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Cardinal Sins

May 1, 2009



A recent article in The Grauniad revealed that, “suave symbologist Robert Langdon, star of the international phenomenon The Da Vinci Code, is set for a return to the literary stage in a new thriller this autumn.”

Oh, goody…

According to The Grauniad–

The long-awaited novel – one of the most anticipated in recent publishing history – will be called The Lost Symbol, and will take place over a 12-hour period. No more details were given about its content, but persistent rumours have suggested it will be set in Washington DC and will focus on freemasonry. It will be published on 15 September with an initial print run of 6.5 million copies – the largest first printing in publisher Random House’s history.

Brown’s publisher Sonny Mehta is quoted, calling it “a brilliant and compelling thriller” which was “well worth the wait. Dan Brown’s prodigious talent for storytelling, infused with history, codes and intrigue, is on full display in this new book,” he said, adding “This is a great day for readers and booksellers.

Well, for booksellers, at any rate, if the sales of the earlier volume are any indicator. And what, you might ask, made the first book such a success? Here are some of the reviews of The Da Vinci Code.

You’ll note that many of the reviews are from erstwhile reputable newspapers–The New York Times, The Boston Globe, The Chicago Tribune etc. British newspapers, including The Grauniad and The Observer, toed the line and gave the book enthusiastic reviews. So universal were the cries of delight and approval that I picked up a copy, expecting, at the very least, to be diverted.

I’m not a literary snob, quick to sneer at non-literary fiction, unable to pronounce the word ‘thriller’ save with a shudder. On the contrary, I revel in the work of writers like Alan Furst, whose brilliant, atmospheric thrillers set between the world wars are far superior to most of the so-called serious literary fiction I’ve read in the last 10 years. I opened The Da Vinci Code anticipating an enjoyable read.

I read the book with increasing amazement. The amazement turned to bafflement, which turned to irritation, hilarity and disbelief. The Da Vinci Code was wretched almost beyond description. The characters had all the reality of shop-window dummies. The dalogue was alternately wooden and tortured. The characters (and I use the term very loosely) appeared to have learned to speak English at The School For Endless Dependent Clauses.

Brown, whose mastery of ungainly exposition matches the King of DOA prose, Jeffrey Archer, is laughably inept. He is a great exponent of that hallmark of the bad writer: the extraneous character who briefly appears for the sole purpose of explaining the latest plot developments to another minor character (i.e. to the reader). That’s Brown’s idea of how to propel the narrative forward. The only reason I finished the damn thing was because I couldn’t quite believe it could be that rotten all the way through.

My mistake. It was. Reviewers had hailed the marvelous intricacy of the plot and wrote of its surprising plausibility. In fact, the so-called ‘plot’ could, as Martin Amis once wrote in another context, have been exploded by five minutes thought or a single phone call. It was the dullest, most moronic, most implausible, worst written and least enjoyable book that I had read in many, many years.

What were The New York Times, The Grauniad and the rest thinking? Of their advertising revenue, I expect.
The new book will, of course, be even worse. Writers like Brown don’t get better, especially when the previous effort sold millions of copies. The evidence of his bank account tells him he’s a great (or at least competent) writer. He is not. He is a rotten writer.

The last time around, rumours circulated that the rather sinister and secretive organization Opus Dei, Catholic nutcases with friends in high places, were mounting a plot to ‘eliminate’ Brown for the sin of exposing their secrets. The rumours were almost certainly started by his publishing company or the ubiquitous Max Clifford (that bugger gets everywhere).

However, in the unlikely event that the rumours prove to have some basis in fact, can I take this opportunity to wish Opus Dei well?

  1. May 1, 2009 9:57 AM

    You’ve a stronger stomach than I if you made it to the end.

  2. May 1, 2009 11:08 AM

    I see Motion’s for the boot…

  3. Zephirine permalink
    May 1, 2009 12:35 PM

    Having read The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail, which was quite interesting in a factoid sort of way, I never saw any point in trying the Da Vinci Code. I did read another D Brown and noticed the extreme cardboardness, though that one actually had quite a clever plot.

    But I see that The Da Vinci Code is not actually a novel. It’s an ‘international phenomenon’. So perhaps we’re judging by the wrong criteria?

  4. MeltonMowbray permalink
    May 1, 2009 12:40 PM

    You are fucking dead, unbeliever.

