Beyond Left and Right?

Nice to see that the Virtual Stoa is identified as a “British Conservatives” blog over at the What is Liberalism? blog [right hand side and scroll down].

It’s a pleasingly idiosyncratic run-through of the UK World of Blogs, in fact. The same list tells me that Backword Dave (from Scotland, lives in Wales) is “some wit from England”, that Oliver Kamm is a “democratic marxist”, and that Stephen Pollard belongs to the “radical center”, to pick out only a few of the more counterintuitive labels.

Bullets on the Tube

The more I hear about the killing of Jean Charles de Menezes, the more disturbing it all gets.

But here’s a question I haven’t seen asked or answered anywhere: is there any reason to think that would-be suicide bombers in this country have access to the kind of explosives that you can strap around your body? The “he was wearing a heavy coat on a summer’s day” defence of the shooting rather turns on the thought that there’s intelligence to suggest that they do. But if they do, then why have the bombers so far been carting around rucksacks packed with explosives and nails?

(This may have been discussed already. If so, apologies. I’ve been out of the country.)

Books, Etc.

Recent reading has included Diarmaid MacCulloch’s Reformation (splendid), Richard A. Peterson’s Creating Country Music: Fabricating Authenticity (not bad at all), Charles Tripp’s history of Iraq (fairly solid, I thought, though he uses the word “narrative” almost as much as a bad journalist writing about David Davis), and two best-sellers that were kicking around in the flat we were staying in, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (great fun) and The Da Vinci Code (rubbish nonsense, and, oddly enough, far more childish that HP&tPoA, as well as much less well written), together with various other bits and pieces, and lots of copies of L’Equipe, of course. (Favourite headline: “Il est implacable”, with a picture of you-know-who.)

Since the launch of the new Harry Potter book was widely covered in the French media, I can report that French journalists say “‘Arry Pott-eur” when they are trying to say his name in English, and “‘Arry Pott-air” when they are trying to say his name in French.

Champs Elysées

And my goodness the Paris academic bookshops are wonderful. I could spend a lot of time and a lot of money in the Vrin shop, or in the basement at Compagnie. Well, I did. But I would have spent even more of both if I hadn’t succeeded in restricting my attention to the Stoics / Augustine / Hobbes / Rousseau sections of the shelves.

It’s a good thing, for example, that I managed to resist the temptation to buy (for 320 euros) the Dictionnaire de Port-Royal (here, and scroll down), as I almost certainly wouldn’t have been physically able to cart it home. (Maybe next time.)

Dead Socialists

Concentrating on being in Paris also meant catching up with some dead socialists, with visits to the cemeteries at Père-Lachaise and Montparnasse. (This site is great, by the way.)

Père-Lachaise has (among others) Louis Blanc, Louis-Auguste Blanqui, Pierre Bourdieu, Édouard Daladier, Jules Guesde, Jean-François Lyotard, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, the Imre Nagy memorial, Marceau Pivert, Claude Henri de Saint-Simon, Maurice Thorez (died 11th July, and therefore a casualty of the Hiatus of the Stoa), Oscar Wilde, Richard Wright, and, no doubt, many more, as well as being home to the Mur des Fédérés and the site of many moving monuments memorialising the dead of the Nazi camps and various résistants.

(Question: there’s almost no Jewish iconography on the memorials to the Jewish dead. I assume that’s got something to do with French republicanism, but if anyone’s got any specific details on just why those monuments look the way they do, I’d be very interested to hear them.)

Montparnasse, which I hadn’t visited before, and which is also delightful, is home to what remains of Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir, as well as (moving beyond the bounds of socialists proper) Tristan Tzara, Emile Durkheim, Alfred Dreyfus and – much more recently – Susan Sontag, whose grave is marked by flowers, but has no headstone set in place just yet. Perhaps one is on the way.

Le Tour

Concentrating on being in France meant, among other things, paying even more attention than usual to the Tour de France.

Blognor Regis did a terrific job of covering the Tour, and so did the T de F blog. I’m confident all my readers were assiduous in keeping up to date with those sites, so there’s little for me to add here.

French cycling appears to be in an even worse way than usual: no Frenchman finished in the top ten in either the CG or the points competition; the only French riders to make big headlines were Christophe Moreau (above all for his pursuit of Rasmussen with Jens Voigt on the second day in the Vosges) and David Moncouti� (above all for his stage win — the only French stage win — in Dignes-les-Bains, suitably enough on Bastille Day). The Tour needs its local heroes, and it’d be good to have a few more of them, especially now Richard Virenque’s no longer around.

Tragedy is never too far away from cycling, and the saddest cycling news in July came not from the Tour itself, but from Germany, where the Australian women’s cycling team was hit by a car while training, and Amy Gillett was killed. Aussie Cadel Evans made a heroic effort to win the following stage to Pau by way of an inadequate memorial gesture, but was beaten in the final sprint by Oscar Pereiro (who rode a terrific tour, and deserved the prize for “combativit�”). This was around the time, too, that the Tour was marking the tenth anniversary of the death of poor Fabio Casartelli, who crashed on the descent from the Col de Portet d’Aspet in 1995.

I’m already looking forward to next year’s race. There’s been a bit of this kind of thing, but it doesn’t bother me. It’ll be good for the Tour to kick off without one overwhelming favourite. Potential winners include Jan Ullrich (who won the Tour in 1997), Alexandre Vinokourov (especially if he learns how to ride more consistently over three weeks), Ivan Basso (especially if he learns how to go on the attack), Alejandro Valverde (especially if he can find a way of getting to the end of the race) and Mickael Rasmussen (especially if he learns how to time-trial, if that’s a verb). Next year’s teams are beginning to take shape: Vino, for example, has just signed up with Liberty Seguros, and we’re all waiting to find out what the new line-up at Discovery is going to look like in the post-Armstrong era.

As the man said, Vive le Tour!

I’m Back

Thanks to those who enquired after my health:, and especially to one correspondent who wondered whether I’d stopped blogging, and observed that “It would be a shame if your last post was about Horkheimer of all people”. I’m pleased to report that I haven’t, so it wasn’t.

There was only rather slow dial-up internet access where I was staying in Paris. And when the bombs went off on 7 July, I was more interested in using the short periods I was online each day for catching up on news reports than for saying anything in particular in this space. I’m not sure there was a great deal to say, anyway, and everyone else seems to have said it.

And for the rest of the month, it was more fun to concentrate on being in France.


From the North-West Evening Mail:

The Party in Westmorland and Lonsdale is embarking on the task of choosing a prospective parliamentary candidate in a bid to win back the marginal seat at the next opportunity.They believe former MP Tim Collins will not put himself forward to stand again in the seat which covers most of the South Lakeland area…

My goodness.