Thursday, June 24, 2010

6/24 - Continued Tangent

Apologies in advance to anyone who finds this irksome, but I disliked this week's letters so much that I cannot feel inclined to waste good literary comparisons on them. There is too much of a technical nature about multiple letters.

On the other hand, Wimbledon has gotten off to a rousing start. They have had success closing the roof on Centre Court to finish matches that would have been called for darkness (although Djokovic-O. Rochus nearly got called by the curfew), Roger Federer has had two surprisingly difficult matches despite his playing decently (although he was definitely not moving to his forehand side particularly well in the first round), the Isner-Mahut match has exceeded not only expectations but imaginations, as well as the scoreboard on Court 18 by reaching 59-59 in the fifth set without concluding on the second day of play, and Queen Elizabeth II was very well briefed about the accomplishments of Martina Navratilova and others. We also learned in his post-royal-lunch visit to the ESPN studio that Roger Federer does not plan to emulate Bjorn Borg and stay away for 25 years after he retires.

In honour of Her Majesty's return to the AELTCC after an absence of 33 years, I shall address each question as if Royalty were concerned in each. My apologies to those pundits who have snarky things to say about either Wimbledon or Queens, and I shall pre-emptively remind one of them who strikes me as likely to support Dinara Safina's wish that they would tear up the grass and put in hard courts to refer to the L in AELTCC, and remind that person that it is the US Open that is the parvenu.

L1: My original impression of this letter was divided, but I vociferously object to the Prudecutor's assertion that the obligation to dance falls disproportionately or exclusively upon females. My personal interpretation was either that the company is all-female (apparently like the site to which the former Prudecutor has relocated) or that LW1 is made in the mold of Mizz Liz Probert, and employs a generic "she" in the same context as one might employ the generic pronoun "he" without referring to either gender specifically.

Speaking of Mizz Liz, I must compare her favourably to LW1. Even in the hottest Probert tirades against those of the male persuasion, there is often something likable. LW1 reminds me rather of some flashy QC who would prefer to plead out a case rather than admit that it might be possible to secure an acquittal. Forced to dance three times in three months - well, isn't she special, to paraphrase the Church Lady. And of course nobody else has ever felt any sort of discomfort about this before she came along, and naturally it's up to her to set the whole thing right as easily as Mizz Liz Probert intended, when she had just passed the Bar, to end world hunger or stop nuclear war if she could only decide which to do first.

The cross-examination will not dwell for too lengthy a period of time of the duration and nature of the dancing in question. It would be too much to hope that employees are required the sort of display that landed Claude Erskine Brown in such trouble when he was photographed in the Kitten-a-Go-Go Club (which he attended solely in pursuit of his legal career, having taken a brief in a case of an assault which had occurred there, so that it was to his advantage to be able to cross-examine witnesses about the geography and visibility of the club with some knowledge). To satisfy the Prudecutor, it should not take long to establish that this is not a case of Male Gratification at Female Expense. But my main point of interest might lie in what LW1 has done to discern the history and rationale of this odd custom, as well as the reactions of the other victims. She appears to give off an air of singularity which is rather off-putting. Has no other employee ever objected to this practice, or all they all slores who are only too delighted to strut their stuff?

[MATCH UPDATE: Mahut has just held for 64-all, guaranteeing that this set will be at least 130 games long if neither player retires. Given that they bet on everything at Wimbledon, down to the number of rain delays and total duration of time that there will be play on Centre Court with the roof closed, the bookmakers could be losing fortunes to anyone taking a wild shot in the dark at some wild score being reached or length of match played. 65-64 Isner - Mahut will now serve to stay in the match for his 61st consecutive service game. Whatever happens in this match, I expect Mahut to be the tour leader at year's end in Holding Serve to Extend a Match.]

Now, if Royalty were involved, would we have this problem? LW1 certainly seems to think as highly of herself as if she were, if not a queen, at least a duchess. [65-65] Certainly whenever royal personnages dance, they must anticipate attention, and they have presumably been sufficiently well schooled in coping with attention to be able to acquit themselves. [66-65] Alternatively, perhaps a Queen Regnant might have a Designated Dancer to perform in her stead. After all, Royals often marry by proxy, so that dancing by proxy seems quite a reasonable proposition.

As LW1 has already succumbed to this cumpulsion three times, she may have missed her best opportunity to evade the humiliation. A far-thinking person might have anticipated on the first occasion of the ritual [66-66], with any luck someone else's so that she'd have been prepared to nip it in the bud before her own first turn occurred, that there might be any number of suitable excuses to avoid being pushed into conformity without making quite the case of declining that will likely be made if she retracts at this point. [67-66] She could have claimed a religious affiliation that precluded dancing, or even just a sore ankle. [67-67] She could have had a Claire Simmons moment and said, "No thank you," [68-67] as icily as if she were packing a lorgnette in the best New York society tradition, or alternatively have declined as if she were graciously conferring a great favour upon the company.

As to what she should do now, I am tempted to cast her in the role of Nancy Kerrigan [68-68] and advise her to just take an active role in the proceedings. What we need is for LW1 to be working with Tonya Harding, and for Tonya's ex-husband to arrange for LW1 to be whacked in the knee. The more I consider the possibility, the more like the unlucky Ms Kerrigan LW1 seems. Just Tuesday I was reading the chapter of *Inside Edge* in which Christine Brennan was discussing a couple of occasions on which Ms Kerrigan didn't do herself any PR favours. [69-68 from 0-30 down] The analogy seems apt.

Moral: If LW1 were a wife of Henry VIII, perhaps she would be Catharine of Aragon, forced to put pregnancy after pregnancy on public display, although the results of her labours were somewhat less fruitful as well as less frequent.

L2: [Match point at 30-40] [Isner wins 70-68] I am inclined to recuse myself, as I tended to throw things upon occasion for some years, although at this point my temper seems to have limited itself to occasional yelling at the computer or something inanimate when I am alone. I can't recall ever hitting anything - that would not have been my forte anyway. Any violence was always self-directed. My best guess is that I just wore out the worst of the temper, though it never quite died off. Beyond one rather misshapen tennis racquet with which I continued to play for a couple of years after bouncing made it somewhat lopsided, and once breaking a cheap pitcher I'd bought by throwing it out a window onto rocks, I don't recall much property damage, though.

