Archive for the ‘Comedy’ Category

Sturgeon’s Not Responsible for Kids Queuing for Soup: The Tories Are

January 27, 2023

That Preston Journalist, whose real name, I am assured by the great people who comment here, is Ashley Kaminski, put up a genuinely heart-breaking video last night. People had been queuing outside a soup kitchen in Glasgow. Among the adults were ten children, including a babe in arms. Kaminski thought that this was terrible, as he should. He’s an avowed opponent of Nicola Sturgeon and all her works, dubbing her ‘McKrankie’ after her supposed resemblance to one half of a double act back in the 1980s. From the tone of his piece, he clearly wanted to blame her, but couldn’t quite. It was wrong, he said, whoever was responsible.

Okay, I don’t know what powers the devolved Scots parliament has, especially regarding welfare policies. I am sure that many Scots voted SNP, not because they wanted independence, but simply because they wanted a proper welfare state, something that wasn’t being offered by Jim Murphy’s Scottish Labour party. But this scandalous situation has been around far longer than the SNP’s administration, and it afflicts communities right across Britain. In Scotland there was a parliamentary inquiry into food banks a few years ago. One of those speaking before the committee was a volunteer, who described the intensely dispiriting deprivation and poverty he saw as he did his job. And I can remember putting up a 19th-early 20th century poem about children queuing outside a food kitchen. It’s disgusting that Britain has returned to such levels of poverty.

But Krankie isn’t responsible. The Tories are. They’ve insisted on wages so low working families can’t make ends meet, and cut welfare payments again and again, all with mantra of encouraging ‘welfare scroungers’ to look for work, making work pay and all the other nonsense. They’ve also introduced benefit sanction after benefit sanction, all with the same intention. It also helps to fiddle the unemployment statistics, as if they’re off the DHSS’ books, they aren’t counted as unemployed.

It’s possible that Sturgeon’s policies aren’t helping the situation north of the border. But the ultimate blame lies with the Tories, and it started when Ruth Davidson, the head of the Conservatives up there, was in power. And Sturgeon definitely isn’t responsible for it down south in England and Wales.

The Tories are. It started under Cameron.

They’re starving children.

Get them out!

Morecambe and Wise as Tweety and Sylvester

January 14, 2023

Sufferin’ succotash! Here’s something that I hope will cheer you up this gloomy, Tory-ridden January. One of the funniest sketches I remember Morecambe and Wise doing was from their 1979 ITV Christmas show, in which they performed ‘Real Life Cartoons’, taking the parts of the Warner Brothers cartoon characters. It was so funny I fell out of my chair laughing. In this clip, from Garypleace’s channel on YouTube, the two comic giants take the parts of Tweety and Sylvester. Ernie is Tweety-Pie while Eric is Sylvester being blown up, shot and otherwise struck by the canary. All while singing, ‘I Tawt I Taw a Puddy Tat a-Cweeping up on Me’. Enjoy!

John Bird and John Fortune Skewer the Iraq Invasion: Yes, It Was All About Oil

January 10, 2023

The satirist and actor John Bird passed away just a week or so ago over Christmas. As well as appearing in the short-lived BBC comedy series Chambers and Absolute Power, he and John Fortune appeared on Bremner, Bird and Fortune on Channel 4 as ‘The Long Johns’, whose satirical dialogues expertly lampooned the rich and powerful. This had the same view Private Eye’s Ian Hislop stated on a radio 4 show some time ago, that satire should also have a serious intent and show what was really going on underneath the surface. It was incisive, witty stuff that revealed the reality behind the fine words uttered by politicians, businessmen and elite bankers to show the greed, double-standards and predatory exploitation underneath. Many of the dialogues had a simple formula. They took turns playing George Parr, who changed his profession to match the topic of the day. One week he could be a general, another an admiral, or a senior civil servant. Other characters included Washington diplomats and the dictator of an anonymous African country, who was happy to see his people mired in starvation and poverty so long as he could take the money from the Chinese building his nation’s infrastructure. The other John would play a journalist interviewing him. The questions would result in bizarre denials from the official, which would show the contradictions in the official’s story or decision and lead to them actually revealing the real reasons for the decision or policy in spite of themselves.

In this piece from 2007, posted on theDossier’s YouTube Channel, the two discuss the-then recent admission by Alan Greenspan, the head of the Federal Reserve in America, that it was embarrassing to have to admit it, but yes, the Iraq invasion really was all about oil. As everyone knew. The official denies that this was the case, pointing out that before the war Blair had passed a resolution stipulating that the oil reserves should stay in Iraqi hands. This was revoked a year later after the war, when Blair passed another resolution saying that the allies should have it for safekeeping or something. As a measure of generosity, the allies allowed the Iraqis to keep 17 oil wells out of a total of 80, and promised to give 20 per cent of the profits from their oil fields to the Iraqi government. Iraq nevertheless contains an extremely large proportion of the world’s oil, whose worth is in the trillions.

