Saturday, August 09, 2003

A tale of twelve seasons

On the eve of the new football season, I feel it is a good moment to look back on, well, why not the last dozen football seasons. I offer you the following table. Clubs qualify for inclusion by not having been out of the top division of English football during the period, 1991-2 to 2002-3.

Manchester United 2/1/1/2/1/1/2/1/1/1/3/1 (total 17; average position = 1.4)

Arsenal 4/10/4/12/5/3/1/2/2/2/1/2 (48 = 4.0)

Liverpool 6/6/8/4/3/4/3/7/4/3/2/5 (55 = 4.6)

Leeds United 1/17/5/5/13/11/5/4/3/4/5/15 (88 = 7.3)

Chelsea 14/11/14/11/11/6/4/3/5/6/6/4 (95 = 7.9)

Aston Villa 7/2/10/18/4/5/7/6/6/8/8/16 (97 = 8.1)

Tottenham Hotspur 15/8/15/7/8/10/14/11/10/12/9/10 (129 = 10.7)

Everton 12/13/17/15/6/15/17/14/13/16/15/7 (160 = 13.3)

Southampton 16/18/18/10/17/16/12/17/15/10/11/8 (168 = 14.0)

Manchester United in this period did the double three times, being the first side to do it twice and the only side to do it for a third time. They also did the treble, something no other team has managed in English football, and a feat unmatched in any of Europe's major leagues - France, Italy, Germany or Spain. Moreover, they won four FA Cups and have now won this trophy a record ten times. (The nearest after them are Tottenham with eight.) Manchester United have been in 15 FA Cup finals, more than anyone else. Sir Alex Ferguson is the only manager to have managed a club to four Cup victories or to five finals. The season before last Manchester United became only the fourth side to win the championship three seasons in a row. Ferguson is the first manager in English football to have managed a club to three successive championships and he is the only manager ever to have won the league championship eight times.

There are a number of pleasing features about the above table. First, it has a good overall shape. Second, the relative positions of Manchester United and Arsenal in the last of these twelve seasons are especially gratifying; it seems certain people felt rather sore about that. Third, and to sign off, I do like the way the top line reads in comparison with the third line. Yes, I know, Mighty Liverpool has also had its glory years (to say nothing of its more recent Amazing Plastic Treble). But I think you'll agree that this was not a crime against humanity. So, statute of limitations, guys, statute of limitations. You're only as good as your last twelve seasons.

Thanks to Morris Sheftel for information included in this post.

posted by norm at 9:18 pm | link

The Cancellation

by Sophie Hannah

On the day of the cancellation
The librarian phoned at two.
My reading at Swillingcote Youth Club
Had regrettably fallen through.

The members of Swillingcote Youth Club
Had just done their GCSEs
And demanded a rave, not poems,
Before they began their degrees.

Since this happened at such short notice
They would still have to pay my fee.
I parked in the nearest lay-by
And let out a loud yippee.

The librarian put the phone down
And muttered, 'Oh, thank the Lord!'
She was fed up of chaperoning
While the touring poet toured.

The girl from the local bookshop
Who'd been told to provide a stall
But who knew that the youth club members
Would buy no books at all

Expressed with a wild gyration
Her joy at a late reprieve,
And Andy, the youth club leader,
And the youth arts worker, Steve,

Both cheered as one does when granted
The gift of eternal life.
Each felt like God's chosen person
As he skipped back home to his wife.

It occurred to me some time later
That such bliss, such immense content,
Needn't always be left to fortune,
Could in fact be a planned event.

What ballet or play or reading,
What movie creates a buzz
Or boosts the morale of the nation
As a cancellation does?

No play, is the simple answer.
No film that was ever shown.
I submit that the cancellation
Is an art form all of its own.

To give back to a frantic public
Some hours they were sure they'd lose
Might well be my new vocation.
I anticipate great reviews.

From now on with verve and gusto
I'll agree to a month-long tour.
Call now if you'd like to book me
For three hundred pounds or more.

Sophie Hannah is my daughter. The Cancellation is from her new collection, First of the Last Chances, published by Carcanet.

posted by norm at 8:32 pm | link

Saturday miscellany

It's an established tradition at this blog that Saturday is a day for lighter fare and in that spirit I offer this miscellany of bits and pieces to divert you.

Seen on a door at Keele University:
...Next week.

This reminds me of a game that was played briefly in the Geras household many years back and which consisted of adapting well-known proverbs to form a new idea. I'm rather proud of the best suggestion of my own at the time: 'He who hesitates is ... er'. I'm happy to consider further suggestions for inclusion in a future feature.

Can any jazz person out there explain to me the thing, if there is one, about Sun Ra? I don't get him. I confess to having only one of his albums: Space Is The Place. But although I remain and listen where Wife of the Norm runs out of the room when it's playing, it perplexes me.

Alan Brain down in Canberra has an intriguing exercise for you to try. (Scroll down to his top post for 7 August, 'Brain short-circuit demonstration'.) As Alan says, 'it's harder than it looks'.

