Friday 31 July 2020

Grammar: Rookie Writing Mistakes

If you want to sound professional, never, ever, ever use the words "excuse the pun" or "pun not intended" or even "pun intended". If you make a pun, leave it. Or find different words. Very often these "puns" are not puns at all but too-appropriate metaphors. You can avoid these by cutting out as many metaphors as possible.

Other phrases to avoid:
the aptly named
(Readers can work it out.)
the former/the latter (The final element in a long list is "the last".)
that of
in turn
by contrast

Her face was a picture!
We all fell about!

(These two were popular in the 80s.)

Step away from words like:
parlance for speech patterns
proven where proved will do
an historic

not only but also
(A lot depends on where you put them. “Not only verb” needs “but also another verb”.)

I came across a letter written in the way that people sometimes use when they’re dressing up their words to be more impressive—a tuxedo of prose comprising an “indeed” here, an extra adverb there, not to mention words like "comprising". (Jeff Chu, Does Jesus Really Love Me?)

Avoid clichés.

In fiction, avoid: "'The old lady was becoming a bit forgetful', she thought." You can indicate a character's thoughts in other ways. And don't make the heroine "think" your favourite quotes from great literature.

Leave one space after a full stop, not two, despite what your teacher or your mother told you, 50 years ago. If you send in a piece with extra spaces some underling has to search and destroy them all. Word now flags two spaces as an error.

Typing a capital O instead of a zero, or a lowercase L for the figure 1 brands you as a dinosaur from pre-computer days.

Don't telegraph your punches. Avoid: "Joke joke joke joke", he quipped puckishly, with an ironic lift of one eyebrow. And never, ever use the phrase "quick as a flash".

Avoid repetition, but do find synonyms instead of limp "do so", "had been" or "one".  For example:

It was an interesting idea, but hardly an original one.

How about "hardly an original concept"?

Sometimes you have to repeat the name of the thing/s you're talking about, or the reader ends up wondering who "he" is, where "there" is, and so on. Don't make the reader read backwards.

Don't try to be too complicated. Do keep it simple.

I know the above writing habits are common, and many books are written in this style. That’s why I can’t read them.

And remember: don't use the word "peruse" in your covering letter.

A Short Guide to Writing Well has many more helpful hints.

This Telegraph article has a lot of tips on How Not to Write.

More puns here, and links to the rest.

Saturday 25 July 2020

Julian Symons' Bloody Murder

At long last I've caught up with Julian Symons’ Bloody Murder. First published in 1972, it’s an overview of the mystery genre from its origins to the 90s – Symons kept updating it. His parents were Russian-Jewish immigrants, his politics were left-wing, and he was initially a conscientious objector in World War Two. After leaving the army, he wrote poetry, reviewed mysteries and worked in advertising. He “turned away with a shudder from the many Holmes parodies”, but wrote two of them. His heyday as a mystery writer was postwar.

All this may explain his somewhat sweeping judgements of mysteries written in the interwar period – the Golden Age. Whenever there’s an Agatha Christie anniversary, or a new “adaptation” (read “travesty”) of one of her works, journalists will be deputed to produce a page of background. Never having read any Golden Age mysteries, they turn to this book, and Symons’ chapters on the 20s and 30s. I’ll highlight the tropes.

He sees the agreed rules for the genre as an authoritarian straitjacket. The perpetrator “must not be a servant because this was a ‘too easy solution’, and ‘the culprit must be a decidedly worthwhile person’... Nor could the murderer be a professional criminal... The motives for all crimes should be personal, and within that context rational.” (Quotes from Philo Vance creator Willard Huntington Wright, aka S.S. Van Dine.) Murders “should not be committed for reasons of state or on behalf of theoretical principles or by somebody merely insane.” See Ngaio Marsh’s The Nursing Home Murder, Margery Allingham’s Death of a Ghost, Josephine Tey’s A Shilling for Candles and other stories which end with the removal of “the screaming, raving thing that had been X”. In one of them we even get the "theoretical principles" as well.

