Current Essays

Broadcast on 8/28/202
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The Guy-on-the-throne of Damocles On:2006-03-03 04:26:15

Most of the time I'm really glad that I'm such a pessimist: I mean what other state of mind could so happily ensure that I've never ever been tempted to gamble? Though there is of course another side to this un-flipped, un-bet-upon coin and that is that, as a pessimist, I can't escape the realisation that pessimism does, indeed, have its slight disadvantages: the main one for me as a technophile being that I have a tendency to rehearse over and over again how terribly thin is the thread that modern high-tech life dangles from---it's like the story of Damocles told from the sword's POV. I mean there you are way up high and hanging by a thread dangling day after day in terror of falling, and hoping above hope that when the inevitable happens to your thread that there also happens to be some guy, and preferably a big fat one, sitting under you on the throne to break your fall and save you from getting a really nasty, painful chip knocked out of your point.

The point of my story is I'm sure clear, that as things get what we like to think of as 'better' for us in what we like to think of as the 'developed' countries they get more complicated and more interconnected, and that all this carries the seed of its own destruction: that we hang around, not so much at the Mall, as at the end of threads depending from threads depending from threads, high above the hard ground ...or rather throne, ever more precarious and liable to tragedy if but one of them breaks; the knots becoming ever more complicated and as hard to maintain as this metaphor.

So. Demetaphoring now.

Imagine what it will be like; for example for me, if this does all break down: apart from the mere loss of income, we are talking real hardship here, just think; I get an idea for an essay---perhaps about my pessimism that that our high tech society will fail---I have to look around for a pen and some ink, and something to write on; and by the time I've found a goat and killed and skinned it and scraped the skin and dried it to make the parchment and ground up the oxgall and stuff for the ink, and got a feather for a pen and napped a flint to a sharp edge and trimmed the pen, I've forgotten the idea! And even if I haven't how in the Helheim am I going to record it? Or send it to the station?! Which probably won't even be there!

Or take this slightly less personal example; ages ago (and so, please note, when things weren't quite as HeathRobinsonish1 as they are now) I was reading, in the State of the Industry column by Rachel Parker in the weekly computer magazine InfoWorld, under the heading 'We Must Learn How to Manage The Computers We Depend On,' (which is a startlingly novel idea for a start) about Sun Microsystems, a very high tech high-tech company, having terrible difficulties and (horror!) loosing money when they changed the computers that, in effect, ran their company: her message more or less being, "if these guys, at the forefront of the industry could screw it up what about the rest of us?" She expressed her concerns in a memorable, frightening phrase, and a phrase that absolutely forced me to include this particular example, "Sun's example," she wrote, "should be a bellwether in a rough sea…"

… I, of course, immediately took telephone under chin, and called both the Animal Liberation Front and PETA to apprise them of the fact that InfoWorld definitely has an animal laboratory and that some pretty weird stuff is obviously going on in it in the name of testing computers. I mean---Oh, the dreadful image that "a bellwether in a rough sea" conjures up. The darkling sky stabbed with lightning; the roar of thunder; the wind whistling; the waves crashing; the spume spewing! And this little woolly head desperately trying to keep itself above water; and round its little woolly neck a big bell: and in the momentary silences of the storm a plaintive "Baa-aa, baa-aa, tinkle, tinkle, glub, glub, glub...": (sniff) and maybe, since a bellwether is after all the lead sheep, straggling out behind it, you can just make out the waterlogged fleecy backs of the rest of the flock trying sadly to follow their leader.

Oh! I can't go on, it's too horrid I…
It's too much even for a pessimist so...

Cheerio for now
from Richard Howland-Bolton.

Coming up next...
Broadcast on 06/05/21
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Letter to America On:2021-06-24 12:50:00

(with Apologies to Alistair Cooke)

Well, here we are: Georgia, Buddy the dog and I, more-or-less settled in the more-or-less United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (though I suddenly wonder. Shouldn't that be 'more-or-less United Queendom' rather than Kingdom nowadays?—Perhaps there is an official gender for them to go with their personal one, like their official birthday to go with their personal one: I mean what do you give to the person who has several whole countries?).

