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Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Did you hate Cud's son?

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22 March

Tulisa told me not to, not the Tulisa who..., the other Tulisa.

She was sweeping through Belgrade at the time, an onion on each arm, and she said Don't!. So I didn't.

Should have listened to the onions, though: they weren't red onions (which aren't, anyway, red), but onions, large ones. They said - a minor third apart - Do it, do!, in a screeching voice, not at all nice like a counter-tenor, but invitingly.

Only Tulisa said Don't!, and I didn't, truly I didn't.

Sunday, 18 March 2012

You'll break it! / It's not a toy!

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18 March

A micrometer - great therapy though it is to find, over and over, the thickness of a piece of paper, and hear it click click when it has reached the point of measurement - is Not a toy.

Nor is a spring-loaded tape-measure, but that doesn't stop it being great fun to have it literally reel itself back in, with that distinctive noise as the stop at the end of the tape (0", 0 cm) hits the metal of the aperture.

So what does that tell us about anything? That - as do other creatures* - we like to play, to repeat, to test things to the limit? Maybe

That, knowing what something is for, we find another use for it? - and, in art, it is Marcel Duchamp who is credited with calling doing this 'a readymade', Fountain probably being the most infamous of such works of his. So our inventiveness, turning our hand to other things, seeing something anew / from another angle?** Perhaps

Or the impulse - coupled with the enabling power - to subvert the order of things?:

They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot

in the words of early Joni Mitchell***. Possibly

And if not ourselves being those who act, then allowing it? - being those who 'having the power to do good', fail to do so? Conceivably

Saul, the man who became Paul and spread the Christian message over vast distances (from Malta to what is now Turkey), stood by, looking after the others' garments when Stephen****, the first follower of Jesus to be martyred, was stoned to death:

Whoever is not with me is against me (Matthew 12:30; Luke 11:23)

but also

For he who is not against us is for us (Mark, 9:40)


* Including plants?

** Yet this is not a purely human trait, as those will testify who try to devise ways either of keeping squirrels out of a bird-feeder, or even challenge the creatures to puzzle out a series of steps to secure rewards intended for them.

*** The song 'Big Yellow Taxi' from the album Ladies of the Canyon.

**** So what is usually called Boxing Day, 26 December, is St Stephen's Day.

Drop down for our *NEW* menu!

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18 March

Our reply to Jamie's Italian*

There's plenty on offer - for every taste, if not pocket - as these examples from our menu show:


* Peek and lay Tutu soup *

* Danging well * - a 'bottomless bowl' of spiced water in which old fuse-plugs have been soaked for a minimum of 15 days

* Brock au lit terrine * (as Mr Badger didn't wake up in time)


* Lack of RAM, served with micro-chips and some bloody jus or other *

* Ache and stale pi * - comes with its own motherboard

* Distressed tall-backed beech chair * - you can't eat it, but, if you lacked an appetite previously, you'll be keen to eat something after hearing its sob-story about Rennie Mackintosh (and we'll give you a 50% discount on that dish)

* Know-your-plaice fish pie - order this, and wait to see whether you get rebuffed in our most scornful way for ordering something from the depths on the wrong day


* Lock au chat * - depending on how you look at it, it's either a padlock designed by Pussy Galore, or a cat which, if you could only force it open, contains a refreshing assortment of sorbets

* Peeking pie * - just as you are about to dig your fork or spoon into it, it winks at you

* Death by chocolate * - the chef's own .45 dum dum slugs, with chocolate added to the tips, will soon be fired in your direction from a chocolate-tinted automatic by an ex-showgirl called Browning

NB Unless stated (or you request) otherwise, all dishes come with new potatoes and a refreshing sequence of freshly slaughtered vegetables (not to be eaten out of order, unless you are electing to pay your bill twice)


* And the name's a give-away, since he not only doesn't sound Italian, but he also grew up in Essex with parents who ran a pub (in Clavering).

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Every Veran helps! (2)

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18 March

No one passing by - even if they didn't eat meat - could have failed to notice the huge pieces of sirloin* that my nearest Veran had on offer - I didn't notice what they weighed, but these were shrink wrapped and sizeable, and were individually priced at at least £30.

Now I may have seen a piece of such a size in the window of that rare thing, a butcher's shop, but never in a supermarket (or whatever we are encouraged to call them). And, now that I think of it, they all bore (as did some other items in a display close by) red labels with the words 'From the Butcher' on them in white lettering. Which is making what distinction?

What am I supposed to believe to be the origin of the rest of the meat (and poultry)? Yes, I know that it has been hygienically sealed into its packaging, with the unavoidable admixture of sulphites, and I even know where much of that is done in this region (as I have visited the premises), but can I take it that this large lump of steak has been treated any differently?

Or is it telling me that it has not had a prior life in a freezer, but has made its way just from field to abattoir to butcher to shelf? In effect, boasting of freshness when, one might infer, other products have been stored in the meantime?

OK, I'm not going to dwell on the comparison, but, when a cattery offered for a pet's living area (i.e. not its run) to be heated for an extra, say, £1.20, it was wisely - and, it must be said, repeatedly - asked as an effectively rhetorical question how one would know whether she (for she was a she) had received the benefit for which one had paid extra. Another supermarket answers the question, as applying to the taste and qualify of food, with the slogan Taste the difference...