In response to my nonpareil post, I've had proposals of further possible candidates. One of these I don't have the knowledge either to endorse or to quarrel with, but the terms in which it is suggested by Stephen Pollard make it look as if it's good. Stephen writes:
I'd offer one contemporary: the jockey Tony (AP) McCoy, who is so far ahead of any other current or past jockey that it's almost a joke that others are called jockeys... Trust me! He's the Bradman of horse racing.
Other proposals that came in I have to say I'm sceptical about, despite the undoubted greatness of those proposed: J. S. Bach, Rembrandt, Dante, the Beatles.

In implicit argument against the suggestion of J. S. Bach, I will share with you here my list of 5 Favourite Classical Composers of all time. In rank order: 1 Beethoven. 2= J. S. Bach. 2= Mozart. 4 Schubert. 5 Brahms.

Apropos I don't know whether to kill myself or go bowling, a friend tells me of a Polish philosoper expressing the sentiment: 'some nights, only the thought of suicide has saved me from killing myself'. It's a close thing between these two in the profundity stakes.

I encourage all lovers of country music out there to send in an entry for the normblog top 10 poll. Please note that I slipped up in giving Sunday 15 August as the closing date. This should have read Sunday 17 August.

A couple of days after launching normblog I received an email from someone not personally known to me and which said 'You are an imperialist skunk'. Some skilful research revealed the sender to have an association with The Marxism Mailing List (www.marxmail.org). Its self-description is as follows:
The Marxism list is a worldwide moderated forum for activists and scholars in the Marxist tradition who favor a non-sectarian and non-dogmatic approach. It puts a premium on independent thought and rigorous but civil debate.

posted by norm at 7:38 pm | link

Test post

I've been having trouble posting this afternoon, so now I'm just trying again to see if it works - before putting up anything for real.

posted by norm at 7:30 pm | link

Friday, August 08, 2003

Touch of Evil

Jackie at au currant links to the story and picture of this guy:
The man found guilty for his part in the Bali bombing punched the air, whooped with joy and gave a double thumbs up as he was sentenced to death. Defiant Amrozi flashed a broad grin at crying relatives of the dead as he was led out of the court.
The violence of the oppressed against the violence of the oppressor? A symptom of imperialist domination and injustice? Yeah, whatever (scroll down to 'Anyone who writes opinion pieces...').

posted by norm at 10:39 pm | link

Topsy and Tim Take No Risks

This is the title of a book I used to read to my daughters when they were small. But Blacktriangle puts us right on that score: 'No risk is not an option.' Read the rest.

posted by norm at 10:20 pm | link

The Blogfather

It's InstaPundit's second birthday. Click on his site meter. Sheesh! Jeff Jarvis has an assessment and tribute.

posted by norm at 10:07 pm | link

Suicide Bombings

I'm not especially partial to the journalistic output of Simon Tisdall, and a piece by him in Monday's Guardian gives no cause for wanting to revise this attitude. Still, it doesn't do to be too negative, so I can start by mentioning a couple of the article's good points. First, in contrasting Hamas and Islamic Jihad favourably with al-Qaida, Tisdall places the latter in the category of 'far more virulent international terrorist gangs'. Second, and accordingly, he dispenses – at any rate here; I can't speak for elsewhere – with the kind of 'root causes' excuse-making for al-Qaida that one comes across from time to time (to time again) in the pages of this liberal newspaper. The trouble, however, arises on the other side of his contrast, and it goes like this:
Sharon has long sought to portray Israel's conflict with the Palestinians as part and parcel of the US-led "war on terror". Judging by his latest comments, Bush has entirely embraced this view. Terrorism was the issue that overrode all others, he suggested; and peace was conditional on the prior dismantling of all terrorist groups - Sharon's position exactly.

The fundamental flaw in this approach is that, unlike Bush and Sharon, most of the world does not regard Palestinian resistance to occupation in the same light as the activities of al-Qaida and allied transnational groups with their much broader, insurrectionary aims.

Palestinian grievances are specific, easily understood and well-rehearsed. The likes of Hamas and Islamic Jihad are utterly wrong to attack Israeli civilians. But by lumping together Palestinian hardliners with far more virulent international terrorist gangs, Bush confuses the two issues to the detriment of solutions to both.
Let's start with the clear statement that it is 'utterly wrong' of Hamas and Islamic Jihad to attack Israeli civilians. One must presume that whatever else he means to refer to here, Tisdall means also to refer to suicide bombings. Well, these things are very much a matter of judgement, but to me 'utterly wrong' is something you might say when someone had gratuitously insulted a sensitive friend and so hurt their feelings; or, moving along the appropriate range, when they had stolen the most cherished possession of this same friend after a long spell enjoying the hospitality of his or home; or might say of a person's conduct who was a regular free-rider on the efforts of their work-mates, and so forth. I would even accept that you can bump up the wrongness-content a good way here, to get much worse acts than these, and 'utterly wrong' might still be apt. But blowing up a bus full of, say, children on their way to school, people off out to the shops or to visit a friend; or blowing up a café or restaurant full of, say, people celebrating a wedding or a birthday, or just meeting friends to eat; and killing many of these people, and leaving others with broken bodies, shattered limbs, lives much worse, forever, from that day on – 'utterly wrong' to my ear doesn't seem to meet the case. Still, it's only my ear. Talking to others about this in the last few days, I’ve found that while some did share my sense of it, one or two did not.

