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PostPosted: Thu Oct 18, 2007 9:30 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The Light of Evening
By Edna O'Brien

Carts and sidecars had pulled up in the big courtyard of Jacksie's house, horses feeding out of oat bags and a fiddler ignoring the rain, coming out to usher us in. Jacksie was dressed as a bandit, had a patch over one eye, and ran to Cornelius to tell him that twelve tables had been taken, six players per table at five quid a head, packs of cards and grog donated by publicans far and wide, and Red River, as he whispered, in a barn miles away, because with a crowd like that and maybe a bit of jealousy, a horse could get stolen or poisoned or nobbled or anything.

"Have a tour, have a tour," Jacksie said to me and regretted the fact that since his poor dear mother died, the rooms lacked a woman's warmth, a woman's tough. In the kitchen two big women in cooks' outfits were carving legs of ham and beef for the sandwiches that would be served all through the game, then a big breakfast at dawn.

The players were mostly seated, itching to begin, impatient men shuffling the packs of cards, a center lamp on each table, and a hail of welcome as Cornelius entered. From the moment they started, everything quieted, the faces serious and concentrated, except for two men who were drunk and skittish asking if Red River had been covered by Man 'O War himself.

The players were mostly men, with only two women, a Mrs. Hynes, who kept shouting to her partner to remember more of the red and less of the black - and a Miss Gleason, who had kept her hat on, a pearled hatpin skewering the cloth, the pearling a sickly yellow.

Nobody danced but the fiddle squeaked in fits and starts and the greyhounds slipped in and out under the tables that wobbled as fists were banged in recrimination. Disputes after each round as to how many tricks this person or that person had got, and muting when Miss Gleason got flustered, first reneged on herself, then played her best card, which she needn't have, and her partner, a gruff man, jumping up, calling her a mad Irish eejit and telling everyone, "She can't count, she can't blasted count, she doesn't even know that a five is better than a knave." Poor Miss Gleason mortified, her cheeks the same vermillion as the walls, asking him in a screechy voice to take that remark back and people next to her pulling her to sit down, then Jacksie standing on a chair and in a thunderous voice declared her a liability in any game. She sat frail and sulking, her cheeks scalding, vowing that she would never darken his doorstep again, some hushing her and others sniggering at her disgrace. (From Revel, pgs. 108-110)

The Lonesome Touch
Audio CD
Featuring champion Irish fiddler Martin Hayes

Here's a sample at

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PostPosted: Wed Nov 07, 2007 4:47 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Making History
By Stephen Fry

More on Fry, whose poetry how-to heads up our all new PokerPulse ESL / Study Guide.

More Gambling Scientists.

Physics is way hip. If you see a couple of literature students in conversation these days, chances are they'll be talking about Schrodinger's Kitten or Chaos and Catastrophe. Twenty-five years ago the coolest cats on campus were E.M. Forster and F.R. Leavis; next came the Structuralists, Stephen Heath and his liggers and groupies on the Difference and Deconstruction tour; now American tourists hang around in Niels Bohr T-shirts in the hope of touching the tyres on Stephen Hawking's wheelchair and having the secrets of the universe zapped into them.

The Alpha and Omega of science is numbers. Mean to say, a man don't get nowhere without them.

The above two sentences, for instance, they don't work with numbers. The Alpha and Omega of science are numbers, I'd have to say, and a man doesn't get anywhere without them.

The part of my brain that operates numbers is only slightly larger than the area that concerns itself with the politics of New Zealand or the outcome of the PGA Masters tournament. I have schoolboy French and I have schoolboy arithmetic. Just enough to get by in shops and restaurants. If I pay for a thirty pence newspaper with a one pound coin I am smart enough to expect seventy pence back. If I bet five pounds on a three-to-one Derby winner I will be pissed off not to finish fifteen quid richer. Price the horse at seven-to-two however, and sweat will begin to break out on my brow. Numbers suck. (From Making Waves, A window on the world, pg. 69)

Making History
Narrated by its charming author
Audio Cassette ONLY!
(Why do publishers think so small?)

We haven't heard this one yet, but Fry is a wonderfully able and precise reader. Please check back for updates after we've obtained a copy for review.

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PostPosted: Sat Nov 17, 2007 1:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Horse Latitudes
By Pulitzer Prize winner Paul Muldoon

Even better, listen to the author read his work.

The Old Country


Where every town was tidy town
and every garden a hanging garden.
A half could be had for half a crown.
Every major artery would harden

since every meal was a square meal.
Every clothesline showed a line of undies
yet no house was in dishabille.
Every Sunday took a month of Sundays

till everyone got it off by heart
every start was a bad start
since all conclusions were foregone.

Every wood had its twist of woodbine.
Every cliff its herd of fatalistic swine.
Every runnel was a Rubicon.


