Thursday, April 28, 2011

4/28 - August in Advance

As nothing in particular seems to be happening as the world waits for A Certain Heteronormative Event to occur in the very near future, it seemed like a good time to practise for August.

Quick Thoughts:

L1:  Although LW1 mentions hotel authorities on the honeymoon, LW1 herself making arrangements with and notifying hotel staff proactively might only solve part of the problem.  There are, after all, other authorities.  The Prudecutor nearly pulls off a sensible approach to the situation, and then, of course, cannot resist the opportunity to spoil what might have been a good grade by assuming that some of the reactions C1 encounters are sufficiently comical to be a source of humour, and, much worse, telling LW1, "Stop dwelling on the racial aspect of this."  Not that they might want to stop, but just, outright, stop.  From someone who does not acknowledge, let alone examine, her own privilege, not good.  As for LW1, does she use her Quinn Morgendorffer voice or her Helen Morgendorffer voice?  Does she even have a Helen voice?  given that the same actress provided the voices of not only both Quinn and Helen but also Jane, LW1 might be able to do something constructive there.

L2:  Well, gee, here LW2 is in one of those situations that can accommodate as broad a social lie as she's comfortable telling.  It's a little like one of those golf shots near the green that can be played with a putter, a wedge, a short iron, a mid iron, or even a fairway wood.  How creative is LW2?  Can she play one of those Phil Mickelson flop shots with a full swing that goes about 30 feet?  (And what would be the equivalent of that in a donor situation?)  The basic play would be something on the theme of being out of touch for a period in the immediate future - accessorize as desired and go from there afterwards.

L4:  LW4 is hilarious.  It is not enough that the incident in question has borne out how my philosophy that any breakup is a good breakup can apply to friendships as well.  LW4 cannot just let go of F4 with however mucyh regret that might cause her to feel and hope for better luck in her next choice.  She wants to have and win an argument about why what XF4 did to her was so much worse than anything XF4 may think she did.  Priceless.  Just priceless.

Now to L3, which shall receive an answer that is a practice run of sorts for Homocentric August.

Dear LW3:  Before I address your difficulty, I'd like to begin by congratulating you for coming out of the closet.  I realize that it is no longer shocking for someone to be an admitted - oh, sorry, I mean an open - heterosexual these days, but it still might have caused you considerable anguish, wondering if it might cost you the love of friends and/or family, if you might be bullied for it, or if it might even restrict your opportunities in your choice of career, housing, etc.

However, dear LW3, you seem to have run into one of the Hard Realities of Life.  It is all very nice and liberating to come out of the closet and be open about your heterosexuality, but there are still, however sad it may be, certain societal difficulties about the heterosexual lifestyle.  Now I hope that, just because I use the word "lifestyle" you won't get all huffy and think that I meant to imply that you chose to be straight.  After all, as so many confir... open... heterosexuals themselves are the first to say, who on earth would ever choose to be straight?  Nobody I know, certainly.  And even if it were a choice, so what?  I don't have to agree with every choice somebody makes to agree with his right to make the choice as he sees fit.  I do know, however, that certain misguided anti-heterosexual personalities keep harping upon your "lifestyle" as a code word, a practice with which I entirely disagree, and most strongly.

But now we come to one of those practices of the heterosexual community that just makes no sense to normal - oops, sorry, to same-sex couples, that of acting in particular and ordained Gender Roles.  Why, what if some people tried to divide all of us into Tops and Bottoms just because there are a few of us who like to play that game, and then told Tops that they couldn't like to go to the Opera or Bottoms that they couldn't play football?  It appears to be one of the quaint customs of opposite-sex couples that the Man is supposed to Pay For Dates.  Well, have no fear; if one of those scandalous television programmes tries to get me to go on and discuss the bizarre mating rituals of opposite-sex couples, I shan't give away your unusual secret.

It seems you want to assimilate and be just like natural - sorry, ordinary - couples by splitting the check on dates.  Well, good for you!  I can assure you in all honesty that I have never voted against your right to marry.

It appears that you have been unable to keep up one tradition of same-sex couples - see, I'm getting the hang of it and using language more carefully.  We do traditionally get serious, as you so quaintly put it, before we start dating.  Dating is usually for people who enjoy getting serious enough to consider a relationship afterwards.  But there has been some unusual progress made on that front.  I have some interesting news.  Contrary to what you might have been led to believe, because most people who might have tried to dissuade you in all good faith from your openly straight life would naturally have presented an idealized view, not all same-sex couples get serious before dating.  And, believe it or not, we have stopped shaming people for it, for the most part.  That just goes to show that sometimes we can even learn from you!

If you want to be more like mainstream society, you might make a plus of it.  Date women who think the same way.  Perhaps even find them by joining organizations of which they are likely to be members.  I am sure that, the more women break down the silly custom of playing up to particular gender roles, the closer we all are to full marital equality, which will perhaps even strengthen same-sex marriage, for all the voices crying out that you are trying to destroy Society and the Family and All that Makes This Country great.

Sadly, though, I cannot help you with your last problem.  You know, leaving a nasty taste.  You might have luck if you change your diet a bit.  But in general, this is the sort of thing for which men naturally are likely to have a taste and which women aren't.  Maybe if you date women who are thoroughly and totally honest and up front about being 100% heterosexual, she will have overcome the natural feminine disliking of the strange (for her) taste.  You know the kind of woman I mean - the one one always hears dring Straight Pride Parades calling out, "We're straight!  We're late!  Too late to go shopping!"