Never mind, we can leave it hanging. The crunch matter is elsewhere. For we can certainly say that, whether or not it is apt to describe suicide bombings as 'utterly wrong', they are acts of murder as well. (Scroll back: 'Bob, it was utterly wrong of you to kill that dentist.' Hmmm.) And, being acts of murder planned as a matter of policy by organized political groupings, and directed systematically against a civilian population, they represent a campaign of mass murder, and are crimes against humanity. They are crimes against humanity under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, and they have been judged as of this status by Human Rights Watch as well (see also here and here). So, yes, utterly wrong if this is appropriate – and then some.

However, notice now how Simon Tisdall, who is critical of the policy of George W. Bush for a 'blurring of distinctions' (as between al-Qaida, on the one hand, and Hamas and Islamic Jihad, on the other) elides an important distinction himself, by moving as easily as he does from 'Palestinian resistance to occupation' to the 'attacks upon Israeli civilians'. Morally, it is an unacceptable slide. Its pedigree is exactly the same – though, plainly, the gravity of what it slides into isn't – as the plea of some German apologists after the Second World War, with respect to the Judeocide or to German barbarities on the Eastern front, 'We were at war'. Genocide and massacre are not a legitimate part of war, and the mass murder of civilians is not a legitimate mode of resistance to occupation or to anything else.

Simon Tisdall's simplifications have been worth noticing at this length because they have become standard with an appreciable sector of left and liberal opinion. The foregoing may well prompt from some within that sector the dismissal that I must be a supporter of the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza and of the policies of the Sharon government, seeing as how I haven't criticized them in this post. But I am not. (For a brief indication of my views on the question, go to here and scroll down to the answer to the last question.)

posted by norm at 3:37 pm | link

Come on, Aussie, come on!

Jim Nolan was one of the first people who wrote to me after the launch of this blog to give it a friendly welcome, and we've had a couple of further email exchanges since. I don't know why exactly, but something prompted me to put him into Google and I came up with this, an article from 22 January. He says here:
Something more substantial than the vacuous 'no blood for oil' chant will be required to dissuade those of us on the left who dissent from the empty 'no war on Iraq' rhetoric. Those who have followed closely the grotesque history of the Saddam regime recognise the dire need, on human rights grounds alone, for regime change in Iraq.
Jim is a barrister practising in industrial and labor law. Together with Michael Costello, Michael Easson and Bob Hogg, he issued a Statement on Labour's Response to the War:
Australia's foreign policy must be re-defined to place human rights in the foreground. We do not agree that there is a clean separation between human rights and the national interest. The support of freedom and liberal humanitarianism everywhere is in our national interest. The concept of 'linkage' of human rights to full participation in the international community - long disparaged by Kissingerite 'realists' - must be re-asserted in the context of gross abuse of human rights. Genocide within a State's borders is not 'ok', so long as it doesn't cross that country's borders. Respect for basic human rights must be the irreducible minimum for recognition by, and full participation in, the world community.
Read the whole thing. Read, too, Jim's article of 17 January, 'Take a risk for human rights: Back Bush' (hey, I wonder how similar a sneer down in Aus sounds to one in the UK), from which I will cite this:
Australians (and in particular the left) acted honourably in pressing for regime change in East Timor - even when the United Nations seemed to falter in its commitment to the East Timorese. Similarly, the intervention of the United Nations in Bosnia should have been welcomed by anyone who felt deeply about human rights. The actions of NATO in Kosovo - to rescue the most significant Muslim community in Europe from ethnic cleansing at the hands of the stalinist orthodox fascist - must also be regarded as a great humanitarian intervention. The same can be said for the British intervention in Sierra Leone. On the other hand, the international community can be condemned for its failure to intervene in a timely fashion in Rwanda.

These examples are sufficient to show that a blanket principle of non-intervention cannot rationally be sustained. The international community is and should be, obliged to act in the face of human tragedy and widespread human rights abuses. It has long been regarded as an important task for the left to take their own governments to task positively to require intervention in the name of human rights and democratic values. Campaigns against the racist regimes in South Africa and Zimbabwe and more recently, Cambodia, East Timor, Burma and Tibet bear this out.

