Wednesday, 29 August 2007

Let the punishment fit the crime

Nothing could seriously dim my pleasure at seeing Republican Senator Larry Craig outed in such a succulent manner (see below), but a $500 fine and one year's probation, with the possibility of ending up in jail if uninvited footsie activity recurs before August 2009, does seem a tad harsh. Is this the kind of punishment that's meted out to anyone whose clothed extremities stray a little in public places? Or is it reserved for adult men in 'rest rooms'?

And isn't the role of the arresting policeman slightly compromised? I would have thought that to react to the senatorial tootsie's advances, as this officer
so clearly did, seated and on the alert in the adjacent booth, was an act of, well, provocation. What was his state of dress? Did the senator, married and father of two adopted children, get a glimpse of the policeman's naked calf, or was he lured on by the promise of a sock, a trouser leg?

And who designs these booths? I've never seen European booth partitions with space enough for hands and feet to ramble willy-nilly from one cubicle to the next. I thought such things were the prerogative of pornographic fantasy, along with ever-willing plumbers and car mechanics. How wrong I was.

Whoops! One foot too far

From a police report cited in The Washington Post:

The undercover officer was monitoring the restroom on June 11. A few minutes after noon, Craig entered and sat in the stall next to him. Craig began tapping his right foot, touched his right foot to the left foot of the officer and brushed his hand beneath the partition between them. He was then arrested.

Hot stuff, right? Want to know who Craig is? Click here for the full story. Then come back here and we can talk about hypocrisy.

Monday, 27 August 2007

Woman overjoyed....

I promise not to keep cannibalising The Onion, but this one is too good not to share with anyone foolish enough not to subscribe already. You know who you are.

Les writers de Paris

Not really the work of writers at all (and maybe the term isn't intended to cover this type of urban artist), but of illustrators, and looking as though they were all produced, in any case, by a single person (presumably M. Jef Aerosol), these three pieces of street art were seen within a hundred metres of one another in the rue Mouffetard area. Presumably stencils were used, which takes the spontaneity out of the whole business, but it's hard not to enjoy them all the same, particularly the cheeky mooner at the top.

I've just done a little research, something I should have done earlier, and discovered that Jef Ae
rosol is actually a well-known artist with a CV as long as rue Mouffetard itself. If you're as ignorant as I was until a few moments ago, you can find out more by going to his site. You'll feel as ashamed as I did. I wonder if he's as rich as Banksy. More to the point, I wonder who came first.

And if you have any ideas as to the significance of the rather disturbing image in the bottom photograph, I'd be interested to hear them.

Saturday, 25 August 2007

Little Monsters

If you'd like to pre-order your copy of Little Monsters from Amazon (a mere six months before the publication date), you can do so by clicking here. If, on the other hand, you'd simply like to admire the jacket image, here it is.

And here's the synopsis:

When I was thirteen my father killed my mother.

How do you recover from something like that? Carol never quite does. She's sent to live with her aunt, who barely tolerates her presence, much less makes her welcome. Grief-stricken, and all too aware she's not wanted, Carol is prickly and awkward. Desperate for love, but unable to ask for it, she nonetheless - and almost despite herself - finds it, perhaps where she least expected: her Uncle Joey is the only one to notice her when she's a teenager; years later, when she knows him as Jozef and he's sacrificed more for her than she can really comprehend, he's also the man with whom she builds a home and a life. But when Carol helps to rescue a young refugee from the sea, that life suddenly threatens to unravel, just as surely as it did when she was thirteen. Written in tight, spare prose, "Little Monsters" is a novel of creation, redemption and obsession; it's also the story of what it's like to experience the unthinkable - and what happens next.

A mamma, li turchi

Remember Adnan Oktar? Of course you don't. He's the nutter behind the Atlas of Creation, a lavishly produced load of anti-evolution shite mass-mailed throughout Europe, as well as attempts to outlaw Darwinism in his own country and others. You can read more about all this here.

The Ministry of Truth now has a fascinating post about his latest efforts to impose his loopy agenda on the world, as is usual with revealed truth cranks by trying to shut other people up. Thanks to Mr Oktar and his gang of lawyers, all Wordpress blogs are now banned in Turkey. If you're Turkish and want to carry on reading this or any other Blogspot blog, don't breathe a word to Oktar...