    Ruth Kelly

    pp Opus Dei

  5. May 1, 2009 12:43 PM

    I was given the book, along with an Andy McNab novel, as a birthday present (the same person, the next year, gave me Swann’s Way). Having avoided it – I’d read the Holy Blood & the Holy Grail years before and was well out the other side of believing its exciting if absurd claims. But one day -I thought, hey, stop being a snob, pick it up.

    I picked it up. I read a few pages. I threw it against the wall. I picked it up again. I did finish it.

    The genius is in the economy. Why bother trying to express tension or emotion through language when you could use italics? Why compose complex, Masquerade-style puzzles for your reader (‘cos that’s what it is, a puzzle book, as someone else said) when the novel’s cleverest conspirators can pass on history’s most dangerous secret through natty little rhymes?

    If you’re thinking’s not too shabby
    You’ll find me under West——- A—–

    I’ve no hard feelings towards Dan Brown. It’s not his fault the book was so successful. He must wake with a frightened jolt every morning; ‘what happened? What happened?’

    It’s a book for people who yearn for spiritual awakening but had trouble getting to grips with The Alchemist.

  6. freep permalink
    May 1, 2009 12:54 PM

    Why write about elaborate conspiracy theories when it’s bleeding obvious that the whole of existence is a conspiracy; wrought, as MM says, by Ruth Kelly, bless her tin knickers.

  7. May 2, 2009 12:24 AM

    There’s an old acquaintance of mine, a gifted inventor who made a pile in electronics… a man with a manifestly high IQ… who *swears* by Dan Brown’s paper vomit. Which neatly decouples intelligence and taste, I guess. He swears by corduroy, too, now that I think of it.

    But I must admit I sneer when people praise “The Corrections” as well. Or, erm, “A Confederacy of Dunces”. Or “Henderson the Rain King”…

    Maybe it’s just me? Maybe I should give corduroy a chance…

  8. May 2, 2009 11:15 PM

    There’s always this:

  9. mishari permalink*
    May 3, 2009 1:09 AM

    …now that’s how I like my news: hard-hitting with a backbeat.

  10. MeltonMowbray permalink
    May 3, 2009 10:43 AM

    Torture-tape Gulf prince accused of 25 other attacks.


  11. mishari permalink*
    May 3, 2009 10:56 AM

    Every sizable barrel of apples is bound to contain a few rotten ones, MM. How unlike the civilised West, where entire governments torture and democratically elected politicians justify it.

    And speaking of torture, one of Opus Dei’s sinister hand-maidens, the tin-knickered (in freep’s matchless phrase) Ruth Kelly is over on CiF vainly attempting to re-animate a corpse. Must be a Catholic thing…

    This spring should have been a high-water mark for Labour: a successful G20 summit, a bold budget, and just a couple of days ago, the final handover of military operations in Iraq. Instead, it has heralded another burst of introspection and led many commentators to write off Labour’s prospects after an email scandal, a defeat on a Liberal Democrat motion in the Commons and a little-watched YouTube video.

    Now, setting aside Sister Ruth’s “This spring should have been a high-water mark for Labour”
    (is a high-water mark really worth having in a sewer?), she contends that Gordon Brown’s deranged, gruesome YouTube video is “little watched”. Well, here it is. Watch it. It’s the equivalent of a video application form for Broadmoor:

  12. parallax permalink
    May 3, 2009 11:29 AM

    Meanwhile – beyond parochial politics – I’ve been ‘aving a bit of a DVD-fest. Just finished watching Pierrepoint – now there’s a solid non-pre-determined-what-you-should-think* representation of bizarre pride and dignity in executing state orders. Timothy Spall is a quite/quiet excellent actor.

    *there’s a single word that should suffice but it eludes me fttb.

  13. MeltonMowbray permalink
    May 3, 2009 11:38 AM

    I’ve seen it a couple of times. You get the feeling there’s someone off-screen bellowing SMILE every few seconds.

    Ruth Kelly has a mysterious attraction for me. It must be my suppressed homoerotic side, I think. Or the thought of that barbed wire around her milky thigh.

  14. freep permalink
    May 3, 2009 1:20 PM

    Para: Pierrepoint was a film I liked a lot. It freed Timothy Spall, who can act, from the dead hand of Mike Leigh. A film that was a potent argument against capital punishment – and in fact, outsourcing. I was astonished to realise that the Public hangman was not employed, but paid by results.

    As to delicious cabinet Ministers, MM, I’d welcome a night out with Yvette Cooper, to explore what lies beneath her wig.

