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Posts from the ‘parody’ Category


Friday Fun 44: Weeping after the shrink (Q’s 1000th post, appropriately enough)

A man has been seeing a psychiatrist for many years. It has been a lifeline for him.

But friends were shaken to see him emerge from a consultation in floods of tears, strange because this was the first time it had happened in 12 years.

When he calmed down, he was asked what had happened suddenly to bring this on.

“After 12 years, my shrink spoke for the very first time. His words were:

‘No hablo ingles.’


Friday Fun 41: Mitchell & Webb debunking conspiracy theories

Some readers will know that my current obsessions are conspiracies and suspicions. One of these days, these may coalesce into something substantial. But that feels a long way off at the moment. Ho hum. But for now, if you want some brilliant ripostes to those who suck up every conspiracy theory going, then my suggestions are twofold:

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Friday Fun 39: Swotting up on the English Reformation (part 3: Elizabeth I)

For the time being, this is our final dip into the murky waters of Sellar & Yeatman’s classic 1066 and All That. After all, overindulgence is always wrong. Wouldn’t you agree?

Having digested the reign of Henry VIII, and then gobbled up his heirs & successors Edward and Mary, we come at last to Gloriana herself, Good Queen Bess, the Virgin Queen, the one who was to be obeyed (on pain of decapitation etc etc). These Tudors weren’t exactly a straightforward bunch. No doubt, there were post-natal attachment issues which can explain all the shenanigans.
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Friday Fun 38: Swotting up on the English Reformation (part 2)

Boys and girls, last week’s lesson was only the beginning, the tip of the iceberg. How could you possibly imagine that we had plumbed the depths of the English Restoration? There is more work to be done – not least because Bluff King Hal left quite a legacy, much of which was left much to be unravelled amongst his 3 children and successors.

What a mess web he weaved.
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Friday Fun 37: Swotting up on the English Reformation with Sellar and Yeatman

A day late, but hey. It’ll be worth it. But whatever you do, don’t use this for your GCSE history revision. [If you have done your revision, you’ll see why]. Having read this, how will you ever be able to confuse the Reformation and the Restoration again? What’s more, whoever thought we’d need Hilary Mantel to bring this era to life?

Anyway, thought I would dedicate one or two Friday Funs to the sublime brilliance that its 1066 and All That. So let’s dive in straightaway, with Henry 6th and his 8 wives. Or was that the other way round? Read more »


Friday Fun 31: The Traveller’s Life lost in translation

Never one to lose the momentum of a bandwagon, here are some more great moments from Charlie Croker’s Lost in Translation. All very silly and as I said last week, very unfair.

But quite fun nonetheless.

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Friday Fun 30: Hotel Life lost in translation

Just for a change, here are a few choice quotations from this rather fun tome, Charlie Croker’s Lost in Translation. Of course, it’s never fair to make fun of people’s mistakes in a language not their own. After all, I dread to think of all the terrible errors I’ve made when speaking French.

However, it’s a slightly different matter when it happens on official signs or notices. So here are some taken from hotels around the world.

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Friday Fun 26: US Election Season cartoons

The last New Yorker of September was the annual cartoon edition – with some genuine chuckle-worthy moments.

Many of them pick up on the rigours and absurdities of US politics, what with the Presidential debates and elections next month, n’ all. Read more »


Friday Fun 12: An Indignant Letter to an “Impetiginous Acroyli”

It seems that church ministers are fair game and always have been. Rowan Atkinson is certainly not the first to lay into clergy as people “of such extraordinary smugness and arrogance and conceitedness who are extraordinarily presumptuous about the significance of their position in society”. Ho hum. Much of it is no doubt deserved. Read more »


Sorry to burst your bubble… welcome to our twittering present…

This has done the rounds a bit – but I love it… it speaks for itself…

Have tried to trace its origins and give credit where it’s due – but have been unsuccessful so far. If you know, let me know…


“To be… or not to be”: Rhyming dilemmas of homicide and suicide

No, please don’t worry – I’m contemplating neither.

But I did rather enjoy these two little ditties in Wendy Cope’s marvellous anthology of humorous poetry, The Funny Side.

