Thursday, December 27, 2007

The genius in all of us

If you ever feel a little bit stupid, just dig this up and read it again; you’ll begin to think you’re a genius.

On September 17, 1994, Alabama’s Heather Whitestone was selected as Miss America 1995.
Question: If you could live forever, would you and why?
Answer: “I would not live forever, because we should not live forever, because if we were supposed to live forever, then we would live forever, but we cannot live forever, which is why I would not live forever,” — Miss Alabama in the 1994 Miss USA contest.

“Whenever I watch TV and see those poor starving kids all over the world, I can’t help but cry. I mean I’d love to be skinny like that, but not with all those flies and death and stuff.” — Mariah Carey

“Smoking kills. If you’re killed, you’ve lost a very important part of your life,” — Brooke Shields, during an interview to become spokesperson for federal anti-smoking campaign.

“I’ve never had major knee surgery on any other part of my body,” — Winston Bennett, University of Kentucky basketball forward.

“Outside of the killings, Washington has one of the lowest crime rates in the country,” — Mayor Marion Barry, Washington, DC.

“That lowdown scoundrel deserves to be kicked to death by a jackass, and I’m just the one to do it,” — A congressional candidate in Texas

“Half this game is ninety per cent mental.” — Philadelphia Phillies manager, Danny Ozark

“I love California. I practically grew up in Phoenix.“ — Dan Quayle

“We’ve got to pause and ask ourselves: How much clean air do we need?” — Lee Iacocca

“The word “genius” isn’t applicable in football. A genius is a guy like Norman Einstein. — Joe Theisman, NFL football quarterback & sports analyst.

“We don’t necessarily discriminate. We simply exclude certain types of people.” — Colonel Gerald Wellman, ROTC Instrutor.

“Your food stamps will be stopped effective March 1992 because we received notice that you passed away. May God bless you. You may reapply if there is a change in your circumstances.” — Department of Social Services, Greenville, South Carolina

“Traditionally, most of Australia‘s imports come from overseas.” — Keppel Enderbery

“If somebody has a bad heart, they can plug this jack in at night as they go to bed and it will monitor their heart throughout the night. And the next morning, when they wake up dead, there’ll be a record.” — Mark S. Fowler, FCC Chairman

Feeling smarter yet?

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Offensive Jokes My Father Sent Me

For the uninitiated, here are some particularly offensive examples of the Essex Girl joke. Americans may note these are basically a blonde joke and a Polish joke rolled into one. This format enables the English to be racist and sexist at the same time with no extra effort.

An Essex girl goes to the council to register for Child Benefit.
“How many children?” asks the council worker.
“10” replies the Essex girl.
“10?” says the council worker. “What are their names?”
“Wayne, Wayne, Wayne, Wayne, Wayne, Wayne, Wayne, Wayne, Wayne and Wayne.”
“Doesn’t that get confusing?”
“Naah,” says the Essex girl. “It’s great because if they are out playing in the street I just have to shout ‘WAAAAAYNE, YER DINNER”S READY,’ or ‘WAAYNE GO TO BED NOW!’ And they all do it.”
“What if you want to speak to one individually?” asks the council worker.
“That’s easy,” says the Essex girl. “I just use their surnames.”

An Essex girl walks into the local dry cleaners. She places a garment on the counter.
“I’ll be back tomorrow afternoon to pick up my dress,” she says.
“Come again?” says the clerk, cupping his ear.
“No” she replies. “This time it’s mayonnaise.”

Essex Girl enters a sex shop and asks for a vibrator.
The man says, “Choose from our range on the wall.”
She says, “I”ll take the red one.”
The man replies, “That’s a fire extinguisher.”

An Essex girl was driving down the A13 when her car phone rang. It was her boyfriend, urgently warning her, “Treacle, I just heard on the news that there”s a car going the wrong way on the A13. Please be careful!”
“It’s not just one car!” said the Essex girl, “There’s bleeding hundreds of them!”

An Essex girl is involved in a nasty car crash and is trapped and bleeding. The paramedics soon arrive on site.
Medic: “It’s OK I”m a paramedic and I”m going to ask you some questions?”
Girl: “OK”
Medic: “What’s your name?”
Girl: “Sharon.”
Medic: “OK Sharon. Is this your car?”
Sharon: “Yes.”
Medic: “Where are you bleeding from?”
Sharon: “Romford, mate.”

Another Essex girl was involved in a serious crash. There’s blood everywhere. The paramedics arrive and drag the girl out of the car till she”s lying flat out on the ground.
Medic: “OK, I'm going to check if you’re concussed.”
Sharon: “OK.”
Medic: “How many fingers am I putting up?”
Sharon: “Oh my God! I’m paralysed from the waist down!”

An Essex girl and an Irish guy are in a bar when the Essex Girl notices something strange about the wellies the Irish guy is wearing. She says,
“Scuse me mate, I ain't being funny or nuffink, but why doz one of your wellies ‘ave an L on it and the uvva one’s got an R on it?”
The Irish guy smiles, puts down his glass of Guinness and replies, “Well, I”m a little bit tick you see. The one wit the R on it is for me right foot and the one wit the L is for me Left foot”
“Cor blimey”, exclaims the Essex girl, “So THAT”S why me panties ‘ave got C&A on the label!”

[Contributed by Faliero]

Monday, December 03, 2007


TOKYO — In view of the current difficult investment times please check your portfolio for Japanese bank stocks. The knock-on effect from the Northern Rock Bank is being severely felt in the Japanese market and shows no sign of letting up.

In the last seven days, Origami Bank has folded, Sumo Bank has gone belly up and Bonsai Bank has announced plans to cutback some of its branches.

Yesterday it was announced that Karaoke Bank is up for sale and more than likely will go for a song. Today, shares in Kamikaze Bank were suspended after they nosedived. Also, 500 back-office staff at Karate Bank got the chop.

Analysts report there is something fishy going on at Sushi Bank and staff fear they may get a raw deal.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

This is how the world ends

Killola's song is a powerful ear worm that won't quit.

Friday, November 09, 2007

George Galloway's speech in the House of Commons

Monday, November 05, 2007

Root Canal Filled Teeth Cause Many Degenerative Diseases

By Bill Henderson

Asheville, NC. Oct. 18, 2007 — A cancer care expert has published the following studies of two women who were healed completely from advanced “diseases” when their root canal filled teeth were properly extracted:

Case Study #1: Olga (not her real name) had been battling breast cancer which had spread to many other organs since the early 1990s. She figured it was the result of a particular incident in her life. In 1986, you may remember that the Russian nuclear power plant in Chernobyl in the Ukraine exploded and caused the greatest nuclear accident disaster in history. Olga lived in Kiev at the time, about 90 miles due north of Chernobyl.

In 1989, Olga moved to New Jersey with her two children. Her bout with cancer started about two years after she arrived there. By the time I met Olga by phone, she had tried a wide variety of conventional and alternative treatments for her cancer. Nothing seemed to help.

