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Top Of The World

February 4, 2011

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Recently, I sat down and watched half-a-dozen James Cagney films. Of all the Hollywood tough-guys of the period–Humphrey Bogart, George Raft, Edward G. Robinson, Paul Muni–Cagney was the one who impressed me most. He stalked the screen like a caged panther, almost vibrating with pent-up energy.

It came as no surprise when I learned, years ago, that Cagney had started out as a dancer. It was there in the sheer physical grace of his performances; in the way that Cagney, more than any other actor of the period, understood the spatial dynamics of each scene: where to be and how to get there in a way that was economical but rich with subtext.

Reviewing The Roaring Twenties (Cagney’s break-out film) in The Spectator in 1939, Graham Greene wrote:

Mr. Cagney, of the bull-calf brow, is as always a superb and witty actor

David Thompson is worth quoting at length:

When we ask which stars of the golden age have lasted best we think of those who did less – Cary Grant, Robert Mitchum, Bogart, John Wayne. You can even work out a theory of star acting which says that, granted a series of set and familiar emotional situations, it was the actors who did the least, or let the picture hang in doubt, who are the most intriguing or eloquent. And these days – when authentic stardom is a rare thing – actors of all sorts strive to be economical, laconic, straight-faced, just looking at their situation, and the idea of being in a movie, as simply or enigmatically as possible.

But then there is Cagney. Consider White Heat, made in 1949, when Jimmy Cagney was 50. As White Heat was in preparation, Cagney made a social visit to the office of Ivan Goff and Ben Roberts, who were working on the script. He lay down on the couch in the office, and asked in his dreamy Irish voice: “What are we going to do, fellas?”

The writers explained that this time they were going for something different: not just to show a gangster as a figure of evil, but to show why and where the damage came from.

Cut to a scene in the prison cafeteria. Cody Jarrett (Cagney) is sitting there, eating his dinner, and a message is passed along the line of other prisoners. Director Raoul Walsh does it in a very classy way, the camera simply moving from one whispering face to another. We don’t know the message, but the source of it is a newly arrived prisoner. And Cody has himself passed along the question: “Has he seen my mother?” The answer that comes back, uttered with terrible apprehension by the last man in the line, is: “She’s dead.” Whereupon, Cagney erupts.

One of his greatest fans of all time, Orson Welles, once called Cagney “a displacer of air”. The script that Goff and Roberts had written called for massive grief in Cody. If you gave that scene to some of today’s tough actors – Gene Hackman, Clint Eastwood, Robert Duvall – they might give you a hint of physical collapse, there might be a tear. Cagney went crazy.

Years later, there were extras in that scene who professed themselves terrified at what the actor did. He crushes his tin cup. He lets loose a terrible roar or scream. And he becomes consumed with violence. Asked where it came from, Cagney mentioned the memory of his own father in alcoholic fits, and something else seen in a mental hospital. But there was also the imagination that trusted nothing so much as the release of energy.

It’s easy to assume that everyone knows Cagney inside out. Yet in truth, I’m sure the films of the 1930s are a blur now to young audiences who dote on Quentin Tarantino pictures. So I can only urge anyone with a love of cinema to go back to the real thing, the movies Cagney made in the 1930s – the ordinary pictures – when he was no more lethal than Joe Louis in three or four fights a year. You don’t know what the star system could be until you see a dozen or so of these routine glories where Cagney’s smile could be more dangerous than a computer-generated army.

Freeze, motherfuckers…keep your hands where I can see them…good…now, let’s have verse on movie gangsters, movie criminals and movie crime. Here’s an old one that I’ve re-worked (not that it’s helped any):

Top Of The World…

Can’t remember when I first saw
Jimmy Cagney breaking the law;
perhaps The Public Enemy;
the grapefruit in Mae Clarke’s face;
even a small boy
knew electric grace.

No surprise to learn
later still
he’d begun as a hoofer,
dancing Vaudeville;
his balletic ease:
made the blood freeze,
whether slapping some sap,
or planning a kill.

Dying in The Public Enemy or giving
Mae Clarke the boot in Lady Killer
snarling like a panther

in The Roaring Twenties
or being a bad boy come good in
Angels With Dirty Faces

or cackling insane
malevolence in White Heat,

a crazed, Oedipal loon
blowing himself to the moon:
“Top of the world…”.

He was compelling:
I couldn’t look away;
whatever he was selling,
I was glad to pay.

169 Comments
  1. mishari permalink*
    February 4, 2011 4:44 AM

    A wonderfully entertaining spat between Laurie Penny (who is being groomed by the dullards of The Guardian as a sort of proto-Bidisha) and some clown named Jacob Bard-Rosenberg.

    Penny Dreadful recently wrote a gut-burstingly hilarious piece for The Groan on how stripping was an art form, liberating and empowering: at least, it had been when she did it; now, however…quelle horreur…stripping had become vulgar and exploitative.

    It’s Penny–the IKEA Rosa Luxemburg vs Bard-Rosenberg–the Boden catalogue Gramsci. Penny is given to saying things like:

    All I heard was some guy who’d read out a nasty poem about menstruating donuts earlier in the day making a crass sexist ‘joke’ and then explaining to me why I should in fact have found it funny when I in fact found it rude and slightly threatening.

    …while Bard-Rosenberg spouts guff like:

    I think you are making too strong an appeal for what’s quite an old-fashioned structuralist conception of culture that ends up with what are basically transcendental value-judgements (which I can only imagine are built around an equally transcendental notion of hegemony.)

    The whole thread–On Being Called A Cunt By Laurie Penny [seriously: that’s what the piece is called] is pure comedy gold.

    With ‘leftist activists’ like this lot, Capitalism can sleep like a baby.

    • MeltonMowbray permalink
      February 4, 2011 1:16 PM

      I saw that. Some of the comments are quite funny. I’ve never read anything by LP, but I’ve noticed her being mentioned on CIF.

    • February 4, 2011 3:30 PM

      “Last night you came to the meeting in question wearing a giant green viking helmet. ”

      Quite good.

  2. MeltonMowbray permalink
    February 4, 2011 1:11 PM

    Goodfellas

    That’s the moment when it came surging back,
    when the atmosphere was instantly chilled,
    and all the faces went suddenly blank
    and the talking stopped and the room was still.

    The words were out there, and the school psycho
    slowly turned his head and said, cold and flat,
    as my guts flew quacking out the window:
    so what’s so fucking funny about that?

    Well, I didn’t know, and for a minute
    I couldn’t have remembered my name
    as I struggled to regain my wits

    under those stony stares. When the punch came
    I was only too happy to submit;
    it hurt a lot less than the social shame.

  3. MeltonMowbray permalink
    February 4, 2011 1:20 PM

    Good poem and post, btw. I loved Cagney in Yankee Doodle Dandy, and that grapefruit scene really shocked me as a kid.

  4. February 4, 2011 2:26 PM

    Beat the drum stop all the clocks
    I’m gonna put WH inside a box.
    when he’s in the earth and when I’m done
    I’m after Isherwood with a gun.

    I hate those intellectuals circa 1930
    When it comes to Spender I’m gonna fight dirty.
    Henry Moore’s sculptures are no better than mud
    His youthful talent I’ll nip in the bud.

    I’ll lead Edward Bawden a murderous dance
    When he’s done my attention’s set upon France
    Satrre? kapow!! Camus Therr-wack!!
    Where they’re goin’ they ain’t comin’ back.

    Even Raymond Queneau I’ll lay down low
    With his 99 styles in which to say ” No!”
    France down now time for Germany
    I’ll not stop til you’re all dumber than me.

  5. mishari permalink*
    February 4, 2011 2:50 PM

    Good work, youse guys…have a Tommy gun on the house.

    ‘This is where I say, “What’s this all about?” and you say, “We ask the questions”.’–Philip Marlowe, The Long Goodbye, Raymond Chandler

    The Long Goodbye

    Down empty streets, the footsteps sound loud,
    the shadows no blacker than any man’s heart;
    blinded by neon, made deaf by the crowd,
    he seeks out the spaces where murder meets art.

    The grin, the gat, the thousand Gs;
    the Packard 8 and the chrome-haired dame;
    the cop, the DA, the judge, all of these
    are always changing and ever the same.

    The past breeds monsters, the future breeds pain;
    the present just feels like a holding-pattern;
    go through the motions again and again,
    like a horse on a track or some boarding-house slattern.

    Pick up the pieces and hope that they fit;
    not really a puzzle, more of a mosaic;
    the rough get it smooth and the weak get more grit:
    eat, sleep and drink–how much more can you take?

  6. February 4, 2011 4:09 PM

    The bastards at the Guardian have just moderated my poem for Billy Mills’ PP thread about School. It was “I will write a decent poem” written out a hundred times. I was unexpectedly quite pleased with it.

  7. MeltonMowbray permalink
    February 4, 2011 4:29 PM

    Great idea: I’d just recommended it, fwiw. Typical Guardian dull-wittedness.

