Omir the Storyteller

Stories. Music. Politics. Technology. Baseball. Friends. Family. Potrzebie.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

::: thud :::


So . . . not only did the Mariners beat the Mets . . .

Not only did the Mariners beat the Mets in a relatively convincing fashion . . .

Not only did the Mariners beat the relatively convincing fashion and score four runs for Ryan Franklin in doing so . . .

The Mariners beat the Mets in fairly convincing fashion, scoring four runs for Ryan Franklin in doing so, against Pedro Freakin' Martinez.

Oh, and they've clinched something like their eighth series win in the last ten.

Somebody catch me. I think I'm gonna faint.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

The Lion and the Statue


Once many years ago, a man was friends with a lion. This doesn't happen much anymore, and I think it's a shame, don't you? Things might be better in this world if we befriended more animals.

Anyway, the man was showing his leonine friend around the ancient city of Athens. The lion marveled at the magnificent caves the men had constructed to live in. He saw the market where they obtained their food without having to chase it down first (much less fun, in the lion's opinion, but it takes all types to make a world), and he made a mental note of some really good sunning spots, should he ever happen back this way again.

This all changed a bit when the lion came to a particular statue. "Can't say I think much of that one," the lion said, and well might he not, for the statue showed a man ripping the lower jaw off of a lion.

"Oh, that," the man exclaimed with an embarrassed half-smile on his face. "That's a statue of Heracles defeating the Nemean Lion. It wasn't really a lion, you know," he continued sheepishly, which is an unfortunate adverb when you consider that he was in the presence of his friend the lion. "More like a giant, lionish beast. It just gets depicted as a lion in statues. Anyway, it's more of an allegory of the triumph of the mind of Man over the brawn of Nature."

The lion strode over to the statue, circled it a couple of times, looked it over in great detail, then gave it the Universal Feline Symbol of Disapproval. The same one you've probably stepped in once or twice if a cat happens to let you share its house. "Let me tell you something, friend," the lion said, "if lions made statues I'd show you something much, much different."

We are all too good at presenting things the way we wish them to be.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

An Innocent Man Has Nothing To Fear


"I quite disagree," said Horace.

"But why should he?" said Horace's friend. "If a man has done nothing, why should he worry? The facts of it will come out."

The year was 1909. Horace was a student at Cambridge, and keenly interested in politics. He happened to be in London that day, and had met up with a friend of his, a member of Parliament from Leeds. The topic of discussion had turned to crime and punishment, and whether an innocent man had anything to fear from the authorities.

The debate had been going on for some time when suddenly Horace sighed. "Perhaps you're right," he said in apparent acquiescence. He looked up absently, as if listening to some inner voice, then tapped his friend on the shoulder. "Race you to the corner?"

"You're on," said the MP.

"All right," said Horace. "Ready - steady - GO!"

The MP took off like a shot, but instead of racing, Horace began to scream bloody murder. "Thief! Thief!" he yelled. "Stop that man! He's got my watch!" Only then did Horace take off running after the MP.

A policeman at the corner the MP had been rushing toward grabbed the MP as he rushed past. "What's all this then?" the copper asked.

Horace rushed up to the policeman, out of breath. "Thank you, officer," he panted.

"Stop this!" the MP said to Horace, then turned to the officer. "Do you know who I am?"

"Can't say that I do, sir," the policeman replied. The MP identified himself.

"And my name, officer," Horace offered, "is Horace de Vere Cole."

Horace made a great show of reaching into the MP's jacket pocket and he pulled out a watch, which he had slipped into the pocket when his friend wasn't looking. Inside the cover of the watch was the inscription: "H. d.V. Cole."

The officer led the MP away, still protesting. "Don't worry," Horace called after him. "After all, an innocent man has nothing to fear."

About An Innocent Man Has Nothing To Fear


Whenever a list of great hoaxsters and pranksters is compiled, a few names invariably turn up. Alan Abel, the mad genius behind the Society for Indecency to Naked Animals; Hugh Troy, who spent part of World War II traveling ahead of ethnologists studying the lives of South Pacific islanders and bribing children with chocolate bars to tell the ethnologists outrageous and completely spurious native tales; and Horace de Vere Cole.

Cole (1881-1936) was an aristocrat, the brother-in-law of Neville Chamberlain, and a man with a fertile imagination that seemed perfectly tuned to making mischief. Coming across a loitering work crew one day, he directed them into Picadilly Circus and set them about digging a ditch (a feat later duplicated by Hugh Troy in New York). On his honeymoon in Italy, he spent some time on the mainland collecting horse droppings. He later surrepetitiously deposited them on sidewalks in Venice, which of course has canals instead of streets, leaving a puzzled populace to wonder how they had gotten there. (His wife must have been quite a remarkable woman.) And he perpetrated the Dreadnought hoax, where several of his friends (including a young Virginia Woolf) made themselves up as visitors from Abyssinia and were entertained as dignitaries by the Royal Navy.

Today's story is apparently true, and I believe I first heard it in H. Allen Smith's The Compleat Practical Joker. Smith was an admirer of Troy and Cole, and recounted several of their exploits in the book. Lately this particular story has taken on a darker side, though. Maybe it's just paranoia, but when the subject of the Patriot Act comes up, or people talk about you don't have to worry if you haven't done anything wrong, I can't help but think of Horace's friend the MP.

But, I don't want to end Sunday Griot on a downer, so let me offer you this tidbit I found while researching today's story. I'm sure that wherever he was at the time, Cole looked down on the scene with approval and amusement. The story is from the Financial Times by way of Norway's Handelshøyskole:


A fake orchestra joins the parade of phoneys

Wherever there is a gain to be ill got, there have been fakes and forgers. Yet, it is difficult not to hold a degree of sneaking admiration when an entire orchestra of impostors pulls off a grand deception. Last month ten thousand music lovers in Hong Kong paid to see performances by the illustrious Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra. The critics scribbled and the multitudes applauded. No one suspected anything amiss until it was discovered that the real Moscow Philharmonic was actually on a tour of France and Spain at the time.

Attempts are being made to identify the mystery music-makers. The Moscow Philharmonic has made it clear that it does not field a “B” team. Nor was this an upmarket edition of the TV series Stars in your Eyes, featuring an entire orchestra impersonating their favourite performers. Pop music generates its fair share of “tribute bands” hamming up the tunes of groups who are now far too grand – or defunct – to do the circuit of student balls and solicitors’ discotheques. But the Hong Kong farrago is a first for the classical world.

Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery. It also attracts more than its fair share of eccentrics willing to take their chances. For the breadth of his repertoire, the overall prize for gall should surely go to Britain’s master hoaxer, Horace de Vere Cole. Donning workman’s overalls, this highly improbable brother-in-law of Neville Chamberlain chose to dig an enormous crater in the middle of Piccadilly.

He even enjoyed a bit of friendly workman’s banter with unsuspecting passing policemen as he went about blocking the busy thoroughfare.

These days, such deceptions often have a less innocent intent. The real Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra has a right to feel aggrieved that its reputation has been tarnished by those taking its name in vain so shamelessly. But Hong Kong cognoscenti now demanding their money back ought to know when to keep quiet – they were loud enough when they applauded the bogus band to the rafters.
Thank you all for visiting today! As always, cheers to all of you, and happy stories until we meet again.