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How Do I Loathe Thee? Let Me Count The Ways…

June 13, 2009

Marilyn Monroe reads Joyce

In 1977, the novelist Irving Wallace and his off-spring, David and Amy, scored an enormous sucess in the US with the publication of The Book of Lists. I came across an old copy recently and browsing it reminded me of the guilty pleasure of lists.

So what I want is lists. Lists of anything at all–The Ten Best Drug Fueled Albums of The 60s; The Twenty Greatest Films Noir; Ten Worst Alcoholic Drinks; Ten Best Novels Written By A Convicted Felon; Ten Best Poems About Cheese; Twenty Worst Fake Accents In Films; Ten Worst Performances By Actors Pretending To Be On Drugs…whatever.

Even better if the list is in verse form. The image of Marilyn Monroe, erm…reading Joyce might be a place to start: Ten Books Least Likely To Be Read By A Film Star

  1. mishari permalink*
    June 13, 2009 12:03 PM

    How very fortuitous that a photographer just happened to be there at the moment Miss Monroe reached the last page of Ulysses. Lucky, that…

  2. HenryLloydMoon permalink
    June 13, 2009 12:59 PM

    Greetings, pop pickers! Moving out of this week’s Top Ten Books Least Likely To Be Read By A Film Star is “Ulysses”, by James Joyce, one of four Joyce books bubbling under. And without more ado, this weeks new number ten: “Breaking Into Acting For Dummies”, by Larry Garrison and Wallace Wang – don’t miss the chapter on changing your name. Number nine: “Principles of Political Economy”, John Stuart Mill. Up to number eight: Lord Of The Rings. No remakes planned till 2030, I hear. Seven: “Pride and Prejudice”, by Jane Austen. Why read the book when you can see the movie or the other movie or the tv series or listen to Stephen Fry narrating it from the relative privacy of his home studio toilet, right? Right! Steady at six: “The Joy of Sex”, by Ivor Headache. Number five with a bullet, a new release: “Commentaries on the Gallic War”, by C. Ivlivs Caesar. Hope I got the French pronunciation right. Right! Four, down from three: “Big Brother – The Book”, by Wendy Holden. Three this week: “An Actor Prepares”, by Constantin Stanislavsky. Number two, last week’s number one: “The Complete Works – Not ‘arf! – of William Shakespeare” – not many starlets can fit that in their fanny pack! And this week’s new chart-topper and pick of the pops: “Navel Lint”, a harrowing account of life as a bisexual dee-jay on a pirate radio ship in the North Sea by Alan Freeman! All right? Right! Stay bright!

  3. Meltonian permalink
    June 13, 2009 1:24 PM

    Ten Top Commandments.

  4. pinkroom9 permalink
    June 13, 2009 6:56 PM

    Kareoke playlist for Gordon’s new cabinet

    Down at the bottom – Muddy Waters
    Every loser wins – Some Eastenders twerp
    Liars A-E – Dexys Midnight Runners
    Me Myself, I – Joan Armored-plating
    Kind of Blue – Miles Davis
    Cheat – The Clash
    Under My Thumb – Strolling Bones
    Pigs – Pink Floyd
    I’m Mandy, Fly Me _ 10cc
    The Chicken Song – Spitting Image
    If Paradise is claiming twice – Amen Corner
    I spy for the FBI cw War – Edwin Starr
    Temptation – Heaven 17
    Flip, Flop and Fly – Louis Jordan

    You better run for your life – Fabs

    Things can only get better D-ream

  5. atf permalink
    June 13, 2009 7:21 PM

    when i see myself projected here in such a dim light i’ll assume i have a right of reply…

    (You assume wrong. This is a personal blog. My personal blog. You have no ‘rights’ but those I allow. However, as long as you eschew personal abuse, you’re welcome to comment.–Ed)

  6. atf permalink
    June 13, 2009 7:52 PM

    i might have rights which come from lawmakers other than yourself

  7. mishari permalink*
    June 13, 2009 7:54 PM

    Hollow threats already? Go away, please and don’t come back…

  8. Meltonian permalink
    June 13, 2009 8:14 PM

    What’s the ‘dim light’ you’re complaining about, atf? You wrote the post on Kennedy’s blog yourself: it’s clear neither Mishari or me felt happy after reading it. I find it difficult to sympathise with you because of the many unpleasant things you have said about others in the past, and especially your remarks about (cynical)Steve at the time of his death.

    You seem quite happy to abuse me publicly, and have done quite recently: did I start squealing?

  9. mishari permalink*
    June 13, 2009 8:23 PM

    Sorry, MM. You won’t be getting a reply from atf. I’ve blocked her IP address. I think we both know that trying rational debate with her is futile, given her breath-taking hypocrisy and double-standards, and my blood pressure can’t stand it…

  10. Meltonian permalink
    June 13, 2009 8:41 PM

    My breath wasn’t exactly bated. It’s not as though either of us said anything nasty about her. Do I detect the hand of a certain effluent-agitator here? No names, no pack drill: the lawyers are listening.

  11. mishari permalink*
    June 13, 2009 8:43 PM

    That would be my guess. SOP for the braised-shirt merchant…

  12. mishari permalink*
    June 13, 2009 9:06 PM

    Five Films Olivier Should Have Turned Down

    1. Forty-Ninth Parallel— Played Johnny, a French-Canadian trapper, complete with an accent that set a new standard for risibility.

    2. Khartoum— Played The Mahdi. His face covered in boot polish, Olivier resurrected his French-Canadian accent, adding a touch of Bombay Duck, while wearing a towel around his head and a nightgown.

    3. The Betsy— Olivier plays an American automobile tycoon. Based on a Harold Robbins book. What can one expect?

    4. The Boys From Brazil–Olivier limbers up his Yiddish accent in preparation for…

    5. The Jazz Singer— A film that should be towed out to sea and sunk by naval gunfire. Olivier plays a rabbi. Neal Diamond plays his son. Need I say more?

  13. Meltonian permalink
    June 14, 2009 12:55 AM

    Ten Favourite Parts Of The Body.

    1. That bit behind the knee. Give it a stroke. Mmmmm.
    2. The scalp. Good for a scratch.
    3. Ears. Always scope for a poke or a pull.
    4. Nose. Ditto.
    5. Beard. Stroking useful for contemplation, tugging when agitated, storage space for pens if full beaver.
    6. Nails. Nourishing chewable goodness.
    7. Buttocks. Scratching, poking, clenching, easing – a pair of all-rounders.
    8. Knees. Excellent for the depiction of bald teachers in youth, in later years a good excuse for not going for a walk.
    9. Bit stuck now.
    10. Oh yes, that one.

  14. Captain Ned permalink
    June 14, 2009 3:44 AM

    Following on from one of your suggestions:

    TEN GREATEST FILMS NOIRS (otherwise known as ten good films noirs thought of when drunk)
    1) Touch of Evil (1958)
    2) Chinatown (1974)
    3) The Big Combo (1955)
    4) The Long Goodbye (1973)
    5) Force of Evil (1948)
    6) Scarlet Street (1945)
    7) The Maltese Falcon (1941)
    8) The Big Sleep (1946)
    9) Slightly Scarlet (1956)
    10) The Dark Corner (1946)

  15. Captain Ned permalink
    June 14, 2009 4:14 AM

    Twenty Worst Fake Accents In Films

    1) Dick Van Dyke (Mary Poppins; nothing surpasses this – nothing)
    2) Kevin Costner (Robin Hood-Prince of Thieves; perhaps this doesn’t count as he wasn’t really trying)
    3) Don Cheadle (Ocean’s 11)
    4) Josh Hartnett (Blow Dry)
    5) Charlie Hunnam (Green Street)
    6) Julia Roberts (Michael Collins)
    7) Sean Connery (The Untouchables)
    8) Rod Steiger (A Fistful of Dynamite)
    9) James Coburn (A Fistful of Dynamite)
    10) Brad Pitt (The Devil’s Own)
    11) Miriam Hopkins (Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde)
    12) Jeanette Nolan (Macbeth)
    13) John Lithgow (Cliffhanger)
    14) Ewan McGregor (Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace)
    15) Paul Newman (The MacKintosh Man)
    16) James Mason (Odd Man Out – bonus point for Spring and Port Wine)
    17) W.C. Fields (David Copperfield; see #2)
    18) Meryl Streep (Out of Africa)
    19) Mel Gibson (Braveheart)
    20) Mary Boland (Pride and Prejudice)

    Nos. 7, 8, 9, 16 and 17 are fine examples of great acting transcending atrocious accents.

  16. mishari permalink*
    June 14, 2009 4:21 AM

    I must say, I didn’t think Connery was trying very hard in The Untouchables. Cheadle (who I actually like very much) was almost as embarassing as Penis Van Lesbian. I haven’t seen Michael Collins. Did Roberts do an Oirish accent? Oh, dear…

    I second your list of noirs and I’ll add another ten:

    11. Double Indemnity (1944)

    12. The Maltese Falcon (1941)

    13. Key Largo (1948)

    14. Sunset Boulevard (1950)

    15. The Lady From Shanghai (1947)

    16. White Heat (1949)

    17. Murder, My Sweet (1944)

    18. Out Of The Past (1947)

    19. Pickup On South Street (1953)

    20. In A Lonely Place (1950)

    …oops, I see I duplicated The Maltese Falcon from your list. So I’ll add:

    Gun Crazy (1949)

    …and who could forget Keanu Reeves attempt at an English accent in Coppola’s Dracula? Gruesomely hilarious…and I think Meryl Streep’s Blixen/Cheese Danish accent in Out of Africa was a reprise of her Polish Kielbasa accent in Sopie’s Choice…

  17. Captain Ned permalink
    June 14, 2009 4:34 AM

    Sunset Boulevard – film noir? Hmm. Jet-black comedy with noirish touches, perhaps.

    For a foreign flavour, how about Ossessione (1942)? Or for a good old Blighty equivalent, Brighton Rock (1947), with Mona Lisa (1986) as a more modern take on the genre.

  18. mishari permalink*
    June 14, 2009 4:39 AM

    I think noir was a broader church than just straight-forward crime. I believe Sunset Boulevard qualifies as does Cat People (1942). Brighton Rock, definitely…Mona Lisa, I’m not so sure about; then again, I don’t remember it very well. I think the much more recent Layer Cake was quite noir-ish…

    Ossessione, definitely and I’d add the original US version, The Postman Always Rings Twice (My mistake. On checking, I find that Visconti made his version firstEd). For Euro-Noir, I’d add:

    Rififi (1955) –directed by an American but French-made

    Le Salaire de la peur (1953)

    Ascenseur pour l’échafaud (1958)
    –The Miles Davis soundtrack alone makes this a classic

    Bob le Flambeur (1955)

    The Third Man (1949)

    Tirez sur le pianiste (1960)

  19. Captain Ned permalink
    June 14, 2009 12:02 PM

    There was an even earlier French version of the Cain novel, called Le dernier tourant (1939). Not seen it, though.

    Yes, I suppose being too theoretically pernickety about genre definitions is a mug’s game. On the other hand, just going by instinct, I would never have thought of Sunset Boulevard as a film noir. Likewise The Third Man, which is my favourite film of all.

  20. mishari permalink*
    June 14, 2009 12:20 PM

    I would say that noir was more of an aesthetic than a genre. Moral ambiguity, no real heroes, murky narrative, erotic undertones…but I think this article on the problem of defintion puts it well:

    “We’d be oversimplifying things in calling film noir oneiric, strange, erotic, ambivalent, and cruel….”

    This is the first of many attempts to define film noir made by the French critics Raymond Borde and Etienne Chaumeton in their 1955 book Panorama du film noir américain 1941–1953 (A Panorama of American Film Noir), the original and seminal extended treatment of the subject.

    They take pains to point out that not every film noir embodies all five attributes in equal measure—this one is more dreamlike, while this other is particularly brutal. The authors’ caveats and repeated efforts at alternative definition have proved telling about noir’s reliability as a label: in the five decades since, no definition has achieved anything close to general acceptance.

