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...a sweatshop of moxie

Saturday, December 31, 2005

Run, Farris, Run!

Oh youth.

It won't take no for an answer.

The son of well-to-do Iraqi parents in Ft. Lauderdale, Farris Hassan, 16, of Pine Crest School, decided to take his journalism instructor at her word.

"Immersion Journalism", it's called.

When you find out for yourself what's happening in the story you're reporting on, by actually delving first-hand in that story.

Given that his father, a noted physician here in South Florida, had already told him no to going to Iraq, until the situation died down over there, and that his mother, Atiyah, had recoiled at her American-born baby boy going back to their homeland, there was but one thing to do:

Go anyway.

Now I know what you are thinking -- it's very unusual to have a kid do something like this.

Just to decide one day, hey, I'm going to Iraq to find out what's going on there, without the filter of 24-news networks.

But you know how they say there are "warning signs" which young men who become Columbine-type murderers share in common?

Well, if you wrote up a list of characteristics needed to pull off this stunt, you'd pretty much arrive at young Farris Hassan.


(A) He's of Iraqi origin

(B) He's got access to funds from his wealthy parents

(C) He's a competitive student, from a high-achieving family

(D) He attends private school, which breaks earlier for Christmas

(E) He has a valid passport, having travelled before many times

(F) He had asked his parents REPEATEDLY to let him go to Iraq

(G) He has an unsupervised computer in his room

(H) He used that computer to search for a commercial airliner which would allow a minor to travel unaccompanied to Iraq (Pakistani Airways)

Maybe he doesn't speak Arabic (or perhaps, not fluently enough), but as you add these "ingredients" for a runaway to do what he did, it's a wonder people DIDN'T

The first thing he did was look up the AP offices in Baghdad's Green Zone.

They were aghast to find him there, since a young American, no matter what the origin (and to many, Americans of Arab or Muslim origin, are traitors in all but name, and even MORE of a target) is a walking bull's eye, if not accompanied properly in many quarters.

The story broke shortly before Christmas, and his desperate mother received a very nonchalant email from her son, which contained a photo of him in front of the famous ex-Saddam Hussein Square in Baghad.

In it, he asked his mother to trust him, and not to make "a commotion". Hah.

Apparently, the lad had taken $1800 of the 10,000 dollars he had gotten from his mother, as a gift from his having helped her to choose stocks which yielded a 25% return.

Nifty commission.

His teacher at school had assigned an immersion journalism task over the Christmas hols, never knowing it would come to this.

According to his eldest sister, who seemed the most upset at his foray into Iraq, there will be "repurcussions" when he returns, when she was interviewed by local Miami news.

His eldest brother said that his father knew about the trip, but immediately backed off, probably thinking he would get his dad into hot water with the mother.

He said merely that the father may have been "covering up" for his son, since he told US officials he did know and semi-authorised his son to travel unaccompanied to Iraq for a school project.

I guarantee you, as earnestly as I am sitting here, that if this lad had come from a poor or broken family, Florida Department of Child Services would take him from his family IMMEDIATELY, and re-assign him to a foster home, no ifs ands or buts.

We'll see how the story unfolds, as on last update, Farris was en route to MIA Airport, via Kuwait.

I will update the story as needed.

I'm curious to know, however, your reactions.

What would you do, if your child pulled off this kind of amazing stunt?

Friday, December 30, 2005

Tale Of Two Cities

It was Renato who came up with the title of this latest addition to my travellogue series, the first two of which were:

  • Wish You Could Be Here

  • On The Town

  • (He's off white water-rafting today, playing hooky from work, and I hope his boss reads this, and cans his Canadian buttinksy)

    Toronto and Miami don't seem to have a lot in common, at first blush.

    One, is a paradise on earth -- full of swaying palms, scented breezes, and the light hand of the sun caressing cheeks of all types.

    The other is Toronto.

    I lived in Toronto as a child, when my father had a research grant from U of T. I spent many formative years there; okay only 2, but I have many happy memories.

  • Playing shinnyhockey on the frozen tundra with kids of all ages. Ouch

  • Attending pre-K, where I learned my ABCs -- now you know why I spell so badlee

  • Having my tonsils out at a freezing cold hospital, sleeping in a ward with boys and girls both, a cloyingly democratic atmosphere which offended my delicate aristocratic sensibilities

  • Good times.

    So it seems that maybe Toronto and Miami only have one thing in common: me.

    One of my earliest memories, in fact, is of the Eaton Centre, a most revered mall in North America, located smack-dab in downtown TO (tee-oh is how the cool people refer to Toronto. No word if Terrell Owens is aware of this blatant copyright infringement).

    It was there that I saw my first Food Court!

    Now you have to understand. I am from England, the land of a million High Streets.

    We are not used to malls, but rather dear old shops manned by querellous old men in grocer's overalls who have allergies to children, and thieving Indian women who overcharge for last year's PG Tips.

    The most daring food stuffs we have congregated together are the dread chip shops, with stale Rock fish and soggy "french fries" as your delicacies of choice (yum!).

    We certainly do not have a maelstorm of international cuisine offered, in a continental explosion of eating choices.

    My five year-old self was well impressed.

    So when Renato asked me what photos of Toronto he should take, I screeched, "EATON CENTRE!".

    (His eardrum has healed nicely)

    So without further ado, here are our combined compare/contrast vistas of Toronto and Miami, at their veritable high-season shopping peaks.


    Snow Day!

    Depending where you are, this shot will either have you ho-humming, or wowing. I absolutely adore it, probably because it's been 2 years since I felt snow on my curly tongue.

    That gingerbread house you see in the background, is Toronto's Old City Hall. The bigwigs have snazzier quarters now, but surely on these days, they'd love to see the happy families voters skating joyously outside their windows.

    Ahh, the heady days leading up to Christmas at my favourite mall in the world -- Eaton Centre. Not too many people congregating around that Festivus Tree, or whatever those Commies in Canada call it now, but wait a minute...

    ...look at the unwashed masses the day AFTER Christmas!

    This shot is astounding. I asked Renato, "Do you live in Toronto or China?", which he promptly laughed off as he ate his bowl of rice.

    Sears?? Where's Simpsons, that venerable old Canadian department store? I still have my dad's green credit card from them somewhere. I'm hoping to max it out soon.

    Wall-to-wall humanity, wherever you look.

    Of course, Boxing Day (as the day after Christmas is called in Britain and in most Commonwealth countries) is the day when the merchants try to suck the consumer dry by offering 25 to 75%-off deals, so it's not surprising to see these poor overtaxed creatures enthusiastically supporting the free-market system. For a change.

    After all is bought, you sling your skates over your shoulder, and head on home via the train station. This old beauty is so atmospheric, it reaches out at you, daring you to run through those doric columns.

    All aboard! We're moving to...

    Miami Beach!

    This is the chintzy sign the City of Miami Beach decided should greet visitors just before arriving at Washington or Collins Avenues.

    A rare miscue of fun-in-the-sun elegance from our commissioners. Maybe I should move to Toronto?

    You want shopping? I'll give you shopping!

    This is the long stretch of street shopping known as Lincoln Road Mall.

    In the morning, you have the rollerbladers of all sexual orientations showing off their fab abs.

