Brits

What It’s Really Like To Be an Olympian
August 02, 2012

Four years ago in Beijing, James Williams won a silver medal as a member of the United States’ Men’s Sabre team (sabre has quick slashing; what you probably picture as fencing more closely resembles the ripostes of épée and foil). This year in London, Williams additionally qualified for Men’s Individual, losing in the Round of 32 Saturday morning. Tomorrow, starting so-early-it-won’t-even-be-bright with a draw against top-seeded Russia, the Men’s Team competes.

America’s Newest Export: Our Insanely Long, Expensive Political Campaigns
January 30, 2012

In 2005, when I ran as a Parliamentary candidate for my home town in England, I invited an American friend, who had worked on Barack Obama’s senatorial race, to join me on the campaign trail. He was expecting a rather more high-tech operation than the one he found. Leaflets were run off an old black and white photocopier and the balloons bore the name of the candidate from eight years before. The American’s first question was “How much have you invested in television ads?” Everyone on the staff laughed.

How Obama Is Mishandling the Violence Wracking the Muslim World
December 12, 2011

This is a subject about which we’re not supposed to speak. Or write. Well, I suppose we can allude. But not in detail. So, even though bloodletting is a daily occurrence in the orbit of Islam, discussing it is forbidden. At least among the sensitive, the sensitive left most notably. By which I mean, firstly, folk who think of themselves as universal souls but see others, Americans and Brits, French and Germans, Italians and Dutch, also the bulk of English speakers wherever they are, as retrograde. Patriots, for God’s sake, patriotism being not only a dirty concept but a dirty word.

Dearest Bun
June 23, 2011

Philip Larkin: Letters to Monica Edited by Anthony Thwaite (Faber & Faber, 475 pp., $49.50) I. A good place to start on the protagonists of this curious correspondence—culled from some 1,400 letters discovered after the addressee’s death in 2001—is the wrap-around photograph that takes up most of both sides of the book’s dust jacket. The picture shows a grassy cliff-top on the island of Sark. It is, clearly, summer.

Dearest Bun
June 23, 2011

Philip Larkin: Letters to Monica Edited by Anthony Thwaite (Faber & Faber, 475 pp., $49.50) I. A good place to start on the protagonists of this curious correspondence—culled from some 1,400 letters discovered after the addressee’s death in 2001—is the wrap-around photograph that takes up most of both sides of the book’s dust jacket. The picture shows a grassy cliff-top on the island of Sark. It is, clearly, summer.

Mellow Beck? I Don't Think So.
September 02, 2010

The returns are pretty much in from the mainstream media: Glenn Beck’s “Restoring Honor” rally this past weekend on the National Mall was a largely a noncontroversial event focused on religion, not politics, and it may have augured a kinder, gentler Beck whose egomania is now devoted to less fractious causes than overthrowing the “liberal” establishment. That’s pretty much the conclusion reached by Washington Post media critic Howard Kurtz, whose review of MSM coverage of the rally emphasized the outrages Beck did not commit.

Worse Than An Insect Noise
June 18, 2010

I hear vuvuzelas everywhere. On the streets, in the shopping malls, and of course in the stadiums, but I even hear them now when they aren't there. Last night, as I was trying to fall asleep in the little house where I'm staying in Melville, I was certain I heard a crowd of them, honking relentlessly somewhere far off. Then I realized the heater in my room happens to drone at a B flat, the same tone made by most vuvuzelas. Would you ever confuse a crowd of Mexican soccer fans shouting "Puto," or a group of Brits singing "Rule Brittania," with a home electrical appliance? No.

The Pathos Of The Soccer Fan
June 11, 2010

Daniel Gross writes the most sympathetic testimony I've seen from an American soccer fan. The usual American soccer manifesto consists of bluster about soccer as the sport of the future because lots of American children play it (the same logic would suggest apple juice is the drink of the future) or optimistic predictions about "huge" T.V.

Ask, Don't Guess
May 11, 2010

Oliver Burkeman picks up a great idea first floated by blog commentator Andrea Donderiand and runs with it: We are raised, the theory runs, in one of two cultures. In Ask culture, people grow up believing they can ask for anything – a favour, a pay rise– fully realising the answer may be no. In Guess culture, by contrast, you avoid "putting a request into words unless you're pretty sure the answer will be yes… A key skill is putting out delicate feelers. If you do this with enough subtlety, you won't have to make the request directly; you'll get an offer.

The Food Crisis In Gaza: Testimony From 'Palestine Today', A Gaza Publication
December 24, 2009

I don't mean to seem hardhearted. But I am frankly completely jaded--and made disbelieving--with the on-schedule, almost once-a-week story about the crisis in Gaza. Around Christmas, they are simply de rigeur. Here's a predictable one in the viciously anti-Israel, truly viciously anti-Israel, Financial Times. It is by Tobias Buck, who, while he can write these in his sleep, wrote this one just for Christmas.

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