Corrections to the blogosphere, the consensus, and the world

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Well, I know what I'm having for xmas dinner this year.

* The North Korean leader inherited his father's fear of flying. Kim Jong-il preferred to travel by train and took his luxury carriages all the way to Moscow in 2001, when he reportedly had roast donkey and fresh lobsters flown to him every day.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Palin shits

I really should get one, but the problem is that it's not terribly like. I would have to explain who it is as well as what it is, which would cruel the joke, such as it was.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Step by Step

I mean, if someone wrote to you to say "the status of the phone-hacking case is as bad as we feared" wouldn't you conclude too that it was just spam and hit delete?

I can remember once confronting - at Lincoln, this was - someone who'd dropped a note in my pigeonhole complaining that they hadn't been consulted on something.
"You should have come to the meeting that was about exactly this," I said.
"Nobody told me," she said.
"We sent out notices," I said.
"I didn't get one," she said.
"I shoved it under your door," I said.
"I've only got your word for that," she said.
"You wrote your note to me on the back of it," I said.

It's not often you get a score like that. But Murdoch is getting there.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

I rather wish we would spy on America, mind

Martin Perez, in the New Republic:
There is at least one more obsession of the Israeli right (and of the religious right, as well) which rankles me. It is the case of Jonathan Pollard which has reverberations in the United States. Before spying for Israel, Pollard committed espionage for Australia and Pakistan and had some obscure tie to the People’s Republic of China. For all of this he received remuneration.

Quick wikicheck:

During the course of the Pollard trial, Australian authorities reported the disclosure of classified American documents by Pollard to one of their own agents, a Royal Australian Navy officer who had been engaged in a personnel-exchange liaison program between the U.S. and Australian Navies.[26] The Australian officer, alarmed by Pollard's repeated disclosure of NOFORN data to him, reported the indiscretions to his chain of command which in turn recalled him from his position in the U.S., fearing that the disclosures might be part of a "CIA ruse."[26] Confronted with this accusation after entering his plea, Pollard only admitted to passing a single classified document to the Australian; later, he changed his story, and claimed that his superiors ordered him to share information with the Australians.

That is, he didn't spy for Australia, and he certainly wasn't paid to spy for Australia, and Perez is wildly wrong (a sentence that should be left in type to save time).

Wednesday, December 07, 2011


From the High court last month

Mr. Justice Heydon
According to Griffith CJ, "The law is always certain, although no one may know what it is."

It came up in the course of a high court decision saying that the common law rule that wives cannot be compelled to give evidence against their husbands -
"the law will not suffer a wife to be a witness for or against her husband, to preserve the peace of families"

that I had always thought was settled law (and can remember providing the bulk of the plot in several Agatha Christies) had in fact never existed at all, being traced back to a few lines in the judgement in R v The Inhabitants of All Saints, Worcester, a somewhat ambiguous decision concerning which parish was responsible for particular poor law recipients in 1817 that involved, along the way, finding out whether the man Alice was living with was a bigamist (because if so the parish could tell Alice to go off and batten on another parish) and whether they could go ask Alice.

Which does, I have to say, mean that the drive for gay marriage has lost most of its point.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Is there no steepness in the stairs to hell?

The Herald-Sun is plumbing new depths:

Boat people in our suburbs

Jessica Marszalek and Simon Benson November 26, 2011 12:00AM

THOUSANDS of asylum seekers are expected to flood the suburbs as the Federal Government rolls out bridging visas allowing boat people to live and work in the community and collect welfare.

Immigration Minister Chris Bowen has handed out the first bridging visas for 27 men, mostly Afghans and Sri Lankans, whose refugee claims are being assessed.

Mr Bowen said the men would be released from detention centres, including Melbourne, in coming days - with 100 a month to follow.

It comes as a secret government briefing note seen by the Herald Sun suggests thousands of boat people will soon be transferred into the community.

The NSW Government note reports a warning by the Immigration Department this week that arrivals will balloon when word spreads that asylum seekers arriving by boat are no longer to be held in detention.

"Once it is widely known that IMAs will live in the community while being processed, the level of entries into Australia are very likely to escalate," the note said.

Flood? FLOOD? At 1200 per year for Australia that's fewer than ten per electorate, two to a municipality, half a refugee to a POSTCODE, dammit. And most postcodes run to several suburbs. Hardly a drizzle, even with clumping.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thes ridiculus

From an old THES:

What's your poison?

4 October 2002

A novel nomination in the search for outstandingly obscure journals has arrived. Chris Borthwick, a journal editor for the Australian VicHealth organisation, writes: "My nomination would be the Journal of Conspiracy Studies mentioned in a work by Thomas Pynchon; he referenced an article from it with the footnote: 'Unfortunately, back files of this journal have mysteriously disappeared from all major libraries.' Even more suspicious, a rapid riffle through all my Pynchons has failed to come up with the actual quotation."

Meanwhile, two entries have been disqualified. The Journal of Bee Venom Therapy is a personal diary rather than an academic journal, while Esperanto Sub La Suda Kruco is simply the newsletter of the Esperanto association of Australia.

To submit an entry, send pertinent information to or marca@ . They are also looking for a Japanese translator to enable them to contact the publishers of the Journal of Fish Sausage .

Can't find it on Google, either. Proof positive.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Perhaps he could be Robin to Palin's Batman

HERMAN CAIN:: What? Over? Did you say "over"? Nothing is over until we decide it is! Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? Hell no!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Grammar: good servant, bad master

Sexual side to push on equality
(Australian, 4/11/11)
Took me some while to work out that I couldn't join the sexual side.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Miss GG

Demme. Mississippi has a Governor-General. An elected office, evidently. Presumably it's the Governor - but they do say Governor-General. And a GG, one would think, would have to have a couple of Governors under him, and it's hard to see where they'd come from in Mississippi.

Unless it's like being an archbishop, of course.

Doesn't score in the Constitution. Just 'Governor'.

By George, I've got it

When Herman Cain refers to
"the one thing that I remember" is the "you're the same height as my wife, because my wife comes up to my chin" bit

it's the dialogue for a scenario where he puts his hand over her head and presses down slightly.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Speaking of medals

There's a tiny fuss in the US because one rightwinger has put out a Support-Our-Troops flyer with a picture of a Soviet officer -

Mind you, it's perfectly appropriate to thank one of the veterans of the Great Patriotic War: they saved enough American troops (if that was your goal) to justify any benisons. And if they were at the same time supporting Stalinism, that just brings up the issue of whether soldiers are responsible for the crimes of their masters; which would raise other questions in an American context.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Dear Dead Days

The British Empire Medal (BEM), which was awarded as part of the Queen's Honours system to British citizens making a difference in their communities until 1992, will be reintroduced in the Diamond Jubilee Honours list in June next year.
Associated with the Order of the British Empire (OBE), the BEM was established in the same year, 1917, and was once known as "the working class gong". It was originally split into two medals - one for exceptional civil service, and one for military gallantry and was awarded to those who did not qualify to be made a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE).

Do you suppose Austria still hands out the Austro-Hungarian Empire Medal?

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Age bin - refugees

If any Australian government genuinely wanted to reduce the number of refugees who drown on the way here, it could easily do so. Refugees come here in unseaworthy boats because the boats are confiscated and burnt when they arrive, which means that passage money has to cover the whole cost of the boat, which means they can’t afford much in the way of waterproofing and lifebelts (if all airline flights were incinerated on landing we’d all be flying in cheaper and more rickety planes). If Indonesian fishermen got their boats back the refugees would be up only for rental costs and thus could afford a much safer class of boat. Children are drowning because it’s Australia’s deliberate policy; we would rather they died than that we ran the risk of encouraging more boats.

Monday, October 24, 2011

He's trying hard, but nobody will ever replace Palin in my heart

In an interview with PARADE Magazine, Perry said that he recently met with Donald Trump and discussed the issue. Perry stated that he doesn’t “have a definitive answer” on whether Obama was born in the United States or “any idea” if Obama’s birth certificate is real. Here’s the transcript:

Governor, do you believe that President Barack Obama was born in the United States?
I have no reason to think otherwise.

That’s not a definitive, “Yes, I believe he”—
Well, I don’t have a definitive answer, because he’s never seen my birth certificate.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Age bin - Afghanistan drugs

In wartime, you have to cut your allies a little slack. In WWII, for example, one consequence of being allied with Stalin against the Nazis was that we had to agree to stop prosecuting communists. Now that we’re allied with Afghan druglords like Ahmed Karzai against the Taliban it would seem only consistent to stop prosecuting poor bastards like the special forces soldier who OD’d (Digger hero may face charges, 21//10/11). Trying to fight two wars simultaneously may explain why we’re losing both of them so badly.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

New puritanism

I'll be damned.

Figures here from longrunning survey.

Adultery, at least in the US, is becoming less acceptable, not more.

Having always been more on the drink-of-water side of the argument myself I find the belief mildly odd in itself; having always been vaguely of the belief that more casual sex was associated with the progressive agenda I find it odd that the stigma hasn't fallen away in the same manner as, say, condemning homosexuality as always wrong.

Having myself committed adultery on every possible occasion (a fairly small number, I have to say, my beliefs on this matter being a good deal less relevant than those of the other prospective parties) I find this almost inexplicable.

What this says, of course, is that I see it as an issue of religious belief and that other people see it as an issue of human relationships, not to say personal authenticity.

