Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Screw the government!

I just completed my tax return.

This conversation with my mother just occured.

ME: I just completed my tax return.

MUM: Good.

ME: I did it electronically.

MUM: Oh, yes - B. does that.

ME: So jolly hockey sticks, eh?

MUM: Yes.

ME: Well, must rush - off to Fitzroy...

MUM: That sounds very hockey sticks indeed.

ME: Yes. Off to play hockey.

MUM: All right.

ME: Cheerio!

MUM: Chip chip!

ME: Toodle oo!

Sometimes I rather doubt the old girl's sanity, but she seems to be on the ball tonight, what?

Tuesday, October 30, 2007


The song of the second snowflake of winter

You don't know me.
I'm merely the second snowflake of winter.
Not like the first snowflake,
That bloody glory hog,
Always getting those songs and odes written about him,
Oh, no.
Neither the first nor the last, that's me,
Just an ordinary snowflake,
A schmuck, a schmoflake,
Just part of a long series of snowflakes.
Humble old me.

If you're looking for the sort of snowflake that is the herald of winter, the symbol of beauty,
Piss off.
And I'm not the sort of snowflake that makes children look up and poets gasp
With enchantment at the wonder of winter either.
Oh, no.
I'm not one of those fuckers.
I'm more the sort of snowflake that falls on your finger and causes frostbite,
Or falls on your nose and is the cause of a slight case of pneumonia,
Or falls on your car window and adds to the frost and fog so that you can't see where you're going on the roads, and sends your car screeching to a sudden...
Hey, don't mention it.
It's part of my job.

Unique and individual snowflake, my arse.
I am not 'precious' or 'wonderful',
Or a 'delicate beauty'.
Oh, no: that's the sort of crap that gets said about the first snowflake -
That bloody whoopsie.
Once the first snowflake comes down, let's face it,
You people lose interest.
You wouldn't notice me if I caused the death of your dog, your cat, your goldfish, and your mother, all at once.
(Well, maybe not that last one).
Though that probably wouldn't happen anyway -
I'd probably land on the ground and have you shove a hoof in my face,
Or squash me beneath your greasy buttocks,
You arsehole.
No, the second snowflake,
And everyone that comes after,
Never got noticed anyway.
Don't mention it.

Perhaps, one day,
Some wild-haired cretin,
Wearing a caftan, maybe,
Having doubtless ingested too much of one drug or another,
And carrying a book of Marx,
Will come along and pen a 'Song of the Second Snowflake of Winter',
Full of dark and despair,
And gloomy reflections on the state of the working classes,
And ennui, and terror of death,
And a generally miserable outlook.
And all in free verse (the fucker).
It will be the first song ever written
About the second snowflake of winter -

If I'm lucky.

Monday, October 29, 2007


Kids - say yes to drugs!

No, no, never, never, never, never, never - well, sometimes.

What do you mean, there's a gigantic arachnid standing behind my...

What interesting opinions you have: they resemble mine.

You stand there and look like an actor, and I'll look non-descript.

Try to blend in with the place by making a noise like a brick wall.

Uncle Melchior - please don't eat that!

Don 't trust numbers, you can't count on them.

Don't use words - say what you mean!

You are mediocre, at best, at being mediocre - I'm much better...

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Fastest underwear in the west

Connex is complaining about people who do their make-up on the trains, but I don't think there's anything wrong with it. All day, every day, half-formed moues and pre-plucked pouts are whizzing around the city at incredible speeds! Such is the wonder of our modern public transport system that now, people going to and from work can glower and grimace and sneer at one another at faster speeds than ever.

Other things that are zipping between train stations on the public transport system include pink frilly knickers, top pockets, green-scented handkcherchiefs in velveteen waistcoasts, and stubble. It's certainly a wonder the stubble doesn't fall out of people's faces altogether, considering the speed at which some trains go.

But we don't really think about this when we think of public transport, do we? It's more about getting to work, or escaping from home, or whatever.

It's worth noting, also, that another thing that public transport carries along with us as we go from A to B are our thoughts. A survey, recently completed, of Passing Notions Held By People Who Use Public Transport turns up the following examples:

"I like dogs!" - 17 counts

"I am very hungry, and I just ate breakfast." - 43 counts.

