Wednesday, December 31, 2008


The Nurk is a bird two inches long that has the power of speech but keeps referring to itself in the third person, such as, ‘He’s a great little bird, isn’t he?

Persian mythology holds that if a Nurk appears on the windowsill in the morning a relative will either come into money or break both legs at a raffle

Zoroaster was said to have received a Nurk as a gift on his birthday, although what he really needed was some gray slacks. The Nurk also appears in Babylonian mythology, but here he is much more sarcastic and is always saying, “Ah, come off it.”
Woody Allen (when he was funny).

One of the rarest birds in Cornwall is the Knocking Horselark. It has an artificial brown beard made of sedge, freckles on its belly, a wart under each wing, a small blue hat tied beneath the chin by a coastguard's bootlace, a Welsh overcoat fastening at the back with buttons made of crystallized suet, and little yellow pointed boots. Its square eyes differentiate it from the Marsh Horselark. Every time it whistles its boots fill with sand, and its long, low, undulating flight is accompanied by a strident knocking, like the sound made by a piece of iron repeatedly banging against the roof of a tram on a windy night in August near Appleby.
Beachcomber (who was always funny).

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Maxed Out

Much to my astonishment, one of the first Digitial IMAX screens in Europe has turned up at the work-a-day venue of the Odeon in Wimbledon.

Thus, the bomber and I trotted along there yesterday to catch Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa, "digitally re-mastered into the unparalleled image and sound quality of The IMAX Experience® through proprietary IMAX DMR® technology".

That and old Young, Dumb and full of Come's new "The Day the Earth Stood Still" are the only movies that seem to be showing in this new format, but I'm convinced enough by the giant screen to have decided to check it out regularly in future.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Providence and the Butler

In an ancient castle, trouble is brewing. His master’s son has got entangled with a showgirl. So the manservant is despatched to untie the knot... .........Read on, MacDuff ...
A long lost PG Wodehouse story was published in yesterday's Sunday Times, so though economically we may have felt for months past that "unseen, in the background, Fate was quietly slipping the lead into the boxing-glove," we can wallow in his prelapsarian fun and frolics again.

One year on from Pyelem G Vudhaus, Decembers seem to be turning into good months for the memory of the great man.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

As The Debate Rages .....

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Pope restates gay marriage ban after California vote.

SACRAMENTO, CA - Activists on both sides of the gay marriage debate were shocked this November, when a typographical error in California's Proposition 8 changed the state constitution to restrict marriage to a union between "one man and one wolfman," instantly nullifying every marriage except those comprised of an adult male and his lycanthrope partner. "The people of California made their voices heard today, and reaffirmed our age-old belief that the only union sanctioned in God's eyes is the union between a man and another man possessed by an ungodly lupine curse," state Sen. Tim McClintock said at a hastily organized rally celebrating passage of the new law. But opponents, including Bakersfield resident Patricia Millard—who is now legally banned from marrying her boyfriend, a human, non-wolfman male—claim it infringes on their civil liberties. "I love James just as much as a wolfman loves his husband," Millard said. "We deserve the same rights as any horrifying mythical abomination."

Prodnose: Frankenstein Meets The Wolf Man anyone?

Myself: Cursed with lycanthropy, Larry Talbot, (Lon Chaney), is searching for Dr. Frankenstein's missing diary to try and find a cure, but in Vasaria's ruined castle he discovers the Frankenstein monster, (Bela Lugosi), encased in ice and thaws him out. With scientist, Dr. Frank Mannering and Frankenstein's daughter Elsa, Talbot follows Frankenstein's notes, in the hope of completing a cure, but when the villagers discover that the monster is again on the prowl they blow up the dam and flood the castle while the Wolfman and the Frankenstein monster engage in a titanic battle.

Prodnose: They don't fall in love?

Myself: No, but never mind, for the 1943 film is set in the fictitious town of Llanwelly, Wales, with some references to Cardiff.

Prodnose: Hoorah! "Even a man who is pure in heart and says his prayers at night, may become a wolf when the wolfbane blooms and the autumn moon is bright..." boyo!

Myself: Free wheeling gibberish this, even by our own exalted standards. Remember the Penylan ghost?

Saturday, December 27, 2008

The Invisible World

I've decided to work through Harry Potter with the Bomber. I read him a little when he goes to bed on nights he stays with me, and we listen to Spephen Fry's peerless unabridged audio recordings on long car journeys like the trek to Wales.

We finished "The Philosopher's Stone" on our Christmas visit to the Principality so I logged on to Amazon this morning to get "The Chamber of Secrets" (noticing to my surprise that there is a Harry Potter store on the site) but - curses - the audio book was unavailable.

I managed to unearth it on, only to find that when I came to pay I was redirected back to Amazon for the transaction.

Amazon's ecosystem of services casts a long shadow. Digging around on the website I found the Fulfillment by Amazon proposition. It may not be practical for one off items like our auctions but I can dream. Imagine if we could hive off all the meatspace warehousing and fulfillment to Amazon as well as virtualising the software on Amazon Web Services. We could run the business from the beach on cashflow.