  8. mishari permalink*
    February 4, 2011 5:29 PM

    The dismal, half-wit cunts have ruined the rest of The Graun; why wouldn’t they ruin Poster Poems as well? For commenting purposes, The Indy is far superior anyway…

    In an interview with Wolf Blitzer on CNN this week, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul said the US should cut all foreign assistance to plug the deficit, including Israel aid.–The Jerusalem Post, 29.1.2011

    Interesting. In the normal course of events, to even hint at such a thing would be to commit political suicide in the US. Of course, Paul is speaking purely of fiscal undesirability as opposed to any ideological qualms, but still…perhaps the US will start to wake-up to the fact that America’s greatest enemy–in terms of damage inflicted to the reputation of the US and to its effectiveness on the world stage–is Israel.

  9. Reine permalink
    February 4, 2011 9:05 PM

    I don’t think I know any gangster movies; I might sit this one out unless I have a lightbulb moment. I appreciate all of yours though.

    • mishari permalink*
      February 4, 2011 9:29 PM

      Then write about an imaginary film, Reine. Since when did anyone ever stick to the task?

      “I’m in the Mountain grill on the Portobello Road, where everyone used to meet to get on the tour buses. I’m sitting there, and this bloke called Geronimo is trying to sell me some dope. He says ‘have you heard about the tunnel under Ladbroke Grove?’. He starts to elaborate, about how it’s under the Poor Clares nunnery, and you can go into that and come out in an entirely different world. I said to him, ‘Geronimo, I think I wrote that’. It didn’t seem to bother him much.”–Michael Moorcock, Grauniad interview,today

      An excellent interview with Hari Kunzru, it can be read HERE

  10. February 4, 2011 10:29 PM

    I was just marvelling at his 15,000 word a day routine.

  11. mishari permalink*
    February 4, 2011 10:39 PM

    I know, Ed…astonishing. A very enjoyable piece, I thought. By the way, Kunzru has posted the full 8,000 word interview on his webpage:

    http://harikunzru.com/archive/interview-michael-moorcock-2010

  12. mishari permalink*
    February 4, 2011 11:12 PM

    BRUSSELS, Feb 4 (Reuters) –Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi on Friday praised Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak as a wise man…

    Mubarak is so fucked…

    • hic8ubique permalink
      February 4, 2011 11:50 PM

      Oh no, a political kiss of death?

      MM, were you taken as a tot to see Cagney? What a funny little fellow he was; wouldn’t have known him from you, myself.

      Mishari, dancing often crops up in your remarks and sometimes in your poems;
      are you a dancer then?

      I don’t know any gangster films either, Re.
      I did have an imaginary film dream last night though. I was visiting an old haunt from my 20s but I was watching the film even as I was in it. I noticed it was the period when there had been two way traffic on the street, and arranged chairs for a good view, but ended up walking about in the ‘film’ peering in windows to see who was running the shops at that time. It was like visiting the past, but with the premise of it being a film. It was all pleasant though, no gangsters volunteered for the assignment at hand.

    • Reine permalink
      February 5, 2011 12:08 AM

      What can that mean Hic? Are you coming over all nostalgic for the new decade?

      Now you have me thinking of Mishari leaping about in tights, setting me up nicely for a balletic dream in which he flings me about the stage (it could only happen in a fantasy context).

      I must to bed. My father and sister are due here in the morning to attend a funeral. Declared eta 9.30 a.m. but Daddy always gives himself a spare hour so I will be grilling rashers in full make up at 8 o’clock. “Reine, don’t go to any bother, a rasher and egg will do me loveen and some of that nice brown bread you make. I’ll read the paper in the car if I get there early.”

  13. February 4, 2011 11:14 PM

    Gogol and Hawkwind – there’s not many places where those two rub shoulders.

  14. Reine permalink
    February 4, 2011 11:38 PM

    Psycho Killer, Qu’est-ce que c’est … fa, fa, fa, fa

    A Mummy’s boy should not be trusted
    Near a shower that’s encrusted
    With the pubes of passers-by
    Away from home

    Some may be on the run
    Fugitives whose goose was done
    Cooked, dried out, totally fucked
    From the mainstream swiftly plucked

    Others, unlucky in love,
    Sheath their hands in leather gloves
    Leave town with contraband
    And a journey hardly planned

    Storm clouds gather by and by
    Needs must to wash and dry
    Escape the vicious gusts
    And reflect on ill-spent lusts

    This is the tale of Marion
    Sick and tired of Sam’s carry-on
    She’d loved warmly but not well
    Ah, there, look, a motel…

    Shed her panties and her bra
    Ran the faucet and ta-dah
    Clear water now ran red
    Poor Marion was dead

  15. mishari permalink*
    February 5, 2011 12:15 AM

    I’m a dancer in the same way that Sarah Palin is an intellectual. I dance sometimes but it’s not generally encouraged by family or friends…

    Bit bloody early in the morning for a funeral, no? I mean, it’s not as if the deceased needs to get a head start…

    • Reine permalink
      February 5, 2011 12:22 AM

      Funeral mass is at eleven so that’ll be 10.15 D.M.T. Allowing an hour and a half or so for breakfast, “the chat” and miscellaneous occurrences. Daddy likes to get a good run at the day.

  16. hic8ubique permalink
    February 5, 2011 12:35 AM

    I guess Daddy does. He’d be grilling his own rasher at my house, but no! early breakfast Spouse would oblige. I’d wander in half-awake, 9.30-ish, dressing-gowned and wild-maned.

    Shame about the dancing. I imagine you’d be a good partner, because you’re musical, M.
    And likely tall enough, which is always a help.

    I get the Nurejev ref, Reine. You are too self-depreciative , as well as over-accommodating, but I am a wicked cat.

  17. hic8ubique permalink
    February 5, 2011 12:36 AM

    Daddy’s. Mean. Time?

    • Reine permalink
      February 5, 2011 5:48 PM

      Precisely.

  18. mishari permalink*
    February 5, 2011 12:37 AM

    Ah…got it. All flesh is as grass etc etc…

    “Remember the phrase, if you want to make an omelette, you’ve got to break a few eggs. You know who said that? I believe it was Karl Marx, and Karl Marx said if you want to make an omelette, you got to break a few eggs – in this case, the eggs are Tunisia, Egypt, Jordan, Yemen and then Israel.

    Because if international Marxism can make the new omelette, meaning the new world order, where the capitalists continue to rake in the trillions, then, my friend, it’s a new theory, is it not?

    Lenin says if you want to make an omelette, you got to break a few eggs. And I think that our president, being a lifetime Leninist, is breaking a few eggs. In this case, the eggs are Tunisia, Egypt Jordan and Yemen. But I will tell you this, there’s a dozen eggs in a normal package and if you think that this egg is going to remain whole, you are mistaken.”

    US radio dimwit Michael Savage, demonstrating his grasp of dialectic

    Karl Marx the celebrity chef? That Karl Marx? Revolutionary theory, analyses of value and markets and egg recipes…a versatile fellow, Marx…and Lenin? Who knew?

  19. mishari permalink*
    February 5, 2011 12:50 AM

    Here’s some dance verse I wrote for Poster Poems a few years ago:


    Inimical Music

    Having consumed a vast dosage
    Of cod liver oil, I am, in my dotage,
    As supple as a snake: when I shake,
    It’s syncopation, not arthritic inflation.

    In high-ceilinged rooms I’m subtle:
    Extravagance’s eloquent rebuttal;
    Waltzing is for lunatic mice and krauts:
    Thick-skinned creatures moved by Strauss.

    The music is loud, my mind is quiet;
    The still eye of the hurricane; I riot
    With physicality; I’m as brainless
    As a moth: my immolation is painless.

    Anything to escape the ghastly noise:
    The saccharine sweetness of a thousand
    Sobbing strings; my feet have grown wings
    To fly from this aural crime-spree; that’s me,
    Moving sinuously to Art Tatum in my head,
    Steps so complex I appear to be immobile
    While weaving arabesques in a high style.

    Although a man may appear all unmoving
    His molecules dance: their technique keeps improving.

    My Ghostly Heart

    I’ve fumbled, stumbled, often tumbled,
    (and that’s just for a start),
    I wonder then: have I been rumbled?
    Who’s seen my ghostly heart?

    The fact is I’m no dancer:
    A drink-fueled fool is all;
    A sodden, clodden, feet-all-trodden
    Chancer at the ball.

    But what I lack in polish
    I make up for with dash;
    The fixtures I demolish
    Can be repaired with cash.

    That pretty little foot-stool,
    That charming Georgian chair,
    I wreck and as a general rule,
    I honestly don’t care.

    Caught up in gay abandon
    I fling myself about,
    My movements wild and random:
    The dance becomes a rout.

    My ghostly heart keeps saying:
    You weren’t cut out for this;
    But when the music’s playing,
    My concrete heart knows bliss.

    I’ll dance my way into the grave,
    Perhaps it’s for the best;
    For there I cannot misbehave:
    My ghostly heart can rest.

