Monday 27 January 2014

Random Script Generator II

So. It has come to this.
Guards! Seize him!!!
No... That's just what they expect us to do...
Do you have a solicitor???
I'm going to have to stop you there...
What would Socrates do in this situation?
(From Andy Giddings)

Nice little town you got here!
We like it!

Do you think -?
I’m certain of it.

For Daphne’s sake.
For all of our sakes!

How long have you been here?
I’ve been here for some time.

Blackmail – it’s an ugly little word, isn’t it?
A nasty word for a dirty business! An ugly word for an ugly thing! (and variants)

Did you come here to gloat?
No, I can gloat from a distance.

You mean somebody - ?
Not somebody – you!

Maybe I shouldn’t butt in –
Yes, maybe you shouldn’t.

If there’s anything I can do…
You’ve already done enough, Mrs Fletcher. Good day!

Please – go now!

I seem to have said all the wrong things!

Hold me – just – hold me!

I hope you’ve got a licence for that thing.

I think you and I need to have a little chat.

There’s enough for all of us!

Controlling husband/manager: I’m only thinking of what’s right for you!

And now if you’ll excuse me, I have a space station to run [or insert reason here]

I’m not a coroner, I’m a gynaecologist! (Murder She Wrote)

In India we have a saying… (Best Marigold Hotel)

Why are you telling me all this now?

There isn’t a sign of them/him/her/it.

How long have you been following me?

But Uncle Eugene, you know what the doctor said!

How do you think that makes me feel?

I don’t have to listen to any of this!
So that’s why I’ve always felt – different!

Why don’t you let me worry about that!

You’ve done enough damage for one day. (Eastenders Aug 4 11)

But surely you don’t think that I…?

[Unfolding parchment, unwrapping rock, holding blank sheet to flames etc]  It seems to be a – message of some sort!

He couldn’t have done the murder – he was with me – all night!

Spoken like a true (ex-wife and soon to be ex-partner – or whatever plot point you want to get across).

On the phone always say “What’s that you say? He disinherited Andrea?”

Isn’t this a little late for a social call?

You can’t keep us here!

[Large town]  is that way. You should reach it in 48 hours – if you walk all night.

When stopped by the cops, say: May I ask what this is all about? (“Officer” is optional)

More here.

Art Shows in London and Kendal

Abbot Hall Art Gallery
to March 29
Patrick Caulfield
Patrick Caulfield used bright colours and thick black outlines to depict the interiors of 60s restaurants complete with bowls of fruit, murals and wood-effect wallpaper.

The Nunnery at Bow Arts
183 Bow Rd, London E3 2SJ
8 May for eight weeks

The East London Group

Realistic painters of East London who flourished between the wars and should be better known - from Elwin Hawthorne to Walter J. Steggles.

Photographers Gallery

to March 30
Photographs by writer William Burroughs (beat poets, chicken-wire), painter Andy Warhol (gay pride march, Jerry Hall) and film-maker David Lynch (industrial decay).

Natural History Museum
Britain: One Million Years of the Human Story
13 February - 28 September 2014
Weapons and tools made by Britain's earliest inhabitants, and reconstructions of what our distant relatives looked like.
And 23 May-7 Sept there's Mammoths: Ice Age Giants
All about the furry elephants who roamed Siberia and North America, co-existed with Homo sapiens and held out on Arctic Wrangel Island until 4,000 years ago.

Tate Britain
Ruin Lust
4 March – 18 May 2014
British artists' love of ruins, from Turner to Tacita Dean. Gothic ruins were fashionable in the 18th century, John Martin painted antique cities destroyed by volcanoes or the wrath of God, Graham Sutherland recorded the aftermath of the blitz, and Louise Wilson makes the Germans' monumental concrete sea defences look like the remains of Nimrud.

Tate Modern
Richard Hamilton
13 Feb to 26 May
The work of the Pop Artist who asked "Just what is it that makes today's homes so different, so appealing?"

More here.

Thursday 23 January 2014

Inspirational Quotes 50

Society was ruled by narrow-minded, profoundly incurious people, predatory business men, dull squires, bishops, politicians who could quote Horace but had never heard of algebra. Science was faintly disreputable and religious belief obligatory. Traditionalism, stupidity, snobbishness, patriotism, superstition and love of war seemed to be all on the same side; there was need of someone who could state the opposite point of view… There you were, in a world of pedants, clergymen and golfers, with your future employers exhorting you to ‘get on or get out,’ your parents systematically warping your sexual life. (George Orwell on HG Wells and the 1900s)

