Friday, 27 May 2016

Knocking Copy


Our English teacher at school hated adverse criticism, and usually called it “glib”. She’d be mortified to learn that I became a journalist. Most of the time, thanks to a Faustian pact between producers and press, hacks are supposed to praise – but “knocking copy” is much funnier. Can we really say that leftist critiques are "complacent" now?


Victorian inventions of mythology, which accounted for all gods as metaphors for natural events that had come to be taken literally, explained fairies as metaphors for the night sky and stars. This entire Victorian view has been debunked and refuted and is now considered by scholars an antiquated and incorrect view. (Wikipedia Sorry, Mr Casaubon.)

This is pants, I’m afraid. Very worthy, nodding wisely, gazing at the horizon in an exotic land pants but still pants. #labiennale #criticism (@timabrahams He says another exhibit has a bit of granite “to show we’re serious”.)

Undercover. Overwritten. Overplayed. Underwhelming. (Lee Jackson ‏@VictorianLondon)

I’ve read (and written) lots of rather awful books through the years, such as L. Anne Carrington’s wrestling romances that are plagiarized partly from others, to a book on King Henry the VIII written with Valley Girl dialogue, to a hideously misspelled book on our early astronauts. Vicky at No Longer Quivering

The Father Brown TV series is a disgrace: the estate of Chesterton and the Roman Catholic church should sue the overpromoted wenches who regard this as remotely related to the Father Brown stories, and deface his name with their own names. They should be forced to clean Westminster Cathedral with toothbrushes, three times a day. (Web commenter)

Self-empowering, self-actualising nonsense on stilts. Soul-bothering guff. A Ryvita has more depth and nourishment. (Robbie Millen on Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist)

Great archive footage in #BrontesAtTheBBC undermined by terrible cliche 'girl power' version of modern history and smirking production. (John Grindrod ‏@Grindrod)

How I felt about the Walliams version (of Partners in Crime): scoff and detestable. (FB)

Well, I'm still enjoying The Assault, but it's at its weakest during the "important political discussion" dialogue passages. (@Andr6wMale)

As you might imagine from a production team of 69 professors and two authors, the Oxford Companion to Fairy Tales is strongest on unreadable books... its real strengths lie in minor Victorian literature, obscure ethnic authors and complacent leftist critiques. (Fortean Times)

It's possible to love the music of Belle & Sebastian and LOATHE the film Amélie, which is so unbearably twee it makes me want to slap a cat. (@paulwhitelaw)

Everyone has LONG PROFOUND looks at each other. (Kenneth Williams on Dr Zhivago)

Mr Turner is so unbearable that you cheer when he dies. (PM)

The story is overloaded with plot devices pulled from the Victorian sensation novel trunk. (Pretty Sinister Books on Said with Flowers)

Fractured, rambling and featuring baffling contemporary inserts of New Age travellers, it lost me early on. More poetry, please. Less bongo-playing. (Kevin Maher on By Our Selves, a documentary about John Clare, Times Oct 2 2015)

Hopeless “quickfire” dialogue... (The Guardian on Morrissey’s novel, which it keeps urging you not to read.)

Lumpen, leaden and horribly inert, the film veers off in so many tedious directions you’ll need several espressos to keep you awake... ends with a gruesome burst of sentimentality. (The Spectator on Mr Holmes)

Defeated by the awfulness of another contemporary nature memoir: Wodehouse's Madeline Bassett writing William Styron's Darkness Visible. (Andrew Male ‏@Andr6wMale)

I wearied of “deeply invaginated shorelines” and “oak limbs which reach down as if possessed by a fatal passion for the water”... Too much of a young man being sensitive about the seaside. (Melanie Reid, Times April 2015, on Patrick Barkham’s Coastlines.)

Stereotypical characters, simplistic politics, nauseatingly sentimental, diluted magical realism... (The Guardian, July 25 2008, on Captain Corelli’s Mandolin)

The more recent books are much less distinctive and interesting... whereas his early books were distilled from a particular world that he knew intimately, from the Honourable Schoolboy onwards Le Carré has necessarily had to rely on heavy research. (Theo Tait in the London Review of Books. He adds that there were whole groups of people Le Carré couldn’t “do”, though he doesn’t include “journalists” – he's hopeless at them. And Smiley's People is an honourable exception.)


I turned on Inside Buckingham Palace with a shiver of dread and switched off shaking with laughter. The promise of the title was an empty one: this was very much a view from the exterior, lining up a rogue’s gallery of historians, journalists and former flunkies to spout scurrilous, treasonous and unapologetically entertaining tittle-tattle with barely a jot of actual evidence.

