Tomorrow (if you’re reading this on Wednesday evening) or today (if you’re reading this on Thursday) is my birthday. It is really gratifying to know that everyone in the Untied States will be taking the day off work and gathering together in families to celebrate the occasion -- a great many of them, it seems, have chosen turkey as the top item on the menu for some reason. I’m not sure why, because I am not all that fond of it; give me a roast chicken any day. There’s also something about giving thanks. Because I expect dozens and dozens of people will have chosen a thankful theme for their TTs, I won’t add to that total. Instead, here is something different.
In recent weeks I have read a number of books which, by coincidence, contained accounts of bungling criminals and their failed attempts to commit robberies. There were quite a few of them but here, for your delectation and enjoyment of other people’s incompetence, are summaries of thirteen of them……… . . A shoplifter in Yorkshire picked the worst possible time to do a spot of stealing. The department store he chose was hosting a store detectives’ convention.
A burglar in Paris in 1964 felt a bit hungry after all that exhausting looting, so he went to see what he could find in the refrigerator. He found some cheese and expensive water biscuits and a couple of bottles of champagne. After consuming them he felt rather drowsy, as one would, so he went to the bedroom to lie down for a bit. He was found there the next morning, fast asleep, and arrested.
Thieves in Essex, England set out to rob a post office. They dashed into the building wearing stockings over their heads and it was only then that they discovered why no aspiring robbers should make plans using an out of date street guide. The post office had closed 12 years before and the place was now a small corner shop. The thieves grabbed a few coins from the till and fled, watched by a group of laughing customers.
It’s all in the details. A bank robber in Oregon passed a note to a teller that said “Put all the money in a bag.” The teller read it and said “I don’t have a bag.” at which point the robber gave up and ran off.
You can’t always blame the criminals. Sometimes it is the justice system that is at fault. A murder trial in Manitoba was halted by the judge after he discovered that the jury contained not one but two men who were stone deaf and had no idea what was going on, and a man who spoke not a word of English.
You do need to make sure you have the right equipment. Safe breakers in England, intending to cut open a safe, took the wrong equipment and all they succeeded in doing was welding it shut. Not only that but your equipment must be in suitable condition. A man in Scarborough, England decide that his motorcycle crash helmet would be the right thing to wear when doing a spot of store robbery, as the darkened visor would hide his face. Unfortunately for him, he forgot that at some point he had very carefully written his name, Clive Bunyan, in one-inch high letters in gold paint, across the front of the helmet. This was very helpful to the police. And you do have to make sure you do things in the correct order. Gregory L. Cornwell of Pennsylvania went into a bank, shouted that he was robbing it, waved a sawn-off shotgun to show he meant business, threw a canvas bag onto the counter for the cashiers to fill with money, and then put on his face mask. This simple error, that any one of us might make, led to his early arrest.
A bag snatcher from Tulsa, OK, decided to exercise his right to represent himself in court. “Did you get a good look at me when I stole your purse?” he asked a witness. He was then persuaded to allow a public defender to represent him, but he still ended up behind bars.
Apparently they don’t pay cops enough in Chicago. Two members of the Chicago Police Dept broke into an apartment to see what they could steal. The occupant saw them and was able to identify them by their badge numbers and the license plate of their squad car. They had committed the burglary while on duty and in full uniform.
Two men from Edmonton, Alberta robbed a gas station in Vancouver BC. Being from out of town, they were unfamiliar with their surroundings and after driving round for half an hour they stopped to ask for directions – at the gas station they had just robbed, where a police officer, taking a statement from the night manager, was handily available to arrest them both.
Again, it’s all in the details. A man went into a grocery store in Wandsworth, London and said to the owner, a Mr Razaq: “Give me the money from your till or I will shoot.” Mr Razaq spotted the flaw in the thief’s scheme straight away. “But you don’t have a gun.” he said, at which point the thief abandoned the whole idea and left the premises.
Obviously, safe manufacturers in Denmark know their job. Bank robbers in Munkebo, Denmark tried to blow open a safe in a bank there one night. They used six times as much dynamite as they had planned to, but the safe remained closed and locked. However, the explosion did result in the complete demolition of the bank itself..
Unsuitably named for a criminal, Homer Lawyer of Miami robbed a bank by handing the teller a note demanding money and gave her a canvas bag to fill. He then ran off with his ill gotten loot. The bank manager then discovered that Homer had very helpfully written his name and address on the back of the note.
A robber in Croydon, England came up with a clever plan to rob a supermarket. He wheeled a shopping cart with a few items to the cash desk and the cashier rung them up. They came to £4.50 so the robber handed over a £10.00 note. When the cashier opened the till drawer to make change, the robber reached in and grabbed a fistful of money and ran out of the store. Unfortunately for him, all he had succeeded in stealing was a £5.00 note and 20 pence in coins, so the supermarket actually made a profit of £4.80 on the robbery.
