Thursday, 16 February 2012

Navajo Rugs

            ‘Dedushka, you gotta do something about that blog of yours,’ my goddaughter Ivana protested this morning. ‘It can’t go on this way. You’re wordy and abstruse.’
            Wordy and abstruse? I smiled. ‘So was Thomas à Kempis, my dear. And yet he still tops the lists in some quarters.’
            ‘Now that’s what I mean! You do that all the time! Who is Thomas Acampies, for crying out loud?’        
            ‘A famous medieval plagiarist. Got good sales figures, though. Want me to enlighten you about his oeuvre?’
            ‘What? No!’ she snapped, knitting together her most menacing Catharina Magna frown which warned me to beware. ‘I want you to get your act together. You write too long and nobody understands a word you’re saying.’
            ‘Hush, girl. You’re exaggerating. So I’m a little more verbose than is common nowadays. What of it? It comes with the genius. Some things simply can’t be expressed in sound bites. You think Einstein ever explained relativity in hundred pages? So there: Q.E.D.!’
            ‘He did.’
            ‘Einstein. He did explain Relativity in a hundred pages. I have the book at home. It’s quite readable, actually.’
            If there is something about this century which I detest, dear reader, it is obnoxious, uppity teenagers who give their elders lip when what they should be doing is look out for a good husband with whom to settle and start a family. I’d have to teach this one a lesson.
            ‘Albert never did that,’ I assured her.
            ‘I told you: I have the book back home. His name is on the cover. His ideas are inside. You’re talking yourself into a trap.’
            ‘And you would keep your trap shut if you knew what’s good for you. I knew Albert. Personally. And I know he would never stoop so low as to write that… that… brochure, with which, by the by, I am perfectly familiar. It was ghost-written, out of spite, by Albert’s ex-wife and Arthur Koestler. They both had an axe to grind with the old man. And if you had bothered to compare its contents with the authentic articles in the Annalen der Physik of the annus mirabilis, you might just have noticed that those hundred printed leaves of toilet paper can’t even hold a candle to the real stuff.’
            She closed her eyes, pursed her lips, and sighed. Alfred B. Mittington 1; Uppity Teenagers 0!
            ‘I’m not even gonna dignify that with an argument,’ she spoke at last. ‘Shall we just return to our starting blocks? I get very negative feedback about your blog. All my friends tell me they’re mystified. If you want to know: they’re starting to give me funny looks. For helping out with such a… venture.’
            ‘You horrid child! You are ashamed of your old Dedushka!’
            ‘Cut the crap. Just…help me out here, okay? Clarify. So I can explain when I’m challenged. For instance: this business in your first post about not expecting roaring applause from Zen Masters. What’s that supposed to mean?’
            ‘Oh, don’t they teach you kids anything no more in those schools a yours!? The last question in the final exam to become a Zen Master runs “What is the sound of one clapping hand?” I have no idea how that sounds, but I’m positive it is pretty hushed. Ecco!’
            ‘You mean: it’s a joke?’
            ‘If you must be so demeaning: yes.’
            ‘Okay. That’ll do. Another one. A spelling check that spoils your best Jews the Most… What IS that? It’s not even grammatical…’
            ‘Your French ain’t too good, is it?’
            ‘I got straight A’s three years in a row.’
         ‘Well then, Mademoiselle Vantarde: how about thinking one step beyond your precious grammatical compendium? “Jew-the-most”, when first typed into the infernal machine, used to read “Jeu-de-mots”. As in Word Game. But then the spell check swung into unsolicited action, and not recognizing French, it scrambled it to the next best thing. So it’s a pun that doubles back upon itself. Brilliant!’
            ‘Do you really expect anybody to get that…?’
            ‘Well, there are some kindred souls… I admit there are not many nowadays… who would indeed grasp that at a glance. Those are the ones I’m writing for. The best and the brightest. The superior minds, who live doomed and lonesome lives in this world of ignorance where—’
            ‘Why does Graham Green turn brown, Alfred?’
            ‘Because he’s getting red in the face from anger, love.’
            ‘I was afraid so. That’s also a brilliant pun for the best and the brightest?’
            ‘Sometimes I cater to lesser minds as well, dear. I am a socialist and a democrat, remember?’
            ‘You mean you don’t mind feeding turds to the swine. Well, since you’re so concerned with educating the masses, don’t you think you could at least watch your spelling?’
            ‘Isn’t Microsoft Spell Check doing that for me?’
            ‘I’m serious. I got a complaint the other day about you always writing Beurocrat instead of Bureaucrat.’
            ‘A complaint?’
            ‘A gentleman called Davies objected to the orthography by email.’
            ‘Colin! Colin Davies! The dear old Liverputian did it again!’
            ‘I think the adjective is Liverpudlian, really.’
            ‘Ain’t you smart now? But that is ALSO a joke, girl. It’s a reference to the Lilliputians in Gulliver’s Travels. Colin’s a fine fellow. Great head on his shoulders. Always fun to be with. But when it comes to spelling he’s a bloody prude! He’d take Shakespeare to task for spelling his name wrong! And he won’t let go… Just like a pit bull terrier. That’s the fourth time he objected to Beurocrat, will you believe it?’
            ‘And with good reason!’
            ‘With no reason at all! A Beurocrat is not just ANY Bureaucrat. A Beurocrat is the specific species of apparatchik that works for the European Union. Hence the “euro” at its heart. It’s called a neologism. That’s a newly coined word. And some day it will catch on in the entire English speaking world. And you’ll be proud to be the goddaughter of a man who got his name into the OED.’

