Friday, August 03, 2007

[bourne series] darker and darker

To suppose, as we all suppose, that we could be rich and not behave as the rich behave, is like supposing that we could drink all day and keep absolutely sober. [Logan Persall Smith, Afterthoughts, 1931]

Ditto with fame. A first movie where we "discover" the talents of a vibrant new actor is infinitely preferable to the inevitable third movie, intended as a vehicle for the fully fledged star.

Reason? The star in the making is still raw and fresh, still amenable to being directed, still negotiating his salary. And much more than this, chemistry is possible between star and co-star, with few demands, hardly any tantrums on set and the result is often a pleasing and harmonious whole.

There's no distortion. It's a movie focused movie.

In Identity [2002], Franka Portenta, Brian Cox, Julia Stiles, Clive Owen and Chris Cooper and Damon himself added weight to the adage about the whole being greater than the sum of the parts. And there were some great scenes, as Jeffrey Anderson says:

Liman is obligated to run Bourne and Marie through the expected car chase [and] he doesn't try to outdo "The Fast and the Furious" with pyrotechnics and editing. Instead, he raises the level of filmmaking simply by giving our heroes a few moments to breathe when the chase has finally ended. Bourne guides the car into an underground garage, and the pair simply sit for a moment and allow the experience to sink in.

Ditto the tense game of cat and mouse with the Professor [Clive Owen]. There were classic moments in identity.

Then the inevitable happened in Greengrass' Supremacy [2004] - the co-star was killed off early and the chemistry also died. The closest it got again and it really did get close, was with the remarkable but feisty and morose teenage actress Oksana Akinsha near the end.

Don't get me wrong - you have to like Matt Damon and the Bourne character suits him to a tee. James Berardinelli said at the time of Identity:

"If it came down to Damon's Bourne versus Affleck's Jack Ryan, my money would be on the former."
But as the sole star?

Which brings us to this tendency and it is controversial in Bourne, of playing great actors in bit parts. Kevin Wohler, on Julia Stiles, the enigmatic Nicky:

"As in The Bourne Identity, this great actress is underutilized. She has one good scene with Damon before her character completely falls out of the story…"
Michelle Monaghan was virtually never in it.

The reviews so far say Ultimatum [2007] is an excellent film and so it may be if you're a Matt Damon fan. I'd half expected the series to become darker and darker and darker, as seems to be the way these days. Referring to Jason Bourne, Manohla Dargis says:

"The light seems to have gone out in his eyes, and the skin stretches so tightly across his cantilevered cheekbones that you can see the outline of his skull, its macabre silhouette. He looks like death in more ways than one."

But there are supposedly some high points which lift it into the category of thoroughly entertaining and Dargis says:

"it introduces a couple of power-grasping, smooth-talking ghouls and stark reminders of Abu Ghraib that might make you blanch even if you don't throw up."

The question is - how long the series can be sustained for?

Mal Vincent quotes Matt Damon:

"It's the end," Damon said. "I can't imagine how we could go on with the story beyond this. Maybe we wait 10 years and do a movie about Jason losing his car keys, or something like that. Don't count it out."

Which is an interesting comment, given this dialogue in Identity:

Jason Bourne: I don't want to do this anymore.

Conklin: I don't think that's a decision you can make.

[hot] bring on the autumn

Just wanted to let you know I bought an outdoors thermometer yesterday and on my outer balcony it's now a very Limoncello like 38 degrees Celsius. Can't stand it.

Seems they're having their problems in Iceland too.

[chivalry] simple respect and deference - both ways

I really like this picture so much.

My attitude to women is mixed. First there are the very strong role models I had and more on that later. Secondly there is the result of my disastrous liaisons and I'm fairly sure now why they were so.

Dr. Phillip McGraw, whatever you think of either him or his credibility, did say that "we are treated as we teach people to treat us".

Margaret Thatcher said that "there is no such thing as society - only individual men and women and families".

"Rights" is a social construct. It implies that intervention is necessary to ensure these and most Americans are well aware of constitutionally guaranteed rights and are ready to fight oppression.

As I say, I had very strong role models, even before external forces of oppression like feminism raised their ugly heads. Even in the days of the unreconstructed male, my mother was strong and our family ticked over with clear roles.

My mother cooked and my father washed up. He built things from wood and painted them and my mother took care of the strategic direction of the family, e.g. where we'd go on holiday, where I'd be educated and so on. My father went along with her view because it was she who had done the homework on it. Just once or twice he put his foot down and said no.