    At night, the beautiful people come out. Did you know Paris Hilton is opening up a new club on New Year's Eve called, "Paris"? That's hot.

    I looove Christmas trees, and none better than this festive colossus at the Merrick Plaza set, you might remember, in the Spanish colonial neighbourhood called Coral Gables.

    Although its anchor stores are a loose conglomeration of Nordstroms and Neiman-Marcus, pricey outlets far removed from the Sears and JC Penny's of old, this place was PACKED on Boxing Day.

    You may not see it here, but that's because I waited forever to get an uncrowded shot. All for you, Sundries readers!

    Until I started this travellogue, I hadn't realised just how many palm trees our area has. A LOT. They're not cheap either -- at least U$3,000 per palm. Don't ask me how I know that.

    A respite from your overdose of palm trees, is this lovely fountain at full blast.

    There's a father holding up his little boy just behind one spout of water, telling him they're at the Fontana di Trevi in Rome. He bought it.

    I love how the Merrick Plaza shopping mall goes from yen to zen in a trice. It's a vague connotation of a Swiss chateau meets Japanese pleasure garden...

    ...and I could stare at the peaceful calm of these zen-like little pools forever.

    But alas, it's time to leave, and we depart via the overhang tunnel leading to Nordstroms.

    We may be sunny and palmy, but South Florida is as flat as East Anglia -- therefore tunnels are at a premium here. I wonder who the Mayor had to bribe to get it.

    And so ends our 3rd travellogue together.

    Toronto and Miami may not look very much alike, but it's the people who make a place.

    And I reckon any place which has Renato is A-OK.

    Here's hoping I don't let the side down, in Miami.

    Thursday, December 29, 2005

    Postus Interruptus

    I was composing another longish post, but was interrupted twice by phone calls inviting me to two New Year's Eve parties. So, with your permissions, I shall compose one later tonight.

    Now, where did I leave my new Jimmy Choos?

    Wednesday, December 28, 2005

    Laura Bush's Disco Pants

    (Welcome Anchoress' readers! I left the post up a little longer than usual. Please scroll up for my latest post!)

    Back in the day, there used to be a wonderfully eponymous soccer chant to honour a much-beloved Republic of Ireland footballer.

    It was called Niall Quinn's Disco Pants, and went a little something like this.

    Niall Quinn's disco pants are the best,
    They go up from his arse to his chest.
    They are better than Adam and The Ants,
    Nial Quinn's disco pants.

    The 80s weren't exactly a quality musical bonanza, you know. But fun!

    Although I wouldn't be so coarse as to blog about First Lady Laura Bush's arse (oops, just did), I will blog about just about anything else of hers.

    So let's start by stating the obvious, in Andrew Dice Clay fashion:

    Man, does she look great these days, or what?

    She's got a hair overhaul thingie going on, which takes YEARS off of her, plus she looks really buff, now that she has access these 5 years to the White House's Jacqueline Kennedy Fitness Centre and Lady Bird Sauna.

    The creamy smooth transformation which occurs to all First Ladies in their husband's second term has worked wonders for more than one president's missus.

    Who can forget Hillary Clinton in 1992, with her $22.50 Little Rock frosted highlights, and in-your-face hair scrunchies?


    Ah, but look at her in her post-Vogue makeover, in year 7 of hubby's administration.

    Yowza! It's First Lady Maria Sharapova!

    (Of course, this is her in 2005. Holy crapple. I could make tea with those bags under her eyes)

    The sleek redo of a First Lady's image is a relatively modern innovation.

    I don't think a single person noticed or cared if Mamie Eisenhower ever changed her Sears catalogue wardrobe, or not.

    It actually took President Kennedy's ole lady to make people sit up and notice that hey, a First Lady is not just a really cool name for a Kentucky Derby mare, she can be an elegant trophy wife too!

    (Although Frances Cleveland was truly the first dishy First Lady, way back in 1888...

    ...but who gives a rat's keister now)

    Laura Bush served notice that she was going from the fussy PTA mom look she had cultivated for years in Austin, to the regal incarnation we see before us today, when earlier in 2005, she appeared radiant in her Snow White inauguration ensemble.

    By the way, who was the genius who thought up of bringing the whole First Family up to the podium for the actual swearing-in?

    If you look at photographs of the Kennedy inauguration, Mrs. K is no where to be seen near the Bible. She's off to the side, hugging her muff.

    Then LBJ honoured his long-suffering wife by asking her to triangle the scene with him and Chief Justice Warren, and before you knew it, whammo! the whole family gets in on the act.

    That's just dopey. What next, Socks the First Cat?

    Anyway, back to The Transformation.

    It is true that all families who enter the White House are beneficiaries of the gilded cage effect.

    - Your Presidential mongrammed towels are always warm and fluffed.

    - You have round-the-clock personal chefs oozing from every kitchen.

    - Your carpets are noiselessly hoovered, with the quiet perfection of 1600 Pennsylvania enveloping you at every turn.

    But chief amongst the perks are personal clothiers and groomers whose sole task is to make you fit to be seen in public, so you don't scare the voters.

    Well do we all remember, cringingly, President Clinton's teensy-weensy shorts which he wore that first year, in his quick jogs to Mickey D's.

    Plus, the eagle-eyed amongst you could not forget his plastic Timex watch, which graced the Presidential wrist long into his first term.

    When he left, he was all Hugo Boss golfing pants, and Jaeger Le Coutre timepieced out. That's more like it!

    So it comes as no surprise to see Mrs. Bush go through the same makeover process.

    Each modern First Lady had a certain style, a certain distinctive feature which you associate with her.

    Whether it's pillbox hats (JBK), or jeans (Rosalyn Carter), or Adolfo gowns (Nancy Reagan), or Grecian Formula (Barbara Bush), the woman who seconded the President in office was true to her style, but that never prevented her from improving on it.

    Which brings us to the distintive feature which will be associated with Laura Bush, in years to come.

    For it is my contention that she put the pantsuit on the map.

    Before, Hillary Clinton would SOMETIMES dare a pantsuit, albeit rarely on formal occasions, but on her, it always looked like a badly tailored rucksack, possibly because she has hips the size of Idaho.

    But Laura Bush, with her new abs of steel, and more conventional leggy proportions, has just enough presence to carry them off, and still look smart, not lazy.

    Because let's face it, a woman wearing trousers just screams, "I don't give a hoot about femininity. Pants are da bomb."

    That's as may be, but perhaps what has happened, is that the dirtiest secret in Western society is finally out.

    Women can and do have it all, and now they can wear trousers on formal occasions, because hey, look, the First Lady does it!

    And how.

    This is Laura Bush being escorted into church this past November.

    Look how she jazzed up the drabby but skintight pantsuit by wearing hump-me pumps.

    Freaking church, for chrissakes!

    And during her much-commented on appearance on the Tonight Show, you know the one where Jay Leno asked her what she did in Vegas, she sat demurely crossing her legs, replying...

    ..."Jay, what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas."

    (She kills me)

    It's not only these semi-public events that Mrs. Bush decided to try out her new pantsuit stylings. Oh no.

    Here she is on the dais with the First Lady of Georgia, Sandra Roelofs.

