31 July 2006


Finest damn'd TV series I saw in my time in the States.

For those in the know, Daily Teleg piece on Ian McShane worth gliding an eye over.

30 July 2006

Blue Note Phone Tones

My choice: Bobby Timmons' Moanin', but I know there's a ton of Django I could be choosing from, plus 'Trane.

And the Duke - can you imagine the 'A' Train tinkling from yer handbag?

To boot, Bill Frisell's Nashville has a wealth of summoning chords.

28 July 2006

Amazon.com Options Screen Rights

That old alma mater Amazon just keeps rolling along in its discreet bid for Galactic Domination.

Jeffrey Preston's boys have just optioned screen rights to one Keith Donohue's THE STOLEN CHILD.

Variety reports they'll "move to secure a filmmaker and then a studio partner to turn the fantasy into a live-action feature."

Proclaims directrice of merchandising Laura Porco: "We are always trying to innovate, based on listening to customers and the things they're passionate about. This was a book we passed around to our editorial and merchandising teams. Everybody was excited by Keith's voice and felt this could be a great movie."

Commenteth agent Joe Regal, "This is all a gamble, but if you're going to gamble, why not do something that nobody has done before?

"We could have set an option deal with a studio, but Amazon just understood the book and moved quickly. Having a billion-dollar company with such marketing might behind you is appealing. If they cross-promote the DVD with the book, these are compelling things."

27 July 2006

Numbing Down

My angels are here; my splendid brother is here; his darling wife is here.

Mum and I are sparkling in their company.

My girls are divine and behaving so well with their grandma.

All my imagined confrontations dissolve.

P is superb as ever. The caricatures painted by our so-called intimates here in Greece of him as a blustering young fogey are vapour crap. He is splendid and I am privileged.

I cannot grapple with yardwork in this heightened state of happiness and self-worth. I can't even glimpse the required level of groveling mindlessness essential to tackle that brand of drudgery.

I have done a few puny tasks lest my girls be asked to 'perform', but the least I can do is protect them from this while they are here.

They are gorgeous and witty and helpful and I had a quiet weep as I took the trash out, anticipating on their first day's arrival the terrible day when they leave.

Tomorrow, or rather today but after sleep, is mama's birthday when the house will be transformed into the social centre of the isle.

The top people have been invited (and accepted, natch) and the rejecteds are, I assume, drowning their sorrow and shame in cheap ouzo.

Both girls are beautiful beyond compare and have their party frocks planned.

A's eyes slitted with panicky rebellion when I jested about them wearing Fifi-the-maid gear to curtsey as they serve drinks and canapés

If A doesnt have a crush on her uncle, I have one on my brother for treating her so well. Her mother, on the other hand, will not approve.

Under Pete's firm tutelage, she can now

  • Fix a decent ouzo, Campari and soda, scotch and water, vodka and tonic
  • Open a bottle of bubbly sans that vulgar explosion
  • Prepare moules
  • Lay a table in 27 secs flat, all utensils in correct order and vino goblets ditto
  • Clip and light a cigar
  • Oh ... all that.

    Plus she has a killer tan.

    Overnight, a property I'd awake to that oozed the menace and soul destruction of yardwork has been transformed to a place of light and happiness.

  • 26 July 2006

    dilbertian trees


    Years ago, the London Evening Standard ran a precursor to Dilbert featuring 'Bristow'.

    One had our salaryman lolling on some costa bravan beach basking in freedom and distance from the Boss when overhead rolls a dark cloud in the shape of The glowering Man.

    Lying by the pool of Pagoda Corfucia, thanking Zeus I'm free of whatever I *am* free of, I look up and see these two cypresses in the form of Dilbert's pointy-haired boss.

    Work with me here, guys - am I not right?

    22 July 2006


    Never thought I'd live to cite the prolific Thom as a title ...

    ... but the Amazon blurb for the nouveau TP, Against the Day, turns out to indeed be by the great man.

    Lot of toing and froing: Slate runs the story, Amazon yank it from their product page, but some clever chap nails it on the discussion board.

    But it's official. Penguin's own Tracy Locke says so, albeit with a certain amount of writhing: The pen is Pynchon's.

    Tracy also adds that Slate got it wrong when they said she'd "disavowed all knowledge". All it was was she was, "unaware that any sort of book description had been posted on Amazon and that I'd not seen it -- and therefore could not comment on its accuracy."

    Amazon's Sean Sundwall counters that it was Penguin asked for the posting to be killed, "due to a late change in scheduling on their part."

    That post.

    21 July 2006

    single malt guitars

    Single Malt Guitar

    Can you imagine the peaty aroma?

    Dude - I need to get me one. What beauties.

    " ... unique to Fylde ... built using timbers reclaimed from the scottish, malt whisky industry.

    Each instrument created as an individual, according to available timbers and player's requirements.

    The body style of the instrument limited by the size of the available timbers."

    Shocking Truth

    Up north for lunch with close friends of Mum but a family unknown to me. They turn out to be absolute winners, every one - father, mother, daughter, son. Know that feeling of instantly liking and trusting someone? That was it.

    So there we are, irrigating the heat of the day with chilled cans of Mythos, dispensing my usual surface gloss of urbane BS in the good cause of appearing urbane and one of those types totally without  the crap, and the chitter chatter turns to the dread subject of schooling.

    poolOne minute, as I say, I'm being my usual impeccable imitation of a like-minded "one of them", next I'm looking into this lady's eyes and coming out with the unvarnished truth.

    I don't know how it went down with the others, but it was a bloody great shock to *me*, I can tell you.

    For some reason right out of the blue, I could not insult these people with the usual mendacious claptrap (and I have 'insulted' some pretty heavy-duty good types in my time).

    Out if all came, with mama right there, probably hearing the true truth for the very first time. I tell you, children - not an exercise to be performed at home without very close supervision.

    patio and poolMy absolute terror of the 5-days-a-week pummeling on the 'games' field. The physical inability in my legs to carry myself out there for the battering. Crouching in the top-floor loo for whole afternoons til the bell for supper went, then sitting there as invisible as possible, praying that no one noticed me and might recall my absence.

