Boris Johnson, history man

Writing a biography of Churchill is the next step in his campaign to convince everyone he’s prime minister material. Richard Evans shakes his head:

Anyone who has the time or energy to press a couple of keys on a computer to look up “tank,” “RAF,” “welfare state” or even “the Second World War” on Wikipedia will see Boris’s sweeping claims vanish in a cloud of inconvenient facts… Johnson doesn’t weigh up policies and ideas with any care or penetration. If he doesn’t like them, he dismisses them as “rot,” “tripe,” “loopy,” “bonkers,” “barmy” or “nuts”; their advocates and practitioners as “loonies,” “plodders,” “Stilton-eating surrender monkeys,” and so on…

Churchill, we learn, was “mustard keen on gas” as a weapon in the First World War. He was “the large protruding nail on which destiny snagged her coat.” Young Tories “think of him as the people of Parma think of the formaggio Parmigiano. He is their biggest cheese.” And Chamberlain’s “refusal to stand up to Hitler” was “spaghetti-like” (clearly Boris is rather fond of Italian food). The book reads as if it was dictated, not written. All the way through we hear Boris’s voice; it’s like being cornered in the Drones Club and harangued for hours by Bertie Wooster.

Posted in History, World War 2 | Tagged , , , ,

All in this together

Austerity politics for beginners. Chevy Chase channels George Osborne.

Posted in Comedy, UK politics | Tagged , , ,

Stat of the day

More Apple & Android phones have now been sold than all the Japanese cameras ever made.

From John Naughton’s reflections on the rise and rise of the smartphone. As he points out, even the tech experts didn’t see this coming:

When [smartphones] first appeared less than a decade ago, most of us thought that they would remain an elite consumer product for a long time to come, staples of affluent professionals in the industrialised world, perhaps, but of no relevance to poor people in the developing world who would continue to be delighted with crude feature phones that could just about do SMS. How wrong can you be? We underestimated both the power of Moore’s law and human nature. Gordon Moore’s “law” postulated that computing power – crudely measured as the number of transistors that can be fitted on to a processor chip – doubles every 18 months. That doubling has been going on for nearly 30 years and it helps to explain how Apple’s new iPhone 6 fits 625 times as many transistors on its CPU chip as the Intel Pentium chip had when it was powering a 1995 desktop PC.

Posted in Technology | Tagged , , , ,


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…

Posted in Sport | Tagged , , ,


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”.

Posted in History, World War 2 | Tagged , , , , ,


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.

Posted in Africa | Tagged , , ,

Them and us.

From the latest Private Eye.

private eye how american journalism

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