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December 2008


Est. 1976

THE AMERICAN • DECEMBER 2008 • Issue 668




Enjoy London’s


Win tickets to see

KINGS OF LEON Carol Singing at the



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The American ®

Issue 668 – December 2008 Published by Blue Edge Publishing Ltd. Old Byre House, East Knoyle, Salisbury SP 6AW, UK Publisher: Michael Burland +44 (0)1747 830328 Please contact us with your news or article ideas Advertising & Promotions: Sabrina Sully, Commercial Director Nadia Abd Rabbo, Ad Manager +44 (0)1747 830520 Subscriptions enquiries: Phone +44 (0)1747 830328, email Correspondents: Virginia Schultz, Wining & Dining Mary Bailey, Social Cece Mills, Arts Jarlath O’Connell, Theater Bob Pickens, Columnist Richard Gale, Sports Editor Sean Chaplin, Sports Dom Mills, Motorsports Jeremy Lanaway, Hockey Riki Evans Johnson, European Nadia Abd Rabbo, Music

Welcome I

t’s that festive time of year again, but we are also in that strange, peculiarly American period between the climax of the election and the inauguration of the new President. On the fast-moving world stage, possibly the worst time to have a hiatus in the White House. Not until January 20th, 2009 will Barack Obama become president, and a lot of things may happen before that. This does at least give us time for reflection on what changes he may bring to America and world politics. Read the in depth articles by Sir Robert Worcester, Jo Cole, and, in a welcome return to The American, political analyst Dr Alison Holmes, previously known as our Transatlantic Columnist and now a lecturer at Harvard. Bob Pickens also has time for reflection, starting on page 12, as he reaches a personal milestone: living abroad for more than half his life. Enjoy your magazine, and have a Happy Holiday from all of us at The American. Thank you for your support in 2008.

Michael Burland, Editor


Sir Robert Worcester sums up the election, the current state of play, and the expectations awaiting President Obama.

Jo Cole, our insider on the British political scene, thinks that in the financial crash our eco-warrior credentials may be falling by the wayside.

Dr. Alison Holmes looks at how the mid-western states differ from the coasts and how Obama may bring them together.

©2008 Blue Edge Publishing Ltd. Printed by The Westdale Press Ltd 70 Portmanmoor Road, Industrial Estate, East Moors, Cardiff CF24 5HB

Don’t forget to check out The American online at

Cover: Kew Gardens (courtesy RBG Kew). Inset: Trafalgar Square and Christmas tree (© James Jenkins).

The entire contents of The American and are protected by copyright and no part of it may be reproduced without written permission of the publishers. Whilst every effort is made to ensure that the information in The American is accurate, the editor and publishers cannot accept responsibility for any errors or omissions. The views and comments of contributors are not necessarily those of the publishers.


The American

In This Issue... The American • Issue 668 • December 2008

33 Elena Roger - utterly compelling as Piaf


News Remembering fallen heroes, plus detailed advice from the Embassy about identity theft


Diary Dates Great things to do around Britain in December

12 As I Was Saying... Bob Pickens’ personal landmark that will have meaning for many of The American’s readers 15 Music News, reviews and gig suggestions 19 Competition ENTRIES MUST BE IN BY DECEMBER 15th! The Kings of Leon have rocketed to global superstardom. Win tickets to see them at Wembley

34 A New York breakfast in Wandsworth ‘N’ Roses, 15 Guns 17 years on

20 Coff ee Break A Christmas Quiz for those Coff ee Break moments 23 Cleaning the Thames Virginia Schultz volunteers to clean up the capital 24 London’s Winter Gardens Mary Bailey visits two beautiful destinations for a winter day out

50 Scooby’s Boxer Diesel


44 Sir Robert Worcester picks the election apart

The American

26 Lincoln Cent Check those old cent coins in your pockets for the designer’s initials. They could be worth a small fortune 29 Reviews Books on Dick Cheney, Heath Ledger, American History in England and the Blackbird spy plane. Plus the author of a new Neal Cassady biography writes for us 30 Kira Sternbach A new talent tells Jarlath O’Connell how she fought hard for her role in a London debut

24 Amazing Kew 54 ReddynastyWings build a

34 Wining & Dining Broome and Delancey and Just St James 38 Arts The arts scene in Britain doesn’t stop in winter. Read Cece Mills’ recommendations


44 Politics Democratic but divided America. The change that’s happening around us. And It’s the environment, stupid! 49 Drive Time Sensible cars for strange days 54 Sports A renewed dynasty, London v Guildford BBL ticket offer, and a tale of statues, goats and disputed champions as Richard L Gale takes a look at sporting curses

8 ornwall is the latest cultural 42 Ccounty under the spotlight

60 American Organizations Your comprehensive guide 64 Paw Talk Rebel writes about Grigio, the dog that saved a saint

The American

News In an incredible feat, Britain’s number one triathlete, the Olympian Tim Don, raced against the London tube’s Circle line – and won! [now why doesn’t that surprise me – public transport-bound Ed] The duel was arranged by sports shoe maker ASICS to celebrate the opening of a new store in Argyll Street. Don had to run overland from tube station to tube station around – or rather above – two stretches of the Circle line’s track, the 1 km between Baker Street and Edgware Road and the 5km from Tower Hill to St James’s Park, while sticking to London’s road network and even stopping at red lights. Meanwhile he was racing, and beating, a London Underground tube train taking the more direct route under London in real time. If you can find a tube map, the Circle line is the yellow one. Don said, “We all know that exercise is an essential part of our lives, whether we’re running simply for fitness or for competition. Running or walking to work is the perfect way for people to combine exercise in their daily routine, no matter how busy they may be. The tube’s a great form of transport, but it’s hardly the most comfortable or beneficial.”



s America remembered its military servicemen and women on Veteran’s Day, the American Eagle Foundation (AEF) held a special ceremony at its national eagle center to honor eight fallen soldiers who lost their lives in Iraq. In memory of these heroes, each of their families was invited to name a breeding bald eagle cared for by the conservation group. “The bald eagle is the living symbol of the freedoms these brave men gave their lives to protect,” said AEF Founder and President Al Cecere. During the event the AEF awarded special certificates and medals to each of the participating families. Signs bearing the names of the eight soldiers and the eagles named by their families were placed near the entrance of the bird housing/breeding enclosures as a permanent tribute. The soldiers honored by the AEF, all from East Tennessee, were


Man Beats Tube Train

Bald Eagles Named in Honor of Fallen Military Heroes Army National Guard Sgt. Alfred B. Siler of Duff, TN, whose family selected the eagle name “Peace”, Army National Guard Sgt. Joseph D. Hunt of Sweetwater (“Volunteer”), National Guard Sgt. Paul W. Thomason III of Talbot (“Freedom”), Army Staff Sgt. Daniel Morris from Clinton, (“Faithful Spirit”), National Guard Sgt. 1st Class Stephen Kennedy from Oak Ridge (“Hero”), Army Sgt. 1st Class James D Connell of Lake City (“Brave Heart”), Marine Lance Cpl. William C. Koprince Jr. of Lenoir City (“Honor”), and Marine Cpl. Rusty L. Washam from Huntsville, TN, whose family chose “Faithful”. The families were also treated to a free-flight demonstration by the AEF’s trained ‘celebrity bald eagle’, Challenger and had their photos taken with him. The captive non-releasable breeding eagles that were named are housed at the AEF’s Dollywoodbased headquarters in Pigeon Forge. The birds were given to the nonprofit organization in June 2007 by the San Francisco Zoo. “Future eaglets hatched by these majestic breeding eagles will be named and released into the wild in honor of other fallen soldiers,” added Mr Cecere.

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The American

Hey Mister, Can We Have Our Door Back?

Trafalgar Square Christmas Tree



his news came in November 1, but as The American went to press they were still looking for it... A small panel from a landing gear door fell off a KC-135 belonging to the 100th Air Refueling Wing Thursday during a routine refueling mission somewhere near RAF Mildenhall. The piece measures 1 foot by 2 feet and the Air Force says it does not have any hazards associated with it. During its refueling mission, the aircraft traveled from RAF Mildenhall north towards Conningsby, over the Wash, back to RAF Mildenhall, and then around the RAF Mildenhall traffic pattern. Mildenhall officials said the crew did not determine the panel was missing until the plane arrived back at the base and did not know where it fell off. If anyone discovers this door, they should contact local authorities immediately.


ou are invited to attend the annual Christmas tree lighting in Trafalgar Square. For many, the ceremony signifies the start of the festive period. It is also the start of a free carol singing season running from Monday 8 to Friday 19 December. During the fortnight, over 40 voluntary and charitable organizations will sing each evening between 5pm and 9pm in front of the traditional Norwegian Christmas tree and raise money for their good causes. Visitors can also visit the Café on the Square, which will be serving seasonal treats. The Christmas tree is a present from the Norwegian capital of Oslo to the citizens of London. A tree has been given by Norway to the British people for over 60 years, as a token of gratitude for Britain’s support during World War II. It is usually a Norwegian Spruce, over 70 feet high, selected from forests surround-

ing Oslo and felled in November. It is brought to the UK by sea and a specialist rigging team erects it in Trafalgar Square using a hydraulic crane. It is decorated in traditional Norwegian fashion, nowadays using energy efficient bulbs, and will be lit by the Lord Mayor of Westminster and the Mayor of Oslo. The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, said: “I can’t wait to see the Trafalgar Square Christmas Tree lit up in all its festive glory to mark the countdown to Christmas in London. I’d like to encourage all Londoners and visitors to the capital to come to Trafalgar Square to hear some of their favorite carols throughout December, donate to good causes and get in the mood for Christmas.” The lighting ceremony takes place on Thursday 4 December at 6pm. The tree will remain in Trafalgar Square until Monday 5 January when it will be taken down to be recycled.

The American AMERICAN EMBASSY IN THE UNITED KINGDOM Switchboard +44 (0)20 7499 9000 Visa Information (£1.20/min): 09042 450100 Mon-Fri 8.00am – 8.00pm, Sat 10.00am – 4.00pm Passport Unit (American Citizen Services): +44 (0)20 7894 0563 24hr assistance for genuine emergencies: +44 (0)20 7499 9000

Embassy News Identity Theft and Your Tax Records


dentity theft is a serious crime. Generally, identity thieves use someone’s personal data to steal their financial accounts and run up charges on their credit cards, but the IRS has identified other areas where this type of fraud may occur, relating directly to your tax records. Undocumented workers or other individuals may use your social security number to get a job. Their employer would report W-2 wages earned using your information to the IRS so it might appear that you did not report all of your income on your return.

Be alert to possible identity theft if the notice states that: ●

If you receive a notice, contact the IRS either by phone or in writing. IRS tax examiners will work with you and other agencies to help resolve the problem. The IRS does not initiate taxpayer communications through e-mail: ●

● ●

An identity thief may file a tax return using your social security number to receive a refund or stimulus payment. If the thief already filed a return using your social security number, the IRS will believe that you already filed and received your refund, and the return you just submitted is a second copy or duplicate. If you do receive a notice from the IRS that leads you to believe someone may have used your social security number fraudulently, please notify the IRS immediately by responding to the name and number printed on the notice or letter.

more than one tax return for you was filed, or IRS records indicate you received wages from an employer unknown to you.

The IRS does not request detailed personal information through e-mail. The IRS does not send e-mail requesting your PIN numbers, passwords or similar access information for credit cards, banks or other financial accounts.

legitimate enterprise in an attempt to scam the user into surrendering private information. ●

You can forward the message as received or provide the internet header in the e-mail. The internet header has additional information to help the IRS locate the sender. After you forward the e-mail or header information to the IRS, delete the message. Though you can’t prevent identity theft entirely, you can minimize your risk. Protect your social security number ●

If you receive an e-mail from someone claiming to be the IRS or directing you to an IRS site, ● ●

Do not reply. Do not open any attachments. Attachments may contain malicious code that will infect your computer. Do not click on any links.

Phishing is the act of sending an email to a user falsely claiming to be a

If you receive an e-mail or find a website you think is pretending to be the IRS: Forward the e-mail or website URL to the IRS at

Don’t carry your social security number (SSN); leave it in a secure place. Only give your SSN when absolutely necessary. Your employer and financial institution may need your SSN for wage and tax reporting purposes. Don’t give a business your SSN just because they ask for it. Find out why before giving it out. Ask why your SSN is needed and if other types of identifiers can be used.


The American

Diary Dates

Your Guide To The Month Ahead

Get your event listed in The American – call the editor on +44 (0)1747 830520, or email details to Imperial Ice Stars – Cinderella On Ice UK Tour Conceived and choreographed by Tony Mercer, widely regarded as the world’s leading creator of theatre on ice, together with highly respected coach Evgeny Platov, dual Olympic gold medallist and four time World Champion, and last year’s ice dancing World Champions Albena Denkova and Maxim Staviski. The 25-strong cast of Olympic, World, European and National Championship skaters comprise the cream of Russian skating talent. to June 13, 2009

Hans Christian Andersen’s Magical Tales BMW Group Plant Oxford Creation Theatre Company’s unusual show in an unusual venue – the beautiful 100-year old Mirror Tent (Spiegeltent) at BMW’s Oxford factory. 01865 766266 November 25, 2008 to January 17, 2009


Tennessee Williams Season British Film Institute, Southbank, London 25 years since the death of Tennessee Williams, this is a once-in-a-generation programme that offers audiences a unique journey through some of Tennessee William’s most powerful and dramatic screenplays including Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and an extended run of A Streetcar Named Desire. Also pays tribute to some of the great performers of the 20th century, such as Elizabeth Taylor, Paul Newman, Marlon Brando, Robert Redford, Natalie Wood and Montgomery Clift. 020 7928 3232 to November 30, 2008 Jean Muir: A Fashion Icon National Museum of Scotland An exciting new exhibition celebrating the work of acclaimed British fashion designer, Jean Muir (1928-1995). Muir was part of the British design revolution of the 1960s, her look based on signature fabrics, colours, details and precision cut and fit. Her work has graced the wardrobes of celebrities including Lauren Bacall, Joanna Lumley, Barbra Streisand, Judi Dench and Diana Rigg. to March 19, 2009 Babylon British Museum, London An exhibition exploring the rich legacy of the city of Babylon – what is now Iraq. The British Museum’s response to the Iraqi cultural heritage crisis. to March 15, 2009

Christmas Markets Across the UK and Europe Christmas markets are fun and a great way to get all your festive requirements as well as presents. Among the best in Britain are in Bath, Bournemouth, Canterbury, Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland in London, Leeds, Portsmouth and Waterperry in Oxfordshire. Check the website for dates and details. to December 23, 2008 Coen Brothers season BFI, Southbank, London Retrospective of films by Joel and Ethan Coen, long recognised as filmmakers who riff on classical Hollywood and so to accompany the screenings of their films will be a number of familiar titles from Preston Sturges, Frank Capra and Nicholas Ray and many more. November 18, 2008 to December 30, 2008 Lost & Found Orchestra Royal Festival Hall, London London premiere by a very unusual orchestra, the brainchild of STOMP’s creators, with traffic cone trombones, medieval bellow-powered synthesisers and monstrous, siege engine-like organs made from drainpipes. November 19, 2008 to January 11, 2009 Thanksgiving Service at St. Paul’s Cathedral St. Paul’s Cathedral, London The Thanksgiving service at St. Paul’s has become a tradition among American visitors, expatriates, and their British friends. Ambassador Robert H. Tuttle invites all interested parties to attend the service. 11am. thanksgiving_service.html November 27, 2008 Anglo-American Concert by Candlelight St. Martin-in-the-Fields, Trafalgar Square, London

The American

This Anglo-American Concert by Candlelight at St Martin-in-the-Fields, Trafalgar Square features Peter Fisher and the Chamber Ensemble of London performing a wide range of pieces including Bernstein arr Dankworth - Overture to Candide; Purcell - Chacony; Clive Jenkins - Five Pieces for Clarinet and Strings; Delius - Air and Dance; Vieuxtemps arr. Fisher - Yankee Doodle Variations and Copland - Hoe Down from Rodeo. St Martin’s has recently been refurbished at a cost of £36 million. The results are stunning. November 28, 2008 Winter Wonderland Hyde Park, London A spectacular attraction open from 10am to 10pm every day, seven days a week. It focuses on London’s largest Ice Rink, set against the City’s most stunning natural backdrop with a 50 metre Giant Observation Wheel, toboggan slide, German Market, free visit with Father Christmas with each child being given a special gift. Free to enter with tokens for all rides and attractions available for purchase on the day, but advance booking is recommended for the ice rink and giant wheel. www.hydeparkwinterwonderland. com0844 847 1771 or 0871 231 0824 November 29, 2008 to January 04, 2009 Hansel and Gretel Barbican Theatre, London The Barbican Theatre is transformed for a promenade performance of the classic Brothers Grimm fairytale Hansel and Gretel by Catherine Wheels Theatre Company. this enchanting production, audiences travel with Hansel and Gretel through an eerie forest where they discover a tempting sweetie house and come face to face with an evil hungry witch. Hansel and Gretel is a wonderfully spine-chilling adventure for children (aged eight plus) and adults. 120 7550 December 01, 2008 to January 04, 2009

Christmas Capers at Warwick Castle Warwick Castle, Midlands

Christmas Tree Forest – the castle grounds are transformed into a wintry wonderland of towering Christmas trees, breathtaking ice effect sculptures and a menagerie of magical creatures. Story Time with the Snowflake Fairy – your little ones are transported to another world through the magic of storytelling in the lavish State Rooms. An Audience with Santa. Meet the Christmas Tree Elf, Jack Frost and the Fairytale Princess. Christmas Craft Fair (Nov 29-30). Christmas Carols at the Castle (Dec 20). December 06, 2008 to December 04, 2008 The Nutcracker, Sleeping Beauty and Manon English National Ballet at the London Coliseum 67 top-quality dancers from 20 countries, a full symphony orchestra and glittering sets and costumes bring to life the much-loved Christmas favorite The Nutcracker, Sleeping Beauty and, in a new production for ENB, the tragic love story Manon. Various dates and times. 0871 911 0200 December 03, 2008 to January 08, 2009 The Mistletoe Ball Dorchester Hotel, Mayfair, London A seasonal fundraising ball in aid of Cancer Research. Alison Worwood, 07771 977674 December 05, 2008

Harrogate Pavilions Christmas Fine Art & Antiques Fair Harrogate Pavilions, North Yorkshire 01277 214677 December 05, 2008 to December 07, 2008 Twelfth Night Wyndham’s Theatre, London Michael Grandage’s production of Shakespeare’s bitter sweet comedy with Derek Jacobi starring as Malvolio, the grandiose and ridiculous major domo. wyndhams0844 482 5120 December 05, 2008 to March 07, 2009 The 28th Great Christmas Pudding Race Covent Garden, London Kick off the festive season while raising vital funds for Cancer Research UK.