Damn partially retracted

My letter did get up, this time, with only minor (though disruptive) cuts (replaced, from memory, in italic).
Irrelevant act

A judge has said that "Swearing evidence under oath was fundamental to the administration of criminal justice". Nonsense.

AUSTRALIA is a secular country, and all that is required of a legal statement is that there be criminal sanctions for its breach. Having your hand on a Bible is as irrelevant as crossing your heart and hoping to die (''Justice 'undermined' by police not swearing oath'', The Age, 19/10). In the days when people believed that breaching an oath would send you to hell for eternity, it may have been a sensible precaution to require one.

Now that nobody at all believes this, we can surely move on and relieve God of what must be a considerable administrative burden. Having Tony Mokbel on the streets is surely too high a price to pay for the Christian religion.

Chris Borthwick, Brunswick

Read more:

Wednesday, October 19, 2011


I sent a splenetic letter to the Age on the topic of the current Police Oath brouhaha, waxing satirical about the survival of cross-my-heart-and-hope-to-die superstitions into the era of Twitter and spitting on god in passing, but forgot to take a copy for this blog. Remember the absolute axiom; do it in Word first and copy over.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

At the Chalkface

I do have a soft spot for websites like Blackboards in Porn. The accumulation of microdata... I really ought (even if that ought is a fair way down my list of the other oughts) set up a website devoted to my collection of fiction about invasion(s) of the UK and the USA.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Quietly proud

Michael Rutter (whom I normally regard as pretty set in his ways) agrees with me that the Disorders Usually First Diagnosed in Infancy, Childhood, or Adolescence classification should be removed from DSM;

Friday, October 14, 2011


The papers are covering a Queensland Liberal party scandal -
Yesterday, the Courier-Mail revealed the existence of LNP “dirt files” on 49 Labor MPs, including MPs. The party machine had paid a former Labor staffer, Robert Hough, $3075 to compile rumours and gossip about ALP MPs’ drinking habits and alleged sexual peccadilloes.

Well, yes, but the interesting thing is surely how cheap sleaze is. That's $62 per Labor member. At between $50 and $100 per day plus expenses, which is what Philip Marlowe charged way back in the fifties, two month's work. What could you really expect for that money? From me, a few day's googling and a day's writeup to prevent instant detection.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011


An interesting graph. Note the falling life expectancy (it's not clear whether it's the average in 1925 or the average at judgement day, though I suppose the author might have expected it to be both).

Apes and Idiots

As a footnote to my Idiot into Ape article, this;
On the other hand, if there is any blood relationship between man and the great apes, it is far more reasonable to suppose that the apes are degenerated or hybridized men, than that man has evolved by progressive development from the apes. Degeneration is a thousand times better established as a general principle of nature than is progressive development.

From a 1925 creationist text,
The Predicament of Evolution
by George McCready Price (1870-1963)
(This was ©1925 by Southern Publishing Assoc.)

Odd, surely, that creationists still think this a good argument.

Monday, October 10, 2011

A long farewell to all my glories

So it seems we won't have Sarah Palin to kick around any more.

And nobody's going to make Bachmann porn movies, either, now she's dropped out of contention.

What am I going to do with my time now?

Friday, October 07, 2011

So close

I see the headline
Tranströmer wins Nobel
and read
Transformer wins Nobel
which would, let's admit it, be epic.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Inspector Spacetime

The rush into the Inspector Spacetime meme got me thinking about another figure fitting the Doctor's schema;
(from the Inspector Spacetime list)
* Iconic costume
* Travelling with someone else
* Very British
* Making everyday objects scary
* A solve everything device (optic penknife, sonic crowbar etc)
* Lead character one step ahead
* Viewing the unusual through the familiar (the eyes of the associates)
* Temporal causality
Read more:

and adding in the other standards
*Arrives and leaves unexpectedly, leaving companions sad
* Knows absolutely everybody across time and space and fantasy
* Powers secondary to character, in the sense of moral standing
* Wavers over the line between loveable and scary
* Has to be forcibly restrained from omnipotence/godhood

and it all fits Mary Poppins pretty well.

I did like that Gaiman story where Mary Poppins took the children to heaven to meet God... who was of course rather scared of Mary.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011


Talking over covers, I'm beginning to be bugged by the cover to Action Comics 1.

Iconic, yes, but....

Look at it! Supes has his hands in the air. That means the distance between his hands must be, within narrow limits, the distance between his shoulders - two-three feet. Which implies, looking at his grip, that the car is only two-three feet wide - which as that we can get a look at its front we can see it's not.

it's almost as if Simon and Schuster are just making shit up.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Thou wast not born for death, immortal bard

"Fourteen years ago in the floating island of Neo Verona, Leontes Montague and his men led a bloody coup and murdered all of the members of House Capulet, the rulers of Neo Verona. However one survivor, Juliet, was able to escape thanks to a group of Capulet loyalists. Fourteen years later, Leontes, the new Prince of Neo Verona, rules the land with an iron fist and crushes anyone who opposes him. Juliet, now a sixteen year old girl, fights against House Montague's oppression by becoming a masked vigilante known as "The Red Whirlwind". While attending a ball with a friend, Juliet meets Romeo, Prince Montague's son and both of them fall in love at first sight. Unlike his father, Romeo is a kind and humble man who is oppose of his father's cruelty and shares many ideals with Juliet. Unfortunately for them, Capulet loyalists are planning a rebellion to overthrow House Montague while Leontes is obsessed of destroying the threat of House Capulet permanently. As these star-cross lovers face many challenges and adventures together which will strengthen their love, an ancient secret hidden within Neo Verona is slowly revealed.
How else?

Wednesday, September 21, 2011


In what sense is Lawrence Block writing
'as' Jill Emerson? Writing As someone, I would have said, requires an intention to deceive, or to pretend to deceive, and isn't compatible with putting your actual name on the cover in even bigger letters.
Differentiated from the common "Ruth Rendell writing as Barbara Vine" in that RR did in fact put those books out first with only the Vine name, revealing all later: "Getting Off" is specifically labelled FIRST PUBLICATION ANYWHERE.
So why?

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Sergeant major general

Mr. Hepworth, who has been complaining about abuse by [Roman] Catholic priests, left the Catholic church for the Anglican, then that for the Traditional Anglican Communion, and is not pleading for readmission as a church into the [Roman] Catholic church, which is fine, but I do have issues with his ranking. He is described, and describes himself, as Archbishop Hepworth.
The Bishop of Australia, the ACCA's only diocese, is Archbishop John Hepworth, Primate of the Traditional Anglican Communion.
The Anglican Catholic Church in Australia (ACCA) is the regional jurisdiction of the Traditional Anglican Communion for most of Australia and also provides episcopal oversight for New Zealand and Japan. The Church of Torres Strait has jurisdiction in Queensland from the Torres Strait islands to just south of Townsville, as well as personal jurisdiction over Torres Strait Islanders throughout Australia.

So he's the archbishop of a church with one bishop; if he does anything wrong in his role as bishop, he'll be hauled over the coals by him as Arch. This seems.... inflated. I'd just like some kind of assurance that he actually has other underlings further down and isn't Archishop of Australia, Bishop of Australia, Prebendary, Canon, Archdeacon, and Deacon of Australia, and Vicar of Australia (nr. Moonee Ponds).

And here, if ever there was, is the spot for that old Round the Horne joke;

Enter Archbishop.
Kenneth Williams; "Hello, ducky!
(to audience) Well, it said 'arch', didn't it? If you want butch, I can do butch! I'm versatile!"

Friday, September 16, 2011

Rat week

Rat Week

By Osbert Sitwell

Where are the friends of yesterday
That fawned on Him,
That flattered Her;
Where are the friends of yesterday,
Submitting to His every whim,
Offering praise of Her as myrrh To Him?

They found Her conversation good,
They called Him 'Majesty Divine'
(Consuming all the drink and food,
'they burrow and they undermine'),
And even the most musical
Admired the bagpipes' horrid skirl
When played with royal cheeks outblown
And royal feet tramping up and down.

Where are they now, where are they now,
That gay, courageous pirate crew,
With sweet Maid Mendl at the Prow,
Who upon royal wings oft flew
To paint the Palace white -- (and how!)
With Colefax - in her iron cage
Of curls - who longed to paint it beige;
With John McMullen at the helm
Who teaches men which way to dress?
These were the mighty of the realm
Yet there were others less!

That nameless, faceless, raucous gang
Who graced Balmoral's Coburg towers,
Danced to the gramophone, and sang
Within the battlemented bowers
Of dear Fort Belvedere;
Oh, do they never shed a tear?
Oh, do they ever shed a tear,
From swollen lids and puffy eyes,
For that, their other paradise?
How far it seems from here, how far
Now home again
In the Ritz Bar.

Oh, do they never shed a tear
Remembering the King, their martyr,
And how they led him to the brink
In rodent eagerness to barter
All English history for a drink?
What do they say, that jolly crew?
Oh . . . Her they hardly knew,
They never found Her really nice
(And here the sickened cock crew thrice):
Him they had never thought quite sane,
But weak, and obstinate, and vain;
Think of the pipes; that yachting trip!
They'd said so then (‘Say when, say when!').
The rats sneak from the sinking ship.