Symons concludes that “in very few of these stories are the characters seen as anything other than puppets in a game”. In Dorothy Sayers’ Have His Carcase, Harriet Vane finds her fictional lovers stubbornly refuse to come alive. “Give them real emotions,” suggests Sayers' detective Lord Peter Wimsey. Vane does, and finds that this throws the whole story out of whack. “Start again,” Wimsey advises, helpfully. Sayers herself put chunks of her own experience and opinions into her books, as did Christie.

These stories take place in a political vacuum, writes Symons. “The fairytale land of the Golden Age was one in which murder was committed over and over again without anybody getting hurt.” Communists are guyed in Nursing Home, and used as a plot device in Christie’s One, Two, Buckle My Shoe, and the perpetrator rationalises: “But my country needs me”. Both Christie and Margery Allingham hint at the harm galloping inflation could do, and Allingham features a would-be Mosley.

Symons continues: "It is safe to say that almost all the British writers of the 20s and 30s... were unquestionably right-wing. This is not to say that they were openly anti-Semitic or anti-Radical, but that they were overwhelmingly conservative in feeling. It would have been unthinkable for them to create a Jewish detective, or a working-class one...” Inspector Fox in Ngaio Marsh’s work is sometimes nauseatingly humble about his working-class origins. And what Symons thinks writers would have thought is not evidence.

The social order in these stories was as fixed and mechanical as that of the Incas... It seems surprising that the intelligent men and women who devised the rules did not see that they were limiting the scope and interest of their work... to abjure voluntarily the interplay of character and the force of passion was eventually to reduce this kind of detective story to the level of a crossword puzzle.” We know so much better now, you see.

He rates Christie and Sayers, but points out that the latter’s books contain “an enormous amount of padding... her English yokels are particularly to be deplored". He doesn’t like her “facetious professional men” either. At times Wimsey’s “self-conscious humour” is “excruciating”. (G.K. Chesterton’s Gabriel Syme was better at absurdity.) Sayers is accused of “casual anti-Semitism”, an unpleasant trait that can’t be denied, though Olga Kohn, the character he quotes, turns out to be intelligent and appealing. In fact the low-life characters are the best bits of Have His Carcase.

He moves on to the 30s and Gladys Mitchell, whose books are “full of travelogue details”. “Many tediously fanciful aspects of English life, Morris dancing, witchcraft, amateur archaeology, get lengthy examination in the Mitchell oeuvre.” As teenagers, mysteries were almost our only source of information about witchcraft – we were keen to find recipes that might work, though there was always the risk that the Devil could take your soul.

“Most of the new writers... had at least implicit right-wing sympathies. Their policemen were all good, their Radicals bad or silly, they took the existing social order for granted.” Michael Innes “gave his books a very thick coating of urbane literary conversation”. That’s why I can’t read them.

In this period “Christie got rid of Poirot’s Idiot Friend, Captain Hastings, and modified the little Belgian a great deal because she felt him to be increasingly absurd.” A fair summary. Sayers gave up detection in the 40s, and refused to write an introduction to an omnibus, “saying that she had written the books only to make money and had no further interest in them”. And that is something that we, and 21st century journalists, should remember. Authors had to consider their readers and produce what sold.

Symons recommends Christie's Mrs McGinty’s Dead and The Pale Horse (so do I), with the caveat: “She was not a good writer, but she was a supreme mistress in the construction of puzzles and had a skill in writing light, lively and readable dialogue that has been consistently underrated by critics. There was also a darker side to her imagination, something that has been little recognised.” So Sayers is damned for being too literary, and Christie dismissed as not literary enough, though he can see her good points.

“In constructing the detective story as a perfect mechanism, the Golden Age writers sacrificed almost everything else. Their work pandered to the taste of readers who wanted every character de-gutted so that there should be nothing even faintly disturbing about the fate of victims or murderers.”

