Wednesday, 29 June 2011

The BBC rumbles on about Amanda Knox and Meredith Kircher. Every time it does, I feel sick. I bet the journalists writing about it haven't read Douglas Preston's book The Monster of Florence, about an earlier Italian murder investigated by the same conspiracy obsessed police idiot who locked up Knox and bamboozled her into a confession. To repeat, I don't know anyone who has read the book, the guiding principle of which is Occam's Razor, who has emerged with any doubt that Knox is innocent. Read this for more.

Again to repeat, if you have read the book and have continued doubts, then I would be extremely interested to hear them. If you have doubts simply because you have read things in newspapers based on things that came from the Italian police, then I am not interested to hear them. I mean this. People keep quoting newspaper reports which have the same factual validity as 'no smoke without fire'. It's a horror show.

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

horrible reviews

How did I find the following reviews for the Royal Hotel, a strip club in Whitby, Ontario? Well, it isn't the only Royal Hotel in a Whitby. In a gruesome way, I found them funny, but not funny enough to link to the whole site.

It just gets worse and worse here. I have been visiting Royal Hotel intermittently for several years, and the place seems to lose energy on a weekly basis. I've even gotten to know some of the dancers somewhat well, and the place still drives me nuts. I expecially (sic) dislike the mirrors over the VIP area that give the bouncers full view of everything. Yikes! The girls all seem to want to hustle right back there (as I suppose you would expect...), but the dances are mechanical at best with no extra mileage. The past couple of visits I ended up just going across the street for a beer at the normal non-strip-club bar and grille.

I love the wistfulness. He clearly wants the place to meet its potential. He's trying to help.

While I was in the Whitby area visiting family relatives, I decided to try this little SC. First thing I noticed was the VIP area...

This is what I do when I am visiting family relatives in Little Hallingbury.

dominique is a girl's name

All the same, NFL cornerback and player's union rep Dominique Foxworth is fun. He wrote a column this week including the following two thoughts:

I think cell phones have ruined pushing people into pools.

Whenever someone says, "I'm not book smart, but I'm street smart," all I hear is, "I'm not real smart, but I'm imaginary smart."

Monday, 27 June 2011

string 'em up

You probably know that Ruth Ellis was the last English woman to hang. I didn't know the whole story, and I suppose I still don't, but I do know that Gladys Yule was shot in the hand by one of Ruth's stray bullets, and she said:

Dont let us turn Ruth Ellis into a national heroine. I stood petrified and watched her kill David Blakely in cold blood. Do these people realise Ruth Ellis shot Blakely to the danger of the public. She might easily have killed me, an innocent passer-by, a complete stranger. Let us remain a law-abiding country where citizens can live and walk about in peace and safety.

Gladys Yule fought indefatigably against any attempt to reprieve Ellis, and Ellis was not reprieved. This is a letter Ellis wrote on the morning of her death:

Dear Mr Simmons,

The time is seven o'clock am -- everyone is simply wonderful in Holloway. This is just for you to console my family with the thought that I did not change my way of thinking at the last moment. Or break my promise to David's mother [in a previous letter to Mrs Cook, Ruth had confirmed her acceptance of an eye-for-an-eye, and was resigned to die so that his death could be repaid in some way]. Well Mr Simmons, I have told the truth, and that's all I can do. Thanks once again,



I think Gladys might have been the daughter of Lady Annie Henrietta Yule, heiress of Jute millionaire Sir David Yule. Lady Yule certainly had a daughter called Gladys. She also commissioned Nahlin, a very beautiful yacht which King Edward VIII chartered in 1936 for a trip with Mrs Wallis Simpson, and we all know what that means.

Friday, 24 June 2011

gore wars

Wilbert Gore invented Gore-Tex. He wrote a complicated will which, basically, divvied up his money equally amongst his grandchildren via a trust which gave his five children an income. He died in 1986. One of the children had an idea.

Susan W. Gore, one of Wilbert's five children, triggered a five-year Delaware Chancery Court battle by adopting her ex-husband. The event that adoption experts call incredibly rare and perhaps unprecedented -- a man becoming his former wife's son -- occurred in 2003 in Wyoming, where the Gore family has roots.