The first is by Stanley Sharpless, about whom I’ve been able to dig up little (apart from this reflection which is fun because Fitzroy Sq is just down the road from us, and this rather pertinent Song against Europe!)

Stanley J Sharpless

Prince Hamlet thought Uncle a traitor
For having it off with his Mater;
Revenge Dad or not?
That’s the gist of the plot,
And he did – nine soliloquies later


Then leafing through, I thought this rather good too by the irrepressible Dorothy Parker

Dorothy Parker

Razors pain you;
Rivers are damp;
Acids stain you;
And drugs cause cramp.
Guns aren’t lawful;
Nooses give;
Gas smells awful;
You might as well live.

Yes indeed. How true.


Q Marks the Spot: Treasure Map 28 (January 2011)


Sacred Treasure

Topical Treasure

Quirky Treasure

What if Dr Seuss had
written Star Wars (RT 22 Words)


Inconsistencies and Impositions in Victorian New York: the dangers of Christian presumptions

I didn’t quite know what to expect having picked this book up in the States last year. I think I assumed it would be something on the lines of a Victorian version of Hustle or the fascinating novel Dizzy City by my old friend Nicholas Griffin (who is certainly NOT to be confused with his odious BNP namesake). You know, a fun, historical romp through true stories of New York hucksters and con-artists.

But it wasn’t quite that at all. In fact, the more I read of this enjoyable, well-written but sometimes awkwardly structured, book, the more I realised it had serious intent. In fact it was sad but unfortunately recognisable in its portrayal of Christianity.

The Fantastical World of the "Lunarians"

For the focus is of a series of anonymously written articles in the pioneering penny-newspapers of 1835. This became known as The Great Moon Hoax. In time, it became clear that they were the work of English émigré, Richard Adams Locke. But they gripped the whole of New York and were later serialised in many other cities’ papers. He described in great detail the apparent findings of the famous astronomer English Sir John Herschel from his Cape Town Observatory: an entire civilisation of flying man bats and other fantastical creatures living on the moon. People discussed at great length whether or not it could possibly be true. The city was divided.

Absurd Impositions

One thing that few people realised, however, even after Locke came clean, was that he was not seeking to create a hoax – but to write a satire. He was satirising the extraordinary lengths to which some theologians would go in an effort to bend and influence scientific discoveries to their worldview.

So The Sun and The Moon is, in fact, a book about widespread reactions against the Christian gospel and contains a cast of many names well known to those familiar with the period: Edgar Allan Poe, P T Barnum, the Herschel family, even the father of James Gordon Bennett (whom I’d previously only encountered as a mild expletive!). Integrating science and theology is of course a noble and even essential enterprise. But the lengths to which people would go does no credit to either science or theology. Here is one example that especially got under Locke’s skin, taken from a book called Celestial Scenery.

In his letter Locke addressed only a single point from Celestial Scenery, which he believed would be sufficient to illustrate “the serious trespasses of Dr Dick’s theological school of philosophy upon the paramount jurisdiction of physical science”. Thomas Dick had long insisted – the face of substantial evidence to the contrary – that there could be no volcanoes on the moon. Volcanoes, like earthquakes and hurricanes, were evidence of God’s displeasure, and God could be displeased only with sinners; because the lunarians existed in a state of innocence, their landscape would not be blemished with such agents of physical destruction. “Is not this pretty stuff to pass for philosophy,” asked Locke, “and to be presented to our youth as a rule of judgement in determining questions of fact?”

The real world of nature, he pointed out, contains an astonishing multiplicity of functions, and it was the height of arrogance – not to mention pitiable scientific reasoning – to reserve to oneself the right to define certain of them, arbitrarily, as the products of ‘goodness’ or ‘sin’.

The fang of the viper, the claws of the tiger, the tail of the spider, the sing of the wasp, and the beak and talons of the eagle, are as ‘very good’ for their respective purposes, as the milky foundations of the mammalia, or the curious chrysalis of the butterfly… (Moon & Sun, p278)

Unfortunately, by such extreme lengths, the cause of apologetic integration was severely discredited. It demonstrates the need to be very careful about what reductionist assumptions we bring to bear on the discussions. For is it really the case that volcanoes can only be understood as a sign of judgement? Or that lunarians are necessarily innocent? Etc etc etc.

