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Monday, February 28, 2005

Book Tourney

cloud atlas By a 10 - 5 margin, the Online Tournament of Books judges awarded the prize to David Mitchell for his amazing Cloud Atlas, over Philip Roth's Plot Against America.

I'm consumed with jealous shame at Mitchell's youth and maturity as a writer ... and interviews like Catherine McWeeney's around Ghostwritten don't help one jot.

martha stewart

Martha My Dear

I predict good things for the March 7th return of the eminently fanciable Martha Stewart.

It's clear she was made a cruel example of and a convenient fall-gal for the corruption swilling about at the time.

Martha's done her time and come through like a heroine. Watch the public reaction when she moves among us again - I predict it will be little short of mass adoration.

As for the planned TV reality show, what an absolute winner it'll be. Our Martha will give The Donald a run for his money ... it will make riveting sadistic viewing.

Mark my words (with which Forbes, MarketWatch and even the infamous Henry Blodgett in his Slate column seem to agree.


Camera Tips

All bloggers use digital cameras.

Check out MalekTips for some great advice.

  • Tips arranged by category: buying the right equipment to snapping autumn foliage, waterfalls, etc
  • Tips on extra lens caps, cleaning kits, mini flashlights, tripods, etc.
  • Each pointer linked to a discussion forum
  • Sign-up list for info' on new hints as they're posted.
  • In fact, *not* just photo advice but a whole lot more - information on spy ware, office applications, and Windows
  • A treasure house of 2000+ tips in various categories.

  • Sunday, February 27, 2005

    Car Wash

    Sunday Feb 27: Impossible to move on the roads for the Chilly Hillers.

    Good excuse to wash car.

    Ho hum ... never much to do as the hosing begins.

    I thought I'd snap the aquatic experience.

    Yep, there come those flappy blue scrubbers.

    Rather a secure feeling, sitting in here all dry as all hell breaks out around me.

    Rather what I imagine a drowner would glimpse as he struggled not to go down - the circular safety of the surface's light.

    Another angle on the light.

    The shaggy cleaners always make me think of the moptop Beatles hairdo and have me checking the mirror in case my own toupée needs trimming.

    Brief respite as the washers complete stage 1 and prepare to return.

    Would make a good trivial visual question: what popular labor-saving service is seen from this unusual angle?

    Something almost claustrophobically Blair-witchy about some of these shots ...

    Wonderful threshing and drying ...

    Just before the final air-dry ... one clean car!

    les barker

    Les Barker - the fairly funny punster

    Friday 7:30pm: off to the Island Center to enjoy the famous Mancunian 'poet' and word wrangler, Les Barker.

    Les looks like an ageless gnome and is a beguiling performer, if only for his endearing habit of looking up from his script and giving a conspiratorial grin of enjoyment at his own impish wit.

    All my pals in the UK knew of Les, and during my publicity for one of Spike Milligan's books, even *he* mentioned Barker in some context.

    Les is a clever wordsmith and punster and is probably heard best in a north-of-England setting, preferably a friendly boozer where critical faculties are relaxed and the audience feels at home with his wit and accent.

    Some of his writings are almost legendary:

    What made the evening hilarious for me, however, was the *audience* - honest Bainbridgers clearly keen to show themselves hip to Les's humour and therefore lost no chance to titter, giggle or guffaw. Lord, how we hung on every word! Hardly had a pun formed itself but we were rocking in laughter and eyeing one another in mutual ecstasy.

    There was one excruciating poem based on the names of authors, half of whom the room had never heard of or certainly would not have caught the reference. Desperate lest we be thought ignorant, we snorted and giggled along.

    One splendid granite-jawed chappie in the front row - accompanied by a gorgeous serene blonde - did ace work booming out on those shy-making poems where the last line is for joining in. Ugh.

    An hour of our Les was enough for me so out I snuck, explaining to Eddie that, had this been England and Les some rural poet from the USA, I would have stayed rather than risk being thought uncool or not "getting" the poetic gems. I did spot some mystified expressions but they also looked determiined to rictus it out for the duration.

    Being as how me roots are Bradford way - and having forked out my $12 - it was OK for me to snub a fellow Brit and shove off for fish 'n' chips and mushie peas ... and a puzzling night in front of Pete Greenaway's 8½ Women

    Island Data

    When I'm in Europe, I can never answer queries about the facts and figures about Bainbridge.

