Tuesday, 30 June 2009

hamlet - paul jacobs

On Tuesday 12 May I saw the Tower Theatre production of Hamlet at Theatro Technis in Camden, which I came across on one of my occasional searches for Hamlet on Time Out. It was an amateur production, and it was its first night. Most of the audience - perhaps thirty or forty in total - seemed to know each other and the company.

The Hamlet was very good, Gertrude and Claudius were quite good, Ophelia was okay, the others ranged from acceptable to poor, but I still enjoyed seeing it. At the end I asked the lady beside me, who was obviously involved in the production team what Hamlet did, and she said he was at home with their young children while mummy was out at work. He reminded me in appearance of Liev Schrieber, Claudius of Roddie Rankin, and Gertrude of Lesley Manville (and Ruth Meltz). If I'd been told Hamlet was a professional I'd have believed it. I found his Casting Call page, which I hope to find again; he'd obviously done acting as a student, perhaps now picking it up again?

It was an unusual production in that it did seem to go more with the interpretation that Hamlet was at least partly mad, with a degree of giggling for example. There were a couple of nice moments of interpretation too, though the only one I remember just now is that when the actor was doing his dull speech Hamlet was on a raised level behind him following intently, and had or pretended to have a weapon raised to strike down, mirroring the speech, until the actor said 'and did... nothing', whereupon Hamlet sagged and lowered his sword and lost his energy, reflecting or prefiguring his own inaction.

Theatro Technis page on the production, not giving much away. I haven't got the actors' names just now, though I'll get them when I rediscover the programme (though it doesn't have much more info than that). I see from a caption on the Tower Theatre site that Hamlet was Paul Jacobs.

A page, with several photos, on their taking the production to Paris. One of the comments on that page reminds me of another thing I liked, where for a couple of the soliloquies the rest of the cast froze while Hamlet moved around and soliloquised.

I will look later for more online info.

Later: seeing the Jude Law Hamlet last night reminded me of another thing I liked - at least I think it was this one rather than the David Tennant one - and that is that Laertes and Ophelia said some of their dad's sayings at the same time as he did, as if they'd heard them often; possibly Ophelia did similarly with Laertes, as if he was quoting their dad. Also, interestingly, Jude Law did something similar at the 'did nothing' line - repeated 'did nothing' and sagged a bit.

Paul Jacobs' Casting Call Pro page. Full cast and crew listing from Tower Theatre site for the Paris production. Casting Call page for Sam Childs (Rosencrantz) and Liam Byrne (Horatio).

An actual review, from Camden Kiwi blog, which I haven't seen before - she quite liked it, especially singling out Ophelia and her mad dress. She saw the David Tennant production four times; this posting from the last time, this from the first, this from one in-between.

Another actual review, from the Camden New Journal - they liked it too, and it was understudy Chris Paddon doing it. The review is reproduced on the Tower Theatre website, with added photos.

Casting Call pages from the Baron's Court Theatre Hamlet: Robert Mason (Hamlet), Tony Rowden (Claudius). Daniel Addis (Laertes). Steve Cain (Guildenstern). Ellis Jordan (Gertrude).

a quest to locate lost events; lincolns and booths

A Historian Is on a Quest to Locate Lost Events: Forlornly unidentified and altogether forgotten, these sites have been literally lost to history. On Avenue of the Americas, there is a block where the first cellphone call was completed in 1973; on West 125th Street, where the old Blumstein’s department store stood, nothing marks the place where the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was stabbed in 1958. Then there is the spot on Fifth Avenue where Winston Churchill, crossing against the light, was struck by a car in 1931 and nearly killed. And what about the old Winter Garden Theater at 691 Broadway? In 1864, on the very night that Confederate sympathizers singled out the Lafarge Hotel next door in their plot to burn down New York, the Booth brothers — John Wilkes, Junius Brutus Jr. and Edwin — starred in “Julius Caesar.” The benefit performance, which was billed as the brothers’ sole joint engagement, raised $3,500 for the Shakespeare statue that still stands in Central Park. Andrew Carroll, 39, an amateur historian, is embarking this week on a 50-state journey to uncover, memorialize and preserve these and other sites where history happened serendipitously, and which, for one reason or another, have been relegated to anonymity.
Mr. Carroll’s latest crusade (www.HereIsWhere.org) was inspired by a story he read 15 years ago about a dramatic rescue that occurred during Abraham Lincoln’s first term as president. The president’s son Robert Todd Lincoln was about to board a sleeping car at Exchange Place in Jersey City one night when he fell between the platform and the train as it started to pull out of the station. “My coat collar was vigorously seized and I was quickly pulled up and out to a secure footing on the platform,” Lincoln recalled years later. “Upon turning to thank my rescuer I saw it was Edwin Booth, whose face was of course well known to me, and I expressed my gratitude to him, and in doing so, called him by name.” Mr. Carroll hopes to install a marker at the site, now a PATH station. “We’re all attracted to great stories, and in that way history sells itself,” he said. If history is taught by rote, though, students will tune out, he said. “The more we make history about memorizing names and places and dates we’re going to lose the next generation.” Those great stories, he said, reveal some of the eternal truths about human nature, humanity’s brutality, heroism, resilience. “For every John Wilkes Booth,” he said, “there was an Edwin.”
- New York Times, 30 June

david miliband (not) on twitter

Fake David Miliband Twitter account dupes press: Journalists fall for fake foreign secretary Twitter account in reporting Michael Jackson tribute
- Guardian, 26 June

