Hollaback Girl!

There’s an article in El Pais English Edition today (or here, since El Pais English doesn’t archive online) about flattering remarks on a woman’s appearance, piropos, being on the wane in Spain. (Wane in Spain: Jonathan Ross stars as Eliza Doolittle in a Pantomime My Fair Lady?)

The article doesn’t give examples so I looked up some piropos. Some were rather twee and sweet, others were pretty filthy. They’re effectively chat-up lines like our English ones, which I’m sure are only written to be passed around in emails. I find it hard to believe anyone actually uses them out loud.

The decline in harassment of any kind is certainly welcome news. However, the article (in case you hadn’t time to read it) mentions www.ihollaback.org which is well worth a visit. It’s the funniest website I’ve seen in weeks!

Hollaback! YOU HAVE THE POWER TO write about, but take no tangible action to END STREET HARASSMENT.

The website is, I assume, named after that dreadful Gwen Stafani song in which she admits she’s been, “a few times… around that track” and encourages ditsy, airhead, cheerleaders everywhere to, “put your pom-poms down.” Hardly The Female Eunuch is it.

Let’s take a look at the very first post (at time of writing) on the ihollaback.org home page. A letter from Shawna J.:

‘When I was 13, and a nerdy bookish 7th grader, I was picked on by the other kids from my neighborhood because I was a) overweight, b) smart than them (sic), and c) didn’t shave my legs yet. At one point, they called me “Congo” and told me to go shave my legs. This went on for about a year or so.

One day, a boy said, “You should shave your legs!”, and 14-year-old me looked him straight in the eye and, without missing a beat, said,

“Why are you looking at my legs?”

They never bothered me again.’

Thank you for your inspiring and empowering story Shawna, but I have a couple of questions;

1. You admit you were nerdy, bookish, overweight, smart than them (sic), and hirsute, and you expect not to encounter abuse from schoolboys? What planet do you live on?
2. You let them call you “Congo” (which shows that the little rascals paid attention in Geography at least) for an ENTIRE YEAR before answering back. How is that “without missing a beat”?

The temptation to post this reply, and incur the inarticulate wrath of feminist America, is overwhelming. But instead, I shall submit to ihollaback.org a harassment story of my own:

Few things arouse a chap like a lingering feminine touch. A soft palm placed against one’s lower latissimus dorsi, a delicately manicured hand squeezing the elbow, or a beguiling stroke of the shoulders and nape. The spark of contact, a suggestion of intimacy and the promise of seduction. If you can avoid making tasteless jokes, splitting her lip when enthusiastically diving in for the kiss, or clumsily swiping her drink off the table and into her open handbag (which, naturally, contains expensive gifts for a friend) then you’re probably in with a chance.

However, when the delicately manicured hands in question belong to a 50-something male colleague with a Roman nose and two tufts of white hair that sprout from either side of his shiny pate, like Asterix’s bewinged helmet, then the feeling is one of dreadful apprehension. (I say delicately manicured, I’m judging by his smoothness of touch. Its a trifle difficult to asses the assailant’s fingernails when you’re paralysed with fear, let me tell you.)

Asterix

At first I took Isidoro’s stolen caresses to be nothing more than an enthusiastic friendly gesture. The Spanish are naturally touchy-feely, I told myself. And wouldn’t I be somewhat effeminate had I, like a good Catholic boy, lived with my mother until I was 35?

Nothing at all wrong with a hand on the shoulder between colleagues, but when its two hands and they’re slipping over the deltoids and down toward the elbows in the manner of a masseuse, then I find myself fighting the urge to leap to my feet with an exclamation of, “What ho old chap!” or a coarser equivalent of the same. Loathe as I am to disturb the tranquillity (some might say stifling tedium) that permeates our office, I did begin to wander if a curt Defining of Physical Boundaries conversation – a “Hollaback”, if you will – might be called for in the event of another fly-by stroking.