    That's during an OFFICIAL STATE VISIT to Tbilisi, folks.

    That would've been unthinkable a mere decade ago.

    What makes the photo even more impressive, is that because of her established lead, Mrs. Roelofs also is wearing a very cheery pantsuit herself.

    That she had to slay a dozen cuddly rabbits to get it, is beside the point.

    The point is that the word is finally out to women of importance everywhere:

    The American First Lady does it, and she's as square and proper as a schoolmarm, so we can too!

    It's funny, but all the Gloria Steinems, all the Kate Millets, all the Simone de Beauvoirs in this world couldn't transform the female wardrobe to reflect a more feminist, take-charge style.

    It took an ex-librarian, the hyper-traditionalist wife of a born-again President, to liberate women from the oppression of the dress on formal occasions.

    Not that dresses are bad.

    But let's just say, as I type, my sinewy legs are shown off to perfection by my clingy hump-me slacks.

    It'll take another First Lady, in another decade, to make the next revolutionary fashion transition, into what I wear the rest of the time I blog:

    Shorts and a tee.

    Hint: Mrs. Giuliani is all over that.

    UPDATE: The Anchoress informs me that the "2005" photo actually dates from either on or before 9/11, intimating it's when she was quite overworked. Fair enough. Also, the Anchoress is of the opinion that Mrs. Giuliani is quite the dollie, fashion-wise. Thank heaven for that.

    Tuesday, December 27, 2005

    Blind Date

    Safely ensconced in my new chair today, a Christmas present which has gone a long way to making it more comfy to blog for longer moments than recently, I was flicking through the channels on my TV -- again.

    That's when I came upon the hugely entertaining Blind Date show on WB (or UPN, I always confuse the two).

    I'm sure it happens frequently, when you're listening to a caller on the radio drone on, and you get a sudden sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach, forcing you to turn it off.

    That's what happened to me in this segment, when a very boorish man tried to gross out his admittedly, rather prissy "blind date", intent on introducing him to the wonders of fine wine.

    This he promptly spat out all over her...twice.

    The show's shrink counseled that this type of man is usually quite shy, and makes a pig of himself in order to cover that up.

    Hmm. Interesting.

    It reminds me of the one and only blind date I have ever been on, so far, since my married friends were always trying to hook me up with one of their single male friends.

    (I have since lost all my married friends in my various continental shifts, although now my single friends have leapt into the breech)

    He showed up in a torn t-shirt and ripped, baggy jeans, whilst I was dressed to die for in a Vera Wang one-piece, carefully coiffed, and nails more manicured than the smallest shrub at Kew Gardens.

    (I notice that some people consider putting on the very best foot forward in first-time meetings, a form of hypocrisy -- almost as if you're putting on airs or worse, lying about your real self. But both temperamentally and by upbringing, I was raised to laugh and point at such people for their arrant stoopidity)

    He didn't open the car door for me. Nor did he pull out my chair at the restaurant.

    And he proceeded to talk about himself during the whole 1 hour meal -- at the end of which he burped loudly.

    Oh, and his comments about me got increasingly more sophomoric, including the Quagmire-creepy, "You have the butt of a 13-year old boy".

    What I wouldn't have given for that white van at the end of the date as on TV.

    But no, still the awkward "goodbye kiss at the door" had to be gotten through, which I need hardly mention, I repulsed.

    I thought, and thought about this episode, wondering what on earth would make a man do something like this, which comes close to social sabotage.

    Then it dawned on me.

    Some people like to throw all the "bad" stuff they harbour deep within, or about themselves in their lives, very quickly to their intended love interest.

    If they stay, even after such a display of bad manners or overtly disagreeable quirks, like the torn jeans, burping and noxious remarks, it's because the person on the other end likes them, really and truly, despite all of this negative baggage.

    This was confirmed later by the jerk himself, when he told the Blind Date producers that any "date which doesn't end with him not being slapped by the girl, is a success".

    He knows perfectly well what he is doing, all the while claiming he's just being "himself".

    In fact, he's not.

    He's being a version of himself, the very worst version, which is rigged for failure...and for confirmation YET AGAIN that he is unlovable, or even not worthy of love.

    (He'll continue to do this, until a woman finally calls him out on his BS by saying simply, "I don't like the way you act. It's not something a real man does, but I like you and want to get to know you better, if you try.")

    Although women are just as capable of this insensitive behaviour as their male dates, I do think this behaviour is more common with men.

    Especially men who are Gen-X'ers.

    There is something about our generation (of which I myself am a late example), that delays resolution in our lives, particularly settling down with someone permanently.

    As I once mentioned, nostalgia is a defence mechanism, which suspends destiny and forestalls the pain of the new or unknown.

    Given that characteristic, and tying it to an absolute need to find the perfect (read, most accomodating) mate, it's a small wonder so many 30-somethings are still unwed today.

    Later, to my astonishment, and yet not, given my introspection, I found out from my embarrassed married friends that the guy constantly asked about me, and seemed to display a bit of remorse about the date -- even though he hid it under a veil of sarcasm.

    "Tell her, she only has the butt of a 15-year old boy"

    Monday, December 26, 2005

    10 Greatest Child Stars...Like Ever

    After the presents have been unwrapped and put aside in the "return" pile; excessively dry turkey dinner has been eaten; and one has watched Shaq dunk over Kobe for the gaxillionth time, Christmas Day starts to slow down in tempo really fast.

    So, of course, one turns on telly.

    Programming isn't very inventive on the 25th of December, despite being a day which is universally devoted to absolutely nothing but binge-eating and present-ooh-and-ahhing.

    It was in this mood of relaxation, and frankly, not a bit of ennui that I did what millions were doing, and turned on my set too.

    That's when I chanced upon, in utter horror, VH-1's "100 Greatest Kid Stars".

    It was hour three of this marathon countdown of the allegedly greatest children stars of TV, film, and music, and I couldn't have been more aghast.

    Maureen McCormick?! Emmanuel Lewis?! The OLSEN FREAKING TWINS?!

    Watchutalkinbout, VH-1??

    That has got to be the poxiest list of child stars of stage and screen, like ever.

    Don't even get me started on Kristy McNichol and the two Coreys. I may ralph.


    This historian manquée will not commit the errors of today's goldfish memory TV execs.

    Below, is my personal list of the 10 Greatest Child Stars of All-Time, which really means from 1920 to 2005.

    And if we're being honest, it really means from 1920 to 1945, because, well, everything in history goes rubbishy after that.

    I mean, Annette Funicello and the Beaver -- what was that all about?


    In many ways, Romy Schneider is the archetypical child star.

    If you could make a tick-list of characteristics shared by so many kiddie starlets, she would be page ranked at the very cusp of that sad list.

    Let's see:

    Controlling Stage Mother -- Magda Schneider, herself a renowned actress and cabaret singer, who had the dubious honour of being acknowledged as Adolf Hitler's favourite actress in his lifetime, presaged the Culkin Family's woes by milking and bilking her adorable child for all she was worth.

    Romy Schneider called her mother a Nazi publicly, and barely spoke to her in later life. Her father was an adorable rake, too soused most days to take advantage of his daughter's fame.