With freezing, I hazard that it has an effect on the fibres in meat (and poultry or fish, for that matter), which could have a bearing on how chewy it is. I suppose so, because I know that it is said that (even with blanching) some fruit or vegetables do not freeze well, which I take to mean that one would be less keen or less able (e.g. disintegration) to eat them than before the freezing.

In itself, that might argue for the meat to be tenderized by being frozen, but I do not think that it is so simple or that the thawed product would respond to being cooked in the same way as before - and ideal cooking temepratures and durations are a whole other kettle of fish!


* By the way, who does believe that story of a joint of beef being knighted?

Cleobury's conception of Brahms

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17 March

To be honest, I have no idea, from to-night's performance in the chapel of King's College, whether he had a conception - or how soloist Tom Poster's, if he had one, related to it.

Between the two of them, and with the necessary participation of Cambridge University Chamber Orchestra (tweely abbreviated to CUCO), they performed the Piano Concerto No. 2 in B flat major, Op. 83, by Johannes Brahms. I found the following evidence of Poster's and / or Cleobury's possible conception of it, as a work and as movements:

Allegro non troppo
The horns had been strong in Parry's I was glad, which was good, because they are crucial to the opening.

Then the movement proceeded as a struggle between grammar and syntax, in which, for example, Cleobury failed to demonstrate that 'I hit the ball' belongs in the same sentence as 'through the window' and 'by mistake'. Each, though enunciated, could have belonged in different sentences:

I hit the ball. Through the window, my father watched me. By mistake, I trod on the flower-bed.

Allegro appassionato
Here, what came to the fore was Poster's seeming lack of any sense that what Brahms wrote as the piano part needed to be phrased, and very carefully phrased at that. The playing was mostly technically very accurate, but there was nothing betraying that he had a notion of the structure behind the composition - so, just as a repeated group of just a few bars wanted for direction, I heard no overarching understanding of the movement in toto.

It would have been fine, I have to add, for him to have played as if his part were being spontaneously generated, but only if it had sounded as though he knew where the improvisation was going. This did have a fresh quality, but not one that inspired me with that confidence in him.

All that I can say is that, if the pace set is meant to be that of walking, then it felt more like a dawdling, painfully strung-out amble. Fine to try things with the tempo, but it needs to work - I was just glad that it was over, although more and more reminded of the slow movement of the second Tchaikovsky concerto

Allegretto grazioso
The individual parts were pretty much all right, but very foursquare. What was not 'OK' was where one shifted, morphed, changed into another, as they inevitably: I swear that it was almost as if they had been individually rehearsed as separate units and then, never performed continuously, been brought together in sequence and the transitions left to take care of themselves (which, not surprisingly, they didn't).

The Michael Nyman Band achieves abrupt switches from one mood to another by working at it. Only in the tricky switch-over from one time-signature to a very different one did Cleobury seem to have put CUCO through doing that. Once in a monumental* piano concerto like this one just isn't enough!


* The word is used in a good sense, but it has a bad one, epitomized to-night, where (delibertely alluding to Eric Morecambe) just playing all of the right notes in the right order doesn't create 'a cathedral of sound' as beautiful as the venue.

Bel Ami: An unworthy vehicle for much talent (3)

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17 March

* Contains some spoilers *

The most ludicrous claim* that I have read about this film (from the Arts Picturehouse's programme booklet, which I didn't look at before my viewing):

[Robert] Pattinson plays the seductive scoundrel with unbounded pomp and a voraciousness that oozes star quality, outshining a top-notch supporting cast that includes Uma Thurman, Christina Ricci and Kristin Scott Thomas.

Nothing to do with being unclear which of the phrases is 'oozing', although I saw no ooze, but the belief that, albeit Pattinson is on screen almost all of the time, that means that he outshines anyone is seriously misguided - just physically, and in poise, tone and demeanour, Uma Thurman, for example, is radiant as Madeleine, and she is the part, whereas Pattinson never quite seems to know what his part is, let alone plausibly play it.

But then, nor do the directors or the writers of the screenplay, which is part of the problem...

As to things elsewhere, I see that Philip French has one of his rather terse 'reviews' in The Guradian*, of which this long sentence (which looks longer in columns, and is as chaotic as mine) constitutes almost one-third (without talking about the film in hand at all!):

In 1947 the former English professor, drama critic and leading MGM producer Albert Lewin wrote and directed a fascinating version of Maupassant's 1885 novel Bel Ami about the upward progress of the charming, untalented journalist Duroy (nicknamed "Bel Ami") in a corrupt late-19th-century Paris where the press are in cahoots with the politicians.

Yet, whenever anyone talks about this novel by Maupassant (and, often enough, reviews or synopses of films that adapt something for the first time often enough skate over the origins entirely), why do I get that impression that no one has actually read the thing...?


* Less absurd, but no less bad, is this account (from a free paper's cinema section):

Based on the classic Guy de Maupassant novel of the same name [the poster for the film handily points out 'this fact', though I have no conception whether it is a classic, or why it's not having been called Mr Bean's Revenge matters]. A charming but manipulative Parisien [which, in the film, he isn't since, as he points out to Madeleine (Thurman), they didn't go to where he was brought up when they got married] makes his way up the rungs of the social ladder by bedding the most beautiful and influential women in the city [Ricci, as Clotilde, is beautiful, but not influential; the husbands of the other two are both important, one (Charles) in the newspaper that the other owns, but the women and they are just - and only - the people whom he meets when he is invited to dinner by Charles]. Uncertain and awkward in the beginning [does that change?], he learns quickly [ditto] as he conquers - and breaks - hearts [but only having been lavishly and unequivocally tipped off how to conquer those hearts - and why].