The Prudecutor's coming up with a diagnosis is somewhat alarming. Everything seems to have a diagnosis these days, and sooner or later all sorts of highly unpleasant people will be considered to be in Protected Classes. It reminds me a bit of a case in which a civic employee repeatedly showed up to work drunk. After some years of this conduct, he was fired, as the town in question was known for its quick responses to such situations. He then sued for wrongful termination, claiming that his diagnosed alcoholism constituted a protected disability. I don't properly recall the details, but believe that the case was settled for at least six figures.

One regal case this calls to mind would be with the genders reversed, that of George IV and his Queen Consort, Caroline of Brunswick (George II had a highly successful marriage to Caroline of Anspach). Despite his flagrant misconduct with Maria Fitzherbert, she managed to display such ill (as well as wanton) temper that she managed to lose the sympathy of nearly the entire public. If LW2 were Royalty, she could probably just have him imprisoned at her pleasure, and it might please her to make that imprisonment indefinite. Or take a page from Mary, Queen of Scots, who just had Darnley murdered.

As it would feel rather indelicate to cross-examine LW2 or the significant other, I shall confine myself to a small piece of tentative advice (mentioning in passing that there's something about LW2's phrasing in wondering whether this is something she can reasonably ask him to work on that strikes me unfavourably but mildly so) to try selecting a likely reaction to ask him to avoid when he loses his temper during the next week or so. If he can exert that much control, it would seem plausible that the relationship can be saved; if not, it might be a red flag. That is about as much as it seems fair to say when recusal seems so correct.

Moral: If LW2 were a wife of Henry VIII, she might be Catherine Howard, who received rather the worst of Henry's temper, although partially due to her own conduct. At least LW2 can console herself that she has not caused any outbursts, and perhaps might not do so at all, besides taking comfort from the reduction in the number of decapitations.

L3: Who'd be a quack? I would not like to take a malpractice case from either side if there were any shinier and newer taxi for hire towards whom I could direct the attentions of a potential litigant. One could hardly get a case laughed out of court the way it was possible to do when Claude Erskine Brown took Tricia Benbow to dine at La Maison Jean-Pierre and her dinner plate chanced to contain an unordered live mouse. Perhaps in the US La Belle Benbow would have sued, but the only suit that resulted, Regina vs O'Higgins, was for Dirty and Dangerous Practices.

It seems reasonable to devote a vast quantity of cross-examination to whether the error(s) in treatment rise to the level of actionable malpractice. The Prudecutor seems to be jumping to conclusions when she calls it a"physician-caused death". "Physician-unprevented" might be more accurate. How LW3 can be certain test results were ignored instead of discounted remains to be seen as well. And does "received proper care" really mean "been properly diagnosed"? I'm really not at all sure. LW3 seems remarkably positive. Why? Unseemly as it might be to question that certainty, it might rise to actionable legal malpractice to accept LW3's evidence unquestioned.

As for the Canada comment, perhaps some obliging solicitor will be able to inform us whether what LW3 really meant was that there wouldn't be enough money in it to justify suing in Canada, or perhaps that it would be harder to prove the case. Knowledge of the law is, as we all know, a bit of a handicap to a barrister. Also, can hospitals in Canada or anywhere apologize without rendering themselves vulnerable?

The debate is reminiscent of the struggle over whether a priest should be admitted to Lord Marchmain in *Brideshead Revisited* with Charles against, Bridey for, and the women each in various states of flux. Unfortunately, the medical field is too technical for me to feel comfortable endorsing any verdict.

If LW3 were Royalty, then there would be all sorts of interesting motives if it really were an ailing father left alive and the mother dead. Is LW3 the eldest son, who would be the most interested party of all? Of course, there would be no chance of keeping such distressing news from a reigning monarch unless he had already made such displays of temper that bad news was only related extremely gingerly if ever.

Moral: If LW3 were married to Henry VIII, (s)he might be Katherine Parr, jostling for position among Henry's advisors while coping with his declining health and preparing to marry Thomas Seymour quickly afterwards.

L4: Another letter which is far too technical. What can one say? Either the defendant needs to quaratine himself for a certain period of time or he doesn't, and either he did or he didn't. A case for the whitewigs. I am inclined to wonder where we would be without Facebook, which reminds me of the Rumpolean fondness for the right to silence, but will let it go for now.

If LW4 were Royalty, the ideal solution to the problem would be to hold a Progress and, as Henry VIII found to be a useful method of coping with irritating nobles, bankrupt the offender by visiting him for three months and putting him to unsustainable expences in the running of his household for the duration. A nice touch would be to make sure that all his favourite mistresses contacted social diseases during the Visitation.

Moral: If LW4 were married to Henry VIII, she might be Jane Seymour, left untreated after the birth of Edward VI, and soon thereafter deceased.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

6/17 - A Temporary Diversion

Before coping with this Thursday's lot, I shall address one of the Monday situations. Perhaps one or two of those who follow this page have already guessed that they might read here a remark or two concerning the horribly-behaving Mother of the Groom, but no! There is little original to say about that situation. I shall instead take up the Married Woman With Unintended Feelings For Another.

The Prudecutor and a number of posters made it tacitly or openly clear that they were blaming the Other Man at least as much as the Married Woman. While this is not necessarily wrong, I have observed a rather nasty tendency among committed couples - some married, some about as good as married. One half of the couple inadvertently begins to become attached to someone else, and there is a frequent tendency to Punish the Friend. This suggests the couplecentric notion that of course a single person never becomes friends with half of a couple without trying to break the couple up, and that really glazes my Krispy Kremes [NB: When the KK franchise invaded the Northeast, one such establishment did open quite near me, but, often as I passed it, I never stopped there, and now it's been closed for some years, so that I've no firsthand experience of the brand.], especially because, not only is the outcome usually bad, the friend ends up walking away feeling, if not ashamed, at least blamed.

