Sunday, March 30, 2008

Sunday ptoery

Ye Auld Ballade Concerning Tim's Aulde Collection of Verbigeration, and Literature from Alle and Sondry Landes.

I had a little stack of books,
A stack of books had I.
I had a little stack of books,
A pretty little stack of books,
So little was this stack of books,
It reached into the sky.

It was more beautiful and eloquent
Than the famous tower of Babel:
More beautiful, more eloquent,
And even more unstable.

Occasionally a tome would topple down
Upon a visitor,
A little tome would topple down,
A set of tomes would topple down,
A tonne of tomes would topple down,
And bury my inquisitor.

It was more beautiful and eloquent
Than the famous tower of Babel:
More beautiful, more eloquent,
And even more unstable.

Flatmate came and saw this stack
With ever flashing eye;
"Tim, you need to shelf this stack,
To shelf this ever-climbing stack,
To shelf this climbing stack of books,
Before it falls on you or I!"

It was more beautiful and eloquent
Than the famous tower of Babel:
More beautiful, more eloquent,
And even more unstable.

And so I went and got a shelf,
I got it from IKEA.
I got a lovely little shelf,
Got it with my hard-earned wealth,
Put it together by myself,
With screws sourced from South Korea.

It was more beautiful and eloquent
Than the famous tower of Babel:
More beautiful, more eloquent,
And even more unstable.

I had a little bookshelf,
A bookshelf had I.
I put my books upon a shelf,
I put them all upon a shelf,
I piled them all upon the shelf
That I had made on the fly.

It was more beautiful and eloquent
Than the famous tower of Babel:
More beautiful, more eloquent,
And even more unstable.

And it would crack, and it would growl,
Like "noises in a swound"
Yea, my little bookshelf crack'd and growl'd
And roared and howl'd
And snarled quite loud
Whene'er it saw the moon.

It was more beautiful and eloquent
Than the famous tower of Babel:
More beautiful, more eloquent,
And even more unstable.

And then one morning while I slept,
Ere the rising of the sun,
The bookshelves slowly tumbled down
The books and bookshelves tumbled down
The whole contraption rumbled down,
Just - (I suppose) - for fun.

It was more beautiful and eloquent
Than the famous tower of Babel:
More beautiful, more eloquent,
And even more unstable.

I have a little stack of books,
A stack of books have I.
I have a little stack of books,
A pretty little stack of books,
So little is this stack of books,
It reaches into the sky.

It is more beautiful and eloquent
Than the famous tower of Babel:
More beautiful, more eloquent,
And even more unstable.

Here concludes Ye Auld Ballade Concerning Tim's Aulde Collection of Verbigeration, and Literature from Alle and Sondry Landes.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

It's important to note this

I wasn't even sure that Buffalo Bills existed any more, but this morning, I saw one of them slowly melting into the pavement on Murray Road, Preston. Just thought I'd tell you that.

Hour without power

Now, I know a lot of you have been criticising Earth Hour, but not me. This afternoon, I look forward to putting my energy activities forward or back an hour so as not to make a difference, and during Earth Hour, performing a beautiful and symbolic activity that may or may not actually make the problem of climate change actually worse. There may be those who criticise my performing of beautiful and symbolic activities and my putting forward or back of energy intensive activities in such a way as may make the problem of climate change actually worse, but to those cynics, I say this: what better way of drawing attention to the problem of climate change (that may or may not exist) than performing activities which may very well make it worse?

Think about that, sceptics, before you are so quick to criticise!

Friday, March 28, 2008

Hanging Chads (in some cases literally)

... In other news, tomorrow, Zimbabwe goes to the polls. But there are increasing concerns amongst dictators the world over that this sham election in Zimbabwe could make a mockery of the so-called democracy run by Robert Mugabe. Dictators are feeling less hopeful than ever about the increase in hope amongst Zimbabweans, and report increased feelings of pessimism about the decreased feelings of pessimism expressed by the Zimbabwean public.

"If something is not done soon, Zimbabwe could at length decay into a working economy, with roads, schools, hospitals and justice for all. And nobody wants to see that happen. Nobody important, that is." says one dictator.

Others a more hardline. "This sham election has no place in a modern dictatorship!" says one dictator. "How can we be rightly expected to make a mockery of justice and the rule of law if justice and the rule of law have a chance of making a mockery out of us?"

