Saturday, October 28, 2006

The Grey Lady's light basement*

The New York Times "home page" feed just gave me this intriguing bit of fluff about politicians using hand-sanitiser after long bouts of handshaking. It has some of the falseness of all trend stories: to be news it has to suggest or imply that this quirk of behaviour has just come into being, or just become more prevalent; in fact, the reporter has just noticed it, and decided we might be interested. He's right, though. It is interesting. So fine.

The most interesting thing is that no politician is quoted as santinising to protect the public from their germs, rather than themselves from the public's. Maybe one of them tried that line and was dismissed as a flatterer; but surely they could have been profitably mocked as a flatterer in the text? So maybe they all are that egotistical.

I'd feel more sympathetic if the pols were French. According to a friend who should know, but may have been winding me up, the French cliche equivalent to "kissing babies" for political glad-handing is "feeling cows' arses". (And the key fact about Jacques Chirac, apparently, overlooked outside France, is that he's the greatest cow's-arse feeler in living memory.) Hand sanitisation after that? More than excusable.

*Apologies if this headline was even less comprehensible than usual. I believe a 'light basement' to be a human-interest story put in at the bottom of a broadsheet page; I'm going by a Julian Barnes piece collected in Letters from London, where Simon Jenkins says he insisted on having them as editor of the (London) Times. And the Grey Lady's the other Times, obviously, which having never fully accepted post-1930 conventions of newspaper layout probably finds the equivalent space half-way up a left-hand column, or on page K1 of a special weekly section called "Fluff". Forget I mentioned it.

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