Thursday, August 31, 2006

Blog Day

Rather late in the day and somewhat the worse for wear, I have just discovered that today is Blog Day 2006. Er.....

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Meet Kerron Cross: the Voice of the Delectable Left

The time has come to leave great Jeff alone. I have found something even more fabulous, bizarre and, well, unnerving. Meet Kerron Cross, a local district councillor in South Oxhey here. Read it and weep, Luis Bunuel. In fact, Kerron has drawn to my attention the supreme night of hell - sorry, magic - here.

John Betjeman is not a Genius

I used to have no strong feelings about John Betjeman. He is a perfectly decent minor poet of the sort that tends to be much liked by people who don't read much or any poetry. But, of course, he falls miles short of Larkin and cannot be mentioned in the same breath as Auden. Over the last century, there have been dozens and, if we include the Americans, probably hundreds of better poets writing in English. But now, thanks to these perpetual anniversary celebrations, I cannot stand Betjeman. Here, for example, is a piece by a highly intelligent man, Charles Moore, trying to convince me that he is a great poet by describing techniques and devices that Auden would have regarded as little more than the serious poet's equivalent of learning how to spell. Can Moore be serious? Can A.N.Wilson, his biographer and another highly intelligent man, be serious in claiming him as a great religious poet? None of this, of course, is about poetry at all but about politics and cultural prejudice. Betjeman is a fragant figure to a certain type of imagination. And, to everybody else, he provides the illusion that they are reading poetry. I suppose, they are, but it's somehow not enough when they could be leafing through Wallace Stevens or John Ashbery or, come to that, Edward Thomas. But I suppose they are not "accessible".

Jeffrey Archer is a Genius

Latest post on Jeffrey Archer's blog - here - may well be his masterpiece. Cunard seem to be taking nearly 40 year old Mary Archer round Britain next year. And don't miss the shirt shocker.

Warren Jeffs' Car

Good news, I am sure, that the Nevada police have arrested Warren Jeffs, the Prophet of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and the man with 80 wives. Read all about him here. I could discourse at length on the strange way in which such characters routinely appear in America. I could also go on about the alarming Jeffs women who screamed at TV cameras that they will worship what they "damn well like". The theological implications of such a posture are fascinating - "like" replacing "believe" or "know" is an astounding conception. But, for the moment, what is really striking about this story are the circumstances of the arrest. Jeffs, on the run and incognito, was stopped driving a red 2007 Cadillac Escalade. This is what we are talking about. I suppose that, in Nevada, passes for deep disguise.

The Health of the British

Why do the British put up with the National Health Service? Is it now the worst health system in the developed world? Thanks to Gordon Brown's billions, the NHS is now run entirely for the benefit of the staff and their petty grievances. An Australian friend who complained to a nurse recently was told she didn't understand our culture - I wonder if she would have said that to an Asian or African. Another nurse failed to respond to an emergency bell because she'd "just come off my break." In A & E departments you have to wait hours because all the staff are continually discussing their precious "breaks". (What is a "break"? I never have "breaks".) A big hospital I had to visit recently was one of the filthiest buildings I've ever encountered. I could go on. In the last year or two I have come across multiple NHS horror stories, some with fatal consequences. At the heart of the matter is the fact that nobody in the NHS actually likes or feels any obligation to patients or their friends and families. As a result, the casual infliction of additional suffering - and, thanks to novel bugs, further illness - is commonplace. Ethos, which, Gordon, you cannot buy, has vanished. When are we going to take to the streets?

