Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Five Fabulous (And Frightening) Years: The Story of the Privy Counsel

Our sincerest contrafibularities! We have no memory of what we were doing on the day (ranting, no doubt, and perhaps drinking rum - possibly at the same time), but the Privy Counsel turned five on 18 October!

Five years! If we had had cake to celebrate with, it would most likely have looked like this.

Things have been grim of late. So grim, in fact, that we have repeatedly felt the need to google pictures of syphilis symptoms, just to remind ourselves that there are things we don't suffer from (although one Privy Counsel member does in fact harbour a case of bona fide genital herpes - however, we intend to stay true to our promise to keep the identity of this person a secret to our dying day (said promise does not, obviously, prevent us from dropping tantalising hints solely for our own amusement)). There are some good ones, for instance, here (do a page search for "syphilis", then click on the links).

The marvellous thing, though, about having access to a loose collective of intellectuals, connected by social media, is that something wonderful is bound to turn up sooner or later.

This cake would also not be incongruous at the Privy Counsel.

Last night, for instance, we learned that Kick-Arse Suffragette Friend has an exciting new project on the go.

Also Australian Friend surpassed herself in rampant intellectualism and invented a new word! Quizzlement - you heard it here first! The definition of the adjective is as follows: "Quizzled. adj. The state of perplexed beguilement imposed by a person on her admirer, through an act of mischievous ambiguity."

Then we suddenly remembered that BLOODY HELL WE HAVE BEEN GOING FOR FIVE YEARS. Let us tell you the story of the origins of the Privy Counsel!

This totally appropriate cake just screams "THIS ONE! YES! LET'S HAVE IT!"

Once upon a time, there was a country full of crap plumbing. Let's call it "Britain". Said crap plumbing was the cause of a pretty much constant stream of grumbling, mumbling, and outright ranting. One night, in the pub, Enlightened Friend suggested that we stop ranting and start a blog, if only to spare our friends from having to constantly listen to us moaning and bitching. We thought the notion was an excellent one, and set to enthusiastically, publishing no less than three posts on the first day.

The first post was called, bravely, Mixer Taps - the Controversy, and was short but loquacious. It said, simply:

Most British people see no need for mixer taps, as when they do exist, they don't work anyway. The rest of the world disagrees. The controversy continues.

Huzzah - our very first image!

Blog post number two, sporting the witty title Toilet Paper - Puppy Love (setting the tone for our happy habit of punning in an unrestrained manner), discussed the insane British obsession with quilted toilet paper. This groundbreaking essay posed the question:

Where does the British obsession with soft toilet paper come from? Why does bog roll have to be quilted? (Of all things, why quilted?) Is it due to the humiliations suffered during the Second World War, when millions of Britons were forced to keep a stiff upper lip while wiping their bottoms with newspaper?


The third blog post on this auspicious date, The Victorians - An Edifying History Lesson, described the Victorians as "a barbaric people who delighted in such unhygienic and downright dangerous practices as sideburn cultivation, wall-to-wall carpet installation, and lace-curtain twitching". Needless to say, this is now the standard view of the Victorians in all respectable academic circles.

Victorian toilets - pretty, but violently unsound.

After these initial - one could even say probing - posts, we moved swiftly on to reviews of museum toilets, starting with the Yorkshire Museum. We remember lurking nervously with the huge, clunky and LOUD camera we used to carry around in those days, on a wet October day. 

Mission accomplished without us being reported to the police or even, surprisingly, being openly accused of being perverts, we continued with the Castle Museum, where we spotted what is possibly the most amusing sign in the entire universe; a sign that perfectly summarises the unbridled lunacy of British plumbing:  

This sign unfortunately doesn't exist anymore.
Believe us, we have been back to check.

Pretty soon we were reviewing places like the disabled toilet at the Centre for Medieval Studies in York, and it didn't take long before we achieved legendary status among the depraved, the socially awkward, and the intellectual (i.e. our friends, and maybe five other people who clearly need to get off the internet and get a life).

We noted happily that this was "a toilet fit for Medievalists".

And now we've been at it for five years!

When we started this blog, it was specifically to rant about crap plumbing, because Privy Counsel HQ was situated in the UK, where people seem have a hard time realising that the 19th century like, ENDED. Now that we are more Scandiwegian-oriented, we have very little to complain about, plumbing-wise, and have taken to rant more about other things, like feminism. It appears that human rights is another area where people have a hard time realising that the 19th century ended and that we are, in fact, living in the 21st century now. It would be nice, we think, if everyone could at least step into the 20th century, both in terms of plumbing, and human rights.