However, it is thought that with a little hard work at the rigged polls, Mugabe can snuff out the light at the end of the tunnel and be returned to illegitimate power with an increase in his non-votes.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Avert your eyes!

Today in the mail, not only did my flatmate get a personal love letter from Mick Malthouse (imploring him in the most ardent tones to rejoin the Black and White for another year*), but TWO parcels from myself, stacked full of books. I highly recommend posting letters and parcels of random gifts to yourself; not only do you get the fun of opening it, but you just know that you're going to get yourself what you've always wanted.

Also, today I dug up, out of a small bag of clothes that I had recovered from Newcastle, this!

The WillTypeForFood autumn clothing range is not coming to a city near you**, in a wide range of colours, limited, but not in a restrictive fashion to black, white, black and white, black with white lettering, white lettering with black background, and blacky-white.

This exclusive (limited to ONE!) range will remain unsold to all comers, and is guaranteed to shock no one and break no new ground in the style stakes!

*It might have concluded by promising him a personal date, but I must admit I didn't read that far. Also, I doubt that even Collingwood would go that far...

** Unless you're in Melbourne, in which case, tough bikkies.

Talk is cheap

If money were made out of sentences, not only could we coin a phrase, we could phrase a coin. Think about that, economists!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The family that plays together...

Family scrabble: a way to stay sane while staying with the parents in the Land of No Internet, or (more likely, this) a way to stay insane?

While I was in Raymond Terrace, I played several games of scrabble, mostly with Mum, but at various intervals, joined by my brother and my father. My high point was playing all my seven letters to get the word NERDIER, achieving the bonus 50 points. That was in the first game - my low points all came after.

After a detailed scrutiny of the styles and temperaments of my opponents, I have a few observations to make regarding their likelihood as Scrabble players:

MOTHER: Clever with words (makes puns like calling magazine 'The Spectator' the 'Speckled Potato'), but surprisingly, this wit doesn't always make it onto the board. Has a shocking ability to make you feel guilty when you play three seven-letter bingoes on the board in quick succession in one game, and not even complaining about it.

LITTLE BROTHER: Cunning. Only plays one game, but quickly reveals a propensity to store up all his high-scoring letters for the high-scoring squares, and reading the dictionary when it comes turn for his move. It begins when he asks if there is such a word as BANDO. When told that the word BANDO does not exist, that the world BANDO has never existed, and that if he was thinking of playing the word BANDO, then he'd probably better think about playing a different word to BANDO, because BANDO, being a non-existent word, cannot be played. It is at this point that he asks us (again) if the word BANDO exists, causing us to turn in frustration to the dictionary - which, as it turns out, is the only such publication that definitively lists this as a word.

FATHER: Has a shockingly extensive and accurate (to the point of being pedantic) knowledge of the English language combined with an extremely whimsical approach to their use in word games. For instance, once, when playing a variant of scrabble, he used the word GUNARM. When challenged on the existence of this word, he replied,

'Gunarm. If I were a shooter, this'- (waving his arm around in the air with a look of self-satisfied innocence on his face) - 'this would be my Gunarm!'

The first word he deploys in this game - for a horribly low score of seven points - is LEAT.
He explains (rightly) that it is a measurement relating to water, and that it might be 'archaic, and not used anymore.' He gets a similarly low score with his next move, TINEA, and assuming that we will continue to doubt his verbigerating abilities, begins to lecture us on that, too, before we cut him off pre-emptively. (Despite his undoubted verbal prowess, he gets the lowest score on the board.)

MYSELF: Shocking personality. Takes note of all the eccentricities of other family members so as to use them in evidence later.

I'm not sure if I could recommend family scrabble, if not for the fact that 'the family that plays together stays together.' However, playing scrabble with family members is probably better than playing scrabble with members of The Family. In that version of the game, your brother keeps aiming a gun at your head, and you really don't want to beat the Godfather, even if you have all the best letters. Trust me on this.

Friday, March 21, 2008


Hello from Raymond Terrace, just outside of Newcastle! 

I didn't think they had the internet here, but I found it tucked away in an old dusty box in a corner room of my parent's house. My next project is to find God in the same manner. It might take a while... 