Fake David Miliband duo call it quits on Twitter: A pair of recent university graduates were behind the fake Twitter account of foreign secretary David Miliband and say it highlights the importance of verification on the internet
- Guardian, 29 June

drugs policy

Yes, addicts need help. But all you casual cocaine users want locking up. I know people who drink fair-trade tea and coffee, shop locally and snort drugs at parties. They are disgusting hypocrites
- Guardian, 29 June

Monday, 29 June 2009

elephant and castle regeneration

Is the regeneration of Elephant & Castle finally on its way? After a decade of delay, the details of the planned transformation of London SE17 still have not been agreed
- Times, 15 May

keeping news of kidnapping off wikipedia

Keeping News of Kidnapping Off Wikipedia: For seven months, The New York Times managed to keep out of the news the fact that one of its reporters, David Rohde, had been kidnapped by the Taliban. But that was pretty straightforward compared with keeping it off Wikipedia.
- New York Times, 28 June

boris's taxi to e&c

Boris's £99 taxi trip from City Hall to E&C discussed on SE1 Forum. Obviously got the taxi to wait for him. Interesting comment from taxi driver on how often people do this.

Sunday, 28 June 2009

phone booth

Watched Phone Booth this evening, recorded ages ago, enjoyed it.

Interesting fact from Wikipedia: 'Larry Cohen originally pitched the concept of a film that takes place entirely within a phone booth to Alfred Hitchcock in the 1960s. Hitchcock liked the idea, but he and Cohen were unable to figure out a plot reason for keeping the film confined to a booth and hence Hitchcock never made the idea into a film. Cohen picked the idea up again in the late 1990s when the idea of the sniper came to him.' Larry Cohen's the writer. It felt like a Hitchcock conceit while watching it. this and more trivia listed on the IMDB entry.

Friday, 26 June 2009

three things via word email

Three things via Word 'something for the weekend' email:

An extraordinary colour optical illusion.

A Word forum thread on 'things it took you years to discover. A bit hit and miss, but led me to this:

An explanation on Wikipedia of a pun in Peaches by The Stranglers which I didn't realise was there.

two for the dough

Also finished Two For The Dough by Janet Evanovich yesterday. Quite similar to the first; I've got the third already, so will probably read it, but may not persist beyond that. I like my detective stories with a bit more detection and mystery and a bit less peril and threat of violence. I don't disapprove of it, but I don't enjoy it so much myself; same true in detective stuff on tv. It or the next one won a comedy crime award.

Thursday, 25 June 2009

starship troopers

Finished Starship Troopers by Robert Heinlein yesterday. Enjoyed most of it as a space version of the story of a soldier enlisting, training, going into conflict and progressing in rank, of the kind you might have read from previous actual conflicts. The philosophising about political and military structures was slightly dull and unconvincing, but not that long. I knew the film was criticised as being fascistic, although when I watched it it just seemed like a big dumb action movie to me. The Wikipedia entries suggest a degree of controversy for the book, and for the film actually less so (and indeed quote Paul Verhoeven as saying he was doing a satire on militaristic fascism).

california dreamin'

Watched a repeat of the Rock Family Trees - I did enjoy those series - focussed on The Mamas And The Papas and The Loving Spoonful. Reminded that California Dreamin' was originally a Barry MacGuire recording with the Ms & Ps on backing vocals, then they seemed to have used the bulk of the original track, wiping Barry's vocal off, to turn it into a M&P record; according to Barry himself you can hear a bit of him still on the tape singing at the very start. Here's the Wikipedia entry on the record, which also says Barry's harmonica solo is audible under the flute solo.

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

mumsnet’s messageboards: a snapshot of modern family life

Mumsnet’s messageboards: A snapshot of modern family life. Angry, opinionated and often hilarious, the advice dished out daily on Mumsnet's 'Am I Being Unreasonable...?' message boards is a snapshot of modern family life – warts and all
- Independent, 22 June

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

word magazine: a bunch of friends and a record player

Word magazine: A bunch of friends and a record player. These seem to be the essential components in putting together music monthly 'The Word', now clocking up its 50th edition. Editor Mark Ellen tells Ian Burrell how it got there - and why he deplores '100 Greatest Albums' lists
- Independent, 12 March 2007

real debates about faith are drowned by the new atheists' foghorn voices

Real debates about faith are drowned by the New Atheists' foghorn voices: More thoughtful sceptics warn that we should fear the consequences of the swift collapse of Britain's major belief system
- interesting Guardian article, 6 April

