Friday, December 23, 2005

Yuletide salutations from TofE

Think of England would like to wish all of its millions of avid readers around the world a very Merry Christmas, and promises to return bigger and badder than ever in the New Year.

Since nobody could ever describe TofE as 'listless' (hah!), I will leave 2005 in a traditional manner: with a load of Top Things...

Top 4 Lines to Belt Out Lustily in Christmas Carols and Songs:

1) Lo! He abhors not the virgin’s womb (O Come All Ye Faithful)
2) Don we now our gay apparel! (Deck the Halls)
3) Five Gold Rings! (The 12 Days of Christmas)
4) and best of all: Glooooooooooooooo - oooooooooooooo -ooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo -ooooooooooo - ooooooooooooooooooooooooooooria! Hosannah in Exclesis! (Ding Dong Merrily on High)

Top Fifteen Things Compared to Hitler, the Nazis and Nazism on Blogs in 2005:

1) George W Bush
2) The United Nations
3) The Roman Catholic Church
4) Atheists
5) The Religious Right
6) Darwinists
7) Tony Blair and the Labour spin-doctors
8) The Tory party
9) Fox-hunters
10) City folk who want to ban fox-hunting
11) Israel
12) The Pro-life movement
13) The Pro-choice movement
14) The War On Terror
15) Harry Potter

Top 10 Reasons Why the World is Going to Hell in a Handbasket:

1) France
2) Secular modern rationalism
3) Intelligent Design
4) Binge drinking and 24 hour licensing
5) The War on Terror
6) Janet Jackson’s nipple.
7) The ageing population
8) Economic migration
9) Mobile telephones
10) Harry Potter.

Top 5 Suspect Interpretations of Harry Potter:

1) It is a pagan heresy designed to sneakily undermine religion by encouraging kids to dress up in pointy hats and cast spells
2) It is religious allegory designed to sneakily undermine secularism, with Harry in the role of Messiah and Dumbledore as John the Baptist
3) It is an allegory of Star Wars, which is itself an allegory of Narnia, which is itself an allegory of the Gospels. Harry is Jesus Skywalker the Lion, and Obi Wan Kenobe is Dumbledore the Baptist, or something.
4) It is a racist white supremacy allegory, in which Muggle children are discriminated against and excluded from Hogwarts purely because they are born without magical powers.
5) It’s a children’s story, you know, for kids (not very popular, that one)

Whatever your favourite susperstition, spiritual comfort blanket or soul food happens to be, may it keep you toasty and warm this Christmas.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Now why didn't I think of that?

From Ananova:

Skint student's $1m brainwave

An internet brainwave has put a skint student on the way to becoming a millionaire in just four months.

Alex Tew planned to pay off fees on his degree course with his web page - made up of 10,000 tiny advert boxes.

But the idea took off so fast he is set to reach his target of $1million - £566,861 - by Christmas Day, reports the Mirror.

Firms buy a box on for $100 (£57) which then directs users to their own website.

Alex, 21, of Cricklade, Wilts, England, said: "I have always been skint."

A few weeks ago I read an interview with Mr Tew, in which he explained that the idea came to him one evening that he could make a million pounds if he could get a million people to pay a pound for an advertising space. He went to sleep and in the morning it still seemed like good idea, so he created the milliondollar website. A few weeks later, the cash was pouring into his student account.

Since it is the season of goodwill, I will only say well done to young Alex for his brilliantly simple business idea.

At any other time I would curse him for being a thoroughly jammy little git.

Friday, December 16, 2005

The other is in the Albert Hall

Don't mention the War!
Simon Barnes in The Times

I CAN see it coming and I am beginning to dread it. The massed ranks of England football fans walking to the match with bellies full of beer and the German security forces on all sides. And suddenly it begins: the goose-stepping, the straight-arm saluting, the left index finger across the upper lip. I can tell you from personal experience that the Germans do not find this sort of thing as amusing as we do.

