Daily Archives: April 10, 2014

Beyond surreal

A confluence of two successive tweets :


Isabel, dear heart, an emergency stop is what urbanites would do. The true country type keeps going, then stops, in hope the road kill is still sufficiently intact to be cookable (I’ve even seen it done by the footplate crew of the ex-GER Claud Hamilton, bringing the grammar school kids home from Fakenham to Wells). As in Cannery Row, chapter 13:

steinbeck-canneryEddie driving, they backed up over the rise, over the top, and turned and headed forward and down past Hatton Fields. In Carmel Valley the artichoke plants stood grey-green and the willows were lush along the river. They turned left up the valley. Luck blossomed from the first. A dusty Rhode Island Red rooster who had wandered too far from his own farmyard crossed the road and Eddie hit him without running too far off the road. Sitting in the back of the truck, Hazel picked him as they went and let the feathers fly from his hand, the most widely distributed evidence on record, for there was a little breeze in the morning, blowing down from Jamesburg and some of the red chicken-feathers were deposited on Pt. Lobos and some even blew out to sea.

The cattle-freight issue is a bit more problematic. It’s the triumph of bovine excretion over aeronautical technology. Strip out the crap, and the core matter of that Independent report is:

Pilots sent out a distress signal and received permission to come down at Heathrow Airport, London.

Yet when technicians inspected the cows’ deck they found no evidence of flames or even smoke.

Cows emit large quantities of methane and maintain body temperatures slightly higher than that of a human – the combination of which may have explained the sounding of an alarm.

I cannot attest to the extent of methane in cows’ emissions (mostly orally, rather than the other direction). I gather the human produces about 7% methane in that species’ fart-gas. This might help:


A back-of-an-envelope calculation suggests that 400 cows, packed into a 747, would produce about 11 kilos of methane in a couple of hours.

This is serious stuff:

German cows cause methane blast in Rasdorf

Methane gas released by dairy cows has caused an explosion in a cow shed in Germany, police said.

The roof was damaged and one of the cows was injured in the blast in the central German town of Rasdorf.

Thanks to the belches and flatulence of the 90 dairy cows in the shed, high levels of the gas had built up.

Then “a static electric charge caused the gas to explode with flashes of flames” the force said in a statement quoted by Reuters news agency.

Emergency services attended the farm and took gas readings to test for the risk of further blasts, said local media.

Cows are believed to emit up to 500 litres of methane – a potent greenhouse gas – each per day.

Which is why it isn’t advisable to keep cows in a greenhouse.

Where this comes home to me is the memories of the 8p.m. B&I crossing out of Dublin, North Wall, for Liverpool.


In the days before obsolescent 747s were reduced to cattle-carriers (though that experience cannot be too different for bipedal “walk-on freight” in “cattle-class” on transatlantic flights) the ferry would pull into Birkenhead to unload the cows, then pull across the Mersey to deposit the humans.

Choose the wrong day and one was woken by either the roar of still sea-sick kine, or the odour of their deposits.

All that apart, the job of hosing out the fuselage of a 747 cattle-carrier doesn’t attract.


1 Comment

Filed under blogging, Dublin., Independent, John Steinbeck, travel, Wells-next-the-Sea

Jumping on the bandwagon

That previous post, taking from Anne Treneman, had Dodgy Dave the Snakeoil Salesman:

It is rather extraordinary that the right hon. Gentleman comes here, having not said that [Maria Miller] should resign, saying that she should have resigned. It shows all the signs of someone seeing a political bandwagon and wanting to jump on it. He is jumping on this bandwagon after the whole circus has left town.

I see there some dangers of a stale metaphor.

The OED‘s earliest citation for band wagon is from 1855 and the Life of P.T.Barnum, who must have known something about circuses and bandwagons:

In our subsequent southern tour we exhibited at Nashville (where I visited General Jackson, at the Hermitage), Huntsville, Tuscaloosa, Vicksburg and intermediate places, doing tolerably well. At Vicksburg we sold all our land conveyances, excepting the band wagon and four horses, bought the steamboat “Ceres,” for six thousand dollars, hired the captain and crew, and started down the river to exhibit at places on the way. At Natchez our cook left us, and in the search for another I found a white widow who would go, only she expected to marry a painter. I called on the painter who had not made up his mind whether to marry the widow or not, but I told him if he would marry her the next morning I would lure her at twenty-five dollars a month as cook, employ him at the same wages as painter, with board for both, and a cash bonus of fifty dollars. There was a wedding on board the next day, and we had a good cook and a good dinner.

 I like that, not just for the pragmatics of Barnum’s domestic arrangements, or even for that dry style. It also shows that the band wagon (two words) was the only item the circus didn’t leave behind and so onto which one might jump when the circus had already left town. One can see why, if this specimen is anything to go by:



We have to wait nearly half a century for band wagon to become a metaphor.

The OED has a bizarre citation from the Congressional Record 25th August 1893:

 It is a lamentable fact that.. our commercial enemy..should come along with a band wagon loaded with hobgoblins.