    Likewise concerning Corfu: I never have the facts straight about my mother's Greek island domicile.

    Here's the lowdown on *both* isles, starting with:



    Followed by our very ownBI

    Bainbridge Island

    Hearty congrats to editrice Kathryn Haines and her crew for the magnificent Feb 26 BI Review supplement from which most of those facts are drawn.

    Special applause to the hard-working photographers whose portraits, combined with local traders' own mugshots, make this an informatively illustrated supplement.

    For 10+ years now I've been looking at people - gazing and grading, staring and stereotyping - and it's only with this kind of pictorial almanac that I can satisfy my curiosity as to what my fellow slab-faced islanders actually *do*.

    Saturday, February 26, 2005

    Happy 1st Birthday to 'The Bainbridge Islander'

    Quaint sort of paper, but fair's fair - anything that plops gratis onto the doormat deserves a little plug, if only for reaching one year.

    Come to think of it, the BI can't be *that* odd because it was thanks to their pioneering piece on Julie Leung that I got into e-correspondence with la bella blogista.

    I'm writing rubbish: spendid rag ... tiptop reading. No Friday fireside hearth should be without a copy.

    Bookmark the link for when TBI has its own site - www.bainbridgeislander.com.

    Meanwhile, use this one

    Effective Reading

    That's what I'm after - reading, absorbing, noting, memorizing.

    This seemed a more sensible article than one usually comes across on the subject.


    Firefox 1.0.1

    Load up with the next version of clever Firefox and get that patch at the same time.

    selling book

    How to Sell on Amazon

    Book, CD, DVD ... whatever.

    Here's the lowdown from someone who seems to have licked the system.

    mai cramer

    Blues After Hours

    Dateline Bainbridge Island Feb 25, 2005: What am I supposed to make of this?

    I'm sitting surfing with a favorite blues cassette rocking in the background and I suddenly realize that this particular BASF cassette is 21 years old and has been toted all round the world.

    History: we moved from Hong Kong to Texas in 1983 for my wife to be near her mother for the birth of our first child, and then up to Boston for bookish employment on Beacon Hill.

    That's where I came across wonderful WGBH radio and the mellifluous voice of Mai Cramer, hostess supreme of "Blues After Hours".

    I must have recorded countless cassettes of Mai's hypnotic hosting to send to pals around the world and show off what superb radio I had to keep me company.

    But only one seems to have survived in my own collection and I've no idea how it escaped my regular and ruthless cullings over the years as we moved from Boston back to London, back to several re-housings in Hong Kong, thence to Seattle in 1995 where even here we've switched abode enough times for a dusty ol' cassette to have been chucked.

    But gosh Mai had a lovely voice. No wonder I used to play this cassette on radio shows of my own to let listeners know what I aspired to, and in workshops for aspiring DJs to hear how it should be done.

    And what a line-up Mai treated us to at 1am on this anonymous weekend back in 1984:

  • Little Walter
  • Luther Tucker
  • Otis Span
  • Joe Turner
  • Junior Wells
  • Koko Taylor
  • Jimmy Witherspoon
  • Pinetop Perkins (of course!)
  • Albert King
  • And so many others.
  • What also struck me as I pondered the vintage of this recording was that our elder daughter - now 21 and therefore a mere 3 months younger than this tape - had grown up hearing these songs and taken a copy of it with her when she graduated to Western Washington University - so Mai's magic continues to spread pleasure, nowadays to the denizens of Bellingham WA.

    Here's the spooky bit. I've played this tape on and off for 21 years without thinking of its history, then tonight I suddenly wake to its historical value.

    I wonder to myself how Mai is faring and all those good folks back in WGBH - stalwarts such as Ron della Chiesa, also a favorite of 89.7 FM - so I Google the gang.

    My heart sags. Mai died of breast cancer three years ago to the day - Feb 25, 2002.

    Damn, that's sad. R.I.P a wonderful woman.

    That funky old cassette has suddenly become an heirloom.

    And here are Mai's Top 20 Blues CDs

    Friday, February 25, 2005


    "Committed to proving Dad wrong!"

    I'm a serious guitarist verging on the pompous and hide-bound.