The German response to the years of Adolf Hitler and the Second World War are complex and contradictory, but nowhere does humour play a part. It is, after all, hardly a piece of history that you can laugh off.

That makes the unending British facility for Nazi jokes profoundly baffling to the Germans. This disagreement over the humorousness of Hitler is, perhaps, the greatest culture clash between Britain and Germany. And I really don’t see how it can be avoided in the summer festival of football.

Not only do the Germans fail to find Hitler amusing, they are also mystified at the way Hitler has become a stock part of British humour. Just what, precisely, is it that the British are laughing at? Well, it’s not the Final Solution. It’s not the death camps and the torture, it’s not the warfare, it’s not the pseudo- philosophy and pseudo-science. It’s just that there is something about Hitler, something about Nazism, something about all forms of dictatorships, that is, in British eyes, every bit as funny as naughty vicars, banana skins, mothers-in-law, Scotsmen and women with enormous breasts.

Prince Harry dressed up as a Nazi and was genuinely baffled when people took offence. You may as well berate him for dressing up as Charlie Chaplin. It was a joke. The fact that it was a joke with baggage simply didn’t occur to him. It wasn’t witty, ironic, dangerous humour: it was a piece of dumb slapstick.


But Hitler and Nazism continue to be one of the great British jokes, perhaps most gloriously realised by John Cleese in Fawlty Towers. Here, the joke is specifically against the British — the fact that they can’t deal with the Germans without mentioning a certain subject, and that they find Hitler a subject for burlesque.

But the joke is doubled, although it is against us, for we find the burlesque itself gloriously funny, as well as its inappropriateness. These jokes are even funnier when the Germans are watching, unamused.


The inability to take extreme government seriously is nothing less than an ingrained British trait. P. G. Wodehouse, however, was to become a victim of a peculiarly British conspiracy of the humourless when he made an injudicious — but hardly compromising — radio broadcast. As a result he was, quite absurdly, seen as a Nazi sympathiser. But years before, in 1938, Wodehouse showed us what he really thought when, in The Code of the Woosters, he gave us Sir Roderick Spode, leader of the Black Shorts, an unambiguous skit on Sir Oswald Mosley, leader of the British Union of Fascists.

When Bertie Wooster acts, as ever, the turning worm, he says what Wodehouse thinks about Nazism, fascism and all such forms of extremism, and also what the British themselves naturally think about such subjects and such people. “The trouble with you, Spode, is that just because you have succeeded in inducing a handful of half-wits to disfigure the London scene by going about in black shorts, you think you’re someone. You hear them shouting ‘Heil, Spode!’ and you imagine it’s the voice of the people. That is where you make your bloomer. What the voice of the people is saying is: ‘Look at that frightful ass Spode swanking about in footer bags! Did you ever in your puff see such a perfect perisher?’ ”

Spode is comic, Mosley was comic to the British, and even — especially — Hitler was and is comic. That has been the great British defence against the Spodes and the Mosleys and the Hitlers of this life. The coarse and obvious jokes have been the soundest possible defence against would-be dictators. The Germans will wince when the English go goose-stepping into Nuremberg, but the history of the world would have been very different if the Germans possessed the British sense of humour.

For the British, all politicians are funny, and extreme politicians are extremely funny.

If they also dress up in a silly costume, invent a silly walk, grow a little moustache and take themselves very seriously, they may as well be stood on a stage dressed as a Dame and flinging buckets of custard at the back end of a pantomime cow.

This great tradition is also carried on in the States, where the use of Saddam Hussein as Satan’s randy lover in South Park was inspired.

But even on a more mundane level, humour is an irresistible weapon. If a politician cannot laugh at himself, he is in trouble. And once he becomes a figure of fun, he can forget about his career.

The Tories have suffered particularly from this in recent years, starting with John Major, who never recovered from the Spitting Image sketch in which he constantly professed to ‘liking peas.’ William Hague was plagued by that footage of his conference address when he was a toe-curlingly earnest teenager (though he has bravely reinvented himself as a TV humourist), while Ian Duncan Smith was dead in the water from his first speech.

