Saturday, 26 December 2015

I've got the answer, but I still don't understand the question.

I enjoy crosswords, the crypticker the better, but there is one thing that really gets up my wick and on my nose: when I get the solution to a clue, but I don't know how to derive it from the clue. The whole point of crosswords is that the compiler is a devious bugger and the solver's task is to outwit the compiler by working out what he means as distinct from what he seems to mean.
Anyway, it's Christmas, so I will restrain my grumpiness. After all, without these compilers, I wouldn't have such an elegant way of wasting time.

Saturday, 19 December 2015

Jeg pense dunque ich yest'

It seems that every product you buy these days has to explain itself in every language spoken in the EU zone. And then some. There's a story that a Senator for one of the southern US states opposed the teaching of foreign languages in schools on the grounds that “if English is good enough for the Almighty, it's good enough for our children.”
I don't propose to go quite so far, but it seems to me that it would be sufficient to give product instructions in just 4-5 widely-taught languages: English, French, German, Russian and Spanish, for example.
Icelandic? No disrespect, but every Icelander learns English as school. Albanian? Estonian? Lithuanian? Hungarian? Bulgarian? Catalan? Faroese? Occitan? Where do you stop?
When I was an Expert (official designation, not my vanity) for the Council of Europe, the language problem was solved very simply: you had to be able to understand three languages and be able to express yourself in one of them: English, French, German. It was smooth and efficient. Now, I suspect, in order not to “offend” anyone, the Council - and all the other European organs - provide simultaneous translation in 23 or more languages. What a waste of time and money!
I used to run an English language school on the south coast. The Fire Advisory Office said that the instructions for using a fire extinguisher had to be posted next to the device in all the languages represented by the students in the school. That meant at least twenty languages. By the time a student found their language, they would have burned to death. Another piece of bureaucratic nonsense.

All this ranting on my part was provoked by my attempt to find out how to operate a digital readout electronic weighing machine. Eighteen different languages I think it was. Worst of all, each sentence/paragraph was translated, so you had to trawl endlessly to find your little bit at eighteen line intervals throughout the text. A complete load of bollocks, pardon my French.

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

Now hear this - if you can

Donald Trump said that the US should not allow Muslims into the country "until the authorities have worked out what is going on", and immediately all hell broke loose. Recriminations and condemnations coming from just about every political leader in just about every country in the western world. I bet you too think Trump's remark is outrageous. He defended himself against his critics by saying he only suggesting something that FDR did after Pearl Harbor when he ordered the internment of all US citizens of Japanese descent.
I have thought about all this: Trump's demand, the backlash and the comparison with the internment of "aliens" (as we British called those we interned in camps in the Isle of Man), and I soon made up my mind on the issue: I don't give a fuck. First, Trump is a mouthpiece for a lot of people scared by recent jihadist events, but he's unlikely ever to be in a position of power. Secondly, even if he could implement his demand, it would be unworkable in practice. Thirdly, I have come to the conclusion that it's better to let people say what they want rather than try to silence every opinion that might offend someone. Fourthly, I am in harmony with Crocodile Dundee's reaction when he was reproached for not having an opinion on the great questions facing the world: "Who's going to hear it?"

Monday, 7 December 2015

Exit stage left, damn you.

I don't usually get upset by cliches. After all, they convey meaning even though in an unexciting way. But there's a cliche in TV programmes that is bringing me to screaming point. It's the walk-off-shot cliche. A talking head talks to camera and then walks off shot as if on the way to somewhere important, implying that it was very good of them to talk to us for a moment in their busy schedule. They do it again and again. It's as if they can't stand still when they've finished their spoken piece, they've got to scuttle off stage left. It's got to the point that I dread the moment when it happens, and I tend to shout "Where the fuck are you going?"
The walk-off-shot was a clever device when it was first employed. Now it's a cliche of the worst kind, the kind that gives a man colic. If Angela Rippon, Fiona Bruce, Chris Packham, Paul Whassname, John Thingy and the rest don't stop doing it, I shall...I'll....I'm going to.... storm off stage right. That'll teach 'em.

Whatever you're selling, I don't want it

I don't know anyone who doesn't get thoroughly pissed off with the inanity of commercials on British TV (I say British, but American is even worse). So many things about them are bad that I will confine myself to the things that really get on my nose and up my wick:

Using animations rather than real people: cheap and nasty, don't buy the product.
Portraying women as strong and men as wimps: sexist, don't buy the product.
Screaming instead of speaking, awful pop music: don't buy the product.
Repetitive themes/slogans that get on your nerves: don't buy the product.
Celebrities faking sincerity (Michael Parkinson, vomit). Don't buy the product.
Phony happy families, especially at Christmastime. Don't buy the product.
Janet Street-Porter. I don't think she does ads, but I just don't like her.
Ads with cute puppies advertising toilet paper. Wipe your arse on the dog.
Sexy women who aren't sexy; also poovy men. Don't buy the product.
Ads for beauty products. They don't fucking work. Don't buy the product.
Ads for legal services. Horrible people. Don't buy the product.

In fact, if it's advertised on TV, don't buy it.