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Thursday, December 30, 2004

To Catch a Thief

It would be nice - and certainly less confusing - if the customer service experts at my friendly Bank of America could agree on unified advice and policy over my stolen check.

The situation to date:

What to do? I feel this calls for a little outside muscle, i.e. help from PI extroadinaire, the excellent Joe Garshae.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

IT Haiku

Amusing page. There are people I must send the link to individually.

I submit one of my own:

Gouvia Christmas
Ouzo and IT Haiku
Sula's moussaka

Merry C-word

What bliss to be Christmassing in Europe.

Rich and Useful Links

I've posted this in my Yuletide Greek blog, A Garden of Paths (originally called 'Streets of Askelon'), but they're worth including here for my more regular Seattle/Bainbridge readers.

They're just *my* pick from the eminently useful links sent round by Jacqui Norman of must-know Fotolibra:

The whole darned list is here.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Anagallis Femina

Highly dubious - not to mention insulting - communiqué from U-know-Who, including a link to site in which I couldn't be less interested. And nor can my cherished readers, I'll be bound.

Some tasteless link to a policière page wherein are to be found crystal clear images of the comely constabularettes in various stages of déshabille and accessorisation.

I confess, some of the modern Law Enforcement knick-knacks and equipment do take on a certain cachet when admired against the wholesome bella figura of some of the chosen models - but fie! This is no place to discuss hot chicks in uniform ....


Even in my Aegean eyrie, with my blogger efforts concentrating more on the new and even sillier Askelon, my email inbox bulgers with Venables-Thompson-type trivia.

Par exemple, Maxine Carr's clinching life anonymity. We shall see. Nice little weekend task for the dung beetles of the News of the World to give some ink to in the not too distant future.

A propos of not much, Greek Google is pretty interesting on the topic of Bulger bashers Thompson and Venables.

Natch, it helps to read the Hellenic coverage in the original ....

On the subject of Google, has everyone checked out the amazing Google *Suggest*? You slowly type in what you're searching for, and clever GoogSugg comes back with a drop-down list of results for that particular keyword *without* you needing yet to submit the search. With anonymity being dished out willynilly to every mountebank and his his accomplice, this is *exactly* what Fleet Street needs to streamline their unsavory exposés.

Friday, December 17, 2004

Baa, baa black sheep

Nursing an outsize cognac before a blazing fire, tossing Latin translations back and forth (as one does in civilised company), I think of Eric as Saskia renders Baa, baa black sheep:
Ba la laniger, lanigerne es?
Sic vir, sic vir, sunt mihi sacci tres

Thursday, December 16, 2004


Et voilà - the moving finger writes ... I tune in from my Greek hideaway to catch up on the latest chapters of decent gossip from home. I am not disappointed: two updates on burning topics over which I've been drooling for actual facts.

First the tragedy of the Tolo-rolling Sarah Gillette:

Next, That Pub ExpansionWe shall see.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Travel is War

I love packing for long and distant journeys. Travel is war and traveling is how we handle the minefield.

As soon as I know I'm to be 'en voyage' I lay out a big basket for everything to be tossed into that I'll need. I may retrieve the items for daily use - camera, CDs, Greece/Italy-friendly lectronica, gizmos n gadgets - but they have a new home to which they're returned.

I pin a large plastic bag up for all documents I need - passports, travel details, memos to self of stuff to do - into which I toss everything, incl notes to self (write dave about car * do xmas cards (christina's address in outlook, terry's in diary #5 * car to garage 12/1 * send postdate checks to water/phone * set up credit card pre-pay * check all bookmarks in gmail * etc

One week before hand I sit down and collate everything and set a daily schedule for stuff to do/buy/phone. Email family for last ditch requests, after which they have no excuse to bitch once I am *there*; fat chance.

Two days before I panic: It's too quiet out there. Everything is too organised. I phone home demanding testing questions and turn testy at their failure to come up with any gaps ("I know, see if you can find my scarf I left somewhere in the-" "Got it. It'll be in the main suitcase." "Er ... I don't know if you remember, but Mum likes those gardening gloves that Bay Hay sells." "Got 2 pairs!"

"OK, then, well have you remembered to be a pre-flight total boring asshole to your family?"

"Check. Nice catch."

Monday, December 06, 2004

Good Bloggin'

Eminently sensible and clever LinkFilter posting by TripsterParadox ('Ask Linkfilter: Good writing', #68414) asking for suggested good blogs out there.

Should be an interesting list and I'll be looking out for anything that Psychomike sends in.

