Life Imitating Art

Over the last few days we were off in Morocco visiting the archaeologists who were playing “Mafia” (scroll down to “here’s how Mafia works”) and digging up the lower slopes of the site at Volubilis; hence no blog activity. And I learned that there’s something slightly strange about walking across the tarmac with your beloved at Casablanca airport to get onto the plane that will take you North.

In any case, I wasn’t at all tempted to stay behind with a French police officer.

The Issues That Matter

Reading celebrity gossip magazine heat (as one does) on the bus on the way back from the airport yesterday, I was intrigued to read on p.13 of this week’s edition the results of an opinion poll, apparently commissioned by the Evening Standard, which claimed that 8% of my fellow citizens were of the opinion that David Beckham’s adultery has “totally changed” their “faith in marriage”. Eight per cent. That’s a lot. British marriage is a more fragile institution than I thought.

And I read on the plane in Wednesday’s Daily Mail — “Does tap water threaten Britain’s unborn?”, or somesuch: straight out of the Daily Mail-o-Matic — that whilst 94% of Glenda Linda Lee-Potter’s correspondents thought Posh deserved our compassion, 41% of the Standard‘s sample blamed her — Posh, not Glenda Linda for the shenanigans. Both figures seem a little unreasonable, to say the least.

And here’s another thing

I keep coming across the word “muppet”, both in the conversation of undergraduates and on the internet. And it’s used in a pejorative sense; apparently, a muppet is something that it is a bad thing to be. This puzzles me, because a very large number of the muppets from the Muppet Show are clearly excellent things to be (though I wouldn’t want to be Professor Bunsen’s assistant Beaker). And from the variety of contexts in which I’ve come across the word, I can’t quite fix the meaning. It’s clearly not an abusive word, since people seem happy to call themselves muppets (e.g. “I’m being such a muppet”), but beyond that I’m not really sure. Any help gratefully consumed.

Will Teach For Food

Here’s some news:

On Monday, April 19, Columbia University’s teaching and research assistants are going out on strike for recognition of our union, GSEU/Local 2110 UAW. The demand of the strike, which was called by an 80% majority vote, is that Columbia agree to recognize the union based on a card count (a majority of TAs and RAs working this semester have signed union cards). The strike follows two years of legal delays at the National Labor Relations Board, where Columbia is relying on the Bush appointees to overturn the previous ruling that gave graduate employees the right to organize.

Picket lines will be up from 8:30 am to 1 pm every day at 116th and Broadway. Not sure there are any VS-readers in NYC, though.

New Blogfeature

My friend Martin, who is a philosopher, has three favourite words, or so it seems to me, which are “Splendid”, “Rubbish” and “Nonsense”. His partner Mary, who is also a philosopher, points out that this may be a legacy of logical positivism or perhaps emotivism: “Splendid” means something like, “This is coherent and I approve”; “Rubbish” means, “This is coherent and I disapprove”; and “Nonsense” means “This is incoherent”.

This seems to me to be a very sound basis for a new blogfeature. So let’s kick off with three verdicts.

Splendid: Knuckleballer Tim Wakefield (two runs on five hits in seven innings in a 6-2 victory over the Yankees at Fenway Park last night). Internet used bookselling (a copy of Maurice Halbwachs’ edition of and commentary on Du Contrat Social arrived today). Canon Jeffrey John (the gay ex-bishop, about to become Dean of St Albans).


Backed into a corner, with an image of an elephant behind me, here I am arguing about one of the footnotes in my dissertation, c.2003.

Sitting in a comfy chair, with the images of two elephants behind her, Josephine also argues about one of the footnotes in my dissertation, c.2003.

(I’m not sure history records the outcome of the argument, nor even the identity of the particular footnote.)

Photos by Adam Shapiro.

Becks Text Sex

Earnest teenager Jade Farrington (OK, that’s a horrible thing to call anyone — I take it back) realises that she hasn’t been paying attention to the Adultery Drama That Is Gripping The Nation but goes on to ask, “Does anyone apart from the media and Beckham’s obsessives actually care?”

I’ve certainly been paying attention, as have many several of my friends. It’s too strong to say that we “actually care” about the welfare of any of the major protagonists — it’s difficult to care much about people caught up at the cash-accumulating epicentre of the media-sport-entertainment-industrial complex — but we have been entertained by the Becks texts sex saga, which certainly seems to me to be good clean fun.

If you need to catch up, then, there’s a good round-up of the first week of the story in the Guardian and a fine essay by VS-favourite Zoe Williams here. And the best piece yesterday was probably this one (registration required, possibly) in the Telegraph, which reads like a straightforward piece by a fashion writer but which was happily published on one of the “News” pages…

P.S. Note to Jade Farrington: What you need is a (free) subscription to Popbitch. Then you won’t miss anything in future that you really need to know.