Saturday, 29 May 2010

Perfectly Golden, Wodehouse - Carry on, Jeeves

Welcome to the first bulletin in the series "Perfectly Golden, Wodehouse"! In these posts I will endeavour to present a number of quotations from the works of P.G. Wodehouse with the purpose of presenting the glory of Wodehouse's use of the English language as well as the applicability of the language itself. In this manner, I hope to inspire readers to search for such quotes themselves and as Stephen Fry said it, "bask in [their] warmth and splendour" (blurb)

First book:
Carry on, Jeeves
First published 1925
(ed. published 2008 by
Arrow Books, London)

"It was one of those still evenings you get in the summer, when you can hear a snail clear its throat a mile away. The sun was sinking over the hills and the gnats were fooling about all over the place" (p.28)

"Just as I heard these frightful words a fairly substantial beetle dropped from the bush to the back of my neck, and I couldn't even stir to squash the same, you will understand that I felt pretty rotten" (p.29)

(About a painting of a baby) "'All I tried was to give the little brute a cheerful expression. But, as it has worked out, he looks positively dissipated.' 'Just what I was going to suggest, old man. He looks as if he were in the middle of a colossal spree, and enjoying every minute of it. Don't you think so, Jeeves?' 'He has a decidedly inebriated air, sir.'" (p.54)

"She fitted into ny biggest arm-chair as if it had been built round her by someone who knew they were wearing arm-chairs tight about the hips that season [...her son's] chin gave up the struggle half way-down and he didn't appear to have any eyelashes" (p. 63)

"I'm never much of a lad till I've engulfed an egg or two and a beaker of coffee. [...]
 'Won't you have an egg or something? Or a sausage or something? Or something?' 'No, thank you.' She spoke as if she belonged to an anti-sausage society or a league for the supression of eggs." (p. 78)

(Following a binge) "'If you ever see me sober, old top,' he said with a kind of holy exaltation, 'tap me on the shoulder and say, "Tut! Tut!" and I'll apologise and remedy the effect' [...] 'What's the use of a great city having temptations of fellows don't yield to them? Makes it so bally discouraging for the great city." (p. 70)

"The days down on Long Island have fourty-eight hours in them; you can't get to sleep at night because of the bellowing of the crickets" (p. 76)

"And so the merry party began. It was one of those jolly, happy, bread-crumbling parties where you cough twice before you speak, and then decide not to say it after all. After we had had an hour of this wild dissipation, Aunt Isabel said she wanted to go home." (p. 132)

"Rocky was holding on to the table as if it was his only friend. [...] as she said it he perked up, let go of the table, and faced her with gleaming eyes. [...] Rocky grabbed the table again. He seemed to draw a lot of encouragement from that table." (p.136)

"It looked at first as though the meal was going to be one of those complete frosts which occur from time to time in the career of a constant luncher-out. Biffy, a very C-3 host, contributed nothing to the feast of reason and flow of soul beyond the occasional hiccup." (p. 155)

"'Stop me if you've heard it before. Chap goes up to a deaf chap outside the exibition and says, "Is this Wembley?" "Hey?" says the deaf chap. "Is this Wembley?" says chap. "Hey?" says the deaf chap. "Is this Wembley?" says chap. "No, Thursday," says the deaf chap. Ha, ha, I mean, what?'
The merry laughter froze on my lips. Sir Roderick sort of just waggled an eyebrow in my direction and I saw that it was back to the basket for Bertram." (p. 156)

"I do not know if you know this Palace of Beauty place? It's a sort of aquarium full of the delicately-nurtured instead of fishes. You go in, and there is a kind of cage with a female goggling out at you through a sheet of plate glass. She's dressed in some weird kind of costume, and over the cage is written 'Helen of Troy.' You pass on to the next, and there's another one doing jiu-jitsu with a snake. Sub-title Cleopatra." (pp. 163-164)
"Honoria Glossop has a voice like a lion tamer making some authoritative announcement to one of the troupe" (p. 181)

Next post in this series: Very Good, Jeeves
As given. Picture taken from, last visited 29.5.2010

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Lullaby Rock

What do you get when you mix rock and lullabies? A rockabye, of course!