My advice to that particular questioner is to flush out the friend's true feelings and intentions. Whatever she may intend to do about her husband, the thing to do with the friend for whom she has developed illicit feelings which are, so far as we know, entirely her own fault, is to declare to him that she has suddenly realized that it's become necessary to her that they should have a physical liaison. I can envision several possible outcomes:

* He refuses on the grounds of disinterest or respect for the marriage bond: Realize after his refusal that of course he is entirely right, and that the whole desire was a mere temporary madness. Unless he was offended by the approach, the friendship might be preserved.

* He refuses with the proviso to repeat the request after a divorce: Fielder's choice then.

* He accepts with enthusiasm, that having been his design all along: Arrange the liaison, then back out at the last second. The friendship will die, but at least he will hate you instead of blaming himself.

* He hadn't considered it before, but is willing once you mention it: Have second thoughts beforehand, talk it out, and give him the opportunity to help you crawl back off the ledge through the window, as it were.

Now, for this week, finding myself thinking of Ms Messy's recent post, I've decided that, although some parallels did occur to me, I'd break from my usual pattern and, to note the day DP is purporting to honour, address each situation as if the LW were a lesbian.

L1: We have already seen a good many comments in the Submariner's thread on the main board about how the cross-examination might go into certainty of parentage. It does seem potentially a bit on the odd side, but there could well be reasonable certainty. I am slightly more interested in how the decision-making process played out for all the adults concerned. It sounds as if LW1 and her husband reconciled and she just decided to freeze out Mr Fancypants - was he relieved? did he object? did it all come out so long after the affair was over that he didn't feel he had much right to any say in the decision? Presumably Mr Fancypants didn't have any particular rights, but both he and Hubby seem to be behaving suspiciously perfectly. He'd really be equally fine with a revelation at any time or no revelation ever? Puh-lease! Still, the Prudecutor was a bit nasty towards him without showing sufficient cause. There is a quotation I cannot entirely recall about it not being the attentions of other men but his wife's reception of them that will torment a man. But I do not really pretend to fathom the hetero heart.

As I said on the other thread, this is reading like the plot of a Jane Seymour made-for-Lifetime movie. My guess for the probable plot line is that LW1 and her husband will decide, quite likely with the blessing or at least agreement of the DNA-Donor, NEVER to tell the boy, and that LW1 will promise her husband solemnly that she will never do so barring some bizarre sort of medical emergency. Hubby will die a week later. Eventually LW1 and D(N)AD will decide to co-parent, and/or fall in love again. If the latter, Sonny will resent this, thinking it horrid of her to dishonour his father's memory so soon. If the former, D(N)AD will have a new significant other in his life who is actually far better for him than LW1, but who will yield gracefully when it's time for the treacly Seymour Ending. Except for the fun there might be surrounding the Awkward Revelation - Bleah.

If LW1 and Pappa decide not to tell, it does make sense to have an account of the situation prepared and ready for any necessity to reveal the truth that may arise. My suspicions about the validity of the letter make it hard for to care much, but I could probably go either way anyway, at least as far as the boy is concerned. Will D(N)AD really be content to sit on the sidelines forever? And if Pappa really does die with the truth untold, will LW1 be able to resist the temptation to bring in the Backup?

I suspect that telling at the right time allows for more parenting latitude as well as the opportunity for Teaching Moments. LW1 does not strike me as the type who could carry off a convincing anti-adultery line while keeping her own Deep Dark Secret.

But really the elephant in the room is that LW1 gets to skate if she so chooses and the men involved both support her unwaveringly. Should she just because she can? This leads me into my premise for the week:

Dear LW1, if you were a lesbian, or in this particular case bisexual-in-practice-if-not-identity (on at least one occasion) you would not be having this problem, or, at least, not this particular problem of whether or not to make a Disclosure. You'd have to say something at some time, of course. I have insufficient expertise to pronounce on whether the disclosure should already have been made or not. I wonder about the legalities that would have surrounded your natural pregnancy had you a legal marriage to a female partner, and what the difference would be if you two were in a Civil Union, or established domestic partners if that were the full extent of how legally bound you could be. It would also be interesting to see whether your Temporary Object of Romantic Affection would be so willing to let you call all the shots.

Moral: Would an Anne Heche film be preferable to a Jane Seymour film? Can I opt for Portia de Rossi instead? (I never took to Anne Heche.)

L2: Oh, dear. I am close to having to agree with the Prudecutor, although at least from somewhat different grounds. Where on earth and when did the idea originate that both parents were obligated to attend every game of every child? It would not strike me as much of a stretch to declare LW2's wife's conduct as very nearly at the threshhold of abuse. It is certainly smothering. Additionally, there is the consideration that the children might burn out, given that most evenings when not playing, both will perforce be stuck at the games of the other. If the entire family gets through the whole summer without being sick of baseball and softball, I shall be surprised. If it were not for my familiarity with the Little League system in a nearby suburb which makes no provision for children who get cut during tryouts and even bars use of the fields for non-LL play when the fields are empty, I'd suggest finding a co-coach and cutting participation, but I acknowledge that the days when players and families ran the leagues instead of the leagues running the players and families are long gone. Pity.

My cross-examination of LW2 would concentrate on how he got into this situation. Did he really just assume he would not have to go to more than an occasional game of his daughter's? Did his wife not object to his coaching one child and not the other? Does his wife even have any life of her own, or is this a way of escape for her? It just seems a little odd that it would reach this point before the conflicting expectations became entirely clear, let alone that the couple had been so completely in agreement about every parenting decision up to now. Did LW2 perhaps devote particular time to his daughter's sports before his son was old enough to join a team?

As to what is reasonable, I am tempted to defer to actual current parents, as the sad state of affairs now makes me feel quite an alien. There is far too much organized and officiated play in which children get far less time actively involved than they would just left to their own devices. I rather disapprove of parents coaching their own children's teams, but would not attempt to take on that situation. As for the extent of parental attendance, it's a little dispiriting that so few people seem to take any account of parental interest in the activity in question. For a parent to attend every game of a child might be all right if that's the parent's particular passion, though of course one has to assume that the parent isn't pushing the child in such a case, and the family would have to be of a sufficiently small size that the parent could still devote a fair amount of time to others as well. Just at a guess, maybe one parent at every game could be acceptable as a maximum, but even that feels like pushing it. I dislike and fear the exercise in groupthink this represents, showing the worst of family values besides missing a golden opportunity to let children experience something that might be of use to them in forming a sense of privacy - or is the concept to be discarded now? No wonder so many lives seem to be lived entirely on YouTube or Facebook, and some people never seem to have an unexpressed thought. [NB: I actually said that directly to a particular person on another board about a year ago, and he took it as a compliment!]

