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Who Hit Nijinsky?

July 21, 2011



Peut-on s’extasier dans la destruction, se rajeunir par la cruauté!Rimbaud, Les Illuminations

The punches you miss are the ones that wear you outAngelo Dundee

Someday, they’re gonna write a blues song just for fighters. It’ll be for slow guitar, soft trumpet, and a bell.Charles ‘Sonny’ Liston, World Heavyweight Champion 1962-64



I can date my awakening interest in boxing pretty accurately: it was the first Henry Cooper – Cassius Clay (as he then was) fight in 1963 that sank the hook; (a fight, by the way, that most judges and aficionados gave to Cooper but was won by Clay when the fight was stopped because of Cooper’s bleeding cuts).

I like the fact that the house of Daniel Mendoza, heavyweight champion of England from 1792 to 1795 (and said to have been the first Jew to talk to the King, George III) is close to where I live. Complete with blue plaque, it sits in the middle of a row of Georgian houses on Paradise Row, overlooking a small park in Bethnal Green where I often stop for a smoke. After retirement, Mendoza ran a pub, The Admiral Nelson on Whitechapel Road. The building still stands although it closed as a pub in 1983.

I also like the fact that London’s premier boxing venue, York Hall, is nearby. I like taking my boys to fights there (to their mother’s enduring horror).

My pleasure in boxing has alarmed and baffled girlfriends and wives down the years.

Oooh, it’s so brutal…so primitive…so senseless…etc etc’, they would squeal, breathlessly aghast, entirely missing the point.

Certainly, bad fighters take a beating, in the same way that bad racing drivers crash, bad jockeys fall, bad writers produce unreadable crap, bad musicians produce turgid noise and bad film-makers make unwatchable dross.

But boxing isn’t about being hit; it’s about not being hit, or being hit where the damage will be minimal while at the same time, provoking your opponent into leaving an opening: you take a hit to return a better hit–therein lies the art.

The late A. J. Liebling wrote what I think is the finest work on boxing, The Sweet Science, actually a collection of his boxing essays that appeared in The New Yorker between 1951 and 1955. His introductory explanation of boxing’s attraction is worth quoting at length:

It is through Jack O’Brien that I trace my rapport with the historic past through the laying-on of hands. He hit me, for pedagogical example, and he had been hit by the great Bob Fitzsimmons, from whom he won the light-heavyweight title in 1906. Jack had a scar to show for it.

Fitzsimmons had been hit by Corbett, Corbett by John L. Sullivan, he by Paddy Ryan, with the bare knuckles, and Ryan by Joe Goss, his predecessor, who as a young man had felt the fist of the great Jem Mace. It is a great thrill to feel that all that separates you from the early Victorians is a series of punches on the nose. I wonder if Professor Toynbee is as intimately attuned to his sources. The Sweet Science is joined onto the past like a man’s arm to his shoulder.

I find it impossible to think that such a continuum can perish, but I will concede that we are entering a period of minor talents…

The immediate crisis in the United States, forestalling the one high living standards might bring on, has been caused by the popularization of a ridiculous gadget called television. This is utilized in the sale of beer and razor blades. The clients of the television companies, by putting on a free boxing show almost every night of the week, have knocked out of business the hundreds of small-city and neighbourhood boxing clubs where youngsters had a chance to learn their trade and journeymen to mature their skills.

Consequently the number of good new prospects diminishes with every year, and the peddlers’ public is already being asked to believe that a boy with perhaps ten or fifteen fights behind him is a topnotch performer. Neither the advertising agencies nor the brewers, and least of all the networks, give a hoot if they push the Sweet Science back into a period of genre painting. When it is in a coma they will find some other way to peddle their peanuts.

In truth, the kind of people who run advertising agencies and razor-blade mills have little affinity with the Heroes of Boxiana. A boxer, like a writer, must stand alone. If he loses he cannot call an executive conference and throw off on a vice president or the assistant sales manager. He is consequently resented by fractional characters who cannot live outside an organization. A fighter’s hostilities are not turned inward, like a Sunday tennis player’s or a lady MP’s. They come out naturally with his sweat, and when his job is done he feels good because he has expressed himself.

Chain-of-command types, to whom this is intolerable, try to rationalize their envy by proclaiming solicitude for the fighter’s health. If a boxer, for example, ever went as batty as Nijinsky, all the wowsers in the world would be screaming “Punch-drunk”. Well, who hit Nijinsky?

Liebling’s pessimism was well justified: professional boxing has, for the most part, become a sad travesty; licensed hysteria and brutality in the service of money. The heavyweight division has become a risible parade of bruisers and buffoons and the middle-weights aren’t much better. The only division that still produces fighters of skill and (to use an old-fashioned concept) honour is the lightweight division–the featherweights, bantamweights and flyweights. This is almost certainly because the big money is elsewhere. Money corrupts, in sport as it does in art and politics.

Liebling’s hero was the chronicler of boxing in Regency England, Pierce Egan. Egan’s four volumes of Boxiana, or, Sketches of Modern Pugilism, which appeared, lavishly illustrated, between 1818-24, was Liebling’s touchstone. Of it, he wrote:

Egan’s pageant of trulls and lushes, toffs and toddlers, all setting off for some great public, illegal prize-fight, are written Rowlandson, just as Rowlandson’s print of the great second fight between Cribb and Molineaux is graphic Egan. In the foreground of the picture there is a whore sitting on her gentleman’s shoulders the better to see the fight, while a pickpocket lifts the gentleman’s watch. Cribb has just hit Molineaux the floorer, and Molineaux is falling, as he has continued to do for a hundred and forty-five years since. He hasn’t hit the floor yet, but every time I look at the picture I expect to see him land. On the horizon are the delicate green hills and the pale blue English sky, hand-tinted by old drunks recruited in kip-shops (flophouses). The prints cost a shilling colored. When I look at my copy I can smell the crowd and the wildflowers.

As to those who find boxing too low-brow and brutish, I’ll leave the last word to Pierce Egan himself:

“To those, Sir, who prefer effeminacy to hardihood–assumed refinement to rough Nature–and to whom a shower of rain can terrify, under the alarm of their polite frames, suffering from the unruly elements–or would not mind Pugilism, if BOXING was not so shockingly vulgar–the following work can create no interest whatever; but to those persons who feel that Englishmen are not automatons…Boxiana will convey amusement, if not information…”

It is to be regretted that in boxing, as in so many walks of life, the automatons have, for the most part, taken over.

Verse on athletic endeavour, please.

  1. July 21, 2011 3:42 PM

    Less athletic, more endeavour…

    The PE hall was dank and cold
    The mats on which we jumped and rolled
    A grimy sort of grey, and damp
    Their fibres no great feats foretold

    But of feet they held the stenches
    Wafting outwards towards the benches
    Whose patina was worn thin
    From the bottoms of weak wenches

    Girls who menstruated daily
    Sat aloft them, looking gaily
    At their robust classmates’ antics
    Until teacher looked, and frailly

    They would double over then
    Shiver, groan and count to ten
    Then take a sip of water
    And resume their sneers again

    Yes, these hurlers on the ditch
    Sniggered, whispered, had a bitch
    While their friends bedewed with sweat
    Forward rolled, their muscles rich

    With lactic acid, their bottoms blue
    Both of attire and of hue
    Tumbled the wildcat one last time
    Untwanged their knickers right on cue

  2. July 21, 2011 4:18 PM

    With athletics I have no history
    The appeal of it is a fucking mystery
    Childhood illnesses put paid to running
    Reading and drawing much more becoming
    I can’t cheer on people to risk their health
    Doing something I’d never ever do myself.

    Have you ever watched stable-lad boxing? That’s really brutal and quite sickening. Many years ago a festival put us up in stable-lad’s accomodation by Carlisle racecourse. Plastic sheets on the beds , no curtains, no doors on the bedrooms, no privacy in the bathrooms and toilets. It was pitiful.

    Many of the lads had been kicked around by horses and were not 100% there. Their boxing matches appeared to have no rules and looked like the human equivalent of dog-fighting.

  3. mishari permalink*
    July 21, 2011 7:24 PM

    That’s not boxing, Ed…that’s just brutality and exploitation. Boxing can be brutal and exploitative but ideally it isn’t. According to this piece in The Independent, some 500 boxers have died or been seriously hurt in the ring since 1884. That’s roughly 4 boxers a year, badly hurt or killed.

    To put this in perspective, however, according to this list at wiki, as many if not more racing drivers have been killed while racing.

    More to the point, why isn’t just driving a car classified as a dangerous sport, given that:

    Worldwide it was estimated in 2004 that 1.2 million people were killed (2.2% of all deaths) and 50 million more were injured in motor vehicle collisions. India recorded 105,000 traffic deaths in a year, followed by China with over 96,000 deaths. This makes motor vehicle collisions the leading cause of injury death among children worldwide 10 – 19 years old (260,000 children die a year, 10 million are injured) and the sixth leading preventable cause of death in the United States (45,800 people died and 2.4 million were injured in 2005). In Canada they are the cause of 48% of severe injuries. — wiki

    1.2 million people killed and 50 million injured in a year? …and people piss and moan about the dangers of boxing?

  4. mishari permalink*
    July 21, 2011 7:58 PM

    But never mind all that: it’s time to sanctify breakfast; can I get a witness?

  5. Edward Taylor permalink
    July 21, 2011 8:00 PM

    I can appreciate enthusiasm for boxing but it really isn’t for me.

    I’ve been once and liked the lights trained on the ring ( George Bellows did some great boxing paintings ) but really hated the audience getting worked up to such a degree – I’ve been to see wrestling too but there the whole thing is so staged that winding the audience up into a fever pitch didn’t seem as disturbing as a boxing crowd who were egging on one fighter to beat the shit out of one poor unfortunate who was carried out.

    Of course in comparison to stable-lads boxing it’s the very picture of a civilised structured sport but so are most things.

  6. mishari permalink*
    July 21, 2011 8:34 PM

    I can appreciate your distaste for the audience, Ed. They are very often contemptible dolts. Of course, there are race ‘fans’ who like nothing better than a spectacular smash-up. I’d liken such people to the types who stand below potential suicides, urging them to jump. Aficionados of boxing or racing view them with disdain.

    Have you been following the weird story of Charlie Brooks’ computers. His story is that a ‘friend’ dropped them off in the parking garage. Huh? Why the fuck would anyone do that? Brooks’ building has a 24-hour concierge. Very rum.

    Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has signed a bill that officially classifies beer as alcoholic.
    Until now anything containing less than 10% alcohol in Russia has been considered a foodstuff. —, today

    Oh, boy…

  7. Edward Taylor permalink
    July 21, 2011 9:09 PM

    Unless the computers were delivered by that guy who left a priceless Stradivarius on the train last year it’s all rum with essence of rat if you ask me.

    I was taken by Cameron’s use of language over the BsB conversations. If he is completely innocent ( unlikely ) he could have saved himself a lot of bother by using an unambiguous way of expressing his innocence.

    I’ve a horrible feeling the chance to nail Cameron has gone but let’s hope Tom Watson and the Guardian ignore the “flogging a dead horse” mantra the Tories are parrotting to try and make this go away, risk unpopularity and delve even deeper. The Labour front bench are compromised but the back benchers may have room to move..

    • mishari permalink*
      July 21, 2011 9:20 PM

      Here’s a laugh for you:

      James Murdoch told the committee that his advisers had urged him to adopt a strategy of telling the truth when he spoke to the committee. — The Graun

      Priceless. So, telling the truth was a ‘strategy’ that had to be ‘urged’ on him by ‘advisors’? OK…I think I’ve got it. Left to his own devices, he would have lied his head off…which he did anyway. Great.

      But…(and who didn’t see this coming, except the Murdochs, evidently), Tom Crone, former chief legal officer at the Screws is calling Boy James a liar. That idiot Robert Peston just said on The World Tonight, that it was a case of he said/they said…well, maybe…but Crone is a lawyer; I’d be very surprised if he didn’t have concrete evidence. Last week, Crone said that he wasn’t going to be anybody’s fall-guy. He meant it. More fun to come, I’m betting…

  8. mishari permalink*
    July 21, 2011 10:49 PM

    Downing Street sources claimed security was not a high priority at the start of Cameron’s premiership [The UK Threat Level at the start of Cameron’s Premiership was “Severe”Ed.], but became more important with the start of military action in Libya. There was also said to be concern at the £500 cost of the vetting (Coulson) process. —The Graun

    Hahahahahahahahahaha…comedy gold; they were worried about the £500 cost or roughly what 10 seconds of the military action in Libya has cost?

    Oh, sure…that sounds plausible….hahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha…

    Cost of tweaking 10 Downing St. to Mr Cameron’s tastes –£500,000.

    Cost to make No. 10 kitchen aesthetically pleasing –£30,000

    Failure to pay the £500 cost to properly vet control of government communications with the media– priceless

  9. July 22, 2011 1:01 AM

    I like watching a good fight. Hagler, Hearns and Robinson had some classic matches, though my favourite was Ali, more for his showmanship than boxing. I saw this HBO documentary Thriller in Manila, in which Frazier is poignantly revealed as a forgotten legend who the hype surrounding Ali cast as a black man who’d sold out to the ‘man’, but who was much more connected to the deprivations of the South and still lives in the Philidelphia ghetto to this day, in one room above his gym, still training boxers and unflinching in his bitterness towards Ali.

    The fight was a proper grudge match on Frazier’s part, and he stubbornly refused to go down, pounding Ali’s body, hitting him to hurt him for all the taunts and mockery he had suffered. He was badly cut around the eyes and, as was revewaled in the documentary, was already almost blind in one eye, a fact he had kept from the boxing authorites in order to keep his lisence, and his corner man Eddie Futch stopped Frazier from going into the final round. Ali won, but immediately collapsed and was stretchered out unconcsious from the ring. In his dressing room after the fight, he told Frazier’s son to apologize on his behalf to his father, for all the things he had been saying about him; but as Frazier said, he should have told it to me himself. The answer message on his mobile, is a triumphantly bitter boast of having put Ali in the state he is. A fearless fighter, and great documentary.

  10. Edward Taylor permalink
    July 22, 2011 8:45 AM

    Ali had some great lines ” I’m so mean I make medecine sick” and indeed “I float like a butterfly and sting like a bee” which has been done to death by others but still sums him up perfectly.

