The MacLamity

The News That Stays News, Reported Live

Tuesday, September 30, 2003

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Today's HARD-TO-FATHOM FRENCH NEOLOGISM
From the AFP:
Le "fooding", nouvel art de la table inventé en France par un groupe de jeunes critiques gastronomiques, veut séduire Rome avec une semaine culinaire organisée en décembre simultanément à Paris et dans la capitale italienne.
Néologisme issu de deux mots anglais "food" (nourriture) et "feeling" (sentiment, intuition), le "fooding" désigne "l'art de manger avec esprit" et "le refus de l'ennui à table". Un concept destiné "à ébranler le gastronomiquement correct", selon Alexandre Cammas, rédacteur en chef des hors-séries du magazine Nova, l'un des fondateurs du mouvement créé en 2000.
Don't these fuckers realise that any word in English can end in ING. Fooding might as well be a combo of Food and Murdering.

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Today's HARD-TO-FATHOM PLOT SUMMARY:
Classical version.

The eldest son of Tamora,
Queen of the Goths,
is sacrificed to the gods by her Roman conquerer,
the general, Titus Andronicus. She vows Revenge.

So
Her two other sons rape
Titus’s daughter Lavinia, and
Cut off her tongue
So
That she cannot say the names of those who raped her, and her hands
So
That she cannot write the names. Titus,
Also mutilated

His hand is chopped off
Finds
Out the truth, and in turn kills Tamora’s two sons and has
Them baked
In a pie
Which he serves to her at a banquet. He then
Kills her and Lavinia, and is himself
Stabbed to death by Saturninus, the
Corrupt
Emperor
of Rome. Tamora’s
Moorish lover Aaron,
A central figure of the crimes, is sentenced

To be buried alive. The final massacre Leaves less than half the
original characters
Still living.
MacLamity really wants to see the latest production of Titus Andronicus in Stratford. Review, directing it under pressure.

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Maclamity NEEDS A CATCH PHRASE
Catch phrases MacLamity admires but which are already taken:
Baffling:
The Rock: "Can you smell what the Rock is cooking?"
John H. Gutfreund: "Bite the ass off a bear!"
Sandy Powell: "Can you hear me, Mother?"

To the point:
Emeril: "Bam!" "Kick it up a notch!"
Ritik Dholakia: "Outstanding."
Homer: "Doh!"
Shaggy: "Zowee."
Other Shaggy: "Wasn't me."
Daleks in general: "Exterminate!"

Blatantly Shatner's:
Congressman James Traficant: "Beam me up, Scotty."

Hard to Say:
John Cage: " [...] "

Give them back:
Elizabeth I: "I may have the body of a weak and feeble woman, but I have the heart and stomach of a king."

In original context even better:
Al Johnson: "You ain't heard nothing yet."

Redundant, emphatic:
James Bond: "Bond. James Bond."

Should be a catchphrase:
T.S. Eliot: "Jug jug."

Experimental hybrid catch phrases:
Karl Marx: "Capital is money, capital is commodities. . . . By virtue of it being value, it has acquired the occult ability to add value to itself. It brings forth living offspring, or, at the least, lays golden eggs. Bam! Exterminate!"
Elizabeth I: "First, Elizabeth the First. Bite the heart and stomach off a bear!"

Preliminary list of MacLamity catch phrases:
Note: Context has yet to be found for most of these
"You've got to whack that fish with a paddle!"
"Pub it."
"[Belgium] feels as a country the way I feel as a human being."
"Put the adverb down and step away."
"Bong to the bong!"
"Tell it to the Nobel committee!"
"That's what my pants would say, if they were here today."
"This parachute is now even opener."
"O it puts a lump in MacLamity's throat!"
Current MacLamity unofficial catch phrases:
This is not an excuse. It's an explanation.
I'm the morning editor.
I know I fucked up.
I'm so fucked up.
I'm on the left and hate the left.
Just about to start it in fact.

Monday, September 29, 2003

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Which BRITISH NEPOTIST ARE YOU?
Maclamity decides he's a Lawson
The New Statesman has a handy list of successful British (and commonwealth) nepotists. Some seem more talented rather than self-serving. For instance, the Freuds.
Freuds Sigmund (1856-1939): father of psychoanalysis. Grandsons Lucian, famous artist, and Clement, distinguished food writer, Liberal MP and radio panellist (Just a Minute). Their famous children include (Lucian's) Esther, novelist, partner of the actor David Morrissey; Bella, fashion designer; (Clement's) Matthew, head of top PR company, married to Elisabeth Murdoch, managing director of BSkyB (1996-2001), daughter of Rupert (qv). Matthew's previous wife, Caroline Hutton, is now married to Earl Spencer.
Sigmund couldn't have helped grandson Clement land too many jobs, even assuming Sigmund had been alive - "I zink he fuld be zerry fonny in Chust a Minute, which I zink is fonny. Und I should know. I am ze writer off Vit and its Relation to zer Unconscious."

Rupert Murdoch's only business weakness, on the other hand, is his blindness to the business weakness of his children, which makes him more human, but still nowhere near human.
Murdochs Rupert, chief executive of News Corporation, owner of vast array of media outlets, including BSkyB, 20th Century Fox, Times Newspapers, HarperCollins; father Keith owned newspapers in Melbourne; son James is expected to be chief executive of BSkyB after career in music media business; eldest son, Lachlan, deputy chief operating officer of News Corporation; daughter Elisabeth, former MD of BSkyB, now runs own TV company.
What strikes MacLamity most about these family groupings is how they dominate a place in society, rather than a family businesses. The Freuds don't seem to dominate psychiatry, but I wouldn't want to have to compete with one for a job involving the distortion of reality. An Amis bucks the establishment, becomes the establishment and marries the establishment on the second marriage. A Murdoch makes money out of something he or she doesn't care about, and uses that money to buy more of it. The Mays are used by the Guardian advertising department to tell potential advertisers exactly what their readership looks like. Everyone loves a Lawson. MacLamity's a Lawson!

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Most people become parodies of themselves, usually between the ages of 38 and 55. Graham Greene didn't. Or rather he couldn't in 1980.