During our telephone conversation in February, 2007, I discussed with Olga, as I do with all cancer patients who contact me, the probable cause of her cancer. Of course, the radiation from Chernobyl seemed to be an obvious cause. When I asked her if she had any root canal filled teeth, however, she reluctantly admitted that she had 11. I was shocked. Of the many hundreds of cancer patients I had dealt with, I had never heard of anyone with that many root canals.

Once I described to Olga the toxic load these teeth were putting on her system, she agreed with me that having them extracted by a biological dentist was essential to her recovery from her cancer. She attempted to find an appropriate dentist to help her near where she lived. When she gave up on finding one who could treat her at a price she could afford, she called me for a recommendation.

I referred her to my favorite biological dentist, Dr. John Tate in Spartanburg, South Carolina. Olga called him and made an appointment.

After discussing her case with Tate, Olga decided to follow his advice and plan for a four to five week stay in Spartanburg. Her case was unusually difficult, as you can imagine. Because of her fragile health condition, the teeth needed to be extracted one or two at a time with lots of preparation with intravenous Vitamin C, etc. Then, it was necessary to wait several days to make sure she had recovered before removing the next set. Tate told me that it appeared that all eleven of the root canals had been done in Russia. One had a filling at the tip of the root that was black and smelled awful. All of them were highly inflammed and putting out lots of toxins.

After all the teeth were extracted, Tate fitted Olga for partial plates to restore her “bite.” By about the end of March, 2007, he had completed the project. Olga had stayed in a motel in Spartanburg the whole time.

It is now October, 2007. I heard from Olga a few days ago. She is finally, for the first time in more than 20 years, enjoying complete good health. Her cancer is gone and all her tests are completely clean. She is in the process of writing her story for publication in my “Cancer-Free” newsletter. She is eager to share her experience with all cancer patients and their caregivers.

Case Study #2: In late 2006, a friend introduced me to Judy (not her real name). Judy, a 51 year old mother of one son, described to me her 12-year history with Lyme Disease. All of her joints were extremely painful and she could hardly walk — much less work or drive a car. After the Lyme Disease diagnosis, various doctors had tried several different drugs. None of them did anything but temporarily relieve some of the pain.

Again, shortly after we met, I asked Judy about the condition of her jaw – particularly the root canals. Sure enough, she had four left in her mouth. Two had been previously removed several years before and she had a partial plate in the upper front area of her jaw.

Judy could not afford any more dental work. A naturopathic doctor friend and I decided to underwrite a project to get her mouth cleaned up. We both felt that the root canals were contributing to her painful condition.

I drove Judy to Spartanburg for the six appointments with Tate which it took to remove her root canal filled teeth and get her fitted for two other plates. Particularly interesting in Judy’s case was the condition of the gum where one of the root canals had been removed four years before.

In testing the gum where this tooth had been, Tate found it had just as much inflammation as if the tooth had never been extracted. He said this was common when root canals are extracted by dentists or oral surgeons who are not familiar with them. Removal of a root canal filled tooth needs to include removal of the ligament under the tooth and a portion of the jaw as well. This procedure is explained in detail in Dr. George Meinig’s book “Root Canal Cover-up.”

Since the completion of her dental reconstruction in March, 2007, Judy’s “Lyme Disease” has disappeared. She now walks three miles a day, has gained back about twenty pounds, is able to drive her car and feels wonderful for the first time in about 13 years.

If you have root canal filled teeth, I recommend you have your entire mouth evaluated by a biological dentist as soon as possible. Here are two ways to locate a competent dentist near you:

1. The Price-Pottenger Nutrition Foundation in San Diego, California. They maintain a list of dentists qualified to remove root canal teeth. You can reach them at (800) 366-3748 (Pacific Time).

2. Dr. Bill Glaros is a Houston, Texas dentist who was President in 2006 of the American Biological Dentist Association. You may call his office at (281) 440-1190 (Central Time). Anyone who answers the phone can consult the current Directory of the Biological Dentist Association members. Hopefully, you will get contact information for a member near you.

If you live in the Southeast U.S., you may want to contact Dr. John Tate, D.D.S. in Spartanburg, South Carolina. His office phone number is (864) 582-4441.

In any case, don’t delay. Root canal filled teeth can be deadly.

If you would like to read a transcript of a radio interview done by Laura Lee with Dr. George Meinig and Dr. Michael LaMarche on this subject, just go to:

Bill Henderson, Author

16 Smoke Tree Road, Candler, NC 28715 Phone: (828) 221-0676

Book Title: Cancer-Free — Your Guide to Gentle, Non-toxic Healing

Journalists — Click here for a Review Copy of Cancer-Free — Your Guide to Gentle, Non-toxic Healing

Order Cancer-Free — Your Guide to Gentle, Non-toxic Healing

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Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Political promises
A Special Thought
If You Have Seen it before, Then You are Lucky to Have Such Good Friends

Too busy for a friend? One day a teacher asked her students to list the names of the other students in the room on two sheets of paper, leaving a space between each name. Then she told them to think of the nicest thing they could say about each of their classmates and write it down.

It took the remainder of the period to finish the assignment and, as the students left the room, all of them handed in the papers. That Saturday, the teacher wrote down the name of each student on a separate sheet of paper, and listed what everyone else had said about that individual.

On Monday she gave each student his or her list. Before long, the entire class was smiling.

“Really?” she heard some of them whisper. “I never knew that I meant anything to anyone!” and, “I didn’t know others liked me so much.”

No one ever mentioned those papers in class again. She never knew if they discussed them after class or with their parents. But it didn’t matter. The exercise had accomplished its purpose. The students were happy with themselves and one another.

That group of students moved on.
Several years later, one of the students was killed in Vietnam and his former teacher attended the funeral.

She had never seen a serviceman in a military coffin before. He looked so handsome, so mature.
The church was packed with his friends. One by one those who loved him took a last walk by the coffin.

The teacher was the last one to bless the coffin.
As she stood there, one of the soldiers who acted as pallbearer came up to her.

“Were you Mark’s math teacher?” he asked.

She nodded: “yes.”

Then he said: “Mark talked about you a lot.”

After the funeral, most of Mark’s former classmates went together to a luncheon. Mark’s mother and father were there, obviously waiting to speak with his teacher.

“We want to show you something,” his father said, taking a wallet out of his pocket “They found this on Mark when he was killed. We thought you might recognize it.”

Opening the billfold, he carefully removed two worn pieces of notebook paper that had obviously been taped, folded and refolded many times. The teacher knew without looking that the papers were the ones on which she had listed all the good things each of Mark’s classmates had said about him.

“Thank you so much for doing that,” Mark’s mother said. “As you can see, Mark treasured it.”

All of Mark’s former classmates started to gather around.

Charlie smiled rather sheepishly and said, “I still have my list. It’s in the top drawer of my desk at home.”

Chuck’s wife said, “Chuck asked me to put his in our wedding album.”