A special mention, for unbounded optimism, for a Nigerian building worker back in the 1960s. He received a pay cheque for £9 and he altered it to £697,000,000,090. He would have been a very rich man but the killjoy bank wouldn’t cash it. .
A Gentleman's Domain, Bonnie and Clyde, Burt Hirschfeld, C.C. Humphries, Charles "Lucky" Luciano, Charles Dickens, Charlie "Pretty Boy" Floyd, Diana Ossana, E.L. Doctorow, Jack Higgins, John Martel, Keith Waterhouse, Larry McMurtry, Michael Dobbs, Nicholas Temple-Smith, Richard Cox, Richard Gordon, Stephen King, Sue Townsend, Thursday Thirteen, Walter Winward, Winston Churchill
Here’s something for a quick laugh. Look at this. It seems that a certain Bimbo was hogging the limelight at the Republican Governors’ Conference in Florida. They met as equals, but that fiction didn’t last long! The media were only interested in one Governor, to the chagrin of all the others. A few of them were interviewed but a lot of them might as well have stayed at home. Make sure you also click on the link for the photo and see the Gubernatrix in question with her infuriated colleagues behind her looking for all the world like a row of pissed off chorus boys! But take comfort – 2012 is a long way away. .
The delightful Urban Recluse, and if you’re not regular a visitor to her blog then you should be, tagged me for a meme the other day. Very simple – just list 26 movies, one for each letter of the alphabet (no definite or indefinite articles allowed). Here is my selection……
Carry on Henry
Eye Of The Needle
Five Graves To Cairo
Ice Station Zebra
Juliet Of The Spirits
King And Country
Love And Death
Morgan, A Suitable Case For Treatment
Oh!What A Lovely War
Plan 9 From outer Space
Singin’ In The Rain
Time After Time
X, Y And Zee
I won’t tag anyone else but please have a go if you’d like to. Please link back to me and let me know you’re taking part. .
Writing a book is one thing. Finding a good title for it is another. This can often take several attempts before the author gets it right and even then it can still be far from settled. Since the title (and cover design) of a book are considered marketing decisions rather than artistic ones, the publisher usually has the last word in the event of a dispute with an author. Anyway, here are...
13 Classic (or at least well known) books and their rejected titles
“First Impressions” A good enough title for a book, but not as good as the one Jane Austen settled upon, namely “Pride And Prejudice”
For the most autobiographical of his novels, Charles Dickens decided that neither “Mag’s Diversions” nor “The Copperfield Survey Of The World As It Rolled” would do and he called it after the main character, “David Copperfield”
“All’s Well That Ends Well” There’s a nice optimistic title for you. Maybe Tolstoy remembered that Shakespeare had already used it so it was hardly original. Or maybe there was some other reason that he picked “War And Peace” instead.
Somehow “The Sea Cook” doesn’t have the same adventurous ring about it as “Treasure Island”
F. Scott Fitzgerald thought of the descriptive “Incident At West Egg” and the more metaphorical “Among Ash Heaps And Millionaires” before rejecting them both in favour of “The Great Gatsby”
“Tenderness” Is this a gentle romance? A fluffy love story? Not quite. So probably it was just as well that D. H. Lawrence decided instead to call his book “Lady Chatterley’s Lover”
“Something That Happened” could really be the title of any work of fiction. John Steinbeck at one time considered it for the work that we now know as “Of Mice And Men”
Somehow “Catch-18” doesn’t sound nearly as right as “Catch-22” which is probably why Joseph Heller didn’t pick it.
“The Terror Of The Monster”, “The Summer Of The Shark”, “The Jaws Of Leviathan” I don’t know if it was Peter Benchley or his publishers who decided that the best title would be one succinct word: “Jaws”
Stephen King chose the title “Cancer” for one of his books but on the advice of his wife, who thought it was far too downbeat and negative a title, he changed it to “Dreamcatcher”. I think his wife was right.
Xaviera Hollander suggested the title “Come And Go” for her ghost written autobiography but was persuaded to call it “The Happy Hooker” instead and in so doing she stumbled upon not only a name for her book but a catchy soubriquet for herself.
“Before This Anger” may have described his mood, but Alex Haley was right to reject it as a book title, and to call it “Roots” instead.
First she thought of “Tote The Weary Load” and then she came up with “Bugles Sang True” followed by “Ba Ba Black Sheep” which she rejected in favour of “Tomorrow Is Another Day” but then, thankfully, Margaret Mitchell decided that her novel should rightfully be called “Gone With The Wind”
A Gentleman's Domain, Alex Haley, Charles Dickens, D.H. Lawrence, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Jane Austen, John Steinbeck, Joseph Heller, Leo Tolstoy, Margaret Mitchell, Peter Benchley, Robert Louis Stevenson, Stephen King, Thursday Thirteen, Xaviera Hollander
Always keen to explore what’s out there, to seek out new blogs and new civilisations, I boldly went today to a blog called Five Feet Of Fury. Fury is right. It’s one of those angry, mouth-foaming right wing blogs by someone who is consumed with loathing for anyone who is not exactly like him/her. The conservative blogosphere is like that – they seem perpetually angry, always wanting to make life as miserable as possible for everyone else. Go have a look, if you’re not trying to digest something.