A quarter of Britons fib about their weekend activities in an attempt to impress others, according to a study. The survey of 5,000 adults found that more than one in four (27 per cent) admitted being economical with the truth when asked by friends or colleagues what they did on their days off. Going out on a Saturday night topped the list of activities people pretended they did (33 per cent), followed by visiting friends (25 per cent), going to a dinner party (17 per cent), going out for a romantic meal (12 per cent) and taking a mini-break (10 per cent). Psychologist Corinne Sweet said the survey commissioned by Travelodge revealed a degree of ‘Weekendvy’. She said: ‘We don’t want to admit that most of our weekend time is spent trying to catch up with housework, paperwork and lost sleep. 'It’s the horrible feeling that everyone else is having a better time than us, going away, partying or having fun.’ (Daily Mail 7 March 2011)

Don’t forgive bad behaviour: “It is a conclusion that overturns much conventional wisdom on “constructive conflict resolution”. 'There is one plausible explanation - forgiveness allows relatively negative partners to continue their negative behaviours, ultimately harming the relationship.' (Times, Feb 2-11, Prof James McNulty of Tennessee University)

Entire academic paper on queuing - or "sites of subtle signalling where social entitlements are contextually processed". (Sathnam Sanghera)

I fly frequently and at some point I began to notice that the passengers who sit in F/B class seem better-looking than those sitting in Economy (E). (Psychology Today)

Social crawler: a party-goer who accidently mingles with losers. (NYT Oct 2013)

Small victories: Learned that if I set a tiny daily word count, I'll always hit it and often write more. Small goals, consistent wins. (Paul Western-Pittard ‏@Cerullean)

Now his youthful shyness had begun to dissipate as a result of literary success and sexual experience. (The Love-charm of Bombs, Lara Feigel)

Consider! Consider what a great girl you are. Consider what a long way you've come to-day. Consider what o'clock it is. Consider anything, only don't cry! (Alice Through the Looking-Glass)

In Germany, the state is the essential framework for society. Society is possible only because of the rules imposed by the state. In Britain it is the other way round. Society is the framework for the state. The state functions through conventions, understandings, gentlemen's agreements; social habits are the basis of law and not vice versa. On the escalators in the London underground, people stand on the right, leaving the left side free for those who want to walk up. No law tells them to do so; only habit and courtesy. But if law seems contrary to common sense they may decide to ignore it - as they did over Sunday shopping. (Mitsuko Uchida: Chalk and Cheese)

It is not man's subconscious, but his conscious mind that is subject to his direct control - and to moral judgment. (Ayn Rand)

It was incredibly important. It defined the rest of my life. Because I loved that bird. It was the first time I’d learned to love something… The friends had started to dissipate by then because of the obsessional interests. (Chris Packham on kidnapping a baby kestrel, aged 14)

Without a husband, even an actress doesn't get invited out much. (Coral Browne)

"What would you feel like at a time like this if you had no beau?" asked Nora abruptly and sullenly. "Or any likelihood of one… I'm tired of smiling and being agreeable to every one and pretending not to care when they give me digs about not being married. I want to get married. I want to have a home of my own and be 'Mrs.' She's getting a nice husband and a lovely home. It isn't fair she should have everything and I nothing. I want to be a bride . . . and have a trousseau . . . and monogrammed linen . . . and lovely presents.” (Anne of Windy Poplars, Lucy Maud Montgomery)

“This is a degenerate age, Miss Shirley." "Homer said the same thing eight hundred years, B.C.," smiled Anne. (LM Montgomery, Anne of Windy Poplars)

More here, and links to the rest.

Wednesday 22 January 2014

Inspirational Quotes 49

All from Of Human Bondage by Somerset Maugham: the story of a sensitive, disabled young man in the late 19th century who tries accountancy and art before settling on medical school.
In moments of emotion people are inclined to be melodramatic.

Philip had few friends. His habit of reading isolated him.

Fraulein Anna, foredoomed to a spinster's life, with her high cheek-bones and large misshapen nose.

But the young know they are wretched, for they are full of the truthless ideals which have been instilled into them… It looks as if they were victims of a conspiracy… All they have read and all they have been told are lies, lies, lies.

He did not know a soul, and he had no idea how he was to get to know anyone. He was tired of going everywhere by himself.

Wannabe painter Philip muses: It was plain that self-confidence meant very little… He would never be more than second-rate… He knew some who had dragged along for 20 years in the pursuit of a fame which always escaped them… He had worked very hard, it would be too cruel if all that industry were futile.

He prided himself on his self-control. It had been whipped into him by the mockery of his fellows. Then they called him cynical and callous.

It seemed hardly worth while to read a long volume in order to learn that you ought to behave exactly like everybody else… The actions which were to the advantage of society it termed virtuous and those which were not it called vicious.

[The medical students] used a variety of means natural to the young in order to impress upon the less fortunate a proper sense of their inferiority. The students who had joined in October had already shaken down into groups.

Philip had a passion for discussion, but no talent for small-talk… He did not know the catchwords which only need be said to excite a laugh.

He had quarrelled with all his friends in Paris. He developed a talent for telling them home truths.

