Editor’s note: The next posting had been scheduled for 1st May (due to shortage of personnel and the Editor’s task of working on a volume to insert some genuine evidence-based rigour, and common sense, into the investigation of syntax). But we have recently had an e-mail from the Dr Baron von Hollenberg; its second half appears later in this posting. We have a moral duty to publish, as he requested. (He is after all one of our two principal sources of financial support, and, despite that, a fine, if eccentric, fellow.) Since we had to bring the computer down from the attic anyway, for his letter, we are throwing in a couple of other items which were lying in the out-tray. The second item, however, immediately below this note, is not our own. It appeared inexplicably as soon as we fired up the computer and moved into posting mode. All our attempts to delete it or even just to shift it to another position, failed. So it has to appear, but we appeal to readers to ignore it.
Adjusted date for next posting: 1st June
NB Karela is at present still in the office and would like to hear from anyone with serious advice on how to organise a low-cost world tour, preferably by bicycle.
It makes no sense to give offense
Don’t get banned – Keep it bland
For over thirteen years we have been receiving plaudits from well-known writers for our work in tirelessly policing the world of high-class litterature to ensure the continued discouragement of distastefull language and unpleasant ideas. This saves writers and their editors from the emotional trauma that results when they find their work has caused distress to readers who encountered some unintentionally disagreable feature of their work, resulting in a climate of increased intolerance and loss of sales. Our work is also a very effective safeguard against the possibilty of receiving hostile commentarey on the internet or of being no-platformed by audiences of keen young university students or even being obligated to defend a lawsuite in the London legal courts which have notorious high expensive charges, which all can be avoided by having Sweetneezie Reade check your output for a very moderate fee payable quarterly. In the process of expanding awareness of our services across the world of fine writing we have carried out free reading checks for a number of leading publishing outlets to asess their position, including your esteemed organisation. A summary of our finding will be apenned below. Full details are being despatched to you by courier.
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Bowdlers to fine writers of America
[Editor’s note: Wahoo! Let’s go]
[Despite his new duties Montgomery Skew writes for us here again. Ed.]
Not long ago the UK government issued a report which among other things trampled over the normal media rules for government statements. It admitted that one of the areas for which it is responsible, the prison system, is in a deplorable state; yet it inexplicably failed to state that the ‘government is on top of the problem’, and ‘the necessary measures are already under way’ and ‘the system will be functioning better than ever by 2020’, etc. However, let the style bring its own rewards. More important is the substance it dealt with. A large part of the problem, it admitted, is the serious overcrowding in prisons, a factor in which Britain leads other nations [Rephrase this before publication?] within the OECD group. It implicitly acknowledged it had no clear idea how far this, and the exceptionally high running cost of prisons at present, are linked to the handing over of much of the system to private companies (though I can guess) (and by the way in a covering note readers were requested not to enquire ‘at this time’ into the ethnic and social background of prison populations), but in any case it appears the government’s proposed solution to the overcrowding is to build more prisons. Taking into account the policies and preferences of the present government and of the think tanks and dinner tables from which they come, together with the well-known observation that building more roads leads to an increase in traffic density, this choice has uncanny overtones of the NRA’s response to gun crime in the US. However, either optimism or self-delusion is leading many here to ask a follow-up question: could the slowly dawning realisation about the effects of overcrowding actually get the government up off its arse to do something about a different issue that has been afflicting a few millions in London who don’t have their own passenger-carrying drone. Given that the report on prisons stated that urgent action was needed because overcrowding is ‘leading to their becoming academies of crime where inmates exchange ideas and information, form gangs and extremist groups and plot’ projects unlikely to do good to the rest of society when they come out, is it wise of the government to tolerate the present desperate overcrowding on the rail networks serving the bankers and lawyers of the City of London? (Just google the work of John Calhoun on overcrowded rats, and you’ll see this issue is not to be taken lightly, though at the time of writing there have not yet been any reports of cannibalism on Southern Rail.)
