Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Roger Lewis letter: Freelance persecution and z-listers like Gyles Brandreth

Roger Lewis
Dear Madame Arcati,

Bugger me blue, but I have had an absolute sod of a week, and it is only Wednesday.

Twelve years ago I was getting £400 for a book review in the Sunday Express. I was told yesterday they are now cutting the fees to £200, which is the rate paid by the Daily Telegraph, where the freelance contributors are kept on 1970s rates (or 1870s rates) so that the proprietors can live in tax exile on Sark.

I was then offered as much as £30 to make four radio programmes with Dame Jan Morris about Wales, which I declined because it would mean death threats from the Plaid Cymru Taliban.

Then my publishers said they are expecting my new book "Growing Up With Comedians" in April, even though I have been deathly ill and haven't been able to look at the manuscript for months. They'll get it in April 2013 if they are lucky.

If only I was a proper person with an ordinary job, I could be on the sick and on full salary for months -- instead of which: freelance persecution. The icing on the cake: I am being pestered by The One Show to make a 5 minute film about why I hate the touchy-feely tactile sentimentality that has come in, parents always hugging their children in public and so forth, and which I'd written about in the Mail. There is to be no fee, though there is a prospect of z-list celebrity status, like Gyles Brandreth.

Finally, unless I can put a stop to it, Mavis Nicholson is writing about my pancreatisis in her Oldie magazine agony aunt column, comparing me with her sister who died an alcoholic with Alzheimer's in a Welsh booby-hatch.

My diabetic nurse, Sister Tiggy, has put me on these new tablets that have turned my stools bright yellow. It's like I'm on my way to Oz.



My Dear Poppet

There's only one thing for it. I shall have to pore over your horoscope (but don't tell Duncan, who worships poetry). Do pass on my apologies to Mavis for wrongly reporting that she slipped on ice en route to Noyle's* birthday party [report below]. I am told she did not.

Love as ever

MA xx

*Dame Molly Parkin

Roger Lewis' fabulous books may be perused and bought here

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Charlotte Church and the other hacking shape-shifters

From Taylor James
I love the word metamorphosis. Shape-shifting finds its most dramatic expression in folklore and in insects. And of course in the fabled Lesley Ash.

The current hacking scandal is a feast of celebrity transformation. Hugh Grant no longer bears the image of solipsistic depressive, forever on the point of movie retirement. We think of him now as valiant champion of celebrity victimhood, outward-looking and lethal as he unleashes his Latymer-engineered prosodics (or suprasegmental phonemes) on the lowly estuary gutteral of withered former hacks.

Steve Coogan, once Byronic satyr of showbiz after-parties with a sniff, as depicted in the tabloid prints, has picked up where Sir Bob Geldof left off as tousle-haired TV gladiator - gliding serenely over Jeremy Paxman's impertinent interruptions on the thermals of liberating outrage.

There are many other examples. And what most of these abused slebs have in common, thanks to the hacking scandal, is enhanced persona. 'Oh, s/he has a brain, then,' is the usual TV sofa comment made as yet another multi-millionaire is granted five minutes to excoriate Murdoch's minions.

Tabloids lower perceptions of IQ; news interviews raise them.

The latest and newest example of this is Charlotte Church. Yesterday, after winning £600,000 in settlement of her and her parents' case against News International, she delivered a rather fabulous speech which told us that Murdoch's people regretted nothing other than being caught out. She spoke smoothly, confidently, with just about the right amount of controlled fury that the British middle-class can cope with before emotionalism turns them off. Only a person of considerable intelligence and self-possession could have delivered it.

Whether she wrote it, or her lawyers, is beside the point: she presented it with maximum effectiveness. It transformed her from depicted shrew-drunk to focused exponent in an instant. Her public IQ went through the roof.

Every shit storm has its winners. Say hello to the slebby butterflies.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Katie Price: Home video porn queen Vs family values opinionist?

Katie Price
The hiring of Katie Price (aka Jordan) as a Sun columnist for its new Sunday edition is a brilliant coup. Though she appears to pen nothing with her actual acrylic-nailed digits, her flow of verbal expression on sundry topics will be ably captured by a team of showbiz scribes hacking their way through the scrub of Know-What-I-Means.

Her ascension to the commentariat does, however, throw into sharp relief Tabloid Reality (TR) and Internet Reality (IR). TR depicts Katie as a transformed celebrity: once a mindless, selfish glamour model who rode horses, she is now a thoughtful, engaged observer of the passing scene. Who still rides horses. IR accommodates this vision via Google and other search engines. But it also embraces porno Katie, star of a graphic home video, with well-endowed stubbly music person Dane Bowers, which is still freely accessible.

I note her impressively cool countenance even under the sway of buzzing dildo or Dane's toe.

