Friday, December 31, 2004

The Battle of Spion Kop and Scouser kopites

A bit of persistence has uncovered the source of the word kopite. It comes from the name of a terrace, that is, a set of stands at the end of a football (i.e. soccer) field. Interestingly, they really were "stands" in that there were no seats at all, everyone stood the whole time. The stadium was home to the Liverpool Football Club.

Here's a short description in a British guide to football pitches:
The Kop Grand Stand

The Spion Kop ... is the grand daddy of all football stands. The terrace was nicknamed "Spion" by a local journalist who likened the banking to a hill in South Africa where many local soldiers had lost their lives during the Boer War at the start of the 20th Century. Originally built in 1906, the first Spion Kop's terraces held 30,000 rabid Kopites, and was the largest terrace ever to be built at an English ground. The Kop's members sang and cheered for their saints like no other team's supporters, making Anfield world famous with their enthusiasm, and creating a match day atmosphere that couldn't be matched at any other stadium. Kopites were known for their sportsmanship and love of the game, unlike the hooligans who plagued other terraces in the 70's and 80's. The Kop itself was a truly gargantuan structure, gloomy and fearsome to opposing players, because its immense roof covered all the spectators in its shadow, far more brooding than the other great end terraces of this era at Molineux and Villa Park. The Kop was a symbol of Liverpool and even English football itself, and no stand has ever been so loved or so well known as Anfield's Spion Kop. Indeed, on the day before its demolition, over 10,000 people gathered to bid the Kop farewell. It seems ironic that the 96 people who perished at Hillsborough in 1989 were all Liverpool supporters, and it was their deaths that eventually caused the demise of their beloved Kop. Its replacement, called the Kop Grandstand, was completed in 1995, seats 12,000 and is the largest single tier end stand in football today. At 76 rows deep and sporting a low roof, the new Kop is definitely reminiscent of the old one, but any Kopite will tell you, a seated Spion Kop is just not a Spion Kop.

GENERAL VIEW OF THE BATTLE OF SPION KOP, From: H. W. Wilson, With the Flag to Pretoria, 1902. Here are two sources of information about the battle: the entry i Wikipedia and in Encyclopedia Britannica, 1911. See also: Internet Football Ground Guide - The Kop, Anfield, Liverpool

The Kop in the 1950s
Not only were Kopites the noisiest supporters but they were also the best dressed. Men in collar and tie were a common sight on the Kop long before jeans and replica shirts became the fashion. In this image from the 1950s you can even see tram drivers and conductors who have turned up in their uniforms. Image copyright of Liverpool Daily Post and Echo. Source: Museum of Liverpool Life

Here are Wikipedia links to entries on the Liverpool Football Club and the Hillsborough Disaster, mentioned above.

The word "Scouser" in my subject line is a synonym for Liverpudlian. From the Wikipedia entry for Liverpool: "Inhabitants of Liverpool are officially known as "Liverpudlians", but more commonly known as "Scousers". They are noted for their distinctive accent, called Scouse. In London and elsewhere Liverpudlians are sometimes known as "Mickey Mousers" (from Cockney rhyming slang Scouse - Mickey Mouse)."

All these interesting facts don't really help explain why a Liverpool FC fan would call Susan Sontag a "kopite." It seems meant as an affectionate note of empathy, as in "we're all in this together" or something like that.


Here's a link to a review of a book by one of the hooligans of the 70's and 80's referred to above: The true confessions of a football fanatic. The mention of "Year Zero of 2008" and the city's cultural image are references to Liverpool's status as a European Capital of Culture in that year. Some excerpts from the review:

Illegal Travel, Theft, Sneaking Into Matches Without Paying And Fighting - Mike Chapple Reports On The Everyday Life Of One Of The Annie Road End Crew

WITH Liverpool refining its cultural image in time for its Year Zero of 2008, in some city social circles Nicky Allt and his debut book would be as welcome as a sulphur bomb explosion at a perfume party launch.

The Boys From The Mersey is an unashamed account of one Liverpool fan's rampage through Britain and especially Europe in the club's golden age of the late 70s and early 80s.

With him were the rest of the Annie Road End Crew, whose reputation for traversing the continent with no cash or passports while simultaneously "bunking into" grounds for nothing, occasionally fighting and robbing our European cousins of their finest designer gear knew no bounds.

And Allt - former unemployed Kirkby scally, qualified fitter, landscape gardener and now full-time writer - is not here to apologise.

"I was gonna follow Liverpool and nobody was gonna stop me," says Nicky, 42, a former pupil at St Kevin's boys school, now a father-of-two. "I never had no money and there would be times when I'd go abroad to follow the Reds with no passport.

"I remember one time I went away with two two pence pieces in my pocket and I came back with the same two coins but in the meantime but I'd been at a hotel for two nights, been the game, had me food and got back. I did everything. "

"When I tell the younger lads now they don't believe you with all the drugs and immigration checks and what have you. I went on that Billy Butler show the other day and he said you've made all that up haven't you."...

