This post is in response to a call by Letsblogoff asking “what makes you laugh’. A list of other contributors , which we will update as more declare themselves, is at the end of the post.

Chimps laugh when they are afraid, at least they appear to.  And I found myself wondering about the relationship between laughter and fear. Is humour our best defence against all manner of bad things?

I recently saw a film called Four Lions, written by Chris Morris. It is, and this is unpromising, a comedy about suicide bombers. You can read a much more articulate review of it than I can manage here.  In short, it is very funny in places, and also very sad.  It trys to laugh at something which none of us really feel inclined to laugh at.  I believe that places it right at the heart of one of  comedy’s great traditions.

Dictators don’t seem to like comedy.  Comedians don’t seem to like Dictators.  Charlie Chaplin had a very clear target with The Great Dictator.  I feel bad for admitting that he never made me laugh but there is no doubting the impact of his film  particularly in an America which was still formally at peace with the Nazis at the time.

Mel Brookes scored a direct hit The Directors, a film with a plot which I am not going to attempt to retell. But if you haven’t seen it, or even if you have, let’s have a burst of Spring Time for Hitler.

And the tradition of laughing at dictators continues. Kim Jong-il is guilty of unspeakable crimes against his own people. That’s a fact which isn’t diminished by his portrayal in the outrageous, definitely not safe for work, comedy Team America. There is a scene where he feeds Hans Blix to his pet shark which is very funny but it is this musical number which strips him of his dignity. And this clip is not work safe either. Sorry – rude word right at the beginning.

And maybe there is something else here. Maybe it’s not fear that leads to laughter after all. Someone wiser than me, which is a way of confessing that I can’t find out who, even with Google, said that comedy is dignity about to sit on a drawing pin. And maybe that’s why we laugh at Dictators and would be murders. Because what could be more arrogant, more pompous than that. Maybe we all enjoy laughing at the fall pride comes before. One of my favourite clips from a British comedy follows.

Jokes about people who are perceived to be weak, racist jokes about black people, misogynist jokes about women, homophobic jokes about gay people – none of these make me laugh. But dignity on a drawing pin gets me every time. And is it about fear? I’m not sure, but certainly less so when we’re done laughing.

These are the other Letsblogoff participants. I’ll update throughout the day.

Veronika Miller @modenus Modenus Community
Paul Anater @paul_anater Kitchen and Residential Design
Rufus Dogg @dogwalkblog
Bob Borson @bobborson Life of an Architect
Tamara Dalton @tammyjdalton Tamara Dalton Design Studios
Sean Lintow, Sr. @SLSconstruction
Madame Sunday @ModernSauce Modern Sauce
Christian McLean @chirn9980
Barry and jb @BMoxieBMore Building Moxie

This is in response to a ‘Let’s blog off’ call – ‘Where’s your slice of heaven?’ I’ll post the links to other contributors as soon as I have them. Here’s my two-penny worth.

Let’s get a couple of things out of the way first.  Who you are with and your own state of mind are the two most important things when it comes to being happy. But that would make for a blog with few pretty pictures and not much to disagree with. And what would be the point of that?  But not wanting to dismiss a winning argument too quickly, let me elaborate with a poem and an aphorism.

The importance of your significant other is beautifully illustrated by the poem ‘ To a Godly Man’ by the late, much missed, Adrian Mitchell.

Don’t waffle to me about kingdom come
I’ve often loitered there
My left hand was on Celia’s bum
My right hand in her hair.

You get the general idea, I’m sure. It is about other people, but it’s also about you.

The Buddhists have a saying, actually they have lots, probably far too many.  The  smug quip most relevant for this occasion is ‘Wherever you go, there you are.’ And it is undeniably true.  If you don’t like, and enjoy, yourself then at least one person is going to really piss you off wherever you may be.

All of this is very deep and meaningful. So why is there a picture of the Thames at the top of my blog?   I’ll tell you how this is going to end. I’m going to run down my three favourite places and then reveal London as the winner.  But it is a close call.

Third place is Lisbon. It beats Marrakesh, the best smelling city in the world, Palermo, the most frantic, fascinating and beautiful city and Bologna, the red city of style, passion and wonderful, wonderful food.  And, incidentally, you can poke Paris with its miserable Parisians, filth, congestion and a cuisine that hasn’t developed in 50 years, anywhere you want.

Lisbon is cool. It has great bars, good food, friendly people, very good beer and access to lots of underrated very good Portuguese wine. And there is the Port Wine Institute, a place where you can order a glass of an ancient vintage at a very reasonable price. And where else has an elevator in the street, designed by the same fellow who did the Eiffel tower, and that doesn’t even go anywhere! It has beautiful tiles everywhere and soup that turns stock and cabbage into something that is not just palatable but actually tasty.

Second place is Brighton, England, the, venue of choice for generations of Londoners heading off for dirty weekends. It has posh restaurants, it has down market restaurants.  It is as common as a hen night, as camp as a drag queen and as easy as a plastic glass full of Pimms Cup on the beach.  And all of those are regular features of life in Brighton.  No one cares who you are, what you look like or, really, about much at all.