There's more here and here. It's all very Bleak House. This is Susan Gore.

Thursday, 23 June 2011

watch this, watch this!


1. The protagonists are played by Peyton and Eli Manning. Non-fans-of-US-sport, and I know there are some of you out there, these are two top NFL quarterbacks. I mean, Peyton is in all-time-best discussions, and Eli is very good.

2. There is some cartoonish violence.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

the white tiger

There will be more about The White Tiger in The Future, but for now, let us just say that I am very much enjoying it. My favourite bit so far:

It makes me happy to see a chandelier. Why not, I'm a free man, let me buy all the chandeliers I want. For one thing, they keep lizards away from this room. It's the truth, sir. Lizards don't like the light, so as soon as they see a chandelier, they stay away.

I don't understand why other people don't buy chandeliers all the time, and put them up everywhere.

And if you think that's exciting, then think how much you will enjoy the news that we are very, very shortly to record the first Tall Tales podcast. Just think of that.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

best business school in world if kilburn is world

There are various top business schools - the London Business School, the Harvard Business School, INSEAD et cetera, but only one can be my favourite, and that is the Academy of Management Studies.

With a name like that, I assume that the courses it teaches are every bit the equal of the more established ones, and while the Judge Institute in Cambridge is ten minutes by bike from the University Library, the AMS is only five minutes walk from Kilburn Library, with its quite reasonable collection of videos.

This is a picture of, to pluck another top business school from the air, the Wharton, in Pennsylvania:

This is the entrance to the AMS, which I pass most days:

The online message from the AMS's principal opens: "The beginning of knowledge is the discovery of something we do not understand" - Frank Herbert. Well, I suppose Frank Herbert made a lot of money.

Sunday, 19 June 2011

my white whale

About three years ago, in the lavatory of the British Library, I saw a sign. It was one of those yellow erectable chaps warning you that the ground is slippery. I wanted to take a picture of it. I could not because my phone was recalcitrant and I didn't want to spend ages in the loo fiddling with my camera because people were already looking at me funny, though this being the BL some of them looked pretty funny to begin with. I assumed I would get another chance.

For three years, every time I have seen a yellow erectable warning sign in the British Library, or anywhere else, I have gone over to it, increasingly in hope rather than expectation. Nothing.

But last week, mirabile relictu, the guy installing our new boiler had such a sign. And it was the sign. This is the sign.

Isn't it great? Danger of falling over fish is what it is saying, loud and clear. Fair enough, fish are slippery. I love this sign, and I have found it, and that is all I have to say about that, except that slightly disappointingly the fish is the logo of Salmon Products and romance, basically, is dead.

Friday, 17 June 2011

women playing sports better than men (ii)

'The Melon', as I have taken to calling him, commented excellently a couple of posts ago that women are destined to beat men at ski-jumping, but there is all kinds of messing around about whether they are allowed to compete at Olympics. I am not an absolute expert on this, surprisingly, and do follow his link to what is at the very least an interesting story, but I have a couple of things to say:

1. What is and what isn't a sport is a sterile debate. I have aesthetic issues with sports which rely on subjective judging for their scoring (although almost all sports are subjectively refereed, blah, blah, sterile). It seems crazy to me that ski-jumping, a sport with a sensible, easily applicable criterion of measurable worth - length - goes in for a subjective component.

2. I looked at other sites about the women-in-ski-jumping issue. Easily the best moment in any of these was a comment running thus:

I spent some time looking for numbers on elite male and female ski jumpers ... They are devilishly hard to find, but, to the best I can determine, right now the best women’s ski jumper, Lindsey Van, has a best jump that is over 100 meters shorter than the current world record holder–in fact, there are more than 10 men who’ve jumped over 100 meters further than she (apparently) ever has. That is a huge, huge difference.

A huge, huge difference indeed. So huge that I seriously question this guy's research skills. I mean, given that Lindsey Van has jumped over 105m at Whistler, scene of the 2010 Olympics, and that the Olympic winner, Simon Ammann, jumped 108m for gold, just why were none of the guys jumping twice that far taking part? Different hills, and the all-but-different-sport of ski-flying is the answer, as it was not devilishly hard to find out.

