern versions and translations.” (So which is it: literal, or full of synonyms? Don’t know what they mean by “polished”.)

More myths:

The language of the King James Version was archaic even by 17th century standards.

Shakespeare was on the translation committee.

David Crystal says he found “only” 257 phrases that we still use today, and they’re from Tyndale.

The King James Bible had a terrible effect on religious language. For centuries it persuaded Christians, when talking to or about God, to use cod Jacobean English. Stephen Tomkins, Guardian March 11 (How could the translators NOT have used Jacobean English? In 1611?)

It was consciously archaic (rather than being slightly archaic owing to the use of earlier versions).

King James wanted the language to be the Vox Reg not Vox Pop, so it was somewhat elitist from the start, unlike the Book of Common Prayer which managed to combine both the RP (received pronunciation) and Vernacular of its day. The Rev David Grieve

"Peradventure the editor hath no copy of Holy Writ in the office, save the King James Version only. Howbeit the great multitude of believers knoweth this translation not. And he (or she) who quoteth the words of Jesus in ancient form, sheweth plainly that he (or she) considereth them to be out of date. Wherefore let them be quoted in such manner that the people may understand." Guardian style book (The Guardian really doesn't like the KJV.)

David Edgar, author of a play about the compilation of the KJV, wrote an article about it in The Guardian Feb 19 2011

“Celebrants of this year's anniversary have enjoyed pointing out the ironies of the translation: that it was commissioned to mollify the losing faction at a religious conference; that far from "inventing the language", it was written in archaic prose; and – most surprising of all – that it was made not by an individual genius but by six largely anonymous committees.”

“Coverdale's 1535 version consisted of a revision of Tyndale's New Testament and Pentateuch, supplemented by Coverdale's own translation of the rest. Coverdale had no Greek or Hebrew, and his translations from Latin and German are arguably the more elegantly effective as a result, changing Tyndale's "go in into thy master's joy", for instance, to "enter thou into the joy of thy Lord".” (Weird!)

“For the 1611 reader, the Bible was overlaid with an antique patina: the increasingly outmoded "thou" as the singular of "you", the "-eth" ending to verbs as opposed to the current move to "s" ... "thereof" for the contemporary "its". The consistent – you could say persistent – use of conjunctive phrases such as "And it came to pass" (on which Tyndale rings the changes) gives the work a ritualised, almost plainsong feel.”

"At a conference on the King James Bible in Stratford three years ago (out of which grew my play about its making, Written on the Heart), it was tacitly forbidden to comment on the obvious upside of the translation's conservatism: its literary beauty."

Make up your own mind:
Bible Gateway
Blue Letter Bible (gives Hebrew and Greek)
KJV etext

Friday 19 August 2011

Grammar: Oxymorons

Hair corsage

 Oxymorons disagree with themselves.

A Canadian study finds higher than expected low reading achievement. (LD Online)

advanced Basic

alone together
Antibiotic-Resistant Staph Antibiotic Discovered (Slashdot headline)

baby grand
back to the forefront
bright drab (Stylishly dressed in bright drab. H G Wells)

civil war

cold hot water bottle 
contemporary antique brass ceiling light

fast idle
first Last Song
flat point (lace)
fully vacant flats for sale

Go now, then

growing shortage
guest host (on a chat show)

hair corsage
(A corsage you wear in your hair. Wrist corsages are also available.)
high colour depths can be obtained.

It’s extremely unusual to have such a high depth of rainfall in such a short duration. (Guardian 2007. High quantity?)

high levels of depression

highly undervalued
human avian flu vaccine 
I'll come straight round!

increasingly few
(The works of the Franco-Romanian playwright ... get increasingly few outings these days. Evening Standard, 2003. Fewer and fewer?)

Indian Style Chinese Vegetable Fried Rice

It’ll be all round the square! (East Enders)
known undiscovered oil reserves
last First Lady
last first night
manned by women

many fewer
 (Labour market inflexibility explains why the European economy has created so many fewer jobs than the US over the past three decades.

mini supermarket

Mostar’s new Old Bridge
My hair is growing back at the front.

negative growth

now then, now then

old New Scientist
(that was in an...)
old New Year (like Old Christmas time)
old news
online newspaper
open secret
Our current future status

penguin rookery

pink bluebell
pink goldfish
plain in an ornate kind of way (Bargain Hunt)
a plastic glass
plum cherry tomatoes
pretty ugly
pygmy mammoth

Rain later, becoming lighter after dark.
rapid slowdown (of the economy)

silk bed linen

Spanish Turkish bath
square round-houses
static mobile homes

That's your My Little Pony

the Altneushul (Prague's "old new" synagogue, home of the Golem)

There is a brown "blue plaque" commemorating Harold Nicolson and Vita Sackville-West on their house in Ebury Street, London SW1. (Wikipedia)

Use pins to give yourself a temporary permanent (wave)
vacant possession
water windmill
white pinks
Who runs the walks? (Hackney Council)
You can download updates. 

Thursday 18 August 2011

Catechism of Cliché II

Nobody can do it as well as Brian O'Nolan. But it's tempting to try - especially in a week of riots and politicians' buzz-word bingo.

