Wednesday, 29 April 2009


I'm off for a few days. Go outside, people.


In my house are many posh unguents. This is not because I buy them, and not because anyone I know buys them, but it is still the truth. 'What a mystery!' you are thinking. 'How can I get to the bottom of it?' I know the answer to that question, but I'm not telling.

However, what I will tell you is this: written on the side of one of the poshest unguents, a moisturiser of some kind, are the words:
This body milk should not substitute a healthy diet and regular exercise

This, and I do realise I should be less judgmental, confirms me in my prejudices about the stupidity of people who spend as much on moisturiser as you would have had to spend to get this moisturiser if you had paid for it which no one I know has. And yet there it still is! The mystery deepens! I mean: 'The mystery remains the same depth!'

sick as pigs

What is the origin of this expression? Anyone? It's really bugging me.

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

crazy futuristic kind of genius

Sometimes people don't think I am one of these things, even when I tell them in words of one syllable (which, given what I am telling them, should be evidence enough). Among the things I have successfully predicted are the credit crunch and some times when I had a feeling it would probably rain.

I am not the only person in the world wondering what Apple are going to do next and thinking that at some point in the near future there will be a new media device. I want people to be very clear, though, that I have said: when Apple nail how to do a media device, one of the things it will be good for is reading books. That's why it's important they Kindled up the iPhone even if only a nutter wants an iPhone as a primary reading device. I love books, and I think books will live quite happily with electric books, but if you don't think electric books are going to be pandemical then you are living in a dreamworld.

(Apple MIGHT get it wrong, which will give someone else a chance, but if they get it right, and produce a general media device that also becomes a default book-reader, then that's the ball game. If they get it wrong, someone will get it right. Kindle is nearly good enough on its own, from what I hear, but if I were Amazon, I'd be nervous. Except at the thought of all the electric book sales.)

Monday, 27 April 2009

why is everyone so annoying?

Stupid newspaper report with posh chefs 'testing' different foods. In one 'test', the posh chef 'tests' four olive oils. The Tesco one gets **** and all kinds of praise. The Saino's one gets no stars and is 'very pale. The colour can depend on the olive but in this case it's just bad oil. It doesn't smell, it leaves a bitter aftertaste but there's no real flavour.'

So, you are thinking, Tesco is a better place to buy your oil. Except for that in this rigorous 'test' the newspaper was comparing Tesco Finest Sicilian Extra Virgin with Sainsbury's bog-standard. I was more irritated by this than I should have been because it is a SYMBOL OF HOW CRAZY EVERYONE EXCEPT US IS (and I'm not sure about you).

I’m the king of a cow! And I’m the king of a mule!

Yertle the Turtle is a Dr Seuss I had never read, until just now and which has made my morning. I was put onto it by Joe Craig*. He's done a poem of his own and it is literally not to be sniffed at. It's here. My favourite line is lots of them, but not the line about tuna, which strikes me as if it might be disrespectful to tuna, and I am very sensitive to that for one reason and another. Really though, do read it.

*Due diligence fans: Joe Craig is a friend of mine.

Sunday, 26 April 2009

because i am incurably romantic

I like the fact that the Jets traded up for Mark Sanchez - everyone's looking for the dream quarterback - but I would have loved if they had filled another hole and then picked up Pat White early in round two. Pat White's a better fit at the Dolphins, and I think Miami is going to be a fun place to watch football the next few years. White is my favourite draft QB for all the cheap and obvious reasons. He's little (in NFL terms - he's massive in real life) but clever; he plays in a slightly unusual way dictated by this; wherever he's gone people have said he was punching above his weight but he's put together lots of wins; most of all, perhaps, he knows what he wants and he works hard and gets there in his own way - he's turned down three six-figure baseball contracts, he's calmly made it clear that he thinks he's a QB when others said he should move to wide receiver (he might get the chance to do both with the wildcat Dolphins, of course); and now he's in Miami. If I were (starting Miami QB) Chad Pennington, I'd be looking over my shoulder.

Anyway, good picks for both teams, basically. I support the Jets, but there are other teams I'd rather watch. Go Saints. Go Dolphins.

