27 July 2009

A capacity for self-delusion

In the aftermath of a devastating British naval assault on an North Africa-bound Italian supply convoy on 9 November 1941, Italian commanders were desperate to put a good light on the disaster:

From North Africa, Rommel complained to Berlin that his supply line had been cut and that, of 60,000 troops promised, only 8,093 had arrived. In the aftermath of the action Mussolini was "depressed and indignant", [Admirals] Brivonesi and Bisciani lost their commands, and [Count Galeazzo] Ciano considered there would be "profound repercussions ... Under the circumstances we have no right to complain if Hitler sends Kesselring as commander in the South". The Italian high command had a capacity for self-delusion, "pulling out their usual inevitable and imaginary sinking of a British cruiser by an Italian torpedo plane; nobody believes it". Italian reconnaisance photographs taken after Force K had returned to Malta showed a cruiser moored near the dry-dock. This, insisted the Regia Aeronautica's chief of staff, Generale Pricolo, was evidence that one British cruiser had been hit. "This," commented Ciano despairingly, "is equivalent to declaring that a man is probably dead because he has gone to live near the cemetery. Clowns, tragic clowns..."

- Richard Woodman, Malta Convoys, London, 2000

24 July 2009

Howling at the moon

The comments thread on this Amazon t-shirt sale page ascend to the apex of literary criticism, while at the same time ensuring that levels of awesomeness are never neglected. A small sample of the comments on the shirt, which depicts three wolves howling at a full moon:

Look closely at the moon. It is the face of Chuck Norris. One wolf would not be enough to pay him homage. It takes three. (Katherine, California)

- Amazon.com, via Threadless.com

20 July 2009

Cultural differences

'I was filming around Bilbao and environs in Northern Spain some years ago. The cast of our film was invited to the San Sebastian Film Festival premiere of a new Polanski movie called The Ninth Gate, not one of dear Roman’s best, but perfectly enjoyable and always a pleasure to be in St. Sebastian, or ‘Donostia’ as the Basques call it. I won’t go into the plot of the film, perhaps you know it anyway: suffice to say Johnny Depp plays an art dealer who gets involved in some sort of satanic Hammer House of Horror brouhaha or other. The opening reel takes place in New York (not filmed there of course: Mr Polanski can’t go to America) and there is a scene where Johnny Depp’s character arrives at his apartment, goes to the fridge, takes a pizza box from the freezer section, removes a frozen pizza and pops it into the microwave. Cue howls of laughter from the audience. I am sitting one row behind Johnny Depp and can see that he is rather perplexed by these helpless gales of Hispanic merriment and I hear him whisper to the Festival Director next to him, “Why are they laughing?” to which the Spaniard replies, wiping tears from his own eyes, “Because they cannot believe that anyone would do that to their stomach!” Genuine perplexity on both sides. An American thinks: why would anyone find placing a frozen ready-made pizza inside a microwave amusing? – a Spaniard, especially a Basque, whose cuisine is exceptional, thinks: why would anyone, above all somebody cultured and prosperous, insult their digestion with such complete rubbish?'

- Stephen Fry, The Spectator Lecture, Royal Geographical Society, presented in London 30 April 2009

15 July 2009

A perceptive analysis

'After the round of broadly favourable reviews a backlash was inevitable, and by the time the Outside tour arrived in Britain in November [1995], members of the music press were falling over one another to rubbish an album mistakenly praised by their colleagues. The NME's Simon Williams found the English language a sadly inadequate medium in which to launch his assault: "El Bowza's latest lurch away from reality is entitled Outside, which is kind of about 'outsiders' and involves all these strange neo-futuristic characters running around El Bowza's head and it's sort of a concept album blah blah bollocks blah blah ARSE!!!!!!!" A perceptive analysis'

- Nicholas Pegg, The Complete David Bowie, 2000, summarising reviews on Bowie's 1995 album 1. Outside.

02 July 2009

Jeff Goldblum

Jeff Goldblum provides a stirring eulogy... for Jeff Goldblum, after false news reports that he had fallen to his death in New Zealand.

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It should be noted that the NZ Police issued a clear denial of the hoax.

01 July 2009

The days of amateur rugby

'Not since 1950 has Ranfurly Shield fever reached such fervour in Wairarapa. Then the local team captured the shield with a 3-0 drop-goal win over Canterbury.


However, Wairarapa's hold on the shield was shortlived. The youngest player at the time, Hori Thompson, said most players thought the season had ended so left the region for shearing work.

"The coach turned up on a Thursday at work and said, 'You guys are playing this weekend'. Most of the lads had been drunk for two weeks since the win ... and no one had been training." Wairarapa went down 17-14 to South Canterbury in the first defence'

- Dominion Post, 2 July 2009