Don't wanna be an American insomniac

Every now and then one stumbles upon pure gold. During strenuous times one might be weighed down with responsibility and find it difficult to sleep at night. Whether you are one of these or a conscientious parent concerned for you toddlers taste and sensitivity, you might find "Rockabye Baby!" a useful site.

Added to wishlist

The concept, it seems, is exchanging guitars, drums and so on for more sleep-friendly instruments such as mellotrons, vibraphones and bells and turning the volume down considerably. There are no vocals, but there seems to be a frog making frequent, contributory appearances. The fact that Rockabye Baby is able to make the songs both recognisable and pleasurable for hardened fans such as myself is a testimony to their skill and the appeal of their products. Offering a number of artists and bands, there should be something for every taste there. Samples can be found at Rockabye baby's website. Alternatively, you might just do a spotify search or whatever you do in order to aquire music.

Following shortly: AC/DC and Kanye West

And thus, after listening through "lullaby renditions of aerosmith" this scriblerian suddenly feels a sudden pull towards the sheets.

Sources: All pictures from the Rockabye Baby homepage, last visited 24.5.2010

Monday, 24 May 2010

I Can Make Those People Dance - Songs for the Exhausted, Bar 1

At times we all feel down and in need of a proper energy boost. Arriving home from a hellish day at work or some equally harrying trial, you collapse at your doorstep wondering how to muster the strength to drag yourself indoors and check for vital signs. You muster your last strength, grab for your mp3 player, weakly clasp the headphones to your head and with shrinking field of vision you press play clutching to the last straws of consciousness; the 15th and the last on the list of great power tracks hits you like a shot of adrenalin...

15 - Billy Idol - Rebel Yell

Billy Idol, a powerhouse as an artist, figures as a good last place. The powerful and erratic vocals override the flow of the backup which would otherwise leave the song to sedate to figure on the list.

14 - Wild Cherry - Play That Funky Music

Although there are numerous similar disco songs, I have never seen any of them fill a formerly deserted dancefloor like this did, and surely that is a testimony to its envigorating effect.

13 - ZZ Top - I'm Bad, I'm Nationwide

The sturdy two thirds, iconically bearded Texas trio has had a knack for delivering energic and playful rock hits with a strong link to blues which provides a strong rhythm and avoids songs like Nationwide becoming stressful.

12 - Aerosmith - Last Child

Sooner or later the Boston Bad Boys would have to appear on this list. Although somewhat outside their more well-known street of ballads, Last Child incorporates some of Aerosmith's exuberant energy and makes you want to put on oversized, Tyleresque sunglasses and stride confidently down the road, making heads turn.

11 - Roxette - The Look

For some, including this scriblerian, Roxette is the epitome of 80's energy. The sligthly rasping voices, the energetic hits, the sharp or shabby hairstyles and the in-your-face attitude of the band should serve as a musical pick-me-up for anyone.

Slightly reinvigorated with promising spasms and rising blood pressure a faint hope glimmers; that you once more shall once more obtain an array of arias, a batch of ballads, a clique of choruses, a deportment of ditties or something in the same alliterative genre.

And it just so happens that you're in luck, as there soon will be a Bar 2 in this Songs for the Exhausted series!

Monday, 17 May 2010

The Least Bad System, Pt. 1 - Nick Clegg's Disproportional Democracy

In a speech before the House of Commons in 1947, Winston Churchill said that "democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time"(i) and recent events from the British Isles bring those ominously relevant words to mind.

On the 11th of May, Tory David Cameron was confirmed by the Queen as the new PM of the United Kingdom ending the hung parliament through a coalition deal with Lib Dem Nick Clegg. Indeed, the identity of the future occupants of no. 10 Downing street has hung very much in the balance as Lib Dem negotiators have spent long hours in talks with both sides. With 306 seats for the Conservatives and 258 for Labour there was no overall majority and the initiative fell to Clegg's 57 Liberal Democrat seat. Although the first-past-the-post system admittedly gives Lib Dems fewer seats than a popular count should suggest and several voters did not manage to cast their ballots due to long queues, this reveals one of the flaws which might have figured in Churchill's mind in November 1947.