(I know what you're thinking, by the way - typical non-bred-in-bone fan is all about the quarterbacks. I'm not saying there's nothing in your analysis, though I'm getting better. It's just I love Pat White, and I support the Jets, so it was a very quarterbacky day for me. The team that did really well: Cleveland. Not flashy but really good picks. SF couldn't believe their luck getting Crabtree at 10. And because I am mad for Michael Lewis, and was watching for where Michael Oher would end up, I have to say that he'll be good for the Ravens, but more importantly, I think the Ravens will be really, really good for Michael Oher.)

Saturday, 25 April 2009

nymphomaniac shark hunting for big hollywood fish

Sometimes it is not possible to resist posting a whole Pravda story:


Mel Gibson’s new lover, who destroys his marriage of many years, began to collect men at age 14.

Oksana Pochepa was born in a middle-class family in the Russian city of Rostov. When a child, she liked to play with boys all the time. She had absolutely no interest in dolls and other girlie toys, so she would hide all of them in her grandmother’s wardrobe. The girl was interested in something totally different.

“Oksana is a nymphomaniac. Sex is the most important thing for her. She kept a diary at high school, in which she described all of her love affairs. She had a great deal of partners, although she was not like a prostitute. She just loved sex. She had her first experience when she was in the ninth grade and could not stop afterwards. It was like fitness for her,” the woman’s friend said.

Her former classmate, a man named only as Sergei, said that he was shocked when Oksana showed her sex diary to him.

“She put down the story of every love affair that she had and described all her sex life in detail there. She described her feelings and emotions in that journal too,” the man said.

Oksana later became a pop star and launched her career as Akula (Shark). She was discovered by a VJ, who later gave her an opportunity to hit the big time. The career of a pop singer made Oksana work on her looks. It is hard to believe that she used to suffer from excessive weight.

The news about the love affair between the 24-year-old woman and Mel Gibson, the world-famous actor and director, became a shock to everyone who knows Oksana in person.

“She told me that she lived in the States for about six months, that she had an affair there with someone. But I could never imagine that it would be Mel Gibson. She is a shark definitely . A shark hunting for big fish,” her former classmate said.

Friday, 24 April 2009

'Deep in our hearts we all hate fish', ...

... says Caitlin Moran. I think we can safely assume that Caitlin Moran has never met me.

(Calling pollack colin is funny, though. Stupid Sainsbury's.)

Thursday, 23 April 2009

neal stephenson

If you're a loser, you'll probably never read any Neal Stephenson and there's nothing I can do for you and nothing I want to do. Early in Cryptonomicon there's a bit where one of the many thousands of protagonists (weedy, codebreaky) is trying to get to Bletchley Park with his massive personified duffel bag, which has been packed for all eventualities by hardcore military men who do not trust him to know which way is up. It ends:
Duffel shoves him through the one-room station like a fat cop chivvying a hammerlocked drunk across the lobby of a two-star hotel.

There are an amazing three pages later on which describe this same character's useless courtship of a pretty Australian girl. They feature four graphs, many equations and some really good jokes.

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

the ultimate case of nominative determinism

Nominative determinism, which was apparently a New Scientist coining of the mid-nineties, holds that if you are called Mr Goodkicker, there is a faintly better than average chance that you will graduate towards the football field.

Here is the NS piece which got the ball rolling:
WE recently came across a new book, Pole Positions - The Polar Regions and the Future of the Planet, by Daniel Snowman. Then, a couple of weeks later, we received a copy of London Under London - A Subterranean Guide, one of the authors of which is Richard Trench. So it was interesting to see Jen Hunt of the University of Manchester stating in the October issue of The Psychologist: "Authors gravitate to the area of research which fits their surname." Hunt's example is an article on incontinence in the British Journal of Urology (vol 49, pp 173-176, 1977) by J. W. Splatt and D. Weedon. (This really does exist. We've checked it.)

It wasn't a new idea - Karl Jung had written about it in 1952:
We find ourselves in something of a quandary when it comes to making up our minds about the phenomenon which Stekel calls the 'compulsion of the name'. What he means by this is the sometimes quite gross coincidence between a man's name and his peculiarities or profession. For instance ... Herr Feist (Mr Stout) is the food minister, Herr Rosstäuscher (Mr Horsetrader) is a lawyer, Herr Kalberer (Mr Calver) is an obstetrician ... Are these the whimsicalities of chance, or the suggestive effects of the name, as Stekel seems to suggest, or are they 'meaningful coincidences'?

