Brian Micklethwait's Blog

In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.

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Category archive: Comedy

Monday October 10 2016

I’ve spent all my blogging time today trying to write a couple of things for Samizdata, so once again it’s quota photo time, this time in the form of a photo of Tom Cruise that I photoed recently, just a few minutes before I took this footbridge photo.  To be more exact, it is a photo of a photo, of Tom Cruise:

image

That photo that you see in my photo is to be seen outside the Duchess Theatre in the West End, where the play being shown Goes Wrong, every night, without, although this may not be quite the way to describe things, fail.

I assume that you can only exhibit a picture of Tom Cruise like that if Tom Cruise gives his permission.  If that’s right, Tom Cruise proves himself to be a good sport.  Or, perhaps, a greedy bastard.  But for now, I’m going with good sport, if only because if he got greedy, they couldn’t afford it.

Monday September 12 2016

imageI refer honourable readers to the posting I did earlier, about a pink van (miniature version of this pink van on the right there).  And I ask you to note, again, the difficulties that this pink van’s decorators had in making what they had to say fit in with the indentations on the side of the van.  The roller-blading fox has a big kink just under his midriff.  The website information is written in letters too big to fit in the space chosen for it, but they have to be, to be legible.  It all adds to the general air of amateurishness.

But now, let’s see how the professionals deal with similar problems:

image

I was all set to write about how this very “designed” piece of design made all the same mistakes as the pink van, but actually, I don’t think it does.

The thing is, the pink van is decorated in a way that says: this is a flat surface.  Therefore, the fact that, actually, it is not a flat surface is a real problem.

But what the Sky van says is: you are looking through the surface of the van, to this three dimensional wonder-world beyond and within.  Yes, it’s a van, and its outer surface has strange and random rectangular indentations and even stranger horizontal linear interruptions.  That’s because it’s a van.  Vans are like that.  But all these vanly banalities merely happen to be in front of the real picture that we are showing you.

So, for me, this Sky van is a great success.

As for the world it depicts, the show in question is this.  I’ve not seen any of it, but I do recall Karl Pilkington with fondness from that chat show he did with Ricky Gervais, which I seem to recall watching on television, in the early hours of the morning, even though it was supposed to be a “podcast”.  Pilkington himself also remembers this earlier show with fondness, it would seem.

Saturday June 18 2016

I am currently spending all my blogging time, apart from the late night hour or so that it took to bash out this, working on a summary of a talk given to Libertarian Home by Mark Littlewood, about Brexit.  Lilttlewood used to be for Britain staying in the EU, but has since changed his mind.  I hope to be sending that summary in to LH some time tomorrow.

Meanwhile, my understanding of the referendum is that the Jo Cox murder has made a bit of a difference, in favour of Remain, but that a stronger swing towards Leave has also been happening.

The whole immigration argument, now being pressed hard by the Leavers, is obviously making a big difference.  But I reckon some other forces are also in play.

I was struck by the news that Leave was appealing to Labour voters by saying that voting Leave would wipe the smile off the faces of Cameron and Osborne.  I think that’s probably proving to be very persuasive.  In a General Election, you can hate Cameron and Osborne all you like, and vote against them.  But, against you are all those people who think that a Labour Government would be a catastrophe.  They all vote for Cameron and Osborne despite not liking them.  But in this referendum, all those Labour voters whose overriding emotion is loathing of Cameron and Osborne can actually cause Cameron and Osborne to lose.  I’m guessing that’s a very appealing idea.

I also think that Eddie Izzard’s bizarre appearance – literally his appearance – on shows like Question Time destroyed with one viral image the claim that all Remainers are normal people and only the more unhinged of the Leavers are a bunch of nutters from some other planet.  Izzard reminded me of that bonkers woman in a beret that the late Victoria Wood once did, to such comic effect.