Isidoro’s penchant for noiseless cordovan loafers only added to the ice-cube-down-the-back shock of an intimately placed hand and a hushed, “¿Qué tal Aaron?” Recently however, and since I’ve been working with other colleagues, the incidental fondling has decreased, and I do believe at the time of writing that I haven’t been groped for a full two weeks. (I realise ‘grope’ is a strong word, but I pity the friendly Spaniard who touches the wrong girl in a London law firm in a similar manner).

I remain on something of a hair trigger in the office. Yesterday the tea lady approached from behind having left her trolley, with it’s forewarning squeaky wheel and clinking crockery, outside in the corridor. The slightest touch of her hand on the back of my chair had me propelling skyward in a flurry of papers like a startled Red Grouse.

What prompted me to write this was the perplexing yet peaceful spectacle of Isidoro and a Filipino colleague, Swamy, in equable conversation. Swamy seated and observing his monitor, Isidoro standing adjacent, his right hand gently stroking the back of the Filipino’s head.

Perhaps I just need to loosen up a little.

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Dental or Mental, I Say It’s Spinach – S.J. Perelman

My friend Sophie was a trifle nervous about visiting the dentist today, and I thought S.J. Perelman’s experiences, which I read recently, might put her at ease. Good luck Soph! x

***

A few days ago, under the heading MAN LEAPS OUT OF WINDOW AS DENTIST GETS FORECEPS, The New York Times reported the unusual case of a man who leaped out a window as the dentist got the foreceps. Briefly, the circumstances were these. A citizen in Staten Island tottered into a dental parlor and, indicating an aching molar, moaned, “It’s killing me. You’ve got to pull it out.” The dentist grinned like a Cheshire cat — The New York Times neglected to say so, but a Cheshire cat who was present at the time grinned like a dentist — and reached for his instruments. “There was a leap and a crash,” continues the account. “The astonished dentist saw his patient spring through the closed window and drop ten feet to the sidewalk, where he lay dazed.” The casualty was subsequently treated at a nearby hospital for abrasion and shock by Drs. J.G. Abrazian and Walter Shock, and then, like a worm, crept back to the dentist, apologized and offered to pay for the damage. On one point, however, he remained curiously adamant. He still has his tooth.

As a party who recently spent a whole morning with his knees braced against a dentist’s chest, whimpering, “Don’t–don’t–I’ll do anything, but don’t drill!” I am probably the only man in white America equipped to sympathize with the poor devil. Ever since Nature presented me at birth with a set of thirty-two flawless little pearls of assorted sizes, I never once relaxed my vigilant stewardship of same. From the age of six onward, I constantly polished the enamel with peanut brittle, massaged the incisors twice daily with lollipops, and chewed taffy and chocolate-covered caramels faithfully to exercise the gums. As for consulting a dentist regularly, my punctuality practically amounted to a fetish. Every twelve years I would drop whatever I was doing and allow wild Caucasian ponies to drag me to a reputable orthodontist. I guess you might say I was hipped on the subject of dental care.

When, therefore, I inadvertently stubbed a tooth on a submerged cherry in an old-fashioned last week and my toupee ricocheted off the cailing, I felt both dismayed and betrayed. By eleven next morning, I was seated in the antechamber of one Russell Pipgrass, D.D.S., limply holding a copy of National Geographic upside down and pretending to be absorbed in Magyar folkways. Through the door communicating with the arena throbbed a thin, blood-curdling whine like a circular saw biting into a green plank. Suddenly an ear-splitting shriek rose above it, receding into a choked gurgle. I nonchalantly tapped out my cigarette in my eardrum and leaned over to the nurse, a Medusa type with serpents writhing out from under her prim white coif.

“Ah–er–pardon me, ” I observed, swallowing a bit of emery paper I had been chewing. “Did you hear anything just then?”
“Why, no,” she replied, primly tucking back a snake under her cap.
“What do you mean?”
“A–kind of scratchy sound,” I faltered.

