From today until the end of the month, I'm guest-blogging over at Andrew Sullivan's site. I'll cross-post here as soon as I get the hang of things. Quite a nervewracking morning, as you can imagine.
PS: So nerve-racking, in fact, that I couldn't even type the word properly. It's evening now, and things have settled down quite a bit. Alex Massie, who's doing the Washington shift, has come on-line, so Danny and I can sneak off for a drink now (fat chance...)
Adding a new dimension to the meaning of the word "naive", a delegate to that Tehran Holocaust conference begins to have second thoughts:
In an exclusive interview from his hotel in Tehran yesterday, Dr. Dossa said that he had gladly accepted the invitation from Iran's Islamist government to attend the conference, and that he had welcomed the opportunity to criticize the Western world and its policies. But, although he is no supporter of Israel, he said he was horrified to discover that he was sharing the stage with overt anti-Semites and supporters of Adolf Hitler.
You can keep Pete Doherty and the rest of them: the coolest musician on the planet is really the gravel-voiced lawyer-turned-singer from Asti. Paolo Conte is huge in France as well as Italy, and he also sells out when he ventures into London. I don't speak Italian, but that doesn't matter much, as even in translation his crpytic lyrics read like out-takes from Baudelaire mixed with a dash of Tom Waits. The music speaks in all languages, though; it's full of droll 20s-era jazz riffs and after-hours blues, performed by a wondrous mini-big band in which almost everyone doubles up on different instruments. One of the last times I saw him, he was playing a week of sell-out shows in one of the Milan's main theatres. The atmosphere was magical, like a family gathering.
I was hoping to find a clip of Via Con Me (Come Away With Me), which reached a big audience after being used on a car commercial. But as there's no sign of it, I'll settle for Sotto le stelle del Jazz (Under the Stars of Jazz)
Under the stars of jazz
An ape-man is walking
Or maybe dancing, who knows...
If you want to hear more, there's a fun version of Azzurro (Blue), and his greatest hits disc is simply indispensable.
Fred Barnes welcomes Frederick Kagan's battle plan and its call for a 50,000 troop surge. Too little, too late, is Juan Cole's assessment:
The problem is that Iraq is a 500,000 troop problem. Another 40,000 are just going to anger locals... Let me explain why it won't work. It won't work because Iraqis are now politically and socially mobilized. This means that they have the social preconditions for effective political and paramilitary action (they are largely urban, literate, connected by media, etc.) And they are politically savvy and well-connected. They are well armed, gaining in military experience, and well financed through petroleum and antiquities smuggling and through cash infusions from supporters abroad.
The Mahdi Army fighters can be defeated by the US military, as happened twice in 2004. But they cannot be made to disappear, as they were not in 2004. That is because they are an organic movement springing from the Shiite poor, and are the paramilitary arm of a large social movement with a national network and ideology.
Leaving aside aside the firebrand rhetoric about AEI "plutocrats" elsewhere in his essay, I have a grim feeling he's right about the military-political prospects.
That earlier post about Caroline Aherne, creator of The Royle Family, set me thinking about bygone days, and prompted me to dig out one of my favourite family photos. I took it in 1978, when I was back home after my first term at university. My Mum was always extremely self-conscious about posing for pictures (as I am) but this time I caught her off-guard. Sitting across from her is Maurice, who was a sort of step-father to me, although I would never have dreamed of calling him that. He was an ex-paratrooper, and a lovely, sweet-mannered guy. Mum, who died nearly three years ago, was always more keen on listening to the radio than watching TV, which is why there's a wireless in front of her.
My happiest sofa memory from those days? The Christmas afternoon when I saw It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World for the first time, on BBC1, some time around 1976. Two and a half hours of blissful anarchy. It's gratifying to know that, thirty years later, my kids love it every bit as much as I do.
For several stressful hours yesterday I thought my laptop was having some sort of nervous breakdown. As a result I didn't manage to get much work done. Today, by some miracle, the system seems to have fixed itself after I inadvertently left it switched on overnight. I have no idea what happened, and I'm a little worried it will all go haywire again. But for the time being, everything seems to be ticking along. What a relief.
In 1831, writing - not without a sense of irony - in the Edinburgh Review, Thomas Carlyle instanced the growth of reviewing as a characteristic symptom of unhealthy modern self-consciousness, one more sign of the vertiginous times:
"Far be it from us to disparage our own craft, whereby we have our living! Only we must note these things: that Reviewing spreads with strange vigour; that such a man as Byron reckons the Reviewer and the Poet equal; that at the last Leipzig Fair, there was advertised a Review of Reviews. By and by it will be found that all literature as become one boundless self-devouring Review..."
She calls for a moratorium on childbirth for the sake of the environment ('not one more child should be born on this planet until certain conditions are met ... the most important of these is that several missing pounds of plutonium are found") and celebrates oral sex. [Do we really, er, need a "but" there? Ed.] there are also sections that seem to derive from the far, far, left-field. The reference to her pet dog's star sign and the "how-to" guide to wearing symbolic threads on your wrist in honour of the Earth can be both infuriating and distracting.