"People have realized that workplaces are full of bullies and weirdos and they don't want to deal with them anymore."
Says Esther Walker at 6 minutes and 9 seconds into this week's episode of the podcast "Giles Coren Has No Idea."
They're talking about the post-lockdown phenomenon of refusal to go back to work in the office.
I enjoy her mode of expression. It's hyperbole, but it's getting at something true, no? It's a subjective matter — what's bullying and what's weird — but the topic is human behavior. It can't be anything but subjective.
"If the progressive left wants Sam’s school to keep his gender secret from me, that’s fine. But then..."
"The right to be rude to people in public has been upheld as a fundamental legal one by a supreme court in the United States."
"For our £120, we got 45 minutes of brightly coloured splats [David] Hockney has done on his iPad..."
Writes Giles Coren in "Don’t splash out on Hockney’s splats and platitudes" (London Times).
"What’s with all this whingeing about the raising of the retirement age? Ye gods, what a bunch of..."
"Yes, ban the office cakes. Obviously.... I have been campaigning [against obesity] for more than 20 years...."
"And all I have met is anger, abuse and accusations of 'fat-shaming.' From the right, because I seem to be after restricting people’s right to choose how they live; and from the left because, since obesity disproportionately affects the poor, I must be motivated by class hatred and snobbery.... I have moved on from any notion I might once have had about personal culpability and now hold the government and 'big sugar' (which pulled a nefarious con on the public by repositioning sugar as 'energy' when it is, in fact, sloth, weakness and depression) entirely responsible. Which is why I am with [ chairwoman of the Food Standards Agency, Professor Susan Jebb] all the way in calling on people to stop buying this poisonous shite in pretty packaging and forcing it into their ailing colleagues like corn down the diseased gullet of a Perigord goose. An unrelated story in The Times on Wednesday celebrated a new wonder-drug proven to prolong the lives of mice, inspiring the dream... that it might work on humans. But do you know what is also proven to prolong the life of mice? Severe calorie restriction. Cut their intake by a third and they live up to 40 per cent longer. Before we plough billions into yet more drugs, shouldn’t we at least give that a go?"
Writes Giles Coren in "Cake debate is no laughing matter — seriously/Snigger at comparisons with passive smoking if you must, but only if you’re blind to the scale of our obesity crisis" (London Times).
And here's the relevant episode of his podcast "Giles Coren Has No Idea": "Giles and [his wife] Esther burn through this week's papers looking for a column idea; from Clarkson's apology and the death of electric cars, to evil office cake and changing perceptions of Henry VIII. Giles if off to exchange his infamous electric Jaguar and Esther counts the amount of times the burglar alarm goes off during the recording."
He chose the cake!
The passed-over Henry VIII topic was based on "Henry VIII was disabled, National Trust decides" (London Times):
While jousting in January 1536, Henry’s fully armoured horse landed on him and crushed his legs, which were then plagued with ulcers. The accident forever hampered his mobility, while apparently affecting his mental health and triggering his obesity.
Henry’s waist went from 32 to 52 inches and he might have weighed over 28 stone (397lbs) at his death in 1547. He required sticks, wheelchairs and pulley systems to move. These facts about Henry have been hiding in plain sight but the nature of his disability is often overlooked, partly because he suppressed it in his public image....
Mulling this topic in the podcast, Coren considers making a string of jokes about the physical ailments of autocrats and their connection to the evil they did. How funny is that? I guess I enjoyed hearing him spin out what the column would need to be, which, in retrospect revealed why he didn't choose this topic. There was a line about Hitler — did his... what?... cause him to murder 6 million Jews?
What ailment of Hitler's did Coren discuss in his podcast? Instead of searching through the podcast, I looked on Wikipedia, where there's a long article "Health of Adolf Hitler."
During World War I, Hitler served as a dispatch runner for the List Regiment of the Bavarian Army. On the night of 13–14 October 1918, he and his comrades were victims of an Allied mustard gas attack near Ypres, Belgium. They had been leaving their dug-out to retreat when the attack occurred, and were partially blinded by it....
