As mentioned in this piece …
“Talmudiic scholar action figure with two pointy things.” (2017)
It surprised me to learn that the good people of the New England state of Maine are raising their tinies to become Marxist-Leninist firebrands. But Mr Mike Jennings has sent me incontrovertible evidence from the Maine Organic Farmers And Growers Fall Fair, showing tots being forced to rehearse 10,000 Nails In The Coffin Of Imperialism (1971) by Cornelius Cardew.
A complete recording of the piece was made by Mr Key with Miss Dimity Cashew in 2011. You can listen to it here:
Sometimes I find myself fretting about things which common sense tells me are absolutely not worth fretting about. Yet still I fret. Think of it as idiotic fretting.
The latest matter to consume my stupid attention is as follows. I was struck, when watching Danish television dramas such as Borgen and The Killing, by the immense politeness of the Danes. In both shows, the characters are forever saying “Takk” (“Thank you”), certainly more so than the average Brit or American would do. I am not familiar with real life in Denmark, but I assume that the writers of these series are making every effort to reproduce the actual speech of contemporary Danes.
In Game Of Thrones, by contrast, we are told by Ser Jorah Mormont (Iain Glen) that “there is no word for ‘thank you’ in Dothraki”. Given that the Dothraki are a savage and barbaric race whose idea of a square meal is to consume a whole horse-heart, raw, the absence of an expression of gratitude is not surprising.
But what is bothering me is this : when Danish dramas are shown on Dothraki television, how in heaven’s name will the subtitle-writers cope with all those “Takk”s?
It is, to be sure, a proper quandary, if an idiotic one.
I appear to be having one of those occasional unplanned and inadvertent Hooting Yard holidays. I must say it is all very relaxing. I shall return soon enough, meanwhile you lot can trawl through the archives to maintain your sanity.
I am delighted to announce a fantastic innovation here at Hooting Yard, the Hooting Yard Red Button. It has been developed by a dotcom startup run by twelve-year-olds. Here’s how it works:
While reading the latest effusion pouring out of Mr Key’s head, press the Hooting Yard Red Button to reveal a selection of options to enrich your Hooting Yard experience. Among them:
● Automatic translation into Dothraki.
● Exciting new colour schemes.
● Background music by Scriabin, Cornelius Cardew, or Xavier Cugat.
● A virtual fug of fumes from virtual acrid Serbian pipe tobacco.
● Water on the knee.
● Invasion of big lumbering magnetic robots from outer space.
NOTE : This is the “omega” version of the technology, and may not work properly on your computer, handheld device, iMonkey, or pneumatic parpophone.
I do not use the word “naff”, because I think the word “naff” is in itself naff. When I wish to describe something as naff, I employ a less naff euphemism, with which those who know me are familiar. By the same token, I object to the phrase “dumbing down”, which in itself seems to me an instance of dumbing down. “Infantilisation” is a possible substitute, though it does not quite capture the full meaning of “dumbing down”.
The process, whatever we choose to call it, is all around us, of course. The latest incidence occurred when I opened my gas bill. Instead of hoicking from the envelope a bald bureaucratic statement, I was horrified to find myself looking at what I mistook for a teaching aid from an infant school self esteem ‘n’ diversity awareness hub. It was all blocks of glaring primary colours and word balloons, complete with a sinister little photo-cartoon of a homunculus, the head out of proportion to the body. I begin to wonder if British Gas will accept payment in play money.
On an entirely different matter, I noted on a side panel on the front page of yesterday’s Grauniad the line: Lionel Shriver : Who cares about what I eat?, to which my immediate response, spoken aloud as I chucked the paper across the room in exasperation, was Nobody cares, Lionel Shriver, nobody cares at all!
In a comment on Knitting & Catastrophe, someone calling themselves “Who are you?” gets very prickly and accuses me of all sorts of perfidy. I am assuming this must be Dr Jonathan Faiers himself, familiar as he is with the contents of Dr Faiers’ email inbox.
I wrote to him, you see, to alert him to the fact that the film Sightseers is a splendid example of knitting and catastrophe in the cinema. And I wrote because I think “knitting and catastrophe in the cinema” is a brilliant, brilliant theme, for which Dr Faiers should be applauded. Alas, he ignored that praise, preferring to become enraged by my comments about the deadly horror of academic prose – all those “interrogations” – and heaped insult and invective upon me. Which rather goes to prove my point – he is clearly capable of writing vivid prose, so why must he couch his lecture in such clogged-up blather?
Anyway, I mention this as an excuse to direct your attention to a comment by David Thompson, which neatly summarises everything that is wrong with academic art talk, specifically “interrogations” (and “explorations”):
A while ago, I suggested a drinking game involving random art press releases. Every time you spot the word ‘explores’ or ‘interrogates’ you take a swig of tequila. Oblivion would beckon very quickly indeed. These words are all but obligatory – it’s a way to signal phony intellectual heft – and given the context, they’re usually meaningless. The particulars of this alleged mental activity – all this exploring and interrogating – never seem to be stated clearly, and no conclusions ever seem to be reached or announced to the public. But that’s because these words aren’t meant to refer to reality. You’ll see they’re used pretty much randomly. They’re just there to let the credulous punter know that the artist is supposed to be clever and therefore deserving of attention and taxpayer subsidy.
I watched, and much enjoyed, Ben Wheatley’s 2012 film Sightseers. Imagine Keith and Candice Marie from Mike Leigh’s Nuts In May as serial killers on the rampage and that will give you some idea.
For all its pleasures, there was, however, one small lapse which I point out because I think it is symptomatic of a broader issue. There is a scene in which Chris (Steve Oram), the male lead, says “He’s not a human being. He’s a Daily Mail reader.” The line guarantees a cheap laugh from the audience, but it’s all wrong, because the character being referred to fits much more neatly the stereotype of a Guardian reader. But it is precisely Guardian readers who are likely to form the audience for the film.
“He’s not a human being. He’s a Guardian reader” is actually funnier, as well as being more fitting. But the Guardianistas would then have to laugh at themselves, something they’re not very good at. Taking a swipe at the Daily Mail, on the other hand, is easy. No thought required. It is similar to the depressing sight of Russell Brand assuming he can win an argument with Peter Hitchens merely by saying Hitchens writes for the Mail. Cue boos from the herd.
While we are on the subject of comedy, Douglas Murray has a good point to make about The Book Of Mormon. Easy enough to elicit laughs at the expense of a preposterous sect, but it is not as if Mormonism is in any way a feature of the cultural landscape in this country. As he says,
One reviewer called The Book of Mormon “decadent” and I know what he meant. It does seem the epitome of a corrupted culture that you have to import alien ideas to laugh at because you are too terrified to lampoon the alien ideas in your own midst. You could get someone to write The Book of Muhammad. I would happily write it myself. But we would not find a theatre, and even if we did the theatre would not find an insurer, so the show would not go on.
Oh, incidentally, Sightseers may be the knitting and catastrophe film par excellence.
From Ptak Science Books