I mention all this not just because I am tedious beyond the power of man to express, but because of this paragraph in Leviathan:
In Edgar Allan Poe's only novel, The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket, published in 1838, a sixteen-year-old stowaway sails on a mutinous whale-ship out of New Bedford. After murder and shipwreck, Pym and his companions are forced 'to this last horrible extremity' - to dine on their young shipmate, Richard Parker ... [This story] had a strange reverberation forty years later, when the survivors of a shipwrecked yacht sailing from Southampton to Australia ate their own cabin boy. By remarkable coincidence, his name was also Richard Parker, and his memorial in the local churchyard, close to where I grew up, forever fascinated me with its ghoulish epitaph: Though he slay me yet will I trust in him.

hot budget news

Listening to Radio 4 while I made my toasted cheese, it seems like everyone is in agreement about what needs to be done (more) and who needs to bear the costs (some other guys). I'm glad we're all pulling together. This is probably what it was like during the Blitz.

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

a perseverance worthy of a better cause

Strong stuff, as you will agree, and you haven't even heard it in my favourite of its contexts*:
Many lovers in his position might have consoled themselves with the reflection that Freddie, being now a married man, was presumably out of the race for Veronica Wedge's hand and heart. But Tipton had had the wrong sort of upbringing to permit of his drawing comfort from any thought like that. The son of parents who after marrying each other had almost immediately started marrying other people with a perseverance worth of a better cause, his had been one of those childhoods where the faintly bewildered offspring finds himself passed from hand to hand like a medicine ball...

It's from Full Moon, by Wodehouse (obviously), which also contains this joke:
'Don't say "And Mr Landseer" in that soupy tone of voice,' said Gally sternly. 'He hasn't come to steal the spoons.'

'If he is a friend of yours, I should imagine that he is quite capable of doing so. Is he wanted by the police?'

'No, he is not wanted by the police.'

'How I sympathise with the police,' said Lady Hermione. 'I know just how they feel.'

*An idle Googling suggests the whole thing might start with Dickens in Great Expectations. I have no time for more than an idle Googling though, and if I end up being corrected, there it will be.

Monday, 20 April 2009

like anyone who isn't literally insane in some way

, I love The Archers. Did you know that Timothy Bentinck, who plays David Archer, was born on a sheep station in Tasmania, helped his father set up an organic small-holding in Devon, drove tourists round America and sold Mercedes cars in Morocco before deciding to be an actor? To avoid the dole he got an HGV licence and a job delivering lorry loads of chocolate to South Wales.

His jobs have included dubbing the lead character, Chow Yung Fat, in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, and playing James Bond in the computer game of The World Is Not Enough. He has patented a device called The Hippo which enables a child to be supported on an adult’s hip. He has developed currency-converting software for Psion handhelds, a program that runs the finances for voice-over agencies. His wife is a successful milliner.

Also, he's the Earl of Portland, a Holy Roman Count and he recorded 'Mind the Gap' for the Piccadilly Line.*

*The 'Mind the Gap' thing is the kind of lie to put on Wikipedia to check whether people are doing their research properly, by the way. I would check it before writing it down without making pretty serious caveats. Like these ones.

Sunday, 19 April 2009

dirty movies? that's not a scandal...

THIS is a scandal:

It is 1914 and Le Figaro is campaigning against Joseph Caillaux, leader of Radical Party slash finance minister, who was trying to introduce an income tax. Le Fig prints some love letters JC had written to an earlier mistress, the already married Berthe Gueydan. Berthe, or Big Bertha, as we call her, had subsequently divorced M Gueydan, a high-ranking civil servant, and become the first Mme C.

But not so fast, because JC had then started an affair with the tall ash-blond (and married) Henriette Claretie. He divorced Berthe and married HC. Then, on March 16, 1914, Mme C (II), outraged that these affairs were being made public, and afraid that her own adulterous correspondence might be made public, leaves home in elegant dress - for an Italian embassy reception later that evening - stops off at Gastinne Renette, ‘the elite gun shop on the Right Bank’, bought a Browning automatic, went to offices of Le Figaro, waits for editor Gaston Calmette, says, ‘You know why I have come,’ and ‘calmly pump(s) six shots into him at point-blank range from the pistol that was hidden in her expensive fur muffs, killing him instantly.’

