Thursday, July 29, 2010

7/29 - O Frabjous Day - Calloo! Callay!

There isn't anything left over from Monday to mention. I could take a bit of pleasure in reporting that an American golfer doing quite well early on at the Senior British Open at Carnoustie (and won't Jean Van de Velde get many times more mileage from losing The Open there in 1999 in such spectacular fashion than he would have done from winning?) than he soon fell from contention in what must be viewed as an appropriate punishment for calling the Barrie Burn a "ditch". I get to do something unusual today. We all have our little guilty pleasures to some degree or other. Today, however, it appears I might actually have the opportunity to indulge in something on the enjoyable side without fear of excess. I almost feel like Rumpole when the last part of his Four-Horse Accumulator wins and he decides to tell Judge Bullingham off. We shall see.

Today we venture to Wonderland and through the looking-glass. I rather feel like starting with L4 today for some reason.

L4: LW4 reminds me a bit of the White Knight, who is always full of dodges, even if they never seem to accomplish very much. One might also wonder how the White Knight won his great victory over the Red Knight; perhaps he had superiour knowledge of the Rules of Battle. And yet, despite his tendency to overparse songs, their names and what they're called, the White Knight has a sort of charm about him. LW4 has perhaps a little bit of the same appeal - perhaps a trifle on the geeky side, but that's not always a bad thing, and many would find developed skills at bargain hunting to be a highly desirable quality.

As for the real-life situation of paying for a dinner out with a coupon, one parallel springs immediately to mind. In "Rumpole Rests His Case", when Rumpole is hospitalized, Hilda is taken out to dinner by an old acquaintance of Rumpole's. The result is that she orders Rumpole to make a complete recovery, not caring for anything about the evening out. The staff joked with her escort about his bringing another "girlfriend" there, the tablecloth wasn't clean, the passage to the lavatory was drafty, the selection of vegetables mingy, her escort paid with a coupon AND he added up the bill and asked for a reduction because they hadn't eaten the potatoes. A husband like that would quibble with his wife over the household accounts.

As to what LW4 should do, it seems largely a question of style. I'd establish what sort of woman he wants to attract and let that consideration be his guideline. For Barbara Bargainhunter, his being the sort to have the good sense to acquire certificates and coupons to be able to afford luxurious dining will be an attraction - all the more reason to be upfront about it in advance. On the other end, if he prefers Golda Digger, who appreciates her dinners in direct proportion to the supposed expense, then all the better to be as discreet as possible about it, and the relationship will chug merrily along as long as his supply of coupons holds out.

I'm not entirely sure about the Prudecutor trying to nix the idea for a first date. It seems thinking that's rather stuck back in the 1950's. Of course, perhaps that decade might have been (or seemed at first) a bit more to her taste.

Moral: "Now the cleverest thing of the sort that I ever did... was inventing a new pudding during the meat-course."

L1: There are not a great many parents available, but LW1 reminds me rather of the Duchess when Alice meets her first and her mood is still foul, determined to correct the poor baby for what she considers to be its faults.

LW1 did about one thing right. She had the grace to put smart first on her list of daughter's good points. Fun ought to have come before pretty, but at least that's one timy hint that LW1 is not completely overabsorbed in her daughter's appearance.

But that meagre hint is about the only thing in the plus column. One might just possibly cut a mother some slack for worrying that her daughter's eyebrows will likely lead to her slashing herself with a razor. Exactly why all this is bothering LW1 so much isn't particularly important. It could be that in her mind her daughter's appearance is all about her, or maybe some gypsy curse from the fourteenth century is being fulfilled one way or another. But it does not take Dionne Warwick and her army of Psychic Friends to see how this is affecting the 7-year-old. As sure as one egg costs fivepence farthing and two cost tuppence, the little girl is now or soon will be perfectly aware of how much her facial hair bothers Mumsy. If the daughter isn't upset about it now, she almost certainly will be soon, and it will likely be difficult to tell whether it's on her own account or because LW1 is so upset.

It is one thing for extraordinary corrective measures to be basically child-driven. But here the parent is firmly at the reins, and the result probably isn't going to be any too good.

And there is one person who might be considered to be of some importance who is conspicuously absent from the Prudecutor's response, most of the question, and almost all of the comments. Amazingly enough, LW1 is actually a married woman with a husband. Despite her apparent regret that she was unable to wed Stefan Edberg or Stephane Lambiel and have children with rather better luck in the gene lottery, she might even be intending to stay married. And yet, here she is consulting the Prudecutor without having gotten any sort of opinion from her husband. And considering that he's the one who shares his daughter's problem, would it not have occurred to her that he might actually have an opinion of value to offer, and perhaps even an insight into the situation that LW1 herself might actually lack? Or is it sacrilege to think that a man could even begin to approach the capacity for understanding such a situation that would be brought to the table by any even smooth-browed woman?

Barring a submission of evidence to the contrary, LW1 should immediately divorce her husband, give him custody, move to Finland and try again with someone less distressing. I could go on about the errors of parental excesses in fixing the flaws of their children, but am just not in the mood for that sort of thing right now.

Moral: "If everybody minded their own business... the world would go round a deal faster than it does."