Saturday, April 23, 2011

1/6 and Assorted D Words

I have been reading Ms vos Savant's column in which she (probably on an annual basis) departs from her usual custom of answering questions and simply posts a selection of questions she has received that, in her opinion, might stump the Oracle at Delphi. My three favourites this year were not terribly complex. One question mentioned Deer Crossing signs, asking how the deer knew to cross at the signs. Another asked why the Three Musketeers are always pictured with swords instead of muskets. The third, with elegant simplicity, simply asked why eggs don't taste like chicken.

I think the question about the Musketeers, though, could have been answered quite fittingly with the rejoinder that they were French, with no further elaboration.

At any rate, as we move on to a new year of new (and, one hopes, improved) letters, it appears that this week's letters are all amenable to assorted solutions beginning with the letter D.

L1: Why does LW1 take the suicide attempt of SBS1 as evidence of SB1's guilt in the matter of abuse? The irrational conduct of Bridget Evans in the case of the Honourable Member accused of raping her ended up being an indication of his innocence, one which the MP might have turned to advantage had he not decided that he preferred conviction and a prison sentence. Did LW1 and BIL1 unearth any more persuasive evidence of guilt than the higher-than-admitted level of competence of the attorney? From whom is the prevarication coming, SB1 or S1?

It would be nice, would it not, to have a case of a sexual offender who was clearly and indisputably guilty of heinous conduct. But this is so seldom the case. Even a verdict of Guilty does not always erase the odd lingering doubt or two. As far as the quality of SB1's legal representation, my reaction would be to snort if that would not be considered rather rude. What are LW1's qualifications for an "excellent attorney"? There are those, including, before she was his junior when he performed lamentably in Court, Wendy Crump, an excellent advocate herself, who are sufficiently deluded as to consider Claude Erskine Brown an excellent attorney. And yet Claude regularly tries to twist the arms of his unfortunate clients on Legal Aid to get them to plead Guilty.

Then, too, a brief recollection of similar cases makes one hesitant to throw the book at SB1. In the case of the Children of the Devil, Tracy Timson was removed from her home after she brought devil's masks to school and Dominic Malloy told a social worker that Carey Timson had involved Tracy and himself in devil worship, but it transpired that Dominic's mum fed him the story because Gareth Molloy thought Carey Timson had grassed on him about a supermarket robbery. In the case of the Little Boy Lost, the woman accused, who seemed even to relish her horrible reputation, was just the cat's paw selected by a greedy young couple out to create a sad news story and cash in on it. It is true that Ronald Ransom, the young schoolmaster, did sleep with his pupil Francesca Capstick shortly before her sixteenth birthday, but even in that case we learned that she had seduced him in order to give evidence of the affair to her boyfriend, who was then able to go to the headmaster and get Ransom sacked.

But the little things don't look good for SB1, especially if he is the source of the excuses and prevarications coming out of S1's mouth. The answer to LW1's situation is for a party consisting of assorted family members, S1 and SB1 all to go and appear on Dr Phil. Make it a condition of acceptance, and, while S1 if not SB1 as well may whine about it, at the worst they get a trip to Los Angeles out of it. I imagine that the prevarications won't go over terribly well, and that the notion that LW1 and F1 aren't behaving in an appropriately Christian manner will get the reception it deserves.

Moral: "Oh, Eton, was it? I thought it was mainly drinkin'."

L2: So many questions to so many people. FIL2: Is your wife becoming a crazy rhymes-with-witch whom you would have taken to the doctor long ago except that lately you've enjoyed seeing her act that way to other people instead of just to you? MIL2: How on earth was LW2 supposed to know all your allergies, especially when you see each other so rarely that your Christmas presents had to be sent to each other instead of exchanged in person? LW2: Why on earth, when you were informing your in-laws of your reduced present budget, did you not press them to agree to a limit on their expenditure when selecting gifts for you? This strikes me as rather a telling omission. And my favourite question, to H2: Why on earth did you not supplement your wife's gift fund, or at the very least offer to switch presents and give your mother the inexpensive perfume yourself and let her give your mother the more expensive present you sent her?

There are other things one might ask. What is the point to demanding the return of the purse? Why is H2 sitting on the sidelines as his wife and mother interact? But I don't think H2 is a real keeper, and we all know the answer to that: Divorce.

This reminds me of how the Fashion Club almost splits up when Stacy and Tiffany buy the same dress. An attempted debate doesn't yield anything helpful, and the group all discovers that they cannot be returned. Oh, dear. They are all having some cheeseless pizza with Sandy enjoying the chaos and Quinn trying to play peacemaker when Stacy accidentally spills grape soda on Tiffany. So much for that dress. Tiffany thinks Stacy did it on purpose, but Stacy swears she didn't and says she'll prove it by giving Tiffany the other dress. They hug, ruining the other dress as well, but at least the Fashion Club survives intact.

Moral: "So, what's next, President Quinn, the best president ever?" "Long live the Quinn - hey!"

L3: The answer is that LW3 is incredibly Dim, Dim, DIM. A fired co-workerhad confided that he'd been fired from various other jobs as well, and that people didn't seem to like him, and even asked another co-worker what likely was wrong when this job went pfut as well, and LW3 has been sitting aroung wringing his or her hands and wondering if there were any way (s)he could have suggested that the man consult a doctor? WHAT? How about: 1. Open wide. 2. Enunciate clearly. 3. Tell subject that he might want to consult a doctor. And I should dearly love to know why in Hades LW3 thinks it would be so intrusive to make such a suggestion. We can also go into LW3's self-importance in worrying that noone else will ever make the suggestion and the poor sufferer will go through the rest of his life without ever receiving the help he so desperately needs.

