21/03/2014 § 2 Comments
Today is International Poetry Day. Here is my contribution. I have taken Kurt Vonnegut’s words of wisdom to heart:
“Practising an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven’s sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possible can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something.”
Ceci n’est pas un poème
There’s an old joke in this here world
That if you take a normal sentence
And then split up
Onto several lines
Then you have a poem.
Actually it’s not so much a joke
As a knowing comment
But is it true?
And how do you do it?
And if you put most of the words on one line and then the last one on another it just looks
If it looks like a poem
And sounds like a poem
And the person who wrote it calls it a poem
Then a poem it is.
Even if it doesn’t rhyme.
19/12/2013 § 3 Comments
A small earthquake was reported in the Home Counties this morning.
“The military is moving towards less boots on the ground.”
The lips of thousands of enraged Radio Four listeners exploded simultaneously.
The impact was seismic. Tiles were loosened. Garden furniture wobbled. A wall in West Byfleet fell down.
And then the typing began.
“Dear Radio Four, I was appalled to hear chunter chunter fume explode…”
How we love it when Radio Four gets something wrong. How we squirm with outraged delight. And how we enjoy it when they apologise an hour or so later.
It’s exhausting being a pedant. You have to be right all the time. There is nothing worse than being hoist with your own pedantic petard.
And there, of course, the pedants dive in.
“What do you mean ‘Nothing worse’? There are many things worse. Just think of all the people who have nothing chunter chunter fume explode…”
And so the long day wears on.
I waver when it comes to pedantry. Part of me quivers, longing to correct the hapless pedantee. It’s / its. They’re / their / there. You’re / your.
“Your joking,” someone texts / tweets / emails / Facebooks (yes I know “to Facebook” isn’t, or at least shouldn’t be, a thing. Sue me.)
“My joking what?” I reply (in my head – I don’t quite dare commit it to the ether).
But while one part of me quivers, the rest of me is painfully aware of the sad truth: the trouble with pedantry is that you tend to look like a bit of a prissy do-gooding git with nothing better to do than flaunt your perceived superiority over whomsoever you happen to be conversing with at the time. It’s not an attractive look. You can’t be a graceful, good-humoured, life-and-soul-of-the-party-type pedant. It’s the prissy way or no way at all.
And the other trouble with it is that language changes. If it didn’t we’d still be thouing and wouldsting each other instead of, like, omging and, like, loling, you know? Because language.
[That last sentence, by the way, is, so I’m told, correct nowadays. Because + noun = correct sentence. Because internet. I share your pain and raise you a hit of pure agony.]
Anyway, if you take the evolution of language back to its (‘it’s’? ‘i’ts’?) logical conclusion, we’d still be wriggling at each other in a single-celled haven’t-evolved-out-of-the-primordial-soup-yet kind of way.
So, yes, languages, like life forms, evolve.
But I’ll be buggered if you’ll get me to accept that the only reasonable reaction to the word “webinar” isn’t to vomit noisily on the person who said it.
Anyway, the “Radio Four got it wrong” thing led me to a brief burst of “Film Titles To Annoy Pedants”. Feel free to add your own.
For Who The Bell Tolls
The King and Me
Its A Wonderful Life
To Of and Of Not
04/12/2013 § 5 Comments
Hello. Me again.
I’ve been off here for a while. Various reasons.
Sometimes I was on the verge of posting but then realised what I was going to write was pathetic; on other occasions I got halfway through writing something and got distracted by Borgen or something else altogether more worthwhile.
I half-wrote an amusing post about how the car broke down as a result of my devil-may-care attitude to fords. It contained the sentences “I’ve got a trolley jack” and “We’ve had a look, and there’s a leak in the minun ilmatyynyalus on täynnä ankeriaita.”
Oh how you would have laughed, if only I’d had the perseverance to finish it.
Mostly, though, I’ve just been too busy. Hurrah.
Anyway, to the point. I’d like to ask a favour.
You will have had a hard time, if you’re anything close to being connected to me, avoiding the appearance of my book Waving, Not Drowning earlier this year. Quite a few of you have bought it, for which you are in receipt of my refulgent gratitude.