Friday, August 25, 2006

Prig Alert 1

In her essay Puritans and Prigs, the great Marilynne Robinson writes of priggishness, " is highly predictable because it is nothing else than a consuming loyalty to ideals and beliefs which are in general so widely shared that the spectale of zealous adherence to them is reassuring." Prigs, in short, are people who use their adherence to easy, conventional ideas as a way of asserting their moral superiority. There are right wing and left wing prigs, stupid prigs and clever prigs. They are everywhere. So I propose to introduce occasional Prig Alerts to Though Experiments, sticking as closely as I can to wise Robinson's profound understanding of the phenomenon.
My first alert is here. This is a site set up to register a rather contrived protest against McDonalds for their current promotion in America which involves giving away model Hummers - giant SUVs - with their Happy Meal. Hummers are, of course, spectacularly bad for the environment, so this prig wants to advertise his adherence to this conventional wisdom and acquire moral stature by doing so. In fact, the Hummer idea looks to me like a deliberate joke - 'Let's see, how can we make McDonalds even more offensive to the greens? I know...' Circumstantial evidence for this theory comes from the fact that Mike Roberts, president and CEO of the company, has just stepped down. Judging by his picture, he has a sense of humour. This was just one Mike gag that went too far, but, at least, it flushed out a prig.

He's Back!!!!!!

Jeffrey Archer is back and blogging! After a long, much too long, hiatus starting on July 31st, when he chose, heartbreakingly, to go on holiday with Mary and stop blogging, he has finally returned with a sparkling post entitled 'Lights, Camera, Action!' Read it here. A sample:
"It was an experience I much enjoyed, but not something I'd like to be doing on a regular basis. Mary thinks the amount I was paid was obscene, so it's all going into the Archer Charitable Trust."
It seems like an eternity, but, at last, we can stop thinking again.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Tom Cruise: the Big Picture

Tom Cruise's meltdown - prettier than John Prescott's but equally bizarre - is open to many different levels of explanation. You can trawl the blogs for the next year or two if you are interested. The heart of the matter, however, will certainly be missed. Tom, I am convinced, lost it because everybody laughed at all of his jokes. I have seen this many times - most notably, years ago, I watched in dismay the spectacle of otherwise intelligent people chortling at Debra Winger's inert clowning in Morocco on the set of The Sheltering Sky. The simple truth is that, the moment you become a Hollywood star, everybody laughs at all of your jokes. They do this because they have to, but also because they are patronising and controlling you. They are afraid that if they don't laugh you will jeopardise the movie by going mad, unaware that it is precisely their behaviour that will ultimately despatch you to "Rehab". If everybody laughed at all of my jokes, I would at once lose my grip. (This may have already happened; people do always seem to be laughing at something in my presence.) It is exactly what happens to all movie stars and has now happened, probably with catastrophic consequences, to Tom. The kindest thing to do now is sedate him for six months and whisper repeatedly in his ear, "Mr Cruise, you are about as funny as a cluster bomb." That should do it.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Kellogg's: Alert to What?

Clear evidence of the power of Thought Experiments is provided by the fact that as soon (see below) as I raise my concerns about the unhealthy interest of the Kellogg company in my bowels, it is slapped down by the Advertising Standards Authority (here). Apparently, its claim that a bowl of Corn Flakes in the morning made children 9 per cent more alert could not be substantiated. My question is: alert to what? Geography, double physics? Surely this would be a bad thing. But there is this wider point about the extraordinary seriousness with which cereal companies try to keep us alive. Nestle targets our hearts, Kellogg our bowels. The latter also had a cereal called Common Sense which, I think, they still make. Why are breakfast cereals no longer just food? Whatever happened to Kellogg's Tastes Quite Nice or Nestle's Fairly Good With Milk in the Absence of Anything Else?

What Kind of Poetry Do You Read, Mr President?

Simon Jenkins points out - here - that both Thatcher and Blair succeeded by ignoring their parties. This, Simon thinks, was a mistake. Probably. On the other hand, who can blame them? David Cameron, he thinks, is making the same mistake. Again, probably. But what neither wise Simon nor anybody else has pointed out is that Cameron's real innovation is to ignore the press. He keeps getting bad coverage but sails on regardless. This may be a mistake - but who can blame him? All of which is but a prelude to boasting of my new killer question for politicians. I've tried it once and it worked like a dream. With airy insouciance, you ask: "What kind of poetry do you read?" What then flickers across their agonised features would be categorised in some quarters as cognitive dissonance.

