The market, Salonica

The market, Salonica
The market, Salonica

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

More strange things, or Penis Riot’s Biggest Hits

It’ll be on the web.  Most of my ‘jokes’ are, well before I post them.  After seeing the recent headline Artist nails himself to Red Square, another hack like me must have read about the artist’s arrest, thought up Criminal nails himself and posted it before I did.
Pyotr Pavlensky nailed himself through the scrotum.  It’s not just another cock and ball story.  One part of Red Square has earned its name.  We saw the photos.  Almost.  In one shot, kind police have put a blanket over the naked Pyotr.  In another, some thoughtful editor has cut off, so to speak, the offending organs.  Genitals with nails in them might get us all into a mess.  The borders of good taste need to be defended.
PP, an artist, said his "fixation" was a metaphor for apathy in Russia.  Now that’s a metaphor.  His balls just sat there and let it happenHe should have got a medal.  Instead, they carried him off to jail.  A fine name for an edgy boy band: Penis Riot.  Say hello to Pussy while you’re there.
Here’s the literal truth.  One of you will point it out anyway.  To say the criminal ‘nailed’ himself, that is, arrested himself, doesn’t make sense. To begin with, in this case no crime was committed before he literally nailed himself.  Ergo, no criminal, ergo, no arrest.  The artist only became a criminal once he had nailed himself in the cobblers. Cobbles that should read.  Who copy-edited this?  The police don’t normally arrest people before a crime has been committed, not this sort of crime.  He wasn’t plotting an attack on the Kremlin, not with a hammer.  And you can’t arrest yourself, can you?  Civic-minded criminals just hand themselves in – which brings me to my next pun.
The hammer and no sickle affair isn’t the only embarrassment of late for those whose job it is to handle extremities.  The press have taken up another artist and his physical integrity, Karipbek Kuyukov, and some different dangly things.  He was born without arms.  He was also denied a visa to enter the UK.

Handy publicity for the government, especially now that they’ve approved the building of a nuclear power station.  In the old Soviet Union, the Kuyukovs lived next to the main nuclear testing ground.  Karipbek was due to attend an anti-nuclear conference in Scotland.  After twenty years of campaigning, he must be an old hand at such events.

The excuse from the British Consulate in Istanbul, where he handed in his visa application: his “biometrics were of poor quality.”  Fingerprints blurred again?  Someone there needs glasses, because he made it clear on the form that he hasn’t got hands.  Just as well our failed visa applicant was not caught sneaking in through Dover, hanging on, somehow, beneath a lorry.  The bobbies wouldn’t have known where to slap the cuffs.  ’E looks ’armless to me.  (It must be on the net.  Let me know.)

Kuyukov holds the brush between his toes.  He also employs his mouth.  He is very skilled.  Most people use a hand if they are able.  But to judge from their work, a number of fully-equipped artists put their paintbrush somewhere else altogether.  I shouldn’t comment, though.  I don’t know enough about art.

Sunday, 17 November 2013

What we think is strange

Foreigners do funny things, or don’t do everything that we do.

The North Koreans have their silent football matches. Spectators are not just silent, though. They’re motionless, as if their photograph is being taken.  Perhaps it is.  In the UK, crowds are monitored every week at every football ground.  Looking for hooligans.  But the BBC thought we’d find silent football strange, so they gave us a report about it on their website at the end of July, the heart of the football season in Panmunjom. 

I’m trying to guess the atmosphere inside a North Korean stadium.  Something like an art gallery or museum over here.  One lustreless nanny state will resemble another.  We just venerate our icons in different ways.  Men in shorts, I mean.  I’m not suggesting that visitors to art galleries in Pyongyang throw toilet rolls at the paintings or scream abuse at officials.  That would be fun to watch, of course.

Englishmen do funny things too.  When we listen to the news, we entertain ourselves by holding other people up to ridicule.  Some people make this pretty easy for us. Like the fellow in the Midlands who picked up a prostitute once too often.  Not the same one, mind.  Caught by police withdrawing £20 from a cash machine, he said that the colourful lady in the back of his car was showing him where to buy tomatoes.  He had to say something.  He was embarrassed.  But he just made it worse.  Woman on back seat.  £20 for tomatoes.  It didn’t add up. 

£20 for a woman doesn’t add up either. 

When we see the news, we want some colour.  The cash/car/coquette report included a generic photograph of boxed tomatoes.  This is strange.  We all know what these plump, red-faced little things look like.   Most of us have had the pleasure.  If we needed an illustration, why not show a tubful of prostitutes? 

There was more, juicy tattle a few days ago.  The police were at the centre of this mess, too.  Revellers dressed as comic-book heroes nailed a fugitive.  Happy tweets emerged from local police stations about the incident, which had ended up in a supermarket.

"Thank you to Batman, Robin, Robin's Dad, a Smurf, and the Hoff for helping us on Friday night.  Sorry about the toilet roll aisle."

"Robin assaulted, police called, collective assisted our foot chase, minor upset to shelving during arrest.  You couldn't script it!"

Is a new craze sweeping the precincts?  It’s not all film noir, obviously. 

Robin was the victim, not Batman, or one of the others, not even the Smurf.  That’s not strange, really.  He does get a bad press.  It’s always ‘Batman and Robin,’ never ‘Robin and Batman.’  The lad is a pinch precious.  A pedestrian probably thought he was asking for it.

