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January 30, 2004

From correspondence
Posted by Teresa at 12:11 AM *

John M. Ford writes:

A comment someone sent to Neil about hoping there was a monument to Wodehouse in London somewhere kicked off a story fragment, which may or may not become an actual story, about Stanley F. Ukridge encountering just such a searching American, and obligingly showing him the memorial to Sir Arthur Sullivan in Embankment Gardens (“Bronze, marble, nymph, mandolin—everything he could have hoped for”) followed by a round of drinks at the American’s expense at the Savoy Bar.

Ukridge decides, as he would, that this walking-tour thing would be a fine racket, and starts taking Americans to see the places where all six of King Henry’s wives got their heads chopped off (all, conveniently, now pubs), Mrs. Miniver’s back garden, complete with German sitzmark, and the statue of Robin Hood in Piccadilly Circus.

Thing is, London seems to be modifying itself in response to this; Ukridge is a bit worried to suddenly see a blue plaque in Covent Garden commemorating the first meeting of Prof. Higgins and Col. Pickering.

Title, of course, is “Town, Ukridge, Ricardus Tertius.”
Comments on From correspondence:
#1 ::: --kip ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2004, 02:01 AM:

Gosh, thanks. Just woke the Spouse from her light slumber, who rushed into my office, filled with concern: "What's wrong? Are you okay?" --She was not so amused at my sheepish explanation.

#2 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2004, 02:43 AM:

I feel overly-intellectual just for getting that one.

#3 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2004, 03:07 AM:

Tlon time since I heard such a pun.

#4 ::: Carlos ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2004, 04:51 AM:

I feel bifurcated.

#5 ::: Stuart Houghton ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2004, 05:10 AM:

*groan* Bravo, Sir!

#6 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2004, 06:18 AM:

My small wail when I read that one startled Patrick and Liz and the intern, and my explanation was as sheepish as Kip's. It is good not to be alone.

#7 ::: BSD ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2004, 07:41 AM:

Normally, I get these things, or can figure them out, but this is just being obstinate. Now I feel dumb.

(Speaking of Dumb and Liz, remind her that The Hand was a fiasco. Thanks.)

#8 ::: Robert L ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2004, 09:27 AM:

LOVE that title. BTW, this could work in NYC, too: on the south side of W. 35th St. between 9th and 10th Aves. there is an actual plaque stating that Nero Wolfe's town house once stood on that spot...

#9 ::: Keith ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2004, 09:29 AM:

I too chuckled but I couldn't even begin to describe why to my grandmother. Even little Borges jokes make me happy.

#10 ::: Derek Lowe ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2004, 10:05 AM:

Makes me want to sit down and have what I write turn out to be "The Code of the Woosters".

#11 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2004, 11:16 AM:

BSD, what's that all about?

#12 ::: Andrew Willett ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2004, 11:37 AM:

Derek, if you're not careful you could sit down and eventually discover you've written "Pierre Menard."

Robert has given me an idea. I think the next plaque needs to commemorate the former site of Doctor Strange's Sanctum Sanctorum somewhere on Bleecker Street. I figure it must be somewhere near Perry or Charles. C'mon, who's with me?

#13 ::: David Moles ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2004, 11:57 AM:

I wish there were more overlap between my Borges-reading friends and my Woodhouse-reading ones. Mr. Ford, write that story!

#14 ::: Andrew Willett ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2004, 12:20 PM:

(Of course, it could be worse. You could sit down and eventually realize that you've just posted something that completely misses the point of somebody else's joke.)

#15 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2004, 12:49 PM:

Dorothy Heydt has put a lot of work into training the inhabitants of rec.arts.sf.fandom to answer questions about references instead of just making more jokes.....

That devastating Ford pun is a reference to the Borges story "Tlon, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius". There's a summary at http://www.acsu.buffalo.edu/~jatill/175/SUMTlon.htm

I don't know whether there's an actual Ukbridge, or it's simply UK-bridge.