“Oh, that,” she sniffed carelessly. “Impacted wisdom tooth. We have to go in through the skull for those, you know.” Murmuring some inconsequential excuse about lunching with a man in Sandusky, Ohio, I dropped to the floor and was creeping toward the corridor on all fours when Dr. Pipgrass emerged, rubbing his hands. “Well here’s an unexpected windfall!” he cackled, his eyes gleaming with cupidity. “Look out–slam the door on him!” Before I could dodge past, he pinioned me in a hammer lock and bore me, kicking and struggling, into his web. He was trying to wrestle me into the chair when the nurse raced in brandishing a heavy glass ash tray.

“Here, let me hit him with this!” she panted.

“No, no, we mustn’t bruise him,” muttered Pipgrass. “Their relatives always ask a lot of silly questions.” They finally made me comfy by strapping me into the chair with half a dozen towels, tilted my feet up and pried open my teeth with a spoon. “Now then, where are his X-rays?” demanded the doctor.

“We haven’t any,” returned the nurse. “This is the first time he’s been here.”

“Well, bring me any X-rays,” her employer barked. “What difference does it make? When you’ve seen one tooth, you’ve seen them all.” He held up the X-rays against the light and examined them critically. “Well, friend, you’re in a peck of trouble,” he said at length. “You may as well know the worst. These are the teeth of an eighty-year-old man. You got here just in time.” Plucking a horrendous nozzle from the rack, he shot compressed air down my gullet that sent me into a strangled paroxysm, and peered curiously at my inlays.

“Who put those in, a steamfitter?” he sneered. “You ought to be arrested for walking around with a job like that.” He turned abruptly at the rustle of greenbacks and glared at his nurse. “See here, Miss Smedley, how many times have I told you not to count the patient’s money in front of him? Take the wallet outside and go through it there.” She nodded shamefacedly and slunk out. “That’s the kind of thing that creates a bad impression on the layman,” growled Dr. Pipgrass, poking at my tongue with a sharp stick. “Now what seems to be the trouble in here?”

“Ong ong ong,” I wheezed.

“H’m’m’m, a cleft palate,” he mused. “Just as I feared. And you’ve got between four and five thousand cavities. While we’re at it, I think we’d better tear out those lowers with a jackhammer and put in some nice expensive crowns. Excuse me.” He quickly dialed a telephone number. “Is that you, Irene” he asked. “Russell. Listen, on that white mink coat we were talking about at breakfast–go right ahead, I’ve changed my mind… No, I’ll tell you later. He’s filthy with it.”

“Look, Doctor,” I said with a casual yawn. “It’s nothing really–just a funny tickling sensation in that rear tooth. I’ll be back Tuesday–a year from Tuesday.”

“Yes, yes,” he interrupted, patting me reassuringly. “Don’t be afraid now; this won’t hurt a bit.” With a slow, cunning smile, he produced from behind his back a hypodermic needle of the type used on brewery horses and, distending my lip, plunged it into the gum. The tip of my nose instantly froze, and my tongue took on the proportions of a bolt of flannel. I tried to cry out, but my larynx was out to lunch. Seizing the opportunity, Pipgrass snatched up his drill, took a firm purchase on my hair and teed off. A mixture of sensation roughly comparable to being alternately stilettoed and inflated with a bicycle pump overcame me; two thin wisps of smoke curled upward slowly from my ears. Fortunately, I had been schooled from boyhood to withstand pain without flinching, and beyond an occasional scream that rattled the windows, I bore myself with the stoicism of a red man. Scarcely ninety minutes later, Dr. Pipgrass thrust aside the drill, wiped his streaming forehead and shook the mass of protoplasm before him.

“Well, we’re in the home stretch,” he announced brightly, exctracting a rubber sheet from a drawer. “We’ll put this dam on you and fill her in a jiffy. You don’t get claustrophobia, do you?”

“Wh–what’s that?” I squeaked.

