Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Ever So Slightly Round the Bend

To Cîteaux Abbey to observe the requiem mass in honour of the late François Fillon. Mass Observation, I suppose you would call it. It's funny how the demographics of religion as expressed in political terms vary from one country to another: notwithstanding the long shadow cast by the Graham Greene/Evelyn Waugh/ Farm Street set, Catholicism in England is even today largely a left-wing force, reflecting the Irish presence in large parts of the country, while the Church of England, insofar as it can be said to stand for anything, is often characterised as the Conservative Party at prayer. Over here in France, on the other hand, the Catholic Church is more of a right-wing phenomenon and constitutes François Fillon's natural constituency.

In Cromwell's time, things were very different. The Cavaliers, as exemplified in the dashing figures of Prince Rupert of the Rhine and friends, were basically avowed or closet Catholics, and were therefore guaranteed a very favourable press in my Jesuit school, while the Roundheads were dismissed as a stolid and unimaginative bunch of killjoys.

Going back even further in time, we Catholic boys were torn between admiration of the feats of Francis Drake and disgust at the beastly treatment meted out to the likes of Thomas More and Edmund Campion.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Behind the Scenes at Blogger

One of the most dispiriting things in the life of this particular blogger is to switch over to the "engine-room" of The Subliminal Mr Dunn in search of "activity" among "the community". Here, I am vouchsafed access to information denied to all but the blogger himself. I can, for example, consult information about my Posts, Statistics, something mysteriously referred to as Earnings, and Comments. In the Comments section, I scroll (as in the Dead Sea) down till I get to Awaiting Moderation. This is an option that allows me to have the last word in deciding which comments will appear after each post. As you can readily imagine, I could easily inflate the number of comments by removing this restriction, but I have decided not to go down that slippery path. 

Anyway, I click on Awaiting Moderation and what do I see day after day after day? There are no pending comments

It's enough to make you want to go outside and shoot someone.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

On Your Screens

In years to come, we will look back in shock and disbelief and wonder how we could ever have thrilled to Downton Abbey with its static screenplay and wooden acting, its unmatched ability to elicit dreadful performances from the likes of Maggie Smith. I can only suppose that, like Dan Brown and Jeffrey Archer in their time, it must have arrived at the very moment when the world was ready for this kind of trash. If the purpose was to throw a light on the past and show what we have lost and what we have gained in the intervening years, the same point is made with infinitely greater grace and intelligence in Call the Midwife, year in year out one of the best series on British television. If we are going to have melodrama, let's have something as heart-warming and sensible as this. Poldark is another excellent series which sets fair to disfigure the Cornish coastline with the arrival of millions of television tourists. I am also enjoying Endeavour, a prequel to the popular Inspector Morse and a good example of more leisurely paced television drama. I almost forgot to mention the superb The Crown.

American Crime Story. This limited series following the trial of O.J. Simpson is one of the best things seen on American television in recent years. Other quality products that have secured my attention are The OA, Stranger Things and, going back a bit, Better Call Saul.Best of them all, and by quite a long chalk, is the extraordinary Broken Mirror. If you haven't seen it, you're in for a treat - and a shock!

One of the surprise hits of last season was The Donald Trump Show, the story of a depraved property mogul who decides to run for president of the USA! Season One ends with Trump defying the odds by winning a stunning election victory. Season Two, which has just started, sees a now clinically mad Trump entering the White House with his bunch of weirdos. It is a tribute to the storytelling skills of Stephen King and the acting ability of Kellyane Conway and Sean Spicer, that we actually end up believing this absurd story. However, there are signs that the public is beginning to weary of this vain and cruel bully. In an upcoming episode, the president is abandoned by his children, and Melancholia and Baron manage to escape to Slovenia. Breaking news: Rupert Murdoch has decided not to commit to a third season.

Monday, February 06, 2017

Things To Do 2017: Part Two - Drawing Up the List

Having at last got rid of the distractions that have been plaguing me and driving me to distraction, I am now ready to draw up my List of Things to Do. As Churchill himself was wont to say, ACTION THIS DAY. The contents of the list are not only boring but private, but the MANNER of drawing up the list may be of comfort to anyone afflicted with a gnat-like memory. (Blessed are the forgetful for they shall something or other.) The challenge boils down to finding a system that enables me to note down the chore in the nanosecond separating the thinking and the forgetting. 

So what are the options? 

  • Pen (pencil) and paper.This bygone to a throwback era, that's what I said,  has its adepts. Provided that I can remember to have these attributes to hand, there is a decent chance that I can jot down my thoughts before the clouds descend. But how can I be sure of having pen and paper with me at all times? The only solution is to make a note to this effect and add it to my list of things to do.
  • Google Keep: the great advantage of Keep is that it is "cross-platform" as we nerds like to say, that is to say that you can create, add to and otherwise edit notes regardless of whether your device runs on Windows, iOS, Android or Chrome. The great drawback is that it only works online and is therefore, for all practical purposes, useless.
The trouble is that, whatever option I choose, I still have to CONSULT my list for best results, so I think it is time to draw a veil on this senseless "challenge" and this wretched post.