To be clear.  I’m not saying that everyone now thinks that those arguing for Leave are all normal.  Leavers have long been reckoned by normal people people to be, many of them, about as sane as a sackful of drunken badgers.  What Izzard did was say to the nation: Lots of us Remainers are barking mad too.

Izzard, in other words, completely changed a widespread and very influential idea.  If everyone had been supposing that all Leave freaks are actually not freaks at all, any of them, than the Jo Cox murder would also have changed things, a lot.  As it is, this horror story merely confirms what most people already know about Leave freaks.  They’re freaks.  Meanwhile, the mainstream politicians arguing for Leave are not nearly such freaks.  They are fairly normal looking.  They look normal in the way that Farage looked normal, when he was sitting next to Izzard on Question Time.  The Jo Cox murder doesn’t change that.

Izzard, on the other hand, actually changed things.  The murder of an MP is a much bigger deal than Izzard.  But that murder, horrible though it was, does not change what most people think about Leavers.  Many Leavers are freaks.  But what Izzard did was use his small national presence to suggest a really rather big change, and not in a way that helped the cause he was arguing for.  He said that many Remainers are freaks too.

That’s the problem with showbiz people.  They confuse showbiz popularity with being popular with the entire nation.  If you find a comedian to be annoying or just not very funny, you can simply ignore him, happily leaving those who adore him to carry right on adoring him.  The comedian makes a good living.  You are not bothered.  Problem solved.  Everyone happy.  Personally, I think Eddie Izzard has one joke - “Hey, I’m completely random in what I say!” - and I’ve heard it enough not to want to hear it again.  So, I now ignore Izzard.

But politics is, by definition, the stuff that comes for you whether you want it or not.  Politics is like having to sit and listen to a performer whom you don’t like.  When Izzard steps forward, dressed like that, spouting political opinions, he then provokes, from those who do not like what they are seeing, not a mere shrug of indifference, but active opposition.  Izzard made people want to vote against what he was saying.

In this recent piece in the Independent, it was claimed that how Izzard had been arguing was the problem.  I wonder if even the anonymous editors who signed off on this editorial really think this.  They carefully avoided saying that Izzard looked like a freak.  Which is fine for late night telly fun.  But it is not fine when the subject being argued about is the manner in which our country should be governed.  There is a reason that ambitious politicians do not, any of them, present themselves as Izzard just did.

If the Brexit referendum result is as close as it could well be, Izzard’s contribution to the Leave cause could prove to have been decisive.

This has been a been a rather muddled and repetitious piece of writing.  This is because I was working out what I thought, as I wrote.  The point about how the Jo Cox murder doesn’t change how anyone feels about Leave Freaks, but that Izzard’s pratting about does change what lots of people feel about Remainers, and that lots of people now reckon that a lot of Remainders are Freaks too, only emerged as I wrote.  But, me thinking aloud is one of the things this place is for.

Sunday May 01 2016

While channel hopping in search of an entirely different TV channel earlier this evening, I happened to catch this snatch of dialogue, from the TV show New Tricks:

“When you’re looking for something, it’s always in the last place you look.”

“That’s because when you find it, you stop looking for it, you berk.”

Well, I laughed.  And I reckon it’s an improvement on any of these.

I didn’t know New Tricks was such a success in foreign parts:

These curmudgeonly coppers, baffled by new technology, hating modern policing methods and clearly in no state to mount a rooftop chase, proved gripping to viewers across the globe.

Actually, it’s pretty obvious why New Tricks is so popular with TV viewers everywhere.  It’s because TV viewers everywhere are mostly the same age as the curmudgeonly coppers in New Tricks, and at least twice the age of all the other cops on television.

Speaking as an oldie myself, I can tell you that jokes about not being able to remember where you put things speak to me, very loudly.  Yesterday, my oldie friend was helping me with my Ryanair checking in (another thing not all oldies to put it mildly are very good at sorting out) and during this my debit card was required.  So I produced it, from my wallet, and two seconds later I placed my wallet … into a black hole, and couldn’t for the life of me find it anywhere.  It just totally vanished into thin air, into a parallel universe, with its entrance portal on the far side of the moon.  And then it reappeared, on top of the plastic sugar jar.