Friday, 19 June 2009

viggo mortensen interview

Viggo Mortensen: first Good - and then goodbye? Viggo Mortensen hasn’t accepted a movie role for a year, and may never make one again. Why, asks our correspondent
- Times, 2 April

And this urge compulsively to create, how does that relate, exactly, to who you are? He sighs, sits back and, as if beginning anew the fairytale story of Viggo Mortensen, announces softly: “For as long as I can remember, even as a little boy, I used to think it was unfair that someday I was going to die.”
The story of Mortensen begins in New York, where he was born, but quickly moves to South America, where he was raised, the eldest of three boys, by his Danish father, also called Viggo, and American mother, Grace. The family remained in Argentina, where Viggo Sr managed a chicken farm, until 1969, when the parents divorced and Viggo Jr moved with his mother and brothers to New York State.
It was around this time that Mortensen began questioning the nature of mortality. “Whose idea was it?” he would ask. “I didn’t decide to come to this Earth and I certainly don’t want to leave it now that I’m here.”
He would eventually conclude “that life was short, and that I was interested in participating”. An artist was born.
We finish on death and melancholia once more. “I don’t like the idea of dying. I’m not terrified of it, but I can see how one can become obsessed by it,” he says.

'malicious virus enslaves world's computers'

The link line on the Yahoo front page on 1 April to the story about the Conficker virus which was meant to strike on April Fool's Day was 'malicious virus enslaves world's computers'.

george's finest hour

A comment on Sheena's blog turned me back to George Galloway's finest hour, his appearance before a US senate committee investigating 'oil for food'. His opening statement is on YouTube now of course, parts 1 and 2, with transcript in the Times.

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

two london photo blogs

London Shop Fronts - photos of small London shops.

From The Upper Deck - photos taken from the top of London buses.

criminal gang bought own music on itunes and amazon using stolen cards

Criminal gang bought own music on iTunes and Amazon using stolen cards: The Metropolitan Police and the FBI have caught an international criminal gang said to have made tens of thousands of pounds by buying their own records from Apple iTunes and Amazon with stolen credit cards. The gang are alleged to have created several songs that they provided to an online American company, which uploaded them to be sold on the two internet sites. It is believed that over four months from September last year the gang used 1,500 stolen or cloned British and American credit cards to buy songs worth $750,000 (£469,000). Amazon and iTunes, which were unaware of the fraud, paid $300,000 in royalties. Six men and three women were arrested yesterday by 60 officers at addresses in London, Birmingham, Wolverhampton and Kent. A man in his forties, was arrested later.
- Times, 11 June

Saturday, 13 June 2009

fulham palace

London's full of places you've hardly heard of which if you do get to them you wonder why they're not better known. Went to Fulham Palace on Saturday 30 May - Cup Final day, there were some Chelsea fans around. Straightforward and not too long tube journey there and back, nice walk along river from tube to Fulham Palace, Craven Cottage at the other end of the larger Bishop's Park, which we went along to, and a playpark and paddling pool area which were very busy. The Fulham Palace is in a walled area with its own sizeable park area within the larger Bishop's Park. It was a sunny day and the Palace park in the afternoon in particular was full of families and couples - almost entirely white, reflecting I guess quite a well-to-do white area. The Palace cafe was too swanky to have lunch in, so we had it in a wee cafe in the outside park and came back to the Palace cafe for tea. Afterwards we went to the nearby garden centre, where we got some things, then home.

The Fulham Palace used to be the Palace of the Bishop of London, now it's council-owned and has a small museum and gallery in it; a nice courtyard with a fountain, and some of it's still quite old, and a little shop in the old library where we got some home-made marmalade. The walled herb garden didn't have much in it, it seemed, though that may have been the time of year, and the folk in there on the grass seemed even more as if they were in a private garden party or wedding reception than the others in the palace park, who did seem like that also. A large part of what was the palace gardens is now allotments, has been since the war. The chapel was small, dark and unremarkable. Websites below also remind me that the palace used to have the longest moat in England.

Official website. Fulham Palace Google pics. Wikipedia page. English Heritage's National Monuments Record page, with detail of listing. A site revealing that it's on the Buckingham Palace Ley Line.

france liberated, the full version

D-Day and the Normandy landings: France liberated, the full version
- Economist, 28 May.

The first issue Mr Beevor tackles is the courage of the German troops. Many wondered what the Germans would think when they caught sight of the allied armada, the largest fleet that had ever put to sea. Nearly 5,000 landing ships and assault craft were escorted by six battleships, four monitors, 23 cruisers, 104 destroyers and 152 escort vessels, while 277 minesweepers cleared channels ahead of them.