The American Mathieu 020 7795 0055 December 15, 2008

Christmas by Candlelight for Salisbury St Martin’s Church, Salisbury Sarum Voices choir has at its core many ex-Salisbury Cathedral choristers. Their programme of unaccompanied music includes new arrangements and music heard for the first time as well as old favourites. 01722 320333 November 20, 2008

Form a team wearing fancy dress or company branding. Each six-person team runs around Covent Garden Market carrying a pudding on a tray while using their skill to negotiate a number of obstacles along the way. Prizes and trophies for the winning team and the one with the most creative costumes. December 06, 2008 Christmas Spectacular Concerts The Musical Museum, 399 High Street, Brentford TW8 Two Christmas Concerts on December 7th at 2.30pm and 13th at 7.30pm, featuring Donald MacKenzie at the Wurlitzer; the Barbershop Quartet ‘Swanning Around’; the amazing sounds of the Theremin; and the fantastic capabilities of the Pianola. 020 8560 8108 December 07, 2008 and December 13, 2008 Festival of Trees Gala Dinner Natural History Museum, London In aid of Save The Children. Leading


designers from the world of fashion and design, use their flair and innovation to create spectacular and bespoke Christmas trees that are adorned with gifts of luxury items and opportunities to enjoy special events or experiences in a thrilling auction. 0207 012 6942 December 09, 2008 Magnificence of the Tsars Victoria & Albert Museum, London 200 years of men’s ceremonial costumes from the Kremlin Museum’s collection. Includes the wardrobe of the boy emperor Peter II who died in 1730 aged 14, costumes and weapons worn at court, a jeweled telescope, snuff boxes and portraits of Tsars. 7942 2000 December 10, 2008 to March 02, 2009 Carols by Candlelight St. Paul’s Church, Wilton Place, Knightsbridge Drinks and Mince pies on the church steps after the concert in aid of Macmillan Cancer Relief.

Midwinter sun in an ancient tomb Maeshowe, north-east Orkney, Scotland At one of the finest architectural achievements of prehistoric Europe, older than the Egyptian pyramids. At sunset on midwinter’s day (21 December, the winter solstice) the sun shines down the length of the entrance passage and dramatically illuminates the back wall of the main chamber for a few minutes. December 21, 2008 Tom Bawcock’s Eve Mousehole, Cornwall A festival held in celebration of the efforts of one Tom Bawcock to lift a famine from the village. During this festival Star Gazy pie (a mixed fish, egg and potato pie with protruding fish heads) is eaten. Probably derived from a pre–Christian midwinter festival. December 23, 2008 New Year’s Eve / Hogmanay Across the UK, but especially in Scotland New Year’s Eve is a massive celebration in Britain, particularly in Scotland, where it is called Hogmanay. Listed as one of the top 100 things to do before you die, Edinburgh’s Hogmanay Street Party brings Princes Street and the Gardens alive with festivities, around 100,000 revellers gathering to bring in 2009 in style. One of the world’s biggest outdoor parties it includes candle-lit concerts, ceilidhs and rock-bands. December 31, 2008

Happy Holidays to all our readers from The American.

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The American

As I was saying... There’s no place like home… or is there? Bob Pickens wonders if you can ever go back – and what lies ahead for America


ne recent night I had a dream that I was being swept toward a weir, and that friends were paddling furiously to reach out to me as I was pulled closer and closer to a translucent blue whirlpool. I woke from the nightmare as I flung my arm across the bed, a physical reaction to my imagined last desperate attempt at rescue, and then lay there for a while in a semi-slumber, recounting what my id, or whatever it is that controls dreams, had just put me through. My first thoughts were of the time many years ago when I had watched a frogman lift the blackblue body of a teenaged boy out of the water of Gulfport Harbor.

Unlike Dorothy, Bob wonders if you can really go back home


”Each month I get a little bit closer to having lived half my life outside the United States.” Then, in that state of semi-sleep my reflections turned philosophical, and I wondered if it wasn’t the time just before death and one’s behavior in their last earthly moments that people fear more than death itself. And then, very oddly, just before I drifted back into a sound and comfortable sleep, I began to think about having lived abroad for so long, and how, so far away from home, I could reaffirm my American-ness. And I again began to saw away at a huge pile of logs. I don’t usually remember my dreams, so when the alarm clock went off and I could recall the episode from several hours earlier, it was obvious that there had been something special about this one. Herr Dr. Freud could probably interpret what it really meant, but considering the sort of conclusions he usually arrived at, I don’t think I would want to know. I doubt that it would be so simple as I just don’t particularly like the idea of drowning. Nope, something else is there, and several weeks later, with my untrained mind, I still keep trying to

figure out what it is. It’s strange that my first, half-conscious, post-traum reflections would have taken such a peculiar turn, and that I would have made a connection between things as unrelated as my identity and being carried away by a current, and even stranger that the thoughts of who I am would focus on nationality. Perhaps there is a logical connection; maybe the dream was symbolic of what is happening to me, or rather what is just about to happen.

The point of no return

Each month I get a little bit closer to having lived half my life outside the United States. By my reckoning it will be some time in the spring when I reach that date. It won’t mean a fig to anyone else, but for me it will be an enormously important milestone. Sort of like reaching the point of no return over the ocean, which my aviator father used to describe to me: once you get to that position in your flight, there’s no turning back. You’ve gone too far to turn around and make it back to your starting point. You have to keep going forward, because if you are going to make landfall, that’s the only way you will. My personal landmark may not be as critical as making accurate calculations for a transoceanic flight, but I have no doubt that one day this spring I will seek the solace of a cold beer and some sittin’ time on the front porch for some serious ponder-

The American

Pretty soon this could become Bob Pickens’ favorite sport

ing about whether I go forward or turn back. I will wonder whether, because I have been abroad for most of my life by choice, have I gone so far that there is no way back. Have I been untrue? I don’t think so – but I also know that some people back home do.

My true blue US passport

When I reach the day that most of my life will have been spent outside my homeland, I will share a trait more usually associated with refugees, fugitives or malcontents. I am none of those. I didn’t have to flee a conflict or justice, I certainly don’t have the income to justify being a tax exile, and I’m actually quite proud to be an American – just like it says on the bumper sticker on our pickup truck back in Kansas City. Apart from times when I have been stuck in the “other nations” queue at Heathrow’s passport control or the row of cars going through the immigration channel at Dover, I‘ve never seriously entertained thoughts of applying for a British passport, even though I am entitled to do so. I even occasionally get a good feeling when

”I occasionally get a good feeling when handing my true blue US passport over ... in an old-fashioned way, I feel privileged to be able to carry an American passport.” handing my true blue US passport over to the officer at the end of those long lines because, in an old-fashioned way I suppose, I feel privileged to be able to carry an American passport. Anyway, it was my belief that my line of work required that I remain solely a US passport holder as a sign of commitment, and undiluted in national affiliation. My day job is different now, so I admit that the practicality of also being a British national has a bit more appeal to me. After all, I pay taxes here (lots of them), I have become involved in a couple of local government com-

mittees, I pay a mortgage to a British bank for a house in a pleasantly leafy Surrey suburb, I shop at Lord Sainsbury’s stores and drink warm beer, cheer for the England teams in the European championships and do just about everything a British person does, except vote, serve jury duty and bow to the Queen. Actually, I’d probably make a pretty respectable British citizen; but I’m still at odds with the notion of getting a second passport. That impending milestone about having spent the majority of my life abroad keeps me amazed at how the situation ever managed to come about in the first place, and second, what I’m going to do about it. Could I go back home and easily assimilate into my old community? Thomas Wolfe, who spent a good deal of his life in Europe, is generally credited with inventing the old chestnut that “you can’t go home again,” and he was right. I hear stories about how people who live abroad for many years return Stateside and, having observed the world from a different perspective, find they no longer share the same terms of reference as people


The American

who have only ever looked at it from a domestic viewpoint. It could get difficult to share a conversation over coffee and pie down at the local café. I know the items at the top of their serious-issues-of-the-day list would rarely ever match mine. They’d still be crazy about gridiron football, while I’ve lost almost all interest in the stop-go-stop-go television production it has become. If somebody walked past them wearing a burqa they would stare until their eyes popped out, while these days I hardly turn my neck. Long, neon, four-lane strips of fast food joints would only make me crave a curry – and there won’t be an Indian take-away for a hundred miles. If I go back home to rediscover the things I miss so much: family, Fourth of July, corndogs, lightning bugs, pro baseball, the smell of hot asphalt after a summer shower, redbud trees and Spanish moss, crappie fishing from a canoe and, especially at this time of year, Thanksgiving, I know it would not be long before I would find myself missing the things that have become so much of my life over here, especially some of the dearest friends one could ever hope to have.

A chance to reprieve America

On my springtime front porch contemplations I will also have to consider a new mood sweeping the United States, which is catalyzing a renewed sense of duty as an American outside America. A month ago, when Barack Obama stepped forward to address a quarter of a million people gathered in Grant Park, Chicago, to hear him acknowledge becoming


”Theworldisexpecting somethingdifferentfrom Obama,becauseheisa differenttypeofPresident.Markmywords, weexpatsaregoingto getcaughtupinit.” our President-elect – something he did with an eloquence unheard in Illinois since it sent another of its citizens to the White House 148 years ago – almost the first words he uttered were a direct address to the wider world, to say that his administration would be deeply conscious of America’s current status in the world community, and that he intended to take seriously the President’s obligations to non-Americans, too. He should say that, and he must deliver it; the world is expecting something different from Obama, because he is a different type of President. And, mark my words, we expats are going to get caught up in it. There is an anticipation that over the coming months, and perhaps years, we may yet get a chance to reprieve ourselves from the some-

times arrogant behavior our nation has shown toward other countries, cultures and religions, since the occasion seven years and three months ago when almost the entire world felt our pain and, for a short while, allowed the curtain of acrimony to fall. There are few people today who will look back at recent history and not say that our leaders squandered the global outpouring of goodwill that we received. If we are to get that second chance, then I want to be in the corps of Americans who are in a front-line position to extend a collective hand of reconciliation. If I do reach out with other Americans abroad to be a good ambassador for my country will I, too, be delivered? Unfortunately my dream didn’t help me divine the future, as I woke before I knew whether or not my last, desperate lunge had touched a rescuing hand. But I like the idea that, perhaps, it foretold the opportunity for some sort of personal, and national, redemption. ★ Below: In the coming years will the world have a different image of America?

The American


Will.I.Am Releases Obama Victory Song


ill.I.Am was one voter who was confident about the results of the presidential election. The Black Eyed Peas front man prerecorded his new song ‘It’s A New Day’ in support of Barack Obama’s victory. The song debuted on his website “It’s about Obama winning, and really paying tribute to those people who are responsible for that happening, and that’s the American people,” said Will.I.Am. “The whole thing is really for people to leave testimonials ... to create a page and leave testimonials on how they feel about this American accomplishment.”

Chinese Democracy Comes At Last Like his previous viral releases, Will.I.Am called on his celebrity friends to send their video testimonials in support of Obama. Earlier this year, Will released the song ‘Yes We Can’. The video collage featured celebrities such as John Legend, Nicole Scherzinger, and Common. You can see them on the website.

Whoah, here comes another format...


ax, shellac, vinyl, cassette tape, CDs, MP3 digital downloads, memory sticks, vinyl again… Kids (particularly) are listening to music in more ways than was once thought possible. Now French software company Musinaut have come up with a new format. Do we need it? Well this one promises to offer an exciting new element – interactivity, for both the originating musicians and the listeners. MXP4 has been tested by bands, producers and DJs across Europe and the USA through the fall and went live worldwide in September. It claims to allow artists to add new creative dimensions to their music by creating ‘skins’ and alternative arrangements of tracks in one multimedia file which will play back dependent on rules that the artist decides when building the file. It’s an extra ‘fourth dimension’, Musinaut says, that can even surprise the artists. A band no longer has to decide on a final version, they can now lay down several versions depending on what individual band members prefer! Multimedia content can be added to the file as well. The launch version of MXP4Player and MXP4Creator software is PC and Mac compatible and can be downloaded free from Tutorials and sample videos can be viewed at Music fans can check out MXP4 technology at, and


f course, we’re not talking about the general enfranchisement of the largest population on Earth. No, this is much more important than that. At least to the legions of Gun ‘N’ Roses fans who have been waiting 17 years for the band’s follow-up to 1991’s Use Your Illusion album. Was it worth the wait? Many will chorus a resounding Yes! judging by the title track. With a brooding riff and menacing vocals – Axl Rose sounds like he hasn’t aged a day since the last album was released – it sounds like the real deal, in fact stronger than a good deal of the band’s previous output. Chinese Democracy, the song, is the lead single from the album and it has been played on British radio to good reviews. Preorders of the album are reportedly strong. The 14-track album has been produced by Rose and Caram Costanzo. The UK release date is November 24th, 23rd in the U.S. and it is out on CD, digitally and on vinyl, which comes with a free download of the tracks, on Black Frog/Geffen Records in the States and Polydor in the UK.


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ALBUMS THEOF MONTH Peter Green - The Anthology (4 CD box set) Salvo

No Regrets

Randy Crawford & Joe Sample Wrasse Records


he original music Sample – founder of the Crusaders Joe Sample, plus Randy (Rainy Night in Georgia) Crawford, tackle soul (Aretha and the Staples’ Respect Yourself), blues (Every Day I Have The Blues) and show tunes (Me, Myself and I) standards with a quality acoustic jazz combo. It’s what you might expect, late night jazz club with impeccable manners and great playing, with a couple of unusual pieces. The one song on the album that doesn’t work well is the title track - a soul version of Edith Piaf’s Je Ne Regrette Rien. Faring better is Juice Newton’s Angel of the Morning, given a rhumba makeover. Crawford’s voice is on particularly top form on Starting All Over Again and the bluesy Lead Me On. The album should get you in the mood for Randy and Joe’s dates in the UK in November (28th Birmingham Symphony Hall, 30th Manchester Palace Theatre) and December (2nd Brighton Dome, 4th London, Hammersmith Apollo).


Eric Clapton may have played faster, but Peter Green was the man who shook up the Chicago-copyist approach of the British bands of the early 60s and transformed rock music. He was also the man of whom B.B. King said, “He has the sweetest tone I ever heard; he was the only one who gave me the cold sweats.” Green was the original guitarist in Fleetwood Mac. Before that he played in John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers among other bands. This four disk anthology, a must-buy for blues rock fans, is a journey through his musical career and also his personal life. The two are always intertwined. To understand the music you must know the background, otherwise you will wonder: at the genius of the playing – not in notes per second terms but in emotional impact - and the greatness of the songwriting, especially Oh Well, Man Of The World and The Green Manalishi (with The Two Prong Crown). But you will also wonder why Green threw it all away, disappeared for two decades and then only reappeared as a shadow of his former self. The answer lies in the music, especially those three songs. Green suffered from crippling psychological problems that destroyed him creatively as much as made him a great musician. Oh Well is a cynical, sarcastic exposé of self-image, religion and relationships, all in two and a half minutes and two verses, followed by seven minutes of epic Spanish soundscape. Man Of The World is

possibly the loneliest, saddest record ever to hit the charts. And Green Manalishi is an LSD trip gone wrong set in music. Despite his talents Green never felt he was any good as a guitarist. And he felt guilty about commercial or financial success, trying many times to give away all his money. A three-day acid trip after a concert in Munich, Germany helped tip him into schizophrenia. In 1970 he left Fleetwood Mac. After twenty years he formed Splinter Group and, while remaining active (releasing nine albums with the band and several solo works) he never regained the creative heights of his late ’60s masterpieces. It is a tragedy in the fullest sense – something bound to happen, impossible to avoid. One incident sums up the lost years for me. I saw Green just for an instant in the ’80s while hanging out with a band who were playing at the Rock Garden in Covent Garden, London. At the sound check, a rotund, shambling man wandered in. The band’s singer briefly spoke to him and the tramp-like figure, startled, disappeared again. I asked who it was. “Peter Green,” he said sadly. Why did he run off? “I made the mistake of asking him if he’d like to sit in with us and play a couple of songs.”