It's too bad that all these things, can only happen in my dreams
Only in dreams in beautiful dreams.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Olive Branch

I finally finished the bottle of Peace Oil that I got last Christmas yesterday. One bottle a year is probably a safe rate for consumption of olive oil.

This year Ben - via his mum - got me a bottle of Francis Coppola Diamond Collection Chardonnay. That won't last a year, in fact it is already gone. One bottle a year is probably a safe rate for consumption of wine, but I drank plenty of champagne and red yesterday as well.

She may not like me very much, but - when it comes to gifts - she does seem to know me pretty well.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Dancing Dan's Christmas

For the fourth consecutive Christmas I am sharing a Yule Yarn with you. This year, Damon Runyon takes a seat at the table with O Henry, Wilde and Dickens. Any appreciation should be shown directly to the his Cancer Research Foundation.

NOW one time it comes on Christmas, and in fact it is the evening before Christmas, and I am in Good Time Charley Bernstein's little speakeasy in West Forty-seventh Street, wishing Charley a Merry Christmas and having a few hot Tom and Jerrys with him.

This hot Tom and Jerry is an old time drink that is once used by one and all in this country to celebrate Christmas with, and in fact it is once so popular that many people think Christmas is invented only to furnish an excuse for hot Tom and Jerry, although of course this is by no means true.

But anybody will tell you that there is nothing that brings out the true holiday spirit like hot Tom and Jerry, and I hear that since Tom and Jerry goes out of style in the United States, the holiday spirit is never quite the same.

The reason hot Tom and Jerry goes out of style is because it is necessary to use rum and one thing and another in making Tom and Jerry, and naturally when rum becomes illegal in this country Tom and Jerry is also against the law, because rum is something that is very hard to get around town these days.

For a while some people try making Tom and Jerry without putting rum in it, but somehow it never has the same old holiday spirit, so nearly everybody finally gives up in disgust, and this is not suprising, as making Tom and Jerry is by no means child's play. In fact, it takes quite an expert to make good Tom and Jerry, and in the days when it is not illegal a good hot Tom and Jerry maker commands good wages and many friends.

Now of course Good Time Charley and I are not using rum in the Tom and Jerry we are making, as we do not wish to do anything illegal. What we are using is rye whisky that Good Time Charley gets on a doctor's prescription from a drug store, as we are personally drinking this hot Tom and Jerry and naturally we are not foolish enough to use any of Good Time Charley's own rye in it.

The prescription for the rye whisky comes from old Doc Moggs, who prescribes it for Good Time Charley's rheumatism in case Charley happens to get rheumatism, as Doc Moggs says there is nothing better for rheumatism than rye whisky, especially if it is made up in a hot Tom and Jerry. In fact, old Doc Moggs comes around and has a few seidels of hot Tom and Jerry with us for his own rheumatism.

He comes around during the afternoon, for Good Time Charley and I start making this Tom and Jerry early in the day, so as to be sure to have enough to last us over Christmas, and it is now along towards six o'clock, and our holiday spirit is practically one hundred per cent.

Well, as Good Time Charley and I are expressing our holiday sentiments to each other over our hot Tom and Jerry, and I am trying to think up the poem about the night before Christmas and all through the house, which I know will interest Charley no little, all of a sudden there is a big knock at the front door, and when Charley opens the door, who comes in carrying a large package under one arm but a guy by the name of Dancing Dan.

This Dancing Dan is a good-looking young guy, who always seems well-dressed, and he is called by the name of Dancing Dan because he is a great hand for dancing around and about with dolls in night clubs, and other spots where there is any dancing. In fact, Dan never seems to be doing anything else, although I hear rumors that when he is not dancing he is carrying on in a most illegal manner at one thing and another. But of course you can always hear rumors in this town about anybody, and personally I am rather fond of Dancing Dan as he always seems to be getting a great belt out of life.

Anybody in town will tell you that Dancing Dan is a guy with no Barnaby whatever in him, and in fact he has about as much gizzard as anybody around, although I wish to say I always question his judgment in dancing so much with Miss Muriel O'Neill, who works in the Half Moon night club. And the reason I question his judgment in this respect is because everybody knows that Miss Muriel O'Neill is a doll who is very well thought of by Heine Schmitz, and Heine Schmitz is not such a guy as will take kindly to anybody dancing more than once and a half with a doll that he thinks well of.

This Heine Schmitz is a very influential citizen of Harlem, where he has large interests in beer, and other business enterprises, and it is by no means violating any confidence to tell you that Heine Schmitz will just as soon blow your brains out as look at you. In fact, I hear sooner. Anyway, he is not a guy to monkey with and many citizens take the trouble to advise Dancing Dan that he is not only away out of line in dancing with Miss Muriel O'Neill, but that he is knocking his own price down to where he is no price at all.

But Dancing Dan only laughs ha-ha, and goes on dancing with Miss Muriel O'Neill anytime he gets the chance, and Good Time Charley says he does not blame him, at that, as Miss Muriel O'Neill is so beautiful that he will be dancing with her himself no matter what, if he is five years younger and can get a Roscoe out as fast as in the days when he runs with Paddy the Link and other fast guys.

