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London beckons

Tomorrow evening I leave with Kathleen for a ten-day trip to London, with brief sorties to Oxford, Stratford, Bath, and Paris. I will be without cell phone and computer so as to be delightfully out of pocket. But I will have a volume of Jane Austen close at hand and will give your regards to Dr. Johnson at the Abbey.

Postings will resume sometime in mid-January.

Today we have the joke of the week, “The coincidences”:



And the word of the week, haruspicy.

Posted by John McIntyre at 10:08 AM | | Comments (241)


It sounds heavenly. I hope you have a wonderful time and some stories to bring back to make us jealous.

I have very fond memories of Oxford. If you're there, a 'quick' visit to Blackwell's is always a treat (be warned, it's one of those strange places larger on the inside than the out). It's on Broad St, just a little to the East and on the opposite side from Exeter College (founded in 1314, and including Tolkien amongst its alumni). If you happen to be there, touch the stones for me - I miss the place.


Jane Austen? bleccch

Tut, tut.

Have a safe trip and a marvellous holiday.

Hi John,

I guess there's something to be said for visiting fair London town (and environs) in the middle of winter........... but for the life of me, I don't know what. HA! (Considering the hellish, blustery, winter they've endured, thus far.)

Just joshing Mr. McI.

The winter season should be as good a time as any, I wouldn't doubt.

I'm sure embracing London all blanketed in freshly-fallen snow has its unique charms, and moreover, just knowing of all the famed luminaries of its storied past (yes, even Jack the Ripper), who have walked, stalked, staggered, or shambled along the very streets that you and your wife Kathleen will be perambulating, is quite exciting to contemplate, and even more exciting to actually experience. I'm frankly a bit envious.

I often conjure up those frosty, wintery images of working-class 19th century London's urban corridors depicted so faithfully in the Alistair Sim version of Dickens' "A Christmas Carol", (still my very favorite), although if the truth be known, they were all likely shot on some BBC, or Thames Broadcasting back lot. Oh, the artifice of it all. HA!

At any rate, I hope you both have a jolly good, fun and wonder-filled fortnight (well almost), in London and those other noted locales you alluded to. You've definitely earned a vacation from "the paragraph factory".

(Parenthetically, I think the veteran tennis scribe and broadcaster, Bud Collins, of sartorial disaster fame, decades ago first clued me into the rather arcane sounding term "fortnight", (a span of roughly two weeks duration), applied, in his case to the length of the annual Wimbeldon Tennis Championships at the posh all-England tennis facility in this decidedly upscale suburb of London.)

We'll miss your expert blogging, John, but look forward to a full synopsis/ report of your trip over the Pond on your return, looking particularly for those 'extra "u"s that America-English has opted to drop. As a nit-picky transplanted Canuck, I'll be extra vigilant. HA!

Ta! Ta! for now,


Fortunately thaw has set in here, so you won't have too much trouble with transport anymore.

Which Jane austen are you bringing along? Which JA is your favorite novel? What do you think of her juvenalia? Inquiring minds want to know (or at least one does).

I miss England. Lived there for a year as an exchange student and spent time in your list of locales (London, Stratford, Oxford and Bath), but Sussex was my home.

Enjoy the trip,

Not that you need UK travel tips but envy of your trip renders me unable to resist. In London if you haven't roamed Borough Market's open air stalls near Southwark Cathedral just on the South Bank, please do. It was a revelation for me in late 2009.

Another Oxford pub recommendation is the Trout Inn just outside town. Inspector Morse shrine for fans of that series. I understand they went more upscale dining since my last trip but a drink at the river's edge can't have changed that much.

OK, enough vicarious traveling on my part. Enjoy your trip and reading.

Wishing you and Kathleen the best of trips. Will miss the nearly-daily postings here but will also know that the two of you are having a long-deserved and wonderful time together. Bon voyage!

I wish you both the very best of adventures.

Now, MichiganCityDDS, don't be splenetic. Make a New Year's resolution to give JA another try. If your "DDS" indeed signifies that you are a dentist, you may be interested in passages from two of her letters describing the rigors of Regency-era dentistry. Details upon request.

And, McI, be forewarned that you should skip the JA Centre in Bath if your tour group will let you (it's geared to fans of the film and TV adaptations, which means that you too may be splenetic by the time you get out of there). Other than that, I hope you and K travel safely and have a wonderful time.

Lord, yes. And the whole business of Bath cashing in on Austen is a bit weird. In fact best to avoid Bath. And Stratford. And Oxford. And Paris, obviously. London's fine.

Dorothy L Sayers, Morse and Margaret Thatcher aside, I have a preference for Cambridge. It's colder there - that pesky North Sea and all - and the Fens can still be bleak, but all those musicians and scientists nurtured there still overwhelm me.

We traveled in England in the very cold January in 1985. (All the fountains were frozen.) When I remember slipping into bed and encountering damp clammy sheets, I think I can safely say I have never been so cold in my life. I hope you find nice warm beds!

So, Patricia: Oxford for murders, Cambridge for suicides? University towns lack charm for me. And, Dahlink, it sounds as though you encountered England's famous hospitality industry at its fawltyesque best. They gave you sheets?

Yes, Picky, they did supply sheets for the hotel beds, but they obviously did not spend enough time in the dryer. We moved on from London to stay with friends in the north of England, and there we were sent to bed with some sort of warming device--much appreciated! For some reason, I don't sleep well when my teeth are chattering.

Hi Picky,

As you intimated in your last terse post (worthy of blogger Patricia the Terse HA!), perhaps the thoroughly batty, chronically inept hotelier, Basil Fawlty had a hand in blogger Dahlink's 1985 less-than-satisfying 'close encounter' w/ those, as she put it, "damp, clammy sheets"? HA!

Indeed, maybe Dahlink was actually staying at THE Fawlty Towers down Torquay (Tork-key) way, where local rumor has it that the winter dampness coming off the frigid English Channel can chill one to the marrow, and appear to invade every nook and cranny of ones very being, not unlike melting butter oozing into one of those Thomases English muffins. Well I know melting butter is "hot" (not cold), but just go along w/ the visual "nooks and crannies" visual......... please. HA!

Why they never made more than twelve episodes of the brilliant Fawlty Towers series w/ the hilariously goofball, John Cleese at the helm, is one of the great on-going, unresolved BBC TV mysteries. As bumbling 'Towers' Barcelonan busboy/ 'gopher' Manuel might query, "Que?".

Not to mention the dirth of "Prime Suspect" episodes produced........ but don't get me started. (Actually one of our local PBS affiliates here in L.A. will be airing the "Prime Suspect" series, from it's inception, starting this very weekend. Helen Mirren, (pardon the lame pun to follow), in her absolute 'prime'. What a treat.) ".


I can't speak to the suicide rate at Cambridge, but here at home you can't beat Cornell. All of those threatening ravines seem irresistable to depressed undergraduates. It's just easier to transfer.

Alex: Have you seen Miss Mirren in "Painted Lady?" Superb.

Hi Patricia the Terse,

After reading that last depressing (yet terse) penultimate post of yours, I'm going to give you the new blog moniker of 'Patricia the Morbid' . HA! Just joshin'.

But seriously Patricia, I have a fairly close friend who grew up here in the mostly sunny, temperate climes of L.A.'s San Fernando Valley, earned her Master's degree in English Lit. at USC, and then ended up, clear across the country, doing her Doctorate in creative writing at Cornell.

Needless-to-say, it was quite the dramatic weather 'shocker' when Kellie initially encountered her first up-State New York fierce winter, even though she remarked on the serene beauty of the semi-rural, wilderness aspects of Ithaca, and environs, Cornell's hometown. She grew to love the insularity of this somewhat atypical college town.

Thankfully, she wasn't of a suicidal bent, although she did mention the plethora of waterways---creeks, ravines, and such--- which as you pointed out, in the dead of winter could be potential suicide 'magnets' for hopelessly depressed undergrads. Hardly a pleasant thought. Alas, hypothermia can be a most cruel, and ofttimes quite fatal, reality.

On a cheerier note---- I have not, I must confess, seen Dame Helen Mirren in "Painted Lady". Is it one of her more recent films?

I heard she's gotten mostly stellar reviews from her lead performance in the recently-released , "Tempest", playing the feminized version of the complicated Prospero, in her role as Prospera.

The Baltimore Sun's dedicated and most astute film critic, Mike Sragow, at his "Getting Reel"
blog unabashedly loved Mirren's Prospera in "Tempest', even though the movie appeared to garner mixed reviews across the full gamut of nationwide critical entertainment media.

I've yet to see "Tempest', but it is definitely high on my must-see-film ledger.

Oh, I guess you can call me 'Alex the Verbose'. HA! I wouldn't take offense. Tit-for-tat, and all that.

Ta! Ta!


Not morbid, but Cornell's reputation for unbridled, often vicious, competitiveness, is no secret. Nor is the suicide rate, which is so prevalent that it is mentioned in the undergraduate brochure. There are other good schools where one isn't meant to feel useless at 19 if one only achieves a B in calculus. As to Miss Mirren: "Painted Lady" was on either MYSTERY! or Masterpiece Theatre in the 1990s. It's a mystery combined with art history and it is a real treat. You can find it on DVD, and if you are a Mirren fan you'll gladly spend the money. The rest of the cast is superb as well. As for "Prospera," I think I'll pass. If Shakespeare has visualized that character as female, he would have written the play like that. And the play is complicated enough without 21st- century interference.(And as I think of it, Ithaca is more inbred than I can handle, not to say self-satisfied. I'm glad to have a world-class music department within driving distance, but there are limits.)

Hi (again) Patricia,

I can well appreciate the purist in you passing on this latest dramatic incarnation of The Bard of Avon's classic "The Tempest', even if such a meritorious, and hugely gifted actress as Ms. Mirren, is currently playing the male role of Prospero (envisioned, as such, from the get-go by Will Shakespeare), as the gender-bending "Prospera".

Kind of ironic, in a sense, when in Shakespeare's time, apparently almost all the female parts in his major stage(d) plays were performed by men-in-drag. In those bygone days, queens were apparently queens, and men....... well let's not be too judgmental. Tights were fashionable back in the day. Not to mention codpieces. Oops, I just did. HA!

Interestingly, a while back I wrote a fairly laudatory post on The Sun's Mike Sragow's "Get Reel" blog re/ the early '90s Miramax Film,' "Prospero's Books", starring the classically-trained, distinguished Brit actor, the late Sir John Gielgud. As a life-long visual artist, myself, I felt Peter Greenaway's imaginative conception, direction, and art direction of the piece was nothing short of surreal, painterly brilliance. The narrative, admittedly, may have gotten lost, on occasion, in the telling, but I just couldn't take my eyes off the dazzling panorama of sight and sound unfolding before me. There was a real air of sensuality, and under-current of eroticism throughout this film, w/ naked performers being almost the rule, rather than the exception. Yet I didn't get the feeling that the nudity was vicarious, or used merely to titillate the viewer.

Patricia, check my earlier post out if you may be so inclined.

By-the-by, thanks for your clarification on Mirren's "Painted Lady" performance. Funny, I've usually caught most of those MYSTERY, and Masterpiece Theatre BBC efforts over the years, on PBS, but "Painted Lady" obviously somehow, or other, slipped thru the proverbial cracks.

Re/ the 'dark side' of Cornell University. Who knew? Clearly you, for one, Patricia.

Frankly, my sole knowledge of Cornell up to the period when my aforementioned friend, Kellie, had attended in the late '90s/ early 2000s, was that it had a long-standing reputation as a pretty decent hockey school. In fact, a couple of young Canadian college hockey prospects from my little hometown burg (burb?) of Richmond Hill, Ontario some 50 miles due-north of Toronto, had won hockey scholarships to play on their university squad back in the mid-'70s. Neither, however, made it to the pros.......... or committed suicide, for that matter. (Groan.)

Cornell's other major claim-to-fame (or infamy, in light of their sad suicide 'rep'), that I was well aware of, was that they could rightly boast as being one of the most authoritative institutions of higher learning for all things ornithological, i.e., the study of, and research into bird behavior, and such.

Being a longtime avid birder (along w/ my girlfriend), most serious bird enthusiasts have some notion of Cornell's prominence in the fascinating realm of birds. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology is world renowned, and is noted for conducting the annual North American Christmas Bird Count (CBC) where almost every region on the continent tallies bird numbers and species observed over the span of a single day (basically dawn till dusk), w/ census totals from near-and-far eventually ending up at Cornell for final tallying and eventual analysis. For a birder geeks, this is major stuff. Considering the CBC has been going on for over a century now, something is
is clearly working, even though many native bird species are in peril.

Why even those cutsie, popular plush bird toys, that when pressed on just the right spot, emit their species-specific song/ call, have a direct Cornell Lab connection. Those are actual field recordings from their vast bird vocalizing 'library'. Who knew?

Anyhoo, Patricia, great to toss thoughts and opinions around w/ you. I wonder if our blogmeister, Mr. McIntyre wasn't vacationing w/ his wife in jolly old England, he'd let us drift off topic, so radically? HA!



Did you ever see Helen Mirren in The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover? Greenaway's visual artistry was on full display in that film. The themes explored were like a Hieronymus Bosch morality painting brought to life.

I think the restriction of Fawlty Towers to two series was a decision not by the BBC but by Cleese and Booth.

And sorry to be picky, but although it's true that the Channel can throw up some weather (as Adm Cornwalis could tell you) Torquay is actually known for its mild winters - thus all those sorry palm trees.

Hi Laura Lee,

Nice to 'see' you on this site. I've truly missed your poetic offerings and our mutual online discourse, of late, especially since I've been deemed kind of persona non grata by 'the keeper' of a certain other Baltimore Sun blog that shall remain nameless..... to protect both the innocent and guilty parties. HA!

Let's just say I was totally gobsmacked in mid-November by this sudden turn of events, and for the life of me can't see my punishment (complete ostracism) fitting the alleged 'crime'. Yet, I've begrudgingly accepted my fate, and moved on. I do still peek in, on occasion, but to not be able to freely contribute is slightly painful.

Frankly, I really do miss the elevated level of (mostly) civil, and reasoned discourse on THAT aforementioned blog, w/ folks like yourself, whom I'd gotten to kinda know, enjoy, relate to, and care for over almost a year-and-a-half of posting.

But alas, there is little, if anything I can do (that I haven't already tried), to remedy a seemingly dysfunctional, hopeless situation.

At least I'm able to enjoy contributing to this fine site, on occasion, w/ the witty and urbane, now-vacationing Mr. McIntyre so masterfully captaining at the helm. He's such a hoot, at times.

I also find the Sun's Mike Sragow's "Gets Reel" movie (and theater) critiquing blog very stimulating, entertaining, and most importantly, super informative, and now-and-again throw in my 2-cents-worth. Mike S., IMO, is such a fine, gifted writer, and so obviously completely dedicated to his craft.

Oh, and I do recall that back in my 'arty' art school days (circa early-to-mid '70s) when it seemed to be so 'cool' to check out almost every foreign (subtitled) film that came down the pike at our few local Toronto 'art-houses', I did, indeed, see Peter Greenaway's ,"The Cook, the Theif, His Wife and Her Lover' , but it was so far back in the recesses of my distant memory bank that I must confess that I had forgotten that Helen Mirren was even in this spectacle of a film.

I'm sure , as a then much younger actress, Mirren came off as quite the fetching wench in this 1989 Greenaway Boschian filmic phantasmagoria. HA! Not that she is any less 'hot', these days.

Although hardly in the same class as the almost aesthetically perfect, classic beauties as say fellow thespians, Angelina Jolie, or Charlize Theron, Dame Mirren , for me, has always projected a latent, potent sensuality and inner strength in whatever role she plays, and legions of male admirers (and ladies, for that matter) find her sensual aura extremely appealing. I must confess, I too fall within the ranks of those fans who find Mirren very much a woman of both forcefulness and physical attraction. What can I say........ mea culpa. HA!

I remember "Babette's Feast", I believe a Danish production, was one of the more 'heavy', memorable, must-see foreign offerings back in that era, almost three decades ago.

At any rate, Laura Lee, it's always a treat to hear your comments. One request----bring on more of your poignant poetic references, and allusions. Great poetry does truly lift the mind, the hear,t and the human spirit.

By-the-by, speaking of arty films, have you seen either Greenaway's 1987 film "the Belly of An Architect' starring the American actor Brian Dennehy, or his earlier (1982) movie, "The Draughsman's Contract". Both visually stunning films are well worth a gander. Both exude that almost trademark Greenaway eccentricity and quirkiness, but are both minor visual gems, IMHO.

Have a great weekend, Laura Lee.



It's so good to hear from you as well. I have indeed seen "The Belly of an Architect" and found it a memorable film, particularly that opening scene with the main character impregnating his wife as their pullman car traverses the Italian countryside. Another image seared in my brain is that of the architect enlarging a small portrait of some ancient Roman on a copier machine to a size he can superimpose on his own belly. Very weird.

Are you by any chance on Facebook or Twitter?

Cornell is well known for its "birdy" types, and also for its veterinary school, which works wonders for sick and injured creatures.As for Miss Mirren, she has made some films which are fairly obscure: try looking up a synopsis of her work (TCM, maybe, will have one, and see what else you have missed. Meanwhile, get "Painted Lady." I think we have more fun without TEACHER here. No snide remarks about sports, bow ties or liberal politics. Life is too short.

May I not even mention cricket? Certain cricketng celebrations are taking place at present among we English. I've been very patient so far in view of the fact (at least, I'm assured it's a fact) that some of the nations represented in these comments do not follow cricket as closely as they should. But my patience is not limitless.

Hi Picky,

Since you courageously (HA!) brought up the sport of "cricket', which I understand has hugely popular followings (the pro cricketers, that is), in the U.K., Pakistan, India, the West indies, and several of the former British Commonwealth nations across the globe, I might as well reciprocate w/ an equally oft-maligned sport, namely "curling".

Curling had it's earliest origins in Scotland, w/ the material for the finest granite curling stones having been quarried for centuries from the majestic Ailsa Craig, an imposing stony, barren outcrop of ancient rock jutting from the sea off the Ayrshire coast. The famed Turnberry Golf Course, the site of an almost miraculous 2009 British Open victory-that-was-not-to-be by the then 60 years-young wee Tom Watson, looks out to Ailsa Craig (on a clear day), and has named it's premier course of three championship layouts, the Ailsa course.

(Parenthetical note: I had the good fortune to play the Ailsa course at Turnberry back in the summer of 1996, and as I recall barely broke 100 for the 18-hole round. Nonetheless, it was a visual treat, and one of my fondest golf memories.)

Being a long-transplanted (to L.A. from Toronto) Canuck, I appreciate, but still don't necessarily understand the passion for this fairly ancient sport in my home-and-native-land, where as a youngster growing up in hockey-centric Toronto, I actually watched many a B&W televised curling match on CBC Sports. ( Had I ever told my male peers back in the late-'50s-early '60s, that I faithfully watched curling, they would likely have ostracized me, and suggested I put on a dress. HA!)

I actually found a certain geometric elegance, combined w/ a calm, deliberate and measured competitiveness exhibited on the curling rink, where the top-ranked 'players' would strategize their next move, and then the captain would slide gracefully into his (or her) delivery and delicate release. Then, within seconds, the frantic broom-work of their teammates would follow, as the delivered-stone approached the magic target, either nestling neatly behind an opponent's 'scoring' stone(s), or perhaps missing its mark completely, and sliding well beyond the prized bull's-eye.

Debunkers, and dissers of curling (and they are legion), often point to watching a curling match as akin to watching paint dry, or grass grow. In short.......... very B-O-R-I-N-G and S-L-O-W. I say if you haven't tried it, then don't knock it.

Picky, hate to be a 'sticky wicket' here (or 'picky wicket' HA!), but for the majority of all-round sports enthusiasts, cricket hasn't been held in very high regard, probably since they've never even played, or just can't see the merits of any game that tallies game-scores into the hundreds, and matches that can drag on for days-on-end.

In a North American culture skewed to a younger-generational way of seeing the world, and wanting instant solutions and results in so many aspects of their lives, it stands to reason that games such as cricket and curling that might be viewed as plodding and slow by most compared to faster-paced pro football, basketball, or hockey, would not be huge audience-draws, and at least in the west remain niche-type, quirky sports.

Picky, I respect your obvious love of the game of cricket, and am glad you opened up the discussion......... which will likely go nowhere. HA!

But clearly, while the cat's (Mr. McIntyre) away, indeed, the mice (us bloggers) will play. HA! Let enjoy it while we can, before 'teach' returns, and admonishes us for going so far off topic in his absence.


As long as our grammar,spelling and punctuation are correct, he has no right to criticize. And he certainly can't fault us for going off the topic. This would be the pot calling the kettle extremely dark. And, re ut supra, I prefer to see people in public, including movies (and films) with their clothes on. I think we look better that way. And I always wonder why directors insist on so much nudity in movies. We know that men and women remove their clothing to get into bed together. There's no reason to balabor the point. I vaguely recall"Prospero's Books," although I can't recall if I saw it.

