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Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Tabloids Getting It Right

As does the ever-readable Chip G over the Simpson/Lachey split.

I'm an inveterate scrutiniser of the supermarché tabloids, much to the blushes of my girls who are torn between distancing themselves and staying close enough to load the trolley with make-up fripperies on dad's dollar.

There was a patch when the late and lissome Princess Di adorned the covers - grisly pics of the Paris prang, as I recall - and Safeway blocked the view with cardboard lest we Bainbridge delicati swooned with horror when we should be efficiently forking out the readies for our purchases.

Just the thing to get me going. With a "By Jove, what's all this about, then?" and a "I say - poor show!", I'd pluck the offending rag from behind the tasteful covering and give it a good old gaze, everyone else furtively craning for a good old peer.

OK for me to do it - what with being a vulgar Brit, she was *my* princess so it was allowed. Of course, it was never anything effectively stomach-churning; I just thought the whole cover-up was a bit precious and playing the tabloids game.

But back to Nick and Jess: I get all my inside info' from the younger girl who'd shared the intriguing tidbit that the bosomy J had started life crooning sweetly in the choir, soon needing to be moved from the front row lest she inflame the faithful with her provocative good looks.

She and Nick appeared on some Oprah-style chat show where Nick was describing his first glimpse of his belovèd.

There he was - designer stubble and chiseled good looks - Miss Jessica beside him, all cleavage and simpering smile and a veritable napkin of a skirt showing legs up to the wazoo.

Apparently, Mr Lachey spotted this vision across the room and thought, "Hullo - she looks a bit of all-right ... nice rack."

The look on his lady's face ... "nice *rack*?

"Uh oh," I muttered, "shouldn't she have known this before, what sort of bloke she's tangling with?" Besides, she *does* sport a rather fanciable 'balcon', as the French have it, so why the prissy darted glance?

"Dad - she sings in the choir - she's not like that."

Memo to self to have a "word" with my darling about the whole complicated subject of birds, bees and choristers.

As for re-arranging the line-up, much easier and more effective, surely, to give Miss Simpson a solo now and then? That'd kill any lust from the pews stone dead.

Speaking of the bogus Oprah, hadn't she vowed to resurrect her Hermès humiliation when her show returned in September? Turning up after the Paris store had closed and taking offence at not having the red carpet rolled out?

I'd say that was the consummate confirmation that the shop still retained some class and discernment. On hearing the news, I immediately fired off a grateful email to the PR department with an online purchase of a brace of scarves and one of their impeccably tasteful handbags as a surprise prezzie for Mrs Busker.

Stop Press: No sooner do I pen the Lachey-Simpson piece than I stroll out to Safeway where what else greets me than Star mag's front page announcement of Jessica being pregnant and a possible Nick-retrieval.

I don't think so: the chorister is snapped in some hideous green creation guaranteed to dispel all and any thought of rack groping.

xmas cocktails

Ultra-Lounge Christmas Cocktails

It's coming up a year to the day when - equally unfettered by job or income - I fled to Europe for an extended and overdue reunion with mother in Greece and brother in Tuscany.

I'm asked why I'm not profiting again this year from the same enforced idleness and the answer is clear: spadework.

In fact, that whole Greece-Italy blog is rife with grim reminders of what seemed to be almost a daily occurrence: leaves to rake, earth to dig, twigs to clear, drains to unblock, leafy stuff to trim, barrows to trundle, gravel to level ... groan, it was like a minefield of a thousand-and-one 'pièges-jardinières' to trap one into bending or lugging over some dismal trench of loam.

Yikes and blimey - no thank you - assez c'st assez.

But let us not dwell on such unpleasantness. I have happier memories, especially *planning* the trip when Anna and I were scouting round for some suitable gift to give her sophisticated uncle.

I knew it the moment I saw it - Christmas Cocktails ("Hi-fi holiday cheer from Santa's pad ... eighteen hot toddies [which] will surely melt your snowcone ... you're in Yulesville, baby.")

Even a helpful "File under 'Lounge' ", which would raise a hefty guffaw from Busker frère.

It was too perfect and we had to retire to Metrios for large hot chocolates and whipped cream for me to set the scene:

  • Pete's house - or rather houseS, since it's a three-part nunnery from some ridiculously youthful century - is the soul of good taste,
  • The last place where ultra-lounge music would befoul the air.
  • We'd pimp up in our flashiest gear
  • Cocktails of the flashiest
  • Pencil 'taches and Brylcreem'd hair
  • Swaying and slithering around in best lounge lizard fashion.

    Even Amazon.com's Martin Keller has fun in his review:

    "A perfect martini-and-mistletoe combo, Christmas Cocktails will gaily seduce you with its bevy of nostalgic and occasionally campy holiday fare. Vocal vixens Peggy Lee, Julie London (her "I'd Like You for Christmas" will melt the ice cubes in your fridge), Kay Starr, and Nancy Wilson join forces with perennial crooners such as Lou Rawls, Dean Martin, and the immortal Nat "King" Cole, along with a handful of instrumental big-band numbers and odd, at times cheese-ball-shaped jazz organ pieces from Jimmy McGriff and the flammable Eddie Dundstedter, among others. But the essential item that makes plunking down your pelts for this very chi-chi set is none other than Billy May's lovably kitschy workout called "Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer Mambo." It's a scream. The package comes complete with its own cocktail minimanual and the recipes for Hot Toddys and Hot Tom and Jerrys. Garishly retro and naughtily nostalgic, this kind of slinky Christmas gift should probably be illegal in many prudish states."

    And what did I do? Packed everything else *but* the cocktails CD, so I'm mailing it to Italy in good time for everyone to enjoy it *this* year.

  • Monday, November 28, 2005

    Laid Off #4

    Dateline Monday Nov 28, 1100hrs:Further puzzlement.

    Mail from O quoting all previous mails and telling me that there'd' been a new CS suprema in my seat the very next day after Ieft. Still no official notice of my leaving.

    Did I mind that he'd forwarded my mail to others I'd worked well with?>

    Entre-nous rumbling in the ranks about presumption they needed someone to look over their shoulders.

  • How was it? Because certain folks none too happy about the way this all handled.

