Archive for July, 2007

Bestride myself with boredom

It’s raining in Ireland, and I’m sat reading the Irish Independent site again. That must be the saddest line I’ve ever written.

David Quinn is battering on about how the GAA is a bit like the Catholic Church in its ability to straddle its world like a sad-eyed circus freak. There is not much else in the article, apart from complaints about ‘liberals’ and sticking up for the Pope.

Once you see the verb ‘bestride’ in a sentence, you can be pretty sure that a colossus will be along without delay. Someone should propose alternatives.

  • He bestrode the world of second-hand car dealing like a giraffe
  • She bestrode the world of jazz singing like a giant tuning fork

Tell you what, ‘liberals’ are getting a quare and shocking pasting in the Irish Incontinent of late. The other day Kevin Myers berated their lily-liveredness at refusing to countenance the apparent fact -according to him- that every Irishman is a potential terrorist and should therefore not be allowed entry to Ireland. For this, he draws upon the historic behaviour of Irish people in Britain. An excerpt:

And terrifyingly, there is no large-scale Irish rejection of the murderous projects of their compatriots in Britain; no mass-rallies of Irish denouncing Irish Republicanism; no call from within Irish society for nationalists to join the army or police; and no unconditional and all-embracing campaign to extirpate murderous fundamentalism from within Irish society. Even “liberal” Irish blame British policy for Irish terrorism in Britain, while remaining silent about the unspeakable Catholic-on-Catholic atrocities in Northern Ireland.

Or something like that. He bestrides the local world of sensationalist demagoguery like a…

Latin Lovers

A convoy of diverse phenomena has been thundering past my kennel for the last few days, and, alas, I have not been able to raise my snout from my dish to muster even the most half-hearted of barks.

One of the things I had planned on writing about in more detail was the decision of the Pope to allow masses to be celebrated in Latin. Not because I have any particular interest in Latin masses, but because I find it diverting that people should exhibit a preference for a religious celebration in a language they do not speak. It is as though religious devotion were intensified by incomprehension. A glorious mystery, perhaps.

On the one hand, the Latin Mass nowadays might seem like trenchant traditionalism, but on the other, there are parallels with the sort of thing popularised by people like Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, where transcendental meditators use an incomprehensible ‘mantra’ -but one which is supposed to have a personal significance- to achieve a sense of transcendence.

But, as this letter writer to the Irish Independent avers, in what I imagine is a fairly typical position, this is not the only reason:

I go to the Tridentine Mass when I can – not because I think it is correct or better in itself, but because it is more obviously directed towards God, not inwards to the priest and the congregation, and because I want to pray in my own head along with the priest. He is not turning his back on us; he is speaking to God for us all and we are able to concentrate on our collective worship without distractions.

i.e. I would prefer not to see stragglers making their way through the front door via their reflection on the priest’s shiny forehead. Maybe.

More interesting here is the conviction that God has a particular location (‘more obviously directed towards God’), and therefore a corporeality, which, for the most part, he has been rather coy about revealing, provided we choose to ignore his occasional appearances on pizza slices and oily rags.

Open Smiles, Friendly Shores, Muslim Hordes

Johann Hari has a funny and disturbing piece about a cruise he went on for National Review readers, in the company of prominent ‘neocons’, including the barking mad Norman Podhoretz, the orientalist ancient Bernard Lewis, the comparatively sane William F. Buckley (who isn’t a neocon at all), and Mark Steyn, ‘a pimp inexplicably hanging out with the apostles of colostomy conservatism’.

Some of the best material, however, comes from the anonymous crazies who signed up for the event:

To my left, I find a middle-aged Floridian with a neat beard. To my right are two elderly New Yorkers who look and sound like late-era Dorothy Parkers, minus the alcohol poisoning. They live on Park Avenue, they explain in precise Northern tones. “You must live near the UN building,” the Floridian says to one of the New York ladies after the entree is served. Yes, she responds, shaking her head wearily. “They should suicide-bomb that place,” he says. They all chuckle gently. How did that happen? How do you go from sweet to suicide-bomb in six seconds?

The conversation ebbs back to friendly chit-chat. So, you’re a European, one of the Park Avenue ladies says, before offering witty commentaries on the cities she’s visited. Her companion adds, “I went to Paris, and it was so lovely.” Her face darkens: “But then you think – it’s surrounded by Muslims.” The first lady nods: “They’re out there, and they’re coming.” Emboldened, the bearded Floridian wags a finger and says, “Down the line, we’re not going to bail out the French again.” He mimes picking up a phone and shouts into it, “I can’t hear you, Jacques! What’s that? The Muslims are doing what to you? I can’t hear you!”

I wouldn’t say I’ve been a fan of Johann Hari up to now, but this piece is excellent.


Some apologise for not blogging more frequently. This, to me, seems a gesture lacking in modesty. I mean, people may read your site out of morbid interest or extreme boredom, and really could not care less if you never typed another character.

There are some blogs I read and loathe (none of which is on my present blogroll, which is presently a curious, quasi-nationalist affair that I really ought to remedy), but cannot stop reading. This isn’t particularly weird behaviour: many people cannot stop looking at things they do not like, such as the mice scuttling around the railway tracks at Pearse station, or Location Location Location.

