Tuesday, 21 December 2010

The World à la Autocomplete

Partly inspired by Frank Jacobs' Strange Maps, I have asked the World to tell us a bit about its tastes and opinions. I did this by starting sentences in the google search engine and letting the autocomplete take care of the rest. The non-italicised words are mine. Let us see what the World had to say...

I love you Phillip Morris
I love you man
As hated by the world

I hate ryanair
I hate this part
I hate everything about you
I hate luv storys
Satan is waitin'

Satan is waitin

I eat boys like you for breakfast
I eat whale
I eat soul
I eat cheese but only on pizza

My baby just cares for me
My baby shot me down

Wikileaks is a cia front

I have a dream
I have no mouth and I must scream
I have nothing
Man-pretty freemason

I will never text again after seeing this

Ahmadinejad is hot
Ahmadinejad is a freemason

I must be emo
I must stick with you
I must let you go
I must break you
I must have them
I must say that at first it was difficult work
Who's ya' daddy?

My daddy was a bankrobber
My daddy drinks because I cry
My daddy was the black dahlia killer
My daddy taught me good

Johnny Depp has kids
Johnny Depp has dated
Johnny Depp has anxiety

My mama is so fat
My mama made it

Obama is a muslim
The Obama Cactus Soap
Obama israel 
Obama is a cactus
Obama is the antichrist
My childhood friend is the President

My worst mistake was loving you

My other car is made of meat
My other ride is your mom

I wonder if heaven got a ghetto

Simon Cowell is gay
Simon Cowell is the king of the beavers
Simon Cowell is hot
Simon Cowell is a prick

I wish I was a little bit taller
I wish I was a baller
I wish I never met you

My hero is me
My hero is you Hayden Penettiere

I am not a human being
I am bored
I am the walrus

I wear my sunglasses at night
I wear my stunna glasses at night
I wear my hear back and forth
I wear your shirt
I wear no pants

I like it on the floor
I like it on the chair
I like it on the couch
I like it on the kitchen table

I see what you did there
I seek golf

In the future there will be robots
In the future there was a war nuclear cats
In the future there will be no secrets
In the future there will be three kinds of people

In the future, I will read at night
Sources: Image 1, 2, 34, 5, 6, 7

Sunday, 19 December 2010

The Story of a Riff - Update

In September I traced the career of a riff in The Story of a Riff - Bullet in the Fever Stranglehold Train. I showed how the riff had travelled from Savoy Brown's Hellbound Train (1972) via Ted Nugent's Stranglehold (1975) and U2's Bullet the Blue Sky (1987) to Fever Dog from the 2000 film Almost Famous.

Now, it seems like Led Zeppelin's When the Levee Breaks predates these. From the 1971 album Led Zeppelin IV, it bears distinct similarities to Bullet the Blue Sky, especially thanks to John Bonham's drum and Robert Plant's vocals. As one commentator wrote on the youtube page for the vid below;

" This song is like having sex in a fast car while eating ice cream and everything's glitter and confetti

It is interesting, though, to see how the Zeppelin version again is an adaptation of a 1929 blues. It was written by Kansas Joe McCoy and Memphis Minnie after the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927, but is impossible to come by due to Sony Music forcing their copyright. However, this makes the riff 81 years old, by the last count.

For the other 4 versions of the riff, see the first post.

Harris' List

This is a small excerpt from Harris' list of Covent-Garden ladies Or man of pleasure's kalender for the year 1793. Containing the histories and some curious anecdotes of the most celebrated ladies now on the town, or in keeping, and also many of their keepers. The title says it all, really.

The "man of pleasure" would browse this handbook in order to find a suitable "fallen lady". Sadly enough, it seems the ladies were actively pursuing an entry in the list for advertising purposes. It was written by the Irish poet Samuel Derrick from inside a debtor's prison and based on the list of available ladies carried by the famous whoremonger Jack Harris. Derrick kept publishing the list, sometimes on the sly before dying and passing on the profits to a former mistress, brothel-keeper Charlotte Hayes. Thus, the list was very much a product from the underbelly of society seeming like another page out of John Gay's The Beggar's Opera.


For more entries from Harris' list, go to amazon.co.uk.

Source: Harris. Harris's list of Covent-Garden ladies Or man of pleasure's kalender for the year 1793. Containing the histories and some curious anecdotes of the most celebrated ladies now on the town, or in keeping, and also many of their keepers. London, [1793]. Eighteenth Century Collections Online. Gale. NTNU Universitetsbiblioteket. 19 Dec. 2010

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Successful Marketing

I like to consider myself a conscious consumer and pride myself on being able to see through most commercials. This one, however, had me running for the stores. It advertises small gummy bears with vitamins and fruity flavour. I have never been one for dietary supplements but now I take two of these every morning.

This is an earlier, less appealing one:

Sources: 1, 2

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Eighteenth-Century Characters

Below I have posted a series on 18th century literary characters. These are based on Elaine M. McGirr's Eighteenth-Century Characters, A Guide to the Literature of the Age. The book, which discusses the characters as well as a few more in a more thorough way than mine, can be bought at amazon.co.uk.

The characters discussed in my series are:

Cover illustration

Monday, 13 December 2010

Literary Characters - The Learned Lady and The Female Wit

To understand 18th century Britain's reaction towards the Learned Lady or the Female Wit, it is necessary to see how female sexuality and female knowledge was understood as linked.

The female wit of the Restoration stage had always incorporated an element of sexuality, as was natural for a character mirroring the rake. As the long 18th century rolled on, however, and attitudes to female sexuality changed so did those towards female wit. As female writers like Aphra Behn and Eliza Haywood rose to prominence, satires suggested that having and flaunting knowledge would be the same as having and flaunting sexual knowledge. A woman writer, using the most public medium to "flaunt" her knowledge, was considered not only to "prostitute her mind" but also to appropriate male prerogatives. This made them unnatural women and unfit for the ideal role of a modest, virtuous and silent wife/mother.