My father never once raised a hand to my mother and I, as a headstrong nineteen year old, only once ever raised a hand - to my father.

He looked at me calmly, unflinchingly and said: "You're in no position to do that, James."

I wasn't and I felt shamed that I'd even seen fit to do it.

It's utter garbage to say there was oppression here. My parents' friends were similar. I am thinking about them now and what characterized each of these families was that the lady was a Lady. Yes - a Lady with a capital "L".

Enormous amount of foibles maybe, unrealistic and stubborn often but in demeanour, a Lady. That's why the gross vileness of the female in this link is so offputting and saddening. She is like a writhing snake in her manner, however just her cause is. And try these ones for size.

We are treated as we treat others and we teach people how to teach us. I taught my women to walk all over me and they did. The temptation was too great when I refused to dominate or give the lead in some areas. I'm told some women like being dominated - well, I think this can be done subtly and confined to sexuality - it doesn't have to be 24/7.

No woman wants a deferential robot and there's a lot to be said about the sexual animal coming out on the living room rug or the kitchen bench [move the dishes first] or at the theatre or in the forest or at the beach [where else can I remember?] but that's not what I'm talking about here and you know that.

In our family, in everyday issues, my mother directed the show and my father went along with it and took care of the details. I expected to do the same in my relationships but clearly I was with the wrong women and they mistook refusal to dominate as permission to dominate. Except that I can't be dominated and so the signals were all wrong.

And then, at the end of the tether, I confess I acted in less than a gentlemanly manner and the hometruths were pretty savage from me and to the point. Whatever chance there'd been was killed off at that point.

You can say all you like about women taking responsibility for their words and actions but I still say it behoves a man to stand above it all and be a rock. If only I had done so and I'm determined that if I ever find a true love again, then this is how I'll act.

"Deference." I really do believe this is the key word. For someone to defer to us on some issue is to value us as people. Surely that's all we want to start with and then the respect and love flow from that. You can't legislate for deference. It has to be earned.

And why, in this whole feminist debate, have the words "rights", "oppression", "prostitute" and other negatives abounded and why has the word "Lady" barely seen the light of day? And "Gentleman", for that matter?

Thursday, August 02, 2007

[whisky] and it's relationship to stats

Actually, it's a lie - I only have an old blended left - a bit of Chivas

I know it's a pain in the butt the way I never come clean concerning the true state of affairs but I'm going to continue that tradition by mentioning that I just checked the stats and sometime today I went into 6 digits. Think that deserves a little tipple, late though it is. Cheers.

[chivalry] and the hegemony of feminism

Most people know Michael Bucci's list of chivalrous acts which men should indulge in and I'm right behind the idea. Men should observe good manners and so should women.

Linda Lichter is far more hardline about chivalry:

[Writing of the Titanic] I never had the courage before to openly admire those men or envy the women they saved. At least a decade before the siege of political correctness, I was silenced by the unconscious but relentless intimidation of female friends and colleagues who are educated, self-sufficient, and eager consumers of the latest feminist books.

I am supposed to owe the authors of those books unqualified gratitude for all the hard-won rights the Titanic women never enjoyed.

I would add another [thing here]: that emotional and physical esteem for women is central, not tangential, to manhood. The British statesman Lord Chesterfield, a favorite source of Victorian etiquette writers, believed everyday deference was due to all women because it provided their only shield against men's superior physical strength.

He added, "no provocation whatsoever can justify any man in not being civil to every woman; and the greatest man would justly be reckoned a brute if he were not civil to the meanest woman."

This hits the nail on the head as far as I'm concerned and is central to what chivalry means to me. Though men and women are the same - i.e. we're both human but in different forms - and though there are good and bad on both sides, chivalry recognizes "womanhood" as something to be revered and makes no distinction. You're a bad woman? You'll still be treated courteously by chivalry. It's a safety net, a catch-all and chances are that the person who is chivalrous will be this way with men as well.

Blogger Kelly Mac [and I admit she is vehemently anti-feminist] is reflecting on the early years of feminism:

Namely, where were all the "good" women when feminism started? Why didn't the women who knew they were not being abused do something to stop the misinformation that spread like wildfire? Aren't these women just as deserving of men's contempt as the hardcore feminists who started it all?

Ruth Malhotra gets down to specifics:

The notion of victimhood, that “women are oppressed and exploited,” evokes strong anti-male sentiment.

