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Thursday, April 29, 2004

template change

Suddenly realised that, in ditching my earlier template with its lurid banner heading that rendered my carefully-chosen colors illegible, I had moved to one without space for buddy links - like the ~Itionistas, Sed and Prohib, Gwyn's amazing fotolibra, La Calichâine, et tout ça.

Hmm. Even as I punch in The Sed's URL, I'm reminded that I still can't get used to that lopping off of the first letter of a line. All terribly clever, I'm sure, and shows what a poor eye I have for fontmanship. Come the revolution, I'll be among the first for tossing from the battlements for basic all-round uncoolness and unfitness to tread the New Frontier.

Cool Site du Jour

Title says it all ...

Along with Tara, a 'must'.

Cell phoning en voiture

I've never felt particularly tolerant of people distracting themselves behind the wheel with the use of cell phones. Of course, I don't own one myself so I huff and puff with impunity, as opposed to never being off it and the prime culprit.

Encouraging increase in actual phone-attributed accidents on Bainbridge, possibly leading to them being banned in cars which would lend weight to my scrutinizing of each passing vehicle and bellowing and gesticulating at the silly moos yapping away as they wrestle to keep their SUV vaguely their side of the divider line.

What we need is a few more *mortal* prangs. That should stir even us dozey Bainbridgers into organizing a lynching party and stringing the culprit driver up by her Prado shoe straps.

Hang on - first there'd be a whippin' - *then* there'd be the lynching.

Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Devil's Dictionary

Not the Bierce, which should already be by your bedside and providing backbone to your daily speech.

The DD cleverly provided by Pater Verii.

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Far from ensured, Olympic Games now insured

My mum lives in Greece and when we heard that Athens had won the 2004 Games, we tilted the ouzo bottle one more time and just laffed and laffed.

Philhellene as I am, I'm not *that* deep in denial: Greece may be the home of les jeux originaux, boast the genuine Marathon route and all that, but one race the olive eaters will be pushed to win is getting everything ready in time. And the security ... smacks of overkill and confusion.

This and this pretty much say it all.

One country, two faces

I know we're occupied by matters Middle Eastern, but things look gloomy for my belovèd Hong Kong.

Hopes of fair elections receding.

SARS, too ...

Monday, April 26, 2004

Curse of Conan Doyle strikes again

And in a most curious and un-elementary way, too.

What? Open verdict ... many points in favour of suicide when the world's foremost expert on Sherlock Holmes is found garrotted in bed surrounded by cuddly toys and a bottle of gin?

Loss of Respect

My elder gal is studying to be a teacher. In case she has ideas of tackling the brutish British young, I suggest she reads the following pithy observations:
"Margaret Thatcher is to blame for the abominable rudeness with which parents and children nowadays treat schoolteachers. So said Pat Lerew, president of one of the main teaching unions, earlier this week, and while it is preposterously unfair of her to hold Lady Thatcher personally responsible for the lack of respect in which teachers are now held, it is certainly true that some of today’s parents who were themselves children during the 1980s have absolutely no idea how to behave. The worst among this Eighties generation are marked by a hideous egotism, and by an inability to understand that anything beyond their own dreary consumerist appetites might conceivably be worthy of respect. They work with admirable energy to enrich themselves in a dull, material sense, but they have nothing but scorn for teachers, who are unsuccessful in economic terms and who, if they confer any riches at all, bring these in currency which is not immediately tradeable at the new out-of-town shopping centre.

Mrs Lerew is rightly alarmed that many modern parents fail to uphold the authority of teachers. The days are long gone when a child who got into trouble at school would be in just as much trouble at home. As Mrs Lerew says, ‘If you discipline a child for bad behaviour or not doing their homework, many parents come in and take the child’s side and say they have done nothing wrong.’

The awe in which professionals used to be held by the rest of society has vanished. To the extent that this means we are no longer willing to accept without complaint a second-rate service from doctors or teachers or civil servants, this is doubtless a good thing. But to abandon any idea of professional discretion — any understanding that the professional man or woman cannot provide a proper service without being trusted to take decisions which he or she is more qualified, by training, aptitude and experience, to take than members of the general public — is bound to lead to deep disappointment on both sides. The professional ceases to feel valued, and ceases to be able to provide one of the things the public needs, which is the disinterested exercise of professional judgment.