What do they say, that jolly crew,
So new and brave, and free and easy,
What do they say, that jolly crew,
Who must make even Judas queasy?

The best feature of the Abdication, I reflected as in my mind I surveyed the scene, had been the eventual rout of these people; the worst, the manner in which they had ratted on the King and his friend, who had done so much for them; even those few who in this particular had not so conducted themselves had shown strongly other qualities connected with this objectionable animal, having burrowed and undermined … This was the mood in which I wrote 'Rat Week', a poem for which I make no claim except that, as its subsequent and fantastic history proved, it crystallised events and a certain pervading mood……
Since for the men and women of the future to whom this paper is addressed, the topical allusions and personal references that occur are sure to lie beyond possibility of identification or even comprehension, I will try to elucidate them by devoting to them a few pages, And since even the derivation of the title of the poem may by that time be obscure - I hope it will!-I had better start at the beginning .... The name 'Rat Week', then, was taken from the columns of the contemporary newspapers, which were trying, with the support of the authorities, to popularise as an annual event and national institution the setting aside of a certain week for the killing of rats, which, as they grew continually more numerous, were causing always greater damage and waste of food.
'Majesty Divine' was the phrase by which Lady Cunard liked to address King Edward VII I. The strictures I have made earlier about the King's friends do not apply to her, for she was a highly intelligent and cultivated American, with a streak of genuine originality in her character. She should have known better than to become a member of Mrs Simpson's set, but she had never understood or really liked English life -though she loved London- and, furthermore, her head had been turned by the new King showing her some attention, even going to her house and inviting her down to Fort Belvedere; whereas King George V and Queen Mary, who disapproved of her, and of her long and notorious liaison with Sir Thomas Beecham, ignored her as far as possible-an attitude which greatly mortified her. Certainly Lady Cunard was the most musical, as she was the most lively and genuinely entertaining, of those who composed this strange court, and she must have suffered at the King's want of feeling for her favourite art, though, realising it, she may have been less amazed than the rest of the London world when the King had taken to playing the bagpipes. On the wettest of evenings he would don a kilt and walk round Fort Belvedere puffing away at his droning and squealing bag of sounds.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Well, which is it?

Lion includes the Oxford Dictionary of English......
but elsewhere on the apple site
OS X Lion includes a powerful, systemwide Dictionary application containing the New Oxford American Dictionary

And given that in this context the word 'American' means 'absolutely not the English' this sounds more likely.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Utopia Limited

Cross-referencing from a discussion on utopias over at Crooked Timber,

Surely one part of the explanation as to why GM is not lobbying for socialised health schemes is that, as Thatcher famously said, "There's no such thing a a company: there are only executives." The interests of the upper executives, as we have seen, are best served by them arranging circumstances where they are grossly overpaid until the company collapses in a screaming heap, when they take their loot and go home; it's certainly difficult to extract any other drivers from their practice. And this means that their planning timelines are in the order of two to three years, which means that they can afford to disregard any long-term damage to society.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

I'm returning your shovel

Another item from the Glenn Milne rant:
The Mafia-style dirt-covered shovel -- code for digging your own grave -- dumped on Friday at 3.30am on the doorstop of Kathy Jackson, the union official who had the courage to refer Thomson's activities to the police, may as well have been delivered to the Lodge.
Is there any previous instance whatsoever, in fiction or otherwise, of the Mafia using a shovel as a threat? Or of anybody else doing the same? The top 100 entries on google for "shovel, doorstep, mafia" don't happen on an example (other than in the Milne article). "Shovel on doorstep", 2 entries, both recent Australian; :"fish on the doorstep", 17, beginning with The Godfather, and "sleeps with the fishes" lots (despite, apparently, it not being used in those words in The book of the Godfather).
The risk, surely, is that if you're the first person to invent a particular rebus-based threat it may well be misunderstood. Code has to be a recognised convention.


The Australian From: The Australian August 29, 2011 9:26AM

THE AUSTRALIAN published today an opinion piece by Glenn Milne which includes assertions about the conduct of the Prime Minister.

The Australian acknowledges these assertions are untrue. The Australian also acknowledges no attempt was made by anyone employed by, or associated with, The Australian to contact the Prime Minister in relation to this matter.

The Australian unreservedly apologises to the Prime Minister and to its readers for the publication of these claims

Well, yes; but I'd say that the Murdochites thought that getting the line "she set up an association later used by her lover to defraud the AWU" into print was worth whatever damages or retractions they get hit with. Not to mention that if she does sue they then get a running story to repeat the line for months. Murdoch thinks we're approaching the endgame, and it's all in.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Acton, what crimes are committed in thy name

We tend to remember Lord Acton mainly for the line "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely." (well, we tend to remember him by the same quote with the qualification removed, but never mind). It's interesting to see, though, that he's now being quoted, like Wilde and Dotty Parker, as a quote magnet - anything that sounds good, attach it to him:

The issue which has swept down the centuries and which will have to be fought sooner or later is the People vs. The Banks. – Lord Acton, Lord Chief Justice of England, 1875

Lord Cockburn, who was CJ in 1875, would be pissed at being bounced from his honour for a Catholic historian.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Loser 8

Super 8 really terrible, even for a special effects movie; when will I ever learn?

The most irritating bit (spoilers)
is the opening horrific train crash that nearly-but-not-quite kills the cute kids and releases the menace. They look around, find that none of them are dead, and drive away.
It's almost inconceivable that the bigbad US Army would send the menace on a train across the country without a large number of escorting soldiers; it's completely impossible that they could have sent the menace on a train across the country without a driver. Who would then presumably be bleeding to death in the wreckage while the kids bail.
The issue being that the plot brings in incidents on the basis of them being what is called for in the spectacle at that particular moment, rather than on any felt need to conform to what happened ten minutes before or after. Absolute contempt for not only credibility but also consistency.
The menace excavates (with its hands, apparently) a vast burrow beneath the town, through what looks like rock and is certainly self-supporting (not sand, for example, or soil - perhaps clay) and apparently eats the spoil because there are no heaps of rubble left anywhere.
The menace at the end.... let's not even touch on that, the pinnacle of unbelievability is reached, but the issue is if it could do that why it hadn't done it before.
And the kids have to keep their knowledge of the menace secret because otherwise, the teacher tells them, the army will kill them. And at the end of the movie that just evaporates and they're wandering around in full view of everybody and the army is apparently just fine with that. I myself prefer to think that the army did kill them all and that the end-credits movie was put together by their grieving schoolmates, but that's just me.
And again, a vastly overdone subplot about the American obsession about being good fathers, without which no American blockbuster is complete.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Age Bin - Nanny State

Is it really wise of the tobacco pushers to launch an advertising campaign against the nanny state while Mary Poppins is still pulling full houses in Sydney and the last Nanny McPhee movie is just behind us? Are they really suggesting that these beloved paragons are less credible than Big Tobacco? The advertisers deserve a rap over the knuckles from a parrot-headed umbrella.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Right Wrong

Some hypocrisy on Catallexy (News Flash! Water wet!) on the topic of legalisation of drugs, based on a WSJ article.

I think an open and honest debate is a good place to start. At the end of the day I’m not convinced that harm minimisation (at most margins) can be achieved while drugs are illegal. The war on tobacco has largely being [sic] won while the product has remained legal.

Would I be considered out of line to point out that Catxy has without exception opposed every element of that war -- most recently, the blank packaging legislation -- on the grounds of nanny state interference with private property? The last reference, for example, was "the war on tobacco is reaching the stage of pure vindictiveness". Or
Already tobacco tax is probably close to the peak of the Laffer curve. And smokers are ostracised in many places. But there is always more that the Government can do to eliminate smoking.

And once it has won the war on smoking, there are lots of other wars it can fight against those who are not living the healthy life.

That is the vision: a thin, sober, non-smoking, exercising, vegetarian. The future of Australia.

Saying that drug use should be permitted and that the ill effects could be contained if the government introduced a level of control comparable to tobacco control is an argument open to me, as a a liberal interventionist, but not, surely, to a movement that objects on principle to tobacco control.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

They broke the entail

The oddest thing about Downton Abbey is that the whole plot revolves around the matter of the estate being entailed on the heir to the title and thus being unable to be passed to the daughters; and no dialogue was inserted to explain what an entail was. As a lawyer of the old school - well, as a legal graduate of the old school - I knew, but I can't really believe that the knowledge is so widespread in the general population that it can be assumed. I'd like to do a quiz.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Another Weiner-related pun?

Ah. According to Roger Fulford Wood and Cockell were "A pair of reactionary lawyers". Doesn't exactly explain why they were chosen to feature in Smith's line, but close enough.

Bad pun

Yglesias says on the Wiener debacle
The idea that we should regard this extensive record in the career to which Weiner has dedicated his entire adult life as somehow fake, and his after hours twittering as revealing his “real” character just doesn’t make a ton of sense.
One way to see this through an extreme case is perhaps just to observe that the demands of being President of the United States are straightforwardly incompatible with being a model husband and father. The hours, the travel, and the stress just don’t make it add up. But it can’t be the case that all Presidents of the United States lack the requisite character to be President of the United States. It has to be the case that the kind of character that matters for a public official isn’t the same as the kind of character that matters to be a good husband and father. After all, you want a responsible public official to neglect his family and friends (“hard-working”), to display a certain kind of ruthlessness and cunning (“negotiation”), to be a bit of a phony in certain situations (“diplomacy”), and all kinds of other things that don’t carry over straightforwardly from personal life to public affairs.