    For years, my strings knuckleheadhave been the usual suspects - D'Addario, Martin, La Bella, ghs, Savarez - but I'd been hearing more and more good stuff about this Knucklehead bunch with the weird packaging and advertising.

    Today I look into Bainbridge's own excellent Deering Music and the efficient (and distractingly attractive) helper advises me politely on knucklehead familyMartin before adjusting my gaze to their stock of Knuckleheads.

    A sale! And she was right, those Redhead steel acoustics *are* cool.

    What's also good is - get this - the *extra* high-E string that comes with each set.

    Someone in Knuckle Kingdom has done their homework.

    Thursday, February 24, 2005

    Calamitous Crossing

    Madison/Wallace crosswalk: instead of moving the roadworks sign a short distance from the crosswalk, to allow good vision from both directions, the sign exactly obcures those beginning to cross east to west

    Not much chance for southbound traffic to see a pedestrian beginning to cross from the Wallace side of Madison/Wallace

    The placement of the sign dangerously obscures those stepping off the curb - leaving them particularly vulnerable to inattentive tailgaiters such as the Thompson tot.

    The Shame of Intelligence

    "We live in a culture where to be the most able to win a race around a track likely brings fame, honor, and glory, but to be amongst the most able to solve a difficult intellectual problem can bring a sense of ashamedness if one has the hubris to admit to this ability."

    An interesting article that makes some sound points.

    stella awards

    Stella Awards*

    Time once again to review the winners of the annual Stella Awards, named after 81 year-old Stella Liebeck who spilled coffee on herself and successfully sued McDonald's.

    (*Or not ~ see post-script below)

    That case inspired the Stella awards for the most frivolous, ridiculous and successful lawsuits in the United States.

    Latest winners:

    * Stop press!! An alert reader sends me Snopes on Rumors ...


    Help stop the INS-anity.

    The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has decided that Carol and Michael Gormley must be expelled in three weeks.

    Go now. Don't bother reading anything else. Put down that latte and dial one or all of

  • Senator Maria Cantwell - (202) 224-3441
  • Senator Patty Murray - (202)-224-2621
  • Rep Jay Inslee - (306)-598-2342

    Ask them politely - as readers of this blog always are - politely but firmly ... ask them to get moving on an effective plan to let the Gormleys stay.

    Thank you, and thanks to Rosie Gaudette for posting the phone numbers via the BI Review Letters column.

    Speaking of Letters, well done Mary Linford and Rick Stanton for putting the boot into Dave Thompson's ludicrous Feb 16 letter about his irresponsible tailgating son.

    I read Thompson's outburst wheh it first appeared but tossed it aside as too stupid to challenge: below a certain level of common sense, some sillinesses just drag one down to their own dismal level.

    Obviously, I'm relieved the boy didn't actually 'off' himself in the accident, altho' it does mean he's still around to drive sloppily another day, which is a bummer.

    With luck, the bang-up from the collision was rough enough to have afforded the twerp a glimpse of what responsible, grown-up driving entails - never a strong point with the young.

    As for tone and attitude of the offending letter, I think we know how Thompson *père* conducts himself behind the wheel, and where his sprog picked up his highway habit of incompetence and plain bad manners.

  • We meet at last

    Hoorah! I can remove another item from my swelling list of 43-Things to do: Meet fellow Islander and eclectic blogista Julie Leung.

    This momentous encounter took place - where else? - in the checkout line at Safeway. I was pacing up and down, trying to judge the fastest moving line ... and suddenly there she was, unloading a mountain of victuals and looking exactly like herself, maybe nicer.

    As usual in this so-called "real" life, it was fleeting and disjointed.

    In movies and the best books, the hero is impeccably dressed, not a hair out of place and wallet bulging with all the right credits cards. To allow him to engage the fragrant heroine in debonair conversation, the movie checkout line is always empty *plus* a manservant there to carry the hero's purchases out to the limo. This leaves Master free to swap witty repartee with aforesaid leading lady. Nice image.

    *I* on the other hand was at my scruffiest uncombed, having just showered after a sluggish workout, my hair fluffy in the geriatric beatnik style it favors.

    Mrs Leung, of course, totally serene and organized as she wheeled in supplies to feed an army and - speaking of which - at the same time keeping control of a flotilla of unnaturally well-behaved children.

