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Saturday, December 31, 2005


Friday brings the last Bainbridge Islander of 2005 and I turn eagerly to the Police Blotter to check that our local miscreants are seeing the year out in style.

En route to page 6, my eye is caught by the usual worthiness:

  • Good interview with the Scurichts and some sharp comments on the valiant but increasingly creaky Winslow Tomorrow venture.
  • Becky Fox Marshall safe and sound on that extraordinary maritime pas-de-deux  with the Wenatchee taking on the Knud Mærsk and only chickening out at the last quarter-mile.

    But why do I feel something missing since the stalwart Steve Gardner moved on?


    Not a hugely captivating rap sheet this week, and just as well.

  • Fuzzmobile Egged: I'm not sure which to admire more, the foolhardiness of whoever was lurking around the Library at 4am and steady enough of nerve and eye to land a brace of eggs on a passing cruiser, or the cited cost of "several hundred dollars in damage". Does it really cost that much to wipe a bit of yolk off those patrol cars? At $150 per egg, there may be some loot in it for anyone offering their services as a skilled egg swabber.

  • Barefoot Toddler: Absolutely horrifying tale of a 2-year-old mite found barefoot and bawling in the streets around Koura.

    The cops found where the child lived and discovered the babysitter lounging around, totally oblivious to the fact that the kid was even gone.

    The report ends that, "The parents were contacted and returned home."

    I tell you, had I been the father, I'd have sped home in a white fury and it would have taken some burly constables to wrestle me off throttling the wretch.

    BIR: Meanwhile, over in the Review, Tristen Beurick - still on the Peddy beat, still resolutely refusing to hand me that discrepant 'a' - reveals Willie boy's cupboard to be positively narnian in its skeletal contents: hot documents that could "expose [Peddy] and his family to very real danger."

    I don't mean to laugh - and Heaven forbid that any harm come to the old résumé rejuvenator - but honestly, *only* Dobbin could have made quite such a pig's breakfast of things: first fibbing left, right and center on matters that even a cursory background checks catch, and now this imperiling paperwork.

    Going on previous Peddy form - and his choice of lackeys - I'm assuming this is all a feeble last-ditch play for time and sympathy, so I'm not getting my hopes up.

    If, however, there is a scintilla of truth to this dicey documents nonsense - and those who suspected the existence of such papers must be delighted to have them so thunderously confirmed in the press - our William will need prompt fitting for a witness protection-style new life.

    May I suggest that he looks outside this country's shores: those patrician good looks and distinctive regal bearing will make it impossible for him to walk the streets of America without an admiring audience tugging at his impeccable cuffs or dropping to obeisant knees to kiss his ring.

    I have some pull in the Land of the Pharaohs, where they know how to deal with irrelevancies like paper 'qualifications', and hear that custody of the Din Shazli Souk and Sportsbar is up for grabs. My open palm is greaseless and ready.

    Ølsen: No coverage of the Peddler would be complete without a juicy quote from his energetic "campaign manager". Baurick has not filed empty-handed:
    "Bainbridge Buzz is a fourth-rate partisan and malicious blog site set on a vendetta against Mr. Peddy ... I wish the story would die a respectable death."

    Can't deny the man's optimism but I rather fear respectability went out the window the day his client tossed his pointy cap into the mayoral arena.

    Vendetta: I once worked for an online retailer whose chief officer missed no chance to rabbit on about how "customer-centric" we all were. Our data tracking was formidable and I once asked the assembled bigwigs if this fuzzy fondness for our members in any way resembled how a cat is mouse-centric. I feel the same way about the context of the word "vendetta".

    I can think of a number of worthy institutions who might bear an element of 'malice' towards the level of deception practised by Mr Peddy and whose charters include a 'vendetta' of sorts against such behavior:

  • Law enforcement agencies
  • The Church
  • Truth-seeking editors of the Fourth Estate.
  • If memory serves, even my Lord and Maker has expressed His benevolent opinion on the matter. Indeed - and Heaven forbid that these documents fall into the wrong hands and speed the day - I dare say St Peter might raise an eyebrow over certain passages in Will's tamper-free celestial résumé as he takes our Davis alumnus thru that dread Pearly Gate entrance interview.

    Unlike Slick Willie, the only Teflon here is on the frying pan from which poor Peddy is tumbling further into the fire.

    Island Ice Cream: I'm sorry Loral Ann Jorza joins other Island favorites in going under to the implacable demands of the landlord.

    She also claims to have been thwarted over decent signage - surely not the chill hand of our diploma-laden Peddy-rast Codista, reaching out from the grave of his reputation?

    We talk a good game about the community we want but collapse in the face of avarice and be-ribboned bureaucracy.

    Addendum: No sooner do I get on my landlord-hating high horse (in which saddle I intend to stay, booted, spurred and crop held high) than Bruce Weiland's letter in the Jan 7th Review hints at LAJ being just the teensiest bit tardy with her rent (like, seven out of the first ten months?). It changes nothing but I mention it out of a misplaced sense of fairness.

    Harbor Squat: Can there be a sadder epitaph to Bill Moore's valiant efforts for Cave House than that it was "in the way" of that accursèd 180-unit 'development'?

    Gooseless on Bainbridge (Letters): Theft of al fresco kitsch seems to be the growth industry: first it's national coverage of illuminated lawn Grinches going missing, now our very own Sally LaGrandeur loses a 2-foot-tall plastic retro goose lamp.

    If I or anyone I know received one for Christmas, LaG wants us to know it was stolen.

    If I'd even received a gleaming *new* one, I'd have whistle-blown the offender to the Taste Police, let alone a grotty used specimen. Da cheapskates.

    Come to think of it, that turquoise tie from Aunt Miranda bears the suspicious crease of having cradled a foreign jowel.


    God bless you all, a prosperous 2006 and, come Jan 29, kung hei fat choi for our Year of the Dog

  • The New Workers

    Parents of children coming up to wage-slave age should take note of the January edition of FastCompany and Danielle Sacks' fascinating Scenes from the Culture Clash.

    It's a look at the dilemma facing companies "just now waking up to the havoc that the newest generation of workers is causing in their offices."

    I subscribe to FC, so the Clash link works for me, but just in case, I don't think I'm revealing any state secrets you yourselves can't look up on the news-stand:

  • Page 10 of the edition with Shanghai Tang's pouting Joanne Ooi adorning the front cover.
  • Use the home page link and enter access code FCJANSOCAP

    Sacks has done her research:

    • 76 million children of baby boomers born between 1978 and 2000.
    • Four generations are being asked to coexist at once:
      • Traditionalists (born before 1945)
      • Boomers (born 1946-1964)
      • Generation X (1965-1977)
      • Millennials (alternately known as Gen-Y, Echo Boomers, Net gen, and even "Generation Why," because they never stop questioning the status quo).

    As Sacks points out,

    "Managers will be challenged to minimize the friction and maximize the assets of four distinct sets of work values and styles simultaneously.

    The latest generation to join the mix is disruptive not only because of its size but because of its attitudes. Speak to enough intergenerational experts who study such things and you begin to get the picture:

    Millennials aren't interested in the financial success that drove the Boomers or the independence that has marked the Gen-Xers, but in careers that are personalized.

    They want educational opportunities in China and a chance to work in their companies' R&D departments for six months.

    "They have no expectation that the first place they work will at all be related to their career, so they're willing to move around until they find a place that suits them," says Dan Rasmus, who runs a workplace think tank for Microsoft.

    Thanks to their overinvolved Boomer parents, this cohort has been coddled and pumped up to believe they can achieve anything. Immersion in PCs, video games, email, the Internet, and cell phones for most of their lives has changed their thought patterns and may also have actually changed how their brains developed physiologically.

    These folks want feedback daily, not annually. And in case it's not obvious, Millennials are fearless and blunt. If they think they know a better way, they'll tell you, regardless of your title."

  • Drunk dumped 1,000 miles from Home

    The few commercial airline pilots I've known have been quiet-spoken types, level-headed and not easily thrown.

    I know it's cabin staff that take the initial brunt of loutish passenger behavior, but the buck stops with the Captain and it can't be easy juggling a steady timely flight course with the safety, comfort and satisfaction of the passengers and deal with the occasional inebriated idiot in such a way as to avoid a PR flare-up at the other end.

    That's what makes it so stirring to read of the decisive dumping of an unruly Mancunian on an island miles from home.

    Also covered with a little more color and quotes in the Guardian.

    I trust the passengers burst into spontaneous applause as the oaf was marched off, his luggage tumbled onto the tarmac.

    I expect the crew felt pretty good, too.

    Now *that* is a man worth serving under.

    Friday, December 30, 2005


    It's vital to me that I don't cave in to the forces of evil, or hesitate for even a second to file whatever felicitous incorrectitude catches my eye.

    Reading that contrarian devil's dictionarian, Sedition, isn't enough these days.

    From a Francophile UK copain, what he dubs "an important announcement" but which I dismiss as mere Frog-knock:

    "As many are aware," the scurrilous tract begins, "the French government recently announced a raise in its terror alert level from "Run" to "Hide". The normal level is "General Arrogance", and the only two higher levels in France are "Surrender" and "Collaborate". The rise was precipitated by a recent fire that destroyed France's white flag factory, effectively paralyzing the country's military capability.

    It's not only the French that are on a heightened level of alert.

    Itie: Italy has increased the alert level from "Shout loudly and excitedly" to "Elaborate military posturing". Two more levels remain, "Ineffective combat operations" and "Change sides".

    Günther Grass: The Germans also increased their alert state from "Disdain" to "Dress in uniform and sing marching songs". They have two higher levels: "Invade a neighbour" and "Lose".

