Saturday 30 May 2015

Movie Clichés (in quotes)

Bumptious military types, disbelieving bureaucrats, and young and handsome earnest assistants. (imdb commenter on X the Unknown)

It contains every single cliché known to boxing movies: the nervous novice, the washed-up ex-champ looking for one more shot at the 'big time', the anxious wife who threatens to leave if he doesn't quit, the behind the scenes 'fix', camera close ups of ringsiders screaming for blood and of course the rows of spectators throwing imaginary punches during the fight scenes. (imdb comment on The Square Ring, Ealing 1953)

'Let's have a look at its DNA' she says looking down a microscope. #Prometheus (@AdamRutherford)

A BBC informant tells me the sounds of horses hooves in racing is in fact a generic recording of a buffalo stampede made years ago. (TheLondonSoundSurvey ‏@LondonSounds)

A dysfunctional family whose issues are quickly and easily resolved through token efforts.
The wise fool, an apparently foolish character who possesses greater wisdom than his educated peers. (Wikipedia)

Usually you are palmed off with a few well-rehearsed anecdotes and some meaningless guff about how great it was working with such-and-such and several sentences containing the words “blessed” and “happy” and an affirmation that they are “in a good place right now”. (Observer April 2015 on interviewing actors. It used to be “I’m not happy, but I am content.”)

I'm absolutely sick of sub-Hugh Grant/Gervais awkwardness in lieu of jokes. ‏(TV critic Paul Whitelaw)

It's weird, I know, but it is possible to ride a horse not silhouetted against the sky or sea. I've seen it done, by daring specialists. (@melindahaunton on Poldark)

‏ People that carry a torch are never involved in supernatural shenanigans. Kooky folk always drive VW beetles. The really zany ones have yellow convertible ones. #thingsfilmshavetaughtme (Some Bloke in a Hat ‏@toolegs)

Read a quote today saying when a boy finds their secret power, it's a superhero movie. When a girl does, it's a horror film. (Sophie Heawood ‏@heawood)

Movie rule no. 3,946: The bigger the difference in size between the hero and monster, the more wooden the acting. (@‏HamishMThompson)

I really enjoyed Mr Turner. It avoided, for the most part, the 'revelatory moment' trap of art bio-pics. (Charles Holland ‏@ordinarycharles)

It's part of a history of films that start out all Sciencey and then go woo without warning. (@AmyDentata)

This song makes me think suicide. Or... like I lost an important battle and my life is now meaningless so I fall to my knees in the blood-soaked snow and quietly shed a tear as I realize my failure... or something. (Commenter on youtube vid of Japanese song)

20 minute expositions, slow closing doors and men in waistcoats calmly discussing myth by fire = further ideals for horror. #TheMummy (Lauren Johnson ‏@History_Lauren)

An episode packed with cliches, from sunny pastoral love-making in the last days of peace in 1914 to maternal anguish at approaching war and a well-informed populace explaining mitteleuropaeische politics to one another. The dialogue had the colourless articulateness of earnest television drama with no indication of class background. (FT on Passing Bells Nov 2014)

‏Ancient Times film cliché no. 1: gladiatorial forearm-clasping handshake. Usually with "brother" somewhere in the exchange. Clichés in ALL films set in Ancient Times: mosaics, grapes, oily abs, knee-high sandals, remarkably elaborate metal hats, men in skirts. (@lucyfishwife)

Trying to remember a recent period drama that wasn't leaden and/or heavy handed. Can't. (Anna Carey ‏@urchinette )

Waiting for the inevitable "You can't prove a thing" "But you " "OK I'll tell you everything" #CrimesOfPassion (Colonel Blimp ‏@adamcreen)

"Ah, my vassals, I look forward to you showing me the same respect you showed my Fath - OMG WHY ARE YOU ALL REBELLING"/(20 minutes later, in dungeon) "Well, that escalated quickly." (Novelist Will Wiles)

Practically every large inner-London estate has featured in some film in the role of Ominous Backdrop. (Aditya Chakrabortty Guardian May 2014)

Anime Law: every otherwise good show must include a guy with purple hair who sits in a castle and broods all day. (Fred Scharmen ‏@sevensixfive)

Drama cliche 39: Woman chopping food in kitchen has fraught emotional discussion w partner; chops frantically until abandons in despair. (Lee Jackson ‏@VictorianLondon)

In Ridley Scott’s Black Rain, 1989, two New York City cops, maverick Nick Conklin (Michael Douglas) and happy-go-lucky (ie obviously doomed) Charlie Vincent (Andy Garcia) escort a Japanese gangster by the name of Sato (Yusaku Matsuda) back to Osaka to face charges.

