Friday, August 8, 2008

Ayres and Grazie!

As the actress said to the Bishop, "Let's do this arsy-versy":
... the government safe limits [on alcohol consumption] inevitably err on the side of caution. They ignore the difference between the short, plump person, who drinkls badly, and the large, well-muscled male dinker, who may be able to drink a third more than average withoout physical or mental trouble. Nor do the limits allow for genetic susceptibility or tolerance.
To which, Malcolm (a seventeen-stone, six-footer, who long-ago scrummed down -- and rowed) says from the bottom of his bottle, "Oh, thank you! Thank you, Doctor Thomas Stuttaford!"

And so to the main event ...

"Home to porridge and old clothes"

Just back from a season of excess (via his niece's marriage at Cap Ferrat: see illustration, right, for evidence), Malcolm needed just that to get back into the swing.

What made the whole business more than exquisite were the two accompanying articles in today's Times2, by (successively) Chris Ayres and Ross Anderson. They proved the joys of the road-less-travelled, the newsprint's outer fringes, those articles that are not read on first scurry, the ill-considered fillers and leisure pieces. Let's admit that there are not many journos winning gold medals while the Dog Star rages, and the regular readers are intent on being first to the pool-side.

Ayres, on the spot, was reflecting on the July 29th, magnitude 5.4, quake that hit Los Angeles:
... there have been approximately 140,000 earthquakes in Southern California since the last one that did any significant damage (this being the Northridge rumble of '94, which killed 72). If you had cowered under your desk during every single one of them, you would almost certainly have been sent away by now to live in a rubber-walled cell with a man who wears his underpants on his head and thinks he's a toaster.
Malcolm's son-in-law has a sister living within miles of that epicenter. Her recipe is not to fuss until the pictures crash off the walls. She obviously is aware of Ayres' essential thesis: to hell with the official warnings, just keep your dignity. [In fact, and to be precise, Ayres slightly edited the actualité. it was not Judge Judy who was the real plonker with a dive under the desk: it was the further-down-market Judge Penny.]

The essential point here is that the Ayres piece is a model of what Malcolm considers the perfect blog entry, or, what a few years back -- and, yes, now -- , would constitute the ideal piece of week-end journalism. He takes a done deed and embroiders it with enough fluff and interest to make it stand on its own merits, rather than being yesterday's fish-and-chips wrapper. His conclusion is a gem of the direct, personal link to the reader:
That's not to say that inaction is always the best policy, as my wife can confirm. She was halfway through a job interview on the fourth floor of a swanky Beverly Hills high-rise when she noticed that the view out of the floor-to-ceiling windows was swaying from side to side. Next, she heard a terrible crunching noise, followed by screams from the secretaries nextdoor. At this point she had two options: 1) leap off the sofa and adopt the Fema-approved below-desk cowering position; or 2) do nothing and risk having floors 5-to-11 land on her head. She chose the latter (she really wanted the job).

“Interesting,” said her interviewer, when the shaking finally came to an end. “Now we know how you act in a crisis.” Which could be taken to mean: 1) you remained calm, well done; or 2) you did nothing, therefore you're fired before you start. At least the earthquake gave her an opportunity for a one-liner as the interview came to an end. “Did the Earth move for you?” she asked.

With that , Malcolm signs off,
wishes all a good-night,
goes to read the final few chapters of The Spies of Warsaw,
above left, before sleep.

Tomorrow to the Earls Court Beer Festival,
with as clear a conscience as Dr Stuttaford allows.
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