Saturday, July 4, 2009

Christopher Pearson, a guide for Victorian snobs, and content too valuable to hide behind a pay wall

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(Above: Andy Cobb on YouTube. Look him up and make sure you check out his first exercise in right wing erotica, featuring Glenn Beck's celebration of incest, or just click here you lazy surfer. This has been included on this page on the principle deployed by The Punch, which is to recycle irrelevant content from YouTube as a way of padding out an item while smearing others for padding out material using borrowed content).

Over at Crikey the cruel Bernard Keane suggested that commentariat columnist Christopher Pearson was one of the top six value adds for News Limited that he'd like to see go behind a pay wall so that Rupert Murdoch could whip up business in the new world of paying for content on the intertubes.

We’re talking about targeting audiences here. Who needs an insight in pre-Reformation Catholicism? Who are the sort of people interested in exploring religious views unleavened even by the Twelfth Century Renaissance? Yep, academic historians. And they’ll pay good money for this sort of documentary evidence of medieval thinking. Charging for Angela Shanahan and Christopher Pearson is, aptly, a no-brainer.

Crikey, that's harsh. If the powers that be followed Bernard's advice, you'd have missed out on Pearson's most excellent column In the pink, you're likely a bogan.

This splendid piece is full of utterly compelling advice for anyone seeking to live in the modern world in impeccable style. The lad quite puts Emily Post in the shade. Take his advice to churchgoers:

There is one other iron rule: Never clap in church. It's a 1960s affectation. In the context of worship, no merely human accomplishment - whether on the part of the newly baptised, confirmed, ordained or married - warrants applause. The same is true of funerals. Only ecclesiastical bogans go in for that kind of thing and they should simply be ignored.

Well that perhaps explains why Hillsong is growing exponentially, while the Catholic church is collapsing like a poorly cooked souffle, but it's nice to hear the Hillsong mob and their clap happy style labeled as ecclesiastical boganism. As for those clap happy blacks, bogans the lot of them. 

And what a change of pace from slamming elitist latte drinking, chardonnay sipping inner westies as precious snobs. But what else about church should we know?

On the subject of religious services there is much that could be said because it's a situation in which not many people under 40 are confident about how to conduct themselves. What matters most is that when the printed order of service or the minister tells you to stand, sit or kneel, that is what you should do. Anything less is very ill-mannered. Joining in the singing or the prayers is optional. In a church that has an altar, good form dictates a simple nod of the head before moving into the pew, regardless of personal convictions, as would a visit to a shrine with a central statue of Buddha.

Well that should get the under forties along and behaving themselves in a very well mannered way as they go about the business of god bothering. But what about when the wafer gets stuck in your teeth? Can you prise it out with your finger? How do you handle god if he (or she) is getting tricky in your mouth? Sad to say the sage is silent on this one. I suggest no fingers, just use your tongue. Or make sure no one's watching.

But wait, there's more, much more. Take telephones:

Queen Mary famously disapproved of the telephone - she used to call it "the instrument" - and resented its summons. It's an invasive technology that most of us just take for granted. But in the best clubs, codes regulating incoming calls and the use of mobile phones are strictly enforced. This is not an anachronistic throwback but a sensible way of preserving the peace and quiet of a private domain.

Well yes, and whenever I drop into the Goulburn Soldiers club, I always suggest that anyone yabbering on their mobile phone can take it and shove it somewhere. I must say I was quite surprised to get a punch in the chops, a slap in the moosh, last time I made this eminently sensible suggestion, and I wonder now if it's amongst the best clubs, but rather a yahoo domain.

Perhaps I should have explained that in civilized company people only use very quiet vibrators when out and about.

At home or among close friends it may be perfectly acceptable to leave the mobile on and take calls. However, at lunch, dinner or a scheduled meeting with anyone else, good manners demand that we pay those in our company our undivided attention. Doctors, clergy and firefighters on call can select the silent vibrate option.