    The authors of most substantial considerations of film noir still find it necessary to add on to what are now innumerable attempts at definition. As Borde and Chaumeton suggest, however, the field of noir is very diverse and any generalization about it risks veering into oversimplification.

    Film noirs embrace a variety of genres, from the gangster film to the police procedural to the so-called social problem picture, and evidence a variety of visual approaches, from meat-and-potatoes Hollywood mainstream to outré. While many critics refer to film noir as a genre itself, others argue that it can be no such thing.

    Though noir is often associated with an urban setting, for example, many classic noirs take place mainly in small towns, suburbia, rural areas, or on the open road, so setting can not be its genre determinant, as with the Western.

    Similarly, while the private eye and the femme fatale are character types conventionally identified with noir, the majority of film noirs feature neither, so there is no character basis for genre designation as with the gangster film. Nor does it rely on anything as evident as the monstrous or supernatural elements of the horror film, the speculative leaps of the science fiction film, or the song-and-dance routines of the musical.

    A more analogous case is that of the screwball comedy, widely accepted by film historians as constituting a “genre”—the screwball is defined not by a fundamental attribute, but by a general disposition and a group of elements, some (but rarely and perhaps never all) of which are found in each of the genre’s films.

    However, because of the diversity of noir (much greater than that of the screwball comedy), certain scholars in the field, such as film historian Thomas Schatz, treat it as not a genre but a “style.” Alain Silver, the most widely published American critic specializing in film noir studies, refers to it as a “cycle” and a “phenomenon,” even as he argues that it has—like certain genres—a consistent set of visual and thematic codes.

    Other critics treat film noir as a “mood,” a “movement,” or a “series,” or simply address a chosen set of movies from the “period.” There is no consensus on the matter.

  21. Meltonian permalink
    June 14, 2009 2:38 PM

    As Neil Young winds himself up to unleash the aural onslaught on the IoW at 9pm tonight, I thought I would list my 5 most-hated and 5 most-liked singer/writers of the 70s. I’ll leave you to guess which is which.

    1. Kevin Ayers
    2. David Bowie
    3. John Cale
    4. Van Morrison
    5. JJ Cale

    1. Cat Stevens
    2. John Denver
    3. James Taylor
    4. Carly Simon
    5. Joni Mitchell

  22. mishari permalink*
    June 14, 2009 3:04 PM

    Kevin Ayers…I’d forgotten about him. Good call. I’d add Loudon Wainwright, Leo Kotke, Warren Zevon, Townes Van Zandt, Delbert McClinton, Nick Drake, Roy Harper and Serge Gainsbourg.

    To the hate list, I’d add Neal Diamond but I disagree about Joni Mitchell. She was irritatingly mannered and at her worst, it was like having a tooth drilled but she had her moments.

  23. June 14, 2009 3:12 PM

    You want to see a noiresque, neo-realist gem, starring Michael “Klaatu” Rennie, Sylvano “Sophia Who?” Mangano and Shelley “So Young She’s Almost Purdy” Winters?

    Robert Rossen’s MAMBO!

  24. June 14, 2009 3:13 PM


    Sylvana (how could get that wrong?)

  25. June 14, 2009 3:14 PM


    How could *I* get etc….

    (right. back to painting toenails…)

  26. mishari permalink*
    June 14, 2009 3:19 PM

    My sons insisted I post their list of 10 Unfortunate Product Names (it wasn’t very long ago when all I had to do was say ‘willy’ or ‘bum’ to them to render them helpless with laughter):

    1. Bimbo (bread–Spain, Portugal, Mexico)

    2. JussiPussi (bread rolls–Finland)

    3. Fart (soft drink and chocolate bar–Poland)

    4. Dickmilch (milk drink–Germany)

    5. Bog (tinned pork–Denmark)

    6. Prick (crisps–Brazil)

    7. Bumlingar (licorice–Sweden)

    8. Shitto (tinned pepper sauce–Ghana)

    9. Choco Bum (chocolate bar–Peru)

    10. Colon Plus (laundry detergent–Spain)

    List Of Madonna’s Best Interviews:

    1. Madonna was in Budapest filming some scenes for Evita and the Budapest newspaper Blikk interviewed her. The questions were posed in Hungarian, then translated into English for her; her replies were then translated back into Hungarian.

    USA Today wanted a copy of the interview so the Hungarian version was re-translated from Hungarian back into English for USA Today who only published part of it. This is the whole re-translation:

    * BLIKK: Madonna, Budapest says hello with arms that are spread-eagled. Did you have a visit here that was agreeable? Are you in good odour? You are the biggest fan of our young people who hear your musical productions and like to move their bodies in response.

    * MADONNA: Thank you for saying these compliments {holds up hands}. Please stop with taking sensationalist photographs until I have removed my garmets for all to see. This is a joke I have made.

    * BLIKK: Madonna, let’s cut toward the hunt: are you a bold hussy-woman that feasts on men who are tops?

    * MADONNA: Yes, yes, this is certainly something that brings to the surface my longings. In American it is not considreed to be mentally ill when a woman advances on her prey in a discotheque setting with hardy cocktails present. And there is a more normal attitude toward leather play-toys that also makes my day.

    * BLIKK: Is this how you met Carlos, your love-servant who is reputed? Did you know he was heaven-sent right off the stick? Or were you dating many other people in your bed at the same time?

    * MADONNA: No, he was the only one I was dating in my bed then, so it is a scientific fact that the baby was made in my womb using him. But as regards those questions, enough! I am a woman and not a test-mouse! Carlos is an everyday person who is in the orbit of a star who is being muscled-trained by him, not a sex machine.

    * BLIKK: May we talk about your other “baby,” your movie then? Please do not be denying that the similarities between you and the real Evita are grounded in basis. Power, money, tasty food, Grammys — all these elements are afoot.

    * MADONNA: What is up in the air with you? Evita never was winning a Grammy!

    * BLIKK: Perhaps not. But as to your film, in trying to bring your reputation along a rocky road, can you make people forget the bad explosions of “Who’sThat Girl?” and “Shanghai Surprise?”

    * MADONNA: I am a tip-top starlet. That is my job that I am paid to do.

    * BLIKK: OK, here’s a question from left space. What was your book “Slut” about?

    * MADONNA: It was called “Sex”, my book.

    * BLIKK: Not in Hungary. Here it was called “Slut.” How did it come to publish. Were you lovemaking with a man-about-town printer? Do you prefer making suggestive literature to fast-selling CDs?

    * MADONNA: There are different facets to my career highway. I am preferring only to become respected all over the map as a 100% artist.

    * BLIKK: There is much interest in you from this geographic region, so I must ask this final questions: How many Hungarian men have you dated in bed? Are they No. 1? How are they comparing to Argentine men, who are famous being tip-top as well?

    * MADONNA: Well, to avoid aggravating global tension, I would say it’s a tie (laugh). No, no. I am serious now. See here, I am working like a canine all the way around the clock! I have been too busy to try the goulash that makes your country one for the record books.

    * BLIKK: Thank you for the candid chitchat.

    * MADONNA: No problem, friend who is a girl.

  27. June 14, 2009 3:23 PM

    Oh fck… I have peed m’self

  28. mishari permalink*
    June 14, 2009 3:42 PM

    Interesting man, Rossen. I’ve heard of Mambo but never seen it. I’ll keep an eye out…

  29. June 14, 2009 4:01 PM

    The worst fake accent is surely Richard Attenborough in Jurassic Park. So bad even he abandons it in his first speech and it’s never mentioned again.

    10 best screwball comedies

    1.) Midnight by Mitchell Liesen,
    2.) Bringing up Baby by Howard Hawks
    3.) Ball of Fire by Billy Wilder
    4.) Twentieth Century by Howard Hawks
    5.) Front Page by was it Hawks or was it Wilder or did they both do versions?
    6.) Arise my Love by Mitchell Liesen

    in fact lists aren’t really my thing but let’s just put almost the entire output of Wilder, Preston Sturges, Hawks and Liesen in the 30’s/40’s in a line and pretend it’s a list

  30. mishari permalink*
    June 14, 2009 4:16 PM

    I think Hawks did His Girl Friday, re-made by Wilder as The Front Page. I’d add to your list: My Man Godfrey, It Happened One Night, Sullivan’s Travels and The Awful Truth...

    (The first film of Hecht&Arthur’s stage play, The Front Page, was made in 1931. Then came Hawks’ version, His Girl Friday, then Wilder’s version in 1974–Ed.)

  31. June 14, 2009 4:39 PM

    Ben Hecht also directed a really good screwball comedy whose name escapes me. Why I don’t go to wiki for this info I don’t know. Perhaps I should compile a list of 10 reasons why I don’t.

    The Front Page in all its manifestations is a great story – even the later less frenetic and quick witted versions can’t destro its charm.

    Palm Beach Story is also really good and very subversive for the time.

    No doubt there’ll be murmurs below deck but I think Seinfeld at its best really captured the speed, wit and complex story-lines mixing fantasy and social manners of classic screwball comedy.

  32. mishari permalink*
    June 14, 2009 4:48 PM

    Hecht’s autobiography (can’t remember the title) is a great read. Highly recommended. In The Front Page, he and Charlie McArthur, both ex-newspaper men, knew whereof they wrote. Bit of trivia for you–Charlie McArthur married actress Helen Hayes. Their son (James? Not sure…) played Danno in Hawaii 5-0, as in “Book ‘im, Danno”…

  33. Meltonian permalink
    June 14, 2009 6:55 PM

    That Madonna interview had the room convulsed when I read it out. Your sons will be pleased to hear there’s an Asian supermarket round your way which sells Cock Soup. My daughter’s housemate bought several tins as presents for her friends.

    I’d never thought of Al’s point about Seinfeld. There are definitely similarities in the relations of Elaine and Jerry, though Larry David and JS always focus on Abbot & Costello.

    • Meltonian permalink
      June 14, 2009 11:12 PM

      A pedant writes:

      Not tins, packets.

  34. June 14, 2009 6:56 PM

    Brilliant Madonna interview! Reminds me of those amusing translations of warnings in imported products, I think there was one on a chainsaw which said – do not attempt to stop blades with your testicles… or something like that.

    I love making lists, people buy me notebooks as it’s always a good bet. However my lists are neither clever or interesting, although today’s did include “put tree into black bag”…

  35. June 14, 2009 7:04 PM

    A friend of mine had a Czech phrase book so tourists could make themselves understood to the locals. Choice phrase was ” I need pants” – with no explanation given as to why you would say this to anyone.

  36. mishari permalink*
    June 14, 2009 8:46 PM


    In a Tokyo hotel: It is forbitten to steal hotel towels please. If you are not person to do such thing is please not to read notis.


    In a Japanese hotel room: Please to bathe inside the tub.


    In a Bucharest hotel lobby: The lift is being fixed for the next day. During that time we regret that you will be unbearable.


    In a Leipzig elevator: Do not enter the lift backwards, and only when lit up.


    In a Belgrade hotel: To move the cabin, push button for wishing floor. If the cabin should enter more persons, each one should press number of wishing floor. Driving is then going alphabetically by national order.


    In a Paris hotel elevator: Please leave your values at the front desk.


    In a hotel in Athens: Visitors are expected to complain at the office between the hours of 9 and 11 A.M. daily.


    In a Yugoslavian hotel: The flattening of underwear with pleasure is the job of the chambermaid.


    In a Japanese hotel: You are invited to take advantage of the chambermaid.


    In the lobby of a Moscow hotel across from a Russian Orthodox monastery: You are welcome to visit the cemetery where famous Russian and Soviet composers, artists, and writers are buried daily except Thursday.


    In an Austrian hotel catering to skiers: Not to perambulate the corridors in the hours of repose in the boots of ascension.


    On the menu of a Swiss restaurant: Our wines leave nothing to hope for.


    On the menu of a Polish hotel: Salad a firm’s own make limpid red beet soup with cheesy dumplings in the form of a finger; roasted duck let loose; beef rashers beaten up in the country people’s fashion.


    In a Hong Kong supermarket: For your convenience, we recommend courteous, efficient self-service.