The American

Dr Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog


The Rutles: All You Need Is Cash (30th Anniversary Edition) DVD, Second Sight Films


f it’s true that the best parodies are affectionate ones, this proves the point. A joint effort between, among others, a Python (Eric Idle), a Bonzo Dog (Neil Innes) and a Beatle (George Harrison! in a small part, but involved in the film from the early stages) and directed by Gary Weis could hardly go wrong. Pre-dating the similarly inspired This Is Spinal Tap, The Rutles is, of course, a spoof of The Beatles – their music, their personalities and the madness that surrounded their career. It is peppered with appearances by ’60s stars like Mick Jagger, Paul Simon and Ron Wood and Saturday Night Live alumni John Belushi, Dan Ackroyd, Gilda Radner and Bill Murray. Innes is quoted as saying “George made it possible ... out of all the Fabs, he was the one who wanted to put the suit in the cupboard and move on. Things had got so silly ... it was time for something sillier to be done!” Who better to oblige than Innes – writer and singer of the Paul McCartney co-produced I’m The Urban Spaceman – and Monty Python member Idle. McCartney was apparently less keen on The Rutles parodying his band, but rumor has it John Lennon reputedly loved the video and the accompany-

ing soundtrack album. Eric Idle says “Ringo liked it after 1968, he said. I was never sure quite what that meant!” The Rutles are the Pre-fab Four: Ron Nasty, Dirk McQuickly, Barry Wom and ‘the quiet one’ Stig O’Hara. A short list of some of their song and album titles gives the flavour: Let It Rut, Tragical History Tour, A Hard Day’s Rut, Ouch!, the majestic Sgt Rutter’s Only Darts Club Band, the psychedelic Piggy In The Middle and of course All You Need Is Cash itself. The music is accurate to the point of ‘being’ The Beatles if you don’t listen to the lyrics too closely. The production of the songs is brilliantly evocative of the way The Beatles’ sound evolved. The songs closely follow the originals, so much so that Neil Innes eventually had to give a cowriting credit to Lennon & McCartney on some. DVD extras include a Commentary by Eric Idle, a documentary on the making of the movie Get Up And Go: The Making Of The Rutles, another on the music Inside Shabby Road, and a couple of deleted scenes. It is the marriage of Idle’s Pythonesque humor with Innes’ tack-sharp musical spoofs that makes The Rutles worth watching – and re-watching. Long live Rutlemania!

rom the creator of Buffy and Firefly comes this oddity: a 42-minute minimusical now available through iTunes. Dr Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog debuted on the internet after being created as a side-project by the Whedon brothers during the Hollywood writers’ strike, and as a measure of the creativity tinseltown could be giving us, the result is refreshing to say the least. This is the tale of the eponymous antihero’s ill-fated love for laundrette love interest Penny (sweetly played – and sung – by Felicia Day). Dr Horrible himself is a wanna-be supervillain who seems more driven to villainy by his nerdiness than by any trace of inherent evilness, thwarted by his nemesis, egotistical hunk Captain Hammer (Nathan Fillion), and relating his progress to webcam between cut-away musical numbers. The cast sparkle, and so do the Sondheim-esque songs – the best being reserved for Neil Patrick Harris (How I Met Your Mother), who is expression-perfect as Dr Horrible, playing the part for laughs and more than a little sympathy, and delivering the vocal goods too. If, like me, you still remember him more for Dougie Howser MD, you could be in for a surprise. The soundtrack costs £7.99, but the whole show is downloadable for a mere £3.99. Brevity may be its strength, but at the same time, I enjoyed Dr Horrible enough that the tragic ending played out just a little too quickly for me. Like the central character, this is genius – but flawed genius. RG


The American



Here is The American’s selection of the best live gigs in the next few weeks. (Please check with venues as details may change.)

Joan As Police Woman

She’s named herself after the ’70s cop show starring Angie Dickinson, but Joan Wasser couldn’t be more contemporary. Coming out of loud, harsh-edged bands like The Dambuilders and Those Bastard Souls, she discovered a quieter part of her soul and has emerged with an idiosyncratic but beautiful voice and strong songs that defy genre. From her punk roots she has been asked to work with the likes of Tanya Donelly, Sheryl Crow, Sparklehorse, Lou Reed, Dave Gahan, Elton John, the Scissor Sisters, Antony and the Johnsons, Joseph Arthur and Rufus Wainwright. See her on tour: December 4th Cambridge junction; 5th Leeds’ Brudenell Rooms; 7th Brighton, Concorde 2; 8th Bristol, Thekla; 9th London, Shepherds Bush Empire; 10th Nottingham, Rescue Rooms; Gateshead, The Sage; 13th Edinburgh, Liquid Rooms; 14th Manchester Academy 2; 15th Belfast Empire.


Primal Scream

Bobby Gillespie & co are playing on the NME Rock ‘n’ Roll Riot Tour, promoting new album Beautiful Future. They’ve never been fitter and seem to be enjoying playing live more than ever. With a history of shapeshifting, incorporating elements of musical evolutions like psychedelia, metal and dance because they liked them rather than for commercial reasons, you’re never sure what the Scream will play live, but it should be fun finding out. November 23rd Bristol Academy; 24th Southampton, Guildhall; 25th Reading, Hexagon; 27th Nottingham Rock City; 28th London Hammersmith Apollo; 30th Norwich UEA; December 1st Sheffield Academy; 2nd Brighton Dome; 4th Birmingham Academy; 8th Leeds Academy; 9th Newcastle Academy [extra date]; 11th Liverpool Academy [changed date – original tickets valid]; Manchester Apollo; 13th Glasgow SECC.

Counting Crows

Counting Crows are a massively popular live band. If you’re reading this before November 30th there’s still time to enter The American’s competition to win tickets for the band’s Wembley gig. See last month’s issue, or if you can’t find a copy, email theamerican@ and ask for details of how to enter. Support comes from Ben Folds and Melée. Dates are: December 2nd Newcastle, Metro Arena; 4th Nottingham Trent FM Arena; 5th London Wembley Arena; 7th Manchester MEN Arena; 8th Cardiff CIA; 10th Bournemouth BIC; 11th Brighton Centre; 13th Birmingham NEC; 14th Sheffield Arena; 18th Glasgow SECC – with special guests The Hold Steady.

The Pogues

An uproarious time is sure to be had by all. A celebration of Shane McGowan’s survival as much as a concert, a Pogues gig is always (and sometimes literally)

The American

a riot. The Washington Post reviewed a March 2008 concert in America, saying McGowan was “puffy and paunchy” but “still has a banshee wail to beat Howard Dean’s… He grew more lucid and powerful as the evening gathered steam” December 7th Glasgow Academy; 9th Leeds Academy; 11th Newcastle Academy; 12th Sheffield Academy; 13th Manchester MEN Arena; 15th Birmingham Academy; 16th Bristol Academy; 18th & 19th London, Brixton Academy.

Saw Doctors

Another Irish band that adds a rocky edge – this time bar band not punk – to its Irish roots music. A favorite live act of The American’s editorial team, we would urge anyone to go along who wants to enjoy a Guinness-fuelled evening bouncing along to singalong tunes that can make you laugh and sometimes cry, even if you’re that rare American who doesn’t claim Irish roots. November 29th Glasgow, Barrowland; December 1st Falmouth Princess Pavilion; 3rd Bristol, Anson Rooms; 5th & 6th [extra date] London, Shepherds Bush Empire; 7th Wolverhampton Wulfrun Hall; 9th Oxford Academy; 11th Cardiff, The Point; 12th Liverpool Philharmonic; 13th Leeds Academy; 15th Crewe M Club; 16th Cambridge Junction; 17th Sheffield Plug; 19th Glasgow, Barrowland; 20th Manchester Apollo.





ollowing their 2007 sell out show, the family quartet from Nashville return to Wembley Arena on December 22, 2008 Fresh from their headline appearances at three major summer festivals – Oxegen, T In The Park and Glastonbury – the Kings of Leon add their final live date of 2008 at the legendary Wembley Arena. Having made their Wembley debut in 2007 with one of the fastest selling and biggest shows of the year, the Followill family return to the Arena on the back of the release of their fourth album, Only By The Night. HOW TO ENTER TICKETS HAVE TO BE WON BY MIDDAY, MONDAY DECEMBER 15!!! Win one of three pairs of tickets for this fabulous pre-Christmas concert by answering this question – all correct answers will go into a draw. QUESTION: The Kings of Leon are three brothers and their first cousin, all with the family name Followill. Which one is the cousin? A








Send your answer with your name, address, daytime telephone number and email address (optional) to reach us by mid-day, Monday December 15, 2008. Email it to with KINGS OF LEON COMPETITION in the subject line. Or send a postcard to: KINGS OF LEON COMPETITION, The American, Old Byre House, Millbrook Lane, East Knoyle, Salisbury SP3 6AW, UK. Tickets are for the December 22 performance. You must be 18 years old or over to enter this competition. Only one entry per person per draw. The editor’s decision is final.

To be sure of being the first to know about upcoming gigs at Wembley Arena, register TODAY with For more information or to book tickets call 0844 815 0815 or visit


The American

Coffee Break FESTIVE Quiz QUESTIONS 1 A  ccording to British tradition, eating at least one what on each of the 12 days of Christmas is thought to bring luck for the coming year? 2 W  hich country is the largest exporter of Christmas trees? 3 I n what year were the first commercial Christmas cards sent?

4 W  hich Christmas movie was centred around the mishaps of the Griswold family? 5 I n the Christmas carol, what line follows “God rest ye merry Gentlemen”? 6 W  hat were Santa’s reindeers names in the poem ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas?

7 A  special Christmas episode of which TV show saw Santa’s reindeer killed and replaced by new reindeer called Steven, Fluffy, Horace, Chantel, Skippy, Rainbow, Patches and Montel? 8 A  ccording to the lyrics of the famous Christmas song, what was Frosty The Snowman’s nose made from? 9 W  hat Christmas related item was designed in 1843 by J.C. Horsley? 10 Who had a top ten hit single in Britain in 1956 with I’m Walking Backwards For Christmas? (a ‘10’ on the difficulty scale, but seasonal!) 11 What festive character is known as Dedushka Moroz in Russia 12 In which U.S. state does most of the movie White Christmas take place? 13 But in which film did the song White Christmas first feature? 14 And who wrote the song? (Clue below)


The American

17 Which famous ballet is about a young girl`s broken Christmas present? 18 In the song ‘The Twelve Days Of Christmas’, what did my true love give to me on the 12th day? 19 What word associated with Christmas could be illustrated by `ABCDEFGHIJKMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ`? 20 Which famous book begins with the line ‘Marley was dead, at least to begin with’? 21 Which country began the tradition of exchanging gifts at Christmas? Germany, England or Italy?

25 When was Queen Elizabeth II’s Christmas speech first televised? 26 Who made a TV broadcast on Christmas Eve 1968 that was the most-watched television program ever to that date? 27 If you were born on New Years day, what would your star sign be? 28 What is the name of the dog in The Grinch Who Stole Christmas? Ben, Max or Rod? 29 Christmas Island is a territory of which country? 30 Christmas Island is surrounded by which ocean?

22 What three gifts did the Wise Men (below) bring in the nativity story?

31 Just to check you’re reading the magazine, which country traditionally provides Britain with a Christmas tree for Trafalgar Square in London?

23 And what were the Wise Men’s names?



Answers on right. PHOTO: Nina Aldin Thune

16 Which was the first U.S. state to recognise Christmas as an official holiday?

24 Which day of the year was the song Jingle Bells originally written for? New Years Day, Boxing Day or Thanksgiving?

Coffee Break Quiz Answers 1 Mince pie; 2 Canada; 3 1846 4 National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation; 5 Let nothing you dismay; 6 Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, Blitzen 7 South Park; 8 A button; 9 The first Christmas Card; 10 The Goons; 11 Father Christmas (it means Grandfather Frost); 12 Vermont; 13 Holiday Inn; 14 Irving Berlin 15 The celebration of Christmas; 16 Alabama; 17 The Nutcracker; 18 Twelve Drummers Drumming; 19 Noel; 20 A Christmas Carol; 21 Italy; 22 Gold, frankincense and myrrh; 23 Gaspar, Melchior, and Balthazar; 24 Thanksgiving; 25 1957; 26 The crew of Apollo 8 (Frank Borman, James Lovell and William Anders); 27 Capricorn; 28 Max; 29 Australia; 30 Indian; 31 Norway

15 What did Oliver Cromwell, the puritan ruler of England, ban between 1647 and 1660?

October Issue Competition Winners The lucky (and skilful) winners of our tickets to see Queen + Paul Rodgers were Juliet Culleton of London EC2, Stephen Cooper of London SW15 and Glenn Wychgram of Thetford, Norfolk.


The American

It happened one... December December 2, 1927 – Following 19 years’ production of the Model T, the Ford Motor Company unveils the new Ford Model A. December 3, 1805 – Lewis and Clark Expedition mark their explorations from the Missouri River overland to the Columbia River on a pine tree. December 4, 1619 – 38 colonists from Berkeley Parish in England disembark in Virginia and give thanks to God (considered by some to be the first Thanksgiving in the Americas).

December 5, 1848 – California Gold Rush starts: President James K. Polk confirms that large amounts of gold had been discovered in California.

December 6, 1790 – The U.S. Congress moves from New York City to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. December 7, 1787 – Delaware is the first state to ratify the US Constitution. December 8, 1980 – John Lennon is murdered in front of The Dakota apartment building, NYC, by Mark Chapman.

December 9, 1793 – New York City’s first daily newspaper, the American Minerva, is established by Noah Webster. December 10, 1868 – The first traffic lights are installed outside the Palace of Westminster (Parliament) in London. Resembling railway signals, they use semaphore arms and are illuminated at night by red and green gas lamps.


December 22, 1937 – The Lincoln Tunnel opens to traffic in New York City. December 23, 1954 – The first human kidney transplant is performed by Dr. Joseph E. Murray at Peter Bent Brigham Hospital in Boston, MA.

December 11, 1964 – Che Guevara speaks at the United Nations General Assembly in New York City. An unknown terrorist fires a mortar shell at the building during the speech.

December 24, 1906 – Radio: Reginald Fessenden transmits the first radio broadcast at Brant Rock, Massachusetts. It consists of a poetry reading, a violin solo, and a speech.

December 12, 1917 – In Nebraska, Father Edward J. Flanagan founds Boys Towns.

December 25, 1223 – St. Francis of Assisi assembles the first Nativity scene.

December 13, 2003 – Former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein is captured near his home town of Tikrit.

December 26, 1620 – 1919 - Babe Ruth of the Boston Red Sox is sold to the New York Yankees by owner Harry Frazee.

December 14, 1903 – The Wright Brothers make their first attempt to fly with the Wright Flyer at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.

December 27, 1831 – Charles Darwin embarks on his journey aboard the HMS Beagle, during which he begins to formulate the theory of evolution.

December 15, 1939 – Gone with the Wind premieres at Loew’s Grand Theater in Atlanta, GA.

December 28, 1895 – The Lumière brothers have their first paying audience at the Grand Cafe in Boulevard des Capucines, Paris marking the debut of the cinema.

December 16, 1773 – The Boston Tea Party – Members of the Sons of Liberty disguised as Mohawks dump crates of tea into Boston harbor as a protest against the Tea Act.

December 29, 1890 – The Wounded Knee Massacre.

December 17, 1903 – success for the Wright Brothers! The first powered and heavier-than-air flight in the Wright Flyer at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.

December 30, 1924 – Astrophysicist Edwin Hubble announces the existence of other galaxies.

December 18, 1620 – 1932 - The Chicago Bears defeat the Portsmouth Spartans 9-0 in the first ever NFL Championship Game.

December 31, 1909 – Manhattan Bridge opens.

December 19, 1932 – The BBC World Service begins broadcasting as the BBC Empire Service December 20, 1951 – The EBR-1 in Arco, Idaho becomes the first nuclear power plant to generate electricity. The electricity powered four light bulbs.

December 21, 1913 – Arthur Wynne’s

Scott Hudson

December 1, 1919 – Lady Astor, born Nancy Witcher Langhorne on May 19, 1879, in Danville, Virginia, becomes the first female member of the British Parliament to take her seat.

“word-cross”, the first crossword puzzle, is published in the New York World.

