Monday, 21 April 2008

Leaking tree

The man sitting in the blue person-carrier was doubtless intrigued.

On the way back home ...

... Okay. I will.

Thursday, 17 April 2008

An elegy for the Battenberg

In the past few weeks (hey, this is as close to topicality as the Intellectual Hooligan gets, alright?), a quiet bombshell was dropped. You may not have heard the explosion. But, soon enough - mark my words - you'll feel the shockwaves.

Here's the full, calamity-broaching article to which I refer - but, knowing you to be the busy people you are, I'll hit you right away with the salient point:

Hundreds of food and drink products containing food colourings will begin disappearing from shop shelves over the next year if the industry responds to a voluntary ban on the additives demanded by the government's Food Standards Agency today ...

Foods affected include "mushy peas, battenberg cakes, turkish delight and tinned strawberries" (my bold), all of which "might disappear temporarily or permanently".

Now doesn't that just hit you like a rhino to the large intestine? The casual laissez-faire of "might disappear temporarily or permanently". As if this were a matter of little consequence.

The noble battenberg and I go back a long way. E'er a human of fine gustatory tastes - bearer of a palate so refined that, ye, from the very crib, I would bellow my distaste for mere 'standard' babyfood - I was instantly drawn as a child to the decorous battenberg.

Its very appearance, you'll agree, resonates a certain aristocratic sophistication. But this distinguished foodstuff is to be banished from our supermarket shelves. It's enough to make a liberal hooligan go all Daily Mail.


My vision o'ermisted with tears, therefore, I decided to immerse myself nostalgia-inducingly in all things battenbergian - courtesy of Google Images.

A feast for the eyes, indeed. But soon, dear blogprodder, soon enough, our eyes shall be the sole organs via which we may feast upon such delights! Make a search, yourself, and you'll be confronted by page upon page of battenbergiary excellence. Pedigrees ... 9-square extravaganzas ... Battenbergs of every creed and colour (mostly yellow and pink, admittedly, on the latter).

But - amidst this Crufts-like display of fine breeding - one particular specimen stood above all others. Gentlefolk, I give you - the best in show:

"A delicious individual battenburg",
in the eloquent words of its progenitor.

But delicious hardly begins to do it justice. Empathy-inducing would surely be this individual's greatest selling-point. The image radiates a bashful, rather self-effacing charm - marzipan-heavy, sugar-grain-encrusted and - crucially - slightly lopsided.

Have you ever seen a cake that so palpably invites anthropomorphosis?

I say cake. This "individual battenburg", though, is more than a cake.

He is a friend.

Wednesday, 16 April 2008

Jaunty damned things ...

Thanks to a first-rate proofreader, my attention was drawn, today, to a distressing phenomenon.

Aforementioned first-rate proofreader (an epithet to die for, eh?) had kindly undertaken to review an item of professional correspondence that I had recently composed.

I can only describe her findings as disquieting. Profoundly so.

For - in the course of approximately 1,000 words (yes, o reader, my professional correspondence is as pithily concise as my blogging) - I had employed a total (by no means, mark ye, do I say a grand total) of five exclamation marks.

There was a time, not so long ago, at which this Intellectual Hooligan could almost have been said to have shunned the punctuative device in question. And to have regarded with horrified disdain those who failed to do similarly. Those for whom the exclamation mark was roughly equivalent to [shudder] a "LOL".

That is to say: a cheap, lazy means by which to avoid making your meaning clear using actual words. Just as a microwave meal to a Michelin-starred chef, so is the casual exclamation mark to the self-respecting writer. To resort to personification: the ill-used exclamation mark is the idiot at the table who supplies unnecessary punchlines to elegantly desultory witticisms.

Clumsily, tooth-gratingly jaunty. Boris Johnson without the ironical self-parody. Dare I go so far as to say -- Comic Sansesque?

So why in the name of all that is sacred had I used it five times in 1,000 words?

As with so many woes, this can, I think, be blamed on two factors. Which, depressingly, may for some people be heavily interdependent:

  1. Having a job
  2. Finding oneself needing to communicate at speed with those for whom interpretation of written material is not a resounding strength

At some point - like a man using a stock cube in his soup for the first time - I began to dabble. Sure, something inside me withered away (perhaps it was my soul) - but I found that the exclamation mark was sometimes pretty handy. Only occasionally, of course. Naturally. Just for those times when I was really in a hurry.

File under: Wedge, narrow end of the

Well, in the soup of the intellectual hooligan's prose, may I assure you, there will henceforth be only ever the purest and most nourishing of punctuative stock. Think parsley stalks, peppercorns, celery, bayleaf ... The works.

I will conquer this.

Tuesday, 15 April 2008

Villainous pencil-bending

Every arch-villain needs a slightly menacing signature characteristic or habit. The James Bond series has taught us this invaluable lesson (as well as so many others).