"I have a secret desire to lick twenty-dollar notes. I hope nobody finds out." - 2 counts.

"Why do I keep repeating myself? I don't know. Why do I keep repeating myself?" - 2 counts.

"Sex." - 103 counts.

"Why do I keep repeating myself? I don't know. Why does he keep repeating himself? He doesn't know either." - 4 counts.

"Sex - the word rhymes with ex! Ha!" - 1 count.

"It's the ten minutes of peace on the train every morning as I go to work that keep me from committing suicide." - 721 counts.

"I am not really reading this book, just turning the pages surreptitiously in a pathetic effort to make the other passengers think that I am keeping myself amused during this interminable train trip." - 4 counts.

Think about that next time you practice your champion sneering on the trains!

Groundbreaking literary analysis

O, I want to get pissed with Henry Fielding,
I want to get pissed with Henry Fielding,
I want to get pissed with Henry Fielding
All the live-long day.

I want to talk dogs with Jimmy Thurber,
I want to talk dogs with Jimmy Thurber,
I want to talk dogs with Jimmy Thurber,
All the live-long day.

I want to have vermouth with S J Perelman,
Yeah, I want to have vermouth with S J Perelman,
O, I want to have vermouth with S J Perelman,
All the live-long day.

I want to swap jokes with Aristophanes,
I want to swap jokes with Aristophanes,
I want to swap jokes with Aristophanes,
All the live-long day.

I want to have tea and scones with Jane Austen,
I want to have tea and scones with Jane Austen,
I want to have tea and scones with Jane Austen,
All the live-long day.

I want to tour Scotland with the Ettrick Shepherd,
I want to tour Scotland with the Ettrick Shepherd,
I want to tour Scotland with the Ettrick Shepherd,
All the live-long day.

But I don't want to play guns with William Burroughs,
I don't want to play guns with William Burroughs,
I don't want to play guns with William Burroughs -
What the HELL - do you think I'm fucking crazy, man?

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The Workplace Chronicles, book 7, verses 1 - 4

1. And lo! Then Tim arose and went forth to the vending machine of the east. And at the bottom of that vending machine, he made the meet sacrifices and did find a Mars Bar.

2. And then did Tim sully forth to the confluence of the waters in the north: EVEN into the lands flowing with hot and cold and lukewarm water; YEAH, even so they flowed with milk and soy and honey.

3. And there he did fetch himself a mead of coffee and milk that did taste like cardboard.

4. And he did the best that he could to rejoice under the circumstances rejoiced.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Insect philosophy

If a blowfly flies
And a blowfly dies,
Does that blow- that once -flied
Turn into a blew?
Or a fly-that-has-blew?
Or a blew-that-has-fled?
Or does the fly just turn into a flew?

If a bee passes on
To where all bees go
Is it a bee-that-once-was
Or a was-that-will-bee?
Is it a bee-that's-no-more,
Or just a has-been,
Or a one-that-will-always-bee,

What makes a gnat a gnat?
And when are gnat's not?
Is there a gnattiest gnat,
Of the whole gnat lot?
Will the gnat world expire
In a gigantic gnaB giB?
What is it a gnat's got that a non-gnat don't got?

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Ladies and gentlemen, my father

I've posted before about my father's letters, haven't I? They're just too good to miss. He makes strange spelling and grammatical mistakes that make one wonder if he actually does live on the Central Coast or in some bizarre alternate wonderland. He gets 'accosted' by dogs. He doesn't wear 't-shirts', but he does wear 'tea shirts', regularly. All food is kept and stored in 'the frig'.

The latest missive from Fatherville is better than ever. Let me give you some of the choice quotes:

Left in the car posting your latter on the way.

Visited the library and got some fruit then came home.

Also bought some semi dry olives. Both are awful, but H. likes them.

Judging from these quotes, Fatherville has several interesting features, including: a post office that deals in formers and latters; a library that stores fruit (and presumably a grocery that sells books); and olives that come in pairs. But the choicest quote is this:

Morning spent making some short bread.

Yes - shortbread biscuits, my father disdains, but he is very fond of yeast-based rolls of a minimum length! Huzzah for Fatherville!

(What's that? It's not nice to make fun of parents? Oh bugger off, he's my dad and I'm very proud of him, but his letters are too good not to make fun of.)