“Fear of being buried alive,” he explained smoothly. “Kind of a stifling feeling. Your heart starts racing and you think you’re going crazy. Pure imagination, of course.” He pinned the rubber sheet over my face, slipped it over the tooth, and left me alone with my thoughts. In less time than it takes to relate, I was a graduate member, summa cum laude, of the Claustrophobia Club. My face had turned a stunning shade of green, my heart was going like Big Ben, and a set of castanets in my knees was playing the “Malagueña.” Summoning my last reserves of strength, I cast off my bonds and catapulted through the anteroom to freedom. I bequeathed Pipgrass a fleece-lined overcoat worth sixty-eight dollars, he’s welcome to it; I’ll string along nicely with this big wad of chewing gum over my tooth. On me it looks good.

***

S.J. Perelman (1904-1979) was one of the most prominent humorists of his generation, writing countless pieces for The New Yorker, plays for the stage and screenplays for the Marx Brothers. If you enjoy acrobatic prose, and a vocabulary that has you repeatedly reaching for the dictionary, then I thoroughly recommend The Most of The Most of S.J. Perelman.

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Sounds of Spain

El Corte Ingles translates as The English Cut. It is Europe’s biggest department store chain and is headquartered in Madrid. I’d rate it somewhere between John Lewis and Selfridges and, for me, it is the only option when I want quality comestibles in one convenient location without having to haggle, bid, wrestle or whatever it is that people do in markets. (I avoid markets unless with a local guide/bodyguard, even in London. I don’t like being accosted by vendors or having to elbow through crowds. Feel free to persuade me that this isn’t always the case.) El Corte Ingles started out as a tailors offering The English Cut, a testament to the Great British Suit of Saville Row. You can, and gentlemen certainly should, read more about finely tailored suitings here.

I mention El Corte Ingles because it was there I was queueing on Friday evening when my weekend offered up it’s first Sounds of Spain. Suddenly, above the hubbub and piped muzak rose the ominous, familiar whooping of surely the most odious and obnoxious of groups, the British Lads-on-Tour. Unmistakeably (unashamedly) Mancunian, they were atrociously dressed, drunk at 7pm and offering swigs of Jägermeister to a bewildered teenage couple. (And I do condone the shooting-on-sight of people who open foods and liquids before reaching the till, it is a hairsbreadth from outright theft and an affront to those of us with the good grace to wait until we’re home before pigging out.) Meanwhile Madrileño onlookers exchanged expressions of pity and knowing smiles and I offered my sincere Spanglish apologies to my immediate neighbours. Say what you will about the Europeans, and I do, you don’t hear them drunkenly hollering in the aisles of Marks & Spencers.
For the benefit of any morons, ingrates or louts that might be reading this, the Spanish kindly built Benidorm especially so that Little Englanders like you can get wrecked, sun burnt and neanderthal whilst turning them a tidy profit. Please use it.

On a sunny Sunday afternoon Madrileños make for the paved plazas of La Latina for botellon (open-air drinking), or to the city parks. The expansive scrub land of Casa de Campo is really only suitable for hardcore cyclists, runners, swimmers, and sexual deviants. As you soar over the brush-tundra in the Teleferico you can often spot transsexual prostitutes loitering beneath the trees. It’s the closest I’ve come to being on Safari. Parque del Oeste is home to an Aswan temple, a gift from Egypt that, in typical Spanish style was re-built with the gateways in the wrong order. It squats in a filthy pool that tourists inexplicably like to paddle in. Having said that, the temple’s verdant, palmetto surrounds are a delight on a sunny day and the northern part of Parque del Oeste with it’s rambling shaded footpaths is often curiously empty save for a handful of dedicated sun-worshippers, rutting couples and the odd lunatic tramp. It’s my favourite that I’ve visited so far.

Parque del Buen Retiro is by all accounts the grandest of Madrid’s parks and certainly the most popular. Along with strolling family groups, weaving roller skaters and wandering intellectuals are the many Spaniards who choose Retiro’s avenues in which to let off steam. Something about which they have no qualms, to the chagrin of an Englishman trying to immerse himself in a book.

