Frank Rich. Person of the Decade

Time after time, since I first discovered him writing a column in Section P (Arts and Leisure) of the New York Times, Frank Rich has surprised and delighted me but today he surprised and disappointed me.

As always, he has woven a glorious narrative knitting far flung ideas around a familiar but unlikely concept. Today’s concept is the idea that America likes to create mythic figures out of malevolent schemers and the dishonest schemes that they create. The malevolent schemer who prompted today’s rambling magnificence is Tiger Woods.

I have so far managed to avoid finding out what Tiger did because, as far as I know, it is a private thing and none of my business [if I made mistake and it really is something that concerns me, please let me know and I’ll go investigate and revise this rant – ed] so I don’t quite see what Tigers travails has to do with the rest of Rich’s otherwise excellent tour of the schemes and schemers who have so blighted the decade.

Back when Rich was still the NY Times’s drama critic, he managed to cover a lot of ground that the main editorial section was afraid to touch. He called bullshit on the weapons of mass destruction story that was running on the front page and that got the NYT in so much trouble (and the author in prison); he was against the Iraq war when the paper’s official position was that maybe we should slow down and think about this a little more.

If the pen is mighter than the sword, imagine how mighty you’d be writing with a sword dipped in ink. Well, Rich uses a machete and wields it in the direction of the greatest villains of our time. There were days in 2003 when it seemed like only Jon Stewart and Frank Rich were unafraid to say out loud what everyone else whispered in secret and the craven cowards of the NY Times editorial board merely suggested that they were somewhat unhappy with the situation in Iraq.

I can only imagine what it must have been like to be the editor of the Art Section when Rich’s latest column dropped in your inbox. Er… Frank, this stuff about Yellowcake Uranium is great but you know that Andrew Lloyd-Weber has anew show opening on Monday?

So. I really like Frank Rich. I think he is an American hero. But he is supposed to be going after the hard targets, not golfers who are having wife troubles.

Back in the days of my youth, Daley Thompson was a Great British Hero. He had displayed the same effortless transcendence as Tiger and, like Tiger, he excelled at his sport (the Decathlon). I remember him having a run in with the press for some stupid thing (that I don’t remember) and I remember thinking that he had a certain power in his hands. If Daley were to make the nasty, crawling British Press an offer…

You can have my public life but leave my private life alone…or…it’s all over and I quit. Your choice. Choose now.

He could have driven a spear into the heart of the beast from which it would never recover. I wish there were a way for Tiger to do the same.

Maybe he could call Daley and they could work on it together?

Fastest Hymn Sheet Monitor in the West

I was delighted to find that someone had left me the full lyrics for Judas and Mary I love strangers!

They are my favourite people. So kind. It made my morning.

The hymn sheet story was also a good excuse to get in touch with Mark who used to operate the other Hymn Sheet Contraption. He claims that he and Iain Turner were much faster than Graham Burton and I because Iain was a giant and Mark was really quick with numbers. If course, I don’t believe him because he also claims that he beat me in my very first 100 metres and everyone knows that’s just patently untrue.

The track at Chis and Sid was on not-very-well-kept grass (in the winter it was a rugby pitch) and was carefully arranged so that the home straight was up hill against a constant headwind. It made long distance races brutal because you’d be trying for a big finish but as you turned the corner a gale would kick up and you’d be struggling up the hill as your last reserves of energy seeped away.

Anyway, our school was big on sports and everyone had to do rugby or cross-country in the winter and cricket or athletics in the summer. Our summer PE lessons would have us going through all the track and field events one by one and the first we ever did was the 100 metres and I was in the same race as Mark.

It being my very first race and all, I didn’t know how to pace myself and I started rather slow. By 50m, I was a few paces behind the pack but I had a big finish and passed several people in the last 20m. I just managed to squeak by Mark at the finish line to finish in 14.2sec (that sounds crap, but remember it was uphill and against the wind and we were only 12).

Mark still maintains that he beat me that spring day in 1978 but we both know the real truth. I think the only way to resolve this issue is if we have a re-match.

How about it Mark? Are you scared?