** SOme such!

Did Beckettt start it off?*

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16 March - views from a train out of King's X

Following the pattern of The Unnamable - English translation (his of his French orgiginal) only? – in many other works, he left out punctuation.

So one might be confronted with a highly ambiguous title Imagination dead imagine, where one could be being urged to imagine one’s own imagination being dead, imagination in general being dead, or, despite one’s or imagination in general being dead, to imagine – maybe all of those at once.

At any rate, such is the confusion with which I met on being first told Enjoy! - since I knew (without being conscious of the facet**) that the verb is only transitive, an object was clearly missing: I cannot just enjoy full-stop in the way that I could be asked to smile or laugh, but I must enjoy something (did you, too, abbreviate that to ‘sthng’?).

that It’s really about as meaningful as saying Laugh me through that one, will you?, only that’s not one lazy word, however well intentioned the utterer.

So if, kindly though it was meant, you miss have been wished that you would enjoy the pint / gig / meal / exhibition, catch that person during the course of said food, drink, event or show, and cryptically say, in a nice friendly way, with a smile, drawing out the syllables En – joy – ing!.

Then, when it is time for another pint or a coffee / dessert or the cheeseboard, or just to go, adopt the same kind approach and, doing your best Cheshire Cat imitation (though not going as far as to disappear in the process!), drawl Ennnn – joyyyyed.

Now, I grant you that you will then be taken for anything from Gollum to Forest Gump (with Mr Bean in-between), but you’ll have had your say / bowl of cherries / magic ring taken away and hurled into the intense fiery heat, and you’ll feel better for it:

Believe! Do! Enjoy!


* Maybe not, but he had a working signal-box in the grounds where he lived at Ussy-sur-Marne.

** A variant reading has 'faucet'.

Friday, 16 March 2012

Complexity, perplexity and diversity

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16 March

I was feeling left out, with everyone I knew making pacts, leaving me feeling left out - oh, I've already said that, so that just shows that I'd be the perfect patsy for one of these 'I'll be damned!', Yes, you will... arrangements.

Anyway, wanting to know where I was going wrong, I called around on Faust, because, after all, he should know, with a pact named after him and all that. Turns out that he's packed and left for Vienna, wanting a word with Freud.

Quite an angry word, as it turned out when I next saw him, because, not satisfied with one thing to his name, he's upset that, for all the bedding of women that he did and in a highly cynical and opportunistic way (for which, of course, now he's repentant), Freud's only gone and called his relevant complex after Don Juan! Faust swears that the Don, apart from anything else, grossly inflated his tally, and besides he, Faust, isn't fictional.

I tried to intervene with the observation that maybe Oedipus was fictional, but he would have none of it, adjuring by his britches (though I prefer 'breeches') that he'd, many a time, had a session with old Oed down at The Golden Dog, and he could drink most men under the table. (Still, I think it could easily explain that rather gratuitous bit of charioteer rage* that caused him a bit of bother.)

Back at me knocking in vain outside Faust's house, who should come along but Dante! A lot of people stay away from him, because she was really rather young even for his day, and they like to lump him in with that Lewis Carroll, why did he have child friends and take photographs of them? rap, but he's OK, if a bit grumpy too much of the time (something to do with spots on the moon, I gather from Beckettt).

To be continued


* I'm told that people, lulled by the alliteration, want to style this after the substrate, but you couldn't call what Laertes was driving on a road, and, anyway, the rage was directed at him, not at the road. When Basil Fawlty's car misbehaves, he breaks off a branch and, logically enough, beats the bonnet - hitting the road, unnecessarily violent as it sounds, is something else again.

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Bel Ami: An unworthy vehicle for much talent (2)

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16 March

A few takes on what could be behind Bel Ami (2012) - or ahead of it...

1. That advert - a distillation from the forest outside Athens?

They talk about the back story*, but, whatever we call it, it imparts essential knowledge:

It used to be that, when the woman had used this body-spray, men around her couldn't help acting on it, spontaneously presenting her, a stranger, with blooms and the like folly. (Men's fragrances didn't really exist, save as after-shave.)

Then came the male equivalent, acceptable to use as a shower-gel, because women would be falling all over the person who had done so. Clearly, Georges was a prescient amateur molecular chemist - or, more likely, knew a female one - and contrived the manufacture of what Puck uses on Shakespeare's human and fairy lovers, a potion so powerful that it acts by being scented.

How else explain KST's, UT's, and CR's characters' instant fascination for him?!

2. The follow-up - Bed, Amies!

Despite his prodigious sex-appeal (so he says) and everything else that he has gained in life at the end of Bel Ami, Georges soon becomes world weary (like Büchner's Danton**), and will do anything for a bet.

We've already seen how, through inefficient timing, he nearly has Virginie and Clotilde in the bedroom, if not in bed, at the same time - a touch worthy of Brian Rix in his pre-Mencap days. Telling these stories to his cronies, and admitting that he stll enjoys his memories of sex with the trio of women, he is put to the challenge of achieving just that, sex with them all at the same time.

