Whimsy: March 2005 Archives

This week's featured episode of "Round the Horne" on BBC7 is one of my favorites -- "From Russia with Love," from 1965 -- featuring one of their best spy spoofs, in which Kenneth Horne, Master Spy, gets to the bottom of a sudden outbreak of truth, which is threatening the British way of life. Horne listens in horror as the outbreak hits a radio reporter covering a society wedding:

Reporter (Kenneth Williams): I'm standing in the freezing cold outside St. Borrols Westminster with an unctuous grin on my face, preparing to give you snobs at home details of yet another dreary society wedding, between Daphne, the eldest daughter of the Duke of Stokely, and Alistair Twick, the son -- he says -- of that senile old pantaloon, the Earl of McWhirter. And here they come now, the spotty fat bride, her face suffused with acne, clinging desperately to the arm of old Blubberlips, the chinless wonder. What an array of glittering nobodies are here today! Yes, what a waste of everybody's time. Still, if I do it often enough, I might cop for a knighthood.

As befits the genre, Master Spy Horne finds time for a bit of romance:

We clung together passionately. My mouth searched for hers, and found it exactly where I'd suspected it would be -- under her nose.

The episode also features an interview with King Grunt-Futtock of Peasmoldia, an autonomous kingdom within Great Britain, who introduces Buttercup, his "good lady wife" and queen consort: "We'll waive the kissin' of her hand, seein' as how grubby it is."

You've got Monday and Tuesday to catch this one before the next episode is broadcast on Wednesday. You'll find it on the BBC7 Wednesday "listen again" page.

By the way, keep your eye on BBC7's listings for radio adaptations of great books. A week or so ago, they serialized C. S. Lewis's Perelandra, and at the moment they're in the midst of G. K. Chesterton's The Man Who Was Thursday.

Twisted kid lit

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Some comic relief for a Saturday -- two galleries of Children's literature, Part I and Part II.


Hat tip to Random Mentality.

Horne-a-rama, first and last


I just came across an excellent retrospective of Kenneth Horne's two sketch comedy series, "Beyond Our Ken" and "Round the Horne." It's a three-hour program called "Horne of Plenty" and you'll find it on BBC 7's Saturday "listen again" page through this Friday. The program includes the very first and very last episodes of both programs in their entirety, plus details of the history of the shows.

If you ever want to grab a RealAudio program for later listening, there's an excellent utility program called Streambox VCR Suite 2, which you can find various places on the web.

Today was the 40th anniversary of the first broadcast of "Round the Horne," one of the most enduringly popular radio shows of all time. As you might guess, any popular radio show that had its premiere only 40 years ago is obviously not American. In the '60s, the BBC still produced high-quality original radio entertainment, and they still do today.

"Round the Horne" was a sketch comedy half-hour produced for the BBC Light Entertainment Programme (later BBC Radio 2). It starred Kenneth Horne and a crew of veteran West End actors who could do an unbelievable range of voices and accents. The writers for the first three series were Barry Took, who was instrumental in the creation of "Monty Python's Flying Circus," and Marty Feldman, whom you may know from "Young Frankenstein" and "Silent Movie."

I was first introduced to the show by several of my British co-workers. When I told one of them today about the 40th anniversary, he said, "I used to listen to those on Sunday afternoons when I was a kid. Suddenly I feel very old."

If you like "Monty Python's Flying Circus," if you enjoy clever word-play and double-entendre, you will love "Round the Horne." Trust me.

Time and distractions do not permit a thorough tribute, so I direct you to the BBC 7 website, where you can find a different episode of "Round the Horne" each week. You can listen live on Wednesdays at 8 am, noon and 7 pm London time, or you can go to the "Listen Again" page for Wednesdays to hear the most recently broadcast episode in RealAudio format.

UPDATE: Having now listened to the tribute show I mentioned in this space, I decided to take down the link. It's deadly to comedy to explain it, but it's even deadlier to explain it in a way that serves modern political correctness. You'll enjoy listening to repeats of the original broadcasts much more. If you want even more from the cast of "Round the Horne," listen to "Beyond our Ken," the series that preceded it. The writing isn't as brilliant, but it's still a very funny show. It's on BBC 7 on Sundays.

Word dissociation

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I have one very spam-ridden e-mail account. I've had the address for over a decade, and it must be in every spam database in the world. About a year ago, I started getting spam that matched a certain pattern.

  • The name in the from line always had a first name, middle initial, and last name.
  • The first and last names appeared to be random words out of the dictionary.
  • The body of the message was usually in Russian, but sometimes in English.
  • The message always seemed to originate from a PC connected to broadband Internet service, no doubt infected with a trojan horse mail relay program.

As evil as it is to write and disseminate a trojan horse, I give these crooks credit for an algorithm that combines random words to generate names that more often than not bring a chuckle.

I wrote about this phenomenon a while back:

The names in the From line are wonderful -- Stying K. Purgative, Mustered O. Behemoths, Headwaters I. Evidence, Circularizing T. Integers, Disassemble H. Imps, Rallies Q. Stratification, Accretions G. Recital -- they are obviously not names, but they have the rhythm of names, reminiscent of the sort that Barry Took and Marty Feldman cooked up for sketches on "Round the Horne", like Isambard Mousehabit and J. Peasemould Gruntfuttock. (Or the Li'l' Abner character, Jubilation T. Cornpone.) So we know the spambot writer is evil, but has a sense of humor.

Below are some genuine examples of these spam names, followed by whatever popped into my head when I read each. Feel free to play along in the comments.

Pauperized A. Classicists

Why I double-majored in computer science.

Vivified E. Washtub

What happened the next time the Sorcerer's Apprentice put on the hat.

Antislavery H. Sarsaparillas

The "Ben and Jerry's Rainforest Crunch" of the 1850s.

Yosemite F. Faun

From the Looney Tunes production of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.

Horseman H. Screaming

"Saddlehorn!! Saddlehorn!!"

Lynching A. Ogles

"What do you mean, 'It is too a crime to look?'"

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Whimsy category from March 2005.

Whimsy: February 2005 is the previous archive.

Whimsy: April 2005 is the next archive.

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