2008 — 28 August: Thursday

Tonight's picture of Christa (and Peter) dates from October August 1996 and a two-week holiday in New York, staying with Carol. Manhattan has some wonderful bookshops but I had to spend some time doing the tourist up the Empire State Building thing:

Christa and Peter surveying the Hudson River


Back again...

To the news of the "going rate" for a 27-year-old slice of royal wedding cake. People are bizarre. And a computer virus on NASA laptops in the space station. People are careless. And the biggest drop in UK house prices since 1990. People seem to think this is bad news. Plus "saving a couple of Titians for the nation." People are artless... Time (10:04) to raise the blood sugar again, obviously.

"Words, words, words" may well be the answer to the question1 (in Hamlet) "What do you read, my lord?" but I was amused by this rare sighting of my favourite piece of punctuation:

Being frequent isn't enough: funner is slightly more frequent in a two-billion-word corpus of web English than interrobang, and no one says interrobang (a combination of the exclamation point and the question mark) isn't a "real word." ...

Erin McKean in The Boston Globe

Damn! Still, at least I don't have to look up "cromulent"... Image:Interrobang.png

Meanwhile PJ O'Rourke does battle with science, sort of:

Down where everything is subatomic-sized, things tend to be a bit random with mesons, leptons, quarks, brilligs, slithy toves, etc., subjected to Strong Force, Weak Force, Force of Habit, and so on. Meanwhile, in the farthest reaches of outer space, matter, antimatter, dark matter, and whatsamatter are tripping over string theory and falling into black holes. God is not like that. He's famously there in the details, and He is the big picture... Providentially, God has made the zealots as incapable of using reason, logic, and the other tools of science as I am. Religious zealots can't blow up the world the way scientists can.

PJ O'Rourke in Science and Spirit

A year ago...

... on the Bank Holiday, Christa satirically suggested2 we head off to the seaside. I couldn't do that this year 'cos I had a Big Bro to deposit near Heathrow, but today I thought: "Well, why not?" So I packed a lunch, set off down a supposedly clear motorway, and ran into a 40-minute jam as three lanes squeezed into the one left over when the police had coned off an over-clever Mercedes that had (I assume) ricocheted off a lorry, walloped the concrete central barrier temporarily in place during this extended fit of lane-widening, and ended up, only slightly crumpled, but facing the wrong way. Still, it's all driving experience. I arrived carefully up the wrong lane (because of a delivery van) in my "normal" (ex-Winter Gardens) car park, manoeuvred quite neatly into one of the two spaces left, nipped out to the B.I.C. to spend my traditional (new design)...


... nipped back to the car when I remembered it was a Pay & Display deal, strolled down to the (very crowded) start of the pier to sniff the sea (tricky when overlaid with all the hotdogs and cigarettes), then headed into the town to hit my two bookshops.

Aside to Christa

Last time we were there together, Christa, we had our usual select-what-you-like Chinese but that place is now just another "Slug & Lettuce". It's a shame I didn't take my camera, too, as there were a few RAF things zipping noisily around overhead. I'm quite sure I know a Bro who would have perked up at such a spectacle. Anyway, Borders and Waterstone's between them yielded five of these six items. The CD (Bob Dylan's Theme Time Radio Hour) arrived by post while I was out. Bob Harris played a track from it a few hours ago. The two books by Mary Roach complete my set of her work so far. I mentioned "Bonk" back in April. The "adventure" magazines (a Taschen cheapie) are the sort of thing I soaked up despite dear Mama's best efforts to stop me. (I've a nice quote here about them.)

"Kafka's soup" was in the bargain bin; it's 14 short recipes presented in the voices of famous writers. Here's an instantly recognisable sample: I needed a table at Maxim's, a hundred bucks and a gorgeous blonde; what I had was a leg of lamb and no clues. I took hold of the joint. It felt cold and damp, like a coroner's handshake. "History Boys" includes Alan Bennett's diary, the shooting script, and 40 photos from the filming of what I predicted at the time was probably the best film Christa and I would see together last year. I stand by that description.

A goodly haul

Just found a lovely quote from film critic Anne Bilson, taken from her book "Spoilers": One always envied Sissy Spacek her telekinetic abilities in "Carrie", not because they enabled her to burn all her nasty classmates to death (though there is that too), but because she could make boys who shouted rude comments at her fall off their bikes. Men have no idea how annoying they can be. It's the quote of the week on Lesley Hall's wonderful web site.



1  Indeed, I used this quote in an IBM recruitment ad I wrote for hiring writers, back in the 1980s. One of the managers paying for it chose to place it in an inappropriate newspaper, but that wasn't my fault.
2  In the middle of what we both knew, by then, was a futile third course of chemotherapy.