The MacLamity

The News That Stays News, Reported Live

Monday, August 30, 2004


In Puerto Rico, they're scared of Frances. Frances is going to knock down their houses. Why do the most destructive hurricanes have the gayest names? Charley, Iris, Isidore, Lenny, Keith, Leslie, Fran, Eloise, Agnes, Camille, Beulah, Iona, for example. Or the gay version of non-gay names: dandy, sissy, frenchy Georges flattened Bermuda, not regular, lunch-pail George. It wasn't Albert that killed 31 stocky southerners, but Alberto. What's striking to me, is that these hurricane names are those that will get any child automatically bullied, wedgied and beaten up by his school mates. It's as if as those 9-year-old Gordons, Opals, Lilis, and Fabians reflect on being hung one again from a hook by their underpants, their silent rage collects in the Atlantic, and coils itself up into 150 miles per hour of cyclonic, windy revenge, and then destroys all the tough parts of the United States -- Florida and Georgia and so on - places where Flossy will have his or face pushed in the mud just because. You're not laughing at Flossy anymore, are you O tough guys of Florida?


Paper is the new rock
A man who wore this nonsense on his T-Shirt was deservingly thrashed. Rock remains number one. Paper remains the last resort of the coward. And don't even mention scissors. In fact, let's pretend that I just didn't mention it and re-iterate instead: nothing beats rock.


Contemporary ART JEAPORDY: Part I
Alex Trebek: This draws attention to the waste and transport problems in the world's major cities.
Contestant: What are remote-controlled cars drving around a gigantic toilet in the middle of a main road?

Friday, August 27, 2004


The New York Times >Gore Vidal is the unsophisticated tourist on a scale so immense that it seems like sophistication. A tourist passes by the treasure of the Louvre to see the Mona Lisa. When Vidal talks about Ravello and feeds the reporter tales of Tiberius and Homer. "As a historian, Mr. Vidal outdid himself when he bought into a vista where Ulysses had sailed," writes The New York Times. Vidal didn't have to buy a villa in Ravello to do this. A monkey picking through a pile of trash in Gibraltar also sees a vista which Ulysses sailed, if you believe Dante. (Full disclosure: I'm just jealous of Vidal for living such a fabulous life, and writing irritating nonsense so well.) Unlike Vidal, Ezra Pound (living in Rapallo) was as impressed with Italy's present as he was with Italy's past when he stayed in his villa in Rapallo. That is, if there's a good side to becoming a worshiper of Mussolini, it's that you're not enjoying Italy for the history, the colisseum, the picturesque vistas. You're enjoying it for the Italy that you're living in.

[P.S.] Someone points out how this quote shows just how much insight Vidal has into his own character: "I end up with big houses because I have so many books," Mr. Vidal said. "If I didn't have the 8,000 volumes, I'd be in a one-room flat somewhere."



Art thou gone too? all comfort go with thee!
For none abides with me: my joy is death;
Death, at whose name I oft have been afear'd,
Because I wish'd this world's eternity.
Stanley, I prithee, go, and take me hence;
I care not whither, for I beg no favour,
Only convey me where thou art commanded.

Why, madam, that is to the Isle of Man;
There to be used according to your state.

That's bad enough, for I am but reproach:
And shall I then be used reproachfully?

Like to a duchess, and Duke Humphrey's lady;
According to that state you shall be used."

King Henry VI Part 2: Act 2. Scene IV:

Thursday, August 26, 2004


Triumph OF THE WILL!
"It's called 'Elephant,' with an exclamation mark presumably," says Jeff Goldblum's jaded agent, as she tells him about the musical based on the life of the elephant man. Could Anthony Burgess's attempt to make Will!, the musical of shakespeare's life, have had any good in it whatsoever?
The idea of a musical version of Shakespeare's life seemed more than acceptable in a 1960's Hollywood which was riding a wave of very successful British musicals, like My Fair Lady and Camelot, and historical blockbusters like A Lion in Winter and A Man for All Seasons. Warner Brothers Seven Arts was eager to create a similar success with Burgess's Shakespeare. William Conrad, a successful actor turned producer, had conceived the project and was instrumental in involving Burgess. In You've Had Your Time, Burgess describes how he warmed to Conrad, who, he noted, was 'a true actor, in that he knew Shakespeare', and they became friends. Burgess was amused but put off by Conrad's improvisation of a song for the movie that began 'To be or not to be in love with you,/ To spend my life hand in glove with you' (143)


The names and titles Booker Long List make for interesting reading. Mote than the books themselves, I'll wager. Guardian
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie Purple Hibiscus
Nadeem Aslam Maps for Lost Lovers
Nicola Barker Clear: A Transparent Novel
John Bemrose The Island Walkers
Ronan Bennett Havoc, in its Third Year
Susanna Clarke Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell
Neil Cross Always the Sun
Achmat Dangor Bitter Fruit
Louise Dean Becoming Strangers
Lewis Desoto A Blade of Grass
Sarah Hall The Electric Michelangelo
James Hamilton-Paterson Cooking with Fernet Branca
Justin Haythe The Honeymoon
Shirley Hazzard The Great Fire
Alan Hollinghurst The Line of Beauty
Gail Jones Sixty Lights
David Mitchell Cloud Atlas
Sam North The Unnumbered
Nicholas Shakespeare Snowleg
Matt Thorne Cherry
Colm Toibin The Master
Gerard Woodward I'll go to Bed at Noon
If we take out the line breaks, for example, it's hard to tell who's writing what: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie Purple Hibiscus Nadeem Aslam Maps for Lost Lovers Nicola Barker Clear A Transparent Novel John Bemrose The Island Walkers Ronan Bennett Havoc in its Third Year Susanna Clarke Jonathan Strange And Mr Norrell Neil Cross Always the Sun Achmat Dangor Bitter Fruit Louise Dean Becoming Strangers Lewis Desoto A Blade of Grass Sarah Hall The Electric Michelangelo James Hamilton-Paterson Cooking with Fernet Branca Justin Haythe The Honeymoon Shirley Hazzard The Great Fire Alan Hollinghurst The Line of Beauty Gail Jones Sixty Lights David Mitchell Cloud Atlas Sam North The Unnumbered Nicholas Shakespeare Snowleg Matt Thorne Cherry Colm Toibin The Master Gerard Woodward I'll go to Bed at Noon. I think I'd rather like "Shakespeare Snowleg" by Matt Thorne or "Cherry Colm Toibin" by Master Gerard.


A titan of first-class cricket, yeta dwarf on the international level. What's it like to still be Graeme Hick and still be playing cricket, years after Greame Hick's cricket career was over.
He told me that the hardest thing he had ever had to admit in his professional life was that he had failed at Test level. His sports psychologist said he should face his fears and disappointments, so he had had to admit the failure to somebody close to him. In the end, he said, he told his best friend while churning inside, convinced it was the world's greatest confession. He splurged it all out but, when he had finished, his friend just continued waffling on as if he had not heard him.


A C O C K and a B U L L, said Yorick
As bad as academic writing gets, and as angry as it makes me, it's worth remembering that greater crimes against clarity are committed in instruction manuals, insurance policies, and letters from the council. But then, telephone companies aren't MEANT to be great writers, are they? Whereas university professors are meant to at least WANT to write with clarity.


飛雪 is some of the most disgusting shit i have ever drank in my life, at least the carbonated stuff. It's like licking cardboard, then burping steel ball bearings. How hard is it for the Coca Cola Co. to make decent fizzy water? I can only assume that they mean to insult people.


What is the government going to do about the outrageous gender gap in Britain's schools. Boys aren't doing well.
Girls are still ahead of boys. Overall, they outperform boys by 5.3% at the top grades of A* and A and by 0.8% at A* to G. Boys have closed the gap slightly at grades A*-C, jumping by 1.3% compared with 0.9% for girls. But Ms Johnson Searle said the boards were seriously worried by the continuing gap: "It was clear last week that the one-third of the male age group who do go on to study at A-level are improving their performance. However, the evidence of boys "fighting back" against the girls at A-level is not replicated at GCSE. Indeed, when we look at the total school population at GCSE, there is no evidence either this year or over the past seven years that the gap is narrowing."
The exam boards and the government agreed that, measured by the pass rate of 97.6%, the results were static. But one academic said the result was dragged down slightly by the lower pass rate - 91.5% - among pupils taking the new vocational "applied" GCSE. He also questioned the value of the qualification amid the debate about future reform. Professor Alan Smithers, of Buckingham University, said: "It becomes an issue as to whether you can embrace all youngsters in the one qualification. I wonder whether there is enough challenge at the top where young girls are collecting GCSEs like scout badges and many youngsters ending up with nothing."
I say it's not enough for boys to be "fighting back." I say the boys just resort to fighting. That's where their strength lies after all.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004