Opposition to regime change in Iraq stands in stark contrast to these principled campaigns. It can only - objectively considered - lend aid and comfort to one of the most brutal and murderous regimes on earth. Anyone considering action which could lead to the prolongation of [the] Saddam regime should be reminded of the ugly brutality of this fascist regime.
Finally, Jim has pointed me towards an article (of 5 April) from The Age by Pamela Bone:
It is not, in my opinion, even about what is in Australia's interests. I could not care less whether John Howard has more or less voter approval or if Simon Crean's performance on the war issue ends in him being replaced as Labor leader. What it is about is the future of the world.
A good option might have been for the United Nations and the world community to be so united against the Iraqi dictator that he would have surrendered and war could have been avoided. The worst option now would be what the anti-war movement wants: to pull the troops out and leave Saddam Hussein at large and defiant, a menace to his own people and a hero to Islamic extremists. "The left has abandoned us, not the other way around," one reader emailed me. "The new left has abandoned justice as its ultimate value and has instead embraced tolerance. This is philosophically incoherent, for the simple reason that the intolerable cannot be tolerated."
Amen to that (except possibly about the left's tolerance, which can be patchy). These are good, clear voices.

posted by norm at 12:41 pm | link

Slimewatch UK No 1

Actually, at this venue - my daily newspaper of choice - it's more like No 8972, but it officially inaugurates a new occasional slot on normblog. Here's the thing, see - the bombing of the Jordanian embassy in Baghdad, which killed 11 people. From a piece about it at the same venue:
Jordan is in the unusual position of being disliked by both supporters of Saddam Hussein and those who were against his regime. The kingdom supported the invasion by US-led forces and allowed American troops to be stationed in the desert close to the border. It has intimated that it might be willing to send troops to Iraq. But many Iraqis are also angry at what they see as the years of support the government in Amman gave to Saddam, and the decision last week by King Abdullah to give two of Saddam's daughters political asylum.
After the explosion burning cars lay strewn across the road in front of the embassy. Four Iraqis who were driving past when the bomb went off were burnt beyond recognition.
Opposite today's Guardian leader page there's a cartoon about the bombing by Martin Rowson (no link found), and he, at least, has no doubt about how to focus the responsibility for it. You'll never guess. Why, blow me down, his focus is on the good old, bad old, US of A. Embassy a ruin; headline: 'Weapon of Mass Destruction found in Iraq!'; postscript: '(after it had gone off)'.

posted by norm at 11:43 am | link

Thursday, August 07, 2003

Polls, Poles, Austrians, Czechs

There's a poll in preparation for the best German of all time, but it's run into some trouble:
The consequences of Germany's historically mobile borders have made suggesting candidates a nightmare for the producers. The list has managed to annoy several other countries and sent diplomats scrambling for their history books.
The Austrians aren't happy about Mozart being a contender, Freud was born in what is now part of the Czech Republic, and Copernicus '"is Polish…," said a spokesperson at the Polish embassy in Berlin'.

posted by norm at 4:53 pm | link

Blogging ethics

There's some discussion on this over at Calblog. I particularly endorse the first comment by Dean Esmay. I'm not leavin' no typos unfixed when I spot them, nor am I going to count it as an update two minutes, or whatever, later. If it ain't substantive, just fix it. The discussion's also going on at Dean's World (both links via Outside the Beltway); and I see Kevin Drum and Matt Yglesias have also had their say. No one seems too keen.

Updated at 11.15 PM on Fri Aug 08.

posted by norm at 4:38 pm | link

This question of language

This isn't new, but I'd not seen it before now. From an interview (scroll down) with Jacques Derrida:
Interviewer: September 11 [le 11 septembre] gave us the impression of being a major event, one of the most important historical events we will witness in our lifetime, especially for those of us who never lived through a world war. Do you agree?

Derrida: Le 11 septembre, as you say, or, since we have agreed to speak two languages, "September 11." We will have to return later to this question of language. As well as to this act of naming: a date and nothing more. When you say "September 11" you are already citing, are you not? You are inviting me to speak here by recalling, as if in quotation marks, a date or a dating that has taken over our public space and our private lives for five weeks now. Something fait date, I would say in a French idiom, something marks a date, a date in history; that is always what's most striking, the very impact of what is at least felt, in an apparently immediate way, to be an event that truly marks, that truly makes its mark, a singular and, as they say here, "unprecedented" event. I say "apparently immediate" because this "feeling" is actually less spontaneous than it appears: it is to a large extent conditioned, constituted, if not actually constructed, circulated at any rate through the media by means of a prodigious techno-socio-political machine. "To mark a date in history" presupposes, in any case, that "something" comes or happens for the first and last time, "something" that we do not yet really know how to identify, determine, recognize, or analyze but that should remain from here on in unforgettable: an ineffaceable event in the shared archive of a universal calendar, that is, a supposedly universal calendar, for these are—and I want to insist on this at the outset—only suppositions and presuppositions. Unrefined and dogmatic, or else carefully considered, organized, calculated, strategic—or all of these at once. For the index pointing toward this date, the bare act, the minimal deictic, the minimalist aim of this dating, also marks something else. Namely, the fact that we perhaps have no concept and no meaning available to us to name in any other way this "thing" that has just happened, this supposed "event." An act of "international terrorism," for example, and we will return to this, is anything but a rigorous concept that would help us grasp the singularity of what we will be trying to discuss. "Something" took place, we have the feeling of not having seen it coming, and certain consequences undeniably follow upon the "thing." But this very thing, the place and meaning of this "event," remains ineffable, like an intuition without concept, like a unicity with no generality on the horizon or with no horizon at all, out of range for a language that admits its powerlessness and so is reduced to pronouncing mechanically a date, repeating it endlessly, as a kind of ritual incantation, a conjuring poem, a journalistic litany or rhetorical refrain that admits to not knowing what it's talking about. We do not in fact know what we are saying or naming in this way: September 11, le 11 septembre, September 11. The brevity of the appellation (September 11, 9/11) stems not only from an economic or rhetorical necessity. The telegram of this metonymy—a name, a number—points out the unqualifiable by recognizing that we do not recognize or even cognize that we do not yet know how to qualify, that we do not know what we are talking about.
Speechless. Thanks to Steve de Wijze for the link.

