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When I was finishing my PhD I tried to get a job with the marketing department of Rowntree's chocolate factory in York, where I was then living. It's lucky I failed, because had I known it they were about to be bought up by the evil Nestlé corporation, and I'd have had to resign almost immediately.

In those days I was a great admirer of Rowntree's advertising (the Kit Kat panda ad is perhaps the most famous). But the Rowntree crown was soon to be stolen by Marmite, who took the old "love it or hate it" adage about their product and ran with it in a way that makes Pheidippides look like a sprinter. Here's an early effort on that theme, from some time in the early 2000s:



Simple, yes, but ground-breaking in that the entire advert is based around someone hating the product.

After that, they became far more sophisticated, and developed a brilliant line in spoofs on TV genres. Here they are riffing on the animal rescue programmes:



For a long time, I thought they wouldn't top that. But now, along comes the DNA test reveal advert. This, in my opinion, is simply genius. Here is modern Britain in a nutshell (not that Marmite contains nuts):

steepholm: (tree_face)
The other day I listened to The Film Programme's discussion of Alice Guy's 1906 film, "Les Résultats du féminisme", in which we are shown a world where "feminism" has triumphed and men and women have effectively exchanged roles. You can see it here (it's only 7 minutes):



Apparently Guy (by then Alice Blaché) made another film with a similar theme but a future setting, In the Year 2000 (1912). Alas, that one is now lost.

The studio discussion assumed that Guy was making a feminist point herself, highlighting the treatment that women receive in the real world by showing it happening to men. That may well be right - but more than anything I was reminded of the anti-suffrage postcards produced around the same time, with very similar images of a world in which feminism has triumphed and men are reduced to domestic servitude while their wives carouse and put their feet up. Nothing very feminist about those - nor indeed about the Two Ronnies sketch series The Worm that Turned (1980), which is actually cited as a parallel by one of the studio guests. (This compilation I've linked here is 90 minutes long, but watch the first four minutes and you'll find you've had quite enough. I remember it all too well from 37 years ago.)

It's not that I don't believe Guy's film is feminist: without knowing something of her political opinions, I really couldn't say. But it's a striking instance of how the very same (or very similar) images can have opposite meanings, depending on the assumptions with which one approaches them.
steepholm: (Default)
The other day I listened to The Film Programme's discussion of Alice Guy's 1906 film, "Les Résultats du féminisme", in which we are shown a world where "feminism" has triumphed and men and women have effectively exchanged roles. You can see it here (it's only 7 minutes):



Apparently Guy (by then Alice Blaché) made another film with a similar theme but a future setting, In the Year 2000 (1912). Alas, that one is now lost.

The studio discussion assumed that Guy was making a feminist point herself, highlighting the treatment that women receive in the real world by showing it happening to men. That may well be right - but more than anything I was reminded of the anti-suffrage postcards produced around the same time, with very similar images of a world in which feminism has triumphed and men are reduced to domestic servitude while their wives carouse and put their feet up. Nothing very feminist about those - nor indeed about the Two Ronnies sketch series The Worm that Turned (1980), which is actually cited as a parallel by one of the studio guests. (This compilation I've linked here is 90 minutes long, but watch the first four minutes and you'll find you've had quite enough. I remember it all too well from 37 years ago.)

It's not that I don't believe Guy's film is feminist: without knowing something of her political opinions, I really couldn't say. But it's a striking instance of how the very same (or very similar) images can have opposite meanings, depending on the assumptions with which one approaches them.
steepholm: (tree_face)
The old mobile phone advertising slogan, "The Future's Bright, the Future's Orange" has been going through my head for the last day or so - can't think why...

Anyway, idly searching the phrase on Youtube I came across this 1999 advert, imagining a dystopian future world in which Orange has become a vast, all-controlling panopticon, micromanaging the lives of everyone and interposing itself in human relationships at every level.

Although at one point (0.51) we read that Hillary Clinton is running for the US presidency, the news is greeted with scornful, uncomprehending laughter by the complacent white family at the film's centre, who are unaware of how their autonomy has been usurped by the all-powerful Orange Corporation.