  11. mishari permalink*
    July 22, 2011 9:46 AM

    …at a service in a Kandahar mosque where hundreds (including top government officials from the region) had gathered to pay their respects to the dead capo, a suicide bomber wearing a turban-bomb somehow slipped inside and blew himself up —

    From those crazy, fun-loving scamps who brought you car bombers, shoe bombers and underpants bombers come…turban bombers. Talk about blowing your mind…travelling Sikhs had better get used to wearing baseball caps…

  12. July 22, 2011 10:01 AM

    Why can’t they jusat take acid like everyone else?

  13. MeltonMowbray permalink
    July 22, 2011 12:52 PM

    Darts Regime

    I usually train on sausage rolls,
    but when the tournament gets near
    I’ll switch to stew and suet pud:
    we aim to meet several goals,
    a really dense and solid rear,
    a gut as hard as ironwood.

    It’s the platform you need, you see,
    like one of those gun emplacements:
    your throwing arm being the gun,
    the dart the shell, and your body
    the seat and fulcrum of events.
    This is rocket science, my son.

    I’ll throw some arrows every day,
    but I don’t like to do too much,
    there’s always the risk of a strain,
    and other stuff comes into play;
    you can easily lose your touch,
    or you might overtax the brain.

    Lager is actually the key,
    fifty pints a day is the price
    I pay in order to compete:
    it’s very hard, believe you me,
    but you must make a sacrifice
    to be a serious athlete.

  14. July 22, 2011 2:53 PM

    Who hit Nijinksy
    Was it Kandinsky
    To make him see his point
    Or toe his line?

    Who hit Nijinksy
    Was it Stravinsky
    That he might better hear
    His Firebird?

    (Who hit Nijinsky
    “Not I” said Lewinsky
    “I was not on the bill
    back then”)

    None of these hit Nijinsky
    He toed his own line en pointe
    He was the firebird
    Who always headed the bill

  15. hic8ubique permalink
    July 22, 2011 6:53 PM

    Neatly stitched, Re (and I’m glad to learn your word for that awkward knicker manoeuvre).

    Just back from Maine with my dance festival sprite after three weeks of camp; our longest separation yet. We’re delighted to have her home.
    Hot as Tofit here.
    The featured performance last evening, which was bizarre in many ways, did have an interesting section of dance in simulation of a boxing match. The blows stopped just short, but everything else was portrayed. It must have been 100F and humid. I don’t know how they survived the exertion when we were expiring just watching them.
    Even fanning myself seemed to be too much effort.

    Must now drive an overheated man the six minute walk to the beach…

    • July 22, 2011 7:07 PM

      Glad to know she is safely home.

      Poor darling, perhaps you will swim for him too. My very hungry man has just come home and I have cunningly phoned an obliging Indian who will be here presently bearing victuals.

  16. hic8ubique permalink
    July 22, 2011 8:22 PM

    An excellent plan. I could fancy a biryani later on if somebody else were to make it in some other kitchen.
    No, my very brown spouse will be body-surfing and enduring the direct sun. The car said the outside temp is 105F, but there’s a new reading being reported called the ‘heat index’ which takes humidity into account and that’s even higher, so people are being advised to take shelter. I’ll swim when the sun goes down. The beach was mobbed; actually, by European standards there were several ample patches of available sand, but the din!
    There’s nothing to be done now but get into the air-con car and procure the makings of G&Ts.

  17. mishari permalink*
    July 22, 2011 9:27 PM

    Never think of your car as a cold machine, but as a hot-blooded horse. — Juan Manuel Fangio (1958)

    An Ode To Motor Racing, Aggression and Sportive Industry*

    We intend to sing the love of danger,
    The habit of energy and fearlessness.
    Courage, audacity, and revolt
    Will be essential elements of our poetry.

    Up to now literature has exalted
    A pensive immobility: ecstasy, and sleep.
    We intend to exalt aggressive action,
    A feverish insomnia, the racer’s stride,
    The mortal leap, the punch and the slap.

    We say that the world’s magnificence
    Has been enriched by a new beauty;
    The beauty of speed. A racing car
    Whose bonnet is adorned with great pipes,
    Like serpents of explosive breath–
    A roaring car that seems to ride on grapeshot–
    Is more beautiful than the Victory of Samothrace.

    We want to hymn
    The man at the wheel,
    Who hurls the lance
    Of his spirit across the Earth,
    Along the circle of its orbit.

    The poet must spend himself
    With ardour, splendour, and generosity,
    To swell the enthusiastic fervour
    Of the primordial elements.

    Except in struggle, there is no more beauty.
    No work without an aggressive character
    Can be a masterpiece.

    Poetry must be conceived
    As a violent attack
    On unknown forces,
    To reduce and
    Prostrate them
    Before man.

    We stand on the last promontory of the centuries.
    Why should we look back, when
    What we want is to break down
    The mysterious doors of the Impossible?
    Time and Space died yesterday.
    We already live in the absolute,
    Because we have created
    Eternal, omnipresent speed.

    We will sing of great crowds excited by work,
    By pleasure, and by riot; we will sing of
    The multicolored, polyphonic tides of revolution
    In the modern capitals; we will sing of
    The vibrant nightly fervour of arsenals and shipyards
    Blazing with violent electric moons;
    Greedy railway stations that devour smoke-plumed serpents;
    Factories hung on clouds by the crooked lines
    Of their smoke; bridges that stride the rivers
    Like giant gymnasts, flashing in the sun with a
    Glitter of knives; adventurous steamers that sniff
    The horizon; deep-chested locomotives whose
    Wheels paw the tracks like the hooves
    Of enormous steel horses bridled by tubing;
    And the sleek flight of planes whose propellers
    Chatter in the wind like banners and seem
    To cheer like an enthusiastic crowd.

    *words by Filippo Tommaso Marinetti and used without his permission, as he would have wished.

  18. July 22, 2011 9:54 PM

    Wow wee. My minnows swim away in scarlet streams…

  19. MeltonMowbray permalink
    July 22, 2011 11:05 PM

    Amateur Boxing

    Punching people in the face can be fun,
    but I prefer a less formal venue
    than the boxing ring: something more homespun,
    like the car park of the Marquess Of Crewe,

    for instance, with two stout chaps to hold the arms
    of the focal point of my attention.
    Hearing those grunts and snuffles has its charms:
    there are other benefits I won’t mention.

    It’s a real pleasure to see the claret flow,
    to see the swelling rising on a welt;
    there’s an art in landing a well-aimed blow,

    no purse, no prize, no championship belt,
    just the satisfaction of a job well done,
    especially if the patsy is Cameron.

    • Edward Taylor permalink
      July 24, 2011 9:13 AM

      I take it you saw Cameron in that Commons debate last week as well MM.

    • MeltonMowbray permalink
      July 24, 2011 10:11 AM

      Yes, the sofa cushions took a battering.

  20. MeltonMowbray permalink
    July 22, 2011 11:09 PM

    No human beings were harmed in the making of the above poem.

    That may not apply to those who read it.

  21. July 22, 2011 11:13 PM

    It’s not your words that hurt rather the lack thereof ;)

  22. July 22, 2011 11:16 PM

    Your output is prolific since your return. I will not ask any direct questions but hope you are well. Green tiles always a cause for celebration.

  23. July 23, 2011 12:07 AM

    The Man from Castleknock

    It was clear he was an athlete
    That his thighs were hard as rock
    You’d just know the way he filled his jeans
    The man from Castleknock

    He rowed you see
    The Liffey, he swashed winter and spring
    A leading member of Wild Water
    This muscled kayak king

    He rowed alone on weekdays
    But on weekends he was apt
    To ride down in the Strawberry Beds
    His waters gently lapped

    On other shores on Sundays
    He gave thanks to God above
    For his many muscled blessings
    And their capacity for love

  24. July 23, 2011 11:40 AM

    Ah, the chorus of that song is familiar to me but I didn’t know it was alternatively called the Strawberry Beds. The tourists love that kind of thing, I should learn a few of them and go busking on Grafton St. We live not far from the Strawberry Beds – still a pretty, tree-lined road that runs along the Liffey which I sometimes drive home through but marred, if one looks up, by a massive motorway bridge and now home to speed bumps every couple of hundred metres or so. *The kayak king is not known to me Garda.

    • July 23, 2011 12:12 PM

      Can I clarify before someone else points it out that my car is not amphibious and I mean I drive home through the Strawberry Beds as opposed to the Liffey – I omitted a dash from my aside?

  25. MeltonMowbray permalink
    July 24, 2011 10:09 AM

    Bore De France:
    the unbearable excitement of cycling

    In the valleys and over plains
    through fields and forests they ride,
    they go up the hills and mountains
    and come down the other side.

    It’s gripping stuff, I must admit,
    if watching traffic is your game,
    don’t worry if you miss a bit:
    it all looks exactly the same.

    At the end of this Tour-nament
    I won’t raise as much as a peep,
    such is my sense of excitement
    I’m more likely to be asleep.

  26. July 24, 2011 12:26 PM

    Anyone for Tennis?

    Every end of June
    By rotation of the moon
    And elation at school’s end
    We settled in for Wimbledend

    Which is what my sister said
    When she tumbled out of bed
    Asked “Is Wimbledend on yet?”
    “Yes, hurry up, it’s the first set”

    “And it’s WimbleDON for God’s sake”
    “Yeah, what difference does it make?
    I think I’m getting tonsilitis…
    Oh look, Vitas Gerulaitis!”

    For weeks we sat there in a daze
    Drinking coffee through a haze
    Of teenage lust for foreign men
    Cousins, friends and grown women

    Swelled our ranks from time to time
    As we watched the tensions climb
    Bjorn and John, Ivan and Pat
    Stefan, Yannick, Boris, Mats

    In their pristine tennis whites
    Serving up far flung delights
    To the virgins of Mayo
    Served them fast and served them slow

    And we received them gratefully
    Each had her favourite, which for me
    Was Monsieur Noah, who knows why
    His gappy teeth, his twinkling eye?

    I dreamed of sailing on his ark
    Into waters deep and dark
    Speaking French, matching his aces
    With my contented love ekphrasis

    That’s an endeavour unfulfilled
    To his touch I never thrilled
    But I’ve played lots of tonsil tennis
    From Valentia through to Venice

  27. Captain Ned permalink
    July 24, 2011 3:37 PM

    I’m afraid I don’t care for boxing, but earlier today I watched an excellent film called ‘The Story of G.I. Joe’, featuring former middleweight champion Freddie Steele. His performance was very good, and stood up well against those of Burgess Meredith and Robert Mitchum. I wonder how many other famous sports players have distinguished themselves as actors? Jim Brown springs to mind, and of course there’s Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s appearance in ‘Airplane’.

    The knee-jerk Islamophobia of certain sections of the British media has really been exposed, hasn’t it? Though I suppose it’s never been exactly subtle. As shaming of the press, in its way, as the hacking scandal.

    • hic8ubique permalink
      July 25, 2011 1:03 AM

      Joe Namath ? comes to mind… how odd.

      I don’t look at enough sectors of the British media to comment on them, Ned, but as for the Guardian, it’s much more normalising than anything I see in the US, where there’s little presence of anything Muslim other than ‘Airb extremists’ and ‘turrsts’.*
      But then it seems there’s little in the news of any topics other than those which relate to the interests of Americanism.
      Very irritating, and the reason I was initially so pleased to find the G had gone online.

      A strange thing about the G in turn is that, for example, I posted here on PH about the heat wave in New England and then saw it in the headlines. Why?
      There seems an equation of the progressive and liberal with over-fascination with the US. Linguistically and culturally that is to my mind a deranged error and otherwise just an ignorant one.
      Public radio carries the BBC, but that’s pretty much it for international news sources on air unless one is prepared to go digging for obscure niche broadcasts.

      * in American parlance, tourists and terrorists all sound the same: ‘turrsts’.

  28. mishari permalink*
    July 24, 2011 8:00 PM

    Even more depressing, Ned, are the numbers of people explaining why poor, confused young Anders was ‘driven’ to it. Check out threads at the Telegraph (although the same right-wing scum are posting on The Grauniad).

    You see, Anders feared that his culture was being ‘swamped’ (that’s always the word) by Mooslums and, ya know…nobody would, like…listen; so he had to murder 100 people, many of them children; It turns out that, mirabile dictu, it’s all the fault of Mooslums (and the liberal Left) after all.

    The Right really are the toxic dregs of humanity.

    • Edward Taylor permalink
      July 24, 2011 10:31 PM

      Odd how a blue-eyed Aryan boy goes on the rampage and Muslims get blamed.

      It was the same with McVeigh the Unabomber wasn’t it? The ringing in the ears from the blasts had barely stopped before Muslim fanatics were dragged into it

  29. July 24, 2011 8:20 PM

    I can’t get those young people or their parents out of my mind – your child goes off to camp and you assume they will arrive home safely full of joy. The accounts are horrific; the scary thing about right wing extremism/racism is how widespread it is, lurks very close to the surface of seemingly “normal” people.

    • hic8ubique permalink
      July 25, 2011 4:17 PM

      Yet, I’m surprised whenever it pops out when speaking with ‘real’ people, and I suddenly come to regard them as curiosities.

      Which reminds me… Earlier this month, I was in a queue waiting to board a boat, and the man behind me kept bumping into me with his gear, his camera, his arse, and he excused himself effusively each time. He announced that he was visiting from Texas, and all his attendant business, and his wife’s business, finally announcing with jollity that we were playing pinball. That was so repulsive a remark that I stopped my indulgent nodding and smiling and ignored him.

      Once on board I joined a table with a couple who turned out to be from Bangkok, the husband Anglo/Canadian and the wife Thai. They were great company and we had sporadic conversation throughout. The Texans were at an adjoining table behind me. At one point, I came face to face with Mr Pinball and he sneered at me with such malevolence I was shocked. Then I realised it was because I had chosen to engage with the ‘wrong’ people.

      Even in parts of the US that we think of as liberal such as Oregon or Massachusetts, it’s not unusual to encounter hostility to racially mixed couples, and not just from fools visiting from Texas.