Dear LW2, if you were a lesbian, that might explain your remarkable to-the-present parental accord with your wife. It might also solve your problem in that you might just possibly be sufficiently passionate about baseball/softball that 4.5 nights a week would be just about the right quantity for you. You might fight it somewhat more difficult being made coach, although that could vary depending on locale. If you were like the more athletic lesbians of my own acquaintance, your daughter would probably be in the boys' league. And I suspect that the question of parental preference might arise from each partner having been the biological mother of one of the children.

Moral: And since when did parents have to give each child equal time all the time? Such overegalitarianism seems to indicate the sort of thinking that leads to things like outcome-based education. I really wish I were still in Brodie mode for this one.

L3: It does seem reasonable to assume that, if a happily married couple raising children together needs occasional time to keep the marriage properly maintained and that the halves of the couple benefit from occasional doses of Me Time, a single parent might equally require the occasional opportunity to eat ice cream for breakfast and lounge naked. The manner in which LW3 harps on her "sacrifice" does rather rankle, although it can be acknowledged that many single custodial parents do tend to act as if they weren't parents. But to what does she think she's entitled? And why is she both so thrilled that her kids hate her ex but at the same time so much more concerned about her image that criticism from her sister is so hard for her to take?

On the other hand, her little angels seem to have been fully brought up in the entitlement culture as well, besides being rather lacking in initiative. They can't think of anything to do and complain about being left to their own devices for the occasional weekend in a strange setting? What whiny little pills. My guess is that their real complaint is that they are separated for the weekend from their romantic interests.

They're all very unpleasant people. The Prudecutor's recommendation to bond over board games is ridiculous, though one might recommend a nice evening playing Monopoly for the reason that Monopoly is the straw that has broken the backs of many family camels. That might bring things to such a head that the young ones absolutely refuse to go back any more. If LW3 should ever establish that her children genuinely do want nothing to do with Pappa, there are a couple of ways she could go. She might invent an affair, though that might be better for convincing her sister to take the brood for the occasional weekend. Or she could be straightforward with her crew about needing the occasional weekend off and asking them to help adjust the family budget if they will no longer be leaving her the house to herself but will have to part with cash that might otherwise be spent on them.

Dear LW3, if you were a lesbian, this would have played out nconsiderably differently. In the first place, you might not have had access to divorce. In the second, assuming you were the biological mother of the children, you probably would have convinced the court that your partner was never a co-parent in any sense of the word and made sure that she would never have any partial custody or even visitation. Given the unfriendly attitude of many courts towards same-sex couples, you probably would have been able to pull it off, and might even now still be enjoying the delight of your ex never being allowed to see the children to care that you have no time of your own.

Moral: It takes the oppressed to be the best oppressor.

L4: LW4 is being incredibly short-sighted. Her father is quite a piece of work, though there are many worse. But she is letting a golden opportunity slip through her hands.

It will not be many years before the likelihood arises that her father will be unable to care for himself properly. By then, few private citizens may be able to afford a decent quality of life at that stage without assistance. At the very least, LW4 can anticipate that the time will come ere long when he will not be able to get by on his own. In such a case, what is the best outcome for her? Obviously, she should get him married off to someone else as quickly as possible.

All it will take is a little testimonial from her? It's not as if he's a complete monster. It is entirely possible to write a testimonial for someone with remarkably few positive qualities that will make him highly attractive without a single falsehood. In fact, the fewer redeeming qualities that might be present in the questionable specimen, the greater the testimoniary's achievement in being able to pull it off. LW4 has a golden opportunity to demonstrate her artistic prowess and get her pappa safely remarried and made over into somebody else's problem.

Dear LW4, if you were a lesbian, the two of you could bond over bar-hopping, or double-date, or help each other pick up women. It seems as if that sort of activity would be right up his alley.

Moral: The family that plays together stays together - or should it be preys?

Thursday, June 10, 2010

6/10 - The Prime of DP

I find myself in an unusually good mood still from the reascendancy of Nadal. It would have been so sad had he never been able to return to championship form. Now it's interesting to speculate on whether Federer will ever reclaim the #1 ranking. As Rafa now leads Roger by 310 points, it seems that the lead is safe through the end of Wimbledon (Halle would have to award 500 points to the winner, which I don't think it does, and Federer would have to win both Halle and Wimbledon while Nadal only won one or two matches in both tournaments combined). The summer could be a bit of a toss-up, as only Juan Martin del Potro had sterling hard court results last year. But Rafa has his 5,000 ranking points from the clay season safe for ten months, while Roger has to defend more than that many at the next three majors.

Before progressing to this week's letters, I have the pleasure of reporting that one of the major pundits around here has recently reminded me of Miss Carroll from *Lord Edgware Dies* (or *Thirteen at Dinner* depending on when and where it was published). She is very decisive in her evidence about Jane Wilkinson's visit to Lord Edgware's house, even going so far as claiming to have seen her face, although Poirot establishes that she could not have done so. Poirot later explains to Hastings how difficult it can be to determine between a deliberate falsehood and a disinterested inaccuracy. Some particularly honest people are so sure of themselves and so certain of their knowledge that details do not matter; they answer questions in light of their knowledge instead of by reason of remembered facts. Miss Carroll is also quite sure that Lord Edgware's change of mind about divorcing Jane did not spring from any desire to marry for a third time. But Poirot tells Hastings that that only means that the idea had never occurred to her, and that therefore she will not take the trouble to go back and remember any infinitesimal clues that might indicate otherwise.