He accepts, confident of winning the bet! With his natural cunning (so evident, for example, in assuming that a widow would want to consider an offer of marriage not only from someone with nothing obvious to offer, but also a bare minute or two after she became bereaved), it will be child's play, he reckons...

NB If insufficiently convinced that those who watched Bel Ami could stomach a sequel, go straight to a hard-core version for 'the specialist market'

3. An alternative follow-up - Ami de Freud

World-weary, but interested, when he hears about psychoanalysis, to meet Freud because of his troubling dreams about the three women, Georges goes to Vienna to have a consultation - or, more likely, he pays for an all-expenses-paid trip to Paris - it doesn't matter whether it's plausible, but just that it happens:

They talk, he becomes Freud's patient, and Freud teases out that, a bit like The Fifth Element (1997) (which he has got on VHS), the three essential parts of Georges' psyche are split up amongst the three women:

* One, Clotilde, is essentially benign, and forgives his wrongs (because she cannot miss having sex with him)

* Another, Madeleine, can take or leave sex with Georges (and will put him in his place through it), because she has a longstanding lover, and then, when he is gone, nothing much can replace him

* The last, Virginie, humbles herself for love of him, and he hates her for it, feeling such disgust that he feels compelled to abuse her, orally and physically (although it is, of course, not she whom he wishes to abuse)

You, Freud tells him, will never rest until the three are reunited.

How? asks Georges.

Proceed as scenario for Bed, Amies!, because, as everything is to do with sex, he can never be free until he gets all three women in bed at once...


* If I knew who 'they' were, I'd be intrigued to find out from them what, then, is the front story, the side story, the up story...

** Another Georges. The 1983 film is not unworthy, methinks.

Can all text-messages be like this?!

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15 March

I quote (with editing to protect The Innocent):

Dear Xxxxx, PS To-
day's Wordwang is
alltsmiecc. Don't
spend it all at once!
Ciao, Xxxxx

Bel Ami: An unworthy vehicle for much talent (1)

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15 March

* Contains a splashing of spoilers *

I have no reason to believe that the fault lies with Maupassant*'s novel (published in 1885), on which it is based, but the screenplay of Bel Ami** (2012) - whether or not it does justice to his writing - does not, I believe, to the talents, amongst others, of Christina Ricci, Uma Thurman, and Kristin Scott Thomas, as I shall hope to explain.

As depicted, the story (which, in type, is not an unfamiliar one***) references several works, and so, depending on how one chooses to look at it, either disjoints time, by pulling images of Keanu Reeves and / or Al Pacino in The Devil's Advocate (1997) out of our (maybe only subconscious) mind and into nineteenth-century (?) Paris, or, perhaps, has us prefigure those roles on the pretext that Georges is archetypal.

As to Paris, we had one shot of a street that, as soon as I saw it, patently resembled London's Kingsway (with a few token signs in French), and not, as the credits admitted, the French capital at all. The give-away, for those with eyes to see, was that the architecture simply was not right for what it was meant for.

So, as I think about it the morning after, I fear that such glibness, of unconvincingly trying to pass one thing off for another**** (which is, in some ways, at the root of the narrative itself), infected the whole production. (Just imagine Allen making Midnight in Paris (2011) without actually giving you, arguably, one of his best features of the film, Paris herself, shining alongside the radiant Marion Cotillard!)

Now, I have a confession of my own. I must admit that I was carried away with writing another posting, which I thought that I could finish, and that meant that, when I realized how late it was, I had missed not only (as planned) the tiresome trailers and the like, but also (I judge) the first minute or so. However, we were clearly enough in Pigalle or some such place, established by a flash of bare breasts, the scene for the sigificant encounter between Philip Glenister (as Charles Forestier) and Robert Pattinson (Georges Duroy).

There was not much to catch up with, to be honest, and the development of the piece (which I refuse to see in terms of Acts, though, as here worked out at any rate, the story has a clear dénouement) did not require labyrinthine thought-processes to follow / predict. And that was one of its major failings: one was expected to believe that Georges actually has some wits and does just not pick up on the scraps, hints and clues that, like the few coins that Forestier gives to him to set him up for a dinner where our three important ladies are all present.

Here, I think, he most resembled Dickens' Pip in being out of his depth. That said, somehow he knows that he needs a suitable set of clothes to be invited to dinner (and so, when given money for it, has some over for time with the prostitute Rachel), but has no clue (and has not troubled to find out) which knife to use. Here, I may have missed something by my lateness, since, for all that Georges gets tasked with writing under the title Diary of a Cavalry Officer, he plainly does not have the manners, social experience or refinement of a typical officer (but, according to Wikipedia®, he is only a non-commissioned officer in the novel - which does not really explain matters, as NCOs usually have their own mess).

This whole episode, with Christina Ricci coming into the room and introducing herself just as Clotilde, virtually required to throw herself (with her eyes at least) at Georges, is, however implausibly set up, the genesis of everything. At dinner, Georges, who has betrayed no talent for anything (and, for a long time, continues in that vein), is supposed to be 'a pull' (of, initially anyway, one sort or another) for Clotilde, and also for Madeleine Forestier (Uma Thurman as the wife of Charles), and Virginie Walter, played by an unfairly aged Kristin Scott Thomas*****, in much of the role, whose true beauty is only allowed to peep out from behind that make-up for a while.