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"This has been a busy week throughout England – the busiest that has ever occurred in our memory and experience – perhaps the busiest that has occurred since the Revolution – certainly the most important ... We have feared, and trembled, and doubted; but we fear and tremble and doubt no longer: the sorrow of the night is gone, the joy of the morning is come. We commenced our last Number by announcing that the King had deserted the Bill; we commence this by announcing that the People have not deserted the Bill; and thanks to the people." This week was in 1832.

Thursday, September 25, 2003

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Here I am arguing with Dave (Update: winning)over whether Western countries can criticize Islam. All the way through I'm thinking "Fucking Edward Said, the man's a curse." Well Edward Said's dead. He had a huge influence on me. And when I showed his work to my mother, 60 years old, white, conservative, it changed her into the kind of person who can spot hegemony through the thin end of a telescope and notice how English postcard artists made all the Manx people look like savages. Unlike the post-colonial studies departments he inspired, when he attacked Milton or Orwell he did so on the understanding that they remained required reading, no matter what faults Said could see in them.

Commentary magazine's infamous piece on him (not worth paying for) said nothing other than that his critics had been reduced to ad hominem attacks. Said's response.

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Today's HARD-TO-FATHOM CARTOON

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I'm GOING TO POUND YOUR HEAD, MR. MACLAMITY:
Ezra Pound always knew what to do. He returned to Italy in the 1950s having praised Mussolini in the 1930s, imprisoned by the U.S. as a traitor in the 1940s, and committed to a lunatic asylum. The press crowded around his plane to get pictures and comments from a man who had been essentially silent for decades. Had he repented? Any new poetry? People like you and me would think that ten years after World War II and the holocaust is not the time to give out a big fascist salute. Pound knew that that was exactly what he was going to do.

When the TLS ran a photo from that day a reader wrote in and said, "This is an American raising his hand to say hello, not a fascist greeting the world." I never believed that. But this photo of Al Gore has me changing my mind. Gore probably isn't saying that California needs one people, one state, for a 1,000 years etc. And Davis probably isn't shouting about Arizona once more being returned to a renewed, eternal empire. But Gore looks like that. Really a lot like that.

Wednesday, September 24, 2003

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What is real power? Make sure you read the hate mail.

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Mr. Scotland is interested in "trampoline." Mr. Philipinnes is "fascinated by the world of Geriatrics." "Although [Mr. Canada] has a 10% hearing defect in his left ear this has not deterred him." The lives and passions of Mr. World contestants are as rich and textured as their buttocks undoubtedly are.

Tuesday, September 23, 2003

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Excerpts from Samuel Beckett's diary from his time in Germany are going to be published. This is great news if you're the sort of person -- I am -- who will look desperately for the author's age when you come across a first novel, and feel intense relief if he or she's older, intense envy if he or she's younger.

Beckett, when he is writing these diaries, is wandering around Nazi Germany for no real reason, impoverished. He's used up a substantial amount of his money buying a useless blue suit, for no other reason than the man conning him into buying it was fascinating. Beckett wanted to push the con all the way. At the age of 30 he's written a novel. He's hung out in Paris with Joyce. He's been deep in the center of the Paris in-crowd, becoming a sexual obsession for Peggy Guggenheim. But, apart from an essay on Joyce and Murphy, he has done nothing satisfying. In his 'celebrated letter' to a friend he writes in German of how useless writing and language have become:
[I]t is indeed becoming more and more difficult, even senseless, for me to write an official English. And more and more my own language appears to me like a veil that must be torn part in order to get at the things (or the Nothingness) behind it. Grammar and Style. To me they seem to have become as irrelevant as a Victorian bathing suit or the imperturbability of a true gentleman. A mask. Let us hope the time will come, thank God in certain circles it has already come, when language is most efficiently used where it is being most efficiently misused. As we cannot eliminate language all at once, we should at least leave nothing undone that might contribute to its falling into disrepute. to bore one hole after another in it, until what lurks behind it - be it something or nothing - I begins to seep through; I cannot imagine a higher goal for a writer today. Or is literature alone to remain behind in the old lazy ways that have been so long ago abandoned by music and painting? At first it can only be a matter of somehow finding a method by which we can represent this mocking attitude towards the word, through words. In this dissonance between the means and their use it will perhaps become possible to feel a whisper of that final music or that silence that underlies All. With such a program, in my opinion, the last work of Joyce has nothing whatsoever to do. […] from time to time I have the consolation of sinning willy-nilly against a foreign language, as I should love to do with full knowledge and intent against my own.
You want to call through the page so Beckett can hear you and say, "It's OK Mr. Beckett. It'll work ut. This thing causing you despair will inspire the greatest novels of the 20th century. Your greatest work is coming. 30 is not the end."

Monday, September 22, 2003

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I'm NOT MAD AS HELL
but I'm still not going to take it anymore:
James Taranto, on The Wall Street Journal's blog, finds endless amusement in the metric system. It is something funny They Have Over There, like the moustaches some German men have even though the Victorian age ended a 100 years ago. The metric system is for him the perfect solution for something that isn't a problem. When six feet has a name -- 6 feet -- why should the government force people to call it 1.8 of anything, let alone 1.8 metres? As with old blue cheese, you can smell the Frenchness of the metric system from miles away.

The man in Brussels who says the man in England must be punished because he weighs his sausages incorrectly has the sanctimony and blindness of the Lilliputians in endless war against those who ate their eggs upside-down. That's not Taranto's point, however. For him, the Lilliputians and their war are crazy -- everyone knows how you should eat your egg.

So, here's a brief attack on America's imperial measurements. (NB. I couldn't care either way. I have no sense of what a liter is or what a gallon is.)
You can't be a republic and call your measurements imperial. That's posing. The metric system was devised by the Emperor Napoleon, but doesn't flaunt it.

The pints are wrong. The tons are wrong. Get an empire, look up how many fluid ounces are in a pint, then start thinking about using Imperial measurements.

