Monday 29 September 2014

Inspirational Quotes 63

Homo sapiens, doncha love'em?
From the outside, social courtship rituals look very much like a cruel and incomprehensible game. What is everybody playing at - and why does validation as a human being, admitted into intimacy with others, seem to depend on being able to play along successfully? (Dominic Fox @domfox)

I was sick of being with my friends and them being in relationships. (Singer Sam Smith, 2014)

He studied physics at Cambridge, but clocked up none of the social or romantic experiences most students take for granted. (Re Lord Browne, Guardian May 2014)

Researchers in the US have found that people admire the cocky and the unctuous even when their pretensions are exposed. (Times May 2014)

Nunney has the annoying habit of suddenly laughing AT you though… I asked him if he had any hobbies and he burst out laughing as if I’d said a hilarious punchline. (Love, Nina by Nina Stibbe on derision as a form of flirtation. She married him.)

Me: I think Jonathan hates me.
MK: I shouldn’t worry about it.
Me: I shouldn’t worry about it? That means he does. (ditto)

Dating advice, in general, falls into two categories: the completely terrible and the largely terrible. (Oliver Burkeman, G 2014-05-31)

Never make someone a priority when all you are to them is an option. (Maya Angelou)

Fixating on a woman from afar and then refusing to give up when she acts like she’s not interested is, generally, something that ends badly for everyone involved. (Daily Beast)

The “cheerleader effect” is the phenomenon that people seem more attractive when they are in a group than when they are alone. (

Apparently, couples still shun the female singleton, fearful that she'll wreck their marriages or at least their dinner-party numbers. One survey found that half of its sample never had single women as visitors, and 19% knew no single women at all. Casual disregard for this social group goes unremarked… [Mike Leigh character is] desperately clingy, and so lonely that she bursts into Tom and Gerri's hallowed home without warning in search of crumbs of affection. She wastes their time and embarrasses them, but they can't get rid of her. (Guardian)

The five marks of the Roman decaying culture:
Concern with displaying affluence instead of building wealth;
Obsession with sex and perversions of sex;
Art becomes freakish and sensationalistic instead of creative and original;
Widening disparity between very rich and very poor;
Increased demand to live off the state.
(Edward Gibbon Circulating the internet May 2014, a fake say some.)

The [fictional] “deteriorationist”… who thought everything was getting worse and worse all the time. (Muriel Jaeger, Before Victoria)

Logical positivisim was a short-lived blip. (Julian Baggini G May 2014)

You're never too old to find out you're bad at something it never occurred to you to try. (Tim Dowling May 31 2014)

We don't see ants building statues of famous ants. (BBC The Big Questions)

UKIP is in a perpetual descriptive frenzy of defining who is to blame for the world’s dreadfulness. The Big Three are the elite, the EU and the immigrants. And don’t start me on the humourless feminists. (David Aaronovitch May 2014)

Morality cannot be legislated, but behaviour can be regulated. (Martin Luther King)

Human beings have this amazing capacity to know but also not know at the same time. (John Banville)

More here, and links to the rest.

Tuesday 23 September 2014

Art Shows in London and Beyond, Autumn 2014

Rembrandt: The Late Works
National Gallery, London
15 October-18 January 2015

Late Turner
Tate Britain to 25 Jan 2015
Landscapes, seascapes, mistscapes.

Constable: The Making of a Master
Victoria and Albert Museum, London to 11 Jan 2015
Sketches, working practice, major works.

Black Chronicles II
Rivington Place, London
To 29 November
Studio portraits from the 19th and 20th centuries. Singers, lion tamers, family groups.

The Bechers
Spruth Magers Gallery to 4 Oct
Deadpan black and white photographs of industrial architecture and machinery. They are featured in:

Constructing Worlds: Photography and Architecture in the Modern AgeBarbican
25 September 2014 - 11 January 2015
Skyscrapers, suburbs, water towers.