"All my dad's generation bunked in," he says over a pint at his local in Aughton, proud of the city's cultural aspirations but determined not to pull the punches.

"With the Capital of Culture and the city going forward and everything, which is brilliant to see, people don't want to hark back to the those days, while I thought it was better to document it.

"People are gonna say 'oh the stereotypical image' but there are scallies in this city and that is as much a part of our culture as anything else. I think we should be full-on open about it and just laugh about it."

Even those whose sensibilities may not be able to stomach as what they see as another hooligan's diary may be interested to hear that in the flesh, Nicky is polite and affable, passionate about his roots, and whose determination to get his voice heard should be an inspiration to all first time writers....

He adds: "Me missus, Sue, was brilliant. I used to give her all this grief about how I hated what I was doing. And she just said go out and do it and get off my case!"

* THE Boys From The Mersey is published by Milos and available now.

A guide to highly-rated charities for emergency relief in Southeast Asia

* The web site of the American Institute of Philanthropy has put up this web page on THE BEST WAY TO ASSIST IN PROVIDING EMERGENCY RELIEF OF THE EARTHQUAKE AND TSUNAMI VICTIMS IN SOUTHEAST ASIA

Here are the contents of the page:

The American Institute of Philanthropy (AIP) announces its top-rated list of charities currently offering relief services to the victims of the earthquake and tsunami that has devastated parts of Southeast Asia. The death toll, exceeding 100,000, continues to rise and over a million people throughout eight countries have been displaced due to the catastrophe. Many organizations are mobilizing to provide emergency assistance to meet the needs of those affected.

The American Institute of Philanthropy (AIP) announces its top-rated list of charities offering aid to the over one million displaced people. AIP, a leading charity watchdog that issues letter grade (A+ to F) ratings of nonprofit groups, identifies the following 9 relief charities, which are providing aid to the victims that receive an “A” or “B” grade based on the portion of their budget going to program services and their fundraising efficiency:

Note: Links will open in a new window

Americares (A) 1-800-486-HELP

American Friends Service Committee (A-) 1-888-588-2372

American Jewish World Service (A) 1-800-889-7146

American Red Cross (A+) 1-800-HELP-NOW

Brother's Brother Foundation (B) 1-412-321-3160

CARE (A-) 1-800-521-CARE, ext. 999

Catholic Relief Services (A-) 1-410-625-2220

Children Incorporated (A-) 1-800-538-5381

Christian Children's Fund (A) 1-800-776-6767

Church World Service (A-) 1-800-297-1516

Direct Relief International (B) 1-805-964-4767

Doctors Without Borders (A) 1-888-392-0392

International Rescue Committee (A) 1-877-REFUGEE

Lutheran World Relief (A+) 1-800-597-5972

MAP International (B) 1-800-225-8550

Mennonite Central Committee (A) 1-888-563-4676

Mercy Corps International (B+) 1-800-292-3355, ext. 250

Oxfam-America (A-) 1-800-77-OXFAM

Project Hope/People to People Health Foundation (B+) 1-800-544-HOPE

Samaritan's Purse (B) 1-828-262-1980

Save the Children (A-) 1-800-728-3843

World Concern (B) 1-800-755-5022

World Vision (B+) 1-888-511-6589

All of these charities perform favorably in relation to AIP’s benchmarks: 1) A charity should spend at least 60% of its budget on program services. 2) Charities should spend no more than $35 to raise $100.

Contact your favorite charities to find out if they provide the specific types of aid that you would like to fund, e.g., emergency relief, health care, infrastructure development, education, etc.

DONORS BEWARE Americans wanting to help people facing a humanitarian crisis in southeast Asia should send contributions to only those charities with an established track record of helping people in this region. During a highly publicized crisis, it is common for disreputable, fly-by-night “charities” to take advantage of the public’s generosity.

SEND CASH, NOT GOODS Devastation in Southeast AsiaThe best way to help is by sending a check. Cash donations enable charities to buy the most needed type of food, medicine, clothing, shelter materials and other supplies. By buying relief products locally or regionally, charities can reduce shipping costs and more rapidly deliver assistance. Before sending any goods, first contact the charity to find out if they are appropriate and if it will be cost effective to distribute them. For example, during the Bosnian War (1992–1996), 37.5 million pounds of inappropriate medicines were donated.

Donate on-line today to support AIP

Last Update: December 30, 2004

How to fix Mom's computer

A nice guide to cleaning up a corrupted computer. If you've time, that a look at the comments as well as the article itself. An interesting sidenote: seems an increasing number of computer geeks are women. Here's the link and contents list:

How to fix Mom's computer, by
Gina Trapani

Went home for the holidays this week, and of course, the annual fix-Mom's-computer event. This year things on my mother-in-law's Windows 98 PC were especially bad; it could've been used as a software showcase of the latest and greatest in malware.

For future reference, here's a laundry list of steps I took to get Mom's computer working and secured from evil software.