  30. mishari permalink*
    July 24, 2011 8:29 PM

    Depressingly, Reine, the narrative of far-right types like Breivik closely resembles the editorials you might read any day of the week in the Daily Mail, Daily Express, Daily Telegraph or see expressed on Fox News (or, indeed, in the comments at The Grauniad).

    The hate-fuelled diatribes of Zionist lunatics like Melanie Philips or right-wing thickos like Richard Littlejohn take the same line and a certain climate of paranoid ‘opinion’ (i.e. bigotry) has been made acceptable; respectable, even.

    These vile people screech that criticism of immigration and ‘multi-culturalism’ is ‘forbidden’, even as they peddle such criticisms incessantly; they would have people believe that a ‘Liberal/ Left elite’ has foisted changes, unasked, on people; they rage about the alleged Islamification of society and culture (promoted by the ‘liberal/ left elite’, natch); they indulge constantly in a ‘wounded’ and furious ‘victimhood’ in which ‘decent, ordinary people’ are ignored. This, of course, leads otherwise ‘decent’ sorts like Anders to extremes.

    Breivik and other members of Europe’s new extreme right are fixated on the fear of the “demographic Jihad,” or being out-populated by overly fertile Muslim immigrants. They see themselves as Crusader warriors fighting a racial/religious holy war to preserve Western Civilization. Thus they turn for inspiration to Israel, the only ethnocracy in the world, a country that substantially bases its policies towards the Palestinians on what its leaders call “demographic considerations.”

    This is why Israeli flags invariably fly above black-masked English Defense League mobs, and why Geert Wilders, the most prominent Islamophobic politician in the world, routinely travels to Israel to demand the forced transfer of Palestinians.

    Judging from Breivik’s writings, his hysterical hatred of the Labor Party’s immigration policies and tolerance of Muslim immigrants likely led him target the government-operated summer camp at Utoya. For years, the far-right has singled Norway out as a special hotbed of pro-Islam, pro-Palestinian sentiment, thanks largely to its ruling Labor Party.

    In 2010, for instance, the English Defense League called Norway a future site of “Islamohell,” “where unadulterated political correctness has ruled the roost, with sharp talons, for decades.” Yesterday, when the Wall Street Journal editorial page rushed to blame Muslim terrorists for what turned out to be Breivik’s killing spree, it slammed the Norwegian government for pulling troops from Afghanistan and demanding that Israel end its siege of Gaza. For his part, Breivik branded the Labor Party as “traitors.” —

    The likes of Philips and her crew of hate-mongers actually make me feel physically ill: they have a lot to answer for.

    • July 24, 2011 8:52 PM

      Yes and there is absolutely no reasoning with them – even on a conversational level, they look at you with a kind of “another poor hoodwinked liberal leftie” expression and start citing chapter and verse to shore up their position. It is infuriating, frightening and, as you say, sickening.

    • Captain Ned permalink
      July 25, 2011 12:37 AM

      Something that always makes me snort in exasperation is the incessant, disingenuous demand for an ‘open, honest debate’ about immigration. If there’s one subject political discourse returns to time and time again in this country, it’s immigration, and I haven’t noticed public figures and media institutions being particularly hamstrung by the supposed constraints they’re forever decrying. Do the shriekingly cretinous front pages of the Express, for example, provide evidence of any externally-enforced reticence in their language? Or are its journalists just very, very brave their fearless defence of free speech? What do these idiots want? The right to shout ‘Darkies out!’ without being called racist? It’s all very well for people to insist at the top of their voices that being critical of immigration policy does not necessarily make you a racist; that’s perfectly true. But beyond a few Dave Sparts on CiF, does anyone actually believe that it does? The idea that there’s a sinister liberal thought-police clamping down on freedom of expression is nonsense, but people trot it out again and again all the same. What is true is that whenever it is correctly pointed out that someone’s paranoid, ignorant, hate-filled, racist diatribe is indeed a paranoid, ignorant, hate-filled, racist diatribe, the wingnuts throw a hissy-fit.

      The other factor in the rush to blame the attack on Muslims is the nature of today’s media, with its rolling coverage and insatiable demand for instant answers. When those answers cannot be immediately supplied in the form of facts, they are supplied in the form of speculation. Live reports tell us breathlessly that no-one has a clue what’s going on, and tell us the same thing fifteen minutes later. Distinguished experts are wheeled out to give us their best guesses, which no matter how wild, are treated with reverence and solemn nods of the head, until some tidbit of new information comes through which seems to contradict what the experts have said, so the experts are wheeled off and forgotten, and replaced with new experts who, with the benefit of the tidbit of new information, are able to give slightly better guesses until it’s time to return to the live reporter, who’s having trouble hearing what the anchor is trying to tell him, and doesn’t have anything new to add anyway, so states grimly that it’s a very serious situation and that things are changing very rapidly. Then it’s back to the anchor, who gives a summary of the little that’s known so far before we cut to shots of political leaders giving their heartfelt reactions, expressing their shock/outrage/sorrow and vowing to introduce much-needed reforms/bring the perpetrators to justice/pray for the victims and their families. We then have more distinguished experts who give their reactions to the reactions of the political leaders, and more groundless speculation, and more live updates that tell us nothing new, until there’s another breaking story to claim one’s attention, such as, oh I don’t know, a dead/drunk/cheating celebrity, which means that we get a whole new bunch of uninformative live reports, clueless experts and vapid reactions from political leaders, all about the dead/drunk/cheating celebrity. And now for the sport…

    • July 25, 2011 10:47 AM

      This rush to give us information that means objective news reporting gets churned up with speculation and opinion can seriously backfire too. It happened with the German government wanting to blame someone/anyone for the ecoli outbreak earlier this year.

      Aren’t the Spanish in the process of sueing them for wrongful assertions about their cucumbers? ( A sentence I never thought I’d see myself write.)

    • July 25, 2011 12:24 PM

      I like to stare at the lacunae in cases like this. Mysteriously under-reported in the “mainstream” press are relevant items such as:


      2. “As foreign minister arrived Utøya he was met with a demand from the AUF that Norway must recognize a Palestinian state.

      – The Palestinians must have their own state, the occupation must end, the wall must be demolished and it must happen now, said the Foreign Minister to cheers from the audience.
      Earlier this week, when Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas visited Norway, the Minister said to TV 2 news channel that Norway stands ready to recognize a Palestinian state . This he repeated during the debate on Utøya.”

      And then, whaddya know, the very next day…

      3. I’ve watched the Aryan Avenger’s video and near the end it makes a strong statement *against* “hate groups” (wow) such as “Islamism” and, erm, “Jew-hating Nazis”. Not very in-character for a defender of the pure-whiteness of the whitest people on Earth, I’d say. Genuine Aryan Berserker-Heroes don’t go around wagging their blood-drenched fingers at anti-Semites; anyone who has been online for long enough knows a genuine White Supremacist Weltanschauung when they see one… and this ain’t it.

    • July 25, 2011 12:32 PM

      I also like this, from Olivier Assayas:

      “There is no terrorism. There is only state-terrorism. There are no furious individuals who decide suddenly one day to build some bombs; that is an invention of a rather naive mind. If it ever was true then maybe back in the 19th century. But not today. Terrorism is a message from one state to another state. It is not focused on the media, which is what many are led to believe. The general public doesn’t have to understand anything. The government is supposed to get the message. That is why you can never understand the logic of terrorism at the moment it is evoked. Since you never know how the cards are being mixed and by whom…”

    • July 25, 2011 1:41 PM

      I’m not sure which state something like the Real IRA are operating from. They almost seem like an IRA tribute band. I think in their heads they are operating as a state but it’s difficult to know whether they have a lot of grassroots support for what they are doing.

      Fassbinder made a very interesting film “The Third Generation” about terrorism and how some of the groups today ( in the film’s case the early 80’s ) have the action and the postures down pat but don’t appear to have the thinking ( or whatever you might call it ) behind those actions and postures so it comes over as pure fashionable nihilism.

    • July 25, 2011 1:46 PM

      For some reason the end of my epistle got cut out. Anyone else finding that the twitter/facebook log in boxes sometimes superimpose themselves over comments?

      Anyway the end read – in some odd way the Fassbinder film has a weird “kids of today don’t know they were born” message but it’s also an interesting and provocative film.

    • MeltonMowbray permalink
      July 25, 2011 8:07 PM

      The Unreal IRA never seemed a credible organisation to me.

    • Edward Taylor permalink
      July 25, 2011 8:14 PM

      The Unreal IRA? Was that Gerry and the Peacemakers?

      My coat’s already on

    • MeltonMowbray permalink
      July 25, 2011 8:37 PM

      No, McGuinness Flirt.

  31. mishari permalink*
    July 24, 2011 10:18 PM

    I hate to say ‘I warned you…’ [Liar-Ed.], but:

    Obama’s campaign promise to “change Washington” looks like pure bait and switch. There has been no change, but rather more of the same: the Wall-Street-owned Democratic Party as we have come to know it. The idea that the Republicans are for the billionaires and the Democrats are for the common man is quaint but outdated. It’s more accurate to say that the Republicans are for Big Oil while the Democrats are for Big Banks. That has been the case since the modern Democratic Party was re-created by Bill Clinton and Robert Rubin.

    Thus, at every crucial opportunity, Obama has failed to stand up for the poor and middle class. He refused to tax the banks and hedge funds properly on their outlandish profits; he refused to limit in a serious way the bankers’ mega-bonuses even when the bonuses were financed by taxpayer bailouts; and he even refused to stand up against extending the Bush tax cuts for the rich last December, though 60 percent of the electorate repeatedly and consistently demanded that the Bush tax cuts at the top should be ended.

    It’s not hard to understand why. Obama and Democratic Party politicians rely on Wall Street and the super-rich for campaign contributions the same way that the Republicans rely on oil and coal. In America today, only the rich have political power.

    Obama could have cut hundreds of billions of dollars in spending that has been wasted on America’s disastrous wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and Yemen, but here too it’s been all bait and switch. Obama is either afraid to stand up to the Pentagon or is part of the same neoconservative outlook as his predecessor. The real cause hardly matters since the outcome is the same: America is more militarily engaged under Obama than even under Bush. Amazing but true.

    The stimulus legislation, pushed by Obama at the start of his term on the basis of antiquated economic theories, wasted the public’s money and also did something much worse. It discredited the vital role of public spending in solving real and long-term problems. Rather than thinking ahead and planning for long-term solutions, he simply spent money on short-term schemes.

    Obama’s embrace of “shovel-ready” infrastructure, for example, left America with an economy based on shovels while China’s long-term strategy has given that country an economy based on 21st-century Maglev trains.

    Now that the resort to mega-deficits has run its course, Obama is on the verge of abandoning the poor and middle class, by agreeing with the plutocrats in Congress to cut spending on Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, and discretionary civilian spending, while protecting the military and the low tax rates on the rich (if not lowering those top tax rates further according to the secret machinations of the Gang of Six, now endorsed by the president!)

    Who runs America today? The rich and the multinational corporations. Who runs the White House? David Plouffe, whose job it is to make sure that ever word, every action of the president is calculated for electoral gain rather than the country’s needs. Who runs the Congress, on both sides of the aisle? The lobbyists, who win in every negotiation. And who loses?

    The American people, who have said repeatedly that they want a budget that sharply cuts the military, ends the wars, raises taxes on the rich, protects the poor and the middle class, and invests in America’s future not just in Obama’s speeches but in fact.

    America needs a third-party movement to break the hammerlock of the financial elites. Until that happens, the political class and the media conglomerates will continue to spew lies, American militarism will continue to destabilize a growing swath of the world, and the country will continue its economic decline. — Jeffrey Sachs

    Feets Don’t Fail Me Now

    One foot forward, leads the other,
    foot by foot but feet not fleet;
    the path is long and stony, brother,
    to the place the roads all meet.

    Don’t look back, there’s something gaining;
    hellhound; poodle: no-one knows.
    Don’t beg pardon; no explaining;
    the end’s the same in verse or prose.

    We shall all meet at the terminus:
    that’s where every foot descends;
    there a hole’s torn in the universe
    where this long, odd time-walk ends.

    • hic8ubique permalink
      July 25, 2011 1:09 AM

      Beautiful and Inspiring!
      Honestly, I get an education here.

  32. mishari permalink*
    July 25, 2011 12:32 AM

    The European Union trademarks authority has permitted a German firm to register the brand name “Fucking Hell” for a new beer, much to the irritation of the Austrian village of Fucking.

    In English, the term “Fucking Hell” is just an expletive used to express irritation or surprise. In German, it could refer to a light ale from Fucking in Upper Austria, because “Hell” is a term for light ale in southern Germany and Austria.

    The problem is that Fucking has no brewery, and the town’s mayor, Franz Meindl, is not aware of any plans to build one there, Austrian public broadcaster ORF reported on its Web site.

    It is likely to heighten Fucking’s fame, which is something Meindl, the town’s mayor, isn’t happy about, given the trouble the name has caused it over the years. “Twelve or 13 town signs have been stolen. We’ve taken to fixing them with concrete, welding and rivets.”

    The Bavarian towns of Kissing and Petting have the same problem, as does the eastern German town of Pissen. But so far, there are no plans to name a beer after them. — spiegel online international

  33. hic8ubique permalink
    July 25, 2011 3:49 PM

    I’ve been considering your boxing stance, Mishari. *ahem* I suppose you’ve likely seen this article?
    Not a bad idea for people to be aware of the deterioration of brain tissue over years of sustaining blunt traumas.

    Despite the statistical risk, it’s some comfort to consider that when I’m driving, as opposed to boxing, the other drivers aren’t actively trying to hit me. I may be at high risk of an accident due to my driving habits/temperament and those of others, but I’m not subject to cumulative brain damage as if I were getting knocked about a bit every time I participate in the melee of Massachusetts roadways.

    Ali has said he doesn’t want boxing to be blamed for his condition, rather the fact that he went on too long in the sport. How does one assess that for himself, I wonder?
    A neighbour of ours who was a Boston College football star was given compulsory early retirement after his third or fourth (?) concussion, so that’s change for the better.

    My bent is towards caveat emptor. The deep appeal of bread and circuses, of the adrenaline rush as drug of choice, the intoxication of high risk/stakes are not going to be mothered away.
    I’d agree that going into a sport or venture with skill and preparation and not being stupid beyond ones depth is key. Who but the death-wishers (or the idiotic) want to invite being maimed or obliterated?
    I hope to attenuate my kids’ exposure, to be a buffer so their maturity has a chance to keep up with their experiences.
    While accepting the principle of free will in a wild world, that’s the best I can offer.

