Thursday, 31 August 2006

Anyone fancy a bit of franchemyle?

It occurs to me that since it became possible earlier this year to consult a whole range of hugely estimable reference books online, free, I am making insufficient use of the opportunity, particularly with regard to the greatest of them, the Oxford English Dictionary. I have continued to write using, mostly, words we all know and understand; this is boring for me and shows contempt for my readers, suggesting that few among them can be bothered to look anything up.

It is time I abandoned all prorogation on this matter: I must rache and start using some grown-up words, though it would be Panglossian of me to imagine that this will achieve any kind of consuccination. Some will no doubt frample delightedly all the interesting words I may use; others, particularly the kind of young people who practise labretifery, may fear abrasure and will make no comment, remaining obmutescent, struck with jactitation and obambulating wildly. These fools deserve an inguinal kick or even a fast punch in the chel.

But then, I’m just a digamous old deipnosophist; who cares what I think?

[One of the words above doesn't exist, or if it does the OED hasn't picked it up yet.]

Tuesday, 29 August 2006

Now Thank We All Our God

It is salutary to be reminded that the consolations and guidance of religion are available not only to us fortunate Anglicans but also to those of other persuasions.

This composite photo comes from a heart-warming piece entitled War-Torn Middle East Seeks Solace In Religion which appeared in last week's edition of a highly esteemed American journal which is said to be President Bush's favourite bedside reading.

Sunday, 27 August 2006

How he would have enjoyed this!

It has recently been revealed that in some rural areas of China it has been common practice to hold a striptease show at funerals in order to boost the number of mourners, as large crowds are seen as a mark of honour. Sadly, local officials have ordered a halt to such “obscene performances” and arrested the leaders of five striptease troupes. A hotline has been opened for the reporting, for a reward, of “funeral misdeeds”.

Clearly the shows had always been successful in pulling in the crowds, following the principle expressed in a remark said to have been made at the hugely well-attended funeral of the Hollywood mogul Louis B Mayer*:
"It only proves what they always say—give the people what they want to see and they'll come out for it."

*(or possibly that of Harry Cohn, of whom Hedda Hopper said “You had to stand in line to hate him”.)

Friday, 25 August 2006

Just simmer down, will you?

An angry email came pouring in this morning complaining that I have failed to comply with that clause of the OMF Charter in which there is an undertaking to update the blog every two days or so.
Things have come to a pretty pass if a man can’t have a quiet couple of days offline overseas (well, over-Solent) without being subjected to a torrent of vile abuse. Pishtush to that, say I.

Google Images offers 163,000 pictures of raspberries. I thought this was the nicest.

Sunday, 20 August 2006

The Feminist Geological Association

It is well known that we British have established more organisations which enable like-minded people to get together than any other nation. There is no hobby, interest, occupation, speciality, creed, recreation or proclivity, however esoteric, which does not have a club, association, society or group with a membership open (often exclusively) to its followers, adherents, fans, supporters or aficionados.
There are the national bodies, of course, sometimes affiliated to world-wide federations, but below these come the smaller groups, provincial or local, which flourish everywhere; few Dorset villages are without their own Vole-Fanciers Society, no SW3 postcode does not have a 4x4 Owners Club. There must be thousands of these, some with hundreds of members and perhaps some with only a President, Treasurer and two members neither of whom want to be Secretary..
It was only recently that I realised that there are some groups which cater for more than one hobby, creed, etc. I cannot imagine why I had never, until the other day, heard of the Gay Birders Club, for it was formed in 1994 and has 300 members. I will eschew silly jokes about camping in a bird sanctuary, and whether it is the birds or the members who are gay, but it is reasonable to wonder why there is a need for such a club. Fortunately, the club’s website answers this clearly:
With such a friendly all-inclusive atmosphere, the Club attracts—and welcomes—members with all levels of birding expertise. Whether you enjoy seeing rarities, which in the UK have included GBC ticks such as Lanceolated Warbler, Grasshopper Warbler and Black-headed Bunting, or just want to get the chance to see favourites like Puffin, Golden Eagle and Kingfisher, the Club can provide you with the opportunity.
Some people wonder why there is a need for a Gay Birders Club; indeed it is not obvious until you participate in your first event. Keener birdwatchers have found it suddenly brings together two very important parts of their life. They can go birding with other people and not worry about conversation which strays into non-birding matters. Other members knew they were interested in birds, but did not want to get involved in their local bird club because they felt uncomfortable with the attitudes of straight birdwatchers. They suddenly found their interest could develop in a supportive, non-competitive environment. Events bring together not only people of mixed birding abilities but at different stages of coming out. …..All mailing is done in plain envelopes.

Having absorbed this, my mind, which has the same propensity for divagation as that of a Grasshopper Warbler, immediately leapt into speculation about what other groups catering for two or more disparate interests might exist. Is there, for example, an Insurance Brokers Philatelic Society? A Mormon Clay Pigeon Group? A LibDem Model Railway Club?
These may not actually exist, but no doubt there are others equally intriguing. Sadly, I could not think of a way to get Google to find them for me.
There might even be trebles: perhaps there is an organisation offering scorbutic Trotskyite postmen a chance to get together with others?
No, that would be silly.