Knitwear from Chanel to Westwood
Fashion Textile Museum, Bermondsey to 18 Jan
Stripy 20s, Tyrolean 30s, Fairisle 40s, beaded 50s, rainbow 70s, embellished 80s.

Rubens and his Legacy: Van Dyck to Cézanne
Royal Academy of Arts, London, Jan 2015

Designing the 20th Century: Life and Work of Abram Games
Jewish Museum, London to 4 Jan
Innovative poster artist behind wartime recruiting drives and peacetime adverts.

The Art and Science of Exploration
Queen's House at Greenwich to January 2015

Bridge Museum of London Docklands
To 2 November 2014
London’s bridges in art and photography.

Mottisfont Abbey in Romsey, Hampshire, has a collection of 20th century British painting.

Sickert in Dieppe
Pallant House, Chichester
July 2015

Richard Wilson (1714 - 1782) and the Transformation of European Landscape PaintingNational Museum Cardiff
Romantic landscapes filled with light.

Sunday 21 September 2014

Inspirational Quotes 62

Simon says jump in the air...

Stand out of the crowd, be a tall poppy blah blah blah.

Whereas ordinary individuals will imitate others due to perceived pressures of social desirability, autistic individuals are shown to not perceive such pressures. (The Psychologist April 2014, (review of Horizon – Living with Autism, BBC2)

General mental ability does not in itself result in success. It has to be combined with exceptional social skills to pay off. (Oliver James)

We also have a tendency to imitate high-status individuals – think of modern celebrity culture – and conform to social norms. (New Scientist, May 2014)

Another thing that will help you pick up social skills quickly is getting a job at a restaurant or in sales. Cashier or a position as a cook in a restaurant are two good choices. As far as the cook goes, you have to deal with 10+ waitresses and the people inside of the kitchen. As a cashier you've gotta deal with hundreds of customers a day. Working as a cook helped me out more than you can imagine. I got to know a lot of hot waitresses and their hot friends. (Slashdot)

See what your friends are doing and go with them. That way you feel happier to talk to people and then have a wider circle of people who you can go places to. Rinse, repeat. (Mog Wai)

I like to hang around restaurants at midday, pretending I'm on a lunchbreak, too. I sit near people who work in offices and laugh at all their stories, about their awful bosses, about all the overtime they have to do. If anyone asks, I'm called Mary and I'm a secretary. In fact, we're workmates. Since it's holiday season, I can say I'm a temp and that's why they don't recognise me. And they let me in, especially if I say: "Who do you have to sleep with around here to get some stationery?" (Susan Calman, Guardian Aug 16 12)

Barbara Ehrenreich
is really good on way that enforced positive thinking individualises problems: 'If it didn't work, you didn't try'. (@MarkOneinFour)

Positivity [may] prompt us to seek wars we can't win, make us waste time and money "improving" ourselves when the real impediments to happiness lie far beyond our control. (Lucy Ellman on Barbara Ehrenreich)

How did we get to the point that we apparently believe individual agency trumps economic and other factors in seeking work? (@MarkOneinFour)

I sometimes fear that people think that fascism arrives in fancy dress worn by grotesques and monsters as played out in endless re-runs of the Nazis. Fascism arrives as your friend. It will restore your honour, make you feel proud, protect your house, give you a job, clean up the neighbourhood, remind you of how great you once were, clear out the venal and the corrupt, remove anything you feel is unlike you… It doesn’t walk in saying, “Our programme means militias, mass imprisonments, transportations, war and persecution.” (Michael Rosen May 2014)

When powers are overthrown quickly, we look for causes in the past when often it is simply a feat of superior arms. (@byzantinepower)

Anyone hostile to research is probably benefiting from ignorance. (Erika Hall ‏@mulegirl)

In the study dealing with children’s happiness, one of the things that contributed to that happiness was lack of bullying… those who had been bullied in childhood were less likely to be in a relationship. (