    • February 5, 2011 3:32 PM

      Anyone know the day Cole Porter died (and the day Mr. M was born…)? Just a hunch…

  20. hic8ubique permalink
    February 5, 2011 1:03 AM

    I’m glad I asked. I recognise (from somewhere?) and appreciate the first (which is very clever) but the second is new to me.

    “But when the music’s playing,
    My concrete heart knows bliss.”

    The second is a stunner.
    ThanKx, M.

  21. MeltonMowbray permalink
    February 5, 2011 11:50 AM

    Dylan Thomas… Aneurin Bevan… David Lloyd George… Charlotte Church, your boys took a hell of a beating!

  22. Reine permalink
    February 5, 2011 4:53 PM

    Killer Instinct

    I’ve never really understood
    What makes a gangster film good
    Or why Mesrine has more appeal
    Than others … they may lack his zeal

    For bloodlust
    or for robbery
    Jailbreaking or kidnappery

    Jacques René
    – But for an “i”
    We’d share a moniker –
    The guy’s
    A hero in the film world
    Hair sometimes straight
    And sometimes curled

    Man of a thousand faces
    Kicking over traces
    Never still

    Silberg and Cassell
    Seem to have played him well
    Tall task to tap the essence
    Of such masterful malfeasance

    He met his end at Cligancourt
    Hunter turned quarry? Not sure

  23. February 5, 2011 9:27 PM

    Come friendly criminals descend on Slough
    They’ve got the “Big Society” now.
    The police have been replaced by volunteers
    With their budgets falling around our ears,
    They are doing the work for a couple of bob
    So won’t come running when you do a job.
    The work’s far easier than you expected
    It’s likely your crime won’t get detected.

  24. mishari permalink*
    February 6, 2011 4:19 AM

    I know these Hitler/Downfall spoofs have been done to death but this one really did make me laugh like a hyena:

  25. mishari permalink*
    February 6, 2011 2:07 PM

    Meet Dmiti The Stud…and believe it or not, laydeez: he’s available! But for how long?

  26. reine permalink
    February 6, 2011 2:38 PM

    Christ, what a tool.

  27. mishari permalink*
    February 6, 2011 5:09 PM

    What’s the problem, Reine? Women approach him 6 or 7 times a day…he’s giving her an ‘opportunity’ (y’know: like she’s won something)…unless, of course, she has ‘mental health issues’…

    The best bit is that this moron, far from getting a callback, got to hear this hilarious rubbish on local radio. Well done, that girl.

    • hic8ubique permalink
      February 6, 2011 6:32 PM

      Poor mentally disabled Olga in Toronto . She’s idiotically declared to all the world that she’s got a psychiatric disorder. It’s abundantly clear that otherwise she would been unable to resist this charmer, but was forced to forfeit a golden opportunity due to her sorry state.

      I remember once talking with a man like Dimitri who unaccountably kept sniffing as if he had a perpetually runny nose… that, or maybe his nasal septum had disintegrated.

    • reine permalink
      February 6, 2011 9:23 PM

      It is terrifying, the extent of some people’s complete delusion.

      Went to see Brighton Rock earlier – Sam Riley was fantastic as Pinkie; menacing and vulnerable and bore a spooky resemblance to what I imagine the younger Mishari looked like … maybe it was just that he had his coat collar up a lot.

  28. MeltonMowbray permalink
    February 6, 2011 7:57 PM

    It Couldn’t Happen Here

    Dose guys wid dere slick Sicilian style,
    black shirts, white ties, co-respondent shoes,
    those made men with their psychopathic smiles,
    dey make an offer youse nearly can’t refuse.

    It’s not as though they disobey the law,
    They just don’t recognise a law exists,
    Meet your noisy neighbour with a chainsaw,
    Pay off your useless plumber with your fists.

    Sweet. But what goes down well in Noo Joysy
    in Hertfordshire has a No Entry sign,
    guns are anti-social and rather noisy,
    so, regretfully, one has to decline.

    Try playing the wiseguy in Berkhamsted,
    you’ll be waking up with a pony’s head.

  29. MeltonMowbray permalink
    February 6, 2011 8:01 PM

    This is fuckin’ hard, you fuck. Jimmy the fuckin’ Weasel will be round tomorrow.

  30. mishari permalink*
    February 6, 2011 10:42 PM

    Haras Rafiq, director of anti-extremist organisation Centri, said he fully supported the prime minister’s call for a ban on the public funding of Muslim groups that did little to tackle extremism.

    Rafiq said: “A lot of funding is going to groups that hold vile views that are not acceptable in a tolerant, liberal society like the UK. Some support suicide bombing, attacks on British troops in Iraq or Afghanistan and other forms of violent extremism…”–The Grauniad, today

    Let’s see if I’ve understood this correctly. For Iraqis and Afghans to attack British troops who’ve invaded their country is ‘violent extremism’. British troops invading countries with whom they have no quarrel and killing civilians in huge numbers is…what? Let’s see…it’s violent; it’s extreme…so it must be…no, no, no…that can’t be right.

    • February 7, 2011 12:44 AM

      As if that weren’t enough, there seems to be evidence that a Violent Extremist plot to subvert America from within has been afoot since… well… donkey’s ears:

      “Dr. Barry Fell, a noted New Zealand archaeologist and linguist of Harvard University showed detailed existing evidence in his work, “Saga America” that Muslims were not only in the Americas before Columbus arrived, but very active there as well. The language of the Pima people in the South West and the Algonquian language had many words in their vocabulary that were Arabic in origin, and Islamic petroglyphs were found in places such as California.

      “In the Inyo county of the State of California, according to Fell, there is another petroglyph that states, “Yasus bin Maria” which means in Arabic, “Jesus, son of Mary”. This is not a Christian phrase; in fact, the phrase is to be found in the verses and ayahs of the Holy Quran. This glyph, as Fell believes, is centuries older than the US. In the Western states of the US he found texts, diagrams and charts engraved on rocks that were used for schooling that dated back to 700-800 C.E. The schooling was in subjects such as mathematics, history, geography, astronomy and sea navigation. The language of instruction was Kufic Arabic, from North Africa.

      The German art historian, Alexander Von Wuthenau, also provides evidence that Islamic peoples were in America, in the time between 300 and 900 C.E. This was at least half a millennium before Columbus was born! Carved heads, that were described as “Moorish-looking” were dated between 300 and 900 C.E. and another group of heads dated between 900 and 1500 C.E. An artifact found in the earlier group was photographed, and when later examined was found to resemble an old man in a Fez, like the Egyptians.”

      Insidious, man. Insidious!

  31. February 7, 2011 11:57 AM

    The fact that America was discovered whether by scheming, devious Muslim extremists or noble civilisation-bringing Europeans must have come as a great surprise to the Native Americans already there.

    re; racial origins. Nick Griffin that well-known bastion of All Things British discovered that there was Roma blood in his veins from not so far back. The very people he’d been trying to whip up resentment against. Mind you if you read CiF it only takes the appearance of an article about Roma/Gypsies and the place is flooded with bile so he doesn’t need to work that hard.

    • February 7, 2011 1:34 PM

      Well, this is how insidious the Violent Extremists were, ET: they didn’t invade/overrun/steal the continent after arriving… they merely added something to various existing cultures; sneaky bastards!

      Re: Nick Griffin’s Roma bits: reminds me of an Austrian guy, with a Chaplinesque mustache… a guy of not-entirely-Aryan extraction… I read about once…

  32. February 7, 2011 1:55 PM

    Imagine what would happen if the Brits or the US used those “oppressive” methods – All Hell Would Be Let Loose.

    There are limits to sneaking things in though – Morris Dancing for one. The roots of it certainly aren’t European. I’ve read that there are similarities with certain West African ritual dances although I’m sure we can’t blame the Africans for the pewter tankards or the preponderance of filing clerks in the Morris dancing masses.

    • hic8ubique permalink
      February 7, 2011 5:42 PM

      I expect a bit of Morris dancing is just what a repressed filing clerk needs, ET.
      Light of heart, heavy of tread and all.
      If the teaser and obby oss are from West Africa, the hanky waving is pure Cornish.
      Just last week a friend said: ‘I’ll be there with bells on’.
      So I told him I’d be expecting a Morris dance.

    • MeltonMowbray permalink
      February 7, 2011 8:41 PM

      I hope you’re not hard of hearing.

    • hic8ubique permalink
      February 7, 2011 9:45 PM

      Alright he ‘wrote’; it was an email exchange. What were you suggesting Clever Mowbray?
      ‘Hell’s own?’
      My hearing is excellent, and I’ve just discovered my BP is still 110/70, despite advancing years… but I can just barely find my way from bed to the bathroom without my contacts in.

    • Reine permalink
      February 7, 2011 9:55 PM

      I have 20/20 vision Hic – between us we’d be perfect. x

  33. MeltonMowbray permalink
    February 7, 2011 8:46 PM

    Skimming the FT today I noticed a suggestion that AOL are preparing a bid for Politely Homicidal. Anything in it?

  34. February 7, 2011 10:10 PM

    Anything in Politely Homicidal? Let’s hope so or these last 2 years have been wasted.