The Germans did not flinch. Their doggedness earned them the “bitter admiration” of the allied forces as they fought their bloody way through Normandy to liberate Paris. Major-General Raymond Barton, the commander of the American fourth division, urged his unit commanders to tell their men: “We have got to fight for our country just as hard as the Germans are fighting for theirs.” Only the guts of their soldiers, Barton said, kept the Germans in the war. “We outnumber them ten to one in infantry, 50 to one in artillery and an infinite number in the air.”

Nonetheless, Mr Beevor believes that military analysts like Sir Basil Liddell Hart are unduly harsh when they criticise a “reluctance to make sacrifices” on the allied side. The “essentially civilian soldiers” of a democracy, he argues, could not be expected to show the same level of commitment as indoctrinated German soldiers convinced that they were fighting to defend their country from annihilation.

Mr Beevor moves on to even more delicate ground when he explores the disregard of the allies for the property and lives of French civilians. In the Normandy campaign the Americans and British sought to minimise their casualties by bombing places to smithereens before their soldiers went in. Asked how it felt under the bombardment, one elderly survivor in the town of Caen replied: “Imagine a rat sewn up inside a football during an international match.” As a consequence of this tactic, 70,000 French civilians were killed by allied action in the war, more than the number of British killed by German bombing.

Friday, 12 June 2009

jimmy carr on richard dawkins

Jimmy Carr on Richard Dawkins: by Psychologies Magazine. The comedian tells how the Oxford don and evolutionary biologist made him question his faith.
- Psychologies Magazine, January 2009, reproduced on RichardDawkins.net

the ones that got away

The ones that got away: What makes someone walk out on their bandmates at the very height of their success? Dave Simpson talks to four musicians who turned their backs on money and fame
- Guardian, 2 June

9/11 conspiracy theories

9/11 conspiracy theories: The truth is out there...just not on the internet: In his new book a Times commentator debunks the world's greatest conspiracy theories. Here he deconstructs those that followed 9/11 and the 7/7 bombings
- Times, 29 April

decca aitkenhead meets nick clegg

Nick Clegg: 'I've seen enough of my predecessors being led up the garden path and then disappointed': Decca Aitkenhead meets Nick Clegg
- Guardian, 1 June

the lives of babies with down's syndrome are not worthless

The lives of babies with Down's syndrome are not worthless: The medical profession's bias towards termination ignores children like my daughter, says John Hogan
- The Guardian, 29 May

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

tom jenkins's best pictures of the football season

Tom Jenkins's best pictures of the football season
- Guardian, 9 June

an ugly carnival

An ugly carnival: As we mark the 65th anniversary of the D-day landings, Antony Beevor describes a dark side to the liberation parties: the brutal head-shaving and beating of women accused of collaboration
- The Guardian, 5 June

It may seem strange that head-shaving, essentially a rightwing phenomenon, should have become so widespread during the leftist liberation euphoria in France in 1944. But many of the tondeurs, the head-shavers, were not members of the resistance. Quite a few had been petty collaborators themselves, and sought to divert attention from their own lack of resistance credentials. Yet resistance groups could also be merciless towards women. In Brittany it is said that a third of those civilians killed in reprisals were women.
In Villedieu, one of the victims was a woman who had simply been a cleaner in the local German military headquarters.

Many French people as well as allied troops were sickened by the treatment meted out to these women accused of collaboration horizontale with German soldiers. A large number of the victims were prostitutes who had simply plied their trade with Germans as well as Frenchmen, although in some areas it was accepted that their conduct was professional rather than political. Others were silly teenagers who had associated with German soldiers out of bravado or boredom. In a number of cases, female schoolteachers who, living alone, had German soldiers billeted on them, were falsely denounced for having been a "mattress for the boches". Women accused of having had an abortion were also assumed to have consorted with Germans.

Many victims were young mothers, whose husbands were in German prisoner-of-war camps. During the war, they often had no means of support, and their only hope of obtaining food for themselves and their children was to accept a liaison with a German soldier. As the German writer Ernst Jünger observed from the luxury of the Tour d'Argent restaurant in Paris, "food is power".

Jealousy masqueraded as moral outrage, because people envied the food and entertainment these women had received as a result of their conduct.
After the humiliation of a public head-shaving, the tondues - the shorn women - were often paraded through the streets on the back of a lorry, occasionally to the sound of a drum as if it were a tumbril and France was reliving the revolution of 1789. Some were daubed with tar, some stripped half naked, some marked with swastikas in paint or lipstick. In Bayeux, Churchill's private secretary Jock Colville recorded his reactions to one such scene. "I watched an open lorry drive past, to the accompaniment of boos and catcalls from the French populace, with a dozen miserable women in the back, every hair on their heads shaved off. They were in tears, hanging their heads in shame. While disgusted by this cruelty, I reflected that we British had known no invasion or occupation for some 900 years. So we were not the best judges."
While many allied troops were sympathetic to France's suffering under the occupation, a considerable number had their worst prejudices confirmed by what they saw. American troops who had never been abroad before tended to see France itself as an enemy country, despite the attempts of the military authorities to inform them of the true situation. Some officers gave orders to arrest or shoot any French civilians encountered in the immediate invasion areas. Certainly French men and women found with German weapons were shot on the spot before they had a chance to explain. The possibility that they might have been collecting these weapons for the resistance never occurred to the soldiers concerned.
Moral confusion, if not outright hypocrisy, existed on the allied side too. At his airfield near Bayeux, Colville found it ironic when General Montgomery ordered all brothels to be closed. "Military police were posted to ensure that the order was obeyed. Undeterred and unabashed, several of the deprived ladies presented themselves in a field adjoining our orchard. Lines of airmen, including, I regret to say, the worthy Roman Catholic French-Canadians, queued for their services, clutching such articles as tins of sardines for payment."