This brief history of royal scandal retrod old ground with almost pathological dedication: the to-do over the coronation broadcast; the Duke of Edinburgh’s supposed philanderings; Charles and Di; Michael Fagan. I was unfamiliar with the bungled kidnapping of Princess Anne, but even this came to resemble low farce thanks to one of several fist-bitingly awful reconstructions. The claim that Prince Philip turned off the central heating to force the recalcitrant Queen Mother out of Buckingham Palace, meanwhile, was so daft yet so revealing as to be utterly plausible.

When Tony Robinson weighed in with some cogent, genuinely insightful observations from outside this claustrophobic world, it was almost a disappointment — even Baldrick would have struggled to conceive a project this empty-headed. The mess of speculation, hearsay and codswallop may have been worthless as history (which, after all, relies on structured argument and, ideally, documented fact). But someone deserves a knighthood for bad telly this good. (Gabriel Tate Times Feb 25 2016)



Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Howlers 14

A feather in her torque

Not everyone realises that vaingloriously, loving-kindness and long-drawn-out are single words. And do they people “play host to” because they can’t spell “accommodate”? When they talk about
obtuse knowledge”, are they trying to say “abstruse”?


de riguerre
(de rigueur – it's about rigour, not war)
exult for exhort
in sunnier climbs
(climes or climates)
astigmatism for stigma
(BBC Breakfast)
forced perspective (false perspective)
banjo wheel barometer (Matthew Parris) (just banjo)
quadrupets (quadrupeds)
It’s still in fairly good lick. (good nick)
useful as a pied d tier (pied à terre or foot on the ground)
peaked my interest (piqued)
mute point (moot)
fundamental tenants of international law (Teresa May) (tenets)

pairing down
my Twitter follows (paring, like cheese-paring or paring a pear)
toe-headed (Very fair hair is the colour of unbleached flax or tow – sounds like toe.)
unchartered waters (BBC News) (uncharted)

Through the centuries a number of ships have floundered there. (foundered)
It’s women who bare the brunt in war (newstatesman.com) (bear or carry – but what is a brunt?)

It puts pains to the idea. (puts paid – you take pains to do something difficult)
Save the wildlife habit at Earlham Park from developers. (change.org) (habitat)
Hannah Betts calls Stephen Fry “a solipsistic old hoofer”. (Hoofers are tap-dancers, not actors.)


A feather grows from her severe black torque. (Iain Sinclair quoted by Angela Carter in the London Review of Books) (One of them should have known that Alice – through the Looking Glass – was wearing a toque on her head, copied from a picture by Millais called My First Sermon.)

Most do not know what it is like to steel into the cold monastery church, night after night. (ibenedictines.org) (steal)

in its heydey (It’s "heyday" – but why? Nothing to do with hay, and the “day” bit may be folk etymology.)

I’m not going to have a discussion about personal people. (BBC Breakfast interviewee)

The new decorations, which include at least a dozen replicas of generic Soviet statues featuring young pioneers and athletes, harken back to a different Soviet legacy. (NYT) (It's hearken or hark, and hark is the one you want.)

amphitheatre for theatre, epicentre for centre (Per Mary Beard, an amphitheatre is the full circle. And the epicentre of an earthquake is the area around the centre.)

Railways forged Canada's lovely Othello tunnels, but now they are open to hikers. (Atlas Obscura)  (You might forge a railway, but you excavate a tunnel.)

Alexander forged new frontiers for the Greek empire. (David Adams) (Not sure what you do with frontiers – draw? delineate? establish? – but you don’t forge them.)

@jameswbraxton & @HansonsAuctions are pooling around #Scotland in a #DKW Auto-Union 1000 Coupe (@AntiquesRoadtrip) (That’s “tooling”.)

Carole Caplin asks “Am I an odd crystal-crunching bird who can hardly string a sentence together?” Is she confusing crystal gazer and carrot cruncher? (2005)
She is not a crunchy new-ager. (thelasthiker.wordpress.com)
Apparently "crunchy" is “used to describe persons who have adjusted or altered their lifestyle for environmental reasons. Crunchy persons tend to be politically strongly left-leaning and may be additionally but not exclusively categorized as vegetarians, vegans, eco-tarians, conservationists, environmentalists, neo-hippies, tree huggers, nature enthusiasts, etc.” (urban dictionary) Because they eat crunchy granola?

Lesser spotted hedgehog is a rarer sight than ever.  (For the last time – it won't be – a lesser spotted animal is small, and has spots. It may also be rare and fear humans.)

Does faith fall by the waist-side? (And when he sowed, some seeds fell by the way side, and the fowls came and devoured them up. Matthew 13:4)

More here, and links to the rest.