He can’t even keep the English GAD writers out of a discussion of Raymond Chandler: “For the Golden Age writer the plot is everything and the writing might often be done by computer... the limitations of the Golden Age’s arbitrary conventions”. The rules were surely a reaction to the thrillers of the early 20th century, and they were not entirely serious. He opines that “The Poirot and Miss Marple short stories are far inferior to the novels”. So wrong.

His overview of postwar detective fiction is more readable – the prose style throughout is excellent and often witty. Since I know far less about this period, I’m happy to be educated – and to be reminded of Colin Watson’s Miss Teatime, played on TV by Brenda Bruce. He praises Joan Aiken’s The Trouble with Product X – one of her earlier books that were set in worlds very like this one but with minor, significant differences.

The most clearly realised of Edgar Wallace’s detectives is “the absent-minded spinsterish Mr J.G. Reeder”, and the Reeder collection (1925) is “probably the best”. The stories were made into a wonderful TV series in the 60s, with Hugh Burden, Willoughby Goddard and a succession of secretaries that included Damaris Hayman. (Wallace is discussed here because he wrote thrillers rather than mysteries.)

Dennis Wheatley is dismissed for using language like “having partaken of Sir Pellinore’s Lucullan hospitality”. I was delighted to find that modernist composer George Antheil had written two crime stories under the name of Stacey Bishop. Antheil’s Ballet Mécanique is written for “16 pianos, some buzzers, an airplane propeller and an electric drill”. I wonder if he inspired Christie’s straight novel Giant’s Bread?

Arnold Bennett’s potboilers are condemned for their “tone of uneasy facetiousness” and Sax Rohmer’s Fu Manchu stories dismissed as “absolute rubbish”. I can now add Sudden Death: Or My Lady the Wolf (1886), by Britiffe, fourth Baron Scottowe, to my short list of detective novels involving female-to-male cross-dressing. 

He notes that in Graham Greene “the villain is seen as a kind of pathetic hero”. “John Le Carré’s later progress has been for the most part dismaying.” Many would agree, but the development he deplores is Le Carré’s move from mysteries to spy novels, and George Smiley’s transformation from a “faceless organisation man” to a hero. Symons finds Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy “long, complicated, funereally slow”.

Dornford Yates is “unreadable” in his view – not surprising, as Yates’ books combine ostentatious “fine writing” with casual violence and repellent racism. Victorian journalists were better at this kind of style, full of “elegant variation” and classical allusions. Symons warms to Dick Francis and appreciates his thorough research, though finds he has been “overpraised”.

In one of his many later appendices, he rehashes his opinion of the Golden Age. Women novelists’ “work emphasised the importance of preserving the existing state of society. (The invention of the ‘rules’ could be related to this overriding social need.)” Society was threatened in the 30s – by the Depression and by dictatorships – but the connection between these perils and the necessity to keep identical twins, supernatural intervention and Chinamen out of mystery stories is tenuous.

In his last footnote, he refers to the “fairytale crime world of Agatha Christie”. Thomas Harris’ Silence of the Lambs is full of “blindingly dull stuff about moths” and “treasure-hunt clues”.
Finally, “though the form seems endlessly flexible there is a point at which the elastic snaps” and “most parodies are dismally unfunny”. He has no time for stories by Paul Auster and Jorge-Luis Borges which borrow the 30s American crime novel’s atmospheric set-ups and then offer no plot. All these authors show “condescension” to the genre, and are “self-congratulatory”, “clever” and “sterile”.

The cliché about Julian Symons is “Who remembers his mysteries now?”, but on this showing I’m tempted to read them. He ends with Berthold Brecht’s words “O Moon of Alabama, We now must say goodbye”, and promises to “make no more additions to Bloody Murder". I enjoyed the days in the company of Mr Symons, and must now catch up on Colin Watson’s Snobbery with Violence.