No profession — or should one say former profession? — exemplifies this sad decline more vividly than teaching. The causes of the decay are difficult, perhaps impossible, to disentangle, for several very powerful factors have reinforced each other. One of the most conspicuous is the extraordinary and disastrous intrusion of the government into schools.

Ministers seem to have no conception of teachers as professionals. They treat them like mill-hands who must be given the most minute instructions by Charles Clarke, the manager of the mill, in order to achieve the highest possible levels of production, with a ludicrous 50 per cent of school-leavers expected to go on to university. Mr Clarke styles himself the Secretary of State for Education, but he appears to have less understanding of education than any previous occupant of that post. What man or woman of learning would willingly submit to his regimen?

Yet the disastrous and impertinent intrusion of ministers into the classroom is in part the fault of the teachers themselves, who ceased to have a high idea of their calling. When teachers are as scruffy and informal and easy-going as the children they are supposed to be teaching, and when they allow the children to decide if they can be bothered to learn anything, they can hardly be surprised if, after a few decades of this experiment when its disastrous consequences for the weakest children have become plain, the state steps in to restore order.

The teachers’ loss of self-respect naturally made society less inclined to respect them too. Parents found they could get away with being atrociously rude to teachers, in a way that would not previously have been tolerated even by the other parents. The British after 1979 recovered their economic enterprise but, as some conservative-minded commentators such as Peregrine Worsthorne observed during the 1980s, it was more difficult to recover a whole tradition of manners, in which new money, at whatever level of society, learnt how to behave by aping and at length assimilating the manners of old money. Parents became unwilling or afraid even to try to instil the rudiments of good conduct into their offspring. Adults who saw other people’s children misbehaving, whether in the street or in schools, no longer felt they had any authority to intervene. Teachers were reduced to impotence, and strong-minded men or women, who would not tolerate gross indiscipline, no longer saw it as a profession they wanted to join.

The hopeful thing in all this is that many parents still want to bring up children who are not louts, and succeed in doing so. The high tide of yobbery is perhaps already past. What Mrs Lerew needs to realise is that her profession can thrive only within a hierarchical framework, where authority is respected. Within that hierarchy, liberty and even a spirit of equality can flourish, but without it the classroom swiftly reverts to a brutish jungle where civilisation perishes."

Slavering for Reparation

I've never understood these types bleating away for reparation. For a start, do we know what sort of fair price a standard slave goes for these days? And, ok, so Wilberforce-type Brits are centrally to blame for that nosey-parker frigate stopping that slave boat going about its lawful business - but how do they really know, those West Africa traders, how much money they'd be making today if whitey hadn't interfered and cut off their supply chain and poisoned the market for darkie home-help?

And who's to say the descendants screaming blue murder today wouldn't have dropped the ball and cocked it up - why should we believe they'd inherit ancestor Kwabe's brisk shipping methods, or ancient cousin Thabo's eye for a puissant thigh or fecund housemaid? Today's dusky traders could have totally squandered the family fortune and been reduced to flipping meat of a different kind, like the rest of us.

It seems that Ross Clark agrees with me, agreeing that "Slaves transported from Africa to the New World in the 18th century had a wretched time, but does the same apply to their distant descendants?" Hear hear, old boy - but wait! Ludicrous tho' it sounds, there are those who think it does apply: one Deadria
Farmer-Paellmann, who with seven other descendants of slaves this week filed a lawsuit demanding $1 billion in damages from Lloyd’s of London, FleetBoston and the tobacco company R.J. Reynolds.

The name alone is a giveaway - where do these people think them up? - but there's more.
These companies, claims Ms Farmer-Paellmann, who has had her DNA traced to the Mende tribe of Sierra Leone, ‘have destroyed our national and ethnic identity’. She accuses them of ‘aiding and abetting the commission of genocide’ by financing and insuring slave ships.