    For myself, I’m averse to the attendant tension, and so, gradually have learned to court bliss rather than drama.

    • July 25, 2011 11:38 PM

      “I must court bliss not drama” is my new motto. Yes, indeedy.

  34. mishari permalink*
    July 25, 2011 3:57 PM

    But surely, hic, ‘bliss’ can only result from the resolution of tension: it can’t exist in a vacuum. In my opinion, virtually all art is the product of that dynamic–tension/resolution; tension/resolution…und so weiter…no?

    • hic8ubique permalink
      July 25, 2011 4:22 PM

      I’ll have to think about how to answer you. My first impression is of the difference between
      a Beethoven symphony and a sustained Ohm.

    • hic8ubique permalink
      July 25, 2011 4:50 PM

      Ok so, to try to explain… my experience is of learning not to swing so wide with strivingrecovery, but to progressively in practice surrender whatever mental chatter arises while maintaining a central stillness.
      (It’s probably closest to Taoism, though I’m not an adherent of any belief system.)
      Becoming more centred and less reactive in fielding outside impulses as well has helped to relieve my migraine pattern.
      It’s not that I’m in a perpetual state of bliss (obvious to everyone here!) but that I have a trodden path to find my way back when in what I’d call ‘homeostatic threat’.
      In the tension/resolution cycle (if you’re still with me) what that means is achieving the resolution phase after less stimulus, or higher frequency with lower amplitude, so to speak.

  35. MeltonMowbray permalink
    July 25, 2011 8:10 PM

    Jon Snow just had a piece on C4 news about cycling accidents in London. Fatalities up 7% this year.

  36. MeltonMowbray permalink
    July 25, 2011 10:43 PM

    Oval Balls

    It’s the game that made the British Empire;
    spending your childhood on a windswept field
    scuffling over a frozen quagmire
    produces a solid if costly yield,
    the spirit might sag and the bones might break,
    but conquering the world’s a piece of cake.

    From the sweating deserts of Rajasthan
    across the lonely South African plain
    up the high passes of Afghanistan
    to the blood-spattered battlefields of Spain,
    what made us History’s foremost slugger
    was the theory and practice of rugger.

    The world-view might be a team-mate’s bum,
    and action limited to rucks and mauls,
    but the infantry soldiers of the scrum
    are the backbone where the grunt-work falls,
    the solid foundation on which the backs
    can bollocks up their cavalry attacks.

    Fair play to the girls, the up-and-under
    demolished the Russkis at Inkerman,
    and maybe led to the Mahdi’s blunder
    which gave us the winner down the Soudan;
    but Zulu, Ashanti, Boxer or Turk
    we won the day through first-class teamwork.

    The grubber, the French switch, the dummy blind,
    the crash ball which cuts the enemy’s line,
    the pushover try and the pass-behind
    the short-arm tackling which makes them whine,
    in tactical terms the Imperial dream
    was made in the brain of a rugby team.

    Now the great British Empire has vanished,
    the youngsters prefer their Facebook and drugs,
    the amateur ethic’s been banished
    and rugby’s a game for professional thugs,
    the sporting spirit’s no longer a plus,
    no wonder Johnny Foreigner’s caning us.

  37. HenryLloydMoon permalink
    July 25, 2011 11:10 PM

    Who Hit Nijinsky?

    He cantered from last in the Dewhurst that day
    Two Thousand Guineas didn’t stand in his way
    Just one pirouette and a balette of hay
    Was more than enough for Nijinsky

    Then up on the Downs he left others for dead
    No taste of the whip or the whizz or the lead
    Just murmurs from Piggott, so close to the head
    Of the Ballydoyle favourite Nijinsky

    With nary a kick nor a slap nor a whack
    He romped through the Irish; ran wide on the track
    To claim the King George and Leger back to back
    As the Triple Crown fell to Nijinsky

    Going neck and neck down the straight in the Arc
    Lester drew the whip and his horse gave a start
    That cost him the final immaculate mark…
    But he never laid into Nijinsky

  38. July 25, 2011 11:12 PM

    The question needed a poem and you delivered. I am pinning a virtual rosette on you Henry.

    • HenryLloydMoon permalink
      July 25, 2011 11:21 PM

      Ta. You don’t know how nice it is to be back nor how much I have missed you. I now reside in England, have spent a weekend in Cornwall and my upper forehead is peppered with English insect bites. Sweet penance, innit.

      Or is that Penzance.

    • hic8ubique permalink
      July 26, 2011 2:51 AM

      Poor wand’ring one. We’d better have a song for you too…

  39. July 25, 2011 11:25 PM

    Glad to hear you are settled – hope the midges lay off; you might consider taking up pipe smoking. Be happy as the kids (or Helen Steiner Rice) say.

  40. Edward Taylor permalink
    July 26, 2011 9:06 AM

    I trust your daughter got Daisy Goodwin smack in the eye with a tomato in Cornwall HLM.

    Watched British Masters on BBC4 last night which managed to turn Francis Bacon into a British artist but also featured Keith Vaughn [John Keith Vaughan -Ed.]. Not the best painter but his diaries which I read years ago are extremely distressing.

    He thought himself into a position where nothing could persuade him that life was worth living anymore so he killed himself. He took a handful of pills and a bottle of whisky and wrote calmly and lucidly til he drifted off. The documentary showed the actual handwritten diary where his writing just tails off into scribble.

    It was a strange brew of lack of success he thought he was due, an understandable aversion to the shallow aspects of modern life and a growing inability to put things in perspective.

    • July 28, 2011 1:01 AM

      ET, I owe you worthy responses on so many different platforms that I’ll never catch up; will this non-sequitur do?

    • Edward Taylor permalink
      July 28, 2011 9:13 AM

      SA the slate is wiped clean ready to start again if or when possible.

  41. Sheriff Street's Finest Son Singing permalink
    July 26, 2011 12:40 PM

    Talking of Dublin places, this classic sung by Luke Kelly of the Dubliners, is self-explanatory due to the intro by Ronnie Drew.

    If you want to hear Kelly’s voice at its finest, this one is among my own favourites.

  42. July 26, 2011 12:59 PM

    I see George Osborne is blaming the Royal Wedding for the lack of growth in the economy. I thought they were meant to be a good investment. Turns out they are helping the country’s finances tank.

    • MeltonMowbray permalink
      July 26, 2011 10:49 PM

      Weddings don’t come cheap, you know. Forty Chicken Kievs, ten crates of Asti and a mobile disco – that’s forty billion quid for starters.

    • July 27, 2011 9:36 AM

      Never having organised a wedding I hadn’t taken the mobile disco costs into consideration so I take your point.

      But I think 39 ham and tomato sandwiches plus one egg mayonnaise sandwich for the uncle’s vegetarian daughter could have saved a bit of money on the food stakes. Once you’re into Chicken Kievs you’ve got dips to consider as well and before you know it your catering budget has ballooned.

    • MeltonMowbray permalink
      July 27, 2011 3:39 PM

      Fair enough for run-of-the-mill aristocrats, I suppose, but we’re talking Royal here. At a certain Kuwaiti nobleman’s wedding it’s rumoured that 100,000 endangered (now extinct) hummingbirds went into the paté, and the champagne bottles were compacted to make a new Alp. Really, a bourgeois wallpaper manufacturer like George Woodchip, sorry, Osborne, simply has no understanding of savoir faire. He should save his complaining for the totally useless projects we pour cash into, like disabled people (they can’t work, so what’s the point of them?) or the NHS (it’s God’s will that people should be sick, unless they’re rich).

    • mishari permalink*
      July 27, 2011 5:49 PM

      That hummingbird paté was delicious and their extinction was no loss. Cameron’s Bumsucker was a corpulent, drab bird that was more comfortable waddling than flying. Its long tongue was employed to lick the arses of corporate chieftains and the boots of bankers. The breed was an evolutionary dead-end: fuck ’em.

    • Edward Taylor permalink
      July 27, 2011 6:55 PM

      The humminbirds come with built-in toothpicks as well

  43. Edward Taylor permalink
    July 26, 2011 10:14 PM

    Who hit Nijinsky? je ne sais pas
    all fingers point to Ninette de Valois
    She didn’t like his Rites of Spring
    Less ballet more like a pagan fling

    Who hit Nijinsky? I haven’t a clue
    Rimsky Korsakov? he’ll have to do
    Of Course Rimsky landed that knock-out punch
    Impacting the skull with a sickening crunch

    Leaving Nijinsky able to hover in the air
    As if all sense of time was no longer there
    His pas de deux became pas de douze
    The ballet critics then started to enthuse

    Who hit Nijinsky? We can’t be sure
    The mystery will forever endure
    He couldn’t dance like that naturally
    It has to be down to a head injury

  44. MeltonMowbray permalink
    July 26, 2011 11:12 PM

    Mr Apollo

    I’m six – four and one hundred ninety pounds,
    my abdo muscle is totally cut,
    I have a tight and very well – made butt,
    I’m through Mr U’s preliminary rounds.

    My pecs are probably my best feature,
    though my general shape is pretty OK,
    Eddie, my manager, he likes to say,
    Bobby, you are a magnificent creature!

    I don’t argue. He’s a great guy, Eddie,
    he’s good with the diets and supplements,
    man, I am so glad that I made the switch

    from the last loser. We’ll take it steady,
    says Eddie, only the prestige events.
    I don’t like my voice. It’s kind of high – pitched.

  45. July 26, 2011 11:45 PM

    WW (keeps on turning)

    I’m wonder woman, pneumatic, you know the drill
    Tea coloured tights with togs, licensed to thrill
    A certain kind of guy, the bashful ones, the shy
    Fellows who nail you on their bedroom walls and cry

    It’s tiring, all this leaping about, beaming
    Brazilianed for the high leg hike, teeth gleaming
    Hair backcombed, held in place
    With a tiara that helps hold up my face

    Botox on the cheap, I call it, stamps out wrinkles
    Which now I’m past my best match the crinkles
    Beneath my corseted nylon – stinks by night’s end
    But it’ll do tomorrow night again

    After all, no one gets close enough to smell it now
    Stale is as stale does, but the cash cow
    Still suckles at my breast
    Endeavour? I do my best

    • July 27, 2011 12:03 AM

      Mishari, would you please change lycra to nylon when you get a moment? I don’t think Lynda did lycra. R

  46. mishari permalink*
    July 27, 2011 5:57 PM

    One of Silvio Berlusconi’s former ministers has defended the thinking of the Norwegian mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik.

    Interviewed on a popular radio show, Francesco Speroni, a leading member of the Northern League, the junior partner in Berlusconi’s conservative coalition, said: “Breivik’s ideas are in defence of western civilisation.” —The Graun, today

    I’ve just made a vow to never set foot in Italy or buy an Italian product again until Berlusconi and his gang of right-wing scum have been consigned to the cess-pit that they belong in.

  47. mishari permalink*
    July 27, 2011 8:27 PM

    Israeli commandos stormed a famous Palestinian theater in the West Bank early Wednesday, arresting two men associated with it and damaging the building, a witness said. — NYT, today

    Because that’s how the ‘…only democracy in the Middle-East (sic)…’ deals with ‘existential’ threats; by ‘storming’ theatres with commandos (because the luvvies can be very, very bitchy, you know); by burning Palestinian olive groves:

    Israeli settlers on horseback set fire to fields of olive trees and stoned Palestinian cars in the West Bank yesterday, apparently in response to the Israeli army’s removal of an illegal outpost in the area.

    At least 1,500 Palestinian-owned trees were destroyed and two Palestinians were injured in the attack, near the city of Nablus, by about 30 settlers, security officials said. —The Times, 21. 8. 09

    … poisoning Palestinian wells:

    Israeli police suspect Jewish settlers of poisoning the only water source in a Palestinian village in the West Bank. Israeli police said they suspected militant Jews from a nearby wildcat settlement outpost called Havat Maon.

    “No-one has water,” said village elder Saber Ehrany, who accused settlers of trying to drive the villagers out.

    Police spokesman Doron Ben-Amo said it was “unlikely” that the Palestinians would contaminate their own well. —

    …and by forcing pregnant Palestinian women to miscarry at Israeli ‘checkpoints’:

    Between 2000 and 2006, at least 68 Palestinian women gave birth at Israeli checkpoints, according to the Palestinian health ministry. Of these 35 women miscarried, and five died in childbirth. —

    Still, I suppose it’s an improvement on shooting Palestinian children:

    An Israeli army officer who repeatedly shot a 12-year-old Palestinian girl in Gaza dismissed a warning from another soldier that she was a child by saying he would have killed her even if she was three years old.

    The officer, identified by the army only as Captain R, was charged with illegal use of his weapon, conduct unbecoming an officer and other relatively minor infractions after emptying all 10 bullets from his gun’s magazine into Imam al-Hamas when she walked into a “security area” on the edge of Rafah refugee camp last month.

    A tape recording of radio exchanges between soldiers involved in the incident, played on Israeli television, contradicts the army’s account of the events and appears to show that the captain shot the girl in cold blood.

    This week an army investigation cleared the unit’s commander, even after some of his own soldiers accused him of giving the order to shoot knowing the target was a young girl, and of then emptying the clip of his automatic rifle into her. —The Guardian, 24. 11. 04

    The Palestinians must count their blessings daily to be living under a benign democracy like Israel’s.

  48. MeltonMowbray permalink
    July 27, 2011 9:15 PM

    The Man In The Middle

    He does his training in the local park,
    goes home, watches TV, eats a plate
    of unsauced pasta and when it gets dark
    jogs round the streets of his Barratt estate.

    On Saturdays he’s out of bed at dawn,
    and once the muesli and juice is dispatched
    does a few stretches on the garden lawn,
    then he drives the Mondeo to the match.

    He’s the bastard in black, a fucking cheat,
    he’s a streak of piss or he’s mega-fat,
    he’s the biggest liar you’ll ever meet,

    his mother’s a slapper who’ll shag you free,
    he’s a cunt, a twat, he’s blind as a bat,
    a mong and a knob, he’s a referee.