Many influential feminists demonstrate extreme animosity towards marriage and family life, even likening the institution of marriage to that prostitution.

In Feminism: An Agenda, radical feminist author Andrea Dworkin declared that the home was a dangerous place stating, “Like prostitution, marriage is an institution that is extremely oppressive and dangerous for women.”

The feminist agenda is offensive to women. With Eve Ensler and her contemporary cheerleaders in the feminist movement, initiatives such as the "Vagina Monologues" have become a central part of Women’s Awareness Month programming on campuses around the country.

The "Vagina Monologues," often promoted as a wonderfully inspiring event to empower women, is, in reality, nothing more than an atrociously written anti-male tirade, portraying women as pathetic sexual objects who will forever be victims. Such programs are not only blatantly offensive towards women but are vile and vulgar.

Elizabeth Fox-Genovese sees it this way:

It has not been easy to acknowledge that feminism has promoted the unraveling of the most binding and important social bonds. Not easy, but unavoidable. Like countless other women who cherish improvement in the situation of women in the United States and throughout the world, I was initially quick to embrace feminism as the best way to secure our "rights" and our dignity as persons. Like countless others, I was seriously misled.

In practice, the sexual liberation of women has realized men's most predatory sexual fantasies. As women shook themselves free from the norms and conventions of sexual conduct, men did the same.

There can be no doubt that women's situation has demanded improvement -- and continues to do so throughout much of the world. But the emphasis upon individual rights at the expense of mutual responsibility and service is not the way to secure it.

Worse, it is destroying the fabric of our society as a whole because it is severing the most fundamental social bonds. Binding ties constrain women, but they constrain men as well. A Danielle Crittenden has noted, the family "has never been about the promotion of rights but the surrender of them -- by both the man and the woman".

Kelly Mac agrees:

It's about the fact that dating today has become nothing but a series of pick-ups and one-night-stands (thank you sexual revolution).

It's the new vulgarity in young women, societally enforced, which upsets me. I don't know if they are trying to shock [and girls are emotionally maturing much later these days, babies or no babies]; it's the lack of graciousness in John Edwards two harpies, for example [here's one of their political comments, courtesy of Michelle Malkin]; it's the desire to be some sort of hard nut hoe for the boys - who knows?

Seriously - there's some sort of paranoid mania going down here where any sort of respect between men and women doesn't get a chance to breathe, where bile and spite constitute debate and the desire of the ordinary person for a normal relationship is mocked and derided.

What's wrong with revering a woman to the point you can't live without her and want to marry her, to have children with her, to do what comes naturally vis a vis protective instincts, without dominating one another, without constantly going on about "rights"? What's wrong with working in tandem and actually enjoying one another? Why does it have to be outside marriage?

What's wrong with normality?

[pigeons] rats with wings

Ken Livingstone's old jibe about pigeons being "rats with wings" is a disgrace to the memory of the hundreds of brave pigeons who went through shelling, trained killer-hawks and countless other vicissitudes to deliver the message and save our heroic men and women in the last conflagration.

Wartime gallantry

Since Roman times the pigeon has come to the aid of man:

In the Siege of Paris in 1870, as the Prussians advanced, a balloon called La Ville de Florence sent off three pigeons at 11 a.m. They were back, mission accomplished, by 5 p.m.

A brave French pigeon named Le Vaillant was awarded the Ordre de la Nation.

Another, Cher Ami saved the lives of the 77th Infantry Division's "lost battalion" at Verdun by delivering 12 messages and returning to his loft with a shattered leg after he was shot. He won the Croix de Guerre with Palm and died in 1919 as a result of his wounds.

Pigeons' core competencies

Their uncanny ability to home has been speculated upon since time immemorial.

Of course you're all familiar with Hagstrum's hypothesis on the Great Pigeon Debacle of '97 [known in pigeon circles as "The 97"] which proves, beyond a shadow of a doubt that climate change is real, that women are more receptive to male advances in direct proportion to the amount of outlay for the evening and that pigeons navigate by some sort of ultra-sound.

US Geological Surveyer, Jonathan Hagstrum, in studying this event, noticed [that when] the racing pigeons were crossing the Channel, the Concorde was flying along the Channel also. In flight the SST generates a [downwards] shock wave, a carpet of sound almost a hundred miles wide. The racing pigeons flying below the Concorde could not have escaped the intense wave of sound. He concluded that the pigeons who did make it back were the slow-coaches who missed the Concorde.