It was all very entertaining.  A few punches, a pursuit, men in tights.  The cops may giggle at the irony, but if no one had dressed up in the first place, there would probably have been no crime. 

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

For our tutorial next week, bring along tireless:, or Style and Tone in Graham Spaid

I have a science degree in Zoology. I am also taking a degree in English Literature. I am 53 years old. At three o'clock last night I finished my dissertation on the godawful Duchess of Malfi. 

I'm sorry Graham but I didn't like your book and as to why I will relate here. I found the book confusing and at times garbled. This was due to the poor use of quotation marks; they were either missing or placed at the beginning of speech and then not added to the end of the speech or vice versa. Also the sentence structure, syntax and grammar was poor.
When relating a story by Jim you place this all to often in first person rather than second person.
Other notes I made are as follows,

- When you wrote of the fellow falling off the bus you wrote, "like a sheep crook or something had hooked his collar from behind and just jerked him off. (Aside: No Pun intended...)." For there to be a pun there has to be context somewhere in the previous sentence/s, there is none. "jerked him off" is certainly a double entrende but not a pun. Also the "or something" is superfluous.
- You write, "Jim made a gesture like d'Artagnan sweeping of his hat before the King of France." Firstly, how could Jim make this gesture when the bus was 'packed' according to what you wrote earlier in the chapter? Secondly, the gesture would be meaningless in India. Thirdly, the simile is too verbose.
- "A tiny wing of panic lifted up inside me, then was still. (My metaphor). There is no metaphor. A metaphor is a figure of speech in which an implied comparison is made between two unlike things that actually have something in common. 
- "pulled down an old shed which, like Tintern Abbey, was a pleasant ruin." Another poor simile. How could one compare a 12thC abbey to a garden shed. They are both ruins but that is as far as any comparison can go.
- You wrote, "I pulled a genuine shiny guffaw out of the box but stopped like finding out a gift is faulty and has been recalled." Another poor simile that doesn't make sense.
- "Every child in the class put up their hand without exception, including those at the table where I had just been sitting." The last part of this sentence is unnecessary. The words "without exception" means all inclusive. So, mentioning that other pupils are included in the action of raising their arms is unnecessary.
- "When I look at Olga, something moves inside me like a continent." So that movement inside you is imperceptible. Continents move so slowly to be imperceptible.
- "I won't get much sleep now", he predicted, rather optimistically." This should be pessimistically as the sentence relates to a negative.
- "the python, which was robustly, and, I hoped idly waving his ends around. 'Robustly' and 'idly' are contradictions in terms. Also, how did you know the sex of the animal? 

There are many, many more but I feel my points have been made. Sorry, to write so pessimistically but I always believe in being honest. I won't write a review on my blog, or Amazon or Goodreads.

Monday, 4 November 2013

Counting candles back from zero

“They won’t understand that.”  It just slipped out.  It can happen in the morning.  My morning.  Too much coffee for breakfast, a sweaty train ride, and then a crackpot lesson plan, all pushed under my nose, one after the other.  

The young teacher tightened her jaw.  “I want them to do it.”  Did that mean, ‘There’s nothing wrong with the plan.  You have low expectations of the children, that’s all’?  Did it mean, ‘You think I’m stupid because I didn’t know it was too hard’?  Or, ‘I know it’s too hard.  I don’t make the plans.  I’m surprised you didn’t work that out for yourself’?

Year 3 in October.  The little creatures have just crawled out of Year 2.  They are scarcely evolved.  The History lesson today was based around a timeline for the Olympic Games.  There was a slideshow on the interactive whiteboard.  The first screen showed a horizontal line packed with illustrations, starting at 776BC and ending at 2012AD, with baby Jesus smack in the middle, away in His manger, fully-clothed. 

Teacher told me that the children needed to get the hang of the BC/AD business.  While she was at her computer, I glanced through the rest of the plan and saw that one document had BC/AD, another BCE/CE, for the same lesson.  “I don’t want to be annoying….”  This was not completely true.  I pointed out the discrepancy.  She said that the children wouldn’t notice.  I happily agreed.  If you can’t see the elephant, you won’t observe its ears.  She had given me something clever at last.  But it also implied that she knew the work was too hard.

She doesn’t make the plans.  At the start, she could have said, “They have to do it,” instead of “I want them to.”  But she wished to appear in charge.  When you’re in charge, you get the blame if things go wrong.  And if she’d admitted that the plan was too hard, she would have had to modify it.  That’s what good teachers do.  However, it was her morning out of class.  She had other lessons to prepare. 

The bell went, its clarity and purpose like a metaphor.  The children filed in.  They seemed to know what Olympic Games were.  Baby Jesus was a masterstroke.  We, the seven-year-olds and I, could now avoid the messy bits, the origins of the Western Calendar, the maths involved in counting back from zero, that sort of thing.  The timeline was a javelin of light into the past.  The inclusion, far left, of a row of pillars even meant that Ancient Greece was clear.  The classroom assistant volunteered that AD came from Latin.  Every face was glowing. 

He might as well have said Luton.  I was monitoring the children’s learning.  It’s something else good teachers have to do.  Time and Space, two cheeky ones, were acting up again.  One child thought that Greece was part of London.  Somebody said that Christ was born 12,000 years ago.  Another boy could not tell me his own birthday.