Lindsey Van apparently lost the Canadian public's sympathy for what seems a decent case to have been allowed to compete when she called the the International Olympic Committee "the Taliban of the Olympics". She shouldn't have said it, but given the endemic racism, sexism, homophobia, corruption and uselessness of the sportocracy, it's a bit funny. Actually, most sportocrats aren't racist any more, or at least know how to pretend.

kilburn apocalypse

I was walking up the Kilburn High Road yesterday evening, going to Ariana II, which is a terrific Afghan restaurant with international pedigree, but which, problematically for it, looks like six dozen other restaurants on the High Road.

I was trying to beat an obvious rainstorm.* The sky looked like this. Well, obviously, better than this. It was great.

*I failed to beat the real downpour by a matter of fifty yards, thanks to taking this picture.

Thursday, 16 June 2011

in which top interational sport are women better than men?

Well, people say that ultimately open ultrarunning will have female champions,* but its US Open golf week, which makes this a good time to tell anyone who missed it that the US Open minigolf championship was won last month by Czech prodigy Olivia Prokopova.

She was practising for three weeks before the tournament in Branson, MO.** Others, like Brad Lebo and Rainy Statum, couldn't afford to give up that sort of time. It paid off, though. The prize is $3000.***

Olivia has been on the tour for years. Her dad is very driven on her behalf. If something's worth doing, it's worth doing well.

And while we are on the subject of battling sexes, and in light of yesterday's post, I have been meaning for ages to talk about my all-time favourite jacket copy. Doing a bit of digging, I found that the publisher of the books involved says they are 'Stories for men... And women with spirit.' Get in. I'll go on about them more tomorrow. Or later.

* Favourite quote: 'In the greatest ultra of them all - Life - women consistently achieve greater performances'.
** Population 6,000 or so, but it has a Titanic Museum and lots of other stuff. It says it's the 'live entertainment capital of the world'. I am not so sure.
*** I found out about this via Slate's Hang Up and Listen.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

not for me, thank you

Here's a description of a book from an author's website, with all the names changed to make it harder to identify, because I don't want to be mean, and this is just my taste, and it's not like I've read the book. Whatever, I read this and I thought, 'Oh boy':

In her raw yet elegant third novel, Range tells the story of a prominent Italian poet, Filippo Annunzio, and his romantic entanglement with two sisters, both American actresses, in post-war Italy. The novel is narrated by Filippo: charming, intellectual, sex-obsessed—and in love with the idea of his own suicide.

pointlessly going on about the bbc

As previously stated very many times, I think the BBC is amazing and if it gets dismantled by morons, we'll never get it back.

From the Ascot coverage, this is a collection of some awful jokes, mostly about hats. They are not supposed to be awful. Some jokes are a matter of taste, some are better than others. But even the others are better than these.

Monday, 13 June 2011

why are people so horrible?

People online are free to be vile. We all know it and we can all work out why - it's not rocket science. We tend to throw our hands in the air and wonder what you have to say to get censored on the Guardian's Comment is Free pages, given just how nasty lots of the stuff up there is. I don't have any answers, but we should find some. It's been going on long enough, and we don't have to kowtow to these anonymous arseholes any more.

Here's a great piece at The Australian
. This is one of the thing journalism does really well - personalises a political issue and makes it much harder to dismiss as theory. Nina Funnell was sexually assaulted in 2007:

And why would that story, first told in a Sydney newspaper, prompt one website to run a public discussion, inviting guests to assess how “rape-able” she is? And why did one man read of her trauma and feel compelled to announce to the world: “what a conceited bitch for thinking she is even worthy of being raped. The guy just probably wanted to give her a good bashing in which case job well done.”

Friday, 10 June 2011

does anyone remember binky?

Letters of Note is one of my favourite websites. It's not published this one, though. It's from the Camberley News and Mail, 24 September, 2010. I wanted to put up a picture, as scanned in by Andrew, who tends a precious copy of the letter as if it were a rare orchid, but I would have to convert the file, and then I would still have to transcribe it anyway. I may get round to it, I may not. Anyway, the letter is quite long, but it's golden.
Does anyone remember Binky?

I wonder if your readers can help me trace a wonderful soldier and old friend?