Behind the façade of a bully lies an even more vicious bully. (Des Wilson, Daily Mail April 2014)

People who laugh at your jokes are more likely to be interested in having sex with you. (@UberFacts)

“Astronomers should leave to astrologers the task of seeking out the cause of earthly events in the stars,” the editors of the New York Times wrote [about the asteroid extinction theory]. Complex events seldom have simple explanations.” [Distinguished physicist] Walter Alvarez wrote back and told them their claim was contradicted by the entire history of physics. (LRB May 2014)

We don't want to be Christians, but we want to live in a society in which everybody else behaves as though they are. (Andrew Marr)

Almost every major theorist on human behaviour in the last 100 years predicted that it was just a matter of time before religion was a vestige of the past. But the world persists in being a very religious place. (

Travelling is an elaborate and expensive middle class life avoidance strategy.
(G November 24, 2005)

More here, and links to the rest.

Saturday 20 September 2014

Inspirational Quotes 61

Be confident, and don't mention that you want children. Right. do have to be approachable. Guys get intimidated easily when they meet a confident woman. ( And latest research suggests that people like you more if you're humble, according to the British Psychological Society.)

Being coy about children is a bizarre and counter-productive custom. ( of bullying were also more likely to have lower educational levels, less likely to be in a relationship and more likely to report lower quality of life. (Reuters April 2014)

Try and give the compliment in a timely manner - don't wait until she is getting in a taxi to compliment her dress, for example, do so when you first meet her. A spontaneous response always feels more genuine. (Debrett’s online)

That homophobia remains rife among gay men is hardly surprising. They grow up in a society that teaches that settling down with a woman is the natural order of things. (Owen Jones, April 2014)

Pairing off and procreation – the rituals of all time and every place. (Penelope Lively)

I thought I would be married with kids by now. (Actor Matthew Rhys, 39)
There is also evidence to suggest that the way we behave is, in part, influenced by the ways in which we are seen by others … throughout human history the discernment of these social groups has been exploited for every conceivable purpose: from the most sophisticated of political enterprises ... to the satisfaction of the most fundamental human desires (including approval, prestige, friendship and love, a sense of belonging, self-enhancement, or just living in a comprehensible world among others worthy of trust … there is a rich history of research showing that we have a tendency to conform to the majority standard of our social groups (Asch, 1956) while denying this is happening, even to the extent of misremembering the details of the event (Buehler and Griffin, 1994) and decrying the nonconformist to the rest of the group (Marques et al 2001). (The Psychologist)

Life is full of false starts. (E.M. Forster)

He walked about London for nearly four hours. The complete privacy of a sojourn among four million total strangers was comforting. (Margery Allingham)

Most of us have successive ‘circles’ of friends  – the inner core of people we can call on day or night, then friends we socialise fairly regularly with, then colleagues and casual pals, and on the outer fringes acquaintances and people we stay in only sporadic contact with. (

The whole relationship between adults and children has changed, reflecting the century’s political inclinations. It is now much more egalitarian. (Penelope Lively)

Fish are the "smooth jazz" of pets. (@Ish)

Indeed, the real expert must always deal with truth. Therefore, he sometimes finds it necessary to say things that are unpleasant or implausible, things that we do not want to hear. On the other hand, the man out to defraud us will be very careful to only tell us what we are predisposed to believe. (Howard S. Katz, Gold Standard Time)

All things are subject to interpretation; whichever interpretation prevails at a given time is a function of power and not truth. (Nietzsche)

The more you go to the pub, the more people you meet, the more freelance work you get, therefore going to the pub is working. (Ben Mægenmund ‏@BennyBrick)

‏Looking at a lot of social start up I keep thinking: "there's some people there who could do with less messianic self belief". (@MarkOneinFour)

Revenge, they say, is a dish best served cold. It is also delicious raw, slow-cooked in a Dutch oven, parboiled, baked or fricasseed. (WSJ April 14)

More here, and links to the rest.