The former Guardian journo Greg Palast amply demonstrated in his book, Armed Madhouse, that the Iraq war was an attempt by the American and Saudi oil industries to seize the Iraqi oil fields and their wealth, as well as the Neo-Cons attempting to seize the country’s state industries for America and create the kind of low tax state founded on free trade they wished to see in America. The result was the absolute collapse of the Iraqi economy with soaring bankruptcies and unemployment. Not to mention the chaos and bloodshed caused by the war and the sectarian violence that followed it, and the unrestrained, murderous, Nazi criminality of the private military contractors – read: mercenaries – who were hired by the Americans as part of the peace-keeping forces.

This is political satire at it’s best, and some of the commenters on YouTube have compared Bird and Fortune with the superb BBC comedy, Yes, Minister, which is also still relevant even after all these decades. John Fortune died some years ago, and was much missed, as John Bird will be, for his part in these dialogues. You wonder what they’d have to say about Sunak and the present government. It, and it’s equally incompetent and corrupt predecessors, would have been excellent material for them to send up.

Mel Blanc Sketch and Loony Tunes Characters’ Songs

December 28, 2022

Good morning. I hope you’re having a great Christmas, or at least as good a Christmas as we can expect from a government determined to push more people into poverty for big corporate profits. Yesterday I did a sketch of Mel Blanc, the man who did the voices for Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, Yosemite Sam, Woody Woodpecker and the other crazy characters of the Warner Brothers cartoons. I always preferred them to Disney. They were funnier, but they were less sentimental and had more of an edge to them. Blanc also provided the voice for Twiki, Buck Rogers’ little robot friend in the 1980s series Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, but considering the low critical regard for that series, perhaps it’s best not mentioned. Blanc also released a record of him singing songs as the Warner Brothers’ characters talking about themselves. These are on the Mel Blanc – Topic channel on YouTube. Here are a few that appealed to me: ‘I’m Glad That I’m Bugs Bunny’, ‘Daffy Duck’s Rhapsody’, ‘Yosemite Sam’ and ‘I Taut I Taw A Puddy Tat’. According to the 80s children’s TV show about the Warner Brothers’ Cartoons, Film Fun, presented by Derek Griffiths, Blanc based Daffy Duck’s voice on that of one of the producers, Leon Schlesinger. He was down with the others trying out different voices for the Duck, all of which were turned down as not being quite right. He got fed up of this and so did Schlesinger’s voice. At that point Schlesinger walked in, said, ‘That’s it. That’s the one we want’, and then asked whose it was. I think Blanc must have replied that it was one he just made up. Anyway, the voice stuck, so when you are listening to Daffy Duck, you hearing the voice, or the parody of the voice, of one of Warner Brothers’ producers. Enjoy!

Blanc in the photos sports a pencil moustache, which makes him look a bit like Clarke Gable, though I’m not sure it comes out in the sketch. And the strange object he’s holding is meant to be carrot, I think, just in case anybody’s wondering.

Here are the songs.

‘I’m Glad That I’m Bugs Bunny’

‘Daffy Duck’s Rhapsody’

‘Yosemite Sam’

‘I Taut I Taw A Puddy Tat’

In one of their Christmas shows in the 1970s, Morecambe and Wise did a sketch, ‘Real Life’ cartoons, of them as the Warner Brothers characters. When it came to Tweetie and Sylvester, Tweetie was Ernie while Eric played the cat. I was only a young child at the time, but it was so hilarious I fell out of the chair laughing. Which shows not only how funny the Warner Brothers’ characters were, but also how Eric and Ernie were giants of British comedy. It says something about their immense talent that their shows are still being repeated. There was even one of their Christmas shows screened the other day, complete with its guest appearances from Flora Robson and the nice Mr. Preview.

Blanc died many years ago. Apparently his tombstone at the Hollywood cemetery has on it a Star of David – evidently he was Jewish – and the slogan at the end of the cartoons: ‘That’s all folks’. A great talent, whose voices and characters continue to bring joy and laughter even after all these years.

Cassetteboy’s Foul and Funny Satirical Assault on the Tories and the Christmas Charts

December 26, 2022

Okay, I said that as it was the Christmas season, I wanted to leave politics and post different, lighter material. But this latest video on YouTube from the audio satirists of Cassetteboy and the Kunts is far too good to ignore. And so I feel myself reacting to it a bit like Dave Allen on his Christmas show in the ’80s. The great Irish comedian said, ‘The producer said to me, “Dave, it’s Christmas, so leave religion out of it.”‘ He then looked at the audience, letting than sink in for a moment, before ending, ‘Well, I would, if I could….’ A few years ago there was a campaign to embarrass the Beeb by everyone playing Rage Against the Machine with their expletive-filled lyrics in order to get it to No. 1 at Christmas. The track would be far too strong for the Beeb, who wouldn’t want to play it but would be faced with the problem of not wanting to ignore it either. Something similar was going on in the minds of Cassetteboy when they put together this festive assault on the Tories and their wretched legacy of incompetence, poverty, mendacity and greed.