Some of you might even have gone so far as to read it.
If you’re like me, though, it’s probably sitting in the exponentially-expanding “To Be Read” pile.
No matter. Such is life.
If you’re in the “already bought it” group, well, thank you – it really means a lot that people are willing to spend their hard-embezzled cash on the fecund outpourings of my diseased imagination. If you do happen to have read it, and, further, to have enjoyed it, golly gosh I’d be grateful if you felt able to spread the word. The idea, having produced the damn thing, is to sell it, and what with Christmas and everything…
You get the idea.
Even the distribution of a simple link to wavingnotdrowningbook.com, accompanied by a note on the lines of “I have read this and can confirm that it is a book” can work wonders. Or perhaps a brief review here, supposedly the golden key to increased sales. That would be brilliant. Or, if you hated every word of it and used it as a firelighter, perhaps your announcement could be more on the lines of “Buy this book! It burns slowly.”
Of course, if you haven’t bought it yet, well…’tis the season for subtle hints.
Again, you get the idea.
There is, it should hardly need stating, no obligation for anybody to do anything. But if you did – as I say, gratitude of a refulgent nature. Heaps of it.
Oh, and listen to this. It’s about music and that and it’s brilliant.
07/08/2013 § 5 Comments
It was that perfect day.
People — a lot, but not too many; a sporting event — exciting, but not too important; London — beautiful, but…
Ah, you see, there it falls down. Because London was almost too beautiful. St. James’s Park had the kind of perfection that has God sitting back in Her lounger, caipirinha in Her left hand and a smug smile on Her face.
“See that? See the late evening sun angling through the trees and glinting on the water? See the cross section of humanity strolling companionably across the grass, coexisting peacefully in a way only dreamed of by even the most enlightened of world leaders? Yeah. I did that.”
Mother Nature pokes God in the ribs.
“Well ok then, you might have done a bit of it, but it was my idea.”
The ghosts of John Nash, Edward Blore and Aston Webb swoop down to remind them that without the tantalising glimpse of Buckingham Palace through the trees the experience would be much diminished and they would like some of the credit thank you very much. They pick up an olive each and swoop away again.
And so the long day wears on.
We were at an event called Freecycle. The idea behind it was one that, shorn of context, would have had Norman Tebbit smiling with quiet yet somehow sinister pleasure: to get us on our bikes. And so we did: 50,000 of us, apparently, all imbued with a faint but benevolent air of superiority and a feeling that surely it couldn’t be this simple. Was the solution to society’s ills really just a question of dispensing with the motor car and all its pestilential offshoots? For a while there, as we pootled along the Victoria Embankment admiring the view and the silence, I was seized with missionary zeal.
This, I thought, this is the future. Banish the motor car from central London. Force everyone to cycle or walk to work. Shoot those who refuse. It’s the future. Or, rather, The Future, because the really big ideas deserve capital letters.
Then I was cut up by a dickhead doing wheelies, and the dream was shattered.
Because the truth is that whatever form of transport you favour, you can’t banish the dickhead.
The dickhead might be bike-wheelie-guy, walk-blindly-into-oncoming-traffic-while-texting-girl, run-down-the-tube-platform-and-jump-onto-the-train-as-the-doors-are-closing-then-push-them-apart-just-before-they-crush-you-to-death-even-though-there’s-another-train-coming-in-two-minutes-man, or my personal favourite: stand-in-the-way-so-that-people-have-to-walk-through-you-when-they-get-off-the-train–before-you-can-get-on-woman. And myriad variations thereto.
The common factor uniting all these dickheads is, of course, that they are always someone else. You are never, ever the dickhead.
And it’s absurd to think that, deprived of their natural habitat (the motor car) the Lesser Urban Dickhead will miraculously disappear. No, they will merely disperse themselves and reform, somehow strengthened, to torment you once more. Just like the liquid metal terminator in Terminator 2.
Having said that, it would be safe to say that there were fewer LUDs on display than usual.
And it really was very peaceful.
After we’d cycled the loop we hung around in Green Park waiting for the racing to begin. A band played beneath a big screen, the sound disconcertingly out of sync with the pictures.