You have to know an awful lot before you can be sure that an article in Sheep! doesn't have something to teach you. Consider their latest article on rams:
Rams, like all intact male breeding animals, will act-well, rammish-especially during the rut season. This is normal and natural and the way it should be. Rams often don't get the respect they deserve, but their bad reputations are usually due to human mismanagement.
A ram can be an amazing animal to behold. Nothing catches the eye of visitors better than a well horned, muscular and beautifully fleeced ram.
Our rams-for the most part-are very interested in what humans are doing. From birth on, rams tend to be friendlier than ewes. Most of our rams come eagerly to the fenceline to have their ears scratched or their chin rubbed. We do not make pets of our rams, but we enjoy their personalities and their handsome presence on our farm. Several of our rams are very protective and they will chase the dogs out of the field, stomping their feet and putting down their heads to protect the other sheep. Obviously we really like our rams, because we have seven at this time and only 27 ewes!
With the advent of artificial insemination, the mature ram is becoming harder to find on America's sheep farms. Also, many people will use a ram lamb in the fall and send him to slaughter after the breeding season, so one may never see the full potential of a mature ram line.
Although we buy sheep of AI breedings from the best bloodlines in Iceland, we choose not to do AI ourselves on our farm. To do traditional AI would be too costly with our small group of ewes. A new vaginal AI procedure would make it possible to do the procedure ourselves, but buying and shipping a container of semen from Iceland would be too cost prohibitive for us. And to be honest, I cannot fathom myself interfering with Mother Nature. I personally like to let nature "be" and that means the old fashioned coupling of a ram with his ewes.
Having the rams here on our farm and using them for several seasons allows us to know the personality of the ram, to evaluate his fleece and conformation for ourselves, rather than trusting somebody else's opinion of a ram.
In addition, our emphasis here is not on "meat production first." Meat conformation is the primary focus in Iceland, and so the resulting lambs may produce "better" carcasses, but that is not what is of primary interest to me.
Some ram and ewe combinations can consistently produce lambs superior to either of their parents. But some ram and ewe breedings will be problematic for a variety of reasons. There is, of course, always the mysterious potential of those dominant and recessive genes.
There are also some less obvious things that I learned the hard way that include noting the size of a ram's forehead.
A ram that has a wide forehead can produce lambs with large foreheads that, regardless of whether or not horn buds are involved, can be problematic for some ewes' deliverance.
Using a long-bodied, long-legged ram on a short-bodied ewe can cause the lambs to become entangled; they can have problems getting into a positive birth position and the resulting lambing time can be a nightmare for both the ewe and the shepherd.
Noting these problems and not rebreeding that same combination in the future would be advised.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004


James Wolcott's take-down of Ricks's Dylan book is the funniest, and best, yet. But it's unfrogivable to make a running joke about how Georg Lichtenberg is a hopelessly erudite name to drop, and therefore a name that you shouldn't worry about not knowing, and a name that you shouldn't even know. Well, you should. If "The Waste Books" just haven't become big in the Anglo-phone world that is the fault of Anglophonia. I never regret buying that book, and never regret picking it up to skim through it again. Not all of its profound. One out of five of the casual observations Lichtenberg left heaped up in his note books makes is guaranteed to send your mind stop and think for at least 60 seconds. The only uncertainty depends on which of the five strikes you.
Everyone is a genius at least once a year. The real geniuses simply have their bright ideas closer together.

Nothing is more conducive to peace of mind than not having any opinions at all.

To do just the opposite is also a form of imitation.

With most men, unbelief in one thing springs from blind belief in another.

Those who never have time do the least
It's the one about the opposite-imitation that struck me as I copied and pasted across Google. Lichtenberg should not be obscure, and Wolcott does a grave dis-service to his reader by cracking a joke about a situation that he should be helping to change.


Monday, August 23, 2004


From The Guardian
In the Middle East, though, [Ghandi's] ideas have less appeal. Maybe it's because a wispy vegetarian in granny glasses and loincloth doesn't fit with Arab views of a manly hero. The fact that Gandhi had a moustache of almost Iraqi proportions does little to redeem him: John Wayne and Sylvester Stallone are far more attractive role models for the Mahdi militia. [snip]
A number of Muslim writers have made a plausible case for Islamic non-violence. One is the elderly Syrian scholar, Jawdat Said, who watched the activities of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt during the 1950s and predicted that the use of violence by Islamic movements would eventually prove self-destructive.

He has been promoting his non-violent ideas ever since, apart from several periods in jail. Meanwhile, his sons got into trouble with the Syrian authorities for refusing to serve in the army, and were not allowed to graduate from Damascus university as a result.

There's also a Shia cleric, Imam Mohammad al-Shirazi, who calls for Islamic non-violence, as well as Khalis Jalabi (a Saudi doctor) and Khalid Khishtainy (an Islamic scholar and writer).
One problem with "non-violence" is that the word sounds rather negative when translated into Arabic, implying passivity and surrender. Khishtainy therefore uses an alternative term - "civil jihad" - which sounds more positive and in some ways better reflects Gandhi's methods.
Whatever people call it, though, it's still liable to freak out the authorities. In the Syrian town of Darya, a small group of citizens got together, influenced by Jawdat Said's ideas of Islamic non-violence. They set up a free library and showed a number of videos (all of them licensed by the authorities) - including one on the life of Gandhi. They also discouraged bribery and smoking, and did some voluntary work to clean up the town.
In Syria, as in much of the Arab world, it is easy to see how a bit of unpaid street-cleaning might be interpreted as a subversive message to the government, and quite possibly that is what the people who did it intended.
It's reminiscent of a tale from Morocco about a university graduate who, unable to find a real job, set himself up as a street shoe-shiner. He was duly arrested for political agitation because he kept his degree certificate on show, along with his polish and brushes.
In Darya, the final straw came in May last year when the non-violent activists held a silent march protesting against the invasion of Iraq. A few days later, 22 men were ordered to report to Military Security. Eleven were kept in detention until January this year, and seven more until April.
The remaining four were tried in secret by a Field Military Court and convicted for the bizarre offence of "attempting to establish a religious organisation, involvement in unlicensed social activities and attending unlicensed religious and intellectual classes".
Muhammed Shehada, 26, who has a degree in English and was doing military service, and Mu'atez Murad, 28, a mechanical engineer, were sent to jail for three years. Haythem al-Hamwi, 28, a medical doctor, and Yahya Sharabajee, 26, an accountant, were jailed for four.[snip]Haythem al-Hamwi is said to have been held incommunicado, in solitary confinement, for over six months - allegedly because when the military judge asked him if he would ask for mercy, he replied: "No, I ask for justice." Civil jihad may still be a better option than Moqtada al-Sadr's, but it is definitely not for the faint-hearted.


How not to assassinate Franco.

Thursday, August 19, 2004


After 6 years of hearing about how horrible British food was in America, The Spectator provides me with a 1,000 word response, which can be summed up as, "At least british food is actually food:"
British cuisine may be considered bland but at least, by and large, you know what you’re putting in your mouth. One of America’s bestselling snacks is a cheese dip designed to be scooped up with nacho chips. It’s runny, it’s orange, it tastes like cheese, but a label on the jar says that it’s a ‘non-dairy product’. Then there are Twinkies — small yellow sponge cakes found in the lunchboxes of most US children. Twinkies are made of such mysterious stuff that they don’t have a best-before date and are subjected to scientific tests. ‘A Twinkie was left on a window ledge for four days,’ says one Internet report, ‘during which time many flies were observed crawling across the Twinkie’s surface but, contrary to our hypothesis, birds — even pigeons — avoided this potential source of sustenance.’
Even the food that’s made of food is a challenge. A pastrami sandwich comes with a good six inches of meat in the middle — how do you get your mouth around something that’s nearly as big as your head? After a few attempts, any appetite you might once have had is gone. Have you ever tried an American apple? They look perfect — enormous, red and shiny — but have the consistency of cotton wool. It’s the same with the meat: huge, juicy-looking steaks, and chops, perfectly grilled, pink inside, but tasting of wet paper. [...]
Half the problem, I think, is that food isn’t just food in the States — it’s an obsession. Not only does Adam’s Peanut Butter Cup Fudge Ripple Cheesecake exist, it can be gawped at online. The Krispy Kreme website features a five-minute video with a jaunty electronic soundtrack showing rows of little doughnuts browning slowly on a conveyor belt, before being lovingly glazed, bought and eaten. Food even provides whole states with a sense of history and identity — Midwestern towns fight over titles like ‘home of the peanut’, ‘birthplace of the corndog’, ‘Krispy Kreme Kountry’.


What would it be like if athletes were allowed to take drugs? Steve Martin has a guess.


Living ON?
Le Monde has an interview with Derrida, speaking as incomprehensibly as ever, and not just because he's speaking in some foreign tongue: "A propos de la traduction, Walter Benjamin souligne la distinction entre überleben d'une part, survivre à la mort, comme un livre peut survivre à la mort de l'auteur, ou un enfant à la mort des parents, et, d'autre part, fortleben, living on, continuer à vivre."