The catholic reader (as opposed to Catholic reader) will somehow attempt to reconcile TR and IR perceptions of Katie as they leaf their way through the family newspaper she now opines for. In a multi-dimensional age this ought not be too challenging. After all, one can click from the Vatican's website to a porn site in an instant without a cluck. Both images may be contained in a split screen arrangement, if inclined to such activity.

In a sense, the neo-personifier of family values is not subverted by images of her cock-sucking Dane: these are simply ideas homogenised by online alternating familiarity. From this perspective. Katie is something of a revolutionary because she compels us to think of 'family' and 'porn' as interchangeable terms mediated through her protean person. It is no longer adequate to label Katie as one thing or another. She simply is.

Relatively speaking, what's to choose?

Friday, February 24, 2012

John Dee and how to turn base views into gold in modern journalism

John Dee by an unknown
One of Madame Arcati's favourite poppets, Duncan Fallowell, this week reviews in the Daily Express a book that will be lucky to shift 100 copies in the UK at full price. The book is The Arch Conjurer of England: John Dee by Glynn Parry.

Dee - Elizabeth I's astrologer, inter alia - enjoys resurgent interest some half a millennium after his death, largely thanks to Blur's frontman Damon Albarn whose stage Dee bio-musical premiers in Manchester in July. Expect much invocatory warbling as dry ice and flash light pass for alchemical spell-making.

Sadly, Duncan has not so much reviewed the book as used the space allotted him to pursue the fashionable atheistic agenda that dominates our newspapers; even the Daily Express. 'Occultists' we are assured are 'raving egotists addicted to publicity.' Unlike, say, Richard Dawkins, James Randi, Derren Brown, Prof Brian Cox or others on a long list of professional sceptics, atheists and 'scienters' who fill the daily prints with their quests to prove oblivion while raking it in from books, articles and showbiz performances. Egotist? Moi?

'Aren't occultists meant to be shy retiring types as trustees of secret, arcane knowledge?' is the implied question, based on caricature. Yet Duncan reports mockingly that Dee advertised his genius to many influential figures of the 16th Century, as if such a thing should not have been a means of self-advancement, as practised in all other walks of life, past and present. Today we would call such activity 'entrepreneurial' - certainly David Cameron would approve of such self-starting dynamism.

The 'review' conclusion on Dee's life is that it was 'high on fancy and negligible on achievement': an assessment that at least is masterly in its brevity. Perhaps Dee's only usefulness is as some sort of barium meal for scholarly X-rays of the gut of Tudor times. It's a wonder we're talking about him at all.

What fascinates me more than anything else is the uniformity of view to be found in mainstream publications on astrology, divination, alchemy, etc. I can't think of one professional critic, book reviewer, hack, editor or other commentator who does not peddle a gospel cobbled together from the ums and ers of a dreary lab. There's comfort in mass repetition, I guess. 

Meanwhile, in the real world, many people experience things that science and its cultists can only blink at.

Still, I shall read Parry's book. More about Dee.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

London mayoral election 2012: Astrology favours Boris

I confidently predict that a Gemini shall win the London mayoral election on May 3 this year. The problem is, both leading candidates, Mayor Boris Johnson and challenger Ken Livingstone, are late Geminis - both maverick chatterers with a cunning stunt or two to unleash.

So, which Gemini will get his hands on London's £14bn annual budget? As I write, polls tell us the result is too close to call, though I think YouGov is giving Ken a two point advantage. Oh, did you know London is a Gemini city? Crazy place.

Having examined their birth charts and transits (ie where certain celestial bodies are to be found in real time in their charts on May 3) I have reached the tentative conclusion that Boris will win. 'Tentative' because neither chart is an unambiguous rapture of victory: one is wretched, the other a maelstrom of emotion.

Who'd want to be in my shoes? Election results are notoriously difficult to forecast. Have pity.

Non-astrologers may want to stop here because I now propose to explain how I reached my view. The laity can go drift off for an early cappuccino and a goss.

Ken's chart for May 3
Born in London, June 17 1945, approx 12.05am:

His May 3 chart is a distinctly miserable looking thing. There are numerous negative inconjuncts (such as tr Uranus inconjunct Uranus; tr Mercury inconjunct Jupiter) and a woeful tr Libra Saturn square ascendant which usually indicates blocks and the ending of significant relationships - certainly not an omen of a honeymoon. Tr Mercury, the ruler of Gemini, is inconjunct Jupiter: this suggests a possible miscalculation in thinking and expression (perhaps over finances as tr Mercury is in H2, the house of cash).

One aspect in Ken's favour is a neutral tr Saturn trine Sun: on May 3 uncertainty is swept away and realism reasserts itself. This could apply whether he wins or loses and so is not a decider. Another goodish aspect is tr Moon sextile Midheaven (H10) which normally either denotes a happy impression on the public or the warming embrace of comforting family. Again, not a decider but does say at least he won't disgrace himself.