    Outside a Hong Kong tailor shop: Ladies may have a fit upstairs.


    In a Bangkok dry cleaner’s: Drop your trousers here for best results.


    Outside a Paris dress shop: Dresses for street walking.


    In a Rhodes tailor shop: Order your summers suit. Because is a big rush we will execute customers in strict rotation.


    From the Soviet Weekly: There will be a Moscow exhibition of arts by 15,000 Soviet Republic painters and sculptors. These were executed over the past two years.


    In an East African newspaper: A new swimming pool is rapidly taking shape since the contractors have thrown in the bulk of their workers.


    In a Vienna hotel: In case of fire, do your utmost to alarm the hotel porter.


    A sign posted in Germany’s Black Forest: It is strictly forbidden on our black forest camping site that people of different sex, for instance, men and women, live together in one tent unless they are married with each other for that purpose.


    In a Zurich hotel: Because of the impropriety of entertaining guests of the opposite sex in the bedroom, it is suggested that the lobby be used for this purpose.


    In an advertisement by a Hong Kong dentist: Teeth are extracted by the latest Methodists.


    A translated sentence from a Russian chess book: A lot of water has been passed under the bridge since this variation has been played.


    In a Rome laundry: Ladies, leave your clothes here and spend the afternoon having a good time.


    In a Czechoslovakian tourist agency: Take one of our horse-driven city tours, we guarantee no miscarriages.


    Advertisement for donkey rides in Thailand: Would you like to ride your own ass?


    On the faucet in a Finnish washroom: To stop the drip, turn cock to right.


    In the window of a Swedish furrier: Fur coats made for ladies from their own skin.


    On the box of a clockwork toy made in Hong Kong: Guaranteed to work throughout its useful life.


    Detour sign in Kyushi, Japan: Stop! Drive sideways.


    In a Swiss mountain inn: Special today no ice cream.


    In a Bangkok temple: It is forbidden to enter a woman even a foreigner if dressed as a man.


    In a Tokyo bar: Special cocktails for ladies with nuts.

    In a Copenhagen airline ticket office: We take your bags and send them in all directions.


    On the door of a Moscow hotel room: If this is your first visit to the USSR, you are welcome to it.


    In a Norwegian cocktail lounge: Ladies are requested not to have children in the bar.


    At a Budapest zoo: Please do not feed the animals. If you have any suitable food, give it to the guard on duty.


    In the office of a Roman doctor: Specialist in women and other diseases.


    In an Acapulco hotel: The manager has personally passed all the water served here.


    In a Tokyo shop: Our nylons cost more than common, but you’ll find that they are best in the long run.


    From a Japanese information booklet about using a hotel air conditioner: Cools and Heats: If you want just condition of warm in your room, please control yourself.


    From the brochure of a car rental firm in Tokyo: When passenger of foot heave in sight, tootle the horn. Trumpet him melodiously at first, but if he still obstacles your passage then tootle him with vigor.

  37. June 14, 2009 10:11 PM

    10 charming films that get away with it

    1.) M.Hulot’s Holiday
    2.) Etre et Avoir
    3.) I know where I’m going..
    4.) err that’s it

    I can’t think of any more offhand – charm is such a difficult tone to get right. Anyone else?

  38. mishari permalink*
    June 14, 2009 11:01 PM

    I enjoyed Amélie for what it was…a fantasy and a rather charming one. My wife, who is a Parisienne, didn’t like it much. I saw a film not long ago called, I think, The Station Agent about a dwarf who inherits a derelict railway station and another film called Be Kind, Re-Wind that were both quite charming without tipping over into saccharine, always the danger with films that set out to charm.

  39. Meltonian permalink
    June 14, 2009 11:06 PM

    Chateau de Ma Mere/Gloire de Mon Pere
    Passport To Pimlico
    The Best Days Of Your Life
    The Titfield Thunderbolt
    Hobson’s Choice

  40. Meltonian permalink
    June 14, 2009 11:09 PM

    Do French people like Pagnol? It’s hard to imagine a similar film set in England.

  41. mishari permalink*
    June 14, 2009 11:13 PM

    The Straight Story, a David Lynch film about an elderly man who drives his rider-mower hundreds of miles to see his long-estranged brother. A film that was alternately charming/touching.

    Renoir’s Boudou sauvé des eaux (1936), re-made as…can’t remember now, with Nick Nolte and Richard Dreyfuss. It wasn’t too bad, either.

    The Lavender Hill Mob

    Certainly, many of the French I know, including my wife, like Pagnol.

  42. freep permalink
    June 14, 2009 11:21 PM

    They exist because, as St Robert Bellarmine prudently tells us, nobody can remember more than seven of anything. Which is why nobody can remember their own mobile phone number (come back, Euston 2733), why there are only seven deadly sins, and why most people break around three of the ten commandments each day.
    I have shopping lists or aides memoire that sometimes look like this.

    1. Break news of cat’s death to Angela, or put it off again
    2. Mend gutter if necessary
    3. Phone about spinach
    4. Review finances and plant shadows
    5. Wilt
    6. Borrow a thing from the (?) hut
    7. Butterwig; is it a name?
    8. Enter Poland with lances
    9. Vet re enteritis
    10. Cut toenails
    11. sainsburys bag; fill with vegetables
    12. determine course of life and speak to widow
    13. Renew moral certainties
    14. eat yesterdays dinner
    15. endure obloquy

  43. mishari permalink*
    June 14, 2009 11:24 PM

    You certainly lead a busy, if somewhat, erm…unusual life, freep..

    The insider admitted that the Government under Mr Brown needed “more poetry”, but insisted that the PM was determined to fight on. —The Indepedent, today

    Can anyone tell me what on earth this means? “more poetry” suggests that they’ve got some, but not enough. Huh?

  44. freep permalink
    June 15, 2009 12:11 AM

    Of course, a Minister for Poetry is required. I nominate Pongo.

  45. mishari permalink*
    June 15, 2009 12:25 AM

    The bastard’s far too coarse. The dignity of the House must not be subjected to such stuff. Great poem on PP, BW, freep. I nominate you…

  46. June 15, 2009 12:41 AM

    Mishari, I nearly stopped breathing reading those funny customer sign translations. I was hoping one of you would reply with some as I couldn’t be bothered to look.

    Freep if you’re a true master of the list then surely you must follow the golden rule of always adding as the final item “make list” otherwise how can you write the next one?

  47. June 15, 2009 1:19 AM

    A checklist for the nervous hostess:

    Night before guests arrive:
    1. Don’t panic, open some wine and plan what needs doing;
    2. make the place clean and tidy;
    3. buy food in and pre-prepare what you can;
    4. put the wine in to chill;
    5. go to bed nice and early

    The day they arrive:
    1. wake up late with crashing hangover, slowly realising house still in mess and you’ve drank all the wine;
    2. Wait for room to stop spinning before getting up and eating the lovely fresh butcher’s bacon you find in the fridge;
    3. After three cups of tea realise they will be here in a few hours;
    4. gather as much mess as possible and dump it in own bedroom;
    5. Stuff rest in cupboards, taking care to leave essentials out on show (such as loo rolls or tea bags) to avoid unnecessary prying into cupboards and ensuing guest injuries;
    6. make emergency dash to M&S for pre-prepared food, as you didn’t get round to sorting food out last night (and you ate the breakfast supplies already) after you started on the wine;
    7. buy more wine;
    8. get home just before they arrive and bung white wine in freezer and stuff M&S bags into empty space in fridge where veg & salad should live;
    9. welcome guests with glass of wine;
    10. serve up M&S food in own serving dishes after rattling pots and pans in kitchen and swearing (whilst fortifying self with cooking wine);
    11. lap up praise for culinary skills and open more wine;
    12. serve pudding, but forget to transfer from M&S bowls so hope guests don’t notice, deflect attention by pouring more wine;
    13. make intelligent and witty conversation now the hosting is over;
    14. As they’re a bit quiet pour more wine for friends;
    15. offer coffee, but then persuade them that wine is better idea;
    16. pour wine on friend
    17. rush to cupboard for a cloth and duck as hidden mess falls out all over self;
    18. have an episode…

    Ran out of steam there…

  48. June 15, 2009 8:07 AM

    Be Kind Rewind that was indeed a charming film ….. and French. I wonder if the French do it so well because charmant is such an elegant word and deserves a bit of effort.

    Those Ealing comedies are well suggested but although it had some lovely touches I couldn’t get on with Amelie at all – her winsomeness and prevarication in love for no other reason than to prolong the length of the film as far as I could make out drove me to distraction.

  49. freep permalink
    June 15, 2009 9:36 AM

    Saw two recently released films over the weekend: James Gray’s ‘Two Lovers’, with Joaquin Phoenix (and, sadly Gwyneth Paltrow, but she was bearable after all) which passed muster …and a French film ‘Mark of an Angel’ by Safy Nebbou, which suffered from excessive Frenchness: laborious plotting, meaningfulness, and an insistence that we take an interest in a character without doing any work to create such an interest. What stands in for character is harsh close up. Poo! I hated it, and my wife liked it (tho she pretended not to). Scope for a week of arguments about French sensibilities and aesthetics … Agree about Amelie. Winsomeness is not in my spice rack.
    Watch no more french films about bourgeois urban life, especially if angst included (which it always is)
    Make new lists and take old ones out of weskit pockit
    read more Milton
    mend dog kennel
    refuse food for a week …

  50. June 15, 2009 10:14 AM

    Gwyneth is perrfectly okay as an actress but like so many makes appalling choices of films to act in time after time. Either the good ones go quick or she needs a lot of money for her hair-shirt and yoghurt life-style.

    Speaking of which we performed at a green festival in Barking (????) There were dozens of finger-wagging notices on site including one informing us that half a large forest a year is cut down to make paper – ironically enough it was printed on paper. I felt chastened yet confused.

  51. June 15, 2009 10:55 AM

    “I couldn’t get on with Amelie at all …”

    Funny you should mention that, Al. “Amelie” was the “Harold and Maude” of its era for me. I ended up sitting through it with a frozen smile *three whole times*, but the third was the charm (a fourth and I’d be dead), as they say… I’m still ecstatically partnered to the last woman who tugged me by the pinkie to that experience. I think I would still think I thought I liked that film if I’d only seen it the once (but I’d still have preferred City of Lost Children or Delicatessen, though both of those are dicey date films, featuring pedophilia and cannibalism, resp.).

  52. mishari permalink*
    June 15, 2009 11:08 AM

    Oh, the character Amelie, I wanted to slap. I’m not keen on winsome myself. But I found other pleasures in the film–the regulars in the cafe, the obnoxious fruit ‘n veg man, her baffled father, the rosey-tinted view of Paris and Montmartre (no old people, no black people, no Arabs, no cops, no hookers, no junkies, no bag-snatchers)…it was all pure fantasy and had to be treated as such.

    Re: paper, Al. I’m not sure, but isn’t paper made from farmed wood? Fast-growing stuff like Douglas fir. I remember seeing endless miles of tree plantation in various stages of growth in Sweden. They chop it down and replant it. I’m not sure but it might actually be less damaging than, say, the manafacture of electricity.

  53. June 15, 2009 11:08 AM

    I think French cartoonist and collaborator Marc Caro was the reason City of Lost Children and Delicatessen were stronger films.

    3 times!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Love demands much of us all. I’ve been with my partner for nearly 30 years – we share a love of Svankmajer and Lynch films – not exclusively Svankmajer and Lynch of course. But there’s enough cannibalism and implied violence in those two bodies of work to keep you going.

    In fact Eraserhead may well have been a date movie for us. We both come from broken homes so it was hilarious for us

  54. June 15, 2009 11:10 AM

    Mishari I think you are correct re: forestry. But it didn’t stop those eco-warriors trying to tell us off. Hearts in the right places but too fond of trying to make others guilty I feel.

  55. mishari permalink*
    June 15, 2009 11:19 AM

    I saw Caro’s solo effort Dante 01 which was as visually arresting as one would expect but fell a little flat, which suggests to me that Jeunet brings something to the party that Caro lacks.

