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Thursday, December 25, 2014

Ode to Wodehouse

Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth;

whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul;

whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet;

and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people’s hats off –

then, I account it high time to  . . . to . . .

. . . to  . . . . review some old Wodehouse quotes.

Here are some of my favorites:
His whole attitude recalled irresistibly to the mind that of some assiduous hound who will persist in laying a dead rat on the drawing-room carpet, though repeatedly apprised by word and gesture that the market for same is sluggish or even non-existent.
Dogs are philosophers. They soon forget. 
There are certain females who one respects, admires, reveres, but only from a distance. If they show any signs of coming closer, one is prepared to fight them off with a blackjack. 
I turned to Aunt Agatha, whose demeanour was now rather like that of one who, picking daisies on the railway, has just caught the down express on the small of the back.
His whole aspect was that of a man who has unexpectedly been struck by lightning. 
This news item had come to him not as rare and refreshing fruit but more like a buffet on the base of the skull with a sock full of wet sand. 
"Yes, sir,'' said Jeeves in a low, cold voice, as if he had been bitten in the leg by a personal friend.
Mike nodded. A sombre nod. The nod Napoleon might have given if somebody had met him in 1812 and said, "So, you're back from Moscow, eh?"
One of those ghastly literary lunches.... This one was to honour Emma Lucille Agee who wrote that dirty novel that's been selling in millions in America... About fifteen of the dullest speeches I ever heard. The Agee woman told us for three quarters of an hour how she came to write her beastly book, when a simple apology was all that was required [I think about Elizabeth Gilbert's TED talk on Eat, Pray, Love every time I read this line]. 
There was a silence that you could have dug bits out of with a spoon. 
"Pretty soon you'll be having to be keeping a daily memo, to remind you which actually is your current shed."  He chuckled at the quaint conceit, considered it for a moment, then, feeling that it was much too clever to be said only once, repeated it.  "Pretty soon you'll have to be keeping a daily memo, to remind you which actually is your current shed." [more context on this one below]
I’m not nearly hot enough to draw a word-picture that would do justice to that extraordinarily hefty crash. Try to imagine the Albert Hall falling on the Crystal Palace, and you will have got the rough idea.
Ambrose Tennyson, the novelist, was there, asking the bookstall clerk if he had anything by Ambrose Tennyson. 
Reggie's was a troubled spirit these days. He was in love and he had developed a bad slice with his mid-iron. He was practically a soul in torment.
He had the look of a frustrated tiger whose personal physician had recommended a strict vegetarian diet.
"If I've tried once to remember that tobacconist girl's name, I've tried a hundred times. I have an idea it began with an 'L'. Muriel or Hilda or something.''
It was a confusion of ideas between him and one of the lions he was hunting in Kenya that had caused A.B. Spottsworth to make the obituary column. He thought the lion was dead, and the lion thought it wasn't.
"That,'' I replied cordially, "is what it doesn't do anything else but.''
Like so many substantial Americans, he had married young and kept on marrying, springing from blonde to blonde like the chamois of the Alps leaping from crag to crag.
Gussie, a glutton for punishment, stared at himself in the mirror.
A confirmed recluse you would have called him, if you happened to know the word.
When two strong men stand face to face, each claiming to be Major Brabazon-Plank, it is inevitable that there will be a sense of strain, resulting in a momentary silence.
[The London tea-shops] have an atmosphere of their own. They rely for their effect on an insufficiency of light, an almost total lack of ventilation, a property [proprietary?] chocolate cake which you are not supposed to cut, and the sad aloofness of their ministering angels. It is to be doubted whether there is anything in the world more damping to the spirit than a London tea-shop of this kind, unless it be another London tea-shop of the same kind.
Unlike the male codfish which, suddenly finding itself the parent of three million five hundred thousand little codfish, cheerfully resolves to love them all, the British aristocracy is apt to look with a somewhat jaundiced eye on its younger sons.
He uttered a sound much like a bull dog swallowing a pork chop whose dimensions it has underestimated.
I was behind the desk, crouching on the carpet and trying to breathe solely through the pores.
She had a penetrating sort of laugh. Rather like a train going into a tunnel.
"Alf Todd,'' said Ukridge, soaring to an impressive burst of imagery, ``has about as much chance as a one-armed blind man in a dark room trying to shove a pound of melted butter into a wild cat's left ear with a red-hot needle.''
His manner was now meek and conciliatory, like that of a black-beetle which sees the cook reaching for the insect powder and does its best to show her that it fully realises that it has brought this on itself.
"I remember years ago, Bertie," said Aunt Dahlia, "when you nearly swallowed your rubber comforter and started turning purple. And I, ass that I was, took it out and saved your life. Let me tell you, it will go very hard with you if you ever swallow a rubber comforter again when only I am by to aid.
He looked like a dictator on the point of starting a purge.
Many men in Packy's position would have shrunk from diving into the rescue, fully clad. Packy was one of them.
She made one of those foolish remarks which do so much to confirm a man in his conviction that women as a sex should be suppressed.
"There is a method by which Mrs Travers may be extricated from her sea of troubles. Shakespeare.'' I didn't know why he was addressing me as Shakespeare, but I motioned him to continue. "Proceed Jeeves.''
When you have just been told that the girl you love is definitely betrothed to another, you begin to understand what anarchists feel when the bomb goes off too soon.
Unseen, in the background, Fate was quietly slipping the lead into the boxing glove.
Bill clutched his hair. For an artist's, it was on the short side, but a determined man can clutch at anything.
Every author really wants to have letters printed in the papers. Unable to make the grade, he drops down a rung of the ladder and writes novels.
Pongo uttered a curious hissing sound like the death-rattle of a soda-water siphon.
I spent the afternoon musing on Life. If you come to think of it, what a queer thing Life is! So unlike anything else, don't you know, if you see what I mean.
It was my Uncle George who discovered that alcohol was a food well in advance of modern medical thought.
Into the face of the young man who sat on the terrace of the Hotel Magnifique at Cannes there had crept a look of furtive shame, the shifty hangdog look which announces that an Englishman is about to speak French.
He spoke with a certain what-is-it in his voice, and I could see that, if not actually disgruntled, he was far from being gruntled.
He blinked, like some knight of King Arthur's court, who, galloping to perform a deed of derring-do, has had the misfortune to collide with a tree.
It was one of those jolly, happy, bread-crumbling parties where you cough twice before you speak, and then decide not to say it after all.
Her hair was a deep chestnut, her eyes blue, her nose small and laid back with about as much loft as a light iron.
She spoke with the mildness of a cushat dove addressing another cushat dove from whom it is hoping to borrow money.
She was feeling like a mother who, in addition to notify him that there is no candy, has been compelled to strike a loved child on the base of the skull with a stocking full of sand.
He looked like a statue of Right Triumphing Over Wrong. You couldn't place it exactly because it was so long since you had read the book, but he reminded you of something out of Pilgrim's Progress.
The face was drawn, the eyes haggard, the general appearance that of one who has searched for the leak in life's gaspipe with a lighted candle.
Madeleine Bassett laughed the tinkling, silvery laugh that had got her so disliked by the better element.
It would be too much to say that Lady Constance snorted. Women of her upbringing do not snort.
"An old place like this...a historic old house like this . . . a real old-world chateau like this, full of interesting objects is - er - interesting to me. It interests me. I am interested in it. Most interested. It - er - interests me to - ah - potter around. I find it interesting.''
He had the look of one who had drunk the cup of life, and found a dead beetle at the bottom.
I was so darned sorry for poor old Corky that I hadn't the heart to touch my breakfast. I told Jeeves to drink it himself.
He looked haggard and careworn, like a Borgia who has suddenly remembered that he has forgotten to shove cyanide in the consomme, and the dinner-gong due any moment.
She had a latent conviction of the immorality of all artists.
As a rule, from what I've observed, the American captain of industry doesn't do anything out of business hours. When he has put the cat out and locked up the office for the night, he just relapses into a state of coma from which he emerges only to start being a captain of industry again.
The flaw in all these ideas of yours is that the hero always seems to have a half-witted friend who is eager to place himself in the foulest positions on his behalf.
Boko Bagshott we called him. Took a girl to supper once at the Gardenia. Supper scarcely concluded when an angry old gentleman plunges into the room and starts shaking his fist in Boko's face. Boko rises with chivalrous gesture. "Have no fear, sir. I am a man of honour. I will marry your daughter.'' "Daughter?'' says the old gentleman, foaming a little at the mouth.  "Damn it, that's my wife.'' Took all Boko's tact to pass it off, I believe.
. . . now tailors measured him just for the sake of exercise. As a rule, you see, I'm not lugged into Family Rows. On the occasions when Aunt is calling Aunt like mastodons bellowing across premieval swamps and Uncle James's letter about Cousin Mabel's peculiar behaviour is being shot round the family circle ("Please read this carefully and send it on Jane'') the clan has a tendency to ignore me. It's one of the advantages I get from being a bachelor--and, according to my nearest and dearest, practically a half-witted bachelor at that.
I would like to have called him a pessimist, only I couldn't think of the word.
It is no use telling me there are bad aunts and good aunts. At the core, they are all alike. Sooner or later, out pops the cloven hoof.
I could see that she was looking for something to break as a relief to her surging emotions ... and courteously drew her attention to a terra-cotta figure of the Infant Samuel at Prayer. She thanked me briefly and hurled it against the opposite wall.
One half of the world doesn't know how the other three-quarters lives.
What a girl! He had never in his life before met a woman who could write a letter without a postscript, and this was but the smallest of her unusual gifts.
My personal animosity against a writer never affects my opinion of what he writes. Nobody could be more anxious than myself, for instance, that Alan Alexander Milne should trip over a loose bootlace and break his bloody neck, yet I re-read his early stuff at regular intervals with all the old enjoyment.