[Hayward] still talked vaguely of the things he was going to do in the future, but with less conviction; and he was conscious that his friends no longer believed in him… He was still cherishing the remains of his good looks.

Down on his luck, Philip gets a job in a department store: "This is your first visit to our social evenings, ain't it? I expect you feel a bit shy, but there's no cause to, I promise you that." She did her best to make people feel at home. She slapped them on the shoulders and laughed a great deal… Those who were going to take part in the social evening came in, the younger members of the staff mostly, boys who had not girls of their own, and girls who had not yet found anyone to walk with… Most of them had "fellers", and those who hadn't said they had rather than have it supposed that no one had an inclination for them… Their humour was a low facetiousness.

The bright hopes of youth had to be paid for at such a bitter price of disillusionment.

[He returns to his old school.] In that place where at least by name he had known everybody now he knew not a soul.

More here, and links to the rest.

Tuesday 21 January 2014

What I Don’t Miss About the 70s

adding Marmite to vegetarian cookery
chilled soup
bouquet garni, bay leaves, recipes that advised “add some of the liquid from the tin”
The Pauper’s Cookbook and its recipes for cooking offal (ox heart anybody?)
ratatouille (It was very difficult to say you didn’t like peppers.)
cruelty to vegetarians (It was hard to be different.)

cagoules (that failed to keep out the wet and cold, and only came in bright red nylon)
carbon paper and carbon copies (Thank heavens for photocopiers and computers.)

handmade pottery cups and saucers, always brown (and the sound of the cup grating on the saucer)
brown, brown, brown everywhere (especially as corduroy chair-covers)
amusing egg-cups on legs
fun activities like brass rubbing, drystone walling and dredging canals (The canals have all been restored now – thankyou, hearty young people of the 70s.)
parties where the music was so loud you couldn't talk to anybody
Muzak (“light” background music)

over-plucked eyebrows
the word “psychosomatic
authoritarian sects that took all your money (strangely popular in those freedom-loving times)

gullibility about macrobiotic diets, pyramid power, biofeedback, gestalt therapy, iridology, ley lines, earth energies, negative ions, out-of-body experiences, UFOs, crop circles, karma
suspicion of science and logic

Marxists and feminists who could take the fun out of anything
arguing about what “equality” means (Just like now, really.)
mansplanations about why women can’t be airline pilots, bishops etc (Just like now, really.)
communes, open relationships, wife-swappingban on trying to make yourself look attractive
hatred of the “nuclear family” (so you couldn’t say you wanted one)
hatred and suspicion of love and romance (probably a bourgeois construct)
having no word to describe the person who shared your life (“Boyfriend” had become unsayable and “partner” hadn’t come along. People experimented with “lover” and “fellow” but sounded desperately self-conscious.)
repressive mantras like “If you can’t get what you want, change your want”.

Or the 60s, or the 50s.

Friday 17 January 2014

What I Don't Miss About the 60s

acrilan, crimplene and orlon (man-made fibres)
American Tan tights

back-combing (your hair)
brushed nylon dressing gowns

cocktail parties
coral lipstick

electric carving knives, gas powered “corkscrews”, garbage grinders
frumpy taffeta evening dresses with beaded bodices

melon (It was in everything, and it was very hard to say you didn’t like it.)
nylon nighties
nylon sheets

oxtail soup
Pakamacs (foldaway plastic raincoats)

pale blue eyeshadow (It was almost obligatory and suited nobody. But only beatniks wore brown, grey or green.)

passementerie (braid glued onto lampshades and wastepaper bins)
plastic bath hats
plastic raincoats

progress (that you couldn’t stand in the way of – it always meant “knocking something down”)
prosciutto con melone (raw, cured ham with melon)

replacing town centres with shopping “precincts”

rice salad made of plain white rice, frozen peas, diced carrot and peanuts, with no dressing (It evolved – people added raisins and red pepper and it was even less edible.)

roll-ons to hold up your stockings
rollers (for creating a back-combed, bouffant hairstyle)
rubber swimming caps with chinstraps

sleeveless dresses and nylon stockings that dictated extreme “personal grooming”
steak Tartare (raw minced steak with a raw egg)

the Mass in English (and the disappearance of plainsong)
Toby jugs (hideous ornaments in the shape of fat old men)

The 50s

Thursday 16 January 2014

Skeuomorphs 2: Clothes

Why did a lady’s dust coat (long, shapeless, invented to keep the dust off clothes in early 20th cent open cars) become a “duster” coat – still waistless but knee-length? A similar coat that stops at the hips is called a car coat. But we don’t need to keep out the dust any more, or restrict them to in-car wear. And they’re never made out of dusters.

Men’s trousers were designed to have a high waistband, attached to braces. They were baggy and had pleats. The waistband and braces were hidden by the waistcoat. Waistcoats and braces went out, so the waistband had to be tight enough to keep the bags up. The waist moved lower in the 70s and again in the 90s (after the “baggy trousers” 80s), but the pleats stayed, now looking rather ridiculous. And there’s no room to put anything in your pockets. Americans are terrified of something called “highwater pants”.