Tuesday 16 September 2014

Twitter Haiku 8

M25 at dusk.
Everything, everywhere grey.
Wake me when we're there.
(Andrew Baker ‏@ajbaker)

We are on a spinning rock
floating through space,
where all of its beauty can be traced
to a handful of chemicals.

Only when I am in public
and far away from home
do I realise my jeans
are covered in butternut squash.
(Hannah Cruse ‏@RoxieRoulette)

Keep an eye out tonight for Mars and Saturn:
They will appear close to one another,
Low in the southwest as the sky darkens.

Abruptly awoken by crow
announcing a murder.
(@sumit Sumit Paul-Choudhury)

Now at the foot of One Canada Square
With a spray of rain dusting my face,
Wind in my hair. Intense!

Currently sat on a dark field on Bodmin Moor,
listening to wild ponies whinnying
in the not-too-great-a distance.
Probably the Beast.
(Richard Firth-Godbehere)

Seven hours of passing sunny landscapes,
and insects liquefying in small explosions
on the windscreen. Get out of the car
to a breeze and the smell of pines.
(AdamNathanielFurman ‏@Furmadamadam)

During family snorkel
we look up & see
a rocky outcrop
with fluffy Herring Gull chicks
precariously teetering
on narrow platforms.

There's something beautiful
about the manner in which
railway workers stare up
at the slow passing trains.
(Andrew Male ‏@AndrewMaleMojo)

Damp and drearily dreary.
Cool. Love this weather.
(Bek Hobbes ‏@Greebobek)

Through the sealed double glazing
and hum of aircon,
the distant sound of bells
from a City church.
(Hugh Pearman)

Poetry is like
a bike helmet for the soul
against the car wreck of life.
‏(AdamNathanielFurman ‏@Furmadamadam)

The night sky
is eerily still & quiet.
Hoping for an almighty crack of thunder
& lighting display!

A gloved hand just appeared
over the wall of the cemetery next door
clutching a wire brush.

Brilliant blue sky
and shocking white fibrous tops.
It's an active atmosphere
in south London.
(BBC's Alex Deakin predicts storms)

Having the Abbey all to myself is a rare treat.
Locking up is one of my favourite duties.
Stood alone in the dark, surrounded by kings.

I'm just a few days away
from being woken
by the high-pitched shriek
of summer swifts!
(Maya Plass)

I thought the leaves
in the wind
were all butterflies.
(AdamNathanielFurman ‏@Furmadamadam)

My small homemade scone
started to emit smoke from the top
like a mini-Etna.

More here, and links to the rest.

Sunday 14 September 2014

Grammar: And Rightly So!

And rightly so! As people have become so fond of saying in the last 10 years – or so. Why? It’s so pompous and Victorian. What’s wrong with “and rightly”?

“So” means “thus”, or “like that”, and needs an adjective or adjectival clause to refer back to, for example:

 Herat, in western Afghanistan, is one destination in that tragic country that is still safe, or relatively so. (William Dalrymple, FT,  Dec 10 2010)

A classic science fiction novel, and justifiably so. (25 Nov 2000)
Gaudy, but authentically so. (Jonathan Foyle)
Blowy winds, particularly so across the southwest. (Carol Kirkland on BBC Breakfast 2013-02-04)
America is actually really expensive and a lot of other places are much less so. (

Not wrong, but awkward:

 Marriage is in a state of flux as a result of cultural changes, and inevitably so. (Guardian November 9, 2010) ...and this is inevitable.


There has been widespread criticism of this, and rightly so. (

You wouldn’t write: “There has rightly so been widespread criticism...”, you’d write: “There has – rightly – been widespread criticism...” So, end your sentence “and rightly”.