Well, at the risk of veering off into the dreaded 'off-topic-zone' (HA!), I couldn't resist making note of the last article of the front ("A") section of today's, (Sunday's), L.A. Times (hardcopy) edition, which much to my surprise, and delight happened to be a timely piece picked up from a Baltimore Sun online entry penned by reporter Jill Rosen. See, we Left-coasters DO care about what's happenin' back on that OTHER coast. HA!

The article w/ the header, 'Sorry, hon, that's a trademark', was an update on the on-going, now slightly infamous, Cafe Hon dust-up, w/ proprietor Denise Whiting at the center of this whole local kerfuffle.

Apparently, the latest contentious twist in this seemingly never-ending saga of publicly-aired vitriol involves Baltimore-based online scribe Bruce Goldfarb's open challenge of Cafe Hon's Ms. Whiting's exclusive claim to her primacy of the commercial use of the word "hon", w/ his pending sale of coffee mugs emblazoned w/ just plain HON, in red bold red letters on every cup, as his latest provocation.

Goldfarb, according to Rosen's article, is quoted as saying his "goal is to establish that 'hon' is in the public domain, and to provoke her (Whiting) into a fight to defend her claim." Further he claims, "It's not a legitimate mark. Period."

In marked contrast, the starkly bold headline on today's L.A. Times FRONT page reads, "6 DIE IN TUCSON RAMPAGE", w/ the sub-head reading, "Congresswoman is critically injured, suspected gunman arrested".

IMO, when one looks at the rather petty 'hon' controversy, it does really pale in import, in the grander scheme of things, particularly in light of the insane havoc that was wrought in Tucson, Arizona, yesterday morning.

Sadly, it appears that Arizona has become almost the 'default' epicenter for political divisiveness, and rabid rancor in this nation, where hateful rhetoric, and the rants of the reactive fringe elements of the general populace seem to have taken center-stage, and managed to corral the media limelight. The rugged individualistic, xenophobic, gun-toting, frontier-justice ethos of the Old-West appears to be alive and well in the State of Arizona. Yet I'll concede that this horrific tragedy could have just as readily been played out almost anywhere in America, today.

In retrospect, when various conservative media pundits kind of down-played Sarah Palin's Facebook pre-Nov.-midterm-election map w/ gun-sight cross-hairs superimposed over various Democrat Party candidates on a mocked-up map of the contiguous U.S.A., in light of the attempted assassination of Rep. Giffords by this seemingly deranged young man, the use of that insensitive, and frankly provocative, below the belt, Palin political ruse should now give us all pause for serious reflection.

Admittedly, 'The Wasilla Rogue' did quickly remove her 'bullet-points', Dem candidate mid-term-election hit-list from her Facebook page, but only when she witnessed the huge online push-back from millions of concerned, more reasonable folk.

I, for one, as just a basic human being ( not even American-born, or a U.S. citizen), am totally sickened, outraged, and deeply saddened by this senseless maiming and murderous rampage of needless violence in Tucson.

Let us keep those who have lost their dearest loved ones to this insanity in our thoughts, and prayers as we move forward, and pray especially hard for the fullest recovery possible of Rep. Giffords and all those other wounded innocents who were so mercilessly gunned down yesterday. Amen.


Patricia: my experience of naked humanity is less extensive than I would once have hoped, but I know enough to believe you're being a little finicky. The naked form, especially when the youthful hue still sits on it, can be quite pleasant.
Alex: I know nothing against curling. Perfectly respectable game. Perhaps like other one-at-a-time end-to-end sports (bowls, skittles, bowling, darts) it's better played than watched.
Golf, now, is a different kettle. Much to commend it ... it's just that the culture in the clubhouse is so flipping awful.
And really, you can't thrust cricket into a niche: it's allegedly the world's second most popular sport (after association football).
Not going to comment on Hon - what a barrel of piranhas that is.
And it doesn't seem right to try one-liners on the Tucson business, except perhaps to say that if we want to get some of the violence out of political rhetoric - and my opinion is that the US would benefit from that - we should be careful to keep the comments on Tucson as nonpartisan as possible.

Hi Picky,

I must say you were at your 'picky' best w/ that last posting. Admittedly, you DID make a lot of sense, making persuasively valid points on several fronts. I agree w/ you that the game of cricket is one of the world's most avidly followed sports, w/ legions of fans, so my labeling it in the "niche" sport category was hardly accurate. I guess my implication was that it hasn't really caught on in a major fashion in North America, although ironically, here in The Valley in L.A. we have quite a respectable grassy cricket pitch in Van Nuys. Who knew?

Picky, I do concur w/ you in regards to your "experience of naked humanity", as generally a positive, life-affirming, quite normal and natural phenomenon. Frankly, i also found fellow blogger Patricia the Terse's narrow-minded attitude re/ the unadorned, nude form, a bit , as you put it, "finicky". I was tending more toward "prudish", but found that term a bit too harsh, and perhaps too judgmental.

Being a professional visual artist (w/ emphasis on the "visual"), and having drawn from the unclothed, nude model from my earliest art school days onward, one, over time, comes to really appreciate the panoply of differing body types humanity has to offers----some lithe, toned, and athletic, others layered w/ great rolls of corpulent flesh, zaftig if you will, yet still displaying superb voluptuous forms from which to observe and hone one's artistic eye.

Why even the aged model, where gravity has clearly played its inevitable part, is a valuable reminder that we as humans are ever-altering in our physicality, but still remain essentially beautiful w/ the passing of time. Of course we all admire the vital, robust form of budding youth, as did the classic Greeks who idealized the nude human form in the most awe-inspiring works of masterfully hewn marble, followed by the great italian Renaissance and Baroque period masters, Michelangelo, Ghiberti, and Bernini.

Frankly, many a professional artist will concede that drawing the nude human figure w/ skill is a life-long challenge, and one of the most difficult exercises in the realm of artistic expression, period.

For me, as an artist, I see no intrinsic shame, or disgust in enjoying our basic nakedness. After all, didn't we all enter this world w/ nary a stitch upon our little cherubic bodies?

Harkening back to the Old Testament story of Genisis w/ Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, they initially romped lustily around Paradise, fancy-free and buck-naked----these alleged progenitors of all mankind-----until they had partaken of the infamous apple from the Tree of Knowledge, (a major no-no; can't trust those darn serpents), and as disobeyers-writ- large were instructed by Yahweh (a truly vengeful God), to get respectable, and cover their 'private parts' w/ fig leaves, toute suite, and further to get their 'neked' butts out of Eden, pronto; banished for eternity as the first SINNERS, w/ free-will as their only mortal consolation.

Well if you believe that tall tale as the gospel truth, or merely an instructive parable, or hyperbolic fable, somehow from that alleged banishment of Adam and Eve from Eden, forward, we God-fearing humans have somehow associated nudity w/ sinfulness, which, IMHO, is a total crock, to put it bluntly.

In point of fact, as I peck out this very post, totally nude in my finest 'birthday suit', save for a pair of fuzzy Sylvester-the-cartoon- pussycat slippers, I must bid all you 'nude-prudes' a fond farewell. I realize it's not the greatest mental image to leave you with, but sometimes the 'bare' truth isn't pretty. HA!

Oh, and Picky, just keep on pickin'!

(Apologies to cartoonist-extraordinaire, R. "Keep on Truckin'" Crumb.)


Miss Terse is eminently capable of speaking for herself, of course, but I suspect she would regard the nakedness thing as a matter not of sin or prudishness, but of good manners. One doesn't eat with ones mouth open, one doesn't interrupt ones elders, and one doesn't parade for public view that which should be private. At any rate I have some sympathy for that sort of approach.

Yes, I knew what you meant about niche: if you'll forgive a little prejudice on my part, it confirms the general European view that North Americans tend to be, how shall we put it, a little nearsighted. World Series indeed, for heaven's sake!

Now I must try to clear my mind of that image of you in your slippers. Good evening.

Tanti grazii, Picky, you chivalrous old devil, you. And just as an addendum, I just don't excuse eveything for the sake of "art." I simply don't find nudes, artistic or not, particularly interesting, and haven't since my early 20s. I don't doubt they are difficult to paint, draw or sculpt,but that is a different discussion. For the same reason I never saw "Last Tango (or Rhumba or Chassee) in Paris," I don't appreciate being cast in the role of voyeur (voyeuse?) in the movie house. Or anywhere else. Now to something really important: CRICKET. I don't understand cricket but I have no quarrel with those who do and who love it. I like to watch tennis - especially the Aussie Open and Wimbledon, but I still have no idea how they keep score. What fiend devised that system of points, anyway? Nor do I appreciate the new-ish system of judging in figure skating, which I do love. It's just a way to pile up points, rather than skating a wonderful, intricate program. This isn't prudish, priggish or Puritanical: it's a matter of taste and preference. Surely we are still allowed those, even in this tacky world of not offending anyone by language, action or opinion.

Hi Patricia,

I guess we can respectfully agree to disagree on our personal take (or taste) in when-and-where we each feel comfortable viewing the naked human form, and hopefully leave it at that.

I totally respect the fact that for you, in-you-face nudity, be it depicted in film, theater, TV, or as you so tersely put it, "anywhere else", essentially thrust upon you, casting you, as you say, "in the role of voyeur (voyeuse ?)", is rarely, if ever, your cup-of-tea, to put it mildly.

As fellow blogger Picky so eloquently pointed out, your personal stand on what you ofttimes regard as merely gratuitous, or provocative use of nakedness, where-ever, in your case appears to be neither a question of prudishness, or feelings of shame, or disgust, but rather comes from just plain old personal preference. Period. I, respectfully, and duly acknowledge your well-stated position in this regard. Case closed?

Now, moving on to a mutual love, and a more important topic (HA!), namely the sport of TENNIS.

I too look forward w/ relish (and a little mustard......hold the mayo) to the four pro tennis majors each season, although sadly, one of your 'favs', the Aussie Open, particularly here in North America, seems to always get short-shrift in terms of optimal media coverage and world exposure, as opposed to the triumvirate of Wimbeldon, the French and U.S. Opens. Perhaps, it's the fact that Australia is so way off in the 'hinterland' in most folks global perception, and yet that should not be a valid reason, in view of our instant-feedback, totally wired and ever-connected media world of today.

Australia, in the earlier Golden Age of tennis, has given us such a bounty of greats, from the amazing lefty, Rod Laver, to iron-horse, Ken Rosewall, multi-major winner, Roy Emerson, and the debonair, moustacheoed John Newcombe, to name just a handful. Oh, and my boyhood favorite, Evonne Goolagong, doing her native Aboriginals proud.

For me, each tennis major has its distinct character, dictated to a large extent by the varied playing surfaces (clay, grass, hard-court/ composition), yet also by the unique ambiance of the vibrant, individual cities in which they're played.

There was nothing quite like viewing those hotly-contested U.S. Open, seemingly interminable, 5-set center-court night battles under the lights at the (now) Billie Jean King Tennis Center/ NYC, w/ a reved-up Jimmy Connors (NYC's Golden Boy), going mano-a-mano w/ the likes of arch rival John McEnroe, or upstart Aaron Krickstein, and pulling out a miraculous victory at the 11th hour............ or more likely at 2:00AM in the morning. Champion Andre Agassi was also one for late-night Open histrionics and heroics, as well. Such pure drama and sustained competitive intensity would be hard to match in any one-on-one sporting endeavor. Maybe in the squared-circle of the boxing ring?

With the ascendence of Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal to the pinnacle of the current men's game, it's almost become an exclusive two-man show, w/ the likes of the Slovak, Novak Djokavik, the steady, determined Swede, Robin Söderling, the two Andys, Scot--Murray, and Yank---Roddick, seemingly ever in the wings, keeping the mighty Swiss and Spaniard on their toes.

And the pro women's game, for me, is such a treat to follow. Of course, the powerful and talented Williams sisters, Venus and Serena, have clearly dominated the majors for some time now, yet the Belgian duo of Clistyers (sp. ?) and Henin have both recently opted to come out of retirement, adding major depth to the distaff side of the game, w/ Clistyers making such a resounding return, winning back-to-back (2009, 2010) U.S. Open singles titles, while raising an adorable little girl, her first child, too boot.

Caroline Wozniaki, the blond, robust, statuesque young Dane w/ the Polish name (her dad is a native-Pole) is a force to be reckoned with, and the Aussie, Samantha Stosur, once regarded as merely a winning singles specialist, has blossomed in the last few years into a fine singles player, always a strong threat to make it to the finals of any given tournament.

Hopefully, Serena Williams will eventually get back to close to 100% physical form, as she still recovers from that freak, and unfortunate off-court foot injury (a nasty glass shard cut). She truly has elevated her game to such a high level of excellence and completeness, that many pundits feel she is in a league of her own, and will eventually garner many more majors. With the caveat that her desire to compete, and her optimal health are still there, going forward.

It would also be great to see the gifted Maria Sharipova make a resurgence, of sorts, this coming season, as she attempts to recover from major shoulder surgery from early 2010. Stunning beauty and tempered brawn; what an irresistible combination. HA!

Patricia, I DO agree, that the scoring in tennis does not make a whole lot of sense, and seems almost counter-intuitive. If one happens to play the game w/ any regularity, you eventually do get the gist of this seemingly odd scoring method, w/ the "15's", "30's", and "40's" counts , e.g., you're leading thirty-to-love, which translates, in simpler terms, to basically 2 points for you and zero ("love") for your opponent. Of course the term "deuce" means you're all tied, and "ad" means you, or your opponent has a one-point 'ad-vantage'. Clear as mud, right?

Unfortunately, that official scoring "fiend", as you so rightly put it, isn't going to alter this long-standing scoring system any time soon. I'd say, for me, it's a tad easier to get my skull around than to completely understand the nuances of say an off-side infraction in soccer, or ice-hockey, which I still find a little confounding at times. Now let's not get into the intricacies of American football rules, which even w/ the aid of instant replay, can start to mess majorly w/ one's head. HA!

That's why I tend to enjoy following the pro exploits in individual sports that I play, (or have played), like both golf and tennis.

Like you Patricia, I love to watch figure skating, but unfortunately the official judging can be very subjective at the highest levels of competition, particularly the Worlds and the Winter Olympics, although the power-that-be have tried to level the playing field in the spirit of overall fairness so that one, or two rogue, overly biased judges don't totally skew the final tally. IMHO, When we have humans as judges, and not the certainty of going up against the clock, or a particular agreed-upon, finite distance traversed, then there will always be that issue of human error of judgement, and resultant bad, or occasional questionable calls.

Well enough sports talk for a fine Tuesday morn.

Patricia, hope you are having a great week, thus far. Always appreciate and enjoy your personal musings and strong, firm opinions.


I just think if they hit the ball into the net they shouldn't get another go.

Yo Picky,

Are you being cutesy coy, a bit of a stubborn contrarian, or actually quite serious about tennis players NOT getting "another go", if their initial serve lands in the net?

As the former bad-boy of the pro tennis ranks would say, "You CAN'T be serious !".

"Cause it's pretty universally accepted that all players get TWO service tries to get the ball fairly into play on every game point, hopefully initiating some kind of back-and-forth rally. That's just the way it is, and has been since the early days of the sport's infancy back in jolly old England........ and perhaps, France (?).

If a player's second service attempt misses the proscribed 'box" where a served ball is considered in play, or they strike yet another net-ball, then that player has committed the dreaded "double fault', and automatically loses that game-point. Seems a fair enough penalty, no?

If the server, on the other hand, lands his (or her) first serve in that aforementioned "box" on their opposition's side of the net, and their opponent completely misses contacting that fair service, that shot is counted as an "ace", a very coveted shot in tennis.

The aforementioned John McEnroe, as a natural spin-serving lefty, had (and still has) a very deliberate, yet slightly quirky service delivery, and was known, in his prime, to take his more-likely-than-not right-handed opponent to their extreme left in the "ad" court, w/ his 'heavy', veering-wide ball action, often totally out of reach of his rival's racquet. Voila! A clean "ace" for 'Big Mac'.

If McEnroe's opponent began adjusting on the court more to their left for his wildly angled service action, McEnroe would often change up his service strategy, and smash a bullet-like serve down the uncovered middle of the court, the shot often just brushing the mid-line 'tape', catching his rival flat-footed, and ineffectual.

Well Picky, so much for the basics of serving in tennis. The sport isn't as easy as the pros often make it look, and since it's basically a level playing field (or court HA!) for every player, I, for one, believe a second service is perfectly warranted, and offers no real impediment to the flow, or integrity of the game.

That's just my take on it, for what it's worth. Perhaps not very much, in your (Pinky's) estimation. HA!


I wonder how many sports there are which give you a second go if you fail. Baseball, I suppose, in a way.

Anyway, I think if the server smacks it into the net that should be penalised, and I shall propose that to the All England Club.

The present arrangement just encourages speed and power when what we want to watch is cunning and skill. Or, if not cunning and skill, at least the occasional English player, just to keep our spirits up.

A Virginia Wade or Christine Truman or Ann Hayden or Angela Mortimer. Or Fred Perry, perhaps.

Yo Picky,

............ a Roger Taylor, or Tim Henman, or dare I suggest, Andy Murray? I get your drift.

Hmm...... now i realize it's not so much that you strongly object to the 'two-serve-thingy', but rather it's that you are totally flummoxed, and borderline-depressed by the sad fact that not one Brit tennis professional since the great Englishman, Fred Perry, who was victorious in men's singles at the 1936 Wimbledon Championships, has since managed to win another major title, let alone the prestigious annual All England Club contest.

Clearly, the young, boisterous upstart, the aforementioned Andy Murray, of the current crop of fine pro, world-class players, ( ranked in the top-five of men's players in the world), is the best odds-on bet to break the long-standing British tennis majors' drought....... jinx(?).

Yet being a proud Scotsman, in light of the long-festering antipathy of the English for the Scots, and visa-versa, going as far back as the infamous Highland clearances, and the British Crown's, in my view, cruel banning of the Highland bagpipes (which I play) and wearing of the traditional tartan plaids, if Murray were to eventually win one of the much-coveted majors, there would still likely be a passel of England-centrists who would affix their own personal asterisk* next to the victorious Scot, Murray's name, viewing him, even though a proven champion, as a quasi-Brit, at best. Let's hope less petty, prejudiced minds, and hearts would prevail.

But one positive sign that the Scots vs. English feud is thankfully ebbing, is the fact that famed Henman Hill, that wee slope of elevation on the grounds of the All England (Wimbeldon) Club where gathered fans who couldn't afford an actual ticket to watch the live matches, could nonetheless view the match-play-de-jour on a humongous gumbo-screen monitor, (in light of Andy Murray's stellar play over the past few years), has been renamed Murray's Mound (or Hill), which reflects that maybe the regional-centrism of old is finally on the wane.

Englishman Henman was such a gutsy, wily, determined, most-talented player for over a decade on tour, and on so many occasions was on the very brink of winning a major title, (even Wimbeldon), yet the tennis gods were not kind to this handsome guy over the years, and would always find ways to, as they say, snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. (Hmmm..... or is it the other way around. HA!)

The immense pressure of carrying an entire proud nation's tennis hopes and dreams on one's shoulders over all those seasons must have been a huge abiding emotional, and psychological strain on the likable, telegenic Henman. I felt he always handled adversity, loss, and media criticism so well.

Andy Murray still has youth on his side, and appears to be vastly improving his overall game from year to year. IMHO he WILL at some point in time (hopefully soon), put Fred Perry's now rather ancient circa 1936 record, benchmark-win to rest, and be duly crowned a major champ; ideally on the home turf of Wimbeldon.

Picky, as a transplanted Canuck w/ an abiding affection and reverence for my British roots (my late Dad was born in Glasgow, and my soon to be 86-years-young Mum's clan, the Frasers, hail from up Inverness way), I too would just love to see a Brit (male or female) win the Wimbeldon singles crown. (or a Canadian, but that appears to be even a longer shot. HA!). I, like yourself, would be thoroughly gobsmacked, and delighted, no doubt. HA!

Waxing a tad nostalgic, for me England's Virginia Wade, one of the few U.K. premier women's tennis champions, in her prime, brought such consummate beauty, grace, elegance, style, and just plain natural talent to the woman's game of her era, just at the dawn of the TV age, when the sport was starting to capture a new, and increasing world-wide fan base.

She was, and still is, a very special gal, and one of Britain's true, and enduring sport treasures. Always great to still see her seated in the Royal boxes at the All England Club, cheering her countrymen and women on------ a possible Wimbeldon champion. (Perchance to dream.)

Picky, your serve.

The ball is in your court. HA!


Well, Alex, we have had some champs since Fred ... but they've all been women. Or perhaps I shd say AND they've all been women. But it's been a long long time. 1977, in fact, as far as Wimbledon is concerned.