    Distinguished Lineage -- Like many child stars who make a successful transition to adult roles (hello Drew Barrymore), she was the daughter of acting "royalty".

    Apart from her already-mentioned parents, her grandmother, Rosa Albach-Retty, was considered the greatest actress of all time in the German language, and was the doyenne of Austrian theatre in the time of Franz Josef. Dem's good acting genes.

    Hatred of Starring Role -- Romy Schneider would spit at people in the street if they called her "Sissi". She LOATHED her Empress Elisabeth of Austria role which launched her into world-wide acclaim, and is the equivalent of "The Sound of Music" to many children around the world.

    Fidel Castro is said to be so enamoured with the film, that though it is, after all, a movie about an upper-class blood-sucking bourgeois imperialist Empress, however cute in a dirndl, he allows it to be shown every December, around Christmastime, in fact.

    There are 3 installments of the series, and she finally stood up to her mother, and turned down 1,000,000 U$ in hard cash for the 4th.

    It took all of Luchino Visconti's charm to make her reprise the role, if only to make her subsequent portrayal as an embittered Sissi, bent on semi-incest with her rotting-toothed cousin, Ludwig, the Mad King of Bavaria.

    That's like Dorothy killing Toto and serving him up to Auntie Em for breakfast.

    Personal Problems -- Poor Romy. Troubled emotionally, she fell victim to drugs and alcohol, and eventually, committed suicide after her son David was found accidentally impaled on a fence.

    She was reckless sexually, and once offered herself to Günther Grass, right then and there, on national German TV. (He declined).

    Multiply-married, each time more unsuccessfully than the last, her most famous coupling came with the man that got away: French 60's heart-throb, Alain Delon.

    With all these life travails, some inherited, some self-making, Romy Schneider never stood a chance.


    (Christmas trivia: What is Mickey Rooney's real name? Why, it's Joseph Yule, Jr!)

    When you're a tow-headed man who tops the charts at 5'1", you'd better be either very talented or very charming, and for a time, Mickey Rooney was both.

    Although his Andy Hardy, World War II film series is what he's most-known for, which heralded for the first time, the box-office importance of those "teenage" years which Americans practically invented, his stage debut was actually at age 17...months.

    Not surprising really, considering he came from a gypsy-like vaudevillian family.

    Even though he was able to retain his youthful looks much longer than most other child stars, precisely because in Gary Coleman fashion, he was small of stature, Mickey Rooney had to be kept virtually under lock-and-leash by Louis B. Mayer.

    Unfortunately for MGM's publicity department, everyone's favourite rambuctious but clean-living son, "Andy Hardy", liked three things in real life: booze, prostitutes, and gambling.

    Smoking Gun would've had a field day back then.

    Like many child stars listed below, because he started out young in a young medium, Mr. Rooney is alive and well today.

    He's 85 years-old, and still a veteran of many New Year's Day parades, coming to a float near you.


    Everyone who knows a thing or two about child stars, knows that Our Gang / The Little Rascals were instrumental in the genre of adorable kiddiness.

    How VH-1 could ignore them outright, is beyond me.

    First, they were integrated, spawning the first real black child star, long before the Nicholas Brothers and Sammy Davis Jr. had their Hollywood breaks.

    Second, a non-tomboy little girl was able to hold her own in the company of rambuctious boys, just fine.

    Maybe some people like Spanky, some like Buckwheat, or Darla, or the deep-throated Froggy, but my personal favourite is Alfalfa.

    He was the first screen-kid geek, complete with awkward social graces, and even more awkward unruly hair.

    All that was missing to complete the Bill Gates meets Jerry Lewis ensemble were glasses, and buck teeth.

    The geek is the anti-hero, the anti-Marlboro Man, the anti-All-American man, which goes a long way to explain why the French revere not only Mr. Lewis, but have tremendous fondness for Our Gang in their movie art channels.

    Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery sayeth the fortune cookie, and Our Gang gave rise to a cast of lovable misfits that were later made famous by the adolescents known variously as the Dead End Kids, and the Bowery Boys, led by Leo Gorcey and Huntz Hall.

    Without the Our Gang cast, which were notoriously parent- and even authority-free, such shows as Charlie Brown or Beverly Hills 90210 would never have happened.

    And that's the cleverest segue imaginable from Spanky to Shannon Dougherty, like ever.


    Let's just gloss over his Superman TV role, and remember Jackie Cooper as the ultra-blond youngster who was a few letters removed from his predecessor, Jackie Coogan.

    They even starred in the same 3-hankie weepie, The Kid, which defies any human being from blubbering like an infant when Wallace Beery dies (oops, spoiler, my bad!).

    Cooper went on to have a distinguished if unremarkable character actor career as an adult, mostly on television, the last repository of child actors.

    Just ask Rick(y) Schroder, who was later billed as the "new Jackie Cooper".

    It must've been the platinum blond hair.


    Remember when boys used to be called Jackie? Yeah, me neither.

    Jackie Coogan, however, was truly the first child star, being made famous by none other than the silver screen's ultimate hero, Charlie Chaplin.

    It was his adorable good-looks which won the praise of film critics and the public alike, which just goes to show, if you can hit your marks and cry on cue as a 5-year-old, the sky's the limit.

    To those who think Coogan is too highly-placed in this list, I give to you the greatest testimonial there is:

    Once, I was walking along a street in Romania, and saw a street-sign with the name, Calea Jackie Coogan (Jackie Coogan Street).

    Talk about long memories.

    Or street signage in need of repair.


    Everyone knows Mary Pickford made a creepy Lolita-like living acting like an overgrown Pollyanna well after the age of 30, again being helped out by Mother Nature because she was yae-big to a grasshopper's knee.

    (This is why America's Sweetheart, the Canadian Miss Pickford, didn't make the list)

    But it was Baby Peggy that truly allowed Hollywood to capitalise on the fetish for little girls in a series of films starring the black-Irish "Baby Peggy".

    Hard to describe her onscreen adventures, really.

    They seemed to entail lots of running, crying, and pinching of cheeks, and from this, the studios made millions.

    (What can one say? It was frikkin' Shakespeare compared to the Keystone Kops)

    Her brunette pageboy bob emulated the stars of the time, like Louise Brooks' famous haircut.

    The 20's were all about the brunettes, because they photographed better on celluloid, and Baby Peggy personified that Mini-Me Flapper look to a tee.

    Why, even little Darla of Our Gang fame had it, and it took the Number 1 Child Star of all Time, listed below, to break that dark-locked mold.

    Amazingly given her rise to fame in 1921, Baby Peggy (real name, Diana Sera Casey) is still alive, being 87 years-young, as one always says about the incredibly ancient.

    Even more amazingly, she harbours no ill-will about her kid star days, and loves her screen-incarnation of Baby Peggy.

    She's like the anti-Dana Plato in almost every way. Especially the dead way.



    I pondered long and hard about including Liz Taylor in this list.

    She was indeed a bona-fide Hollywood child star, alongside such notables as Deanna Durbin and Judy Garland, and though she's known for National Velvet, which launched the British-born (but American-origined) actress to fame, it really was not until her later adult roles, and many many many marriages, that she became truly famous.

    But all you have to do, is to look at her child acting career to see that, in many ways, she is really the most famous child actor of all time, if perhaps not the most influential.