Well, that's simply an instance of the general Machiavellian principle, as expounded by Isaiah Berlin; the qualities required of a good statesman are not simply different from those required of a good private citizen, they're incompatible. For example, being a war criminal is pretty much part of the job description for being an American president. Or, in the words of Sydney Smith,
"You spend a great deal of ink about the character of the present prime minister. Grant you all that you write — I say, I fear he will ruin Ireland, and pursue a line of policy destructive to the true interest of his country: and then you tell me, he is faithful to Mrs. Perceval, and kind to the Master Percevals! These are, undoubtedly, the first qualifications to be looked to in a time of the most serious public danger; but somehow or another (if public and private virtues must always be incompatible), I should prefer that he destroyed the domestic happiness of Wood or Cockell, owed for the veal of the preceding year, whipped his boys, and saved his country."

I have no idea who Wood and Cockell are, which is mildly irritating, not to say, for a history buff, humiliating.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

X-Men Fourth Class

I keep going to these big-budget superhero movies, and I keep being disappointed despite coming in with no expectations other than good special effects.

X-Men First Class spent a simply enormous amount of time on the bromance between Professor X and Magneto, contributing to the very low ratio of special effects to "human interest", a phrase I put in quotes because
(a) they're not human, they're mutants and
(b) they're of no conceivable interest.

Mystique is first introduced as a five-year-old who had apparently coincidentally found her way into the Xavier's kitchen. On being surprised by x, she disguises herself as x's mum, who
i) is much larger and taller - where does the extra mass come from?
ii) she's never seen before.

x then apparently adopts her, and they grow up together, which is used as an explanation of why (other than clearly being homosexual) he won't 'date' her when they're both young adults - which brings up the next point. Hank McCoy says that Mystique's genetic code means that she ages more slowly than ordinary people. I can see that that's a necessary save to explain why she looks exactly the same in the later (chronologically) Xmovies, but it does bring up a number of consequent points.

1) If Mystique ages slowly, how old was she in that first scene? Ten? Fifteen? Twenty?
2) If she ages slowly, how come she went from looking five to looking twentyfive in exactly the same time that professor X did?

It can only work if she only begins slow ageing at the moment Hank clocks her. Which is unsatisfactory.

The newly-minted mutants are remarkably lame. The black whore who can fly on dragonfly wings and can cough up fireballs may represent a new low (and it's worth noting that the only black characters in the movie are a poledancer and the first guy to get killed).

I really should learn. But I never do.

Friday, May 06, 2011

Then as farce

Annie's Last Paper Not Coming Out

In a bizarre replay of Annie's Coming Out (1980) the Department of Human Services is preventing Anne McDonald's oldest friend, Leonie McFarlane, from delivering a presentation in her memory.

Leonie’s case is to be taken to the Supreme Court today by Ron Meldrum, QC.

Anne McDonald and Leonie McFarlane were both admitted to St Nicholas Hospital as young children because they had severe cerebral palsy and couldn't talk intelligibly. Anne left the hospital after winning a writ of Habeas Corpus in 1979, and went on to graduate from university and win a National Disability Award. Leonie remained in state care.

Early in 2010 Anne and Leonie developed a Powerpoint presentation comparing their lives in and out of state care. They planned to deliver the presentation together for the AGOSCI national conference on non-speech communication starting in Adelaide on 11 May - next Wednesday.

After Anne's sudden death last October Leonie received a FaHCSIA-funded scholarship to attend the conference and deliver the presentation with the assistance of Anne's carers - Rosemary Crossley and her partner Chris Borthwick.

All permissions were obtained and arrangements finalised with DHS on March 31. On April 21 DHS suddenly banned Leonie from attending the conference, and banned her from having any contact with Crossley and Borthwick. When questioned the Minister's office said "there is no push at all from the department to stop this happening, rather the individual's guardian has made the decision".

On May 3 DHS admitted that Leonie, who is 48, does not have a guardian. Nonetheless the department and the Minister are continuing to pass the buck, with neither prepared to withdraw the bans.

Today Rosemary Crossley said "You cannot imagine how distressing this is, both for Leonie (who saw Anne as family) and for us. Anne fought for ordinary human rights for people with disabilities. It's heartbreaking to discover that her struggle was in vain - that in 30 years the bureaucracy has learnt nothing about essential freedoms, and the right of all people to a life worth living."

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Following Yglesias

Any commentary on Pakistan's part in the Bin Laden operation that does not use the word 'India' is missing the point completely.

Pakistan has different goals and different preoccupations from the USA. This isn't rocket science (which, of course, Pakistan also has).

Australia has adopted a stance where our willingness to take on America's goals sight unseen is part of our foreign policy settings. I can't quite see why, but it does mean that any discussion of Australia's goals in Afghanistan is utterly pointless. We don't have any. Discussions of the chance of success in this war - as in Vietnam, as in Iraq - have no relevance to Australian policy, except in that if the chances of success are zero and the whole thing is obviously a cataclysmic fuckup then our obsequious attachment to the fuckup signals our commitment to the US even more clearly and therefore allows us to get more of whatever it hypothetically is that we gain from this master/client relationship.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

In breaking news,

Vice-president Biden has trousers with one leg shorter than another.

Stern Measures

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Tao Well Head

I really wish people would be more careful getting random quotes off the web. I really wish people would stop dumbing down the Tao Te Ching. A UK government report has as a chapter head
Go to the people. Live with
them. Learn from them.
Love them.
Start with what they know.
Build with what they have.
But with the best leaders,
when the work is done,
the task accomplished, the
people will say
“We have done this
Lao Tzu (600 – 531 BC)
Chinese Taoist philosopher

Go to the fucking people? That's not what the sage does. In Legge,
In the highest antiquity, (the people) did not know that there
were (their rulers). In the next age they loved them and praised
them. In the next they feared them; in the next they despised them.
Thus it was that when faith (in the Tao) was deficient (in the rulers)
a want of faith in them ensued (in the people).

How irresolute did those (earliest rulers) appear, showing (by
their reticence) the importance which they set upon their words!
Their work was done and their undertakings were successful, while the
people all said, 'We are as we are, of ourselves!'

which softened slightly comes out as
The best leaders go unnoticed by the people.
The next best are loved and praised by the people.
Then there are those who are feared by the people.
Lastly there are those who are despised.

When the leaders lack faith, then the people lack faith in them.

The best leaders make their words valuable and precious. Their work is done, and their undertakings successful, while the people say, "We are as we are, of ourselves!"

The point is that the sage has moved the people to the correct path by his reserved inaction, by the Tao - the people didn't do it themselves, they are just under the illusion that they did it themselves.

And that crap about learning from the people? No way. Loving the people? In the original, the love goes the other way.

It's worse than "Confucius say" jokes.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

My Shout

Joining in an argument over at Larvatus Prodeo:
Civilisation in the west has been very largely a mechanism for the development and circulation of alcohol, so there aren't going to be any easy fixes. We drink not for reasons that can be ticked off on a list but because it's constituitive of who we are. It's very difficult to find a socially valued off-the-rack identity that doesn't include drinking.
Saying that alcohol is just another drug still misses the point, though. The missed point being that for both alcohol and drugs the main source of the opposition to their use is not that they're damaging but that they're enjoyable. It comes out most clearly with (illicit) drugs. If we merely objected to this or that harm caused by drugs we would pay chemists to come up with a new drug that had the same euphoric effects but lacked the side-effects, and once we found it we'd push that one hard to take up the territory of the others. We would, for example, encourage the use of ecstasy to reduce the harm caused by heroin (or alcohol). We don't: we treat them as equally bad, with the e perhaps more menacing because it's harder to have doomladen commercials about it. It's like Macaulay on the Puritans - they objected to bearbaiting not because it gave pain to the bear but because it gave pleasure to the spectators.
And no, I'm not saying that any of these things actually are harmless - I'm saying that if they were harmless society would still wish to place them in this inflamed area of fascination mixed with condemnation.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Exactly so

Some more of my work for University Reform back in the 70s, part whatever of a continuing series:

Farrago, Friday April 29 1977
Banging your head against a Brick Wall

I was giving a talk in O-Week to a very very small audience on what made the university tick. At the end somebody said "But you make everything sound so pessimistic, so hard to change. Surely if you can show the people at the top that something's not working properly they'll be willing to change it?" It was a difficult question because the short answer – “No, they probably won't" - makes the people at the top sound stupid or evil, and the long answer - that they have rather different ideas on what constitutes “working properly" - brings in rather too many complications for a snap answer. Either way, though, you end up' with the changes not getting made, and it is difficult to make this sound other than pessimistic.

A lot of us around this place started out, with the same illusion; that a well-written report with a set of logical proposals will convince people to alter their habits. A number of such reports were produced. It was quite a while after that that we began to notice that while the reports themselves were fine, models of cogent reasoning and closely argued recommendation, they had about as much effect on the university as a sparrow trying to fight its way out of a house through a picture window. The phrase "They just didn't want to know about it" has never been more to the point; and the point is that there is simply no way that you can convince someone that a problem exists if they choose not to believe it.