The song begins in a suitably seasonal way by singing about the 12 years of Tory rule like the 12 days of Christmas, and how terrible it has been for the country. It began with Dave Cameron, who introduced austerity, but party before country with this Brexit vote and then ‘shat the bed and ran away’. This continued with Tweezer, who couldn’t sort Brexit out despite her thin red lines, then Boris Johnson who lied to get himself elected and partied while everyone else was in lockdown. Then we get to Liz Truss, who killed the Queen before being given the heave-ho and finally Rishi Sunak. Along the way there are clips of other Tory ministers, edited to make them say how terrible they are, including Jacob Rees-Mogg. The refrain is ‘F*ck the Tories’. It ends with the message that the individual Prime Ministers may differ, but they’re all the same really.

The video came out a week or so ago. I don’t think it’s got to No.1, but it’s crude, vulgar and entirely accurate. I hope it gives everyone a bit of fun during this ‘orrible Winter of Discontent.

Anti-Trans Activist Kelly-Jay Keen Standing for Women against Keir Starmer at the Next Election

December 17, 2022

A week or so ago Kelly-Jay Keen announced that she intends to stand as a candidate under her ‘Standing for Women’ banner against Keir Starmer at the next election. She had originally said that she would stand against Eddie Izzard if the Labour party selected him as their candidate in Sheffield. Keen is unhappy with drag, viewing as ‘womanface’ comparable to Blackface as an expression of prejudice and hostility towards those it caricatures. She did, however, like Izzard. She admired him as a comedian and had absolutely no problem with him when he identified as a transvestite. She turned against him when he announced that he had gone into ‘girl mode’ and was now a woman, despite being biologically male. She was particularly not impressed with Izzard running a marathon in fake boobs. Izzard lost the selection battle, the winning candidate being someone with a very Muslim name. One of the candidates Izzard was up against was a local, Asian woman, who had been a charity worker as well as a long term activist in the Labour party. It was natural that Sheffield Labour party would chose a local person, who had been active in the constituency for years, rather than an outsider. I don’t think the Asian lady was the successful candidate, but I’m sure the same reasons applied. I think there’s an element of deliberately sticking two fingers up to Starmer in this, as I’ve got a feeling that Izzard was Starmer’s preferred candidate. Now that Izzard is out of the running, Keen is going after Starmer, especially because many women feel betrayed with the Labour party over the trans issue.

Starmer has stated that the Labour party is fully for the trans rights campaign. I got an email from deputy head Angela Rayner and the head of LGBT Labour that if the Labour party was elected, they would outlaw all conversion therapies. This set alarm bells ringing in me. As Gay anti-trans activists like EDIjester and Clive Simpson have pointed out, the sadistic, inhumane and barbarous pseudo-medical practices used to try to turn gay people straight are illegal today. There’s simply no need for it. Modern conversion therapy involves psychiatric or religious counselling, which is voluntary. From American examples, and a brief story about one such in-patient centre in Wales in the ‘In the Back’ column in Private Eye some time ago, this can still be extremely unpleasant, and I don’t blame anyone for wanting to have this treatment very carefully monitored and legislated for.

But the ban on conversion therapy brings its own, anti-gay dangers. The Labour party also wishes to ban conversion therapy for transgender people. This could mean that they desire only the affirmative care model to be used in the treatment of transgender people. This mandates that someone going to the therapist believing that they are in the wrong sexed body should be affirmed in their gender identity and consequently set on a path to transition, complete with puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones and finally surgery. Gender transition may be appropriate for some, but it is grossly inappropriate for others. There are issues with the mentally ill and autistic children being incorrectly diagnosed as transgender. Gender-critical gays have also argued that it is being used by homophobic parents to ‘trans the gay away’. This is based on the very high number of gender non-conforming children being brought to the Tavistock centre, who, if left on their own, would probably grow up gay but with a stable personality and identifying with their biological sex.