Bob Dylan and the Truth about iPods

The great Bobster has spoken out - see here - about the low quality of contemporary recordings and defends pirated music. "Well, why not?'"he remarks, "It ain't worth nothing anyway." He is talking about CDs and I have a feeling that in this - as in all things - he is right. But the real culprit is the iPod and MP3 players in general. I once raved about these in print but have since changed my mind. My iPod gives me aural fatigue; my ears protest after 20 minutes or so. This is, of course, because the compression of the files takes so much out of the original track, thinning it out to a tiring whine. Amidst all the fuss about charges for downloads, nobody seems to have pointed out that the real scandal is that you are actually paying for only a tiny percentage of the original track.

Tom and Jerry Shot at Dawn

Of course the stories that 300 British Soldiers executed during the First World War - here - are to be pardoned and that smoking scenes are to be edited out of Tom and Jerry cartoons - here - are one and the same story. Both are about the strange desire to make the past bow to the whims of the present. Nothing will be changed by pardoning those soldiers, though some people will feel we have avenged ourselves on their cruel commanders. Equally, by excising cigars and cigarettes from T & J, we do not alter the fact that, in the past, people did not find smoking a particularly disgusting, aberrant or dangerous habit. This censorship of the past is, in reality, a way of hollowing out the present. Once we have beaten all preceding centuries into contemporary respectability, there will be no truth left in them at all. We shall then find ourselves wobbling precariously on a fragile column of lies.

Poor Dear Paris

I note with dismay the contents of a web site - here - devoted to listing the 10,000 reasons civilisation is doomed. At number one is Paris Hilton. Bad enough, but, worse still, there is no sign so far of Jeffrey Archer.

Monday, August 21, 2006

On Cheating at Cricket

I can't agree with The Times' view that yesterday was one of "the saddest and most shameful in the history of a great game." It was, in fact, a great day for cricket, the game to which all other sports aspire. The Pakistan players were so offended at the suggestion that they had cheated that they started a chain of events that led to them forfeiting the match. I can't imagine this happening in any other sport. In football players routinely "dive" and get away with it. In cycling the riders all have erythropoietin squirting out of their ears and one hears all sorts of things about tennis players. I wouldn't dare speculate about what goes on in baseball or American "football" because the excitable Donald Rumsfeld is still - incomprehensibly - in control of their alarming arsenal. No, cricket is the one game in which an accusation of cheating is received not with pride, but with a deeply shocked expression that may just be a prelude to pistols at dawn. Also yesterday, I saw Jose Mourinho, Chelsea's Rumsfeld, gesturing at one of his players who had just received a yellow card. The gesture was a finger tap on the side of the head meant to indicate "Think". What it did not indicate was, "Bad boy, we at Chelsea do not indulge in such dishonourable behaviour."

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Neil Turok's Colliding Universes

If you miss one theory of cosmic origins, you can be pretty sure there will be another one along in a minute. The latest comes from Neil Turok - see here. Turok, seemingly supported by Stephen Hawking, thinks a Big Bang happens every trillion years or so when two universes collide and start - I think this is right - all over again. I have always been puzzled by the exact status of these ideas. I know they are part of physics but are they a necessary part? How could we ever know whether they were right or wrong? The very fact that they change so often suggests that any evidence either way must be very inconclusive. They seem so remote from any experimental confirmation that it might be more accurate to treat them as theology, games or even insanely elaborate metaphors. Perhaps, in spite of Wallace Stevens' efforts, they are what poetry is now. But science? Somehow I doubt it.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Kellogg's, Yakult and Coprophobia

