The Glottal Stop

A Vilification of the Cliché

Posted in Opinion, Politics, Writing by admin on August 19, 2010

Throughout May, there was much discontent demonstrated by the electorate towards politicians. A good portion of this was a reflection of the public’s disappointment in policies that the main party leaders were proposing and disillusionment over their constant attempts at undermining each other, rather than developing and portraying their own merits. Another portion of this discontent was in the way that Brown, Cameron and Clegg all sounded exactly alike in their use of uninspired, meaningless political language. Speeches were cliché ridden, uncreative and hackneyed. The main party leaders were constantly resorting to some overused sound-bite or party slogan – ‘biggest fight’, ‘A future fair for all’, ‘change that works for you’ and ‘vote for change’. The whole event was frankly banal. The voters couldn’t even bring themselves to assign a majority to one of the parties.

Just as with politicians, writers should heed warnings about the use of clichés – particularly the most threadbare – lest they should incur the censure of their reader and ultimately begin to lose their audience.

We are all aware of clichés within our speech and our writing. To use a cliché here and there to help with the flow of a quick utterance, or to quickly convey a slightly more elaborate meaning within informal speech, is perfectly acceptable. However, we all know those writers, publications, or even acquaintances where the use of the ‘odd’ cliché is far too commonplace – this is where clichés start to grate:

To use too many clichés is, at the end of the day, after all things considered, worthy of a chorus of disapproval. But it may be down to a chapter of accidents that they exist; circumstances beyond control – but each to their own. Personally they make me sick as a parrot. Writers who use them should turn over a new-leaf; but then again, you can’t teach and old dog new tricks.

See what I mean? The overuse of clichés resulting in the defilement of your writings is just as criminal as continually using a flurry of exclamation marks where they just aren’t warranted.

Most clichés begin life as someone’s witty phrase for expressing or emphasising a thought. Though, clichés that are intelligent are often adopted and repeated by many. Multiply their use by a million, and you have the overused, tired husks of someone’s originality.

To overuse clichés is to have a complete disregard for the quality of your work; you are effectively writing something without meaning. When a reader sees a cliché they skim over it; they have seen it a million times before and it means the same thing as it always has to them. It is not your writing, it is not your creation; it is just a space-filler. Why use a cliché and give up the perfect opportunity to use a well placed and highly apt adjective or a beautifully crafted metaphor or simile?

No matter how hard you try, no cliché will be able to convey the feelings you are trying to portray. Often, the poverty of words can make describing an abstract emotion difficult; but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. If you take the time to meticulously construct a sentence you can invoke, within the reader, the valuable connotations and associations that exist within language – your writing will seem all the better for it.

 

Alexander. B

Britain’s Indian Disposition

Posted in Economics, General, News, Politics, Travel by admin on August 5, 2010

For far too long Britain has acted with a deeply naive attitude towards India. Labour’s conduct towards the emerging super-power has not only done much to damage our relations at a governmental level – I.K. Gujral, Indian Prime minster from 1997 to 1998, once described Britain as ‘a third-rate power’ – but has also been detrimental to the image that the average Indian holds of us. I had ample chance for debate with Indian students whilst being shown round Mumbai University. Political students, with an insightful understanding of diplomacy between Britain and India, often told me that the former was often perceived as subordinating the latter, through some complacent arrogance that had somehow imbedded itself in the policies of successive governments after 1947.

The British ruled in India for over 200 years, the images of English gentlemen riding elephants and the stories of Kipling are a deep-set part of our culture, and to older generations India will always be that jewel in the British empire. However, we are deeply mistaken if we assume that this shared history gives us any prestige in the eyes of Indians. To Indians, this is little more than a period of history best forgotten.

Right from the outset mistakes were made by Labour about the ‘shared history’ that Britain and India were, quite wrongly, assumed to posses. During the Queen’s 1997 visit, a Band of Royal Marines was forbidden from playing due to its ‘imperial connotations’ and the then foreign secretary, Robin Cook, put his foot in it by offering to mediate between India and Pakistan.

In its final years, Labour was far too occupied in its snuggling-up to China to turn its attentions to the quietly flourishing India and recognise its increasing importance as both a military and trading ally. Once again, embarrassing mistakes were made; notably, David Miliband lecturing Indian Ministers on human rights issues whilst addressing them by their first names. All of which has only served to push Britain to the peripheries of India’s political consciousness.

Thankfully, It seems that Cameron’s delegation of cabinet ministers and business leaders – the largest British delegation to visit the country since independence – can be taken as a direct contrast to labour’s prior indifference, and putting in its place an appreciation and reverence for a state that could do just as well without our support.

