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Sunday, January 30, 2005


Could there be a bitterer example of Sod's Law at its cynical worst than Todd Duffner driving drunk mere days after the alcohol-fueled death of his pal the gorgeous Rebecca Phillips?

Except in his case, judgment equally clouded, TD proceeded to smash into the saintly Ernie Franz, crushing not just bones but his aspirations as a doctor.

I'm used to the quip about youth being squandered on the young, but what in God's name are these children using for brains?

Duffner is 19. Even after he's done his six-months' porridge, he has hefty years ahead to mope and agonise over the consequences of his stupidity.

We live in a milksop age of tolerance and understanding - and I have no doubt Duffner will work that to hand-wringing penitent best advantage - but all I feel is cold-eyed ill will and anger.

Indeed, it may not be a bad idea if the tears he shed on confronting Franz in the courtroom flood anew each time he fondles a bottle or winks at the wagging fingers of anxious friends.

To throw the youth's words back at him, there is *indeed* no saying how sorry he can be, and bravo Judge Roof for pointing out that nor has the victim been the same since that day.

The forgiving Franz hopes that Duffner will "make something beautiful of his life" and work to help others prevent such accidents in the future. It's a nice image, a fresh-faced young man bending to the task of leading others back to the paths of righteousness.

How about another scenario, on behalf of all those who will *not* now benefit from Mr Franz's medical expertise? Something as appropriately UN-glamorous as a forlorn shape quivering in the corner.

"Egad! What's with *that* dude?"

"He drove drunk and ruined someone's life."

"Eeuwww ... No more hooch for me, Benson - put the stopper back on the decanter."

Blunkett - the musical!

If I hadn't read it in my trusted Daily Torygraph *and* from the Beeb, I'd have dismissed this as a spoof:

The fall of blubbing Blunkett being turned into a musical.

Well, if they can make a tuneful hit out of those Jerry Springer circuses, I suppose British politics is child's play.

johnnie rayWhat a pity Johnnie Ray isn't alive to play the perfect part of DB.

kimberly quinnAnd what a humdinger of a part for some hot actress to portray the voracious - and distinctly fanciable - Kimberly Quinn.


Will someone tell me what the deuce this wretched word means? And why not one soul east of the Statue of Liberty seems even to have heard of it?

I first glimpsed it in an office email back in June 2004 but dismissed it as a Bushist sort of word not worth further investigation. Then, as is so often the case, I started tripping over it all over the place, and not just from folks who babble in biz speke or jargonese.

I tried it on various educated pals in Europe but got only blank looks and the offer of another whiskey.

At least it's acknowledged as


From: ~*~aNoNyMoUs~*~

Good heavens - someone out there has actually come across my ramblings.

Not quite sure what it all means, but aNoNyMoUs sounds divinely intelligent.

Now that I've had this first fan mail, I'm wondering how one expresses thanks when it comes from 'mailto:noreply-comment@blogger.com'?

I should frame these immortal words and hang them over my monitor as inspiration for future postings.

"omg i love your post on Napoleon Dynamite! i know you don't know me but im totally in love with that movie!

Napoleon Dynamite!!!! all the WAY

"but my lips hurt real bad"

"tina you fat lard come get some dinner"

Way to be! RAWK on!

Sheer poetry.

2005 Bloggies

Podcasting, food blogging parties, group photo captions, themed photo contests?

Vote for your favorite "best meme" of 2004.

napoleon dynamite

Napoleon Dynamite

Virtuoso appearance by Jon Heder - totally in character - on the David Letterman show, reading out the famous list of "Top Ten Signs You're Not the Most Popular Guy in your High School".

He even launches into *that* dance to illustrate one of the signs ...

jon hederIngenious movie, perfectly cast throughout.

I saw it twice in the Pavilion and twice on DVD for the hilarious special features commentary.

the real john hederBest of all, look what a cool dude JH is in real life ....


Saturday, January 29, 2005

When does one stop feeling British?

Not just British.

This timely Daily Torygraph piece speaks for all us displacèds in this world sans frontières.


No sooner does my adored daughter ask me the meaning of chutzpah than our BI Review's Doug Crist delivers a precise example in his coverage of the stalled pub parking plans:

The pub's scoffable assertion that 'the new building would "enhance" public views by giving customers a new place from which to enjoy looking at the waterfront.'

Nix Prolix

New Year's Rez (for the 30th year running): be less longwinded, especially now that I'm trying to craft blogs that even *I* might care to read. Everyone else manages and I only need clink on my links to read folks who set me good examples with entry.