Wednesday February 24 2016

Joke number 20, of these one hundred:

A few decades ago we had Johnny Cash, Bob Hope and Steve Jobs. Now we have no Cash, no Hope and no Jobs. Please don’t let Kevin Bacon die.

24:

How do you tell when you’re out of invisible ink?

28:

Just because nobody complains doesn’t mean all parachutes are perfect.

85:

How come Miss Universe is only won by people from Earth?

I picked the first three by the fact that I actually did laugh out loud.  Then, after about 30, the jokes started to fall flat.  I stopped laughing, but carried on in the hope that the laughter would return.  It never did.  I was completely joked out.

By the time I reached 85, above, I was in the mood to get quite angry if someone said something even slightly angry-making, which is why I include 85.  Yes, I’ve often wondered about this.  Why does nobody not from Earth win that thing?  Something should be done about it.  And I don’t believe there’s ever been a Mr Universe from off-planet either.

It’s things like this that mean that when those Aliens do show up, they may be hostile.  We should choose our words, and in particular, our masculinity and feminity championship descriptions, more carefully.  This is not a joke.

Thursday November 19 2015

Rather as a politician, when sacked, pretends that he has resigned to spend more time with whatever is left of his family, when a cricketer gets the elbow from the national team, the selectors always now say stuff like this:

James Whitaker, the national selector, said: “Ian Bell has been an outstanding player for many years and undoubtedly still has plenty to offer England in the future. It was clearly a difficult decision but he has struggled for runs in recent series and we felt that it was the right time for him to take a break and spend time working on his game out of the spotlight.

Outstanding player.  More to offer.  Take a break.  Work on his game.  Out of the spotlight.  And sometimes, it’s even true.  After all, Compton and Ballance are both back.  But the difference is age.  Compton and Ballance are still quite young.  Bell is at that age where he is either good now, or not.  He doesn’t have a potential big decade to offer in the future, just one or two more years right now.

Bell’s problem is that he has always been the kind of player who can make a good team better, but he has never been the kind of player good enough to make a bad team good.  And even when he was playing really well, which he did from time to time, you kind of didn’t notice.  He was never a “game changer”, merely a pretty good player, who sometimes did really well, and sometimes not so well.

Talking of bellends, for several years now the comedians on the telly have been using this, to me, peculiar expression, to describe people they are not impressed by and are inclined to mock.  But only now, wanting to add something to this posting, did I learn that the bellend is the head of the penis.  Which presumably makes the bell … Blog and learn.

Tuesday November 10 2015

Indeed:

image

I’ve not been out much lately, but last Friday night I got to see Perry and Adriana’s new version of indoors.  That was the best photo I took, of a drying up cloth.

Click on that to see Adriana’s trousers, of the sort that are presumably threatening all the time to get tighter.

Monday October 26 2015

I just sat down to do a BMdotcom posting, about some strange disruption inflicted earlier this evening upon the Royal College of Music by the London premiere of the new James Bond movie.  While composing this posting, I realised that it would do nicely for Samizdata, so there it went.  I don’t do nearly enough for Samizdata these days.

The posting was based on something that Goddaughter 2 (now a student at the RCM) told me.  And she also told me something else, this time not disturbing or of any public significance, but merely rather entertaining.

GD2 now inhabits a big building, full of rooms occupied by her and her fellow students.  Lots of rooms.  Lots of doors.  All the doors looking like each other.

So, one of the ladies in a nearby room to GD2 has a boyfriend staying the night.  Boyfriend needs a piss.  Being a relaxed sort of individual, he strolls to the toilet, naked.  It is deep into the night, and he expects not to encounter anyone, and he does not, at first.  But then, problem.  Which door is the door to the room of his lady friend?  He does not remember.  About four different wrong doors are opened, complete with people behind them, most of whom were surprised but amused, before the correct door is found.