. . . a bleak, austere expression. She was looking more and more like an aunt than anything human. In his boyhood he had observed platoons of his aunts with their features frozen in a similar rigidity.
South Kensington ... where sin stalks naked through the dark alleys and only might is right.
The Sheridan stands in the heart of New York's Bohemian and artistic quarter. If you threw a brick from any of its windows, you would be certain to brain some rising young interior decorator, some Vorticist sculptor or a writer of revolutionary verse libre.
Even at normal times Aunt Dahlia's map tended a little towards the crushed strawberry. But never had I seen it take on so pronounced a richness as now. She looked like a tomato struggling for self-expression.
She was the first to speak. She was one of those women who are always the first to speak.
"If I had my life to live again, Jeeves, I would start it as an orphan without any aunts. Don't they put aunts in Turkey in sacks and drop them in the Bosphorus?'
"you, Jeeves, and you may quote me as saying this: Behind every poor, innocent, harmless blighter who is going down for the third time in the soup you will find, if you look carefully enough, the aunt who shoved him into it."
It was one of those jolly, peaceful mornings that make a fellow wish he'd got a soul or something.
I suppose I'm one of those fellows my father always warned me against.
If you were a millionaire, would you rather be stabbed in the back with a paperknife or found dead without a mark on you, staring with blank eyes at some appalling sight?
Rodney Spelvin was in for another attack of poetry. He had once been a poet, and a very virulent one too; the sort of man who would produce a slim volume of verse bound in squashy mauve leather at the drop of a hat, mostly on the subject of sunsets and pixies.
"Oh Bertie,'' she said in a low voice like beer trickling out of a jug, "you ought not to be here!''
The unpleasant, acrid smell of burnt poetry.
Poets, as a class, are business men. Shakespeare describes the poet's eye as rolling in a fine frenzy from heaven to earth, from earth to heaven, and giving to airy nothing a local habitation and a name, but in practice you will find that one corner of that eye is generally glued on the royalty returns.
He felt like a man who, chasing rainbows, has had one of them suddenly turn and bite him in the leg.
After all, golf is only a game,'' said Millicent. Women say these things without thinking. It does not mean that there is any kink in their character. They simply don't realise what they're saying.
It is never difficult to distinguish between a Scotsman with a grievance and a ray of sunshine.
Whatever may be said in favour of the Victorians, it is pretty generally admitted that few of them were to be trusted within reach of a trowel and a pile of bricks.
His demeanour was that of a Napolean who, suffering from toothache, sees his way to taking it out on one of his minor marshals.
[Humour is] the kindly contemplation of the incongruous.
There is only one cure for grey hair. It was invented by a Frenchman. It is called the guillotine.
"I may as well inform you that it is not twenty-four hours since she turned me down.'' "Turned you down?''  "Like a bedspread. In this very garden.''
She laughed. Analysing it, Jerry described it to himself as a silvery laugh. Rather like, he thought, for there was the touch of the poet in him, the sound ice makes in a jug of beer on a hot day in August.
What a curse these social distinctions are. They ought to be abolished. I remember saying that to Karl Marx once, and he thought there might be an idea for a book in it.'
His whole attitude was like that of a policeman with nothing on his mind but his helmet.
Wherever a man could bulge with muscle, he bulged. He even bulged in places where one would not have expected him to bulge.
The more I see of women, the more I think there ought to be a law. Something has got to be done about this sex, or the whole fabric of Society will collapse, and then what silly asses we shall all look.
. . . its proprietor leaped in his chair with a wordless cry like that of a sleeping cat on whose tail some careless number-eleven shoe has descended.
She looked like something that might have occurred to Ibsen in one of his less frivolous moments.
Chumps always make the best husbands. When you marry, Sally, grab a chump. Tap his head first, and if it rings solid, don't hesitate. All the unhappy marriages come from husbands having brains. What good are brains to a man? They only unsettle him.
Barmy went to the door and opened it sharply. There came the unmistakable sound of a barmaid falling downstairs.
Chimp Twist was looking like a monkey that had bitten into a bad nut, and Soapy Molloy like an American Senator who has received an anonymous telegram saying, "All is discovered. Fly at once.''
Percy continued to stare before him like a man who has drained the wine cup of life to its lees, only to discover a dead mouse at the bottom
"I'm sorry marriage depresses you, Ferris. Surely when two people love each other and mean to go on loving each other.'' 
"Marriage is not a process for prolonging love, sir. It merely mummifies the corpse.''
Then I succeeded in diverting his attention for a moment and while his scrutiny was elsewhere, I was able to insert a chemical substance in his beverage which had the effect of rendering him temporarily insensible.''  "You mean you slipped him a Mickey Finn?'' "I believe that is what they are termed in the argot madam.''
There is no doubt that Jeeves's pick-me-up will produce immediate results in anything short of an Egyptian mummy.
We may say what we will against the aristocracy of England . . . but we cannot deny that in certain crises blood will tell. An English peer of the right sort can be bored nearer to the point where mortification sets in, without showing it, than anyone else in the world.''
To my daughter Leonora without whose never-failing sympathy and encouragement this book would have been finished in half the time.
Jeeves lugged my purple socks out of the drawer as if he were a vegetarian fishing a caterpillar out of his salad.
The adjective "cross'' as a description of his Jovelike wrath ... jarred upon Derek profoundly. It was as though Prometheus, with the vultures tearing his liver, had been asked if he were piqued.
Her departure left behind it the sort of quivering stillness you get during hurricane time in America, when the howling gale, having shaken you to the back teeth, passes on to tickle up residents in spots further west.
And closing the door with the delicate caution of one brushing flies off a sleeping Venus, he passed out of my life.
She didn't like him being an atheist, and he wouldn't stop being an atheist, and finally he said something about Jonah and the Whale which it was impossible for her to overlook. This morning she returned the ring, his letters and a china ornament with `A Present From Blackpool' on it which he had brought her last summer while visiting relatives in the north.
He had the look of an ostrich that had swallowed a door knob.
I don't think I have ever seen a Silver Band so nonplussed. It was as though a bevy of expectant wolves had overtaken a sleigh and found no Russian peasant on board.
"Well, I think you're a pig.''  "A pig, maybe, but a shrewd, levelheaded pig. I wouldn't touch the project with a bargepole.''
His manner had nothing in it of the jolly innkeeper of old-fashioned comic opera. He looked more like Macbeth seeing a couple of Banquos.
The least thing upsets him on the links. He misses short putts because of the uproar of the butterflies in the adjoining meadows.
As is so often the case with butlers, there was a good deal of Beach. Julius Caesar, who liked to have men about him who were fat, would have taken to him at once. He was a man who had made two chins grow where only one had been before, and his waistcoat swelled like the sail of a racing yacht.
The hell-hound of the law gave a sort of yelp rather like a wolf that sees its Russian peasant getting away. 
Monty leaned weakly against the wall. As on a previous occasion, the steward had become two stewards and was flickering at the rims.  "Yes, sir, that's what she's gone and done. Changed state-rooms with you. Quite a general post it's been with you this voyage, hasn't it, sir?"  said Albert Peasemarch sympathetically. "I expect it's becoming a case of you dunno where you are, as the song says. First your gentleman friend shifts you, and now the lady  shifts you.  Pretty soon you'll be having to be keeping a daily memo,  to remind you which actually is your  current shed."  He chuckled at the quaint conceit, considered it for a moment, then, feeling that it was much too clever to be said only once, repeated it.  "Pretty soon you'll have to be keeping a daily memo, to remind you which actually is your current shed."
Henry glanced hastily at the mirror. Yes, he did look rather old. He must have overdone some of the lines on his forehead. He looked something between a youngish centenarian and a nonagenarian who had seen a good deal of trouble.
He wore the unmistakable look of a man about to be present at a row between women, and only a wet cat in a strange backyard bears itself with less jauntiness than a man faced by such a prospect.
A man’s subconscious self is not the ideal companion. It lurks for the greater part of his life in some dark den of its own, hidden away, and emerges only to taunt and deride and increase the misery of a miserable hour.
He looked like a bishop who has just discovered Schism and Doubt among the minor clergy.
Whenever I meet Ukridge’s Aunt Julia I have the same curious illusion of having just committed some particularly unsavoury crime and—what is more—of having done it with swollen hands, enlarged feet, and trousers bagging at the knee on a morning when I had omitted to shave.
At this moment, the laurel bush, which had hitherto not spoken, said “Psst!”
This done, he felt a little—not much, but a little—better. Before, he would have gladly murdered Beach and James and danced on their graves. Now, he would have been satisfied with straight murder.
He groaned slightly and winced, like Prometheus watching his vulture dropping in for lunch.
She looked at me like someone who has just solved the crossword puzzle with a shrewd “Emu” in the top right hand corner.
“Very good,” I said coldly. “In that case, tinkerty-tonk.” And I meant it to sting.
Mr Waddington’s expression was now that of a cowboy who, leaping into bed, discovers too late that a frolicsome friend has placed a cactus between the sheets.
To attract attention in the dining-room of the Senior Conservative Club between the hours of one and two-thirty, you have to be a mutton chop, not an earl.
It is much to say that there was a dead silence. There could never be that in any room in which Vladimir Brusiloff was eating cake. 
The drowsy stillness of the afternoon was shattered by what sounded to his strained senses like G. K. Chesterton falling on a sheet of tin. 
The more I see of women, the more I think there ought to be a law. Something has got to be done about this sex, or the whole fabric of Society will collapse, and then what silly asses we shall all look. 
“Guk,” he said reservedly. A man has to answer snakes when they speak to him, but he is under no obligation to be sunny.
His hand moved upwards, and I think his idea was to bare his head reverently. The project was, however, rendered null and void by the fact that he hadn’t a hat on. 
“…Have you ever had a what-do-you-call-it? What’s the word I want? One of those things fellows get sometimes.” 
"Headaches?” hazarded George. 
No, no. I don’t mean anything you get — I mean something you get if you know what I mean.”“Measles?”
“Anonymous letter. That’s what I was trying to say.”