Journalists – next time you have to write a page about an author whose books you’ve never read, who has been given a modern treatment by an adapter who’s never read her either, just lift the quotes above!

More here, and links to other mysteries.

Wednesday 22 July 2020

Grammar: Adjectives 15

Don't listen to people who tell you to cut out all adjectives. They probably mean imprecise descriptors like "nice", "sumptuous" or "key".
  (And how could I say that without using the adjective "imprecise"?)

The thrillingly unnerving Austrian Cultural Forum, New York, Raimund Abraham, 1992-2002.
(Pictured. @Furmadamadam)

New planning rules permit the addition of two storeys: "Neighbours will not be able to formally object", it says here. Who thought this one up? Anyone with experience of local representation can imagine the understandably livid residents this will produce in volumes. All the hallmarks of some cracking wheeze from an Oil-funded Think Tank whose denizens have never slogged in neighbourhood politics. Is this truly dreadful idea going to be watered down? (@BrynleyHeaven)

One of those fairly awful movies about teenagers and pop singers/groups.
(via Facebook)

The tower of St Benet Fink church is disappointingly feeble. (JP)

Luigi's pin-table business is delightfully dingy, filled out with slot machines and macabre looking games such as a laughing sailor or Konki The Clown: Fortune Teller. (Imdb on Street of Shadows)

Outlandishly banal, numbingly tedious, completely devoid of stylistic flair; plodding, matter-of-fact prose; either a postmodern master or a talentless nobody. (Critics on Sylvia Smith’s mesmerising memoir Misadventures)
Absurd court send-up The Favourite. (Adrian Horton in the Guardian. The recent film was about Queen Anne, but with swearing and pop music, and everybody thought it was wonderful.)

A toweringly silly piece of modern art has been delighting locals since the 1980s. (

An irritating slushy pop ballad, one of those dreary songs that often turned up in these type of movies, sung by nondescript singer Ronny Hall. (Imdb on Pit of Darkness)

“5G caused Coronavirus” is a “particularly deranged theory”, says @ruskin147.

It’s cool that the resources the markets seem to allocate most efficiently and expeditiously are misery, pestilence, and death. Truly amazing - and a fundamental rebuttal of every dime store TED Talk scientism progressivist grift - that as markets wreak carnage the laziest and wealthiest people on earth demand the proles reverse thru sheer will and self-sacrifice the second great depression in two weeks. (@PatBlanchfield)

I can’t picture what a 23-stone chandelier might look like, although the short answer is probably “vulgar”. (Hilary Rose, Times March 2020)

As you can tell from my clearly blithering attempt to ruin the plot, it's a fantastic film. (imdb on Double Indemnity)

I wrote about the Trumps' majestically cursed Christmas videos as a window into their unique cheesy joylessness. (@david_j_roth

I also had to listen to unbelievable amounts of inane prattle by the extreme feminists about how I was letting down the side and how I was under the heel of the patriarchy for being able to sew. They also disdained my ability to cook especially when I revealed that my Father taught me - they didn't see any of it as life skills, they saw it all as repression. (CL)

The mind-improving meetings of the prim societies he belonged to. (Alida Baxter, Flat on My Back, on exciting dates with a former boyfriend)

In a history full of splitting hairs and infuriatingly pointless in-fighting, Spinoza is, for my money, the book’s hero. (New Humanist on John Barton’s A History of the Bible)

Le Creuset: ridiculously heavy over-rated cooking utensils (CS)

This story certainly needs telling, but I wish the director hadn't opted for quite such a gratingly shouty and melodramatic acting style. (@PlanetSlade)

A group of people who clearly share his view that it’s rather fun to be royal are the Descendants of the Illegitimate Sons and Daughters of the Kings of Britain, otherwise known as The Royal Bastards. Membership of this 58-year-old society, based in Cupertino, California, is open to individuals of any nationality who can prove descent from an illegitimate son or daughter of a king of England, Scotland, Wales, Great Britain or the United Kingdom. “Please note that most lineages acceptable for admission to other hereditary associations will not quality for admission to this society,” it rather snootily insists. (Daily Express, 2009)