We would like to take this opportunity of getting embarrassingly sentimental, weepy, and vapid, and expressing our heartfelt thanks to all our friends and comrades! Some of you have been with us from the start, some have joined along the way. Without the Privy Counsel Friends (and assorted cronies, hangers-on, and passive bystanders) sending us toilet photos, ranting with us, and dispatching emergency pictures of Elvis when times get tough, this bog blog really would not be possible.

Now, let's have a festive video before we embarrass ourselves further. We've had this one in a previous post, but really, can you ever get enough rum? Well, quite.

Festive video - Brothers Osborne, Rum

Hasta la vista!

Sunday, 25 October 2015

Ai Weiwei: Incarceration and Sanitation

We could tell you a tale of misogyny, misery, and melancholy, to simultaneously boil your blood and chill the spine. (After all, it is nearly Halloween!) All we'd have to do would be to tell you about our week. But frankly, isn't life appalling enough as it is, without us moaning about our personal traumas? Well, quite. So let us think about our own weary concerns another day and concentrate on somebody else's for a change.

Bogsley Hansson Friend, that connoisseur of all things cultural, sent us a message from Ai Weiwei's exhibition at the Royal Academy of Art. Weiwei's S.A.C.R.E.D. depicts his 2011 house arrest in China. Bogsley Hansson Friend writes:

Ai Weiwei bog art. Part of S.A.C.R.E.D.
Six boxes / dioramas you can look into that are about his house arrest / incarceration.

At the risk of being flippant, we must say that this shower scene reminds us of Semi-Intellectual Friend's shower in Thailand. Although of course Semi-Intellectual Friend wasn't, as far as we know, guarded by Chinese army officials at the time.
When we think about it, the design also reminds us of Semi-Intellectual Friend's shower in Denmark. It appears that, although competent in many areas of life, Semi-Intellectual Friend has very bad luck with showers.

The outside of the boxes, at the Royal Academy.

We would exhort our readers to support Amnesty International to help political prisoners around the world, but then there's the issue of the decriminalisation of prostitution, that no right-thinking person can support, and it all gets very muddled and confusing. One should of course still support all the other work that Amnesty does (for balance, see also Amnesty's motivation for passing the resolution to support the legalisation of prostitution), but it behoves every thinking human being to protest the de-criminalisation of people who benefit financially from trapping women, men and children into prostitution. It is not too late, by the way, to protest against the resolution: We have not given up and it is not too late.

A festive video on the theme of freedom seems fitting, n'est-ce pas? (Although of course the American notion of freedom is inherently problematic (especially in this Southern context - apart from all the colonialism and white supremacy lurking about, there is the fact that the vehicle of freedom is always a petroleum-consuming car - what's wrong with an environmentally friendly and health-promoting bicycle, for instance?), and possibly we should spend time on research in order to find something more universal, but frankly, my dear, we have had a rough week and we wish to get on with our Sunday now. Also this is a song about a woman escaping an abusive husband, and that is a concept we support wholeheartedly, whatever the context.)

Festive video - Danielle Bradbery, The Heart of Dixie

Related Reading
All posts featuring Bogsley Hansson Friend
Interview with Ai Weiwei in Vice, mentioning his bicycle
All posts featuring Semi-Intellectual Friend
A favourite post of ours, in which we get sentimental about our friends: Ask Not for Whom the Bog Rolls

Saturday, 17 October 2015

Pressing All the Right Buttons: A Privy Counsel Friend Travels to Japan!

We once famously expressed a wish to receive funding for a research trip to Japan (this, it has been suggested (probably by Tudor Friend), could be combined with unrestrained sake consumption, for an enhanced experience). Another time, we exhorted our readers to come with us on a pilgrimage to the country of famed and weird toilets.

As it happens, we are stuck at Privy Counsel HQ with a cold, experiencing dreary weather, and being ignored by the Danish police, who don't, apparently, give a flying fuck about whether passengers get sexually harassed by staff at Copenhagen Airport. However - before we get sucked into the gloom, let us insert a massive


A friend, who we may tentatively refer to as Dragon-Hunting Friend, has sent us pictures from Japan! This cheerful and intelligent friend writes:

I'm in the land of the weird and wonderful toilets!