posted by norm at 3:12 pm | link

Dave Dudley

A couple of must-reads over at Harry's Place: the announcement of Dave Dudley's return, and his return. Well, I'd never heard of the guy, but I'm a fan. Welcome back Dave!

posted by norm at 2:52 pm | link

An Iraqi exile returns home

From much else of interest in this story, I’ll draw attention to the following:
Watching the war on television was a mixture of elation and horror. "We knew Iraqis were going to get killed," says Maz. "What if Iraq was damaged, and Saddam stayed? But I was convinced that this time it wasn't going to happen. I was asked by somebody to go on an anti-war demonstration and I refused. I said that if the placards said 'No to war, down with Saddam' I would go, but I never saw anything on those placards against Saddam.

"How would the demonstrators feel if the same cameras that filmed people suffering during the war had been filming the Iraqi army and secret police killing and torturing civilians for 35 years? There were no cameras there. They were silent victims."
Yup, those placards. Who can ever forget them?

posted by norm at 10:28 am | link


In certain areas, there's one figure who just so stands out that it doesn't seem reasonable to dump them into a list containing others. Four examples come to mind. One is Shakespeare. Another is Fred Astaire. I once saw Mikhail Baryshnikov on TV saying something along the lines, 'Other dancers have a very simple attitude to Fred Astaire – we hate him!' You watch Astaire move; it's not altogether believable, understandable. Then amongst batsmen, Donald Bradman. You only have to look at the statistics: 'Bradman… then daylight', as I've seen it put. Finally, though probably more debatable, Sinatra. What a voice, what a delivery!

Can anyone suggest additions to this list?

posted by norm at 10:22 am | link

Mr Johnny Cash

In the country of country I'm taking some heat. British Spin approves of my list of Top 15 Country Music Stars, on account of which I'll forgive him - just this once - for the dig at members of my hard-working profession ('I know it's summertime so these academics have nothing to do'). But Tim Newman has a Sword of Damocles over my head because I left out the Carter Family. And various other complaints have been coming in. No doubt, from these, about who is my most culpable omission - Johnny Cash. But other gripes: Alison Krauss, Jimmie Rodgers, Bob Wills. What can I say? It's in the nature of the game.

Anyway, the level of interest leads me to this suggestion: a readers' poll of top country stars. Here's the deal. You send me your faves, up to but no more than ten per entry. Voting closes at midnight, normblog time, on Sunday 15 August. Please send to this address:


But be warned, you're doing it for your own enjoyment, and if nothing comes of it, so be it. Unless submissions pass a critical threshold, of say 20, there's no point. I won't be bothering with a poll of just four people and one dog. So, you peeps, send 'em in. Come on. It'll be fun.

posted by norm at 10:13 am | link

Wednesday, August 06, 2003

Disgusting anti-Semitic cartoon 2

Following my post of yesterday, I have received an email saying, 'It seems to me a legitimate way of depicting the Palestinian state (i.e. cantons/bantustans) offered by Israel under the Oslo Accord.' To which all I will say for the time being is this. The Star of David is an age-old Jewish symbol. It is not specific to the Israeli state. And anyone who knows anything at all about the history of anti-Semitism knows that it is just standardly used by those trying to vilify Jews. Symbols have meanings beyond the ones their users may intend. I shall post again on this subject in the near future.

posted by norm at 12:59 pm | link

I don't know whether to kill myself or go bowling

OK, now it's time for some long-delayed business - my Top 15 Country Music Stars of all time. Apart from the supreme Emmylou, who is Number 1, the others aren't ranked, just listed alphabetically.

Emmylou Harris
Terry Allen
Iris DeMent
Steve Earle
Nanci Griffith (only just)
Merle Haggard
Waylon Jennings
George Jones
Lyle Lovett
Gram Parsons
Ricky Skaggs
George Strait
Randy Travis
Townes Van Zandt
Hank Williams

Sorry not to have been able to find room for: Bill Monroe, Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton, Gillian Welch, Tammy Wynette and Dwight Yoakam. But if you prefer a Top 21, you got it. To those, including many of my friends, who look down their noses at country music, let me say two things. One, if you aren't acquainted with a good part of this, er, body of work, then what you know about it is squat. Two, a tradition out of which can come the title which I've taken for my headline here (can anyone out there point me to the original source of this?), can't be all bad. The truth and profundity of observation it compresses are astonishing.

posted by norm at 12:09 pm | link

Well caught, Benito!