The American


orty years ago, the River Thames was declared biologically dead. There were no animals, few fish and hardly any plants. Today, the Thames thrives with life and everything from seals to dolphins have been spotted in the heart of London. Despite this change, people continue to use this remarkable river to dump everything from bicycles to petrol cans. The Tidal Thames carries this harmful litter to sea threatening the wider marine environment. Because of their concern for the environment, a young couple in my apartment complex, Richard Acklund and Vivien Gunewarchena, asked for volunteers to join them and Thames21 to clear up the area on the south side of the river from Wandsworth Bridge to near the Helicopter Port. Thames21 is an environmental charity that mobilises thousands of volunteers each year to help clean waterside grot-spots, remove graffiti and create new habitats for wild life. Thames21 provides everything needed from equipment, insurance as well as Health and Safety instruction. They also arrange for the Port of London or Local Authority to remove the litter collected. At ten o’clock Sunday morning fifty volunteers showed up despite pouring rain and donned special safety boots and gloves provided by Thames21. We were, according to

by Virginia E. Schultz Chris Coode, River Programmes Coordinator, one of the largest groups to participate in a clean up. With the tide now at its lowest ebb, we climbed down a permanent ladder connected to the brick barrier, then another and started to work. Plastic bags, car tires, a bicycle, paint can, plastic baskets were what was normally expected, although a gun found by one of the volunteers did come as a surprise. Chris had told us finding a gun was always a possibility and the police were immediately called. Three hours later most of us were finished and soaking wet. It never stopped raining. I took off my very muddy boots and gloves and went home to take a long hot shower. As well as regular clean up activities Thames21 has launched Project Habitat, a two year program researching ways to improve biodiversity on the Tidal Thames. They also run successful programmes like Canalkeeper and Riverkeeper Volunteers, Adopt-A-River and Foreshore Explore. They are always looking for volunteers. If you have a group of five people or more, or a company organization that might be interested, visit: or email: H

Volunteers have a great time cleaning the Thames. Images courtesy The Wyndham Grand London, Chealsea Harbour. 20 of their staff volunteered


London’s Winter Gardens Winter is almost upon us but there is still plenty to see and do in Britain at this time of year. Mary Bailey visited two gorgeous examples of gardens that are great throughout the year.


ork has begun on a massive restoration scheme which will return the famous gardens at Chiswick House to their former splendour. £12 million has already been raised towards this project, with £1 million still to go. Chiswick is known throughout the world as the birthplace of the English Landscape movement and is greatly influential. This concept of informal gardens developed in 1729 and changed the face of English garden-

Top left Chiswick House, Top right Head Gardener Fiona Crumley. © English Heritage


ing, moving away from the straight lines and formality of the Renaissance. Lord Burlington and William Kent pioneered the change to a more natural style which influenced the gardens of Blenheim Palace and countless other great gardens including New York‘s Central Park. Chiswick Gardens have always been loved by Londoners. They are beautiful, an open space so ‘near in’ to the city centre, just by the Hogarth roundabout on the A4 highway leading out of the city to the west. Entrance is free and dogs have limited access. Most of the gardens are open while the reconstruction is going on and it is hoped that they will be restored to their full former glory by 2010. A full range of flora and fauna call Chiswick home. As well as beautiful flowers, there is accommodation for a variety of bats and, of course, there is the River Thames for water fowl. The old 19th century conservatories are being rebuilt. They housed the world famous camellia

collections, some of which were planted over 200 years ago and include what is thought to be one of only two surviving Middlemist Reds in the world. I was lucky enough to be shown these gorgeous plants by one of the gardens volunteers … and what a volunteer! Mr Herb Short is an American who started his working life as a professional engineer and later changed to the study of camellias. He has traveled the world in search of the rarer varieties of this plant, edited the International Camellia Society newsletter and is now, basically THE world authority on the subject. He educated me, as far as he could in the time we had, with interesting and amusing stories. For example in the second world war a bomb exploded nearby and destroyed the conservatory glass, but the camellias just lived on and are now cultivated in the open – of course the weather is a little milder now. The renovated Chiswick will have both indoor and outdoor varieties of camellia, the indoor plants

Enjoy Kew Gardens in the heat or cold – Princess of Wales Conservatory on right RBG Kew

blooming in March and the outdoor a little later in April. To become a volunteer is to take a lovely part time job. Luckily you do not need the skill, fame and knowledge of Herb Short. One place you can help is the children’s garden where youngsters plant and care for things to eat and on occasion enjoy lunch cooked from their produce, all overseen and encouraged by volunteers. The Head Gardener at Chiswick is Fiona Crumley (pictured opposite), an experienced horticulturist with vast experience. Fiona has also been a bee keeper in the past. I asked her, will there be bees at Chiswick? She responded, perhaps one day, but until then they do have the bats I mentioned! Chiswick is an ideal venue for a winter walk where you can see the progress being made. The house is lovely and open from time to time, depending on the season. For information and opening dates and times for the house, phone 020 8995 0508 or go to


he Unesco World Heritage Site of Kew Gardens celebrates its 250th anniversary in 2009. We’ll let you know exactly which date the celebrations will happen later, as there is hope of a Royal visit and dates depend on them! That’s a quarter of a millennium since King George III’s mother Princess Augusta started an ambitious nine acres garden around Kew Palace in 1759. I visited Kew in October and the trees were in glorious autumn colours. England cannot quite compete with the Fall foliage of Connecticut, but beautiful they were in shades of honey, amber and outright red. When most of us think of Kew, we picture people picnicking on green grass or strolling around admiring the beds and green houses. We forget that in its 250 years Kew has become synonymous the world over for botanical knowledge. In its early years Kew spent a great deal of time discovering new specimens, recording them and researching their characteristics.

KEW GARDENS Expeditions were long and arduous and equipment, by our standards, very primitive. But the explorers’ and collectors’ achievements were amazing. There are hundreds of specimens in the herbarium and archives and the library holds some breathtaking volumes dating from centuries ago, all under the care of Keeper Professor David Mabberley. These days, Kew aims to inspire and deliver science-based conservation worldwide. Surely nothing is greener than Kew! Its great riches lie in the knowledge of its brilliant academics. The Head of the Arboretum Tony Kirkham told me he has spent 30 years studying and caring for trees (and yes he did know what is wrong with my chestnuts). His was the force behind the new Treetop Walkway, opened this year. Visitors climb high among the treetops and can also go below the glorious canopy to view the insects among the roots. Children love the bugs. Tony explained that he was very keen to attract children to Kew because among them must be


those who will continue Kew’s work. For the larger (although not too large) among us there is also a replica of a beaver’s home built to human size which the slim can explore – a rather well nourished lady once got stuck inside it, a unique attraction that will hopefully not happen again! One of the projects which impressed me most was a small tree, gently reared in the nursery, native to Easter Island where most had been destroyed. Tony hopes to create a plantation and eventually send a supply back to Easter Island to repopulate its native soil. He explained that while animals and fish can escape from an island, plants have a more difficult time. There is so much to see in Kew and many special events, so before you go, decide which interests you most and look at these first. It could be the art or photographic display or the great glass houses. Perhaps it will be the wonderful display of native flowers inside the main gate in the spring, or the orchids in the Princess of Wales Conservatory. Or maybe the Millennium Seed Bank, an archive of the rarest, most threatened and most useful species on the planet. There will be plenty more to see and do if time does not run out including free daily walking tours, or you can get around on the Kew Explorer, a ‘road train’ people mover which stops every few minutes. Not to be forgotten at this time of year is the ice skating from November 29th to January 4th. Kew is special and not to be missed. Happy Birthday Kew. H


The American work of art you hold in your hand Estelle Lovatt remembers the masterpiece by Jewish American, sculptor Victor Brenner


espite the credit crunch biting hard at the American Dream, between the doom and gloom there is hope, right in the palm of your hand as you hold one of the greatest works of art America has ever created; the United States Lincoln Wheat Ears Cent. Remember, in 2009, as you commemorate the 200th anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln’s birthday, to also celebrate the centenary of the first American portrait cent coin, designed by Jewish American premier medalist, sculptor and engraver Victor David Brenner (1871 – 1924). The Lincoln penny is the most widely reproduced work of art, with billions being minted since production began in 1909 and, to this day it is the longest-running design in United States Mint history. It started in 1907 when Brenner was commissioned to produce a plaque portrait of Lincoln (based on Civil War

photographer Anthony Berger’s picture shot at Mathew Brady’s studio in 1864). Then, in 1908 Brenner was commissioned to design the Panama Canal service medal - with an image of the 26th US President Theodore Roosevelt. While posing for its model in Brenner’s studio, Roosevelt saw and admired Brenner’s Lincoln plaque design. In celebration of the 100th anniversary of Lincoln’s birth, he recommended that Brenner should design a portrait image of Lincoln on the penny coin. As James B. Longacre’s initials, ‘JBL’ or ‘L’, had previously decorated coin designs, Brenner put his initials, ‘VDB’, on the reverse at the bottom

If the penny in your pocket has the initials VDB between the wheatsheafs, prepare to celebrate


between the wheat ear stalks. After nearly 30 million had already been minted at the Philadelphia Mint, and almost 500,000 at the San Francisco Mint, officials opposed the inclusion of Brenner’s initials. Halfway during the first issue in 1909, Brenner’s initials were removed. Consequently, the 1909 VDB cent is particularly rare, so check your wallet! In 1918 Brenner’s initials reappeared as tiny letters under Lincoln’s shoulder on the left edge of Lincoln’s coat, where they remain today. Not American by birth, Jewish Russian immigrant Victor David Brenner was born to Jewish parents on June 12 1871, in Shavli, Lithuania, near the Baltic Sea. His gift for carving and engraving came from his father, a metal worker. In 1898 Victor went to Paris to study under the French medallists Alexandre Charpentier and Louis Oscar Roty at the Académie Julian. Still in his teens, the young Brenner left for New York, penniless. Being a smart, entrepreneurial, keen and not-to-mention hungry youth, Brenner quickly found employment as an engraver. Plus he attended evening classes at The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art. Brenner produced over 125 medals, badges, awards and plaques throughout his industrious career. His most noteworthy of decorations include the Rev. Dr Muhlenberg Medal (issued by the American Numismatic and Archaeological Society). And the sculpture the “Song of Nature” carved on the fountain in Schenely Park, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Brenner died on April 5 1924 and is buried at Mount Judah Cemetery, Ridgewood, Queens County, New York. H


August: Osage County

National Theatre presents Steppenwolf’s production of

Get a FREE DRINK with a top price ticket*

by Tracy Letts

Winner of 5 Tony Awards and Pulitzer Prize for Best Drama Meet the Westons – the most dysfunctional family this side of Oklahoma. When the large Weston family unexpectedly reunites in Oklahoma, after their father disappears, their home explodes in a maelstrom of repressed truths and unsettling secrets. This new play unflinchingly – and uproariously – exposes the dark side of the Midwestern American family. The internationally renowned Steppenwolf Company, last seen at the National Theatre with The Grapes of Wrath, returns to London.

‘The most exciting new American play Broadway has seen for years.’ – The New York Times

‘This original and corrosive black comedy deserves a seat at the dinner table with the great American family plays.’ – Time Magazine

21 November – 21 January Valid on top three prices (£41, £39.50, £29.50). Drink is redeemable pre-show or pre-order an interval drink. Offer valid on all performances until 19 December subject to availability, excludes Saturday nights.

Call 020 7452 3000 and quote ‘Osage County drinks promotion’.



Exclusive Christmas Cards


ou enjoyed them last year, so The American is again offering a selection of exclusive, quality, unusual Christmas cards for you. Designed by designer Maureen Gray, these three lovely Christmas cards – Christmas Angel, Christmas Gift and Christmas Holly – are available only to readers of The American, and of Interior Scene, the upmarket interior designer’s publication. A successful designer and illustrator, Maureen has designed cards for many companies including Pier One in America, Paperchase, Boots the Chemist nationwide, and Fenwick of Bond Street, London. In 1997 one of her Christmas card designs was printed by the Great Ormond Street Hospital charity in memory of Princess Diana. Printed on high quality card and measuring 6 inches (15cm) square, each design comes in packs of five, with quality envelopes, at a cost of £6.75 per pack + vat. Overprinting is available on volume orders and discounts are available for orders of 20 or more packs – please call Maureen on 01747 830 923 or for further details. Wish your friends a happy holiday in an exclusive and beautiful way.

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Reviews Books reviewed by Michael Burland

Angler – The Shadow Presidency of Dick Cheney Barton Gellman


s we reach the last days of the Bush presidency Pulitzer prize winning Gellman, dissects the way that George W’s vice president became a true éminence grise, selecting the president’s advisers and steering policy, all from the shadows. Angler is Dick Cheney’s Secret Service code name. The book started life as a series of articles in the Washington Post and fills in more detail about how Cheney became the most powerful vice president in the history of the United States, how he operated independently of the president to the eventual detriment of the commander in chief, and how the White House came to regard the State Department as an enemy cell. The book’s cover quotes Cheney himself: “Am I the evil genius in the corner that nobody ever sees come out of his hole? It’s a nice way to operate, actually.” In a very readable style, Gellman supports his assertions with interviews with Cheney’s allies as well as his detractors, creating a fair, balanced view of what became an untenable situation. MB Penguin, 483 pages, £25.00

Discovering American History in England Catherine Leitch


eitch takes a brisk canter through English History with an American filter fixed firmly in place, discovering transatlantic connections everywhere. If you’re over here on a short trip you can easily flick through and find places to visit that are relevant to your family, your state or your activities. If you’re here longer-term you could work through the lot. No one place gets much more than a paragraph, but this is a comprehensive and entertaining work. Ideal for any American visiting Britain. MB D Giles Limited, 296 pages £19.95

Flying the SR-71 Blackbird

Col. Richard H. Graham


his amazing reconnaissance airplane flew so fast and high – Mach 3 and 80,000 plus feet, on the edge of space - that enemy aircraft and even missiles could not shoot it down. It was a major factor in the cold war. Every Blackbird mission was top secret, which makes this book a treat for anyone with an interest in the United States Air Force in general or this spectacular aircraft in particular. The author is a Vietnam combat flying veteran and became involved with the Blackbird in 1974. MB Zenith Press, 288 pages, £16.99

Heath: A Family’s Tale Janet Fife-Yeomans


eath Ledger was young, charismatic, a superstar and regarded by film legends like Michael Caine as a great actor. Adored by women, he loved to have fun with his friends and had a young daughter. It seemed he had a perfect life, so it was with shock that his fans heard of his death at the age of just 28, of an accidental overdose of prescription medication. Australian journalist Fife-Yeomans has constructed a detailed history of Ledger’s life with input from Heath’s uncles. Heath’s great-grandfather, Sir Frank, built a business in the remote city of Perth, Western Australia which, Fife-Yeomans describes, crashed, creating bitterness and division in the family. Heath, a happy, outgoing boy, drove across the desert, coast to coast to Sydney, determined to become an actor. At 20 he flew to Hollywood. The public story is well known: his success in Ten Things I Hate About You, A Knight’s Tale, Brokeback Mountain and of course his mesmeric performance as the Joker in The Dark Knight. Fife-Yeomans digs behind the glitter and investigates the possibility that Heath may have (like his uncle Haydn) suffered from bipolar disorder, the allegations that Heath had fathered a child before he became famous, and the mystery of what happened to the star’s fortune. MB Murdoch Books, 330 pp, £16.99


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Kira Sternbach Jarlath O’Connell talks to the star of In A Dark Dark House


’d have done it in Utah. If this play was being done there,” says Kira Sternbach, about her devotion to Neil LaBute’s new play In a Dark Dark House. Instead, Sternbach, a bright, young, unknown American actor not long out of drama school and with a pretty short résumé, hopped on plane to London and pulled off something bigger. She has landed the sole female role in Neil Labute’s new play at the prestigious Almeida Theatre. She is now starring opposite TV names David Morrissey and Steven Mackintosh at the hip north London venue, until mid January. The production follows Fat Pig (a current hit in the West End) and continues the fruitful relationship between LaBute and the Almeida, which has previously presented the UK premieres of his plays The Distance from Here, Bash, The Shape of Things and The Mercy Seat. Kira met LaBute at a workshop

at NYU two years ago. She followed this up with a letter and managed to get herself invited to participate in an early workshoping of the piece. The play centres on Drew, an affluent young lawyer, now disbarred and languishing in rehab, who asks his rougher hewn brother Terry to visit, to corroborate some details of their shared past. The catalyst is provided by witty, trailer-park girl Jennifer, whom Terry encounters. Kira convinced LaBute she could play the 16-year-old Jennifer, not too difficult considering her ingénue looks. Although LaBute had given her a break he was not happy with his own progress on the script and so held off staging the play while he concentrated on what was to become his hit Some Girls. Last year, In a Dark Dark House got an off Broadway run, however Kira missed out on that one. She was doing her time at the American Academy of Dramatic Art, where skipping class to go for auditions is seriously against the rules. Freed from the shackles of study, she learned that LaBute was about to stage the piece in London, so bought that plane ticket and wrote to Michael Attenborough, the Almeida’s Director, who is also directing the play. “It was my dream to come to London and I never, ever expected to be working here,” she says. She booked a four-day trip, got the audition on day two and was offered the part at the end of day three.