In the 18th century, ballerinas daringly shortened their long skirts to show their (gasp!) ankles. By the 1840s tutus had become knee-length, by the 1890s thigh-length – but they were still a “cut-off” ordinary dress. In the 1950s, stiff nylon net transformed them into a ridiculous saucer shape (sometimes with an 1840s bodice). Couldn’t they at least go back to the knee-length style for 1840s ballets?

The same thing happened to tennis dresses. They were floor-length, then knee-length, and you wore pants underneath. The skirts got shorter and shorter, but the pants were still pants, not shorts, made more decent (but more underwear-like) by rows of frills or lace. Odd, in the prudish 50s.

A tea gown was a kind of posh dressing gown which a woman could wear at home but not out, and probably not when company was present. According to etiquette guru Emily Post, tea gowns were “made of rather gorgeous materials” and “went on easily”, and if you were dining at home you could keep it on for dinner. You could wear gorgeous materials (velvet) at home because they wouldn’t get damaged en route to someone else's house, and the garment was probably warm and looser than your normal clothes and you might even leave off your corset. Also the tea gown had a high neck and long sleeves, unlike chilly evening dresses. It mutated into a quilted housecoat which the 50s housewife would keep on for breakfast and to wash up, sweep and make the beds. Then she would get dressed in a jumper, skirt and stockings, do her face at the dressing table, and put on a hat and gloves to go out shopping.

Boys’ shorts originally reached the knee, meeting stockings gartered above the knee. By the 1970s, this ensemble had morphed into ankle socks and very, VERY short shorts. (Hems rose with miniskirts and didn’t immediately descend when skirts fell.) The child’s entire leg was exposed to snow, rain and wind. Schoolboys now wear trousers.

More here.

Monday 13 January 2014

What I Don't Miss About the 50s I

BBC Light Programme - always playing Tea for Two, The Scottish Soldier and Wonderful World, or kitsch arrangements of decent music (Sing Something Simple)

barley sugar
beetroot in white sauce, cold mutton, boiled cabbage, boiled potatoes, junket, mince, radishes
“car sweets” in tins
tiny rations of butter (it really had been rationed for about 10 years)
tiny rations of sugar (“It doesn’t need it! It’s sweet already!”)
butter pats, butter curls, butter knives and sugar tongs
hugely elaborate and unnecessarily formal table settings for the tasteless, stodgy, repulsive, dry food
being forbidden ketchup or chutney or anything that might have made the food slightly more bearable
being made to eat the food you didn't like first
not eating the new bread until you’d eaten all the stale bread (so you never ate fresh bread)

fear of “spoiling” children
telling children they were lazy or selfish, instead of dyslexic or shy
boarding schools
bullying and being told to ignore it

dip pens, fountain pens
hard loo paper

nylon nighties
nylon sheets
paraffin, its smell, and the delusion that you could heat a room with a paraffin stove

buff, fawn and camel (colours)
boys and men dressed exclusively in buff, fawn, mustard, grey, forest green, burgundy, charcoal, khaki, airforce blue

sports like walking races, hurdling races and water polo

unfunny jokes
unheated railway waiting rooms
unheated rooms

And then along came the 60s, bringing the Beatles, Instant Whip and Lyons sandwich cake, hurrah!

Friday 10 January 2014

Whatever Happened To....? 28

Now a mini ebook.

banana sandwiches

Bulgarian wine (Bull’s Blood)

cigarette dispensers (you put them out at cocktail parties)
cocktail cigarettes (extra-long, in different colours) (Cocktail Sobranies still avail)
cocktail matches (extra-long, in different colours)

complaining about all this computer jargon that’s polluting our language (80s)

deep lace borders on Catholic vestments (and altar cloths) (Led outraged Victorians to call them “priests in petticoats”.)

dried lotus seed pods
drinks called Something Cup
(the Ralgex of its day)

ginger cake (with bits of crystallised ginger)
green pasta
having conniption fits about CRB checks (and claiming that they would make ordinary life utterly impossible)
humiliation humour
(popular when I was young – back now unfortunately.)

mimeographs, jellygraphs, comptometers (whatever they were)

parchment lampshades with fake medieval writing/silhouettes of the Manhattan skyline/silhouettes of minarets, palmtrees and camels

people who said that silent films were better than talkies, that black and white films were better than colour, that b/w telly was better than colour

sardine sandwichessuggestions that we should make bangles and tumblers out of old wine bottles (you can get a bottle cutter from Artfire – don't try this at home)

Swiss braid (it may be having a moment)

taking all the packaging off your shopping at the checkout, and handing it back to the cashier saying “I don’t need this”. (I suspect nobody ever did.)

that 1854 speech by Chief Seattle ("Yonder sky that has wept tears of compassion upon my people for centuries untold..." Found to be made up much later, like Desiderata, or "Go Placidly...")

toasting forks
tomato sandwiches

trickle-down theory (like the Bilbao Effect – build iconic building, area will regenerate itself)

uniform incorporating bicorne hats with egrets’ feathers

More here, and links to the rest.