Listening to an American complaining about foreigners using the metric system is like sitting at a bar with someone from the north pole who won't shut up about bloody southerners. "So, it's just the whole world and everybody on it that you have a problem with?" you say at one point. Taranto likes to point out that the metric system is fascist and communist, used by Stalin and Hitler. This is true, but doesn't tell you much more than that communist russia and Fascist Germany were not U.S. states. The only countries that don't use the metric system today, according to the CIA, are the U.S., Liberia and Myanmar. The image of the free-wheeling imperialist measurement zippily standing firm against the mindlessly bureaucratic measurement works, I suppose, if you believe everything that Charles Taylor and the Burmese generals say about themselves. For the Burmese, it must really heal the pain of being arbitrarily executed, that the threat of the litre has been avoided.

Finally, those in the U.S. who think they're tough with their imperial measurements don't know the half of it. They hang out in the gym, but spend all the time on the stairmaster, because the free weights look heavy and dangerous. Just look at the pitifully metric money! If America had real Imperialist ambitions, it'd do what the British did until the 1960s and have 8 cents in a dime, 5 dimes in a quarter, 12 quarters in a dollar, and then have something like the guinea, which would be, lets say, 19 quarters, and would have no other common denominator but would be the unit in which everyone's wages would be paid. Quick: John has been paid his 6-guinea wage and owes Jen seven dimes, how many dollars and quarters does he have left? Quick, I said, you worms! You're falling back on base ten like French cowards! Imperialists use all the bases just like we conquer all the countries!

Friday, September 19, 2003

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I'm James Joyce, aged two. Listen to this crazy setting of a poem I wrote 30 years from my sailor suit days.

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Talking Points Memo has won a shot at getting into Maclamity's Top Ten Interview Opening Exchanges. Josh Marshall is interviewing a retired diplomat.
TPM: It is September 16th and it seems in the last couple months in Iraq we've basically gone through--quickly gone through--three phases, as near as I can tell. We had a period where there were fairly constant guerilla attacks, and then things escalated with a series of major bombings, and then the administration--first in sort of fits and starts and then in two or three major moves--did this reconfiguring of their policy. The president came forward with his budget request and the new overture towards the United Nations, and we're still trying to negotiate some sort of new arrangement with the international community. So, setting aside why we're in Iraq, how we go there, whether we should have gone in in the first place, where are we now? Where do you see our position right now?

WILSON: Well, I think we're fucked...

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1,001 Gems FROM THE PR NEWSWIRE:

"... and The Cardigans' "Lovefool," heard in the 1996 remake of WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE'S ROMEO+ JULIET, whose original stage production might very well have been the first "chick play."

From the release for the CD "CHICK FLIX, n., Movies for Saturday Nights Spent With Ben & Jerry."

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Today's HARD-TO-FATHOM CARTOON:

"Never mind the public. Mind you I will make a rich man of you. 12 years ago I was poor now I am rich by this new arithmetic."
"Those figures [unreadable] suit my Father the Public."

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Today's HARD-TO-FATHOM PLOT SUMMARY
(Introducing a new service for MacLamity readers, which provides them with plot summaries so swift-moving, strange, or packed with discordant details, that the existence of the movie, like the enormity of the Universe and Time, is Hard-to-Fathom. A lot of these will come from IMDB. And some of you will send them to MacLamity's Fortress of Solitude in the plains of Belgium.)
[Plot SUMMARY FOR MIU HAAN FOOK WOOD]

A young man goes to Las Vegas
with his best friend
to prove he can win big bucks.
When he loses all of the money, he
and his friend
get help from a young woman who tells
the man the story of some special
stones
that are
part
of a legend involving time travel and parallel universes.

When the trio get in a car accident,
the young gambler is the only survivor.
Pursued
by a female detective, the two
accidentally end up back
in time
on Christmas Day, where
the gambler
decides to make the wrong things right,
and he also
ends up
falling in love with the detective.
The movie stars a 30-something version of Data from the Goonies. (Thanks to Liminal Liberal for alerting MacLamity to the potential existence of Goonies 2).

Thursday, September 18, 2003

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If bored, put together a 1962 Yoko Ono instruction piece, a painting. No materials necessary. Or rather, I assume you have the one necessary material: your head.

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Who's responsible for it all? "The historical sequence before the French Revolution is one of Jews, heretics, witches, followed by Jews, Communists, capitalists, and secret services" after the revolutionary year of 1789," according to a German historian of conspiracy theories. So, that narrows the list of innocent, normal people to Ringo Starr and the dead.

[P.S.] A great line from the article: "But to conspiracy theorists, discovering the truth is like solving a crossword puzzle for children: What's a four-letter word for a domesticated animal? Hrse."

Wednesday, September 17, 2003

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A year ago, an old army captain told me his plans for a St. George's day parade in London. "The Irish have a St. Patrick's Day parade in London and the English have nothing," he fumed before taking me through his imaginary timetable of hymn singing and garter-wearing. Englishness hasn't been practiced for a long time, and the English are out of shape.

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Things THAT MAKE YOU GO "BELGIUM!"
One of the new big ad campaigns on the streets of Belgium comes from SN Brussels, and it has that great Belgian knack for blowing something that could have been really cool. SN Brussels is the phoenix which rose from the ashes of the infamous Sabena Airlines, which made a profit in only one year of its 50 years of existence, and which developed the kind of acronym among ex-pats which comes from pissing off clever people for too long: Such A Bad Experience. Never Again.

I suspect the campaign is one of those which is directed more at employees than customers. An airline notorious for surly, bored staff, shows the ways in which its staff is "Passionate About You:" a steward takes off his shoes to tiptoe by a sleeping passenger, a weeping stewardess waves farewell from the door of her plane, so sad to see her passengers go. Well executed and amusing...

But.

There's also this.

What they seem to be trying to say with this is, "Did you see that movie 'The Hand That Rocks The Cradle?" The one where she abuses the trust of a family and kidnaps the baby. No? Great? Don't see it: it's nonsense. Come aboard."

Now why would you want to convey a message like that? An SN executive explains the company's brilliant scheme behind the campaign: "We break with the existing logic of the market." He proudly sums up everything brilliantly.

[P.S.]
Today's HARD-TO-FATHOM POSTER
from an otherwise penetrable Belgian advertising campaign.

From the country that brought you the dog on the bus and in the restaurant.

