Saturday, 17 March 2018

Received Ideas (in Quotes) 8

The fact is that the vast majority of people are absolutely impervious to facts. Test the average man by asking him to listen to a simple sentence which contains one word with associations to excite his prejudices, fears or passions --- he will fail to understand what you have said and reply by expressing his emotional reaction to the critical word. It was long before I understood this fact of psychology.” (
Aleister Crowley)

Racist and classist grammar was predominantly invented in England in the 1920s for school textbooks.
(via Twitter Sexist perhaps, but racist and classist?)

Twitter: People are so easily offended these days! Atheism is a religion. Won't somebody think of the children? If we come from monkeys why are there still monkeys LOL! Why isn’t there a white history month? You should be worrying about (something completely different). Wake up, sheeple! Guns don’t kill people, people kill people. (Via Alex Andreou of the Guardian)

“This exhibition is about challenging people’s preconceptions” says curator of show about venomous insects at the Natural History Museum, as if he was the first person to think of it.

"Making ends meet" refers to accounting: balancing "end" gains & "end" losses at the end of the year (where "meet" means "equal," not "come together"). (Jason P. Steed ‏@5thCircAppeals Surely ends of a piece of string?)

In the midst of sorrow and loss the symbolism of the weeping willow offered solace and reassurance the dead would rise to heaven as quickly as a willow branch takes root. (Surely the weeping willow is a symbol of mourning because of its drooping branches?)

Hazel nuts were said to have contained so much bite-sized wisdom they became the source of the phrase “in a nutshell.” (via Twitter. It's a metaphor for packing a lot of information into a few words.)

Reading The Old Curiosity Shop last night and noticed Dickens used 'bran-new' which was endnoted with explanation that china used to be packed with unwanted bran, so a fresh bit of china was 'bran-new'. (Claire Cock-Starkey @NonFictioness)

The Hawaiian beachcombers talk about their marbles being from ballast on ships from back in the day. (via FB)

In the late 1700's Sydney's Aboriginal people made stone tools from Thames flint, bought to Australia as ballast on convict ships.

There’s a yarn whereby someone had a load of pyrites, perhaps used as ballast, and had to get rid of it, thus leading to “streets paved with gold” – it was used to make roads.
 (@guessworker It's metaphorical again – it's so easy to make money here it's as if the streets were paved with gold.)

There is plenty of evidence for Britain's colonial past on the foreshore, such as this huge lump of coral at Rotherhithe. Used as ballast on ships returning from the West Indies.
(@ThamesDiscovery Possibly, but I doubt ballast stories on principle.)

Here's my favourite thing in Palermo. The kamelaukion with which Honorius III crowned Constance of Aragon as Holy Roman Empress in 1220. Found in her tomb when her coffin was opened in the 18th century. (mym @LiberalDespot)

Edvard Grieg wrote In The Hall of the Mountain King as a satire of terrible music and said he could barely stand to hear it. It is now one of his most played and best remembered pieces. (Quite Interesting @qikipedia)

Peter Lorre liked to claim he hardly knew any English when Hitchcock hired him for The Man Who Knew Too Much, but the wonderfully nuanced line readings he delivers in this film prove he was fibbing. ( In Fritz Lang's M he plays a sinister character who compulsively whistles In the Hall of the Mountain King.)

My teenage son told me that our insatiable appetite for quinoa has transformed it from a daily staple to an unaffordable luxury in some communities & that I therefore must never buy it... is there any truth to this? (@SnowdenFlood)

Nope. The idea that quinoa is unethical stems from a baseless, scaremongering article from 2013. It ironically has lifted tens of thousands out of poverty. Shows how damaging irresponsible journalism really can be, even years later. Feel free to enjoy it!
(James Wong @Botanygeek)

Putting an onion in your sock will NOT:
1) clean your blood,
2) filter out bacteria,
3) draw chemicals and poisons out of your foot, or
4) make your foot smell better.

More here, and links to the rest.

And if you like this sort of thing, why not read my book, expanded and updated.

Tuesday, 13 March 2018

Outrageous Excuses 2018

It has been a good year for excuses – so far.

I’m not the same person
I was in a dark place
I’ve said I was sorry
I know I’ve done wrong
I’ve gone into rehab
I stayed a whole week
I’ve entered a program
I’ve wrestled my demons
My life’s back on track
I’ve hired a good lawyer
My industry needs me
Redemption is possible
Don’t you believe?

