Une liaison dangereuse?

"These pockets are very full," said my uncle Chris, of the coat I'd lent him as protection against the biting London evening air.

"Yes," I replied, "there's all sorts in there. I should really clear them out."

So it was that I found a reminder of an evening in America almost 10 years past: a bracelet, an accidental memento of a girl with whom I had a brief, entirely unexpected but very enjoyable liaison. A night which my inexperienced and panicking mind then sought to ensure was unique by scaring the young woman in question with a very intense, confused letter.

I remember the bracelet because after our tryst, she'd expressed concern about it having gone missing. It had no value other than sentimental, she told me. I swore I'd look for it.

It wasn't until months later that I found it quite by chance, hiding in a suitcase pocket. By then I'd lost all nerve and decided to hang on to it as a keepsake. The wrong decision, I know.

But I thought I'd lost the bracelet years ago, and its sudden reappearance presents me with a problem. I'm not entirely sure what to do with it. Because I know I'm highly likely to meet the girl again in the autumn, for the first time since that night in October '96.

Except she's now, to the best of my knowledge, a married woman. A New York lady married to a Geordie. One with bad teeth, by all accounts, probably obtained by being very protective about his women.

I have to give the bracelet back, that much is clear. The question is how do I it while preserving as much face as possible.

And more importantly, how do I avoid causing a scene at a large Italian-American wedding? Not that I wish to bandy about stereotypes, but knowing the family as I do I don't want to spoil the bride's big day.

Please help me do the right thing. Or at the very least get out of this with all limbs and senses intact.


Random access memories

General stuff from the past few days, including...

* Star-spot of the week: Simon Pegg at Team Albatross' pub quiz (not at the Winchester, sadly). Not that he seemed to be trying to hide: as the quiz neared its climax and teams cheered right answers, he and his mate leapt up to high five each other. In a very post-modern, ironic way, natch. We owned his ass, by the way.

* Pain of the week: All good things must come to an end. Still, ouch. But we shall have our revenge.

* Phrase of the day: Fit to be tied. Meaning to be very angry, livid

After an unfortunate experience this morning (my cab into work was an hour and a half late - no fun when you've got up at 4.30 expecting your ride 30 minutes later. We can go into how incredibly lucky I am to have transportation to work provided for me in the wee small hours another time but for today let's just accept it as an unquestioned perk of the job) I professed that I was "fit to be tied".

I was met with nothing but puzzled expressions. No one in the office had heard it before. I was amazed. I'd thought it to be a phrase from the north of England - turns out it's most likely from the southern states of the US.

* Word of the moment: Meta-bigot. First coined by Slate's Sam Anderson to describe the gorgeous (in all senses) comedian Sarah Silverman and those like her.

"Silverman has become an important member of a guerrilla vanguard in the culture wars that we might call the "meta-bigots"—other members include the South Park kids, Sacha Baron Cohen's "Ali G", and the now-AWOL Dave Chappelle.

The meta-bigots work at social problems indirectly; instead of discussing race, rape, abortion, incest, or mass starvation, they parody our discussions of them. They manipulate stereotypes about stereotypes. It's a dangerous game: If you're humorless, distracted, or even just inordinately history-conscious, meta-bigotry can look suspiciously like actual bigotry.*

First used here.



As longtime visitors to nota benny may remember, I'm never one to hold back when the Oscars are announced.

Unfortunately this year the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences have given me little to complain about. Admittedly, had you told me six months ago after I'd seen Good Night, And Good Luck, that it would not be the magnificent David Strathairn taking home the Best Actor award, I'd have torn you a new arsehole. (Forgive the language, but my feelings regarding cinema can be a little on the strong side).

But that was before I'd seen Philip Seymour Hoffman's turn in Capote. My god, that man can act. Not that it's any real revelation but looking back over his career not only has he shown great versatility, but also the ability to portray credible, complete characters with unerring regularity.

It's a rare thing. Tom Cruise is always Tom Cruise. Tom Hanks will seldom be anyone other than Tom Hanks. Mr Clooney, talented though he is, will always be just too gorgeous to completely erase George's shadow from any of his roles.

But Philip Seymour Hoffman consistently creates characters who eclipse the actor: Joe White in State and Main, Punch Drunk Love's Mattress Man, the miserable Allen from Happiness, Boogie Nights' Scotty. Can't speak for anyone else, but I never think, "Hey - that's wotsisname up there." He's always 100% in the role. Truly, the mantle of Hollywood's greatest Hoffman has been passed from one generation to the next.

What he doesn't do though, journalistically speaking, is give good talking head. Watch any number of interviews, such as his post-Oscar presser (especially when compared with George's easy winning effort), and many recent print pieces have been "In conversation with..." or part of a group discussion. Whatever, one comes away feeling less connected to him or with less of an insight than one would necessarily want. Similarly, people who've spoken to him for the Beeb say it's hard to get more than 90 seconds of usable material out of him - a very poor showing when you're the hottest tip in town for a top award. Maybe he's just shy - he certainly wouldn't be the first actor to hide behind his art.

As long as he carries on putting in great performances, That's something I can live with. And how many other actors could credibly follow up something like Capote by playing the villain in one of the biggest blockbusters of summer 2006. There's only one reason that rather than avoiding it at all costs I'm actually excited about Mission Impossible 3 - and it sure as hell ain't Katie Holmes' baby's daddy (whoever he may be).

So, yeah, can't complain about the Academy's choice of winners. I have every faith they'll be back on form next year.

But fans of angry tirades don't go home completely empty-handed. I'm calling for a boycott of Vanity Fair after they evicted one of my (properly accredited) website colleagues from their party allegedly just because she wasn't a TV journalist. And if they think they can get round me with cheap stunts like nude covers of Keira Knightley and Scarlett Johansson they've got another thing coming. Or my name ain't Philip Seymour Hoffman.