    I’m practically deaf in one ear – slowly going deaf in the other, short-sighted and going long-sighted too. Sadly they don’t cancel each other out. Best left by the side of the road I think.

  35. hic8ubique permalink
    February 7, 2011 10:48 PM

    Perfection is not only unattainable, but unloveable as well. We’ll just have to celebrate the good bits, and look indulgently upon the ever abundant remainder.

    Bad enough we’re high-maintenance now, Re. If we were perfect, we’d be utterly insufferable.
    ET~ Good Samaritans would squabble over the privilege of coming to your aid. We can’t have that.

    • Reine permalink
      February 7, 2011 11:05 PM

      You are too wise Hicster. I’ll swap you an eye for half your teeth.

      Ed, we would come to your aid and lead you astray.

    • hic8ubique permalink
      February 7, 2011 11:10 PM

      You’re welcome to all my wisdom and all my fillings (that comes to about half I should think)
      absolutely free, my dear.
      At 20/900 I’d lead him astray for sure.

  36. MeltonMowbray permalink
    February 7, 2011 11:56 PM

    OMG it’s the Reinhicstein Monster! With its keen Irish eyes and Swedish gnashers it spots and savages shortsighted pig-owners stranded by the side of the road. Beware!

  37. Reine permalink
    February 8, 2011 12:11 AM

    Likes to holiday on the Iof W and lure beardy fellas into its multiple bosoms.

  38. hic8ubique permalink
    February 8, 2011 1:42 AM

    There now, the RhfactorincompatibilityMonster has already scratched its own eyes out (both the green one and the brown one) over the beardedness dispute alone.
    Once again, sojourners of the blogisphere are safe o’broad.

  39. mishari permalink*
    February 8, 2011 1:30 PM

    Do you like Bono (or ‘Bongo’ as Captain Beefheart once called him)? Of course you don’t: I don’t like Bongo, you don’t like Bongo, nobody likes Bongo–except Bongo; he loves Bongo.

    The rest of us cherish those moments of schadenfreude that we can enjoy at Bongo’s expense. Bongo, as you may have heard, invested some $65 million in a Broadway musical version of Spiderman; he and The (sic) Edge composed the score for the show, which has been in try-outs for months.

    It’s been a convention in the press not to review a show before it actually officially opens but The New York Times decided that they were fed up waiting and at this rate, the show would be in try-outs until the heat-death of the universe–so they reviewed it. Now read on…

    Finally, near the end of the first act of “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark,” the audience at the Foxwoods Theater on Saturday night got what it had truly been waiting for, whether it knew it or not.

    Calamity struck, and it was a real-life (albeit small) calamity — not some tedious, confusing tripe involving a pretty girl dangling from a skyscraper and supervillains laying siege to Manhattan. And not the more general and seriously depressing disaster that was the sum of the mismatched parts that had been assembled onstage.

    No, an honest-to-gosh, show-stopping glitch occurred, just as the title character of this new musical was about to vanquish or be vanquished by the evil Green Goblin. Never fully explained “mechanical difficulties” were announced by an amplified voice (not immediately distinguishable from the other amplified voices we had been hearing for what felt like forever), as the actors in the scene deflated before our eyes. And for the first time that night something like genuine pleasure spread through the house.

    That glee soon took the form of spontaneous, nigh-ecstatic applause, a sound unheard in the previous hour. After vamping on a green fake piano (don’t ask), Patrick Page (who plays the Goblin with a gusto unshared by any other member of the cast) ad-libbed a warning to Reeve Carney (who stars as Spider-Man), who had been awkwardly marking time by pretending to drink Champagne.

    “You gotta be careful,” Mr. Page said. “You’re gonna fly over the heads of the audience, you know. I hear they dropped a few of them.”

    “Roar,” went the audience, like a herd of starved, listless lions, roused into animation by the arrival of feeding time. Everyone, it seemed, understood Mr. Page’s reference to the injuries that have been incurred by cast and crew members during the long (and officially still far from over) preview period for this $65 million musical. Permission to laugh had been granted, and a bond had temporarily been forged between a previously baffled audience and the beleaguered souls onstage.

    All subsequent performances of “Spider-Man” should include at least one such moment. Actively letting theatergoers in on the national joke that this problem-plagued show has become helps make them believe that they have a reason to be there.

    This production should play up regularly and resonantly the promise that things could go wrong. Because only when things go wrong in this production does it feel remotely right — if, by right, one means entertaining. So keep the fear factor an active part of the show, guys, and stock the Foxwoods gift shops with souvenir crash helmets and T-shirts that say “I saw ‘Spider-Man’ and lived.” Otherwise, a more appropriate slogan would be “I saw ‘Spider-Man’ and slept.”

    I’m not kidding. The sheer ineptitude of this show, inspired by the Spider-Man comic books, loses its shock value early. After 15 or 20 minutes, the central question you keep asking yourself is likely to change from “How can $65 million look so cheap?” to “How long before I’m out of here?”

    Directed by Julie Taymor, who wrote the show’s book with Glen Berger, and featuring songs by U2’s Bono and the Edge, “Spider-Man” is not only the most expensive musical ever to hit Broadway; it may also rank among the worst.

    I would like to acknowledge here that “Spider-Man” doesn’t officially open until March 15; at least that’s the last date I heard. But since this show was looking as if it might settle into being an unending work in progress — with Ms. Taymor playing Michelangelo to her notion of a Sistine Chapel on Broadway — my editors and I decided I might as well check out “Spider-Man” around Monday, the night it was supposed to have opened before its latest postponement.

    You are of course entitled to disagree with our decision. But from what I saw on Saturday night, “Spider-Man” is so grievously broken in every respect that it is beyond repair. Fans of Ms. Taymor’s work on the long-running musical “The Lion King,” adapted from the animated Walt Disney feature, will have to squint charitably to see evidence of her talent.

    True, signature Taymor touches like airborne puppets, elaborate masks and perspective-skewing sets are all on hand. But they never connect into a comprehensible story with any momentum. Often you feel as if you were watching the installation of Christmas windows at a fancy department store. At other times the impression is of being on a soundstage where a music video is being filmed in the early 1980s. (Daniel Ezralow’s choreography is pure vintage MTV.)

    Nothing looks truly new, including the much-vaunted flying sequences in which some poor sap is strapped into an all-too-visible harness and hoisted uneasily above the audience. (Aren’t they doing just that across the street in “Mary Poppins”?) This is especially unfortunate, since Ms. Taymor and her collaborators have spoken frequently about blazing new frontiers with “Spider-Man,” of venturing where no theater artist (pardon me, I mean artiste) has dared to venture before.

    I’m assuming that frontier is supposed to exist somewhere between the second and third dimensions. “Part of the balance we’ve been trying to strike is how ‘comic book’ to go and how ‘human’ to go,” Ms. Taymor has said about her version of the adventures of a nerdy teenager who acquires superhuman powers after being bitten by a radioactive spider.

    Anyway, there are lots of flat, cardboardish sets, which could easily be recycled for high school productions of “Grease” and “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying,” and giant multipanel video projections. That takes care of the two-dimensional part. The human aspect has been assigned to the flesh-and-blood cast members, and it is a Sisyphean duty.

    Some wear grotesque masks that bring to mind hucksters on sidewalks handing out promotional material for fantasy-theme restaurants. Those whose own features are visible include — in addition to Mr. Carney (looking bewildered and beautiful as Spider-Man and his conflicted alter ego, Peter Parker) — a strained Jennifer Damiano as Mary Jane Watson, Peter’s spunky kind-of girlfriend, and T. V. Carpio as Arachne, a web-weaving spider-woman of Greco-Roman myth who haunts Peter’s dreams before breaking into his reality. (I get the impression that Arachne, as the ultimate all-controlling artist, is the only character who much interests Ms. Taymor, but that doesn’t mean that she makes sense.)

    There is also the Geek Chorus, a quartet of adolescent comic-book devotees, who would appear to be either creating or commenting on the plot, but in any case serve only to obscure it even further. They discuss the heady philosophical implications of Spider-Man’s identity while making jokes in which the notion of free will is confused with the plot of the movie “Free Willy.”

    For a story that has also inspired hit action movies, it is remarkably static in this telling. (A lot of the plot-propelling fights are merely reported to us.) There are a couple of picturesque set pieces involving Arachne and her chorus of spider-women and one stunner of a cityscape that suggests the streets of Manhattan as seen from the top of the Chrysler Building.

    The songs by Bono and the Edge are rarely allowed to take full, attention-capturing form. Mostly they blur into a sustained electronic twang of varying volume, increasing and decreasing in intensity, like a persistent headache. A loud ballad of existential angst has been written for Peter, who rasps dejectedly, “I’d be myself if I knew who I’d become.” That might well be the official theme song of “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark.” —Ben Brantley, The New York Times, Feb. 7

  40. February 8, 2011 2:05 PM

    Oh dear.

