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I Forgot To Remember To Forget

May 13, 2010


I remember it well: hurrying through grey and rain-wet central London, ignoring the air-raid sirens that invariably presaged another, more lethal kind of rain; finding my way through the blacked-out streets to the National Gallery, where Dame Myra Hess was playing Bach…oh, hang on. That wasn’t me at all; that was some character in a book I read.

I also remember lying on a bone-white sand beach, the palms whispering above me as my Thai mistress sat by a driftwood fire and cooked the fish I’d speared and I re-lit my opium pipe while…wait: was that really me or a character in a book I read? No, I’m pretty sure that was me but it does highlight a problem I’ve noticed as I get older: Dishonestly Acquired Memory Syndrome (did I just make that term up? I can’t remember).

I keep finding myself having to disentangle my genuine memories from memories acquired in books. It’s always books: films don’t seem to have that ability to persuade me that I’ve actually lived through something myself. I expect it’s because a film does all the work for you–you’re a mere passive receptacle of someone else’s imagination. A book, however, forces you to work, to imagine, to construct, to build and populate. Reading is a creative process and a powerfully influential one.

Will this phenomenon become more pronounced with age? Will I, as I collapse gently into my dotage, become convinced that I charged with the Light Brigade? Explored Africa with Burton and Speke? Robbed banks in Florida? Panned for gold above the Sacramento River? Reversed a Jensen Interceptor into the wooden guard-box outside the French Embassy, reducing it to match-wood and the guard to rifle-waving hysterics? Actually, I really did do that last one.

Let’s have poems on the uncertainty of memory.

  1. MeltonMowbray permalink
    May 13, 2010 3:27 PM

    Venetian memories

    I remember it well. We were in bed
    at the Gritti Palace when Claudia
    (Schiffer, not Cardinale) passed the phone and said,
    for fuck’s sake! It’s that bloody Diana!

    Can’t you get rid of her? Well, I can try,
    I said. Hi, baby, so how’s it going?
    Oh, don’t say that… look, it’s over… please don’t cry…
    sorry, must go! I hung up on her whining

    and turned to my gorgeous German friend.
    Through word and gesture she made clear her thirst
    for sexual action. Well… all right, I said,
    but would you mind cutting my toenails first?

    As she was crouching there clipping away
    I found myself thinking once again
    that this might be a good moment to say
    something about my involvement with Jen.

    It wasn’t my fault she went a bit mad:
    I always felt she might go off the rails,
    (lucky I didn’t mention my thing with Brad)
    more to the point, she never finished my nails.

  2. HenryLloydMoon permalink
    May 13, 2010 9:03 PM

    Alice B. Moon

    If it’s time for confession
    I s’pose I should say
    That my imagination
    Has led me astray

    I’m not a male poet
    With combat fatigue
    I hope Blackpool blow it
    In the Premier League

    This Henry you’ve taken
    To frankly is filth:
    I’m a dyin’-to-make-bacon
    Fourteen-year-old VILF

    I take acting lessons
    Why only last season
    We did “Kiss Me, Hardy”

    I tell the odd whopper
    To throw folk a curve
    I don’t have a chopper
    Just a button of lurve

    I FaceBook with fifty-
    Something-year old men
    They turn up, all shifty
    And fear Bill & Ben

    I’m a want-to-die lemming
    On Wight, in Whitechapel
    Who’s far from condemning
    A grope and a grapple

    You might well feel dismayed
    My real name is Alice
    I’m an under-age, un-laid
    Trap set by the police

  3. obooki permalink
    May 13, 2010 10:21 PM

    PFI, eh? – I have some involvement with this at work at the moment. It may – or, more probably, may not – interest you to know that from this year (due to inescapable accounting changes) all PFI schemes are going to be put onto the balance sheet. That is to say, if you’ve contracted to pay off some capital scheme over 25 years, then the whole amount you are due to pay in those 25 years is suddenly going to be added to your debt.

    So I don’t think we’ll be bringing down the national debt much this year, whatever our new government’s exciting plans.

  4. pinkroom permalink
    May 13, 2010 10:24 PM

    I am sure we must have met

    All your stories,
    so close to mine,
    The places and songs,
    all strangely align
    with a life
    I had left behind,
    Behind with my kohl,
    and leopardskin coat,
    a Gibson guitar, part of my soul.
    To be clean. I had burned every boat.


    In this smart, six star hotel,
    drinking beside a febrile Steinway
    so finely attuned,
    a black mirror
    to our conversation that finally works back,
    to a single point
    when we had not been entirely

    We had both liked Amos
    and Wanda of course,
    and yes, we had actually
    sang together:
    a last century night,
    round some shithole’s upright
    you sat down
    and had played some blues.

    And then it returns
    in less rosy hues,
    It was I who joined you
    and you told them to,

    shut me
    the fuck right up.

    Proper musicians only.

    What a snide
    little fucker
    you were.

  5. May 13, 2010 10:40 PM

    It was a wrench to leave number ten
    Say farewell to loyal women and men.
    Pack the ornaments, paintings and clocks
    Look under the sofa for any spare socks.
    Was the tele ours, did we have it rental?
    Try not to appear too sentimental,
    Must look statesman-like, hide secret smiles
    Remembered the cat crapped in government files.
    I thank the doorman, I shake his hand
    I take my leave of la-la-land.

  6. mishari permalink*
    May 14, 2010 8:26 AM

    I just heard General Sir Richard Dannat (sp?) on Today expounding the classic ‘Domino Theory’ vis a vis Afghanistan and the Taliban.

    Astonishing. The last time I heard that old chestnut was during the Vietnam War.

    Remember? ‘If we don’t fight them in Vietnam, we’ll be fighting them on the beaches of California.’

    It was utter bollocks then and it’s utter bollocks now.

    Watching Question Time in another browser window (I missed it last night). Is it my imagination or does Mad Mel Phillips appear to be taking her meds? That’s progress. Mehdi Hassan is unbelievably poor. No wonder he writes for the Grauniad…he’s hysterically accusing the LibDems of ‘betrayal’ and that they should have let the Tories get on with a minority government…so he’s basically saying that he wants another election within six months which would almost certainly deliver a clear-cut Tory majority. What an imbecile…

    My mistake–Mad Mel was justing biding her time before she released the madness. She reckons fixed terms are ‘unbelievably undemocratic’. Really? Perhaps she should tell the Americans?

  7. May 14, 2010 9:52 AM

    As I write the Taliban are assembling in Bury market. Sir Richard may be too late.

    Trying to change Afghanistan seems a big waste of time seeing as how they’ve resisted every other attempt since time began.

    Wouldn’t the money be better spent on competent security here?

  8. mishari permalink*
    May 14, 2010 10:03 AM

    Dannat and those like him are promoting the old trope (and it is very old–it was very old when John Buchan wrote ‘Greenmantle’ 100 years ago) of a potential new Caliphate from the Atlantic to the Pacific blahblahblah…the whole notion is preposterous.

    The Afghans (and the Taliban) are fighting for the same reason that any native people fight: they don’t like foreign invaders. You’d think a senior military officer would understand this very basic concept.

    Jesus Christ…do you think that fat fool Charlie Falconer really believes any of the risible guff he spouts? Can he really be that deluded? Milliband is ‘…not a Blairite…a man of stature…not boring at all…’? Incredible.

  9. May 14, 2010 10:43 AM

    More naive is the fact that IF they do defeat the Taliban do they imagine that that’s it? Surely a democracy such as the West wants to impose offers the opportunity for a variety of voices to be heard. Just as we have to put up with wankers like Nick Griffin.

    Surely they are not going to operate a genocide and wipe out every Taliban there is plus their families etc. etc. ? And even if they did won’t that, at some level breed dissent and worse?

    Obviously the Taliban and Al Qaeda are a menace but there must be a less divisive way of containing them.

  10. mishari permalink*
    May 14, 2010 10:53 AM

    ….and now, a party political broadcast from the Taliban Party:

    “Good evening. My name is Sir Bufton Tufton and I used to be a member of the Tory Party. But like many people, I feel betrayed by the party’s move away from conservative values. Here in the Taliban Party, we advocate a return to basic conservative values: we will hang murderers, thieves will have a hand removed, woman will return to their proper place in the home and sexual degenerates and deviates will be imprisoned. Vote Taliban for family values. Thank you…”

  11. May 14, 2010 11:13 AM

    If the Taliban had a Home Counties candidate from what you’ve written it looks like they’d clean up.

  12. MeltonMowbray permalink
    May 14, 2010 12:25 PM

    It’s a nice irony. Take away the Islamism and you’ve got the Monday Club.

    Sounds like Sir Richard Dannat has spent too much time in the poppy fields. You do get the impression, though, that some of those Afghans would be fighting each other if ISAF wasn’t around. It’s a way of life. Why the UK got involved in this insane adventure I’ll never understand.

  13. May 14, 2010 12:58 PM


    You and I keep giving away our respective ages. The older one gets, it seems, the more memory outweighs the present in the scales of interest. (I’ve been thinking for the past six months about that post you did with the photo of yourself with child siblings.)

    And then there’s that next stage which happily for you it seems you have only visited, and have not yet moved in to stay,
    memory loss. A formidable stage indeed, though I can’t (yet? he asked hopefully) remember whether it’s a cruel or a merciful one.

    Anyway it’s as the song says, all more or less one and the same as time goes by. Er, what was that we were saying?

    (I’ve just recalled what I originally meant to comment, that I can’t think… about writing about memory and the past, that is… without thinking Proust and Nabokov.)

  14. mishari permalink*
    May 14, 2010 1:13 PM

    I’m guessing, Tom, that it’s a simple case of supply and demand–I spend more time dwelling on the past than the future because I have considerably more of the former than the latter (most likely).

    I think I’d include Joyce alongside Proust and Nabokov. Virtually everything he wrote from Portrait of The Artist onward was, essentially, about memory. What’s Ulysses if not a recreation of Dublin from memory?

    You’re right, MM. Internecine warfare is to the Afghans what talking about the weather is to the English or food to the French or women’s bottoms to the Brazilians: a national obsession.

  15. May 14, 2010 4:07 PM

    Yes, that’s it exactly Mish, the continual tipping of the scales, time left being increasingly less and less proportionate with time past.

    Until one gets to that sans everything frontier where it’s no longer possible to make out the scales for the trees.

  16. MeltonMowbray permalink
    May 14, 2010 5:11 PM

    ‘twas a famous victory

    Wellington? Yes, I knew him well,
    in fact I was there by his side
    in the course of the final battle:
    I was very sorry he died.

    That kissing thing was a mistake.
    I’m not by any means a prig,
    a curt nod, yes, a firm handshake,
    but chaps kissing chaps is infra dig.

    Oh, Wellington. I think we met
    on St Helena once or twice
    when he was no longer a threat:
    I thought he was awfully nice.

    Oh, you mean Wellington! Dear me,
    why on earth didn’t you say so?
    Well, Prussians aren’t my cup of tea-
    oh, I’m sorry you’ve got to go.

