Monday, January 31, 2005

All You Railyards They Are Not Belong To Us

Great news for the inner stadium hater (see posts passim), with the news that the MTA has realised that it can no longer be the piggy-bank for demented constrction schemes. Since Gringcorp spent an hour on a truly flaky B train this morning, the notion that the MTA should soak the developers to sort out the hellhole that is DeKalb Avenue is an appealing one. And so, it is now demanding that the Jets pay three times what they had offered for the West Side railyards, as Gothamist reports.

Then comes this excellent post from Kevin Drum in California. Apparently threatening to move to LA has been a favorite of team owners ever since O'Malley pulled it off with the Dodgers. LA never offers any money, though, and the allure of such a large market may cause an owner to move there without taking any bribes at all. The impact on Mr. Ratner's scam, which relies on shaking down anxious civic leaders and the MTA, should be clear.

Other culture from Gringcorp's EYEEEEZ:

Hotel Rwanda. Give Don Cheadle an Oscar and the keys to Brooklyn. A nasty, complicated story, based on Philip Gourevitch's book. Understand why rules are needed for invading small, brutish countries, and why invading brutish countries is sometimes necessary.

St John's University's School of Risk Management's Insurance Leader of the Year dinner. Gringcorp was the guest of a flack, despite not writing one sentence about the insurance industry before that one. The guest of honor was Brian Duperreault, formerly of AIG and ACE, who spent the evening smiling wanly and making offhand remarks about "buying stuff". No point getting too upset about this, because buying insurance companies doesn't put too many people out of work. Still, a couple of charitable donations, and some reasonably-adjusted children do not a superstar make, despit the best efforts of an A&E Biography produced video of purest schmaltz.

Only in insurance, kids, only in insurance.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Beep You, You Beepin' Beep

You would think that Gringcorp would have enough to tackle, playing tastemeister of the scuzz rock scene, spouting tired liberalism with the anti-Gonzales crew, making facile comparisons between New York and London, and leaving mawkish missives for cutesome companion lying around.

But we have a sidleine in covering municpal politics, as long-time readers, at least whichever one of them it was that didn't BLEAT LIKE A CHILD at not getting a post for a whole day, will know. And this time we are not refering to the overweight windbag that passes for political leadership in Brooklyn.

We caught Manhattan's very own Marty, Borough President C Virginia Fields, on NY1 this morning. "C", or "Virginia", as she is known to her friends (her enemies call her simply "Le Mort Du Timpani"), is apparently considering a run for mayor. As your fearless NY1 reporter made clear, there will need to be some increase in profile before she could aspire to taking down Mayor Mike. The poor lady does not even get a .gov domain name.

NY1's current crusade to give us more hard news from the outer boroughs must be causing its reporters to want to gouge out their own eyes. Because between the Manhattan Beep (that's hep jargon for Borough President) , and Helen Marshall's utterly inconsequential "State of the Borough" address (links to a pdf), it is apparent that the talent pool outside of the Mayor and council is rather shallow.

Marty we can sort of understand, since he does make good on his statement that he desires nothing more than to lead Brooklyn, make a fool of himself, and cut deals with, yes, Bruce Ratner. The idea of these placemen being put in front of a more discerning audience than a gaggle of sedated schoolchildren is absurd (come to think of it, that's the only one fit for that ghastly harridan Shelly Goldberg, as well).

It would seem to us that the Beeps, who are officially only really in charge of Good News and Nice Things, are spectacularly badly suited to being mayor. You need a slightly nasty streak to do the job, or have a serious disposition towards Vengeance. Bloomberg, priggish, aloof, dictatorial, fits the bill splendidly, as did Rudy. Until C Virginia Fields shoots, prosecutes, cusses out, disses, sues, or sits on someone evil, important, or both, it will be hard to take her even slightly seriously.

New Yorkers demand nutjob rulers, and hysterical reporters for that matter. Leave the niceness to the Beeps, and the human interest news stories to the insubstantial cloud of eyelashes that is Jill Scott. Please..

P.S. If you're a sloper who is rather attached to the sleepy yet interesting atmosphere that characterises Fifth Avenue, take some time to sign this petition, to stop Commerce Bank building a big-ass drive-thru bank on the spot opposite Blue Ribbon currently occupied by a bunch of vintage sports cars. And from giving Julia Louis-Dreyfus any more work.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Cutesome, For You A Meat Puppets Song

"I'm A Mindless Idiot", the first, and last, time we use the first person singular. But it's justified, god it's justified.