A quick comment on Monday: I could have said a fair amount about the once and future abuser, but got a sickening image of him following the threads and comments and getting off on it. In consequence, I'm getting nasty qualms about such questions or letters even being included at all, because such askers aren't sufficiently repentant to follow any advice that's more stern than an easy out. And as for the wedding guest with the specifically non-invited spouse, my guess is that anyone sufficiently... conscientious about (the Submariner might say whipped by) straight society etiquette to second-guess himself in the face of such brazen behaviour probably won't be able to rest satisfied without at least a short conversation with the groom to let him know what is being done in his name. It seems probable that this will just confirm full familial prejudice, in which case the asker can sleep without worrying about not sending a gift. But it could be helpful to lead with definitely being unable to attend the wedding, perhaps then finding a way to suggest that his mamma's enthusiastic involvement on his behalf might be behind some of the RSVPs in the negative.

Now, for this week, we move on to Dame Muriel Spark. I was tempted to pay a tribute to the recently departed Lynn Redgrave and title it Hey There, Brodie Girl - which reminds me that I really must replace my audiobook, which bore up well for years and then became defective.

For those familiar with the film and not the novel, the novel gives Miss Brodie a group of six, of which the film retains Jenny, Mary, Monica and Sandy. Eunice and Rose are dropped. But the characters are shuffled about to some degree:

Eunice's talent for gymnastics is given to Jenny, though none of the Brodie girls in the film are given her attraction to church socials or the Team Spirit, which Miss Brodie decries as anathema.

Rose is the girl originally "famous for sex" and Miss Brodie's choice to be her proxy in Teddy Lloyd's bed. These are made over to Jenny. In the novel, Miss Brodie gets Rose and Sandy backwards. Rose tells her about Sandy's affair with Teddy, but in the film Sandy has to reveal it herself.

Mary MacGregor remains the silent lump whom everyone could blame. In the novel, there is an outsider called Joyce Emily Hammond, who is trying to become a Brodie girl, but whom Miss Brodie sees separately from her regular set. Joyce Emily's being inspired by Miss Brodie to run away and fight in Spain is given to Mary, as is her early death (in the novel, Mary doesn't die until she's in a hotel fire in her early twenties).

As Jenny inherits most of Eunice and Rose, her dramatic talent is made over to Monica. She does retain the distinctions of being The Pretty One and Mr Lowther's slight favourite, and remains Sandy's best friend. The novel goes a little farther than the film in terms of Sandy's and Jenny's sexual exploration, as the chapter in which Jenny is accosted by a flasher is omitted. Sandy and Jenny do write the My Own Delightful Gordon Letter from Miss Brodie to Mr Lowther congratulating him warmly on his sexual intercourse and on his singing, but it is hidden in a cave and never discovered by Miss Mackay as it is in the film.

Monica in the novel can do mathematics in her head and loses her temper. These qualities tend to disappear in the film, in which Monica basically just is given Jenny's fondness for drama. In the novel it's Monica who discovers Miss Brodie and Mr Lloyd kissing in the art room. She loses her temper when Sandy appears not to believe her.

Sandy is more clearly set apart in the book. Her last name is Stranger; she has an English mother and interesting vowel sounds when she recites poetry; her point of view is much more dominating. She goes on to become a nun visited by the others. In both the novel and the film, Miss Brodie confides in Sandy, both about Teddy Lloyd and about her suspicions concerning which of her girls betrayed her to Miss Mackay (in the film, Sandy confesses and exits to the echo of Miss Brodie's cry, "Assassin!"; in the novel, Miss Brodie in her retirement keeps guessing to Sandy about each of the other girls in the role of Judas. We learn that, on learning just before her death that Sandy had become a nun, Miss Brodie even guessed to [at least] Monica that Sandy had betrayed her). But away we go.

L1: It is interesting that two of this week's letters have to do with written works. It would be tempting to use Sandy's and Jenny's joint compositions of Miss Brodie's affair with her oft-mentioned deceased lover, Hugh Carruthers, and of the correspondence between Miss Brodie and Gordon Lowther, the music master, but this situation is giving me a slightly different read. LW1 is Sandy just at the moment when Miss Brodie confides in her that Jenny will one day make a great lover, elevated above the common moral code, and that she, Sandy, who has told Miss Brodie that Monica saw Mr Lowther playing golf with Miss Lockhart - twice, has the makings of a Secret Service agent, a great spy. In the film, this is when Sandy is looking into the mirror and trying to imagine herself as a great lover while Miss Brodie's voice is telling her sitting for her portrait won't be her profession.

The Prosecutor has made a very declarative speech (rather in the manner of Ms Messy) stating LW1's mother's true feelings. Unfortunately, she has not taken a seminar from Ms Messy about how declarative speeches ought to carry the conviction of truth. And here I submit that the Prosecution has failed to establish even probable cause. There is no evidence of either loving memories of genuine shared closeness and happiness. We have evidence of: putting his/her mother on a pedestal, trying to make her proud, mourning her loss and being sentimental about her. Perhaps the last two are sufficient indicators of loving memories, but I'd happily take the line that LW1's mother was admirable but not especially close to her child. Certainly the opening of the letter gave me the impression that the relationship was not all warm fuzzies, and people are often more sentimental in retrospect over someone with whom the relationship was slightly imperfect than with whom everything was ideal.

Unfortunately here we can only cross-examine a ghost, which bore rather mixed results for Rumpole when he did his Chancery brief in the case of Miss Rosemary Beasley. He did not much enjoy having to cope with a client who claimed that both she and the dear departed Colonel Ollard were in the regular habit of conversing with Alexander the Gret, Mr Stalin and the Emperor Napoleon, among others. At least Guthrie Featherstone got in one of his best lines, when he told Miss Beasley that she had better not report what Colonel Ollard had said at seance the evening before, because that would be hearsay evidence, and that they would have to wait and see whether his learned friend Mr Rumpole called the deceased gentleman as a witness. It is highly unlikely that the diary constitutes the complete truth. Nor does the Prosecutor's case really carry conviction. The truth is probably somewhere in the middle, and the question likely to be what LW1 can find tolerable.

While it does not really bother me much if LW1 takes the Prosecutor's words to heart and goes to the grave thinking, "Mommy just adored me," there does seem to be opportunity here to learn that a pedestal is a cold and drafty place, which often succeeds in doing little but accord the person there placed separation from the hoi polloi. But it is not too late for LW1 to raise his/her children not to put people on pedestals in the first place, a point which has entirely evaded the Prosecutor.