It reminds me a little of the case of the Model Prisoner, when Claude Erskine Brown gets into all sorts of trouble for referring to Wendy Crump as his fat pupil. Liz Probert gets the Sisterhood of Radical Lawyers on the case, and soon all the female lawyers around refuse to send Claude any briefs. Complaints are made to Sam Ballard , and Claude is on the brink of being evicted from Chambers without anyone telling him why. Indeed, noone has even informed Wendy Crump, who quite hero-worships Claude as a brilliant barrister until she is his junior and has to whisper all the telling points of a clever cross-examination to him during the trial.

A Note of Explanation

After receiving a hint from Ms Mermaid about what might have been preventing my posts from publishing, I poked around, and managed somehow to stumble onto changing to the new editor.  Now why this should suddenly let my posts go through again I have no idea, but it appears to be the case.

And the whole distressing affair had the beneficial side effect that I found my Post List, which apparently includes what was saved of all those drafts that I thought were lost for all eternity.  I have uploaded the ones I've found, and may find one or two more.  They are not all complete, alas, but at least people can see that I was being truthful.

4/13 - Extremely Short of Time

I didn't say anything at the time, but I almost was going to give Just-Go-In-The-Closet-Dear-Around-Me-Mamma a You Go, Girl! Seriously. It would be the best thing she could do for herself to get herself into PFLAG as quickly as possible, but she's way past the expiration date for reasonable qualms and difficulties, and I am more concerned with the best outcome for the innocent. At her age and given her long history, the odds are not very good that she would make the sort of substantial improvement that would make her an asset in her son's life. She may pick up a bit of the acceptance jargon, but it won't run deep, and the end result will be, more likely than not, that her son will despair from not knowing whether to keep in contact or not. As I am almost inclined to give her a consolation point for being honest (but she's only being honest because she's deluded into thinking she's being reasonable), I'd tell her to be even more of the same and keep making her point louder and more forcefully. The effect of her doing so will be, with any luck, that her gay son is able to write her off without feeling major qualms about it, and that she will make herself so outrageous that her straight son will feel inclined to take his twin's side. Therefore, she will unify her two sons, perhaps even creating a bond between them that isn't there now, one which will serve them well long after her death.
I am actually riding fairly high this week, having come up with the most creative solution to the vastly superiour problem in one of this week's SLLOTDs. The LW was a father who has been having an affair with a close family friend for some time. Recently, while friend was on a family vacation, they had been chatting by computer, and LW, who was on the family computer, forgot to log off his Gmail account. His 15-year-old daughter and her best friend saw the explicit email still up, impersonated him, got friend to send pictures, recognized her, and immediately fired off pictures to anyone they knew even remotely acquainted with the woman. LW set a new high for the Chutzpah Bar by asking what punishment is appropriate for his daughter, thinking that she should be grounded for a year, sent to live with her grandparents and forbidden to see her best friend, whereas his wife only wants community service if anything. I was the only one on the whole thread who thought it might be helpful to discuss the incident with the other girl's parents, and came up with by far the best deterrent - forcing the daughter to watch a series of irritating made-for-Lifetime films and writing an essay about their handling of the moral and ethical issues that arose in each. Either that or send her to juvenile FBI training camp.
Quick Thoughts for the rather dull DP this week: If I were doing each letter in full individually, I'd be tempted to make a theme that the LWs are all expecting men or a man to act like a woman, a theme which might stand up to cross-examination. But I won't.
L1: If there is another answer this week that is not the Prudecutor's own work, this one is my choice. I dislike both LW1 and F1. It at least appears that his food preferences are crowding out hers (although it would not surprise me to discover that she is projecting a bit) and that he just refuses to go along with plans that would indulge her. I don't like her because she clearly knew this before the engagement. Presumably she thought that raising the issue earlier would have made him dump her. They really seem to deserve each other's torment for all eternity.
L2: Well, at least LW2 gets a couple of points for not asking if (s)he "is wrong" for feeling the way (s)he does. "Am I overreacting?" is at least a slightly better question. But LW2 is still being a bit pathetic. What is the point in being hurt because an invitation is declined for a frivolous reason by someone who has already refused to vist LW2 because (s)he lives in a boring city? Take a page from the son of Homophobic Mamma. He is standing up for himself and getting on with his life, not hanging about and whimpering that Mamma Doesn't Love Him.
L4: $80 instead of her (or his - I must practise for Homocentric August!) husband's $100 is offensive? LW4 should trade FIL4 for what's behind Door Number Three. I'm sure I could produce at least a dozen people within a day who'd be delighted to have a FIL who gave them $50 as an individual birthday present, and some who would settle for a ten-spot and a Happy Meal.
Now for L3. LW3 had to be treated for cancer. Very sad. And her "friend" not only never offered to help her, he never once offered to help her. And he lived closer to her than any of her other friends, yet his presence was completely lacking during her time of greatest need. Very poetic. If I ever have to take sick leave, perhaps I should invite LW3 to fill in for me. We Drama Queens have to look outn for each other.
But now I come to a question in cross-examination that feels very much like asking Dr Pamela Gorle what happened when she conducted the test for hypostasis on the corpse of her ex-lover's wife. Dear LW3, I am so sorry you were so ill-treated by someone you considered such a good friend. And what happened, LW3, during your time of greatest need, when you asked this dear friend who lived so close to you if he might possibly assist you in coping in some small way with one of your great ordeals?
Now, I say this as someone who, when a close friend was laid up in bed on her back for a week, loaded up with provisions and made about four thirty-mile treks to keep her fed and entertained, which was more than her children did for her. But, believe it or not, there are actually some people on the face of the planet who, although they will go above and beyond the call of duty time and again for someone, actually have to be asked first. I've no clue why. It's one of the great mysteries of life. Doubtless the world would be a better place if everyone it ran around acting at all times exactly the way LW3 thought they ought to act, but, sadly, people are different.
And now a brief word for the Prudecutor. Abominably? That's rather a strong word, is it not? Especially when we don't know that he responded callously when LW3 asked him for assistance? (Or, of course, that LW# even requested aid at all?) If I had to pin the word abominable on anyone, it would be on the one or two female friends in whom LW3 confided (I can affirm on the highest authority that a Drama Queen of such calibre could not possibly keep such a terrible offence to herself) how hurt she was who, instead of calling XF3 and nudging him into making the gesture that LW3 wanted, sat back chuckling to themselves as LW3 wrote XF3 out of her life and they moved up a rung on her Friendship Ladder.
I am reluctant in my comparison. It is not that it strikes me as less apt than usual. It is just that I think it treats LW3 better than she deserves to compare her to Jane Lane. But this is quite like the episode Mart of Darkness. Jane, who has discovered that Gummi Bears make a great glaze when microwaved, has sorted out large quantities for weeks while preparing a masterpiece. When the time comes, she has an empty bowl and Tom has a full mouth. As Daria and Jane scour the megamart in quest of Jane's Gummi Bears and a bootlace for Daria, Daria probes into why Jane is angry with Tom for spoiling her art supplies. Jane hadn't kept them in a particular place or labeled them Art Supplies or even told Tom that that's what they were, yet she still thought that anyone who saw the Gummi Bears sitting in an open bowl in the kitchen should have jumped to the conclusion that they were being readied for the microwave rather than being on offer to all and sundry.
As I can't advise LW3 until I get an answer to my question in cross-examination, I jump to the moral.