Tuesday, September 16, 2003

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Somehow a guy I know at work has a knack for getting Nigerian scam emails. I love this genre. "Actually, that's a known fact," is my chosen highlight. Of course, the thing which makes this things stick is that this story is so obviously fake, but all the horror details are true.
Sir/Madam,

Compliments of the day,I propose to you base on the facts that is one day one gets to know each other eighter by correspondence or in person although we have not met each other before. Actually,that's a known fact.

Precisely,I am Dr.Ruffos Udeh. My father was late General Xsico Udeh the former
Vice president of UNITA rebels in Angola. He was the Chairman of Angolan Petroleum
Monitoring Committee (APMC) 1992 to 2002.

Sadly, he died after an injury sustained during the ambush on The UNITA rebel on 27th February 2002 where the President of UNITA, Dr. Jonas Savimbi was killed. As you might have known, Petroleum is the major revenue source in Angola (Southern Africa).

My father made a lot of money through the job but could not invest the money immediately to avoid probe by the military government. He was able to save the sum of $180,000,000.00 (0ne hundred and eighty Million United States Dollars). He deposited this sum with a security firm .

The documents used in these depositions, together with the key of the safe, are with my mother. In my father's will, he instructed that this money must be invested overseas with the help of a foreigner who is reliable and trustworthy.

So as to avoid probe by the federal government of Angola, since he was a general in the warm torn Angola, and could not have amassed such wealth legally.
With his death, I came to South Africa to live with my mother as a refugee but the violence and high incidence of robbery and murder here is alarming.

Hence, I am contacting you to assist my mother and me in relocating to your Country. My mother and I have agreed to give 10% of the total sum to you while 85% will be for
us then,3% will be used to offset the bills incurred in the Course of the transfer while 2% will be for charity.

The most important thing is to assist us to relocate to your country to live.
However you are advised to reply me by mail only.
When I receive all your favorable reply you will be given all necessary details and documents.

Thanks for your co-operation.

Regards,

Dr.Ruffos Udeh.

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Today's HARD-TO-FATHOM CARTOON

It's John Kerry! Got that much, yes ... er ... "Uden uden"?

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And as a bonus, here's one he got a month ago, from another Doctor (of what...):
From: Dr, MIKE DANGOTE [mailto:mkes456@fastermail.com]
Sent: Friday, January 04, 1980 12:44 PM
To: Innovation
Subject: STRICTLY CONFIDENTIAL


THE SPECIAL COMMITTE FOR BUDGET
AND PLANNING FEDERAL MINISTRY OF
PETROLEUM.
GARIKI, ABUJA
NIGERIA.
TELEPHONE NUMBER:234-80-33581076
From the desk of director: Dr MIKE DANGOTE.

WE ARE SENDING THIS LETTER TO YOU BASED ON THE
INFORMATION WE GATHERED FROM THE FOREIGN TRADE OFFICE
OF THE NIGERIAN CHAMBER OF COMMERCE AND INDUSTRY. WE
BELIEVE THAT YOU WOULD BE IN A GOOD POSITION TO HELP
US IN OUR BID TO TRANSFER THE SUM OF TWENTY MILLION,
EIGHT HUNDRED THOUSAND UNITED STATES DOLLARS (US$20.8)
INTO A FOREIGN ACCOUNT.

WE ARE MEMBERS OF THE SPECIAL COMMITTE FOR BUDGET AND
PLANNING OF THE FEDERAL MINISTRY OF PETROLEUM AND
NATURAL RESOURCES, THIS COMMITTEE IS PRINCIPALLY
CONCERNED WITH CONTRACT APPRAISALS AND APPROVAL IN
ORDER OF PRIORITIES AS REGARDS CAPITAL PROJECT OF THE
FEDERAL GOVERNMENT OF NIGERIA. WITH OUR POSITIONS, WE
HAVE SUCCESSFULLY SECURED FOR OURSELVES THE SUM OF
TWENTY MILLION,EIGHT HUNDRED THOUSAND UNITED STATES
DOLLARS (US$20.8M). THIS AMOUNT WAS ACCUMULATED
THROUGH UNDECLARED WINDFALL FROM SALES OF CRUDE OIL
DURING THE GULF WAR.

WHAT WE NEED FROM YOU IS TO PROVIDE A SAFE ACCOUNT
INTO WHICH THE FUNDS WILL BE TRANSFERRED SINCE
GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS ARE NOT ALLOWED BY OUR LAWS TO
OPERATE FOREIGN ACCOUNT. IT HAS BEEN AGREED THAT THE
OWNER OF THE ACCOUNT WILL BE COMPENSATED WITH 20% OF
THE REMITTED FUNDS,WE SHALL
KEEP 70% WHILE 10% WILL BE SET ASIDE TO OFFSET ANY
EXPENSES INCLUDING TAXES THAT MAY BE INCURRED BY BOTH
PARTIES IN THE COURSE OF THE TRANSACTION.

IT MAY INTEREST YOU TO KNOW THAT TWO YEARS AGO A
SIMILAR TRANSACTION WAS CARRIED OUT WITH ONE MR.
PATRICE MILLER, THE PRESIDENT OF CRAINE INTERNATIONAL
TRADING CORPORATION AT NUMBER 135, EAST 57TH STREET,
28TH FLOOR, NEWYORK. 10022 WITH TELEPHONE (212)
308-7788 AND TELEX NUMBER 6731689, AFTER THE AGREEMENT
BETWEEN BOTH PARTNERS IN WHICH HE WAS TO TAKE 5% THE
MONEY WAS DULY TRANSFERRED INTO HIS ACCOUNT ONLY FOR
US TO BE DISAPPOINTED ON OUR ARRIVAL IN NEW YORK AS
WE WERE RELIABLY INFORMED THAT MR. PATRICE MILLER WAS
NO LONGER ON THAT ADDRESS WHILE HIS TELEPHONE AND
TELEX NUMBERS HAVE BEEN REALLOCATED TO SOMEBODY ELSE.
THIS WAS HOW WE LOST US$27.5M TO MR. PATRICE MILLER.