Does Ms Farmer-Paellmann really wish she was plodding around in a grass skirt in West Africa like her distant ancestors, rather than living in the United States? Unlikely. Never mind Lloyd’s of London; it is the descendants of slaves who profited the most from the slave trade. If anything, she should be thanking companies implicated in the slave trade for giving her such a good start in life.

Ms Farmer-Paellmann’s lawsuit is not the first to attempt to claim reparations for the slave trade. Sadly, those bringing such suits can always count on support from Western liberals because it is a lot easier to dwell on some injustice in distant history than to face the reasons why so many of the world’s poor remain poor; for instance, the trade barriers which prevent them from full participation in the global economy. The reward for any Western company which takes advantage of lower labour costs to employ staff in the Third World is to find themselves compared with the slave-traders.

Barring the triumph of protectionism, in 100 years’ time many of the great-grandchildren of telephone operators beavering away in Indian call centres will enjoy living standards equivalent to or better than those in the West today. The only hazard is that they might catch the Western disease and start filing lawsuits against call-centre companies for lifting them out of a state of noble peasanthood.

How's that for a giggle? I was beginning to worry that this lugubrious blog was turning into nothing but a vehicle for ratting on E and prattling on about C. Phew - Ms Farmer-Paellmann to the rescue.

Rejection Letter

We've all written and received those awful reject letters:
Dear Chris

Now you’re really going to hate me for this!

You see, I think Thriftway Rendezvous is a good idea and well written, but I think you haven’t really come to terms with what television wants from a play (if you see what I mean).

If we want to be particular, I think when Craig meets Lavinia on the 99 shuttle, from that moment on we really are unsure whether he is only doing this for Karen or whether his antics chez San Carlos are a factor.

And once that is exploded the whole Craig/Lavinia thing is no go.


PS let’s meet and talk

Let’s not, Saskia. Let’s avoid each other for 10 years, after which period I will supervise a small but tasteful ceremony at which slices will be cut off your pert derrière and served (with garlic bread) at a hootenanny for Script Editors.

Or ...

Dear Chris,

I’m afraid I’m returning L'Heure de Crépuscule to you.

Some of us here liked it a lot, but none of us (alas!) enough to publish.

Do let me see anything else of yours.

Alisdair Wilkinson

[What, like your wife or brother or elder daughter - just so long as it isn’t a novel, short story, play or poem?

I mean who does Al Wilkinson think he is? And who, while were about it, are “some of us”? A sandpit of trendies up on Capitol Hill, lounging around like the last days of Rome, sneering at mss received?]

Which set me wondering about reject letters to some of the famous:

Dear Signor Dante:

Thank you for sending us your manuscript for "Hell".

What a title! Sizzling with ideas and crammed with steamy stories.

Unfortunately, it’s overall a little too pessimistic in tone.

And I wonder if the travel motif isn’t a little too played out these days? Especially locked into such a rigid structure.

Even your tight 3-line paragraphs made me feel weighed down and going round in circles.
Our discerning readers are looking for something a little more cheering, uplifting. What I like to call a heart warmer.

They like humour – a lightness of touch.

If you introduce lovers into the story, let them overcome adversity. If you’re pushing a celebrity family saga, at least let here be some winners.

Show your readers that every cloud has a silver lining.

Remember, you can’t beat a happy ending for reader approval!

I hope you’ll take these comments in the positive spirit they’re intended.

May I suggest a workshop or a creative writing group?

Nullo metro compositum est

["It doesn't rhyme"]
Energetic stroll around the isle, shook fist at all the ghastly building going on and the sheer hideousness of some of the mansions. Can't there be a cut-off of wealth at certain points of tastlessness, so that someone of X crassness can only do $Y,000's worth of blotting the landscape, etc?

To keep myself amused, I toyed with some metrical verse mocking free verse: :

Manners make verse no less than they make man

Asking of verse that it should rhyme and scan

And be the ground where Grace and Patience meet

On pathways trod by – say – iambic feet

Lo! Verse that scorns such gently measured tread

To be dismissed needs only to be read;

Or should it spurn the courtesy of rhyme

T’will rarely stand the briefest test of time.