3/24 - DP in Wonderland

Well, there is plenty about which I can wonder this week. I came into today wondering about how the Prudecutor could advise the Monday chatter who could not be unconvinced that her brother deliberately impregnated his girlfriend in order to be walking on the heels of her own pregnancy that it would be best if she were instead to turn her thoughts to welcoming her impending new niece or nephew. I suppose that course of action just might be for the best for the LW, but what a terrible thing to do to the poor child. Nobody needs an aunt locked in an eternal sibling battle with his or her father. The LW is clearly not a nice person, and in such a case an estrangement is clearly the best thing for the most innocent parties in the case, the unborn children.

It appears that the Prudecutor believes that Love has some sort of magical redemptive power that will turn evil people into good. Wrong, wrong, wrong! Love can be a force for good or for ill, and it generally bodes ill to be at all close with nasty pieces of work such as the LW in question. There is an imaginary line beyond which, once people have crossed, a loving relationship will bring more ill than good. Monday's LW, who insisted on clinging fervently to her sibling rivalry uber alles, is well over the line. She should have nothing to do with any newborn children. In a better world, she wouldn't even have anything to do with her own; they would be raised by governesses and tutors.

L1: Now here, I actually have more serious wonders about LW1 than about the Prudecutor. But do not think she gets a pass. I am half inclined almost to consider admiring her restraint in confining her moralizing to advising LW1 to attempt to reconnect emotionally to his wife during his illness. But note the use of reconnect. Why assume that LW1 and W1 had an emotional connection in the first place? Unless I'm told their romance at some point, I never presume to assume that any two people married for love (although it is interesting to wonder whether that might not be a more reasonable assumption in the case of a same-sex couple; it's great fun living at this time just to see the way one's thoughts undergo necessary adjustments over the M word). There are a variety of possible stories behind the origin of their marriage.

But LW1's assumptions outdo even the Prudecutor's. He assumes that his wife and children would be devastated to learn of the affair. Now this is certainly a plausible possibility. And LW1 is tolerably well acquainted with W1 and their progeny. But he seems oddly positioned. He has been having an affair for ten years. Presumably this means that he has spending a large quantity of his leisure time out of the presence of his wife and children. Even if he is correct in assuming that they know nothing of his Great Secret (in which assumption he appears to be living up to the tradition of such company as Henry VIII), he is hardly in a position to say with any certainty that they are entirely dependent upon some concept of his fidelity for their peace of mind. Who knows what his wife has been doing all this time?

I actually am going to give the Prudecutor some credit for being Sneaky and Devious on this one. She clearly hopes that LW1 will "reconnect" with his wife, decide to end the affair and then dump Peggy without any settlement whatsoever.

Now I am entirely in favour of discretion being involved in the settlement. An excess of discretion might carry unforeseen difficulties, as is witnessed in the similar case of Emma Woodhouse cheerfully assuming a parentage among the gentry for her little protegee Harriet Smith, only to have a very narrow escape at the end of the novel when it is revealed that Harriet's father came merely from the mercantile class, and that poor Harriet, who had narrowly escaped all Emma's grandiose plans, was not a gentleman's daughter after all.