L2: So Bride and Groom are locked in mortal combat to see which of them gets to be Tweedledum and which of them gets to be Tweedledumber.

First of all, they ought to call off the wedding. Whenever I hear that a wedding has been called off, I always approve. Calling off a wedding and getting a divorce are the sorts of actions that are always correct, because even if the couple were perfectly suited to each other, not being able to recognize the fact would show at least one party to be lacking the brains to appreciate it, and marriage is not a course for the unperceptive.

I suppose that one can make a case for any sort of combination of parents walking down the aisle without it being offensive. But what on earth is the point with siblings? It's not as if those siblings eager to participate in a wedding can't have enough of a role anyway. And siblings certainly don't have the same sort of standing in relation to the wedding as parents. If one's brother were one's father, one would be a regular guest on Jerry Springer.

The mania for having unique weddings is causing a loss of focus, as has been mentioned. After all, it'snot as if a group of critics are making a circuit and grading nuptials. I suppose it might be possible, and at first thought it seems to have some pertinence, to let anyone particularly instrumental in bringing about the match take the walk of honour. The debate over numbers and evenness is moronic, but I have been told that people preparing to be married are not always entirely in their right minds. And, judging from the results, that could be extended to the decision to marry in the first place.

Moral: "If it was so it might be, and if it were so it would be, but as it isn't it ain't. That's logic."

L3: LW3 could be considered similar to the Queen of Hearts, or perhaps the Red Queen. Now I had a lovely speech all worked out about how LW3 is a Bigot with a capital Big and what excellent revenge on her it would be if her daughters turned out to be lesbians who went on to demonstrate much better skill at child-raising than their mother ever did, but sadly I have been sick for at least the past two hours, and have barely been able to type three words between unsuccessful attempts to bring up my lunch. I did finally succeed, but really feel in no condition to be coping with LW3 or any other LW for that matter, and the thought of a good long sleep is most appealing right about now. I might try LW3 again when I am feeling better, but it was largely a rant of self-indulgence which I'm sure many people will be just as glad to skip anyway.

Moral: Maybe this is what I get for saving this one for last.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

7/22 - Of Croquet, Etc.

Ernie Els must be feeling like Alydar. A couple of weeks ago, that young woman who, as a young South African golfer, had been helped by the Ernie Els Foundation, led the U.S. Women's Open for much of the first round. And that just set the table for the picture-perfect blend of sport and politics at the British Open. What better way to mark Nelson Mandela's 92nd birthday than with the victory stroll over the last six holes of the world's most international golf tournament for the Afrikaans-speaking pair of white Louis Oosthuizen (another EEF beneficiary) and his black caddie? Of the commentariat, Tom Watson seemed the most pleased to retract his Saturday morning prediction that the lead would come back from -12.

When a tribute to Mr Mandela turned out to be the first part of Oosthuizen's victory speech, it reminded me a little of Michael Chang winning the French Open in 1989. Chang handled the moment a bit more controversially, declaring his thought that God had wanted him to win the tournament as a sort of counter to the sad news coming out of China. Andre Agassi was perhaps the most prominent among those who never really forgave Chang for claiming divine favour. Serena Williams, the most frequent (far more often than Venus) God-thanker at present, seems to have learned from this, for it's one of the few things she does without raising controversy. And we have recently learned from a little-publicized Q&A after Wimbledon, about which I only learned because of a letter someone sent asking how appropriate it was to ask the question simply on the basis of his never crossing himself as many players of Spanish or Italian heritage do, that Rafael Nadal is apparently agnostic; his uncle Toni is on record as a confirmed atheist.

Mentioning Agassi reminds me that for some weeks now I have had it in the back of my mind to recommend Agassi's autobiography *Open* to those who would enjoy it. Although I merely zipped through the book in a couple of hours at the library, I can report that it ought to appeal to those who like the sort of memoirs in which the author makes no attempt to sugar-coat his opinions of his contemporaries. Out of everything Agassi wrote about fellow players, the only one about whom he said anything personally nice was Patrick Rafter. He more or less made an uneasy peace with Pete Sampras, had appropriate admiration for the skills of Roger Federer and at least managed not to write anything negative about Rafael Nadal, Goran Ivanisevic, Stefan Edberg or Bjorn Borg. But those with an appetite for snark will be amply rewarded in his commentary on Jim Courier, Michael Chang, Boris Becker and Jimmy Connors, among others.

But now we leave tennis for croquet. I am sure that astute readers, recalling this week's group of letters (on the whole, extremely feeble) will have guessed where I am going with croquet - all the way to the wonderful world of *Heathers*, of course. However, as these letters seem quite feeble, I shall not be wasting much cross-examination on them. I shall refer participants to various others in our little community.

L1: Very weird timeline here - married a month sandwiching his being laid off and having had time to develop into a nagger and verbal abuser? LW1 has apparently married Heather Chandler, who meets adversity by being as abusive of the position of Top Heather as possible. Why? As Heather says when she hits Heather's ball for the second turn running - why not?

LW1's husband should be locked in a room with Ms messy, who before she leaves will ensure that he has a thorough understand of exactly how he makes LW1 feel. LW1 herself should be locked in a room with the Submariner, who will imbue her with all the fortification required to make a suitable exit.