Attenborough had to make the case for casting her to Equity. The actor exchange scheme that operates between the US and the British unions means that for an American actor to get a part in the West End, a slot has to be opened for a British actor to get a part on the Great White Way. “It was touch and go for a while but we got the permission and working with him has been so great”. Of Attenborough she says mournfully “I don’t know how I’m going to work with any other directors. He takes care of us actors and you get to discuss every point with him”. She was a bit intimidated at first by their CVs, but she and co-star Morrisey, with whom she shares her big scene, have now gelled. He is “so quick and witty and willing to try anything” she adds. What about LaBute himself, who is renowned for having a low opinion of the human race and young American males in particular? Kira’s acting coach recommended the work to her, thinking it might be a good fit. “I was instantly drawn to this very raw and twisted quality in his work,” she says, “He presents people driven to extremes and you can never put it past any of his characters to do anything”. H

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Neal Cassady:

The Fast Life of a Beat Hero

by Graham Vickers, co-author of the recent biography


f today’s voracious media appetite for scandal had existed in the America of the 1950s, one wonders what the folks of the Eisenhower era might have made of Neal Cassady. As it was you would have had to be obsessively interested in America’s inchoate alternative culture to have heard of Cassady at all. The first time most people became aware of this charismatic, sex-and-drugs-obsessed sociopath was in the wake of Jack Kerouac’s 1957 novel On the Road as it became known that “Dean Moriarty” was in reality an unmodified portrait of Cassady. Also, several of the groundbreaking novel’s passages were almost verbatim transcripts of Cassady’s stream-of-consciousness personal correspondence to Kerouac, letters being the only kind of writing at which he ever excelled. Yet this wild Denver child of The Depression who had been a prodigious teenage car thief (he had stolen hundreds of vehicles by the age of fourteen) whose only regular adult employment was as a

brakeman and then conductor for the Southern Pacific railroad, would rub shoulders not only with Kerouac but also with Allen Ginsberg, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, William S. Burroughs, Ken Kesey and many more writers, poets and artists on both US coasts. He was even considered by some to be the true driving force behind the Beat Generation phenomenon, Cassady’s contributory activity being neither poem nor painting but the coruscating example of his own wild life. That life was irredeemably chaotic although it was punctuated with periods of relative calm, mainly during his on-off marriage to the long-suffering Carolyn, née Robinson, a beautiful, decorous and highly-educated woman with whom he had three children. His life was also characterized by innumerable affairs, a bigamous marriage to a Manhattan socialite and a two-year spell in San Quentin State Prison for marijuana dealing. A life, as they say,

The ‘scroll’ on which Kerouac wrote On The Road

less ordinary. Cassady was therefore considered by British writer David Sandison to be the perfect subject for a new, in-depth biography. David had already written a book about Kerouac and so knew a lot about the Beats in general and Cassady in particular. His new book was researched and begun, but it soon fell behind schedule as his health deteriorated. When he died unexpectedly in 2006 the biography was far from complete. As a friend and fellow writer, I offered to take over the suddenly orphaned project. Crucial was the continuing cooperation of Neal’s widow Carolyn, by then in her eighties and somewhat improbably living in Berkshire, England. A Bennington College alumna, Carolyn had been born in Michigan and transplanted to Tennessee with her family before studying in Denver and New York and then becoming a long-time resident of California where she lived with Neal. She had eventually relocated to Britain some years after his death. If Berkshire seemed an unlikely place for her to settle, it was at least convenient for me, the book’s second British author, to have her at relatively close hand to help unravel this or that convoluted episode that had taken place half a century before in Los Gatos or San Francisco or on some


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forgotten highway. Fortunately she proved unfailingly helpful. As David Sandison had previously discovered, disentangling our subject’s astonishingly complex life was not an easy task. If obsessive letter-writer Cassady was no novelist (his one attempt at a book, The First Third, is of historical interest only) his most triumphant fiction was undoubtedly himself. He usually felt compelled to exaggerate his own outrageous adventures even if the unvarnished version already defied belief. Carolyn herself, a sometimes stern critic of all those unreliable psychedelic 1960s fables surrounding her late husband (Neal lived long enough to hang out with protohippie Ken Kesey and his cohorts) would admit that she is probably as guilty as anyone of perpetuating a selective image of the man. He was notoriously hard to pin down objectively. Still, in Neal Cassady: The Fast Life of a Beat Hero I tried to complete a portrait that might reveal the truth behind some long-held Cassady myths while acknowledging that there must forever remain a few unsolved mysteries attached to a man who so often seemed to be living half a dozen duplicitous lives at once. Neal Cassady died not on the road but in suitably ambiguous circumstances beside a railway track in Mexico in 1968. He was a few days shy of his forty-second birthday. He looked a lot older. H Neal Cassady: The Fast Life of a Beat Hero is published in the UK by Omnibus Press. Graham Vickers is a London-based freelance writer and the author of several books including 21st Century Hotel and Chasing Lolita.


Fat Pig A new comedy by Neil Labute Comedy Theatre, Panton St, London


ould you date a fat girl? I mean, really? There goes Neil Labute again, rubbing our noses in our insecurities and making us shift uncomfortably in our seats. Over the past ten years in plays and films such as In the Company of Men, The Shape of Things and Your Friends and Neighbours, Labute has got to the core of the young, modern male and what he finds there is not a pretty sight. Now, in Fat Pig, the second in his trilogy of “beauty plays” he explores our culture’s obsession with weight and body image and the victims of the “body beautiful”. The story centres on a love affair between “big boned” as she terms herself, Helen (Ella Smith), and young executive Tom (Nicholas Burns). They meet over a rushed lunch in a sandwich bar, hit it off, and the play follows the trials of Tom as he negotiates the jealousy of his slighted co-worker Jeannie ( Joanna Page, when I reviewed the play) and the cruel baiting of his jock, alpha male, colleague Carter. TV sketch star Kevin Bishop has taken over the part of Carter and inhabits it like a glove. The manic energy he brings to the part, combined with the quick wit makes


the audience almost sympathise with him, which is no mean feat. He reveals that his antipathy to fat people goes back to his own childhood indignities of being out with his own very overweight mother. How she coped with such an ungrateful wretch of a son isn’t explored. The casual cruelty of the svelte folk and their thin veneer of compassion is wonderfully realised in the character of Jeannie, a part which has been taken over by model and tabloid darling Kelly Brook. Labute, who traditionally has a low opinion of young men, seems to think that female solidarity also has its limits. Jeannie’s fury at being jilted for a “fat pig” is not pleasant to behold. It saves the play, however, from being an “aren’t all men beasts” polemic. The heavy subject matter shouldn’t put you off if all you want is a good night out. There are few contemporary dramatists with Labute’s skill for writing dialogue and while I would quibble that it’s “a new comedy” he certainly can entertain an audience. Labute manages to capture the zeitgeist, engage an audience and you leave the theatre with something to argue about. Sounds like the spec for the perfectly modern playwright and the West End is all the better for his presence. His next play premieres at the Almeida next month.

Piaf N

ow, a little sparrow goes a long way with me. Much as I love a diva, I’ve always found that a Piaf song, being a three-act opera in itself, is best taken in small doses. A whole evening is like an overdose of cough syrup. Then again, excess is what Piaf was all about. She lived fast and died young and left a lot of bruised, but forgiving, people in her wake. Partly with an eye to cashing in on Marion Cotillard’s amazing Oscar turn in La Vie en Rose, the Donmar Warehouse has decided to revive Pam Gems’ play, 30 years after Jane Lapotaire won a brace of awards for the part. As usual the Donmar never puts a foot wrong and it has transferred quickly to the West End. This time the play is shortened and Jamie Lloyd directs it at such a cracking pace that it runs just 90 minutes without an interval. Piaf for the MTV generation, I suppose. Whilst brevity is not a bad thing in the theatre the resulting script is creaky to say the least. We race through the brutal early years, the lovers, the triumphs, the tragedies but we never really get under the skin of the supporting cast and they remain merely ciphers. It is, I suppose, too much to expect an epic life story like this to be condensed into a short evening of theatre but it is the weakness of this play that it plods along like a documentary on the Biography channel. The whole enterprise is saved by Elena Roger. Plucked from Buenos Aires to star in Evita, she arrived in the West End as a star and will remain so after this astonishing performance. She is even smaller and thinner and more sparrow like than Piaf and has

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By Pam Gems At the Vaudeville Theatre, London. Transfer from the Donmar Warehouse the requisite huge voice. In short, pardon the pun, perfect casting. Roger inhabits the part completely and is utterly compelling. She is rarely off stage and when on is either having rough sex or shooting up with a collection of handsome gents, played vigorously by Luke Evans, Leon Lopez or Steve John Shepherd, or she is drowning her sorrows with her hausfrau mate, who also happens to be Marlene Dietrich. More usually, she is just belting out a chanson. In the end it’s the chansons that matter of course. Milord, L’Accordeoniste, Je Ne Regrette Rien have become emblematic of France and indeed have set a template for the power ballad ever since.

Here, they are beautifully and simply staged and are the reason for seeing the show. They provide all the “love and pain and the whole damn thing” which this skimpy play lacks. H

”Elena Roger is utterly compelling as Piaf.” 33

The American

no Bloody Mary. Fortunately, the bartender understood our request and not long afterwards we were served two of the best Bloody Mary’s either of us had had for a long time. The poached eggs came as ordered: all golden runny and swaddled with a delicious lemony Hollandaise sauce sitting beside the ham and smoked salmon on our respective plates. Knowing that on weekends people take their children, I decided to also have the Buttermilk pancake stack with maple syrup, £6.50. Possibly because of the flour used, the pancakes were dry and tasteless and

Dining out at

Broome and Delancey T

he beginnings of the serious breakfast started several centuries ago when English yeoman and gentleman farmers fortified themselves in the morning before setting out to hunt or tour their estates. Businessmen and women today have hijacked this tradition by entertaining clients in the morning, although they refer to it as a working breakfast. One of the delights of my youth was going with my father, brother and sister for breakfast at a local diner where we’d have bacon and waffles covered in warm maple syrup. Now, I adore having breakfast at the Ritz with its Louis XVI statues and trompe l’oeil ceiling and sitting at a table overlooking the Italian garden, but it is a restaurant I can afford only on a very special occasion. Fortunately, during the past few years there are medium priced restaurants in London opening early that serve more than coffee and a croissant. Which was the reason that, after learning Broome


and Delancey in Wandsworth served breakfast from 9 am to 4 pm on weekends, Maxine Howe and I were dining there at eleven o’clock one recent Sunday morning. Named after two well-known streets in the Soho district of New York, this contemporary restaurant/brasserie in Wandsworth with its open kitchen, dining room and bar was already three quarters full when we arrived. “You can have a typical New York style breakfast,” our friendly young waiter told us, “Or if you prefer, a full English breakfast.” Noting they served Delmonico’s Eggs Benedict (sliced ham, two poached eggs and black truffle hollandaise, £8.00), Maxine quickly put in her order. To be different, I chose instead Eggs Norwegian, (smoked salmon, poached eggs and hollandaise, £8.50). To our surprise, there was every type of cocktail listed on the drinks menu including Mint Julep (£7.00) and Margarita (£7.25), but

Reviews by Virginia E Schultz

certainly not any I’d order again. Coffee, however, was excellent. There is also a regular menu offering everything from Croque Madame, £7.50, Balthazar’s Duck Shepherd’s Pie, £13.50, Cheeseburgers, £8.50 to plates for two (Coq Au Vin, £30.00, Bouillabaisse, £30.00, Cote de Boeuf £36.00). Service is convivial and attentive and from what I observed, a popular eating place among the young and trendy in Wandsworth. Would I return? Most definitely. The menu, a mash of French, English and American cuisine, is varied enough to take children or to have drinks after work and dine with friends in the evening.

Monday to Friday: 11:00 am to Midnight, Saturday: 9 am to Midnight, Sun: 9 am to 10:30 pm 35 – 37 Battersea Rise, Wandsworth, London SW11 1HG, 020 7228 9400.

The American


s soon as Maxine Howe saw the classical Edwardian building, she exclaimed, “This used to be my Bank back in the eighties!” That Just St. James used to be a bank becomes obvious once you enter. The imposing interior, with striking marble columns and tall Georgian windows, hints at the bank built by Lloyds in 1912 at the unprecedented cost of £4 million. Now, beneath those elegant windows on the ground floor, the teller cages are gone and there is a bar where business men, ties loosened, coats thrown over shoulders, appear unusually relaxed despite the financial bad news in the headlines. To the left is the restaurant area where two groups of men are having dinner (are there no women in finance, I wonder?) and a glass elevator whisks you (unless you prefer climbing the grand staircase) up to the Clicquot Lounge on the spacious gallery level. Maxine and I were seated at a small table on the raised level overlooking the dining area, then ignored until I finally caught someone’s attention and asked if we could, perhaps, please, have something to drink. Scowling, he disappeared and again we were made to wait. Fortunately, another waiter arrived who couldn’t have been more charming

Dining out at


or helpful. I have the feeling that the first might have been some kind of manager whose job was to oversee, not wait on customers. Thankfully, our second waiter made up for his rude manner and in no time we were sipping the champagne (£4.00) and studying the menu. The Head Chef is Damien Pondevie, who headed the kitchens at both the award winning City Inn Hotel and Bank Aldwych. You may remember him from his appearance on the 2007 series of MasterChef. The owner of St. James’s is Peter Gladwin, who went from a culinary career in Switzerland to catering for some of the most important State Banquets in England, including the Queen’s Jubilee celebrations and still, I was told, enjoys joining his staff in the kitchen. I started with butternut squash soup (£5.75) sprinkled with sunflower seeds, the perfect warming comfort-food on a cold winter’s night. Max, braver than me, had the braised ox tongue and gherkin faggot (£7.50). The beef was tender and the gherkins studding the dish added a biting touch that set it ahead of similar dishes. Neither of us were disappointed by our main courses. My Highland Venison with baby beets and fig chutney (£19.50) took me back to the days when my late husband went

shooting in Scotland. We stayed at the castle of a friend whose wife was one of the best amateur cooks of wild game I’ve known. “Wonderful,” was Maxine’s verdict for the Creche St. Michael’s lamb cutlets (£18.00). We might have used the same words for the Damson Plum Cheesecake we shared (£7.50) as well as the Sticky Toffee Pudding (£7.00). All were of star quality. There is a comprehensive wine list, but I let the sommelier choose the white and red wines for our different dishes. They were spot on but, if I have a complaint, I would have liked to have tasted one of the English white wines from Peter Gladwin’s Nutbourne Vineyards. His sparkling wine, Nutty, made by the traditional champagne method, is unique without being dissimilar to champagne or one of the better sparkling wines from the USA and Australia. Like many restaurants in London, Just St. James’s offers all day options in addition to lunch and dinner. One can have breakfast, continental or English, or enjoy the Veuve Clicquot Tea which pairs a glass of champagne with a selection of sandwiches, scones with clotted cream and a selection of cakes and pastries.

12 St. James’s Street • London SW1A 1ER 0207 976 2222 • 35

The American

Cellar Talk Libations by Virginia E. Schultz



he different nationalities settling in the USA during the past four hundred years have influenced the variations of Christmas traditions celebrated throughout the country. Santa Claus, brought to America as Sinktaklass by the Dutch, still wears a red suit, but in this politically correct age doesn’t smoke a pipe. Nor does he always arrive on a sled pulled by reindeer, but may sweep in on a surf board (California) or arrive by the Christmas Tree Ship (Hawaii). The traditional Christmas dinner was in the past roast turkey, but even that is changing with many families serving goose or venison instead. As a child, my parents didn’t serve wine with the meal, but whiskey was offered afterwards. On Christmas Eve, my grandfather made eggnog for friends, a tradition my husband and I continued until diet conscious guests began asking if they could have wine or a soft drink instead. Eggnog is related to sack posset, a hot drink made with ale or a dry Spanish wine called sack. Like posset, eggnog was originally made with ale (or nog, a strong ale) but when adopted by Americans they used rum, bourbon or even cider instead. The earliest American cookbooks often put eggnog in the section for the weak and sick with a warning not to use without advice! Syllabub is closely related to eggnog. The name is derived from wine that came from Sillery in the Cham-


pagne region and ‘bub’, the Elizabethan slang word for bubbling and was traditionally a Christmas drink for women. In a recipe book published in Philadelphia in 1792, the readers were instructed to “put a bowl with wine under a cow and milked until there is a fine froth on top.” Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens) said little about wine, but he did write in ‘Life on the Mississippi’ that the van leader of civilization was never the steamboat, railroad, newspaper or the missionary, but whiskey. Undoubtedly he was referring to Tennessee whiskey or Kentucky bourbon for Scotch would not have been readily available except to the very rich. The Bon-Vivant’s Companion when giving their recipe for Tennessee Eggnog said their recipe would not cause headaches, but was an excellent drink for debilitated persons, and a nourishing drink for consumptives. I have the feeling if Twain served eggnog, he would have preferred Kentucky Eggnog.


Tyrell’s Chardonnay Hunter Valley Reserve 2006  £8.00 Accented pineapple with a hint of lime that drank deliciously with a layered celeriac, sweet potato and tomato dish topped with sliced mozzarella.

Mark Twain – or rather American actor James Carroll Jordan who has a one man show ‘Mark Twain on Womankind’. Call 01428 606042 if you’d like to book the show.

Kentucky Eggnog

24 egg yolks 2 bottles (fifths) bourbon 1½ cups sugar 1 quart heavy cream 1½ cups Jamaica rum 1 quart vanilla ice cream Beat egg yolks until light, then beat in sugar and continue beating for 20 minutes. Stir in the rum and allow the mixture to stand for an hour or until rum has cooked the eggs. Then add bourbon. Just before serving, stir in the whipped cream and ice cream. Pour into a chilled punch bowl. I might add, use only organic eggs. Serves 35 to 50.

White Russian

1½ vodka ¾ oz. Kahlua ¾ oz. heavy cream The White Russian, born in the 1950s, is related to the 1920’s Barbara. In this, Kahlua replaces crème de cacao. Place ice cubes in an old-fashioned glass, pour in vodka, then Kahlua and stir gently. Pour cream on top. H


La Capanna For the finest Italian dining experience in the most picturesque of settings, perfect for that romantic dinner for two, a family celebration or business entertainment.

L Table d’Hôte, 2 courses only £16.95 La Capanna Special Menu, 2 courses only £29.95 Sunday Lunch, 3 courses only £24.95 Children’s Menu – £12.00 48 High Street, Cobham, Surrey

01932 862121

Book your table online on our website: Business account customers and party bookings are welcome. All major credit cards accepted.


a Capanna, now celebrating its 30th year, was built from an old farm house discovered in the Sussex countryside, which has been rebuilt behind the facade of an equally old 17th century cottage at the end of Cobham high street. The result is a large and spacious rustic restaurant, boasting a wealth of exposed beams and high ceilings, enjoying a relaxed and comfortable atmosphere where you will be well looked after. Enjoy eating al fresco in the lovely riverside Italian Garden. The restaurant also prides itself on catering for large parties such as weddings or birthdays. The food at La Capanna is prepared with singular taste and imagination by head chef Matthew Crook. The antipasto specials trolley, which is brought to your table, has a varied and unique selection of Italian starters that are complimented by a comprehensive a la carte menu. La Capanna offers the best of whatever is in season, and its selection of fresh fish and seafood, meat, and game is second to none.