Another such thing is the slugs that appear early morning on the pavements round where I live: big fat slimy creatures the size of mobile phones. I suppose this is because of the wet weather of late. Still, at least there has been no plague of Daddy Longlegs this year.

Sniper Sniping

Last night I got shown a computer game called Sniper Elite. As one whose interest in computer games was already petering out during the salad days of Sonic the Hedgehog, I was taken aback at the accomplishment of the graphics and the brutality of the violence.

You play the role of a sniper in wartime Berlin, apparently out to stop plans for nuclear weapons getting into the hands of the bad guys. The game allows you to shoot people from hundreds of metres away, and then follow the trajectory of the bullet – to the point where you see the head of your victim get destroyed in a flash of blood and guts.

Because I’m not able to imagine any circumstances where I could take pleasure in destroying someone else, and also because I’ve seen people lying dead from gunshot wounds to the head, I thought it was pretty repulsive, and I was thinking: this is classed as entertainment? If you were forced people to play these games after a day’s work, it would be brainwashing. Yet millions of people voluntarily sit down for hours on end with these games every day, using them to release tension, indulge sadistic impulses, and simply delight that they’re blowing people to bits.

Can’t we all just go back to Frogger?

Will Get Fooled Again

And I’m like, Dude, these people don’t understand what you’re saying…. They used to say a lot, ‘Oh, they’ll understand when the gun is in their face.’

The Nation has a long report by Chris Hedges and Laila Al-Arian on the brutality of the US occupation of Iraq, based on interviews conducted by with 50 US veterans.

Several interviewees said that, on occasion, these killings were justified by framing innocents as terrorists, typically following incidents when American troops fired on crowds of unarmed Iraqis. The troops would detain those who survived, accusing them of being insurgents, and plant AK-47s next to the bodies of those they had killed to make it seem as if the civilian dead were combatants. “It would always be an AK because they have so many of these weapons lying around,” said Specialist Aoun. Cavalry scout Joe Hatcher, 26, of San Diego, said 9-millimeter handguns and even shovels–to make it look like the noncombatant was digging a hole to plant an IED–were used as well.

Democracy Now! has interviews with some of the interviewees for the Nation report. One of them was involved in the invasion from day one:

And at that point in time I had a lot of reservations, because I was looking around, and I saw 150,000 troops making their way to Baghdad in the open desert, and here’s President Bush, and he’s accusing Saddam Hussein of having a massive stockpile of weapons of mass destruction, possibly a nuclear weapon, saying that he’s a homicidal dictator addicted to these weapons and we have to stop him now. And I was thinking to myself, I said, you know, what would be a better time for Saddam Hussein to use these weapons? He has 150,000 troops in the southern Iraqi desert, and he could launch these weapons on us directly and kill nobody but us.

Also on Iraq, an apparent criticism made by Martin Woollacott in Saturday’s Guardian of Eric Hobsbawm’s new book caught the eye. I haven’t read the book yet, but I was intrigued by the wording of the criticism. It says:

He does not examine the case that Iraq had a democratic tradition and a real national identity which, given a better-managed intervention, might have come to the fore.

This appears to suppose that a concentration of power actually existed that would have, at some point, been in a position to ‘better-manage’ the ‘intervention’; also, that the agents most likely to comprise this concentration of power would have had a real interest in a ‘better-managed intervention’.

The terms here are so open-ended that they are difficult to apply to some historically realistic alternative course of events. An ‘intervention’ could be anything from a series of diplomatic meetings to intensive bombing campaigns, and successful management -as any manager knows- depends upon the goal and objectives set forth, so it could entail a chicken in every pot, or a death in every household, or perhaps even both.

To paraphrase Donald Rumsfeld, you imagine war with the states you have, not the states you would like to have. So within the range of reasonable potential alternatives, I see no reason to imagine that things would have turned out significantly different. For instance, an Al Gore administration may have waffled more vigorously, but, when it came down to attending to strategic interests, it would probably have bombed just as hard:

We have to defend our future from these predators of the 21st century. They feed on the free flow of information and technology. They actually take advantage of the freer movement of people, information and ideas.

And they will be all the more lethal if we allow them to build arsenals of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons and the missiles to deliver them. We simply cannot allow that to happen.

There is no more clear example of this threat than Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. His regime threatens the safety of his people, the stability of his region and the security of all the rest of us.

Bill Clinton, in 1998.

The most important difference between the Republicans and the Democrats, when it comes to foreign policy, is probably that the latter are better at portraying their urge to destroy as part of a moral quest in which ‘liberals’ have a specific interest. If the Bush-Cheney administration somehow does not get round to launching a bombing campaign against Iran before the end of its term, it is a fairly safe bet that a Democrat administration will pick up where they left off, only with even heftier backing from mass media outlets.

Oh, and watch some of this – War Made Easy:

Leverage My Ass

I am on a conference call in the dead of afternoon, mirabile dictu. People these days have started to say ‘leverage’ instead of ‘use’. As in ‘do you mind if I leverage your toilet to better void my bowels’?

It scarcely needs saying, but it does my head in. Do people really think in these terms, or are they just deliberately marketing themselves? And which is worse?

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July 2007
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