Distressing Inconsistencies

P T Barnum

Another of the subplots of the book, sadly, is the inconsistencies of Christians during the Second Great Awakening. Barnum was a fascinating figure, the inventor of the ‘humbug’ which he saw not as a con, but as an entertainment.

As P T Barnum explained in his book on the subject, a humbug “consists in putting on glittering appearances – outside show – novel expedients, by which to suddenly arrest public attention, and attract the public eye and ear.’ Superficially, at least, Barnum’s humbug is similar to Edgar Allen Poe’s diddle, as each is a form of hoax. The diddle, however, is carefully designed to preclude any awareness that it has taken place: the grocery story owner does not realize he has been tricked out of his whiskey, or the camp-meeting attendee out of his bridge toll. A humbug, on the other hand, noisily calls attention to itself; it also allows for the possibility of doubt, and requires consent from those who participate in it. The humbug might well turn out to be authentic (many of Barnum’s attractions were just what they were advertised as being), but whether it is true or false, the customers must depart believing they have gotten their money’s worth. A promoter who fails to provide his customers what Barnum called a “full equivalent for their money” will be denounced as a swindler and a fraud, while one who delivers a proper humbug will find his customers coming again and again – the first time because they believe his attraction is authentic, the second time because they are not sure, and the third time to figure out how the trick has been pulled off. The entertainment lies in the nature of the attraction (although as Barnum pointed out, a certain amount of ‘glitter’ is essential) than in the implicit competition between patron and promoter, each one seeking to outwit the other in a game of deception. (p263)

But one of his key influences was the small-town Christianity of his childhood, one which he resolutely rejected in adulthood. And he had many of his ideas from the cons pulled off by Christians – in contrast to whom, he liked to think, he had seized the moral high ground. This is a simple illustration of this:

Barnum loved to tell the story of a grocer who doubled as the deacon at the town’s church. One morning, before breakfast, he called down to his clerk:

“John, have you watered the rum?”
“Yes, sir.”
“And sanded the sugar?”
“Yes, sir.”
“And dusted the pepper?”
“Yes, sir.”
“And chicoried the coffee?”
“Yes, sir.”
“Then come up to prayers.” (p103)

This was clearly someone who hadn’t read his Bible, and in particular his Leviticus 19 or Amos 8. But it is all too believable.

A challenge

I enjoyed the book as it brought to life the streets of early Victorian New York in a remarkable way. But I was also challenged afresh: for the acute need for both rigour in our apologetic and integrity in our living. And there, but for the grace, go I…


Not a great model, but still a witty use of Biblical texts

Today, I’m going to steal a post from the incomparable Futility Closet (an ever-present source of amusement, irrelevance and, yes, futility).

As he was visiting his parishioners one Saturday afternoon, a new pastor stopped at one house and found that no one answered the door. It was clear that someone was home, but he knocked repeatedly and no one appeared. Finally he pulled out his card, wrote “Revelation 3:20″ on the back, and left it in the door.

That Sunday he found the card in the collection basket. Below his message someone had written “Genesis 3:10.”

In case you missed the point, the texts read:

  • Revelation 3:20: Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.
  • Genesis 3:10: He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”

It all rather reminds me of a calling card my grandfather used to use when he was first ordained (back in the day when one had calling cards). It contained the wonderful words:

The Curate has called and has found you out…


Backward Christian Soldiers

I don’t know where this was originally published by George Verwer in classic satirical form…

Backward Christian soldiers,
Fleeing from the fight,
With the cross of Jesus,
Nearly out of sight.
Christ our rightful master
Stands against the foe
Onward into battle, we
seem afraid to go.

Backward Christian soldiers,
Fleeing from the fight,
With the cross of Jesus,
Nearly out of sight.

Like a mighty tortoise
Moves the church of God.
Brothers we are treading,
Where we’ve often trod.
We are much divided,
Many bodies we,
Having different doctrines, but
Not much charity.