    Due to a series of reasons too dull to go into here I went to see The Lion King about 8 years ago. The Disneyfication and the music left me utterly cold but Julie Taymor used a series of really effective theatrical tricks throughout – very cheap ( in terms of money ) effects to realise as well. This sounds the very opposite.

    “I’d be myself if I knew who I’d become” ???? I wouldn’t have spewed up if I knew where I’d spew up.

    • Reine permalink
      February 8, 2011 11:53 PM

      Ha. I didn’t see last week’s one, the series link function malfunctioned. I had a mild fit of rage having looked forward to it. There were a couple of lols in this week’s one too, well made me laugh. Won’t do any further spoilers.

  41. hic8ubique permalink
    February 8, 2011 6:47 PM

    Ben Brantley eh? What a beautifully balanced review. You are my reader’s digest, Mishari.

    A fortnight ago, I found myself sitting only several rows back from an earnest man singing the following song, chorus, strings, harmony girl and all. They were close enough that we could see her quivvering.
    It was so bad, Yanni-hating Spouse and I couldn’t even look at each other for fear of cruel hilarity; he just squeezed bruises into my thigh as I smirked cringing.
    This version is not quite as farcical, but still worth bearing with for the passionate key change.
    (Be sure not to miss the fine subtlety of the ‘shoulder’ reference in the filming.)

    • MeltonMowbray permalink
      February 8, 2011 9:09 PM

      An amusing chap, Josh Groban. Very good in Glee. I expect you’re a fan.

    • hic8ubique permalink
      February 8, 2011 10:59 PM

      Does it show?
      No, I’d never seen Josh before I went looking for the song.
      It was the stellar line:
      ‘You raise me up to more than I can be’ [um?]
      that came to mind when Mishari quoted:
      “I’d be myself if I knew who I’d become”
      I’m sorry to ridicule people, but when I’m on the verge of rolling in the aisles for the wrong reason…

    • reine permalink
      February 8, 2011 11:28 PM

      Westlife’s version of that song must have had more airplay here than all of Bongo’s oeuvre combined. It makes me shake violently to hear the opening chords. Everyone had a go at it, including singing priest Liam Lawton if ye are inclined to Youtube a version other than Groban’s. Pure Calvita as they might say down south.

      Did you watch Taggers tonight MM? Bit clunky I thought aside from Robbie puckering up to DC Reid; had I been Jackie the case would never have been solved but, alas, he didn’t raise her up to more than she could be. I think her nose got in the way of her pleasure.

    • MeltonMowbray permalink
      February 8, 2011 11:38 PM

      It’s a problem with song lyrics: they always look risible on paper:

      Regrets? I’ve had a few,
      But then again, too few to mention.
      I did what I had to do
      And saw it through without exemption.

      Yes, there were times, I’m sure you knew,
      When I bit off more than I could chew,
      But through it all, when there was doubt,
      I ate it up and spit it out.
      I faced it all and I stood tall
      And did it my way.

      as you see. It sounds a lot better.

      I hadn’t heard of Josh till I saw him on Glee. Later he guest-compered a TV show called Never Mind The Buzzcocks where he was very funny.

    • MeltonMowbray permalink
      February 8, 2011 11:47 PM

      I’d heard of the tights thing: I think they’re called snowmelt socks. I thought they might block up the gutter as effectively as snow.

      Recorded Taggie, Reine, I’ve got slightly interested in Outcasts so watched that instead. We’ll savour it later in the week. I hope you caught Burke’s comment on Robbie’s reluctance to nick the disabled soldier (last week?) ‘I don’t care if he’s Douglas Bader!’ Gold, pure gold.

    • MeltonMowbray permalink
      February 8, 2011 11:50 PM

      Harsh words on Jackie, btw. I think her and Robbie had a thing a few years ago – probably before you were born, considering Taggie’s longevity.

  42. MeltonMowbray permalink
    February 8, 2011 9:05 PM

    The Corleone Choice

    Bada bing, bada boom, am I Sonny,
    banging a dustbin lid on Carlo’s head,
    hot-blooded, rowdy, careless with money,
    dying a hero in a hail of lead?

    Or am I Michael, the saturnine gnome
    whose glacial stare can stop a man’s heart,
    earning and killing like a metronome,
    suppressing emotion till it departs?

    I’d like to claim that I’m a mixture,
    dynamic yet calm, forceful but steady,
    a man of action who thinks things through,
    a general. But I know I’m Freddie.

    • hic8ubique permalink
      February 8, 2011 11:15 PM

      I’m sure this is very good, MM. I especially like gnome/metronome, but must say I’m less confused when you write about the Punic Wars or the laws of thermodynamics.

      Oh, I’ve been meaning to tell you…I heard a remedy for icy rooves:
      Fill nylon stockings with ice-melt product and throw them onto the roof. They cause channels to form for run-off. This method comes highly recommended, though I haven’t tried it out.
      Now if the IoW ever freezes again, you’ll know what to do.

    • MeltonMowbray permalink
      February 8, 2011 11:54 PM

      See above on the snowmelt sock – posted it in the wrong place. Thanks for the suggestion.

      It is literally an impossibility that you have never seen The Godfather I, II, or III.

    • Reine permalink
      February 8, 2011 11:59 PM

      The misplaced posting is catching. Sorry Jackie; as a big nosed gal myself I was just empathising.

  43. reine permalink
    February 8, 2011 11:31 PM

    I’ll send ya some old tights MM but be warned, the gussets give way eventually. Nylons on the roof will only serve to shore up your rep as a stud who favours exotic lovemaking locales.

    • MeltonMowbray permalink
      February 8, 2011 11:58 PM

      No shortage of old tights here, with two women in the house you build up a huge collection. I use them for tying up plants in the garden. They last for ever.

    • hic8ubique permalink
      February 8, 2011 11:58 PM

      Remember back when we first met, Reine, that thread where people posted their most loathsome words. Some commenters hated the word ‘gusset’. At the time, I thought: They can’t be referring to tailoring terminology.

    • Reine permalink
      February 9, 2011 12:00 AM

      I do Hic – we bonded over saxifrage, rhododenron and smegma … so to speak.

      I love the word “gusset”, particularly if preceded by “reinforced”.

    • hic8ubique permalink
      February 9, 2011 12:07 AM

      I childhood friend told me of the horse’s head in the bed scene when we were still no more than 10 or 12yrs old. As a result, I’ve honestly never seen any of them.
      Years later at university, I did see The Tin Drum, which has it’s own eel-infested horse’s head (little did I apprehend!) and I hated that film.
      I’ve heard of the plant-tying application. There are books written on the repurposing of old nylon stockings.

      I do recall saxifrage, Re. It sits in my brain next to samphire.

  44. Reine permalink
    February 9, 2011 12:01 AM

    …. rhododendron even…

    • Reine permalink
      February 9, 2011 12:09 AM

      I use them to tie HI to the bed and tickle him until he says he is a Man Utd supporter.

    • MeltonMowbray permalink
      February 9, 2011 12:19 AM

      God, the poor man. I’d rather my tongue was torn out than say those words.

      Anyway,

      Don Sonno’s boys are after me,
      and though they lack finesse,
      I know I must prepare myself:
      It’s time to hit the mattress.

      NB (for non-Godfather fans): ‘Going to the mattresses’ means preparing for war in Mafiaspeak.

  45. Reine permalink
    February 9, 2011 12:18 AM

    Ed, I told your pennies in the foreskin story at work and it unleashed all manner of curious genitalia stories of “friends of friends”, one of which was of a girl who used to sing the national anthem with her boyfriend’s testicles in her mouth pre-coitus. A row almost broke out about how many one cent pieces a fella might be able to stow and how one would go about achieving optimal capacity – the argument advanced that one could do two stacks side by side. Lots of thumb and finger action trying to gauge matters. The circumcised lads felt very out of the loop.

    • February 9, 2011 9:18 AM

      Reine I can only be happy that I’ve brought you and your work colleagues closer together in such trying financial times for Ireland.

      To be honest I wouldn’t have guessed that it would be the elasticity of foreskins that enabled this bonding but nothing surprises me.

      The friend of friend clause – such a useful device.

      Speaking of which a friend of a friend of mine once ……. bareback……turtles…….curt……….concrete -mixer …..subcutaneous…….. as it happens!

    • MeltonMowbray permalink
      February 9, 2011 11:28 AM

      A mouthful of testicles. That’s spoiled my morning doughnut.

  46. mishari permalink*
    February 9, 2011 1:16 AM

    …and for those of you with time constraints, here’s a 1 minute précis of all the reviews of Spiderman: the Musical

    • Reine permalink
      February 9, 2011 9:49 AM

      The word “megalomania” rather jumps out.

    • MeltonMowbray permalink
      February 9, 2011 11:50 AM

      I keep seeing Taylor instead of Taymor. I’m sure ET’s direction would not be run-amok.

      Worse than this one, I wonder?

      O’Toole’s Macbeth

      “In September 1980, crowds poured into the Old Vic Theatre in London to see Peter O’Toole’s unforgettable Macbeth, which is widely held to have basked in the worst set of theatrical notices in modern times.