Defence spending will fall - and rightly so. (New Statesman)
George Osborne blames the voters. And rightly so. (Telegraph Blogs)
S. Hawking challenged... and rightly so. (
When I was starting out, my work was savaged. Rightfully so. (Linkedin commenter)

The awards are already piling up for The King’s Speech, and rightly so. Times Jan 7 11
There are a lot of laws to protect the rhino these days – and quite rightly so. (Antiques Roadshow)
The show that made Roger Moore a star and rightly so. (imdb comment)
I know this is almost everyone’s favourite book – but rightly so. (Johnnie Boden, The Week)

“Quite rightly” would do for all of these.

Her paper seems to be being ignored by anti-sex work and anti-adult industry feminists. Unsurprisingly so. (

How about putting “unsurprisingly” at the top of the sentence? Can we not start a sentence with an adverb? Or it could end “This is not surprising.” Or even “Are you surprised?” (And isn’t “adult industry” a great euphemism?)

Hislop played up to his persona, but funnily so… (Guardian September 6, 2011)
They thought we weren’t going to solve it. And quite understandably so. (The Perfect Murder)
Urine is urine? Undeniably so. (NS Feb 2012).
He was a hero of science. Undoubtedly so!
Sage bushes will make a 3ft mound, but weakly so. (Times April 2013)

This is your reward, and deservedly so. ( ...and you deserve it.

 The green leaves of beetroot often overlooked, but undeservedly so. (Times May 24 2014) ...often undeservedly overlooked.


While I never find Miss Marple annoying, I do find Miss Silver so.
While I never find Miss Marple annoying, Miss Silver irritates me.

Kentucky has a higher teen-motherhood rate than the national average, but not radically so. (National Review, Dec 2013)
Kentucky’s teen-motherhood rate is higher than the national average, but not radically so.OR:
Kentucky has a higher teen-motherhood rate than the national average, but the difference is small.

Prince William is a model of discretion these days – but as a child, he was rather less so. (The Week) ...he was rather less tactful.

Campion himself is rather recessive, but then as I recall it he is rather so in Allingham's later work as well. (Passing Tramp) ...he is fairly retiring.

Even [the police] were bored and so when something came along that looked like trouble it was made to be so. (LRB July 2013) was turned into a problem.


He gave his opinion that the office of monarch, once abolished, should stay so. (Wikipedia)
...the office of monarch, once abolished, should stay abolished.
(Writers are terrified of repetition – but we have nothing to fear but fear itself.)

There is no such thing as the unconscious mind; there is brain activity that is not represented in consciousness or only partially so. (Michael Heap)
There is no such thing as the unconscious mind; there is brain activity that is not represented in consciousness – or is represented only partially.


We are a country moving forward and will go on being so. (Julia Gillard)
We will go on being one.

Those teaching children religion never see it as indoctrination, but if they taught political ideology in the same way it would be seen as so. (Noel McGivern ‏@Good_Beard) would be seen as such.

More grammar here.

Saturday 13 September 2014

Singing in the Shrouds by Ngaio Marsh

Singing in the Shrouds has a "lifeboat" plot: some disparate characters are sailing to South Africa as passengers on a cargo boat. It was published in 1958.

Among those present are:

Mrs Dillington Blick, a large but beautiful divorcee of about 40. I see her played by Diana Dors.
Mr and Mrs Cuddy, who are aggressively lower middle-class.
The hard-drinking captain.
Miss Abbott, an expert on early church music who is broken-hearted because her best friend has got engaged.
Aubyn Dale, a David Frost-like character who fronts a confessional TV show. He also has a drink problem and an oily professional manner, but he's not all bad, even if he does advertise ladies' swimwear.
Dennis, an endearing gay steward.
Tim Makepeace, the ship's doctor, an upstanding young man who falls for...
Jemima Carmichael, who is on the cruise to forget that she has been stood up at the altar.
Mr Merryman, a retired schoolteacher.
Father Jourdain, a high church monk and priest.
Donald McAngus, an eccentric elderly Scotsman.  


Roderick Alleyn, under cover in search of the "flower murderer", who may be aboard.