Moral: "Mine is the business of putting old heads on young shoulders, and all my pupils are the creme de la creme. Give me a girl at an impressionable age, and she is mine for life."

L2: The wife in the case seems a dead ringer for Miss Mackay, the headmistress, and her dour, Calvinistic views, particularly in the film. In the novel, when Sandy reenacts Monica discovering The Kiss, Miss Brodie interrupts her. In the film, Sandy reenacts The Kiss itself. Miss Mackay walks in on the reenactment, and the girls quickly invent that they'd been studying opera. Miss Mackay's review of (La) Traviata is a classic. Or there is the original conference between Miss Mackay and Miss Brodie in which their differences are set out. The film deals with this quite effectively, as Miss Brodie has always been shown in bright colours versus the greys of the others. When Miss Mackay comments on her colourful frock, Miss Brodie replies that her credo is Lift, Enliven, Stimulate, and that true education is a leading out of what is already in her girls, as proved by the Latin - the prefix ex-, meaning out, and duco, I lead. Miss Makcay counters with the hope that there would also be some putting in, which Miss Brodie decries as intrusion, from the prefix in-, meaning in, and trudo, I thrust.

As LW2 provides no evidence that she and the Confider have ever been friends (another blunder on the part of the Prosecutor?), the initial confidence seems either seriously misplaced or indicative of far-reaching suspicion. People like the Confider have a depressing habit of seeming always to carry things there own way. it makes me quite thankful that here the only thing at issue was a blouse that revealed a miniscule portion of flesh and not a statewide referendum that would affect the lives of millions of people.

I am slightly more inclined to cross-examine the Confider than her husband, but either or both of them could easily be off the chart. Perhaps the person to cross-examine might be the pastor. LW2 herself seems not to have picked up anything too sensational from him, but others of the flock might have had more extensive instruction, or taken his message more closely to heart. Or the husband could just be one of those pass-the-buckers. I can't care much.

As for what LW2 should do, while it is true that she missed a golden opportunity, her failing to have taken her chance to stand up for herself in her own home has presented her with another golden opportunity. It would not have been seemly for Miss Brodie to conduct a love affair with a married father of six who was a Roman Catholic into the bargain. But there was nothing to stop her from planning to put Rose into Teddy's bed in her place. The true Brodie solution would be to find another group member who would make a good Rose and convince her to dress more revealingly, as well as an appointed Sandy to bring her any gossip that might ensue outside of group meetings, although LW2 might well find that her Sandy will be the temptress and her Rose will tell her about it.

Moral: "Och, nonsense! Violetta did not exprie for love of Alfredo. Violetta was a thoroughly silly woman with diseased lungs. if she'd been properly brought up, she'd have been out on the hockey field, breathing deeply."

L3: Back to the field of the written word. This is another one where the film has the advantage. I mentioned the My Own Delightful Gordon Letter, which in the novel was composed by Sandy and Jenny and then hidden in a cave, Sandy imagining their fictional correspondence between Miss Brodie and Mr Lowther as evidence for an imaginary case she is building up with her fantasy of a police woman, Sergeant Anne Grey. In the film, the girls compose the letter in the library, where their giggles draw the librarian's attention. They hide the paper in a volume that is returned to the shelf. The letter is discovered a considerable time later and brought to Miss Mackay, who uses it in an attempt to get Miss Brodie to resign. Miss Brodie's passionate refusal leaves Miss Mackay thwarted for the moment.

The cross-examination here will not spend too much time in wondering why LW3 is still following the blog of his ex. It is not hard to anticipate his reply that his sole interest lies in keeping track of what is being said about him. I would be much more inclined to delve deeper into his openness about discomfort during the relationship, why he thought it advisable not to make an explicit request in order to keep the peace and what the consequences would have been if he had, and why on earth he didn't make the request a while before breaking off the relationship instead of wanting to do so afterwards. Ls 3 and 4 really both have timing issues. We might also examine how damaging the blog genuinely is, and how

The Brodie solution to LW3's situation seems clear enough. What does Miss Brodie do when her love affair with Gordon Lowther becomes a possible source of scandal? She introduces the girls into the picture, takes over his housekeeping from the two Miss Kerrs, and has her set come over to Crammond in pairs on the weekends. LW3 can similarly attempt to insulate himself from criticism not by keeping the blog a secret as far as possible but by making it known to all the people from whom someone with a sense of guilt would try to keep it.

I must as an aside mention my extreme ire with the Prosecutor on this one. Even if the Prosecutor thinks the due diligence will not be done - callousness on Valentine's Day is now suitable cause for determination of a potential employee's unsuitableness? What kind of SB1 society are we living in in which some SB1 company can look at some SB1 blog of an SB1 ex of an employee and then fire the poor SB1?

Moral: I am torn between, "There needs must be a leaven in the lump," and, "Where there is no vision, the people perish."

L4: LW4's friend is Mary MacGregor, the silent lump blamed by everyone, but clearly not capable of entering the Classical side of the Senior School. When Miss Brodie takes her set (minus Jenny) for a walk through a historical district of Edinburgh, Sandy has a momentary impulse to be kinder to Mary than anyone usually is. Then she suddenly senses how set apart from Miss Brodie and the set she will be if she does so, and becomes nastier than usual to Mary as a result, out of thinking that to do a thing many times repeatedly made it a right thing.

I fear I should recuse myself on this one; it would be way too easy to let this one dissolve into a rant against posters who have said such things as, "Show me some moxie," and, "I'd hire you in a New York minute," in previous discussions. I shall merely repeat my Cassandraesque warning from a previous employment thread. The divide that many people fear may develop between the Employmentally Secure and the Idle is already here, and it's much deeper and more permanent than people think. To take the example from the King in *To Play the King* from the *House of Cards* trilogy, already many if not most people consider the Unemployed "a little less human than ourselves" and react to the thought of them primarily with Urquhartian blame for their being in that situation in the first place. There are even shades of this in the contempt for the woman shown by the Prosecutor and a good many posters. All I can say to LW4 is that it's a sign of Corporate Culture Run Mad when people are put in LW4's position every day without a second thought as to what negative effect it might have on humanity (as perhaps Ms Mermaid might agree - I would not want to leave her out after referrals to the Submariner and Ms Messy), it's a pity she's bought into a system in which she must check her humanity at the door but unluckily it's the only system there is (rather like the way in which people may disapprove of In God We Trust but can't just refuse to use money), and to prepare the best recommendation which she feels she can ethically offer.