  17. MeltonMowbray permalink
    May 14, 2010 5:15 PM

    Oh yes. Thanks, Ed. You can delete the other one. Or both of them if you prefer.

    I hope you’re looking forward to Pompey getting caned tomorrow, Tom. My forecast is 10-0.

  18. May 14, 2010 5:26 PM

    I went to visit my dad the other week. He has cancer , has foregone any surgery – he’s 93 and as he puts it, he’s just waiting to die. In fact he was raging against the doctors who are keeping him alive.

    He’s a fatalist at heart which doesn’t help but he says he’s done everything he’s going to do in his life, he’s semi-blind and deaf so there’s no point spending money trying to keep him alive a bit longer.

    I’m a fatalist too but at this stage of my life I can’t imagine not having anything left to look forward to. It was an immensely sad experience.

  19. mishari permalink*
    May 14, 2010 6:01 PM

    Out, out, brief candle!
    Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player,
    That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
    And then is heard no more. It is a tale
    Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
    Signifying nothing.

    Very sorry to hear about your father, Ed. It’s hard to offer sympathy without recourse to platitudes and cliches so I’ll leave it at that.

  20. May 14, 2010 6:15 PM


    Terrible about your dad, sadness from a distance.

    (Hadn’t seen that when reading Melton’s…)

    Melton, Melton,

    A keeper is worth keeping twice, you never know when you might need a backup.

    Speaking of David James…. about tomorrow, one can always dream.

    Noting that two weeks ago Pompey duplicated the scoreline of their tremendous 1939 Cup victory over Wolves at Wembley (same victim both times), I am dreaming on my dusty crystal ball for an eternal recurrence event.

    And let us not forget that famous victory.

    I don’t know, maybe it looks through the mists like a squabble between Dorgba and Terry over who gets lingerie laundering rights, distracting the lads from a sneaky opportunistic little run by somebody, Dindane, Utaka, Ben Haim, really doesn’t matter as long as it’s (to coin a phrase) “another Portsmouth onslaught… and the Navy fires a salute”.

    I don’t know about Wellington, but Nelson would never have given up hope.

    (Surely it was the admins did them in, not the players.)

  21. May 14, 2010 6:17 PM

    “Dorgba” of course if the Second Life avatar of Drogba. (As we know footie is all about nuance.)

  22. May 14, 2010 6:42 PM

    Thanks all .

    2-1 to Chelsea – Drogba to fall over in agony at least 6 times

  23. MeltonMowbray permalink
    May 14, 2010 11:28 PM

    Sad to hear of your father’s predicament, ET. At the age of 93 he should have a choice.

    Westminster Abbey or victory, Tom, but I’m afraid that in Portsmouth’s case all signs point to the former.

  24. May 15, 2010 9:28 AM

    I led my love a while beneath broad leaves
    And won her from the drudgeries of day
    In lush disorder, hush as honey thieves
    We pressed the clover, conjured sweet delay

    Then out, cocooned in secret joy we creep
    To jasmine tea, not jasmine, was it green?
    O, self-deception breaks as from a sleep
    To colder light that lights a colder scene

    For we did never slip beneath the bower
    But trudged our duties out ‘til joy was spent
    Each increment of loss, each upright hour
    Divides us in our lone embarrassment

    Though time in memory leaves much hurt uncured
    Still love imagined sweetens love endured

  25. May 15, 2010 9:42 AM

    ET, really sorry about your father. As MM says, he should have a choice.

  26. May 15, 2010 2:49 PM

    A night in the dark, thinking over all this choice and non-choice, the remembering and the forgetting, left one… still in the dark.

  27. MeltonMowbray permalink
    May 15, 2010 11:35 PM

    Out by a factor of ten, but justice was done, and the skates return to the lower depths trophyless. There is a God! What a pity that he had to bestow the victory on those cockney twats.

  28. mishari permalink*
    May 16, 2010 12:25 AM

    Yes, let’s have a rousing chorus of Maybe It’s Because I’m A Londoner from all those well-known cockneys

    Petr Cech
    Branislav Ivanovic
    Michael Essien
    Ricardo Carvalho
    Didier Drogba
    Michael Ballack
    Florent Malouda
    Jose Bosingwa
    Yury Zhirkov
    Paulo Ferreira
    Salomon Kalou
    Nemanja Matic
    Juliano Belletti
    Nicolas Anelka
    Henrique Hilario
    Gael Kakuta
    Fabio Borini
    Jacopo Sala
    Jan Sebek

    All together, lads:

    “I get a funny feeling inside o’ me
    Jus’ walkin’ up an’ dahn
    Maybe it’s becoz I’m a Londoner
    That I love London Town
    Get on yer barra…”

    Thengew, thengew…

  29. MeltonMowbray permalink
    May 16, 2010 12:55 AM

    I was thinking about their fans.

    John Terry
    Frank Lampard
    Joe Cole
    Ashley Cole

    do fit the bill, however.

  30. May 16, 2010 8:25 AM

    Indeed Melton. Brassy triumphalism is bounded not by Bow Bells but by Russian oil wells; London’s merely an outer-steppes stop on that black gold pipeline. And what a pleasure it was to see the Lampard missed penalty, the hard tackles on Ballack and A. Cole by Boateng and Dindane, the terrible fluffed Kalou miss before an open goal, the Terry header over the bar…

    Altogether a brave show by Pompey up until the Boateng penalty failure. The lad succumbed to nerves and hurried it straight into Cech’s open arms. At which point all the air went out. Still, something to remember your relegation season by.

    When Drogba, before finally managing to contribute something useful, swanned through that bit of public beating-upon-the-post, as though the inanimate universe had something against him, one was almost tempted to think: it does.

    And as for Terry summoning the cheek afterward to call the pitch “a disgrace” — well, he ought to know. And I do not even refer to his wedding reception at Blenheim Palace. Speaking of cracked bells.

  31. May 16, 2010 10:07 AM

    It reminded me of those Bjorn Borg tennis matches where the opponent was okay but couldn’t step up to the mark so defeated themselves as much as being defeated.

  32. MeltonMowbray permalink
    May 16, 2010 6:45 PM

    Pompey were better than I expected. It was a very difficult game for me, balancing a natural antipathy against the desire to avoid any event which might put a smile on John Terry’s intolerable mug.

    I don’t know why Triesman resigned. As every right-thinking person knows those crafty dagos cannot be trusted.

  33. mishari permalink*
    May 16, 2010 7:21 PM

    But the axeman (Keith Richards) – famous for the riff on 1960s hit (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction… —The Sun, today

    I knew the name was familiar but I couldn’t quite place him until they mentioned ‘Satisfaction’.

    Dum-dum-da-da-da-dadadadada-dum-dum-da-da-da-dadadadada…it all comes back to me now.

  34. MeltonMowbray permalink
    May 16, 2010 8:23 PM

    You’re a Sun reader. I knew it.

  35. mishari permalink*
    May 16, 2010 8:44 PM

    I scan their website now and then just to keep in touch with the lower orders…noblesse oblige, doncherknow..

    BTW, I meant to ask you, MM: have you had a chance to watch Treme yet? I haven’t and I was wondering what you make of it…

  36. MeltonMowbray permalink
    May 16, 2010 11:08 PM

    Yes, I only read Huge Jugs for the articles.

    No, I haven’t got going on it yet. Mrs M’s insistence on watching crap tv (and not even half-watching it, since she’s working at the same time) is cramping my style. I had to sit through several hours of Lewis tonight, for instance, which must be one of the feeblest tv shows ever made. I suppose I should go to another room, but everywhere else is too cold.

  37. MeltonMowbray permalink
    May 16, 2010 11:11 PM

    What happened there? [God knowsEd.]

  38. MeltonMowbray permalink
    May 16, 2010 11:12 PM

    Am I in permanent italic? [Not any more–Ed.]

  39. May 16, 2010 11:24 PM

    I’m having a bad film party on Saturday. The current itinerary is:

    1pm: Revenge of the Sith
    3pm: Giant Squid Versus Mega-Shark
    5pm: Battlefield Earth (just won from eBay for 99p)
    8pm: Wicker Man (the proper one with Nic Cage)
    10pm: Honest

    Any other last minute suggestions?

  40. May 16, 2010 11:41 PM

    Man on Fire



  41. mishari permalink*
    May 16, 2010 11:53 PM

    Some good suggestions @:

    Mind you, most of those films are just flat-out rotten as opposed to ineffably, indefinably, shamefully wrong like Battlefield Earth….

  42. MeltonMowbray permalink
    May 17, 2010 12:12 AM

    Caligula (I’m not trying italics again) was pretty awful. Only saw it on tv.

  43. obooki permalink
    May 17, 2010 12:15 AM

    There should be a category for awful films by once great directors. I recommend:

    John Carpenter’s Ghosts of Mars
    Chen Kaige’s english-language film, Killing Me Softly
    Woody Allen’s Scoop
    and everything Paul Verhoeven made after he moved to Hollywood (he was once a great Dutch director!!). Well, all right, just Showgirls then (I have a fondness for Total Recall and Starship Troopers).

  44. obooki permalink
    May 17, 2010 12:23 AM

    oh yeah, and Tim Burton’s remake of Planet of the Apes. -Not that I can stand anything by Tim Burton any more.

  45. May 17, 2010 8:51 AM

    Dancer in the Dark

    On the Buses – 70’s feature films of British sitcoms could have a whole afternoon to itself.

    Spies Like Us – likewise Chevy Chase movies.

  46. May 17, 2010 8:58 AM


    That was the balance I was going for, Mishari, watchably awful rather than just agonising. I relegated Revenge of the Sith from feature position because apparently some people think it’s quite good. No danger of that with BE or Honest.

    I actually have Caligula on DVD somewhere, although I haven’t watched it yet.

    Paul Verhoeven’s US movies, I always suspected, were deliberately vulgar. His Dutch work – whilst fantastic, Turks Fruit, Katie Tippel etc – also had strong elements of vulgarity and exploitation.

    Caught the end of On The Buses film on tv the other day. They drove the bus round and round because there was a tiger or something on board. And the one who pulls the funny face because he’s angry pulled a funny face!

  47. mishari permalink*
    May 17, 2010 9:06 AM

    Chevy Chase is pretty awful (although I have to admit a sneaking fondness for The Invisible Man, in which Sam Neill gives a fine performance as a bad guy).

    Dancer In The Dark plumbed new depths of awfulness. I think the last Tim Burton film I liked was Ed Wood; his re-make of Planet of The Apes was a crime against Art and Nature.

    I can’t watch the noisy, CGI-fests that George Lucas’ films became after the first 2 or 3. I just find them unbearably dull. 5 minutes of Industrial Light & Magic doing their thing is more than enough for me…

  48. May 17, 2010 9:15 AM

    The Star Wars prequels were the long, slow death of a childhood dream. I would regularly – literally – dream of watching new Star Wars films, years before the prequels were announced. After Revenge of the Sith, never again.

    Perhaps the most expensive – and successful – vanity project in cinema history. One gets the feeling no one on set used the words ‘no, George’ very often.