A more tin-eared moment of idiocy we could not conceive, cutesome. You deserve better. And we hope you have better.

In the meantime, writes this charmless Nick Hornby, here's a clip of this pretty song. I hope you enjoy it.

Monday, January 24, 2005

Bad, Limey! Bad!

Yes, we spelled "Sag Harbor" the Anglicized (i.e wrong) way. Shoot us, as and when we venture into the DMZ that is Suffolk County. Without our lawyer. Spelling "Junta" wrong was on purpose, although since the keys are next to each other, and knowing that the Gumby Fresh typing record is nothing less than appalling, we'd understand if you wouldn't believe us.

We don't have much going through our head right now, so we'll leave you with this. Why the hell is the bookend the last refuge of unmitigated kitsch? Where are the designers? Why do shelves always have to fit exactly?

It is a mystery, along with the Observer opinion crew's belief that Bush's "freedom, it's all about the freedom" ravings can be taken at face value. Look people, he said it because he didn't have anything else pleasant to talk about...

Sunday, January 23, 2005

She's Allman

We were probably among the happy few to have obtained a fix of rock without serious hassle last night.The snow, which proved such a boon for c-list Long Island TV reporters, and made the Suffolk County Chief Executive sound so super-badass ("This is a State of Emergency. Stay in your homes. Sag Harbour belongs to the Hunta now"), crimped our movements a tad. There was a poor lady outside our window in a rear-wheel drive Jaguar that spent several hours trying to get out of the snow, and exhausted the patience of numerous helpful passers-by.

Now we're fairly sure that while your fancy Manhattan streets are clean, we're still taking a while to get ourselves accessible, and Brooklyn can stay snarled up for quite a while. Fortunately, the rock was a very short trudge round the corner at Southpaw. They were having some kind of second-tier Detroit band night, which in our book is more than enough reason to displace the The Rub.

We got there in the middle of Wide Right's set, during a burst of enthusiasm in an otherwsie sludgy performance. We'd hate to say it, but we think that these "Rust Belt" power-poppers might be inbibing too much metal. You heard it here first. No excuse for the guys round the pool table to keep poking her in the back with the cue afterwards, though. Not really from Detroit.

The Everyothers were much more focused, had a properly skinny and wide-eyed singer, and some riffage. They say they're comfortable being compared to Tony Visconti-era Bowie, but we don't think they're really shiny and metalic enough. The Von Bondies are still much more likely to mutate into Duran Duran. Not remotely from Detroit. The Bowie reference included.

The Detroit Cobras are mostly from Detroit, and specialise in cranking out souped up 60s and Motown covers. We had been pitching them as "Cher fronting the White Stripes" to anyone who fancied a trudge down Fifth Avenue, and if we persist in spouting fatuous nonsense like that it's a miracle that anyone goes to a gig with us at all. The Cher link we think comes from her marriage to Gregg Allman, and we can hear a bit of them in here.

It's these hairy boogie merchants lurking in the background while Rachel Nagy croons and stomps her way through the songs. Not a lot of Cher there, truth be told. The people who want to compare her to Janis Joplin have much more of a point. Although we don't hink she was toting a whiskey and ham onstage, though. It's awesome background music, and when you get bored of nodding, and after a couple of the cheap Rheingolds, you can dance like an idiot with your companion. Yeah! It does get a tad annoying to listen her "come on get up and party" schtick, especially when it's the music's job to do that. Behavior like that earned the Cobras an ass-kicking when they double headlined with the Dirtbombs a while back. But we were much more impressed this time.

Anyway, time to get out of bed - there's some sleddin' to do.

Friday, January 21, 2005

Radio Wrong

The world is collapsing around our ears, I turned up the radio, but I can't hear it

Yeah, we'll give away the headline right now, by pinching the lyrics from the REM song. We were reminded of this by George Bush's supporters' incessant bleating that he invented the idea of bringing freedom to the world. This, despite the fact that most of their hagiography of Ronald Reagan rests on his performing exactly the same trick fifteen years ago.

