All entries by this author

Blog Check

Nov 11th, 2003 2:01 am | By

And speaking of the Interahamwe and what people listen to on the radio and how easy it is to overlook what’s not right in front of our eyes…There is a discussion going on at Crooked Timber about free speech and speech codes. For some reason I was moved to ask a question that always occurs to me in the context of such discussions, and that doesn’t seem to me to get asked enough. What do free speech absolutists say about situations like Rwanda and the Balkans where government leaders went on the radio to incite people to go out and kill or ‘cleanse’ other ethnic groups, with all too much success? So far, I’m interested to see, I haven’t had … Read the rest



Beware the Shortcut

Nov 10th, 2003 10:26 pm | By

Now by way of a holiday from bad writing, we can have a look at some good writing. David Aaronovitch is pretty reliable that way, and he’s good at that (alas all too easy) parlor game of pointing out the omissions and blind spots in some leftist rhetoric. It’s an honourable job, Orwell made a good thing of it, and certainly somebody has to do it. It’s no good leaving it all to the right, thus giving the impression that no one on the left objects to silly or ill-founded arguments. Such as this from the novelist Philip Kerr in the New Statesman:

I find it almost incomprehensible that someone from a generation who came of age during the Vietnam

Read the rest


Sites of Resistance

Nov 10th, 2003 7:54 pm | By

I thought we were through with the Bad Writing subject for the moment, but now I’m not so sure. Maybe it’s one of those subjects that one is never through with – not until it goes away, at least.

A kind (and horrified) reader has sent me this delightful example. And the writer is from Norway, too! Wouldn’t you think they would know better? I have this idea (very essentialist of me, really) that Scandinavians in general and particularly Norwegians are sensible people, not the kind of people who are inexplicably impressed by Bad Writing and seized with an uncontrollable need to imitate same. Why do I think that, I wonder. I don’t know – something to do with Roald … Read the rest



What Are Universities For, Again? *

Nov 10th, 2003 | Filed by

Oh that’s right – making money!… Read the rest



The Interahamwe Didn’t Listen to Joan Baez *

Nov 10th, 2003 | Filed by

Nor did the Taliban, nor did Franco or Hitler. Blanket pacifism doesn’t always answer.… Read the rest



Socialisation is Not the Job of Teachers *

Nov 10th, 2003 | Filed by

Schools have other things to teach.… Read the rest



More Than One

Nov 9th, 2003 9:59 pm | By

I posted this report on an address by Amartya Sen a few days ago, because I admire Sen (I well remember the moment I heard over the radio that he’d won the Nobel Prize, and how surprised and delighted I was) and also because he said something I’ve been thinking and muttering about for a long time, including here.

The Emeritus Professor at Harvard tore to shreds, the theory of ‘clash of civilisations’ (championed particularly by Samuel Huntington) and which has gained much currency, describing the classification as “very crude.” According to him, “what is most immediately divisive in this kind of theorising is not the silly idea of the inevitability of a clash, but the equally shallow prior insistense

Read the rest


Süddeutsche Zeitung on the Third Culture *

Nov 9th, 2003 | Filed by

The sciences and humanities ought to work together.… Read the rest



Richard Wollheim *

Nov 9th, 2003 | Filed by

The New York Times obituary.… Read the rest



We Happy Few

Nov 8th, 2003 8:17 pm | By

There is an interesting remark in this review of Terry Eagleton’s After Theory in the Telegraph. Actually there is more than one. Noel Malcolm points out that ‘Cultural Studies’ is a discipline that has some difficulties and ironies considered from a left-wing point of view:

If you open these books and try reading a page or two, you will probably notice one more thing: most of them are unreadable…These are clever people who have spent years mastering bodies of theory and styles of argument, to the point where they can produce new quantities of the same. But the overwhelming impression they give is that they are writing to impress one another, not to enlighten you or me. You do not

Read the rest


Dalrymple on Furedi *

Nov 8th, 2003 | Filed by

Agrees on the whole, though he points out that therapy can be useful.… Read the rest



Right Here, That’s Where! *

Nov 8th, 2003 | Filed by

Where is the Left when you need them to criticise Postmodernism? All around, actually.… Read the rest



How Much Homework is Too Much? *

Nov 8th, 2003 | Filed by

US children aren’t doing more, their parents only think they are.… Read the rest



Strings in 11 Dimensions *

Nov 8th, 2003 | Filed by

‘Perhaps…the theory’s very unproveability means it should actually be seen as philosophy.’… Read the rest



Other Projects

Nov 7th, 2003 7:44 pm | By

I posted two links in News the other day about the irksomeness of compulsory child-bearing. Is it any wonder that a teasing name gays like to give straights is ‘breeders’?! Anyone would think we were all living in Augustan Rome, where the dear Emperor passed laws that penalized naughty people who refused to get married, much to the disgust of women and men who preferred not to. Is child-bearing likely to die out soon? Is all this social pressure necessary for some dire reason that has escaped my attention? Yes I know Italy has a very low birth rate and that there are worries about pensions and so on, but still, if you look at the planet as a whole, … Read the rest



Interview with a Physicist *

Nov 7th, 2003 | Filed by

How strings do the job, and ‘Great science belongs to everybody.’… Read the rest



Yes But Ask Me to Name All Six ‘Friends’! *

Nov 7th, 2003 | Filed by

Most Americans can’t name even one Cabinet department.… Read the rest



Is Chinese Medicine Scientific or ‘Alternative’? *

Nov 7th, 2003 | Filed by

And if it is scientific, does it belong to China, or can anyone anywhere test it?… Read the rest



Still Bad

Nov 6th, 2003 5:29 pm | By

The ‘bad writing’ discussion continues. A reader wonders in the Guestbook if ‘bad’ is the best word to use.

OB, very ascerbic, very plain and right on, on the Bad Writing theme. But I think the very the phrase itself needs a housecleaning (or maybe a whole renovation), since “bad” can mean a splay of things: bad-ass, bad-as-evil, bad quality, bad as in WRONG, bad as in naughty … I think YOU mean “bad” as in convoluted, arrogant, obfuscatory, and Wizard-of-Oz academic, no?

Yes. Good point, FK. But I still like the word ‘bad’ for the purpose, and I think the possible other meanings are eliminated by the context. Even the headline on the In Focus makes explicit what kind … Read the rest



Honour Killing Foiled *

Nov 6th, 2003 | Filed by

Man tries to hire hitman to kill his son-in-law.… Read the rest