But in the true spirit of the ingenious, I have a solution of the utmost cleverness. Given their age difference, LW1 should present Peggy to his wife and children as his natural daughter. Shades of Harriet Smith indeed! Recall that Peggy is some ten years or more older than the marriage. They can easily devise some story about Peggy's birth, and how her vindictive mother had kept all knowledge of her true circumstances from Peggy until she'd recently died. This works out quite neatly for everybody. Peggy will get a larger share of the estate as a natural daughter openly acknowledged than as a secret mistress, she will able to see a good deal more of LW1 during his illness, and, should W1 actually be living in some sort of LaLaLand in which she's happily married to a faithful husband, she can continue her residency there.

But it will amuse me greatly if the reading of LW1's will is the first time that W1 makes a public appearance accompanied by her girlfriend - especially if this happens during Homocentric August.

Moral: "What a connection she had been designing for Mr Knightley, or the Churchills - or even Mr Elton! The stain of illegitimacy unbleached by nobility or wealth would be a stain indeed."

L2: Now here I wonder how LW2 knew that the other patrons were speaking Japanese to each other. I have little to say here, other than that LW2 might reasonably suggest to management that, should the establishment be willing to provide the means for customers to leave donations or well-wishing letters, it would be gratefully received and utilized.

Come to think of it, Andy Murray was one of the children who attended the primary school in Scotland where there was a shooting tragedy. I distinctly recall there was an addressed publicized to which people could send letters. That sort of thing might be quite welcome.

Moral: "'When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, 'it means just what I choose it to mean - neither more nor less.'"

L3: There is so much about which to wonder on multiple fronts. I wonder at the Prudecutor's assumption that C3 actually have a regular pediatrician, and even more so at her blithe assumption that LW3 would know who the pediatrician's identity. While it is the sort of thing that one might know about a reasonably close friend, given that we live in a society where it is a bit of a stretch to assume that anyone has personal and particular access to health care of any sort, it does seem at least potentially a bit of a reach. Being unable to speak with authority about child malnutrition, I shall refrain from wondering about what standard of proof this evidence might be able to sustain. Most of all, though, I am inclined to wonder at LW3. What sort of person, given the likelihood, however great it might be, of conduct that would at least rise to the standard of neglect if not outright abuse, would conclude that intervention would end the friendship anyway and that distancing themselves from the problematic parents would solve the entire problem? That sounds rather Randian.

I suppose the thing to do might be to take whatever evidence can be amassed to LW3's own pediatrician for an expert opinion. Of course, LW3 will probably dislike the idea, as he will be billed for the consultation (it reminds me of Dandelion Dead and Constance Martin's reaction to the bickering between her father, the chemist, and the doctor about which of them will guarantee the fee of five pounds that will be required for the investigation of the attempted murder by poison of Connie's husband), but really it seems the least one can do for two children. Sigh.

Moral: "'If it had grown up,' she said to herself, 'it would have made a dreadfully ugly child: but it makes a rather handsome pig, I think.'"

L4: Well, there is much to wonder at here as well. One might wonder with some pleasure about LW4 being male and willing to insert himself into this brouhaha between his mother and one of her friends. Would that be sexist? One might wonder why I4 accepted the invitation; is she perhaps planning to hide buckets of pigs' blood to dump onto M4 at the crucial moment? Or perhaps I4 accepted the invitation with the intent of making amends. One might wonder how an anniversary party is going to be that much of a surprise, even with full cooperation from the conspirators and all their accomplices. One might wonder at the Prudecutor's assumption that this falling out between friends equates to whatever it was that occurred at the White House. But what I wonder at most is LW4's unchallenged assumption that the presence of I4 and her husband at the surprise party will ruin the evening for both LW4's parents. Who is his mother, the Queen of Hearts?

Here I can provide a personal example. My mother once had a friend who was one of the few women who could outlast her on the telephone. My mother was given to six-hour conversations, but her friend was generally good for nine. When they had a falling-out for some time, both couples were still part of a couple of local social groups, but while it lasted there was no effect on my father, unless perhaps he'd hoped that the social calendar would see a few cuts that never materialized. The friend died of cancer about 25 years ago, and for about 15 years now my mother has been living with the friend's widower. There's some financial reason why they are unable to marry.

I don't suppose it would do any harm for LW4 to contact I4 before the event and ask her if there is anything he can to to help mend the rift before the party rather than during or after. But I can't see how the invitation can be rescinded without running a serious risk of creating ill intent in I4. Then again, the chance of a surprise anniversary party going off properly and remaining a surprise is so slim that LW4 and S4 might well be advised just to be adults and acknowledge the party, which would seem to increase his options.

Moral: "The executioner's argument was, that you couldn't cut off a head unless there was a body to cut it off from: that he had never had to do such a thing before, and he wasn't going to begin at his time of life."

"The King's argument was that anything that had a head could be beheaded, and that you weren't to talk nonsense."

"The Queen's argument was that, if something wasn't done about it in less than no time, she'd have everybody executed, all round."

3/10 - Loitering With Intent

As whatever illness befell me last Friday has returned with a vengeance, necessitating frequent naps, it may be wise to forego the results of my revisiting old threads and just have a brief wander. Had I been well, I might have expanded upon my repertoire of guests. Or I might have taken an ambitious stab at something Murdoch. But I shall stick with *Loitering With Intent* today.