    The sudden entrance of the games master, striding red-faced up to me in front of the whole school. His roar of:

    "You boy! How DARE you miss MY game? Report to the headmaster's study after supper."

    aerial viewI depress myself just remembering those days and the ruthless stock in trade of both establishments to absolutely kill the spirit and 'school' us to the extreme foolishness of ever succumbing to initiative or the temptation to try anything on.

    Day by day, we learnt to make ourselves the smallest possible worlds out of which to watch the world and protect what we could from the appalling loneliness and futility of the place.

    The outburst only lasted a minute at most and then I regained my composure and lapsed back into that smooth-tongued duplicity that is the essential mark of such schools and the only way to survive.

    beach viewIt probably shocked me more than it bored them: This skeleton of honesty suddenly tumbling from the carefully furnished cupboard of pat phrases and generally oily, distance-ensuring unctuana.

    I've no idea how it happened - something about the sincerity and palpable honesty of the mother, added to which she had a fib-detecting gaze that I did not want to take on.

    So weird, this sad business of all those years dedicated to grinding me down to this pusillanimous wreck of a mummy's-boy yes man. Anyone's boy, actually, but one doesn't like to lay it on with a trowel.

    People don't believe one, and why should they when you're making all the right toadying noises?

    driveway entranceI tried it once with the analogy of that St Paul's plaque to Sir Christopher Wren, suggesting to any passersby seeking a monument to the man that they just look around them.

    In my case, it's anyone quibbling with my interpretation of those crippling years, and suspecting that I harbour some deep success story, should look at my past 20 years with their inexorable failures and disappointments to everyone around me; the complete inability to hold a steady truthful course in anything I wheedled myself into; and, of course, the genius for the instant cave-in to and adoption of any opposing view-point.

    So there we were, lolling in the lap of luxury, friendly smiling faces, blue skies above, groaning luncheon table below, sweetmeats and vino of every hue.

    And throughout these convivialities - not one wonking word about the vile G-drudge. There *is* a God. It *can* be done.

    To boot, even the ultimate happiness of my angel gals arriving in a few days - everything I could ask for - and there's me throwing a wobbly and coming all over truthful of a sudden. Blithering idiot.

    Funny old life.

    20 July 2006

    Instructional Videos

    How many times do I have to tell you that ResearchBuzz totally looks after everything you need for Life?

  • Check it out.
  • Want to know how to shuffle poker chips? Do they have the Web site for you: ViewDo offers a library of instructional videos.
  • a lousy system

    Honest Signage

    One of my favourite signs in Corfu.

    I think of it as being placed by one Mr Alou for his eponymous system.

    The marvelous trick is that there's a trompe l'oeil aspect in that it appears to read "A lousy system".

    Most of my non proof-reader pals to whom I point it out do in fact read it as 'lousy system' and marvel at the refreshing honesty of the man. Posted by Picasa

    19 July 2006


    Slow news night so I fall back on matters littérraire.

    Part of my pedantry is enjoyment of correct plurals such as gins-and-tonic, attorneys-general, and so forth.

    A recent flurry in the Brit press over the correct delivery of more than one cul-de-sac (culs-de-sac, fyi) included a fine memory from an old-timer.

    He cited a road sign of his youth that made me yearn for those savvy bureacucrats of yesteryear.

    We're talking the days of the good old charabancs which, as they increased in popularity, were even then tearing up country lanes in search of shortcuts to the bracing seaside.

    Our correspondent recalls a brisk sign:

    No char-à-bancs.

    That, ladies and gentlemen, is how it's done.

    Guano Vista Social Club

    I hate sounding like a scratched record, particularly when I can't keep tone and content from sounding thorny.

    I've come up with a more balanced and honourable reply to the dread question of my interest in "gardening."

    These aren't plebeian oiks like you and I who ask, but grandees of gravel from the upper strata of Life's compost heap and they are asking out of the best of motives, assuming that a scion of such an eminence verte must be of the Faith.

    "So, are you a gardener, too?" purr these horti-hobbyists, to which the good news reply is Well, no, they can save themselves even a first intake of breath on the hallowed subject.

    Puzzled, nay disappointed, look, followed by unspoken raise of eyebrows as if to ask, "Well, what *are* you interested in?".

    Ignoring the implication that La Vie Binaree is either yardwork or nothing, I've been trotting out a somewhat patronising list of,

    "Oh, I don't know, let's see:

  • Blogging
  • Reading
  • Drinking
  • Smoking
  • Guitar plunkery
  • Er ... Smoking ... drinking ...."

    I've decided to go for the Parable of the Pavilion Palais.

    Back in my Bainbridge days, on those occasions when life seemed so drained of hope and purpose, I'd mooch down Madison to catch whatever was on at the local fleapit.

    Usually this was as good a way to kill 2 hours, after which I'd drag myself back to beans on toast washed down by green tea and whatever decent remnant of a Marlboro I could fish out of the wagga.

    Sometimes, however, the movie would be so bankrupt of value that even *my* drab existence suddenly blossomed with newness and possibility and I'd start thinking of all the good things I was missing as I sat slouched there before the screen.

    Up I'd bound and stride home, determined to thrown off my lethargy and carp the dime for real.

    My God, I've been such a fool: A whole world out there, legs spread, waiting to be plundered.

  • The kitchen linoleum to be scrubbed
  • Laundry to be washed
  • That groveling letter to rich Aunt Hettie ...
  • Nose hairs to be trimmed
  • Guitar to be restrung with those tasty La Bella Black Nylons
  • CDs to be arranged in alpha-generic order
  • Verandah windows to be cleaned
  • Fridge defrosted

    All joyous tasks in comparison to which sitting hunched in an auditorium pales to the level of ... er ... sitting watching a movie.

    By the same token, stooping over some wretched instrument of toil isn't actually competing with some other noble pastime so much as suddenly casting an irresistible glow over other of Life's frolics:

  • Scraping the swallow guano off the patio
  • Trampling the tin cans flat, bagging them and off to the dump bins
  • Writing to the bank with newly ingenious lies about my chances of 'regularising' my financial situation
  • Writing to that dodgy PO Box in Sidari about my interest in their nondescript employment opportunity
  • Changing all the duff light bulbs that Mum's been going on at me about since I arrived
  • Changing the filter on the water pump - no wait, *hacking* a path through the brambles so as to gain actual *access* the pump house.

