No doubt you will be busy today organising a street party, hanging out streams of bunting, distributing paper plates piled high with sausage rolls and slices of fairy cake, and arranging entertainments featuring high-pitched discordant screaming, the cutting off of clothes, and world peace. Yes! It’s Yoko Ono’s 84th birthday. Rejoice!
This year’s Hooting Yard Christmas Appeal is for the Relief of Distressed Half-Blind Out Of Print Pamphleteers. We are hoping to raise about 47 New Pence, but more – indeed, considerably more – would aid the Relief Committee in their important work of keeping that confounded wolf away from Mr Key’s door.
If you have been entertained, diverted, instructed, or otherwise had the cockles of your heart warmed by Hooting Yard this year, or over the past god knows how many years, please give generously. The “Donate” or “Subscribe” bits over to your right, beneath all the books, will lead you to Paypal. Feel free to empty your bank account should you feel strangely compelled to do so.
All donations will be received with genuine gratitude.
I am determined to get Hooting Yard back on track from this unconscionable hiatus, and I have some exciting doo-dah to tell you about Dobson and Istvan and Zoltan. Unfortunately, my energy levels are barely above those of a comatose patient etherised upon a table. In spite of this, I am heading off to Amsterdam for a few days in hope of revivification. I shall sit next to a canal and strive for renewed perkiness. Back soon …
“The dictionary ends sooner than the soul.” – Frederic Myers, letter to Arthur Sidgwick, 14 July 1867.
When we reach the end of the dictionary, there are no more words. We have exhausted them. We are left, then, with three choices.
We may lapse into silence. This is a strategy much favoured by anchorites and hermits and some saints and saintly persons. I have, myself, been described as a Diogenesian recluse, and not without good reason.
We may resort to barbaric grunting. This seems to be a popular choice among many of the shuffling scowling denizens of my bailiwick. Whenever I go sashaying forth – for even a recluse must sashay forth from time to time – I hear more grunts than words. But where once I thumbed my nose in patrician contempt at those grunters, now I understand that they have been reduced to their barbarism because they have used up all the words in the dictionary, from A to Z. They reached the end.
We may invent new words. We may coin new sounds. Glogscheen, snup, parapapahooft, swarfoogie. Some might say we are thus babbling nonsense. Others would counter that our nonce-words are divinely inspired, that we are “speaking in tongues”. Once towards the end of the last century, I sat in a hall in a meeting of the religiously devout, several of whose members loomed over me and so spoke in tongues, to cure me of my woes. Those woes are past, and I may doubt that incoherent babbling was the cause of their passing, but can I ever be sure?
There is a fourth choice. When we reach the end of the dictionary, we turn back to the beginning, where each and every word awaits us anew.
Over in the right-hand column, below the pictures of the Hooting Yard book covers, there languishes a little orange button inscribed with the words “Make a donation”. Below this is another little chunk of text inviting you to subscribe, which basically means you automatically make a donation every month. Over the years, both the button and the text have tempted the occasional reader, and I am very grateful for their support. (They know who they are.)
Today I was reading David Thompson’s excellent blog and I felt impelled, after a smidgeon of judicious editing, to copy and paste a passage from a recent postage:
Patrons are reminded that this rickety barge is kept afloat, just about, by the kindness of strangers. If you’ve been remotely entertained over the years and would like to help this dubious endeavour remain buoyant a while longer, there’s an orange button below with which to monetise any love. Debit and credit cards are of course accepted. Think of it as a magazine subscription.
This is a very sensible piece of prose, and I urge you to act on it. Make a one-off donation by clicking the button below, or a regular monthly donation by heading over to that paragraph on the right.
NOTA BENE : For the avoidance of any doubt, following the guidance above will of course result in donations to Hooting Yard. If, in addition, or instead, you wish to donate to David Thompson, go here.
It escaped my attention the other day, but the piece Fatso And Slosher was the three-thousandth potsage [sic] at Hooting Yard. Or rather, it was the three-thousandth potsage in what I still think of as “new format” Hooting Yard, beginning in January 2007 and replacing the old format used from 2003 to 2006. This, then, is potsage 3003.
John Ruskin liked to number the paragraphs in some of his books – notably the mad autobiography Praeterita – and I ache, slightly, that I did not take the decision to number the potsages here way back when. (The same can be said of the Resonance104.4FM radio shows, of which there are now untold oodles.) Of course, I could delve into the innards of the archive and edit each and every potsage to give it its assigned Blötzmann Number, but I do not have the patience to do so, and the benefits would be negligible, other than to satisfy a numerical fancy.
Q – Should numerical fancies be satisfied, all else being equal?
A – There is no definitive answer to this question. On the one hand, Blötzmann applied numbers to absolutely everything, fanatically, even when there was only one of them, like some of the exhibits in Sir Thomas Browne’s Museum Clausum. On the other hand, Dobson never numbered anything, allegedly because he never learned to count. It was said of the out of print pamphleteer that “[he] did not even know how many feet he had, which is why so many spare boots were found in his closet”.
Had I bothered to number the potsages, an exciting activity might have been devised, let us call it Hooting Yard Sortilege. By plucking a tile from a pippy bag containing three thousand tiny bakelite tiles numbered from one to three thousand, the plucker would be led to a specific potsage, contemplation of which would provide guidance to the supplicant. What I would suggest is that those of you who wish their lives to be directed and governed by Hooting Yard – which I imagine is every single one of you – should print a paper copy of the entire archive, carry out snippage with scissors to separate the potsages, and number them accordingly. Then make a pile of them and do the pippy bag / bakelite tile business.
While you lot are doing that, I shall proceed onwards towards the four-thousandth potsage, with the wind at my heels, and a look of beatific stupidity on my face.
There was a story in the paper the other day about a new breakthrough in the development of AI, or Artificial Intelligence. My own view is that if boffins want to create a machine that convincingly apes a human being, they ought to concentrate on AS, or Artificial Stupidity.
I can imagine a big lumbering clanking robot which, when hidden behind a screen, would engage in a “conversation” which experts would be hard put to tell from the barbaric grunting of the average person in the street – at least the streets around where I live.