Keen is particularly concerned with the way the gender ideology is detrimentally affecting women’s sex-based rights. Trans rights activists demand transwomen be identified as real women and so have access to all female-only spaces. This has meant that in Scotland and California violent, biological men have been incarcerated in women’s prisons because they have declared themselves to be trans. The American anti-trans lesbian activist, Arielle Scarcella, recently put up a post about a report in the Scottish Daily Record that most of the men, who were transferred to female prisons claiming they were transgender, made minimal effort to behave in a feminine way and went back to being blokes after they were released. If this is true, then they were obviously lying to get out of being sent to the much tougher male prisons. She also posted about the problem of violent, sexual predators being put in women’s prisons because they identify as female. These are men guilty of rape and child abuse. One of the most notorious of these was 6′ 3” and guilty of assaulting a 12 year old girl in a ladies’ loo. She escaped by whacking him in the happy sacks and running away. These men, it has been alleged, have deliberately arranged to enter women’s prisons so they can terrorise the women there. I’ve no doubt this is true, not because they are trans, but because they are sadistic rapists and predators. They should not be imprisoned with women, or at least, not the general population.

There are similar problems with toilets and changing rooms in schools and sports facilities. In sport particularly, born women feel that they are being robbed of victories and opportunities by men like Lia Thomas, who seem to have opportunistically changed their gender. There are also related issues of dignity and care in medicine, with women being denied treatment by members of their own sex because of the ideology. And so on. Women are particularly vulnerable to the spread of the ideology and the feeling that they are really trans. For many activists and medical personnel critical of the ideology, it’s a psychological contagion like the spread of anorexia and eating disorders in the 1970s. In America, girls as young as 12 have had mastectomies. Some of those, who have transitioned have no come to feel it was wrong, and are detransitioning. Their stories are heartbreaking. One Dutch male detransitioner, who had been left with severe bowel and bladder problems following surgical transition, put up a tearful video last week announcing he was going for medical euthanasia as he could no longer live with these problems.

This is also not an organic movement. It is not grassroots, despite what trans activists claim. It is funded and promoted by big business and particularly the pharmaceutical companies producing the drugs. It is also extremely lucrative for those clinics providing the treatment. And some of the lobby groups in America promoting the ideology have received extensive funding from freedom of speech groups, who in turn are funded by the pornography industry.

This is a movement that demands very close scrutiny, if not to be actively fought. There are gay and trans people actively critiquing and opposing it, like Gays Against Groomers and Trans Against Groomers. But the mainstream gay organisations like Stonewall are actively promoting it, to the exclusion of gay interests. There have been complaints from the gay community that when a delegation was put together for some kind of mission to promote gay rights, it was composed entirely of gay men and transwomen. Lesbians were not represented, despite having suffered the same prejudice and persecution as gay men.

But the Labour party is captured. My local branch in Bristol passed a motion censuring the initial judgement in favour of Keira Bell, which ruled that this young woman had been misled and so damaged through medical treatment involving puberty blockers. The LGBT officer blandly stated that puberty blockers were safe and completely reversible. This has been revealed as untrue. I opposed the motion, and was thanked by some of the women afterwards for doing so, but the motion was passed. Militant trans activists spoke at the Labour party conference. The LGB Alliance, which was formed especially to fight for the rights of gay people against the trans ideology, was denied a place when they applied.

Starmer has said he will back trans rights, and made a public fool of himself by running away from questions about the fundamental nature of womanhood. When asked if women had cervixes, he refused to answer the question and said it was one that shouldn’t be asked. He has also apparently stated that if Labour gets in, legislation will be passed demanding the use of trans people’s preferred pronouns. This is the issue that catapulted conservative ideologue Jordan Peterson into the public limelight. When that legislation was being mooted in Canada – I think it may even have been passed – Peterson stated that he would defy the law. He also made it clear that if a student in his class was transgender, he would of course do them the courtesy of using their preferred pronouns.

Keen does not expect to win, but she intends to use the opportunity to raise questions and promote her cause, not just against Starmer but all politicians supporting the trans ideology. She has had a problem with advertising in the past. When she paid for a billboard in Liverpool to show the dictionary definition of woman as ‘adult human female’, which is the common sense definition, the local council banned it as hate speech. But if she registers as a political candidate, it will be impossible for councils to do this as censuring free speech and political debate.

I don’t think she’ll win, as she herself admits. The election is still some way off yet, and she intends to do more foreign tours to places like Canada, Australia and New Zealand first. But it should make for a very interesting election.