It somehow was not a surprise to meet Manos entirely by chance in one of the more obscure cities in Southeast Asia (population of 2½ million, though; traffic jams and pollution to match. Corruption quotient reckoned by one of the embassy fellows I was visiting puts it in the top bracket of the region.) I’d had luncheon, didn’t feel like adding any alcohol (openly available here) because of the heat, and was wandering casually along a boulevard named after the last president who left office neither in handcuffs nor assassinated when a very expensive black car did an emergency stop beside me, and next moment Manos was roaring a greeting at me through his chauffeur’s window. It turned out he was on his way to a meeting with the Chief of Police so we made an appointment to have dinner that night at an address he gave me.
Usual sort of place, a near-replica of the local stock exchange where I’d spent the rest of my afternoon. Dim reddish lighting, high-powered air conditioning, the sofas and armchairs and décor aiming at up-to-the-minute London club style and missing by about forty years, a couple of white-jacketed fellows silently caressing the glassware on a small but well-stocked bar, and a handful of punters, staring goggle-eyed at the other side of the room.. But the main difference was that in the Exchange, the goggle-eyed punters were stirring themselves up to make a trade, staring at a wall crammed with screens giving details of the current market movements, flickering away like demented hens. Here the other side of the room was taken over by a glass wall behind which a couple of dozen more or less attractive young women were slumped on numbered stools, staring despondently back at the punters. Seeing my enquiring eyebrows Manos assured me that this place was probably the best brothel in the city, and certainly had the city’s best cuisine, and there was absolutely no obligation to do more than have an excellent meal, pay the bill, and stroll out with a word of thanks to the manager, “An old friend of mine,” he added. I forbore to ask how they had become acquainted.
It was rather inevitable that after we had exchanged news about common friends, the imminent break-up of the EU, the amazing yacht still on free loan to Manos, Trump’s curious inability to find the words that would make his denials really convincing, and PwC’s report that ten million UK jobs would probably be handed over to robots and 3-D printers by 2030, I commented that the girls on the other side of the room could be confident that their career choice was less likely to disappear than most. The reaction from Manos was entirely unexpected. “I cannot blame you my friend. You live in your world of high culture and perhaps have no time to read the rest of the world’s news.” He was suddenly quite earnest. He spent the next fifteen minutes losing his excellent English and becoming uncharacteristically incoherent, telling me about a booming industry which is apparently producing – for the first time since I knew him he became a little embarrassed – what he called ‘plastic companions’, ever more high tech and “to be honest, beautifully made, with” – he hesitated – “special capacities”. I do not need to tell you all details but you can think yourself, the obvious advantages, the avoiding unpleasant problems. I saw it already called great new investment opportunity. Well, now, okay. But when that reaches this part of the world, too soon I think, the men here will forget their wives, spend all their money to get one, or two or three, of these things, buy them fancy clothes, jewellery. They will steal and rob banks. And then what happens to those girls over there? Some, maybe you will be surprised, but some quite intelligent and competent. May be these ones find a way out. But others have no talent, or abandoned by husband, maybe a child, two, even three to look after, or old, old parents, crippled, or they have been tricked into making debts they can never pay. Some of course have addictions they cannot break. Cannot look after even themselves only. Some cannot read. How will they all live? And in a country like this? Do you think this country will look after them? This is now when someone, the UN perhaps, why not?, should start a department to look after them when that happen. Give them means to live and stay healthy and learn some useful skill until they are able to to join one job that will survive. Otherwise they will die in a ditch.” I assure you, by this time I was staring at Manos with my mouth open. I’d always felt that his talent for creating confusion and disturbance to public order was just about offset by an impulsive inner goodness of heart, and perhaps I had underestimated the latter. Anyway, the long and the short of it is that before we parted he made me promise to write to you and urge you as ‘Senior figure in the media’ (his words not mine, I should add) to get such a campaign under way. It is rather touching that despite his meteoric rise in the business world he has acquired so little grasp of how things get done – and of course, when inconvenient to certain groups, not done – nowadays, but as you know my promises are kept – hence this letter. I’m off soon to Seattle to help with Mariam’s ‘Poetry and Photographs’ exhibition. I will send you the book of the event (and, I trust, a more usual letter) from there. You have as always my high esteem, Philipp.
Editor’s note: I have written to the Lord Great Chamberlain to warn him in advance that out of respect for the Queen I shall decline all invitations I receive to attend ceremonies and other functions related to the state visit by the American President.