Collect each one in the series!

What Katie did!

What Katie did next!

What Katie did that put her brother in a mental asylum and Katie in jail for a year!

What Ted Bundy did next!

What Voldemort did!

What Hamlet didn't do next!


Five have fun together!

Five go to the Indes and catch malaria together!

Five are now four!


King Solomon's mines!

A return to King Solomon's mines!

King Solomon's sweatshops!

"I am thinking of bees... "

Small talk poem

- Do you like roses?
- Yes. I do.
- This weather is wet.
- Very true.
- I have visited France.
- And I, China.
I flew there once
In an airliner.
- That wall's very green.
- Hello - a cat!
- I once read a story
About a hat.
- Was it amusing?
- Very much so.
- Do you prefer Geoffrey? Or Martha?
- Not really, no.
- What is the time?
- A quarter to three.
- Here, have a napkin.
- I am thinking of bees.

(Five hours later.)

- A good thing, this rain...
- Hmm... I suppose...
- Look at my sandals!
- You have five toes...
- You are very witty.
- ... also, a nose.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

The man who turned into a post-office box

A fable.

There was once a man who turned into a post office box. This is how it happened: one morning he woke up and found that he had turned into a post office box.
As he lay in bed considering the situation, his wife walked into the bedroom and said, "Oh my God - you're a post office box!"
This put him in a bad mood.

Later that day, the doctor walked into the room and looked over his patient, umming and awing in a stern yet authoritative medical manner he used to make his patients think they were going to die. (That way they were more grateful when they didn't, or more impressed when they did.)
"Ummm" he said gruffly. "Awww." he said peevishly. "Harumph."
Eventually, he cleared his throat and announced,
"This is bad. This is very bad. You have turned into a post office box. That makes four people this morning!"
"But doctor - what will I do?" cried the man who had turned into a post office box.
"Take two pills in the morning." cried the doctor over his shoulder. "Any pills will do, and it doesn't matter what morning either. They won't make any difference. I have some patients to attend to. Oh," he said as an afterthought, turning in the doorway and laying a pamphlet down on the bedroom table, "And you might find this helpful."

The pamphlet read,



All over the country people were turning into post office boxes. It was an average of one post office box for every 10 people. People looked worried. Bureaucrats looked anxious. The Prime Minister appeared on air and said concerning things in a concerned-sounding voice.

The man who had turned into a post office box watched all this with great concern.


As time went on and life progressed, the man who had turned into a post office box found himself more and more standing on street corners and letting men and women as they went by on their daily business put letters into him. He found it soothing. Sometimes, after a hard day's work post office boxing, he'd save a letter just to read to himself. (He knew he shouldn't, really, but he just couldn't resist it.

Furthermore, the man who had turned into a post office box began to look upon things in a different perspective. Maybe it wasn't so bad being a post office box after all? With so many other post office boxes now to keep him company, the man who had turned into a post office box thought he might start up a friendly society, of post office boxes. He imagined himself making bestial post office box noises beneath the crimson moons with packs of other wild and untamed post office boxes.

So he did.

MORAL: Don't turn into a post office box unless you want to.

Hello everyone

Do not be disturbed. I have just been playing multiple personality disorder solitaire.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Verily, Agatha

In Lennie Lower's classic novel, Here's Luck, Agatha Gudgeon is the nagging wife of Jack Gudgeon, and mother to Stanley Gudgeon. She takes off soon after the book begins, leaving the blokes to themselves.

In W C Fields movie The Bank Dick, Agatha is again the nagging wife against W C Fields' male protagonist.

In P G Wodehouse's series of Jeeves books, the protagonist, Bertie Wooster, has an Aunt Agatha who is always trying to get him to marry. He says of her:

"My Aunt Agatha, the one who chews broken bottles and kills rats with her teeth."

"Aunt Agatha, who eats broken bottles and wears barbed wire next to the skin."

"When Aunt Agatha wants you to do a thing you do it, or else you find yourself wondering why those fellows in the olden days made such a fuss when they had trouble with the Spanish Inquisition."

"Aunt Agatha, the one who kills rats with her teeth and devours her young."

"My Aunt Agatha who eats broken bottles and is strongly suspected of turning into a werewolf at the time of the full moon."

Just what did all these people have against Agatha, anyway?