    Plus she has a double row of eyelashes, just like me. That's gotta count for something.


    Used to be, there was not a single 1930's male child role that didn't feature either Freddie Bartholomew or Mickey Rooney.

    Whether being cuddled by Greta Garbo, or being the lovable impish sidekick of Spencer Tracy, or the stereotypical ineffably snobby British boy in Eton collars, Freddie was the 1930's child actor personified.

    Capitalising on his Received Pronunciation elocution, Hollywood thought he could tackle the wealth of Dickens-roles which Brooklyn-accented boy actors just couldn't carry off convincingly.

    ("Say, what gives, Mr. Pickwick. Give me the lowdown on Fagin and cheese it, the cops!")

    Bartholomew also had a certain quality that is much-too-be-prized about child actors:

    Once their moment in the sun was over, that was it.

    They sank into obscurity, never to be heard from again, at least not as an actor.

    Freddie became an advertising exec, lost his snotty good-looks, and never wore an Eton collar ever again, if he could avoid it.

    Apart from a few "Whatever happened to...?" shows, his fall from fame was as swift and lasting as his rise.

    Here's to my Anglo-compadre, who made British children everywhere seem like the most awful gits imaginable.

    Even I wanted to punch his too perky nose.


    When I was a child, I absolutely DETESTED Casablanca and the Wizard of Oz, in that order. Didn't much care for Gone with the Wind, either, if I recall smartly.

    What a fool this rugrat was! I love them all now!

    Except...alas, for the Wizard of Oz bit.

    I'm sorry, I just cannot stand that film, partly because I don't "get" it, like gay men or North Korean orphans are said to.

    And my dislike of Oz spilled over to Judy Garland, since the musical is my least favourite cinematic artform, by far.

    Take away the showtunes, and well, Judy Garland just becomes a rather confused pharmaceutical warehouse.

    That is, until one fine day, a few years ago, I chanced upon a CD of her London recordings, and was just blown away.

    What a talent. What feeling. Magnificent.

    There are few people who can be said to be incomparable, but Judy Garland, born Frances Ethel Gumm (yikes), is amongst the tiny few to whom no one can approach in similarity.

    To my mind, the three greatest entertainers of the Twentieth Century were:

    3. Judy Garland
    2. Elvis Presley
    1. Frank Sinatra

    Because they each of them were consummate performers, in the fullest sense of the word.

    And hey, the 4'11" Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney made a film teeny-bopper, bobbysoxer couple extraordinaire.

    Together, they were as tall as Ingrid Bergman.


    Come on, VH-1.

    You suck SO hard if you don't acknowledge that Miss Temple is the greatest child actor of all time.

    This is the moppet who, aged 3, appeared in a very disturbing JonBenet Ramsay-like striptease, in what must've launched the Japanese cult of the "sexy little girl" (ick).

    There, I'm glad I got the word "moppet" out-of-the-way. And oh, "cocktail".

    These are words which are tied umbilically to Shirley Temple, poor dear.

    I've never actually had a Shirley Temple, though, since I have no idea where to buy Grenadine. (Grenada?)

    I've heard many anecdotes about Shirley Temple:

    About her controlling stage mum, same as Romy Schneider and Judy Garland had; about her ambassadorship to Ghana and later, to the Czech Republic.

    About the fact that at first, people were convinced she was a 40-year old dwarf, because she was so unbelievably talented, as if all 40-year old dwarves are.

    (I supppose people thought that because not every child of 4 could tap-dance, sing, and act, apparently, although I could. However, my hair doesn't even curl on rainy days, so my Hollywood career never really took off)

    I've also heard she's very down-to-earth, who can be approached on the street for an autograph, and not act like a spoilt brat (hello Lindsay Lohan).

    Long after these other child stars are forgotten, the contributions made by Shirley Temple to the genre of child movie vehicle, will sparkle alongside Bill "Bojangles" Robinson, or make dimply inroads with "On the Good Ship Lollypop" for years to come.

    But the greatest reason of all that Shirley Temple is the best, undisputed, numero uno child actor of all time is...

    ...she's a Republican! Booyeah!

    No wonder she's a has-been.

    HONOURABLE MENTIONS: Julie Andrews. Roddy McDowell. Natalie Wood.

    FOR THE RECORD: Here is the VH-1 countodwn to Greatest Kid Star of All Time.

    20. Christopher Knight
    19. Keisha Knight Pulliam
    18. Ricky Schroder
    17. Molly Ringwald
    16. Dustin Diamond (who?)
    15. Kirk Cameron
    14. Tatum O'Neil
    13. Jonathan Lipnicki
    12. Brooke Shields
    11. Jackson Five
    10. Danny Bonaduce
    9. Maureen McCormick
    8. Corey Feldman
    7. Ron Howard
    6. Emmanuel Lewis
    5. Drew Barrymore
    4. Jodie Foster
    3. Olsen Twins
    2. Macaulay Culkin
    1. Gary Coleman

    Sunday, December 25, 2005

    To All On Sundries

    Merry Christmas!

    From my family to yours, here's wishing everyone the best Christmas yet.

    I'll be back, as per usual, with regularly scheduled, quirky blogposts tomorrow.

    CHRISTMAS PRESENT WISH: If you want to, and have time, nothing would make me happier than if you went to this site, America Supports You, and left a message of support for the US troops who allow those of us in America, the right to a peaceful Christmas with our families.

    Saturday, December 24, 2005

    King Tut In SoFla

    He's heeeeeeeere.

    The much awaited King Tutankhamum (spell it any way you like!) exhibit at the Museum of Art in Ft. Lauderdale has finally opened, 15 December 2005.

    Ever since the Princess Diana exhibit last year, in the same venue, South Florida has been a-tizzy with excitement about the King Tut tour around the US, finally landing here in the Sunshine State with a loud report of gala parties and gliterati sightings.

    Governor Jeb Bush was apparently on hand for the gala celebrations to launch the exhibit up in Broward County, and I can imagine the local celebs who might've attended, from gossip queen Tara Solomon to the Fanjul brothers in nearby Palm Beach.

    This suits me just fine.

    I have already determined that 2006 will see a more sociable Victoria on the scene, just like I used to be, before entering Medical School.

    (Until I restart it again in August 2006, that is)

    And I adore the story of Howard Carter and the "Curse of King Tut", which boils down to a mosquito bite gone terribly, terribly wrong.

    The tour began in LA in July of 2005, and will end up in Philly on January, 2007.

    - Museum of Art, Fort Lauderdale: December 2005

    - The Field Museum, Chicago: May 2006

    - The Franklin Institute, Philadelphia, January 2007

    And of course, I'll be there blogging via the WiFi of the overpriced museum cafe (aren't they all), so you can be assured of a good thumping yarn at the end of it.

    Now, can you help me to choose the right opera to attend, after a 2 year absence from the Florida Grand Opera?

    Donizetti THE DAUGHTER OF THE REGIMENT Jan 7 - 28

    Rossini THE BARBER OF SEVILLE Feb 11 - Mar 4

    Verdi RIGOLETTO Mar 18 - Apr 8

    Bizet CARMEN Apr 22 - May 14

    I've seen each opera at least once, so don't be shy about suggesting one over the other.

