Saturday, 31 January 2009

Friday, 30 January 2009

cootaboot banks

He's a very good golfer in a Wodehouse short story (it's been a few weeks since any Wodehouse). He wants the girl, but the girl has had her head turned by Raymond Parsloe Devine, the tedious novelist, who is expecting to be a big hit with Valdimir Brusiloff, the visiting Russian literary lion. Parsloe Devine lionises a couple of other Russian lions, and Brusiloff gives him short shrift. The rest of the Wood Hills Literary Society loses its faith in Parsloe Devine and shifts away from him. Then Brusiloff sums up his position.
'No novelists any good except me. Sovietski - yah! Nastikoff-bah! I spit me of zem all. No novelists anywhere any good except me. P.G. Wodehouse and Tolstoi not bad. Not good, but not bad. No novelists any good except me.'

The meta-moment was, by me, unexpected.

deep blue sea - a warning from history

One of my favourite reviewing experiences was a few years ago, when I read and loved Philip Hoare's England's Lost Eden. It was an idiosyncratic history-cum-travelogue about religious fanatics in the Victorian New Forest. His follow up, which came out at the end of last year but which I am only just reading, is about whales*. I think regular readers can see that they will soon learn more about whales.

As a taster: JFK was a massive fan of scrimshaw (carvings on whale's teeth). In 1963, the First Lady ordered him a Christmas present of a whale's tooth engraved with the presidential seal, but he never got it. It was buried in his coffin.

(Also, shortly before he died, JFK threw a private dinner for Greta Garbo at the White House and gave her a bit of scrimshaw. In her thank you letter to Mrs Kennedy - the Swedes are well polite - she wrote, 'I might believe it a dream if I did not have in my possession the President's "tooth" before me.' Knowing JFK as I don't, but I've heard the stories, I feel I should point out that there were a lot of naughty scrimshaws of one kind and another. Doubt this was one of them, or Garbo wouldn't have written to Jackie, surely.)

*Great cover, no?

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

no capital i for internet

Stupid Microsoft Word autocapitalises internet, but that doesn't mean it's right. Scared newspaper sub-editors, who aren't going to get in trouble for being too finicky, also capitalise it, partly because they have been trained to by stupid Microsoft Word and similar. Don't do it. Maybe internet originally got capitalised for reasons associated with it being a (virtual) place? Or because it was new and for some reason... I'm going to find some explanation.

Here is some explanation. It's like I'm a soothsayer or crazy futuristic kind of genius, because this is more or less exactly what I think. The word has matured, and capitalising it makes you look out of touch or odd.* This is already the case in common usage, and now we should make it the case in official practice. You and me, in newspapers and books, etc. I have made this clear to Jonathan Cape, who are all over it.

(There is an Internet in The Kilburn Social Club, but it's in a newspaper article, geddit?!?)

*Don't think I am anti-punctuation, etc. I capitalise in text messages.

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

bad girls, good girls

I put it as yesterday's Pravda headline, but I couldn't resist the whole article:

Millions of girls that live on planet Earth and make men's lives better, brighter and healthier, can generally be divided into two major categories: good girls and bad girls. Of course, if a man meets one of the girls from the second of the two categories, his life will get nerve-racking, dull and sick. An evaluation criterion is quite simple. It has to do with a stranger asking a girl for favors. A good girl will say a quick and categorical "no" while a bad one will ask the man "when". There is a set of virtues and shortcomings both types of the girls are bestowed with.

Let us talk about the bad girls first and make a list of their unquestionable virtues.

Their ability to be great fun is on top of the list. They can party all night and they can party the next day too. They laugh a lot, they are fond of flirting. Anybody can feel like a professional lady-killer when hanging out with them.

Bad girls have an optimistic attitude to life. They are full of energy. They do not indulge in self-analysis. They do not tend to fall into a period of depression. Life is a never-ending show for them.

This is definitely one of the bad, bad, bad girls - picture gallery [link not working, tragically]

Bad girls are hungry for sex. They enjoy sexual experimentation. They will do anything they want and maybe more than you want them to when having sex with you. Their screams of joy will make you think you are really hung like a stud.