Bad Movie Accents

New entry: Kyle MacLachlan in Touch of Pink in which he ponces around in faux posh gear à la Brit gentry of yesteryear. God knows which glottal stops he thought he was tapping but what emerges is a mix of German professor-meets-patina of cockney. Now I see that he's meant to be a Cary Grant revival, it's worse than I thought.

Others figuring high in this pantheon of parvenu pronunciations:

On the can-do side: Gwyneth Paltrow and Annette Bening (Being Julia), both faultless.

Friday, January 28, 2005

New Year's Resolution ~ Cut down on 'terror'

The first things to hit one when journeying abroad is how shrunken one's vocabulary has become and how imprecise one's thinking. Just back from the lands of Homer and Medici, I shocked everyone with my loose references to 'terrorists'.

If I bring any message back, it's that our leaders can do our security a favour just by economising on the use of the word in their rhetoric. Sure, the danger is real enough, but the definition encourages lazy thinking.

'Terrorist' is a woefully inadequate identification. Like 'infantryman' or 'cavalryman', it merely describes a method of engaging in combat. It's also a seductively pejorative label, but an unhelpful term in encouraging reasoned responses to today's various practitioners of violence.

Conventional armed forces kill far more 'innocent civilians' while pursuing their purposes than any terrorist group has contrived, as many Iraqis, Afghans and Palestinians would testify after experience at the hands of the US and Israeli armies and air forces. Yet most people feel less abhorrence towards the old way of war because it operates within frameworks of ritual and order with which we are familiar.

We take for granted a right to go about our daily lives in peace. We resent a phenomenon which strikes without warning, impelled by groups which lack the legitimacy of nation-states, which do not oblige us with formal declarations of war, or clothe themselves in distinguishable uniforms.

We dislike terrorism partly because we reject our antagonists' perception that we are engaged in conflict with them, and partly also because such a form of attack does not suit nation-states' traditional means of defence.

Terrorism is simply one means of applying force in pursuit of political ends. It is traditionally adopted by the weak, who cannot hope to prevail in a conventional contest. Because the military power of the United States and its allies is today overwhelming, we must assume that terrorism - asymmetric warfare - will be the dominant tactic adopted by our enemies in the future, whatever regional conflicts persist between more evenly matched opponents.

It would be nice if one of his speechifyers could, using words of one syllable, fashion a pragmatic case for Bush to show even vague awareness that terrorists can also usefully be classified in political and ideological terms, rather than, crudely and misleadingly, by the mere means which they employ to fight us.

The biggest mistake made by the Bush administration since 9/11 has been to proclaim a universalist 'war on international terror', in which it has appeared happy to ally itself with President Putin of Russia in his struggle against the Chechens, with Prime Minister Sharon against the Palestinians, and indeed with almost any national regime facing attack by terrorist means. The US President thus seeks to throw the power of his country into a struggle against a methodology he recoils from, rather than undertake the harder but much more useful task of categorising terrorist causes on their merits, and carefully denominating worthy friends and foes.

The declaration of a 'war against terror' falsely implies a contest that can be waged principally through the deployment of conventional military might, which it cannot. Some terrorist movements operate beyond the pale of possible political dialogue - al-Qa'eda to name but one. Others do not. Most people who have studied the problem of Chechnya believe that it must be resolved by political means, rather than by Moscow's crude application of force. The Chechen separatists may employ repugnant methods to pursue their ends, but it seems madness to endorse implicitly or explicitly President Putin's response to them.

In the Middle East, the most plausible means of ending Palestinian violence is to give Palestinian people something to lose, not least self-respect, as an alternative to the chronic despair created by unrelenting repression. In Gaza and the West Bank today, terrorism and the manufacture of grievances are the only thriving industries. Does anyone seriously suppose that Israeli military operations can achieve conclusive success against Hamas and their brethren? Or, for that matter, that Israel might be susceptible to offering the Palestinians a reasonable settlement without the threat or reality of Palestinian violence?

Someone needs to make a case against treating all dissident forces which employ terrorist means as part of a common global manifestation of evil, which can only be addressed by military might.

The objection to casual denunciations of foes as 'terrorists' is that such language can persuade politicians, who should know better, that they can abdicate responsibility for seeking non-military means of addressing an issue. Such an approach can promote a deadly political laziness.

Some terrorist movements - Baader-Meinhof and the Italian Red Brigades spring to mind - require only a law-enforcement response, because they represent no plausible political cause and are wedded to violence for its own sake in the fashion of 19th-century anarchists. History suggests, however, that most terrorist campaigns are best addressed by a mix of political generosity towards the community from which terrorists come, and armed suppression of irreconcilable men of violence.