    Customers: They've been calling my extension and, far from getting a disconnected, getting some female vox who a) Knows nothing about our previous chats, b) Is giving them grief about fixing what I'd been on the way to solving,

    What's going on?

    Meanwhile, I'm applying for work and need that CEO rave reference.

    I beg everyone to keep schtoom. All my misunderstanding.

  • Saturday, November 26, 2005

    Basement Bargain

    Black 'n' blue Friday as shoppers grunt 'n' grapple for cheapo bargains.

    TV news angle it as unruly greed and you know what? They're right.

    All year these fatso lards of junk food gobblers knock back the freedom fries and colas and scoff at hints of obesity. Come bargain barging time, when it'd help to have half a wheeze's worth of wind to carry them thru the glass doors, in waddle these pear-shaped blobs, only to be laid flat on their multi chins at the slightest nudge off kilter.

    I say ha ha, and back to your nachos and chips and stretch-panted wheezing for the remote.

    You want to look like Jabba the Hutt? Fine.

    Just don't act so indignant and surprised that your annual cantilevering off the recliner hasn't delivered a sylph-like sprinter to the sales.

    I watched some of those roly-poly shoppers in action today and, unlike one of the security guards who had to avert his eyes from the sheer rotunda of fleshly horror, I found the mélée absolutely hilarious.

    In comparison, those redneck monster truck duels are twinkle-toed pas-de-deux of the most gyroscopic delicate.

    Friday, November 25, 2005

    Laid Off #3

    Dateline 1000hrs, Nov 24: Puzzlement.

    Mails from O and M quoting my original mail with the news that

  • Apart from me, no one has told them anything about my leaving.
  • There seems to be a new voice on my phone line, as of 0900hrs the next day, Tues Nov 22. Pushy and direct, unbriefed on what's what.
  • No news of planned overseer in head office to liaise with Bainbridege branch over traffic.
  • What's going on?

    Customers: heart-warming sympathy, not a few from dudes who turn out to own their own company and offering interviews.

    Reply to all: to former colleagues asking them to hold fast and wait - and, please, keep this under their belt.

    I'm applying for new jobs and I need the CEO's promised glowing reference.

    Drive past old office and see F on his wi-fi phone out on the deck with a new face; sharp-faced lady.

  • Unlucky 13

    Emailed to pals this bit of useless booky trivia and got such a prompt reaction it might be worth the light of blog.

    I suggested it begged the question, 'So what? We may be nowhere near a book in 2007', but clearly not.

    For smartie-pantaloon devotees of one-up-personship, come mid-2006, when all around are gasping and predicting chaos, you can say "Knew that. Old hat."

  • January 1, 2007: Fuddy-duddy 10-digit ISBN will become a 13-digit number.

  • Not just no more new 10-digit ISBNs, but recalculation to 13-digit form *all* ISBNs assigned to avail titles and conversion of unused ISBNs.
  • Touch-ette of Biblio_Y2K there.
  • Do we sense webby overtime for certain online book listers ... ?

  • Thursday, November 24, 2005

    paper plane

    The Ultimate Paper 'Plane

    Report in the Guardian of some Leeds students devoting their time to sensible stuff such as researching the ultimate paper plane.

    As you follow the pictures, it reads like the same old basic flyer - then you get to #6's fiddly bits with the nose and all the aerodynamic wing stuff and it starts looking fun.

    The only thing I'm dubious over is the legitimacy of bringing in scissors and tape.

    Wednesday, November 23, 2005

    Customer Service Phones

    Fascinating - and timely seasonal - piece on this morning's NPR with "entrepreneur" Paul English being interviewed about his guide to big biz customer service phone systems.

    He was telling us the quickest way to reach a human - a topic that resonates, having for some years been one of those much-sought phonistas.

    For me, the most interesting fact to surface was what a common solution it seems to be, to dial a number and then hit a succession of 0s to hopskip over the next recorded voice. Mr English seems to hit 0-0 in quick succession, whereas I time them, waiting for the next recorded voice until I reach the link for a human.

    Certainly, it works with UPS, whose 1-800-PICK-UPS (742-5877) number I call several times a day and bless the way those 0s speed me over the taped stuff to an actual helpful human.

    Ellen Hobbs is another. Her distinctly UN-clichéd page blows the cover on that elusive 1-800-201-7575 Amazon.com numéro.

    She's also considerate enough to ask us to go easy on the rep at the end of that line: by the time customers gets thru, not only do they have their original complaint, but they're doubly irate from the effort of tracing the number.

    In fact, Ms Hobbs credits another useful page as inspiration for her success.

    Tuesday, November 22, 2005

    Laid Off #2

    Noon, Nov 22: Dang, people are nice. A flood of emails thanking, sympathizing, etc

    Typical O - hardass business:

  • What had I said to X, Y or Z?
  • Can JD hang on til *next* week, or should he grab a PB2 from warehouse 4 and ship it under consignment?
  • Had I contact manufacturers A, B and C to let them know I was outta the game and to contact him direct on inventory?
  • Was I ok?

    From customers"

  • Regrets and thanks
  • Who do they deal with in the meantime?
  • Can they still call me at home?

    Weepy stuff

  • Let Go

    Dateline 1845hrs Monday 21st Nov: Still un peu stunned - and I mean every possible pun in my choice of Impact face for the headline.

    Got straight onto the keyboard for therapy so why stop now?

    4:45pm ~ just me and R left in the office and I'm pottering away on some last-minute notes so I can hit the phones informed on the morrow when R calls me round.

    "Bad news."

    "Oh dear," I say - we've had bad news all this month so this must be a new ad of manure to hit the fan.

    "Yes," says R.

    I sit down and he tells me straight out, "You're laid off as of now."

    Ulp gulp chill numbness.

    "How awful," all I can think of to say.

    Well, to be expected I suppose: a start-up, new systems to get in place, new customers to woo, old head office to placate, VCs to keep happy.

    R very nice, admitted he'd agonized over the decision and hated to see me go.

    Inevitable in a way: this whole month has been plagued with problems of liaison with the branch office delivery centers, shipping delays and general mis-communication with our east coast headquarters.

    On the customer service side, I've been fibbing and pleading and begging customers to be patient just a few more days, but to no avail. We were mired too deep.