* Deleted spyware with Ad-Aware
* Updated Windows
* Secured Internet Explorer
* Switched default web browser to Firefox
* Trimmed down startup programs
* Removed Personal Web Server
* Installed ZoneAlarm firewall
* Uninstalled unneeded applications
* Installed spyware protection with Spybot Search & Destroy
* Installed virus protection with AntiVir
* Scanned and defragmented the hard drive

acknowledgement: blogdex

Thursday, December 30, 2004

Tsunami aid

CNN has the following useful list of international aid organizations are accepting donations to help victims of the powerful earthquake and resulting tsunamis that caused widespread destruction in parts of Asia and Africa.

AmeriCaresexternal link

Action Against Hungerexternal link

ADRA Internationalexternal link

American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, Inc.external link

Association for India's Developmentexternal link

CAREexternal link

Catholic Relief Servicesexternal link

Christian Children's Fundexternal link

Church World Serviceexternal link

Direct Relief Internationalexternal link

Doctors Without Bordersexternal link

Food for the Hungry, Inc.external link

International Aidexternal link

International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societiesexternal link

International Medical Corpsexternal link

International Rescue Committeeexternal link

Lutheran World Reliefexternal link

MAP Internationalexternal link

Mercy Corpsexternal link

Network for Goodexternal link

Operation USAexternal link

Oxfam Americaexternal link

Plan USAexternal link

Project Concern Internationalexternal link

Save the Children USAexternal link

UNICEFexternal link

U.N. World Food Programmeexternal link

World Concernexternal link

Alice sent a message with another org:

The Northwest Atlantic Marine Alliance (NAMA) in Saco, ME is a community fisheries organization of which Stonington Fisheries Alliance is a member. NAMA has started a fund called The NAMA-Relief Effort. It will focus primarily on the families of fishermen in Asia who have been affected by the disaster. Information on the fund can be found on the NAMA website: or by mailing a check to NAMA Relief Fund, 200 Main Street, Saco, ME 04072. (source: Robin Alden, Penobscot East Resource Center)

Kopite Liverpudlians

Whatever it means, the word "kopite" is closely associated with the Liverpool Football Club. There's a "kopite of the week" on the LFC fans page and this logo has the title "kopite.gif." Though my internet search did not turn up an actual definition, it did turn up a bunch of jokes, mostly variants on the old Polish jibes. Here's one that's a bit more inventive.

Normal or kopite? TEST

From: "Quaggers!" - Find messages by this author
Date: Fri, 6 Feb 2004 19:05:24 -0000
Subject: Normal or kopite? TEST

Subject: kopite test

The following short quiz consists of 4 questions and will tell you whether
you qualify to be classified as a Normal Person, or whether you are indeed a

Scroll down for each answer. The questions are NOT that difficult. Get
these wrong and you are surely a kopite!

1. How do you put a giraffe into a refrigerator?

Did you either not know, say it was impossible, or come up with some
long-winded stupid answer? WRONG.

The correct answer is of course: Open the refrigerator, put in the giraffe,
and close the door.

2. How do you put an elephant into a refrigerator?

Did you say, " Open the refrigerator, put in the elephant, and close the
refrigerator?" WRONG.

The correct answer is of course: Open the refrigerator, take out the
giraffe, put in the elephant and close the door.

3. The Lion King is hosting an animal conference. All the animals attend
except one. Which animal does not attend?

Did you either not know the answer or guess a random animal from the list of
1000s? WRONG.

The correct Answer is of course: The Elephant. The elephant is in the
refrigerator. You just put him in there.....Derrrrr!!!

Now even if you did not answer the first three questions correctly, you
still have one more chance to prove that you're not a clueless Nordic
gimp-boy (aka a kopite).

4. There is a wide river, you must cross but it is inhabited by crocodiles.
How do you manage it?

Did you either say something stupid like find a boat or jump across.......or
the typical kopite response 'Urrggh Don't Know'? WRONG.
The correct answer is of course: You swim across. All the crocodiles are
attending the Animal Meeting.

So more wrong than right? Eh? Well if so, are a kopite.
Go and get a job as roadweeper or something else challenging...yer twat!

Liverpool FC, errr...weren't they good in the 70's?

Susan Sontag

The press has lots of excellent appreciations of Susan Sontag's life and works. I've placed links to many of them below. When I first learned of the death, I did searches of her name in weblogs (via Feedster) and in what we used to call usenet newsgroups (via Google Groups). The weblog search produced a mismash of stuff from personal blogs and the rss feeds of newspapers; nothing special. The Groups search was somthing else. Top hits at the time I did that search were a bunch of discussions among what seem to be British soccer hoodlums. A message from a participant in a Liverpool football discussion list mentioned her death with what passes for sympathy (I think) on that list. Others contributed to the discussion by abusing her. I don't think the abuse is surprising since they seem to abuse everything, but having some notion about her and expressing it to others, that's pretty interesting. The terminology is also interesting. Does anyone reading this know what a kopite is? Someone clueless, for sure, but more precisely?