Much as I admire the spirit of American capitalism, I have always been wary of letting the great Kellogg company get its hands on my intestines. Yet that is what is wants to do with all its fibre-rich cereals. Lately, however, the yoghurt companies with products like Yakult have been attempting to wrest our bowels from its grip with claims about their "probiotic" products which are said to fill our guts with "friendly" bacteria. These claims about yoghurt date back to the time when the Russian Nobel prizewinner Elie Metchnikoff convinced himself that certain Bulgarian peasants lived to a great age because of their consumption of yoghurt. In fact, the longevity of the peasants was a myth. Metchnikoff, however, was convinced that yoghurt was good for "arresting putrefractions and pernicious fermentations." He was, in short, anti-shit. The current claims for probiotic yoghurt seem to be foundering because the acidity of the stomach kills those amiable bacteria. This allows Kellogg's and the other cereal companies to strike back with "prebiotic" food that makes the intestine a more congenial place for nice bugs to live. Again, this seems to me to be anti-shit in that it claims to make our defecations somehow more pleasant. In fact, almost all food fads are simply coprophobic fantasies. Even those calorie restrictionists who try to live longer by eating less are, I suspect, in the business of shit-avoidance. There is one great, shining truth of life which we all acknowledge and yet, in our dietary fantasies, strive to deny. Shit happens.

Paris Hilton Meets Jeffrey Archer

I am troubled that the last post on the great Jeffrey Archer's blog is dated July 31st. Has he stopped/run out of ideas (impossible!)/gone to a better place? Closer reading, however, suggests my alarm may be misplaced as he tells us "once I've let go of the manuscript, Mary and I are going on holiday, so no more blogs until I return." Phew! Meanwhile, my admiration for that other contemporary icon Paris Hilton (see below) has taken a knock. She is reported - here - as saying she "doesn't like the taste of alcohol. It grosses me out." The tequila shots she is seen drinking are actually water. As I say below in The Politics of Alcohol, certain people become a lot more intelligent after a drink or two so it may be that we will not see the best of teetotal Paris until she overcomes her revulsion - an amazing thought. Anyway, as Snakes on a Plane seems to have started out as a blog post, here's another high concept blockbuster gross-out for next summer. Stuck in a Lift with Jeffrey Archer and Paris Hilton. I see it as Apocalypse Now for the celeb generation - the horror,the horror. Sadly, Lift would have to be changed to Elevator for the US audience. But I am no prima donna and I am sure the essential integrity of the theme would be preserved.
(Incidentally, I have just found an article I wrote for The Independent in 1995 about Archer. I thought it was lost. It is a disgraceful attack on the great man. I was young. See Selected Articles.)

Friday, August 18, 2006

Jeffrey Archer: the Blog

The Blogosphere is aflame. The Greatest Living Novelist has a blog - here. A few choice extracts to get you gagging for more:
On Tom Stoppard's new play: "It's a magnificent tour de force, although you need to be aware that it's a three hour production."
On a story in his new book: "It's the tale of an Italian footballer who marries an extremely fat woman, with an ending that I hope will make people laugh."
On his dentist: "I hate my dentist - in fact he's rather a nice chap called Rob - but I still hate him."
On returning home: "I arrived home exhausted - standing around in the sun all day long is much more tiring than I realised."
On not being a Catholic: "I read in another newspaper that I'm converting to Roman Catholicism. One phone call, and they would have discovered that it hadn't even crossed my mind."
Amazing isn't it? Like being dead. Not since Jennifer's Diary have I felt that eerie thrill of actually being inside an utterly banal, utterly undemanding mind.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

"The Gene For..."

It is surprising to see MIT's superb Technology Review indulging in "Gene for" journalism. See here. "Gene for" journalism consists of stories announcing that scientists have discovered the "gene for" homosexuality, alcoholism, gambling, blogging, whatever. I thought TR would have known better. The best current thinking suggests that, except in a few rare cases, translating one gene into one condition is dubious if not entirely illogical. Genes act in complex ways both with each other and with the rest of the organism and its environment. To see one gene as producing one result is a failure of perspective. In this case, scientists have supposedly discovered the "gene for" being human in that it seems to have something to do with the evolution of the cerebral cortex. But, in fact, no. Further down we learn that "scientists don't yet know the function of the gene." Pity that.