    Carmen is a given, obviously. That Israeli mezzo looks a treat.


    If that blogfather of mine, JSU, isn't careful, he'll be blogging about Panettone, and I'll be blogging about opera.

    I think he got the better of that deal.

    Friday, December 23, 2005

    The President's Rough Week

    Those of you out there who are living the American dream, with your little picket fences in your immaculate homesteads, will never know the joys of living in a condo.

    Condos, especially the snootier ones which Noo Yawkers reading this recognise all too well, are not just parceled slices of heaven, free of roofers and lawn-mowing duties.


    They also come with something called a "Condo Board" -- the modern-day equivalent of saying "reform school".

    Just saying it gives you an Oliver Twist frisson.

    For every Condo Board seems to be headed by an officious, controlling, maniacally-self-important little person, who revels in his unlimited dictatorial powers as president.

    (I'm a shoo-in one day)

    Ours is a case in point.

    He's French.

    I don't think I need further comment.

    He particularly dislikes my family because he can't lord it over us, being British and/or German.

    See, it's the dirtiest little secret in South Florida, but if you're Yourapeein, you've got automatic dibs on social superiority.

    You can swank in front of the "native" Americans, making the transplants feel like yokels who wouldn't know an espadrille from a foulard.

    And you can totally ignore the Hispanics, with their "loud loudiness", as the condo prez once described the mostly South American porters we have downstairs, with his huge De Gaulle proboscis firmly in the air.

    (Bizarrely, they love him. Never underestimate the power of treating people like dirt...alas, I missed that lesson in Euro-Trash School)

    So obviously, my family represent a little Maginot Line where he cannot cross, and which has to be constantly defended in case we should invade his uppity turf.

    ...which is frequently.

    Mother and I, especially, take undue pleasure in speaking to him in French in front of the porters -- my mother in rapid-fire Parisian-accented, FU French, which makes his provincial head spin in seething resentment.

    (I mean, Grenôble? Please. That's like Surbiton. Or Schenectady. Or Ulan Bator)

    Those of you who have stuck it out this far are to be rewarded with a point in this blogpost. Here it comes.

    So yesterday, we went downstairs to a gathering of the tribe, in the traditional condo Christmas party in the Reception Hall (as they call the glorified pool table/big ass TV room).

    There he was, with his Colombian wife, noses still aloft and attitudes still Zoloft. She had on this Versace wannabe number I wouldn't have used as a do-rag, but I digress.

    But I noticed when we three came in to wish all around a very Merry Christmas, he seemed unusually jumpy -- even for him.

    When you see a nervous-looking fella, be sure to follow his eyes. It never fails.

    So as I greeted my neighbours, I looked at him in the corner of my eye, fussing at the back near some signs.

    I almost choked on my canapé.

    For along the Reception Hall were these streamers with festive messages on them, you know the kind:

    "Merry Christmas!" "Peace To All!" "Goodwill To Man!" "Impeach Bush!"

    But this year, he went all out and had them done in several languages.

    (Even Chinese -- for they shall inherit the earth)

    But knowing him, and I have no proof for my libellous charge obviously but that never stopped E! Television, he decided to scrimp on the printers, pocket the overage, and probably had them run up by some shady Kinko's in Little Haiti.

    There it was, bold as brass. A sign in French reading:

    "2006 -- Le Paix sur Terre!"

    I'll wait for the laughter to die down before continuing.

    To the non-Frenchiephones amongst you, a small language lesson, minus mp3 this time.

    See, it's like this:

    "Paix" means peace, but it's feminine, not masculine. "La Paix".

    When it's masculine, it's pronounced exactly like "Le Pet" (luh peh), which means The Fart.

    So hanging gayly over our little Yuletide hoedown was a sign wishing all many Farts On Earth in 2006.

    Ohhhhh...how I enjoyed myself after that, I CANNOT tell you.

    For I knew that Le Snootie had paid for these streamers with our monthly condo fees.

    Not only had he egg on his face because his little stunt had been sabotaged by cheap, no doubt illegal printers, but he failed to double-check them before they were put up, and best of all, in his own language too.

    Don't you think I would've noticed if someone had strung up a sign in English wishing all Piss on Earth?

    You're darn tooten!

    And I would've asked for my money back too.

    This war of attrition is not over, my friends, not by a Whitewater Monica Lewinksy mile.

    Very next condo meeting, scheduled for the second Tuesday in January, I'm bringing the matter up, and asking for an Oversight Committee to investigate this incredibly poor lapse of judgement of cautionary spending.

    Just you wait. We'll take back the presidency yet.

    UPDATE: Oh, a few clarifications. Although I didn't read the post out loud to my mother for her amusement (because it has vulgar adult words I don't want her to hear me writing, like canapé and Versace), my mother wishes me to explain two things, in case they flew over some people's heads -- unlikely, but let's humour her, shall we.

    First, the "La", indeed, the "Le" is ungrammatically unneeded. And there is a circumflex thingie missing from "sûr".

    And!...though Paix sûr Terre is okay, I GUESS, "Paix sûr La Terre" would be better.

    I think there's a Johnny Hallyday song called that, in fact. I have to check my Hola! and get back to you.

    Thursday, December 22, 2005

    Far From The Madding Crowd

    Yesterday, dad and I went to the British Consulate, as a respite from the shopping mum and I have been doing NON-STOP for a week.

    You know what his Christmas present to me is?

    He re-did his Last Will and Testament, giving me outright all the land, possessions, and jewelry he had inherited from his parents in England.

    (Before, my mother and I shared it 50/50, but she had waived her rights a fortnight ago, unbeknownst to me)

    What can you say to a gift like that?

    It's a touch of winter's cold gripping your heart.

    As final and matter-of-fact as any fait-accompli has a right to stand for.


    I finished the blogpost too abruptly. Let me tell you a story.

    Once upon a time, there was a distant, cerebral man who worked 18 hour days, but who feared his wife spoilt their only child too much.

    Being of a misanthropic disposition, thinking the world a rotten, disease-ridden rat trap, ready to gobble up his little girl if he didn't "toughen" her up, he was charry with treats, and sparse in compliments.

    Why, even his "treats" had the flavour of bittersweetness.

    Like when he took his little girl to Niagara Falls, and though she dearly wanted to go in the little ferry, he said no.

    Instead, he took her, wife and visiting sister-in-law to a photographer's studio, for a cheesy, touristy "snap" with the 4 of them in a barrel, with a backdrop of the Falls behind them.

    Everyone in the photo had a cheesy, touristy look of faked fright on their faces.

    Except the little girl.

    She had the sullen look of the spoilt little rugrat who hadn't gotten her way.

    She didn't care if she ruined the picture.

    She didn't care if her dad spent just as much of his hard-earned money on that snap.

    She just wanted to go in that ferry.

    He felt angry, and sad, and frustrated, and sad, and hurt, and sad.

    A pall descended on the rest of the day.

    But such are fairy tales -- suspended in time, the same story told in the same words, without alteration. In real life, the characters grow up and learn their lessons.

    So yesterday, when the consulate official stamped dad's Will, authenticating it as correct, I turned around, and kissed him, and whispered, "thanks Dad", patting him lovingly on his arm.