It wasn’t me, it was the drink
You know I’d never hurt you
I only want the best for you
All I’ve ever done is for you
I snapped
My boss had a go at me
If you didn’t keep winding me up, it wouldn’t happen.
I love you so much. I don’t need anyone else.
You don’t need someone else.
(Coercive Control @CCCBurySt Ed replies)

"I'm a different person now from when I sent that abusive Tweet". This defence won't stand up in a court of law, neither will "It's all the victim's fault." We punish perpetrators, not victims.

Sexist tweets “are not a true and genuine reflection of either my character or beliefs. I had to apologise because I looked at the words I used and I didn't like them myself. They are not a reflection of my true character and they do not reflect the way that I was brought up by my parents.” New manager of the women’s England football team.

Making excuses for someone else: I understand that his depression manifests as anger, he always had a temper, the devil made him do it.

Backtracking: I didn’t spike a vegan’s food, as I claimed in an earlier tweet, I just served her a pizza with mozzarella on it blah blah.

Monroe Bergdorf says her abusive comments were “taken out of context”. I wonder if people think "context" means "situation in which I said these things"? I mean, "I was just emailing a friend", "It was a private text", "It was only a tweet". Perhaps they think it means "taken out of the private realm into the public realm"? But "taken out of context" means textual context, in which the surrounding text will change the meaning of the offending words, as in "religion... is the opium of the people" (Karl Marx), or "the poor are always with you" (Jesus). 

The lastest Tube bomber is saying he came to the UK because he wanted to be a wildlife photographer, and he planted the bomb because he liked the idea of being a fugitive chased by Interpol. (March 13, 2018)

Huge mistake, moment of madness, stain on my character. Not something I’ve ever done before, or will ever do again. (Says the footballer who spat at a 14-year-old girl, and was caught on camera, March 2018.)

Florida Teacher claims racist podcast was “political satire”. (@JoeMyGod)

“I don't know how that got there,” teen tells cops as they find 8” knife down his trousers in Shoreditch search (Hackney Gazette)

Daniel Handler “just has a potty mouth”.
"But he didn't mean that!"
"But that didn't offend ME."

This morning I met two men cutting down trees "because druggies hide behind them and shoot up". (@GeorgeMonbiot)

Alex Jones of Infowars is just a “performance artist” playing “a character” says his divorce lawyer.

Oh dear Henry Bolton busily insisting his lady friend’s messages were doctored. Like those people who are always hacked when they tweet pictures of their pudenda. (Matt W @Clavdivs1)
When pressed ... he clarified SOME were doctored SOMEWHAT. (Jo Phillips @joglasg)

Paul Townsley, who hit a woman when protesters surrounded Jacob Rees-Mogg, was snapped dressed in Nazi uniform. He “dressed up for a family do. He is a good man and a lot of people would support that”, said Mrs Townsley, quoted in the Times.

Rob Porter’s explanation for how his first wife ended up with a black eye: “They were arguing over a vase, which struck her.”

Ian Duncan Smith on the leaked economic impact report: "It was deliberately leaked because it gives a bad view, therefore we should put it to one side and just forget about it." (Not so much an excuse, more “Everything is all right really because reasons, we may have hit an iceberg but we should look on the bright side.”)

It is acceptable for some people, possessed of certain kinds of exceptional character, to behave in certain ways that for most people would be unacceptable since regarded as rude, intrusive or even immoral. (@johnmilbank3)

GP who's retired to France voted leave for his grandchildren, knowing it would make us poorer but we're a great trading nation and have been for centuries. And we discovered "the Internet".

Oxfam chief says backlash against sex scandal is an “overreaction”. The charity allowed the worker to resign rather than sacking him "because a scandal would undermine our wonderful work". (Paraphrase.)

How A Public Role Controversy Unfolds, in Six Parts

1. "I have many inflammatory opinions."
2. "I am delighted to take up this new role which is in no way incompatible with my inflammatory opinions."
3. "I am sorry for the inflammatory opinions I held years ago. I was a different person then."
4. "Yes, I also expressed several inflammatory opinions last week, but these have been misrepresented. When I said everybody except people like me is evil and should be destroyed this is a complex and nuanced view that has been twisted by people who aren't like me to make me look bad."
5. "If you didn't keep telling people about all the inflammatory opinions I have expressed there wouldn't be a problem here."
6. "With great regret I am giving up this role, at which I would have been brilliant, because this controversy has become a distraction from the matter at hand - and it's everybody's fault but mine. I hope you're happy with depriving those who need them of my help and insight." (David Bennun)

More here, and links to the rest.