“I have mine too,” Marilyn said. “It’s in my diary”

Then Vicki, another classmate, reached into her pocketbook, took out her wallet and showed her worn and frazzled list to the group. “I carry this with me at all times,” Vicki said and without batting an eyelash, she continued: “I think we all saved our lists”

That’s when the teacher finally sat down and cried. She cried for Mark and for all his friends who would never see him again.
The density of people in society is so thick that we forget that life will end one day. And we don’t know when that one day will be.

So please, tell the people you love and care for, that they are special and important. Tell them, before it is too late.
And one way to accomplish this is: Forward this message on. If you do not send it, you will have, once again passed up the wonderful opportunity to do something nice and beautiful.

If you’ve received this, it is because someone cares for you and it means there is probably at least someone for whom you care. If you’re “too busy” to take those few minutes right now to forward this message on, would this be the VERY first time you didn’t do that little thing that would make a difference in your relationships?

The more people that you send this to, the better you’ll be at reaching out to those you care about.
Remember, you reap what you sow. What you put into the lives of others comes back into your own. May your day be blessed as special as you are

[Submitted by Bruce Wilde]

Friday, October 12, 2007

Night Mail (1936)

This was a classic John Grierson documentary with music by Benjamin Britten and a poem by W. H. Auden. But what happened to the rest of the 25 minutes?

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Tony Blair Discovers Theology of Democracy

LONDON — While on his walk this morning, former Prime Minister Tony Blair fell over, had a heart attack, and died because the Accident & Emergency ward at his nearest hospital had just been closed. So his soul arrived in Heaven and he was met by St. Peter at the Pearly Gates.

“Welcome to Heaven,” St. Peter said. “Before you settle in, it seems there is a problem. We seldom see a politician around these parts, so we’re not sure what to do with you.”

“No problem, just let me in; I’m a good Christian; I’m a believer,” said Blair.

“I’d like to just let you in, but I have orders from God Himself. He says that since the implementation of his new Heaven Choices policy, you have to spend one day in Hell and one day in Heaven. Then you must choose where you’ll live for eternity.”

“But I’ve already made up my mind. I want to be in Heaven,” Blair said.

“I’m sorry but we have our rules and bureaucracy.” Peter said. And, with that, St. Peter escorted him to an elevator and he went down, down, down all the way to Hell. The doors opened and he found himself in the middle of a lush golf course.

The sun was shining in a cloudless sky. The temperature was a perfect 21°C. In the distance was a beautiful club house. Standing in front of it were MPs from all the years of the Great British democracy. There are luminaries who had helped Blair over the years. The whole set of the party leaders from the past were there, everyone laughing, happy, and casually but expensively, dressed. They ran to greet him, to hug him and to reminisce about the good times they had had getting rich at the expense of suckers and peasants. They played a friendly game of golf and then dined on lobster and caviar. The Devil himself came up to Blair with a frosty drink, “Have a tequila and relax, Tony!”

“Uh, I can’t drink any more, I took a pledge,” said Blair, dejectedly. “This is Hell, son. You can drink and eat all you want and not worry. And it just gets better from there!”

So Blair took the drink and found himself liking the Devil, who he thought was a really very friendly bloke who tells funny jokes like himself and pulls hilarious nasty pranks, like the ones he and Hewitt pulled with the NHS and with Kelly on Education. They were having such a great time that, before he realised it, it was time to go. Everyone gave him a big hug and waved as Blair stepped on the elevator and headed upward. When the elevator door reopened, he was in Heaven again and St. Peter was waiting for him.

“Now it’s time to visit Heaven,” the old man said, opening the gate.

So for 24 hours Blair wsa made to hang out with a bunch of honest, good-natured people who enjoyed each other’s company, talked about things other than money and treated each other decently. Not a nasty prank or egotistical remark among them. No fancy country clubs here and, while the food tasted great, it was not caviar nor lobster. Surprisingly these people were all poor. He didn’t see anybody he knew and he wasn’t even treated like someone special!

“Whoa!” he said to himself. “Mandelson never prepared me for this!”

The day done, St. Peter returned and, with the “Deal or No Deal” theme playing softly in the background, said, “Well, you’ve spent a day in Hell and a day in Heaven. Now you must choose where you want to live for eternity.”

Blair reflected for a minute, then answered, “Well, I would never have thought I’d say this — I mean, Heaven has been delightful and all — but I really think I belong in Hell with my friends.”

So Saint Peter escorted him to the elevator and he went down, down, down, all the way to Hell. The doors of the elevator opened and he was in the middle of a concrete jungle covered with garbage and toxic industrial waste, rather like the eroded, infested areas that Prescott created in the housing blight of the South East. He was horrified to see all of his friends dressed in rags and chained together, picking up the roadside rubbish and putting it into black plastic bags. They were groaning and moaning in pain, faces and hands black with grime.

The Devil came over to Blair and put an arm around his shoulder. “I don’t understand,” stammered a shocked Blair, “Yesterday I was here and there was a golf course and a club house and we ate lobster and caviar and drank tequila. We lazed around and had a great time. Now there’s just a wasteland full of garbage and everybody looks miserable!”

The Devil looked at him, smiled slyly and slurred, “Yesterday we were campaigning; today we’ve got your vote.”

[Submitted by Faliero]

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Politics and the English Language
[an essay written by George Orwell in 1946 that should be well known to anybody who uses the English language today]

Most people who bother with the matter at all would admit that the English language is in a bad way, but it is generally assumed that we cannot by conscious action do anything about it. Our civilization is decadent and our language — so the argument runs — must inevitably share in the general collapse. It follows that any struggle against the abuse of language is a sentimental archaism, like preferring candles to electric light or hansom cabs to aeroplanes. Underneath this lies the half-conscious belief that language is a natural growth and not an instrument which we shape for our own purposes.

Now, it is clear that the decline of a language must ultimately have political and economic causes: it is not due simply to the bad influence of this or that individual writer. But an effect can become a cause, reinforcing the original cause and producing the same effect in an intensified form, and so on indefinitely. A man may take to drink because he feels himself to be a failure, and then fail all the more completely because he drinks. It is rather the same thing that is happening to the English language. It becomes ugly and inaccurate because our thoughts are foolish, but the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts. The point is that the process is reversible. Modern English, especially written English, is full of bad habits which spread by imitation and which can be avoided if one is willing to take the necessary trouble. If one gets rid of these habits one can think more clearly, and to think clearly is a necessary first step toward political regeneration: so that the fight against bad English is not frivolous and is not the exclusive concern of professional writers. I will come back to this presently, and I hope that by that time the meaning of what I have said here will have become clearer. Meanwhile, here are five specimens of the English language as it is now habitually written.