There should be no 'war on international terror', but rather campaigns tailored to address the nature of differing hostile groups which use terrorist means.

The 'war on terror' is a phrase cynically abused by President Bush to further his own re-election. Now that he has secured another four-year lease on the White House, it would be a boon to the world if he abandoned such unhelpful sloganising.

Iris Guttmann

Snappy, the Little Crocodile

Lovely heart-warming story about 6-year-old Joy Gruttmann whose Schnappi, Das Kleine Krokodil (Snappy, the Little Crocodile) reached No. 1 on the German charts.

Her family posted the song on the Web as a joke, but a Cologne radio station got hold of it and turned the ditty about a crocodile into a mega hit.

Fraülein Gruttmann is the youngest recording artist ever to make it into the German Top 10, let alone to the No. 1 spot.

Her delightful composition not just beat out Kylie Minogue, Linkin Park et ilk, but has even appeared as remixes in dance clubs.

NOTE: Once on the page. click on the words "Das Schnappi-Video" - or you can try here for what sounds like an even fancier arrangement.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Katie Melua

katie melua
Buzz among strummers is that UK songstress Katie Melua is set to make it big Stateside.

Born 1984 in ex-USSR Georgia, KM lived in Moscow til age nine when dad got a job as a heart surgeon in Belfast.

Hers is not my kind of voice - a bit waily-screechy - but I expect a lot of her fans have half an earphone on the crooning and most of a mouse scrolling thru the sexy pics sites already sprouting round the melodious Muscovite.

meluaDo I detect a touch of the Keira Knightley moue?

Prepubs and Prowlers

Seattle Weekly's decisive DateGirl, Judy McGuire, responding absolutely right to a distasteful subject but one that every parent of a young daughter needs to face.

From the UK, timely Guardian piece on teamwork 'twixt Lancashire fuzz and internet safety charity, Childnet International.


Far Left for Frisell

Genius fellow Bainbridge strummer, the remarkable Bill Frisell, is back at the Tractor Feb 7, this time with his "858 Quarter" of Hank Roberts, Eyvind Kang and the stunning Jenny Scheinman.

I left Frisell's last Tractor gig stunned and admiring - torn between tossing the Telecaster into Puget Sound and getting straight back to conquering his arrangement of Blue Moon - but I won't be attending the Feb 7 rave because I'm such a sissy over fighting for a decent seat.

I like to see as well as hear at these live performances and BF has the infuriating habit of facing the band rather give his audience a view of his stunning plectrum and fret work.

Last time, Bill stood left on stage, resolutely facing the band and sparing the audience narry a glimpse of his genius hand-i-work.

frisellFacing the stage, you need to be far left if not perched on the drummer's shoulders to get a decent view.

Et voilà! See how the great man's playing to bassist Muempfer, completely sideways to the audience. Great for the band, but paying audience beware.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Hapless Weather Man

Tyro Ohio TV weather man delivers such a cringe-making performance it's almost not funny.

Takes a while to download on slower PCs but worth sympathising with - we've all been there, albeit not on camera in full view of the whole state.

Monday, January 24, 2005


Back almost a week and skimmed the Sunday NY Times. Goodness, so much gone on since I've been away:No doubt, more anon but this'll do for now.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

High School Wish List Advice

I didn't attend an American-style High School, but one of those costly English boarding institutions with arcane rules and sarcastic masters who competed to break the weaker spirits before the prefects got at them with their muscular random beatings.

But I have two daughters going thru the US education system, and I eavesdrop on the BHS students as they swap experiences, and my eye was naturally caught by this intriguing list of What You'll Wish You'd Known in High School.

Pants on Fire

To quote Robert Wright, "We are far from the only dishonest species, but we are surely the most dishonest, if only because we do the most talking."

Two rather good sites on Natural Born Fibbers, and how to detect lies.

Friday, January 21, 2005

Satisfied with Life?

Time mag for Jan 17 wants to know how happy we are?

Also has a nifty 8-step guide to a more satisfying life:

  1. Count your blessings
  2. Practice acts of kindness
  3. Savour Lifes joys
  4. Thank a mentor
  5. Learn to forgive
  6. Invest time and energy in friends and family
  7. Take care of your body
  8. Develop strategies for coping with stress and hardships


First thing to fall out of La Differenzia's handbag in the Benaroya lobby (where, by the by, Pink Martini excelled) was the new Malcolm Gladwell.