  49. mishari permalink*
    May 17, 2010 9:27 AM

    There are some who theorise, XB, that Lucas is one of the main causes of the downward spiral of Hollywood. After his huge successes (mainly financial, which is what really impresses the studio bean-counters), the studios demanded more of the same–from everyone.

    This squeezed out the small-budget, thoughtful films–the mood pieces, the chamber works, the experimental, the literate…of course, if you read SJ Perelman’s incomparably funny memoirs of Hollywood in the ’30s, it was ever thus. They’ve been unleashing a tsunami of crapola since the very beginning…

  50. May 17, 2010 10:48 AM

    I’ve been re-reading books by Jonathan Bate and Stephen Greenblatt on Shakespeare and, from the titles at least, it seems the general quality of fare presented on the renassiance stage was also pretty low.

    I cite the ‘Bluff-King-Harry’ trend of plays portraying Henry VIII as a ‘temperamental, boistrous character, partial to duelling and practical jokes, who evokes loyalty and patriotism wherever he goes’.

  51. mishari permalink*
    May 17, 2010 10:52 AM

    I think it’s probably safe to assume that the 90% rule has probably always applied: 90% of cave-paintings were crap; 90% of classical Greek drama was crap; 90% of Jacobean theatre was crap und so weiter

    The probably apocryphal tale of him (Jason McAteer) asking for a pizza to be cut into four, not eight, as he ‘wasn’t that hungry’ was part of the aura of being unlikely to trouble the Nobel judges quite yet. —from an Indy article on cruel nicknames in sport

  52. May 17, 2010 11:08 AM

    XB didn’t Harrison Ford tell Lucas ” You can type this shit but you sure as hell can’t say it”?

    I see Man on Fire is on TV soon. There’s something deeply repellent about that film. Can’t quite put my finger on it. Oh yes it’s trying to show us that torture is justifiable in certain cases.

  53. mishari permalink*
    May 17, 2010 11:18 AM

    Is that the one with Denzel Washington as a bodyguard? If so, then it’s also about how it’s OK to torture Mexican sleazeballs, especially to save a cute little American girl…straight out of the same crypto-fascist stable as the putrid 24

  54. May 17, 2010 11:52 AM

    That’s the one.

    It has quite an “unusual” take on the concept of redemption. In the films of Robert Bresson or in Scorsese’s Raging Bull redemption is achieved through personal suffering.

    But here it’s achieved by inflicting suffering on others in the form of torture.

  55. May 17, 2010 12:57 PM

    Sort of a ‘this is hurting me more that it’s hurting you’ approach?

  56. May 17, 2010 1:31 PM

    I climbed the stair to that small, stifling bar
    First shouldered through then weary did retreat
    Below, de-luxe in comfort and cigar
    Just evening cool, just me; no cloy, no heat

    And smiled in satisfaction at my choice
    I’d cram not with the rude and desperate scene
    Nor would I hear that rich and smiling voice
    Nor would I catch that gaze, that glint, that green

    Choices I never made float into mind
    Through fissures in thought’s sparking, gleaming sphere
    And shock as cruel as true recall unkind
    That I might now be somewhere else but here

    That fearful mis-remembered deep regret:
    That once we almost, maybe never met

  57. May 17, 2010 1:42 PM

    XB It’s a “This is hurting me but it’s killing you” approach.

  58. May 17, 2010 4:52 PM

    Was I with you in St. Tropez?
    With Brigitte et Jean, ambience toujours gai.
    Did I help Vacslav reach the heady heights?
    Prague in Spring, oh what giddy nights.

    Jean-Paul arguing on the left bank
    He had a point but a bit of a crank.
    Franco’s Spain kept us all in fear, oh
    Save for the optimism of Joan Miro.

    Was it bossa nights in downtown Rio?
    Astrud dancing with untamed brio?
    Did we hail the Cuban revolution?
    Capitalism succumbing to Fidel’s solution.

    Was I there when Thelonious flattened his fifths?
    When TS fused poetry, quotation and myths?
    Did I take LSD with Allen and Tim?
    Worked wonders for them, left me a bit dim.

    Did I advise John to marry Yoko Ono?
    Did I introduce the Edge to Bono?
    Hang on – something’s not quite right.
    My memories are turning from gold into shite.

    Chicory Tip, James Last, Michael Barrymore
    It doesn’t stop at them, there’s plenty more.
    Out they spew, out they flood
    Til my credibility’s lying in the mud.

    And so its time for me to retire.
    Can’t even hack it being a liar.

  59. May 17, 2010 6:01 PM

    Hang on – something’s not quite right.
    My memories are turning from gold into shite.

    Bottom line, as we say in Story Conferencing.

  60. obooki permalink
    May 17, 2010 6:27 PM

    I read a biography of Lucas a few years ago. One of the things I took away from it was that he was the first person in Hollywood history to find himself forced to work outside the studio system because his standards were too low.

    I think all the cast on Star Wars were critical of the lines they had to read, particularly – as I recall – Mark Hammill.

    The book did explain the main difference between George Lucas and Steven Spielberg: – Lucas sees his typical audience as being about 13; while Spielberg sees them as about 10.

    It was Spielberg who persuaded Verhoeven to move to Hollywood after seeing his film Soldiers of Orange. His early films I don’t think were that exploitative – I mean, ok, they have the kind of nudity which makes one wonder why anyone would be amazed / shocked by Basic Instinct – but nothing one isn’t accustomed to in european arthouse. And they have Monique van de Ven.

  61. May 17, 2010 7:09 PM

    Lucas and Spielberg are overestimating the mental age of their actual audience by about eight and five years, respectively.

    There is not room in the same universe for gadget-‘n’-gizmo filmmaking and “good lines”.

    As the 2000 year old Sigourney Weaver puts it so originally in Avatar, It’s time to get outta Dodge.

  62. May 17, 2010 7:46 PM

    I had Lucas’ audience age as lower than Spielberg’s.

    I watched Antichrist recently – difficult to ascertain what Von Trier is up to. It had two good scenes in it involving animals but otherwise seemed a calculated wind-up. It was the anti-Diary of a Nobody – gory and fraught with significance whereas Mr. Pooter trundles aimlessly along. Characters in both film and the book resolutely middle-class and self-posessed.

    I think Von Trier knows what he’s doing and how to do it but I don’t like what he does.

  63. Captain Ned permalink
    May 17, 2010 8:03 PM

    You might be interested in this for your film night, EB:

    I’ve not seen any of his early stuff, but it’s funny to think of Lucas’ experimental roots. He did say that he started out wanting to be Stan Brakhage, and certain scenes from ‘The Phantom Menace’ do achieve such an unnerving level of badness that they might be said to pay a kind of dubious homage to avant-garde cinema.

  64. obooki permalink
    May 17, 2010 8:56 PM

    Oh yes, that was the other thing about that George Lucas book – in fact, the very thing I told my father after reading it that it didn’t seem to explain: – how come Lucas went from wanting to be an avant-garde director and making things like THX 1138 and American Graffiti (to be honest, it’s a long time since I’ve seen them, but I don’t think they’re your ordinary films) to suddenly making Star Wars.

  65. mishari permalink*
    May 17, 2010 9:08 PM

    Even odder is how Lucas, once he’d started the Star Wars franchise, never did anything else. Like Ed, I’ve always thought Spielberg the more adult of the two. At least Spielberg has some notion of narrative and his characters bear a passing resemblance to human beings.

    To call Lucas’ characters ‘glove-puppets’ is to credit them with human qualities they don’t possess. Everything Lucas does just seems to be an infantile cartoon framework to hang special effects on.

    Thanks for the tip, Ned. Troll 2 sounds magnificently, mind-meltingly awful. I’m downloading it as we speak…

    One reviewer wrote:

    Only a truly awful movie could make Troll look like a horror masterpiece, and let there be no doubt, Troll 2 is that movie. It’s rare to find a film with such an ignominious reputation actually living up to the hype, but it’s even more stunning to discover that this “sequel” – quotation marks necessary because it was only slapped with the Troll moniker after production – actually surpasses its reputation as one of the worst pieces of cinematic junk ever produced.

    The fact that Troll 2 isn’t even about trolls – it’s about goblins – is a mere minor deficiency in light of its ineptitude, which is so vast that it would require thousands of words to fully catalog all that’s wrong and perplexing about the proceedings. Nonetheless, special mention must go to Margo Prey, whose performance is incompetent to the point that it’s never quite clear if her character – the mother of a family who travels to the rural town of Nilbog (“It’s Goblin spelled backwards!”) and winds up stalked by mythical creatures (actually, midgets in paper mâche masks) – is stoned or mentally handicapped.

    And kudos to whoever thought that pint-sized protagonist Joshua (Michael Stephenson) should prevent his family from eating a dangerous food buffet by coating it in urine. And bravo, director Claudio Fragasso, for every hilarious appearance of Joshua’s raving-mad dead grandpa Seth (Robert Ormsby), and for including the scene in which Joshua’s dad explains that everyone in town must be MIA because it’s night…even though it’s clearly the middle of the day. What you’ve created is nothing short of a crap-tacular masterpiece.

  66. Captain Ned permalink
    May 17, 2010 10:02 PM

    Of course, as far as entertainingly awful films go, ‘Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves’ is always a good bet: a thing of limitless joy. As for unentertainly awful films, I’d mention ‘A Time to Kill’ for its moral and political depravity, and ‘Sympathy for the Devil’ for sheer bum-aching dullness. But then perhaps these aren’t the kind of movies you’d want to show to your friends.

    I must say, I have a fair bit of respect for Spielberg. Yes, he’s made a few shockers (‘Hook’, ‘War of the Worlds’) and several clunky middlebrow Oscar-baiters, but ‘Duel’, ‘Empire of the Sun’ and ‘Minority Report’ are all pretty decent, and I have a great regard for ‘E.T.’ and ‘Close Encounters’. He’s often accused of being an arch-manipulator, but I don’t think that’s entirely fair. At least you can say that his manipulations seem to be guided more by a genuine if not always judicious enthusiasm for the medium and an honest desire to make something that will give enjoyment, rather than a simple desire to make a fast buck.

  67. mishari permalink*
    May 17, 2010 10:12 PM

    I’m with you there, Ned. I watched Saving Private Ryan the other day. I’d never actually seen it before and I was quite impressed by Spielberg’s resisting what I think has always been his besetting sin: sentimentality. He’s made some clunkers but he’s also made a few that I’d quite happily watch again. I can’t say the same for Lucas (post-American Graffiti and even that I’m not sure of , not having seen it in 25 years).

    The Moscow authorities have postponed the opening of a metro station named after Fyodor Dostoevsky over fears that illustrations from his works that decorate it could turn the station into a “mecca for suicides”.

    The new station was decorated with black and white marble mosaics of scenes from Dostoevsky’s most famous novels, including Crime and Punishment, Demons, The Idiot and The Brothers Karamazov. But unsurprisingly for a writer famously preoccupied with death, the scenes include images of suicide and murder.