  56. HenryLloydMoon permalink
    June 15, 2009 11:29 AM

    I understand the Amélie-haters. For years, though, the featured café on Rue Lepic was my local tabac until I moved west and it found fame. They promptly lost the cigarette selling corner so they could fit in more tourists. The real bar with atmosphere on that street was the Lux Bar, owned for forty years by a couple of Auvergnates. They sold in the late eighties and subsequent profit-hungry owners have tampered with its soul as well as its decor. Oh well…

    Here’s one good thing from the film, in my daughter’s favourite short:

  57. June 15, 2009 11:45 AM

    Obviously Jeunet needs Caro and Caro need Jeunet. I thought Jeunet gave Alien Resurrection some interesting detours but was hobbled by the need to have Bruce Willis style wisecracking throughout – that plus the feeling that the franchise had run out of steam after the second one.

  58. June 15, 2009 12:06 PM

    Top eight lists I considered writing over the weekend but then decided not to bother

    1) Terribly-named bands I shared bills with, 1991-93

    2) Otherwise highly-regarded artists you wouldn’t want making your portrait

    3) Online acquaintances I’ve had dreams about

    4) ‘Great’ novels I never finished reading (I know they did this on GU a while back)

    5) Worst artists to be stuck in a lift with (and worst year, i.e. David Bowie, 1976; John Fletcher, 1625)

    6) Best/worst lyrics from the first three Black Sabbath LPs

    7) Things from my childhood that will appear prehistoric to my godchildren when they’re grown up

    8) Men called Kim

  59. June 15, 2009 1:00 PM

    btw, Mishari, if you want the Guardian to take your criticisms seriously, I suggest you pretend to be an eight-year old girl. They made her editor.

  60. June 15, 2009 1:08 PM

    XB I considered:

    1) songs you wouldn’t hear at a wedding, but my list was the grand total of one (“Too Drunk to Fuck” by the Dead Kennedys)

    2) Words you wouldn’t see on a wedding invitation (flange, gusset etc…)

    3) Rude sounding words which aren’t rude at all (mulch, fetch etc…)

    4) Worst ideas (matching the characters drink for drink whilst watching “Withnail and I”, resealable packets for chocolate etc.)

    5) Best inventions (got as far as the mousetrap shaped like a cat – )

  61. June 15, 2009 1:26 PM


    there’s a very French-pop version of the Dead Kennedy’s song by Nouvelle Vague that you could easily play at a wedding without anyone noticing: a challenge.

    I would also include Groom Still Waiting at the Altar by Bob Dylan.

  62. June 15, 2009 1:30 PM

    Top ten appallingly heavy records that, in recent weeks, are the only thing guaranteed to get me to sleep. On headphones. Must be something about the subsonics.

    1) Black Sabbath: Master of Reality
    2) Sleep: Dopesmoker
    3) Harvey Milk: Life…the best game in town
    4) Nadja: Radiance of Shadows
    5) Boris: Pink
    6) Boris: Amplifier Worship
    7) Black Sabbath: Paranoid
    8) To Blacken the Pages: None
    9) Sunn 0))): Black One
    10) Miles Davis: Agartha

  63. mishari permalink*
    June 15, 2009 1:37 PM

    Sabbath’s Paranoid puts you to sleep? Jesus, that’s some kind of perverse insomnia you’ve got there, dood…

  64. June 15, 2009 1:50 PM

    It’s certainly a puzzle. A lot of these bands use tuned-down guitars and huge washes of roaring feedback; I think perhaps the subsonic frequencies drown out those busy night-thoughts.

  65. June 15, 2009 1:59 PM

    We took our pig to a festival in Lienz in the Austrian Dolomites about 5 years ago. It played outside one of those Conditerei cafe’s where posh ladies drink coffee and eat elaborate cakes in swanky surroundings. We were allowed to use the toilets.

    As I made my way to the gents I noticed that they were playing gangsta rap on the sound system. So the image was of genteel elderly couples sat on golden ironwork chairs amongst swathes of red drapes and velvet, eating cake with a fork whilst lyrics about bitches, big dicks and muthafuckin’ police wafted gently in the background. Most odd.

  66. mishari permalink*
    June 15, 2009 2:04 PM

    XB- you should download THIS. I can’t speak to its many other claims but I can confirm its effectiveness at sending one into a meditative state or putting one to sleep. It actually works…(I speak as a life-long insomniac)

    Al, they’re just normal Austrians. They get married, settle down, raise a family, build a dungeon…

  67. freep permalink
    June 15, 2009 2:08 PM

    Know the feeling, Al. I was in the lounge of a (very) old people’s home a little while ago, where eight or nine old ladies were snoozing and dribbling in the afternoon sun. On the TV in the corner, some wag had switched on some daytime soft porn, the sort where mountainous breasts are forever heaving towards showing a suspicion of nipple. Chrysanthemums stood very erect in a pot on the window sill. On the other hand, I have been in a mental hospital ward where a wild eyed patient shoutingly threatened a nurse with a knife, to the strains of Enya.

  68. June 15, 2009 2:17 PM

    Thanks, Mishari…
    I got a McAfee security warning, but the user comments suggest its safe. Will investigate.

    If this works with my brain (or is ‘for’ my brain, in Sabbath-speak), you’ve done me a BIG favour.

  69. June 15, 2009 2:22 PM

    Some of my best friends aren’t Austrian but I know several extremely nice inhabitants of that country. Whilst we were in Lienz they took us up to a restaurant high in the mountains. The feeling you have in land-locked Europe in such a place really is different to your average run of the mill daily feelings in a cosmopolitan city or town.

    No wonder there is so much nationalist sentimentality and abstract yearning in the culture. In the wrong hands ( Adolf? ) it becomes poisonous and the feeling still remains as to whether Nazism has been fully exorcised in Austria.

  70. mishari permalink*
    June 15, 2009 2:30 PM

    Vienna’s one of those cities that alternately fascinates and repels me. I like visiting but couldn’t envisage living there.

    XB- Ignore McAfee. Like many anti-virus apps, it identifies any keygen or crack as a virus. Avax is a safe site. If there were any problem with the app, someone would post the fact.

    Here’s the theory/science behind the program.

  71. June 15, 2009 2:43 PM

    “Oh Vienna….” (that one’s got to send you to sleep surely?)

    I don’t get many laughs in my job, but this abstract of an article from a jurisprudence journal almost sounds interesting:

    “Challenges the arguments put forward by Judith Jarvis Thomson as part of her defence of abortion, which likens a woman’s carrying of a foetus to having one’s circulatory system involuntarily connected to a famous unconscious violinist with an otherwise fatal kidney disease…”

    I suspect the actual full version might actually be quite dull …

  72. Meltonian permalink
    June 15, 2009 4:19 PM

    See CIF, St Polly, Thomson’s violinist is a staple of the thousands of abortion arguments which have taken place there.

    I’ve read that Wayne Rooney finds the sound of a vacuum cleaner essential to falling asleep, ExitB. Worth a try, though Colleen says it sucks.

  73. June 15, 2009 4:41 PM


    Meltonianionandonandonandon. That’s a BAD pun.

  74. June 15, 2009 5:15 PM

    Ok, so I just looked it up and I’m now understanding the violinist theory… it doesn’t really stand up against rational argument.

    Being pregnant is not quite comparable to having been kidnapped and being forcibly plugged into a dying person’s respiratory system: the former being an expected natural consequence of some every day activity and the latter sounding like the plot of some sci-fi horror probably staring Tom Cruise… or actually Christian Bale these days.

  75. obooki permalink
    June 15, 2009 5:43 PM

    This is my contribution to the off-site poster poems thread. It’s from Obooki’s collection of Poems to Offend Someone:

    A famous person is known by their forename,
    At least in the papers that’s how they are billed;
    Though they use the same form to refer just the same
    To someone who’s brutally been raped and killed.

  76. mishari permalink*
    June 15, 2009 11:16 PM

    Not to nit-pick, obooki, but isn’t ‘brutally’ raped and killed a bit redundant? I mean, as opposed to what?

  77. June 16, 2009 7:10 AM

    “…the feeling still remains as to whether Nazism has been fully exorcised in Austria.”

    Last time I was in Vienna (admittedly some time ago; 2005 or so) there was a big election on and a billboard staring at everyone from everywhere was of a square-jawed pol with photoshop-blue eyes with the subtitle (in German), “Because Vienna should not become Istanbul!”

  78. June 16, 2009 7:12 AM

    Btw: Happy Bloomsday, you well-pleased pleasers…

  79. June 16, 2009 8:34 AM

    Who? What? (Bloomsday)

  80. June 16, 2009 9:24 AM

    “Stately, plump Buck Mulligan came from the stairhead, bearing a bowl of lather on which a mirror and a razor lay crossed. A yellow dressinggown, ungirdled, was sustained gently behind him by the mild morning air. He held the bowl aloft and intoned: —Introibo ad altare Dei.
    Halted, he peered down the dark winding stairs and called up coarsely: —Come up, Kinch. Come up, you fearful jesuit. Solemnly he came forward and mounted the round gunrest. He faced about and blessed gravely thrice the tower, the surrounding country and the awaking mountains. Then, catching sight of Stephen Dedalus, he bent towards him and made
    rapid crosses in the air, gurgling in his throat and shaking his head. Stephen Dedalus, displeased and sleepy, leaned his arms on the top of the staircase and looked coldly at the shaking gurgling face that blessed him, equine in its length, and at the light untonsured hair, grained and hued like pale oak.
    Buck Mulligan peeped an instant under the mirror and then covered the bowl smartly. —Back to barracks, he said sternly.”

    And then it gets better, and better, and better, until:

    “I was a Flower of the mountain yes when I put the rose in my hair like the Andalusian girls used or shall I wear a red yes and how he kissed me under the Moorish wall and I thought well as well him as another and then I asked him with my eyes to ask again yes and then he asked me would I yes to say yes my mountain flower and first I put my arms around him yes and drew him down to me so he could feel my breasts all perfume yes and his heart was going like mad and yes I said yes I will Yes. “

  81. June 16, 2009 9:57 AM

    I won’t do the “wise tabby sphinx” bit or the “he foresaw his body softly laved” bit or the “bunghole” bit because everyone quotes those; how about this bit of nasty from the Circe episode?

    “By word and deed he encouraged a nocturnal strumpet to deposit fecal and other matter in an unsanitary outhouse attached to empty premises. In five public conveniences he wrote pencilled messages offering his nuptial partner to all strongmembered males. And by the offensively smelling vitriol works did he not pass night after night by loving courting couples to see if and what and how much he could see? Did he not lie in bed, the gross boar, gloating over a nauseous fragment of wellused toilet paper presented to him by a nasty harlot, stimulated by gingerbread and a postal order?”

  82. June 16, 2009 10:45 AM

    Billy did you quote that from memory? I wouldn’t be at all surprised.

    Was working in Dublin when they “celebrated” it about 10 years ago – a very charming ( yes that word again ) performance put on by enthusiasts stuck in my mind more than the cacky Joyce-as-tourism knick-knackery that the tourist board chugs out. He deserves a better statue than the one on show – something more Vorticist. Didn’t Epstein or Gaudier-Brzeska make one?

  83. June 16, 2009 11:13 AM

    Oh I see if I had more literary knowledge I’d have figured that one out… but knowing you’re ignorant is a good start is it not? As Disraeli said:

    “To be conscious that you are ignorant is a great step to knowledge.”

  84. mishari permalink*
    June 16, 2009 11:25 AM

    The viceregal houseparty which included many wellknown ladies was chaperoned by Their Excellencies to the most favourable positions on the grandstand while the picturesque foreign delegation known as the Friends of the Emerald Isle was accommodated on a tribune directly opposite.

