Thursday, January 26, 2012

1/26 - Problem At Sea

This will be a bit of a quickie.

L4: It is a truth universally acknowledged that a garlic lover and a garlic hater ought not to holiday together if they shall have to do their own cooking.

I am all a-marvel at how LW4 can seriously sit down and write of looking forward to the holiday and then almost immediately want to insist on the families preparing and eating separate food. Why, if the question of food were so important, agree to a holiday without planning to stay at an hotel?

One can ask all sorts of questions. LW4's diet apparently is not vegan. Seafood-including vegetarian? Or is LW4 one of those healthniks who cannot condone any indulgence? Or just one of those drill-sergeant type of parents who has every detail of the child's life regimentalized? How old is the son? Has he never eaten a hamburger or a hot dog? Have there never been conflicts in his life because of this (parties, picnics, visits to friends)? How many friends has this cost S4? And why would H4's mother be the party

Life with LW4 sounds about as amusing as a long visit to the Thripps, that charming couple who communicated with each other by means of brusque, insulting and typewritten notes. The only irony is that, chez Thripp, the child of the family, young Norman, made out like a bandit when his parents appeared to be headed towards divorcing. A rival present from each every week made for quite the arms race.

I advise LW4 to divorce. It was foolish to marry into such a family. But if the purity of S4's palate is worth spoiling the family holiday and worth not teaching him to be able to eat foods outside of his ordinary range when the occasion requires, then it's worth a divorce.

L3: A happily family of co-workers had long been established by LW3 at Company X.

This one is too easy. Either trade the distrubing element to another department or entrap him. There are way too many parallels to which LW3 can refer. One can look at the case of Francesa Clapstick, who managed, just before her sixteenth birthday, to seduce her English teacher, Ronald Ransom, earning him two years in the nick, and all because he gave her boyfriend Charles bad grades. Or one can refer back to Shakespeare himself - Measure for Measure, anyone?

L1:  LW1, handsome, clever and rich, had lived in marriage for nearly twenty-one years with very little to distress or vex her.

This is a sad situation. The Prudecutor reminds me of Sir William Bradshaw telling Septimus Warren Smith and his wife Rezia that Septimus will do better in the country, far away from his wife, for the people closest to us are not good for us when we are ill. I'm sure that not many would quarrel with such a choice on the part of LW1, but the suggestion is made in a way that comes across here as ghoulish. The reader might well think that I should not object to sticking the Prudecutor into Assisted Living, but it would not be proper for me to comment.

In this sort of situation, barring strong financial considerations, I prefer an open consort to a divorce and remarriage. It better shows which relationship is centred.

L2: LW2 - Why do you care if it would selfish to refuse a second request for any reason you might choose? So what if it is? Why did you even agree to do it once in the first place? Are you the sort of person who is regularly bullied by relations? Do you comply all too easily to such requests? Why does your husband say nothing when you are attacked in this manner?

The Prudecutor misses the true heart of the issue. I do not entirely blame her, as the key to the letter is a very small one. It is a tiny word, so tiny as to consist of only one letter. LW2 states, "Last year I gave birth to a lovely daughter." The key word is a. Surely the correct phrase for a surrogate to use would be their lovely daughter. Whatever the desires of either couple in the case, I'd advise against LW2's serving as the surrogate again just on the facts.

This reminds me of "Problem at Sea" when Mrs Clapperton complains that her husband won't play bridge. Only Poirot is sufficiently astute to pick up on the difference between won't play and can't play (although doesn't play might have been interesting). We later learn why. When the good Colonel is doing card tricks at the end of the evening, he agrees to play one hand, and deals each player all thirteen cards of one suit as an example of why a man who can manipulate the deck so should avoid a friendly game of bridge. Has the henpecked husband just given himself away as a conjuror?

Moral:  "She takes it as a personal insult that he doesn't, I suppose," said Ellie, drily.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Prudecutor: Venice; Boat: Skagerrak

I find myself rather appalled by the Tuesday commentary that does not recognize any position between splitting the deceased brother's estate evenly and keeping the entire inheritance. While it is highly possible that the deceased might not particularly have objected to the sharing out of the estate and just couldn't bring himself to leave money directly to the non-inheriting sibling, an even split doesn't feel quite right, although it does have rather a Biblical flavour to it. Perhaps therein lies the source of my objection. But I'd want to cross-examine the LW about the source of the estrangement. One could have serious moral objections to a sibling's conduct. And, while the Prudecutor actually managed to come across as more moderate than most of the commentariat, I suspect she'd have given an entirely different answer had it been revealed that the unlegacied sister had been left out because of racism on her part.