Here it is important to distinguish the learned lady and the female wit from the other female characters. While these were characters of performance and sexual impropriety (qualities writers like Pope, Swift and Addison often ascribed to womanhood as a whole), the learned lady and the female wit neither put on a performance nor show off their sexualty.

Alexander Pope did not think highly of women of knowledge
and was subsequently targeted by women writers like Montagu and Burney

Although satires often linked them with sexuality, the real outrage of the display of feminine knowledge was the implication that women were capable of higher thought like men were. This was a perversion that went beyond mere authorship. Thus, this would be ridiculed e.g. with Charlotte Lennox' Lucy or Henry Fielding's Mrs. Slipslop struggling with difficult words and consepts they presume to master.

What became central to the discussion of female knowledge was education. Mary Wollstonecraft's Vindication of the Rights of Women and Lady Mary Wortley Montagu's letters argue that whatever could be found to be lacking in women's knowledge was due to faults in their education. (This is also the chief obstacle in Lennox' The Female Quixote.). Elizabeth Carter and Frances Burney tried to show how learning and femininity could be combined without subjecting the learned lady or the female wit to the scorn of contemporary society. These writers represented a trend in women's right to aquisition and presentation of knowledge which were to change literature and society.

Source: Elaine M. McGirr, Eighteenth-Century Characters: A Guide to the Literature of the Age (Houndsmills: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007)

Literary Characters - The Country Maid and The Town Lady

The Country Maid and the Town Lady are both, like the coquette and the prude, characters of performance. They represent each their extremity of demography and social life, but both are morally ambiguous; they are both simultaneously associated with moral propriety and sexual availability.

The town lady shares some characteristics with the coquette. She indulges in social arrangements and is able to adapt to social situations. In addition to this, she is polite and fashionable but often decieves her husband for his money. The town lady is a married coquette.What the coquette lacks in sexual constancy (a woman's honour) is found in the town lady, although she is financially and to a degree socially inconstant. The association of the prude and the coquette's femininity to mercantilism also works for the town lady, and similarly to the ambiguity of the prude's modesty, the town lady's politeness can be seen to invite infidelity.

Where the town lady has an unnerving air of performance, the country maid has no such pretensions. She is similar to the country gentleman in her lack of polish and her "naturalness". She is often a virgin but also signifies sexual availability, making her a prime target for the rake. It is no coincidence that the protagonist of the first pornographic novel, John Cleland's eponymous Fanny Hill, was a country maid. Similarly, the country maid's simple attire signifies sexual availability as opposed to the complex and protective dress of the town lady (more on this below). When Richardson's Pamela dons the dress of a country maid she does not only visualise her poor social standing.

A country maid

The town lady's dress, while immediately discouraging sexual notions with its complexity (and immensity), held a number of qualities which made the town woman an artificial character. Its dual nature of protecting the lady within and emphasising her femininity sent mixed messages. Also, its complexity and size as well as its artificiality made her seem unnatural, exaggerated and imposing which did not go down well with current ideals for femininity.

This artifice is what sets the town lady and the country maid apart. The country maid's lack of hypocricy and guile and her inoffensiveness towards the social and sexual hierarchy makes her a positive character throughout the 18th century. However, this is accompanied with a lack of wit which, somewhat related to the "she-tragedies", leaves her at a loss towards the end of the period. Simultaneously, the increasing worry that the town lady's frivolity might lead her into infidelity, or that her debts must be paid in a similar manner saw the town lady in need of reform. In Frances Burney's Evelina, the eponymous heroine has to find a middle ground between the country maid's innocense and the town lady's politeness. Neither the one or the other could ever be a heroine as the ideal woman woman was expected to be moderate.

Source: Elaine M. McGirr, Eighteenth-Century Characters: A Guide to the Literature of the Age (Houndsmills: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007)

Literary Characters - The Coquette and The Prude

Somewhat like the rake and the fop, and the country gentleman and the cit the Coquette and the Prude seem to be opposed but turn out to share a number of qualities. The coquette is a flirt, playing on the expectations of men and her own femininity while the prude is the seeming opposite, excessively occupied with her virtue and excluding her heart and potential admirers.

The characters share one crucial common trait; both resist marriage and are thus increasingly frowned upon as marriage and motherhood become the percieved natural state of women. Although the coquette faces a downward slide into vulgarity and the prude a similar one into spinsterhood or a transformation into an old maid, their similarities become increasingly apparent throughout the 18th century. Samuel Richardson's prudish Pamela was easily satirised in Henry Fielding's coquette Shamela as resistance to male advances just as easily can be interpreted as schemes to attract these men. Pamela might be both a prude and a coquette. Although it seems Richarson finds prudery impossible (as it is based in modesty which is so attractive), her flaunting of her virtue in most social settings signifies mixed characteristics.

Pamela - prude or coquette?

Addison and Steele were very preoccupied with these characters and saw them in a mercantilistic light. Both, they argued, tried to increase their stock by manipulating the market. This meant being unnatural, which in the expanding capitalism was seen as just as dangerous as in social life.

Later, this was seen as uncomfortable evidence of the superficiality of gender roles and the effect of this. Assumed characters not only opposed the "natural state of woman" but they also presumed to threaten the balance of power relations. Colley Cibber suggests in The Provok'd Husband that the coquette and the prude assumes these characters to preserve their techincal chastity, allowing them to take social liberties elsewhere. In this sense, far from increasing their attractions, they become repulsive because they are not "proper" women.

In spite of this, the coquette was an oft represented character. Likened to the fop, she was lively and social. Her agenda was also understood as a mere postponement of married life, to which end she would avoid too close a relationship to one single suitor. On the other hand, there were also a number of tragic coquettes. Richardson's Clarissa could for instance be seen as a coquette paying for her failure with her life. Whether successful or not, the coquette always ranked above the prude. Both characters were seen as threats to the feminine ideal, but the prude was thought to enbody all the coquette's vices but none of  her virtues and she, unlike the coquette, rejected married life altogether.