    Myriad joys to enable a man's spirits to break the surly bonds of barrow and blister, and positively soar.

  • 3 Coy HKVDC

    That ol' man blogger, he just keeps scrolling along ....

    Just when you think you've read it all, another knave slides from the pack.

    In the past two days, two pleasing mails have thumped onto my e-mat:

  • Out of the blue, a message from a sleuth for the venerable Royal Asiatic Society, commissioned to "write the history of 3 Coy HKVDC" (whate'er that is) and chasing details of my late Uncle Leslie who, I find, "was killed leading 7 Platoon on the north slopes of JLO", wherever that be.

    The chap was down in my birthplace of Oz, bumped into a cove who remembered that Leslie and my dad were bros, RAS scribbler googled papa and got my graveside post.

    Result: I'm able to put him onto Leslie's daughter and my favourite cousina whatever removed, after whom #1 Daughter is honourably named, and presto! the dude has the chance to chat to the family archivist. How dashed satisfying is that?

    Natch, I couldn't resist that headline up there to send all future coy Googlers into a tizzy.

    Serendipity #2: Outta the blue, my favourite Kefalonian sheep-shagger and Jake Gyllenhaal's-battered-elder-brother lookalike, Z, bestirs himself from the bliss of the connubial couch to make contact with a good comment on my Corelli Mandoline jab.

    The piratical cove owns so many fond memories (and thank you, Wells sahib, for the join):

  • As a CS rep, grepless in Gaza, I feared asking advice from those cruel Leads, fingers rippling across keyboard, a GC here, a Blackbook there, cocooned in their cans as they bopped away to impossibly fashionable indie bands.

    One's shadow only had to fall across the Z man's keyboard than he'd whip off the headphones and be at your service.

  • Musical Duets: I pride myself on being able to strum along with *anyone*.

    Z mouths a mean organ, so one lunch break we dove off to the kitchen where we totally failed to make sense of a single note.

    I don't know why I find that so funny. Possibly because of all the dullards and bores with whom I can hardly be in the same room, and yet I play expertly with.

  • 18 July 2006

    A kiss not just a kiss

    Once again indebted to the Telegraph's astute Simon Heffer for drawing attention to a truly ludicrous case of parental insanity.

    Clergyman kisses 10-yr-old on the cheek as he presents her with some school certificate.

    The stoopid cow of a mother complains and the cleric is told to resign as school governor.

    I really must stop sneering at the excesses across the pond and polish up my shame over my own country.

    17 July 2006

    Corelli's Mandoline

    Every taverna has TV these days, now since the end of that soccer stuff tuned to Star channel's movies with Greek subtitles.

    Had that Corelli's Mandoline flick the other night:

  • Nicolas Cage as the mopey mandoline plucking Captain Antonio Corelli
  • Pen√©lope Cruz as Kafalonian babe, Pelagia, albeit speaking with an accent you and I more closely associate with our noble leaf blowers
  • Hammy Brit thespian John Hurt, more recently famous as the camp Da Vinci aristo, playing Dr. Iannis
  • And Christian Bale as the equally bizarrely accented Mandras.

    You know the story, don't you?

    Cage is Italian officer, Captain Corelli - usual hang dog expression, totally outta-kennel accent - who tries to get along with the occupied Greeks by joining in the local Bumbershoots, etc.

    Cruz plays the local gal who catches his eye.

    I tried watching the DVD with my girls but couldn't take NC's appalling accent.

    Watching it in Greece, with Greek subtitles, was a different matter.

    It's based in Kefalonia, famous even among xenophobic Greeks for being horridly unfriendly to *everyone*, a characteristic that the novel might have brought out but the movie certainly missed.

    So we've got Cage plunking dreamily away and falling for la Cruz. We've got pouting Penny casting burning looks in his direction but reined in by the gruff John Hurt.

    As soon as I explained to Alex that this was a famous weepy set in Kefalonia, he took a guffawing interest and called everyone else's attention to it.

    I can't emphasise enough how famed the Kefaloniki are for their unfriendliness.

    As the subtitles rolled, the locals' laughter rose in hilarity.

    It's as unlikely as a foppish Redcoat with a ukulele finding himself billeted down South and plinking his way into the heart and eponymous cut-offs of the local Daisy Dukes.

    Well, once the locals got the hang of it, and had called their mates around, they were bellowing out suggested 'alternatives' to Cruz's responses; these were NOT Sunday school lingo. Attracted by the noise, out came the ladies from the kitchen who also joined, shrieking the while at the dulcet subtitles delivered by Cruz.

    I understood not one word and was told that nice boys like me should remain in ignorance.

    "Girl in Kefalonia," said Alex, gesturing to the manly bulge in his jeans, "she like ....". From under the counter he produced a cleaver and a garlic press.

    "Like so."

  • To 'n' Fro

    Fancying myself as a linguist with an 'ear', I affect fussiness over tone and accents.

    All the more galling, then, during my stint back home with the Hong Kong Tourist Association to never quite get the Cantonese introduction right, but to be always introducing myself as working with the 'Hong Kong Girlfriends' Association'.

    At first I refused to believe that my pronunciation was anything but excruciatingly correct, but my colleagues mocked me otherwise.:

    "OK, then, if that's how it sounds, why aren't I being hounded for discounts on my member list?"

    "Perhaps they are too polite."

    But here's a really really really good example of the importance of getting it right.

    I'm down in Zoe's salon the other day to have the bouffant Fauntleroyal locks trimmed and there's a Brit lad from the marina in the chair, a veritable aurora borealis of tangled ginger curls awaiting Z's shearing.

    One of these flash types who fancies himself on the phrase book, so he's telling Zoe (who speaks perfect Anglika) that, "Thelo El Afrow."

    Now, 'I want my hair trimmed' is indeed 'Thelo elafró kópsimo', the accents falling accordingly and the pronunciation ò as in 'hot' sans the 't'.

    Zoe looks at me, in Greek, "He wants an afro??

    "Yo, dude - you want an *afro*?"

    "Not an afro (reaches for phrase book) ... I, er, want an 'elafro'. I'n't that a haircut?"

