Preservation or decay
1) Beautifully preserved 2) Flat slogans 3) Queen in ‘doping’ shock
Next distribution scheduled 17th August (but earlier gibbous supplement not excluded)
Science News (Luddites’ Gazette)
Not long ago a leather shoe was picked up in a remote cave in a remote part of Armenia. From the undisturbed appearance of the cave, the finder guessed it could be several hundred years old, but it wasn’t. Tests showed that it was 5,500 years old give or take a decade or two. Yet it was in excellent condition, better than thousands of that style lying at this moment in teenagers’ bedrooms in the western world; it is in a moccasin style still part of living tradition under the name ‘opanke’ (in the Balkans) or ‘pampootie’ (western Ireland), which has now fallen into the trawling net of the fashion industry where it is considered a highly desirable item. Here is a picture of the Armenian shoe, showing that even the laces and the grass used to pad it are still almost as new, side by side with another pampootie made a year or two ago in the Aran Islands.
The archaeologists who explored the cave determined that although conditions in it for preservation were generally very good the most important factor in the wonderful preservation of the shoe was that it had been buried in a layer of sheep droppings on the floor of the cave. This has interesting implications in more than one direction. The first is for those wealthy individuals who have paid large sums to have their bodies frozen at the moment of death with a view to being preserved until advances in medical science make it possible for them to be not merely revived but ideally revived with thorough servicing, upgrading, and retuning, so as to function as supercharged teenagers. (They are curiously unworried by the possibility of being revived into a world where socialism has triumphed.) So far scientific investigations have only found this process to have much chance of success with the larvae of fruit flies, so they would probably do better to spend their money on having themselves enveloped in sheep droppings. Here is a picture of the chest and forearm of Ötzi, who probably through no choice of his own adopted the glacial method (literally, in the Hauslabjoch glacier ) going into the frozen state about 5,250 years ago and staying in it until a temporary warming, without revival, in 1991. It is pretty clear which technique has the advantage. There is also the point which would probably be appreciated by most wealthy individuals, that the sheep dropping procedure clearly has vastly cheaper running costs, approximately zero, quite apart from the fact that almost certainly there will sooner or later be an interruption to any electricity supply that keeps iced coffins functioning.
But these concerns are really only a side issue. The far bigger implications are those that will arise when the remarkable potency of sheep droppings as a preservative for biological tissue are taken on board by the cosmetics industry.
Opinion feature (Luddites’ Gazette)
Mr. Bradshaw Bullingley (former Senior English Master at Greysford Grammar School) writes
There is no population in Europe so ovinely submissive as the British to the whims and self-aggrandisement of those who consider themselves in a position of authority. Who now remembers one of the most common remarks of the language fifty years ago? If, for example, a petty official saw a chance to pump up his self-importance at the expense of a girl who had innocently plucked a flower (my young sister as it happens), he was likely in those days to get the retort, “It’s a free country.” Not in 2012.
However I am not concerned with the arrogance of the megacircus now occupying London – overpaid, oversexed, and over here, to adopt what we said of the Americans arriving in 1943 and 1944 to take up their share of – or perhaps I should say ‘to claim the leading part in’ – the fight in the western sphere of the war against Hitler. (Not but what it may be of interest to students of human herd behaviour to see how easily the sound of trumpets, the waving of flags and the repetition of Göbbelesque assertions that the nation is united in joy can bamboozle a population out of common rights and freedoms it has enjoyed ever since it emerged as a nation out of the European tribal scrum.)
To resume: as well as its major impositions the circus has brought a ready supply of minor irritations, among them the multiplication ad nauseam of one of the ugliest ‘logos’ ever designed (oddly, though, suggesting to me at least a drunken man stumbling and falling to his left, which makes it a little easier to endure for the half-second needed to switch to another television channel if one is so battle-wearied by the constant struggle to maintain standards as to be watching television in the first place). Another intrusion is a plethora of some of the most banal slogans ever paid for by overwrought publicity budgets. Now I quite accept that by the side of the major predators gnawing at the vitals of our civilisation, lies, greed, advertising and so on, linguistic banality takes on the proportion of a maggot chewing at one of the less attractive toes, but that is no reason to let it have its emetic way, and I believe that my experience of many years serving as a schoolmaster in the defence of Shakespeare’s tongue equips me to tackle the topic of banality in language.