    On one wall, Rodion Raskolnikov from Crime and Punishment brandishes an axe over the elderly pawnbroker Alyona Ivanovna and her sister, his murder victims in the novel. Near by, a character from Demons holds a pistol to his temple.

    The pictures quickly caused a sensation. Bloggers and websites called the images that appeared on the internet in April “depressing” amid speculation that the images could attract suicides. —The Indy, today

  68. MeltonMowbray permalink
    May 17, 2010 11:31 PM

    Blimey, which Saving Private Ryan did you see? Anything with Tom Hanks in it is going to be a handkerchief job. The whole premise of the film is sentimental tosh.

    Those Russians, eh? The metro mosaics remind me once again of VN’s epigraph to The Gift, taken from a Russian grammar:

    An oak is a tree. Russia is our Motherland. Death is inevitable.

  69. mishari permalink*
    May 18, 2010 12:19 AM

    I suppose what I meant was that SPR wasn’t nearly as mawkish as I expected it to be–that’s something and God knows, he didn’t try to soft-pedal the hideousness of war. Hanks wasn’t bad as a hitman in…what the hell was it called? I think Paul Newman was in it as well (though I could be wrong). Oh, yeah and I quite enjoyed Castaway. There are many, many worse actors…

    The Russians (and the Slavs in general) have ‘great souls’: that’s what makes them all suicidal drunks.

    • MeltonMowbray permalink
      May 18, 2010 1:49 PM

      The opening of SPR was awe-inspiring. Unusually, I saw it at the cinema when it came out (son forced me to go with him: none of his friends liked war films. What’s the world coming to?) and I was quaking for hours afterwards. I’ve seen it on tv since and it’s still impressive, but I don’t think the small screen does it justice. Same for Apocalypse Now.

  70. May 18, 2010 12:42 AM

    obooki: Monique van de Ven is certainly worth the entrance fee and Turks Fruit is a fab piece of shock-the-squares. Its cultural cachet in the Netherlands is still pretty high; my partner’s father talks about the first time he saw it – how radical it seemed.

    Lucas lost track of the simple myths that made the original films so compulsive. It didn’t matter how nonsensical the dialogue was because the characters were types that everyone recognised in their gut. All that was lost in the prequels, one Lucas convinced himself he was writing new myths, rather than recycling older stories, bigger than him.

  71. May 18, 2010 9:39 AM

    The lack of Ewoks ruined the prequel I saw.

    Incidentally XB there is a film where the Ewoks are the main characters. Caravan to …..something or other, I think and I damn myself for remembering that amount of the title when I have forgotten so much else.

    Sounds like the perfect film to show your guests after their will to live has been ground down by the rest of your programme.

    Removes pipe from pocket and wistfully fills it with tobacco I remember a day off from touring in Brussels decades ago where 3 of us did 5 films in one day. The fifth film really was a stretch so good luck in your marathon. Throws pipe away remembering he doesn’t smoke a pipe

  72. May 18, 2010 9:54 AM

    It was Caravan of Courage. Strangely overlooked in the ongoing orgy of remastering, digitising, 3D-ifying and general premium THX’d old rope marketeering.

  73. mishari permalink*
    May 18, 2010 10:04 AM

    Never heard of it and had to look it up. According to the Time Out review in 1984:

    Ewoks (first seen in Return of the Jedi) have lifeless eyes, nuclear families, short fuses, clean bums, hang-gliders, priestesses, wise men and rhythm. They look like short, furry Colin Wellands, and sound like David Rappaport clearing his throat in a subway.

    They live on Endor, which is like California with rocky bits painted in front of the lens. The caravan is a vehicle for a kiddy-quest for lost parents – young, curly-top cutie and big, bolshie brother coming to terms with his inner obnoxiousness via confrontation with alien culture.

    Short on action by Lucasfilm standards, stuffed with toothy teddies which lack the charm of Phase One Gremlins, or the wit of any muppet… I blame Thatcher.

  74. May 18, 2010 10:34 AM

    Probably worth making just for that review.

    You could tell Lucas wasn’t enthusiastic about it: as I recall, there was hardly any merchandising.

  75. May 18, 2010 11:10 AM

    Hairy Colin Welland dolls could have cleaned up financially.

  76. mishari permalink*
    May 18, 2010 11:19 AM

    Apropos of nothing, I was trawling the net for a copy of Carlo, Aussie composer Brett Dean’s orchestral work based on the madrigals of Gesualdo and came across a rather intriguing work, described thus:

    Konstantin Raudive – The Voices of the Dead

    Electronic voice phenomena (EVP) are sections of static noise on the radio or electronic recording media that are interpreted by paranormal investigators as voices speaking, attributed to ghosts or spirits. Recording EVP has become a technique for those attempting to contact the souls of dead loved ones or during ghost hunting activities.

    In addition to deceased spirits, various paranormal investigators say that EVP could be due to psychic echoes from the past, psychokinesis unconsciously produced by living people, and the thoughts of aliens. According to parapsychologist Konstantin Raudive, who popularized the idea, EVP are typically brief, usually the length of a word or short phrase.

    Dr Konstantin Raudive, a student of Carl Jung, was a Latvian psychologist who taught at the University of Uppsala, Sweden, before devoting the last ten years of his life to electronic voice phenomenon (EVP). He published in his book Breakthrough in 1971.His early collaborator F.Jurgenson, whom he met at the very beginning of 1965, awakened Dr. K.Raudive’s interest in EVP research.

    Raudive spent endless hours in the thorough study of Jurgenson’s books “Voices from Space” (1964) and “Radio-Link with the Dead” (1967). From an overwhelming database (ranging across about 72000 samples), Raudive’s mother seems to be statistically the most frequently contacted personality. She usually addressed her son in the Latgalian dialect.

    LP details:

    1. Self-introduction of Konstantin Raudive and a large selection of examples from his archives – (July 17, 1965)

    2. 9 extracts from the Gerhard Stempnik experiments – (Stempnik was a member of the Berlin Philharmonic and close friend of Raudive’s (tapes from 1980)

    3. A Raudive celebration including unpublished material by Scanner, Paul D. Miller aka DJ Spooky, That Subliminal Kid, Calla, Lee Ranaldo (of Sonic Youth), Ensemble, Random Inc., David Toop, Carl Michael von Hausswolff and Brett Dean.

    They have all composed exclusive pieces of music based on the Raudive material. They range from a close examination of the material itself (cf. Von Hausswolff, Lee Ranaldo) to more evocative pieces (Calla, Scanner, DJ Spooky). The last piece, for solo viola, is a homage to all the explorers of the unknown.

    Raudives wiki entry is HERE.

    The LP can be downloaded HERE.

    …and somewhat related:

  77. MeltonMowbray permalink
    May 18, 2010 1:58 PM

    I had to check it wasn’t April 1st when I read the extract. Did you ever hear ‘Electric Storm’ by White Noise? People always insisted on playing it while you were tripping, which wasn’t very nice.

    How are you feeling about The Cuts, ET? Psychopathic dread or Taylorine fatalism? I should think the Arts Council will take a battering.

  78. May 18, 2010 2:45 PM

    This LP is fantastic.

    Weirdly, when I was 15 or so and filling my exercise books with the sleeve designs, reviews and liner notes of all the albums I would one day make (the reviews were dispatched from an alternate universe where Genesis and Peter Gabriel were the music press’s benchmark of genius) I read a story about this phenomena and imagined my late-period self producing an album of authentic ghost voices and becoming mildly deranged.

    So, half of my forecast was spot-on.

  79. mishari permalink*
    May 18, 2010 3:10 PM

    No, MM, I think this is far more interesting than White Noise ever were (despite what Julian Cope may think). WN were too faux-hippy, trippy, poptastic for my tastes. This stuff is genuinely outré.

    That idiot Sting is never going to arrange any of this stuff for the lute…

  80. May 18, 2010 3:23 PM

    MM fatalism as ever. I think even if the Arts Council win the arguments and bring the percentage down from 20/25% which is what is expected, it’s the local government cuts which will stick the knife in and twist it.

    We got through Thatcher and a few other downturns, we’re not running a huge organisation but at the moment who knows? The AC bureaucracy is at the lowest ebb I can remember – largely self-inflicted of course – and they aren’t the sort of people you’d really want fighting your corner. Then there’s the Olympics siphoning money off.

    I’m honing my shot-put skills and practising checking out goods at an imaginary till. Got to keep those options open

  81. MeltonMowbray permalink
    May 18, 2010 4:14 PM

    I can only wish you the best of luck. There may be an opening for a national football team manager coming up in the next couple of months. Get your CV sorted out now.

  82. mishari permalink*
    May 18, 2010 4:22 PM

    Probably be an opening for Chancellor of The Exchequer soon, too, although Vince Cable and Ken Clarke might give you a run for your (or should that be ‘our’?) money…

    Mind you, if this country isn’t going to support giant inflatable Euro Pigs, they may as well blacktop the whole shebang and flog it to Wal-Mart…philistines.

  83. May 18, 2010 5:06 PM

    I suspect that’s exactly what they’ll do. The LibDems don’t appear to have an arts policy whereas the Tories big idea is philanthropy i.e let business decide.

    Still when things get close to the bone, support for something that’s generally seen as a luxury is a tough one to call.

    From what I’ve read Spain where the sort of thing we do is more woven into the cultural fabric will have to make similar calls. How a province like Valencia which seems to need huge firework displays for every occasion will cope heaven only knows.

    I guess you are au fait with the Valencian mascleta displays Mishari but for those who are not

    Basically it’s the most extreme public spectacle I’ve ever witnessed. As close as I want to get to experiencing war.

  84. mishari permalink*
    May 18, 2010 8:23 PM

    I’ve never attended the Valencian version, but the Catalans in general (and the Valencianos are basically Catalans) are fire and fire-works crazy: a race of born pyromaniacs. It’s all a bit much.

    I’ve experienced it in Catalunya and (as anyone who’s been under an artillery barrage will attest) it becomes tiresome. I like fireworks myself but the people of the peninsular are more enamoured of quantity than quality, the noisier the better.

    I’ve never lived in a country were there was less expectation of peace and quiet nor a populace more sanguine about the fact–from the incessant goddamn two-stroke whine of scooters all day and all night to the explosions of fireworks, the Iberians lap it up. Maniacs…

  85. MeltonMowbray permalink
    May 18, 2010 8:51 PM

    Corrupt, treacherous, noisy… all these facts are well-known. But why do they set off fireworks in broad daylight?

  86. mishari permalink*
    May 18, 2010 9:05 PM

    Just in case anyone is trying to catch up on sleep lost during the previous night’s cacophony. They don’t miss a trick, the Dago bastards…

    I enjoyed Spies of Warsaw. I like the way Furst keeps bringing back old characters like Dr. Lapp et al. There was an especially neat little stroke when Mercier goes to meet Vyborg (who you’ll remember from The Polish Officer) in the latter’s office. Mercier admires a hand-drawn map of a country estate. Vyborg says:

    “The map was drawn by Captain de Milja, in our Geographical Section…”.