If this was a movie, that would only have been the beginning of the mayhem and the reactions to being woken up by a naked man at the door would have been far more extreme than they actually were.  But for me, this was mayhem enough to be very entertaining.  Boyfriend wasn’t bothered.  Like I say, a relaxed sort of individual.  And no harm at all came of this little nocturnal drama.  Just a mildly entertaining blog posting, or so I hope.

Monday September 14 2015

A notable Brian has just died. Close.

Scyld Berry writes about the bravest man to ever play cricket:

The story was that when a ball hit him on the head at short-leg, he shouted “catch it!” Eric Morecombe joked that the start of the cricket season was the sound of leather on Brian Close.

RIP Tweet by Alan Butcher (which was how I learned about this):

Was once in a Roller with Brian Close. Went over a speed bump too quick. His head went clean through the roof upholstery.

Close was also one of the few men ever to make Boycott get a move on (see para 11).

He was a great England captain, briefly, but was then sacked for … well, for wanting to win too much, basically.  Then reinstated briefly, much later.  Should have been captain all that time.

Sunday September 13 2015

Excellent piece in the Daily Mash about photography and its impact, entitled Everyone sad because of photo of thing that’s been happening for months.  I only just noticed this piece, probably because it didn’t include a photograph:

It has been confirmed that everyone kind of knew the thing was happening, but now they are very sad and angry because there is a photo of it.

The thing about a photo is that a vivid photo can tell a story very quickly, this being why this particular one is getting around so much and being talked about so much.  Not necessarily a true story, not straight away, but a story.  And that’s what you want, if you are The Media.  The Media sell stories.  Truth, factual and/or moral, is nice too, but not the essence of the product.  That photos do their job well is not a “conscience” thing.  It is a speed of communication thing.  Photos communicate a lot very quickly.

The speed with which a picture tells a story is why I have so many photos here.  This is a kitten blog.  It doesn’t take itself too seriously and it doesn’t expect you to take it seriously, unless you want to.  My photos don’t consume your time, unless you want them to.  Often, I only tell my stories here at all if I have a photo.  It would take too long to explain with mere words, and anyway, what would be the point?

Headlines aren’t necessarily true either.  In fact, I would say that the biggest media lies are to be found in photos and in headlines.  Photos typically lie, when they do lie, by omission.  Headlines just lie, and you can often tell they’re lies simply be reading the story under them.

Why do headlines lie?  Because that often makes for a more appealing story.  The truth is usually more mundane.  But mundane doesn’t get you eyeballs.

Thursday August 13 2015

Yesterday’s posting was about, among other things, a photo I failed to take.  But not long after that failure, I succeeded in taking these snaps.  Which were a lot easier because nothing was moving:

image imageimage image

Not long ago, I photoed another selfie stick clutch.  But the selfie stick clutch above came out better, I think.  Less clutter in the background.  Better light.

That joke card was obviously composed and printed and sold by people who take it for granted that it is the government’s job to make you rich, because the implication is that government cuts make you poor.  But if you have an honest job, then government cuts will make you richer, especially if they knock it off the income tax.  And the graphic design should have been more deadpan.  As it is, it rather draws attention to itself and spoils the comic effect.  But I like it anyway.  Not enough to want to buy it, you understand.  But enough to photo it.

Strictly speaking, that scaffolding is not in Oxford Street, merely visible from Oxford Street.  But when it comes to scaffolding, rules don’t apply.

Friday July 24 2015

I have been reading Richard J. Evans’s account of the libel trial which took place at the High Court in 2000, in which David Irving sued the American historian Deborah Lipstadt, and her publisher Penguin Books.  In one of her books, Lipstadt had called Irving a bad and dishonest non-historian, and Irving was trying to suppress this opinion.  Irving lost.

Richard J. Evans was the expert witness who did most to blow Irving’s claims to be an honest and effective historian out of the water.