I didn't crop photo as the dismal bricks add to the ambience. (Via FB)

I've requested that my body be cremated, then my ashes put upon a small Viking longboat toy. The viking longboat toy is to be pushed out into a small boating lake, or similarly disappointing body of water, and set alight. (@LatestMessiah)

Undergraduate gibberish – not since first-year history of art seminars have I heard so much self-indulgent academic flannel.
(Times 2019 on Karl Ove Knausgard)

The still (rather desperately) swinging London of 1972... (Fortean Times 2019)

Terribly well-meaning teachers with bright-eyed mantras about tolerance and respect... (Times)

Winning silliness and genuine unease. (Matthew Sweet on The Devil Rides Out. He adds that “dabbling” in anything is so much worse than doing it properly.)

He manages to be a reptilian sleazeball throughout the entire film. (Critic on Vincent Price in Laura)

Mystical mumbo jumbo. For a while they even took to wafting about in robes. (Rachel Campbell-Johnston in the Times on late 19th century French art group Les Nabis)

There's none of that watered-down Freudian guff we encounter in Psycho. (Henry Coombs on Peeping Tom)

Nietzsche’s life was rivetingly odd. (Hugo Rifkind, Times)

Postmodern wiseass. (CE on Cumberbatch’s Sherlock)

The film goes thoroughly and delectably bananas. (

Loughborough Junction is a bit of London that would like to imagine itself as the edge of somewhere nicer, but Stella Duffy relishes its tatty ordinariness. (Blurb for Duffy’s The Room of Lost Things)

More here, and links to the rest.

Sunday 12 July 2020

Agatha Christie's They Do It With Mirrors

I’d forgotten how good this book is. Christie’s social observation and wit are to the fore, and she has fun putting the knife into earnest psychological theories. The story opens as Miss Marple is visiting an old friend, Ruth Van Rydock. She is one of a pair of American sisters Miss M was at school with in Paris in the distant past. As Ruth tries on an expensive dress in her swanky hotel room, the old friends discuss the absent sister – Carrie Louise. She had a tendency to marry cranks, says Ruth. She’s too idealistic!

Miss Marple responds: Of course it was the fashion when we were young to have ideals—we all had them, it was the proper thing for young girls... One gets over all that nonsense.
Ruth disapproves of Carrie Louise’s present husband, Lewis Serrocold, a philanthropist who wants to reform young criminals. “Wanting to improve everybody’s lives for them. And really, you know, nobody can do that but yourself." "I wonder," said Miss Marple.

Ruth continues to run down Serrocold: “One of those men of enormous will power who like living on a banana and a piece of toast and put all their energies into a Cause.”

Serrocold is now one of the trustees of the money left by Carrie Louise’s first husband – a billionaire Swede with the same passion for tinkering with society. Ruth is worried about her sister. On her last visit to the institution she felt something wasn’t quite right. If only Jane could go and spy out the land. But the dear old thing is so unworldly! Miss Marple brushes this objection aside. Ruth ponders: ‘Maybe, Jane, that St Mary Mead of yours isn’t quite the idyllic retreat that I’ve always imagined it.’

Miss M sums up her philosophy: “Human nature, dear, is very much the same everywhere.” She takes on the job, and sets off for Stonygates, a much-extended Victorian mansion where she hears a lot about the institution’s work. The staff and hangers-on also reveal something about current attitudes to the problem of youth crime, believing that “juvenile delinquents were not subnormal—that they had excellent brains and abilities and only needed right direction.”