Disappointment, Oliver Stone and the Neocons

In Oliver Stone (see Selected Articles), I was confronted by the spectacle of the disappointed liberal. Clearly he was struggling to come to terms with the fact that, as a result of the failure of Vietnam and his own cinematic exposes of that failure, the world had not become a better place. America is still futile fighting wars in distant lands. In twenty years or so - if I am still in this game - I shall expect to be interviewing disappointed neocons about how, as a result of their adoption of certain reductive political, strategic and economic positions, the world once again failed to become a better place. It is strange how the big picture always seems to elude the best and the brightest, even when, like Stone, they make a fetish of their study of history. So here it is, the big picture: the world never becomes a better place and all theories and ideologies are equalised in failure.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Katrina, Hezbollah and John Prescott

The reconstruction of South Lebanon - see here - by Hezbollah using Iranian money is, in fact, a better propaganda coup than even they realise. In the US, the inability of the government to react quickly to Hurricane Katrina is matched, in the UK, by the fabulous incompetence of this government - obviously John Prescott, but more ominously Gordon Brown - in pushing through any large public sector project successfully. From the Diana Memorial Death Trap in Hyde Park to New Orleans, the "coalition" seems less competent than its enemies. This is not a small point. They may be wrong, but they have an ethos and we don't.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Wallace Stevens, God and Metaphor

Anyway, here is Wallace Stevens on God and poetry. This directly relates to the matter of contemporary metaphor.

"The major poetic idea in the world is and always has been the idea of God. One of the visible movements of the modern imagination is the movement away from the idea of God. The poetry that created the idea of God will either adapt it to our different intelligence, or create a substitute for it, or make it unnecessary."

In the light of which, this poem by Stevens says it all and more.

More Metaphors and More Science

Metaphors, since my previous post, have led me into hitherto unexplored areas of the net. See, for example, here, here, and here. Popular science writing requires the use of metaphors to explain complex or counter-intuitive concepts. The selfish gene is the obvious case, but there are many others, see, for example, here for Wikipedia's use of an "intuitive metaphor" for Brownian Motion. But, in fact, as Denis Noble points out in The Music of Life, metaphors creep unseen into science writing even when they are not intended simply to aid popular understanding. In Noble's book the notes the use of 'top down', 'bottom up' and even 'middle out' explanations of biology. The words come so naturally that nobody notices that they are metaphors that condition thought. "Every metaphor produces its own form of prejudice," writes Noble. Of course, there is an interpretation of science that sees the whole structure as a particular kind of metaphor. We make models of the world that seem to work but we can never claim that these are exact descriptions of the world, merely useful tools. The 'real' world is a metaphysical concept that, in these terms, has no meaning. Stephen Hawking has ambivalently embraced this view in the past. Of course, this can topple over into the postmodern view of science as just one narrative among many others or simply a game. This is, obviously, dangerous as we may forget that the game has real world consequences. We live in metaphors, it may be the only way we can live, the trick is not to get lost in them.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Terrorists, Genes and Metaphors

A story in the Observer - here - contains 13 metaphors if the headline is included. The second paragraph with 'impact', 'slump', 'surge', 'knock-on' and 'dampening' is particularly fine. Probably the writer did not think these cliche useages were metaphors, but they are. The article is about the effects of the terrorist plot on business and its conclusion is that they will be minimal. The writer notes, for example, that the FT Index 'reacted resiliently' by being unchanged. But the primary metaphor is in the first four words - 'Britain will shrug off....' Of course, there's nothing wrong with using metaphors as long as they are under control. 'Shrug off' is definitely out of control. Britain will do no such thing and, indeed, should not do any such thing. But implying that Britain will and should is obviously dangerous. The worst case of an uncontrolled metaphor was Richard Dawkins' 'selfish gene'. No gene can be selfish nor can even appear to be acting selfishly, the word is quite meaningless. (For a full analysis of the damage done by this metaphor and its entirely unscientific basis, read Denis Noble's superb book The Music of Life: Biology Beyond the Genome.) Yet people drew political and social conclusions - which, in fairness, Dawkins did not - from this rather dodgy metaphor. The same thing is happening now with terrorism. Metaphors are falling like snow from a heavy sky. The danger is that people don't know what they are and mistake them for the simple truth.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Hello, Bergen

