Sunday, December 23, 2007

A Nice Cuppa

Probably my second favorite British media cliché is what I call "the tea story". It turns up every few months, and usually extols the fantastic health benefits of the national beverage, as if there were anyone in the British isles who didn't drink enough tea. Sometimes though, a mildly scary tea story appears... as if one could possibly discourage anyone in the British isles from drinking tea.

Today in on the BBC, came this story: tea 'healthier' drink than water. However, just a couple months ago, we learned that tea's health benefits are 'exaggerated', which I find interesting because the photo appears to be exactly the same cup of tea as in the more recent story.

Earlier still, we found that making your tea in a teapot 'is the healthiest option', but you really don't want to be so traditional as to put milk in your cup, since milk in tea 'blocks health gains'. And what exactly are the health gains of a nice cuppa? Well, tea 'could cut skin cancer risk', and for that matter, tea 'controls female hair growth'. When we return to our stock photo of a cup of tea with milk again, we learn that black tea 'soothes away stress', and amazingly, the same cup, which must be getting cold by now, 'reduces ovarian cancer risk', 'may fight tooth decay' (but don't try herbal tea for that, just regular tea, thank you), helps fight off infections, and we even learn that scientists in the United States now believe that the health benefits are so great that everyone should be urged to drink tea, and that doctors say heart attack victims may live longer by drinking plenty of tea, but not too much, because, not surprisingly, tea 'increases incontinence risk.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Panto Season!

Panto performances are a longstanding Christmas theatrical tradition in England. If (as I am) you're an American, you might have to (as I did) have panto explained to you. It's a childrens' performance of a traditional story (Aladdin, Jack and the Beanstalk, Sleeping Beauty, things of that ilk...) gussied up with lots of slapstick for the kids, a very camp female villain played by a man in drag who tells naughty jokes for the grownups, and lots of audience participation for everyone. The whole thing is, one might say, gay as Christmas... but not too gay, because while brits like their transgressive humor to be broad, they also have a very narrow area where they allow it to reside.

Today's D.V.D. reference appears in a positive review of Aladdin, and mentions our man's cockney accent in passing as the writer praises a performer. So that's a new wrinkle.

John O'Groat Journal, December 14, 2007, Frills and spills with Wick's young panto stars, by Karen Steven

Steven, something of an old hand amongst so many newcomers, produced one of the best performances with his mix of Dick Van Dyke cockney accent and well-timed physical antics, and he managed to form an almost instant bond with the youngsters in the audience.

For reasons I can't explain, a Scot performing with a broad cockney accent to make children laugh just tickles me. Tee hee!

Time elapsed since premiere of Mary Poppins:

15,813 days.

Time elapsed since someone mentioned D.V.D.'s accent:

8 days

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Happy Bertday!

Dick Van Dyke, born December 13th, 1925.

Let us not forget that the mission of the Ministry is not to make fun of D.V.D.'s cockney accent, but rather, the constant and clichéd carping about its accuracy. In fact, on his birthday, let's celebrate the life of a guy who can laugh at his mistakes.

From Wikipedia:

Van Dyke's attempt at a cockney accent (lapsing out of it at times) was nonetheless widely ridiculed and is still frequently parodied. It is still often cited as one of the worst attempts at a British accent by an American actor, a fact acknowledged with good humour by Van Dyke himself on the 2004 DVD release of the film.

Also, you have to love a guy who keeps doing new things at his age:

One of Van Dyke's modern passions is producing 3D computer graphics. He created many of the 3D rendered effects shown in Diagnosis: Murder, and continues to work with LightWave 3D... As an A cappella enthusiast, Van Dyke has sung in a group called "The Vantastix" since September, 2000.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Me Bruhver

Pin back yer ear 'oles and 'ave a listen to this lot: My brother has been asked to DJ a two-hour set on the West London pirate radio station "React FM."

