One Hundred Things Norman Geras and I Corresponded About Over the Last Decade

Country music (including but not limited to Johnny Cash, Emmylou Harris, Allison Krauss, and its relationship to suicide) — Marxism — The war in Iraq — The case the British government made for the war in Iraq — Media coverage of the war in Iraq — Differences between British and American media coverage of the war in Iraq — Dead socialists (including the question of whether or not Paul Sweezy was in fact dead: he wasn’t when we began corresponding on the question, but later he was) — Favourite novels — University admissions — Boycotts of Israelis — Blog technology issues — The paradox of democracy — Paul “The Thinker” Richards — Defamation law — French headscarves laws — International rugby partisanship — New Zealand and whether it is a dull country — Amnesty International — Italian anti-war demonstrations — Christopher Hitchens — The precise distance from Boulder, CO to Birmingham, AL — My Normblog Profile — The number of Red Sox supporters who have Normblog profiles — Where the Wild Things Are — Bob Dylan — Favourite films — A Mighty Wind — Nashville — Joan Baez — George W. Bush — The Hutton Inquiry — Lucio Colletti — Why the film Life is Beautiful is so terrible — The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind — Mobile telephones — Cricket — The various ways in which my students used to pronounce the name “Geras” — Rock stars — Exam marking — Arnold Lobel and his Mouse Tales — The Butler report — The Campo de’ Fiori in Rome — Shakespeare plays — Obnoxious right-wing writers (including Mark Steyn and Andrew Bolt) — American airport security checks — Terrorist threats — Socialist Register — The 2004 US Presidential election — Baseball — Visiting Oxford — Thomas Hobbes — Roman libraries — Classical composers (especially Schubert) — Jokes about rational choice theorists — The Tour de France — Etienne Balibar — Favourite actors — The excellence of kittens (and, more generally, cats) — American street names — Wendy Cope — Footnotes in Capital — Umpiring — Passport applications — Margaret Thatcher’s resignation — Margaret Thatcher’s poetry —  Jews for Justice for Palestinians — Chavez and anti-Semitism — Academic plagiarism — David Aaronovitch as marathon runner — x-RCP front organisations — Robert Wokler — Academic jobs — Musicals — Australia — The rubbish-collection regime in Oxford — Tony Judt — Whether or not the Euston Manifesto was part of a “common, hysterical defense of the Anglo-Dutch financial system, and their permanent right to loot the economies of the world” — American practices of memorialization on campus — Flooding in Oxford — The Beatles — Jerry Cohen’s valedictory lecture — The New Left Review — Loyalty oaths — A Dance to the Music of Time — Merton College, Oxford — Visiting Manchester — Critical opinions about America — Puzzles involving marbles — Traffic robots — The Beach Boys — Tony Blair’s relationship with God — Bernard-Henri Levy looking funny in photographs — Authorisations to use military force — John Stuart Mill on international intervention — The Eurovision Song Contest  — Adam Smith — Nick Cohen’s views about torture — Alfred Hitchcock films — The thorny question of whether seven-times Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong was on drugs — The problems of travelling between Oxford and Cambridge.

Biggest regret? In July 2004, Norm wrote, “Might you have an interest in watching a Test or some part of one with me?”, and I never took him up on the suggestion.

His final words of the correspondence, from the start of this month: “My own care from the NHS has been exemplary.”

Leslie Stephen on The Times on the American Civil War

I HAVE, I hope, raised a prima facie presumption that the Times was labouring under some delusion. It had omitted some element from its calculations, sufficient to distort the whole history of the struggle. The story, to use its own words, was “a mystery and a marvel;” it was a mystery and a marvel simply because the Times was not in possession of the one clue which led through the labyrinth. A foreigner looking on at a cricket-match is apt to think the evolutions of the players mysterious; and they will be enveloped in sevenfold mystery if he has a firmly preconceived prejudice that the ball has nothing whatever to do with the game. At every new movement, he must invent a new theory to show that the apparent eagerness to pick up the ball is a mere pretext; that no one really wants to hit it, or to catch it, or to throw it at the wickets; and that its constant appearance is due to a mere accident. He will be very lucky if some of his theories do not upset each other.

As, in my opinion, the root of all the errors of the Times may be found in its views about slavery…

From “The Times on the war: a historical study“, by Leslie Stephen (London: William Ridgway, 1865), pp. 18-19.

Indian Premier League

If the Indian Premier League comes to England then we will all need to attach ourselves to teams on a more or less  arbitrary basis. Stoa-readers! Whom will you support? Your choices are between the Mumbai Indians, the Royal Challengers Bangalore, the Hyderabad Deccan Chargers, the Chennai Super Kings, the Delhi Daredevils, the Kings XI Punjab, the Kolkata Knight Riders and the Rajasthan Royals. (Some relevant links over here.)

UPDATE [2pm, 24/3]: Boo, hiss, it’s going to South Africa.

Dead Beardie Cricket Scorer Watch

From the TMS blog, on the late Bill Frindall:

All our thoughts are obviously with his widow Debbie and his family. But Aggers [= BBC cricket correspondent Jonathan Agnew] said to me: “You know Bill would always delight in telling us he was born on the first day of the famous “timeless Test” – the longest ever match between England and South Africa in Durban in 1939 which lasted 10 days.

“Well,” continued Aggers “it just had to be the case that Bill’s funeral was held on the day of the shortest ever Test.”

I think Bill would rather have liked that.

I like that, too.