It might sound a little unexciting, but let me tell you, nothing could be farther from the truth. For instance, this afternoon just after dinner, Dad wanted a brussel sprout and I wanted a potato. Just when it looked like we were going to have to get up and go to the kitchen and get another brussel sprout and potato from the kitchen, Mum gave us her brussel sprout and potato. Then Dad ate Mum's brussel sprout and I ate Mum's potato. Boy, that was exciting! And I've got even more exciting stories to come! Um... 

Bye now!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Time unmemorial

As I packed my bag full of clothes, books, notepads, papers, pens, a watch, a toothbrush, a newspaper, a magazine, and a handkerchief, I had a nagging suspicion that I'd forgotten to remember something. Forgetting to remember something is much worse than remembering to forget something; after all, when you remember to forget something, you get to plan your absent-mindedness in advance, to pre-emptively select any small accidents of memories you have for best effect. For instance, if you are going on a visit to friends, than it's much better to remember to forget to take that box of chocolates so that you can enjoy it after the visit on your own. If, on the other hand, you just forget to remember the box of chocolates, you'll only be reminded of what you have forgotten once its too late.

Of course, there are problems with remembering to forget things as well as forgetting to remember things: that is, you may forget to remember to forget the something you had aimed to remember to remember to forget. On the other hand, sometimes you remember the something you had forgotten to remember before it is too late (though in some cases you may simply choose to remember to forget this thing anyway, for convenience sake.)

And also, as one gets older, and looks back in one's past with sentiment and nostalgia, there may be more and more incidences that one can choose to remember to forget, if they don't forget to remember it first. That time the girl you had a crush on in school caught you picking your nose, for instance. Or that time you caught her picking her nose. Yes, we truly have a thousand golden happy memories in our lifetime that we may wish to repress.

Tomorrow, I'm taking off for a five day trip to Newcastle. Who knows what I may remember to forget, and what I may simply forget to remember? I certainly look forward to finding out...

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

That certainly was an entertaining denouement I never saw

I walked out halfway through a play the other day. A good one, too. Hey, I didn't feel like watching it. You might have a go at me for this, but really, if you can't walk out halfway through a play, then you are only getting half the value of it. What else do you pay for those tickets if not to have the privilege to walk out halfway through the show, often in the middle of a quite crucial scene? Not seeing half a play is the only way to get the full sense of it.

There are those who prefer not to walk out halfway through a show, or turn off halfway through a television program, or stop reading halfway through a book. That's fine for them, but I would just put this question to them: what crucial scenes might you miss out on if you you did choose to stop watching or listening or reading halfway through? Well, we really did get to miss out on them, and how much better it feels! Once, when I was watching Trainspotting with some friends, I dozed off halfway through, and woke up for the final scenes. I don't think I really missed out on too much, really, and I'll always remember not having that experience for the rest of my life.

I'd take this principle much further: pretty much the main problem with many of the timeless pieces of art like the Sistine Chapel ceiling, or the Mona Lisa, or the many fine paintings by Tintoretto, is that you can't walk out halfway through them at all, because they're timeless and all that. It's quite an oversight on the part of the painters, I feel.

And, after all, if a play seems like it might be a good thing before we have seen it, it must seem even better after we haven't seen it! It's logical, really, or even if it isn't logical, it should be.
And that is that.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Events of world-shattering import

My time has come!

The Brock Hunter

Or, give us this day our daily Scott:
An otter-hunt the next day, and a badger-baiting the day after,
consumed the time merrily. - I hope our traveller will not sink in the reader's
estimation, sportsman though he may be, when I inform him, that on this last
occasion, after young Pepper had lost a forefoot, and Mustard the second had
been nearly throttled, he begged, as a particular and personal favour of
Mr. Dinmont, that the poor badger, who had made so gallant a defence, should be
permitted to retire to his earth without farther molestation.

The farmer, who would probably have treated this request with supreme
contempt had it come from any other person, was contented, in Brown's case, to
express the utter extremity of his wonder. - "Weel," he said, "that's queer
aneugh! - But since ye take his part, deil a tyke shall meddle wi' him mair in
my day - we'll e'en mark him, and ca' him the Captain's brock - and I'm sure I'm
glad I can do onything to oblige you - but, Lord save us, to care about a

Don't mock the brock, or the brock will shock you!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Things that are out of place

A stadium full of overweight people in a small house.