Source: Elaine M. McGirr, Eighteenth-Century Characters: A Guide to the Literature of the Age (Houndsmills: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007)

Literary Characters - 17th to 18th Century Female Characters

In the restoration comedies, female characters were witty, beautiful and often the male characters' equals. As the centruries progressed, however, certain processes turned these independent characters into innocent victims and chaste wives which, in Alexander Pope's words "have no characters at all" (77). This post will trace this trajectory.

The Restoration saw the first female actresses entering the stage. Previously, female characters had been played by boys who often did not possess the same skills as their older counterparts (which might account for the comparatively few lines given female characters). With an actress-mad king (whose most famous mistress was the actress Nell Gwynn) and the rise of the restoration comedy, female characters on stage would equal male ones in wit and design to the extent of wearing breeches. (So called "breeches parts" would not only show off actresses' legs, but also comment on the boys playing female roles earlier on.). This equality, finding precedents in Shakespeare's Much Ado about Nothing, could be seen in plays like John Dryden's Secret Love and Marriage á la Mode and William Wycherley's The Country Wife.

Nell Gwynn

With female characters claiming more influence in new dramatic genres it was inevitable that they should enter the formerly male dominated tragedy. Nicholas Rowe's "she-tragedies", like The Fair Penitent and The Tragedy of Jane Shore turned the tide for the female character. In these tragedies, the female character would regret and ripe the results of her Restoration exuberance and women would increasingly be portrayed as victims, as witnessed in Samuel Richardson's Clarissa which relies heavily on Rowe. With the decline of the rake came the decline of its female counterpart. Both Lovelace and Clarissa dies, preparing the ground for the female character who has learned.

Charlotte Lennox' The Female Quixote is the arena in which the several female roles are sorted. The independent heroin of her own romance, Arabella, is at odds with or even above society throughout the novel. At the end, however, after encountering a fallen woman (the Country Maid Miss Groves), the Town Lady Miss Glanville, a cross-dressing Tommy prositute, the Learned Lady (the Countess) and being lectured by a clergyman, she becomes the ideal 18th century heroine. The submissive, passive and chaste wife or victim.

Source: Elaine M. McGirr, Eighteenth-Century Characters: A Guide to the Literature of the Age (Houndsmills: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007)

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Literary Characters - The Cit

The Cit, the opposite of the country gentleman, is a citizen and a member of the growing middle class. With the advent of mercantile capitalism, theatre-goers were increasingly from this social state. As the aristocratic element in the audience dwindled, so did the status of the rake and the his typical victim the cit rose to prominence.

In the early 17th century, the cit had been an ambiguous character. Greedy and vulgar but still enterprising, he increasingly came to stand for the expansion of British influence in trade, shedding his negative qualities onto the character of the Dutch Merchant. Whereas the fop with whom he shares some urban characteristics was a figure of ridicule, the cit never suffered this treatment although he was early on suffering as the victim of the rake.

In the Restoration, the aspiring and socially climbing cit was criticised for his presumption but as he became more intrinsically involved in the health of the nation his abandoning his trade became synonymous with treason. In Richardson's Clarissa and Hogarth's Marriage á la mode, however, the social aspirations and the increasing influence of the middle class is seen to save the aristocracy; the "new money" achieve social status and the "old blood" recieve influence, funds and continued lineage.

Robinson Crusoe was a cit working his industrious, colonial influence on an untamed world

Three processes affect and reflect the cit throughout the century. Firstly, its rise to prominence is seen in its favourable treatment in satires like Henry Fielding's Jonathan Wild and John Gay's The Beggar's Opera. Here, the upper and working classes were linked and criticised in opposition to the middle class, i.e. the cit. Secondly, artists increasingly looked to the increasingly affluent middle class for patronage. This led to an improvement in the portrayal of the cit. Finally, as middle class expertise and wealth led them into higher social milieu and often out to landed estates the distinction between the cit and the country gentleman became increasingly blurred. Although the cit's trade was still percieved as both vital and vulgar, prominent writers like Richardson symptomatically often cast their hero as a country gentleman but often an industrious one. (This merger would perhaps reflect Richardson's own middle class background). As McGirr states, "the ideal character at the century's close was a combination of the cit and the country gentleman: honest, industrious, solvent, well-fed and unapologetically British" (74)

Source: Elaine M. McGirr, Eighteenth-Century Characters: A Guide to the Literature of the Age (Houndsmills: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007)

Literary Characters - The Country Gentleman

Just as the rake and the fop were seen as dichotomies of masculinity, the Country Gentleman formed a dichotomy with the Cit. In addition the country gentleman became the object of an "internal dichotomy" where two representations highlighted the conflicts in an increasingly partisan political milieu.

The country gentleman first appeared in Horace and Virgil and was equated with the "good man" in Renaissance and 17th century literature. He embodied qualities like independence, freedom, moderation and earnestness. He is a character fundamentally in opposition to the city; he resents the fashions, customs, characters of and foreign influence on the city and, most significantly, is opposed to centralised politics. Whereas the character stays much the same throughout the 17th and 18th century, its use and the nature of its traits changes depending on which party is in power.

The Whig party in the making embraced the qualities of the country gentleman. They were opposed to the Stuart court and its Catholic, foreign affiliates. They conservatively and nationalistically celebrated country gentleman's Englishness (later representing him as Addison and Steele's Sir Roger de Coverley and John Bull) and saw him as a representative of the landed gentry whose ancestors made King John sign the Magna Charta. In Whig literature, like Buckingham and Howard's The Country Gentleman, the country gentleman visits the city, finds faults with city politics and particularly with the fops and their French excesses and returns to the country to avoid the corruption of the city.