    With me, shopping with even one daughter used to reduce me to a sweaty wreck, capped at the checkout with the dahling timing her escape for exactly when I was tapping in the account details.

    I don't know what came over me, usually so silent:

    "Are you Julie Leung?"

    She was, we shook hands ... at which point I went straight into my shy mode, asking how the BC NorthernVoice gig had gone but really just wanting to get out of her way so she could focus on shopping and offspring herding. I was aided in my flight by the fact that the sheer purchasing power in the Leung trolley made the queue the very *worst* one to join.

    (Actually, I knew perfectly well how BC had gone from her Seedlings blog - she brought tears to at least one pair of eyes). Do read it; J has such a kindly truthful style, the complete opposite of my own snide and juvenile offerings.


    Rules for Buskers

    Bravo the Seattle Center for putting its administrative foot down over rules governing the behavior of al fresco entertainers - particularly the likes of "Magic" Mike.

    Trampling on his 'constitutional rights' just by regulating his cavortings? What absolute nonsense: I trust the federal court will lose no time in hurling this idiotic notion from the calendar *and* sending Michael packing with a flea in his ear.

    See? This is the ugly side of living in a proud and free country - not content with the generous freedoms they already enjoy, the spongers and ne'er-do-wells act like spoilt children until they're given even more.

    As hinted at in the title of this blog, I too was once of those ranks - a singer/guitarist in the streets and underground rail stations of north-west and central London.

    The only rule was to make as much money as possible and not get nicked by the rozzers.

    The idea of actual licences and permission was unheard of and would have caused an uproar, as it did when Covent Garden went all sissified and dictated who could or could not play there. Not that it affected the real pros among us: I don't ever remember making more than a chicken's feed £18 an hour, which isn't worth leaving bed for.

    Tuesday, February 22, 2005

    conseca book


    Tuesday Feb 22 on TV-lite NBC's 'Today' program: José Canseco talking to Matt Lauer about accusations and names in his book concerning baseball's rampant use of steroids :

    Within the month, a big "event" (sic) will prove the truth of Canseco's claims.

    Brave words. The clock is ticking.

    Update Feb 26: death threats on the signing tour

    Truthful Blogging

    Once again I'm reminded why I so much enjoy reading Julie Leung.

    Only a palpably honest person expresses doubts about a writing voice and then ponders their "inauthentic false dual life". And JY posts her misgivings in such charming and genuine terms.

    As if answering herself, Julie also shares with us the shrewd response she got from a Lisa - a splendidly clear and authentic voice:

    "At best, blogs can be a sort of prison testament. I'm trapped here in this life. In this body. In this society, in this family, in this job, in this system where if I tell the real truth, I suffer.

    Writing policies to a certain extent is a way of saying Uncle to the Man."

    Truth is a question I myself wrestle with, albeit to no very firm conclusion.

    First off, I thrill to the whole Pandora's Box blog culture - it's new, it's dangerous, it's fire. We rush to play with it:

    Tiens! But I digress from my topic of interest - a clear and honest 'voice'.

    I find it helpful to separate writing technique from the emotional vertigo of sharing intimacies.

    Early blogging efforts are bound to feel 'fake': we are *writing* - creating, inventing - and most of us lack the practice at spotting what in our verbal armory works and what doesn't .

    We don't write like we talk; articulacy and elocution skills are no indication of how we succeed on paper. Look at any dialog in the novels of David Guterson: sonorous and ornate on the page, but try reading even a phrase out loud and the creak of timber is deafening.

    A crucial point touched on by Julie is how do we handle the risky business of going out on a limb and revealing ourselves to complete strangers?

    Here, I'm reminded of a trick that Larry Olivier used for his stage performances: just before curtain up, he'd peek out into the auditorium and choose one face in the audience to whom to play. This gave him the emotional connection and focus he needed to bring a 'voice' to the rôle.

    Surely, the same thing goes for blogging? How can we not distrust our authenticity of voice when we're confiding something to a faceless readership? The trick has to be to write with some trusted person in mind.