Just an example. The mismanagement of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina was a disgrace. Over a thousand killed, and the federal government unable to get any help to the stricken area for days. Sixty nations offered aid, but all were refused so that Washington wouldn’t lose face by accepting. “You’re doing a heck of a job, Brownie!” Subtext: who gives a shit about poor black people anyway (Remember what we learned from Fox News? White people forage, black people loot). I always thought that Barbara Bush was an insensitive cow for saying that the victims who had lost everything they owned were lucky because now they get to live in Texas. But that was just a spoiled rich woman’s ignorance. Sooner or later, the victims get the blame. That often happens. In this case, Five Feet of Bullshit Fury treats the hurricane victims as criminals and parasites.
Katrina surviors complain to this day that "the guvmit" didn't do enough for them, fast enough, politely enough. Gave 'em only $1000 debit cards to spend on lap dancers instead of, say, $5000. Made 'em move all the way to Huston where they were welcomed with open arms -- and promptly doubled the murder rate. Gave 'em yucky trailers -- damn it, why is the State giving people trailers in the first place, and double damn it, you people lived in yucky trailers in the first damn place. Under frickin' sea level.
The sad things is (apart from the obvious tragedy that anyone could be that ignorant) is that people like that will never be persuaded otherwise. Their anger and contempt is all they have. .
There's a rather sad article yesterday's edition of London's Mail On Sunday by that well-known life-loving pixie, Peter Hitchens, entitled "The night we waved goodbye to America..." in which he postulates (nice word, that: I don't think I have ever used it before) that the USA is now fallen into the hands of a left-wing dictator totally incapable of running the country. It's difficult to know exactly how to describe the main thrust of this article, although the words "drivel", "mindless" and "a load of" do spring to mind.
Yes, I will concede that Obama’s victory speech did contain the odd anodyne phrase or two, and yes, he did say “Yes we can” a time or two too often. Big deal. It wasn't anything to do with cults, or brainwashing -- it was euphoria that the right man had won and that what has gone before is about to come to an end, and not a momen too soon. But Obama as a socialist? A left winger? For shame, Peterkins! Obama could fit very comfortably in the centre of the British Conservative party. He is pro capital punishment, hasn’t said a word about universal free healthcare for life, has never advocated public ownership of production or distribution. Granted, in the USA a left winger is someone who doesn’t advocate public execution of people who don’t go to church and a Marxist is someone who cares about the welfare of people who aren’t white and rich, but in the real world Obama is as much a socialist as Hitchens is.
Anyway, read the article if you want. And if you don’t, you won’t be missing much. Today’s Mail On Sunday will be lining bird cages tomorrow. There is, though, one point I’d like to make. Hitchens implies that Obama is totally unsuited as an advocate for poor blacks in the USA because
Mr Obama, thanks mainly to the now-departed grandmother he alternately praised as a saint and denounced as a racial bigot, has the huge advantages of an expensive private education. He did not have to grow up in the badlands of useless schools, shattered families and gangs which are the lot of so many young black men of his generation.
And your point is? Do you forget that two of the twentieth century’s strongest advocates for the rights of the common man, FDR and JFK, were high born from an undeniably patrician background? The one does not rule out the other.
I was delighted to see the other Hitchens brother, Christopher, on the election night coverage panel on BBC America for an hour or so that evening, and he welcomed Obama’s success. As we all should. .
OMFG!! It looks as though John McCain’s dignified concession speech is about as good as it gets as far as the Republicans are concerned. Of course, any losing side in an election will hold an inquest, examine where its weaknesses were and generally make plans to do better next time. One or two sacrificial heads may roll -- that is to be expected -- but in general it’s always a good thing to keep recriminations as restrained as possible
Things in the Republican camp may be a bit more vigorous than that right now. If we are to believe what we read and hear (And why shouldn’t we? The meltdown is delicious!) there is a vast build-up of latent hostility between the McCain camp and the Palin camp that is about erupt into a bout of name calling , finger pointing and backstabbing . And Sarah herself it seems, is not the adorable bimbo everyone thought she was. Okay, she was a bimbo, but not adorable (Well, some people thought she was adorable. I always found her repulsive). We all know that she had no idea what the function of the Vice President is, and that she seemed to think that the First Amendment existed to protect her from the probing questions of reporters. Now it appears that she didn’t know which countries were included in NAFTA. And she thought that Africa was a country, not an entire continent. Yes, she could always be advised about these facts but surely, someone who wanted to understudy the presidency, who has reached the age of 44 and who has been through university, should already know these things. These aren’t arcane details of something outside the mainstream -- these are essential facts.
Have a look at this clip from The O’Reilly Factor on the Fox News network, which isn’t exactly known for its love of the Democrats. Tantrums? Paper throwing? Making her staff weep? So much for adorable. America had a narrow escape last Tuesday.