Some people (who write on Wikipedia), say she was saving her husband from having to fight a duel. I have not done extensive research. I only know this story because it's in Lords of Finance. You should read it, you really should. Or you could wait and see if I post more juicy bits. It's certainly possible.

Anyway, L'Affaire Caillaux (the Caillaux Affair, in French) split France. There were riots in Paris between Caillaux supporters and right-wing agitators protesting against decline in standards of ruling classes. Parisians were gripped by melodrama, adultery and moral corruption, by JC's extensive network of mistresses, and by stories of his seduction of the previously shy, simple and retiring HC than in boring rumblings from the stupid Balkans. I don't blame them.

Friday, 17 April 2009


From The Woman Who Talked to Much:

he was such bally bad form that no one could help likeing him

This is how Tory Blaize begins.

Sir William Blaize was incapable of making a joke in good taste. He was witty about the quick and the dead, the halt, the maimed and the blind. He was even known to speak flippantly of his father-in-law, the honourable Mr Justice Tallboy, a grave, grizzled, courteous man who lived up on Campden Hill in a huge, hideous, comfortable house furnished by his late wife out of Liberty in what was then considered excellent taste.

Upon each of the five occasions when his only daughter, Armorel, was about to produce, hopefully, an heir, she came to her father's house on Campden Hill, and there it was that each of her five daughters first saw the light of day. Joyce, Guinevere, the twins Janet and Elizabeth, and--the last straw--Victoria, who arrived on a foggy November afternoon just as William Blaize was helping himself to a stiff whiskey and soda amid the gleaming, chocolate-brown mahogany in the dining room.

William pops to his club, the Celibates':
'By the way,' said William, looking up from his brandy and soda and glancing anxiously around the room: 'have any of you got red hair?'

Yes. Charlie Sheepshanks had a flaming mop. He emerged from his corner, grinning expectantly.

'Sorry, Charlie old man, I'm afraid I shall have to shoot you,' observed William, 'my new daughter has a scarlet poll, and there's never been a red Blaize yet.'

A newcomer, stepping into all the laughter and noise, blinked and asked what was the matter.

'Blaize has made another joke in bad taste, that's all,' growled Percy Puddifoot, nursing his gouty toe.

'Upon my word,' ejaculated William, 'that's a nice way to refer to my fifth daughter.'

His air of injured innocence set everyone laughing again. WIlliam Blaize was very popular at the Club. As Percy Puddifoot always declared, he was such bally bad form that no one could help likeing him, what?

tweet tweet

I have decided that Pravda is up to providing different headlines every day for here and Twitter. There will be no more repetition.

(I wonder if Moscow region is Russian slang ('Ooh, crikey, I copped that one in the Moscow region!')?)

(Future-proofing: today's headline read, 'Mutant snake attacks fisherman in Moscow region'.)

Thursday, 16 April 2009

anchor graveyard

'What's the story?' you bleat, pathetically. Well, these anchors were once used to anchor tuna nets off the Azores, and they were turned into this mournful mausoleum (unlike all the chirpy mausoleums) when the big fish stopped coming. The nearest town, rather magically, is called Angro do Heroismo.

Type Cemitério das Âncoras into Google for about a million more pictures.

weird and criminous tales

This is Gervee's The Bracelet. I'd like to read these. In probably your last update on GB for a while, I add that she was a popular medium in the thirties and wrote a spiritualism column for Pearson's Weekly.

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

some losers don't like les miserables...

...which I saw when I was a small-to-medium boy and which I was a bit obsessed with (I am not a loser).

You, like everyone else, have probably already seen this clip, since it's on the BBC news site and everything. It's well cheesy, and it's from a programme I don't watch, and so on. Some people (losers) don't like being on heartwarming bandwagons.

(I bet the person who likes the clip most writes DC Diary, over there on the right. I bet.)

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

my alarming, impetuous brain

Yes, yes, I should just call this blog, 'The blog of some guy who used to be interested in squids and tuna but now is obsessed by Gervee Baronte for some reason'. Anyway, I have just been reading Gervee's autobiography, Life and Loves of a Prodigal Daughter, which was published in 1935 by an august-sounding body called BARONTE PRESS of 21 Durham Terrace, London W.2

Here is the author's preface:

As my mind goes back over the past my life seems to have contained in experience and events enough for twenty lives. How did I ever live it all? Had I known I was to live it, would my courage have been sufficient to face it?