And when will the new DC get a bizarre, tragic back story? (Celestial M. Weasel ‏@celestialweasel)

DOCUMENTARIESWas so excited about this Rome documentary but it's one of those with a synopsis after each ad break. And now they want to sell me a tour! (Harry Webb ‏@websofsubstance) 

#DragonsDen Why do you keep shoving spoilers out going through the show! Totally ruins shows don’t you know! (@DaveyBoi73)

We knew that they were fit for ridicule because every time they appeared on screen they were accompanied by a familiar musical cue – that jaunty upbeat jangle, with a dash of clarinet, which was once the preserve of puppets on children’s TV but has now been co-opted by factual entertainment to signify that the human being we’re watching is a contemptible idiot. (Kevin Maher Times 2014-08-23)

I mean, seriously BBC, for how long will you think it acceptable to score migrants, working class or overweight people with "comedy music"? (Alex Andreou ‏@sturdyAlex)

What wasn’t amazing was the amount of padding that – sorry – Kerri’s presence added. As lovely as she was, so much screen time was taken with her emptily repeating obvious soundbites about being put out of her “comfort zone”. (Alex Hardy in The Times on Tigers About the House, Jan 2015 Those participants’ pieces to camera are scripted, aren’t they? They even put them into Cash in the Attic, but I notice they've taken them out again.)

Modern TV history doc cliche no.1: "In this programme, I want to find out ..." No, you're making a TV show about it. You already know. (Lee Jackson ‏@VictorianLondon)

Half of it is a sort of combined travelogue/hero's quest/chat show, before they even start trying to cover any actual information. (AG on documentaries)

The producer’s attempts to make the story more dramatic meant hammy acting and low production values... A voice-over guided us through a series of reconstructions, but the lack of dialogue forced the actors to converse entirely through urgent facial expressions. Unsurprisingly, nuance was not forthcoming. Richard III, who looked like Alan Rickman in the Harry Potter films, with curtains of greasy black hair, spent the entire hour narrowing his eyes in distrust, and standing hunched in a corner, draped in black velvet, like a bat lurking at the back of a cave. The other suspects: Richard’s friend the Duke of Buckingham, his servant James Tyrrell, and his successor Henry VII, were no more subtly drawn. We were introduced to the “greedy” Duke with a shot of him stabbing an unidentifiable piece of meat with his knife and shoving it in his mouth. He even managed to chew suspiciously. (Daily Telegraph on Richard III: the Princes in the Tower)


Cautionary words in positive film review: "rambunctious" "ramshackle" "colourful" "zany" "yarn" "fun" "romp" "unique" "on a second viewing". (Andrew Male ‏@AndrewMaleMojo)

Bergmanesque: grey and depressing
Wenders-like: colourful and depressing
Capraesque: sentimental but sharp
Scorseseian: Catholic guilt
Allenesque: Jewish guilt
Hitchcockian: the director makes a cameo appearance
Lynch-like: could be significant, but who can tell?
Bertoluccian: floral
Spielbergish: childish plot, adult budget
Cormanesque: adult plot, childish budget


Star Trek computers have audio feedback in a vacuum. (Keith Judge ‏@KeefJudge)

Spaceships make that metallic rumbling screech. (RI And so do oil rigs.)

And computer displays say things like WORKING... in large letters, while making strange beedly-biddle-beep sounds. And in adverts, telephone support people and others wearing headsets have to hold a hand to the earpiece or microphone. (GH in response to observation that people in movies can talk normally with a rock band playing in the background.)

Men in Suits with Guns, Expensive Explosion" and Men Running in Corridor in Front of Flames. (RI on Netflix movies)

You've also got Men in Long Coats with Guns (with different sub-genres
depending on coat colour), Men in Historical Costumes with Guns, and don't forget the ever-popular People Shouting at Each Other for No Apparent Reason. (AG)

Don't forget the ever popular People Chasing Each Other. How many innocent fruit stalls have had to be knocked over in this worthy cause. (JS)

And Men/Women with Bald Heads for No Reason. We need some new cliches... (RI)

More here, and links to the rest.

Friday 29 May 2015

Euphemisms about Buildings and Politics (in quotes)

What a brilliant euphemism: some parts of Greenwich Park will be "preserved by record" – it means "destroyed"! (ND)

He said an archival record will be made of the crane, and its history will be documented in a heritage interpretation plan. "We are talking about having some of the steel honoured and recognised in various museums." (, Aug 2013 A historic, landmark but crumbling crane in Sydney is being demolished.)

“The Edinburgh Improvement Commission, which was demolishing historical buildings at will.” Fortean Times Jan 2014)

An extension which is "subservient" to these old cottages. (Estate agent on Homes under the Hammer. Better than “in keeping”.)

[The Ship building has been] given a new lease of life as the main Plymouth site for Thrive Hubs, an innovative combination of flexible, inspiring and professional environments for new and growing businesses and entrepreneurs... “a supportive eco-system for entrepreneurs and businesses to work in flexible, inspiring and professional environments” says a spokesman. I think they mean “offices”.