From Rat Catcher to Weight Watcher

His soul is even blacker

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Things to Do 2017. Part One: Distractions

For those of us afflicted with cognitive impairment, what is the best way of ensuring that we don't forget what we are supposed or have been asked to do? Any attempt to answer this question must first tackle the equally vexed question of how to overcome the distractions preventing us from confronting the challenge in the first place.

It is for once in a while easy for me to identify these distractions as they are in fact the very same siren calls that prevent me from pursuing this line of enquiry now! In the digital world, which is where I reside most of the time nowadays, the distractions may be one or more of the following:
⁃ The news, i.e. an unbelieving yet obsessive tracking of the latest developments in the Donald Trump Story. This in turn will lead me to leave the august pages of the the New York Times and the Guardian in search of the like-minded but less refined columns of the Daily Beast, Vox or the Huffington Post. I might even be tempted to take a walk on the wild side and look in on the certifiably deranged or the damned at Fox News and Breitbart News. If I'm not very careful, I could easily spend the whole day allowing Trump to make me more and more angry and helpless. When they say that in America anyone can become president I know exactly what they mean. It's a sobering thought to realise that Trump is scarcely any younger than me. Is his mental and physical health better than mine? I hope not. Well, I could go on like this until the wall comes up or down, but I should never forget that this is a family blog, if that.
⁃ My inbox. Emails have become few and far between since I stopped working and started blogging, and I have noticed that if you don't send any out you won't get any back. I might get the odd message from the Army & Navy Stores which is where Steve Bannon likes to buy his combat fatigues in the summer sales, but that's about it.
⁃ My bank "balance". No suspicious movements of funds there, just a fairly polite "reminder" from the manager.
⁃ The weather forecast? Yes indeed, but I resent having to wade through oceans of advertising before I can get to the drizzle. It is nowadays virtually impossible to tell real news let alone fake news from advertisements. All I can say is that if commercials are as dishonest as the communiqués of the non-commercial world then we're all in a bad way. Does this explain why so many politicians start life as car salesmen and vice versa? Thank goodness we've still got the banks.
⁃ What else? The Oscars? Please.

In my next post, I shall discuss how I set about drawing up my list of things to do in the face of these distractions

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

New Advances in Medicine

A Twelve-Month, Multiethnic, Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled, Scarlet-Engined study comparing the toxicity and efficacy of daily treatment of Donald J. Trump over 4 years with the same treatment over 8 years in otherwise healthy consorts of Americans 

"I like thinking bigly. I always have. To me it's very simple: If you're going to be thinking anyway, you might as well think bigly." – Donald J. Trump


Lash out - rip -garbage - guess what - believe me - don't be rude - I'll be honest - Nascent puberty - tremendous - great big, big - fantastic - incredible - totally never happened - Give me a break - ribbed six-pack abs

Here is Trump in action – how he runs his business and how he ruins his life – as he meets the people he meets to need, tweets with family and friends, insults enemies, and changes the face of the New York City bunsecured. Trump shutters myths; he names names, zeroes out the spells, and totally reveals the meal-daker's art. And throughout, Trump talks –  I mean totally talks – about how he does it. Trump: The Art of the Deal is an unguarded look into the mind of a deranged cabinet-maker. It's the most bookwise street there is

Proud and Prejudiced

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife, right?

Thursday, January 12, 2017

All Change

Wishing to check something that I had come across at the end of All Change, the last volume of Elizabeth Jane Howard's extraordinary Cazalet Chronicles. Although I knew that the reference was contained in the very last sentence of the book, I made the lethal mistake of starting a few pages earlier. Before I knew it, I was swept up once again in the life of the Cazalet family, so beautifully written and so beautifully rendered, that I completely forgot what I was supposed to be looking for.

The last two paragraphs of the five volumes, wrenched out of context, are sure to fall flat but here they are just the same:

Sid's room was still full of her things, Rachel took the little woolly hat she used to wear when her hair was falling out, and the long silk scarf that had been her last present. Tomorrow she would tell Eileen to clear everything else and give it a charity. From the nursery so took a box of dominoes, and The Brown Fairy Book, her favourite when she had been a child; she had coloured all the black and white Henry Ford illustrations; all the princesses had long golden hair and the dragons were bright green. She would be able to read it to Laura now, and also teach her to play dominoes.

Then she went to bed, in her own room, which Villy had left immaculate. She knew she was tired, as her back was hurting, but she felt infinitely warm from all the love she'd received. And now - better still - she was going to be needed.

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