At this point, I'm also no longer absolutely sure that BSD really wants an explanation, or is posting a reference that I didhn't get.

#16 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2004, 12:54 PM:

I am sure all the readers of this page would appreciate the H.G. Wells monument in Woking; a stainless steel Martian tripod towers over the shopping district. But all the Robin Hood thisandthat in Nottingham can make one say enough, already.

#17 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2004, 01:10 PM:

Can anyone help me crack this short puzzle? I really don't know the answer. Never mind who asked me -- that story has too many Big Names.

What does this mean:

LL&thePofH

#18 ::: pericat ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2004, 01:21 PM:

There is an Ukbridge. My employer has clients there.

They could be making it up, though, come to think of it.

#19 ::: regyt ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2004, 01:33 PM:

::snort:: I think I just fell in love with John M. Ford. And a little bit with everyone else here who reads Wodehouse and Borges. Frabjous!

#20 ::: Dan Blum ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2004, 01:37 PM:
There is an Ukbridge. My employer has clients there.

I can't find an Ukbridge in the UK - I think your clients are doing business in a typo (for "Uxbridge").

LL&thePofH

With no context I'm afraid I get stuck on Superman's girlfriends.

#21 ::: PiscusFiche ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2004, 02:10 PM:

Curses. This sounds suspiciously like a short story I just started. Except it's set in North Carolina and based off of Lee and I not finding a record store a weekend ago. Raleigh has been modifying itself too. Lee and I went to go find tickets to the Henry Rollins show here, and lo, the record store where we wanted to get them from was totally missing. No sign of it at all. Not even the building, as it was a two story building, and the row that was left was all single story. No signs, banners, placards, saying, "We've moved." No signs of anything missing actually. Just the entirely-not-there-at-all-ness of a missing record store. On top of this, the roads keep switching, and the stars swing about in a most disorderly fashion, so naturally, I had to write about it. (I'm still going to forge ahead though, because the damn thing is nearly written out now. Two acts of three.)

#22 ::: pericat ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2004, 02:31 PM:

I can't find an Ukbridge in the UK - I think your clients are doing business in a typo (for "Uxbridge").

It's Friday. I get to be dyslekic on Fridays. It's in my contract.

#23 ::: language hat ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2004, 03:02 PM:

Oy... the pain, the pain...

I say, old horse, I'm not quite sure how we got from Ukridge to Uxbridge, but I trust the Wodehousians here all recognize the name of Stanley Featherstonehaugh (pronounced Fanshaw) Ukridge, first encountered in Love Among the Chickens.

#24 ::: Vicki ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2004, 03:22 PM:

Aaargh. I barely put my tea down in time. I should know better than to drink while reading something that is labeled as coming from Mike Ford.

#25 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2004, 03:38 PM:

Well, I didn't get it at all. Wodehouse but no Borges. Still don't.

But I made this comment years ago: Featherstonehaugh? BoSh!

#26 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2004, 06:35 PM:

Nancy, I'll grant the difficult of posting an asterisk inside a square when ASCII-art spacing isn't an option.

I posted the first comment in this thread with a link to the story in it, but Patrick protested that I should give people a day or so to kick it around first, so I deleted the comment. Here's the thing itself, complete: Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius.

#27 ::: Brad DeLong ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2004, 07:45 PM:

>>I feel overly-intellectual just for getting that one.

#28 ::: BSD ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2004, 09:22 PM:

I really did want an explanation, Avram just provided one. As to Liz and The Hand I swore to harass her about that forever. Good naturedly, of course.

#29 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2004, 04:07 AM:

On rasseff the asterisk-in-square fairly quickly got abbreviated to [*]. The meme has done a little bit of spreading to other rec.arts.sf.* groups, although you can't guarantee outside of rasseff that the person of whom you're inquiring will understand it.

