Monthly Archives: October 2012

Windfall Big Apple

The Great Sandy Disaster happened across a whole swathe (good to hear that underused word coming from presidential lips) of the East Coast.

Yet in the first instance (though see codicil below) the UK press coverage confined Sandy’s main effect  to three Boroughs of New York: one got flooded, one got fired and one was deserted. Malcolm’s familial ties to Essex County, New Jersey, meant he was looking in that direction — most of what he found involved views of downtown Manhattan from Hoboken Terminal.

Oh, and there was the aerial shot of the dunked yellow taxis in their Hoboken lot and the tanker piled onto Staten Island.

And therein lies this tale.

It’s not just the London/British press. There’s something makes Manhattan the focal point of the whole world’s (including the US) media attention. A frequency chart of stories from and about the United States would come up as a dot-matrix of that famous Steinberg New Yorker cover.

All that is explicable for film and television. After all, it’s the sky-line, innit? A movie set in London, for international consumption, has to be located by reference to Tower Bridge and the Palace of Westminster> Similarly the spiky horizon behind Battery Park, or the classic view across the Brooklyn Bridge (always from the Brooklyn end) is new York, but natch.

All understandably so. After all, flying into Newark Liberty (as the Lady in his Life and Malcolm do in a few days time) is made worthwhile by:

  • it being the one New York airport that seems to work (although with inevitable delays);
  • its ease of access (particularly when Number One Daughter is waiting at the gate); and
  • the final approach in darkness, having that wall of high-rising lights to port. Even hardened travellers seem incapable of resisting this ocular cliché.

Which allows Malcolm chance to mention a particular favourite.

A while back (early 2011) Bernie Hou manufactured a magnificent, even iconic graphic, packing 91 New York movie locations into a single image.

Of the 91 Malcolm recognised perhaps a dozen.

Malcolmian aside

They say that half the scientists who have ever lived and worked in the history of the human race are alive, well and researching today.

The same must be true, to an even more remarkable fraction, about graphic artists. Across the digital globe, spotty geeks with pirated Photoshop and illicit Illustrator, all sitting at their high-definition video-screens, are pushing the envelope of the possible. Their mothers despair they will ever tidy their bedrooms.

The New York Central meme is a consequence of all the media operators having their bases within shoulder-rubbing distance of each other, and as close to Times Square as can be.

The corollary

And then the lights went out.

Remarkably the Sandy story then moved outwards, to where other tv studios were still operating. And that, folks, is how they make ‘news’ in the Big Apple.

And how the Big Apple is sauced for news.

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Filed under air travel., blogging, New Jersey, New York City, prejudice

The worst storm in New York’s records was caused by …

… going to bed with the wrong people.

You had to assume there’d be nut cases out there to utter this tripe. The dishonour falls to … ta-rah! … Chaplain John McTernan, who apparently operates out of Liverpool, Pennsylvania.

So here’s the divine truth (or one idiot’s version thereof):

On his website Defend Proclaim The Faith, the preacher says the gathering storm must be God’s judgment on gays, and punishing the president Barack Obama for coming out in support of marriage equality.

He believes ever since George Bush Sr signed the Madrid Peace Process to divide the land of Israel in 1991, ‘America has been under God’s judgment since this event.’

McTernan said: ‘Obama is 100% behind the Muslim Brotherhood which has vowed to destroy Israel and take Jerusalem.

‘Both candidates are pro-homosexual and are behind the homosexual agenda. America is under political judgment and the church does not know it!’

It would be great to have the homosexual agenda fully defined. Perhaps it’s something like: “Oooh, that’s sooo East Coast!” (which Malcolm heard, when standing in a line for the San Francisco cable-car).

Inevitably a bit of mystical numerology has to be involved: it’s twenty-one years since the ‘perfect storm’ of October 1991:

’21 years breaks down to 7 x 3, which is a significant number with God. Three is perfection as the Godhead is three in one while seven is perfection,’ he said.

Surely no arguing with that?


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Filed under foot and mouth disease, Gender, homosexuality, human waste, US politics

Keep your tail up!

Malcolm freely admits his take on US politics is largely that of the East Coast (or what’s left of it, after Sandy came visiting). So David Horsey and the Los Angeles Times may be book-marked, but are not on his regular reading list often enough.

Which is a fault.