As a result of the 20 July 1944 assassination attempt on Hitler – in which he survived a bomb explosion at his Wolf's Lair headquarters – both of his eardrums were punctured, and he had numerous superficial wounds, including blisters, burns and 200 wood splinters on his hands and legs, cuts on his forehead, abrasions and swelling on his left arm, and a right arm that was swollen, painful and difficult to raise, causing him to use his left hand to greet Benito Mussolini, who arrived that day for a previously scheduled summit meeting.
The punctured eardrums were the most serious of these injuries. Weeks later, blood was still seeping through Hitler's bandages, and he suffered sharp pain in the right ear, as well as hearing loss. The eardrums took several weeks to heal, during which Hitler suffered from dizziness and a loss of balance which made him hew to the right when walking....
I'm skipping the speculation about syphilis, Huntington's disease, Parkinson's disease, mental illness, and inbreeding. And then there's the drug use: "He regularly consumed methamphetamine, barbiturates, opiates, and cocaine, as well as potassium bromide and atropa belladonna...."
During his younger days, Hitler's health was generally good, despite his lack of exercise and a poor diet, which he later replaced with a mostly vegetarian one. Even then, though, Hitler had a very strong sweet tooth, and would often eat multiple cream cakes at a sitting.
Oh, no! There's an office cake joke there to be made, but how can we make Hitler jokes?
"And as the Christmas season comes and goes over the next eight or nine days, composting down into a farty mulch of colourless, stodge-based meals..."
"... eaten at weird times, afternoon sleeps in hot telly rooms, and leftovers swallowed between slices of white bread with a large glass of Christmas table 'mine sweep' (three parts prosecco to one part port, one part advocaat and two parts 'grandma spat that coffee out because she thought it was tea'), we will be seeing an awful lot... [about] Detox January, New Year/New You, and all that tired old annual post-party guff."
Writes Giles Coren in "Get fit next year with the Benny Hill Sprint/Forget the Body Coach, it’s all about the silly walk — or another of these fun-packed workouts from our slapstick greats" (London Times).
1. He's reacting to a Times article called "A ‘Ministry of Silly Walks’ workout could burn 100 calories in minutes" ("Adopting a John Cleese-style silly walk for 11 minutes a day could, a study suggests, be the key to achieving the amount of vigorous physical activity recommended for most adults by the NHS.")
2. I'm mostly blogging this because I was intrigued by the word "stodge." I know "stodgy," but what's a "stodge-based meal"? The OED says "stodge" is colloquial and means "Food of a semi-solid consistency, esp. stiff farinaceous food; spec. heavy and usually fattening food (often with little nutritional value)." I think in America, we'd say "glop."
3. The adjective "stodgy," when used to mean "Dull, heavy; wanting in gaiety or brightness," is figurative. The original meaning was to describe the kind of food that would be called "stodge." The oldest recorded example of the figurative use of "stodgy" is from Laura Troubridge, "Life amongst Troubridges" (1874): "We had meant to play Rats and Ferrets, but we had to begin a stodgy game of Old Maid."
4. Now, the most useful thing I have to offer you is that "stodge" can be used figuratively, to refer to things that are stodgy — "stodgy notions" (as the OED puts it). Instead of saying, "Your ideas are so stodgy!" for example, you can say, "Spare me this stodge!"
5. What are you planning to eat on Christmas and through New Year's — stodge?
"When you run, you get out in nature, you see things, breathe great air, smile at other humans, bump into friends... in a pool..."
Writes Giles Coren in "No one’s impressed by your hypothermia/Addicts think their icy dips sharpen the mind, but what addled lunatic wants to go swimming outdoors in December?" (London Times).
By the way, I love his podcast, "Giles Coren has no idea," where he brainstorms with his wife about what he should write about in his column. The 2 of them talk very fast, so if you like to hear smart married people banter, this is just great.