    • mishari permalink*
      July 27, 2011 9:31 PM

      Until the pay-off, MM, I was assuming he was a politician…

      A member of the National Front (of France), Jacques Coutela, was suspended for calling Mr. Breivik “an icon” on his blog —The NYT, today

      That’s the same National Front that won 17% of the vote in the last French election. I’m really beginning to despair of the human race.

      I wish I loved the Human Race;
      I wish I loved its silly face;
      I wish I liked the way it walks;
      I wish I liked the way it talks;
      And when I’m introduced to one,
      I wish I thought “What Jolly Fun!”

      Sir Walter A. Raleigh

  49. Edward Taylor permalink
    July 27, 2011 9:34 PM

    MM The arts officer for Carlisle in the early 90’s was an ex-referee who’d officiated high profile FA cup semi-finals, Premiership/First division as was matches on all the grounds and European fixtures.

    He was a very nice guy but an incredibly nervous one too, so nervous you wondered how he got through matches with most of the crowd singing “Who’s the bastard in the black?” at him. We wondered whether he’d just decided to let his guard drop and relished not having to put up a front in order to keep control. If so perhaps he’d gone a bit too far the other way.

    Apparently Paul Gascoigne was the best player he’d referee’d in terms of being skillfull and being funny.

    • MeltonMowbray permalink
      July 27, 2011 11:46 PM

      It’s not a job I’d fancy. Even at youth level the abuse they get is very nasty indeed.

      I stole the title from David Elleray’s book, which is intermittently diverting if you happen to come across it. The story of his relationship with Roy Keane (who he managed to send off four times) could make a book of its own.

  50. mishari permalink*
    July 27, 2011 10:11 PM

    Has anyone else noticed that the Grauniad’s book Muffia have completely taken over the book blogs? Aside from the token appearance of Richard Lea (who, as a Grauniad staffer, is an honorary girl, I suppose), every single article for the last few weeks has been by one of the usual (female) suspects, reflecting their middle-brow to low-brow interests (‘I simply adore…’ whatever dreary pukefest it is that they adore this week).

    I suppose it’s jealousy that made Sarah Crown (who seems to write 8 out of 10 of the articles that appear) use the ‘re-design’ to consign Carol’s Poem of The Week (which God alone knows has slid a long way down the ramp since its lively heyday) to the blog-equivalent of the Kamchatka Peninsular. Finding it is like searching for The Lost Dutchman’s Mine.

    She seems to have become a megalomaniac. Thanks to the Coña Nostra and the imbecile moderators, the book blogs have gone from lively to variable to tiresome to moribund. Why anyone would waste a minute reading that half-wit Damien Walter (who I suspect is Sarah Crown in disguise) explaining that Game of Thrones is ‘socially relevant’ or another beef-witted paean to some children’s author by AlisonClaireHannahJustineImogenSarahAuntyTomasinaCobblers and all is a mystery.

    It’s probably just me…

    • July 28, 2011 12:58 PM

      I always thought of Sarah Crown as being what would have happened to Zadie Smith (related by scansion) if Smith hadn’t been born with a marketable back-story, or the ambition that the back-story provided. I could well imagine Crown (with just a few more IQ points) writing doorstops sopping with PC pablum and packed with “quirky” (TV-derived) characters and salted with smug undergraduate “knowingness” until she sank without a trace by aging out of her market.

      If it weren’t for the invention of LitBlogs, we’d have had to have put up with Sarah’s type wherever we’d have congregated, I think, because they always end up running these things as a revenge/ consolation prize for not being of any importance. Being unimportant, on the other hand, suits me to a “t”… which is why I could never fathom the willingness to lick the number of asses Sarah’s type must lick before getting into a position to have their own asses licked by regulars in a comment thread, ferfucksake.

      Damien is just a harmless fangit, his pseudo-utopian visions inspired by Saint Onan. Did you know, btw, M, that in the not-too-distant future, we’ll all be time-traveling immortals… even the poorest fucks among us? Gosh!

    • July 28, 2011 1:16 PM

      Damien Walter’s problem is that he doesn’t realise that it’s much more creative if you stay under the radar. The books he likes owe their qualities to an outsider position rather than one in the middle of it all.

      To some extent I can see his point – there’s a lot of good work that gets ignored in the general summing up of things – but if you’ve got an audience, if you’ve figured out a way of making your work why the hell should you bother with what some stuffed shirt ( or buttoned up, round collared white shirt, no tie in a black Armani suit ) from a broadsheet thinks about what you do?

    • mishari permalink*
      July 28, 2011 2:09 PM

      Ed, I can never forget (and I suspect that you and Steven remember it, too) Walter writing a long piece, about 3 years ago, on how the sheer volume of blogs and of people setting down the minutiae of their hum-drum existences ensured a higher quality of writing than the strait-laced, stratified world of conventional publishing would allow.

      It was a thesis so fantastically imbecilic that I initially thought it must have been meant ironically…but, no: he meant every word.

      I also remember him refusing to engage and explain his many bizarre assessments of various authors and their work, preferring to scuttle back to his lair (which I picture as his Mum’s basement, complete with life-size Star Wars cardboard cut-outs and models of Yoda that serve as lamps: dingy and dank it is, young Ed Walker…yes…hmmmm) while bleating that I was trying to trap him (or was it ‘ambush’ him?).

      I forbore from pointing out that vegetables require a minimum of guile to trap or ambush…wasn’t that magnanimous of me? Well…that’s just the type of chap I am: soft as mush…stern but just, I am, young Inflatable Pig Walker…hmmmm…

      …but I’ll bet his mobile phone plays the Star Wars theme as its ring-tone…hmmmm…noxious and infantile it is, young Whalley Range Walker…the farce is strong in him.

    • July 28, 2011 2:41 PM

      I remember it well errrm Yoda.

      His blog articles come round every 6 months like the online Halley’s Comet of idiocy.

      The last one I remember claimed that non-SF fiction of the last 100 years was either safe or just repeating itself. A point he very quickly climbed down from when the examples of authors like Foster Wallace, De Lillo, Nicolson Baker blah de blah take your pick were pointed out to him. Damien imagined that non-SF fiction was only the likes of Ian McEwan thus ensuring himself an easy ride BTL as people lined up to shoot a fish in a barrel.

  51. July 27, 2011 10:24 PM

    I am on holidays, hurrah. Now, I may have a chance to read enough to keep up with the level of intellect here … I wouldn’t even qualify for the Muffia as it is.

  52. mishari permalink*
    July 27, 2011 10:39 PM

    Don’t sell yourself short, kiddo: I could belabour you about the head with a brick and you’d still leave that shower of ‘Daddy got me a job at The Guardian’ clones and ‘gels who were at Bedales/on mumsnet together’ standing.

    The extraordinary access that Cabinet ministers granted Rupert Murdoch and his children was revealed for the first time yesterday, with more than two dozen private meetings between the family and senior members of the Government in the 15 months since David Cameron entered Downing Street.

    In total, Cabinet ministers have had private meetings with Murdoch executives more than 60 times and, if social events such as receptions at party conferences are included, the figure is at least 107.

    On two occasions, James Murdoch and former News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks were given confidential defence briefings on Afghanistan and Britain’s strategic defence review by the Defence Secretary, Liam Fox. A further briefing was held with Ms Brooks, Rupert Murdoch and the Sunday Times editor John Witherow.

    A spokesman for Mr Fox said that the defence briefings given to the Murdochs covered a range of issues and were given because of the “interest in defence matters” shown by News International papers. He did not say who initiated the meetings. —The Independent, today

    Oh, I see. So, how many meetings did Richard ‘Dirty’ Desmond have with Liam Fox? He does, after all, own papers, magazines and a TV station.

    Mind you, Desmond The Porn King (publisher of such deathless classics as Reader’s Wives, Big Titted Babes, Hot Asian Sluts, Back-Door Beauties and the gerontophile’s bible Pensioners On Heat) probably has less interest in ‘defence matters’.

    So how about The Guardian, owners of papers, magazines and radio stations. Don’t they have an interest in ‘defence matters’?

    Still, Conservative Party co-chairman, Sayeeda Warsi, said: “This Government is delivering unprecedented transparency; Ed Miliband now needs to come clean. Where is his list of Shadow Cabinet media meetings?”

    Perhaps someone should take poor, dim Sayeeda aside and explain the difference between the government and erm…y’know…everyone else.

    • July 27, 2011 10:43 PM

      Jesus, I wasn’t fishing but thank you. Daddy got me a job in a supermarket owned by a friend of his when I was fifteen but by God I pack a bag of groceries well. Never ever take goods from the front of the shelves/fridges – the fresh stuff is always rearmost.

  53. mishari permalink*
    July 27, 2011 10:50 PM

    Daddy got me a job on an oil-rig when I was 17. Damn near killed me, although I suspect that was the plan…

  54. Edward Taylor permalink
    July 27, 2011 10:55 PM

    I’ve always followed that mantra Reine but the cornershop by our workshop always puts the fresh milk at the front of the fridge.

    You get so used to the opposite behaviour that you feel obliged to tell the shop owners that they are doing it wrong.

    • July 27, 2011 11:32 PM

      That is disconcerting Ed; at least if there’s a rule you know what to expect. Maybe word of their cunning sharp practice has spread and they are deliberately subverting.

  55. July 27, 2011 11:00 PM

    Yeah, I noticed, and as poetic luck would have it, apologised to Carol on potw 400 and whatever, the Archbisop’s God one (I think), for calling her ‘an old bag’, many moons ago, and which I had been ashamed of meself for doin’ since that time a couple of years back, guv’nor, and which really set her against me and contributed, I am certain of it, to her calling me a ‘vile idiot’, which was a barb that hit the mark in the sense of making me feel a lot like one, in between my loutish bouts of milling barbs against the world conspiring against my genius, in the form of Sarah Crown, who sticks pins into an action man of me, I am sure of it, every night when she gets home from work and weeps over the wank she sucks the hole off for England on her drippy pages for extremely competitive middle class wannabe’s and wierdos with no discernible talent other than a pronounced ability for sounding jolly wocky yummy dummy ‘n so, up there you stupid bithneths.

    I am well out of it. A four year experimental wank that ended in shooting blanks. I got my head out my arse the other week, copped on, got the gear – rack, pannier, trangier stove, cooking gear, tent, thermarest mat and sleeping bag, and started cycling out of Dublin, for the first time since I got here seven years ago. Tommorow I pick up from where I left off after cycling from Dublin to Kilkenny, via the Wicklow mountains, a campsite in Donard on Saturday night, six pints with the locals in this two pub village, and then 70km, via Carlow, to Kilkenny, where the town was hopping Sunday night and another brilliant night seeing the real Ireland.

    I have sat-nav on my Nokia smartphone, and there’s a ‘walk’ option that tales you round, what prior to it would have been the fairy lanes Kavanagh wrote of getting lost on. All the mystic island nonsense. I just followed the directions on my phone and got refreshed travelling round the non-scumbag and non-scanger lands, and when I got back on the train from Kilkenny to Dublin on Monday, had my life turned round. I’m plotting the route for tommorow as we speak. Kilkenny to a campsite at Clogheen of Cahir tommorow, then a three day wind down to Glengarrif in Cork, where my folks, youngest sister, her hubbie and three kids, have a cottage booked for a week’s holiday.

    It’s obvious now that Crown was the one keeping me off the pages, and though it may just be paranoia, I noticed that within a few days of mentioning to the audience, on a Poetry Society thread, that it is Crown, Flood and Lea who report UK po-biz gossip to the wider public; that Carol was moved off the front page and Crown started her blitzkrieg. She had obviously, for years, been sat on her fanny (as the Americans put it) fuming at her inability to join the fray as herself, and so spent four years building up to this, potentially shit move that will see her little empire crumble coz no cunt’s gonna wanna know about her posh bint self wetting her nickers over some fat, middle-aged beardy twat who writes shit poems.

  56. July 27, 2011 11:11 PM

    oops, Clogheen or Cahir, not Clogheen of Cahir..

  57. July 27, 2011 11:14 PM

    oops, meant to write, fat, middle-aged beardy twats who write shit poems, not, fat, middle-aged beardy twat who writes shit poems

  58. mishari permalink*
    July 27, 2011 11:18 PM

    Good move, Des. I’ve done plenty of stints as a ‘bicycle nomad’ myself and it’s great craic: the only better way to see a country is on foot…of course, the drawback on foot is that if you strike a right shit-hole, it takes longer to get away–on a bike, you can be a long way down the road in no time. Plus, it gets you fit as fuck. There’s no downside at all to cycling (except when some idiot in a cab opens a door in your face: unlikely in the Irish countryside, i should think).

    • July 27, 2011 11:22 PM

      “There’s no downside at all to cycling (except when some idiot in a cab opens a door in your face: unlikely in the Irish countryside, i should think).”

      … you’d be surprised. Taxis turn up in the strangest places here, rarely at the appointed time or destination.

  59. July 27, 2011 11:19 PM

    Here’s the funniest thing I heard today. You probably need to know the people involved and I cannot say much lest they ever wend their way here, highly unlikely but not impossible. One of my colleagues, a fellow of great gravitas in his own lunchtime, is going out with a good friend of mine (also a colleague). Here is an account of their lunchtime adventure as recounted to me by her. It was a glorious day here today.

    My friend, we will call her Hilaria, and her boyfriend, let’s call him Sir Novelty Fashion, went to Merrion Park opposite work to have their sandwiches at lunchtime (SNF even had a picnic blanket, which looked a bit silly tbh and caused a flurry of mirth along the corridor). Anyway, they had just picked a spot from which to survey the scene and are unwrapping their sandwiches (his I can only guess was goat’s cheese with foie gras and burgundy jam) when a wasp makes a beeline (!) for SNF and will not be shaken off or deterred to the point that he has to get up and “run all around Merrion Park with the wasp chasing him Reine, not one of those wasps with the fur coats (bumblebees) but a really nasty one. He had no interest in me at all, even though I was wearing perfume, but he was determined to get SNF. I was just lying there laughing. Anyway he comes back and resumes eating his sandwich and there is a buzzing up his sleeve and he can’t open the shirt cos he has cufflinks on and the wasp “bites” (sic) him. He really had it in for him Reine”. Well, I haven’t laughed as much in ages although it would be my worst nightmare. Then he wouldn’t go to the chemist and get something for it but took two panadol (for fuck’s sake) eventually because he could “feel the venom shooting up and down his arm.” (Ah, it was a wasp SNF not a bloody rattlesnake). Hilaria was totally hilarious telling it, particularly funny was her mild chagriin that the wasp was not interested in her.

