Fun with pedantry

“It was their/there/they’re yesterday”. I found this facebook grammar test so insultingly simple that I decided to subvert it: “I phoned my friends in Australia this morning- it was their yesterday”. R pointed to the feedback form for the tea-shop, which had a greengrocers apostrophe, and expressed-

Disgust? Derision? Anger?

What of this one? “A room of one’s/ones own”. He picked “one’s”, and most people would, but the reason the possessive has the apostrophe is that in origin it was like this: “John Smith his book” becomes “John Smith’s book”. The apostrophe indicates a contraction, as in “it’s”. “One his book” makes no sense. I will carry on using ones.

Reading someone’s writing, their they’re or there for “their” is evidence, but not proof, of poor education and even less conclusive about poor intelligence. It may just be a hurried mistype. Also we should “bear one another up with a tender hand”- it is rarely relevant to point it out.

That anger- the world is not as it ought to be, and not safe, so the anger may indicate fear. I am in control of so little that clear grammatical rules give me a precious sense of safety in a small part of my life. It is as consoling as rocking or cutting might be. Or, objection can be a way of excluding those who are not “people like us”, a fragile way of finding someone to look down upon. (Great writers have been using prepositions to end a sentence with since Chaucer.) Or a safe channel for anger against other things. All these are unhealthy.

We disagree on TTIP, as well. How could it work without ISDS? Well, Mr Corbyn as Prime Minister might relax the Working Time Regulations because he had no other option. R finds the thought appalling, and so do I; but I see no point in anger against it. I would do what I can against TTIP, but must accept the things I cannot change.

I was unreasonably delighted to have page views last week from Iran and Uzbekistan. This means the largest territories uncoloured on my map outside Africa are Turkmenistan and Tajikistan.

geoviews Iran

I would like the DRC, Chad, Niger and Somalia too, but the dopamine surge I got from Iran was huge.

I object more to the “nākd. strawberry crunch” bar. “Raw fruit crunchies and nut bar simply yummy” it insists. “Join the wholefoods revolution! Replace over-processed foods with nourishing wholefoods and get ready to be happy. This satisfying slice of simple goodness is a great place to start. Hope you love it as much as we do! Nature is nice.” It has a picture of some strawberries and another of a cuddly-looking bee.

Bah! Humbug!

The Day of the Doctor

My earliest memory of television is of the Sontaran, Linx, removing his helmet. It was first broadcast when I was seven, and it feels like a child’s memory, shock burning it in. He is an ugly fellow. I found Sontarans terrifying, especially in The Sontaran Experiment, which featured a robot which captured human beings for torture, to test their resilience. When I saw the story again, this century, that robot which had so frightened me merely appeared camp.

I have been very much looking forward to The Day of The Doctor, and have watched the surrounding programmes and videos.  Below is the video of The Night of the Doctor. You need to have some knowledge of the programme to get anything out of it: you need to know that The Doctor travels through time and space in his Tardis, usually with a human companion, and when he is mortally injured he can “regenerate”, adopt a new, healthy body. This allows the actor to change and the programme to continue for fifty years.

But also, the video is set on Karn. In The Deadly Assassin, broadcast in 1976, it was established that a time lord could have only twelve regenerations, that is, thirteen incarnations. In The Brain of Morbius, broadcast the year before, it appears that there is no limit on the number of regenerations.

Some Doctor Who fans say this is a matter of Canon, the rules of the Doctor Who universe, and so cannot be altered. This is expressed vehemently. Doctor Who is a programme about an immortal who drops in to bad situations, and makes them better. That is very attractive when the world is incomprehensible and scary. I am tempted to see Doctor Who canon as a thing I can understand and control, as a sop when I can control nothing else.

And- after fifty years Doctor Who has to contradict itself. The basic premise remains the same, alien with human companions makes bad situations anywhere in time and space better, but more arcane matters can be changed if the writers wish it. The canon-fanatic does not have control, even of that. It seems to me that fans accept this. “Is it entertaining?” is more important than “does it contradict a line from thirty years ago?” We let go of our need to control. We see the positive and the good, not the thing to whinge about.

