Archive for February, 2006

London made much more interesting

Monday, February 27th, 2006

I’m off to meet my producer at Squealer Slurs, via Methanol Theta and Arcadian Noodle. A wonderful map found via

Quite unconnected, but possibly also fun, the Dennett review has also been published.

Ice Hockey!

Sunday, February 26th, 2006

“Bach! Fuck, yeah yeah yeah” as the philosopher said. At 12.55 GMT, the BBC is showing live coverage of the Olympic ice hockey final. Even better, it stars Sweden and Finland. In each country, they will be preparing in their different traditional manners, the Swedes settling down with herring and six packs of beer, the Finns with their six packs of Vodka …

Sweden won, 3-2.

totally wrecked

Saturday, February 25th, 2006

Sorry. I don’t know what this is, but all of the individual archives are broken. This may go on for some time — the last time I had to ask MT for support it took a week to get an answer. But I can’t get it working at all.

UPDATE: I did get a reply from MT support wthin eight hours, and on a Sunday. This is an improvement worth noting. By that time I had fixed the site — I hope — and have placed the instructions in a comment to this.

An end to comment horror

Saturday, February 25th, 2006

As an experiment, I have tried to change the whole site to run under cgiwrap, whcih is meant to work better on Pair. We shall see if it does. The theory is that all those 500 errors, and the intermittent refusal to format entries with the Textile processors, were caused by Pair’s configuraiton, which throttles blogs with many visitors unless you try some unlikely magic which I have just attempted.

At present I am running at about 750 unique visitors a day, plus the feed readers, and that seems to be enough to cause problems.

A moment of reverie

Friday, February 24th, 2006

This didn’t happen of course; which is a shame, because if it did, it would be a wonderful story which could then be put up on a blog under some tragic, if faintly pretentious title, like "a rare moment in a hack writer’s life".

Suppose you were a writer of pop science books, one of which had been reviewed in the two leading scientific journals of the day; one review acidulous, the other friendly. This being a small world, the authors of the two reviews know each other, and are in fact on friendly terms. Years later one of them tell you that the other, with whom he had recently stayed, is in the habit of smoking a quiet joint before sleeping every night. This no doubt explains all the inadequacies of his review. Of course, in the story, it wouldn’t be the author of the friendly review whose idiosyncracies are thus explained.

What a wimp we have in Jesus!

Friday, February 24th, 2006

Compared to his representative in the Anglican Church of Nigeria. Archbishop Peter Akinola has long been the idol of American rightwingers for his brutal and bigoted attitude towards gays, liberals, and other tools of Satan. But his statement on the recent rioting in Nigeria contains one really classic sentence of the traditional Christian position: May we at this stage remind our Muslim brothers that they do not have the monopoly of violence in this nation

What makes me particularly angry and disgusted about this is that the Nigerian Christian thugs won’t end up defending the Christians in the North who are menaced by Muslim thugs: they will go and find small, defenceless Muslim communities in the South and burn them out instead.

Education x 150,000

Thursday, February 23rd, 2006

From Times. I know I bang on about this, but it is quite impossible to understand the attraction of faith schools without realising how dreadful the existing system is.

Although progress has been made, Sir Cyril Taylor, chairman of the Specialist Schools and Academies Trust, says that too many 11-year-olds are leaving primary school without being able to read.
“One hundred fifty thousand children a year going into secondary schools who can’t read,” he said. “It’s unacceptable. So we think this is where a very bright light has to be shone on the whole literacy problem, and it needs to be a high-priority item.”
Children who read and write poorly cannot follow the curriculum and are often destined to fail their GCSEs.

Love that often.

God gossip fragments

Thursday, February 23rd, 2006

An excruciating experience last night: I had been to a rather grand lecture in one of the City churches, followed by a reception in a livery company’s hall. Really nice Californian wine, gravlax in the nibbles, and I felt I ought to justify myself by asking the lecturer a question. So I approached him, asked, and he drew breath for a long reply. As soon as he started speaking, and exhaling, I ducked my head, as if listening reverently but actually because I was enveloped in choking, miasmic halitosis. He was a very tall man, so his breath seemed to settle all round me wherever I stood within earshot. I remembered whole African villages silently wiped out by the poisonous exhalations of the volcanoes that stand above them. How could his best friend get close enough to tell him, I wondered, with my mouth clamped shut.

Blogging is not perhaps the answer to this social embarrassment, but what is?

Meanwhile, I picked up three juicy rumours. The two that are probably entirely untrue, are that the Bishop of London is to become the next Dean of Westminster; and that the Archbishop of Canterbury is sick of the job and will leave it after the next Lambeth conference. This last one has been officially and explicitly denied by Lambeth Palace, and so probably won’t be printed. I suppose it is entirely characteristic of rumour that I have forgotten the one that was undoubtedly true. In any case, it is of interest only to anoraks.

High windows, high crosses

Thursday, February 23rd, 2006

If anyone doubted that football really is the religion of the British male, there’s a story in the Guardian today that rather proves the point: last Saturday, a Manchester United player fell awkwardly in the course of an away game with Liverpool and broke his leg. When the ambulance taking him to hospital passed a pub where there were Liverpool supporters drinking, they left the pub, stoned the ambulance, and attempted to overturn it.

Anywhere else in the world, this sort of behaviour would be religiously inspired. The story that I thought of at once when I read it was the campaign of assassination against shi-ite doctors in Pakistan in the early part of this decade. Lexis Nexis wants three dollars for 200 words and I’m feeling cheap, but the glimpses I get from the search page suggest that at least 24 were murdered inside a year.

In this country, however, such brutal tribal passions need have no theological dimension. The hatred between Liverpool and Manchester is, like God, its own reason for existence.

Of course, not all the religious aspects of football revolve around communal hatreds. There is the solidarity with your own crowd, the mystical identification with your team, the veneration of relics (Alan Smith sent his shirt to the paramedics who had been in the ambulance with him), the communal singing. There may even be some kind of aesthetic experience involved. I myself would rather look at high windows than high crosses into the box but perhaps the flight of a ball through the air does have some kind of geometrical attractiveness.

The last Telegraph leader

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2006

I think this stands as the most comprehensive surrender document signed by any ideology since 1989.

America should avoid direct, large-scale military action in the Middle East, relying instead on surrogates and operating behind the scenes to turn Muslim opinion against the jihadis. … the invasion of Iraq has helped to radicalise the Muslim world and thus push it towards the arms of the extremists.

For fullest enjoyment, as they say, it should be read in conjunction with what they said earlier.