November 0002


More Blues, Malheureusement. Also a Complaint, and the low down on String, Beer, Directions and Rats.


Otis P. Elsan, from Uppsala, Sweden writes.

Thanks for the information about Spoonsful Taylor. I’ve just rushed out and spent a fortune on his CDs(available only from Bald Eagle Discs of Milwaukee, by the way. I had some difficulty tracking them down.)Does anyone know anything about Bitter ‘n’ Twisted Jones? If I like the sound of him, I’ll rush out and spend a fortune on his discs too.

And here’s a remarkably speedy response, from Alphonsine Jared Pimbleman, Secretary of the School of Blues Studies, University of Alabama in Hicksborough.

I’m sorry to disappoint Mr. Elsan, but following the sad deaths of Professors Kramer and Wainwright, I think it is most unlikely that anyone alive knows anything about Cyrus “Bitter ‘n’ Twisted Jones, and now they’re dead, I must say I’m not so sure they knew that much either. Anyway, if you’re interested, they’re having a memorial service next Tuesday in the College Multi-Denominational Chapel at 3.00 pm. Professor Kramer’s family has requested no flowers, and Professor Wainwright’s has let it be known that he was especially fond of begonias, so I’ll leave you to work that one out for yourselves. If you want to attend, that is.

Unfortunately, Ms. Pimbleman’s letter has produced a surprising complaint, with some startling follow-up:

Hi there. I’m Agnes Schwarz, and I’m the president of the University of Alabama in Hicksborough Original Wiccan Society. I don’t know who this Ms. Pimbleman thinks she is, but how can she call that place a multidenominational chapel when our group isn’t allowed to have meetings there?

Agnes Schwarz, Donelly Memorial Dorm, University of Alabama in Hicksborough.

Agnes Schwarz can get stuffed. I’m Marvin Gunk, and I’m the president of the University of Alabama in Hicksborough True Wiccan Society. Her bunch only has five members, while we have seventy, and they split from us and not the other way around, and it was only six months ago. Her bunch thought the points on the ceremonial iron pentangle should be sharp enough to draw blood. We said this was dangerous, so they walked out on us, taking the pentangle with them, and we have reason to think they’ve vandalized it by sharpening the ends with an angle grinder. If we don’t get it back soon, we’re going to put a curse on them. We can do it too, we’ve got toe nail clippings from all of them.

Marvin Gunk, Calvin Coolidge Dorm, University of Alabama in Hicksborough.

Well, I’m the Dean of the University of Alabama in Hicksborough, and I’ve got a couple of things to say about all this. First, I want to say that no-one is sorrier than me about the deaths of Associate Professors Kramer and Wainwright, but the whole place is much quieter now they’ve gone, so good riddance. Secondly, who is going to pay to have the bullet holes in the canteen plastered over, eh? And, thirdly, Agnes Schwarz didn’t explain that the reason we forbade her group to meet in the Iris Greenspan Memorial Multi-Denominational Chapel™, and I’m getting fed up with telling people that for contractual reasons they need to use the full name, was the naked dancing and the animal sacrifices. If it wasn’t for that, they’d have been welcome on payment of the usual fee. Fourthly, I’m rusticating both Agnes Schwarz and Marvin Gunk for bringing the University of Alabama in Hicksborough into disrepute by washing our dirty linen in public.

Finally, something more positive.

My name’s Vince Darrow, and I’m the proprietor of Vince’s Vinyl. Ms. Pimbleman’s wrong. I know all about Bitter ‘n’ Twisted Jones. At least, I know everything there is to know about him.

Vince Darrow, Vince’s Vinyl.

Can you tell us about him then, Vince?

Otis P. Elsan, Uppsala, Sweden.

Sure, when I get the time.

Vince Darrow, Vince’s Vinyl.




Quite a few of you have written in asking to know more about Malheuresement, the French provincial weekly. How pessimistic was it, and why did it employ an Englishman as its food correspondent, are among the questions you wanted the answers to. We’ve got Daphne Parker to answer your questions for you. Here’s her entire letter:

Ropkind, it was so good to hear from you again! Yes, of course I’ll let you have a few words on

Malheureusement, and ta for saying no-one knows more about this stuff than me. Please, don’t put my name on it, as I’m having some tax problems at the moment, and need to minimize my income. Thanks darling!