THIS TIME AROUND WE NEED A MORE RELIABLE AND
TRUSTWORTHY PERSON OR A REPUTABLE COMPANY TO DO
BUSINESS WITH, HENCE THIS LETTER TO YOU. SO IF YOU CAN
PROVE YOURSELF TO BE TRUSTWORTHY AND INTERESTED IN
THIS DEAL THEN WE ARE PREPARED TO DO BUSINESS WITH
YOU. WHAT WE WANT FROM YOU IS THE ASSURANCE THAT YOU
WILL LET US HAVE OUR SHARE WHEN THIS FUND IS
TRANSFERRED INTO YOUR ACCOUNT.

IF THIS PROPOSAL SATISFIES YOU, PLEASE
E-MAIL YOUR RESPONSE SO THAT WE CAN ADVICE YOU ON THE
MODALITIES OF THIS TRANSACTION. ALL MODALITIES OF THE
TRANSFER HAVE BEEN WORKED OUT AND ONCE STARTED WILL
NOT TAKE MORE THAN 14 WORKING DAYS WITH THE ABSOLUTE
COOPERATION OF ALL CONCERNED. THIS TRANSACTION IS 100%
SAFE.
IT MIGHT BE DIFFICULT FOR YOU TO GET THROUGH TO ME
BECAUSE OF MY COUNTRY’S POOR TELECOMMUNICATION SYSTEM.
HOWEVER, ANY TIME YOU TRY TO REACH ME AND YOU GET A
BUSY SIGNAL PLEASE KEEP TRYING, YOU WILL DEFINITELY
GET THROUGH.

PLEASE TREAT AS URGENT AND VERY CONFIDENTIAL. GOD BE
WITH YOU AS I LOOK FORWARD TO YOUR REPLY.

YOURS FAITHFULLY,

DR, MIKE DANGOTE.

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Calvin Trillin wrote an excellent squib in The New Yorker asking what happened to brie and claret? Twenty years ago fine dining meant sole meuniere and desserts brought on wheeled carts, and nothing but. Trillin's poem wondered, How could people forget these foods, mock them, erase them from their memories of fine dining the way Stalin erased Trotsky from the picture of Leon, Stalin, and Vladimir? In just 25 years?

After I read the poem I thought about how New York needed the kind of restaurant I went to when I was 7. No fusion of anything, no mint tea, no unusual flavors, no coolness. No innovation, no buzz, no irony. No music, except in the bar. French and France were everything. The menus were in French, with no translation. The head waiter had a French accent, or at least an Italian one, even if the owner was a local.

This was before France meant the coolness and minimalism of nouvelle cuisine. In that age the decor, like the food, was a symphony of thickness: satin curtains, iron and brick fireplaces, dark carpets with large, foot sized patterns, hard-to-move wooden tables, wooden chairs with high backs and a red cushion on the seat. The wine waiter wore a red waistcoat. The extravaganza items were Beef Wellington and Chateaubriand, pyramid-scale monuments -- they were served only for two -- to brownness and things bovine. If not, your main course was meat and sauce and an empty plate. Waiters and waitresses served the vegetables individually from shallow steaming oval platters.

This style of eating is to current New York and London cuisine what the Victorians were to the Bloomsbury Group: very close by, very embarrassing, erased, humiliated. I can't find the food I ate in the early 1980s in England in England in 2003, where I can pick up a phone and get Vietnamese, Cantonese, Japanese, Ethiopian, Mexican, Middle-Eastern and Italian sent to my place.

This is really all by way of introduction to this Spectator article on the decline fo the Young Fogey. It is sad when you can no longer even lament the passing of the old ways, and have to lament the passing of a brief, tiny revival of the old ways. But, wait. What's this?



Is The Chap back?

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But have you ever seen Jungle Barry and Lord Lucan in the same room? A solid mystery makes no difference between ridiculous attempts to solve it and sensible ones. Lord Lucan's disappearance is so complete that questions like, "Did we buy Lord Lucan a prawn curry?" and "Was Lord Lucan a founding member of Perth's Mucky Duck Bush Band?" seem as logical as "Where would have been a good non-extradition country?" or "How and on what could he survive?"

Monday, September 15, 2003

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Christopher Ricks wrote my favorite book on Eliot and my favorite book on Beckett and has a book coming out on Dylan. "It is too knowing, too clever, too clumsily conversational." It starts:

"'Any qualified critic to any distinguished artist: All I really want to do is - what exactly? Be friends with you? Assuredly. I don't want to do you in, or select you or dissect you or inspect you or reject you.'"

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How'd they let him in? And where are the other 6?(I'm assuming this is an old joke that everyone knows about. But it's new to MacLamity, and he'd rather go to the grave having heard about this person nine times than never.)

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I don't understand why book shops have distinct "Novels" and "Literature" sections. But some have an iron grasp on these concepts, and when Stephen King gets considered as a winner of a literary fiction prize that same some bring down their iron fists hard:
Harold Bloom: He is a man who writes what used to be called penny dreadfuls. That they could believe that there is any literary value there or any aesthetic accomplishment or signs of an inventive human intelligence is simply a testimony to their own idiocy.

Proper persepctive from Jason Epstein: "The words 'distinguished contribution' are a little bit puzzling, but he is a good writer as popular writers go. I am not sure this was the original intent of the prize, but who knows about original intent?"

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"Nothing frightens War like Yoko Ono naked," thinks Yoko Ono. Obviously, that's the case. Eternal peace starts on Tuesday.

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Girls, MEET THE NEW GUY IN YOUR LIFE:


I am astonished by Christianity's awesome resistance over the past 30 years to all attempts to coolify it. U2 makes 'Until the End of the World' with it. Martin Scorsese uses its imagery and emotional fabric in 80% of his movies. It was the scaffolding on which Martin Luther King built the rhetoric of desegregation. Cool enough right there, I would think. But, for some reason, christianity just can't make it as modern. Jesus seems an antiquated notion even when played by Willem Defoe.

Buddhism has but Richard Gere and one Beastie Boy, and yet the Dalai is a pop icon, in the way that J.Lo is and the way that the Pope isn't.

Not to say that I don't admire Christianity. It's just that, for whatever reason, it's a religion that withers in the heat of popular culture.