    The delegation, present in full force, consisted of Commendatore Bacibaci Beninobenone (the semiparalysed doyen of the party who had to be assisted to his seat by the aid of a powerful steam crane), Monsieur Pierrepaul Petitepatant, the Grandjoker Vladinmire Pokethankertscheff, the Archjoker Leopold Rudolph von Schwanzenbad-Hodenthaler, Countess Marha Viraga Kisaszony Putrapesthi, Hiram Y. Bomboost, Count Athanatos Karamelopulos, Ali Baba Backsheesh Rahat Lokum Effendi, Senor Hidalgo Caballero Don Pecadillo y Palabras y Paternoster de la Malora de la Malaria, Hokopoko Harakiri, Hi Hung Chang, Olaf Kobberkeddelsen, Mynheer Trik van Trumps, Pan Poleaxe Paddyrisky, Goosepond Prhklstr Kratchinabritchisitch, Borus Hupinkoff, Herr Hurhausdirektorpresident Hans Chuechli-Steuerli, Nationalgymnasiummuseumsanatoriumandsuspensoriumsordinaryprivatdocent- generalhistoryspecialprofessordoctor Kriegfried Ueberallgemein.

    All the delegates without exception expressed themselves in the strongest possible heterogeneous terms concerning the nameless barbarity which they had been called upon to witness. An animated altercation (in which all took part) ensued among the F. O. T. E. I. as to whether the eighth or the ninth of March was the correct date of the birth of Ireland’s patron saint. In the course of the argument cannonballs, scimitars, boomerangs, blunderbusses, stinkpots, meatchoppers, umbrellas, catapults, knuckledusters, sandbags, lumps of pig iron were resorted to and blows were freely exchanged.

    The baby policeman, Constable MacFadden, summoned by special courier from Booterstown, quickly restored order and with lightning promptitude proposed the seventeenth of the month as a solution equally honourable for both contending parties. The readywitted ninefooter’s suggestion at once appealed to all and was unanimously accepted. Constable MacFadden was heartily congratulated by all the F.O.T.E.I., several of whom were bleeding profusely.

    Commendatore Beninobenone having been extricated from underneath the presidential armchair, it was explained by his legal adviser Avvocato Pagamimi that the various articles secreted in his thirtytwo pockets had been abstracted by him during the affray from the pockets of his junior colleagues in the hope of bringing them to their senses. The objects (which included several hundred ladies’ and gentlemen’s gold and silver watches) were promptly restored to their rightful owners and general harmony reigned supreme.

  85. June 16, 2009 11:26 AM

    Pollyanna I could never manage to read Ulysses in its entirety. I don’t know why – “Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man” is fantastic stuff but Ulysses is a block for me.

    Strange as the quotes from Billy and Steven are a lovely mixture of the earthy and the cerebral and are quite hilarious. Perhaps it’s time to try again – but only after The Bark Tree by Queneau ( a big fan of Joyce ) which I’m re-reading for the 5th or 6th time and am still finding so much to delight in.

  86. mishari permalink*
    June 16, 2009 11:38 AM

    Al, I’ve long believed (as one of my idols, S.J. Perelman believed) that Ulysses is the greatest comic novel of the 20th century. It’s odd that it’s rarely discussed, at least not in all the articles one reads. They discuss everything except how damn funny it is. Definitely time to try again…

  87. June 16, 2009 11:48 AM

    That’s the deadening defect of modern po-faced litcrit, innit? The utter feckin lack of a sense of the funny… but *all* the great books are funny. Tragedy is a minor art. It’s easy to sniffle and quake over Verdun but it takes a genius to make us laugh at it.

  88. June 16, 2009 11:49 AM

    I found it very funny. Wasn’t always sure why, but funny nonetheless. It’s the humour that usually holds the thread through some of these mighty novels, Ulysses, DonQ and Proust. As long as I’m smiling I can keep reading (which is why the Captive was such a bust for me).

  89. mishari permalink*
    June 16, 2009 11:58 AM

    As Wilde said, “seriousness is the only refuge of the shallow.”

    As you say Steven, most litcrit just doesn’t get it and as you imply XB, a lack of humour indicates, paradoxical as it may sound, a lack of seriousness. I mean, who can read the following and not laugh?

    The figure seated on a large boulder at the foot of a round tower was that of a broadshouldered deepchested stronglimbed frankeyed redhaired freely freckled shaggybearded wide-mouthed largenosed longheaded deepvoiced barekneed brawnyhanded hairylegged ruddyfaced sinewyarmed hero. From shoulder to shoulder he measured several ells and his rocklike mountainous knees were covered, as was likewise the rest of his body wherever visible, with a strong growth of tawny prickly hair in hue and toughness similar to the mountain gorse (Ulex Europeus). The widewinged nostrils, from which bristles of the same tawny hue projected, were of such capaciousness that within their cavernous obscurity the field-lark might easily have lodged her nest. The eyes in which a tear and a smile strove ever for the mastery were of the dimensions of a goodsized cauliflower. A powerful current of warm breath issued at regular intervals from the profound cavity of his mouth while in rhythmic resonance the loud strong hale reverberations of his formidable heart thundered rumblingly causing the ground, the summit of the lofty tower and the still loftier walls of the cave to vibrate and tremble.

    He wore a long unsleeved garment of recently flayed oxhide reaching to the knees in a loose kilt and this was bound about his middle by a girdle of plaited straw and rushes. Beneath this he wore trews of deerskin, roughly stitched with gut. His nether extremities were encased in high Balbriggan buskins dyed in lichen purple, the feet being shod with brogues of salted cowhide laced with the windpipe of the same beast. From his girdle hung a row of seastones which dangled at every movement of his portentous frame and on these were graven with rude yet striking art the tribal images of many Irish heroes and heroines of antiquity, Cuchulin, Conn of hundred battles, Niall of nine hostages, Brian of Kincora, the Ardri Malachi, Art MacMurragh, Shane O’Neill, Father John Murphy, Owen Roe, Patrick Sarsfield, Red Hugh O’Donnell, Red Jim MacDermott, Soggarth Eoghan O’Growney, Michael Dwyer, Francy Higgins, Henry Joy M’Cracken, Goliath, Horace Wheatley, Thomas Conneff, Peg Woffington, the Village Blacksmith, Captain Moonlight, Captain Boycott, Dante Alighieri, Christopher Columbus, S. Fursa, S. Brendan, Marshal Mac-Mahon, Charlemagne, Theobald Wolfe Tone, the Mother of the Maccabees, the Last of the Mohicans, the Rose of Castille, the Man for Galway, The Man that Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo, The Man in the Gap, The Woman Who Didn’t, Benjamin Franklin, Napoleon Bonaparte, John L. Sullivan, Cleopatra, Savourneen Deelish, Julius Caesar, Paracelsus, sir Thomas Lipton, William Tell, Michelangelo, Hayes, Muhammad, the Bride of Lammermoor, Peter the Hermit, Peter the Packer, Dark Rosaleen, Patrick W. Shakespeare, Brian Confucius, Murtagh Gutenberg, Patricio Velasquez, Captain Nemo, Tristan and Isolde, the first Prince of Wales, Thomas Cook and Son, the Bold Soldier Boy, Arrah na Pogue, Dick Turpin, Ludwig Beethoven, the Colleen Bawn, Waddler Healy, Angus the Culdee, Dolly Mount, Sidney Parade, Ben Howth, Valentine Greatrakes, Adam and Eve, Arthur Wellesley, Boss Croker, Herodotus, Jack the Giantkiller, Gautama Buddha, Lady Godiva, The Lily of Killarney, Balor of the Evil Eye, the Queen of Sheba, Acky Nagle, Joe Nagle, Alessandro Volta, Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa, Don Philip O’Sullivan Beare. A couched spear of acuminated granite rested by him while at his feet reposed a savage animal of the canine tribe whose stertorous gasps announced that he was sunk in uneasy slumber, a supposition confirmed by hoarse growls and spasmodic movements which his master repressed from time to time by tranquillising blows of a mighty cudgel rudely fashioned out of paleolithic stone.

  90. June 16, 2009 12:07 PM

    If you’ve not read Ellmann’s biog of Joyce I’d heartily reccommend it. Normally I aoid biogs like I just avoided spelling avoid properly but this one is a great read. Joyce was such a wag – so much so that it’s impossible to think that the humour wouldn’t spill into the writing.

    His attempts to big up an opera singer who was not getting the acclaim Joyce felt he was due were especially good. Standing up in the auditorium after an aria and claiming the singing had made his sight return ( his eyes were heavily bandaged at the time ) was one of the methods he used.

    Will build up my arm muscles and give it another go soon.

  91. June 16, 2009 12:08 PM

    Christ I wish I could remember precisely the bit in Ellmann’s bio where some editor had done Joyce some dirt and later JJ was walking by the office and said editor poked out a window calling, “Perhaps we *could* use a critique…” and Joyce fired back, “Of what? Your *head*?”

  92. June 16, 2009 12:09 PM

    Synchronicity at work

  93. mishari permalink*
    June 16, 2009 12:15 PM

    I always liked the tangentially related story of Beckett, during his early years in Paris, when he acted as Joyce’s secretary.

    Beckett so idolised Joyce that he even took to wearing very small, very narrow shoes as Joyce did (Joyce had very small feet). Consequently, walking was agony because Beckett had big feet, but he kept it up until his feet were in such a state he could hardly walk at all.

    That’s what I call devotion…or looniness.

  94. June 16, 2009 12:20 PM

    Not to mention schtupping strabismatic Lucia (who thought she was in a menage-a-trois, consequently)

  95. June 16, 2009 12:23 PM

    The biog of Beckett is good too – can’t remember who wrote it, big book, lots of words in it.

    Very revealing about the French Resistance – apparently many of them were caught because they insisted on having meetings in cafes where they could be easily overheard.

  96. June 16, 2009 12:23 PM

    Poor Lucy

  97. June 16, 2009 12:25 PM

    Read Hugh Kenner’s theory that Godot was about Beckett’s experience of the resistance, Al?

  98. mishari permalink*
    June 16, 2009 12:27 PM

    Perhaps you mean Damned To Fame, Al? It’s the only one written with Beckett’s blessing and, if not exactly help (Beckett was leery of biographies) then certainly no hindrance.

    Joyce’s grandson and sole heir, who’s become wealthy on Joyce royalties, sounds like a peach. According to the Irish Sunday Business Post:

    In recent years Stephen (son of Giorgio), Joyce’s only living direct descendant, has proved an ardent defender of the family’s privacy, as well as his royalty entitlements.

    The literary world was outraged 15 years ago when he admitted burning correspondence between Samuel Beckett, Joyce’s one-time personal secretary, and his aunt Lucia.

    Joyce claimed that he had destroyed a telegram, a card and a letter to Lucia from Beckett, at the writer’s request, as well as countless letters written to him and his wife, Solange, by his aunt because they had “no literary merit”.

    More recently, Joyce clashed with the literary world following a series of high-profile legal challenges to numerous attempts to reproduce his grandfather’s work.

    He threatened to sue Irish Distillers over a worldwide internet reading of Ulysses sponsored by Jameson, and demanded such steep royalties for use of his grandfather’s work that Cork University Press had to drop Joyce from its anthology of Irish writing in the 20th century, published last year.

    Joyce is an enthusiastic and occasionally vocal defender of his grandfather’s work, once refusing a 23-year-old Irish composer permission to use 18 words from Finnegans Wake in a choral piece because “to put it politely and mildly, my wife and I don’t like your music”.

    In 2000, a musical version of Molly Bloom’s famous monologue in Ulysses was due to be staged during the Edinburgh Fringe Festival,but this proposal ran into difficulties with Joyce, who said it smacked of an attempt to turn his grandfather’s work into “a circus act or a jazz element in a jam session”.

  99. June 16, 2009 12:45 PM

    I think it was called Samuel Beckett – wikipedia has one by Diedre Blair ( as unpromising a name as I can think of ) which fits the bill. But whether it’s the same I dunno.

    The resistance bits were the most interesting thing in it for me. Beckett’s work resists easy explanation and the book spent too much time trying to explain.

  100. June 16, 2009 12:49 PM

    On the other hand, I did sympathize with the grandson’s effort to thwart the American Hackademic Carol Loeb Shloss’s careerist, fuckwittish attempt to canonize Lucia as yet another phallocratically-suppressed (and unhinged) female genius and to half-credit Lucia’s dancing for much of Finnegans Wake. Zelda Fitzgerald, maybe (the woman could *write*): Lucia: no.