From the examples he quotes, 'Tripster's already onto the smart scribes:

He reads as if he might meet his own criterion.

The sloppiest 'comment' remains mine.

And he shall have music ...

Another nifty tip from the amazing ResearchBuzz, this one right up my media-questing musician's street.

If you're keener on media than text, try the new search engine, GoFish, with its store of 12 million media files, i.e. ring tones, audio, video, *and* video games.

Test drive ZenKicker as a GoFish enabled Web-search engine.

You can limit your search to certain types of content but in my case I searched for everything to do with Bert Jansch (spot on), Tom Rush (ditto-ish) and Françoise Hardy, for whom some of the songs seemed to be *about* her or to have her name in a phrase.

Also listed what album they were from and a link to download the song.

There were some areas where I wouldn't want to search -- but I really have to check out any of their Tom Rush ringtones.

Xmas Guitar Wish List


Those'll do nicely, thanks, girls ...


Dept of Pedantry: it always irritates me to read these jokers who think they're so witty to reverse *over*whelm.

The use of underwhelmed (often preceded by distinctly) is not a new joke. The Oxford English Dictionary records it from 1956.

Why was it ever thought to be funny? Probably because 'whelm' itself was felt to be a word that never occurred on its own, only prefixed by over. Like flabber, which was the only thing that could be gasted.

Whelm is quite different, a perfectly respectable word, if obsolete. Keats uses it on its own. Whelm merely means 'to turn over' in a variety of senses, such as capsizing, overturning like a boat, closing like a dish cover, covering, drowning, burying with snow or earth. It appeared in an immaterial sense in a sermon in 1891, referring to Christ's whelming us with forgiveness.

The prefix over does not here have the adverbial sense of 'too much' as in over-pay, over-use, over-done beef. It is possible to be under-paid, under-used, under-done. In overwhelm, over has a prepositional function, as in overhang. Of course, one can underhang as well as hang over; but you can't overmine as well as undermine.

Each time a journo tries to be funny using the word underwhelm, I yearn to ask the editorial department to replace it with a joke out of a cracker, or one that the children have brought home from school.


My father was a remarkable man in many ways, many of which I'll never fully know because I lacked the nerve to talk to him while he was alive.

They were simple things that one ignores at the time, one of which was "positioning" in the case of a car: in parking, in turning, in reversing, and so forth.

The Chevron pump on Bainbridge has a post that, if I align it with the driver's door, it's perfect placed for the Economy pump I go for. This afternoon as I filled up, Anna queried how I was always spot-on. So I told her.


Deuxième Daughter possesseth qualités no parents can teach. I fear for the future. Not hers, maybe her mother's and mine; definitely those she interacts with.

Saturday, December 04, 2004

banjosBanjos Anonymous

I was going to use this as part of a longer piece on a recent guitarististic weekend, but it also works as a vehicle to muse on that whole Duelling Banjos/Deliverance phenomenon.


"Stars without makeup!", screamed the storyline in a recent Star magazine ('America's Best Selling Celebrity Weekly").

I'm standing in a slow queue - well, it was moving perfectly smoothly til I joined - and the old biddie being served is taking Ciara thru each coupon and accusing her of conveniently 'forgetting' many others.

The Sue Sarandon lookalike behind me riffles thru the Star and I peer over her shoulder and comment that, yikes, is *that* what Britney looks like bare-faced. She laughs and we conduct our own poll:

Taking Liberties

My trusty 1989 Volvo 740 is taking no chances over my catching next week's Blighty-bound flight: it is staging phantom electrics malfunction to keep me and, more to the point, the Bainbridge constabulary on our toes.

It's a faithful old warhorse of a bus that requires minimum troughing and sluicing to keep going but it does have a habit of blowing the left rear brake light, at which point a light shows on the dashboard.

This is a monthly occurrence so, when the dashboard flashed orange a week or so back, I thought nothing of it and changed what looked irritatingly like a perfectly good bulb. Still the light. I puttered around for a while and then got Ted at the pump to tell me which exact light was on the blink. None, which annoyed me further; idiot, you'd think a garagiste of all people would be able to tell a dud light. I drove around some more and the light went out and then a few miles on it came on again, and so forth.

I wasn't worried because I was off booze in readiness for the massive onslaught ahead in Italy, but I slowed for any police cars to get a good look so that *they* could at least tell me, after they'd sniffed my breath in the usual Probable Cause routine. Zilch, until one evening I got the fuzzy flash and pulled over and had my clipboard of documents ready. Peer, sniff, peer, sniff.

