Sunday, July 30, 2017

amazing grace how sweet the round

Well, it had to happen sometime, and sure enough it eventually did on the Saturday of the Open Championship at Royal Birkdale when Branden Grace shot a round of 62, thereby expunging the long list of 63s from the history books.

In a way there's a pang of disappointment as the 31-strong list provided some nice analysable data for the stats geek, whereas a 1-item list doesn't. But the relentless march of progress sweeps on and we all have to adapt to it.

Note that just as the old list yielded a 24-7 split in favour of shooting a 63 and not winning the tournament, so the 62 list currently stands at 1-0 in favour of not winning. The old 63 list, now frozen in time for ever, can be found here. Here's the miniature table of (men's) major 62s that results from Grace's round:

Branden GraceOpen2017thirdtied 6thJordan Spieth

One of the things that Grace's round does is instantly render all future major 63s frankly meh-worthy and insignificant, just as Johnny Miller's 63 at Oakmont in 1973 did for all subsequent 64s. So poor old Li Haotong who shot 63 the very next day may as well not have bothered, frankly; well, apart from the colossal amount of prize money it will have earned him anyway.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

the last book I read

The Conservationist by Nadine Gordimer.

Mehring (we never find out his first name, as far as I know) is a middle-aged South African industrialist, a sort of southern hemisphere version of Sherman McCoy from The Bonfire Of The Vanities. Bored of the usual round of parties and desultory sex with bored pampered middle-aged housewives, he impulsively buys a few hundred acres of farmland without any particular idea of what to do with it.

Fortunately the land comes with some native custodians who keep things ticking over on a day-to-day basis, leaving Mehring free to drop in at weekends, stride around his fields pointing at stuff like he owns the place (which of course he does), bring his mistresses along for a bit of adventure and generally play at being the gentleman farmer.

Reality intervenes one day when Jacobus, Mehring's farm foreman, discovers a mysterious dead body in one of the fields. A black man, pretty clearly murdered, but the authorities seem strangely reluctant to get involved, so Mehring and his men end up burying the body where it was found with minimal ceremony.

The timelines are a bit fractured here, so we get a few flashbacks to, among other things, Mehring's relationship with his son, Terry, a floppy-haired barefoot fop who Mehring regards with a mixture of disappointment and suspicion, Mehring's former relationship with Terry's mother, and Mehring's former relationship with a girlfriend whose radical views brought her into conflict with the authorities and resulted in her having to leave the country. It's probably worth pointing out at this point that the book was published in 1974 and therefore represents the old South African apartheid regime, something that seems unimaginably distant now in these Rainbow Nation days.

A series of natural disasters befalls the farm: firstly a drought resulting in some localised fires which destroy some crops, and then later severe flooding which washes away some of the topsoil in the fields and exposes the remains of the murdered man buried there. As Mehring contemplates having to flee the country himself following an ill-advised encounter with a coloured woman (probably, we're invited to assume, a set-up), Jacobus and the other custodians of the farm give the un-named victim a more formal burial.

Like a few other books in this series, the fractured timeline, limited clues as to whose head we're occupying at any given time or when the events being described are supposed to have happened in the overall span of time covered by the book make some demands on the reader, and some might find that unpalatable. I certainly found the other Gordimer I've read, The House Gun, to be a much easier proposition in terms of keeping up with what was going on.

Gordimer can pretty much do what she likes though (or rather could, since she died in 2014), by virtue of receiving the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1991 and the Booker Prize for this book (in 1974, shared with Stanley Middleton's Holiday). A reasonably comprehensive list of Nobel winners featured on this blog can be found here. I would broadly agree with the opinion expressed here, which describes the book as "great writing, but not brilliant reading". It's quite tough going: the fractured narrative voice and timeline keep you working to keep up and as with any book whose narrative circles around in time there's a sense of not much conclusive happening: arguably, a couple of bits of severe weather resulting in some minor inconvenience and not much else.

Obviously the point of this is a meditation on 1970s South Africa, apartheid, and the role of the white man in despoiling the landscape and enslaving the native population. In that sense it's pretty effective, though I must say I enjoyed The House Gun, whose themes are much narrower and more personal, more. The fact that it's taken me over two months to read it should only partly be taken as a reflection of this: it's more a reflection of the limited time I have to read with our current childcare obligations. While having a shit and very occasionally in bed if the boy is asleep are the two main areas of opportunity at the moment, and neither of those allows for significant amounts of time.