Let's be blunt here. George Bush invented a way of bringing freedom to the world that involved bombing potential beneficiaries, invading their country, and making it extremely difficult for them to get to a polling station without getting shot. Reagan ran up huge deficits and fought small wars to bring Communism to its knees, even in the conservative reading.

Slate's Chris Suellentrop started to refer to the half-formed platitudes drooling from his mouth, something about free people never becoming terrorists as a "second Bush doctrine", before letting us know that this reading was too simplistic. As opposed to utterly reedundant posturing.

We appreciate that hoping that cable TV and subversive radio stations will lead to regime change is a little naive. Banning arms exports, clamping down on trade and bullying neighbors are all more effective. But bombing the hell out of countries is not the embodiment of the "freedom doctrine". Even the Serbs waited for a while after their bombing before turfing out Milosevic.

Let freedom ring, not cave in your roof.

[Update: Fred Kaplan makes these points much more graciously and eloquently two stories up in Slate. Oh well, we should probably stick to metal.]

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Cruising the A-Fitteen

Not a great headline, we'll grant you, but the The Sun had already pinched "Straight Outta Scunthorpe". Seems that North Lincolnshire, homeland of the Gringcorp tribe, may be, er, Usher-ing forth a soul superstar.

The mighty Scunthorpe Evening Telegraph reports that one Grant Harvey, formerly a chicken processor, working not far from the A15, has been taken under the bullet-riddled wing of 50-Cent. You see, the pun was worth it!

Apparently his new group Tiida (named after a short-lived Nissan model) are the first signings to the G-Unit Soul label, after impressing Eminem with their inability to use a Tec 9. Eminem has indeed found someone with less of an innate claim on hip-hop's culture than himself, unless he has a 120-pound white kid from Bangor, Maine stuffed up his sleeves somewhere. We wish Grant, and G-Unit Soul (which currently lacks a web presence) all the best. But we will remember this line:

Grant added, one of his main aims was to maintain his roots in North Lincolnshire

That's right, Grant, never forget you're from the lanes, never forget where you grew up, never forget that there's a land where herby sausages run free. You never know when you might need to come back.

Bend it Like Dagenham

So, we've been popping round Mr. Wolcott's site now and then, and we stumble upon this spirited defence of keeping Eastenders on American airwaves. Apparently public broadcaster WLIW wants $29,000 to keep it on air in NY. Both Wolcott, and the Walford Gazette want to save it. Wolcott in particular gets rather misty-eyed about the series' 80s heyday.

As a little background, Eastenders is a soap opera devoted to a fictional part of London's East End. That's right, the bit with the cockneys. The show's genius is that it followed the changes that swept the area - social, cultural, political. Didn't hurt that it had amazing characters, and some wonderful writing. TV critics were fond of saying that "proper" dramas could learn a lot from EastEnders.

We loved it too, caught the first episode, and followed it whenever we were at home (the English boarding school system not being a friend of telly) right through to the late nineties. Our mother had divided loyalties, often preferring the slightly whimsical streak of Coronation Street, the rival, better established, soap on ITV. But northwest england meant nothing to us, while the East End was pretty close to Brixton, where we grew up.

But the series has lost its way, whether a victim of capricious programming heads, or the fact that the subject matter is no longer that gripping. When we went home at Christmas, neither soap was offered up for our delectation. Since the area has drifted far from its working class roots, the transformation subtext, that the characters were coming to grips with big changes and new themes, is gone. Yes, awful focus-grouped characters, and too-frequent explosions, haven't helped, but we're not sure there's a reason for it to exist anymore.

Whether there could be another soap that can grapple with the themes so successfully and for such a long period is also hard to call. sorry to be so class-fixated, but we're not sure the tensions exist any more. We suggest that they shell out for Little Britain instead. Little Britain is sharp, observant, and revoltingly funny.

Back to NYC for a moment. We note that Katherine Oliver, Commissioner of the Mayor’s Office of Film, Theatre & Broadcasting, seems to be a tad overexposed right now. We might even compare her ads with those of Governor Pataki, who mastered the art of confusing promoting himself with promoting his pet cause, usually around election time. Could Ms. Oliver be a stalking horse mayoral candidate for this November, or is Sundance cover enough?