    R very up-front about his tough decision, to completely reorg my post and wrap it into a combination traffic manager-cum-CS point person, based in the east coast head office.

    I packed my stuff - notebooks, lamp I'd brought from home, cork board, etc - and solemnly shook R by the hand before trudging the 7-min walk home.

    Sad. Just before Thanksgiving, that I'd envisaged as a fun time with the girls, lashing out a bit with the cash, decent nosh at the Madoka, a few treats from doting papa, folding money slipped under the table ... no longer viable.

    Home and a comforting cuppa during which I realized that so much of my work was minute-to- minute and largely in my head that, come tomorrow, neither customers nor colleagues would know what the heck was going on.

    Luckily, between my Excel chart organigram and notes, I had all necessary emails with which to do a swan-song finale and see everyone OK. It'd take a while to interview for my replacement, during which I didn't want *further* chaos to ensue simply because no one knew what had been arranged ....

    Crafted individual mails to key customers who were waiting for updates or solutions, craving their indulgence for being written to from a private address and explaining that it was highly irregular but desperate times called for etc.

    Bcc'd O, M and C along with apologies and regrets and suggestions of how to take up the slack.

    Brewed another pot and shoved the dulcet tones of Vienna Teng on the stereo.

    Resisted phoning S and the girls with the bad news and prepared comfort supper of shepherd's pie.

    Gloom: I'd been so looking forward to this Xmas as a time of merriment and lavish gifts and now it's back to job-seeking and groveling to punks half my age for some puny writing task or dogs-body call-center employment.

    Death squad for Gary?

    Dateline: 'Nam

    Gadd-zooks - seems not long ago that Gary Glitter was fingered by the *British* gutter press for larking around with those youngsters ... Now's he's been nabbed by the Vietnamese lot, and they're not quite so tolerant of such hanky-panky.

    Monday, November 21, 2005


    I'm the only person I know who finds the curiously-named Bono wholly unconvincing.

    I don't even know whence he took that curious nomen.

    Is it some abbreviation? Of a modest nickname like Paddy "Cui Bono" O'Reilly (or whatever his proper name is)?

    I've just watched him on 'Sixty Minutes", still with those pretentious eye-coverings that can hardly serve duty against light of any brightness, spouting his standard gloss, albeit with that Robin Williams-style wiggling of his fine chin and regulation sine qua non  brown furrow and serioso expression.

    I've no doubt he's emoting good stuff but I find the whole self-conscious visual more distracting than the words.

    I'm told I have somewhere in my collection a "Joshua" album, and that someone called "Edge" is listed on guitar.

    I don't now want to trace it in case it turns out to be true.

    Bizarre performance.

    MetroMarket Café

    I'm torn between keeping my new best secret rendez-vous a secret, and keeping other oicks like me out, and giving it deserved publicity and attracting customer that'll keep it in business.

    #1 There is nestled in the foyer of a posh Knechtel Way condo *the* most civilized and welcoming cafetaria.

    The guv'nor - and I really should know his name by now - that silver-goateed expert whose expertise I've enjoyed from the *old* Winslow Way caff when it was worth noshing at, glimpsed him in Nola's, and now here.

    Just when I thought I couldn't improve on a 7-min commute, this haven pops up half-way en route to Bureau Busker that not only delivers morning java but solid luncheon fare.

    Attentive staff, discreet surroundings (more of which later), newspapers to peruse, and a generally up-market ambience not available on the main commuter routes where the riff-raff assemble.

    Their business card boasts Metromarket catering for "event logistics & a world of flavor" (sic, fashionably lowered case and vulgar misuse of the ampersand) giving an address over in Miller Road, which I trust will send the polloi on a merciful wild-goose chase.

    menuForgive the gi-normous menu. I'd hoped to convey all the goodies and their prices but my camera can't handle it.

    To date, I've enjoyed

  • Cup of soup with focaccia - $4.50
  • Peppered roast beef baguette sarnie (red pepper aïoli plus organic greens - $7.00
  • Caesar's salad w/ lemon-roasted chicken breast - steal at $6.00
  • Apple galette pastry ($4.25), Coffee cake ($3.00) and Hazel-prune tart (pruneish taste mercifully free) - $4.25
  • Countless well-served lattes of a decent temp
  • Service of the best.

    What 'm I talking about? It's been perfectly horrid - disaster from the first visit. Utterly not what discerning Bainbridgers are used to. A wide berth advised to all.

    As one enters - no need for vulgar main à porte stuff, it swings open automatically - the first view is, to right, the piano where gentle tinkling is provided du soir and, straight ahead, a blazing fake fire facing comfy leather sofary.

    menu boardThe more I earn, the grungier seems to be my garb. As a powerful but penniless book PR hack, banking a pitiful $60K, I went suited to work and posed as a toff.

    Older and cunninger paid for decades of such useless certificates as black-belted Six Stigmata and wily oriental documenta, I dress as a hobo.

    So impressed was I by the welcoming hearth, and forgetting my unruly appearance, I approached the Miss Manners at the desk and, complimenting her on the generally cosy ambience, asked about the hearth fire and leathered settees and who could actually take advantage of such hospitality.

    My dear, the primness of Jean Brodie wasn't in it. And quite right, too.

    She was the soul of tactful dismissal.

    hearth"Well, we *are* a condominium, and the chairs are for the use of residents and their guests." (A skilled survey of my transient garb) Of course, if patrons of (weary glance over to) the 'coffee shop' find they have the need to ...."

    The Confucian ellipses a dictionary's worth of "meaning".

    My dear, I've shambled into condos, from San Antone's zippie '09ers to brahmin hideaways in Boston's Beacon Hill, and this was a chilled and chilling look to treasure.

    The following night, suited and spurred and with La Passionaria in full war-paint on my arm, there was scrambling to show space and much bowing and scraping as they made way.

    A hideaway to treasure.

  • Rumbledsfeld

    Out of bed at 6, as is my weekend wont, and into mis-matching tracksuit and flashy Hong Kong "Mike"s for some pavement pounding as the best way to swill that chill foggy air around the lung crannies and alert ageing knee joints what'll they'll be looking at if they persist with their decrepit crackling.