    Lovely– de Milja, the eponymous Polish Officer himself…

  87. May 18, 2010 10:07 PM

    MM A mascleta is all about noise so no need to wait until night-time. Basically thousands of large fire crackers are fused together with different types of fuse so some bits are slow and other bits literally gallop down the street. The best mascletas create rhythms of detonations.

    It’s the loudest thing I’ve ever heard – you can feel the air pressure from the explosions in the pit of your stomach. The trick is to keep your mouth open when it happens, or keep as far away as possible.

    Everyone shows up to see it from the young to the old, dogs and young children are introduced to it.

    They save the elegant aerial displays for night-time but as our host says the Valencia region is pyro-mad even for Spain.

    Mascletas usually happen in Fiestas along with many other fire events such as being chased down the streets by devils throwing fireworks around . I guess the Spanish/ Catalonians like their religion with a visceral edge to it.

  88. MeltonMowbray permalink
    May 18, 2010 10:14 PM

    I missed that, though I had been expecting him to put in an appearance at some point. Vyborg I remember from The Polish Officer (I think). I wasn’t aware of Dr Lapp. After reading the Liebling book I find myself seeing the milieu of the novels in the same light.

    Did you give Ambler a go? I’m sure you’d like his stuff. Very much in the Furst vein.

  89. mishari permalink*
    May 18, 2010 10:37 PM

    I remember reading and enjoying Ambler as a teenager–The Mask of Demetrious (I think it was called) sticks in my mind. I keep seeing Furst compared to Le Carre, which irritates the hell out of me. He’s much better than that, closer to Greene and Ambler (from what I remember). I’ve never actually seen the point of Le Carre, who seems a plodder to me.

    I’m not surprised vis a vis Liebling: he was writing about roughly the same period…

    Dr. Lapp (a senior Abwehr officer and anti-Nazi) appears most memorably in Kingdom of Shadows, where he has dealings with Nicholas Horvath and his wonderfully slippery uncle, Count Polyani. Remember Polyani shooting the Hungarian secret policeman in the head and pretending it was a suicide? The Paris police detective could barely keep from laughing…

  90. MeltonMowbray permalink
    May 18, 2010 11:11 PM

    ……………. This could be a reason
    Why they take the silencers off their Vespas,
    Turn their radios up to full volume,

    And a minim saint can expect rockets-noise
    As a countermagic, a way of saying
    Boo to the three sisters: ‘Mortal we may be,
    But we are still here!’……

    Auden’s theory might have something to it, ET. Or perhaps they just like making a racket.

    I don’t think I’ve read Kingdom of Shadows. I’ll have a look in the library. They seem to have a lot of new stock in, no doubt in anticipation of the famine to come.

  91. mishari permalink*
    May 18, 2010 11:28 PM

    Lovely poem, MM, that begins:

    Out of the gothic north, the pallid children
    Of a potato, beer-or-whisky
    Guilt culture, we behave like our fathers and come
    Southward into a sunburnt otherwhere

    Of vineyards, baroque, la bella figura,
    To these feminine townships where men
    Are males…

    By all means, read Kingdom of Shadows–it’s excellent. The Count Polyani character turns up in Blood of Victory, as well. Hungarian diplomat, spymaster and bon vivant. An engaging scoundrel…

  92. pinkroom permalink
    May 19, 2010 1:11 AM

    A revisionist view

    “Breathless”, “Casablanca”
    Visconti’s “Death in Venice”
    Monsieur Hulot,
    playin’ table tennis

    “Blue Velvet” with it’s nutter,
    played by Hopper, Dennis,

    none can touch the glory
    of the mighty”
    …Phantom Menace”.

  93. Captain Ned permalink
    May 19, 2010 8:56 AM

    I think ‘The Phantom Menace’ might indeed have the edge over ‘Death in Venice’. Both films might have been improved by a character swap: Aschenbach for Jar-Jar Binks, perhaps.

  94. May 19, 2010 10:02 AM

    Terrific Auden poem – my other half often remarks that the Brits look like potatoes. Good to see she has poetic back-up for her claims.

    This could be the moment to re-post my Hockney-on-Auden quote – it’s certainly the time of year when it returns to roost – but I’ll spare it for another occasion.

  95. mishari permalink*
    May 19, 2010 10:37 AM

    And let’s not forget Auden’s naughty south-bound Uncle Henry:

    Uncle Henry

    When the Flyin’ Scot
    fills for shootin’, I go southward,
    wisin’ after coffee, leavin’
    Lady Starkie.

    Weady for some fun,
    visit yearly Wome, Damascus,
    in Mowocco look for fwesh a-
    -musin’ places.

    Where I’ll find a fwend,
    don’t you know, a charmin’ creature,
    like a Gweek God and devoted:
    how delicious!

    All they have they bwing,
    Abdul, Nino, Manfwed, Kosta:
    here’s to women for they bear such
    lovely kiddies!

  96. May 19, 2010 10:45 AM

    Joe Orton’s diaries are Uncle Henry in flesh and blood.

  97. mishari permalink*
    May 19, 2010 11:05 AM

    I’ve been obsessively playing a recent LP, Handmade by the Franco-Berber chanteuse Hindi Zahra. She sings in Tamazight and has a lovely smoky voice:

  98. MeltonMowbray permalink
    May 19, 2010 11:09 AM

    I can’t remember, I can’t remember,
    the place where I was born,
    it could have been in Doncaster
    it might have been in Thorne,
    perhaps it was at Leatherhead
    in the Surrey bower,
    or down in the land of Cymru,
    somewhere on the Gower.

    I can’t remember, I can’t remember,
    this is getting silly
    I’m going to plump for Wanstead,
    or for Piccadilly,
    for Manchester or Chichester,
    or maybe Portsmouth Hard:
    if I’m wrong I’m going to block
    my Tesco credit card.

    I can’t remember, I can’t remember,
    the queue is most unkind,
    I think I’ll go for Rottingdean:
    my card has been declined.
    Wherever I first saw the light
    I hope it burns to ash
    and they cover it in concrete:
    now where the fuck’s my cash?

  99. MeltonMowbray permalink
    May 19, 2010 11:12 AM

    A great read, those Orton diaries: perhaps a little too much detail in the sexual encounters.

  100. May 19, 2010 11:32 AM

    Yes Mowocco appears to function solely as a brothel with extremely underage boys.

    The Orton biography “Prick up your ears” is an extremely good read too as well as having a great title.

  101. May 19, 2010 12:22 PM

    Morocco seems to have had that allure. I recall reading that the only time Kenneth Williams was ever happy was during a trip to Morocco – organised, I think, by Charles Hawtrey.

    Just checked that out and it was actually Orton and Halliwell who took Williams to Morocco. But I found these gems on Hawtrey:

    – ‘Hawtrey owned a house full of old brass bedsteads which the eccentric actor had hoarded, believing that “one day he would make a great deal of money from them”.’

    – ‘Hawtrey finally retired to Deal in Kent in the 1980s, where he devoted much time to the consumption of alcohol.’

    – ‘On his deathbed, Hawtrey supposedly threw a vase at his nurse who asked for a final autograph – it was the last thing he did.’

  102. mishari permalink*
    May 19, 2010 12:42 PM

    John Lahr, who wrote Prick Up Your Ears (fab book, pretty good film, too) was the son of Bert Lahr, old-time vaudevillian and best remembered as the Cowardly Lion in The Wizard of Oz. Friends of Dorothy, indeed…

    …also on the Hawtrey front:

    He caused a news scandal in August 1984 when his house caught fire after he went to bed with a teenager and left a cigarette burning. Newspaper photos from the time show a fireman carrying an emotional, partially clothed and sans toupee Hawtrey down a ladder to safety

    Emotional? As in ‘tired and…?’

  103. May 19, 2010 12:58 PM

    John Lahr is the spitting image of his dad as well.

    When I lived in London I saw an exhibition of the library books that Orton and Halliwell defaced put on by Islington Libraries. The very library who took them to court and had them imprisoned for their “crime”.

    The re-typed dust jacket blurbs for the Lord Peter Wimsy stories were hilarious.

  104. mishari permalink*
    May 19, 2010 1:24 PM

    Some are available to view here:

  105. pinkroom permalink
    May 19, 2010 6:06 PM

    An improvement (I think so)

    Jar Jar Binks,
    dying and stinks,
    slumped in a deckchair
    dribbles from his hair.
    Only has eyes
    for that youth with the trunks
    and expires to Mahler,
    not thrash-metal punks.

    Ashenbach, Ashenbach,
    ears flop about, a-flap,
    numbs his tongue
    with a thumb up his froggy bum.
    Only has eyes
    for the young boy pod-racer;
    he dances for joy
    with this blonde-haired first-placer.

  106. obooki permalink
    May 19, 2010 6:41 PM

    That’s interesting. Essex Road Library was the main library I used for about 4 years. They had very good books in there – though, to be honest, I mostly borrowed CDs and DVDs. I suppose they didn’t have those in Orton’s day. Or internet access.

  107. MeltonMowbray permalink
    May 19, 2010 8:23 PM

    I heard they had some CDs and DVDs defaced a while ago. Some joker removed the inserts, translated them into Latin and replaced them. Hilarious.

  108. obooki permalink
    May 19, 2010 10:03 PM

    That’s how we started out, but we soon expanded to re-dubbing new soundtracks onto films and re-sequencing them.

  109. mishari permalink*
    May 19, 2010 10:19 PM

    The Phantom Menace in Latin? That must have been, erm…interesting.

  110. obooki permalink
    May 19, 2010 10:55 PM

    I seem to recall, it went something like this:

    iamdudum in galaxia longissime….

    turba rem publicam galaxiarum convertit. tributum commercii cum classibus stellorum longissimis incertum est. expectans rem constituere commericium foederale cum circumvallo navium fatalium ad terram parvam Nabooi omnia altera carina prohibuit.

  111. pinkroom permalink
    May 19, 2010 11:31 PM

    I feel Latin adds just the right note of pomposity.

    “Antiquis temporibus, nati tibi similes in rupibus ventosissimis exponebantur ad necem Anakin Skypedestrian.”

    Svvvving! Svvvving!

    “Ascendo tuum Nute Gunray…”


    “Vescere bracis meis Jedi scumus…” etc etc.

    unfortunately already seems to have been done:

    I’ll have a crack at “Death in Venice” instead.

  112. mishari permalink*
    May 19, 2010 11:45 PM

    Quidquid latine dictum sit, altum sonatur.

  113. cellaroseus permalink
    May 20, 2010 12:11 AM

    …also anything by Alec Guiness.

  114. mishari permalink*
    May 20, 2010 12:23 AM

    …or Ralph Richardson.

  115. hic8ubique permalink
    May 20, 2010 4:03 AM

    …and lots of Elgar, naturally
    wider still and wider pomposity.


    So sorry about your Dad, EdT(et Al)
    Love from me.

  116. May 20, 2010 9:38 AM

    Thanks hic. Forgive me bringing the mood down but my mum has just been diagnosed with the big C this week as well. A true annus horribilis.