That is not to say that this new ‘special relationship’ is completely without benefits for India. The £700m deal between BAE Systems, Rolls-Royce and Hindustan Aeronautics will provide a multitude of jobs to the masses of unemployed within India (a problem that is currently being remedied by assigning three of four workers to do the job of one).

Furthermore, though we cannot rely on a shared sense of history and nostalgia to support relations between our two countries, we can appeal to the deep personal ties that are not hard to find. Britain has a 1.5 million Indian diaspora and there are 34,000 Indian nationals studying in Britain, and despite the growing allure of America as a place to study, Britain is still held as the highest in terms of repute (in all the Indian cities I visited, I saw billboards advertising agencies that would – perhaps misleadingly- ‘guarantee’ you a student visa to Britain). All of which instantly brings Britain and India closer together.

Let’s hope that David Cameron’s pledges to place a cap on non-EU migration and restrictions on student visas doesn’t end up being irrevocably detrimental towards these personal ties.

Alexander B

A Case for Divorce

Posted in General, Opinion by admin on August 3, 2010

It has always seemed that – aside from the perishable nature of love and conflict arising from domesticities, both the trivial and the grace – the two quite influential factors in escalating global divorce rates (particularly in the UK and America) are that of the economic hold over the individual (i.e. commitments to careers and a desire for job security which almost necessarily holds a sort of precedence over marriage), and that of Hollywood.

My latter reason, I believe, is not as completely barmy as it might at first seem.

Take these statistics:

# 1 United States: 4.95 per 1,000 people
# 2 Puerto Rico: 4.47 per 1,000 people
# 3 Russia: 3.36 per 1,000 people
# 4 United Kingdom: 3.08 per 1,000 people
# 5 Denmark: 2.81 per 1,000 people
# 6 New Zealand: 2.63 per 1,000 people
# 7 Australia: 2.52 per 1,000 people
# 8 Canada: 2.46 per 1,000 people
# 9 Finland: 1.85 per 1,000 people
# 10 Barbados: 1.21 per 1,000 people

These are the top ten countries for rates of divorce throughout the world (Divorce rate per 1,000 people). Sourced from divorceform.com and recorded in 2004 (admittedly a little outdated, but still relevant to this article).

The country with the highest divorce rate (the highest number of divorces per 1000 people) is the USA; not only the home of Hollywood, but along with Canada, the country with the highest consumer expenditure on going to the movies (see graph). In fourth is the United Kingdom; a close ally of the USA and heavily influenced by American culture. In eighth is Canada; America’s Northern neighbours, as well as sharing its ‘top cinema spending’ spot. Three other countries within the list have English as their official national language (Australia, New Zealand, Barbados) and thus lack a language barrier to Hollywood’s cinematic allure.

Of course, there are many other factors to consider here. Russia has it problems with alcoholism which are sure to account for such a high divorce rate. In Finland, an increasingly secularized view of marriage that saw it as an arrangement that could be ended if it did not satisfy its partners has often been cited for top ten position. However, a more interesting reason raised is that Finland’s gradually expanding welfare system could manage an ever greater portion of the family’s traditional tasks, and it made couples less dependent on the institution of marriage.

Undoubtedly the rights of women have had a large part to play in divorce statistics, particularly where their status in society is determined by a prevalence of religion and cultural tradition. For example: in many countries a huge stigma is attached to a woman if she divorces. Worse so are those cultures where there is not even a capacity for women to seek a divorce, where marriage is little more than female objectification.

In their favour, the above tabled countries are places where – of which the majority are deeply feminised – divorce is usually easily granted, and it is not seen as a stigma upon women if she is a divorcé. Unfortunately, this has lead many idiots of the online community to conclude that feminism is bad for marriage (where to begin with this fallacious notion?).

Anyway, back to the Hollywood theory.

Robert Pattison

Robert Pattison

With Hollywood comes the idealised romance, the wet dialogue, and misleading simplification of emotion. Millions have grown attached, through Hollywood, to the idea of marrying a man of Brad Pitt qualities and living the happy-ever-after life. Millions of teenagers are right now dreaming of the day they find their very own Robert Pattison. But of course, the reality of Love and relationships is oh-so very different.

An outlandish theory? Well, apparently not:

Recent findings by researchers at Heriot-Watt University (Edinburgh) have shown romantic comedies, such as Notting Hill, promote unrealistic expectations of love; resulting in an almost detrimental effect upon relationships.  And not long ago, a poll in Australia found that people felt the most dissatisfied about their partners after watching romantic comedies.