Two lines converged a few years ago on the graph of British decline given below – the plunging blue line representing the average amount of effort plus attention put into any given task (not least homework in schools!), the soaring red showing the tendency of computer programming these days to muscle in on the performance of a task, no matter whether it improves it or not. (I suspect indeed that at this point I should essay a provisional apology in advance since these two same factors make it only too likely that the graphic element I intend will disappear from this piece of mine somewhere along the transmission line leading to publication.) One result has been the appearance of computer programmes which claim to all but construct advertisements for the ‘busy advertising executive’, including of course the slogan which most such effusions incorporate along with the text and the visual fiction. Such programmes are naturally spurned by the few that are truly creative (who, let me be just, do exist!), but are now widely used by most in the curiously named advertising ‘industry’ – as one can guess only too easily from the generally lamentable results. Complex as such programmes may be, those aspects dealing with the slogan are of the simplest. For any given subject matter, some catchpenny scheme, a political campaign, a holiday suggestion, or whatever else it might be, the programme will generate templates, offering some dozens of variants in different colours and typefaces, with or without various surrounding symbols and ‘icons’, all based on a handful of ‘skeletons’ relevant to the subject matter. For the holiday theme it might well produce this skeleton among others:
You will always α when you go to β for x
Minimal guidance is given to the less dynamic executive on filling in the slots, eg that β should name the destination the the customer wishes to promote, α should contain some expression of feeling excited in a positive way, with x indicating an activity that might be favoured by the targeted consumers, subject to local regulations about obscene publication. In the case of the Olympics – no claptrap here about censoring the English vocabulary! – another programme has currently been offering to its customers the following skeleton. (It must have been difficult to come up with this one!)
the α Games ever!
The guidance is that α should be filled in with the superlative (instructions on the formation of English superlatives are given) of some ‘quality’ considered admirable or desirable, and, lest that guidance should be too exiguous for the programme’s users it offered ‘greatest’ and ‘most olympian’ as suggestions! Perhaps I can be more helpful. I simply picked up a couple of left-wing newspapers from my local newsagent, and went through marking some of the adjectives which in the current climate of this country are regarded by many as desirable or admirable, and in five minutes I had assembled the collection below. I originally intended no more than to offer one or two to friends of mine as parodies of the sort of ‘public English’ that debases the very thoughtways of our nation today, and is certainly a contributory element in the constant decline in the linguistic competence of pupils entering our schools, as colleagues still active in the profession tell me. Yet to my dismay as I proceeded I found that each has a certain ring of actuality, and I would make no wager, were I a gambler, on any one of them not to have been picked up and proudly bruited abroad by the partisans of this or that sectional interest. It would be interesting to learn if my dismay is justified. Sightings if indeed encountered may be reported to me through Luddites’ Gazette, by kind permission of the editors.
sharing; organic; passionate; soft; harmless; ecological; joined-up; tasty; deodorised; fragrant; cuddly; pet-friendly; legal; yellow; handwoven; aggressive (to some minds a positive quality!); recyclable; market-oriented; democratic; socialist; crunchy; cool; obedient; Venusian; gender-neutral; gender-parity-conscious
Late News (Luddites’ Gazette)
Queen in ‘doping’ scare
A security assistant at the Olympic site was held in custody for several hours last night after having attempted to detain the Queen on suspicion of having consumed a non-permitted substance. As the Queen passed one of the concealed sensors which instantly analyse the breath of passing visitors, its alarm went off. These sensors are reportedly able to detect recent consumption of any of 2,365 excluded substances, including any drink other than those of the officially accredited sponsors and plain water. When the alarm sounded the 19-year-old assistant stepped forward apparently intending to question her but was immediately wrestled to the ground by two of the military personnel who were on duty nearby. It was promptly discovered that the sensor was faulty, and it was put out of commission. After the briefest of delays, the Queen who seemed quite undisturbed by the incident continued her visit. She later asked for the assistant to be released without charge as he had simply been following rules, and insisted that no harm had been done.
honor honestique floreant