Red Toiry

I like Jonathan Raban, and I’ve not read Phillip Blond’s

Red Tory

. Still, I’m more than a little dubious of the former’s critique of the latter. It seems to be mainly based on a cultural affinity for the city over the country, and on a disbelief that institutions run by stodgy and self-isolating small-c conservatives can ever do social good.

what meaning they might have for people on sink estates or in sprawling, ethnically diverse conurbations, like those of the Midlands and the North, is beyond comprehension. Like his literary predecessors, Blond, when he thinks of England, sees mainly its church-spire-haunted countryside.

Well, yes, but so what? If Blond can get rural tory do-gooders actually

doing good

rather than tut-tutting over the neighbours, I’m all in favour. Let’s make a more radical urban variant, and build an odd-couple alliance of urban anarchists and rural reactionaries.

GTD repeating

I’m an intermittent fan of GTD. That is, I tend to ignore it for a while, and then

This largely depends on what’s happenign in my life; there are long stretches where I only need to deal with one or two large projects. Since GTD is optimized for managers needing to track a large number of small tasks, it’s not much use for me. But then live spins out of control, and I return to David Allen for some imitation of control.

Within GTD, the big problem is that it doesn’t handle big tasks very well. Often a project consists of “Do this. Then do it another 850 times, over the next 3 moths”. Sure, I can keep adding each chunk to my next actions, but it doesn’t really help. What I need is something to remind me that I need to work on the task, show and recognize the work I’m putting into it, and otherwise keep out of the way.

So, I took a look round online to figure out how to deal with the problem. Turns out there isn’t one; everybody has bolted her own system onto it. Sucks, really it does.

Long-grain pontiff

I’m less than overwhelmed by Michael Bracewell’s book England is Mine. I do have to admit, though, that he has a nice turn of phrase — even if it is in a style that must have landed him in Pseuds Corner:

So pop, despite itself, became arty. English society, high on the new convenience foods, allowed English culture to develop a kind of boil-in-the-bag popism as the successor to the beans on toast of social realism. [80]

[slightly less entertaining on re-reading, when I realise that “boil-in-the-bag popism” probably means music rather than the Bishop of Rome]

Kings (U.S. TV series) – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

This seems too good to be true. In fact it was, and got canceled pretty sharply.

Kings is a television drama series ….loosely based on the Biblical story of King David, but set in a kingdom that culturally and technologically resembles the present-day United States

Clegg: it’s all been said before

I despair that what it took to puff up the Lib Dems was one good TV appearance and some worship from the media. I’m frankly baffled that the most technocratic and centrist of the parties can paint themselves as outsiders. Seriously? Have you met a lib dem who


a politics junkie. But I’m thrilled by the prospect of a strong LD presence in a hung parliament, leading to AV+ and then to a situation where we can finally get some real politics in the UK.

Meanwhile, it’s fun to watch Tories bashing Cameron for accepting the centre ground, just as the left has long been bashing Blair & co. Both criticisms are right, of course: you don’t win an argument by accepting your opponent’s case.

there is rage, albeit hypocritical and belated, that the entire strategy pursued by the Cameron regime over the past four and a half years has left the party so pathetically incapable of defending itself against this mountebank and his frequently preposterous party. For the strategy has left the Conservative Party – and Mr Cameron in particular, as was clear in the first televised debate – without much in the way of conviction to use to counter the Clegg soufflé, and apparently believing in nothing.


Sasha Frere-Jones on Patti Smith’s autobiography:

It’s refreshing to read a memoirist so dedicated to telling a version of her life that is more about ideas than bedpost notches, though sad to think that only someone like Smith could push this past her editors. The New Irony: only a rock star has the moxie to be a prude now.

Naturally, though, I’m more inspired by what the other Sasha finds in it:

It’s a love story, in every sense; not only an account of a love affair, but of a connection that goes beyond sexuality and familiarity into true understanding and devotion….

he pair were the cutting edge of late 60s and early 70s creative New York, and the energy and belief and idealism surrounding them practically wafts off the page.

Orwell Prize

Good: Laurie Penny has been shortlisted for the Orwell Prize for political writing. Better: she’s willing to deliver a well-placed kick to the shins of the organizers, for defending the indefensible, for remaining closed within a tiny bubble of the political elite, and generally for being symptomatic of the fuckwittery of a disconnected and introspective political elite.

Nonetheless, I’m glad of the Orwell Prize, because it has introduced me to Madam Miaow. another excellent shortlisted blog, which I wouldn’t otherwise have discovered. And…she’s hardly less scathing than Laurie, about “

a truly flesh-crawling example of how skewed and corrupt is the mentality of these people who are running and ruining our lives



Johann Hari on good form:

something stranger still is happening in The Election That Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Every day in this country, two big forces artificially drag the British government way to the right of the British people, making it enact policies that benefit a small, rich elite at the expense of the rest. We are not supposed to notice this, never mind try to change it. Yet suddenly, in this election, those forces have been exposed.


I love that this article questioning the opening-up of Belarus is all about dubious industrial figures, with nothing about

it being a repressive police state



Widowhoood is one of those facets of historical experience that I can’t really grok. Widows throughout pre-modern history have been subject to such a weird mix of fear and acceptance, left a socially precarious position but also one in which they have more freedom than married women. Biblical examples would be Ruth and Judith; historical ones can be traced through land and tax records. Laurence Fontaine argued in a recent issue of Esprit that widows in France had more access to markets:

Dans la France de l’Ancien Régime, le droit des femmes évoluait selon leur statut social et les phases de leur cycle de vie ; les veuves étant, par exemple, plus libres que les femmes mariées qui restaient soumises à l’autorité des maris. Toutefois, la charge qui leur incombait de s’occuper et de nourrir la famille leur a donné un accès au marché.

What I can’t figure out is how much this peculiarly, perversely privileged position of widows was general, how much just a situation which enabled a few personally strong widows to run with it, while the majority ended up in much more difficult circumstances, practically and socially.

[as is probably obvious, this is mainly a marker for a topic I find interesting, but which has presumably already been the subject of multiple books, and which I don’t anticipate having anything new to say about]