Busytown by Jolisa Gracewood

Dramatic turns

And this year’s Nobel Prize for Literature goes to... someone I’ve actually read! According to reports, when he received the early morning phone-call, Harold Pinter was at a bit of a loss for words. Well, yes, of course. That would be what we call Pinteresque in the extreme:



I mean, Sir Harold? Is that Sir Harold Pinter?


HAROLD PINTER: Who wants to know?

CHAIR: Well, we have some news for him.


CHAIR: Pinter. Sir. Harold.


If he’s home.

HAROLD: Let’s say... Let’s say he is.

CHAIR: Is he?



CHAIR: You’ve won the Nobel Prize for Literature!

Long, considering silence.

HAROLD: Fuck me.

CHAIR: Ah yes, you’d like that, wouldn’t you, you filthy old world-class playwright. Is that what the weasel is for?


CHAIR: The weasel.

HAROLD: What weasel?

CHAIR: The one under the cocktail cabinet.

Long, uncomfortable silence, broken only by a squeaking sound.

You disgust me, Mr Sir Harold Pinter, Sir. (There is a spitting sound).

HAROLD: Sorry.


CHAIR: Well, anyway, congratulations and all that. So would you like the million dollars in cash, or cheque?

HAROLD: Er, cash sounds all right. And thank you...


... I think.

CHAIR: You do. Too much if you ask me. Doesn’t he, Eddie?

HAROLD: Eddie? I don’t know any Eddie?


Do I?

EDDIE: Hello, Harold. Long time.

HP: (He gasps).


If you can't take the man as a writer, check out instead his compelling, not to say chilling performance as Sir Thomas Bertram in Patricia Rozema's film adaptation of Jane Austen's Mansfield Park. Top notch.


Speaking of disturbing locked-room dramas where you have no idea what the hell anyone is doing: how about Bush’s new nominee for the Supreme Court? I have no doubt that Harriet Miers is a smart woman, but she’s a jolly hard one to figure out. On the one hand, Bush’s radically conservative base is frothing at the mouth about her liberal tendencies (she gave $1000 to the Al Gore campaign! has ventured that gays and lesbians ought to have equal civil rights! a friend notes that she is personally pro-life but would also be able to uphold Roe v. Wade!). Others, like Andrew Sullivan, and former Bush speechwriter Matthew Scully, kinda like her.

On the other hand, she has been quoted as saying that George W. Bush is the “most brilliant man” she has ever met. NB not “cunningest,” or “wackiest”or “dabbest hand with a chainsaw if you need some brush cleared,” but “most brilliant.” Unless this is some Mae West style covert slur on every member of the male gender, you’ve got to ask: what was she smoking?

And let's not forget the girlish mash notes Miers sent to Bush when he was still Governor of Texas. The best! U rock! I [heart] you George! My favourite is the one on an Anne Geddes card depicting chunky babies dressed in flowerpots to look like magic mushrooms. Harriet enthuses that she can't wait to "try some of the recipes." Uh-huh.

By the way, check out her awesome blog.

But seriously, the one conclusion that can definitively be drawn from the scraps of public information about Ms Miers is an important lesson for us all: trending to the right, politically, is just really, really, really bad for your hair. And she used to be so pretty! No disrespect, but girlfriend needs a makeunder, and fast. Even if big hair is some sort of secret Texan handshake.

Oh look, she got one.

Thing is, fashion critique aside, you want top legal minds on the Supreme Court (that's why they call it Supreme, not Middling). I’m not convinced she’d be a total disaster on the court, even if she wasn’t anywhere on the top ten lists, or even the top hundred. If she truly has a first-class analytical brain, strong non-ideological ethics, and a genuine passion for the field of law, she can pick the rest up on the job. Sometimes it’s smart to hire for raw talent and train for skills. And I say that fervently on behalf of unemployed arts graduates everywhere.


Speaking of powerful women and desperate arts grads, I’m warming to the newest twist on The Apprentice, in which a monochromatic dozen or so neat-freaks and design buffs compete to be Martha Stewart’s newest employee.

Martha herself, looking none-the-worse for her recent bout of striped sunlight, is the same old gal; crushingly literal, mammothly pedantic, monumentally humourless despite a newfound ability to chuckle girlishly on cue. This domestic powerhouse has more in common with Henry Ford than, say, Plath or Picasso. She has about as “artistic” a persona as Gort, that stainless steel space robot in The Day the Earth Stood Still.

And truly, the first couple of episodes did stand pretty still. The teams split up, not along gender lines but according to professional background: Business Heads vs Creative Types. With silly names to match. The market-savvy team went with the faux-Latin “Primarius,” which has to be better than the frankly confusing “Matchstick” chosen by the other team. Apparently meant to symbolize the creative spark, it conveys instead a twiggy, disposable brittleness and reminds me of the old joke about the quality control department in the Irish match factory. “Zzzzzzip? Yep, that one works. Zzzzzip. So does that one. Zzzzzip…”

Strrrrike one for the creatives.

The tasks rely on equal parts creativity (or lack thereof) and salesmanship. First up was a job that looked a million times easier than it was: rewriting a classic fairy tale to appeal to kids. Tip: don’t frighten the littlies, nor suggest that small Manhattanites might like to wander the city unaccompanied: it’s parents who buy the books, and kids who ask them to. Duh.

The second week involved selling flowers. Not to give it away, but the winning strategy: if you’re aiming to sell something to stupid rich people, half of a big number looks like better value than a very very small number. Strange but true. And the next week was all about the wedding cakes, featuring one shaped like a cross between a boot and a cruise-ship. Because nothing says “I do” like a boot-shaped cruise ship.

As became almost immediately obvious, the team split was a huge mistake, one that only compounds with each task. If you’re looking to win a business-based competition, chumming up with a bunch of fellow highly-strung artistes is kind of a dumb idea. It’s like watching one of those hoop-jumping, child-rescuing superdog contests, only with a cohort of lean, mean former police dogs competing against a team composed entirely of well-fed purebred cats. It’s ugly, ugly television, let me tell you, and so much illicit fun to watch.