    Fond laughter. Ah, he wants an 'alefrò' - not an afro alefrò'.

    "Sump'n funny, then?"

    "Nah, mate, just a little misunderstanding. Is all cool."

    "Great. So ... you been 'ere before? Like how much it going to cost me?"

    "Ten evros and I usually give two bits tip."

    "Oh, right, thanks, mate."

    Zoe (in Greek): "Po' po' - you *never* give two."

    "Lady of my fondest gaze (untranslatable, but not an endearment I'd use in the hearing of *Mister* Zoe, unless I wanted to feel the his fondest knuckles on my dentures), we've just saved him walking out of here looking like a carrot-top arapis . Take the two and buy Vasìlis an ice-cream."

    Soaping a black man: Speaking of afros and arapis  (Greek equiv of the N word), I acquired a wonderful phrase the other night as I searched to translate a leopard not changing its spots.

    Oh, they said, you mean like 'Try to wash a black man, you'll be wasting your soap'?

    PulEEZ!, I exclaimed.

    Well, it's apparently perfectly normal usage. The translation is horrific but racism over here doesn't wield the same hard core incorrectitude it does elsewhere in Europe and in the States.

    Ton arapi ki'an ton pleneis, to sapounisou khalas.

    Arapis comes from 'Arab' and absolutely equivalates to the N word.

    For yonks, Arabs were the only dusky hued types of which the Greeks were aware.

    It still carries no stigma or hostility, but dates back to when the Greeks found mild amusement that skins could be owt but white.

    16 July 2006

    Heavy Bevy from Levy

    Discredited Labour's chickens come home to roost and Lord Levy isn't averse to some self-survival clucking.

    Good to see Labour glugging down the 'sleaze' medicine with which it unseated John Major's Tories.

  • So much for Labour's goodier-2-shoes than thou poses.
  • Phooey now to John Prescott's man-of-the-people strutting and affected inarticulacy, all the while screwing his Diary Damsel in between swishes at the croquet ball.
  • Damn'd right Levy intends to tell all: one 'theatrical' arrest demands equally flamboyant beans spilling.

    It will be a pleasure to see Blair get his Bush-obeisant poodle features thoroughly rubbed in the sleaze and slime. Labour will be the poster party for many a year hence.

    Further reading:

  • Blame game for the two Blairs
  • The excellent Simon Heffer: Pure spivvery.
  • Speaking of secretaries, Prezzers' gets bonged; Levy's gets gonged.
  • 15 July 2006

    Omens and Personal Legends

  • A sinister card from the Post Office mid-June
  • Around same time, #1 Daughter asking anxiously if her Father's Day present had arrived.

    You'd think that even my addled brain could put δυα και δυα together but no - I assume the Post Office card is inviting me to collect some official debt-collection summons from messrs Pinkerton to do with my miscreant behaviour back in the USA.

    I assure #1 Gal that the mail is often slow around here but privately assume it has been pilfered from our mail box by a passing tourist.

    Then just the other day I have business in that part of town anyway so I collect the package just for a laff and it turns out to be The Present - an intriguing volume by one Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist, whose jacket cover promises an introduction from the author, plus 'Insights, Interviews, and More'.

    It reads ominously like some improving tome; indeed, I have been hearing of this book since its appearance in English in the early 1990s, albeit from bright-eyed young things bursting with positive thoughts and all at points in their lives where things are clear and possible.

    They talk of goals and following dreams and other exhausting themes. I have made as to note the title in my journal and taken my leave with some unconvincing excuse. Now I shall have  to find out what this fine book is about,

    I have reached page 60, where our bold shepherd boy is about to leave the crystal shop and forge onwards to the Pyramids, there to achieve his 'Personal Legend'.

    Mr Coelho's story places great store on Personal Legends, as it does responding to omens and the 'principle of favorability'.

    I'm reading it with care and slowness, not just to eke out the pleasure but to give its wisdom every chance to settle.

    So far, the only passages that resonate are those that fit my gloom each waking day when contemplating the possibility of yard work:

    "People learn early in their lives, what is their reason for being." said the old man, with a certain bitterness.

    "Maybe that's why they give up on it so early, too. But that's the way it is."

  • 14 July 2006

    new shears


    Shock horror - my very own gleaming pair of razor sharp shears for shackling myself further and lower to the grovel yoke of yardwork.

    Not sure how this happened - slip of a tongue or my usual incompetent timing - but I'm clearly heading for my own 'One Clipped over the Cuckoo's Nest' moment.

    Some old pal will roll up with crates of Cristal and wodka in the boot and cartons of Gauloises tumbling out the window.

    She'll ask directions to the Green Room but her gaze be directed to a jungular spot on the hillside where a rustic idiot can be seen hacking and clipping.

    'Chris?,' she'll wonder, and give a wan wave.

    I'll return a halting flap of an arm and, as I turn back to my toil, half my head will be seen to be shaved, à la Jack Nicholson in the 'Cuckoo' movie, and a nattily stitched scar running across my dome.

    Horrid thought, that I'll have finally succumbed.  Posted by Picasa

    Madding Gerund

    My kind of piece from Robert Lane Greene for his 'Good Word' column in Slate, alerting me to my kind of book, Far From the Madding Gerund.

    Another clever prezzie for the matriarch's birthday a fortnight's hence.

    Good point by Greene about Prescriptivists versus Descriptivists.

    Also, to my shame, I have not been aware of the excellent Language Log, although in my defence I have to say that too much reading of these columns can land one in a blue funk from which nary a word of one's own emerges.

    13 July 2006


    Weird sad siesta dream of which I remember the core.

    When others start to recount a dream it usually sends me into my own snores; plus, to paraphrase the quip about the Sixties, I hold that if you can remember it you prolly didn't dream it.

    Background: Hightailing it off Bainbridge involved a lot of hasty selling, giving and chucking of stuff precious to me, many of which I'd toted round the world and were part of my marriage and life as a family man.

    I was back in my fully "furnished" room, CD and book shelves and paintings.

    I'd forgotten some of the really good stuff I'd parted with - music I'd bought with the pleasure of sharing, books that had kept me up nights or been given with precise inscriptions of sacred occasions; paintings I'd loved but just couldn't justify packing.