More sneers

#4427: Collective sneering

Every Wednesday, the Trans-Australian Sneerers club gather in a small house in Balmain, Sydney, to share their mutual contempt and indifference of one another in a comfortably supercilious atmosphere.

Some of their mottos:

- You can always meet a new inferior among the TA Sneerers!

- A little sneer
Goes a long, long way
To ruin
Someone's day.

- Sneerily Agitur (Latin, translation: do the sneery thing)

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Speaking of collanders

Non-sequitur poem

Roses are red.
Violets are blue.
Posies are pink.
The square root of ten thousand four hundred and four is one hundred and two.

Manners poem

- Do you mind?
- Not at all!
- It's not a ...?
- No!
- If I may...
- Quite all right!
- Quite, you say?
- Quite!
- This really is...
- Don't mention...!
- Are you sure?
- Go!

Dangling modifier poem

"O! Let us gaze into the moon!"
She cried, "In our pyjamas!"
"Or let us sit and drink and talk!"
He sighed, "Of loons and llamas!"

And hand in hand they gazed into
The pyjama-wearing moon;
And sat and talked and drank a cup
Of freshly-boiled loon.

"O let us eat this cake with forks!"
She yawped beguilingly.
"Or let us singing wear our socks!"
He answered smilingly.

So then they sat and ate a cake,
And then they ate their forks;
And then they donned their singing socks
And went out for a walk.

She gazed at him, and he at her,
And there and then they knew:
She gladly fell into his arms,
And madly, he did too.

It was a tight fit, to be sure -
But what else could they do?

Understatement poem

April isn't a very good month,
But let's not go over the top.

UPDATE! - An overaccurate compliment poem.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Sunday, October 07, 2007

An open message to all Drunkards

Attention, Drunkards: USE THE TRAM!

It is a fact too obvious to mention that Drunk-Kind are naturally reticient and well-mannered, and therefore have an inbuilt aversion to using public transport.

I would like to personally take this opportunity, on behalf of all non-drunks, who are too sober to share your natural reticience and sense of propriety, to thank you. Your efforts to raise the moral standards on public transport are appreciated, Drunk people.

So go ahead. Go on. Hop on the tram and flail dizzily about, bumping into other passengers and falling at their feet.
Don't worry! The other passengers will be sure to move back and make a space for you. Also, if a seat is already occupied, and you, in your drunken stupour, lurch into the person sitting down and/or attempt to sit down on them, they will stand up for you, out of natural respect for your drunken candour and your rakish charm.

Oh, no. It's quite all right. It's the least we can do!

Don't worry. Make yourself at home. If you feel the urge to speak loudly in a drunken manner to the other passengers and/or the driver, perhaps seasoning your witty repartee with a number of salty imprecations, go right ahead. The other passengers will simply stay silent, possibly looking in the other direction, while others will merely move to the other end of the tram. This is only to ensure that you are given as full a space as possible to express yourself drunkenly.

Don't mention it.

Drunkards! I also heartily encourage you to give full expression to the urge to regurgitate. Let it all out! That's right! Use up as much room as is necessary. The customers and the tram driver will merely move away and/or wipe their shoes, wishing not to impinge upon your your chosen area of artistic expression.

Don't forget to use the seats as a depository for your bottles! All ten of them. Or the floor - any flat surface will do. Don't worry - it will save us the trouble of sitting and/or standing up and/or both.

Drunkards, your dedication to raising the standards of manners and decorum on the public transport is something we are all wholly grateful for. After all, if you didn't edify your fellow pasengers with your company, witty dialogue, and artistic personality, you might be forced to catch a taxi, using money that could be better spent elsewhere. And no-one wants that.

By working together, I'm sure that Drunk-Kind and Sober-Kind can forge a new and better world in an atmosphere of tolerance and respect.


Saturday, October 06, 2007

The wide word of animals

It's World Animal Day today, as I learned recently. To mark this momentuous occasion, I thought I'd do a post listing some of the stranger animals out there.