King’s College London will not “demolish” the Strand buildings, but “carefully take them down”. ("The finest baby frogs, dew picked and flown from Iraq, cleansed in finest quality spring water, lightly killed, and then sealed in a succulent Swiss quintuple smooth treble cream milk chocolate envelope and lovingly frosted with glucose." Monty Python. The Strand buildings have been given a stay of execution.)

Boris Johnson insulted objectors to [the Goodsyard] as “bourgeois nimbies”. If arguing that the development was too high, lacked amenities, blocked out light, created wind tunnels and ultimately was at odds with the neighbourhood is “bourgeois nimbyism”, then I’m guilty as charged. (Oliver Bennett Indy April 2015)

sensitive restoration: per British Land, means removing the entire building apart from fragments of the façade. Heartless destruction, in fact.

When a developer says it wants to replicate the "spirit, scale and magnificence" something isn't right. (‏@christianharrup)

Some 50 London estates have been regenerated in the past decade with a net loss of 8,000 social rented homes. (Guardian Feb 2015)

Zoopla warns that a Labour government would “pull the rug out from under the feet of recovery and dampen market confidence” and a Labour win would have a “negative effect” on the housing market. (I think they mean house prices would fall.)

London's crazy property market. (The Guardian, May 2015. Prices have not fallen.)
Conservative victory reignites London property market. (FT)
Conservative election victory seen as bringing certainty back into the property market. (Guardian)


A brave decision, Prime Minister. (Yes, Prime Minister)

In this whole rush to be 'aspirational' are we allowed to aspire to want to have a fairer society? (@MichaelRosenYes)

Metropolitan elites: it seems generally accepted that “metropolitan elites”, a privileged clique who drink champagne and like opera, can’t possibly stand up for the poor. Which is good, because we don’t want anybody  to stand up for the poor. We don’t want any group A to stand up for any group B, that would spoil our whole plan.

And the metropolitan elites “can’t understand” the working classes’ concerns. You know, the working classes want to have legitimate hate figures and be a bit xenophobic. More likely the working classes can’t understand what the metropolitan elites are talking about – translators needed. And dialogue.

The metropolitan elites probably live in "the" otherwise unspecified "Bubble". Oh, it's code for "London" – literally, this just in!

Is "metropolitan elite" code for Jewish, wonders @FeargusO’Sull?

Keeping tally of euphemisms for black: urban; metropolitan; articulate; good-looking; not appealing to C2/Ds; Southern. (@Sathnam)

A metropolitan sneer at [working-class] values... Given that the governing metropolitan middle class believes in very little other than power, sex and shopping... (New Statesman review of a book on Blue Labour 2015-05-14)

I used to tell the cabinet: “There’s an enormous distinction in the way people feel about immigration between those who live in London or other big cities and those who live in places like my old constituency of Redditch. I don’t think you understand the cultural and emotional impact of sudden change. This isn’t people being racist, but they see their country changing. (Jacqui Smith in the Guardian, 2015-03-24)

Every time a minister says they are "disappointed" by a court decision or a parliamentary vote then you know the constitution is working. (@JackofKent)

Nicola Sturgeon demands end of £26,000 benefits cap: Labour propped up by the SNP means chaos for Britain – and you’ll pay for it (Online electioneering poster. They mean "taxes will be higher".)

Social security was always a problem for neoliberalism, it protected workers, which made them "inflexible". (Rick B @TenPercent)

What makes me laugh is that I get about 55 leaflets a day from my Tory candidate saying she wants "to take politics out of the classroom". (By which she means setting up a Royal College of Teachers to destroy the NUT.) (@abstex)

A promise you have to keep is a “pledge”. (Guardian May 2015)

Call them what they are: free-enterprise schools. (David Wilson ‏@omnivorist )

No No No "Free Schools" = oxymoron. Euphemism 4 destruction (State Educ). (Sid ‏@red13charlie )

Is there anyone who wears a coloured bow tie and isn't a clown who doesn't have a series of tetchy, irritable 'robust' views? (@MarkOneinFour)

Funny how, for the Labour Party, 'Political courage' and 'boldness' is always code for shifting to the right. (Charles Holland ‏@ordinarycharles)
See also "modernising". (‏@WillWiles)

Old  Liberals are now libertarians
New Liberals are now fascists
Old Socialists are now dinosaurs
New Socialists are now opportunists
(Byzantine Ambassador ‏@byzantinepower)

Congratulations to Grant Shapps for "over-firmly denied," possibly the greatest ever euphemism for lying, ever made. (@AdamBienkov)

The culture warriors of Twitter. (Michael Gove, May 2014. He means left-wingers, who have just as much right to use Twitter as rabid Tea Partyers.)

Many more euphemisms and dysphemisms in my ebook Boo & Hooray.

More here, and links to the rest.

Monday 25 May 2015

Overstatement, Hyperbole, Catastrophising 6

Fran Lebowitz wants to ban yoga pants on the street and fine offenders (Jezebel)

No, James May, Jeremy Clarkson being sacked is not a tragedy. Coriolanus is a tragedy. (@BDSixsmith)

A grooming ban (giving parents and councils powers to stop creepy men hanging around their children) would “separate the generations and legalise mistrust” tweets Frank Furedi.

