Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Vive La Constitution!

The Iraqi constitution, for all its flaws *, has been passed overwhelmingly.

Harry posts here, here and here.
the struggle is not yet over. It is likely that the 'resistance' will respond to this with another round of attacks and the young democratic state, still lacking experienced defensive forces will continue to need the fraternal assistance of friendly outside forces. Renewed terrorism will be portrayed in the media as some sort of sign that the constitution has 'failed to end the violence' despite the fact that no-one expects the referendum to result in the surrender of the counter-revolutionaries. Revolutions almost always face violent counter-revolution and the consolidation of the state will take time. How long the international military presence should remain in Iraq is of course related to that consolidation but is a question for the Iraqi political process to answer.
The specific form of Iraqi democracy remains open and the secular forces will need all the help they can get.

Help Iraq1.

1That is a reference to Kathe Kollwitz's 1921 etching of "Help Russia" owned by the splendid Barber Institute of Fine Arts, University of Birmingham, UK. See it here.

*This phrase was originally suffering from an apostrofly attack.

Monday, October 24, 2005


Didn't watch Waterloo but had a splendid Steiger fest.

On Saturday Rullsenberg and me watched the splendid On the Waterfront,in which Rod Steiger plays Charlie the Gent, the brother of Terry Molloy.
Remember that night in the Garden you came down to my dressing room and you said, "Kid, this ain't your night. We're going for the price on Wilson." You remember that? "This ain't your night"! My night! I coulda taken Wilson apart! So what happens? He gets the title shot outdoors on the ballpark and what do I get? A one-way ticket to Palooka-ville! You was my brother, Charley, you shoulda looked out for me a little bit. You shoulda taken care of me just a little bit so I wouldn't have to take them dives for the short-end money.

We followed that with In the Heat of the Night, in which Rod Steiger plays Billy Gillespie, the Southern police chief. Splendid film with a splendid soundtrack by Quincy Jones and title song by Ray Charles. What could be better? Who can forget Sidney Poitier's cry of dignity
They call me Mister Tibbs!
Brilliant. All you (well, I) want from a movie.

Poems for the Norm Blog Poll

Norm requested people's top three poets for a Norm Poets Poll. Here are mine.

1) Percy Shelley

For The Mask of Anarchy, Men of England, and Ozymandias

I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said:—Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,
Half sunk, a shatter'd visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamp'd on these lifeless things,
The hand that mock'd them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
"My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!"
Nothing beside remains: round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

2) Walt Whitman

For Leaves of Grass and Democratic Vistas. And for "Crossing Brooklyn Ferry"

FLOOD-TIDE below me! I see you face to face!
Clouds of the west — sun there half an hour high
— I see you also face to face.

Crowds of men and women attired in the usual costumes,
how curious you are to me!
On the ferry-boats the hundreds and hundreds that cross,
returning home, are more curious to me than you suppose,
And you that shall cross from shore to shore years hence are
more to me, and more in my meditations, than you
might suppose.

The impalpable sustenance of me from all things at all hours
of the day,
The simple, compact, well-join'd scheme, myself disinte-grated,
every one disintegrated yet part of the scheme,
The similitudes of the past and those of the future,
The glories strung like beads on my smallest sights and
hearings, on the walk in the street and the passage over
the river,
The current rushing so swiftly and swimming with me far away,
The others that are to follow me, the ties between me and them,
The certainty of others, the life, love, sight, hearing of others.

Others will enter the gates of the ferry and cross from shore
to shore,
Others will watch the run of the flood-tide,
Others will see the shipping of Manhattan north and west,
and the heights of Brooklyn to the south and east,
Others will see the islands large and small;

Fifty years hence, others will see them as they cross, the sun
half an hour high,
A hundred years hence, or ever so many hundred years hence,
others will see them,
Will enjoy the sunset, the pouring-in of the flood-tide, the
falling-back to the sea of the ebb-tide.