Here's one excerpt from the stream; I inserted the asterisks, this group swears with gusto:

• Susan Sontag RIP
• Another kopite passes away. bwahahahahahaha.
• Are you for f**king real? Gobshite...
• Overrated and that grey streak was really annoying. -- -z-
• Yes, overrated, but that doesn't mean she wasn't good. ;)
• actually, I liked her.
• What the f**k is that all about?
• your laughin at someone passin away? FFS
• get out of here sick twat - Dec 28, 11:52 pm by zubov - 7 messages - 5 authors

The search in Google Groups also turned up brief discussions on the Red and Blue politics lists that showed rare agreement between the two. Two examples:

Susan Sontag dead. Did anyone drive a stake through her heart?
The bitch is dead.
alt.politics.democrats - Dec 28, 11:48 pm by Drake - 2 messages - 2 authors

Susan Sontag Dies 2
The execrable Susan Sontag died today at the age of 71 of an undisclosed illness.
Perhaps I should be more charitable in my assessment ...
alt.politics.bush - Dec 28, 10:58 pm by Emmanuel Esperada - 4 messages - 4 authors

The Sontag article in Wikipedia shows the strength of this source for coverage of current events. The same goes for its tsunami entry.

So far as press coverage goes, I particularly like Christopher Hitchins' appreciation in Slate: Susan Sontag; Remembering an intellectual hero. Hitchins, often a witty, sneering skeptic, is here frankly an admirer. Here's an excerpt:

When Slobodan Milosevic adopted full-out national socialism after 1989, it took real guts to go and live under the bombardment in Sarajevo and to help organize the Bosnian civic resistance. She did not do this as a "tourist," as sneering conservative bystanders like Hilton Kramer claimed. She spent real time there and endured genuine danger. I know, because I saw her in Bosnia and had felt faint-hearted long before she did.

Her fortitude was demonstrated to all who knew her, and it was often the cause of fortitude in others. She had a long running battle with successive tumors and sarcomas and was always in the front line for any daring new treatment. Her books on illness and fatalism, and her stout refusal to accept defeat, were an inspiration. So were the many anonymous hours and days she spent in encouraging and advising fellow sufferers. But best of all, I felt, was the moment when, as president of American PEN, she had to confront the Rushdie affair in 1989.

It's easy enough to see, now, that the offer of murder for cash, made by a depraved theocratic despot and directed at a novelist, was a warning of the Islamist intoxication that was to come. But at the time, many of the usual "signers" of petitions were distinctly shaky and nervous, as were the publishers and booksellers who felt themselves under threat and sought to back away. Susan Sontag mobilized a tremendous campaign of solidarity that dispelled all this masochism and capitulation. I remember her saying hotly of our persecuted and hidden friend: "You know, I think about Salman every second. It's as if he was a lover." I would have done anything for her at that moment, not that she asked or noticed.

Here are links to obits and appreciations, mostly taken from Arts & Letters Daily:

Susan Sontag, writer, critic, a “zealot of seriousness,” and “besotted aesthete,” as she described herself, is dead at 71...
NY Times ... Guardian ... AP ... London Times ... Wash Post ... Playbill... Telegraph... Houston Chron... LA Times... New Criterion... NPR (audio) ... Salon... SF Chron... 2nd LA Times... 2nd NY Times... Independent... Le Monde ... Slate... Boston Globe... 2nd Telegraph ... BBC

Monday, December 27, 2004

Earthquake devastation

From Cliopatria, here is a post on the South Asian earthquake with a good graphic on the path of the tsunami:

MANAN AHMED: Earthquake

On the one year anniversary of the Bam earthquake in Iran that killed 40,000 people, an earthquake of 8.9 magnitude struck in the Indian Ocean.

-Sri Lanka: About 4,500 reported dead, up to 1 million displaced. Massive tidal waves smash coastal villages.

-India: More than 2,000 reported dead. Huge waves leave southern beaches strewn with bodies and flip over fishing boats and cars. Some flooding.

-Indonesia: 1,902 reported dead. Towns leveled and bodies wedged in trees by walls of water. Aceh province on Sumatra island - torn by separatist violence for years - was near the Indonesian quake's epicenter and was the hardest-hit part of the vast archipelago

-Thailand: 198 reported dead and many missing, mostly in idyllic southern islands packed with holiday revelers from around the world at the height of this country's tourist season. Swimmers are battered on coral reefs and sunbathers are swept out to sea.

-Malaysia: 43 people, including an unknown number of foreign tourists, reported dead. Tens of thousands are temporarily evacuated from hotels and apartments after the Indonesian quake was felt around peninsular Malaysia. No major damage reported.

-Bangladesh: A magnitude 7.36 tremor struck the southern port city of Chittagong. Tidal surges kill at least two children as a boat with about 15 tourists capsized. Reports said the quake was felt in the central, southern and western parts of the country, including the capital Dhaka.