I live in Brighton and from my tiny roof terrace, and this could be my 12 square foot of paradise, I look over a chaos of roof tops, some from the last century, some more than a hundred years older.  I see boats on the English Channel and hear teenagers arguing outside pubs and fast food restaurants and seagulls shouting to each other. And then I know I am alive. Brighton is incredibly diverse.  It is the second most diverse city I have lived in.

You already know where this is going.

When you list the very many good things about Brighton, sooner or later you find yourself saying, ‘and it’s only 55 minuets by train to London’ – exactly.

Picture credit – John Davies

My love affair with London is almost too personal to write about. I’ve lived there, moved away, moved back, move away and I know, one day I’ll be back again. It’s been my home for most of my life. It’s where my history is, many of my friends are and it will always be where I feel most at ease.

London isn’t easy. There are six and a half million people crammed into a relatively small space. You crash into them as you walk down the street and crush against them on public transport. They speak over 300 different languages between them and not everyone gets along. You get idiots and bigots everywhere. Driving through town so problematic that they charge you a hefty toll just to do it.  And the city is expensive. Property prices make your eyes hurt. But London is like nowhere else on earth and everywhere else on earth.
The whole world is in London. You can, if you are open to it, meet people from every corner of the earth, eat their cuisines, and absorb their influence. In London there is always something happening, concerts, fashion shows, art galleries with openings. It has  four premiership football teams including one good one. It has Hackney Marshes where there are enough football pitches for 1500 amateurs to kick chunks out of each other each Sunday mornings. It has  Hyde Park, Green Park, Regents Park, Richmond Park, Victoria Park, Clapham Common, Highbury Fields, London Fields and, of course, amongst many more, Hampstead Heath.

There are pubs on every corner, and half way down the street, where you can lean against the bar and chat, there are street markets to buy old tat for a fiver. There is astounding creativity – if it comes from London be it music, fashion, art or interior design, it has an edge. If you want it, it’s here.

The other thing London has is my heart. When I see the Thames I know I am almost home.

Here are some other thoughts on the same subject. I’ll update the list as others reveal themselves.

Blogger Twitter Blog Post Link
Veronika Miller @modenus Modenus Community
Paul Anater @paul_anater Kitchen and Residential Design
Rufus Dogg @dogwalkblog DogWalkBlog
Becky Shankle @ecomod Eco-Modernism
Bob Borson @bobborson Life of an Architect
Tamara Dalton @tammyjdalton Tamara Dalton Design Studios
Sean Lintow, Sr. @SLSconstruction
Richard Holschuh @concretedetail Concrete Detail
Kevin Lee Allen @klad2688 KLAD Design
Jody Brown @INFILLnc Coffee with an Architect
Madame Sunday @ModernSauce Modern Sauce
Roaming By Design @RoamingByDesign Roaming By Design
Beach House Finds @beachhousefinds Beach House Finds
Jane Frederick @JaneFredArch Low Country Architect

This is in response to a blog off call by Modenus and others. Links to their blogs are at the end. I want you to read my ramblings first.

Graduates in the UK leave college with an average of £25K debt, around $40,000. That’s how we fund them through college; we give them a loan and teach them about owing money. They mostly get part-time work as well. So by the time they start knocking on doors looking to start their careers most of them have the work discipline and social skills you need to thrive in the workplace. The ones who don’t probably never will.

You  find graduates with very good degrees applying for just about every job going. What happens to kids who find themselves looking for jobs without a degree is worrying.

Not only do graduates apply for every job going, they are increasingly willing to work for free. Every magazine I know well enough to ask tells me that Interns now happily churn out the rewritten press releases that I started my career with. This is a vicious cycle that  troubles me. Less paid work means less people spending money. And that means less money to pay people for working. This is fine if we really are talking about  extra jobs with a good element of training,  but in my experience it’s a simple market and when bright people are willing to work for free no one is going to pay much more.

So yes, the kids are ready, very much so. I once employed a young graduate as an internal communications manager who challenged everything I thought I knew about the subject and she was right just about every time. What she taught me was that most people have now grown up with different ways of communicating and collaborating. The old tools and structures with their command and control, top down ethos just don’t cut it for people who are used to sharing ideas on forums and twitter.

When the English local authority (council) I was working with was confronted with the idea of colleagues setting up intranet based communities of interest with members instant messaging each other asking for help and inspiration they held a meeting. Holding a meeting was a popular response to most things.

At the meeting my colleague was able to tell them about the Ning groups that already existed and which were improving their productivity, all under their slow, outdated corporate radar. Predictably there was immediate concern about risk and control rather than delight about intuitive and innovation. When a goon from the IT department mused about banning the sites, and twitter, from the corporate network my colleague simply waved her I-phone at him and smiled. It gives me great joy to know that said colleague now works for the UK Parliament. There is hope!

The kids are ready for us. Are we ready for them?

Here’s the other bloggers that we know about so far. You will find an updated  list at Let’s Blog Off

Veronika Miller @modenus
Paul Anater @paul_anater
Rufus Dogg @dogwalkblog DogWalkBlog
Becky Shankle @ecomod
Bob Borson @bobborson
Bonnie Harris @waxgirl333 Wax Marketing
Tim Elmore @TimElmore
Nick Lovelady @cupboards
Tamara Dalton @tammyjdalton
Sean Lintow, Sr. @SLSconstruction

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