Wednesday, August 18, 2004


Aram Saroyan, you feel, has just sat through 90 minutes of high-school art play, full of black T-shirts and gunsm and has been asked by his nephew, who he came to see, what he thought of it. 46 Down:
“For me, the real journey that Michael the writer is exploring is what it means to be a man in a world where the notions of manhood that some of us grew up with are barely remembered at best, or ridiculed at worst. But then if everybody embarked on the hero's journey, everybody would be a hero, wouldn't they?"
—Quentin Tarantino

“Very clear and honest work.”
Aram Saroyan

“He’s got street language. Images I can relate to. He blows my mind with his drifts of gut-wrenching-riffs.”
—Dennis Hopper

"Some of the most personal and perceptive scenes from an actor's travels since Sam Shepard's Motel Chronicles."
—Gerald Locklin

"Michael Madsen's new book is a book of the west. Instead of Waiting for a Train, it's Waiting for a Game. The book has the feeling of pulp. Definitely Santa Fe to Malibu. The "Backscene poetry" or "Poemshoots" work nicely with the photos. I've been East so long I've forgotten the raw music and drama and of course the street, where Madsen's poem "Aimless" will engender memory from the days of Fante living under the rail of old Angels Flight. From that poem the L.A. streets popped right back from the 50's. I walked from the Greyhound station long ago, pretending to be Marlon Brando. Madsen's poems sweep the ethereal drama back into the streets."
—Charles Plymell

"Madsen rides kayak solo against the cross current of conventional standards in a one man attempt to define what it means to be a man in 21st Century America."—A.D. Winans
It's always a relief to learn that Dennis Hopper still talks like he did in Apocalypse Now (YOU CAN'T LAND ON FRACTIONS!!!) The question remains: who is AD Winans?


I feel like there's something significant about the headlines The Washington Post puts on its Miss Manners columns, but I can't figure out what it is. It can't be just that I think they're so damn funny, because I have no idea why I find them so damn funny
A Grave Error in Judgment (Post, Aug. 18, 2004)
Lost in Translation (Post, Aug. 15, 2004)
Dessert Decoder (Post, Aug. 11, 2004)
Unsocialized Medicine (Post, Aug. 8, 2004)
Hospital Gowns and Open Questions (Post, Aug. 4, 2004)
Don't Go There (Post, Aug. 1, 2004)
An Armchair Mystery (Post, July 28, 2004)
Tootsie Trouble (Post, July 25, 2004)
Marriage Titles Revisited (Post, July 21, 2004)
The Key to Discreet Gossiping (Post, July 18, 2004)
In the Lap of Luxury (Post, July 14, 2004)
Wander Fuss (Post, July 11, 2004)
Tattourist Season (Post, July 7, 2004)
Electing to Allow Rudeness (Post, July 4, 2004)
A Dispirited Host (Post, June 30, 2004)
Let's Hear It for the Rats (Post, June 27, 2004)
The Classless Socialite (Post, June 23, 2004)
Gifts That Keep On Giving (Post, June 20, 2004)
Don't Touch That Skeleton! (Post, June 16, 2004)
Between Put Up And Shut Up (Post, June 13, 2004)
American gentility panics.



Funniest lists:
John Cleese
Mike Leigh
Roger Scruton (Five ways to waste time)
Most educative lists:
John Mortimer (The 10 most irritating phrases)
Trace Emin (Things Sarah Lucas and I used to sell in The Shop in 1993)
Py Gerbeau (Five things the French do better than the Rosbifs ­ and five things they do worse )
Mo Mowlam (Things to remember when you go to the supermarket)
Nitin Shawhey (My 10 favourite conspiracy theories)
Nick Mason (Eight people I'd like to be with when the terrorists attack (and have dinner with afterwards) ) cf. this with Palahniuk's pretentious twaddle
Most redolent of a Yoko Ono installation:
Mark Borkowski (20 million things to do, morning of 27 July 2004)
Least surprising lists, given who's writing them
Diane Modahl, former athlete (Events I'm looking forward to watching at the Olympic Games)
Jon snow, journalist (Historical figures I would have liked to meet and interview)
Uri Geller (Five ways I gain peace of mind)
Chuck Palahniuk (My top 10 non-perishable disaster foods that make me look forward to earthquakes or atomic attacks)
Most irritating list because it's so fucking self-righteous and takes itself seriously
Norman Jay (Twenty things I would like to eradicate)


Italo Calvino, it turns out, wrote love letters as embarrassingly as James Joyce did. (Guardian) "I desire you so much that the first time I take you in my arms I think I'll tear you to pieces, rip off your clothes, roll on top of you, do anything to give vent to this infinite desire to kiss you, hold youm possess you." Maybe "I think I'll tear to you to pieces" means something different in Italian, something that doesn't evoke an image of Dr. Hyde laughing and a cockney charwoman screaming.


I can't quite believe that France's position has sunk so low in Brussels as Le Monde thinks. At least for one Spanish parliamentaire I know, what France wants for Europe is what Europe should want, if only Europe knew it. Mind you, I feel sorry for Nicole Fontaine, trying to re-assure France in this piece that the Transport Commission is a major posting. But here are the reasons mentioned to Le Monde as to why no one French got a really decent job on the Commission this time around:
1. Everyone's a neo-liberal, and French is neo-liberalism's antonym. ("On a voté pour M. Barroso, mais pas pour une Commission aussi libérale ni pour que la France se retrouve dans une situation humiliante," says one, sad right-wing parliamentarian despondently.) Le Monde finds a Belgian Green saying that it's not just France, but a French notion of social government, that's in decline, throughout Europe.

2. France was hurt by Treaty of Nice, the rules of which it keeps on ignoring.

3. The fall of the lingua franca as the Lingua Franca.

4. That France's reaction to its decline has to become defensive and try to block everything, which has only speeded up its decline.

5. That chriac's been outrageously arrogant and doesn't have the European spirit. Le Monde's sources for this come from left-wing French politicians, so this should be taken with a pinch of salt.

6. Do you really wonder why France and Germany didn't get the top economic postings when you look at France and Germany's economy?

7. That France and Germany have given up on the Commission anyway, and now focus on influencing the Council of Ministers (which certainly worked wonders for Schroder and Chirac when they wanted to break the Stability Pact, even while the Commission screamed and countries like the Netherlands (who got the M&A commission after all) moaned that it was so unfair that they busted a gut to keep their budgets in line and France and Germany could choose not to, simply by citing "a new paradigm).


Politics AS IT SHOULD BE, ii
Italy's loss at having a despotic millionaire for a premier is the world's entertainment gain. Even when on holiday, Silvio B takes the time to dress as a pirate before greeting Tony Blair to Berlusconi's Sardinain palace that would make any Bond villain nod in recognition and admiration. Yahoo photo (An Italian paper reports that he was actually dressed like that to disguise hair-transplant scars.) Up next: Gerhard Schroeder on a nice sailing holiday on a Bavarian lake, is shocked when Berlusconi climbs over the side of the boat, dressed like that, with a knife in his mouth.


Religion OF PEACE
I'm getting tired of people cherry-picking the Koran for muderous verses, without doing the same for either Testament. Since I have nothing better to do, here are some of the better verses of the bible which use the word kill:

And he said, When ye do the office of a midwife to the Hebrew women, and see [them] upon the stools; if it [be] a son, then ye shall kill him: but if it [be] a daughter, then she shall live. Thanks for the daughters!

And it came to pass by the way in the inn, that the LORD met him, and sought to kill him.

Thou shalt not kill.

And my wrath shall wax hot, and I will kill you with the sword; and your wives shall be widows, and your children fatherless.

[Leviticus then comes up with a huge number of different ways to kill oxen, birds and lambs. By the altar, next to the altar, over the altar, on the altar. The Old Testament prophets found more ways to kill lambs than the Spanish have ways to amuse themselves with bulls.]

Now therefore kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman that hath known man by lying with him. [This is Moses talking]

Theological dispute, OT-style: If thy brother, the son of thy mother, or thy son, or thy daughter, or the wife of thy bosom, or thy friend, which [is] as thine own soul, entice thee secretly, saying, Let us go and serve other gods, which thou hast not known, thou, nor thy fathers; Thou shalt not consent unto him, nor hearken unto him; neither shall thine eye pity him, neither shalt thou spare, neither shalt thou conceal him: But thou shalt surely kill him; thine hand shall be first upon him to put him to death, and afterwards the hand of all the people. And thou shalt stone him with stones, that he die; because he hath sought to thrust thee away from the LORD thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage.
I know that it's more complicated than this. But, the more I lose my religion, the more I wonder at how much complicated things have to be before you can take the Bible seriously as a manual of ethics. I've been reading the Dead Sea Scrolls, and frankly, the Essenes had a much better idea of how to go about things than the Pharisees, Gnostics and Christians. Just don't do ANYTHING. Don't have sex, wine, or children. And let's be clear that we don't punish out of love. We punish to maintain the purity of the community and we punish to stop people from asking what's so great about purity anyway. And if you don't like it, you can leave. But if you say you don't like it and want to stay, then you're on half-rations for 6 months and no one will talk to you. The Essenes had the kind of religion that gave you exactly what they said on the label.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004


"At that time The Spectator’s viewpoint was much more pink than blue. Bernard as a student had been pretty left-wing; once someone came to the LSE to harangue them about the joys of capitalism, and was telling the story of the birth of M&S — how a man started humbly with a market stall, and then two, and then a shop ...and the name of that man was Marks! And the name of his partner was ... Voice from the back of the hall: ‘ENGELS!’ It was Bernard, of course."
The Spectator


Has Richard III's infamy become unfamous? Why does Slate mention him merely as a character in a play? Is it confusing because he's Richard III not in Richard III but as Dick in Henry VI Part II? "A character in a Shakespeare play famously remarks..." Please kill me now.