Well, anyway, as Dancing Dan comes in, he weighs up the joint in one quick peek, and then he tosses the package he is carrying into a corner where it goes plunk, as if there is something very heavy in it, and then he steps up to the bar alongside of Charley and me and wishes to know what we are drinking.

Naturally we start boosting hot Tom and Jerry to Dancing Dan, and he says he will take a crack at it with us, and after one crack, Dancing Dan says he will have another crack, and Merry Christmas to us with it, and the first thing anybody knows it is a couple of hours later and we still are still having cracks at the hot Tom and Jerry with Dancing Dan, and Dan says he never drinks anything so soothing in his life. In fact, Dancing Dan says he will recommend Tom and Jerry to everybody he knows, only he does not know anybody good enough for Tom and Jerry, except maybe Miss Muriel O'Neill, and she does not drink anything with drugstore rye in it.

Well, several times while we are drinking this Tom and Jerry, customers come to the door of Good Time Charley's little speakeasy and knock, but by now Charley is commencing to be afraid they will wish Tom and Jerry, too, and he does not feel we will have enough for ourselves, so he hangs out a sign which says "Closed on Account of Christmas," and the only one he will let in is a guy by the name of Ooky, who is nothing but an old rumdum, and who is going around all week dressed like Santa Claus and carrying a sign advertising Moe Lewinsky's clothing joint around in Sixth Avenue.

This Ooky is still wearing his Santa Claus outfit when Charley lets him in, and the reason Charley permits such a character as Ooky in his joint is because Ooky does the porter work for Charley when he is not Santa Claus for Moe Lewinsky, such as sweeping out, and washing the glasses, and one thing and another.

Well, it is about nine-thirty when Ooky comes in, and his puppies are aching, and he is all petered out generally from walking up and down and here and there with his sign, for any time a guy is Santa Claus for Moe Lewinsky he must earn his dough. In fact, Ooky is so fatigued, and his puppies hurt him so much that Dancing Dan and Good Time Charley and I all feel very sorry for him, and invite him to have a few mugs of hot Tom and Jerry with us, and wish him plenty of Merry Christmas.

But old Ooky is not accustomed to Tom and Jerry and after about the fifth mug he folds up in a chair, and goes right to sleep on us. He is wearing a pretty good Santa Claus make-up, what with a nice red suit trimmed with white cotton, and a wig, and false nose, and long white whiskers, and a big sack stuffed with excelsior on his back, and if I do not know Santa Claus is not apt to be such a guy as will snore loud enough to rattle the windows, I will think Ooky is Santa Claus sure enough.

Well, we forget Ooky and let him sleep, and go on with our hot Tom and Jerry, and in the meantime we try to think up a few songs appropriate to Christmas, and Dancing Dan finally renders My Dad's Dinner Pail in a nice baritone and very loud, while I do first rate with Will You Love Me in December--As You Do in May? But personally I always think Good Time Charley Bernstein is a little out of line trying to sing a hymn in Jewish on such an occasion, and it causes words between us.

While we are singing many customers come tothe door and knock, and then read Charley's sign, and this seems to cause some unrest among them, and some of them stand outside saying it is a great outrage, until Charley sticks his noggin out the door and threatens to bust somebody's beezer if they do not go about their business and stop disturbing peaceful citizens.

Naturally the customes go away, as they do not wish their beezers busted, and Dancing Dan and Charley and I continue drinking along about bout midnight Dancing Dan wishes to see how he looks as Santa Claus.

So Good Time Charley and I help Dancing Dan pull off Ooky's outfit and put it on Dan, and this is easy as Ooky only has this Santa Claus outfit on over his ordinary clothes, and he does not even wake up when we are undressing him of the Santa Claus uniform.

Well, I wish to say I see many a Santa Claus in my time, but I never see a better looking Santa Claus than Dancing Dan, especially after he gets the wig and white whiskers fixed just right, and we put a sofa pillow that Good Time Charley happens to have around the joint for the cat to sleep on down his pants to give Dancing Dan a nice fat stomach such as Santa Claus is bound to have.

"Well," Charley finally says, "it is a great pity we do not know where there are some stockings hung up somewhere, because then," he says, "you can go around and stuff things in these stockings, as I always hear this is the main idea of a Santa Claus. But," Charley says, "I do not suppose anybody in this section has any stockings hung up, or if they have," he says, "the chances are they are so full of holes they will not hold anything. Anyway," Charley says, "even if there are any stockings hung up we do not have anything to stuff in them, although personally, " he says, "I will gladly donate a few pints of Scotch."

Well, I am pointing out that we have no reindeer and that a Santa Claus is bound to look like a terrible sap if he goes around without any reindeer, but Charley's remarks seem to give Dancing Dan an idea, for all of a sudden he speaks as follows:

"Why," Dancing Dan says, "I know where a stocking is hung up. It is hung up at Miss Muriel O'Neill's flat over here in West Forty-ninth Street. This stocking is hung up by nobody but a party by the name of Gammer O'Neill, who is Miss Muriel O'Neill's grandmamma, " Dancing Dan says. "Gammer O'Neill is going on ninety-odd," he says, "and Miss Muriel O'Neill told me she cannot hold out much longer, what with one thing and another, including being a little childish in spots.