A stone’s throw (though sadly none were to hand) from my grassy knoll, a troupe of Zaragozan folk dancers struck up a most unholy din, making up in enthusiasm what they patently lacked in talent. Clad in white robes (as traditionally favoured by such dangerous extremists as the KKK, Al-Qaida, The Pope and Morris Dancers) they proceeded to gambol and shimmy to the strains of an out of tune guitar and some manner of percussion that sounded for all the world like a sack of gravel falling off a lorry. Accompanying the Folking Zaragozans, from out of sight in another corner of the park, heralded an amateur and clearly asthmatic hornist. At five minute intervals (I assume to draw from his inhaler and temper his breathing) he would take his French Horn (I’m no expert but only something French could prove that much of an irritant) and give it ruddy. I half expected the Berkshire Hunt (the mounted hunters, not the hornist) to burst from the tree-line in hot pursuit of a red-tailed Charlie*.

Added to this was the usual Spanish cacophony that, like tinnitus, one has to learn to live with. The wailing beggar-women, the shouted obscenities (the Spanish C-word litters full-throated conversation, often within earshot of children), football commentary and reggaeton music blaring from tiny speakers, and leathery old men who wander about the park, in varying states of undress, crooning old Flamenco numbers to no-one in particular.

Of course, there is also the requisite accordionist who tirelessly flogs out La Cucaracha, which incidentally, deserves some kind of award for stupid lyrics:

‘La cucaracha, la cucaracha,
Ya no puede caminar
Porque no tiene, porque le falta
Marihuana pa’ fumar’

Translates as,

‘The cockroach, the cockroach,
Can’t walk anymore
Because it doesn’t have, because it’s lacking
Marijuana to smoke.’

Or how about,

‘Cuando uno quiere a una
Y esta una no lo quiere,
Es lo mismo que si un calvo
En la calle encuentra un piene.

Which, mistaking unrequited love for irony, reads,

‘When a man loves a woman
But she doesn’t love him back,
It’s like a bald man
Finding a comb in the street.’

Whilst I lay beleaguered and palpitating in the sun, unable to focus on Giles Tremlett’s Ghost’s of Spain (somewhat ironic in the circumstances), The Brunette studied a weighty tome on social psychology, impervious to the surrounding bedlam as only a Spaniard could be. After the first trickle of claret from my eardrums we beat a retreat to the quiet, shady boulevards of barrio Salamanca, Madrid’s answer to Belgravia, or Chelsea. The Brunette strode ahead whilst I skittered nervously through the shadows ever fearful of marauding Hare Krishners until we arrived, mercifully unmolested, at Ayala Japon for a tranquil late lunch of Maki, salmon eggs and ice-cream tempura. I recommend it if you happen to stray into the posh end of town.

Of course, the sounds of Spain, depending on your tastes, aren’t all bad. I’m currently immersing myself in the murky waters of Spanish 80’s Pop, and Mexican Hip-Hop (which I’m counting as Spanish since it’s in the same Castilian language). I’ll report back in due course.

*Charles James Fox, 18th century parliamentarian. i.e. Fox.

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The End of a G-Funk Era

As a tribute to the sad and untimely passing of Nathaniel Dwayne Hale a.k.a. Nate Dogg, below is a synopsis of the song Regulate by Warren G, in which he features prominently.

This was originally posted on Nate Dogg’s Wikipedia page but was recently removed. If anyone knows who wrote it, please let me know and I’ll credit them.

[G:]
Regulators!
We regulate any stealing of his property
And we damn good too
But you can’t be any geek off the street,
Gotta be handy with the steel if you know what I mean, earn your keep!
REGULATORS!!! MOUNT UP!

[G:]
It was a clear black night, a clear white moon
Warren G was on the streets, trying to consume
Some skirts for the eve’, so I can get some funk
Just rollin’ in my ride, chillin’ all alone

On a cool, clear night (typical to Southern California) Warren G travels through his neighborhood, searching for women with whom he might initiate sexual intercourse. He has chosen to engage in this pursuit alone.

[Nate:]
Just hit the Eastside of the LBC
on a mission trying to find Mr. Warren G.
Seen a car full of girls ain’t no need to tweak
All you skirts know what’s up with 213

Nate Dogg, having just arrived in Long Beach, seeks Warren. On his way to find Warren, Nate passes a car full of women who are excited to see him. Regardless, he insists to the women that there is no cause for excitement.

