Tuesday, April 20, 2010

if the earth shakes when women are promiscuous, it stands to reason that it must erupt when lesbians become head of state.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

volcano

blue skies, no planes. the world before those loony wright brothers came along. here's what i want to know: why can't the US military just plug the goddam volcano? isn't this what the unilateral provision of public goods supposed to be about? oh, and the chinese are too bloody free-riding to do any of the heavy-lifting themselves. verily, a historical moment stranded between two hegemonic orders.

Monday, April 12, 2010

i have a cover i have a cover i have a cover.

A Single Man

The US between the end of the Second World War and 1968 brings to mind terrible and terrifying associations (Trumanesque belligerence, McCarthyism, feminist rollback), but watching A Single Man, I was reminded of how much I LOVE the aesthetic of the period. The impossibly beautiful house in which George Falconer (Colin Firth) lives with his impossibly beautiful boyfriend (Matthew Goode), the cars, the buildings, and just THINGS (pencil sharpeners, bread boxes, spectacles, doorknobs, telephones, cash registers). Firth was a revelation as the grief-stricken Falconer, hollowed out by the death of his partner - perhaps because I have only ever seen him in romantic comedies (Pride and Prejudice, Love Actually, Bridget Jones's Diary and Mamma Mia!). Oddly, I have a similarly one-dimensional view of Julianne Moore, who plays Falconer's friend Charley, having only ever seen her play women frustrated by the social and sexual mores of the 1950s and 60s (Far from Heaven, The Hours and now this). Other thoughts? None, because I was so busy focusing on the furniture. I have trouble with films that ooze so much aesthetic gorgeousness that they anaesthetize the pain of their narratives (remember Frida?).

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Vatican

Religion religion every-bloody-where you look. There is an interesting similarity between the behaviour of Ratzinger, in not acting on revelations about sex abuse within the Catholic Church for the 'good of the universal Church', and that of Boutros-Boutros Ghali when he was head of a different sort of universal church. In his excellent book Eyewitness to a Genocide, Michael Barnett writes that when the UN force commander stationed in Rwanda in the early 1990s, General Romeo Dallaire, requested reinforcements upon receiving intelligence that Hutu militias were about to attack a contingent of largely Belgian peacekeepers with a view to provoking a withdrawal of international forces so as to clear the ground for a 'final solution', Boutros Ghali did not relay the request to the Security Council. Apparently, the reason he failed to do this was because he thought the request for additional troops would be denied by the permanent five - particularly the US, which having just suffered losses in Somalia (remember Black Hawk Down?), would have been loath to send more troops into an African civil war in which it had no interests - and that this in turn would undermine the credibility of the organization and BBG's own position within it. It's interesting, and to me odd, how these guys manage to weigh actual, concrete lives - now scarred or sacrificed - against some abstract notion of moral and political capital. Or perhaps they aren't utilitarians at all, making no attempt to weigh what are admittedly incommensurable values against each other. Deontologists are so much more likely to be fanatics, yes?

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Canterbury

I had to give a talk in Kent Law School today, so of course I wandered over to Canterbury Cathedral: head? heart? nerve centre? which organ is the best metaphor for what this place means for the Anglican Communion? The first thing to note is that (surprise, surprise) the church has made plenty of aesthetically ugly accommodations with capitalism, starting with the grotesque 1970s pastiche conference centre that is about 5 steps away from the cathedral and ending with the gift shop that is - wait for this - IN the nave! Yea, they sell buttons and badges and fridge magnets in the goddam church. On a more pleasing note (I am punning effortlessly here), the choir was hard at something that sounded like the theme music from Jaws, making the whole place feel like the belly of a giant carnivorous whale (I suppose I should say shark, but it was too big to be a shark). I was most interested in where Becket was murdered and buried in 117X. The shrine was destroyed on the orders of Henry VIII in 153X (for an entertaining account of associated events, see Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall) - today the spot is marked only by a burning candle. You can also see the exact spot at which he was, um, murdered in the cathedral, as T. S. Eliot and no doubt plenty of others before him put it. Three hundred and something years later, when Henry was going mad for a male heir + younger, prettier wife, Canterbury Cathedral went from being just another church in Christendom, to being the [insert throbbing organ] of a new religion: the Anglican Communion, the foundation of which has been immortalized in the following ditty (composed presumably by a snarky Papist): 'Don't speak of the alien minister, Nor of his church without meaning or faith, For the foundation stone of his temple, Is the ballocks of Henry the Eighth.' Indeed, 'ballocks' are still at the heart of a struggle within the Anglican Communion, so intense that it is threatening to tear the beast apart. As liberal churches within the communion move to ordain women and, more controversially, homosexuals, as priests, conservatives have been splitting off from these churches and allying with apparently like-minded churches in Africa to block such progressive moves at the decennial Lambeth Conference. Indeed we are now witness to the spectre of conservative dissident US Episcopalians placing themselves under the authority of African bishops (it's hard to think of any other sphere of life in which a US authority places itself under the jurisdiction of an African one). Thanks to their demographic weight, the Anglican churches in Nigeria, Kenya and Uganda threaten to shift the centre of power in the worldwide Anglican Communion, perhaps relegating Canterbury to the status of a sleepy cathedral town in the not so distant future. No, this is not what I predict will happen. It's just a nice sensationalist note on which to end a blog post. As I walked out of the cathedral, I could not help but wonder that the deep structures of English Euroscepticism are evident in this much earlier split from the Continent. They want their own of everything, these aloof island people.

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