Top Religions in terms of Pop Culture Cachet
(Main Way that Religion is Felt in U.S. Pop Culture in Parentheses):
1. Buddhism (John Cage, calling things "Zen," silence, political activism for Tibet, probably apocryphal facts about efficacy of meditation as sleep enhancer)
2. Confucianism (cool-sounding, wise quotes that don't come from Europe)
3. Islam (black power/Nation of Islam)
4. Judaism (constant references in American sit-coms, Woody Allen, Schindler's List)
5. Hinduism (posters of Gods which look good in the black light)
6 - 89. Most other religions, including cargo cults and Shintoism which I know nothing about theologically but in which I sense a greater coolness than...
90. Christianity (inc. Mormonism)
91. Mormonism (not inc. Christianity)


Put down those guitars, Christians, and those tambourines. Don't rap about why Jesus is cooler than violence. Look at the penitents in their red hoods in Spain. Look at the viciously simple Lutheran chapels in Norway. Check out the shade of red that Cardinals wear. That's cool enough. Don't embarrass yourselves trying for more. If in doubt, listen to Bob Dylan's Christian album. Modernity is not for you. Its newness has been old for quite some time, as Apollinaire saw in the 1910s
A la fin tu es las de ce monde ancien
Bergere o tour Eiffel le troupeau des ponts bele ce matin
Tu en as assez de vivre dans l'antiquite grecque et romaine

Ici meme les automobiles ont l'air d'etre anciennes
La religion seule est restee toute neuve la religion
Est restee simple comme les hangars de Port-Aviation

Seul en Europe tu n'es pas antique o Christianisme
L'Europe en le plus moderne c'est vous Pape Pie X


[“In the end you are weary of this ancient world
This morning the bridges are bleating Eiffel Tower oh herd
You have had enough of living in this Roman antiquity and Greek

Here even the cars have to them an ancient air
Religion alone has stayed quite new religion
has stayed as simple as the hangars at Port-Aviation

Alone in Europe, it's you, Christianity, who's not antique
Pope Pius of all Europe you are the modernest..."
(First two lines translated by Samuel Beckett, guest translator, he rest by MacLamity)]

Friday, September 12, 2003

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Mark Wallinger's "Brown's (Mr. P.J. Brown)"

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Johnny Cash's best moment on record comes during his performance of "Folsom Prison Blues" in prison. After the line "Because I shot a man in Reno/Just to watch him die," the prisoners cheer like maniacs. They move the song the nine miles from toe-tapping country to clear and present and frightening nihilism in half a second.

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Even Arts & Letters Daily proves MacLamity right in his despair on the repetitiveness of articles about Orwell over the past few years.
“Saints should always be judged guilty until they are proved innocent,” George Orwell wrote of Gandhi. But we must also apply the same test to Orwell...
Two months ago, The MacLamity loosely complained about a fad for using this quote in this way near the start of every big article on Orwell. I didn't make too much of the complaint, because I couldn't be bothered to find examples. But, when MAcLamity makes an assertion the world conforms to it, and it does, and it has. Having spent 50 years discovering Orwell's sainthood, writers will spend the next 50 discovering his ordinariness, and this quote will serve as a kind of saintly decree from Orwell himself to do so.
(P.S. MacLamity fans would have already seen this article, had they followed DVDANDMEDIA's tip yesterday. Sometimes DVDANDMEDIA gives.. good media!)

Thursday, September 11, 2003

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Today's HARD-TO-FATHOM CARTOON

Orwell wrote the perfect caption to this: "By using stale metaphors, similes, and idioms, you save much mental effort, at the cost of leaving your meaning vague, not only for your reader but for yourself [...] When these images clash -- as in The Fascist octopus has sung its swan song, the jackboot is thrown into the melting pot -- it can be taken as certain that the writer is not seeing a mental image of the objects he is naming; in other words he is not really thinking."

Wednesday, September 10, 2003

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There are good reasons why he's not referred to as "Charles Dickens, famous poet." Namely, the poems. I was struck in particular by how strong the Victorian's faith in repetition was when I read "George Edmunds' Song." What an age when you could write a poem twice and consider the result one poem written once.

AUTUMN leaves, autumn leaves, lie strewn around he here;
Autumn leaves, autumn leaves, how sad, how cold, how drear!
How like the hopes of childhood's day,
Thick clust'ring on the bough!
How like those hopes in their decay--
How faded are they now!
Autumn leaves, autumn leaves, lie strewn around me here;
Autumn leaves, autumn leaves, how sad, how cold, how drear!

Wither'd leaves, wither'd leaves, that fly before the gale:
Withered leaves, withered leaves, ye tell a mournful tale,
Of love once true, and friends once kind,
And happy moments fled:
Dispersed by every breath of wind,
Forgotten, changed, or dead!
Autumn leaves, autumn leaves, lie strewn around me here!
Autumn leaves, autumn leaves, how sad, how cold, how drear

(For an example of how to this autumnal effect can work, however, see Laforgue's "Dimanches")

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The latest Rosenbaum piece is on Bernard Henry-Levi's book on Danny Pearl. When I saw the book in Belgian shop windows last year, next to books with titles like this week's release, "Maison Blanche, Or Noir," the only thing I wanted to know about it was that the answer to the title wasn't "George Bush." For various reasons, I don't like how commentators see the symbolism of Danny Pearl's death more clearly the man who died, although I acknowledge that the symbolism is what makes the tragedy more than other killings in Pakistan over the past few years. Arts and Letters Daily has been fascinated with BHL for a while. They've linked to a great FT profile here and a good one by the Observer here. Apparently even Vanity Fair is profiling BHL this month. (P.S. Strangely, if you type maclamity into Google an old Ron Rosenbaum piece now comes up, for no apparent reason. Is the sheer force of my admiration dragging RR to me from across the Internet, tractor-beam-style?)

Tuesday, September 09, 2003

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The Love Song of Silvio Berlusconi. Berlusconi's first job was crooning on a cruise ship. He's going back to his roots with a CD in October and in the meantime an Italian paper has got hold of the lyrics to his "Col Cuore In Gola (With Your Heart in Your Throat)," which the BBC excerpts thus:
I feel that life is bent on dividing us
And I am frightened of being left without you.
[...]
I know perhaps you'll make me suffer
But I'll not let you go
Even if I have to fight
For I'll love you to the end.
The missing lines, i imagine, are the ones in which the singer explains to his love that she must go to the hospital right away so that the doctors can put her heart back in her chest, because she needs to breathe and she looks ugly with the huge beating bulge in her neck, although he'd still love her until the end of time even if she kept the huge beating bulge etc. etc. etc.

