Thursday, 29 January 2009

so, read up again in Waterland when Graham Swift is going on about eels and then find out something about the three species of sand eel to be found in Swedish territory and eels yeah.

eels yes eels.

that is one idea, anyway.

granted not a particularly good one.

also: this is deeply, deeply wrong.

Tuesday, 20 January 2009


Monday, 19 January 2009


a gem.

Sunday, 18 January 2009

i really liked Graeme quoting Willa Cather here.

i'm going to put the excerpt in full up.

This was an important market day, and Auclair went down to the hill early. The black frosts might set in at any time now, and today he intended to lay in his winter supply of carrots, pumpkins, potatoes, turnips, beet-root, leeks, garlic, even salads. On many of the wagons there were boxes full of earth, with rooted lettuce plants growing in them. These the townspeople put away in their cellars, and by tending them carefully and covering them at night they kept green salad growing until Christmas or after. Auclair's neighbor, Pigeon the baker, had a very warm cellar, and he grew little carrots and spinach down there long after winter had set in. The great vaulted cellars of the Jesuits and the Récollet friars looked like kitchen gardens when the world above was frozen stark. Careless people got through the winter on smoked eels and frozen fish, but if one were willing to take enough trouble, one could live very well, even in Quebec.

incidentally, the temperature in Sept-Îles at time of posting (11:15 pm British) is about minus 20.8 degrees celsius


loving Karnage on 1Xtra right about now, and the rest of them, there's a hell of a lot going on there

Friday, 16 January 2009

"We plan to open one restaurant in London before the end of 2009, find a group of farmers and ranchers who can supply us with the highest quality food and begin to find a group of top-performing managers who can help us establish a very special Chipotle brand in Europe," said Steve Ells, Chipotle founder and CEO, in a statement.


Tuesday, 13 January 2009

two of the commentators from that Shiraz Socialist piece linked to here on Sunday past with good looking blogs are Natalia Antonova and The SmackDog Chronicles (Ver. 2.6)
as the SLA drive on (and on) the BBC's Alastair Lawson discusses a few options for Prabhakaran the man*

"I have been in the business of journalism a good long time. Indeed, 2009 will be The Sunday Leader's 15th year. Many things have changed in Sri Lanka during that time, and it does not need me to tell you that the greater part of that change has been for the worse."

Sunday Leader leader, by Lasantha Wickramatunga.


On 12 January, four Ethiopian soldiers died in a roadside explosion just outside the Somali capital along Mogadishu and Afgoi road, as they were heading back to Ethiopia.

“The explosion was so big that it lifted a big Ethiopian military truck off the ground and jolted the ground around the area where the explosion occurred and I can prove the death of 4 of the Ethiopian soldiers, and the injury of scores of others of which I cannot actually guess the exact figure” said an eyewitness.

writes the AFCEA's Nighwatch

* incidentally
here is a recap.

"At trial, witnesses accused him and his soldiers of horrific torture in the West African country. Among the techniques: electric shock, molten plastic, lit cigarettes, hot irons, bayonets and biting ants shoveled onto people's bodies. Prisoners were kept in water-filled pits covered by heavy iron gates and barbed wire."
writes the Herald's Jay Weaver

"Taylor is a U.S. citizen, (he was born while his father lived in the United States) and tortured hundreds of Liberians during as commander of the so-called "Demon Forces," a special security unit meant to protect his father, the President, from 1999 to 2003. The precedent is now set for more cases to follow.

Chuckie Taylor's trial is also important for Liberia. This is the first and only conviction in a war crimes trial for the war in Liberia; no tribunal has been setup in that country."
writes FP blog's Elizabeth Dickinson

Monday, 12 January 2009

Quentin Skinner in context

bloke from the Telegraph doesn't appear to be overly keen on pierogi, for some reason: his loss

the Telegraph is reporting that Chipotle is opening in the UK this year.

