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Monday, August 30, 2004

You know you're from ... when ...

Handy little site for amusing my pals.

I like Arizona, with its shibboleth test of pronouncing

Junk TV damages our society

As does post-Hutton fearfulness damage our democracy.

Bravo John Humphrys in his McTaggart Lecture.

Must-view watching - The Apprentice, back Sept 9, NBC

Language Log

Stranded far from fluency in any language, curmudgeonly ex-pat Briticos cling to any such articles like this from home.

Saturday, August 28, 2004

Election Trio

Quite by accident, had myself quite a decent hat-trick on last night's TV:.

Mad as Hell

If secretary Koh-Lin Powell had a little more "press of" grey matter up there, he'd not be grasping pathetic last-minute excuses like 'work' to stay the heck away from where he and his ilk are least wanted.

Last February's anti-war demonstrations in Athens were among the more violent and inflamed reactions to America's behavior over Iraq. That should have been a clue to the seething ill feeling for this country.

Instead of lying low and shame-faced, 'Coal' displays the national cock-eyed grasp for any activity beyond these shores and thinks only of basking in some glittery reflection of the US' sporting success.

No more fitting comeuppance was delivered - what a splendid awakening. I'm only sorry it isn't receiving wider publicity round the country - that and regret that the demonstrators couldn't have held their fire 'til Co-Pow was actually preening in the stadium - and *then* letting fly with stentorian boos and hisses and whatever else your Yanni Grik comes up with on these occasions.

Booker long list

The full list:

Thursday, August 26, 2004

Face of Wandsworth

Blimey! When I lived dahn the Wandsworth Road, the totties had names like Doris and Sharon and even the sexy ones weren't much to write home abaht.

Now comes a right raver - sweet 16 Soyling Tse, winner of Face of Wandsworth and a right li'l raver you look, too, my darling.

Grief to loved ones

Suitably fierce harangue to pin on my white board.

Anything to kill the habit. A job would help.


I always rather fancied myself as a sharp-eyed proof reader, if not particularly observant of life around me.

I liked these tests - above all the rabbit one which I cannot do at all.

This one had me laughing with helplessness should be a good one to test Anna on.

Just like that!

So, Tommy Cooper voted funniest ever. Quite right, too.

My grand-dad took me to see him at the London Palladium in 1958, assuring me he was the funniest man alive. I of course determined to find him dull and flat. He was hilarious.

I'm sorry, tho', to see my old mate Spike Milligan so far down the list.

Mass Mobilization

Sitting in a crowded Blackbird Caff with gigante latte and bun, I sudddenly notice that two others are also on the Wired article about Boyd and Blades and that whole moveon scene.

Henry Quinn

Rilin' Reilly.

I still can't get over the oaf 'Reilly's performance as laid bare in Outfoxed.

No one could be that crass and obvious, could they?

Henry Quinn's excellent page has the sad truth.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Under My Nose

August 24th, and Island neighbor and fellow strummer, the prolific Bill Frisell, has a new album out under the somewhat unfrisellable title of Unspeakable.

I'm feeling well disposed to Nonesuch records for taking on Laura Veirs, so I won't grizzle too much about their slouchy marketing dept failing (as at time of writing) to get Amazon an image of the jacket cover.

So I'm glancing over the dramatis personnae and the mind-boggling weird n wondrous players Bill's added to this new offering when my eye falls on the recording studio - damn me, if it's not literally the noisy bunch I hear some nights from just across the road - none other than Trillium Lane Labs, who I'd always dismissed as being no more than a home for the high school music teachers and feckless local garage groups.

Deflecting the Yeti

Can't fight witty hall. I'll have to start a new blog devoted solely to choice xtracts from MB, save my overseas readers whingeing about having to sift thru Holmes dross to find l'or baldwinien.

the No sooner do I submit my 'prison visitors' trick of the trade to that rather-clever-boots Master Matthew Baldwin than I realise what he was really after. I should have chosen my other profession as street entertainer:

Obstinate faraway desires

No less than John Berger tackling the bumpy subject of Fahrenheit 9/11 - Mr Moore has arrived.

Where are U now, Bill Wilson?

Whither the "Big Book"?

Absentmindedness, lack of organization ... pure indolence. Call it what you will, I seem to have gone two whole days without a drop of alcohol.

This has thrown my whole jobless routine put of whack: waking fresh around 0600, showering without the dull thud behind the eyes and actually able to prepare and eat a decent multi-course breakfast while scanning my previous day's notes.

This also has meant no cigs, so the jog is oddly effective.

This can't go on, of course, and I must have SaraJ over for one of our marathon chugathons. It's about time her bloke felt the cold wind of a rival across his manly collar.

Implausible applause

For those of us growing up in post-war Hong Kong, we needed no lessons in politics to realise there was something dodgy about our mainland neighbours.

When it came to saluting achievement, there were the applauders and the applaudees. Those doing the clapping did it with moderate gusto and approving smiles while the applauDEES nodded modestly and raised the occasional hand as if to say, "Please - too much."

All except our mainland Chinese brethren who threw the whole thing out by clapping right back and confusing the whole ceremony.

Today, I see everyone doing it, from game shows to Olympic sportives. We are all commies now.

F**** the FCC

I'd just like to know the background to Eric Idle's FCC Song. The venom and bile is exactly what I feel for certain folks without having the talent or platform to compose a ditty for the occasion or slight.


A delightful evening revisiting Walter Hill's breakthrough and inimitable Warriors (1979), the remake of which fills me with gloom.

It was unusual on so many fronts, all of which will no doubt be brought out by the devoted when the new version hits the streets.