The French, meanwhile, were shocked by the attitude of some American soldiers, who seemed to think that when it came to young French women "everything can be bought". After an evening's drinking, they would knock on farmhouse doors asking if there was a "mademoiselle" for them. Supposedly useful gambits were also provided in daily French lessons published by the US Armed Forces publication Stars and Stripes, including the phrase for "My wife doesn't understand me."

Americans and British saw liberated Paris not just as a symbol of Europe's freedom from Nazi oppression, but as a playground for their amusement. "As we neared the city we were seized by a wild sort of excitement," wrote Pogue. "We began to giggle, to sing, yell and otherwise show exuberance." But when Pogue reached Paris, he was shaken to find that American military authorities had taken over the Petit Palais and erected a large sign announcing the distribution of free condoms to US troops. In Pigalle, rapidly dubbed "Pig Alley" by GIs, French prostitutes were coping with more than 10,000 men a day. The French were also deeply shocked to see US soldiers lying drunk on the pavements of the Place Vendôme. The contrast with off-duty German troops, who had been forbidden even to smoke in the street, could hardly have been greater.

chandler's double identity

Chandler's double identity: Adrian Wootton on a writer's secret cameo
- Guardian, 5 June

'Now, however, more than 60 years after its release, a French cinema historian and two US crime-writers almost simultaneously happened on the same bizarre discovery - that Raymond Chandler, uncredited and previously unnoticed, has a tiny cameo in Double Indemnity.'

One of the places it was picked up from was Riordan's Desk, from which:

'Chandler's most important contribution to the movie, of course, was co-writing the screenplay with Billy Wilder, but writer/director Wilder evidently gave Chandler a chance to appear in the film, even though Chandler wrote a memo to studio big-wigs demanding that:
'Mr. Wilder was at no time to swish under Mr. Chandler's nose or point in his direction the thin, leather-handled Malacca cane which Mr. Wilder was in the habit of waving around while they worked. Mr. Wilder was not to give Mr. Chandler orders of an arbitrary or personal nature such as 'Ray, will you open that window?' or 'Ray, will you shut that door, please?'
'and Wilder said of Chandler:
'He couldn't structure a picture. He had enough trouble with books. But his dialogue. I put up with a lot of crap because of that. And after a couple of weeks with him and that foul pipe smoke, I managed to cough up a few good lines myself. We kept him on during the shooting, to discuss any dialogue changes.'

more knowledge

"Liverpool have gone through this season losing only two league games yet still finished second," asked Graeme Kennedy. "In the 1995-96 SPL Celtic lost only one game but still finished runners-up. Has a team ever gone a whole season undefeated but failed to win the league?"

"Perugia went undefeated all season in 1978-79 and still finished second in Serie A to Milan," writes Dan Seppings, among myriad others. "They drew 19 games out of 30 that season. The conclusion? Serie A was very boring for a number of years." What they'd give for excitement like that now, though, eh?

This dubious achievement can also be claimed by four other teams in major European leagues. In 1951 Spartak Sofia finished a point behind CDNV Sofia, despite winning 14 and drawing eight of their 22-game programme. Benfica were the next unfortunates, losing out on goal difference to Porto in 1977-78. After Perugia's antics of 1978-79 in Italy Galatasaray were next to experience this singular type of frustration, trailing Besiktas on goal difference in 1985-86 after a 36-game unbeaten streak. And only last year Red Star Belgrade finished a whopping five points behind their rivals Partizan Belgrade after 33 games of mellow fruitlessness.

The best example Britain can offer is Rangers' doomed domestic campaign in 1967-68. "Going into their last game of the season, Rangers were unbeaten and level on points with Celtic," writes Warren Lyons. "However, Rangers lost their last game at home 2-3 to Aberdeen on Saturday 27 April. Three days later Celtic won their last game 2-1 away to Dunfermline to win the title by two points. Though it looks as if Rangers blew their title chances, it is not quite as bad as it seems as (in a time when goal average separated teams level on points) Rangers would have had to beat Aberdeen by about 40 goals to win the title."

