Corrections to the blogosphere, the consensus, and the world

Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Sir Leigh

It's a tough choice, but the low point of the Da Vinci Code just has to be the portrayal of Sir Leigh Teabing. At the outset Brown manages the quite difficult feat of finding a surname that has not only never existed in a thousand years of English surnames but appears unprecedented, even impossible, in any language. He then goes on, with the American tin ear for English status, to describe Teabing's home - "an exquisitely [well, that's just poor writing] adorned [ditto] drawing room, softly lit by tassel-draped Victorian lamps. The air inside smelt antediluvian [which Brown vaguely thinks means 'old' - Victorian, even], regal somehow, with traces of pipe tobacco, tea leaves, cooking sherry, and the earthen aroma of stone architecture. Against the far wall, flanked between two glistening suits of chain mail armour [incidentally, the preferred usage is 'chain mail'; mail armour' is redundant], was a rough-hewn fireplace large enough to roast an ox."

The crowning touch, though, has to be that 'cooking sherry'. Sir Leigh is a millionare, has pretensions to being an aristocrat, and he drinks COOKING SHERRY? There was once actually a kind of sherry that was labelled cooking sherry - it had salt in it, and the idea was to stop the servants glugging it down on the sly - but the term's now used to describe cheap sherry that's undrinkable except when masked by gravy. Not, on the whole, the preferred tipple of the upper crust.
It's all of a piece; Brown works on the basis of degraded memories of past stereotypes, conjuring a vague fog of associations that give a comforting background hum and the illusion of scenepainting.


Friday, June 25, 2004

Don Marquis

I said some while ago, somewhat repetitiously,
"Saw this in an anthology yearss ago and have since tried without success to find Marquis's other non-archy verse, but without success."
I hadn't tried very hard; it I had I would have found
For which much thanks.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Da Vinci Coding Error

I know that airport thrillers aren't held to a very high standard, but the Da Vinci Code is surely crappily written even for that. The first sentence - no, the first two words - no, the first word marks it as a clunker.
"Renowned curator...'
'Renowned' is a purely public word, used in obituaries and public speeches but never in interpersonal interaction. Its noun, 'renown'is now confined absolutely to historical romances. The word itself is used when the user wants to say 'famous' but dimly realises that this would be an obviously laughable exaggeration, and so picks a word that has less content but the same aura.
And "Renowned curator" is a particular example of a persistent weirdness about the book; the people involved are academic wet dreams, people who are celebrities for their work in obscure learned journals. Indiana Jones has a lot to answer for.


No, my memory failed me. Eisenstein was squashed when II was finished but before it was released and before shooting for III started - and died soon after, so couldn't have finished III anyway. But then, surely Stalin must have seen the II script before shooting? How did it get as far as it did if he didn't like it? Different faces for different times, I suppose; what was appropriate for a wartime leader wasn't right for a peacetime tyrant.

Stalinist Art

Looking at Eisenstein's script for Ivan the Terrible III. Great opera, certainly. But, like I and II, defending, hymning, the indefensible. "He shines transcendentally through all the blood he spills... He soars like God above a sea of blood; out of this blood he is founding a new cause;he is creating the Russian state."
As Ivan accuses his crony the oprichnik Basmanov of corruption, and then orders Basmanov's son to kill him, and on the son reentering the hall sees in his eye that Basmanov has corrupted him and orders him killed too...
Eisenstein must have thought, particularly after he'd got away with II, that this was the sort of thing Stalin wanted to hear; but no, he didn't want to be told that his atrocious cruelty was justified, he wanted to be told that he was a kindly old uncle and that all of these stories about seas of blood were libels. So we never got III, which is a tragedy.
Still, if anyone is worrying about antisemitism in Wagner's Ring, there's a much worse moral crux involved in liking and admiring Ivan. It's as if Wagner had made an oratorio out of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.
Which, incidentally, badly needs a revamp; the existing prints/videos/DVD's are really crappy.

Friday, June 18, 2004

Anime Mary

Jasus, Joseph, Mary and Fook, as the Irish say.

Thursday, June 17, 2004

Commonplace Book

On the Imprint of the First English Edition of The Works of Max Beerbohm

'London; John Lane, the Bodley Head
New York: Charles Scribner's Sons'
This plain announcement, nicely read,
Iambically runs.


At the recent Communities in Control conference at least one interesting suggestion was launched; that the rise in cynicism about and alientation from politics is linked to the rise in self-esteem among the general population. If I am terrific, and I am still not achieving my aims, then it must follow that merit is not important in modern life, and that illegitimate elements are polluting the division of rewards; and that means that the system stinks. Interesting, because there seems no real stopping-point to the process short of Somalia.