It was complete and utter chaos: We had to fly home via Amsterdam and Paris.

"With regard to the idea of whether you have a right to health care, you have realize what that implies. It’s not an abstraction. I’m a physician. That means you have a right to come to my house and conscript me. It means you believe in slavery. It means that you’re going to enslave not only me, but the janitor at my hospital, the person who cleans my office, the assistants who work in my office, the nurses." (Rand Paul)

Republican compares gay people to slave owners. (@pinknews)

Indiana outrage will lead to gay people keeping Christians as slaves (Bryan Fischer. A “religious freedom law” that appeared to allow businesses to refuse to serve gay couples has been modified. I think.)

Hippies and anti-war protesters were a “Spock-marked generation”. (Dr Spock, author of liberal Baby and Child Care, joined anti-war protests.)

The so-called progress of our so-called 19th century. (The Graphic)

Enoch Powell warned that Sikhs wearing turbans would cause “dangerous fragmentation within society”.

Skeptics of homeopathy are anti-women.
(Dana Ullman)

Hysteria over racism is a cancer that has corrupted British public life. (Says Melanie Phillips in the Times 2015-04-27, not hysterically at all.)

UKIP MEP David Coburn says Scotland will turn into a “stripped pine Scandinavian peacenik sauna republic” if the SNP gets a majority of seats on May 7 2015. Can't wait.

Promiscuous women cause earthquakes, claims Iranian cleric. (May 2015)

Christianity is attacked daily on Radio 4's Today programme!

And “My children all speak patois!” and “Everybody speaks Jafaikan!” means that a few black/Jamaican slang words have gone mainstream. Which is bad because....?

More here.

Sunday 24 May 2015


Anecdote embroidery

Some need no explanation:

all hat and no cattle
anecdote embroidery
anecdote inflation
angry white male
anthropologist goes native
anti-feminist backlash
avoidable disaster

been there, done that
bite off more than you can chew
breast beating
bring your enemy into the open
build your own prison
burn bridges
buyer’s remorse

cling to a cross
conspicuous non-consumption
crisis cult
crocodile tears

Devil’s advocate
do it the hard way
don’t know when to give up

educated beyond your understanding
elderly first-time father
Empty Nest
Enlightenment blaming

face-spiting nose removal
fear of being found in the wrong company
get half the message
give with one hand and take with the other
gold fever
Golden Aging

hand waving
hand wringing

inconspicuous consumption

last off the boat
late to the party
legitimate hate figures
live others’ lives for them

make a rod for your own back
making the possible impossible
marginal becomes mainstream
marriage o’clock
melt away
misguided name change
more English than the English
multiple aliases

need rescuing from self
non-existent problem-solving
nose-limited vision
Not Invented Here

one false move
other-oriented perfectionism
overstay your welcome
own worst enemy

persecutor becomes convert
Peter Pan
post-nuptial depression

saw off the branch you’re sitting on
shouldn’t have started
stage mother
street angel, house devil

taken under X’s wing
talk a good game
talk up
talks the talk, can’t walk the walk
tennis father
throw boulders in someone’s path
too good for the working classes
turn on the charm

victim of its own success

Some need a bit of explanation:

acte manquée (self-sabotage)
alibi explanation (one that absolves from all blame)

bridesmaid humiliation (chorus line in ugly matching dresses)

defeatism, parade-raining, balloon-bursting ("There's no point studying history because nothing ever happens the same way twice.")

false flag, black flag – conspiracy strategies
front group hides revolutionary elite (invented by the original Illuminati in the 18th cent)

homesick without leaving home (because everybody’s left)

kidology (“I love the way you’re doing X!”)

lipservice (also box-ticking and genuflecting)

mutate to survive (keep changing your story and hope nobody notices)

need rescuing from fans/family/relationship/marriage/“friends”

transferred guilt inducement (on behalf of a third party or group)

Venice Syndrome: cities hollowed out by unoccupied apartments. (@JonathanFoyle)

waiting for a generation to retire (or die) before we can pass liberal laws, update the style book, or close down the courses that teach students to write “modern” music

Thursday 14 May 2015

Ngaio Marsh's Swing, Brother, Swing

Review of Swing Brother Swing, by Ngaio Marsh, for the Past Offences 1949 challenge

Once more, Marsh takes us inside a world, this time high life in London just post war. The haute monde are trying to carry on as if nothing had happened. A new kind of jazz is à la mode and the thing to do is to dine and dance where Breezy Bellairs and his Boys are taking jazz standards, playing them through a couple of times and then turning them into a runway for free improvisation (or “screeching cacophony”, depending on your point of view). It sounds ghastly.

