Monday, September 6, 2010


You remember all those wartime movies that tried to build a sense of unity within diversity , both among Americans and among Americans and their erstwhile Allies?

The platoon had to have a WASP for the Captain, but the rest of the enlisted men and Non-Coms were a bundle of ethnic and regional stereotypes.

The tough Sergeant  from Tennessee or Texas, the scared kid from somewhere in the milk-fed Mid West,the weedy smart Jewish kid, the Italian aleck from Brooklyn with an accent you could cut with a knife , sorry NOI-IF.

If our multi-ethnic infantry platoon meet anyone from the British army, all the British enlisted men men were short and stubby and talked in a broad sort of Cockney that you only really meet at the discharge door at Wormwood Scrubs - or on a theatre stage.

The officers were all tall and thin and talked in a plummy voice  redolent of Oxbridge or Whitehall.

It must have been something like that the day that John L first met Sir Howard Florey,FRS and offered to take him to see the Dodgers play.

This after Florey had spent an uncomfortable hour with Gladys Hobby watching the natural penicillin vials tumble off the Pfizer production line faster than an Oxford chemist could change their final, final formulation for their synthetic penicillin molecule.

Alec Fleming would have been delighted - Florey would just have turned stiffer than normal and said he had another urgent war-related engagement elsewhere and then would have gone off to the nearest washroom to change the pickle up his ass.

The duel between Brooklyn and Oxford was not just a difference of penicillin science between artificial chemistry and natural biology.

It has also a battle between two types of social classes and cultures - Brooklyn crude and Oxford refined.....

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