Every runnel was a Rubicon
and every annual a hardy annual
applying itself like linen to a lawn.
Every glove compartment held a manual

and a map of the roads, major and minor.
Every major road had major roadworks.
Every wishy-washy water diviner
had stood like a bulwark
against something worth standing against.
The smell of incense left us incensed
at the firing of the fort.

Every heron was a presager
of some disaster
after which, we'd wager,
every resort was a last resort.


Every resort was a last resort
with a harbor that harbored an old grudge.
Every sale was a selling short.
There were those who simply wouldn't budge

from the Dandy to the Rover.
That shouting was the shouting
but for which it was all over -
the weekend, I mean, we set off on an outing

with the weekday train timetable.
Every tower was a tower of Babel
that graced each corner of a bawn

where every lookout was a poor lookout.
Every rill had its unflashy trout.
Every runnel was a Rubicon.


Every runnel was a Rubicon
where every ditch was a last ditch.
Every man was "a grand wee mon"
whose every pitch was another sales pitch

now every boat was a burned boat.
Every cap was a cap in hand.
Every coat a trailed coat.
Every band was a gallant band

across the broken bridge
and broken ridge after broken ridge
where you couldn't beat a stick with a big stick.

Every straight road was a straight up speed trap.
Every decision was a snap.
Every cut was to the quick.


Every cut was a cut to the quick
when the weasel's twist met the weasel's tooth
and Christ was somewhat impolitic
in branding as "weasels fighting in a hole," forsooth,

the petrol smugglers back on the old sod
when a vendor of red diesel
for whom every rod was a green rod
reminded one and all that the weasel

was nowhere to be found in that same quarter.
No mere mortar could withstand a ten-inch mortar.
Every hope was a forlorn hope.

So it was that the defenders
were taken in by their own blood splendour.
Every slope was a slippery slope.


Every slope was a slippery slope
where every shave was a very close shave
and money was money for old rope
where every grave was a watery grave

now every boat was, again, a burned boat.
Every dime-a-dozen rat a dime-a-dozen drowned rat
except for the whitrack, or stoat,
which the very Norsemen had down pat

as a weasel-word
though we know their speech was rather slurred
Every time was time in the nick

just as every nick was a nick in time.
Every unsheathed sword was somehow sheathed in rime.
Every cut was a cut to the quick.


Every cut was a cut to the quick
what with every feather a leather to ruffle.
Every whittrack was a whittrack.
Everyone was in a right kerfuffle

when from his hob some hobbledehoy
would venture the witterick was a curlew.
Every wall was a wall of Troy
and every hunt a hunt in the purlieu

of a demesne so out of bounds
every hound might have been a hellhound.
At every lane end stood a milk churn

whose every dent was a sign of indenture
to some pig wormer or cattle drencher.
Every point was a point of no return.


Every point was a point of no return
for those who had signed the Covenant in blood.
Every fern was a maidenhair fern
that gave every eye an eyeful of mud

ere it was plucked out and cast into the flame.
Every rowan was a mountain ash.
Every swath-swathed mower made of his graft a game
and the hay sash

went to the kemper best fit to kemp.
Every secretary was a temp
who could shift shape

like the river goddesses Banna and Boann.
Every two-a-penny maze was, at its heart, Minoan.
Every escape was a narrow escape.


Every escape was a narrow escape
where every stroke was a broad stroke
of an ax on a pig nape.
Every pig was a pig in a poke

though it scooted once through the Diamond
so unfalt -- so unfalteringly.
The threshold of pain was outlimened
by the bar raised at high tea

now every scone was a drop scone.
Every ass had an ass's jawbone
that night itself drop from grin to girn.

Every malt was single malt.
Every pillar was pillar of salt.
Every point was a point of no return.


Every point was a point of no return
where to make a mark was to overstep the mark.
Every brae had its own braw burn.
Every meadow had its meadowlark

that stood in for the laverock.
Those Norse had tried fjord after fjord
to find a tight wee place to dock.
When he made scourge of small whin cords,

Christ drove out the moneylenders
and all the other bitter-enders
when the thing to have done was take up the slack.

Whin was to furze as furze was to gorse.
Every hobbledehoy had his hobbledehorse.
Every track was an inside track.


Every track was an inside track
where every horse had the horse sense
to know it was only a glorified hack.
Every graineen of gratitude was immense

and every platitude a familiar platitude.
Every kemple of hay was a kemple tossed in the air
by a haymaker in a hay feud.
Every chair at the barn dance a musical chair

given how every paltry poltroon
and his paltry dog could carry a tune
yet no one would carry the can

any more than Samson would carry the temple.
Every spinal column was a collapsing stemple.
Every flash was a flash in the pan.