Remember that time when we indulged in dreamy fantasies of breezy Alpine bogs? Dragon-Hunter Friend had sent us, on that occasion, a link to a site providing pictures of toilets in the Swiss Alps. It was fucking amazing.


Did this ever cheer us up? Woof!

Yes. The buttons say "front" and "rear".
So many buttons!
And sound effects too

It's anyone's guess what the last icon is supposed to represent.

The toilet in my hotel room has a heated seat
Quite strange the first time you try it
But rather nice
Less strange than the bidet button (which nearly made me giggle out loud at the airport toilets; I just had to see what it did! ;) )
Love the retro yellow '^^

Remember that time when we went to watch the rugby in a pub and Wales won, or lost,
or disappeared in an earthquake, or similar, and there was a yellow sink?

Do you feel spiritually revived? We certainly do! We are grateful to Dragon-Hunter Friend for these stupendously festive pictures!

We ought to have a festive video as well, of course, although today's festive video is not actually festive.

There are, when you think about it, an extraordinary number of songs about domestic violence. (Here are just a few.) This would indicate that the issue is a common one. As a society, it behoves us to do more to prevent domestic violence than, for instance, quoting bullshit statistics from so-called men's rights activists. Get, for a start, some hard-hitting statistics from the UN here: Facts and Figures: Ending Violence Against Women.

Let us repeat, also, some statistics from our last blog post:

In Britain, two women die from domestic violence every week. Imagine the outrage if it were two lawyers who were killed every week by violence directed specifically against them, or two postmen, or two office workers.

In Australia, domestic violence is the leading cause of death and injury in women under 45, with more than one woman murdered by her current or former partner every week. A woman dies every three weeks from domestic violence in Sweden.

Yes. It is grim reading.

Here is the video - a classic from 1994, by Swedish folk-metal-fusion band Dia Psalma (with special greetings to Fictional FriendTudor Friend, and Australian Friend). The lyrics narrate the story of a man pleading with a woman called Emilie to leave her abusive partner, "before it is too late".

Video - Dia Psalma, Emelie

Related Reading

Dragon Hunter Friend's previous post:
Remembering to Breathe

All posts featuring Japan

On Violence Against Women

Thinking about Caitlin Moran makes everything better

Another yellow sink: Foul Play, Also Fowl Issues

A yellow toilet! For Better or Worse: A Wedding Review

We also once famously argued that the Japanese bottom-cleaning toilet is a direct descendant of the Asian toilet shower. Remember that you read it here first: Toilet Showers - Reaching the Bottom

Saturday, 10 October 2015

On Violence Against Women

This blog post is not about toilets. Today's topic is violence against women.

Life. It's one vile fucking task after another. One vile task we've had to spend time on recently is reporting sexual harassment at Copenhagen Airport.

A member of the Privy Counsel recently found herself thinking, "Oh. I was just sexually harassed. Again.", when having her arse grabbed by a male member of the security staff at Copenhagen Airport. And no, she was not asked if she preferred being searched by a female member of staff. She wasn't even told she was going to be searched.

Copenhagen Airport is supposed to be one of the safest, most pleasant airports in the world (we certainly appreciate the stylish wooden floors and clean, noise-insulating toilets with quality mixer taps), but apparently it is rife with sexism and power abuse of the nastiest kind. After journalist and university lecturer Anne Lea Landsted wrote a leader article in Politiken in August about how fed up she was with being sexually assaulted at Copenhagen Airport, over 50 more women came forward to say that they, too, had been assaulted and harassed. (Read a summary of this sorry saga in English here.)

Apparently baulking at the sheer volume of complaints, Copenhagen Airport, acting on legal advice, asked the police to communicate with the women concerned. There are no news reports about the outcome of this process as yet, though we are not holding our hopes up at the Privy Counsel; an Australian woman who reported being subjected to sexual assault at the airport in May this year was apparently told that the CCTV footage of the incident had been deleted.

Image from fairfaxunderground.

In an incredibly facetious move, Copenhagen Airport then argued that new scanners would solve the problem, as these would remove the need for body searches. Because technology, as we all know, can instantly remove all traces of institutional violence, as long as you close your eyes and cross your fingers hard enough.
What Copenhagen Airport management apparently did not do was conduct an investigation into which staff members were guilty of criminal acts, and fire them, preferring instead to turn a blind eye and let staff continue committing acts of sexual violence.
The Privy Counsel member who was sexually assaulted at Copenhagen Airport passed through the security control in September, when the problem was supposed to have been magicked away by the new scanners. Evidently, ignoring the problem did not make it go away.