The list of Booker-winning books featured here is still relatively small, and comprises (in no particular order, and with no guarantee of comprehensiveness) Midnight's Children, G., The Gathering, Hotel Du Lac, Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha and The Sea.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

goose versus cock

A coincidental (or IS IT?) follow-up to the second half of the last post: my wife, who knows my penchant for chilli products well, bought me this bottle of condiment the other day - it is, as you can see from the bottle, sriracha mayonnaise. They have, disappointingly, missed (or deliberately spurned) the opportunity to call it what it's clearly crying out to be called, i.e. "srirachanaise". Other manufacturers of similar products have seized the opportunity with both hands. I can confirm that it's good stuff, though, a slightly mellower experience than the regular stuff as you might expect but still with a bit of oomph to it as a dipping sauce for, well, just about anything.

You'll notice that this is the Flying Goose brand, the same as my original bottle of sriracha (a few other Flying Goose variations are apparently available). As it happens this bottle has recently been finished and my new one (also purchased by my wife, bless her) is a bottle of the original Huy Fong "Cock" brand. So I thought a taste test might be in order.

You can see from the picture here that the Flying Goose sauce on the left is a bit darker and redder than the Cock sauce on the right. My initial taste impression was that the Goose brand is a bit richer, sweeter and fruitier while the Cock brand has slightly more of a chilli kick.

First impressions are that I prefer the Goose, but expect the Cock will grow on me (ooer) as I work my way through the bottle.

Monday, July 03, 2017

check out my monumental mason

I'm just about keeping my head above water blog-wise with the book reviews and the noting of notable things in the worlds of golfliterary death and people saying "cunt" on various broadcast media, but there's been a steep drop-off in the occurrence of blog posts dedicated to other, perhaps more frivolous, topics lately. There are a couple of reasons for this: firstly and most importantly we have a seven-month-old baby boy who occupies a substantial amount of our time, and secondly the ha-ha-here's-an-amusing-thought stuff and the hey-look-at-this-idiot-I-found-on-the-internet stuff tend to get posted on Twitter rather than here.

So here's an attempt at correcting that a bit, although it does involve some crossover with Twitter. Here's a tweet from the amusing Postcard From The Past account that I follow:

I was interested to know where the imposing building pictured was, and it turns out (via Google's clever image search facility) that it's the Scottish Rite Cathedral in Indianapolis, USA. Scottish Rite, it further turns out, is a branch of Freemasonry (splitters!) with, presumably, some key doctrinal differences in the rolled-up-trouser-leg, secret handshake and burying-your-tongue-on-a-beach areas. They also have an amusing and frankly baffling hierarchy of titles that can be attained, quite a few of which sound like slightly self-aggrandising euphemisms for one's Old Chap:
  • Secret Master
  • Intimate Secretary
  • Intendant of the Building
  • Knight of the Sword
  • Prince of Libanus
  • Chief of the Tabernacle
  • Knight of the Brazen Serpent
  • Commander of the Temple
I was intrigued as to why "Prince of Libanus" appeared to be named after a village in the Brecon Beacons, but it's more likely that it's a reference to the mountains in Lebanon from which the Welsh village also derives its name.

Anyway, join me as we dangerously train-surf from this train of thought onto another one travelling in a similar direction via Childish Sniggering Parkway towards Toilet Humour Central. Back in our university days my old mate Mario and I used to use the word "mason" as well as the word "como" as laboured euphemisms for the (itself inherently sniggersome) word "perineum", on the grounds that both can be preceded by the name "Perry". So one would arrive back at the hall of residence, throw oneself down in a chair and theatrically declare "phew, it's hot out there: my mason is awash" or "just been playing tennis; my como is in a right old two-and-eight". Indeed the perineum appears to be a particularly well-served area in terms of euphemisms; you wouldn't think people would need to refer to it directly that often, but evidently they do

I was reminded of all this the other day when browsing round the condiment aisle in Sainsbury's and discovering this product:

I don't know what sort of focus groups they fed the new name through, and I can see that there is a temptation to follow the existing convention of adding some product-specific prefix to the suffix "-naise" to indicate that you've stirred your product into some mayonnaise, but really it's hard to believe someone didn't raise an objection.

The inherent amusingness of the "peri" prefix in relation to Nando's is good comedy fodder elsewhere too, it seems.