    It was like some cocktail party with the wraiths of my old possessions emerging from their jewel cases, jackets or frames and hovering round me with fond smiles and interested hopes that my new life was going well and offering some future.

    Sophie's Choice: What made their good wishes sad was that I should have taken them with me and they should have been part of the easy life I'm enjoying now.

    Instead, I stood there in agonised embarrassment, nodding and smiling and assuring them that all was well and unable to come out with it and apologise.

    Meanwhile, *they* were all too nice to deliver the home truth of

    You daft pathetic prick. You blew it. You blew everything. All your lah-di-dah words and smoothie Mr International ways ... reduced to gumshoeing our some Seatac back door like a thief in the night."

    I woke damp-eyed and went straight into the pool so as to plead chlorine at the breakfast table.

    Sergeant Whopper's Lonely Hearts Club Fib: Dream #2, a Hercule Poirot mystery.

    I spent 1967 in France's Touraine region during which I fell under the spell of a chanteuse of local group who specialised in singing Beatles in her inimitable Françoise Hardy accent. Rival was a bully boy from north of England, a stout carl for the nones, big of brawn and eke of bones, who I feared and knew had the lead on me.

    The evening the Sgt Pepper album came out, we rushed out to buy it and, next morn, I saw Roland and Chantale huddled over croissants and coffee in a hideaway caff. It was too early for them to have met so I made some feeble protest, instantly answered by Roly that they had indeed spent a gruelling night together, he transcribing the words of the lads' songs for C to learn in time to sing for that weekend's gig.

    In my dream, I was lovingly handling the vinyl album and, as I turned it over, there were the full lyrics on the back, black against the red.

    I rose in an instant and padded down to the basement where are stored 40 years' LPs and sure enough, the lyrics *do* appear in full.

    Thirty-nine years too late, I reddened at the cuckolding.

    Bastards. You're not getting away with that. As soon as I've greased the zimmer frame and primed my musket, I'm coming after you, Rolie.

    Choose your seconds. Queensberry Rules. Viagra and hot chocolate at dawn

    12 July 2006

    Lip Service

    What with all the touristettes who come over and fall in lurve with our handsome sons of Odysseus, marry and deliver them strapping sons, the subject of cunning lingualism is of real interest.

    I once met a debb and duff expert who could read lips and I asked him how he coped with those whose lips fluently mouthed not just Greek but other languages in the same smooth sentence. He conceded a certain challenge.

    Which is why I'm interested to read Sportsmail's boast that, thanks to "an expert lip reader", it's cracked the provocative "Materazzi Comment" that was red rag to Zidane's bullish attack.

    Speaking in his native Italian, Materazzi is meant to have grabbed his opponent as the ball bounced away from them with an uttered,

    "Hold on, wait, that one's not for *****(dregs) like you."

    Zidane's response was not visible, but as the players walked forward Materazzi said:

    "We all know you are the son of a terrorist whore."

    Just before the butt, he was seen saying:

    "So just f*** off."
    So there.

    But here's the dodgy bit: the Mail's lip-reader is "employed in court cases as an expert witness, can understand foreign languages phonetically and the translatation was made with the aid of an Italian interpreter whose transcript supports Zidane's claim that Materazzi had made a 'very serious' comment."

    Absolute bollocks. What? Brit expert lipster picks up unintelligible foreign twaddle which he passes on to interpreter who correctly translates it into Itie and thence onward into English in all its clarity? What codswallop, but it gets better.

  • Materazzi is meant to have said, It's a stitch-up guv, I never called 'im no terrorist.
  • But he does admit that he 'tweaked' the France captain's nipple as they clashed in extra time. Ooh, the cheeky chappie - whatever next?
  • Zidane *then* responded: "If you want my shirt so much, you can f****** have it after the game", to which Materazzi bounced back with the scintillatingly witty "I'd rather have the shirt off your woman."

    I don't know how these chaps do it - cultivate such esprit d'escalier  *and* make practice each week.

    But which version is it?

  • Pale and Listless Parody

    Poor winners in this year's Bulwer-Lytton contest for bad opening sentences.

    I realise the BLFC is an American comp, spawned by the Eng Lit Dept at San José Uni, but this year it really reads that way in that over-egged style that only Americans can pull off, making them pre-eminent in neutering Python/Fawlty retellings or analysis.

    This year's winner, Jim Guigli, writes exactly like a mechanical designer of California, and his submission is meritless.

    Runner up Stuart Vasepuru comes closer to the mark with his Dirty McHarry take-off and is the only entry worth reproducing:

    "I know what you're thinking, punk," hissed Wordy Harry to his new editor, "you're thinking, 'Did he use six superfluous adjectives or only five?' -- and to tell the truth, I forgot myself in all this excitement; but being as this is English, the most powerful language in the world, whose subtle nuances will blow your head clean off, you've got to ask yourself one question:

    'Do I feel loquacious?' -- well do you, punk?"

    11 July 2006

    Lush Life

    I was pondering just the other day what a very easy life I have. In church Sunday, it was, as the collection plate was going round.

    Indeed, it struck me that if I don't ease up on the old botanophobe moan, the wind will change and I really *will* be handed hoe, mow and haystack and told to get on with it.

    I also fell to musing on the chances of a sufficiently skilled sleightist of hand making a decent living cruising church services and scooping from the offerings.

    What more could one ask than to be left alone to ignore in blissful oblivion of all matters sordidly jardonières, a state courteously reciprocated by the weedy arts.

    But isn't it true?

  • You can write or read your pretty-pictured fauna-catory tomes.
  • You can hold dinner parties with the table in thrall to your tales of loamy servitude.
  • You can wear big badges to conferences and vie with others over whose manacles de manure chafe the painiest
  • One can even batten down the hatches during the merciful months of winter and drink deep of the malt whiskey in toast to the glorious respite.
  • But for the real deal, intravenous sensurround experience, you can't beat just getting out there and going mano-a-mano with the sheer bloody futility of it all.

    On the collection money front, I suppose one waits for the precise moment that the collection plate reaches one and then murmurs, "The peace of God be with you" (or perhaps just "Love the tie!") sufficient to distract the side-man from one's lightning movement.