And, thanks to my Brussels correspondent, I have an account of a recent game between the Royal Brussels Cricket Club and a City of London visiting XI. The participants sport names like Johnny 'Whispering Jack' Farnfield, Benito 'the Italian Stallion' Giordano, the Aussie vanker Luke 'Warne' White and Terry 'Sheep-Shagger' Duncan. The match was full of incident:
The first wicket of the day occurred in somewhat bizarre circumstances as the ball was somehow caught between two rather large, sweaty, Italian breasts belonging to the first slip fielder Benito.
Well, they all count. Read the rest to find out the result.

posted by norm at 11:22 am | link

A strong fielding side

From my correspondent in Hong Kong: commenting on recent and pending retirements from the England side, the South China Morning Post (link to actual item only by subscription) has this:
With Gough retiring and Alec Stewart's career coming to an end the side's batting and bowling are the areas in need of most attention.
'Written straight, not for laughs’, says our man on the scene.

posted by norm at 11:19 am | link

Good morning, USA!

normblog goes on air later today - to be interviewed on the Dennis Prager Show, 'a nationally syndicated radio talk show originating from Los Angeles on KRLA 870 AM'. This will be at 1800 hours normblog time, UK side of the pond, 1000 hours Pacific Time.

posted by norm at 11:16 am | link

Me a break, you a break

Today I’m taking time out from both Iraq and my daily newspaper of choice (hence no link) – although I do have one item still outstanding on the latter topic.

posted by norm at 11:15 am | link

Tuesday, August 05, 2003


The Bleat returns Thursday morning. And not a moment too soon. Jeff Jarvis has been noticing his absence too:
Yo, James, I'm sure many of us would be privileged to act as your backup: Send your bleats to a few blogging friends and we'll post them. (And, no, this isn't a shameless bid for traffic. I simply feel like a Jewish mother whose son stopped calling. The silence. The silence.)
I closed your unclosed bracket, Jeff.

posted by norm at 4:35 pm | link

Passage of conversation

This is over lunch between normblog the (sometime) person and Wife of the Norm.

Wife of the Norm: various arrangements for the days, or possibly hours, to come; literary and publishing matters; other things.

normblog: glazed expression.

WotN: 'How much of that did you hear?'

normblog: 'I heard the bit about what's for lunch tomorrow when you're in London, and.... no, sorry, hit the back button.'

WotN: 'About when I'm getting back?'

normblog: 'Yeah, heard that; scroll forward.'

WotN: This item, that item...

normblog: 'OK, start again there.'

posted by norm at 4:07 pm | link

The Ayatollah Khomeini’s grandson

He's been giving out some surprising opinions (link via BuzzMachine). Thanks to another fellow Loopster, Eve Garrard.

posted by norm at 4:06 pm | link

A disgusting anti-Semitic cartoon

See for yourself here. InstaPundit asks whether it's more damning if the cartoonist didn’t realize his work was virtually identical to a Nazi cartoon, or if he did realize it. Thanks to Steve de Wijze for putting this my way.

posted by norm at 3:57 pm | link

Bleeb 2

This is by way of a brief postscript to my earlier item on the BBC's coverage of the war and the run-up to the war, and it is prompted by the matter in the previous post. Just as some charities got swept along on the wave of anti-war opinion, losing focus as to what their charitable objectives did and did not require - thus, if saving children is the goal, it's not a good idea to align yourself in a way that might help to save a regime which jails children and tortures them - so too did the BBC. Independence of government is one thing, but it is only one. There was a great global division of opinion on matters of enormous consequence, a division the extent and sharpness of which, if not quite unmatched, were certainly of a rare kind. Given what the BBC is according to its charter and the traditions it professes, it should have stood above, or outside, this division. But it did not, and that is a major historical failure. The large question now, beyond the narrow confines of the David Kelly business, is whether the organization has the internal strength and vitality to take an honest measure of this failure and try to do something about it. The first step would be to show some sign of recognition of it - which has not yet, to my knowledge, started to happen.