“La Capanna must boast the prettiest interior of any restaurant I have ever dined in” – David Billington, Hello Magazine

Your Local Italian Restaurant with menus to suit all tastes and pockets

Sunday Lunch 3 Course Menu £19.95 including our famous buffet table Ideal for celebrations of all sizes, whether it be dinner for two, a party or business lunch. Try our new Brunch Menu – we are open all day to welcome you for coffee or something more substantial, and while you relax we can valet your car.

Mondo Restaurant, 2 Temple Hall, Monument Hill, Weybridge, Surrey, KT13 8RH 01932 843470 • •

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Cece Mills picks her Arts and Exhibitions for December. From Cornwall to Gateshead, from the Renaissance to Gordon Ramsay. 156 Autumn Exhibition Royal West of England Academy, Bristol Until 14th December Amazingly this show has been running for 156 years – just as it states! It is a popular event and has 2,000 works submitted by professionals and amateurs, out of which about 600 are chosen to be exhibited. Left: Michael Debono, Divination’s End Below: Jude Jelfs, 3 Graces

The best of paintings, sculptures, printmaking, and photography are all there, including work by Prince Charles to tempt you. As the Academy says “We are highly honoured to announce that HRH The Prince of Wales has graciously accepted the RWA Council’s invitation to become an Honorary Academician. HRH, himself an accomplished watercolourist, follows in the artistic footsteps of Edward VIII who, when he was the Prince of Wales, accepted the same title in 1921. A copy of Edward’s handwritten letter of acceptance to our then President Dame Janet Stancomb-Wills was sent to HRH’s office in London as a warm reminder of the pleasure it gave his forebear to become an Honorary RWA.” With prices starting at £100 this is a good place to get your loved one something unique and different for Christmas.

Above: Elizabeth Hunter RWA, Lovers Gaze


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Yoko Ono: Between the Sky and My Head Baltic, Gateshead 13th December until 15th March 2009

Giuseppe Arcimboldo (1527?–1593), The Emperor Rudolph II as Vertumnus, about 1590

yoko ono is one of the pioneers of conceptual art and this exhibition shows some of her greatest work from 1961 to now. her mission is ‘Freedom’, and one of the exhibits is the Wish tree. in fact there will be several of these located around baltic. Visitors are encouraged to write their dreams and wishes down and pin them to the trees. at the end of the show all the wishes will be collected and sent to iceland to the imagine peace tower. as for the show, it consists of paintings, sculptures, drawings, photography, film and sound installations. it is very much a hands-on exhibition, especially her work ‘My Mommy is beautiful’, where visitors bring

Yoko Ono, Wish Tree, 1996 / 2008 Courtesy oF the artist

photos and memories of their mothers which are then attached to the blank canvases, and later sent to the artist in new york – make the public make your art! Below: Yoko Ono, Morning Beams, 1998 Courtesy oF the artist and Kunsthalle bieleFeld, gerMany

© sKoKlosters Castle (11615). photo saMuel uhrdin

Renaissance Faces: Van Eyck to Titian National Gallery, London Until 18th January 2009 A cracking show of Renaissance paintings, sculptures, coins, medals and almost anything with a face on it. Raphael, Durer, Titian, Botticelli, Van Eyck, Holbein, Bellini and more. During the Renaissance, portraits were produced which now give us a wonderfully graphic idea of what life was like for all sorts of people in all sorts of walks of life, from Duchesses to tradesmen. Every type of occasion was worthy of capturing in some way, much as we now photograph everything. Weddings, births, deaths, promotions – it’s all there.


Is t

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Gordon Ramsay presents Taste of Christmas, ExCel, London. 4th to 7th December The ultimate performer, Gordon Ramsay, is about to show everyone that cooking can be theatre! Just because it’s Christmas, I thought I would include something really fun for this month. This 4 day jolly promises also to be a valuable shopping experience, not only for those Christmas supplies, but for presents too. There will be wine tastings, hands on cookery demonstrations, and Gordon’s Christmas Theatre. This is where Gordon Ramsay will entertain with cook-offs, heated competitions, demonstrations and double-acts. The exhibitors are endless and include divine food stalls, whisky distilleries, chocolatiers, Arabica Spices, the Authentic American Food Company, cheeses, tea and coffee, smokeries, sauces, bread, turkeys, sausages – in fact absolutely everything you can think of to make your Christmas go with a sparkle.

Stone Flag (2004)

Copyright Robin Rhode, Courtesy the artist and Perry Rubenstein Gallery

Andy Warhol Hayward Gallery, Southbank Centre, London Until 18th January And Robin Rhode until 7th December Everyone knows about Andy Warhol, and this exhibition is illuminating only in that it shows just how prolific he was, especially in the field of film. Here you can also see his record sleeve designs, wallpaper designs, simple sketches, wonderful drawings involving gold leaf and ink, and a massive amount of archive

material from his time capsules. Warhol wanted to demystify art and insinuated that anyone could do it. Also at the Hayward is the incredible Robin Rhode. From South Africa, Rhode has a unique approach to art through performance and drawing. Using charcoal he sketches and then performs around the drawings, interacting with the two-dimensional drawing in a startling way. Thus he draws a bike and then he rides it, the story unfolding in a series of images. White Wall shows him drawing a stylised car on a black wall in white chalk or paint, frame by frame he enacts attaching the wheels, fitting the doors and so on. I think it’s

The Lost and Found Orchestra Royal Festival Hall, Southbank Centre From 19th December for 3 weeks From the creators of Stomp, this fabulously energetic, exhausting and imaginative musical experience is on a par with the car ad on TV where each orchestra member plays a part of the car in question – blowing through the exhaust pipe and so on. Almost anything you care to think of comes into use as the members of the Lost and Found Orchestra blow into kettles, bang on bottles and make music with hair dryers. With music like this, dance and comedy with it, what more could you want to make your Christmas go with a bang.


this Art? Is this Art?

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Portuguese Tile Paintings

One of the most beautiful sights I have seen was in the city of Sao Salvador da Baia de Todos os Santos, aka Salvador de Bahia in Brazil. This is the centre of Afro-Brazilian culture, home to the famous and energetic Capoeira dancing, and initially the first colonial capital of Brazil. The Portuguese settled here in the 1700s and so the influence of the Portuguese in buildings and culture is strong. At the Convent of Sao Francisco, quite apart from the magnificent church with its lavish gold Baroque interior, the cloisters are something else. They are decorated on all four side walls with monumental panels of blue and white tiles (azulejo) depicting alle-

gories based on 17th Century Flemish engravings by Otto van Veen, complete with sayings by Horace. The tiles were made in Lisbon by Portuguese artist Bartolomou Antunes de Jesus, the grand master of azulejo. In Portugal, tiles decorate absolutely everything, from churches, monasteries and palaces to railway stations and shops. They serve not only as useful signs, house names or numbers, road signs and advertisements, but can also depict the history of the city and the country. They remain an important part of Portuguese culture, much as the fresco became Italy’s signature for decorating buildings.

Azulejo comes from the Arabic meaning ‘polished stone’. It is from this stem that the designs – mainly geometric patterns – originated. However, the art of tile painting really arrived in Portugal from Spain, and in the 17th century tile artists started adding figures of people and animals. Later still, they started to use tile panels to tell stories. The blue and white colours became fashionable under the influence of Ming Dynasty porcelain from China. It is also interesting that the tiles were not only decorative, but served a useful purpose too – protecting the building and contents from heat, damp and noise. H

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Left: Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, A Favourite Custom 1909. Tate

Below: Exterior of Tate

Cornwall Spotlight on


ornwall is awash with culture, contemporary art and heavenly places to visit, both inland and on the coast. St Ives has become the most famous of all Cornish towns thanks to the huge number of famous artists who settled there, drawn by the incredibly clear and luminous quality of the light. In 1928 a society of artists was set up

Heimo Zobernig, Untitled, 2007. Tate


by Alfred Wallis, Ben Nicholson and Christopher Wood, later joined by Barbara Hepworth and Naom Gabo. Latterly, the St Ives Society of artists split over abstract v. figurative art, and the abstracts formed the Penwith Society of artists, led by Barbara Hepworth and Ben Nicholson. The most famous art centres in St Ives are the modern Tate St Ives, and the Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden. Both are well worth a visit. During December (running to 11th January) at Tate St Ives you can see Austrian artist Heimo Zobernig, whose work is colourful, exotic and very diverse! A short walk away is the Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden. This is where Hepworth lived from 1949 until she died in 1975. The Trewyn Studios are surrounded by lush and gorgeous, almost tropical gardens where many of her sculptures can be seen to

their best advantage. Her working studio has been restored to as close to how it was in her lifetime. The fire All Cambridge photos by Cece Mills that caused her death unfortunately destroyed much of her furniture and effects, although none of her sculptures were lost, but it has now been reconstructed to create the mood of how it might have been. The other newer, but no less famous, attraction in Cornwall is the Eden Project. This massive Global Garden is home to crops, landscapes and plants from all over the planet. It also houses art and architecture inspired by nature. Once a china clay pit, now a site of huge greenhouses or Biomes, this spectacular centre shows us the enormous diversity of our world. Paul McGowan, during his 12 month residency at the Project, will be creating massive hangings for the Mediterranean Biome, as well as 12 smaller works, reflecting the title of his exhibition ‘Living on the Edge’. The purpose of the residency is to highlight the plight of organisms and plants living on the edge of extinction, and humankind’s role in controlling this decline. As well as

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The Eden Project (above), photographed by Tamsyn Williams, and Paul McGowan (right), featured at Eden, photographed by Chris Knowles. Inset: Lanhydrock House kitchens (NTPL)

this residency, you can find all sorts of wonderful works of art throughout the site, including Clare Twomey’s clay flowers, Peter Randall Page’s ‘Seed’, and a spectacular hemp fence outside the Rainforest Biome, made by George Fairhurst. And so to other parts of Cornwall. Lanhydrock is a beautiful house near Bodmin, which although closed during the winter months, has many attractions still open to the public. The gardens, gift shop and café are all open from 11am to 4pm, and the highlight of the winter season is the ‘Kitchen Sink Dramas’! These are popular tours of the huge, labyrinthine Victorian kitchens consisting of bakehouse, sculleries, dairies, storerooms and the star attraction, an ingenious Clement and Jeakes mechanical roasting spit. For those of you interested in below-stairs labour, this is a must. The National Maritime Museum in Falmouth features a photographic exhibition Our Footprint Below until January next year. It is compiled and created by students of University

College Falmouth. A magical glimpse of what lies below Falmouth’s piers and pontoons, from the mussel beds to the microscopic world of the diatom. The students aim to illustrate the rich marine life of Cornwall’s beautiful coast. UCF is a college of art, design, media and new media, and students also exhibit at the Royal Cornwall Museum in Truro. Fowey is another town in Cornwall rich in artistic culture – this time literary. Daphne du Maurier, Kenneth Grahame, Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch and Leo Walmsley (of the Bramblewick series of books) all lived in Fowey at one time or another. Grahame came to Fowey in 1899 to convalesce from pneumonia, and it was here, mucking about on the river with his friend Quiller-Couch, that Wind in the Willows was born. Yet another famous literary character, Sir John Betjeman, was mad about Cornwall and is buried at St Enodoc’s Church, Trebetherick. There are thousands of lovely

galleries to visit and so much artistic talent in the county it is staggering. Just re-established is the Leach Pottery in St Ives. This was founded in 1920 by Bernard Leach and Shoji Hamada, and has taken on a new lease of life this year thanks to a huge injection of cash, enabling it to set up in business once again. December sees a fabulous selling exhibition of contemporary and traditional tableware. Until February next year you can also learn all about the great master Bernard Leach in a detailed exhibition. And finally, not forgetting the most spectacular theatre in Britain – the Minak Theatre in the cliffs at Porthcurno. You can watch a show with the crashing waves of the Atlantic thundering below. If you find that a bit giddy making, try the Sterts Theatre on Bodmin Moor! Cornwall has so much to offer in terms of scenery and culture, not to mention the famous Cornish Pastie! Here’s to a happy holiday season for you all. H


The American

A democratic country – but a divided one Polling organization MORI’s founder Sir Robert Worcester sums up the election, the current state of play, and the expectations awaiting President Obama


arack Obama has been an amazing candidate for the American Presidency. But for his charm, calm demeanour and impressive intellect in Iowa at the beginning of the year, Hillary Clinton would be Presidentelect of the United States today. The Republicans had likely lost the


November 4 election before the campaign had even begun. Their election marathon began on January 3, 2008, at the Iowa caucus. Some 220,000 Democrats voted. Most for Obama (more people voted in the last Kent County Council election than in the Iowa caucus). Obama’s win in snowy Iowa led directly to the White House just over one year later when he is inaugurated on the 20th of January 2009. President-elect Obama’s address to the near million supporters gathered in Chicago on election night touched not only American’s hearts and minds but the peoples of the entire world. America is still a divided country. American voters were three quarters white, one quarter not. If only whites had voted they would have elected Senator John McCain by a twelve point margin. Nonwhites elected Barack Obama instead. Half (13%) of the non-whites are Afro-Americans, 8% Latinos and 5% Asian/others. Nineteen in twenty Afro-Americans voted for Obama as did two thirds of the others.

This margin carried the day. Blacks of all ages were consistent in their support of the first black President. Other divisions included age (as usual), religion, and East and West Coast pseudos (as they are seen by the rednecks) and “Real Americans”. If only protestants had voted McCain would have won by nine percent, and Sarah Palin would be the Vice President-elect. For that matter, if only the Evangelical Christians had had the vote, it would have been a three to one landslide for the self-described ‘pitbull with lipstick’. If only the “Real Americans” (those living in rural areas), had gone to the polls, the John and Sarah show would be set to perform their duties by some 53% to 45%. Somewhat to my surprise, it was the least well and most well paid who supported Obama. Six percent of American voters paid under $15,000 a year voted by three to one for Obama. A majority of the 6% paid $200,000 or more voted for Obama. The President-elect now has his mandate. His power will be strengthened by having both an increase in the Democratic Party control of the Senate and an increased number of Democrats in the House of Representatives. The President has no money, all budget bills must arise in the House. Key presidential appoint-

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ments are nominated by him but the Senate has “advice and consent” of approximately 1,000 of his nominations, and can reject those of whom they do not approve. Unlike Britain, there is no provision in the American Constitution for an election called on a whim of the country’s leader. Unlike Britain, the American Constitution has no provision for an election precipitated by a vote of no confidence. The next presidential election will be on Tuesday November 6, 2012. At that time, barring any unfortunate event, Barack Obama will be the Democratic candidate for re-election. You might think today that it will be a sure thing. Not necessarily so. The world’s economic crisis and America’s budget deficit will keep the President from funding many of the promises he has made.

The New Administration

There are two+ months more of President Bush. Then, on January 20, 2009, precisely at noon, President Bush, the 43rd President of the United States will leave office as President Obama, the 44th President, becomes the most powerful man in the world. Between now and then he will juggle the conflicting demands of his supporters to appoint them to the c. 4,000 posts that are in his gift. He will be working alongside his advisors and the American Government’s civil service preparing for his new administration. His transition team is already appointed. I worked on such a team in 1964. It was an intensive search for the right people to be fitted into the right positions both for them and for the country. For every job to be filled, there will be scores of candidates. FBI security checks have already begun on obvious choices.

Before inauguration, nominees for his cabinet will be announced. Hundreds of sub-cabinet positions will be filled, but hundreds will not be. Many posts will remain vacant, in others, incumbents will be asked to stay on until a more ‘suitable’ candidate can be appointed. Republicans will be few, but likely more in previous Democratic administrations. Many more will be blacks, many more will be women. He is already thinking of his most important appointments, that of Justices of the Supreme Court. There are two, possibly three, new Justices to be appointed. There are some currently on the Court who have held on until there is a Democrat in the White House. These appointments are vital because decisions made by the Supreme Court determine the direction of the nation for decades. Ambassadors, cabinet secretaries, all the senior members of the Bush administration, and many other presidentially-appointed office holders will submit their resignations on January 20. Some have already left, some are leaving before January 20 as they have new jobs, others are actively seeking another job. Headhunters are the vultures at the feast, and are already hovering. The President-elect will already be being besieged by foreign heads of state to meet, so that they can get their measure of Obama, and they of them. The British Prime Minister, German Chancellor, and

French President are already jockeying to see which will be the first to see the new President. In the meantime, the American civil service is marking time. Yet America faces literally hundreds of decisions to be made, strategic policies will be the province of President Bush until the Chief Justice of the United States swears in Barack Obama in January, yet he’ll know, as everyone else does, that he is a ‘lame duck’, and so he along with his White House staff, his thousands of officials, the civil service and all will know that his decisions are unlikely to stick, so he too will operate on auto-pilot. The economic crisis will not wait, nor may anything from terrorist attacks, the day-to-day management of diplomacy, and military decisions in Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, North Korea, and other foreign and domestic actions. In the meantime we wait, we all wait, not just Americans, but its allies abroad, its enemies and the economy, the environment, the responsibilities of managing America, but also of the world. Will there be a ‘new dawn’ on January 20? Yes and no. America’s image abroad will already have improved, stock markets are no longer plunging, the dollar remains strong as the central currency even though American Government borrowing is seemingly close to being out of control. Expectations of President Obama are high. Can he meet them? We must wait, and see, and hope. H


The American

When does the change – or has it already happened?


istoric. The same word over and over. Every party had a claim and every commentator had something to talk about: the oldest President, the first female VP, the first black President. On the train, in the papers, on the street and in the pub, there has been a constant barrage of the historic significance of almost every aspect of this campaign. A barrage that is likely to continue as the fund-raising and turn-out generated by this tightly fought battle for Presidential power has forced a complete re-calibration of what is possible in the craft of politics and with it, a whole new round of ‘historic’ firsts. It was interesting to watch the faces of both candidates as Senator Obama’s lead lengthened in the last days. The tiniest beads of desperation on one and the ever so subtle easing of the normally furrowed brow of the other were surely the most accurate reflections of the information they were receiving from their internal briefings and minute by minute focus groups. But slowly, gradually, election night became not the expected final


Political analyst Dr. Alison Holmes compares red/blue, liberal/conservative and coastal/fly-over states battle of a great war but the closing act of a favorite Shakespeare play. The ending was known, but the performance of the main protagonists unmissable. The temptation is to push the story forward and look to the challenges and pitfalls the future certainly contains for the President-elect. McCain seems intent to look ahead with his gracious concession call for the country to ‘move beyond’ and ‘work together’. While Obama’s declaration of the night as ‘the answer to anyone who still wonders if America is the place where all things are possible’ seemed to definitively close that chapter. The scene was set to consider and contrast Candidate Obama with President Obama. However, the election result, as historic as it undoubtedly was, should not be allowed to be considered as the end of history itself. There is more to learn from the night than merely that the American Dream

really can come true for the first man of colour to be elected to the highest position in the land. And the lesson that may be lost in the midst of all this is as old as history itself: the American people are full of paradoxical views. Forget that at your peril. The Red State / Blue State analysis, prevalent amongst American commentators and foreign onlookers alike, has lent itself for several years now to a sharp – and false – liberal / conservative divide. East coast warriors spend time characterizing the vast interior of the country as full of bumpkins who would rather cut holes in sheets than elect a black man. Particularly since the conventions, Ivy League-‘istas’ have been sighing in exasperation at the perceived ignorance of Sarah Palin and her hockey mom world but at the same time biting their nails with a secret fear. Deep down they worried that, having thrown over Hillary

begin? Clinton, a woman who clearly had a good grasp of the heartlands and the issues of the working class, for a more ‘risky’ choice, they would be denied victory at the hands of those pesky ‘fly-over’ states. Their surprise was palpable as the results steadily moved towards the required electoral count. The question is: in the midst of their partying, have they ignored other indicators that the winds of change conjured by their leader may blow against the new President as much as in his favor?