Here’s the video in which she announces her intention to stand against Starmer

Sketch of Legendary Blue Peter Presenter, John Noakes and Shep

December 6, 2022

Here’s a sketch of another one of my favourite children’s TV presenters. In this case, it’s John Noakes and his friend, Shep. Noakes and Shep are best known from Blue Peter, where they appeared with Peter Purvis and Lesley Judd, as well as Valerie Singleton. During his time on the programme, Noakes did some daring stunts, like skydiving and climbing up Nelson’s column to give it a clean. The top part of the column projects out, so at one point he’s climbing up the ladder as it is inclined away from the monument. They showed a clip of him doing this a few years ago, and it’s one of those pieces of television you can hardly watch, as you can all too clearly imagine him falling to his death a hundred-odd feet below. Fortunately, he didn’t, and clearly had nerves of steel. But if something could go wrong in the studio, it would happen to Noakes as the incident with the elephant showed. That was an edition in which they brought a baby elephant into the studio. This pachyderm had a mind of her own, and although not an adult it was definitely a bit too strong for its keeper. Instead of him leading it, at various points it was dragging him along as he held on tight to its lead. It relieved its bladder and bowels on the floor, someone stepped in it, and it trod on Noake’s foot. This has become something of a highlight in broadcasting history, and every so often it gets trotted out and shown on some of the shows devoted to great disasters and mistakes on television.

Shep was Noake’s inseparable friend. So inseparable, in fact, that the Barron Knights wrote a song about the two and how Noakes could never get away from him. It had lines like ‘John could never be alone no matter where he went. For Shep would have a sniff around and soon work out his scent.’ The song had Noakes standing on the top of the Eiffel Tower and other locations that were hard to get to and finding that Shep was up there with him.

But Noakes’s popularity with the viewers was such that he couldn’t be confined to one show. He was given his own, called Go With Noakes. Noakes came from Halifax, and so the title music was ‘On Ilkley Moore by Tat’. Each week he would visit a different historic location. At one point, I think, he was walking the ancient Fosse Way. He also visited similar locations on Blue Peter, once visiting the potteries in Staffordshire. This was described in a chapter in that year’s Blue Peter Annual entitled ‘I Was a Sagger-Maker’s Bottom-Knocker’, after one of the specialised workers in the kilns.

Both Noakes and Shep are, sadly, no longer with us but they’re still remembered as two of the superstars of children’s television, bringing adventure and a touch of comedy on to the TV screen.

Here’s the opening theme, which I found on Louish Waltz’s channel on YouTube, with stills from the series.

And this is the incident with Lulu the elephant, first broadcast in 1969, from Tony Thompson’s YouTube channel.

Violent Trans Rights Activism and Nazi Transvestism

December 6, 2022

Before I go further, this post is very definitely not aimed at trans people in general. As I’ve said many times on previous occasions, I condemn persecution against people because of their sexuality or gender expression. I don’t doubt that most ordinary trans people just want to get on with their lives in peace. And I am acutely aware of the danger of stirring up prejudice and hatred against sexual minorities. This post is not against them, but against the militant and violent trans rights activists, many of whom aren’t trans, who hurl accusations of fascism against gender critical feminists and their supporters and threaten violence.

Unfortunately, there have been numerous violent and threatening incidents by trans activists. There have been incidents in Spain where feminist protesters have been assaulted and knocked to the ground. This also happened in Britain to Maria MacLachlan of the Peak Trans blog, who was then prosecuted by her attacker for hate speech. The veteran gay rights activist Fred Sargeant was also assaulted and knocked to the ground because of gender critical banners he was carrying at a Pride march in America. A feminist demonstration in Spain was met with such menacing opposition by trans activists that the police ordered the women to go home as they could not protect them. There have also been ugly scenes at Kelly-Jay Keen’s rallies in Britain, including Manchester, where a woman was pushed over a low wall, Bristol and Brighton. At that event, trans activists let off smoke bombs, accused an innocent father of being a fascist and raising a baby fascist, and one was arrested with a bag of 12 knives. Katherine Holdstock, a gender critical feminist, was threatened at her university with a baying mob throwing smoke bombs around.

Many trans activists really do believe that ‘TERFs’ are fascists. I’ve reblogged a video from Peak Trans, in which she discusses this assertion and utterly refutes. No gender critical feminist, as far as I am aware, has ever recommended persecuting trans people, putting them into concentration camps or murdering and experimenting on them like the Nazis did to gay men and women, some of whom would probably today be considered trans, during the Third Reich. But still the accusation keeps being made. MacLachlan filmed her trip to Bristol to hear K-J K speak. At one instant, just as she was leaving, there was a young man solemnly telling the crowd that TERFs were fascists and that their Nazi persecution would start with trans people before being expanded to cover gays and other despised minorities. And yesterday the accusation surfaced once again that gender critical feminists were part of the far right.