L4: Had this letter been the only example on which I based my assessment, I'd probably have put the Prudecutor in Tokyo. Yes, there may be some appeal in using the abuser and then turning her in. But what horrid conduct, sacrificing the class to LW4's ambition. Mainly, though, this does not change the fact that LW4 has observed abusive behaviour for a considerable period of time and done nothing about it other than write to the Prudecutor whining about how (s)he needs the abuser's approval. This is even worse than the scene from Heathers with inefficient intervention to stop an incident of bullying, as this is hierarchical, systemic, ongoing and gratuitous.

Someone more concerned with her/his own career prospects than the well-being of children does not belong in the education field at the elementary level, likely not at any level. Thank the abuser, LW4, for showing you that you do not (at least not yet) belong in this field, and report her immediately afterwards. But at least I can see why LW4 consulted the Prudecutor. They share the same sickeningly skewed moral priorities.

L3: No need to draw this out. The Prudecutor at least managed to get onto the same continent on this one, although I'm not sure why she would expect someone who would perpetrate a risky prank to have the financial risk to his family uppermost in mind.

The short answer, LW3, is to follow your husband's example. He retained a lawyer; do likewise, though counsel of rather a different sort. The long answer is that there is room for various degrees of vengeance. You might go to visit Frank and return home to tell your husband in detail about how Frank seduced you. You might emulate Witness for the Prosecution the other way round and contrive to insure that Frank wins a huge legal settlement from your husband. Or you might take your husband to the cleaners in the divorce and remarry Frank; the last sounds like a superb prank indeed.

L1: What a shame this letter didn't come up during Homocentric August! There does appear to be considerable fodder for cross-examination into exactly what occurred. Clearly GF1 considered her conduct to be more serious than a game of Spin the Bottle. (I shall earn considerable Brownie Points by refraining from venturing into wondering what sort of desperate young person would be sufficiently so to play Spin the Bottle in such company, but I will wonder, given the Prduecutor's response to the pregnant LW on Monday, if her advice would have been different had GF1 and BM1 produced a terminated pregnancy.) But the most interesting line would be to discover where the Carried Torch originated. Is it LW1 baking from scratch? Is it an invention of GF1's to make her lot seem more sympathetic?

I am unclear about exactly why BM1 walking GF1 down the aisle should be such a najor concern for LW1. What the Prudecutor misses completely is the GF1's request that LW1 consider how she feels having to participate in a wedding along with these guys. And, worse (or better, depending on perspective), LW1 actually sees sense in this. GF1 is clearly the sort of woman who views sex as something women give to men, an appalling attitude that makes the two of them a perfect couple. On that basis, I advise LW1 to upstage the entire wedding party by proposing to GF1 during the ceremony and asking to make it a double wedding.

L2: This one is too easy. Combine Julius King from A Fairly Honourable Defeat with Stephen Norton from Curtain and get the IL2s to murder each other. Although Julius only expanded on his philosophy to Morgan because he was actually using her as one of his pawns and not really trying to separate Simon from Axel, she did act almost exactly as he told her Simon would. And Norton was quite safe from any sort of accountability for his actions.

Simultaneous murder ought not to be too difficult for LW2 to achieve, given the material with which there is to work. A good example is what appears at one point to be the solution to One, Two, Buckle My Shoe. Mr Morley, Hercule Poirot's dentist, is found shot, an apparent suicide. His last patient, Mr Amberiotis, confirms details of his first-time visit to Mr Morley and dies that afternoon from an overdose of anaesthaetic. After Mr Morley's assistant, who had been called away for the day by a faked telegram, rules out the possibility of an accidental overdose on the dentist's part, and Mr Amberiotis' shady past is revealed, for a breif time, it appears plausible that it was simultaneous murder - that Mr Morley murdered Mr Amberiotis by giving him a deliberate overdose and then Mr Amberiotis shot Mr Morley after the dentistry had been completed. And in a way that was the right answer. Mr Amberiotis was murdered by a "dentist" who just didn't happen to be Mr Morley, and Mr Morley was shot by a "patient" other than Mr Amberiotis - the shooting just occurred before the overdose instead of after.

It should give LW2 little difficulty to acquire some deadly poison and give each IL2 the opportunity to steal some on the same day after being worked up into a frenzy by LW2's subtle psychological tactics. I like the idea of FIL2 making MIL2 a poisoned cup of coffee in the kitchen just as MIL2 finishes poisoning FIL's glass of wine in the dining room. Even if the plan backfires and only one in-law dies, at least it will be half the problem solved for LW2 and H2.

