Wednesday, March 12, 2003
The morning began with an e-mail from Oliver Morton (Author of Mapping Mars. Read it, enjoy it, vote for it in non-fiction categories whenever you see it nominated.) He sent me this link to Roger Ebert's column, and pointed out the following fascinating exchange:

Q. In "Back to the Future" on TNT, they showed a scene of Marty writing a letter to Doc Brown, warning him about being shot by terrorists in the future. As Marty reads the letter aloud, I noticed that him saying "by terrorists" had been muted. And when they showed a closeup of the letter, the words "by terrorists" had been digitally erased!

Steven Knauts, Atlanta

A. Bob Gale, the producer of the movie, says he is amazed that TNT would take out "terrorist." He doesn't think director Bob Zemeckis knows about it, and it couldn't have come from the studio, so it must have come from TNT. All of my queries to TNT have gone unanswered. A splendid new DVD edition of the "Future" trilogy provides access to the unedited films.

Meanwhile, for three weeks, on Radio 4, Bob Monkhouse is doing a series about "Radio Fun" comics, a weekly british comic that started in the 1930s. Bob Monkhouse is best known as a comedian and game show host presenter with a kind of smarmy public personality, but he's very funny (I believe the line about "I want to die peacefully in my sleep, like my father -- not screaming and sobbing like the passengers on his bus," originated with him) and a huge comics collector and reader. Whenever I used to sign in Andromeda in Birmingham I'd have to sign a mail order copy of whatever comics or graphic novels I had newly out "For Bob". Anyway, I know much more about American comics of the 30s and 40s than I do about their equivalents in the UK, so am looking forward to checking it out on

And according to (which is, curiously enough, not an Onion parody) Congress has renamed French Fries (for people who didn't need any explanation of who Bob Monkhouse was, that's what the Americans call chips. They keep the word chips in reserve for crisps.), er, anyway, they've renamed them Freedom Fries, to signify their displeasure with their perfidious former allies. Coming soon in America: sticking your tongue in someone's mouth will be known as freedom kissing, condoms will be freedom letters, while British Actor, Coraline audio reader and the new Harry Potter, Dawn French, will, for appearances in America, be forced to change her name to Dawn Freedom. In Congress they will breakfast on Freedom toast, smear Freedom mustard on their steaks and drink, well, Californian Wine I expect.

However, at least when shown on TNT, we can assume that the film The French Connection will be shown as, simply, The Connection, and that any specific source for this connection's location will have been digitally erased.


I have very mixed feelings about Americans disliking the French. I'm English, after all. We have a special relationship with the French: we are in awe of their sophistication, their cuisine and their wines, we think their women are beautiful, we like them as individuals, we badly want to go and live in their country when we retire, while at the same time we are deeply suspicious of them. It's like having people living next door to you who may be snappier dressers and better cooks, but who, after all, borrowed the lawn mower sometime in the thirteenth century and never gave it back. Anyway, the English dislike the French. We're really good at it. We've been doing it ever since we got up one day and realised that the Norman Conquerors were now, like it or not, Us, and weren't conquering French people any more. We feel, frankly, that if anyone's going to dislike the French, it's going to be us. On the whole we manifest our dislike for them by drinking their wines, buying up their cigarettes, and, despite the fact that all English people can naturally roll their Rs and speak perfect French, declining to do so, and when forced by circumstances to speak French the English do it with an English accent on purpose.

These are tactics we've worked out over the course of hundreds of years, and if carried on long enough, they will bring France to its knees. I'm English. I know these things.

Changing the name french fries to freedom fries, on the other hand, will just make them laugh at you.