    I'm giving bacon 'n' eggs a rest in favor of petit déj' of juice, yoghurt, Greek honeyed toast and all assorted pills and potions as prescribed from Greece by my fit and seemingly immortal gardening/painting/social ising mama. All washed down by a foul and label-less tea-tasting concoction from a Hong Kong guru "aunt" who demands monthly photos in the buff on which to have her fortune teller fine-tune his ongoing dire predictions.

    I forego today's Times in favor of Chapter 21's tutorial on Conditional Sum Wizards in Que's 1060-page pocket book on cracking the surface of Excel.

    I have this theory that 'Life' can be organized according to Excel, if only I could work out *which* bits relate to which lifestyles.

    PivotalTables clearly cover child-rearing as do edited macros make for a successfully object-oriented sex life but I sense a few more buried easter eggs before I reach Nirvana.

    The importance of feeling and looking good of a Sunday morning is vital if I'm to enjoy George Stephanopoulos' masterly chairing of 'This Week' and the reining in of the splendidly dour George Will and the rest of the high-powered round table.

    With the Gnome against the ropes and his régime daily more discredited, this morning's show was as riveting as it was depressing.

    There'll be some frantic wheel-spin in the Bush camp to correctify perceptions of Don Rumsfeld's blurting out that he wasn't actually consulted over the 'war'.

    If you ask me, DR must be high on the list for the next fall guy to take the rap.

    It's obvious he's lost the budget to pay for full advice from his minders because he's forgotten every advice on TV body language.

  • On the few occasions when George lobbed him an easy one he could answer, his hands stayed flat on the table and those sinister rimless lunettes stayed in steady gaze.
  • To a more curving ball, his hands criss-cross a few inches above the table.
  • Cornered, he goes into positive hand-flap, gesturing at head level, his fluttering fingers obscuring his lying mouth, his seated stance twisting and squirming.
  • My saintèd father never actually needed spectacle when he chaired Hong Kong's Executive Council, but he used their doffing to devastating effect, removing them with commanding slowness and fixing with his ice blue eyes whoevered delivered an ill-informed impudence with a slow and silent look. So do guests on 'This Week' use their logo'd mugs of coffee (tho' some must wish it offered stronger brew), the confident ones rarely touching their mugs except to raise it in a sipless gesture when they've made a scoring point. Rumsfeld - a non sipper if ever I spotted one - was reduced to several lubrications to disguise post-fib cracks of his less successful dissembling.
  • A joyous sight guaranteed to further discomfort the waffling pigmy.

    It's no use hiding the fact that my eyes mist at the roll call of death of those lives ended at 19 or 20 and I admire George's summarising grim expression when the catalog of losses is done.

    Saturday, November 19, 2005

    the simple life

    Clever Good Experience, tapping my obsession with honing and eking the most from each hour.

    "This rather cluttered site contains some good tips on reducing clutter"

    Simplicity Simon Sez

    Phlash phun courtesy of Philips. Rather clever.

    Raban Redux

    Fave blogger Grumpy Bookman, acerbic observer of my belovèd British book trade that kept me in a decade's cash and cuddles, spots Tim Appelo's piece on Jonathan Raban in our Seattle Weekly and puzzles "quite how and why the Seattle Weekly should be willing to devote so much space to an English writer, even if he does live in Seattle."

    Well, I can enlighten.

    First off, it was the excellent Mr Raban's Hunting Mr Heartbreak that 10 years ago brought me and mine from Hong Kong to Seattle rather than cultivate an English country garden in the wilds of High Wycombe or have my daughters grow up true Texans under the big-sky birthplace of the elder girl, San Antone.

    Singing Tree coverThanks to involvement with the Northwest Bookfair, for which we lured the donnish Peter Moss from his Sooke-gazing eyrie to moderate a discussion, I got to meet Mr. Raban in the post-Fair Green Room booze up.

    Not an easy man to hold in solo chat, lionized as he was by simpering literary groupies who hung on his every word, gushing over his nautical cap and cut-glass Britisher vowels.

    But his time at the helm included putting into Sooke Harbour so we had an edge, holding his attention for a nano-second longer than would otherwise have been the case.

    In local parlance américaine, le Raban "owns" our local Limey Lit space.

    As for Mr Appelo, he too rules as Alpha Male reviewer and his time at Amazon has done him no harm.

    I reviewed Raban's fine first novel and took time to read and re-read to fit my sentiments into the allotted wordage.

    I was somewhat taken aback at a later Artdish knees-up to be asked if I'd read Waxwings

    "Er ... Jim actually did me the honor of asking- "

    "Oh, I read your review. I just wondered if you'd got round to reading it.".

    Apparently, my laudatory notice was no proof whatsoever of having actually opened the book, such obsequy being natural and to have spoken in less than adoring tones social suicidal lèse majesté.

    "Gosh, had I known that, I would have commented differently and put the boot in."

    "Har har (if women *do* ha with anything so vulgar as a manly 'r'). See? That's what I like about you English, you have this amazing dry sense of humor."


    Indeed, I have since heard from "sources" that hell hath no fury than a rabid Raban scorned.

    Tipping Point

    Well judged inclusion by the editor of a letter from the grandly-named Theodore Eberspecher, hoping we "Don't forget to leave a nice tip".

    In fact, I rather pride myself on nicely judged tips which is why my eye was drawn to read this impudent - not to mention slightly imprudent - offering.

    But first a bunch of thorns in the direction of the Metropolitan Grill on whom so much praise is lavished.

    For my brother's first visit to Seattle, he wanted to dine at the best so, seeing as how he was paying, I mentioned that the MG was highly spoken of among purveyors of steak.

    It was among the most disappointing - nay, angering - insolent experiences either of us have had, starting with an unconscionable hour's delay in being seated (despite a phone check before catching the ferry). In fact, we got the distinct treatment of it being an honor to even wait, let alone being granted a table.

    As we waited, we were treated to a highly inappropriate comment by a waiter on a passing lady guest, the evening capped by a disgraceful and audible telling off by our waitress.

    When my brother finally decided to call it quits and have them bag the excellent steak to take home, he catalogued for the waitress why he was leaving no tip. In full voice, she explained how her tips were shared and how she would now have to pay out of her own pocket to reimburse the back room staff. An extraordinary outburst that also caused other diners to look away in embarrassment.