The "flower murderer" has strangled several girls at ten-day intervals, and strewn their bodies with crushed flowers and broken necklaces. The action plays out over several days as the cast travel to the tropics. The various characters reveal more about themselves (I believe this is known as "character development") as Alleyn tries to steer the conversation towards what they were all doing on the night of the murders - particularly the last, which took place the night they sailed. The flower murderer sings as he kills - but his voice could be a man's or a woman's.

The story starts on the bus transporting the passengers to the docks – they all reveal their characters in various ways. Father Jourdain chats to a brother who has come to see him off, Mrs D-B discusses the other passengers with a friend ("My dear!"). Miss Abbott catches up on the murders in Mr Merryman's newspaper and he tetchily requests her to stop reading over his shoulder. Tim points out places of interest to Jemima.

Once on board, both the captain and Dale fall for Mrs Dillington Blick; Mr Merryman is inclined to get cross about pedantic points (he hates the "tele-viz-ee-on"); Father Jourdain tries to keep the peace. We enjoy the cruise with everybody as they give cocktail parties, stop off in the Canary Islands and rig up a swimming pool on deck.

But then a broken doll is found - strangled with a string of beads. Alleyn takes several of the men into his confidence (after they've established alibis). The captain is already in the know, but refuses to believe there's a murderer aboard. Father Jourdain and Tim Makepeace agree to make sure the ladies are never alone. Mrs D-B is delighted to find herself shadowed by some bloke wherever she goes. Her nickname for Alleyn is "the gorgeous brute".

But they fail to prevent the next murder - and the reveal of the killer's identity is quite dramatic. Less convincing is the Freudian explanation for his actions. I prefer Father Jourdain's (sin).

And yes, social attitudes are of their time. Society was becoming more accepting, but homosexuality was treated rather nervously as a joke. (The law was not relaxed until 1967.) Both Marsh and the characters laugh at Dennis and Miss Abbott. The Cuddies, also, are turned into grotesques, with their tales of masonic lodges and each other's ailments. They even call each other "dear"!

But this is an enjoyable book, and a time-capsule of the late 50s.

More on Ngaio Marsh here, and links to the rest.

Was Marsh a snob?

Friday 5 September 2014


This OR that...

Neither, Nor, Just, Both, Either, Or, Only, Not Only But Also, As Well As...

She bought neither a new dress, nor an expensive handbag.
She neither bought a new dress nor had her hair done.

Progress will neither be quick nor easy.
Progress will be neither quick nor easy. (Adjective/adjective.)

It seems that anyone can qualify for this group nowadays, as long as “you are neither descended from the Saxe-Coburg dynasty nor do your children work up chimneys and smoke Lambert and Butler”. (FT, Jim Pickard, Aug 10)

As long as “you neither descend from the Saxe-Coburg dynasty nor possess children who work up chimneys and smoke Lambert and Butler”. (Verb/verb.)

But that’s inelegant. How’s this?

It seems that anyone can qualify for this group nowadays, unless they’re either descended from the Saxe-Coburg dynasty, or have children who “work up chimneys and smoke Lambert and Butler”.
(If you get stuck in a neither/nor, see if you can switch to either/or.)

Dinner here was neither “too attenuated, nor tried the patience with smart-alecky notions”.Dinner here was neither “too attenuated”, nor over-full of “smart-alecky notions”. (Description/description.)

Anthropologists discover one American who neither thinks Obama is the Messiah or Satan!

Anthropologists discover one American who thinks Obama is neither the Messiah nor Satan. (Proper noun/proper noun.) But he might think Obama is an extraterrestrial...

Anthropologists discover one American who neither thinks Obama is the Messiah, nor imagines he is Satan. (Verb/verb.)

Romanian orphans were randomized to receive either foster care or to stay in an orphanage.
(Scientific American Jan 08)
Romanian orphans were randomized to receive either foster or orphanage care.