Rather like for Franz Kafka's protagonists in The Trial and The Castle****** [I must search for dates when he was working on both, though Kafka was but a toddler when Bel Ami was published], sex is a strong impulse - in the former, instead of devoting himself to what his advocate wants him to do, Josef K. seduces the advocate's mistress (as with Geroges, he is irresistible to women); in the latter, K. goes out of his way to try to separate the official Klamm from his mistress. (The scene in the church between Virginie and Georges highly put me in mind of the chapter in The Trial that is set in the cathedral, or of the deceit and immorality of Laclos.)

I, at least, would have been reminded of those Kafka characters, blinded to the true course that they should follow for what (they say that) they want to achieve by impulses such as the desire for sex or to sleep (rather than pay attenton): here, it is truly amazing that Madeleine does not throttle Georges, when he obviously does not listen to a word that she says (if he has something else to say or do), and, when she appears to accede to his demand for sex and sits astride him, she effectively castrates his sexuality instead (in Freudian terms, whatever they may tell us), by making what he sought as pleasure a painful or unsatisfying experience, and thus a punishment.
(The sex described at the opening of America has the same quality of being like rape.)

So much for the referents. As to the dialogue, a lot of it passes muster, but too much does not, and to hear highly skilled performers such as the trio of women having to deliver it is painful, as is some of the bogus staging that they are required to act out. And, to their great credit, they do it as best they can, but the set-up for what they have to do is about as genuine as passing off London for Paris.

Too often, I could strip away the music that was trying to create a mood (in one case, utterly unconvincingly, of tension), hear the bare words that were being spoken, and not avoid cringeing: clearly, a soundtrack should not be so obvious and / or the dialogue of such poor quality that they separate from each other. (I say 'clearly', but someone made this film as it is.)

Nor should, unless one is in very sure and safe hands, a transition be made from a person as underdog to avenger, and triumphant one at that, unless it is better set up to be credible (but we could, maybe, just be meant to imagine that it is a drunken dream of retribution). Resources have to be deployed to whisk someone away, have another called on in the middle of the night, and even to get a clean set of clothes, but this was not even sketched in, passed over as if keen to get the whole thing wrapped.

Yes, we know, if we have lived, that apparent talents can be fronts for people who have cowed or manipulated othes (whether or not they knew it), but there has to be some spark for that to live as an idea. Georges, as written, betrays no real evidence of being able to plot to save his life - he imposes himself, at one point, on card-game where he plainly does not know the stakes (for all that flapping bank-notes are deployed on the table), and, for one self-evidently stupid gambit, ends up considerably the worse (witnessed by a character for whom the provision of lines seemed an unnecessary step, until he is eventually surprised, and comes out with an absurd banality, whose only excuse is to feed Georges a retort to deliver).

There is just too much that cannot reasonably unfold as it does. Admitted, Georges has cunning and is deceitful, but he is stupid enough to take Clotilde to where we first saw him; there is no notion that he has negotiated anything reciprocal with Madeleine when she is quite open about what she wants (we just jump until much time has passed); he lets people down and overlooks them, when he needs to stand in good stead with them; and he even writes a poor piece of rubbish and is surprised that it gets him the sack.

Not least being in, all ways, the worse for wear, far too much counts against this Georges for Bel Ami - the film and he, as he is so often called - to reach its ending. It relies on someone being humiliated, when it us unlikely that it would have been acceptable or decorous for a wife to attend a ball unaccompanied in the first place, and also on this overexploited (in cinematic terms) power for Georges to seduce a woman just by existing.

Maybe with a different Georges, but with this one, on paper and in appearance, no - most of the time, he has not just a five o'clock shadow, but palpable stubble and hair that makes mine look kempt (both hair and stubble even advance and recede when, between his utterances, we cut back from a reaction-shot*******) , and he makes no attempt to disguise his lack of manners, lack of then acquiring them, or sheer raw hunger for sex and money. Back with those referents, but in a fairly gross form that makes them seem subtle.

PS At the risk of seeming to rant more, I should say that Thurman's characterization, particularly the quality of the voice, was entirely and artistocratically thought through, and, unlike Pattinson's, did not wander in and out of timbre or speech-pattern. As did Ricci, she looked suitably stunning, and, although to a lesser extent, one thought in both cases that more was being exposed physically by suggestion - Ricci's poses, in particular, on the bed were provocative and cleverly devised (a deliberate contrast to the Pigalle scene, where one did not need to imagine much).

All three women, as I have tried to say, did their best to deliver what was an inadequate set of lines and their part in the plot, but Ricci probably had it easiest, by just having to be open to Georges, irrespective of what he had done, given a little time. It was, as I have remarked, unfair on Scott Thomas to mask her attractiveness, and she also had to make do with some fairly foolish things that she was required to do as it made her seem, at times, little more than an infatuated buffoon, and, ulimately, an intolerable irritation to Georges. Echoes of Steerpike? (Sting has a registered company with that name in the title.)

For a less serious approach to all this, one could - I fear - do worse than visit Bel Ami: An unworthy vehicle for much talent (2)...


* It is now inexplicable to me that we de not call him de Maupassant, but Beethoven is, equally, not van Beethoven.

