Monday 29 October 2012

More Bathos

You offer the reader a chair - and then you pull it away! More here.

I can hardly contain my indifference. Kenneth Horne (script by Barry Took and Marty Feldman)

This gun handles with all the grace of a breezeblock. Antiques Roadshow

The Rosicrucians are about as secret as margarine. Fortean Times, May 09

Expectations ran low (for WNO’s subtextual Fledermaus) Rupert Christiansen, Telegraph 2002

Her life was as private as a postcard.

Learn to laugh at yourself – we certainly have.

Andrew Gimson charts the meteoric downfall of Chris Mullin, a Labour gentleman, as revealed in his new volume of diaries, Decline and Fall. Telegraph 17 Sept 2010

You have a great future behind you.

Actor goes under the top.

Petronius was a courtier who always managed to say what he thought without Nero finding out. Your friend is in a flop and you have to go backstage and congratulate him? Simply say: "You’ve done it again!” (Nic Roeg)

A Lot More Movie Cliches

Vicar unwittingly drops acid and sees answer to everything. (Rev)

Charismatic therapist cures stammer (it's an update of the old Hollywood psychoanalyst saying "Remember - you want to remember!").

How to be Kooky
If you are an American girl, smile crookedly and look up through your long brunette fringe (bangs). If you weren’t kooky you’d have blonde hair and no fringe like everybody else. And you’d have a boyfriend so you wouldn’t have to look rueful.

Address other characters as “dear sister” so that viewers can work out relationships.

Don’t move, gentlemen! Yes, I have the test-tube of deadly virus you’ve all been looking for! This one!!!! Oh, oooops!!!!
All: [aghast]
Jessica Fletcher: Fortunately I switched it for the dummy!
All: Ha ha ha ha ha!

70s Films
Someone would go mad in a scene lasting about half an hour and shot in one take in which they shambled, mumbled, shouted, tore their clothes off and threw plates down the hall.

30s Musicals
Composer hands singer tatty piece of manuscript paper – here’s something I’ve been working on – see what you make of it – she takes it, starts reading, composer joins in at piano, she puts down paper and sings entire song (sometimes orchestra joins in).

What to Say About...
Your new version of a brilliant 70s sitcom: The old version was terribly slow, we’ve upped the pace and brought it into the 21st century. (We've replaced observation with leaden slapstick and meaningless gurning.)

Films based on comic books: It's really dark, it really redefines the genre, not like those old comic books that were lighthearted and jokey and all about fights between superheroes and monsters (same template as Dickens, Jane Austen). And of course they are comic book heroes for our times. (This is recycled publicity guff. The reviewer has never read a comic book.)

Your new film in an overlong-running franchise: this Batman/Bond has the darkness, edginess and grit of the original.

Never Watch
Anything that claims to be darker and edgier than something else. Ditto visceral - It just means a lot of fake bodily fluids and wetness and squelchiness and people going "blargh!".

A film labelled “comedy remake” or “romantic comedy”.

London Parks
Spymasters meet in St James’s Park (handy for the Foreign Office). Russian handlers meet agents in Regent’s Park. Employees of the Circus have private chats on Primrose Hill. Foreign agents are shot on Hampstead Heath.

Middle Class Handbook commenters on upmarket drama
The funny thing about this kind of drama is that most of them are held up as modern classics at the time, and then forgotten 10 years later. Who watches Chariots of Fire now? Jean De Florette? Chocolat? A Passage To India? No wonder - half of them only get acclaimed because reviewers get overexcited at the sight of a pale woman in a floral dress fingering the edge of a tea cup while she waits for a shy man to tell her he loves her.

You're on the money with The English Patient. It has it all; tremulous English middle-class manners, a vaguely hostile/alien foreign country, war, unrelenting intense misery and excessive length. 