Having noticed that Bergen University is a consistent visitor to this site - hi, guys - I determined to blog something about Norway. This is not easy. But I do note - here - that they have a frozen bank of 32,000 Nordic seeds from which we can replenish our crops following the next global catastrophe. They are also building another such bank to contain 3 million international seeds. This is a very Norwegian idea. Even more Norwegian is the $260 billion of surplus oil revenues the government keeps in overseas investments. This amounts to around $50,000 per Norwegian. The fund is to fend off the Dutch Disease whereby excessive dependence on a commodity raises the value of the currency and destroys the manufacturing base. Again, how very Norwegian - cautious, thoughtful, but, somehow, dull. In terms of GDP per capita, the Norwegians are, of course, the richest people on earth after Luxembourg. But are they happy? Are there any good Norwegian jokes? Well, Ibsen, I suppose....

Friday, August 11, 2006

Naked as Nature Intended

It is, doubtless, possible to make exploding clothes. This thought came to me once I had stopped hyperventilating at the prospect of my laptop taking its chances in some aircraft hold thanks to the new veto on all cabin baggage. Here is a good summary of the state of play on how to bring down planes. Clearly we shall soon have to board naked but, perhaps, for some discreet shift or gown provided by the airline with, I imagine, a transparent chest pouch for travel documents and essential medications. One trusts it will not have an opening at the rear like hospital gowns. Then, presumably, bombs will be swallowed before boarding and detonated by contact with something like Diet Coke or, failing that, Dr Pepper.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

My Mao Tse-Tung

In The Sunday Times last week, I remarked of Jean-Luc Godard's politics that they were "disgusting" because he supported Mao Tse-Tung, a man we now know to have been directly responsible for the deaths of 70 million Chinese. A friend, Chris, raises the following point:
"I would debate the idea that espousing Maoism in the late 60's is/was morally disgusting... such commitments were made in ignorance of what was taking place in both China and the USSR. Socialism or Communism was imagined to be doing good: that's different from fascist or Nazi fellow travellers who agreed that racism, to take one example, was a good thing."
This has been bugging me. I could say that a) by 1968, the year in question, we did know what had been going on in the Soviet Union and b)I'm pretty sure I also knew something of what had been going on in China. Or I could say that people who did support Mao in ignorance should now have the humility to apologise and be ashamed - I don't think Godard or, indeed, Tony Benn have shown any such inclination.
But I am most exercised by the distinction Chris makes between being a naive communist and a knowing Nazi - communists seemed to mean well so could legitimately be supported, whereas Nazis were explicitly racist and, therefore, could not.
I don't buy this for a number of reasons. One obvious one is that any intelligent awareness of what the communists were explicitly doing would indicate that their methods must necessarily be coercive and violently so. Nevertheless, Chris's point is important. I suspect it is what continues to make images of Mao acceptable - even rather fun - whereas images of Hitler are not. Not long ago I saw little ceramic busts of Mao being sold in the Conran Shop and, among many other things, you can buy Mao watches. These appear to celebrate the single most disastrous episode in human history and the vilest mass murderer ever to walk the earth. Odd isn't it?