Ken's Solar Return Chart (2011-12), with Moon opposite (via Mercury conjunction) Sun suggests that public disagreements or misunderstandings are a risk to reputation; and a Sun-Pluto opposition foresees the struggle to regain power with the peril of unbalancing close relationships. He should also be extra cautious about personal security. North Node in H12 opposite Sun is not PR heaven.

Nothing is conclusive in forecasting because the astrologer must interpret complex, sometimes contradictory indications. The overall message of the chart for May 3 is not promising, however. Ken's main comfort is that Boris' 2008 chart was also pretty dire (Saturn square Mars): what may seem like loss is a personal release; what may seem like victory is an unwelcome diversion. A crumb of comfort.

Boris' chart for May 3
Born in New York, June 19 1964 (clock time known but withheld)

His May 3 chart is an odd muddle of trends and moods. In his major favour is tr Sun sextile Midheaven (the public status point in his chart) - usually a sign of promotion, success in career. His Gemini ruler Mercury is helpfully sextile birth Mercury: the right messages are being sent out; judgement is astute. Tr Mercury is also passing through his 10th house (career), beefing up an image of responsibility - not a decider, but useful. Tr Moon square Sun is an excitable aspect: feelings are running high - to be expected. By May 5 his tr Sun is conjunct Jupiter - an indication of expansion and optimism.

What I don't like about his chart is his tr Mars. On May 3 it triggers his mutable T square via a conjunction with Uranus/Pluto opposite Saturn (H11-5), apex Mars: these are volatile if not explosive energies so that conditions could provoke volcanic eruption if Boris is not calm and collected. This complex aspect may describe a situation where someone is champing to make progress but is slowed by bureaucracy or red tape (or defeat!) - the eagerness to get on is somehow restrained.

Conceivably, this is a dampener for Boris fans. But it could simply denote the inevitable tidal frustrations and tensions on election day. On the whole, I view favourable tr Sun sextile Midheaven as the decider.

Boris' Solar Return 2011-12 finds him presenting a sober, more orthodox image with Capricorn ascendant. Sun in H5 adds charm and authenticity to self-expression while Moon in H1 anticipates intensified public exposure: this is part of an Air Grand Trine which is also a plus for articulacy and getting ideas across if he can apply self-discipline (Libra Saturn H8). And North Node in H11 sextile Moon is PR heaven.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Sun On Sunday: the astrological indications

The Sun's birth chart.
Click once to enlarge
I've been touched by the number of private invitations to consider the fate of Rupert Murdoch's just-announced Sun On Sunday (SOS) from an astrological perspective. Normally, I leave the stargazing to my earnest factotum who toils for The Lady magazine. But on this occasion, I have decided to give Mystic Meg a run for her considerable annual fee.

First a few intro words for the experts. The Sun's 'birth' chart for 15 September 1964, five years before Murdoch bought it, suitably has its Sun in the 3rd house of media and communication - useful! I wonder whether an astrologer was consulted for its launch date. Its status point (or Midheaven) is in Pisces, emphasising the paper's surfing of (public) mood as raison d'etre. Mercury, the planet of media and communication, is linked to its essential nature (Sun) via a stellium that includes Uranus and Pluto - a rule-breaking rebel of a newspaper, in other words. And with Mercury opposite Saturn, the paper was always going to be 'hobbled' by self-censorship - like any paper, really: but this feature is pronounced here.

So what of the SOS? It is due to be launched on 26 February 2012 - and because it won't in essence be a separate entity, the Sun's birth chart can be used to look ahead. At present, the Sun's horoscope suggests confusion (tr Neptune conjunct Saturn), at its worst up to early 2013. And tr Pluto in Capricorn, moving backwards and forwards over the Descendant till early 2014, suggests a radical painful change or transformation is ongoing in its relationship with the world through interaction with 'enemies' - a kill or cure time in effect. But while the 'weather' at the Sun is troubled and threatening, closure seems unlikely.

The SOS launch (if it goes ahead) before the next Mercury retrograde on March 12 (which can slow up or disrupt communication or any media activity) is an unwittingly smart move. Tr Mercury in Pisces in the 9th house of expansion is also favourable - though the planet's opposition to the Sun's birth Sun indicates internal tensions over the new paper from the start. But on the whole, the signs are good for the SOS.

The happiest aspect is tr Sun conjunct Midheaven (status point) - this normally denotes publicity and attention through huge effort. Tr Jupiter sextile Midheaven also favours expansion on this day - I would expect good sales and growth despite pessimistic warnings to the contrary.