It's nightmarish stuff - complete with creepy clowns (4.05). Watch it (and then live it) if you dare...

steepholm: (Default)
The old mobile phone advertising slogan, "The Future's Bright, the Future's Orange" has been going through my head for the last day or so - can't think why...

Anyway, idly searching the phrase on Youtube I came across this 1999 advert, imagining a dystopian future world in which Orange has become a vast, all-controlling panopticon, micromanaging the lives of everyone and interposing itself in human relationships at every level.

Although at one point (0.51) we read that Hillary Clinton is running for the US presidency, the news is greeted with scornful, uncomprehending laughter by the complacent white family at the film's centre, who are unaware of how their autonomy has been usurped by the all-powerful Orange Corporation.

It's nightmarish stuff - complete with creepy clowns (4.05). Watch it (and then live it) if you dare...

steepholm: (tree_face)
To be a one-hit wonder: first, catch your hit. Alternatively wince along with John Finnemore's sketch, starting at 4.58. With a "musical" reprise at 23.46...

And, while I'm linking, RIP Clare Hollingworth.
steepholm: (Default)
To be a one-hit wonder: first, catch your hit. Alternatively wince along with John Finnemore's sketch, starting at 4.58. With a "musical" reprise at 23.46...

And, while I'm linking, RIP Clare Hollingworth.
steepholm: (tree_face)
Chris Broad is one of my favourite J-Vloggers, but in this Christmas special he has excelled himself. If you've ever wondered why I'm hooked on Japan, watch - and wonder no more.



For more information on the village where Jesus spent the last 70 years or so of his long life as a garlic farmer, see this article, linked from the video, which also has compelling evidence for the story in the form of Hebrew survivals in the local dialect. (Okay, Jesus spoke Aramaic, but let's not split hairs.) Oddly, the place has been visited by the ambassador of Israel; but from the Pope? Not a dicky bird.

Also: why isn't Shingou twinned with Glastonbury?
steepholm: (Default)
Chris Broad is one of my favourite J-Vloggers, but in this Christmas special he has excelled himself. If you've ever wondered why I'm hooked on Japan, watch - and wonder no more.



For more information on the village where Jesus spent the last 70 years or so of his long life as a garlic farmer, see this article, linked from the video, which also has compelling evidence for the story in the form of Hebrew survivals in the local dialect. (Okay, Jesus spoke Aramaic, but let's not split hairs.) Oddly, the place has been visited by the ambassador of Israel; but from the Pope? Not a dicky bird.

Also: why isn't Shingou twinned with Glastonbury?
steepholm: (tree_face)
My friend Dru's FB post appears to have gone viral, to the extent that she's now had it made into a T-shirt. In case you want one, here's the link.

She's just the kind of person Trump would probably hate to think of as benefiting from his election, so it's in a good cause.
steepholm: (Default)
My friend Dru's FB post appears to have gone viral, to the extent that she's now had it made into a T-shirt. In case you want one, here's the link.

She's just the kind of person Trump would probably hate to think of as benefiting from his election, so it's in a good cause.
steepholm: (tree_face)
Chris Wood has a new album out, and I'd like to make two recommendations from it.

First, here's his setting of Housman's poem about Victoria's Golden Jubilee, "1887" - a work that's not as straightforwardly patriotic as may first appear. I mention it here particularly, though, because my brother worked on the setting with him, and accompanies him on the track.

Also, there's "Shallow End", which I heard him perform live a couple of years ago, and loved. It's just as good now.
steepholm: (Default)
Chris Wood has a new album out, and I'd like to make two recommendations from it.

First, here's his setting of Housman's poem about Victoria's Golden Jubilee, "1887" - a work that's not as straightforwardly patriotic as may first appear. I mention it here particularly, though, because my brother worked on the setting with him, and accompanies him on the track.