There was never a dull moment. It has been crowded, packed to the brim with excitement, misery, work, luxury and poverty. Circumstances have often demanded the last ounce of my strength; but something has reinforced me at the breaking point and driven me on. Reeling through incidents as if suffering from an attack of vertigo, I have stumbled on -- events flying past like scenes from an express train. How they have flashed past--the struggles--the difficulties--the unfair opposition--the escapes--the adventures in love and passion--the few scarlet triumphs! The giddiness of it all makes my brain reel--my alarming, impetuous brain; for ever fighting a losing battle with what tranquility it can muster. The days have been long enough to accomplish wat had to be done. Insomnia has been a good friend, for it has given me the time and the peace to think.

You begin to doubt because the story is so overwhelming--the activity so mad--the longing so intense--the energy so extreme.

I am the grave in which all this is buried. It was buried deeply and over it I placed the stone of secrecy. I meant never to remove the stone, but others have threatened to remove it, and with their clumsy, unsympathetic hands to exhume the contents of the grave.

I prefer to conduct the excavation. I shall put everything before you and you shall judge. I cannot hesitate in the operation to show you the many sides of each experience for one presses down on the other and there are so many to unearth.

(I think it's not impossible that GB was a sort of nonsense continental princess of some kind - one of her American books was published under Princess Gervee Baronti.)

Monday, 13 April 2009

More about Gervees

It is the 1,124,593th most popular name in the United States, though I think this is methodoligically not very rigorous, as the site seems to give all the names which appear only once a different ranking based on alphabetic order.

Anway, there's only one Gervee according to White Pages, and she (probably a she) is Gervee Esguerra from California. Hi Gervee.

gervee barontE

It turns out that Gervee Baronte was not Gervee Baronti after all, even though I thought she was. It seems increasingly that me thinking something doesn't make it so. When I said she was Gervee Baronti, I was copying the name off a printed page. Printed pages are not perfect, as we all know.

Whatever. Gervee also wrote Your Previous Life on Earth: Reincarnation Simplified, and in 1946 she published The Bracelet and Other Stories, in which nine short stories were reprinted from British popular fiction magazines: 'Dark, sensationalistic material, often with exotic settings. The title story concerns prostitution and leprosy. Another concerns the discovery of treasure buried by Hannibal.'

The Land of the Lingam is still apparently banned in India. She wrote this under the name Arthur Miles, as per yesterday.

Did you know that Arthur Miles was the name of a 1920s Texan cowboy singer who did throat singing not unlike that of the Mongolians? You probably did.

My favourite band of Mongolian-style throat singers is Big Sky. This is one of their songs.

Sunday, 12 April 2009

as for gervee baronti

I don't know that much. Now I will search.

Okay: there is an online reference to her saying that she became Gervee Breckenridge. And that she wrote, under the name Arthur Miles, The Land of the Lingam , which was published in 1933.

Okay 2: I'll get back to Gervee Baronti later, but I have got sidetracked. I was pretty sure that lingam is a sort of karma sutra word for willy, but better check it out. Now I have found the website of a penis-reader called Yoni Passionata. She says, 'Forget palmistry, everything you need to know about your man is written on his cock. Tell your friends and lovers to whip 'em out, then let them sit back and prepare to be amazed. Lingam gnosis is here and it beats the crap out of reading tea-leaves:
The Earth Penis
Earth penises are relatively easy to identify as they resemble tuberous vegetables yams, potatoes, turnips etc. Those thick, starchy roots that grow best when buried deep in dark, damp soil. Earth penises are generally large, often irregularly shaped, and darkly pigmented. The testicles that accompany the earth penis are likely to be large, hairy and pendulous. The earth penis is homely and supremely functional, it likes to plant and plow, and it's likely to belong to the top in any relationship. Earth penises typically correspond with meat and potatoes sexual tastes. If your man has an earth penis don't expect anything too outragous. He might like it rough, but he'll always keep it simple-like himself. Oh, I almost forgot to mention, if he's carrying one of these brutes in his Calvins, chances are he aint too bright.