It is worth sparing a thought for the then Rangers manager Davie White, who had taken over from Scot Symon at the tail end of 1967. Having come so close to wresting the title from Jock Stein's reigning European champions, he reached a Fairs Cup semi-final and a quarter-final, and a Scottish Cup final, only to lose them all and be turfed out on his ear in November 1969, the first Rangers manager never to win a trophy. It was an unwanted record he held until the arrival of Paul Le Guen.


"Last month in MLS a New York Red Bulls player, Carlos Johnson, was sent off and upon his return after suspension got sent off in the second minute of the game," writes Brian Scorben. "Is this the shortest amount of on-pitch time anyone has played between two red cards?"

Johnson's effort was an impressive one but he can't hold a torch to the legend that is Nigel Pepper. "I fancy I won't be the only Dandy Don giving you an answer to this question," writes John Sinclair, the only Dandy Don to give us an answer to this question, "but in 1998 Aberdeen's English midfielder Nigel Pepper, signed for £200,000 from Bradford, was sent off 17 seconds into a substitute appearance, which was his first display since serving a suspension following a red card six minutes into an earlier substitute appearance."

- from The Knowledge, 10 June

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

the narnia code

Just watched a BBC documentary on The Narnia Code, new theory that each of the books ties in with one of the seven planets. It was interesting, but perhaps the biggest argument against it is that CS Lewis himself didn't ever mention it, and he doesn't strike you as the kind of person who wouldn't. The end of the programme moved on more to faith and science, which seemed like a different programme.

Here's the Guardian article on it, and the Daily Telegraph article.

This is the website of Michael Ward, who came up with the theory. This blog, currently called Cantona's Kitchen, blogged about it and got responses to the entry from two of the people in the documentary, Brian Sibley and Malcolm Guite.

f scott fitzgerald quotes

Concerning Mrs Harold Piper at thirty-five, opinion was divided - women said she was still handsome; men said she was pretty no longer. And this was probably because the qualities in her beauty that women had feared and men had followed had vanished. Her eyes were still as large and as dark and as sad, but the mystery had departed; their sadness was no longer eternal, only human, and she had developed a habit, when she was startled or annoyed, of twitching her brows together and blinking several times.
- p13, The Cut-glass Bowl

She began for the first time to seek women friends, to prefer books she had read before, to sew a little where she could watch her two children to whom she was devoted. She worried about little things - if she saw crumbs on the dinner-table her mind drifted off the conversation: she was receding gradually into middle age.
- p14, The Cut-glass Bowl

he knew that money was easier to borrow when one didn't have an air of urgent need.
- p265, Pat Hobby and Orson Welles

'Go to bed you silly child,' laughed Mrs Harvey. "I wouldn't have told you that if I'd thought you were going to remember it. And I think most of your ideas are perfectly idiotic,' she finished sleepily.
There was another silence, while Marjorie considered whether or not convincing her mother was worth the trouble. People over forty can seldom be permanently convinced of anything. At eighteen our convictions are hills from which we look; at forty-five they are caves in which we hide.
- p347, Bernice Bobs Her Hair

'Don't you think common kindness - '
'Oh, please don't quote "Little Women"!' cried Marjorie impatiently. 'That's out of style.'
'You think so?'
'Heavens, yes! What modern girl could live like those inane females?'
'They were the models for our mothers.'
Marjorie laughed.
'Yes they were - not! Besides, our mothers were all very well in their way, but they know very little about their daughters' problems.'
- p349, Bernice Bobs Her Hair

Quotes from The Collected Stories of F Scott Fitzgerald (Penguin collection, 1986). The Cut-glass Bowl in particular was a very good story. Bernice Bobs Her Hair is also good, and has a splendid title. The last quote is an example of the 'statement - not!' construction. The story is copyright 1920 on the copyright page. I thought its use I found in a Fritz Leiber story, Conjure Wife, from the Sixties was early. But then when the Oxford English Dictionary series with Victoria Coren was on, seeking earlier sources for words from the public than currently held, they opened up particular letters of the OED to search online, and I looked up the 'not' entry, and found it went much further back than that. I've got a note of it somewhere.


Finished reading The First Rumpole Omnibus recently; I'd read the first earlier, Rumpole of the Bailey, so only had to read The Trials of Rumpole (another collection of short stories) and Rumpole's Return (which was a novel). As with those read previously, a swift enjoyable read.

