Friday, January 27, 2012

Unwanted Advice

With Sir Harry still voiceless, and nursing sore ribs, there occurred a welcome respite from work, save for some futures trading with respect to sugar beets. This lacuna provided some time for me to get on certain secure telephone lines, and proffer a number of people certain advice. To wit:

To Barack Obama: Stop trying to be Mahatma Gandhi, be bolder, and think of a Roosevelt, any Roosevelt, but particularly Teddy or Franklin. Either will do.

To Stephen Harper: Be a bit more cautious on the world stage. Cultivate Angela Merkel.

To Angela Merkel: Be a bit bolder on the world stage. Cultivate Stephen Harper.

To the Chinese leadership: Stop trying to harm Western children by sending toxic toys to North America. Someone in the inner circle has obviously read Swift's A Modest Proposal, but has not realized that the good Jonathon was writing satire, not policy.

To David Cameron: This tap dancing (actually, more a gavotte) to avoid hard decisions about Europe, the E.E.C. and the Euro should cease -- it will end in tears. But perhaps a career on Broadway beckons....

To Al Qaeda, the Taliban, and all other Islamic fundamentalists: Read and absorb Christopher Hitchens' God Is Not Great. Once the shock of awareness has subsided, there are schools to be financed, hospitals constructed, bridges to be built, and un-burka clad women brought into the scheme of things as full partners. Now get on with it.

To Mahmoud Ahmedinejad: Read up on Spike Milligan and Oscar Levant, then check yourself in to the nearest asylum. You are an embarrassment to a once great country. And if you can persuade your friend Hugo Chavez to do the same thing, all the better.

To Toronto's new mayor, Rob Ford: Continue your campaign to put Toronto's fiscal house in order. Yes, I am aware of the howls of outrage coming from all those on the City's payroll who "study" issues, host focus groups, and hare off to conferences in sunny climes. As you know, any studies or reports are shelved almost as soon as they are written, and nothing is recommended except that further study is warranted. So continue to do what you are doing, and always keep in mind the following advice: Nihil te bastardes carborundorum.*

So. Advice from a genius. I know this because, as Goethe tells us, "Genius consists of knowing when to stop."

And I just stopped.

* "Don't let the bastards grind you down."

Friday, January 20, 2012


I was annoyed when the secure line rang. I had been asked by a certain atheistic publication to point out the errors Martin Buber had made in his book I and Thou, and was enjoying the experience. However, needs must.

It was Sir Harry's aide on the line, Sir Peter Crapp. Now he and I have an interesting relationship: I believe him to be smarter than I, but according to Matilda Hatt, he believes the same of me. We circle each other warily, but do get along surprisingly well. Sir Peter is also a magnificent cook, and what he does with a smoked pork chop...well, words fail me.

In any event, Sir Peter had a tale of woe to relate. Some unpleasantness had occurred at Sir Harry's club. Apparently Sir Harry had taken too large a swig of a bloody Caesar he had been imbibing, and had swallowed the celery stick. On the way down, the stick had somehow managed to scratch his larynx, temporarily disabling his speech function. In his efforts to dislodge the stick, Sir Harry had fallen, severely bruising his ribs on a nearby Chippendale table. Now he was in hospital, mute and immobile.

But not out of it by any means, and Sir Peter informed me that Sir Harry had charged him with getting me to pick up a package at the usual place. When retrieved, I was directed to make the best use of the material, a use that should be of maximum discomfort to the Ungodly.

This was not welcome news, since "the usual place" was a seat at the local hockey arena, and could only be accessed during an actual game. I should add that I have purchased two platinum season tickets, and that these are given to a local teen-age homeless shelter with the proviso that I would need then from time to time. I made certain that this condition was made known to all at the shelter -- too many of those kids had had the rug pulled out from under them at the last moment. No need to repeat the idiocy.

I should admit that I enjoy a good hockey game. What I do not enjoy is the screaming decibels of sound that accompany the experience. The Powers That Be that manage the arena seem to be terrified of silence, much like teen-agers with their ears constantly glued to their I-Pods. Recently, however, a solution has presented itself. My driver, Ahmed, and his wife (and my gardener) Consuela, are mad hockey fans, and cheer on the local team with gusto. They were delighted to attend, and to retrieve what had to be retrieved.

I asked Sir Peter, "Do you know what is in the package?"

"I have a good idea, but have not actually seen the material."

"Well you will."

Ahmed and Consuela were delighted to go, and I agreed to baby sit their little girl, Maria Aisha. Hell, I've raised four myself, and occasionally (just occasionally, mind you) felt the need to keep my hand in.

The process of retrieval is simplicity itself. One of the seats has a false bottom that opens when -- well, that's classified. Unless the person knows the opening procedure, it is impossible to detect. How all this was done is also classified, although my good friend, Code Barry of CSIS, let me in on the mechanics of it all.