Monday, June 14, 2004

Commonplace Book

I sometimes think that I will
Quit going to dinner parties...
Why, oh why, did I get the notion last evening
That Mrs. Simpson's face was a slot machine
And that the macaroons were pennies?
Why, oh why, did I take her by the ears and shake her head
Back and forth when no chewing-gum
Dropped out of her double chin? Damn you, Mrs. Simpson, I said to her,
Shoving in another macaroon,
I'll see if you have any postage stamps, then!
I must, I really must,
Quit doing that sort of thing --
I could see that people were beginning
To wonder if I drink, or anything....
And then Mr. Simpson told me that if it wasn't
For embarrassing my wife still further
He would kick me into the street....
Oh, well, I said, don't you worry about my wife,
You go and get your own wife fixed
So she doesn't look like a slot machine
And we won't have any words....
I can always get the better of people in repartee
Like that, but somehow I am getting
Fewer and fewer invitations to dinner parties....
People think I drink, or something.

Don Marquis

Saw this in an anthology yearss ago and have since tried without success to find Marquis's other non-archy verse, but without success.


Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Commonplace book

“Every man for himself and God for us all”
as the elephant said when it danced among the chickens.

Commonplace book

I have laboured to make a covenant with my self, that affection may not press upon judgment; for I suppose there is no man that hath any apprehension of gentry or nobleness, but his affection stands to the continuance of so noble a name and house, and would take hold of a twig or twine-thread to uphold it: and yet time hath his revolution, there must be a period and end of all temporal things, finis rerum, an end of names and dignities, and whatever is terrene, and why not of De Vere ?

For where is Bohun ? where's Mowbray ? where's Mortimer ? &c. Nay, which is more and most of all, where is Plantagenet ? they are intombed in the urnes and sepulchres of mortality.

Crew CJ in Lord Willoughby of Eresby's Case (1625) W. Jones 96, 82 ER 50


Conference Today

In a minor change of plan, Monday’s event will open at 9.01 with Rhonda coming to the lectern and singing the following song, with the OC Chorus in the background:


To the tune of Sondheim’s “Comedy Tonight”

Something pathetic, something frenetic
Something for everyone: a Conference today
Something that’s boring, someone who’s scoring,
Something for everyone: a Conference today

Nothing with football, nothing with putters
Bring on the heros, liars and nutters
Old situations, new complications
Everything portentous and so gray -
Burnout tomorrow, Conference today.

Something convulsive, something repulsive
Something for everyone: a Conference today
Something to ponder, something from Rhonda,
Something for everyone: a Conference today

The weather is bleak, the AV’s antique,
The coffee was brewed in the previous week.
Joe Caddy and Denis, grumbles and menace,
Everywhere confusion and delay --
Step to the lectern, Conference today.

Someone exhorting, someone who’s rorting,
Someone for everything: a Conference today
Someone’s ungrateful, someone who’s hateful,
Someone for everything: a Conference today

Nothing from Latham, nothing from Doyle;
The opposition has gone off the boil.
Nothing too heated, much is repeated,
Your funding depends on what you say -
Start the projector, Conference today.

Promises and prayers, folk in wheelchairs,
Movers and shakers, flimflam and fakers,
Hypocrisy, plutocracy, philanthropy, misanthropy,
Errors, terrors, horses, courses,
Fliers, liars, subdued fires -

No silver bullet, no magic wand;
Very small frogs in a pretty small pond;
Goodness and badness, manifest madness
It’ll all be all right on the day -
Newsletters tomorrow, Conference today!


Tuesday, June 01, 2004

Don't Diss the Dean

Friedrich Hermann von Schönberg was born in Heidelberg in 1615. He fought on the Thirty Years War and after joining the Dutch army served in France until following the revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685 he was forced to leave and became Generalissimo of the Prussian army. In 1686 he advised William of Orange to go to Ireland, promising his support. Having failed to persuade his family to erect a monument to the Duke, Jonathan Swift penned the following inscription:

Beneath this stone lies the body of Frederick Duke of Schomberg, who was killed at the Boyne AD1690. The Dean and Chapter earnestly and repeatedly requested the Duke's heirs to undertake the erection of a monument in memory of their father. Long and often they pressed the request by letter and through friends. It was of no avail. At long last they set up this stone that at least you may know, stranger, where the ashes of Schomberg lie buried.

The renown of his value had greater power among strangers than had the ties of blood among his kith and kin.


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