Could it be that people vote on political issues, and don't really pay much attention to a movie shows wolves invading the New York Public Library, scurrying over snow, while tornados of ice-9 freeze helicopters and their pilots in mid-air? Could it be? OK, so maybe it makes a difference if Bill CLinton plays a saxophone, ig George HW Bush stares dumbfounded at a supermarket scanner, and, faced with a horrific, epoch-making catastrophe, W can only finish reading My Pet Goat. All the same, it's almost cheering that The Day After Tomorrow is not going to change voters' minds. "Almost," because it would in fact be great if every election the political parties funded outrageous special-effects propaganda, with John Kerry shooting Vietnamese in a John-Woo-esque horizontal, off the ground position, and then weeping in slow motion over the VC he's killed, and with Bush making Yale fun again, a la Dangerfield, after liberal hippies threaten to make it anti-war and serious and pre-professional.

Monday, August 16, 2004


Samuel Barclay Beckett's cricket statistics.

FIRST-CLASS (1925 - 1926)

M I NO Runs HS Ave 100 50 Ct St
Batting & Fielding 2 4 0 35 18 8.75 0 0 2 0

Balls M R W Ave BBI 5 10 SR Econ
Bowling 138 2 64 0 - - 0 0 - 2.78"


Jack Idema's becoming my new favorite Person on the Planet. Look at him in court.


MacLamity's had a hard day.



This is either going to be the hugest scandal since Oliver North, or the best New Yorker profile to come out of Aghanistan, MacLamity predicts. And, not both!


The 5,6,7, 80s
I'm not sure why, but The Guardian's live cricket blog has become the place to go to for 80s TV nostalgia. I'd fogotten what Manimal looked like. What Jake did. And so on. This has been simmering for a while now. One of the people who writes the blog shares my obession with Hasselhof. But today, the readers and writer really let rip. I was all of a sudden at home, in my pyjamas, completely buzzed from Street Hawk, running up the stairs to my bedroom, with my friend RUNNING in front of me, both of us bursting with the Street Hawk theme tune between deep breaths. And then, of course, i was back at the computer in Brussels, deciding to write this.


Darkly COMIC
The Telegraph lists phrases that only book reviewers use, and use all the time. AL Daily links to it. I just do what AL Daily does, with an added element of copy-pastey plagiarism:
achingly beautiful

anything-fuelled – narratives of a new, edgy type of fiction sometimes called Britfic tend to be fuelled by a range of uppers – amphetamines, caffeine, cocaine, Robbie Williams

as good as any novel – why should writers of fact aspire to the standards of novelists? Cf the truth is often stranger than fiction, infra

at its core, **** is a deeply moral work – a handy way for a critic to say that those who don't like the shocking book under review simply don't understand it

breakneck speed – no successful thriller will go any slower

bursting to get out – of novellas in vast, sprawling epics

by this stage, I was ready to hurl the book across the room

cocktail – the result of stirring one author in with another: "a cocktail of Hergé and the Marquis de Sade"

coruscating – to be confused with "excoriating"

cracking pace – slower than breakneck speed; too slow

darkly comic (cf wickedly funny)

deadly earnest

deceptively simple – the simplicity of the phrase itself belies how complicated it is. Is the book/poem/style simple or isn't it? Or does it remind us that to mere readers, something might look simple, and that they need clever critics to undeceive them?

divided like the state of India itself – useful way of describing confused characters in post-colonial novels

dogged investigation


editor should be shot – wouldn't it be better to shoot those who write "the editor should be shot"? The phrase normally appears in connection with a list of minor quibbles. But to punish editors with this ultimate sanction would lead to a smaller number of editors, not only through their execution but also by discouraging people from becoming editors in the future. The grim consequence of this would be a major increase in minor quibbles

emotional rollercoaster

epic – as if synonymous with "long"


event – "a new epic by Homer is always an event"

exhaustive, not to say exhausting

feisty – of heroines, usually with mention of hair colour – "step forward, feisty redhead DI Dubrovnik"

fluent prose – cf Molière's Le Bourgeois gentilhomme: "Good heavens! I've been talking in prose for more than 40 years without realising."

has it all – as a rule, chicklit stories should feature a twentysomething heroine who has it all, with the customary exception of Mr Right

has **** written all over it

heady mix – cf cocktail, supra

high-octane – of the fuel needed to keep thrillers going at breakneck speed

hits the ground running – of stunning debuts

icon – as if synonymous with anything famous or even recognisable

in an iron grip (holds the reader's attention)

in his inimitable style – incidentally, inimitable people often turn out to be quite imitable: "the inimitable Sean Connery"

in true postmodernist fashion he/she constantly invents and reinvents him/herself

it reads like a Who's Who of contemporary poetry/fin-de-siècle Vienna

laughoutloud, as in laughoutloud funny. - Ohmygod. Come to think of it, reviewese could soon become a completely textable language, with:-) or:-( to indicate whether or not a book is good. At the time of writing, though, reviewese still uses laughoutloud as an adjective rather than an interjection

leafy - not strictly reviewese, but curious: I once saw Harlesden described as leafy

lightness of touch

like William S Burroughs on acid

magisterial (of non-fiction) – any two-volume biography or history can be called magisterial. For single-volume works to qualify, they must reach 700 pages not including notes, bibliographies and appendices

**** meets **** – the most quoted example of this construction was the work of Arrow's publicity department: they described Come Together by Emlyn Rees and Josie Lloyd as what could happen if "Bridget Jones met Nick Hornby at a party given by the housemates of This Life". For some, what happened when Emlyn Rees met Josie Lloyd was troubling enough

minor quibbles, as in, "But these are minor quibbles"

(the) name of that young German corporal was Adolf Hitler

overnight sensation – I do enjoy how slightly rude that sounds

panoramic sweep

penetrating insights

politically correct – an appealingly easy target, hence "political correctness gone mad"

pure/complete unadulterated bliss/codswallop

rattling good read/yarn

(the) rest, as they say, is history

searing indictment

searingly honest

shines through

should be set reading for David Blunkett and his advisers – the phrase shows a welcome faith in the power of literature to change the world. By now there are be a large number of books that should be required reading for George W Bush and his circle, although who knows what difference this reading would make. Compound phrase: this searing indictment of the British judicial system should be set reading etc

steeped in scholarship

stunning debut – in American reviewese, a young writer can debut stunningly

surreal - as if synonymous with odd, wacky

sympathetic portrait – cf warts-and-all, infra

take one ****, mix in some ****, add a dash of ****, leave to simmer, and what do you have?

that rare thing – perhaps it's worth quoting Edwin Muir on Thomas Mann's Confessions of Felix Krull, Confidence Man: "Here is that unheard of, that supposedly impossible thing, a good German comic novel…"

things are not as they seem

tour de force (of literary scholarship) – the minimum length for a tour de force, not including notes, bibliographies and appendices, is 400 pages

(the) truth is often stranger than fiction – variants of this observation are that fact mingles strangely with fiction, and that life imitates art


uncanny resemblance


vast, sprawling epic – it is polite to congratulate short-story writers for being able to "compress into a few pages what lesser writers fail to achieve in vast, sprawling epics"

Viagra – coined by Charles Spencer in this paper's notice of The Blue Room, starring Nicole Kidman; he alone should be allowed to use it, but the conceit is now standard reviewese

vibrantly alive (poetic)

warts-and-all – just as American English can make verbs from other parts of speech, so reviewese can turn whole phrases into adjectives (qv laughoutloud, unputdownable)

was, in effect, the first conservationist/feminist/Communist/librarian

wears her erudition lightly

wickedly funny – less dark than darkly comic

will appeal to the serious scholar and general reader alike

will stay with you long after the last page is turned

woefully inadequate – of notes, bibliographies, appendices and most often indices

workmanlike biography

writes like a dream

Sunday, August 15, 2004


Finally, a Playboy interview you can read without having to buy the magazine and have to then explain to everyone that you really are only reading it for the article and that airbrushed girls showing their breast is not even a consideration. Or should that be: I read SEC filings for the interviews... I really am not interested in financial data... that side of things, er, disgusts me. Judith Crist said in a Columbia seminar that she reads Playboy for the interviews... and even if she's female it shows that it's not a pathetic excuse... it might even be true. And the interviews really are the best Q and As on the planet, with Paris Review at number 2 and Booknotes (Rest In Peace) coming third. (Charlie Rose, you're a television genius. But your genius is not for interesting questions! Your genius is to be right on the brink of asking a question, and failing, for 60 minutes! Eg. It's unacceptable what?... Everything just happened in number five. ... I mean you're just hanging out with your teammates and it's not a big deal.
... Try not to hurt yourself... When you say "take for granted," what do you mean? What did you do that showed you were not where you should have been? ... You'd be sitting on this show. I'd have found another reason to get you on. We'd have figured something out. There's too much chemistry here. So how does it change you're going to change the way you're going to get ready for six?