The Wedge-Tailed Beagle
This rare and majestic creature can be found by travellers in mountain climes, swooping from peak to peak, hunting for its only natural quarry, the Postman. Occasionally, it can be heard from far off, as it's eerie yet noble bark is heard ringing around the lonely mountain peaks. Soaring through clouds, this fearsome creature has inspired more than one poet to write lyrics in its honour:

She clasps the crag in crooked paws,
And on the thund'ring winds she soars!
The whole empyrean is her domain
From which her fur doth fall, like rain:
While those below scan height to height
To see her in her sombre flight.
Then, like a thunderbolt, she falls
On bone or biscuit which she mauls:
Yea, a mighty predator that flies
Is the WEDGE-TAILED BEAGLE of the skies!

Green Tea Frog
Many a tea-drinker, on pouring out a cup of green tea and turning away for a second, has been surprised to find on turning back that, with a plop and a splash, their cup is now habituated by a frog! Historically, the Chinese have considered this hot-water habituating amphibian to be especially propitious. Europeans, however, were less fond of the creature, due to the habit the frog had of occasionally hopping out of the tea and into the Europeans mouths (leading to the expression 'A frog in one's throat').

The Skylurk
The Skylurk is a disreputable species of bird, which has a habit of malingering about the skies of the world, not doing very much, and getting in the way of other birds. For centuries, scientists have sought to answer the question, 'Why is the Skylurk such an annoying creature', but as yet, their researches have not come up with any firm answers.

Habits of the Skylurk include: loafing around clouds, loitering from one tree-top to another, and glowering in an irritating fashion at the smaller birds until they cry.

Commode Dragon
This curious reptilian species makes its home in water closets and toilets, and has surprised more than one user, in the middle of doing their business, with its booming roar and fiery breath. Despite the fear and terror that it strikes in the hearts of all natural toilet goers, the Commode Dragon does not habitually feed on humans, but rather makes a meal of small rodents and fish.
Nowadays, the dragon is an endangered species, but a breeding program is underway. If you wish to have a Commode Dragon habituating your cistern or water closet, please speak to the National Commode Dragon Preservation Society today.

The Squallow is a relative of a more common bird species, the Swallow. However, it lives in rather more squalid conditions, which are frankly too disgusting to go into here. So I don't think I'll mention any more about this species.

The Great Australian Wild Bore
The Great Australian Wild Bore can be found in large numbers around the Canberra region, and in lesser numbers scattered around all areas of Australia. It is a political creature, variously described by journalists as a pig, a swine, or a creature that loves rolling around in its own muck. Frankly, many people prefer ordinary boars or pigs - and I agree with them.

The Mountain Gloat
Adventurers and travellers in distant lands, seeking to test themselves in trials of strength, often find themselves in the mountainous regions inhabited by this creature. Perched on the peaks of the highest mountains, the Mountain Gloat will look down at these travellers as they attempt to climb onwards. The travellers will occasionally squint at the creature, and wonder why it seems to have a look of such sly self-satisfaction on its face.

The Mountain Gloat is typically a silent creature, but on occasion - perhaps a traveller breaking his leg, or mountain climbers having to run away from a slight avalanche which may or may not have been caused by stones pushed down its own hooves - it will open its mouth, and emit a sudden snickering sound, causing the travellers to look up again and wonder if the Mountain Gloat is not making fun of them. But as soon as it snickers, it is silent again - and all the travellers will hear will be the wind...


That's all for the moment. This evening, I'm off to a suitable film for the occasion, 'Dinosaurs OF THE DEEP!', screening at the IMAX theatres. (Incidentally, I was amused to find that a similar post I did a while ago continues to garner comments, months, and probably years, after the post was written.) Cheerio!

Some of their drivers enjoy high-speed duels!

When you're writing for a major international magazine like The Spectator, it's usually pretty safe to make up columns about weird foreign people living in foreign countries. The only problem I see with this particular column, by Tim Heald, is that it's about Sydney and parts of Sydney that I know fairly well. And it's all crap!

He starts off on safe ground, whinging about the public transport system, something that we all do from time to time. 'The trains are unreliable' he moans, 'and Central Station is a nightmare.' I don't see anything wrong with Central Station myself, but we'll let him have his whinge.

I love this bit:

buses swirl past stops during rush hours because they’re full, and some of their drivers enjoy high-speed duels with each other.

I wish I'd been in one of those high-speed duels. Whenever I caught a bus in Sydney, I seemed to sit across from a raving alcoholic, and the buses hardly ever went anywhere.