Every flash was a flash in the pan
and every border a herbaceous border
unless it happened to be an
herbaceous border as observed by the Recorder

or recorded by the Observer.
Every widdie stemmed from a willow bole.
Every fervor was a religious fervor
by which we'd fly the godforsaken hole

into which we'd been flung by it.
Every pit was a bottomless pit
out of which every pig needed a piggyback.

Every cow had subsided in its subsidy.
Biddy winked at Paddy and Paddy winked at Biddy.
Every track was an inside track.

Every track was an inside track
and every job an inside job.
Every whitterick had been a witrack
until, from his hobbledehob,

that hobbledehobbledhoy
had insisted the whitterick was a curlew.
But every boy was still "one of the boys"
and every girl "ye girl ye"

for whom every dance was a last dance
and every chance a last chance
and every letdown a terrible letdown

from the days when every list was a laundry list
in that old country where, we reminisced,
every town was a tidy town.

(-- pgs. 38-46)

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PostPosted: Wed Nov 21, 2007 9:32 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

and Other Stories
By Roald Dahl

The purser, small and fat and red, bent forward to listen. "What's the trouble, Mr. Botibol?"

"What I want to know is this." The man's face was anxious and the purser was watching it. "What I want to know is will the captain already have made his estimate on the day's run - you know for the auction pool? I mean before it began to get rough like this?"

The purser, who had prepared himself to receive a personal confidence, smiled and leaned back in his seat to relax his full belly. "I should say so - yes," he answered. He didn't bother to whisper his reply, although automatically he lowered his voice, as one does when answering a whisperer.

"About how long ago do you think he did it?"

"Some time this afternoon. He usually does it in the afternoon."

"About what time?"

"Oh, I don't know. Around four o'clock I should guess."

"Now tell me another thing. How does the captain decide which number it shall be? Does he take a lot of trouble over that?"

The purser looked at the anxious frowning face of Mr. Botibol and he smiled, knowing quite well what the man was driving at. "Well, you see, the captain has a little conference with the navigating officer, and they study the weather and a lot of other things, and then they make their estimate."

Mr. Botibol nodded, pondering this answer for a moment. Then he said, "Do you think the captain knew there was bad weather coming today?"

"I couldn't tell you," the purser replied. He was looking into the small black eyes of the other man, seeing the two single little specks of excitement dancing in their centers. "I really couldn't tell you, Mr. Botibol. I wouldn't know."

"If this gets any worse it might be worth buying some of the low numbers. What do you think?" The whispering was more urgent, more anxious now.

"Perhaps it will," the purser said. "I doubt whether the old man allowed for a really rough night. It was pretty calm this afternoon when he made his estimate."

The others at the table had become silent and were trying to hear, watching the purser with that intent, half-cocked, listening look that you can see at the racetrack when they are trying to overhear a trainer talking about his chance: the slightly open lips, the upstretched eyebrows, the head forward and cocked a little to one side - that desperately straining, self-hypnotized, listening look that comes to all of them when they are hearing something straight from the horse's mouth.

"Now suppose you were allowed to buy a number, which one would you choose today?" Mr. Botibol whispered.

"I don't know what the range is yet," the purser patiently answered. "They don't announce the range till the auction starts after dinner. And I'm really not very good at it anyway. I'm only the purser, you know." (From Dip in the Pool, at pgs. 131-133)

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PostPosted: Tue Nov 27, 2007 2:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Come On In!
New Poems
Still another posthumous collection
by Charles Bukowski

More Buk.

Still more Buk.

the fucking horses

"the fucking horses," she said, "you keep bringing me
out to these fucking horse races and I lose, god damn it,
it's all so useless and ignorant, I hate it, I just
hate it!"

her purse had a long strap and she was swinging it
around and around with great velocity.

we were walking out of the track after the
last race.

"I told you," I said, "not to bet the horses with
high speed ratings, especially at comparative

"but shit," she screamed, "why doesn't it work?
the horse that ran faster last time, why doesn't
he win against the slower ones?"

"anybody can take a short price on exposed form,"
I said. "it's self-defeating."

"goddamn you!" she screamed. "I hate you and I hate horses!"

and she swing her purse around and around on its
long strap.

then there was a hard harsh thud:
she had just hit the man on the head
who was walking behind us.

the poor soul was badly staggered.
an elderly Mexican.

I held him up by the arm.

"I'm sorry, I'm sorry," I said,
"it was an accident!
she didn't mean to hit you with her
she has lost a great deal of money today
and she's a little crazy!
I'm very sorry!"

"it's all right," the fellow said.

I let go of his arm and we turned and
walked on.

"what's the matter?" she screamed.
"are you afraid of that man?
are you afraid of a real fight?"

"of course I am," I told her.