Moral: "Phrases such as 'the team spirit' are always employed to cut across individualism... Where would the team spirit have got Anna Pavlova? She is the Prima Ballerina; it is the Corps du Ballet who have the team spirit."

To close on a happier note, this reminds of the time I composed an acrostic on the quotation, "Sandy and Jenny approved... Miss Brodie was easily the equal of both sisters together. She was the square on the hypotenuse of a right-angled triangle, and they were merely the squares of the other two sides."

Ooh - finished early at 7:19! Unfortunately, I started at 10:37, but I did get a lot done while this was being written.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

DP 6/3 - More Marple

On the whole, the tennis in France is a bit mixed. If the Federer streak of 23 consecutive major semifinals had to end, it would have been nice for it not to have been ended by Robin Soderling, the least appealing player I have ever seen representing Sweden. But Tomas Berdych has long been due for a good result, and Jurgen Melzer has spared the world a possible Soderling-Djokovic final, which I might not even have watched. Melzer beating Rafael Nadal would be a bigger upset than the wild and wacky final six years ago, when Guillermo Coria was crusing towards the title and crushing Gaston Gaudio when he started cramping, had to tank the entire fourth set, and then somehow had two match points in the fifth set before Gaudio (who this year lost in the second round of qualifying) became, as he said to John McEnroe recently, the worst major champion in history. Nadal-Berdych for choice, and I would not even mind seeing Nadal lose, although Nadal defeating Soderling would be a satisfying end to the tournament.

On the women's side, my primary objective has been achieved - Serena Williams' possible Grand Slam has ended. I do not dislike Serena, but would prefer she not be the one to end the 22-year drought since Steffi Graf produced not only the Grand Slam but the Olympic gold medal as well. Other than that, it was a shame to see Elena Dementieva have to retire today; she is hardly likely ever to get another chance half as good. Nothing against Francesca Schiavone, but she is a complete nonentity about whom there really isn't anything to like. It's a pity Li Na didn't beat her earlier in the tournament. But it's hard at this point, especially after her rout today of Jelena Jankovic, to see Samantha Stosur survive Justine Henin and Serena and then lose now. It has happened before that players have beaten both Williams sisters in a major and then not won, but Stosur came in with strong clay form, looks commanding, and seems in excellent position to end the Australian women's drought.

Well, away we go with this week's crop of letters, which finds me still in Marple Mode.

L1: I suppose it is necessary to cross-examine the witness on exactly why she is 95% certain of what was happening behind the desk. I think normally one could raise 10% of doubt that anyone would yield to such urges without bothering even to shut the door. Perhaps the witness has had considerable experience of interrupting such occurrences. Or perhaps hers is the sort of law firm on which someone might base a television series.

While the witness will no doubt attempt to pass off her blackmail comment as a joke if pressed on the matter, this is the sort of statement that makes one want to adhere to the adage of there being no accidents. Blackmail would be in LW1's mind if she felt she could pull it off. LW1 is taking as a role model Ella Zielinski from *The Mirror Crack'd*. After the death of Heather Badcock and the realization that someone had put a fatal dose of Calmo in Marina Gregg's glass, Ella began a little adventure of telephoning any possible likely suspect and hinting that she'd seen the glass being doped. Unfortunately for Ella, her hayfever spoiled the anonymity of her calls, and when she got on to the right person, she soon found her inhaler laced with cyanide.

As to what LW1 should actually do, she's already missed her big chance. She should clearly have asked her boss in as ambiguous a manner as she could muster if he needed any help with anything. That might have flushed out any birds lurking in the bush, and perhaps given our little blackmailer something with which she could really work. We can add a few questions about how attracted she is to her employer; Ella Zielinski was quite devoted to Jason Rudd. Perhaps the thing to do is to sneak hidden cameras into his office. If she turns out to have been correct, reprisals might follow, and then in that case her rather odd story can use any corroborration she might be able to accumulate.

Moral: Make sure that only you have access to your inhalers.

L2: I want to go a bit deeper into the question of the bitter custody fight. Why was it so bitter? What were the grounds of the dispute? Have such battles been par for the course since the divorce, regular occurrences, rare events? How well have the pair in question been co-parenting? Probably they have been avoiding co-parenting like the plague.

I notice that the witness and everyone else seems to be accepting her son's testimony without question. There ought to be a question. As much as it might shock some readers to discover that I was once fifteen and male at the same time myself, I can reveal that a variety of my written output from that period would not necessarily be either true or false. And a divorce which was not to occur for another dozen or so years would have given me even more fuel for fiction. In *The Herb of Death* Sir Henry Clithering, as I mentioned once before, tells Dolly Bantry that if she omitted a piece of vital information he will claim a foul. I shall join Sir Henry by saying that, if we discover that the boy has a history of trying to play his parents off against each other, that alters the landscape considerably.

At the time of this composition, all the opinions I have seen have been in favour of LW2 going to war armed with all the facts she can muster and disproving the lies one by one. I shall probably be alone on this one, completely alone, and I am fine with it. But that could be the worst course of action possible.

Apparently people seem to believe that LW2 can sit down with a brainwashed child, calmly present an assortment of facts to disprove the lies he's been fed, and he will immediately go back into Mommy I Love You mode (as well as hating Daddy) for the rest of his life. Laissez-moi rire.

While it is possible that Junior was simply repeating nasty words said by Daddy, he was still able to write the nasty words and apparently has a rather low opinion of at least one of his parents. Given the vicious custody fight, from which it appears that neither parent has made it a priority to shield the boy, he may well have equally poor opinions of them both. We may have to go back into why the question of custody was so hotly disuputed when the boy was quite old enough to have a decisive opinion. However, assuming for the moment that Junior is not the devious young thing some of us were at that age, all we can say for certain is that he apparently at least is willing to believe what his father tells him. It certainly appears that the boy is surrounded by hostility on both sides, even if it's not aimed at him.