-Maldives: No deaths confirmed, but much of this low-lying country of coral atolls off India's southwestern coast, a popular high-end tourist destination, is reportedly inundated. The country's only international airport is closed.

Yahoo News.

To help: Relief Web and PMNRF.

Posted by Manan Ahmed at 1:44 PM

There's good coverage in The Age, The Australian, and BBC.

Some Lives in the Times

In an annual tradition, the Magazine Section in the Sunday New York Times gives obits for people who died during the year. Here's the lead-in to this year's reconing:

Go to Introduction

The Temporary Kennedy
He sounded more like J.F.K. than J.F.K. did, until an assassin's bullet ended both their careers.

The Prophet of PMS
By naming an affliction, she helped liberate women from its pain.

Outback Outlaw
A life of crime in the jungles of India.

The Last Boss
He reformed Tammany Hall, but he couldn't outrun it.

McGrory MARY MCGRORY, B. 1918
A Star Columnist
Expose Joe McCarthy. Enrage Richard Nixon. Then go shopping.

Blocked Shot
Being seven feet tall sometimes isn't enough.

Sidewalk Socrates
He could parse, kibitz and analyze with the best of them. He just couldn't get it down on paper.

Photographers RICHARD AVEDON, B. 1923

Camera Men
They weren't just taking pictures. They were making art.
Multimedia: Avedon's Portraits | Cartier-Bresson's Work

Funk Master
Super, yes. But more than a freak.

Death Betrayed Her
An extraordinary life, ended in an act of terror.

Back to Russia, With Love
An American journalist dreamed of reforming his fatherland.

Southern Man
The truck driver who taught his sons Ronnie, Donnie and Johnny how to rock.

Caminiti KEN CAMINITI, B. 1963
Souped-Up Slugger
What he was willing to do to his body to get the baseball to go a little farther.

JOE GOLD, B. 1922
Body by Joe
For a certain kind of man, when you got to Gold's Gym, you were home.

Brando MARLON BRANDO, B. 1924
Wild One
He turned us on in a hundred different ways. But in the end he was trapped by his own beauty.
Complete Coverage: Marlon Brando

RED ADAIR, B. 1915
The Big Heat
It was him against the flames, and he always won.

The Hidden Life of Miss Bluebell
She used glamour to ward off tragedy.

Hassan TONY RANDALL, B. 1920
Mr. Irony
Suddenly, neurosis seemed kind of fun.

Dad's Empire
He fought to build a drugstore chain. Then he brought the fight home.

By asking to leave, he helped start a movement.

Seeing the World
To understand foreign affairs, you have to get out of town.

Big Mouth
For a few strange years, running a baseball team became a spectator sport.


To Tell the Truth
He did reality before she did reality TV.

The Man Who Really, Really Loved Women
He couldn't take his eyes off his actresses' breasts. But deep down, they say, he was a true feminist.

Outrageous would-be celebrities at the MLA

The Modern Language Association holds its annual meeting this week in Philadelphia and, as usual, participants attempt to outdo one another in seeking to grab media attention in self-consciously outrageous presentations. As John Strausbaugh says in the NYT, "What any of it has to do with teaching literature to America's college students remains as vexing a question to some today as it was a decade ago. There is, in fact, something achingly 90's about the whole affair. The association has come to resemble a hyperactive child who, having interrupted the grownups' conversation by dancing on the coffee table, can't be made to stop."

Here's a link to the article and the intro paragraphs:
Eggheads' Naughty Word Games
Published: December 27, 2004

Every year more than 10,000 literature scholars gather at the end of December for the convention of the Modern Language Association, the 120th of which begins today in Philadelphia.

The convention has become a holiday ritual for journalists, as routine as articles on the banning of Christmas crèches in public places, and every year a goodly number of those scholars tempt journalists to write articles, like this one, noting some of the wackier-sounding papers presented.

A note on the graphic: I don't know what Kandinsky has to do with MLA, probably nothing, but the MLA home page is very boring and this image is located on a site that links to it.

acknowlegement: Arts & Letters Daily

Friday, December 24, 2004

Oscars for actresses

There's an interesting article on Academy Awards for actresses in the Orange County Register. Here are some excerpts:
Thursday, December 23, 2004
Oscar needs to rethink women

The people the academy likes to nominate didn't make movies in 2004. And those actresses who did have meaty roles were not in the tasteful, "important" dramas that tend to get nominated. This is confusing to Oscar voters for three reasons:

1. They have to learn some new names.

...Oscar voters need to go outside their comfort zones to complete their ballots. Some newcomers to think about: Rachel McAdams, who helped "The Notebook" transcend its tear- jerky, based-on-a-crummy- book limitations; Tea Leoni, who is said to give a bravely unlikable performance in "Spanglish"; Emmy Rossum, doing double duty, singing and acting, in "The Phantom of the Opera"; and Bryce Dallas Howard, whose confident performance was the backbone of the underrated "The Village."