"I thought so!" she screamed. "let's
get the hell out of here!"

it was when we got to the car
and after I got it started that
this thought
went through my mind:
baby, I don't know why the hell
I'm living with you!

I stopped at the first light.
then as we drove up Huntington Drive
she said to me,
"you know, I don't know why the hell
I'm living with you!"

I kept on driving up Huntington.
then I turned on the car radio.
we had been together one and one-
half years.
it's always easier to meet than
to part.

I know
because after that day at the track
we managed to live together for another

(-- p. 107-109)

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PostPosted: Thu Nov 29, 2007 3:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Where There's a Will
By John Mortimer

Every Italian city had not only its own history but also its own masterpiece in the cathedral, its own food, its own wine and often its own language. The Neapolitan dialect is incomprehensible to the pure-speaking Florentine. You wouldn't expect to eat spaghetti with clams in Bologna or wild boar pate in Naples. If you want a town where the present and the past are still vividly alive, go to Siena. It's divided into parishes, which compete in the extraordinary horse-race round the scallop-shell-shaped piazza twice a year. The Palio, which celebrates a victory over rival Florence, takes only a few minutes but the preparations and the processions are unforgettable. The horses spend the previous night in local churches, to which they are led by men singing, and if they manure the marble floors it's a sign of luck. The long procession before the race, with parishioners in medieval costume throwing twirling flags into the air as high as the houses, unwinds slowly. Knights in armour, with their visors down, ride by to celebrate the parishes that no longer exist. Finally the Palio itself, a huge silver dish, is driven round on a cart drawn by white oxen. The secret ambition of all the parishes is not to win (winning entails a great deal of expense) but to have their enemy come second - a true humiliation.

The Palio has more importance than even the beauty of the event in Europe's most perfect city centre. Loyalty to your parish is so great that women giving birth in a hospital outside their home area take a little tray of earth from their home parish to put under the bed. And the parishes organize events, football matches, parties and dinners for young and old, rich and poor, all the year round. The system works so well that there is little juvenile crime in Siena. It should certainly be tried in Birmingham, preferably with a colourful horse-race round the Bull Ring. (From Chapter 25, Eating Out, pgs. 140-141)

More on Italy's famous Palia.

More on the book.

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PostPosted: Mon Dec 17, 2007 3:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

A Fleeting Sorrow
By Francoise Sagan
Translated from the French by Arcade Publishing
President Richard Seaver

... What surprised him most was that he didn't feel anything, and he would repeat the sentences in his head, interjecting now and then a mixture of disbelief and fear, the way one gingerly touches the area around a newly opened wound to see if it hurst. "In six months, nothing! I won't feel a thing! I won't be here... me... Paul!..."

And suddenly the reality of death struck him full force, as if he had been hit in the head, and he doubled over on his chair, his mind suddenly flooding with a very clear, precise memory. It was an afternoon two or three years ago at the Evry racetrack. He'd been down at the paddock, and so engorssed in his racing form that he was paying no attention to the horses parading past him either on their way to the starting gate or to be weighed in, when all of a sudden something terrifying had literally burst through the racing form and grazed his forehead. Instinctively he had jerked his head back. One of the passing horses had kicked up its heels, and one of its hooves had missed him by a fraction of an inch. He had seen the deadly object - iron and hoof and hair - zoom to eye level, then fall back. To his surprise and shame, it had taken Paul a full minute to recover, to stop trembling. And it was that experience that had enabled him to seize, to understand the full impact of, the doctor's diagnosis: Paul wanted to pull back, jerk he head away, as if once again, to parry the mortal blow. But this time he could not. This time he knew there was no way out. No second chance. (From I, pgs. 4-5 )

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PostPosted: Mon Dec 17, 2007 3:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The Book of Guys
By Prairie Home Companion host, humorist and then some,
Garrsion Keillor

I was once interviewed on a daytime radio show whose host wore a tiny bathing suit, although she was in fact a normal-sized woman. We sat together in a studio the size of a walk-in closet, and I avoided mentioning her bikini on the air, but she didn't leave anything out when it came to me.

"You seem like a nice guy with a lot of dirty underwear," she said. "Let's talk about it. I've heard it said that you drifted into manhood with the charm of a claims adjuster and a withering sense of guilt due to a good upbringing. That in high school you tried to escape your unworthiness by affecting a sort of wispy bohemianism, writing your name in lower-case letters and composing dippy poems with titles like "Soliloquies for Stringless Guitars,' and eventually you ran away from home when you were twenty-four. People who know you well have described you as moody and inarticulate, a guy with cold green eyes and a ratlike smile who suffers good fortune with ill humor, which has left you virtually fiendless, isolated, adrift, out of touch, and that you have lost approximately thirty-two points of IQ in the past twenty years and were only average to start with. But that's not my question. My question to you is: does loss of brain function justify persistence in the face of, shall we say, a certain pointlessness to one's life? A lot of people are asking this questio0n about. What do you think, Gar?"