    Gnome: Bush comes 2 shove.

    Seeing this reaction in continental Europe the Americans have gone from "Isolationism" to "Find another oil-rich nation for regime change".

    Their remaining higher alert states are "Attack random countries (ideally those without any credible military)" and "Beg the British for help".

    Albion: The British are also feeling the pinch in relation to recent bombings and have raised their security level from "Miffed" to "Peeved".

    Soon though, security levels may be raised to to "Irritated" or even "A Bit Cross".

    No Char: Londoners have not been "A Bit Cross" since the Blitz in 1940 when tea supplies all but ran out.

    Terrorists have been re-categorized from "Tiresome" to "Bloody Nuisance".

    1666: The last time the British issued a "Bloody Nuisance" warning level was during the Great Fire of 1666."

    Veirs ~ Frisell

    ~ Seattle Weekly Year in Review ~

    I know I bang on about the hugely talented Laura Veirs and genius fretmaestro Bill Frisell (late of this parish), but I am at long-last vindicated by none other than that arbiter of all that's cool, Seattle Weekly.

    Ace review of 2005 by the Weekly's music writers in the clever form of a 2-CD compilation of favorite local tracks.

    Take a bow:

  • Laura Cassidy
  • Michaelangelo Matos (splendid name!)
  • The ever-readable Neal Schindler
  • Rachel Shimp
  • Kate Silver
  • In at #15, Laura Veirs' Magnetized from her Year of Meteors album.

    Quoth the reviewers,

    "Gorgeous lyrics ("I was slain/By your olivine eyes") and a haunting, slow-burning melody make this the most affecting song on the local singer-songwriter's excellent new album."

    At #21, Bill Frisell's I Heard It Through the Grapevine from the 'live' East/West tour-de-force:

    "The Marvin Gaye classic, reinvented as a slow-burning jazz-guitar trio meditation, recorded live in California. It ends our mix, appropriately, with a round of applause."

    And if you haven't added that to your collection ... DO SO sans delay.

    I trust the folks at Nonesuch are pleased. Such a clever label and what a Who's Who of the best music makers.

    Autograph stalker: I used to see Frisell on the ferry but never plucked the nerve to engage him in chat, so I took to carrying choice individual CDs around so I could get them signed.

    I have a somewhat snooty albeit knowledgeable London pal whose eclectic collection defines cool to the point of verging on the obscure - Giuffre, Motian, Patricia Barber, Jan Garbarek, Carla Bley, Paco de Lucia, Willy POrter, Mikkelborg, Bad Plus, di Meola, that crowd.

    He visited me last year and was running a well-manicured finger along my own bourgeois collection when he stopped:

    "Goodness - Bill Frisell, no less? Well done  ... I wouldn't have thought you were the type to have caught onto him. (Pompous ass - and me the king of 3-chord plunking). Mind if we give Nashville a spin?"

    He takes it out and goes over the stereo. Opens the jewel case:

    "To Chris - Thanks for listening.
    Bill Frisell"

    B'boum! Collapse of effete party.

    I remember nailing that one: Bill was wandering around trying to get a signal for his phone so I oozed up to his wife and asked if it might be ok to ask him to sign an album. Lovely smile. Certain he'd be thrilled.

    As he was when he saw my choice.

    "THE ultimate road-trip album," I gushed. A laugh. He hadn't thought of it that way.

    Such  a nice guy. Defining modesty.

    Another time, following him onto the ferry and marveling at the shabby guitar case and wondering which instrument it contained. I don't see them any more but that was a time when moussed youths would sit quietly strumming their power chords.

    Bill's gait paused ever so slightly as he passed and the bloke looked up, saw this homely bank manager type incongruously carrying a guitar and went back to his thrumming.

    It was just a perfect little cameo in my day and I wished I could have said something to Bill, but it would have been something disgustingly groveling along the lines of, "Little did he know, chuckle" that Bill would have been right to ignore.

    Such a nice guy.

    Follow-up: Good comment by James Marcus, author of Amazonia, his fascinating account of time in Château Bezosia and well worth reading.

    You need have no interest in the early workings of this behemoth to appreciate JM's wit and fine style.

    Marcus was employee 55, one of Amazon's first editors, and his is the real story.

    Also check out his cool blog.

    James's other nominee for Best Live Album of 2005 is Kelly Joe Phelps's Tap the Red Cane Whirlwind, of which here's the review of Whirlwind.

    Merry Kwanzaa, baas!

    "A lunatic blend of schmaltzy '60s rhetoric, black racism and Marxism." - Coulter

    The first time I came across this "kwanzaa " buffoonery was in December 1995 and I remember just bursting out laughing at what was clearly an hilarious and deserved spoof on everything the Political Correctitude crowd was pushing at us.

    I had no idea when or by whom this cruel parody had been dreamed up but I wished it had been launched in proper fashion by its true spiritual brethren, those mischievous Monty Pythons.

    I admit to some alarm when a few days later I chanced on a Hallmark emporium and saw that some wide-boy with an eye to a quick dollar had even churned out cards for the bogus occasion.

    Indeed, just as impressive was the deadpan copy, resisting the more obvious clownish quips and steering clear of even the lightest shade of racism.

    We'd come from Hong Kong where everyone's too busy making wads of money to waste time on satire, but this was too good not to share, so I snapped up a bunch of the more colorful straight-faced examples and fired them off to my pals and family born under sunnier skies, not forgetting my divine Filipina sister-in-law and her many and jocular siblings.

    Much hilarity and admiration all round.

    Believe you me, it took some time - and no little control of facial muscles - for it to sink in that there are many out there who not only miss the basic joke of the whole scheme but remain to this day unaware (if not disbelieving) of the blatantly cynical roots of "kwanzaa ".

    Now comes the fierce-eyed and alluring Ann Coulter to blow the cover on this whole farce by revealing that it is indeed nothing more than an invention courtesy of the FBI.

    What a hoot.

  • Kwanzaa was invented as far back as 1966 by a black radical FBI stooge, Ron Karenga, aka Dr. Maulana Karenga.
  • Coulter dubs it, "A phony non-Christian holiday invented for white liberals, not  blacks."

    All together now, to the tune of 'Jingle Bells':

    Kwanzaa bells, dashikis sell,
    Whitey has to pay,
    Burning, shooting, oh what fun
    On this made-up holiday!


  • Nota bene  the first-rate comment including excellent link
  • The reference to 'Obvious and Pathetic whingeing against Multiculturalism' will be a clip round the ear for an earlier post wherein I saluted skilled doodler John McPherson's skulled take on those exec desktop Balance Balls (aka 'Newton’s Cradle', which I knew not 'til I researched it for this post-script. Another plus for Michael's contribution.)

  • Friday, December 23, 2005

    Instant Translator

    Amusing little lingo linker.

    Start typing and the words are automatically translated in real time into the language of your choice

  • Spanish
  • German
  • French
  • Italian
  • Portuguese

  • Missing Baby Penguin

    Having just seen the impressive March of the Penguins, my heart goes out to three-month-old black-foot "Toga", taken last Saturday from the Isle of Wight's "Amazon World".

    In a way, my heart also worries for the safety of whoever nicked him: the British love for animals verges on the dotty and the security required in delivering the penguin purloiner to the local Assizes will need to far surpass that for mere paedophiles or assassins of popular singers.

    Thursday, December 22, 2005

    Paul Hewson

    Speaking of quotes and apostrophes, interesting Dec 26 issue of Time with cover story featuring Melinda and Bill Gates *and* poverty-pummeling singer, Paul "Bono" Hewson, yet again photographed in trendy pink-eye specs, gravitas  demeanor, and looking even more like a slim-faced Robin Williams.

    But some nice quotes, such as the one in the page 65 'Interview', that

    "It's tricky if you're recording a vocal to get called out because there's a finance minister on the phone.

    It's hard explaining that to the rest of the band
    Great line.

    *Le bon Hewson sings with the 'U2' combo.

    Mono Moniker : Either it's my eye or Time's editors' but I didn't spot a single reference in any of the stories to Hewson's actual name, nor much consistency about quotes around that mono-nomenclatured nickname.

    I looked him up for myself and "Bono" comes from "Bono Vox", a Dublin hearing-aid store.

    A1 Amtrak

    Full marks to Amtrak for observing ultra precautions with our unaccompanied traveling babes.

    The elder A-student staying up in Bellingham where she has a vacation job, the Spitfire and I are catching the train to spend Christmas amid the Groves of Academe, la jeune catching an early choo-choo back to Seattle so's to lose no further time hanging with her pals.

    Booking online, I did  notice that I was blocked from booking for Child, so I blithely went ahead and booked a single in my name.

    Then I got to wondering what would happen when the ticket inspector came round and found A traveling on a ticket under *my* name, so I burrowed further into the Amtrak site. Just as well I did.

    To make reservations for unaccompanied minors you must call us at 1-800-USA-RAIL (1-800-872-7245). You may not book reservations for unaccompanied minors on this web site.

    Booking tickets for unaccompanied minors is a whole different rigmarole, and very happy I am to go thru it.

    The courteous staffer takes down:

  • Three phone numbers for both the person delivering the mite to the station and who's collecting at the other end.
  • Asks that one arrives one hour before departure (later adjusted to 45 mins) for an 'interview'
  • Efficiently follows up with a phone call to confirm understanding and to explain that the interview is to make sure that the young thing knows who to go to "if she gets any grief on the journey."

    Bravo, I say, and I pass this on as an FYI for anyone else who'll one day make such an arrangement.

