Posts from 21st April 2004

Apr 04


The Brown WedgePost a comment • 175 views

DEAD MAN’S CHESS: (Three Questions abt Treasure Island pt 2)

#2: What are Long John Silver’s politics?
(sorry this is v.long: scroll down to excellent = less homework-y stuff from sarah and mike g. and tom)

i. Even if we agree that the action takes place in an Ahistorical Romance DreamTime ‘ which I’m not sure I do (see Q#1) ‘ any such time must be located during the Long Century between the two English Revolutions (1642-1660; 1688) and the American Revolution of 1776. Many contradictory utopian social ideals welled up when Charles I’s head came off: even when 1688 turned out to be more a Glorious Compromise and Retreat, the most radical of idealisms weren’t lost but fled ‘ underground, overseas to America, or simply offshore, beyond reach of law’s power…
ii. Dr Livesey notes that a pirate whistles ‘Lillibulero‘, the ultra-Whig anti-Jacobite themetune that fifed-and-drummed James II off the throne (Protestant marching bands still play it in N.Ireland). Pirates belong firmly on the wastrel wing of Puritanism; Tudor authorities encouraged them as licensed sub-contractors (Drake; Hawkins; Ralegh) to singe the King of Spain’s (Catholic) beard and plunder the Spanish Main. As late as the Gordon Riots in 1780, no-popery had a mob-democratic anti-heirarchy undercurrent…
iii. Establishing his credentials, Silver invokes England and Flint ‘ the classic buccaneering tradition ‘ and then makes a fascinating distinction. Flint feared him; was proud of him: proud of Silver who puts his money in the bank; who never denies himself except when at sea, but is investing in his future. After this voyage Silver plans to become a ‘gentleman’, not ‘of fortune’ (ie no longer a happy-go-lucky pirate), but ‘in earnest’: with a coach and – semi-joking, semi-serious ‘ a seat in Parliament (the latter being why JimH, the Squire and the Doctor must all die: he doesn’t want his past catching up on him when he’s an MP…). In the most unexpected place, the Protestant Work Ethic (planning, foresight, setting money by) trumps here-and-now hedonism…
iv. Silver was Flint’s quartermaster, which is to say he was in charge of Flint’s men, representing their issues to the captain (‘lambs ain’t the word’). ‘Pirates,’ argues the historian Marcus Rediker, ‘constructed a culture of masterless men’: making contrast with the authoritarian brutality and strictness of merchant and naval shiplife, Rediker stresses the rough democracy of some pirate communities, the fact that decisions of general policy were open to discussion; that pirate captains were often elected and could be ‘ as Silver is in TI, via the Fo’c’s’le Council and the Black Spot ‘ deposed; that written constitutions protecting rights and establishing procedure were by no means uncommon (Rediker explicitly argues that radicalised seafarers played a role in shaping American Constitutional activism ‘ certainly pirates and smugglers found haven in the early American colonies). The Corsair Nation at Sal’ (the Republic of the Bou Regreg) in North Africa flourished between 1640-60 ‘ more democratic, it was said, than most of the civilised nations of Europe. Alongside the dissident experimental colony on Eleutheria, there were pirate settlements in the Bahamas, : not to mention the legendary Libertalia in Madagascar (even if entirely invented by Defoe, this was a fiction that embodied genuine political desires and fears).
v. One last major political element peeps round the edge of this tale. As long as the forces of British Naval Law and Order were set to protect the ships of the Slave Trade, pirate crews were (ambivalently) against it: some at least freed all slaves from the the slaveships they encountered (others of course simply helped themselves to the merchandise: booty is booty). In 1713, in the Treaty of Asiento, the Spanish gave to the British the monopoly for three decades of the Slave Trade between Africa and Spanish America (the South Sea Company being of the primary beneficiaries, resulting in speculation fever and the South Sea Bubble). Though she never appears in person, Silver’s wife ‘ mentioned early and at the very end ‘ is black.


Pumpkin PublogPost a comment • 1,230 views


“Bernard Matthews will bring little girl’s dreams to reality with the launch of the first ever ‘girl’ orientated frozen shaped product ‘ Princess Dreams. The innovative fairytale-inspired product will give girls and mums choice at the freezer cabinet and boost sales in the sector. Princess Dreams offers eight turkey pieces shaped as hearts, diamonds and crowns, coated in light crispy crumb. Packaged in an attractive pink, fairytale design, the product looks set to catch the eye of girls and mums alike. The product is free from artificial flavours, colours and preservatives and retails at ‘1.69 per pack.”

(well worth clicking the link to see the picture, too)


The Brown WedgePost a comment • 353 views


No, not a link to the mad TRON geezer (arrrgh mein eyes), but instead, my latest purchase from the charity shop: Man Becomes Machine:The Chilling Investigation of Humanity’s Robot Future, by David M. Rorvik.

Originally published in 1973, I’m looking forward to reading it from a blogger’s perspective in 2004. The words on the blurb talk about living forever, evolution, fascination and terror, dreams and nightmares. In a world where the majority of us are very blas’ abt new technology, how would someone from 1973 view “The Medical Cyborg”, biofeedback techniques, telefactors and “total prosthesis”? Upon turning to a random page, I find a mention of the imitation brain, huh, poxy fule, it’s all about the atommick brane these days, idiot. It’s a real culture shock to read that “someday, robots might replace factory workers”, and one can’t resist a giggle at the slightly over-optimistic section dealing with FREDERICK, a computer who can carry on intelligent conversations, as well as play chess and be used as an occasional table when needs must. FREDERICK, by the way, stands for a Family Robot for Entertainment, Discussion, Education, the Retrieval of Information and the Collation of Knowledge.