"Yes, officer, I did suspect as much (sniff, peer) but no one has been able to identify *which* light." I showed him the spare bulb at the ready on the passenger seat. I exited the vehicle and removed the bulb and - duhh - black as Dame Edna's gladioli patch. From the policier, that infinitely patient and weary look that must be rigueur in training ("Guterson - I'm tellin' ya one more time, deliver The Look or dammit guy y're out.")

So more of the same until the penny dropped that the lights were perfectly OK most of the time but I want to take it for granted *just in case* the one time I was cruising with a bellyful of bourbon it was for real n I got pulled over and - whammo.

So, I'm driving on eggshells, and quite right, too.

Interesting history, has my Volvo: my choice of vendor - Liberty Bay Auto Center of 20201 Front Street NE, Poulsbo, WA 98370 - was thanks to #1 daughter asking her wheels-savvy Bainbridge High School chums what and where her dad should buy to replace the old Audi. Once past the helpful suggestions of persuing the showrooms of messrs Lamborghini, Ferrari, et al, we reached the more realistic venue of Liberty Bay.

All car dealers look like not-quite-retired gunfighters to me, and Mr Fred Buchi was a particularly muscular specimen with his broad shoulders and boxer's broken nose. But he sussed me right and we were soon filling in the paperwork on the Volvo.

And had I been recommended to come to Liberty? Because it was the custom to send the referee a $50,00 check. Why yes, I beamed, my daughter via BHS' finest. Excellent, nodded Fred, a check would be sent to me for passing on. When I gave Georgina the good news, the sweet thing immediately decided to share it on a pizza for all the lads involved.

Weeks passed and no check and when I went in to collect my new plates I mentioned this to Buchi who was not at all phased: was I sure that she hadn't collected it without my knowing? No. Well, perhaps the address I'd given was incomplete - was I sure I'd given the full precise postal address? Etc etc. I was.

So the days passed and still no sign of the check. Meanwhile, the natives were growing restless, convinced that G had reneged and spent the money on hooch or crack or something eminently more sensible than shared pizzas. And so it came to pass that the postman delivered a postcarded invite from messrs LB to take advantage of my exalted status as a valued client and avail myself of a free servicing and checkup, which I took up if only to raise the question of the check again.

Hmm, pondered Fred with practised furrowed brown of puzzlement. Odd. I suggested that there and then we have Accounts look up the check number in case it had gone astray. No no - far too busy, anyway my car was ready for collection and - tiens! - lucky I'd come in because look what else they'd found, alas not included among the perks. I agreed to the minor "adjustments" and drove off glad at least to have a fully fit voiture.

Next day, immobile. Furious, I phoned the garage and - because I'd decided to make this a PR exercise for the pizza-less stalwarts, I recorded the call so that they could hear an exemplary exchange between customer-service-savvy buyer and customer-centric business. Nothing of the kind: the junior mechanic to whom I spoke was as insolent and unsympathetic as I've ever dealt with and my only satisfaction was that I had it on tape to guffaw over with the pupils.

Now, the purpose and irony of this tale is that, over the years, I've received promotional junk mail from LBay addressed to every variation of my address, which has fazed our postie not at all. Indeed, I seem to recall that the more useless the mail, the barer the address, sans street number, sans even the basics. I dare say that "Chris, Bainbridge" would have reached me, or even "That limey who keeps bitchin' about the check",

Meanwhile, it became an established joke among the original advisors who, long since graduated, are of course driving their own Ferraris, Beemers and Jags, but whose bellies still rumble for that pizza and consequently are in less of a hurry to recommend the Bay to impoverished and pedestrianized.

Is there a moral here? I doubt it, but this being the season of good will, I'm prepared - on having confirmed the check # and ate of mailing - to donate fourfold the paltry $50 to a charity of the auto center's choosing.

Friday, December 03, 2004

Blunkett Coverage

Caveat to those traveling to Blighty: stay off the subject of Home Secretary Blunkett's grubby peccadilloes. It is old hat and losing its original frisson.

Even Blunkett himself seems to be tiring of the spotlight: when first exposed, he photographed like a tired Eric Clapton; today he more resembles Peter O'Toole with a bad dye job.

His love child is said to have been conceived to the throbbing of bouzoukis on the sceptr'd isle of Corfu, which is where I shall be spending Christmas, in the bosom of my family - not to mention any other welcoming cleavage I meet 'neath the mistletoe nursing her ouzo-flavored eggnog.

Kala Khreestooyena !

Out with Patriotism

Moral values may fly high here in the US, but Patriotism has a hard time finding a buyer in today's British publishing scene.