First Test Match

Two wonderful things happened this afternoon, while I was watching the rugby. The first is that Ian Bell was out for 4. The second is that the West Indies reduced England, at one point, to 26-7, after a fantastic spell from Jerome Taylor, whose figures are 9-5-11-5, and have just dismissed them for 51, to win by an innings and 23 runs.

The first thing is wonderful, as it really ought to mean that the selectors call time on Ian Bell’s Test career. Since hitting 199 against South Africa, Bell has had a dozen Test innings, with scores of 31, 4, 50, 20, 24, 4, 17, 7, 1, 24*, 28 and now 4, for an average over the period of about 19.5. He’s always been vulnerable to the charge that he gets cheap runs — although his overall Test average is 40.59,  his average against the three strongest sides in world cricket (Australia, India and South Africa) is only 28.66, and (my favourite factoid), although he’s hit eight centuries, he’s never reached 100 in an innings when someone else hasn’t reached 100 first. So another Bell failure is a good thing, as it would just be embarrassing to have Bell batting in the Ashes this summer.

The second thing is wonderful, insofar as it’s not good for cricket to have an enfeebled West Indian side. They’ve been too poor for too long, and it’s high time series involving the West Indies became competitive again. It’s also a good thing that their fine performance has been based on several individual contributions, batting and bowling, but without anything special from Chanderpaul, who has been their most reliable player over the last couple of years. That bodes well for the future.

The trouble, of course, is that the second thing might counteract the first. If England had batted well, and only Bell had failed badly, it’d be obvious to drop him. But England’s batting was so bad, to the extent that Bell, with his scores of 28 and 4, was in fact the fourth-highest scorer in both innings. And given that the selectors have given Bell far too many chances in the past, this collective batting disaster might give the selectors yet another excuse to keep him in the side. Bugger.


For much of the Summer I’ve found Test Match Special pretty hard to listen to; yesterday and today I’ve been hooked. It could just be that the compellingness of TMS directly correlates to the compellingness of the match, and when the cricket’s not that interesting, then all the reasons that make you think, “God, the commentators really annoy me” come to the fore and you switch off the radio. Or it could just be that they haven’t had Geoffrey Boycott on this morning, so it’s a lot less irritating than usual. Does Boycott not work on Saturdays? Or have they realised he’s really annoying and sacked him?

Also – why on earth is the final day of Test cricket this Summer Monday 11 August (assuming the game makes it to the fifth day)? That’s preposterously early. Grr.

Inherited Cricket Memories

Norm has posted on Eric Hollies’ dismissal of Don Bradman for 0 in the latter’s final Test Match at the Oval in August 1948 — you know, the duck that ensured that he only averaged 99.94 over the course of his international career (YouTube over here) — and he discusses the phenomenon of inherited cricket memories, of events that took place before you were born, or that you couldn’t possibly have experienced firsthand yourself, but of which you possess the most vivid of memories. And this example and this phenomenon makes me think of my dad.

As it happens, he was in the crowd at the Oval during that match as a twelve-year-old, though he didn’t see Bradman bat (not that he batted much), and I think his only memory is of Bradman fielding on the boundary.

(Australia, as it happens, didn’t need Bradman’s runs, as in the first innings England had been all out for 52, with Lindwall taking 6 for 20; Australia replied with 389, with 196 from Morris; and England only managed 188 in the second innings, with Hutton top-scoring with 64, Australia winning by an innings and 149 runs.)

But I thought of my dad more because I’m going to hazard a guess that his is the generation that is most familiar of all with powerful memories of cricket matches it never saw, owing to the Second World War. Men in their seventies now were boys during the war, when there was no significant domestic cricket and certainly no international cricket to follow. So they read up about games that had been played before the war, and very possibly about games that had been played before they were born, and can now talk about them as vividly as I can remember Test Matches that I saw on TV when I was younger, and above all in the early 1980s, with the England team of Ian Botham, David Gower and Bob Willis.

And I think this also helps to explain just why Dennis Compton’s runs in 1947 were quite so celebrated, or why the visit of Bradman’s Australians in 1948 was quite so exciting. During the war people could only read about past heroics, and here were the heroes finally playing again, and heroically, too.

So I’m not sure I’ve got any severely inherited cricket memories. I think I just belong to the wrong generation. The 1970s moment I’m most familiar with is when Fredericks hit Lillee for six but then trod on his stumps in the 1975 World Cup Final at Lord’s, but that’s just because that was the best game ever to screen highlights from during rain breaks in TV broadcasts in the 1980s. (It’s the third ball in this clip, coming after less than a minute.)

Readers! Any inherited cricket memories of your own? Or just cricket clips from YouTube you want to recommend? Fire away in the comments.

From Today’s OBO

Over here:

30th over: West Indies 115-7 (Bravo 18 Taylor 0) Keith Flett rears his hairy head from the Beard Liberation Front’s overgrown bunker long enough to shout: “HIRSUTE ENGLAND INTIMIDATE WEST INDIANS WITH FIERCE APPEARANCE: The BLFront, the informal network of beard wearers, has said that with a seam and pace attack of Harmison, Plunkett and Sidebottom amongst the most generally hirsute England bowling sides of recent years, it appears that West Indies batsmen are being intimidated to lose their wickets, rather than losing them to good quality bowling. Pioneered in modern times by Australia’s Merv Hughes the intimidation is quite within the rules of cricket and amounts to little more than looking somewhat fierce and as if you and ought to take wickets.”