... Her honesty drove me to take a closer look at myself and I made a list of my abilities and inabilities.

A. Useful Things I Can Do

Fix decent meals and serve them.
Be nice.
Make a bed.
Dig a hole.
Write books.
Sing alto or bass.
Read a map.
Drive a car.
Talk on the radio.
Wash and iron clothing.

B. Useful Things I Can't Do

Chop down big trees and cut them into lumber or firewood.
Plant a field of corn or any other crop.
Handle a horse, train a dog, or tend a herd of animals.
Handle a boat without panicking the others.
Build a frame structure larger than a birdhouse.
Do sinmple algebra or mathematical computations of any kind.
Fix an internal combustion engine. Or an external one.
Remember the laws of physics.
Make an intelligent bet on a horse.
Invest money wisely.
Teach electricity, grammar, the Reformation.
Play guitar.
Throw a fastball, curve, or slider.
Load, shoot, and clean a gun. Or bow and arrow. Or use either of them, or a spear, net, snare, boomerang, or blowgun, to obtain meat.
Defend myself with my bare hands.
Keep my mouth shut.

... "Why is it so important to you to be as wonderful as you are?" a woman asked me one night as I lay sobbing into a pillow, having made a cherry pie that tasted like some old sparrows had been baked into it. "Why can't you just be yourself?"

I am trying to do that, my darling. I am going to go and be myself right now...(From Introduction, pgs. 15-21)

The Book of Guys
Narrated wonderfully by the author
Listen to him at the excellent
Writer's Almanac
Audio CD

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PostPosted: Sat Jan 05, 2008 3:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Something Fresh
By P.G. Wodehouse

Apart, however, from the fact that he was a younger son, and, as such a nuisance in any case, the Honourable Freddie had always annoyed his father in a variety of ways. The Earl of Emsworth was so constituted that no man or thing really had the power to trouble him deeply, but Freddie had come nearer to doing it than anybody else in the world. There had been a consistency, a perseverance, about his irritating performances which had acted on the placid peer as dripping water on a stone. Isolated acts of annoyance would have been powerless to ruffle his calm; but Freddie had been exploding bombs under his nose since he went to Eton.

He had been expelled from Eton for breaking out at night and roaming the streets of Windsor in a false moustache. He had been sent down from Oxford for pouring ink from a second-storey window on to the Junior Dean of his college. He had spent two years at an expensive London crammer's and failed to pass into the Army. He had also accumulated an almost record series of racing debts, besides as shady a gang of friends, for the most part vaguely connected with the turf, as any young man of his age ever contrived to collect.

These things try the most placid of parents, and finally Lord Emsworth had put his foot down. It was the only occasion in his life when he had acted with decision, and he did it with the accumulated energy of years. He stopped his son's allowance, haled him home to Blandings Castle, and kept him there so relentlessly that, until the previous night, when they had come up together by an afternoon train, Freddie had not seen London for nearly a year. (-- p. 26)

Something Fresh
By P.G. Wodehouse
Audio Cassette
Narrated by Frederick Davidson (aka David Case)

Not our favorite Wodehouse narrator by any means. Though Davidson does enunciate quite clearly and achieve an inflection of the bemused British aristocrat, he fails to evoke the innocence and gullibility so necessary to Wodehouse protagonists, those poor well-meaning sods who are so easily undone by even the most perfunctory of visits to the country.

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PostPosted: Mon Jan 21, 2008 10:41 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sleeping Murder
The Agatha Christie
Mystery Collection


"I still don't feel it can have been Walter Fane, said Gwenda thoughtfully. "And I'm sure it wasn't Major Erskine. In fact I know it wasn't."

"One's feelings are not always reliable guides," said Miss Marple. "The most unlikely people do things - quite a sensation there was in my own little village when the treasurer of the Christmas club was found to have put every penny of the funds on a horse. He disapproved of horse racing and indeed any kind of betting or gambling. His father had been a turf agent and had treated his mother very badly - so, intellectually speaking, he was quite sincere. But he chanced one day to be motoring near Newmarket and saw some horses training. And then it all came over him - Blood does tell." (From Chapter XIX, Mr. Kimble Speaks, p. 133)

The last Miss Marple story in a long series of first-rate murder mysteries by the master!

Sleeping Murder
Audio CD
Narrated by British actress Stephanie Cole

Probably the superior recording, but we have yet to lay hands on it. Please check back soon for an updated review.