What's funniest about this excellent volume being such a success is that it had to be privately published: none of the top echelon guardians of our morals and literacy "felt his idea had the winning formula ... some of them even advised him to take out the most patriotic elements of the book."


Splendid fusillades by the fierce Michelle Malkin and equally talon-ted Nicole Brodeur on the subject of the bizarre Stephen Byrne 'obituary' in the Seattle Times.

No surprise to find Sound Politics sounding off but it's interesting to find Free Republic also here for the bier.

Mademoiselles Malkin and Brodeur will not be the last to pronounce on this pythonesque turn of events and I don't envy the editor of my local Bainbridge Review the delicate task of picking thru the vitriolic letters that're bound to follow, not to mention keeping tabs on fellow journos now duty-bound to pontificate on the bandwagon bally-hoo.

What's the betting we even make it into Drudge?

kelsey, SJB, hayley I can't decide which is sadder: this color version of the dad and daughters pic as appeared in the Times, or the infinite drabness of the black & white repro as managed for the grotesque apologia in the Review.

Either way, the very sight of the girls and their murderer together in the same shot is abhorrent and one looks round for some instrument of extreme violence before remembering that the man in the photo has beaten us to it.

A rambling mish-mash of biography and defensive justifications of the most crass and cringe-making kind, the "Tribute" occupies 9" across 2 columns of page 13 of the Dec 1 edition of the BI Review, just below the calendar of events and hemmed in on the right by the hearty 4-column exhortation to "Seniors! Shop Fred Meyer ... and receive 10% Senior Discount."

A status and benefit denied our trio.

The writing is literally unreadable, 6-pt type of dense (in both senses of the word) gibberish, guaranteed to infuriate with its mumbo-jumbo of 'incomprehensible burden' and certainly doing no favors for the wretch it's meant to exonerate.

I don't mind it backfiring on the father - who deserves all the sickening posthumous puns one can load - but this sort of misbegotten revisionism also casts an ugly shadow across memories of the innocent.

I keep feeling there must be some cleansing verse to quote, some sonorous quotation or ancient Druid curse to comfort or at least banish the helpless feeling of cheapness that now hangs over the tragedy.

There's something sinister about purchased print of *quite* such leaden wit and obviousness and I find myself shuddering at the chilling thought that people like this might actually have been around during the girls' visits with their father.

I look forward with grim interest to the editor's choice of letters on the subject. They're sure to make entertainingly shrill and intemperate reading.

At my readers' requst, I will do my best to convey their ham-handed gist together with my own usual affected and ill-intended comment.

Pulitzer Blotter

I swear there lurks within the Bainbridge Island cop shop *the* most literate fuzz amanuensis in the land.

That November 18th 'Fountains of Fisticuffs' report was a gem and I'm thinking of adding the Blotter page of our already excellent Review to Number 2 daughter's required tutorial reading. She professes to cringe at my fluting Oxbridge tones and sonorous Miltonian phrases but I'm as a ferry foghorn compared to the anonymous PB scribe.

I mean, honestly, where outside the shortlist for the Crime Writers Association Dagger Awards are we going to find

Accosted, eh? What hath the Merriam tag-team to say of that?

ac·cost·ed, ac·cost·ing, ac·costs

1. To approach and speak to boldly or aggressively, as with a demand or request. 2. To solicit for sex. ETYMOLOGY: French accoster, from Old French, from Medieval Latin accost
(I can just picture the same scène down the Clapham nick):

B: "Evenin', George - orl rite then, mate?"

G: Can't complain ... bit of a punch-up dahn the fountains"

B: 'ang about, me old son - let's get the ledger down and do a proper report - you know how the old man likes a full blotter in the Clarion. Makes us look busy, know what I mean?

G: Well, seems like a couple of the lads from the diner got inna slanging match wiv this other geezer -"

B: ... verbally accosted ...

G: You what?

B: Relax, George, I gotta *phrase* it right ...

G: Oh, orl rite then ... anyway, there they was belting 'im wiv lemons.

B: ... airborne citrus ...

G: So *he* took a swing at them and *they* hopped over the fence and started belting *him* and by the time I turned up it was a right old barney

B: ... melée ... fistfight

G: Yeh, and but mind you spell it wiv the é acute on that second 'e' and don't forget the old circy flex ê on the *first* one

B: There's never a circumflex in bleedin' melée - hand me my Larousse ... Well, soddez cela pour une alouette, so there is. Pardonnez moi, mon sewer, I'm sure.

G: No worries, me old china - fancy a jar when you're done there?

B: Long as it isn't the Gude Arms - I got a bit brahms the other nite and the guv'nor didn't half verbally accost me."