"Now," Dancing Dan says, "I remember Miss Muriel O'Neill is telling me just the other night how Gammer O'Neill hangs up her stocking on Christmas Eve all her life, and," he says, "I judge from what Miss Muriel O'Neill says that the old doll always believes Santa Claus will come along one Christmas and fill the stocking full of beautiful gifts. But," Dancing Dan says, "Miss Muriel O'Neill tells me Santa Claus never does this, though Miss Muriel O'Neill personally always takes a few gifts home and puts them into the stocking to make Gammer O'Neill feel better.

"But, of course," Dancing Dan says, "these gifts are nothing much because Miss Muriel O'Neill is very poor, and proud, and also good, and will not take a dime off of anybody and I can lick the guy who says she will.

"Now," Dancing Dan goes on, "it seems that while Gammer O'Neill is very happy to get whatever she finds in her stocking on Christmas morning, she does not understand why Santa Claus is not more liberal, and," he says, "Miss Muriel O'Neill is saying to me that she only wishes she can give Gammer O'Neill one real big Christmas before the old doll puts her checks back in the rack.

"So, " Dancing Dan states, "here is a job for us. Miss Muriel O'Neill and her grandmamma live all alone in this flat over in West Forty-ninth street, and," he says, "at such an hour as this Miss Muriel O'Neill is bound to be working, and the chances are Gammer O'Neill is sound asleep, and we will just hop over there and Santa Claus will fill up her stocking with beautiful gifts.

"Well, I say, I do not see where we are going to get any beautiful gifts at his time of night, what with all the stores being closed, unless we dash into an all-night drug store and buy a few bottles of perfume and a bum toilet set is guys always do when they forget about their ever-loving wives until after store hours on Christmas Eve, but Dancing Dan says never mind about this, but let us have a few more Tom and Jerrys first.

So we have a few more Tom and Jerrys and then Dancing Dan picks up he package he heaves into the corner, and dumps most of the excelsior out of Ooky's Santa Claus sack, and puts the bundle in, and Good Time Charley turns out all the lights, but one, and leaves a bottle of Scotch on the table in front of Ooky for a Christmas gift, and away we go.

Personally, I regret very much leaving the hot Tom and Jerry, but then I'm also very enthusiastic about going along to help Dancing Dan play Santa Claus, while Good Time Charley is practically overjoyed, as it is the first time in his life Charley is ever mixed up in so much holiday spirit.

As we go up Broadway, headed for Forty-ninth Street, Charley and I see many citizens we know and give them a large hello, and wish them Merry Christmas, and some of these citizens shake hands with Santa Claus, not knowing he is nobody but Dancing Dan, although later I understand there's some gossip among these citizens because they claim a Santa Claus with such a breath on him as our Santa Claus has is a little out of line.

And once we are somewhat embarrassed when a lot of little kids going home with their parents from a late Christmas party somewhere gather about Santa Claus with shouts of childish glee, and some of them wish to climb up Santa Claus' legs. Naturally, Santa Claus gets a little peevish, and calls them a few names, and one of the parents comes up and wishes to know what is the idea of Santa Claus using such language, and Santa Claus takes a punch at the parent, all of which is no doubt astonishing to the little kids who have an idea of Santa Claus as a very kindly old guy.
Well, finally we arrive in front of the place where Dancing Dan says Miss Muriel O'Neill and her grandmamma live, and it is nothing but a tenement house not far back off Madison Square Garden, and furthermore it is a walk-up, and at this time there are no lights burning in the joint except a gas jet in the main hall, and by the light of this jet we look at the names on the letter boxes, such as you always find in the hall of these joints, and we see that Miss Muriel O'Neill and her grandmamma live on the fifth floor.

This is the top floor, and personally I do not like the idea of walking up five flights of stairs, and I am willing to let Dancing Dan and Good Time Charley go, but Dancing Dan insists we must all go, and finally I agree with him because Charley is commencing to argue that the right way for us to do is to get on the roof and let Santa Claus go down a chimney, and is making so much noise I am afraid he will wake somebody up.

So up the stairs we climb and finally we come to a door on the top floor that has a little card in a slot that says O'Neill, so we know we reach our destination. Dancing Dan first tries the knob, and right away the door opens, and we are in a little two- or three-room flat, with not much furniture in it, and what furniture there is, is very poor. One single gas jet is burning near a bed in a room just off the one the door opens into, and by this light we see a very old doll is sleeping on the bed, so we judge this is nobody but Gammer O'Neill.