A heroic pigeon did a swan dive into a New Lourdes swimming pool and pulled a drowning 2-month-old baby by her hair to her hysterical mother poolside. Ms. June Carroway stated: "I was frantic, but I couldn't save her. I can't swim either." The pigeon made sure the baby was lifted out of the pool by her mother and then flew away.

Public service

Many know of the decisive statement made on George Bush's jacket on the White House lawn by the sparrow pigeon, Le Dump, who eluded radar, concealed snipers and security men, causing apoplexy to Dick "Fire-at-anything-which-moves" Cheney.

Forces amass

One would think that, with such a long and distinguished record of service, a slight rear end faeces retention design problem, unfortunately resulting in "combined deposits up to several tons a year and costing £15 million to clear up", might be overlooked by the killjoys.

Not a bit of it. Even Bill Bryson, in Notes from a Small Island, Black Swan, 1995, pp 137/8, gets stuck into Rock and his buddies:

I took my pack and ticket to the requisite platform, where I sat on a bench and passed the time watching the station pigeons. They really are the most amazingly panicky and dopey creatures. I couldn't imagine an emptier, less satisfying life.

Here are instructions for being a pigeon:

1. Walk around aimlessly for a while, pecking at cigarette butts and other inappropriate items.

2. Take fright at someone walking along the platform and fly off to a girder.

3. Have a cr-p.

4. Repeat.

Oh yeah? Well let me tell you, Mr. Bryson, that:

Hattie Grove High School have proven that feral city pigeons do not wander about aimlessly among hurried pedestrians but are actually dancing with them. Biology student Jervis Mason stated: "I spent 4 days observing them in a downtown crossing and studied their behavior carefully. The patterns they follow can only be the pigeon version of the Square Dance."

So who's perfect?

Admittedly they do sometimes get a little out of line but I ask, open-armed, who doesn't?

A gang of marauding pigeons held up a Bubble Creek convenience store and made off with $567 in cash and a package of Armour hot dogs. Said dazed clerk Annie Costello, "At first I thought they were punk kids dressed up like pigeons, but then I realized they were too small to be kids."

Well, OK. They did do that one. A bit.

But that's no reason for Uberfuehrer Livingstone to pursue his campaign of persecution on the poor homeless pigeon who needs our love and care if we'll only give him a chance. For goodness sake, not content with banning their feeding, consigning them to agonizing deaths from enforced starvation in Stalag Trafalgar:

The mayor's attempted coup de grace came when he hired two Harris hawks to patrol the skies. The opposition Liberal Democrats have criticized the program. The hawks have cost taxpayers 226,000 pounds since 2002, while killing an estimated 121 pigeons, the party says.

Poop Cross mercy mission

To the rescue comes:

Lowestoft Council, who are driving birds away from residential areas to specially built feeding and breeding areas in less sensitive places. So has the pigeon problem been solved? Lowestoft certainly have had successful results with the designated breeding areas.

Oh what a sad and sorry tale for the poor rock pigeon. Is there no end to the depths of depravity the ingrate humans will inflict on our feathered allies?

A plea by Walt Pigeon

O Pigeon! my Pigeon!

Rise up and hear the bells;

Rise up—for you the dung is flung—for you the bugle trills;

For you not grain and ribbon’d wreaths—for you the Mayor a-crowding;

For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager hands a-feeding;

Here Pigeon! dear feathered friend!

Please crap on Kenneth's head;

It's his dream that on the square,

You’ve fallen cold and dead.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

[blogfocus wednesday] of ghosts and promiscuity

1] Richard Madeley has a blog. If you appreciate his society, which many of us do, you may not appreciate his skewering of this British Sacred Cow:

Is there anything so mundane as the British love affair with the garden? When I see adults kneeling on their padded mats at the edge of shrubberies, I feel like giving them the final coup de grâce before burying their heads beneath well mulched biannuals. It’s homicide that’s as justifiable as it’s fertile, and at least we put them out of the misery we call ‘doing the garden’.

Because nothing is as futile as gardening. Does nobody feel for those poor grey fellows, stick thin, who work all winter long, preparing their idylls for the warmth of summer, only to find the imbecilic neighbours appear with the first bumble bee of summer?

UPDATE: Curiouser and curiouser. It now appears that Richard Madeley is not Richard Madeley after all. Oh dear.