Free verse is free with all its tawdry favours,

A slut whose turpitude the dimwit savours,

A strutting cock who from his dunghill crows,

Conceited from his coxcomb to his toes.

Free verse, the work of charlatans and knaves,

The shortest road to execration paves,

Yet, might it be in Heaven, we dare to hope,

That Mr. Pound is chum to Mr. Pope?

Sunday, April 25, 2004

Totum dependeat

Let it all hang out.

Up at 0600hrs to chug round the block and then lie draped across the divan to watch the newsy stuff and that clever Tim Russert.

Email from E in response to some mischievous scandal I'd sent him about a twitty young thing at work. Turns out he himself had a crush on her so one really can't send him anything about women. I must remember that.

He signs off with an intriguing theory, that

BTW, he'd accidentally let slip that he'd linked to me in his weblog, so if CB doesn't know of it already, she might visit soon.

He'd totally not thought about the entries I'd written about her, though soon after wishing he could stuff the revelation back in his mouth, he wondered if maybe my recent spate of writings was to just shift more revealing entries off of the main page.

But nawww, he concludes, I wouldn't do that sort of thing.

Not only would I not, but I'd move the CB canon right up front if I knew how (change the date, I expect). Better still, start a completely separate CB-Jeebies blog devoted solely to rangey ramblings.

Listen, the lady hasn't time for calling up blogs. She's a fast-track scholar and interprète of matters technical, heading for the fine things in life. Can one picture her running her own blog? Right, well nor can you imagine her reading others'. Case closed. Ventis secundis, tene cursum - Go with the flow.

Matter of fact, had a lunch date with La Bley Motto last Friday, so I naturally packed Safeways' finest frozen Shepherd's Pie, a box of éclairs, and a flagon of cranberry juice for the hearty solo repast that lay ahead. Tiens! What nestled in my in-box? The most courteous of regrets: Mama up in town from the shires, could we do Monday, etc? (Monday, Tuesday, Mercredi - my calendar is putty to her whims)

Actually, not bad timing because my PiP gruesome 1:1 grillings are set for each Monday, noon to 1. I'd need cheering and tear drying and help stemming the streaked mascara, so it rather suited. Plus, I'd brought in a modest birthday gift for last Tuesday, which did my reputation no end of good when it was suddenly found that it was Suzanne's birthday and - yikes - no fitting prezzie ... Holmes to the rescue. The intended recipient will never know; besides, I've saved her the agony of once again giving no acknowledgment whatsoever of these gewgaw offerings.

Back to the 'spate theory', heavens no. The flurry of activity - as I think I say somewhere - was entirely to do justice to *E's* linking to me. Heavens, the boy likes to get things wrong.

Now, it's a gorgeous day which mustn't be squandered, so I'm off to explore the Eagle Harbour shoreline.

Murderers foul

Sentio Aliquos Togatos contra me Conspirare

or, "I think some people in togas are plotting against me."

Logged onto LinkFilter last night to post a few reminders that messrs Venables and Thompson still tease the power of the Internet to flush out the bad guys from their hidey-holes.

These are the two 10-yr-old lads who, Feb 12, 1993, led Jamie Bulger - who was to turn three in March - from a shopping mall in Liverpool out of a Liverpool mall on a walk for over 2 and a half miles, along the way stopping every now and again to torture the mite who was crying constantly for his mum. Finally they stopped at a railway track where they brutally kicked him and threw stones at him and rubbed paint in his eyes and pushed batteries up his anus. They then left his beaten body on the tracks so a train could run him over to hide the mess.

I don't see the Bulger family website any more, nor some of the more informative sites of yore. Meanwhile, I do my small part by running reminders now and then in case it triggers a spark of recognition in someone in some small town ....

I try to post it on LinkFilter but it doesn't "take". My cup of paranoia runs over and I wonder if The Man has instructed that nothing on Venables and Thompson appear.

Is that another link? Might as well shove it in.

As a sop to LinkFilter, I replace the Venables Thompson info' with news of a Jesus Christ action figure (complete with walk-on-water action and handy souls-saved-to-date hit counter). The sales line promises, "It's like Mel Gibson's Passion without all the hassle."