Although nobody who had met him was likely to get George Cyril Wellbeloved confused with the poet Keats, it was extraordinary on what similar lines the two men’s minds worked. “Oh, for a beaker of the warm South, full of the true, the blushful Hippocrene!’‘ sang Keats, licking his lips, and “Oh, for a mug of beer, with, if possible, a spot of gin in it!” sighed George Cyril Wellbeloved, licking his; and in quest of the elixir he had visited in turn the Emsworth Arms, the Wheatsheaf, the Waggoner’s Rest, the Beetle and Wedge, the Stitch in Time, the Jolly Cricketers and all the other hostelries at which Market Blandings pointed with so much pride. 
But everywhere the story was the same. Barmaids had been given their instructions, pot boys warned to be on the alert. They had placed at his disposal gingerbeer, ginger ale, sarsaparilla, lime juice and on one occasion milk, but his request for the cup that clears today of past regrets and future fears was met with a firm nolle prosequi . Staunch and incorruptible, the barmaids and the pot boys refused to serve him with anything that would have interested Omar Khayyam, and he had come away parched and saddened.
It was one of those still evenings you get in the summer, when you can hear a snail clear its throat a mile away.
I had just lighted a cigarette as she spoke these words, and so, according to what they say in the advertisement, ought to have been nonchalant. But it must have been the wrong sort of cigarette, for I shot out of my chair as if somebody had shoved a bradawl through the seat.
“Roderick Spode? Big chap with a small moustache and the sort of eye that can open an oyster at sixty paces?”
I mean, imagine how some unfortunate Master Criminal would feel, on coming down to do a murder at the old Grange, if he found that not only was Sherlock Holmes putting in the weekend there, but Hercule Poirot, as well.
Stiffy’s map, as a rule, tends to be rather grave and dreamy, giving the impression that she is thinking deep, beautiful thoughts. Quite misleading, of course. I don’t suppose she would recognize a deep, beautiful thought, if you handed it to her on a skewer with tartare sauce.
“He is a butterfly who toys with women’s hearts and throws them away like soiled gloves.” “Right ho.” I hadn’t had a notion that that was what butterflies did. Most interesting.
Owing to the fact that the shock had caused my tongue to get tangled up with my tonsils, inducing an unpleasant choking sensation, I found myself momentarily incapable of speech. I managed to get the tongue unhitched.
A bone-crusher, if ever one drew breath, this Bartholomew Byng. Reluctant as one always is to criticize the acts of an all-wise Providence, I was dashed if I could see why a dog of his size should have been fitted out with the jaws and teeth of a crocodile. Still, too late of course to do anything about it now.
The brain seemed suddenly to give itself a shake and start off across country with its nose to the ground.
His spectacles were glittering in a hunted sort of way, and there was more than a touch of the fretful porpentine about his hair.
The word ‘not’ had left her lips like a high-powered shell, and Gussie, taking it between the eyes, rose some six inches into the air. When he returned to terra firma, his manner was apologetic and conciliatory.
Well, this Dahlia is my good and deserving aunt, not to be confused with Aunt Agatha, the one who kills rats with her teeth and devours her young.
Bones of contention pop up and start turning handsprings.
He paused at this point to dislodge a fly which had sauntered in through the open window and become mixed up with his vocal cords. Having achieved his object, he resumed.
My feelings, I suppose, were roughly what those of Mary would have been, had she looked over her shoulder one morning and found the lamb no longer among those present.
As I presented myself, she gave the moustache a swift glance, but apart from starting like a nymph surprised while bathing and muttering something about ‘Was this the face that stopped a thousand clocks?’ made no comment. One received the impression that she was saving it up.
He eyed me speculatively, heaving gently like a saucepan of porridge about to reach the height of its fever. I am a man who can observe and deduce, and it was plain to me, watching him sizzle, that something had happened pretty recently in his affairs which had churned him up like a seidlitz powder, leaving him with but two alternatives – (a) to burst where he stood and (b) to decant his pent-up emotions on the first human being who came along.
She was silent for a space. Then she spoke in what was, for her, a hushed voice. That is to say, while rattling the vases on the mantelpiece, it did not bring plaster down from the ceiling.
Few women would have been in vivacious mood, had Fate touched off beneath them a similar stick of trinitrotoluol. I imagine her emotions after Uncle Tom had said his say must have been of much the same nature as those which she had no doubt frequently experienced in her hunting days when her steed, having bucked her from the saddle, had proceeded to roll on her. And while the blushful Hippocrene of which she had just imbibed her share had been robust and full of inner meaning, it had obviously merely scratched the surface.
You’ve probably had the same experience yourself – listening to people guffawing like hyenas and not having the foggiest what the joke is. It makes you feel at a disadvantage.
It caused my heart to leap like a salmon in the spawning season and become entangled with my front teeth.
I rather think, though I can’t be sure, that at these words Stilton ground his teeth. Certainly there was a peculiar sound, as if a coffee mill had sprung into action.
I went into the silence. And as he, too, seemed disinclined for chit-chat, we stood for some moments like a couple of Trappist monks who have run into each other by chance at the dog races.
“I wished to pull your head off at the roots and make you swallow it.”
Words began to flutter from her like bats out of a barn.
I felt compelled to intervene in the debate and dispel the miasma of suspicion which had arisen, or whatever it is that miasmas do.
“Just one word”, I said, as the procession started to file out. “On swallowing the stuff you will have the momentary illusion that you have been struck by lightning. Pay no attention. It’s all part of the treatment. But watch the eyeballs, as they are liable, unless checked, to start from the parent sockets and rebound from the opposite wall.”
I remember when I was a kid at school having to learn a poem of sorts about a fellow named Pig-something – a sculptor he would have been, no doubt – who made a statue of a girl, and what should happen one morning but that the bally thing suddenly came to life. A pretty nasty shock for the chap, of course, but the point I’m working round to is that there were a couple of lines that went, if I remember correctly:
She starts. She moves. She seems to feel
The stir of life along her keel.
If ever I find this slimy, slithery snake in the grass, he had better make all the necessary arrangements at his favourite nursing-home without delay, because I am going to be very rough with him. I propose, if and when found, to take him by his beastly neck, shake him till he froths, and pull him inside out and make him swallow himself.
A sudden flame shot from her eyes, singeing my hair.
I saw that it would be fruitless to try to reason with her. Quite plainly, she was not in the vein. Contenting myself, accordingly, with a gesture of loving sympathy, I left the room. Whether she did or did not throw a handsomely bound volume of the Works of Alfred, Lord Tennyson, at me, I am not in a position to say. I had seen it lying on the table beside her, and as I closed the door I remember receiving the impression that some blunt instrument had crashed against the woodwork, but I was feeling too preoccupied to note and observe.
I could not fathom. The brain seemed to be tottering on its throne.
The nibs who study these matters claim, I believe, that this has got something to do with the subconscious mind, and very possibly they may be right. I wouldn’t have said off-hand that I had a subconscious mind, but I suppose I must without knowing it, and no doubt it was there, sweating away diligently at the old stand, all the while the corporeal Wooster was getting his eight hours. For directly I opened my eyes on the morrow, I saw daylight. Well, I don’t mean that exactly, because naturally I did. What I mean is that I found I had the thing all mapped out. The good old subconscious m. had delivered the goods.
In a situation calling for words of molten passion of a nature calculated to go through Madeline Bassett like a red-hot gimlet through half a pound of butter, he had said not a syllable that could bring a blush to the cheek of modesty.
“The pie seemed to beckon to me.”
I nodded. I knew how pies do.
Reflect what proposing means. It means that a decent, self-respecting chap has got to listen to himself saying things which, if spoken on the silver screen, would cause him to dash to the box-office and demand his money back.
A sharp spasm shook him from base to apex. The beetle, which, during the recent exchanges, had been clinging to his head, hoping for the best, gave it up at this and resigned office. It shot off and was swallowed in the night.
"Ah!" I said. "Your beetle," I explained. "No doubt you were unaware of it, but all this while there has been a beetle of sorts parked on the side of your head. You have now dislodged it."
He snorted.
"Not beetles. One beetle only."
"I like your crust!" cried Tuppy, vibrating like one of Gussie's newts during the courting season. "Talking of beetles, when all the time you know you're a treacherous, sneaking hound."
It was a debatable point, of course, why treacherous, sneaking hounds should be considered ineligible to talk about beetles, and I dare say a good cross-examining counsel would have made quite a lot of it.
But I let it go.
One thing I have never failed to hand the man. He is magnetic. There is about him something that seems to soothe and hypnotize. To the best of my knowledge, he has never encountered a charging rhinoceros, but should this contingency occur, I have no doubt that the animal, meeting his eye, would check itself in mid-stride, roll over and lie purring with its legs in the air.
It isn’t often that Aunt Dahlia, normally as genial a bird as ever encouraged a gaggle of hounds to get their noses down to it, lets her angry passions rise, but when she does, strong men climb trees and pull them up after them. 
She seemed to sway like a sapling. It is saplings that sway, I believe.
You know how it is. Love’s flame flickers and dies, Reason returns to her throne, and you aren’t nearly as ready to hop about and jump through hoops as in the first pristine glow of the divine passion.
Our host, the young Squire, was none too chirpy. The brow was furrowed, the eye lacked that hearty sparkle, and the general bearing and demeanour were those of a body discovered after being several days in the water.
The relative let out a screech rather like the Cornish Express going through a junction.
As it was, I remained tranquil. ‘Yes?’ I said. I had packed so much cold surprise and hauteur into the word that a lesser man might well have keeled over backwards as if hit by a bullet.
As to his manner, I couldn’t get a better word for it at the moment than ‘familiar,’ but I looked it up later in Jeeves’s Dictionary of Synonyms and found that it had been unduly intimate, too free, forward, lacking in proper reserve, deficient in due respect, impudent, bold and intrusive.
His was not an extensive vocabulary, and he found it impossible to think of anything which would really do justice to his feelings... Shakespeare might have managed it. So might Rabelais. Monty could not.
Nobody who had studied the works of the poet Scott at school could fail to be aware that in such circumstances a woman's duty was clear.
"Step out of the frame, Mona Lisa," said Reggie briskly. "I want a couple of words with you."
 And bring her here with Nanny Bruce floating about the place like poison gas?
"More work," said Mrs. Keating, and went off to the kitchen to attend to whatever it was on the stove that was making the house smell as if a meal were being prepared for a pack of hounds.
She was a delightful picture of radiant health. It made him feel sick to look at her.
It was one of those cold, clammy, accusing sort of eyes – the kind that makes you reach up and see if your tie is straight . . . .
I'm beginning to understand this business of matrimony. I'm beginning to see how the thing works. Would you care to hear how I figure it out, Jeeves?"
"Extremely, sir."
"Well, it's like this. Take a couple of birds. These birds get married, and for a while all is gas and gaiters. The female regards her mate as about the best thing that ever came a girl's way. He is he king, if you know what I mean. She looks up to him and respects him. Joy, as you might say, reigns supreme. Eh?"
"Very true, sir."
"Then gradually, by degrees - little by little, if I may use the expression - disillusionment sets in. She seems him eating a poached egg, and the glamour starts to fade. She watches him mangling a chop, and it continues to fade. And so on and so on, if you follow me, and so forth."
"I follow you perfectly, sir."
I had never listened in on a real, genuine female row before, and I'm bound to say it was pretty impressive.  During my absence, matters appeared to have developed on rather a spacious scale . . . . It was when the Pyke had begun to say that she had never had such a hearty laugh in her life as when she read the scene in Mrs Bingo's last novel where the heroine's little boy dies of croup that we felt it best to call the meeting to order before bloodshed set in.
One of the first lessons life teaches us is that on these occasions of back-chat between the delicately-nurtured, a man should retire into the offing, curl up in a ball, and imitate the prudent tactics of the opossum, which, when danger is in the air, pretends to be dead, frequently going to the length of hanging out crêpe and instructing its friends to gather round and say what a pity it all is. 
A roll and butter and a small coffee seemed the only things on the list that hadn't been specially prepared by the nastier-minded members of the Borgia family for people they had a particular grudge against, so I chose them.
You see, I'm one of those birds who drive a lot but don't know the first thing about the works. The policy I pursue is to get aboard, prod the self-starter, and leave the rest to Nature.
And she’s got brains enough for two, which is the exact quantity the girl who marries you will need.