Turn of the Screw

anna bensonOr should that be turn of the *shrew*? Either way ...

That buxom Barbie clone to the left - wife of some baseball player - has a novel idea on how to keep hubby faithful.

On the Howard Stern Show, no less, she 'made it clear she would get more than even with her husband if he slept with a baseball groupie. "I told him -- because that's the biggest thing in athletics, they cheat all the time -- I told him, cheat on me all you want," she said. "If you get caught, I'm going to screw everybody on your entire team, coaches, trainers, players. I would do everybody on his whole team."

So that's it, is it? Most effective, I do declare: 'Cheat on me all you want'? Is that the sort of marriage they've got going? Fool around all you want because I'll out-ho any tramp *you* can come up with - very nice, I must say. Talk about tit for tat - er, so to speak.

What on earth is the NBA doing allowing this sort of buffonery? An athlete in the public eye with young men looking to him for an example both on and off the court, and here's his wife dressed like some harlot of Babylon burbling like one, to boot.

I trust the young lady's mother has summoned the tramp for a good old scrubbing out of the tonsils with Pears' finest, *and* a good walloping with early to bed and no dinner

As for the hapless baseballer himself, I expect his team mates have even now lined up a host of delectable young ladies of every shape and hue to distract him as they take up the offer of dalliance from his trollope of a wife.

Actually, looking at what our little putain is already up to, I'd say she'd already embarked on the exercise ....

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Dollar dolour

"Main Entry: do·lour", reads online Merriam-W, "chiefly British variant of DOLOR."

Now that is precisely where British spelling beats American hands down. The very impact of the word hangs on that lugubrious 'u'. Anyway ....

To my bank to collect my paltry £s sterling and Travelers Cheques for the coming jaunt. I get the hot teller, which cheers me somewhat as I peer at the dismal exchange rate - 2.0049 - ye gods, this would never have happened in the time of the Empire. I comment despairingly on my appalling timing of buying foreign exchange "when the dollar's on the floor." "Yeah," laughs Hottie, "'on the floor'".

She flashes me a look as if I'd used some masonic phrase only found in one used to dealing with money, and lots OF it.

I have no idea where it came from. It is utterly not me. Far more likely I'd stumble around with something about it being a " ... nuisance to be going when the dollar is ... has all this problem going for it ... not ...", thus identifying myself as a typical thicko who *would* be ordering actual pounds sterling at a time like this. I confide in her that it'd've been more sensible not to have taken any money at all but relied on prostrating myself before my family and scrounged off them.

Which sets me thinking how my brother would have handled it - much more along the lines of the excellent Gary Cole in Office Space:

"Yeahhh ... so, Chris, I'm going to need you to go ahead and finance my whole trip while the dollar's on the floor ... yeah ... and I'm also going to need you to loan me a coupla gabrillion lira til the Contessa comes thru with the retainer, Mmmk?"

To which I of course would be nodding like some in-car ornament - nay, *thanking* him, even, for his guidance on such an overwhelmingly sensible way to handle the whole drat situation.

Lovin' Spamful

I am asked by a sweet young thing if she should instal this Lurve Not Spahum screensaver in the news.

I show her a current survey with 34% respondents voting "You Must be Crazy". Unlike the firewater I funnel into my body, I err on the cautionary side when it comes to my belovèd PC, and this has the feel of that SETI Go Home goose chase of yore

I recommend her to Mailwasher, which I came across in their early days and am impressed to find my excellent ISP, Seanet, also actually plugging on their home page.

Information Superhighway

You know that feeling in class when the teacher asks a question and you really *really* know the answer? And your hand is up as far as it can go and ... you really really want it to be you who grabs the kudos?

That's how it's been ever since Julie Leung posted her blog query about "why, in spite of all the hype, the term "information superhighway" never caught on."

In his novel, Cryptonomicon, Neal Stephenson describes in hilarious scary detail a dinner party that nails at least one aspect of this topic.

My dilemma was that it was some time since I'd read this 918pp masterpiece and I didn't fancy trawling through the pages just to find this one passage. But it nagged me and I kept imagining some other smarty pants coming up with the goods and impressing the hell out of JL.

This morning I could take it no longer. I sat down with my copy and prepared to wade through when ... gadzooks! The book fell open at the very page 80. Baht sup. The Chinese are right about that 8: Lucky Number, indeed.

At the risk of incurring the wrath of some copy rightist - and my finger hovers ever over the delete button - here is the passage which speaks for itself. Typos are mine from speed tapping before the java's kicked in.