  60. July 27, 2011 11:26 PM

    “chagrin even”. Howya Des, glad to hear you are in good form.

    I’ll probably be struck down by a plague of wasps for my bitchiness above. Oh well, too late.

  61. mishari permalink*
    July 27, 2011 11:38 PM

    Wasps can be very hostile, unlike bees, which only really bother you if you’re threatening. I believe that many people bring it (the wasp aggression) on themselves (albeit unintentionally). As I’m sure you know, the social insects interpret the world through ‘smell’, i.e. chemicals.

    We do too, to a much greater extent than we realise but at a subconscious level. With wasps, it’s the only level.

    So, if yer man’s scared of wasps, he starts pumping out ‘fear’ pheromones, which are very similar to ‘aggression’ pheromones. The wasp gets a whiff and goes for the man. The man gets more excited/frightened/angry and pumps out more pheromones which gees-up the wasp even further: it’s bound to end badly.

    Entertainingly described, though and made me laugh…

    • Edward Taylor permalink
      July 28, 2011 9:05 AM

      I used to do summer work for the forestry commission clearing weeds with a scythe so that the small pine trees wouldn’t get choked. You got paid by the acre. It was hot and the soil was slightly sandy thus ideal for wasp’s nests. You knew the probability of inadvertantly coming across a wasp’s nest was very high and that there would be the likelihood of encountering several nests over the many acres you had to clear.

      As soon as you hit a nest you have to keep hold of your scythe and run like fuck. If you drop your scythe you have to go back and get it. Not especially good.

      The wasps go for the nearest part of your body that gives out heat – usually the back of the leg behind the knee where the skin is thinner. Many’s the time I ran and when I stopped running looked down to see 10 or so wasps on each leg sticking their abdomens into my jeans to exact revenge. Luckily this was in the days of Levi’s which could stand up on their own and take 2 years to fade so the stings never got through the material.

      The gamekeeper had been stung so often he was allergic to the stings.

  62. July 27, 2011 11:47 PM

    That would fit the profile right enough.

    Here’s fantasy Reine singing while wearing a beautiful dress and rocking the high hair look…

  63. mishari permalink*
    July 28, 2011 12:01 AM

    Ah, Lena Horne…lovely…and here’s something lovely for referee-haters:

  64. July 28, 2011 12:50 AM

    Snow White and Rose, Redux

    At the foot of the bed
    Of Snow White and Rose Red
    Lay a bear to whom they gave harbour

    From winter’s long cold
    Or so it is told
    This bear had no need of a Barbour

    For his coat cut a dash
    Like an overgrown ‘tache
    It covered the whole of his frame

    And Rose Red and Snow White
    Thought him quite a delight
    Saying “Dear bear, do tell us your name”

    Then one day he sloped off
    With a wink and a cough
    “Don’t worry, I’ll return by and by”

    “I’ve a matter to settle
    That’s tested my mettle
    Please dear hearts, there, there, do not cry”

    So they dried up their tears
    And put on hold all their fears
    Cold comfort replaced their old swoon

    Now they watch every night
    Hoping to catch sight
    Of a bear by the light of moon

    Sometimes they think it is he
    And they call out shrilly
    Their angst bursting forth in their breasts

    But no growl is returned
    Though they do not feel spurned
    Knowing bear always acts for the best

  65. July 28, 2011 1:01 AM

    That blog is drowning fast. Hopefully it will sink without a trace and Crown will become like that other GU hack Mish wrote of. The one who spent years waffling shite about a situation, only to be proved utterly wrong in the long run, and now devoid of all credibility excpet to gullible mugs who aint read ‘im.

    And they are really failing to generate any buzz about the Poetry Society bollocks currently giving us a laugh. I listened to two hours audio of the EGM, that came about after the board of trustees had tried to pull a number on the quiet and when it all came crashing about their heads due to FB activists, tried to pass their own bunglings off as the mishandling of a ‘personality clash’ between Poetry Review editor Fiona Sampson, and PS director Judith Palmer. Palmer got an extra 100 grand a year off the Arts Council, and the board, according to their retroactive bit of fiction, decided she was stressed out and needed gardening leave, stopped her email access, told the rest of the staff to not let her in the office and spent 24 grand on the same lawyers Murdoch has, because, they claim, she made verbal threats to sue ’em for constructive dismissal, at a fucking party, after she’d been treated like a cunt by ’em.

    Palmer released a very detailed statement earlier today, making plain the fact that a shit poet and PS trustee, Peter Carpenter, in cahoots with Chair of Trustees, Laura Bamford, tried to intimidate her into quietly accepting their desire to grant Fiona Sampson’s proposal to them, of becoming editor in perpituity of a rag the past editors had to be fucked out of after getting a three year extension to the, up till then, common practice of three year editorial tenureships.

    Listening to the Bamford’s version of events and reading Palmer’s, it is clear a gang of po-biz duffers tried – and failed – to pull a stroke.

  66. mishari permalink*
    July 28, 2011 11:26 AM

    We still believe that the Poetry Society has the potential to take a lead in the sector, as a champion of excellence helping more people to participate in the art form — Arts Council England spokesman, on the current knife-fight-in-a-phone-box at The Poetry Society

    Does this spokestwit sound even remotely as though he’s speaking of poetry? Or, indeed, any art at all?

    I mean: ‘…potential to lead in the sector…? …champion of excellence?’ Are you fucking kidding me? It’s impossible to take ACE/The Poetry Society seriously if they’re so deaf to language that they wheel-out this witless management-speak merchant…as their spokesman, for fuck’s sake.

    He sounds like a language-terminator-android (‘I’ll be back…going forward…new paradigm…hasta la vista…in a very real sense, a new synergy’), sent from the future to kill the English language. No wonder Sarah Crown and her merry band of vapid ‘gels’ simply adore this lot: they’ve all had their ears made by the same carpenter.

    Let’s ‘…take the lead in this sector…’ and ‘…champion the excellence…’ of flushing this whole clueless shower down the glory-hole of ‘potential’; these alleged ‘poets’ are no use to man nor beast.

  67. July 28, 2011 11:49 AM

    With any dealings with the AC you have to encounter people who use this language.

    It’s how they justify getting money out of the government. An endless parade of box-ticking exercises and “growing the sector” talk.

    It’s public money so I’m not against certain checks to make sure you aren’t pissing it up against a wall. Although……

    Right now if you want to justify public spending on arts the Arts Council are about the worst people to do it. Hung up on Facebook and Twitter, the Olympics and spending money on brochures with vacuous phrases spread throughout the copy like those mission statements in Starbucks. I dare say they are “passionate about…..fill in appropriate art-form” to boot.

    With people like that at the helm I can’t see the AC lasting the next spending review. Which I think would be a shame but I probably would say that wouldn’t I? They aren’t putting up a very compelling case and they are alienating the people they are supposed to be helping.

  68. mishari permalink*
    July 28, 2011 4:40 PM

    On today’s Guardian Book Blogs, more exciting news for 12 year-olds as Alison Flood writes about Science Fiction & Fantasy, opening her piece with engaging candour:

    “As someone who adores [What else?-Ed.] the classics of SF&F but knows little about them…”.

    Coming from Flood, who thought that E. B. White was a woman, this is less than a traumatic shock to the system.

    Also weighing in with more compelling developments in the world of fiction, Claire Armitstead tell us: “I discovered The Lord of The Rings in Lagos one sweltering summer…I was 13 and had never been to Lagos before”.

    Boom…it’s a sharp jab to the jaw and my eyesight blurs; but can Claire deliver the knock-out punch? Oh, yes indeedy: “…Tolkien’s swords and sorcery will always speak to me more powerfully of the wars of post-colonial Africa…”. But of course they will, my dear.

    I hit the canvas, begging for mercy: “No more, Claire…please…I give up…Uncle…”; but Claire is merciless and delivers the coup de grâce: “I’d always known ents – but in the north of Nigeria, they were the solitary giants…”

    I sob brokenly as I crawl to my corner and remember that while Claire was discovering the exotically eunuchoid world of Tolkien with its ents, magic rings and races that procreated by pathogenesis (presumably), at the same age, I embarked, alas, on a rather different, rather more sordid, road.

    At 13, I discovered (amongst others) Evelyn Waugh, Orwell, Maugham, de Maupassant, O. Henry, Ian Fleming, Aldous Huxley and Christopher Isherwood. Indeed, the decadent, twilit Weimar Berlin of Isherwood’s Mr Norris Changes Trains and Goodbye To Berlin will always speak to me more powerfully of the US’ catastrophic involvement in Vietnam.

    I remember it well, as I packed my skateboard, my stamp collection and a box of Rice Krispies and boarded the Saigon-bound Air France Caravelle.

    My mysterious mistress ClaireAlisonImogenSarahJustineHannah clung to my arm: “Do not go, dollink…you vill be dead…”. I gently removed her hand from my pocket and retrieved my wallet: “Grammar, my sweet, grammar; it is vital that we maintain standards, even in the midst of emotional turmoil…”. She gave an unearthly scream: “Dollink, I luff you und I carnut liff wizzout you…” and so saying, she placed my Walther PPK 7.65 mm to her temple and….. (continues until I run out of brandy)…

  69. hic8ubique permalink
    July 28, 2011 6:04 PM

    Oh shame. For me it was LOTR and Conan Doyle and TH White, and a little job ‘Daddy’ got me as a shop assistant.
    Probably shouldn’t admit these things… I sold Delftware and clogs and related cultural bits and pieces for a Dutch lady who had enormous teeth (‘teet’) and necessarily a lip-defying overbite.

    Redeemingly, I believe I’ve never said I ‘adore’ anything, or that inedible items are ‘yummy’.

    Often finding the Books too rarefied for my capacities I muff over to the Life and Style. Recently, there was a fairy-cake of a lady showing how to make a tiered tea server with a special hardware fitting. I was interested to learn a tile-specific drill-bit is what I need if taken by the mood to drill plates.
    I finally broke down and read ‘This Column Will Change Your Life’, a title embarrassing enough to keep me away til this week, but I enjoyed that too. Also found that I could teach the beauty guru a few things about packing toiletries for travel. No.1 tip, Sali: plastic zip-bags.

    You too, Re; never know what you’ll need to have at hand in the wilds of Powys… a spritz of oud to keep the stinging insects at bay?

  70. mishari permalink*
    July 28, 2011 6:43 PM

    Not sure by what you mean ‘for me, it was LOTR etc…’, hic.

    Do you mean you first read it at 13?

    That’s not really an issue;(I was just being gratuitously cruel to SarahAlisonClaireImogenJustineUnaGaladrielElsaSheWolfOfTheSS).

    I read it when I was 10 and adored it (retching noises as agreeable lunch flees an unworthy body). It was the longest and most complex book I’d ever read up to that point. I just get annoyed by people who are still reading it in their 20s and on and talking about it as though it contains some profound spiritual truths and wisdoms.

    But you see my point about the Muffia and their unhealthy obsession with children’s literature? Week after week, we’re treated to a trip down memory lane to the books of infancy. Any other half-respectable books section would have knocked this nonsense on the head a long time ago. It’s embarrassing and makes The Crowned Hannahosaurus look like a nitwit.

    • hic8ubique permalink
      July 28, 2011 9:10 PM

      Yes, it was the winter I turned 14 that I would come home from school, make a plate of cheddar cheese and dill pickles, and closet myself with the races of Middle Earth. When I was 10 it was Narnia, another scorned land.
      Tolkien made much more sense to me. I read the Silmarillion when it came out, and reread the trilogy then. When the films were made, I snootily thought I’d hate them, but curiosity got the better of me. Once I dipped a toe in, I regressed and was completely absorbed.
      I do see your point about the sorriness of carrying it all forward. I haven’t named my house Lothlorien or my child Frodo (more retching).
      The one ‘truth’ that still impresses me was in the appendices when Aragorn and Arwen consciously decided when it was their time to die. I’ve known a few people who did just that in an elegant and peaceful way.

      Speaking of kid-lit, in case your youngest hasn’t read The Little Grey Men by ‘BB’ it has my highest recommendation. It was the most read story for my three, until Harry Potter took over.

  71. Desmond Swords permalink
    July 28, 2011 8:30 PM

    (8th time lucky)

    Sorry Reine, I am alright at the mo, chara, though didn’t make it to Kilkenny today as I stayed up all night lashing nonsense into the comment box of a website where the ‘concerned’ members of UK Poetry ‘av gaver’d to be as one mass of middle-aged hippy wierdos wanting only what’s best for our sector, in a challenging environment, committed to the championing of excellence and awarding of assistance to innovative artistic strategies that address core issues and concerns of stakeholders and participing partners-in-bore, getting miffed should any of us go off-script and begin communicating in that scat-jive patois of a street-slick trakkie-clad scanger who plagues this (Hon) Dubliner’s mind wiv their ”fucken wha? ..oim norra fucken scumbag, yizza ‘avina blaid’n laf, roigh, up dur in de fuck’n doyle air’in, eatin yer fuck’n picnics in Mirriam-fucken-skwayer. You should be ashamed of yerself, you and Eamon fucken Dun-fee, ‘n Joe Duffy, ‘n Ryan Tubridy, and Mirriam-fucken-Calla-ham. If oi had my way, roigh, oid sack tha bitch and steriloiz ah.”

    Yep, imbas forosnai, hidden behind the head behind the scribe behind the square behind the straight behind a fruity performer’s behind behind a curtain pulling strings that make us puppets know David Icke aint tellin’ lies, the lizards are in control of a mothership and Blossom Goodchild channelling the plans of the Plaedian Massive, has the paypal chakras from Gonal the Grey off-world non-biological entity here to help fairies in Russel Square, find our inner angel, asking only for lessons in light relief, fifty for a handjob, and a cottage to call our own, in a city filled with people like you, me and the rest of the contestants who, quite frankly Reine, need no help in the business of being a luvvie.