One person, three nostrils.

A boredom festival featuring fox terriers or fedoras.

Cows in space.

A rhyme in a book by T S Eliot.

Three words, four full stops.

Wings on a violin.

A brass band at a Carmelite nunnery.

Cats whiskers on a man.

A man's beard on the rose bush.

Friday, March 14, 2008

He means what he says and he says what he means

"Sophia, as you well know, followed me to India. She was as innocent as gay; but, unfortunately for us both, as gay as innocent." - Walter Scott, Guy Mannering

I rather think that the old meaning of the word 'gay' is holding up rather well along with the new meaning, since jokes like this still present themselves as obvious. And there are just too many examples of the old meaning of 'gay' in centuries of literature for it to be entirely subsumed in the new word.

*Does his best to look wise and knowledgeable and goes back to puffing ruminatively on his pipe full of soap bubbles.*

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Have some Trauma, Norma!

Ever thought of said the wrong thing at exactly the right time? Or the right thing at exactly the wrong time? Perhaps you need

Willtypeforfood patented FREUDIAN SLIPS (tm)!

They say what you don't mean to say so you don't have to! Just simply hand out an inappropriate random message to an appropriate acquaintance, or an appropriate message to an inappropriate random stranger.

There is a wrong occasion for every Freudian Slip (tm), and a Freudian Slip (tm) for every wrong occasion!

Freudian Slips (tm) are inappropriate for all walks of life, from family members to random people in the street!

Yes: try a Freudian Slip (tm) today!

(Please note: this website is not responsible for any social embarassment and/or estrangement from family members that may occur.)

To see the world in a grain of ism

I noticed in this Club Troppo comments thread Nabs have a bit of a go at the 'isms' of history:

The lesson we should take away from this is never trust anyone advocating anything that ends in “ism”. However anything ending in “y” seems to be good so far.

He even offers a happy little list of things ending in y. To that end, I'd like to propose a list of my own, dispensing with some 'isms' and proposing new names, (some ending in 'y', others ending in random happy sounds):

Feminism Being feministy (alt: Feministing!)

Socialist Socialistical!

Capitalism Capitalatitude!

Progressivism Progressicality!

Nationalism Nice National-type-feelings

Positivism Positively Positive Positiveness!

Negativism Negativicality!

Libertarianism Libertariads!

Monday, March 10, 2008

Paradox of the day!

The world's laziest blogger has just updated her blog!


A review of some of the recent weather we have had

Well, despite the official closure of summer, yesterday saw Melbourne indulge in a particularly rumbustious performance of the 'hot, dry day'. As everyone knows, the 'hot dry day' genre is a particular favourite in most parts of Australia, often coming with a number of optional extras:

- Offensive winds

- Apartments and houses that heat up to near oven-temperatures

- Fires/bushfires

While performances in these three categories seemed to be somewhat lacking, it is nevertheless true that the day offered a little of all three: there was a slight hot breeze, and the temperature indoors seemed to gradually rise and rise until it was little different from the temperature out-of-doors. Also, walking along Moreland Road yesterday evening, I noticed smoke in the air, and, as the old adage indicates, 'where there's smoke, there's fire.' Also, despite the somewhat lacklustre and laid-back performance of this particular 'hot, dry day', the programme for upcoming weather events in the area seems to indicate that more are on the way.

With a little effort, I'm sure Melbourne and environs may still, indeed, be able to achieve the full combination of horrendous temperatures, winds, fires, and overheated apartments, that have resulted in other classic performances in the 'hot, dry day' genre, such as 'That really bloody hot day we had back in December', 'That fucking bloody heatwave that seemed to go on and on in January', and 'that bullcrap 40-degree day we had back a while ago, when was it, I don't want to remember'.

Although it's obvious the Melbourne weather was going for the surprise factor by waiting until the end of summer before springing a row of 'hot, dry days' on us, it is not a pleasant surprise; and like a rock musician who doesn't know how to play in 4/4 time, the timing of the Melbourne weather is more than a little suspect. In addition, 'hot, dry days' aren't actually that pleasant, in and of themselves. Quite the opposite, really. I personally find myself more than looking forward to future performances in the 'mid-autumn chill, two jumper day', 'grey and mizzling', 'blue skies but freezing', and 'winter showers' genres that the Melbourne weather undoubtedly will be offering us in the months to come.