** For obvious reasons, I cannot name Philip French, but, on this newspaper critic's showing - in a corny crack at the start of (and wasting space in) a tiny piece that passed for a review of Sarah's Key (2011), where he asserted that he had gone into the screening with the belief that he was watching something about Sarah Keays - he will no doubt take his seat, expecting a portrait (what some would call a biopic) of a bearded botanist with a distinctive way of speaking who was on our screens (and, for all that I know, still is) much at one time.

*** For example, Steerpike's devious rise to power (and perdition) from the kitchens in the first two novels of Mervyn Peake's Gormenghast trilogy (and who, then, reads the third, Titus Alone?!). There are even Dickensian echoes, and, for some reason that I cannot explain, I am most drawn to parallels with Pip in Great Expectations (published, in instalments, from 1860 to 1861).

**** Another example: there is a flash of a street, with French written clumsily in red to indicate where a turning to the right leads, but this, too, no more looked like Paris than the frontage of Harrod's. (Actually, I take that back - featuring the exterior of Harrod's might have been more effective than some of what we were shown.)

***** IMDb renders the surname 'Walters' (with an 's'), but I am unconvinced. As to the age question, CR is 32, UT 42, and KST 51 - but I would challenge anyone to know, just from this film, that it is just nine years that separate the latter two.

****** By the time that we come to America (or Der Verschollene, The One who Disappeared), sex is only the driving force for Karl to be forced to leave home, when a housemaid forces herself on him. In this film, we effectively see Georges raped by Madeleine, as I go on to mention.

******* The continuity is truly dire - even the colour-matching went at one point when we looked back to where we had just been!

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

STOP PRESS: Beat-Crazed Boffins trounced by Daniella (3)

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15 March

Not for the first time to-night, I have been asked to put my own blogging aside to give time, energy and words to another's cause, which is the following Official Statement:

Official Statement

I, Stan O'Grady, was drummer of the band Beat-Crazed Puffins ('the Band') more or less without a break for 15 years.

I am now quietly retired, and living in Egham.

I do not know, nor have I at any time known, The Sage of Egham.

On account of the name, the Band (
not to be mistaken for The Band or The Banned) was linked, but only in some feeble people's minds, with The Boffins.

I have never knowingly played with The Boffins, although, before, during and after my time with the Band, I did play with other bands ('the bands').

The list of the bands, to the best of my recollection and belief, is in the bureau.

The list itself is of the bands with which, to the best of my recollection and belief, I played.

I do not know, nor have I at any time known, Antropuss O'Rourke.

For safety's sake, I should say that, to the best of my recollection and belief, the list is actually of
the names of the bands, not of the bands themselves.

That is all that I wish to say.

Thank you for your time

STOP PRESS: Beat-Crazed Boffins trounced by Daniella (2)

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15 March

A timely comment on the earlier posting (only 11 days after the fact) from The One Who Shall Not Be Named provokes the following response (with the consent and also agreement of Bray King himself). (In the manner of awards ceremonies, we, the undersigned Members of the Grand Order of Walrus, take your three statements in reverse order):

I smell a police horse
We are (as are all careful readers of The Daily Splodge*) already aware, Anonymous Being, of your fondness for not smelling just police horses in the round (as it were), but, specifically, Trojan.

Despite the numerous remonstrations of PC Bob Markham at the nature and duration of what you call your 'olfactory exercises', you have continued these offensive practices. It is, therefore, apt, that Horseferry Road Magistrates' Court has already, in advance of hearing the full case of obstructing Officers Trojan and Markham in the conduct of their duties, granted an injunction with a power of arrest attached to it.

Why you wish to be so candid about your nefarious business we do not know, but it does usefully assist us in demonstrating the kind of person who goes on (if it didn't precede the above statement) to assert:

Something else is going on here, for sure
Pithily, we merely choose to retort that, if it is so clear to you, Anonymous Being, that what you have been told is not to be credited, then you advance no basis for your alternative view of something else [...] going on here.

Our lawyer, Antrobus O'Rourke (no relation) advised us not to state more than that we know where, in the case of your making that comment, here is, and what, almost certainly, 'goes on' at that place, which throws into relief when you propound:

Nah, the Boffins have been clean for years
Mr King tells us that, since he took over the task four years ago, he can vouch as a matter of knowledge that the Boffins have, indeed, been dusted once per week and polished to a high sheen on a monthly basis. He has every reason to believe that an unbroken chain of dusting, polishing and even buffing (before that became invasive), goes back to the time of Gregory Paul (which, as he remarks, is saying something).

However, we simply do not comprehend, Anonymous Being, what Axe you have to grind (to quote the title of BCB's immortal hit).


Signed this 15th day of March 2012

Hilary Apps
Judith Meganwhite-Hurley
Augustus M. McMayhew

Hector Stravinsky
Corinna Steerpike
J. S. Bart

Igor Berlioz
Bob Markham
Trapezoid O'Rourke

Oliver Sackbutt-Morgan
John Sackbutt III
Morgan Oliver

Rhomboid O'Rourke


* In which Mr King's shareholding, being below 25%, cannot be considered significant.

BBC accused of faking report of James May battling learner drivers (according to AOL®)

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15 March

Those in the know will be able to tell you what is really faked, as evidenced by the above photograph.

It's not that the traffic* wasn't real, but that James May has finally employed a double**.

For, as those who know him can testify, it is actually The Agent himself, allegedly at the wheel of that seeming vehicle!


* I understand that some would feel drawn to write 'the traffic situation'...

