Tuesday 31 August 2021

Conversations With Ben #18: Pronouns

Rol: I don't know if I've mentioned this before, but The Evil Workplace is now telling everyone to include their pronouns on their email signature. Tell me why this isn't utter bollocks and I promise not to argue... too much.

Ben: You have mentioned it before, and by forcing people to so it, they are grossly missing the point of it. As someone who is straight and identifying with the gender we were born with, I am in a position of luxury to really not give a shit what people label me as. However there are those for whom this is a big deal and the misgendering of them is a painful reminder of the structures that deny them their identity. By forcing everyone to do it, it brings it to the fore and highlights it as never before.

OK, but if the only people who do it are people who need to do it (i.e. transgender folk), then surely that just highlights their difference?

Well, that's the interesting thing: no.

There's landmark research on the history of sexuality and particularly anything that's not vanilla, lay back and think of England sex.

And the Victorians, despite being so prudish, were the ones that spread sexual deviance (deviance as in deviation from the vanilla) because of their strict approach to it.

It's no mistake that teen pregnancy rises during periods of proposed abstinence and lack of sex ed.

By forcing it, there is often a reaction that is negative which can have a drastically bad impact.

So you get the alt-right joke of "I associate as an attack helicopter".

And the false belief that "they are trying to take over and convert everyone" when the policies are introduced by what we'd term white knights.

Bloody do-gooders. Meddling!

But really, at the core of it is the fact that for the first time in history, this group of marginalised people are within reach of being recognised in a way that doesn't make them feel like an unnatural aberration. I don't give a shit what pronouns you use for me, I'm not precious, but I will defend to the end the right of my colleagues and fellow human beings to offer a simple way to say 'hey, in my heart of hearts, I'm not really a girl, so please don't call me those pronouns as it makes me feel uncomfortable' or 'hey, I'm kinda confused because I don't really feel like I'm male or female and we have to think about the world in such binary terms, can you just refer to me with ungendered pronouns?'

Fair enough. I don't disagree with any of that if it's coming from the individual in question. It becomes a matter of personal choice. But I still think there should be a better non-binary pronoun than they or them, because to me, that's akin to saying "that lot". I know they've tried to come up with alternatives, but none of them seem to catch on... possibly because they all sound a bit sci fi. (Xe, Ze)

And as an English teacher you should appreciate how unfathomable it is to be in a position with language where we're trying to force something new to accommodate this group. Language doesn't work like that, it naturally evolves. So a third person pronoun is the best we have without it sounding incredulous like you say.

Yes, but I also know the power of inference. And "them" is the most inference-packed pronoun.

Maybe so, but it's also the rare ones in our language that isn't gendered. So it's functional rather than preferential.

Maybe all pronouns are inference-packed. "Who's she? The cat's mother?"

That's it. But they/them is more natural than forcing xe etc.

But returning to your original question: forcing everyone to put their preferred pronouns in their signature is akin to saying All Lives Matter, even if there's a more positive intention.

If people wish to ally and do want to put theirs in if they are cisgender, then cool. But making it the necessary base is wrong.

I think it's this sort of forced pc-ness that has led to the rise of Incels, the strengthening of the extreme right, and Tom Hanks's son.

The Incel thing is a massively complex thing. I think you're right in the sense that its a final break point for them, but a great deal of it is the loss of the traditional (I say traditional but really it's a 20th century invention) role of masculinity. 

"I go get a stable 9-5 job. I quit Friday. I walk into a new one Monday morning. Sorted. I get a girl at 18 because it's what's done. House bought and paid for and settle down." 

Now that world of work hasn't existed for a while. That, compounded with the ideology of the alpha male on the right, leads them to become very bitter and kick out.

But now they've got a label. I was involuntarily celibate for most of my 20s. I didn't self-identify as an incel. I was just a loser.

But the key thing with an Incel is that "it's everyone's fault but mine".

Oh. I wasn't an incel then. I knew it was my fault I was a loser. Still do.