    ^5 Amtrak

  • Wednesday, December 21, 2005

    Apostrophized Plurals

    The always readable Arianna Huffington touches a nerve with her posting about the apostrophe crisis.

    I think I'm pretty steady on the old apostrophe except for a blank spot over treating the possessive 'one's' like 'its' and wanting to drop the apo.

    Where I have been guilty is tacking on an apostrophe on so-called aesthetic grounds after capitals - CDs, DVDs, POBs, etc.

    Now I type it, it looks fine but at my previous jobs I pandered to internal readers.

    Arianna's huff has strengthened my sinews.

    I see in the comments that someone hasn't grasped the fact that ropes courses can indeed be plural, there being different ropes along the assault course. On the other hand, it could also be the Rope Course, meaning the whole stretch.

    But I suspect AH's daughter went on the same course I did where they called it the Ropes Course. Minor point.



    I shuffle out for a snowy-bearded mocha and genial chin-wag with the Articulati.

    They are bandying opinions on this HanuKwanzMas 'War on Christmas' nonsense.

    I cannot be drawn, having neither energy nor opinion after whooping it up for too many years back East among world experts in symbolic souvenirs for the faithful.

    Saturday, December 17, 2005


    The sooner "King Kong" drops in the movie charts, the better. The simian resemblance to the Rose Garden dwarf is *too* embarrassing, particularly with the celluloid version winning on looks *and* fingering the luscious Naomi Watts.

    Of course the demi-syllabic Malaprop OK'd the bugging: he lacks any feel for the light and shade of ethics and would have grunted instant agreement that such eavesdropping was "critical to saving American lives".

    There's more to come, I'm sure: between sloppiness and arrogance, this bunch has gone to no pains to cover their tracks.

    What a shower. What a shameful blot on the political landscape will be revealed when all the incompetence and dishonesty is finally flushed into the open.


    Splendidly whingeing letter kicking off the Review's Dec 17 epistles.

    I sometimes think the editor runs these just to start our Saturdays with a decent giggle ....

    A Judith Kiriluk - and full marks to the Ed for not wrapping her moniker into a deservedly punning headline - got nicked with a parking ticket, as a result of which she assures us she's soured enough to stay clear of Winslow.

    Promises, promises.

    Visits us once or twice a year, does Kiriluk, whose immunity beef is that she "grew up on Bainbridge Island in the '40s and '50s and graduated from Bainbridge High School".

    The giveaway comes in the next para where JK tells us she "dropped $70 at a local restaurant."


    In an instant one has an all-too clear picture of this pinch-faced scold.

    Never has Rita Meter Maid sounded lovelier.

    Dangling the promise of dropping no further shekels in the neighborhood, Judith ends with a petulant, "Too bad for me, and too bad for your Winslow businesses."

    Wherever Belfair is, they're welcome to her and I totally absolve BHS from any influence or responsibility.

    Just a 75-Minute Improvisation

    I've always been fascinated by writings on jazz, albeit not enough to buy a book on the subject.

    In general, they're useful histories/potted biogs of the line-up and maybe a pointer to some aspect of a solo.

    Ben Ratcliff in the Dec 10 NY Times pulled off one of the most remarkable feats of description I've come across in his review of alto saxist Sonny Fortune and drummer Rashied Ali as part the "Saxophone and Drum" series at Sweet Rhythm.

    Rarely have I read such an evocation of the 'feel' of jazz:

    " ... they teased out the nearly invisible thread from the swing era to free music, adding other kinds of playing along the way ... And they did it in a single song, stretched over 75 minutes: Cole Porter's "Just One of Those Things."

    There was a strategy to it. Mr. Fortune, nonchalant, took a sip of San Pellegrino. Then Mr. Ali played a jagged bebop pattern on the high-hat, and "Just One of Those Things" began tightly, with Mr. Fortune lining out the melody as it is known.

    After five minutes or so, Mr. Fortune started retreating from the shape of the melody, playing longer and longer bop lines that whizzed by each chord, sustaining his phrases for minutes at a time with the technique of circular breathing, hitting some shrill high notes on the way. He played almost entirely in eighth notes, sometimes running smooth and continuous, sometimes broken up into clusters of four that sketched out passing chords. (In the feeling of those four-note clusters, which he returned to more often than any improvisation could support, Mr. Fortune seemed to be channeling Charlie Parker's famous recording of "KoKo.")

    Mr. Ali gathered steam too, moving into stretches of free rhythm, pumping his high-hat in independent hummingbird tempos as he played drum-and-cymbal combinations. He broke a stick; he turned it over in his hand, striking with the thick end, and let 15 minutes go by before replacing it.

    Nearly an hour after the set began, Mr. Fortune slowly came back to earth, using shorter lines, kicking in some slurred rhythm-and-blues phrases. He took a second sip of San Pellegrino.

    Mr. Ali, who still hadn't rested, then took over for a few minutes. Suddenly he was bringing in technique from the 1930's, tight Big Sid Catlett-style swing with elaborate rolls and patterns, as he played the melody of the song with the bass drum; he gradually spread that out into free rhythm and hit hard, hollering at the density. Mr. Fortune came back again to play the melody, and they were done. "

    It's an entirely personal thing - whereas I lapped up Nat Hentoff's vinyl cover notes and listened agog to the archly English tones of Radio 3's Charles Fox pronouncing on this most American of music, I never took to Philip Larkin's meanderings (sacrilege!) - but Ratcliff brings perfect pitch ear-to-keyboard technique to a job he clearly loves and works hard at to do right by his readers.

    Well done the editorial eye that spotted this gem.

    Friday, December 16, 2005

    Google to scan Bodleian

    No sooner do I get steamed up about Wal-Mart than I read of Google's plan to scan the books in the Bodleian.

    The two stories give off a similar chilling ring, and well may the UK's Publishers Association be concerned.

    The Bodleian buildings began in 1613, at the bequest of former Oxford student Thomas Bodley - which should make the spelling 'Bodleyan', I'd have thought, but there you go.

    .It's the second largest library in the UK (after the British Library in London)and receives a copy of every new book printed in Britain, a practice that began in 1610, so that the library contains an unrivaled 400 year record of British literature.

    It's unique in that it is not a lending library - no books can be borrowed, only read on the premises.

    The Bodleian takes this restriction seriously; in a famous case, King Charles I was refused permission to borrow a book.

    100-year moratorium on 'literature talk':

  • Shut down all literature departments
  • Close book reviews
  • Ban critics
  • Splendidly grumpy Guardian interview with Philip Roth, full of great quotes that I'll never remember when I need them.

    walmart movie

    I took out this DVD because I liked director/producer Robert Greenwald's exposé of Rupert Murdoch's "War on Journalism" in the clever Outfoxed.

    God, what a malevolent power Sam Walton's corner store wields. I had no idea. I thought they were a cosy bunch of hygienic-looking shop staff who went round hi-fiving cartoon characters and slashing prices so that impecunii like me could afford the occasional nosh and trinket.

    This documentary has opened my eyes to the actual harm they do, and I'm going to play it to my girls and buy one for the library to spread the good word.

    I assume some bias in all these things but *some* of it must be true and the statistics they dish up can't be totally cooked.

    The special features are particularly good:

  • 20-min condensed version
  • An excellent section on how to organize resistance, thanks to the stalwart Al Norman and Sprawl-busters.
  • Appalling facts behind the crime rate in the car parks and Wal-Mart's penny-pinching refusal to do anything about adequate policing.
  • Greenwald's must-hear Director's commentary
  • Special supplements looking at Canada (where Wal-Mart got a bloody nose thanks to unionising Quebecois) and England's Upton Park market where ASDA is all too much in evidence.
  • Stirring and inspirational success stories from all over the States where ordinary citizens have taken on this pestilence and won.
  • Such as the $172M rap over the knuckles for clamping down on staff Lunch Breaks. What's particularly pleasing - and bodes well for the future - is the inclusion of punitive damages.

    But the overall picture is depressing - particularly the secretive council meetings where subsidies are rubber-stamped to the detriment of local stores who receive nothing.

    They clearly have no interest in anyone or anywhere - least of all their own staff, as chillingly revealed in the NY Times' outing of Wal-Mart's directorial proposals to hold down spending on health care and other benefits.

    The stalwart FastCompany puts the spotlight on the Wal-Mart you don't know as well as 'The Man Who said No to Wal-Mart' (Jan/Feb issue; link to follow), the story of plucky Jim Wier who wanted W-M to stop selling his Snapper mowers.

    Poulsbo Pillage: Nor can we NIMBYists sit clucking complacently for much longer: short of an Act of God, our very own Poulsbo is soon to embark on its own lunch-break starvation diet.

    For what it's worth, Walmart Watch looks good, as does the ever-feisty Huffington Post on the movie showing.

  • Thursday, December 15, 2005

    Leung's Delight

    Hamid's Revenge

    To Bagels & Beans to collect some loot.

    My spiritual comforter has left me a boîte of rose & lemon flavoured sweetmeats in with coin of the realm for some lute strings I picked up for hubby.

    Expecting only a flat envelope of readies, I tear the wrapping away and instruct the expert Justin to fashion me the costliest flavored latte on the Bagels & Beans menu, all the while enjoying the sight that every parent knows all to well:

  • Patronne Lisa bending to the task of Christmasizing the bageleria
  • Enter hunky hulky son (why is it petite perfectly proportioned moms produce lanky offspring?)
  • Fruit of Loins: "Yo, mom" (grabs what he needs), "See ya, mom"
  • Toiling mom: "Later, darling"

    I sink latte and leave, pausing via Rite-Aid to collect soothing unguents for aching unemployed bod.

    Arrive at till with purchase and box of Turkish Dels.