A confession: if there is one cuisine likely to bring me out on hunger strike, it is Mexican. The only rival on my yuck list? Tex-Mex. I'd rather eat Polish, or even 1970s British. But some like it hot, clearly: in the capital, a new Mexican, Chilango, has food lovers queuing around the block in Fleet Street, while the market feel of Wahaca near The Strand is fun and affordable. Chipotle, an American chain, is also due in Britain this year.

this is good news in terms of choice for Mexican street food/Tex-Mex lovers based in the UK.
(people who live in Mexico and the USA, and i know up in to parts of Canada, are clearly very lucky in this regard, and must bear in mind that context is all.)

aside from the new Fleet Street opening mentioned above, and Thomasina Miers opening her second branch of Wahaca (Thomasina is fairly committed, it must be said), there are a few Mexican places in London apparently of note.
(Time Out lists nine places here, of which the happily named Taqueria, Mestizo and the Thomasina gaffs have long intrigued me the most; i have never ate in any of them. it must be said that at least one of the places mentioned, Los Guaduales, is explicitly acknowledged as a Colombian eatery..)

as said the other day, in the UK* the best Mexican grub (and bear in mind, context is all) for my money is Cambridge's Mannamexico, followed by Belfast's Boojum.
the now-expanding Mancunian mini-chain Barburrito (for those who know the Manchester dining scene, i must admit what this person has to say here about El Macho made me laugh) has recently opened a third venue (their first outside Manchester), in central Liverpool, and they can be considered an honourable third.
i mention Barburrito as the owners were inspired by lunching at Mexican fast-food gaffs in the USA whilst travelling, and will have encountered many a Chipotle in Chicago when they researched (there used to be a Jonathan Schofield - Manchester-area local travel guide-type, historian and food writer - review of the first opening that IIRC made this specific claim about Chicago on the Manchester Evening News website, but as he is no longer with the MEN - AFAIK - i cannot find it).
i only mention Chicago because i love the place.
(for more on Schofield, see here.)

anyway, as someone once said to me, there are perhaps similarities between, say, the Chipotle experience, and the Barburrito experience.

as it's been a few years now since McDonald's ceased their relationship with Chipotle (see here), i think we can look forward to Chipotle coming across the pond without too many snide remarks accompanying them. (i don't mean to sound straw-mannish here, but as with Pret a Manger and McDonald's, i have myself encountered fairly frequent mention of this in person, and in my experience the fact of their relationship at the time was sometimes used as a stick with which to denigrate Chipotle in general, although this was far from the case all the time.)

(with respect to the great Bandini.)

bearing in mind my sole experience of Mexican food in London was a meal around Old Street once, and the only other experiences of Mexican stuff i've seen much of in Britain are a gaff in Edinburgh, that cheerful little burrito van that used to be on Birmingham's Broad Street, and, er, that's about it..
Happy Birthday Motown!

Sunday, 11 January 2009

news from the four largest English cities

"Prayers have been said at a service to remember a sub-postmaster's son who was shot dead by armed robbers on Friday."

'Detectives have identified a man they are hunting over a double stabbing on Merseyside that left a man dead and his son seriously injured.'

A teenager is fighting for his life after being stabbed in south-west London.

A 29-year-old man is recovering in hospital after being shot in the stomach in south Manchester.
Now, maybe Cath and I read different newspapers but I certainly haven’t noticed supporters of Jacqui Smith’s recent proposals, or conservative feminists in general (by which I mean moralists who see puritan legislation as the solution to this issue) being howled down by IUSW or ECP supporters. It just is not true.

"This paper analyses the backgrounds and consequences of the Hama massacre, an uprising of mainly Muslim rebels in Syria in 1982, which was brutally crashed down by Syrian government forces."
i've recently been introduced to the blog I kid you not (although author Edmund Standing has stopped posting, having moved on to pastures new).

he is excellent on the BNP.

BNP tries to reach kids, but reaches Nazis instead.

The History National Curriculum: Myth and Reality.

The 'Nazi' Question.