    "Thanks Dad", is all he ever wanted to hear from me, all those years ago.

    Two little words which children seem to be unable to utter, because they're so wrapped up in thinking about what they SHOULD get, as if the world owed them something, all the time.

    But fairy tales aren't true.

    The love of a father providing for his child after he's left this earth, is real. Very real.

    There's no finer lesson to be learnt in this life than gratitude, and maybe, just maybe, the spoilt little girl has finally learnt it.

    Wednesday, December 21, 2005

    Hoch Wingery!

    This is what you get for being so busy with stocking stuffing, you don't even have the time to check the state of your Blog Kingdom.

    The Divided Kingdom of Kos-Wingery

    Click on the map above to find this blog!

    Hint: I am near Instyvania and Buddha-Pissed, slightly due east of Gal-Icy-A.

    No prizes for those who guessed Gal-Icy-A was Ann Althouse. Or for that matter, who is Depravia.

    (Although for a second, I thought she was in Sluztburg)

    Not bad work for an agnostic, Kommissar.

    Your reward is the Most Ancient Blog Order of the Royal Goose, Low-Class.

    Tuesday, December 20, 2005

    L'il Bow Wow

    UM Cashmere Sweater: $60

    Blogpost replies with the word "sad" in them: Hmm, maybe 10

    Look on family poochie's face when he opens up Bloomingdale's present on Christmas Day: Priceless

    Bite me.

    Monday, December 19, 2005

    Seaplane Down in South Beach!


    Live shot via camera phone

    PHOTO 1 -- Camera phone from NBC viewer.

    PHOTO 2 -- Same shot, cleaned up by ABC News at 6:30 PM EST.

    Awful news on the heels of the recent event of the unhinged passenger onboard a plane, being killed by Air Marshalls, comes word that a a seaplane has gone down in South Beach.

    Shortly after 2:30 PM EST, a Chalk's seaplane, Flight 101, carrying 20 passengers, apparently a party of a large, extended family, has gone down in Government Cut, taking off of Watson's Island, but going down near Fisher Island, in the southernmost point of Miami Beach.

    There was no flight plan filed, but word from local news channels here (of which I am watching all, on 3 television sets), is that they were headed towards Bimini.

    This is a file photo of how that plane might've looked like on take-off.

    The news is fluid, and as in the Mayhem at MIA! post, sometimes will be whisper rather than confirmation-ridden, but this is what we have heard so far.

    A private seaplane company called "Chalks Airways", who operate 8 flights per day in the high season out from Ft. Lauderdale and Miami (destination Paradise Island and Bimini, daylight hours only), had one of their planes missing at 2:30 PM EST.

    Witnesses said the plane went down extremely quickly.

    Flying due east, just having reached the end of the rock jetty, of Government Cut, where the Port of Miami is located, the plane trailed a plume of grey smoke behind it, when suddenly the right wing broke off just as it was rounding off into the open ocean.

    The Bahamian Consul General is on his way to the scene, and several relatives have now arrived at the locale, most of them understandably distraught, as they screamed the news into cell phones that their relatives where the ones inside the plane, to other family members.

    The party of relatives I saw were varying shades of black or Afro-Caribbean, and since the Bahamian consul is on his way, this suggests the passengers included Bahamian nationals.

    The plane, which can hold 30 passengers, had 20 passengers in the manifest (not 18 as reported in the first breakning news segments), including 3 children.

    The bodies of 12 people have been recovered (updated below).

    Originally, there was word from the Coast Guard that they had rescued 6 people.

    Unknown if any children amongst them.

    Channel 4 CBS immediately had to issue a retraction, as their producer said the same Coast Guard official called back to deny that as yet.

    (No doubt, until all the family members had been appraised of the situation, lest anyone have false hope)

    I will try to run over to the area, to see if I can get any live photographs. The scene, as shown on television, is barely 5 blocks away from me.

    UPDATE: 20 aboard, 19, nineteen passengers' bodies recovered. NO SURVIVORS, NOW CONFIRMED. FBI, City of Miami-Beach, City of Miami, and Miami-Dade rescue all were at the scene of the tragedy, shortly after it was reported at 14:40 (they arrived at 14:42 EST). 17 passengers, 2 crew members. Tragic...

    UPDATE: I stayed to mind the television newscasts, my mother went to see if she could take a photo for me. Poor thing. Because of the news crews, and the pandemonium, to take a few photos, the only one of which came out well I show below, she took an hour to return.

    These are the Carnival Cruise line ships grouded until further notice. Imagination and Fascination. I believe there is also a Royal Caribbean cruise ship grounded behind them as well, ready to be given orders to leave by the US Coast Guard (after the FAA clear them, though the investigations may take a while, as they are equipped to work at night).

    This is that same Government Cut in happier times, with a cruise ship leading out from it.

    That is South Pointe condos and park, where so many witnesses were earlier.

    UPDATE: Chalk Airways are the oldest continuously registered airliner in the world. This is their first downed plane with passengers in their history. A STERLING safety record. What a shame.

    UPDATE: The Port of Miami has been officially closed for the night, so no cruise ships will be authorised to leave their docks. I suppose the passengers will have a credit issued them, or be given a substantial discount.

    Unless something very noteworthy occurs, like the release of names or the manifest, this is my last post on the topic of the evening!


    A Pack, Not a Herd

    Sunday, December 18, 2005

    Blogger White-Outs

    Upon perusing the many newly-updated blogs today, I come upon this "interesting" little blog:

    Censorship By Blogger

    In it, the blogger condemns our blog host's new "flag" mechanism, to report objectionable blogs or indeed, blog content.

    Most of us probably raised a quizzical eye at the innovation, with immediate co-reactions.

    1) Ah. Blogger.com is finally trying to do something about the spam
    2) Ah. Blogger.com is finally trying to do something about the porn

    I didn't really think they would be de-indexing, or removing blogs from their server, for the espousal of ideas.

    Now, the blogger in question doesn't mention in the above-mentioned link why he had problems with Google/Blogger.com.

    It could be, for all I know, a matter of copyright violation, pornography, or espousal of violence through the printed medium -- all of which have legal strictures, and conditions, no matter what manner of free speech we have guaranteed in the US Constitution.

    Obviously, since the internet is world-wide, though the parent corporation is located in the United States, specific guarantees of free-speech are not so much in effect, protected by constitutions or international laws, as loosely accorded to each person blogging by that entity's own standards.

    Being private, not public, it is up to each of us to determine what is correct, or appropriate in our blogs, given the guidelines we signed off on before joining.

    Without specifics, it is difficult to weigh in adequately on what prompted my fellow blogger to launch this new forum on Blogger censorship.

    He gives us some clues, though, as to why he finds this new state-of-affairs, troubling.

    Google's Blogger is simply a service-provider.

    In the same way that the electricity company has no right to tell you and me what to do with the electricity it provides, Blogger has no similar right either. Some commenters have pointed out that Blogger is a free service, and so we have no rights against it. But there is no such thing as a free service (unless it is provided by a charity).

    For example, some newspapers are distributed free of charge in order to be able to collect advertising revenue.

    Blogger is one of the many ways for the Google conglomerate to make a name for itself and sell other products and services through that reputation. It is not free.