    Assistante scans 'em all. Say what? The Turkeria ain't registering.

    Me: "No, the candy's not from here."

    A: "Dorene, what're we selling our - er - 'Turkish Delight' at?"

    Me" "No, this isn't from- "

    A: Aisle 8, I'm guessing."

    Me: "I'll be most impressed, you stock this ...."

    Dorene: "Wossat agin, Tanqueray?"

    A (accusatory): "We don't stock this."

    Me: "No. Gift from my guru".

    How can I possibly think of quitting this city?


    I issued a challenge to my smartie-pants UK readers to guess which of my regular papier-based reading has an editorial that includes the name of Frank Zappa and the word 'iconoclast' in the opening sentence, all under the headline "Boilerplate schmoilerplate."

    No, Terry, *not* the 'Asian Babes' Fender advertorial insert in 'Rolling Stone'.

    Our very own Bainbridge Review.

    When I scoop that that "Up Yours" £ win on the Lotto, I had plans of retiring to a Greek island and editing some seditious rag of infuriatingly out-dated literacy in between cosying up to my Hefneresque coterie of delightful young things round the pool.

    Sod the editing grind: I'll kidnap the editor of our Review, keep him chained to the 'puter on gruel and water, and take all the credit from my deck chair.

    The man's wasted here.

    Splendid piece on the obvious idiots who can't even vary their headings or text when spamming a cause - and didn't you just shove messrs Hands, Lisagor and Tolliver's letters under the microscope to detect duplicate phrases on the Council's HR decision?

    FastCompany's Aug issue on 'Why We Hate HR'  spoke with straight tongue on the matter, particularly the 'ouch' question of those companies whose HR supremo reports to the CFO. Dead giveaway.

    Burglary Rash: Baurick on form, and he's right to alert us to the holidays as being a time for chummie to come burglarizing.

    I once sold a totally fictional story to 'Punch' about a team who planted a temp in a travel agency and another villain offering to look after pets during owners' absence.

    This mapped empty homes and the rest was gravy.

    I set it in my granny's suburban setting of dear old Kenton because I knew the Harrow-on-the-Hill environs and it was perfect for that sort of robbery.

    All the details right, precise geography of how they handled the raids from the park side and where they joined the A4 north or south.

    Fuzz contacted the ed who contacted me and I had a right old audit of my movements. Luckily, I kept a diary that proved I was busy committing mischief in various Soho boozers, so they cleared me, but not without considerable hassle including checking all my possessions and some very awkward questions of certain young ladies who'd told mum n dad they were bedding with best friends. Ulp.

    Iconoclast: Impossible to get the children to share homework, largely because the history of this country is unknown to me and the upper slopes of calculus a total mystery. So we read the Review and I test 'em on that.

    Iconoclast? Not one of the words in common ghetto parlance, but a good try by the younger. "Elastic Icon"? Near enough.

    Police Blotter: Regular favorite and a known bastion of literacy, inviting the complaint that it should have included the gem from Four nabbed in meth bust about there being "a little bit of a struggle ... he didn't want to be arrested ... but there were four cops. so he eventually got with the program." Our emphases.

    Henceforth in this household, it'll be the euphemistic "getting with the program", tho' I'm not sure how programmed I can be with a daughter who's been clinically trained to walk with death in both mitts..

    Dull Reading: Interesting observation by younger spitfire: she shuns coffee so we don't bother with the latte assessor section, but you never know what these creatures read.

    We have a 'pal' who crams on the adverjectives and can't spout three sentences without some cloying joke as if to plead 'Not boring you, 'm I? ... Hey, I'm not heavy, I'm just being witty. Say you like me, you really like me."

    Junior Heinkel put me on the spot: "Dad, in the "Dull Reading" piece ... he's like Bill A.

    Like 'crucible' and 'hypothetical' are by way of what 'legal term' meaning what?"

    Out of the mouths of.

    Finalement, *doesn't* Tina Liu's write-up of Greg Epstein's BBQ set-up sound lip-smackin' good?

  • Farmers Market
  • Delivery: 1-8pm
  • Tel: 225-1215
  • Forthcoming website

  • jimmy page OBE


    Well, well - Jimmy Page anointed with the Order of the British Empire

    Led Zeppelin guitarist magician, Jimmy Page, honored by the Queen for his work with poor Brazilian children.

    I still frown on how long he took to own up to stealing his 'Black Mountain Side' from Bert Jansch's ‘Blackwater Side’ from Jack Orion, but we pickers carry a grudge. Think I'll let it go now.

    One of the few concessions made by the young to us wrinklies is intakes of breath at having been there at the time, at the peak of our vigour, to have:

  • Grabbed each Beatles single as it came out
  • Rushed back for baked beans on toast and the next episode of 'The Prisoner'
  • Been outside HMV for the latest Led Z album
  • Grabbed one's hottest tottie and made it down to the Marquee to hear the likes of Cream at their parent-worrying best
  • Pleaded with Dad to switch channels for Monty Python.

    Page was magic. We never worked out how he did it but we caught a few tricks and worked them into everything we plucked, so that what used to be yer standard 'Tom Dooley' would be the usual choruses and then a blistering solo longer than the chanson itself, then back to the sweet cooing of the actual words.

    I think my tour de force  was 'If I had Hammer' complete with 12th fret wailing pedal work on the amplified Martin. After one delivery Ron, the guv'nor of the Globe pub, commented, "What next? 'Huddie Leadbetter sings the best of Abba' which I thought the funniest most brilliant idea.

    Darn would that sell to today's kids.

    "Good morning blues, blues how do ya do?
    Quit my prison pinstripes, gone commute from Waterloo. (Waterloo, oh Waterloo-o)."

    Woulda been Goodnight Irene and heLLOO Agnetha's cute butt.

  • Wednesday, December 14, 2005

    Future Face Of Network News

    Whatever else there *isn't* to interest me in the Drudge Report, he has this raft of links including one to the delectable Tina Brown on whom I've had a crush since I first heard her, just down from Oxford, scything a bunch of fogey publishing types off at the knees for their usual pompous blah. I knew my limits even then and just stood back and ogled the firebrand minx, but some of my smarter-aleck pals tried their luck and bit the dust.

    It seems fashionable among my laughably unfashionable cronies to scoff at her but they're wrong, and her Dec 8 discussion of the state of network news in this country makes my point.

    Some deliciously juicy quotes:

    "Tom Brokaw looks more of a genius every day for the timing of his exit from NBC and for handpicking news machine Brian Williams as his successor. It was only a year ago, and it already feels like the Cretaceous era. Peter Jennings was still alive. Dan Rather was having his King Lear moment. Anderson Cooper was still a promising albino-haired gimmick who hadn't started to emote yet. It was fashionable to make fun of Rather for overdoing the trench coat "I'm just a reporter" routine, but you did feel his experience was experience rather than his experience was television.


    The unflagging Brian Williams, we are told, is always fighting for more time for hard journalism -- but that riff is getting old hat now, as sepia-toned as "Good Night, and Good Luck." A morning-show producer I know spoke with a straight face of the heroic struggle she'd waged (and lost) to get a Tony Blair interview last year up from two minutes and thirty seconds to a comprehensive four minutes. (That kind of length is reserved for Brad and Angelina.) The New York Observer pointed out recently that according to Andrew Tyndall, a media analyst who tracks network news, ABC, CBS and NBC combined have averaged 166 minutes a month on Iraq this year -- which works out per network to roughly 55 minutes a month or less than 120 seconds a day. Two-minute managers have given us the two-minute war.

    Love the bit about Brad and Angie. Spot-on.

    Tuesday, December 13, 2005

    Laid Off ~ finale

    Dateline: Dec 13

  • My replacement was hired before I was fired
  • Ex-colleague of B
  • Never *was* plans for an east-coast nanny; B had the ear of the Boss and Busker was out, shafted.

    Irony: I once shared with B that me n my younger sweetie took walks along the shore and just chat about this 'n' that. Dad to babe.

    Turned out B had lost *his* dad a year ago, "would have given anything" to walk with his dad.

    Now here I am, laid low and reduced to quitting these shores, no more strolling with my gal ~

    B misses his dad, oozes a pal into my post, costs *me* walking with my gal til who knows when.

    Circle game

  • Don't Let the Music Stop

    I must have around 300 CDs, collected over the years, racked by

  • Jazz
  • Pop
  • Foreign
  • Weirdo
  • Goof-off sounds
  • Classical orch
  • Opera
  • Albums I've 'retired' to give a rest
  • Etc

    A ton of which I no longer play.

    In company, it's different:

    With my bro, it might be an early Django or The Prez; Lonnie Johnson or Sam Hopkins. Bags meets Wes.

    For Mum: Peter, Paul and Mary, Burl Ives or Charlie Kunz. Charles Trenet.

    A date: Sweet: prep a nice dinner, sneak on a goldie oldie, surprise her: Santana, Bert Jansch, Mike Oldfield.

    Tonight, fave girl up from up from LA. Pasta 'n' salad, dry Fino kick off with the mezzès, muscular Chinon with the main course.

    Never heard Randy Newman, this chickadee, so I shoved on his Paradise album.

    I swear, that bad boy is impossible to have on the turntable and talk at the same time.

    His lyrics hypnotise.

    randy newman: trouble in paradise Track one, opening verse of "I Love LA":

    "Rollin' down the Imperial Highway,
    Big nasty redhead by my side,
    Santa Anna winds blowing hot from the north,
    We were born to ride.

    Roll down the window, put up the top,
    Crank up the Beach Boys, baby,
    Don't let the music stop,
    We gonna ride it 'til we just can't ride it no more."