Moral: "Did you have a brain tumor for breakfast?"

L2: LW2 is Heather McNamara, who does yield to the temptation to attempt her life but is stopped almost at once and seems to turn out more or less all right. But the whole thing leaves me wondering why on earth a suicide attempt is something that absolutely has to be disclosed. Not that I could imagine being close enough to someone to become engaged without there at least having been some opening for, if not actual disclosure, then at least for learning each other's attitudes about the subject.

Suicide is usually selfish and silly, but why so many people are reacting as if an attempt is shameful is a bit much for me. I should like to cross-examine the Prudecutor. Why so much praise for LW2's "inspiring" story? What on earth is so ridiculously admirable about being "life-embracing"? It may make for a pleasant quality in someone, but what has LW2 done other than catch a lucky break, put in a bit of work and grow up? Good for her, but inspiring is a bit much. Exactly how shameful does the Prudecutor think a suicide attempt is, anyway? Anyone would think that, as Antony Blanche would have put it, a suicide would have tortured the Prudecutor, stolen her patrimony, flung her out of doors, roasted, stuffed and eaten her children, and gone frolicking about wreathed in all the flowers of Sodom and Gomorrah.

As is often the case (a further example called to mind is that of Andrew McWhirter in *Towards Zero*) the attempt seems to have put LW2 off the idea of suicide. If anything, she might be considered less likely to make a future attempt than she would have been had the past attempt never been made. The Must-Disclose crowd would hardly, one suspect, deem it Necessary to disclose past Suicidal Thoughts, yet would require LW2 to make a Shameful Confession despite being quite possibly less at risk than she would have been without having done what she ought to be (so Shamefully) confessing.

Was there not a thread some time back about whether a past abortion constituted Required Disclosure? That would seem rather more likely a starter, aside from the moral or religious connotations, because it could well have resulted in conditions that would have an effect on a future pregnancy. Or there was the sperm donor whose DNA has successfully been passed on to a future generation, a member of which might pop up some time in the future, even if that would require some alteration in law. There are probably many things that would make far more difference to life. Not that I'd tell anyone not to disclose, or to respond to a direct question with the reply, "None of your business," or to marry someone from whom it seemed imperative to keep a past attempt a secret - it just doesn't seem the sort of thing that, were I Pope, would strike me as grounds to annul.

I think the fiance should be locked in a room with Dr Susan, who has expressed considerable openness to it not hurting just to ask a question, or even to the reasonableness of one lover being able to express to another grounds for improvement. Dr Susan would do admirably for putting the fiance into a frame of mind that would make him receptive to the Shameful Disclosure and find him disinclined to revise his opinion of her in an unfavourable direction. Going the other way, I would lock LW2 herself in a room with any one of a number of male posters who might be considered generally irritating and might even possibly intend to be taken that way. There is one who boasts of being a once-in-a-generation genius who has been a source of infinite revenue to his grateful employer - Mr Help, if memory serves. If LW2 can survive being locked up in a room with him, then she is clearly at no risk related to suicide, and may opt not to disclose with a perfectly clear conscience.

Moral: "Suicide is a private thing..." "If you were happy every day of your life, you wouldn't be a human being; you'd be a game show host."

L3: I don't care for this much, as LW3 is another one of those who tempts me to bring out the M word, and yet she gets the plum assignment of being Veronica, who tells J.D. very early on that she doesn't like her friends, but that it's as if they work together and their job is being popular and stuff. The problem is just too ridiculous for comment. It is a bit unlucky that LW3's boss is part of the problem (rather in imitation of Heather Chandler).

I shall depart from formula in selecting for this job someone who has not (to my knowledge) ever written a word I've read, although we know a good deal of this person's views. I shall also decline to have anyone locked in a room this time. Instead, the office should be paid a visit. And for this visit I can think of noone better than Mr Messy, if I may so call that new U.S. citizen. (I submitted a post of congratulations on their accomplishment to Ms Messy's page last week, but, as has happened to at least half my posts there, it was swallowed up into the great beyond.) Who better to resolve all corporate conflict and turn them all into productive and happy worker bees?

Moral: "Got what I wanted? It is one thing to want somebody out of your life; it is another thing to serve them a wake-up cup full of Liquid Drano."

L4: This week just seems to keep going from bad to worse, doesn't it? LW4 and her friend seem to be in a competition to see which of the two of them can do the best impersonation of that Supreme Wannabe-turned-Queen, Heather Duke. She placates and lives in mortal fear of Heather Chandler, only to snatch the first opportunity that presents itself to replace her. If form holds true, LW4's friend ought to have some environmentally disastrous indulgence that would be a worthy equivalent to Heather Duke's cover-up of her childhood friendship with Martha Dunstock/Dumptruck.

LW4 and her friend should be locked in, if not a room, then perhaps a pool, with Ms Mermaid, who can teach them both everything they will ever need to know about proper care of the environment and a few things they seem to have forgotten or never learned about the proper care and feeding of friendship (as well as its purpose).

Moral: "I prayed for the death of Heather Chandler many times and I felt bad every time I did it, but I kept doing it anyway. Now I know you understood everything. Praise Jesus - Alleluia!"