Randy was forever telling people, without rancor, that they were full of shit. That was the only way to get anything done in hacking. No one took it personally.

Charlene's crowd most definitely *did* take it personally. It wasn't being told that they were wrong that offended them though - it was the underlying assumption that a person *could* be right or wrong about *anything*. So on the Night in Question Randy had done what he usually did, which was to withdraw from the conversation. In the Tolkien, not the endocrinological or Snow White sense, Randy is a dwarf. Tolkien's Dwarves were stout taciturn, vaguely magical characters who spent a lot of time in the dark hammering out beautiful things, e.g. Rings of Power. Thinking of himself as a Dwarf who had hung up his war-ax for a while to go sojourning in the Shire, where he was surrounded by squabbling Hobbits (i.e. 'Charlene's friends) had actually done a lot for Randy's peace of mine over the years. He knew perfectly well that if he was stuck in academia these people and the things they said would seem momentous to him. But where he came from, nobody had taken these people seriously for years. So he just withdrew from the conversation and drank his wine and looked out over the Pacific surf and tried not to anything really obvious like shaking his head and rolling his eyes.

Then the topic of the Information Superhighway came up, and Randy could feel faces turning in his direction like searchlights, casting almost palpable warmth on his skin.

Dr G.E.B Kivistik had a few things to say about the Information Superhighway. He was a fiftyish Yale professor who had just flown in from someplace that had sounded really cool and impressive when he had gone out of his way to mention it several times. His name was Finnish but he was British as only a non-British Anglophile could be. Ostensibly he was here to attend 'War as Text'. Really he was there to recruit Charlene, and really *really* (Randy suspected) to f*** her. This was probably not true at all but just a symptom of how wacked out Randy was getting by this point. Dr G.E.B. Kivistik had been showing up on television pretty frequently. Dr G.E.B. Kivistik had a couple of books out. Dr G.E.B. Kivistik was, in short, parlaying his strongly contrarian view of the Information Superhighway into more air time than anyone who hadn't been accused of blowing up a day care centre should get.

A Dwarf on sojourn in the Shire would probably go to a lot of dinner parties where pompous boring Hobbits would hold forth like this. This Dwarf would view the whole thing as entertainment. He would know that he could always go back out in to the real world, so much vaster and more complex than these Hobbits imagined, and slay a few Trolls and remind himself of what really mattered.

That was what Randy always told himself, anyway. But on the Night in Question, it didn't work. Partly because Kivistik was too big and real to be a Hobbit - probably more influential in the real world than Randy would ever be. Partly because another faculty spouse at the table - a likable harmless computerphile named Jon decided to take issue with some of Kivistik's statements and was cheerfully shot down for his troubles, Blood was in the water.

Randy had ruined his relationship with Charlene by wanting to have kids. Kids raise issues. Charlene, like all her friends, couldn't handle issues. Issues meant disagreement. Voicing disagreement was a form of conflict. Conflict, acted out openly and publicly, was a male mode of social interaction - the foundation for patriarchal society which brought with it the usual litany of dreadful things. Regardless, Randy decided to get patriarchal with Dr G.E.B. Kivistik.

"How many slums will we bulldoze to build the Information Superhighway?" Kivistik said. This profundity was received with thoughtful nodding around the table.

Jon had shifted in his chair as if Kivistik had just dropped an ice cube down his collar. "What does that mean?" he asked. Jon was smiling, trying not to be a conflict-oriented patriarchal hegemonist. Kivistik, in response, raised his eyebrows and looked around at everyone else, as if to say *Who invited this poor lightweight?* Jon tried to dig himself out from his tactical error, as Randy closed his eyes and tried not to wince visibly.
Kivistik had spent more years sparring with really smart people over high table at Oxford than Jon had been alive. "You don't have to bulldoze anything. There's nothing there to bulldoze," Jon pleaded.

"Very well, let me put it this way" Kivistik said magnanimously - he was not above dumbing down his material for the likes of Jon. "How many on-ramps will connect the world's ghettos to the Information Superhighway?"

Oh, that's much better, everyone seemed to think. Point well taken, G.E.B.! No one looked at Jon, that argumentative pariah. Jon looked helplessly over at Randy, signaling for help.

Jon was a Hobbit who had actually been out of the Shire recently, so he knew Randy was a 'Dwarf. Now he was f***ing up Randy's life by calling upon Randy to jump up on the table, throw off his homespun cloak, and whip out his two-handed ax.

The words came out of Randy's mouth before he had time to think better of it. "The Information Superhighway is just a f***ing metaphor! Give me a break!" he said.