They were good. I’m not really sure of my genres, but they seemed to me to be playing a brand of Mimsy-Folk with Sub-Funk Stylings, cross-fertilised with lashings of Quasi-World-Guitary-Type-Stuff. Things were distinctly unpromising at first, but as soon as the girl with the flower in her hair put away the violin and started singing, prospects improved, and we gradually succumbed to a languid contentment such as can only be experienced on a warm afternoon in a London park when you’ve got nothing much to do but listen to Mimsy-Folk while waiting for a cycle race to begin.
The lead singer, apparently mistaking a few hundred people sitting on the warm Green Park grass for a crowd of half a million at Glastonbury, told us “You can get up and dance. Let’s do this!”
We respectfully declined his invitation.
Then he announced that, as a gift from the sponsors of one of the teams in the bike race we were all waiting for, he would be throwing free T-shirts from the stage into the assembled throng.
It was at this point that the true nature of the human soul made itself known.
Let’s remember that on offer were a few free T-shirts.
Not gold. Not the elixir of eternal life. Not even personally engraved iPhones.
T-shirts. T-shirts, furthermore, emblazoned with the logo of a company that most people had, until that moment, neither heard of nor given two hoots about.
Jiminy Cricket, you should have seen them. Women trampled their own children underfoot. Grown men sprinted Bolt-like towards the stage, throwing OAPs over their shoulders as they went. I swear I saw a little old lady trip a teenager with her stick and mouth the words “Back off, punk, if you know what’s good for you.”
As the supply of T-shirts dwindled, an exhausted collective whimper was clearly audible.
“Must. Have. T-shirts. Can’t…live…without…T…shirts…uuhhh…”
Eventually the bounty ran out, leaving the triumphant T-shirt-baggers basking in the glory of their hard-won spoils, and the bedraggled losers contemplating what might have been.
Our faith in humanity somewhat shaken, we collected our things and sauntered back to St. James’s Park to watch elite athletes cycle round and round. The atmosphere was redolent with that feeling that’s been in the air recently, a feeling that with enough effort we could make it feel a bit like the Olympics again. People smiled at each other in a non-London kind of way. The sun shone. Sanity seeped back into our souls.
The race was a good one, although we didn’t see that much of it. Laura Trott won it, as she does.
But best of all, it was free.
01/08/2013 § 1 Comment
Well that’s that over with.
The third and final Waving Wednesday challenge was notable for the quality rather than the quantity of its entries, a fact which was of great relief to the judges.
Offerings ranged from the personal (Paul Emmett’s “A demoted percussionist who has had one stick taken away and is made to stand at the front of the class”) to the frankly weird (Paul again, with “A small, masked duck which lives on the tops of rocky mountain areas”). Charles Wroth (“A musician, short of an instrument but long on enthusiasm”) gains points for wittiness, but loses them again for plagiarising (or “adapting”, as he will no doubt claim) Chambers Dictionary’s definition of “Eclair” (“A cake, long in shape, but short in duration”). Some bore the hallmark of bitter personal experience (Tom Robson’s “A musician who is well practised at following many people at the same time”, for example; or Paul Hoskins’s Eeyore-ish “A person who changes the sound (of musicians, singers, pieces of music), sometimes for the better”). Damian Penfold’s “See God” was proof positive that we chose correctly when awarding the first Waving Wednesday challenge (for the best collective name for a group of stick-wielders) to “a delusion of conductors”. Tangentially related, and rather brilliant, was “See also: Insulator — a really really bad conductor” from Ruth McWeeney.
Most were insulting. I’m getting used to it.
The winner (for there has to be one) is Paul Emmett for his definitions which are the first five on the list below.
Thanks to everyone for entering. Here ends this opening burst of publicity. Normal topics will be discussed as soon as possible.
The complete entry list:
A demoted percussionist who has had one stick taken away and is made to stand at the front of the class
The primary source of income for the makers of white tuxedos.
A fragile human being who, over the course of an evening concert, will shower professional string players in sweat and tears while looking despairingly at the lower brass section.
The small pieces of discarded metals which are placed into potatoes and lemons to light a small bulb.
A small, masked duck which lives on the tops of rocky mountain areas.