  101. mishari permalink*
    June 16, 2009 12:58 PM

    True, Steven. But to be fair to Shloss, Joyce believed much the same thing (i.e., that Lucy’s madness was simply a version of his genius with a twist). Mind you, Joyce had the excuse of fond fatherhood. Shloss is just another Hiram Q. Pipesucker…

    I see Sam Jordison (author of Crap Towns) is claiming Joyce is over-rated. I left a comment on his blog telling him what I think of that. Pre-moderated, natch. The coward.

    Al, Blair’s bio is deeply suspect, for reasons too lengthy to go into. Read Knowlson’s or Anthony Cronin’s Beckett: The Last Modernist.

  102. June 16, 2009 2:16 PM

    Thanks for the reccommends Mish but one biog will do me.

    re: Sam Jordison. The argument about Ulysses will rage and rage I think. Does its reputation go too far before it? etc. etc. There’s certainly an argument to be had ( I’m not one to argue it mind you ) but I’m not convinced by his rabble rousing or comparison with Hemingway ????????????? I think he had an attack of NickHornbymustputthingsinaleaguetable -itis

    I was surprised to see he doesn’t credit its down to earth humour at all. Something Hemingway lacked completely

  103. mishari permalink*
    June 16, 2009 3:14 PM

    I think Jordison’s doing what I call ‘A Woodard’. Rob Woodard, you may remember, is the nincompoop who asserted on the book blogs in 2007, that Rimbaud was ‘over-rated’. It’s a tired, old ‘look at me–I’m an iconoclast’ routine.

    The beef-witted Woodard, under pressure from me and others to properly explain himself, giving examples of Rimbaud’s work, admitted that he couldn’t read or speak French.

    Now, it’s one thing to have an opinion on French prose that you’ve only read in translation, but poetry? Absurd. Poetry is language. If you can’t understand the language it’s written in (coming, as it does, with a great deal of freight), your opinion is essentially worthless. My opinions of Russian poetry are not worth hearing because I can’t read Russian. Ditto Woodard’s opinion of Rimbaud.

    BTW and apropos of nothing, really…in his introduction to his collected parliamentary sketches, Playing To The Gallery, Simon Hoggart wrote:

    Caroline Flint, famously the most toadying of all female MPs, once invited me to tea in order to find out why I kept saying this (answer: it was true).

    This was written in 2002.

  104. June 16, 2009 3:33 PM

    List of awkward conversations
    Artists you wouldn’t want to be stuck in a lift with

    1) David Bowie, 1976 (‘Britain would benefit from a fascist leader’)

    2) John Fletcher, 1625 (had plague)

    3) Bob Dylan, 1979-81 (Born-again Christian)

    4) Nietzsche, 1889 (‘commanded the German emperor to go to Rome in order to be shot’).

    5) Aphra Behn, 1666 (needed money)

    6) Hans Bellmer, 1942 (‘the painter saw himself as completely eroticised and close to death’)

    7) Arthur Conan Doyle and Houdini, 1920s (‘bitter falling out’. Houdini hated Spiritualists, Doyle believed Houdini ‘possessed supernatural powers’)

    8) Shakespeare, c1589-1616 (lift overcrowded by Marlowe, Bacon, Earl of Oxford, Elizabeth I, Mary Sidney, William Stanley, 6th Earl of Derby, Sir Edward Dyer; Roger Manners, James I, St Edmund Campion and some loser from Stratford)

  105. mishari permalink*
    June 16, 2009 3:50 PM

    Have you ever read any Robert Byron, XB? His best known work is The Road To Oxiana, which I can’t recommend highly enough. I mention him because your ‘Shakespeare in a lift’ imbroglio reminded me of him.

    Travelling in Russia in the 1920s, Byron met a Russian Shakespeare crank and advocate of Bacon. ‘Honestly, how could one expect that a grocer from Stratford could write such plays’, exclaimed the crank.

    ‘They are exactly,’ replied Byron, ‘the sort of plays I would expect a grocer from Stratford to write.’

  106. June 16, 2009 3:51 PM

    I think it’s a critical trick where the critic believes people are pretending they like something so as to appear cool. So the critic’s “job” is to reveal the phonies plus give a home for all those who felt “afraid” to say they don’t like something.

    Trouble is Sam’s argument isn’t very good. Joyce isn’t as terse as Hemingway but as he isn’t trying to be then why make the comparison. Why drag a completely different author into the equation. Joyce’s ability to describe the future isn’t as good as Phillip K Dick’s either – that sort of criticism can go on endlessly and you can load the criticism your way by choosing the right author. Personally I felt Joyce’s grasp of schoolboy life in Barnsley wasn’t as acute as Barry Hines’ Kes.

  107. June 16, 2009 4:04 PM

    ‘There is a great mystery surrounding the authorship of Shakespeare’s plays,’ writes Jonathan Bate in the Genius of Shakespeare, ‘and that is why anyone should think that anyone other than William Shakespeare of Stratford wrote them’ (I’m paraphrasing).

    It’s a joke, of course. The original theory was put forward by a man called Looney, based on outrage that such great work should be ascribed to a grammar school man.

    The Oxford theory hangs on ideas such as ‘how could a non-noble write so knowingly of court’ rather than ‘how could (or why would) an Earl gain in-depth knowledge of, wildflowers, farming, frequently spell in Warwickshire dialect, have ‘little Greek and less Latin’ and write topical plays about plots and Scottish kings two years after he died’?

    I can’t find the Jordison blog (the link is in a post by Jordison on Alison Flood’s article re: Joyce–Ed.) you’re talking about but it sounds as if he’s neglecting one important point; which is that i really, really, cannot bear Hemingway. He should adjust his opinion accordingly.

    I haven’t read Robert Byron, Mishari, but Amazon may shortly amend that.

  108. mishari permalink*
    June 16, 2009 4:09 PM

    “…Joyce’s grasp of schoolboy life in Barnsley wasn’t as acute as Barry Hines’ Kes.”

    That settles it, then. Joyce must be over-rated. Mnd you, I suspected as much when I discovered that Elmore Leonard wrote far more believably of Florida’s criminal demi-monde

    XB, here’s a Byron biography, reviewed by another very fine writer, William Dalrymple, that might interest you.

  109. HenryLloydMoon permalink
    June 16, 2009 5:31 PM

    As an aside, I’ve been posting some mindless musings on the GU Technology blog only to be met with “Thank you for your comment. This has been submitted for moderation”… and the post shows some minutes later. Is this routine or have I been placed on some kind of pre-moderation list?

  110. mishari permalink*
    June 16, 2009 5:38 PM

    Weird. Never mind, HLM…who could fail to be cheered up by a cat that looks like Hitler?

  111. June 16, 2009 7:47 PM

    I’ve been trying to think of a way to lever this into the flow of conversation but I can’t so I’ll just say it made me laugh:

  112. June 16, 2009 7:57 PM

    Hitler cats are so last year!

    What I don’t get about the Earl of Oxford theory is: why would a man disown writing the greatest works of English literature, whilst still simultaneously publishing many mediocre poems under his own name?

    (Just found this trapped in spam world. No idea why. Sorry, O–Ed.)

  113. mishari permalink*
    June 16, 2009 9:21 PM

    Thanks for that, XB. Priceless. This bit had me falling about:

    SELF: Does it turn into Tolstoy at page 205?

    LITTLEJOHN: No it doesn’t turn into Tolstoy. I don’t set out to be Tolstoy. It is a much more complex book than that.

    SELF:Than Tolstoy?

  114. June 16, 2009 9:34 PM

    That’s the quote that reminded me about it. See, I’ve only read half of For Whom the Bell Tolls, which, having criticised Hemingway, got me thinking about half-read books.


    God knows. Ask Looney, or Derek Jacobi.
    There were no theories until after the Romantic age had created the idea of the lone, mysterious genius (to my knowledge). Before that people just thought he was a really, really good playwright. I think there are conspiracy theories about Shakespeare because he’s very famous and important and that kind of influence seems to create a vortex that draws in those who would write themselves into the legend by discovering a secret or hidden truth. The greater the legend, the wilder and more preposterous the associated theory: JFK, Elvis, Shakespeare, Jesus, Jack the Ripper etc.

  115. June 16, 2009 10:36 PM

  116. mishari permalink*
    June 17, 2009 12:57 AM

    XB, I suspect these English bookshops in Berlin are already known to Steven but might not be to you, so I post them on the off-chance that one or two may be new to you…

  117. June 17, 2009 1:21 AM

    David Icke
    Works for Nike
    On a bike
    Or a trike
    With a mike
    Shouting like
    a tiger shrike.

    I don’t know what a tiger shrike sounds like actually. It seems to be some kind of sparrow.

  118. June 17, 2009 6:29 AM


    You caught me napping on that one (sorry XB)! I don’t know “East of Eden”, but I’ve found St. George’s to be fantastic… great mix of the new and the secondhand; very friendly staff; I’ve found some great little oddities there (eg, Soviet-published English-language editions from the 1950s). Just an U-Bahn ride plus a tram ride from Xberg.

  119. June 17, 2009 10:19 AM

    Thanks, Mishari,

    SA, I remember you mentioned St George\’s and intend to look in. I\’ll probably stroll up there one afternoon this week.

  120. June 17, 2009 10:33 AM

    So I\’ve forgotten that I didn\’t forget…?

  121. June 17, 2009 10:48 AM


  122. mishari permalink*
    June 17, 2009 11:00 AM

    It\’s an old Elvis song…I Forgot To Remember To Forget. Now move your pelvis and sneer, Steven…

    (I’ve no idea why it’s doing that oblique slash thing. WordPress bug, I guess–Ed.)

  123. June 17, 2009 12:56 PM


  124. June 17, 2009 12:56 PM


  125. June 17, 2009 12:57 PM

    Must have stopped, I’m guessing.

  126. June 17, 2009 1:30 PM

    Talking of Elvis saw a rather bizarre film called Bubba Ho Tep (I think) with Bruce Campbell in it as an elderly Elvis who swapped places with some random guy who looked like him to escape the limelight. His friend claims to be JFK, but he is black… anyway won’t give any more away.

  127. June 17, 2009 7:43 PM

    When I logged on to this site on my work computer this morning I discovered someone or something has bumped my name and email address off the Leave a Reply boxes. When I tried to re-register it said there was already someone using that name! Yes – me!

    Will try again tomorrow but may have to be ETAYLOR again and risk another incomprehensible atf-attack.

  128. mishari permalink*
    June 17, 2009 8:07 PM

    Sorry about that, Al. WordPress sometimes goes a bit buggy. I think it happens when the sys admins are doing stuff to the site. Once in a while, I get bumped off and have to log in again. Just one of those things…

  129. June 17, 2009 8:31 PM

    I’m strapping on my tin helmet as I type.

    I’d choose Pathetic Little Sidekick as a username but MM’s lawyers are pretty quick to stamp on such things. We’ll see tomorrow.

  130. June 17, 2009 8:39 PM

    My computer refuses to load any wordpress blogs, I have to use the Wii which involves shooting every letter with a pointy finger – most time-consuming.

  131. mishari permalink*
    June 17, 2009 9:03 PM

    Are you serious, Polly? Wow. What can I say? Nuthin’ to do with me, guv…as I said, it must be the wordpress geeks upgrading or re-configuring. I’ll check the main wordpress page in a minute and see if there’s any chatter about this…

  132. June 18, 2009 1:02 AM


    Couldn’t resist getting in on the gratuitous oblique slashes thing, doubtless silly men will soon show up and stamp it avant garde, with Polly as the New No Word Empress.

    And speaking of not wanting anything useful to go to waste, Al, your tin helmet will do you good if you happen to be located hard by the solar coronas and other thermonuclear events that are going on this week over at

  133. June 18, 2009 9:51 AM

    Hee hee, I’d like to be the Empress of something… do I get a fancy hat?

  134. June 18, 2009 10:55 AM

    Oh to be sure Polly, a hard and durable yet curiously ornate one, perhaps a stove pipe with colourful seasonal flowers extruding, to allegorically represent the sanctification of Optimism!