Meanwhile, to get serious, although it's sadly true that there is some strong antipathy for the English among some Scots, the reverse just isn't true (although it's sometimes hard to persuade Scots of that). Of course there's sporting rivalry, but that apart the English, on the whole, are rather admiring of the Scots.

Unfortunately that may not last, because it's not easy for Scottish Nationalists to campaign without sounding anti-English, and some of that stuff is starting to annoy folk south of the border. It's a shame.

But, partly because of all this, we need to be careful with the history. The Clearances were Scottish landowners chucking out Scottish crofters. Nothing to do with us English. The Hollywood version of history is not exactly infallible.

Hi (again) Picky,

As a pretty avid, (tennis) history-conscious tennis aficionado, I'm well aware that pro English-born women tennis players have faired much better than their male counterparts in Grand Slam majors, w/ Virginia Wade, alone, having won three major women's singles championships w/ victories at the U.S. Open, the Australian Open, and finally the 1977 Wimbeldon prize, undoubtedly her career crowning glory.

She also had great success teaming up w/ the formidable Margaret Smith Court, as a dominating doubles-duo, winning two U.S. Opens, one Aussie Open and the French on the famous red clay--- a total of four Grand Slam titles, in all.

Shifting gears---- respectfully, I think you have underplayed the role of England, and your English brethren re/ the Highland Clearances 'question'. I suggest you may get another perspective on this 'dark' chapter in British history, if you read the prolific American non-fiction writer, John McPhee's charming and revealing 1969 tome, "The Crofter and the Laird".

If you could bear w/ me, I would like to quote, at length, his publisher's (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux)
brief synoptic back-cover 'blurb' on McPhee's personal chronicle.

It reads: "When John McPhee returned to the island of his ancestors----Colonsay---twenty-five miles west of the Scottish mainland---a hundred and thirty-eight people were living there. About eighty of these, crofters and farmers, had familial histories of unbroken residence on Colonsay for two or three hundred years; the rest , including the ENGLISH laird who owned the island, were "incomers". Donald McNeil, the crofter of title, was working out his existence in this last domain of the feudal system; the laird, fourth Baron Strathcona, lived in Bath, appeared on Colonsay mainly in the summer, and accepted with nonchalance the fact that he was the least popular man on the island he owned. While comparing crofter and laird, McPhee gives us a deep and rich portrait of the terrain, the history, the legends, and the people of this fragment of the Hebrides."

Hmm.... that darn aforementioned laird (lord) "lived in Bath".........."appearing mainly in the summer"......... how lordly of him. Kind of smacks of good old absentee landlordism to this naive observer. Last time I checked a credible map of the U.K., the fair town of Bath (centuries ago a thriving Roman outpost), rests some distance due east of London.

So Picky, your paint-with-a-singular-broad-brush statement, above, that the Clearances had "Nothing to do w/ us English", appears to not be entirely historically accurate. Not that this one English laird residing in Bath, and lording over the tiny Isle of Colonsay, chronicled in McPhee's book, is the exception, rather than the rule.

I do concede that you may be correct in your personal observation that the average Scotsman has more lingering animus for the English, than the other way around.

Scottish Nationalist zealots, w/ their self-appointed poster-boy in actor Sean "007" Connery, have probably raised many an Englishman's hackles, in recent years, but I'm quite confident that most English folk find most Scots and their most beautiful bens and glens perfectly decent, and most awe-inspiring, respectively.

(Ironically, for years, according to his fellow thespian and long-time friend, Sir Michael Caine, Sir Sean has be comfortably ensconced on his own smallish estate in Bermuda, cheek-to-jowl to a championship links golf course; Golf being one of Connery's abiding passions, right up there w/ his pipe-dream (bagpipe-dream ?) of Scotland completely separating from the U.K. HA!)

With your earlier reference to "The Hollywood version of history'" not being "infallible", might you have been intimating both Mel Gibson's "Braveheart", or the less heralded film, "Rob Roy", starring Liam Neeson as the lead, and the quite convincingly Scottish-brogued American actress Jessic Lange? Just curious.

Ta! Ta! for now.


The Strathconas were actually a Scots Canadian family, I'm afraid, Alex, wherever they lived. And anyway their ownership of Colonsay came long after the Clearances were over.

For what it's worth,my favorite American athletes are Cal Ripken, Jr and Michelle Kwan. And isn't this Fun, Fun, Fun without the Ringmaster? I must now away to get organized: SU plays St John's at 7 in the Garden.



You are a most plucky, dogged, first-rate, formative 'debater', and maybe its the latent masochist in me that keeps me returning to our lively-back-and-forth verbal thrust-and-parry w/ such delight, and (pseudo ?) intellectual pleasure. HA!

Short of sounding conceited, hopefully some of our fellow bloggers out there will find our lively 'discussions' at least entertaining, if not some what enlightening. I'm sure Mr. blogmeister McIntyre will have a hissy fit over our unbridled discourse, when he returns from his sojourn on your home turf. HA!

Picky, i must concede that I've truly met my match in you (and perhaps more), but see no utility in licking my virtual wounds. HA!

In recently checking up on the Strathcona's noble lineage, going as far back as the Scottish-born-and-raised, later-naturalized Canadian citizen, Donald Smith---1st Baron Strathcona and Mount Royal (Montreal)--- who amassed a veritable king's fortune between his early years investing in, and guiding the burgeoning Hudson's Bay Company, (based in London), and later as one of the driving forces, and investors in the fast-expanding railway industry, I must admit the Strathcona 'lairds' stretching from Canadian patriarchal figure Donald Smith's peerage, up to the 20th century 4th Baron Strathcona chronicled in writer John McPhee's earlier referenced "The Crofter and the Laird", had little, if any connection to jolly old England....... other than residing there.

Just as it could be argued that Sir Sean Connery's living on the island of Bermuda, doesn't, make him Bermudan.

You win that argument, hands down Picky.

Interestingly, the aforementioned Donald Smith---1st Baron Strathcona and Mount Royal---
actually drove the famed "Last Spike" of the just then-completed Canadian Pacific Railway, on Nov. 7th, 1885, at Craigellachie, British Columbia, fulfilling one of the prime goals of Canada's Confederation as a nation.

The grand-fatherly Lord Smith markedly stood out in that assembled gathering of dignitaries, and railroad working-stiffs, in that famous photo documenting the driving of the 'last spike', w/ his snow-white, long, Darwinesque, flowing beard, sporting his odd-looking bowler-like hat. It was truly one of the momentous, history-changing symbolic events in my home-and-native-land's ---Canada's--- nationhood; as we were merely eighteen-years-extant as a confederated Dominion, w/ several addition provinces to subsequently enter the fold. Newfoundland/ Labrador joining 'the union' as late as 1949, under the political leadership of the Newfie firebrand, and provincial native-son, the legendary Joey Smallwood.

The mighty U.S.A. had an almost 100 year head-start on Canada as a bona fide country....... the proverbial elephant in the room, and yet the wretched and costly Civil War almost tore that neighboring nation completely, and irreparably asunder.

Picky, I recommend you check out a very cool, recently published book written by Canadian historian/ scribe Ken McGoogan, titled "How the Scots Invented Canada". It's basically a follow-up, shifted-focus study, inspired by author Arthur Herman's earlier-released book "How the Scots Invented the Modern World", which I also highly recommend.

I'm currently about halfway through McGoogan's tome, and am learning so much about the
major impact of notable immigrant Scots on the very fabric of Canada--- her politics, economy, medicine, sports, and rich cultural life.

Picky, you are something else. And that's a compliment.

Bye for now,


What a hoot to see all this discussion about Canadians, Scots and tennis? Who'd have thought we'd have so much enthusiasm in us without the direction of Der Kappelmeiseter von Kentucky?

Would this be basketball, Miss T? Who won?

You are much too kind, Alex. At the risk of boring you silly, a few sad last grey thoughts.

I'm sure there were English landlords in Scotland who behaved just as rapaciously as their neighbours. And of course there are those great aristocratic families with estates and branches both sides of the border who cannot be identified as specifically English or specifically Scottish (mostly they're Norman, of course). But the Clearances were acts of inhumanity and cruelty carried out by land owners in Scotland against crofters. They were not about English v Scottish or England v Scotland, and to say they were is an injustice to both nations, because it is an injustice to the historical truth and because that truth has a real importance in today's world of dangerous politics.

By Hollywood history I didn't mean those two films specifically (I haven't seen them) but the view of history as a string of romantic episodes where right defeats might. I'm a sucker for the romance of history myself, but I hope I recognise the dangers. These romantic myths may contain great truths; they may also obscure or distort or belie other, less convenient, truths.

Our view of history informs how we act today. Stories of the birth and growth of the United States clearly influence opinions on gun control, for example. And for really malign effects of historical myths just take a look at Ulster, or even the rise of Hitler.  History can be explosive, Alex. Take care when handling.

Hi Picky,

First off, you could NEVER be boring. Period. Case closed.

Secondly, thanks much for that post-closing cautionary note re/ the incendiary potential, dare i say danger, of recounting what is purported to be solid, documented historical fact, but could just as readily contain merely a smidgen of veracity, and a whole lot of myth, and speculation, or just plain misinformation.

I'll definitely be on my guard for future potentially inflammatory historical 'tinder' guised in romanticized, or hyperbolized chronicles of personages, and events, that if the truth be known, have been either highly guilted, or majorly sullied to suit the teller's personal biases.

I couldn't pass on your observation re/ the French Norman/ Scottish heritage connection. In fact, my dear mum is a Fraser, w/ English and irish lineage on her mother's side. There is much conjecture on the precise root derivation from the French-Norman, one widely held view from the 'expert' linguists being that it comes from the French words "fraise", meaning the fruit of the strawberry, and "fraisiers", referring to the actual strawberry plants. Sounds plausible to moi, non........ hmm....... maybe a bit TOO plausible. HA! ?

Whatever the genuine origin of the name Fraser, it's clear that many of the 'invading' peoples from other parts of old Europe-----Picts, Angles, Jutes, Normans, Gauls, Norsemen---- contributed, linguistically, to many of the earliest family and place names throughout the U.K.

I have always been intrigued by the Scottish name, Oliphant, w/ one celebrated contemporary w/ this fairly ancient surname being Pat Oliphant, the marvelously talented, newspaper political cartoonist, who left his native Australia as still a fairly young man to seek fame (and maybe a modest fortune) in the U.S., eventually garnering a few Pulitzers and Ruben awards along the way, and the almost universal admiration of his cartoonist peers.

Turns out one of the speculated origins of this name is traced to the Vikings, as the seafaring Norsemen of old lived, at various historical periods, in several now-British locals, particularly up in the Orkney Isles, situated at the very northern extreme of Scotland, where they first arrived in this bleak, and austere region around roughly 600AD.

Of course, the name Olof (or Olov) is a popular 'Christian' name of former Scandinavian kings and commoners, alike, so here's where the Viking tie-in w/ the Scottish name Oliphant likely comes into play.

Yet, there is another school of thought that the name had a French-Norman origin, w/ a certain personage named Oskert Olifard, from Normandy, first showing up in the public record, circa 1046. Predictably, part of the Olifard 'clan' eventually moved up north to England almost a century later, settling in Northhampton, w/ the established patriarch, David Olifard being widely regarded as the progenitor of clan Oliphant.

So Picky, who really knows for certain whether the Scottish branch of the Oliphant family tree were born of a mix of Viking and indigenous Celtic blood, or perhaps like so many family dynasties in Britain, were directly linked to ancestral roots in France?

I guess that's why history could never be considered an exact science......... hmm........ if it even is a science? Food for thought.


Fraser? Very posh, very Highland. Obviously Norman, and the strawberry thing sounds great. Why not just believe it?

And yes, Oliphant is a fascinating name. Nowt to do with elephants or oliphaunts, I suppose.

Don't know why I've become Anonymous

Yes, the game is college basketball, and Syracuse University beat St John's handily. It was great fun to watch. The Big East Conference historically was made up of small Catholic college - including Villanova, St John's, et alii and Syracuse. The conference has added some tres strange components but essentially is still the same. Great fun to watch, and in this climate we need something to get the blood astirring.

The university wasn't a Catholic foundation then? I don't know why, but I had an idea Syracuse was strongly Catholic (I'm very ignorant of things American, I'm afraid). Perhaps it's just an association of ideas with Sicily.

Is your weather still misbehaving? I believe you tend to overindulge yourselves in snow.

Top o' the morn, Picky,

You inspired me to pen some poesy after your earlier valiant attempt at 'punny' humor, w/ the elephant/ Oliphant association. For what it's worth, here's my ode to Oliphants/ elephants. The rhyme scheme is a little funky, but I don't claim to be a poet.



I give you the inelegant kilted Oliphant
Clearly a Scottish pachyderm
An imposing figure of hulking girth
And an irrepressible bon vivant

Many claim with some conviction
That he arrived in ancient Caledonia
From the fair Jutland isles
A regular Scandinavian bloke

While others contend
(Will this debate ever end?)
That the entire Jutland 'thingy'
Is just one unfunny joke

The Scots Oliphants 'chant'
With a distinctive Gaelic lilt
And if truth be known
Hide giant haggises and chalky Edinburgh rock candy
'Neath their enormous, enveloping tartan kilts

Nay, they don't as a rule sport voluminous granny 'undies'
'Neath their gigantic plaid, pleated skirts
Though they are often observed wolfing down
Hot scones with globs of clotted cream, a tasty mealtime dessert

Now there's the East Indian branch of the Oliphants
With their smallish, endearing floppy ears
And two handsome African clans of Oliphants
The big-eared savanna and woodlands herds
And the more reclusive rain forest dwelling Oliphants
Too spectacular for grand-eloquent words

Sadly, all Oliphants are a fast vanishing breed
A once proud clan, now in sharp decline
Scottish, or otherwise
They frankly have precious little time

Unless, all we non-Oliphants
Take a bold and unflinching stand
To banish those 'baddies' who would do harm to Oliphants
From all Oliphant ancestral lands

So next time you trek the majestic Ben Nevis
Or some other formidable craggy Scottish tor
Remember, the mighty Hannibal who scaled the Alps
Had brave and loyal Oliphants aboard
The tale writ large in ancient European lore

Legend has it that the Scots Oliphants
Were once quite the fine pipers-all
Revered throughout the towering bens
Their massive probosci a fourth bagpipe drone
Their sad, haunting laments and dirges
Still echoing o'er their bonnie lochs, braes, and glens

So if find yourself pushing back a dram-or-two
Of that devilish Scottish single-malt 'liqueur'
And think you may have seen a blushing-pink kilted Oliphant
Be sure to wish him good cheer

'cause it's likely not a mere fleeting chimera
Like the elusive Nessie of Inverness
But a real, honest-to-goodness kilted, yet rare, pink Oliphant
God bless!



Well, yep, funky are the rhymes - but then so's the metre, so I can't complain at that. A brave attempt, Alex - it probably needs a drone pipe weeping behind it.

But how did you guess that just as I opened your post I was taking the first sip f my evening single malt?

Wonderful, Alex.


Hi (again) Picky,

Hmm..... I thought you may have recognized my somewhat unique meter-of-choice, the rarely seen 'iambic pachydermeter' (HA!) ...... rather plodding and a tad clumsy, I grant you, but alas, it gets you where you want to go, rambling and shambling all the way, nonetheless.

Thanks for that "brave attempt' nod. I trust that's a mild compliment, eh?

As far as the drone of the pipes "weeping behind it", being a lapsed, former Canadian junior regional champion bagpiper, w/ my boyhood 'chanter' still in tow (the mostly woodwind-type practice instrument, sans bag and drones), I could actually accompany myself, musically, in the recitation; although reading aloud and blowing at the same time might prove to be a wee bit of a physical challenge.(HA!) Perhaps a pre-recording of the musical element would do the trick?

Picky, now to more important stuff.

What brand, and style of Scottish single-malt whisky is your palate preference? Whatever's available? HA!

I had the good fortune to trek the entire Spey River Valley, the almost universally recognized home-turf of the finest Highland Scotch whisky distilleries in all the land, w/ a memorable guided tour of the famed Dufftown-based Glenfiddich whisky-works, back in the summer of 1996 on my one-and-only visit to my olde ancestral sod.

Initially, I got a slight psychic/ cultural jolt when introduced to our designated docent/ tour guide for the day---a petit, kilted, tam-topped 20-something, bubbly Japanese (huh?) lass, w/ a blond-haired, strapping, rosy-cheeked German lad, a reserve docent/ guide as it were, waiting in the wings, for the next tour. Who knew?

Apparently, every year, especially during the peak tourist season , Glenfiddich Distillery gets droves of both Japanese and German visiting vacationers w/ a curiosity for how famous Scottish single-malt whisky is actually made. And, to their credit, the most accommodating Glenfiddich folk have provided docent/ guides, who are fluent in their respective native tongues, to make their visit a most pleasant, and more importantly, optimally comprehendible one.

Luckily, our cute, ersatz Scots Japanese guide didn't conduct her tour in Japanese (HA!), thankfully speaking in broken, but very adequate English, w/ just a subtle hint of an acquired Scottish brogue. Very charming, indeed.

At the end of the almost hour-long tour of the fascinating, bustling whisky-works, our ultimate reward was, of course, a wee dram, (shot-glass full), of their prized 'potent potable', immediately followed by a kind of self-guided tour of their cozy, well-stocked gift shop.

Pinky, i must confess that I'm not much of an imbiber of distilled spirits (downing an occasional cold beer on a scorching Southern California summer's day), but I can appreciate your savoring your evening 'constitutional' of the single-malt elixir.

Not only does it tend to literally warm the cockles of one's heart, but it must make viewing some of the border-line dreck on the old 'tele' these days, bearably watchable. HA!

I'm curious, does the long-running, much-loved TV series "Coronation Street" pass the stringent "aqua vitae" test?

I'm certain anything w/ Brit acerbic comic Ricky Gervais of "The Office" fame-and-beyond, in it, would translate, ( even w/ a mild alcohol-induced 'buzz'), as absolutely brilliant.

Now that odd-young-duck, the bohemianesque, loquacious British comedian, Russell Brand, might be a bit of a problem. HA!

Laura Lee, a shout out to you sweet lady, for your appreciative note, and the old Gaelic
parting sentiment.

Makes me want to go back to my admittedly limited, but cherished Robbie Burns poetry collection, and once again perhaps 'see ourselves as other see us'. Or at least the ever-eloquent Burns.

Picky and Laura Lee, have a wonder-filled, and enjoyable weekend.

(Our ''fearless leader' should be returning, very soon. Will the 'fit' hit the 'sham? Will 'off-topic' musings suddenly become verboten? We shall see soon enough. Mr. Mac, be gentle. HA!)


Thanks, Alex. Actually, it's an Islay malt. Glenfiddich malts are very fine - in fact I'm no expert and have no special favourite. Each single malt I try for the first time s a revelation. One of mankind's finest works of art.

Scotland For Ever, indeed.


Ah ha!........... the highly-touted Islay malt. Fine choice, my lady.

This apparently milder brew from the Hebridean Isle of Islay, relative to the oft-stronger Speyside varieties, I gather has a storied history, operating for centuries only a mere (blarney) stone's-throw from Ireland, in Argylshire.

Picky, I must highly recommend that you try to check out a wonderful, most lively, brilliantly illustrated book titled "Still Life With Bottle: Whisky According to Ralph Steadman", which is basically a visual and verbal romp thru the storied history of the Scottish single-malt distillery trade, from Speyside to the many famed remote Scottish island locales----- all 'first-hand' explored w/ vim and vigor, ( no doubt fueled by a dram-or-two of the golden elixir), by probably Britain's premier satirical cartoonist/ illustrator, Ralph Steadman. IMHO, the great Brit veteran humorist/ cartoonist Ronald Searle could justly share that 1st-rank billing w/ the sardonically witty, amazingly dextrous, and prolific, Steadman.

Just on a little side-note: apparently as of the spring of 2004, The Isle of Islay now has a thriving brewing operation up-and-running---The Islay Ales Brewery--- offering up seven distinct home-brewed real ales. Cheers!

Picky, I would also suggest you might like to track down another engaging book written and illustrated by Ralph Steadman, first published in hardcover in 1979, then reprinted in softcover circa 1997, namely his uproariously humorous offering, "Sigmund Freud". Hmm...... when we bring up the subject of Herr Dr. Freud, the last thing that comes to mind is "humor".

Yet the ever-mischievous Steadman sees at least a grain of humor in almost any eventuality, and basically dissects and deconstructs Freud's psychoanalytic orthodoxy, and some of his more nagging personal foibles, (like his penchant for both cigars and cocaine), giving us a visual and analytical treat that will tickle both your fancy and your funny-bone. His B&W, deftly inked caricatured depictions of Freud are nothing short of masterful.

Well enough Steadman drum-beating. HA!

Ta! Ta! for now,


Well now, that's Interesting. What do you think, Patricia?