Thursday, July 15, 2010

7/15 - Tied, Taken - Anything but Shaken

Well, after the left elbow has decided to be questionable for the past six weeks, the shoulder has decided to be painful as well. At this rate, who knows? Still, at least there's St Andrews, where John Daly is wearing lavendar paisley trousers and playing well (so far), and Rory McIlroy is compensating for poor play at the Masters and the US Open with a nice little 63 at age 21.

Monday seemed to have promise of a good week. Bride of Stupid was actually posting under the column, and as usual the Social Worker Types were out in full force emoting all over her without saying anything one could remember for five seconds. It brings to mind Kitty Aldridge's first scene as Sarah Harding in *To Play the King* when she spouts the typical Tory line of the period about Whether We Would Pay for various services currently provided by the government - doctors, of course; teachers, probably; social workers?

As usual, I was mildly surprised by one of the rather neglected questions. Although I am not fond of Mr Savage's favourite advice, I would likely have given Bride of Stupid a DTMA, the M standing for Moron. Another probable DTMA would have gone to the Housewarmer, who had been a co-worker with the boyfriend until getting fired, and now Boyfriend wants to invite Boss to the housewarming. The Prudecutor advised the usual sort of Incredibly Obviously Insincere Social Lie that makes any reasonable person require the immediate assistance of a Barf Bag. With very little required in preliminary cross-examination, I feel confident of being able to apply another M to this boyfriend. It is just possible that the workplace is the sort where social finessing not only runs to this extent but is also a de facto requirement for success, it being technically impossible to prove. Think of a worse version of Norman's workplace in *Cheers,* when his rival for promotion was having an affair with the boss' wife; Norman opted not to tell and was phoned at Cheers to be told he would not be promoted because Vera had not made a sufficiently good impression at some company function; later, phoning Vera to give her the bad news, Norman had an unusual attack of Good Spousemanship and told her they'd said he wasn't the right man for the job, earning rare accolades from Diane. (That always reminds me of Mr Wendt's later appearance on an early celebrity version of The Weakest Link. He was voted off after the fourth round, and the eventual winner told Ms Robinson that she thought he could have gotten more questions right. Ms Robinson then asked if she knew how many questions George had missed for the entire show thus far, and supplied the fact that the answer was None. Ms Robinson then saw him off with an unprecedented compliment, "You are the Strongest Link. Goodbye, Sir.") It is also just possible that the asker knew the firing to be well-deserved at the time and has never been bitter about it. If either of these unlikely lines of questioning happens to strike gold, the asker might attempt coffee or lunch with Boss, with or without Boyfriend, to see if the path can be smoothed sufficiently first. Otherwise, I have two possible courses of action. One would be DTMA. The other would be to take a page from *Rumpole and the Old, Old Story* when Claude Erskine Brown accompanies Soapy Sam Ballard to a Lawyers as Christians meeting featuring an address by the Bishop of Sydcup, gets Ballard tanked up on half a dozen sherries and then drives off, leaving Ballard obliged to spend the night in Chambers, where Rumpole, who had nearly been caught living in Chambers before Phyllida Erskine Brown took him in as a guest, is conveniently able to find him the next morning. Asker can invite Boss to the party, get Boss sloshed, and stage a Compromising Situation which will lead to Boyfriend's rapid rise through the corporate ranks.

Well, the preamble might be longer than the Thursday Address. What piffle. The only good note is that LW3 provided me with this week's theme, which will be supplied at the end.

L1: Is this a joke? Please tell me this is a joke. People like LW1 are almost enough to make me think that, were the country somehow to be ruled by Schlessinger Law, it might not be the greatest conceivable disaster. Now, perhaps, just perhaps, LW1 intends to raise her daughter to be Apparently Popular but Really Just Busy in high school, to refer to a fairly early episode of The Facts of Life, a kinder alternative to how Johnny Weir would term it. She is, after all, trying to raise her daughter to be proud of her body. But, given the ease with which her grand ideals are punctured, I suspect a Push Poller could make mincemeat of her and get her to declare herself an Extremely Moral Person, or at least someone with High Moral Standards.

If LW1 really intended things to turn out this way, then more power to her. As it happens, we have a four-year-old girl, however adorable, who has been raised for three years with Mummy and Live-In-Not-Daddy having sex once or twice a day and Lindy regularly watching porn, presumably at home.

I so sincerely regret premiering the line, "Holy Jon Benet Ramsay, Batman!" in a non-serious vein as a comment to the Submariner a couple of weeks ago. The only thing missing from this letter are the pageants, and we can only surmise that Adorable isn't a Pageant Girl because Mummy and Lindy spend too much time having sex to have enough time to take her to those ghastly events. One plus for the bunnies.

There is only one thing wrong with painting a picture of Adorable eight (or possibly six) years from now as a guest on Tyra horrifying the audience of single mums with her casual description of how it's not big deal for her to perform in the French style for the benefit of her male acquaintances, and that is that Tyra presumably will not be filming in six or eight years.