The preferred form of travel for those venturing out of town is by air — as anyone visiting the Italian-dominated suburb of Leichhardt can testify. Leichhardt is on the flight path not far from the airport and every few seconds a big jet thunders overhead...

He should try visiting Marrickville. And what's with this 'air travel' being the preferred form of transport? Perhaps he should take a drive on the Pacific Highway.

And how about this bit?

St John’s College, where I’m spending a half-semester, is an imposing Victorian Gothic complex in an otherwise grotty part of town. My wife and I are living in the old gatehouse on the busy Parramatta Road opposite what appears to be a groovy house of ill-repute and near to more dealers in white wedding dresses than even Barbara Cartland could have imagined. The College and the university feel, to me, ill at ease with their environs.

I'm not sure how he can see this as an 'otherwise grotty party of town'. Perhaps if you take out the university, the colleges, the few statues dotted around the Prince Alfred Hospital, the various libraries, the Anglican college on the corner of City Road, and the sporting ovals... And if the university is 'ill at ease' with its environs, what does he make of the cafe and bookshop culture on King Street or Glebe Point Road? I guess university students or professors don't need to eat, talk, or read books.

Hey, maybe I'll take a trip to England and write an article about it for the newspaper. I'll be sure to talk about the 'dilapidated suburbs of Old Blighty' and the 'ramshackle tenements' in which I stayed, as well as the 'neurotic combination of the groovy West End types' with the 'anxious Tweed-and-Tennyson set'. Throw in about twenty more adjectives, and I'll have my column.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Some Mr Men books for the modern generation

A call to action

There are millions of people in this world who are disgruntled. And just look at all these news stories! Students disgruntled... disgruntled police officers... disgruntled with your child... Disgruntled investors... disgruntled fans...

This catalogue of disgruntledness, this list of horrors, leads us all to ask, how did all these people get disgruntled in the first place? What is the root cause of all this disgruntledness? It is impossible to tell how many people around you may be disgruntled. Maybe you are disgruntled, too. What's it like? Tell the world about your disgruntledness. Maybe it will make you feel better.

Most importantly, what can we do to gruntle everyone again? We need a Federal Minister of Gruntling to get onto this problem, we need a UN inquiry into the cause of Disgruntledness, we need an International Conference on Behalf of the Regruntling of the world! We need to start gruntling - straight away!

While we're on these important matters, what about that chap in the Keats poem who is 'Alone and palely loitering'? How is it possible to 'palely loiter'? Isn't that another way of saying that you 'loiter in a pale manner'? If it's possible to 'palely loiter', it must be possible also to 'crimsonly loiter' and 'vermillionly loiter'. Plus, if you can 'loiter palely', perhaps you can be 'pale and loiterish', too. What on earth was Keats talking about?

A person got to this blog (hi!) googling for 'Food that grows hair'. I'm glad that somebody has finally got onto this problem.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Modify that dangler!

Vague's catchphrase used to be "Dangle your modifier and I will fucking cut you", but I'm afraid to say that it's only recently I got around to looking 'dangling modifiers' up. Wikipedia has a good entry on them, saying, basically, that "a dangling modifier... [is] a word or phrase intended to modify one element of a sentence but, owing to its placement... seems to modify another element or none at all. "

So basically, I set about writing a set of dangling modifiers for myself, in sentences like the following:

I scratched a three-day old stubble and pushed open the door to the bathroom.

But you can't tell here whether it's the door to the bathroom that has the three-day old stubble, or the speaker, or somebody else. A better version of the sentence might be:

I scratched the three-day old stubble on the door to the bathroom and pushed it open.

It's probably not good to ask how the door to the bathroom got the three-day old stubble. And then, there was the following example:

Putting a hat and a coat on, I then led a giraffe and an elephant out of the garage.

Now, obviously it's not clear here whether I put the hat and coat on myself, or put the hat and coat on the garage, or put the hat on the giraffe and the coat on the elephant, or a combination of all those things. It would probably depend on the hat, and the coat; and also the elephant, the giraffe, and the garage. What sort of hats do garages wear? Perhaps we'd better ask a linguist.

This sentence is obviously wrong, and the dangling modifier is probably easy to spot:

A coconut fell on Clive, Stanley, Geoffrey and Ned, who were walking through the garden.