  • Monday, December 12, 2005

    Pedia Wickedness

    What a nice man John Seigenthaler sounds:

    Idiot Brian Chase posts a prank entry about JS that's now cast doubts over Wikipedia's accuracy in general. (I'm sure other japes have been played, just not such high profile).

    The buffoon Chase "did not realise the online encyclopedia was taken so seriously." Not the way to endear himself to 'The Community'.

    Turns out the twit did it just to trick a co-worker.

    Resigned Job: Not entirely sure why Chase saw fit to step down from his job as an operations manager with some Nashville delivery company, but the gesture was a decent one. Maybe the backlash publicity seeped over and customers questioned how reliably their affairs could be operating with a twerp like that at the helm.

    The prank caused Wikipedia to change policy: only registered users now allowed to create entries, which must irk the rank-and-file punters.

    Despite the brouhaha, the classy Mr Seigenthaler isn't taking legal action *plus* he's urged Mr Chase's boss not to accept his resignation. Aloof and a gent.

    Michel Buis

    latte art

    nederlands kampioenschap 2005

    Some pretty amazing swirls.

    Wonder if I can get any of these at Bagels & Beans ...


    Much too good not to share, and there are some gems of translations that - like the hilarious English as She is Spoke - make me suspect it went from Chinese via at least two other tongues before finally being being wrestled into English.

    Talk about Chinese Whispers.

    They remind me of a time in Hong Kong when I seemed to spend my whole time as copywriter coming up with poetic descriptions for perfectly banal dishes that needed final approval by brusque Shanghainese Food & Beverage managers whose own grasp of the lingo was pretty bizarre to start with.

    I yearned to throw literacy to the winds and just go for broke on the craziest lewdest fantastic concoctions imaginable. And you know what? I bet the clients would have beamed their approval as if to say "At last we see your skills - now  you're getting it!"

    For inspiration, I'd have needed look no further than the below ...

    In the next one, I love "Butter many privates"

    ... and *what* is the 'Cow river' dish below all about, I wonder?

    Sunday, December 11, 2005

    Ferry Time

    Dolled up to the nines for some job interview, I'm strolling easy down to the ferry til I see the last of the cars driving on, at which I sprint.

    The ferry clock is 2 mins ahead of my fancy-pants chronograph that tells me when I'm down to 20,000 leagues and the time and wind chill in Botswana.

    I sit there trying to figure out do I hold down buttons A and D while pressing F for precisely 3.2 seconds while clicking E when the light flashes.

    Friendly father of 3 up from CA, showing his kids around: "That one of those atomic gizmos, lose a nano-second every thousand years? Forget it, the ferry clock's fast. "

    Don't care.

    Even if my Maker tells me "This is My time and thou shalt have no other brazen timepieces save they record My hour, yea unto the final Day of Judgment ...", I'm going give to Him lip:

    "Whatever, Big Guy, but my time stays *ferry* time, yea unto not missing that 4:35 bâteau home."

    "Hmm, point taken, My child. St Peter - advance Time by 2 minutes."

    "Dang, Lord, that gone take some fixing - tides 'n' all, ya know? But OK, You Da Man. Your Son!, but Your ways sho' mysterious."

    "I know, I know. (Sigh) Pain inna Butt. Is weird even to Me and don't even get Me started on that whole Pre-destination lark."

    Merrily we Roil along

    Latest buzz word: Roil.

    Noticed how it's cropping up?

    NYT in its coverage of the thin-wedge shootings in Fuzhou: "Widespread social protests roiling in the Chinese countryside ..."

    And I've seen it elsewhere.

    My theory, it started life in some typonese coverage for boiling aggro in a Frenchie banlieue

    Rival editor demanded, "Hey Frankie, how come nuthin' 'roiled' in *your* piece on those punks in that Boise shoot-out?

    Hey, people! I want a lot more roiling around here."

    And so the snowball began.

    Editor of The Times: "I notice the Yanks are using this word 'roil'. Come on, chaps, we're guardian of the language around here. Try to slip it in, there's good fellows."

    "Attention, everyone - the Chief wants to see more 'roiling'.

    Tess, that piece on the punch-up in the nursing home - must have been *one* of those old biddies rocked 'n' roiled? Attagirl."

    Prom Frite

    I may indulge in a bit of gentle ribbing over Turkish Delight and life to the manor born, but my host country has me in wide-eyed ingénu mode when it comes to that wondrous Rite of Passage institution, the Prom. I shall go to my grave regretting I never experienced one at first-hand.

    Which is why I'm so alarmed at reports of some spoilsport God-botherer putting the mockers on festivities at Kellenburg Memorial High.

    I thought it'd take some hard googling to track down illustrative coverage but no, the whole world seems to be chucking in its two cents', including some pretty funny po-faced entries from the churchy types.

    I know nothing whatsoever about these frolics, save for what I've learned from movies - speaking of which, I don't suppose anyone can point me towards a list of must-see DVDs that include Prom scenes? In the interests of plugging this shameful gap in my essential education, don't be modest in your recommendations - the cruder the better.

    Believe it or not, the elder daughter attended the BHS prom and I was conned into being a "chaperone".

    Super little party, it was, themed around cult movie 'Men in Black' so of course the lads turned up in full mafia regalia, dark *dark* glasses and the nattiest suits. The girls ... the 'girls' I'll come to later.

    Chaperone: I *told* Georgina I'd be worse than useless. There I was in my tux, towered over by the other chaperone dads, all grim-faced and darting eyes and not missing a trick.

    There was one chap there - buff as hell, bulging out of his T-shirt, exchanging jokes with the pupils. He knew *all* the nooks and crannies. There'd I'd be, trying to look useful but feeling a bit of a twit patrolling a clearly deserted corner. Suddenly Buffo pads up, dives into the darkest-shadowed bushes and emerges shepherding a brace of shame-faced youngsters in various states of smeared maquillage and undress.

    And of course, which red-blooded ferry riding male does not look forward to the high spot of the commuting year when the boat fills with the island's jeunesse dorée in fullest finery?

    Only trouble is that, at that age, Mother Nature is at her least even-handed: the guys all acne'd and scrawny necked, ungainly limbs squeezed into shiny-suited Rat Pack duds while the girls ....

    Huh, 'girls'. You look round at the other commuters - all the guys usually laptop tapping, deep into their card game or lost in the latest Grisham - and they're just *goggle*-eyed at the voluptuous pouting pulchritude.

    You can almost hear them muttering over their coffee about what're bunch kids doing with major talent like that? Like, how hard could it be just to bundle those nerds overboard and show these babes some *real* partying?

    According to a surprisingly (for Slate) prissy-sounding Ann Hulbert:

    "The erstwhile school dance and celebration of an impending diploma has morphed into a bacchanal sponsored by staggering parental largesse (some estimates put the cost at $800 per couple). A generation of adults, as therapists would say, are working out prom issues."
    'Hold the Limo: Prom's canceled as Decadent' headlines the New York Times' Paul Vitello piece, and holds my attention from the start.

    Brother Kenneth Hoagland, principal of Uniondale's Kellenburg Memorial High School, sounds a formidable piece of work. I've had some stints under his type and seen muscular sanctimony at work.

    "Prom night! That all-American rite of passage ... about social manners, class, gender roles; and to a more or less open degree, it is about sex.

    "Common parlance tells us," quoth Bro. Hoagland, " that this is a time to lose one's virginity ... It is a time of heightened sexuality in a culture of anything goes ... The prom has become a sexual focal point. This is supposed to be a dance, not a honeymoon."

    C'mon, dude - honeymoon? By the time you reach honeymoon, all the early bacchanalian fun stuff is pretty much over and it's down to the joys of a well-oiled drill team.

    At the single-sex private schools I did time in, we had one dance a year and it was the single most inhibiting event of the calendar. If the Beak had instructed us to think of these encounters as 'more or less about *sex*' and to remember that we were living in "a time of heightened sexuality in a culture of anything goes" - gosh, we'd have run a mile or pleaded to trade for a month in detention.

    The only guys that knew what was what were those with sisters, and even there it was tricky territory.

    What I loved was the ritual of that whole sister thing:

  • New term, new input of pathetic homesick mummy's boys, of whom the weedier ones had life made hell by the sadistic prefects.
  • Until the first Exeat Sunday when we had the first of three permitted parental visits when we were allowed out for those awkward silent lunches and strolls along the Brighton sea front.
  • Normally we had allocated seats in chapel that never changed, but when parents visited you were allowed to sit with them in the front row pews, in full view of the whole school. This was when you realised that these pathetic wrecks had totally hot sisters.
  • After the service, the chaplain and choir filed out followed by the Head and the teachers - all suddenly looking kindly and avuncular as hell - then the prefects - fine upstanding cream of the nation, just the kind of brotherly mentors etc.
  • Then the parents shuffled out. Then the rest of us plebs.
  • One emerged to an assembly on the lawn of teaching staff and swaggering prefects.
    • Headmaster: "Lord Fortescue - so good to see you, and you Lady Fortescue, radiant as ever. Yes, Jeremy is coming along fine, a real 'contributor' to the school spirit. Ahh, Lord Fortescue, a quick word if I may about the Gymnasium Fund ... if you could just see your way to ... yes yes, I perfectly understand ... well, that would be *very* generous."
  • But it was the prefects who provided the real cabaret. They'd had a full hour to check out the hottest siblings, so gone was the "Farnsworth, you spastic creep! I want this cap badge polished til you can see your prick in it, then my kit blanco'd and after *that* the study windows cleaning."
  • No, sir. Up they'd ooze, and it'd be all

    "Andrew, dear boy, how goes it? Out with the parents, is it? Splendid. Mrs Farnsworth, a pleasure to meet you. Mr Farnsworth, an honour, sir. And this must be ... ah, Simone. But of course. Howard Greensted, House Captain, so pleased to meet you."
    So funny. Never changed.

