The Sex Life of the Elephant Seal

It’s always good to have discussions of the sex life of the elephant seal.

Martin writes [31.1.2003]: “The only other mammal thought to travel such large distances are whales.” Surely some mistake? Or is that Virgin Atlantic plane which takes me from Boston to London a figment of my imagination?

Chris replies: Mammals, Martin, mammals.

Martin, again: Am I not a mammal, Chris? Am I not?

Good News!

My friend and comrade Leo Zeilig has had the criminal charges against him dropped. As you may know or remember, he was picked up by police recently for being the man with the megaphone on an antiwar demonstration in London, and had up to five years in prison dangled in front of him on a charge of incitement to violent disorder, or somesuch. He writes:

Comrades and friends,

We fought and we won! At 4pm today my solicitor received a fax from the Crown Prosecution Service that stated, “all charges against your client have been dropped”. While no reasons were given we can feel confident that the message of our campaign — the Right to Protest — the anti-war movement and the show of support at the court on 31 December, the work we did raising the profile of the campaign and the absurdity of the charges against a peaceful demonstrator forced their hand. That they didn’t have the confidence to pursue charges against me with all the evidence they claimed to have amassed on the day is proof of the great strength of the anti-war movement. The cost they have wasted in the last three months runs into thousands. We must make sure that demonstration in London on the 15 February will ring out across the world with the message that we can stop the war and we are RIGHT TO PROTEST!

The support of my comrades and friends in the campaign has ensured this victory. We must make sure that Right to Protest organised by the Stop the War Coalition continues to exist, providing support and solidarity to the others still facing charges and anti-war activists that the police will undoubtedly arrest in the protests and demonstrations against the war in the coming weeks and months.

Excellent news: and many thanks to those who were a bit better than me at managing to make it along to the court hearing.

Face Down In His Own Bullshit

The recent London Review of Books essay, “‘No Bullshit’ Bullshit” by Stefan Collini, discussing Christopher Hitchens’s Orwell’s Victory [aka Why Orwell Matters] is now online.

“The sight of Hitchens view-hallooing across the fields in pursuit of some particularly dislikable quarry has been among the most exhilarating experiences of literary journalism during the last two decades. He’s courageous, fast, tireless and certainly not squeamish about being in at the kill. But after reading this and some of his other recent writings, I begin to imagine that, encountering him, still glowing and red-faced from the pleasures of the chase, in the tap-room of the local inn afterwards, one might begin to see a resemblance not to Trotsky and other members of the European revolutionary intelligentsia whom he once admired, nor to the sophisticated columnists and political commentators of the East Coast among whom he now practises his trade, but to other red-coated, red-faced riders increasingly comfortable in their prejudices and their Englishness – to Kingsley Amis, pop-eyed, spluttering and splenetic; to Philip Larkin, farcing away at the expense of all bien pensants; to Robert Conquest and a hundred other ‘I told you so’s. They would be good company, up to a point, but their brand of saloon-bar finality is only a quick sharpener away from philistinism, and I would be sorry to think of one of the essayists I have most enjoyed reading in recent decades turning into a no-two-ways-about-it-let’s-face-it bore. I just hope he doesn’t go on one hunt too many and find himself, as twilight gathers and the fields fall silent, lying face down in his own bullshit.”

Glen Newey’s essay on the royal family is quite fun, too.

Dead Socialists

Simon writes to know why I didn’t post George Orwell in the Dead Socialist Watch yesterday. He died on 21 January 1953. Well, he was on my list, but sometimes I don’t get round to new postings. So consider him commemorated. And happy birthday, today, Antonio Gramsci, still everyone’s favourite dead Sardinian militant, after all these years (one hundred and twelve of them).

Eighth Deadly Sin?

Brad deLong is dumbfounded:

I must say that I had always thought that by the time I reached 40 I would have heard about or thought of every possible kind of sin. But the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston has proved me wrong. I had never thought of:

* “Reaching out” to the victims of sexual abuse by priests, telling them that the church cares about them, suggesting that they get therapy and counseling.

* Offering to pay for the therapy.

* Then subpoenaing the therapists, trying to break the confidentiality of the patient-therapist relationship, in the hope of learning something (a) that will weaken the victim’s case in court, or (b) that would be so embarrassing if it were revealed in court that the plaintiff can be induced to drop or cheaply settle his or her legal case.

I am dumbfounded. This is betrayal of a high order: Dante’s Inferno Tenth-Circle buried-in-ice-for eternity order. Moreover, this is something that I would never have thought of doing in ten-thousand years.

He’s commenting on this article, from the Boston Globe.

Dobby the House Elf

The new Harry Potter film is having trouble in Russia… via BBC Monitoring:

Dobby the house-elf could face court for looking like Putin
Source: Ekho Moskvy radio, Moscow, in Russian 1000 gmt 20 Jan 03

[Newsreader] Harry Potter’s Russian fans will have to wait a whole year for the new book. The Rosman publishing house said today that the fifth volume of the young magician’s adventures will appear for sale in the Russian language at the beginning of 2004. Mind you, for those who know English, J.K.Rowling’s new book will come out in the UK in June of this year.

However, Harry Potter could have other problems in Russia – of a legal kind.

Not the book though, but the film. And all because one of the characters in the second film is similar to Vladimir Putin in appearance. It is Dobby the house-elf, who is a nasty green colour and has large ears. Novaya Gazeta [newspaper] reported today that a major law company’s offices in Russia are preparing a lawsuit on this matter, claiming that the film-makers did not have the right to use a face that is known the world over when creating their character. There has been no official comment on the matter yet…

We ask: does President Putin iron his own hands?