BNP: Police run by 'left-wing mafia'.
their greatest film alongside Barton Fink imo, FWIW

number 3 film

here is a scene from the single greatest film of 2008
It is obligatory to disregard laws conflicting with the immediate claims of life

Saturday, 10 January 2009

what Abu Mazen said
one picture i just remembered i missed off my list is Traitor: this would definitely be floating around the upper reaches of the second bunch.

if, as at least one review i have seen does, you conflate the entire film itself with some of the callous politics displayed in the film, you may be disappointed.

on the other hand, if you're looking for a smart, pretty sharp counterterrorism movie and are down for some lean performances, you should stroll up.

Friday, 9 January 2009

Kate and Gerry McCann have condemned a Conservative activist who boasted about dressing up as Madeleine McCann at a party, calling his actions "offensive".
Matthew Lewis has now apologised "unreservedly" to the McCanns. He was expelled from the party after telling friends of his New Year party exploits.

what do they teach them at these schools?
i mentioned earlier ten favourite first-run flicks in the '08: a list with a fair few movies tickling its depths.
so, here's a sprinkling of some of the rest (as earlier, some of the following films are older than 2008, but generally by a year or two at most, and i saw them last year at the pictures in one of about four countries in a first-run capacity, so i think it's fair enough to be a bit loose with criteria).
this post promises* to descend, invariably, into a list of absolutely all first-runs i saw last year.

how did they get this so right? Michael Cera, you're a star.
and you, too, young lady.
Juno's dad was once a white supremacist gang leader in homoerotic prison show 'Oz'. marvelous. one of the finest (and just so) film soundtracks since Into the Wild (which was similarly fab in both songs, and as moving picture).

there were a few strands running through this film, with perhaps the most affecting being a middle-aged woman whose courting attempts were continually undermined by her frail, older sister. one of the women at the salon hadn't yet come out and that was handled quite nicely. (the epilation of the title was shown, wonderfully, including the removal of a male cop's upper lip hair.)

Still Life.
such a profoundly different film to much of the multiplex in terms of the dignified pace at which things revealed themselves (that is to say, with no great rush at all). the overall effect was not snail, more glacier. in terms of immersing cinema possibly the experience of the year. it left you deeply shook up, and not only due to the background subject matter (a giant dam in China = flooded villages, and that is overlooking much of it).

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford.
anticipating criticisms along the line of this was an overlong, somewhat empty exercise to some, i would note Affleck's stumbling, mumbling performance built up a sort of head of steam, a satisfying exercise in accretion. and the film looked superb, with cinematography to rival the opening pans of No Country (and, overall, beat it).
the wind rustling through prairie grass.

intimate and deeply moving. and very sympathetic.

The Silence of Lorna.
a (slight?) drop in quality for the brothers, apparently, is the consensus (this their only one i've seen), and maybe the ending is a bit too open-ended for some, but i thought it magnificent.
they really live their locations, don't they?

The Orphanage.
like being scared. and impressed. and, then, happy.
(also, Belén Rueda is gorgeous.)

The Visitor.
meeting of cultures-different sides of the track arc, drums, the injustice of how poor people move around the world with far less ease than capital does, drums, the lovely Richard Jenkins (who was perfect in Burn After Reading), drums.
it could have been a different - and perhaps more powerful, certainly more worthy, definitely less subtle - movie if the end focus of the film hadn't rested on the successful New England professor, but his anger and concern for his immigrant friend Tarek's plight is epitomised with that subway drumming coda (plus audiences don't need spoon-feeding), and it's hard to think of a (relatively) big American movie in recent years with as finely appropriate an ending as this one. About Schmidt maybe?
(also, Hiam Abbass is gorgeous.)

The Mist.
this is already a good movie anyway, and all good movies must end.

Owen, thoroughly on the money. (excellent on accents.)