On her face is a large smile, as if she is dreaming of something very pleasant. On a chair at the head of the bed is hung a long black stocking, and it seems to be such a stocking as is often patched and mended, so I can see that what Miss Muriel O'Neill tells Dancing Dan about her grandmamma hanging up her stocking is really true, although up to this time I have my doubts. Finally Dancing Dan unslings the sack on his back, and takes out his package, and unties this package, and all of a sudden out pops a raft of big diamond bracelets, and diamond rings, and diamond brooches, and diamond necklaces, and I do not know what else in the way of diamonds, and Dancing Dan and I begin stuffing these diamonds into the stocking and Good Time Charley pitches in and helps us. There are enough diamonds to fill the stocking to the muzzle, and it is no small stocking, at that, and I judge that Gammer O'Neill has a pretty fair set of bunting sticks when she is young. In fact, there are so many diamonds that we have enough left over to make a nice little pile on the chair after we fill the stocking plumb up, leaving a nice diamond-studded vanity case sticking out the top where we figure it will hit Gammer O'Neill's eye when she wakes up. And it is not until I get out in the fresh air again that all of a sudden I remember seeing large headlines in the afternoon papers about a five hundred-G's stickup in the afternoon of one of the biggest diamond merchants in Maiden Lane while he is sitting in his office, and I also recall once hearing rumors that Dancing Dan is one of the best lone-hand git-'em-up guys in the world. Naturally, I commence to wonder if I am in the proper company when I am with Dancing Dan, even if he is Santa Claus. So I leave him on the next corner arguing with Good Time Charley about whether they ought to go and find some more presents somewhere, and look for other stockings to stuff, and I hasten on home and go to bed. The next day I find I have such a noggin that I do not care to stir around, and in fact I do not stir around much for a couple of weeks. Then one night I drop around to Good Time Charley's little speakeasy, and ask Charley what is doing.

"Well," Charley says, "many things are doing, and personally," he says, "I'm greatly surprised I do not see you at Gammer O'Neill's wake. You know Gammer O'Neill leaves this wicked old world a couple of days after Christmas," Good Time Charley says, "and," he says, "Miss Muriel O'Neill states that Doc Moggs claims it is at least a day after she is entitled to go, but she is sustained," Charley says, "by great happiness in finding her stocking filled with beautiful gifts on Christmas morning.

"According to Miss Muriel O'Neill," Charley says, "Gammer O'Neill dies practically convinced that there is a Santa Claus, although of course," he says, "Miss Muriel O'Neill does not tell her the real owner of the gifts, an all-right guy by the name of Shapiro leaves the gifts with her after Miss Muriel O'Neill notifies him of finding of same.

"It seems," Charley says, "this Shapiro is a tender-hearted guy, who is willing to help keep Gammer O'Neill with us a little longer when Doc Moggs says leaving the gifts with her will do it.
"So," Charley says, "everything is quite all right, as the coppers cannot figure anything except that maybe the rascal who takes the gifts from Shapiro gets conscience-stricken, and leaves them the first place he can, and Miss Muriel O'Neill receives a ten-G's reward for finding the gifts and returning them. "And," Charley says, "I hear Dancing Dan is in San Francisco and is figuring on reforming and becoming a dancing teacher, so he can marry Miss Muriel O'Neill, and of course," he says, "we all hope and trust she never learns any details of Dancing Dan's career."
Well, it is Christmas Eve a year later that I run into a guy by the name of Shotgun Sam, who is mobbed up with Heine Schmitz in Harlem, and who is a very, very obnoxious character indeed.
"Well, well, well," Shotgun says, "the last time I see you is another Christmas like this, and you are coming out of Good Time Charley's joint, and," he says, "you certainly have your pots on."
"Well, Shotgun," I says, "I am sorry you get such a wrong impression of me, but the truth is," I say, "on the occasion you speak of, I am suffering from a dizzy feeling in my head."

"It is all right with me," Shotgun says. "I have a tip this guy Dancing Dan is in Good Time Charley's the night I see you, and Mockie Morgan, and GunnerJack and me are casing the joint, because," he says, "Heine Schmitz is all sored up at Dan over some doll, although of course," Shotgun says, "it is all right now, as Heine has another doll.

"Anyway," he says, "we never get to see Dancing Dan. We watch the joint from six-thirty in the evening until daylight Christmas morning, and nobody goes in all night but old Ooky the Santa Claus guy in his Santa Claus makeup, and," Shotgun says, "nobody comes out except you and Good Time Charley and Ooky.

"Well," Shotgun says, "it is a great break for Dancing Dan he never goes in or comes out of Good Time Charley's, at that, because," he says, "we are waiting for him on the second-floor front of the building across the way with some nice little sawed-offs, and are under orders from Heine not to miss."

"Well, Shotgun," I say, "Merry Christmas."

"Well, all right," Shotgun says, "Merry Christmas."

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Adeste Fideles

I'm still having fun with Jacobitism. Today's fun is seaonal fun as an academic has claimed that the popular carol O Come All Ye Faithful was originally a coded rallying call for Catholic supporters of Bonnie Prince Charlie.

Professor Bennett Zon, head of music at Durham University, said the Latin version of the song, Adeste Fideles, celebrated the birth not of Jesus but of the prince.

He said: "There is far more to this beloved song than meets the eye.