    When we have some confidence to share, do we not choose a tone and vocabulary tuned to whomever we're addressing? And we also change our presentation for each new confidante, to the extent of editing and altering our content like a work in progress - all for the goal of effective communication. hamletI'm reminded of that well-worn Hamlet quote, "This above all: to thine own self be true ... thou canst not then be false to any man". Doesn't this also fit the sort of writing we're up to? If we imagine the reader - lover, family member, work colleague - and use a 'voice' and style that *they'd* find true, doesn't this give us the moral and stylistic compass by which to 'steer' our postings?

    I'm constantly revising the tone or thrust of a piece, changing the focus for a more suitable 'reader', even if that person is the last reader on earth I'd ever want to get wind of my 'confession'.

    I've planted Lord *knows* how many clues and references to my illogical and apparently undying (hence intensely inconvenient) adoration for the Lily of Lonely Pines, but - dude! - I'd die a thousand embarrassed deaths if I thought she'd ver *read* such puppy mooning. Gosh, just thinking of it has brought me out in a sweat ...

    So what's the answer? Pick someone to write to and let that be the voice of the moment? It works for me, as does the 'odious curmudgeon' voice I affect as an all-purpose vehicle when unable to think of anyone remotely interested in my puffed up opinions on the topic at hand.

    If I had to choose one blogging voice, I'd try for "Letters to my Father": adult, respectful, and grammatically correct. No bad voice to try for in Life, come to think of it.

  • The luxury of a second voice? The vocab and risqué tone I enjoy with my brother.
  • A third? I haven't yet nailed that one, but it's a dangerous siren voice for which I'd go without nourishment or company to make my own.

  • Moon Over Winslow

    What about this weather? Look at that moon. Look at that sapphire sky.

    Baggage handler

    I intend my daughters to grow up typical upstanding Americans, affording themselves the very best in the way of counseling and psycho-therapeutic advice.

    On their behalf, I am ever on the look-out for "baggage" with which to bend the quack's ear, adding to the visits needed and hence ensuring the wealth and well-being of those future shrinks.

    This sign encapsulates what I'm after.

    Monday, February 21, 2005

    Upping the vigil ante

    20:00hrs, Marie-Laure drops in and I invite her along to the Carol/Michael Gormley vigil on the Green.

    "À quoi ça sert, cette vigile?" she asks - What purpose does it serve, this vigil? she asks.

    Do we take money? Candles? Mes expressions les plus sincères? My most devout expressions?

    I confess I really don't know *what* practical use these gatherings serve?

    I had to smile at that phrasing. Back in the late 1960s, French folkiste Hugues Aufray "owned" the Dylan canon, singing translations of his songs in beguiling French.

    aufrayDon't Think Twice's opening line, "It ain't no use to sit 'n' wonder why, babe" translated into

    "A quoi ça sert chercher à comprendre?"

    Literally, "To what does it serve to seek to understand ...?"

    How I rolled and gargled my newly acquired gallic 'airrs'.

    Michelangelo Merisi

    I have itchy feet - again.

    Between Feb 23 - May 22, I must hie me to London's National Gallery for its Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio exhibition.

    It hurts just to gaze on web repros of that tortured genius's masterpieces.

    Press write-ups like this only whet the appetite.

    fox pic

    Reynardine defiance

    Phew! A glimpse of spine.

    Perhaps there's hope for my fellow Brits yet.

    protestBravo the Countryside Alliance.

    Bravo those who turned out to stick it to a toytown proletarian government's effort at a "hunt ban".

    Sunday, February 20, 2005

    wake up

    Reveille of the Dolls

    Never let it be said that this blog backs down from the *big* questions.

    What time should the kids get up in the morning?

    I'm a pencil-'tached son of Albion of the old school (and even more ancient university), so I know where I and mine stand on these Eternal Verities.

    But what do *you* do when scientific evidence and common sense collide?

    Light fuse and retire. Clear the decks for action.

    Angry Gods

    What is this Curse of Idiocy that blights the island? Why is Manitou angry?

    What have we done to stir that Pointy-capped Computer in the Sky into multi-tasking the mischiefs currently raining down on us?

    Saturday, February 19, 2005

    Aught for our Comfort

    Saturday morning, waiting for the 11:25 ferry. Three cheers for 'Commuter Comforts' and their expert friendly bellissima serveuses ...

    Props to 43

    I don't know how these startups operate but ^5 the guys at the remarkable 43 Things.

