Hooting Yard Archive, September 2006

What Would Dobson Do?, Blodgett's Jihad - featuring a cartoon of the prophet Mohammed - some magnetic mute blind love monkeys from a planet far, far away, and a towering hollyhock or two.


Friday 15th September 2006
“We have visited the pretty English burial-ground,…”
Wednesday 13th September 2006
“Drunkenness, immorality and disease go hand in…”
Blodgett's Jihad
Monday 11th September 2006
“On ships, attempts to melt the ice…”
Pilbrow Two and the Love Monkeys
Monday 4th September 2006
“My blue potato is part of the…”
Far Far Away
Saturday 2nd September 2006
“The following is a list of lunar…”
Rose Garden

Friday 15th September 2006

“We have visited the pretty English burial-ground, and the tomb of Smollet, which in the true English style is cut and scratched all over with the names of fools, who think thus to link their own insignificance to his immortality. We have also seen whatever else is to be seen, and what all travellers describe: to-morrow we leave Leghorn - for myself without regret: it is a place with which I have no sympathies, and the hot, languid, damp atmosphere, which depresses the spirits and relaxes the nerves, has made me suffer ever since we arrived.” — Anna Brownell Jameson, The Diary Of An Ennuyee


It has become fashionable among pious young Christian folk, particularly in the United States, to wear wristbands bearing the letters WWJD. This simple formula announces that the wearer has devoted their life to Christ, and faces any and all situations by asking the question What Would Jesus Do? Leaving aside the objection that the daily challenges faced by a mystic carpenter in Palestine two thousand years ago may not be wholly applicable to the kinds of ‘issues’ facing a young person hanging around a mall in Poughkeepsie in the twenty-first century, I think there is much to be said for this approach. If nothing else, it must lead to some interesting behaviour.

For one thing, Jesus had a tendency to perform miraculous feats, such as walking on water or distributing improbable amounts of bread and fish. Then there were his occasional temperamental outbursts, as when he shooed a gang of moneylenders out of a temple. It's to be hoped that the pious teenies emulate this kind of thing rather than Jesus' rather priggish sermonising, for which he had a weakness. Although there are one or two nuggets of wisdom in his preaching, more often it is reminiscent of the airy New Age twaddle one might get from Deepak Chopra and his ilk.

The difficulty remains, though, that a contemporary teenager is going to face circumstances that Jesus simply never had to deal with, all those years ago. Nowadays, the average young American Christian does not spend much time involved with oxen, say, or fatted calves, much less with tares and talents and the blood of the lamb. Young Tad or Biff is likely to get more het up about soda pop, baseball caps, and stadium rock. Working out what Jesus would do thus becomes a very fraught endeavour. Hours upon hours of Biblical study will go some way to resolving the problems, but sooner or later the morally anguished teen will resort to booze and drugs and firearms.

Here at Hooting Yard, we have come up with an elegant solution to these modern dilemmas. We will soon unleash on the market wristbands bearing the legend WWDD. What would Dobson do? There is a simple beauty to this, in the sense that, whatever the situation, the answer is always “Write a pamphlet! (out of print)”.

Wednesday 13th September 2006

“Drunkenness, immorality and disease go hand in hand - a dreadful three. But more than this. The drunken man takes much longer over the sex-act, thereby prolonging the risk of disease, and he runs risks which he would rule out instantly if the fumes of alcohol had not changed the tawdry girl into the glittering fairy. Worse than all, he neglects to apply disinfection properly and promptly - he falls asleep or forgets all about it till too late. Men who are determined to have a ‘night out’ should use calomel ointment (or some other substitute) before they start and if they have been in liquor they should disinfect instantly when they recover their sober senses.” — Ettie A Rout, Safe Marriage : A Return To Sanity