After the confession [of an affair] Marigold's mood ranged from the martyred to the vindictive in varying degrees of unbearability, so that the unfortunate Guthrie often arrived at Chambers looking less like a suave and successful QC (for undoubtedly he was still successful) than a man who spends his night watching over a dynamite factory in which all the employees are allowed to smoke.
- p341

the stuff to avoid is 'Thousand Island Dressing': so many islands, you might have thought, are hardly needed to provide a mixture of salad cream and tomato ketchup
- p408

Saturday, 6 June 2009

nasa didn't invent teflon or velcro

Dear Cecil:
I once heard NASA was the only government department to show a profit due to patents on things such as Teflon, Velcro, and Tang. Any truth to this? - Michelle, Anchorage

Cecil replies:
Will this silly story never die? I’ve mentioned previously that NASA didn’t invent Teflon, Velcro, or Tang; we therefore deduce that it can’t be making money on the patents. This evidently made no impression the first time, so let’s go over it again:

Teflon was invented by Roy J. Plunkett in 1938 while he was experimenting with refrigerants at DuPont Labs. His patent was granted in 1941.
Velcro was invented by Swiss electrical engineer Georges de Mestral, who said he got the idea from burrs he picked up on a hike. He obtained a patent on his hook-and-loop fabric fastener in 1955.
Tang was invented in 1957 by General Foods researcher William A. Mitchell.
Tang did go into orbit with John Glenn in 1962, and NASA’s use of all three items heightened their profile. Had NASA been a little more hip to the product-placement possibilities, I suppose it might have extracted fees from the lucky vendors, or at least gotten a break on price. However, I find no evidence it got either.

On the larger question, a look at NASA’s 2008 balance sheet shows it sure isn't making money as that notion is ordinarily understood: I'm seeing $1 billion in earned revenue vs. $19 billion in gross operating costs, with the difference mostly coming out of our collective wallet.
- Straight Dope, 5 June

the knowledge

Did an Iraqi side really steal Motherwell's badge?
"My team, Motherwell FC, appear to have had their badge stolen by a team in Iraq, called Al Sinaa," writes an outraged Gordon Blackstock. "It seems the Baghdad-based team has an exact replica of our badge, albeit with Arabic writing. Apart from the obvious parallels of life in the war-torn mean streets of Motherwell with Baghdad, why have this Iraqi powerhouse of a team picked our humble badge? And are there any other examples of teams blatantly ripping off another club's crest?"

Well, Gordon, "stolen" seems a harsh word for it. To accuse, for example, Uzbek outfit FC Bunyodkor of nicking the crest of one of the most famous clubs on the planet and expecting to get away with it would, of course, be to accuse them of rank stupidity. So let's be generous and suggest their badge is a tribute to FC Barcelona, who, as Richard Proter notes, have also been toasted by Bamber Bridge and Forest Green. More obviously, Ecuadorian side Barcelona Sporting Club also pay homage to their Catalan near namesakes.

Romanian club FC Gloria Buz have stranger tastes, opting, as Sean Miller notes, for a crest with uncanny similarities to that of Crystal Palace. Elsewhere, Juan Battaner thinks that Bayern Munich's modern crest "appears to be based on Real Club Deportivo Espanyol's crest, minus the 'Corona Real' (royal crown) and changing Espanyol's blue and white stripes with the blue and white lozenges of Bavaria." Though frankly, after comparing the two, the Knowledge thinks Juan is a little paranoid.

Meanwhile in Australia, Shane Armstrong tells us that Sydney FC got all hot and bothered about various perceived copycats from, among other places, Norway and Thailand.

Closer to Blighty, Martin Brodestky reckons the designers of Crawley Town's badge may have had a certain Manchester club in mind when they sat down to work.

If you've got any other suggestions of badge larceny then send your suggestions to knowledge@guardian.co.uk

Following on from last week's tales of voided shoot-outs, Colin Leeds recalls Rangers' lucky reprieve in the 1972 Cup Winners' Cup. "Rangers managed to miss all six spot-kicks (one had to be taken again) against Sporting of Portugal, losing the shoot-out 0-3. Fortunately for them, the Dutch referee had got it wrong; the shoot-out should never have happened as they should have won on away goals, having lost the second leg 4-3 following a 3-2 win at home. Rangers were reinstated and went on to win the tournament." True, Colin, except for one detail: Rangers did actually manage to score one of their spot-kicks.

There were even stranger shenanigans a year later in Brazil apparently. "In the 1973 Paulista Championship final between Santos and Portuguesa referee Armando Marques declared the end of the shoot-out when Santos led 2-0, but with two penalties remaining for Portuguesa," reports José Marcos "Zema" Vieira. "The title was later split between the two clubs and Armando went on to become president of the Brazilian Referees' Comittee, which is responsible for choosing the referees for all Brazilian League games. Go figure."
- from The Knowledge, 3 June. The answer to the first question is yes, they're identical.

Monday, 1 June 2009

two book reviews

Two book reviews from Books & Culture, 23 March:

Surprised by Love: An outsider's view of Liberty University and the faith it embodies.