    And of course, for the rest of the term, the little maggot got ever-so delicate treatment ("So, Farnsworth ... the old folks coming down this weekend? Look, I'm not sure I got your sister's address right - it's St Ethelred's, right.")

    These manoeuvres were invariably complicated by other senior studs running their best interference. No sooner had Greensted started spinning his best line than up would swagger some other swell: "Sorry to interrupt, Howie ... just wanted to check about bowling practice ... Wotcha, Andie, how's it going, mate? And this must be ... Simone? How d'ye do? Barry Johnston-Burt, captain of rugger."

    Some of those seniors were mature and muscled beyond their years.

    I remember Davies when he'd been cast as Hamlet in the school play spending every interval off-stage posing outside the theatre in doublet and hose and just looking like dynamite.

    Which is straying somewhat from the endangered "Prom", so just let me say that I mourn Frère Hoagland's lamentable move in a clearly disastrous direction.

    Saturday, December 10, 2005

    Turkish Delight

    Dept of Live 'n' Learn: There I am sidling into the Sprout 'n' Seedling (sounds like one of those own-brewery Real Ale pubs you'd suddenly come across in the wilds of Bourton-on-Water) to ogle Julie Leung's snap of the Turkish Delight she'd tracked down to complete her Narnian nosh-up, and I had no idea it's unknown to you Americans.

    Liesl Schillinger's exposé in Slate of this Really Foul Candy piece was a complete eye-opener.

    "It's also possible there's a cultural difference," she suggests, going to ask, "Did, or does, the stuff somehow appeal to British taste buds more than to American ones?

    Since 1914, an offshoot of Cadbury has been churning out a mass-market "Fry's Turkish Delight" bar, which tastes kind of like taffy."

    I can see why the Slate editors give her space; Schillinger has a pen for the witty when she tutors us that, :

    "The candy was created hundreds of years ago, when the Sultan Abdul Hamid I "summoned all his confectionery experts and ordered them to produce a unique dessert." The man who came up with Turkish Delight ("Lokum" in Turkish) was made the court's chief confectioner. History reveals that Sultan Abdul Hamid I spent his first 43 years in captivity, imprisoned by his older brother. His sibling, perhaps, sensed the culinary nightmare his baby brother was raring to unleash on the world."
    I'm not crazy about it, but I seem to have been eating it most of my life, not to mention bearing it as an offering to posh dinner parties and including it as a Christmas present for at least one family member at gathering.

    Certainly, they're not something you want to sit around just shoving blob after blob into your mouth. The gentrified way is:

  • Civilised bite, replace rest of Delight on side plate.
  • Swill of port/brandy/grappa/whatever
  • Slide a bon mot into the conversation
  • Sit back ~ puff cigar ~ savour appreciative laughter ~ allow flicker of a gaze to meet interested female scrutiny.
  • Another sip, another puff.
  • Next bite of the Turkish.

    Funny thing is, we had bags of American pals over there - all dressing and conversing more Englishly than the locals, of course, not to mention single-handedly keeping the tweed market afloat. I don't remember any of them chirping up.

    Not wanting not to fit in, I suppose, but then what about all their kerfuffle over Marmite? No hanging back there  - fake (or not so fake) gagging, blood draining from features, lot of discreet napkin work between mouth and lap.

    That was the funniest thing about country weekends to which Yanks had somehow wangled an invite. A real dilemma for so many transatlantic Anglophiles, crazed by their snobbery to sample the noblesse oblige life as practised by the blue bloods, but terrified of the culinary assault course that comes with it. Breakfast and High Tea seem to present the most formidable challenges ... but I'm getting way off topic.

    All I meant to say was that I had no idea it was a literally foreign delicacy and that the movie may end up answering for more than just a wonky allegory.

  • Brokeback Mountain

    Chip Gibbons is right in his Binary Circ posting: the Ledger/Gyllenhaal movie is collecting extroadinary  raves. Stephen Holding in the Times hailing it as "moving and majestic"? Gad.

    A movie like this, on a topic like this, I turn first to the respectable Daily Telegraph to tell me where I stand.

    Well, John Hiscock seems to be rivalling Heath Ledger in his admiration for Kirsten Dunst's handsome consort.

    Heading his review, "Why Gyllenhaal spells success", and demonstrating none of that Telegraphic reserve I read the paper for, he describes JG as

    "Tall, muscular, with blue eyes and an intense, deadpan stare ... brings to mind Tom Mix, William Boyd or even Gary Cooper in High Noon."

    Readers are informed that, "Gyllenhaal, best known for playing quiet, introspective young loners ... is cast against type as Twist, the outgoing, fun-loving rodeo rider who falls for Heath Ledger's quiet ranch-hand. Yet he carries it off beautifully, even negotiating the potentially awkward sex scenes with considerable aplomb. His secret, he says, was to approach them, "like doing a love scene with a woman I'm not particularly attracted to". Now *that* is quite a subtle distinction.

    "Faultless performance ... brings great tenderness to the part, lending poignancy to a relationship that refuses to die in the face of huge obstacles."

    Is there no stopping this celluloid wonder?

    Mind you, I'm not sure I myself will be hastening to see it unless the young thing fancies some craggy landscape and big empty skies.

    LOL. I can just see my elder girl giving me her 'look', as if to say, "Dad, aren't we a teensy bit quick off the mark with that throwaway protest?" Come to think of it, I seem to recall the eagle-eyed Chip pouncing on a loose phrase of mine in a similar context awhile back.

    Very well then, me and the spitfire will be losing *no* time treating ourselves to a bit of cowboys and, erm, cowboys - but *after* 'Syriana' and 'Geisha' and just before 'Mrs Henderson' and 'Transamerica' (see below).

    Speaking of master Gyllenhaal, he too closely resembles a fresh-faced version of that girl-magnet Zack Works (ex magnet, I hasten to add, lest the new Mrs Works is reading this.)

    I suppose that explains the wail that went up as half the babe population of Seattle railed and gnashed and rent their designer garb asunder as the object of their lust trotted meekly down the aisle for his appointment with the marital oubliette.

    Actually, it was cruising more than trotting: I gather the splicing took place in Vegas, the bride was given away by The King, and transport was a Cadillac convertible.

    No, the reason it's hard to be reminded of ZW's chiseled countenance is that I think  I have a bone to pick with him over a certain Coloradan of haunting appeal. But of course I shall never be able to ask and he can never say.

    Felicity HuffmanI'll tell you what *does* sound fun, the exquisitely-nostriled Felicity Huffman in Transamerica.

    Joel Stein's review in the Dec 12 Time under A Disparate Housewife makes it sound irresistible, and I am NOT one to throw movie dollars around on:

    "A low-budget indie film about a transsexual father's road trip with her newly discovered teenage prostitute son. If people thought it was brave of Nicole Kidman to endanger her glamour by wearing a big prosthetic nose or Charlize Theron to put on fake teeth, Huffman is going to get the silver star. In one scene, for longer and in larger form than you might enjoy, her penis is visible.

    still from 'transamerica'The role is indeed the kind of thing Oscar voters love: a lady who looks like a dude who looks like a lady.

    The voice took an hour of practice to slip into each morning, so she stuck with it off camera all day. It was so convincing that Huffman's husband, actor William H. Macy, who served as a producer on the project, wouldn't take her calls during the day because it creeped him out.

    "My 2-year-old did cry when she saw me," said Huffman. "It's probably something she'll be talking about in therapy."

    Yes, what is it with me and a certain type of nose on a women - almost a broken look.

    Meanwhile, at the other end of the nasal spectrum, the aardvarkian Jessica Parker about whom I'm so impossibly rude that my daughters threaten to beat me up each time I even draw breath to revile the vedette.

    Well, we know which proboscis preening flick *I* shall not be bothering the Pavilion ticket staff over this season. And the funny thing is I actually find Barbra Streisand rather sexy ... rum.

    But I'll tell you the one I really feel sorry for. The cameraman. Poor wretch.

    It absolutely *has* to be in SJP's contract that she's filmed face-on, thus fooling the audience's perspective, and this must require such microscopic precision to drive the poor lensman barmy: one slip, a half inch either way, and - eek - that pinnochion trombone is revealed and they have to start all over again.

    On which note, let the last word go to that wonderful, tortured soul, the late Spike Milligan:

    "What a wonderful thing is a nose.

    It grows and it grows and it grows.

    It grows on your head while you're lying in bed.

    At the opposite end to your toes."

    john lennon

    Lennon R.I.P.

    I couldn't listen to Barbara Walters' 20/20 interview with the Chapman killer. His spooky voice. Those blubbery features and huge circular specs.

    But I did catch his remark about the look on the patrolman's face as he carried the dying Liverpudlian aloft. Apparently, the honest rozzer uttered a "horrible" oath at the murderer.

    Chapman sounded almost hurt and offended.

    It must have taken some self-control for the policeman not to have drawn his own gun and dealt rough justice on the spot.

    I'll tell you what'll be horrid - the treatment almost certain to be meted out by any number of people from across the world if the man ever swims into their ken.

    Mark David Chapman flew up to New York to wait for Lennon outside his 'Dakota' apartment home. If news ever breaks that Chapman is anywhere  accessible, you'd have fans selling record collections and snapping up air tickets across the world  for the chance to corner this guy and deliver their own contemplative medieval revenge.