Caitlin Moran
When he’s rejected Everett does what all scripts of a certain genre insist: self-loathingly scrub at himself in a bath. One of the things I anticipate most eagerly about our society becoming increasingly atheist is that, in the future, there will be fewer scenes where lapsed Catholics scrub themselves in a bath. Caitlin Moran Times Oct 7 12

A friend writes
To imply sexual attraction in a 19th century novel, TV adapters now have to have them entering water. There was a stupid scene in Great Expectations when Estella rolled up her stockings and paddled in a river, followed by Pip. See also Colin Firth diving into a lake fully clothed.

Scientist has glasses, bad hair and is first seen in a lecture room manically scrawling a huge equation at least three lines deep on a huge blackboard. Equation is full of = signs as well as more obscure and intimidating symbols so audience will think, oo er e's clever in 'e? He wears EITHER a shabby tweed jacket with patches on the elbows OR a white coat. If the latter, he will later become corrupted by the search for knowledge and will create a monster, destroy a government, blow up a planet etc etc etc. If the former, he may well be saved at the last minute by the love of a GURL.

Or else the hero interviews the scientist in an empty lecture room and the scientist turns out to be rather sweet and helpful and call his laboratory rats Bruno etc.

10 nerd character types we love:
1. The Robot who wants to be human
2. The crazed scientist that no one believes
3. The Accidental Bringer of the Apocalypse
4. The Group of Social Rejects Who Bond Over a Project and Then Go on a Space Adventure
5. The Sexy Female Hacker
6. The Absolutely Necessary Droid
7. The Bumbling Ne'er-Do-Well Nerd Who Inadvertently Does Something Amazing
8. The Necessary Cogs
9. The Billionaire Playboy Genius
10. The Proverbial Dude in the Van with Schematics

Yet more movie cliches, and links to the rest.

Cop show cliches here and here.
Spy drama cliches here
.More plots here.
More dramatic cliches here.

Sunday 28 October 2012

Buzz Words of 2012 Part III

communications ninja (job title)

nuanced (we nicked it from the States)

lollage (added to the Collins Online Dictionary)

bad boy (popular Sept)

bigot (week of Sept 10) Why is it such an insult?

take a hit (on standards)

gaming for playing the system (Lord Knight on Gove levels)

reviewing: now means mutual book-pimping (didn't it always?)

degreet: say goodbye

very “It will change the whole very nature” of claiming benefits, IDS, Sept 20 2012

It is what it is.

Pleb takes over from supper as the poshest word ever ever as those without Latin O Level look it up in a dictionary.

pillow face (the results of too much filler – urrrgh!)


trolling now means stalking, or being abusive online


tribal (Week Oct 1, week of Labour conference)

“Miliband speech … predictably tribal. Talking as if Labour are necessarily superior in terms of e.g. being able to offer the country solutions to her problems.” (@mrblawton)

"A group of Tory 'modernisers' have called the Labour Party 'immaturely tribal'." (@alex_jbutler)

"Labour supporters...vow Coalition is unthinkable. But they need to think again." Some solid reasoning by the usually tribal Polly Toynbee. (@Eugene_Grant)

naughty step

bad boy now everywhere Oct 25

gaming the system has taken over from playing the system

We fire up laptops instead of switching them on.

phobing on (a variant of “hating on”)

2012 Part IV here
2012 Part III here
2012 Part II here
2012 Part I here

Buzz words of 2011 Part II here.
Buzz Words of 2011 here and here.
Complete Buzz Words of 2010 here.
Buzz Words of 2009 here.
Buzz Words of 2009 Part Two here.
Buzz Words of 2006 here.
Buzz Words of 2002 here.
More here (90s, 2000, 2001).
Buzz Words of 2004/5 here

Friday 26 October 2012

Art Shows in London and Beyond, 2012-13

Kettle's Yard, Cambridge
Winifred Nicholson: Music of Colour
29 September-21 December
Winifred Nicholson was married to Ben, the British modernist famous for his architectural line drawings, Cubist-inspired landscapes and Art Deco white-on-white reliefs. Winifred liked stronger colours, and painted landscapes, flowers and many views through windows. If you like Mary Fedden, you'll like her work (like The Gate to the Isles, above).

Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge
Snow Country: Woodcuts of the Japanese Winter
2 October 2012-13 January
Prints by artists such as Hokusai and Hiroshige, including stories from poetry and myth, travellers ploughing through snowdrifts, people indoors gazing out at new-fallen snow, empty white landscapes.

Grand Palais, Paris
Edward Hopper, October 10-January 28
Hopper (1882-1967) studied in Paris as a young man, turning out moody scenes of naked women in dingy hotel rooms, the attics across the street, and the usual suburban bridges over the Seine. Back home in New York City, he studied with Robert Henri, founder of the Ashcan School. He worked as a commercial artist for a time, and learned how to construct the scenes of alienation he is famous for. Who are those singles hanging out in Philly's? The jaunty name of the café is hardly readable in the dark that crowds round its electrically lit interior. The forest beside the lonely road with its one gas station stands waiting like Burnham Wood. The exhibition takes in his watercolours of Victorian houses, and his etchings. Here's a piece I wrote about him in 2004.

Louvre, Paris
The new Islamic gallery opened 20 September, and on 22 September a gallery devoted to The East Mediterranean in the Roman Empire.

British Museum, London
Life and death: 
Pompeii and Herculaneum
28 March-29 September 2013
Art and artefacts preserved by the volcanic eruption of AD79. The exhibition will showcase the way the Romans lived. Furniture includes a linen chest, a stool, a garden bench and a baby’s cradle that still rocks.

Later in the year the BM will bring us the long-awaited display of art from the European Ice Age.

Ashmolean Museum, Oxford
Happy Birthday Edward Lear: 200 Years of Nature and Nonsense
20 September–6 January
Edward Lear did more than draw cartoons and write nonsensical poetry (When awful darkness and silence reign/over the great Gromboolian Plain), he was a skilled topographical and natural history painter. He travelled extensively in the Middle East, and his landscapes have some of the haunted atmosphere of his poetry. All aspects of his work can be seen here.

Monday 22 October 2012

Jobs You Never Knew Existed 9

Run Downton weekends

Buy a stately home and organise Downton weekends. Costumes provided. Servants have to work as servants.

art hire

designer handbag hire

designer jewellery hire

disabled sport enabler

doggy daycare, pet taxi

double for one of the royals

ebook formatter

fake Ancient Egyptian beads: dark red, black, turquoise, pale green glass, all chipped and abraded
filler-in of complicated forms for other people

golf course designer

human hair trader

make marzipan body parts like @Miss_Cakehead

make plush handbag dogs (in handbags)

manufacture ceramic logs for flame effect fires

orphan: change your name and age and check into a children’s home

pet hire

ratcatcher (as councils axe their pest control services)

run team bonding exercises

run water taxis

scrimshaw faker

venue finder


Now available in mini ebook form - recently updated!

More here. And here. Part Six here. More jobs you never knew existed here.  More here and here. And here.

Friday 19 October 2012

Scientific Terms

I haven't got many new scientific terms to add, but these are so resoundingly beautiful. (Add a "The..." and you get a 70s thriller.) 

Eridanus Supervoid (A thing defined by nothing.)
landfast sea ice
Marinoan and Sturtian glaciations
Overton Window (logic)
Pennsylvanian Joggins Formation of Nova Scotia (pictured - some people think it's evidence of a worldwide flood)
rain shadow
somatic luxuriance (like hybrid vigour)

More here.

More Upsides to Being Old

Comedy club? Leave me out!

Looks really don’t matter at last. People talk to me as a human being, instead of ignoring me for not being pretty or flirtatious enough.

Being female is an advantage for the first time in my life.

I can be as clever as I like and nobody notices or cares.

I don’t have to believe the “latest theory” because I know there’ll be another one along in a minute (especially if educational, psychological, managerial, organisational).

I don’t have to learn how to do young people’s dancing. And anyway it starts to look absurd when you hit 30.

I can be gracious and condescending. Nobody expects me to be hard or mouthy.

Nobody expects me to do a bungee jump.