Blodgett's Jihad

Bad Blodgett! One Tuesday in spring, he went a-roaming among the Perspex Caves of Lamont, part of that magnificent artificial coastline immortalised in mezzotints by the mezzotintist Rex Tint. Sheltering in one of the caves from a sudden downpour, Blodgett took his sketchbook out of his satchel and passed the time making a series of cartoon drawings of historical figures. The pictures were imaginary likenesses, of course, for Blodgett was ignorant of many things, and he had no idea what Blind Jack of Knaresborough looked like. Nor was he at all sure that his double cartoon of Barbara Stanwyckand Fred MacMurray bore any resemblance to the stars of Double Indemnity. The rain showed no sign of ceasing, so Blodgett filled page after page, scribbling drawings of Marcus Aurelius, Christopher Smart, Mary Baker Eddy, Percy Bysshe and Mary Shelley, and the Prophet Mohammed, among others. It was this last cartoon that caused ructions which were to have so decisive an effect on Blodgett's life.

Later that day, on his way home from the Perspex Caves of Lamont, Blodgett inadvertently left his sketchbook on the bus. A week or so later, a bus company employee was checking through the lost property and took a few moments to leaf through the book. Turning the fateful page, this employee - an adherent of the Islamic faith - was by turns outraged, humiliated, mortally offended and infuriated when he saw Blodgett's cartoon. As is the way with such matters, he immediately arranged for copies to be distributed to mullahs and imams around the world, so that they too could share his outrage, humiliation, mortal offence and fury. Soon there were calls for Blodgett to be beheaded or otherwise put to death, and he went into hiding. Let's take a look at the picture, so that we can understand what all the fuss was about.

Blodgett's cartoon of the Prophet Mohammed

(In an interesting side note, there was a similar flurryof anger from a sect devoted to the cult of Fred MacMurray, but this fizzled out after Blodgett pledged to attend a penitential screening of one of the actor's late pieces of Disney pap.)

Meanwhile, hiding out in the Perspex Caves of Lamont, the evil cartoonist had time to think through what had happened. Blodgett was aware that the Victorian atheist Charles Bradlaugh had described the Christian Gospels as being “concocted by illiterate half-starved visionaries in some dark corner of a Graeco-Syrian slum”, and he did not think it much of a leap to conclude that the Prophet Mohammed was an equally deluded soul, although perhaps a better-organised one, with access to weaponry which enabled him to spread his message faster and more efficiently.

Around this time, Blodgett received through an intermediary an offer from the furious and offended Islamists. The sentence of death could be rescinded, they suggested, if he made a sincere conversion to their faith and promised to live out the rest of his days in submission to Allah. Blodgett considered this for about forty seconds before rejecting it. Apart from anything else, he reasoned, it was very unlikely that Mrs Blodgett would agree to spend the rest of her life cocooned in a person-sized tent and to stop going out by herself.

Shortly after this, still in hiding, Blodgett had a brainwave. Indeed, he became somewhat furious and offended himself. The conversion offer, he decided, was an example of the old cliché “If you can't beat them, join them”. Well… he would join them, but not in the way they thought. If half-starved visionaries could propagate the Christian gospels, and Mohammed could claim to have heard the voice of God, as so many others down the centuries had insisted, with varying degrees of success, that they were in direct contact with supernatural powers, what was to stop Blodgett announcing that he, and only he, had found the true path? From this spark of inspiration was Blodgettism born.

He began to make clandestine visits to the municipal library at Blister Lane, devouring, among other works, the Qu'ran, the Bible, the collected works of L Ron Hubbard and David Icke, the Book of Mormon, sacred texts from all the major religions and many of the minor ones, even a couple of novels by Ayn Rand. After a few weeks of constant reading, Blodgett set out to define Blodgettism. He did not want it to be a synthesis of every other faith - that seemed a little too pat, a little too Blavatskyesque - and nor did he want it to be simply an amalgam of the good bits. Considering that he was still under sentence of death from a number of shouting men with beards, Blodgett wanted Blodgettism to be a faith at once as rigorous and intransigent as Islam. Thus, he cast aside with reluctance some of the more amusing things he had learned, such as underwear regulations in Mormonism, and Mr Hubbard's intergalactic drivel, and fixed his attention on jihad. As far as jihad-as-inner-struggle was concerned, Blodgett could not give a hoot. But jihad-as-holy-war appealed to him as a way of taking on his persecutors, and thus became the most important feature of the Blodgettist religion.