Also, there's "Shallow End", which I heard him perform live a couple of years ago, and loved. It's just as good now.
steepholm: (tree_face)
In default of a proper post, here's my latest Awfully Big Blog Adventure post, which is on "voice" in children's literature, and especially Jacqueline Wilson. I tried to row back on the whole Boothian apparatus in this not-especially-scholarly piece, but even so, the phrases "Milnean voice" and "Christophoric ear" are never entirely absent from my mind when I write on this subject...
steepholm: (Default)
In default of a proper post, here's my latest Awfully Big Blog Adventure post, which is on "voice" in children's literature, and especially Jacqueline Wilson. I tried to row back on the whole Boothian apparatus in this not-especially-scholarly piece, but even so, the phrases "Milnean voice" and "Christophoric ear" are never entirely absent from my mind when I write on this subject...
steepholm: (tree_face)
Yesterday, the Today programme celebrated the equinox by having Juliet Stevenson read Keats' "To Autumn", which was probably my favourite poem when I was a teenager (when autumn was my favourite season, and when the water meadows near Winchester - which inspired the poem - were among my favourite haunts). I still love it. Has anyone ever made better use of the word "clammy" than in these lines, for example?

to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For summer has o'er-brimm'd their clammy cells.


But I slightly digress. After the reading, they produced Prof. Peter Swaab of UCL to talk about the poem. At one point he and Stevenson had a slight disagreement about the tone of the final line, "And gathering swallows twitter in the skies." You can hear it from 2.26.00 on the link above, but I've written out the relevant part for your convenience. Swaab was making the point that the final stanza includes positive and livelier notes along with the expected elegaic, and cited the "gathering swallows" (along with the gnats and the lambs) as "assertive and vigorous" voices competing with and counterbalancing the poet's own sense of decline.

JS: I don't know though, you know that "gathering swallows" thing is about departure, it's about leaving, and going south, and heading off to a completely different... It's always about the end of summer, isn't it, seeing the swallows gather, so I don't know that it's... I don't think it is that cheerful, I think it's...

PS: If you're a swallow, though, you're going to summer south.

[Presenter]: You're going to other things, you're looking forward to your holiday.

JS: But it's not written from the swallows' point of view, is it?

PS [audibly trying not to tell Stevenson she's stupid]: Well, it's in there, I think.


Personally I'm with Juliet Stevenson on this. Also, I don't really see "full-grown lambs" as a positive image. They're going to be slaughtered soon, after all! (If indeed we're being asked to look at it from the animals' point of view.) And as for the gnats...

But soft, what's that about the swallows going south for the winter? I mean, yes they do, but isn't that a rather anachronistic piece of knowledge? After all, solid evidence about patterns of bird migration only dates from 1822 (three years after the poem was written), and the remarkable discovery of a stork in Mecklenburg with an African spear through its neck (for pics and the whole story, see here). Where migratory birds went in the winter was, before that date, something of a mystery, as I understand it. I'm sure some people had considered the possibility that they migrated somewhere, but I doubt whether "gathering swallows" would have had the same "package holiday" connotations for Keats that it has for the Today presenter or indeed for Prof. Swaab.

(On the other hand... what if the swallow used a strand of creeper, held under the guiding dorsal feathers?)
steepholm: (Default)
Yesterday, the Today programme celebrated the equinox by having Juliet Stevenson read Keats' "To Autumn", which was probably my favourite poem when I was a teenager (when autumn was my favourite season, and when the water meadows near Winchester - which inspired the poem - were among my favourite haunts). I still love it. Has anyone ever made better use of the word "clammy" than in these lines, for example?

to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For summer has o'er-brimm'd their clammy cells.


But I slightly digress. After the reading, they produced Prof. Peter Swaab of UCL to talk about the poem. At one point he and Stevenson had a slight disagreement about the tone of the final line, "And gathering swallows twitter in the skies." You can hear it from 2.26.00 on the link above, but I've written the relevant part out for your convenience. Swaab was making the point that the final stanza includes positive and livelier notes along with the expected elegaic, and cited the "gathering swallows" (along with the gnats and the lambs) as "assertive and vigorous" voices competing with and counterbalancing the poet's own sense of decline.