Friday, 18 August 2006

A choice of viewing…

I don’t think I shall ever want to pay money to get satellite television when there is more good stuff on the terrestrial channels than anyone could possibly watch.
One evening last week, for example, there was an exhilarating prom concert on BBC2 with Ashkenazi conducting The European Youth Orchestra in Shostakovitch’s Fourth Symphony, a Mozart Violin Concerto, and something fairly unexhilarating by Alfred Schnittke.
And if that didn’t appeal, over on Channel Four that old rascal Tony Benn, lively and shameless as ever at eighty-one, was interviewing (one at a time) the interviewers Jon Snow, John Humphreys. Nick Robinson and Jeremy Paxman. Actually he wasn’t particularly good at it and his interviewees more than held their own, but it was fascinating to watch five consummate broadcasters doing their thing.
Meanwhile on Five there was four hours of assorted moderately intelligent crime series: NCIS (twice), CSI and Law and Order.
So there was no need whatsoever to watch the programme on BBC1 that evening, where: “Abs grows increasingly jealous of Greg’s relationship with Nina, and is upset when his girlfriend organises a house party without telling him”. You would never guess from the synopsis that this is a soap about a hospital A&E Department, would you?

Wednesday, 16 August 2006

On sale at top pharmacies

It has been suggested to me that Other Men's Flowers would be more in tune with the contemporary zeitgeist if it contained advertising. I could not, of course, accept paid advertisements as these would compromise my objectivity, and anyway no-one would want to give me money for them, but here is one which I post in a spirit of pure altruism, without hope of financial benefit. If by doing so I bring succour (or, in the case of Americans, succor) to those afflicted by this distressing malady then I shall consider myself amply rewarded.

Monday, 14 August 2006

Anything they can do…

MACHO, n, acronym. The initial letters of Massive Compact Halo Object. A relatively dark, dense object, such as a brown dwarf, a low-mass star, or a black hole. [OED]

As an adjective, macho has nothing to do with brown dwarfs or black holes, though it may describe a dense object. It means ostentatiously or notably manly or virile; assertively masculine or tough; producing an impression of manliness or toughness. [OED again]

So why isn’t there a word for assertively feminine, hey? Perhaps it’s not needed because the female equivalent of macho man—the militant feminist—does not assert her femininity. She just maintains that there is no such thing: women could (and would) do anything—say, build bridges, play rugger, kill each other—with as much gusto (and success) as men, had they not been subjected to millennia of social conditioning, oppression and insufficient protein.

Most people believe that there are such things as feminine attributes and that they are mostly rather admirable ones, so it is impossible to imagine a word to describe someone who notably displays them which would not be complimentary, unlike macho, which is always used pejoratively. An ostentatiously masculine man is generally considered contemptible, but what word could one use to characterise a woman who is excessively gentle, sensitive, generous, kind, selfless…and doesn’t care who knows it? I suppose a real macho feminist would say wet.

Saturday, 12 August 2006

Feet and parcels

I knew about bouillabaisse, but until last week I had never encountered Pieds et Paquets, which is another Provençal delicacy, consisting of mutton tripe rolled and cooked with sheep's feet. Quite nice really, though not something you’d want to eat often.
The taste was nothing out of the ordinary, much like any other sort of mutton stew, but I was intrigued by the shape of the various bits in the pot. The parcels were easy enough to cut up and eat, but the feet were bifurcated lumps, as I suppose one would expect, sheep being cloven-footed. After you’ve got the little bit of meat and some gelatinous matter off them, you are left with two small-finger-sized bones, a curious sight. I brought a pair home with me hoping to have fun by asking my friends to identify them, but sadly they got thrown away with the rest of the rubbish at the bottom of my suitcase.

Thursday, 10 August 2006

Sonata, Partita and Cicada

I wrote exactly two years ago about the pleasures of listening to music al fresco but did not mention any of the things which might detract from one’s enjoyment, like rain or wind or aircraft noise; I discovered another last week.

We went to a piano recital in the grounds of the Château Florens in La Roque d’Anthéron (not a special journey, you understand, we just happened to be hanging around down there). It was given by a 25-year-old pianist called David Fray who played some Beethoven and some Bach rather well. At least, the loud bits sounded quite good, but quieter passages were drowned by the appalling racket made by a bunch of rowdy cicadas; generally, it was like listening to a very old and scratchy recording, or being among an audience most of whom were unwrapping packets of sweets.
Either Fray was one of those pianists whose normal posture involved hunching over the keyboard with his hair almost brushing the keys, or he was trying to hear what he was playing. Anyway, he didn’t seem to be enjoying himself much and gave a rather grumpy encore.
But the weather was lovely and it was an enjoyable evening.

There are thousands of species of cicada (this one is an Apache cicada; they don't get those in Provence). The males make their noise—among the loudest of all insect-produced sounds—by vibrating their tymbals (not by rubbing bits of themselves together like grasshoppers). Apparently, Japanese Haiku poets like to write about them.