Bad girls are pretty and sexy. They walk in elegant ways. They are used to be in the spotlight. They wear necklaces and beads, prefer low-cut necklines and mini skirts. Their lingerie is satin and lace. Well, if they wear it at all.

However, despite obvious advantages, bad girls are really bad when it comes to certain things.

First, they can not be trusted. Indeed, these vultures are serial flirters and were made to seduce anything that moves. How the hell can they be trusted?

Second, they can be dangerous if they happen to be behind the wheel. They can be as wild and reckless driving a car as they are when making love. These girls are always unpredictable, they often end up in a company of junkies or rummies.

You can not build a solid relationship with this kind of girl. Soon you will find out that she is very selfish and simply does not give a damn about her potential partner. Girls like that enjoy being extravagant. They love going on a shopping spree if money is at hand. They will make lousy wives and mothers, their life is a string of divorce.

So you had better court the good ones. The good ones can vary as well but this is the truth: you can experience the precious moments of inner peace and comfort only when a good girl looks after you. She will takes care of you when you fall ill, she will miss you when you are out somewhere. Sex is not the top priority for good girls so you do not have to be a super lover.

A girl like that is unlikely to cheat on you. Stop worrying even if she is exceptionally pretty. Remember how she told you to beat it on the first date when you tried to make out with her after having a few drinks. She can discourage any guy in a similar way. Good girls are mostly stick to monogamous relationships.

Monday, 26 January 2009

is it only me

who finds it funny that Iceland's just-resigned PM is called Geir Haarde?

(Geir Haarde)

(Keir Hardie)

I get that this is not even a joke. And still I find it funny. I am a really cheap date.

Sunday, 25 January 2009


'Really,' says Matthew Wallis in the F/T - he is a ghostbuster ('people expect me to arrive with a jumpsuit and a backpack, like the ghostbusters in the movie') who gets ghostbusting work as a sideline from his main job as a spiritual healer ('Typically, I'll sit with the person in their house and tune into the energies. I'll get a tingling in my hand - the centre of my palm gets warm. That's when I know I'm tuning in') - 'I'm the most sceptical person you know.' I am confident that this isn't true.

Saturday, 24 January 2009

alan hansen is the real victim of the credit crunch

Alan Hansen is one of the faces of Morrisons. The current adverts saying 'Beat the Credit Crunch' or some such do not stretch to celebrity appearances. The voicover is, I am almost certain, a Hansen-alike, rather than the presumably more expensive Hansen.

(Hansen scar fans - he got his scar in what Wikipedia calls 'a volleyball-related' injury. He was running to a game when he ran into a glass door. If you get run over hurrying to a pub is that a 'drinking-related' injury.)

Friday, 23 January 2009

we can't have too many johnsons

See below for why I looked up Victor Johnson. His books all look like this, but in different colours. The others are about fly lines, fly-rods and a rod-making firm called Fenwick.

I love the fact that Johnson prints these books as a sideline of his main business, Engineering Pathways. He is a civil engineer who has spent the last 32 years focused on hazardous waste management engineering. He's the co-inventor of a U.S. patented process for solar evaporation volume-reduction for aqueous waste and the sole inventor of a U.S. patented process for a new form of leak detection under landfills and impoundments. We need more Johnsons.

classic angling #55

Unless I have seriously misjudged you, you are a big fan of Classic Angling. Presumably your favourite bit of #55 was also on page 8, under the headline: 'Book tells the history of waders'. The first paragraph, for those left in doubt by this enigmatic headline, opens, 'A book covering the history of fishing waders has been released.' The key date in fishing waders, as far as I can glean, is 1838, when the Hodgman Rubber Company was founded.

Apparently the book, which is Victor Johnson's fourth on the history of fly-fishing equipment, 'contains 150 photos or graphics, many never previously seen.' This astounds me and I am hard to astound. How could there be good pictures of waders which the world has let moulder in dusty attics? And thank goodness someone has rectified the situation.

For the record, I have read every issue of Classic Angling, and I love it, even though I do not fish. It is a Quixotic piece of enthusiasm, which as I have pointed out before is something that I always prefer to cynicism. That doesn't mean I don't sometimes find it funny.