  117. MeltonMowbray permalink
    May 20, 2010 10:57 AM

    That’s bad news, ET. My sympathy to both of you.

  118. hic8ubique permalink
    May 20, 2010 7:29 PM

    hmm yes, but much depends on what sort and what stage,
    and how she feels about carrying on with her life after your Dad goes.

    Miserable for you though. I hope you have sibs to help out.

    ‘Annus horribilis’ was ok for HM, but what she really wanted to say was:
    ‘clusterorum omnifuckibus’.
    Sorry for all of it, including my gallows humour.

  119. May 20, 2010 8:11 PM

    hic my parents split up decades ago so that’s not an issue. It’s just suddenly accelerated a whole lot of worries irrespective of the illnesses that would have happened sooner or later anyway but not necessarily at the same time or so quickly.

    We’re not a close family but even still………

    Don’t worry about gallows humour it’s much appreciated and de rigueur round these parts.

  120. mishari permalink*
    May 20, 2010 9:17 PM

    Jesus, it never rains but it pours, eh, Ed? You can expect a large tax demand in the post to-morrow, just after your dog dies.

    I’ve had a busy day: exciting but busy. Just back from Paris, where I acquired a rather tasty collection of modern paintings. People who say art collecting is boring don’t know what they’re talking about…

  121. May 20, 2010 9:38 PM

    How does the Leger look on your wall? Does the Matisse clash with the Braque?

  122. hic8ubique permalink
    May 20, 2010 9:53 PM

    {touching wood}
    People who say art collecting is boring probably don’t like art. Auctions can be boring.
    Congratulations on a successful and satisfying day of,
    I imagine, succulent acquisitions. Coming soon to the top of this page?

  123. mishari permalink*
    May 20, 2010 10:32 PM

    Well, one seeks to strike a balance between the angular aggression of Léger and the almost oriental dispassion of Matisse. Of course, re-framing will help but… I mean (cough-cough)..I’ve said too much already…

  124. MeltonMowbray permalink
    May 20, 2010 10:46 PM

    I went to B&Q, where I bought some paint-stripper. I’m thinking of placing it in the shed, where the light from the north-facing window, lightly tinged with mould and pigeon-droppings, shows it off to best advantage.

  125. mishari permalink*
    May 20, 2010 10:57 PM

    You aesthetes, with your paint-stripper and your pigeon droppings…you need to come back to earth.

    And speaking of coming back to earth, I see that the renewal of the Labour party continues apace, as they busily plunge their feet into buckets of cement, preparatory to being dropped off Tower Bridge. The Millivanilliband bros, Ed ‘Blinky’ Balls (reduced to gargling incoherence by Eddie Mair on PM yesterday) and Andy Burnham.

    Just what the party needs: the same fucking bozos who drove the ship onto the rocks in the first place. Brilliant.

  126. MeltonMowbray permalink
    May 20, 2010 11:38 PM

    You’re forgetting McDonnell and cuddly Diane Abbott. I think I would prefer Yvette (despite her unpatriotic name) to her husband, but she turned the chance down. I don’t know why. I can’t say her tv appearances have been very good, but she does try (in a limited way) to answer the question. One problem I’ve been noticing more and more is the unwillingness of the interviewer to let the interviewee get out a full sentence. Jon Snow is a frequent offender. OK if the politician is being evasive (which etc) but he barely gives them a chance to utter before springing on them.

  127. mishari permalink*
    May 20, 2010 11:46 PM

    I’ve noticed the same thing for a while. Humphreys is, to my mind, the worst offender. Much as I detest politicians in general, there really is no need to be so adversarial. Paxman does it all the time and it’s a bad technique for getting at the truth. The mark comes in primed to be attacked and consequently has all of his or her defences up. Result? Sweet fuck all, really…

    A much cleverer method is the Gitta Sereny technique. In her interviews with Albert Speer, she was warm and sympathetic and Speer, lulled into security, spilled his guts. Had she been overtly hostile Speer would have clammed up…

  128. MeltonMowbray permalink
    May 20, 2010 11:58 PM

    That chap Jeremy James who posts on CIF used to be a BBC interviewer in the 70s. He thinks Paxman’s the worst. Snow’s questions are so bloody long it’s amazing there’s any time left for a response, and you can see the responder trying to decide which bit of it to answer first. Guru-Murthy gets it about right – interest mixed with frank incredulity when necessary.

    I hate those words ‘briefly’ and ‘I’ll have to hurry you’. Don’t bother asking the question if you can’t give enough time for the answer.

  129. mishari permalink*
    May 21, 2010 12:21 AM

    Yeah, those are amongst the many little things that have the steam bubbling in my gauges. Oh, and the BBC’s insistence on plastering a fucking station ident in the corner of the screen, ruining films and making me crazy with irritation. What the hell is that for? A concession to cretins? And they’re tearing up all the cycle lanes here in Whitechapel….how long, Lord, how long?

  130. May 21, 2010 12:26 AM

    Sorry to hear your news, ET. All strength to you and yours.

    From the look on her face, Diane Abbot has been forced into the ring to provide an illusion of diversity. A shame, as I like what I’ve seen of her and would prefer her to the other contenders.

    Also wanted to say thanks to Captain Ned for attending the first Clapham Symposium last night. It was strange at first, the dissonace when faced with the analogue reality of an online acquaintance.

  131. mishari permalink*
    May 21, 2010 1:48 AM

    Wow…meat-space. Bit of a radical concept, dude. Seriously, though, next time I’ll make the effort (and doubtless confirm all your worst suspicions: Drunk? Check. Noisy? Check. Brutish? Check. Waiter? Check…)

  132. hic8ubique permalink
    May 21, 2010 3:09 AM

    ‘Paris Museum Rocked by Art Theft’
    oh. Now I get it.
    And I was so happy for you!
    If you’d said:
    ‘I created synthetic life today.’ I’d have just nodded. Great day.

    Tomorrow, I’m off to Manhattan where I’ll spend no time at the Frick or the Morgan gallery. I’ll chaperone 8 teen-aged girls
    going to a dance festival for three days. This involves participation in a parade.
    Remember me as I was.

  133. mishari permalink*
    May 21, 2010 4:33 AM

    I love the Frick. The Goyas and El Grecos alone make it worth a trip. Add all the other stuff and it’s sort of a miniature Victoria & Albert.

    My advice? Sell the teenage girls to the South American slave-trade, hit the Frick, the Whitney, the Morgan, the Guggenheim, then to Dean & DiLucca for some nibbles, to the park to nosh, then score some heroin in Bryant Park (behind the library), get elegantly wasted, die of an overdose and become an icon to confused teenagers.

    That idiot Hadley Freeman will write a Grauniad article about you and your distinctive ‘style’, some band will dedicate an LP to you, Una Thurman will star in your biopic and I’ll write a kiss and tell memoir about our time together…all in all, a most satisfactory course of events, I think you’ll agree…carpe diem!

  134. May 21, 2010 7:53 AM

    “This involves participation in a parade.”

    hic, to prepare yourself for the wonders of that NYC parade, you might glance at the bottom image in this montage, which one observing commenter has said put him in mind of the annual parade on Fifth Avenue.

    Bring your own flag (not forgetting the “special relationship”), and who knows but what you may even be given that pride-of-place spot at the rear of the carriage.

  135. May 21, 2010 11:02 AM

    Drunk? Check. Noisy? Check. Brutish? Check. Waiter? Check…

    And I just invited you to gigs we’re doing in Greenwich in July.

    Still compared to audiences we used to get in the 80’s in small market towns you sound extremely civilised.

    When we performed in Oman the shepherd’s used to try and poke us in the face with their sticks

  136. MeltonMowbray permalink
    May 21, 2010 11:20 AM

    Hic, I salute your courage.

    I can’t share your taste for Abbott, Exit. Before seeing her on tv I wouldn’t have imagined that anyone could look bad beside Portillo, and yet she manages it on a weekly basis. Her halting, mannered blurting is shown up in the most embarrassing way by Portillo’s intelligent, fluent contributions. She’s also one of those people who seems to take disagreement as a personal affront, never very pleasant on a personal level and an absolute disaster for a politician.

    Tearing up cycle lanes, eh? Signs of progress at last.

  137. Captain Ned permalink
    May 21, 2010 2:26 PM

    No sweat, ExitB. An enjoyable evening.

    I have a great deal of respect for Diane Abbott as a bolshie backbencher and staunch critic of the last governments worst outrages; she’s my local MP and popular in the constituency. I just don’t think she’s suited for leadership, though I doubt that’s her ultimate goal, anyway; I suspect her plan is to stake a claim for a place in the shadow cabinet – and good for her. There’s a risk that she’ll split the left-wing vote, but on the other hand the four ex-Cabinet numpties will find it harder now to dismiss McDonnell as an irrelevant fringe figure. Two genuine lefties might ensure that a fairer hearing is given to alternatives to the dreary Blair/Brown/New Labour/Next Labour bollocks. Of course, neither has a hope in hell of winning, but I hope they both at least receive enough support to send a strong message to whichever Milliband triumphs that a drastic change of course is required.

    Sorry to hear about your parents, ET.

  138. mishari permalink*
    May 21, 2010 3:53 PM

    I’ve decided to put a substantial bounty on Millivanilliband’s head…either one (I’m not fussy)…

    Bring me the head of Alfredo Millivanilliband…

    I’ve been trying to imagine what Orwell (his 4-volume Penguin Collected Letters, Essays and Journalism were a holy text in my teens) would make of this shower. I have an idea….

    Ned, I hardly recognised you without the leek in your buttonhole, look you, boyo….

  139. MeltonMowbray permalink
    May 22, 2010 12:27 AM

    The ability to make a coherent argument is quite important when setting out a leftist alternative: it’s an ability which Diane Abbott clearly lacks. There’s also the private school issue, which is still very much alive judging from comments I’ve heard and read.

    I don’t know about a ‘drastic change of course’. A return to dreary old social democratic policies sounds fine to me, something like the various proposals the coalition has just tabled. What, in fact, a Labour government should have been occupying itself with over the last 13 years.

  140. MeltonMowbray permalink
    May 22, 2010 12:36 AM

    I forgot to mention Yvette’s wig. Well-spotted, freep. She seems to be taking over the space in my heart once reserved for Ruth Kelly and her spiked thigh-collar.

