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Icc, Kyoto Next?


Weird – and disturbing. Tommy Thompson should be ashamed of himself.

King James Bible


There’s a fascinating piece in today’s New York Times by Christopher Hitchens on one of the greatest examples of the English language ever written. He’s reviewing a new book on the creation of the King James Bible. It looks well worth reading – and so is the review. As a bonus, Mary, Queen of Scots and Thomas More take a hit or two.


Moving Nato


In response to the idea that NATO HQ be relocated to the Polish capital, one reader suggests that NATO should be renamed. His suggestion? The Warsaw Pact…

Web Briefing: December 17, 2014

Raw Work At The Font (2)


An indignant reader writes to complain that the Wodehouse quote is incorrect. It should, he says, read as follows:

From Jeeves and the Feudal Spirit: (Perennial Library edition, 1983):

“…And he shrinks, no doubt, from the prospect of being addressed for the remainder of his life as Sir Lemuel.”

“His name’s not Lemuel?”

“I fear so, sir.”

“Couldn’t he use his second name?”

“His second name is Gengulphus.”

“Golly, Jeeves,” I said, thinking of old Uncle Tom Portarlington, “there’s some raw work pulled at the font from time to time, is there not?”

“There is indeed, sir.”




Are best at reading humans according to a new study. Cosmo could have told them that.

A Bit of An Understatement


Jayson Blair: “I can’t say anything other than the fact that I feel a range of emotions including guilt, shame, sadness, betrayal, freedom and appreciation for those who have stood by me, been tough on me, and have taken the time to understand that there is a deeper story and not to believe everything they read in the newspapers.”

Snatching Defeat From The Jaws of Victory?


Making a mess of the occupation? Yet another worrying report – this time from the Sunday Telegraph.

Time to Move Nato?


“Left-wing Belgian lawyer” – the very words conjure up an image that is petty, pedantic and yet somehow rather sinister. Well, one of these creatures is now trying to arrange for the prosecution of General Franks for “war crimes” in Iraq. The Sunday Telegraph has the background:

“A Brussels-based diplomat told The Telegraph that it would be “clearly unwise” for Gen Franks to visit the alliance’s headquarters while he faces the possibility of a war crimes prosecution.”

So is it time to move NATO headquarters from Brussels? Without the various international organizations to which it plays host, Brussels would be nothing more than a splendid, but bankrupt restaurant. So, it’s time to at least make the threat, even if it seems a little premature. Belgium needs to understand that there’s a price to be paid for its posing – and the prospect of all those departures from its capital city might concentrate its mind most wonderfully.

Where could NATO go? Well, over in New Europe, the Poles would probably be glad to oblige – Warsaw’s weirdly attractive Palace of Culture would be a suitably ironic location.

Fair Cop


The Sunday Telegraph is reporting that a senior British policeman has called for the decriminalization of hard drugs.

“Chief Supt Anthony Wills, the borough commander of Hammersmith and Fulham in London, said that as the state could not control the criminal trade in drugs, it should take it over instead.

“I would have no problems with decriminalising drugs full stop,” said Mr Wills. “There have to be very stringent measures over the production and supply of drugs and we have got to remove the drug market from criminals. I do not want people to take drugs but if they are going to, I want them to take them safely, with a degree of purity and in a controlled way.””

He makes a strong case – and one that is at least worthy of serious debate. Needless to say, Britain’s hapless Conservatives respond with bluster and blather. As the Telegraph reports:

“Last night his decision to air his views caused a row. Senior Conservatives said he would encourage young people to think that taking drugs was supported by the police and called on him to issue a retraction.

Ann Widdecombe, the former shadow home secretary, said: “When young people read views like this from a senior policeman they get the impression that taking drugs is okay – well it isn’t. Hard drugs kill people and cannabis is proven scientifically to be harmful.””

What is it about individual responsibility that the Tories do not understand?



Notorious free-thinker and urban sophisticate John Derbyshire has recently outed himself as a Metro-Con. For another example of metropolitan (if not conservative) bias in the media take a look at this article from today’s New York Times. It’s a story describing how Wal-Mart “has bent American popular culture towards the tastes of their relatively traditionalist customers.”

Well, that’s one way of looking at it. Another is simply to acknowledge that Wal-Mart is not shaping popular culture, but responding to it. The store is merely reacting to the signals it receives from its customer base in red–state America and if that includes, sigh, banning Maxim and stocking didactic vegetable videos and novels about the Rapture, so be it. If they’ve got it wrong, somebody else will emerge to satisfy the market that Wal-Mart is ignoring.