Thursday, 22 January 2009


Fiddling around on Wikipedia the other day, I got interested in unproven baronetcies. I just did, and there it is. My second favourite is Mander of the Mount. My favourite is Hort of Castle Strange.

But, you are wondering, what the hell is this guy even talking about? Maybe this explanation from will help: 'It is a popular misconception that the heir apparent succeeds automatically to a baronetcy on the death of the current holder. Nothing could be further from the truth.'

So, there you are. NOTHING could be further from the truth. It is closer to the truth to say that on the death of the current holder of the Baronetcy of Castle Mattress, each of the world's giant squids (let's say they number 5 million) will inherit a five millionth of the title. Or that... Oh, I see you tire of facetiousness.

Anyway, the thing is that to be a proper baronet, you have to take all kinds of paper records to the Registrar of the Peerage & Baronetage, and then there is a Procedure, and ultimately your name is entered on the Official Roll. It seems as if Sir Andrew Edwin Fenton Hort of Castle Strange has rather jumped the gun, because he is officially unproven according to Baronetage, but he has told Burke's at least that he is the 9th Baronet and has been since 1995. The class system is crumbling about our ears.

My favourite baronet who hasn't failed to prove himself is Sir Cornelis Jacob Speelman, of the Netherlands. Take that, the Netherlands. You are only a very minor title, just like Eaton Square or Upper Brook Street.

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

the great anteater

More Cuppy. I try to resist, but I cannot. I am ensorcelled (a word I bet is used a billion times more often than it once was because it was on that episode of West Wing).

THE GREAT ANTEATER ... lives in Central and South America and looks like something you wouldn't believe ... Why does the Great Anteater look the way he does? Well, I'm afraid it is what comes of eating Ants. Long, long ago, before he had any name, he had begun to live exclusively on Ants and he wanted to become more efficient at it. His one aim through the ages was to be perfectly adapted to the eating of Ants. As Ants are perfectly adapted to being eaten by Anteaters, it all worked out nicely. But the Great Anteater kept right on adding improvements, such as a larger this and a more powerful that, until in my opinion he went too far. There is too much of a build-up. You don't have to be eight feet long in order to eat an Ant and don't try to tell me different. The Tamandua, or Lesser Anteater, is only two feet long and he has no difficulty whatever in eating Ants. The Least Anteater is about the size of a Rat. He would have been enough.

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

how happy would you be if gordon brown wrote a book called 'the audacity of hope'?

It's not that the Americans can't do irony - we've all seen Seinfeld, West Wing and similar - it's just that they can also do genuine in a way that is sort of closed-off to us.

who has time for stupid, boring squids?

Boy, have you come to the wrong place. My friend John told me about the build-your-own-squid section of the Colossal Squid museum site. I have built two squids - Will Cuppy and Will Cuppy II. I built Will Cuppy and released him accidentally into New Zealand waters. Then I built the UK-based Will Cuppy II in the hope that he would be able to interact with John's squid Leonardo (Leonardo is a great squid), but it seems as if interaction isn't possible. I could be wrong about this, like I am sometimes.

Monday, 19 January 2009

bit busy to post

On the upside, Spencer are playing again, so there's a new match report.

Sunday, 18 January 2009

should have mentioned this earlier

I am doing fantasy Australian Open. You haven't much time to get involved, but do. I am in a league run by Big Mouth here. He won't mind if you join in.

Saturday, 17 January 2009

historiography on saturday

I have only just realised that all the Obama transition stories, which I mainly follow here, are real-life exemplification of a very interesting thing I have noticed in the eight or nine years I have been reviewing history books.

Viz., when I started, the central preoccupation of the books I was reading - which tended to be political biographies and popular histories, given that I was reviewing for the Sunday Times - was the locus and process of decision-making. Thus, we would have nitty-gritty accounts of cabinet and human relationships, whose ultimate end was to say that these were the people who influenced the influential decisions. Many of these books were great. Over the past decade, the focus has shifted away from 'Where and how were key decisions made?' to 'What constitutes good and effective governance?'