Certain to be camped up and ruined in the next version is the scene with the Prom couples in the subway:
The remaining bloodied Warriors and camp-followette Debbie van V have made it onto the subway and are trundling the last few stations back to home turf of Coney Island. Enter two prom couples, dressed in finery and exchanging confident giggles as only we born to the silver coke spoon can pull off. Swan and Mercy watch them until the couples realise they're being observed and gaze uneasily back. The camera tracks down van Valkenburgh's muddy dress and sooty legs to her cheap sandals. She raises a hand to brush her tangled raven locks straight. In a silent eloquent gesture, without a sideways glance, Swan halts the movement as if to say, "Nothing about you that needs smartening."
OK - hands up the true devotee who can name all the gangs?

And she'll have fun fun fun

Much weeping and gnashing over our recent vehicular hi-jinx.

Am not TOO sure about why all the fuss because one sees it all around and no late night leisurely drive is complete without these manic teenies haring past or towards one in daddy's macho wheels du jour.

Anyway, kudos of sorts that the rags across the water are paying attention.

Tragic for the parents and close pals, but I always like to drive by these vigils (very American, and dangerously catching on back home) at a funereal pace with features suitably adjusted to grim solemnity.

To be fair to the memory of the very pretty Ms Gillette - pace Komo 4 News, but she *was* wearing a seat belt, such good as it did her.

Sunday, August 22, 2004

Dirty Politics

One of my must-read journos from back home, John Sutherland dishes another thought-tweaker.


I've spent a fair amount of time assessing books for £ and am guilty as hell of reviewerese.

Thanks to Anna Kinnaird for keeping me in check, and for this cool site of corporate etymologies.

ninja cool

More gymna hi jinx, this time with the goof out-takes at the end.

Also avail here for the curious.

Borat, shame of Kazakhstan

"In Kazakhstan," claims Borat Karabzhanov, "the favourite hobbies are disco dancing, archery, rape and table tennis."

The Kazakhstan embassy is in a bit of a bate: they insist that Mr Karabzhanov is a fake.

They're right: it's wiley Sacha Baron Cohen, aka Brit comic Ali G, coming up in another guise.

Saturday, August 14, 2004


Fear of Friday 13th, or is it just 13?

A month since my unceremonial booting from Perters - Tues 13th, or I'd've really freaked.

So, what's with this P-phobia? Equally sinister, Lefthanders Day -

Movies Français

Browsing thru the video store, I suddenly spotted Godard's Alphaville with the elegant Anna Karina and, as if I'd chewed down on that madeleine, that whole year in Tours came flooding back and I had to rent it.

1967 was like a movie in itself - lecherous Tuesday Weld-lookalike Wendy all to myself; Carmen (Sp), Wendy (Welsh)and Sandie (Aus) holed up in that apartment on Febvotte; Roger's bar where I don't think the guitar let me pay for a single drink; buzzing round Tours on the Honda in the afghan jacket mum had brought hot out of Afghanistan and which no one had ever seen before.

French classes, booze, guitar, sex, movies, sex, booze, guitar ... mon Dieu.

I knew nothing about films or that frenchie scene of noir or vague or whatever, but I adored Wendy and went along with the chat. I even read Éluard.

Not I could have written a book; I should have.

And 37 years on - bliss and tears - Les Invasions Barbares with the divine Marie-Josée Croze, something to erase the memory of Innocents aux mains sales, possibly the silliest movie I have ever seen, particularly for Steiger's hammy performance.

Friday, August 13, 2004

Supermarket Makeover

Our local Safeway - and hence the chain nationwide - is embroiled in major remodeling involving switching everything round.

I heard once that the theory is that you should be able to walk into any Safeway, from Newton to Nacogdoches, Winslow to Wenatchee, and be able to walk straight to the requisite aisle.

The current switch-around is fun: customers are lost and grumpy, staff at a bit of a loss to direct them.

I went in this evening for eggs, veges, the local rag, nibbles and accompanying firewater.

Where the chips should have been (potato crisps in my lingo) were the greetings card shelves, dairy products were now Pampers and assorted feminine products - and the hooch was nowhere to be seen.

I finally traced the booze to a double-sided rack running the length of the meat counter on one side and the ends of the cereal, soups, kitchen utensils aisles on the other, now requiring indecisive connoisseurs to walk round to the other side before deciding on a final purchase.

The joy of the old system was that the booze used to occupy its own aisle down which drinkers could mooch in relative privacy.

Advantage: I kept forgetting to buy a new oven glove until - lo! - homing in on the yoghurt counter, I'm confronted by a darling display of paisley patterned examples; seeking out dental floss, I'm presented with the opportunity to stock up on CDs on which to burn Amanda Perez for Anna; ice cream for dessert? Ma foi! I *am* low on loo paper.

The Furama Hotel in Hong Kong boasted a revolving restaurant as its top floor. You'd sit there enjoying a slowly changin view of Hong Kong: the specatacular harbor, Wanchai, Chai Wan, the Peak, Western, back to the harbor.

Since the *view* didn't change, you could go to the loo from one view and return to the same view but tabled with total strangers. In view of the Furama's fine weine cellar, as the evening went on, it became more difficult to findones way back ("Yes, sir?" "I'm looking for a table ... er .. unoccupied steak dish, bottle of Chinon - oh, and a blonde lady in a green dress ....".

Back in '65, when we were lean and infinitely rubbery of joint, the joke would be to slide down onto the immobile edge 'gutter' and let the rest of the room revolve until you had arrived at some riva's table whereupon you grabbed the calf of the lady and accused the bloke of trhing to steal yr bird. The amazing thing in those days was how many tables passed by without the occupants realising you were there. Fodder, I always thought, for a novelist's eavesdrop or assassination à l;a my author mate, Georgi Markov who bought it at an Aldwych bus stop with a jab from a poison-tipped brolly.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Ferry farce

I don't mind this whole t'error farce going on across the other side of the country - Bush has an election to win and absolutely nothing going for him except frantic mendacious guesswork with the terrorism color palette, but when it stetches to bamboozling otherwise supposedly sane folks in the NW, I start to lose my temper:

Total farce over sme stoopid package around my ferry pier.