Having your arse grabbed is not unusual. Women and girls experience sexual harassment and assault all the time. We repeat: All. The. Time. And, sometimes, men do, too.
The problem is, sexism is not a series of unrelated incidents. It is a system of abuse and discrimination that targets women and girls and is intended to intimidate and silence them. It is part of a culture where men feel they have the right to interrupt women, assume they know better than women, and take liberties with women's bodies. (And don't give us the "not all men" crap, because it is myopic and unproductive.)

This same culture tolerates violence against women on a scale that would be shocking if it concerned any other group of people. In Britain, two women die from domestic violence every week. Imagine the outrage if a corresponding number of lawyers were killed every week by violence directed specifically against them, or postmen, or office workers.

Image from naterecording.

In Australia, domestic violence is the leading cause of death and injury in women under 45, with more than one woman murdered by her current or former partner every week. A woman dies every three weeks from domestic violence in Sweden, and sexism and violence against women are notoriously rife in Denmark, despite, interestingly, a zero-tolerance policy towards violence against women.

We are mistaken if we view history as a linear series of events, where "progress" leads to things getting "better". This is 2015. Prejudice, sexism, and gendered violence are rampant.

Does it surprise us that Copenhagen Airport displays such a cavalier attitude to its staff harassing and abusing women? No. Does it anger us? What do you think?

Do you think men would continue to harass, catcall and abuse women if their actions had resulted in negative consequences? Of course not. But because violence is normalised, harassment trivialised, and contemptuous attitudes to women are prevalent everywhere - in history books, in media, in movies, in our own damn families - nothing ever changes. Boys grow up believing they can treat girls any way they want - because they are never told they can't. Men believe they can harass women, and violate their bodies - because they are never told they can't. Even in countries where all forms of violence against women and girls are illegal, men aren't penalised, even when found guilty.
Well, we would find it refreshing if someone, somewhere, would tell men that they can't subject women to violence and get off scot-free.

Image from thedailybeast.
All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing. Copenhagen Airport - do you have the balls to harden the fuck up and do something?

We thought the message was clear, but apparently some skulls are so thick it's not getting through. The message is very simple:


Video - The Law Revue Girls, Blurred Lines [Feminist Parody] "Defined Lines"

Related Reading

Our friend Lucy Bonner's virtual reality simulation lets you experience what it's like to be street-harassed:
'It's Not a Compliment': VR Lets You Feel What It's Like to Be Street-Harassed

Advice on how not to be a sexist swine from our friend Stig (who is Danish, male, and a staunch defender of women's rights - apparently this is not an impossible combination):

My advice for men in general 
If you see a beautiful woman on the street and feel the urge to express it. Keep it to yourself! 
If you see a beautiful woman in the street and you are with a friend and you feel an urge to express your feelings, well don't, keep it to yourself. 
If you are working on a construction site and a beautiful woman walks by and you feel a strong urge to catcall her, see a doctor! 
If you see an unknown woman with the most well-shaped behind and you feel a strong urge to touch it, then walk into a gay bar and let unknown men fondle your private parts.  
If you watch women's sports on TV just to admire their beautiful athletic bodies, read a book instead.

Thursday, 1 October 2015

Parisian Chicness, Disease Prevention, and Unrestrained Language Nerdery. Oh, and Some Dogging.

The weather is finally showing an inclination to stop being freakishly nice, and to behave in a way that causes us not to scowl suspiciously. 
Nothing works our paranoia into a frothy, lathery sweat like an uninterrupted series of nice days. What's this in aid of, then, we ask ourselves, peering moodily at the blue skies. This feeling of ease and well-being is usually a sign that things are about to go tits-up, we mumble, giving the merry sunshine the evil eye. This will never end well, we whisper gloomily, and mentally throw rocks at the provokingly perky songbirds. 

The great thing about shit weather is that it gives one licence to drink obscene amounts of tea and huddle in a dark room, without having that irritating feeling that one should be doing something healthy and productive outdoors, like taking one's heart and arteries for a brisk walk, or declaiming Shakespeare sonnets to orphans in a wooded glade, or gawping at knuckle-bitingly ugly pieces of sculpture at the local park, while placing bits of wood in strategic places to provide shelter for a near-extinct species of beetle. (Read about a similar feeling of sunshine-related angst here.)