The court, soon-to-be-Tory, party on the other hand supported the Stuarts, a hierarchical understanding of society and embraced foreign impulses (which neatly tied in with the Stuarts' inclination towards Catholicism). The Tories saw the country gentleman as a failed man; a rustic, cowardly, uncouth "booby" who failed to participate in society. He was clearly linked to the then vanquished roundhead Puritans in Aphra Behn's The Rover and The Roundheads. Here, the country gentleman is subjected to the wit and masculinity of the cavalier rake and fails to avoid being bested in all respects.

The Whig country gentleman's oppositional aspect did complicate matters following the Glorious Revolution and the protestant succession, however. To oppose the new government became synonymous with supporting the ousted Stuarts and so the Whigs washed their hands of the country gentleman. Fielding's Tom Jones features Squire Western, a brutish country gentleman in contrast to the polite de Coverley. As the Whigs switched sides, the country gentleman became more of a threatening Tory figure.

There is a further twist to this confusing story. The decline of the Tories was followed by a fragmentation of the Whig party. Robert Walpole's absolutist tendencies met with opposition from members of his own party who saw these as Tory characteristics. Thus, the negatively depicted country gentleman would simultaneously be used to criticise Walpole's government (as Fielding did) and to criticise those political elements in the city which were in opposition to this government. (Colley Cibber's country gentleman's central characteristic, as portrayed in The Provok'd Husband; or a Journey to London, is wrongheaded opposition to politics and politicians).

Towards the end of the 18th century, with the rise of the cult of sensibility, saw a softening in the treatment of the country gentleman. In Henry Mackenzie's The Man of Feeling, the he is presented in a more favourable light. In a number of tableaux, the country gentleman Ben Stilton and later Harvey, the eponymous protagonist, are more in tune with morality and virtue than city characters they encounter. Although this corresponds to the properties of sensibility it also destroys the country gentleman or leaves him at a consistent disadvantage.

John Bull - the francophobic country gentleman

In addition, a more masculine, active, rough and ready country gentleman rises to prominence towards the end of the century. The John Bull character became an oppositional response to threatening developments in France and this form of the country gentleman would become the precedent for many of the country gentlemen of the 19th century. From Austen to Wilde, the happy completion of a plot would often involve settling in the country and becoming a country gentleman.

Source: Elaine M. McGirr, Eighteenth-Century Characters: A Guide to the Literature of the Age (Houndsmills: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007)

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Literary Characters - The Fop and the Macaroni

If one strips away the wit and hypersexuality of the rake one is left with the fop. The fop is the flat, shallow and superficial counterweight to the rake. He is very in touch with the fashions of the day, wearing the latest from Paris and updated on the gossip of the town. This veneer, however, conceals his lack of masculinity and wit as well as his shortcomings with women and are but vague imitations of the rakish style.

Although the fop's gentleness and domesticity gave him access to female company and thus represented a challenge to the rake (particularly in Rochester's Dictionary of Love and Richardson's Clarissa), he is generally a character of ridicule. Like the rake's association with the sword and tongue (as well as penis), the fop is associated with the mirror, emphasising his effeminacy and superficiality. Indeed, in Joseph Addison's Specatator 275, he and his lesser versions the Beau and the Pretty Fellow are described as nothing but artificiality and pretense. Thus, the fop is fundamentally unnatural as opposed to the rake being, if possible, too natural.

The macaroni, an exaggerated fop.
Notice the presence of a mirror...

In the 18th century the fop came to be regarded less as a risible figure and increasingly as a dangerously subversive one. Initially, the danger was no more than uselessness. Women, who it was thought could not penetrate the outer, effeminate layer, would end up with a useless man. By the mid-eighteent century, however, this sexual ambiguity was increasingly seen as threatening. As cross-dressing women, often called travesties or Tommies, imitated the foppish style and effeminacy lost its former meaning of "liking women" and took on the modern interpretation of "being like women", being a fop was increasingly linked to being homosexual. The distinctions between the fop, the cross-dressing man (the "Molly") and the homosexual were becoming blurred as foppishness was interpreted as outwards signs of internal perversion. Many of these perceptions can still be found in modern attitudes towards homosexualities.

Furthermore, Britain's cooling relationship to the Catholic Continent and especially France gave the fop a political aspect. With his links to French fashion and customs the fops were seen as French fifth colonists, amongst others by Samuel Foote in his An Englishman in Paris which adds "the French disease" or syphilis to the charges. Here, the fop is joined by the macaroni, an exaggerated fop who imitated foreign speech and customs to excess (and were precursors to the dandies). Both were seen as corrupting influences on British mentality and masculinity and this is witnessed in the rebirth of the risible fop in the shape of the foppish soldier thought unfit for war.

Source: Elaine M. McGirr, Eighteenth-Century Characters: A Guide to the Literature of the Age (Houndsmills: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007)

Literary Characters - The Rake

The witty, womanising man of the world has appeared in fiction both before and after the heyday of the rake, from Shakespeare to Fleming, but he was never so popular and clearly defined as in the shape of the rake. An elite character, the rake used his sharp tongue, his sword and his wealth to dominate the lower classes and bed the ladies.

His ascendancy came with the English Restoration. The English had suffered through some years of strict Puritan government under Cromwell and when "the merry monarch", Charles II, opened the theatres and started spawning illegitimate offspring the time was ripe of the libertinistic rake to increase his appearance. As theatres introduced women on stage the rake would figure as a role model of enterprising masculinity on stage in the many restoration comedies. The rake reflected the king in many ways; he represents a force above the puritan society, one who presents a wild, primitive force in a polite, civilised dressing. The rake would be, as McGirr puts it, a-social (above society) rather than antisocial (opposed to it).

John Wilmot, 2nd Earl of Rochester,
the model for Dorimant, the rake in George Etherege's Man of Mode

Like in many modern societies, male honour was what mattered for the rake. This should always be present and defended, and so the rake would disregard debts to the rising middle classes, fight offenders wither with wit or sword and ravish women. The three weapons of the rake would therefore be intimately tied to his masculinity, the phallus and the phallic sword and tongue.