However, I am willing, provisionally, to say that yesterday was certainly a joyous rendition of the 'hot, dry day' genre, making up for an otherwise relatively pleasant summer. For that, I give it a tentative


Thursday, March 06, 2008

Do you have any anecdotes to back up your evidence?

So, just finished the autobiography of G. K. Chesterton.

You can find a number of pictures of Chesterton on the web. He trained at art school, which helps to explain the poses he strikes for so many of his pictures. His face itself is a work of art: a moustache, a minuscule pair of spectacles, carefully unkempt hair, and a permanent scowl all bunched up together in the one ball. No, really - he did it on purpose. As he got older, you get the sense that Chesterton turned more and more perfectly spherical, until in the end, he was almost a perfect globe, punctuated at points by limbs and a head. In one of my favourite pictures, he holds a hand at his side - it's actually seated in a chair arm, but he seems to be patting his rump, emphasising his own sphericalness.

People write autobiographies for all sorts of reasons. They do it to tell the story of their life; or to put certain little-known facts about their life on record; or to commemorate their parents, relatives, and friends; or to record their part in great public affairs; or to confess their crimes and sins; or just to lie about their own life, either for glory or out of compulsion; or to correct or change the accounts about themselves that are read in newspapers and magazines; or to describe parts of their intellectual or social development; or simply as an excuse to collect together some of their earlier writings and anecdotes in a new form; or to present some sort of idealised version about their own country, family, or self; and so on. Chesterton, typically, writes his autobiography for all of the above reasons, and many others, and does it all at once.

He really can't help himself; a simple story becomes a shepherd's pie of ideas, all mixed in haphazardly together. So, in the course of a tale about an encounter with Winston Churchill (say) Chesterton might make a diversion to talk about the nature of public speakers, before becoming distracted by the issue of faith and politics, while taking his time in order to tell us a childhood reminiscence that led to his eventual conversion to Catholicism, and wind up his conversation with a few general observations disguised as paradoxes. Political tracts collide with personal, romantic observations, interleaved at points with poetic quotations. He begins the first chapter by telling, more or less at random, family anecdotes that circulated before his birth; in subsequent chapters he tells entertaining stories about school days, relates his life in journalism, discusses his travels overseas, makes a tribute to his friend Hillaire Belloc, and winds it all up with a rambling theological discourse apparently about how nice daffodils are.

Name-dropping is rampant. I've already mentioned Churchill and Belloc, but we also meet in these pages George Bernard Shaw (who he maintained an ongoing literary feud with), William Butler Yeats (apparently), Edmund Clerihew Bentley (inventor of the Clerihew, obviously), Edmund Gosse, H G Wells, and many, many others. But it must be said that Chesterton does this whole thing so well, more or less because he has such an extraordinary talent for fanciful names:

My sister in law was contributing to a Sunday paper in serial form one of those bravely, not to say brazenly, romantic romances... the villain on whom the tale revolved was represented as a theatrical producer on a colossal scale like that of Cochran or Reinhardt. He was represented as doing various unscrupulous things, as is the humble duty of a bad man in what is only meant to be a good story... But let us suppose, for the sake of argument or narrative, that his name in the story was Arthur Mandeville. Now it so happened that there floated about somewhere ... a private individual whose name actually was Arthur Mandeville... This man brought an action for heavy damages against the paper, on the ground for a malicious and vindictive blasting of his private reputation; and he won it.

Chesterton takes this small anecdote from his journalistic life, extends it, and begins to wonder about the possible consequences, asking whether authors would not in future have to rely upon numbers instead of actual names, or his own preferred means of avoiding the legal consequences: '... equipping all the characters with names so extraordinary that it was practically impossible that they could be the real names of any real people anywhere; and by way of illustration I wrote a moving love-scene between Bunchusa Blutterspangle and Splitcat Chintzibobs.'
Entertaining as all these anecdotes were, I began to have my doubts about their veracity rather early in the book; they were more or less confirmed by a later tale told by Chesterton, about a debate raging in the letters page of the newspapers over racial purity and the universal brotherhood of man, in which there appears letters by H G Wells, the 'White Man of Bexley', a 'real negro... who signed his letter, "Black Man"', a 'Brown Man', and a termination to the debate being brought, apparently, by a letter for which he remembers 'almost every word; for it was short and simple and touching in its appeal to larger and more tolerant ideals.'