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Leni Riefenstahl is dead, the AFP reports. As long as she was alive, the ghostly debate over how far beauty should be held responsible to its political origins seemed somehow open. She was to the nascent practice of cinema what Heidegger was to the ancient practice of philosophy. Now we can assess a 101-year-old life, started in the Austro-Hungarian empire and ended in the European Union.

But before you do that, consider the awesome genre of the mountain movie, which Leni Riefenstahl in her first career as an actress possessed in the way that John Wayne possessed the Western. Like the Western, Die Bergfilme makes you wonder what forces a movie culture to produce the same movie a hundred times, then stop.

Here's one handy guide to the genre's essence:
Die Bergfilme: The plot of such films was always secondary to the spectacular scenes of the Bavarian and Austrian Alps. The central theme was always human surrender to the power of nature. The Bergfilme played a significant role in shaping Riefenstahl's own approach to filmmaking.
And to give you more details, are the plots to Riefenstahl's mountain movies:
Der Heilige Berg: Karl, a downhill skier ... loves a beautiful dancer named Diotina ... Alles ist wunderbar for Karl and his little schnitzel, until along comes the slightly younger and handsomer Vigo, played by Ernst Petersen. A triangle develops between these three. Karl decides to eliminate his rival, so with German cunning he invites Vigo to join him in a climb up the nearest Alp. At the top of the Alp, Karl pushes Vigo over a precipice... then he suddenly remembers that he and Vigo are roped together. Oops! ... In order to save himself, Karl must rescue the dangling Vigo, and the dangling plotline ... and in the process he makes a few self-discoveries. (from IMDB)

Die Weiße Hölle vom Piz Palü: A man climbs a 12,000-foot mountain to search for his wife, who was lost on their honeymoon. Another couple makes the dangerous climb with him. (from IMDB)

Stürme über dem Mont Blanc: In the Mont Blanc Observatory works Hannes. The only contact to the outside World is a pilot (Ernst Udet) and Hella (Leni Riefenstahl) over the morse-code-radio. As Hella climbs the mountain with her father, the father dies. Also Hannes gets endangered as his fingers freeze. But Hella gets help. (from IMDB)

Ways to Strength and Beauty: all i could find was this intriguing picture:


Die Grosse Sprung: all i can find is the poster, which looks like a Christmas card would if Christmas involved man-eating goats:


Der Weiße Rausch - Neue Wunder des Schneeschuhs: Leni, a daring young girl, is visiting for the second time a ski-resort. The local ski-teatchers agree to organise a "fox-hunt" for her. Leni and Hannes are "the foxes", and about 40 other skiers will have to catch them, starting with a 15 minutes delay. It's not the story that makes this film, but the extremely spectacular, thrilling shots about ski. (from an IMDB user)

Das Blaue Licht (which Riefenstahl directed): Junta is hated by the people in the village where she lives, especially by the women, who suspect her of being a witch. Only she can climb the nearby mountains to a cave high up, whence a mysterious blue light glows when the moon is full. Many young men of the village have died trying to follow her. She is driven out of town, and takes to living in the mountains. Eventually she shares the secret of the blue light with one man, and he betrays it.
Last word to Susan Sontag in her gyroscopically balanced essay on Leni Riefenstahl:
Fanck's pop-Wagnerian vehicles for Riefenstahl were not just "tensely romantic." No doubt thought of as apolitical when they were made, these films now seem in retrospect, as Siegfried Kracauer has pointed out, to be an anthology of proto-Nazi sentiments.

Mountain climbing in Fanck's films was a visually irresistible metaphor for unlim-ited aspiration toward the high mystic goal, both beautiful and terrifying, which was later to become concrete in Führer-worship.
Obituaries from The Guardian, The New York Times, The Washinton Post...

Monday, September 08, 2003

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C.H. Sisson was so incredibly old school as a poet, essayist and translator that it reminds you how, exactly, people like Amis and Larkin could seem like Angry Young Men when they arrived in the 1950s. He dead. My favorite part of the Telegraph obituary is the description of his multi-part attack on the rise of management speak in the civil service. I miss that generation whose conservatism was borne of clarity, who knew exactly why they hated the New and why they preferred the Old, who saw Nostalgia as something modern in a Disneylandish sense and avoided it. And finally, here's a guy who cared about Latin. The only work of his available on the web, in fact, is this translation of Catullus. Dig that precision:
A woman now, I have been man, youth, and boy;
I was athlete, the wrestler.
There were crowds round my door, my fans slept on the doorstep;
There were flowers all over the house
When I left my bed at sunrise.

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Roger Ballen's photo of the Traansvaal twins has come so close to iconic, that I assumed it was taken by Diane Arbus in the 70s or Walker Evans in the 30s. I don't know if it's OK for a photo to be that iconic that soon. That is, unless it's a news photo. Look also at the photos by Thomas Ruff, another winner of this year's Citigroup Pize. Somehow his quest for inexpressiveness works much better than most of those by conceptual writers who try the same. Ruff's photographs -- blank faces, blank houses -- are more honest about their failure to achieve nothing. As in Kenneth Goldsmith's "Day," the struggle for blankness should not be afraid to present itself as a struggle and not just conceitedly assume that it has succeeded.

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Who does Tom Clancy HANG with, BRO? Is he WRITIN' in a BIG OL' BUBBLINO, denying himself all HABLANDO with human BEIN's save 15 Burt Reynolds videos from the 1970s? If we can PUT AN AFFIRMATIVE on that it would HANG TEN with the dialogue in his latest BOOKIMONDO, skilfully quoted by The Washington Post's reviewer:
"Who's wog number two, I wonder?"
"Nobody we know, and we can't freelance. You packin'?"
"Bet your bippy, bro. You?"
"Hang a big roger on that."
You can imagine Tom Clancy alone in his mansion, playing poker with himself and three empty chairs, talking this way and doing different voices for each of his imaginary GANG of DUDES who HANG with TOMMY.
(P.S. The "wog number two" here is an Arab, which confused me. From Fawlty Towers (quoted roughly from memory):
MAJOR: Yes, she was a nice girl. I took her to see INDIA!
BASIL: India?
MAJOR: At the Oval! [U.S. people note: the Oval is a cricket ground] Yes. And she kept on calling all of them niggers. "No no no," I said. "These aren't niggers! ... These are wogs!"
Has Clancy failed to get his racism right? The man is incompetent! Racism is tailor-made for people who , like Clancy, have no imagination (The Washington Post reviewer says that in the book American agents clandestinely stick syringes into the butt of an assassinee three times. Twice with the syringe in the butt is admittedly elegant repetition, thrice with the syringe just repetition.). America's enemies must curse that day when the army turned down Tom Clancy's plea to join up.)