"Fideles is Faithful Catholic Jacobites. Bethlehem is a common Jacobite cipher for England, and Regem Angelorum is a well-known pun on Angelorum, angels, and Anglorum, English.

"The meaning of the Christmas carol is clear:

'Come and Behold Him, Born the King of Angels' really means, 'Come and Behold Him, Born the King of the English' - Bonnie Prince Charlie!"

These are deep waters, Watson. "Even today, some Highland clans and regiments pass their drink over a glass of water during the Loyal Toast — to the King Over the Water. "

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

King Frank

Gordon Brown is considering repealing the 1701 Act of Settlement as a way of healing a historic injustice by ending the prohibition against Catholics taking the throne.

But doing so would have the unforeseen consequence of making a 74-year-old German aristocrat the new King of England and Scotland.

Without the Act, Franz Herzog von Bayern, the current Duke of Bavaria, would be the rightful heir to the British Crown under the Stuart line.

The bachelor, who lives alone in the vast Nymphenberg Palace in Munich, is the blood descendant of the 17th-century King Charles I.

It is an odd time - what with one thing and another - for me to be entertaining Jacobite sympathies, but the logic seems sound and agreeably mischievous.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Author? Author!

Now a thousand years old Japan's "The Tale of Genji" may be the first modern novel, and yet ...
It took until the 20th century before a complete English-language version appeared. Arthur Waley, a Cambridge classicist who taught himself Japanese and Chinese, produced the first English translation in six instalments between 1925 and 1933. Waley was much more interested in readability than fidelity. He sped up the plot, cut long descriptive scenes and the occasional entire chapter. He clarified many of the sentences, added psychological background to the characters and westernised the Japanese architecture. The result was a prose masterpiece, though one which modern scholars prefer to call an adaptation rather than a translation.

Lytton Strachey, a neighbour of Waley’s, considered his translation “beautiful in bits”, but the reaction from Japan was much warmer. Even if Waley’s Japanese noblemen sound a little like early-20th-century Cambridge undergraduates, one contemporary Japanese writer famously declared that the Englishman had breathed life into a work that had been tottering around like a headless corpse. Indeed, Waley’s stature in Japan is such that Heibonsha, another publisher, recently released a retranslation of Waley’s “Genji” back into Japanese. “Even in the modern-language versions of ‘Genji’, the majority of Japanese readers don’t make it much past the opening chapters,” explains Takao Hoshina, an editor at Heibonsha. “Waley’s is the most accessible version for us too.”
Casting my bread upon the waters, I float this story back to Sean - connoisseur, curator, theoretician and defender of authorship - on the occasion of the tenth anniversary third edition of his major critical study. (I'm in the acknowledgments don'cha know.)

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Saturday, December 20, 2008

The Eureka Moment

My new dramatic poem for two voices:
A waistcoat for a mouse!
A waistcoat for a mouse?
A waistcoat! What? A waistcoat? Yes!
A waistcoat for a mouse.
Myself (triumphantly): A waistcoat for a mouse!
Prodnose (unconvinced): A waistcoat for a mouse?
Myself (still elated): A waistcoat!
Prodnose (mulishly): What? A waistcoat?
Myself (frustration overcoming natural bonhomie): Yes! A waistcoat for a mouse!

Friday, December 19, 2008

It pays to increase your word power

Gwarlingo: Welsh description of the sound of a grandfather clock before it strikes.

Kati-kehari: Hindi meaning to have the waist of an elegant lion.

Nosom Para Oblake: Serbian for "he is ripping clouds with his nose", describing someone conceited.

Traer la lengua de corbata: Latin American Spanish for to be exhausted - literally, to have your tongue hanging out like a man's tie

Sjostygg: Norwegian for someone so ugly the tide refuses to come in if they stand on the shore.

Lolo: Hawaiian for someone who would gladly give you the time if only they could read a clock.

Chantepleurer: French for singing at the same time as crying.

And one for skiing next year:

Du kannst mir gern den buckel runterrutschen und mit der zunge bremsen: Austrian for "go to hell" – literally "You can slide down my hunchback using your tongue as a brake".

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Fame at Last

We've been on the BBC and in the broadsheets, and now we've made The Sun in BUNGLING COPS SELL KNIVES ON THE INTERNET ........ and, 'I would have gotten away with it, if it wasn't for you pesky kids!'

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Saint Mr. Nicholas

I'm reading The Power of Babel: A Natural History of Language
The name began in Dutch as Sant Heer Niclaes, Saint Mr. Nicholas - in other words, St Nicholas, Pronounced as often as it was, it shortened to Santerclaes and eventually was reinterpreted in English as "Santa Claus".

So now you know.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Ngan Sin La Pa Gam

Muay Thai has moved from Colliers Wood to Morden. Here's a photo of how the installation of the Bomber's painting evolved over the two years before the old venue shut. Here is a link for the sentimental. A weblog is a memory machine.

Monday, December 15, 2008


Amazon - without fanfare - have launched a UK MP3 Download store. They say that millions of songs and albums are available, they are cheap, and there is no DRM at all. We are a long way from the Napster controversies of the early part of the decade.