I could go into less pleasant indications of Murdoch's financial situation this year and beyond, the problems James M faces and other grave difficulties: the much bigger picture for News Corp and Rupert M is still highly fraught. But I shall not rain on his SOS.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Gia Milinovich, Prof Brian Cox: The curious case of the re-directed hyperlinks

I made a most fascinating discovery lately. A surge of interest in a 2011 post about Prof Brian Cox's excitable wife Gia Milinovich drew me back to it: what was newly compelling about this piece of sharp-edged humour which cast light on Gia's fetish for nuclear power and other science icons?

Then I made the discovery. All the hyperlinks to her blog and journalism had been redirected to Wikipedia and its item on stalkers. Somebody had gone to the trouble to play around with HTML and URL in order to accuse me of stalking the Coxes.

What a fragile grasp has my accuser on stalking.

Two posts in one year on Gia. Two or three items on Brian over two years - the BBC's licensed fool for atheism, posing as an astronomer. As Sir Patrick Moore says in the latest issue of The Lady, Brian is just a particle physicist, not an astronomer - 'no competition', adjudges the 88 year-old TV master of The Sky At Night.

Hardly stalking, then.

But I am keen to draw attention to this attractive, influential, hyper-sensitive pair, Mr & Mrs Cox, who react rather badly to any form of contrariness - I mean, Mrs Cox confesses to blocking 'hundreds' of people on Twitter because they piss her off. Think of all that energy, pressing a button that blocks people. Has she nothing better to do?

Now, I don't accuse Gia* or Brian of attempting to censor my right to express myself in the terms I wish by messing with hyperlinks. I'm sure a sophisticated couple such as they would not stoop to such base tactics. But I think it fair to conjecture that one of their supporters thought that he or she was doing them a favour.

Ah, sweet innocence. Best not to try to lock horns with a seasoned warrior like Madame. Others have tried. Where are they now?

I have removed the hyperlinks on the Gia piece. Just Google her: you'll find her articulate apologies for the nuke industry and his parroting of her views (or vice versa in a romantic coincidence).

The BBC has every right to hire Brian to guess at what's going on in the universe. Just so long as we all understand that he is something of a Trojan for atheistic dogma.

*However, one of Gia's latest tweets - 'You know when a moron's hyperlinking a .jpg & you change it to something else & they think you've hacked 'em? That times about 10. Ha'

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Jude Calvert-Toulmin interview: 'Erotica must moisten your gusset'

Jude Calvert-Toulmin
Jude Calvert-Toulmin is one of the UK's top-selling erotica authors. Her novel Mother-in-Law, Son-in-Law is trouncing the opposition in Amazon's erotica charts - both kindle and book.

It probably helped that she is also a recent winner of Come Dine With Me, a popular TV series in which a bunch of show-offs display their kitchen culinary skills for a cash prize.

I have a feeling that we shall hear more of Jude. She's also auditioning for the next Big Brother due this summer. Whether she appears or not (and quite frankly the show needs articulate and intelligent housemates of a certain age to pep up the usual mix of troubled tattooed tots), prime your tongue for that twister of a surname.

Madame Arcati caught up with Jude and discussed erotica, recipes and damp knickers.

Q: Hey, Jude! You little attention-seeker you! You won Come Dine With Me lately - I have to ask: do you get an allowance to buy the food?

Yes, £120, however I got the wine from the finest wine merchants in Sheffield (Mitchells) and the chilli stout from one of Yorkshire’s finest breweries (Wentworth) gratis in return for blogging/twitter/facebook publicity, which helped.

Q: And what was your piece de resistance dish? Recipe please.

Coca Xira. I discovered this Spanish pie on my honeymoon in the tiny mountain village of Finestrat in the Costa Blanca; Vincent and Vincenta at Forn de Pa Pastes bakery described the process and I worked out the recipe by trial and error once I was back in the UK. My recipe is the only one on the net for it. The recipe is on the C4 site: click here

Q: Perhaps as a result of this victory, you're also now a bestselling erotica novelist with Mother-in-Law, Son-in-Law high in the book charts. Did it zoom up as you slaved over the cooker?

No, because the show was shot back in October. MILSIL became a best seller in the Amazon Erotica charts overnight after CDWM was aired in the UK in February.

Q: And what's the book about? Is it a transgressive tale of hot lust between a cougar and a hairy cub? What inspired it?

It’s a love story about a middle-aged, widowed author, Julia, whose selfish slapper of a daughter, Kate, spends every weekend at a fetish club in London (inspired by Torture Garden) shagging meeja wanker Colin whilst nagging her lovely rock climber husband to help mother with the gardening. I loved writing Colin, pissed my pants in every chapter he features in. He’s every meeja idiot you’ve ever met rolled into one.

