Orwell and the Politics of Language (Part 2)

The following post is the second of two posts on George Orwell written by Will Richardson (you can read the first part here), a literary and political writer and friend of the Radical Tea Towel Company. He writes his own blog called The Opinionist and his Twitter handle is @WillRichardson6. Agree with the post or not, we’d love your comments below!

Hello again! Or just hello if you aren’t one of the loyal millions who have read this riveting two-parter from the beginning. In the first half of this on-going discussion, I wrote about the use and manipulation of the English language in politics, and how George Orwell gave us the blueprint to identify the techniques used by our leaders to confuse and manipulate us, and to conceal the truth of matters, to make things sound like other things, basically.

And this because we have allowed our language to be diluted and softened and to have the power and the meaning taken out of it, to an extent.

We are not blameless for the degradation of our language and its manipulative, dishonest use in politics. Unfortunately we have taken the same attitude to English as we take to interior design: minimalism. And of course Twitter, with its hashtags and its 140 characters, has played no small part in this development. Twitter has enabled and necessitated the reduction of discourse down to soundbites and slogans and catch-all phrases, and has completely decimated nuance in public debate. Continue reading “Orwell and the Politics of Language (Part 2)”

Orwell and the Politics of Language

The following two-part guest post is written by the talented Will Richardson, a literary and political writer and friend of the Radical Tea Towel Company. He writes his own blog called The Opinionist and his Twitter handle is @WillRichardson6

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George Orwell is probably most famous for having the second most misused adjective derived from his name. (“Oh my Gawwwd, mum. I can’t believe you won’t let me skip Nan’s funeral. This is so Orwellian!”) Second only to Kafka, perhaps. (“Oh my Gawwwd this burrito is so Kafkaesque.”) He is also known for uttering a bunch of inconveniently prescient stuff, among which: “In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.

1984, the book from which that shocking quote is taken, has the fine legacy of being the go-to example of dystopian tyranny (“First it’s registers for paedophiles, mate”, John insists, “the next thing you know, Government’s gonna be givin’ you a colonoscopy after every meal”). Although I’ll not try and convince you that if you are currently resident in Britain you are living in some dystopian Hell-scape bordered by barbed wire and overseen by oppressive, droid-headed CCTV; and I’ll not try to convince you that the powers that be keep us in fear and obedient through constant warfare, or that the government and the media tries to divide us by religion or colour or money; I shall be showing you the way in which that quote of old George’s is relevant to us in 2015. For it is not because should you tell the “truth” (man) you will get hauled into the back of a blacked-out van and lugged to room 101; no, it is because the manipulation and alterance of the English language in the political sphere and in public discussion has morphed to allow lies to become truth, and to make our truths lies.

To show what I mean, it won’t be George’s political fiction to which I’ll be referring; it will be his 1946 essay: Politics and the English Language. In this essay, the man elucidates how the politicos’ lingual use allows for truth to be concealed, or for the definition of truth and lie to blur.

George Orwell Tea Towel Continue reading “Orwell and the Politics of Language”

Buying Gifts for Left-wingers, Radicals & Liberals

Everyone knows that the best birthday and Christmas presents are ones that speak to a person’s interests and values, because they show you’ve at least put some thought into the matter instead of just plumping for the latest Top Cat shot-glass.

It’s easy with kids, where you can simply pinpoint their latest craze (Lego, Manchester United, tiddlywinks) and buy them virtually anything to do with those categories. Things are a little tougher for us grown-ups whose core ‘interests’, as measured by amount of time spent, often seem to revolve around the commute to work and unblocking the storage room toilet.

When people do have obvious hobbies, the likelihood is that they know a lot more about it than you, and therefore your attempts to impress with a copy of the ‘Titchmarsh Annual 2013’ risk shooting wider than an England quarter-final penalty kick.

A person’s politics, on the face of things, offers a golden opportunity to get someone a gift that is both useful and fits their values. Yet before the Radical Tea Towel Company came along, the choice was surprisingly limited. Books were by far the most common solution – but there’s only so many times one can read a biography of Jeffrey Archer.