I've had Eagle Rock by Daddy Cool in my head for about a week now.

Not Daddy Cool by Boney M?

Nah. I'm all disco'd out. I went on a massive Parliament and Funkadelic binge a few weeks ago. All I listened to from waking up til end of work. For about 8 days.

I wouldn't really class that as disco.

That funky jive stuff.

This week's quiz includes... John Grant, Saint Etienne, Hoodoo Gurus, Madness, Waterboys, Drive-By Truckers, Lady Gaga and the Eagles.


They're all fans of the song Eagle Rock by Daddy Cool.

Apart from that.

What's the Eagles song? I make a point of never listening to them. Just give me Jackson Browne instead.

James Dean

Ahh... Even their song titles are unimaginative.

I'll only allow you to diss the Eagles because the Dude hates them too.

The Eagles are very close to muzak.

Once again, you are displaying your ignorance.

Even when given great songs by Mr Waits and Browne, they somehow manage to make it less interesting than Dulux Vanilla Burst.

It's cool to dump on the Eagles in the same way it was cool to dump on Dire Straits. People hate them because they were successful.

Dire Straights are great. Knopfler is a brilliant guitarist.

Some joiners use an Eagles record as a spirit level due to how MoR it is.

That doesn't even make sense. Why would a spirit level be in the middle of the road?

The joke is in there somewhere.

Needs more work.

I'll give it to a comedian one day.

I won't have a word said against Don Henley.

And Joe Walsh ran for president, against Reagan. That alone makes the Eagles cool.

Still a shit band.


It's spelt Palestine.

I've told you. There are only two truly shit bands. Everyone else deserves a listen.


And Oasis.

OK, three.

Although to be fair, I saw Coldplay live, very early in their career, when they were supporting Muse (free tickets) and they were far more entertaining than the main act.

I broke up with a girl at uni because she said Coldplay were her favourite band. I'm not that fussed about music choices, but when you say that, it's either that you despise music or you have no interest in it. Either way, incompatible with me.

You still haven't identified my Number 1 irredeemable shit band.

Mr Blobby?

The Tweenies?

I'd rather listen to either of them than this lot.

Is it a band from the landfill indie era?

No. It's the biggest band in the world ever. (Not the Beatles.)

Are you sure it's not The Eagles?

I can't believe this is so difficult for you.

Well, I know Shakira is one of the best selling artists of all time...

Their lead singer is an *expletive deleted*.

The Smiths?


As in, he thinks he is.

The Jesus & Mary Chain?

You are doing this on purpose now to wind me up.

Am I?

You know perfectly well who I'm talking about.

...I sometimes have nightmares about that video where The Edge has feet in his face. And Bono leans in to whisper sweet nothings in his ear...

I try to never watch their videos. Or listen to their songs.

It was during the Zooropa period, which was a low, even for them.

Monday 30 August 2021

Snapshots Spillover: More Actor Songs

Following on from this weekend's Snapshots, featuring songs named after famous actors, I had something of an overspill... so here are some of the runners up.

April March - Stay Away From Robert Mitchum

Keep your grubby hands off Mitchum
He's rugged and he's handsome
And spurns the likes to you
Touch him and you'll be through

Julian Cope - Robert Mitchum

The part in Ryan's daughter
Where you lose your wife
I've never seen a more dignified man
In my life

Robyn Hitchcock - Gene Hackman

Different to the Hoodoo Gurus song featured yesterday, but equally enjoyable...

He's got an evil grin
He's got curly hair
And every time he smiles
It means trouble somewhere
So don't talk to me about Gene Hackman

Neon Neon - Michael Douglas

'Cause you'll see my reflection (reflection, reflection)
In Michael Douglas's mirrored sunglasses
You'll see my perfection (perfection, perfection)
In Michael Douglas's mirrored sunglasses

The Rakes - When Tom Cruise Cries

TV's on, Tom Cruise crying on his father's bed,
Reminds me what that French guy said,
From news to movies all the crap with it,
Headlines keep you excited,
Like when Tom Cruise cries,
It's all lies

Bananarama - Robert DeNiro's Waiting

I would have included this on Saturday, but I felt it was a little too obvious, even for me.