  72. July 28, 2011 9:49 PM

    Yo Desmondo. It wasn’t a great day for the soikling anyway today I’d say. I spent a good deal of time driving round the Tallaght metropolis trying to find the house of a colleague whose father died suddenly. A grey old day. I found the house eventually but she wasn’t there although her husband leapt on my apple tart. Not code, it was an apple tart.

    Des, Simon Frankly I’m Not Macbeth Hunter is coming to Dublin for a couple of days next week; we will be touring the hostelries on Thursday night. If you could bear the excitement of meeting us, let me know at where we might find you. R

    In other news, I was standing at the kitchen window clearing up after dinner (as is only proper) and the neighbour waved in from his garden. Imagine our mutual surprise when I yelled out “Hello Mishari”. Jesus wept.

    • hic8ubique permalink
      July 28, 2011 10:03 PM

      Is there a resemblance?

  73. mishari permalink*
    July 28, 2011 10:08 PM

    ‘Hello, Mishari’? I almost fell out of my chair laughing at that. Ya littl darlin’, ya…

    I hope you and Simon and Des get together for a drink. That’d be gas. I’d join you if I could. But I’m definitely going to come a-callin’ when things have settled and the children are back in school. I’ll take you out and ply you with strong drink and make you laugh so hard that champagne will shoot out of your nose…I’ll bet you can’t wait. So, Simon’s back for the summer, then? Is he going back to Qatar in the fall?

    • hic8ubique permalink
      July 28, 2011 10:16 PM

      Alright NOW I’m jealous. It takes a lot to make me jealous, but there it is. Not merely envious, mind; I’m utterly green and admitting it before I go sulk forever.

  74. mishari permalink*
    July 28, 2011 11:00 PM

    Don’t fret, honey,…we’ll get you over here eventually, by hook or by crook: you’ll see…

    • hic8ubique permalink
      July 28, 2011 11:37 PM

      Oh, thank you. Sorry for blubbering on your crisp linen shirt. I’m abashed to say so, but I do deeply need equal opportunity for champagne to spurt from my nose in the pleasure of your company. When the time is right, wild horses won’t keep me away… and honey assuages all sorrows.

  75. MeltonMowbray permalink
    July 28, 2011 11:29 PM

    Dive in sequence, then come up with a smile
    and strike the chosen attitude. Sustain.
    Synchronised swimming! How hard they must train!

    Submerge, and allow the feet to surface
    with all the elegance your plates contain.
    Synchronised swimming! It’s sort of inane.

    Good posture is absolutely key
    as is the simper which you must maintain.
    Synchronised swimming. It’s hurting my brain.

    I don’t understand all that semaphore,
    and I don’t want to see it again.
    Synchronised swimming! It’s fucking insane!

  76. MeltonMowbray permalink
    July 28, 2011 11:32 PM

    Off to the Bavaria Book-Burning, sorry, Book, Festival. Back later.

  77. July 28, 2011 11:37 PM

    Do not be jealous Hic, he’s all talk that Mishari… mind you, if you are coming give me plenty of notice to titivate myself. I would love to see you and, of course, my dearest Hic would complete my joy. The neighbour bears no resemblance whatsoever but I had just read Mishari’s LOTR entry and he was on my mind. That’s my official line anyway.

    Yes, I’ll definitely have a drink with Simon because he is staying here – I might need it to overcome my obvious shyness – and I hope we can meet Des.

  78. July 28, 2011 11:40 PM

    Oh, yes, Simon is on leave for August. Back to Qatar thereafter as far as I know. I am a great girl for the champagne snorting out my nose so bring it on.

    • hic8ubique permalink
      July 28, 2011 11:43 PM

      I’ll work on my technique… another flute please!

  79. mishari permalink*
    July 28, 2011 11:45 PM

    Señor Revisionist Running Dog MacHeath Hunter Romanov will be staying with you? Cool. Do you have a dungeon? There’s a small matter of the crown jewels that my comrades in the NKVD would like to raise with him and I want my hammer and sickle back.

  80. July 29, 2011 12:58 AM

    No dungeon, a small spare room or a mattress in the attic in glorious suburbia. I won’t be searching about his person for the crown jewels but I will keep my eyes peeled and my wits about me. I’m off Wales-ward tomorrow and return Tuesday to make preparations. Goll ydych eisoes yn or words to that effect (Sorry Ned).

  81. Edward Taylor permalink
    July 29, 2011 8:21 PM

    An interesting programme on C4 tonight about Nigerian internet dating agency scammers.

    On the one hand your mind boggles at the guillibility of the women who don’t even wonder why a “Dutch business man with an ill daughter” has more than a slight West African accent before handing over all their life savings to them.

    But it also found an ex-scammer in Lagos who talked about the increasing levels of guilt he felt as these relationships built up over the years ( yes indeed ) to the point that he just had to come clean and eventually paid the money back.

    Then you start to think ” is he telling us the truth or just what he knows we want to hear?”

    Trust flew out the window. My partner asked if I wanted a cup of tea ” what do you mean tea?” I snapped back, nervously checking my pocket to see if the money was still there.

    Turns out I’ve been living for nearly 30 years.with a Scottish ex-headmaster with a crack habit who was sacked for financial irregularities.

    The documentary was 30 minutes long but should have been longer.

  82. hic8ubique permalink
    July 29, 2011 8:55 PM

    Wait, Edward, forgive my asking point blank, but are you a committee member … and I’ve failed to give ‘partner’ the correct connotation?

  83. hic8ubique permalink
    July 29, 2011 9:06 PM


    Sidelines teach me what in childhood’s dream
    I missed while traipsing woodlands with my dog,
    or barefoot combed the landing, dammed the stream
    for eels, or plundered frog eggs from the bog.

    Sidelines: children surging up and down
    the pitch, the track, the court, pool, dojo, rink
    in uniforms of sponsor, school or town;
    head-gear, cleats, bright jerseys’ numbers inked.

    Sidelined fevered parents cite the scores,
    watch the balls: hard, oblong, pebbled, pied;
    the tries the shots the laps the runs: brief wars
    enacted. Agitated have-beens bark: ‘Offside!’

    Sidelined: on paddock rail, or bleacher seat…
    cast back to hours on saddles, trampolines,
    or exploring under water in the heat;
    an unwatched child, in free and scoreless scenes.

  84. Edward Taylor permalink
    July 29, 2011 9:13 PM

    I’ll have to get at least 5 votes before I answer that. But you’ve answered your own question.

    • hic8ubique permalink
      July 29, 2011 9:22 PM

      I have? I did fail? But when … all along or just now? How many votes do I get?
      A bear hug for you, in any case ;)

  85. mishari permalink*
    July 29, 2011 9:26 PM

    Did the Nigerian scammer (Nigeria leads the world in the production of same) mention Baby Jesus? I can’t help feeling that sincerely faked contrition requires the intervention of BJ…or perhaps that’s only in the US?

    Grauniad non-entity Phil Daoust wrote a a boorish and un-witty review slating a performance by Australian comedian/musician Tim Minchin (I discovered this on that Billington thread that you commented on, Ed).

    Minchin’s response was entertaining:

  86. Edward Taylor permalink
    July 29, 2011 10:25 PM

    no Baby Jesuses I’m afraid. They were getting vulnerable middle-aged women to fall in love with them ( in their guises as white business men out of luck and down on their uppers ) and fall in love with them enough to eventually give them a “loan” to get them back on their feet.

    Am half watching “The Happening” on Film4 it’s jaw-droppingly bad. By M Night Shylalalalaland who showed such promise with The Sixth Sense but who judging by this has lost it big-time.

  87. mishari permalink*
    July 29, 2011 10:48 PM

    Yes, I thought that The Sixth Sense was very good. The ending surprised me, even though I should have seen it coming a mile away and it was nice to see Willis get a chance to show that he’s more than just another action-movie meathead (I thought he was good in 12 Monkeys, too).. But…everything that Shamalamamama (who is evidently ego/megalomaniacal even by Hollywood standards) has done subsequently has been self-indulgent dross. Pity. The talent was there.



    The Boy Stood On The Burning Duck

    To Germany, old Mowbray wends;
    high, low, arc mysterium;
    to beard the Germans in their dens:
    why Germany? Must be delirium.

    First he’ll make a stop in Bonn;
    High, low, arc mysterium;
    turn Trudy’s fleshy love-light on;
    why Germany? Must be delirium.

    But Trudy’s sinning in Berlin;
    high, low, arc mysterium;
    with some chap, but it isn’t him:
    why Germany? Must be delirium.

    So with an oath, he hits Steckborn;
    high, low, arc mysterium;
    in search of cake and good, clean porn:
    why Switzerland? Must be delirium.

    The Swiss view his approach with fear;
    high, low, arc mysterium;
    ‘He’ll eat our chocolate, drink our beer:
    let’s drug the bugger’s food with Valium’.

    Now Mowbray’s comatose in Linz;
    high, low, arc mysterium;
    sprawled out back, beside the bins:
    In Austria, he’s found delirium.

    They’re shipping Mowbray’s body home
    high, low, arc mysterium;
    the coffin’s made of Toblerone
    by Swiss who said: ‘thank Christ we’re clear of him’.

  88. Edward Taylor permalink
    July 29, 2011 11:05 PM

    I got the ending of the Sixth Sense ( the Third Policeman uses a similar twist and way of getting to it ) – my mum was a keen afficianado of crime films/series and crime novels and taught me how to spot misdirection, question why certain characters are given prominence and spot details That Must Be There For A Reason, she was a genius at working out whodunnit – but the film doesn’t rest on that twist . Something I think Shybutnotshyaboutcomingforward forgot in all his other films.

    I have to say I’m totally allergic to Bruce but he does at least make interesting choices from time to time

  89. mishari permalink*
    July 29, 2011 11:46 PM

    That’s what impressed me about The Sixth Sense, Ed…I’ve been a keen reader/viewer of crime fiction for a few decades and I’d like to think that I’m as quick at spotting misdirection/red herrings as the next dope, but MNite-lite Shoobiedoobiedoobie lulled me into a sort of state of acquiescence, where I just absorbed the narrative without looking for inconsistencies/paradoxes/nonsense…not many films do that to me.

    But as you say, the film doesn’t really hinge on that revelation; when it comes, it explains a lot but it isn’t the end all/be all…

    I’ve always had a soft spot for Willis…unlike bona fide boneheads like Stallone, Seagal, The Stooge From Bruge et al, he always delivered a slightly sardonic, self-mocking performance. Stallone, by contrast, always seemed to think he was making The Battleship Potemkin…the putz.

  90. Captain Ned permalink
    July 30, 2011 2:13 AM

    I have to disagree with you about The Sixth Sense, I’m afraid. I thought it was a poorly paced, silly and self-important bit of blatant Oscar-bait. Bruce Willis meets the kid at his house, but how did he get in? If he had no idea that he was dead, he’d have gone to the front door, rung the bell and waited for the mother to let him in. But he couldn’t have done that because he’s a fucking ghost. A much better film involving supernatural shenanigans and a psychic little boy released the same year is Stir of Echoes, which has the great advantage of having Kevin Bacon in the lead rather than Willis.

    Has anyone seen The Tree of Life yet? I have no idea whether it’s any good; all I can say is that after watching it, I wandered around in a daze for about fifteen minutes, and that I very much want to see it again.

    Gobeithaf byddwch yn cael amser da yng Nghymru, Reine. Mae’r tywydd wedi bod yn ardderchog hyd yn hyn, ond yn anffodus nad yw’r rhagolygon yn edrych yn dda am y dyddiau nesaf.

  91. mishari permalink*
    July 30, 2011 3:02 AM

    Ah, but you see, Ned, the perfectly valid objections you raise (and more) didn’t occur to me while I was watching…that was what impressed me. Afterwards, I could blow holes in it big enough to drive trucks through and that’s what I usually do. I dunno…I only saw it once and perhaps my brain was on the fritz but by the standard of most Hollywood pap, I thought it was pretty good. Then again, I might watch it again and wonder what I ever saw in it.

    A film that gave me the genuine creeps was a version of Henry James’ The Turn of The Screw called The Innocents with Michael Redgrave and Deborah Kerr. What was especially effective was the eeriness of the combined music/cinematography and the decision by director Jack Clayton to show nothing untoward but to imply and suggest all sorts of disturbing nastiness off-screen. Again, I haven’t seen it in over 30 years so maybe my memory’s playing me false but I remember being very impressed.

    I’ve heard of Tree of Life but not seen it. I will now.

  92. Edward Taylor permalink
    July 30, 2011 9:55 AM

    In the Sixth Sense I just liked the other inhabitants moving through the houses still unable to drop their obsessions. It’s been done before but I thought M Night Shitforbrains genuinely made the blood go a little cold in those scenes.

    His next film Unbreakable is the most stupid film I’ve ever seen. Bruce Willis raising his arms as Christ was the final straw for me. There was a thread about it many years ago on CiF and I remember going off on one about how ridiculous it was to a degree that surprised even me.

    I’ve read The Turn of the Screw but not seen the film and what disturbed me was that all the unpleasantness took place at dusk, Usually it’s night time when the horrors happen so it felt like you weren’t safe at any time.

    • July 30, 2011 11:14 AM

      ET, M and Cap’n N: I’m no defender of -(insert funnier spelling than I could come up with)-… I haven’t seen Unbreakable but The Village was the dumbest last-minute video rental *I’ve* ever seen (the logical-inconsistencies in that one would’ve irritated even G. W. Bush)… but I’d argue that BW’s character in Sixth Sense is in a sort of fugue-state of denial that goes nicely with the film’s thesis of The Afterlife-as-psycho-therapeutic crisis. He could’ve rung that door bell (doesn’t he smash real glass, with a real rock, at some point?) but it doesn’t necessarily violate the film’s own logic if he walks through a front door, in a ghostly manner, without noticing. Eerier still is Haley-Joel Osment’s (sp?) muted existence in the Afterlife of a child actor…

  93. July 30, 2011 11:29 AM

    As long as we’re talking about “atmospherically terrifying”… I always “liked” (the original) “The Haunting” (starring Julie Harris as one of those Sylvia Plath fans you meet as an under-cautious freshman and…)

  94. Edward Taylor permalink
    July 30, 2011 3:31 PM

    It’s Night of the Demon for me SA ( you may know it as Curse of the Demon.) Even with its obvious man in rubber devil costume at the end it’s a great film.