Anyway, I say more-or-less settled because we are revamping the Ole Faymly Raynch—I mean 'Home', blimey I have been in Texas too long—bringing it up to date, up to code and up to the standards we'd like to become accustomed to, so I am now up to my neck in renovation. And me the guy who for years has claimed that he doesn't do hardware, only software.
And I have to admit that a career in software development has not really prepared me for it. Not even slightly.
Of course the skill-requiring, technical, structural, not to mention potentially lethal bits are being done by the professionals and by my cousin-in-law Bob, our DIY sensei?
And I'm left with the hypothetically 'easier' bits: painting. Painting is apparently somewhat messy (especially with me doing it) and has to be proceeded by the ritual torture of STRIPPING! This, in spite of its provocative title, does not involve hot, dancing ladies with poles, though it does involve heat: heat provided by a heat gun. A bloody hot heat gun for the removal of the paint put on by an earlier unfortunate who, judging by the thickness of the aforesaid paint, had the good sense not to! Apparently following the dictates of all his paint removal avoiding predecessors right back to the late 19th Century.
All this requires, in addition to the skill that I don't have, suitable attire which I also don't have, since most of my clothing is lurking in a box in a container on a container ship, itself lurking somewhere between a Port of Loading in Charleston South Carolina and a Port of Discharging in Essex, UK (leaving me essentially living out of a suitcase). This was a problem.
Even however-er the Ole-Faymly-Raynch-or-Home being what it is, there is a whole bunch of stuff that is just waiting to be accepted or rejected and ejected from various cupboards and other hidey-holes. so...
So, I found an old pair of lady's trousers (you can't say "pants" over here because, as with "vests" and "suspenders", it is much too confusing in terms of proximity to the skin) that actually fitted (sort of) at least round my waist, at least if I breathe in and don't mind looking a little purple in the face, so that's a problem more-or-less solved.
But then, then I tried to (if you'll excuse me being forthright) ZIP UP THE FRONT.
Oh the horror! The blinding flash of Revelation! The sudden realisation that:
Women are built the wrong way round!! They are the mirror image of me....Or OMG!! maybe I'M the mirror image? Oh! Oh! The very thought of me being the wrong way round!
...Though that would explain me being left handed, and anyway whichever is the right way round, whichever is the particle or the antiparticle, whichever was born on opposites day, it does explain absolutely everything about existence: from those trousers to most of my love-life to date, plus the fact that even though I am a leftie, the effort required in trying to zip up that wrong-way-round fly was so exhausting. I had to go and lie down for a bit, and not just because I was turning a little purple in the face.
Then lying there, whimpering slightly, I had and even blinding-er flash of New Improved Revelation when remembered how I had wanted to dress for the flight over here a hazmat suit, but spoil-sport Georgia wouldn't let me! So to make up for lost hazmat hazing opportunities I got one and, wearing only my pants under it, wore it to my extreme delight, moderate protection and noticeable sweatiness.
Well I have to arise and go now and do the remaining heat gunnery and a lot of sanding of now-or-soon-to-be naked wood and stuff followed by the traditional Removing of the Wallpaper from the next Room-to-be-Done, so, as they tend end letters over here,
Kindest regards,
Richard Howland-Bolton
and, of course,
Cheerio for now
from me.

Coming up next...
Broadcast on 06/26/21
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The Galloping Chef-Surpriser On:2008-02-01 04:03:46

Cooking programmes now seem to be so popular that I think it’s about time that I share my contribution to the genre with you, and so become rich and famous (and possibly fat).

You see a week or so ago I was running, as I usually do at an impossible time of the morning (I think it was about 4 A.M.), and just as I came thundering up to the Fillmore Pub , the last two guys left in the place were just closing up and the frontmost one of them was bending down in the doorway, presumably to lock the bottom bolt of one of the big double doors to its sill, as I hurtled by shouting a cheery “Good morning!” far too suddenly (and far to loud since I was wearing an iPod) and .... Oh! Did I mention that yet another eating and drinking place has opened in the little strip that they call Old Towne Plano-e on account of its street being made of bricks rather than asphalt or concrete or whatever---and, I suppose, also because it is the oldest part of Plano: you know the sort of place; one of those would-be quaint & antiquated little areas with lots of quaint antique-ish shops and lots of can’t-quite-stay-open-long-enough-to-become-quaint-&-antiquated little restaurants that open for a few meals, often quite decent meals, before collapsing under the weight of Texan anti-quaint-edness. And so, a month or so back (and after a devil of a lot of building and refurbishing and COMING-SOON!-ing) this new one came--- and was the Fillmore Pub. And so it still was when I ran past it that morning.
So, just as the guy’s attention was completely focussed on his bolt-setting, I bolted past and obviously scared the absolute and total willies out of the poor guy before whisking off round the corner.

From the sound of it I suspect that he had just bolted one of his fingers to the sill out of surprise.
Now you may find this hard to believe, but after a mile or so of running I started to feel rather bad about that inadvertent encounter, and its possibly painful and door and industrial accident adjacent consequences; so, by way of making it up to them, the Sunday before last, it being a sunny Sunday, I went for a walk and on my way back called in there for a meal.
To my something between delight and apprehension, not to mention amazement, they had fish and chips on the menu; so, to undo all the good that the walk had done to my body, I of course ordered some. Then, as I perused their rather extensive beer menu; imagine my something between amazement and stupefaction, not to mention delight, when I noticed that they carried St. Peter’s Cream Ale a great Great British Beer, and one moreover brewed within ten miles of my ancestral home! So there I sat, unravelling all the walk-accrued health benefits that I could---eating and drinking just as though I were back home in Beccles . Ah! the joys of a global economy!
And the fish and chips were excellent; as good as I could have got back home round the corner from my parents---actually better than I could have got the last time I was there, after that Chinese guy had taken over the chip shop round the corner from my parents, and promptly started serving all sorts of non-fish’n’chippy foreign stuff and then had obviously reduced the quality of the actual fish’n’chippy stuff to match that of the foreign yuck--and then added extra, extra greasiness to the actual fish’n’chippy stuff in a valiant if failed attempt to make up for its reduced quality.