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

But We Earned That Cigar

This should consitute some kind of lazy half-done culture report, as filtered through fall 2004 political discourse:

Osama. A fine way of saying how banal, tedious, and downright silly the Taliban's rule of Afghanistan was. Hard to see what kind of peace and order the people urging accomodation with the regime were hoping for. But we must confess that we missed various key plot twists. Floating through our head, the line from Blackadder, however flippant it might be:

"That's the worst female impersonation since Tarzan went into Jane's handbag and ate her lipstick!"

Anchorman. Nowhere near as amusing as Will Ferell's other recent efforts, and that's even following Osama. We sort of ambled off to bed for a bit and came back, and he was still making slightly off-colour remarks about females. Boldly attempting to recreate the time in the 1970s when local news readers were minor deities, which is worth doing only because it gives movie reviewers the chance to show how early in life they were watching the news on TV. Well we remember Brian Hanrahan on the Falklands aircraft carrier. Which both dates us and makes us look pur-etty precocious, yuh-huh.

The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou. More seventies detritus, redolent of the 1970s along the Mediterranean, all Speedos and Campari. That, as well as cheesy synths, makes one keep loooking round the corner for Alain Delon to arrive. A fond, though fairly sharp, take on the whole Cousteau industry, it is our new favourite Wes Anderson film.

Politics. We're currently working through James Wolcott's Media Poodles, and Bulworth, both of which seem to suggest that political journalists and politicians are trapped and mutually entangled in this vortex of greed and vanity from which only the most brilliant and inspired can escape. Depressing stuff. Maybe we should be more smug that we mostly write about power stations.

We also caught the Razorlight show at the Bowery, but have promised a review to an upcoming web publication. Will plug when it appears. But we would like to say that the gig was one of the few ones where we've been genuinely intimidated by the sheer number of Beautiful People on display. I'll grant you that we weren't at a Brought Low show, but we hope this was a one-off, and they'll go back to Bungalow 8 or something. Sorry to be indie, but it's really hard to get a drink round these people.

Friday, January 14, 2005

Blow This Popsicle Stand

James Ridgeway, scourge of cant and hypocrisy, hirer of interns subsequently interviewed by Gringcorp, and owner of a prime piece of column real estate in the Village Voice, we're not worthy. Really. But some of your doomsday terrorism schtick this week is seriously flawed.

One aspect of Gringcorp's day job involves writing about Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG), an economically incomprehensible practice of freezing natural gas until it turns liquid, pouring it into these weird pressurised tankers, and then shipping it from obscure gas-producing markets, to places like Houston or Boston, both of which love to burn that sh*t like mad. LNG carriers are these peculiar oil tankers with massive bulbous kettle-like structures, and Shell, one for is mighty proud of them.

In a way, they are proud and misunderstood beasts, because the assumption of just about any homeland security hack is that ships carrying such a huge amount of flammable material are just the most tempting terrorist targets an up-and-coming jihadist might imagine. Here's Ridgeway:

Edward Teller, father of the H-bomb, speculated many years ago that an explosion on an LNG tanker would come close to equaling that of a nuclear bomb.

Now Teller's a smart man, but citing a nuclear physicist on how gases behave does not fill one with confidence in Ridgeway's scaremongering. Same goes for the mayor of Boston, who wanted to ban the tankers from Boston harbour. We might need to explain to hiim that now we're not burning witches, we'll have to burn something else. Trying to blow up an LNG carrier is like trying to blow up a popsicle, and will produce about the same explosion. To become flammable, the gas first has to thaw, and it is hard to do that without it escaping, which is why receiving terminals, where LNG is reheated, are so expensive.

We've tried to imagine armageddon, James, believe us we have. We were going to make our fortune by putting Steven Segal on one of thise suckers and watching it go up. But it is not possible. Which is not to say that the US is not being a little cynical by sending aid to Aceh, just that the coast of Indonesia is more about enriching pirates than potential flaming hell.


Thursday, January 13, 2005

Hooray for iFelix!

Sorted out our wireless connection problem far more elegantly than the 45 minutes spent on the phone to the lady from Dell. Although we appreciate the lady from Dell's help. Plus he's a limey, and hardcore into Warhammer 40K as well.

Springtime For Witless

Well, well, well, and we thought brainless fascist sympathising among the royal family was good and dead. But no, and right now in heaven Edward VIII, later Duke of Windsor is currently raving it up, maybe accompanied by Diana Mitford on vibes.