Now, perhaps in such a situation, LW1 will be the mum who won't react with tears and horror and distressed claims that she didn't raise her little girl to be that way, but will rather remind Adorable of the Serious Talk they had about the Dangers of Promiscuity and convince her to scale back considerably. If so, more power to her. People have give children consistent upbringings under far more harmful banners than Sexual Freedom. But then we come to the point of L1. Lindy, who seems perfectly well satisfied with her Model Body, admits, potentially under duress, that she's Not Really His Type, and her immediate instinct is to get work done to please him, flying in the face of her Principled Ideals of Child-Raising. Bleah, bleah, and again BLEAH. If this woman can hold on to a principle long enough to act on it, then I'm Ms Mermaid's twin sister.

I refuse to tell LW1 what she should do because she is not sufficiently adult to take any advice I could offer her.

Moral: "I wanted you to sleep with her; Hate yourself instead of me. I wanted you untrue; hating yourself, like me. After all, what am I missing I haven't missed before? Sucking down those precious lies I should have swallowed way before."

L2: This is another Technicality Letter, and I cannot abide Technicality Letters. I know many people over age 70 or even 80 who frequently give glowing accounts of their travels and stays in various hostels designed for their particular accommodation. I can't even count this as a real question. There are probably deeper in-law issues in play here, but there's not enough to generate sufficient interest to go digging.

Moral: "I climb you as I grow older; by fifty I'll ride on your shoulder."

L3: Now I am grateful to LW3 for supplying me with the theme for this week, but really one wonders how people manage to rise to such giddy heights in their professions if they are so completely incapable of coping with Idiotic Interns. The only grace I can permit here is that there is potentially the worry over being perceived as overly sensitive because LW3's particular trait isn't especially widespread. It's hard to imagine an insulted person not speaking out if (s)he were insulted over being right-handed, or female, or over 40, or perhaps even left-handed out of fear of being thought too touchy. But it may be that LW3 fears that any serious conversation she has with the Idiot Intern will just get the same reaction. Still, it will be difficult and likely might not do LW3 much good if she goes to higher channels without having had a talk with II first.

I shall indulge the Gender Games followers a little here and at least toss out in cross a question about whether LW3 would feel any differently about the case if it were a male intern. It seems possible. There are so many people who ought to know better who would have no problem stomping on idiocy spewing from a male but who think that Hurting a Young Woman's Feelings is second worst only after Drowning Kittens in the Calendar of Unforgivable Sins.

For those who would advise LW3 to retaliate by sabotaging II's career, she'll feel guilty about it later if she does. Remember Rumpole tricking the then white-wigged Phyllida Trant (who did not know that he'd been briefed for the Defence of the bawdy-house keeper she was to prosecute) into boring Archie McPhee to death by citing as much law as she could think of and thereby infuriating him into dismissing the charges With Costs. Even before he began to call her Portia Rumpole came to regret having played such a trick on her.

As irritating as these junior Know-It-Alls are, isn't it more or less one of the purposes of being an intern? We're bordering on technicalities again, but it rather seems that LW3 or perhaps a superiour ought already to have addressed this as an issue that will likely have a bearing on II's future professional life.

It might be entertaining in an ideal world if LW3 could get voicemail that could identify a caller, so that, whenever II called LW3, she would hear some such line as, "Her cats smell better than you do," but I suppose that's just imagining.

Moral: "Jesus said in Heaven, there's not that much to do..... When the ground starts shaking, watch the gifts inside your home; I have a feeling many aren't for you."

L4: The gesture sounds lovely, and at least it touched the adult involved. The stepsisters, not so much. There might be a bit of use in cross-examining along the line of exactly what the plan was behind LW4 being asked to handle the ordering. (There is an interesting sideline of Us vs Them regarding the Sides of the Family to save for later.) Was it completely left to her own discretion? Was there any reasonable expectation of what the budget might be for such an order had she actually bought the flowers? Was it assumed that the Real Siblings would split the bill? Is LW4 the member of the family who typically copes with such things as cards "from the siblings"? Was this perhaps the first time that anything of this sort has come up?

I feel as if I could comfortably defend either LW4 or at least her brother, perhaps even her sister. LW4 on her own account comes off as a sufficiently sympathetic type. But it would not be too difficult to paint a portrait of a Greedy Little Attention Grabber who knew how much better she would come off than all her siblings. Had LW4 bought the flowers and all the siblings split the cost, they would presumably have been thanked by their stepmother and the siblings might have acknowledged that Florence, as befitting her past as a florist, had chosen the arrangement. Florence would therefore have received perhaps a slight extra helping of credit that would otherwise have been distributed more or less evenly between the siblings. As it is, Florence has done it all, and her brother at least who might have been hoping at least to have contributed through paying an equal share of the sibling contribution, has been, however unintentionally, cut out of making any contribution.

Florence reminds me a little of Heather Badcock in *The Mirror Crack'd*. She was kind to Miss Marple after a fall, pressing on her a cup of tea full of sugar against Miss M's protest, and struck Miss M as a clear example of the type of woman who is full of kindness but who only considers her own point of view in any situation, being incapable of seeing how other people might be affected by her actions. One of Heather's favourite stories is about how, as a girl, she was warned by her doctor because of a slight illness not to go see the famous actress Marina Gregg, but she didn't feel too bad, so just put on a lot of makeup and went. That Marina happened to contract rubella from Heather, that Marina was pregnant, that Marina's baby was born severely impaired, and that Marina, when hearing the story years later from Heather, should happen to see a picture of the Madonna and Child, realize that the person who had ruined her life was now boasting about the act that had done so, poison her own daiquiri, jog Heather's elbow causing Heather's drink to be spilled and then press her own poisoned cocktail on Heather was just a little bit of a Whoopsie!