There was a silence as everyone around the table winced in unison.
Dinner had now, officially, crashed and burned. All they could do now was grab their ankles, put their heads between their knees, and wait for the wreckage to slide to a halt.

"That doesn't tell me very much," Kivistik said. "Everything is a metaphor. The word 'fork' is a metaphor for this object." He held up a fork. "All discourse is built from metaphors"

"That's no excuse for using bad metaphors," Randy said.
"Bad? Bad? Who decided what is bad?" Kivistik said, doing his killer impression of a heavy-lidded, mouth-breathing undergraduate. There was scattered tittering from people who were desperate to break this tension. Randy could see where it was going. Kivistik had gone for the usual academician's ace in the hole: everything is relative, it's all just differing perspectives. People had already begun to resume their little side conversations, thinking that the conflict was over, when Randy gave them all a start with: "Who decides what's bad? *I do*."

Even Dr G.E.B. Kivistik was flustered. He wasn't sure if 'Randy was joking. "Excuse me?"

Randy was in no great hurry to answer the question. He took the opportunity to sit back comfortably, stretch, and take a sip of his wine. He was feeling good. "It's like this," he said. "I've read your book. I've seen you on TV. I've heard you tonight, I personally typed up a list of your credentials when I was preparing press materials for this conference. So I know that you're not qualified to have an opinion about technical issues."
"Oh?" Kivistik said in mock confusion. "I didn't realize one had to have qualifications."

"I think its clear," Randy said, "that if you are ignorant of a particular subject, that your opinion is completely worthless. If I'm sick, I don't ask a plumber for advice, I go to a doctor, Likewise if I have questions about the Internet, I will seek opinions from people who know about it."
"Funny how all of the technocrats seem to be in favor of the Internet," Kivistik said cheerily, milking a few more laughs from the crowd.
"You have just made a statement that is demonstrably not true," Randy said, pleasantly enough. "A number of internet experts have written well-reasoned books that are sharply critical of it."
Kivistik was finally getting pissed off. All the levity was gone.
"So," Randy continued, "to get back to where we started, the Information Superhighway is a bad metaphor for the Internet, because I say it is. There might be a thousand people on the planet who are as conversant with the Internet as I am. I know most of these people, None of them takes that metaphor seriously. Q.E.D."
"Oh, I see," Kivisk said, a little hotly,. He had seen an opening. "So we should rely on the technocrats to tell us what to think, and how to think about this technology."
The expressions of the others seemed to say that this was a telling blow, righteously struck.
"I'm not sure what a technocrat is," Randy said. "Am I a technocrat? I'm just a guy who went down to the bookstore and bought a couple of textbooks on TCP/IP, which is the underlying protocol of the Internet, and read them. And then I signed on to a computer, which anyone can do nowadays and I messed around with it for a few years, and now I know all about it. Does it make me a technocrat?"
"You belonged to the technocrat elite even before you picked up that book," Kivistik said. "The ability to wade through a technical text, and to understand it, is a privilege. It is a privilege conferred by an education that is available only to members of an elite class. That's what I mean by technocrat."

"I went to a public school, Randy said. "And then I went to a state university. From that point on, I was self-educated."

... and so on and so forth. I hope this helps. I've had so much pleasure and learned so much from everything Stephenson writes, I can only urge you get to know this man. If you already know him, you should have sung out about this chapter earlier and grabbed the spotlight!

Meanwhile, enjoy this Salon interview with le maître.

Loaded ... and loaded

So ... what've we got here?

Mr Jack Whittaker of the parish of West Virginia, millionaire Lottery winner, nabbed behind the wheel worse for wear for the sauce. Not good.

And JW was packing - metal and moolah (a handy $117,000 in loose bills) - which begs the question why the WV fuzz bothered to post bail at a pathetic 1.45% of what the dude already had in his wallet.

By Jove, if I'd won $315 million, I'd probably treat myself to a tincture or two, and I'd *definitely* keep a gun about my person to discourage pals of yore from spongeing too vigorously.

Mind you, I'd also hire a shapely young thang to drive me around lest I became testy at being asked to take some footling sobriety test.

Just as Leona Helmsley left payment of taxes to the 'little people', and Winston Churchill wanted the study of Latin held back as a *reward* for deserving star pupils, I go with old Jack there: Let these sobriety tests be reserved for the appreciative sober.

Nor does it surprise me that Whittaker's wheels, business and home have been under siege: the news report doesn't specify, but might we assume that these crimes were *subsequent* to his windfall?