In The Book Of Blodgett, published in paperback the following year, it has to be said that the founder of the new religion makes an impeccably reasonable argument in favour of his faith. Having devised a set of laws - called Blodgettia - he announces that it is the duty of everyone on earth to obey them, or be killed. Taking his cue mainly from the Qu'ran and the Old Testament, Blodgett devised an appropriately illogical and arbitrary set of regulations for human behaviour. The list of laws is too long and abstruse to reproduce here, but a couple of examples will suffice.

“Blodgettia Law Number 12. Thou shalt not eat plums within ten yards of a pig or a goat or a starling. Those that disobey this law will be bundled up in sacking and thrown into a canal.”

“ Blodgettia Law Number 49. It is forbidden to wear your hat at other than a jaunty angle. See appendix for diagrams of angles of jauntiness and non-jauntiness. Officials of the Committee For The Promotion Of Blodgettian Virtue And The Wholesale Suppression Of Blodgettian Vice And Abomination, armed with protractors and tape measures, will fan out across the land, and where they find hats worn at non-jaunty angles they shall proceed to poke malefactors with pointy sticks before putting them to an entirely justifiable death.”

Of course, the Prophet Mohammed - let's just take a look at that picture again, to remind ourselves -

As I was saying, the Prophet Mohammed was able to spread his word through a combination of historical and geographic circumstance and violence. Alas, Blodgettism never really took root, numbering perhaps only three or four devotees at its height, including Blodgett himself. But there are a few copies of The Book Of Blodgett which have not been pulped or thrown into dustbins, and they may yet inspire a new generation of fanatical adherents, who will demand, in big shouty voices, that they are right and every one else is wrong, and get very upset and angry if you disagree with them, and it will be your fault if they decide to blow you up or chop off your head. Be warned.

Monday 11th September 2006

“On ships, attempts to melt the ice by buckets of hot water or by steam jets are only partially effective, because a great deal of heat is needed to melt a little ice. Further, if the temperature is still below freezing point when the operation is being carried out, the melted ice may freeze again unless it can be pushed overboard first. Mechanical detachment of the ice is no easy matter, for ice adheres most tenaciously to clean, grease-free surfaces and a ship has often been thoroughly de-greased by wind-swept rain and spray before it becomes iced-up.” — G Van Praagh, De-Icing Of Ships

Pilbrow Two and the Love Monkeys

The ever-vigilant Dr Ruth Pastry has fired off a letter in response to last Monday's item entitled Far Far Away.

Hail, Key!, she writes, My text for the day is Deuteronomy 25:13. “Thou shalt not have in thy bag divers weights, a great and a small.” Before reading on, please check the contents of your bag to ensure you are following the Lord's commands. And before you ask, yes, of course I have checked my own bag, or rather bags, and I have nothing to fear from Jehovah, because everything in my bags is sorted according to weight.

Now, I want to take issue with this tale of a cardboard, wax and string Romeo and his (it's?) millions of unhatched love monkeys. I am not concerned that they are magnetic and mute and blind, simply that there are millions of them and only one of him, or it. For it seems to me that you are thereby condoning polygamy. Are you some kind of fundamentalist Mormon? Youwill object that the piece you wrote was fiction, or I suppose science fiction, but even so, you should not underestimate the effect of your twaddle on impressionable young minds… and impressionable older minds, too. I know that there are people out there who base their lives on the texts in Hooting Yard, people who aspire to be Dobsons or Tiny Enids, or even, god help us, Trebizondo Culpepers. What's to say some feckless pimply youth with one too many Asbos thinks he might reform his character by emulating Pilbrow Two? Just as you need to ensure you do not have divers weights in your bag, you ought to give more thought to the moral implications of your work.