    How many services could one do in a Sunday? Only one out here, but back home in Clapham or Swiss Cottage, quite a few.

    I suppose you'd have to step on it - have a fast car waiting - if only to make it to all services in time. Then again, if you were doing well, you could afford one.

  • 10 July 2006

    Enduring Dylan

    Such is life in Greece that I didn't even *know* Dylan had a new album coming.

    Good timing: I can have the girls bring it out as birthday prez for their Ya-Ya, then when she's finished giving it an odd look she can give it to *me*.

    Such also is life in Greece that I trust we can now get back to some sort of service in restaurants, instead of trying to catch the zombies' attention as they walk around colliding and spilling in their efforts to miss not one second of the World Cup.

    Back to Dylan - Not that "novelist Don DeLillo and rock writer Greil Marcus" are the first names that spring to mind to discuss Dylan's "enduring mystique", but DD makes an interesting phrase when talking about "Like a Rolling Stone":

    "It's 40 years now since Dylan first came out with it. It's not about civil rights or the Cold War or assassination; mysteriously, for someone of a certain age, it carries such enormous power that all of these things are in it.

    It carries the sound of that period. It's got nothing to do with nostalgia; it's too powerful for that. And it's not purely personal. It's the entire age funnelled through 40 years in one song."

    And I did have to chuckle at the reference to how people want more and more of Dylan in the movie "No Direction Home":

    "Paul Nelson is interviewed in the film; he probably first met Dylan around 1959 or 1960 in Minneapolis.

    He once said that in the mid-'60s it got to the point where people would follow Bob Dylan around and pick up his cigarette butts searching for significance.

    "The scary part is, they'd find it."

    Ferry Song

    Miss Julie breaks a silence, asking if I'm to record my ancient Ferry Song.

    I think not. I wrote it in late 1995 and sang it ad nauseam round the pubs and clubs until, by my leaving in March 2006, it was part of the Bainbridge Isle chansonnerie fabric.

    Some well-connected types even said they'd contact WSF's public relations honchos and have *them* take it under their wing ... all the usual vapor blab.

    What I can do for J is print the lyrics in full.

    Bainbridge Ferry Song
    Through this veil of tears we travel, we need some kind of test
    Which of us is doing well, which has done his best?
    For some it's money in the bank, some how well we marry:
    You ask me, in the land of the free, it's riding the Bainbridge Ferry

    Winslow 'cross to Battle Point, Yaquina and beyond
    We've got some little tricks and bells Seattle folks can't catch on
    Traveling solo, traveling neat, spread our stuff all over the seat,
    Card school's got Mississipi beat, riding the Bainbridge ferry


    Riding the Bainbridge ferry, a lot like riding Life.
    Only a one-way ticket, might as well ride it right:
    No one worries you're a busker or a broker
    It's how you handle your latte or mocha:
    Short and sweet, then grab your seat, riding the Bainbridge ferry.

    I don't want to sound like a chauvinist pig, but may I delicately inquire
    Where does Washington State Ferries find those lovely ladies to hire?
    Anna Banana, Nancy, Belle; still do miss that green-eyed Michelle
    Gonna bribe the First Mate to fix me a date
    With a babe on the Bainbridge ferry

    I saw Kelly on the ferry, Friday 4:40 run
    Darn that girl is cute, she's also lots of fun
    Read a book here, read a book there, touch of green streaks in her hair
    Now she's Regius Professor of Biology Chair
    All thanks to the Bainbridge ferry

    Chorus as per above

    Just got back from London, visiting my Queen.
    We watched the Changing of the Guard, the butler served us tea.
    My sovereign cried, "We can't drink that,
    Bring me a double latte, two per cent fat."
    I said 'Your Majesty, you're just  like me,
    You've been riding the Bainbridge ferry.'

    There are oodles more verses but mostly tied to topical events and hence lost their edge.

    09 July 2006

    Where the rubber meets the soul

    The patio stereo has lost a speaker so we only get one channel.

    It's usually ok but in the case of Peter Paul & Mary and some others, it really counts.

    Mum questions the weird sounds and I tell her that if only she'd hand over a score of evro smackers, I could kit us up with a brace of hot speakers and she'd hear it right.

    But no, before speakers, there's always some grisly gardening implement we could buy before kicking back on hot sounds.

    The Beatles' Rubber Soul is almost right down the line in its left/right mics
    so it sounds weird as hell

    Over the weeks, we've got used to having the backing and not the vocals and have taken to singing the lead parts ourselves. Quite classy, laying the dinner table as one chants to one's very own backing group.

    Up came some musical pals to nosh and there we were, cruising and crooning, by now forgetful of the bizarre situation.

    Natch, there's my guitar propped in the corner so of course Leila thinks it's *me* that's laid down some backing tracks. ("But your guitar sound so *like* a sitar on 'Norwegian Wood.")

    Isn't it good? Norwegian Wood.

    Vassili, who *does* play the guitar and whose pièce de résistance on one of his albums is the Greekie version of 'In My Life', grabs the Martin and sings and plays along, taking a very cute solo where George just does that modest rich-toned fill-in.

    We listen agog and applaud and fill our glasses.

    I'm persuaded to sing my ferry song, about which everyone is polite and pretends to understand:

    Just got back from London, visiting my Queen.
    We watched the Changing of the Guard, the butler served us tea.
    My sovereign cried, "We can't drink that,
    Bring us a double-tall latte, two per cent fat."
    I said 'Your Majesty, you're just  like me,
    You've been riding the Bainbridge ferry.'


    Oh riding the Bainbridge ferry, it's a lot like riding Life.
    Only a one-way ticket, might as well ride it right:
    No one worries, you're a busker or a broker
    It's how you handle your latte or mocha:
    Short and sweet, then grab your seat,
    Riding the Bainbridge ferry.

    Royalist Note: Devotees of Debrett will spot my adherence to the royal 'we'.

    08 July 2006

    Mortal Coil

    Ripley, where art thou now?

    Clever Easternairways.com run cute adverts listing some unusual fact, followed by a quick plug for a service of their own.