Indeed the only black mark against the Fillmore was that, as is usual with beer in America, mine appeared to have been served from a bucket of liquid Nitrogen. This is done over here partly because American beer has a tendency to have no flavour (or, to be honest, taste of any kind), but mainly to discourage alcoholism by ensuring that those in danger of that affliction die a horrible death of frostbite of the upper lip long before it can take hold.

When complimenting the fair Melissa, now my favouritest waitress in the whole wide North East of Plano, on the quality of the fish and chips, and assuring her that I would be there at the same time the very next Sunday, I happened to bring the cold comfort of my beer to her attention, and would you believe that when I, true to my word, did turn up at the same time the very next Sunday, she had thought to get a bottle for me out of the liquid Helium storage chamber about an hour earlier, so that it had just reached perfect beer drinking temperature of 52 degrees Fahrenheit.

Now I just have to hope that they don’t close.

Or get taken over by that Chinese guy from Beccles.

Cheerio for now
Richard Howland-Bolton

Coming up next...
Broadcast on 07/17/21
Run your cursor gently over Rowie's ear to 'ear the essay.

Paronomasiac On:2009-04-10 04:52:24

Having heard her alibi; that, at the exact moment that her boss was beaten to death with a halibut, she was home in bed with a bad cold, the detective couldn't help thinking the whole tale was a tissue of lies and that there was something fishy going on. Then of course the case broke and then she learned that the Scales of Justice were nothing to be sneezed at, when investigation of her boss’s main rival, the Dutchman Hans Boomp-Zeedazi, revealed that her name was not Anne Bloater, nor was she pregnant (merely a bit bloated), and that behind a string of ingenious aliases---Anne Drogenous; Anne Aconda; Anne Onymous to mention but a few--- that he was her uncle, so she was really Hans niece, Anne Boomp-Zeedazi!

Maybe that was a little bit too English1 for the comprehension of anyone not born in England at the end of the forties and who isn't completely gaga, but I can’t be bothered to explain it here so, if you want to know what the Hell just happened , you’ll have to check it out on my web site.
Because you see, you see... this essay is not in fact about murder vile and all that CSI-for-an-Eye stuff but instead is really all about puns and word play: though I suspect that, for many of you, my mention of puns will not entirely drive thoughts of murder from your minds.

Ah! But! Puns! Paronomasia ; the intimate play of words; the whole caboodling kit! The wonder of it all! And, in case you were wondering, let me reaffirm for you the old saw that if there is one thing that's better than a good pun, it's a bad pun and the badder the punnier and the punnier the funnier. And don't you dare try to prune that with your old saw! Yes! The joy of homonymity ! Ah! It's just like the old folk song says "As sweet polysemia lay musing in bed / A sudden strange fancy came into my head" and so forth---indeed, just like a lass and a lackey dans l’après-midi d'un faune , though they weren't faunicating at the time---puns are actually more than excuses to groan loudly in polite society, they are a tool, a tool to delve into the most intricate intricacies of a culture. For example a pun about someone feeling harassed and jumping into the Tweed only really makes sense if you know that the Tweed is a river, mainly in Scotland, that Harris is a place (also mainly in Scotland) famous for the manufacture of the cloth called Tweed , and that in Scotland (and England too) we can pronounce 'harassed ' without getting half assed.
Or again, how can a body shake with laughter at a malapropically inexact homonymity, involving droopy and mainly reddish plants, if they are not intimates of the fuchsia?

So (as you are probably still all wondering about the fates of the antagonistic protagonists of our opening) to return to that villain, Hans Boomp-Zeedazi. He never was brought to justice, however like Lady MacBeth or that guy from Ray Bradbury's story "The Fruit at the Bottom of the Bowl " he was so consumed with gilt-edged guilt: so sure that the police were but one step behind: that he abandoned his gardening business unable to face the fuchsia any more, and eventually felt so harassed that he ended up jumping in the Tweed.

And what of our anti-heroine Hans niece Anne Boomp-Zeedazi? She went to prison for a longish time in some downscale upstate location where the wind was always gusting, which, since it happened to be gusting from the meat-packing plant, was also disgusting. Though in the end it all turned out for the best for her, she got wind of religion, sacrificed her feet to the greater glory etc etc and became a toe martyr.

Cheerio for now
or rather, in keeping with our paronomasiacal ethos,
ciao for niao

Richard Howling-Bolton! [Aaaaaa!]

Coming up next...
          ..check back to find out.


1   This sort of extended shaggy pun story is, I suspect, a rather more English pastime that an American one. For years we all delighted over there in such radio fare as the programme My Word which would almost always culminate in one, or even two.

Or consider the following:

Professor: So, gentlemen, the key to our dilemma lies in this simple but rare South American amphibian, one that can only be recognised by its unusually coloured genitalia. We must chase it down!

Exeunt omnes singing
“Follow the Yellow Prick’d Toad.
“Follow the Yellow Prick’d Toad.
“Follow, follow, follow follow,
“Follow the Yellow Prick’d Toad.”

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