[G:]
So I hooks a left on the 21 and Lewis
Some brothers shootin’ dice so I said, “Let’s do this”
I jumped out the ride, and said, “What’s up?”
Some brothers pulled some gats so I said, “I’m stuck.”

Warren makes a left turn at 21st Street and Lewis Ave, in the East Hill/Salt Lake neighborhood, where he sees a group of young men enjoying a game of dice together. He parks his car and greets them. He is excited to find people to play with, but to his chagrin, he discovers they intend to relieve him of his material possessions. Once the hopeful robbers reveal their firearms, Warren realizes he is in a less than favorable predicament.

[Nate:]
Since these girls peepin’ me I’m’a glide and swerve
These hookers lookin’ so hard they straight hit the curb
Won’t’cha think of better things than some horny tricks
I see my homey and some suckers all in his mix

Meanwhile, Nate passes the women, as they are low on his list of priorities. His primary concern is locating Warren. After curtly casting away the strumpets (whose interest in Nate was such that they crashed their automobile), he serendipitously stumbles upon his friend, Warren G, being held up by the young miscreants.

[G:]
I’m gettin jacked, I’m breakin myself
I can’t believe they taking Warren’s wealth
They took my rings, they took my rolex
I looked at the brother said, “Damn, what’s next?”

Warren, unaware that Nate is surreptitiously observing the scene unfold, is in disbelief that he is being robbed. The perpetrators have taken jewelry and a name brand designer watch from Warren, who is so incredulous that he asks what else the robbers intend to steal. This is most likely a rhetorical question.

[Nate:]
They got my homey hemmed up and they all around
Ain’t none of them seeing if they going straight pound for pound
I gotta come up real quick before they start to clown
I best pull out my strap and lay them busters down

Observing these unfortunate proceedings, Nate realizes that he may have to use his firearm to deliver his friend from harm.

[G:]
They got guns to my head
I think I’m going down
I can’t believe this happenin in my own town
If I had wings I could fly
Let me contemplate
I glanced in the cut and I see my homey Nate

The tension crescendos as the robbers point their guns to Warren’s head. Warren senses the gravity of his situation. He cannot believe the events unfolding could happen in his own neighborhood. As he imagines himself in a fantastical escape, he catches a glimpse of his friend, Nate.

[Nate:]
Sixteen in the clip and one in the hole
Nate Dogg is about to make some bodies turn cold
Now they droppin’ and yellin’
It’s a tad bit late
Nate Dogg and Warren G had to regulate

I laid all them busters down
I let my gat explode
Now I’m switching my mind back into freak mode
If you want skirts sit back and observe
I just left a gang of those over there on the curb

Nate has seventeen cartridges to expend (sixteen residing in the pistol’s magazine, with a solitary round placed in the chamber and ready to be fired) on the group of robbers, and he uses many of them. Afterward, he generously shares the credit for neutralizing the situation with Warren, though it is clear that Nate did all of the difficult work.

Putting congratulations aside, Nate quickly reminds himself that he has committed multiple homicides to save Warren, before letting his friend know that there are females nearby if he wishes to fornicate with them.

[G:]
Now Nate got the freaks
And that’s a known fact
Before I got jacked I was on the same track
Back up back up cause it’s on
N-A-T-E and me
The Warren to the G

Warren recalls that it was the promise of copulation that coaxed him away from his previous activities, and is thankful that Nate knows a way to satisfy these urges.

[Nate:]
Just like I thought
They were in the same spot
In need of some desperate help
The Nate Dogg and the G-child
Were in need of something else

One of them dames was sexy as hell
I said, “Ooo I like your size.”
She said, “My car’s broke down and you seem real nice,
Would ya let me ride?”
I got a car full of girls and it’s going real swell
The next stop is the Eastside Motel

Nate quickly finds the women who earlier crashed their car on Nate’s account. He remarks to one that he is fond of her physical appeal. The woman, impressed by Nate’s singing ability, asks that he and Warren allow her and her friends to share transportation. Soon, both friends are driving with automobiles full of women to the Eastside Motel, presumably to consummate their flirtation in an orgy.

