Thursday, September 03, 2009

Uh, no. I can't help you with your cross stitch!

Thees ees somebody else.
Raspberry Rabbits - Raspberry Rabbit!
Don't even sound same!

Then there's these folks who are clearly neither Scottish or Canadian. Our interests may not be identical. I don't know what they're saying and can take no responsibility if they fail to exercise the caution and charity so typical of my little blog.

Raspberry Rabbit is suddenly becoming a crowded place. Having been Raspberry Rabbit since 1993 on the Anglican-L email list surely I must have some sort of grandfather rights to the name.

Sand Animation

Many thanks to Malcolm+ over at Simple Massing Priest for this. I gather it comes from some sort of talent show in the Ukraine (Ukraine's Got Talent) or somesuch. Malcolm included the video as part of a prayer request for his wife who is off visiting her very ill Ukrainian grandmother.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Quotes that give one pause....
"Mr. Harper's visit was intended to display Canada's military might for a domestic audience grown skeptical about the slow implementation of long-standing Arctic promises, as well as to showcase Canada's resolve to international rivals such as Russia."
I found myself looking at this sentence from an article in the Globe and Mail two or three times, trying to figure out why my head was cocked to one side like the RCA Victor dog.

Platitudes, Bromides
and Thought-Terminating Clichés

A site called "Platitude of the Day" pokes daily fun whichever poor sod has done his ' bit' on Radio 4's Thought for the Day.

Scores would normally be expected to range from a 2/5 for 'slightly platitudinous' to 4/5 for 'highly platitudinous'. There are a few which garner a score of 5/5 for 'thoroughly platitudinous' or 1/5 for 'actually not bad' or 0/5 for 'Dammit I gotta start going to Mass again' (well no not really but 'hope springs eternal').

Criticism of the very existence of Thought for the Day on a public radio station is not unknown even though the slot is surprisingly well defended.

Mercifully the eagle eye of the site's author has not yet reached the howling wastes of Alba. It would take considerable effort to go through the whole episode of Good Morning Scotland on "Listen Again" and the Chief Imp at Platitude of the Day has better things to do with his time. Those north of the border have been spared.

The site is not devoted to improving the quality of Thought for the Day on Radio 4. There's a grudge in place from the outset that "religious' people" have a monopoly on this broadcasting slot and that the "There's quite possibily not much of a god, really" crowd aren't getting equal billing.

Nonetheless - there's a mission here ready to be taken on by somebody because platitudes are not unknown when it comes to mainstream religious contributions on the radio. Come to think of it they're not unknown in other places where clergy fiddle through a sheaf of papers and begin with a slight throat-clearing Ahem.

The Wikipedia definition for "Platitude" reads as follows:
A platitude is a trite, meaningless, biased, or prosaic statement that is presented as if it were significant and original. The word derives from plat, the French word for "flat." ........used as a pejorative term to describe seemingly profound statements that a certain person views as unoriginal or shallow.
for "Bromide" you have the following:
"A bromide is a figure of speech referring to a phrase or person who uses such phrases that has been used and repeated so many times as to become either insincere in its meaning, or seem like an attempt at trying to explain the obvious. It can also mean the unnecessary insertion of an (often irrelevant) cliché into a conversation, designed to make the speaker sound more authoritative."
It goes on to add:
The term derives from the former use of certain bromide salts (sodium bromide and potassium bromide) in medicine as mild tranquilizers and sedatives. ...... The literary usage of "Bromide" is meant to humorously imply a boring statement with similar sleep-inducing properties.
I read that and I want to get up and say 'Yes - I do that sometimes! In the pulpit and in school assemblies and into the microphone. Do I win the T-shirt?'

Well I do - really. And when I'm reading over an old sermon or listening to a service which has been recorded I get a pain and I begin to fidget because on far too many occasions what I'm listening to is more or less shite and unworthy of the time I've put into it or the time the assembled throng have dedicated to listening to it.