L1: This may be the most difficult letter to put into LWI terms. Sir Eric Findlay's "autobiography" has an affair inserted into it - with the narrator, Fleur Talbot, as Fleur learns towards the end of the book, but that was just spite. Dottie Carpenter, wife of Fleur's lover Leslie, threatens to become pregnant to show her disapproval of Leslie's affair with Grey Mauser. Or there is the slightest hint about a mysterious origin attaching to Sir Quentin Oliver, Fleur's employer and antagonist. Sadly, though, that comes only from remarks dropped by Lady Edwina, Sir Quentin's nonogenarian mother of variable continence and reliability of memory. The situation particularly mismatches L1, though, as Lady Edwina provides home truths during much of the book to break up the careful picture being presented by Sir Quentin.

But the real L1 has the feel of a situation well suited to the questions that might face Sir Quentin or Fleur as they struggle for the heart and soul of his little Autobiographical Association. There are so many different ways the chapter of the extramarital sibling could develop. We already have it that the half-sister came from an affair and was supported financially but not personally acknowledged. But the autobiography can go in so many different ways. Was OW1 trying to get F1 to leave his wife? Did he string her along? Did M1 insist that the child be supported in silence under threat of catastrophe? Or was either F1 or OW1 the motivator behind keeping HS1 away from her siblings or stepmother? There are so many possibilities. Who would tell or even still recalls without an internal rewrite the truth? Perhaps the answer all lies in who has charge of the Autobiographical Association.

Given that the product of the affair is now an adult, I'm inclined to guess that none of the principal adults at the time will give a full, frank and accurate account now, for one reason or another. LW1 herself is so scattered that I don't really much care what she does. Her question comes right at the end with only the least bit to do with any of the blather that preceded it. LW1 is probably more or less on the right track in not getting sucked into being a messenger. Meet with the half-sister, decide on her character, yadda yadda yadda; happily, there are all sorts and variations of aunts the siblings can be to suit the deserts and merits of whomever they determine worthy of the greatest consideration in the case. But I do have one concrete piece of advice to offer her regarding the disclosure to F1. There are surely agencies established for just this sort of situation. One pays a modest fee and the information in question is passed discreetly to the party concerned with likely as few ramifications as possible. It may be more common for this sort of disclosure to concern exposure to social diseases, but this would seem to be just the thing to cater to LW1's concern about a letter distressing her mother.

Moral: "We decided to leave Edwina's story as it was, all charming and insubstantial..."

L2: Now here we have a brilliant parallel to LWI. One of Fleur's earliest opinions of the various members of the Autobiographical Association is that one of the six, Lady Bernice ("Bucks") Gilbert, can actually string sentences together and is not the illiterate mess of an author that the other five quickly prove themselves to be. This factlet doesn't really get developed to much of an extent, as the autobiographies are last mentioned in specific terms when, with the exception of Maisie Young, who is still producing pointless pages about the Cosmos, Sir Quentin has his followers all drafting their first amourous adventures - Mrs Wilks having her blouse torn by a Cossack soldier in St Petersburg, Father Edward Delaney having impure thoughts while hearing confessions, la Baronne Clotilde du Loire caught in bed with her music master in the charming chateau near Dijon, Sir Eric Findlay thinking about an actress who'd visited his family during whatever he unspecifically did at prep school with another boy, and Lady Bernice's lesbian affair with the hockey captain at school, to which descriptions of sunsets in the Cotswolds gave atmosphere.

The domineering Bucks gives a cocktail party. Fleur is a little surprised at the pressing nature of Bucks' invitation to her, only to discover after her arrival that she is expected to work, Bucks' little maid only having two hands. Fleur is about to rebel, but then happily an old friend Wally McConnaughey turns up. Fleur and Wally do a little listless work, then stand about talking and eating, ignoring Bucks' increasingly angry glances at things to which she thinks Fleur ought to be attending. Fleur and Wally duck out early, I believe just after Sir Quentin arrives, and begin a light romance that survives a disastrous weekend getaway once petrol goes off the ration but merely limps along a while longer, Wally eventually marrying an English Rose to Fleur's apparent unconcern.

As for the actual L2 and the Prudecutor's reply, she rather startled me. This is the most Upstairs, Downstairs reply I have ever seen the Prudecutor give. Of course, as far as it goes, the lawyers are really at work themselves during the party, and there are those who may reasonably find themselves satisfied with the Prudecutorial line of thought. But I find it difficult to comprehend the firm's line of thinking. Perhaps they are attempting to appear frugal by ostentatiously having the lesser staff save them some portion of the expence of hired help. Or perhaps the firm is being deliberately kyriarchal out of a sense that this sort of conduct will appeal to its desired client base. Personally, given how often clents interact with supporting staff instead of attorneys, the amount of time and effort staff often or usually contribute, and the difficulties that can be caused by the tiniest of clerical errors, I'd go out of my way to avoid giving clients the impression that any of the firm's employees have any motivation to tinkle in the beer.

I can only advise LW2 to have a little viewing festival of assorted period dramas. If LW2 emerges identifying and sympathizing with Emily Watson's Elsie in *Gosford Park*, then the party might promise to be of some interest, even if LW2's destiny might not be to remain long at the firm.

Moral: "'Sir Quentin would expect you to help.' But I was tired of these people with their Sir Quentin and all the twanging of harps round his throne."