Q: What effect should erotica have on the reader? Speak plainly, please. Is it different from porn?
Buy here

The difference between Mother-in-Law, Son-in-Law and porn is that MILSIL is a warm, honest love story described explicitly. Porn is cold, deceitful and a love-free zone.

Q: And what effect does erotica have on you as you write it? Are you planning to write more erotica?

When you’re writing, if your own humour doesn’t make you piss your pants and your own erotica doesn’t moisten your gusset then it needs rewriting.

Maybe after Drowning and Labrats are out later this year I’ll toss off a sequel as my fans are nagging me to do.

Q: Aside from your own work, which work is the most erotic ever and why?

Lady Chatterley’s Lover. It was an erupting volcano whose hot lava flooded the hyprocrital prejudices of its time. And Mellors is a masterpiece. My husband is like Mellors. Son of a gas fitter, Yorkshire born and bred and takes me in the garden on a regular basis.

Q: I see you're self-published. Did mainstream publishers turn down your work?

The reverse. I turned several of them down. I didn’t want them having my money.

Q: I hear that you may be making a TV comeback on Big Brother this summer. Have you auditioned yet?

No, I’m going to stay in London with my darling friend Fiona Russell-Powell this weekend and auditioning then.

Q: What do you think you'll bring to the BB house party aside from a bubbly personality?

Bums on seats. The BB format has become stale; the public don’t want to look at fame-hungry wannabes showing off, bitching and obeying the production team’s every role-playing dictate, they want real, earthy people with interesting personalities who are allowed to be themselves. I’ve lost count of the number of people who’ve said “I don’t watch BB anymore, it’s crap. But I’d watch it every night if you were on it.”

Q: Who's your best Big Brother housemate ever? And which celebs would you dearly love to share the BB house with?

Aisleyne Horgan-Wallace, I absolutely adored her.


Bruce Robinson (Withnail & I, Smoking in Bed)
Marco Pierre White
Joanna Lumley
Robin Gunningham
Shane Meadows
Jennifer Saunders
Paddy Considine
David Lynch
David Milch (Deadwood)
John Lydon
Olivia Coleman
David Weiner (Mad Men)

We’d have a ball.

Q: What's this about Switzerland?

Last year, a woman I used to discuss BB with on Digital Spy (she was “babycakes”, I was “moonsparkle”) left a copy of my novel My Adventures in Cyberspace in the lobby of a hotel in the Sicilian countryside. Weeks later, a Swiss American woman, intrigued by the cover and jacket blurb, picked it up, read it, fell in love with it and tracked me down.

The novel gave her the courage to get a divorce from her Swiss banker husband. After meeting her IRL at a party I held for fans last summer, she’s flown me to Luzern for the Fassnacht, all expenses paid.

Naturally, she will inspire a character in The Moonbeam, the third of the My Adventures in Cyberspace trilogy, which is about what happens once “The Misogynists”, my protagonist Dominique Du Bois’ first novel, becomes successful.

Q: What's your star sign?

Leo sun, Sagittarius rising (double fire!) Scorpio moon (ouch) and Libra midheaven.

Q: Have you ever seen a ghost?

I can’t see them; I feel them in the trees. The ending of My Adventures in Cyberspace describes this; my Swiss fan said the final chapter was the cherry on top of the cake.

Q: What do your family think of your new TV fame, erotica, etc? Will you ruthlessly cast them aside as you hurtle into the TV stratosphere?

My 16 y/o son cba. My daughter Jodie was the one who nagged me to go on the show in the first place. My daughter Hollie wishes she’d been on it. As for my husband, I’m like a helium balloon. He is the rock which tethers me to earth so I don’t float out into an oxygen-free, scorching stratosphere.

Jude's website

Mother-in-Law, Son-in-Law can be bought here

Jude's publishing company and books

Roger Lewis letter: 'I'm like an old crap in a Larkin poem'

Roger Lewis
Dear Madame Arcati,

As I'm still weak and feeble -- like an old crap in a Larkin poem suddenly -- I had to miss Molly "Noyle" Parkin's party. Clearly it was as magnificent as Truman Capote's Black & White Ball. I am spreading the rumour that that wasn't Rachel Johnson talking to all and sundry about codpieces but Janette Krankie.

Further to my illness, when I wrote about everything for the Mail, I received fourteen nice cards from old ladies, who clearly form my fan base. The cards that weren't adorned with frolicking kittens and puppies had jolly pictures of teddy bears.

I also received a mad unsigned message from a fan who scrawled in red biro, "I hate your guts just like everybody else. Pity you didn't die and do the world a favour you cunt." No address, alas (though I suspect Cornwall ) -- but that won't impede my chums in forensics, who will track this person down so that I can pay him (or her) a little visit in person. The thought of a little light violence has perked me up no end.