Dropped frappuccinos

The evidence for such a lesson becomes more apparent when one looks at the ballot initiative contests. No doubt the east coast liberalocracy had to grit their teeth when measures concerning human rights and abortion turned up in states like Nebraska, South Dakota and Colorado, but they may have dropped their frappuccinos when Nebraska passed their constitutional amendment against discrimination on the basis of race, sex, ethnicity, and national origin and both Colorado

and South Dakota refused measures that would limit or deny access to abortion. Compare those ‘middle America’ results with three initiatives on gay marriage and California’s current schizophrenia. Florida, California and Arkansas (which were also considering banning same sex couples from adopting and fostering children) all had constitutional amendments to either define marriage as being between a man and a woman or denying recognition of same sex unions. Arkansas fell in with expectation by passing its amendment, and Florida (perhaps explained by the older demographic) passed its as well. That leaves California – the supposed other enlightened coast. It was a close run fight but in the end, and despite the fact that it was only May of this year when such unions were recognized, California passed the proposal and left already married couples in limbo. If this flip was not confusing enough, add to that the fact that California gave a landslide victory to a ballot initiative requiring more humane treatment of farm animals while at the same time

denying proposals that would have approved incentives for developing renewable energy technologies. They care more for the welfare of animals than the welfare of their fellow citizens and the environment? No. People are just confusing and confused. They are increasingly less likely to be straight ticket people but issue-by-issue people with fervent views. Unfortunately, the consistency of those views is not a pre-requisite. Such idiosyncrasies – not idiocies – makes them a challenge to lead but a joy to communicate with. They are not forward or backward but firmly situated in their families, their towns, their churches and their states. They come with, dare I say it, history – and history cannot be changed unless and until it becomes shaped by dreams. President-elect Obama has suggested that he wants to represent all of America and that ‘Victory alone is not the change we seek’. Perhaps as a man from the heart of that vast middle he is ideally placed to understand the whole of the United States, not just the edges but the center as well. H


It’s the environment, stupid!

Christian Guthier

The American

by Jo Cole


t’s the environment, stupid! At least that’s what top climate change experts are constantly telling us. With so much focus at the moment on the economic crisis, it’s easy to forget the other policy areas which had until now been dominating so much political debate. For environmentalists, the credit crunch couldn’t have come at a worse time. While financial markets were flowing, households were willing to invest in renewable power, to pay more for organic produce and sustainably resourced meat, and so on. But when we’re scraping around the back of the sofa to find enough pennies to cover our mortgage, our eco-warrier credentials tend to fall by the wayside. Barack Obama’s election to become American President is a positive signal and provides hope for green campaigners across America and throughout the world. After all, with around five percent of the world’s population, the US produces about one-quarter of all global greenhouse gas emissions. Investment in the renewable energy sector


and in clean technology had been looking bleak following the collapse of the world’s financial markets, but many believe that Obama will focus on environmental issues and climate change, boosting these ‘green business’ areas. As part of his campaign, he promised to invest 150 billion dollars over ten years in renewable energy, both as a bid to tackle global warming issues but also to increase the energy security of the US due to fears of oil shortages. Meanwhile, across the continent governments have recently been accused of “lacking political will” to meet targets for renewable power by a group of 120 leading European engineers. Here in the UK, Gordon Brown has created a special Government department to focus solely on climate change issues. Shortly after this department came into existence, it was announced that we have committed to an 80% reduction of greenhouse-gas emissions by 2050. Following intense and prolonged pressure from green lobby groups such as Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth, this will now include

emissions from aviation and shipping – a policy previously thought to be near impossible. Ed Miliband (pictured), the new Secretary of State for Climate Change and an “up and coming” member of the Cabinet said that tough economic conditions could not be an excuse to “row back” on the UK’s commitments to tackle climate change – but this is of course easier said than done. My best friend is a true eco-warrier at heart. “Good news about us committing to higher targets” I said. “Yes but now we’ve got to actually make the targets” she retorted. And I suppose she’s right – rhetoric and sweeping commitments are all very well but can we action them? This will be the test for the new Department of Climate Change – and across the pond this will be the real test for Obama also, when he is properly sworn in as President in January. He’s made his bed – and a big, green bed it is too – and now the world will watch to see how well he lies in it. The economy might be in dire straits but now’s the time to focus on the environment, stupid! H

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Drive Time Urban Cruising with Toyota


f you’re in the market for a compact, stylish, rugged-looking crossover that is pretty much guaranteed to be solidly built and cheap to run, Toyota have an exciting new offering. The Urban Cruiser is designed for life on urban roads, yet, they say, be equally at home off the beaten track. Chief Engineer of the Urban Cruiser project, Kosuke Shibahara, explains: “With class-leading low emissions, Urban Cruiser provides an ideal solution to the growing

customer demand for flexible, yet socially responsible vehicles. It represents a new form of recreation vehicle, with a distinctive personality and responsible all-wheel drive performance. With many countries starting to introduce CO2-based taxation on vehicles, there has never been a better time to launch an urban car that’s enjoyable to drive, both in and out of the city, with exceptionally low CO2 emissions.” Urban Cruiser will go on sale in the UK in May 2009 in two versions: a 1.33-litre Dual VVT-i petrol model with two-wheel drive and a 1.4 D-4D diesel with all-wheel drive. The sales mix in the UK is expected to be 70 per cent petrol, 30 per cent diesel.

Classic Motoring Films Free Online

When kids start to drive British roads are more crowded than many American highways, and you may find unfamiliar road conditions – driving on the ‘wrong’ side, roundabouts, new traffic signs. Add the stresses of being a young or new driver. The risk of a car wreck peaks after passing the test. Young men are twice as likely to be in a crash as young females and the risk is greatest for drivers under 20. Britain’s IAM (Institute of Advanced Motorists) has this advice to help parents help their kids in that crucial first period. ●

Use a professional instructor to teach them to drive whilst giving them extra practice

Teach by example: always use a seat belt and keep to the speed limit restrictions

Take them on routes they are likely to drive on regularly and talk to them about where the risks are

Help them to practice driving in various conditions, such as night time, in poor visibility and if possible on rural roads

Educate them on the potential risks (e.g. lack of concentration, showing off ) and the distractions that can follow having their friends in the car for the first time

Help them to further develop their driving skills by encouraging them to continue developing their driving, perhaps by taking an advanced driving course.


niversal Motoring History’s film archive has been turned into an online motoring history resource for car enthusiasts. The archive at consists of more than 500 classic films from around the world. The movies date from the 1890s onwards and can now be enjoyed for free. The collection covers the start of mass production, world speed records, commercials, motor shows, car launches, the evolution of design, experimental cars, flying cars, famous drivers, stunt driving, unusual military machines and extensive racing footage from the “golden age” of motor racing from circuits like Le Mans, Indianapolis and Monte Carlo and hill climbs and stock car racing. The archive has been accumulated over many years from numerous sources, including motor manufacturers, government departments, military organizations, film and TV production companies and elsewhere. A significant number of the films, have largely remained unseen for more than 50 years and were previously thought to have been lost or destroyed.


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Scooby Dooby Does S

o you have to get rid of your fast car. Family dictates you need a nice, sensible wagon to fit the children, their bags and the dog. The credit crunch says it has to have good fuel economy for the commute and the school run. But gone will be the thrill of the powerful engine to power you past those slow lorries. Life is about to get very dull. Or not. The new Subaru Outback Diesel Estate is a wagon with grunt, a large trunk and great fuel economy (48.7mpg combined) with the new 2.0 high-performance Boxer Diesel engine. Have you ever seen an enthusiastic puppy looking at its back legs, wondering why they’re following it? For puppy, read this rally-bred car. For back legs, read this wagon’s trunk. Subaru have finally got round to putting a diesel engine into their estate car, and have ticked all the boxes – roomy,


by Sabrina Sully

Surprisingly capable off road as well as on

full time All Wheel Drive, 5-speed gearbox, large boot, legroom in the back seats, nice interior, xenon headlights, economical, – oh yes, and torque. Bags of it, and a 0-60mph of 8.8 seconds. The best bit is you have to throw that economical driving style necessitated by high fuel costs, right out the window. Keep up the revs, or it’s easy to stall. You can throw the car around too. This is a car to drive and enjoy. The rally car roots of Subaru shine through, and as you ease off the accelerator the throaty twin carb of the engine tells you it’s with you. Enjoy powering up through the gears and know you’re not burning too much gas – it’s like eating cream cakes with no calories. For The Outback read an affordable Audi AllRoad, although personally I found it more fun – younger and less staid. The 4WD powers you through the large puddles with no hesitation, and handles the inevitable potholes with panache, and it can tow OK [3,748 lb braked, 1,653 lb unbraked]. Subaru’s horizontally-opposed boxer engines have a flat engine configuration with opposing pistons effectively balancing out each others’ vibrations. Hence the name Boxer, the pistons are like opposing boxers’ fists punching together. Compared with

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Subaru 2.0D Outback Estate

In-line engines, this gives smooth, seamless, fluent power delivery right through the rev range. And because the design is shorter and shallower than other engines including V-types, it is more compact, lightweight and very rigid. It also means the engine can be fitted way down in the chassis, giving a very low centre of gravity, which all adds up to superb handling. It also explains why it has taken such a long time for them to drop a diesel engine in. Those clever people at relatively small Subaru wanted to keep their trademark layout, for marketing as well as mechanical reasons and they have been scratching their heads to develop a diesel boxer engine rather than buying in an off the shelf motor from a larger manufacturer. They’ve done it, and I think we can give them a round of applause. In fact, I even forgive it for the ignition key, which does need a serious redesign – the blipper was right under my thumb when inserting the ignition key, either preventing me from starting or/and setting off the alarm with nearly every journey, until I’d re-pressed the button a few times. Seriously embarrassing. If you don’t fancy a diesel engine, or if you’re in London. or want to escape the Congestion Charge, or want even greater economy

Spacious, sporty and frugal, the new diesel Scooby is a good allrounder

from your petrol-powered Scooby, Subaru have an LPG programme to either supply a spark-plug fired car from new with an LPG conversion or have it converted at a later date using the class-leading Vialle LPi system with fitting by Milbrook Engineering. Either way your conversion is Subaru approved and maintains your Subaru warranty, and Congestion Charge exempt, and available for most of the range. ★


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Green Cars for Less Greenbacks Car prices crash – is it time to get that new 60mpg automobile? Credit Crunch Bargains Fiat Panda 1.3 Multijet Dynamic 5-dr (list price £8,990) now £6,471, saving £2,519 Citroën C2 1.4 Hdi Vibe 3-dr (list price £10,190) now £8,082, saving £2,108 Skoda Fabia 1.4 TDI 70 1 5-dr (list price £9,925) now £8,333, saving £1,592 Citroën C1 1.0i Vibe 3-dr (list price £7,540) now £6,117, saving £1,423 Peugeot 107 1.0 Urban Lite 3-dr (list price £7,540) now £6,176, saving £1,364 Toyota Aygo 1.0 VVT-I 3-dr (list price £7,170) now £6,154, saving £1,016 Suzuki Splash 1.2 GLS 5-dr (list price £9,048) now £8,454, saving £594 Mazda2 1.4D TS (AC) 3-dr (list price £9,594) now £9,027, saving £567 SmartForTwo 1.0 71 Pure 2-dr (list price £7,445) now £6,955, saving £490 Hyundai i10 1.2 Comfort 5-dr (list price £7,740) now £7,398, saving £342



ave you seen the price of gas in Britain? The average price for ordinary unleaded gas as we went to press in, say, a Surrey suburb was £4.37. At today’s dollar/pound rate – and converting the different gallon sizes (the ‘Imperial’ one is larger at around 1.2 US gallons, are you following?) – that is about $5.50 a US gallon. Ouch. Back home we complained about the $3 gallon, and it’s dropped by 50 cents now. So we should all buy eco-cars, right? Most people would now check out the price list of the Toyota Prius (£17,000+) or Lexus hybrids (even more, some much more) and be put off, carrying on with their old car or buying one second hand. But new car sales figures in the UK have collapsed – October’s year on year figure

was 23% down, the biggest fall for 17 years - and car dealers have responded by offering some great deals. It is now possible to buy brand new, box fresh, wallet-friendly as well as planet-friendly cars for well under £10,000. The consumer group Which? has surveyed leading high street car retailers and found some great credit crunch bargains (see list, left). That’s cheap, a 28% discount off an already budget price in the case of the Punto. And these cars will cut your fuel bills too – they offer between 51 and 65mpg. Assuming the government’s new car tax rates are implemented next year tax becomes cheaper for the lowest-CO2 models. Some of these ‘cheap as chips’ models are practical and fun to drive too. And bear in mind these are the prices that retailers are admitting to, there may be even keener deals to be had. Have cash, be bold, get a bargain!

Last lap dra ma gives Hamilton h istoric vict ory I n this year’s F1 season preview I suggested that the weather would play an important part in deciding the driver’s championship, but I did not think it would have such an enthralling and dramatic role as we witnessed in Brazil. For the second year in a row F1 fans enjoyed the title fight going all the way to the final race but, thankfully, that is the only comparison with last year and all the controversy that surrounded it. Fernando Alonso’s spectacular end-ofseason renaissance added a bit more spice to the mix, especially following his public endorsement of Felipe Massa, proving there is no love lost between the Spaniard and his former McLaren team-mate but ultimately it was Hamilton that prevailed. Much has been made of how much time Timo Glock lost on his last lap, some conspiracy theorists suggesting the German slowed to allow Hamilton past, but having personally been on slick tyres when rain has come down I can tell you that there was nothing Glock could have done. Just enough rain fell on the last lap to take the temperature out of the slick tires, which lost all grip. Crucially the air pressure in the tire dropped dramatically too, affecting the car’s handling even further.

Massa provided an excellent challenger to Hamilton throughout the season. His raw pace has never been questioned but his temperament before this year was always an obstacle to him becoming Brazil’s first world champion since Ayrton Senna. Kimi Raikonnen was not as strong as last year largely down to the car being developed away from his driving style and more towards that of Massa, highlighting that no matter how good you are, if you don’t have the car underneath you, you will never be competitive. But you can count on the flying Finn coming back as strong as ever next year. Hamilton fully deserves this year’s championship and he will surely go on to win more titles in the future but I hope that now he has got this monkey off his back he will change his driving style a little. Many drivers have criticised his driving this year, some going on record suggesting one day Hamilton may well kill another driver with his aggressive tactics. This may sound harsh but I have to agree with some of their comments. Sometimes Hamilton has gone for brilliant but ultimately dangerous moves.

By Dom Mills

They may not appear so to the untrained eye but the armchair viewer cannot understand the massive amount of energy cars produce when braking from such high speeds in such a short space, a slight touch of wheels could be disastrous. Hamilton has the speed to be able to make a move pretty much when he wants, so some patience is all he needs. 2008 has done a lot to repair the damage created from last year’s off-track distractions with some great races and new drivers claiming their maiden victories. Sebastian Vettel has had a sterling year in the Torro Rosso, his flag to flag victory in Italy was a fantastic result, he may not have won if not for the rain but he has done enough to prove that one day he will win a world championship. Kovalainen also claimed his first victory this year but he has flattered to deceive in 2008. However there were some very dull races mixed in with the truly entertaining ones, mostly caused by changeable weather. Perhaps adding random water sprinklers to circuits is an idea for the future? ★



ack in the pre-lockout days of the NHL, when teams could simply buy Stanley Cup championships with puffed up payrolls, dynasties were commonplace. For example, the Edmonton Oilers won the Cup five times between 1984 and 1990, the New York Islanders owned it for four seasons in a row starting in 1980, and most remarkably, the Montreal Canadiens brought home the silver chalice ten times between 1965 and 1979. However, the buy-your-success era of the NHL came to an end with the cancellation of the 2004-05 season, which produced a league-wide salary cap, and as a result, dynasties have become a thing of the past.