  15. parallax permalink
    May 3, 2009 2:22 PM

    yes indeed freep, good point – Pierrepoint is tangentially about outsourcing and intermittent contract work- and about the corrosive effect of celebrity. In the family history of ‘Hangman’ there was anonymity, but poor Pierrepoint was at a point in history where he was ‘outed’ and so had to acknowledge the mob’s baying applause for his exquisite role in the conveyor belt of Nuremberg punishments – then less than a decade later, as Ruth Ellis’ hangman, he was dodging the crowd’s spittle. Great film, and a great snapshot of how quickly public opinion changed in those short years when the ’50 became the ’60s.

  16. mishari permalink*
    May 3, 2009 3:40 PM

    …and for those of us who thought Blair Babes were dim…

  17. May 3, 2009 8:27 PM

    Non sequitur. But worth it. Republican candidate for Governor of Georgia. “If it’s warm and it’s damp and it vibrates….”

    (Do mules vibrate?)

  18. mishari permalink*
    May 3, 2009 8:51 PM

    I’d be prepared to bet a large sum of money that the Georgia Peach ran on a platform of ‘Christian Values’…

    Check out this guy, unintentionally the greatest natural comedian since Buster Keaton…

  19. May 3, 2009 9:10 PM


  20. MeltonMowbray permalink
    May 3, 2009 11:18 PM

    It’s not so much Yvette Cooper’s wig as her very small head which interests me. A normal-sized (so far as one can tell through her rumpled dowdy clothing, which looks as though it was pulled out of the dirty laundry basket at the last moment) body with a marble perched on top of it.

  21. mishari permalink*
    May 3, 2009 11:55 PM

    You’re right about YC, MM…she’s a pin-head, literally and figuratively. Strange that she’s married to a blockhead, again, literally and figuratively…what a fucking crew. And what price Blears? A woman so profoundly bone-headed that she thinks that the problem lies in not getting ‘Labour’s message across.’

    We got the message loud and clear, you loathsome ginger cretin. Why do you think we yearn to see your utter destruction?

  22. MeltonMowbray permalink
    May 4, 2009 12:45 AM

    Blears squirrel-ness is disturbing for a conservationist. The finger hesitates on the trigger. But not for long.

    Margaret Beckett was truly embarrassing on C4 news. I don’t know how the interviewer stopped himself from laughing in her face. Pity it wasn’t Guru-Murthy. He does the incredulous rejoinder and the eyebrow-raising grimace really well.

  23. May 4, 2009 3:44 PM

    Also very good value was David Cameron trying to be seen as part of the Gurkha victory ( despite the fact his lot never bothered to do anything about it when they had the chance ). There’s a bit where Nick Clegg is sound-biting away and you can see DC busting a gut to get his ten cents in. The very definition of hyper-ventilation.

    I doubt if I’ll vote next time round but beyond the policies I actually like the way Gordon Brown looks so damned uncomfortable every time he appears on TV – much more refreshing than the PR on-message, sound-bite Blair/ Cameron approach. If Brown was actually Labour I’d probably vote for him.

  24. mishari permalink*
    May 4, 2009 3:54 PM

    While I take your point about Brown not being a natural TV shill, I’m more concerned by his rabid promotion of privatising everything in sight while Chancellor, eg. PFI, PPP; selling off every Govt agency that actually made money at fire-sale prices to his pals in the City; fervently supporting the illegal folly of Iraq; sucking up to Bush/Cheney; his blatant dishonesty; his mindless tribalism; his focus on beating his opponents, whatever the cost to the country; his essential lack of human empathy–in short, him. He’s a nasty, useless, ideological numpty and bully who’s been an utter disaster.

    Aside from that, I guess he’s alright. I mean, he’d make a good bus conductor–not a likable one, but an efficient one.
    He has just the pettifogging, rules-is-rules, jobsworth mentality.

  25. May 4, 2009 4:02 PM

    I thought I’d noted that he’s distinctly lacking in the decent policy department. I guess I was being too formalist :-)

  26. mishari permalink*
    May 4, 2009 4:07 PM

    Yeah, sorry, Al…I did note that you’d said ‘…if he was Labour’. I didn’t mean to suggest you thought he was in any way acceptable. I sympathize with your lack of interest in voting.

    After all, the three main parties all seem right-of-center. I mean, what’s the fucking point. It’s just that coming from a part of the world where people are still be imprisoned or killed for demanding the vote, (in Kuwait, the vote is restricted to Kuwaiti males over the age of 25), I regard it as a duty to excercise my vote, no matter how futile. Guess I’ll vote Green.