    The same mealy-mouthed attitude oozes from Eberspercher's letter, and i have a mind to take up pen again and challenge him in the same arena.

    TE's stance is that these promo coupons lower the price for us punters which then lowers the end sum on the total bill on which we are said to be used to calculating our "standard 15 percent" pourboire.

    "Your server did the same amount of work for the total of the bill before the coupon as they would do without the coupon." Thank you for that lesson in observation.

    He then gives us a lesson in mathematics, ending with the snotty reminder that, "It's simple restaurant etiquette that an unfortunate percentage of our community does not follow."

    This is some nerve and his own words rebound on him more than any comment I can make.

    But I will say this, that I am perfectly capable of judging when and what I want to tip and that I usually go *above* "the standard" when I meet good service.

    I certainly don't need a lesson in etiquette from the likes of master Eberspercher and he is lucky he did not name the establishment where he himself practices this attitude.

    If I find myself being served by a bouffanted coxcomb whose badge proclaims "Hi, I'm Theo" I shall be torn between asking to be moved to another station or staying put and enjoying his expression when I leave zero tip.

    I suspect I would be justified and that the attitude in his letter is reflected in the calibre and attitude of his performance at the tables.

    Friday, November 18, 2005

    Ian Bairnson

    Ian Bairnson

    I'm listening to the new Kate Bush double album but my head is spinning more from listening to the CD of The Kick Inside which I've never actually owned, having collected later albums along the way.

    Because 'The Whole Story' had a version of the sublime Wuthering Heights I didn't bother to go back and acquire 'Kick', despite its inclusion of her triumphant celebration of menstruation as 'Strange Phenomena' and the enchanting 'Man with the Child in His Eyes'.

    kickI say "a" version because it always irked me that the play-out solo on 'Wuthering' in no way matched the joyous effortless expertise on the original (not to mention some misplaced wailing by Kate on the re-take that again jarred with anyone raised on the original).

    Like the wailing sax on Gerry Rafferty's seminal 'Baker Street' (Ralph Ravenscroft for La Triviata), it was one of those triumphant sounds that would halt us mid pint down the boozer as we nodded at each other and drummed our fingers in rhythm and eyed the pretty totties lined along the bar.

    kick insideEarly 1978 saw me at one of my happiests: dynamite job with expense account for what exactly I loved doing most; single, plush apartment in not-yet-over-gentrified London's Clapham; friends galore; taut abs and the loveliest lovingest girl friends that walleted youth attracts.

    My kitchen was the largest room and the acoustics did full justice to the sound of the Wharfedales I ran from the main unit in the sitting room.

    I was making my usual mess of dolchelatte gnocchi and bopping along to the radio's airing of early chart entries when on came extraordinary voice delivering an absolutely hypnotic song.

    kate bush 2005I stood entranced: that ridiculous tinkly piano entry.

    That tinkly treble voice.

    Great tune, granted.

    Then in slides that bass, to herald the dynamite chorus.

    The whole thing takes off.

    "Heathcliffe, it's me - Kathee - come home ... ". And so forth

    What's remarkable about Bairnson's solo is that his guitar plays no part in the song, only swooping in at the end to tease and tantalise. The ultimate luxury, saving the best wine til last. Or, like being at a killer party where every pretty girl has lingered and laughed at your jokes and you've chatted to them all and are ready to go. As you exit, in walks a 'real' stunner ... I mean in walks Kate Bush, K?

    A snaking python of a solo that twists and grows until everything that went before is forgotten and you're asking where can you get an album of *this*.

    Even 30 years on, my neck-hair bristles as the skin on the face pulls tight.

    So, yonks later, I finally check this hero out - Ian Bairnson.

    bairnson_guitarI say "an" but his provenance is impressive:

  • Born 1953, Lerwick, Shetland Islands, Scotland (I shall now spell him Iain)
  • Guitarist for the Alan Parsons Project, no less (slap on wrist for not picking up on that. I had many APP albums but was clearly too distracted by exotic cheroots to read the fine print)

    I search for that feeling: in music, on rambles, in composing my own songs.

    I look at my own children, multi-messaging across the continents, Sennheiser cans clamped to angelic ears.

    Are *they* feeling that same buzz, being borne aloft by their own songster favorites?

    I hope so.

  • Thursday, November 17, 2005

    Peddy fired sans comment

    And nor shall *I* comment on the Review's measured piece on the sacking of the functional equivalent of over-weening mayoralty.

    Poor Dobbin.

    I have been at the fugitive end of righteous sleuthing and it's a chilling sound when the pack catches your scent and the skeletons start rattling in the witch-hunted wardrobe.

    He suffers from a consummate flake of a campaign honcho, capable of managing even Mother Teresa onto a fiery stake.

    Olsen's day will come, and it will not be pretty.

    They clearly do things differently in Scåndiwegia: Ølsen proclaims Peddy's firing to have been "handled improperly ... the penalty too severe".

    Let me get this straight: the twerp now claims that his employer's "insider" status and effrontery in challenging our fragrant mayor unfairly changed the rules on duplicity and lying under oath, laying the Resumé Refurbisher open to criticism and questions of his fitness to retain employment under false pretenses.

    In the lingo-franca of the fruitette of my loins ~ "Say what?"

    So ... had he been like the rest of us mere mortals, he could have been hauled over the coals as a cut-throat child-molester and still looked forward to his Yuletide bonus and promotion in the New Year?

    "What's the word I'm looking for, sweetie?"

    "Dad, like duhhh"

    "The very sentiment, child."

    In this whole tracking of Cathy's Clown, let us not forget the heroines in this whole sordid business.

    As I've mentioned, in a previous avatar I worked with certain authors on noising their works abroad, during which thankless operation we became close and out of which some of the scribblers flattered me with attributing some of their sales to my efforts and suggested we keep in touch with wherever life took me.

    One pair of journos took on all the president's men, for whose 1974 UK edition of their book I played a small part in hawking it to the British media and book trade.

    The duo's rapt interest in unfolding Peddygate thru my humble postings confirms that not even the big guys are grand for a tale of grass-rootings.

    Speaking of whom, Bob W seems to have mastered the art of urban limeliting, while I hardly see anything of his eminently more grise compadre of the notebook, Carl.