His name is Leight 'Binky' Jenkins, and I had the pleasure of serving with him 55 years ago during the Malayan Emergency.

Binky and I were originally members of the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, a regiment sadly no longer in existence but once famed for its explosives expertise. However, during our time in Malaysia we were assigned to an airborne regiment which keeps its business to itself. We were providing 'technical services', accompanied by a small group of terrifying Ghurkas (handy to have around when taking technical services to the enemy), and a handful of Malay Freedom Fighters.

Binky was a top notch explosives technician. A story comes to mind which may prompt your readers' memory. One morning Binky was running through how to defuse booby traps. However, to defuse one, you have to make one. Azir, one of the Malay chaps, had brought in a sorry looking cat, found expired by the side of the road. While I hooked up the wires, Binky began to place a detonation cap in the appropriate location. as he approached the end of the operation he used his little finger to ram the cap home. This was obviously a finger to far for Kitty, which to everyone's surprise came violently back to life.

The Ghurkas, fearless, unsheathed their sacred 'Kukri' knives ready to kill it (again), while, in my utter shock my hand slipped on to the firing button setting the whole thing off with a frightful din. Binky's pinky went for a Burton, and Kitty bought it. It was a frightful mess until Binky piped up 'I should have tickled his chin first!'

The Ghurkas thought this top notch fun and offered an enthusiastic round of applause, while the Malays, as inquisitive as ever, promptly headed purposefully into the bush. They returned later with an assortment of the jungles's finest 'fur and feather' ready for the next day's lesson.

Luckily Binky was training to be a doctor in civvy street, and he had his finer (now minus tip) cleaned up in no time. Pussy took rather longer to clean up off the parade ground, but rest assured what was left of him was given a hero's send-off later in the day when he was buried (with considerably more dignity than he departed the world) in the commanding officer's garden. Later in the mess the chaps named him 'BamBam', quite a fitting name (and common in Borneo).

On returning to England Binky headed off to your neck of the woods and back to the witch doctor trade. I remember him pulling grenade pins rather than pushing in needles and your readers' help in fiding him is duly requested. Back then Binky was a muscular chap, 5ft 10in or so, useful with a 'Kukri', and deadly with a .303 to around 500 yards. Not a cat lover, and with the tip of his little finger missing on his right hand.

(Major Retired)
Ascott Residence
No 9 Jalan Pinang
50450 Kuala Lumpur

Thursday, 9 June 2011


1. I think they're a bad idea. There they are, freezing a bit of a changing person forever. On the other hand, something similar-but-different can be said about us uploading things onto Facebook and so on. The web doesn't go away. If you write something dim, the chances are increasingly likely that people will always be able to see it somehow. Are millions of us tattooing ourselves?

2. I wrote this bit of incisive social criticism so I could post a picture of John Carew, whose recent tattoo I suddenly realised that a lot of my non-sporting friends might have missed. Because of a bad tattooist, or because John can't spell, it reads, 'ma vie, mes régles' (my life, my menstruation) instead of 'ma vie, mes règles'.*

While we're on it, the one of these tattoos I can't help finding sweet is Fernando Torres's one on his left arm, which reads 'Fernando' in Tengwar, one of Tolkien's elvish scripts. Stupid, but sweet.

* I got this all wrong on first posting, irony of ironies. I am terrible at languages.

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

a nemesis returns

Ok, he never went away. Mike Tanier is more or less my favourite writer of any kind. He writes sensible and funny things for the NYT and Football Outsiders. In his latest column for the latter, he does a riff on Alex Smith. This is not either of the two Alexes Smith who are friends of mine but the Alex Smith who was the first pick in the NFL draft in 2005 and who people had huge expectations of, but who has been incredibly meh. There's something inexplicably anonymous about him, and that is Tanier's gag:

Alex Smith is organising out-of-season workouts with his team. The other QBs, including new boy Colin Kaepernick, don't recognise him ('That guy throws pretty well, though not as well as an NFL quarterback. And he knows a lot about offense, though not as much as an NFL quarterback'), and then:

Smith: No, no, no! I am a quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers! And even though I am a free agent right now, I want to return to the team, and I am willing to invest a lot of my energy and my own money into building team camaraderie and demonstrating my commitment to this franchise and this community.