In no particular order - I might have been more impressed with the former 007 in his kilt had I not remembered that he is/was an actor, and used to appearing in costume. Sometime after that occasion I learned that Mr Connery lived in New York City, long known as a bastion of Scottish independence. As for Catholic colleges, Syracuse was founded in 1870 by the Methodists: I forget why. It has long ago lost any Methodist affiliation and is now Secular in the extremeas indeed are most private universities. Even Georgetown, founded by the Jesuits, now has a Prsident who is not a Jesuit: even with the Jesuitical prediliction for meddling in politics, they have been educating people for centuries. I don't see that Georgetown has been improved by the lack of Jesuitical authority at the top. As for Siggy, if it weren't for that giant with all his flaws, I can think of number of MDs who wouldn't today have jobs. And I suspect he wasn't wrong about everything. Simply because human behaviour has been dumbed down such that there are few, if any, prohibitions about anything in Western cultures, doesn't mean some thngs aren't simply appallingly wrong. Did I miss anything, Picky, old Lad? And, yes, we in Syracuse and much of the Northeast do overindulge in la Neige. We do, however, know how and when do plow, scrape and salt, without the advice of The Weather Channel. Some day a plow is going to run right over one of those silly people,as they report from the middle of a wintry road.

Picky------ a thousand-and-one apologies if all along I've assumed you were of the female persuasion, or more precisely, gender, and you are, in fact, a man. While perusing Patricia the Terse's last post, she at one juncture addressed you as "Picky, old lad". Hmm...... a glaring red-flag there, no?(Doh!) Maybe I've been responding to your feminine side. HA!

On another Baltimore Sun blog on which I used to comment w/ some frequency (but no longer), there was a regular blogger, w/ the moniker "Kelly", who most folk on our site initially pegged as a gal. Eventually Kelly 'came out of the closet', and revealed he was indeed, a HE, but handled the confusion w/ little fanfare, or apparent fuss. Oh well.

Patricia------ I couldn't immediately figure out from your last post who this "Siggy" was, but eventually the good old internal light bulb kicked in, and I realized it was Herr Sigmund "Siggy" Freud you were alluding to.

I agree that this pivotal psychiatric pioneer, basically the father of the psychoanalytic method, w/ his early exploration of the neuroses and dreams of his mentally, and emotionally troubled patients, (along w/ sometime rival Carl Jung, to some degree), did ensure a legion of future Doctor of Psychiatry degrees, and future positions in both academia, the medical, and therapeutic community.

Even w/ his heavy emphasis on human sexual function, and dysfunction--- in his mind, the primacy, and import of the infantile stage as a major determinant in one's future behavioral/ emotional well-being-----IMHO, like you Patricia, I believe that Freud, indeed, "wasn't wrong about everything". Looking back through the prism of history........... far from it.

Many decades after his passing as a forced exile from his native Vienna, Austria, in London, England, Freud's basic psychoanalytic method of one-on-one, face-to-face, therapist-to-patient, talk therapy appears to be still alive-and-well, (just ask half of the fraternity of neurotic, self-doubting Hollywood actors who are in perpetual psychotherapy), although there are many current well-respected practitioners in the field who have down-played the Freudian hyper-sexual focus in their approach to psychotherapy. I'm partial to Gestalt therapy, myself. That Fritz Perl was quite the brilliant mensch. HA!

Patricia, I was going to jump all over you re/ your use of the word "Jesuitical", 'cause it sounded, to my tin ear, kind of odd, somewhat dissonant, but thankfully, I avoided the inevitable embarrassment by first checking my trusty Webster's NewWorld Dictionary, and BINGO!..... "Jesuitical" jumped right out at me, and bit me on the schnoz. HA! It WAS, indeed, a legitimate, for-real adjective. Apologies for ever doubting you.

By-the-by, was that earlier reference to NYC, once Sir Sean's old stomping grounds, being
"a bastion of Scottish independence", offered w/ your tongue firmly planted in your cheek? (I'm not going to speculate, what cheek. Oh, behave! HA!)

Frankly, going as far back as to when it was a struggling Dutch New World outpost called New Amsterdam, I kinda assumed it was, to this very day, a bastion of Netherlandish independence. HA!

Boy did those naive local Native Americans ever get literally royally shafted on that one. The aboriginals gave Manhattan, their ancestral, sacred grounds, away for a mere song ("Don't Cry for Me Amsterdam"); probably less wampum than the price of a modest pied-à-terre in the heart of today's Beverly Hills-adjacent neighborhood.

But let's not even go there. Clearly the legendary "Trail of Tears' began so many moons before the senseless Indian Wars, or the almost total slaughter of the mighty American bison on the Great Plains.

But that's a discussion for yet another day.


Another day? Pshaw, the night is young. Plenty of time to discuss... the most marvelous usage of the word "jesuitical" that I have ever come across. Surely you've read or watched "Brideshead Revisited", Alex? Herewith, for context, I quote the entire relevant passage:


We were a sombre little party that evening. Only Cordelia was perfectly
at ease, rejoicing in the food, the lateness of the hour and her brothers'
company. Brideshead was three years older than Sebastian and I, but he
seemed of another generation. He had the physical tricks of his family, and
his smile, when it rarely came, was as lovely as theirs; he spoke, in their
voice, with a gravity and restraint which in my cousin Jasper would have
sounded pompous and false, but in him was plainly un-assumed and

"I am so sorry to miss so much of your visit," he said to me. "You are
being looked after properly? I hope Sebastian is seeing to the wine. Wilcox
is apt to be rather grudging when he is on his own."

"He's treated us very liberally."

"I am delighted to hear it. You are fond of wine?"


"I wish I were. It is such a bond with other men. At Magdalen I tried
to get drunk more than once, but I did not enjoy it. Beer and whiskey I find
even less appetising. Events like this afternoon's are a torment to me in

"I like wine," said Cordelia.

"My-sister Cordelia's last report said that she was not only the worst
girl in the school, but the worst there had ever been in the memory of the
oldest nun."

"That's because I refused to be an Enfant de Marie. Reverend Mother
said that if I didn't keep my room tidier I couldn't be one, so I said,
Well, I won't be one, and I don't believe Our Blessed Lady cares two hoots
whether I put my gym shoes on the left or the right of my dancing shoes.
Reverend Mother was livid."

"Our Lady cares about obedience."

"Bridey, you mustn't be pious," said Sebastian. "We've got an atheist
with us."

"Agnostic," I said.

"Really? Is there much of that at your college? There was a certain
amount at Magdalen."

"I really don't know. I was one long before I went to Oxford."

"It's everywhere," said Brideshead.

Religion seemed an inevitable topic that day. For some time we talked
about the Agricultural Show. Then Brideshead said, "I saw the Bishop in
London last week. You know, he wants to close our chapel."

"Oh, he couldn't," said Cordelia.

"I don't think Mummy will let him," said Sebastian.

"It's too far away," said Brideshead. "There are a dozen families round
Melstead who can't get here. He wants to open a mass centre there."

"But what about us?" said Sebastian. "Do we have to drive out on winter

"We must have the Blessed Sacrament here," said Cordelia. "I like
popping in at odd times; so does Mummy."

"So do I," said Brideshead, "but there are so few of us. It's not as
though we were old Catholics with everyone on the estate coming to mass.
It'll have to go sooner or later, perhaps after Mummy's time. The point is
whether it wouldn't be better to let it go now. You are an artist, Ryder,
what do you think of it aesthetically?"

"I think it's beautiful" said Cordelia with tears in her eyes.

"Is it Good Art?"

"Well, I don't quite know what you mean," I said warily. "I think it's
a remarkable example of its period. Probably in eighty years it will be
greatly admired."

"But surely it can't be good twenty years ago and good in eighty years,
and not good now?"

"Well, it may be good now. All I mean is that I don't happen to like it

"But is there a difference between liking a thing and thinking it

"Bridey, don't be so Jesuitical," said Sebastian, but I knew that this
disagreement was not a matter of words only, but expressed a deep and
impassable division between us; neither had any understanding of the other,
nor ever could.

"Isn't that just the distinction'you made about wine?" '"No. I like and
think good the end to which wine is sometimes the means -- the promotion of
sympathy between man and man. But in my own case it does not achieve that
end, so I neither like it nor think it good for me."

"Bridey, do stop."

"I'm sorry," he said, "I thought it rather an interesting point."

"Thank God I went to Eton," said Sebastian.

You brought us nicely up to date, PtheT. Thank you.

No problem, Alex - I'm flattered!

You a Waugh follower, Laura? When he's funny he's very funny, isn't he. Although he can be a real downer when he's serious.

Indeed Picky, Mr. Waugh is hilarious. And still so relevant. Hardly a week goes by when I don't think to myself, "Put Out More Flags".

You're right about the downer part, though. As a lover of literature, I found the ending of "A Handful of Dust" to be petrifying.

Any comment about "Scoop" is probably best left to Professor McIntyre, who I expect will be joining us shortly. You're sending him back our way now, aren't you Picky?

Scoop is brilliant, Laura, and yes, we've had enough of Mr McI over here.

Perhaps before he gets back we should fill his blog with some more sport. I know he will appreciate that.

We've had cricket, golf, curling, basketball, tennis. Anyone for any more? Tiddlywinks, anyone?

Picky, my man. (HA!)

As the great scribe Rudyard Kipling would say, "You are a better man than I, Gunga Din." Glad we settled that awkward misunderstanding. No harm, no foul, old boy?

Now, Picky, in an earlier post you brought up celebrated Brit writer Waugh's name in response, no doubt , to blogger Laura Lee's posted partial quotation from one of his most critically acclaimed, and much-admired mature works, namely his "Brideshead Revisited".

Ironically, Waugh was saddled by his parents w/ one of those clearly ambiguous, androgynous first names; in his case "Evelyn". (Could have just as easily been Gene, Pat, or dare I say, Alex.)

Now wouldn't you just know it, but the young and very smitten Waugh proceeds to take as his first-ever bride, a fair English lass by the name of Evelyn Gardner. Hmm..... now this is rather awkward. Was the world as they knew it really ready for two Evelyns bound in holy matrimony?

Well, well, turns out that their close friends and associates merely addressed the same-first-named Waugh duo as "He-Evelyn" and conversely, "She Evelyn", to clearly differentiate between the respective spouses. (How absolutely cleaver. HA!)

Sadly their union was short-lived, w/ one up-side of their eventual separation being that the whole clumsy "He"-said-"She"-said routine was summarily dropped, forthwith........... or was it fifthwith. (Do I detect a lisp?)

Now the ever-flamboyant French novelist, George Sand, was quite another story. On the face of it, one would guess w/ the 'Christian'/ first name "George" that we were addressing a man. ("Georgette" would be the logical feminized version of said name.) Yet logic has no real place in this discussion at hand, since the eccentric author's real name (not her nom -de-plume, or pseudonym), was actually Amantine Aurore Lucile Dupin, later of-the-chateau-born (or married?) ----the Baroness Dudevant------ "The Dude" for short. HA! (Even though she ain't no DUDE.)

And then we have the turn-of-the-century (1870-1916) British master of the short-story form, pen-name,"Saki", born Hector Hugh (H. H.) Munro; at first blush reflecting neither gender w/ "Saki" essentially giving no intrinsic clue as to what gender-specific genitalia, to be blunt, this person possessed. The modern-day-style query directed toward "Saki', "How you hanging?", clearly would have been, literally spot on, dare I say rhetorical......... nudge, nudge, wink, wink. HA! (Oh, behave!)

The society of his time clearly regarded the much-celebrated "Saki" as a MAN, as his notoriety and public exposure increased, yet sadly Munro had to remain a closeted homosexual for his entire (relatively short) life; a victim of the repressive Victorian/ Edwardian puritanical strictures on right-conduct, the authorities railing against outward "anti-social', or alleged "deviant" behavior, in public, or otherwise.

The esteemed Irish author/ playwright, and unabashed dandy, Oscar Wilde, (a literary contemporary of "Saki"), in 1895, had been convicted and jailed for alleged "acts of sodomy" (and other equally scathing alleged crimes) after a series of highly-publicized trials which brought Wilde enormous personal embarrassment , along w/ a sullied reputation, more-so in his society's eyes, but not so much in literary circles, where to this day his works are still admired, and his plays performed.

(Interestingly, on a parenthetical note---that Wikileaks guy, Julian(?) Asange, while recently incarcerated in London for his alleged misdeeds, was being held in the very same cell, in the very same ancient, dank gaol that Mr. Wilde found himself holed up in, over a century ago, while awaiting trial.)

Frankly, IMHO, this whole focus on, and debate over the male-female dichotomy (aside from that "Men Are From Mars/ Women Are From Venus" tome HA!) is largely over-blown and unproductive, as we discover, more-and-more, that men and women (in all their multiplicity of sexual preferences, and chosen, or maybe not, chosen identities), are essentially much more alike, in so many fundamental ways, than they are markedly different.

Now the rallying cry, "Vive la difference", has a great, uplifting ring to it, and I would venture to say a most nobel intent, but it strikes me that all males, females, (and all curious permutations there of), are one-and-all, and all-for-one, sensate, feeling, human beings, who universally long for mutual love, creative fulfillment, and understanding, and some modicum of happiness (however that individually translates), and hopefully a clearer incite into who we REALLY are------our authentic selves----- often hidden beneath all our accumulated artifice, self-deception, and personal baggage.

Picky, you really got me started now, didn't you? HA!.......... and I'm delighted you did.

Heh? What about that crazy Irish sport they call "hurling"----kind of a weird hybrid of sorts, combining elements of field hockey and lacrosse? Wonder why it never really caught on, on a global scale? It's a puzzle, eh?


Dare I ask - might one carefully inquire - how does one keep score in curling?

Alex: Having fought my way through Virgil's "Aenead" I am ever in awe of anyone who can write sestets, octets, sonnets and even limericks and make them wonderful and interesting. Well done.

I think it's agreed that the team that doesn't freeze to death wins. That right, Alex?

Alex: Try to finish this limerick, which I found, unfinished, in a Dorothy L. Sayers book: There was an old man from Thermopylae/ Who couldn't do anything properly/ Now, the only words I can think of that rhyme with Thermopylae are monopoly and Giuseppe Sinopoli, neither of which makes any sense. Have a go, please!

Can anyone have a go?

Though he died in the Pass
with Leonidas
even his death was done sloppily.

Sayers was quoting a genuine Edward Lear, Patricia, but of course his rhyming scheme meant he didn't have to find the third rhyming word.

Excellent - I never thought of Leonidas - silly me - and I like the third rhyming word. Excellent anyway. Anyone else want to weigh in ?

I think Picky has said it all.

It won't have escaped your notice that although The Ay atollah McIntyre has returned,we continue this conversation. Brilliant.

It may also not have escaped your notice that, despite the return of the heavy-handed despot, just about everyone here continues to comment, tersely and at length, without interference.

Ah, but that's just the Fabian glove that hides the grim mailed fist of oppression. Your tolerance is in fact an act of violence against the toiling masses.

Patricia: perhaps the problem with your limerick eisteddfod was that the examples you gave were each a too perfect rhyme. If you'd been a little more lax we might have heard from someone about the old man' s curious habit with broccoli.

As it is, I claim the laurel wreath and the substantial cheque.

DAMN your eyes, Picky, you have smoked me out.

Broccoli and Sinopoli might have made a good pairing, although I can not speak to the tastes of either Mr Sinopoli or the Ancient Greeks. In terms of food I mean. Picky still gets the wreath and any spoils accruing thereto.

I believe that, unlike Mr Sinopoli, the old man frequently conducted with some form of vegetable. Celery was most efficient, perhaps, but he often resorted to one of the brassicas.

The wreath fits nicely, thank you, but the spoils seem a little insubstantial.

Given the tendencies of the Ancients, I wouldn't be at all surprised to learn that the old creep knew celery a bit too well. I suppose it was all organic at the time. Spoils are usually insubstantial. Take the wreath and run.

Picky, perhaps you need to come stateside to collect your spoils.

I don't know. I don't like the tenor of her reply, Laura.

I don't like to speak ill of a lady, but I suspect the Terse woman might just move on to the next town with her snake oil and limericks, and I'd never catch up with her. I take it there are towns other than Syracuse in NY state, and some form of transportation might be available to her?

Manhattan would be the perfect place to bide one's time while awaiting news from Syracuse. I imagine you making that transatlantic crossing aboard a Cunard ocean liner, in the manner of Charles Ryder and Julia Flyte. Alas, those days are long over, but however you arrive Picky, it will surely be be in grand style.

I'll take Manhattan. Or perhaps not ... my grey-haired old grandmother warned me never to go the the US after she saw what had been done to Winnie the Pooh. Difficult, isn't it?

Your grandmother was right. And Manhattan would be one of the last places I'd hide. Most sane people can't afford to park a car in Manhattan, not to say hide there. And with the temperature lurking around 0 degrees Fahrenheit, I try not to move anywhere much. And when I do, I move as quickly as poss.

Although I do feel drawn to somewhere whose degrees are still in Fahrenheit, even if there aren't any of them.

'Ang on, 'ang on, 'ang on. What's this about hiding? I'm not hiding: if I visit the US at all it shall be as a free-born Englishman under the protection of Her Britannic Majesty, not a skulking shun-the-light!

I think Laura just suggested Manhattan as somewhere peaceful, charming and verdant where I could await that which is owing me.

An island suited to a member of an Island Race, where I could explore the little coves and beaches, or spend a few hours punting the quiet, leafy Hudson with a delightful companion and a hamper - cold chicken and a chilled Chablis, perhaps.

The gurgle of the water at the bows, the ripple of her hands in the water, the bark of otter and splash of kingfishers, the flap, flap of herons as they leave the water: already with thee, Manhattan!

If Picky truly wishes a pastoral place in which to hide. I suggest Cazenovia, New York. Lovely lake, good places to eat, lovely walking town. No one would look for you there. Especially this time of year.

Picky thinks that looks good.

And my wine of choice would be an Italian Pinot Grigio or a lovely Pouilly Fuisse - with the poule and a tart lemon tart to follow.

I see Syracuse is just up the road: now I understand why you favour Cazenovia. First you deprive me of my winnings, and now you are trying to get me to pick up your liquor bill.

Lend a hand, there, Patricia / Laura / Alex. Tally on the sheet, there, and haul away. One more leg and we're home and dry and can let go in 100 comments on this post.

See if I take another vacation and leave you people to your own devices.

Picky, I believe my work here is done.

Well done, Mary Poppins!

Oh, dammit, I've spoilt the round number!

Andiamo! Presto to another 100 - just for the sport of it, naturlich.

My, you must have some stamina, Patricia. OK, just for the sport of it, naturlich ... aber nicht tennis. Not for a while. Some of us still have post-Australian-Open-and-Andy-Murray-syndrome.

I'm sorry about Andy, especially as he lost to someone whose name suffers from a surfeit of consonants. I'm glad about Kim Klysters, though. A real worker and a decent person - unlike so many prima donnae assolutae in tennis. And now Oz, having been flooded has now been hit by a cyclone. Enough, already.

And you still have a speck of weather of your own, I gather.

More than a speck, but today for the first time in months one can see the bare street and the driveway. It's not over and still bitterly cold for puppy dogs, but at least we get sun - occasionally. We're girding our loins, so to speak. Much better than floods, cyclones and Egypt.(Did you notice all those people in the streets who "Walk like an Egyptian?")

I suppose if you've the choice between being shot, being beaten up by security forces, or being insulted with a thirty year old feeble bit of bangling (sorry, Bangles fan) you'd have to choose the latter. Poor souls.

But in the unlikely eventuality that you missed the opening game of the rugby Six Nations Championship in front of 70,000-odd Welshmen yesterday, I can tell you it was splendid. Very tough, very fast, very skilful.

70,000 Welshmen? Say not so! Think of all those consonants loosed in one place at one time. They can sing though. Perchance there was another Bryn Terfel in the crowd. (We have had a snow and ice storm here - interesting from an aesthetic point of of view but bad for traffic, especially emergency vehicles. Welcome to the Northeast in February. If you want to see real winter, try

There may have been many a Terfel. Certainly they were in good voice, particularly for the anthems. Rugby crowds are usually good singers, especially Welsh ones. Of course it helps to have an anthem you can hold together across the vast expanses of an international stadium. The English supporters in Cardiff were never going to impress too much with God Save the Queen, whereas the Welsh could let rip handsomely with Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau.

Yesterday in Paris it was the same story. (The Scots played well and very bravely, by the way, but the French outplayed them; I think they will outplay us all this year.) That dirge Flower of Scotland couldn't compete with a huge crowd of Frenchmen threatening us all with the Marseillaise.

At least there was no need to clear snow from the pitch. I think you should organise your weather better. Can't you divide it into seasons or something?

More Scots!!! Well, the Scots and the French have a long history together. If only Mary's mother-in-law (a Medici, Got wot) hadn't kicked her out after the death of her French husband, Elizabeth Tudor would have been spared a lot of trouble, as would Scotland. As National Anthems go, I am fond of La Marseillaise. Is the Welsh anthem loosely translated "Men of Harlach?" Also lilting, although it does remind me of Michael Caine in "Zulu." (I don't believe Mr Caine is a Scot.) Who the devil is this buy discount viagra when he's at home? And we have seasons here; it's only that this year we had early heavy snow and no thaw. You should see the icicles - so Damocletian.

