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.”

Return of the Stoa

I’m in Oxford for all of July, and Josephine has just disappeared off to Tunisia for a month, to improve her Arabic, so it seemed like it wasn’t a bad time to scribble in this space again, in case anyone’s paying attention. (If you are reading this, do say hello in the comments–I’ve no idea how many people are likely to stumble across the blog, after being quiescent for so long.)

To get things started again, I’ve given a light dusting to the blogroll, and I’ll mention a few of the entries here.

First of all, my brother Michael’s been dabbling in the world of blogs again. Three months ago he posted a number of pictures of Ships With Rude Names on a tumblr, so if you want to see what any of SS Beaverburn, the Happy Entrance, or HMS Spanker looked like, wander over there and have a look. More recently, and more substantially, he’s started a new blog–Bock! Bock! Bock!–in order to document his family’s new experiment with chickens.

Now for a couple of book-blogs. Marc Mulholland’s blog has started up again, this time posting snippets to discuss the themes of his new book, Bourgeois Liberty and the Politics of Fear, which is coming out from Oxford later this year. I think what happened here is that Marc’s full draft was much, much too long, and so the bits that had to but cut out are being exploited as a resource for the blog. There’s already some very interesting stuff up there, including this post, arguing against the conventional wisdom that the Second International ‘betrayed’ the European working class in the Summer of 1914.

And another old friend with an interest in Trotskyist historiography, Dave Renton, has a new blog to support his new book, Lives; Running, which is about, um, running. I didn’t know Dave was quite so interested in running, but it looks as if he really is, and he has various things to say about the Olympics, too.

For those of us who have been blogging for too long, it will always be 2002-4 or thereabouts. So in addition to Marc Mulholland’s return, it’s good to see that Nick Barlow has stepped back from his Lib Dem Council responsibilities in Colchester in order to post a lot of stuff about the Tour de France. And Jamie Kenny’s indestructible Blood & Treasure just goes on and on, and he now promises a parallel book-blog sometime in the not too distant future, and that should be great fun.

I’ll leave you now, with a chicken video from Mike:

Ten Years

The Virtual Stoa is practically moribund these days–though as a friend wrote the other day, “the Stoa isn’t so much defunct, I feel, as crepuscular, brooding in a Mediterranean twilight”–but posts do still appear here from time to time (mostly about beavers, admittedly), and this one is just to note that the blog is ten years old today, which is quite old, in blogyears.

Thanks to all of you who have been reading, and especially to those who have stopped in to chat.

Spam Interlude Over?

Thanks to everyone who alerted me to a spam infestation at the Virtual Stoa, which was showing up in Google stuff — the search engine, its cache and in the Google Reader thingummy.

The exhortations to buy Vicodin and Cialis and the like were probably more stimulating than the actual content they replaced; nevertheless, in the interests of restoring the usual service, I’ve delved deep into the bowels of the WordPress installation, zapped a few lines of extremely dubious-looking code, killed a few files that popped up in the plug-ins folder that really oughtn’t to be there, wiped from the memory banks a couple of unauthorized users and, finally, changed the passwords. It was all quite a lot easier than I’d anticipated — I get a bit nervous in the face of MySQL databases. And so, with luck, that hack’s been dealt with.

But, just in case anything does recur, please could my vigilant readers report any further unusual sightings: I don’t use Google Reader (I’m a Bloglines man myself), so I don’t tend to notice it when my readers all drift off in search of new opportunities to purchase these valuable drugs.

“Frankly, I’m Not HP”

There’s a lot to dislike about Harry’s Place [no link, read on], and its comments threads are often a disgrace to the entire interwebnet (which is saying something) but if you want to have an argument with them, you can have an argument with them, and you can do it in public, either over at your site, or at theirs, or at a great many other places in cyberspace. Running to their ISP to shut them down because you don’t like something someone’s said about someone is pretty low, and the person or people who did it should be ashamed of themselves.

The End of Extremism?

Daniel Davies, no stranger to internet flamewars, explains why blogs are likely to spell the death of both far-left and far-right politics in the UK:

Blogs are rather like sodium pentathol or Stella Artois in their effect on social inhibitions, so when you add them to a scene which is largely composed of people with poor impulse control at the best of times, then you are basically lighting the blue touch paper…

To watch the SWP/Respect bust-up, Socialist Unity is the place to go; the BNP is self-destructing in blogland over here.

The Verdict of the Stoa

Neil Clark is even more objectionably stupid than Stephen Pollard. In fact, it’s not even close. He’s been ahead of Pollard in the stupidity stakes ever since he started conversing with a spambot in the comments section of his own blog (18 months ago or so? not sure), but he’s now way, way out ahead of the rest of the field.

And remember: this isn’t just about 91 interpreters, and nothing, but nothing has actually yet been achieved. This campaign is about everyone who is in in fear of their lives owing to their links to the British forces in Iraq, and their families: i.e., quite a few thousand people. If you haven’t already, write to your MP. Especially if your MP is Hugh Bayley, who doesn’t seem to have much of a clue.

Campaign video over here. (It’s both funny and gruesome, so be careful.)

UPDATE [5 minutes later]: Jamie Kenny says it so much better than I ever could.