[G:]
I’m tweaking
Into a whole new era
G-Funk
Step to this
I dare ya
Funk
On a whole new level

[Nate:]
The rhythm is the bass and the bass is the treble

[G:]
Chords
Strings
We brings
Melody
G-Funk
Where rhythm is life
And life is rhythm

[Nate:]
If you know like I know
You don’t wanna step to this
It’s the G-Funk era
Funked out with a gangsta twist
If you smoke like I smoke
Then you high like everyday
And if your ass is a buster
213 will regulate

The third verse is more expository, with Warren and Nate explaining their G Funk musical style. Warren displays his bravado by claiming that individuals with equivalent knowledge could not even attempt to approach his level of lyrical mastery. There follows a brief discussion of the genre’s musicological features, with special care taken to point out that in said milieu the rhythm is not in fact the rhythm, as one might assume, but actually the bass. Similarly the bass serves a purpose closer to that which the treble would in more traditional musical forms. Nate goes on to note that if any third party smokes as he does, they would find themselves in a state of intoxication daily (from Nate’s other works, it can be inferred that the substance referenced is marijuana). Nate concludes his delineation of the night by issuing a vague threat to “busters,” suggesting that he and Warren will further “regulate” any potential incidents in the future (presumably by engaging their enemies with small arms fire).

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Austin

I don’t usually post things of this nature since this blog isn’t a particularly reverent place. However, this story is close to home and deeply tragic, but it also offers a light of inspiration.

Since most of you are UK based, you might not see much press coverage of 22 year-old Californian Austin Bice, whose body was pulled from the Manzanares river today. It’s an awful tragedy that has shaken the student and expat communities here in Madrid.

I wasn’t privileged to know Austin, but I feel some affinity as a fellow Madrid expat and blogger. His writing and photos captured the breathless exhilaration of discovering Madrid’s (and Valencia’s) many quirks and charms. I know the feeling well. I hope his short blog inspires you to go and explore an unfamiliar city and culture, and to share your experiences.

http://operationgrandslam.blogspot.com

Austin Taylor Bice 1989 – 2011

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What’s the hardest thing about being a rollerblader?

The cuts and grazes of course! (I came out of the closet years ago.)

I availed myself of a pair of SEBA FRX Freeride Custom Lines (?!) today, and promptly hit the park… palms first. It’s not as much like skiing as I’d hoped and no matter how much all you snowboarders bitch and gripe about ice, it’s not even in the same league as asphalt for bruising buttocks and skinning elbows.

Still, inspiration is at hand. This chubby funster did alright!

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Ill Will Toward Men

Here (link at bottom of this post) is an article by American humourist Robert Benchley, written sometime in the 1920’s or 30’s, about that natural animosity that one feels toward their fellow train or elevator passengers. It chimed with me immediately, fancying myself as I do, as something of a connoisseur of awkward situations in enclosed spaces. For example:

What if one was en route to a Famous Literary Figures Party, replete with greying beard, broad black hat and dark suit, clutching a Discworld novel (you’re Sir Terry Pratchett of course) and upon rushing into the departing elevator, are confronted by a fellowship (I’m unsure of the correct collective noun; a prudence? a cortege? a picket?) of Hasidic Jewish elders? The need to explain oneself would be unbearable. And when both sets of eyes alight on the plaque proudly declaring the elevator to be a Schindler’s Lift… well, I’d choose 14 floors of deafening silence.

Sir Terry Pratchett

Ill Will Toward Men – Robert Benchley

I found this article nestling somewhere amongst Rebecca O’Neal‘s bevy of blogs. You can find more Robert Benchley here and a list (which I’m still working through) of Rebecca’s favourite humour pieces of 2010 here. She also writes engaging articles for Splitsider magazine and blogs about vintage clothes and black female superheroes… and writes book reviews.

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