IF, and I agree that it's a big If, Florence had reason to expect that her siblings were counting on contributing their share to the cost of the floral arrangement, the gracious thing to do would have been to let them know that she'd had the thought to make the arrangement with her own flowers, and perhaps about what it would be likely to cost had she bought such an arrangement, just so that, if they were determined to do *something*, they would be able to match or at least imitate her gesture. As it was, even if the arrangement was presented as being from "all the siblings", once it came out that Florence had made the arrangement with her own hands, even had there not been any horrific behaviour on anyone's part, she would have received a great deal more of the credit than would have been hers for selecting an arrangement that had been jointly bought.

One reasonable interpretation of her gesture, despite its loveliness, is that, by not telling her brother and sister, she perhaps unwittingly deprived them of the opportunity to contribute something. Chances are that it might not have mattered to many people - it certainly appears not to have mattered much to her sister, but it might have mattered to some, and it might have been a kind thing to do to check in advance.

Moral: "I'm loving everybody, and hating everyone I see."

Theme: As LW3 is bipolar, for the theme of the day I took quotations from Kristen Hersh, either from solo works or from Throwing Muses.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

7/8 - Shake, Rattle and Roll

What a plethora of wedding questions there were Monday. Hasn't the season concluded, with relatively few casualties? I do, though, find it hard to believe that the Prudecutor actually believes that a wedding is a good place for a single invited guest sans +1 to meet likely prospective co-victims for a future ceremony of one's own. Surely the Prudecution cannot be serious - nothing shows heterosexuality in a worse light than a wedding.

This week I feel inclined to a brisk game of Clue.

L1: This letter seems hard to believe. Its spiritual home would seem to be the time of those television programmes from prefeminist times. Postwork parties in bars? Supervisors encouraging young female interns to drink too much? A ride home - to HIS home - offered by a boss? The only alien note might be her reason for thinking him to be safe, but one original touch might be permitted. As for what LW1 ought to do, if her host were married, she should have an affair with him, which would promptly lead to a nice postintern offer and some friendly introductions to other eager executives, followed by a glowing recommendation when she'd slept her way through the Board of Directors. Were her host unmarried, perhaps the best thing to do would be to have a rumour started (not by herself, of course) that the evening ended in triangular antics featuring her host, herself and a rent boy. After all, if she thought him to have a rather non-corporate because rather more interesting sexuality, chances are good that others in the company have their suspicions.

It could prove quite interesting to cross-examine LW1 and the boss in question, but the entertainment value of their replies would likely far exceed the informative value. Apparently he was not too drunk to drive - or does that open another can of worms? And why did she think he was gay in the first place? There might be quite a decent little subplot here, or it could be just annoying idiocy that will waste the time of the court.

In *Clue*, of course, the boss would be Mr Green, who even goes so far as to admit to homosexuality, for which he is being blackmailed by Mr Boddy. In what the film presents as the final of its three endings (the book based on the screenplay has four), however, each of the other five coloured guests commits a murder. Professor Plum accuses Mr Green of shooting the singing telegram (portrayed by the former Go-Go with the most interesting sexuality), at which point it is revealed that she was shot by Wadsworth, who was actually the real Mr Boddy, the purported Mr Boddy being his butler. Mr Green then shoots Wadsworth/Mr Boddy just before the police storm in to arrest everyone who is still alive as Mr Green has another appointment to keep.

LW1 herself appears to resemble Yvette the maid, who is already well acquainted (perhaps not by name) with Colonel Mustard, and with Mrs White through sharing her husband, and even with Mr Boddy, who at least claims to be well acquainted with her. At least it might cheer LW1 up that Yvette is constantly in employment, when not working at Hill House being provided by Miss Scarlet as young female company on offer to gentlemen for a short while, with Professor Plum among those eager to sample the goods. LW1 might beware of women, however, as in each of the three film endings Yvette is murdered by a different woman.

Moral: "If you want to know who killed Mr Boddy, I did - in the hall, with the revolver. Okay, chief? Take 'em away. I'm going to go home and sleep with my wife."

L2: Well, it's nice to know that there is one adult in the household. Given his talent with finances, he ought to be able to assure his parents a financially secure dotage. Meanwhile, they are back in their own childhoods, squabbling with an uncle over the last $20 payment. Perhaps most entertainingly of all, we have the Prudecutor and various of her supporters urging LW2 and her husband to take the opportunity to provide the adult in the household with a lesson in compassion by forcing him to defraud himself of what might have been about a month's labour.

This is the biggest no-brainer in ages. Slip the SB1 uncle an SB1 twenty and SB1 make sure the SB1 makes the final SB1 payment. Case closed. No appeal.