(Iron.) — celebrity desperate for highbrow career transition via medium of mediocre reality TV show.
A being who transmits electricity from a group of musicians to an audience by waving a stick.
A person who changes the sound (of musicians, singers, pieces of music), sometimes for the better.
A person who, if publisher has failed, tries to disguise composer’s wishes by interpreting the score.
A musician who is well practised at following many people at the same time.
One who facilitates the movement of energy through a group of musicians. Often meets resistance. The best conductors are short, fat and cold
One who is cloaked with an invisibility shield, and frequently ignored by viola and 2nd violin players
One who is ignored by many but takes all the credit for their good work.
A conductor provides intellectual, cultural, ethical, and spiritual leadership to an orchestra or choir by waving his arms around.
One who labours under the misapprehension that he can make things happen by waving his arms around. Wannabe Jedi.
Person standing in front of an orchestra waving their arms around because they’re not good enough to play an instrument in the orchestra.
One who silently transmits electrifying waves with the intention of creating an integrated performance from an ensemble of musicians”.
A false Ductor.
A control freak concealed by four thousand anecdotes.
Contraction of original term Conductorbeamusician.
An experimental forcefield that has the unique effect of attracting all positive ions (also known as Praisions) in the area whilst simultaneously redirecting negative ions (known as Criticions) to the nearest string section.
Expanded, anagrammised form of the usual description of an MD.
See Dawkins, Richard, 2006 Bestseller.
Someone or something that a creating energy or substance can flow through.
Of uncertain etymology (but likely to derive from the Latin and/or Medieval Latin terms ‘conductor’ = escort; ‘conductus’ = a hired man, a hired priest, contraction; ‘conductio’ = spasm, convulsion, or ‘conduco’ = to bribe, to cause to curdle), the term ‘conductor’ is used to describe a person who suffers from rare, strong periodic spasms and convulsions, particularly in their arms, and who is employed, at advantageous financial terms, at larger musical ensembles and/or entertainments to stand between the performers and the audience, with the dual purpose of entertaining the latter and attempting to induce, by means of bribes (principally in the form of tea), or to scare (for example, by causing the milk for the tea, or, in extreme cases, the performers’ blood, to curdle) the former to play at their maximum capacity. Occasionally, the figure of the conductor or the events may assume characteristics associated with religious or other otherworldly contexts. Today, the lamentable figure of the conductor is one of the best-preserved remnants of the ‘freak show’ entertainments, exhibitions of biological rarities (also known as ‘freaks of nature’), which, like the figure of the conductor itself, rose to particular popularity during the nineteenth century.
A deceitful installer of air conditioning conduits.
A musician, short of an instrument but long on enthusiasm.
A devious duck who cons his fellow duck friends that he is a member of the medical profession.” (alternative and more appropriate spelling being ‘conducktor’)
Someone who practises the motions of a drowning person in the pursuit of music making.
An individual who stands opposite musicians.
The word conductor comes from con — fooling other people, duct — a piece of piping e.g. trombone, or — short for “or something”. So basically con-duct-or is someone who fools trombonists or something…
A failed percussionist.
One who is fed up of lugging a musical instrument around (which explains why so few piccolo players become conductors)
A person who gets applause for others’ work.
An excuse for a musician; a waiver.
A stick man.
A self-proclaimed musician without an instrument to prove it.
31/07/2013 § 4 Comments
The final Waving Wednesday challenge is upon us. If it follows the pattern of the previous two, we will soon discover just who is desperate to avoid paying for a signed copy of Waving, Not Drowning.
For those of you new to the whole thing, here are links:
The Book: www.wavingnotdrowningbook.com
For this final one, I hope to encourage you to exercise the brain cells just that little bit more. Your task, should you wish to accept it, is to come up with a dictionary definition for ‘conductor’.
Usual rules apply: keep it clean. We are a family show (although we occasionally link to material that isn’t — see below).
And on this occasion, please keep them short – the pithier the better.
If you’re after inspiration, here are a few definitions from The Urban Dictionary (CAUTION: CONTAINS EXPLICIT LANGUAGE OF BOTH A MUSICAL AND A SEXUAL NATURE)
Previous Waving Wednesday winners may enter if they wish, but they won’t win.