I don't mind bureaucrats going thru the motions of keeping their jobs, but for God's sake kdep it off the streets where it affects actual people.

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Operation Truth

I don't have access to most TV channels so I can't actually remember ever having watched Fox News.

I've seen clips of that buffoon O'Reilly but always thought his attack-dog act was semi-tongue in cheek.

I watched Outfoxed on DVD last night and the scales have fallen from my eyes. What a thoroughly bogus and evil lot that bunch are - and, truly, Murdoch is the prince of darkness.

Not that Tim Russert showed much backbone in this O'Reilly-Krugman exchange, during which bully-boy O'Reilly's misleading garbage is hilariously corrected.

Which leads me to think that I need to regroup and work out my theory of Bush-bashing.

Any road, the eponymous Op Truth sounds far too dangerous for the 'authorities'to leave alone. What?
  1. Educate American public ref truth of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan from perspective of soldiers who have experienced them first-hand?
  2. Provide returning
    veterans with national, regional, and local podiums from which to expose the preventable hardships they endured as a result of failures at the top levels of leadership? Yikes.
  3. Publicize how poorly-planned policies and approaches have manifested themselves as problems on the front lines and back at home?
  4. Act domestically to protect our troops and aid them in their fight to protect us?

Had to cheer myself up with this tale of discord, disharmony and failure among the spymasters eux-même.

Worst Manual

Perfect excuse to halt resumé tweaking for a second and mail my techie-literate pals.

And if they're so literary, they'll know one can't have too many dictionaries

Monday, August 09, 2004

Fogey's Blog, 2109 hrs

Perfect day, starting 0630 with clear head and healthy brek w/ Tim Russert and George Stephanoppers grilling politcos on the TV.

Two chapters of HomeSite instruction book, gen up on Excel paretos, and thorough going over of Unemployment Bureau site including how to craft job-clinching resumé.

A scorcher - 85°. Nothing for it but to fill G's Nissan with petrol and CDs and cruise off to Fay Bainbridge beach.

Muzak for cool cruising:Non-cool musak 4 cruising:Spent an hour or so on Fay B, swimming chilled, catching the sun and watching the air display over Seattle - Blue Arrows in stunning tight formation.

Home for ham n cheese salad and cranberry juice and third watching of Godard's 'Band of Outsiders' with tantalising Anna Karina (17 yrs) whose 1964 intervue was as interesting as it was salutary to see the now-puffy faced vedette.

Practised guitar in prep for 7:30 open-mike gig at the Pegasus, first time I've graced their presence.

1945hrs: Arrive Pegasus, sign in, nod to familiar faces.

Sunday, August 08, 2004


Blocked again. Drat error message. Damn'd nuisance being jobless because this is the sort of thing I'd've enjoyed leaving on my screen at Parthenon Inc as I shambled off to lunch.

Patronising Labels - nice little Guardian piece echoing my own thoughts.

Return of Wilt: My test in late 1973 for taking over Secker's book publicity was to draft a press campaign for the new Melvyn Bragg novel (now 'Lord' Bragg -didn't our Melv do well?) and Tom Sharpe's brilliantly funny Porterhouse Blue.

Expertly edited by the late incomparable John Blackwell, Sharpe came to rule British humour and we became good friends.

The first appearance of 'Wilt' remains a classic and I'm pleased to see that the dude's back. My Xmas presents solved for 80% of those lucky enough to actually make it on to my gift list.

Virtue of Idleness - in case I wilt in my efforts to land that plum job, here's my couch reading.

Tim'rous Timeline of t'error

  1. Chart
  2. Raw Poll Data
  3. Advisory Map (but where's Seattle? Where the Bainbridge Ferry?

Honey Trapski

Hong Kong in the 1960s was full of passing diplos and suits passing thru en route to Moscow, many returning not long after, prick drooping after being nabbed bang to rights in what was called a 'honey trap' - in flagrante with some comely secretary or shop assistant (all of whom turned out to be card carrying party faithfuls).

No matter how one would warn these flabby euro lechers, they never quite believed how alluring these Muscovite totties could be. Wish I'd been able to whip out a laptop in those Wanchai bars and given them a glimpse.


My first viewings of the Zatoichi canon was at the good old Lee Theatre, Hong Kong, in the company of families, amahs with their charges, and the swaggering tattoed.

For me, Katsu Shintaro defined the avenging aveugle and "Takeshi Kitano playing Zatoichi/Ichi (as Beat Takeshi)", as the latest version has it, does not "do it for me".

Distractingly fashionably coiffed, the new model lacks TK's grimness and his sword moves (mostly upward strikes) are far from fluid - possibly why they're shot in such tight closeup to avoid attracting excess boos from the cognoscenti.

And what the deuce is this about him actually being sighted?

Roobish, as they're no doubt grumbling as the faithful head out of the Hipperholme Gaumont and make for the nearest pub.

Saturday, August 07, 2004

Snowden on Sellers

I grew up with the Goon Show, the only radio program allowed to be listened to after lights-out at my Prep School.

In the 1960s, no household was without the duo of Tom Lehrer's sprightly songs or Sellers' hilarious sketches. I could quote both word for word.

Now comes a fascinating (if indiscreet blabbing) in the release of home movies, well captured in revelation - Tony Armstrong-Jones' chat with the Telegraph.

For a private cove like Snowden, this must have cost and distressed him.

First-rate second-guitar

I bow to noone in my admiration and purchasing devotion to the remarkable Gillian Welch.