You say that some indisputable fact is a fact - that honours gradings are capricious and unfair to students, for example - and the heavies say it isn't. You go away and do a survey and bring it back to them; this takes a year, so they say that those are last year's figures and out of date, things have changed. And they're not being particularly devious, they just have a different view of the world and the university's place in it and the student's place in the university, which is, in their eyes, to become 1/26 scale professors as soon as possible with the minimum of unnecessary fuss. Under this system of thought there is no way student discontent, or student grievances, or student boredom can indicate anything other than faults in the student. Anything else would be like saying a yard is the wrong length, a meaningless concept.

Well, what's the alternative? Apart from sitting back and taking it, which can lead to permanent brain damage. It helps to observe that while top university people are usually fairly shoulder-to-shoulder in theory and attitude there are differences in their material interests, and one can work on these. Such theories and attitudes didn't come just from the traditions of Oxford and Cambridge. To a large extent academic discourse serves to give an alternative argument, a moral argument, when the rights and privileges of professors and lecturers come under attack.

On admissions policy, for example, the rationale for the HSC is that it picks out those best able to benefit from the university; but let us not forget that it also selects, if it works as it should, those who know most, are the easiest to teach, and give the least work to the teaching staff. That's a general interest, but there are also particular ones - the Professorial Board, for example, while deaf to any complaints that honours grading is unfair to students, can be aroused by suggestions that it's unfair as between departments (and professors) - that some departments give higher marks and thus get more postgraduate scholarships and more students and more research money and more power and status. It's having another look into that now.

That's a complicated way to win, all politics and wheeling and dealing and knowing your enemy and not looking too closely at your allies. The other way is more scenic but less feasible, and that's the way of alternative power. Power, simply defined, is being able to make people - in this case academics - do things they don't want to do, and gets round all these difficulties of not being able to convince them. The difficulty is that students don't have very much of this power unless they are really worked up on a mass basis in a way that doesn't happen very often.

That still sounds pretty pessimistic. But you can't begin any real fight for change around this university unless you register two things. One, convincing the heavies is about as hard as selling a gold brick to Ralph Nader. Two, if you front up to the heavies thinking you have power behind you and you haven't they'll mulch the concrete lawns with you. Despise the enemy strategically, yes, but respect him tactically.

Chris Borthwick, Assembly

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

I was wrong

No, it is his owner. Which makes the 'female' tag even odder, really.

Son of a gun

The ABC site flags a video
A dog rescued from a roof drifting off Japan's tsunami-battered north-east coast has been reunited with its female.

Not its owner, its mate.
What we would some while ago have had no hesitation in calling a bitch.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

War commentary is hell

The usually reliable Dsquared slips:
In which I disagree with Paul Krugman, about something that was once very important

America’s other great moral war, World War II, was similar. The war movies I watched when I was a kid always had plucky, individualistic American heroes beating superbly equipped Nazis, but the reality was mostly the other way around. We had many heroes, but the truth is that Americans were never as good at the art of war as the Germans. What we were good at was the art of production, of supply. Honor the heroes who stormed Omaha Beach — but it was the floating harbors, the trans-Channel fuel pipeline, and the air superiority achieved through production miracles that really did it.

True but false. In the European theatre, maybe so, but then in the European theatre there weren't really all that many face-to-face, head-to-head, like-for-like scraps between the US Army and the Germans. In the Pacific, on the other hand ... it was indeed US industrial power that got them to Guadalcanal, Tarawa, Iwo Jima and Okinawa, but once they were there, it was nothing more nor less than exactly the kind of man to man combat that we were talking about. And the USA won. As I've noted elsewhere, it's surprising that the US Army has pockets of the "Warrior Ethic", because their finest hour was also the destruction-testing of "imperial martial culture versus citizen-soldiers of a democracy", and the right side won.

Bottom line is that it's a common and romantic notion (with roots in Ruskin, Nietszche and other Romantic types many of whom had a "complicated" relationship with sexuality) that industrial societies, for all their worldly wealth and productive capacity, somehow produce a slightly less worthy figure of human being; the triumph of the Last Man. Not true; actually they're better people as well.

Let's not let the line "in the European theatre there weren't really all that many face-to-face, head-to-head, like-for-like scraps between the US Army and the Germans" pass without comment.
The adjectives here do seem to be doing a lot of heavy lifting, erasing most of the fighting in Italy, Normandy, and Germany. In which fighting, there appears to be virtual unanimity among military historians, German soldiers couldn't be shifted without (a) air superiority, overwhelming material support, many more tanks, many more guns, and all the paraphernalia of the 'art of production, of supply, and (b) two-to-one (or four-to-one, to be safer) superiority in numbers. They were, man for man, better soldiers. Such books as Overy's 'Why the Allies won' phrase this as something requiring an explanation specifically because an explanation is needed for why worse soldiers could defeat better soldiers. Overy points to various reasons why some of the factors that led to Germans being better soldiers on the ground contributed to them being worse war-fighters in the big picture, but he doesn't contest the specific superiority.
I really can't see that Krugman's point is even debatable.
And in the Pacific, it's really very hard to judge how face-to-face combat would have gone once you remove the handicap that stemmed from, for example, the US being able to supply each of its soldiers with four tons of supply compared with four pounds of supply for each Japanese (see Max Hasting's Nemesis). You can say "I think it is hard to argue that a country which made use of the tactic of literally building aeroplanes for the sole purpose of crashing them was facing an utterly binding resource constraint", but at the end of the war those planes had to be fueled by getting turpentine from pinecones - and even then, the Americans actually had more warships than the Japanese had planes.
Yes, it's true that in a fight between an "imperial martial culture versus citizen-soldiers of a democracy" the right side won, but it certainly wasn't because the individual citizen-soldiers were better: it was because the system that produced those citizen-soldiers was much more effective as a whole than its rival, and in the end that prevailed. To put it another way, it's complicated.
To put it another way still, the besetting fault of American and British soldiers was that when they met with stiff opposition they fell back and waited for air and artillery support to smash the opposition before they pressed forward. Sensible enough, and certainly as much or more than I would have done, but not what the Germans did, and not a method showing as much confidence as DD shows in their soldierly superiority.
Better people, perhaps, but worse infantrymen. And insisting the two should go together seems to me to be conceding quite a bit too much to the cavalrymen.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Lard lad

I participate in a barney over at John Quiggin's blog.
Ooh, goody gumdrops. I get to be a denialist.I've always wondered what it was like.
Possibly not entirely, in that I’m prepared to concede, in very general terms, that if you eat more you’ll get fatter. However…
Whatever the aesthetic appeal of unfatness, in terms of the bigger picture it’s just not that unhealthy.
(1) If you control for social class and activity, greater weight doesn’t have a massive effect on all-cases death rates (see, for example, ‘Obesity: How big a problem? by I. Wikelgren, Science, 1998, Vol. 280 no. 5368 pp. 1364-1367′)
(2) if you look at the epidemiology, it’s very hard to see any input from obesity. Australian life expectancy has been rising at the rate of three months a year virtually uninterruptedly for the past century (see here). Whatever year you date the start of the obesity epidemic to, and whatever the age group you think it’s concentrated in, I defy you to find any signs of it on the graphs. Yes, of course, you could say that the rise is due to other factors such as better health care or more aggressive medicine and that without it we would be improving by six months a year - hell, if we could punch our present rate up by a mere four times we could all live for ever - but that’s a hypothetical.
(3) Whatever effect obesity does have is almost certainly swamped by the effect of where you stand in the social hierarchy (see the Whitehall studies, passim).
OK, now hit me.

Thursday, March 24, 2011


While the Americans have been collecting all their iconic newspaper comic strips - Peanuts, Popeye, Pogo, Gasoline Alley - the Poms have been very slack indeed. They seem to have no idea of the meaning of the word 'complete'. And the very greatest strip, Flook, is lamentably unrecorded.

The good news here is that the British Cartoon Archive at the University of Kent has begun putting the early years online. So far only one year, but one can hope, and pray.

Oh, and there's a later story here.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Utter humiliation

Keen as I am on the which, I have just put a hit counter on the site; 6309 hits in what, six years? If that counts my own, that would leave about ten for the rest of the world put together.

Walking to the station

Just for the record,
- from front door to first bus stop: 272 metres
- from first busstop to second busstop:224 metres
- from second busstop to hospital busstop; 332 metres
- from hospital busstop to station busstop: 334 metres
- from station busstop to station platform; 180 metres
making a total door-t0-train of 1442 metres.

All figures approximate, based on a 1 pace = 1 metre.

I believe there's a google maps app that will check distances; must doublecheck.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

A well-regulated militia

One thing about the Libyan revolt is that the initial success of the rebels did suggest that an armed and incensed citizenry could stand up against government power, which would, among other things, lend some credence to the arguments of the American right that the right to own guns was a relevant constitutional consideration as a limit on tyranny. I don't think, now I come to reflect, that the rebels were armed with private guns -- they just raided government arsenals - but in any case the point is moot because Gadaffi's trained troops are pushing the rebels aside as easily as one might have expected, and the dissipation of the early rebel gains leaves nothing to explain.

More generally, the American right-wing position on guns and governments does seem rather incoherent; at home they say that guns in the hands of citizens make it impossible for an unpopular government to impose its will on the citizenry, and abroad they expect that the American army should have no real difficulty imposing its will on well-armed subject populations in, for example, Iraq and Afghanistan.