As a sleuth you are poor. You couldn’t detect a bass-drum in a telephone-booth.

At the age of eleven or thereabouts women acquire a poise and an ability to handle difficult situations which a man, if he is lucky, manages to achieve somewhere in the later seventies.

Besides, isn’t there something in the book of rules about a man may not marry his cousin? Or am I thinking of grandmothers?

Everything in life that’s any fun, as somebody wisely observed, is either immoral, illegal or fattening.
He trusted neither of them as far as he could spit, and he was a poor spitter, lacking both distance and control.
He vanished abruptly, like an eel going into mud.

Honoria, you see, is one of those robust, dynamic girls with the muscles of a welterweight and a laugh like a squadron of cavalry charging over a tin bridge. A beastly thing to face over the breakfast table. Brainy, moreover.  [I like:  She had a laugh like a squadron of cavalry charging over a tin bridge]

I always advise people never to give advice.

I am not always good and noble. I am the hero of this story, but I have my off moments.

I consider that of all the dashed silly, drivelling ideas I ever heard in my puff this is the most blithering and futile. It won’t work. Not a chance.

I know I was writing stories when I was five. I don’t know what I did before that. Just loafed, I suppose.

I mean, if you’re asking a fellow to come out of a room so that you can dismember him with a carving knife, it’s absurd to tack a ‘sir’ on to every sentence. The two things don’t go together.

I shuddered from stem to stern, as stout barks do when buffeted by the waves.

I suppose half the time Shakespeare just shoved down anything that came into his head.

I wouldn’t have said off-hand that I had a subconscious mind, but I suppose I must without knowing it, and no doubt it was there, sweating away diligently at the old stand, all the while the corporeal Wooster was getting his eight hours.