When people take to the streets, what does the government call for? Restraint. Or if things get worse, it urges it. And what kind of violence was perpetrated? Mindless violence. Things are called where? Into question. And whither are they thrown? Into disarray. What kind of speculation was prompted? It was frenzied. And how shall we exploit the situation? Ruthlessly. What kind of fearful people will this situation not suit? The faint-hearted. This unseasonable weather, how would you describe it? Chilly. Is that the best you can do? Oh, it’s decidedly chilly.

What kind of factions are causing the trouble? Warring factions. How would you describe their rise? It was inexorable. How was the question contested? Hotly. And how was the outcome anticipated? Eagerly. What kind of a liar was he? He was accomplished. Don’t forget your handbag – it looks really capacious!

More clichés here.

Sunday 7 August 2011

Whatever Happened To...? 9

balti restaurants
Basenjis (barkless Russian dogs)
boxrooms (for your suitcases and trunks)
bragging about not eating breakfast
breakfast nooks with banquettes
bubble bath
butter pats

(They weren’t waterproof, warm or glamorous.)
character (what boarding school gave you)
chicken bricks
chocolate yule logs (with a plaster robin on top)
choose-your-fate novels Christian Science reading rooms
coffee stalls – coming back in the States, apparently, as mobile ethnic food outlets (probably run by people who’ve lost their corporate jobs)
convergence (of devices) It happened.
curry paste

daisy wheel printers


executive chairs
in which all you could do was lean back and order people about (they were hopeless for typing in and weren’t adjustable)
executive furniture (lots of teak-effect)
extreme puzzlement at the idea that in the future we’d be trading successfully in information

football pools

fried-egg sandwiches
Gauquelin – and astrology.
Gold Spot

ice cream wafers

insisting that children learn to write with dip pen and ink
instructions to soak muesli overnight

Kiwi boot polish

kiwi fruit (originally Chinese gooseberry)

liver and bacon

lobster thermidor
lurid liqueurs
in funny-shaped bottles used as decoration

making jewellery out of polished pebbles or enameled copper (with home tumbler/kiln)
maraschino cherries
melons (we used to eat them all the time, and pretend we liked them with powdered ginger instead of sugar)
miniature pen-knives
moaning that biros would ruin handwriting
moaning that there shouldn’t be “a pill for every ill
mod cons (bathroom, constant hot water, central heating, inside lavatory)
Mont blanc pens – very 80s
motoring holidays
objections to the channel tunnel (rabid foxes will invade Britain)


one-man bands

people who think Bacon wrote Shakespeare
people who were too proud to draw the dole because “I don’t take charity
pressed-flower art (70s)
Pretending to be UTTERLY ASTOUNDED that people would ever buy water in a bottle when you can get it out of the tap.
putting orange (or mandarin segments) in salads
radishes and tomatoes carved into flowers


roast joints which the man of the house had to carve

sodium street lights

split level rooms with half-walls
swizzle sticks (they took the bubbles out of champagne – how can we live without them?)

text-based computer games
(next step beyond choose-your-fate novels)
those 70s hats based on solar topees – in tweed
toasting forks
typing pools

vacuum flasks
(there are more cafes now)
Vapona insect killer strips (probably banned as too toxic)
wishing wells (non-functional)

More here, and links to the rest.

Thursday 4 August 2011

Cop Show Clichés III

But I told all this to the other policeman!

[Quirke] is known only by his surname (Dexter’s Morse), is an alcoholic chainsmoker (Rankin’s Rebus), loves poetry (PD James’s Dalgleish), has a difficult relationship with a daughter (Mankell’s Wallander) and has difficulty in sustaining relationships (everyone’s everyone). Even the fact that, although a pathologist, his involvement in cases goes well beyond the dissection of the body nods to the convention of the forensic investigator popularized by Silent Witness and Waking the Dead on television and Patricia Cornwell in print. (Mark Lawson, Guardian July 9 2011)

The cops in Spiral shout a lot, but they shout at other people. In Brit crime dramas they’re positioned front and centre and shout stagily at the camera. Then there's DI Mark Wenborn (Charlie Creed-Miles) who's unreconstructed and chippy with a nasty mean streak. Well, he's a copper, what do you expect? (If I have one criticism of the characters it's that they verge on the expected.) (Sam Wollaston on Injustice, Guardian June 7, 2011)

Best known as a sort of good-natured Everyman (Ballykissangel and Wild at Heart, that weird Africa travelogue where he went ballooning), Tompkinson plays a grey-faced, disillusioned, middle-aged cop, estranged from his wife and children, whose idea of a fun night in is a glass of whiskey with some jazz riffing in the background. Of course there’s a policewoman whom he instantly hates – and even though he has the personality of a depressed marmoset and she’s gorgeous and much younger, they end up back in his cosy cottage smooching on his sofa. Stop me if I’ve missed any cliches or if Wallander and all those who have gone before want to sue for personation. (The Irish Times on Stephen Tomkinson, Oct 9, 2010)

Use of tech in Castle: “Look up X.” tap, tap, tap “In 1974 he was working at Y company in Q state ect ect”. “I found an illegal video showing how to break into a car using a blood pressure cuff – tick tack tock – oh, there it is.”

It's like crook plays using (new! scientific!) radio in the 30s. Click! “Police are combing the Scottish moors for the Portland Place Murderer. And now back to Jack Hylton and his Band…” Click!

More here and here.