      “Eradicating the unnecessarily tragic aspects that have always weighed the play down, the cast sent the first-night audience home rocking with happy laughter. One critic after another rose up to acknowledge the astonishing qualities of this production.

      “The greatest acclaim was reserved for the unexpected qualities of Mr O’Toole’s performance.

      “The Daily Mail observed that ‘it was, of course, the rottenest luck for him to run smack into a wall on his third bravura exit (so much of the play takes place in the dark)’.”

      [Another critic remarked that the three witches, far from being the ‘foul, unnatural hags’ prescribed by Shakespeare, were dressed in white chiffon gowns and ‘looked as if they shop at Fortnum and Masons.’ And the London Evening News panned the performance of Lady Macbeth who ‘greeted her husband by leaping at him and achieving a leg-encircling embrace of the kind which illustrates helpful sex manuals.’ Her antics, the paper added, ‘would have woken the whole castle.’ Sure enough coach parties began arriving at the Old Vic in record numbers and the run was soon sold out.].

  47. February 9, 2011 12:25 PM

    Am I right in thinking there was a Seinfeld episode where they pronounced Spiderman as if he was a Jewish gent from the Upper East Side? For some reason that really makes me laugh.

  48. mishari permalink*
    February 9, 2011 1:29 PM

    The Rolling Stones’ latest tour is reportedly in jeopardy following a row over the size of Sir Mick Jagger’s manhood.

    The group’s frontman is said to still be angry with his bandmate Keith Richards after he claimed in his autobiography and an interview last year that Mick had a small penis…–The Indy, today

    Rock and ROLL….although, to be honest, I don’t really get this: does Jagger expect audiences are going to demand to see his disputed organ?

  49. February 9, 2011 1:49 PM

    So that’s where Jagger doesn’t keep his small change.

  50. hic8ubique permalink
    February 9, 2011 1:58 PM

    It’s the other meaning of the expression ‘put a sock in it’.
    a ballet technique

    Spoi duh me an, ET?

    • February 9, 2011 2:09 PM

      Spidahmunn hic.

    • February 9, 2011 2:20 PM

      It’s impossible ( for me at least ) to phoneticise a word. Put no emphasis on any of the vowel sounds and you’re there …. I hope.

    • hic8ubique permalink
      February 9, 2011 3:22 PM

      Spuh duh mn?
      Maybe my previous attempt was more Noo Joyzee.

    • February 9, 2011 3:34 PM

      I was hoping MM would leap in and confirm it was Seinfeld but he’s obviously out burying his labrador ( again ). It could also have come from a Woody Allen sketch when he was a stand-up rather than director.

    • MeltonMowbray permalink
      February 9, 2011 10:59 PM

      I’m a Seinfeld encyclopaedia, ET, but I don’t remember that one. However…

  51. hic8ubique permalink
    February 9, 2011 2:03 PM

    Criminal Polanski

    The shock of a battle-axe
    sunk into Banquo’s back
    sent me home shaking
    fearful each tree hid
    evil. I finished with gore
    from that start.

    Blood doesn’t out on stage
    is only imagined when read.
    Violent shadows are best
    suffused, exposed, suppressed.

  52. hic8ubique permalink
    February 9, 2011 3:30 PM

    You’ve reduced me to helpless giggling, ET.

    Yesterday, I received this polite ‘Success Alert’:

    “Dear Gmail user
    Your email emerged a winner of £ 500,000.00GBP. (CGPN):7-22-71-00-66-12, Ticket
    number: 00869575733664, Serial numbers:/BTD/8070447706/06, Lucky
    numbers:12-12-23-35-40-41(12). Contact Mr. Bernard Graham for more details:
    E-mail: bernard.graham132@gmail.com

    Sincerely,
    Ms. Jennifer Adams

    Today my failure to respond when success is at my door has led to a bold text reminder:

    “Your email emerged a winner of £ 500,000.00GBP. (CGPN):7-22-71-00-66-12, Ticket number: 00869575733664, Serial numbers:/BTD/8070447706/06, Lucky numbers:12-12-23-35-40-41(12). Contact Mr. Bernard Graham for more details: E-mail: bernardgraham222@gmail.com
    Universidade Federal da Bahia – http://www.portal.ufba.br

    Bernard is clearly at pains to assure my success.

  53. hic8ubique permalink
    February 9, 2011 3:38 PM

    You’ve reduced me to helpless giggling, ET.

    Mishari~ your spam filter must be working well. I tried to post some particularly aggressive scam/spam from my gmail for its modest entertainment value, and it doesn’t get through. Just as well…

  54. mishari permalink*
    February 9, 2011 3:39 PM

    Speeduhmun, as in Speeduhmun’s–Bagels, Kugel, Knishes: Your Mother Should Bake Like This

    Meanwhile, in the exiting world of Situationist Art:

    An enraged Silvio Berlusconi has lashed out at the Milan prosecutors who have asked for him to be put on trial immediately, charged with sex-related offences.

    At a press conference in Rome, Italy’s prime minister described them as subversive and vowed to take legal action against the Italian state.

    “It’s a disgrace. It’s disgusting,” said Berlusconi. “I’m sorry that we have offended the dignity of, and thrown mud at, the country. I wonder who is going to pay for this activity whose only aim is subversive.”

    He then indicated that it would be the taxpayer who paid because “I shall attempt to sue the state.”

    Berlusconi said: “I’m not worried about myself. I’m a rich gentleman who can go on to setting up hospitals for children around the world, as I have always wanted to.”–The Grauniad, today

    From corrupt, coke-sniffing child molester to international philanthropist in one mighty bound. Unsurprisingly, the Italians invented commedia dell’arte: the tradition is still going strong…obviously.

  55. Reine permalink
    February 9, 2011 5:27 PM

    David passed his driving test earlier today two weeks away from his 18th birthday. He is thrilled. I am thrilled. The man who kept me company in the waiting room (“you’re very pale, love, would ya like a glass of water?”) was thrilled. MM’s amusing report of O’Toole’s Macbeth passed a minute of the 50 minute fist clenching trauma.

    • Reine permalink
      February 9, 2011 5:35 PM

      You will all be shocked, I know, to hear I started my school dramatic career as a six year old Sleeping Beauty and ended as Lady Macbeth. Peaked too soon.

  56. mishari permalink*
    February 9, 2011 5:44 PM

    Felicitations, Reine. Was your Lady Macbeth anything like O’Toole’s?

    …the London Evening News panned the performance of Lady Macbeth who ‘greeted her husband by leaping at him and achieving a leg-encircling embrace of the kind which illustrates helpful sex manuals.’ Her antics, the paper added, ‘would have woken the whole castle.’

    If so, I bitterly regret missing it.

    I retrieved your post, hic. The wordpress spam filter is actually excellent but it does sometimes err on the side of caution. I think it was all the numerals and email addresses that threw it…

    • Reine permalink
      February 9, 2011 6:17 PM

      I remember a similar pose in the illicit copy of The Joy of Sex circulating around school with the beardy man … hold on, was it…?

    • mishari permalink*
      February 9, 2011 6:37 PM

      Yes, I regret to say…that was Mowbray, back when he was ‘sponge-worthy’…

    • Reine permalink
      February 9, 2011 7:23 PM

      It’s a great phrase, that. My mother thought it meant you’d bake a nice fella a cake.

    • MeltonMowbray permalink
      February 9, 2011 11:10 PM

      I had the impression the chap was an unbeliever, but it’s a long time since I saw a copy. I don’t think I’ll do an image search.

  57. Reine permalink
    February 9, 2011 6:11 PM

    No, mine was a more Gothic approach – lots of dark, wide-eyed intimations of my prowess with a letter opener and sealing wax as I swooned about in an embarrassing velvet number.

    I was better as the tree in Waiting for Godot.

  58. hic8ubique permalink
    February 9, 2011 9:14 PM

    Congratulations, Proud Mama.
    May David’s journeys all end safely, and your nights be blessed with sleep.

    Do you dislike velvet generally, or only that particular specimen?
    Any film footage to share, just amongst friends?

    • reine permalink
      February 9, 2011 9:21 PM

      Thanks dahling. I dislike velvet generally Hic, little Lord Fauntleroy put me off it … and it is not a friend of the big breasted woman. I did have a lovely black velvet evening gown of my Granny’s but I think I flogged it when I was short of cigarette money back in the day. Now I have neither.

    • reine permalink
      February 9, 2011 9:23 PM

      Oh and no footage thanks be to God and all the angels and saints …

    • hic8ubique permalink
      February 9, 2011 10:23 PM

      I’d never have thought that. I’ll make a point of noticing next time I see a woman preceded by a generous velvetted bust. Maybe it catches crumbs? [teasing]
      I was curious because just yesterday I pulled out a darkest-of-dark-greens velvet gown from a dozen years ago to see if it would do for a do that’s coming up. I’d forgotten what luscious stuff it is.

  59. Reine permalink
    February 9, 2011 10:53 PM

    Darkest of dark greens with your colouring would look fabulous. Let’s face it, a black bin bag on you would look fabulous. Velvet is just not to my taste, which in turn is not to many others’. Ermyntrude and Esmerelda were big velvet fans I believe.