    Now that the Gnome has dropped this silly lip service to Genevan treatment of captives, I shall suggest "All the President's Manacles" as the prolific RW's next title.

    Wednesday, November 16, 2005

    Patent the World

    Got to hand it to Lord Jeff of Bezosia. World domination just isn't in it.

    Wasn't too long back since his legal team corraled the shopping cart.

  • Now, customer reviews

  • Word of moutherie, no less.

  • collage of goodies on sale

    Deering Music

    Adio' Revoir

    I had noticed (and taken full advantage of) the ludicrous bargain sale prices offered by Deering Music and now I see a 'For rent' sign dangling forlornly outside that musicians' haven.

    Not the only thing renting - my heart rents apiece to see the departure of that treasure-trove shop and its regal eponymous proprietress, Barbara.

    Imagine my delight back in 1994 when, having evaded the INS, I staggered ashore "somewhere off our coast" to be greeted by the sight of Wally's emporium for my victuals and Babs Deering's for all things guitarista. Sans hesitation, we took a cottage on Blakely Avenue so's to be within walking distance of both.

    When we moved to the grander surroundings of Chatham Cove, the customer-centric Ms Deering considerately upped stakes and moved to nearby Ericksen Avenue.

    Speaking of which:

    "Bit land-locked, innit?" sneered my Tuscany-tilling brother, gazing round our new abode.

    "Not at all," I responded huffily. "You, dear boy, are a land-owning Euro gent of the soil, whereas *I* am a Chatham cove."

    Whence this need always to be reminding siblings of their place, I wonder?

    I cannot write about Barbara without degenerating into incorrectness: lovely tho' the lady is today, Barbara had in her shop framed photos of her in her 1960s chanteuse days and ... let me put it this way: had I met her in my callow busking days, I would have made an exceeding fool of myself and my repertoire of compositions would include thrice the number of love-lorn ballads.

    I know it sounds like a circling vulture to profit from another's misfortune (perhaps she's delighted to be quit of the store), but hurry down to 225 Ericksen and snap up a gross of strings and capos and whatever while the rockbottom prices last.

    24 hrs later: I stopped by today to pick up some lute strings for gnarly Narnian minstrel Ted, who will be strolling among us crooning rondels and galliards as we celebrate the celluloiding of Jack Lewis's "Lion/Witch/Wardrobe".

    Sardines on toast and other goodies will be served with gracious aplomb by a trio of gorgeous young ladies whose dowries will one day return him to penury.

    A useful press release tells me that Ms Deering is not going out of business but simply changing her mode de vendre:

  • She'll soon have a website up for orders and daily delivery
  • They'll carry the same products, competitor-busting prices, to boot
  • The rental program stays on
  • Same tel: 206-780-5570
  • Email

  • Saturday, November 12, 2005

    Ed-Op: salty Bainbridge

    Our ferry factory chatter makes the Times.

    Asian Backstreet Boys

    It is with glee - courtesy of Good Experience - that I link you to the hilariously talented, tongue-in-cheek Back Dorm Boys with their 'Visuals with no singing'.

    Clearly not safe for *my* work: as I watched it, I was grinning so roundly at the "tough" guy's expression that everyone crowded round to see what could put such a beatific smile on the office curmudgeon.

    That said, the lengthy thread is just as interesting with the sheer heat generated.

    Friday, November 11, 2005

    kate bush


    The eerily talented Kate Bush has a new - double - album out, Aerial.

    I have lost no time ordering it.

    All the press coverage shows her looking exactly as she did 28 years ago, arriving that wet Saturday morning for the Leicester Square press preview of an unlikely titled film, Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

    Of all the far-fetched tales I come up with involving well-known people whose paths I've crossed, the one I've given up sharing concerns sitting in a darkened room with the 18-year -old Miss Bush.

    I hardly bothered recounting it 25 years ago, but now it just produces rolled eyes and disbelieving chuckles.

    Anyway, the new album's out and I look forward to steeping myself in it.

    I Am, Therefore I Want

    Thought-provoking NY Times Review review by Kathryn Harrison of William B. Irvine On Desire.

    Harrison's acute comments and quotes are enough for now to save me needing the whole book.

    Indeed, they are probably enough reminder that Time's wingèd chariot trundles on, the Hounds of Fate in baying slavering pursuit.

    "Why We Want What We Want," the subtitle of William B. Irvine's book, dangles the possibility that it is his ambition to let readers glimpse the hidden workings of their hearts ... In fact, an accurate description of the book's contents would be "How Not to Want What We Want," but of course that could scare off all but the determined ascetic.

    As every sentient being knows, desire can cause problems. Enslaved to our wants, for food, shelter, love, comfort, community, status - the list is endless - so are we saved by having them.

    Anyone who has suffered a serious depression can attest that desire is as vital a sign of life as a heartbeat. Lacking desire we are psychically dead, our bodies in imminent danger of following our souls. [My emphases].

    Desire cannot by definition be satisfied. To answer one desire only allows us to pay attention to the next, and beyond gaining what our bodies strictly need, what we want is usually based on our assessment of how others perceive what we already have. Because we are social animals, we depend on constant confirmation of self, whether in terms of admiration or of envy, fear, even hatred.

    Every object of desire has a "positional" as well as an absolute value. The car you loved as you pulled into the parking lot at work loses its charm when you see the more expensive machine driven by a rival. And yet you're lucky if what you want, you can, with effort, get. Failures of desire, rightly called crises by Irvine, are not only painful but also potentially dangerous.

    Losing the ability to desire is the sine qua non of serious depression. [Ditto].

    But to retain desire without finding meaning in satisfying it - what Tolstoy called an "arrest of life" - portends a profound existential collapse that can also presage suicide. Still painful, if not as dire, is to feel disgust with the desires you have, as did Siddhartha Gautama when he understood the limitless suffering of man and began his journey toward enlightenment.

    To complicate our insatiability further, our brains have "desire-generating systems," a dominant verbal system that produces "rational" (instrumental) desires and - perhaps more important - rationalizes those desires that arise from other, unconscious systems.

    Our adaptive nature, which has ensured our survival, may help explain our eternal dissatisfaction. Soon used to the very things we once craved, we take them for granted, and their desirability wears off.

