Donald's Blog

  This old house was only a few blocks from the state Capitol in Madison, Wisconsin. All the neighborhood cats lived in the basement during the winter. The house has long since been torn down, but in 1972 there were AR2ax speakers in the front room, and a lot of good music was heard there.

«May 2012»

In the 21st century I am just as opinionated as ever, and I now have an outlet. I shall pontificate here about anything that catches my fancy; I hope I will not make too great a fool of myself. You may comment yea or nay about anything on the site; I may quote you here, or I may not. Send brickbats etc. to:


May 4, 2012

Nice try

I recently renewed my subscription to Time magazine. What the hell, it was only about $25 and they sent me a digital alarm clock.
      The other day I received a "Renewal Notice/New Order" form from Associated Publishers Network of Henderson, Nevada. They say I have a control number and an account, and all they want for Time magazine is $69.95.
      I conclude that there are enough dimwits who will respond by sending them a check to make a mass mailing worthwhile.


May 4, 2012

Time for a loud raspberry

A self-serving editorial in the Wall Street Journal yesterday. A government committee in Britain has described Rupert Murdoch as "unfit" to lead a big international company, and the paper thinks that this judgement is intended to influence regulators in Britain, where Murdoch is trying to gain more control over his satellite TV or whatever it is that makes him the most money. The paper is crying about freedom of the press, but there is no reason to conclude that the regulators in Britain cannot balance the principal of press freedom with a duty to look out for UK consumers. Meanwhile a great many of us long ago made up our minds about Murdoch. The Chicago Sun-Times used to be a fun, feisty daily paper, with a lot of character; when Murdoch bought it, everybody left who had any self-respect: they didn't want to work for somebody who regards media ownership as merely a licence to print money.
      Murdoch's company managed the News of the World so irresponsibly that he had to close a 140-year-old newspaper. The company of course owns the Wall Street Journal, and also the Times Literary Supplement, but the fact that Murdoch hasn't ruined all his papers yet doesn't mean that he is fit to be the most powerful media tycoon on the planet.


May 4, 2012


On April 20 the Wall Street Journal printed an op-ed called The Ugly Brutishness of Modern Britain, by Theodore Dalrymple. This is the pen-name of a British doctor who is also a very clever social critic; we used to read him in the Spectator (the venerable British weekly, not the "American Spectator"). Dalrymple worked in prisons and on call in city-center hospitals on weekends, and he was hilarious on the subject of the dregs of society and their absolute inability to examine their own behavior, and to understand why they are in trouble. "Tell me, why did you give your wife a concussion?" "Well, you see, she had it coming, doctor."
      In his recent screed one of Dalrymple's stories was about some kid throwing food at a bus stop. When he asked the kid to pick up his mess, the kid said, "Shut the fuck up!" The paper printed five letters in response on May 1 from people who are either British or visit Britain regularly: four were offended, but one agreed absolutely, with her own list of unpleasant experiences.
      Ethne and I moved back to the USA in 1998 after 25 years in Britain. When she and David went back in 2006 because her mother was breathing her last, they got off the train in Norwich to find two women yelling and swearing and kicking taxicabs because no driver wanted to take them anywhere: they were drunk in the middle of the day, and the police had to be called. David was born and raised in England and still regarded it as home; we had lived in Norfolk for a dozen years and never saw drunks causing an affray in public. On that visit in 2006 there were drunks and vomit and litter all over the place.
      Reading Dalrymple the other day Ethne and I wondered if the trouble began when the pub licensing hours were changed. The pubs used to be open from 11 in the morning until two or so and then had to close until five, and close again at 11 PM. These "opening hours" were sometimes mildly irritating, especially for tourists, who might want to rest in the middle of the afternoon with a glass of beer, but the British were used to it. Since 2003, according to Wikipedia, there are many different types of licenses available, and "it is not unusual for pubs to stay open all night during the weekend in urban areas." Perhaps the reason there are so many young people fighting and puking all over the place is because they need a nanny state to remind them to stop drinking once in a while.

I am reminded of a play I saw in the West End in the 1970s, which I can't remember the name of now. It was the only time I saw Alec Guinness on stage, and I sat in the same row as Princess Margaret and her then boyfriend, so the security services were asking for our cooperation in getting out of the way during the interval. I can't even remember who I was with. The play was about some middle-aged British folks going to the Soviet Union to visit a relative, presumably one of the Cambridge spies, several of whom ended up in Russia and could not return to England. What the play was really about was time passing, and the exile's memory of England compared to the reality. One of the real-life spies continued to order his clothes from a tailor in London; Jermyn Street is a swanky street where you go to get your shoes and your shirts handmade. The line I remember from the play was spoken by a female character, perhaps the spy's sister: "Just the other day I saw a man peeing in Jermyn Street, and I thought, Is this the end of civilization as we know it? Or is it ...just a man peeing in Jermyn Street."