** Likewise, some would say 'a body double'.

I am the walrus*

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16 March

Ringo, if anyone, looked more and more like a walrus at one point (some, maybe cruelly, would say that such a beast could have better performed his role in the band, whereas modern science has proved that the walrus has a near-congenital (?) tone-deafness, unsuited to a drummer).

On the celebrated cover of the Sergeant Pepper album**, we think that we see Ringo, standing as one of the group at the front. However, microscopic analysis of the cardboard (and also of some DNA from Orson Welles that was knocking around the lab) shows that he is really beneath the surface, having been pulverized to a few microns thick in a freak fishing accident***.

John, not wishing to be outdone, sewed himself into the lining of one of Marilyn's gowns (allegedy, the pinkish one from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes), and refused to come out until Paul admitted that, as had been shown by the famous backwards playing of Pepper, he was actually dead.

He then buried Paul in a box of England's Glory, empty except for two used matches and an excessively large piece of cotton-wool, which he liked to squeeze inside, despite the box's protests (the arse**** even went to the House of Lords).

George wasn't interested much in any of this, and slipped off to play squash (in the nude?).


* It is now postulated that, on account of the fact that George Martin misheard, taking the uninflected neutral vowel-sound (which peppers spoken English) in the indefinite article (sc. the word 'a') and thinking that it was in the definite article (to wit the word 'the'), and then promulgated this error in the written material for the album (which the boys weren't much bothered about), what should have been understood, more meaningfully, was that the notional singer of the song is saying I am a walrus, which is no longer counterfactual.

** According to Andrew Graham Dixon's latest art-historical study, The Vanishing Socks (London, 2011), it is the unacknowledged work of Pablo Picasso (under the influence of Frida Kahlo, who had just been floating past) .

*** Sadly, as is all too often the case with this sort of fishing exploit, no freaks were caught either.

**** Some assert that this should be emended to read 'case', but a matchbox is clearly no sort of case, so that just doesn't 'make the grade' as a theory.

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Preparing for death or Living well

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14 March

Out of an honourable sense of duty, you have performed the 5005 required acts of reading, listening to songs, cinema-going, and travel around the world to view buildings and 'natural wonders'. (Your doctor kindly exempted you from the 2002 meals and sex-acts with which the same sense troubled you*.)

They were all a prerequisite to dying, and although you are not - worn down though you are by reading, listening to songs, cinema-going, and travel around the world to view buildings and 'natural wonders' - ready to die on one level, on another you could now happily and dutifully 'peg out'**.

So, to start setting your affairs in order, you go to sell off the invaluable books that have told you what 5005 acts to perform, and, with a neat - if fairly hefty - pile of them by your laptop, you search to find out what to ask for the first of them, your pristine copy of 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die***.

Yet, nice though yours is, it weighs probably at least 2 kilogrammes and the cost of posting it, despite an allowance of £2.80, even so cuts well into the modest amount that lesser specimens are set to fetch. Puzzled, you try the same thing with another - very similar - title, whose ISBN is obscured by a luggage-label (which ended up there during your world-tour), and realize that the book about 'natural wonders' is out in a new edition.

Out of duty, you put just that one for now into your basket (although you establish that two other books are in new editions) and buy it. In what seems like minutes, it arrives, and you flick through idly first of all, but that becomes a horrified realization that there are now other wonders that you must see, if all is to be well with your death, and that, also, some that you thought were wonders could not have been so wonderful after all, because they are not in this edition.

You spent at least £10,000 just watching the films alone, let alone all spending on those books, the travel, the downloads... And must you now seek out, amongst that magical tally of 1001****, the new things in the new editions that they say constitute constituent parts of that figure?

No, for you infer that, as it is an almost Sisyphean task, you must, after all, be immortal - immortal, but penniless through having had to go through all this expense to find the truth, and with an eternity to face!

In the face of the intense mixture of elation and regret, so your body deems it apt to call time for you: the books stay piled up by the laptop, and your copy of 1001 Natural Wonders You Must See Before You Die remains lying open, for some reason, at The Hanging Gardens of Babylon.


* And you, thankfully, did not even know that you were also required to listen to as many albums, and also to play video games.

** A term that, without reference to any (other) authority, I shall allege has its origins in croquet. (After all, Lewis Carroll loved croquet.)

*** Those who wish to know in detail what list Nithan Palal created can go to Movies I Watched Before Dying.

**** The 1001 Nights?

Session 4: Open mic

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13 March

When I first saw this - rather punctilious? - qualification of a perfectly sound abbreviation used, I could not quite believe that anyone would want to draw the derivation from the word 'microphone' into such stark relief: I was almost as amazed* as if someone had said to me that it had to be rendered thus, otherwise the unwary might be expecting (or fearing) that a candid man called Michael would be very frank with them**, and they would accordingly flock to (or abandon) the venue in droves.

In my view, this inadequacy of good explanation for something foolish equates to believing that, to avoid confusion, the term 'train station' is a necessary substitution for just 'station'. Besides which, it would follow that anyone called Mike would - because The Name Police would insist obedience or prosecution - have to start styling his name 'Mic', too, 'to throw up' that it shortens 'Michael'; similarly, anyone using the name Mick would have to prove that he had that name from when his birth had been registered, otherwise it would have to become Mich in written form.