Excuse me for a moment while I do my daily chant. Vad vod vud, vad vod vud, hoogoo, hoogoo, vad vod vud. There. I learned that chant from a rather unhygienic suburban shaman. He was very fond of making little plastic model aeroplanes, and he would sprinkle the completed kits with fairy dust, chanting as he did so. He had a different daily chant to mine, of course. I have to say that in all the years I have daily chanted the chant he allotted to me, I have not felt a smidgeon of benefit from doing so. I suspect my chant may be absolutely senseless.

Now where was I? Ah yes, I think you need to write more uplifting tales for your readers, ones with clear guidance as to one's conduct in daily life. You often write about pies, so why not write about piety? “The Pious Pie Shop Person”, there's a title for you. Perhaps some orphans being led astray could come under the pious influence of the pie shop person. An evil demon may have persuaded the orphans to carry different weights, great and small, in their bags, thus disobeying the word of the Lord. Apprised of this foul abomination, the pious pie shop person would teach the tinies the error of their ways. A story like this would do much to repair your reputation, Mr Key. Think on it. Yours forever, Dr Ruth Pastry

Dr Pastry kindly attached a picture of some pious orphans to inspire us all:

Monday 4th September 2006

“My blue potato is part of the cornucopia of potatoes developed by the Incas.” — Michael Pollan, The Botany Of Desire

Far Far Away

Far, far away, there is a galaxy of shattered stars, stars crumpled and curdled and destitute, and there is a planet tucked in among these sorry stars, a tiny pink planet of gas and water and thick foliage, and tucked in among the fronds and creepers and enormous leaves of this foliage lie millions of unhatched eggs, and when they hatch they will hatch millions of magnetic mute blind love monkeys.

I am a crew member of the starship Corrugated Cardboard, heading implacably through deep space towards the galaxy of crumpled stars. Seven years into the voyage, only four of us remain from the original manifest of twenty. There is my captain, o my captain, Pilbrow, a hirsute, raving martinet. We have tied him with cords and confined him to a cupboard, for he has become impossibly dangerous. His spittle is sulphurous, it burns that which it touches, and as he raves, he spits, and he is never not raving, not any more. Ever since we passed through the belt of [illegible] Pilbrow seems no longer human. Being the science officer, I tried to study him, at first. Wearing big protective gloves I transferred flecks of his spittle into my alembic, and ignited my bunsen burners, and peered intently at Pilbrow's burning spittle, hoping to learn something. I learned nothing. We have travelled far, far beyond the belt of [illegible], and still I have learned nothing. Thus the binding with cords, and thus the cupboard.

Also surviving is Pilbrow Two, a half-size version of my captain, o my captain, made of cardboard, wax and string and animated with life by sparks of something akin to, but not quite, electricity. Pilbrow Two is indubitably alive, a pulsating, rustling, thinking, breathing thing, but it has nothing in common with the raving martinet tied by cords in the cupboard. At the beginning of the voyage, we considered changing its name, we even spent a few days calling it Unpilbrow or Antipilbrow, but neither of these caught on, possibly because Pilbrow Two would boom “My name is Pilbrow Two!” in its deafening voice. Our cardboard, wax and string crewmate has been invaluable in keeping our spirits up. I do not think we would still be heading for the galaxy of crumpled and destitute stars, and for the tiny pink planet, if it were not for his - her? its? - determination. Lumpen would have had us turn back, I am sure of it.

Lumpen is the other survivor. He has been morose and sullen since we ran out of breakfast cereal two years ago, after missing the supply depot on the Planet of Grocery Provisions Epsilon Six where we were due to collect a consignment of Kellogg's Fruit 'n' Fibre. He keeps to his bunk now, head buried in a metalback copy of Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand, his pipe clenched in his teeth, the fumes of his untreated Serbian tobacco hanging in the pseudo-air of the cabin. At least it kills the flies.

