Archive for the ‘people’ Category

Terreblanche and crazy names

Wednesday, April 28th, 2010

The thing that struck me recently about the murder of a South African White Supremacist was his name: Terreblanche. I could be completely wrong but doesn’t that mean something like Land Of The White? Is it just a crazy coincidence that he happened to have this name alongside his political views or did someone in his family choose to change it to match their agenda?

(It looks like he was murdered by one/some of his black farm workers who had a dispute over conditions/pay. Given that Terreblanche had spent time in prison for beating up one of his staff to the point of paralysis, you can see how things might get heated.)

And families (not just royal families) do change their names to fit changed circumstances or changed aspirations.

John Cleese’s father was called Cheese – but he didn’t regard it as a serious enough name, so changed it. He had aspirations for his son to be a lawyer and “Cheese” would make him a laughing stock. Imagine! Cheese would only be a suitable name for someone who went into surreal comedy…

I’d been curious about Chuck Palahniuk (a favourite author of mine). I guessed maybe some native Indian name. But his parents were called Paula and Nick, and made it up. Seems somehow disappointing.

I love the crazy names people end up with… (anyone remember Randy Bumgardner, the Whitehouse spokesman?). Popbitch is good at finding them.

This one got a lot of exposure last week (retweets, mainly, and the Register) but is so wonderful, it bears repeating: an article in the Times about sex abuse in the Vienna Boy’s Choir was written by someone called Roger Boyes! For real.

Meanwhile, the Beaver Magazine in Canada, after over a century, has had to change its name – because of the Scunthorpe Problem.

Mollie Sugden’s Penis Extension

Thursday, July 2nd, 2009

No, I’m not going to write any kind of glowing review. She wasn’t exactly a versatile or even charming actress. But she was mildly funny in a 1970s double entendre way.

She has died at age 86. Who knew she was still alive?

The one thing I remember was a few years ago… She was prosecuted for speeding in her Porsche. Yes. Her Porsche. Now while I’m hardly going to condone dangerous driving, I just love the juxtaposition. Go Old Lady, Go.

Right, who’s next in the dead pool? Margaret Thatcher, Stephen Hawking?

Clive Anderson on class

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2009

Some years ago, I knew some Americans who came to live here. Not knowing anything about how to find a place to stay in Glasgow, they’d accepted whatever the agency sent them. They were overjoyed to find out they’d be living on an estate! …the Queen lives on an estate, doesn’t she? When it turned out to be a housing estate in the east end of Glasgow, they were less pleased.

Clive Anderson came up with a great quote in his “Chat Room” radio programme last week.

“The upper classes tend to be similar to the lower classes. There’s a sort of established theory… They gamble a lot, they drink a lot, they smash up things, they have lots of children, they marry young, they live on estates, they have guns.”

Excellent! So true…

This was in the context of a serious discussion about David Attenborough’s support of the Stop At Two campaign for population control. For more info: http://www.optimumpopulation.org/

RIP J G Ballard, author of “The Atrocity Exhibition”

Sunday, April 19th, 2009

J G Ballard was 78 and had apparently been in poor health for some time. He died today.

I’ve never read “Empire of The Sun” nor ever been particularly attracted to it. But his early writing is outstanding. I’m particularly fond of “The Atrocity Exhibition” (a book I discovered by being a fan of Joy Division and wondering where they got that title from), “Crash” (which is far far more interesting and stimulating than the dreadful film which totally missed the point!), “Myths of the Near Future“, “Concrete Island”…

I liked his experimental styles, his brashness, his willingness to mix current affairs topics with speculative futures, the psychological themes and pushing the forms of fiction. A big influence on Jeff Noon and Will Self, I’d suggest.

So I’m off to reread some favourite stories from “Myths of the Near Future“.

Buy them from amazon: The Atrocity Exhibition: Annotated (Flamingo Modern Classics), Myths of the Near Future, Crash

RIP Clement Freud

Sunday, April 19th, 2009

Ah… another one bites the dust. One less of those Grand Old Men of British Radio: the lovable lively eccentrics.

In recent years, we’ve lost : John Peel, Ned Sherrin, Humphrey Lyttelton…

Is it too much to hope Nicholas Parsons keeps in good health for a bit longer?

So, for those who don’t know: Clement Freud was grandson of Sigmund, brother of Lucien, a renowned cook, a Liberal MP and radio broadcaster.

I knew him mainly for his droll dry wit on “Just A Minute” – a programme that appeals to me for its combination of Silliness and Pedantry. But apparently I was – as a very young child – present at a cookery demonstration of his and heckled in a very loud voice “Why is that man burning sausages?” To which he returned a hard stare.

One other thing to mention. According to popbitch, he was spotted at a Sonic Youth gig. No idea if this was corroborated, but I like to believe it’s true.

What Does Jade Goody’s Death Tell Us About Humanity?

Sunday, April 12th, 2009

This is a blog post I wrote about a few weeks ago, right after her death, but decided to postpone publishing till a short while after. So forgive me for being out of date.

The Princess Diana reaction has already started. The Prime Minister has, inevitably, made a statement. And all the lovies such as Stephen Fry are issuing their tributes. And the tabloid press has gone mad of course. OK Magazine even issued a tribute magazine (issue 666) before her death!