2. They have to speak other languages.

There's no "American" in "Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences," but Sophia Loren is the only foreign speaker who has won the award. This would be a good year to rethink that. Catalina Sandino Moreno is amazing in the Spanish-language drama "Maria Full of Grace." Maggie Cheung gives soul to "Hero." Audrey Tautou, denied a nomination for "Amelie," is terrific in "A Very Long Engagement." Her fellow Frenchwoman, Isabelle Huppert, has never been Oscar-nominated despite dozens of blistering performances, the latest in "La Vie Promise" and "Time of the Wolf."

Maybe the most astonishing performance of 2004 is So-ri Moon's in the South Korean "Oasis." Her character has fantasies in which her severe disabilities vanish, and Moon shifts with seeming effortlessness from fantasy to reality, sometimes within a scene.

3. They have to look beyond the Oscar-tested, Oscar-approved movies trumpeted for awards.

...Oscar voters are also not fond of dark, strange films, which is why no one is talking about Nicole Kidman. Normally, you'd expect her to be on the list. She has been on the Oscar ballot twice, and she received great reviews for both "Birth" and "Dogville," films that feature the kind of flashy, attention-getting scenes Oscar voters dig. But both are controversial: "Dogville" is a shocker that many dismissed as anti-American, and "Birth" features a scene in which Kidman hops in a bathtub with a 10-year-old boy. ...

There are plenty of great female performances waiting for Oscar voters to discover this year, if they're willing to rise to the challenge.

acknowledgement: Arts Journal

Books most borrowed

Along with its bestseller lists, Library Journal does a weekly compiliation of The Books Most Borrowed in U.S. Libraries. And what are they? The fiction list is mysteries and romance titles. The nonfiction list is mostly presidential politics and personal development.

1. Trace by Patricia Cornwell.
2. R Is for Ricochet by Sue Grafton.
3. The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown.
4. Are You Afraid of the Dark? by Sidney Sheldon.
5. Ten Big Ones by Janet Evanovich.
6. London Bridges. James Patterson
7. White Hot. BROWN, Sandra
8. Sam's Letters to Jennifer. James Patterson
9. Skinny Dip. Hiaasen, Carl
10. Blowout. Coulter, Catherine
11. Hour Game. Baldacci, David
12. Second Chance. Steel, Danielle
13. Northern Lights. Nora Roberts
14. Reckless Abandon. Woods, Stuart
15. Metro Girl. Janet Evanovich

1. My Life by Bill Clinton (has topped the list since last summer).
2. The South Beach Diet by Arthur Agatston.
3. The Family: The Real Story of the Bush Dynasty by Kitty Kelley.
4. Eats, Shoots & Leaves by Lynne Truss.
5. America (The Book) by Jon Stewart.
6. The Perricone Promise: Look Younger, Live Longer in Three Easy Steps. Nicholas Perricone
7. Three Weeks with My Brother. SPARKS, Nicholas
8. He's Just Not That into You. Greg Behrendt
9. The South Beach Diet Cookbook. Arthur Agatston
10. Green River, Running Red: The Real Story of the Green River Killer—America’s Deadliest Serial Murderer. Rule, Ann
11. Inside the Kingdom: My Life in Saudi Arabia. Carmen bin Ladin
12. Shadow Divers: The True Adventure of Two Americans Who Risked Everything to Solve One of the Last Mysteries of World War II. Robert Kurson
13. The Ultimate Weight Solution: The 7 Keys to Weight Loss Freedom. Phil McGraw
14. The Purpose-Driven Life. Rick Warren
15. Bushworld: Enter at Your Own Risk. Maureen Dowd

acknowledgement: Arts Journal

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Slate bought by Washington Post

Washington Post Buys Microsoft's Webzine

By Howard Kurtz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, December 22, 2004; Page C01

"The Washington Post Co. said yesterday it is buying Slate in an effort to boost the media company's online traffic but does not plan any editorial changes at the eight-year-old Web magazine."

"In announcing a deal to acquire Slate from Microsoft Corp. for an undisclosed sum, said to be in the millions of dollars, Post executives said they would keep Jacob Weisberg as editor and most of the 30-person staff."

Read the whole article on the WP site.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

“What do you mean, they fly?" From the New Yorker Archive

A Visit from Saint Nicholas (In the Ernest Hemingway Manner)
by James Thurber
Issue of 1927-12-24

"This classic New Yorker holiday story, from 1927, appears in the anthology “Christmas at The New Yorker,” which was published by Random House."

Acknowledgement: BLOGDEX

Monday, December 20, 2004


Renata Tebaldi has died at age 82 following a long illness. Here are three good obituaries:
From the Times (of London):
Obituaries Renata Tebaldi
Italian soprano and rival to Maria Callas - who always insisted in singing in Italian, and eating Italian

From the Guardian:
Obituary Renata Tebaldi
Opera's grand diva, a lyric soprano with 'the voice of an angel'
Michael Scott
Monday December 20, 2004
The Guardian

From The New York Times
December 19, 2004
Beloved Soprano Renata Tebaldi Dies at 82

acknowledgement: Crooked Timber post by Chris:
Sad to see that Renata Tebaldi, Callas’s great rival, has died. There are obituaries in the Telegraph , Times , Guardian , and New York Times , the NYT also links to a slideshow and some audio content. Listening to her singing (and Callas’s for that matter) has an instantly soothing effect on me, it seems as if all the world has become still. A marvellous singer.