These five passages have not been picked out because they are especially bad — I could have quoted far worse if I had chosen — but because they illustrate various of the mental vices from which we now suffer. They are a little below the average, but are fairly representative examples. I number them so that i can refer back to them when necessary:

1. I am not, indeed, sure whether it is not true to say that the Milton who once seemed not unlike a seventeenth-century Shelley had not become, out of an experience ever more bitter in each year, more alien [sic] to the founder of that Jesuit sect which nothing could induce him to tolerate.
— Professor Harold Laski (Essay in Freedom of Expression)

2. Above all, we cannot play ducks and drakes with a native battery of idioms which prescribes egregious collocations of vocables as the Basic put up with for tolerate, or put at a loss for bewilder.
— Professor Lancelot Hogben (Interglossa)

3. On the one side we have the free personality: by definition it is not neurotic, for it has neither conflict nor dream. Its desires, such as they are, are transparent, for they are just what institutional approval keeps in the forefront of consciousness; another institutional pattern would alter their number and intensity; there is little in them that is natural, irreducible, or culturally dangerous. But on the other side, the social bond itself is nothing but the mutual reflection of these self-secure integrities. Recall the definition of love. Is not this the very picture of a small academic? Where is there a place in this hall of mirrors for either personality or fraternity?
— Essay on psychology in Politics (New York)

4. All the “best people” from the gentlemen’s clubs, and all the frantic fascist captains, united in common hatred of Socialism and bestial horror at the rising tide of the mass revolutionary movement, have turned to acts of provocation, to foul incendiarism, to medieval legends of poisoned wells, to legalize their own destruction of proletarian organizations, and rouse the agitated petty-bourgeoise to chauvinistic fervor on behalf of the fight against the revolutionary way out of the crisis.
— Communist pamphlet

5. If a new spirit is to be infused into this old country, there is one thorny and contentious reform which must be tackled, and that is the humanization and galvanization of the B.B.C. Timidity here will bespeak canker and atrophy of the soul. The heart of Britain may be sound and of strong beat, for instance, but the British lion’s roar at present is like that of Bottom in Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream — as gentle as any sucking dove. A virile new Britain cannot continue indefinitely to be traduced in the eyes or rather ears, of the world by the effete languors of Langham Place, brazenly masquerading as “standard English.” When the Voice of Britain is heard at nine o’clock, better far and infinitely less ludicrous to hear aitches honestly dropped than the present priggish, inflated, inhibited, school-ma’amish arch braying of blameless bashful mewing maidens!
— Letter in Tribune

Each of these passages has faults of its own, but, quite apart from avoidable ugliness, two qualities are common to all of them. The first is staleness of imagery; the other is lack of precision. The writer either has a meaning and cannot express it, or he inadvertently says something else, or he is almost indifferent as to whether his words mean anything or not. This mixture of vagueness and sheer incompetence is the most marked characteristic of modern English prose, and especially of any kind of political writing. As soon as certain topics are raised, the concrete melts into the abstract and no one seems able to think of turns of speech that are not hackneyed: prose consists less and less of words chosen for the sake of their meaning, and more and more of phrases tacked together like the sections of a prefabricated henhouse. I list below, with notes and examples, various of the tricks by means of which the work of prose construction is habitually dodged:

Dying metaphors. A newly invented metaphor assists thought by evoking a visual image, while on the other hand a metaphor which is technically “dead” (e.g. iron resolution) has in effect reverted to being an ordinary word and can generally be used without loss of vividness. But in between these two classes there is a huge dump of worn-out metaphors which have lost all evocative power and are merely used because they save people the trouble of inventing phrases for themselves. Examples are: Ring the changes on, take up the cudgel for, toe the line, ride roughshod over, stand shoulder to shoulder with, play into the hands of, no axe to grind, grist to the mill, fishing in troubled waters, on the order of the day, Achilles’ heel, swan song, hotbed. Many of these are used without knowledge of their meaning (what is a “rift,” for instance?), and incompatible metaphors are frequently mixed, a sure sign that the writer is not interested in what he is saying. Some metaphors now current have been twisted out of their original meaning withouth those who use them even being aware of the fact. For example, toe the line is sometimes written as tow the line. Another example is the hammer and the anvil, now always used with the implication that the anvil gets the worst of it. In real life it is always the anvil that breaks the hammer, never the other way about: a writer who stopped to think what he was saying would avoid perverting the original phrase.

Operators or verbal false limbs. These save the trouble of picking out appropriate verbs and nouns, and at the same time pad each sentence with extra syllables which give it an appearance of symmetry. Characteristic phrases are render inoperative, militate against, make contact with, be subjected to, give rise to, give grounds for, have the effect of, play a leading part (role) in, make itself felt, take effect, exhibit a tendency to, serve the purpose of, etc., etc. The keynote is the elimination of simple verbs. Instead of being a single word, such as break, stop, spoil, mend, kill, a verb becomes a phrase, made up of a noun or adjective tacked on to some general-purpose verb such as prove, serve, form, play, render. In addition, the passive voice is wherever possible used in preference to the active, and noun constructions are used instead of gerunds (by examination of instead of by examining). The range of verbs is further cut down by means of the -ize and de- formations, and the banal statements are given an appearance of profundity by means of the not un- formation. Simple conjunctions and prepositions are replaced by such phrases as with respect to, having regard to, the fact that, by dint of, in view of, in the interests of, on the hypothesis that; and the ends of sentences are saved by anticlimax by such resounding commonplaces as greatly to be desired, cannot be left out of account, a development to be expected in the near future, deserving of serious consideration, brought to a satisfactory conclusion, and so on and so forth.

Pretentious diction. Words like phenomenon, element, individual (as noun), objective, categorical, effective, virtual, basic, primary, promote, constitute, exhibit, exploit, utilize, eliminate, liquidate, are used to dress up a simple statement and give an air of scientific impartiality to biased judgements. Adjectives like epoch-making, epic, historic, unforgettable, triumphant, age-old, inevitable, inexorable, veritable, are used to dignify the sordid process of international politics, while writing that aims at glorifying war usually takes on an archaic color, its characteristic words being: realm, throne, chariot, mailed fist, trident, sword, shield, buckler, banner, jackboot, clarion. Foreign words and expressions such as cul de sac, ancien regime, deus ex machina, mutatis mutandis, status quo, gleichschaltung, weltanschauung, are used to give an air of culture and elegance. Except for the useful abbreviations i.e., e.g., and etc., there is no real need for any of the hundreds of foreign phrases now current in the English language. Bad writers, and especially scientific, political, and sociological writers, are nearly always haunted by the notion that Latin or Greek words are grander than Saxon ones, and unnecessary words like expedite, ameliorate, predict, extraneous, deracinated, clandestine, subaqueous, and hundreds of others constantly gain ground from their Anglo-Saxon numbers.* The jargon peculiar to Marxist writing (hyena, hangman, cannibal, petty bourgeois, these gentry, lackey, flunkey, mad dog, White Guard, etc.) consists largely of words translated from Russian, German, or French; but the normal way of coining a new word is to use Latin or Greek root with the appropriate affix and, where necessary, the size formation. It is often easier to make up words of this kind (deregionalize, impermissible, extramarital, non-fragmentary and so forth) than to think up the English words that will cover one’s meaning. The result, in general, is an increase in slovenliness and vagueness.