Don't forget to tune in to my X-Mas radio show . Sunday December 23. 6 pm to 8 pm pacific time, 2 am to 4 am GMT that's early monday morning if you're in the UK. Tune in on or Music policy, mostly dubstep.



Friday, December 7, 2007

Alert the OED! "Dickvandyke" Used as a Verb!

Apparently, to be "dickvandyked" is to be thrown into a nearby lake by a mob of Brits whom you have provoked by not speaking with glottal stops.

Wisconsin State Journal, December 6th, 2007, "Review: Dickens fiercely resurrected" by John Mendelsohn

In the UK, there can be no more scathing indictment of a Yank actor 's attempts at a British accent than comparison with Dick Van Dyke, whose purportedly cockney accent in "Mary Poppins " set a standard for incompetence that remains unapproached 43 years later. Hearing James Ridge voice Dickens ' working class Londoners without the glottal stop that's the single most notable feature of their speech, and with key diphthongs all askew, Brits would gleefully dickvandyke him into Lake Monona.

Time elapsed since premiere of Mary Poppins:

15,805 days.

Time elapsed since someone mentioned D.V.D.'s accent:

0 days

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Two in One Day (And Brace Yourself for More!)

The Ministry was beginning to worry a bit that our statistic of "roughly once every two weeks someone mentions D.V.D.'s accent in the press" wouldn't hold through the winter. (We had a white paper prepared, blaming global warming.) However, fortune smiled, and after a drought lasting a whopping 23 days, our favorite cliché came through twice today, and our statistic held -- at least on the average.

If we assume that D.V.D.'s accent has been mentioned in the press fortnightly for the last 43 years, that's 26 times per year for a grand total of 1,118 mentions.

Hang on; there would be ten or eleven leap years in that four decades (and change), and that's another week and a half, so there may have been 1,119 mentions.

Onward to today's whinging.

We suspect that as the movie Fred Claus gains wide release in Britain, we'll see more D.V.D. comparisons. On the other hand, the film will probably die a deserving death before it spreads too far.

Reading Evening Post, December 6th, 2007, "Film is Claus for Concern"

Vince Vaughn looks embarrassed and awkward throughout, particularly when he is forced to dance in front of the elves, while Oscar-winner Rachel Weisz is sidelined with an unimportant and unnecessary role that she still manages to make a hash of, struggling with a broad London accent that is more Dick Van Dyke than Mo Slater.


Metro, December 6th, 2007, "Kate Nash tells fans to listen up" by Andrew Williams

Q: "Your singing voice has been compared to Dick Van Dyke’s in Mary Poppins. Are you bothered?"

A: "Isn’t he the chimney sweep? I love him. What’s wrong with him? I’d like to be compared to Nancy from Oliver Twist. She’s my favourite."

Time elapsed since premiere of Mary Poppins:

15,805 days.

Time elapsed since someone mentioned D.V.D.'s accent:

23 days

Monday, December 3, 2007

MP3s of Cockney Accents, Both Real and Awful

David Noades of the 365 Days Project on WFMU's Beware of the Blog just posted a fantastic collection of songs about London. Swinging London, Good old London, London at Christmas... you name it. The rule of thumb for this collection seems to be: if the performer has an authentic London accent, he or she can't sing, and if they can sing, the accent isn't all that great. As we all know from studying our man D.V.D., sometimes there is an direct relationship between musical talent and a tin ear for accents.

If you download only one track from this, may I suggest Spike Milligan's Wormwood Scrubs Tango? It's Spike at his post-Goon silliest.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Says Here that a Not Bad Irish Accent is Better Than A Bad Cockney

Irish Independent, November 14th, 2007, "From Page to Stage, Same Old Ross" By Aidan Coughlan

But this adjustment to reality is one which he (Rory Nolan) makes quite impressively, as do his family. The accents are the type you'd genuinely hear in Dundrum Town Centre, avoiding those dreadful caricature voices that sound about as genuine as Dick van Dyke's 'cockney' accent in the 'Mary Poppins' movie.

