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May the farce be with you

You might not think it from reading this blog, but one of the things I’m known for is laughing: as one of my friends put it the other night, “I don’t know ANYONE that laughs more than you”. I’m often reduced to tears by the silliest passing thought, and the more inappropriate it is to laugh the funnier I find it.

Pre-COVID I’d risk a beating from furious parents during school shows, because there is nothing funnier than a child trying to play a musical instrument they can’t play in front of a whole bunch of people who know they can’t laugh, and I’ve been in fits of laughter a thousand times on live radio, while trying to record podcasts, during doctors’ appointments and even while getting electrolysis. All it takes is one stupid thought and I completely lose it.

Yesterday was a good example. I was waiting outside my son’s school to pick him up, standing among a smattering of other parents when a Parcel Force van went by. My brain, which loves Spoonerisms and puns, immediately piped up.

“Porcel Farce,” it said.

I started to grin. And then I thought about it some more and how funny “porcel” sounds. And I started to giggle.

I looked up. A couple of other parents were giving me odd looks. As soon as I noticed them I knew that I didn’t stand a chance.

When you’re laughing and trying not to laugh, the worst possible thing that can happen is for you to see someone judging you. It’s an amplifier that makes whatever you’re laughing about roughly one thousand times funnier.

“Stop laughing!” I told my brain. “People are looking!”

My brain paused to consider this information and respond in a mature and sensible fashion.

“Heh heh heh,” it said.

It paused.

“Porcel farce,” it snickered.

You know when you laugh so much you start to cry? I was doing that. I whipped out my phone to try and pretend I was laughing at something I’ve seen on Twitter, desperately trying not to make a sound but emitting the odd squeak, and I laughed until I couldn’t see my phone for the tears. I’m quite sure my face was as red as my hair. I couldn’t dare look up for fear I’d make eye contact with another parent and it’d amplify the amusement even more, so I stood there shaking, squeaking and vibrating until my son appeared to save the day.

In the car, I told him about Porcel Farce. He thought it was funny too, but not as funny as the sight of his dad absolutely corpsing all over again.

I was getting facial electrolysis today, which was painful as ever. No prizes for guessing what my brain said to me or what happened next.

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Watching women

This is one of the most extraordinary things I’ve ever read. Gillian Frank and Lauren Gutterman, for Jezebel: How the ‘Girl Watching’ Fad of the 1960s Taught Men to Harass Women.

In the spring of 1968, 21-year-old Francine Gottfried began working as an IBM machine operator at a data processing plant in lower Manhattan. Gottfried walked past the New York Stock Exchange to get from the subway to work each day, and she soon attracted a group of Wall Street workers who gaped at her large breasts and verbally harassed her. Over the following months, men circulated the details of her daily schedule—she typically emerged from the Broad Street subway at 1:28 pm for her afternoon shift—and the crowd grew.

By September, Gottfried’s body and the men’s aggressive behavior had become national news: “Boom and Bust on Wall Street,” read one New York Magazinearticle. According to the Associated Press, the group of men stalkers reached more than 5,000 on a single day; another news outlet claimed the group hit a record of 10,000.

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A calorific arms race

This, by MM Carrigan in Eater, is a great bit of writing. It’s about the semi-mythical fast food buffets that are unimaginable now, “an arms race in maximizing caloric intake.”

In the age of COVID-19, the fast-food buffet feels like more of a dream than ever. How positively whimsical it would be to stand shoulder to shoulder, hovering over sneeze guards, sharing soup ladles to scoop an odd assortment of pudding, three grapes, a heap of rotini pasta, and a drumstick onto a plate. Maybe we can reach this place again. But to find it, we must follow the landmarks, searching our memory as the map.

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What Dr Seuss didn’t say

If you’ve been reading this blog for some time you’ll know that from time to time I get fascinated by online misquotes, which often go on to have a life of their own. As I’ve written before, the urinal trough in the gents’ toilets in Glasgow’s King Tut’s venue is engraved with a quote from the writer Hunter S Thompson that says:

The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There’s also a negative side.

He never said that. He did, however, write that the TV business is a cruel and shallow money trench where thieves and pimps etc etc etc. Swapping TV for music and adding “there’s also a negative side” is the work of someone on the internet. One of the upsides of transition is that I can now go for a wee in Tut’s without getting annoyed by this.