CRACKING! B-b-b-but what on earth is a telefactor??


Pumpkin PublogPost a comment • 464 views


Every week I get a copy of marketing. Every week I fillet it for news that might be of vague interest to the rest of the world, particularly that segment of it which likes BOOZE and SNACKS.


1. Tizer is launching Tizer Colourz, versions of Tizer coloured green, orange and purple. No details of ‘flavours’. GOOD WORK TIZER as long as it doesn’t start sponsoring CD:UK.
2. Sharwoods is planning a big relaunch after last year’s ‘Bundh’ sauce range misfired. ‘Bundh’, it turns out, means ‘arse’ in Punjabi.
3. Goodbye Victoria Wine, Wine Rack and Bottoms Up, source of much of my student ruin. All three are being replaced with “TheLocal” which will also sell news and mags.
4. Why-is-it-still-on-sale squash rip-off Snapple is making a grab for the ‘youth market’ with some nasty mid-90s graphics. All very Street-Porteresque. There’s a new website too which I won’t link to.
5. Innocent’s new slogan: “If you’ve enjoyed our smoothie, why not try our other products like sand, rainbows or maybe plankton.” Num num.
6. ‘Reality’ is IN in the food market. Organic chain ‘Fresh And Wild’ (which I’m far too unhealthy to have heard of) is relaunching as ‘the real food store’ but more significantly CAPTAIN BIRDSEYE is rebranding along similar lines, playing up the ‘realness’ and, ahem, ‘nutrition’ of his range.
7. Chairman Mick of CAMRA has decreed that May is Make Mine A Mild Month.


1. That ad campaign with Busta Rhymes getting sucked down an airline toilet? The next ‘idle thumbs’ star is going to be Christina Aguilera. Whether she’ll be the object of piss-taking like previous leads I’m not sure, nor are there any details as to what Xtina gets up to when her thumbs are idle.
2. New magazine to be launched for 21-40 year old men, called Blink. Films, music and style, apparently.
3. Euro 2004 slogan from Carling: “Your country needs you”. The promotion seems to involve a huge plastic pointing finger with the England flag on it!
4. Ann Summers in trouble with the ASA for its recent posters showing a wench on a hobby horse with the slogan “Ride A Cock Horse”.

Uncomfortable Reading

The Brown WedgePost a comment • 214 views

Uncomfortable Reading

I collect old travel literature on Europe and the Americas. I can’t explain the appeal, but it combines elements of dusty covers and rifling through damp shops in Hay-on-Wye.

The more offbeat the finds, the better. Two women horse-riding across Andalusia? Ideal. Honduras in the Thirties? Right up my street. However, for all the unearthed gems, there is the odd dud. And sometimes that dud is very odd indeed.

Spanish Journey by Dr Halliday Sutherland is the book in question. Both author and title were unknown to me. Google returns meagre data other than a suggestion he was Australian and also wrote the bizarre sounding Birth Control (A Statement of Christian Doctrine against the Neo-Malthusians). Spanish Journey was written in 1948, the blurb suggested it was a unique insight into Iberia. They all say that of course, but it was a first issue in mint condition. I took a punt on it.

Most recent travel writing on Spain starts with the cities, has a chapter on the south, takes in a bullfight and adds a strained conclusion involving the civil war and selected passages from Cervantes.

Spanish Journey began the same. The opening chapter mentions Communist atrocities and the new era. Well, it was a civil war, atrocities on both sides are well recorded, he’ll probably balance it out later. It wasn’t until 40 pages in that I realised the author was an unapologetic fascist. The Nationalists killed intellectuals in the war? Nah mate, Republican propaganda. Federico Lorca? Well, what did he expect? He was a homosexual!

The chapter entitled ‘When I Met Franco’ really nailed his colours to the mast, ‘I told the General I was English’. The General replied, ‘The English are against me.’ I said, ‘No, the vast majority are with you, it’s only the reds stirring up trouble.’

And that’s where I stopped. I think the shock value is because most modern travel literature takes an even handed or left leaning position. To get the most from a country, you have to be inclusive. In Spain, a country fascinated with sol y sombra, an unbalanced approach skewers it horribly.

Thankfully it is out of print.

Oh My Liver

Pumpkin PublogPost a comment • 260 views

Oh My Liver: “ligging in London”, entertaining blog.


The Brown WedgePost a comment • 196 views

Mordillo: Euro-cartoon giant who leans more to the droll than the funny – site contains expansive and somewhat frightening CV detailing the dizzying range of Mordillo merchandising and licensing, with one sad exception: the remarkable touch-screen sex quizzer, illustrated by coy Mordillo cartoons, that we found in a Spanish rock pub.


Pumpkin PublogPost a comment • 240 views

QuizzerWatch: beware a fiendish new trick on pub quizzers. Last night a colleague and I put ‘2 into a multi-game machine, got ‘6 return off Top Of The Pops and Hangman 2 – so far so good, time to collect our winnings and head for home. But where was the collect button?! After 30 seconds of frantic screen-pressing, hopping from menu to menu, we found it – a tiny button in the top-left corner of the screen, so far up that it was hidden under the rim of the cabinet and only visible by crouching. The Publog entirely disapproves of such gamesmanship.

(Also sighted on last night’s quizzer, a garish pink game called “The Powder Room” which I shamefully failed to investigate. My trained marketing eye leads me to believe it might be aimed at ‘the ladies’ though I’d be very surprised if it’s as good as Mordillo’s Love Quiz.)