Wednesday, November 13, 2019

About Fat Roland

If it’s meta to write a blog post about blogging, how meta is it to post something about another blogger's blog post about blogging? Oh, I don’t know. Go and ask the excellent Fat Roland, who’s been doing this even longer than I have, the silly bugger.

Sunday, November 10, 2019

About #OKBoomer

I first noticed the phrase “OK Boomer” a few months ago, but didn’t really get it. I’m neither a boomer nor a millennial; I believe I fall into the sociological sweetie jar called Generation X (named after the Douglas Coupland novel, not Billy Idol’s band or the Deverson/Hamblett book about 60s kids) so I believed that I had no particular skin in this game.

But I’m being pedantic, aren’t I, and referring back to books and music from the seriously olden days, which is exactly the sort of behaviour that prompts the phrase in the first place. It’s a non-specific “you wouldn’t understand” whine, just the sort of thing I probably wielded towards my own parents when I was about 15 and had been listening to Joy Division and writing some bloody awful poetry when I should have been doing maths revision.

What is interesting though, is that, by undergoing the intense analysis its suffered in the past few days, the #OKBoomer meme has immediately lost its special power, its ability to act as a secret code between the young, something that the old farts won’t get or even notice. It’s like a long-lost film or album that held us all in special thrall because nobody had ever seen it – A Clockwork Orange, for example, which couldn’t officially be shown in Britain for decades – that reveals itself to be pretty ordinary in daylight. But that was before your time, wasn’t it?

Wednesday, November 06, 2019

About the Tollemache-Tollemaches


Some people think I’m in possession of a good memory but in reality it’s always been pretty flawed, and is getting worse. I was never good at useful stuff like revising for exams, or learning lines for plays, or recalling birthdays. But other stuff, pointless stuff, adheres when I don’t even ask it to.

An example: at a very early age, I read in an old copy of the Guinness Book of Records that the longest surname was borne by one Leone Sextus Denys Oswolf Fraudatifilius Tollemache-Tollemache de Orellana Plantagenet Tollemache-Tollemache and without any conscious effort I’ve remembered that name for more than four decades. When I went to a secondary school with delusions of grandeur, I discovered that there was a Major-General Sir Humphry Tollemache, Bt, on the board of governors, a name that would have sounded gloriously over-the-top in any other context, but I always assumed he was one of the provincial also-rans of the family. (“No, he’s one of the single-barrelled ones. We send him a Christmas card, but that’s all.”)

Sadly, I recently became aware that Leone’s record was something of a dud; in fact, Leone Sextus Denys Oswolf Fraudatifilius Tollemache-Tollemache de Orellana Plantagenet Tollemache-Tollemache’s surname was merely the relatively succinct Tollemache-Tollemache and not, as the McWhirters asserted, Tollemache-Tollemache de Orellana Plantagenet Tollemache-Tollemache. (Tollemache-Tollemache de Orellana Plantagenet were just extra forenames.) However, to make up for that, I discovered that he had a brother with an even better name: Lyulph Ydwallo Odin Nestor Egbert Lyonel Toedmag Hugh Erchenwyne Saxon Esa Cromwell Orma Nevill Dysart Plantagenet Tollemache-Tollemache. Which is lovely, but for some reason, it’s not sticking.

PS: And as I wrote the above, I remembered the case of Adolph Blaine Charles David Earl Frederick Gerald Hubert Irvin John Kenneth Lloyd Martin Nero Oliver Paul Quincy Randolph Sherman Thomas Uncas Victor William Xerxes Yancy Zeus Wolfe­schlegel­stein­hausen­berger­dorff­welche­vor­altern­waren­gewissen­haft­schafers­wessen­schafe­waren­wohl­gepflege­und­sorg­faltig­keit­be­schutzen­vor­an­greifen­durch­ihr­raub­gierig­feinde­welche­vor­altern­zwolf­hundert­tausend­jah­res­voran­die­er­scheinen­von­der­erste­erde­mensch­der­raum­schiff­genacht­mit­tung­stein­und­sieben­iridium­elek­trisch­motors­ge­brauch­licht­als­sein­ur­sprung­von­kraft­ge­start­sein­lange­fahrt­hin­zwischen­stern­artig­raum­auf­der­suchen­nach­bar­schaft­der­stern­welche­ge­habt­be­wohn­bar­planeten­kreise­drehen­sich­und­wo­hin­der­neue­rasse­von­ver­stand­ig­mensch­lich­keit­konnte­fort­pflanzen­und­sicher­freuen­an­lebens­lang­lich­freude­und­ru­he­mit­nicht­ein­furcht­vor­an­greifen­vor­anderer­intelligent­ge­schopfs­von­hin­zwischen­stern­art­ig­raum Sr, who made the poor old Tollemache-Tollemaches look rather amateurish. And I remembered that I did actually try to memorise his name, but never managed it.

Saturday, November 02, 2019

About Le monde selon Radiohead

Enough of the teasers. Watch lots of clever people explain five awkward, pale posh boys with guitars, while I wave my hands around and try to remember bits of Chomsky. (He’s in it, as is Steve Reich.)

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

About #jokerstairs


I still haven’t seen Joker but it’s had so much coverage and analysis that I almost feel I don’t need to. It seems to have transcended its identity as a mere film and become a commentary on fragile masculinity, urban decay, Trumpism and, thanks to its explicit nods to Martin Scorsese (who has helpfully dissed the superhero movies that provide the mulch in which Joker grew), film itself.

In The Guardian, Arwa Mahdawi describes the tensions created by people (or, as she describes them, “influencers and imbeciles”) visiting a particular flight of stairs in the Bronx that features in the film, just to take selfies as part of a phenomenon that’s now known as “meme tourism”. I have no doubt that she’s right, if only because pretty much the same article has appeared in USA Today and Esquire and Vice and the Daily Mail and Wired and any number of other outlets, all falling over each other in a manner that’s no more dignified than the gawping phone-wielders currently attracting the derision (and eggs) of the locals.

Meme journalism, anyone?

PS: I’ve seen it now. It’s pretty good.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

About Eluard and Bayard

Two accidental encounters yesterday. First, a fascinating radio documentary about surrealism in Ireland (isn’t this exactly what Radio 4 should be for?) reminded me of Paul Eluard’s map of the world, displaying the sizes of countries in proportion to how strange they are. (I love the Canada/Mexico border.)


And then my virtual friend Steph (who used to be Chaucer’s Bitch round these parts) posted a nugget from Susie Dent about the 17th-century word “bayard”, which apparently means an unshakeable self-confidence that’s rooted in ignorance. Which is all kinds of relevant to the modern world, but specifically reminds me of one of my favourite books of recent years:

Saturday, October 19, 2019

About Boris in the Forest

My old friend Robert Hackett has been creative again, and I urge you all to slurp from the puddle of his talent.