It’s a dangerous assertion for trans activists to use. Not just because it’s wrong, but also because it can very easily be turned around against them. They are the people preaching violence and intolerance against their enemies, who refuse even to let their arguments be heard because somehow this makes them unsafe and constitutes violence. But also, because, historically, there was a very strong element of homosexuality and crossdressing within the Nazi party, despite the horrific persecution of gays. The German historian Ludwig Theweleit described this back in the 1980s or so in his book Male Fantasies. This includes passages on events such as the transvestite dances held by the German navy at their base in Kiel. And in 2018 Martin Dammann, another German historian, published a book Soldiers Studies: Crossdressing in the Wehrmacht, which discussed this peculiar phenomenon. The Daily Mail published a review of the book by Sarah Malm ‘His and Herrs: Photos reveal how cross-dressing Nazis loved to wear women’s clothes for fun during World War Two‘ in the 6th November 2018 edition. This began

Photographs show soldiers in the German Nazi Army dressing in women’s clothing

Some snaps show them putting on cross-dressing shows for each other while on the front line

Others see them mucking about in women’s underwear, and in some cases also make-up

A series of fascinating photographs showing how German Nazi soldiers would dress up in women’s clothing and put on cross-dressing shows on the front line, has been compiled in a new book.

Artist Martin Dammann had intended to research soldiers’ lives in the Third Reich, and ended up stumbling across a surprising number of amateur photographs of Nazi conscripts dressed as women.

They show Nazi soldiers in everything from bras and dresses to home-made crop-tops and skirts created from blankets. 

Cross dressing during times of war was not isolated to the German Nazis, and notably also took place during World War I. 

It is thought it served as a way to lighten the mood of soldier life, and to provide entertainment to tired and bored soldiers, a large majority of them heterosexual men starved of female company.’

The article was also illustrated by photos like the one below:

 

See: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-6357677/Photographs-line-German-Nazi-soldiers-dressing-womens-clothing.html

For Brits of a certain age, it’s all very like some of the weird antics of Herr Flick, Von Schmalhausen and Lt. Gruber of the German army in the long-running BBC comedy series ‘Allo, ‘Allo. One of the photos in the article even shows a group of soldiers with their little tank.

The trans militants also resemble fascists in other ways. There’s the superficial one of dress. They dress in ‘black bloc’, which has traditionally been the colour of fascism since the days of Mussolini and the black shirts. Their refusal to debate with their opponents and use of threats and violence instead follows the Futurist dictum that they supported ‘the punch, the slap, as the decisive argument.’ And the particular hostility directed to gender critical women recalls the Futurists’ advocacy of ‘scorn for woman’ in Marinetti’s Founding and Manifesto of the movement. This is very far from the attitude at a transvestite convention in Weston-Super-Mare during the 1980s. That event was covered in the Bristol Evening Post. At least of the attendees said that many men had terrible attitudes to women, which showed their sympathy and solidarity with the opposite sex.

Violence and intolerance from whatever quarter needs to be condemned. We need honest, reasonable debate, not shrill and baseless accusations. And fascistic behaviour can also come from trans activists, claiming to defend persecuted sexual minorities. This has to be condemned along with other forms of hatred and intolerance.

For further information, the Amazon page for the book is at: https://www.amazon.com/Soldier-Studies-Cross-Dressing-Martin-Damman/dp/3775744835

Sketch of Businessman and Comic Actor and Host Kenneth Horne

December 5, 2022

Here’s another sketch of one of my favourite comedy figures from the past, Kenneth Horne. Horne’s Wikipedia entry is rather long, but the potted biography with which it begins runs

Charles Kenneth Horne, generally known as Kenneth Horne, (27 February 1907 – 14 February 1969) was an English comedian and businessman. He is perhaps best remembered for his work on three BBC Radio series: Much-Binding-in-the-Marsh (1944–54), Beyond Our Ken (1958–64) and Round the Horne (1965–68).

The son of a clergyman who was also a politician, Horne had a burgeoning business career with Triplex Safety Glass, which was interrupted by service with the Royal Air Force during the Second World War. While serving in a barrage balloon unit, he was asked to broadcast as a quizmaster on the BBC radio show Ack-Ack, Beer-Beer. The experience brought him into contact with the more established entertainer Richard Murdoch, and the two wrote and starred in the comedy series Much-Binding-in-the-Marsh. After demobilisation Horne returned to his business career and kept his broadcasting as a sideline. His career in industry flourished, and he later became the chairman and managing director of toy manufacturers Chad Valley.

In 1958 Horne suffered a stroke and gave up his business dealings to focus on his entertainment work. He was the anchor figure in Beyond Our Ken, which also featured Kenneth Williams, Hugh Paddick, Betty Marsden and Bill Pertwee. When the programme came to an end in 1964, the same cast recorded four series of the comedy Round the Horne.

Before the planned fifth series of Round the Horne began recording, Horne died of a heart attack while hosting the annual Guild of Television Producers’ and Directors’ Awards; Round the Horne could not continue without him and was withdrawn. The series has been regularly re-broadcast since his death. A 2002 BBC radio survey to find listeners’ favourite British comedian placed Horne third, behind Tony Hancock and Spike Milligan.’