As for Jesse Joe Tribble, what a relief to find his death "not a crime". But wise precaution by JW to be out of town.

The way *I* would have handled things would have been to have had my comely chauffeuse "live in". I'd also ensure she accessorized with the very latest slimline side-arm (so as not to spoil that pantie-line) and furnish her with canine companionship for when I was unavoidably detained exploring outta-state watering holes.

That way, it wouldn't be anything but a terrible mistake: "Yes, officer, that's exactly how I found him. Tragic. But come, let's not be morbid. A nightcap? I think you'll find we stock your brand. Fifi, my dear, a drink for the Captain and my check book while you're about it - I feel the need to contribute to some worthy LEO cause of the captain's advising. Bottoms up, dear boy."

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Tooth Fairy

I've not been overly impressed by Amazon's Theatre offerings to date, but their current offering of Tooth Fairy is an utterly charming gem that will be instantly understood by every parent who's run the gauntlet of keeping that Tooth Fairy faith.

Chris Noth perfectly captures every dad's dilemma - and you get the added bonus of Jeffrey Preston Bezos himself making a cameo vanity appearance as the patrol officer who mutters, "What a loser!".

Beatles Albums covers

You know that Father Time's wingèd chariot is looming in the rearview mirror when your pulse leaps at those "That's What I call Kitsch" nostalgiana pages.

The only way to listen to those early Beatles' albums was to gaze fixedly at the covers as that exuberant sound clattered from the faithful Dansette.

Good on 'Knockoff Project' for these spoofs, goofs, and plain darn suspicious coincidences.

^5, too, for the Beatles Tributes

Nice to thrill again to those "Sexy" album covers that seem so tame these days (well, not *that* tame, I guess)

Tutorial: How to make an Internet Cartoon

Here you go, everyone who's asked me.

Cap'n Kirk - Rocket Man

I sort of missed out on the whole William Shatner laff-in with his renderings of belovèd hits and standards.

I only recently heard his Beatles' "Lucy in the Sky" and had rather assumed that there was a certain amount of camping up on purpose.

Now comes blogger Jon Dennis' ace posting of WS's homage to the Elton John classic and I defy anyone to listen to it without bursting into loud guffaws.

Caveat: Not to be listened to in proximity to sharp objects or containers of liquid.

This is dangerously funny stuff of a calibre that, were the brilliant Peter Sellers alive today (himself no slouch at the Beatles spoofs), I can see him putting out versions of himself doing Shatner doing the Beatles.I confess, I ended laughing out loud at the sheer genius of the man to wring emotion not just from each word but from each *syllable*, nay from the very inhalations and dead air between.

The Longest Shots

Sgt SandovalImpressive 950-yard bulls-eyes.

"The battalion officer ordered me to 'make the mortars stop. I took it personally and went out specifically to stop the insurgents."

Two more insurgents still alive and ready to continue the mortar attack, Sandoval readied for the shot at the assistant gunner. The last two shots took out the driver of the vehicle that carried the weapon.

"When I finally spotted them along a tree line, I realized how far they were but it was surprising how easy it was"

Those four shots were the longest in Sandoval has taken since he became a scout sniper.


Up the Injunction

Thompson & Venables, cont.

More musings and monitorings of the Thompson sightings saga.

Denise Bulger-FergusNo surprises: folks are waking to the possibility of Denise Fergus' inspired sleuthing inspiring others to posse up while Thompson's scent is still warm and the press hounds in full grubby-mac'd cry.

The 'Herald' captures the mood - and I like Denise's chilling reference to "podgy face and evil eyes". I know a number of bounders who fit that description; I trust we're not in for a witch-hunt of Billy Bunters.

SACROSANCT: dead on cue, the original 'Tec reminds us of "that" injunction. It's there to protect the killers' identity, and it's still very much in place.

The Good, The Bad, and the Kitsch: I'm asked why I don't also catalog the superest of the soppy sites on the late Bulger?

Well, it would be patronising and in questionable taste ... besides, who am I to pronounce when my own writings plumb new depths of verbal kitsch with every entry?

Robert Thompson pictured in custodyBut the honest query did set me thinking of a site I came across yonks back whose sincerity blazed brighter than the others.

The emotional force behind it is a young lady called Jessica - no longer so young, I dare say - and it included two time-saving links:


Pat downs and Bungles

As the hours tick by for my Europe jaunt, my eye naturally devours every new variation on the terror overkill theme to which we currently dance. Usually, these guys in emblazoned jackets, they deliver a stony-faced announcement, end with the dead-pan formality of sympathy for the family, and that's it.

You're a good man, Mr Young.

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