If he had a mind, there was something on it.
Mere abuse is no criticism.
Oh, yes, he thinks a lot of you. I remember his very words. ‘Mr. Wooster, miss’ he said ‘is, perhaps, mentally somewhat negligible but he has a heart of gold’
“Routine is the death to heroism.

She cried in a voice that hit me between the eyebrows and went out at the back of my head.

The fascination of shooting as a sport depends almost wholly on whether you are at the right or wrong end of the gun.

The Right Hon. was a tubby little chap who looked as if he had been poured into his clothes and had forgotten to say “When!"

There is no surer foundation for a beautiful friendship than a mutual taste in literature.

To find a man’s true character, play golf with him.
Warm-hearted! I should think he has to wear asbestos vests!

“When I was a child, I used to think that rabbits were gnomes, and that if I held my breath and stayed quite still, I should see the fairy queen.” Indicating with a reserved gesture that this was just the sort of loony thing I should have expected her to think as a child, I returned to the point.

You can’t be a successful Dictator and design women’s underclothing.
His was a life which lacked, perhaps, the sublimer emotions which raised Man to the level of the gods, but it was undeniably an extremely happy one. He never experienced the thrill of ambition fulfilled, but, on the other hand, he never knew the agony of ambition frustrated....
It is a good rule in life never to apologize. The right sort of people do not want apologies, and the wrong sort take a mean advantage of them.

But who is P.G. (Plum) Wodehouse, really?  You can search the internet and find arguments back and forth on whether or not he was a Nazi collaborator, whether or not he was racist, and whether or not he was anti-semitic.  I tend to find those debates irrelevant to the point at hand -- like each and every one of us, he was a product of his culture, his upbringing, his times, and his genome.  The point at hand is that he was a genius with the written word.  And I don't use that term lightly.

Yes, I know "ode" doesn't rhyme with the "wode" in Wodehouse.   Still, that's the way I like to pronounce the name, just because it makes the spelling clear to those who don't know him.

Update May 13, 2016:  A few more:

‘There is a method by means of which Mrs Travers can be extricated from her sea of troubles. Shakespeare.’

I didn’t know why he was addressing me as Shakespeare, but I motioned him to continue.

                ‘Let’s go. If it were – what’s the expression of yours?’
                ‘If it were done when ‘tis done, then ‘twere well it were done quickly, sir.’
                ‘That’s right. No sense in standing humming and hawing.’
                ‘No, sir. There is a tide in the affairs of men which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune.’
                ‘Exactly,’ I said. I couldn’t have put it better myself.

Halting abruptly, as if he had walked into a lamp-post, he stood goggling like a cat in an adage. Cats in adages, Jeeves tells me, let ‘I dare not’ wait upon ‘I would’, and I could see with the naked eye that this was what Stilton was doing.

For a moment he stood there letting ‘I dare not’ wait upon ‘I would’. Then he spoke.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Shared Death Experiences and Other Signs of the Afterlife

I will update this post later; I want to use it to collect information about near death, shared death, and other out-of-body death-related experiences.

A lot of paranormal stuff is simply bunk, or manifestations of phenomena that have true physical explanations.  There are plenty of "scientific" explanations for "near death" experiences -- the one where you see the shining light, you see dead relatives beckoning to you or telling you it's not yet your time, etc.  The scientific explanation for that has to do with your brain's reaction to whatever trauma is causing you to nearly die.  Ok, that's fine.  But what about "shared death" experiences?  That's where you are with someone who is dying -- or in some cases, where you know someone who happens to be dying some distance away from you -- and you participate in their "death" experience.  I.e. you find yourself hovering above their body (and your own), along side them, as they are about to take off for the other world (or whatever).  Apparently this sort of thing has been reported since the 1800s.  Of course, there is a scientific explanation for that as well -- your mind wants to make sense of the death in some way so you invent that scenario.  This is a situation where you have to ask whether the scientific explanation is really as plausible as the "supernatural" explanation.  I don't know the answer, but will look into it some more.

The reason I bring this up now is that I hadn't heard of shared death experiences until just a few minutes ago, when read this on  I wonder if it would be possible for someone, knowing that a loved one is going to die, to try really hard to "share the death" with the loved one in that way.  I suppose I'll give it a try, if I have the chance.  People who have that kind of experience (including the near death ones) come back with a whole new perspective on life.

The other, possibly related phenomenon is the one of transmigration of souls.  i.e. where the "soul" of someone who died somehow clearly has ended up in the body of someone who simply did not know that soul.  UVa researcher Ian Stevenson wrote a number of books documenting a number of cases.  Carl Sagan criticized his methods though.  So perhaps it's not conclusive, but still, when young children start remembering and talking about their past lives as an unrelated adult, it's very very strange.

Monday, December 22, 2014

New York Times Calls for Prosecution of Torturers

Under a big picture of a smirking Dick Cheney in yesterday's New York Times, the Editorial Board called for prosecution -- or at least investigation -- of individuals up and down the chain of torturers.  See here

The Editorial makes the point that nobody can deny that the things that the CIA did to its prisoners in the aftermath of 9-11 was torture, under both federal law and an international treaty (ratified by the U.S. in 1994) banning torture.  It reminds us of the 26 prisoners who were, it turns out, wrongfully held, and therefore presumably doubly wrongfully tortured.  It reminds us of the one that died of hypothermia while chained naked to a concrete floor.  It reminds us of all the degrading acts our representatives visited upon their helpless captives, all in the name of protecting our security.  It sounds like the sort of stuff that we learn when we read up on Queen Elizabeth I's secret service, or the Spanish Inquisition, or, more recently, the Nazis.  I used to shudder when I read accounts like that, but ultimately comforted myself in saying that these were acts committed by barbarians, and those willing to commit crimes against humanity, and that that's not going to happen in the U.S.

But it sounds like we haven't really gotten any better.

And the New York Times is not particularly optimistic about anyone ever being prosecuted, even though we either know, or could easily find out, just about everyone's role.

That's it for now.  Really problematic how hypocritical "we" can be at times.

Sony and the Interview

I'm simply baffled by why anyone -- least of all Barack Obama -- expects Sony to stand up for the "free speech" and go forward with "The Interview."  Sony is a corporation, and not even a U.S. corporation at that.  They will wrap themselves up in the first amendment if it suits their bottom line, but they have no independent desire to stand up for free speech.  In this case, theater owners were refusing to screen the film because of very believable threats of violence.  Yes, it's unfortunate that a country like North Korea can prevent us from laughing at them in the movies, but on the "free speech"/censorship scale, that's not that big a deal.  The first amendment is merely a limit -- and one fiercely enforced by the Supreme Court at that -- on what our government can do to suppress our speech.  Whether or not a given individual thinks that it's a good idea to exercise the "free speech" right in a particular way, time, or place is up to that individual.

What if the movie theaters had stayed open, but nobody had come?  Would the citizens be blamed for not standing up for their rights to go to the movies?

I may be rambling here, but this just doesn't make any sense.  Again, Sony is a corporation.  All we ever want from corporations is that they do what they can to make a profit.  That's why we have corporations that aggressively pollute or hide their pollution, corporations that abuse the animals we use for food, corporations that knowingly sell unsafe products that are too dangerous to recall, corporations that fight against climate change legislation, corporations that charge exorbitant interest rates, corporations that overcharge for pharmaceuticals, healthcare, insurance, you name it.   The theory underlying capitalism is that if they overcharge too much, someone else will come in and charge less.  It doesn't always work that way, but that's the basic theory.  And it's against that background that Sony makes decisions about whether or not to screen a particular movie.  It's not about vindicating our right not to be censored.

If the threats against Sony were secret, and it was not likely to be known that Sony knew about them, then perhaps Sony would have allowed the movie to be shown.  But here, there were threats that everybody knew about, and some people even believed.  There was a real possibility -- unquantifiable, but nevertheless real -- that a certain number of people -- maybe even a whole theater full, maybe several theaters-full -- would die as a result of Sony's decision.  If that had happened, Sony would have been sued out the wazoo, or not?

Don't feel sorry for Sony.  One way or another, the Interview is going to get out, and people are going to pay to watch it, and Sony is going to make a lot of money.  Probably more than they would have made without all the free publicity that they've now gotten.

Now about the first amendment generally:  The idea that it's some kind of absolute "right" that is essential to our democracy is what makes campaign finance reform so difficult.  See Citizens United. Maybe the "Interview" situation will cause us to start thinking about the first amendment on a case-by-case basis, instead of insisting that it is the most important precept of our democracy.