Blair’s toothy grin is constantly mocked by satirists, but his own sense of humour has saved him. It will be interesting to see if Cameron or Brown can better handle the dreaded caricature.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Well haylow, Meeeery Pupp’ns!

From the BBC:

Dick Van Dyke is celebrating his 80th birthday today.

The rather odd Cockney accent that Van Dyke employed in Mary Poppins stands alone in cinematic history (
Wikipedia says it is "still often cited as the worst attempt at a British accent by an American actor"). So as a tribute, we are inviting your impersonations….

Dick’s extraordinary performance surely is the worst filmic attempt at a British accent ever – I don’t think that can seriously be disputed. But in second place must come Keanu Reeves in Bram Stoker’s Dracula. I don’t count Kevin Costner in Robin Hood as he wisely didn’t even bother trying.

The best must be the David St Hubbins and Nigel Tufnel characters in Spinal Tap. Their Estuary English is more convincing than Mick Jagger's (though that's not necessarily saying much).

As for returning the favour, Bob Hoskins might take the prize for terrible American accents. In Who Framed Roger Rabbit? he seems to forget halfway through that he’s supposed to be a hardbitten Noo Yoik cop, becomes a hardbitten cockney DI, before belatedly remembering to be American again in the final scenes.

Friday, December 09, 2005

A bear of robust brand

My, Christopher Robin, you've changed
By Will Pavia

Winnie the Pooh’s owner just wasn't attractive enough, so Disney turned him into a 6-year-old girl

POOR Christopher Robin. For 80 years there has been an enchanted place on the top of the forest where a little boy and his bear would always be playing. But though Winnie the Pooh became a hugely successful brand, Christopher Robin just wouldn’t sell.

“There’s only one thing to be done,” said the executives at Disney, and replaced him with a six-year-old girl.

Among the frantic merchandising activities laid on to mark the 80th anniversary of Hundred Acre Wood, Disney has commissioned an animated series My Friends Tigger and Pooh.

The Bear of Very Little Brain will be more active and the characters first rendered by Ernest Shepherd will appear in 3-D computer animation in brighter colours.

But what is most likely to anger longtime Milne devotees is the arrival of the “tomboyish girl” in the role usually played by Christopher Robin.

Disney says that the series will target preschool children. “The young character will elicit physical, cognitive and emotional responses from the viewing audience and will also address them directly,” said a spokesman.

The series is an attempt to increase Disney’s share in the pre-school market, worth an estimated £11.9 billion, the company said this week. Industry observers consider the new character a clever move.

Thomas Ranese, of marketing consultants Interbrand, said: “Pooh appears to be a robust brand that can handle expansion.”

Now this is the sort of thing that can try the patience of even the most Americaphile Briton.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Computer says no

From Ananova:

A bank robber fled empty-handed in Austria after being referred to a different counter.

The clerk he approached told him she did not "deal with those types of queries".

But there was a big queue for the next cashier at the Landeskbank-Hypothekenbank in Vienna. So the man, who was holding a silver box that he claimed was a bomb, fled before repeating his request.

Who needs alarms and armed guards when you’ve got ingrained inefficiency and unhelpfulness? The Post Office is safe forever.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Bloody cold innit? I blame global warming...

Mark Steyn in the Telegraph:

What planet are the eco-cultists on?


The eco-doom-mongers were speculating on possible changes in thermohaline circulation in the Atlantic - or, as the Daily Mail put it: "Is Britain on the brink of a New Ice Age?" Europe could get so chilly that shivering Muslim rioters might burn the entire Peugeot fleet on the first night. Which would be good for the environment, presumably. After that, they'd be reduced to huddling round the nearest fire-breathing imam for warmth.

But the point is, as Steven Guilbeault of Greenpeace puts it: "Global warming can mean colder, it can mean drier, it can mean wetter, that's what we're dealing with." Got that? If it's hot, that's a sign of global warming, and, if it's cold, that's a sign of global warming.