    I had a glitch, wrote in, and got the sort of prompt friendly treatment + feedback that made me feel like there's a Jeeves 43-er with my name on his lapel.

    If you haven't checked it out, yet to experience its cleverness and general fun-ness, run-don't-walk before they intro 'membership'.

    Some great 'things' that folks want to do - including "find 43 bugs in 43 things".

    Ha ha, can't say some of those geeks out there lack a sense of humor.

    Oh all right, you can.

    Northern Voice

    Am grumpy at not being able to cruise up to Vancouver for Northern Voice's Feb 19 blogging conference and our own Julie Leung's contribution.

    "Making Masks" sounds really interesting and just Julie's presence on the "Personal Blogging" discussion panel would justify the trip.

    The idiotic thing about not being able to go is that I have so many friends from my life in Hong Kong and this would be the perfect chance to meet up and kick off our Rooster year in suitable form.

    Almost *too* many friends, come to think of it. There was a time when hardly a bustling Hong Kong week went by without someone leaving or some scion of a distinguished family jetting off to prepare the post-1997 home.

    It even acquired the ghastly word joke name of Hongcouver ... yuk.

    What I laugh at when I hear of Vancouver is the memory of bumping into TK Woo outside his favorite D'Aguilar Street tea house and, remembering that son Vincent was over buying up downtown BC, I asked TK what it was like.

    "Terrible! Listen, Chris'fer, don't bother go there! I was there five day, couldn't wait to come back."

    "But TK, you're moving there? I thought it'd be like home ..."

    "You know how many Chinese there now? Soo many! Really crowded. Terrible. Just like Hong Kong!"

    It'd've been good to look up the Woo clan ... another time, another conference.

    Specious Speccie ...

    I have a subscription to the British weekly magazine, The Spectator, and most enjoyable reading it is, too.

    £100 well spent, in my opinion.

    I have also been used to referring back to archived articles online.

    I visit the site today and find that:

    "We are sorry, but subscribers to the print edition of the magazine will need to take out a separate subscription to access all of the online material ... £50 a year (plus VAT where appropriate) for 52 weeks access, or £5 (plus VAT) for four weeks access ... as a "SPECIAL INTRODUCTORY OFFER – for a limited period an annual subscription to the website will cost just £30"

    Hmm. Even so, for £30, I want to see a comma after that 'period'.

    But what bounders! Which of my other mag subs charge on top of the paper edition? None. It's all that philandering that's gone on: we're now expected to finance Boris's hi-jinx with the minx Petronella (and to add insult to financial injury, I don't even read *her* columns)

    With all the extra loot coming in, you'd think they could afford a superior web master:

    HTML atop the registration page reads:

    Warning: mysql_fetch_array(): supplied argument is not a valid MySQL result resource in /usr/local/apache_php/share/websites/www.spectator.co.uk/htdocs/cookie_check.php on line 30

    Friday, February 18, 2005

    m jackson

    Peter Panned

    What a brilliant bold cheeky coup of those who booked and those who let it slip thru, to have had the 10:15pm advert slot punctuating Martin Bashir's chilling exposé of the hapless Michael Jackson include a commercial for the Depp movie.

    And what a sad, grisly story it is, too.

    Jackson is clearly innocent, in the core meaning of that word, albeit suffering dementia juveniliae of the saddest kind. Unless he cops a plea along those lines, this will go harshly for him.

    Hélas, this circus has everything for a voracious public deprived the thrill of Christians and lions at dinner time.

    bank of america

    Blessèd Bank of America

    So nice to sing praises for a change and be forgiven my trespasses.

    Last December, just before taking off to loll in the Tuscan Greek sun, I foolishly - nay, idiotically - mailed a signed but otherwise empty BoA check which was stolen from the recipient's mailbox and written out for a hefty G note.

    Many phone calls later from Italy, plus visits to the bank and fuzz on my return, I was left with the glum verdict that it was my fault (which was it was, unquestionably) and the spondulix was gone.

    Today came a phone call from the bank's excellent fraud division, rightly chiding me but making the generous exception in view of my clean record to refund me the sum.

    Mega props to Bank of America for hiring good people and giving them the flexibility to take pity on a pauper.