However, the appeal of the rake lessened towards the end of the 17th century. Charles failed to produce a legitimate heir and the capital was struck by plague and fire. John Wilmot, 2nd Earl of Rochester (portrayed by Johnny Depp in The Libertine), famous for his rakish lifestyle, died of alcoholism and a number of venereal diseases. Thus the tragic aspects of the rake became more apparent and the reformation of the rake became the agenda of the day. Although Mary Davy's The Accomplish'd Rake and Hogarth's series Marriage a la Mode suggested that the rake would have to be forced into reform, die or go mad Colley Cibber's Love's Last Shift and Samuel Richardson's hugely popular Pamela illustrate the contemporary idea that the rake could be reformed by a virtuous woman and would then be the best possible husband.

Of course there were more damning depictions of the rake throughout the 18th century. In Richardson's Clarissa the rake Lovelace is killed in a duel and in Sir Charles Grandison and Pope's mock-epic Rape of the Lock the rakes are subjected to ricidule before they end up inconsequential. With the extended focus on morality and the rise of the cult of sensibility towards the end of the 18th century the rake had been reformed and rewritten from the personification of the aggressive, conquering masculinity to that of a failed one on the margins of society.

Source: Elaine M. McGirr, Eighteenth-Century Characters: A Guide to the Literature of the Age (Houndsmills: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007)

Friday, 10 December 2010

Socialler and Socialler

I guess we are all just a barrell of lonely monkeys. I have been challenged by Lady B to write seven things about myself in a post "shorter than the Paleozoic era" (the Lady is a fond student of all things between a rock an a hard place). Assuming the Paleozoic era, like the parsec, is a unit of length rather than time as might be conjectured, I for one will not stand in the way of such contests of dispensing the excretory fluid. Setting the tattered manifest charter of impersonality aside for a second time (those scarred will remember the horrid lapse of standards of February this year) I will boldly endeavour to oblige the gaggle of coquettes in their thirst for brass tax.

I could be compared to a summer's day
Though I am more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May
And summer's lease hath all too short a date:
Some too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And oft is his gold complection dimm'd;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance or nature's changing course untrimm'd;
But my eternal summer shall not fade
Nor lose possession of that fair I oweth;
Nor shall Death brag I wander'th in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time I groweth:
So long as men can breathe and eyes can see,
So  long lives this and this gives life to me
2. Most Terry Gilliam films presents a fairly accurate description of my mindscape.

Terry G

3. I invented the Spanish question mark and the royalties afforded me anually are partly to blame for the current economic turmoil in Spain.

The other one is copyright infringement

4. I am fascinated by the apparent humanity behind much of the lofty cultural expressions of history. Consider this: although civilisation has gradually become more advanced through the ages our perception of the value of cultural remnants of history has described an oppositely declining trajectory, as has our understanding of the basic functions of humanity behind those remnants. Therefore, discovering the lewdness of Hamlet, the greatest emo of all times, the fact that the English Enlightenment poet Stephen Duck died by ducking in 1756 or that Virgil got his name for not sleeping with ladies (because he was secretly otherwise inclined) delights me to no end.
5. My latest purchase is La Pucelle d'Orléans by Voltaire. A dirty sexist satire over the life of Joan of Arc, the book was found too licentious by the 18th century French! Since it was outlawed, banned and burned throughout France Voltaire brought it to London whose printers published in great excess and delight. I have found one of these copies from 1774 in a Viennese antiquarian bookstore and it is in the mail as this post is being written. Now all that remains is to learn French and I should be able to look forward to many a hearty, bawdy guffaw.

Juicy Joan,
too frivolous for the French

6. My hobbies are golf, masturbation and strangling animals. Simultaneously.

7. I get the creeps by the following: open drawers, clingfilm, thick ropes, dentists' drills, pictures of VD and jutting my jaw forwards so my lower front teeth get on the outside of my upper front teeth. On the other hand, I have been cut, shot (by myself), bitten by lots of different animals, had surgery in my stomach without anasthetic, cut the inside of my eyelid on rusty barbed wire, climbed a switched on electric fence and bled quite substantial amounts of blood on a wall. However, I am genetically conditioned to cry when animals in distress are rescued or when those two Italians sing and play for Lady and the Tramp in the original movie.

You've read it!
You can't un-read it!

Stay tuned for more verisimilitude!
Look it up.

Sources: pic1, pic3, pic5 

Saturday, 4 December 2010

A Wikileaks Memo You Missed


November 17, 1973


FROM: Henry Kissinger, US National Security Advisor

CC: Fred Turner, Chairman of McDonald's Corporation

SUBJECT: Foreign Policy, Commerce
  • It is thought to be in the interest of the West to find some means to counter the threat of the collective weight of the people of China
  • Should the people of China by common effort endeavor to jump at the same time the planet's orbit will be disrupted.
  • If this should happen, the planet might spiral outwards in the solar system and possibly collide with the moon.
  • To prevent this, a fattening of the general populace of the West is suggested.
  • This populace, though less numerous, would act as a counterweight to that of China in the event of an orchestrated jump.
  • This policy utilizes the uneven distribution of food and has the added benefit of aiding US commercial interests abroad.
  • The fast food chain McDonald's newly opened European branch has been marshalled to this effort.


(Source: none. This is an imaginary memo.)

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Three Series to Watch Online

Here are three psychology-related series which neatly compliment each other. The humour in Frasier compensates for the lack of such in In Treatment and Lie to Me*. The extended dialogue in In Treatment stimulates in a way that of the two others cannot due to their generical requirements of plot progress. Finally, Lie to Me* provides the engaging conflict of the crime series and a driven plot which to different extent is absent in the others.

Watch the series on these sites, bearing in mind that these have been chosen not from commercial interest, as might be suspected, but for output per calorie burnt. Enjoy!