See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kenneth_Horne

I came across Beyond Our Ken and Round the Horne when the Beeb repeated them on the Sunday midday slot, Smash of the Day, in the early 1980s, and it’s been one of my favourite radio shows since. It had a bizarre cast of characters, such as the folk singer Ramblin’ Sid Rumpo and his ganderbag, J. Peasemold Gruntfuttock, a breathy bloke who was supposedly always writing into the programme. Gruntfuttock had strange delusions, at one point declaring himself ‘Dictator Gruntfuttock of Peasemoldia’, which was his house. Other characters included a deranged, demi-literate American film director, Daryl F. Claphanger, who had missed out on making blockbusters by producing films like Nanook of the South. The show also spoofed contemporary radio, television and films. There was the ‘Kenneth Horne Theatre of Mystery and Suspense’ while the Fu Manchu films were sent up in the tales of the crazy plots of Dr Chu-En Ginsberg, M.A., (failed). But most memorable of all was the ‘Trends’ feature with Julian and Sandy, who ran ‘Bona – ‘ whatever the subject was that day. The two were extremely camp and spoke in Polari, a language used by the gay community. Each edition, Horne would go to their new shop or business venture to inquire about their business. They’d greet him in raptures with cries of ‘Oh, Mr Horne! How bona it is to barda your dolly old eke again! Bona! Bona!’ Which, translated means, ‘How good it is to see your old face again.’ Polari wasn’t just used by gay men. It was also the language of actors and carnival showmen, according to Partridge’s Dictionary of Historical Slang. It’s used as such by an alien showman, who attempts to speak to Jon Pertwee’s Doctor in it, in the Dr Who serial ‘Carnival of Monsters’. You could, therefore, see them as just two resting actors being very ‘theatrical’. In fact, it was very clear they were gay, and at times the programme almost told you, if you understand Polari. Ramblin’ Sid in the preface to one of his songs said that its hero was ‘an omee palone’. Omee means man, palone, woman. Omee palone, ‘man woman’, meant gay man. This must have been quite edgy humour for the time, as when the shows were broadcast homosexuality was still illegal. On one TV show looking back at the comedy shows of the past, one of the talking heads said that the older generation were always suspicious of it, and especially of what was being said in Polari. And no doubt with good reason. Previously the BBC had forbidden jokes about the religion, the monarchy, disability, the colour question and effeminacy in men. Times were changing in the 1960s and so all these prohibitions were eventually discarded.

Julian and Sandy, played by Kenneth Williams and Hugh Paddick, were immensely popular. If you go on YouTube, you’ll find a number of videos of them, and they made two records, Round the Horne: The Complete Julian and Sandy, and The Bona World of Julian and Sandy. Long after the series had been originally broadcast, the two characters, played by Williams and Paddick, appeared on Terry Wogan in the 1980s. I did wonder if the two were now hated by the gay community as malign stereotypes, in the same way that John Inman’s Mr Humphries in Are You Being Served? was bitterly resented by American gays when that show was broadcast in San Francisco in the 1970s. But it seems it isn’t. A year or so ago London Transport or the London Underground celebrated gay pride by putting up posters of the Polari greeting around the city.

Horne himself was a genial host, who was himself the butt of the programme’s jokes. One such ran, ‘And now the question of the week is: what was I doing naked in Trafalgar fountain at such and such a time last weekend? Answers to my lawyers please.’ Williams had aspirations to perform in better or my highbrow material than the parts he got, but always respected Horne even if he was withering in his views of the programme itself.

The series also came from a time when it was still possible to write solely for the radio, or to start off on radio and move to television. Such writers have lamented that due to the rise of television and other media, this is no longer possible. Round the Horne and Beyond Our Ken are, as far as I know, all on CD, and there are a number of episodes on YouTube. In 2003 there was a play about the show, Round the Horne, Revisited, which is also on YouTube.