  27. May 4, 2009 4:46 PM

    This may be a bit less than cutting edge of me, but read “The Shock Doctrine”, chums. The “Chicago School” of economics (and the “neo-liberal” holy grail of the so-called “free market”) explains it all.

  28. MeltonMowbray permalink
    May 4, 2009 4:51 PM

    I’ll be voting for the BDFOB candidate (Ban Dogs From Our Beaches).

  29. mishari permalink*
    May 4, 2009 4:58 PM

    I’l be voting the straight Men-Who-Wear-Socks-With-Sandals-Out-Of-London ticket…with an each-way bet on the Legalise Heroin candidate.

  30. May 4, 2009 5:36 PM

    There are no beaches near where I live so BDFOB don’t have a candidate to vote for . I would never vote Tory and Labour have run out of everything so unless there is a Bring Spanish Lax Health & Safety Regulations to the UK party I’m stuffed .

  31. mishari permalink*
    May 4, 2009 10:09 PM

    Allergic Reaction

    Do hackles raise like mine do?
    At endless fucking swine flu?
    Can I just ask a favour, please?
    Let’s all ignore this dull disease.

  32. May 4, 2009 10:15 PM

    RE: Swines: I don’t believe in Bigfoot, Anal UFO Abduction Probes or Nessie, and, of course the following should be read with a virile skepticism… but there still might be smatterings of things to consider herein:

  33. mishari permalink*
    May 4, 2009 10:55 PM

    In a similiar vein, Steven, I pointed out on 29.04.09 that:

    Of course, governments are aiding and abetting the media for what I think are obvious reasons. In a time of financial disaster with the populace seeking sacrificial lambs, the lambs (Brown et. al.) are delighted to be gifted with this world-wide distraction…

    Of course, your link makes it all the more sinister. Like you, I’m generally sceptical of conspiracy theories. However, I don’t think anyone should be so naive as to think govts don’t conspire against the people on a regular basis…

  34. May 4, 2009 11:31 PM

    You are entirely wrong about the pandemic’s use as a distraction: the pandemic is the government’s solution to the economic crisis. Consider this: the pandemic primarily affects the young, people under 18 years of age; i.e. precisely the future generations to whom we apparently owe so much money.

    Don’t be surprised if Gordon Brown doesn’t come out soon with a policy of wholesale slaughter of the innocents.

  35. MeltonMowbray permalink
    May 4, 2009 11:38 PM

    A Farmer Writes:

    I’m sure the Swine Flu is rubbish,
    but I’ve told my lads it’s right
    to give their hands a decent wash
    after shagging the pigs tonight.

  36. May 4, 2009 11:45 PM

    “You are entirely wrong about the pandemic’s use as a distraction: the pandemic is the government’s solution to the economic crisis.”

    Well, now that you mention it, there is also the robust Consp. Meme chestnut that the goal of a certain elite cabal (headed by Rockefellers) is to reduce the world population by, erm, *half*…

  37. mishari permalink*
    May 4, 2009 11:48 PM

    A Chief Constable Writes:

    I’ve dispatched a strike-team to Ryde
    (not something I do all the time)
    But if anyone belongs inside
    It’s perverts who shag bloody swine.

    …you may be on to something, obooki. After all, it’s not as if a Night Of The Long Knives (junior division) would make Brown any less popular.

  38. May 4, 2009 11:56 PM


    “However, I don’t think anyone should be so naive as to think govts don’t conspire against the people on a regular basis…”

    Considering that the C.I.A.’s very raison for existence is to indulge in “covert operations” (a team-contingent euphemism for “conspiracies”, please note) it strikes me as odd that any citizen with half an IQ can’t ponder the implications of this organization (and others of a similar nature, either within or beside it) with any depth. Surely, after how many years in business, and with the financial and technological might of the U.S. at its disposal, the C.I.A. is capable of *something* naughty, on a grand scale… and more recent than the Bay of Pigs or Iran/Contra…?

    Q: “How could anyone expect to keep a conspiracy *this big* a *secret*?”

    A: “They couldn’t; that’s why we’re discussing it, Candide.”

  39. mishari permalink*
    May 5, 2009 12:08 AM

    Whatever consolation it’s worth, I’m convinced that we have more to fear from the sheer ineptitude and stupidity of agencies like the CIA. I mean, let’s face it, the dopey fuckers keep getting found out.

