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The Friday Fillip: My Last Friday Fillip

After many hundreds of Friday Fillips, it’s time to call it quits. It’s been an honour and a whole lot of fun to be able to punctuate your weeks in this way.

I thought I might spend a moment or two here looking back at the Fillips published at this time of year.

  • 2005 Fillips hadn’t begun then, the year Slaw started. But my announcement of a holiday break contains a nice set-break quote from a band I (still) like that serves to round out a decade of Fillips too: “Thanks for the applause, we’ll take a pause for a
. . . [more]
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The Friday Fillip: Let Me Illustrate

We love to rank. High and low, higher and lower yet: Social standing — whether “brow” or “class” — seats in the coliseum, credit cards, professors — whole universities1, come to that — even art2. You’ll know high art by where you find it. It’ll be in museums and grand concert halls, which are created to define high art. There’ll be a salon des refusés perhaps, for the near misses. And then — maybe even daubed on the outside of the same walls — there’s ephemera: pop, journalism, illustration, the work of hacks, jills and jacks . . . [more]

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The Friday Fillip: The Surface of Things

There’s a kind of pleasure you can get from contemplating an unopened parcel. I think of it as the “brown paper packages tied up with strings” phenomenon. Of course part of the delight is in the anticipation of what might lie within, the knowledge of (and control over?) a coming discovery or surprise, as though you’d called a time-out after the set-up and before the punch line of a joke in the way the best comics can work their timing.

There’s enjoyment, too, in attending to the wrapping itself, I find. That’s easy when the wrapping is artful in some . . . [more]

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The Friday Fillip: Bang On

I don’t know about you, but I often like to bang on things . . . make a noise, as rhythmically as possible. Not very, in my case. Drumming. It’s the old heart beat thing, I suppose, which leads to dancing (the reason, so the joke goes, that Baptists — or is it Methodists? — are opposed to pre marital sex1). Staying still was a hard-learned lesson for most of us, I’d wager. And staying quiet even harder. If you have hung around little children for any length of time, you’ve probably been entertained by a kitchen concert . . . [more]

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The Friday Fillip: A Very Very Important Small Book of Rights and Things You Are Free to Do

I once threw a book across the room in annoyance and disgust. I might have done it more often, I suppose, were it not for my dubious but stubborn position that meaning can be had from almost all prose. But at that moment Derrida defeated me, I recall. It’s no secret, and presumably no shame, that I prefer the analytical school to the post structuralists, when it comes to philosophers. Clear writing seems … better writing.

(I pass over the argument that it’s hard — perhaps impossible — to tell us something new in “clear writing.” That “clarity” is bred . . . [more]

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The Friday Fillip: Lather, Rinse, Repeat

We tend to repeat ourselves. We like doing that. Perhaps because if “it” was good, we’d be crazy not to want “it” again. After all, as Voltaire said (though he laid it off on a “wise Italian”), better is the enemy of good. So why risk loss, when the gain promised by repetition is assured? And, too, there’s something about the fact of repetition itself, regardless of what the thing is that gets repeated, that is pleasing, soothing: a child being rocked, jiggled gently — or a heart beating again and again and again . . .

Things can go . . . [more]

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The Friday Fillip: This Is Your Captain Speaking

I’m lucky enough to have experienced what might have been the sweet spot of airline travel. I started flying — well, being flown — back when DC-3s were semi-pressurized and loud as all hell, and though I was young enough to be captured by the excitement of it all, I wouldn’t have hung in there if things hadn’t improved. And boy did they improve: Good cabin pressure, longer hauls, lots of attentive service, and casual trips up to the flight deck for a chat with the crew. The thrill was still there and to it was added the luxury of . . . [more]

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The Friday Fillip: Passive Aggression (And Other Kinds)

I confess: I have never read the big whale big book. Sorry, Herman. I’ve just picked up the usual tid-bits, like everyone else, the “Call me Ishmael” snippets, as it were (and, whether I might have wished it or not, “Starbuck”). I have, though, read Melville’s massively shorter Bartleby the Scrivener, and I invite you with this Fillip to do the same.

Never fear. It’s not a gateway drug leading inexorably to your being caught up in the Moby tale. It’s just a short story of stubbornly puzzling import. Oh, and it’s told by a lawyer about a man . . . [more]

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The Friday Fillip: King of Dreams

I’m a big fan of Hayao Miyazaki’s movies. Yes, I’m an old man and these are animated films for children. And that’s okay, because both of the defining features of these movies can be the source of much pleasure for adults. Animation, especially the hand-drawn cells that come out of Miyazaki’s Studio Ghibli, lets the filmmaker do whatever he can imagine; and for me that’s one major value in art — its ability (I’d say “duty”) to take us to places we cannot go in our short, gravity-bound, lived lives. Then, to enter into the world of children is to . . . [more]

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The Friday Fillip: How Do You Say It?

I’ve just come back from Germany, where I got a close-up view of the social and logistical problems in that country arising out of the refugee crisis. This is not the place, and I don’t have the skills, to go into those problems; but one small aspect of the situation struck me, the matter of translation.

I speak enough German to get by, but even so, there were plenty of moments of mutual incomprehension, as I struggled for le mot juste or even just a mot that would do. Imagine how difficult it must be for Syrians in Germany. Arabic . . . [more]

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The Friday Fillip: If the Cuckoo Don’t Crow

Limber up your ears, because here comes Brian from Melton with his Suffolk accent, not always intelligible to those who are strangers to the “south folk” who reside in the bottom of the big bump on the right side of England. But it’s worth the effort to understand Brian, because he’s funny. And he’s made even funnier by this delightful animation by Steve Kirby. It’ll blow you away.

Together, Brian and Steve tell the story to a phone-in radio show of Brian’s now 94 year old mother, Doris, who may well have predicted the 1987 hurricane when the BBC failed. . . . [more]

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The Friday Fillip: Epilogue

This is the last episode in the serial publication of Measuring Life, a crime novel. As ever, it is followed here by a reference to some material on the internet that might interest or amuse you.

The whole novel may be had as a PDF file for the next few weeks. Should you read the book entire, you will see that it bears the marks of a work of fiction written in weekly instalments. No “do-overs” were possible; culs-de-sac entered in week 9, had to be backed out of in week 23; many openings were drawn never entered; and . . . [more]

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