It avails not, time nor place — distance avails not,
I am with you, you men and women of a generation, or ever
so many generations hence,
Just as you feel when you look on the river and sky, so I felt,
Just as any of you is one of a living crowd, I was one of a crowd,
Just as you are refresh'd by the gladness of the river and the
bright flow, I was refresh'd,
Just as you stand and lean on the rail, yet hurry with the swift
current, I stood yet was hurried,
Just as you look on the numberless masts of ships and the
thick- stemm'd pipes of steamboats, I look'd.

I too many and many a time cross'd the river of old,
Watched the Twelfth-month sea-gulls, saw them high in the
air floating with motionless wings, oscillating their bodies,
Saw how the glistening yellow lit up parts of their bodies and
left the rest in strong shadow,
Saw the slow-wheeling circles and the gradual edging toward
the south,
Saw the reflection of the summer sky in the water,
Had my eyes dazzled by the shimmering track of beams,
Look'd at the fine centrifugal spokes of light round the shape
of my head in the sunlit water,
Look'd on the haze on the hills southward and south-west-ward,
Look'd on the vapor as it flew in fleeces tinged with violet,
Look'd toward the lower bay to notice the vessels arriving,
Saw their approach, saw aboard those that were near me,
Saw the white sails of schooners and sloops, saw the ships
at anchor,

The sailors at work in the rigging or out astride the spars,
The round masts, the swinging motion of the hulls, the
slender serpentine pennants,
The large and small steamers in motion, the pilots in their
pilot- houses,
The white wake left by the passage, the quick tremulous whirl
of the wheels,
The flags of all nations, the falling of them at sunset,
The scallop-edged waves in the twilight, the ladled cups, the
frolicsome crests and glistening,
The stretch afar growing dimmer and dimmer, the gray walls
of the granite storehouses by the docks,
On the river the shadowy group, the big steam-tug closely
flank'd on each side by the barges, the hay-boat, the
belated lighter,
On the neighboring shore the fires from the foundry
chimneys burning

3) Charles Reznikoff

For "Holocaust", perhaps the 20th century's most important poem, proof that, contra Adorno, there can be poetry after Auschwitz.

4) Langston Hughes

For "Let America Be America Again". For a discussion see here.

These our are my current top four. I think the top two, Shelley and Whitman, will always be there but the other two are the winners of a rough, and tough, contest.

On not getting wikipedia

These people just do not get wikipedia.

If you find an article that's wrong, or inaccurate, correct it. Or rewrite it.

How can you trust it when it's covering an area you're not that familiar with? Use more than one source.

As the woman said "using one source is plagiarism, more than one is research".

Three cheers for wikipedia.
Hip - Hip - Hooray

Thursday, October 20, 2005

New Zealand Welcome

This chap swam a great distance to land in New Zealand.

What did he get? A whack on the head, that's what.

Perhaps these people can investigate?

It's a good job New Zealand is also known as Land of the Long White Cloud1 otherwise I'd be concerned when I arrive at Immigration.

1Not to be confused with Land of the Thin White Duke. Thankfully, the Thin White Duke is not native to those shores. Neither is this creature.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005


Rullsenberg reminds me of Norm's Poets Poll.

Keats, Shelley, Ginsburg, Dickinson, Tennyson, Browning, Barratt Browning, Ferlinghetti, Whitman, Wordsworth, Langston Hughes ...the list goes on.

Must get my entry in Norm's Poets Poll.

Hush Hush

Obsessives unite. You have nothing to lose but your anoraks.

Black Triangle reports on a complaint from the isle of San Serif about L.A. Confidential.
L.A. Confidential (1997, Warner Bros.). A highly regarded film, tightly written, well-acted, beautifully filmed, but pretty mediocre in its use of type. This one is set in the early ’50s, but the type was clearly not. “HUSH-HUSH,” a Hollywood gossip magazine, is featured prominently sporting a logo set in Helvetica Compressed (1974).
There's more in that vein here.