We have long maintained that it is rather peculiar to be formally a "subject" of such an imbecilic and inbred gang of sloanes. And then Prince Harry thinks it might make him look hugely dapper to show up at a fancy-dress party dressed up as a high-ranking member of the Afrika Korps. Some people say that in the circumstances we should be grateful that the little twerp can stand up straight. Not us. The third in line to the throne is so ignorant, or maybe high, that he can't work out how appalling it looks.

Fortunately spreading hate against royals is never taboo. Cast them into the gutter, we say. Or send them down the mines.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

I'm Super, Thanks For Asking

We have been a tad mystified by these ominous adverts that have been appearing on TV, extolling the "future of investing". We had thought that the future of investing was to buy anything apart from the dollar, and overweight forestry* But we're a sucker for ludicrous promises made on TV, although we have never acted on them. If anything else, we'd have been making too much money for PO Box owners in Bridgeport Connecticut, but we digress. We're here to talk about Superfund.

"Guten tag, My name is Christian Baha. I am the founder of Superfund, a managed futures fund...I would love to tell you more about Superfund, but regulations prevent me from describing it on television."

Crikey, the ad is all tasteful and monochrome, but there's still an air of the JT Marlin about it. Although we must stress there is nothing unethical that we have found about their business whatsoever. Same apparently goes for Forbes, which expressed gentle scepticism about Mr. Baha's claims, but found nothing untoward. They also note that he bought a bit of airtime over a couple of weeks over the winter of 2003-04 on the cable news channels. The latest publicity effort seems a tad more serious. (On a side note, try and google his name, and much of what you'll get are endless pleas for ecumencial understanding.)

All we'll say is, the man is using algorithms to pick which futures contracts his hedge fund will pick to invest in. It sounds as if he's at the start of the hedge fund cycle - clever trading process exploits inefficiencies in the market. Makes handsome money for small group of investors. But can the managers maintain this performance if other traders get wise to the trading process, or if his computers start laying such gigantic bets that they start to interfere with the market's operations?

We have no idea, since by day we mostly write about debt, rather than hedge funds. A hedge fund on paper is an investment fund formed outside of government regulation to invest on behalf of rich and savvy investors. But it's also a way to pension off former traders at investment banks, allow to them to practice their lunacy away from a bank's own money. They also allow the traders to try out a handful of tricksy trades over a long period rather than come up with a bundle of them every few days.

But we're jealous, writing about this insanity rather than enriching ourselves through it. And we really do think that Austrians have among the silliest accents in all of Europe. But, when it comes down to it, the only pitch we've ever been convinced by on TV has been the Magic Bullet's, and even then we didn't buy it because the ad was too cheesy. We rate the ad an underperform.

*Just kidding, children, gringcorp is not a registered financial adviser, this post should not be construed as a offer to buy or sell any security, and should be used for informational purposes only. In fact, it should only be construed as a childish attempt to ridicule people with funny accents. So there.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Hoola Rakers

Just a short note today, as we flit between the day job and ways to get out of the day job. But we wanted to prop something before it got cold. We spent an odd couple of hours at Galapagos on Saturday, essentially because we were looking for an appropriate encapsulation of Williamsburg for the visiting limeys. We'd ruthlessly stomped upon a proposal to go belly dancing in the East Village, so our initial response to paying a door tax to a Victoriana-clad freak was not good. But this time we were stomped.

Thought we'd get away with nursing some Brookies by the pool. Were mildly titilated by the pasty-clad strippers that peeled to the skronk at the back of the bar. And then the freaks started bearing down on us, a column of burly drummers, with a glitter-encrusted pair of majordomos. And a hairy geetar-player who might have been good in the background of the New Kingdom album.

And then out came the hula-hoops, not for the first or the last time, apparently. They were very good and wigged out very nicely to the jam-musik, and we even headbanged a tad to the music. But we have two slight niggles - the smell of the performers during a frenzied hoop-sesh being something to take in, and the unfortunate tendency of the performers to occasionally smack the front rows upside the head in their enthusiasm. Yes, we know that we did slightly change the seating plan, but we still think cutesome companion, who suffered from a couple of bumps, as well as being dragged onstage, deserves a medal.

Well, they deserve more, so if you are reading cutesome companion, we are very sorry for our demeanor last night, we are truly grateful and honored to be a part of your life, we will try to be more responsible, and we hope for your understanding and forgiveness. You are amazing.