Sleeping Murder
BBC Full Cast Dramatization
Audio CD

Although BBC generally lives up to its reputation for quality, these full cast dramatizations are occasionally disappointing - too many competing voices of varying tone or too many musical interludes. We haven't yet heard this one. Please check back soon for our review.

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PostPosted: Mon Feb 11, 2008 1:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The Judgment of Paris
The Revolutionary Decade that
Gave the World Impressionism

By Ross King

Meissonier was not alone in his passion for horses: they were one of the great enthusiasms of the age. The annual equestrian competition at the Palais des Champs-Elysees, which featured leaping and pirouetting stallions, rivaled the Salon for popularity. Horse racing was equally in demand. The French Oaks, the Prix de l'Empereur and the Poule d'Essai des Poulains (the French 2,000 Guineas) were highlights of both the social and sporting calendars. In 1857 a new racecourse, the Hippodrome de Longchamnp, opened on a large plain west of the Bois de Boulogne, with grandstands for 100,000 racegoers. The course was administered by Le Jockey-Club, whose wealthy members, when not gambling, carousing and setting new trends in men's fashion, oversaw the improvement of French bloodlines. By 1863 several successful new types of horse, including the Anglo-Arab, had been bred, and legends of the track born, such as Mademoiselle de Chantilly, a filly who in 1858 crossed the Channel wot win the City and Suburban Handicap at Epsom. (From Famous Victories, p. 97)

On June 5, a Sunday, he had joined the more than 100,000 Parisians who made their way to the Hippodrome de Longchamp for the second running of the Grand Prix de Paris. "All Paris went out to see it and made a splendid show," the correspondent for The Times reported breathlessly at the sight of so many Parisians in resplendent attire streaming through the Bois de Boulogne in their stylish carriages. "Surely in no out-of-door spectacle in the world could such a show present itself. Huge excitement had accompanied the race because Blair Athol, winner of the 1864 Epsom Derby in a record time, had come to challenge the local favorite, Vermouth, a bay with three white legs. Despite arriving in Paris only the evening before, Blair Athol was the favorite with the bookmakers, who chalked the latest odds - 2 to 1 at post time - on blackboards set up around the Hippodrome. But Vermouth led from the start and never relinquished his lead, defeating the English champion by two full lengths. "The roar of huzzas rent the air," wrote the correspondent for The Times, who noted how Emperor Napoleon - never one to miss a grand occasion such as this - acknowledged the glorious victory with a bow from his private box. After endless cries of "C'est magnifique!" and "Vive l'Empereur!" as well as endless bottles of Champagne, the ecstatic crowd wobbled home, clogging the Chaps-Elysees with six lanes of fashionable broughams, barouches, spiders and tandems. (Plein Air[/b], p. 134)

View Manet's efforts subsequent to the big race.

More of the book and more Roués resplendissants.

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PostPosted: Mon Apr 28, 2008 8:07 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Vanity Fair
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The History Boys
In the twilight of his presidency, George W. Bush and his inner circle have been feeding the press with historical parallels: he is Harry Truman - unpopular, besieged, yet ultimately to be vindicated - while Iraq under Saddam was Europe held by Hitler. To a serious student of the past, that's preposterous. Writing just before his untimely death, David Halbertsam asserts that Bush's "history," like his war, is based on wishful thinking, arrogance, and a total disdain for the facts.
August, 2007

More U.S. Presidential Gambles.

More on how Halberstam got so smart - and how YOU can, too - at PokerPulse Gambler's Guide to Academe - Best Bets for Success!

When David Frum, a presidential speechwriter, presented Bush with the phrase "axis of evil," to characterize North Korea, Iran, and Iraq, it was meant to recall the Axis powers of World War II. Frum was much praised, for it is a fine phrase, perfect for Madison Avenue. Of course, the problem is that it doesn't really track. This new Axis turned out to contain, apparently much to our surprise, two countries, Iraq and Iran, that were sworn enemies, and if you moved against Iraq, you ended up de-stabilizing it and involuntarily strengthening Iran, the far more dangerous country in the region. While "axis of evil" was intended to serve as a sort of historical banner, embodying the highest moral vision imaginable, it ended up only helping to weaken us.

Despite his recent conversion to history, the president probably still believes, deep down, as do many of his admirers, that the righteous, religious vision he brings to geopolitics is a source of strength - almost as if the less he knows about the issues the better and the truer his decision-making will be. Around any president, all the time, are men and women with different agendas, who compete for his time and attention with messy, conflicting versions of events and complicated facts that seem all too often to contradict one another. With their hard-won experience the people from the State Department and the C.I.A. and even, on occasion, the armed forces tend to be cautious and short on certitude. They are the kind of people whose advice his father often took, but who in the son's view use their knowledge and experience merely to limit a president's ability to act. How much easier and cleaner to make decisions in consultation with a higher authority.