So Horsey’s political commentary last weekend only now comes over Malcolm’s horizon. And it is as good a quick-and-easy summary as one could wish:

If you live in Ohio, Barack Obama and Mitt Romney are giving you a lot of love. But if you reside in California or Alabama, you may feel neglected and ignored by the candidates for president. Like parents in a big, noisy family, all their attention goes to the troublesome kids, not the compliant, quiet ones.

There has never been much doubt that states such as California, New York, Massachusetts and Washington would give their electoral votes to the president, and no doubt that Romney could depend on states such as Alabama, South Carolina, Texas and South Dakota to be solidly in his camp. All but about 10 states lined up months ago for one candidate or the other. Now it looks as if the number of states still up for grabs has dropped to seven.

As a result, there is really not a national campaign going on. All the effort and money for many weeks has been focused on voters in the swing states. Since, under the U.S. Constitution, the electoral vote, not the popular vote, determines who will sit in the Oval Office, and since the winner in each state takes all of that state’s electoral votes (with Nebraska and Maine being the two outliers where there is a possibility of splitting the vote), a presidential election really amounts to 50 distinct elections. 

He presents us with an unpalatable truth:

With as many as 43 of those 50 elections already decided, the real campaign is happening in just the remaining seven. That means any regional concerns folks in California or Alabama might have can be ignored by the contenders, who do all of their pandering in Ohio, Florida, Virginia, Iowa and the few other places that have the potential to pick the winner.

He blames this limited focus on the workings of the electoral college, on polling and on marketing. End of story, except he presents it neatly:

If you are a single female, living in Pasadena, working at a university, driving a Prius, shopping atWhole Foods, watching “The Daily Show,” reading books by Anne Tyler, listening to music by k.d. lang and vacationing in Rome, the Romney campaign does not need to waste time trying to get your vote. If you are a male, living in Tuscaloosa, managing an auto parts store, attending a Foursquare Gospel church twice a week and listening to Toby Keith in your Dodge Ram pickup as you drive into the countryside for a day of deer hunting, the Obama campaign is not likely to spend a cent on you.

All palpably true. Then he dresses it all up in a cartoon pastiche that would fit the New Yorker to a tee:

And very nice too.

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Filed under Presidential Election, reading, US politics

Update on the guilt pile

No: it isn’t significantly reduced.

Things went into something of a deep groove as Malcolm ploughed through:


Together these are 1200+ pages, exhausting, exhaustive accounts of half-a-decade of human tragedy, human misery, human malevolence, and a modicum of human and humane muddling-through. They are damned hard work: Malcolm will testify to that — but they are essential to the period, and major works of historiography. Kershaw has never been Malcolm’s favourite history writer— not because he fails in any way as a historian; more because his prose lacks a certain “lightness of touch”. MacDonogh is gruelling, because — if anything — the horrors of the aftermath should be anticlimactic — and his methodical analysis of how the Poles took revenge on German refugees (among many other horrors) is disgustingly enlightening.

For a month they kept Malcolm off the hard stuff.

As a result he made several resorts to lighter stuff. Allow him to celebrate a few:

The delight of the late summer has been discovering the Bryant and May sequence — so delightful that Malcolm is buying them in hard back and pre-publication. There’s a graphic novel, The Casebook of Bryant & May No.1, due shortly (and already overdue). Somewhere down the tracks under Kings Cross Bryant & May and the Bleeding Heart is promised to be heading our way. If there isn’t a specific sub-genre of London sepia-noir, Fowler is inventing it. Beyond that, Fowler has one of the better author-websites around.

Incidently, Fowler’s not-quite-unpolitical asides are gems in themselves.

Malcolm has been with Ms Davis ever since he hit upon The Silver Pigs, the first of her Marcus Didius Falco series. That, he realises with a recognition of age, was over two decades ago. We reached number twenty with Nemesis.

Actually, Malcolm now recognises he backtracked to Lindsey Davis’s first Roman effort with The Course of Honour, a sentimental account of the relationship of the Emperor Vespasian and his long-standing mistress, the former slave, Antonia Caenis. He was less enamoured of this one.

More recently Davis has clearly been attempting to break with the Falco/Roman recitals — we had Rebels and Traitors a couple of years back, using the Civil War as a backdrop. Now she is back to Rome, post-Vespasian, with yet another tale of frustrated love and the conflicts of decency and corruption in the time of Domitian. In Master and God she manages a balanced picture of Domitian — balanced because she has two viewpoints, the Praetorian Guard and the hairdresser (at one point she uses a house-fly as the point-of-view). And, of course, there’s the frustrated and interrupted love-story. Like it or loath it, it kept Malcolm awake into the dawning hours.