Suddenly - burningly - I need to read it and have decided to myself for my birthday.

MG was originally booked for Sunday Jan 23rd at our very own Eagle Harbor Books. Thanks to Julie Leung, I'm alerted he's now scheduled for Monday March 7. More time to read the book and prepare sensible questions.

¤¤ Shrinking World Syndrome: Friday, I'm driving back from Safeway and NPR are interviewing someone who has me riveted.

In true Gladwellian fashion, based on his few minutes' talk about 'blinding' and conscious versus subconscious prejudices, I make an instant decision to buy whatever he's selling.

Who does it turn out to be? None other than Gladwell himself, plugging The Book.

MINOLity Report

Going thru the bills reminds me I'm due more dubious fun and games from distinctly dodgy utilities company Minol, of Addison TX.

As you recall, I filed a report last November about returning from a month abroad to a costlier water bill than the months either side.

Let's see what Minol squeezes out for my December/1st week January absence.

Thursday, January 20, 2005


What did I say? I've turned on the TV and they're *still* droning on about this misbegotten inauguration with narry a moment of poise or dignity. On all channels, to boot, so those short-sighted programmers have certainly missed a killer opportunity to give the viewing public something actually worthwhile to watch.

Instead of straining for class (as these affairs always do), why not simply offer something genuinely regal like the Trump/Knauss nuptial?

To tell the truth, I rather suspected we'd be landed with such one-track viewing so, to wrest back some dignity and class to the day, I rented the hilarious Harold & Kumar go to White Castle. Absolutely splendid movie with ace performances by the eponymous heros, a great interview by Bobby Lee (who hands in a devastating cameo as yer typical nerdy asian student), and some real beauty in the form of Paula Garcés.

Not that the day is *completely* wasted. Thanks to the webbèd world I inhabit to the increasing exclusion of actual Life, I have reading matter galore:

Lest it be thought I simply turned the TV to the wall and retired to the conservatoire with the duty-free Ardbeg, I did give it a go but caved in at the sheer *embarrassment* of the whole thing. To take just one example, there was an anthem-type moment when the band played that Say Can You See tune. Clearly, it was meant to add gravitas to the occasion, but ended up completely ruined by some buffoon leaving a 'live' microphone cranked up right in front of some over-emotional baby face in uniform who, overcome by the occasion and not realising he could be heard by all and sundry, burst into cringe-making tuneless song. Boy, I wouldn't like to be around when heads rolls over *that* mega bish.
  • On the other hand, I did get to glimpse one Nancy Pelosi. Dis donc, I don't *think* I'm into powerful women or such like but that Madam P? Very tasty.

    And didn't her daughter get to trail round with the press corps and capture on film a veritable catalogue of Bush malapropisms and pratfalls? That's the one - hilarious.

  • Heirloom

    My father's Pocket Oxford Dictionary (1924) which my mother had beautifully bound in Corfu and offered to me.

    There are two inscriptions on the flyleaf, one in my father's unmistakeable neat hand, 'D.R. Holmes, Bradford Grammar School', and another in beautiful flowing script, 'David Ronald Holmes, Ashville College, Harrogate, Xmas 1924'.

    Also given to me, the beautiful silver paper knife atop the dictionary.

    pink tsunami

    Hot date ce soir with La Differenzia Sociala Expectazione - Pink Martini at Benaroya, her treat, so it's up to me to find some posh nosh spot for after.

    If China Forbes looks as luscious as she sounds, I shall ... well, who knows what I might not get up to. I'm told the audience will be dancing in the aisles.

    Quick question ref PM's website 'Scoop': does that not look like a fashionable tsunami?

    In which case, how very topical of the band.

    Wednesday, January 19, 2005

    Road Safety

    One definite pleasure of getting home is catching up on fave reading, the BI Review. How long 'til our discerning editor is lured away for deserved big bucks to some murdochian rag?

    Good letter from Squeaky Wheels' Dana Berg on road safety including use of cell phones.

    It's an international blight and one of the highlights of my trip abroad was seeing fuzz in both Greece and Italy haul over some babbling oaf and fine them on the spot as a rumbling crowd gathered with clenching fists and dark mutterings of more summary justice they had planned once the coast was clear.

    Blogging bookseller sacked

    It's happening more and more: bloggers falling foul of their employers.

    Joe Gordon of UK-based Waterstones bookseller is the latest.

    We're coming due some landmark court case on this sort of nonsense.