Sort of like this, Patricia?


No, Patricia, Men of Harlech is a different hum. The English of the national anthem is Land of Our Fathers. As to Mr Caine (or Sir Michael, as I believe the Queen likes to call him), yes, his Harry Palmer accent is echt Sarf London, like wot mine is.

And I do so agree about that silly woman Mary Stuart. Why she gets such a good press I just don't understand. Sexy and executed, I suppose.

My Fathers, not Our Fathers. One person, many fathers. Apologies to any Cymry out there.

I love the headline Syracuse Couple Welcomes Departure of Egypt's Hosni Mubarak

Well, local news must ferret out the connections to the world,regardless of how tenuous. I assume that means that Mr Mubarak will not come here to enjoy his retirement.

Yep - and the story was actually a deal better than the headline. As to Mr Mubarak, I think he'll go wherever the money goes.

According to rumor,or rumour, he's in a lovely seaside resort that his administration built up from a quiet fishing village on the Red Sea. (I assume he won't be trying to part it this trip, given how well it worked the last time.) Perhaps it's time we all listened to Handel, with a new twist. (Talk about Baroque word painting - all those frogs!)

Doesn't look quite my idea of a pleasant holiday destination, though, really. Seems to lack simplicity.

I hear poor old Hosni may not be too well. Blotches and blains, I suppose.

Picky, old love, what the Sam Hill is a "blain"?

Dunno - sounds nasty, doesn't it? Mr Handel's lyricist the Psalmist seems to think it was something inflicted on the poor old Egyptians, man and beast.

As in chilblains, I suppose.

I love the Old Testament - all those begets and plagues. "Cue the locusts, mates!" The New Testament may be reassuring, but for drama and story-telling, you can't beat the Children of Israel, et alii. Handel and his librettists knew what they were about, Got wot.

Indeed. I wonder why people read Prof. Tolkien's more sombre works (out of a sense of duty, I dare say) when they can get more blood and strife and drama per square inch out of the OT. Not sure you're right about the comforting nature of the NT, though. Mr Handel trod on that ground too, of course, and it seems to me that once he and his wordsmith had shuffled the shepherds off stage the lighting went down with a vengeance.

What about those straying sheep, eh? What about them?

Oh, we like sheep.

My Orange team lost last night - o woe alas and alack. I feel not unlike a little lost sheep that has gone astray - Baa Baa Baa

Oh, bad news Miss Terse - though it's good to hear from you. Followers of Wm III are they?

It must be such solace to know that England are Six Nations rugby champions, and through to the cricket World Cup quarter finals (miraculously).

The reference, mon chere Pickie, is to the Wiffenpoof Song, sung by various Yalies since I don't know when. Even the Ivy League contributes something sometimes. It's a very melancholy song written by I know not who. My parents used to sing it to us to get us to sleep at night.

No,no, Patricia, or perhaps yes, yes, I knew where the poor little lambs came from, it was the orangeness I was querying.

Re orangeness, I'm betting Syracuse University.

I think so, but whence cometh their orangeness?

For Bily III you have to go to William & Mary College. I don't know what their colors may be. Nor do I know the origin of SU's colors - orange and blue, neither of which are favorites of mine. But one cheers on the team, not the colors. I will say one of theclassiest college mascots is the Penn State University NIttany Lion - very elegant. Before one asks, Nittany comes from the mountains near the University.

Wm and Mary seem to like green and gold, my extraordinarily detailed investigations seem to show, which is unfortunate for them because they might be taken for Australians.

@Picky, old lad. I really had no idea that you and Patricia The Terse were still carrying on a whole spirited sports, music, team colors (colours HA!), sheep, et al, dialogue behind my back, and moreover that this particular Prof. McI. "London Beckons" commentary posted way back in January of this year still actually had a pulse? Clearly you and Patricia have been doing yeoman's service in keeping it on more than mere life supports. HA!

(Just pulling your leg w/ that phony "behind my back " bit. HA! Frankly, if I hadn't stumbled on the header, "London Beckons", at the very top of Prof. McI.'s right-hand sidebar "Most Recent Comments" this fine Friday morn, I would likely have been none the wiser. Hmm.......Is ignorance truly blissful, I ask? HA!)

Now that we've gotten THAT out of the way, I must say I rather enjoyed reading your fun back-and-forth banter w/ the witty and wise Patricia. Learned some cool stuff, and got many a chuckle out of your lively, and ever-crisp dialogue.
(Alas, economy of language has never been one of my strengths. Oh well.)

Hmm......... chillblains (nasty, much misunderstood malady)....... sheep (cloned, or otherwise)......"Six Nations" rugby (nothing to do w/ OUR Six Nations Woodlands Native American Confederacy---the Iroquoi, Hurons. Algonquins, and such)............ William & Mary U. ....... Syracuse U....... Mad Mary Queen of Scots (she WAS, indeed, a 'looker in her prime, yet got 'chopped' nonetheless') ............IT'S ALL GOOD!.......... Hmm.....well maybe not Queen Mary Stuart losing her head. HA! (But then, back in the day, that seemed to be almost a form of perverse public (sometimes private) entertainment, but sadly w/ such predictable endings ...... SWISH! ...THUMP!.... PLOP! )

Thanks for the entertainment, guys! Clever, and always fun.

Ducky "Out of the Loop" Isaksson.............. did you miss me? HA!

Well, there was a time when we were ambitious for 200 comments here, but - perhaps in the knowledge that when ambition ends happiness begins - we've been tempted to dawdle by the wayside, fall asleep leaning on our packs, stay longer than we intended in the bar of the inn, etc. And you haven't helped, Alex! Miss Terse asked you a straightforward question about the scoring method in curling on Jan 15, and two months later she's no wiser!

Oh woe is me (as well) to have seen what I have seen! England just brushed contemptuously aside by Sri Lanka! Horrors! Still, I suppose it's not for the sake of a ribboned coat, or the selfish hope of a season's fame; though if it's not, I'm not sure what it is for. Oh dear. Thank goodness, at least, that Oxford won the Boat Race.

O woe and alack encore.I was hoping for the Cantabridgiensis Lads. Sometimes it's hard to be a fan,although blue is not a favrorite color of mine. There's always next season. And how DO you keep score in curling?

I begin to suspect Alex doesn't know.

And as to cricket being "a niche sport", about a billion people are believed to have watched on tv the India v Pakistan World Cup semi-final. India meet Sri Lanka in the final.

UK loses to Sri Lanka? How depressing! Where o where is the Spirit that Made the Empire Great? (Anyway, the tennis season threatens again as well as the Master's, played on one of the most luscious golf courses in Creation. Gaudeamus.)

The Spirit of Empire?  Oh, I fear we must have mislaid that during my youth.  Perhaps we just ran out of new places to, um, protect.  Suez, for example: invading a country you've already invaded two or three times before, well, it just doesn't have the same buzz, somehow.  And then there were the social factors:  warm bathrooms, Clean Air Act, gramophones that didn't need winding up - no way to breed a Clive, a Wolfe.

You're right, World Cup tensions have had a deleterious effect on the liquor bill.  I suppose you might affect some principled objection to my charging it to the public purse, so I may have to seek sponsorship.

Patricia the Terse,

Indeed, the myriad golf and tennis aficionados out there are virtually chomping at the bit w/ the first seasonal majors in these respective sports, looming on the immediate horizon.

The annual Masters tourney in central Georgia begins next week, and the French Open, fought on the red clay ("terre battue") of Stade de Roland Garros in Paris runs from May 17th to June 5th.

Since i'm a huge fan of both sports, I'm starting to get those anticipatory butterflies, particularly for the fast approaching Masters tourney, at one of the most magical, pristinely gorgeous, aesthetically magnificent golf venues on the planet.

Patricia, I loved your very apt description of the almost jewel-like Augusta National----"one of the most luscious golf courses in Creation". It does exhibit shades of Eden. HA! Indeed, every hole has been named after the predominant flower, blooming shrub, or species of tree gracing that particular hole, from dogwood, to azalea, to camellia, to white pine, and beyond............. a virtual arboretum/ botanical garden on which they just happen to be playing the silly game of golf. The ultimate actualized dream of the great golf legend, Bobby Jones.

I vividly recall, as a pre-teen, just starting to play, and follow pro golf in the early sixties, that the telecast of the Masters tournament was the very first sports event I ever 'experienced' on our first little color TV set. The stunning range of all shades of green setting off the riot of floral colors, w/ the colorful pastel hues, and bold tones of the golfers clothes, just got me immediately hooked on this annual golfing rite of spring-----and I've been hopelessly smitten to this very day.

Patricia, it will take some incredible heroics this year to match, or dare I say, surpass the sheer drama of last year's event, highlighted by that down-the-home-stretch amazing 207- yard 6-iron second shot by Phil Michelson on the par 5/ 13th, from behind a pine tree, precariously resting on pine straw, no less, that managed to clear the obstructing tree, sailed high over water fronting the green, hit terra firma, rolled up to within 7 feet of the cup, and was summarily sunk by the daring-do Michelson, for a stunning, and unexpected eagle "3".

In the closing stretch of that last round, the swashbuckling Mickelson valiantly fought off a fast charging, gutsy Englishman by the name of Lee Westwood, to win his 3rd Masters title, (and green jacket), in the same decade.

Both his ebullient wife Amy, and proud mom were green-side at the 18th hole when Phil drained the final winning putt. Both had been fighting their individual battles w/ breast cancer for over a year, and were not expected to be up for attending the tourney. After an emotional Phil had finished the obligatory exchange of congrats, and handshakes w/ his playing partners, and the individual caddies, he strode off the green into wife Amy's embrace. They kissed and hugged, on camera, for all the golfing world to see, for what seemed like an eternity. There couldn't have been a dry eye in 'the house'. The emotion of the moment was palpable. Hollywood couldn't have scripted it any better.

With Tiger Woods' game slightly in tatters going into the Masters (he's working w/ a new swing coach), the old Woods' intimidation factor is pretty much non-existent this year. Therefore, the title, and coveted green jacket are virtually up for grabs. There are so many outstanding young players (under 30) in this year's mix, several hailing from across the Pond------continental Europe, and the U.K. . Northern Ireland alone has three formidable potential winners in the young, tousle-haired Rory Mcillroy, last year's U.S. Open champion Grahame McDowell, and the wily, most likable veteran Irishman, Padraig Harrington.

Veteran Figiian, V.J. Singh. seems to be having a bit of a resurgence, early on this season, so he, along w/ 'mature' players like South Africa's Ernie Els, or American perennial favorite Freddie Couples could surprise the golf pundits, if they could mange to just put four immaculately played consecutive rounds together next week. It should be very exciting, no matter who eventually takes the Masters title on the closing Sunday.

Re/ tennis, this year's French Open tourney should be incredibly competitive and compelling, as well. Roger Federer seems to be missing a step, or two, of late, while Rafa Nadal, if he can stay healthy w/ those problematic 'pins' (legs) of his, might just continue his winning ways.

Of course, Picky, and all Brits, would love to see Scotland's Andy Murray's game peak at the French, but sadly the caliber of his play has been pretty sub-par, and inconsistent this early season. For almost the past five years the charismatic Spaniard, Nadal, has been almost unbeatable on the French Open clay. He basically grew up on the clay surface, in Majorca, Spain, so he's had a distinct advantage over say most U.S. opponents, who played the lion's share of their formative tennis on the much faster hard courts.

On the women's side of the ledger, Belgian star Kim Clijsters (sp. ?) looks like the favorite going in, w/ current world No. 1, Caroline Wosniacki from Denmark, and a much healthier, and getting stronger, Maria Sharipova also in the top seeding ranks. Can't wait for the action to begin.

Ducky "Play it Where it Lies" isaksson................. FORE!!!!!

Welcome back, Ducky.

My mother was in school with a young woman who eve bntually married a man who bought them a house right on that Eden of a golf course. I never understood why Mom never took advantage of that - Dad would have traveled there on his knees! My brother and his USNA roomie did get to the Master's one year -for the preliminary rounds: it was Golf Heaven! There is an aesthetic to golf that doesn't exist in other sports: basketball courts, Olympic ice rinks, lacrosse fields may be well maintained, laid out, and in the case of tennis, played in legendary places (although I just don't understand why the French insist on red clay. So messy.). But golf is played outdoors on lovely God's green earth - and the Master's is indeed Eden. I do miss Payne Stewart - such class, on and off the course.

Miss Terse,

Thanks for that little personalized Masters 'nugget'.

The peerless, immaculately groomed Augusta National course is essentially the recognized 'mecca' of golf in America (folks at Pebble Beach might contest that honor)------a pilgrimage destination, of sorts, comparable to the long-revered Old Course at St. Andrews, in Perthshire, Scotland. One's golfing life would not be compete without visiting either of these sacred golfing grounds.

For any keen golfer, or avid golf history aficionado, to actually, (just one time), have the opportunity to merely walk the course as a spectator, or perchance play its hallowed greens and fairways, would be the crowning golf experience in one's lifetime, bar none. Sadly for most of us mere mortal, non-professional duffers, the likelihood of actually being given the chance to play Augusta National would realistically be almost slim to none........... and "slim" just took the midnight train out of Georgia. HA!

Patricia, I believe the beauty of golf, is just THAT----the endless "beauty", the 'manicured' naturally splendor, and living 'architecture' (aesthetic course design), of the myriad courses around the globe------the fact that every course out there is visually different from the next, and that there are no two courses in God's (and mans') creation that are exactly alike.

As you pointed out, all team sports, and many individual sports, are played on fixed, identical grounds, although it could be argued that the various pro baseball parks vary to some degree from one another (e.g. dimensions of the playing field), or that tennis court surfaces run the gamut from hard-court, to clay, to grass. Yet, for me, these are subtle technical individual differences compared to the uniqueness of each and every golf course.

Case in point, sea (or lake) side, links-style golf courses, w/ their characteristic dirth of trees, a plethora of bunkers (sand traps), and sparsely turfed fairways, visually appear much alike, and yet each offers its own unique set of challenges to the average, or even scratch golfer. (At least i had the pleasure ----Hmm........ pleasure might be stretching it. HA!--- of playing the Old Course at St. Andrews back in 1996. So one-out-of-two ain't half bad.)

Patricia, I too miss Payne Stewart. It's hard to believe he died in that horrendous private plane crash over a decade ago-----October, 1999.

Payne was a widely popular, super talented, highly competitive, pro golfer w/ three Majors titles (one PGA, and two U.S. Opens), and several regular tour victories under his belt, but for me, his greatest lasting legacy is arguably his out-going, generous, fun-loving personality, his love of family, and friends, his abiding, and deep Christian faith, and lastly, his lifelong reverence for, and knowledge of the history of the game he so cherished till his bitter, and tragic mortal end.

Stewart's always wearing those signature plus-fours, high socks, and jaunty English driving cap in every tourney, was a constant, heartfelt personal homage to the early pioneers of golf----the Old Tom Morrises, the Gene Saracens, and Bobby Jones, who also sported the more formal plus-fours sartorial on-course look, and contributed so much to the flourishing of their sport.

Interestingly, Payne was not always the likable, on-course extrovert most fans fondly remember. Early in his pro career he had to deal w/ a very short-fused temper, and was said to have sported a defensive chip on his young shoulder, which hardly endeared him to his golfing peers. Thankfully, he managed to outgrow this negative aspect of his personality. Renewed religious faith, and the responsibilities of raising a family had a lot to do w/ his personality transformation, as he evolved into the amiable, seemingly carefree, generous guy most fans knew, and loved thru his mid-to-late career years.

His fellow PGA tour players, and countless fans were naturally emotionally crushed by Payne's most sudden, tragic death. He had just won his second U.S. Open title at Pinehurst/ No. 2 in June of 1999, and had later helped the U.S. squad win the coveted Ryder Cup in September, ending w/ that memorable monstrously long winning putt by teammate Justin Leonard. At that juncture, Payne's golfing future couldn't have seemed brighter, and yet, sadly, a month later his apparent rosy future disintegrated in a mere instant, in that fateful plane crash.

I'm sure many will be thinking warm, fond thoughts of the late Payne Stewart over Masters week, next week. Ironically, Payne never did win a Masters green jacket, w/ a tie-for-8th place finish back in i986 being his best finish ever.

Nonetheless, he will be remembered as one of the true characters, and true giants of the game. He would likely have scoffed at all the attention he accrued after his untimely passing. He was just that kind of guy. He was a practical joker to the very end. How appropriate on this April Fool's Day, 2011. HA!

Ducky "Replace Your Divots" Isaksson.............. can Mickelson win his 4th Masters?

I do like Camden Yards - and the team that plays therein. My father played both Pebble Beach, with my brother, and Old St Andrew's. My mother toured the town and had her hair done whilst he worshipped at the Shrine of Golf! Everyone was happy. He also played Pinehurst, whilst Mom languished by the pool, shopped and prowled that lovely little town. Something for everyone - and then there was THE FOOD!

Miss Terse,

Indeed, i've heard Baltimore's revamped Camden Yards is a wonderful, fan-and-player friendly ball park. By-the-by, I always loved the Orioles black, orange and white uniforms, and distinctive avian logo. I'm a sucker for bird motifs, being an avid birder.

Now, I'm an admitted fair-weather pro baseball fan, but a huge L.A. Dodger booster back in the '80s when Fernando (Valenzuela) Mania had captivated all of Los Angeles, and young bean-pole Orel Hershiser was dominating on the mound. Two World Series Championships for the Blue Crew in that decade, under the tutelage of the irrepressible Tommy Lasorda. (One title, w/ an asterisk, as it was a strike-shortened season. But they all count.)

I happened to be nursing my emotional wounds from a recent divorce in i980, and those exciting Dodgers of the '80s were a welcome, and engaging distraction, and continuing fascination for me as i slowly reclaimed my life, and regained my normally out-going stride.

I must admit that Dodger Stadium, nestled in picturesque Chavez Ravine w/ the towering palms and willowy eucalyptus swaying in the warm Santa Ana breezes behind the nose-bleed cheap-seats in center field, coupled w/ the distant low-slung chaparelled Santa Monica Mountains framing the ballpark panorama, has to be one of the most aesthetically pleasing, immaculately maintained baseball venues on the entire planet. It's little wonder that game attendance is usually SRO, (sold out), even in those seasons when the Dodgers are languishing in the lower rungs of the National League's Western division, and out of possible playoff contention.

Shifting to golf----as you put it, Patricia, the Old Course at St. Andrews is truly "the Shrine of Golf"------ and is viewed w/ almost holy reverence by many. Most folk, even the non-golf fans out there, know that St. Andrews, and environs is regarded as the historical birthplace of golf, the site of many a stirring, and momentous British Open championship, and home to several of the game's early crackerjack Scottish players, and Open champions.

Legendary Old Tom Morris' famous golf shop is still in business just across from the shortish par 4 /18th closing hole on the Old Course. As the town of Florence, Italy, exudes Renaissance art and history from every nook-and-cranny, St. Andrews is clearly totally absorbed by the game of golf.

The fact that the "wee town" also boasts one of the finest universities in the U.K., St. Andrews (Dah!), as well as the haunting hewn-stone remnants of their medieval-era St. Andrews Cathedral, sometimes gets short shrift amidst all the palaver over it's storied golf history.

Curiously, royal husband-to-be, Prince William, as many keen royals-followers know, actually first met his blushing, gorgeous future bride-to-be, the perpetually smiling Kate, while they were both studying at St. Andrews University---the 3rd oldest university in all of Britain, after storied Oxford and Cambridge.

Hmm.......... how much book 'studying' these two lovebirds were actually doing while at St. Andrews, is wide open to debate. HA! (I'm sure they were brushing up on their human anatomy ----nudge, nudge, wink, wink!----- and neither was a medical major. Go figure?)

Ducky "Play Ball!" isaksson............ peanuts and crackerjacks, indeed!

Calm yourself, Alex. I like the new Royal bride-to-be, if only because she does NOT have blond hair. And I doubt she's the kind of lass to confide her innermost thoughts to some jackal with a camera and microphone. Does she play golf, I wonder.

According to the popular press, tennis is Miss Middleton's game, but you never know whether to believe that sort of thing. Could be blackjack for all I know.

We shall have to wait for Wimbledon to see who is in the Royal Box eating strawberries and cream. I hope there is lots of Purcell and no Elton the John at THE WEDDING.

They tell me it's hymns and choral music, and some specially commissioned stuff from Peter Maxwell Davies, who corners this sort of job, being Master of the Queen's Music

What a wonderful and ancient title. At least New Labour can't do away with that. I for one, can't wait. And I expect there will be no - I repeat NO- Amazing Grace, yodeled by some back-alley hyena. (Has yodeled 2 ls?)

More wonderful when it was spelled 'Musick' - they dropped the 'k' (sadly) during Elgar's spell in the job.

