The news from Britain: hedgehogs, space aliens, and golden toilets

A £1 million golden toilet was stolen from Blenheim Palace, where Winston Churchill was born. 

But this isn’t a story about being born with a silver spoon in your mouth–or a golden pot under your hind end. Churchill didn’t grow up with the thing. It’s a recently installed piece of art. Or at least everyone involved says it’s art, raising the question, What is art is?

It’s a great question and we’re not getting into it unless anyone wants to tackle it in a comment, in which case things might get interesting.

Oh, go on, say something about it, please.

Irrelevant photo: A begonia.

Before it was stolen, the golden toilet was available for public use, although only to people who’d booked a time slot.

The toilet, or the piece of art, if you prefer, is titled “America,” which does, at least, argue that it’s not just a golden pot, it–or its creator–has something to say. But what? Dominic Hare, the Somebody Important of Blenheim Palace, said the pot was a comment on the American dream. 

No, I didn’t make that up.

I say that a lot, don’t I?

“[It’s] the idea of something that’s incredibly precious and elite being made accessible, potentially to everybody, as we all need to go when we need to go.” (Or at least when the time slot you booked rolls around, and let’s hope it coincides at least vaguely with need.) 

So presumably the theft was in the spirit of the artwork. Someone marched it and made it not just available, potentially, to everybody, but (sorry, I’m shifting to the first person here) to me and I’m gonna take it before somebody else does. 

The American dream (at least in my opinion) is open to interpretation, and that may or may not be the spirit of the American dream that the artist or the Somebody Important had in mind, but it does raise interesting questions about what the dream is, and what America is, and what a golden toilet’s all about. And, of course, what art is, but we said we weren’t getting into that.

Or I said. I have no idea what you’re saying.

Blenheim Palace is the ancestral seat–and this really is what it’s called; I’m not making puns–of the Duke of Marlborough. The duke’s half brother, who founded the Blenheim Art Foundation, said when the toilet was installed that they weren’t going to guard it because it was plumbed in and wouldn’t be easy to steal. Besides, the toilet was open to the public, so a thief wouldn’t know who’d used it last or what they’d eaten.

That quote should open a collection of things it would be best to shut up about. The thief wasn’t squeamish and didn’t care who’d used it last, or first, or next to last. Not only did someone steal it, yanking all that plumbing loose created an expensive flood precisely because it was connected.

It’s been recovered. I don’t know if it’s been reinstalled. Or guarded.

I could probably construct an argument that the theft was situational art. If the alleged thief’s lawyer would like to contact me, I’m available for consultatioins for a smallish fee. 

*

Speaking of smallish: A smallish poll asked Britons who should be in charge of responding if Earth is contacted by aliens. 

The poll was put together not because anyone from outside had contacted Earth but because a lawyer and an astrophysicist wondered who had the moral authority to make decisions for humanity as a whole. Most people polled (39%) thought scientists were the best bet. Holding a referendum came at the bottom of the list, with 11% of the vote. 

However, if a referendum is held, 56.3% would vote in favor of making contact. That compares with 20.5% who didn’t know, 14% who’d vote against, and 9.2% who wouldn’t vote, maybe because they don’t care and maybe because they figure they’ll have better things to do that day.

Remain voters were more heavily in favor (66%) than leave voters (54%), which is interesting although I don’t know what it means.

*

A flight leaving the Isle of Lewis, in the Outer Hebrides, stopped during a takeoff so the pilot could let a baby hedgehog cross the runway. The passengers weren’t polled, but they were kept informed. 

*

Want to know what Britain does at night? Some people sleep, some try to sleep, some work, some drink, and some have sex, although probably not all night, but the rest shop online. One out of every fifteen things bought on a credit card is bought between midnight and 6 a.m. About two-thirds of the buyers are women but male shoppers spend more. 

What does it all mean? I have no idea, I just thought you might want to know.

*

A drug deal on an island off the coast of Australia went wrong when a seal got involved. 

The tale starts with the yacht that was supposed to pick up the drugs getting stuck on a reef (or at least appearing to–I’m not sure about that part of the tale), triggering a rescue effort because a dinghy was missing and hey, someone might be in trouble out there. Planes searched the area and the drug smugglers, sensibly enough, hid in the scrub, where a fisherman noticed them. One of them had on a hot pink shirt and it wasn’t good camouflage. 

If they hadn’t hidden, they probably wouldn’t have stood out.  

Cops showed up and found more than a ton of meth, cocaine, and ecstasy, worth £556 million (which is more than the golden toilet is worth), under some seaweed. 

Make that an awful lot of seaweed. 

The raid-ees made a run for the dinghy but between it and them was a big honkin’–or, more accurately, bellowing–seal, which didn’t look happy with them. The smugglers decided the cops were a better bet.

*

Apps that women are using to track their periods have been caught sharing data with Facebook and other businesses, including information on what contraception the women use, what  physical symptoms they have, and when they have sex. Not all the apps do that, but some do.

