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Monday, July 31, 2006

Brick Lane Protests

Production crew reported 'completely convinced' by Brick Lane residents' protest, drops plans for film of Monica Ali's novel in favour of 'fresh, dynamic, multicultural' adaptation of Brick Lane Traders' Association 'Curry House Certified Lice-Free' certificates.

Friday, July 28, 2006

You Me, Same

Liverpool's draw against Maccabi Haifa in the Champions' League Qualifier reminds me of their signing of the Israeli Avi Cohen in 1979. After training he approached Kenny Dalglish and said 'Me you, same.' The next day he did the same. 'Why?' asked Kenny. 'You me, same. Both learn English.'


'When a Mr Henry Budd died in 1862, he left the then almost Spellingesque sum of £200,000 in trust for his two sons on condition that neither ever grew a moustache.'

'At the end of the 17th century, the Earl of Stafford made the following bequest: "To the worst of women, Claude Charlotte de Grammont, unfortunately my wife, guilty as she is of all crimes, I leave five-and-forty brass halfpence, which will buy a pullet for her supper. A better gift than her father can make her; for I have known when having not the money, neither had he the credit for such a purchase; he being the worst of men, and his wife the worst of women in all debaucheries. Had I known their character I had never married their daughter, and made myself unhappy."'

'As one barrister (who wishes to remain anonymous) recalls. "I had one client, a fireman, who just wrote "To the perfetic [pathetic] woman what was once my wife I leave the sum of 1p which she can shove up her arse."'

Read more here.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

I Saw This Bloke

"I saw this policeman, he did this thing with his shoulders, puffed them out or something. Parked, got out, did the thing and went into this takeaway, the Asian Kitchen. As much as to say, spot of bother?, I hope you know what you’re getting into here sonny, let’s just step outside shall we. Unless he was hungry, have to eat on the job, bet he could murder an Asian right now, no offence, assuming having a bit of a laugh hasn't been banned yet by our friends in Brussels, some people got no sense of humour. Anyway, I was driving past and saw this policeman and he parked, shut the door and before he went in did this thing, this thing with his shoulders, that's all."

Tuesday, July 25, 2006


Derek Mahon explains in The Guardian how to get a job at Vogue: "My agent bumped into Beatrix Miller, the then editor, just when she was looking for a features editor. So I was sent, wearing a sweater and jeans as always, to this flat in Eaton Square, where she asked me what I thought would be the next big thing. For some reason I said 'dirigibles'. You know, airships. I said they'll come back. Beatrix Miller looked at me very strangely, but it obviously appealed to some Voguey sense of elegance and I got the job."

When Art Attacks

A piece of inflatable installation art in Durham has become detached from its moorings, killing two people.

We ask: should more be done prevent attacks on society by works of ‘art’? – and remember some notable dates in the history of ‘When Art Attacks’.

1323: the Synod of Cortona hastily reimposes the Catholic Church’s ban on the colour yellow after a premature liberalisation leads to rampaging yellow-toned Virgin Mary altar pieces in the streets of Naples.

1599: Caravaggio self-portrait found guilty of sexual harassment of Vatican altar boys and innovatively sentenced to ‘not hanging’ (Caravaggio retaliates with his Well Hung series of 1601, revolutionising modern painting-hanging techniques).

1898: Giant man-eating water lily, disgruntled at depiction in previous Impressionist canvas, conceals itself inside Monet impasto, smothers four.

1911: Cubist exhibition shut down after Juan Gris’s Man With Saxophone repeatedly pokes viewers in the shins with a pointed stick to soundtrack of badly out-of-tune jazz.

2003: Marina Abramovic’s ‘No One Leaves the Gallery Before They’ve Swallowed a Razor Blade’ exhibition runs into trouble when Tate Modern’s air conditioning fails and three people are hospitalized for heat exhaustion.

Thursday, July 20, 2006


Beckett fact no. 66.

President Eisenhower used to read his speeches, Gore Vidal said, with a genuine sense of surprise at their contents. I’ve always wondered whether the use of the Spanish upside-down exclamation mark compromises the surprise element of sentences that decide to end on a high note like this! ¡Because with the Spanish-style double marks you’ve already been told to be surprised from the start. (I left out the second exclamation mark there to emphasise my point.)

Beckett’s thoughts on the subject are unknown, but he did use the double exclamation mark in his one (portmanteau) word reply to Nancy Cunard’s Writers Take Sides on the Spanish Civil War: ¡UPTHEREPUBLIC!

Telegrams feature in Murphy, with the acathisiac Cooper cabling Neary with updates in the quest for Murphy: ‘FOUND STOP LOOK SLIPPY STOP COOPER’ and ‘LOST STOP STOP WHERE YOU ARE STOP COOPER’.