WikiPedia entry

religion is a runaway engine of violence

There is a good essay on faith in the Boston Globe (reprinted in Common Dreams): God's Clock. In it, James Carroll, notices that we use clocks to keep time, but time runs on despite our attempts to keep it. After outlining contemporary incidence of religious conflict, he says, "Such ferocity of human arguments over God, whether in affirmation or denial, reflects a terrible forgetfulness. Religion is to God what the clock is to time. Religion participates in the mystery of what it represents but does not embody that mystery. Not even Christianity, with its self-understanding as a religion of the incarnate Word, does more than enshrine that Word in symbol and sacrament. Indeed, "Word" is the clue, since all religion, however infinite the object of its worship, remains bound by the finitude of language -- and language always falls short of its purpose. That truth applies to religion and science both. Words are to what they aim to express as the clock is to time. That is why silence, too, is a mode of worship. And it is why, also, the language of science always leaves room for what is not known."

Now this business of clocks resonates. The Chronicle of Higher Education recently ran a much-noticed essay by Palle Yourgrau (Gödel and Einstein: Friendship and Relativity) which strikes a claim that the great Einstein "by defining time in terms of its measurement with clocks, set a limit to time itself."

Digression: Give the opening paragraph of Yourgrau's essay a moment's scan: "In the summer of 1942, while German U-boats roamed in wolf packs off the coast of Maine, residents in the small coastal town of Blue Hill were alarmed by the sight of a solitary figure, hands clasped behind his back, hunched over like a comma with his eyes fixed on the ground, making his way along the shore in a seemingly endless midnight stroll. Those who encountered the man were struck by his deep scowl and thick German accent. Speculation mounted that he was a German spy giving secret signals to enemy warships. The dark stranger, however, was no German spy. He was Kurt Gödel, the greatest logician of all time, a beacon in the intellectual landscape of the last thousand years, and the prey he sought was not American ships bound for Britain but rather the so-called continuum hypothesis, a conjecture made by the mathematician Georg Cantor about the number of points on a line."

This anecdote repeats a brief account of Gödel in Blue Hill given by somtime Earlham philospher, Peter Suber, himself a resident of nearby Brooksville. In striking prose, Suber recounts the summer visit of Gödel and his wife, how "he walked at night with his hands behind his back, leaning forward, looking down," working out his continuum thesis; and how "Throughout the summer Louise Frederick [his innkeeper] received agitated telephone calls from people of the town. Who was this scowling man with a thick German accent walking alone at night along the shore? Many thought Gödel was a German spy, trying to signal ships and submarines in the bay." Given pendulous attention being given to a recurrence of plagiarism these days, one would think that Yourgrau would hesitate to chime in on Suber's account without acknowledgement or quotation.
End of digression.

So, to wind up this little meditation: James Carroll says "Religion is to God what the clock is to time. Religion participates in the mystery of what it represents but does not embody that mystery." For me, it's Henri Berson's concept of the "perpetual present" which best expresses how "time" in this sense embodies Carroll's mystery. To help get things ticking for you, if you're inclined to explore Bergon's thought processes on this subject, here's a longish set of quotes from the man himself.

Says Bergson:
The indivisible continuity of change is precisely what constitutes true duration. I cannot here enter into the detailed examination of a question I have dealt with elsewhere. I shall confine myself therefore to saying, in reply to those for whom this "real duration" is some thing inexpressible and mysterious, that it is the clearest thing in the world: real duration is what we have always called time, but time perceived as indivisible. That time implies succession I do not deny. But that succession is first presented to our consciousness, like the distinction of a "before" and "after" set side by side, is what I cannot admit. When we listen to a melody we have the purest impression of succession we could possibly have -- an impression as far removed as possible from that of simultaneity -- and yet it is the very continuity of the melody and the impossibility of breaking it up which makes that impression upon us. If we cut it up into distinct notes, into so many "befores" and "afters," we are bringing spatial images into it and impregnating the succession with simultaneity: in space, and only in space, is there a clear-cut distinction of parts external to one another. I recognize moreover that it is in spatialized time that we ordinarily place ourselves. We have no interest in listening to the uninterrupted humming of life's depths. Any yet, that is where real duration is. Thanks to it, the more or less lengthy changes we witness within us and in the external world take place in a single identical time.....
     We are inclined to think of our past as inexistent... for us the present alone exists by itself....
     Let us reflect for a moment on this "present" which alone is considered to have existence. What precisely is the present? If it is a question of the present instant -- I mean, of a mathematical instant which would be to time what the mathematical point is to the line -- it is clear that such an instant is a pure abstraction, an aspect of the mind; it cannot have real existence. You could never create time out of such instants any more than you could make a line out of mathematical points. ...
     The distinction we make between our present and past is therefore, if not arbitrary, at least relative to the extent of the field which our attention to life can embrace. The "present" occupies exactly as much space as this effort. ... In a word, our present falls back into the past when we cease to attribute to it an immediate interest. ...
     An attention to life, sufficiently powerful and sufficiently separated from all practical interest, would thus include in an undivided present the entire past history of the conscious person -- not as instantaneity, not like a cluster of simultaneous parts, but as something continually present which would also be something continually moving: such, I repeat, is the melody which one perceives as indivisible, and which constitutes, from one end to the other -- if we wish to extend the meaning of the word -- a perpetual present, although this perpetuity has nothing in common with immutability, or this indivisibility with instantaneity. What we have is a present which endures.
Quoted from The Creative Mind; An Introduction to Metaphysics, by Henri Bergson (Citadel, NY; 1992) pp 149-152. This is a reprint of a lecture he gave at Oxford University in 1911. I don't find a web site with a version in English. Here's a link to one in French: You might also look at Bergson's Creative Evolution which treats the same subject. (I think it's what Bergson is referring to when he says he has dealt with the question of duration elsewhere.)