Or you could do this: either receive foster care or stay in an orphanage. (Verb/verb. But now we’ve split an infinitive.)
...either to receive foster care or to stay in an orphanage.

The Tory spin doctor was either “incompetent” – or he is failing to tell the truth.
Either the Tory spin doctor was “incompetent” – or he is failing to tell the truth.
The Tory spin doctor was either "incompetent" or a liar.

Gene therapy would only be considered for a fetus if it has a condition that is either fatal or would cause a great deal of suffering. Gene therapy would be considered for a fetus only if its condition is either fatal or likely to cause a great deal of suffering.

It is both popular and costs someone else money.

It is costs? “It both is popular and costs someone else money.” That’s awkward. Lose the "both".

It’s popular – and what’s more, it costs someone else money.

Victims feel that the police are both unaware and indifferent to this crime.

The police are unaware this crime? How about:

Victims feel that the police are both unaware of and indifferent to this crime.

(But how can they be indifferent if they are unaware?)

Only ever comb your hair when it's wet.

So you can't comb your hair when it's dry, or you can't brush your hair when it's wet, or you can only comb your hair when it's raining? Or, when it starts raining, you can do nothing but comb your hair?

I think you mean:
Comb your hair only when it is wet. (Keep the “only” next to the bit it governs. This is less ambiguous.)

Guardianistas need only apply! (Amazon review headline)
I think they mean “Only Guardianistas need apply.”

Booker took advantage of the real-time capabilities of [Twitter] not only to track streets that still needed plowing and dispatch crews but also to personally show up where needed by the elderly and disabled to help shovel, push out stuck cars, and deliver supplies.


The Seacole campaign has not only changed her occupation, but her race.
(History Today)

The Seacole campaign has not only changed her occupation, but altered her race. (Verb/verb.)
The Seacole campaign has changed not only her occupation, but her race. (Noun/noun.)

Now do you understand why sub editors have no time to stress over less and fewer?

Tuesday 2 September 2014

Euphemisms about Humour and Money (in quotes)

Southern lady
“First published in 1975, Florence King's long spoof of Southerners and all they hold dear comes across as brittle and occasionally arch.” (Publisher's Weekly on Southern Ladies and Gentlemen They mean "critical".)

“Her books tend to be laced with a large dollop of (at times slightly dark) humour.” ( on Joanna Cannan. They mean "critical" again. There are silly grownups - sentimental animal lovers who transgress the country code, leave gates open and lose dogs - and some pretty vicious children.)

“What humour there is, is all so gentle as to be practically nonexistent - or perhaps it only works if one is an initiate to some secret society.” (Australian commenter on The Amorous Prawn. They mean "not funny".)

“Fun is humour for people without a sense of humour.” (Euan Ferguson)

“Mary Beard is a wickedly subversive commentator on both the modern and the ancient world.” (Her TLS blog. I think they mean "lady with grey hair is a bit of a socialist – and she’s funny, too!" And "critical".)


Is your divorce messy, acrimonious (expensive) or amicable (cheap)?

“Judge’s anger adds to acrimony of £500m divorce of Laura Ashley boss Khoo Kay Peng” (Independent Headline May 2014)

“Tarrant pleads for amicable divorce as wife seeks £17m” (Evening Standard headline, 19 Sept 2006)

“The pair have agreed to split all assets equally and share joint custody of their children. His wife will keep the family home and automobiles, while Santorum will keep most of the couple's wardrobe. Several seasoned divorce attorneys say that such an amicable financial settlement is unusual.” (

“Prenuptial agreements are booming among wealthy couples desperate to avoid the expense of a messy contested divorce settlement.” (Evening Standard, 7 May 2008 Lawyers cost, too.)

“People said the legal and financial stickiness of divorce was a ‘hassle’, and that made them shy away from marriage.” ( 2012 Meaning that they thought divorce would be too expensive.)

The breakup was very messy, as he asked me for time to think and I subsequently discovered he was seeing someone else. ( Dishonest?)

