Robert Pimm

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How to stay sane: never take yourself too seriously

The lights go down.

Heavy metal chords ring out.

It is clear that Deep Purple have lost none of their ability to rock.

I’ve seen the loudest band of all time (Guinness Book of Records) twice: in Kyiv in 2011 and in Vienna in 2017.  I was fortunate enough to share a beer with Roger Glover and other band members after both shows. (more…)

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“Like all young men I set out to be a genius, but…” three quotations

How seriously should we take ourselves?

One of the keys to happiness is not to take yourself too seriously.  You can take life seriously, and your family, and your work.  You can, and should, take pride in yourself and your achievements.

But the minute you start thinking that you are a rather amazing person, and better than other people, you are in danger of taking yourself too seriously and should stop it at once.

“Thank you, Jeeves” is an absolute corker

I was reminded of this wisdom by one of this week’s three quotations, which are below. (more…)

Great Vienna cafes – Cafe Malipop turns 40!

Is kissing allowed in the Cafe Malipop?

How about smoking?

How about being cool and hanging out?

Clue: only one of these activities is allowed in the Cafe Malipop.

Here are eight reasons the Cafe Malipop is a great Vienna cafe (links in bold italics are to posts on this site):

(i) Viennese cafes, like London pubs, occasionally get “renovated” and, sometimes, ruined.  You can feel safe at the Malipop.  No renovation has taken place there since time began;

The Malipop: how a late-night cafe should be

(ii) the 10 Ungargasse address in Vienna’s Third District is far from the tourist trail, indeed far from trails of any kind unless you study at the nearby Music University;

(iii) like the Hard Rock Cafe, the Malipop has a song about it.  Malipopwritten and sung by legendary singer, activist and comedian Willi Resetarits (also known as Dr Kurt Ostbahn) is crooned in impenetrable Viennese dialect, opening with the lines:

Heid noch im Malipop, drink i an feanet, iss i an schbedsialdosd und rauch a smaat…

This means roughly: (more…)

James Bond and salad dressing? Nein danke!

Ian Fleming’s James Bond, created in a series of novels and short stories from 1953 to 1966, is unforgettable.  But his attitudes often now feel dated (links in bold italics are to other posts on this site).

Can one dislike Bond’s views, for example on women, yet still admire, or enjoy, his single-mindedness and style?  I think so.  If you cannot discount dated attitudes in cultural artefacts, you risk missing out on countless historical treats.

For writers, a character like James Bond is gold dust.  Like him or loath him, he is well written: he thinks about his actions, has values and opinions, behaves within a clearly defined framework, yet is full of ambiguity.  No wonder movie-makers want to exploit him.

Mention of movie-makers raises a key question: can you, or should you, attempt to update or adapt a character such as Bond?  That is what movie makers do, drawing on the original material in Fleming’s novels to create stories set in the present day which seek to update Bond selectively.  Results are mixed, although as I say in the piece at the link, many of us keep going back to cinemas in the hope Bond’s next outing will be better than the last.

Debate swirls around a black or female Bond: my view is that this would be perfectly permissible, so long as the character retained key characteristics such as sophistication, humour, gadgets, great grooming, and a merciless streak.

The cover of my Folio Society “Casino Royale” is suitably dated both in style and content – get a whiff of that cigarette smoke

Some adaptation and updating is essential.  A modern movie which used Bond’s line about a key – and formerly much-loved – female (more…)

East West Street: genocide? Or crimes against humanity?

I recently read East West Street by British law professor and international human rights expert Philippe Sands.

If you have any interest in the cataclysm which overtook eastern and central Europe between 1933 and 1945, I recommend East West Street.  It explains the development of the concepts of “crimes against humanity” and “genocide” against the background of the Second World War and the appalling crimes which took place in the run up to, and during, that conflict.

It also considers the relevance of what happened in 1933-45 today.