The Evans book is entitled Telling Lies About Hitler.  At the end of the chapter in it entitled “In The Witness Box” (p. 231), Evans recounts a truly extraordinary moment, right at the end of the court proceedings:

And when it came to rebutting the defence charge of consorting with neo-Nazis in Germany, Irving’s habit of improvising from his prepared text led him into a fatal slip of the tongue, as he inadvertently addressed the judge as ‘Mein Fuhrer’.  Everyone in court knew that he was referring to the judge as ‘Mein Fuhrer’ from the tone of voice in which he said it.  The court dissolved into laughter.  ‘No one could believe what just happened,’ wrote one spectator.  ‘Had we imagined it? Could he have addressed the judge as “Mein Fuhrer”?’ Irving himself denied having made the slip.  But amid the laughter in court, he could be seen mumbling an apology to the judge for having addressed him in this way.  Perhaps the slip was a consequence of Irving’s unconscious identification of the judge as a benign authority figure.  Whatever the reason for it, with the laughter still ringing in its ears, the court adjourned on 15 March 2000 as the judge prepared the final version of his judgment on the case.

Bizarre.

Tuesday July 14 2015

Another of those Wicked Camper vans, from the same fleet as this one:

image

It was never a totally White Van, but someone has painted some white on it.

I recently saw another of these vans with something like “Chuck Norris is the only person who can slam a revolving door”, but my photoing reflexes were too slow to capture it.  When I do photo this, I’ll try to remember that I said I might put the picture up here.

I agree with you.  Yes, it is a good marketing strategy.  Both of us are right about that.  And I see that these arseholes have been helping.

Thursday June 11 2015

I love learning about two-man teams, and in Paul Johnson’s short, excellent biography of Mozart (see also this earlier bit) I have been learning more about just such a team, although a very temporary and unequal one:

In the meantime, Mozart had met his great partner, the Abate Lorenzo Da Ponte.  The letter (May 7, 1783) in which he tells his father, “I have looked through at least a hundred libretti and more, but I have hardly found a single one with which I am satisfied,” also says he has met the new fashionable poet in Vienna, Da Ponte, who “has promised ... to write a new libretto for me.” The emperor had decided to abandon singspiel in 1783 and embrace Italian opera again, and he put Da Ponte in charge of the words.  Da Ponte was a converted Jew, the son of a tanner, who had embraced Christianity in 1763.  He had led a bohemian life, as a teacher, a priest, a lascivious escort of married women in the Venetian fashion, a friend of Casanova, expelled from Venice for sexual depravity, and thereafter making his living as a translator and writer in the theatrical world.  He had an extraordinary gift for languages, rather like Mozart himself but on a much more comprehensive scale, and seemed to think multilingually.

Da Ponte wrote the librettos for three Mozart operas, The Marriage of Figaro (K. 492, presented May 1,1786), Don Giovanni (K. 527, October 29, 1787), and Cosi fan tutte (K. 588, January 26, 1790), and the collaboration between the two men must be accounted one of the most successful in the history of opera.  By almost universal agreement, Figaro and Giovanni are Mozart’s two best operas, though a small minority argues that Cosi contains the best music and superb staging and that a first-class production can make it the best evening’s entertainment.

The two men worked successfuly together for two reasons. First, they both understood that creating an opera was collaboration and that composer and librettist both had to know when to give way; sometimes words must yield and sometimes notes. The truth is, of course, that Mozart was extremely adept at words as well as music, and often he took over as librettist, Da Ponte acquiescing. This raises the second point: Both men were good tempered, used to hard knocks, nasty words, and intense arguments.  They had the admirable habit, essential to success in the theater, of drawing a firm line over a disagreement, once it was resolved, and moving on quickly to the next problem.  Mozart’s good nature was absolutely genuine and went to the root of his being.  He was incapable of real malice or the desire to wound (the one exception was the archbishop, and there, too, hatred was expressed in words rather than deeds). Da Ponte was a much more flawed creature.  He was a fearful liar, to begin with, and his various volumes of memories are not to be trusted at all. His subsequent career after he left Vienna and went to New York, becoming a trader, a bookseller, a bankrupt, a poet, and other things, shows that his commitment to the stage and to music - drama, particularly - was not total.