When the skies are grey and one can practically hear the werewolves howling on the moors, one can quite legitimately give the world outside the finger, sit down with a large whisky, and concentrate on looking at pictures of Caitlin Moran, and sending toilet photos to one's local bog blog. Here's one that Feisty French Friend took recently at the Musée du Quai Branly, in Paris:

Nobody does chic like those pesky Parisians! We find ourselves emitting a rugged Woof! In fact, a woof might not be enough to express the strength of our feelings about this stylish and pleasant bog - we might need to resort to a lusty HOWL!

Other things that can occupy one on dark autumn days is observing linguistic intricacies on signs inside toilets, and giving in to heedless, reckless, unrestrained language nerdery. (Our unrestrained-nerdery juices got flowing to a quite staggering extent at the weekend, when we engaged in an epic tour of medieval churches with Tudor Friend, which may or may not have included semi-perverse ogling of medieval wall paintings and church-wall graffiti.) This sign, for instance, observed in a staff toilet in a school in Malmö, says:
Hygglo! Vinterkräksjukan är på väg! Det enda och bästa sättet att skydda sig [mot] smitt[a] är enkel[t][:] Tvätta händerna noga efter varje toalettbesök.
(Be a brick! Winter vomiting disease is on its way! The only, and the best, way to protect yourself from infection is simple: Wash your hands carefully after you've been to the toilet.)

Hygglo! Wash your damn hands!

The word "hygglo" denotes a person who is decent, hygglig. It is unfortunately not listed in the Bible of Swedish-language nerds, SAOB, being presumably a recent creation; probably a 20th-century one. (Work began on SAOB in 1898, and the editors are currently at the letter T. The comparisons to Rowan Atkinson's frenzied attempts to rewrite Dr Johnson's dictionary in Blackadder, agonising over the word aardvark while going quietly insane, are naturally numerous.) 
Hygglo, ending with an o, follows the same pattern as other descriptive nouns like fyllo (short for fyllerist, "drunk"), miffo (short for missfoster, "freak"), fetto ("fatso"), lyllo (short for lyckost, literally "lucky cheese", or, rather more prosaically, "lucky person"), favvo (short for favorit, "favourite") and - a favourite of ours - pretto (short for pretentiös, denoting a pretentious person). The state of being a hygglo is perhaps best translated as being a brickHygglo, in short, when spotted on a toilet sign, is the kind of word that causes your average language nerd to do a little handwashing jig and start whistling, then walk around in a suspiciously jaunty way for the rest of the afternoon.

Speaking of winter vomiting disease, we couldn't believe that all of the internet hadn't managed to come up with a winter vomiting disease meme, so we made one, just for you:

Someone had to.

You're welcome.

At the risk of changing the subject abruptly (no, no, it's ok - we mentioned Caitlin Moran at the beginning of the blog post, meaning this qualifies as a continuous theme, or leitmotif), we just wanted to share this picture of Caitlin Moran's column in last Saturday's Times Magazine
As CatMo points out, the Times puts its writers' words behind a paywall in order to ensure that plebs like us can't read them without paying, with the rather marvellous result that journalists continue to get paid and are able to produce quality work without starving to death in the gutter, or being replaced by robots. The picture is therefore quite grainy, and the words are not available in an online form. But if you have the patience, enlarge it on your screen and enjoy the sheer holy joy that is a newspaper column by Caitlin Moran. (Or, if you don't have the patience, join your local library, like Jonny just did, and enjoy all of CatMo's columns for free, while vigorously appreciating the tax-funded miracle that is a public (or indeed pubiclibrary.)

What men need to know about women: 1) We're scared of you, and 2) Fuck off.

Oh hell, we need a festive video. Here's one incorporating a new word that we learned while playing Cards against humanity with Tudor Friend and some of her excellent and highly festive cronies last weekend. We'd say dogging is an admirable activity for rainy days, wouldn't you?

Festive video - Fascinating Aïda, Dogging

Related Reading

All posts featuring Feisty French Friend

All posts featuring Caitlin Moran

That feeling when it's sunny out and everyone is enjoying themselves, and you wish it wasn't, and they weren't:

If you enjoy linguistic musings, get more here
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...