    Latest hails one Kunihiko Terada of Japan who, in 2004, scarce believably

    "arranged a shuffled deck of cards in the correct order in all four suits in just 40.36 seconds."
    I've just tried it, "arranging" a deck on the desk in front of me. I can't do it in any order, period, in anywhere near that time.

    Those Japanese.

    Cachet and Credibility

    Beijing has always been big on "correct attitudes".

    They've just squeezed the ideological belt a notch tighter with their bill to fine any media reporting on "sudden events" without prior authorization.

    Say what? Advance permission to cover breaking news?

    According to the draft law, newspapers, mags, Web sites et co would be fined up to $12,500 each time they run "unauthorized* info' about a 'sudden' event'.

    As the International Herald Tribune acutely puts it,

    "China may find that nothing gives a story quite the cachet and credibility that censorship does.

    Billing a story as an "unauthorized sudden event" could become the Chinese equivalent of banned in Boston - a sure-fire way to draw even more attention to it."

    Ann Coulter Godless

    Cutie Coulter Caught Copying?

    Why is everyone being so beastly to my fave hottie pontificatrice, svelte Annie Coulter of Godless fame?

    I blame snoopy Muckraker for starting the witch hunt, and look what it's led to?

    Crown-published scribe David Brock also runs a little organization called Media Matters that one crosses at one's peril.

    MM are being bores and perfectly horrid to La C, refusing to let go of these silly plagiarism charges, and even sneaking to the Random House prefects with a snotty letter that:

    "Coulter has exhibited a pattern of behavior suggesting that Godless itself may include other examples of plagiarism beyond those Barrie has already identified. Now that the newspaper syndicate that publishes Coulter's column has indicated it will investigate the charges, we urge Random House to undertake a comprehensive review and consider all appropriate action, up to and including pulling the book."

    07 July 2006


    Good to see Bainbridge city staff occupying themselves with vital matters, and how right of the Islander's headlinist to go for "bicker" as the operative verb.

    What a usefully early lesson for les Tooloee jeunes  in the idiocies with which we adults occupy ourselves as we wait to grow up.

    My guess is that a puny enemy of councilman Tooloee whispered poisoned nothings in some bureaucrat Iago's ear.

    But what wonderful double-speke and jargon it's thrown up:

  • The tree house violates some section dealing with "accessory structures in native vegetation zones".

    Where's the Peddyrast when we need him? He could have whipped up a vege-friendly memo in a trice and we could all have gone back to our siestas sans breaking a sweat.

  • As it is, none other than the director of BI's Department of Planning and Community Development needed rousing from his slumbers, he in turn caning the thesaurus to come up with the sonorous verdict that,
    "The structure attached to the trees on your property is not one of the structures listed as allowed within the native vegetation zone."
  • Not to be outdone, a 'Code Enforcement Officer' was brought in to pronounce on such weighty crimson-trussed matters as building permits, critical-area variance, and geotechnical reports.
  • Full marks, I say, to Tooloee for keeping a straight face while describing the 'structure' as "above" the native vegetation zone, not "inside" it.
  • It gets sillier: T and M actually had to hire an arborist, the splendidly named Olaf Ribeiro, to evaluate the project and reassure one and all that the structure had little impact on the trees.
  • But City Hall is not to be denied its quota of bumf: a geotechnical report had to be commissioned so as to conclude that the structure does NOT affect the slope’s stability. Bet that made certain folks sulky.
  • But how naive of T & M to be surprised that this is happening now. Of course  the structure was seen and unquestioned those years back by Uncle Tom Cobley and all as they cooked up the majestically named "Shoreline Master Plan and Critical Areas Ordinance Rules".

    That was then and the snakes were slithering thru other grass. Now is now and our Iago is better placed.

  • shredder


    Quoting from the late and lovely Loelia, Duchess of Westminster,

    "Anybody seen in a bus after the age of thirty has been a failure in life."

    Transposed to modern times,

    Any 60-yr-old duffer seen shredding weeds instead of shreddin' a hot solo on his customized Telecaster, has really  missed the bus.

    scoopingAs you see, one picture quashes a thousand lies.

    More ci-licentious behaviour to shape up for the daughters' arrival, this time delightfully spiked in the form of a literal shredder.

    I think I've traced my fear and loathing of yardwork to its source:

    Surely, it's the complete abasement it demands, of any flickering pulse of pride or self-sufficiency, right?

    Signor Dante had it sort of right with his Infernal mission statement to

    "Abandon Hope All Ye who Enter Here"

    rammingAlbeit a tad lenient stopping at mere Hope.

    Perhaps they didn't 'do' Gardening in the same way as today, requiring jettisoning of the full monty

  • Hope (Faith, Charity, all them)
  • Spirit
  • Morale
  • Self esteeminess
  • Take yer pick

    Mind Muzak: I had this good plan to be reciting my Greek lessons as I bent to the lash; instead, I find it safer for sanity and temper to keep up a murmur of foul oaths, the better to anchor the obscenities bubbling from my soul and counter the screams in my head.

    Bosom buddy: I'd been told by the guys who fixed the shredder of a 'viper' lurking in the pile of grunge. Probably not a poisonous one but I react sissily to any slithery crawlie.

    Anyway, when it did finally ungulate out, I found myself calmly awaiting its nip, welcome release from the present drudgery.

    Speaking of Mind Muzak, I was down in Eleni's drinkery, swapping beers with a kraut crowd and taking bets on the freedom Frenchies or the Ities for the footie Cup and happened to moan about my yardwork.

    "But dey haff it on die juke box, ja," volunteered Günther, despatching the groaningly under-aged and over-chested Didi to do the honours.

    "They have 'yardwork' on the juke??"

    "Nein - Kraft werk."

    Madeleine Memory back to late 1999: Lion of the Nightkrüe turning from his hackery mastery to express his admiration that I'd even *heard* of Kraftwerk.

    You can work your queues and take your calls, but it's the weasel praise that has one preening.

    I'm sure I sat a little taller in the keyboard saddle and prolly fired off a buckshee GC to the customer ... funny old life.

  • 05 July 2006

    Vase depicting Andromache and Hector


    Many of the comments I receive are almost as silly as the posts about which they're so rabidly foaming.

    Unless I can counter with some jejune repartee, I tend to delete.