Sunday, December 19, 2004

"The city had withdrawn into itself" A Christmas Quiz

There's a literary Christmas Quiz in the Guardian. Here's a link to it: God bless us, every one -- Literary Scrooge or a Tiny Tim? Try our seasonal quiz to find out - top scorers will find a special bonus prize under the tree ...

To whet appetite, here's a handful of sample questions:


It was Christmas Day and Danny the Car Wiper hit the street junksick and broke after seventy-two hours in the precinct jail.
• Allen Ginsberg
• Jack Kerouac
• William S Burroughs
• Herbert Huncke


The city had withdrawn into itself
And left at last the country to the country...
• Robert Frost
• Robert Lowell
• Sylvia Plath
• Anne Sexton


In which Shakespeare play will you find these lines:
"At Christmas I no more desire a rose
Than wish a snow in May's new-fangled mirth;
But like of each thing that in season grows."
• As You Like It
• Romeo and Juliet
• Love's Labour's Lost
• A Midsummer Night's Dream

In Dr Seuss's How the Grinch Stole Christmas, what is the name of the small-hearted one's longsuffering dog?
• Bob
• Max
• Ralph
• Fido

Acknowledgement: Blogdex

Saturday, December 18, 2004


New Criterion has a nice review of Michael Dirda's collection of book reviews. Dirda occupies the last page of the Washington Post Book World each Sunday. He's an excellent critic, though I've learned to be cautious about his enthusiasms. I recall once plunging into some obscure, long out-of-print sci fi pulp that he raved about and turning quickly away from the unhinged wildness of it. This isn't much of a defect; there are few critics who trouble themselves to mention works past, particularly ones that can now only be found in second hand stores and, maybe, humongous research libraries.

Here's the review of the reviewer:
Summer reading
by Stefan Beck


Michael Dirda has reviewed books for The Washington Post Book World since 1978. Bound to Please represents, by Dirda’s account, 20 percent of his output. This is an impressive amount of writing; it is the result of a downright alarming amount of reading. (When did he eat, sleep, or bathe?) He was spurred not by penury and deadlines but by his love of words. His first review, two hundred words on John Gardner’s In the Suicide Mountains, took him a full day to write. “No prose since that on Trajan’s column,” he writes, “has been so carefully chiseled.”

Dirda is a great guide, a Virgil leading both novice and experienced readers on a tour of his own Reader’s Paradise. His collection, promising to be a “literary education,” moves effortlessly from age to age, style to style, genius to genius. Sections like “Romantic Dreamers,” “Visionaries and Moralists,” “Lovers, Poets, and Madmen,” and “Writers of Our Time” organize this delightful embarrassment of riches.

Dirda seizes upon one of the great rewards of reading: the odd scene or detail that lodges itself unshakably in the reader’s imagination.

This is proof of Dirda’s discipline, dedication, and craftsmanship. Few reviewers would take in so much to produce such short pieces. For Dirda, it’s business as usual: he reads to discover, to add to the critical tools at his command. And anyone who raises a skeptical eyebrow at that abridgment of Proust should be advised: “During that gray and rainy fall of [Dirda’s] junior year in college, [he] read Proust steadily for five, six, eight hours a day.” It seems Dirda has heeded Balzac’s dictum—noted in the introduction to the section titled “Professionals at Work”—that “[c]onstant work is the law of art as it is of life.”

It is a thorough and beautifully written document of the great pleasure reading can bring. So it makes one want to read, and to read a great variety of things—literature, history, poetry, commentary, and on and on. This encouragement by example should be welcomed by both new and veteran page-turners.

Stefan Beck is the assistant editor at The New Criterion.

From The New Criterion Vol. 23, No. 23, December 2004
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