    Eyecatching yet sensible, in short.

  135. June 18, 2009 11:08 AM

    … yet then again, something like this monarch butterfly cluster (on top) might be the perfect adornment for that perdurably illuminated and illuminating head:

  136. mishari permalink*
    June 18, 2009 11:27 AM

    Oh, dear…I see from my weekly perusal of the wordnerd7 snake-pit that you’ve committed the unpardonable sin of mentioning me, Al. Well, you’ve had your wrist properly slapped.

    Setting aside the usual blather, what I find interesting, from a psycho-pathological viewpoint, is the fact that wordnerd7 tells two blatant lies to someone who knows that they’re lies:

    Lie 1.) Isa was banned for ‘winning a debate’. Do you remember any debate, Al? Go back and refresh your memory if you like. You’ll find an unprovoked tirade of ugly personal abuse. No debate. I put up with Isa, a prig and a bore, for a long time because I felt rather sorry for him. That came to an end.

    Lie 2.) Sean Murray is banned for winning a debate. Again, an easily checkable lie. Sean didn’t win any ‘debate’. Nor is he ‘banned’. My last post addressed to him read:

    “Get a fucking grip, son. I like you and you’re welcome here but the permanent state of febrile nastiness and paranoia that is the wordnerd aesthetic is something I won’t permit.” Sean’s always welcome here and I regret that he chooses not to post.

    As for atf, she’s banned from virtually every other blog on the web, (a fact pointed out to me a year ago by our old and missing friend @fmk). Why should I be any different? You saw where trying to have a rational discussion with her got you, Al.

    Poor wordnerd7. Her obsession with me has the rather unsettling overtones of a rejected lover. Jesus…there’s a thought to put me off my lunch.

  137. June 18, 2009 12:20 PM

    I got into a brief period of obsession about what goes on over there and what was being said, but I realise that I’m not really important enough in the scheme of things to be mentioned again, it was just in the firing line one time.

    What should add to the amusement/bemusement factor is that a certain person on there said something about me in a supposed open forum, I added a comment there asking politely for my offending words to be pointed out to me so I could sort the situation out, perfectly reasonably stated (no mention of car parks) and my comment is still “in moderation”. So I have been blocked from *any* kind of debate there… *about myself and my own supposed words* not about anyone else. Total disenfranchisment, no right of reply. Even murders get a right to a defence.

    Pot… kettle…black… if these people can’t see that they are committing the crimes which they are complaining of then they are not worth it. Really.

    I’m just rather amused by the whole thing now, but not as amused as I am about my new butterfly hat.

  138. June 18, 2009 12:26 PM

    Apparently I was a little too upset there to spell things correctly (I meant murderers) and I have a wondering “of” but you’ll get the gist…

    BTP, these butterflies on my hat won’t stay still and I’m afraid there may be carnage if they get into the air-con… please rethink the Empress hat design.

  139. mishari permalink*
    June 18, 2009 12:40 PM

    I think you’ll find, Polly, that the phenomenon is called ‘projection’ by psychologists. WN7 is just self-aware enough to recognize the ugliness within but deals with it by projecting it onto others.

    Try posting a comment on WN7’s blog accusing her of being ‘a vacuous toad’ as Isa called me. See how long your comment lasts. I, on the other hand, let such stuff stand. I prefer to let people decide for themselves. Or ask @pinkroom what happened when he/she dared to dissent from the wn7 Obama love-in. Excommunication.

    It’s all laughably transparent, except to the usual suspects.

  140. June 18, 2009 1:15 PM

    To be fair WN7 said nothing about me, it was someone else (I refuse to type her name on here because I don’t want to be dragged in again).

    Well actually I think you leaving the comments on your blog rather proves you’re not the problem here in terms of open debate. It’s puts you in a positive light and that light is far stronger than any supposed truths that get shown up over there.

    That comment about him being chivalrous made me laugh, yeah it’s really chivalrous standing up for someone who bullies other people and hides behind being a sensitive type who needs protecting from other bullies, but who can bully as much as they like themselves because it’s just “their way” *pat on head*.

    It’s like the bully in my primary school would duff the hell out of someone else, but then nobody was allowed to hit him because he was born with a hole in his heart and might die. Being able to hide behind these excuses makes these people believe their own behaviour is reasonable because they believe it just can’t be helped and because they’ve had a hard start in life and deserve some leeway for their behaviour. No worry about the rest of us and our feelings though. I could have had the hardest start in life ever in the history of life itself, but she didn’t know that. Pah!

    Anyway, I was supposed to be over this… la la la… I’ll have some cake…

  141. mishari permalink*
    June 18, 2009 1:46 PM

    Sadly, Polly, I think the real problem is that you failed two very important wn7 tests: the loyalty test (you must be loyal to wn7 or Politely Homicidal–you can’t be both) and the ‘correct thought’ test (to disagree with wn7 or one of her favourites constitutes ‘incorrect thought’ and is punished).

    Being semi-civilised, it would never occur to me to demand that kind of ideological ‘purity’. Another mark against me, I suppose. Oh, well…

  142. June 18, 2009 2:23 PM

    I noticed that fmk posted on the Bloomsday blog on the GU; and a pleasure it was to see him there.

  143. June 18, 2009 3:33 PM

    I get that on mine, people either say something nice or nothing at all. I don’t demand it, I wouldn’t mind people coming over and having a go at me. I wouldn’t have minded her coming over and having a go at me, at least I’d have been able to reply.

    Your blog here is totally free, we don’t have to be nice or agree with each other. Most of the time I don’t know what you’re all talking about anyway, so how can I agree or disagree? In those circumstances I either keep quiet or change the subject, which always seems to work nicely.

  144. June 18, 2009 4:06 PM

    Moving on!!! A quick plug if that’s okay and you’re around and about. We’re performing our new show “Brain Wave” at Victoria Park in Hackney this weekend 20th + 21st. A 30 minute long show at 2.45 and 5.30. There’s a lot of stuff on so you’ll need to consult the programme as to where we are.

    The show is in its infancy but we’re fairly pleased with it so far. If you ( the London inhabitants here ) want to come and watch you are all welcome – it’s free.

    If it doesn’t meet your approval you can always pretend you didn’t see it and wryly raise your eyebrows next time I make a pronouncement about something. Or write a list about its faults.

  145. June 18, 2009 4:56 PM

    Good luck with it Al. I shall be nowhere near the big smoke so no can do, but hope it goes well.

    I’ve just got a free ticket to a Carol Ann Duffy gig (do you call poetry things gigs?) which I’m quite excited about. It was going to be Ruth Padel, but she fell out of favour for some reason.

    Hm. The PL herself. Does that mean I’m just dazzled by fame?… I feel a poem coming on…

  146. June 18, 2009 5:10 PM

    Waterfoot is the nearest we are to your neck of the woods Polly – in mid July.

    For some reason I was rather surprised when I heard Carol Ann Duffy speak on the radio. I had it in my mind that she was a bit of a yob ( don’t ask! ) and when she started up it wasn’t what I expected at all.

    Man Shocked by Poet’s Real Voice headlines ensued.

  147. mishari permalink*
    June 18, 2009 5:31 PM

    What impeccable timing, Al. I would have loved to dragged the family along to see your lot but we’re away this weekend. But keep us posted about any London, Paris or Barcelona gigs…

  148. June 18, 2009 5:38 PM

    Yes, I was thinking fmk had re-emerged because it was cycling season again. I’ve seen him about a few times recently on the booksblog.

  149. June 18, 2009 5:38 PM

    Waterfoot? Sounds picturesque…

    Was it an interesting voice?

  150. June 18, 2009 5:44 PM

    Waterfoot is just the other side of Bacup. It’s probably also a wild flower of the riverbank and something you catch at Glastonbury Festival.

    I’d say it was fairly normal voice-wise just not the yob I’d set my ears to expect.

  151. June 18, 2009 6:01 PM

    re Sean Murray. It is indeed a pity he doesn’t post here any more.

    But as regards winning the argument – I never understood what his argument actually was ( what is formalist literature other than the low pitched tones of Bob Cobbing’s sound poems or the twitterings of Kurt Schwitters in performance ? That stuff happened decades before the rise of hyper-capitalism that formalism is apparently in thrall to ) and he went before it could be teased out more.

  152. June 18, 2009 6:03 PM

    Ah yes I know where Bacup is. That’s very close. Let me know when you are there, or will I see the pig flying overhead? People will think it’s a U.F.O. you know… they think everything else in the sky is around there.

    I was at the Glastonbury where trenchfoot was all the rage, and the second stage sank, which I didn’t mind so much as it had the Super Furry Animals on it at the time. Unfortunately the stage where smug Sting was singing in his vest stayed afloat.

  153. HenryLloydMoon permalink
    June 18, 2009 6:32 PM

    the smug in singlet
    o death where is thy

  154. mishari permalink*
    June 18, 2009 6:36 PM

    …let’s drop the big one. That’ll sting…

  155. June 18, 2009 7:39 PM

    No pigs in Bacup Polly – it’s spending July in Holland. Look out instead for a large head inside a garden shed. Click on my user name here for the web-site and then on Productions and a bit will be revealed.

  156. June 18, 2009 8:28 PM

    Where in Holland, Al. I’ll be there from the 20th July.

  157. mishari permalink*
    June 18, 2009 8:32 PM

    The pig’s gone Dutch? Is this wise, Al? Not to play to stereotypes or anything, but you do realise the pig’s going to come back with a passion for hash, tulips and bland cheese?

  158. Captain Ned permalink
    June 18, 2009 9:24 PM

    I’ll try and make one of the Sunday performances, Al.

  159. June 18, 2009 9:25 PM

    XB It’s on the site – we’re in a lot of places though I won’t be with it for most of its time there
    Mish the Pig has done Holland a lot so is tired of the Dutch laid back boho scene – particularly the sandwiches. God the sandwiches and the Knorr stock-cube based food. Perhaps the only “cuisine” that can’t legitimately criticise UK cooking.

  160. mishari permalink*
    June 18, 2009 10:07 PM

    In the spirit of openess, I feel it’s only fair to reveal that***************************************************
    and furthermore, as an MP, I
    and, perfectly within the rules, I
    I hope that clears things up.

  161. June 18, 2009 10:11 PM

    ‘Perhaps the only “cuisine” that can’t legitimately criticise UK cooking’

    Probably true. The Dutch sandwich, or ‘boterham’ is dreary fuel. It gets better in the south, where things are more Bourgondies (if that’s how you spell it). But take joy in the enormous Chinese takeaways (they call it a meal for two. They mean days), the seasonal oliebollen and the Febo window-snacks of fried, breacrumb-coated meat.

  162. mishari permalink*
    June 18, 2009 10:19 PM

    Good Indonesian restaurants, too…rijstafel (sp?)

  163. June 18, 2009 10:47 PM

    My girlfriend’s mother had a birthday party in March. There was an Indonesian buffet for 100 people. We stayed on after the party and, even after food had been bagged, frozen and given away to friends, we were still eating Indonesian, every meal bar breakfast, five days later. And I wasn’t bored. But then my capacity for satay sauce and gado-gado is near-indecent.

    And she tells me it’s rijsttafel.

  164. June 18, 2009 10:58 PM

    Have worked in Holland consistently since the beginning of the 80’s and if it weren’t for the Indonesians and Greeks in particular it would have been intolerable. You HAVE to take joy in the Febo window-snacks otherwise….. The fruited breads with marzipan running through the middle are good but the lunch is often a weary going through the motions experience.

    Actually Slovenia is probably worse – lovely country but the breadcrumb coated meat there falls into your stomach like lumps of lead. We were there for 2 weeks and found solace in Chinese food.

  165. mishari permalink*
    June 18, 2009 11:11 PM

    I could eat the phone book if it was coated in a good, spicy peanut sauce. The trouble with bread-crumb coated meat is almost always the problem of ingredients–inferior crumbs, poor quality meat and cheap oil.