Sketch of Legendary Astronomy Author and Presenter Patrick Moore

December 3, 2022

Moore was for many years the face of astronomy on television in the UK, thanks to him presenting The Sky at Night from the 1950s almost to his death. He was known as much for his eccentric appearance as his subject, so there were plenty of jokes about him wearing the same rumpled suit down the decades. He was sent up on programmes from The Two Ronnies to Dead Ringers, who spoofed him as ‘Old Moore’, a fairground fortune teller. But he remained dedicated to his subject, publishing a plethora of popular books on the subject. This included a series of Sky at Night books, one of which I found in the school library when I was a lad, as well as editing the annual Yearbooks of Astronomy. He also collaborated with the amazing British space and science fiction artist David A. Hardy on books such as The Challenge of the Stars. He also wrote at least two books on Mars. I found one in the central library in Bristol in the 1980s. A decade later, during the excitement about the series of probes NASA and other countries were sending to the Red Planet, he published Patrick Moore on Mars. Its title invites all manner of jokes along the lines of ‘best place for him.’ He also wrote a series of children’s science fiction books about a boy space explorer, Scott Summers. These were hard SF based on the science of the time and what was expected to develop later. They’re now obviously very dated. In one of these, Wanderer in Space, Summers flew to intercept an antimatter asteroid that was threatening Earth aboard an ion driven rocket, clearly anticipating developments in such propulsion that haven’t materialised. Ion drives exist, but they aren’t being used for manned space missions. Another of these was about a human colony on Mars, living in a glass dome. This ends with the colonists looking forward to one day emerging and living free on its surface. This one has been superseded by Kim Stanley Robinson’s trilogy of books about the settlement and terraforming of Mars. As well as these books, he also contributed to a string of popular science and astronomy magazines like Astronomy Now, New Voyager and Focus.

I think he was one of those scientists, with Arthur C. Clarke, who worked on radar during the War but I’m not sure. He never had a formal qualification in astronomy but was always strictly amateur. He was, however, granted an amateur doctorate by one of the universities. I’m sure, however, that at the level he was active in astronomy he would have probably easily passed a university degree in the subject. His maps of the Moon were so good that they were used by NASA in selecting landing sites for the Apollo missions. He never married because his sweetheart was killed during the War in an air raid. In his personal politics he was extremely right-wing, founding the One Country party, which was later merged with another small, extreme right-wing group. I can also remember him appearing on one of the chat shows and remarking that we’d be ‘in the cart’ without Maggie Thatcher. Like many people who have genuinely been through a war, he was deeply critical of it. In one of the chapters in The New Challenge of the Stars, about a possible hostile encounter between an asteroid ark and the inhabitants of an alien planet in whose system it has appeared, Moore makes a sharp comment about man’s folly of war entering a new battleground in space. He was also a staunch opponent of fox hunting. Back in the 90s he was a guest on the comedy programme Room 101, in which guests compete to have various useless and irritating objects or people consigned to the room made famous by Orwell’s 1984. In the vast majority cases, this is just light-hearted fun. But Moore was absolutely serious about sending fox hunting there and talked about how he’d written to various authorities to get it banned. Away from astronomy he also taught himself to play the xylophone and composed numerous pieces for the instrument. One of these was published in a classical music magazine. This did not translate into a career in music, however. He got very annoyed when his planned concert at the Hippodrome was cancelled due to lack of interest.

As well as serious, professional and amateur astronomers Moore talked to during his long career, he also met and talked to various eccentrics, including UFO contactees. One of those he interviewed on the Sky at Night was a man who believed he was in contact with peaceful aliens, and could speak four of their languages, including Venusian and Plutonian. This gentleman demonstrated it by saying the greeting, ‘Hello, space brothers’, in one of them. And although Moore persistently denied it, it seems he was one of the hands behind a hoax book by ‘Cedric Allingham’ about how he encountered an alien spacecraft and its inhabitants during a walking tour of the Scottish Highlands. This was during the first wave of UFO encounters in the late 40s and 50s. When people wrote to the publisher hoping to contact Allingham, he could not be traced. One excuse was that he was off walking in Switzerland. Computer analysis of the text reveals that it was probably written by Moore and revised by someone else in order to disguise his authorship. Moore remained very willing to meet ordinary members of the public and talk to them about his subject even in his retirement. He publicly gave out the address of his home in Herstmonceux, Sussex and said if people had questions or wanted to talk to him, they could drop in, shrugging off the obvious dangers of theft, burglary and so on.

Moore belonged to an age when popular science broadcasters could be real characters, often with eccentric mannerism. There was Magnus Pike, who was famous for waving his arms around while speaking, and the bearded dynamo of Botanic Man himself, David Bellamy, sent up in impressions by Lenny Henry. Since then, popular science programmes have been presented by people who are younger and/or a bit more hip. One BBC programme on astronomy a few years ago was presented by Queen guitarist Brian May, who had studied astrophysics at university before getting caught up in his career as an awesome global rock star. May had just handed in his astrophysics thesis after decades of touring the world with Mercury, Deacon et al. His co-presenter was the comedian Dara O’Brien, who had tried to study maths at university but had dropped out because of its difficulty. The Sky at Night is now presented by about three different hosts, including Black woman Maggie Aderin-Pocock. And I think the face of astronomy and cosmology now is probably Brian Cox after all his series on the subject. But for all this, I prefer the science presenters of a previous generation with all their quirks and foibles. These people were enthusiastic about their subject and were able to communicate their enthusiasm without trying to be too slick to connect with a mass audience. And they succeeded.

The 1984 Yearbook of Astronomy and What’s New in Space, just two of the books edited and written by Moore.