    I now have the perfect one-size-fits-all response, thanks to the latest (and always excellent) Oldie, in which extracts appear from The New Oxford Book of Literary Anecdotes.

    One caught my eye, an interview with Dorothy Parker where she speaks of Robert Benchley:

    ' ... Harold Ross, the New Yorker  editor ... was a professional lunatic, but I don't know if he was a great man. He had a profound ignorance.

    On one of Mr Benchley's manuscripts he wrote in the margin opposite "Andromache", "Who he?"

    Mr Benchley wrote back, "You keep out of this."'

    The huge pleasure I get in reproducing that is enhanced by the certainty that only three readers known to me will actually laugh out loud; one will, in fact, guffaw.

    But what a wonderful medium, in which one can occupy some corner of a foreign field and still crack a joke of pleasing intimacy.

    Flash Harry Note: The Lit Anecdotes Book (which sounds divine and required bedside reading) is out July 6.

    If you get your skates on and have it casually draped over your coffee table within the next week or so, you will look soo  chic and literary.

    Can't you just hear the whispers at your next soirée,
    "Omigod, look over there. They must read 'Corfucius'"

    04 July 2006

    "Loudness Wars"

    Via ever-entertaining LinkFilter and observant 'Mac', this piece on how the 'loudness wars' are ruining our music. Selective quote:

    "A vinyl record from the 70s or 80s will have a big dynamic range -- new nuances every time you listen to it. Now listen to any music track recorded in the last ten years, and it'll be radically different: dynamic range gone, entire track is loud, all the way through.

    The sound sounds more intense, and it "grabs" you more quickly the first time you hear it. But does it still reward re-listening?

    Nope, says a writer at Stylus magazine, arguing that the "loudness wars" are destroying music.

    Record labels have lonjg tried to make records louder ... but the way you make music louder is via "compression".

    In a normal recording of music, the loudest parts -- the peaks -- are much higher than the quietest ones, the valleys. Compression shrinks the difference between the peaks and valleys, so there's less dynamic range; this frees up more room up top so you can boost the whole volume of the entire song.


    July 4 Celebs

    I was telling Ms Poco Loco how sad I was to miss July 4th, Bainbridge style.

    Perched in the Eagle Nest, 920 Madison ('condos to the gentry'), I had an eyrie-eye view of the start of all the bands and the classic cars etc.

    Plus, I'd rise early and park my Union Jack-emblazoned Lazee-Liege recliner in a plum spot, don bowler hat with its St George/Dragon interface motif, and sit back with my cuppa to represent the token Redcoat.

    Poco Loco babe thought it a great way to enliven our corner of Corfu so into her jalopy we hopped, vulgar loud Americana pumping from the sound system, and cruised the alleys of Gouvia and Kondokali looking for Merkans to participate.


    Plenty of sullen Brits with lobster sunburns to play routed Redcoats but, as La Vida Poca pointed out,

    "Hon, they'all just got their asses whupped by Portugal. Mebbe it's a little soon for the slo-mo replay."

    Sensible gal.

    But I do miss that Bainbridge knees-up: I felt part of a family, waving hello to neighbors and pals, sneering at the tourists from distant Seattle over to see how it's done; ogling Ciara in her drum majorette gear.

    If Norm Rockwell was still doodling his non-pareil sketch-shots of cosy America, he'd choose BI for our -your - July 4 homage.

    They'd line up the Honeybuckets in the Eagle Nest car park and one year on a whim I tidied my loo and laid out tea and cucumber sarnies and a bouteille of Moët on the side, and offered free use of a 'proper' rest room. No charge.

    I'm not absolutely sure it came off: so much of what I tried during my "American Years" did not, but the good intention was there and those curious enough to explore did at least enjoy a more leisurely perch in perfumèd surroundings, three kinds of soap with which to wash hands after, and the choice of Earl Grey or bubbly after to celebrate their 'relief'.

    God bless all my US pals - in honor of this historic occasion, I'm playing Mike Murray's scarifying version of 'Battle of New Orleans', and - as you note - I'm reverting to Merkan spelling for this occasion only.

    01 July 2006

    Intended Blog Pic

    Had *hoped* to use this for new blog pic after accidentally deleting the one of me holding my Taylor guitar.

    Trouble is, I can't make head or tail of Blogger's tips on how to upload, or at least can't make it work:

    "If you uploaded the picture through Blogger as described above, you'll notice that for every image in "Edit HTML" mode, there are actually two links.

    The first starts with quote a href= close quote and provides a link to the full-sized image on its own page.

    The second starts with quote img style= close quote and links to the image you see on the regular blog page.

    For some images, the first link will be over the maximum 50k limit.

    We recommend copying the second of the two links."

    Have tried every combination of

  • A href='http://photos1.blogger.com/hello/47/1120/320/DSC06486.jpg'close a bracket
  • And Img border='0' class='phostImg' src='http://photos1.blogger.com/hello/47/1120/320/DSC06486.jpg'

    but no luck.

    Much cooler sans pic, anyway ....

  • Antenna

    Every night this lad emerges from somewhere in the booksy crevises and maneuvers his way round, lengthy antennae waving.

    I stay absolutely still and give him his kingdom. Posted by Picasa

    100 Degrees

    sunbathing in the pool

    The only way to study one's Greek.

    Temps around 100 and no relief. I tried sunbathing on the poolside but it only takes 15 mins for the flesh to start singeing.
    learning greek the cool wayThat hat is the same I wore 33 years ago when I was rampaging the Ionian skyline.

    Dry, it hardly fits but once dunked it sits nicely on the noble brow.

    The Teach-Yourself 'Greek' volume is actually rather good altho' its phrases are a little outmoded, such as the 'social' section including both "I love you" and "I *think* I love you" (my asterisk).

    There's tons of stuff on "This is my address" and "Please write to /phone/visit me" so it's clearly aimed at the wan Brit female who's fallen for some Greek adonis and is reluctant to let go.

    Favourite game used to be to see house guests off and then hang around to watch the departing touristas, all blubbing into the arms of their swain who billed and cooed and made the right noises. As soon as the girls had gone thru customs, the lads would sprint round to Arrivals to scope the new batch of victims.

    Good times.