Thursday, August 12, 2004


"We live, as I hope you know, Mr Worthing, in an age of ideals. The fact is constantly mentioned in the more expensive monthly magazines, and has reached the provincial pulpits, I am told; and my ideal has always been to love some one of the name of Ernest. There is something in that name that inspires absolute confidence. The moment Algernon first mentioned to me that he had a friend called Ernest, I knew I was destined to love you." Actually science has shown that Gwendolyn's more likely to fall for a man with a name like MacLamity.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004


Seussian meter takes on modern verse. Who wins?

I wish I liked your modern verse,
I wish it were not so� perverse;
I wish the lines were not so dense,
Or even made a bit of sense.

I wish it didn�t sneer so much,
I wish it had the common touch;
I wish it wasn�t so pc,
I wish it meant the world to me.

I wish it soared, I wish it roared,
I wish it struck a single chord;
I wish to God you�d drop your guard.
I wish you wouldn�t try so hard.

I wish you�d dump obscurity,
I wish you�d cast off purity;
I wish your gifts adorned our shelves
Instead of writing for yourselves.

I wish you�d write for us my dear,
It�s lonely for us � waiting here,
I wish I knew just what to say.
I wish you had not� turned away."


What does this study which says that mundane jobs which don't stimulate the mind contribute to the probability of Alzheimer's say about Reagan's presidency or Iris Murdoch's philosophy?

Monday, August 09, 2004


The WSJ makes an interesting point in an otherwise routine take down of TH Kerry's rather grating demonstration at the start of her convention address that she knew how to speak more than English.
A person who speaks Spanish can easily understand about 20% of Italian the first time he hears it and can make out most of what he reads in a Portuguese paper. To illustrate this point we need only look at the four variations of a simple sentence we might have heard at the convention in Boston: 'I sing the national anthem.'
Spainish: Yo canto el himno nacional.
Portugese: Eu canto o hino nacional.
Italian: Io canto l'inno nazionale.
French: Je chante l'hymne national.
It's not exactly the equivalent of boasting that you speak Aussie, Kiwi and Canadian, but close.
Regional linguistic variants within Britain alone can be tougher. [Here I've excised a pathetic gag about how hard it is to understand Scottish people.] And here is the problem for native English speakers: Early in its infancy, English was taken away from its Germanic cousins on the Continent and grew up isolated, cut off from their influence. The closest languages to it are some forms of Dutch spoken in the marshy Frisian islands off the coast of the Netherlands. But English and Frisian are not mutually intelligible. Frisian is not to English what Italian is to Spanish.
The old joke that 'a person who speaks two languages is bilingual and the person who speaks one is American' makes it sound as if Americans don't jabber in other languages because they are uninterested or feel superior. You hear the same joke in Britain about the English, with the same stereotype.
Yes, the British Empire and the American superpower have made it easier for native speakers to get away with monolinguism. But the fact that English has no first cousins also accounts for what may appear at first to be an innate linguistic disability.
The best proof of this would be see which foreign languages people around Europe knew, with people in romance countries sticking to Romance languages, once they've learned English. Certainly, the Flemish in Belgian learn English before French. Can it really be true that the Anglophones can't speak foreign languages because the lack of close linguistic relations makes it harder? If so, the Finnish are so fucked that I weep at the prospect.


From Luc Sante's essay in this month's Threepenny Review:
My father's parents were already long dead, and there was not much immediate family left. We were on our own, and might as well stay where opportunities grew densest. This decision did not improve the morale of the household. Thereafter my parents would try to maintain a semblance of Belgium in our home, but the enthusiasm was gone, and the simulacrum shifted, steadily if invisibly, away from its model. In the same way, the family language was progressively mongrelized. While keeping the pronunciation and syntax of French it became franglais.

For me the French language very nearly became detached from its base, like so many of our household customs, which had lost their connection to any wider world and hovered in a vacuum, fetishes that might as well have been invented by my parents to keep me alienated from my peers. But I had a fortuitous link to the world of franco-phone children: my father's sister and her husband, small-town newsagents, subscribed me to my favorite Belgian comic magazine. I read Spirou every week for ten years, and through it subcutaneously absorbed not just the living language but also a sense of daily life in a Belgium that was then changing much more rapidly than my parents realized. The comic weeklies (the others were Tintin and Pilote, the latter published in France) had no American equivalent; they combined about a dozen serial comic strips, on double-page spreads, with a handful of single-page gags, along with games, contests, educational tidbits, and some prose fiction I never so much as glanced at. I didn't care much about stories; I cared passionately about graphic style, and this affected my reading-I disdained the ostensibly serious yarns, with their conventionally realist draftsmanship, in favor of the wildest and funniest drawings. The funny strips also happened to be the most unbridled in their use of language, reveling in the singular ability of French to generate wordplay, puns in particular.

French-speaking children are schooled in puns from the start. Of course, this could be said of speakers of English and maybe every other language as well-that's what riddles are for. For example, I date my true immersion in English from the moment I understood the humor of Q: When is a boy not a boy? A: When he turns into a store. But puns lie much thicker on the ground in French, in large part because the language is so much more rigorous and willfully delimited than the sprawling mass of English, an elegantly efficient two-stroke engine to the latter's uncontainable Rube Goldberg mechanism. French does not necessarily have fewer sounds than English, but the protocols governing their order and frequency make their appearances predictable-hence the profusion of sound-alike phrases and sentences, which fueled Surrealism and ensure the ongoing appeal of Freudian and post-Freudian ideas in the French-speaking world: Les dents, la bouche. Laid dans la bouche. Les dents la bouchent. L'aidant la bouche. Etc. These phrases, which sound exactly alike, respectively mean "the teeth, the mouth;" "ugly in the mouth;" "the teeth choke her;" "helping her chokes her." You don't need to have been psychoanalyzed by Jacques Lacan to see from these examples how language can assist thought in swiftly tunneling from the mundane to the taboo. Children are instinctively aware of this, even and perhaps especially if they are being raised Catholic and are thus trained in the finer points of repression.

The most internationally famous characters in Spirou were Les Schtroumpfs, known in the English-speaking world as the Smurfs, small blue elfin creatures who lived in a toadstool village. In their English-language animated appearances they could be cloyingly cute, but in French they were spared this fate by their language, marked by an incessant use of the (invented) word schtroumpf, employed as noun, verb, adverb, adjective, and interjection. Every reader, no matter how young, understood this usage without a gloss, because it parodied the French conversational trope of substituting catch-alls such as truc, chose, and machin for words that cannot immediately be called to mind, in any grammatical position. What schtroumpf highlighted was the ability of such dummy words to suggest words prohibited from writing or speech, regardless of the fact that the actual words schtroumpf was substituting for were always clear from context. Truc or chose became neutral from exposure, but schtroumpf subliminally spoke to the unconscious; its surface strangeness could make it mean things that the child's mind does not yet know but can imagine with tantalizing vagueness.

Not all the wordplay was so freighted, of course. In the Astérix series (tales of a Mutt-and-Jeff pair of winged-helmeted first-century Gauls, serialized in Pilote), the characters' names were always elaborate puns that turned on their suffixes, -ix for the Gauls and -us for the enemy Romans (to pick two that don't require lengthy glosses, one of the former was Madamboevarix, one of the latter Volfgangamadéus). Deciphering such names-and puns of that sort were rife in all the funny strips-provided an agreeable gymnastic exercise, especially if it took a week or two of rolling the name around before it clicked open like a combination lock. Meanwhile, the adventures of Tintin, the boy reporter, a Belgian (and eventually international) institution since the 1920s, featured as a recurring character Captain Haddock, an alcoholic and irascible but good-hearted old sea-dog. He was noted for his pratfalls, and even more for the streams of insults he would launch at villains, thieving wildlife, cars that splashed puddle water at him on the street, or small boys who had hit him in the head with a ball: Accapareurs! Coloquintes! Ophicléides! Patapoufs! Cloportes! Anthropophages! Catachrèses! Moujiks! Rhizomes! Ectoplasmes! Anthropopithèques! Analphabètes! Cornichons! Va-nu-pieds! Saltim-banques! Moules à gaufres! Protozoaires! (Monopolists, bitter apples, serpents [the musical instrument], fatsos, woodlice, cannibals, catachreses, muzhiks, rhizomes, ectoplasms, Anthropopitheci Erecti, illiterates, gherkins, ragamuffins, mountebanks, waffle irons, protozoa.) It was an explosion in the dictionary, Finnegans Wake on a matchbook cover, a fantastically liberating surge of pure unshackled language. The comics provided an important lesson: language could be a medium of fun, and not just safe, approved fun, either, but wild, anarchic, disruptive fun. There was nothing lazy or slapdash about the comics' employment of words, though; that much was clear even to an eight-year-old. Therefore, the appendix to the lesson was that fun could best be achieved through a thorough grounding in ballistics and a heightened sense of precision.