Meaningless words. In certain kinds of writing, particularly in art criticism and literary criticism, it is normal to come across long passages which are almost completely lacking in meaning.† Words like romantic, plastic, values, human, dead, sentimental, natural, vitality, as used in art criticism, are strictly meaningless, in the sense that they not only do not point to any discoverable object, but are hardly ever expected to do so by the reader. When one critic writes, “The outstanding feature of X’s work is its living quality,” while another writes, “The immediately striking thing about X’s work is its peculiar deadness,” the reader accepts this as a simple difference opinion. If words like black and white were involved, instead of the jargon words dead and living, he would see at once that language was being used in an improper way. Many political words are similarly abused. The word Fascism has now no meaning except in so far as it signifies “something not desirable.” The words democracy, socialism, freedom, patriotic, realistic, justice have each of them several different meanings which cannot be reconciled with one another. In the case of a word like democracy, not only is there no agreed definition, but the attempt to make one is resisted from all sides. It is almost universally felt that when we call a country democratic we are praising it: consequently the defenders of every kind of regime claim that it is a democracy, and fear that they might have to stop using that word if it were tied down to any one meaning. Words of this kind are often used in a consciously dishonest way. That is, the person who uses them has his own private definition, but allows his hearer to think he means something quite different. Statements like Marshal Pétain was a true patriot, The Soviet press is the freest in the world, The Catholic Church is opposed to persecution, are almost always made with intent to deceive. Other words used in variable meanings, in most cases more or less dishonestly, are: class, totalitarian, science, progressive, reactionary, bourgeois, equality.

Now that I have made this catalogue of swindles and perversions, let me give another example of the kind of writing that they lead to. This time it must of its nature be an imaginary one. I am going to translate a passage of good English into modern English of the worst sort. Here is a well-known verse from Ecclesiastes:

I returned and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.

Here it is in modern English:

Objective considerations of contemporary phenomena compel the conclusion that success or failure in competitive activities exhibits no tendency to be commensurate with innate capacity, but that a considerable element of the unpredictable must invariably be taken into account.

This is a parody, but not a very gross one. Exhibit (3) above, for instance, contains several patches of the same kind of English. It will be seen that I have not made a full translation. The beginning and ending of the sentence follow the original meaning fairly closely, but in the middle the concrete illustrations — race, battle, bread — dissolve into the vague phrases “success or failure in competitive activities.” This had to be so, because no modern writer of the kind I am discussing — no one capable of using phrases like “objective considerations of contemporary phenomena” — would ever tabulate his thoughts in that precise and detailed way. The whole tendency of modern prose is away from concreteness. Now analyze these two sentences a little more closely. The first contains forty-nine words but only sixty syllables, and all its words are those of everyday life. The second contains thirty-eight words of ninety syllables: eighteen of those words are from Latin roots, and one from Greek. The first sentence contains six vivid images, and only one phrase (“time and chance”) that could be called vague. The second contains not a single fresh, arresting phrase, and in spite of its ninety syllables it gives only a shortened version of the meaning contained in the first. Yet without a doubt it is the second kind of sentence that is gaining ground in modern English. I do not want to exaggerate. This kind of writing is not yet universal, and outcrops of simplicity will occur here and there in the worst-written page. Still, if you or I were told to write a few lines on the uncertainty of human fortunes, we should probably come much nearer to my imaginary sentence than to the one from Ecclesiastes.

As I have tried to show, modern writing at its worst does not consist in picking out words for the sake of their meaning and inventing images in order to make the meaning clearer. It consists in gumming together long strips of words which have already been set in order by someone else, and making the results presentable by sheer humbug. The attraction of this way of writing is that it is easy. It is easier — even quicker, once you have the habit — to say In my opinion it is not an unjustifiable assumption that than to say I think. If you use ready-made phrases, you not only don’t have to hunt about for the words; you also don’t have to bother with the rhythms of your sentences since these phrases are generally so arranged as to be more or less euphonious. When you are composing in a hurry — when you are dictating to a stenographer, for instance, or making a public speech — it is natural to fall into a pretentious, Latinized style. Tags like a consideration which we should do well to bear in mind or a conclusion to which all of us would readily assent will save many a sentence from coming down with a bump. By using stale metaphors, similes, and idioms, you save much mental effort, at the cost of leaving your meaning vague, not only for your reader but for yourself. This is the significance of mixed metaphors. The sole aim of a metaphor is to call up a visual image. When these images clash — as in The Fascist octopus has sung its swan song, the jackboot is thrown into the melting pot — it can be taken as certain that the writer is not seeing a mental image of the objects he is naming; in other words he is not really thinking. Look again at the examples I gave at the beginning of this essay. Professor Laski (1) uses five negatives in fifty three words. One of these is superfluous, making nonsense of the whole passage, and in addition there is the slip — alien for akin — making further nonsense, and several avoidable pieces of clumsiness which increase the general vagueness. Professor Hogben (2) plays ducks and drakes with a battery which is able to write prescriptions, and, while disapproving of the everyday phrase put up with, is unwilling to look egregious up in the dictionary and see what it means; (3), if one takes an uncharitable attitude towards it, is simply meaningless: probably one could work out its intended meaning by reading the whole of the article in which it occurs. In (4), the writer knows more or less what he wants to say, but an accumulation of stale phrases chokes him like tea leaves blocking a sink. In (5), words and meaning have almost parted company. People who write in this manner usually have a general emotional meaning — they dislike one thing and want to express solidarity with another — but they are not interested in the detail of what they are saying. A scrupulous writer, in every sentence that he writes, will ask himself at least four questions, thus: 1. What am I trying to say? 2. What words will express it? 3. What image or idiom will make it clearer? 4. Is this image fresh enough to have an effect? And he will probably ask himself two more: 1. Could I put it more shortly? 2. Have I said anything that is avoidably ugly? But you are not obliged to go to all this trouble. You can shirk it by simply throwing your mind open and letting the ready-made phrases come crowding in. They will construct your sentences for you — even think your thoughts for you, to a certain extent — and at need they will perform the important service of partially concealing your meaning even from yourself. It is at this point that the special connection between politics and the debasement of language becomes clear.

In our time it is broadly true that political writing is bad writing. Where it is not true, it will generally be found that the writer is some kind of rebel, expressing his private opinions and not a “party line.” Orthodoxy, of whatever color, seems to demand a lifeless, imitative style. The political dialects to be found in pamphlets, leading articles, manifestoes, White papers and the speeches of undersecretaries do, of course, vary from party to party, but they are all alike in that one almost never finds in them a fresh, vivid, homemade turn of speech. When one watches some tired hack on the platform mechanically repeating the familiar phrases — bestial atrocities, iron heel, bloodstained tyranny, free peoples of the world, stand shoulder to shoulder — one often has a curious feeling that one is not watching a live human being but some kind of dummy: a feeling which suddenly becomes stronger at moments when the light catches the speaker’s spectacles and turns them into blank discs which seem to have no eyes behind them. And this is not altogether fanciful. A speaker who uses that kind of phraseology has gone some distance toward turning himself into a machine. The appropriate noises are coming out of his larynx, but his brain is not involved as it would be if he were choosing his words for himself. If the speech he is making is one that he is accustomed to make over and over again, he may be almost unconscious of what he is saying, as one is when one utters the responses in church. And this reduced state of consciousness, if not indispensable, is at any rate favorable to political conformity.

