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.