Solid advice, but what period are we talking about? Keane's reference to Pearson being stuck in medieval times hardly seems fair, since we're talking about telephones, even mobiles: 

For most of the previous century, parents used to warn their children against various lapses of judgment and decorum with the line: "It's just not done." There was a magnificent finality about it, allowing no grounds for appeal, no ifs or buts. The use of the passive voice only made it sound more official.

English linguist Eric Partridge dates its origins to the 1870s and links it to that other formula of polite principle: "It's just not cricket." The list of things that were just not done was a long one. It included breaches of good taste and manners as well as ethics; transgressions from which you could extrapolate a positive code, the seamless web of middle-class Anglo-Saxon propriety.

Yes, it's Victorian England. Golly I feel like bursting into song, perhaps something by William Blake or Elgar (allowing Edwardians still had something of a Victorian feel) or perhaps perhaps a poem by Sir Henry Newbolt. Sadly, Australia these days exudes signs that the Victorian days might have come to an end (even in Victoria, which is full of Victorians, but in which only the Melbourne Club is truly Victorian. Well you could hardly call John Elliott Victorian, at least in a Pearsonian way).

In Australia, doing whatever you feel like has tended to swamp the old code. As well, some of it no longer applies; the conventions that used to cover the wearing of hats, for example, or remarriage after a divorce in the era when it was still rare. Even so, much of it stands the test of time.

No hats! Well those uncovered women in church are due for damnation and hellfire, while the men are likely to end up with skin cancer. And if you think that's what happens to giving up hats, imagine what happens when you start getting divorced. And we all used to so love a good divorce where adultery and sluttishness offered up faults sufficient to end the family. All this no fault nonsense, like no claim bonuses.

But what about dress? Well Pearson is extremely solid in this area as well:

Take brown shoes. Women can wear them more or less at will but men can sport them only with casual clothes or in the country. They can't be worn with a business suit; not even a brown business suit, which strictly speaking is a contradiction in terms.

As one arbiter of fashion I consulted last week put it, "The only man who ought to wear a brown suit and brown shoes at a formal occasion is a gardener attending his employer's wedding."

Wow, a gardener. As if I'd let my gardener come to my funeral. Or my butler. Or my maid. Downstairs they are, and downstairs they stay. And here was I thinking that it was only Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention who knew this golden rule:

Brown shoes don't make it
Brown Shoes don't make it
Quit school, why fake it
Brown shoes don't make it


Smile at every ugly
Shine on your shoes and cut your hair

Be a jerk - go to work


Stop it Frank, you're missing the point.

Crepe-soled shoes - which used to be referred to as brothel creepers - or shoes with rubber soles were considered appropriate only for casual wear and, whatever their colour, not worn with a suit. It also used to go without saying that black laces should never be used with brown shoes and vice versa, and that grey and mustard-coloured shoes were beyond the pale. The less said about trainer shoes, the better. They may be comfortable but even the most expensive of them are terribly ugly.

Phew, that's some heavy shit we're smoking dude. I guess having trainers, or even sneakers, or runners or gutties or joggers with lights that flash is way beyond the pale. I blame Steve Jobs for the decline and fall of western civilization as we know it.

There is one last point to note in passing on the subject of footwear. Without quite embracing the East Asian view that anything pertaining to human feet is inherently degrading, it must be said that feet attractive enough to warrant public display are the exception rather than the rule. Aside from the beach or the privacy of one's home, where they are unobjectionable, only bogans go anywhere else wearing thongs, or flip-flops, as the English call them.

Ah the gentle art of specious snobbery. Even since William Makepeace Thackeray pilloried the breed in The Book of Snobs, they've been with us, spawning like frogs in their own terribly private and proper ponds.