#30 ::: Robert L ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2004, 12:43 PM:

All this also reminds me of the time I was reading Philip K. Dick's Now Wait for Last Year. At one point one of the characters goes to an address on Macomb St NW in the Washington, DC of the future. "Hey, that's where my friend Stephanie lives!" thought I. (She has since moved.) But that's what led to my learning that Stephanie's building was where Dick lived for a few years as a child.
Love the Dr. Strange idea if you can figure out exactly where to put it.

#31 ::: Alan Bostick ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2004, 01:05 PM:

Nancy Lebovitz: Dorothy Heydt has put a lot of work into training the inhabitants of rec.arts.sf.fandom to answer questions about references instead of just making more jokes.....

That speaks volumes about Dorothy Heydt, now, doesn't it.

Mike's pun went completely over my head. But I would never ask for an explanation.

#32 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2004, 04:10 PM:

OK, now I've read the story and I STILL don't get it...real a lot of Wodehouse, too. What's all that got to do with Richard III? (And what's a square with an asterisk signify?)

[sigh] Some of us just aren't cut out to swim with the big (lit) fish, I guess.

[goes and sits facing the corner wearing a tall, conical hat]

#33 ::: Dave MB ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2004, 06:51 PM:

Dorothy Heydt is one of the wonderful people
who make r.a.sf.w worth reading (to the extent
that it is). Her suggestion is a good one --
if you're posting an in-joke to a public forum,
and you think the readers would be better off if
they knew the punchline, isn't it better to give
the game away. After a suitable interval, of
course, to give time for follow-on in-jokes.

I've had no success with LL&thePofH, I've
only managed LR&theJofH plus the aforementioned
Superman girlfriends. The PofH that comes to
mind is an RPofH. I can't think of any way the
LL could be Lazarus Long...

#34 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2004, 07:19 PM:

Mike's pun went completely over my head. But I would never ask for an explanation.

Why not?

#35 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2004, 10:29 PM:

Xopher -- if the story were actually written, there would certainly be visits to Good Uncle Richard's sites (along with Arthur's and Lear's) on Ukridge's London tour. "Of course the Tube is very low-ceilinged in places, as the King was, as you are aware, a hunchback."

Which concludes my contribution to the discussion.

#36 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2004, 12:02 AM:

For what it's worth, I'm both baffled by Alan's assertion that he would "never ask for an explanation", and vaguely annoyed by the Dorothy Heydt notion that we must all explain all the in-jokes lest some of the children feel left out.

Call me stupid (many people do! it's evidently therapeutic!), but I don't see the harm in asking questions, nor do I see what's so terrible about people having in-jokes. Jeez, everybody, grow up.

#37 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2004, 01:05 AM:

For my part -- at rather a risk of being too obvious here -- I found it metatextually amusing to ask someone to explain why he refuses to ask for explanations.

#38 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2004, 01:12 AM:

Okay, BSD; but if Liz says it's irritating her, I will have to kill you. Sorry. Nothing personal about it. Every consulting editor at Tor has an in-house tracker, and she's mine.

David, it would be improper of me to say that Alan doesn't ask because his experience suggests that it's a bad idea, i.e. he's been trained; but he does, on reflection, Know Better; and if there's a more reliable consolation for getting older, I'd like to know what it is.

#39 ::: Robert L ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2004, 01:48 AM:

For my part -- at rather a risk of being too obvious here -- I found it metatextually amusing to ask someone to explain why he refuses to ask for explanations.

Because then he may end up having to ask, as Byron did of Coleridge "explaining metaphysics to the nation," that "I wish he would explain his explanation."

#40 ::: qB ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2004, 04:56 AM:

More synchronicity, language hat! I've just finished reading Love Among the Chickens courtesy of theProject Gutenberg e-text.

I shall remain silent on the subject of Borges on the grounds that I might incriminate myself.

#41 ::: Russell Martin ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2004, 11:20 AM:

"Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness"?

#42 ::: Naomi Chana ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2004, 12:09 PM:

One of the advantages of living alone is that nobody need be disturbed by my whoops of laughter -- but I am obliged to this comment thread for reminding me where Stanley Ukridge had been traveling just prior to his irruption into Wodehouse's oeuvre.

