Plato takes over the Home Office, or else it’s the other way around
Britain’s Home Office–those charming folks in charge of (among other things) finding reasons to throw people out of the country–has outstripped my ability to absurdify the world. In mid-January, it refused asylum to a Pakistani asylum seeker because he couldn’t answer questions about Plato and Aristotle.
Hamza bin Walayat’s application was based on his having renounced Islam, integrated into secular British society, and formed a relationship with a non-Muslim–all those things the government (if you listen to the noises it makes) wants Muslim immigrants to do. I’ll skip over the right and wrong of that, otherwise I’ll start ranting, and focus on what I understand best, which is absurdity.
Walayat’s claiim was based on his having become a humanist, which could get him killed in Pakistan. H’d already received death threats from (among others) his family.
So the Home Office asked him about Greek philosophers, then turned his application down because he couldn’t name “any famous Greek philosophers who were humanistic.”
He would’ve had to name Plato and Aristotle to be approved, although there’s no guarantee that would’ve been enough. There might always have been some other reason to turn him down.
No. They make the rules and they make up the answers. They don’t have to be right.
Tea of coffee?
Every so often I write about tea and someone British writes in to say he or she drinks coffee. Only.
Are they telling the truth? Surely not. They’re only saying it to mess with me. Or possibly to bust up a stereotype.
I’d like all those people (okay: it might only be one person, but my memory comes with a built-in multiplier effect) to reconsider. Because it turns out home coffee machines attract cockroaches.
Why? Roaches like three things in life: dampness, darkness, and food. They don’t much care for classical music or abstract art or anything else along those lines. Coffee machines offer them everything they care about, at least if you consider coffee grounds food, and I gather roaches do. Or if they don’t, two out of three isn’t bad, especially when coffee machines are conveniently located near things that beyond question are food.
Extrapolating from the way roach populations multiply, I’m going to go out on a limb and say they also like other roaches. In a carnal sort of way, and especially in a damp, dark sort of place. With easy access to food for the little roachlets that follow from that sort of liking.
If you absolutely do have to drink coffee, either because you’re British and like to bust up stereotypes or because you’re American and feel patriotically compelled to, at least don’t invest in an expensive coffee machine. Use a press pot. Make instant. Resurrect that old percolator some family member stashed in the attic forty years ago and hasn’t thought about since. Spend a small fortune at a coffee shop. Do whatever it takes, but don’t buy a coffee machine.
Or reconsider and switch to tea. If you’re British, the Home Office–which doesn’t approve of much–might crack a hint of a smile. If you’re American, tell yourself tea’s classy, even though it’s not in Britain. Unless you’re doing the gourmet, one-tea-leaf-from-a-plant thing, tea’s just what you slug down to wake yourself up. Coffee’s the classy drink.
If you won’t listen to me and insist on boycotting tea, please memorize a list of Greek philosophers who drank coffee. It wasn’t introduced to Greece until the ninth century, give or take a few weeks, but the Home Office might ask and you’ll need to know the correct wrong answer.
Which reminds me to point out an important life skill, because you, my lovely readers, matter to me: If you have to take a standardized test of any kind, don’t worry about being right. Worry about what whoever wrote the test thinks is right. Tell ’em what they want to hear, then go home, take a shower, and feel an odd mix of icky and superior.
Plymouth wants to dress up its cab drivers
The city of Plymouth is pondering the wisdom of telling cab drivers they can’t go to work in jeans, hoodies, running shoes (which are called trainers over here), or shirts with logos or graphics that might offend (might offend who? no idea; the article I read only said “might offend”), or that have political messages (regardless, apparently, of whether they’d offend some unnamed person). Or jeans, which we all know are politically motivated, although to date I haven’t figured out what their politics are. I’ve asked mine. We’re well acquainted. I’ve had some of my pairs since Marie Antoinette was in charge of the Home Office. But we still don’t know each other well enough for them to come out in the open with their beliefs.
Drivers would also be banned from wearing flip-flops, swimming trunks, or high heels,
Or tutus. Or pajamas.
What can they wear? Shirts with collars. Knee-length tailored shorts. (Someone define “tailored” for me, please. Does it mean that to go to work you need someone with a tape measure around their neck to make the shirt just for you?) Knee-length skirts or dresses. “Smart” long-legged trousers, which in American are pants. In British, you just have to assume they’re wearing pants, because not many people want to check and those who do shouldn’t. They’re underwear.
I’m guessing they could also wear tuxedos. Ball gowns would be too long and might encourage the driver to wear high heels, so sorry, they’re out. What’s allowed makes a short and boring list, and it doesn’t make room for clothes from other cultures, because the city government doesn’t know about them, didn’t think of them, doesn’t approve of them, or can’t spell them. So no sarongs and no shalwar kameezes.