It’s Christmas, so here’s a list of potential political gifts for leftwingers and liberals: Continue reading “Buying Gifts for Left-wingers, Radicals & Liberals”

Top Ten Oscar Wilde Quotations

Famous for the witty dialogue of his plays, Oscar Wilde’s epigrams often serve as vehicles for his somewhat scathing satire and pointed social commentary. He was, undoubtedly, a man of words, and it is his skill with language that makes the plays so incredibly enticing. 115 years after his tragic death from meningitis, we look at some of the playwright’s most inspiring and radical aphorisms, taken from both his plays and his essays.

1. “To recommend thrift to the poor is both grotesque and insulting. It is like advising a man who is starving to eat less.”

This quotation, taken from Wilde’s essay The Soul of Man Under Socialism (of which we at Radical Tea Towel are huge fans!) and featured on our Wilde tea towel, is one of our favourites. Its sentiment is frighteningly apt today, when public services are suffering huge cuts, benefits are being slashed and over a million people are using food banks every day, just to survive.Oscar Wilde tea towel

2. “With the abolition of private property, then, we shall have true, beautiful, healthy Individualism. Nobody will waste his life in accumulating things, and the symbols of things. One will live. To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.” Continue reading “Top Ten Oscar Wilde Quotations”

Becoming a vegetarian is one of the best life changes we can make

The following post is a guest post by Tom Bailey, an 18-year-old literary and political blogger. He writes on a variety of topics from music to politics on his own blog, where he also publishes his poems. His Twitter handle is @TomBaileyBlog

Over to Tom…

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There are hundreds of reasons for becoming a vegetarian: it’s cheaper, it’s healthier, and it’s undeniably a more humane way of life. But most importantly, it’s better for the world in which we live.

As Einstein explained, “Nothing will benefit human health and increase the chances for survival of life on Earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet.” If Einstein said it, it must be true! But how can eating less meat save the planet? Well, let me explain.

The environmental impact of humanity’s insatiable carnivorousness is undeniable: according to a study by Goodland and Anhang, livestock and their byproducts produce an estimated 32.6 billion tons of carbon dioxide every year, equating to 51% of annual worldwide Greenhouse Gas emissions.

That means meat production produces more Greenhouse Gas than all other sources put together! Want to reduce your Carbon footprint? Cut down on your meat!

Continue reading “Becoming a vegetarian is one of the best life changes we can make”

Informative & inspiring: a review of Suffragette

Ninety-seven years after women were given the vote in England, Focus Features released Suffragette, a British historical drama commemorating the achievements of the Women’s Suffrage movement. Starring Carey Mulligan, Helena Bonham Carter and Anne-Marie Duff, Suffragette skilfully captures the bravery and fortitude of these noble women.

The film focuses on the experiences of Maud Watts (played by Mulligan), a fictional composite of many working class women fighting for equality. Maud works in the Bethnal Green Laundry and, like many working women of the time, is treated terribly by her boss, who sexually abuses women who work for him.

Throughout the film Maud comes to realise the inherent injustices of society as she grows more and more involved with the suffrage movement, to the anger and distaste of her family and community.

The film demonstrates the incredible struggle that suffragettes experienced, from hunger strikes and police violence to arrests and complete ostracization. It also reveals the stigma that was, for a long time, bizarrely attached to the belief that women should have equality with their male counterparts. Continue reading “Informative & inspiring: a review of Suffragette”

Beyond Drying Up: Six Alternative Uses for a Tea Towel

We’ve previously discussed the many uses of a tea towel beyond drying the dishes. But several of our customers have since come up with more adventurous ideas. Alternative applications for the humble tea towel have in fact existed since the rise of its initial popularity in the 18th century as a tool to dry the bone china dish sets of the English upper classes.

Here we give a rundown of a few more ‘radical’ uses for the kitchen tea towel:

  1. As a shepherd’s head dress in your child’s nativity play

Normally better to use a striped or cross-hatch design for this one… unless these shepherds are devotees of the anarcho-syndicalist movement, of course.