Thursday, September 04, 2003

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"The blood of things beat lengthily like a heart" is almost a superb line (Lengthily doesn't seem like the right word) in a pretty decent poem. (But what is a cloche hat?)

Wednesday, September 03, 2003

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Today's HARD-TO-FATHOM CARTOON:

I recognise the people. I know what the G8 is. I know when they met. But the point... the point...

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"There's a party in my mind...
"...and I hope it never stops."
(The Talking Heads. Are. Scary. When They're. Stuck. In Your. Talking. Head.)

Tuesday, September 02, 2003

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You too can be Luther Blissett, having won a prize for best first novel, you consider your next in tandem with the other Italians. You can read your works here.

We are all Luther Blissett now.

(Incidentally, how long do you think it will be before early 80s short shorts come back in? I love that style. I bet some hipster found a pair in a thrift store near the end of this summer and wore them to the park. By next summer nine of his hipster friends will be thinking, those shorts were rad, I gotta get me some. In 4 years Tony Blair will be wearing them in the beach and Jennifer Love Hewitt will be wearing only them on the cover of Maxim.)

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"Has anyone else done as much to re-invigorate reading in the last decade?
Has anyone else engaged the imaginations of so many children and adults around the world?
Has anyone else so captivated millions with a moral story of good and evil, the pain of growing up parentless, the magic of personal choice?
Has anyone else done as much to benefit mankind with literature?
No."
Set your blood temperature to boil.

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I like the Michelin man's bow tie. He looks like a chippendale.

Monday, September 01, 2003

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HYPOTHESIS: The French just don't know the meaning of "kick" or "ass."
PROOF: The French minister of culture's eulogy to Charles Bronson, wherein you find no reference to the bloody kickassism of late Bronson. This is like visiting the Louvre and admiring only how shiny the railings are on the stairs.
With Charles Bronson disappears one of the great myths of cinema.
In the skin of one of the Magnificent Seven or in that of a bringer of justice [the French title of 'Death Wish' is 'Justicier Dans La Ville'] Charles Bronson excelled at embodying the opposing poles of good and evil. His imposing stature made the man with the harmonca in "Once Upon a Time in the West" one of the most famous villains in cinema history.

From his meeting with French cinema two classics were born : "Farewell Friend," with Alain Delon and Rene Clement's "Rider in the Rain." (Unreliable translation courtesy of MacLAmity Unreliable Translation Service)
Can you imagine the U.S. minister of culture saying something like that? I mean, can you imagine a U.S. minister of culture at all?

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I KNOW THAT FEELING, III. Ansel Krut's "Heartless Roach."

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A new word for every occasion: Ornithopter. At the dinner party: "The Iles in your Iles Flotant, Mr.s Wrenbug, float as delicately as an ornithopter does in the air thanks to its flapping wings." In a prelude to a fight: "Don't make me beat your face as rapidly as an ornithopter's wings unprecedentally beat the air." In the bedroom: "That experience was as moving and unforgettable as seeing the ornithopter's maiden flight in Toronto would have been for me if I had seen it."
Question: Would it be better if the Ornithopter was a dinosaur instead of a robot?


An angry ornithopter.

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You too can write the long look back on Orson Welles's career. It's not hard. As Peter Conrad knows, just:
Choose decline from the ultimate heights as your theme "In his 20s, he changed cinema for ever. In his 60s, he sold dog food"


Say the decline was Welles's fault: "Welles often sentenced himself to damnation."

The decline was also the fault of the dull forces of reaction: "As always after an attempted revolution, the world soon decided that it preferred the safe status quo. The providers of industrialised entertainment declared Welles to be unbankable."

Hank Quinlan is the moment when Welles shifted gears from decline to full-on fall: "Lime [in 'The Third Man' still has the baby face of Welles the young archangel, but Quinlan [in 'Touch of Evil'] is a gargoyle: only 43 when he made the film Welles self-mortifyingly imagined what he might look like after a few more decades of depressive overeating;"

Proclaim that every part Welles played and every film he made is a metaphor for, or, if you prefer, a prophecy of the decline "A character in Mr Arkadin calls the hero - a piratical tycoon played, of course, by Welles himself - 'a phenomenon of an age of dissolution and crisis'. It was hard, by then, not to see Welles as just such a phenomenon;" "He made The Stranger, playing a Nazi living incognito in Connecticut. He unfairly discredited the film, perhaps to conceal the candour of its self-analysis;" "Welles wrote a dismissive epilogue to this apotheosis of man. The comment, which concludes the film, also served as an obituary for himself. Playing the crooked police chief Quinlan, he slumps into a slimy, typhoid-infested creek to die." Conrad's one innovation is to say that not ony the roles Welles played were are all about him, and says the ones Welles didn't play count as well.
You would think a review of a career would review the works that made the career distinctive. No. Conrad doesn't say that 'Citizen Kane' is close to being the best film ever made, or that Welles had one of the widest acting ranges that Hollywood has ever seen. The Welles-as-metaphor-for-Welles narrative has gained such strength since David Thomson crafted its apotheosis in the mid-90s in "Rosebud". Soon, we'll have forgotten that Welles wrote, directed or acted anything. Welles is becoming our Faust, the cautionary story of an artist who sold his soul to the OverDevil -- overeating, overacting and overreaching. Extraordinary disintegration has gone from just being Welles's fault to being his greatest achievement. The story ends in hell, making ads for the Japanese. "O Mephistopheles, I'll burn my calories!"