Did a coconut fall on Clive, or Stanley, or Geoffrey, or Ned? Only one coconut is specified but several people are walking through the garden. Perhaps it is a pity that more coconuts did not fall. What sentence is more accurate?

Clive was walking through the garden with Stanley, Geoffrey and Ned, when a coconut fell on him.

Stanley was walking through the garden with Clive, Geoffrey and Ned, when a coconut fell on him.

Geoffrey was walking through the garden with Clive, Geoffrey and Ned, when a coconut fell on him.

Ned was walking through the garden with Stanley, Geoffrey and Clive, when a coconut fell on him.

Who is to say? Probably not the one who was the victim of this malingering coconut.
Then there was the following surreal example:

I was walking through the garden, where apples, oranges, dates, grapes, bananas, pears, tomatoes, squashes, turnips and a coconut fell on me, with Clive.

Did Clive fall out of the clear blue sky, or was he merely idling in the garden after either Stanley, Geoffrey or Ned had been conked by a homicidal coconut? Who knows. After a great deal of research, I can reveal that the answer is in fact the following

I was walking through the garden when Clive fell on me with a whole bunch of fruit.

This sentence turns Clive from an innocent loiterer in the garden to a possibly murderous fruitbat. And aren't you glad you found out? It's an important thing to be careful about grammatical phenomenon like dangling modifiers, or perhaps we would never have found out for sure.

And imagine how terrible that would have been for you and me - and Clive!

(Now feel free to comment away and tell me how wrong and sloppy I have been in my commentary about dangling modifiers here.)

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Incomplete catalogue of sneers: an excerpt

#7821: The Sneer at Fifty Paces

At arts festivals and large public events, it is often necessary for the sneerer to be able to make the sneer felt to the sneeree* at medium to long distances. Sometimes, one must even engage in extended exchanges of sneering and/or sneering duels until the sneeree has submitted in shame and anger at your forceful sneering.

The sneer at Fifty Paces is a highly refined sneer, designed to be felt across crowded auditoriums, and sometimes even through auditorium doors. It is not so much a physical sneer as a metaphysical or spiritual sneer, being felt more than experienced by the sneeree. As such, it represents one of the highest achievements of sneerdom.

*Sneeree: person being sneered at.

The war against the pumpkins

N.H. Pumpkin Tosser Knocked Out By Launcher

(AP) GREENFIELD, N.H. The first weekend of pumpkin flinging season ended abruptly Sunday in Greenfield when one of the operators of a catapault-like device was knocked out in a freak accident.

Chuck Willard of Hancock was hit in the chin by the boom on the Yankee Seige, a remake of a medieval weapon called a trebuchet. It can toss pumpkins 300 yards and it knocked Willard for a loop.

An employee at the attraction said Willard was out for about two minutes.

He was treated and released and said to be anxious to start tossing pumpkins again.

The Yankee Siege, on Route 31, will be launching pumpkins, weather permitting, every weekend through the end of next month.

Via Harry.
Yet again, it seems, a pumpkin has sustained an injury in the seemingly endless violence and retribution being wreaked against their species by the humans. Many in the pumpkin community will be wringing their leaves and crying, 'Why must innocent pumpkins suffer?' And yet, for all the talk of turning over a new leaf and root causes, human-on-pumpkin violence seems endemic. There is little that we can do to turn the tide in human-pumpkin relations.

It may seem impossible to imagine this now, but there was a time, not so long ago, when humans and pumpkins lived in peace and harmony together. We would share the same houses! Stride through the same fields! We would dance lustily through the same gardens, singing pastoral hymns to Bacchus! (Well, the pumpkins wouldn't sing so much - they could never hold a tune). These were simpler, happy times, before the onset of internicine pumpkin warfare and the discovery of bubble and squeak.

Perhaps it is time, once more, to go up to a pumpkin and shake their leafs. Time to acknowledge pumpkin suffering and to once more attempt to live in peace and harmony with pumpkins of all backgrounds. Why not write letters to your local member, advocating the pumpkin cause? Why not, indeed, invite members of the pumpkin territories to your house to discuss things you hold in common? Humans have lived in harmony with pumpkin-kind before: we can do so again.

Free the pumpkins!
Email: timhtrain - at -

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