No worries no fly

I have, naturally, every sympathy for the Libyan rebels; but Rudd pushing for a no fly zone is rather a let's you and him fight scenario, and I think we should be rather more modest when it comes to asking other people to start wars we're not going to join.

Which doesn't mean I think there should be open slather on the ones we do say we'll join, either.

And see Dsquared, here:


The Sunday Herald Sun had a special earthquake supplement with photos of the devastation and accompanying messages of sympathy (in boxes, one to a page) from Obama, Rudd, Abbott, Gillard, the UK PM, the NZ PM, the Queen, and Justin Bieber.

Friday, March 11, 2011


A woman whose hair is blonde is known as a blonde.
A woman whose hair is red is known as a redhead (or a number of nicknames).
A woman whose hair is brown is known as a brunette.

Why, then, is there no single word for a woman whose hair is black?
Is that because it was the default setting?

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Case of the Polo Pony, part 2

The case of the polo pony was held up after lunch for a considerable time while an experiment was made in court. A candle was lit by the puisne serjeant-at-arraigns and the polo pony was brought in in a loose box. It was led out, and on its back were the twelve redheaded dwarfs, bowing to right and left and grinning.

'What are you doing here, you dwarfs?' asked Cocklecarrot angrily.

'We were passing,' replied the ringleader, 'and so we looked in. Quite like old times. This pony is the model for a new rocking-horse we are constructing. We have, alas, no money to spend on books of anatomy, and so we have to study from nature. A polo rocking-horse ought to be just the thing for a child of wealthy parents. Ah! We cannot all be wealthy. When we were small, we had but one hat between us. Did we, you ask, wear it in turn, or huddle all our heads beneath its sheltering crown, like ants under a mushroom? Your curiosity shall be rewarded, judge. We never wore it at all. It rotted in a shed, unworn. And yet, sometimes when the spring wind blows, we remember that old hat and tears well unbidden to our eyes. So, when a weary heart--'

With a great roar of rage Cocklecarrot sprang erect. 'Clear this damnable court!' he bellowed.

(He then repeated the trick with the water-jug and the sunshine, and burnt the court down.)

And here, I am afraid, the saga of the red-bearded dwarfs runs out of plank. There are no more stories to hand, and further researches must be left to Google libraries of the future.

Monday, March 07, 2011

Another man of the same name

One of the reasons why I don't believe that anyone other than Shakespeare wrote Shakespeare is that you can't (couldn't then, can't now with most scripting jobs) just send a man round carrying the Earl of Essex's manuscript for the players to perform. The players are going to be calling out in rehearsals - well, they did when I was writing film scripts - saying things like "We've had to cut that scene - can you write a bridge to cover that?" or "My speech should be longer - can you add in a song?" or simply "I can't say that - can you make it simpler?" You've got to have someone sitting there saying "OK, I'll fix it". And given the social relationships at the time, that's not a job any Earl would take to.

They say that no non-earl would be able to write such good dialogue for courts and princes, but that argument has severe consequences -- the people writing scripts for The Sopranos would all have to be arrested immediately, for one thing.

Friday, February 25, 2011

The Scottish Play

Tony Abbott ventures on culture;
"This latter day Lady Macbeth'll be saying, "Out, out, foul spot! Out, out, foul spot!" But she said it and she will be judged by it."
Typical that he not only pulls out an analogy that has almost no meaningful parallel with the point he's trying to make but gets it wrong - foul spot for damned spot. And this in a prepared speech.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Case of the Polo Pony

Yesterday, before Mr. Justice Cocklecarrot and a mixed jury, the case was continued in which Mrs. Heaulme (nee Parsons) is seeking to restrain her neighbour, Mr. Cawley, from keeping a polo pony in a disused railway truck near her conservatory. Mrs. Heaulme alleges that when the conservatory window is open the pony, Fido II, breathes on the flowers, and sometimes on guests who come' to tea. Mr. Cawley maintains that the pony is so young that his breathing would not blow out a candle.
Mrs. Heaulme: Who cares whether he blows out a candle or not?
Mr. Jedbind (for the prosecution): Are you in the habit of having tea by candlelight in your conservatory in April?
Mr. Faffle (for the defence): I object, m'lord.
Cocklecarrot: Objection over-sustained.
Mr. Faffle: Meaning what?
Cocklecarrot: Fire ahead – er -proceed.
Mr. Cawley: A polo pony is not likely to know whether there is a lighted candle in a conservatory or not.
Mr. Faffle: Is it not as natural for a pony to breathe as anyone else?
Mr. Jedbind: An old pony breathes just as much as a young one.
Cocklecarrot: Or a middle-aged one, eh?
(All join in the general laughter, and the court adjourns for lunch.)

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Literalism and Liberalism

A website that (praiseworthily) reprints Marx's The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte from 1852, but with an odd added error:
Bourgeois revolutions, like those of the eighteenth century, storm more swiftly from success to success, their dramatic effects outdo each other, men and things seem set in sparkling diamonds, ecstasy is the order of the day – but they are short-lived, soon they have reached their zenith, and a long Katzenjammer [cat’s winge] takes hold of society before it learns to assimilate the results of its storm-and-stress period soberly.

where Katzenjammer is of course actually slang for a hangover - which could be looked up, and I would have thought would have been where the alternative was the meaningless "cat's w(h)inge".

....until a situation is created which makes all turning back impossible, and the conditions themselves call out:

Hic Rhodus, hic salta!
[Here is the rose, here dance!]

The phrase arises from the Latin form of Aesop's Fables (Gibbs 209; Perry 33: Chambry 51), as translated from Ancient Greek phrase (literally) "Here is Rhodes, jump here!". In the fable, a boastful athlete brags that he once achieved a stupendous long jump in competition on the island of Rhodes. A bystander challenges him to dispense with the reports of the witnesses and simply repeat his accomplishment on the spot: "Here is Rhodes, jump here!"

Mind you, the fable is exactly the kind of thing I object to with facilitated communication: I would not be entitled to demand that Kathy Freeman ran 500 metres in whatever time it was just to convince me that she could, and the word of the spectators at the Olympic stadium should in fact be taken into consideration. But that doesn't excuse 'rose'.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Age Bin - Moral panics

A local brouhaha:

I’m glad to see that player’s agents like Mr. Nixon are now held to the same high moral standards as the players themselves, but in this day and age is this really enough? I myself will not be satisfied until every milkbar owner who’s ever sold an AFL player a stick of spearmint chewing gum is listed on a central register to notify the rest of us upstanding citizens that we can start handing out the pitchforks and torches with a clear conscience.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Damned for a ducat

Nahum Tate:
But still so many Master-Touches shine
Of that vast Hand that first laid this Design,
That in great Shakespear's Right, He's bold to say
If you like nothing you have seen to Day
The Play your Judgment damns, not you the Play.

This is from Tate's rewrite, mind you, where he explains the happy ending by pointing out that the hetacomb at the end of the old tragedies incited giggles:
This Method necessarily threw me on making the Tale conclude in a Success to the innocent distrest Persons: Otherwise I must have incumbred the Stage with dead Bodies, which Conduct makes many Tragedies conclude with unseasonable Jests. Yet was I Rackt with no small Fears for so bold a Change, till I found it well receiv'd by my Audience; and if this will not satisfie the Reader, I can produce an Authority that questionless will. Neither is it of so Trivial an Undertaking to make a Tragedy end happily, for 'tis more difficult to Save than 'tis to Kill: The Dagger and Cup of Poyson are alwaies in Readiness; but to bring the Action to the last Extremity, and then by probable Means to recover All, will require the Art and Judgment of a Writer, and cost him many a Pang in the Performance. [Marginal note: "Mr. Dryd. Pref. to the Span. Fryar."]

Today also notable for my discovery that what I have for my entire life spelled and said as hetacomb is in fact hecatomb, which I suppose does make more sense.

Queen Lear

Went to the UKNT-on-film production of King Lear, and disliked it; because

1) as usual, it was all said too fast, with in consequence no possibility of the verse being taken as what anybody could contemporaneously be thinking - no pause for thought, no pause before responding; and yes, I appreciate that verse is in its nature artificial, but there is a gray area where it is also supposed to be capable of being apprehended as natural...

2) OK, it's a fault, I am incapable of being entirely snatched away from the world of naive realism, and I keep being sidelined by trying to think up subplots or prequels that would make the actual plot make a lick of sense.

The opening scene... it's not that an old king would not want to divide up his kingdom among his daughters, or that he would be pissed off when one of them has reservations, it's that Lear couldn't conceivably have been surprised by Cordelia's response unless he was meeting her for the first time. That kind of irritating literalism isn't a one-off, it's a character trait, and the natural response is not shock at what she's doing but rather the iambic pentameter equivalent of "Dammit, Cordelia, you're doing it again! Why do you always have to ruin everything?"

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Case of the Twelve Red-Bearded Dwarves, part 32

The Dwarfs Again

The action brought by the Phinehas Cupper-Harsnett Trading Company and the National Mortgage Indemnity Agency against Mrs. Wharple, Mohammed Brown, The Constructional Rebate Pitcher Plant, Maracaibo United, and Cicely du Bois for recovery of stamping costs has been settled out of court. Much to the relief of Mr. Justice Cocklecarrot, who discovered that the whole business was another family quarrel of the twelve red-bearded dwarfs.