Source: link

All the seasons and all the episodes can be found here. Select one of each, wait for the "close to play" button in the player window to appear, click it and enjoy. Please note that you might find the player more manageable in full screen mode (second button from the right under the player window).

Source: link

As In Treatment is an ongoing series, updated, free and accessible sites are hard to come by. However, this site does the job quite well. You need to choose season (under the second category) and then an episode. If there are several to choose from, choose one with a fast loading time. Click the play button in the bottom left corner of the player and enjoy!

Source: link

With suitably dead eyes Cal Lightman, portrayed by Tim Roth, solves crime with a method dangerously, though enticingly, close to physiognomy. To watch the ongoing series, click here and follow the same procedure as described under the last heading.

Monday, 8 November 2010

Hubba hubba Zoot Zoot Animé Karaoke

With Monday morning coming down hard and a similar aspect of solidity marring the remainder of the day, I was pleased to have my spirits lifted in the evening by this. Enjoy!

Perfectly Golden, Wodehouse - Very Good Jeeves

Welcome to the second bulletin in the series "Perfectly Golden, Wodehouse"! As the experienced subscriber might recall, these are compilations in which he might lose himself in the genius of Wodehouse's writings and the splendor of the English language. The first bulletin included golden tidbits from Carry on, Jeeves. This bulletin will quote a five year younger Jeeves and Wooster collection, so read this voluminous (if that's the word I want) though far from exhaustive pastiche and I guarantee you will feel topping ooja-cum-spiff, what?

Second book:
Very Good, Jeeves
First published 1930
(ed. published 2008 by
Arrow Books, London)

"I hit Woollam Chersey at about four o'clock, and found Aunt Agatha in her lair, writing letters. And, from what I know of her, probably offensive letters, with nasty postscripts." (p.17)

"Young Bingo, you see, is one of those fellows who, once their fingers close over the handle of a tennis racket, fall into a sort of trance in which nothing outside the radius of the lawn exists to them. If you came up to Bingo in the middle of a set and told him that panthers were devouring his best friend in the kitchen garden, he would look at you and say, 'Oh, ah?' or words to that effect." (p.26)

"I now came down to earth with a bang: and my slice of cake, slipping from my nerveless fingers, fell to the ground and was wolfed by Aunt Agatha's spaniel, Robert." (p.28)

Bertie and the Right Hon. Mr. Filmer is trapped atop a gazebo by an infuriated swan:
"[The swan] was standing below, stretching up a neck like a hosepipe, just where a bit of brick, judiciously bunged, would catch it amidships. I bunged the brick and scored a bull's-eye. The Right Hon. didn't seem any too well pleased. 'Don't tease it!' he said. 'It teased me,' I said. The swan extended another eight feet of neck and gave an imitation of steam escaping from a leaky pipe." (p.32)

"The Right Hon. was a tubby little chap who looked as if he had been poured into his clothes and had forgotten to say 'When!'" (p.33)

"The swan had been uncoiling a further supply of neck in our direction, but now he whipped round. [...] He subjected Jeeves to a short, keen scrutiny; and then, taking in some breath for hissing purposes, gave a sort of jump and charged ahead." (p.36)

"I had once got engaged to his [Sir Roderick Glossop's (red. anm.)] daughter, Honoria, a ghastly dynamic exhibit who read Nietzsche and had a laugh like waves breaking on a stern and rock-bound coast. The fixture was scratched owing to events occuring which convinced the old boy that I was off my napper; and since then he has always had my name at the top of his list of 'Loonies I have Lunched With'." (p.65)

"he was not young Tuppy. Tuppy has one of those high, squeaky voices that sound like the tenor of the village choir failing to hit a high note. This one was something between the last Trump and a tiger calling for breakfast after being on a diet for a day or two." (p.76)

"'You!' said Sir Roderick finally. And in this connection I want to state that it's all rot to say you can't hiss a word that hasn't an 's' in it. The way he pushed out that 'You!' sounded like an angry cobra, and I am betraying no secrets when I mention that it did me no good whatsoever." (p.78)

"The Bellinger, at Tuppy's request, had sung us a few songs before digging in at the trough, and nobody could have denied that her pipes were in great shape. Plaster was still falling from the ceiling." (p.91)

"'The modern young man,' said Aunt Dahlia, 'is a congenital idiot and wants a nurse to lead him by the hand and some strong attendant to kick him regularly at intervals of a quarter of an hour.'" (p.96)

"'Bertie,' said Aunt Dahlia firmly, 'you will sing "Sonny Boy" on Tuesday, the third prox., and sing it like a lark at sunrise, or may an aunt's curse -'
'I won't!'
'Think of Angela!'
'Dash Angela!'
'No, I mean, hang it all!'
'You won't?'
'No, I won't.'
'That is your last word, is it?'
'It is. Once and for all, Aunt Dahlia, nothing will induce me to let out so much as a single note.'
And so that afternoon I sent a pre-paid wire to Beefy Bingham, offering my services in the cause, and by nightfall the thing was fixed up" (p.101)

"A costermonger, roused, is a terrible thing. [...] From every corner of the hall there proceeded simultaneously the sort of noise you hear, they tell me, at one of those East End boxing places when the referee disqualifies the popular favourite and makes the quick dash for life. And then they passed beyond mere words and began to introduce the vegetable motive.[...] The last seen of him [Tuppy], he was beating a tomato to the exit by a short head" (pp.106-107)

"[Tuppy] came in, and hovered about the mantelpiece as if he were looking for things to fiddle with and break." (p.109)

"an Aberdeen terrier of weak intellect, had been left in my care by the old relative while the went off to Aix-les-Bains to take the cure, and I had never been able to make it see eye to eye with me on the subject of early rising." (p. 112)

"London is not big enough to hold Aunt Agatha and anybody she happens to be blaming." (p. 113)

"With a slight sinking of the old heart, I saw that the kid had recognized me.
'Hullo!' he said.
'Hullo!' I said.
'Where are you off to?' said the kid.
'Ha, ha!' I said, and legged it for the great open spaces." (p.119)

Later, Jeeves was referring to what ensued...
"'Indeed, young Master Blumenfeld was somewhat outspoken.'
'What did he say?'
'I cannot recall his exact words, sir, but he drew a comparison between your mentality and that of a cuckoo'
'A cuckoo, eh?'
'Yes, sir. To the bird's advantage.'"