Which leaves the telegram Beckett sent The Times on 31 December 1983 in answer to a questionnaire asking writers for their hopes and resolutions for the coming year, and which you'll also find quoted in the letters page of this week's TLS:


Finally, was or wasn't Nancy Cunard George Moore's daughter? I've no idea. Send me a telegram if you know.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Israel at War

Relentless pounding of Israel’s western border continued today, rising to a climax at this afternoon’s 12.24pm high tide, fuelled by millennia of mutual distrust and animosity between land and sea. Though troops have yet to be diverted from the Lebanese border and Gaza strip, an Israeli air force spokesman confirmed the situation was under review and that gratuitous acts of provocation such as we had witnessed at today’s high tide, and yesterday, and the day before that for the last four billion years would not go unpunished and {snip}

Tuesday, July 18, 2006


Ali Farka Touré, Savane

Premier fils jamais égalé
Merci pour ce qui ne finira jamais, oui!

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Why Not Be A Writer?

'I am astonished that some crook has not had the idea of opening a writing school', said Arthur Cravan in 1914.

'Why not be a writer?' asks an ad for The Writers' Bureau, Cravan's prophetic vision of which obviously led to his despairing disappearance in 1918.

Where to start? Because I'm talentless, because I've never read any books, because I spend all day eating crisps and watching television, because I don't own a word processor and am functionally illiterate: will that do?

'Chris Fenn, Aberdeenshire' would disagree. He has a monthly column in four magazines and occasionally writes for health magazines too.

'Christina Jones, Oxfordshire''s 'first three novels are all best-sellers!' So she'd disagree too. Her life 'has changed completely.'

Asked for advice to would-be writers, Raymond Chandler said: 'I have done everything from giving would-be writers money to live on, to plotting and rewriting their stories for them, and so far I have found it all waste. The people whom God or nature intended to be writers find their own answers, and those who have to ask are impossible to help. They are merely people who want to be writers.'

People who want to be writers aren't writers, in other words. Writers are people who write. Wanting to or not doesn't come into it.

Finally, how long can it possibly take for a letter to be delivered? 'I was paid a £25,000 advance for my novel "Red"', says 'Jon Eagle, Essex'. 'I look forward to receiving my Certificate of Competence.' It says that on every ad for the Writers' Bureau I've seen. Maybe it isn't coming, Jon: maybe you've been had. Maybe you're not certifiably competent after all. Have you been writing without a licence? Expect a knock on the door any time soon.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Seán Ó Ríordáin

Do not feed the Irish speaker

Seán Ó Ríordáin (1916-77) has long been one of my favourite poets. I've always been struck by the similarities between him and Philip Larkin: both bald, mother-fixated bureaucrats, terrified of death, and publishing on average a book a decade. Except one is world-famous and the other is not. Which is sad, you might think, pondering the fragile but invaluable resources of minority literatures in our Anglophone world. Sad, but at least we have the choice, those of us lucky enough to read both languages.

Unless of course, like Richard Waghorne, you experience the survival of the Irish language as a personal insult to you and the taxes you'd rather use to buy complimentary pints for American soldiers stopping over in Shannon on their rendition flights.

Thinking about Ó Ríordáin gives me something to do in between puking all over the screen at the effusions of the chickenhawk, neocon and all-round moron Waghorne: 'The great works of Irish culture - all of them - are through English.' (Apart from the ones written not just in Irish, but Latin and French, I presume.) 'Joyce, Beckett, Wilde, and Shaw aren't just better known because they wrote in English, they're better known because the worked in the greater European literary traditions - and because they were better. There is no writer in the Irish language that anyone need bother reading if looking for Irish literary contributions - there are more than enough Irish writers in English of truly first-class stature without excavating a dead language for literary fossils.'

Oh, and Irish traditional music is all peasant bumfluff too.

'The great contributions of Irishmen and women were almost uniformly made through English or in the greater traditions of Western civilization. The Irish language embodies little of our true heritage and obscures the rest. We can do without it.'

Note how, despite its uselessness to Waghorne, this ragbag of 'culture' remains his to dispose of as he sees fit, 'obscuring' his view of his birthright (presumably the Henry Kissinger posters on his bedroom wall) like some kind of mangy old dog jumping up and down in front of the television, and which he can now take to the vet and have put down (because the real anger in his post is not that the Irish language is dead but the reverse: that it should be dead but isn't).