In the case of my new (yet, satisfyingly, soon-to-be-old) boss, this universal truth seems to manifest itself in the form of pencil-bending. I would say pencil-fiddling - but this man is not, I feel, the fiddling type. A fact which (on the bright side) does establish a certain amount of 'clear blue water' between him and the Emperor Nero.

Anyhow. In this morning's meeting between myself and aforesaid pencil-bender, the signature habit was on display. Perhaps an analogy might be made with a fiery conductor, flexing his baton (no euphemism intended, dear reader, no euphemism intended) - or a swordsman, testing his rapier's blade.

Sadly, the pencil (one of our organisation's own) proved unequal to the forces to which it was subjected, and - mid-sentence - snapped. Fairly loudly. Cue: millisecondsworth of surprise. Then - evidently riled at the dissolution of a carefully-cultivated, Machiavellian air:

"Rubbish! These rubbishy pencils! Plastic! That's why I don't like them. I knew I didn't like them."

Subsequent pencil trajectory: binwards

Degree of force: not inconsiderable

Parting shot: "I like wooden pencils."

Well, boy, that told me. And the pencil.

The man then summarily went through his drawer and pencil pot, taking out all company pencils therein and casting them, too, into the abyss.

Well. I guess you have to ask yourself: if you can't bend a pencil in two hands, what use is there for one? I mean, it's not as though you can still write with it, or anything.


Now, I ask: is there not something conveniently metaphorical (almost implausibly so) about the incident recounted above? Is it not close to the realm of the literary vignette, indeed, in the pithily eloquent manner in which it encapsulates my boss's character? Akin, as was suggested to me by Bronagh, to "something out of play or a novel ... the character's attitude to the pencil becoming a metaphor for his attitude to people and life."

I may have more to write, at a later date, on the subject of implausible theatricalities manifesting themselves in reality. For this is a rich seam, my e-mining comrades. A rich seam indeed.

Thursday, 10 April 2008

Faves. Or -- It's all about the dimples

It is not every day that one gets to witness the birth of a meme. Today, though, I give you ...

The Fave.

Are there things, dear hoverer in the blogosphere, that make you inordinately happy? Things that induce in you a sense of well-being disproportionate to their actual significance? Think about it ... And let me whet your appetite with one of my own:

The Vanish Stick Lid Dimple

For me, this is a design classic up there with the iPod. And here's why. No, it's not the logo. It's not the colouring (though, boy, I dig that sexy pink as much as the next man). I'm talking about the dimple. There in the lid - perfectly thumb-sized, mouth-wateringly smooth, irresistable to the Intellectual Hooligan's hands. Desert Island Discs? This'd be my luxury item, no question. Just me, a Vanish Stick, and boundless miles of ocean as far as the eye can see. Mmm.


Of course, a fave need not be a tangible object. Indeed, to define the term precisely, we must turn to its originators, Mses B & C McCrudden:

Fave - something you like, usually a lot, which someone else wouldn't necessarily think of.

eg. the smell of christmas trees or freshly cut grass is NOT a fave
eg. the feeling on your skin when you take off a watch - yes.
eg. also yes:  cleaning out jam jars and filling them up with things.

It's usually something quite specific.

(C McCrudden, 2008)
Think again, then, all you freshly-cut-grass lovers. Pavement after rain? Uh-Uh.

So. Proper Faves. Bring 'em on.

Tuesday, 8 April 2008

I am Henman. This is match point.

Today, I handed in my resignation. Resigned my ass right out of there. Yee. Frickin'. Haw. &c &c.

The perfect opportunity - maybe once in a lifetime - to resign in style, with impunity, perhaps even a dash of acerbic wit. You see, my current boss - to whose management style I object in the strongest of terms - has only been around for a month or so. Long enough for me to have decided exactly how much I like him (about this much ->  .  ), but, crucially, not long enough for him to be callable upon for references.

Hell, Director-man, I don't need your goddamn reference. Does that hurt? Does that hurt?

Beaut, eh? Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the perfect end-of-Act-4 pre-denouement. This fellow is the reason I'm leaving - cause of woe and heartache aplenty (ie. is an insulting sod) - and now I (the hero, natch) have the perfect opportunity to tell him that the trouble I am about to cause him is entirely as a result of his own rudeness and social inadequacy. Heck, Shakespeare'd've milked this one.

As you may imagine, then, I handed in my letter of resignation with quite a flourish. Magna Carta stylee.

"This ---" [dramatic pause] "--- is my letter of resignation."

Damn right. For about a millisecond, the guy seemed surprised. Then (with characteristically bluntness), replied:

"Reason for leaving?"

The perfect set up, right? If this were a tennis match, that question would've been a slow, bumbling lob straight to my forehand smash ... And boy did I crack it one ...:

"Um ... lots of reasons ..." [trails off]


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