JS: I don't know though, you know that "gathering swallows" thing is about departure, it's about leaving, and going south, and heading off to a completely different... It's always about the end of summer, isn't it, seeing the swallows gather, so I don't know that it's... I don't think it is that cheerful, I think it's...

PS: If you're a swallow, though, you're going to summer south.

[Presenter]: You're going to other things, you're looking forward to your holiday.

JS: But it's not written from the swallows' point of view, is it?

PS [audibly trying not to tell Stevenson she's stupid]: Well, it's in there, I think.


Personally I'm with Juliet Stevenson on this. Also, I don't really see "full-grown lambs" as a positive image. They're going to be slaughtered soon, after all! (If indeed we're being asked to look at it from the animals' point of view.) And as for the gnats...

But soft, what's that about the swallows going south for the winter? I mean, yes they do, but isn't that a rather anachronistic piece of knowledge? After all, solid evidence about patterns of bird migration only dates from 1822 (three years after the poem was written), and the remarkable discovery of a stork in Mecklenburg with an African spear through its neck (for pics and the whole story, see here). Where migratory birds went in the winter was, before that date, something of a mystery, as I understand it. I'm sure some people had considered the possibility that they migrated somewhere, but I doubt whether "gathering swallows" would have had the same "package holiday" connotations for Keats that it has for the Today presenter or indeed for Prof. Swaab.

(On the other hand... what if the swallow used a strand of creeper, held under the guiding dorsal feathers?)
steepholm: (tree_face)
I often watch this Youtube channel, first without and then with subtitles, as a way of attuning my ear to spoken Japanese. The topics aren't always particularly interesting, but in this case I did find the answers fascinating, even allowing for possible edits, sampling errors, etc.



That Perry's name crops up a lot isn't surprising, though it's a bit of a cheat when the question is about non-Japanese historical figures, since (as far as I know) he's only famous in a Japanese context. That's a little less true of Francis Xavier - but I'm struck by the happenstance of his being remembered because his picture is on the cover the school history text book in a cool pose. (It reminds me of the fashion-conscious teen who went into a shop and asked for a cross to wear round her neck: "Do you have the kind with the little man on the front?")

Naturally I tried to think of British equivalents, but could do no better than Julius Caesar (Perry) and St Augustine (Xavier). Pytheas of Massalia might do for Marco Polo at a pinch. None, apart possibly from Caesar, is likely to come up in a similar interview conducted on a British street.

About Spanish Napoleon and Russian Shakespeare, the less said the better.
steepholm: (Default)
I often watch this Youtube channel, first without and then with subtitles, as a way of attuning my ear to spoken Japanese. The topics aren't always particularly interesting, but in this case I did find the answers fascinating, even allowing for possible edits, sampling errors, etc.



That Perry's name crops up a lot isn't surprising, though it's a bit of a cheat when the question is about non-Japanese historical figures, since (as far as I know) he's only famous in a Japanese context. That's a little less true of Francis Xavier - but I'm struck by the happenstance of his being remembered because his picture is on the cover the school history text book in a cool pose. (It reminds me of the fashion-conscious teen who went into a shop and asked for a cross to wear round her neck: "Do you have the kind with the little man on the front?")

Naturally I tried to think of British equivalents, but could do no better than Julius Caesar (Perry) and St Augustine (Xavier). Pytheas of Massalia might do for Marco Polo at a pinch. None, apart possibly from Caesar, is likely to come up on a similar interview conducted on a British street.

About Spanish Napoleon and Russian Shakespeare, the less said the better.
steepholm: (Default)
This is basically copied from my FB, but I'm trying to spread the word. This is one of the preparatory steps for turning my ChLA paper into a proper article...

Calling anyone who's watched Puella Magi Madoka Magica!

I'm writing a paper on the Madoka fandom, and as part of that I've written a short survey so that I can get some empirical data about the people who've watched it and what they feel (good and bad) about various aspects of the show. If you've watched the series (i.e. the twelve-episode anime) it would be great if you could answer a few questions at the link below. It shouldn't take more than 8 minutes at most (probably more like three). All answers are completely anonymous.

Also, feel free to share the link.

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