The Thrills - Whatever Happened To Corey Haim?

Postal Service - Clark Gable

I kissed you in a style Clark Gable would have admired
I thought it classic

Deacon Blue - He Looks Like Spencer Tracy Now

He may have been a nationalist, a physicist or a pacifist
But he's just taking pictures and he'll do it anyhow
Well, I have seen that movie of Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde
And I know he looks like Spencer Tracy now

Bree Sharp - David Duchovny

Watching the sky for a sign
The FBI is on my mind
I'm waiting for the day
When my lucky stars align
In the form of...
David Duchovny floating above me
In the alien light of the spaceship of love

Deep Purple - Vincent Price

I want seven screaming virgins on a sacrificial altar
Hell and God, screeching doors, zombies, aaaaah!
It feels so good to be afraid
Vincent Price is back again

Bauhaus - Bela Lugosi's Dead

Bela Lugosi's dead
The bats have left the bell tower
The victims have been bled
Red velvet lines the black box

Elton John - Roy Rogers

Oh, the great sequin cowboy who sings of the plains
Of roundups and rustlers and home on the range
Turn on the TV, shut out the lights
Roy Rogers is riding tonight

And my personal favourite...

I want to be your hero,
Kurt Russell, Eastwood and me

There's no doubt plenty more where they came from, but that's enough actors for today. Drop me a comment if I've missed one of your favourites and I might do a follow up post... but remember, we're leaving the ladies for another day.

Sunday 29 August 2021

Snapshots #204: A Top Ten Songs Named After Famous Actors

Lights, camera, action!

This week's Snapshots brought together ten male Hollywood stars... I'm saving the female actors (or actresses, as we used to call them in the old days) for another time. But not next week. It'll be when you least expect it.

Meanwhile, here are the leading men...

10. The beginning and ending of Stig of the Dump.


Lights! Camel! Action!
Bushes that refuse to burn
See these sandals hardly worn
Raining blood, raining bread
The night we painted Egypt red

Then Charlton Heston put his vest on...

Stump - Charlton Heston

9. Get a loan to build your new privvy.

You need a John Grant, mate.

I got to meet him once, and he was really, really cool.
And when I think about everything's that he's been through,
I wish he'd call me on the phone and take my ass to school.

John Grant - Ernest Borgnine

8. Experts on fairy chimneys.

These are fairy chimneys, also known as hoodoos...

Gene must have made thousand films
He's kissed a thousand girls
And made a thousand kills
And let's not forget he took on Superman!

Hoodoo Gurus - Gene Hackman

7. Often found in crowds.

The madness of crowds...

He picks up useless paper
And puts it in my pocket
I'm trying very hard to keep my fingers clean
I can't remember tell me what's his name

6. Known to wage warefare.

Guerrilla warfare.

I ain't happy, I'm feeling glad
I got sunshine in a bag
I'm useless, but not for long
The future is coming on

5. An intense tie.


I keep falling in love
And you're breaking my heart
I know that it's wrong
But where do I start?
It's the end of the day
I'm here alone
And you're so far away

4. Adam Sandlers.

Adam Sandler was in The Waterboy.

Cowboy hat, man that ain't no topper
His suit's as slick as a lick by Cropper
He's dressing like a Carnaby Street pill-popper
Dennis Hopper!

3. Every bird struck.


Bullet was my favorite movie that I'd ever seen
I totaled my go-cart trying to imitate that chase scene
That Duster had six hubcaps, know what I mean
And I love the way they all flew off when it landed in that ravine

2. Associated with tramps and babies.

Lady & The Tramp.

Babies go gaga.