(Via:netcetera via Black Triangle)

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

My Life with Lev Yashin

Last weekend Rullsenberg and me went to see my parents for the last time before they emigrate to New Zealand.

In sorting out his affairs my dad had decided to sell his World Cup programme from 1966. At the final he had bumped into Lev Yashin and got him to sign his programme.

So last weekend I touched something that had been touched by Lev Yashin (holder of the Order of Lenin).

Today I find a splendid piece on Norm's blog by Ramachandra Guha, that eulogises the book Football in Sun and Shadow by Eduardo Galeano, that mentions Lev Yashin.
Galeano can write as evocatively about the Russian Lev Yashin and the Hungarian Ferenc Puskas as about footballers from Latin America, while James could frankly admit to, and document in detail, his admiration of the extraordinary English cricketer W.G. Grace.

One might say that football has been to Latin America what cricket once was to the West Indies: not just a sport, but the chief vehicle of cultural expression, with the play and the players half-consciously mirroring the dilemmas and aspirations of society as a whole.

Yet Galeano, like James, is no arid sociologist: he is a true lover of his game, steeped in its folklore and deeply knowledgeable about its practice and practitioners. The shelf of books on sport that count as literature is a small one. But on this shelf one finds both Football in Sun and Shadow and Beyond a Boundary, perhaps nesting - as they do in my home - side by side.
As E.M. Forster said "Only connect".

Let's leave with a quote from the great Lev Yashin
"What kind of a goalkeeper is the one who is not tormented by the goal he has allowed? He must be tormented! And if he is calm, that means the end. No matter what he had in the past, he has no future."

Thursday, October 13, 2005


Found a splendid, informative, campaigning blog, Sudan Watch.

It’s none too enamoured of the "inane comments" a post on Sudan inspired on DSTPFW but I’ll forgive them that.

It’s an informative, campaigning blog that’s well worth a regular look.
It also introduces the Genocide Intervention Fund.
Today, as genocide rages in Darfur, Sudan, the world stands by, failing the vow of "never again" that it made after the Holocaust and reaffirmed after the Rwandan genocide. The genocide in Darfur has claimed 400,000 lives and displaced over 2,500,000 people. Five hundred people continue to die each day; fifteen thousand die every month.

Government-sponsored militias raze villages, systematically rape women and girls, abduct children, and destroy food and water supplies. While the UN warns that "there is no other place in the world where so many lives are at stake," governments and the UN have failed to mount an effective response.The silence of the world's leaders has given birth to the Genocide Intervention Fund (GIF), which aims to provide critically needed supplies to African Union peacekeepers on the ground in Darfur, increase public awareness about genocide, and pressure the international community to fulfill its Responsibility to Protect civilians targeted by genocide.
Read the whole piece.

Make a contribution.

Get involved.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Foxes and Hedgehogs

Geoff Dyer writes
although we live in a time that sets great store by measuring progress ("research" in academic parlance) in precisely demarcated areas of knowledge, real advances are often made by people happy to muddle along within the splendidly vague job description advanced by Susan Sontag, whose "idea of a writer [was] someone interested in 'everything'". Why, realistically, would one settle for anything less?
This piece was crying out for Berlin's Hedgehog and Fox essay but Dyer didn't use it.

Was this to deny reader expectation?

Because he doesn't like Isaiah Berlin?


Norm blogs on Madeleine Bunting's piece on listening:
...the internecine factionalism of minority community politics is confusing. The irony of course is that when Muslims do speak with one voice - on British foreign policy - Goggins and his government colleagues refuse to listen.
As Norm puts it
Translated, this means that the government should be guided by what she, Madeleine, thinks is right.
Those in favour of "Taliban and Baathist tyranny" raise your right hand. And keep it there. No flagging.

Friday, October 07, 2005

The movie of my life

Pish. This life is rated 12.