"No good can come of association with anything labelled Gwladys or Ysobel or Ethyl or Mabelle or Kathryn. But particularly Gwladys." (p.137)

"It's a hard world for a girl, Jeeves, with fellows flinging themselves under the wheels of her car in one long, unending stream." (p.141)

"'Have a drink?' I said.
'A cigarette?'
'A chair?'
I went into silence once more. These non-drinking, non-smoking non-sitters are hard birds to handle." (p.154)

"But now, though she still resembled a lion-tamer, her bearing had most surprisingly become that of a chummy lion-tamer - a tamer who, after tucking the lions in for the night, relaxes in the society of the boys." (p.182)

"'And it is for this [...] that we pay rates and taxes!'
'Awful!' I said
'A bally shame.'
'A crying scandal,' said Miss Mapleton.
'A grim show,' I agreed." (p.184)

"I have never been able to bear with fortitude anything in the shape of a kid with golden curls. Confronted with one, I feel the urge to step on him or drop things on him from a height." (p. 190)

"I think I have mentioned before that my Aunt Dahlia stands alone in the grim regiment of my aunts as a real good sort and a chirpy sportsman. [...] I had just got across the lawn when a head poked itself out of the smoking-room window and beamed at me in an amiable sort of way.
'Ah, Mr Wooster,' it said. 'Ha, ha!'
'Ho, ho!' I replied, not to be outdone in the courtesies." (p.191)

"This scourge of humanity was a chunky kid whom a too indulgent public had allowed to infest the country for a matter of fourteen years." (p.199)

"There came into his eyes the sort of look which would come into those of an Indian chief [...] just before he started reaching for his scalping knife. He had the air of one who is about ready to begin." (p. 205)

"There was a bird or two hopping about, a butterfly or so fluttering to and fro, and an assortment of bees buzzing hither an thither." (p.210)

"'Darling!' said Mrs Bingo, blowing him a kiss.
'Angel!' said Bingo, going on with the sausages." (p. 216)

Bingo suffers under a diet inflicted on him by Mrs Bingo. She forgets the luncheon basket and tells him:
"'It is much the best thing that could have happened.'
Bingo gave her a long, lingering look.
'I see,' he said. 'Well, if you will excuse me, I'll just go off somewhere where I can cheer a bit without exciting comment'" (p.228)

"'You, Jeeves?' I said, and I should rather think Cæsar spoke in the same sort of voice on finding Brutus puncturing him with the sharp instument." (p.228)

"Hell, it is well known, has no fury like a woman who wants her tea and can't get it." (p.229)

”[Health enthusiasts prefer the fruit-liquor]. You make this, apparently, by soaking raisins in cold water and adding the juice of a lemon. After which, I suppose, you invite a couple of old friends in and have an orgy, burying the bodies in the morning” (p. 232)

“The back-seat drivers gave tongue” (p. 233)

“’What I want,’ I said, “is petrol.’
‘What you’ll get,’ said the bloke, ‘is a thick ear.’
And, closing the door with the delicate caution of one brushing flies off a sleeping Venus, he passed out of my life” (p. 236)

“the Pyke [a friend of Mrs. Bingo] is unfit for human consumption and should be cast into outer darkness where there is wailing and gnashing of teeth.” (p. 237)

“He was fat then, and day by day in every way has been getting fatter ever since, till now tailors measure him just for the sake of the exercise.” (p. 244)

“I sauntered along the passage, whistling carelessly, and there on the mat was Aunt Agatha. Herself. Not a
picture. A nasty jar. […] She legged it into the sitting-room and volplaned onto a chair.” (p.249)

“’[I could] bring the car round from the garage –‘
‘And off over the horizon to where men are men?’
‘Precisely, sir.’” (p. 269)

“’Who was the girl?’ I asked, in that casual, snaky way of mine – off hand, I mean.” (p. 278)

Friday, 5 November 2010

To Rise above the Beasts - Laura

Welcome to the To Rise above the Beasts series!

This is a series of posts where I, with as little interference as possible, will present what I consider to constitute talent. As talent is a many splendoured thing, the only requisite I choose to set is that the talent needs to be out of the ordinary, that is; bafflingly unexpected.

So, without further ado, on to the first talent, Laura.


In Luc Besson's The Fifth Element from 1997 the character Diva Plavalaguna (with the voice of Albanian soprano Inva Mula) sings Eric Serra's The Diva Dance. The first part consists of a segment from Gaetano Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor called Il dolce suono (click here for text). The second part is more trance-like, and I for one thought the performance of this unfeasible without the aid of computer technology...

I was gloriously mistaken.

To listen to more of Laura's singing, visit her youtube channel.

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

David Thorne's Missing Missy

Have you ever had one of those days when something too good to let go falls in your lap at work? Have you ever spent an entire day trying to outdo yourself? David Thorne of the 27b/6 blog has.

The following is an excerpt from the opening of his article Missing Missy. The rest of it can and should be found through this link.


From: Shannon Walkley
Date: Monday 21 June 2010 9.15am
To: David Thorne
Subject: Poster


I opened the screen door yesterday and my cat got out and has been missing since then so I was wondering if you are not to busy you could make a poster for me. It has to be A4 and I will photocopy it and put it around my suburb this afternoon.

This is the only photo of her I have she answers to the name Missy and is black and white and about 8 months old. missing on Harper street and my phone number.

Thanks Shan.

