Saturday, March 30, 2013

Cheap Shots, Number 23 In A Series

The idea that Peter Jackson could direct an episode of Doctor Who is obviously ridiculous. The Hobbit is a small scale, rather gentle, leisurely paced children's adventure story. Jackson took out all the charm and magic and replaced it with melodrama, appalling sentimentality and ludicrously hyperactive sensationalist action and violence, most of which didn't even make sense on it's own terms.


Thursday, March 28, 2013


1: No. I don't know why it is somewhat okay to say "Mark Twain uses the n-word in Huckleberry Finn" but not okay to say "Mark Twain uses the word "nigger" in Huckleberry Finn". I suppose that the magic lives in the shape of the letters, in the same way that the magic of the F-word lives in its sound. I believe that both Neil Gaiman and Alan Garner researched the kinds of spells and charms that real magicians used to add authenticity to their fantasy stories, but then deliberately quoted them incorrectly, in case someone tried them out. I can see why you would want to draw attention to the fact that you find the word very offensive each time you quote it, in the same way that some Muslim traditions write "Peace Be Upon Him" each time they mention the name of the Prophet. I think that might be worth trying as an experiment, actually. "Some of the characters in "Scoop" use the word nigger (which is a very offensive word)". "In the course of "v" Tony Harrison says cunt (WIAVOW) seventeen times." 

2: Yes, the use of bloody (WIAMOW) in Pygmalion is a signifier of class, not obsentiy. Other characters use expletives like damn, hell,  filthy, and beastly (WAMOW) : they might be regarded as impolite or unladylike but it doesn't create a sensation. Eliza's sin is that she uses a lower-class word in an upper-class context. (In My Fair Lady, of course she shouts "move yer bleedin' arse (WAMOW)" during a race at Ascot, which makes the point rather nicely. 

3: There were some people on the high street having a campaign to stop the Middle East. They didn't agree with the way that Israel keeps taking more and more territory from Palestine, unlike the rest of you squares. They provided a map to show where the borders were in 1948, and another map to show where the borders were now. What interested me was that the two areas were marked "Palestinian land" and "Jewish land". Not "Palestinian land" and "Israeli land", or "Moslem land" and "Jewish Land." Was there a hidden Dawkins agenda, do you think (that it was Bad Religious People taking land from Nice Non Religious People)? Or did they think that "Jew" still carries negative connotations for many English people, and using the J-word would make us more likely to support the other side (in the way that the Daily Mail used to insist on calling The Labour Party "The Socialist Party" even though that isn't what it's called.) Or was it just that Jew is a short word and Israeli is a long word and there wasn't much space on the map. 

4: It isn't a tax. It's a means test. 

5: If you are reading about some particular theory or interpretation of history, you start to see evidence for it everywhere; very ordinary words start to take on special meanings. I described how this happened during the fortnight when I was reading about the "Paul McCartney is dead" conspiracy theory. Once you have been told that "he blew His mind out in a car" means "Paul died in a road accident" it is very easy to think that any lyric anywhere means the same thing. You think you lost your love -- because he died in a road accident. The long and winding road -- where you crashed your motorbike. On penny lane there is a fireman with an hourglass -- who is about to rush to attend the road accident. I think that, once you have decided that there is quite a lot prejudice around (which there is) you can easily flip into a mindset where every sentence and every word is evidence of prejudice. I think that once you have decided that there are quite a lot of people around who are absolutely paranoid about the PC police, then very ordinary events and words, like teachers noticing that its always the same food that gets used in food fights and taking that food off the menu, is evidence of the sinister hand of the PC police. So I suppose the only thing we can actually do is look charitably at context and intention, accept that language is a wibbly fuzzy thing that doesn't always do what we mean it to do and get on as best we can. Which, I realise, is scary to fundamentalists who think that the word means what the word means and if you say differently you are giving the bad man permission to be bad. There are left wing fundamentalists and feminist fundamentalists as well as religious fundamentalists and Darwinian fundamentalists  and I am perfectly well aware that fundamentalist is one of the magic words and someone will be saying "oh, no, no, no, no, fundamentalist means bad people who believe wrong things without evidence and can't possibly be applied to good Guardian readers who have a perfectly neutral stance on objective reality." 

So. Is there anything good on TV this Saturday?

Anyone who might be interested in "The Physical Impossibility of Debate In The Mind of Someone on the Internet" or "Language, Truth and Bollocks", my two previous extended rants on this subject do please send me an e-mail asking nicely, or make a small donation (£1.20 has been suggested) or buy something off the Amazon list and I'll send both the PDFs.  Many thanks to everyone who has already done so.  

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Appendix to the Appendix

i wrote a thing as a follow up to the thing that i wrote about the thing that i wrote

sort of about language and bad words in the light of what i said before and poets says "bum" on the radio and amazon selling tee shirts with "bum" on them and all the usual stuff like that

all the nice people who showed an interest in the last one already have it.

everyone else - send me an e-mail saying you are interested, or drop a couple of coins in the tin, or even buy me some comic books and i'll send you this one and the last one and anything else i do in the same vain. (this one is a 16 page A5 pdf at the moment.)

and no i am not going to a mailing list only format for the blog forever and ever and ever. my next essay will be printed on a t-shirt, the one after that will be a pod-cast, and third one will be tattooed on my bottom. i am, how you say, Exploring Alternative Formats.

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