The Dark Knight.
even leaving aside the politics, and the fact this is a fine film with not just the incredible Ledger, but Eckhart on song too, (and Gyllenhaal and Freeman and Oldman convincing), you get car chases taking place under the Chicago El, William Fichtner as a handy banker, Batman swooping among 2IFC and the other modern redwoods of Hong Kong, and Michael Caine gets to utter the most bad ass line in the film (although aficionados would have been more pleased with the final conversation between Batman and the Joker, granted).

Vicky Cristina Barcelona.
i was ravished.
(also, Scarlett Johansson and Javier Bardem and Penélope Cruz and Rebecca Hall are all oh fuck this all younger people that Woody ever pervs at are gorgeous.)

The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.
Shia LaBeouf + Harrison Ford + well-executed job x Karen Allen - Ray Winstone ÷ John Hurt = Cate Blanchett (Cate has no need of brackets).

My Brother is an Only Child.
unfortunately i missed The Baader-Meinhof Complex (and Garage, while we're at it), but this also had reds holding guns. a bit of a looker concerning the two brothers with differing political outlooks coming of age in 70's Italy, yet by turns funny, laugh aloud funny, and then seriously beautiful (an in-film concert, for one), with some breath-catching scenes, and quite a finish, too.

The Yacoubian Building.
huge (practically epic) Cairene soap - i have not read the novel from which it was taken - with a bit of everything thrown in, including a lot of humanity (and humanity), plus a useful reminder that Hosni Mubarak tortures, persecutes, extinguishes, harasses, cracks down and detains on a whim.

Burn After Reading.
more typical Coens (including casting) after the singular No Country, and classic Coen extravagance.
i am still shaking from what happened to Brad Pitt.
Clooney is lovely, isn't he?

Quantum of Solace.
i adore Daniel Craig in general, and this darker direction compared to some of the classic years of the franchise appeals (there's only so much Roger Moore you can take, although i do love Moonraker and Live and Let Die as much as the next person), whilst acknowledging the entire series has always had a wry smile up its sleeve: at least up until now.
Craig is only behind Connery already for me after two films, and he has feelings!
(that said, if we're talking sparse spy brutality, Matt Damon is the man, and i must admit my appreciation of the Damon Bourne may be tipping me further toward this Bond than he strictly deserves.)

how awesome are the parts in the subway?
call it 'smart gore'.
smart gore sounds like it could be the title of a giallo guide for Anglophones, but, hey.

The Golden Compass.
i read the trilogy and went with a friend - at his insistence - who hasn't read any of the trilogy.
he pretty much hated it, which was certainly stronger than my reaction (it didn't really warrant a strong reaction TBH).

the vaguely Fens-like settings at some point and a nice ensemble cast (not a surprise when you consider the esteem in which Philip Pullman's work is rightly held) were my highlights, and i'm glad i went, because the more time in East Anglia the better AFAIC.
(also, Dakota Blue Richards was brilliant.)

The Day the Earth Stood Still.
i was surprised by how heartfelt a tribute this was to the original (of course it has been getting a critical kicking), the message still sweet and the pic, overall, quite touching.

on an IMAX screen it packed a real punch and i am left defending Keanu's grasp of stillness in the same way that Scarlett Johansson above was either;
(a) a harder-fought pleasure/acquired taste compared to the ease with which we all enjoyed the effortless sight of Bardem and Cruz arguing in the street
(b) the weak link
(c) both of the above

the reason why i have not put any bracketed comments about my, er, views on Nadine Labaki after my Caramel paragraph are known to people who know me..

* that was the wrong word, wasn't it?

Thursday, 8 January 2009

trying to undo something murky in Louisiana - and it's not the gumbo.

Jim Gabour on three regular guys.
"Two men have been arrested on suspicion of murder after [a] man was stabbed to death at a property in Hulme."

(Copyright ©2006 Northern and Shell Media Publications)

it would take the vigour of, say, a Robin Carmody or a septicisle to keep up with the many distortions that characterise the Daily Express' long-running coverage of immigrants, asylum seekers* and economic migrants taking advantage of soft touch Britain, but even lazy old me has to pause at the bobby dazzler that is their cover today.