In our time, political speech and writing are largely the defense of the indefensible. Things like the continuance of British rule in India, the Russian purges and deportations, the dropping of the atom bombs on Japan, can indeed be defended, but only by arguments which are too brutal for most people to face, and which do not square with the professed aims of the political parties. Thus political language has to consist largely of euphemism., question-begging and sheer cloudy vagueness. Defenseless villages are bombarded from the air, the inhabitants driven out into the countryside, the cattle machine-gunned, the huts set on fire with incendiary bullets: this is called pacification. Millions of peasants are robbed of their farms and sent trudging along the roads with no more than they can carry: this is called transfer of population or rectification of frontiers. People are imprisoned for years without trial, or shot in the back of the neck or sent to die of scurvy in Arctic lumber camps: this is called elimination of unreliable elements. Such phraseology is needed if one wants to name things without calling up mental pictures of them. Consider for instance some comfortable English professor defending Russian totalitarianism. He cannot say outright, “I believe in killing off your opponents when you can get good results by doing so.” Probably, therefore, he will say something like this:

“While freely conceding that the Soviet regime exhibits certain features which the humanitarian may be inclined to deplore, we must, I think, agree that a certain curtailment of the right to political opposition is an unavoidable concomitant of transitional periods, and that the rigors which the Russian people have been called upon to undergo have been amply justified in the sphere of concrete achievement.”

The inflated style itself is a kind of euphemism. A mass of Latin words falls upon the facts like soft snow, blurring the outline and covering up all the details. The great enemy of clear language is insincerity. When there is a gap between one’s real and one’s declared aims, one turns as it were instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish spurting out ink. In our age there is no such thing as “keeping out of politics.” All issues are political issues, and politics itself is a mass of lies, evasions, folly, hatred, and schizophrenia. When the general atmosphere is bad, language must suffer. I should expect to find — this is a guess which I have not sufficient knowledge to verify — that the German, Russian and Italian languages have all deteriorated in the last ten or fifteen years, as a result of dictatorship.

But if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought. A bad usage can spread by tradition and imitation even among people who should and do know better. The debased language that I have been discussing is in some ways very convenient. Phrases like a not unjustifiable assumption, leaves much to be desired, would serve no good purpose, a consideration which we should do well to bear in mind, are a continuous temptation, a packet of aspirins always at one’s elbow. Look back through this essay, and for certain you will find that I have again and again committed the very faults I am protesting against. By this morning’s post I have received a pamphlet dealing with conditions in Germany. The author tells me that he “felt impelled” to write it. I open it at random, and here is almost the first sentence I see: “[The Allies] have an opportunity not only of achieving a radical transformation of Germany’s social and political structure in such a way as to avoid a nationalistic reaction in Germany itself, but at the same time of laying the foundations of a co-operative and unified Europe.” You see, he “feels impelled” to write — feels, presumably, that he has something new to say — and yet his words, like cavalry horses answering the bugle, group themselves automatically into the familiar dreary pattern. This invasion of one’s mind by ready-made phrases (lay the foundations, achieve a radical transformation) can only be prevented if one is constantly on guard against them, and every such phrase anaesthetizes a portion of one’s brain.

I said earlier that the decadence of our language is probably curable. Those who deny this would argue, if they produced an argument at all, that language merely reflects existing social conditions, and that we cannot influence its development by any direct tinkering with words and constructions. So far as the general tone or spirit of a language goes, this may be true, but it is not true in detail. Silly words and expressions have often disappeared, not through any evolutionary process but owing to the conscious action of a minority. Two recent examples were explore every avenue and leave no stone unturned, which were killed by the jeers of a few journalists. There is a long list of flyblown metaphors which could similarly be got rid of if enough people would interest themselves in the job; and it should also be possible to laugh the not un- formation out of existence**, to reduce the amount of Latin and Greek in the average sentence, to drive out foreign phrases and strayed scientific words, and, in general, to make pretentiousness unfashionable. But all these are minor points. The defense of the English language implies more than this, and perhaps it is best to start by saying what it does not imply.

To begin with it has nothing to do with archaism, with the salvaging of obsolete words and turns of speech, or with the setting up of a “standard English” which must never be departed from. On the contrary, it is especially concerned with the scrapping of every word or idiom which has outworn its usefulness. It has nothing to do with correct grammar and syntax, which are of no importance so long as one makes one’s meaning clear, or with the avoidance of Americanisms, or with having what is called a “good prose style.” On the other hand, it is not concerned with fake simplicity and the attempt to make written English colloquial. Nor does it even imply in every case preferring the Saxon word to the Latin one, though it does imply using the fewest and shortest words that will cover one’s meaning. What is above all needed is to let the meaning choose the word, and not the other way around. In prose, the worst thing one can do with words is surrender to them. When you think of a concrete object, you think wordlessly, and then, if you want to describe the thing you have been visualizing you probably hunt about until you find the exact words that seem to fit it. When you think of something abstract you are more inclined to use words from the start, and unless you make a conscious effort to prevent it, the existing dialect will come rushing in and do the job for you, at the expense of blurring or even changing your meaning. Probably it is better to put off using words as long as possible and get one’s meaning as clear as one can through pictures and sensations. Afterward one can choose — not simply accept — the phrases that will best cover the meaning, and then switch round and decide what impressions one’s words are likely to make on another person. This last effort of the mind cuts out all stale or mixed images, all prefabricated phrases, needless repetitions, and humbug and vagueness generally. But one can often be in doubt about the effect of a word or a phrase, and one needs rules that one can rely on when instinct fails. I think the following rules will cover most cases:

(i) Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.

(ii) Never us a long word where a short one will do.

(iii) If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.

(iv) Never use the passive where you can use the active.

(v) Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.

(vi) Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.

These rules sound elementary, and so they are, but they demand a deep change of attitude in anyone who has grown used to writing in the style now fashionable. One could keep all of them and still write bad English, but one could not write the kind of stuff that I quoted in those five specimens at the beginning of this article.

I have not here been considering the literary use of language, but merely language as an instrument for expressing and not for concealing or preventing thought. Stuart Chase and others have come near to claiming that all abstract words are meaningless, and have used this as a pretext for advocating a kind of political quietism. Since you don’t know what Fascism is, how can you struggle against Fascism? One need not swallow such absurdities as this, but one ought to recognize that the present political chaos is connected with the decay of language, and that one can probably bring about some improvement by starting at the verbal end. If you simplify your English, you are freed from the worst follies of orthodoxy. You cannot speak any of the necessary dialects, and when you make a stupid remark its stupidity will be obvious, even to yourself. Political language — and with variations this is true of all political parties, from Conservatives to Anarchists — is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind. One cannot change this all in a moment, but one can at least change one’s own habits, and from time to time one can even, if one jeers loudly enough, send some worn-out and useless phrase — some jackboot, Achilles’ heel, hotbed, melting pot, acid test, veritable inferno, or other lump of verbal refuse — into the dustbin, where it belongs.