I'm quite impressed with the song recommendations Amazon automatically cooks up based on my previous purchases.

Here - as a test of what it can do for associates - is a link to "Dignity" by Deacon Blue; the song I hate most in all the world.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Neural Buddhists

Four from David Brooks:
First, the self is not a fixed entity but a dynamic process of relationships. Second, underneath the patina of different religions, people around the world have common moral intuitions. Third, people are equipped to experience the sacred, to have moments of elevated experience when they transcend boundaries and overflow with love. Fourth, God can best be conceived as the nature one experiences at those moments, the unknowable total of all there is
Five from Theodore Dalrymple; reasonableness, honour, stoicism, fair-mindedness, civility and courteousness.
He believes that man is a fallen creature and so is dismissive of the idea of perfection or utopian thinking of any kind. He is unmoved by Marxism, or indeed any other ideological system that posits causation by abstract social forces. For Dalrymple, the locus of moral concern falls on personal behaviour rather than on social structure, and he is caustic about any notion that negates the idea of personal responsibility, or that suggests that we are simply passive victims of our environment. And unlike so many of the intelligentsia, he is ever mindful that, in this world at least, we do not get something for nothing: Improvement usually comes at a cost. Ideas that arise from the very best of intentions often result in disastrous social consequences.
Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Do the needful

I work a lot with colleagues in Bangalore, and - as we have been heads down in the familiar drudgery of completing a project - one of them has taken to emailing asking me to "do the needful" if I need to contribute to crossing an oustanding action off our list.

I googled it.
"Do the needful" is a phrase which means "do that which is necessary", and carries the respectful implication that the other party is trusted to understand what needs doing without being given detailed instruction. It is commonly used in India and Pakistan and widely attributed as an Indianism.
How marvelous. I seem to get on very well with Indians for some reason.

I remembered when Bombay was attacked that I had learned of the 7/7 bombings in London when someone from Bangalore asked me if I was OK via Microsoft Messenger as I sat in SW19 unaware that anything was going on.

Many Indians acted with sublime courage during the terror. Michael Pollack has a harrowing but inspiring story to tell... more. There were many other heroes as well.

We are all New Yorkers now.
We are all Balinese now.
We are all Madridleanos now
We are all Londoners now.
We are all Mumbaikers now.
..... almost certainly to be continued.

Friday, December 12, 2008


Insofar as the term is used of people living today, recusant tends to be applied, as a term of pride, by the descendants of continuously Roman Catholic English gentry and peerage families.
The Howard family who are the longstanding Dukes of Norfolk, are the most prominent recusant family in England.
Other Recusant families include Ainscough, Arden of Longcroft, Throckmorton, Cary-Elwes, Coates, Gillibrand, Berkeley (of Spetchley), De Lisle (or de Lisle), Scrope (of Bolton), Weld, Weld-Blundell (or Weld Blundell), Ward, Holman, Fitzherbert (of Swynnerton), Fitzherbert-Brockholes, De Trafford (or de Trafford), Trappes-Lomax (Trappes of Nidd), Stourton, Vavasour, Clifford (of Chudleigh) - but only from conversion in 1673 -, Bedingfeld, Petre (some branches), Scarisbrick (some branches), Stukley (also spelled as Stucley, Stukely, Stukeley), Swarbrick, Talbot, Hornyold, Towneley and Stonor, as well as branches of non-wealthy families with such surnames as Pope, Payne, Wilson, Young, Simpson, Blount, Jerningham, and Turner, among others.

Shades of Brideshead, what wonderful names! I only wish I knew how to pronounce half of them. I wish I knew how to pronounce recusancy for that matter. Norman St John-Stevas would know.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Atlantic Crossing

Amazon launched a new EC2 region located in Europe yesterday: "With the exception of support for Microsoft Windows and for Amazon DevPay (both of which will be ready before too long), every feature of EC2 is available in the new region".

As noted here many times
I would love to move our auction site into the cloud and get away from the need to own and manage the iron it runs on and to be able to respond dynamically to peak loads like the rush we got when it was featured on BBC One.

This looks like the way to do it, but I can't see us getting the time to kick its tyres until March 2009.

(I also wanna play with when and if I get five minutes free.)

Wednesday, December 10, 2008


Sean contributed a story about a flawed stoic and a devil moving implacably to perdition on the Horn of Africa to the second edition of a bi-annual anthology short story collection called Riptide.

He generously inscribed a copy for me when I was in Wales a while back, and I've started working my way through the rest of the book every other day when I do half an hour on the recline bike in the gym.

I'm enjoying it more than I thought I would. Luke Kennard's story is hilarious; one to watch.
Luke Kennard is an award-winning poet, critic and short-fiction writer. He works as a research student and assistant teacher at the University of Exeter. He is an award-winning man. His first award-winning collection of prose poems "The Solex Brothers" was published by Stride Books in 2005 and won an award. He has worked as regional editor for "Succour", a biannual journal of poetry and short fiction based at the University of Sussex and as an associated reader for "The Kenyon Review". He is currently reviews editor of "Exultations and Difficulties". His award-winning poetry has appeared in numerous print and on-line journals. He exists in a permanent state of award-winning; he is like a giant magnet for awards or, if awards are moths, a giant light.His award-winning work for the stage has been written with and performed by the theatre company Pegabovine in Bristol, Birmingham, London, Scarborough (as part of the National Student Drama Festival, 2003 and 2004, wherein it won an award) and at the Edinburgh International Fringe (wherein it did not win an award).