    I suppose they’re as liable to the workings of the Peter Principle as any other organization, thank God…

  40. MeltonMowbray permalink
    May 5, 2009 12:57 PM

    A Peasant Writes:

    Warm to the touch, not talkative,
    Cleaner than some in the human line,
    Well-postured for the act of love,
    May I recommend the swine?

  41. May 5, 2009 1:44 PM

    I’ve just been working in Falkirk so you might want to shield your face with a tissue before reading this.

    In solidarity and sympathy with their stricken cohabitants on the frontline of this pandemic the local teenage population were walking round dressed in sombreros, carrying pinatas and sneezing ostentatiously.

  42. MeltonMowbray permalink
    May 5, 2009 2:08 PM

    That pig of yours must have gone down really well, Alarming.

  43. mishari permalink*
    May 5, 2009 2:08 PM

    All together now…FREAK OUT!!!…27 cases of Swine Flu in the UK! We’re all doomed! Doooooommmmmmeeeeddddd……

  44. mishari permalink*
    May 5, 2009 2:11 PM

    Yeah, I’d forgotten about Al’s amazing 100ft inflatable Diseased Mexican Swine. Shouldn’t someone shoot it or something?

  45. May 5, 2009 2:23 PM

    We didn’t do the Pig in Falkirk. It was in Spain spreading disease so look out for a pandemic around Lleida

  46. MeltonMowbray permalink
    May 5, 2009 2:36 PM

    Spanish Flu? Jeebus, now you’ve done it.

  47. mishari permalink*
    May 5, 2009 2:42 PM

    It’s the inflatable diseased 100ft Europig…no wonder De Gaulle didn’t want the UK in the Common Market.

  48. May 5, 2009 2:57 PM

    De Gaulle also said it was impossible to govern a country with over 300 types of cheese.

  49. May 5, 2009 2:59 PM

    MM: pure quality comment on the mobile phone book prize blog!

  50. mishari permalink*
    May 5, 2009 3:12 PM

    ..and immediately to the right of MM’s comment:

    Paperback of the week: Physics of the Impossible by Michio Kaku
    In a fasinating book, this professor theorises about how the gadgets in sci-fi writing might one day come true, writes Sophia Martelli

    …fasinating? …how the gadgets in sci-fi writing might one day come true? Jesus….try “…how the technology of science fiction may become fact…”

  51. obooki permalink
    May 5, 2009 4:08 PM

    27 cases of swine flu

    Surely that should read “27 victims of swine flu”. Cases makes it sound like it’s not serious and they might well recover.

    The Peter Principle is an idea of genius.

  52. mishari permalink*
    May 5, 2009 6:35 PM

    Quite right. Obviously I meant to say:

    27 tragic innocent victims of the killer swine flu, wanly hovering between life and death

    …concision is everything.

  53. pinkroom permalink
    May 5, 2009 9:07 PM

    Great lancing of that pompous fool David Halfwit on BB Arturo!

    The mean streets of the Faber, the RLS and Hallamshire “University” are clearly the only place for our outsider to keep his poetic integrity intact.

  54. mishari permalink*
    May 5, 2009 9:15 PM

    Thanks, PR…the man’s a fatuous ass. I couldn’t resist. Sometimes, I just let my irritation get the better of me…

  55. May 5, 2009 9:53 PM

    I hear every household will be getting a government advisory leaflet on swine flu shortly. I particularly look forward to the essential advice on the importance of washing hands. Maybe the pandemic can be curbed by a good supply of wet wipes?

  56. MeltonMowbray permalink
    May 5, 2009 11:37 PM

    To Our Porcine Friends

    You probably wouldn’t get the flu
    If you weren’t such filthy rotters:
    The government has a tip for you
    Make sure you wash your trotters.

  57. mishari permalink*
    May 5, 2009 11:47 PM

    A Pig Replies To His Human Exploiters

    I may be a filthy beast
    But I can truly boast
    Unlike you upright swine at least
    I make a lovely roast

  58. MeltonMowbray permalink
    May 6, 2009 12:26 AM

    Delia Smith’s Cannibal Cookery

    Long pig is quite a delicacy
    And celebrity meat I particularly rate:
    Madonna’s buttocks stewed in whisky,
    Or Bono’s penis dipped in chocolate.

  59. mishari permalink*
    May 6, 2009 12:44 AM

    I don’t care much for Madge’s helium voice
    It’s true, but here’s the thing:
    If given any kind of choice
    I’d rather eat her arse than hear her sing.