Moral: "All human beings have staggeringly great faults which can easily be exploited by a clever observer... Play sufficiently on a person's vanity, sow a little mistrust, hint at the contempt which every human being deeply, secretly feels for every other one."

Thursday, January 12, 2012

1/12 - BBC Scattershot

This will be a quickie revisit of some old favourites.

L4: Interesting... the boots that never existed. This one has been lifted almost verbatim from the Poirot case of the Western Star. Poirot is consulted by a film star who owns one of a pair of diamonds which has been much in the newspapers of late. She has received letters threatening the theft of her diamond, but she won't part with it until after she meets the peeress who owns the Eastern Star. The poor peeress actually has her diamond stolen from off her neck just as she is about to enter a room wearing it. Of course, the two diamonds were only one all along.

An alternative, "The Regatta Mystery," features Mr Parker Pyne. A wealthy man who always carries a valuable diamond passes it around the dinner table in a foreign hotel to be viewed by a group of acquaintances. The next evening, a fifteen-year-old girl bets that she can steal the diamond - a new tobacco pouch against six pairs of stockings - if it passed around the table again. The passing begins. Waiters enter the room to clear the plates, the girl's father holding on to the diamond until the waiters leave. When the diamond reaches the girl, she drops it. During the search a little confusion ensues, a glass is knocked off the table, etc., but the diamond is gone. Everyone is searched and the room examined thoroughly - nothing. The girl then reveals that she wedged it into the gap in her evening bag where a stone of similar size had fallen out - only this time it's really gone. It remains for Mr Pyne to piece together that father, daughter and one of the waiters pulled off a sneaky substitution - sneaking the real diamond out of the room on the bottom of a plate and passing a glass copy that the girl simply broke after she dropped it, knocking her glass off the table in the search.

LW4, I suppose this ought to prove a useful lesson to make sure to witness any such items in future and store them carefully for the duration of the visit.

L3: Oh, dear. The overgrown schoolgirl brings bad dreadful memories. Losing ten cases in a row before Judge Bullingham - retiring to Florida - returning because of a letter supposedly written by a murderer using his victim's blood as ink - marking type by appropriating a brief defending a dirty bookstore owner that would otherwise have been returned to Albert Handyside - having to pore through some of the dullest and least erotic pornography ever created  only to be interrupted by the return to England of She Who Must Be Obeyed, resulting in Schoolgirl Capers Volume One, Number Four being left behind in the magazine rack - disregarding the client's instructions to attack the character of the alderman who was the chief witness for the prosecution in order to keep the case purely about Freedom of Speech (and losing the case) - She finding Schoolgirl Capers Volume One, Number Four among the other old magazines and consequently making a rather alarming attempt to become alluring. The only saving graces were winning the big murder case and Guthrie Featherstone asking to borrow some of the evidence in the bookstore case. But since then, it has been resolved that cases involving dirty books should be given to young, upstanding female barristers. Fiona Allways won such a case in Manchester - after all, if a nice girl like Fiona could read those books and not find anything terrible about them, they couldn't be all that bad, could they?

It distresses me too much that this is even seen as a situation worthy of outside consultation to address LW3's question.

L2: Ah, a problem with some heft to it. It may comfort LW2 to compare her stepdaughter to Lettice Protheroe in The Murder at the Vicarage. Out of jealousy when the young artist Laurence Redding prefers her stepmother Anne to herself, Lettice, who generally finds it difficult to wake up before lunch and wafts about unsure what day it is, acts with remarkable decision after the murder of her father in the Vicar's study. She steals a distinctive earring belong to Anne, goes to the Vicarage when she will find only Mary (the maid) there, announces that she left her yellow beret in the study where the murder was committed, hides the earring in the study and then insinuates (so out of character that the Clements can hardly believe it when Mary voices this as a grievance) that Mary doesn't dust properly when she does the room (a proposition with which the Vicar entirely concurs), thus ensuring that the earring will soon be found. Only the good fortune that the Vicar happened to see and handle both earrings in Anne's room the day after the murder thwarts Lettice's plan of incrimination.