The Air Penis
Air penises are generally long, slim and pale, with neat, globular, lightly pigmented testicles, carried high and tight. The most aesthetically pleasing of the types, the air penis is an artistic penis, and their owners are often artistic. It is common for an air penis to have a bend or a dip in its length, and just as this penis is often not quite straight, the owner of an air type penis is the most likely of all the types to have bisexual tendencies. If your lover has an air penis, commitment could be an issue air penises are notoriously unfaithful and fickle. However, once captured, air penis types make the most intelligent and imaginative sexual partners.

The Fire Penis
Fire is the most masculine of the elements, and a fire penis always correlates with an aggressive, assertive, controlling nature. A typical fire penis is thick, straight, symmetrical and smooth, though not especially long. The defining characteristic of the fire penis, however, is its color bright red, through to an intense hot pink. Men with a fire penis in their pants have a burning sexuality and charisma to burn, too. There are always plenty of moths dying to dance around this flame! But before you singe your wings, remember: sex with the owner of a fire penis can be hot as hell, but life with one is usually just plain hell, so if your intended unzips one of these crimson lollipops, zip it up quick and move on.

The Water Penis
Water is the most feminine of the elements, and, accordingly, water type penises are often small, soft and feminine in appearance. Owners of water penises are generally nurturers in their relationships; they will cook, clean, iron and give it up with an almost touching if it wasn't so fucking irritating sense of duty. Occasionally, this taking on of the motherly role can lead them to assume the balance of power within a relationship for the other partner this is both claustrophobic and scary, particularly when they find themselves fucking them and enjoying it! Water penis owners are often very highly sexed organisms, especially when alcohol is added. For a water penis, a couple of GTs is a never-fail legs-opener.

Saturday, 11 April 2009

if you've finished Tory Blaize...

...maybe you should consider The Empire of Youth, by Gervee Baronti. The description reads:
Elizabeth was growing old. She had parted from her husband, and had taken many lovers. But she was unhappy. She longed to know for one last time the passion of a real romance.

In India where she is travelling with a faithful friend she falls in love with mario, a Greek peasant boy. Age is against her, and she cannot win his love. By a clever intrigue, however, by which she passes off some diamonds of her own as a necklace once belonging to Marie Antoinette, she rescues Mario from a difficult position. Her success gains his affection and her youth burns up again in one dying flicker. but her end is tragic. This is a moving, romantic story graphically told by a new author.

It seems unlikely that this hasn't given away at least some of the plot, but you can't tell me it doesn't sound like it is very something. I don't know what, but whatever it is, this book will certainly be very it.

Friday, 10 April 2009

yesterday on pravda? yesterday in pravda?

I don't want you to think I don't think about these things. 'On' seems a little weird because I think of Pravda as a newspaper* but of course it must be right, since I am looking at it online, and I am sure what I say was on the site wasn't always in the paper.

* Because I am a child of the cold war, you see, so Pravda had a big place in the news every night. In fact, to this day, whenever I hear 'The [di-blah-di-blah-di] AGENCY', my brain immediately short-circuits to, 'comma, TASS,' because that set of words was once so prevalent in my consciousness.**

** I have the same issue with 'The [di-blah-di-blah-di] SERVICE' [comma, ACAS].

Thursday, 9 April 2009

'don't suffer in silence', ...

... says the leaflet poked through my letterbox this morning. It goes on:
Let me destroy your problems before they destroy you
Professor Fadjal
Clairvoyant + Medium + Astrologer

The Prof, as we call him round here, was born gifted with spiritual power, and can help solve your problems, no matter what they, using the OCCULT SCIENCES and the MOST POWERFUL SPELL. He can deal with both 'Sexual Impotency' and 'an unknown illness'. He can reunite you with a loved one, Wife or Husband who has walked out of you life, or protect you from 'Evil Forces (Black Magic)' and 'Jealous ENEMIES'.

He will also read you and foresee your future. You might think he sounds like a charlatan or some such, but 'Results' are 'Guaranteed'. He is open every day, answers immediately and you have to get off the bus at Cricklewood Lane.

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

hedging bets

Some guy called Darmody bet on three horses to come in the top four in the National. They finished first, second and third. He knew this was good, but he didn't know how good. The BBC picks up the story: 'Mr Darmody telephoned a friend, who he said knew more about gambling. He told him he believed Mr Darmody had won something between £50 and £100,000.' That's what I call expertise.

(Mr Darmody had won £65,000, so it's not like the guy was wrong.)