    • hic8ubique permalink
      February 9, 2011 11:24 PM

      Oh Re, that’s not true, though it may as well have been a bin bag for all the spousal enthusiasm my sashaying about looking for approval elicited. There was a grunt of dismay: “Oh, do we have to dress up? Is it formal?”
      Honestly, if an invitation says ‘festive attire’ he hopes that portends an opportunity to wear his cherished billiard ball tie.
      I have yet to settle in and learn the feminine ways of Er & Es. Next blizzard I expect.

  60. MeltonMowbray permalink
    February 9, 2011 11:00 PM

    … I would drape myself in velvet if it were socially acceptable.

    • mishari permalink*
      February 9, 2011 11:04 PM

      Welcome, George Costanza…no, I don’t remember Ed’s ‘Spiderman’ line, either…

    • hic8ubique permalink
      February 9, 2011 11:28 PM

      Little Lord Mowbray? A duck-egg blue close-napped velvet waistcoat for you? I might like that.
      What would happen to you socially?

    • MeltonMowbray permalink
      February 9, 2011 11:43 PM

      People might start talking to me again. So it’s a no on the weskit.

  61. MeltonMowbray permalink
    February 9, 2011 11:11 PM

    Full marks, Sire. Spiderman must have been Woody Allen.

  62. mishari permalink*
    February 9, 2011 11:16 PM

    BTW, MM, I meant to ask you…have you ever read any Joseph Wambaugh? He was a 14-year veteran of the LAPD who wrote a book called The New Centurions about…LAPD, natch. He went on to write a few more and they were all very good indeed. Then he fell silent for a long time.

    Well, he’s just (in the last year or so) released 4 novels (LAPD again). They all have ‘Hollywood’ in the title (Hollywood Station, Hollywood Crows etc). I just read them and I recommend them highly. Very entertaining.

    • MeltonMowbray permalink
      February 9, 2011 11:39 PM

      I read The Choirboys years ago and remember semi-enjoying it: I think there were some melodramatic bits which didn’t sit well. Haven’t read anything since. I am currently very much enjoying Dennis Wheatley’s biography. A great laugh.

  63. February 9, 2011 11:17 PM

    Could be Larry David pre or post Seinfeld. Or I could have made up the memory I have of a few New York Jewish comedians talking in a living room about Spiderman when he retires and becomes a tailor in the garment district.

    Tailor could be the key word here …. or Munchausens.

    • MeltonMowbray permalink
      February 9, 2011 11:41 PM

      Spiderman a tailor? What a turn-up!

      Eat your heart out Larry David.

    • Reine permalink
      February 10, 2011 12:06 AM

      Went through a lot of Wundaweb… (feeble)

  64. hic8ubique permalink
    February 9, 2011 11:41 PM

    Clever me using the internet to escape the onslaught of American pop culture…
    Spiderman, Woody Allen, Seinfeld, Hollywood…
    The distance I go to learn the meaning of ‘sponge-worthy’… it’s a vortex!
    Must swim sideways

    • hic8ubique permalink
      February 9, 2011 11:50 PM

      *Sorry if that was rude*
      Do talk about everything.
      I was only noticing a slight mindfuckness from here.

    • Reine permalink
      February 10, 2011 12:07 AM

      Wash your mouth out Hic-8-ubique … what kind of language is that from a velvet clad maid?

    • hic8ubique permalink
      February 10, 2011 12:19 AM

      No velvet in sight at the moment…the sort of language I don’t normally commit to aether, but there it is, the Hecate of hic8, in vino veritas.

    • MeltonMowbray permalink
      February 10, 2011 12:23 AM

      Yes, I suppose it must seem rather odd to you, since it’s your daily reality. To me, however, America is a region of the imagination populated entirely by comedians, cowboys and wiseguys.

      I didn’t realise until last night that, as a non-aficionado of the gangster flick, those verses upthread must have meant nothing to you. But you are not alone. Talking to Mrs M earlier I mentioned a ‘Joe Pesci moment’ (the basis of my first effort) and it emerged that she had never seen Goodfellas. Since we have 2 copies of the film I don’t know how that happened.

      Anyway, I’m off to join Luca Brasi. Ciao!

    • hic8ubique permalink
      February 10, 2011 1:02 AM

      Nor me MM, no goodfellows here neither [?]. If you should ever venture near, it will be my chagrined pleasure to introduce to you and yours the Eastern Liberal Establishment: no cowboys, no comedians, and one defiant but gifted prankster ( I can’t call him Mr hic). The chowder and dentists are very good, and everything is cheaper. Booze is lately tax-free = dead cheap. Also, we have electronic dishwashers. The down-side is all that you already know. All beloved PH regulars have an open invitation to seaside accommodations with concierge services chez moi.
      In the reverse, tickets to jolly London are a mere $200 this month, but alas, I’ve other fish to fry.

    • MeltonMowbray permalink
      February 10, 2011 12:17 PM

      You’re too kind, Hic, but I think the USA is safe from me: travel insurance is problematic. Anyway, last time I applied for a visa (1973) I was turned down.

  65. mishari permalink*
    February 10, 2011 12:17 AM

    Yeah, I was gonna say…I am shocked, shocked. I’m going to go and scrub my eyes with a Brillo pad now.

    • hic8ubique permalink
      February 10, 2011 12:23 AM

      Fuck fuck fuckety fuck fuck.

      Ya haaappy? [No-Ed.]

    • hic8ubique permalink
      February 10, 2011 1:05 AM

      It was just a Hugh Grant reference; don’t take it to heart :(

    • mishari permalink*
      February 10, 2011 1:21 AM

      Just teasing, kiddo…

    • hic8ubique permalink
      February 10, 2011 1:30 AM

      I deserve it. x

  66. Reine permalink
    February 10, 2011 12:18 AM

    Sleep well all. Let no hideous trumpets call to parley you as you sleep but by all means screw your courage to the sticking place.

    • hic8ubique permalink
      February 10, 2011 12:22 AM

      Tomorrow &c…, Love. x

  67. mishari permalink*
    February 10, 2011 12:22 AM

    …and don’t forget a sound philosophical credo:

  68. February 10, 2011 9:31 AM

    It took its time but we’ve finally dragged hic down to our level. My apologies hic.

    I’m less shocked by the language than the fact that you’ve resisted the all-out assault of mainstream US culture so successfully. Remarkable given that you’re in the heart of the beast.

    I hate the way even though I have no desire to see a film like Avatar, have made no effort to find out anything about it yet without realising it I know what it is, what the story is, who directed it blah blah blah. It’s insidious.

    • MeltonMowbray permalink
      February 10, 2011 11:58 AM

      I believe it was His Highness who kindly vouchsafed the details of Avatar to us, ET (and sent me a copy). Prepare to meet Jazzfan.

      I was pleased to see it since I’d heard a lot about it, and the contradiction between the (ostensible) position adopted in the film and the corporation which produced it was delightful. More generally, I’m all for immersion in the culture of the day, while retaining a degree of detachment. A natural coarseness and vulgarity has been helpful in achieving that end.

    • February 10, 2011 12:14 PM

      I’m not for ivory towers in the least MM.

      I suppose I’m depressed at how good and invasive the PR is for these films.

      I haven’t made the slightest effort to engage with the film. I think I already knew a fair bit about it before our blog-host made the offer.

  69. MeltonMowbray permalink
    February 10, 2011 12:28 PM

    No criticism intended, ET. You’re right about publicity. Those endless advertisements for upcoming programmes (even on BBC) drive me insane, and actually make me not want to see them. Particularly irritating are the clips from Embarrassing Bodies on C4, which I really don’t want to see. My own body is embarrassing enough.

  70. February 10, 2011 1:01 PM

    On the Noo Joisey Toinpike

    Let’s make this quick, after all murder is a crime
    Put the body in the dirt, we’ll cover it with lime.
    What the fuck is this? This lime’s a fruit
    You’re supposed to deal the stuff not do the toot.
    Ground’s hard, you’ve got the spade like we intended?
    He said knowing where this question is ended.
    “How do you do Mr. Mayfield isn’t it a lovely night?”
    He said, moving quickly, keep the body out of sight.
    “I’m a big fan of your soundtracks ‘specially Superfly
    But now I’m sorry to say that it’s time for you to die”.
    Two bodies,no spade,no lime, what a fuckin’ shower
    There must be better ways to exercise mob power.
    They said this job was quick, they must have been fuckin’ jokin’
    If he doesn’t stop fuckin’ yappin’ I’ll do this fuckin’ bloke in
    Three bodies,no spade,no lime, what a stinkin’ mess
    Now here come the feds guess I’ll just have to confess.

    • MeltonMowbray permalink
      February 10, 2011 7:22 PM

      Fuckin’ great, goombah!