*An interesting illustration of this is the way in which English flower names were in use till very recently are being ousted by Greek ones, Snapdragon becoming antirrhinum, forget-me-not becoming myosotis, etc. It is hard to see any practical reason for this change of fashion: it is probably due to an instinctive turning away from the more homely word and a vague feeling that the Greek word is scientific.

† Example: Comfort’s catholicity of perception and image, strangely Whitmanesque in range, almost the exact opposite in aesthetic compulsion, continues to evoke that trembling atmospheric accumulative hinting at a cruel, an inexorably serene timelessness…Wrey Gardiner scores by aiming at simple bull’s-eyes with precision. Only they are not so simple, and through this contented sadness runs more than the surface bittersweet of resignation.” (Poetry Quarterly)

**One can cure oneself of the not un- formation by memorizing this sentence: A not unblack dog was chasing a not unsmall rabbit across a not ungreen field.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Exercise for People Over 50

Begin by standing on a comfortable surface where you have plenty of room at each side. With a five-pound potato sack in each hand, extend your arms straight out from your sides and hold them there as long as you can. Try to reach a full minute and then relax. Each day, you’ll find that you can hold this position for just a bit longer.

After a couple of weeks, move up to 10-pound potato sacks. Then try 50-pound potato sacks. And then eventually try to get to where you can lift a 100-pound potato sack in each hand and hold your arms straight for more than a full minute. I’m at this level.

After you feel confident at that level, put few potatoes in each of the sacks.

[Submitted by Faliero]

Monday, August 13, 2007

Congressional hearings are required to ask why CDC officials do not stop water fluoridation based on fresh data pointing to fluoridation’s serious adverse health effects

Medical Professional Urges Ban on Water Fluoridation

Old Bethpage, New York, Aug. 13, 2007 — More than 600 physicians, dentists, scientists and environmentalists have urged Congress to stop water fluoridation until Congressional hearings are conducted, in a statement released Aug. 9, 2007. They cite new scientific evidence that fluoridation, long promoted to fight tooth decay, is ineffective and has serious health risks.

Signers include a Nobel Prize winner, three members of the prestigious 2006 National Research Council (NRC) panel that reported on fluoride’s toxicology, two officers in the Union representing professionals at EPA headquarters, the president of the International Society of Doctors for the Environment and hundreds of medical, dental, academic, scientific and environmental professionals, worldwide.

Signer Dr. Arvid Carlsson, winner of the 2000 Nobel Prize for Medicine, said, “Fluoridation is against all principles of modern pharmacology. It’s really obsolete.”

Paul Connett, PhD, Executive Director of the Fluoride Action Network (FAN), announced that an Online Action Petition to Congress in support of the Professionals’ Statement will soon be available at FAN’s web site

“The NRC report dramatically changed scientific understanding of fluoride’s health risks,” Connett said. “Government officials who continue to promote fluoridation must testify under oath as to why they are ignoring the powerful evidence of harm in the NRC report,” he added.

An Assistant NY State Attorney General has called the report “the most up-to-date expert authority on the health effects of fluoride exposure.”

The professionals’ statement also references:

  • The new American Dental Association policy recommending infant formula NOT be prepared with fluoridated water.

  • The CDC’s concession that the predominant benefit of fluoride is topical not systemic

  • CDC data showing that dental fluorosis, caused by fluoride over-exposure, now impacts one third of American children

  • Major research indicating little difference in decay rates between fluoridated and non-fluoridated communities

  • A Harvard study indicating a possible link between fluoridation and bone cancer

  • The silicofluoride chemicals used for fluoridation are contaminated industrial waste and have never been FDA-approved for human ingestion.

  • The Environmental Working Group (EWG), a DC watchdog, revealed that a Harvard professor concealed the fluoridation/bone cancer connection for three years. EWG President Ken Cook states, “It is time for the US to recognize that fluoridation has serious risks that far outweigh any minor benefits, and unlike many other environmental issues, it’s as easy to end as turning off a valve at the water plant.”

    ©2007 Newswire Today

    The Indisputable Case Against Water Fluoridation

    Friday, July 27, 2007

    Septimus, what are super powers?
    Shakespearean actor Matt Biedel stars as caped crusader "Darko the Nightwatchman" in this very funny short film.

    Monday, July 16, 2007

    I’m Not Inspired by the Starfish Model

    If I’m told this starfish story one more time by some overstuffed bureaucrat at a self-congratulatory banquet, I shall probably puke into my shrimp cocktail. It goes like this:

    Millions of starfish washed up on the beach, putting their lives in grave danger. A young girl made her way along the sand, picking up one starfish at a time and tossing it back into the sea. An older gentleman watched this laborious activity for a while before finally saying to the girl, “You’ll never save them all. You can’t make a difference.”

    The girl slowed her pace for a moment and then held up the starfish she had in her hand. “I will to this one,” she said before casting it back into the waves.

    The starfish story was a great favorite of Ed Brand when he was superintendent of California’s largest high-school district. He liked the story so much, he used to hand out little glass starfish awards at an annual starfish luncheon held at the San Diego Country Club.

    The food was excellent. But the story left a sour taste in my mouth. We’re talking about publicly funded education here. But, in the starfish story, only the occasional random individual gets saved. I have step children in the California school system. Brand's vision seemed to offer them some bleak prospects.

    And I even heard the same “inspirational story” told by an official of the teachers union at an event held in a fancy hotel in Hollywood.

    I was tucking into delicious bacon and eggs when I head that only one starfish in millions can expect a difference. Even when told from the point of view of a labor official speaking to professionals who work every day in California classrooms, the message was presented as a hopeful one: that only a few individuals, selected at random from millions, will get a chance to survive certain destruction on the dry beach of ignorance.

    Nobody stood up and heckled. The audience had heard the story so often, most didn’t pause in their private conversations to even listen to the speaker. I hope they weren’t all so jaded they couldn’t imagine a way this corny story could be rewritten so that the students in their care are not to be abandoned in a regrettable but inevitable ecological disaster.

    American’s a young country. The state of California is wealthier than most nations. There’s still time for little girl and the old man to get on their cell phones and call somebody who could, I don’t know… bulldoze, or fire hose, all the starfish back into the waves? ...with no starfish left behind?

    Wouldn’t a rewrite along those lines be a more practical and ethical use of public funds?

    © Michael C. Burgess 2007

    Thursday, July 12, 2007

    Authors@Google: George Lakoff

    Author George Lakoff discusses his book "Whose Freedom?: The Battle over America's Most Important Idea" as a part of the Authors@Google series. This event took place Thursday, July 12, 2007 at Google headquarters in Mountain View, CA.