2/9 - I Punt

I expected today to be difficult. I think I'd have had a better time if my jury summons had been upheld. And here I was on a good week, too, having made the only constructive suggestions to Monday's LW whose inlaws were downright rude as stepgrandparents to her daughter. It was fortunate, though, that nobody ever had to inquire about They Who Must Not Be Named, or a kitten would have been endangered, and that would have been distressing. [I never even told Cat Griever that I still catch myself greeting my cats on occasion, and they've both been dead for more than five years, and that she should a) get a divorce, b) not get over the loss of the cat, but c) get over herself]

It did lead me to wonder which posters would make the best bridge players after a bit of tutelage. Allowing for varying likelihood of interest, I think I can tentatively advance Ms Physics as likely to become the best at declarer play and Ms Libby the best at defence, with various possibilities for the best bidder.

4/21 - Return to Clay

So we reach the middle of April and once again Rafa starts winning tournaments. It's very reassuring, especially now that golf has become so unsettled. And maybe the excess hype about Serena as the female GOAT will die down if she ends up missing the entire year of majors.
Quick Thoughts -
L1: Wouldn't it be refreshing to have a LW complaining that his or her otherwise perfect companion is too skinny to set off the attraction bell? The devious solution would be for LW1 to get her to put him into the Friend Zone. Find out one of her passions and claim something incompatible with it. From the Friend Zone one can always attempt to affect a Magical Conversion and perhaps get out if the flow suddenly goes the way LW1 would prefer. I might ask whether LW1 is the sort of person with generally fluid dealbreakers or not, but can't really care much either way. The one bad thing to do would be to let D1 think it's all about the weight if LW1 intends to hang around for a while just in case. Then D1 will lose a few sizes, LW1 will shockingly discover that he still isn't attracted, and then where are we? The one potentially useful piece of knowledge is that D1 is the sort of person who likes getting a foot in the door and then winging it rather than putting her disadvantage clearly on the table at first. LW1 may get on better with one type than the other.
L3: If LW3 seriously wants to keep this person as a friend, then I am not going to throw good eggs after rotten ones to prevent LW3 from doing so.
L4: A technical question. I punt. Yes, it is noted that the Prudecutor does not have the deepest affection for practitioners of the legal profession. My guess is that she's probably been sued. I so hope her daughter grows up idolizing Susan Dey (Ms Dey being my guess as perhaps the most likely crush of the Submariner to have portrayed a lawyer) and dozens of other actresses who have undertaken legal roles (modesty prevents mention of Patricia Hodge, Samantha Bond and Abigail McKern).
L2: Now we come to one letter that is the closest of a meagre crop to worthwhile. It's not entirely easy to get a read on H2's family. The farm could be a sort of toy, or it could be a prime source of income and sustenance. Are we visiting the Petit Trianon or Sarn Mere? There seems to be a general consensus towards the latter, but running marathons hardly seems like the sort of recreational activity that would appeal to a farmer-for-profit.
Precious Bane seems the most apt comparison, when all the years of Gideon's and Prue's weary plowing have finally been rewarded, friends and neighbours gather from all around to bring in the harvest. But of equal importance is the Harvest Festival afterwards, at which there is much celebration (except perhaps from Sexton's daughter Tivvy) of Gideon's approaching wedding to Jancis Beguildy and his impending wealth, thanks to the Corn Tax. Even the bedraggled Prue gets a precious spell of time alone with Kester the weaver. And even the getting in of the harvest was not all pitching or baling or strenuous physical labour for twelve hours. Not that there were many sitting on the sidelines. Everyone had a role to play, and the women who didn't indulge in farm work were kept as busy as any, as were the children and even the retirees, right up to the oldest Callard. It seems hard to believe that there cannot be some supporting role or other.
Now LW2 seems to be fixating on the symptom rather than the disease. On some level she knows this. She has married into a family of wimp-shamers, which seems about on a par with marrying into a family of slore-shamers. H2 seems to have taken the classic role of fence-sitter to some extent, giving LW2 a little kinda-sorta support, but thinking that hay-baling properly belongs in the category of Upsucking, which, well... need I say it?
As to what LW2 ought to do, if divorce is seriously out of the question and she doesn't care to fake a pregnancy that she'll have to fake losing or aborting (or even produce a genuine pregnancy, which might require something in the way of outside assistance), then she and her husband ought to stage a huge fight right in the middle of the proceedings, throwing around the wildest and most exaggerated Drama Queen charges LW2 can devise beforehand. This ought to feel most enjoyable to both halves of the couple, LW2 in particular. Afterwards, H2 can simulate thorough exasperation with IL2s about how they just had to keep pushing and pushing until they just finally broke her and congratulations to them. They both storm off and let the IL2s eventually cave after a period of no contact. And if the IL2s never cave, then at least they both get out of hay baling.
Moral: "Aye, I sweated!" cried Granfeyther Callard, "I sweated proper!"