Just imagine being George V and able to phone Elgar and order a new tune. "Something a bit more cheerful this time, if you don't mind, old boy."

More important than what will happen in the Abbey is what happened in a village church in County Tyrone yesterday. The funeral of a young Catholic policeman, killed by a republican bomb, was attended by the Northern Ireland First Minister (apparently the first time he has ever attended a Catholic mass); the Taoiseach (apparently the first time a prime minister from the Republic has ever attended a police funeral in NI); Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness; and the heads of the main Protestant churches.

The guard of honour for PC Ronan Kerr's coffin was provided jointly by the traditionally very Unionist NI police service and the traditionally very non-Unionist Gaelic Athletic Association.  PC Kerr had been a member of both.

Picky: Sounds like a great moment for everyone save the dead and his family and friends (and, of course, the murderers, may they rot).

As for blain, the OED defines it as "an inflammatory swelling or sore on the surface of the body, often accompanied by ulceration; a blister, botch, pustule; applied also to the eruptions in some pestilential diseases." Blains caused by exposure to cold are of course chilblains, the most common use of the word these days.

May they rot with blains.

Haven't those bloody bombers had enough? Rot with blains, indeed, and 'damn their eyes.

Very weird experience. If you happen to have rather Ill-educated thumbs, thumbs of the kind any self-respecting pianist or cigar-roller would have removed; if you have those thumbs and an iPad; if you are thus equipped and the mind is wandering, then you can find yourself inadvertently finger-clicking all sorts of stuff down the side of the screen. It can lead you into unexpected places.

Just now - I suppose I must have jammed the thumb into the archive somehow - I found myself in the presence of an ur-Patricia, speaking to me, or rather to someone else, (acerbically of course) from some time before time began.

She was going under an assumed surname - Terse family probably cut her off - no allowance - door not to be darkened - that sort of thing - gentleman doesn't like to ask - but quite definitely she was she. Speaking from the dawn of eHistory. Frightening business.

I prefer 'blains'- it rhymes with drains. And I plan to tape and watch at leisure the Royal Nuptuals.Bring on the Musick!

Patricia Blains - yes, it has something about it, but, on the whole, I think you were well to return to the Family Terse. Do they nuptual at the wrong hour your time?

The press here is daily full of articles saying the British public should pull itself together and stop going sentimentally gaga over the wedding of the jolly pair. Meanwhile the British public continues in its usual unexcited fashion, and the only people going gaga are the people writing daily articles for the press saying the British public etc etc etc.

As to the Musick, it'll be interesting to hear how they manage that wilful Abbey acoustic - brilliantly clear if you hit it aright, waffle-like if you don't.

Picky (our blog's Honorary Consul for the U.K.),

Well, you'll be heartened to learn that British-born expat actress, the lovely Jane Seymour, has taken on the onerous task of Entertainment Tonight's* roving true-Brit TV correspondent, reporting on the ongoing run-up to the much-ballyhooed royal nuptials, and I'm quite sure, eventually, the gala event itself.

Of late, the former Dr. Quinn/ Medicine Woman, has been designing and crafting a commercial line of unique cast-metal costume jewelry, (a little bit too schmaltzy for my taste), as well as pursuing her avid interest in painting. This little sojourn over the Pond will be a nice respite, and change of pace for her, I would think.

ET has also commandeered the services of popular Aussie actor, Hugh Jackman, to on occasion, join the fetching Miss Seymour in commenting upon all the palaver surrounding the 'Big Event' in London town and environs over the fortnight leading up to the big bash.

It's true that the American masses appear to get more of a vicarious thrill out of these high-falutin' royal weddings than you Brits, w/ perhaps us Canucks coming in a close second on the enthusiasm meter. Of course the last vestiges of Canada's Commonwealth status still linger, and its founding roots were decidedly British, w/ the French element adding to the original ethnic mix.

I doubt I'll be staying up till 4:00AM next Friday morn, Pacific Time, to watch the whole live affair, but our loyal enclave of expat Brits on L.A.'s Westside (Santa Monica and such) will undoubtedly just party-hardy all late Thursday night, and into the wee hours of Friday morning, hopefully sober enough to appreciate, and witness William & Kate's much-anticipated official union.

Ta! Ta! old chap.

*Picky, Entertainment Tonight is a long-running nightly network TV show here in the U.S., offering up-to-the-minute reporting on the current Hollywood celebrity entertainment scene, which includes basically movies, television, music, pop culture, and occasionally, fashion. Mostly a lot of fluff, puff, and self-promotion stuff. Pretty light and breezy fare, in the main.

Ducky "Royal-Pain-in-the-Butt" Isaksson

I and Picky have both misspelled Nuptials. I always have trouble with that one. Anyway, Royal coverage starts here at 4:00 A.M. - I am usually awake although none to bright at that hour, but doubtless will doze off. Hence the faithful VCR. And I suspect the Lads in the Musick progam at The Abbey (a Royal Peculiar, thank you very much) have worked out the acoustics there. If you can conquer the acoustics at King's College, Cambridge, you can pretty well work out any place else. Sound the Trumpet!!!

So we did! How very hobbledehoy of us. No wonder my invitation to the Abbey seems not to have arrived.

Yes, a Royal Peculiar. Must the miff the poor old Bishop of London. You're quite right about the acoustics: it's visiting bands that get them wrong, and the place is stuffed full of musicians. Purcell worked there, didn't he: let's hope we get something from him.

I would love to hear Vaughan-Williams's "O taste and see" after the Marriage ceremony proper. Lovely and so appropriate.


Picky (The Terse?),

Respectfully, old lad, if your last attenuated commentary......."Yes."..... is any indicator, your running dialogue w/ our Patrcia The Terse is clearly starting to rub off on you. You've rarely been a man-of-few-words on this site, let alone offering a singular word. HA!

Or are you just saving your eloquence for your personal assessment of the Royal Nuptials at week's end? (The Abbey, is, indeed, an incredibly magnificent, glorious edifice. I heard bride Kate will take almost four minutes to traverse the length of the cathedral up to the altar, w/ her proud dad in tow. But I digress.)

Frankly the major media on this side of The Pond are becoming increasingly annoying w/ their seeming 24/7 run-up, incessant wall-to-wall coverage of the pending 'Big Event'. Royals fever has definitely regripped America, w/ the infotainment corps constantly adding more fuel to the fire.

There's a little Brit curio shoppe out here in Santa Monica ( locale of a U.K. enclave on L.A.'s Westside), that can't seem to keep their Kate and William wedding tshotskies (sp. ?) on the shelves, as new royals' memorabilia/ souvenirs arrives each pre-wedding day all this week, most sold in a flash. It's absolutely crazy. ("Oh that dainty quilted Kate & William tea-cozy is just to die-for! How much?)

Picky, obviously terseness has never been one of my enduring strengths, but you and Patricia clearly are masterful at cutting to the chase, and getting to the pith of the matter, toute suite. Quite a virtue in the realm of social intercourse, and something I aspire to, but alas, those nasty tangents and digressions appear to keep dogging me. Oh well.


(Ducky's on spring break. HA!)

Nowt wrong with chatting, Alex. Chat on, mate.


Thanks for that kind affirmation, old lad.

At the risk of becoming a nattering nabob of the nonsensical, I'll try not to limit the length of my "You Don't Say" personal musings and sundry observations.

(Apologies to the late U.S. Vice President Spiro Agnew who coined the now infamous anti main-stream-media dig beginning w/ "nattering nabobs". Truth be know, one of his speech writers likely came up w/ the catchy anti-press alliterative moniker. Old Spiro struck me as not the brightest light bulb in the batch. Just sayin'.)

Congrats Picky! Your last post was the 170th on this "London beakons" Prof. McI. article.

Clearly there is still life in this 'monster' post we've managed to keep on life supports for some months now. It's become kind of a catch-all site for ofttimes off-topic conversation, and has taken on a life, and character of its own. And all predicated on the McIntyres highly-anticipated fortnight in your home town, London, back in January. Jolly good.

Question is, can we push the envelop, and reach the 200-post benchmark?

Let's give it a go, old chap!

The rouge-terre-battue of Roland Garrois, and the manicured, verdant grass courts of ye old Wimbeldon now beckon. Much future food for thought and commentary. (Hmm........... me thinks newly-weds Kate & William will, at some point, grace the royal boxes at Wimbeldon, and create quite the momentary media stir. The dashing Rafa Nadal and his arch rival 'The Fed' will have to relinquish some of the lime-light in deference to the charming royal couple, at least for a spell.)

(That Kate is just too, too, too delightful. Not unlike our lovely actress Brooke Shields, I dare say, an unflattering candid photo of Miss Middleton would be hard to take. She is a true natural British beauty. Enough said, or I'll STOP blushing. HA!)


And what do we talk about now?

Perfect ceremony - and the bride comes from such a good looking family! The music was just right, although I did hear, on the BBC, that PMD was mickle miffed that he wasn't asked to write something for the ceremony. Some of his music was used beforehand, along with Elgar, Purcell, Handel and the other usual suspects. I wish I had heard what the organist played after the recessional. Something joyful and fugal I hope! Did you see the young Abbey cleric doing handsprings up or down - the Abbey aisle after the congregation had left? He was in extremely good form! I wonder how long he had been waiting to do that? Well, now they are safely wed, there is always the dead, dear, departed, deceased Madman of Extremism, OBL.Now he belongs to the fishes.

Patricia the Terse,

You are so spot on about the beautiful Kate's handsome family. Her mum is very striking, and so youthful looking, and sister Pippa is almost as stunning a 'looker' as her sis. It's great that the two Middleton sisters are extremely close, and share their most intimate confidences, and personal peeves. As I've opined before on this site, one would be very hard-pressed to snap a bad photo of her-----candid, or posed. I'm hoping Kate and William will continue to have a wonderful, loving life together, well into their dotage.

Kate and Pippa's brother, who I understand had some major growing pains, and a bit of a troubled youth, is a good looking lad. I was impressed w/ his speech after the marriage ceremony, which was very grounded and positive in its message, and just solemn enough to befit the occasion. Let's not leave out papa Middleton. You could just sense the immense joy and pride he was feeling for his daughter, and although naturally nervous, was relishing every precious moment of the grand occasion.

As to that bit of post-wedding ceremony impromptu gymnastics in the sacred confines of The Abbey (which I caught on YouTube), I'm all for a little go of fun-and-frolic, but that tumbling exhibition, though quite expertly executed, IMHO, was just pushing the envelop of decorum, a tad. It's a place of worship, for cripes sake! What next, indoor frisbee tossing, or mini-golf?

Here's a hilarious bit of tumbling by that reality TV sensation from MTV's "Jersey Shore", the seemingly irrepressible Snooki. Check out the video, directly below. Maybe Prince Harry can hire Snooki for a little tumbling exhibition after his future nuptials?;_ylc=X3oDMThic3Q5Y2MwBF9TAzIwMjM1MzgwNzUEYQMxMTA0MDQgb21nIHNub29raSB3d2UgYnYEY3BvcwM4BGQDc3QEZwNpZC04MDcxNQRpbnRsA3VzBGl0YwMwBGx0eHQDU25vb2tpc2hvd3NvZmZhbWF6aW5nd3Jlc3RsaW5nbW92ZQRwa2d2AzEzBHBvcwMxBHNlYwN0ZC1mZWF0BHNsawNpbWFnZQR0YXIDaHR0cDovL29tZy55YWhvby5jb20vYmxvZ3MvdGhlZmFtb3VzL3dhdGNoLXNub29raXMtaW1wcmVzc2l2ZS1tb3Zlcy1hdC13cmVzdGxlbWFuaWEvOTkxBHRlc3QDNzAxBHdvZQMxMjc5NTk3MQ--/SIG=13bg8mohc/EXP=1302045555/**http%3A//

(Wow! That's some humungous algorithm. YIKES!)

Patricia, Bin Laden's swift burial-at-sea reminded me of the signature Mafia method of disposing of bodies (usually unfortunate 'whacked' rival pisano thugs). Thanks to all those Copolla and Scorcese Cosa Nostra-based films like The Godfather, and Goodfellas, the euphemism, "sleeping w/ the fishes", (for dumped in the drink), has become part of our North American pop culture lexicon. As you pointed out in your post, "Now he belongs to the fishes."

It's no accident that so many of the top mafiosa operations in the U.S. have direct investment in, and major ties to the construction biz-----particularly the lucrative cement and paving trades. Makes for convenient custom fitted 'cement boots' for their ill-fated murder victims, tossed overboard for expeditious, and permanent disposal of the otherwise incriminating corpus delicti.

Of course, as we speak, the knee-jerk conspiracy theorists are slinking out from under every unturned rock, claiming that Osama bin Laden still LIVES, and that any video footage, or still photographic evidence of a dead Bin Laden released by the Obama Administration supporting their claim that their military dispatched the supreme Al Qaeda titular head has been trumped up, or faked. The lame, and tired Photoshop conspiracy-believer rejoinder, raises it's ugly head, once again.

As former Pres. Ronald Reagan often said, w/ an air of mild frustration in his voice, "Well...... here we go again."

I'm quite surprised that the self-exalted carnival barker, self-made moron,'The Donald', hasn't come out of his lair (hair? HA!), questioning the veracity of Bin Laden's demise. Seems like his prime mission in life these days has been to discredit, discount, or defame Obama at every turn; all, in my view, for personal political gain, driven by an almost perverse compulsion to always be in the media limelight, feeding that insatiable ego.

Why NOT rain on Obama's parade? That's appears to be Trump's feeble personal mantra, these days.

Well don't get me started. I'll leave it at that, while my blood pressure is still in the bounds of normalcy.

Patricia, hope you're having a great week, thus far.

Ta! Ta!

Whilst the Abbey is certainly a place of worship, it is also a wonderful gallery of British history: art,poetry, music, literature and occasionally, bravery in leadership. While I generally don't endorse calisthenics in church, to quote "Oh Ye Jigs and Juleps," "Jesus wouldn't care, but other people would." It was the end of the wedding and everything had gone off without a hitch. That young cleric doubtless reflected everyone's feelings: the same behaviour would have been thought unseemly from teh Archbishop of Canterbury, however.

Patricia the Terse,

You make a good point in regards to the multi-faceted, diverse, life-affirming aspects of The Abbey, aside from its primary function as a revered house of worship------its storied and long history, the thousands of musical performances there in, and all the other uplifting aesthetic, and spiritual gifts this hallowed London-based institution has given the world over hundreds of years.

As to the seemingly impromptu, in-church calisthenics, I can appreciate where the huge excitement, and hubbub of the occasion, and having experienced, in person, the joy and intensity of the Kate & William union, could have easily inspired this young, and most athletic cleric to literally leap for joy--- no real harm, nor foul. Now the Archbishop of Canterbury, or for that matter the Episcopal Bishop (?) of London town, would likely take some degree of umbrage w/ this unorthodox display.

As you likely know, Patricia, several esteemed British historical personages of distinction, from many, and varied walks-of-life, have been honorably entombed in the great gothic-style Abbey over the centuries, in addition to that Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, smack dab in the middle of the nave main aisle, just beyond the front entrance to the church, that got considerable camera exposure during the influx of wedding attendees. Loved the mass of scattered red poppies surrounding it, which almost seamlessly blended into the scarlet carpet. Very moving, indeed.

Myself, and my immediate family on my dad's side, are apparently distantly related to the renowned Scottish-born missionary/ explorer, David Livingstone (I presume), who's mortal remains (except for his heart, which rests interred somewhere in East Africa) are 'encrypted' somewhere within the vast Abbey.

If only those ancient stone walls could talk. Hmm ............. on second thought, maybe not. Too spooky. HA!


Yes, Patricia and Alex, a good-looking family, and from modest backgrounds - in Mrs Middleton's case really very modest - but how well they carried themselves in such a strange situation. Can't see them doing the Windsors anything but good ... and not just from the better-looking genes.

I put aside my reverse snobbery and suspicion of slush, and watched it all.  And enjoyed it. As Patricia said in advance, the strength of it was that within all the sumptuous red and gold was a simple Anglican wedding: the same sturdy words you might hear any summer Saturday in a village church somewhere.

As to the musick, a shame PMD didn't get a better chance.  I wasn't very impressed by the Rutter anthem - they could have shoved the Master in there, for my money - but I liked the little Paul Mealor piece: that would be worth hearing again, I think. Otherwise, yes, the usual suspects, although a surprising amount of weight on Parry's shoulders. The old boy bore it quite well.

As to the cartwheeling cove, I think he was a verger rather than a cleric, which is a pity - I'd have liked him to be a distinguished visiting archdeacon, at the very least. I can't imagine the Archbishop or the Bishop of London being in any way upset by it. And even if they were, none of their business: Royal Peculiar: a matter for the Dean.

And on to ObL. I feel a slight distaste for the street flag waving, but that's being a bit precious. Mr L's removal is very satisfactory.

Without their vestments, it's difficult to tell verger from cleric. And I too liked the little Mealor anthem. He combined old and new harmonies and effects well. I hope he gets some notice now: how good of the couple to hear some possibilities there. I've sung both Parry pieces: great fun, and I see they omitted the "Vivats" in "I Was Glad." Not appropriate for the wedding.

Patricia (if you haven't already seen this):

Alex (if you don't already know this):


As our late, great late-night 'Tonight Show' host, Johnny Carson, was often want to say, "I did not know that."

Thanks a bunch, old lad, for that little 'Telegraph' online newspaper clip re/ the history of The Abbey's Grave-of-the Unknown-Warrior, w/ that most interesting recent detail of bride Kate's placing her wedding bouquet on the inscribed black Belgian marble slab over his final resting place after the nuptials ceremony. (None of that pedestrian post-ceremonial blushing bride throwing the bouquet over the shoulder stuff, and such. Now William removing Kate's garter is quite another affair, entirely. HA!)

Quite a moving tale of the 'Unknown's' mortal remains being transported to London from France in 1920, and all. And then that symbolic touch of sprinkling a bit of French soil over the modest wooden coffin as it was lowered into the nave grave. Also, to think that the whole idea for honoring the fallen British warriors who sacrificed their all in World War I w/ this memorial tomb at The Abbey was Elizabeth's, The Queen Mother, I feel is so very significant, and touching.

I've always had a soft spot of both affection and respect-from-afar for the Queen Mum over the years---a woman of enduring dignity, vitality, and so loved by her adoring British subjects. Knowing now that she was the prime mover in establishing the Grave-to-the-Unknown-Warrior at The Abbey, for me, only further burnishes her already honorable, and untarnished reputation, in my eyes.

Indeed, the grand old gal lived to a ripe old age, passing, i believe, in her 102nd year in 2002. She appeared in great spirits and relatively healthy up till her final years. If one's DNA is any determinant of one's longevity, it would appear, God willing, that her namesake daughter, Queen Elizabeth II might just reach that rarefied century mark, as well; which would majorly delay either son Charles, or grand-son, William's ascent to the British throne. Dearest Kate might just have to hang on to that catchy media moniker, "waity Katy" for a while longer, but for very different reason's than earlier in her seemingly much-charmed life. HA!

As I my have mentioned in a much earlier post on this site, my grand-dad on my father's side, Nicol McCrae, fought w/ the Canadian ground forces in the First Great War on the bloody, and muddy Belgian front, (ghastly trench warfare), and was a victim of several exposures to dreaded German mustard gas attacks, finally, literally stopped in his tracks in the mucky mire of Ypres.

Thankfully he survived the war, but died in his early 50s in 1945 from cancer, back home in Canada, sadly one year before I came into this crazy world. I know, if he'd lived, he would have been immensely proud that I took up playing the bagpipes at age 10, and became a pretty decent competitive young piper through my teen years, both individually and as a member of the Toronto City Pipe-band. Auch, those were the days.

So Picky, this piece on 'the 'Unknown-Warrior' has a special emotional, very personal resonance w/ me, and I so appreciate you sharing it w/ me......... and all our fellow bloggers.

That little Paul Mealor video chat (well, monologue), was informative as well. This gent seems like a very sensitive and bright young fellow, and clearly so delighted, dare i say, gobsmacked, in being chosen by Kate & William to offer such an important element to their British history-in-the-making, providing his unique devotional compositions as part of the musical backdrop to the lofty wedding proceeding. Bravo maestro Mealor!

Picky, only 20 more posts till we reach the "London beckons" post 200 benchmark. I'm getting almost giddy w/ sheer anticipation. HA!

Thanks again for those cool attachments/ links.

Have a great rest-of-the-week, old chap.


My children, such a day in Dublin! Take heart!

After demolition, reconstruction.

I see Her Majestry was attired in a becoming green for her visit. Good show. I've always liked her and most of her family. She has always appeared to me to be optimistic, intelligent and in her 85th year, curious about the world around her. And very likely, the Empire's best diplomat. Vivat Regina, and good luck to Ireland.