.....but which one is which?


.....but which one is which?


Rather interesting to see what words the Academie Francaise is introducing to the 9 th edition (Le dictionnaire) more for words that really aren't english -- like baby-foot, cyclo-cross, dribbler -- and words that the Academie's precise etymology prevent it from recognising as English imports, although I think it's a fair guess that that's what they are, like amok, which it recognizes as Malay.


Watching The Sweet Hereafter for a second time, I'm convinced that Ian Holm's trial-lawyer speech has to be one of the best of 1990s cinema. Truly terrifying.

MITCHELL walks into the OTTO residence. It is a large two-
storey space divided into several smaller chambers with
sheets of brightly colored cloth - tie-dyes and Indian
madras - that hang from wires.

On a low brick platform in the centre of the main chamber is
a large wood-burning stove. A few feet from the stove,
sitting on an overstuffed cushion, is HARTLEY OTTO.

HARTLEY is listening to music on his headphones. He is very
stoned. WANDA moves over, and pulls the headphones off her
husband's head.

We have a guest. What did you say
your name was?

Mitchell Stephens.

MITCHELL hands them a card. HARTLEY reads it with

The Walkers sent him by.

HARTLEY rises up. He stares at MITCHELL. A tense pause.

You want a cup of tea or something?

A cup of tea would be nice.
Would it be alright if I sit down
for a few minutes, Mrs. Otto? I
want to talk to you.

WANDA stares at MITCHELL. No response. MITCHELL waits a
beat, then seats himself rather uncomfortably on a large
pillow. He is unsure whether to cross his legs, or fold
them under his chin.

The Walkers spoke very highly of

You've been retained?


Their child died, and they got a

Pause. MITCHELL assesses WANDA'S energy.

It should be said that my task is to
represent the Walkers only in their
anger. Not their grief.

Who did they get for that?

You are angry, aren't you, Mrs.
Otto? That's why I'm here. To give
your anger a voice. To be your
weapon against whoever caused that
bus to go off the road.


It's my belief that Dolores was
doing exactly what she'd been doing
for years. Besides, the school
board's insurance on Dolores is
minimal. A few million at the very
most. The really deep pockets are
to be found in the town, or in the
company that made the bus.

You think someone else caused the

Mrs. Otto, there is no such thing
as an accident. The word doesn't
mean anything to me. As far as I'm
concerned, somebody somewhere made a
decision to cut a corner. Some
corrupt agency or corporation
accounted the cost variance between
a ten-cent bolt and a million dollar
out-of-court settlement. They
decided to sacrifice a few lives for
the difference. That's what's done,
Mrs. Otto. I've seen it happen so
many times before.

HARTLEY returns with the tea.

But Dolores said she saw a dog and
tried to...

How long has Dolores been driving
that bus, Mr. Otto? How many times
has she steered clear of danger?
What went wrong that morning?

MITCHELL takes the cup of tea.

Someone calculated ahead of time
what it would cost to sacrifice
safety. It's the darkest, most
cynical thing to imagine, but it's
absolutely true. And now, it's up
to me to make them build that bus
with an extra bolt, or add an extra
yard of guard rail. It's the only
way we can ensure moral
responsibility in this society. By
what I do.


So you're just the thing we need.

Excuse me?

Isn't that what you want us to
believe? That we're completely
defenseless? That you know what's

Listen to me, Mrs Otto. Listen very
carefully. I do know what's best.
As we're sitting here the town or
the school board or the manufacturer
of that bus are lining up a battery
of their own lawyers to negotiate
with people as grief-stricken as
yourselves. And this makes me very,
very mad. It's why I came all the
way up here. If everyone had done
their job with integrity your son
would be alive this morning and
safely in school. I promise you
that I will pursue and reveal who it
was that did not do their job.

Who is responsible for this tragedy.
Then, in your name and the Walkers'
name and the name of whoever decides
to join us, I shall sue. I shall
sue for negligence until they bleed.


I want that person to go to jail.
For the rest of his life. I want
him to die there. I don't want his

MITCHELL nods sympathetically.

It's unlikely that anyone will go to
prison, Mrs. Otto. But he or his
company will pay in other ways. And
we must make them pay. Not for the
money or to compensate you for the
loss of your son. That can't be
done. But to protect other innocent
children. You see, I'm not just
here to speak for your anger, but
for the future as well.
What we're talking about is an
ongoing relationship to time.

Pause. HARTLEY looks at MITCHELL'S teacup.

I didn't ask if you wanted milk.

No. A little sugar though.

We've only got honey.

I'll...take it straight.

MITCHELL maintains his eye contact with WANDA.

Are you expensive?


If you agree to have me represent
you in this suit, I will require no
payment until after the case is won,
when I will require one third of the
awarded amount. If there is no
award made, then my services will
cost you nothing. It's a standard

Do you have this agreement with you?

It's in my car.

MITCHELL gets up.

I'll just be a minute. Anyhow, you
should discuss this all without me
before you make any decision.

MITCHELL moves to the door.
Actually, in the movie, I think he says something like "You shuld take time to siduss this all without me" and then RUNS, as fast as politeness will allow him, to get the contract. Other great speeches from the decade, off the top of my head: Alec Baldwin's in "Malice" ("I have an M.D. from Harvard, I am board certified in cardio-thoracic medicine and trauma surgery, I have been awarded citations from seven different medical boards in New England, and I am never, ever sick at sea. So I ask you; when someone goes into that chapel and they fall on their knees and they pray to God that their wife doesn't miscarry or that their daughter doesn't bleed to death or that their mother doesn't suffer acute neural trama from postoperative shock, who do you think they're praying to? Now, go ahead and read your Bible, _Dennis_, and you go to your church, and, with any luck, you might win the annual raffle, but if you're looking for God, he was in operating room number two on November 17, and he doesn't like to be second guessed. You ask me if I have a God complex. Let me tell you something: I am God.") and John Turturro's in Miller's Crossing: ("Tommy, you can't do this. You don't bump guys. You're not like those animals back there. . . It's not right, Tom. They can't make us do this. It's a wrong situation. They can't make us different people than we are. We're not muscle, Tom. I never killed anybody. I used a little information for a chisel, that's all. I couldn't help it, Tom, it's my nature. Somebody hands me an angle, I play it. I don't deserve to die for that! D'you think I do? I'm just a grifter! Huh, Tom? . . . But I'll tell you what, I never crossed a friend. Huh, Tom? Never killed anybody, never crossed a friend. Nor you, I'll bet. We're not like those animals. You can't do this! You're not like those animals. This is not us! This is some hop dream! . . . It's a dream! Tommy! I'm praying to you! I can't die! I can't die! Out here in the woods! Like a dumb animal! I can't die! . . You can't kill me. I'm praying to you! look in your heart! I'm praying to you! Look in your heart! . . . I'm praying to you! Look in your heart! . . . Look in your heart! Look in your--")


Cricket in Italy, which just won a non-Test countries cup held mostly in Holland (rather than Belgium as it says here). ((Independent))
"There's been a massive move forward in the last five years," says Joe, the Bosman of cricket. He's Australian born of Italian parents but qualified for Lancashire under the new EU ruling. Italians have even produced a glossary of cricket terminology to help school kids. Just as a guide, forward short-leg is gamba corta avanzata.

Slip is lo scivolo (literally, the slide) and mid-off is mezzo spento. The driving force is Simone Gambino, a Roman entrepreneur and occasional medium-pacer who was introduced to the game by his grandfather, an American art dealer who settled in London in the Fifties. (You couldn't make this up). Simone's heroes were John Snow and Geoff Boycott. He is the only Italian member of the MCC. The history of Italian cricket, however, goes back to the late 1800s when Juventus, AC Milan and Genoa were established by British troops as cricket clubs which played football in the winter.

Before long, Admiral Frank Pogson of the Royal Navy married a Roman princess and established a cricket field in the garden of her villa near the Vatican. The Roman League was up and running on a concrete strip the Admiral installed to the everlasting chagrin of the princess's gardeners.

Italy's most famous cricket son is Ted Dexter, born into a Milan-based business family. He discovered cricket only when he was sent to boarding school. Lord Ted is a staunch supporter of the local cricket association and has impressed dinner guests throughout the land with his immaculate command of the lingo. Inter's international striker, Christian Vieri, claims cricket is his second sport. "Don't be fooled," warns Simone. "I've seen the way he picks up a bat and it's not encouraging."