'These little gentlemen,' said Cocklecarrot, 'seem to have invented a new kind of litigation. They are continually bringing actions against themselves or each other under the names of fantastic companies or individuals, none of whom appears to have any existence save on paper. The object of all this is still obscure, but there are those who hint at international ramifications, and believe that we are witnessing an attempt to make British Justice look even sillier and beastlier than it is.'

Recently the twelve dwarfs bought a female singing-mouse called Royal Gertrude on the hire-purchase system - ninepence a year for fifty-one years. The mouse broke its foot against a sugar-tongs, and, instead of singing, bawled. Only the first ninepence has been paid, and the dwarfs are claiming the money back. The firm of Hustington and Chaney, importers of singing mice, refuse to take the mouse back or refund the money, and the Boycott Japan League is organising a mass-meeting of novelists and professional agitators to petition for the deportation of the mouse to the island of Capri, where a mouse-lover, Miss Webbe-Ffoote, has offered to house, feed, clothe, and educate it.

The situation seems to await the experienced touch of Mr. Justice Cocklecarrot.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Blood Libel

No, that's not a blood libel: this is a blood libel.

x. About Hubert de Burgh his Opinions concerning the Giwen

The Giwen are the curse of the kingdom of England, because they know not how to be faithful and honest when they are treated fairly and generously. They have quicker wits than other men: which is all very well; and I do not vituperate them for that.
But they are also more crafty, more avaricious, and quite devoid of scruples; and they gibe at the bare notion of keeping faith, except among themselves, if then. In brief, they are beasts prey by nature, and spoilers by open profession. They allege that they spring from the seed of Messire Saint Abraham, a Patriarch of Hierusalem in ancient times, to whom the earth was promised by Divine Providence in a vision. I do not dream of denying this, since we have the fact recorded in the Sacred Scriptures. But they say, also, that we Christians, who hold any part of the said earth, are simply usurpers of their said divinely-promised rights, whom their laws oblige and encourage them to harass and embarrass and dispossess by any and every means. This doctrine, I utterly spit upon and abhor from: because it is capable of being stretched out so as to include (with approval) such crimes as cheating and fraud and even murder.

We Englishmen do not like being despoiled by shrewd unscrupulous very-undesirable aliens; and it is our custom to treat the Giwen (who thrust their company upon us) as dangerous animals, kept encaged and enchained, but allowed to live and to thrive under suitable restrictions: it being a sin for us to take human life, excepting in a good cause, for we by no means believe it lawful for a Christian to slay (with impunity, according to his pleasure), any Giwe who behaves as he ought.

We Christians are forbidden (by our religion) to commit the sin of usury: but, with the Giwe, it is far otherwise. His religion (which we respect, and damn), permits and approves of usury; and he does a thriving trade by outwitting and nefariously oppressing us. O manners. Not that I blame clergymen, not that I blame magnates, who borrow money from Giwen: for, thereby, many important abbeys and castles are builded; and clergymen and magnates are strong enough (as a rule) to protect themselves from knavery. But the Giwen are wont to inveigle poor needy knights and burgesses to their ruin; and thus they have thrust themselves under the displeasure of the major part of our nation.

Hence, because the devout fervour of the English (irritated beyond toleration, by the crimes of the slippery Giwen), used to revolt against them, and to beat them badly (perhaps sometimes rather more than justice strictly demanded), then, the kings of the English deigned to take the said Giwen under their regal protection entirely, as tributaries, dividing them from the rest of the nation, making them a nation apart, giving them separate laws whereby (and separate sites whereon) they might live and flourish in perfect security. Yet they are not content: but, ever and again, they burst out in scorn of us Christians, committing hideous crimes and outrages against us and our holy religion. For, in their canonical books it is written (as it is written in the Sacred Scriptures) that, without bloodshed, there can be no remission. But they, swayed by the devil, perfidiously distort this saying, so as to mean that they may never return to their dear fatherland unless they shed Christian blood. O generation of vipers. Hence, it was laid down by them in antique times, that, every year, they must sacrifice a Christian, in some part of the world, to The Most High God, in scorn and contempt of Christ, so that they might revenge their sufferings on Him, inasmuch as it was because of His Death that they had been shut out from their fatherland and were in exile in foreign countries. Wherefore, the princes and rabbis of the Giwen, who dwell in Spain, assemble at Narbonne, where their regal seed is and they are held in highest esteem; and they cast lots for all the countries which the Giwen inhabit; and the metropolis of that country, upon which the lot falls, has to carry out the same method with the other towns and cities; and the place, whose lot is drawn, has to fulfil the duty imposed by the said decree. And this means to say that, at the time of their Passover, which is the Paschal Season, they must take a Christian, spotless and virginal, whom they must afflict as their forefathers afflicted the Human Person of The Lord our God, with mocking and scourging and crowning with thorn and crucifixion and with such other torment as their demons may suggest to them.

In the year 1144 of Redemption, when King Stephen Bowman was reigning thus did the Giwen of Norwich with Messire Sweet Saint William the Martyr, who (as everyone well knows) is illustrated with wondrous and unspeakable miracles even at this very day. I myself have seen the close-clustered ruddy flowers which sprang from his boyish body (dripping with blood) in the wood where they hid it on Mousehold Heath. I myself have offered at his shrine a candle of my own weight in virgin wax, the work of the mother-bee, to gratify the natural love for candles of him who was born on Candlemas Day. And my lord the king has frequently done the same. What more true? When King Henry fil-Empress was reigning in England, the Giwen became boundless in audacity.
In the year 1165 of Redemption, it is said that they crucified Messire Saint Harold of Gloucester. In the year 1181 of Redemption, it is said that they crucified both Messire Saint Robert a boy of Bury Saint Edmund's, and Messire Saint Herebert a boy of Huntingdon. In the year 1182 of Redemption, it would seem that the lot fell upon France: for we hear how they crucified Messire Saint Richard, a boy of Pontoise, whose sacred body was first enshrined in the church of the Holy Innocents at Paris, until King Henry fil-Empress translated it with awful pomp to Rouen, leaving the head only to the Franks. And I well remember hearing how (in the year 1192 of Redemption), when King Richard Lionheart was reigning in England, the Giwen did the same atrocious sacrilege and homicide on the virginal body of Messire Saint Yvo, a boy of Winchester, who came from Armorica to get a living as a mime in that regal city.
Now there ate several individuals still at large-whether they be puzzolent pestiferous turpilucricupidous knaves, like Softsword, or merely sentimental fools, like that maggotty-witted Roches, it is not for me to say-who fondly affirm that these things are either fables invented by clergymen in despite of the Giwen, or (if not fables) they are only rather-questionable indiscretions committed by the Giwen in the sheer madness of revenge and despair, to which we Christians have goaded them by our unprovoked unmerited atrocities. And, in this, I say, out loud, and at once, that these knaves or fools lie foully in their hairy throats. No Christian ought to make such allegations of Christians, nor Englishmen of men of England. In any case, I fearlessly affirm that we Christians ought not to be called upon to respond to an accusation of this sort, before the Giwen are purged from the murder of one of us, of which they are known to have been accused ere now, and they are not purged.80 I speak of the Martyrdom of Messire Sweet Saint William. Nevertheless, I will make a certain answer.
In the first place, let us consider that it is only a fool who kills the goose which lays him golden eggs; and I say that clergymen are not such fools as to damage the Giwen, from whom the Cistercians alone could and did borrow the money for building no fewer than nine of their northern abbeys, namely, Rievalle, Revesby, Ruford, Rupe, Newminster, Kirkested, Kirkestall, Parcolude, Betlesden.
In the second place, concerning the alleged cruelties wherewith we Christians goaded the Giwen as far as homicidal mania, I simply demand, What cruelties? Let us take things in the proper order. All the people of England are under the protection of the kings of the English: but the Giwen have a special and particular protection. The question is this: Do they languish thereunder, or do they flourish? And here is the answer. The Giwen were the first men in this kingdom to be rich enough to build their houses of stone: all the rest of the nation, exeepting the few who had castles, were obliged to dwell in walls of wood or wattle or mud. The Giwen came to us as mendicants and guests, piteously whimpering for hospitality. It was granted to them, full measure, pressed down, and running over the pottle, so that less fortunate Christians actually envied them. And, from the stronghold of their incalculable riches entirely gained nefariously under our own kings' protection, they spoil the widow and the fatherless, rob the orphan, oppress the poor, and mock our holy religion. Is it surprizing, then, that Christian patience occasionally gives way to passionate outbreaks of carnage, as at York?

Let us next consider the difference between the king's protection of Christians and of Giwen. Both are liable to affiiction under a bad king. But, whereas the king is the only tyrant whom the Giwen have to fear, excepting when they (by their ungrateful mal-practices) wilfully and wantonly incur the ire of the mobile vulgar, Christians suffer as much from a tyrannous king, and, also, from that tyrannous king's tyrannous Giwen.

