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Wednesday, October 28, 2009


Rainy day Mikalogue

Mika: Kit! Kiiiiit! Kiiiiiiiit!

Kit: Mika, what? It's hours until supper time.

Mika: Play with Mika! Plaaaay!

Kit: Baby, I have things to do. Lots of things.

Mika: But is boooorrred!

Kit: Can't you go play outside?

Mika: Is raaaaining!

Kit: Oh, I see. Okay, how about this string on a stick? Wanna catch it? Wanna catch it?

Mika: Ha ha! Submit to Genghis Cat!

Kit: Oops, there it goes!


Kit: ... Okay Mika, if you want me to twirl it around for you to chase, you have to let go of the string.

Mika: Fno. Is Fmika's.

Kit: You gonna let me take the string back?

Mika: Fno! Won fair and fsquare!

Kit: Okay, fine. But that means I'm going to let you keep it and get on with stuff.

Mika: You fno fun. Fboo.

Friday, October 23, 2009


Odd limericks

In reading John Julius Norwich's 1990-1999 Still More Christmas Crackers (a series of highly entertaining commonplace books), I came across some interesting verses. They were written by the Reverend Patrick Bronte, father of Charlotte, Emily, Anne and Branwell, and quite rightly described by Norwich as 'what must be the most irritating verse form ever devised.'

Basically, the form is serious limericks - but limericks in which the last line deliberately doesn't rhyme. Here are two examples:

To novels and plays not inclined,
Nor aught that can sully her mind;
Temptations may shower,
Unmoved as a tower
She quenches the fiery arrows.

Religion makes beauty enchanting;
And even where beauty is wanting
The temper and mind
Will shine through the veil with sweet lustre.

Really, it's poetic equivalent of having your teeth drilled. I think what makes it particularly annoying, apart from the moralising - if you're going to moralise, you need to make deeper observations than that - is that the final line may not rhyme, but it does scan. You can break with the form completely and
have a quite pleasing effect, for instance (borrowed from this site):

The limerick, peculiar to English,
Is a verse that's hard to extinguish.
Once Congress in session
Decreed its suppression
But people got around it by writing the last line without any rhyme or meter.

That isn't annoying, because once the line runs on past the last syllable the ear relaxes, knowing that the form is being properly broken with. It's as if we were running a race and came in second: we don't get the satisfaction of the tape breaking across our chests, but we run a few paces and cool off. But when the unrhymed last line scans, it's as if we were running a race and the judges sneakily replaced the tape with a brick wall. Thud.

I remember an interesting lecturer at college talking about how the limerick is so inherently comic in its sound that it's difficult to contrive one that isn't funny (or at least, doesn't feel like it's trying to be.) His best example was on Sir Walter Raleigh:

Sir Walter was handy with cloaks,
And tobacco, and packets of smokes.
Such a mighty romancer
Of insomniac cancer -
I thank him, and hope that he chokes.

But I wouldn't say that was successfully serious either. A limerick might well lend itself to anger, but it comes out feeling like an epigram, and epigrams are another form with comic overtones.

I can't think of other non-comic limericks either. There are some that aren't funny if you take them seriously, so to speak, such as Edward Gorey's:

To his clubfooted child said Lord Stipple,
As he poured his postprandial tipple,
'Your mother's behaviour
Gave pain to Our Saviour
And that's why he made you a cripple.'

- which is very upsetting if you think about it, but animated by Gorey's dark humour; it tends to produce an appalled laugh. Edward Lear could do something similar, made less funny by his outmoded tendency to repeat his first line:

There was an Old Man on some rocks,
Who shut his Wife up in a box:
When she said, 'Let me out,'
He exclaimed, 'Without doubt
You will pass all your life in that box.'

Which is pretty creepy, really, and has that uncomfortable diminuendo that Lear's repeated last lines tend to have, but it still feels comic in its form. A lot of Lear's comic poetry is minor-key and curiously sad, and this is no exception, but you wouldn't call it a serious poem.

So the Reverend Patrick Bronte seems to carry the laurel for unfunny limericks, and he does it by - with the best of intentions, I'm sure - using the last line to thump you hard enough that you aren't amused. Unless anyone can think of another contender, I think it's Bronte in the lead.

Here's my take on the subject:

Rev. Bronte, a worthy old cleric,
Whose children wrote books atmospheric,
Tried verse for a time,
But his endings lacked rhyme -
An effect that is oddly frustrating.

Anyone else got one?

Wednesday, October 21, 2009


We don't need fascists

So if you have a moment, can I ask all British citizens to please contact the BBC and tell them that.

This Thursday, the BBC plan to invite members of the British National Party, the openly white supremacist party of Britain, to appear on Question Time. Which is to say, they're planning to treat them like a legitimate political party rather than the bunch of anti-democratic racist thugs that they are.

As I've been saying quite a lot lately, the BBC is a terrific institution with a deserved reputation for political credibility. Even this latest decision, with which I completely disagree, proves that James Murdoch was talking out of what I shall charitably refer to as his wallet when he suggested that the BBC's publicly-funded status meant that it was an organ of the ruling party: inviting the BNP, who everybody hates including the people they lionise, is a pretty serious nod to free speech.

But you don't need to go on the BBC to have free speech. Nobody is trying to shut the BNP up, and saying that they shouldn't get a respectable slot on the BBC is not taking away their right to talk whatever fascist shit they want under their own initiative.

The BNP are best treated as a joke. They are a tiny and wicked gang of extremists who simply don't belong on political prime time, and putting them on the BBC is giving a stamp of legitimacy and a whole lot of attention to people who don't merit it any more than any other nasty crank. Please take a moment to contact the BBC and tell them that.

And, as it's very possible the BBC will do it anyway, let's also agree not to watch. If we reward them with ratings, we're supporting them. We don't need to see this. Until they say the phrase 'We've all changed our minds and we're very, very sorry,' there's nothing any BNP rep can possibly say that's worth hearing.


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