  60. HenryLloydMoon permalink
    May 6, 2009 6:15 AM

    To choose Madge’ buns, hewn from hickory,
    Is a terrible waste, if you please,
    Of Bono’s impeccable peccary
    And choco-smegtastic headcheese.

  61. parallax permalink
    May 6, 2009 8:27 AM

    If pigs weren’t so shameless, trotting around bare-arsed,
    but instead wore warm clothes of stout tweed and duffle,
    maybe some longjohns, a knitted beanie and scarf,
    then there wouldn’t be all this snuffle-kerfuffle

  62. May 6, 2009 8:48 AM

    If Pigs used a tissue when they sneeze LIKE THE GOVERNMENT SAYS we’d only have real pandemics to worry about.

  63. freep permalink
    May 6, 2009 10:33 AM

    The past tense of sneeze
    Should be snoze
    It could then rhyme with ease
    With one’s nose.

    The future of plague
    Is in doubt;
    The virus is vague –
    Stick with gout.

  64. mishari permalink*
    May 6, 2009 11:35 AM

    Medical Nomenclature

    It’s hard to warm up to a disease
    That’s named after oinking swine:
    Even less likely to please
    Than Mad Cow from lowing kine.

    What’s needed is a friendly name,
    No hint of hoof or trotter;
    Why can’t they place the blame
    Upon the lovesome otter?

  65. MeltonMowbray permalink
    May 6, 2009 12:18 PM

    Corporal Punishment

    The pigs are guilty of starting the flu
    We must punish them for their transgression
    We should murder them, gut, roast, grill and stew
    Their corpses. That’ll teach them a lesson.

  66. parallax permalink
    May 6, 2009 1:14 PM

    The future tense of sun-eeze
    is the potential to sn’ffle
    in the playground of plu-eeze
    parents should fuck off with the protective waffle

    and let them eat dirt

  67. May 6, 2009 1:39 PM

    Be gentle with your little pig
    And beat him when he sneezes;
    He only does it to annoy
    and spread his wild diseases.

  68. MeltonMowbray permalink
    May 6, 2009 1:51 PM

    Personally I favour a rhyming flu,
    Gnu, for instance, possibly kangaroo,
    Perhaps a little alliterative tic,
    Fly flu, or a panda pandemic.

  69. mishari permalink*
    May 6, 2009 2:19 PM

    Bunny Blight, Puppy Palsy, dreaded Goldfish gripe,
    Budgie Breath, Doormouse Droop are ailments of the type
    That all the nicest people get:
    Don’t need a sawbones, just a vet.

  70. parallax permalink
    May 6, 2009 2:22 PM

    A Lament for the Foreign Disease

    Melton conjures a panda
    Billy beats them black and blue
    Is this a united common coloured candour?
    Coz hey, it’s not OUR ‘flu

  71. parallax permalink
    May 6, 2009 4:02 PM

    Headline in this week’s local paper:

    First Australian swine flu victim: Sydney man quarantined

    We coulda been a global contender. Apparently *no flu in Australia* headlines just doesn’t cut the mustard. Poor *Sydney man* fucker hasn’t been any where near Australia for donkeys – just happens to have an Australian passport, has been travelling for a while, rocked up in London with a cold after arriving from Mexico. I think the press over here are pissed that we’re missing out on the new *war on terror* headlines.

    Hey, I see Alison Flood’s asking for swine flu poems.

  72. May 6, 2009 4:17 PM

    That always bugs me about news reporting in this country, they focus on the numbers of British people affected by events abroad and don’t seem to care about the people from other countries also involved.

    Who’s Alison Flood? I fear I’m out of many loops here!

  73. May 6, 2009 4:26 PM

    My nose is feeling strange
    A tickling kind of feeling
    If I have to sneeze
    I’ll whitewash half the ceiling
    In a green sort of way.

    But the sneezing won’t stop there
    I can feel some lumps departing
    My nostrils are torn apart
    By an unpleasant nasal farting
    In a violent sort of a way.

    If this goes on much longer
    There’ll be nothing left inside
    The doctors will conclude
    That I’ve sneezed until I died
    In an uncomprehending kind of a way.

    Off to Germany this weekend to pick up some kind of germ and spread another. Our pig is still in Spain heading for Seville so watch the bodycount rise in the Iberian peninsula.

  74. parallax permalink
    May 6, 2009 4:26 PM

    Hi Polly, Alison Flood’s on the GU booksblog.