Now I am pondering the extent to which Love Among The Chickens is derived from that famous remark of Baltasar Gracian that the stars were "chickens of the celestial acres" -- which Borges very correctly calls blasphemous -- and as such whether Wodehouse and Borges were related in even approximately the same way as Omar Khayyam and Edward Fitzgerald.

This is all helping immeasurably in keeping me from writing a very dull book review. ;)

#43 ::: language hat ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2004, 01:18 PM:

"It had always been my experience that, when Ukridge was around, things began to happen swiftly and violently, rendering meditation impossible."
Which explains much of this comment thread.

Naomi: You mean Buenos Ayres, with a borrowed pipe?

#44 ::: Alan Bostick ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2004, 03:05 PM:

TNH: ...and if there's a more reliable consolation for getting older, I'd like to know what it is.

I'm not sure it's universally reliable, but my own experience is that the sex gets better, too.

#45 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2004, 06:36 PM:

I like the part in "The Aleph" where Jeeves and Wooster see the entire cosmos through an awkward place under the basement stairs, or maybe it was just Hugh Laurie's expression in the TV version.

And the bit where Jeeves shoves Spinoza through Borges' looking-glass, and then finds himself rerading his own obituary in the Anglo-American Cyclopedia, 1917 edition.

So he checks other dusty volumes of forgotten lore, including:

First Encyclopedia of Tlon; A General History of Labyrinths, by Silas Haslam; History of the Land Called Uqbar, also by Silas Haslam; and Lesbare und lesenswethe Bemerkungen uber das Land Ukkbar in Klein-Asien, by Johann Valentin Andrea; the title of the latter being read by Basil Fawlty after being hit on the head by the Moosehead and goosestepping in front of German tourist couple.

Of course, in "Very Good, Jeeves!" there is the sinister reference to Autumn Leaves by Gwendolen Moon, and also 'Twas on an English June by the same author, when it turns out at the end that Gwendolen Moon is really a pseudonym of Johann Valentin Andrea, to hint at the moons made of ice in the Hitler arcana.

Or is it fair to give spoilers for those who don't know that P. G. Wodehouse was in MI5, fighting the Machiavellin machinations of that blind "diplomat", the very Jorge Luis Borges who ran the Argentinian Operation for Professor Moriarty? Using "The Birds of the West Indies" by the actual James Bond as a cypher key?

Because, as we all know, James Bond was born in 1900, along Pine Street in Philadelphia. 89 years later, he died in Philadelphia, in Chestnut Hill. In between he had two careers, the first being a short one at the First Pennsylvania Bank. Imagine, James Bond as a bank teller. He couldn't imagine his whole life as that either.

So, he became an ornithologist at the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia for 50 years. A renowned ornithologist, he knew more about birds in the Caribbean than anyone else, visiting 50 islands studying them. He wrote the definitive book, "The Birds of the West Indies."

Another author, who wants you to think that his name was Ian Fleming, who created the character 007, also spent considerable time in the West Indies. He learned of James Bond, the "birdman." He crossed paths with Bond, although Bond, a rather quiet, but very handsome man, did not know it.

A year later Bond was in Philadelphia, where he saw a review of his book about birds in a London newspaper that also mentioned the fictitious Bond 007. That's how he learned Fleming had "stolen" his name.

DC and Marvel are suing over this, I think.

And, to be sure, W. Somerset Maugham was the spymaster parodied by the writer who wants to be known as John Le Carre, who is actually John Ford.

And John Anson Ford had that other pseudonym: Robert Anson Heinlein....

#46 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2004, 08:50 AM:

I never suggested (and neither has Dorothy, afaik) that people who post obscure jokes are obligated to include explanations with the joke
or even post them after the joke.

I'm promoting a policy of giving straight answers to people who ask for explanations.

Avram may have done a better thing by giving the explanation as an email rather than publically.

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