I don't think presenters do this because they've a hankering to write shite but because they understand, somehow, or have been convinced or are deluded that that the context requires something more 'toned down' than what they are otherwise inclined to say or write.

In this they probably err. While there is little appetite for pulpit moralizing and tremendous constraints upon any sort of religious polemic, nobody is going to shut the door on an able presenter who can spark a little kerygma in the form of story or personal reflection.

It can be done. Sometimes it's done very well. Not by firing one's arrows into the constantly narrowing public space which is begrudged us - like some corner of a foreign field. Which is forever England - but by taking stock of the privilege and opportunity these gigs represent.

There's nothing in the process of production which necessitates the creation of platitudes. I reckon it's much more about the dwindling confidence of religious presenters, their lack of playfulness and their unwillingness to tell stories instead of taking positions. The door to creative presentations of love, grace and opportunity is, I think, rather open.

We are not still not used to working with the permission of others.

With the Radio 4 gang you eventually get to the point of hearing a particular presenter being introduced and you turn up your radio because this particular one is different. They don't drone on. They're not boring and formulaic. This one usually has something to say.

You suspect, as well, that others are turning their radios up as well.

So, keeping in mind that POTD has a particular axe to grind and purely as a matter of interest, what would the Chief Wonk at Platitude of the Day believe a platitude to be or not be?

Here's one by the Rev'd Angela Tilbey (Vicar of St Benet's, Cambridge and avid TV fan) that earns itself the moniker 'Not Platitudinous' and here's another one of the same, written by Rhidian Brook (writer, celebrity and Christian) which is also judged to be 0/5 - 'Not Platitudinous'

On the other end of the scale you'll find those offerings judged by POTD to be extraordinarily platitudinous. Here's one by Joel Edwards - who recently stepped down as head of the Evangelical Alliance and is now the Executive Director of the Micah Challenge. Here's another extraordinarily platitudinous one by the Rev'd Dr Alan Billings who's billed as a mere Anglican priest.

I happened upon another definition which I'd never heard of before: that of the Thought Terminating Cliché

A thought terminating cliché s a commonly used phrase, sometimes passing as folk wisdom, used to quell cognitive dissonance. Though the phrase in and of itself may be valid in certain contexts, its application as a means of dismissing dissention or justifying fallacious logic is what makes it thought-terminating.

I hope I don't use those. I don't think so.

I think that in my early days I may have had some T-shirts with a few of those printed on them.

Further reading on platitudes. An essay in their defense (in general terms - presumably not within a two minute slot on the radio!). From Australia. It can be found HERE (you'll need to click on the words 'Show Transcript')

...Schooled to avoid clichés, I simply could not find the appropriate words to acknowledge the awful tragedy in this woman's life. I stuttered and stumbled and finally said something stupid like, 'Gee that was bad, what happened to you...', then ground to a halt, as a look of pain and embarrassment crossed her face.

In retrospect, how much better would it have been for both of us if, at that moment, I'd simply reached for a soothing platitude? If I'd simply said, 'I'm so sorry for your loss', or, 'You have my deepest sympathy'?

Sometimes, you see, we actually need language to be well-worn and solemnly delivered. Sometimes a platitude need not sound insipid or insincere but is, instead, just what's required in a moment of deep emotion. To use a familiar phrase, a platitude can build a bridge over troubled waters....

....The great English journalist and philosopher G.K. Chesterton once wrote, 'Platitudes are there because they are true' - which almost sounds like a platitude itself! But he was definitely onto something because as the familiar words rolled off my tongue, at my grandmother's wake, I knew that what we were saying about her in our clichéd, unimaginative way was absolutely true. And with most of our energy going into coping with the sadness of grief, we simply didn't have enough left over to try and be sparklingly original in our use of language.

According to linguists, platitudes and clichés belong to the broad category of 'verbal cuddling strategies': language used to ease social interaction. Like euphemisms, they can be used to cover up unpleasant or awkward realities, or as tools for positively reframing our conception of negative situations.