At the beach or by the pool, swimwear that invites speculation is always preferable to the kind that leaves no one in any doubt. Despite the Hollywood slogan, if you've got it, there's no need to flaunt it. Men look better in board shorts than Speedos and women more enticing in a one-piece costume than a bikini. In Mauritius and Beverly Hills it may be the done thing for sunbaking ladies to wear the most spectacular jewellery they own. Here, even these days, it would look like advertising for a toy boy.

Sooh delicious, so delightful. Why Pearson is sharper and funnier than Noel Coward. And so knowing. Toy boy! What a card.

But wait, Pearson is comprehensive in his instructions. What about weddings?

Another set of long-established conventions that are still helpful cover what to wear at weddings and funerals. In each case, the underlying principle is to pay due regard to the feelings of the main players in the ceremony. At weddings, it's the bride's big day and female guests should take care not to outshine her. There is a reciprocal obligation on her to remain within the bounds of bridal white or pastel seemliness. Getting married in a red dress, for example, is a calculated delinquency that defies the taboo connecting blood and the marital bed.

I sense a conflict here. We must pay due regard to the feelings of the main players in the ceremony, but if the bride choses to get married in red, surely it's essential that you storm up to the altar as the vows are being exchanged and denounce her in refined but cutting language. 

Something like you slut, have you no idea that dressing in red is a calculated delinquency that defies the taboo connecting blood and the marital bed. Is this code, you slut, and are you telling us that your hubbie to be is just the fortieth serial fuck you've had in recent times, and so the notion of shedding virginal red blood on the bright white sheets is a tad unlikely? Not sure about this. Hopefully Pearson will enlighten us as he unfolds his ten volume summary of how people should behave.

In the meantime, what about funerals. How about paying due regard for the feelings of the main players?

All bright colours are a mistake at funerals. While black is so commonly worn by women that it has almost lost its connection with mourning, the immediate family is much likelier to appreciate restraint and understatement than attempts to be cheerful. For men, the formality of a black or dark blue tie with a lounge suit is a traditional mark of respect that never goes amiss. If the funeral notice invites you to wear something pink or orange, on the grounds that it was the favourite colour of the deceased, the sensible thing to do is ask yourself if you're really obliged to attend because the service is likely to be homemade and tacky.

Yep, no need to head off to a funeral, even to your best friend, if it's going to be home made and tacky, and the main players ask you to lower your standard and stop being an unutterably unbearable snob. No, even if you could wear a nice suit with a fetching pink silk tie done in a single Windsor, Windsor, four in hand or Victorian knot, based on your preference (over only a white shirt of course), and even deploy a goccia if that's your fancy, or perhaps if inclined to the vulgar, even if you could consider a matching pink silk handkerchief in the suit pocket ...

No, none of that. Why not a simple, polite note? Sadly the use of notes has fallen out of fashion in these twitterish emailish text messaging times, but they remain a valuable form of communication for sophisticated souls.

Dear X, I note your request to wear something pink or orange, apparently because my deceased friend liked the color pink or orange, and after due consideration, I have decided he could not possibly have been my friend, considering he had such vulgar taste - have I ever told you how much I loathe pink and orange as colors - and so I have decided I'm not obliged to attend your service on the grounds that it is exceedingly likely to be homemade and tacky. 

Oh yes, you'll go a long way in Australia with this kind of sensitivity, awareness and politeness.

Pearson also has advice on how to give gifts, but I'll leave that to you as you race over to read him. What this reveals however is that it would be a scandal for News Limited to lock this kind of valuable content behind a pay wall. 

To think we might then lose our chance to read how to behave like a Victorian ponce ...

(Below: the kind of News Ltd content we think could easily go behind a pay wall, so that people could fork out hard earned cash to find out about things that really batter, sorry, matter. And thereby keep Christopher Pearson free for all, so that humanity might be saved from vulgarity).

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great article. I burst out laughing on the weekend when I read the "homemade and tacky" line- what a twat! I'm convinced Christopher Pearson has incriminating photographs of someone on The Oz's editorial staff, why else would this godawful shite get published on a weekly basis?
Keep up the good work.