  71. mishari permalink*
    February 10, 2011 1:15 PM

    It’s why I can’t bear to watch TV, MM…being treated like a simpleton 24/7. The endless iterations and re-iterations, the station ident logo permanently affixed in the corner of the fucking screen, disfiguring whatever you watch, the chirpy vacuity of the link-bots ad nauseum…it’s enough to turn anyone homicidal, and I don’t mean politely, either. Nowadays, I just download whatever I want to watch: result. No adverts, no blather, no fixed schedule…God bless the interwebz.

    Speaking of which, season 2 of Justified has begun. I just got episode 1 (haven’t watched it yet) but when there are a few more episodes, I’ll pass them along and bring Southland up to date.

    Neither of you’ve given any opinion on True Grit…what did you think?

    • MeltonMowbray permalink
      February 10, 2011 7:26 PM

      I’m saving it for the internet TV, which has HD. We have to wait for a cabinet to put it on, which we ordered from Heals several years ago (or so it seems).

  72. February 10, 2011 1:28 PM

    The last set of discs you sent play but the sound won’t come out the speakers plugged into the lap-top and to get it to a listenable volume makes it distort on the inhouse laptop speakers.

    Don’t know why that’s happening. Howl was more like Whisper.

    True Grit is on at the flicks this weekend.

  73. mishari permalink*
    February 10, 2011 1:38 PM

    Have you gone into your ‘sound’ settings, Ed? Settings>Control Panel>Sounds and Audio Devices>…then check the various ‘volume’ and ‘device’ settings? I don’t know if you’re using XP but if so, XP has a nasty habit of reducing the master volume down to ‘minimum’ with out any warning or notice.

  74. mishari permalink*
    February 10, 2011 1:44 PM

    Also, I don’t know what media player you’re using but I recommend VLC. I’ve used it for years. Open Source, stable as a rock and can play any media file you’re likely to come across. Download it HERE.

  75. February 10, 2011 2:01 PM

    VLC installing on the lap-top. Will watch Howl tonight and get back to you. Hopefully we will hear Ginsberg PROJECTING this time rather than mumbling in his beard.

    In its use of conversation the Noo Joisey “poem” above has picked up a bit of MM’s signature style. Christ I hope he hasn’t started building a large shed with a head in it in the back of his garden.

    • MeltonMowbray permalink
      February 10, 2011 11:32 PM

      I have got a shed at the bottom of the garden, but there’s only body parts in there. I leave the heads out for the crows. Those paper boys never get the message about shutting the gate.

      There’s a compost heap down there too, but it’s not mentis. Not obviously so, anyway.

  76. mishari permalink*
    February 10, 2011 11:08 PM

    I’m afraid you’re in for a disappointment, MM. None of the files I send you are HD. They’d be huge if they were–a 350 MB episode of Southland would have to be about 1.5 GB to be HD and True Grit would have to be just under 5 GB. All still perfectly watchable on your new toy but not HD.

    That Mubarak…at one point in his speech, he actually said “…this isn’t about me…”: Jesus…talk about not getting the message.

    He would have made a good Millwall fan (for the uninitiated, Millwall are a London football club especially known and reviled for their thuggish supporters, whose favourite chant since time out of mind has been ‘nobody likes us and we don’t care’).

  77. MeltonMowbray permalink
    February 10, 2011 11:40 PM

    I didn’t know that. Perhaps I’ll have a look on the laptop, since MrsM is probably too squeamish to watch a war film. Women, eh?

    Mubarak must be a Spurs fan, surely. Someone who is blind to the fact that following a team full of tossers makes you a tosser as well.

  78. February 11, 2011 12:09 AM
  79. Reine permalink
    February 11, 2011 9:33 AM

    Steven, I had a restless night and even weirder dreams than usual after watching that. Made be go zany rather than zen.

    • February 11, 2011 6:08 PM

      Sorry about that, Reine! (my tendency to paste irresponsibly gets worse as the evening/ early morning wears on…)

    • Reine permalink
      February 11, 2011 6:23 PM

      I spent the preceding twenty minutes before I watched it listening to some freebie Guardian CD on sleep techniques, which clearly didn’t work. I needed mellow rather than provocative (not words I ever thought I would say) at that point … or a bottle of whiskey. In the end I took a half of a sleeping tablet from my emergency stash.

  80. Reine permalink
    February 11, 2011 9:33 AM

    me … as opposed to me with a cold

  81. February 11, 2011 10:29 AM

    VLC crashed every minute or so, Ginsberg is still muttering into his beard. It’s a fault in the volume settings somewhere but we can’t find what it is. A ferret has been unleashed into the output to flush the sound out.

    re: Mubarak Politicians like to boast how they are democratic but don’t like it when democracy doesn’t follow their gameplan. An extraordinary collected howl of outrage from the square when Mubarak made his announcement – the radio nearly fell off the table.

    They’ve reinstated my Poster poem so not all is bad ( narcissism? what do you mean? )

  82. MeltonMowbray permalink
    February 11, 2011 11:41 AM

    Justice is done, ET. A sublime idea which neatly summarises the routine, boredom and punitive aspects of education with an acknowledgement of the trepidation which the beginning of each new poem brings.

  83. February 11, 2011 11:51 AM

    Thank you MM.

    According to Sarah the moderator who informed me of this volte-face it was cut because a user had complained that it was too long.

    I used a complicated system of questions using double negatives to try and trick her into confessing that it was a dimbulb moderator who scythed me down but she stuck to her story.

    • HenryLloydMoon permalink
      February 11, 2011 1:38 PM

      Enter HLM, right, emerging from behind cherry tree clutching axe

      I come to defend Sarah’s honor. After being the first person to recommend your poem, I became progressively dazzled by scrolling past the two-screens’ worth of the same text. It’s a phenomenon I often get when using Word with too many other applications open. I wrote in and said: “It’s too long!”

      There. I said it.

      Sorry not to be around much. Life is turning to shit at the moment with my house buyer pulling out and the bank threatening lawsuits. One of those nothing-rhymes periods. Back soon, love to all.

    • February 11, 2011 1:53 PM

      Sorry to hear of your bad news HLM.

      Just to warn you it’s back on the PP site now and if you want to avoid excessive dazzle it’s on page 1 of the thread.

    • mishari permalink*
      February 11, 2011 5:04 PM

      Yes, sorry to hear of your travails, Hank. But the wheel will turn upward soon enough: take heart.

    • Reine permalink
      February 11, 2011 6:18 PM

      Poor Henry, that’s a bummer. I am not sure you will be comforted by the adage that “what’s for ya won’t pass ya” , all for luck and all that, but the sentiment is well meaning. I wish some of what was for me had passed me! Chin up old bean. xx

    • hic8ubique permalink
      February 11, 2011 7:16 PM

      I loved your love poem, Moon, and I’m invoking Ganesh to remove your obstacles.
      The collective good will you inspire will be sure to shift events in your favour.
      Maybe you need to evict the ghost?

  84. mishari permalink*
    February 11, 2011 11:55 AM

    Ed, you are running the files from your machine?… that is, you’ve dragged and dropped them to your desktop or wherever you keep your media files, as opposed to playing them directly from the disc? If you’re playing them directly from the disk, that might be the problem (it shouldn’t be a problem but it puts needless wear on the CD drive and some machines aren’t very good at reading and playing back from the optical drive).

    VLC crashes every minute? Ed…I’ve been using VLC for almost 10 years and I’ve never, never once had it crash. I think your machine might need a thorough physical.

    I recommend that you download CC Cleaner HERE and Defraggler HERE and A. Run CC Cleaner to clear out the junk, then B. Run CC Cleaner’s Registry Tool then C. Defragment your drive with Defraggler.

    These are free, Open Source apps, used by an estimated 600 million people and they can do no harm. Even that old woman, Jack Schofeld, the Guardian’s resident chicken-heart, recommends them.

  85. February 11, 2011 12:53 PM

    They are being played directly from the disc which hasn’t been a problem before.

    But it’s a newish lap-top and there’s something somewhere which isn’t working ( my career as a car mechanic never took off ). Busy at the moment but it’s being looked at.

  86. hic8ubique permalink
    February 11, 2011 7:23 PM

    “No adverts, no blather, no fixed schedule”
    That is a recipe for an excellent off-the-air life as well.
    I’ve expunged the first two, and wrestled the third down to the bare essentials.

    I’ve never been loftier than thou, ET. If I give that impression, it’s a failure of my writing. I’m just your garden-variety barefooted defraggler.

  87. February 11, 2011 7:57 PM

    Hic to be immune to US TV culture doesn’t mean you are loftier-than-thou . I’m in awe of your talent to resist it – I wish i didn’t have so much distracting rubbish swirling around my head.

    • hic8ubique permalink
      February 12, 2011 4:20 PM

      It was your ‘down to our level’ remark, ET, on my blue language.
      The ‘swirling around’ in my head is my cultural problem exactly. There was a time we paid for cable television in order to see some sport finals…can’t recall, not my idea…and I thought that would be free of advertising, but no, it was just reams more of the whole nine yards. I pronounced it the equivalent of paying for the privilege of having rubbish dumped into the house from the street, and we soon ended the ‘service’.

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