Kaepernick: Gee, I am sorry. From everything I have heard about Alex Smith, I would have expected someone less ... functional.

Smith: What, you assume that just because a quarterback cannot hold onto his starting job he is some kind of stumblebum who cannot do anything right? Just because my arm isn't top notch and I go into slumps, I must be some kind of all-around weakling uninterested or incapable of organizing activities, leading teammates, or contributing anything of value to humanity?

Kaepernick: Yeah, that's pretty much what I assumed.

Smith: Well, take it from me, Colin. You'll have some early career setbacks, too. Talk-radio guys will bash you, bloggers will make fun of you, and everyone will act like a six-year career as an off-and-on starter at the highest level of competition in the world is a reason to feel ashamed. Well, it's not. Faded quarterback prospects can do a lot of things well, and we have a lot to be proud of. Right, David?

Carr: I guess so. I was playing with my smart phone while you were talking. What did you say your name was?

Sunday, 5 June 2011

what will happen next?

Wandering around Lord's the last couple of days, I had this thought: how many of these nice old boys, if you asked them, would say that A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square was their favorite song? It was my dad's, and it is quite a lot of my friends' dad's. I bet hundreds of the MCC members would be in the same boat. It's hard to know quite why, good as the song is. It clearly hits a sweet spot.

a) Are me and all my male friends get older, are we going to fall in love with ANSIBS? Seems unlikely.
b) What is going to happen to the song? Presumably it'll just become just another in the canon, without this extraordinary ability to make 60-80 year olds misty-eyed.
c) Is there a decent but not great song that will have a similar status for people like me? Will it be (oh. my. god.) Angels? I have never really been able to bear Angels - something about it bugs me though I can't say what - but lots of people I was students with it lose all touch with sense when it is played.

(I am loving Phil Tufnell and Henry Blofeld on TMS talking about how important it is to let meat rest before you carve it.)

Thursday, 2 June 2011

matadors, sharks, liars

I'm co-hosting a bookswap on Sunday at Stoke Newington public library. The authors are John Butler and Ian Leslie, who, for clarity, is a friend of mine. (I think reviewers - which I am not in this case - should always mention their relationships with people they are reviewing. Other people think differently. We can't both be right.)

Anyway, John Butler's written an intercontinental coming-of-age novel called The Tenderloin and Ian Leslie has written Born Liars, which is a book about lying. Or is it? (It is.) (Or is it?) Here's a paragraph from it. Or is it?:

Keeler's heavy drinking led to the end of his marriage with Katherine Keeler, a glamorous and accomplished woman who trained as a forensic scientist before establishing her own all-female detective agency in Chicago. Soon after doing so she left Keeler for Rene Dussaq, a Cuban-American with a degree in philosophy from the University of Geneva who at various times was a matador, polo player, Davis Cup tennis player, fencing champion and highly decorated war hero. Katherine was killed in 1944 after the plane she was flying solo across country crashed into a field in Ohio. Keeler died of a stroke caused by alcoholism four years later, aged 46. John Larson spent the rest of his career working for various penal institutions, collecting newspaper clippings about his machine [the polygraph, which Larson collaborated on with Keeler], and working on a nine thousand-page book on psychology for which he never found a publisher. He died in 1965, aged 73.

I looked for a picture of Dussaq with which to illustrate this post, and found the above ex libris. Another on the same page is below. It's weird, isn't it?

Wednesday, 1 June 2011


1. I think this bit of the BBC's round-up of today's newspapers is unfortunately phrased:

In its front page story, the Daily Mail reveals that a prisoner has used the Human Rights Act to become a father, even though he's still locked up.

It says his demand that his partner be artificially inseminated was approved by Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke.

I'm pretty sure you can't just demand that, even if you are lucky enough to be a prisoner.

2. Sportocrats (I): badminton's bosses have withdrawn their (bad) new rule insisting that women wear skirts because it makes them look prettier. (For more on this rule, see previous post.)

3. Sportocrats (II): obviously this is no surprise to anyone, given the current state of FIFA, but the openly homophobic Vlatko Markovic is STILL head of the Croatian FA.