Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Halloween Memories

House by the Railroad (Edward Hopper 1925)

Halloween always reminds me of my time in the United States.

With a typical paradox, this most hard-line of Christian countries celebrates the pagan festival with gusto.

It's tremendous fun.

Even people without children go to great lengths to decorate their houses with cobwebs and lanterns and many go even further with life-size models of witches and ghouls and gravestones and the rest of it. Then they wait with small sacks (not an exaggeration) of sweets for the kids to come around trick or treating.

In 2000 I remember walking home from work in the dark past little groups of kids, all in fancy dress, flitting like little ghosts from decorated house to decorated house collecting sweets in bags and pillow-cases.

My flat was one of five in a rather lovely colonial style mini-mansion built in the early 1890s. It was a really beautiful building, but set against the chill of a blood red sunset on Halloween it could be as sinister as
Hopper's House by the Railroad (1925) that Hitchcock used in Psycho.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Panne Lives Up to Her Name

This is the depressing scene in my garage at the moment.

I'm still not sure why the windscreen wipers won't work, but it seems the linkage jammed through corrosion, which in turn burned out the motor, or possibly the switch, or possibly the wiring between. Of course the whole set-up is supposed to be protected by the fuse, which is about the only part that seems in perfect working order.

In a lifetime spent groping around old sportscars, I've never come across a more intractable problem than this one, I've gone from puzzlement to rage to resignation to a sort of zen-like detachment in the six (count them) attempts to fix this fucking problem.



Thursday, October 12, 2006

Come on, England!

Last night's horror film was a deserved 2-0 defeat by Croatia.

It's very early to say this, but already I have severe doubts about the ability of the coach Steve McClaren.

Which is not to doubt McClaren's desire, passion, and comittment. It's just he may not have the intelligence and gravitas to handle the tactics and the prickly egos of the players. The philosopher advised us to know ourselves. So his decision to bring the very clever, and very tactical Terry Venables back into the England setup seemed excellent.

Now I'm not so sure. Last night England played the obsolete 3-5-2 formation, popular in Venables prime about 10-15 years ago. Perhaps he's been suggesting the system for a while and McClaren felt it was a magic solution to the problems evident in the 0-0 draw on Saturday afternoon. If so, it explains, but doesn't excuse, the strange decision to try out a new system at a difficult away fixture.

I was always a fan of Sven because he was calm and thoughtful and so utterly alien to English football culture (the very different personalities of Marino and Wenger also share this quality).

It may be a little early for many England fans, but a few more games and we might be regretting getting rid of a coach who brought an effortless consistentency to qualification. He also took us within a penalty shoot-out of a World Cup semi-final, a broken metatarsel of a European Championship semi-final, and a 1-0 lead against Brazil in a World Cup 1/4 final.

Football, like poker, is a game of skill and luck. But in the long term, skill always predominates. Let's hope Steve McClaren is simply going through a very rough patch. I doubt that's the case, but hope I'm wrong.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Simon Jenkins on the Bomb and North Korea

A nuclear bomb is a bizarre weapon, so awful as to have been used in only two attacks, in 1945. Since then, its owners have thankfully rendered it irrelevant by disuse, but in doing so have deprived it of deterrent effect. Britain's bomb did not deter Argentina from invading the Falklands, nor was America's massive arsenal a deterrent in Vietnam, Lebanon, Somalia or Iraq. Possessing such bombs is largely a matter of status.

The operative word is largely. When nuclear missiles were brandished by the Soviet Union, the west lived in an understandable state of terror. That Russia and China have abandoned their goal of communist imperialism is an immense relief. Inducing that abandonment was the objective of the cold war policy of "containment and engagement", and it worked. The thesis of Tony Blair and John Reid that Britain is currently more at risk than since Hitler is ludicrous (and a poor comment on MI6 briefing).

For all the science fiction hokum surrounding "suitcase bombs" and "terrorist WMDs", building and delivering a nuclear bomb is a massive industrial and military exercise requiring the concerted energy of a nation-state. So-called dirty bombs, or biological and chemical weapons, should never be put in the same category. They are nothing like as dangerous and have proved ineffective. What is more alarming is that North Korea appears to possess both the wherewithal to build a working bomb and the long-range missiles to deliver it. Kim Jong-il is acquiring effective nuclear capability.

Great points, all. You can read the entire article here.

Monday, October 09, 2006

The Airport is NOT, Repeat NOT, Secure!

After three years, 2700+ soldiers killed, approximately 9000 seriously wounded, and $332,000,000,000 spent, the coalition of the willing still hasn't secured Baghdad Airport.*

*Of course figures on the number of dead Iraqi , and the destruction of the country's infrastructure are much harder to come by. But then the people of Iraq are mostly Eye-rabs and therefore don't count, or rather don't get counted.


Monday, October 02, 2006

Where We Are Now