I play a bit of a guitar and from first hearing of Ms Welch spotted her accompanist, Dave Rawlings, as the real story. I've even tried to articulate this in various reviews. I can stop now. The Guardian has nailed Rawlings' gifted contribution bang to rights.

Alice Cooper

Rather an amusing advert for Office Depot and Anna-like chickadees stocking up for hated skool.

Sulky tween complains that she thought school was out forever. Camera cuts to - zowie! - Alice C hisself, complete w/ familiar streaky texas chain saw mascara: "No, 'School is out for summer' (cue the famous song) - but good try." Cut to sulky tween. Nice.

Election Day? Olympics kick off?

I have been asking folks I meet When is actual election day? When precisely do the Olympics start?

No one has the slightest idea.

Da Vinci da-bunked

For his expression alone, Chris Howse should be added to every Rolodex as resident debunker.

"One small detail undermines any remaining confidence in Dan Brown's scholarship. I was
reminded of it by Craig Brown's exposure of Gore Vidal.
"Disillusion first set in," Craig wrote, "when I heard him on the BBC speaking with apparent authority about the British secret services.

It was only when he began talking about 'M-Fifteen' and 'M-Sixteen' that I realised that, far from knowing all about MI5 and MI6, Gore Vidal didn't even know how to pronounce them."

In just this way, Dan Brown has all his art experts talking about "Da Vinci" as if it were an ordinary surname like Brown. Real art historians call him Leonardo."

Friday, August 06, 2004

reductio ad absurdum

Reminder why I so miss England and things English: the warped, weird, erudite Reducèd Shakespeare Company (RSC - never to be confused with the RSC).

Their take on 'All the Great Books' takes all of 98 minutes to extract the michael on 3,000 years of eng lit. Where was this ammo when Kidson and Alban were doing their best to dispirit us in the classroom?

Fear 'n' Loathing in Iraq

I am shutting the hell up and clamping down on all further uninformed references to whatever is going on over there.

Thursday, August 05, 2004

Abu Ghraib

Got to have at least one entry with that ominous title.

My instinct is that Pfc Lynndie England is taking a fall for a number of high-ups, including her ruffian boyfriend Charlie Graner.

Thirty-eight years would be mighty stiff; I reckon they'll hammer her with a harsh 10 to 12.

One last question: why is it that no one in this country seems able to leave a simply name alone, but has to load it with extra letters or different spellings and the like? Is it just to be different, or plain higgerance?

Beyoncé, Siouxie, Tobey ... to be added to


What could be more reviving than La Traviata as one lolls in the morning bath?

I favor the Decca version with the glorious voiced teaming of Sutherland and Pavarotti with the National Philharmonic under Richard Bonynge.

To continue my blissful soapy soakings, I must stay clear of Herbert Breslin's exposé of some of the less savoury aspects of the bulky tenor. Former agent and publicity manager to Pavarotti, Breslin sounds to have told all.

I know that Pav's voice has gone somewhat down the plug-hole of late, but there are some illusions I need to keep intact, and hence will be staying clear of reviews of this book

Also to be given a wide berth in the parfumerie dept: this bizarre eponymous cologne.

I see it is available in a 4.2 oz bottle. Surely, nothing less than a vat would be more in keeping?

Olympic Opening Ceremony

You know, giving the launch ceremonies to a bunch of Brits with no previous experience of dealing with Johnny Grik might just be the answer.

OK, I can't resist the name Macedonia, so anything its press dishes out is fine by me.

Serve 'em right not to be dealing with timorous philhellenes *or* with the more common variety of teamster who's all too familiar with aegean dealings.

And while I'm about it, word from Tuscany-toiling frère of joy agog over Italy's trouncing of the US.

Dept of Hell Hath no Fury - soccer division

That Max Clifford just keeps going - certainly plenty of fodder for his PR genius, specially with those randy soccer and FA types canoodling every chance.

Rather a tasty bird, that Faria Aram - not hard to see why those soccer bonkers risked the red card - and it sounds like the campaign Max has choreographed with the tits n bum gutter rags will run and run.

Stop press: can't keep up with the coverage. Now comes this. I think this'll be the last word on the subject or I'll be spending all my time chronicling what looks set to be a lucrative time for the seductive Ms Aram.

By the way, want to know the origin of the term 'soccer'? Thought not.

Actually rather dull Stuart: The formal term for football is 'association football', which, even before generation text, was usually reduced to 'assoc', which very quickly became 'soccer'.

elmore leonard mystery

Nice piece in the grauniad with my old Secker author 'Dutch' Leonard, whose books I tirelessly promoted to a dismissive UK market. I think only Graham Lord of the all-powerful Sunday Express books "got it".

Leonard very good (and sanguine) on why his books have such talent for being totally cocked up on screen:

More recently, the behaviour of Grosse Pointe Blank helmer George Armitage on this year's The Big Bounce left its creator seriously underwhelmed: "It's a mystery to me why people buy one of my books and then take out everything that made them buy it in the first place," Leonard says.

Despite casting golden comedy boy Owen Wilson and shifting the action to Hawaii from the Thumb area of Michigan - Leonard has lived in nearby Detroit for 70 years - Armitage still welcomed Leonard's input. To a point.

"Every time I sent back my thoughts on the script, he ignored them," Leonard says. "So why ask me?" And the result? "Terrible. Nothing like my book at all." The only saving grace is that it wasn't as bad as the 1969 version starring Ryan O'Neal - "probably the second worst movie ever made," Leonard laughs.

Dept of Light Under Bushel

'Nuther sleepless night so I try googling names out of a hat.

My pal Paul turns out to be not just some guy but the onlie begetter of a v cool journal - incl a funny music section - that keeps me up wayy past insomnia.

Farewell Lorenzo's

Blimey - Lorenzo's caff forced to close? After all these years? Bloody landlords.