Apparently there are no bad Irish accents in cinema history worth mentioning. Therefore, when writing about someone not screwing up an Irish accent, nothing fits better than comparing it to D.V.D. screwing up a cockney accent.

Time elapsed since premiere of Mary Poppins:

15,782 days.

Time elapsed since someone mentioned D.V.D.'s accent:

16 days

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Monday, October 29, 2007

Dougray Scott -- Worse than D.V.D.?, October 28nd, 2007, "TV releases on DVD"

Desperate Housewives

Bree (Marcia Cross) marries a possible murderer (Kyle MacLachlan), Mike (James Denton) is stuck in a coma and Dougray Scott pulls out the worst English accent in living memory. It's worse than Dick Van Dyke.

Time elapsed since premiere of Mary Poppins:

15,766 days.

Time elapsed since someone mentioned D.V.D.'s accent:

1 day.

"...the response is not universally enthusiastic."

The Telegraph, October 28nd, 2007, " A wild time for 'Goose' at Wembley" by Andrew Baker.,

Goose (Tony Siragusa) has had a great time in London this week. Being a gregarious sort, he likes to barrel up to people and offer to buy them a pint in his best Dick Van Dyke 'English' accent. He seems puzzled that the response is not universally enthusiastic. "People seem to think I might be after their money or something."

Time elapsed since premiere of Mary Poppins:

15,765 days.

Time elapsed since someone mentioned D.V.D.'s accent:

13 days.

Monday, October 15, 2007

The New Yorker mentions D.V.D.'s accent

The New Yorker, October 22nd, 2007, "You Say Potato" by Michael Schulman

"The science of speech. That’s my profession. . . . I can place any man within six miles.” That’s Henry Higgins, in Act I of “Pygmalion,” about to transform a lowly flower girl into a proper Edwardian lady. If you are a Manhattan-born starlet making your Broadway début as said flower girl, he is precisely the sort of man you don’t want in your audience. In a play about upwardly mobile speech, the accents have to be right: you don’t want to wind up sounding like Dick Van Dyke in “Mary Poppins.” And so a real-life Higgins is called for, in this case—the Roundabout’s revival of “Pygmalion,” soon to open at the American Airlines Theatre—Majella Hurley, an English dialect coach who was brought in to help Claire Danes, as Eliza Doolittle, perfect her “not bloody likely”s and “How do you doooo?”s.

Time elapsed since premiere of Mary Poppins:

15,752 days.

Time elapsed since someone mentioned D.V.D.'s accent:

15 days.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

They Hate D.V.D.'s Accent in Arizona

Can't really count this one, seeing as it is not a Brit doing the complaining, but still -- two in one day!

The Arizona Republic, Sept. 30, 2007, Network TV is suddenly foreign affair

"Still, you have to wonder: Is Jupiter aligning with Mars? Is this some kind of karmic payback for Dick Van Dyke's atrocious British accent in Mary Poppins?"

See, a Brit wouldn't call it a "British" accent, but would narrow it down to "Cockney" or "London", while on the other hand, Americans think Brits have only one accent.

Time elapsed since premiere of Mary Poppins:

15,737 days.

Time elapsed since someone mentioned D.V.D.'s accent:

0 days!

See, it's funny; "The Spoof" says so.

The Spoof, Sept 29, 2007,

Eh, it's not really the news media, just a half-assed humor web page called The Spoof, but I'll count it as a mention. It's really an indictment of how tired the joke is, when you weigh it against all the other tired jokes in the piece.

"Mr Edward's altruistic behaviour appeared to have the full backing of his wife. Talking in the kind of accent not heard in London since Dick Van Dyke's 'Bert' in Mary Poppins, Jane Edwards said..."

Oh, who cares what she said. It's a limp attempt at making fun of... something or other. Can anyone tell me what this page is lampooning and why it is supposed to be funny? If anyone can, I will retract the following statement: "I apologize for posting it."