Thursday, April 7, 2011

4/7 - A Bland Day

It seemed to me this year that, despite all the internet advertisement one saw, TOMS One Day Without Shoes might be on the decline or at least down from a peak. Last year there were many celebrities making videos in advance of the event. This year we seem to have gone from the Jonas Brothers to Arianna Huffington - hardly a change for the better. As I write this, Y.E. Yang has just tied Rory McIlroy for the Masters lead. Phil Mickelson is having typical adventures, but his scorecard is strange, containing only one birdie and all pars else. Quick Thoughts - L1: It's rather easy to say DTMFA, which is the obvious answer. But one wonders why LW1 didn't do so or at least ask the question a good deal earlier. It does let the odd suspicion or two slip in that just possibly she might be happier with BF1 than without him, but that might be unworthy. L2: Is it really that hard for LW2 to find and sit next to someone who doesn't pong? Befriend someone on the route and make arrangements to be regular seating companions. It's neither rocket science nor brain surgery. L4: The Prudecutor clearly is trying to pull a fast one here. After her rant against cheating in R3, she tries to sneak R4 past us when it is clearly not her own work. Everything she's been doing in the course this semester is graded lower, and this reply is far more Biblical than is her wont. Also, if it were her own work, she'd have been unable to resist making some sort of pun on Solomon. And now for L3, where the Prudecutor immediately jumps in off the high dive only to find that there is about an inch and a half of water in that portion of the pool. But there is much stuff for any proficient cross-examiner. First - exactly what comprised the cheating? This does not appear to be the sort of cheating which many of us might recall from our own youths. Who actually used the C word - the girl, or did LW3 interpret what G3 said as cheating? One might reasonably bend the cross-examination either way. It could well be that G3 reported being allowed an extra accommodation, which LW3 interpreted as cheating and G3 might not have understood as such. That certainly bears a different interpretation from the situation if G3 cheerfully told LW3 how she was able to fool the substitute on purpose and cheat deliberately. Second - what is the atmosphere at the school? It is very likely that there is what we might consider to be a cheater culture in effect, similar to the idea of rape culture, if one might be allowed the comparison. That would explain G3's readiness to be cheerfully open about getting away with something she knew she ought not to have done. In theory perhaps it ought not to matter, but what to do about it in practice makes me think of the Daria episode See Jane Run. Jane and Daria dislike gym class being transformed into cheerleading practice, and have to make up the class after school. Then Jane sees the track team star, Evan, whom she... appreciates. After seeing Evan emerge with a win against the Fashion Club, Jane, who has already been told off by the gym teacher and compared to her sisters, signs up to try out for track. Daria takes this not particularly well, even worse when Jane turns out to be good. They patch things up, and Jane, getting out of gym class by claiming her legs are a little sore after her last meet, wangles getting Daria out of class as well to keep her company. But then Jane accepts a bye on a math test, customarily offered to sports stars. Daria gets upset, but, when Evan calls Daria a loser, Jane decides that Evan and the track team just aren't a good fit for her, and she quits the team. The gym teacher/track coach threatens to fail Jane herself if need be if Jane doesn't return, but Jane outwits her. Still, however, she and Daria end up back in gym class, summarizing. Jane asks to be told she still has her integrity, which Daria claims to be a funny word. Then Jane wants to be told she's marginally less corrupt than the jocks. Daria summarizes that Jane refused to participate in a corrupt system in which good grades are exchanged for athletic performance, but she didn't try to reform the system either (for fear of ostracism, as Jane claims). So the system continues, Jane hasn't redeemed herself, and they're ostracized anyway. Then we have the comments of the Prudecutor and others. How on earth can the Prudecutor be so sure that, even if it is G3's first A, she'll be caught? This is a B-ish student in a newly demanding class, not Kevin and almost the whole football team getting 100 on a history test in the more pertinent Daria episode Murder She Snored. G3 has to be pretty consistent to remain in the Bs if she never gets an A, but she certainly ought to be capable of a lucky A or two at some point or other. In Murder She Snored, Mr DeMartino is naturally suspicious when Kevin and most of the football team get As on a test the day after he found jimmy marks on his file cabinet. It is only too painfully obvious that the last person in class who could ever earn an A would be Kevin, who, when asked what war freed the U.S. from the iron hand of imperial rule, picks up on the word iron and guesses The Golf War. Mr D threatens to fail the whole class, which is especially galling for Jane, who'd joined Mac in getting a B. When Kevin falls dead out of Daria's locker, Ms Li makes Daria the prime suspect. The Fashion Club, appearing as Upchuck's Angels, are employed to solve the case, but in the end Daria works out that Kevin was poisoned by Jane, hit with a golf club by Mac, shot with an arrow by Brittany, and stomped by Mr DeMartino. Then Daria wakes up. As to what LW3 might do, it might depend on whether she feels her loyalty to be primarily to the school, the parents, or the girl. She could possibly tell the parents and see what they do. Although the Prudecutor goes a bit overboard in insisting that LW3 cannot possibly in good conscience continue to work for the parents if they don't insist on turning in their daughter and making her take the full consequences, even if that does nothing to change or reform the cheating culture, I can see how the current climate of parents who simply want any advantage that can be ontained for any means for their child, even if it means resorting to threats of or actual violence against Little League or hockey coaches, would push the Prudecutor rather too far in the other direction. LW3 might try to scare G3 straight. If she knows that the system would be a Zero Tolerance club which would be used to bludgeon G3 even if G3 didn't entirely understand that whatever happened could lead to such a point, that might have a reasonably acceptably outcome. This would entail explaining very thoroughly to G3 what accommodation she is and isn't allowed to accept, and what beyond the strictly permissible might be considered an optional perk and what would definitely be clearly out of bounds. She can scare G3 with all the Zero tolerance horror stories she can recall, and persist in cross-questioning her about overstepping any lines on future tests. On the incomplete knowledge we have before us, a retest might be the preferred outcome. Can LW3 contact the teacher? Especially if the incident can reasonably be seen and interpreted more as a misunderstanding than a deliberate wrong act, and if the teacher has room to exercise her judgment and isn't bound by draconian Zero Tolerance policies, this could work out best all round. But my reading of L3 suggests that this likely isn't on the cards. Moral: "Kevin, can you name the principal players in the Teapot Dome scandal?" "Uh... the New Orleans Saints?" "TEAPOT Dome, Kevin, not SUPERDOME!" "Oh - the New England Patriots!"