Every John is just the same
I'm sick of their city games
I crave a real wild man
I'm strung out on John Wayne

1. Where... dare?

Where Eagles Dare, of course!

Well, talk about a low-down bad refrigerator
You were just too cool for school
Sock hop, soda pop, basketball and auto shop
The only thing that got you off was breakin' all the rules

The Eagles - James Dean

Put your vest on again next Saturday morning for more snapshots...

Saturday 28 August 2021

Saturday Snapshots #204

Whether you're a Psycho, a Machinist or even a Christian, you're all welcome at Saturday Snapshots. But you might need a Dark Knight Detective to help you solve a few of these clues...

Identify the artists below, then work out what connects their songs. 

10. The beginning and ending of Stig of the Dump.

9. Get a loan to build your new privvy.

8. Experts on fairy chimneys.

7. Often found in crowds.

6. Known to wage warefare.

5. An intense tie.

4. Adam Sandlers.

3. Every bird struck.

2. Associated with tramps and babies.

1. Where... dare?

Don't Bale out just yet... the answers will be here tomorrow morning!

Tuesday 24 August 2021

Positive Songs For Negative Times #56: Triage

I'm back to work this week and after only two days, my energy and motivation levels have returned to less than zero. Still, the countdown to my escape has begun. Only 9 1/2 weeks to go. Sadly, I won't have Kim Basinger to help me through those...

I will have Rodney Crowell though, whose new album Triage is a very interesting concoction. I'd recommend this one, for all those of you feeling a little creaky this morning...

If I'd known what I know a long time ago
I might have made of my life something more
But then who's to say there was some other way
To open and close every door

Or this, a haunting spoken word piece with some very striking imagery...

Or this, on the state of the world today. (And I like how his backing band are all still wearing their masks.)

Am I ready for times such as these? 
Emphatically, no
Though I did see it coming, a long time ago

Sunday 22 August 2021

Snapshots #203: A Top Ten Songs Covered By Johnny Cash

A slightly different link this week, though I'm sure you had no trouble working it out.

All the artists below wrote songs that were covered by The Man In Black...

10. MOT failed over trivialities.

The MOT failed because it went backwards = TOM.

Trivialities are petty things.

Tom Petty - I Won't Back Down

Johnny Cash - I Won't Back Down

Or you could have had...

Tom Petty - Southern Accents

Johnny Cash - Southern Accents

9. A good Manchester lawn.

That would be a sound garden. Sound as a pound.

Soundgarden - Rusty Cage

Johnny Cash - Rusty Cage

8. Old devil from the underworlde.

Old Nick was the devil, down low(e) in the underworld.

Nick Lowe - The Beast In Me

Johnny Cash - The Beast In Me

7. Bequest of past-its-sell-by-date pork.

A bequest is a will, the out of date pork would be old ham.

Will Oldham (Bonnie "Prince" Billy) - I See A Darkness

Johnny Cash - I See A Darkness

6. Welsh seaside resort declares itself female, with pride.

The resort would be Rhyl, which is proud to declare itself a She. To the point that it crows about it.

Sheryl Crow - Redemption Day

Johnny Cash - Redemption Day

Sheryl Crow & Johnny Cash - Redemption Day

5. Guevara goes in deep - that's just how he travels.

Add Che (Guevara) to deep and to might get Depeche. The way he travels is his mode of transport.

Depeche Mode - Personal Jesus

Johnny Cash - Personal Jesus

4. Embryo lab.


Bob Marley - Redemption Song

Johnny Cash - Redemption Song

3. Forever Young?

Diamonds are forever, of course. With Neil Young.

Neil Diamond - Solitary Man

Johnny Cash - Solitary Man

And here's Johnny and Neil together.

2. Swedish detective.

This one...

Beck - Rowboat

Johnny Cash - Rowboat

1. Lenin in chains.


Nine Inch Nails - Hurt

Johnny Cash - Hurt

I'll be Hurt if you don't come back for more next Saturday...

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