    It took an outsider ( Jacques Tourneur ) to capture the English countryside’s spookiness to perfection.

  95. mishari permalink*
    July 30, 2011 3:48 PM

    Edzard Ernst keeps a stack of hate mail as a souvenir. Two months after the world’s first professor of complementary medicine took early retirement from his post at Exeter university after 18 years, the letters are still coming. An email from a chiropractor denouncing him landed in his inbox a few days ago, while Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg tweeted earlier this week that for his latest attack on Prince Charles he should be locked up in the Tower of London. —The Graun, today

    Ah, yes…the ever-fragrant Rees-Mogg, for whom the word ‘asinine’ could have been coined:

    There’s always one, every election. The barmy candidate: the shouty, bright, novelty vote, the loopy kazoo-tooter, the yogic flyer, the Kilroy-Silk or Screaming Lord Sutch.

    This time, the token rosette-toting joker is Jacob Rees-Mogg, the Tory parliamentary candidate for Somerset North East and David Cameron’s worst nightmare. Educated at Eton and Oxford, the cane-stroking hedge fund manager is an immaculately besuited Lurch lookalike who has always refused to tone down his act, or as he puts it, “drop my aitches”.

    He is well known for his unique way of electioneering: in 1997, he waged a memorable campaign in Central Fife, crawling the dank, staunchly Labour streets in a Bentley and distributing leaflets with the help of his nanny, Veronica Crook. “I do wish you wouldn’t keep going on about the nanny,” he said afterwards. “If I’d had a valet, you’d think it was perfectly normal.”

    He lost Fife because “whatever I happened to be speaking about, the number of voters in my favour dropped as soon as I opened my mouth”, he says. He stands a much better chance in genteel Somerset, in a former Tory stronghold, now an ultra-marginal. Rees-Mogg, 40, needs only a few votes to swing it. Even he couldn’t goof it up.

    Or could he? Weirdly, the man who once referred to people who hadn’t been to Oxbridge as “potted plants” and who shares the use of an “exclusive” loo at Claridge’s with the King of Spain, is on something of a tight leash this campaign, so tight, in fact, that he’s probably the only prospective MP in campaigning history whose main object seems to hide until polling day.

    He politely declines my request for an interview, so I decide to catch up with him on the trail instead. His campaign HQ is in Keynsham, just outside Bath, a typically poky drag of pound shops and pet stores.

    Although Rees-Mogg has lived in Somerset all his life, I don’t expect he hangs round here much, a whole 100 miles from the Ritz, sitting on benches with girls like Paige, a giggly 18-year-old hairdresser kicking her Primark Uggs opposite his offices. I show her his picture: has she seen him? “No,” she says. Rees-Mogg is notoriously partial to top hats, so I stick one on the picture. Anything now? “No,” she says.

    A man sitting nearby, who identifies himself as a “lorry driver waiting for sausages”, shouts: “He’s a prat! They’re all prats. It’s not a class thing; they’re in it for power.”

    Has he seen Rees-Mogg at all? He looks at the picture. “Jason Rees-Mogg. He’s a Cameron clone, isn’t he. Why’s he got such a stupid hat on?”

    Next stop is Rees-Mogg’s offices, where his campaign manager Margaret, a flinty rural matron, is masterminding — well, what? Nothing, apparently. She says she doesn’t have a schedule for him, or a mobile number, doesn’t know where he is, where he’ll be, or even when he might be back.

    “He’s out in the local community now, door-knocking,” she says. Can she be a bit more specific perhaps? “No, I really couldn’t, sorry.” Behind her head I notice a massive chart with all the places he is visiting this week, so I make a note.

    Before we leave Keynsham, we pop by the local bar (latest promotion: “Buff Hosts”, a girls’ cocktail party featuring nearly nude waiters) where the landlady tells us that Rees-Mogg sometimes comes in “for a latte or business meetings”. Has she seen him at all? Turns out she has: “Yesterday,” she says. “Outside. Lurking … sorry, canvassing. A tall, willowy man and he had someone with him.” A valet? “Could have been.”

    She can’t help otherwise, so we drive to some of the places on the secret list, including Radstock, a town whose high street seems to be a ring road, and Clandown, a ghostly council estate where a man in sweat-pants stands puffing on a cigarette by a car on bricks. He hasn’t met Rees-Mogg, no.

    We call Margaret a few times, but she’s still masterminding her pen-top. We call Conservative Central Office to see if he can be coaxed: nope. We even try to contact his sister Annunziata, who, in a slightly creepy bit of his’n’hers political interfacing, is fighting Somerton and Frome, the seat next door. A former business writer, Annunziata was once memorably asked by David Cameron to plebify her name to Nancy Mogg.

    At least she’s has been out and about: a pair of butchers in the market in Frome say they saw her “earlier on”, but “shouted her out of the market,” chuckles one, holding up a cut of meat. “This steak’s not blue, it’s red.”

    Although I do find chasing the Rees-Moggs across the countryside momentarily amusing, I don’t think I’d like to employ someone capable of being this slippery. I don’t expect them to feel bound to give me an interview, but I am surprised that neither of them can apparently handle an encounter out on the campaign trail, apart from a few questions from, say, a work experience at Heart FM Bath.

    A local newspaper reporter tells me she and her colleagues have had similar problems.

    I certainly can’t see someone like Michael Ancram, also known as the 13th Marquess of Lothian, behaving like this in the nearby seat of Devizes. And anyway does anyone think the Rees-Moggs are going to be more answerable after they are elected?

    Meanwhile, we trawl the villages, talking to passers-by, shopkeepers. I look in a church; the photographer asks me: “Did you check the crypt?” After 36 hours, I have begun to wonder if Rees-Mogg is canvassing at all. Is it all a massive conspiracy? Perhaps he’s just at home, settling down to eggs and soldiers? I head over to West Harptree, a pretty village where Rees-Mogg lives with his wife, the heiress Helena de Chair, two children — another’s expected in May — and nanny.

    The place is quiet and manicured and the gates are open when we arrive so I gingerly walk up the drive and ring the doorbell. The door is answered by a housekeeper who tells me she doesn’t know where he is and or when he’ll be back. Obviously, she’s been speaking to Margaret, a suspicion that is confirmed when, barely reaching the bottom of the drive, my mobile phone rings.

    It’s the editor’s office: they have had a complaint that I’ve been “trespassing on Jacob Rees-Mogg’s land, causing a disturbance and making a general nuisance of myself”, which is probably the most elaborate description of knocking on doors that I’ve ever encountered. How does Jacob do it himself? Stand at gates and throw leaflets? I decide to go back to Keynsham and confront Margaret.

    “We’ve been trying to track down Jacob for the last 36 hours and you’re not helping,” I say, bursting in through the doors. “Well, Jacob’s out there, knocking on doors, talking to people, doing the campaigning,” she says.

    Can you tell us where he is now? Call him on the mobile perhaps?

    “No, I don’t think so.”

    Why not?

    “Because he wants to get on with his local campaigning.”

    He’s avoiding us?

    “He wants to get on with his local campaigning.”

    Well, nobody’s seen him.

    “You can go down a road and not find him,” Margaret says. Don’t I know it. She continues: “As a matter of fact I’ve just sent someone to find him . . .”

    Oh, so you do know where he is. She nods. So if you won’t help me, I say, what about this chart? Is that where he is? I point, defiantly, to “Ubley”.

    “Could be,” Margaret says. “Could you please leave now?”

    Obviously, Rees-Mogg is not in Ubley, and he’s not at home either, and we stay outside his home for quite some time, and by “quite some time” I mean I don’t think I have ever stood outside a mini-stately at 6 o’clock in the morning without it being totally fun-related.

    Eventually I begin to wonder if he might be somewhere else altogether — a bow-tie factory? The King of Spain’s loo? — so in a last-ditch attempt to find him we head over to Mells, where the family home is.

    Jacob’s mother, Lady Rees-Mogg, a calm, sweet type, opens the door. She glances at a twig in my hair and gives me a look as if to say, “What’s all this silliness?”, but, of course, what she actually says, is: “Jacob’s not here.” Where is he? She sighs. “I don’t know, sorry. He could be anywhere. He has been at home, but as far as I know, he’s out campaigning.”

    How’s it going? Do people like him? “Well, he’s got quite a weird reputation,” she says. “He’s outspoken and … unusual. But he and Annunziata like sticking their heads above the parapet.” She sighs. “Can you imagine if they both got in?” –The Times, 11.4.10

    They don’t make ’em like that anymore…oh, wait…they do: shit.

  96. Edward Taylor permalink
    July 30, 2011 4:00 PM

    The Times reporter’s barely concealed disdain for some of the pokier towns in Somerset is quite funny too.

  97. Captain Ned permalink
    July 30, 2011 4:15 PM

    The Innocents is indeed superb. Perhaps the spookiest film I’ve seen, though, is Dreyer’s Vampyr, which is an even better vampire movie than Nosferatu (either version). It’s hard to put a finger on what exactly makes it so eerie, but it has this amazingly dreamlike atmosphere a perfect feel for camera movement. I think it was shot in three versions: German, English and French (this was a fairly common practice in the early days of sound).

    @Edward Taylor. Another foreigner, Roger Corman, made good spooky use of the English countryside in The Tomb of Ligeia, one of his Poe adaptations with Vincent Price. Price also starred in Witchfinder General, an excellent Hammer pseudo-horror that uses the English countryside to good effect. I think there were quite a few horror films made between the late sixties and early seventies that drew their inspiration from rural Britain, from its history, folklore and landscape. M.R. James must have been a big influence. There was a series of outstanding TV adaptations of his stories made at this time; Lost Hearts is scarier than any full-length horror film I’ve seen (funny how something as simple as smiling children with ashen faces and long nails can be so nightmarish). A Warning to the Curious is pretty creepy, too, and is stunningly photographed along the Norfolk coast.

  98. Captain Ned permalink
    July 30, 2011 4:38 PM

    I still find it hard to believe that some NHS money still goes towards providing homeopathic treatment. I find it even harder to believe that so many people take that nitwit Prince Charles at all seriously. Whenever anyone does criticise him – whether it’s about his dreary and constitutionally dubious meddling in architectural affairs, his ignorant support for all manner of quackery, his hypocritical environmental posturing, or for other things – the media reacts with almost as much fury as the preposterous Mr. Rees-Mogg, no matter how reasonable, how accurate the criticism. Slagging off the monarchy, it seems, can only be done by newspapers themselves. Charles is a buffoon, a menace, a feudal throwback (just think of all the land the bastard owns), and an all-round idiot.

  99. Edward Taylor permalink
    July 30, 2011 4:48 PM

    I think it’s the black and white photography in Night of the Demon that makes it so effective for me Captain Ned. But Poe is one of those writers whose stories as much as the way he writes them worm their way into your subconscious. When I was about 10 I was really disturbed by the Tell-Tale Heart and the one where someone is buried alive.

    I saw Dreyer’s Nosferatu with a live soundtrack one time. Not a hipster band beefing up their CV but someone who had obviously put a lot of time into thinking about the job. Very good too.

  100. mishari permalink*
    July 30, 2011 4:57 PM

    If there’s any saving grace to this shower of ‘low-octane duds in jodhpurs’ (in Edward Pierce’s matchless phrase), it’s that they will surely have driven the final nail into the coffin of the whole ‘royalty’ farce. Après Brenda, le déluge…

    That the risible ‘views’ of a windy half-wit like Chas–on architecture, ‘alternative’ medicine, agriculture and Christ-knows-what –are taken seriously, even greeted with reverence and ululations of joy by J. Rees-Mogg (admittedly, a pig’s-bladder-on-a-stick) is enough to drive any civilised person to thoughts of a cull.

    Save the badgers; let’s get rid of embarrassing buffoons like R-M, Chas, Princess Thingy of Whatsit, The Duke of Ambridge, Sir Ranulph Pongo Twistleton-Marmalade Fnar-Fnar of That Ilk and Simon ‘Look, look! I’m being contrarian!’ Jenkins .

    Is there anyone (besides the tiresome Rees-Mugg) who views the prospect of Charles III with any relish? shudders and reaches for absinthe

    …and speaking of good chiller/thrillers, Jacques Tourneur’s Cat People holds up pretty well. Infinitely better than the early-80s re-make:

  101. Edward Taylor permalink
    July 30, 2011 5:23 PM

    If the absinthe hasn’t finished off your day early all I can say is I wish I could be optimistic about the UK kicking the Windsors into the long grass.

    But the OTT subservient fuss over the recent marriage would appear to demonstrate that the population are still keen to spend money keeping this wretched family afloat even when Osborne names the wedding as a reason for the tanking economy.

  102. mishari permalink*
    July 30, 2011 6:28 PM

    You seem…troubled, Ed; perhaps you should see a homeopath:

  103. Edward Taylor permalink
    July 30, 2011 7:30 PM

  104. July 30, 2011 11:23 PM

  105. ExitB permalink
    July 31, 2011 10:19 AM

    Also watched the Happening. As soon as someone spoke the line ‘it appears there is an incident happening’ (or something like that) I knew we were in for something really special. Some of the scenes were actually quite creepy but the dialogue killed the whole thing, as if the words had been set in order by someone who had heard that ‘humans’ use them for communication and that it has something to do with ideas and feelings but couldn’t quite figure out the next stage. Comically bad.

    Vampyr is indeed very spooky. I was given a great DVD edition with included a book about the film (which I haven’t read yet).

  106. Edward Taylor permalink
    July 31, 2011 10:55 AM

    The fact that M Night Shyamalan gets to make his movies in Hollywood ought to be reason for cheering. The single director/writer whose vision is up there on the screen, seemingly uncompromised by producers and money men.

    But it appears the vision is the main problem. He must have files of photos of Hollywood producers doing things that they wouldn’t even allow to be seen on their “unofficially” released sex-tapes.

  107. hic8ubique permalink
    July 31, 2011 12:51 PM

    We were at a Dusan Tynek Dance Theatre premiere Friday night in a small informal venue. He really is a genius.
    It was raining, so we were indoors, too close to fully see the extraordinary group motion, but it was nevertheless intensely sublime.
    I’m planning to go back tonight when they’re on the outdoor stage…

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