These are both perfectly respectable questions to ask. But it has vividly, vividly demonstrated the truth that we write the histories that explain the past in terms of our current fixations. A decade ago, secure and confident, we were asking detailed questions about decisions because we felt that all we needed to do was get the decision-making right, and the rest would follow. Post-Iraq, we have a different kind of respect for the compromised process of governance. We know what we want to achieve, but how do we get things done?

Thus, history books which once asked how Stalin's coterie of sycophants made decisions they hoped would curry his loony favour, now they start to concentrate more on what structures effectively imposed order on Soviet Russia - not as models, obviously, but as ways of understanding how order and governance work.

(Don't ask me to quote specifics - this is a trend I have been chuntering about for ages, and I could scurry through the bookstacks, but like any historiographical trend it is hedged with caveats, and the caveat hedges are thorny with exceptions, and all I have to beat my way through the hedge is the dull axe of mixed metaphor.)

Anyway, Obama: his transitions decisions have relentlessly focused on picking people who will be able to achieve ends effectively. Take this post from Marbury, which is what crystallised the whole thing for me. It says, in short, that Obama has big aims, is going after them in incremental, sensible fashion, and if it works, it might be incredibly influential as a strategy. I agree, and I would add only that Obama's concentration on the process is part of a broad intellectual trend, and while I have not studied it in any rigorous way, it is really interesting.

Friday, 16 January 2009

hudson miracle

I'm only human, whatever people say, and the more times I read those words, the more convinced I am that I saved those lives.

The other thing I can't help thinking is: so these 155 people were what all these years of films and lifejackets and yellow extendy slides were all about? I mean, if a plane crashes, I have always reassured myself, I'm just going to die. But now this. Though, what is the cost benefit analysis on these lives saved, given the time that has gone into saving them over the years? I am willing to ignore the time spent giving and listening to safety lectures on the plane, since that time is pretty much dead, but planning for this once in a forever event? How many Westchestrians could have been saved from drowning?

Thursday, 15 January 2009

canada, there is a problem

I love Canada, based on almost no experience of the place (one recent visit + a half-brother who is a prison guard in British Columbia + every one of my friends who has ever been there saying it is amazing) but if there is a more heraldically ill-served nation on the face of the earth, I do not know what it is.

For a start, there is the national flag. It's distinctive, but I have never gone for pictures of things on flags - they look fussy. It's not a crisis though. What is a crisis is the catastrophically misbegotten collection of eyesores that the Provinces have landed themselves with (honourable exception: Quebec).

Take Newfoundland:

What's going on here? It just looks unfinished. Nova Scotia:

Fussy, but really, in the scheme of the Provinces, nothing compared to Prince Edward Island


North West Territories





or British Columbia.

For reasons passing my own understanding, I have, during this post, very slightly warmed to New Brunswick, even though it would not normally be my thing, flagwise:

In fact, while I was uploading that, I think I unwarmed to it again, because I remembered how it looked when I saw it earlier today full size. For this is the real reason I am so worked up about Canada's terrible flags - the Canadian High Commission is based in Trafalgar Square, which means that every time I go there, either to skateboard or to go to the National Gallery, I am assaulted by them, dancing grimly in the [insert weather conditions here]. I do not have a solution to the problem, but the first thing that everyone, including Canada, has to realise is that there is a problem.

I reiterate: I love Canada.