posted by norm at 3:47 pm | link

Medical Foundation

I've received today from the Medical Foundation, which cares for victims of torture, the latest issue of The Supporter (No 25, July 2003 - I'm unable to find a link for it). It contains a piece quoting the sentiments both of Iraqis who supported the war and of Iraqis who didn't.
Challenging a critic of the American and British invasion of Iraq to "Look into my eyes! Look into my eyes!" Medical Foundation client Freshta Raper transfixed the audience of BBC1's Question Time with her account of the horrors she had endured under Saddam Hussein... "People have to know what I have seen..."
Ahmad Hassan... passionately disagreed... "When I see on television what's been happening in Basra, I feel devastated, and my illness gets much worse... Saddam is not a good person, but I am against what America has done - bombing the country and killing innocent people."
The consulting room at the Medical Foundation [the article continues] is neutral territory during the heat of battle and its aftermath.
Along with its difficult and invaluable work, this stance is a credit to the organization, and contrasts with that of some other charities - War on Want and Save the Children among these - which aligned themselves with the movement against the war, and by virtue of that with a campaign which was to the benefit of the Baathist regime. Whether or not this is, technically, an abuse of the charitable status of the organizations concerned, it is a betrayal of the trust of many of their supporters, amongst whom, in the case of the two named charities, I used to count myself. In any case, if you don't yet know about the work of the Medical Foundation, I commend it to you.

posted by norm at 12:35 pm | link

Michael Walzer

In the same issue of Imprints there is an interview with Michael Walzer which I would urge people to read. Together with Christopher Hitchens, Walzer is one of the best - most thoughtful and independent-minded - voices today on issues relating to the post-9/11 global nexus, and his writing about it is worth that of a dozen Fisks and Pilgers, to speak only of them. In the interview with Imprints he refers to an article of his, 'The Four Wars of Israel / Palestine' (available also here), which I bring to your attention in case you haven't already read it, as being one of the best brief overviews of this troubled subject.

posted by norm at 12:09 pm | link

A review of Roman Polanski's The Pianist

Roman Polanski’s The Pianist has had a favourable reception with both reviewers and audiences since it opened in this country a few weeks ago. However, to the extent that there have been reservations about it, the main one appears to be that the film strikes a redemptive note, relieving the ambient horror of the Warsaw ghetto with its story of one man’s survival. This reservation was certainly predictable. From Theodor Adorno to Claude Lanzmann, it has become a primary commandment in the cultural treatment of the Shoah that no significant uplift can relieve this most terrible episode of the twentieth century, and none should therefore be allowed – or made – to seem to do so. The argument has its point, but it also has its limitations. In the discussion of Polanski’s movie which follows I comment on both. My principal purpose, though, is to show that too obsessive a preoccupation with the anti-redemptive taboo can have the effect of obscuring other important moral and artistic values. I shall provide some brief background to the film of one kind and another, before going on to discuss its content and what I found most striking about it.

The Pianist tells the story of Wladyslaw Szpilman during the Second World War and the occupation of Warsaw by the Germans. Szpilman was born in 1911 at Sosnowiec in Poland and lived in Warsaw for most of his life. He died there in July 2000 at the age of 88. For two decades after the war Szpilman was Director of Music at Polish Radio. He had an illustrious career as a concert pianist and composer, including of popular songs for which he was well-known in his native country. During the German occupation he survived the Warsaw ghetto, losing his family who were murdered at Treblinka along with most of the rest of Warsaw Jewry, and after escaping from the ghetto he hid out in one house after another in Warsaw with the help of Polish friends and contacts.

Szpilman’s account of his experiences was published in Poland in 1946 as Death of a City. In this manifestation the book had a short life, the Communist authorities blocking any reprint of it. At the initiative of his son Andrzej, a German edition was published in 1998, and it was followed by translations into other languages, now retitled as The Pianist.

(Read as much as you want of the rest. It appears here, in the new issue of Imprints, vol. 7 no. 1. Thanks to the editors for permission to excerpt and link.)

posted by norm at 11:55 am | link

Statistics and damned funny business

Joanathan Steele begins an article today with the statement, 'One out of every four Americans wants US forces to withdraw from Iraq now, according to a Gallup poll.' But if one out of every four Americans wants this, then three out of every four Americans... Imagine how it would go down at the same venue if you began an article praising Tony Blair's role with respect to the Iraq war: 'One out of every four people in the UK thinks Blair demonstrated courageous leadership.'

The piece is worth a read in any case.

posted by norm at 11:45 am | link

Let's hear it for France

You read it here just a couple of days ago, but under the same heading Thomas Friedman is interviewed. He has a more positive assessment of his country’s role in the world than readers of this particular daily newspaper will be accustomed to: 'I think, on the whole, that a lot of bad things in the world happen without us, and not many good things happen without us, in terms of big initiatives. And I think that in more places, on more days, we're a force for good than for bad. And I would hate to see a world where France was the world's only superpower.'

posted by norm at 11:36 am | link

Monday, August 04, 2003


Dan De Luce in Tehran:
Iran's hardline clergy has begun arresting and interrogating journalists, students and political activists in a new attempt to intimidate opposition before next year's parliamentary elections. In the most extensive wave of detentions in recent years, plainclothes security agents have detained hundreds of student activists as well as journalists and reformist commentators.
But despite the imprisonment of more than 20 journalists in recent months, the news media and dissident voices are growing increasingly defiant as they test the limits of the system.
Go read the rest.