What’s Facebook doing with that information? Good question. Possibly nothing, but possibly not nothing. 

Who else has access to the data? No idea. How much personal information should we be dumping into the opaque workings of the internet? Also a good question. Quite possibly less than we do.

*

One of my favorite organizations, even though I haven’t had any first-hand contact, is the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Its followers call themselves Pastafarians and two of them are asking the European Court of Human Rights to consider their religious rights.

Yes, seriously. If I could make this stuff up, believe me, I would, but I’m not that creative.

One of the plaintiffs is Dutch and the high court in her country ruled that she couldn’t wear a colander–a spaghetti strainer, in plain English–on her head for her identification photo. The other is an Austrian member of parliament who wears a colander in his official photos but is asking for Pastafarianism to be recognized as a religion. At least four countries have already recognized it.

Pastafarianism is–or so I’ve read–the world’s fastest growing religion and it asks its followers to wear colanders on their heads, although I wouldn’t say it demands that they do. It’s not a demand-making kind of religion.

The lawyer defending the Dutch Pastafarian said, “I started out thinking this was just a big joke, but the more you look at it, the more you see it is about fundamental principles…. [Pastafarianism advocates] non-violence, tolerance, loving each other–the same principles as many established religions.” Theologians have “never really been able to agree on what constitutes a religion, so should the state really get to decide?… We say, as long as there are special rights for believers, they should apply to all religions.” 

Pastafarians hold that an invisible and undetectable Flying Spaghetti Monster created the universe by using His Noodly Appendages–probably after drinking heavily. 

Go on. Prove it ain’t so.

84 thoughts on “The news from Britain: hedgehogs, space aliens, and golden toilets

  1. Reminds me of a friend when we were in the US Army. The policy was you could have religious holidays off. He invented a religion (“Gentle Zen”, a pub based on the name of a television program featuring a bear – gentle Ben….), have the battalion clerk make up dog tags listing his religion as “Gentle Zen”, then convinced the company commander and first sergeant to let him have Buddha’s birthday off. Later, he learned he got the actual birthday wrong, then convinced the company commander and first sergeant to let him off again for the actual birthday! Best of all, his religion didn’t require wearing a colander on your head! LOL! Oh, yes, he got Christmas off, too.

    Liked by 5 people

    • Not bad. When my brother and I were in school, the major Christian holidays were holidays for everyone, but the Jewish kids got to take off on the major Jewish holidays as well. One year, since we were Jewish, he tried to convince my parents that he should stay home. Since we were as devoutly Jewish as we were Pastafarian, he ended up going to school.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. I just love your news – it is way more entertaining and makes me smile a LOT more than the regular “news” outlets – thank you!!!! For helping to put a smile on my face that lasts all day long and is much better for my health and overall well-being than watching the – LOL – “real” news that our propaganda networks here in the US tell us on a daily basis.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. The police may flushed with pride that the question of the golden lavvy was sorted out relatively quickly. Otherwise, the flood of people saying the police had nothing to go on could have driven them clean round the bend.

    (I’m here all week).

    Liked by 3 people

  4. A collection of the weird and wonderful that has enlivened a dull, rainy day! On the first story, I wasn’t the least surprised to see that one of the tabloids used the bog standard ‘police have nothing to go on’ line in their story – but Plod must have had something if they found it. To answer your question about what kind of art it is, I would like to think it could be described as performance art, with the appropriate usage 😉

    Liked by 3 people

  5. What is the American Dream? It started out as “Life, liberty and the *pursuit* of happiness.” (no guarantee of achieving it) Since then it has been morphed by presidents (a turkey in every pot) to businesses (buying a home, car, etc.) and just about everything in-between. Lately it seems to be that your party wins and the other party loses.

    As far as a toilet being a piece of art, The Met would say, not unless a government agency paid for it and it contained a cross and some urine.

    Go Hedgehogs! I know there is a German soccer (football) team called the Hedgehogs, but that’s about the extent of my knowledge on the little critters. So, was this a German plot to stop the plane from taking off? Probably over Brexit.

    Pasta religion? I wonder if they sing this at their gatherings?

    Liked by 2 people

    • I think the pastafarians would consider that disrespectful. Or maybe not. Who am I to decide for them?

      Someone already got away with calling a urinal (empty, unadorned, unfunded) art, but I didn’t think to mention it, since I got caught up in the theft. I do think you’re right about the American dream: It’s been hijacked by commercial interests. Long ago, I suspect.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Disrespectful? That’s right out of our hymnal, right next to “What do we do with the drunken sailor?”

        This colander thing is kind of new. The traditional Pastafarian headgear is of course a Pirate Hat, because Pirates are the Chosen People of His Noodliness. In fact, it’s the decline in Pirates that’s causing global warming, dontchaknow. But hey, perhaps there’s a new scripture out requiring colanders for official documents. There’s new scripture being written all the time, because ours is a true living word. Not like Some. I’ve written some of it myself!