    How can we bear up under the relentlessness of our desire? On to the quixotic subject of "dealing with our desires." In order to satisfy a desire, we must make it our goal and then work to achieve it - but if the goal is transcending desire entirely, this strategy is of no use. Desiring to not desire, after all, is itself a new form of desire. Further, tampering with our "B.I.S.," or biological incentive system - the tangle of dendrites and neurochemicals that rewards us with good feelings when we gratify our desires - is worse than useless.

    Really, the only hope of managing - not conquering - desire is consciousness ... The "middle path" between hedonism and asceticism that Buddha advised, the prayers of the Jew or Christian, the temperance of the Muslim ... these aim not to extinguish desire but to arrive at a state of mindfulness that allows us to alter our relationship to our desires.

    Fortunately for all the writers whose greatest desire is to comment on desire, there's not much chance of our succeeding."

    Thursday, November 10, 2005

    How much is your blog worth?

    I know that a number of bloggers count or court visitors and readers.

    This blog-evaluator might be of interest.

    As with so many of my better links, this is courtesy of the non-pareil Grumpy Old Bookman, whom God preserve.

    Monday, November 07, 2005

    John Fowles dead

    News via the Beeb of the death at 79 of the great John Fowles.

    Most people seem only to be able to name "The French Lieutenant's Woman", and even that thanks only to the movie.

    But he'd delivered other goodies, among them the magisterial "Magus", "Daniel Martin" and - years ago - "The Collector", famed for being turned into a movie introducing delectable English Rose Samantha Eggar and also featuring delectable cockney, the young Terence Stamp.

    Madoka 2

    A second successful visit to classy hit nosherie, Madoka.

    My date missed the ferry that would have enabled us to catch the earlier showing of Legend of Zorro so we turned up just after 2100hrs.

    Nae problem. We were shown to a perfect table.

    Movie: Worthless drivel, far too long, excessive CGI on the equines, and an irritating Zorro fils emulating "pappy". This franchise is born to run, dammit - oh, and even the delectable Zeta J's magnificent cleavage also palled.

    As my companion quipped, an "ap-pall-ing" reaction from a soi-disant red-blooded male.

    As I pointed out, she could speak, flaunting an eyeful of canyon

    Menu: Readers demand details:

    Service impéccable comme d'ailleurs.

    Our waitress had THE sweetest smile and was attentive to a fault.

    The water boy was none other than Brandon, handsome swain of BI's hottest chick, Brianna, currently in Greece on model duty.

    Shout out to Brandon: as we waited for the shrimp plate to be cleared, I commented how nice it'd be to have some bread with which to mop that delicious sauce.

    No sooner murmured than master B was there asking to clear the dishes but instantly observing that, hey, would we like some bread to soak up the sauce?

    My date: "That is amazing. I was thinking the very thing, then you commented, then he offered."

    Majorly good customer service.

    Were Brandon not already odiously good looking, *plus* man of Brianna (for how long?), I'd say he had a future. As it is, he is doomed every which way ....

    Final touch: the owners have it totally right, just by hiring Safeway's chevalière de tastevin, M- , as greeter and general swan-arounder.

    I'd never seen her look lovelier or more regal.

    She stood out in Safeway as a woman of beauty and class, but Saturday night she was womanly perfection.

    I'm sure she's married or some such, but were she not - despite, I daresay - it will/would not be long before some moneyed hotshot would spot her, lay a slick line on this shrewd tottie, and she'd never have to finger as cash register again.

    First-rate food, superb service.

    My local caff for all posh dining hereon.

    gore vidalhm Queen Elizabeth II waving n smiling


    I really must nail the spelling of Chip Gibbons' name - 's' at the end or not?

    Trey Given wishes him happy birthday but calls him Gibbon, begging the question how well the cove knows him to actually *wish* him bonne anniversaire ... but I cavil.

    This post is to salute CG's excellent review of the Capote movie and in particular his modesty in saving his and our time with the honest admission that he was

    " ... going to write my own review but when I read Roger Ebert’s review, I saw so many of my own observations about the film in his article, I realized there was no need to."

    I've heard a bit on radio and Philip Seymour Hoffman sounds creepily stunning.

    I head this piece with pics of Her Majesty and Mr Gore Vidal because mention of Truman Capote reminds me of my own time in London book PR as a lowly step'n'fetchit within the empire of the great house of William Heinemann, housed in those days in Mayfair's Great Queen Street. How the puns pack on.

    One of the authors on whom I had the honour of dancing attendance was Gore Vidal for his UK press tour for - I forget which - Burr or was it Myra Breckenridge?

    Anyway, I was clearly not thought up to the task for one leg of the Great Man's signathon because an outside press relations expert had been hired to make sure things went smoothly and the right tongues applied with sufficient application to the patrician rump.

    Ex-army chappie, as I recall - stalwart enough fellow, who went on to make a solid career of ensuring that top writers got the deserved ink and air time.

    Anyway, come the end of a particularly gruelling day during which Gore had been magnificent, he commented on the rigors of waving and rictus smiling and dredging up polite responses to ill-informed questions from the press.

    Up piped Sarn't Major Press Supremo with the blithe and merry,

    "Well, now you know what it's like to be the Queen, hah ha!"

    Sans flicker of that patrician brown, Vidal turned to the assembled throng and drawled,

    "Quite so." [Pause, and with a nano-wink in my direction] "ChristoPHAH, I wonder if our Timothy is really cut *out* for your cut-throat profession?"

    The Capote connection is stirred by a memory of a train journey north to one of those Yorkshire Post Literary Luncheons that the tireless Richard Douro ran with such steely organization.

    All the big swinging dicks from Heinemann were aboard so all I was left to do was fetch coffee and sign the dinner bill.

    Gore was clearly relaxed because he spent much of the journey in expert mimicry of la Capote.

    Also what sticks in mind was GV's insistence on the efficacy of orgies as good for the figure:

    It made hilarious sense:

  • You're naked, so you better look good.
  • Most of the time is spent swanning around holding your tummy in lest the cuties dismiss you as just another paunchy doddering slob.

    Getting back to the Army fellah, I do believe he never actually 'got' it, because forever after he was constantly referring to the job as a compliment:

    "Chris will back me up here: mentioned me in 'despatches', so to speak, didn't he, old boy? Silly old queen.