Lord Pastern and Bagott is an eccentric English peer, who has long been separated from his French wife, Cecile. Having sold his country house, he's now living in London. He is prone to fads: after passing through nudism and a transcendental religion whose adherents prayed “in antiphonal screams”, he is now crazy about bebop and yearns to play the drums. He’s a Lord and can do what he likes, as long as he bankrolls Breezy Bellairs.

The cast assembles at his house before his debut – he’s joining in in one number, “Hot Gunner”, which involves a lot of much-discussed silly business including firing a revolver loaded with blanks, and the accordionist – or conductor? – pretending to die and be carried off as the band plays a cod funeral march. Can taste sink any lower? Perhaps – during “Any Umberellas” the Boys twirl parasols, provided by the helpful Lord P&B.

Apart from Lord P&B, at the dinner are:

Cecile, who has returned because despite all irritations she finds life too quiet without him.

Félicité (Fee), her daughter, who has just left a posh school. She is very pretty and talks about nothing but boys. She flirts with any male who crosses her path and talks in a grating mixture of slang and French phrases. (“I was totalement bouleversée!”) She is always having a "crise", "a cause de" something or other.

Breezy Bellairs, a vulgar man with a toothy smile.

Carlos Rivera, the accordionist – engaged to Félicité. He drinks too much and tries to persuade Cecile that he is descended from Argentinian nobility. She frigidly continues to work her petit-point.

Miss Henderson, once Fee’s governess and now a general dogsbody.

Carlisle, Lord P&B’s niece, who shudders as Carlos tries to flirt with her.

Writer Edward Manx, a rather straight young man who is also a cousin.

They all set off for the club, where the musicians take to the stage and the party dances. Lord P&B’s number doesn’t go too badly, but then tragedy strikes....

Of course, Inspector Roderick Alleyn and his wife Troy are at the next table, and Alleyn is summoned backstage to view a corpse. We  leave the aristos and mingle with musicians and club owners. Two doctors turn up and are professionally courteous to each other, examining the body together, each going down on one knee “like simultaneous comedians”. Alleyn summons his team, and sends a young constable home with one of the musicians who’s a bit of a “red”.

"How did you get on with Skelton, Sallis?"

"Well, sir," said Sallis, in a loud public-school voice, "he didn't like me much to begin with. I picked up a search-warrant on the way and he took a very poor view of that. However, we talked sociology for the rest of the journey and I offered to lend him The Yogi and the Commissar, which bent the barriers a little. He's Australian by birth, and I've been out there so that helped to establish a more matey attitude."

The posh party return home to be questioned by the police. Cecile clings to her dignity, helped by her hair-netted coiffure and tight foundation garments. Lord P&B begins to think he has really wanted to be a Sherlock all along. Of course, they’re all under suspicion, as they all had the opportunity to tamper with the supposed murder weapon.

The investigation continues, and the plot takes in the drug trade, plus a high-minded magazine called Harmony and its anonymous Agony Uncle GPF (for “guide, philosopher and friend”). Lord P&B continues to be interfering and obnoxious. Carlisle thinks back to pre-war parties in the house’s now-deserted ballroom, where she danced with Edward... she wonders dejectedly if he is falling for the awful Fee, who tries to “vamp” Inspector Alleyn by sitting on the stairs and looking cute.

Carlisle spent the war in a regular job, and has just returned from abroad to find she no longer quite fits into this milieu. Lord P'n'B can still afford (and obtain) an old-fashioned staff of servants – a state of affairs that would not continue for long in the coming decades. Marsh treats the staff in her usual way, sending Fox to try and speak French to the chef and the lady’s maid Hortense, who communicates in “complicated gestures”.

Mystery writers must have wondered how they were going to manage without servants to act as comic foils and give vital snippets of information. Christie effortlessly moved with the times and replaced these stock characters with over-sensitive Austrian au pairs and pop-singing, hoover-wielding dailies (Mitzi and Cherry).

The comic servants aren’t, but there’s plenty of incidental humour. Sgt Gibson (a likeable series character) searches the dead man’s flat and is appalled by its purple satin curtains. (“You might call it morve, sir.”) The furniture is green, the walls fawn, and the bedroom is upholstered in black satin. Deceased even wore black satin pyjamas.

Alleyn branches out, interviewing the musicians and trailing Edward’s mysterious unseen employer, the editor of Harmony magazine. Series character Nigel Bathgate, the journalist, helps out. The plot is complex, and the murder method absurdly ingenious – but its exposition is intriguing, rather than irritating, as in some of her other books.

The only flaw is that the more grotesque characters are foregrounded, and the likeable ones (Carlisle and Edward) take a back seat. Oh, and Marsh conveys that Troy is pregnant in the most horribly coy manner.

What’s 1949 about it? The determined effort of the aristocratic and moneyed to carry on as if the war had never happened. (Cecile is a French aristocrat and all her forebears were “de” something, as she reminds us.) Carlisle and Edward, marked by the war but adapting to a new world by getting jobs and living modestly. The musicians mixing uneasily with their posh fans. The communist drummer who thinks Lord P'n'B is a “parasite” who is being used for his “snob value”. Little do they know that they are about to be swept away by the welfare state and rock’n’roll.