            ‘And I guess Eurogue is of the same immortal value?’
            ‘Precisely! And what’s more: there’s a marvellous irony there. You see, in Greek, the prefix “eu-“ means “good”. As in Euphemism and Euthanasia and Evangelist... But Eurogues are of course no good at all. On the contrary! They’re the poison in our pie! The iceberg to our future. The---‘
            ‘I get it.’
            ‘At last!’
          ‘There is no hope for this blog. You actually enjoy what you’re doing. You will not mend your ways.’
            ‘You sound like someone who wants a Navajo weaver to remove the deliberate mistake from his rug… That’s dangerous business, girl! Don’t lead me into temptation!’
            ‘I wouldn’t dream of it,’ she said, sounding tired. ‘As a matter of fact, it’s high time for me to leave.’ She got up, stretched and walked to the door. One hand on the handle, she turned around. ‘By the way,’ she asked. ‘What happened to Hannibal’s collection of soft porn?’
            ‘I turned the whole lot over to your father. I warned the boy I’d do so if my article on the Greek tragedy was not on the web by Friday noon. It wasn’t. Ergo…’
            ‘But you yourself postponed that article! To explain about eggs and mayo!’
            ‘That’s beside the point. A deal is a deal. Laws must be enforced. Rules must be observed. I’d lose all my credibility if I did not follow up on my warnings! If only they had stuck to the rules when Hitler ran his Wehrmacht into the Rhineland back in ‘36 we would never have had the Second World War.’
            ‘Meanwhile, Hannibal is distraught beyond belief, and papa and mama are going at it five times a day ever since you gave them those girlie magazines!’
            ‘See? As the Spaniards say: No hay mal que por bien no venga! Something good always comes out of something bad.’
            ‘Yeah? And how am I to study with that thumping and moaning going on upstairs at all hours of the day? I’ve got exams coming up, you know?’
            ‘Learn something from your old Dedushka: don’t waste so much time on the internet! Then surely you’ll do fine in school…’

I think Ivana may have second thoughts about not making me Twitter. The dear dear girl… Little did she know what ol' Alfred B. Mittington could do on the internet! Little did she know that my middle name is 'Blog'.

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