Article starts:


was one of the more surprising success stories of French journalism in the 1920’s. It was founded by Hervé Bazain, who was an accountant by training. He spent the First World War working in the French Government’s Department of Munitions, and was perturbed by the number of trillions of (old) francs being spent on munitions. He argued strongly for the re-equipment of the French army with spears, as these were re-usable, while any kind of explosive represented an unconscionable waste, as once detonated, it had to be entirely written off. He found the experience of being over-ruled on this point to be exceedingly depressing, and he continued to brood over the constant wastage and his unfair treatment. He found many kindred spirits in the department where he worked, and concluded that the vast majority of French people shared his outlook. He was probably wrong about this, but there was in fact a substantial minority who did think like him, or who sometimes thought like him, as we shall see. In 1918, he found himself unemployed with only a senior bureaucrat’s pension to fall back on. He was 38 at the time, but fortunately, he had an uncle in the Directorate who was able to arrange for full early payments to be made to him.

Bazain also felt that his outlook, which he felt to be truly representative of France at least, and probably of the entire world, was not properly represented in public life, or what we now call the media. He therefore decided to found a newspaper to, as he put it, “place at least one entry in the credit column” 

He managed to find some run down and cheap premises near Bordeaux, and therefore started publishing from there on the 22

nd of January 1922. The headline on the first issue concerned the probable return of the Phylloxera virus which had devastated French wine production a generation earlier, and most of the rest of the paper contained other gloomy predictions for the French economy. Malheureusement
continued publication until February 1962, when its offices were burned by a Poujadist mob. Bazain was always able to find a negative angle on any story: For example, the post war baby boom was greeted with “Yet more mouths to feed” as a headline.

Your readers seem to be particularly interested in Geoff Bridges, and how he ended up as

food correspondent. One reason was that Bridges was cheap. A self-employed English teacher with a strong Birmingham accent in rural France during the great depression did not exactly have bright financial prospects. Another was that Bridges had the ignorance of and indifference to food that was common among minor public-school educated Englishmen of his time. To Bazain, who believed that French cuisine had been in catastrophic and continuous decline since the Revolution, such a man was ideal to write about contemporary French food. Bridges, of course, had a problem. He could not see any difference that counted between a brussel sprout and an escargot. When he cooked for himself, he ate nothing but cold porridge, as he thought it was as good as anything else. Other French food writers shunned his table. The enigmatic quality of his writings was an attempt to conceal this ignorance, an attempt that was entirely successful given their miserable outlook.

End of article.



Norman Pirbright, from Stamford Sluices, UK writes:

A few weeks ago, I read your article about the Metro in Mexico City. I’m a professional train spotter, so when I read your article I went straight to Mexico to see it, as it sounded really unusual. I went on a package tour to Cancun, and had a lot of trouble persuading the guide to let me go to Mexico City. She said it was too far for me to go by myself. When I got there, I went straight to the Metro, and got on line Xlll. As soon as the train started, I fell out of the seat and hurt my head. I think it was very irresponsible of you not to warn your readers about this possibility. Also, you should have told us that you really need to speak Spanish if you go to Mexico.

We’re very sorry, Norman, and we’ve sent you a book token and a Wonderful World Pencil, normally available only from the Ropkind Scharf Organization website, to make up for it.

We’ve also received a very strange complaint from Doris P. Whittlewhat of Happy Valley, Kenya, that Linea Xlll is not upside down enough. Frankly, we couldn’t make head or tail of it, as the entire southbound section is completely inverted.




If you pour a bottle of beer, the average head contains 300,000 bubbles. This is why a glass of beer feels so light when you lift it. A pint or litre contains a lot more bubbles than a bottle, and this is why a big glass of beer always feels lighter than a little one.


There is no such thing as East. All the other directions exist, but not this one. This is an effect of quantum mechanics. The best way to understand this is to remember that we live in a three dimensional world.

Obviously, there’s got to be a fourth dimension, but it has to be illusory.


Rats have no taste buds.