More Marsh here.

Sunday 10 May 2015

Inspirational Quotes about Politics

People talk about 'lefties' but really, it's just ethics. You look after those weaker than you. (@matthaig1 May 9)

Ppl in this country if they vote, they vote for themselves, tho sometimes not even capable of understanding their own situation. (@AgataPyzik)

We do not have to accept the world as we find it. And we have a responsibility to leave our world a better place and never walk by on the other side of injustice. (Ed Miliband)

I wonder how closely ideological obnoxiousness is correlated with personal obnoxiousness. (@BDSixsmith)

Heroic attempts to say "satire is fine just not about the thing I like". (@almurray)

Sometimes it seems like comedy (esp the big names) are a bunch of really sensitive people telling others to stop being sensitive. (@AmyDentata  )

I used to know people like The Sun at school. Who picked on people's looks and mannerisms. Bullies we called them. (@matthaig1)

Suzy was bullied for being ginger: When I asked for help, I was regularly told by adults to repeat the adage “Sticks and stones will break my bones, but names will never hurt me”. This was not an effective tool to stop the name-calling, nor was it a strategy that equipped me to deal with the hurt. (Psychologist)

Bullies learn best by being confronted with an unpleasant consequence for their actions. (Harry Webb ‏@websofsubstance)

Cyberbullies always hide behind ‘free speech’ as an excuse, but they forget that free speech cuts both ways. (Alistair Canlin @alcanlin)

Protecting free speech has to mean "enabling marginalized people to speak without abuse" not "letting hate speech & threats flow unchecked". (@anildash)

Free speech doesn't mean we can't call people a knob when they say knobbish things. (‏@EyesSkyward)

“I’m a passionate believer in free speech, but” is the new “I’m not a racist, but”. (Milo Yiannopoulos ‏@Nero)

I hate that "I'm entitled to speak my mind" thing. You are also entitled to be nice... (@ClaireWithAn_I)

Loving our neighbors means we probably shouldn't intentionally antagonize them by having "Draw Muhammad" contests. Just an idea... (‏@benjamincorey)

free speech something or another
(Bonjour Tacos ‏@LeightonNeyland)

Since when did "don't punch people" constitute Political Correctness Gone Mad? (@MitchBenn)

Far more interesting than Clarkson is the number of people willing to defend bullying and violence, provided it's done by a big enough bully. (Aditya Chakrabortty @chakrabortty)

For people that claim to LOVE THE CLARKSON BANTS, they all get quite upset at jokes at his expense. (Sarah M ‏@sazza_jay)

The freedom of expression argument tends to protect cyberbullies. The Psychologist

No one really believes that we have a right to totally free speech, except some idiots on the web who use the phrase to justify anything from death threats down. (Mary Beard)

Oh, is everyone going on about free speech again? Cue lots of angry middle class white people complaining about their right to be obnoxious. (@ParisLees)

"If people didn't get offended so easily I wouldn't have to make 20 sockpuppet accounts to harass all the people that upset me." (@AmyDentata)

Harassment is NEVER 'just a bit of banter'. (Gia Armstrong ‏@GeeArms)

Sarah Vine imbroglio reminds me of the wisdom of my old friend Peter McKay: "Dishing it out and taking it are entirely separate disciplines." (Sam Leith ‏@questingvole)

"People were eventually prosecuted, and for me, the most important thing when the first two came to court was the judge's statement. It was the first time an impartial observer had effectively said, 'No, this is not acceptable behaviour.' It was very validating. (Caroline Criado-Perez, Indy April 2015)

It’s hard to avoid white men ruining it for the rest of us by using atheism as just another platform for a macho power struggle. (Jaya Saxena in Guardian on atheism groups, Jan 2015)

Schrodinger's douchebag: A guy who says offensive things & decides whether he was joking based upon the reaction of people around him. (@SallyStrange)

Apparently, we share 57% of our DNA with a cabbage. Some human beings make me ashamed of the remaining 43%. (Joanne Harris ‏@Joannechocolat)

You’ve got to put your foot down, even if you’re in a minority of one. (Katharine Hamnett, Times March 2015)

If you complain, you’re ‘playing the victim’; if you don’t complain, you are a victim.
(Julia Gillard)

Maybe one good definition of privilege is "assuming everything works for everyone else the way it works for you." (Brienne of Snarth ‏@femme_esq)

Sexism isn't the story of women enduring hardship. It's the story of men creating hardship. Racism is the story of whites creating hardship. We tell these stories in the passive voice, focusing on those affected, saying nothing about the ones committing the harm in the first place. ‏(@AmyDentata)

The entire concept of an "SJW" (social justic warrior) is a Strawman set up to silence people who deal with real issues. (Cmdr. Breanna Still ‏@BreeThePhoenix)