Why does anyone care what cab drivers wear? My best guess is that when everything’s falling apart, people want to make rules. Preferably for someone other than themselves. I don’t know what’s falling apart in Plymouth, but on the basis of this evidence I’m convinced something is.
I can’t give you a link for that story because it’s from the Western Morning News and I never can find their stories online. So instead, I’ll tell you (irrelevantly) that when I drove cab, I never wore a bathing suit or a ball gown. I did wear sneakers (or sometimes boots) and jeans, and I had a plaid woolen shirt that I wore as a jacket in the winter. It had breast pockets that I could stuff money into without taking off my seat belt. I’m not sure which side of the Plymouth rules it would’ve fallen on. On the one hand, it had a collar. On the other, it wasn’t smart, but then I don’t ask my clothes to pass Home Office tests so I wouldn’t have thought that mattered.
It seems like somebody’s always trying to clean up cab drivers. The problem is that even when they get their way, they’re still not happy, because whatever cab drivers wear, they have a way of still being cab drivers.
Long may it be so.
Tinky Winky dies
Simon Barnes, the actor who played Tinky Winky on the Teletubbies, died in January.
Tinky Winky had a moment of fame when the evangelist Jerry Falwell claimed he was a gay role model who would damage children’s something or other. Moral development, I think.
“He is purple–the gay pride color; and his antenna is shaped like a triangle–the gay pride symbol,” Falwell wrote, in all seriousness, about Tinky Winky. He might have added that Tinky Winky carried a handbag, but he didn’t, which is a shame because it might’ve led people to ask if Tinky Winky was, in fact, a he. I’m guessing that possibility never crossed Falwell’s mind.
I wasn’t a Teletubbies fan, but I must’ve seen at least half an unbroken minute of the show, and nothing I saw told me whether the creatures were male or female. They were a kind of rorschach test. Do you see a male or a female? A symbol of homosexuality or a show that rakes in a lot of money?
Maybe Falwell figured they had to be male because they didn’t wear skirts. He might have easily extrapolated from the symbols that mark women’s public toilets that women all wear skirts. All the time. I don’t know what it means that he didn’t consider other possibilities. Maybe he was one of those men who consider everything male unless it specifically announces itself as female. Maybe he thought more about men than about women.
Whatever. I’m a card-carrying female and I’m prepared to testify that women have legs. They start at the hip and their placement is very much the same as men’s.
Except for the purse, the Teletubbies didn’t look to me like they were wearing clothes of any sort, but if anyone was a better student of the show than I was I’ll yield the floor to them.
After Falwell went public with his take on the Teletubbies, Barnes was often asked about Tinky Winky’s sexuality.
“The character is supposed to be a three-year-old,” he said.
Good point. Not many three-year-olds have defined their sexuality yet.
Barnes replaced an earlier actor, Dave Thompson, whose “interpretation of the role was not acceptable,” according to the letter that told him he was being canned after the first 70 episodes.
What can an actor could do in one of those costumes that would make his interpretation of the role unacceptable? After thirty seconds of watching, I really don’t qualify as an expert , but it didn’t strike me as a role that challenged an actor’s interpretive skills.
Thompson wasn’t sure what they were talking about but thought it might have been his voice.
“The other Teletubbies use their own voices, but mine was dubbed over. At first they asked me to do a high voice and then they changed their minds just before we started filming.”
After he left the show, he went on to play a lion and then an assortment of other roles, and he does stand-up. His web site asks readers to swear they’re over eighteen before they go past the otherwise blank opening page. Once you swear, you learn that he considers “my greatest achievement to be my novel ‘The sex life of a comedian,’ a free sample of which is available on this site. Please don’t read it if you’re under eighteen, or easily shocked.”
I’m not easily shocked. On the other hand, I’m not easily interested, so I didn’t read the sample. But if you insist on knowing about Tinky Winky’s sex life, this is probably as close as you’ll get.
I said I’m not easily shocked. That’s not entirely true. Assuming The sex life of a comedian is his only book, as it seems to be, there’s a misplaced comma in Thompson’s quote. If he’d kindly move the one before “or” so that it follows “novel,” my delicate sensibilities would be ever so grateful. He might also want to italicize the title of his book instead of putting it in quotes.
I feel much better now, thank you.
It’s been a long couple of weeks around here, We lost a week to the flu, or if it wasn’t the flu it was something fluish, and the house is still on its ear. What’s worse, my backlog of blog posts is gone and I suspect I’ve been posting too many of these news roundups lately, but this is my third effort to fill the Friday gap and the first two didn’t pull together, so it’s this or nothing. Let’s hope I’m in better form soon.