        Anyway, as an official clergymember of the CoFSM, I give you my blessing: “May you be Touched by His Noodly Appendages in all the right places.” RAmen.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Wow, I am–. Speechless, I guess, even though I’m typing, not speaking. I’ve never been touched by anyone’s noodly appendages before. And I’m honored that you’d grace this blog.

          Anyway, thanks for the clarifications–about the headgear especially. I had no idea where the pirate hats came into it.

          Liked by 1 person

  6. Well, there was a lot going on in this one! Pastafarians? Art. What is art? A question I asked my brother one time. How do you know it’s art and not junk stuck together? His answer: It’s like porn, you know it when you see it. I’m sure the Trumpster has a gold toilet but the rest of us just want a clean toilet. Have a good weekend!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I say if they managed to get a toilet’s worth of gold for a million doll- ah, pounds, they probably bought it IN America because that gold would have been heavily adulterated even before it received its first posterior…

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Thank you for the info. There us just so much going on it is hard to keep track. Glad you are helping us keep up.
    Don’t think naming the toilet America was a compliment. We should be offended.

    I will refrain from giving a definition of art, but that could be a lively discussion. Same with religion.

    Surprised that the remainders were more likely to want to make contact.

    We can also leave discussion of defining the American Dream for later also. But that would also be a lively discussion.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I heard a rumor in America, where dreams may or may not come true, that pastafarians were merging with vineyard owners in the Napa Valley in California to form a new organization committed to the proliferation of propaganda regarding the lack of proper cuisine in the White House for honorees who are served McDonald’s burgers and fries. No wine. No flying spaghetti.
    (Forgive me, but I must be off to protest Agent Orange who for some inexplicable reason is on his way on Air Force One to Columbia, South Carolina where I live to speak at Benedict College, one of our nation’s historically black colleges. Sweet Jesus.)

    Liked by 2 people

      • Sadly, yes. The school is being severely criticized by black leaders across the state, but when we assembled to begin our protest march, the leader of the local Democratic Party reminded us we were demonstrating against Agent Orange and not Benedict College or its faculty and students. It was a complicated situation to put it mildly, but I will not bore you with details.
        However, you will be pleased to know that Pretty and I participated with enthusiasm and carried signs indicative of our respective natures: Pretty’s sign said Save the Republic. My sign said Lock Him Up.

        Liked by 1 person

  10. Rumor has it the loo was transferred to Sir Frances Drake’s palace. A strange new internet standard has forced us to leave the orange hind out of this telling. If nothing else it will keep this good news. hmm Pastafarians. There has got to be theology puns there. Maybe not as good as the enforcement puns. Failing that there are always the infantile orange hind puns. Then again lets skip that and keep this good news….

    Liked by 1 person

  11. “So presumably the theft was in the spirit of the artwork. Someone marched it and made it not just available, potentially, to everybody” – 😂😂 love that hypothesis Ellen.
    I love everything about that golden toilet story. Also your flower choice seems quite relevant… xo

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ve managed to miss his haircut. Maybe I’ll maintain my purity and not chase down a photo. That can’t be the easy way to cut hair, though. Think of all the time you’d have to spend pulling the strands through the holes.

      Like

  12. Father on modern art – this in the 1960s…
    Art? Fart!
    As for performance art, he was still alive when there was a grant for three chaps walking about with a pole on their heads somewhere in East Anglia….reaction, not repeatable…even here.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. If Dominic Hare believes the golden toilet is a symbol of the American dream, then I’d venture he’s never visited many of the oil rich Arabian Gulf countries where golden toilets seem to be the norm among the wealthy elite. However, I’d also bet that Donald Trump has at least one golden throne on which to disperse his orange turds. :-)

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I saw a Flying Spaghetti Monster bumpersticker on a car the other day. It’s the first one I’ve seen in years and it made me smile. I didn’t go find a colander to wear on my head, but it did make happy to see something non-political on a car’s bumper around here. Progress of a sort. Funny you’d be writing about Pastafarians…

    Liked by 2 people

  15. There is no reason that anyone or any place needs a £1 million golden toilet!! And I don’t consider a toilet as art, no matter what it’s made of. Since I’ve been blogging, I’ve noticed that foreigners have no real idea what it means to be an American or to live in the United States. They are as clueless as the day is long. The TV series 90 Day Fiancé also easily shows that exact thing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • One thing we noticed when we moved to Britain was that people assumed all American houses are huge. They are on TV and in the movies, after all. Our house here, though–a very average 1970s house–is bigger the house we lived in back in Minnesota, and much bigger than the New York apartment where I grew up, although I’m not sure I’ve ever managed to convince anyone of that. It’s a case of a country’s self-created mythology working entirely too well.

      On the other hand, how many Americans have any real sense of how people live in other countries? We’re all so caught up in our immediate realities that it’s hard to see past the border.

      Liked by 1 person

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