The uncle resembles the inept Colonel Mustard, who proves on numerous occasions not quite up to a battle of wits with Wadsworth, rather than the slightly more lecherous and perhaps slightly less inept Professor Plum (despite his possible inability to determine that Mr Boddy wasn't really dead the first time). The adult in the household has two possible role models as Capitalist Extraordinaire. He might take after Mr Boddy, who, Wadsworth explains in answer to a question about why he didn't turn the guests in to the police if he thought they were all so un-American, decided to turn his knowledge to good use and make a little money; what could be more American than that? Or the little entrepreneur might take after Miss Scarlet in the ending in which it turns out that Yvette had been finding out secrets for her.

Moral: "No, Mr Green. Communism is just a red herring. Like all members of the world's oldest profession, I'm a capitalist, and I'm going to sell my secrets - your secrets - to the highest bidder."

L3: Well, it is certainly heartening to see the vast number of posters who choose to post underneath the column who have decided that they are so certain that there was nothing prejudicial towards LW3 at all in what she said, and that her prejudice was directed at something else. It is just SO charming to see people who have not been the direct objects of a common and rather vile prejudice claim that they are likely better informed about the woman's meaning than LW3 who was there at the time, knows a good deal more of what was actually said, and presumably has considerably superiour expertise through considerably greater experience at hearing anti-gay comments and the various tones of voice in which they are uttered in how comments that might be deemed anti-gay ought to be interpreted. It's a little like George Jefferson telling Edith Bunker that Archie's not a sexist. Certainly the Prudecutor was out of bounds, assuming facts not in evidence when she declared the woman to be clearly decent and non-homophobic.

Yes, there are gay people who see homophobia everywhere, or at least in a good many more places than it makes it valuable to apply the word. Yes, it would be worth sending F.I.G. Newton out and about for a day or two to determine whether this is the sort of reaction LW3 habitually has to non-supportive commentary. But unless I unearth some pretty convincing evidence to the contrary, I feel reasonably justified in assuming that someone who has a lifetime's experience of anti-gay prejudice is better positioned to call the queen of hearts a diamond than anyone else, at least, anyone who hasn't been the object of such commentary. There are people who enjoy ditching friends at the slightest sign of heresy, but I don't think LW3 reads as one of that persuasion.

It's all well and good to say that LW3 owes the friendship another chance. If LW3 feels the capacity to give it one, more power to him. But it is one thing in a friendship to know that there is a serious difference of opinion between the friends over an issue of vital importance to one or both. It can be quite another if an opinion that one can accept in theory is actually heard in full gory detail. Budding romantic buzzes get nipped all the time; why the inclination to friendship can't be damaged similarly is beyond me. Some things can happen which can kill off one's capacity to find deep enjoyment in the company of another person, and it's not necessarily anyone's fault. Maybe it can be repaired, maybe not.

It almost feels like cheating to use Mr Green again as my *Clue* parallel, but we so rarely have two letters in the same week with an openly gay aspect to them that I shall indulge myself. And Mr Green at least feels no personal shame, which is about as close to being out and proud as it might have been plausible to be during the McCarthy years. His friend seems closest to the sarcastic Miss Scarlet (not a bad tongue-twister, that, perhaps?). Miss Scarlet doesn't seem particularly pro-gay, but then she has less use for Mr Green or his kind than most others would be likely to have, there being no potential profit in him for her. And she doesn't single him out for more than a fair share of jabs.

Moral: "A plant? I thought men like you were usually called a fruit."

L4: Ugh. Another technicality recusal. Really the Prudecutor ought to do better. Unfortunately we don't know of any babies in the case in *Clue*, so that, by default, the best I can do is to declare the fertile one to be more similar to Mrs White than to anyone else, in having had the most husbands (five of her own and an indefinite number of other women's, although Yvette would presumably take that title). Or we could go the route of choosing Mrs Peacock as the only one clearly in violation of etiquette when, served one of her favourite dishes at dinner, she cannot wait for the others to be served to begin eating. But Mrs White, who informs Colonel Mustard that flies are where men are most vulnerable, has more good quotes.

Moral: "Husbands should be like Kleenex - strong, soft and disposable."

I shall close with a line not in the film that was added to the book - "Their slogan is Soft, Strong and Pops Up Too," Miss Scarlet amended.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

7/1 - Very Short

Well, it appears that Roger Federer may very well not return to #1 again. It would be almost impossible for him to do so this year. He might get back ahead of Djokovic for #2 if he can pick up a win or two in the Masters hardcourt events, but he'll be at least 2500 points behind Nadal, who had a very moderate summer last year and fewer points to defend in the US Open.

This week I shall go at lightning speed, which will probably be seen to be an improvement. It is in part out of annoyance about the letters, in part trouble about a UPS shipment that had better arrive today, and the bad luck of Thursday being the first of July, always a heavy day for me.

L1: Again, another letter really coping with technicalities. As I have said many times, knowledge of the law is a bit of a handicap to a barrister. Let others concern their heads with what may or may not be likely to happen in the future.