The letter, in part:

Sir, May I express my regret that you should continue a correspondence which causes considerable pain to many innocent persons, who, by no fault of their own, but by the iron laws of nature, inherit a complexion uncommon among their fellow-creatures and attractive only to the elite.... Yours faithfully, Mauve Man with Green Spots.

It's not that I'm saying Chesterton is making this up (although it does bear remarkable similarities to an opening passage from The Napoleon of Notting Hill). It's just that Chesterton has a superb disdain of mere facts. You'd find this attitude rather confirmed by later tales he tells, for instance, those about H G Wells, 'who used, even in those days, to make irreverent darts and dashes through the sombre house and the sacred garden and drop notes to me over the garden wall.' (Incidentally, he keeps promising, when raising the subject of Wells, to say 'more later', and then seeming to forget the subject altogether, for no other reason, it seems, than that he suddenly finds another subject interesting. And a very good reason that is, too.)

But then, occasionally, you find yourself pulled up in your skepticism by a fact which is actually, factually true, such as his tale about his friend Maurice Baring, who apparently was fond of repeating the line "I like the sound of breaking glass". We don't have much reason for doubting this, as Hillaire Belloc said in one of his poems -

Like many of the upper class
He liked the sound of breaking glass.

And then adds in an addendum, which is the best place to add such things,

A line I stole - with subtle daring
From Wing Commander Maurice Baring.

I had originally suspected that Wing Commander Maurice Baring had been invented by Belloc specifically for the purposes of that excellent rhyme, just as I had thought that Chesterton had been making all his anecdotes up. But there you go; I was wrong on both counts.

Other characteristics of the book worth noting are the typical Chestertonian paradoxes -

'On almost every occasion when I have met somebody, I have met somebody else. That is, I have met a private man who was oddly different from the public man.'

'Meredith was not only full of life, but he was full of lives.'

'Those who now think too little of the Allied Cause are those who once thought too much of it.'
(And so on.)

The best, most grandly poetic gestures are often saved for the ends of chapters, or key points therein, to emphasise overarching themes. During a meeting with some Germans at some point prior to the first world war, he says 'and there rose up like an enormous shadow over that drinking hall the shadow of things to be.' (To take just one example.)

I certainly had a lot of fun with this little autobiography, and since I began this post by noting how I'd finished the book, I might as well finish it by showing how the book starts: it's neatly illustrative of the clever, witty way Chesterton has of subverting your expectations and letting you look at the old anew. The first chapter, by the way, is titled ' Hearsay Evidence':

Bowing down in blind credulity, as is my custom, before mere authority and the tradition of the elders, superstitiously swallowing a story I could not test at the time by experiment of private judgment, I am firmly of opinion that I was born on the 29th of May, 1874, on Campden Hill, Kensington; and baptised according to the formularies of the Church of England in the little church of St. George opposite the large Waterworks Tower that dominated the ridge. I do not allege any significance in the relation of the two buildings; and I indignantly deny that the church was chosen because it needed the whole water-power of West London to turn me into a Christian.

Because you had to be told

Harsh realities.

Cold hard truths.

Existential horrors.

The daily grind.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Sign I May Be Reading Blogs a Little Bit Too Much (#2)

I'm reading Chesterton's autobiography at the moment. Half an hour ago I decided to read a few more chapters.

"Hmm", I thought to myself. "I wonder how long it will take the book to boot up?"

(Also, sometimes, when I'm reading books, I get the urge to cut and paste sections of the text like I'm using a computer program)

Pub untrivia

Pub untrivia: serious questions about important subjects.

What is the day of your death?

Is suicide ever justifiable?

Does God exist?

What is the value of Pi, to a million and one decimal places?

What are the relative economic benefits of capitalism as opposed to communism?

Vivisection: yes or no?

List the 20 highest causes, in descending order, of lung cancer in today's society.

Do we really have other things to fear than fear itself, and if so, what are they? All of them?

Is this a true statement: "Give me liberty, or give me death!" Remember to give adequate reasons for your response.