The third tower

I've steered clear of 9/11 conspiracy theory until now, but an article by Robert Fisk in today's Independent admits that the 'facts' we have don't add up. With admirable reluctance, he says:

But – here we go. I am increasingly troubled at the inconsistencies in the official narrative of 9/11. It's not just the obvious non sequiturs: where are the aircraft parts (engines, etc) from the attack on the Pentagon? Why have the officials involved in the United 93 flight (which crashed in Pennsylvania) been muzzled? Why did flight 93's debris spread over miles when it was supposed to have crashed in one piece in a field? Again, I'm not talking about the crazed "research" of David Icke's Alice in Wonderland and the World Trade Center Disaster – which should send any sane man back to reading the telephone directory.

I am talking about scientific issues.

One of the things I've noticed most often when I've mentioned my own doubts about the official version, in passing, to friends (because I try not to let my natural scepticism towards government slip over into a farcical over-estimation of its ability - there lies crankdom) is how few people know about the collapse of the third tower, some nine hours later than the other two and without apparent external assistance.

What's in a name?

Frank sent me a photograph of this shop front he found in Cookham, which he thought might amuse me. My cottaging days are long gone, but it's sweet to be reminded.

In the meantime I came across this sign in Paris, which rings horribly true after a summer of northern European rain and too much good food.

Commerce is the opium of the people


Religion is the opium of the people

Andre St, Hackney.

Friday, 24 August 2007

Anna Oxa: E' tutto un attimo

I'm sorry, I couldn't resist this. It's from 1986.

Lisa: Sempre

This song came second in the Festival of the Italian Popular Song (i.e. Sanremo) in 1999. I have a weakness for Sanremo, a weakness that started out as sociological (or was justified as such). Now, it's simply unashamed. We used to gather friends around us to watch it with a distancing irony. Now we keep friends away to avoid the distraction of their distancing irony. This doesn't mean I like the songs indiscriminately; I still tend to go for those with a minimal cultural cachet. I prefer Nino D'Angelo and Antonella Ruggiero to Toto Cutugno and Anna Oxa (with the unforgettable exception of 'E' tutto un attimo'). I adore Patty Pravo, however unsuitable the song she's presenting may be (and I suspect this has become a matter of pride for her). But I'm watching something with all the power of collective rite. I'm not really there for the music.

Sometimes, though, a song comes from nowhere and stays. I loved this one when I first heard it, and I've been remembering and then half-remembering it ever since. A few days ago a neighbour was playing it and I've fallen again. This video comes from the festival itself (there's a much slicker and less compelling later version of it on Lisa's website). It's great because it has the dreadful moments that precede all Sanremo performances, when you're convinced that something is about to go - or has already gone - irremediably wrong. She's obviously shitting herself. No one had really heard of her; she was among the Giovani, a heterogeneous and often not particularly talented melange of hopefuls and raccommandati. You can watch her gaining power over the song and the situation, until she hits her stride in the obligatory Sanremese crescendo. The lyrics are compulsively awful, a paean to being shat on by a man, worthy of Billie Holiday. I love it.

Thursday, 23 August 2007

Garden furniture

The Musee Delacroix was poky, dangerously overheated and chock-full of second-rate stuff by M. D himself and others. Even the atelier, which you feel ought to be revealing, was dull. The garden though, in its small way, was very pleasant. I'm a sucker for formal gardens and it was fun to see the degree of formality achieved here, in what's really no more than a tiny courtyard squeezed in between buildings. I swear I didn't move the chairs.

And there were some nice postcards of sketches from Delacroix's Moroccan travels in the little shop.

Bon jour monsieur

It wasn't until I'd taken the photograph of this intriguingly simple portico just round the corner from Notre Dame that I noticed someone getting dressed beneath it. Another reminder of the enormous number of people sleeping rough in Paris. But also proof that what we do when we take a photograph is stop using our eyes.

It's what we don't see as we snap away that can often give the image resonance.
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Tables for two

French bar and restaurant tables are notoriously petits, particularly for someone used to the more generous proportions of those in Italy. Roughly speaking, a table for four in Rome would be expected to seat eight, or even twelve, in Paris. But these chipped but chic little tables, spotted near St German des Pres, surely take the biscuit (an object they curiously resemble, in size at least). We calculated that they would just hold two cafes cremes and one of those dinky plastic things with clips that contain the bill.