2] Important post from Bryan Appleyard about the exploding pigeon population:

Troubling news from Hollywood. Pigeons are to be given the contraceptive pill. Pigeons hoping to make it in the movies have been flooding into Tinsel Town, encouraged by the Bird Lady who leaves 25 pound bags of seeds at 29 strategic locations. The Pill will, of course, lead to family breakdown, teenage promiscuity, drunken driving, depression, rehab-jail syndrome and confessional, sadder but wiser appearances on Richard & Judy. We should encourage condom use before it is too late.

3] Dave Hill is not usually noted for his intemperate language but he wasn't counting on Dubya:

Pig in shit situation, or what? This morning the talk was still of the chemistry with Dubya and whether or not tiny divisions had appeared: our troops' "overwatch" in Basra compared with the Baghdad "surge"; the PM calling the less politically-damaging Afghanistan the terror "frontline" when the Holy Potus was saying it's Iraq; Gord talking of terrorism as "crime" whereas for Bush-boy it's still all about "ideology."

4] Rilly is in a Super quandary about the genuineness of her blog:

Hilly laughed. ‘Bloody hell’ she said, ‘Do people know how much you stage stuff just to get something to write on your stupid blog?’ I was rather annoyed at this suggestion, I must say. It did seem most awfully unfair. ‘Look Hilly, darling,’ I said, exasperated, ‘You said you didn’t want to be in the blog so just bugger orf and go up to your attic and read Harry Potter or something’. ‘Well!’ exclaimed Hilly, 'that has to be more realistic than your blog!’ ‘Oh, just go away will you Hilly, and be sure not to wake the baby!' Hilly’s jaw dropped. ‘You've had another baby?!’

What's the High Street coming to? Male strippers in thongs, incommoding passing wheelchairs!

5] Confession time for Big Chip and his fittle rit of lage:

To be perfectly honest, I don’t know what came over me. I’m normally a great advocate for disabled rights and I would never normally push a wheelchair out of my way. But when I get something in my head, it’s hard to stop me. Of course, if the guy hadn’t made a point of wheeling himself in front of me while I was rushing for the bus, I might not have acted the way I did. And he shouldn’t have threatened me with his crutch. And what kind of person needs a wheelchair and a crutch?

6] Longrider says the government shouldn't come between gay couples and their guesthouse hosts:

Okay, do I think guest house owners are wrong to discriminate against gay couples? Yes, absolutely. Do I think they should be allowed to do business with whom they choose – even if doing so damages their business? Yes, absolutely. If turning away trade is what their conscience tells them to do, and that trade goes next door, then so be it. Should any of this be any concern whatsoever of government? No, absolutely not.

7] The Lone Voice has hit on the answer to life, the universe nd everything:

See I now know where I and 99.9% of the people in this nation have gone wrong, forget this working for a living game, forget the struggle, hell forget all about paying through the nose in taxes.

Hell shack up with some skank of a woman, have her pop out a whole tribe of junior chavscum and sit my arse down in front of the telly on a whacking great £44,000 in benefits a year, oh and don't forget that nice £500,000 property, thanks to the local council.

8] Ghosts in the Machine gives a ray of hope to all porn viewers out there:

According to PC World, will be the first major search engine to offer an anonymous searching option to users. Their new AskEraser feature will give users the option to request that their search data not be stored.

This is in stark contrast to Google’s recent announcement that they will reduce the time they save search data from over 30 years to “only” two years. In spite of Google’s voluntary reduction in cookie life, European privacy experts, among others, have soundly criticized the lifespan of Google’s cookies.

That's it for mid-week. Now an apology before signing off. I've written to Sally, Geoff and Ellee and I know I promised this evening but think it's going to fit the theme better on Saturday so I'll keep them until then. See you, I hope, on Saturday.

[well known figures] ten questions

1] Which demagogue was married four times and believed that having sex with virgins "would help to restore and reinvigorate a man’s health and vigour” but instead resulted in the deaths from starvation of some 30 million people?

2] Barbara Millicent Roberts was known for asking: "Wanna have a pizza party?" Who was she better known as?

3] Which baseballer wore a cabbage leaf under his cap to keep him cool?

4] Which statesman is said to have been born in a ladies' room during a dance though research indicates something slightly different?

5] Who was watching mice play one night and got the inspiration for Mortimer Mouse, then later changed the name?