As an introduction to The Day of the Doctor, here is The Night of the Doctor, set before all the Doctor Who broadcast this century, during the Time War between the Time Lords and the Daleks. He seeks to recruit a new companion, but she refuses because he is a Time Lord, as bad as a dalek (who are really, really bad). The Doctor, who has avoided involvement in the Time War, now in despair becomes a Warrior who will intervene in it.

The challenge for The Day of the Doctor is to produce a drama from all of this, which someone new to the programme can enjoy.

Don’t tell me the Rules is my review of The Day of the Doctor.

News Corp

There was The Sun, lying in the train, so I had a look. I turned two pages, and avoided the page three girl.

Two articles caught my attention. One was two pages, with large photos, of a woman who eats 5000 calories a day, much of it fast food, but remains a size 8- she wants to develop “womanly curves” but cannot put on weight. She wakes in the night with cravings and will eat burgers and chips. The other was a woman who had been burgled, and met her burglar as part of a Restorative Justice programme. She felt she had managed to communicate her distress, and been heard by him, and gained some understanding of his. Now she wants to be a mentor for such criminals, bringing them round to something better. What would you know? It was in The Sun, not quite as disgusting as you might have thought.

-“Do you mind if I have a look?”
-Not at all, I found it there. He leafs through the sports pages: lots and lots on the football, and then more quickly through the front half.
-Ha! Look at that! What kind of story is that?
He passes it to his companion, who also expresses derision. What? Four lines at the bottom of a column say that a “poll” has found a certain percentage of children under 3 have tried curry. Well, interesting enough, worth four lines and a tiny headline, though I could not remember the percentage an hour later.

H was disgusted that I would even read the thing. Well, I would not buy it, but am interested to read it as a cultural artefact. She would not even do that, though the positive piece on restorative justice gained grudging respect: she has enough in her life, and tries to avoid negative things. So I came up with an answer, which felt right at the time:

I also watch “Spartacus: Gods of the Arena” on Pick, the Murdoch channel. I spend most of my time in my living room, and seek to come to accept my own feelings. So having something which disgusts me is useful, as practice feeling the disgust without fear of the feeling. I want to be able to be in touch with feelings, not shut them down. So, say, reading the Sun or watching a sword go through a neck and gouts of red stuff splash about (such detailed special effects it has!) helps me do that.

H herself is irritated by the advert on the Tube which talks of “internetting”. That’s not a word! Well, no, but you understand what it means. And while the old word “web-surfing” means more or less the same thing, originally “surfing” meant moving between websites, perhaps by links, whereas now we spend most of our time on particular social or shopping sites. I myself am irritated by the use of a £ sign to replace an E in a word. It is an L, standing for Liber, as in liber, sestercius, denarius; and by the reversed N in the advertising for UиcLe Vaиya which we went to see. That и is put in to make it look Russian, but is an “I” sound rather than an N. Ignorant, illiterate, wrong. Yes, I too have other things to get angry with.

Vicarious disgust to get used to the feeling, so I may feel it and not shut down; and disgust at something not particularly disgusting, I suppose, and something I certainly may not influence. I try to laugh where before I would get angry with such solecisms, but being an emotional being is difficult, and if I were paid to work I might need to rely on coffee, alcohol and suppression just like everyone else. Suppression is the problem, though: I will do a lot to avoid that. It kills me.

Merry christmas!

I am delighted to see the christmas gifts in my local Boots. Under red and gold stars, little bottles of smellies nestle in huge cardboard and cellophane packages. I am pleased, because among my hobbies are whingeing and pedantry, and I can get out my “bloody Christmas” whinge and my “It’s Advent, not ‘the Runup to Christmas,’ and it does not start until 27 November” pedantry. I have been happily moaning, and indulging my shock, since 1989 when I first saw Christmas displays in October, in Woolworth’s.

Actually, it reminds me of wandering out for dinner down Republic St in Valletta in November, under tasteful and lovely decorations, in a T shirt. Desperate to drum up trade, a shop has its midwinter festival stock out while there are blackberries and butterflies in the hedges, and I do not need the heating on because my living room is 20°C.

I am glad that I can enjoy my pedantry, rather than getting worked up about it as I used to. The problems of life are not for solving, they are for working on, said Carl Jung.

I was away on Sunday morning, but scheduled my post in advance, telling WordPress when to publish it. There was no need to claim to have been abducted by the security services.

Update: from 18 October, the Christmas lights are up in the streets.