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THE relationship between a columnist and a Hollywood celebrity is usually that between a long wooden stick and a piñata. We do tend to beat them for fun in the hope that a few sweets will pop out for the entertainment of the public.
THIS autumn, the politician, government agent, doctor or cop, has been replaced by an unlikely hero for popular culture, one more liable to wield a laptop, biro or blog than a legislative order, syringe or gun for the entertainment of the audience. Legislative order? Sure. Remember Jed Bartlett, hero of The West Wing, and all the riveting chicanery of the legislative process? Fascinating stuff.
THE robes are saffron, the heads shaven and the banners, fluttering in the warm breeze, declare "loving kindness will win every time". The Buddhist monks of Burma are on the march. Like a red river they are flowing through the streets of Rangoon and Mandalay, joined by the public who revere them and watched over by the police and military who fear them.
WHILE working, somewhat unhappily, in London many years ago, I found myself at King's Cross station. It was very early in the morning and I was there to catch a train for Yorkshire to cover a breaking story, on a day that I knew would be fraught with difficulty, doubt and tension.
MY FATHER is unfamiliar with the rhythms of an empty day, so in the autumn of 1984, when he found himself off work for a few weeks while recuperating from a minor operation, he took it upon himself to police the sugar bowl.
THIS is the story of two dogs and two deaths and two different cities. The story of Bobby and Chico, of John Gray, a policeman, and John Devine, a former prisoner, and of Edinburgh and Glasgow.
BY THE time you read this it will all be over. The drinks will be drained. The canapés nibbled and the cigar ash swept up from the floor.
ANGELA Kelly is one in a million. In fact, let me be more precise: she's one in 76,275,360. The odds of winning EuroMillions, as the postal worker from East Kilbride has just done, far outstrip being struck by lightning (576,000 to 1); scoring a hole in one (5,000 to 1) or getting a royal flush in poker in the first five cards (649,740 to 1).
SPIDERMAN, that web-slinging sage, used to echo his Uncle Ben's words that "with great power comes great responsibility", so the ability to shimmy up walls and squirt a viscous, rope-like fluid from one's wrists comes with the crushing burden of protecting every man, woman and child in New York from harm, be it criminal, extra-terrestrial or a deranged man in spandex tights.
CUPID'S bowstring was taut and his arrow well-aimed. The target was unmissable: a drunken Scotsman in a kilt, white knee-length socks and his barnet resplendent in an authentic "See You Jimmy" wig.
IT'S the wannabe for whom I feel most sorry. Imagine you are a hip kid in LA and you've finally persuaded your parents to splash out on an ankle alcohol monitor, just like Lindsay Lohan.
OK, BE honest now, who is weary of the "environment"? I know I am, and, of course, I feel guilty about it. For I, too, love flowers and fields and strolling through dewy meadows while gazing at the intricate beauty of a buttercup.
WHEN I read that the SNP-led Executive planned to stop drunkenness being used as an excuse in Scottish courts, it struck me as rather odd. Were there, I wondered, hundreds of young tearaways escaping the consequences of their actions by insisting they were innocent parties, themselves victims of grape and grain?
THE tie, it would seem, has got us in knots. There are those who wish to see this long, thin strip of fabric wrapped into a noose and hung. Critics of the necktie believe it should be ceremonially executed and then cast into the yawning pit of obsolete men's fashion to slumber forever beside the sock suspender and the bowler hat.
THERE is no better antidote to fear than laughter. Comedy, it is said, equals tragedy plus time, and since Saturday's attempted suicide bombing failed, Glasgow has wasted scarcely a second in squeezing mirth from potential mayhem.
DOES Pope Benedict XVI have the soul of a boy racer? At night, while Rome sleeps, does he creep downstairs in the Vatican, past slumbering Swiss guards and steal into the pontifical garage? There I imagine him fastening his backless leather driving gloves - by Prada, of course - and climbing behind the wheel of the Pope- mobile, in which he then tears round St Peter's Square at, oh, almost 18 miles per hour.
THE president's watch is safe. Phew! In the Pentagon, generals dabbed sweat off their foreheads and rolled up the maps of Albania. Navy SEALs pulled out the wet wipes and scrubbed off their camouflage, while the ghost planes of the CIA slipped into the hangar and back under their white sheets.
THIS is the story of a "beggar" who could be a chooser.