Monthly Archive for July, 2015

Birdsong

I have decided to devote my life to birdsong. No, not that kind of birdsong, all those trills and squawks and cooing noises that birds make. I mean songs about birds. I have not quite worked everything out in my head, but the general idea is to take familiar songs, not originally about birds, and to amend the lyrics to make them more bird-focussed. I feel this would provide an invaluable musical service for both humans and birds. As an example, here is the first fruit of my project, a rewrite of David Bowie’s 1979 hit Boys Keep Swinging. I hope you will agree that this revised version is superior in every way, particularly from an ornithological point of view.

Heaven loves ya
The clouds part for ya
Nothing stands in your way
When you’re a grebe

Plumage regales ya
Life is a pop of the cherry
When you’re a grebe

When you’re a grebe
You can soar through the air
When you’re a grebe
Other grebes check you out
You get a fish
These are your favourite things
When you’re a grebe

Grebes
Grebes
Grebes keep swinging
Grebes always work it out

Uncage the colours
Unfurl the flag
Luck just kissed you hello
When you’re a grebe

They’ll never clone ya
You’re always first on the line
When you’re a grebe

When you’re a grebe
You can dabble about on a pond
When you’re a grebe
Learn to dive and everything
You’ll get your share
When you’re a grebe

Grebes
Grebes
Grebes keep swinging
Grebes always work it out

Classical Grunting

As Hooting Yard is the home of The Grunty Man, I thought I should draw to your attention the latest “Ancient and Modern” column by Peter Jones in The Spectator:

What a pleasure it was to watch the men’s final at Wimbledon contested with a minimum of grunting, exclaiming and gesticulation. Romans would have approved.

It was well known that athletes and those taking exercise had a tendency to grunt. Seneca the Younger (c. 4 bc–ad 65), multi-millionaire Stoic philosopher and adviser to Nero, described his unfortunate lodgings over the baths, which made him abhor his ears: quite apart from people hawking their wares, depilators making their victims shriek, bathers singing out loud and splashing about, ‘those working out with weights — whether actually working out or just faking it — grunt away; when they let out their breath, they emit shrill wheezes’. The satirist Juvenal mocks the way female gladiators, taught by their trainers to prepare for the real thing, ‘grunt while they practise thrusts at a tree-stump (and then reach for the potty)’.The assumption is that the grunting associated with exercise was largely a matter of showing-off: it sent out the message ‘look what a heroic effort we are putting into all this’. In a philosophical dialogue, Cicero shines a different light on the matter. Discussing mastery of pain, he sees an analogy between bracing the soul in order to keep a stiff upper lip and bracing the body to sustain a supreme physical effort. In both cases, a groan or grunt may help. He cites athletes in training, especially ‘boxers who, unleashing a blow on their opponent, emit a grunt… in order to tense up the body and so increase the force of the hit’. To that extent, Cicero goes on, a man in pain may release a groan — but nothing feeble or piteous — if by bringing a degree of relief it will strengthen his will for the battle against it.

The two Wimbledon finalists provided an admirable example of skill, determination, self-control and minimal, functional grunting. Perhaps the professional grunters and ranters might mend their ways if crowds grunted and ranted back at them in mocking unison.

I feel inspired by this to write a fat and comprehensive World History Of Grunts And Grunting. Watch this space.

Buzz!

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Dear Mr Key, Are you still alive?

Dear Mr Key, Has your pea-sized yet pulsating brain finally given up the ghost?

Ahoy there Key!, Is there a terrible vacancy between your ears we devoted readers ought to know about?

These are just some of the letters I have received in response to the eerie silence which has fallen over Hooting Yard like a leaden pall. The awful truth is revealed in today’s Dabbler, and it is all about bees!

Pointy Pod

A particularly thrilling new podcast from ResonanceFM.

On Pointy Town

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Stunned Duchamp

I am much looking forward to the Joseph Cornell exhibition which opened at the Royal Academy at the weekend. Meanwhile, reviewing the show in The Spectator, Martin Gayford tells us:

Cornell … was one of the few ever to ruffle [Marcel] Duchamp’s philosophical cool. At their first meeting, or so the story goes, they discussed the topography of central Paris in enormous detail, building by building – and in French – Cornell mentioning casually only afterwards that he had never visited the city. Duchamp was lost for words.

Cornell spent his entire life on Utopia Parkway in New York, and never travelled further than Maine.

From The 20th Century

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In my cupboard in yesterday’s Dabbler I resurrected some prose from the last century. The twelve potted biographies you will find there served originally as the texts accompanying illustrations for the 1993 Hooting Yard Calendar, entitled The Golden Age Of Bodger’s Spinney Variety Theatre. (One of the illustrations is reproduced for The Dabbler.)

I revisited some even earlier prose in a dream last night. When I was about fifteen years old I wrote a dreadful surrealist(ish) play-of-sorts called The Shepherd Of Amsterdam. The text no longer survives, long ago consumed by fire or eaten by worms. Last night it returned to haunt me in my sleep. I was in charge of putting on a stage production of the work, due to begin in fifteen minutes in spite of the fact that no rehearsals had taken place and the actors were wholly unfamiliar with the play. Indeed, there was only the single copy of the text in my possession, which I belatedly thought to photocopy. I was heading to the library for that purpose when I was told that the soundtrack CD of the play – produced by a walrus-moustachioed impresario who, I was assured, was “a big fan of Hooting Yard” – featuring music by Verdi and Monteverdi, was ready, awaiting only the addition of the actors performing the words.

Then I woke up.

Wives Of Horse-Riding Barbarian Maniacs Bent On Global Domination, No. 1

In the first of our series devoted to the wives of horse-riding barbarian maniacs bent on global domination, we celebrate the intriguingly-named Borte, dearly beloved of Genghis Khan.

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