Reasons to Be Cheerful 9

Successive acts giving people rights (to complain, to protection) have made society far less authoritarian than it was 30, 40, 50 years ago. Some allege that their freedom is limited by the proliferation of laws and people claiming they have a right not to be offended. They know what they can do.
476 The Western Roman Empire ends

1095 Pope Urban II proclaims the First Crusade at the Council of Clermont because "Deus vult" (God wills it).

Putney Debates The Levellers call for: “All power to rest with the people through Parliament,  and the Commons to meet every two years. The native rights of all Englishmen were to be guaranteed – freedom of religion, freedom from conscription, and equality before the law. Perhaps most radical of all, every man (but no woman) was to have the vote, regardless of whether he held property and thus had ‘a fixed stake in the Kingdom’. Cromwell and the army leadership were horrified – the Leveller proposals amounted to anarchy. … The last ringleaders were shot against the Church wall in Burford in 1649... When Cromwell died in 1658, the army ushered in the return of the monarchy to England within two years. It would take over two hundred years for the demands of the Levellers – let alone the call for universal suffrage – to be heard again on these shores." (Laurie Blair, 2013)

1750 The Sale of Spirits Act (the Gin Act) eliminates small gin shops
1804 French rule ends in Haiti and it becomes the first black republic and second independent country in the Americas
1814 The Waltz is permitted at public ballroom Almack’s
1834 Spanish Inquisition is abolished
1835 Cruelty to Animals Act
1856 First plastic, Parkesine, patented
1869 North German Parliament proclaims Jewish emancipation1871 All restrictions on Jewish life in Germany removed

1876 Birmingham Council bans the building of back-to-backs
1880 University of Pennsylvania awards its first degree to a woman. University of Cambridge? 1948.
1891 Custody of Children Act

1902 Pharmacy Act orders that bottles for poisonous and non-toxic products must be distinguishable by touch
1911 Protection of Animals Act outlaws badger baiting
1923 International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry says that ALUMINIUM and ALUMINUM are both acceptable
1926 Act ends reporting of divorce case details in newspapers
1930 Women are allowed to bathe in the Serpentine (a lake in Hyde Park)
1947 End of First Division and Second Division prisoners. First Div, upper-class political prisoners, really did enjoy better than holiday camp conditions.
1948-53 Penal servitude (slave labour) and hard labour abolished in prisons
1955 Divorcés allowed into Royal Enclosure at Ascot, but not onto the Queen’s Lawn
1960 Ruby Bridges, 6, faces a screaming mob to attend school (US schools are now integrated)

1970 Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act abolishes the ability to sue for breach of promise to marry "In the Canadian province of Saskatchewan, the breach of promise action was only formally abolished in 2010.” (Wikipedia)

1971 Women are admitted to the US National Press Association
"After the National Press Club admitted the first African-American male journalist in 1955, female journalists escalated their fight for entry. In December 1970, members of the Women's National Press Club voted to allow men into their club and renamed it the Washington Press Club. The next month, the National Press Club voted 227 to 56 to admit women. In 1985, the two clubs merged." (Wikipedia)

1973 Women stockbrokers allowed on the trading floor of the London Stock Exchange
70s and 80s The “fagging” system in public schools fades away

For the last few decades, boarding school enrolment has been falling fast: from about 120,000 in 1981, to 66,776 in 2013 (37,171 boys compared to 29,605 girls). ( "Boarding at the age of 7 has long ceased to be significant. The Independent Schools Council census for 1999 shows that out of 71,252 boarders only 378 or 0.5% were under 8. The 2011 census shows that out of 68,102 boarders only 198 or 0.3% were under the age of 8." (Guardian)

1970 Restaurants no longer ban women for wearing trousers (evening trousers become a thing)
1970s It becomes acceptable for women to wear trousers at work
1990s It becomes acceptable for women musicians to wear trousers in concerts

1983 We cease to be subjects and become citizens

1983 Chief Constable James Anderton said “No machine should be allowed to get in between the suspect and his interrogator. It would break that essential rapport which a detective needs to elicit an admission of guilt legitimately.”
1984 Police and Criminal Evidence Act dictates that police interviews must be recorded (And now police are going to wear video cameras that suspects can see.)

1989 Regulations come into effect for mandatory rear seatbelt wearing by children
1990 The Swiss canton of Appenzell Innerrhoden gives women the vote, the last to do so. ("As if time had stood still" boasts its website.)