As far as the snooping goes, I find it hard to care any way at all. There are a variety of snooping policies. Some parents are admitted snoops; some claim to respect privacy and do so; some have a Don't Ask Don't Tell sort of snooping policy, and I find it difficult to choose one over another. If one is going to claim that one wants to avoid snooping unless absolutely necessary, I don't think that the boy simply not talking to his mother is the strongest case for snooping with cause, but I shall let it go.

As for what LW2 should do, I shall provide her with a role model - Philippa Haymes in *A Murder is Announced*. Philippa, a quiet young woman with a son at school, boards with Miss Blacklock and works as an assistant gardener. All she tells people about her husband is that he went away to the war and was killed in Italy. As it happens, he deserted from the Army, as the police discover. His visit to Chipping Cleghorn nearly lands Philippa in trouble, as her meeting with him is overheard and mistaken as being a conversation with the murder victim.

The boy's misguided beliefs seem possible to correct without a direct confrontation, which definitely strikes me as short term thinking. Possibly LW2 can emphatically disprove what her ex has been saying about her, but even so the boy might be so determined to believe the lies that her providing her proofs will just harden his resistance and accomplish only a surface acquiescence to facts. A slower approach on the high road, indirectly bringing out little dribs and drabs of the truth without ever openly calling the ex a liar, might lead to belief just as soon and could avoid causing further resentment in the boy's life. LW2 might casually mention, for instance, that it's the anniversary of the day when she learned she was pregnant. That might lead to a direct confrontation, but it might be the sort of thing that passes at the moment until later when the boy, having accepted it at the moment as true, realizes that it conflicts with what his father had told him. A few little things like that spaced out over time, coupled with attacking her ex or defending herself directly as little as possible, seems far more likely to produce the desired result of an adult son who has come to appreciate her restraint.

Moral: Philippa Haymes says that silence isn't the same as telling lies. Not every lie has to be challenged to be disproved.

L3: I shall partially recuse myself on this letter. I have personally been in the unfortunate position of twice having to request property from relatives of the deceased. Having seen the way in which cheap trophies can quickly lose their appeal over time as accumulated junk, I purchased in 1996 and 2000 a number of nicer and more expensive cups to award as prizes to my players. The winner would keep the cup for a year and then present it to the next year's champion. In 2002, a five-time winner who'd won the last cup in 2001, had to stop playing in April and died two months later. Fortunately, the second runner-up (the first runner-up had died in February) knew his widow well. I wrote three months later, and that cup is still in circulation. We had a similar situation in 2008, although that time the woman who died in possession of a cup was a widow and I had actually met her son-in-law once during his term as mayor. Again fortunately one of her partners was a friend of the family.

I did consider just replacing a cup, but it didn't strike me that it would be the sort of thing a relation would be eager to keep. Both times I did mention that any relative who wished to do so would be more than welcome to make the presentation to the next winner, but understandably noone chose to take up the opportunity. Still, even given that they were temporary prizes, I waited a decent interval in both cases and was easily able to write a sincere letter of condolence.

LW3 seems to be a twit of the first order. The book had better be as expensive as the first edition Diane buys on *Cheers* with money she borrows from Sam, despite his unhappy history with lending money. When he gets upset, she gives him the book, which he starts to read, only unhappily dropping it into his full bathtub.

I have two Christie parallels. The two girls remind me of Verity Hunt and Nora Broad in *Nemesis*. Verity, described by her headmistress as a shining girl despite her not possessing any outstanding easily-observed qualities, lives with a devoted guardian and goes missing shortly after becoming engaged to an unsuitable young man. Nora, a friend of Verity's who'd probably given her hints about men, is then taken up by Verity's guardian. Miss Bradbury-Scott tries to make up for Nora's deficient education and give her an interest in something other than the opposite sex, but soon after Nora leaves home and is never heard from again. Presently Miss B-S identifies the disfigured body of a murdered girl as that of Verity. Both girls end up dead.

LW3 also reminds me of Elvira Blake in *At Bertram's Hotel*, only she's perhaps a little less resourceful. Elvira pursues her mother's lover, discovers that her parents' marriage was bigamous, shoplifts and later returns a ruby necklace to finance an emergency flight to Ireland, discovers the amount of the fortune held in trust for her, juggles collapsing alibis, murders her mother's never-divorced first husband because she erroneously fears the bigamous marriage will invalidate her inheritance, makes up attempts on her life out of nothing, and might get away with it in the end when her mother confesses to the murder and then commits suicide in a daredevil feat of driving.

As it genuinely seems never to have entered LW3's head that she is very probably the last person her friend's parents want to see, let alone that they probably blame her (and how rightly so could easily be established) for the accident, I have nothing to say to her. She could send them something with a note expressing clearly unnecessary guilt, and maybe then they might send her a kind reply. But that's all I have to say to her.

Moral: A little knowledge, especially of the law, is a dangerous thing. Always be sure that a murder is absolutely necessary before committing one.

L4: Now we could stay with *At Bertram's Hotel* and take Mickey Gorman, that veteran-turned-doorman who got the job through his medals. But as LW4's husband has a wound apparently sustained in war, he seems most closely comparable to Jerry Burton in *The Moving Finger*, who has to cope with mistaken impressions about the cause and nature of his injuries from a plane crash. He ends up marrying the most interested of his new neighbours. I have long liked *TMF* for its central question of why the one beautiful young woman is practically the only person in the village who has not received a foul anonymous letter when normally she'd be the first target.

I'm not entirely sure why L4 is a problem. Does LW4, her husband or both of them particularly disapprove of the war in Iraq? That might make for some awkwardness. But I am sure he is entitled to explain or not explain whatever he likes. He can always consider any overreaching thanks as something he accepts on behalf of those who are, sadly, not around to accept it.

Moral: When cribbing anonymous letters as a smokescreen for a crime, always be as careful in the selection of the non-recipients as in the selection of the recipients.