However, I don't have to retract the following shameful statistics:

Time elapsed since premiere of Mary Poppins:

15,737 days.

Time elapsed since a Brit mentioned D.V.D.'s accent:

9 days

Saturday, September 22, 2007

The Prevalent D.V.D.-style Patois

Manchester Evening News, "Academy date for Jack the lad", Gary Ryan
Sept 20, 2007

"This summer, Radio One hammered a tune called LDN Is A Victim, which satirised how privileged and monied people have co-opted the Big Smoke's music scene. Cribbing its tune and title from Kate Nash's Caroline Is A Victim and Lily Allen's LDN, it attacked the prevalent Dick Van Dyke-style faux Jamie T/Mike Skinner patois."

Time elapsed since premiere of Mary Poppins:

15,729 days.

Time elapsed since a Brit mentioned D.V.D.'s accent in the press:

11 days

Monday, September 17, 2007

D.V.D. Confuses Gmail Spam Filter

I set up a Google alert for any news items on "Dick Van Dyke", with other keywords like "cockney" and "accent" and "Poppins".

Much to my surprise, Gmail's filter spotted the words "Dick" and "Dyke", and decided those messages were spam.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Daniel Radcliffe does not want to sound like D.V.D.

From Variety, September 11, 2007:

Daniel Radcliffe debuted his first muggle role since being cast as Harry Potter at the DGA premiere of "December Boys" on Thursday.

"I was nervous about being with a whole new film crew and that they'd expect me to be some sort of spoiled brat," Radcliffe said.

The young actor also worried about nailing an Australian accent for his latest pic. "It's very easy to make an accent a caricature," he said. "I didn't want to sound like Dick Van Dyke in 'Mary Poppins.'"

Apparently, D.V.D.'s cockney accent was so bad that it can have an effect on an actor trying to sound Australian!

Time elapsed since premiere of Mary Poppins:

15,719 days.

Time elapsed since a Brit mentioned D.V.D.'s accent in the press:

2 days

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Crest of the MODVDA

I'm still learning how to use The Gimp, so it took several days of tinkering to finish the ministry's crest. And here it is:

Friday, September 7, 2007

D.V.D. called "Godfather of Awful East Enders"

The Telegraph says the award for the worst accent in cinema history goes to:

1 Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins (1964)

The transitory nature of theatrical performances means that even the most abominable stage accents tend to be forgotten as the years pass. Film, of course, is another matter - so, as she prepares to adopt a London twang for her Eliza Doolittle on Broadway, Claire Danes will have to look to past movies for lessons in How Not To Do It, and above all to the Godfather of awful East Enders, Dick Van Dyke.

It feels so predictable to have him at number one, but there's just no way round it: the Missouri-born actor's stab at cockney remains the most extra-terrestrial accent ever committed to film - not English, not American, but something from another dimension.

He delivered such immortal lines as " 'Ello, 'ello, 'ello, 'eavy weather brewin' at number 17 and no mistake" very much like a Clanger on crack.

Bonus points for the title of the article: "Irritable vowels".

Time elapsed since Mary Poppins premiere:

43 years, 9 days.

Time elapsed since last complaint spotted in British media:

6 days.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Mockney Ride

An English friend who works for Tussaud's Group emailed to inform the ministry about an awful mockney moment on Spirit of London ride at Madame Tussauds Wax Museum:

Didn't want to mention it - but the heck. The Spirit of London ride has a cockney paparazzi photographer who says "Oi, Oi, Oi blah blah blah" (can't quite remember the exact words, but something to make you look whilst he takes a picture). THAT cockney accent is internally recognised as also being truly awful. It was supposedly 'inspired by' Michael Caine's accent...

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Who Has a Worse Accent?

As bad -- Don Cheadle (according to the Daily Mail):

Don Cheadle reprises yet again his hilarious Dick van Dyke cockney, though belated realisation of just how bad it is means that he has altered it slightly.

It now sounds like Rolf Harris playing Martin Luther King.