And if it's just kind of average - say, 48F and partially cloudy, as it will be in Llandudno today - that's a sign that global warming is accelerating out of control and you need to flee immediately because time is running out ! "Time is running out to deal with climate change," says Mr Guilbeault. "Ten years ago, we thought we had a lot of time, five years ago we thought we had a lot of time, but now science is telling us that we don't have a lot of time."

Really? Ten years ago, we had a lot of time? That's not the way I recall it: "Time is running out for the climate" - Chris Rose of Greenpeace, 1997; "Time running out for action on global warming Greenpeace claims" - Irish Times, 1994; "Time is running out" - scientist Henry Kendall, speaking on behalf of Greenpeace, 1992. Admirably, Mr Guilbeault's commitment to the environment extends to recycling last decade's scare-mongering press releases.

"Stop worrying about your money, take care of our planet," advised one of the protesters' placards. Au contraire, take care of your money and the planet will follow. For anywhere other than Antarctica and a few sparsely inhabited islands, the first condition for a healthy environment is a strong economy. In the past third of a century, the American economy has swollen by 150 per cent, automobile traffic has increased by 143 per cent, and energy consumption has grown 45 per cent.

During this same period, air pollutants have declined by 29 per cent, toxic emissions by 48.5 per cent, sulphur dioxide levels by 65.3 per cent, and airborne lead by 97.3 per cent.

Despite signing on to Kyoto, European greenhouse gas emissions have increased since 2001, whereas America's emissions have fallen by nearly one per cent, despite the Toxic Texan's best efforts to destroy the planet.

Had America and Australia ratified Kyoto, and had the Europeans complied with it instead of just pretending to, by 2050 the treaty would have reduced global warming by 0.07C - a figure that would be statistically undectectable within annual climate variation. In return for this meaningless gesture, American GDP in 2010 would be lower by $97 billion to $397 billion - and those are the US Energy Information Administration's somewhat optimistic models.

I've mentioned before the environmentalists' ceaseless fretting for the prospect of every species but their own. By the end of this century, the demographically doomed French, Italians and Spaniards will be so shrivelled in number they may have too few environmentalists to man their local Greenpeace office. Is that part of the plan? To create a habitable environment with no humans left to inhabit it? If so, destroying the global economy for 0.07C is a swell idea.

But even the poseurs of the European chancelleries are having second thoughts. Which is why, in their efforts to flog some life back into the dead Kyoto horse, the eco-cultists have to come up with ever scarier horrors, such as that "New Ice Age". Meanwhile, the Bush Administration's Asia-Pacific Partnership for Clean Development and Climate brings together the key economic colossi of this new century - America, China and India - plus Australia, Japan and South Korea, in a relationship that acknowledges, unlike Kyoto, the speed of Chinese and Indian economic growth, provides for the sharing of cleaner energy technology and recognises that the best friend of the planet's natural resources is the natural resourcefulness of a dynamic economy.

It's a practical and results-oriented approach, which is why the eco-cultists will never be marching through globally warmed, snow-choked streets on its behalf. It lacks the requisite component of civilisational self-loathing.

Wake up and smell the CO2, guys. Sayonara, Kyoto. Hello, coalition of the emitting.

Steyn is one of the most popular writers in blogland. This article illustrates why.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Three more cheers for Amazon!

From Ananova:

Ozzy: Xmas shopping would drive me to drink

Ozzy Osbourne says Christmas shopping with his wife Sharon would drive him back to drink and drugs.

According to Heat magazine he said: "I hate shopping. Especially with my wife! If anything was to drive me back to drink and drugs it would be going to Harrods with Sharon for the day."

You get the impression that Ozzy is probably always on the verge of falling off the wagon, but I know what he means.

I remember reading something that said some men get the same levels of stress from High Street shopping that you’d expect to see in fighter pilots going into combat.