Friday, 26 February 2016

On Rebellions, Humour and Late Good Ideas.

I made reference in a recent post to the Boxcar Rebellion in China. It occurred to me that it might have precipitated a comment thread along the lines of:

It isn’t Boxcar, dummkopf, it’s Boxer.

‘I know. I was emulating Sellars and Yeatman.’

Who are Sellars and Yeatman, and in what way were you emulating them?

‘They wrote, among other things, 1066 and All That, in which they frequently made use of malapropisms – the humorous technique of replacing one word with another that sounds similar but means something completely different. For example, they say that King Henry I of England died of a surfeit of palfreys, when he actually died after being taken ill following an overindulgence of lampreys.’

So why is using the wrong word funny?

‘I don’t know. You’d have to ask a humour theorist that. Why is the white-horse-called-Kevin joke funny? It just is.’

Well, I think you’re stupid.

‘So now you’re casting nasturtiums.’


‘Never mind. You wouldn’t understand.’

But back to the start of it all – Michael Woods’ documentary series on China. I thought last week’s episode was the finish, but it wasn’t. This week’s was, and this week’s was all about rebellions between 1850 and 1950. There was a man called Wong who started the Tie Pin Rebellion, and who was doing quite well until he lost. Then they mixed his ashes with some gunpowder and fired them out of a canon to ensure that he never smiled again. This gave me a good idea, more of which later.

There was an awful lot about Mao – the rise of Mao, the dissolution of Mao, the resurgence of Mao, the Maoist repression, the death of Mao, and how some people in China still think Mao was a pretty good chap and continue to celebrate his birthday. He even inspired a song:

One man went to Mao, went to Mao a meadow.

(I sincerely regret having written that, but I’m a warts and all type.)

Michael’s final summing up was some confusing stuff about how China is now the most successful capitalist economy in the history of the world, is still administered as a socialist state, has a rosy future planned for the next thirty years, and that’s what the world needs most. I had trouble following that bit.

The Good Idea:

I wonder why some manufacturer of fireworks doesn’t offer a (seriously profitable) service to the bereaved – send us your loved one’s ashes and we’ll add them to our mixture and send you a selection of rockets back. Then you can watch them light up the sky and go bang and things. Makes a fine accompaniment to fried rice and bamboo shoots at Chinese New Year.

I wonder whether it would take off. That’s a kind of pun.

I expect somebody somewhere, probably southern California, has been doing it for years. I always was the second person to have a good idea.

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