Tory PM David Cameron and Lib Dem Nick Clegg
(source: BBC)

The basic principle of democracy was perhaps best put into words by Abraham Lincoln in his Gettysburg Address; a "government of the people, by the people, for the people". However, this principle might be unattainable in real life. In the UK some citizens did not get to vote because of queues. Those who voted for the Tories probably did not expect them to compromise on some of their issues or abandon some of their candidates to make room for Lib Dems. Likewise, although many Lib Dem voters will rejoice in the cabinet seats gained, there is bound to be some protests in the electorate of a party which traditionally is more enamoured of Labour than Conservative ways(ii). The rub, though, is that the party, which by the current system got the fewest seats and at least in theory the fewest votes, is the one which decides the immediate political future of the country.

William Hogarth's 1758 engraving from "Chairing of the Members"

Admittedly, the UK form of democracy is an awkward one and has been for some time, as the Hogarth engraving above can satirically testify, but this political twist is not exclusive to the isles. In Switzerland for one, the concordance system has lead to constant coalition governments from 1959 onwards (iii). Coalition governments are responses to situations like the British one, where no party gets a clear majority in parliament and must broker a deal with other parties in order to achieve political legitimacy. They occur mainly in states where parliament is elected on a proportional basis rather than through electoral colleges, as is the system in the US. However, a number of issues arise in such a power constellation.

One such is the issue of voter fidelity. The coalition government should ideally be composed of as few fractions as possible. This is in order to avoid internal struggles which weaken the government by estranging their electoral bases and leave the coalition open to votes of no confidence. As is the case in the UK, future conflicts on issues like how to deal with the economy and the for now largely ignored issue of voting reforms might estrange voters and leave the road open for a Labour comeback.

Another issue which could arise is the one of political effectiveness. While coalition governments perhaps reflect the political composition of the electorate, they also present a veneer of unity. Two outcomes might result from any disagreements within such a coalition; either the issue at hand is not properly dealt with because of internal discussions, often prolonging the government's response time or the issue is not properly dealt with for the opposite reasons. The need to present a united front silences any necessary discussion and leaves the issue haphazardly handled. In both cases both government and state suffer from such occurences, and Mr. Clegg and Mr. Cameron will have to tread very carefully to avoid this in the times to come.

UK national seats, coalition on the right
(source: BBC)
Finally, coming full circle to what I above defined as the rub, there is the issue of proportional division of power. As I will discuss in the next instalment in this series, as soon as the voter has cast his vote political power has effectively moved from him to the elected representative. This means that ideally decision power in the new government should reflect the populace. In the recent UK election, however, the basics for this decision power proved to lie in the hands of the roughly 7 million Lib Dem voters. They indirectly got to choose whether the voice of the 8.6 million Labour electorate or the 10.7 million Conservative electorate should be the dominant in the UK political future. This way, each Lib Dem voted effectively ended up with more political power than any other voter.

What remains to see now is how the Lib Dems will act on issues where they politically stand closer to Labour. Will they openly oppose the Tories or will they bury their hatchet and preserve the appearance of unity? If so, for how long will the hatchet stay buried? In many aspects the political future of the UK now very much rests with the Lib Dems and their disproportionally powerful electorate.

Stay tuned for Pt.2 in this series



Wednesday, 5 May 2010

The Ig Nobel Prize

On the 10th of November last year Barack Obama recieved his Nobel Peace Prize with a lot of people, including himself, asking why. However, since 1991 a similar prize has been awarded, originally to discoveries "that cannot, or should not, be reproduced". Although the Ig Nobel Prize's mantra has later changed to "research that first make people laugh and then think" the prize remains essentially the same. Originally thought as a parody of the Nobel Prize, hence the wordplay on ignoble, it has become an acclaimed phenomenon in its own right with an award ceremony every year. As the 2010 ceremony is five months off, some previous winners are included below to keep us until then.


Chemistry: Javier Morales for creating diamonds from tequila

Peace: Stephan Bolliger for determining by experiment what is better; being smashed over the head with a full beer bottle or an empty one.

Veterinary Medicine: Catherine Douglas for showing that cows with names produce more milk than nameless ones.