I found out about another one today, which I had previously thought was an old advertising slogan of some kind:

The people who mind don’t matter. The people who matter don’t mind.

Nope! The actual quote is this:

Be who you are and say how you feel, because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.

Multiple sites, including Good Housekeeping, have attributed it to Dr Seuss. You can buy it on cushions and framed prints on Etsy. But despite their claims that it’s in The Cat In The Hat, it isn’t. There’s no evidence that Dr Seuss ever said it.

Quote Investigator looked into it and found an early example in Punch magazine in 1855.

A SHORT CUT TO METAPHYSICS.
What is Matter?—Never mind.
What is Mind?—No matter.

And the TV show QI found a version of it in an engineering journal in 1938:

Mr. Davies himself admitted that it was highly controversial and open to criticism; but criticism concerned both mind and matter. “Those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind!”

The phrasing was used in the 1940s in some popular anecdotes about the seating arrangements at parties and turned up in various newspapers before being attributed to the US financier and philanthropist Bernard Baruch. But it appears to be one of those bits of anonymous wisdom that gets attached to various people in various places at various times. As Dr Seuss put it*:

Sometimes we just see
What we want to believe!

* You knew I’d to this. No he didn’t. I made it up. 

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Hundreds of Emilys

This is heartbreaking, powerful and thought-provoking: Buying Myself Back, by Emily Ratajkowski.

It’s about photographs and paintings and who can control images of you. And it’ll probably further damage your faith in human nature.

Pictures meant only for a person who loved me and with whom I’d felt safe — photos taken out of trust and intimacy — were now being manically shared and discussed on online forums and rated “hot” or “not.” Rebecca Solnit wrote recently about the message that comes with revenge porn: “You thought you were a mind, but you’re a body, you thought you could have a public life, but your private life is here to sabotage you, you thought you had power so let us destroy you.” I’d been destroyed.

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Trans healthcare has been privatised

Genderkit has collated the latest waiting list information for UK trans healthcare and it’s the grimmest read yet: there isn’t a single gender clinic for adults that has a waiting list of less than two years, and those waiting lists are growing ever longer.

This image is telling: the only clinics without years-long waiting lists are the ones in the private sector.I’ve experience of this; I was a private patient with GenderGP while languishing on an NHS waiting list.

What’s effectively happened here is that trans healthcare has been privatised. If you can’t afford to pay privately for your healthcare you can expect to wait many years before getting a first assessment and months or years more for any kind of treatment.

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This is not OK. This is never OK

Emma Thomas is an award-winning creative producer and director who’s currently sending out CVs in her hunt for work. So at first she was delighted when a potential employer got in touch.

You can be sure this isn’t the first time he’s tried this. And there are many men just like him. To them, women aren’t people. They’re targets.

It’s 2020. And yet a woman has to write this on her profile on a business-focused networking site.

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Compromise

Famous Moments in History, Reimagined By Centrists

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Na-na-na-na Facts Man!

This, by Annie Lowrey, is fantastic.

You have met Facts Man before if you have spent any time online in the past half decade or so. He’s inescapable. He podcasts. He makes YouTube videos. He traffics in Medium posts. He burns up Facebook. And he loves—loves!—Twitter.

What does he serve up there? Truth. Facts. The overlooked and the undercovered. The unvarnished and obvious conclusions that the media do not want you to believe. The conclusions that the social-justice warriors and sheeple professors will not let you reach. The conclusions that mere mortals, including lauded subject-matter experts and the people who have actual lived experience of the topic at hand, have not yet grasped.

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“Inappropriate enthusiasm is pretty much baked into my core personality”

I’ve been reading Heather Havrilesky’s writing online pretty much since I first went online. This, on friendship in a time of Covid, is superb.

In the past, whenever I met someone I liked a lot and admired, I was often too fearful to stick my neck out and assert my interest in becoming friends. I was sometimes paranoid about looking desperate or nerdy. I was worried I might seem too pushy or clingy or inappropriately enthusiastic, even though inappropriate enthusiasm is pretty much baked into my core personality.

Me too, Heather. Me too.