1994 Apartheid in South Africa dismantled

1997 BBC drops the National Anthem. It's also dropped from theatres and cinemas.

2001 The Royal Ulster Constabulary is  replaced by the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI). Recruits were recruited on the basis of 50% Catholic, 50% Protestant.

2012 Stalking becomes a criminal offence in England and Wales

1865 Ku Klux Klan founded to establish white supremacy in the South of the US
1871 KKK banned by Congress
1880 KKK all but disappears
1915 KKK revives
“In the end its violent views brought about its own demise. The KKK still exists today in a highly dilute form but its actions are muted and most  members have drifted away to join the right-wing neo-Nazi groups that follow the same racist agenda.” (Secret Societies, Nick Harding)
2014 The KKK have a few thousand members, down from millions.

Well done us
We removed the need for land ownership to qualify to vote; we removed dual voting rights from those with more than one property; we lowered the voting age; we introduced secret ballots for MPs; we abolished the hereditary principle in the House of Lords; we introduced the Parliament Acts allowing the House of Commons to decide matters on its own. More significantly we had the Constitutional Reform Act 2005 which set up the Supreme Court and removed the functions of Speaker of the House of Lords and Head of the Judiciary of England and Wales from the office of Lord Chancellor.

And some time in the late 20th century we stopped giving children toy guns.

In 2013...

Viagra has crowded out most of the market for aphrodisiacs in Chinese TCM (traditional Chinese medicine) buyers… TCM is dying fast. (Twitter, 2013-09-13)

Northern Ireland lifts ban on allowing gay couples to adopt.
Ireland will recognise foreign same-sex marriages.
There's talk of raising the age for joining the Army from 16 to 18.
China is to relax its one-child policy.
The UK is discussing lowering the age of consent. (Germany 14, France 15 – US 18)
Courts are discussing removing Bibles and getting witnesses to promise to tell the truth.
The Washington Redskins are debating changing their name.

Less than cheerful
Cycle lanes “have no legal standing, they’re just blue paint”. (Police crash investigator, Oct 15 2013)

In 2012, approx. 6.6m children worldwide died before their fifth birthday - this is half of under-fives who died in 1990. (@WHO)

More here, and links to the rest.
More at

Wednesday 8 January 2014

Received Ideas II

Buried in landfill

Here's a sample from my mini ebook Clichés: A Dictionary of Received Ideas.

ACADEMICS People who live in ivory towers and speak a weird jargon only they can understand.

AVANT GARDE The avant garde get to the future before the rest of us. In 20 years we will all be doing what they are doing now. (70s. “The avant garde is now a period style.” Robert Hughes)

BEES Scent enrages them. They die once they have stung you. Do not attack unless provoked, unlike wasps. If you keep perfectly still they won’t sting you. Nobody knows how they can fly.

BEGGARS You should never give money to beggars, they make thousands as it is. Many beggars have dogs because they get extra benefits for their food. While taking a break from a Waiting for Godot dress rehearsal in Australia, actor Ian Mackellen was mistaken for a beggar – a passer-by put a dollar in his hat.

BRAIN We only use 10% of our brain. If only we could harness the rest!

BUSINESS IDEAS Of any area, say: “There used to be money in this game a few years ago, but not any more. It’s overcrowded.”

CAMELS Store water in their humps. Can go for weeks without drinking. The Arabs have 6,000 words for “camel”.

CANNES The domes of the Carlton Hotel, Cannes are modelled on the breasts of courtesan and gambler La Belle Otéro.

CINDERELLA’S SLIPPER Was vert (green), or made of vair (fur) not verre (glass). (Charles Perrault wrote “verre”; “vair” was a later suggestion by Balzac.)

DARWINISM We shouldn’t believe in it because it led to social Darwinism. “The survival of the fittest” is a tautology/no substitute for “love thy neighbour”; caused laissez faire capitalism; means that only the fittest ought to survive.

DUTCH The Dutch considered adopting English as their official language after a doctor discovered that speaking Dutch damaged the vocal cords.

EARLY CHRISTIANS Were the first true communists.

EXISTENTIALISM Consists of thinking you don’t exist. Is meaningless.

FAIRISLE JUMPERS The patterns were brought to the island by shipwrecked sailors from the Spanish Armada.

FOOD MILES Always mention “beans from Kenya”.

GAVELS Banged constantly by judges wearing long wigs. (British judges wear small wigs in court and tap a pencil for silence.)

HALLOWEEN An American import. Actually Scottish. Too commercialised. It’s real name is All Hallows’ Eve. People who leave out the apostrophe should be shot.

HUMOURISTS Don’t laugh at their own jokes. Cracker jokes are written by dreary men in suits.

ICELANDIC Has no word for “please”, and 45 words for “green”.

IRVING BERLIN Could only play on the white/black notes.