Now we see that Davis is moving on from Falco to use Flavia Albia (Falco’s adopted daughter in the later part of the sequence) as the main character. That will be next spring in The Ides of March.

Just when Malcolm ought to have been buckling down to the recent Ian McEwan or the new C.J.Sansom (both sitting immaculate on the upper reaches of the Guilt Pile) he hit on something else —

For two evenings he was hooked. If Fowler’s Bryant and May are “London sepia-noir“, then Faye’s Timothy Wilde is the foulest sulphur of New York, the summer of 1845, on the cusp of Tweed and Tammany, as the Irish famine refugees start to arrive to rebuild the whole class-structure.

Indeed, there are echoes of Tweed here. Timothy Wilde’s brother, Val, is a hook-and-ladder man with a fire crew — and thereby a stalwart of the Democratic Party (the volunteer fire-companies had allegiances to gangs, politicians and ethnic groups). That is a dead ringer for Tweed of the Big Six volunteer company and the Seventh Ward. It is set just a few months before the prelude to Gangs of New York, in the same location of the Five Points, and just as violent.

Although it is a straight ‘historical detective’ story (the Wilde brothers are invested as the first ever New York police ‘copper badges’) it is also a remarkable pastiche of the social history of the lower depths: bar, brawls, brothels, prejudice, drugs, casual deaths and murders. It is also one of the most intricately plotted novels Malcolm has met of late.

He happily hopes Ms Faye will persist with the character of Tim Wilde.

And more …

Somewhere in there Malcolm found time to revisit George Mackay Brown’s Greenvoe (a second impression, all the way from 1975, still with dust-cover intact) and Peter Berresford Ellis’s attempt at a biography of MacBeth. Note ‘MacBeth’, not Macbeth. Quite how he got there is a bit of a mystery to himself: he thinks it was a speculation (in Liv Kjörsvik Schei & Gunnie Moberg’s 1985 and out-of-printThe Orkney Story) that Mormaer MacBeth and Jarl Thorfinn Sigurdsson were one and the same.

Now it’s back to Nazi London, 1952, and Sansom’s Dominion.


Filed under C.J.Sansom, Christopher Fowler, Detective fiction, fiction, History, Ian Kershaw, Lindsay Faye, reading

Stormy weather

The Noo Joisey grand-kids are at home today: they may be among the few saying, “Thank you, Sandy!”

If she lives up to her billing, she will be a right big bitch.

And the Republicans, including Mitt Romney, think FEMA should be abolished. Bet that ‘pledge’ doesn’t get much traction for the next few hours.

Meanwhile (1):

There’s a terrific graphic on the Guardian website, tracking all the hurricanes over the last 160 years. The original is credited to John Nelson, UX Blog, using information from the NOAA:

Quite magical, quite mysterious. Most frightening.

Meanwhile (2):

In moments of stress and strain, cue the likes of Lena —

Quite magical, quite magnificent. Most memorable.

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Filed under blogging, Guardian, Music, New Jersey, New York City, United States, US Elections

Pigeon post #1600

Memo to pigeons:

1. This is a cotoneaster horizontalis. You have been devouring those berries for some weeks. Enjoy. Leave some for the tits.

2. This is a ten-inch sponge-rubber football, left behind by the grand-sons. It is not some ginormous berry. Do not be deceived by the colour. It is quite inedible (but that hasn’t prevented your repetitive experiments at consumption). The tits are obviously brighter, or less ambitious than you.

And that was Malcolm’s sixteen-hundredth post.

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Filed under Muswell Hill

Mark meets Jimmy …

There’s a very nice piece by Jane Mayer in the New Yorker on The Voter-Fraud Myth. Jillian Rayfield fisks it on

It is a major article. It won’t convince the neo-Cons, of course.

Then there’s Gary Trudeau’s Doonesbury.

The greatest strike against the U.K. press is that, since the demise of the lamentably short-lived The Sunday Correspondent, we benighted Brits have to access the Sunday extended Doonesbury on-line.

Today’s exchange between Mark Slackmeyer and Jimmy Crow is a gem. It says enough of it to get to the caw! of the issue.

By the way: that (as right) is not the punch-line. Which is even more pointed.

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Filed under democracy, Doonesbury, underclass, US Elections, US politics