I can go to a film matinee alone. And probably to a pub to watch the sport on telly.

I don’t have to go to comedy clubs.

I can wind up my friends when they wail that there wasn’t all this innovation when they were young and we’re all going to hell in a handcart by pointing out that people have said this every year for the past 5,000 years.

And nobody bullies me to give dinner parties!

Upsides to Being Old 1

Sunday 14 October 2012

Inspirational Quotes 22

Marriage is out of date and you should never think about what other people are thinking about you. Yeah.

That's here. That's home. That's us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every "superstar," every "supreme leader," every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there – on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam. Carl Sagan on the Earth

But there was another side to my kibbutz childhood. The pressure to conform was relentless. Individuality and competition were looked down upon. Children who were unusual, eccentric or sought to distinguish themselves, were shunned. We were socialised to be strong and sunny, simple and similar. Emotional expression was demeaned as weak and self-involved. We learned to numb ourselves. I haven't cried since I was 10. I'd like to but I can't. Noam Schpancer, Guardian Feb 19 11

Being a beautiful girl is like having a get out of jail free card… and having a get anything else you want in life card. @MenAreThinking 

Most bestselling authors are destined to go out of print. Steerforth, The Age of Uncertainty

Psychological maltreatment is just as harmful as other types of maltreatment. Pediatrics, July 2012

Here’s the best Relationship Advice in the world… Follow the advice you give others. @MenAreThinking

I didn’t need to get my life together so much as I needed to take inventory of what was left. I realized that when you lose your wife and your best friend, you lose a third thing: a life partner.

We want to look healthy and beautiful in order to attract a mate… We think that we are doing this tanning for ourselves, because it makes us feel better, but of course we aren’t. We are doing it for other people and how they see us. Danny Finkelstein Times magazine July 28 12

It will never rain roses: when we want to have more roses, we must plant more roses. George Eliot

I'll do it for another four years. No longer. Then I want to have kids and a husband. Lapdancer, July 2012

Johnny gave her a false conception of herself and she’s been living up to it, rather misguidedly, ever since. Margery Allingham, Death of a Ghost

Saturday 6 October 2012

Inventions and Reinventions 4

Copy good architecture from the past: rebuild it exactly. (That's an Austrian village in China, above.)

teabag rests, teaspoon rests (Give us a spoon that's long enough to stir the latte, and ensure that the glass fits the saucer. Thank you.) 

coffee cups (pottery mugs make the coffee go cold)

windows between rooms

Every supermarket to  have two men-only queues that compete on speed. (Or perhaps we need men-only supermarkets.)

coathanger covers (They stop your clothes falling off the hanger.)

cloth shoe bags (For packing – you can get them from Amazon.)

small, thin paperbacks (About the size and weight of an e-reader.)

ancient gods (Moloch, Baal, Bast, Isis, Osiris, Cernunnos)

the breaststroke (Why does everybody have to learn a swimming style designed for ultra-fast racing? You might want to see where you’re going and look at the view. And take it slowly.)

kitchen tables (For food preparation, and dining.)

all train seats should have tables (Get rid of “airline seating”.)

canals (Been done.)

You get the ebook when you buy the print book.

App/website giving gender/age ratios for towns, areas, occupations, pastimes.

The East India company paid British women their passage to India and their living expenses for a year hoping they’d marry its staff.

universal device chargers/USB wall ports

baby boxes (Where mothers “post” “unwanted” babies.)

stable doors (So you can lean out and talk to passers by.)

Colouring-in wallpaper

We have 500 cable channels, but we can’t watch one channel and record another. And thank you for iPlayer, but I still need a video to record repeats and cable channels. (There may be a higher-tech solution.)

gloves with styli at the finger ends for typing on ipads and smartphones

Stop the sale of alcohol on trains and planes. Ban travellers from bringing their own. Ban drinking in public places. After a certain hour, make customers order food. No more alcohol in TV hospitality. Don't show anyone drinking alcohol on TV or in movies.

Reinventions 4Reinventions 3Reinventions 2
Reinventions 1