Insurgency and Counterinsurgency in the First Century BC: A superb chronicle of the slave rebellion led by Spartacus.

what voters thought in 1944

In the summer of 1944, during the Normandy invasion, surely the nation was proud of its leaders? Not really. Gallup had the effrontery to ask what voters thought of their politicians, and even then only 36% thought them to be acting for the good of the country, while 57% thought they acted only for their own or their party's interest.
- from Polly Toynbee article, Guardian, 22 May

(I'm noticing that the article dates on the online articles are more and more often the date preceding the date of print publication)

sunday's last stand on lewis and harris

Sunday's last stand on Lewis and Harris: As a ferry service exploits a law intended to enforce equality, many feel their way of life is in danger
- good article by Ian Jack, Guardian, 23 May

cash but no questions

Cash but no questions: Behind the absurdity of duck islands and the possible criminality of phantom mortgages lies a graver problem – MPs have been bought off, leaving parliament weak and governments free from scrutiny

One evening about 150 years ago, a busy House of Commons was listening patiently to Sir Robert Inglis, a High Tory and bitter foe of Catholic and Jewish emancipation, or anything with a taint of liberalism, although he happened on this occasion to be complaining about an injustice. A prisoner had been denied visits, known in the legal phrase as "right of egress and ingress". Or, as Inglis unhappily put it, "Things have come to pretty pass when an Englishman may not have his wife backwards and forwards."

We know this scene from a famous pen. "The shout of laughter in the house was electrical," Benjamin Disraeli recorded. "Sir Robert Peel, who was naturally a hearty laughter, lost his habitual self-control and leant down his head in convulsions."

Another convulsion has swept this country since we've learned about the way MPs have been shamelessly helping themselves to public money. This authentic anger and disgust has already seen the first involuntary departure of a Speaker in more than 300 years. But behind the baroque absurdity of duck islands and moats, or the possible criminality of capital gains tax evasion and phantom mortgages, lies a much wider and graver problem: the decline and fall of parliament.

That's the point which will strike anyone who knows the Commons today about that apparently silly story: not the unintentional double entendre, or gross guffaws (those are all still with us) – no, it was the fact that the Commons was full while an ordinary MP was speaking, and that those present included two great prime ministers, Peel and Disraeli. That would now be unimaginable. Aside from the infantile knockabout of question time, few even listen to cabinet ministers, let alone other backbenchers.

Over the past generation life has been drained out of parliament. No senior politician lives as Gladstone did for more than 60 years as an MP, constantly sitting in the chamber, listening, intervening, speaking on every conceivable subject, before, while and after he was prime minister.

Eighty years ago when Baldwin was prime minister he "sat on the Treasury bench day after day", as AJP Taylor wrote, "sniffing the order paper, cracking his fingers, and studying the House of Commons in its every mood". Now Gordon Brown never stays to listen to other MPs, and Tony Blair didn't stay behind at all, disappearing in a puff of smoke on the day he resigned, as an eloquent reminder of the contempt in which he had always held parliament.

Almost every important government decision is now announced on television or radio or even YouTube rather than in parliament as convention is meant to require. Very rarely indeed does parliament make its collective views known and its weight felt.
- Guardian, 23 May

madame zaza

TV director Joe McGrath used to work with Spike Milligan. "Spike was in drag, as Madame Zaza, fortune teller. A prop man put a phone next to him and tested it. When it rang, Spike picked it up: 'Madame Zaza here. Knows all. Sees all. Who is that speaking?' I said, 'Keep that in, it's funny'. 'What did I say?' he asked, puzzled. We kept it in, and it got a big laugh."
- from Simon Hoggart's column, Guardian, 22 May

toddler buys £8,000 digger online

Parents in a hole after New Zealand toddler buys £8,000 digger online: Three-year-old Pipi logs on to auction site and purchases excavator while parents snooze
- Guardian, 22 May

english and spanish football

An interview in the current Time Out asks Thierry Henry the difference between English and Spanish football. He said, 'I think one of the biggest differences is that you can start watching an English game in the second half and not know who's winning, certainly not from the way they play, anyway. Whatever the score, an English team tends to rush from one side of the pitch to the other giving it everything, and relying heavily on stamina and physical strength. Don't get me wrong, I'm not having a go, but that's the way it is and it can be very effective. Here we concentrate more on controlling the ball and upping the tempo when necessary.'

northern lights

I finished Northern Lights by Philip Pullman last night. Very disappointing; it was a real trudge, took several renewals from the library, finishing it felt very much like a duty. It was unengaging, flatly written, without interesting or engaging characters. The 'interesting' ideas weren't that interesting. The daemons seemed pointless and irrelevant, and their absence would have made very little difference. The Dust just seemed like a plot device - a macguffin to provide drive and purpose, but not explained well enough to make it seem important or meaningful or mattering at all. The much-vaunted anti-religion, anti-Lewis material wasn't really there. You'd have to read on into the rest of the trilogy to get these things, but I won't be doing that. The first volume just wasn't that good.

f scott fitzgerald

Just finished last night The Collected Short Stories of F Scott Fitzgerald, which was quite good. I started it last year, but I got it in a library sale in Islington several years ago, probably the one near SU. One of those paperbacks that have been turned into hardbacks by the library.

I think I may have read more than just The Great Gatsby - which I enjoyed a lot - of the novels, but if i have I can't remember which. Surprisingly the book doesn't contain the best-known story of recent years, the one on which the film The Curious Case of Benjamin Button was based.