champagne communists

I'd forgotten how comical Engels and Marx were, in posterity's distorting light. Obviously we will return to Cuppy, because how could we not, but just for a moment here is a passage from Bloody Foreigners, by Robert Winder (v.g., by the way):
Engels ... came to Manchester in 1842 to work for his family's cotton-processing firm (Ermen and Engels), and wrote The Condition of the Working Class in England, a bitter account of working-class horrors. At that stage he was only a temporary visitor, but in 1849 he settled for good. He married an Irishwoman, Mary Burns, and became a solid member of the Manchester Exchange. When not writing piercing accounts of the brutal English free market in capital and labour, he was a keen member of the Cheshire Hunt ('the greatest physical pleasure I know' he wrote to Marx) and loved fine wine. His daughter's journal records that his idea of heaven was a bottle of 1848 Chateau Margaux. His manners became so Anglicised that he once wrote to a German club in Manchester to complain that the stiff, pompous letter he had received from the librarian was altogether too 'Prussian'. He was the central figure in the German expatriate community, which he generously bailed out of its many financial difficulties. Marx, in particular, was doggedly subsidised (Engels was known as Uncle Angels by Marx's daughters). His genius required patronage: he lived beyond his means, loftily declining a cost-cutting move from Hampstead to Whitechapel on the grounds that the latter; could hardly be suitable for growing girls'. Engels' money financed convivial outings on Hampstead Heath, where Marx held court over mouthwatering picnics of veal, bread, cheese, fruit and wine. But he was indulged because his work was epic, and his friends knew it.

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

everyone knows i am obsessed with squids

It will therefore shock and awe you to learn that I had a place for squeezing squid into the script for Damsel in Distress and went with jellyfish instead, simply because it was funnier. Never fear, squid fans, because here, as penance, is Cuppy on the squid:
The Squid is an important member of the Cephalopoda, (1) or head-footed molluscs. Let's have that understood from the start. The Squid and the Octopus are not at all the same animal, although one of my best friends insists that they are. I know all kinds of people. Both the Squid and the Octopus swim backwards and squirt ink, but that's not the whole story. The Squid has a streamlined, cylindrical body and ten arms, while the Octopus has only eight arms and his figure is simply a mess. Two of the Squid's arms are for grabbing things at a distance, and the rest are for grabbing things closer. Why we did not develop in this way is surprising. Long, long ago, the Squid possessed an external skeleton, or shell, which he changed to an internal skeleton in order to improve his swimming. (2) This is a difficult trick. It has to be done gradually or you run into trouble. Then he reduced his new skeleton until now it is only a slender, horny vestige of no use to anyone. The Cuttlefish, a cousin of the Squid, has a similar remnant containing carbonate of lime, so at least it is good for Canaries. (3) Like all the other Cephalopoda, Squids employ jet propulsion for greater speed. They have done this for millions of years and they are still using water for power, imagine! They've never ever heard of the machine age. (4) When he is after a fish, the Squid drives himself backwards at about 10 m.p.h. by squirting water straight ahead from a gadget in his neck. Since he cannot keep his eye on Point A, where the fish was when he saw it, he soon arrives at Point B and catches another fish altogether. Or it could be the same fish, who swam from Point A for no reason. (5) This is the technique of fishing backwards. The Giant Squid is gigantic. The Common Squid is less than a foot long. Common Squids feel wonderful in the spring. (6) They get together on nights when the moon is full and whiz backwards, facing the bright light and pumping water from their necks like mad. They often forget to stop the machinery as they approach the shore and find themselves aground on the beaches. Moral: You can't be too careful.

1. Pronounced as you like, or you might try getting used to Ceph'-a-lop'-o-da, favored by Webster - saves you from doing it differently every time.
2. Olympic swimmers never have external skeletons.
3. Cuttle bone just happened to work out that way. Cuttlefish never heard of canaries.
4. Wallbridge states: 'The squid has missed having what might be called a brain only by the narrowest of margins.' A miss is as good as a mile, Wallbridge.
5. As a rule fish in their native element do not remain stationary for any length of time, especially when something is chasing them.
6. Wallbridge reports that the captive Squids studied by him were monogamous. Of course, there were only two in the tank.

A miss is as good as a mile, Wallbridge.

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

how to attract the wombat

I really didn't know much about Will Cuppy until I picked up How to Attract the Wombat, which looks at first sight like a depressing wacky humour book. But I picked it up to flick through. I am going to do so now at random. Here is what I find:
How much do you really know about the Armadillo? I thought so. The Armadillo is a mammal, which seems to surprise some people. Perhaps I should have studied these people instead of the Armadillo. It would be a life work, however, and I haven't time for it now. The Armadillo wears a coat of armor consisting of bony shields fore and aft and tough, flexible bands across the middle of his back. This protects him against possible attacks from above. While the Armadillo is thinking how safe he is on top, some other mammal flips him upside down and has a nice meal of raw Armadillo.