Jack, too, should be outlawed, unless the bearer can show that he has borne that name since birth: it is a kid or pet name for John, and anyone called John should be called by that name***.
Oh, and, by the way, Norman Tebbit obviously urged the unemployed to get 'on your bic'!


* Possibly akin to the sense of the word in which the shepherds apprehended events 'on Bethlehem Down'.

** Either that, or - perhaps - a huge game of Operation with a patient called Mike.

*** As for Tobacco O'Rourke, well he's just beyond redemption!

Monday, 12 March 2012

Just call me Stetson!

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12 March

For some reason, as I headed to to-night's screening of Eraserhead (1977), I was thinking of accommodating people's wishes, as well as disabilities, at work - out of regard or respect for them.

Someone with whom I once worked, and who chose to be called what is best rendered as Sham (though it was not written that way), was effectively reminding one every time that the abbreviation used meant Fake - not too inapt, as it turned out. (I now know someone else whose choice of name also challenges me to think what can be behind selecting it.)

I went on to think that it would be o so tempting to tell people that I now wanted to be known, say, as Pencil*, and to seek to get them to do so - without explanation.

Or, failing that, without the real explanation**, but with some nonsense about William Penn, founding Pennsylvania and my family's origins being in the stationery business there...


* This was the strangely prescient part, in view of the film that I was about to see, with a scene involving the manufacture of pencils, by adding a rubber to the end.

** Although I can be sharp, I also get very blunt.

Sunday, 11 March 2012

A voice from my past

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11 March

It was a surprise to hear Paul Guinery on Radio 3 this afternoon.

Not that he hasn’t been around as a presenter in recent months (unless my mind / memory is playing tricks), but because he was on the air, this time, as a guest of Sean Rafferty’s on In Tune, talking about his CD, Delius and his Circle. In conversation with Sean, Paul talked about composers of piano music such as Percy Grainger and E. J. Moeran, and engagingly played some of their pieces.

Apart from hearing Paul reading the news and announcing of late, I had not known of him in years. Although I do not know when he stopped being a regular voice on Radio 3, I do recall corresponding with him* in the late 1980s, when it was my joy to be able to listen to the radio through headphones when I was at work, which must have been around the time that, for their participation in Comic Relief, I received a photograph of all the presenters with red noses on (and even a rather suggestively placed one for the microphone).

The topic of our exchange of letters was the abolition of the feature Book of the Week, which was essentially a resource for when - one way or another - there were minutes to spare, and then the link person could dip into that week's book and read aloud (as well as at other scehduled times).

A serendipity about it was appealing (to me, at least, and I am sure that Paul said that he missed its passing), and it led to my reading several Books of the Week on the strength of what I heard read. In one case, it was a biography of Thomas More, whose Utopia I already knew (in translation, since I believe that it was written in Latin), and I was also familiar with several images, one famous, in the National Portrait Gallery. Sadly, the only thing that I take from that book is (and I quote from memory):

Every man thinketh that his own shit smells sweet

Equally, another Paul, Paul Griffiths, whom I knew as a writer of books about music (including his Concise History of Modern Music (for Thames & Hudson), turned up as a guest of Ian McMillan on The Verb, talking about his 'labour of love', Let Me Tell You, which had taken years to write (although short):

Taking, essentially, as some sort of principle the notion that less is more, and that, by restricting the means available, one can challenge oneself and produce wonders (which is under the umbrella of what Oulipo**, short for Ouvroir de littérature potentielle, stands for), Paul limited himself to writing a novel about, broadly, Hamlet's story, but told from Ophelia's perspective, and only using the vocabulary of some 400 to 500 words that she has in all her lines in the Shakespeare play.

The result is powerful. Strange, too, but one soon loses the temptation to turn to the text of Hamlet and referee what this other Paul has done. When he talked about the endeavour on air, the inventiveness was patent, and he explained to his host Ian how, for example, the fact that Ophelia only uses the word 'father' (referring, of course, to Polonius) means that circumlocution is always involved in talking about Polonius' wife, Ophelia's mother, which he makes a feature of the book, and of Ophelia's (and Polonius') relations with her.

The words in Ophelia's vocabulary, though, have been used in any sense that they admit: so 'rue', from her famous garland, is not just a noun for a herb, but can appear as a verb, and that is only the simplest example of what has been done by Paul Griffiths in Let Me Tell You. If, as a reader, one knows the play reasonably well, one will be taken short from time to time at just how much has been done with such a small resource, and almost every chapter has a different feel to it, some of them, at the end (almost necessarily), being very dark.


* Memory being what it is, and my cat having propelled a pile of papers from off the shelf in 'the office' in such a way that the letter was uppermost, I can now say that Donald Macleod was, in fact, my correspondent: in his letter, added to a standard one dated 31 March 1989, he informed me that the Controller of Radio 3, John Drummond, had objected to having a Book of the Week on the basis that readings from it, in odd gaps, did not relate to the surrounding programmes.

It seems that Donald missed Book of the Week, too, but that the idea of having readings from diaries was that they would relate to the date of broadcast. (True, but Drummond does not seem to have realized that such readings had no more necessary relevance to the programmes being broadcast that day than an abritrary book, and I cannot say how long such readings lasted.)

** Curiously, on the Wikipedia® web-page for Oulipo, the list of members as at 2011 bears this qualification: Note that Oulipo members are still considered members after their deaths.