    As you can see, there is much one can discuss in these statements. Some of his commenters already mentioned that:

    Only government censorship (at least in the USA) is unconstitutional. Otherwise, freedom of the press belongs to those who own the presses. And, here, Blogger owns the press we're all using. It can make whatever rules it wants about what appears here.

    Making the private versus public argument quite neatly, I think.

    Another chimed in to say:

    We have no right to force Google to continue to host our writings, no matter how wonderful we think they are.

    Google has no right to force us to keep our work there, either, if we decide to move it or delete it entirely. You seem to believe that Google has some permanent obligation to host our blogs even if it decides doing so is harmful to its interests.

    You can read his or her replies to both these rebuttals via the link.

    But the blogger does mention this, as his start-off point to his reply.

    I appreciate these thoughtful objections, but they leave me unconvinced, perhaps because our starting points are different. I never take the rights that powerful groups in society have arrogated to themselves for granted. Of course, not everyone sees things that way.

    And this, unfortunately because one has to delve almost into the existential, is the crux of the matter.

    Everyone who knows the internet, knows it is still very much a Wild West. Anything and everything goes, even if it's a question of time when even "workarounds" will be deleted.

    (Say there's a pervert who wants to post quasi-child porn, but works-around that in the age-old National Geographic manner, of showing children in underprivileged, un-clad circumstances. Who's to say what are his true motivations, if he covers them up well)

    I know we have some lawyers on Sundries, so I will let them weigh in with point-counterpoints to the topic of censorship on Blogger.

    Doubtlessly, even if there are legal arguments that can be used in favour of privage censorship, some people have come to believe that the internet is the last bastion of freedom of actions, amongst them speech, as mentioned above.

    Never, in the history of this modern world, have actions been completely divorced from strictures.

    Even if government bodies did not prohibit certain speech or associations, private individuals enforced their own standards on their families, and communities.

    This is PRECISELY why governments at one and the same time, increased vigilance, whilst allowing greater press freedoms as the modern age progressed.

    Because one alternative scenario would be for individuals to become violent vigilantes, taking codes of private honour as exists in some cultures, and meting out punishment whenever they felt aggrieved.

    Modern life is complex.

    It's a parallel bar of dos and don'ts which, no matter how that complexity is explained to them, there are those who feel that something is owed them, just because.

    Freedom of speech to me is qualified, by my own standards as well as that of my society's.

    I am perfectly able to ignore, circumvent, or claim I have rights beyond that which the law says I do, but the consequences that follow are beyond my control.

    This is ultimately the problem in this matter, for which, no easy solution exists.

    It's about expectations and world view.

    And a sense of proportion.

    For at the very end of the blog, he posts photo reproductions Nazi book burnings.

    Google = Nazi Germany

    Yeah, I'll buy that.

    Saturday, December 17, 2005

    On The Town

    As Christmas approaches, and the end of this disaster-prone year draws nearer, your never-humble blogger will get busier and busier.

    Gifts must be wrapped. Parties planned. Outfits coordinated.

    I will blog inimitably as ever, I hope, but perhaps you may have to indulge me as to the timeliness of the blogposts, every once in a while.

    Everything I do for Sundries, I do with love -- especially love for my readers, all 3 of you.

    You have graced the blog with your presence, your spirit, and your affection, for which I would need a hundred blogposts to thank you adequately. But you can't get better proof of my gratitude, than when you see the photos I have accrued below these many days.

    There will be more, as long as they interest you.

    Like the much-commented on snapshot album-blogpost of Miami, the Magic City, these pics below are little glances into my world.

    Nothing excites me more, than being your cicerone around this city of youthful aquatints.

    So take off your sweaters, grab my hand and let's be off!

    Off into the hectic, but lovely last days of the waning year, 2005.


    Miami Beach is a pocket-Venice, with its many bridges, and sparkling waterways, bustling with activity one moment, only to present a scene of ethereal calm the next.

    That respite of peace is caught in this snap, evoking Canaletto, so beautiful it smarts the eyes.

    Youth must have its head, shirtless, in a Beemer convertible, with the promise of a double whopper with cheese.

    (What, doesn't every Burger King look like that?)

    This is the Regal Cinemahouse on famed Lincoln Road.

    It is my favourite movie theatre in the whole of this world, because, well, look at it. It's a tribute to Miami Beach at its Art Deco height, but still has that standoffish, metallic Orwellian look I so love.

    One thing, though. I can't decide if I like it in daylight best...

    ...or at night?

    Either way, I hope you know what makes a city beautiful.

    When you can see it in the daytime or in the darkness of night, and it's still gorgeous. Like a woman.

    Speaking about women, it's time to go shopping!

    This open-air mall is The Falls in Pinecrest, ex-neigbourhood stomping grounds of Governor Jeb Bush. With its trademarked water-features, and celestial views (tilt your head up, and watch the stars dance at night), it's a wonderful place to shop, unconstrained as you are in elbow room, if not in wallet size.

    Visible is a topiary pussy in lights. I wish I had one of those.

    And what better place to request one than at Santa's House?

    Taking a much-needed break in the 84F degree weather, Santa popped down to the Falls to hear what the rugrats of South Florida have to request this Christmas.

    I hope one requested a difibrilator. Their dad will need it after this Santa sticker-shock.

    ($34.99?? You could feed half of Africa with that, as my dear old dad always says)

    Shopping is good. Reading is better.

    When you are satiated with the Christmas sprees, come down to this Public Library.

    Its huge oak doors will open into a cobbled inner courtyard, transforming your city view from the gay pastels of Miami Beach, into the sombre Spanish colonial earth tones of Coral Gables.

    Dusk illustrates these shade differences magnificently, as it sets on Coral Gables City Hall, at the end of Miracle Mile.

    Built like a Spanish fortress, it is like an exclamation point of elegance in Miami's most coveted address. I often go here to relax up and down Miracle Mile, a stately stretch of shops, restaurants, and hotels.

    Mind you dodge the bridezillas that congregate around the many bridal gown emporia though (my future self included).

    I bet you when you started reading and viewing this blogpost, you thought I was going for another round of,

    "Oh, look at the pretty cuteness of the happy palm trees and gay Paxil-colours of South Florida"


    Well, I end with a sunset shot of the most pedestrian, uncloyingly pretty vista I can think of posting in a travellogue:

    A paved highway, our US-1, "South Dixie", during rush hour traffic.

    Somewhere near you is a road which looks not unlike this one, minus a few palm trees and the elevated Metrorail to the right.

    Beauty is all around us, just waiting to be noticed.

    Maybe my eyes are still that of that perpetual wide-eyed British tourist, fascinated by sights I see every day, in weather only a rain-soaked ex-national can treasure.

    But I know there are places even in homely cities, that you don't have to be starry-eyed to love.

    You just have to open your eyes to see them afresh.

    Won't you share them with us, too?

    UPDATE: Well, fudge. I used xs.to instead of Photoblogger for a change, and look what happened -- at 2:00 AM EST, no pics because the site must be down momentarily. I'll upload them again properly tomorrow. Me teepy now. Rather fun, though, to read the descriptions for the first time, and imagine what they could look like. Especially the be-lit pussy.


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