  141. mishari permalink*
    May 22, 2010 7:59 AM

    Seen the game of lesserbooks? Basically, titles that didn’t make the final cut. It’s quite addictive:

    The Parolee of Zenda by Athony Hope

    The Sound and The Minor Irritation by William Faulkner

    Lady Windermere’s Thermostat
    by Oscar Wilde

    Great Expectorations by Charles Dickens

    The Mild Anxiety of Young Werther by J. W. Goethe

    Tizer With Rosie by Laurie Lee

    The Chartered Accountant of The Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien

    Finnegan’s Lie-In
    by James Joyce

    From Russia With Mild Disdain by Ian Fleming

    Doctor Maybe
    by Ian Fleming

    Zircons Aren’t Forever by Ian Fleming

    The Squat at Pooh Corner
    by A. A. Milne

    The Periphery of Dinginess by Joseph Conrad

    The Communist Post-It Note by Karl Marx and Frederick Engels

    The Minor Official of Monte Cristo
    by Alexandre Dumas

    by Herman Hesse

    Gulliver’s Torpor
    by Jonathan Swift

    King Solomon’s Pot-Holes by H. Rider Haggard

    One Crashed Into The Cuckoo’s Nest
    by Ken Kesey

    Lady Chatterly’s Pen-Pal by D. H. Lawrence

  142. May 22, 2010 9:42 AM

    MM we did a gig in Pontefract last year and the parade was headed up by Yvette Cooper looking about as hacked off as a politician dragged out of bed on a Sunday morning to front a community parade would look.

    I met her when she did the walk about and she was less affected than some of them can be. She used to be good in response to the slimy Michael Gove but then again you’re rooting for anyone rather than him.

  143. MeltonMowbray permalink
    May 22, 2010 6:37 PM

    Yvette! Madonna of the shadow bench,
    turning on Today and hearing her talk
    in that modified east of Hampshire squawk
    gives my heart a non-political wrench.

    In rumpled clothing from a jumble sale,
    her coiffure untutored by human hands,
    at the dispatch box she bravely stands
    her lovely pinhead determined but pale.

    For God’s sake hack off your hideous Balls,
    and leave him snuffling for votes, the pig,
    please hear my voice, which officially calls
    for you to abandon affairs of state,

    strip off responsibility and wig,
    and let my love caress your naked pate.

  144. MeltonMowbray permalink
    May 22, 2010 6:41 PM

    I envy you your proximity, ET. Looking forward to seeing the Special One tonight. Highly promising game which no doubt will be deeply disappointing.

    My felicitations to HLM. A towering performance. Divided loyalties next season?

  145. May 22, 2010 9:43 PM

    MM deeply dissappointing is the verdict. Boring Italian team versus not good on the night German team.

    They could have done with Yvette Cooper as a centre half seeing as how she’s probably used to kicking balls away/keeping balls out of her area ( delete where appropriate )

  146. MeltonMowbray permalink
    May 22, 2010 10:24 PM

    Yes, the Jerries didn’t seem to have much after the first goal went in. They’re usually quite resourceful. I suppose you can’t expect much in the way of entertainment from a Mourinho team.

    While arguing with Mrs M about Yvette’s accent the lady in question suddenly appeared on the tv. Didn’t really help. MrsM contends there are Northern intonations, which I can’t detect. Standard middle-class Southern, with a definite hint of Hampshire. Nice rug.

  147. mishari permalink*
    May 22, 2010 10:44 PM

    Like Mrs. MM, I detect a faint Northern accent in La Cooper’s speech. Not strong but definitely there…perhaps she turns it on and off, depending on her audience, like Blair with his Mockney/Estuarine ‘!’m down wiff da plebs’ travesty of a blokey persona…

  148. May 22, 2010 10:48 PM

    I hear well-educated Northern too so that probably means she was born in Penzance to a couple of unemployed tin-miners.

  149. MeltonMowbray permalink
    May 22, 2010 11:16 PM

    According to Wiki she was born in Inverness but educated, and presumably grew up, in Hampshire. She represents a Yorks seat. It’s possible that she’s one of those people who picks up accents without necessarily meaning to. Unless she’s deliberately faking a Northern accent to ingratiate herself with the locals. But I can’t believe Yvette would stoop to that.

  150. May 22, 2010 11:53 PM

    Me neever MM me old china. Right up the apples and pears, wash behind me Britney’s, clean me Mick’n’Keef and go to…. errr don’t know the rhyming slang for bed.

    Damn my partially completed Grammar school education!

  151. HenryLloydMoon permalink
    May 23, 2010 7:00 AM

    Thanks very much, MM. Grown men in tears, my elder daughter watching me dance with Blackpudlians I had never previously met… This was in the Parisian suburbs, mind. I couldn’t afford the day out at Wembley.

    At the Spurs-Blackpool fixtures next season I shall, as ever, be pulling for the underdog.

  152. May 23, 2010 8:02 AM

    The Tangerines were definitely the best team on the day. And that includes the Nerazzuri. The Ian Holloway and Charlie Adam postgame interviews were worth the price of the season. Well, perhaps if Mourinho possessed a few sartorial imperfections, fewer teeth… no, he would still be an infinitely self adoring bore. And I don’t believe his team would have beaten Cardiff.

  153. MeltonMowbray permalink
    May 23, 2010 7:13 PM

    I only saw the goals; Murdoch interdiction. Should be fun listening to Holloway post-match next season.

    “I love Blackpool. We’re very similar. We both look better in the dark.”

    I was surprised to see (in his Guardian interview) that C Hitchens attributes his success with the ladies to writing sonnets to them. Never worked for me on the one occasion I tried it (aged 16, French exchange student-got all my French grammar wrong). I can’t see many women finding it especially attractive. Embarrassing and awkward would be my guess, something like the single flowers Mrs M’s former boyfriends used to bring with them to dates. After a muted thanks, she would spend the rest of the assignation wondering ‘how to get rid of the bloody thing’.

  154. mishari permalink*
    May 23, 2010 8:01 PM

    That Hitchens interview was a bit brutal, don’t you think? She (Decca Aitkenhead, the interviewer) clearly detests him. He comes across as a drunk, a pedestrian intellect and worse, a bore. I’ve seen a lot of interviews with him and whether one agrees with him or not, he’s never dull or banal. Ditto, his writing, which I have a lot of.

    He’s been demonised over his support for the Iraq invasion but at least he was consistent. He’d been calling for Saddam’s overthrow for decades. As a Kuwaiti, I need no lectures from Hitchens or anyone else on Saddam’s nastiness or the desirability of his deposition. I was, however, baffled by how he could support an enterprise conceived and executed in such a welter of lies and incompetence.

    Further, his ‘Islamofascism’ shtick is both tiresome and manifestly wrong. Religious fanatics are always a menace, whether they’re Christian, Jewish, Muslim or Hindu. To ascribe some special existential threat to the Muslim variety, as appalling and dangerous as they are, strikes me as bizarre. Again, though, to be fair to Hitchens, he’s always been savagely contemptuous of God botherers and his books gutting and filleting Mother Teresa and Rabbi Meir Kahane are classics of their kind.

    On the sonnet question, speaking for myself, I’ve found that the ability to quote poetry never hurt ones chances with women but I never, in my youth, had the temerity to address verse to a woman. I mean, what if she really, really hated your work? It could be a deal-killer–God knows, I’ve gone right off people for less…

    She (the Duchess of York) was filmed apparently telling him (the News of the World reporter) how to transfer £500,000 to her bank account, saying: “Then that, is then like, then you open up all the channels whatever you need, whatever you want, and then that’s what and then you meet Andrew and that’s fine. And that’s, that’s when you really open up whatever you want.”

    The Indy, today

    I suppose she could spend some of that money on English lessons. If that NOTW reporter actually understood what his 500 grand was buying, he deserves a promotion…

  155. May 23, 2010 9:15 PM

    Sarah Ferguson sounds like she’s channeling Donald Rumsfeld.

    re The Hitchen’s interview. Live by the sword, die by the sword as far as I can see. He had his moments in the sun and now is struggling to accept that his stock has fallen.

    In his embracing of the right-wing he reminds of those anti-smokers who used to smoke. I’ve never smoked and although glad that it’s banned in a lot of places, I think an outright ban is a bit ridiculous but my views on smoking are mild compared to those who used to enjoy the habit.

  156. cassaroseus permalink
    May 23, 2010 10:35 PM

    The most hilarious part of that Hitchens interview was his tragic-comic efforts to get off with la Decca’s good-looking young photographer… every inch the dribbling pantaloon. I loved the more like Tim Spall than Russell Crowe observation/crack… Wormtail indeed. Perfect.

    Classic, classic oxo… from time, or at least Evelyn Waugh, immemorial: talented, attractive and radical youth becomes sour, disappointed and reactionary old drunk.

    I’d loved to have been a fly on a wall when he read said hatchet job. Or Fergie when she watched that film of her grabbing that bag o’tenners.

  157. mishari permalink*
    May 23, 2010 10:41 PM

    That Tim Spall crack was right on the money and I daresay he’s as ‘paunchy’ and ‘rumpled’ as she says.

    Of course, La Aitkenhead would be appalled if a female writer were castigated for her looks or her paunch or being physically rumpled.

    Still, never mind, eh? Hitchens is a heretic and anathema to all right-thinking Grauniadistas like Decca so anything goes…

  158. MeltonMowbray permalink
    May 24, 2010 12:24 AM

    I thought it was a bit of a hatchet job, and Decca can keep the psychologising. Still, some of the detail was excruciating. The Famous Four and their imaginative word game… oh dear. Xerox that… oh dear oh dear. The joke about his looks having declined so that only women would sleep with him almost saved the day.

    I see those tight Teutons at the Palace only give Sarah 15 grand a year. If they had any sense they would give her a decent salary so she didn’t have to pull those strokes. Or arrange a nice drive around Paris one evening.

  159. mishari permalink*
    May 24, 2010 12:47 AM

    According to the Financial Times:

    The duke drew approximately £600,000 from public funds last year to pay for the work, the palace said, adding that the Queen provided additional private funding for five office staff.

    …’the work’ consisting of jetting around the world in high-style and getting cozy with all kinds of unsavoury ruffians. I have no sympathy for Fergy but 15 grand does seem extraordinarily mean, given that these Kraut parasites cost the taxpayer £37 million a year…hell, I spend more than £15,000 a year on larks tongues in aspic.

  160. obooki permalink
    May 24, 2010 1:06 AM

    I know it makes good copy and let’s us have a laugh at celebrities and politicians and ruins their careers, but am I the only person in the world who’s a little worried by this idea of press entrapment – something which seems to be becoming increasingly common?

    I looked into the law a bit (well, on Wikipedia): – it seems it’s only really entrapment if carried out by government agents (i.e. police officers). You cannot be prosecuted for any act which was induced by entrapment, because without the inducement it cannot be shown you’d have ever acted in a non law-abiding manner.

    I think therefore it’s also true that, if the press instigated the entrapment of a celebrity (say, for match-fixing), then the celebrity cannot be prosecuted for it, under the same defence. (I can’t think of a case where they were).

    If legally then the celebrity is seen to have done nothing wrong, I find it troubling that newspapers retain this power to destroy people’s careers deliberately and maliciously in order to sell some copy, when if it weren’t for the actions of newspapers, none of it would have happened.

  161. mishari permalink*
    May 24, 2010 1:42 AM

    “We know no spectacle so ridiculous as the British public in one of its periodic fits of morality.” –Macaulay

    Interesting question, obooki. I think each case has to be taken on its merits. Some of these cases of ‘entrapment’ are clearly in the public interest.

    When those oafs Byers, Hewitt and Hoon were caught pimping out their (dubious) services for large sums, I think it’s entirely right and proper that they be exposed to ridicule and contempt.

