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29 August 2006

My first hotspot blog

This is my first ever blog from a hotspot. And what a cool hotspot. I am in the cafe in the Reykjavik airport, in transit from London HR to Minneapolis. The future has truly arrived for me. I envisioned something like this when I was a 12 year old just discovering science fiction. No really, I did. Not exactly like this, of course. But not dissimilar.

23 August 2006

More generalisations on race, nationality and otherness - the umpire strikes back

So, a little English boy comes home from school after his first introduction to cricket. Mum says "What did you learn today?" (as you do) and the lad replies, "I learned all about cricket. They throw balls at you and if you don't hit them, you're out. Unless the ball hits you in the leg, and then you're a BMW." (For non-cricket-playing folk, see Law 36 for an explanation. Not that you'll understand it any better.)
I have been following the story of the forfeited test cricket match, with all its overtones of dying empire, the tough but fair Aussie umpire, the aggrieved and dignified Pakistani team captain, and the British, Asian and Australian public, all divided in opinions and slants on the subject. (Except for those who don't really care.)
Sport is a tricky subject, but cricket is especially so. A lot of people see it as a pretentious, upper-class holdover, and it does embody a lot of the worst and best about Englishness. And then it is transmuted through the crucible of colonialism, so that there is a quintessentially West Indian cricket, a brusque and ultra-conservative Australian cricket and a passionate version of Pakistani cricket, charged with politics and nationalism. It never really caught on in anglophone Canada (not that I noticed) let alone Scotland, Wales or Ireland, yet India, Sri Lanka and South Africa all have their devoted fans. What is it about cricket - is it the tea interval, the silly white coats and stilted gestures of the umpires, the massive and Byzantine "laws of cricket" (when other sports, even English ones, are quite happy to have "rules".) And is this latest crisis, which some have called a farce, the echo of a dying empire or the roar of an unrepentant umpire?

20 August 2006

Doonesbury today


Today's Doonesbury is one of those that will stand out as a classic, in my opinion. I found it powerful and affecting.
While we're on the subject, here is a good charity to help the innocent victims in Lebanon, if you're so inclined.
Blog's been quiet, I know. I am trying to get into a new exercise routine, but also saving my energy for the great leap across the pond to occur Tuesday, 29 August.

11 August 2006

Murray Bookchin


I forgot to post an obituary link for the wonderful Murray Bookchin, who died four days ago. This seems to be a big year for the passing of venerable old leftists, but Murray was a peach, way ahead of his time and his generation. He was thinking in terms of a red-green coalition and libertarian socialism before there were even the words of a common language to express such ideas. Fortunately, he was also a good wordsmith and so could make them up.

09 August 2006

Electoral fantasies

I neglected to post at the time, but a week or so ago, More4 (TV channel) in the UK broadcast the last two episodes of The West Wing, bracketed by a half hour mock quiz show (a thing the Brits do so well) (shown twice, that's how it bracketed) on all things West Wingish. If you think that sounds really stupid, one of the contestants was David Tennant, lately of Dr. Who triumph, and another was Mark Oaten, recently (supposedly) disgraced MP in the Lib Dem party, behaving not the slightest bit disgraced, thank you very much. The quiz show was all charming; yet a third contestant was Arabella Weir, a lady with a very sophisticated sense of irony.
Contemporaneously with the progress of the West Wing was the birth and growth of the political blog. Blogs made an appearance on TWW, first as a joke, then as an irritant to the WH press office, then as a serious, if novice, player at the tables of political power negotiation. (This story arc roughly paralleled their actual place in the American political landscape at the relevant times.)
Now, in the realm of what used to be only a liberal pipe dream, a right-wing Democratic Senatorial sinecure has been toppled, largely by the power of liberal bloggers and their close allies, web-based activist groups such as MoveOn.org.

03 August 2006

Not Nice People, part I

"It's the stupidity, stupid." So says Mathew Yglesias, long one of my favourite political bloggers (now with Prospect magazine) and probably a fairly nice person, although I don't know him apart from his writing. Which is quite intelligent. The Stupid One? Oh, that's George W. Bush, of course. So profoundly not a nice person that words utterly fail me. I cannot write blogs about what a bad person the current "leader of the free world" is, but fortunately I don't have to. There are many others who do, and I admire, salute and quote them.

Not Nice People, part II

Christopher Hitchens (not all that nice a person himself) is especially vitriolic in his condemnation of Mel Gibson. "Sick to his empty core with Jew-hatred" is in fact how he describes the unfortunate Mr. Gibson, now described in Hoolywood lingo as "toxic". Well, not much wiggle-room in that expression.

Why It Is Called Bath

The city of Bath, not surprisingly, started out as a settlement around a Roman bath which in turn was there because of a natural hot mineral spring. The thermal spa survived for 1200 years until 1979, when it was closed due to a death from Legionnaire's disease. Today it finally re-opens. The new spa has been decades in the planning and a few years in the building. It was a millenium grant that finally got the ball rolling, and still there were problems, including an abortive attempt to open last year. As the BBC says, the city has its soul back.

02 August 2006

When worlds collide

I really wanted to post the accompanying picture to this brief article in the Independent, but it was not on the web, apparently. The story is about a boatload of refugees from Africa who landed on a pleasure beach in the Canary Islands, and the picture, a two page spread of stunning impact, showed the dehydrated asylum-seekers, some of them barely conscious with heat exhaustion, being administered water, shade and human comfort by holiday-makers as they all awaited the arrival of a Red Cross rescue team.
In less heartening immigration news (not about immigration at all, in fact, which is what makes it especially maddening), the same paper had the story of numerous cases of respected musicians who have been deported from or refused entry to the UK due to visa technicalities. Care to take a guess which continent most of them happen to hail from? Included in the litany of ignominy is the story of Thomas Mapfumo, billed for the Womad Festival but sent back from the airport to Zimbabwe, and a nine-member Mozambique group not permitted to pass through Britain on the way to a concert in Italy because of the lack of transit visas. I really cannot say anything more about all this, or I will start ranting.

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