Indeed. Just the kind of thing that makes one seek the full source for explanation. Now, have you tried to access the Congressional Record for 1893? It is, apparently, out there on the net; but glacial it hardly approaches. So far I have not managed it, but I suspect it may be something to do with the Sherman Silver Purchase Act.

Note, though, that band wagon is still two separate words.

Teddy Roosevelt is of the two-word party in a letter of April 1899:

When I once became sure of one majority they tumbled over each other to get aboard the band wagon.

 That would be when he was tiring of life in Albany as Governor of New York, and when the New York Republicans were tiring of his radicalism, and the meeting-of-minds led to his nomination for the Vice-Presidency.

As far as I can see we didn’t get to bandwagon (as a composite single word) until the end of the 1950s. I wonder how many would recognise that Juggernaut of Barnum’s as a “band wagon”.

Oh, and the OED has Juggernaut as:

A title of Kṛishṇa, the eighth avatar of Vishṇu; spec., the uncouth idol of this deity at Pūrī in Orissa, annually dragged in procession on an enormous car, under the wheels of which many devotees are said to have formerly thrown themselves to be crushed.

Leave a comment

Filed under Ann Treneman, David Cameron, History, Oxford English Dictionary, Times, Tories.

A canine lickspittle

Anne Treneman doing the parliamentary sketch on yesterday’s PMQs:

Dave accused Ed of jumping on a political bandwagon. At the words “bandwagon”, some Tory MPs, who, like Pavlov’s dog, cannot control themselves, started to whoop. Michael Ellis, a strong contender for lickspittle of the year, actually pounded his feet on the ground.

The rest is good stuff. At least I feel that Ms Treneman was really there, unlike Quentin Letts in the Daily Mail who never fails to witness Cameron and his the big, swinging dick:

QUENTIN LETTS sees Cameron wipe the floor with Ed at PM’s Questions

Nice repetition there: hate to think this squit was a pale imposter’s:

An odd moment: on the squashed benches, as Nigel Adams (Con, Selby  & Ainsty) was about to ask a question  on coal mines, his local pit having just  been closed. Mr Adams reached into what he thought was the right pocket of his suit jacket and, to his surprise, pulled out a packet of fags.

Turned out the MPs were packed so close to one another he had accidentally picked his neighbour’s pocket.

Oh, so droll! Oddly enough, I had found myself commenting on the several aching gaps of empty green leather toward the rear on the Tory side. Easter hols, y’know.

But, to stay with Ms Treneman. 

The much-coveted Order of the Brown Nose award

The much-coveted Order of the Brown Nose award

The Pavlov tendency is strong among Tories. With good reason:

With the parliamentary expenses scandal fresh in the memory, it takes a bold politician to suggest rewarding politicians.

Step forward David Cameron, who has revived the parliamentary and political service honours committee.

There was a time when Tory MPs of a certain vintage could look forward to a knighthood, as ordinary workers would look forward to a long-service watch.

The Liberal Democrats, too, used to dispense political honours – failed parliamentary candidates could sometimes look forward to an OBE by way of consolation, although for many in politics public service is its own reward.

The new committee will also consider awards for members of the UK’s devolved assemblies …

Kudos then to Paul Flynn, who nailed it:

Paul Flynn, had another suggestion for those behind the new awards: “Did you consider if you were rewarding people who were the whips’ favourite, the order of the lickspittle or the order of the toadie, which would be appropriate?”

Take your pick, Michael Ellis.

Sad to say, Mr Ellis may not be with us for long. His majority is below 2,000. His seat, Northampton North, changes hands with each change of government. The strong Lib Dem vote (28% at the last outing), will be wilting next time — and will not naturally lean Tory either.

Which leaves one question:

Why do Tories insist on living up to the “stupid party” reputation?

1 Comment

Filed under Ann Treneman, Daily Mail, Times, Tories.

Morning joy

A delightful mini-interview (actually three minutes direct to camera) with Bob Mankoff.


Who he?

The great arbiter of the funnies in the New Yorker, that’s who.

He looks the part of “the cartoon editor of the New Yorker”.

He talks the part. This, fellow Brits, is the epitome of the smart Noo York dude.

His gestures are superb, theatrical and pointed.

To cap it all, “I had a complicated relationship with my mother”.

A consistent tradition

mTv3Yhtk-N7huz2n0f4pjvAThe true joy is Mankoff’s collection of New Yorker cartoons, first published for the magazine’s 80th anniversary (and more recently up-dated). By no coincidence, the accompanying double CD — which had the entire oeuvre of 68,647 images — seems to have been ‘borowed’.

The punchiness of too many remains painfully true — what Mankoff calls “the right amount of wrong”. There is, for a prime example, this one by Al Frueh, from that dismal year 1932:

Frueh 1932

I have never quite got the fascination with Thurberesque seals (an Algonquin in-joke?). That apart, many of these simple drawings are appealing, simple and have hidden depths. Here, for example, is an Alan Dunn from May 1946:

Alan Dunn May 46

It implies much the same as Norman Rockwell’s Willie Gillis in College [which I think is a magnificent concoction], the Saturday Evening Post front cover spread later that year:

Wiilie Gillis at college


Leave a comment

Filed under BBC, New York City, New Yorker, Norman Rockwell