    Imagine: Now's as good a time as any to say that if you want to hear a truly fine treatment of this fetching tune, track down Palle Mikkelborg's 1986 album of that name, track 5.

    Mikkelborg's on trumpet and fluegelhorn, Kennie Knudsen on keyboards, and the great late Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen on bass - described by Oscar Peterson as "arguably the most inventive bassist in jazz".

    Just the nicest guys. The trio was booked for Hong Kong's City Hall and, as shamefully often, ticket sales were so pathetically low that the organisers wanted to refund tickets and call it off.

    But no, the lads didn't want to disappoint those fans that *had* turned up so we spread ourselves over the first few rows and enjoyed what amounted to a private performance complete with intimate banter and eyeball view of the musicians as they went about their musical tasks.

    Iraq Occupation

    ~ Tom Greene ~

    So many good writers in this parish.

    Tom Greene excellent in the Dec 10-16 Bainbridge Islander on how the Occupation of Iraq Will be a Long One.

    Irritatingly, I think you have to sign in to the Islander home site and then plug in keyword 'Greene', but it's worth checking out.

    double decker bus


    So, farewell, then to the noble double-decker London omnibus.

    I confess I never  knew they were called RouteMasters - after, what, 50 years' hopping on 'n' off those wonderful carriages? LOL.

    I suppose they had to go, if only for their total inaccessibility for the handicapped and agèd.

    What memories flood.

  • One could smoke on the top deck, a God-send after a night in the boozer.
  • Also a life-saver was that open exit with the pole that one grasped as one swung aboard at some traffic light or slowing corner.

    Where I lived in Swiss Cottage was equi-distant between two stops so I either got off on Finchley Road and had a tedious stagger down Fairfax Road, or stayed on and had to totter back from the next stop. OR, I took my chances and stepped lithely off as it slowed for the roundabout by the Britannia pub.

  • And how many times have we just missed it but then seen the lights go amber just up the way and *sprinted* to catch it before they changed? The fitness level of Brits will plummet with the passing off these mobile gymnasia.
  • When I moved south of the river, the bus would start at Wandsworth where all the char ladies would clamber on board and cluck away to each other, then it'd cruise up to fashionable Kings Road where all the Sloane Ranger totties would get on and the lads would shuffle up to make space for the cutest ones. A little further up and the bowler-hatted city types would get on in their pinstriped Savile Row and furled 'brollies.

    Charming exchanges would take place:

    "Good morning, ladies. Good morning, Mrs Wilkinson. Good morning, Doris, how's the leg? Oh, I'm soo  glad - what a bore it must have been for you."

    "Morning ducks. Ooh, I like the button-hole. Very  nice. See his button-hole, Flo? From yer own rose bush, is it, luv? Oi, wot 'm I going to do abaht my rubber shares? They going to stay steady or what? My Sid - bless his soul - 'e'd hate for me not to do the right thing. Got them just after the war, 'e did, said to me 'Mavis - you look after these 'n' they'll look after *you*.' Always such a *planner*, was my Sid.

    So wot I'm going to do, then? Wossit say in yer paper?"

    "Let's see ... Malay Rubber .. yes, they *do* seem to be a bit frisky. On the other hand, I was talking to the Treasury boys the other day and one of them tipped me off that United Sarawak was in for a rebound ... Mavis - hold on to them, is my advice."

    "Orl rite then, Sir Martin, I will. But there'll be a flea in yer ear if they go down. You'll've have to change yer bus route, won't he gels?" Laughter all round.

  • I was once walking up Baker Street and the bus was just pulling away when I spotted a young lad - 11 or 12 - waving and sprinting. I signaled the driver - a big West Indian - and he duly waited. As he pulled away, the lad on board, I gave him a big thumbs-up, and then I thought 'Sod it, no. I'll write to London Transport with the time and location and bus number.'

    A few weeks later I got a letter in the post from the PR department: they'd been running a courtesy campaign and my letter had alerted them to include Mr Cameron among the award. Would I like to attend the ceremony?

    I rolled up, and there he was, squeezed into his best suit, massive neck constrained by a tie of wondrous garishness, his darling of a 5' by 5' circular wife in a bright green dress across which all the birds Africa were depicted in eye-blistering plumage, his three children in their Sunday best, hair slicked down and clearly in awe of the occasion.

    Speeches were made, medals were pinned - and the announcement that all awardees were to receive an instant pay rise, back-dated to their act of heroism.

    Over drinks and sandwiches, Mrs Cameron bustled up and clasped me to her voluminous bosom as, tears in her eyes, she informed that the money had saved their lives, enabling them to repay a medical bill and hence stay in their Notting Hill house. I don't know whose eyes were wetter by the end.

    Cameron himself looked a little emotional and insisted I come for dinner:

    "No, insist, mate. Mustn't he, Sylvie? You like spicy food, do you, mate? That's settled, then - the missus make the best nosh in town. Like a drop of wine, do you? Great. I'm partial to some of the Rioja myself, so we'll feed you up - look at 'im Sylv', we gotta put some flesh on those bones - and have a right time, pal."

    I turned up and of course it was a crappy part of town and I was offered "protection" for the Fiat ("See that no-one keys yer car, mister?") til Jack came out and told them that one speck and they'd feel the back of his hand. I think they were rather taken aback that I had such powerful pals in the area.

    Inside was chaos, children everywhere and grandmas and uncles and neighbors and ska playing on the Dansette ...

    I was taken down the line like some royalty and when I got to the old dame whose hospital bills I'd assisted, she started to rise from her seat and then *knelt" before me and made to kiss my hand.

    I was horrified and made to protest but Jack said quietly, "Let her do it, Chris. This is important. "

    Finally, I too knelt and lifted her up and back to her seat.

    "It was my *honour*>" Then, sensing all eyes on us, I said, "Hello? No drink, granny? Blimey, Jack - you running a dry house here or what?"

    I'd brought a bottle of Hennessy XO and handed it to Jack to share it round.

    "Bloody hell, mate - you shouldn't have ought to ... how'd you guess? It's gran's favorite. 'Ere, Sylv - seen what Chris bought, the bad lad? Blimey, we'll never get granny back to the rotgut I serve."

    Toasts all round and for the rest of the evening, every time I espied the old lady she was helping herself to another smidgeon and raising her glass to me in conspiratorial toasts.

    Passing of an era, and I'm not just talking buses

  • Next Year's News

    One of the cleverest and funniest writers in Britain today is Craig Brown, whose "Way of the World" column appears in the Daily Telegraph and is pounced on over there by connoisseurs of good parody. wit

    I used to know him quite well and saw him often but can't seem to get even an email through these days.

    Last time the elder girl was in London she went into the publishers to try to get a contact address, but the puffed-up idiots on reception refused on security grounds and wouldn't even forward a note.

    For all my moping and sighing as the home-sick ex-pat, I probably couldn't take even 24 hours in today's blairist wonderland and would hop right back on the plane to good ol' Bainbridge.

    Anyway, Craig's gazed into his crystal ball and come up with some good ones, of which the funnier or more accessible are reproduced below.

    I've paid particular attention to those likely to cause most offence to correctitude buffs.

    Who knows? His legal advisors might get wind of this doubtless breach of reproduction rights, alert him that some geezer across the Pond is flashing his adroit prose around, and we finally  get to chat.


    • Peter Bazalgette announces Endemol's new reality TV series, Big Suicide Bomber House, in which 10 suicide bombers compete for the chance to blow one another up. "Let's not be snobbish and undemocratic about this - this programme will be at the cutting-edge of successful suicide-based TV, and will add to our growing portfolio of modern, forward-looking, suicide-based infotainment," says Bazalgette, putting on his serious voice at the launch, adding: "If Shakespeare were alive today, I have no doubt he would be appearing on Celebrity Big Brother."


    • Faced with a declining audience, the BBC's Top of the Pops changes its name to Top of the Butts and does without the music. "For some time now, 55 per cent of the programme has been devoted to close-ups of pretty girls wiggling their bottoms back and forth," explains BBC chairman, Michael Grade. "Our audience surveys tell us that the vast majority of the audience find the accompanying music a tiresome distraction."


    • A severe shortage of deaths of much-loved former celebrities so far this year has resulted in the public growing increasingly restless to express its grief. Media bosses agree to hire a contract killer to "hasten the ends" of a former disc-jockey, two former celebrity chefs, three former chat-show hosts, four former sportsmen and five former pop stars. "It's what they would have wanted, if they were already dead, which they soon will be, bless 'em," explains top PR Max Clifford.

    • Professor Christopher Ricks launches his scholarly new book, Harris's Visions of Paradise, subtitled The Unearthly Vision of Rolf Harris. The book is applauded by critics for the light it sheds on the many layers of meaning behind Harris classics such as Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport. "What exactly does Harris mean when he pleads with his previously unnamed friend Jack to 'Take me koala back' before adding - plaintively, beseechingly, but perhaps above all, unknowingly - 'He lives somewhere out on the track, Mac'?". This is the question posed by Ricks in Chapter 5: "Back to Where? The Question of the Koala". Ricks concludes that the Koala is, in fact, God and the Kangaroo Satan. "But where" he asks, "Does this leave the wallaby?"


    • Speaking outside Number 10, at 10.30 am on April 5, Tony Blair announces he will be stepping down as Prime Minister. At 10.33am, Gordon Brown comes out of Number 11 and declares his candidature for the leadership of the Labour Party. At 10.35am, Tony Blair pops back out and explains that, actually, he didn't mean right now.