Almost my entire early work life was spent there. Just remembering sends shivers:
And, of course, where I went to tune up before gigs down The Cousins or hearing the likes of the incomparable Bert (still not enjoying the sales and fame he deserves, but definitely sliding comfily into rôle of eminence grise)

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Mary K

What other name and initial is so instantly identifiable?

The lovely Ms Letourneau emerges from clinky today to what sounds to be a barrage of world media at its crassest most prurient.

Can't quite put my finger on it, but always had thing for her.

From her fotos in the press and TV, she looks as fanciable at today's 42 as she did 34 when she was sent away. Whereas the appropriately named Vili Fualaau looks as bovine at 21 as he did at 12 when the lucky swine was grunting among MKL's pearls.

Big Fat Greek Olympics

Of course Olympic President Jacques Rogge is going to say that Athens is ready - he has to start bullish so as to minimize the dollops of egg yolk that'll be splattered over him and his fellow fat cats once the lameness begins.

I find Kathimerini a more reliable source, as a result of which I feel a twinge for whole bunch of them - organisers, participants, spongers and hangers-on - over the impending Emperor's Clothing knees-up.

The only way to greet all the energetic brouhaha is to loll back and - as with the Homeland Security hot air - simply let the farcical events unfold.

It should be evenly balanced: Olympics organisers desperately leaping hither and thither to shore up the loose bolts as their hard work entangles; meanwhile, across the Water, Mr Ridge's boys equally frantically trying to *produce* some vaguely convincing and supportive mischief.

Back to Athens - how I laughed at news of the pricing leaflet.

Oopah! I can just see all those hapless tourists solemnly (but with increasing ire) waving those pretty sheets of paper in front of the wily Athenian merchants.

I trust someone is even now working on the comedy hit of the morrow, 'Those Big Fat Greek Olympics'.

Teacup in a Storm

Even the Telegraph reporting the demise of Albert Cheng's popular radio show.

The Beijing PR hacks are losing their grip. I trust the aldermen of Taiwan are noting the *entente cordiale* with which Deng's 'one country' is so smoothly accommodating 'two systems'.


Nothing worse than a night's sleeplessness. Nerves and depression, I reckon; nothing to be done but ride it out and collapse around 0630, useless to all.

Nor does it help going online at 4am and blearily surfing til on unearths the likes of:

Wilfred Owen Award

Harold Pinter back in the news with his winning of the controversial poetry award.

We learned Owen by heart at prep school - a bare 10 years after the troops had come home - so there were meaningful glances and furrowed brows from the teachers as we recited.

In the case of our venerable 70-year-old classics master, Howard Clough, he had actually served in the Great War, and rumour had it he had been a star athlete at Cambridge in the early 1900s.

He would listen to us read aloud in our squeaky high voices and sometimes a mist would form behind his spectacles. He had the habit of suddenly whispering a name - 'Norton' ... 'Wilkers' ... 'Bradshaw' - which we took to be some dead pal.

"Was that a friend of yours, sir?", we'd chirrup with the cruelty of the young.

Like ruins or part-standing battlements, I can only remember fragments:

From 'Anthem of Doomed Youth',

What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?
Only the monstrous anger of the guns ...

From 'The Send-Off':

So secretly, like wrongs hushed-up, they went.
They were not ours:
We never heard to which front these were sent

'Strange Meeting':

I am the enemy you killed, my friend.
I knew you in this dark: for you so frowned
Yesterday through me as you jabbbed and killed ...
Let us sleep now.

All those years ago ... 'monstrous anger of the guns', indeed.

T'error alert

Your country needs me.

Dubya's swingmeisters have it right: keep the populace skeered and on your toes til election time so you daren't swap guardians.

Timing, media savvy and a genial acquaintance with the truth is called for. I have impeccable credentials, having recently been licensed by Parthenon Inc, my alma mater of the past 6 years, to freely explore new job opportunities.

First off, acknowledge the enemy noun 'terrorism' with endless cunning, able to pounce at any moment but liable to change plans at the first inkling that the forces of good have rumbled them.I have over 10 years' experience in the puffery business, an active imagination and literary skills sufficient to transform even the most pedestrian report into breathless prose. I was going to use 'deathless' but of course death*ful* is the required threatening resonance here.

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Great British Beer Festival

Homesickness ... the The Great British Beer Festival, August 3-7, is run by those saviours at the Campaign for Real Ale (Camra).

I remember crowding into Olympia and getting totally assholed on the excellent "real" ales on tap.

Good old Grauniad comes to the rescue of folks like me with its Guardian Unlimited's online real ale party.

What shakes me is just how many of those beers I recognise and have actually tasted.

"No choice but to run for election"

Just what Beijing hates, fears and fails to understand: brave men like Albert Cheng King-hon refusing to be brow-beaten or intimidated.

Power of the Blog

No sooner does Eric run a piece in his excellent blog than the troops rally and the media bow in attendance.

Lucky Mr Spiers to have pals among the movers 'n' shakers ...

Veirs 'live'

Coming up ... this Thursday as ever is: 1730hrs, Brotman Hall.

Spread the word.

Monday, August 02, 2004

HKG hosting WTO sixth

- no further comment needed. Earth calling Beijing: nei gau chor ??

Greece no-go areas

More comic by the day. Can't go? Won't go.


For my international readers, we have just enjoyed Seafair whose key attraction and success was a stunningly convincing Elvis impersonator who, in fact, stood up on the back of the slow-moving 60s Caddie and sang and waved to perfection.

Thank you verr' much, dude. Sorry to see you leave the building.

Hot wheels, cool sounds

Having cruised the weekend in my big girl's Nissan Maxima, I have a proper respect for mod cons that actually work: air-con, wiper washers, remote locking ... and a surround-sound stereo system with tone controls that actually work. It also helps to have an discerning and enthusiastic passenger DJ-ette with an instinct for the precise moment when a fresh album is called for.