Nick Fagge writes

THOUSANDS of Eastern European migrants who lose their jobs plan to ride out the recession on British 
benefits – costing taxpayers around £200million a year.

Up to 200,000 migrant workers are set to lose their jobs this year as firms lay off staff in the construction, manufacturing and retail industries. But while some young single workers are expected to return home, many others are likely to stay in the UK and ask their relatives to join them.
They are keen to take advantage of Government handouts which are four times higher than in other EU states.

The average family with children can claim around £715 a week in benefits in Britain, compared with just £178 in countries such as Poland.

(though even Fagge has to note in closing that 'Last night the Home Office claimed that the number of Eastern European migrants coming to work in Britain had fallen to “its lowest level” since 2004. And the Department of Work and Pension claimed that only a small number of East Europeans had applied for jobseekers allowance and income support'.)

i fail to see what is so devastating about this.
the specific migrant residents the Express is discussing are those human beings from our fellow European countries (EU member states) who have come to the UK in the last several years, many seeking jobs.
the Polish plumber is a British taxpayer whilst working here.

immigration enriches the UK in many ways, and immigrants certainly contribute in the fiscal sense.

you may as well say UK-born-and-bred people who have the misfortune to fall out of work are costing their fellow Brits and northern Irish money when they seek unemployment assistance.
(yes, you can point out that unemployed British nationals who have lived all their life in Britain will be taking up a job in Britain the next time they enter the workforce, whereas some unemployed residents of other nationality are likely to return home at some point, but these migrants have earned - by the standards of the Express if it is honest with itself, lauding ordinary hard-working Britons as it does - the right to assistance.)

as a side-note, one factor for the disparities in welfare between the UK and Poland is that, whilst Poland in 2007 was estimated to have a PPP of US $16,200, the estimate figure for the UK that year was US $35,000
(and although i know absolutely nothing about the Polish welfare system perhaps it is fairly safe to assume there are, er, reasons in Poland's history in recent decades for that low-sounding figure)

* inevitably bogus

Munir (not his real name), an administrator in the Swat region of north-west Pakistan, describes the challenges of daily life in his valley as the Taleban and the army vie for influence. In recent weeks, he says, the Taleban have gained the upper hand and are making their presence felt in brutal fashion.


Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Ethan Zuckerman on Mapping: Infrastructure and flow

A roadside bomb killed a Ugandan soldier in Somalia's capital on Tuesday and masked gunmen murdered a man working for the United Nation's World Food Programme in the southwest of the Horn of Africa nation.

writes Abdi Sheikh

'A prisoner found hanged in a cell was a "fit young man" months away from being eligible for parole when he apparently killed himself, an inquest heard.
Michael Bailey, 24, from Ladywood, Birmingham, was found hanged at HMP Rye Hill, Warwickshire, in March 2005.'

UN reaches villages in north-eastern DR Congo attacked by Ugandan rebels.

(copyright Getty Images, photograph is hyperlinked, via.)

Monday, 5 January 2009

'Taking sides' by Eve Garrard
some background:

Mano Ganesan, an opposition lawmaker, called on both sides "to conduct their war in a way that the civilians are not affected or punished" and asked that a group of observers from all political parties be allowed in the war zone...While the military has avoided large-scale civilian casualties in its latest offensive, reports of civilian deaths have grown in recent days.


“They are in the process of advancing further North to take full control of the Elephant Pass area soon,” a senior military official told the Daily News.

“With the capture of Elephant Pass South the troops are now in control of the entire Jaffna lagoon.

They are in full control of the lagoon front from Pooneryn to Paranthan and Paranthan to Elephant Pass on the A-9 road,” the Brigadier added.


an Economist leader from around November 27th was right on the button.
it's worth reading in full but the pertinent bit for this post was

The awfulness of the Tigers has enabled the government to present the war as a fight against the scourge of terrorism that must first be eliminated before a political solution can be contemplated. In this, it has in effect ditched all three parts of a long-held consensus about the conflict: that there can be no purely military solution; that a political solution must cover both the north and the east; and that it must go beyond the limits of Sri Lanka’s existing “unitary” constitution.

