This blog posts every Saturday and the next post will be Saturday 7th January
YOUR MASTERMIND QUIZ FOR NEW YEAR’S EVE
1.Why do you think that men have nipples, and what possible primitive evolutionary purpose could they ever serve? I don’t know many, I mean any, men, who have effectively suckled a baby, and if there were some aeons back in the primal mists of time, are there I wonder any hoary oral folktale remnants of how they and the baby felt about the experience, surely of piquant sociological interest to anyone, and especially those nursing women with cracked nipples due to breast feeding (you take over feeding her now, Derek, and stop watching fucking Countdown just because maths whiz Carol Vorderman won Rear of the Year not once but twice! As if a brainbox’s backside is all that bloody matters, when you have a new baby…) You might of course reasonably argue that the male nipples function as sensitive erogenous zones, but I personally find that too glib an assertion, because by way of helpful anecdotal example all of my upper body (and my lower body if I’m being rigorously scientific) not just my fetching tit area, is an effective erogenous zone, as far as I can see (eh… bollicks…trade secret…)
2.Talking of sex, why do tomcats behave in such a disgusting manner when copulating in public by jumping on and straddling the queen (specialist term, ‘she-cat’ to you) and crudely biting their usually unwilling partner’s neck, by way of tender caresses and touching amatory endearments? If a man were perverse enough to do that in public to a woman, they would quite rightly be arrested, though possibly not in provincial Greece, where they have seen absolutely everything that defies belief over the centuries (the most recent examples being the Nazis and the Junta) and absolutely nothing surprises them, especially on the remoter islands.
3.Talking not of sex but of that chaste if always exciting item known as language, why do certain English words, usually adjectives, only ever appear in one unique context? For example, ‘condign’ (‘fitting’, ‘worthy’) as far as I can see, only ever appears with ‘punishment’ as ‘condign punishment’. Can any impressively well-read lady or gent out there, provide me with a genuine literary quote where ‘condign’ appears beside some other noun? A sumptuous and I would suggest ‘condign’ fish dinner in the always open Ostria restaurant. Merihas, Kythnos (the best grilled squid in the Cyclades, so it humbly boasts) as a prize… (and does that mean that I get the prize?)
4.More about words. Why do 90% of people always use the word ‘disinterested’ wrongly (they usually think it means ‘uninterested’ or ‘bored’ or ‘distracted’) and they love the word so much they use it at least twice a day? It properly has a range of subtle meanings, including ‘not having a personal interest in something’, in the sense of being neutral or non-partisan, or not receiving any moral or pecuniary advantage in some context. The only place where ‘disinterested’ is used properly countless times over in a single text, and it is in Sanskrit, is in the Bhagavad Gita, the sacred Hindu scripture which explores the ethics of Karma and Binding Attachment and Liberating Disinterest apropos one’s Earthly Deeds. Read it in English if you haven’t already. There is in fact a paperback translation by the world-famous Beatles guru, the late Maharishi Mahesh (1918-2008) and it will broaden your horizons.
5.Why do certain really bad US film actors achieve major careers and why are they always male and never female? Though yes, granted that Sandra Bullock (born 1964) invariably acts badly in mostly third rate movies, but she was a real star as the peevish, pampered woman in Crash (2004) not the car crash movie, the other one by Paul Haggis, with Matt Dillon (born 1964) on top form as the racist cop John Ryan who did a massively ‘disinterested deed’ at the end of the truly brilliant film? Examples of toweringly inept but bankable actors include Owen Wilson (born 1968), blond and fluffy-haired and affable star of Midnight in Paris, an atrociously unfunny 2011 movie by Woody Allen who is now 81 years old. Owen is supposed to be a highly successful screen writer Gil Pender (why not Ces Pender… I wonder…heh?) who decides to risk all and embark on being a serious novelist, and goes to Paris with his caricature of a shallow wife and tyrannical uptight in-laws to get in the mood. I didn’t believe a word of it Woody, for Owen has no presence and no aura and no range, and looks and acts like he should be a contented shoe shop manager in uptown Chattanooga, making the gals’ hearts skip a beat when they walk in and approach the cute little boss direct. Allen is on record as saying that Wilson has a seriously funny bone, but no he really hasn’t Woody, and you are evidently losing the plot alas, and it is nothing to do with age. Worse still, the critics, God bless them, all clapped their hands and said Midnight in Paris is a masterpiece and a return to the great man’s top form. To quote that fine novelist and Dickens biographer Peter Ackroyd (born 1949), he once wrote to the effect that critics are in the main those people who write rubbish about rubbish. Spot on Peter, and look, and this is a genuine offer, if ever you find yourself here in Kythnos…
Another inexplicable non-starter, wouldn’t you agree, is the Canadian Ryan Gosling (born 1980), who again can’t act, isn’t funny, isn’t authentic, isn’t anything, though like Wilson he looks pretty and in his case, laudably, he has serious ethical and political concerns. And yet this bad actor is a mega-earner and a major celebrity. Why so? Compare Gosling and Wilson with a real 5-star actor like Brad Pitt (born 1963) who isn’t only good looking but is a virtuoso with an accent in Tarantino’s 2009 Inglourious Basterds as the explosive Kentucky colonel Aldo Raine; in the Coen Bros’ Burn After Reading (2008) as the idiot gym employee Chad Feldheimer, accidentally killed in a cupboard by George Clooney, and as the jabbering lunatic Jeffrey Goines, in that otherwise dreary and overwrought 1996 movie Twelve Monkeys by Terry Gilliam, which also stars Bruce Willis. Brad Pitt deserves every penny he earns and surely much more recognition than he gets for his massive talent.
6.Am I, Utterly Appalled O Kyrio Iannis of Kythnos, the only person who cringes at those ugly and pointless cliché words that simply didn’t exist pre- about 1990? I mean hogwash terms like ‘judgemental’ (why not ‘prone to passing judgement’ or simply ‘hypercritical’ or ‘prejudiced’ as some folk blithely use it to mean); ‘empathy’ and even worse ‘empathetic’. Should someone ever tell me that I was empathetic, I would say remarkably horrible and outstandingly unempathetic things to the buggers. But if anyone can give me an accurate and nuanced account of how ‘empathy/empathetic’ means anything different in any sense from ‘sympathy/ sympathetic’. I will give them all my copious loose change immediately. Sympathy after all is a highly allusive and poignant word with a whole spectrum of meaning, unlike the cooked-up neologism ’empathy’ which makes me think of NW3 therapy groups and bad poetry and the Guardian’s G2 on a bad day. Two years ago, in these pages, I also instanced that wholly meaningless word ‘iconic’ which is still everywhere you look. As I said then, you can put it in front of any noun whatever, and it makes its wonderfully brainless and valueless sense: iconic biscuit, iconic t-shirt, iconic nipples, iconic buttocks, iconic village, iconic verb, iconic bungalow, iconic gin palace.
Meanwhile, 40 years ago, you old uns might recall, the vogue word among both lightweight and heavyweight cultural commentators was ‘clout’, in the sense of impact or charisma or pazzazz, and things they liked always had lots of clout. It was eventually laughed out of existence, thank God, and no one uses it now. Can the same thing, I ask you, be swiftly speeded up with those iconic words, judgemental, and empathetic? Hit, nay ‘clout’ yourself on the chops in front of the mirror every time you use them, and you’ll soon shrug off the noxious habit.
Happy 2017 to all, and especially my faithful followers in beautiful Albania and fabled Uzbekistan..