Ghetto:Mistakes I have packed, albums by:

Sunday, August 01, 2004

Dark and stormy nights - Bulwer-Lytton 2004 winner

What better way to occupy my unemployed hours than keep everyone abreast of the latest and literate.

The Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest is with us once more, that international literary parody contest honoring the memory of Victorian novelist Edward George Earl Bulwer-Lytton (1803-1873).

Although best known for "The Last Days of Pompeii", originating the expression "the pen is mightier than the sword," and phrases like "the great unwashed" and "the almighty dollar," Bulwer-Lytton opened his novel Paul Clifford (1830) with the immortal words that the "Peanuts" beagle Snoopy plagiarized for years, "It was a dark and stormy night."

The goal of the contest is childishly simple: submit bad opening sentences to imaginary novels.

And here is winner Dave Zobel and a few choice runners-up that caught my eye:
She resolved to end the love affair with Ramon tonight . . . summarily, like Martha Stewart ripping the sand vein out of a shrimp's tail . . . though the term "love affair" now struck her as a ridiculous euphemism . . . not unlike "sand vein," which is after all an intestine, not a vein . . . and that tarry substance inside certainly isn't sand . . . and that brought her back to Ramon.

The notion that they would no longer be a couple dashed Helen's hopes and scrambled her thoughts not unlike the time her sleeve caught the edge of the open egg carton and the contents hit the floor like fragile things hitting cold tiles, more pitiable because they were the expensive organic brown eggs from free-range chickens, and one of them clearly had double yolks entwined in one sac just the way Helen and Richard used to be.
Pamela Patchet Hamilton, Beaconsfield, Quebec

Grand Panjandrum's Special Award
She sipped her latte gracefully, unaware of the milk foam droplets building on her mustache, which was not the peachy-fine baby fuzz that Nordic girls might have, but a really dense, dark, hirsute lip-lining row of fur common to southern Mediterranean ladies nearing menopause, and winked at the obviously charmed Spaniard at the next table.
Jeanne Villa, Novato, CA

Winner: Adventure Category (from Hong Kong - yayy)
The legend about Padre Castillo's gold being buried deep in the Blackwolf Hills had lain untold for centuries and will continue to do so for this story is not about hidden treasure, nor is it set in any mountainous terrain whatsoever.
Siew-Fong Yiap, Hong Kong

Winner: Children's Literature
Jack planted the magic beans and in one night a giant beanstalk grew all the way from the earth up to the clouds--which sounds like a lie, but it can be done with genetic engineering, and although a few people are against eating gene-engineered foods like those beans it's a high-paying career to think about for when you grow up.
Frances Grimble, San Francisco

When Cinderella saw that the Prince had sent the Duke to find the woman of his dreams, like some rich schoolboy who pays the smartest kid in the class to do his homework, or worse, like someone who has been on welfare so long that he has trouble doing any kind of work, she suddenly realized the spoiled nature of the King's son and stealthily slid the slipper back into her pocket.

Dishonorable Mention
As he entered the room within which so many a wild night of their sweltering love affair had been spent, the White Rabbit regarded her with benevolent eyes, her posture such that he suspected something was wrong, but before he could speak Alice unburied her face from her trembling hands and between her intense sobs he made out the words, "I'm late . . . I'm late."
Cory Gano Camas, WA

Winner: Dark and Stormy Night
It was a stark and dormy night--the kind of Friday night in the dorm where wistful women/girls without dates ovulated pointlessly and dreamed of steamy sex with bad boy/men in the backseat of a Corvette--like the one on Route 66, only a different color, though the color was hard to determine because the TV show was in black and white--if only Corvettes had back seats.

It was a dark and stormy night--actually not all that dark, but more dusky or maybe cloudy, and to say "stormy" may be overstating things a bit, although the sidewalks were still wettish and smelled of ozone, and, truth be told, characterizing the time as night is a stretch as it was more in the late, late afternoon because I think Oprah was still on.
Gregory Snider, MD - Lexington, KY

Dishonorable Mention
It was another dork and Stormy Knight--after snapping the last of his palm dampened dollar bills into the frazzled elastic of her G string--sent him packing precisely three-eighths of a mile down Highway 20 to the spot where she'd promised him a glorious glimpse of self-awareness, and where he would discover a slight depression in the asphalt and find himself quizzically contemplating the adjacent Department of Transportation sign that read simply: "Dip in Road."
Rick Sutherland, Depoe Bay, OR

Winner: Detective
Detective Micky Blarke arrived on the scene at 2:14 am, and gave his cigarette such a severe pull that rookie Paul Simmons swore the insides of the detective's cheeks touched, but the judge indicated that that amount of detail was not necessary in his testimony, and instructed the jury to disregard that statement.
Joe Polvino, Webster, NY

Dishonorable Mention
"After several minutes, Detective Wilson, standing over the lifeless, tuxedo-clad corpse, the spandex tights it had been strangled with still around its neck, realized that the poor ringmaster had simply been a victim of circus dancers."
Jeonghyun Kim
Mount Waverley, Australia

Winner: Fantasy Fiction
Gringran Roojner had only gone to see the Great Warlock of Loowith to get his horoscope and he couldn't believe he'd been sent on a quest for the legendary Scromer of Nothleen to ask him for the answer to the Riddle of Shimmererer so that he could give it to the Guardians of Vooroniank, thereby gaining access to the Cave of Zothlianath where he would find the seldom seen Cowering of Groojanc, whose spittle was an absolute necessity in the making of the Warlock's famous pound cake, the kind with raisins.
Sandra Millar, Scotland