Is death preferrable to another season of Big Brother?

The team that answers most questions gets a $50 Woolworths shopping voucher!

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Shakespeare I ain't...

"The room was in between one room and another room, in that innocuous way that some rooms have." - me

Saturday, March 01, 2008

The conservative in railway cabin 4A

(This post is dedicated to Charles Murton, who died of cancer last year and was a modern-day conservative with a love of public transport. He blogged at, a site now taken over by the ubiquitous spam merchants.)

It was early evening when my journey began. The train was full, but not yet uncomfortably full, of people going home.... There was the charm, as we went on, of running out into evening sunlight, but still in a deep gully - as if the train were swimming in earth instead of sailing on it like a real train or worming beneath it like a real tube. There was the charm of sudden silence at stations that I had never heard of, and where we seemed to stop for a long time. There was the novelty of being in that kind of carriage without a crowd and without artificial light. But I need not try to enumerate all the ingredients. The point is that all these things between them built up for me a degree of happiness which I must not try to assess because, if I did, you would think I was exaggerating.

- C S Lewis, Hedonics.

What Puritanic element there was in this forgotten society must certainly be allowed for as part of the picture. It was mostly, among my people, a rather illogical disapproval of certain forms of luxury and expenditure. Their tables would groan under far grander dinners than many aristocrats eat to-day. But they had, for instance, a fixed feeling that there was something rather raffish about taking a cab. It was probably connected with their sensitive pride about not aping the aristocracy. I can remember my grandfather, when he was nearly eighty and able to afford any number of cabs, standing in the pouring rain while seven or eight crowded omnibuses went by; and afterwards whispering to my father (in a hushed voice lest the blasphemy be heard by the young): "If three more omnibuses had gone by, upon my soul I think I should have taken a cab." In the matter of driving about in cabs, I cannot claim to have kept the family escutcheon unspotted, or to have lived up to the high standard of my sires. But in the matter of their motive for not doing so, I am disposed to defend them, or at least to say that they are much misunderstood. They were the last descendants of Mrs. Gilpin, who told the chaise to stop a few doors from her house, lest the neighbours should think her proud. I am not sure she was not a healthier person than the smart lady who will be seen in anybody's Rolls Royce, lest the neighbours should think her humble.

- G K Chesterton, Autobiography

I number it among my blessings that my father had no car, while yet most of my friends had, and sometimes took me for a drive. this meant that all these distant objects could be visited just enough to clothe them with memories and not impossible desires, while yet they remained ordinarily as inaccessible as the Moon. The deadly power of rushing about wherever I pleased had not been given me. I measured distances by the standard of man, man walking on his two feet, not by the standard of the internal combustion engine. I had not been allowed to deflower the very idea of distance; in return I possessed "infinite riches" in what would have been to motorists "a little room."

... The odd thing was that before God closed in on me, I was in fact offered what now appears a moment of wholly free choice. In a sense. I was going up Headlington Hill on the top of a bus...

- C S Lewis, Surprised by Joy

Another eponymous engine, Tootle, was rebuked for running off the rails and playing. There was possibly a political message here, though whether of Left or Right it was hard to be sure. There were also happy little stories of Scuffy the Tug-Boat, The Magic Bus and The Flying Postman. These, unlike some of the more trivial books about fairies and elves, had conflict, danger and pathos, but all came right in the end.

- Hal G P Colebatch, Quadrant

Even more important than being drunk, however, is having the right car. You have to get a car that handles really well. This is extremely important, and there's a lot of debate on this subject --- about what kind of car handles best. Some say a front-engined car; some say a rear-engined car. I say a rented car. Nothing handles better than a rented car. You can go faster, turn corners sharper, and put the transmission into reverse while going forward at a higher rate of speed in a rented car than in any other kind. You can also park without looking, and can use the trunk as an ice chest. Another thing about a rented car is that it's an all-terrain vehicle. Mud, snow, water, woods --- you can take a rented car anywhere. True, you can't always get it back, but that's not your problem, is it?

P J O'Rourke, How to DRIVE FAST on DRUGS while getting your WING-WANG SQUEEZED and not SPILL YOUR DRINK

SEE ALSO: Erasmus' horse, and Boris Johnson's bicycle

NEXT! in this exciting series - Trotskyists and flower-arranging!
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