Darling Roger

Thank you for your restorative missive. Old ladies are a tough breed and adept at projecting healing energies while balanced on crumbling knees in pews. The person in Cornwall is I feel a young atheist who has been corrupted by the twin evils of Professors Dawkins and Cox and is, as I write, filling his (yes, his) face with cashews in front of a stolen flat screen TV. He probably views you as some sort of religious figure. Jess Yates redivivus, perhaps.

I always aim to enlighten.

Love and projected healing energies,

MA x

Roger Lewis' wonderful and funny second memoir What Am I Still Doing Here? can be ordered here

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Sun seeks protection - under 'bonkers' Human Rights Act

The Sun newspaper never misses an opportunity to wage war against the Human Rights Act. With approbation it last year reported the PM's vow to tear up the statute. And the paper fell in love with Britain's Equality and Human Rights chief Trevor Phillips when he described the Act as 'bonkers'.

As the paper wrote last December, Mr Phillips [said] the laws had "fallen into disrepute". 'People believed they had "come to mean the defence of the rights of unpopular minorities — of criminals, terror suspects and illegal immigrants — at the expense of everybody else."'

So, which newspaper staff (or unpopular minority) are now thinking of defending their interests under the Human Rights Act as Murdoch's internal inquiry team hand bribery suspect hacks (or 'legends') over to the cops? Step forward the galley slaves aboard HMS Sun. The irony is just too exquisite.

To read more, click here.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Richard Dawkins: The real message of his atheism poll

I see yet another professor, the Richard Dawkins one, is bidding for guru status: he's trying to make capital out of a poll which tells us that most Christians don't read the Bible and probably don't go to church much if at all. Apparently this is evidence that atheism is the growing faith du jour.

Perhaps he's right. But then again how many atheists have read AC Grayling's The Good Book: A Humanist Bible? Very few if sales have any say. You'd think your average fashion follower would acquaint him or herself with the godless script(ure). But no. Instead, he or she watches another TV professor, the Brian Cox one, and marvels at the universe as fascinating facts are reeled off from the textbooks.

This approach at least permits one to embrace the stats of eternity while grazing on cashews.

If the Dawkins poll has a message, it is that no matter what one's belief system (and atheism is just another belief system), most followers are happy to take their position cues from the idiot boards of priests and professors. There's just too much sex and socialising and work to get through.

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Jonathan King on Leveson: 'Dacre was mumbly and Steve Coogan needs a haircut'

Jonathan King, not as Lord Justice Leveson

Jonathan King talks to Madame Arcati about the Leveson Inquiry which is examining UK media regulation, ethics and practices in the wake of the phone hacking scandal. What does he think of Paul Dacre's performance in the witness box? Which newspaper editor has the worst hairstyle? And what does he hope to bring to the party if called to give evidence? Read on....

Q: Darling, you've applied to be a 'core participant' in the Leveson Inquiry - I may have missed it, but what's the outcome? Or if there is no outcome, when will you know the decision?

JK: The outcome was pretty rapidly NO, I'm NOT a Core Participant Victim (not yet proved to be a hacking victim, in the fairly narrow confines of the Inquiry description) but will hopefully be called as a Witness in the next couple of months.

Q: Can you tell us the gist of what you'd like to say to Leveson? For instance, would you mention how Andy Coulson at the News of the World rigged a photo of you in a park to make it appear you were ogling young people?

JK: Very much - the "Pervert in the Park" doctored photo is prime evidence of how one single witness for the NOTW (Editor Andy Coulson), denying they did it, was enough to convince the head of the committee examining it at the PCC (Les Hinton - then boss of News International, owner of NOTW) that the paper had NOT breached the PCC code. The executive "meant" to be in charge of my complaint was Stephen Abell - now Chairman of the PCC. My evidence alone could shut down the PCC.

I believe my entire prosecution is incredibly illuminating to the Inquiry regarding the relationship between Police and Media. Whether GOOD (Crimewatch) or BAD - my case shows how a case can be constructed and get to a conviction with no evidence - just one person's word against another's. Likewise the fascinating "Matthew Kelly" incident, just days before my appeal was due to be heard. I've had first hand experience. For example - how precisely did The Sun hear about my arrest (they were at my front door within minutes)? And was a photographer really strolling through Hyde Park at just the moment I was there being interviewed for a TV show?

Q: What do you think of Leveson so far? Do you think the judge should be careful of saying over and over again that he thinks most of the journalism out there is good and valuable?

JK: I'm thoroughly enjoying the Inquiry. Leveson himself has won a JK Best Supporting Eyebrows Oscar. But yes, his determination to be fair at all points, whilst laudable, is also illustrative of how the law suffocates truth with boredom, even if it doesn't intend to. I fear that the Inquiry might err towards condemnation and restriction of the media where it needs to focus on how the whole system has been broken.