Winner: Historical Fiction
Galileo Galilei gazed expectantly through his newly invented telescope and then recoiled in sudden horror -- his prized thoroughbred's severed neck, threateningly discarded in a murky mass of interstellar dust (known to future generations as the Horsehead Nebula), left little doubt about where the Godfather and his Vatican musclemen stood on the recent geocentric/heliocentric debate.
Don Mowbray, San Antonio, TX

Winner: Fiction for the Erudite
Clementine sat in the shade of a beech tree, of the family Fagaceae, the leaves of which were more or less ovate, being perhaps not quite as pointed as those of the North American, grandifolia species of the Fagus genus that are the color of a swimming pool that had been left too long without chlorine, but neither were they like those of Fagus sylvatica var. purpurea that are the color of dried burgundy stains on cream linen.
Geoff Beech, Bolivia

The cat's whiskers twitched like the wings of a butterfly, not a large butterfly like a monarch, but a small one, like an Eastern Pine Elfin, which camouflages wonderfully with the bark of trees, not just pine trees, but also elm trees, whose slender twigs wave in the early spring breeze, looking like the twitching whiskers of the cat, which I have just mentioned.
Megan Z. Dinerman. King of Prussia, PA

Dishonorable Mention:
He heard a bang, well not really a bang but more of a crash with metallic overtones of platinum-encrusted steel alloys, hammering against unyielding iron and iridium plates; or maybe it was the clash of huge nickel-zinc rods hitting molybdenum fused sheets of tantalum, then he felt a stab of pain and heard another bang, and wished, instead of using his extensive metallurgy skills to try and analyze the sound, he would have run like hell when he first saw the gun pointed at him.
Ken Loomes, Winnipeg, Manitoba

Winner: Purple Prose
The terrible news had whisked around the becolumned courthouse like a malevolent, stinking zephyr straight from the sewage works, and on the gum-besmirched footpath, the hunch of lawyers cackled and cawed like a group of very large, gowned, wigged, briefcase-clutching crows, or perhaps ravens since they are of course the larger bird and some of these lawyers were fairly sizeable.
Georgia Gowing, Australia

She was a tough one, all right, as tough as a marshmallow--not one of those soft sticky ones used in s'mores, cooked to a turn over a good campfire, or even like the stale chewy type covered in yellow sugar and found at the bottom of a three-week-old Easter basket--no, she was tough like a freeze-dried marshmallow in kid's cereal that despite being shaped like a little balloon and colored a friendly pink are so rock solid that they are responsible for the loss of more baby teeth than most older siblings.
Bridget Lyle, Walworth, NY

Dishonorable Mentions
The day was packing heat and cracking wise as the scorching sun torched the hot dry Santa Anas like fry on rice, crispy with a snap, crackle and pop, and poured into the surreal bowl of the Los Angeles Basin as the red winds rattled every dwelling from Bay City bungalow to Bel Air chateau like a china shop in a bullring, the whole stinking, teeming tinderbox as combustible as a drill sergeant at clown college, as unsettling as corn on the cob rationing at an Iowa Society picnic.
Gordon Hauptfleisch, San Diego, CA

Students often said that Dr. Storm's lectures were duller than dishwater, not the dishwater after a holiday meal with brightly colored vegetable bits and shimmering glosses of vinaigrette, but the dishwater after a Wednesday night macaroni dinner, when the cheese has disintegrated into slime and the macaroni has become mush clogging the drain.

Phoebe watched through the library window as the sun sank slowly in the west, glowing like a ball of molten butter; not the phony margarine kind of butter that left nothing but the taste of grease in your mouth, but the real kind that pumped up your cholesterol and gave you a coronary, when such heart-related musings forced her to glance down at Neville, determine from the blue coloring of his skin that he really was dead, and then pick up the telephone and say, "Operator, I believe my husband is having a heart attack."
Fran Abram, Overland Park, KS

Winner: Romance
Looking up from his plate of escargots, Sean gazed across the table at Sharon and sadly realized that her bubbly personality now reminded him of the bubbles you get when you put salt on a slug and it squirms around and foams all over the place, and her moist lips were also like the slime on a slug but before you salted it, though after all these years Sharon still smelled better than slugs, but that could have been the garlic butter on her escargots.
David K. Lynch, Topanga, CA

I first saw her from across the crowded dance floor, cedar I think, (as if I can reference a specie of wood planks at a glance) I just know it wasn't that yellowish basketball court wood, the type with the glossy veneer (now THAT, I could recognize), anyway, she had the refined elegance and demure fragility of a really old Princess Leia.
Scott McIlhany, Bellingham, WA

Winner: Science Fiction
The scorched pasture, with its charred and smoking remains of dead cattle, was the least of Jessica's worries, and as she pondered her shredded gown, newly shaved head, and the quickly disappearing spaceship in the Nevada twilight, she realized if she were going to hitchhike back to Carson City, she'd have to show a damn sight far more leg than she had ever intended.
Michelle Hefner, Australia

Winner: Vile Puns
Sleepless in Seattle, sleepless in Schenectady, and now--damn her bad luck--sleepless in this god-forsaken pit Brad assured her was a perfectly lovely out-of-the way and darling older, but totally updated and refurbished, accommodation flushed with sunlight and surrounded by swirling blue waters in Seward named the Tide Ebola Inn.
Pat Merrill, San Anselmo, CA

Hans sipped from his bottle of German Bru-hoff beer and idly read the label: "Bru-hoff, a heady-nosed Rhine beer has a slightly briny pose, and if you've ever drawn it, you would like the way it flows, but all of the other Rhine beers, Dusen lagers, and thick ales, they never beat our Bru-hoff in the yearly Rhine beer games."
Roger J. McNichols, Pearland, TX

Winner: Western
"This town's not big enough for the two of us," growled Slim Jenkins, "but I think that if we can get the townspeople to agree to issue a bond to annex the Carter Ranch, we can then incorporate and there should be plenty of room for everyone."