Let’s face it: she’s best known for Being Stupid and for Being A Racist. I’m sorry, and I know how this comes across, but that’s really not something worth celebration.

Latterly, she’s considered brave for Having Cancer. This is a ludicrous stance to take. Bravery always involves some sort of choice: doing the difficult, dangerous thing rather than taking the easy option. If she’d chosen to be infected with cancer that would be a different matter. The fact that we have sympathy with her does not mean she is brave. (cf. John Diamond’s incessant writings on the subject)

If I met her, I seriously doubt I would have found her interesting or charming; though the fact that we’d have nothing in common doesn’t, obviously, make her a Bad Person (though I’m willing to be proved wrong: Stephen Fry, for example, found her compelling and fun!).

But you see… We don’t need to accord greatness to a person to believe they deserve respect and humanity. I believe every human being deserves to be treated properly – with respect, dignity, humanity, fairness – and this is unconditional on whether I’d like them or agree with them.

vote out the pig

Can we just take amoment to remind ourselves (see illustration) how utterly despicable the press was in its treatment of Jade Goody when she was alive? That is not respect. that is not humanity. Princess Diana: déjà vu?

There are bombers and murderers who I’d have no hesitation in describing as despicable people, but I would still demand they were treated fairly by any justice system, and given the opportunity of free speech etc. Or for instance not to be executed by the state. The point is: I don’t have to like people to believe they should be treated like human beings. If we start to feel we can pick and choose who gets treated with dignity, that’s where the rot sets in. And that’s what (inversely) this attempt to portray her as Something Great is symptomatic of.

[As an aside I'm reminded of the difficulty the environmental/animal rights movement has in raising money or awareness for animals that are not cute and fluffy. There may be some slimy slug that is crucial to the balance of the ecosystem; but cute baby seals are always going to get more public sympathy. Again - our concern and respect should be unconditional and go beyond our aesthetic judgement.]

Iggy Pop selling insurance?! Rotten selling butter?!

Saturday, January 10th, 2009

rotten sells country life butterIggy Pop selling house insurance??? The wild man of rock… The skin-slashing junkie… selling the safety and security of insurance. What’s happening with the world? Who thought this was a good idea? Is he strapped for cash?

And this following on from Johnny Rotten selling butter. Butter! How homely. How un-punk rock.

But I have a theory about what he’s up to. It’s well known that Lydon made up the nonsense phrase “pretty vacant” and phrased it such that he was actually saying a Very Rude Word. And get it played on the radio. Great – his wicked sense of humour.

Now… Think about what he’s selling now… Country Life Butter. Just another excuse to sneak that word in again?

Penguin Knighted

Tuesday, August 19th, 2008

Nils Olav was knighted on friday.

So who is this Sir Nils Olav? Well, he’s a Colonel-in-Chief of the Norwegian Army.

Yeah, so?

OK. He’s also a penguin at Edinburgh Zoo.

What makes this doubly ridiculous is this isn’t even the original Nils Olav – the first one died and has been replaced!

“A citation from King Harald the Fifth of Norway was read out, which described Nils as a penguin ‘in every way qualified to receive the honour and dignity of knighthood’.” It says here.

Humphrey Lyttelton

Saturday, April 26th, 2008

Oh dear. Humphrey Lyttelton died last night.

86 is a pretty decent age to get to, though!

Sad there will be no more “I’m sorry I haven’t a clue”… or at least, they will never be quite the same.

Radio 4 had seem so reliant on old men… With John Peel (a shock early death) and Ned Sherrin gone, who is left? Nicholas Parsons and Clement Freud are getting on a bit, well into their 80s. All these Old Men of Radio… Barry Cryer must be getting on a bit, though he seems robust to the point of indestructible, fitting with his adolescent character and childish sense of humour.

OK, I’m not big fan of trad jazz, but understand his importance. And of course know his contribution to Radiohead’s “amnesiac”. And the Beatles “Lady Madonna”!

Lyttelton ran a jazz club; told very rude jokeson Radio 4; presented a jazz programme on radio 2 for 40 years; had an old 1970s Volvo, which he still maintained even though it had been round the clock 3 times. He was a calligraphy expert, a cartoonist on the Daily Mail, a journalist and “romantic socialist”.

He was also – admirably – among a small group of people who have turned down a knighthood. (A group which includes: David Bowie, Alan Bennett, Thomas Hardy, Rudyard Kipling, LS Lowry…)

Well, of course it’s easier to live a life like that if you come from an aristocratic, privileged background (educated at Eton etc.). But it would also be very easy to follow the accepted path of the landed gentry and go into law or the City… So I think this shows his truly rebellious nature – to turn his back on the obvious careers and follow his love of music.

One last footnote: the name Humphrey had been eschewed by his family for hundreds of years because the last Humphrey Lyttelton was implicated in Guy Fawkes’s famous plot. His parent’s decision to break with tradition and use this name suggests even as a newborn baby he showed that spark of rebellion.

Blonde Lily

Tuesday, April 15th, 2008

Lily Allen appears to have gone blonde. Oh dear, Lily, No! It looks terrible.

What is this obsession with blonde about? It seems so oldfashioned… 1950s… “Gentlemen prefer blondes”… all that kind of nonsense. Brown hair is fine, is good.

(But the April fool joke was fun.)