Q: Which witnesses have especially improved or damaged their reputation as a result of appearing at Leveson?

JK: I seem to feel differently to everyone else. I'm a fan of Kelvin's, so I'm biased. I thought Richard Desmond was very good and quite funny whereas Paul (Dolly) Dacre was mumbly, irritated, truculent and snappy. I'm glad Steve Coogan won all that money - maybe now he can afford a decent haircut. Talking of haircuts, virtually EVERY Editor has ghastly hair. Richard Wallace of the Mirror is tonsorially extraordinary. Hislop was fun. Waxie Maxie is clearly not a well man. He dressed for a funeral, kept chewing and gurning, shifting and looking uneasy. I fear he won't be with us for much longer; such a shame. He's kept us all entertained for so many years.

Q: Will Leveson make much of a difference in the end?

JK: I don't think the Inquiry was intended to. It was set up by Spoonface Cameron to make him appear (in the media) to be strong and forceful (bombing innocents in Libya wasn't doing it). I think Leveson himself has every intention of improving things and he can if he doesn't allow himself to be steered into the wrong direction. After all, the horrendous crime of giving the parents of a dead teenager false hope for a few weeks (can anyone explain why that is SO dreadful?) may shock us all (in the media) far more than the inefficiency of our civil servants but the broken system needs far more than a Band Aid and the media is the least of our problems. The millions of our tax monies spent on an Inquiry might have been better wasted prosecuting football managers or paying banker bonuses.

Q: And finally, what's the Inquiry room like? Any BO?

JK: Far smaller than one thinks, no smells or farts but lots of computer screens - apt. The Royal Courts however are glorious - I'll turn it into a hotel any day if they'll let me. It's wasted as it is. To think, my lips have now sipped from the same glass as Hugh Grant, Paul (Dolly) Dacre, Heather Mills and the McCanns! And my buttocks have graced the same seat as Neville Thurlbeck. Isn't life a fascinating parade of excitement.

Thank you so much for your time.

Duncan Fallowell: Madame Arcati's blithe disregard for Miss Marple

Miss Marple or Madame Arcati?
Dear Madame Arcati

I have just watched the film Blithe Spirit, directed by David Lean, in which you star. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that the film is in Technicolor and that in it you wear a blood-red dress! I've seen the film before, but so long ago that I'd forgotten it was in colour. In fact I remembered it as being in black & white largely, I expect, because the profile photograph of you on your entertaining blog, which I've had reason to view quite often, is also in black & white. But it's incorrect! That photo of you is not of Madame Arcati but of Miss Marple.  How could you play such a trick? Since you have decided to return from the dead, I think it only fitting that you celebrate the occasion by altering your profile picture from the misleading Miss Marple to your true coloured self in that enchanting 1945 film of Noel Coward's Blithe Spirit.

In grateful anticipation,

From your well-wisher, Duncan Fallowell

Dearest Duncan

How very lynx-eyed of you! Yes, it's true, I confess everything. The profile pic is indeed of Margaret Rutherford as Miss Marple. I much prefer the image, to be honest. It conveys my fearsome gravitas. There are however many black 'n' white film stills of Miss Rutherford as the dotty clairvoyante and only the odd colour one - as you can see below. Perhaps readers would like to select the still for my new profile.

Thank you for noticing.

Best wishes, MA x

Monday, February 06, 2012

Molly Parkin's 80th birthday party: 'No fucking corporates invited'

Molly Parkin between the legs of her own effigy which
 greeted guests at the Chelsea Arts Club entrance.
Photo by Tommy Candler
Swathed in a unique shoulder-to-floor scarlet creation, light glinting off a vast Andrew Logan mirror brooch (black nail varnish matching what she insisted was a 'glass not plastic' jet bracelet from Murano), Molly Parkin gazed down on a heaving crowd of party-guests and gave her advice to womenfolk, apropos men:  'Fuck 'em, don't marry 'em!'

We're at Molly's 80th birthday bash. Friday night, Feb 3. She's addressing friends and liggers at London's legendary Chelsea Arts Club from a high-up balcony - her 'Mussolini moment'; or as she prefers, 'My Jesus on the Mount' impression. She loves that a newspaper recently made her 'theologian of the week' after she told the Indy on Sunday that Christ, like she, 'would have had sex with everyone' had he, like she, lived through the 60s.

The Jesus act ends when she lifts out her top denture, waggling it at the screaming crowd, and delivers the rest of her speech half-toothless. 'Well, I was afraid my teeth would fall out and break,' she told me later.

Molly outside the Chelsea Arts Club being
filmed by Robert Chilcott.
Photo by Duggie Fields
At least three hundred Boho-Soho-beau mo types crammed into the club's main hall to celebrate the birth of this, yes (awful word, I know), 'iconic' woman whose fashion style, beauty, wit and rumbustious life still inspire or astonish.