“When media companies talk about ‘the solution’ or ‘the answer’, what they really want to know is ‘Who should we copy?’” (Andrew Brown/@seatrout)

“Sexualisation of children: sexuality-based commercialisation of growing youth.” (@polleetickle)

More here, and links to the rest.

Monday 1 September 2014

Inspirational Quotes 60

It's what's on the inside that counts
Since the commercialisation of fitness in the late 1970s, society has gone about commoditising and branding physical activity. (Guardian April 14)

God has departed, but he has left his judgement behind. (Baudrillard)

If names do affect their bearers' chance of success, it may not always be because of the reactions they cause in other people (the "looking-glass self"). ( It may be their effect on our self-image. But we should never think about what other people are thinking about us, because they aren’t.)

Where there is evidence, no one speaks of "faith". We do not speak of faith that 2 + 2 = 4. (Bertrand Russell)

I set about [finding a husband] as if it were an extra household duty, like hulling five pounds of strawberries or mopping the linoleum floor. (Margaret Powell, Below Stairs)

Most people will appear at your birthday party if you pay them enough money. (Daily Telegraph 2014)

Sometimes staff have to adopt an indulgent attitude towards management – as if towards a bright teenager who keeps coming up with half-baked ideas… You might quite enjoy being entirely truthful while revealing absolutely nothing… Surely you can something so banal it is in no way personal? Some guff about working with colleagues to achieve quality outcomes should do it… This sounds like the typically stupid brainwave of an under-employed manager who has just read some airport book about his “inner samurai”, or some other such guff. (Jeremy Bullmore and Guardian readers, April 3 2014)

It's a trusted tool in the self-help armoury – visualising yourself having achieved your goals, be that weighing less, enjoying the view atop Everest, or walking down the aisle with the girl or boy of your dreams. Trouble is, reams of research shows that indulging in positive fantasies actually makes people's fantasised ambitions less likely to become reality. Why? A new study claims it's because positive fantasies are de-energising. (BPS Research Digest June 2011)

Be yourself, but try to please as much as possible. (dress designer Edith Head)

Nerds are not afraid of pure, raw emotion. (Lev Grossman, Time).

This is an emphasis that shifts the focus away from well defined knowledge and skills and towards vague, questionable objectives. (Web of Substance blog critiquing progressive education. The syndrome is not confined to the education debate.)

The point of a club is not who it lets in, but who it keeps out. (Anthony Sampson)

Prayer is wider than people often think, and includes the use of caring thoughts and imagination, even if you don't believe you can address them to God. (The Rev David Grieve)

Be interested Make sure you actually want to socialize. Or, if you don’t – for example, if it’s for a work or family function – then at least be a good actor! Be interested in the conversation you’re having, as well as the person you’re having it with. If you don’t seem interested (even if you are), then they won’t want to keep talking to you. ( They’re quite clear that “be interested” means “ACT interested”!)

Up until the age of about 15, I was a self-confident (some would say arrogant), opinionated (some would say overbearing), incautious (some would say idiotic) extrovert (some would say shameless exhibitionist). And then, beaten down by sexual rejection, mockery, the first intimations of intellectual fallibility – and not forgetting old-fashioned violence suffered at the fists of larger boys who failed to find me entertaining – my personality changed. Retreating into my shell, for a decade or so I became, if not exactly shy, then certainly a great deal more fearful. Having never been prey to either self-consciousness or self-doubt, I was, for a number of years, constrained by both. Not paralysed, not crippled, yet nonetheless a shadow of the boisterous, limelight-loving child I had once been. You could argue this withdrawal came as a necessary and welcome correction to an insufferably egotistical manner. On balance, however, I’d say it sucked. (Robert Crampton, Times 22 March 2014 Is this why people say that confidence comes from within?)

I liked her much more before she read that assertiveness book. (Early 80s – I can’t now remember who said this about whom.)More here, and links to the rest.