Here's the Ó Ríordáin poem, 'Reo', stretched out in the coffin of its original Irish, to mistranslate the last line into a language Waghorne understands, yet obstinately still alive:

Maidin sheaca ghabhas amach
Is bhí seál póca romham ar sceach,
Rugas air le cur im phóca
Ach sciorr sé uaim mar bhi sé reoite:
Ní héadach beo a léim óm ghlaic
Ach rud fuair bás aréir ar sceach:
Is siúd ag taighde mé fé m’intinn
Go bhfuaireas macasamhail an ní seo –
Lá dár phógas bean dem mhuintir
Is í ina cónra reoite, sínte.


A Muslim-only day is to be held at the Alton Towers amusement complex, with a ban on drinking and gambling (and non-Muslims), in order to 'improve integration' in the dangerously segregated climate of contemporary Britain, according to a spokesman for the Muslim Public Affairs Committee.

In a similar spirit of improved integration in Northern Ireland a 'Protestants only' and 'Catholics only' day has been organised for the Shankill and Falls Roads in Belfast. It will allow Protestants to enjoy the amenities of the Shankill, their pallet bonfires and Glasgow Rangers supporters club, in a relaxed and inclusive 'Protestants only' atmosphere, while on the Falls Catholics will be free to admire murals comparing Bobby Sands to Che Guevara, Albert Einstein, Dante, the Buddha and other notables from the rich history of Irish nationalism, all in an easygoing 'Catholics only' environment.

Sadly, the 'Protestants only' and 'Catholics only' event only lasts a day, but no one taking part could fail to be inspired by its spirit of tolerance and diversity. As the song says, Wouldn't it be great if it was like this all the time!

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Waves and Trees

The whole baroque façade edges its way
across the windows on the facing building,
the metalworks and moudlings intensely guilded
for minutes at a time by the odd sunray...

When I read this book I think of (among other things):

Rasputin-like young waiters inclining solemnly as they bring the Chinese white tea in a secretive tea-room somewhere near the river (the Vltava I mean, I’m talking about Prague here).

The museum of modern art, a giant, beached ocean liner.

The coins I threw down a well incongruously preserved in a café on the long climb up to the castle.

Banana beer.

Bohumil Hrabal in his cups selling the film rights to I Served the King of England to an American who’d bought him a drink, then doing so again to the next American who came in and did the same.

Melancholically civilised translations of Russian poetry into Czech, which I buy and cannot read.

The obstinate yet pleasurable survival of the white ankle-sock among female Praguers.

My views of the Jewish cemetery while taking a pee in the gents’ above the museum café beside Charles University.

A matchlit sugarcube committing death by fire in a glass of absinthe.

Rhyming the Czech letter ř and ‘urge’.

The clashing Celtic, Slavic, Gothic hordes of Dark Ages Europe, the armies of the Thirty Years War, all of these people inexplicably (and yet it makes perfect sense) reading the poetry of Wallace Stevens.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Jean-Marie Le Pen Wins 2006 World Cup

No I am not named after this Kevin Kilbane you speak of

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Ken Lay Dies

‘The president regards Mr Lay as an acquaintance. Lots of the president’s acquaintances have died.’ (White House spokesman on the death of Ken Lay)

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Accentual (cont.)

How-aï ze lads!

A Newcastle woman who is not this woman and has not come round from a stroke is devastated to find she speaks, not with a Jamaican, Canadian, or Slovakian accent, but like a Geordie, which, in fact, she is.


How-aï ze lads!

A Newcastle woman who has come round from a stroke is devastated to find she now speaks with a Jamaican, Canadian, or is it Slovakian accent, no one can quite work out which.

Monday, July 03, 2006


With the announcement of imminent talks between the Ugandan government and the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) a violent and unpredictable organisation responsible for tens of thousands of deaths in East-Central Africa in recent years, hopes are high that the African state will also soon enter discussions with the London Review of Books (LRB), a journal of leftist opinion marked by frequent contributions from Terry Eagleton, Tom Paulin and Patrick Cockburn. Relations between Uganda and the LRB have been described as 'fraught', with the state of newsagent distribution in the region a perennial sticking point.

It is unclear whether the LRA's new-found diplomatic ties with the Ugandan government will trump its long-standing alphabetic allegiance to the London fortnightly review, with a 10,000 word article by Slavoj Žižek on the subject due to appear in the next issue described by sources close to the Ugandans as 'unhelpful'.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

England Go Out

Sven leaves after second penalty to catch early sitting in dinky little Japanese restaurant he knows; England marks world cup exit with inconsolable yet measured collective, synchronised head-lowering and double thigh-slap; Steven McClaren reveals contents of touch-line notepad actually a lesbian detective novel set in Belgium; dressing room too afraid to tell Wayne Rooney England lose, preparations for staged fake semi-final begin.