All Ahmed had to do was to open, retrieve, and slip the package into Consuela's purse. Ahmed is adept at this, waiting for a goal and acting as the crowd goes into wild celebration. Sometimes, however, our roller coaster team doesn't score a goal, in which case Ahmed waits for a fight to break out, causing the same effect.

Later that night Ahmed returned with the package, a video disk. I inserted it into my player, and Sir Peter and I viewed the thing. The footage was a bit raw, but it showed clearly a large number of North Koreans being beaten and hauled away to prison. Their crime? Not bemoaning, weeping or wailing enough at the recent funeral of Kim Jong Il.

"Hmmm," said Sir Peter.

"Hmmm," I replied. "What do you think?"

"It's your call."

"Iran. It could be inserted into their Government TV news broadcast. Tilly's colleagues at the NSA managed that not too long ago. Let old Ahmedinejad justify that to Kin Jong Un."

Sir Peter said, "Fascinating, and a cosy relationship would become decidedly less cosy. But Iran will immediately try to trace the tape's origin. Any thoughts?"

I thought for a moment, and then had it.

"Easy-peasy. The Kremlin."

Sir Peter stared at me, then said, "Let us never become enemies."

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

We Are Steeped In Blood So Far....(Macbeth).

I'm glad to be a bit early with this one, considering the tribulations that have occurred recently that have prevented me from maintaining some sort of schedule. These tribulations centre around a bacterial infection, and the taking of an anti-biotic drug (Biaxin, since you ask) that is taking its own sweet time in killing the bacteria dragon. Pity there isn't a drug called Siegfried, who, after chatting up the dragon for a little, proceeds quickly to slay it. Then it is off to find Brunnhilde and her protective ring of fire and -- [that's enough Wagner: ed.]

In any event, I had loads of time on my hands, and was driven to watching far more television then I ever had before. Or will again. My sainted aunt! Mind you, I have always had my suspicions about this medium. After all, the word is half Latin, half Greek. How could any good come of it?

First came a barrage of religious shows that preached eternal salvation if only one followed the rules as set out by whatever preacher was holding forth. The only common denominator appeared to be the ongoing need for financial contributions, which, if I recall the New Testament correctly, was the exact cause of Christ turfing the financiers out of the Temple.

The came the talk shows -- Dr. Phil et al -- where I encountered any number of people being interviewed who were batshit crazy and seemingly proud of it. It was actually a relief to stumble into General Hospital, which is at least an honest soap opera.

But what staggered me, and the reason for the title of this piece, was the number of shows related to the care and feeding of vampires.

Now I well realize that anything to do with blood extraction is tricky. No government that I know of does this directly, as they do with (rapacious) taxation. I mean, a government would find it difficult in the extreme to defend taking blood directly from the citizenry. Hence the use of arms-length organizations such as the Red Cross to do this. Yet this extraction holds a macabre fascination, something Bram Stoker got onto with his Dracula, and vampires have had a very successful run indeed.

Unfortunately, most television shows featuring vampires are rubbish. The creatures cavort about in the sun, do well in school assignments, and many are helpful and good. Stoker would be appalled. There are, however, two exceptions, one from the past, one current.

In the past, Buffy The Vampire Slayer got full marks, not for the story line, but for the writing sub-text that flowed through the show. One example of this will suffice. A teacher hands back an essay assignment, remarking, "Well, Willow, I really can't critique your use of pure reason." (Work on that folks -- there is a clue in the fifth word.) I was hooked on the show from that point on.

The current show that impresses me is True Blood. The thesis: a blood substitute has been developed -- by the Japanese, who else? -- that allows vampires to 'come out of the closet', a term used advisedly. In truth, the show is not so much about vampires as it is about social upheaval and bigotry. And often the show's sub-text is more important than the main plot line, which can and often does goes completely over the top in terms of violence and sexuality. But back to the sub-text. Example -- at a bar, a newspaper is briefly seen on a table with the headline, "Brad and Angelina adopt vampire baby."

Works for me.

However, it was a relief when Irving showed up with the latest copy of the New Yorker. Good. Off went the television. Bye, bye vampires. But I had only turned one page when I encountered the following cartoon. Two teenage girls are shown leaving a classroom, with one saying to the other, "There are no vampires in our school. We are SO unlucky!"

One can only hope, as Conrad's Lord Jim did when he swallowed the pearl, that this too will pass.

The popularity

Saturday, January 7, 2012

From The Editor

Apologies to all readers -- Lady Simone has become indisposed again. She had been recovering nicely from a mysterious acid reflux situation when, hopping down the Bunny Trail, came Bucky Bronchitis. For a while, between nasty coughing fits, all she was capable of was terrorizing everyone at the Manor, cursing all physicians, and generally being impossible. Things now have settled down a bit, and when Irving last saw her, she was curled up in her bed reading the Book of Job.

As soon as I receive her next missive, you will. Given the Lady's iron constitution, shouldn't be too long.