Worse -- Sean Connery (according to Empire Magazine, as cited on the BBC web page):

"Whether he's a Russian sub captain (The Hunt for Red October) or even an English King (First Knight and Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves), always that baritone Highland burr remains," says the magazine in its August edition.

Dick van Dyke's much-maligned efforts to imitate an east London cockney accent in Mary Poppins gained him second place in the poll.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Encouraging Bands to Talk More Like D.V.D.

From the Guardian. August 10, 2007, "Mockney Reject":

"Where Daniels convinces as the cocksure London geezer, Albarn offers a toe-curlingly hammy performance, somewhere between a schoolboy production of Oliver! and Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins."

...andd July 15, 2007, "Mia, Kala":

"...the Wilcannia Mob, a group of Aboriginal street kids with accents that are rooted closer to Dick Van Dyke's cockney than everyday Australian."

...and April 7th, 2007, "Camden is a victim":

"Taking umbrage with the affected London drawl that defines the scene, the anonymous rapper on the song points out that 'this is a middle-class, art school thing/so put on your common accents and let's all sing', before skipping into the catchy chorus. 'The thing that "inspired" this tune is certain artists, and I'm sure they're being slightly encouraged by their labels to sound more like Dick Van Dyke than they are.'"

I'm sure the speaker meant "than they do."

Establishment of the MODVDA

On August 29, 1964, Walt Disney Productions released the musical film Mary Poppins, based on the popular books by P. L. Travers. After the premiere, mere minutes after "The End" appeared on the screen, Travers turned to Walt Disney to express her satisfaction with the film -- all except for that Mr. Van Dyke. Completely miscast for the part, she said. Would have to be replaced, she insisted. Walt just smiled. After two years of working with the prickly Travers, he had a film in the can, and there was nothing she could do about it.

That incident, 43 years ago as of this writing, marked the very first complaint about Dick Van Dyke's cockney accent. And the Brits have complained about it every day since.

Now, granted, Van Dyke's cockney accent is pretty damn awful. At times, he sounds more like he comes from Perth than from London, and occasionally, he sounds like no human being has ever sounded in the history of speech pathology. Henry Higgins would not know what the hell to make of him. But as far as inaccuracies go, the film is full of others. Greenwich does not set its time by the cannon fire of Admiral Boom; Nannies can't fly; small children do not compose help wanted advertisements in verse; and (I know this from experience) the wait staff at most English cafes consists of entirely of Polish immigrants, not dancing penguins.

And yet, four decades on, the British continue to whinge about Mr. Van Dyke's accent. Hardly a week goes by when I don't see or hear a reference in the British media to the indignity the nation has suffered due to his vocal chords. Jesus Christ, why don't they just get Michael Caine or someone re-dub the damn thing and add it as an alternate soundtrack on all future DVD releases? What do they want, an official apology from the U.S. State Department? Dick Van Dyke extradited so his severed head can be paraded around London on a pike? (I have to admit, that would be a glorious sight -- have you seen his magnificent white moustache lately?)

Thus, the establishment of this blog, which shall document the English ire about this crime against the Queen's Tongue as She Ought Be Spoke. I shall document complaints about Mr. Van Dyke's accent wherever I find them. I shall find them in the papers; I shall find them on the podcasts; I shall find them in the fields and in the streets; I shall find them in the hills -- I shall never surrender... at least not until the bloody Brits finally shut up about a 40 year old Disney movie.

This week's complaint comes from an Independent review of Woody Allen's latest film:

"No one joked about (Colin) Farrell and (Ewan) McGregor's Dick Van Dyke-like London accents..."

This is a particularly nice, snobby comment, as it really says "McGregor, who is Scottish, and Farrell, who is Irish, can't do a proper working-class London accent, making them just as absurd as Dick Van Dyke, that American who, as we all well know, made a half-assed attempt nearly half a century ago, the fuckin' BASTARD!"

More to follow, I'm sure.