Food for thought.

Fitzboodle.

England’s ‘but we invented it’ Fallacy of Football Defeat.

Posted in General, Humour, Opinion by admin on July 7, 2010

Alexander. B

Once again we have entered a major football tournament clutching our hopes and dreams of success on the international stage to our chests, only to find ourselves, in the event, clutching at straws. Every time we enter a competition it is with our heads held high and with our ambitions plastered across the national newspapers. Then we come crawling out of it like some lame animal after some miserable defeat. Then the grumble across the lips of the nation is “and from the country that invented it”.

But we did not invent it! What sort of a remark is that?

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Smells like Thatcherism

Posted in Economics, Politics by admin on July 4, 2010

A. Fitzboodle
Birmingham, UK

Although the budget and it’s details have drawn a divide between many politicians within and without government, there is something of a consensus that Labour were reckless with the public purse. David Cameron said of Labour’s ‘”Sorry there’s no money left” note’  that it was "13 words that sum up 13 years of complete cavalier arrogance with the taxpayers’ money". Newspapers told us in May how even the government’s own “Top civil servants made formal protests over Labour spending”. And Labour’s so called ‘Scorched earth policies’ and the “Financial ‘stink bombs’ left in Whitehall” upon the accession of the new Lab-Con government have made Labour look not only irresponsible but also like sore losers at a school sports-day.Overdraft! What's an overdraft?

A ‘We’re all in this together’ sort of mentality has been emanating from Mr Osborne, and that the June emergency budget is a tough but fair approach. Though, it doesn’t take a political philosopher to realise that an equal application of the law does not necessarily have an equal affect upon the population. The Institute of Fiscal Studies (IFS) has predicted that 1.3 million jobs would be lost as a result of spending cuts over the next five years. The IFS also found that, George Osborne’s plan to reduce spending by 25% in almost all areas of government and public services except healthcare and overseas aid, will disproportionately affect the poor; in fact, it will hit the poorest six times harder than it will hit the richest. Said the Observer, “The Tories’ shock tactics threaten to send us back into recession, and to condemn millions of young people to a life of unemployment”, and the slashing off 10% of the jobseekers allowance may become the lib-con’s equivalent to Gordon Brown’s 10p tax rate abolition (that, coupled with Labour’s bailing-out of troubled banks, made it look like the first socialist government to take money from the poor and give it to the rich).

Though Labour’s job creation schemes were expensive, they did at least work; but they are being scraped, along with 250,000 university places and literacy lessons for those adult ‘low-achievers’ who left school early.

There is a certain underclass in Britain which the conservatives like to call ‘Broken Britain’, but they would do well to remember that Broken Britain is one of Thatcher’s many legacies. Broken Britain was created by millions of young people tumbling out of school and onto the dole in the 1980s, never managing to right themselves and having children who in turn have known no model of work. What with the disproportionately negative affects of the emergency budget on the poor, this cycle looks set to repeat itself.

 

Further Reading:
IFS June Emergency budget analysis
The most important financial debate of our times

The most important financial debate of our times.

Posted in Economics, From across the pond, News, Politics by admin on July 3, 2010
Gordon Katic,
Vancouver

 

If you have been following the financial press as of late, you’re probably well aware that there is a contentious debate between deficit reduction hawks and those who call for the more state spending to boost global demand. At the latest juncture of this debate, Toronto’s G20 summit, the international community sided with the deficit hawks and committed to halve deficits by 2013. One would imagine this hysteria over public debt is a response to market pressure. Not so, say the bond markets. The latest calls for debt reduction, far from a reasoned response to economic reality, are products of an ideological opposition to a strong state sector:

Instead of bond market fears, the US has an intense political debate about deficits and whether to spend more on fiscal stimulus. Steny Hoyer, the Democratic leader in the House of Representatives, has talked of “spending fatigue”. His Republican opponents have set up “YouCut” – a weekly public vote on which spending to cut, American Idol-style.

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Obama: “Oil rigs today generally don’t cause spills”

Posted in News, Politics by admin on June 26, 2010

In The Curse of Black Gold: Lest we should forget (http://theglottalstop.wordpress.com/2010/06/07/the-curse-of-black-gold-lest-we-should-forget/) posted on the 7th of June, The Glottal Stop issued a rather poignant reminder of the dangers of trying to accommodate insatiable demands for fuel and the human and environmental costs of going further and further in the search for more black gold.