Update:  I saw the movie on Youtube over Christmas.  Not very good cinematically, although overall, one could say that it contained a serious message about the problems in North Korea.  Watching it made me think about self-censorship just a little bit more.  There is much in the movies today that simply would not have appeared in a movie in the "old days" (back when all films were essentially rated G), or even in the slightly less-old days (when the vast majority of movies for public consumption were still rated PG, not R).  That was self-censorship by the film industry - through the Motion Picture Code, which was in force from about 1930 to 1968.  I'm not sure that it was a bad thing.  And it didn't prevent the industry from taking on challenging topics, like the rise of Hitler in Europe.

In other words, there is doubtless "good" speech to be made that would would work to help people understand how certain sects have twisted the Muslim faith in order to justify senseless violence against non-believers.  But the "goodness" and value of the speech gets a lot blurrier when the speech itself indiscriminately offends all Muslims.  See my recent post the Charlie Hebdo massacre.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Atheists' Ten Commandments

I'm not an atheist, and as you can see from my recent post, Sick Bastards at the Taliban, I actually think religion may be a necessary evil.  We just need to make sure that everybody agrees on some universal principles.  And maybe that's the difference between me and atheists.  In that post, after remembering that my initial instinct -- Thou shalt not kill another human being -- was refuted by a 1989 Dilbert cartoon, I scaled back my ambitions to "Thou shalt not kill a child."

I now see that the atheists themselves have announced their own set of Ten Commandments, or, as they put it, Ten Non-Commandments.  These have resulted from a web-based contest put on by the authors of "Atheist Mind, Humanist Heart" (Lex Bayer and John Figdor).  The contest received about 2,800 entries from 18 countries and 27 U.S. states.  That's a pretty pathetic and probably non-representative sample, but I guess they have to compete with other atheists for attention.  Still, crowdsourcing this question has produced a pretty good list:

1. Be open-minded and be willing to alter your beliefs with new evidence.
2. Strive to understand what is most likely to be true, not to believe what you wish to be true.
3. The scientific method is the most reliable way of understanding the natural world.
4. Every person has the right to control of their body.
5. God is not necessary to be a good person or to live a full and meaningful life.
6. Be mindful of the consequences of all your actions and recognize that you must take responsibility for them.
7. Treat others as you would want them to treat you, and can reasonably expect them to want to be treated. Think about their perspective.
8. We have the responsibility to consider others, including future generations.
9. There is no one right way to live.
10. Leave the world a better place than you found it.
So that's a pretty good list for atheists and other enlightened people.  The problem, however, is that there are billions of people who are trapped in lives of permanent despair in this world.  The perfectly sensible point about the scientific method might not exactly resonate with a starving person in India, an ebola survivor in Africa, or Muslim child orphaned by collateral damage from a U.S. drone attack.
For people like that, the thought of another, better world is a great and perhaps necessary comfort. And one can't exactly blame them if they end up succumbing to "religious" beliefs that consign their tormentors -- whether the direct killers of their parents or merely the rich and arrogant citizens of a distant nation run by corporate greed -- to hell or worse.

Don't get me wrong, I like what the atheists are trying to do.  If everyone in the world followed these principles, the world would be a much, much better place.  Parents should work hard to make sure that their children understand and absorb these principles.

(But I have a feeling that even in an atheist world, corporations would still run things, and subscribers to these commandments would be powerless to stop them, simply because the profit motive is so strong.)

My point is merely that it's unrealistic in this day and age, and in this state of the world, to hope to convert everybody to atheism.  Religion is too important.  That's why we need a "super-religion" that would be consistent with all existing world religions, and yet would make a few additional points.  Maybe some of the points could be those of the atheists.  But the biggest one for me is still:

Thou shalt not kill a child.

n.b.  I tried searching for my own blog using the search term "sick bastards Taliban."  Turns out that's not a good way to try to find this blog.


Atheist Heart, Humanist Mind Site -- displays all 2800-plus entries, and allows you to still add your own.  Many of the entries are very good -- just like the commandments -- and principles that one should attempt to instill in one's children.

CNN report on atheist ten commandments

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Sick bastards at the Taliban

Today's news is that Taliban gunmen killed over 130 -- probably over 140 -- CHILDREN at a Pakistani school earlier today.   I'm not going to read the reports.  It's just too depressing.

I'm torn between wanting to stomp them out completely, and realizing that our misguided and miscarried efforts to stomp them out in the past are exactly what has allowed them to continue to attract young men capable of carrying out these atrocities.

It would be wonderful to find and torture to death the sickoes in the Taliban leadership who have twisted their religion to the point where their followers have come to believe that this is the sort of thing their god wants to see.  Unfortunately, last time we tried that, we tortured some of the wrong people to death.

Somewhere, somehow, hearts and minds are going to have to change.

If we have to have religions -- and maybe we do -- then let's get all of them to agree on at least one simple principle:

Thou shalt not kill another human being.

Anyone who violates that commandment will go to hell, no matter what faith he follows, and no matter what the excuse.

Yes, we'd have to give up the death penalty, we'd have to give up wars, and we'd have to give up drone strikes.  We might even have to give up some prime-time TV.  But maybe some good would come of all that.

Seriously, maybe we can start a campaign with a view toward getting the no-kill principle adopted into every single religion in the world, including atheism and secular humanism.

The counterargument is as follows:

So instead, let's just start small:

Thou shalt not kill a child.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

What Ever Happened to "Kicksoccer" or "Kick Soccer"?

When I was growing up -- in the 1960s and 1970s -- we played a game called "kick soccer" or maybe "kicksoccer."  It was like baseball or softball, but instead of hitting a little ball with a bat, we kicked a bigger ball with our feet.  The best balls were the soccer-ball sized red rubber balls that only schools seemed to have in those days.  We knew about "soccer," but this was America, so we didn't play it.  Ever.  We understood that kicksoccer was something of a misnomer, but that's what we called it.  I wish I could remember my last game of kicksoccer.  It might have been when I was in the sixth grade.  And my first game was probably in the neighborhood when I was five or younger, before I even started kindergarten.

My point is that in the area where I grew up, EVERYBODY called the game "kicksoccer" or "kick soccer."  If adults heard us call it that, they never corrected us.

After sixth grade, I went to a different school, and don't remember ever playing -- or saying -- "kick soccer" again.  The game "kickball" never came up either.

Many years later, I encountered the game again, except that everybody called it "kickball."  If anyone had called it that back when I was growing up, they would have been thrown off the playground.  But that seems to be what everyone calls it now.  Yes, it's more accurate and less confusing, but it just doesn't sound as cool.

At the time, the word "sock" was more commonly used to mean "hit" than it is today, and maybe that was part of the attraction of the "kicksoccer" name.

And it seems that other people of my generation remember playing "kickball" and not "kicksoccer."

Wikipedia goes through the history of "kickball" here:  Apparently it was invented around 1917 by someone named Nicholas Seuss in Cincinnati, and it was originally called "kick balls."  And now I realize why I hate the name "kickball" or "kick ball" so much.  It's a bit better than "kick balls," but it still sounds pretty painful to me.

I wrote this post after doing extensive googling on "kick soccer" and not finding anything except soccer-related stuff.  Just as I was finishing, I decided to google "kicksoccer."  And thereby proved to myself that I'm not crazy.  In all of Google Books (millions upon millions of scanned books) there are two references to "kicksoccer" as another name for kickball.  One appears on p. 185 of  Barrie, Thorne, Gender play: girls and boys in school (1993).  The other appears on in the CAHPER Journal, volume 52, p. 7 (1986) (where CAHPER is "Canadian Association for Health, Physical Education, and Recreation."

But on the web itself, as far as I can tell, there is only one reference to "kicksoccer" as meaning kickball: somebody on July 25, 2011 is proposing kickball in the park for their meetup group and says "Remember kickball?  Or as my hood used to call it kicksoccer."

As of this writing, this blog is the fourth place on the whole internet -- including Google Books -- that uses the word "kick soccer" or "kicksoccer" to refer to what is now known as "kickball."

I wonder how the name change came about.  I'm sure they call it kickball at my old school now.  Maybe some school bureaucrat decided that kids would get confused by "kicksoccer" given the growing popularity of "soccer" in the U.S., and launched a campaign among adults to get the kids to stop calling it kicksoccer.  And then it spread from school to school, and the word "kicksoccer" was eradicated.  Who knows.  But whatever the reason, it was totally misguided (like I said, we knew about soccer, and weren't confused), and a good name for a great game has now been replaced by a bad one.