(By which I mean, 'Oh no! Oh no! This is so the thin edge of an unbelievably massive wedge and how could I even have checked it, am I some kind of utter insanonaut?')

After the pre-sale of a literal (putative) book saw KSC ripping its way up the Amazon charts a few weeks ago and into the mid-hundreds of thousands, it was gently subsiding towards the coveted 'millionth most popular book on Amazon' slot, which I was looking forward to telling you about. But at some point between 970,000 and now, I think upwards of three people* must have ordered copies, because the book has rocketed (no other word is even vaguely appropriate) to 32,000 or so.

*Or someone might have ordered three copies.

have i mentioned this before?

If not, I should have done. If so, I shouldn't be mentioning it again, and that is about the size of it.

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

i know who you're thinking of...*

...when you're reading this description of a Wodehousian policeman:
A vast policeman had materialized from nowhere. He stood beside them, a living statue of Vigilant Authority. One thumb rested easily on his broad belt. The fingers of the other hand caressed lightly a moustache that had caused more heart-burning among the gentler sex than any other two moustaches in the C-division. The eyes above the moustache were stern and questioning.

*If you have ever seen a Mighty Fin Christmas Show.

Monday, 6 April 2009

up to date

1. Jonathan Ross waxwork, as per BBC website, looks like Peter Mandelson.

2. On Sunday, South Africa played a one day international against Australia. Merv Hughes was part of the commentary team. Faced with the name of Roile van der Merwe, big Merv said (according to a transcript provided by my mate Ben): 'I saw his name, thought it said VD Merv, and thought the doctor was giving me some bad news.'

3. There's a bit in Neal Stephenson's Cryptonomicon (and NS does his research to a degree I am prepared to trust for here and now) about energy budgets of primitive peoples. The amount of time taken to get enough food to fuel the body governs how much leisure time you have to invent pottery and post-structuralism. Apparently, trout is incredibly nutritious by most measures, but it is so low in fat and carbohydrates that you can starve to death eating it three times a day.

Sunday, 5 April 2009

who is this kate mary bruce?

As per the below post. Well, I looked her up, and saw that, as well as having written a number of other books, including The Poodle Room, Duck's Back and Men Are So Helpless, and being a member of the International Sportsmen's Club in Grosvenor Square, her original name was Maugham.

A Maugham author early in the 20th century? Worth investigating, I think you will agree. It transpires that Kate ('Kitty') was Somerset Maugham's favourite niece, and he was influential in the publishing of her first book. Her husband, Robert Charles Bruce (or 'Robert the Bruce' as I have taken to thinking of him) was a stockbroking collector of jade and porcelain.

Her sister, Diana Julia Maugham Marr-Johnston was another author (for instance: Goodnight Pelican, 1957), and she was about the only Maugham who didn't mind Maugham's obnoxious secretary, Gerald Haxton. Her husband Kenneth did mind Haxton - in fact he thought Haxton was evil and called him 'The Black Bishop', which is quite a cool nickname.

Brother Robin (real name Robert) had a pretty exciting life; sister Honor was a pushy portrait painter. Their dad was Lord Chancellor. Now you know.

Saturday, 4 April 2009

but she is stronger than passion, and in the end she kills the thing she loves

In the back of The Magnolia Lady, there are pages of other books to try. I will be getting out some of these. For eg, TORY BLAIZE, by Kate Mary Bruce
Author of Rest Awhile and Romany Stranger, etc.

Is it possible for a woman to lead a double life? For some reason a Jekyll and Hyde existence has always been considered a male prerogative. Is it to be assumed that women have no life apart from that ordinary everyday life which they must lead in the world? Have they no secret, shadow life, no second soul, no secret self with whom they must escape occasionally into a different world?

Kate Mary Bruce tells a story of a woman who does in the fullest sense of the world lead a double life. The existence that everybody sees is led as Mrs Gordon, lawyer and politician, whilst her secret life of adventure and thrill belongs to Tory Blaize, who has a studio in Chelsea.

Tory herself, brilliant, vital, witty and unscrupulous, is in a sense invulnerable, for human affections cannot touch her inner life at all, although as Mrs Gordon she is a conscientious wife and mother. When at last she meets a man whose personality sweeps both the women off their feet, her two lives threaten to converge catastrophically together, but she is stronger than passion, and in the end she kills the thing she loves in order that Tory Blaize may live on hand in hand with Mrs Gordon.