  75. mishari permalink*
    May 6, 2009 7:32 PM

    Days Of Swine And Noses

    I’ve grown a tail, it’s got a curl,
    The way that piggy tails do;
    Grunt and oink–look out world.

    I give my tail a litle twirl
    Although I’m feeling mighty blue;
    I’ve grown a tail, it’s got a curl.

    Give me swill; is that a pearl?
    I’ll ignore it: it’s what we swine do;
    Grunt and oink–look out world.

    My piggy grin as events unfurl
    Would make a gentle soul spew;
    I’ve grown a tail, it’s got a curl.

    Politics? I’ll give that a whirl;
    The very home of swinish flu;
    Grunt and oink–look out world.

    The media trough will make you hurl;
    The bastards don’t care who they screw;
    I’ve grown a tail, it’s got a curl,
    Grunt and oink–look out world.

  76. MeltonMowbray permalink
    May 6, 2009 10:41 PM

    Nice swillanelle.

    I hope you avoid Der SchweinFluenensauendreichensach, Alarming. Inflation of the polysyllables can be very painful. I recommend a hot knife and a bottle of schnapps.

  77. mishari permalink*
    May 6, 2009 10:44 PM

    Seconded…up with that I never myself would consider putting, Al.

  78. May 6, 2009 10:46 PM

    When is this Wolfram|Alpha thingummy going to start. It’s May 2009. They said May 2009. They are various questions I want answered.

  79. mishari permalink*
    May 6, 2009 11:06 PM

    Search me, obooki. They keep me posted by email. I’ll let you know.
    I, too, have questions that require answers…

  80. MeltonMowbray permalink
    May 7, 2009 11:38 AM

    I have answers which require questions.

    1. Gordon Brown.
    2. Scots pine. White-hot nails.
    3. My hammer is already packed.

    What’s Wolfram/Alpha?

  81. May 7, 2009 12:08 PM

    MM, didn’t you mean

    I have answers which require questions.

    1. Gordon Brown.
    2. Scots pine. White-hot nails.
    3. My hammer is already packed.
    4. What’s Wolfram/Alpha?

    My fully automated, steam-driven knowledge machine has produced the following answers:

    1. Does not compute.
    2. The merest bagatelle.
    3. But my nails are split.
    4. Technophile guff.

    Cheques to the usual address, please.

  82. MeltonMowbray permalink
    May 7, 2009 1:13 PM

    25.57% (age-adjusted standard score). Level 2.

    Your learning outcome is not considered satisfactory. Inappropriate answers to several questions suggest a lack of accuracy in reading and comprehension. Improving evaluation skills is an important goal. Aim higher.

  83. May 7, 2009 1:40 PM

    MM: your text may be justified, but that score isn’t. I know I’m worth 25.73% at least.

  84. mishari permalink*
    May 7, 2009 8:27 PM

    Sikh police officers want special bulletproof turbans to be developed so they can serve in firearms units, according to the new British Police Sikh Association.–The Grauniad, today

    …there used to be Welsh/Sikh Elvis impersonator who called himself Patelvis Presley. Seriously. I saw him perform once. He started one number with the words:

    “I don’t smoke dope, don’t drink bourbon,
    All I wanna do is shake my turban.”

    I am not making this up…

  85. May 7, 2009 9:59 PM

    Wolfram’s working!!!! – Haven’t figure it out yet. Don’t think it works properly with my Opera browser.

  86. mishari permalink*
    May 7, 2009 10:05 PM

    Works just fine in Firefox, obooki…

  87. May 7, 2009 10:16 PM

    Seems to have stopped now though.

  88. mishari permalink*
    May 7, 2009 10:30 PM

    Unless, like me, you’re one of the ‘elect’. I’ve been giving it a bit of a test run. Seems to work well, answers straight-forward questions sans all the extraneous filler you usually get from google. Nice not to have to wade through all those irrelevant hits to find what one’s looking for…

  89. May 8, 2009 9:04 AM

    MM on GU

    I’m not very interested in contemporary poetry, but I have read some poems by Alice Oswald. After reading them my attitude to contemporary poetry was unchanged.

    Ouch! A perfect put-down.

  90. mishari permalink*
    May 8, 2009 9:37 AM

    Her brother, Lee Harvey was better…mind you, he was more performance oriented…

  91. May 8, 2009 9:53 AM

    But only a pawn in their game?