There is a bit of a resurgence of "kickball" going on right now among adults; I even played a game myself a few years ago, and have passed up a few other opportunities.  So far, I have just gone with the flow and kept my thoughts on the name "kicksoccer" to myself.  But next time I play, I'm going to work on getting the name changed.  It won't be easy, but if others who remember "kicksoccer" feel the same way, maybe we can work together to bring the name back.

So if you remember "kicksoccer," I'd love to hear from you -- just leave an anonymous comment giving the time period and location of that usage.  (I'm not doing that myself, sorry, just because I don't like putting personal information into this blog).

Grammar note:  As of this writing, the usage "whatever happened to" garners 8,460,000 google hits, whereas the usage "what ever happened to" garners only 970,000 hits.  Somebody flatly asked the question of which was correct here, but didn't get a very clear answer from any of the respondents. And here the question was only asked -- and never answered -- at the end of a chain in which "what ever" was strongly discouraged.  But the answer comes from the dictionary definition of whatever:

Full Definition of WHATEVER
a :  any … that :  all … that <buy peace … on whatever terms could be obtained — C. S. Forester>
b :  no matter what <money, in whatever hands, will confer power — Samuel Johnson>

:  of any kind at all —used after the substantive it modifies with any or with an expressed or implied negative <in any order whatever — W. G. Moulton> <no food whatever>

Just because "what" and "ever" appear next to each other in the sentence that you are constructing does not mean you're using the word "whatever."

The basic question is "what happened to kicksoccer"; "ever" is added for emphasis, perhaps to indicate that "kicksoccer" is truly gone, or perhaps to indicate that we don't know when or why it disappeared.  None of the definitions of "whatever" make sense in this context.

So the correct phrase is "what ever happened to" NOT "whatever happened to."  Yes, in this case, 8.6 million google hits are wrong.  And this might be the only place on the web that provides a clear answer.

The same logic applies to "what ever were you thinking" and "whatever were you thinking" -- there, the question is "what were you thinking" and "ever" is added for emphasis.  Interestingly, on that one, most of the internet is getting it right -- 585,000 google hits for "what ever were you thinking" vs. 440,000 for "what ever were you thinking."

Monday, December 8, 2014

Michael Carson on Dead Bodies and Wasted Money

In a heart-felt piece in today's Salon, Army Veteran (?) Michael Carson, makes one key point:  Our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were "optional' and thus not a good idea.  There doesn't seem to be any biographical information on this Michael Carson on Salon, or even on the Internet at large.  I can't even tell what rank he is.  Apparently, he is echoing the point made by Anand Gopal, in "No Good Men Among the Living: America, the Taliban, and the War Through Afghan Eyes."

Carson's other best points for me were these:

"Before they [the Pentagon general and bureaucrats who have been running our wars] go any further, I have a suggestion for them: stop. Let go of your mouse. Put away all the power points that trace the different tribal leaders we should bomb and the ones that we should give money to, as well as the older power points that give money to the ones we are now bombing and bomb the ones we are now giving money to. Pause, take a deep breath, and please acknowledge that wars, whether won or lost, do not make societies smarter, but stupider."
"Once we invested a trillion dollars to build a nation through bombs, money and more bombs, we effectively undermined any pretense of understanding Afghanistan’s culture, history or nationality. What we knew or didn’t know about this or that tribal leader is ultimately unimportant. We gave up on knowledge when we went tried to bomb another world into our image, and no amount of after-action reviews, however nuanced and sophisticated, will take away from the fact that we have become stupider for having fought a war."

As I have said before, if the U.S. really were a better nation than all the rest -- if we really did have the agreed-upon moral authority that some of our leaders used to think we had -- then maybe -- just maybe -- it would have made sense for us to start wars with the hope of making parts of the world that we didn't understand better and safer places.  But we aren't -- as long as the world is full of widely differing cultures, religions, and ideas, there will be no "agreed-upon moral authority" and our optional wars will only stir resentment.  The return on all the wasted money and lives will be zilch, or less than zilch, as the resentment we stir up will make the world an even less stable and safe place than it was before we started.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Tony Robbins WashingtonPost Puff Piece

More confirmation that I'm in the minority when it comes to Tony Robbins.  In Dec. 1's WashingtonPost, Karen Heller mostly gushes over the guy with an occasional snide aside, just to show she's really not as smitten with him as she sounds.

She's another one who thinks he looks like a movie star.  This time, it's Ben Affleck of all people.  All in all it's a bit unclear what Heller is trying to convey -- she mentions the Robbins "legend" a few times, and tells some of his stories, and repeats some of his name dropping.

Mostly, I guess the point is to let people know that Robbins has written a book about money.  This was the opportunist who, back when "believe and it will happen" was big, kept telling stories about people who believed they would win the lottery actually won it, more than once.  Back in one of the bull-bubble markets, he was out there hawking seminars telling people to ride it, but probably not telling them just when to get off.  Apparently he's worth about half a billion now -- spent $42 million on his last divorce.  Not really sure what a guy with that kind of bankroll and that kind of "financial advice" history can teach me managing my money.

My thoughts on his 2006 TED Talk and on Tony Robbins generally are here.  I still have no idea how much of that stuff about 9-11 he just made up.  It could have happened, so maybe it did.

I wrote this, and then it occurred to me to look at the comments.  I rarely do that, because Washington Post commenters are usually a mix of Democrats and Republicans who see politics in everything.  But here, they almost all seem to share my view.  Maybe it's only the people in the press that are scared to say bad things about him.

Actually, I'm starting to think it's a male-female divide thing, and it's a kind of metaphor for one significant aspect of male/female relationships generally.  It's the women who like him (Oprah, Arianna Huffington, Karen Heller, Susan Cain); men generally don't like him much, although some might want to be like him.  I have to admit that on some level, Tony Robbins is the ultimate "alpha male" -- he's big, he's rich, he's powerful, he's well connected, and he's the center of a lot of attention (especially at his seminars).  So it's probably small wonder that women seem to swoon over him, and men -- puny, pathetic, beta males by comparison -- tend to see him as a sleazeball, and wonder why the women can't see it.  The same thing plays itself out over and over again in the love lives of many men and women -- the women are attracted to the alphas, and the betas are left scratching their heads (until, of course, the women get a little bit older and come running back to the safety, security, and fidelity of the beta).  So I'm guessing that Tony Robbins's seminars are mostly populated by women who want to swoon over him, and men who want to be like him.  Probably why I've never been tempted to go.