17,000 al-Qaeda members still at large? Here’s a gloomy but perceptive article from the Independent. Timely reading in the wake of the atrocities in Morocco.

Stiff Upper Lip


This story via Andrew Sullivan tells the tale of a British golfer who was struck by lightning at the 14th hole. He then continued to play his round and was struck again – this time at the 17th. Undaunted, he completed the game, but won’t disclose his score:
“I won’t tell you my score. It was a bad day. But I don’t think that was anything to do with the lightning. I just had a stinker.”

Raw Work At The Font


A reader writes in with the context:

“Jeeves is explaining to Bertie why L. G. Trotter has declined a knighthood. He dreads being called Sir Lemuel. Bertie says he could use his second name.

Jeeves: “His second name is Glengolfus, sir.”

Bertie: “There’s raw work pulled at the font sometimes Jeeves.” “

PG Wodehouse – genius.



George Orwell is, these days, remembered as a secular saint, a voice of rationalism in a world gone mad. He was a wonderful, shrewd and perceptive writer, but his belief in a rather primitive form of socialist economics was always difficult to reconcile with the notion of his much vaunted commonsense. Well, here’s another blow to that image. Black magic?

Steven Runciman, the source of this story, was by all accounts a fascinating individual. A friend of mine was at a dinner party a few years ago where the then aged Runciman presided. An evening of uninhibited namedropping (he knew everybody, my dear) and hours of tawdry, but fascinating gossip about the vaguely famous of half a century ago (King Carol of Roumania! Max Beerbohm!) then followed. In particular, after hearing some tales of this evening, I’ve never been able to listen to anything written by Sibelius without bursting into laughter. That’s a response that tends to shock Finns. They are a rather solemn people and Sibelius is a revered figure up North, but when I explain my reasons they laugh too. Finns laughing? Yes really (definition of a Finnish extrovert – someone who looks at your shoes when he’s talking to you), they do. This is a family-oriented web-site, so, alas, I cannot say why.

The Great Democratic Hope


“The only hope they have is to lower the voting age to six and nominate Spongebob Square Pants.”–Dan Akroyd as Andy Card on SNL.

Malyasian Pm Blames Israel...


On Names


Thanks to all the readers who sent in a vast selection of impressive names. There are too many to post here, but this quote from the (himself splendidly-named) PG (Pelham Grenville) Wodehouse needs repeating. In describing an unfortunate name Wodehouse apparently referred to it as “some raw work at the font”.

Belgian Elections


OK, it’s not the most interesting headline in the world, but it looks as if it really may be worth keeping an eye on tomorrow’s elections in Belgium.

The Last Empress


Matthew Parris is a well-known, often infuriating and always readable British journalist. He’s almost always at his best when he writes about his former employer, Mrs. Thatcher (see if you can find Return of the Mummy, a laugh aloud funny piece he wrote at the time of the last British election). Now here he is in the London Spectator on a new exhibition devoted to artworks depicting Mrs. T:

“Paul Graham’s giant photograph, entitled ‘8 April, 2002’ is stunning. The portrait is about ten feet high and twice as high as wide, but most of it is black. Lady Thatcher occupies only the lower part of the composition, whose bottom frame chops her off so that only head and torso appear: she has obviously been snapped while walking, and snapped unawares, for she is not looking at us. She is wearing black — uncharacteristically, but this was around the time of the late Queen Mother’s death. The overwhelming colour is black, but her face is pale and has the soft, delicate paperiness of old age. She looks a little stooped. Her glance gives little away beyond exhaustion — and inner strength. The portrait has a sadness about it, but it is not demeaning and she is not undignified. In a way, this is a picture of a magnificent ruin.

The viewer has absolutely no clue as to what she is thinking, what she is remembering, or whether she is thinking or remembering at all. Her expression is inscrutable — or empty.

If I had £10,000 I would buy this picture, but, as it was, I could only stand and stare. It is the best and perhaps the last study of Margaret Thatcher as former empress that will ever appear. In time it will become a feature of books and articles illustrating her later years, and for as long as she is remembered it will be associated with her.

And what is so very poignant is that, were she to visit the exhibition, that photograph would say nothing to her. ‘Well, dear,’ she would say. ‘I don’t much care for that. No colour. Perfectly miserable. Makes me look a wreck. And where are my legs? He pointed the camera wrong. Why didn’t he ask me to pose?’

And she would move on, reaching, perhaps, for a giant handkerchief with which to cover some of the smaller exhibits.”


Chutzpah Watch


Can a householder be sued by a burglar? In Britain, apparently, yes.


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