    The oil is usually old and nasty and filled wih muck. If you heat it to the proper temperature, it smokes like buggery so they don’t. So the breadcrumbs, instead of being seared and sealed, absorb the cheap and nasty oil and you end up with revolting muck.

    Bread-crumb coated and fried meats or chicken or fish aren’t inherently bad…honest.

  166. pinkroom permalink
    June 19, 2009 12:10 AM

    It’s true Polly.

    Just keep away… all that mwwa mwwa stuff covers up some quite disturbed/disturbing nastiness as I discovered pretty quickly. Your posts seem to speak from precisely the open/cheerful soul most likely to enrage that type.

    On a happier note I loved the Randy Newman vid. Such a talent, seemingly lost to film music these days but in his day he was the sharpest. Marie. Germany Between the Wars… sophisticated musicalitywith genuinely complex/multi-layered/poetic lyrics… more please.

  167. mishari permalink*
    June 19, 2009 12:34 AM

    Newman’s wonderful, isn’t he? I’ve loved him since I first discovered him in the late 70s…Little Criminals, I think. As you say, deceptively simple but actually very sophisticated.

  168. pinkroom permalink
    June 19, 2009 7:02 AM

    Good Old Boys is the on for me… recently re-assembled as the “concept album” (but in a good way) it always seemed to be. For me his absolute genius is in doing what so many poets seem incapable of… he imagines himself, with complete sincerity, in to the thoughts/feelings of those we are expected to pity or hate… including their sentimentality which so often traps these monsters in their own particular hell.

    That was a revalation to me… try to understand how the cracker thinks/feels/loves. Through doing that the world suddenly becomes a more complex, but ultimately simpler place. Randy Newman can save the world!

  169. June 19, 2009 8:21 AM

    Randy Newman is brilliand.

    If we’re doing plugs, I got a proof copy of this in the post the other day:

    On sale soon; order now to avoid disappointment!

  170. June 19, 2009 8:22 AM

    Or brilliant even.

  171. June 19, 2009 8:35 AM

    From one shameless plugger to another less shameless one – will order my copy soon. Is it a self-published book? Just wanting to work out the best way of making sure the money goes back to offsetting your costs.

    I know that’s not the reason etc. etc. but expenses are expenses.

  172. June 19, 2009 8:51 AM

    No, not self-published for once. The best thing is to order direct from Shearsman, who are a really good press and need the money that Amazon would otherwise snaffle. However, buying from Amazon would be fine, too. Second best, in my view, is to go to your local independent bookshop and order a copy.

    And if anyone is in Limerick at the end of July, I’ll be reading at the White House pub on the 29th, a launch of sorts. No? I quite understand.

  173. freep permalink
    June 19, 2009 9:19 AM

    I see Mr Ahmedinejad has apologised to electors who voted against him for calling them scum. ‘We love everyone’, he said. That seems a good platform for future policies. Mwwa mwwwa indeed.

  174. June 19, 2009 9:49 AM


    Fresh herring with onions and bread eaten on a canal bank on a sunny day is also a peculiarly raw, Dutch treat.

  175. mishari permalink*
    June 19, 2009 10:13 AM

    You’d like boquerones (anchovies, spanish-style), XB. I usually make them myself when I can get fresh anchovies. Clean and split them, marinate overnight in dry white vermouth and lemon juice. They turn a lovely, creamy white. Eat with pa amb tomaquet, a Catalan obsession–basically, bread with tomato.

    There are two schools of thought–oil first or tomato first. I’m of the tomato first school. Take very ripe tomatoes; halve and put to one side; slice good crusty bread; rub slices of bread vigorously with tomato; drizzle with good olive oil; season to taste; top with anchovies.

    Sit by the sea and consume. Bliss.

  176. June 19, 2009 10:19 AM

    XB quite an apt meal too. The Brits like camping ( I don’t myself ) but we are amateurs in the enthusiasm for doing so compared to the Dutch.

    The French don’t count as they seem to bring their entire house with them when they camp. My definition of camping doesn’t include TV’s, table tennis tables, ovens and hoovers.

  177. mishari permalink*
    June 19, 2009 10:32 AM

    There are only two campers I admire–my personal hero, Col. Les Hiddens of the Australian Army AKA The Bush Tucker Man and Ray Mears. All they take’s a good knife,an axe and a bottle of brandy.

    I once watched Les Hiddens weave a yabby-trap (yabby–crayfish) to catch his supper. He then proceeded to make a canoe out of tree-bark and have a bit of a paddle before dinner. Magnificent.

  178. June 19, 2009 10:57 AM

    Les Hiddens sounds like a group of French political dissidents.

  179. June 19, 2009 11:02 AM

    We’ve camped the last few years; the looks of bewilderment on the faces of the Dutch, French and German mobile-home owners when their land-leviathans rumble alongside our pitch are very amusing. Why on earth would we want to come on holiday without the (regularly exercised) option of spending every night sitting in a tinier version of our own home watching telly?

  180. June 19, 2009 11:05 AM

    XB On one of my last camping trips ( at least 15 years ago ) I actually was woken up by the sounds of hoovering in a French camp-site.

  181. June 19, 2009 11:16 AM

    Pinkroom – thanks for the support/advice and for calling me a cheerful soul. I do try to be.

    I actually wasn’t hanging around there anyway. So no loss. I found a link to the comment about me when I was googling “Pollyanna” to make sure that I wasn’t using anyone else’s blogname. I think that’s why it floored me so much, I was just trotting down my google search results and the insult jumped out and hit me like a virtual punch in the face.

    I don’t know much about Randy Newman, I’ll look him up. Sounds like the sort of philosophy I could follow, I try to stick to the theory that you can’t judge someone until you’ve walked in their shoes (which is possibly more a Depeche Mode sort of thing… “try walking in my shoes, you’d stumble in my footsteps” etc etc)

  182. mishari permalink*
    June 19, 2009 11:19 AM

    As far as I’m concerned, if you can hear hoovering, the sound of ping-pong, TVs or radios, then you ain’t camping. I do a lot of camping in Spain, mainly because the best trout fishing takes some getting to.

    All I hear (or want to hear) is the wind in the trees, birdsong, running water or my children’s laughter as dad runs a fish-hook through his finger.

  183. June 19, 2009 11:51 AM

    “We’ve camped the last few years; the looks of bewilderment on the faces of the Dutch, French and German mobile-home owners when their land-leviathans rumble alongside our pitch are very amusing.”

    I don’t know why but this reminds of the time I was cutting across a big green field in the Tiergarten and came upon a circle of a German Yoga class taking a… cig break.

  184. June 19, 2009 12:00 PM

    We used to camp every summer, the joy of parents who were teachers was the long holidays they had, but the lack of money rather reduced us to camping/caravanning. We used to fit five of us and a cat into a ten foot caravan. That’s like tetris. Then we upgraded to an 8 foot caravan one year when there was only three of us left, pure luxury!

    People wonder why my family never like arguing. Never a cross word is ever spoken, but when you live in such close quarters for weeks it’s essential to learn to ignore each other.

  185. June 19, 2009 12:17 PM


    The folks round this way do seem to love their beer and fags. I haven’t smoked a cigarette for nearly ten years but here, with the late, bohemian bars, the constant smoke…It’s not easy.


    When I was young we once stayed in a caravan with a family my mum was friends with. I’m an only child, accustomed to my own company. The constant proximity to others turned me very odd. My mother had to send me off on my own for an hour or two every day, wandering Lake Windermere (around it, not on it, obvioulsy, I’m not *that* only child).

  186. June 19, 2009 12:25 PM

    “I’m not *that* only child” – got a giggle out of me, which is welcome as I’m just having to read an article about MPs expenses. I was trying to avoid that subject.

  187. mishari permalink*
    June 19, 2009 12:56 PM

    BTW, XB…I don’t know how efficient the post is between London and Berlin, but I posted Blood Meridian and music last Thursday (I burned everything to a DVD as data files–honestly, burning 30 odd audio CDs was too time consuming and anyway, I’m pretty sure you’d want all the liner notes to the blues LPs; every song is extensively foonoted and they’re all included as .jpgs). So keep an eye on your post box…

  188. June 19, 2009 1:14 PM

    Crikey, Mish. Looks like i won’t be detached from my headphones for the next few weeks. Thanks again. The post comes to us via the neighbours, so I’ll ask them if nothing turns up in the next day or two. I ordered the Byron book you recommended; it’s being hand-delivered by my mother next week.

  189. June 19, 2009 1:25 PM

    XB I’ll be round next week with the herring and onion rolls.

  190. mishari permalink*
    June 19, 2009 1:37 PM

    I’m delighted you’re going to read The Road To Oxiana. It really is a special book. I know you’re interested in art and I must assume that you’re interested in architecure as well. Byron writes beautifully about art and architecture, but he’s also very funny about the countries he travels through. I’ll be very interested to hear what you think of it (and Blood Meridian).

    I’d also recommend Peter Fleming’s News From Tartary (Fleming was the more famous Ian’s older brother). Hugely entertaining record of a journey across Central Asia in the 30s. Also, his Brazilian Adventure, in which he goes in search of the vanished explorer Col. Fawcett.

  191. June 19, 2009 3:46 PM

    Any vanished explorers could well be in my garden. I’ll have a look…

  192. June 19, 2009 4:06 PM

    Package arrived, Mishari. There was a subtle door-knocking signal I was unaware of (we’re in a kind of annex to a larger appartment). Especially excited by the Skip James. I only have Devil Got My Womand (not the 1930 version) and Cherry Ball. Always wanted to hear more. There goes the weekend. thanks so much!

  193. mishari permalink*
    June 19, 2009 4:59 PM

    No thanks neccesary…just make sure the contract (signed in blood) assigning your first-born to me is in the post ASAP. Glad it arrived. The posts are so damn iffy these days…

    If you find Col. Fawcett, Polly, your fortune’s made….

  194. June 19, 2009 5:11 PM

    I’ve often suspected that the neighbourhood cats don’t just go up there to soil my garden, and that really they know something that I don’t.

  195. mishari permalink*
    June 19, 2009 5:18 PM

    All cats know things that we don’t. The ancient Egyptians, who were nobody’s fools, worshipped them in the form of Bastet, the cat godess.

  196. June 19, 2009 5:34 PM

    “… Bast’s original role did not include the “cat as sex symbol” archetype…”

    Are cats sex symbols? A little “specialist!” isn’t it?

  197. mishari permalink*
    June 19, 2009 5:38 PM

    Feline is sexy…I think. Anyway,got a train to catch… I’m off until Mon or Tue. Have a good week-end and talk to you all later…

  198. pinkroom permalink
    June 19, 2009 10:56 PM

    I’ll be Mayo way around July 29th Billy. Any chance of your touring the wild west?

  199. June 20, 2009 6:01 PM

    Misha any chance of you letting me know your email address? no worries if not. I’m at – just wouldn’t mind the chance to communicate out of the public domain. Hope you had a good weekend…

  200. freep permalink
    June 21, 2009 11:04 PM

    These are particularly for alarming. The bus shelter, which happens to be Britain’s most northerly bus shelter, has been refurnished since I last visited, and is more necessary to visit than the Uffizi or the Prado.

    The Cement Menagerie (which featured in a 1985 cycling film), is quite the most remarkable collection of unshapely, but beguiling creatures, and is just up the road from where I live.

  201. June 22, 2009 8:01 AM

    pinkroom, you’ll like Mayo; sadly, I won’t be there this summer.

  202. June 22, 2009 10:34 AM

    Alarming, you might like this:

  203. June 22, 2009 11:00 AM

    Billy and freep two ends of the art spectrum and thanks for both links. A bus shelter with its own web-site – what times we live in. Will definitely look up the cement menagerie.

    Billy we’ve commented about this before but my solo Cobbing experience was more memorable for the drunkeness than anything else. But I saw him with the Bow Gamelan Ensemble ( a trio of artists who used to make music/noise from machines and industrial tools – a percussion shaker comprised of putting crockery into a spin-dryer etc. etc. ) which had an oblique nautical feel to it and he was bloody marvellous – deep sonorous sounds which turned the blood cold.

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