From the 1965 Race Relations Act and the 1970 Equal Pay Act, to the Sex Discrimination Act 1975 and the Race Relations Act 1976, through to the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 and more recently the Race Relations Amendment Act 2000 and Equality Act 2010. These laws have led to a transformation in people's attitudes. Legislation changes behaviour, and over the years changes the way we think. (Sadiq Khan)

So did it feel like they were all part of a revolution [in the 60s]? “Yes, it absolutely felt like that. People were actually able to bring to an end the war in Vietnam. It felt that we were moving into a new time and a new consciousness. It really seemed the world was changing. There was the idea of rich, poor, black, white: everyone being the same under the skin.” ... It all seems rather bleak. “the big surprise is that the world we made has changed back to the world the way it was before. There is a separation of wealth and we are still at war. Back then we were able to end a war.” (Dorothy Lichtenstein, Times March 2015)

I’ve come to another realisation about race in Britain: it is almost never discussed. [Arguments revolve around] language, not policy or power. (Sathnam Sanghera)

I have little doubt that Ukip supporters will denounce my concerns as those of a narrow, liberal, metropolitan, media elite (though I've sadly never been able to identify the membership secretary of this alluring group in order to send a subscription). (Oliver Kamm in the JC)

They perpetuate the myth that there is an ever more threatening minority demanding special rights from a cowed and pandering nation emasculated by “health and safety gone mad” and "multicultural Britain". (Liverpool Echo on Britain First)

Never underestimate the power, or the venom, of endangered dinosaurs. (KP)

"Mon jardin est plus petit que Rome, mais mon pilum est plus solide que votre sternum!" (Asterix Chez les Bretons)

Parece ser que, no es necesario conocer y entender las cosas para discutir y pontificar sobre ellas. (Terry Lopez ‏@terry_jb Puedes decir eso otra vez, Terry.)

More here, and links to the rest.

Saturday 9 May 2015

Inspirational Quotes 75

Younger children were  treated as powerless, slightly inferior members of a household, with lower-priority needs and desires. (If Walls Could Talk, Lucy Worsley)

When I think of that Latin Grammar... upon my conscience, I am surprised that we ever survived it. When one thinks of the boys who have been caned because they could not master that intolerable jargon! ... Good Lord, what a pitiful chorus these poor little creatures send up! (Christmas Books, William Makepeace Thackeray)

From Muriel Jaeger's Before VictoriaIn Maria Edgworth’s tales for children, “the idea that good behaviour always paid and bad behaviour did not must have been strongly impressed on her pupils, making their later experiences, one must suppose, somewhat bewildering”.

Rousseau’s boy hero was to be brought up in the country, out of doors nearly all the time, and mixing with the country people. He was to learn… only by experience. In fact, he was to be like the aristocrats, doing what he would and taking the consequences…

While the young of the early 19th century were expected to assimilate large quantities of miscellaneous information, there were other things that they were expected carefully to avoid knowing.

What Jane Austen thought of the learned child may be inferred from the conversations of Mary Bennett with her cruel father.

Writer Mary Mitford “would never admit that punishment and misfortune were good for people, though that was ‘the prevailing sentiment’.”

The Evangelicals thought that, due to original sin, “all children were by nature evil”, and the evil had to be beaten or starved out of them. We don’t believe in original sin any more, but libertarians still think children are “feral”, and have to be knocked into the shape of a human being who can “contribute to society”. (Nick Duffell, The Making of Them)

Human beings are distinguished from other intelligent animals by our capacity for self-reflection... it means that we are able to conceptualise the past and the future, make plans, have ideas, and think about our thinking. (Nick Duffell, The Making of Them)

From Jeffrey Eugenides' The Marriage PlotShe preferred to think of her current boyfriendless state as salutary and head-clearing. (Madeleine, the heroine, whistles in the dark.)

As he stood in the corner, drinking a plastic cup of foamy beer, Mitchell felt just as much like a misfit as he always did at parties full of popular people.

In Madeleine’s face was a stupidity Mitchell had never seen before. It was the stupidity of all normal people. It was the stupidity of the fortunate and beautiful, of everybody who got what they wanted in life and so remained unremarkable.

“X could also be opinionated and blunt. People didn’t like that in anyone, but they liked it less in a woman.”

They snuck into a cocktail party for an insurance underwriters’ convention and ate free food.

She’d always been a failed bohemian, anyway.

Her sister’s iconoclasm and liberationist commitments had just been part of a trend.

Once again, Alwyn adapted to her surroundings. She hung out at the local pub with friends who hadn’t managed to get out of Prettybrook, either, all of them reverting to the scruffy, preppy clothes they’d worn in high school, cords, crew necks, L.L. Bean moccasins.