    Leung Time No See

    The encouraging and eclectic Julie Leung - multi-tasking mom of Seedlings and Sprouts fame - sent me friendly mails during my ouzo-soaked euro-jaunt, welcoming me home with a pally reference to us maybe meeting on the umbrella'd Safeway patio.

    Famed for looking thru people with frosty unseeing glare, I've set myself the task of recognising her first.

    So what do I do on my first shopping jaunt home in this land of ultra-correctitude where fair maids call the cops at the slightest hint of an appreciative gaze or compliment?

    Just cruise the aisles, colliding trollies as I check out every comely Leung-alike brunette.

    I knew there was a good reason why I don't collect friends.

    Harry the Nazi

    Good old Mark Steyn. Right on target as usual, this time putting the boot into the Harry Nazi rubbish.

    Still very silly of master Hewitt to have regalia'd up, but Steyn has thye perspective.

    Farewell, Folk Hero

    Rather a gloomy headline but I feel like doffing a cap to an unsung hero in the Amazon camp.

    I doubt anyone outside the Amazon crew know his name, but the 'Zon's music editor, Marc Greilsamer, is moving on and I for one will miss his sharp eye and incisive pen.

    I never really understood the use of 'resonate' 'til I came across MG's list of all-time favourites, which does just that. Maybe for you, too.

    Here's the tribute they posted on the site:

    "[Mark's] been the unseen authority and editorial voice behind Amazon.com's Country, Folk, Jazz, and Rap pages. And, after six-plus years of working for Amazon.com, has bid us a fond farewell.

    Check out his exhaustive list of all-time favorite CDs and discover essentials that belong in any hardcore music fan's collection"


    Kilted Buffoon

    First real shock of my return: TV channel hopping last night, I came across that utterly unfunny Scotsman Craig Ferguson.

    God knows where he dredges his humourless cracks from but I suspect he is not long for our screens.

    As for guests, I know we're meant to be considerate to our ancients, but *what* possible excuse could there have been to haul some old codger on with a name like Regius Philby? I kept straining to hear some reference to whatever field he was in but sans success.

    The two clearly deserved each other and I suspect Mr McFerguson will soon be joining Regius in deserved anonymity.

    Back in the Swing

    Less easy than I thought to acclimatise, even with filling the day with distracting banalities and all the routines of getting back onto some sort of payroll. Random fin-du-jour thoughts:

    Tuesday, January 18, 2005

    Homecoming Rules

    There's nothing good about goodbyes, nor anything to stave off that first huge sadness as one turns the key in the lock and re-enters the rooms one left with joy and springy step when the whole trip lay ahead.

    I *seem* to be getting better at handling those first depressing hours.


    Al Stewart sang it right on his Orange album:
    Oh I just got back from Harlem
    Ont he very last day of Autumn
    Made it through customs, took the bus into town
    The flat looked cold and empty
    The chairs unused and dusty
    Just a few old letters and papers lying around ...
    In fact, I had a mountain of mail and overdue bills, slightly relieved by Christmas cards from pals and no less than 10 CDs, among which:

    Tuesday, January 11, 2005

    Blogging about Blogging

    Those who know will probably mock and deride but I find this rather my kind of thing.

    Plus he gives a plug to that sacked air hostess who I see has started a quasi Bloggers Bill of Rights

    In view of my own summary ejection, I should I suppose add Enthusa Enterprises to the black list but - you know - I still feel oddly embarrassed for the old squad. As if some well-meaning colleague - of portly stature, slight pretensions to dress code and corporate speke, nothwithstanding - had suddenly been asked to accelerate the pace and deliver something a leettle extra ... and promptly fallen flat on their face.

    Monday, January 10, 2005


    Only another week until my Graeco-Italian blog ceases, alas .... then it's back to Bainbridge and resumption of these here grimey grumblings.

    Jerry Springer

    I am the toast of the Tuscan upper classes and the movers 'n' shakers of the Ionian.

    No one of any class has even *heard* of Mr Springer, so the news reports in the Guardian and Torygraph mean absolutely nothing to them.

    I, on the other hand, have squandered whole swathes of hours before the Idiot Box, enthralled by the grotesque spectacle.

    My expert explanations and imitations make me the guru favourite of le tout Corfu and beyond.

    Thursday, January 06, 2005

    Burma Tsunami

    I trust Myanmar's loathsome government gets honest soon and owns up to truthfully how many of its people have perished or are suffering after the tidal wave.

    A paltry 53 dead and 21 missing is a ludicrous lie to be peddling.

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