Basically, a wee idea - jokey descriptions of animals - but done really funny. Cuppy wrote for the New Yorker, among others, and he also wrote The Decline and Fall of Practically Everybody, which was was unfinished when he died. According to Wikipedia, CBS's Edward Murrow and his colleague Don Hollenbeck took turns reading from it on the air 'until the announcer cracked up.'

I'll come back to Cuppy, because almost everything in the book is great.

Monday, 12 January 2009

sexy kipling

coming soon. I mean it. It's really rude, from what I remember, but I am doing a bit more research before posting. So first, here's this, from a not-so-great Wodehouse short story:

'... But perhaps I had better tell you the whole story from the beginning.'
The young man shifted uneasily in his chair.
'Well, you know, I've had a pretty rotten time this afternoon already-'
'I will call my story,' said the sage, '"The Long Hole", for it involved what I am inclined to think must be the longest hole in the history of golf. In its beginnings the story may remind of one I once I told you about Peter Willard and James Todd, but you will find that it develops in quite a different manner. Ralph Bingham...'
'I half promised to go and see a man-'
'But I will begin at the beginning,' said the Sage. 'I see that you are all impatience to hear the full details.'

(Not sure what the world's longest golf hole is - Chocolay Downs in Michegan is supposed, according to sources online, to have one at 1,007 yards, but the club's website just says it's coming soon. There's a Japanese one at 900+. Then there's the fun extreme golf stuff, like golfing 1,234 miles across Mongolia (let's break that into 18 holes for an average of nearly seventy miles per hole) and my particular favourite, the Pillar Mountain Golf Classic, which is played up a mountain on Kodiak Island, and is a one hole, par 70, day-long challenge, with no dogs, tracking devices or chainsaws. It does take place on April 1, which makes me suspicious, but I have been following the story for years without hearing it isn't real, and I don't want to be a lie. Is that enough to make something real? Wanting it to be real? In my experience: no.)

but robbie, why aren't you going on dragons' den? you'd be amazing!

Because someone else has already had the idea for a pedal mouse that I thought of yesterday, even if these aren't the user friendly pedal mice of my dreams.

Saturday, 10 January 2009

this great imperial psychopath

Indian mutiny, 1857. Lots of stress, everyone frightened, all that. Into the British camp on the Delhi Ridge on 14 August march nearly 2000 soldiers under the lead of John Nicholson. According to William Dalrymple's terrific The Last Mughal, the key thing from the perspective of all the beleaguered Brits was Nicholson himself ('Nicholson is a host unto himself'; 'his whole appearance and mien stamped him as a "king of men"'; and so on).

The British army was led by a lot of tired, vacillating old men, and Micholson was the perfect antidote. 'He was a man cast in a giant mould, with massive chest and powerful limbs, and an expression ardent and commanding, with a dash of roughness; features of stern beauty, a long black beard, and a deep sonorous voice.' As the marched hard to Delhi, while his men rested, he would wait 'erect and immobile on his horse in the full glare of the sun.' If you think this makes him sound like a nutter, then you are pretty astute, and probably remember all those seconds ago to that moment when you read the title of this blog post.

He swept the country for mutineers 'like the incarnation of vengeance' striking terror into wavering Indian hearts. As Dalrymple beautifully puts it, 'There were very few who remained immune to the hero worship of this great imperial psychopath.' One of them, Lieutenant Edward Ommaney, thought he was 'a great brute'. He thrashed cook who got in the way of a march. The cook complained, was thrashed again and died.

Nicholson also proposed 'a Bill for the flaying alive, impalement, or burning of the murderers of the [British] women and children of Delhi ... The idea of simply hanging the perpetrators of such atrocities is maddening ... I will not, if I can help it, let fiends of that stamp let off with a simple hanging.'

There are more Nicholson stories, but time is no man's friend.