“Having been members of the college art scene, Larry and Mitchell were used to people undergoing radical self-transformations...” One of their fellow students wears self-designed grey tents as a statement. But they knew she “wasn’t going to be able to wear her androgynous outfits forever... There would come a day when, in order to get a job, she would have to hang up her gray felt and put on a skirt, or a business suit.” She might have to change her first name from "Moss", too.

[Group therapy] was borderline religious while professing not to be.

Making friends as an adult
often requires some new activity – joining a book club! Trying a new gym! (

Going on a date is a trying experience for everyone... We all know not to talk about exes or sob stories and yet is it too much to reveal your boy band obsession or the fact that you own eight cats? Will he find my job boring or does he think I talk too much? ( And everybody tries to sell it to you as "fun".)

Buster Brown: A really goofy looking person who also has very poor social skills and is usually not wanted by a majority of a group. (Urban Dictionary)

More here, and links to the rest.

Friday 1 May 2015

Outdated Stereotypes


A recent cartoon represented England by a top hat and a monocle – a combination no-one has worn for 100 years. And nobody has seen a top hat for so long that the cartoonist didn’t even know how to draw one.

In cartoons, burglars wear stripy jerseys plus eyemasks, Frenchman accessorise their stripy jerseys with berets, Germans sport lederhosen, Mexican don sombreros, perverts lurk in dirty macs, nuns are draped in medieval habits (mostly junked in the 60s). The Daily Mail (October 2014) has a cyber criminal at a keyboard wearing a ski hat and mask. Google “cybercrime stock photo” and you’ll get a lot of laptop users wearing balaclavas. (And whatever you’re up to, an eye mask is not going to disguise your features.)

Artists wear floppy black velvet berets like Rembrandt (who wore one because it was the fashion, and to keep his head warm). Giles’s granny clung to her huge black coat, fox fur, hat with violets and a stuffed bird, untidy umbrella and heavy handbag. It looked fine in 1910, why not in 1960?

Cartoons of mobiles and modernistic sculpture (swirly things on plinths in the central piazza of a New Town) were pretty faithful.

Psychiatrists, some with Freudian beards but all identifiable by the framed degree certificates on the wall, listen to clients lying on couches – shrinks and clients sit in chairs facing each other these days, and have done for years.

In September 2014, an FT cartoon showed a journalist sitting at a laptop – wearing a trilby. Journalists (and detectives, and plain-clothes policemen) wore trilbies and raincoats when it was outdoor costume for most men. But that was 50 years ago.

Lefties were depicted as Aldermaston marchers long after they'd become hippies or 80s neohippies. The images were taken faithfully from news photos of the early 60s - women with heavy glasses, duffel coat, stripy college scarf, tweed skirt, sheepskin boots, long straight hair and fringes, a baby in a pushchair.

A picture worth 163 words
SIR - Given your newspaper’s determination to accompany any article on social or political affairs in eastern Europe with a photograph of the apparently ubiquitous old lady with a shawl wrapped over her head, I was delighted to find that your recent piece on the gas crisis in the region ("Gasping for gas", January 17th) carried a picture representative of another important demographic group: the dentally challenged villager. My excitement was short-lived, however, as just a week later it was back to the well-wrapped old lady ("To the barricades", January 24th). One gets the impression from your coverage of elections that every polling station east of the Danube is populated solely by such characters.  To avoid creating any misleading stereotypes, may I suggest that you widen your range of imagery to better represent east Europeans. Roma using horse-drawn carts on main roads, elderly veterans in Soviet-style uniforms and furry hats and vodka-soaked vagrants would broaden the picture.

Daniel Tilles Cracow, Poland (The Economist)

More photo clichés:

holding a pipe
clenching pipe between teeth
clenching pipe between teeth while fondling a dog and wearing a tweed jacket. (Male only, 30s-50s.)
leaning head on thumb and fingers

holding a bakelite phone handset to the ear while wearing bottomless glasses and looking stern (newspapers, 70s)
squatting – a bizarre trend from the 80s/90s. It gets in the whole person and the background but they look very undignified.
arms round shoulders, dancing the “cancan” – groups of friends ad nauseam

Every photo taken between 50s and 80s must contain at least one person with their hands on their hips. (@tickton69/Donna Webb)

jumping A level students (all pretty, female and with long blonde hair)

that watery Zen landscape of a jetty sticking out into a lake

And a mental health activist asks picture editors to stop illustrating every story about depression with a stock photo of a young woman in a strappy vest looking worried.

When socialists are not swigging champagne (the fiends!) they wear beards and sandals and munch lentils. (These days it’s Muslims and hipsters who grow beards, everyone wears sandals in the summer, and lentils are eaten by Indians, Pakistanis and pretty much everybody. The original high-minded sandal-wearers flourished well before the war – the First World War, that is.)

But some stock characters from fiction live on, when everybody thought they were long gone: like the middle-aged female spiritual seeker festooned with scarves and Egyptian scarabs. And nice middle-class ladies are still opening artistic teashops – except they’re cafés now.

More clichés here.