From: David Thorne
Date: Monday 21 June 2010 9.26am
To: Shannon Walkley
Subject: Re: Poster

Dear Shannon,

That is shocking news. Luckily I was sitting down when I read your email and not half way up a ladder or tree. How are you holding up? I am surprised you managed to attend work at all what with thinking about Missy out there cold, frightened and alone... possibly lying on the side of the road, her back legs squashed by a vehicle, calling out "Shannon, where are you?"

Although I have two clients expecting completed work this afternoon, I will, of course, drop everything and do whatever it takes to facilitate the speedy return of Missy.

Regards, David.

From: Shannon Walkley
Date: Monday 21 June 2010 9.37am
To: David Thorne
Subject: Re: Re: Poster

yeah ok thanks. I know you dont like cats but I am really worried about mine. I have to leave at 1pm today.

From: David Thorne
Date: Monday 21 June 2010 10.17am
To: Shannon Walkley
Subject: Re: Re: Re: Poster

Dear Shannon,

I never said I don't like cats. Once, having been invited to a party, I went clothes shopping beforehand and bought a pair of expensive G-Star boots. They were two sizes too small but I wanted them so badly I figured I could just wear them without socks and cut my toenails very short. As the party was only a few blocks from my place, I decided to walk. After the first block, I lost all feeling in my feet. Arriving at the party, I stumbled into a guy named Steven, spilling Malibu & coke onto his white Wham 'Choose Life' t-shirt, and he punched me. An hour or so after the incident, Steven sat down in a chair already occupied by a cat. The surprised cat clawed and snarled causing Steven to leap out of the chair, slip on a rug and strike his forehead onto the corner of a speaker; resulting in a two inch open gash. In its shock, the cat also defecated, leaving Steven with a wet brown stain down the back of his beige cargo pants. I liked that cat.

Attached poster as requested.
Regards, David.

From: Shannon Walkley
Date: Monday 21 June 2010 10.24am
To: David Thorne
Subject: Re: Re: Re: Re: Poster

yeah thats not what I was looking for at all. it looks like a movie and how come the photo of Missy is so small?

From: David Thorne
Date: Monday 21 June 2010 10.28am
To: Shannon Walkley
Subject: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Poster

Dear Shannon,
It's a design thing. The cat is lost in the negative space.

Regards, David.

From: Shannon Walkley
Date: Monday 21 June 2010 10.33am
To: David Thorne
Subject: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Poster

Thats just stupid. Can you do it properly please? I am extremely emotional over this and was up all night in tears. you seem to think it is funny. Can you make the photo bigger please and fix the text and do it in colour please. Thanks.

From: David Thorne
Date: Monday 21 June 2010 10.46am
To: Shannon Walkley
Subject: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Poster

Dear Shannon,

Having worked with designers for a few years now, I would have assumed you understood, despite our vague suggestions otherwise, we do not welcome constructive criticism. I don't come downstairs and tell you how to send text messages, log onto Facebook and look out of the window. I am willing to overlook this faux pas due to you no doubt being preoccupied with thoughts of Missy attempting to make her way home across busy intersections or being trapped in a drain as it slowly fills with water. I spent three days down a well once but that was just for fun.

I have amended and attached the poster as per your instructions.
Regards, David.

From: Shannon Walkley
Date: Monday 21 June 2010 10.59am
To: David Thorne
Subject: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Poster

This is worse than the other one. can you make it so it shows the whole photo of Missy and delete the stupid text that says missing missy off it? I just want it to say lost.

From: David Thorne
Date: Monday 21 June 2010 11.14am
To: Shannon Walkley
Subject: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Poster

Source: http://www.27bslash6.com/missy.html, last visited 27.11.10

Sunday, 24 October 2010

I Can Make Those People Dance - Songs for the Exhausted, Bar 3

This is the final top 5 of the songs for the exhausted, songs which would reintroduce the spring in the step of the downbeaten and exasperated. The characteristics of such songs are jauntiness, an upbeat rhythm and often overly expressive vocals and the discerning reader has recognised these in the ten songs in Bar 1 and Bar 2. This leaves the final five, the prime of powertracks, the peak of power, the pinnacle of pep, the flower of forcefulness, the zenith of zest, the superiority of spirit, the excellence if élan, for your enjoyment and gratification, starting with La Grange.

5 - ZZ Top - La Grange

The attentive subscriber will have registered the extent to which the Texans have frequented this trilogy. The carefree and unpretentious appeal and the sheer bluff, grittyness of the La Grange riff should justify their position in a catalogue of revitalising canzonets like this.

4 - Tomoyasu Hotei - Battle Without Honor or Humanity

Battle Without Honor or Humanity is a version of Tomoyasu Hotei's Shin jingi-naki tatakai. Originally used in a 2000 film in which Hotei had a role, the instrumental was used in a number of films and games, most notably Kill Bill and Gran Turismo. Both these are admittedly energetic and so are their soundtracks. This full and immersing soundscape is just the ticket for a tired soul.

3 - The Who - The Seeker

From the first chord, the song's sharpish rock'n'roll guitar grabs your fancy and makes you feel like a rock star on stage. That is no bad alternative to feeling under the weather. Please note the legendary Keith Moon on drums.

2 - Lenny Kravitz - American Woman

This 1999 powerload with its bass and drum driving force is designed to give anyone a jolt. The combination of several instruments into a single unity of sound like the guitar and voice following 0:44 gives the song a full, solid and self-confident quality, earning it the second highest ranking on this list.

1 - Bon Jovi - It's My Life

Heading the list, the track at the top of pep, is Bon Jovi's It's My Life. Not unlike American Woman, the song gives you confidence and makes you feel steady and ready. The combination of drums and vocals at the two introductory beats and before each chorus really shakes you awake and makes you want to move to the music.

So that is it from the energy tracks. If 15 songs of pure energy did not present pick-me-ups aplenty you should check for vital signs, because then you are probably dead.