To LW1, it just happens that I have just this week finished reading a not particularly good novel by Simon Lovat called *Disorder and Chaos* in which a sperm donor only donates to one particular recipient. The situation is neither anonymous nor financially safe for him; he signs up to donate as an act of kindness when certain people are prohibited from using services otherwise accessible to the general public. Donors and potential recipients are matched up in a sort of service and left to make what arrangements they can. The donation takes on the second or third attempt, but the donor hears soon afterwards from the recipient's partner that the baby was lost. After being conned by an underage partner, the donor spends three years in prison, where his belief that the miscarriage was a lie becomes a conviction and he determines to track down the son he is convinced was born. The end result is gruesome.

LW1, either tell or don't; it's hard to imagine it making much difference. If you do tell, have an informed or at least a decided opinion ready about your current view of the morality of the situation.

Moral: A cross-court passing shot has a higher margin of error than one down the line because it is over the low portion of the net.

L2: This one is far too easy. Your clients have clearly been watching far too much *Ally McBeal* and not enough of a vastly superiour television series set in a vastly superiour city with vastly superiour advocates. Modesty prohibits my being more explicit, but it might be possible to guess to what I refer.

The most interesting thing about the letter is the distasteful phrase used by LW2 to describe her internal reaction. (Please note that I find such language equally distasteful when employed by males.) This suggests that LW2 has taken Mizz Liz Probert for her role model rather than her somewhat less strident predecessor as our second female in Chambers, Miss Fiona Always. Miss Always may have shown a disturbing tendency to burst into tears when left alone at Thames Magistrates Court, but she had a passion for winning which I have always found an excellent thing in an advocate, and she did very well defending on pornography charges because the Jury tended to believe that, if a nice girl like her were on the side of the Defendant, it couldn't possibly involve anything really nasty.

LW2, you have a number of options. One would be to inform your disrespectful clientele that you have modeled yourself not on any of the feckless *AB* females, but on the creme de la creme, none other than Her Ladyship Mrs Justice Phyllida Erskine Brown herself. If you happen to bear a strong resemblance to Patricia Hodge, so much the better. A slightly snarkier retort would be to explain that you have always found it to be an excellent thing for members of the Jury to be able to find someone on your side of a legal battle to be at least tolerably likable, and as it is so rarely your client you decided it had better be yourself. A third option would be to purchase a wardrobe that makes you appear to weigh somewhat more than you do and get a haircut of a rather butch variety. Your clients will then be so busy asking themselves, Is She or Isn't She, that they will feel too awkward to address you at all. Of course, while the third option will solve your problem with male clients, it might provide new problems of a somewhat more personal nature with female clients.

Moral: Nancy Lieberman should never have sat in the Friends Box during the Ladies' Final.

L3: Finally, something into which I can get my teeth. What about your youngest daughter, Madam? You referred to Susie as your Eldest, which decidedly implies three. And what the SB1 are you doing permitting your daughter to have anything pierced at the age of ten? Are you going to send her into the Cinema to solicit the Chairman of the Bench in the one-and-ninepennies next? At least let her wait until she looks old enough to have some reasonable chance at entrapment!

My only recent experience of sisters returns to Miss Always, whose older sister Jennifer Postern was introduced to me at the Bar Races. The two sisters called each other Sprod and Pimpsy and declared it loathsome and disgusting to encounter each other. Their mutual fondness was brilliantly exemplified when, on the occasion of Jennifer's being tried for the murder of her husband, Fiona insisted on her being defended by the best barrister in the land, despite his initial reluctance to act in a case involving a friend, or at least the sister of a friend. As Mrs Postern was rather a heroine trying to shield the man she loved (however erroneous she was in thinking him guilty of shooting her husband), I shall side with Susie over Jasmine.

LW3, the one thing you make abundantly clear is that you are far more driven by your own agenda than by what is best for your daughters. It is less conclusively proved but reasonable to assume that your husband is equally driven in the opposite direction. Why the two of you were ever so idiotic as to have more than one child (a practice which I can endorse heartily with the example of the brilliant career of Nicholas Rumpole as the strongest possible irrefutible evidence) I cannot imagine. As it is too late now to do anything about it, especially when you have three, I advise you and your husband to divorce immediately, prove each other to be unfit parents and put all your daughters, howsoever many there may be, up for adoption as a block. This will grant you your fondest wish and succeed in uniting the sisters better than anything, unless one of them should turn out to be lured away by such favouritism as you have shown in their next parent.

Moral: Venus and Serena Williams usually play rather better when they are on opposite sides of the draw.

L4: Oh, good grief. And Bill has had nothing to do with the invitations to his own wedding because..........?

And you are submitting a third-party letter, which the Prudecutor has accepted and run because..........?

And I should find this question only slightly less interesting than attending a performance of the Bar Choral Society in which Marigold Featherstone and She Who Must Be Obeyed sing contralto because..........?

LW4, the answer to your dilemma is obvious. Spread a rumour originating from Tammy that Jane is pregnant. Spread two or three counter-rumours if need be. By the time of the wedding, see to it that noone in your family is speaking to anyone else, or even better, that the wedding is called off if you can create a sufficiently credible rumopur that Bill is involved in a pregnancy which has nothing to do with Jane's (perhaps involving Tammy?).

Moral: Who would have thought three months ago that Vera Zvonereva would have a strong chance of ending the year as the top ranked Russian?