Some questions: How does the Prudecutor know that SD2 didn't think about the possible consequences of a one-time sexual encounter, and, if the Prudecutor is going to follow that route, exactly what course of action ought someone so young to follow? It's all well and good to leave it up in the air, so that the Wait Until Marriage Crowd won't get upset if one says Wait Until Stable, and the Wait Until Stable Crowd won't get upset if one says Wait Until Marriage. For LW2, how much competition with BM2 is there in the desire for SD2 to come to you with her problems? For SD2, what was the intention behind telling LW2 only? For LW2 again, against whom do you fear the rampage - SD2 or ONSB2? For LW2 and SD2 combined, why has there been no mention of ONSB2 and his role in whatever is done about P2? Back to LW2, what on earth does your financial status have to do with SD2's decision and your support thereof?

I suspect that LW2 wants to keep this a secret from BM2, which is a walking disaster waiting to happen. It's hard to get any sort of guess about what's going on with F2. It seems highly plausible that SD2 knew that telling LW2 meant telling F2, and wanted to enlist LW2 as a buffer first and an assistant in getting necessary ground work done before the big revelation. Novelizing it, though, it would be tempting to have SD2 genuinely intend to get the abortion, but not be entirely averse to having both "ONSB2" and LW2 contribute.

As for what to do, that appears to be largely up to location, although in any event, even if no parental notification or authorization is required, on the evidence presented, I'd opt for informing - not consulting - BM2 and F2 before the event, even if it being made clear that SD2 will not be discussing the decision. Not a strong feeling, though.

L1: The comparison is obvious. BF1 wants to be Francis Urquhart, master Macchiavelian manipulator in the House of Cards trilogy. In House of Cards itself, Urquhart, Conservative Chief Whip, is the object of a bit of a crush held by talented young reporter Mattie Storin. As Henry Collingridge becomes PM, declines to favour Urquhart and his cronies with plum appointments, and gets off to an unimpressively bumbling start, Urquhart plots to get rid of him, blackmails one or two bit players and gradually lets Mattie grow closer to him. Finally, at the urging of his wife Elizabeth, Urquhart makes the affair a physical one. But Mattie can't feel right calling him Francis. She admits that she would like to call him Daddy, which she continues to do even when she confronts him at the end and he throws her off the roof of the House of Commons (a fortuitous difference from the original novel, in which Urquhart jumps to his death after she leaves the roof - two sequels followed).

LW1 is clearly getting exactly what she deserved. "Wanting to make all of someone's sexual fantasies come true" is the sort of dribble one would only get from someone in need of being sent back to the Sally League for more seasoning. The Prudecutor does better than usual on this, noting the existence of rape fantasies and the fact that they correlate only to fantasy play. But she should have told LW1 to run like crazy. Not because BF1 is or isn't a paedophile - but because LW1 ought not to be in any relationship if she is going to go about asking questions that pose as nonjedgmental and then judging the answers to kingdom come.

As to why LW1 consulted the Prudecutor instead of Mr Savage - she wanted to be told to RUN, and was not about to risk being told to be GGG, although Mr Savage's version of GGG does allow for one to decline particular squickies. But LW1 was taking no chances.

Moral: "You can hardly call me Chief Whip."

Thursday, January 5, 2012

1/5 - Vanity, Vanity, All Is Vanity

No prizes for guessing this theme.

L1: Oh, good grief. Have you paid no attention to the way in which Sir Pitt Crawley refuses to put on any hairs or graces, or the manner in which Rebecca Sharp manages to navigate the series of little social embarrassments she encounters with reasonable sangfroid? The perfect example is provided by George Osbourne during the party at Vauxhall. When Jos Sedley has begun making a fool of himself after indulging in the rack punch, Amelia and Rebecca excuse themselves from the table. Jos' inquiry into their purpose in doing so meets with a blunt retort and the beginning of some plain talking from George, who does not much like the idea of his putative future brother-in-law being wheedled into marriage by a governess.

Dump yourself already, LW1. You clearly are not fit relationship material. Get another boyfriend when you have acquired the maturity of at least an eleven-year-old (if not someone a good deal older, but eleven will probably prove sufficiently daunting).

L2: LW2's friend appears to be a somewhat sideways version of Miss Crawley, the member of the family who has the lion's share of the cash. Her health is always a matter of great concern to her nearest and dearest. It is rather to Rawdon's credit during his ascendancy (in other words, before his unfortunate marriage) that he avoids the temptation to wish that her next bad spell might carry her off. For the most part, her nearest and dearest wish her continued excellent health, although what any of them might think should they ever be securely in favour might be open to interpretation. LW2 is somewhat in the situation of Pitt when he learns that he has succeeded Rawdon in his aunt's will, though LW2 has rather more time to act on the secret knowledge. And therein lies the rub.