The bullet-riddled corpses of our dead crewmates, all sixteen of them, are coffined up and the coffins stacked as a makeshift ping pong table. We cleared a space in the cargo hold by jettisoning some crates of irrelevant rubbish we were meant to be delivering to one of the outlying mini-planets of Hubbardworld. There will be hell to pay if we ever get home, but home seems so far away now, so far, far away. Pilbrow Two is a superb ping pong player, never letting its bat get caught in its string, but I am better. We have played thousands of games over the years, and I have won nearly all of them, sometimes without losing a point. Because it has no heart, Pilbrow Two is not disheartened, and comes to every match with the same valiant perkiness that keeps us plunging ever further through space towards the galaxy of shattered stars.

One afternoon, after a particularly gruelling ping pong match, Pilbrow Two confessed to me that what kept it going, what kept it tweaking the boosters to increase our speed, even at the cost of sending the starship into judders which popped some of the bolts on the pseudo-air-seals, was that it was filled with a burning lust for the as yet unhatched magnetic mute blind love monkeys patiently awaiting birth on the tiny pink planet. This was the first I had heard of them. I became confused, and flung question after question at the half-size cardboard, wax and string simulacrum of my captain, o my captain, but it answered none of them. Instead, it showed me pages of twee love poetry it had been writing, and led me to a corner of the cargo hold where it had hidden a stash of love tokens - mostly things made out of some kind of tin, flowers and lockets and brooches, finicky bittybobs it was going to bestow upon the magnetic mute blind love monkeys once they were born. When I protested that there were, supposedly, millions of these monkeys, Pilbrow Two explained to me, with a winsome sigh, that its love knew no bounds, and nor did its lust, for when it had been programmed back in the lab that gave it life, a stray spark had imbued it with a superabundance of love, lust, and ping pong perkiness.

I wondered whether to share these revelations with Lumpen. But what would be the use? Patting Pilbrow Two on its cardboard head, I picked up my ping pong bat and challenged it to another game, and we played and played and played, as my captain, o my captain, Pilbrow, raved and spat and struggled with his binding cords in his cupboard, we played as Lumpen smoked his pipe and read Ayn Rand for the thousandth time, we played as the starship Corrugated Cardboard hurtled inexorably through space towards the galaxy of stars shattered and stars crumpled, stars curdled and stars destitute, wherein nestled the tiny pink planet of gas and water and thick foliage, wherein nestled millions of unhatched eggs, wherein nestled millions of unhatched magnetic mute blind love monkeys, awaiting their unlikely Romeo, a cardboard, wax and string simulacrum of my captain, o my captain, called Pilbrow Two, bearing poetry and love tokens, far, far away.

Saturday 2nd September 2006

“The following is a list of lunar objects published in the Selenographical Journal : 0 deg. Black shadows. 1 deg. Darkest portions of the floors of Grimaldi and Riccioli. 1 1/2 deg. Interiors of Boscovich, Billy, and Zupus. 2 deg. Floors of Endymion, Le Monnier, Julius Caesar, Cruger, and Fourier a. 2 1/2 deg. Interiors of Azout, Vitruvius, Pitatus, Hippalus, and Marius. 3 deg. Interiors of Taruntius, Plinius, Theophilus, Parrot, Flamsteed, and Mercator. 3 1/2 deg. Interiors of Hansen, Archimedes, and Mersenius. 4 deg. Interiors of Manilius, Ptolemaeus, and Guerike. 4 1/2 deg. Surface round Aristillus, Sinus Medii. 5 deg. Walls of Arago, Landsberg, and Bullialdus. Surface round Kepler and Archimedes. 5 1/2 deg. Walls of Picard and Timocharis. Rays from Copernicus. 6 deg. Walls of Macrobius, Kant, Bessel, Mosting, and Flamsteed. 6 1/2 deg. Walls of Langrenus, Theaetetus, and Lahire. 7 deg. Theon, Ariadaeus, Bode B, Wichmann, and Kepler. 7 1/2 deg. Ukert, Hortensius, Euclides. 8 deg. Walls of Godin, Bode, and Copernicus. 8 1/2 deg. Walls of Proclus, Bode A, and Hipparchus c. 9 deg. Censorinus, Dionysius, Mosting A, and Mersenius B and c. 9 1/2 deg. Interior of Aristarchus, La Peyrouse DELTA. 10 deg. Central peak of Aristarchus.” — Thomas Gwyn Elger, The Moon

