Monday, 19 January 2009

A cure for Blue Monday

Today is, apparently, the most depressing day of the year. So says the BBC online news (with a witty idea from The Optimists Society), but there’s also an item on this phenomenon in last week’s New Scientist.

I didn’t need the media to tell me this. I was already feeling pretty fed up. The work I had scheduled to start this morning hasn’t turned up, the postie didn’t deliver the original copy of my mum’s Will (which I’ve been waiting for since Christmas), and a colleague cheerily told me she’d secured a job that I was also in the running for (though I knew I’d not done well at the interview). On top of all that, I’m tired out after a stressful weekend in Yorkshire sorting out my mum’s clothes (off to Oxfam with 3 bin bags later) and paperwork.

However, there are two reasons to be cheerful:

According to New Scientist's editorial, “being too happy can actually be bad for you, … leaving you unwilling to make the effort to change your life for the better”.

And in among my mum’s paperwork I found a little slip of paper on which my granddad (who died when my mum was just 14) had written one of his “Slick sales slogans!”
“A cup of tea, a snack, a chat.
You’ll feel better after that!”

Cup of tea and last Oreo in the biscuit barrel here I come…

Thursday, 15 January 2009

McKean’s law – my new motto

I hadn’t heard of Erin McKean until this morning, but she’s clearly a woman after my own heart:
McKean’s law:
“Any correction of the speech or writing of others will contain at least one grammatical, spelling, or typographical error.”

… And she should know – she’s an American lexicographer, formerly the Chief Consulting Editor for American Dictionaries at Oxford University Press and was the Principal Editor of The New Oxford American Dictionary, second edition.

I’ve added her lexicography blog to my Blogroll, to accompany that of our home-grown wordmeister, David Crystal.

My colleagues at SfEP tell me there’s another law similar to McKean’s:
Hartman’s Law of Prescriptivist Retaliation:
“Any article or statement about correct grammar, punctuation or spelling is bound to contain at least one eror..”
Boom, boom (… read à la* Basil Brush)

* Wonder if there’s a word for “read in a voice that sounds like…”?

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Ding dong bell; put Libby down the well

It really is about time Libby Purves got a researcher assistant. Every single week she manages to upset one of her guests on Midweek (Radio 4, Weds at 9am and repeated at 9.30pm). Today her target fought back. How he restrained himself from bopping her on the head with one of his hand-bells, I’ll never know.

The blurb for this week’s show says:
Philip Earis is a bellringer. He was asked by Cambridge University to compose a special piece to mark the University's 800th anniversary this year. His composition will be rung simultaneously on the five city-centre bell towers of Cambridge this weekend, Saturday 17th January.

… Makes it sound like he’s some dull guy who stands in a drafty bell-tower tugging a rope once a week. In fact he is pretty feisty and fascinated by the mathematics of bell-ringing. His blog is a bit disappointing on that aspect of the art, but he says he’s just “slimmed it down” so maybe he’ll reinstate some of that.

For a 23-year-old to be commissioned by Cambridge University is pretty impressive, I reckon. Typically, Purves took the piss, and had apparently accused him off-air of being a ‘nerd’. Having heard a snippet of his composition (played on hand-bells instead of the biggies) I reckon he should re-brand himself as a “performance artist” and put himself up for the Turner Prize.

Of could, Ms P probably hadn’t bothered to take any notice of what was coming up after her programme (she’s too self-important to bother). If she had paid attention, she’d have heard Julian Rhind-Tutt reading today’s installment of The Rest is Noise by Alex Ross featuring Stockhausen. Maths and experimental music influencing the Beatles – who’d have thought it, eh?

Ross’s book is annoying – only because I didn’t publish it myself 20 years ago. He’s pretty much followed the whole of my undergrad music course. AND I wrote my dissertation on how the 20th century avant-garde influenced the production of Sgt Pepper. Ouch.