Two wedding dresses and a mattress

Seen in the Marais.

Silver ring thing: update

More on the Silver Ring Thing Gang. I happened to be reading an article on the new fashion for chastity in the Daily Mail three weeks ago and guess whose name leapt off the page. That's right, Denise Pfeiffer, knicker model and Wacko Jacko's Number One Fan (try saying it in a Kathy Bates voice to get the full effect). You can admire the squeaky clean Denise (clothed) in this photograph.

She's described as a freelance writer and part-time model. She lives with friends in Leiceste (sic) and is still a virgin. Not a mention of her other activity as press officer for SRT. It also says, rather oddly, that 'from the age of consent she has not had sex for eleven years', suggesting that before the age of consent she was a bit of a slapper.

Surely not.

Wednesday, 22 August 2007


Another quickie before we go back to Paris. This piece of quality merchandise can be obtained from the Silvio Berlusconi Fans (sic) Club for a mere €20. Cheap at the price. It's recommended for use in companies, although companies of what he doesn't say. Political philosophers perhaps.

Gays too precious to risk in combat, says General...

A little distraction from my holiday photos and observations: this is from The Onion, so you may have enjoyed it already. If you haven't, here's your chance.

'Gays Too Precious To Risk In Combat,' Says General

Tuesday, 21 August 2007


One of the hardest things about travelling is that you often have to leave your pets behind. This is particularly the case if the journey touches Britain, whose irrationally draconian anti-rabies measures make it impossible to take your dog: because, I admit it, I'm thinking dog here. Even more, I'm thinking Toffee.

We left Toffee in her own house (which we share), with Daniela and then Renata, people she knows and loves, so she was fine. We were the ones who suffered. Suffering takes many forms. Giuseppe phoned home every day for detailed bulletins on her health and general well being. Toffee licks the mouthpiece if she hears her name, which is unhygienic but endearing (to us), and this ritual was duly performed each afternoon.

I'm more grown up about it (I also think the phone thing might upset her at some deep level, the way time travel or full face transplants might upset me). I take photographs of other people’s dogs. Paris is a very good city indeed for this; it's hard to cross a street without seeing half a dozen small perfectly coiffured tykes being taken out by their owners. Jack Russell terriers are definitely this season's flavour; the animaleries along the Seine around Pont Neuf are full of them, with their prices pitilessly falling as they move out of puppyhood; although bulledogues (the French kind, hence the spelling) are hanging in by their oddly arranged teeth and look set to weather the canine fashion storm.

Then there are the much larger mixed-breed dogs that lope around with, and protect, the thousands of clochards in the city. The psychology's pretty basic. People like me, who go soft at the sight of most animals, tend to give more, telling ourselves that our money will be spent on biscuits. One guy who turned out to be from Manchester, strategically placed on his rucksack outside a place that sold the most delicious bread, told me he'd just bought something to stop his bitch - Sensy (because she’s sensitive) - going on heat. This information made me even more generous than I'd intended. He said that he could sleep more easily, knowing that Sensy was there beside him. We must have had similar circuits because I noticed Sensy and her life-partner half a dozen times, walking, sleeping outside the Monoprix on rue de Reynes. A man came out of the store and gave the Mancunian a bag with bread, cheese, tabouleh, screw-topped wine, two bottles of water and a sizeable bag of dog food. I wonder how often this happens, if it’s a frequent gesture or if I was lucky enough to see something exceptional. I hope the former.

Then, one afternoon, a big golden Labrador flopped across to us and put his front paws round my waist and his cold wet nose against my stomach. Begging for love, I thought, so I was half right. His owner, who rolled up seconds later with his hand out and a friendly smile, must have trained him to trawl for cash. But hey! everyone's happy. (Except for people who 'don't like dogs'.)

They don't even have to be real. I took these two photographs of toy dogs in the window of a shop that was closed for August. I had one not that different when I was small, with small wheels on each paw and a handle at the back like a trolley case; I don't know what happened to it.

Batignolles or I'm back from Paris

Back after three weeks away, I'll start with something typical... The boulangerie was one of the many Paul scattered over Paris, this one in the middle of the rue de Levis street market. The man isn't known to me, but his hair and general stature reminded me of Georges Perec, whose space in the crematorium of Pere Lachaise I didn't see this year. So this is a little homage to the memory of Perec, in the city he honoured.