Monday, January 10, 2005

Hand Gesture Across the Ocean

We'll have to break one of our own rules here, if only to discuss a recent post from the The Poor Man, a recent left-wing blog darling, advising that we start calling rightwing bloviiators "wankers", in reference to the English word for someone overly fond of onanism and self-abuse. We have a Canadian associate that says that it can also refer to the type of heavy metal that is overly reliant upon artistry and tricksy solos. But he likes the Tragically Hip, so we shall discard that definition right now.

We'll ignore the "maybe we shouldn't use it because it's English, oh hang on the Scots and Austalians use it, so it's alright" argument, and have already commented under the post about the irritation its adoption causes to a Brit trying to commit some surreptitious swearing in public. What we would like to gently suggest is that "wanker" is considered a very childish and ill-thought out epithet to hurl at one's opponent. "Wingnut" and "F***tard" are much more imaginative, in their own little ways.

While we're on the subject of feisty left-wing bloggers, we'd like to call out the Rude Pundit for stealing our sh*t on the subject of death squads. Although we will admit he was a tad more thorough. And timely. And was unlikely to have been a regular reader of the Dean of Limeyblogging.

All Your Chaldeans They Must Flee

Oh, goody. We were just having a go at explaining Fox News to some visiting limeys, when who should appear but top 80s Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger, to boost the Pentagon's latest plan to win the war in Iraq. This consists of that noted idea whose time has come again - rampant and unaccountable death squads. Ya know, the ones that instilled lasting respect for US values when applied in Central America, and provided very good career advancement opportunities for brave priests whose bosses were shot for sounding a bit like communists.

And it looks like the "El Salvador option" (the nickname helpfully evokes the nun-murdering vibe of the Oliver stone movie), would utilise trained Shiite and Kurdish and peshmerga fighters to "take down bad guys", or kill terrorists, or just take down whatever communists, trade unionists, people with a goat you quite fancy, present themselves to our pet murderers. Fortunately bishops tend to be tad thinner on the ground in Iraq, although it goes without saying that the boor Chaldean ones should probably be even more wary than they've had to be so far.

Yes, we know that making comparisons to Vietnam is considered very simplistic, but when you have flawed elections, meaningless transfers of sovereignty, and then a civil war formed by arming one group of allies and siccing them on your enemies under the guise of counter-insurgency, the parallels become jarring. The weirdest one was Eagleburger claiming that death squads were never really given their due and that the US really should be kicking ass some more, or words to that effect. He had the decency to say "well, I'm not a general" beforehand, but on Fox this signifies the reverse of the intended meaning. What Eagleburger wanted to imply was "you really need a military talking head to flesh out this nonsense." What he meant was "pah, Fox has invited Oliver North and Major Bob Bevelacqua on to peddle revisionist neoconservative nonsense. I, on the other hand, have to pretend to be an elder statesman, so slightly less lunacy from me. But only slightly. I pity you viewers".

Coming up, Wizzard apparently reform at Galapagos.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Hup Wiggledydocious

Hooray for Rehabilitating Mr. Wiggles, the most disgusting misanthropic comic ever!

Monday, January 03, 2005

Chiz, chiz

Shirly Chisholm, the original Brooklyn anti-boss firestarter, has passed away, and you can read the Times obituary, if you're registered, and all that.

We first heard of Shirley in St Hunter's book on the 1972 election. He pretty much wrote off her chances back then, much as Shirley did, which is not to say that the parallels between the 72 and 2004 elections, as well as Thompson's style don't make for great reading.

And we note the point that Brooklyn was a vast and corrupt pool of cheap democratic votes back when Park Slope was an edgy real estate play. So Shirley's sh*tkicking style is something that all fans of insurgent Brooklyn politicians can appreciate. Whether we can expect the same of Tish is not yet apparent.

And please don't think that we're trying to ignore the appalling deaths of fifty times as many people as were murdered on 9-11. The tsunami and its death toll is something we lack the capacity to understand. To focus on the small numbers of affected tourists is equally difficult, although we have heard of friends of friends who are missing - and our thoughts are with them.

In the meantime, please donate to the US or UK Red Cross. We have a relative working at the latter who says that they're working flat out, so there's our pick.