We’ll be back to normal (or what counts for normal around here) soon.
27/07/2013 § 1 Comment
It’s an evening of announcements.
Firstly, you can now (four days ahead of schedule, thanks to the efficiency of various online outlets in making it available) buy Waving, Not Drowning in all its formats.
The place to go is www.wavingnotdrowningbook.com
Before you click the above link, read on to discover whether you’re one of the lucky ones who has earned the right not to pay for it. For there now follow the results of the second Waving Wednesday challenge.
Crikey, this was a hard one.
Entries were, at first, thin on the ground.
Turned out you were just thinking.
There were various approaches.
Some of you came up with real(ish) sounding names that put you in mind of conductorial types: good examples were Cecil Denman-Birchard and Gustav von Taktstock-Klappe.
A couple of people decided that sycophancy was the best policy and provided “Lev Parikian”. Close but no cigar. More inventive was “Wei-Wing Knott-Drowning”, which had the advantage of extreme topicality.
And then there were the puns.
A small but dedicated band on Facebook seemed to take the competition as incitement to outdo each other in the production of atrocious wordplay in truly gargantuan quantities. In the interests of completeness, and against my better judgement, I list all the entries below.
No top ten this time. To be honest, I could have picked a top thirty, and they would probably have in many ways been barely distinguishable from the bottom thirty. I laughed, smiled and groaned in equal measure. At one point, when I thought it would never end, I started to bang my head gently against the kitchen wall. So if you have not been selected, do not despair – your entry or entries were probably just as wonderful or appalling as those that won.
So, the “winners”.
Alan Titherington had supped copiously from the Never-Ending Goblet of Unforgivable Wordplay. His Hans Nesen-Bömzedazee was almost irresistible.
But he also came up with the rather marvellous Etwas Neiderdown-Orup, for which he shares first prize.
Ed Beesley was again a prime mover and shaker, and hit a bit of a purple patch close to the wire. Pandora Preciated was his, as was the rather convoluted Dianne Rector (Young child of a man named Mu, she’s Mu’s ickle Di Rector), in which I detect the poisonous influence of I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue.
He gets a book too.
Giles Wade will, I’m sure, be pleased to discover that he contributed some of what were in my opinion the most heinous entries, but he also came up with Al Togethernow, which has a pleasing (or nauseating, depending on your point of view) simplicity. For that, and for being as assiduous in his pursuit of a free book as Simon Cowell is in his pursuit of a fat lip, he gets one.
A free book, that is, not a fat lip, although it was a close call at times.
To everyone else who entered: thank you for entering into the spirit. Rest assured that your participation is much appreciated. There will be one more Waving Wednesday competition before the “official” release date, even though, as you will remember from the beginning of this post (doesn’t it all seem a long time ago?) that release date has been brought forward by four days and you can now hasten to www.wavingnotdrowningbook.com and buy your own copy.
Copies. I mean copies.
The complete list, if you’re so inclined.
Aliena Atema (née Bours)
Arthur ‘Wavy Gravy’ Wilkinson
C U Wagstaff
Claire Dawn Beet
D A Capo
D S Al Coda
Dai the Stick
Dianne Rector (Young child of a man named Mu, she’s Mu’s ickle Di Rector)
Don T Watchalot
E L Kaida
Elizabeth “Betty” Stopsus
Gale Leon Wards
George Alexander II
Gustav von Taktstock-Klappe
Helen a Tux
Hope Les Carvers
Ivan C Mizelf
J Alan Frezi
Juan Sagen (from Thetopp)
Kanyu Lou Katme
Keep Calm and Karajan
Les Takeitfromm III
Les Tryth Atagain
Lord Irving Butterclutch
M U Feezonly
Pauk N Hardershticken
Q Rhys Tempo
R U Luke Ingatmi
Signor Molto Affrettando
Sir C U Pot
Sir Deus Omnipotens
Sir Malcolm Maclome
Sir Preising Bratsche-Melodie
Stan Dan D’Eliver
Tai Ka Bao
The late Viola Assalwais
Vidas y Karion
W Ind-Mill Chirodenizen