Naught for Thy Refuge

I shop at that Safeway. The Gormleys are good people. We're all sad at the news.

Tara'd and Feathered

As Plautus would have had it, Fac me cocleario vomere!, or "Gag me with a spoon!" (I know it reads more like "F*** me, as soon as my head clears, I'm going to vomit").

Up betimes of a Saturday morning, on with the kippers and toast n marmalade, and check the old email for maternal beratings:

"Your brother sent me the most lovely jpegs of Tiffany and Samantha; all I get from you is 'Everything cool here, mater. More news anon.'

Darling, I know one has to fit in with the natives, but you *have* become terribly 'American'. And how longactually _is_ an 'anon' - surely not 20 years and a marriage? Do write. I don't mean to hint, but I'm seeing Costas this afternoon about my Will and I'm seriously thinking of achieving more of a balance between the spaniels and you. Bainbridge sounds divinely cosy but haven't they discovered the telephone yet?"

Tiens! What do I see but a succinct message from one of my Goddesses of the e-firmament, the sainted Tara Calishain - and could there be a more divine name?

("Lord Hartlepool, before we get down to business, may I introduce my consultant, Tara Calishain?" "By Jove, a man of action, I see. Charmed, m'dear".)

Ouch - la TC has clearly tracked down one of my breathless recommendations. Scary. Quoth the Regina of Research:

"But I don't think it's that popular. I always thought it was a bit on the obscure side.

Have a good weekend, Tara"

Saturday, April 24, 2004

Thank you, Mr. Raban

An out-of-the-blue invitation from the distinguished James Demetre of this parish to review Jonathan Raban's second novel, Waxwings for the very edrudite ArtDish, now under his editorial lash.

(Nothing to do with Icarusian falls from grace or meltdown come-uppance for the o'er-weening proud: these are the real feathers, a species of local bird. Rather lovely, I gather, and Mr Raban has done his homework on our ornithology. Apparently, it is now our turn.)

"A timely pleasure to be writing about Jonathan Raban’s second novel, 10 years to the month from when ‘Hunting Mr. Heartbreak’ lured me to swap my adopted home of Hong Kong for Seattle.

‘Waxwings’ takes place against turn-of-the-century Seattle – WTO shenanigans, Alaska Airways crash, that sharp-eyed border guard nailing the sweating terrorist – a lively setting before the cast even assembles.

Such is the clarity of Raban’s prose and page-turning appeal that I care nowt for missing any deeper message or toadying up a dollop of gravitas with some Pseuds Corner interpretation. This is a good read, crying out to be bungled as a movie thanks to Raban’s consummate skill at keeping characters on a tense rein so that regret at leaving one scene is instantly forgotten in eagerness to catch up with the next.

First glimpse is of ‘Chick’, illegal immigrant from Fujian province, hotfooting it down the back alleys of Chinatown. We don’t know how or when, but Chick’s got the wits and the work ethic to make it.

Meanwhile, over on Queen Anne, genial Brit-type fogey Tom Janeway is swanning in a life I rather fancy: teacher of creative writing, local celebrity for growly-bear ramblings on local radio, pleasantly bemused by his new lease of life since moving to the US. (Cue stormy waters ahead)

Where Raban excels is in conveying emotion and experience in deft phrases. Tom gazing on his sleeping son:

“This love, too, was easy – far easier than he ever could have guessed. In London, he’d thought of fatherhood as a burden borne by other men, not his sort of thing at all. Yet in this, as in so much else, what had seemed true there had been proved false here. American alchemy again.”
Nailed in one.

Wifely alchemy also keeps Tom alert. Go-getting Beth is as focused in her 24/7 dot.com firmament as Tom is vague and inspirationally blocked in his yester-London world of Pope, Mayhew and Gissing. Not a marriage to bet on and Raban dismantles it with heart-rending skill.

Richter for this crumbling union is son Finn, Exhibit A for what happens when parents take their eye off the ball and no slouch with precocious utterances that earned me brisk clips round the lug-hole.

There we have them: wily Chinois shinning up the drainpipe of Life to run his own tatterdemalion construction crew; Tom deserted by his Muse and blind to Beth’s jettisoning of a farce for headier oxygen of reality and moneyed independence. As for Janeway fils, a splendid vehicle for authorial merriment at the expense of ADD clichés and behavioral counselors.