    John “Digger” Gardiner (1936 – 2007)

    The playwright and director John Gardiner died July 2, after a long and courageous fight against cancer. To many he will be remembered as the dynamic artistic director who lifted the Bancroft Players from the doldrums in the early 1970s and was its most inspiring producer until his departure in 1988 to found Hertfordshire Theatre School. As with so many of his shows there was ‘standing room only’ at John’s funeral at St Mary’s Church, Hitchin, on Monday July 23. Bancroft Players chairman Richard Whitmore, was one of those who spoke at the service. Here is the text of his eulogy:

    Those of us paying tribute to John today can provide only glimpses of the extraordinary achievements of our friend who, over 40 years, inspired literally hundreds of pupils, actors and sportsmen to reach heights of achievement that they had probably only ever dreamed of. Today, first and foremost, our hearts, our love and our sympathy are with Barbie and her family. But they want this farewell to be as much a celebration of John’s life as the mourning of his passing. And, as so much of that life involved laughter, when the opportunity presents itself, let it be so even today.

    John was the biggest single influence on theatre in North Hertfordshire in our lifetime. Amateur drama enthusiasts of my generation first got to know him in 1966 not long after he had come to take up a teaching post at Hitchin Grammar School. He’d offered to stage a show for Carnival Week in aid of the hospital. He picked a team of 12 of us from local theatre groups and called the company ‘The Externals.’ The blatantly camp humour in some of his sketches and songs was new to dear old Hitchin and seemed terribly risqué at the time. Our audiences loved it, but when they flocked back for more the following year they were in for a shock.

    John had decided that we should become the first amateur group to stage Joan Littlewood’s amazing Oh What a Lovely War. Despite his own unforgettable performance as the Drill Sergeant (surely the funniest 10 minutes ever witnessed on the Town Hall stage) people were upset by the powerful anti-war theme, with protest songs sung to the tunes of much-loved hymns. Some of the audience walked out; others later rose to deliver a standing ovation; leaving us quietly satisfied that we had made our point. I doubt anyone in the cast has forgotten the first rehearsal; when we sat spellbound by a Gardiner lecture that – for the first time for most of us — put the hideous folly of The Great War in its true perspective.

    From that evening on, John had our undivided attention. The show was a sign of great things to come. It was also our first experience of what I would call ‘proper’ acting, when we found ourselves not just performing lines but (almost oblivious of the audience) becoming totally absorbed in the event we were portraying. From then on, any show ‘directed by John Gardiner’ meant good box office; over eight years, his Carnival Week productions raised thousands of pounds for Hitchin’s hospitals.

    When the Externals disbanded in 1973, the Bancroft Players were going through a difficult patch. Work and retirement had taken their four leading directors to other parts of the country. It was John who saved the day by agreeing to become our artistic director. As Kirk Foster said in his tribute in The Comet: ‘John lifted the players from an ordinary amateur society to one of such standing and reputation that they were capable of raising funds to build the prestigious Queen Mother Theatre.’

    Not only was John a highly innovative director, he had an extraordinary knack of drawing remarkable performances from the most unlikely people. We saw it in ‘The Crucible’ and ‘Judgement at Nuremburg’ – plays then rarely performed by amateurs – and staged in our tiny theatre at St Anne’s Hall by a cast that sometimes outnumbered its audience.

    At the Town Hall, he broke the mould by staging major productions ‘in the round.’ With his production of Julius Caesar we first began to appreciate his great knowledge and love of Shakespeare. Later came National Health and the pastoral Larkrise to Candleford when he created magical scenes of harvesting farm workers and lured the audience into leaving their seats to join in a joyful dance to celebrate ‘Harvest Home’.

    The following year the Town Hall became a sweltering jungle in the Far East for Sergeant Mitchum’s platoon in The Long and The Short and The Tall. When Ron Decent, the actor playing Mitchum, fell ill just before opening night John took over the role. No-one would have guessed he was standing in at the last minute. A few years later (at the vulnerable age of 50 when he should have known better) he stood in for an injured Keith Swainston and submitted himself to being hurled round a wrestling ring by a fearsome female wrestler (Sue Mason) in Trafford Tanzi. The Players also had the privilege of staging world premieres of musicals that John wrote with his associate Andrew Parr. Big Al – the life story of Al Capone — and RockaSocka a spoof on world cup football.

    Rehearsing one of his new shows was, as they say, ‘an experience.’ The script arrived a bit at a time on hurriedly typed pages. For a while, we were puzzled by the significance of the date 1811 that appeared regularly on every page. Then it dawned on us that ‘1811’ should have been ‘I’ll’ – the shift key on John’s old Underwood typewriter had given up the ghost. When he’d thought up his latest song, John would call his MD down to rehearsal half an hour ahead of the cast and ‘la-la’ the tune. The MD would then have 20 minutes to knock it into shape. The cast appeared at 7:30 and learned the song, which John then choreographed. By 10 p.m. it was blocked and in the bag — and time to head for the Coopers Arms.

    But it wasn’t just John’s shows that strengthened our society. There were the brilliant social events, workshops, visiting speakers, film shows. The annual highlight – always over-subscribed — was The Bancroft Players Dirty Weekend. Heaven knows what the residents of Brighton and Bognor thought when we ‘hit town’ proudly flashing our Dirty Weekend badges. In fact, it was all very innocent (more or less) usually involving a theatre visit, a trip round a stately home and mad games and competitions that only occasionally disrupted the sedate life of the hotel where we were staying.

    As our artistic director, John was the first to bring top West End artistes to the Queen Mother Theatre. Prunella Scales as the young Queen Victoria, Alec McCowen as Kipling. John spotted Fascinating Aida at the Edinburgh Fringe when they were still unknown and booked them for our next season for £150. By the time they came, TV had made them a household name commanding £1,500 a show, but they made their agent honour the original unwritten agreement struck in an Edinburgh bar with John.

    Our biggest fear was that it would only be a matter of time before JG was lured to London by some lucrative offer from a production company or broadcasting organisation. There, without doubt, he could have earned a fortune. But he chose to stay among us to pursue his prolific career as a playwright and director. Ever busy, but always available to give us his wisdom and his time. How lucky we were — how many of us here today are the richer for it.

    John’s last public performance was in April, when he proposed the toast at our Golden Wedding lunch. Conscious of his fast-deteriorating health, Wendy and I told him we’d quite understand if he didn’t feel up to it. We should have known better. After keeping us reassured with e-mails signed endearingly ‘Tiny Todger of Tilehouse Street,’ he was, of course, a storming success. As always, unable to resist the chance of blending sincerity with a whiff of outrageous scandal:

    “Throughout Richard’s time at the BBC,” he said, “Wendy was always there to give support. Even late in his career when he left the Corporation amid some gossip that Graham Norton was, in fact, Richard and Angela Rippon’s love child.”

    Yes. We shall miss him! Thanks, old friend, for everything.

    See "John Gardiner remembered"
    Copyright © 2007 The Bancroft Players