posted by norm at 4:57 pm | link

Worst figures in American history

Over at Right Wing News you can find the results of a poll of 39 bloggers' views on this topic. John Hawkins refers to those polled as 'a fairly conservative group'. FDR comes out as the 17th worst figure in American history. Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter, Jesse Jackson and Noam the Foam all fare worse than Timothy McVeigh and Charles Manson. What can one say but hmmm? I wonder where George W. Bush would come in a poll, today, of readers of my dnoc. For some, possibly, he'd be even worse than Hitler. Again, hmmm.

posted by norm at 4:55 pm | link

Miles Apart

And this, which I was playing earlier, isn’t bad either. I run it here as background to a comment I want to make on a comment over at Crooked Timber from a certain Dave. Dave took exception to my '[k]nocking down the jazz fans who think jazz began with Charlie Parker (are there such people?)'. Well, what I actually said was, 'With some of my friends who love jazz it seems that, for practical - that is, listening - purposes, jazz begins with Charlie Parker or later than that.' Dave doesn't like my politics, but let's leave that aside. Why on earth would I make up something like this? Anyway, I didn't. I have friends to whom it applies. And today, in my email intray, this message: 'Well, I'm just now discovering Charlie Parker... I used to think that jazz began with John Coltrane.'

posted by norm at 4:49 pm | link

This I like

'Female comics can be good at dealing with hecklers too… Once in a club in Dublin I heard a male heckler shout at a woman stand-up comedian, "Go back to producing babies!" The response from the stage was: "Women can produce babies and jokes. After all, your mother did it!"'

posted by norm at 4:45 pm | link


This is definitely not a catblog, but I am bound to record here that today is Meems's birthday. Meems (as rhymes with 'seems', or even 'dreams', and I'll also accept 'themes', her given name Mimi, after Rosa Luxemburg's cat) is… well, she’s the cat of the Geras family.

posted by norm at 4:44 pm | link

New Zimbabwe

Check it out, the 'brightest website on Zimbabwe'.

posted by norm at 7:30 am | link

Sunday, August 03, 2003

Best left un…Said, Edward

It is interesting the way a longish piece of writing can have the moral hole in it revealed in a single sentence. I have an example here in the following by Edward Said, from yesterday's edition of my daily newspaper of choice:
It is surely one of the intellectual catastrophes of history that an imperialist war confected by a small group of unelected US officials was waged against a devastated third world dictatorship on thoroughly ideological grounds having to do with world dominance, security control and scarce resources, but disguised for its true intent, hastened and reasoned for by orientalists who betrayed their calling as scholars.
I've not been at this game long enough to know whether it's normal to fisk just one sentence, but anyway… I’ll start with 'confected by a small group of unelected US officials'. Whether that's a reference to the presidential election result of 2000 or to those around George Bush and advising him, or both, the fact that this phrase shares the same semantic space as 'devastated third world dictatorship' is one piece of mischief: some nasty unelected confecters beating up on a poor devastated dictatorship. The moral hole, however, is right there, free-standing, in that devastated dictatorship. Can this really be what Said meant? Should it not have read 'devastating dictatorship'? For this is, in truth, what the Baathist regime was. It wrecked the lives of countless Iraqis and the country as a whole. Devastated is what the dictatorship became after the military intervention of the Coalition.

What, though, is the movement of thought behind this perverse locution? Or – so as not to open myself up to the charge of assuming I can know the mind of another – what is the structure of meaning? Well, here's a suggestion. 'Devastated third world dictatorship' embraces, in one sweep, both the regime and the country. Calling it a dictatorship is distance taken from upfront apologia: you see, he knows. But calling it devastated, before (as a regime) it was devastated, this effects a shift from the regime to the country which it had brought to ruin. It is the standard move, a move now more than a decade old. Eliding the difference between the regime and the nation enables you to be on the side of the nation, of the people - Afghans, Iraqis, whoever - even while making yourself a would-be obstacle to terminating the power of their oppressors. (I’ve commented on this move already in my Imprints interview – run a search for 'complementing' there and read that paragraph.)

This moral elision sits within an essay in which the values of humanism and cultural tolerance are engaged on the side of a viewpoint which, had it prevailed, would have had the torturers in Baghdad still at work today; an essay written from a country where - how should one put this? - those values are at least as well rooted and widely disseminated as anywhere else on earth, and rather better regarded than they were by the members of that devastated dictatorship.

Read Brad DeLong’s take on the same article.

posted by norm at 8:29 pm | link

Baghdad University

An impression of university life there right now. (Via InstaPundit.) David Aaronovitch also refers to this report in a more general overview.

posted by norm at 8:16 pm | link

Heard this morning

Thomas Friedman on Radio 5 Live: 'Some things are true even if George Bush believes them.'

posted by norm at 8:14 pm | link

Those other gigs: some venues

As promised yesterday, I detail in this post where you can obtain copies of Men of Waugh: Ashes 2001 and Ashes '97: Two Views from the Boundary. In Australia from Roger Page (email address here); and in the U.K. from J. W. Mckenzie, Red Rose Books, Sports Books Direct, and Sportspages, here and here. Or else direct from me.

posted by norm at 8:12 pm | link

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