As well as Lewis’s secretary, Edgar Lawson, she meets Gina, CL’s grand-daughter, and her surly American husband Walter Hudd – married in haste during the war. (The story must be taking place in the late 40s. At one point Gina appears in “a kind of peasant get up”, but CL's evening dress is "darned under the arms".)
“They’re all bats,” is Wally’s judgement on the inmates, while Lewis says of the troubled Edgar: “All he needed was responsibility.” Lewis thinks the boys just need to understand money instead of spending it on movies and girls. Gina is more forthright: “They only cosh people so as to rob a till or get money or jewellery—not just for fun.”
Also present or dropping in are CL’s two stepsons from an earlier marriage, Stephen and Alexis Restarick. Both of them are in love with the attractive Gina. Alex calls the mansion “the best Victorian Lavatory period”. Those were the days when all Victorian buildings were automatically dismissed as “monstrosities”.
Among the cast is CL’s daughter by her first husband, Eric Gulbrandsen. Mildred was a stocky, plain child, and later in life married a Canon of the Church of England. Now she’s a widow, and pours out her heart to Miss Marple. Mildred feels hard-done-by, and voices some common prejudices. Do I have to stress that these ideas belong to the character, not to Christie, who is sending them up?
“Everyone can help behaving rudely,” says Mildred, dismissing the idea that Walter may feel at a loose end in his wife’s home. And as for the way people behaved during the war: “I do so dislike the way many people gave way to panic about their families—and themselves, too, very often.”
Gina is the daughter of Pippa, adopted by the Gulbrandsens. As for her husband, Gina’s father: “You know what Italians are. Nothing matters to them but money,” opines Mildred.
“Pippa, you see, was the pretty one... I wasn’t old enough to realize that it’s character that matters,” she explains rather desperately. “They liked her best. A child whose own parents didn’t want her – or more probably illegitimate.” She goes on: “It’s come out in Gina. There’s bad blood there. Blood will tell. Lewis can have what theories he likes about environment. Bad blood does tell. ... But nothing’s thought of or considered here except a lot of whining boys and young men who want to live easily and dishonestly and don’t care about the idea of doing a little hard work. What about the decent boys from decent homes? Why isn’t something done for them? Honesty just isn’t interesting to cranks like Mr Serrocold and Dr Maverick and all the bunch of half-baked sentimentalists we’ve got here. I and my brothers were brought up the hard way, Miss Marple, and we weren’t encouraged to whine. Soft, that’s what the world is nowadays!”

These days she'd have a Twitter account. Her brothers (or step-brothers) are Alex and Stephen Restarick, and Christian Gulbrandsen – Eric’s son by an earlier marriage who is actually older than CL.

Dr Maverick is a psychiatrist at the institution, described as advancing upon Edgar “with a kind of professional zest”. The place is later referred to as having a “fervent medical atmosphere”. Alex Restarick, when he arrives, is more confident than his brother. He is “one who bore upon him the authority and good humour of success”. Clearly environment has helped to form his character, and what is the Institution doing but providing helpful surroundings to troubled youths?
But this doesn't stop the cast harping on the heredity theme, rather repetitively:

“Why do you think I’m so upset?" wonders Gina. "Because I’m half Italian?"
"Very possibly. At least perhaps it explains why you don’t mind showing what you feel."

Later someone says of her: “She’s half Italian, you know, and the Italians have that unconscious vein of cruelty. They’ve no compassion for anyone who’s old or ugly, or peculiar in any way.”
And then of course somebody is found dead, and CL's tonic is adulterated with arsenic...

Gina cried, ‘But they couldn’t possibly think it was one of us!’ Her dark eyes were round and dismayed. ‘Don’t say it must have been a tramp, dear,’ said Alex, helping himself lavishly to marmalade. ‘It’s so hackneyed.’

Miss Marple stresses that villages are not the “cosy, idyllic” environments people like to imagine. "Very nasty things go on in a village, I assure you. One has an opportunity of studying things there that one would never have in a town."

The police arrive in the form if Inspector Curry and Sergeant Lake. The unflappable Curry has a habit of doodling cats on his notebook, and even dares to refer to one of Miss Marple’s earlier cases: "We mustn’t be misled by the time you heard the shot. That’s a trick that’s been done before now, you know. Fake up a shot so as to fix the time of a crime, and fix it wrong.”               