Therefore, when I hear the president cite history so casually, an alarm goes off. Those who know history best tend to be tempered by it. They rarely refer to it so sweepingly and with such complete confidence. They know that it is the most mischievous of mistresses and that it touts sure things about as regularly as the tip sheets at the local track. Its most important lessons sometimes come cloaked in bitter irony. By no means does it march in a straight line toward the desired result, and the good guys do not always win. Occasionally it is like a sport with upsets, in which the weak and small defeat the great and mighty - take, for instance, the American revolutionaries vanquishing the British Army, or the Vietnamese Communists, with their limited hardware, stalemating the mighty American Army. ...

President Bush lives in a world where in effect it is always the summer of 1945, the Allies have just defeated the Axis, and a world filled with darkness for some six years has been rescued by a new and optimistic democracy, on its way to becoming a superpower. His is a world where other nations admire America or damned well ought to, and America is always right, always on the side of good, in a world of evil, and it's just a matter of getting the rest of the world to understand this. One of Bush's favorite conceits, used repeatedly in his speeches, is that democracies are peaceful and don't go to war against one another. Most citizens of the West tend to accept this view without question, but that is not how most of Africa, Asia, South America, and the Middle East, having felt the burden of the white man's colonial rule for much of the past two centuries, see it. The non-Western world does not think of the West as a citadel of pacifism and generosity, and many people in the U.S. State Department and the different intelligence agencies (and even the military) understand the resentments and suspicions of our intentions that exist in those regions. We are, you might say, fighting the forces of history in Iraq - religious, cultural, social, and inevitably political - created over centuries of conflict and oppressive rule.

The president tends to drop off in his history lessons after World War II, especially when we get to Vietnam and things get a bit murkier. Had he made any serious study of our involvement there, he might have learned that the sheer ferocity of our firepower created enemies of people who were until then on the sidelines, thereby doing our enemies' recruiting for them. And still, today, our inability to concentrate such "shock and awe" on precisely whom we would like - causing what is now called collateral killing - creates a growing resentment among civilians, who may decide that whatever values we bring are not in the end worth it, because we have also brought too much killing and destruction to their country. The French fought in Vietnam before us, and when a French patrol went through a village, the Vietminh would on occasion kill a single French soldier, knowing that the French in a fury would retaliate by wiping out half the village - in effect, the Vietminh were baiting the trap for collateral killing. (-- p. 124, 168)

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PostPosted: Mon Apr 28, 2008 10:22 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Vanity Fair
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Gone Like the Wind
None of them had ever seen a horse like Barbero:
the speed of a rocket, the spirit of a champion in his eyes
Not owners Gretchen and Roy Jackson, or trainer
Michael Matz, or veterinarian Dean Richardson, or jockey
Edgar Prado, who rode him to victory at the 2006 Kentucky Derby.
After the horse's devastating injury at the Preakness, with the world
watching, they would struggle to to save him. Buzz Bissinger tells how Barbaro was betrayed by his own Thoroughbred body
August, 2007

View the outpouring of affection for Barbero at

Barbaro's first race took place at Delaware Park on October 4, 2005, the seventh race of the card, with a post time of 3:32 p.m. It was a nothing race at a track that featured two full floors of slot machines, with an unknown horse that the call announcer referred to as "Bar-bear-o," rather than "Bar-ber-o."

The distance was one mile, and it was open only to two-year-old maidens - horses who had never won before. The race was also run on turf rather than dirt, a calculated decision, given that Barbaro's sire, Dynaformer, had been a strong turf horse. Barbaro's running style, with a high knee action and a long stride, also lent itself better to turf. He went into the race ranked as the fourth favorite by bettors. He initially refused to get into the gate. He was as ornery as a hornet when he wanted to be. Gretchen Jackson was there and she wondered where this was coming from. So did Peter Brette, who thought maybe he had it all wrong. Here was Barbaro, the best Thoroughbred he had ever sat on, and you couldn't even get him in the gate.

But then he got loaded in. He stayed near the lead until the half-mile, and then just rocketed. It was electric - not the beauty of it, because it really wasn't beautiful, but the pumping, pulsating brute strength of it, leaving behind puffs of dust in the turf like trails of hot-rod smoke. He won by eight and a half lengths. Matz was by nature inward and careful, and his style as a trainer was the same. So when, for the second race of Barbaro's career, he entered him in a race with a healthy $125,000 purse, a big step up, in a class with proven horses such as Wedding Singer and Rock Lobster, it showed an enormous faith that this horse could really do something.