It was hardtack and beans for the crouching cowboys in the lee of the chuck wagon that stormy night when the wind flared the fire and the light caught the trail boss' leather-bound, barb-wire muscled face which might have said, were he not the quiet sort, "Cookie, we should have had more salads."
Barry McAtee, Austin, TX

Kerry polling and focus groups - the skinny

Just kidding ... I don't give a damn if the patrician Kerry and his fanciable partner spent $500,000 on getting it right.

I just wanted at least *one* entry with a pseudo headline like that - plus, it sounds cool to bandy around names like the Burnt Orange Report

Standing on Fishes

Anna and I having declared the new Night Shyamalan a complete washout and waste of a sunny Saturday afternoon, thank goodness for the rescuing rental of Standing on Fishes, a movie utterly unsuitable for a dad to rent in the presence of a 13-yr old daughter, even if it is one he wishes he'd seen himself some 30+ years earlier.

There is no convincing way to describe this quirky movie: Sculptor caught in usual battle to mix integrity with the rent money compromises artistic ideas with project to make prosthetic vagina.

The movie itself is funny enough but the commentary is the real winner with Meredith Scott Lynn particularly perky. Always rather fancied that little minx, prominent proboscis à la tribal Chosen notwithstanding.

Further bonus - ace soundtrack that I shall be buying, and anything else by the clearly talented Juliet Prater

Stock Croc Doc

Briefing paper for those Yuen Long elders after even the top Aussie pro failed to catch that crocodile

"Strength and determination to maintain Hong Kong's prosperity and stability"

What a load of cobblers.

CH Tung is a laughing stock - no one is under any further illusion over his complete lack of grasp in any area of the running of Hong Kong.

Beijing is playing a riskily heavy-handed game with this PLA charade and the reaction may come sooner and less subtly than the gerontocrats imagine.

"National pride", indeed - and don't forget the glorious crackdown on porn sites.

Pale Cale

I have got over missing the Clapton concert and equilibrium has been restored.

However, I had noted a lingering smidgeon of childishness in my reluctance to actually listen to any of my Clapton albums since that fateful eve.

With Anna visiting me for the weekend and a successful shopping expedition behind us - Silverdale-bound in air-conditioned bliss of her sister's car, Amanda Perez and Murphy Brown pumping thru the Bose stereo - I decided to give the old survivor a go.

Well, what do you know, and how come I hadn't twigged before? Most of old 'Slowhand's' "best" songs - Cocaine, After Midnight, etc - are little but poncified rip offs of the inestimable JJ Cale - slicker guitar licks, bevy of singalong sistahs, pretty fairy lights.

I'm not saying I wouldn't still have liked to have been there Tuesday to wave my Zippo and dribble into my designer stubble - I hear he delivered a killer 20-min rendering of 'I shot the Sheriff'

Sticking it to the Stalker

God knows there's little enough of encouragement and cheer in the news these days.

All the more reason to rejoice over this refreshing report of come-uppance for the vicious crone who's been making such a stalking pest of herself with dear Ms Zeta Douglas Jones and her decrepit consort.

Granted, she bungled the suicide but it was a start and our social services have counselors to advise her where she went wrong and point her once again in her well-chosen direction.

I like to think it was the stern wigging delivered by Hizzoner from the bench that prompted the hag to attempt the decent thing.

In which case, I trust the court stenographer recorded the salient details for transcribing and despatching to every pulpit in the land.

If only all such pests could be relied upon to go so co-operatively into that brusque goodnight. I myself have several recipes for rat-poison cocktail or a Clorox and Lysol shake and must look into making them available online.

Oh, and bonus points for chutzpah to DK's defense lawyer for the gall to even suggest that, "What's actually happened is that Catherine Zeta-Jones has driven Dawnette Knight to attempt suicide, and the real blood is on her hands." Speaking of which, wasn't there some hardboiled NYPD veteran some years back who, having whacked his umpteenth villain, suddenly sued the crim's family for mental distress for being put thru the harrowing experience of gunning the blighter down?

Perhaps not. My memory is currently sub judice vis-à-vis accurate renderings of incidents of yore.

"W would make a fine garden gnome"

Thus the headline on my letter to the BI Review and published by the sainted editor, Doug Crist, on July 10.

So many folks seem to remember it and wave cheerily over the Safeway cheese counter that I thought I'd let everyone know how Doug handled the titling, and run the bally thing again.
"Bravo that splendid double broadside from Jimmy Shenfield, and what perfect timing for your patriotic hol.

JS's outburst gave "Fahrenheit 9/11" the feel of must-see movie of the season; I lost no time making a beeline for our belovèd Lynwood. Even the queuing had a feel-good nobility about it.

As for the film itself - not a bad little cinematic romp. Truth to tell, I'm not all that up on whatever Bush is meant to have done to merit this documentary - a mite busy blushing for our equally bogus Blair across the water in Westminster - but I do take issue with one of Shenfield's observations.

Far from de -humanizing GWB by bringing out his cartoonish qualities, I found the film actually added a bit of character to the presidential blandness. Also, I hadn’t until now noticed Bush’s distinct resemblance to one of those garden gnomes so favoured by lawn owners of good taste.

I thought Moore did an ace job letting that aspect speak for itself: beaky little nose, those shifty eyes. All that was lacking was pointy cap and fishing rod.

I wonder what the design mould copyright situation would be there ....

Where I do sympathize with Shenfield is over Moore's mischievous technique of just letting the camera linger on the man: this is not someone favored by lens or alphabet and the dignity of the office should be protected by only the most careful examples of the editor's art.

Olympic Groans

Spoke to Mama today and the big noise around the Big Olive isn't the power failure or ongoing farrago over security arrangements:

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