    • Channel 4 screens a two-hour drama-documentary about the life and times of Mahatma Gandhi. "It is as a powerful, thought-provoking, serious and deeply considered drama about the great Indian leader Mahatma Gandhi," announces Channel 4 Head of Drama, Peter André. But some historians complain that the drama, Randy Gandhi, contains scenes that have no historical reality. These include steamy romantic alliances with, among others, Princess Margaret, Dorothy Macmillan, Dame Edith Sitwell, Gracie Fields, Diana Dors, and others. To the specific charge that the scene in a taxi involving Gandhi and a drunken Charlotte Church could never have taken place, as the two protagonists were never alive at the same time, André replies that it has an emotional truth that surpasses the purely literal.


    • Tessa Jowell announces new plans to curb excessive eating in restaurants. "For too long, restaurants have been used by people who want not just one course, but two-, or even three-course meals" she explains to a hushed Commons. "But all the information suggests that the vast majority of ordinary, decent people want the Government to help them in their fight against obesity. With this in mind, we intend to restrict restaurants to serving only lettuce-based starters, with no main courses or puddings except with a special licence, which will only be granted to proven anorexics."


    • There are celebrations in the streets when word gets around that, for the very first time, a Stella McCartney dress looks perfectly OK on a shopper who tried one on. "It had to happen sooner or later," says a delighted spokesman, "but we never for a moment expected it would happen as quickly as this."


    • A leading medium claims to have received the very first message back from the late Sir Edward Heath. Sir Edward has expressed his dissatisfaction with heaven. "I'm afraid that whoever is in charge here really doesn't know the first thing about running paradise. One could do without those tiresome harpists for a start. It was all done so much better in my day."

    • A new survey suggests a 350 per cent increase in unnecessary surveys over the past three years. "This must be good news for the whole Unnecessary Survey Industry," says a leading spokesman for the USA (Unnecessary Survey Association). Surveys carried out for the USA over the past week have revealed that children prefer watching television and eating potato crisps to reading a classic of world literature and sipping water, that people in built-up areas are more likely to suffer from petrol fumes, that most people prefer ice-cream as a pudding rather than as a main course, and that the South of France continues to beat Birmingham as a favourite holiday location.


    • Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt announces new restrictions on the wearing of belts. "In recent years, I have been increasingly concerned at the unprecedented increase in the number of people who are wearing their belts too tight. This may cause pain in the stomach area, and is a drain on our health and counselling services," she announces to the Commons. "With this in mind, the Government is introducing immediate legislation to restrict the number of inner holes on all belts. We will also be announcing a new Beltwatch Hotline, allowing members of the public to report on those they spot attempting to wear their belts too tightly, or to drill new and illegal holes in their belts."


    • Dr Jonathan Miller begins a new television series in which he casts doubts on his own existence. "I find it impossible to believe in someone as clever as myself," he reveals.


    • Former Washington ambassador Sir Christopher Meyer takes his place among the other contestants on I'm a Celebrity - Get Me Out of Here! Sadly, his first bush-tucker trial, in which he has to be buried in a box full of rats, is suspended following complaints from the rats.


    • The most recent findings by the Unnecessary Survey Association reveal that 90 per cent of Christmas presents are bought in the three months leading up to Christmas. It also emerges that 95 per cent of people like to pull their Christmas crackers with other people, compared with just five per cent of people who prefer to pull them by themselves. Of the five per cent who pull crackers by themselves, the majority describe themselves as "sad" or "very sad indeed".

    A Good Faith Belief

    Spendidly swingeing and robust handling by Sedition of the torturous question of the legality of torture if one has "evidence and a good faith belief" that the stubborn unfortunate on slab "can furnish information necessary to save a million lives and avoid hundreds of billions of dollars in property loss."

    Sedition votes an unequivocal Yes, but it's how he goes on that caught my eye, reminding us that,

    ... the real problem is, has been, and forever will be, that torture ends up being used against innocent individuals who have no information to offer, have committed no crime, and don’t deserve so much as a talking to, let alone water boarding.

    Therefore the crux, the modest proposal toward legalizing torture, being:

    If it comes to light later—whether it’s a day or 10 years—that the tortured man was innocent or that the threat could have been nullified without torture:

    • Everyone involved in the torturing, from the executives who cleared it to the thugs who beat him with phone books and told him he was dead if he didn’t display some alacrity in squealing:
      • All receive 25 years in a federal penitentiary without the possibility of parole
    • If the tortured individual dies as a result of the treatment:
      • All responsible parties are given the death penalty without appeal.
    Oh, and the tortured man or his surviving family would receive the proceeds of one year of the USA’s gross domestic product or 1 trillion dollars, whichever is less, as compensation. Gotta make it hurt for everyone so they take an interest. [My emphases]

    That ought to keep torture where it belongs: in history books and pointless Socratic jibber-jabber. We’ll call it The Wiesenthal Law."

    That rather settles that particular Gordian poser for me and I hope I remember to rattle off the salient points when the discussion next arises just as I'm trying to enjoy my Gurdjieff and hot chocolate.

    Smartie Pants Unseated: I was going to slip in what I thought  was my own personal little-known favorite Fyodor quote, the one about Unavenged Tears - but it appears that the whole world and his cousin know it, blogs founded on it, lectures based around it, you name it.

    I'll end with it anyway, because I can't remind myself too often of that Karamazovian soul-search.

    Imagine that you are creating a fabric of human destiny with the object of making men happy in the end, giving them peace and rest at last. Imagine that you are doing this but that it is essential and inevitable to torture to death only one tiny creature-that child beating its breast with its fist, for instance-in order to found that edifice on its unavenged tears. Would you consent to be the architect on those conditions?

    Friday, December 09, 2005

    At the grownups' table

    Being at the loose end of a dwindling bank balance, I've had to resort to that most enriching of inexpensive pleasures, re-reading old favorites. And none has given me more pleasure than Mortdecai Richler's expertly edited 540-page pick of The Best of Modern Humor.

    Well, not quite so modern these days, having been published in October 1983 and placed under that year's Christmas tree by my newish wife, clever girl. Two months away from delivering our first child and all she thought about was getting it right for her man. (Pause for a Kleenex moment).

    Yes, absolutely packed with truly funny sketches and stories by the finest wits in town, but it's the Richler's Foreword that I'm on about here: unbeknownst to me (or at least conveniently forgotten) most of my funniest lines and anecdotes over the years have clearly been lifted straight from that witty intro.

    Here, by way of tribute to Stephanie without whom ... well, without everything, if you must know ... here's the pick of those pages ...

  • Young lady writes to ask James Thurber if there are any standard rules for writing humor. The best the great man could come up with was a list of proscriptions. Avoid comic stories "about plumbers who are mistaken for surgeons, sheriffs who are terrified by gunfire, psychiatrists who are driven crazy by women patients, doctors who faint at the sight of blood, adolescent girls who know more about sex than their fathers do, and midgets who turn out to be parents of a two-hundred-pound wrestler.

    [And the killer ] Thurber, after 20 years of sifting through unsolicited manuscripts, also recommended to neophyte humorists that the word "I'll" should not be divided so that "I" is on one line and the "ll" on the next, "because the reader's attention can never be recaptured."

    Maybe you had to be there, but I just sat there in my Xmas jammies and laughed and laughed.

  • There's more: a rule not mentioned by Thurber is that it's usually unwise to ask one comic novelist to pronounce on another.

    Evelyn Waugh writing back to the fragrant publiciste who'd sent him an advance copy of Catch-22 in hopes of snagging a jacket quote:

    "Thank you for sending Catch-22 . I am sorry that the book fascinates you so much. It has many passages quite unsuitable to a lady's reading. It suffers not only from indelicacy but from prolixity. ... You may quote me as saying: 'This exposure of corruption, cowardice and incivility of American officers will outrage all friends of your country (such as myself) and greatly comfort your enemies.' "

    B'boum! They do NOT  write 'em like that any more. I do hope a *smidgeon* of a smile played about the old boy's chops as he polished that one off - unbeatable.

  • The famous one from Edmund Gwenn. "Dying is easy," murmured the actor on his deathbed. "Comedy is difficult."

  • PG Wodehouse's observation that the trouble began at school.

    If a boy merely talked amusingly, he was a silly ass. If his conversation took a mordant or satirical turn, he was a funny swine. "You think you're a funny swine, don't you, Holmes?"

    Whichever, wrote Wodehouse, the wits were scorned and despised, and lucky not to get kicked.

  • "When you do comedy," Woody Allen once said, "you are not sitting at the grownup's table."

  • "Humor to me," Dorothy Parker once wrote, "takes in many things. There must be courage; there must be awe. There must be criticism, for humor, to my mind, is encapsulated in criticism. There must be a magnificent disregard for your reader, for if he cannot follow you, there is nothing you can do about it." Well said that woman!

  • The editor himself: "But truly good humor, charged with outlandish hooks and unexpected sharp jabs, is bound to offend, for, in the nature of things, it ridicules our prejudices and popular institutions. Alas, people have become so touchy that to be irreverent these days it to invite an outraged retort from some pompous organization or another. Even being funny about porcupines can be risky. "Just try it," wrote P.G. Wodehouse, "and see how quickly you find your letter-box full of communications beginning: 'Sir, With reference to your recent tasteless and uncalled-for comments on the porcupine ...."

  • One of my favorites about abusive mail is Mortdecai wondering "what sort of letters Roy Blount, Jr., earned when he wrote of the first Carter campaign:

    " ... when Earl Butz was quoted as saying that all black folks want is 'a tight pussy, loose shoes, and a warm place to shit,' I wish Jimmy had responded by saying it sounded like a set of priorities a lot of people could identify with."

  • As Richler puts it, "For all I know, Blount is still in hiding."

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