Best Gigs Ever

I don’t really think of myself as someone who goes to many live performances of the so-called popular so-called music, but of the very few I’ve been to, it seems that one of them was almost one of the “twenty five best gigs ever“, according to the Observer (though there don’t seem to be 25 on the linked page; perhaps you’re supposed to buy the magazine or something to get them all. I don’t know.)

Anyway, there on the list: Mano Negra at the Town and Country Club, in 1989. I say “almost” as I don’t think I was there then; memory tells me I saw them there in 1990 or 1991, so maybe that’s because they were quite good in 1989, and got invited back or something. So perhaps it doesn’t count. Anyway: they were very good on that occasion, and great fun.

If I were to make a list of the 25 best concerts that I’ve been to, that one would certainly make the cut, though it would end up being quite a lot lower down than, say, Anne Evans singing Isolde at Covent Garden around 1993. That was really good. Splendid, even.

Ruth Turner, moral paragon

Tony Blair says that Ruth Turner is “is a person of the highest integrity”. Tessa Jowell says that “she is a person of utter decency and conscientiousness”. Lord Puttnam says that “She’s one of those half-dozen, dozen people who I would stake my life on.” David Blunkett has spoken of her “decency and honesty” in a BBC interview. Even bloggers like Will Parbury (and an occasional Stoa-commenter) are getting in on the act saying that “Having met Ruth I simply will not believe that she would do anything wrong.”

I’m sure that settles it.

Who Wrote This?

“For a generation or more [from the 1960s], the dominant model of human behaviour on Left and Right was highly individualistic. This was true in the liberation of private life and in intellectual debate. The Left was captivated by the elegance and power of Professor John Rawls’s Theory of Justice (Harvard University Press, 1971). His manifesto for an egalitarian society is a brilliant exposition of the argument that an equal society is in the interests of anyone who does not know which position in that society they would occupy. But it is derived from a highly individualistic view of the world.”

I don’t think Googling will help here, but perhaps some of you have better Googling skills than I.

Fiasco

Following Richard’s recommendation in comments below, I got myself a copy of Thomas E. Ricks’s Fiasco, and am now halfway through. It’s alright, though it’s a bit heavy-handed, and I still prefer the reporter George Packer’s book (The Assassins’ Gate) to the stay-at-home-and-swap-emails-with-the-troops approach of Ricks.

Anyway: my  favourite detail so far concerns the role of PowerPoint in the run-up to the war:

[Army Lt Gen David] McKiernan had another, smaller but nagging, issue. He couldn’t get [Tommy] Franks to issue clear orders that stated explicitly what he wanted done, how he wanted to do it, and why. Rather, Franks passed along PowerPoint briefing slides that he had shown to Rumsfeld. “It’s quite frustrating the way this works, but the way we do things nowadays is combatant commanders brief their products in PowerPoint up in Washington to OSD [Office of Strategic Defense] and Secretary of Defense… In lieu of an order, or a frag [fragmentary] order, or plan, you get a set of PowerPoint slides… [T]hat is frustrating, because nobody wants to plan against PowerPoint slides.”

That reliance on slides rather than formal written orders seemed to some military professionals to capture the essence of Rumsfeld’s amateurish approach to war planning. “Here may be the clearest manifestation of OSD’s contempt for the accumulated wisdom of the military profession and of the assumption among forward thinkers that technology – above all information technology – has rendered obsolete the conventions traditionally governing the preparation and conduct of war,” commented retired Army Col. Andrew Bacevich, a former commander of an armored cavalry regiment. “To imagine that PowerPoint slides can substitute for such means is really the height of recklessness.” It was like telling an automobile mechanic to use a manufacturer’s glossy sales brochure to figure out how to repair an engine.

[Thomas E Ricks, Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq, Allen Lane, 2006, pp.75-6.]