ali foreman overhead

That night, exactly forty years ago, I was too nervous – too frightened, really – to appreciate how well Muhammad Ali fought against George Foreman. Like lots of other Ali fans, I’d had a grim feeling that he was going to lose, and lose badly.  Tonight I watched the whole bout again –  the US broadcast this time – right through to the knock-out punch at the end of the eighth round, and marveled at the skill, the daring, the ruthlessness. (Shame you can’t say the same for David Frost’s intrusive, wide-eyed ringside comments. American viewers definitely got the short straw that night.)  Afterwards I pulled my copy of George Plimpton’s “Shadow Box” off the shelves.

George Foreman’s dressing room was a huge chartreuse emporium-like parlour – like a Las Vegas ante-room. He came back into it under his own steam, but with handlers close at his shoulders. He was wearing a red and blue robe with WORLD CHAMPION embroidered on the back in schoolboy script. Did they pack these things away, I wondered, these deposed champions? “Where’s my dog?” he asked. He touched Dago on the head; the dog’s tail swept back and forth. Foreman was guided to the rubbing table; he lay on it, gold lamé towels draped over his shoulders, ice packs applied to his face. He asked Dick Sadler if he had been knocked out cold. Then, like a hand flexing a leg that had gone to sleep, he began testing his senses, counting slowly, backward from 1oo, and then calling out the names of everyone he could think of in his camp…

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nigeria romance novelists

From a  series on “romance novelists in Northern Nigeria” at the Lagos Photo Festival.

Posted in Africa, Photography | Tagged ,

Lost peace

Afghanistan mosque NYRB

Hazrat Ali mosque, Mazar-i-Sharif,  November 2001. The photograph, by James Hill, accompanies Rory Stewart’s NYRB article on a new book detailing the failure of nation-building in Afghanistan.

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Early on, Bose had seen the potential of propaganda directed at British troops fighting with the British – particularly those who were now prisoners of war. With the propaganda literature being churned out by Trott’s department he hoped to bring over whole divisions to the cause… The training took place in East Prussia. The soldiers swore an oath to both Hitler and Bose, who stipulated that they should never be used on the Eastern front – only against the British. The strength of this Indian Legion was fixed at 3,000 men, equipped and largely staffed by Wehrmacht officers, in addition to which there was formed a reserve division of a further 7,000. Recruits were drawn from among prisoners of war. The fascist-style trimmings so dear to Bose were also worked into the decoration of his army. A flag was created with a leaping tiger superimposed on a tricolour. A hymn by Tagore became the regimental song and national anthem. “Heil Hitler!” was echoed in the greeting “Jai Hind”.

Giles MacDonogh, “A Good German: Adam von Trott zu Solz”.

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Venezuela spirit ceremony

Spirit ceremony in the mountains of Sorte, west of Caracas. Photo: Federico Parra/AFP.

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Facing Ebola in Liberia

“I tell them, “Don’t be afraid.'” An ambulance nurse goes about his daily work in Monrovia. An extraordinary, humbling video dispatch from The New York Times.

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Them and us.

From the latest Private Eye.

private eye how american journalism

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Amazon – friend or foe?

Franklin Foer lays out the case for the prosecution in the New Republic:

In confronting what to do about Amazon, first we have to realize our own complicity. We’ve all been seduced by the deep discounts, the monthly automatic diaper delivery, the free Prime movies, the gift wrapping, the free two-day shipping, the ability to buy shoes or books or pinto beans or a toilet all from the same place. But it has gone beyond seduction, really. We expect these kinds of conveniences now, as if they were birthrights. They’ve become baked into our ideas about how consumers should be treated.

These expectations help fuel our collective denial about Amazon. We seem to believe that the Web is far too fluid to fall capture to monopoly. If a site starts to develop the lameness of an AltaVista or Myspace, consumers will unhesitatingly abandon it. But while that meritocratic theory might be true enough for a search engine or social media site, Amazon is different. It has a record of shredding young businesses, like Zappos and, just as they begin to pose a competitive challenge. It uses its riches to undercut opponents on price… then once it has exhausted the resources of its foes, it buys them and walks away even stronger.

But Matthew Yglesias disagrees:

At [the article's] core is a very simple but fundamentally mistaken contention about Amazon, namely that “the company has achieved a level of dominance that merits the application of a very old label: monopoly.” The simple fact of the matter, however, is that Amazon doesn’t have any kind of monopoly.

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How long did it take for Americans to learn about the attack on Pearl Harbour? Terry Teachout reflects on a slower news cycle.

Can you trust Emma Thompson to tell the truth about John Ruskin? “Effie Gray” is not quite what it seems.

Inside the mind of Nigel Farage.  One of the best interviews with the UKIP leader to come my way this year.

Posted in Film, History, Journalism, Literature, UK politics | Tagged , , , , ,

Listening to Johnny Cash, past & present

johnny cash past and present

Fifty years on, one of his landmark albums gets a make-over.

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