Friday, 6 September 2013

Jon Kelly - the man who does not keep Malcolm Gladwell awake at night, trembling with fear

According to the BBC, "The Georgian period runs from 1660-1840". The article is about architecture, but I am not sure that that makes it any better. Is St Paul's a Georgian cathedral? Whatever happened to the style of building known as Queen Anne?

The article includes a number of bizarre phrases: apparently there are people "for whom the words "original period features" are like manna" (what do they do with those words?); "Those with an affection for concrete at least have plenty of affordable options on former local authority-run estates the length and breadth of the UK" (those are pretty big estates!); ""Barratt-style homes" - synonymous with the 1980s Channel 4 soap opera Brookside" (synonymous?); and did a senior lecturer really say "Most serious architects do think these pastiches do negate real design because they are not innovative"?

I saw that the author of the article is a chap called Jon Kelly and I thought I might investigate his oeuvre for other gems.

It turns out that his other works include:

- "Why do people mock men in red trousers?", which tells us that "In the popular imagination, red trouser-wearing sits at a Venn diagram intersection between hipsters and the upper classes" but indulgently concludes that "red trouser-wearers remain a misunderstood, if colourful, band of sartorial outcasts" (I'm not sure what the misunderstanding is); 

- "Eight low-tech ways to keep cool in a heatwave" (now I know I can open the windows, fan my face or wear Bedouin robes); 

- and, in a piece that sits at the Venn diagram intersection between investigative reporting and utter tat, "James Bond: How his sex life compares with an average man". On the subject of James Bond, after considerately warning us of plot spoilers ahead, we are told that Bond's "chat-up lines err towards the rubbish" (indeed, the "typical man deploying these bon mots while seeking female companionship might worry about having his facial features, as well as his cocktail order, shaken, not stirred" - wince) but "agent 007 exists in a world where the usual laws of romantic gravity do not apply". Despite him being a fictional character, Kelly finds a doctor who tells him that the "likelihood of James Bond having chlamydia is extremely high", probably because, as Kelly delicately reveals (spoiler alert!) the "series tends not to dwell on its protagonist's use or otherwise of contraception". (Very sensitive use of the phrase "or otherwise", Kelly.) But Kelly is nothing if not fair-minded, pointing out that (another spoiler alert!) "you don't see characters going to the toilet or remembering to lock their car door."

I will certainly keep many of these bon mots in mind, not when "seeking female companionship", but rather in trying to avoid any tendency to "err towards the rubbish".


  1. Hello, I'm Jon Kelly, and I've just stumbled across this. Thank you for typing words about me and posting them on the internet. Insofar as this entry is based on the twin presumptions that I might aspire to keep Malcolm Gladwell awake at night, trembling with fear (I wouldn't - the poor chap needs his forty winks like the rest of us) and that there's something particularly shameful about me occasionally knocking out the odd piece that is whimsical and/or frivolous (which I don't think there is, but each to their own), we may have to part company. But the your tone of pained condescension suggests that you are, yourself, a public intellectual in the Gladwell mould, and please don't imagine I'm not deeply grateful for your fleeting attentions.

    1. Thank you for your comment. I hope you weren't too offended by what I wrote. In fact, I am pleased that the BBC has whimsical and frivolous output. I had some criticisms of precisely what that output is but, as you say, each to his own. Please feel free to comment on anything else I write: I am an amateur and of course deeply grateful for the attention from you, yourself, a professional.