Friday, 9 January 2009

wodehouse vs us

I won't say how we get our protagonists together, because he does it like this:

The only girl in London who did not seem to be attached was a girl in brown who was coming along the sidewalk in a manner that suggested that she found Piccadilly a new and stimulating spectacle.
As far as George could see she was an extremely pretty girl, small and dainty, with a proud little tilt to her head and the jaunty walk that spoke of perfect health. She was, in fact, precisely the
sort of girl that George felt he could love with all the stored-up devotion of an old buffer of twenty-seven who had squandered none of his rich nature in foolish flirtations. He had just begun to weave a rose-tinted romance about their two selves, when a cold reaction set in. Even as he paused to watch the girl threading her way through the crowd, the east wind jabbed an icy finger down the back of his neck, and the chill of it sobered him. After all, he reflected bitterly, this girl was only alone because she was on her way somewhere to meet some confounded man. Besides there was no earthly chance of getting to know her. You can't rush up to pretty girls in the street and tell them you are lonely. At least, you can, but it doesn't get you anywhere except the police station.
The girl in brown was quite close now, and George was enabled to get a clearer glimpse of her. She more than fulfilled the promise she had given at a distance. Had she been constructed to his own specification, she would not have been more acceptable in George's sight. And now she was going out of his life for ever. With an overwhelming sense of pathos, for there is no pathos more bitter than that of parting from someone we have never met, George hailed a taxicab which crawled at the side of the road; and with all the refrains of all the sentimental song hits he had ever composed ringing in his ears, he got in and passed away.
'A rotten world,' he mused, as the cab, after proceeding a couple of yards, came to a standstill in a block of traffic. 'A dull, flat bore of a world, in which nothing ever happens or ever will happen. Even when you take a cab it just sticks and doesn't move.'
At this point the door of the cab opened, and the girl in brown jumped in.
'I'm so sorry,' she said breathlessly, 'but would you mind hiding me, please?'

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

kp nuts

As I have written about in various places, one of the joys of watching Kevin Pietersen (who I love under various circumstances) being interviewed is him trying to remember the lines he needs to say in order to persuade the world there is anything in his own world beyond KP. I don't think he would understand this - he would say that he says he's all about the team, and that this gets reported, ergo he is all about the team. Maybe he wouldn't say ergo.

There are at least a couple of funny interviews with him in old Observer Sports Monthlys. Here is one. I am sure I read a follow-up by Rachel Cooke in which she said, 'Was I wrong about him?' and found she decided she wasn't, really.

This is via one of my highly valued readers, and it is from the Times:

Mike Atherton, writing at the time of Pietersen's appointment as captain, said the ECB's decision was their biggest gamble ever and that his relationship with Moores would determine the success of his tenure.

"It is no secret that Pietersen has not seen eye to eye with Moores of late and so these differences will have to be settled quickly and irrevocably," the Chief Cricket Correspondent of The Times wrote, before adding, "I hope I'm wrong, but I have a horrible feeling that this is going to end in tears."

She also forwarded this piece of inspired lunacy from the comments board on the Telegraph website:

omg what u chatting about of course pietersen deserved to be captain he is a fantastic player and has good relations with the players moores should of went a long time ago we need someone like sir ian botham as england coach now we would defo win the ashes under him.

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

distressing news

Ha ha. First read through of Damsel in Distress yesterday. It was really fun. Doing lots of rewrites (tiring) to the joyful sound of the songs being learnt. The Gershwins are good people to be collaborating with, it transpires.

Today, my favourite line in the show is: 'Some sort of basket.' Again, I admit it, context helps.

I would write some more interesting things if I were not on the verge of conking out, and there it is. (I have started, unironically, to use the word 'bally'. I nearly said, 'dash it all' yesterday, also.)