We’ll, did we forget? Remarkably, yes. Because of the demand for fuel in America, the moratorium that Obama imposed on deep drilling was always unlikely to last long; polls suggest that Americans don’t support it. But already, a court in New Orleans has declared the moratorium ‘unlawful’, paving the way for oil giants to resume their hazardous search for the last barrel. How long until the the US oil spill crisis become a distant memory; before it becomes just another blotch in the pages of history?

I wish I had foresight…

“Oil rigs today generally don’t cause spills” is the tune that Obama sang as he opened up more of US waters to drilling only 18 days prior to the explosion on the BP oil rig. Granted, he’s cautious, telling us that oil rigs ‘generally’ don’t cause spills, but it is a sound bite that has come back to bight him.

Quote of the Month: Labour MSP Frank McAveety

Posted in General, Humour, Politics, Uncategorized by admin on June 26, 2010

"that kind you'd see in a Gauguin painting"Frank McAveety, a Labour MSP, was heard making comments about a woman attending a Scottish Parliament committee meeting he was chairing.

He remarked of the “girl in the second row” that she was “Dark and Dusky. We’ll maybe put a wee word out for her. She’s very attractive, nice, very nice, very slim. The heat’s getting to me.”
The Clerk whom he was talking to remains – quite prudently, in hindsight – silent, but McAveety continues.
“She’s got that Filipino look – you know, the kind you’d see in a Gauguin painting. There’s a wee bit of culture.”

Quite inappropriate remarks for the convener of the petitions committee to make, one feels, and he has been made to resign because of it. But one can’t help feel that for his eloquence and his ‘cultural comparisons’ alone, he perhaps deserved something of a reprieve.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/10322748.stm

Those Dangerous Anarchists, Begging to be Beaten

Posted in Debate, From across the pond, News, Opinion, Politics by admin on June 24, 2010

Gordon Katic
Vancouver

Whenever there is a controversial event sure to garner large (and possibly violent) protests, I wait eagerly like a child on Christmas Eve. Mimicking the igneous method employed by Bart Simpson to reach his Christmas presents at the earliest possible hour, I drink enough water to insure that I awake to meet the inky-fingered paperboy as he saunters to my doorstep with the package that I so eagerly wish to uncoil. I flip through  the pages anxiously in search of titillating accounts of windows smashed and innocents saved (or the more common inverse–windows saved, innocents smashed). Upon hastily skimming through stories of vandalism and violence, I become infuriated at the nefarious hoodlums who would dare disrespect my fine country and rouse the rabble that occupies it. I then faithfully flip to the the back in search of strongly-worded condemnations populating the editorial and opinion section of my trustworthy newspaper. I intently read the penetrating analysis made by revered pundits, invariably offering stern admonishments to troublemakers and troubles made. These petty criminals offer no coherent political viewpoints, I am told; a rag-tag group of attention-seeking vandals worthy of nothing better than pity, with a dollop of derision and a dash of condescension. (more…)

Thailand’s Songkran Festival. Or, How I lost my Thai Smile. (Part 2)

Posted in Travel by admin on June 20, 2010

All Day I Hear the Noise of Waters

We travelled from the station to the hotel in a roofed pick-up truck. The passengers sit alongside the back of the truck on two benches, running along either side is an open window and the only way in is through an opening at the back. For Thailand, the new year is a big thing, it’s a three day festival of water fights, processions, dancing, singing, and face painting; however, I was not prepared for just how seriously the water-fighting was taken. As I sat looking out of the taxi, admiring the surrounding cityscape, I noticed a convoy of pick-up trucks behind us. And in the back of each one was a large bucket of water with a block of ice for added effect. Around this tub sat a number of people with water pistols and receptacles for dispensing the icy cold water over those unfortunate enough to come within their sights and range. We stopped at a traffic light and a one of these pick-up trucks pulled up beside us. They began chucking water over us. My God it was good. There’s a quick scramble to waterproof valuables, i.e. money, passport, phone (but, this really can be avoided with a little prudence), but really, you enjoy the feeling. When it’s so hot, to be splashed with ice cold water is refreshing, you know that as soon as you step out the taxi your clothes will dry in the sun, and there’s a certain connection you feel with the locals in the fact that they have chosen to include you (though perhaps ‘sacrifice’ would be a better word) in their traditions. They soak you a few times and it’s funny. But then you realise the traffic lights still haven’t changed and the soaking you are getting begins to looses all its humour, fun, effect, or in fact, reason (why sprays someone who is already wet?) because of the repetitiveness of it. Eventually the taxi pulls away from the lights and it dawns on you that a precedent has been set.

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