Sunday, August 08, 2004


The TLS this weeks reviews a book that argues that the U.s. is culturally protestant. Which means that its jews and catholics, but not yet its muslims are protestant. Never having read Max Weber, I really had no idea what being culturally protestant meant (other than, as a friend of mine puts it, "Them lazy catholics, not like hard-working protestants"). But I have a firmer grasp on this when I read the following paragraph on a Washington Post article on why American movies hate the corporation: "Think of the first global corporation -- the Catholic church -- with its offices in many countries (monasteries and churches), language peculiar to the institution (Latin), aggressive takeover methods (the Crusades), vigorous marketing campaign (missionaries) and competition-killing strategy (the Inquisition). It took 1,500 years and Martin Luther's entrepreneurial spirit to create a viable alternative for consumers. " (washingtonpost) Even the U.S.'s vulgar marxists are culturally protestant!


I don't know what to think about these kind of things anymore: A job posting for an assistant curator of an exhibition on racism said whites need not apply. Or at least that's how a commission interpreted it. But, I'm so unfamiliar with whatever PC terms are being used in England that the ad doesn't seem to even mention race. Guardian Note, for example, the definition: "Asian in this context is taken to cover the continent of Asia from Turkey in the west to Japan in the east." So if Israelis or Russians are as Asian as Koreans or Bangladeshis, I really can't understand this as an anti-white ad.


"In March, Men's Journal magazine ranked Rusty 24th on its list of the toughest men in America, right between 50 Cent and Hillary Clinton. 'I look at it this way,' he says soberly. 'I came right behind the rapper who got shot nine times and survived, and right ahead of the gal who kicked the butt of the leader of the free world.' "He reconstructs car crashes. [P.S.] Do you get the feeling that there are more and more crash test dummies in New Yorker cartoons? Have CMDs joined the psychiatrist (funnel for absurd societal neuroses), man on desert island (symbol of pathetic responses to our isolation), and boss talking into the intercom (revealing with what he says how uselessly he operates his powers) as the FUNNIEST THINGS OUR SOCIETY CAN THINK OF.


Norman Mailer's tough-guy existentialism has aged as badly as his knees. (New York) Just after giving a clean, clear account of the ways in which Bush is no real conservative, he then reverts to the old symbolic webs of the 50s just after he says AFTER ALL:
A couple of years ago, New York may have seemed like the perfect place to go; the event had been so traumatic. And there is a large political profit in offering emotional closure to a national nightmare like the fall of the Twin Towers. Nine-eleven felled the two most opalescent pillars of the American economy. It also attacked the implicit assumption that if you worked for the corporation, you were part of a new upper class. To offer an analogy, let us suppose that in the seventeenth century, Versailles had been razed and sacked overnight by latter-day Huns. France would have been emotionally gutted. So it was with us. After all, those Twin Towers spoke of America's phallic hegemony in the world even as Versailles declared the divine right of kings. Many an American male felt gelded by the event. Equally, the average American housewife was desolated by the terrifying possibility that one could work for years to build a family and lose it all in an hour.
And all those women in the towers who died? The ones working on the bond trading floor on top? But i'm only making a symbolic dichotomoy! Mailer perhaps replies. Too bad that these women are more than symolically dead, then. And is castration and gelding still the ultimate symbol for existential emptiness, wasn't that a bit stale even by the time Hemingway made an actual hole in his mind too match the metaphysical one that had been there for a decade?


"Guenon combined the notion, not original to him, that all religions derive from a single, lost source with two other ideas. From Hinduism he took the notion that we are living in the kali yuga, a final age in which all that is spiritual is lost. Guenon also claimed that the esoteric heart of the primordial religion of mankind still exists, especially outside the West, and that it's possible to reconnect with it. . .. A kind of soft Traditionalism has proved attractive to those, including T.S. Eliot, the scholar Mircea Eliade, who transformed the academic study of religion in America, even Britain's Prince Charles, who've sought an overarching explanation of modernity's general lousiness. In my opinion, Islamists don't hate Westerners because we're modern and liberalwe hate ourselves because we're modern and liberal. Between soft Traditionalism and postmodernism, the notion that the Enlightenment was a big mistake has filtered into the mainstream, so Bush was merely articulating our own self-criticism." Boston Globe

Thursday, August 05, 2004


Germaine Greer is really one of my facorite people in the world. Her talent for being contrary makes christopher hitchens look like Kenneth Widmerpool. Whether she's arguing that women can't be great poets, from a feminist perspective, or writing about how great little boys are to look at, you don't really want her to be right or wrong. You just want her to keep on talking. Her latest piece on the Pope and feminism is a gem. Guardian


And Mickey Kaus needs you. And Christopher Ricks is just standing there while Kaus is swallowed whole by the horrible ambiguity of the spoken word. (kausfiles)
Fox's Sean Hannity didn't look too happy today when now-retired Gen. Tommy Franks backed up John Kerry's old claims of atrocities in Vietnam.... After Hannity had detailed Kerry's charges--which included stories of beheadings and the shooting of innocent civilians--Franks agreed with them. The 'things Kerry said are undeniable,' the general told his surprised host, explaining that 'things didn't go right' in Vietnam. ... P.S.: I don't think Franks was simply refusing to criticize Kerry--he criticized Kerry elsewhere in the same interview (while praising President Bush). The best explanation for why he said it is that it's what he actually thinks. And he was in a good position to know the truth. ... [Quotes are from my notes; will update when the transcript come up in NEXIS] ..
Update: The transcript on NEXIS has Franks saying 'I wouldn't say that the things that Senator Kerry said are undeniable about activities in Vietnam.' I don't remember an 'n't' after the word 'would.' I think the NEXIS transcript is wrong, though I don't have video against which to check. Certainly the reported 'wouldn't' is inconsistent with Franks tone earlier in the interview, the first time Hannity tries to get him to denounce Kerry on the Viet atrocities issue (by playing a tape of Kerry's old anti-war testimony).
HANNITY: What does that mean to you?

FRANKS: I think we had a lot of problems in Vietnam. One was the lack of leadership of young people like in -- in John Kerry's position. He was a young officer over there, and I'm not sure that -- that activities like that didn't take place. In fact, quite the contrary. I'm sure that they did take place. ...
At which point Hannity cuts him off with aanother question. ...

More update: The Hannity/Franks video is available online here (click on "Part 3" of "The General Speaks"). It's ambiguous! Here's my transcript, which does differ from the one in NEXIS:

HANNITY: I mean, raped, murdered, all these things. But he never told names. Does that anger you? I mean, this is the guy now that is the leading candidate for the Democrats.

FRANKS: I don't know. I -- um, I think Vietnam was uh-- I think Vietnam was, uh, was a bad time. I think that what I've learned in my life, Sean, is that it's a heck of a lot easier to protest than it is to step up and, uh, take responsibility for the actions, um, of a unit or for -- or for your ... your own actions.

And so, um, I don't -- I don't like what I saw, uh, but at the same time, I would -- I wouldn't say that ... [pause] the things that Senator Kerry said are undeniable about activities in Vietnam. I ...I ... I'm ... I think that .. I think that things didn't go right in -- in Vietnam. And so...

HANNITY: How do you feel when he came back, he's throwing medals and ribbons and saying that about his fellow soldiers?

It all depends on whether Franks was trying to start a new sentence after the pause. It's a longish pause! You, the reader, make the call. ... My take: The context--especially the "but at the same time" and the emphatic way Franks says "things didn't go right"--tends to support my interpretation. I still think he was backing Kerry up, even to the point of saying the atrocities were "undeniable." The more I replay it the more I agree with myself! ... P.S.: Someone maybe could ask Franks what he meant. He seems like a straight-shooter who wouldn't change his answer. ...
Kaus's confusion just goes to show how misplaced our faith (and the faith of the Bush administration when they want to go after reporters like Ron Suskind) in the tape recorder is. As Janet Malcolm noted (admittedly, in a piece of ass-saving), the tape recorder did for speech what Edward Mubridge's photography did for walking and galloping. It showed us what we didn't know was there - a thick soup of self contradictory impulses and outbursts. (See here for an epic example). Even with the web, transcripts, his memory, and a camera, Kaus isn't far off Thucydides's uncertain attempts to record the past:
With reference to the speeches in this history, some were delivered before the war began, others while it was going on; some I heard myself, others I got from various quarters; it was in all cases difficult to carry them word for word in one's memory, so my habit has been to make the speakers say what was in my opinion demanded of them by the various occasions, of course adhering as closely as possible to the general sense of what they really said. And with reference to the narrative of events, far from permitting myself to derive it from the first source that came to hand, I did not even trust my own impressions, but it rests partly on what I saw myself, partly on what others saw for me, the accuracy of the report being always tried by the most severe and detailed tests possible. My conclusions have cost me some labour from the want of coincidence between accounts of the same occurrences by different eye-witnesses, arising sometimes from imperfect memory, sometimes from undue partiality for one side or the other. The absence of romance in my history will, I fear, detract somewhat from its interest; but if it be judged useful by those inquirers who desire an exact knowledge of the past as an aid to the interpretation of the future, which in the course of human things must resemble if it does not reflect it, I shall be content


Nevertheless, these cold rationalists, who don't feel anything next to the knuckle bones of saint james, do exhibit something like religiour fervor next to the bones of feathered dinosaurs: "Archaeopteryx is the textbook example of the missing link," Witmer said. "It is important beyond its value as a biological specimen. It's truly an icon, and when you're in the presence of it, you feel different." (WaPo)

Wednesday, August 04, 2004


The British government has decided that ugly imitation-Tudor mansions (here) are ruining the countryside. The minister's solution is ingenious. Save the countryside with modern-looking things!
"Changing the face of new country house architecture from a pastiche of historical styles to innovative cutting-edge design is essential if the best of British architecture is to be encouraged.