JANE AUSTEN A spinster obsessed with social niceties and marrying for money. Never wrote about sex or poor people. Her novels expose a snobbish, stratified society quite unlike our own.

JULIUS CAESAR The first person to be born by Caesarian section. The operation is named after him.

KAFKA Really a very funny writer.

KIRSTIE ALLSOPP She is “jolly hockeysticks”.

LEAF FROM 8TH CENTURY MISSAL, PRICELESS JAPANESE PRINT Always found in a grocer’s shop being used to wrap butter.

LYING Everybody tells ten lies a day.

MACBETH Said “Lead on, Macduff”. The “eye of newt” speech is an authentic witches’ curse, which is why all productions of “the Scottish play” are dogged with disaster.

MURANO To preserve trade secrets, the island’s famous glassblowers were executed if they tried to leave.

NAPOLEON His Russian campaign failed because the French soldiers’ tin buttons decayed in the extreme cold.

NEANDERTHALS Dim, brutal and primitive. Died out because they were stupider than us. We never interbred with them. OK, maybe once or twice. Ohhh… all the time. Right. They were much cleverer than previously thought, and wore necklaces and buried their dead.

OIL Made of dead dinosaurs, hence “fossil fuel”.

OPERA The plots are absurd and the acting is artificial; one only goes for the singing/music. The singing is frightful and the music dull; one only goes for the acting/drama/lavish production.

PALMISTRY Your heart rules your head, or vice versa.

PUNS There are no puns in French/German.

QUEEN’S HANDBAG What does Queen Elizabeth II carry in her handbag? If anyone finds out, they are never seen again. She uses the bag to signal discreetly to her ladies-in-waiting, and hangs it on a hook under the dinner-table.

RABBITS Owning a rabbit will teach your child responsibility.

RUSSIAN ARISTOCRATS Ended every toast (“Cheers!”) by throwing their wine glasses into the fire. Or was it the Scots?

SCHOOLS Standards are slipping! If only we could get back to the good old days of [insert date when you were 10].

STATELY HOME On a tour of a stately home, the guide opens a door to find a couple in flagrante. Sometimes he shuts the door quickly explaining that they are laying the carpet. If the Queen Mother is in the party, she murmurs “How nice!”.

TELLYTUBBIES Will prevent children learning to speak. (There is no sign of a blighted Tellytubby generation, and the middle classes have moved on to other scares.)

TEMPLE OF MITHRAS Was reconstructed the wrong way round.

UFOs The idea of little green men from outer space is absurd, of course, but people need a sense of mystery. (No longer so popular.) Scientists would refuse to believe in UFOs if one landed in their front garden.

VERBING NOUNS Weirds language! American. Utterly beyond the pale. Should be moth-balled.

WASHING In the olden days, people never washed. Queen Elizabeth I had a bath once a year.

WICKER MAN The original footage is buried in landfill under the M4 motorway.

More here.

Buy the book here for £1.50:
Clichés: A Dictionary of Received Ideas

Tuesday 7 January 2014

Americanisms V

Ghastly Americanisms are polluting our language and anybody who says "Can I get a latte?" should be shot. So why don't we object to:

pooch for dog
for shop
for rise
not that hard of a task etc
Crystal Palace host Everton
(for “play host to”)
cook book for cookery book
for curriculum vitae
for about
deadly force

prep for prepare
take a left
for baby buggy for pushchair
morgue and casket for mortuary and coffin
cane for stick
laid back

But these still sound American:

Calling Oxford Street “Oxford” etc.
common or garden
for brand (from “tarred with the same brush”.)
take a hit
(on standards): reduce
I guess
(our supermarket shop ends up in the trash)
poster boy

I’m headed to the beach.
I’m looking real close.
I’m OK with that.
I’m comfortable with that.

You gotta be joking!
Surely you jest!
What do you think of the show so far?
The opera ain’t over till the fat lady sings.

And we hate:

Who knew?
What’s not to like?

passing: "Various references to Chinua Achebe's 'passing', eg by Penguin, who should know better. Can we stamp out this American euphemism please." (Stephen Moss/‏@StephenMossGdn) (English since 1340, says OED)

More here, and links to the rest.

Saturday 4 January 2014

Inspirational Quotes 48

I see no sexism
Like many libertarians, surrealist Andre Breton had, in action, a marked authoritarian streak.

[80s women’s magazines push the idea that] maturity consists of making the best of what you have. Even if what you have is pretty crummy. It stinks.

Still, most women do get married and define themselves in relation to marriage, and will, no doubt, continue to get married.

That ineffable Buddhist gloom, which makes Calvinism look positively sprightly, begins to suffuse the text…  It’s all the dream of a dream, you see. All of it.

Of course, the British avant-garde is alive and well in the provinces.