Crowns and thrones may perish,
Kingdoms rise and wane,
But the cross of Jesus
Hidden does remain.
Gates of hell should never
‘gainst the Church prevail,
We have Christ’s own promise, but
we think it might fail.

Sit here then ye people,
Join our sleeping throng.
Blend with ours, your voices
in a feeble song.
Blessings, ease and comfort
Ask from Christ the King,
But with our modern thinking,
We won’t do a thing.


11th Hour aid for floating voters: Steve Turner’s Left Right

In a crisis, I find that Steve Turner can usually be relied upon to come up with something useful or constructive. And in this week full of talk of the spectres of hung parliaments and tactical voting, this poem seemed just the ticket. Hope it helps if you’re stuck…

LEFT RIGHT by Steve Turner

Left right Left right
Left right Left right

I was getting worried
Couldn’t sleep at night
‘Cos I didn’t quite know
If I was left or right
So feel my leanings
Test my views
Check my reactions
to the Ten o’Clock News

Should I buy the Mirror
Or should I buy the Sun
The Times Literary
Or the Guardian
Will I be a fascist
If I use the police
Or will I be a commie
If I march for peace?
Who is it I follow
If I’m down on pron
Begin a Foetus Lib
For the not yet born?

So feel my leanings
Test my views
Check my reactions
to the Ten o’Clock News
Am I middle class
Or am I alright
Get me tested
Am I left or right?
Get me tested
Am I left or right?

Send me all the questions
Mail me all the forms
Fix me up a blood test
Tell me all the rules
I’ve got to know now
Put my mind at rest
Am I of the right
Or am I communist?
Please make me something
I’ve been nothing too long
I need to find out
If I’m left or wrong.

Watch my language
Hear my views
Check my reactions
To the Six o’Clock News
Am I working class
And am I alright
Get me tested
Am I left or right?
Get me tested
Am I left or right?


The 1st Leaders’ Debate in seconds

very funny – and not 100% unfair



Have you found my reviews helpful?!

Well, it appears I’m not the only one who gets excited when others find my amazon reviews helpful. (cartoon by William Haefeli in New Yorker on 5th April)
And while we’re on the subject, I’m sure you would find my reviews helpful… Just click on the image below:


Q marks the spot – Treasure Map 19 (April 2010)

Sacred Treasure

Topical Treasure

  • Ingenious: Dorling Kindersley’s Future of Publishing (HT Ed Moll)

Quirky Treasure

Here are a couple of websites to keep an occasional eye on:

  • Curious Expeditions – a lovely concept – looking for the quirky and bizarre from history (HT Peter Collier)
  • NCBI-ROFL – from the plain weird to the downright dodgy, this keeps you up to date with the oddest, published scientific research papers.
  • The development of 4 stories. Thanks to the reliably wonderful Strange Maps blog, here is a map tracing 4 seminal plotlines, through history:


An important anniversary: Orwell’s 1984 60 years on

orwell 19842009 is a year of some very interesting 60th anniversaries. In the bleak, post-2nd World War years, a number of things happened which profoundly affect the world today, in a strange, rather chillingly interconnected kind of way.

  • Foundation of NATO
  • Adoption of the GENEVA CONVENTIONS at the United Nations
  • Publication of George Orwell’s seminal book 1984

It’s quite a telling little combination. Orwell’s book is of course a tour de force – and the process of completing and then typing it up in a damp and cold crofter’s cottage finished its masterly creator off for good. I greatly enjoyed a précis Robert Harris’ intro to the anniversary edition as included in The Week 6 June edition. He calls the book the “Most Influential Novel Ever Written” – note, he’s not saying it is necessarily the greatest novel, but it is profoundly influential, and as evidence for the claim, simply take the prevalence of the novel’s jargon that has become commonplace. If you’ve never read 1984, or if it is a long time since you did, then read it. And while we’re on the subject of newspeak…

Thanks to the consistently amusing and helpful Futility Closet, here is Hamlet’s famous Soliloquy in Newspeak/Doublethink written by one J A Lindon – which, for those less familiar with the original, I’ve placed side by side.

Hamlet 2b2 1984