My copy of ‘East West Street’.  The endorsements ring true

Sands humanises and illustrates his account by focusing on four individuals.  Hersch Lauterpacht was a professor of International Law who developed the concept of crimes against humanity.  Rafael Lemkin was a prosecutor and lawyer who developed the concept of Genocide.  Hans Frank was Hitler’s lawyer and later governor-general of German-occupied Poland from 1940-45.  Leon Buchholz was Sands’s grandfather, who died in Paris in 1997 (‘He took Lemberg to the grave, along with a scarf given to him by his mother in January 1939. It was a parting gift from Vienna, my mother told me as we bade him adieu.’) (more…)

How to write great Nut-grafs & Cosmic Kickers: part 3

So you want to write a brilliant blog or newspaper article?  Help is at hand, in three easy stages.

First: decide your message, and make sure people want to read about it.  Part 1 of this series, 7 tips for writing the perfect article, explores how to ensure your piece will land well (links in bold italics are to other posts on this web-site).

Next: structure your article.  Part 2 of this series, Nut-grafs and Cosmic Kickers, sets out a simple 4-step template to write your piece – including how to get started.

What else?  Practice makes perfect.  Read pieces critically.  Understanding how others use these techniques will help you do the same.  Here, in Part 3 of the series, are two more worked examples.  I hope you find them helpful.  If you do, please feel free to re-post this series, or draw it to the attention of others.

Nut-grafs and cosmic kickers: two worked examples

The following article appeared in the Financial times of 22 October 2004.  It includes all the four elements – Lede, Nut-graf, Body and Cosmic Kicker – set out in Part 2 of this series.

Where even experts fear to tread

[Lede]

The Valluga II cable car above St. Anton is one of those boxy, old-fashioned affairs that sways from one mountain peak to another across a gulf of nothingness. At the entrance is a sign showing a pair of skis, crossed out. Next to it, to avoid any confusion, the words: NO SKIS.

“What’s that?” I ask Willi, a fellow skier with whom I am about to enter the six-person cabin.

“It’s OK,” he says. “It means no skis unless you have a guide.”

[Nut-graf]

For skiers who have mastered the basics, the benefits of skiing with a guide are not always clear-cut.  Holidays are all about freedom to do what you want, when you want, and to escape the workplace hierarchy. So it seems perverse to yoke yourself to someone who’s going to tell you where to go and what to do when you get there, especially when you have to pay them handsomely for the privilege. But a good guide can raise the quality of a day’s skiing from enjoyable to sublime. That’s why, when I make my next annual pilgrimage to Lech, in the Arlberg region of western Austria, I’ll be joining Class 3A (or maybe 2B) for at least half my stay to be guided around a resort I already know intimately.

Looking up the hill after the passage of a 3A class in Lech, February 2019 (more…)

Much Obliged, Jeeves – 24 quotations

For all you ardent Wodehouse fans, I have fine news.

Much Obliged, Jeeves is one of the funniest Wodehouse books I have read.

The cover of my Folio Society edition of “Much Obliged, Jeeves”

Why is Much Obliged, Jeeves so hilarious?  I put it down to a consistency and richness of comic language from start to finish.  In between laughing out loud and wiping the tears from my eyes, I noted so many fine lines that I had to cut the total down radically for this blog.

Here is my selection of quotations from Much Obliged, Jeeves: 

  • I am always glad… to renew my acquaintance with the unbeatable eatables dished up by her superb French chef Anatole, God’s gift to the gastric juices.  I have often regretted that I have but one stomach to put at his disposal.
  • [Of Aunt Dahlia’s stentorious voice] ‘I wonder whether she ever sang lullabies to me in my cradle.  If so, it must have scared me cross-eyed, giving me the illusion that the boiler had exploded.’
  • ‘My fiancée wanted me to,’ he said, and as his lips framed the word ‘fiancée’ his voice took on a sort of tremolo like that of a male turtle dove cooing to a female turtle dove. (more…)

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