    As for *you*, Ms Carrie Herren of D/L WADL HERRECL239JI of 1st National 6779, walking around with your purse bulging with more than a grand of my hard-earned spondulix ... do you feel the chill winds of your malevolent karma breezing up your skirts?

    Estragon Mustard

    On top of all the literary bounty I receive from the British Isles, I also make sure my taste buds are catered for by sending stoic notes back from the colonies, pretending to put a brave face on the culinary desert in which I tell everyone I languish. Among my pretenses, that:

    Today it paid dividends: wrapped in my favourite reading, "Aquarist and Pond keeper", this magnifique jar of Edmond Fallot's Moutarde Verte à l'Estragon - 'Au vinaigre, fabriquée à la meule de pierre.'

    Yum - bangers 'n' mash, for sure, tonight!

    Robert Louis Stevenson

    Photographed January 1890 by H Walter Barnett.

    What an amazingly *modern* face he had.

    Teens in Bloom

    Judy Blume's explicit novels for teenagers have been banned in some American schools, but that hasn't stopped her from becoming the first children's writer to win the US National Book Award for lifetime achievement.

    Nice write-up by the London Daily Telegraph's Helen Brown - complete with highly appropriate pic.

    Judy Blume

    And here is the lady herself ... I always wondered what this legend-in-her-own-lifetime looked like.

    In the 30 years that Blume has been writing, 10-yr-olds now dress like Rachel Stevens and read Cosmo Girl ... meanwhile, at the other end of the age scale, just the thought of Judy Blume seems to send grown women into a teenage turmoil of capital letters and exclamation marks.

    In fact, those of Blume's *British* readers now in their 30s had an additional treat in the form of the all exotic suburban Americana in her stories - Oreo cookies, square dancing and summer camp. Spiffing!

    Thursday, February 17, 2005


    Like all armchair TV critics, I am quick to pontificate in all areas where my ignorance is deepest.

    Yesterday afternoon's juxtaposition of Dr Phil and Oprah brought home to me the complications of a program scheduler's life.

    2pm - Doc P at his granite-jawed best, mediating between feuding families and doing an heroic job bringing siblings Jay and Carole back from the brink over a money squabble. Jay was being feeble and dithering and Phil would have none of it, *making* him square up to the hard decision.

    3pm - Oprah Winfrey talking to - among others - Queen of Mean, Anne Robinson, about a painful weak link in her own life when booze brought her so low she was declared an unfit mother and lost custody of her baby daughter, Emma. The show was reuniting them after 16 years.

    Winfrey was pathetic. She had nothing to contribute to any discussion or repartee that didn't reflect back on her own stardom. The guests might have been sharing some minor peeve for all the understanding or sympathy their hostess came across with.

    The other guests were also a mother/daughter lineup, this time it was the daughter on the sauce who - in some distress at the memory - recounted being nabbed on a DUI while driving with her young daughter in the back.

    "Do you *get* it?" OW kept asking, "I mean, do you get it now? ... I used to be a journalist and people who drive drunk make me .... rrrgghhh!!".

    Well, gosh - there's some sage and muscular advice for someone wrestling with demons to build a better life."

    The contrast between Phil and Winfrey was so stark and so embarrassing that I simply turned the show off before she could demonstrate any deeper gaucheries.


    Whatever each week's 60 Minutes has delivered, I invariably find Andy Rooney good value.

    Here's a transcript from a recent Rooneyesque grumble:

    • "I don't think being a minority makes you a victim of anything except numbers. The only things I can think of that are truly discriminatory are things like the United Negro College Fund, Jet Magazine, Black Entertainment Television, and Miss Black America.
    • Try to have things like the United Caucasian College Fund, Cloud Magazine, White Entertainment Television, or Miss White America, and see what happens ... Jesse Jackson will be knocking down your door.

    • Guns do not make you a killer. I think killing makes you a killer. You can kill someone with a baseball bat or a car, but no one is trying to ban you from driving to the ball game.
    • I believe they are called the Boy Scouts for a reason, that is why there are no girls allowed. Girls belong in the Girl Scouts!

      Are you listening Martha Burke?