6] Which Eurasian rapper's 2nd album was said, by Madonna, to have been "criminally overlooked"? Her career nosedived when she was caught miming in concert in Australia.

7] Masako Natsume, who tragically died at 27, played which priest in Monkey?

8] Which post-war Australian Prime Minister was supposedly lost swimming at Cheviot Beach, Victoria, his loss the subject of theories ever since? As a black joke, there is a swimming pool named after him.

9] Who was King George II speaking of when he retorted, "Mad, is he? Then I hope he will bite some of my other generals!"

10] In English, who was Jehanne la Pucelle, the Domrémy girl, better known as?

Answers here ...

[hell's grannies] rise of the machines

This blogger on his mobility scooter in the Arndale Centre mall, twenty years from now, Welshcakes riding pillion ...

Well, of all the …

Liberal Democrat MP Bob Russell said motorised wheelchairs used by pensioners and disabled people need to be governed by more safety regulations.

In 2004, seven motorised wheelchair users died in crashes and 402 were involved "adverse" incidents. One woman reportedly died when she reversed her wheelchair off a pier into the sea.

Allen Jones, chairman of the Wheelchair Users' Group, said: "Just as there are good and bad cyclists, there are good and bad users of powered wheelchairs."

Ray Hodgkinson, director general of the British Healthcare Trades Association (BHTA), warned that "the decision to treat the vehicles as 'go-karts' could bankrupt some companies".

He added that HM Revenue and Customs' move "was apparently inspired by fears that they were also being used as golf buggies even though they were unsuitable for that use. "

And the public thinks:

Only yesterday an elderly gentleman crossed at a pedestrian crossing in one of these, whilst the lights were on green for the traffic, very nearly causing an accident. [Zoe Dunne, Bournemouth, Dorset]

Many a time I have seen idiots using these on roads, causing danger to themselves and other road users. Just because the users are often old or disabled does not give them the right to the pavement over pedestrians.
[Xander Nicholls, Bournemouth, Dorset]

I witnessed one lady pensioner once nearly take out about four pedestrians at a pedestrian crossing because she had absolutely no control over the buggy she was driving. She was either stopped or at full speed, there seemed to be no in between! [Johanna, Cardiff]

These Hell's Grannies and Hell's Grandpas are a menace. They dawdle along the middle of a road, causing traffic congestion and frustrated car drivers. [Russell, Manchester]

Well! To all these wet blankets, I give notice right now that 20 years from now, I'll be on my F1 liveried, turbo-charged easy-rider with spoilers and extractors and I plan to hit 30mph, Jack, in the mall! And on my 200 megawatt quadro surround blaster, Nazareth will screech:

Well I know you're thinkin'

That the odds is on your side

But the first thing you gotta learn is

That it just don't come down to size

I can see the seeds of doubt

Begin to grow on your face

If you wanna back down now

You know that's no disgrace

Gonna go down fightin'

Gonna go down fightin'


Grow old gracefully? That's for the birds!

Love the pedestrian hits notched into her flared wheel arch.

[douglas adams] one reason for his fame

It's always fraught to post another man's writing, especially when he is exceedingly well-known and has detractors as well as supporters.

Plus, the link where the text appeared seems now to be down. Think the spoilsports got to him.

Still, as this is possibly my favourite Adams excerpt, here goes:

Marvin and the gigantic heavy duty battle machine

Marvin stood at the end of the bridge corridor. He was not in fact a particularly small robot. His silver body gleamed in the dusty sunbeams and shook with the continual barrage which the building was still undergoing.

He did, however, look pitifully small as the gigantic black tank rolled to a halt in front of him. The tank examined him with a probe. The probe withdrew.

Marvin stood there.

"Out of my way little robot," growled the tank.

"I'm afraid," said Marvin, "that I've been left here to stop you."

The probe extended again for a quick recheck. It withdrew again.

"You? Stop me?" roared the tank. "Go on!"

"No, really I have," said Marvin simply.

"What are you armed with?" roared the tank in disbelief.

"Guess," said Marvin.

The tank's engines rumbled, its gears ground. Molecule-sized electronic relays deep in its micro-brain flipped backwards and forwards in consternation.

"Guess?" said the tank.

Zaphod and the as yet unnamed man lurched up one corridor, down a second and along a third. The building continued to rock and judder and this puzzled Zaphod. If they wanted to blow the building up, why was it taking so long?

With difficulty they reached one of a number of totally anonymous unmarked doors and heaved at it. With a sudden jolt it opened and they fell inside.