© CLaUs aNDersoN/Getty IMaGes

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With one notable exception. Located in Hockeytown, USA, the Detroit Red Wings, the reigning Stanley Cup champions, have managed to forge a dynasty despite the NHL’s new salary ceiling, having won four mugs since 1997, not to mention eight division titles and four President’s Trophies for earning the most points in the regular season. In fact, in the last twenty-five years, the team has only missed the playoffs twice, and it has played in the postseason in each of the last seventeen seasons, the longest-running playoff appearance streak in the entirety of American professional sports. So what’s the secret to the Red Wings’ success? General Manager Ken Holland insists that the key is that they’re


Jeremy Lanaway examines why the Detroit Red Wings – and the Red Wings alone – are in position to build a ‘dynasty’. doing what they’ve always done – icing the best team possible. ‘When we were in the old world – when we had a $70-million [US] payroll – we still had to put a team together,’ he recalls. ‘We had six or seven or eight guys who had the majority of the payroll, and we had to have some young kids. I guess it’s the same kind of philosophy in putting a team together now as it was before, although the numbers change a little bit. We’ve got a philosophy – puck possession – and we try to find players that fit our philosophy. We haven’t changed our philosophy.’ The puck-possession style can be

traced back to former Red Wings coach Scotty Bowman. ‘Ever since Scotty brought [puck possession] in, that became our style,’ says Assistant General Manager Jim Nill. ‘So when we drafted players, they had to be [able to play] that style. We wouldn’t draft someone who couldn’t handle the puck. And we’ve stayed with it. When we’ve lost, people would say, “They’re not tough enough. Puck possession looks nice, but it’s not working.” But we’ve stuck with it.’ The less-clutching-and-grabbing reforms of the new-look NHL, a large part of the league’s retooling during the lockout, are perfectly

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”The less-clutching-andgrabbing reforms of the new-look NHL are perfectly suited for the Red Wings.”

DYNASTY suited for the Red Wings, who have been seeking players with speed and puck-handling prowess since the early 1990s. However, seeking and finding are two very different things, but that hasn’t prevented the Red Wings from making an art out of locating diamonds in the rough. Enter Red Wing centreman Pavel Datsyuk, who finished in fourth place on the league’s scoring ladder last season, with thirty-one goals and sixty-six assists, and left-winger Henrik Zetterberg, whose forty-three goals and thirty-nine assists were enough to earn him the sixth rung. Having two players in the top-ten pool for scoring is impressive, but it becomes downright astonishing when you consider the fact that the Red Wings drafted Datsyuk and Zetter-

berg in the sixth and seventh rounds of the NHL entry draft. ‘That’s a tribute to Jim Nill and Ken Holland,’ explains Bowman, now a consultant. ‘They have good scouts – pro and amateur – and they lean on them to give them good ideas. The main thrust is that they don’t stand pat. They keep trying to add players. They said, “We have to look everywhere for players.” If anyone has an idea, they want you to bring it forward.’ It’s hard – if not impossible – to find another team in the NHL that can compete with the talent of the Red Wings’ front office. Not only does the team have arguably the most successful general manager in recent history in Holland, it also has Nill, Bowman, Senior Vice-President Jim

Devallano, and Vice-President Steve Yzerman, sixth in all-time NHL scoring and the recently appointed Executive Director of Team Canada. The Red Wings’ upper management is made up of five of hockey’s top minds, and to their credit, they’ve managed to stay on the same. ‘We really believe in each other and have a lot of fun together,’ Nill says. ‘We all have different roles and we respect them, and in the end, we all like to win. We tell the players, “You need to look in the mirror and know who you are and what you are,” and we work with that as a management style.’ However, to be a bona fide dynasty in the NHL, a team must win back-to-back Stanley Cups, an accomplishment that hasn’t been pulled off since the Red Wings themselves managed it back in 199697 and 1997-98. Will they be able to repeat the feat, avoid a ‘Cup hangover’, and hoist Lord Stanley’s prize in June? Only time will tell, but if any team is going to do it, it’s a safe bet that it’s going to be the Red Wings. ‘Certainly, I think it’s possible to be a good team, a legitimate Cup contender, year in and year out,’ Holland says. ‘You’ve got to really stretch the draft table and develop players, and from there, you have to find your nucleus, your foundation, your key players to build around, and then keep adding to it.’ H


The American


Sports observations, opinion, and occasional silliness from Richard L Gale. No more Billy Penn? Curses! It’s time to find a new favorite jinx.


used to have a ‘widget’ on my computer that counted the days since Philadelphia last won a major league title in any sport. It was called the ‘Cheesesteak of Suffering’. With the Phillies winning the World Series, the suffering has ended, and with it the Curse of William Penn. For anybody still not familiar with that curse, here’s a (final) recap. For many years, City Hall was the highest building in Philadelphia; atop its tower, a statue of William Penn, founder of Pennsylvania. The Curse observes that since the city allowed buildings to grow taller than the statue, the city’s heart has been broken time and again by its sporting franchises. Until now, although we should note that a reproduction of the statue was strapped to the highest beam of the latest, tallest building in Philly only last year – coincidence?


There’s been something of a purge on curses recently, especially in MLB, where they’ve been falling like Autumn leaves. The Curse of the Bambino (Red Sox, 1919-2004), the Curse of the Black Sox (White Sox, 1918-2005); and the shorterlived Curse of Keith Hernandez (Cardinals, 1983-2006), have all been exorcized recently. While those were ‘franchise’ jinxes, the Curse of William Penn afflicted an entire city. The most impressive existing ‘city curse’ would seem to be Cleveland, where things have been pretty bleak since an NFL Championship in 1964, with memorable AFC Championship collapses for the Browns in the late ’80s, and the Cleveland Indians’ failure to land a World Series. Could LeBron James take the Cleveland Cavaliers to the promised land this season? Still, baseball is home of the curse – for some MLB teams, one isn’t enough. The SF Giants have two. The Cubs have three, my favorite being the Curse of the Billy Goat. To my mind all good curses should be more than a run of bad luck, requiring some affronted soul with an axe to grind who hexed the team in the first place, and this is just such a case, relating how greek tavern owner Billy Sianis tried to take his pet goat to a Cubs World Series game (yes this was a long time ago), only to be ejected after initially gaining entry. Accord-

ing to legend, Sianis cursed the team. That was 1945. The team lost the series, and the ‘curse’ has yet to be broken, despite the team inviting a goat to opening days in both the ’84 and ’89 seasons – both pennant years. However, this being predominently a football column, I’ll finish with my new favorite hex, the Cardinals Football Curse. It has it all: it’s long-running, there’s a wronged party involved, and it is most definitely in play. It also takes us rather neatly back to Pennsylvania. In 1925 the Pottsville Maroons were arguable the best team in the NFL. After playing a (debatably) un-sanctioned game against a Notre Dame All-Star team in Philadelphia – home turf of the Frankford Yellow Jackets – the Maroons were suspended while holding the league’s best record. The then-Chicago Cardinals added two late games to their schedule, allowing them to clinch the league title (in those days decided on record alone). Over the years, supporters (including the late Art Rooney and George Halas) continued to promote Pottsville’s claim to at least a shared title, and the issue has been debated at NFL owners’ meetings as recently as 2003. Meanwhile, the Cardinals franchise has endured 82 years of hopelessness. With a four game lead over a terrible division, and boasting the highest scoring team in the league, it’ll be interesting to see how the Cardinals season plays out! H

The American

The Return Game

Sean L Chaplin is back! ( the USA, that is). After life on Lakenheath, Sean and his wife unpack those crates and get used to life in Eastern California as ‘re-pat’ sports fans.


fter three wonderful years in the UK, Liz and I were due to move back to the States. Although I didn’t mention it in my ‘On Court’ columns, I am in the Air Force and until October, was stationed at RAF Lakenheath. I now reside in California City, and with the change in venue comes a new and exciting chapter to the column where I hope to convey the American sports scene from the perspective of the folks “back home”. I look forward to keeping my finger on the pulse and hopefully bringing some of the excitement and atmosphere from sunny California. The obvious first impression I have of the So-Cal sports scene is the dominance of USC football, or to be more precise, the total dominance of Trojan football in print and media. One can’t escape the incessant fascination with this college football juggernaut. Due in no small part to the fact that there is no pro football team in LA, the Trojans are the talk of the town. Stroll through a department store or Wal-Mart here in the Antelope Valley and you will find any number of household items emblazoned with the SC logo: the usual tee-shirts, shorts etc., although I draw the line at doggie tee-shirts and bibs! I now understand why SC’s cross town rivals UCLA have such an inferiority complex. Just reading the LA Times and I see that USC commands three pages of print, while UCLA gets one.

The buzz on the street is that they won’t be playing for the national championship due to the inherent weakness of the Pac-10 in general this year. Surprisingly, the beat writers who cover the team feel this is fair, due in part to the disappointment of losing to Oregon State, after the strong start over Virginia and Ohio State. I am curious to see how the local populace reacts if USC plays in the Holiday Bowl instead of the Rose! It seems that pro football is an afterthought, but plenty of folks are talking about how well the Cardinals are playing at the moment. Phoenix can now boast of a first place team to go with their first class stadium in Glendale. I have driven by the facility quite a few times and I must say it looks like an alien spaceship landed in the middle of town, but from all accounts it is one of the finest new stadiums in the league. I love the fact that the Cards are competing as it gives Phoenix another successful franchise after the Diamondbacks and Suns, and thereby more choice for sports fan to enjoy. I look forward to attending a few games and reporting back in future articles! Finally, a hearty congratulation to the new World Champion Phillies is in order. Heck the Phillies should get hearty congratulations just for playing in Philly! The Playoff ratings for baseball were some of the worst figures ever recorded, which is odd due to the recent resurgence of

baseball during the regular season. Suggestions for earlier start times and more retractable roofs for new stadiums make sense to me, due to rain delays. Who wants to watch a game that continues on into the early hours of the morning, especially on a school night? While inconvenient for the modern TV viewer, I would love to see some day games in the playoffs, just like there were when I was growing up. Retractable roofs make sense, especially in this day and age with technology being so far ahead of even 10 years ago. More southern cities have retractable roofs than in the north. Maybe baseball figures a way to include some money to subsidize new builds to include retractable roofs, but either way, the television format for playoff games must be addressed. Well, I wish I could send you all some sunshine and I would be lying if I said I was not enjoying the weather, but I do miss Premiership football and sausages, so the sunshine will have to do! H


The American

Transition Game In this month’s diary entry, basketball import Keonta Howell enjoys the winning experience ...and a bigger bedroom!


ince last month there have been many different things going on with me and the Heat, and most of them have been positive: Barack Obama became President-elect; I moved into a new house; one of my games was cancelled and I spent a weekend in beautiful London. Most important, my team won two games. The previous month, losing two games in a row, I’d been doing nothing but staying at home and playing ball. I had no desire to do anything because everything reminded me of my last game. After a year of playing ball overseas I fig-


ured out that winning takes away a lot of that stress. Now, as well as winning, we had a chance to get out and see England for the great country that it is. It seems as if we are getting better every game. Our practices are more competitive and Coach Paul James has been really hard on us the last two weeks. I think this is because he sees the potential and he knows what it takes to be a champion in this league. With no game last week, we ran so much and worked so hard for three days straight – I don’t think I’ve run that much since college. Now I see the new players and the older players talking and just getting along way better in general, becoming better friends and starting to trust each other more. I think a lot of our losses have been because in times of adversity we couldn’t come together as a team. Now that we have been through some things together I think all this will change. The mood has been very laid back within the basketball family. We moved into another house just a few miles from the first house. At first all five of us that live together were very worried to hear we had to move. We hadn’t gotten to use our sauna yet! Nobody really had any answers about the new house. All I wanted was for my room to be bigger because my last room was very small, but when we finally saw the house, we were very happy. The house was bigger and we all got bigger rooms.

Keonta in action against the Cheshire Jets. The Heat won 91-88, Keonta scoring 15 points. photos © Gary Baker

Obama becoming the first African American President of the United States was very exciting for us because it’s a part of history. Even though we weren’t in the States when it happened we were just as excited as if we were right at home. Finally, with the weekend game cancelled, me and one of my teammates that grew up in London decided to go there for the weekend (it’s less than an hour from Guildford, after all) and let off some steam. I got to see things that I had only seen on TV. Coming from where I come from in the States I just couldn’t even believe I was there. If the rest of my time in England goes like the last couple weeks, I might not want to leave! H Keonta Howell and The Guildford Heat host the Plymouth Raiders at the Guildford Spectrum, Sunday November 23 in the British Basketball League Cup Semi-final. Visit for details.

CoUrtesy GUILDForD FLaMes

The American

HM Queen Elizabeth II was on hand in Poprad to drop the ceremonial puck as the Guildford Flames took on HK Aquacity ŠKP Poprad, October 24. The exhibition game coincided with Her Majesty’s first state visit to Slovakia. “To be a small part of a Royal visit is a once in a lifetime opportunity,” said Flames coach Paul Dixon. Guildford, the defending English Premier League champions, lost a close game, Poprad winning 3-2. For more information on home games throughout November, visit

H H H Ticket Offer H H H

Guildford Heat v London Capital January 1st • 7pm • Guildford Spectrum

enjoy a regional rivalry to start the new year, as keonta howell and his angloamerican teammates on the Guildford heat host the London Capital at the spectrum, Guildford. and readers of The American can enjoy the fixture even more with exclusive reduced ticket prices – only £5 entry for this marquee match-up between two of the country’s top basketball teams. Mike Martin of the Heat in action against London

Just £5 Entry tickets can be bought over the phone from the box office on 01483 44 33 33 or in person at Guildford spectrum, parkway, Guildford, surrey GU1 1Up. please quote ref LC0101 when booking. Normal ticket price of £7 (child) & £11(adult).

Back with a Bang the British University american Football League began its 2008-2009 season this past month, including the spectacular xpLosIoN event, November 5, combining Guy Fawkes night with a little gridiron action. the Birmingham Lions celebrated a 29-0 season-opening win over the Bath killer Bees. the league features 45 teams (with other associate members preparing to join next season), and plays its regular season from November to March, concluding with the National Championship Game in april. the defending champions are the southampton stags. BUaFL has also announced a deal with the NFL to ‘add value’ to the BUaFL championship game and other events such as the Challenge trophy and home Nations MVp series. NFL Uk Managing Director alistair kirkwood said ‘the NFL has been very impressed by the growth of american football within British universities in recent years.’ For more information including scores, news and fixtures, visit


The American

Tail End

Paw Talk, or My Life as a Dog in London, by Rebel. Grigio, the dog that saved a saint.


love stories of the good deeds done by my fellow dogs. My favourite is about a huge, gray mongrel who appeared out of nowhere in Turin, Italy and appointed himself Saint John Bosco’s body guard. Saint John Bosco, who died in 1888, spent his life trying to shelter, rehabilitate and educate homeless youths and created what is known as the Salesian Order. One day the saint was walking through the narrow streets of Turin when a mugger


appeared and threatened to kill him if he didn’t hand over his money. The saint [who I find is the patron saint of, among others, editors! – ed] explained his money went to the waifs and orphans he was trying to save, but the attacker refused to believe him and brandished a knife. Suddenly, the dog, named Grigio, emerged out of the darkness and the attacker, terrified by the snarling, menacing animal, ran away. From then on, Grigio became Saint John Bosco’s protector and sheltered him from harm whenever he was in danger. Considering the saint was helping children who lived in the poorest areas of Turin, the dog was often called on to protect his master. Thankfully, the government realized the saint’s educational and humanitarian projects could be trusted and stopped treating him as a threat. One night, Grigio, knowing his services were no longer needed, came to Saint John Bosco, rubbed his head against the saint’s habit, licked his hand and placed a paw on his

knee. Then, with one farewell look at his beloved friend, turned and wandered into the night, never to be seen again. This story came to mind when I went shopping with She-WhoMust-Be-Obeyed-Usually a few days before Christmas. As we were walking we passed a poorly dressed woman with a huge, gray mongrel curled close to her, asking for help. Most people ignored the woman, but She-Who-Must-Be-ObeyedUsually opened her shopping bag, took out two cans of dog food and a litre of milk, and gave them to her. It was obvious the woman was using the dog for warmth which bothered She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed-Usually for halfway to our car she suddenly turned and walked back to the woman to give her the heavy quilt jacket she had on. As the woman was putting on the jacket, I asked the dog how he came to live with the woman. He explained that shortly after that past Christmas he was abandoned by the people who bought him as a present for their children because he grew too large. Thankfully, he was found by the woman and although their circumstances were difficult, he knew he was loved and needed. Before we walked away, I asked curiously, “By the by, what’s your name?” “Grigio,” he barked softly. “And Merry Christmas to you, Rebel.” ★

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The American is a Blue Edge Publishing publication. Old Byre House ★ East Knoyle ★ Salisbury ★ Wiltshire ★ SP3 6AW Tel: 01747 830 520 ★ Fax: 01747 830 691 ★ E: Registered in England. No. 3496021. VAT No. 902 0137 83


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The American December 2008  

The American has been published in Britain since 1976. It is the only monthly magazine / website / community for Americans visiting and livi...

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