Some simple ceremony for HM and the admirable Mary McAleese ... But, oh, those smug professorial types at Trinity College. There must have been 50 of them in a row - and I don't think I can be exaggerating - all to be given a smile and a handshake and a pleasant or pertinent remark about their field. On and on and on - and she 85. Isn't academia so self-absorbed?

But to see the Queen and the President of the Republic standing together in Dublin for the two anthems ... I never thought to witness that .

Self-absorption is what Academia does best. All of that takes work, Picky. Hard work! It's one of the components of the constitutional avoidance of the direct question and answer. The mooing and shuffling that pass for faculty foregatherings the world over are deafening.

An account of those solemn moments between the two anthems to which Picky refers:

Thank you, John. That's a nicely written piece.

It would be good to think that the shade of Dr Garret FitzGerald, that splendidly civilised man whose death was announced today, is pleased with how his work is being carried on.

Perhaps, Picky, if you have seen Helen Mirren in "The Queen," you could make a few observations on the film and help us move a little closer to 200 comments on this string.

First, if I may, I shall complete my duties on this assignment as You Don't Say's diplomatic correspondent.

Royal Trip over after 4 days. Following Garden of Remembrance, and parallel wreath laying in honour of those Irishmen who died in British uniform in two world wars, then Queen's well-received speech at the Castle, things grew less intense.

Security was lessened sufficiently to allow thousands to line the streets in Cork (rebel Cork!) to welcome the Queen, and after an official engagement the Queen - some say she broke away from her minders, some say the Gardai agreed extempore to break with the schedule - plunged into Walkabout mode and was off chatting with the crowd.

Those poor devils in charge of security have now taken a deep breath and a cup of tea, and are preparing for President Obama's arrival.

Historic visit hailed as a massive success, says the Irish Independent. Here's a more thoughtful view:

Well, John, I think you're just trying to up the numbers to justify your advertising rates, but here goes ..

You've fingered the wrong man for "The Queen" views. Firstly, Alex and P the T are the Helen Mirren experts (although I know her to be very talented, of course) and secondly because I'm no cineast. The last film I saw in a cinema was just a horse galloping - or no, perhaps not, perhaps it was something by that chap Griffith.

So, no, I haven't seen The Queen. You do remind me, though, of the BBC tv film of Alan Bennett's good little play A Question of Attribution, which had Prunella Scales (yes, Sybil!) as the Queen and one of the Foxes as Sir Anthony Blunt, who, you recall, was the Soviet agent who just happened also to be Surveyor of the Queen's Pictures.

The heart of the play, if you haven't seen it, is some chats between Elizabeth and Blunt which appear to be about fakery in art, but which he comes to suspect are in fact about him.

I don't know whether Miss Scales' approximation is anything like the Queen in reality - of course the play isn't about her, except insofar as she and Blunt are exemplars of our tendency to maintain separate public and private personalities, it is about deception and lies and cover-ups and betrayals.

It was very nicely acted. Bennett, as you might have expected, was not unsympathetic to either character.

Now, Patricia and Alex - "The Queen"?

Well, I've seen it on the tele, not the theatre. However, while I thought Miss Mirren was excellent, Tony Blair and his lady wife, were a touch acerbic; perhaps true to life, perhaps not. And I found Mr Blair a tad boyish, but this was before September 11, 2001. I think the worst portrayal was that of the Queen Mother: she was,I think, much less snide than portrayed. Another actress might have helped, and a script written more sympathetically. Who did write the screenplay, does anyone know. It does make a difference in the slant.

Patricia the T.,

The screenplay for "The Queen" was written by Brit screenwriter and playwright Peter Morgan, and directed by Stephen Frears. As you may recall, British actor, Michael Sheen, (no relation to the chronically disturbed sitcom actor, Charlie "Winning" Sheen), played the role of P.M. Tony Blair.

Interestingly, Morgan wrote his first stage play, Frost / Nixon, back in 2006, starring the aforementioned Michael Sheen as interviewer David Frost, and American veteran actor Frank Langella playing the inscrutable Nixon. On the strength of the plays remarkable success, a film starring Sheen and Langella, debuted in 2008, w/ generally positive reviews, and fair box-office returns.

Currently, Morgan is working on the screenplay for the green-lighted bio-pic of the band Queen's ,sadly late, lead singer, the incomparable Freddie Mercury. The Brit actor Sasha Baron Cohen (of Borat and Ali G fame), is slated to play

Frankly,I think Cohen is a worthy choice. You figure if he can pass for a swarthy wacko Kazakhstani roving journalist w/ an outsized jet-black handlebar mustache, then I'm sure he can pull off a fairly decent facsimile of the great mustachioed Greek-Brit, Freddie Mercury. Might have to have some kind of fake mouthpiece to simulate Freddie's rather bucked, and gapped two front teeth. And of course, Cohen does have some past experience w/ spandex, a favorite w/ Mercury. Recall that bizarre, too revealing, yellow unitard he sported in a few scenes in "Borat"?

On a personal note, I had the pleasure of chatting for a bit w/ the aforementioned actor Michael Sheen, who I politely accosted on the massive exhibition floor at the wild-and-wooly Comic-Con convention in San Diego last July. He was a delightful, seemingly very humble chap, who told me he just loves graphic novels, and is a huge fan of commercial illustrative, and graphic art, in general.

As I've stated before, having a gift (as a pro caricaturist) for being able to spot celebrities in a crowd can be both a boon, or a bust-----very much depending on the attitude of said 'personality', and how one goes about engaging them. Some, you just know instinctively they're not in the mood for a casual tete-a-tete w/ a total stranger, while others just have that come-hither, extroverted air about them. I try my best not to be a jerk, or too, too gushy.

Well Patricia, another tangent taken. HA!


I wouldn't go across the street to see anything by or about "Queen." Strutting homosexuals in spandex do nothing for me. I still think the portrayal of the Queen Mother in that film was rather nasty. And I 'm not surprised that Mr Bennett is sympathetic to the disgraced Blunt. He may be a clever literery bloke, but his politics are remarkably adolescent. I remember him in "Fortunes of War," a role that I fear was remarkably like the man himself.

Is this not the old fallacy? Marlowe was a dubious character, and Swift and Defoe were fairly unpleasant, and the Brontes were loonies, and Byron was a foul bastard and Eliot was antisemitic and Pound was a fascist and Yeats was a nasty-minded nationalist and Hemingway was a twit and Fitzgerald was even twittier and Wodehouse made those silly broadcasts and Auden fled to America when the war got nasty and ... and ... and ...

True or false they are tangential to their value as writers. Bennett has some silly views on politics; as a writer he shows a sympathy for people of all conditions and opinions. That'll do for me.

You left out that Joyce was someone to whom it would have been unwise to lend money.

I'm with you, Picky. Writers are flawed human beings like everyone else, and perhaps more so. It is a vulgar error to identify the person with the artifact.

Patricia the T.,

I'm slightly gobsmacked, to say the least, in reading the opening line of your last post. Yikes!

Respectfully, your homophobia does NOT become you. (Or was it more that the spandex bothered you so?)

IMHO, the late Freddie Mercury's sexual orientation should have NO real bearing on our appreciation of his truly amazing vocal talents, and consummate skills as an engaging stage performer.

In my mind he was an amazingly gifted, powerful singer, w/ the dynamic range of a professional opera devo/ diva, mesmerizing SRO audiences the world over for decades, filling huge stadiums such as London's Wembley 'arena' in his native England to over-flow-capacity crowds in excess of 100,000 adoring fans.

I grant you there were likely a few thousand young 'card-carrying' homosexuals out there screaming their gay lungs out, but clearly the lion's share of "Queen"s fans were flaming heterosexuals.

Hmm....... I vaguely recall in a few of your much earlier posts on this site, where you expressed a kind of implied (or perhaps direct) dislike for the music of Sir Elton John (or was it just Elton himself?). I'm sure that your antipathy for the 'Rocketman' had nary a whit to do w/ his being an out, gay, happily 'same-sex-married' man----to a younger Canadian bloke from my hometown, Toronto, no less?

Patricia, speaking as one of those aforementioned 'flaming heterosexuals' who may have a degree of greater compassion for, and understanding of gays, and members of the GLTB community than you apparently do, let's perhaps at least acknowledge that in the domain of the plastic, design, and performing arts, (as we've known them since prior to the Golden Age of Athens, the so-called Dark Ages,The Renaissance, the European Neo-Classical period, thru to our Modern, and Post Modern eras), all these areas of creative expression would be far less vibrant, and vital without the contribution of creatively gifted and productive gay artists, and gay art patronage, through the ages.

As I recall, both much heralded Italian Renaissance giants, (dare I say geniuses), Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo Buonarroti were homosexuals, according to most credible scholarship.

Hmm......... I gather you "wouldn't go cross the street" (your words) to view Michelangelo's David at the Academia in Florence, or check out Da Vinci's Mona Lisa, in The Louvre? Such a pity............. and your great loss.

(Of course neither would have been caught dead in spandex. HA!)


P.S.: @Picky, ironically, your sentiments re/ how we have to make a real distinction between how we view the personal failings, and alleged unsavory aspects of our great writers', apart from, as you put, "their value as writers", I believe has some relevance to my point re/ Freddie Mercury's value as a remarkable, much loved talent, who passed at too young an age, and sadly, in a slow and most grievous manner, to boot.

On the other hand, Christina Patterson"s sensible comment today in the Independent on Bennett's ridiculous statement that reductions in library services are a form of "child abuse":

"I don't really see why writers, who are meant to be better with words than anyone else, can't sometimes say sensible things about politics. I don't understand why they think that a book is a complicated, difficult thing to make, but that running a country, or balancing a budget, is easy. I don't understand why they can write books that sound as if they were written by grown-ups, but make statements about politics that sound as if they were made by children. It would be nice if some of the finest minds in the country could do a bit better than this."

I think that in order to play ER convincingly, you have to be a female Brit. FLora Robson, Glenda Jackson and more lately Helen Mirren have all in their own ways, been superb. Bette Davis tried it and was an abject failure: too much campy, jerky Davis, not enough attention to the character and script (although the script was pretty dreadful as well.) It was as bad as Miss Hepburn playing The Scottish Queen, who I'm sure didn't sound like that cawing lady from New England, whatever other faults she may have had. And speaking of talent I can not say "Thou" to the F. Mercuries of the world. That kind of display relies less on talent than lights, costumes and propaganda. And I do not like effeminate men. Actual women don't behave like that.Why are people who try to imitate other ethnicities, for lack of a better work, castigated for alleged racism, while men who drag up as women are, by the P.C. press et al, are tolerated, and often celebrated? And now to something important - The French Open is open. Vive la France!For all veterans of all American wars, thank you for your service. America owes you all an enormous debt.

And not only America. Thank you.

I only wish to observe that "gobsmacked" is an underused word. And I believe that makes 200!

200 indeed! Happy Memorial Day, wherever you remember who has fought and died that we may all indulge in this badinage.

The other useful thing about gobsmacked is that it gives us a valuable new opportunity for wordery peevery. I'm afraid you can't be slightly gobsmacked, Alex. Either your gob has been smacked or it hasn't. Of course the word is only slightly unique in that way.

Congratulations to those who have taken us over the 200 mark. I imagine some sort of medal will be struck?

And, Picky, am I correct in understanding that slightly unique is similar to slightly pregnant?


For all I know I may have had my 'gob' smacked, and been totally oblivious to the affront.

Nonetheless, thanks for that clarification re/ the fact that one can't be partially gobsmacked. In other words, it's ALL or nothing.

I guess I should just 'chagrin', and bear it, eh? HA!

I can blame that silver-throated Scotswoman, now mega-star Brit singing sensation, the zaftig, sweet Susan Boyle, for putting "gobsmacked" back into my cob-webbed arcane vocabulary mental inventory.

As I recall, while onstage at the "Britain's Got Talent" show a few years back, she expressed her sheer joy and amazement at being voted to continue on in the contest w/ the exclamation, "I'm absolutely gobsmacked!" . The word has stuck w/ me ever since.

(As most fans of the show will remember, the rather plain-Jane, slightly dowdy early-fortyish Susan was initially regarded by show creator, and acerbic sitting judge Simon Cowell as an obvious loser when she confidently strutted out on stage. But from the second she began to sing her now signature song,"I Dreamed a Dream", HE was clearly gobsmacked, and couldn't believe Ms. Boyle's angelic-sounding, perfectly-pitched, heart-felt performance. Hard-ass Simon was totally smitten, and later, on-air, 'ate crow', admonishing himself for being so judgmental, and dismissive of Boyle when he hadn't even heard her sing. My respect for Cowell rose a few notches w/ his most public eating-of-humble-pie, as it were.)

Ta! Ta!


P.S.: Picky, do you think we can push this "London beckons" post to 250, or am I aiming our sights too high.?

We may head for 250, Alex, if you would kindly explain how one scores at curling.

Alex, Alex, Alex - Homosexual does not automatically mean talented. Get over this. And no, I wouldn't make an effort for the Mona Lisa or the David. Miss Lisa has an unpleasant simper to her visage, understandable now we know that under her portrait is a portrait of the artist. Clever, but not my favorite Renaissance portrait. As for the David, copies are all over Firenze: to see the original one must plunk down molte di Lire. Probably not worth it, if you are on a budget. We have passed the 200 mark. Soon someone will mention the Scots, or possibly the Welsh. O dear!

Patricia, Patricia, Patricia.......... "Get over this", indeed!

As I recall I brought up THIS subject almost a week ago, and you've heard nary a discouraging word, or peep since. For me, ancient blog history, taken w/ a grain of salt.

So respectfully, might this be more a case of the pot, (or in this case the 'Pat') calling the kettle black?

Almost after an entire week's 'gestation', it appears this, what should now be almost a non-issue, is somehow still sticking in your craw, and you obviously felt compelled to get yet another dig in on the matter. Ouch!

Indeed, I cannot quibble with your assertion that "Homosexual does not automatically mean talented". But one could make the same argument for heterosexuals, bisexuals, or transsexuals, for that matter. Which, to some degree, supports my earlier claim, (w/ the talented singer/ performer Freddie Mercury in mind), that sexual orientation should have no real relevance to how any high-profile artist, from whatever genre, is perceived by his, or her public. Pure talent always wins out in the end. Period.

So respectfully, why don't we just agree-to-disagree on this one, and let it be?

Hmm........... Patricia, don't try to tell me you've got some crosses to bear w/ the poor Welsh folk? I wouldn't hold too, too much stock in that ancient rumor that Wales' own magnificent heart-throb crooner, the now 70-year-old Tom Jones, is really a closet 'fancy boy'. (Just pulling your leg, Your Terseness. HA!)

No hard feelings, eh?


Fair enough, Alex, but how exactly do you score at curling?


With all due respect, old lad, describing the scoring in curling is about as mundane , and boring as watching paint dry, or having to fill out a three page job application, listing one's entire curriculum vitae.

Picky, not to pass the buck, but I suggest you, (or anyone else that's curious), give that trusty Wikipedia site a go. I'm sure they'll explain all the nuances, and intricacies of the ancient game, including the unique official scoring system, and various rules of play. (Like not setting fire to your opponents broom once play has begun.)

In a nutshell, curling is very much like darts, but instead of feathery projectiles thrown at a prescribed, numbered board, the curler is tossing very heavy, roundish, hewn granite stones along a very smooth, fast ice surface toward a large bull's eyed target, within what they term, 'the house'.

So essentially, instead of losing an eye to an errant dart, one could incur major foot damage from a badly tossed curling stone. Whatever your preference.

Both games have a specific target to shoot for----one vertical, and the other horizontal. Unlike casual pub darts, where drinking is likely encouraged, and is part of the whole merry social ambiance, curlers, as generally a more serious, and sober lot, reserve their alcohol imbibing for AFTER their matches. (The Canadian squads generally going for either the Moosehead, or Molson's/ Coors brews.)

I've never curled, yet I'm a fair-to-middling, now lapsed dart player. Honed what skills I have in the family basement ('rec room') as a youth. Still, thankfully have vision in both eyes.

So there you have, old chap.


Picky: Do you suppose Alex the Garrulous has ever answered a direct question directly in his life? I'd pose this directly to him, but I fear his answer would run into paragraphs, not to say chapters.

Patricia: He's the sort of bloke the chief torturer of the Spanish Inquisition must have dreaded coming across. Anyway, I'm going to stop shoving things under his toenails: he's quite right about the comprehensiveness of the Wikipedia article, and it tells me that scoring at curling is damn near exactly the same as at bowls. The team who get a stone-thing closest to the target win that part of the game, and score one point for each stone-thing of theirs that is closer to the target than the closest stone-thing of their opponents. Phew.

By the way, I was still thinking about whether a writer's morality is relevant to his value as an artist (it takes my ancient brain some time to throw the points and get onto another track) and I thought of an example where it is: Lamb. Everyone seems to have agreed that he was an excellent bloke, and it's his excellence as a human being that somehow shines through his writing.

PtheT, I've been thinking about the Freddy Mercury issue. It may be that visually his "display relies less on talent than lights, costumes and propaganda", but vocally he was extremely talented.

I wouldn't put him in the top tier of Bing Crosby, Nat King Cole, Sammy Davis Jr., Doris Day, Hank Williams, Elvis Presley, Jackie Wilson, Dianna Ross, Cindy Lauper, David Bowie, etc. He is more in the closely following ranks of Matt Munro, Keely Smith, Roy Clark, Don Henley, Pat Benatar, et al. That still puts him squarely within a group of very talented singers.

I like a lot of Queen's music, and it is principally due to Mercury's singing.


P.S. Frank Sinatra doesn't even make tier 3 with me.

Tim: Can we put Ella into a sort of super-top-tier?


Hmm............... decisions, decisions, decisions.

Señor chief torturer, you say do I want the thumb screws-and-chains, a stretch on the rack, the cherry-red-hot iron poker, the cat-'n-nine-tails, molten wax, or water-boarding? (Frankly, none of the above.)

Hmm........ por favor, could you run down my options just one more time? Please, pretty please!

Chief torturer whispers an aside to his sadistic, hunchbacked assistant (en español, of course):

"This guy is clearly stalling for time. Why don't we just kill this $#^$%&@*& louse and get it over with. If he mentions those damn Scots one more time, I swear he's a goner. The dog is probably one of those sniveling Crypto Christians, anyway------- a Sephardi in sheep's clothing, no doubt. (Oops! The circumcision----the unkindest cut of all---- gave that one away. HA!)

On a more serious note, Picky, the Mr. Lamb of whom you earlier spake, I surmise would be the British essayist, Charles Lamb (1775-1834), whose most notable works are Essays of Elia and Tales of Shakespeare? The later work written in conjunction w/ his sister Mary.

I did a little Wiki search on this London-based gent, and you, indeed, were spot on re/ his "excellent" character as a human/ humane being, clearly jibing nicely w/ his excellence as a fine scribe.

Interestingly, his life was not exactly one of good fortune and privilege. As a youth he
had a chronic stutter right thru grades-school, and although clearly a romantic, of sorts, had few significant romances, and those he had didn't come to full fruition in matrimony. He was a life-long bachelor, yet I'm sure found some solace in his close relationship w/ his, at times, problematic sister Mary.

Like his sister, he suffered bouts of mental illness (mostly depression), and alcoholism, but his core amiability, sociability, intelligence and resolve to make his ultimate mark as a published writer appeared to be abiding constants in his life.

All the more remarkable was the fact that he toiled as a full-time clerk in the London head office of the East India Co. for some decades, working to retirement age, and his full pension.

His enduring friendship w/ famed writer Samuel Coleridge was a significant one, as Coleridge was an abiding fan of Charles writing, and would include many of his literary pieces in various poetry anthologies, that he (Coleridge) would edit, and publish from time-to-time.

The fact that Lamb took in his sister Mary after she had been declared by the criminal courts as mentally incompetent, and therefore exempt form spending years behind bars for the stabbing of their own mum in a fit of mania, was a great testament to Charles' kind heart, and empathetic and sensitive character.

The Wiki bio brought up Lamb's profound debt to the writings of Scotsman, Robbie Burns, whose lyrical, descriptively visual style he so greatly admired.

(Patricia, had to get the Scottish bit in there, somehow. HA!)

Picky, thanks for kind of getting me off the curling/ scoring hook. I'm sure I would have likely rambled on for paragraphs, not leaving a curling stone unturned, as it were. But you seemed to have put the whole thing into a succinct, yet basically on-target, synopsis.

Good observation about lawn bowls (and I would add, the Italian game of bocce, perhaps), having a similar scoring angle as curling. As I understand it, in lawn bowls, the bowler can 'curl', curve, or finesse, the ball to either worm into optimal position by avoiding the opponent's 'sitting' ball(s), or bowl a more straight rolling ball to knock the opposition's ball out of scoring position.

With curling, the handle on the 'rock', or stone, allows the curler to finesse his shot rock w/ the mere turn of the wrist, or perhaps using a later release to impart spin. It's basically up to the 'sweepers', instructed by the thrower to get the stone to it's intended target. Sometimes the sweepers do minimal-to-no sweeping. Depends on the intent of the individual shot.