Literature: Irish police for issuing more than fifty traffic tickets to Prawo Jazdy, Ireland’s most notorius traffic offender whose Polish name means “driving licence”


Peace: The Swiss Federal Ethics Committee for Non-Human Biotechonlogy and the Swiss for adopting the legal pinciple that plants have dignity.

Archaeology: Astolfo G. Mello Araujo for showing how the contents of an archaological dig site can be scrambled by a live armadillo.


Literature: Glenda Browne for her study of the ways the word "the" creates problems for people wishing to arrange things in alphabetical order.


Physics: Jack Harvey for their treatise "An Analysis of the Forces Required to Drag Sheep over Various Surfaces".

For more, see my Sources: (last visited 5.5.2010)

Monday, 3 May 2010

The State of Jefferson

Since the birth of the US in 1776 the number of states has slowly increased from the original 13 to the present 50, either by expansion or administrative division of the existing territories. However, as Michael J. Trinklein points out in his beautifully illustrated book on lost states, there were some 70 states that died in infancy. Many of these are presented on his blog and I will present a little teaser below to lure you there.

Puerto Rico and Lincoln

Since the Spanish-American War in 1898, Puerto Rico has been governed by the US. Recently, Congress voted for a Puerto Rican referendum which might ultimately lead to statehood. If and when this happens the inclusion would be opposed by Republicans who fear the new state would be a democratic one. In 1959, Hawaii and Alaska gained statehood simultaneously to preserve the equilibrium between the parties. If Puerto Rico becomes a state, Trinklein would suggest the proposed state of Lincoln as a conservative counterpart. Lincoln was proposed as early as 1907, after Grover Cleveland had vetoed a bill to eliminate Idaho and divide its territories between the neighbours in 1886. Below is the 1907 proposed division.

You might want to consult your map right about now.

Idaho is in for it

Idaho is made up of leftovers from the surrounding states. What they did not bother to govern they gave to Idaho. Consequently, Idaho is often the favourite chopping board for secessionists. The author is one of these, suggesting the division to the left. The right one is another suggestion for the creation of the state of Lincoln, this one from 1917.

Poor Idaho


One of many proposed (and some accepted) states named after a Founding Father. The new taxes following the secssion did not sit well with all the citizens of the new formed US, so some of them decided to form a new state with their own system of taxation including "no taxes for two years". Despite the populistic sales pitch, the state was stillborn.

The American version of Andorra

Bud Gearhart and Iceland

In the 40's, Republican Congressman Bertrand W. Gearhart from California, described by President Truman as "one of the worst obstructionists in Congress" (Time Magazine), suggested that the US should buy Iceland and a number of other Atlantic islands and let them act as a buffer zone against Soviet. The zany scheme was waved off by Congress, but, as the author points out, 20 years later the Soviet did something similar with another strategically placed island...

"That will be a ton of cash, please"
(Source: CIA- The World Factbook)

States Out of Donald Duck

According to Don Rosa, Duckburgh is situated in the state of Calisota, a fictitious state named in Carroll-like fashion after California and Minnesota. Other suggestions for states show similar inventive attributes as to nomenclature.

The Suggested Civil War Free State of Nickajack

The Proposed state of Forgottonia


Home of Dracula, Werewolves and Bats

(For those interested, there is a lovely German map of Calisota based on Carl Barks' stories here)

And Finally - The State of Jefferson

Throughout the 20th and the latter half of the 19th century at least three unsuccessful attempts at creating a state called Jefferson were made. All were based on territories originally belonging to western states. The last attempt, in 1941, saw prospective Jeffersonians half-heartedly vowing to "secede every Thursday until further notice", according to this blog which tells the whole jolly tale. The left image is the original suggestion while the right is a flyer from those days of radicalism.

A few days later Japan attacked Pearl Harbour and everything sounding like secession was out of the question.



Research given in text or found on:

(Disclaimer: the validity of these facts are based solely on the given sources. My presentation of these cases should not be considered as anything but a popularised reiteration of the facts given in these sources. I am indebted to Mr. Trinklein and the Strange Maps webpage for my insight into this amazing field of human eccentricity)