  1. As a flag at a demonstration

Shepherd or not, there’s nothing preventing you from attaching your tea towel to a stick and using it as an alternative to those socialist worker placards at your typical demonstration.

  1. As a canvas for your next Van Gogh imitation

Strapped for cash and unable to get his brother Theo to send him more canvas quickly enough, Van Gogh resorted to the tea towel as a base for his creative genius. Some tea towel paintings date from Van Gogh’s time in the mental asylum at Saint-Paul-de-Mausole in Saint Rémy de Provence, and it is speculated they came from the asylum’s kitchen. Later works were painted on tea towels with a red border, possibly from the kitchen of the Auberge Ravoux in Auvers, the small village to the north of Paris where Van Gogh spent the last two months of his life before shooting himself.

Continue reading “Beyond Drying Up: Six Alternative Uses for a Tea Towel”

How To Wash Tea Towels: The Definitive Guide

Sadly no one (even us) has yet invented a self-cleaning tea towel, so just like cloths, hand and bath towels, they still need washing to avoid smelly bacteria and remove stains. We’ve previously written about how to wash and take care of your tea towels, and have decided to update our advice given the apparent popularity of this subject!Laundry room image

Pre-Use Washing

Brand new towels of any kind are not that absorbent, due to excess dye and oils left over from the manufacturing process. We therefore recommend washing your tea towels in warm water before use.

You’re best off washing any colourful tea towels independently of other items the first time round, in case the colours run. Using a little diluted white vinegar in this initial wash can also help make your tea towels more absorbent.

Stain Removal

Particularly bad stains are best treated with a clothing stain remover beforehand, but your regular detergent should work for the most part. You can just chuck cotton and linen tea towels in with the rest of the washing machine load – hand washing isn’t really necessary.

A hot temperature (40 degrees plus) is fine for white tea towels, but for coloured ones, we recommended you stick to the 30-40 degree range for the best balance between killing off bacteria and maintaining the colour. Using a biological washing powder should ensure a thorough clean at these medium temperatures.

Continue reading “How To Wash Tea Towels: The Definitive Guide”

Should I Rinse My Dishes After Washing Them By Hand?

Whether you use a dishwasher or do it by hand, nothing is more likely to provoke arguments than the hundred and one ways of doing the washing up. Disagreements may centre on whether, after washing the dishes with detergent, you should simply dry them with a tea towel (suds and all); leave them to drain until the suds disappear; or rinse them by re-filling the sink with fresh water or running water over them from the tap or a jug.

There are no right answers to these questions and much of it boils down to practicality, habit, personal or cultural preference.

What is not controversial is that things have moved on so much since the days when the washing up was done in a single pot sink with traditional hot and cold taps, limited hot water and a tiny draining board. And this has made the rinsing option much easier. Continue reading “Should I Rinse My Dishes After Washing Them By Hand?”

Up Against the Wall: Framed Tea Towels Gallery

Since we started out, many people have come to the conclusion that our radical tea towels are just as good up against the wall as on the draining board.

Apparently, you can get some decent frames cheaply from IKEA that don’t do a bad job of fitting the tea towels, which measure approximately 48cm wide by 76cm in length (the half panama cotton ones are slightly shorter at 73cm length).

At one point we thought about offering a framing service at the checkout stage on the website, but decided we’d probably be better concentrating on making tea towels than cutting chunks of wood and going about the float glass process.

The pictures below aren’t the first examples of tea towels being used for wall-hung art. Late in his career, an impoverished Van Gogh often ran out of conventional and expensive canvas, and had to think of alternative bases for his paintings. A still life with flowers by Van Gogh, painted on a tea towel, sold for £2.1 million at auction in 2000.

Who knows, perhaps in the future radical tea towels will fetch such sums as rare artefacts from the early 21st century!

Here’s a selection of a few we’ve received via Twitter: Continue reading “Up Against the Wall: Framed Tea Towels Gallery”