The comments from the Washington Post (reproduced below) -- most of which seem to agree that Tony Robbins is a sleazeball -- are overwhelmingly by men:
12/2/2014 11:40 PM EST
When I think Tony Robbins I think Shallow Hal. Classic.
Point Break Hotel
12/2/2014 10:30 PM EST
Ah, if it works for you, so be it. I have friends who swear by it, clients who wanted me to take the profile they were so hooked into it. The answer to that was a polite deflection to other subjects. But, seriously, given the number of ways one can become absorbed in this life on so many different paths, I am not going to throw stones at Robbins.
12/2/2014 10:25 PM EST [Edited]
Is it ok to call him a con man and a grffter, essentially a white Al Sharpton?
12/2/2014 10:10 PM EST
If you've ever wondered what would happen if Ayn Rand were artificially inseminated by Werner Erhard, now you know!
12/2/2014 10:02 PM EST
"Robbins resembles a taller version of Ben Affleck." 
But I'm pretty sure he's never danced the horizontal tango with J-Lo!
12/2/2014 10:12 PM EST
I think he resembles a shorter version of "Jaws", the late Richard Kiel:
12/2/2014 10:01 PM EST
Has to be the most vain, superficial man on the planet.
12/2/2014 9:58 PM EST
"No one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public."  
- H. L. Mencken
12/2/2014 9:57 PM EST
The Jimmy Swaggert of "Life Coaches". 
What a scam!
12/2/2014 10:26 PM EST
millions of people worldwide would beg to differ Steveo,
Jimbo Squad
12/2/2014 9:52 PM EST
He'll motivate the contents of your wallet into his.
12/2/2014 9:45 PM EST
Many dreamy-eyed, adoring women floated home from this sleazeball's seminars, motivated enough to drop their husbands and families.
12/2/2014 9:44 PM EST
Could this article be more of a puff piece? The closer I read it, the sicker I get: "Robbins resembles a taller version of Ben Affleck." Too bad the person who wrote this article doesn't resemble a journalist.
12/2/2014 9:44 PM EST
I don't think it's possible to write more of a puff piece unless Lena Dunham is in it.
12/2/2014 9:58 PM EST
The Post turns more and more into a PR vehicle for dubious celebrities. So much for responsible journalism.
12/2/2014 9:58 PM EST
The Post turns more and more into a PR vehicle for dubious celebrities. So much for responsible journalism.
12/2/2014 9:42 PM EST [Edited]
Sorry, but he's no philanthropist like Bill and Melissa Gates, who truly deserve a story on how they are helping people all over the world. Robbins is just making money off of people all over the world and giving nothing in return...unless you're rich and can pay for it.
12/2/2014 9:43 PM EST
Well, it looks like his publicist bought Karen Heller a really nice lunch, I guess that's giving back *something*.
12/2/2014 9:43 PM EST
Something for self-flattery isn't anything, as you know.
12/2/2014 9:41 PM EST
12/2/2014 9:32 PM EST
Tony Robbins is the kindest, bravest, warmest, most wonderful human being I've ever known in my life.
12/2/2014 9:37 PM EST
I might write that too ... if I were a hermit.
12/2/2014 9:38 PM EST
Haven't you seen "The Manchurian Candidate"?
12/2/2014 9:39 PM EST
Ha ha ... now I catch your drift.
12/2/2014 9:53 PM EST
12/2/2014 9:29 PM EST
It's only fitting that Tony Robbins was photographed at New York's Four Seasons Hotel, a property owned by an equally sketchy—but even MORE successful!— flim-flam man: 
12/2/2014 9:28 PM EST
What a sad testament to what The Washington Post has become. Ben Bradlee is rolling over in his grave.
12/2/2014 9:44 PM EST
We should be able to harness the energy of his spinning to generate power for most of the Eastern seaboard.
12/2/2014 9:21 PM EST
Tony Robbins: "Personal appearance is everything."
Jimbo Squad
12/2/2014 9:31 PM EST
Every fiber of his being oozes sleaze.
12/2/2014 9:14 PM EST
I bought Tony's tapes 20 years ago and thought they were great. I used his technique to get my best friend to quit smoking and he hasn't smoked since. He gave me self help advice and it worked. I did not go to any seminars and the tapes were under a hundred dollars and well worth it.
12/2/2014 8:54 PM EST
How empty would your life have to be for you to find this guy inspiring rather than revolting? I find money in this day and age to be whatever you want it to be, and what I want it to be is mine as much as possible.
12/2/2014 8:54 PM EST
Robbins was a notorious scammer and an anti-gay bigot as well. I knew him when he was launching his "fire walks" in the Eighties. But, then again, maybe he's become respectable...
12/2/2014 8:32 PM EST [Edited]
hahaha, what a joke. Robbins is a snake oil salesman. If you don't believe me go and waste $16 on one of his books and read about how he plans to "motivate" you. 
Bezos and Robbins must be friends. I guess this starts to answer the question of what the post is going to be like with its new corporate ownership.
Fast Eddie61
12/2/2014 8:38 PM EST
"Bezos and Robbins must be friends. I guess this starts to answer the question of what the post is going to be like with its new corporate ownership." 
Dunno about that - this wasn't exactly a fawning article. More a hatchet job, as someone else said.
12/2/2014 8:39 PM EST
Either way, the Post should not be printing it.
12/2/2014 8:28 PM EST
Best film role, Shallow Hal.
12/2/2014 8:32 PM EST
"Man, look at those mitts! lt's like grabbing a bunch of bananas."
12/2/2014 8:20 PM EST
I wonder if Robbins isn't a good friend of Jeff Bozos.
12/2/2014 8:27 PM EST
Good question. There both very successful, so I'm guessing they've crossed paths.
12/2/2014 9:03 PM EST
One thing both men can probably do, which you seem unable, is to appropriately use the contraction of 'they are'.
12/2/2014 8:19 PM EST
Tony Robbins is a flim flam artist, con man, Elmer Gantry like American icon.... Others?
Fast Eddie61
12/2/2014 8:07 PM EST
How can people fall for this guy? Riddle me that. He has huckster written all over him. 
"There's a sucker..."
Jimbo Squad
12/2/2014 8:10 PM EST [Edited]
If I was stranded on a deserted island with him, I'd sleep with one eye open.
12/2/2014 8:33 PM EST
I've seen the guy on an infomercial or two over the years. Never read one of his books, never watched one of his videos, nor have I attended one of his lectures. But from what I've heard, he's a motivator (and a darned good one) who has helped a lot of people succeed. That he's profited from it shouldn't bring him scorn. What exactly is your problem with him?
Fast Eddie61
12/2/2014 8:37 PM EST
I don't have any problem at all - if people are dumb enough to give him millions of dollars, more power to him.
12/2/2014 8:41 PM EST [Edited]
Good to hear, Eddie. Calling people "dumb" because they find some value in his service and actually better their lives is a problem...with you.
View More Replies
Fast Eddie61
12/2/2014 8:51 PM EST [Edited]
You're right - I shouldn't have used the word "dumb." It was rude.  
But I stand by my belief that this guy is a huckster and a charlatan. People like him have existed down through the ages. Many people have lost lots of money by giving it to Tony Robbins and his ilk.  
People like Robbins convince others that they have some answers or wisdom that others are not privy to - and people fall for it. 
Take a look at his video - would you buy a used car from this man?
Fast Eddie61
12/2/2014 8:00 PM EST
“It’s about impact and it’s all about love for me. Quite frankly, I’m a love bug.”  
Ask his first wife about that.
12/2/2014 7:57 PM EST
Tony Robbins big thing was motivating people in the sales profession. Of course the whole profession has gone downhill in a low demand/deflationary environment. Companies today don't want self-confident salespeople. They find them annoying/threatening. They want nice people who don't rock the boat. 
As far as giving financial advice - Robbins is really out of his league - running east, looking for a sunset.  
12/2/2014 9:04 PM EST
Excellent point - with the internet and equitable access to information to make buy decisions the "hard sell" and those who embody it - Robbins - looks like a dated symbol of the pre-recession era. Still he somehow finds an audience.
12/2/2014 7:41 PM EST
How does he feel about "charlatan"? 
12/2/2014 7:50 PM EST
At every one of his "seminars" they push people to buy more stuff, more CDs more books, more meetings, firewalks. Reminiscent of EST?
Jimbo Squad
12/2/2014 7:34 PM EST [Edited]
I just thought of him as a sociopathic manipulator of people as I do all motivational speakers. They will say or do anything for money, shameless con men nothing more. There's one born every minute who will pay others to say what they want to hear, sad really.
12/2/2014 7:29 PM EST
Sell them a ticket to the exit.

12/2/2014 1:22 AM EST
Not my cuppa tea. Tony Robbins has some interesting ideas but its all about finding happiness in things like money and stuff and hyperactivity. Life can be greatly satisfying by just sitting and simply paying attention to it. Stop and look around. There is nothing to accomplish or get. No goals -- just be. I have no gurus, but if I had to name any they would be the likes of Siddhartha, Lao Tzu, Marcus Aurelius, the late Alan Watts and Eckhart Tolle.
12/2/2014 8:36 PM EST
I suspect the same thing was said about Bill Gates many moons ago. Just wondering: With all that Gates is giving back now, do you feel the same about him? How do you know Robbins won't do the same?
Jimbo Squad
12/2/2014 8:47 PM EST
Please don't put a smart legitimate guy and a con man in the same boat.
12/2/2014 10:18 PM EST
Well, his software sucks, if that's any grounds for comparison.
12/2/2014 12:51 AM EST
OK, I'll ask: did he pay the Post upfront for this ridiculous article? Is this what the Bezos era has wrought: cheesecake pieces on infomercial sleazebags?
12/2/2014 7:52 PM EST
You didn't get it, crane5. This is a hatchet job.
12/2/2014 8:00 PM EST
The future of journalism seems to be publicist generated articles. I don't know if this paper does it, but many online publications take money from publicists for articles.
12/2/2014 8:06 PM EST
"but many online publications..."
12/1/2014 9:05 PM EST
I spent a weekend in LA with Tony, did the fire walk, the whole nine yards. Worth every minute, every dollar.
12/2/2014 7:49 PM EST
I guess one can say you are happy to have contributed to his billion dollar fortune...
Jimbo Squad
12/2/2014 8:11 PM EST [Edited]
How much did the whole experience set you back or does he do it just for the joy of helping people.