Yet all three elements remain true.

the rest here.
'A 60-year-old woman has been found stabbed to death in her home in south-east London.
Police have launched a murder inquiry after discovering her body in Kenbury Gardens, Camberwell, at about 1830 GMT on Sunday.'
'Six teenagers, including a girl, have denied murdering a 16-year-old boy who was beaten with a baseball bat and repeatedly stabbed in south London.
Shakilus Townsend was attacked in Thornton Heath, in July and died in hospital the next day.'
SLA approach Elephant Pass

Saturday, 3 January 2009

B92 writes "This week's stabbing of a Serb boy, and the arrest of the Gnjilane Group have added turbulence to Kosovo's poor security situation, an expert warns."

and what of that Gnjilane group?

(monsters in the Balkans.)

"We're looking here at the arrest of a significant number of individuals, members of the so-called Gnjilane Group of the Kosovo Liberation Army suspected of kidnapping 159 Serb civilians and killing at least 51 between June-October 1999."
Many of the victims were killed in a boarding school in the town. They were first taken there, stripped naked, tied up, severely beaten and stabbed with knives. Parts of their bodies were cut off before they were viciously murdered.
Nick Cohen reprises a theme of his, under 'A man condemned by psychobabble', concerning the killer and predator Robert Napper, and Colin Stagg, the guy wrongly hounded for the murder of Rachel Nickell on Wimbledon Common in 1992.
i started to get into William Easterly at the end of the summer (someone very close to me was boning up on him), and then saw Alex de Waal quote him in the updated (2005) edition of Famine that Kills.

incidentally, if you've not read de Waal's preface to his update (even if you've read the book itself previously), it's worth getting hold of.
sources include Leo Kuper on genocide, David Maybury-Lewis on the anthropology of genocide, stuff on Sudanese land law and epidemiology, and the landmark 1995 study from African Rights on the Nuba people of central Sudan (which he actually co-authored with Yoanes Ajawin).

the second part of the preface is about the origins of the Darfur crisis, 2003-4 (basically a shortened version of his history with Flint) but it's the first section concerning "Famine theory and Humanitarian Practice" that's of interest here.

de Waal discusses how, between 1991 and 2000, Ethiopia saw an average growth in GDP annually of 2.9%, a stat that obscures significant ups and downs. (during the same period, one year saw a contraction of 3.64%, whilst in other years the economy grew by up to 9.4%.)
citing Easterly, he continues, observing Macro-economic figures show that more people are plunged into poverty by an economic contraction than are lifted out of it by a comparable expansion.

he then considers an IMF paper published as Ethiopia was being ear-marked for debt relief under the HIPC programme.

(going to quote a considerable chunk now, and the initial emphases left in are his, as the text will make clear, whilst the final part of de Waal's final sentence contains my emphasis.)

suggests that the country should be able to double its growth rate to an average of 6% per annum, thereby enabling it to halve its number of poor people by 2015 (IMF 2004). But the IMF smuggles a caveat into this rosy outlook: 'While this is an ambitious objective, in the view of the staffs it is achievable if the government pursues an ambitious reform agenda and sound macroeconomic policies that would promote higher private savings and investment, and provided there is adequate rainfall and a favorable external environment' (p.4, emphasis added). What a dumbfounding assumption is contained in that final clause! An average of 6% growth in a volatile economy may lead to little or no decrease in the poverty headcount whatsoever.

Famine that Kills: Darfur, Sudan (revised edn.) Alex de Waal
The Elusive Quest for Growth: Economists' Adventures and Misadventures in the Tropics William Easterly
'The Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia: Joint Staff Assessment of the Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper Annual Progress Report' IMF Country Report No. 04/59 (here.)
my mate on his ten fave TV shows