    In all cases where politicians are saying one thing (and even making laws to ensure that we all do that thing) yet doing the complete opposite when they think they’ll be undetected…well, fuck ’em: they’ve got it coming.

    The Triesman business, however, left a bad taste in the mouth and Fergie is just a simpleton–greedy, foolish, imprudent etc but hardly worth the bother. It’s not as if we didn’t already know all this.

    Hell, if anyone’s stupid enough to pay 500 grand for access to Air-Miles Andy, well, it’s hard to legislate against a lack of intelligence…

    I agree with you, though. Many of these cases are not in anyone’s interest except the seedy papers looking to shift more product.

  162. May 24, 2010 9:52 AM

    Did you hear the ex-journalist on Today talking about whether journalism is an accurate provider of the truth as opposed to fiction?

    She was muddled and obviously Had a Novel to Sell but had a strong argument re: the US media regurgitating wholesale the Bush government’s argument for invading Iraq without question.

  163. mishari permalink*
    May 24, 2010 10:02 AM

    I did hear that, Ed. And it’s certainly true that all the major news outlets in the US–from the NYT to the Washington Post and all the network TV broadcasters–toed the war-party line. It was left entirely to small journals and magazines and alternative news outlets and blogs to make the case against.

    However, we have nothing to crow about. I daresay you remember the Observer supporting the war along with the rest of the press and I seem to remember the Grauniad being broadly acquiescent as well as printing miles of witless guff from the usual suspects supporting the war.

  164. May 24, 2010 10:29 AM

    True enough but I suppose a truly objective paper prints opinion from both sides and tries to delve underneath it all.

    I used to know Richard Norton-Taylor of the Guardian ( a good friend of a good friend ) who always struck me as the sort of journalist you want.

    Don McCullin’s autobiography is pretty sharp on the Sunday Times succumbing to market pressures, ousting Harold Evans and a culture of long, expensive-to-produce investigative pieces in favour of pieces which toe the press release line.

  165. Zeph permalink
    May 24, 2010 11:28 AM

    I saw the film of Sarah Ferguson discussing said deal, to me she seemed to be drunk. And yes, she obviously really isn’t very bright at all. It all looked a bit like shooting fish in a barrel.

    I agree with obooki, this whole school of ‘journalism’ is malicious and beyond cynical, and does us as a society no good. I’m amazed the ‘fake sheik’, or whatever he calls himself now, hasn’t been thoroughly beaten up yet, you’d think at least one of the people whose lives he’s ruined would have sent the boys round.

  166. mishari permalink*
    May 24, 2010 11:52 AM

    Zeph, there used to be (and still is, for all I know) some clown on, I think, ITV who fancied himself an ‘investigative journalist’–was it McSomething?

    In fact, his ‘journalism’ consisted of ambushing people and sticking a microphone into their faces while asking questions of the ‘…and when did you stop beating your wife?’ variety.

    The most enjoyable thing about the program was seeing him get punched, which happened with delightful regularity..

  167. Zeph permalink
    May 24, 2010 12:04 PM

    Yes, I can’t remember his name either… I think he made the mistake of going after actual villains. But generally, tabloid journalists don’t get punched often enough IMO.

    Mind you, I don’t think either of the Hitchens brothers has been hit often enough either. They may be very smart and articulate and all, but I’m sorry, those poppy eyes and that huge, huge belief in the importance of their opinions in both cases makes my slapping hand itch.

    I must go and eat an ice-cream, altogether too aggressive today.

  168. May 24, 2010 12:22 PM

    Roger Cook was the one who confronted criminals and often got on the wrong end of their anger.

    It was full of ” Why are you raising that iron bar at me Mr. Jones?” or ” Please let go of my arm as you drive off Mr. Smith” followed by sounds of someone being dragged along at 30 m.p.h or crumpling under the full force of an iron bar.

    But wasn’t Donal McIntyre the more recent one in that vein of reportage eventually found out for entrapment and paying teenagers to act bad?

  169. mishari permalink*
    May 24, 2010 12:28 PM

    McIntyre was the one I was thinking of, but Cook was of the same ilk. Watching Cook being set about by an elderly lady with an umbrella was TV gold. “Oof…why won’t you answer…ouch…the question, Mrs. X?…arrgh”. Priceless.

    Yes, the Hitchens Bros do have an unfortunate tendency to exophthalmia, although Peter is the most pop-eyed of the two: all that righteous indignation can’t be healthy…

  170. hic8ubique permalink
    May 24, 2010 2:38 PM

    ‘exophthalmia’ Joy in the triple-word-score morning!
    On further wikki-up:
    ‘Some sources define exophthalmos (or exophthalmia) as a protrusion of the globe greater than 18 mm and proptosis as a protusion equal to or less than 18 mm. (Epstein et al., 2003). Others define exophthalmos as protrusion secondary to endocrine dysfunction and proptosis as any non-endocrine-mediated protrusion.’
    Doesn’t it feel good to have that distinction sorted?

    Thanks Tom Clark.(Your compelling accounts nearly induce me to care about the football.) No flag available, but I swathed myself in remnants of orange Christo-wrap in case they just had to dispose of me at the end.

    No heroin, Mishari. I brought my own endorphins and fared better than expected, despite my inurban oceanid nature, and the shattering noise of the full NYC catastrophe.
    Uma Emu? What a funny thought. I usually go to galleries alone, the better to indulge my treacly pace, but never would have imagined I could keep up with your locusts’ appetite. A kiss-and-tell would read like the after-life of Baucis and Philemon.

  171. MeltonMowbray permalink
    May 24, 2010 4:02 PM

    Stone me, I hope Zeph doesn’t have connections dahn Beffnal Green or them Hitchens bruvvers is going to find their heads nailed to the floor upstairs in vuh Two Puddings. ‘Eating an ice-cream’ isn’t gangster-speak, is it?

    Pleased to hear you survived the terpsichorean ordeal, hic

  172. hic8ubique permalink
    May 24, 2010 4:49 PM

    Thanks, MM. We lost no one, only cash and sleep.
    It’s good to be back where ‘noisy’ means ‘bees in the wisteria’.

    Presumably, Mrs M chose you in the end, since you thoughtfully sent a baker’s dozen following the date, including an Orrefors vase with instructions per its use.

  173. MeltonMowbray permalink
    May 24, 2010 7:58 PM

    That’s a sore point, hic. When Mrs M was telling me of the above, several years into marriage, what flashed upon my inward eye was the memory of an idyllic summer afternoon in a meadow, when I remembered making a daisy chain for her, which she accepted with every appearance of pleasure. I asked what had happened to my carefully wrought tribute, and she disclaimed all knowledge of the incident. Pressed, she said she had probably thrown it into the bushes while I wasn’t looking.

    What youth deemed crystal, age finds out was dew.

  174. mishari permalink*
    May 24, 2010 8:17 PM

    This is the price you pay for being a lightweight, MM. If only you’d followed my example. In the same situation (meadow, summer, object of my affections), I’d have chopped down an oak and whittled up a chest of drawers with my trusty pocket-knife; I’d like to see her toss that into the bushes…

  175. May 24, 2010 10:02 PM

    I’d have flattened the meadow, dug a canal, diverted a river to fill it, whittled a canoe out of the oak, learnt Spanish guitar and a few choons and hoped that this effort was appreciated.

  176. hic8ubique permalink
    May 24, 2010 10:07 PM

    At length, each fair damsel went off with a shepherd; he’d
    bored them to tears, put love-making in jeopardy.
    Down that hill-side, his tributes to lost sweet-hearts rest:
    a design henceforth known as the ‘bachelor’s chest’.

  177. HenryLloydMoon permalink
    May 24, 2010 10:53 PM

    to whittle a Skittle
    requires grease and spittle
    while paring your shavings
    misshapen and little

    just suck a Life Saver
    (strong wintergreen flavour)
    first sparing her cravings
    then tossing your caber

  178. MeltonMowbray permalink
    May 24, 2010 11:37 PM

    Yes, chucking Al-Adwani’s stuff is best,
    but it can be chilly outdoors,
    it’s all very well bunging out those chests:
    I hope they kept their drawers.

  179. hic8ubique permalink
    May 25, 2010 12:06 AM

    The only one I can attest to
    sloped off with Canoeing Armando.
    Her chest and her nether parts felt the chill,
    and she sorely rued going commando.

  180. hic8ubique permalink
    May 25, 2010 12:14 AM

    and for the ancient Vicar…

    In the bliss of solitude,
    reflecting on a former mood
    when he confused his weeds and flowers,
    MM plumbed deep botanic powers
    and divined a Rose was needed,
    lest his suit should go unheeded.
    But a vase? When next they dined al fresco,
    he produced a clean gin-bottle from Tesco.

  181. mishari permalink*
    May 25, 2010 10:18 AM

    A teacher who was spared jail after beating a 14-year-old pupil with a dumbbell warned today that “lots of teachers are ticking time bombs” because of stress in schools. —The Grauniad, today

    I’d keep a sharp eye on Mrs. MM, if I were you. Never mind daisy chains: you need to get yourself some CS gas, pronto (and hide the dumbbells).

  182. May 25, 2010 10:34 AM

    If you walk past some of the Manchester schools you can hear the ticking.

    One of my brothers is a classroom assistant ( probably soon to be made unemployed ) and has no idea most days what subject he’s going to be helping with, what school he’s going to be at etc. etc. So every day is like the first day at school. Can’t be good for the soul.

  183. MeltonMowbray permalink
    May 25, 2010 2:01 PM

    I would never put flowers in a gin bottle. It would be like washing your feet in a font.

    Luckily I am a master of Tae Kwon Do, so I can usually cope with a psychopathic pedagogue. Don’t take it personally, is Mrs M’s advice to young teachers faced with abusive students. Some of them (men in particular, and not just youngsters) find that difficult. Toe to toe with a 6′ 4′ 16 year-old screaming fuck off and die! in my face I might be a bit sensitive too.

    Is this the brother who was done over by the SAS, ET? Working in a Manchester school must run that a near second.

  184. May 25, 2010 2:26 PM

    The same – he works in Stoke and sometimes beyond.

    Not only will that 6’4″ kid tell you to fuck off and die but his mates will capture the incident on their phones and your humiliation will be a YouTube hit by the evening. Who’d be a teacher.

  185. MeltonMowbray permalink
    May 25, 2010 11:12 PM

    Soldiering, policing, educating-your brother certainly likes putting his head in the lion’s maw, ET. Funnily enough, Mrs M’s feeling is that behaviour has improved in some areas over the last few years. After talking to her students she thinks that it has less to do with a change in attitudes than an awareness of the range of new crimes, and the possibility of getting a record, leading to employment problems later on. That doesn’t apply to the more disturbed kids and there seem to be increasing numbers of them. What makes it harder to deal with is the knowledge that behind many of those obnoxious adolescents is a very depressing family life.

    The government, meanwhile, is going to make improving teachers its priority. They’ll be lucky if there are any left to improve.

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