Monday, 5 January 2009

the man who was thursday: update

I didn't get to it over Christmas, but I am now loving it. I am in a mood to enjoy unapologetic writing, in both senses, and this is really unapologetic. I will have something to say about anti-intellectualism, which is a complicated story, and I want to have a think about it. It is certainly a strand, but anti-intellectualism in the hands of GK Chesterton is not anti-elitism in the hands of the American right, even if there are threads which twine them together, and that is as far as I am prepared to commit myself for the moment. Never mind, because here is some GKC:

'An artist disregards all governments, abolishes all conventions. The poet delights in disorder only. If it were not so, the most poetical thing in the world would be the Underground Railway.'
'So it is,' said Mr Syme.
'Nonsense!' said Gregory, who was very rational when anyone else attempted paradox. 'Why do all the clerks and the navvies in the railway trains look so sad and tired, so very sad and tired? I will tell you. It is because they know that the train is going right. It is because they know that whatever place they have taken a ticket for, that place they will reach. It is because after they have passed Sloane Square they know that the next station must be Victoria, and nothing but Victoria. Oh, their wild rapture! oh, their eyes like stars and their souls again in Eden, if the next station were unaccountably Baker Street!'
'It is you who are unpoetical,' replied the poet Syme. 'If what you say of clerks is true, they can only be as prosiac as your poetry. The rare, strange thing is to hit the mark; the gross, obvious thing is to miss it. We feel it epical when a man with one wild arrow strikes a distant bird. Is it not also epical when man with one wild engine strikes a distant station? Chaos is dull; because in chaos the train might indeed go anywhere, to Baker Street, or to Bagdad. But man is a magician, and his whole magic is in this, that he does say Victoria, and lo! it is Victoria. Take your books of mere poetry and prose, let me read a time-table, with tears of pride. Take your Byron, who commemorates the defeats of man, give me Bradshaw who commemorates his victories. Give me Bradshaw, I say!'

Sunday, 4 January 2009

Amateur 2

This real time experiment is as thrilling to you, no doubt, as it is to me. What I have learned is nothing useful, don't get up your hopes. Amateur is the only Hal Hartley film whose rights are represented by UGC in France, so I imagine the problem relates to them, but it might not be because of them. It might be because of music - I know this is a problem for Northern Exposure, which had a similarly integral soundtrack the distributors or whoever couldn't or wouldn't pay for the rights to. I shall continue to look into this, but not in real time. I mean, it will be in real time, but I will do other things in the time, like make my supper.

Other films I have loved like I loved Amateur, and which are similarly well-regarded but not super well-known include some films. The one I can think of at precisely this moment is Any Given Sunday. It is likely, at this stage, that my list is alphabetical.

hal hartley's amateur

I remember loving this film. It was surrounded by a load of sort-of-similar-and-also-excellent ones, such as Pulp Fiction and True Romance, but I loved it more than I loved them. Who knows, I might have been wrong. I really want to see it again, so I looked for copies online. They are barely to be had - American copies cost £30. Why is this? I shall now endeavour, in real time, to find out.

Saturday, 3 January 2009

grooks versus the blogosphere

I love Piet Hein's grooks, as I have mentioned. This one gives me pause for thought, as do most of them.


Long-winded writers I abhor,
and glib, prolific chatters;
give me the ones who tear and gaw
their hair and pens to tatters:
who find their writing such a chore
they only write what matters.

Friday, 2 January 2009

last kid on the block

Finally watched Outnumbered for the first time just now. Yes, it is good. But then at the end comes the astonishing news that the older boy is played by Tyger Drew-Honey. Poor child, I think to myself, and look on Wikipedia, because obviously all child actors have slightly odd upbringings, but if you are called Tyger Drew-Honey, there is an extra level of oddness in how everyone is going to relate to you. And then, as you all already know so literally why am I writing this, I find his parents are porn stars and I think, well, normality was always going to be a very long way away for this child, and Tyger Drew-Honey is the least issue he is going to face.

(None of which is to say that you can't be brought up by porn stars as a child actor and not be the extremely well-adjusted scion of a loving home, or that any upbringing is normal, blah, but simply that Tyger Drew-Honey's background is from one of the tinnier parts of the bell-curve.)

Thursday, 1 January 2009

first major deadline of the year has been met

Sent script of Damsel to producers this evening. Or Jeremy did, since my internet was unaccountably down between last night and about ten minutes ago. Thus, in a way, I did my bit of this script in 2008, but in spirit... And the deadline was this year.

My favourite line in Damsel in Distress, at this moment, is: "I dare say. Made you dress as a quince one Christmas, Keggs. You were a very young butler, you've probably forgotten." Context probably helps it, you are thinking, and you would be right.