Monday, August 07, 2006

The Genius of Marilynne Robinson

I have only recently discovered that Marilynne Robinson is a novelist of (I do not use the word lightly) genius. Housekeeping and Gilead have changed my life (for the better). The Death of Adam is a collection of her essays. Herein she writes: "There is no reason to expect the survival of institutions which were the products of an ethos we have effaced and lost." Thousands of columns, leaders and general rants have been written on the abysmal condition of the National Health Service, the police, schools, universities, the civil service and almost every other British institution. In one elegant sentence Robinson explains all that needed to be explained and humbles my noisy, self-important profession. Read and learn.

Stephen Hawking?

I interviewed Stephen Hawking just before the publication of A Brief History of Time. I wrote a nice enough piece, but I was uneasy for two reasons. First, I also interviewed his then wife and, entirely unprompted by me, she attacked him for his increasing intolerance. Secondly, I politely pointed out to him that his use of Wittgenstein in the book was simply wrong. He said it wasn't and would not argue further. After his subsequent rise to fame, I wrote other articles questioning his wisdom and received, as I recall, an angry letter from his mother. I also reviewed his later book The Universe in a Nutshell reasonably favourably, but pointed out that, this time, he had grossly misread the line from Hamlet that provided his title. The review will be in Selected Articles in a moment. This was such a gross misreading that it made me think Hawking either didn't care or he was unintelligent, the former obviously being the more likely explanation. Meanwhile, he has, of course, appeared in Star Trek and The Simpsons as a global emblem of high intelligence. Now he has also been in the news for raising the question - see here - how can the universe keep going for the next hundred years? He didn't have an answer, though he did say we would have to colonise space. I gather Hawking is a good physicist - though not, I am told, top rank - but his popular persona is palpably infantile and even illiterate, perhaps because he sees condescension as the appropriate vernacular for the masses. It is a most bizarre and ridiculous phenomenon.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Paris Hilton is Ahead of her Time

Asked if she fancied our esteemed and wise Prime Minister, Paris Hilton replied, "Who's Tony Blair?" And some fools claim this is a dumb blonde, perhaps on the dubious grounds that she is named after a hotel. No, she is merely prescient. Note, also, her remark, "I've made, like, $200 million in the last year, while J-Lo's only made $150 million." She has also decided that she will only kiss for the next year, sex is out. This woman is deep, very. I wonder if there is a university course - Paris Hilton Studies.
*Five minutes later: good grief, this paragon even knows how to reverse a Range Rover into a Honda Civic - see here

John Updike

There has been a remarkable - and remarkably favourable - response to my Sunday Times article defending John Updike from the critics of Terrorist, his latest novel (See Selected Articles). Some of these responses are added as comments to this post. What is striking is the strength of the feelings. Happily, Updike does not seem to need the critics, he has the audience he deserves.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

The Politics of Alcohol

Curious article by Zoe Williams in the Guardian - here - in which she discusses the case of Mel Gibson's drunken outbursts against Jews. I'm not sure I follow Williams's logic but, at the heart of her piece, she appears to say: a)people become more right wing when drunk, b)everybody becomes less intelligent when drunk, and, therefore, c)left wingers are more intelligent than right. This baffled me because, in Guardian terms, Gibson actually became more left wing after a few drinks. It is, these days, left wing to attack the Jews. Furthermore, I don't think I've ever seen anybody become more right wing when drunk. I've seen mild liberals turn into raving Maoists and I've seen many outpourings of sobbing, left-wing sentimentality. But I've never seen or heard anybody turn, in drink, to the right. I have also, I might add, seen plenty of people become much more intelligent after a few glasses. (This, I realise, would seem to support an aspect of Williams's case - more intelligent, more left - though only by inverting all her logic.) Perhaps the problem is that nobody really knows what left or right opinions are any more. The left is only defined by being anti-American - this allows them to support fascist groups like Hezbollah; the right is only defined by the varying success with which its thinkers ape the prose of the late great Auberon Waugh. It's quite funny but it's hardly politics. Incidentally, Williams also asserts that the left is more comfortable with alcohol. The Guardian is truly another planet.