Wednesday, 25 June 2014

David Sedaris is the bombYou can tell where my territory ends and the rest of England begins. It’s like going from the rose arbor in Sissinghurst to Fukushima after the tsunami. The difference is staggering

Luis Suarez biting some guy who's spent an hour kicking him: biting a guy in football is definitely different to kicking him or elbowing him in the head, even though the latter are objectively more likely to cause lasting damage. Partly it's that there's no excuse and so it's incredibly easy to judge, and judging things, as Rebekah Brooks knows, is hard.

(By the way, do you know how many criminal defendants get privately paid barristers? A vanishingly small number. Proof is hard when you have lots of highly paid lawyers (not better lawyers, necessarily, but lawyers with all the time they need to make their case). It's what financial criminals depend on.)

Anyway, Suarez should get a ban, but I've seen worse things on sports fields not get punished just because the players could pretend they were part of the game. To be fair, sometimes it has been Suarez doing them. You should still read Brian Phillips on him. And this is good too, from Colin McGowan: Surely, we’re smart enough to enjoy Su├írez — to like him, in a way — and to also know he’s a spectacular jackass. 

I'm very busy at the moment.

A book about monsters appearing on mediaeval maps? What's not to like?

Friday, 13 June 2014

nothing to see here

Great links from the Slate Political Gabfest last week. The first was to a New York Times story about Xiao Jianhua. He was the head of the Peking student union when the Tienanmen Square protest took place. He started off a bit pro protest. Then he decided things were getting too anti state and he took the other tack. Did it pay off? Well, that's for you to judge. To help you:

In the quarter-century since, he became the prototype of the politically connected financier. He has assiduously courted the party elite, including the family of its current president, Xi Jinping, becoming something of a banker for the ruling class and a billionaire in his own right.

Now 42 years old, Mr. Xiao controls a sprawling business empire with interests largely in state-dominated industries, including banking, insurance, coal, cement, property and even rare-earth minerals, and largely managed by his holding company, the Tomorrow Group.

The second was to Leonardo da Vinci's job application to the Duke of Milan, which says he'd be a good employee because he can (nine different points) make bridges quickly for troops, destroy walls, cast cannons, etc. Then (one point) he can do peacetime architecture. Then, just as a by the way: I can carry out sculpture in marble, bronze, or clay, and also I can do in painting whatever may be done, as well as any other, be he who he may.

Everything is Broken, which was a link from [someone else] is about internet security and why there isn't any. (Clue: people in charge of it are just these guys, like you are. You know how you are just some guy who wants to get home to the kids or finish work in time to watch Game of Thrones and sometimes cocks up? So is everyone else! Even the Melvyn Braggs of this world are just doing their best to get by. This will be my theme when someone asks me to write a commencement speech.)

Friday, 6 June 2014

blonde angel

I had never heard of Luciano Re Cecconi till he was the answer to a quiz question the other day. His nickname was the blonde angel and this is a line from his Wikibiog:

Re Cecconi played for the Italian under-23 side, and was on the roster of the national squad at the 1974 World Cup. He was shot dead in 1977, after pretending to rob a friend's jewelry shop as a practical joke.

Andrew Gilligan at the Telegraph has been funny about the awful Lutfur Rahman's reelection as mayor of Tower Hamlets. The Panorama expose of Rahman was great, which I know even though I didn't watch it because a friend of mine paraphrased it for me in a way that only took a few hours longer than my watching it would have done. Rahman's team intimidated voters and misused funds on campaigning, and also:

Some polling stations were moved to new, unfamiliar, and harder-to-reach locations. One, in the not very pro-Rahman territory of Canary Wharf, was placed on a traffic island, at the bottom of a ramp, in the middle of a busy four-lane road!

If you are anything like me, you got to the end of this thinking, 'stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying beware of the leopard.'

In general, books aren't best read in synopsis. On the other hand, I cannot too highly recommend the synopsis of The Secret of Chimneys by Agatha Christie. It was turned into a Marple a few years ago, but believe me, the synopsis provides no spoilers for the Marple version. Seriously, treat yourself.

But if you are too busy and just want some highlights:

Hiram Fish, a collector of first edition books … Unaware she did not write the letters, he wants to blackmail her. On a whim, she pays, and promises more money the next day … The Koh-i-Noor diamond had been stolen from the Tower of London (and replaced by a paste copy) some years earlier, by a French thief named King Victor … he gives the real memoirs (which have no embarrassing anecdotes) to Jimmy McGrath to deliver to the publishers, to earn his one thousand pounds …  presents himself as the missing Prince Nicholas, who had spread the rumours of his own death in the Congo and through coincidence was led into this adventure ...

In fact, the more I read these notes, the more I can't believe this wasn't written by Wodehouse. Everything about it seems like Wodehouse.