The reader begins to tot up the characters with dubious ancestry, who may have been likely to lose control and suddenly murder somebody. Gina’s mother was adopted, her father was Italian. Edgar claims his father was Winston Churchill – or Field-Marshal Montgomery. Stephen and Alex’s mother was Russian. As Stephen says, “She was an excellent shot. Quite a bit of trouble she caused. She was a Russian dancer, you know." And nobody knows who Wally’s “people” were. “We know absolutely nothing about him. He’s probably one of these dreadful American gangsters." Mildred again.
Miss Marple sees Mildred on her way to give her evidence and thinks how like a Canon’s widow she looks. “So few people ever did look like what they really were,” she ponders, dropping the reader a hint. To Inspector Curry, Mildred starts savaging all around her again. Gina? “She’s always been man mad!” And she’d “say anything. The Italians are never truthful. And she’s a Roman Catholic, of course.” ... Inspector Curry side-stepped the ecclesiastical angle.
When Curry interviews Alex, we’re reminded of the man’s foreign origins: “He noted the slightly pointed ears, the un-English Mongolian type of face.” Later Alex tells Gina: "You have the rudiments of honesty, I’m glad to see. That’s the Latin in you."
Mildred catches them kissing, and accuses Gina of the crimes: “I daresay that it’s the Italian in you that makes you turn to poison.”

Eventually everybody's ancestry is sorted out. I'm glad we've moved on from the idea that we behave like automata just because we're Italian, or Russian, or maladjusted... Or have we?

There's a TV adaptation with Joan Hickson, a version with Julia Mackenzie, and a rather good film with Helen Hayes as Miss Marple, John Mills as Lewis, and Bette Davies as Carrie Louise. Yes, really.

More Christie here, and links to the rest.

Wednesday 1 July 2020

Inspirational Quotes 98: Racism

People who think "political correctness" is "cancer" also think "showing people of different backgrounds on TV" is "political correctness". (@existentialcoms)

Racists yearn to "prove" the logic of their prejudice. They are dedicated bigots. Yet history is usually far too complex for their needs. (@Limerick1914)

I think we are witnessing a metatrope here, as in "playing the 'playing the race card' card". JP

Patterns are of migration in many cases are the reverse patterns of colonisation. (@KarlreMarks)
They came here because we went there. (Anon)

Progressives who insist racism is why Trump won are guilty of the same villainization they decry when others do it. (@jwpetersNYT)
Oh great, another entry for the "calling people racist is as bad as - nay, worse than! - being racist" compendium. (@lottelydia)

Racism cannot be understood without a parallel understanding of how and why we have come to live as citizens of defined states, based on the idea of a common ethnic and political heritage, territorially bound by legal frontiers and with limited membership. (Racism: A Beginner's Guide, Alana Lentin)

"None of this would have happened if we'd spent less time telling racists they are racist" - The worst lesson people are taking from 2016. (@garwboy)

Pathfinder FB fan group banned all racist members. The next week, they saw a drop in harassing & threatening posts of ALL kinds. From the mod: "I encourage every community to quit thinking you need to be fair to unfair voices. Get the rot out and you'll have a healthier community." (@AmazonChique)

Part of racism is that the dominant group gets to decide when and how racism is relevant. Whether it's tarring all members of a racial group with one individual's crime or thinking the friendship of one member clears you of racism, it's the racist who's in the driver’s seat. (@adamkotsko)

A big part of “anti-PC” politics boils down to “I don’t want [group that voter doesn’t like] to get [particular benefit] because they haven’t earned it. (@ParkerMolloy)

We need to stop the "empathy for racists" and "racism is just economic anxiety" genres of political commentary. (@SpringaldJack)

‏I see demanding minorities be treated equally is the new scapegoat for the rise of populism. (@johnnypaige)

Is it just white people thinking the colour of their skin makes them superior and they're worried their imagined superiority will diminish? (@RossJNicholson)

Where hatred of one group of people is allowed to flourish, more will always follow. (@JayHulmePoet.)