When I was looking for boyfriends in the south [of London] in the late 50s.
All from Angela Carter, Shaking A Leg: Collected Journalism and Writings

Every feminist knows a woman can always be found to say she sees no sexism, no matter how grave the offence to her fellow women. (Jonathan Freedland)

It was no effort for her to be ingenuous, frank and girlishly delighted with everything. Theatre, Somerset Maugham

Living in such an out-of-the-way place lost us quite a number of our friends. Barbara Comyns, Our Spoons Came from Woolworths

It's pretty much a tradition for middle aged people in power to want to crush young people's freedom... (@PaulbernalUK)

I reject the ideas that life is supposed to be confusing, that life is supposed to be hard. These seem to be very prevalent ideas though. I also clearly reject the idea that life is supposed to be totally spontaneous except for the things those mean grown-ups make you do. I reject the notion that doing things that make you happy are ‘selfish’ acts that should be minimized. (Truett Ogden/@Truett)

The usual lamentation about today’s youth and their propensity to watch television, listen to the radio, dance to Elvis, play jazz records and wear their hose over their doublets. (David Aaronovitch)

Every Englishman loves a grievance and cherishes a grumble. (The Times, 28 December 1882)

More here, and links to the rest.

Twitter Haiku 6

Rain taps secret messages on my window
whilst I roll tightly into warm clouds
and drift back into slumber.
"Don't forget me" she taps.

She will remember your heart
when men are fairy tales
in storybooks written by rabbits.
(Internet sig)

My gods are older than yours
and have more tentacles.
(Internet sig)

Let God envelop you
like the winter fog.
Rest awhile.

The sun went down in Barrow in mid November.
It will rise again in mid January.
I am headed towards Anchorage.

Those coiffured, polo-necked
belle-époque grandes dames
you see sat alone on the train.

True sadness is not romantic.
It is a stab in the dark
with a rusty pair of scissors.
(Bek Hobbes/‏@Greebobek)

Attendre le bus
sur le plateau de Saclay,
une autre idée
de l'infini.
(Marie-Lan Taÿ Pamart)

A fire round the ocean;
the sun flaring into the night;
glaciers fluorescing.
(13th century explanations for the Northern Lights from Sumit Paul-Choudhary)

The trains are howling today.
Exultant on the rainy tracks.
Perhaps they're singing.
(Paul Western-Pittard ‏@Cerullean)

There's a soft rain about today.
Grey and blue like a calm blanket.
The world seems to be whispering.
(Paul Western-Pittard ‏@Cerullean)

The PinkCloud is rolling in, damp and strange.
It makes things clearer but pushes them very, very far away.
I'm a radar touching misty distances.
(Adam Nathaniel Furman)

Ich liebe Zugfahren im Regen.
Wo fährst du hin, viel spass?
(Regine Wosnitza and Angelika Schau)

Does anyone know what the rooms
behind the perforate brick are?
And do they get light
from within the plan?

Now Hanworth Park House
sits abandoned & rotting,
the trees completely surrounding it
and completely overgrown.

Is a bronze lion a type of lion?
Where is a rainbow?
Does the future exist?
Is the Queen the owner of your bedroom?
Does an inscription too worn to be read consist of words?
(Roger Keeling)

A light mist on the horizon
blurs the division
between heaven and earth.
(Suzanne Hardy ‏@glittrgirl)

After the rain,
eucalyptus in neighbours’ gardens
smells like the Blue Mountains.
(Karen Wilde ‏@wildelycreative)

A massive, hot star
burns fast
and a low mass, cool star
burns slow.
(Uni of Oregon)

This bell was broken in 1941;
Its fragments are in Zvenigorod.

Pink jeans, baby voice:
Two things I find sinister
On a grown woman

Peterborough train station.
At the Pumpkin Café
a man plays the Deal Or No Deal fruit machine.
"Live the dream!" the machine says...
(Kit Lovelace ‏@mylifeyourhands)

To an Atheist
You are an indoctrinated minion,
void of logic,
slave to a myth.

Oh. Is this how it begins?
A little irregularity.
A small shadow.
A tiny lump.
And then all that follows,
the quadruple bypass
or the collapse on the escalator
at Warren Street?
(David Aaronovitch)

Once again
the person behind me at Tesco
stands up the fallen divider.

Once again in awe
of the cosmic light trick
that takes place on August 31.
The sunlight is suddenly watery.
(Hamish Thompson ‏@Suburbman)

The Spotify Playlist
Think of it as a hand written C90
pressed into your hand,
a grainy picture of a bedsit window
pasted to the cover.

I went to IKEA for blinds,
bathroom rugs and office chairs,
and came back with plant pots,
chopping boards and clothes pegs.
(Ben Mægenmund ‏@BennyBrick)

I did not steal my plums
from the icebox. They were mine,
and they were room temperature.
(John Scalzi ‏@scalzi)

This is just to say,
I have thrown out the crossword
in Saturday’s Guardian Review.
I need to look in the dustbin,
But it’s dark.

More here, and links to the rest.