Friday, 3 April 2009

stupid british library

I almost wrote evil British Library, but that would be wrong. And really, I don't suppose the British library will turn out to be as stupid as I think they are. It turns out that in almost all things I am biased and wrong or the world is (which is what I really think).

Anyway, the BL has changed its internal caterer (restaurant, two cafes) from Pru Leith to Peyton & Byrne. In case you don't go to the BL much, one of the main rants I heard when it opened, and periodically since, though I have the feeling that things slightly improved, was that the food was too expensive (I never eat there, so I'm not certain). We, a tiny selection of the readers, decided this was because one organisation had won the entire catering concession. We, far from being the socialist intellectuals you are imagining, were well in favour of some competition.

Anyway, Leiths (+ Costa, with whom they partnered up) were dear. The ridiculous thing about this is that the BL is populated by students, writers and academics, all of whom, as a rule, are poor. HOWEVER, it is also populated by a management class, which is quite big, and which is the class making the decisions about who gets to win the catering franchise, and which would very much like to eat nice food and excellent cakes, and especially if they are presented in a comfortingly olde fashioned and heritagey way. Hence, now, Peyton & Byrne.

Who have, instantly, put prices up by about 40p per coffee. Because I am an important player in the international commodity markets, I happen to know that tea and coffee wholesale prices are going up (buy tea, coffee and wood, as I have been saying for years). But all the same, it doesn't look good. I mean, I am as middle class as the next person, but I think that asking Britain's most chi chi coffeeseller/bakery to sell coffee to a bunch of students and writers is naughty.

Also, I hear but didn't notice, P&B's first act was to block off the plugs in the cafe so people couldn't sit and work on laptops. Good business, maybe, but libraries in general, and the BL in particular (in general) are civilised achievements. Naked profit hunger in this context is vulgar, and I know that P & B would hate the word but I pick it because it's the right one, not because it is the one most designed to irritate them (I don't think they read this blog anyway). The managers who chose them should be ashamed of themselves, but I imagine they will mainly be pleased that it's easier to get a seat these days and take the increasingly cake-filled weight off their weedy legs.

Viva la revolucion, etc.

Thursday, 2 April 2009


Sorry, Spencer fans. Forgot last match report of the season. Very busy. Have now posted it.

the book next door

One reason the University Library in Cambridge kicks the ass of the British Library and, from everything I hear though I've never been there, Bodleian, is that you get to roam through the bookstacks in manner of a hungry gazelle in a forest of plums. Sending for things from catalogues is all very well, but it's a strategy that will only ever find you the things that you're looking for. When I was doing my PhD, I found inordinate numbers of useful things by going to where the books I knew I wanted were and scrabbling around in the neighbouring shelves. Some people say I wasted a lot of time also, but where are those people now? I don't know.

All of which I say because I sent for a book in British Library yesterday, and the book-picker in Boston Spa sent me the book next to it on the shelf, viz. The Magnolia Lady, by Constance Smedley (1932):
A lighthearted and exciting story of the strange happenings which befall a party of English people who are staying at a beautiful Italian villa. Into the romantic setting comes a mysterious young man, a modern Shelley, with Shelley's irritating idealism about, and indifference to, his feminine friends.
Completely destitute, he becomes private secretary to the Magnolia Lady. He is soon involved, with the rest of the party, in the plots of international crooks, the operations of a Fascist Secret Society, and a ghost story connected with the pirates who once roamed the Mediterranean.
His love affairs are not the least exciting of his adventures.
The Magnolia Lady, with her fine sense of values, her generosity and surprising impulses, the provocative and shame-free Andre, and Elisabeth, indolent and witty, are most agreeable company.
The villa, the gardens and the bay of Perigi are as vivid as they are enchanting.

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

the idiocy of these goats

According to Our Gods Wear Spandex, a guide to the esoteric underpinnings of superhero myths by Chris Knowles, Arthur Conan Doyle fell out with Houdini because he refused to believe the latter wasn’t really magic. That would have been a funny conversation.

Also, Scientology-founder L Ron Hubbard teamed up with the American rocket scientist Jack Parsons in 1946 and tried to summon the Scarlet Woman, mate with her and bring about the Apocalypse. Aleister Crowley, top occultist, said, ‘I get fairly frantic when I contemplate the idiocy of these goats.’