    • I think that if you feel homosexuality is wrong, it is not a phobia, it is an opinion.
    • I have the right *not* to be tolerant of others because they are different, weird, or tick me off.
    • When 70% of the people who get arrested are black, in cities where 70% of the population is black, that is not racial profiling - it is the Law of Probability.
    • I believe that if you are selling me a milkshake, a pack of cigarettes, a newspaper or a hotel room, you must do it in English! As a matter of fact, if you want to be an American citizen, you should have to speak English!
    • My father and grandfather didn't die in vain so you can leave the countries you were born in to come over and disrespect ours.
    • I think the police should have every right to shoot your sorry ass if you threaten them after they tell you to stop. If you can't understand the word "freeze" or "stop" in English, see the above lines.
    • I don't think just because you were not born in this country, you are qualified for any special loan programs, government sponsored bank loans or tax breaks, etc., so you can open a hotel, coffee shop, trinket store, or any other business.
    • We did not go to the aid of certain foreign countries and risk our lives in wars to defend their freedoms, so that decades later they could come over here and tell us our constitution is a living document; and open to their interpretations.
    • I don't hate the rich. I don't pity the poor.
    • I know pro wrestling is fake, but so are movies and television. That doesn't stop you from watching them.
    • I think Bill Gates has every right to keep every penny he made and continue to make more. If it ticks you off, go and invent the next operating system that's better, and put your name on the building.
    • It doesn't take a whole village to raise a child right, but it does take a parent to stand up to the kid; and smack their little behinds when necessary, and say "NO!"
    • I think tattoos and piercing are fine if you want them, but please don't pretend they are a political statement. And, please, stay home until that new lip ring heals. I don't want to look at your ugly infected mouth as you serve me French fries!
    • I am sick of "Political Correctness." I know a lot of black people, and not a single one of them was born in Africa; so how can they be "African-Americans"? Besides, Africa is a continent. I don't go around saying I am a European-American because my great, great, great, great, great, great grandfather was from Europe.
    • I am proud to be from America and nowhere else - And if you don't like my point of view, tough..."
    Speaking of political correctness, that reminds me of a beef I must post about that other bane of our lives that's got so out of hand - accursèd multiculturalism.

    Ghostly Guitars

    Feb 16: Gorgeous day. I look round from the computer and the reflection of the guitars in the porch door gives them an ethereal look.

    Wednesday, February 16, 2005

    Victoria's Secret

    Last week's shipping foray to Kitsap Mall was intense enough to require Anna to leave me guarding the spoils of the *first* expedition as she dived back in for further booty. Thus, I made an amusing discovery:

    The sight of a single bloke nonchalantly dangling a V's Secret bag has an immediate effect on certain of the populace, namely wives out with husbands.

    First the good lady's eye is caught by the distinctive pink bag, next she looks at the man who's carrying it; finally, she nudges hubby and directs his attention, as if to say, "See? There's a dutiful husband who still finds his wife attractive enough to buy her something sexy from Victoria's Secret." Pause. " ... so, honey ... when're you going to get me that cute li'l [insert item], hmm?"

    Natch, the husbands give me a fierce glare as if to say, 'Traitor!'

    The sad part of this story is that none of the wives that *I* noticed were in any fit state or shape to be seen dead in a Victorian creation. Perhaps that was why their tactful spouse had been holding back.

    Whoops! Almost inserted the *spoof* link ...

    Invisible Stop Sign

    For almost 2 years of Saturdays or Sundays - courtesy of the generous and understanding Candace and Geoff Daigle of the prize-winning Daigle Design team - I have been parking my jalopy in their ferry-convenient car park in order to commute over to Seattle to toil for The Man.

    I arrive via the 305 and turn left in off Olympic Drive. But driving home at the end of the day, I prefer to head north, away from the cars streaming off the ferry and using the way pictured.

    The other night, as I eased past the parked Police cars, my passenger asked was it not somewhat cheeky to run a NO ENTRY sign right on the Fuzz's doorstep?

    I of course gave her a withering look as if to ask, "*What* Stop Sign? Dolt!" but then the scales fell from my eyes. I saw what she was gesturing at.

    Blimey! How long has *that* been there?"

    Speaking of Daigle Design, Candace and Geoff are themselves rather well designed - certainly too good-looking ever to play themselves in any movie of their brilliant design careers.

    People would think the casting director had simply gone for the most glam actors and dismiss the biopic as fake.

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