'I don't want any fucking corporates at this party,' she had said earlier in her room at the club. No suit zombies, no kerching hustlers. Just fellow artists, child-souls and 'people living their passion.' Three beautiful dresses were laid out on the double-bed - the scarlet one she wore later, a black one traced with scarlet and her 'gilded beauty outfit'; not forgetting the black swan ruffled or feathered ensemble with black turban she wore already. She'd got through all four self-stitched costumes by night's end.

In her honour, the club had decorated its outside walls with many monochrome portraits and cartoons of Molly by the artist Tony Common. She was particularly touched by a line montage of life in her birth place, Pontycymer, Wales. And over the main entrance stood a giant wooden Molly effigy 'so that people can walk through my legs and look up at my cunty,' as she put it.

Molly with daughter Sophie Parkin.
Photo: Tommy Candler
First, the apologies. Dame Judi Dench couldn't make it so sent teetotal Moll a magnum of champagne. Barry Humphies had just flown back to Australia and Mavis Nicholson had slipped on the ice. Twiggy was on her way but got held up by snow. Sian Phillips: just too exhausted. Andrew Logan was in India: he gifted her a beautiful brooch with a hologram eye the same colour as Moll's eyes: green-blue-grey, depending on the light. Zandra Rhodes, intriguingly, was held up by a person from Egypt. Bob Geldof - well, what happened, Bob?

But had he or any of the others turned up, would they have got in? The club's hall was chocka for most the evening. As was the makeshift smokers' tent 'for the cancer-seekers,' said Moll.

Marc Almond made it having just returned from New York. He looked astonishingly youthful and healthy - quite a contrast to the nonsense one hears following his bike crash years ago and claims that he never goes out. In fact he was recently spotted in the Colony. In his Soft Cell days he looked to Moll as his hair and makeup muse - he even lived with Moll in her Cheyne Walk house back in the 80s. 'He was like my understudy,' she says.

Another gifted sleb she discovered, or at least helped to fame when she was fashion ed of the Sunday Times, was Manolo Blahnik CBE who turned up in treble cashmere. Never less than exquisite, with hair so stiff you could pick a lock with it, he now describes himself as a 'factory boy' because he sits at a lathe to make his shoes. 'I have never been happier than to be one of the boys.' He gave Molly a letter which entitles her to select a pair of shoes as his birthday gift next time she visits one of his shops.

Another behemoth of fashion inspiration is Barbara Hulanicki OBE, founder of clothes store Biba. She'd flown over from the States for the do and wore her trademark shades. We didn't get to talk much but I did introduce her to The Lady's editor-in-chief, Rachel Johnson, who put in an admirable display of targeted socialising.

Once she had talked to Barbara, Rachel then insisted we seek out Moll. A few minutes later, seated birthday girl appeared to revive the Jesus act as Rachel knelt down before her in an act of slebby supplication and told he she looked 'hot' and gorgeous. I don't think Our Lord & Saviour could have hoped for a blessing anything like that.

I was also delighted to welcome Duncan Fallowell, friend of this blog, and once described rather mischievously by Gore Vidal as 'the canapes' on London's literary circuit. We managed a quick embrace before he was lost to others and a long night ahead. He was spotted gossing with Duggie Fields, accompanying a fabulous Italian girl in shocking pink and leopardskin, and then with Jenny Runacre, 'looking like a Russian countess - she gets better and better,' to quote Duncs.

Molly outside the Chelsea Arts Club. Tony
Common drawing. Photo: Tommy Candler
Cosmo's veteran agony aunt Irma Kurtz also sticks in  my memory because we discussed astrology. She told me she's a double Virgo with (I think) Capricorn Moon (or was it Libra?). Awfully down-to-earth. Mysticism does not interest her: as a humanist/atheist, she's taken with the idea that animal energies explain so much of what passes for psychism. But when I pointed out that I do not know most of my astrological clients, she agreed that was a hard one to explain away.

I could carry on name-dropping but won't. Everyone agreed it was a contender for party of the year - Duncan described it as 'anarchic'. I loved the Marlborough-educated  former barrister and public prosecutor Clifford who gave up his life of lawyering to become a nude male model for the likes of Lucien Freud after being impressed by the free spirited lives of Moll and her sometime late lover George Melly.

I know Moll was utterly delighted by the guests and their many gifts, including cash. 'The central heating boiler broke down at the weekend so the money was useful to keep me warm,' she said.

She added of life at 80: 'I'm at the pinnacle of refinement after a time in the gutter and pleasuring meat porters. I know spiritual contentment.'

Moll is now planning her 90th birthday party.