We want to encourage the best British architects to design country houses that our future generations will be proud of - creating buildings that people want to visit in 100 years' time."
....I once imagined design as Wilde imagined writing: "There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are well written, or badly written. That is all." The age that made heroes and icons Chris Bangle, the iMac, Microsoft Word fonts and the new Beetle has made design good in the way that prayer is good, whatever the outcome. We want more of it. It's progress. A book that captured our feelings for design would show the bearded pencilled man and hairily-underarmed woman from the Joy of Sex naked at a sloping table, smiling conjugal smiles, discovering the bliss of drawing slowly the shape of a lamp: The Joy of Design.

It's a theme of my daily thoughts, if not of this blog, that the constant preaching since 1998 of the great wonder of Design will embarrass us horribly when our children see the photos of our youth. We don't talk about modern architecture anymore, not after its high-minded role in the catastrophic loss of Penn Station in New York and soul-destroying contribution to dumps like Brasilia. But it exists. EST changed its name to Landmark having embarrassed anyone who gave it enough credence in the 1970s to believe that lying on a Hilton conference room floor wetting yourself and screaming would solve much that was wrong with them. Similarly, modern architecture now feels like something terrible that only happened in the 1960s and 1970s. It knocked down city centers. It replaced them with high-rise tenements, vapid windy spaces, and car lanes. Much of the worse-offending modern architecture has since been knocked down. Good. That's done with then. But why do I feel that when the minister says that he Design will create "buildings that people want to visit in 100 years' time" that it will indtead create buildings that people will be happy to knock down in 100 years' time?

Ugliness is as designed as beauty is and I fear that the belief that design is our age's discovery, and one that supersedes taste, is going to make us regret this decade. Our mania for design reminds me most of the Victorian mania for restoration that Thomas Hardy took part in before he became an author (from the Life:)
With the departure of Bastow, Hardy's duties grew more exacting, and though, in consideration of his immaturity, the term of his pupillage had been lengthened by between one and two years, a time had arrived at which it became necessary that he should give more attention to practical architecture than he had hitherto done. Church "restoration" was at this time in full cry in Dorsetshire and the neighbouring counties, and young Hardy found himself making many surveys, measurements, and sketches of old churches with a view to such changes. Much beautiful ancient Gothic, as well as Jacobean and Georgian work, he was passively instrumental in destroying or in altering beyond identification; a matter for his deep regret in later years.
Do I hate modern architecture? Absolutely not! What I hate is that the Minister has no real idea why "cutting-edge design" should be any better or worse than ugly Tudor mansions. It is simply a given. What the Victorian's did in pursuit of a mad vision of the past, the minister will enforce in pursuit of a mad vision of the future.


this goes in my permanent links as soon as I can be assed. In the meantime here's a link to New Sincerity: The Blog at the End of the World. "Why is MacLamity pseudonymous and New Sincerity written by someone using their actual name," MacLamity's readers don't want to know. That's easy. Because New Sincerity's insight into bands, movies, and books that are indie in spirit, but high in quality, is nothing to be ashamed of! And the same goes for the writing!

Tuesday, August 03, 2004


Exile's take on the slow holocaust of Russia's journalism is finally out, is marveloulsly tangential but says it all and says it funny. eXile:
I can't believe that of all the stories we've done, all of the real and very elaborate pranks we've pulled, this prank – the prank we falsely took responsibility for to fill up some last-minute space – has not only gotten us by far the most attention we've ever had (most of it unwanted), but it has also flushed out some of rankest examples of both the Russian and American media, and more disturbingly, the petty-evil workings of a serving member of the United States Congress. What follows is a story about a non-prank so un-funny that from a distance – say, from your distance, not mine – it has to be one the most ridiculously funny things you'll ever read. In a not-funny sort of way.

How did we get into this mess? The truth is that we had a blank half page to fill last issue, and I thought it would be, er, funny if we pretended that we forged the famous Kiriyenko letter. As they say, it seemed like a good idea at the time.

Just to recap, our "prank" claimed that we had forged a letter, signed by five Republican congressmen and sent to Secretary of State Colin Powell, which accused former Prime Minister Sergei Kiriyenko of using stolen IMF funds to buy property in Illinois, and with it, an American green card. Someone – and I don't really want to know who – really did forge that letter, and a group of right-wing knuckleheads who run a "think-tank" called the "American Defense Council" actually posted the fake letter on their site. That gave the forged letter the necessary legitimacy to then get picked up by Novaya Gazeta, which then went to the Russian and American media, and finally, eventually, last but not least, bringing up the rear, into the eXile. The five Republican congressmen quickly repudiated the letter as a forgery, and Kiriyenko sued Novaya Gazeta for libel. Clearly, someone was out to smear Kiriyenko's reputation -- we're talking very powerful and very scary people who felt threatened by his moves to rein in local elites in the Volga region on Putin's behalf. The attack on Kiriyenko is so clearly dangerous and involves such high stakes that, if you were me, you would think it seemed ripe for a silly joke. But since most of you aren't me, you're probably saying to yourself, "Uh, no, it wasn't a good idea at all." Gee thanks, now you tell me!

With perfect 20-20 hindsight, we doctors of humor can now officially declare that taking responsibility for the forged Kiriyenko letter was not the smartest move in humor history. In fact, it's about the un-funniest non-prank ever not-committed. Not-funny for me and Rudnitsky, that is. Last Friday night, while drinking with friends at Scandinavia, an advertising exec told me that his Russian partner warned him "don't sit too close to Ames" because "it isn't safe." Everyone laughed uneasily, yet their chairs managed to inch further and further away from mine, leaving me all kinds of surplus lebensraum. Black humor lost its cocky appeal among Moscow's expats ever since Forbes editor Paul Klebnikov was murdered a couple of Fridays ago. That sense of consequence-free unreality you get from being an expat in Moscow is now gone.


The Independent's account of the Chirac museum shows what laughably poor taste world leaders have when they give presents to one another... or maybe they just hate each other... or maybe it's the contempt for the things that tourists buy in your home country blown up to the proportions of world diplomacy:
The museum possesses, for instance, a large porcelain model of a sumo wrestler standing on one foot; and a South African chess set, with miniature Nelson Mandelas representing the black and white kings and Desmond Tutu playing all four bishops. The museum has a Saudi sculpture of a falcon on a perch, of inestimable value and stunning vulgarity, made from gold, quartz, rubies, emeralds, sapphires and 1,210 diamonds. It also owns two baseball hats and a deflated rugby ball.

There are, admittedly, stunningly beautiful objects in the permanent display: a Hungarian vase decorated with butterflies and birds; a copper-bordered, porcelain bowl made by the Welsh sculptor Peter Wills, given to President Chirac by Tony Blair in 1998 (before they started throwing crockery at each other). A noble attempt has been made to try to make sense of the 150 objects chosen for the main room, arranged by themes and by continents. There is a mini-collection of sumo memorabilia because President Chirac is a great fan of sumo wrestling, which he watches on tapes sent from Japan.

There were the ceremonial keys to a score of cities, from Osaka to Asuncion; a plastic football in the red and yellow colours of the Racing Club de Lens; a fire department of New York baseball hat; a police department of New York baseball hat (gifts from Rudolf Giuliani); a large plastic cow (prime Holstein breed); a Swiss cow bell with Jacques Chirac's name on it. (Usually the bell carries the cow's name; this is a Swiss joke, at which M. Chirac laughed at heartily, so the guide says.)

There was also a French air force pilot's helmet; an elaborate oasis scene in gold plate and diamonds (a gift from Qatar); assorted gold-plated models of Arab forts (gifts from assorted Gulf states); various daggers, scimitars and swords, made of gold and encrusted with diamonds and rubies (gifts from the same and other Gulf states); a cowboy hat with tassels; a plastic model of a TGV, presented by the head of the French railways and decorated, with what look like designer graffitti, by the fashion designer, Christian Lacroix.

There was also a rugby ball (seriously deflated) signed by all the members of the France team which won the Grand Slam in 1997; an Yves Saint Laurent football (a gift from David Beckham maybe?); and a decorated milk churn from the Haute Savoie.
How much of world GDP goes into these gifts that no one could want, least of all the President of France? People starving in third-world villages want to know!