    It’s an interesting thing about Faber; they used to be my very favourite publisher, but now they seem really bland and MOR; were/are they essentially the publishing house of the 20s/30s avant and nothing more? I can’t imagine Eliot writing a flattering review of a Heaney book, for instance.

  92. mishari permalink*
    May 8, 2009 10:09 AM

    I think it’s probably fair to say that in the 20s/30s, Faber took chances. One might even say they were anti-establishment or at least an alternative to the establishment.

    But they’ve been the establishment for many, many years now. They parleyed success with the faintly outré into a place at the high table. What followed, I submit, was entirely predictable.

  93. May 8, 2009 10:12 AM

    Quite so, sadly.

  94. mishari permalink*
    May 8, 2009 10:22 AM

    I think one of the great things about the web is that small presses can reach an audience that would previously been completely out of reach. Take the example of someone living in a small town in outback Australia or Canada or Argentina. Whereas in the past, their chances of finding work by relatively unknown poets and writers was vanishly small (if we discount blind luck and serendipity), now they have the same access that I, a Londoner, have.

    Faber were great in their day but that day’s long gone. Not only must firms like Faber contend with myriad small presses who are far more likely to take chances and throw up genuinely interesting work but the whole model–publication, distribution, reading, criticism–has moved on. There are the quick, then there’s Faber…

  95. May 8, 2009 12:42 PM

    Yes, that small is beautiful thing is finally coming to pass, thanks to the Web. The wealth of available outlets now means the day of the big little press (as Faber once was) is over.

  96. parallax permalink
    May 8, 2009 1:44 PM

    Billy, what’s MOR?

  97. parallax permalink
    May 8, 2009 1:45 PM

    move over rover?

  98. parallax permalink
    May 8, 2009 1:45 PM

    mind over matter?

  99. parallax permalink
    May 8, 2009 1:48 PM

    oh, hang on that’s MOM … ummmm Mindful Of Rights, nope give in

  100. May 8, 2009 3:18 PM

    MOR is “Middle of the Road” (a pop taxonomy invented in the 1970s to effectively contain Dire Straits and Barry Manilow)

  101. parallax permalink
    May 8, 2009 3:31 PM

    ah, thanks SA. Middle of the Road as in NCTTE: not close to the edge.

  102. May 8, 2009 3:31 PM

    Yeah, it’s NCTTE for people who think “NCTTE” is *a good thing* (laugh)

  103. May 8, 2009 5:46 PM

    Mish – I’m sure I’ve seen Patelvis too. Could be the same one or it could be a popular Asian version, as I don’t remember him turbanising the lyrics. I’ve also been to a Chinese which was run by waiters dressed as Elvis, who wanted to Rove me Tender…

    I’ve just met Tony Booth. He told me a rude joke I didn’t quite understand and then tried to persuade me to join the labour party and to vote for his wife. I was trying to sell her a bear, neither side was successful.

  104. mishari permalink*
    May 8, 2009 7:21 PM

    Polly, there’s a Chinese restaurant on the Old Kent Rd. that’s run/owned by an Elvis Impersonator. He’s a little, scrawny fellow and wears a spangly Elvis in Vegas–era outfit. I sometimes take out-of-town visitors there for a laugh. The food’s good, but Fu Man Presley eviscerating Heartblake Hotel has them choking on their Moo Shi Pork…

    You tried to sell her a bear? I’m almost afraid to ask…

  105. MeltonMowbray permalink
    May 8, 2009 8:08 PM

    Mrs Booth missed a trick there. A bear, preferably a grizzly, would have been useful for savaging her son- and daughter-in-law.

  106. Captain Ned permalink
    May 9, 2009 4:29 AM

    how is the golding sea trilogy going, mr mills?

  107. May 9, 2009 10:38 AM

    It was a teddy bear, I was just enjoying the drama of giving the impression of real bear.

    Oh yes, also on offer – a special for the month of June – dinner with Bernard Ingham at the local community centre, just £20 to you!

  108. MeltonMowbray permalink
    May 10, 2009 7:39 PM

    I wouldn’t eat with Ingham for less than 2 grand. Cash. The sewer and not the sewage, perhaps, but the stench of ancient excrement must still erupt with every complacent Yorkshirism.

  109. May 11, 2009 8:01 AM

    how is the golding sea trilogy going?

    Finished and greatly enjoyed.

  110. Captain Ned permalink
    May 11, 2009 8:35 AM

    Excellent. As for Ingham, put him together with Parkinson, Prescott, and Boycott and you have the four professional Yorkshiremen. ‘In my day… ‘

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