Of what, precisely, do the querelous cantankerous Giwen complain? They complain, forsooth, that they may not hold offices of state in England. That is true. England is a Christian kingdom. The Giwens are invaders of it, generously tolerated, but not wanted. As Christians, we enforce Christian laws. The officer of a Christian king swears fidelity in The Name of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Which oath, the Giwen will not swear; and, so, they debar themselves from office. Are we excessively unreasonable herein? Are the Giwen more easy and less strict in this respect? I think not. Hear me spue my scorn upon such presumptuous chicanery. When a Christian (diabolically swayed) lusts to become a Giwe, is he admitted to their conjuration without test? Ho no, indeed. What of those two Cistercian monks, demoniacs of our own times, who, worn out by the sweet light burthen of Christ His easy yoke, fled to the synagogue of Satan, home of damnation, asylum of depraved and pestiferous rites. To cut short the wretched story, upon which I dilate merely to express my detestation, the said monks were forced to renounce the sacred laver of their baptism, and to submit to a physical diminution, before the Giwen would receive them.

Now let us consider the singular privileges and advantages enjoyed by the Giwen under the king's protection. They are quite free (as no other man is free) to accumulate wealth; and the king jealously guards it for them against all interference. No one may meddle with any Giwe, for good or evil, excepting at the king's own bidding. In the year 1194 of Redemption, King Richard Lionheart made and confirmed an Ordinance for the Giwerie, stablishing a special exchequer called Giuudeorum Saccarium at Westminster, where they might keep their parchments which they call Starrs and have their lawsuits tried before twO jusriciars of their own. They have jurisdiction among themselves, according to rabbinic law, excepting for the major felonies; and their rabbis advise the regal exchequer on points of rabbinic law. In the chief cities of the kingdom, they have their Chests kept for them by the king's officers. And, above all, they are exempted altogether from all tolls and taxes and fines of justice. Is it wonderful that they suck up the gold of England as a sponge sucks up water? Could anyone fail to accumulate riches, when he is helped thus to take, and exempted from giving? But what do the Giwen give, in return for these tremendous and unheard-of favours? One thing only, namely, the tallages, reliefs, fines, and amercements, which (be it noted) the king levies on all his dependants alike, Christians as well as Giwen. The Giwen have suffered hideously from bad kings. Ho yes. But so also have we Christians, and far more hideously: for we have suffered both from bad kings and from those bad kings' bad and protected Giwen as well.

God knows how hard it is for a man to make good laws for men. I know a great deal about it myself, having made a many laws, good and bad, in my time. But I am unable to imagine fairer or more righteous or more desirable laws, than those which the kings of the English have made for their Giwen, to the detriment and at the expense of their Christians.

And, as for the gross ingratitude which the Giwen (with their whoopings and their whinings) show in return for our ridiculous generosity, I cannot conceive of anything more deservedly reprehensible as being quite contrary to decorum or good manners. And I repeat: the Giwen are the curse of the kingdom of England. That is my opinion of the Giwen. I have spoken. Let it stand.

XI. About a third Wickedness of the Wicked Uncle

Softsword himself, as I have said, dealt with the king's Giwen.

But he did more than to take the proper dues from them this time, he being undoubtedly swayed by the devil and inspired by the diabolical prepotence of Legion. For, he sent to all the cities where the Giwen had their Chests; and he took note of the parchments stored therein: from which he informed himself of the cities which contained the richest Giweries, and of the Giweries which kenneled the richest Giwen. And, from the last, he demanded Dona, gifts of bullion, most flagitiously.

When the said rich Giwen demurred, he squeezed them till they exuded gold, ill-gotten (it is true) and now ill-taken. Of the chief of them, one Ysaak of the Bristol Giwerie, he required no less than ten thousand marks. The Giwe, being reluctant to pay, was accommodated in a dungeon of the castle, where he sustained cold, hunger, stenches, and attacks of toads, for quite a long time: but persevered in his recalcitrant behaviour. John, then, took to tearing a tooth out of the back of his jaw, one every day after mass, seven in all; and the tearing was not done tenderly. On the eighth day, Ysaak was found to have lost his face, only a festering swelling representing it, nor was any mouth seen whereby the tongs might enter. The tormentor, therefore, began to slit what he took to be a cheek: but the first snap of his scissors caused so much and so profound displeasure, that the Giwe cheerfully submitted to Soft¬sword's indefensible illegalities.

Seeing, then, how the Giwen might be parted from their wealth, and, knowing exactly how much each Giwe had in hoard from which he might be parted, Softsword decided to go further in this direction. But he wished to be affable, if they would let him: for some bishop had told him that the wise grazier shears his sheep without flaying them, and that bargains are more pleasant than pillage and more profitable than plunder. The said Ysaak of Bristol having been healed, he, with two other Giwen named Yomtob of Lincoln and Beleasez of Oxford, who were among the most eminent Giwen in the kingdom, were brought to the Wild Ass in his castle of Corfe: for he had a most horrible plan in his mind, and dispensed with his trumpets on this occasion.

"Sir Giwe," says he to Ysaak, "I desire, making you amends for your teeth, to sell you a male lamb without blemish for your passover: for I hear that your nation has not been able to find a sacrifice worth your buying, or one which ye could buy with security, these nine years." The Giwen began to tremble at these frightful words: for they suspected snares. But Softsword was excessively affable, and gave clear tokens that he was in earnest. Therefore, they proceeded cautelously, neither denying him, nor incriminating themselves, being anxious to propitiate him, as well as to satisfy their own religion and their own cupidity. Mortain then bade the Giwen to observe Duke Arthur, now a gigantic flower of boyhood, who (by chance) was strolling in the outer bailey: but, all the while, he spoke of the lamb which he had for sale, saying that it was an orphan, merely an encumbrance to its present owner on account of its rarity, he preferring a commoner sort of sheep of which he had already as many flocks as he could manage. The Giwen timidly inquired the price of this lamb. To whom Softsword answered that the price must be a high one, seeing that the said lamb was perfect even in the most minute particulars, and to be sold for sacrifice and nothing else. And he bade them to say what sum they were willing to offer. Then Be1easez of Oxford was very bold: for he saw all which was intended, the dastardly cupidity of John desiring to be ridded of his nephew, and the glory to accrue to the Bristol Giwerie by so magnificent a victim; and he spoke up like a man, giving a famous answer. "Our forefathers," says he, " paid thirty silver marks for a Lamb a long while ago; and we, more generous than they, will pay thirty-thousand silver marks for this lamb."

See reincarnate Judas: see now a second Herod. Sixteen days later, Earl John pouched the price of blood; and my lord the king, his pages and his cotterels having been pushed into the castle-oven and baked, was delivered by night, gagged and bound, to the myrmidons of the Giwen, who conveyed him secretly to Bristol, and sent word of the impending sacrifice to all their synagogues in the kingdom. For, considering the highness of their victim and the splendour of his every perfection, they expected no less than the redemption of their whole race on account of so magnificent a sacrifice. All this, I had from Beleasez of Oxford himself, when (much later) he was engaged in dying.

And just in case anybody thought this was other than as reported, here is the sacrifice:

XIIII. About Duke Arthur his Most glorious Martyrdom
The night was dark, moonless, and starless. We armed ourselves from head to foot. Fulk flamed with a torch by my side; and I led the way. The gate of the Giwerie was guarded by two, who fled inward at my approach. We saw many lights witllin the gate. We heard multitudinous murmuring. I felt myself directly inspired by The Lord God. I gave the word to draw longswords, and to slay without mercy. So, we rode in at full gallop, using our weapons like scythes. The Giwen ran like rabbits to an inner gateway. Fulk followed me; and, flinging off my horse, I entered also. The crime was in the very article of perpetration.

There were about thirty Giwen in the small courtyard, twenty ancients with torches, ten young and lusty otherwise occupied. Their backs were toward me; and they were engaged on the ground before them. There, lay a huge cross of oaken timber. On the cross, was the Regal Majesty of my lord the king, naked as born, bleeding from weals, crowned with thorn.

His left knee was bent, and his left foot nailed flat to the cross. His right leg was pulled long and straight, and tied to the wood with cordage. A great filthy Giwe was riding straddled on his belly, pressing his shoulders down to the transom. His left arm was pulled long and straight, and tied to that transom with cordage. Every part of him, which was not nailed or corded, writhed and struggled most awfully. His well-toothed head darted, and bit, and cursed, with the anger of all the Angevins and the passions of all the Plantagenets.

Two stout young Giwen were gripping the finger and thumb of his right hand, lying on their bestial backs with their hooves in his armpit, stretching and straining his right arm out at full length on the transom. Another Giwe, much younger, kneeled near by, pointing a nail into the palm of the open hand. A fourth Giwe had swung up his heavy hammer. It came down. The nail shuddered, screeching, through regal flesh, and hid its shamed point in the wood.

All this, I saw in the flash of an eye. Then, I got to work with both hands and my long-sword, sweeping round and round irresistibly.

From Hubert's Arthur, by Fr. Rolfe. Written between 1906 and 1913, first published by Cassell, 1935, with an introduction by A.J.A Symons.

The most striking feature of the book for a modern reader has to be these sections on the Jews. Symons comments that 'Hubert's attitudes towards the "Giwen", which reflects Corvo's own, gives us hints towards a further knowledge of Fr. Rolfe's warped and complex nature.' Which hardly seems, with the wisdom of hindsight, enough.

Also must be just about the first novel to feature a hero who uses karate; Hubert's pal Fulk -- "And Earl Fulk's hands finished him in an instant: the left, with its hardened hand-edge, chopping his nape: the right, jabbing with fingers rigid as iron just below his hairy breast-bone, both producing separate and dismally painful deaths."

Skills learned from the Assassins, evidently.

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