Barbaro ran the Laurel Futurity on November 19, 2005, and it was a carbon copy of the seventh race at DFelaware Park, Barbaro toying with the competition until roughly the half-mile, then rocketing again, the only difference being that he won by eight lengths this time instead of eight and a half. He took the Tropical Park Derby after that, on the first of the year of 2006 at Calder Race Course, in Miami Gardens, Florida, winning by an easy three and three-quarters lengths for his first graded-stakes victory. The word was now out on him. He went off at odds of less than even money, and after the Laurel Futurity the hangdog clockers, who stand by the rail of every track in the early dawn with cups of coffee and stopwatches in their hands, measuring workout times of racehorses, had begun telling tall and true tales of him. The Jacksons were already getting significant offers from potential buyers who wondered if they were interested in selling him. (-- p. 156)

A helluva story! Brilliantly told!

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PostPosted: Fri May 23, 2008 8:31 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

This England

By Bel Bailey

Summer, 2007

The famous Lord Byron fervently hoped that his daughter, Augusta Ada, would never become a poet like himself. His wish was granted as she was destined to become famous for her scientific and mathematical genius instead.

Born in 1815, Ada's parents separated when she was only a few months old and her father left Britain forrever. He never fought his wife Annabella for custody of their child so Ada was brought up by her mother. Unfortunately, she was a harsh and narrowly religious woman who dominated her daughter all her brief life.

Ada was educated privately by tutors and then self-taught. Augustus de Morgan helped her in her advanced studies however. He was first professor of mathematics at London University and developed the theories and techniques behind modern computer programs.

Another early computer pioneer, Charles Babbage, was also introduced to Ada and they became close friends and allies. Learning that he was in the process of designing a revolutionary calculating machine - the first of all computers - Ada eagerly offered to help him.

She was rather an enigma to her friends in society as she was an attractive and high-spirited girl, fond of fashion and dancing, yet sincerely claimed that subjects they regarded as heavy - astronomy, algebra, trigonometry - were "true refreshment!"

By the age of 18 she was very interested in Babbage's machines. Even her marriage two years later, the birth of her three children and her becoming the Countess of Lovelace in 1838, did nothing to diminish that interest.

Ada was one of the first mathematicians to see that Babbage's "Analytical Engine" had tremendous implications and would be one of the great breakthroughs of the century.

An Italian engineer and mathematician, Luigi Federico Menabrea, had written an article on Babbage's invention and this was translated by Ada in 1843, and expanded with her own notes and examples based on computing mathematics.

After publication, Ada's clear explanations were praised as extremely helpful, especially her description of how Babbage's "Analytical Engine" could be programmed to compute Bernoulli numbers. She described the engine "weaving algebraic numbers, just as the Jacquard loom weaves flowers and leaves," an original and striking thought!

Alas, so keen were Babbage and Ada to raise money for this great invention which obsessed them both, and they wanted to develop further, that they created fresh problems for themselves. The pair gambled desperately, working on systems to predict the outcome of horse races. Here they came badly unstuck in an unscientific field. Their money-raising efforts were a disaster and the pair came close to financial ruin.

This worry caused Ada's very robust health to deteriorate and she died at the early age of 37 - just one year older than her father had been at his death.

She had always craved to know her father better and mourned his passing when she was only nine years old. Byron would indeed have been delighted with her fame in a field so different from his own.

Since the time of King John the name Ada had been in the Byron family and today it lives on in a different context. As she was the first computer programmer, the universal programming language developed by the American Defence Department in the 1970s was called Ada in honour of the unique Countess of Lovelace. (-- p. 53)

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PostPosted: Sun Jul 20, 2008 9:24 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Full Moon
By P. G. Wodehouse

More of the book.

The Hon. Galahad Threepwood was the only genuinely distinguished member of the family of which Lord Emsworth was the head. Lord Emsworth himself had once won a first prize for pumpkins, and his pig, as we know, had twice been awarded the silver medal for fatness at the Shropshire Agricultural Show; but you could not say that he had really risen to eminence in the public life of England. But Gally had made a name for himself. There were men in London - bookmakers, skittle sharps, jellied-eel sellers on race-courses, and men like that - who would have been puzzled to know whom you were referring to if you had mentioned Einstein, but they all knew Gally.

The chief thing anyone would have noticed about Galahad Threepwood in this, his fifty-seventh year, was his astounding fitness. After the life he had led, he had no right to burst with health, but he did. Even E. Jimpson Murgatroyd would have been obliged to concede that he was robust. Where most of his contemporaries had reluctantly thrown in the towel and retired to Harrogate and Buxton to nurse their gout, he had gone blithely on, ever rising on stepping-stones of dead whiskies and sodas to higher things. He had discovered the prime grand secret of eternal youth - to keep the decanter circulating and never to go to bed before four in the mroning. His eye was not dimmed nor his natural force abated, his heart was of gold and in the right place, and he was loved by all except the female members of his family. (-- pgs. 64-65)

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