    Anyway, there was Chris - his official publisher's front man - and it was me that got the mention."

    I must have recounted this in loose-lipped company because forever after, whenever authors strayed into his domain, there was competition to see how swiftly they could mop brow and gasp,

    "Phew! They certainly got their pound of flesh ... now I know how the Queen feels."

  • And while we're on about the writer, here's The Times' take on the 'unknown' Capote.

  • "Scuse I, darlin' - got room in yer purse for the keys to my Roller?"

  • Excellent piece from reliable Metafilter on the eternal verities of a decent chat-up line.
  • The science of smooth verbal.
  • Reassuring news of "Smirting" - the art of smoking and flirting.
    • "Smoking ban lights up love life" is the glorious headline ~ Shades of sticking it to the nanny state.

  • Saturday, November 05, 2005

    Clash of the Titians

    Dateline: Bainbridge, Nov 4:

    I would not like to be an island folkie with fealty issues tonight.

    Talk about torn loyalties ....

    In the blue corner, attended hand and foot by complaisant consort, Edward Jay Williams - presenting Miss Georgia Browne, First Fridaying at the Island Center, 7:30pm.

    Or rather, it's Bainbridge Parks who are doing the presenting of the fragrant Miss B.

    In the shimmering emerald corner, also at 7:30pm, the diva herself, Ms Barbara Deering "and Friends":

  • "Live' at the ambience-cosy Pegasus Coffee House.
  • $4.00 donations, and I dare any man to scrimp under Barbara's gimlet gaze.

    Dilemma - whose gig to attend?

    Whose ever's I do, I'll be duffed up by the other mob.

  • The 'artie' bits

    Clever Jeff Bezos has come up with a brilliant wheeze whereby we no longer have to pay for the whole dreary work to read the "good bits."

    The brilliant Craig Brown once published a slim volume of extracts of only The Dirty Bits.

    The clever advertising line was, "The book that falls open at every page."

    I am inspired to quit my boring day job and set up a web page with an exorbitant membership fee but once in, members will have access to precise page numbers for the juicy bits in every major work of literature.

    I am recruiting my research team even as I type ....

    Lady Chatterley: pages 25, 33, 44-51, 68, and 70-74

    Wilt: 12, 28, 41-50, 62

    Gypsy's Curse: 45, 36, 39-43, 58

    Lust in the Swamps: 12, 18, 45-56, 61, 70-7-85

    Holy Bible: er ... just read it from cover to cover, is my suggestion

    Et cetera.

    Friday, November 04, 2005

    The Plame Outing - Buckley speaks

    When the magisterial William F. Buckley comments, I for one listen.

    "In the swirl of the Libby affair, one loses sight of the real offense, and it becomes almost inapprehensible what it is that Cheney/Libby/Rove got themselves into."

    Interesting use of "inapprehensible".

    Thursday, November 03, 2005

    Chazz & Cam

    Charles and Camilla do America.

    On such royal jaunts, it's the Telegraph's take I look to.

    Jokers like Lauer and Couric on the 'Today' show can only be fawning and as for that dreadful Aussie 'expert' with her nasal pronouncements ....

    La Duchesse is clearly a super lady and my sympathy goes out to her.

    She looks like my granny, so she can do no wrong.

    Alas, it being against this country's law to look wrinklie and homely, she will not sway the populace or the mincing press.

    Just what the White Housed gnome does *not* need at this time, his credibility in tatters and now expected to behave with an inkling of aplomb.

    The trouble with Royal visits is that the media feel the need to go into unctuous mode, including bizarre interpretations of gentility. The carnage comes when this spills over into speech and vo-ca-bu-lary with folks deciding they need to put two articulate words together.

    Under such circumstances, the nation is at its characteristically most defenceless.

    First Lady Laura is the only one with class in that bunch but even she can't save the day here.

    Serve the Gnome right, having to don bib and tucker and sit thru a posh meal.

    I love that the gifts from the royal couple included essays by Winston.

    Eeek, a book. And one by a 'statesman'.

    The ironies are too delicious, and they will keep coming ere this visit is through and C and C can finally collapse into their seats on the Royal Flight and Charles give his lady a well-deserved hug for services beyond the call of.

    Wednesday, November 02, 2005


    In the year 2014, the New York Times has gone off line

    The Fourth Estate's fortunes have waned

    Wha' happened to the news?

    'EPIC', indeed ....

  • Good comment - good relevant New York Times link, which I would have missed.

  • silly old moo

    Everyone Who's Anyone under threat

    One of my favourite must-read blogs - Michael Allen in his Grumpy Old Bookman rôle - reports on a matter beyond bookishness, and it is my duty to share and propagate Mr Allen's concern.

    If you read his piece on the harmless and put-upon Gerard Jones, ask not who is threatened: we're all of us Under Threat thanks to the idiot antics of a Miss Carolyn A. Hampton, Vice President of the Litigation Counsel for Universal Studios (whatever that position might consist of, apart from taking dictation from her employers).

    She is being particularly weedy and pompous.

    No-one makes trouble in Bainbridge so my home city is off the hook, but I urge my other red-blooded readers, from clannish Clapham to duelling-democracy Hong Kong, to heed old Grumpers when he suggests that,

    "If you agree with my position on this matter, you may care to write to Carolyn Hampton and say so.

    "On the other hand" - as he even-handedly goes on - "if you think she is dead right, you might also care to write to her.

    She will probably be very pleased to hear from you, because I don't think she'll get many like that."

    I'm sure she won't, and I'm losing no time writing to her to commiserate on that very point.

    What an appalling silly old moo the woman sounds, to be sure.

    Some links:

  • Tinseltown Gobbed-up Movie Companies

  • Tuesday, November 01, 2005

    Brit enough?

    Usual poser that finds us little englanders wanting and the curry-and-rice wallahs passing with flying turbans.

    Alas, the opening para betrays Mr Freeman as out of touch.

    He seems under the impression that,

    "It will take more than a passing acquaintance with the thwack of leather on willow to win the right to British citizenship."

    "Thwack of leather on willow",   be damn'd.

    Make it the fiercesome familiar thwack of *cane* on rump, and you'll be closer to the pukka Albion mark.

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