As a people we are fighting to maintain the Heaven-ordained supremacy of the white man over the inferior or coloured race. As a national emblem, the Confederate Flag is significant of our higher cause, the cause of a superior race. (William T. Thompson, 1863)

More here, and links to the rest.

Inspirational Quotes 97

We are the cosmos made conscious and life is the means by which the universe understands itself. (Professor Brian Cox)
Post fact politics is a bit like post fact aviation. You will eventually hit the very real ground. (@ProfBrianCox)

Reality exists independent of the desires or claims of those in power. (Lawrence Krauss)

Violence is never the answer. The answer, as always, is smug platitudes.

Cruelty to animals is a known psychological precursor to cruelty to humans.

Those who suffer most are always the ones whose suffering is most invisible. They can't wield it or make it part of some identity. (@isacsohn)

I thought that the point of a koan was that it didn't have an answer. Your meditated on the unacceptability of various putative answers, until you gradually merged into to the cosmos in a spirit of calm resignation. (WUR)

Note that the 'what's your problem, it's just a joke!?' crowd never, ever punch upwards. (@jondrytay)

People could age without moving from the spot, without trying out any gestures other than the ones they were seen to be making. (Georges Simenon)

If scientists stayed out of politics we'd still be inhaling lead from fossil fuels and bathing in DDT. (@MaerzLab)

In the 19th century, Father Christmas evolved into Santa Claus with the express purpose of educating children about divine morality - if you’re good, you get a reward. He’s basically a training-wheels version of God for kids too young to comprehend an invisible deity. (Greg Jenner)

Holiday figures like Santa and the Easter Bunny are charming when it comes to entertaining small children, but it gets creepy when adults start concocting increasingly elaborate schemes to artificially extend their kid’s naïveté. (Danny Lavery,

I think postmodernism basically came out of WW2 and the Holocaust, when it seemed all systems of meaning and hope of progress collapsed. (PW)

Team-building exercises can be as mundane as that godforsaken trust game where you have to close your eyes and fall backward, or as terrifyingly complex as forcing you to group up and devise team cheers based around the names of the people in your group, or go for nature hikes and forage for your own lunch in the wild. (

It was the drip-drip effect of being berated and humiliated by my husband that has made it impossible for me to live with him. (Said a woman who was denied a divorce twice by the courts, because the law says the above is not “unreasonable behaviour”. As they gave the judgement, the judges said the law should be changed.)

Their “arguments” aren’t the point. The abuse is the point. The abuse is always the point. (LW. Someone adds: “Move on and don’t look back.”)

The key to destroying feminism from the inside is to redefine key concepts and make women feel guilty about questioning the new definitions. (@3rdwavelessons)

"Free speech is absolute." It is not. It is always restrained by other laws inc. Hate Speech, Libel, Incitement to Violence, etc. (@JonHolb)

That's "snowflake", "virtue signalling" and "SJW" going straight on to instamute. (@mrdavidwhitley)

The splitting defence – you blame the Other for bringing out your bad side while you squirrel away your good side for another. (RR)

Every coup claims it's a counter-coup. Cult leaders brainwash you by telling you you're being DEprogrammed. This is why are where we are. (@AlexPaknadel)

In the highly irritating words of Marcus Aurelius, “Begin each day by telling yourself: Today I shall be meeting with interference, ingratitude, insolence, disloyalty, ill-will, and selfishness—all of them due to the offenders’ ignorance of what is good or evil.” (Danny Lavery)

Being agnostic doesn't mean I half believe in every god. I don't believe in any god that has a name - I half believe in something I can't name. (RK)

Non-atheists seem to love this habit of telling atheists what atheism is. (@MrOzAtheist)

More here, and links to the rest.