All this way, thought Zaphod, all this trouble, all this not- lying-on-the-beach-having-a-wonderful-time, and for what? A single chair, a single desk and a single dirty ashtray in an undecorated office. The desk, apart from a bit of dancing dust and single, revolutionary form of paper clip, was empty.

"Where," said Zaphod, "is Zarniwoop?" feeling that his already tenuous grasp of the point of this whole exercise was beginning to slip.

"He's on an intergalactic cruise," said the man.

Zaphod tried to size the man up. Earnest type, he thought, not a barrel of laughs. He probably apportioned a fair whack of his time to running up and down heaving corridors, breaking down doors and making cryptic remarks in empty offices.

"Let me introduce myself," the man said, "My name is Roosta, and this is my towel."

"Hello Roosta," said Zaphod.

"Hello, towel," he added as Roosta held out to him a rather nasty old flowery towel. Not knowing what to do with it, he shook it by the corner.

Outside the window, one of the huge slug-like, gunmetal-green spaceships growled past.

"Yes, go on," said Marvin to the huge battle machine, "you'll never guess."

"Errmmm ..." said the machine, vibrating with unaccustomed thought, "laser beams?"

Marvin shook his head solemnly.

"No," muttered the machine in its deep guttural rumble, "Too obvious. Anti-matter ray?" it hazarded.

"Far too obvious," admonished Marvin.

"Yes," grumbled the machine, somewhat abashed, "Er ... how about an electron ram?"

This was new to Marvin.

"What's that?" he said.

"One of these," said the machine with enthusiasm.

From its turret emerged a sharp prong which spat a single lethal blaze of light. Behind Marvin a wall roared and collapsed as a heap of dust. The dust billowed briefly, then settled.

"No," said Marvin, "not one of those."

"Good though, isn't it?"

"Very good," agreed Marvin.

"I know," said the Frogstar battle machine, after another moment's consideration, "you must have one of those new Xanthic Re-Structron Destabilized Zenon Emitters!"

"Nice, aren't they?" said Marvin.

"That's what you've got?" said the machine in considerable awe.

"No," said Marvin.

"Oh," said the machine, disappointed, "then it must be ..."

"You're thinking along the wrong lines," said Marvin, "You're failing to take into account something fairly basic in the relationship between men and robots."

"Er, I know," said the battle machine, "is it ..." it tailed off into thought again.

"Just think," urged Marvin, "they left me, an ordinary, menial robot, to stop you, a gigantic heavy-duty battle machine, whilst they ran off to save themselves. What do you think they would leave me with?"

"Oooh, er," muttered the machine in alarm, "something pretty damn devastating I should expect."

"Expect!" said Marvin, "oh yes, expect. I'll tell you what they gave me to protect myself with shall I@"

"Yes, alright," said the battle machine, bracing itself.

"Nothing," said Marvin.

There was a dangerous pause.

"Nothing?" roared the battle machine.

"Nothing at all," intoned Marvin dismally, "not an electronic sausage."

The machine heaved about with fury.

"Well, doesn't that just take the biscuit!" it roared, "Nothing, eh? Just don't think, do they?"

"And me," said Marvin in a soft low voice, "with this terrible pain in all the diodes down my left side."

"Makes you spit, doesn't it?"

"Yes," agreed Marvin with feeling.

"Hell that makes me angry," bellowed the machine, "think I'll smash that wall down!"

The electron ram stabbed out another searing blaze of light and took out the wall next to the machine.

"How do you think I feel?" said Marvin bitterly.

"Just ran off and left you, did they?" the machine thundered.

"Yes," said Marvin.

"I think I'll shoot down their bloody ceiling as well!" raged the tank.

It took out the ceiling of the bridge.

"That's very impressive," murmured Marvin.

"You ain't seeing nothing yet," promised the machine, "I can take out this floor too, no trouble!"

It took out the floor, too.

"Hell's bells!" the machine roared as it plummeted fifteen storeys and smashed itself to bits on the ground below.

"What a depressingly stupid machine," said Marvin and trudged away.

And in answer to the inevitable: "Aren't you worried about the copyright implications of posting text from what has clearly been an illegal and now deleted link?":

No, because it's an excerpt in "fair use", the effect of which can only be to direct new readers to Adams' work.

That's a bit different, I believe, to providing a complete set of online texts, though I'm grateful the guy did it.

The author himself