My life has been rated:
Click to find out your rating!
See what your rating is!
Created by bart666
Suitable for 12 years or older, but under 18s must be with an adult. This is virtually identical to the 12 certificate, in that we'll have some adult-themed storylines, but no real meat or detail. No scary bits, but some language and maybe a bit of skin.
Examples: Die Another Day, Lord Of The Rings
There was me thinking I was a dangerous kind of guy, living on the edge. Disillusioned or what?

(Hat Tip: Will)

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Flying by the seat of your pants

Here's some pictures taken inside Katrina.

One of those things you're glad someone has done but glad it's not you.

(Hat tip: Norm)

Late Night Brancusi Seminar

Found this splendid site.

Some would say this is very amusing.

Others would demur. But they would be those with no sense of humour.

(Hat tip: Mick Hartley)

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

The crisis in Sudan is nearly over...

Johann Hari writes:
At last, some good news from Darfur: the holocaust in western Sudan is nearly over. There’s only one problem – it’s drawing to an end only because there are no black people left to cleanse or kill. The National Islamic Front government has culled over 400,000 “Zurga” – a word which translates best as “niggers” – and driven two million more from their homes in its quest to make western Sudan “Zurga-free”. Their racist Janjaweed militias would love to carry on rampaging and raping, but the black villages have all been burned down and the women have all been raped with “Arab seed” to “destroy their race from within” – what’s a poor militiaman to do? The first genocide of the twenty-first century has proceeded without a hitch, and the genocidaires have won.
He adds
China and France both have oil interests in Sudan – so they told Kofi Anan they would veto any attempt by the Security Council to end the genocide. At the height of the murders in Darfur, the United Nations itself appointed the Sudanese government to a three-year term on the UN Human Rights Commission. The jihadists who claim to be fighting on behalf of Muslims from Palestine to Chechnya to Iraq have said nothing to condemn the mass slaughter of 400,000 innocent Muslims in Darfur. No: they support it, because the Khartoum government imposes sharia law wherever it goes and even invited their hero Osama Bin Laden to make Sudan his home from 1991-6. Major corporations – including Siemens and Alcatel – continue to work and pay taxes in Sudan even though they know the money is being funnelled towards mass murder. The Darfur holocaust is a bleak demonstration of how little the most powerful institutions in the world are motivated by basic human morality. Confronted with a clear example of the most terrible crime of all, they have all conspired to carry on working with the killers as if the holocaust in Darfur is at best a minor inconvenience.
Genocide happens and nobody feels anything. It passes beneath the radar of media consciousness. Hidden by "news" of celebrity drug busts. Hidden by "news" of royal birthdays. Hidden by "news" of stage-managed party conferences. Hidden by "news" of the detritus of everyday life in the rich North.

Who really cares about genocide? Not the BBC. Not the United Nations. Not the African Union.

Who really cares, apart from you and me?

Monday, October 03, 2005

Hippocratic Hypocrisy

Norm points out how new U.S. Department of Defense guidelines
contravene international principles of medical ethics by permitting physicians to facilitate and monitor abusive interrogation practices, according to a commentary published in the Journal of the American Medical Association for September 28.

"When the DoD guidelines came out, they looked similar to the United Nations guidelines," lead author Leonard Rubenstein told Reuters Health. "So we took a closer look and the differences were strikingly significant and very disturbing, not just because they seem to undermine traditional and well established ethical principles."

"It seemed clear that the ethical guidelines were designed to accommodate the kinds of roles the military wanted health care professionals to play in interrogation rather than starting with what the right ethical stance was," he added.
Norm goes on to add
For reasons which I won't insult the reader by spelling out, the use of doctors or other health care people in the abuse of human beings is a particular obscenity, over and above the more general one of the abuse itself. It disfigures the project and aims being fought for in the war against terror, and for democracy in Iraq.
Indeed it does. It is also wrong. That is, W-R-O-N-G.

Torture is one of those universal things that everyone should be against in all circumstances. And that includes the ticking-bomb case.

Torture is always W-R-O-N-G.