Rose Garden

I beg your pardon. I never promised you a rose garden. Go and look at the paperwork, where it is clearly stated that I promised you a ditch rife with puddles and nettles, teeming with tiny creatures, worms, flatworms, things with hundreds of legs and vibrating antennae, things with bulbous globular eyes and things with no eyes at all. It is also made crystal clear that this ditch is designed to surround your chalet, like a moat, and that no roses will grow in it. A towering hollyhock or two, yes, but not a single rose. Why on earth do you think that I promised you a rose garden?

How dare you accuse me of tampering with the papers! Are you seriously suggesting that I tippexed out whole paragraphs of the original and used a scratchy nib to insert a completely different schedule of works? You are casting aspersions upon my skills as a landscape designer of note and inferring that I am but a brute armed with a spade. I travelled the length and breadth of the country to find you specimens of the creepy crawlies you requested, rare maggots, weird blind wriggling transparent night crawlers, slithering horrors, and all the rest. There was no rainfall for weeks on end, so I created those puddles with my bare hands, carting bucket after bucket of duckpond water from the brackish duckpond over yonder beyond the municipal bandstand. It would have been a lot easier to plant a few roses in the ground, believe me.

Yes, I know you did not call me a brute with a spade, those were my words, but that is what you would have said were you a man of plain speech rather than a pompous puffed up milksop given to Jesuitical circumlocution. Has it occurred to you that your very verbosity may have contributed to you getting a ditch dug around your chalet instead of a rose garden? You could have said to me “I'd like a rose garden, please,” and I would have taken that on board, but oh no, such simple language is not your style.

You did not say “I'd like a rose garden, please”. I refute that utterly. If you had said that, why would I be clutching three files of paperwork which clearly show that you asked for a moat-like ditch rife with puddles and nettles and creeping creatures to be dug to a depth of six feet around your chalet, without any provision for a drawbridge? Do you think I just made that up off the top of my head? Why would I do that? Ditch digging is back-breaking work, especially when you only have one old rusty dented bent and battered spade to work with. Try it yourself.

There is no drawbridge straddling the ditch because you clearly specified that you did not require one. Yes, that did perplex me, but I assumed you were planning to vault the ditch on those long spidery legs of yours.

It is preposterous to argue now that you did not ask for a drawbridge because you would not need one to gain access to this putative rose garden you keep harping on about. Will you stop banging your fists on that portcullis?

Well… I will grant you that. It is indeed unusual to find a portcullis blocking the door of a chalet where there is no accompanying drawbridge. The two usually go together, I agree. And no, nowhere in the bundle of papers do you request the installation of a massive cast iron portcullis requiring the strength of ten muscular peasants to winch it up, which is why it does not come with a winch, or any kind of levers or pulleys or such contrivances. I am a landscapist, not an engineer.

If you recall, on the tenth day that the works were being carried out on your ditch, I told you that I would be unavailable on the following Thursday as I had to attend the presentation of a prize cup far, far away in a distant, cold, and mountainous land. Your immovable portcullis was installed in my absence, by rogues. It has nothing to do with me.

I have had quite enough of this. I am about to send my messenger starling to perch on your portcullis. Tuck the banknotes in the ring around its leg and flap your arms as a spur to send it back to me. If you do not do so, I am going to go and fetch my old rusty dented bent and battered spade and I will fill in your ditch. The puddles and the nettles and the teeming creeping creatures will vanish under piles of muck and mud and soil, and you will cut a forlorn figure, a Jesuitical milksop hammering on your portcullis, a man without a ditch.