A mote of a quibble here with Chick’s easy bandying of the Cantonese insult ‘gwei lo’ (‘ghost’ or ‘devil’ person): this is a strictly Hong Kong Cantonese term, unlikely to be familiar in Fujian Province. ‘Laowei’ (albeit with the less insulting meaning of just ‘foreigner’) is more convincing.

When ‘Chick’ spots the dodgy roof on Château Janeway , we know where that strand of the storyline is headed. Or do we? Raban tacks brilliantly across the plot, to dump Tom in a Kafkaesque nightmare of chief suspect in a missing child rap. All bets off, we’re slap bang in Tom Sharpe country with an investigating officer to have Wilt foaming at the mouth with grumpy admiration.

I make it sound a hodge-podge, which is why the incomparable Mr. Raban is between hard-covers and I’m here pecking away in qwerty-lite.

A triumph of a novel – criminally designed in a face that sets cap Es as a grotesque backward 3, fit only to spell E-coli – that I urge you to buy, one for the good of your own soul, the others to earn impressed gratitude from loved ones. Thank you, Mr. Raban. More fiction, please."

Love A-Phair

I can't stop playing Liz Phair's albums. Even Anna confesses to liking my rip of her latest album.

I heard her when she came to strum at an office promo do but didnt think much, except to wonder about the sheer level of harassment as she clawed her way down the sewer of the music biz. Exceedingly hot blonde which I expect does no harm to her sales.

Ordered Guyville from some marketeer and it arrived yesterday, bit scratched but nothing sounds bad on the Nakamichi/Sansui amp/Wharfedale speakers. Forget the open mouth that must have launched 1,000 wanks - is she bare-boobed on the album cover? Speaking of boobs, is that a glimpse of flat-chested nipple on Nora Jones' latest?

St George's Day Shuffle

I'm actually shuffling because I've checked out E's blog and see that I'm linked, so I'd better get on with adding content. The St George's Day thing is straw-grasping, a reaction to my sarf Lunnun mates mailing me with an "Oy! Don't fergit yer roots, chum!" Actually, they call me 'fucker' but it doesn't roll off the keyboard as prettily.

And me old mucker Stu' Wolfendale even sent me his latest article - rather damn'd funny if you know present-day Hong Kong. With 150 million mainland visitors about to descend and demo season (such as it lasts) nigh, it may really be time to book street space. If you're interested in what's going on in the city of my youth, Steve Vines nails it in one. V depressing, but not enough oil in Kowloon to merit rescue. I mean there is OIL - all over the street and spilling out the gutters and by the gallon in the sleek raven locks of the Beijing cadres, but not enough pumping from the ground to have Dubya pay attention.

Friday, April 02, 2004

Daughter on the loose

Anna off to Wash DC w/ 15 fellow baitereenes. School educ trip, Williamsburg n all.

Saw her off at Seatac and took mirthless satisfaction in the luckless teacher's total inability to control his flock. A has a bad-influence pal - well, she has many, but this particular one is destined for the gallows - and a 'naice' one, Rose, who I look to to keep my beloved on the straight n narrow.

"Rose," I beseech her, "look after Anna and report back to me. There'll be money in it for any stool-pigeoning." Shrieks of laughter and hugs all round.

Hong Kong self-rule a sham

Beijing's gloves come off for my dear home, Hong Kong. One country, one system, as we all suspected.

Never mind the bollards, this is Bainbridge

My excellent local paper informs me that my local shortcut to the video store and supermarché is to be blocked off.

I don't actually use the route, finding the speed bumps a bore when it comes to slowing the drivers ahead of me. In fact, if you get up enough speed, you can ride those patronizing hillocks with no effect on the bum.

Instead of following the disputed route round, I turn hard right and go thru the Kitsap Bank's teller section which gives me a 15 sec lead on anyone ahead and invariably brings me out on Hildebrand before the other slowcoaches have even appeared. Old Smokey will nab me one night, but that's my answer to this brouhaha.

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