I'm off to Ailsa Craig off the Argylshire coast to carve me a personalized curling stone. It's like the Carrara of curling stones, only solid grey granite, not pure white marble.

Hmm............ I wonder if old Michelangelo would have been much of a curler? We know he'd be a lefty, for what it's worth. HA!


Well, Alex, thumb-screw, rack, etc or ... the Comfy Chair! (No! Not the Comfy Chair!, etc etc etc)

Yep, in bowls the "wood", as they call the ball, has a weight in one side, which can let you curve it exactly as you say, to approach around another wood.

Picky, if we are picking a super top tier it includes Ella and Bing and no one else. Vocalists in American popular music owe more to Bing Crosby's innovative talent, soulful pitch and evocative phrasing than any other singer of the 20th century, bar none. I will add Ella on the same level due to her innate ability to get more out of a song than anyone else ever. Sinatra was a hack compared to them.


At least two of us agree that the late "Queen" frontman, Freddie Mercury, had a heck of a fine voice, dare I say instrument, even though Her Terseness firmly objects to his alleged 'fey' stage histrionics, and regards his singing as mediocre, at best. Different strokes for different stokes, I say.

I liked your list of first tier singers which spanned quite a range of eras and musical genres. Some of those earlier legends such as the mellow Nat King Cole, the versatile Sammy Davis Jr., and the dynamic Motown sensation, Jackie Wilson, might not ring too many bells w/ anyone born from say the mid-eighties and beyond.

Yet for us fortunate early 'boomers', and those of what newsman Tom Brokaw coined as "The Greatest Generation", these marvelous old talents still bring back the fondest of memories. And of course, their magnificent voices live on into the digital recording age, and likely beyond.

I could quibble w/ your choice of Cindy Lauper as a top-tier talent, but I shant. I always loved her lively "Girls Just Want to Have Fun", and her yearning breakaway hit ballad, "Time After Time". She was definitely a breath of fresh air when she first emerged on the American music scene; kind of the female equivalent of Brit upstart, Boy George, in terms of sheer flamboyance, and slightly manic stage presence. Kind of punk, but without all the menace and mayhem.......... and generally crappy vocals. HA!

It's quite a challenge to muster a comprehensive list of all-the-top-singers-of-the- modern-era-ever, since there are, and were so many outstanding artists.

I was thinking, just in the ranks of Canadian performers who have gained international prominence since say the sixties, there are a small coterie of tremendous talents, w/ five of those I'm going to cite, recognized both for their vocal uniqueness, but also their tune-smithing abilities.

Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Paul Anka, Gordon Lightfoot, and k.d. lange all fit the aforementioned category as a double threat (singer/ songwriter), while both our 'snowbird', Anne Murray, and the amazing Quebecois, Celine Dion, have reached the pinnacle of their profession; although they don't pen their own music, and are regarded more as distinctive song stylists----interpreters of other's tunes.

Any list of the 20th century pop-music singing greats (first, or second tier), in my view, should include Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder, Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, Buck Owens, Tom jones, Tony Bennett, Bob Marley, Sade, Rosemary Clooney, Eric Clapton, B.B. King, Luther Vandross, Carol King, James Taylor, Cat Stevens (now Yusuf islam), Paul McCartney, John Lennon, Smokey Robinson, James Brown, Dusty Springfield, Diana Krall, Phoebe Snow, Dean Martin, Vic Damone, and country crooner, Randy Travis.(Boy that was a mishmash of genres and eras. HA!)

I'm sure I could add at least a score more to that elite roster, but let's maybe give some other bloggers a chance to chime in.

As a youngster, on just a few memorable occasions I saw TV variety shows when both Ella and Bing duetted. Talk about musical magic. Their chemistry was amazing. Bing could be a cool harmonizer, too.

Why, Bing was such a super talent, I'm sure he could even scat up there w/ the greatest scatter on the planet of that era, Ella Fitzgerald.

Tim, clearly music is one of your enduring passions.

Thanks for sharing it w/ us.

You have great taste in talent, by the way.


I go along with Bing, too. Handsome voice, great warmth and texture, and anyway he dominated popular music for an age, and influenced so many.

As to Miss Fitzgerald, well ... first her natural gifts - a great range, and comfortable all through it; perfect pitch, even at her slowest and softest, bang on the middle of the note; lovely tones, from the peaty (can I say that?) warmth of her low notes to her shining top notes. And then her musical understanding that allowed her on the one hand to improvise with great skill and on the other, when singing straight, to inhabit the very soul of a ballad.

I'm happy with Bing and Ella in super top-tier duets. Nice thought. Perhaps they're somewhere singing right now.

Bing once said that the greatest influence on his singing was Louis Armstrong's trumpet playing (they became good friends as well, from what I can tell). If you listen to songs from the first half of Bing's career you can hear it clearly, how he uses his voice as an instrument, on songs like "The First Snowfall of the Winter" , "Swinging on a Star, or just about any of his collaborations with The Andrews Sisters. No one influenced American popular vocal music as much as he did.

For Ella, I think it's enough to say that there isn't a songwriter on the planet who had anything to complain about when she forgot the lyrics to a tune. I bet even Johnny Mercer, the greatest lyricist America has ever produced, must have thought that her improvisations were an improvement on his songs.


Frankly, old chap, I do believe you may have missed your true calling.

I thought your description of the legendary Ella Fitzgerald's 'instrument' was verging on sheer eloquence, in its lush descriptive 'notes', and for me, it sounded like you really have a fine flair for music appreciation and criticism, w/ a feel for the subtle nuances, and myriad aspects of the singing voice. (At least Miss Ella's. HA!)

Hence, I could realistically see you as either a music critic, maybe online, or perhaps one of those specialist scribes who write the pithy liner notes on CD covers, or the artist 'bios' in those compact little printed lyrics booklets one gets along w/ the disc(s).

It's never too late my friend. Just sayin'.

Tim, great point re/ Ella's early association and collaboration w/ the legendary Louis Armstrong. The early exposure to, and infusion of the jazz idiom must have had a huge impact on Ella's later ability to improvise, at will, riffing whenever the spirit moved her. (Armstrong, as you recall, was a strong 'scatman' in his own right.)

Interestingly scat singing (clearly a dying art), with Ella Fitzgerald being the acknowledged 'Queen of Scat', is basically a variant of the jazz form, w/ echos of the staccato of the jazz horn section, and the incessant beat of the drum found in the percolating, freeform rhythms of the voice.

(IMHO, in contemporary hip-hop, and urban/ street dance music, beat-boxing, and live DJ LP/ vinyl manipulations (the name of this popular style eludes me---maybe freestylin'?), have in some manner, replaced the scat feel of old.)

Although she was an emerging African-American artist, Ella Fitzgerald's pure, pitch-perfect, warm, breezy, and at times seductive voice went far beyond race. Even though her career began in the pre-Civil Rights/ Jim Crow era, she appeared to be widely embraced by Blacks, Whites, Latinos, and likely Asian -Americans. Like her cohort, Louis Armstrong, she eventually gained recognition, and and a huge growing fan base in Europe, and even the U.S.S.R. .

Somewhat surprisingly, the Danes are huge jazz aficionados, going back to the '40s. When American jazz artists would tour Europe, Copenhagen is usually on their performance itinerary. Who knew?

Most of America was colored-blind when it came to the remarkable, genuinely sweet, and most humble Miss Fitzgerald. Her voice appeared to have universal appeal.

Sadly, that wasn't the case w/ the great Nat King Cole early on into his budding career, but on the liberating wave of the Civil Rights movement, things, racism wise, eventually got better for him, over time. But that's a whole other story, for perhaps another day.

Picky, I'm feeling particularly ancient today, as I officially become a Fed Medicare recipient. As you are likely aware, Medicare has become a huge political football here in the U.S.,of late. There is a resounding clamoring for healthcare reform, afoot in this country, as us early baby boomers, like a herd of aging lemmings are rushing into the Medicare program on turning 65, at a staggering estimated rate of some 17,000 geezers per day. That's quite a slew of lemmings to take care of, eh?

Hope you guys are having a superb week, and mostly staying out of trouble.


Happy Birthday Alex!


Thanks for the Happy B-Day wish. Much appreciated.

Of course, you are very aware that Medicare coverage initially kicks in on the first day of the month when one turns 65, which in my case will be in a couple of weeks---June 15th to be exact.

Let's just keep that date as a little secret between you and I. HA! (Fat chance.)

I frankly don't feel six-and-a-half decades old............ more like my mid-forties, although I notice a bit of that pesky geezer 'curmudgeonism' may be sneaking up on me. If I tend to get a tad too crotchety online, just discretely let me know. I wouldn't make a good chronic grump, anyway. Too much out there to celebrate, and be thankful for, I say.

Tim, by-the-by, might you be a fan of veteran jazz man, Dave Brubeck?

I just love his signature tune, "Take Five"------ a super anecdote for a mild case of the blues (no pun intended. HA!)

Saw a very cool PBS 'doc' on this amazing master tickler-of-the-ivories this past winter, and was truly blown away by his myriad musical accomplishments, his longevity, and most importantly, in my view, his enduring passion for his music, and his most appreciative, loyal, audiences.

It was very touching to learn that, I believe, two of his grown sons play in his touring combo, and of course, in the recording studio, even though Brubeck's gigging schedule is limited these days. After all, the man will be 91-years-young this coming December.

It was very fitting, back in 2009, that Dave Brubeck received the esteemed Kennedy Center medal of honor for the performing arts. In my mind, long overdue.

He is truly one of America's music living legends, and a bona fide national treasure.


P.S.:-----Tim, Andy Williams (who's still kickin') and the late Perry Como weren't too shabby in the crooning department either. Now I'm dating myself. HA!


OK, so you're ancient. It's probably crept up on you a bit, hasn't it? Yeah, but so did your tenth birthday. Don't fuss. And as to Medicare, don't get into the position where you're in any way ashamed of it. A civilised country provides that sort of thing. One day the United States will be properly civilised, and then it will provide it properly.

I had not realized, Picky, that you were a giddy optimist.

It's called Faith, Mr McI

Yes, London tends to beckon, but so does Elsewhere.

Summer's here - I refer you to the precipitation - and I'm cleaning my walking boots.

I need to wait until we've finished off the current cricket matches against Sri Lanka, obviously, (or until the rain has), and to be back before the Indian team arrives. But otherwise, a few days in the hills are called for. Next weekend, perhaps.

The French Open has closed. Wimbledon beckons anon. And the local strawberries will be here. O joy! O rapture!


Happy trails.

Thanks, Laura. Of course, Patricia, Wimbledon means the rain won't stop yet. The mires on Dartmoor will be even grimpener than usual. So: Wales or the North, I think. Cambria or Cumbria, perhaps. Now, a bit more waterproofing on these boots ...

Happy belated birthday, Alex. (I'm right behind you ...)

And Picky, as Laura Lee says, Happy trails to you--after you kindly explain "grimpener."

Thanks, Dahlink. Made up word, I'm afraid. The bog in Hound of the B'villes was called the Grimpen Mire, you recall. And grimpen does sound like a sort of jabberwocky word meaning "boggy", don't you think?

Anyway, it raineth yet. It may be too grim up on the tops, and the Lake District valleys are lovely, even in the rain. So Cumbria it is, I think.

"Grimpen" does sound as if it ought to mean boggy, Picky, but I confess that I never read the Hound of the Baskervilles (or much of the Conan Doyle oeuvre at all). Hope Cumbria does not disappoint.

Dahlink, please give Conan Doyle a try. The Valley fo Fear is one of the most exciting 19th c. novels I've ever read, and I've read a lot of them.



Thank you kindly for the belated birthday wishes. Much appreciated.

In fact, had a wonderfully eventful day on the 15th, celebrating w/ my girlfriend, first-off leisurely motoring down Pacific Coast Highway from Huntington Beach to Crystal Cove State Beach and Park, just a smidge north of Laguna Beach.......... the serious pleine air painters' paradise.

We really wanted to spend my special day totally immersed in wild nature, so we proceeded to walk down to the sandy beach, strolling in a northerly direction for over two miles w/ the pounding surf to our left, and the magnificent coastal stone cliff formations to our right.

Almost the entire geological makeup of this area is ancient sedimentary rock that has settled either into wildly convoluted, distinctive, wavy bands of strata, or tilted at acute angles toward the heavens, w/ its attendant ocean-front flora and fauna, including small crabs, sand (kelp) fleas, curious little Ground Squirrels, scavenging gulls and of course intermittent flocks of those almost prehistoric-looking Brown Pelicans, flying in close formation just at the crest of the shoreline bluffs.

We made a little lunch pit stop at a very cool eatery called "The Beachcomber Cafe" situated at 'the historic' Crystal Cove ---the more 'civilized'/ less natural section of this popular beach-front community. Since the early part of the 20th century, this neck-of-the-woods has been a legendary haven for seascape/ landscape painters, from rank amateurs to recognized professionals like the great pleine air giants, Wendt and Payne.

After a very satisfying lunch break we crossed Pacific Coast Highway over to the inland Crystal Cove State Park. Just as we pulled into the parking lot, we almost immediately heard, then spotted a little grouping of California Quail up on the surrounding chaparral/ sage brush mountain slopes. Always a fun bird to spot.

It was a very overcast day, which actually I prefer when shooting nature photos. The highlight of our high, then subsequent low trail treks (which encompassed roughly three to four miles, in total), was getting up-close-and-personal w/ a Greater Roadrunner.

This very cooperative bird proved to be a real ham, first perched for over ten minutes on a thick 'fence' rope at a secluded ocean-overlook picnic area, and then later hopping to the ground to show us a few more of his almost comic antics. I managed to get over 20 decent photos of this guy. (Wish i could share. Oh well.)

Actually a member of the cuckoo family, these creatures eat various rodents, lizards and even rattle snakes. Two Road Runners will often hunt in tandem. While one bird distracts a cornered rattler, the other will try to grab the snake behind the neck, and if successful, attempt to dispatch the prey by bashing its head on a nearby rock. (Ugh! Nature ain't pretty.)

As avid birders, we were so thrilled to have this opportunity to observe this very unique species at such close quarters, and for such an extended length of time. Ironically, when I worked at Warner Bros. Animation, I had the occasion to draw their classic Roadrunner, (along w/ Wily E. Coyote) for a couple of Aflac Insurance TV commercial spots, as well as design some very cool Southwest desert-scape backgrounds. Fun times, indeed.

For me, seeing the real McCoy, on my birthday, no less, was very special indeed.

All-in-all, a very satisfying and memorable 65th.......... and counting.


Don’t let Tim hear me, Alex, but there are some benighted folk who believe Much Matchingham is fictional. Ridiculous! Actually “much” is not uncommon as a village name modifier – the pretty little town of Much Wenlock is the best known, perhaps. It just means “great”, and was used to distinguish the larger of two neighbouring villages. So as there is a Much Hadham (that’s the Henry Moore one) there’s almost certainly a Little Hadham nearby.

How excellent of the Much Roadrunner to pose for you, Alex. I shall give your regards to the robins – and to England’s solitary golden eagle, if I can see it – I never have. I have seen the Lake District ospreys, though.

No, the Lake District, Dahlink, never disappoints – especially as I shall be in Patterdale, keeping well away from the tourist hotspots and the annual mass migration of the American and Japanese peoples in search of that unusual couple William Wordsworth and Beatrix Potter. Although a few of them do find their way to the lakeshore at Ullswater where they are to be seen gazing at the stretch of grass where Those Daffodils would be fluttering and dancing in the breeze were it not far too late in the year for daffodils.

Tourists in Patterdale are almost all there for the walking, and the Americans you frequently meet there are walkers, and to be found in the evening in the walkers’ pubs. They are usually softly spoken middle-aged couples, invariably with that air of pleasant openness we find so enviable in Americans, and so impossible for us to emulate.

The White Lion in the village will be full of Coast-to-Coasters – Patterdale is the third overnight stop on the walk across the north of England from the west coast at St Bees to the east coast at Robin Hood’s Bay. Even the English will be starting to get to know one another after three days crossing the hills together, so the pub will be abuzz with well meant but incompetent attempts at humour.

Any Americans among the Coast-to-Coasters (there are usually a few) will probably be beginning to think that the British, whom they had expected to find a sort of primitive species of American, are actually even weirder than that.


I must confess that I'm thoroughly envious of your upcoming Lake District trek, knowing full well that it's one of the truly awe-inspiring, nature-intensive, picturesque, regions in all of Britain; its many virtues long waxed both literary and poetic by, as you point out, the likes of such Brit luminaries of letters as Miss Potter and Mr. Wordsworth.

By-the-by, did you happen to catch that rather charming little film from a number of years back, "Miss Potter", starring Renée Zellweger as the eccentric, gifted writer/ illustrator, and Ewan McGregor as her aspiring, amorously-inclined publisher?

In my view, quite a decent, very charming little piece. As a former animation artist, i especially enjoyed the fanciful little bits of animated book illustration within the framework of the live-action narrative. (Some critics found the animation stuff a bit forced, and unnecessary. I beg to differ.)

Picky, thanks for that Lake District Osprey alert. Who knew? (Clearly you did. HA!)

I have an abiding fondness and fascination for this fairly globally ubiquitous, large fisher-hawk, marveling at its innate ability to plunge from mid-air to snare it's unsuspecting fish prey w/ its powerful talons, almost totally immersed for a few seconds, then rising up w/ flapping, wet wings, hopefully grasping a sizable 'prize'. Interestingly, the captured fish is almost always aligned w/ its head facing forward, w/ the flying Osprey instinctively knowing that in this head-first position less wind resistance would obtain.

Bright creatures, those Osprey. (Mensa material, I'd say. HA!)

Allow me a little personal Osprey-related anecdote. Found out this past weekend at one of our favorite nature reserves (San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary in Irvine, Orange County, CA), that two baby Osprey chicks being raised at our Pond #4 on the giant tiki-torch-like raised wooden platform were found dead, about one week ago, by biologists who had been periodically monitoring their giant nest. Very, very sad scenario.

Most of us regular birders here had been watching, for weeks, w/ keen interest, the comings-and-goings of the Osprey parents during the nest construction phase, till finally the much-heralded hatching of their two chicks. All seemed normal, w/ this season's brood being one of many over the past handful of years at this location. Unfortunately, these little guys didn't make it beyond the fuzzy down stage to even fledge.

Currently they are doing a necropsy on these little ones. Suspicion is that the parents unwittingly fed them poisoned prey, since they found residual blood in both chicks' gullets which suggests possible internal bleeding. (Not really definitive evidence, i admit.) Time will tell.

We bird-watchers are all keeping our fingers crossed that this adult Osprey pair will attempt to go for another brood this season. The summer is still very young, and avian love is in the air.

Well enough bad news.

Picky, enjoy your extended walk in God's country. Hopefully, a few drams of the amber Laproaig elixir will reward you after your daily meanderings in the wild.



Unfortunately those thoughtless Lake District ospreys have moved their nest out of sight of the webcam! But the ones on Rutland Water are better behaved.

The robins return your greetings, Alex. Usual suspects in birdlife - no exciting eagles, I'm afraid. More greylag geese than I remember from before along the shore of Ullswater and fewer Canada geese. Goosanders and Little Grebes on Brotherswater I think (I'm not much cop at water fowl). And of course dippers on Goldrill Beck - I always think of the dipper as the quintessential Lake District bird ... perhaps because I first met it in Swallows and Amazons.

Wow! A brilliant First Night of the Proms! I missed the new Judith Weir piece, which I need to pick up later, but the Janacek mass was gripping, and the Listz, from just-turned-19 Benjamin Grosvenor, was splendid - and his souped-up Brahms encore just fizzed! The lad has a career ahead of him.

Brooks arrested, the Commissioner resigns.

This is not a good time to be a journalist. This is not a good time to be a Briton.

I don't know that I have ever bought the News of the World or the Sun, although I've had to read them more often than has been pleasant as part of my professional duties. But some of Murdoch's other titles I have bought - I was once a regular buyer of The Times and the Sunday Times. But when Harold Evans was ejected from the editorship of The Times half a lifetime or more ago I cancelled my order for both titles, and it has never been restored. The reckoning has been a long time coming.

This site is perhaps the place to say: Look at the political muck turned out each day by Fox, and beware.

Picky, it's a worldwide problem, I'm afraid. The fact that some of us stay away from the tabloids and the muckier channels is cold comfort. Perhaps a thorough housecleaning will be salutary.

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About John McIntyre
John McIntyre, mild-mannered editor for a great metropolitan newspaper, has fussed over writers’ work, to sporadic expressions of gratitude, for thirty years. He is The Sun’s night content production manager and former head of its copy desk. He also teaches editing at Loyola University Maryland. A former president of the American Copy Editors Society, a native of Kentucky, a graduate of Michigan State and Syracuse, and a moderate prescriptivist, he writes about language, journalism, and arbitrarily chosen topics. If you are inspired by a spirit of contradiction, comment on the posts or write to him at
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