I find it hard to imagine that there isn't some provision for the illness and absence of a partner, especially when one of the partners has already had cancer, whether that was or wasn't before the start of the business and partnership. There are enough horror stories floating around of businesses floundering as a principal tried to deny or conceal a critical condition. It can be presented that the partners will have to know one way or another, letting the friend choose to disclose in her own way rather than have it all come out with no say in how. And of course LW2 can do everything possible behind the scenes to see that the business can function as well as possible without any individual partner, but, then again, how has this not been handled/discussed already? As for what the friend decides to tell or not tell her family/children, LW2 can centre her friend's wishes and stay far afield of that, beyond an offer of support in that area should such support ever be desired. At best, that's the sort of thing where anything more pushy is only partially justified if it happens to get lucky and work.

L3: F3 appears to have all the prejudices of John Osbourne, George's father, though judging people by race or sexuality rather than by success in the City. GF3 displays the less appealing aspects of the naivete of Amelia, most poignantly and particularly during the confrontation with her mother when she is inclined to refuse Mr Osbourne's offer to raise Georgie in exchange for relief from financial want, still believing that with her little put by she can buy her son a new suit without the family starving, and not realizing that her brother's financial support has, like so many other annuities, been sold.

There is one disturbing aspect of the Prudecutor's response which merits lengthy cross-examination. Many people come out to a parent or family member to whom they have been close all their lives to less than sterling reviews. The most supportive, positive and gay-themselves sources (and I would rate the Prudecutor only as the most feebly supportive and nowhere near positive of straight advisors) generally advise allowing a grace period of a year for the absorption of the knowledge and the manifestation of an appropriate amount of support. That is generally a good deal more time than I like to approve. And here the Prudecutor, who indulges in quite a fair share of her own homophobia herself from time to time, most particularly her advice to Mrs Brokeback, becomes a Winged Fury. F3 is to be shunned by all society until the end of time. Well, that might be all quite well and good were it not for the fact that the Prudecutor finds homophobia insufficient grounds for condemnation. F3 is a, a... racist!!! It is that which is Beyond the Pale. The Prudecutor reminds me of those commenters (fortunately an entirely small number) who could at least hypothetically forgive Dr Schwyzer his attempted murder of an ex-lover but demand his castration for the far more serious crime of attempted enforced seating at dinner parties and his belief that introverts should be yanked kicking and screaming out of their comfort zones.

As to what LW3 ought to do, I am entirely in favour of not engaging with F3 again. The more serious question is what to do about GF3. It strikes me that there is a serious possibility that the pair ought to separate, although clearly this should happen in a way that makes it abundantly clear that the parting is nothing to do with the wishes of F3. Why might the couple be unsuited? It is possible that GF3's silly reaction comes from a philosophical belief that LW3 is only in a same-sex relationship because she (GF3) is so irresistible she could attract a lover across the boundaries of sexual orientation. Not that such a thing has been unknown to happen, but who needs a girlfriend so full of herself? If GF3 has simply not figured out for herself that LW3 would be just as same-sex-attracted without her as with, there could be issues of incompatible mentality. Or, if the Prudecutor is correct and GF3 simply cannot believe (rather like Amelia) in the possibility that a parent might be disagreeable, the lifestyles of the two are likely to collide early and often, despite the comfort LW3 appears to feel with GF3's family.

L4: LW4 has two examples of inquiring minds examining into Rebecca's doings from which to choose. There is the disagreeable Mrs Bute Crawley, who uses the information she has gleaned to make Miss Crawley feel far worse after the marriage of Rebecca and Rawdon by exposing Becky's lies about her background. Then there is the far more restrained Lady (Jane) Crawley, young Pitt's wife, who makes nowhere near the active inquiries of Mrs Bute into her relation's conduct and character, but who is ready with a strong defence when Rebecca attempts to impose on Pitt after Jane bails Rawdon out when he's taken in for debt and he returns home to find his wife alone with Lord Steyne. The choice is LW4's.

I find it hard to believe, in this age of the Corporation, that whether LW4 is or is not entitled to check up on A4's address is not spelled out quite clearly in the guidelines to her post. It does not appear to be anything that would necessarily be supposed to be up to her. I am rather inclined to disagree with the proposed addendum, although, if what LW4 did was not at all improper, a different addendum might be in order if LW4 really feels that the original writeup was insufficiently informed or that (s)he had made some omission.

Moral: "They've gone to p---, Jos. Ladies do it, too."