Moreover, it is not clear that he recognized quality in opera. He thought the best composer he worked with was Vicente Martin y Soler, and he had the most fulsome praise for Antonio Salieri.  The implication was that both were Mozart’s superiors as musicians.  Both were more successful commercially at the time, and their operas were performed more frequently than Mozart’s - so were those of many other composers, at least eleven by my reckoning.  But both were so inferior to Mozart by any conceivable artistic criteria as to cast doubt on Da Ponte’s musical understanding.  And it is a significant fact that his three Mozart operas are the only ones whose libretto he wrote that have remained in the repertoire or that anyone has heard of today.

Hence the inescapable conclusion is that Mozart was the dominant figure in the collaboration.  Da Ponte understood or learned from Mozart the need to keep the drama moving by varying the musical encounters and groupings, by altering the rhythms of vocal speech, and by switching the moods.  He may even have understood the great discovery in the writing of opera that we owe to Mozart - the way in which character can be created, transformed, altered, and emphasized by entirely musical means taking possession of the sense of words.  But the magic touch is always provided by Mozart as music dramatist.

Wednesday May 20 2015

Goddaughter 2 recently suggested I read this.  I now suggest that you read it:

In the afterlife you relive all your experiences, but this time with the events reshuffled into a new order: all the moments that share a quality are grouped together.

You spend two months driving the street in front of your house, seven months having sex.  You sleep for thirty years without opening your eyes.  For five months straight you flip through magazines while sitting on a toilet.  You take all your pain at once, all twenty-seven intense hours of it.  Bones break, cars crash, skin is cut, babies are born. Once you make it through, it’s agony-free for the rest of your afterlife.

But that doesn’t mean it’s always pleasant.  You spend six days clipping your nails.  Fifteen months looking for lost items.  Eighteen months waiting in line.  Two years of boredom: staring out a bus window, sitting in an airport terminal.  One year reading books.  Your eyes hurt, and you itch, because you can’t take a shower until it’s your time to take your marathon two-hundred-day shower.  Two weeks wondering what happens when you die.  One minute realizing your body is falling.  Seventy-seven hours of confusion.  One hour realizing you’ve forgotten someone’s name.  Three weeks realizing you are wrong.  Two days lying.  Six weeks waiting for a green light.  Seven hours vomiting.  Fourteen minutes experiencing pure joy.  Three months doing laundry.  Fifteen hours writing your signature.  Two days tying shoelaces.  Sixty-seven days of heartbreak.  Five weeks driving lost.  Three days calculating restaurant tips.  Fifty-one days deciding what to wear.  Nine days pretending you know what is being talked about.  Two weeks counting money.  Eighteen days staring into the refrigerator.  Thirty-four days longing.  Six months watching commercials.  Four weeks sitting in thought, wondering if there is something better you could be doing with your time.  Three years swallowing food.  Five days working buttons and zippers.  Four minutes wondering what your life would be like if you reshuffled the order of events.  In this part of the afterlife, you imagine something analogous to your Earthly life, and the thought is blissful: a life where episodes are split into tiny swallowable pieces, where moments do not endure, where one experiences the joy of jumping from one event to the next like a child hopping from spot to spot on the burning sand.

This is from Sum, by David Eagleman, which is subtitled “Forty tales from the afterlives”, the above being the first of them, also entitled “Sum”.

I sum- (hah!) -marised this tale as best I could to another friend, who immediately got the point that Eagleman makes at the end, that the mere fact of the variety of life becomes a source of joy, if you compare it with a life from which variety has been drained away.  This alone turns humdrumness into hell, and contemplating that hell turns the humdrumness into a kind of heaven.

Count your blessings, but not the same blessings all at the same time.