"The Sunday Times" described their work as 'wit of a different order', but did not specify which one. "Chortle magazine" described it as 'delightful' - which is probably less equivocal. He is constantly decorated for his achievements in the form of awards - which he has won, does win and will continue to win, because he is a winner. What a guy. Luke Kennard is tall, nervous, polite and frequently scorches the end of his nose.He was educated at Holyrood Community School and the University of Exeter. He is married and lives in Devon, birthplace of the memorial bench. Essentially a lower-middle class purist, his favourite canape is the cocktail sausage roll. He will probably have rosettes and medals incorporated into his gravestone, somehow. Luke Kennard, award-winner, won an Eric Gregory Award from the Society of Authors in 2005. This has been described as a travesty and a slap in the face for writers of genuine talent. Ever since he has been forced to travel under a false name and wear nose-moustache-glasses for fear of being assaulted by embittered poets, young and old. I suppose he could just smash them in the head with one of his awards.

He was received by the Orthodox church in 2006 and is working on his humility.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Tim Berners-Lee

To whom it may concern,

Tim Berners-Lee, on of Time's 100 Most Important People of the 20th Century, invented the World Wide Web.

The reason I wrote that sentence will probably emerge in February.

Yours enigmatically,


Monday, December 08, 2008

Virtual Bumblebee

We've got a Virtual Bumblebee video on YouTube, but there is also this one which is made with the intriguing ARToolKit.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

The Age of Innocence and Experience

I presented the bomber with a laptop on the occasion of his eighth birthday at the end of September; it's interesting to watch someone grow up in this information age.

It was fun to try and explain to him and a similarly uncomprehending cousin that there was no wireless Internet access at Grandma's. They just couldn't imagine such a thing. "What I want to show him is on YouTube, not on the Internet," offered Isaac helpfully.

Ben has taken to the BBC IPlayer - and to the live streaming - like a duck to water and his music is stored on PC, so the box is becoming his personal TV, DVD player, stereo, and games console. He's getting a digital camera for Christmas, so it will be his scrapbook then as well.

I realise we appreciate this intellectually, but it is quite something to see it in the wild with someone so young. (A trivial thought: perhaps I should get him a remote control for it?)

Also if I hear that "the BBC is working on a major update to its iPlayer media download service that will see it integrate Microsoft’s Live Mesh technology alongside audio and video content," personally I am filled with inertia.

The notion that “we will be able to add seamless access to iPlayer content between the desktop and mobile device with all the same recommendations and the ability to pick up playing on one where you left off on the other, " makes me yawn yet I can imagine him using it; possibly pausing something he is watching to share it with a friend, or bringing it up on another screen in a different room for me to see.

I ruthlessly exploit him a free consultant.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Neo Nosey

Movember references having tried my patience, my top lip has finally cleared up enough for me to shave off my moustache.

I must confess however to shaving the sides off first for an "I wonder what I would look like as Hitler?" moment in the bathroom and a quick "Heil Me!" salute to the mirror before the centre patch of hair was dispatched.

The banality of evil, or the evil of banality?

Friday, December 05, 2008


"One or more persons obscuring or augmenting any part of their body or bodies with record sleeve(s) causing an illusion". It started in Cardiff you know.

Party in Swansea a week today.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

International News

A walrus has become a star attraction with visitors at a zoo by learning to play the saxophone.
Money quote: "Wetsuit-clad Russian trainer Sergiy has also taught her to strike a nonchalant pose, leaning on a work top with one flipper under her chin and looking bored."

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Local News

A pensioner collapsed at Twickenham stadium while he watched England play rugby with his grandson
Myself: No wonder he was distressed, they should have used a ball.
Prodnose: Ho, ho, very satirical

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Hit the biscuit

Google is set to launch a new version of its omnipresent search engine that will question the cultural validity of people’s enquiries. Rather than instantly offering a comprehensive list of the most popular websites and images related to the keywords, the new version will offer its opinion on the subject of the enquiry and if it finds the request to be intellectually vacuous, will steer the user clear of the original search altogether.

Monday, December 01, 2008

P is for ....

Penguin, a compound of two Welsh words, pen and gwyn, which mean ''head" and ''white" - even though penguins have black heads. It is likely that 'penguin' was at one time the name of similar, now extinct bird which had a white patch near its bill.
Hat tip: "Award-winning etymologist Henry Hitchings".

All together now ......

Just you wait, 'enry 'itchin's, just you wait!
You'll be sorry, but your tears'll be too late!
You'll be broke, and I'll have money;
Will I help you? Don't be funny!
Just you wait, 'enry 'itchin's, just you wait!