Bootsie Barker

by Harry on April 10, 2004

Bootsie Barker Bites is close to the perfect childrens’ story book. It has action, conflict, sparse narration, believable characters, and a satisfying resolution. The pictures, admittedly, are outstanding, but not better than the text. I read it with a posh English accent for the mothers, and a drab south London drawl for the kids, but my wife reads it with American accents all round, and it works as well both ways.

Bootsie Barker, Ballerina, by contrast, is close to unreadable. Forgettable story-line, dragging prose, no characterisation. It doesn’t matter how you read it — its better not to.

I’m very hard put to think of another case where outstanding writing is followed up so disappointingly. Candidates?

Iraq in 1920

by Chris Bertram on April 10, 2004

Niall Ferguson in the Daily Telegraph “gives a history lesson”:;$sessionid$PHGJESUENTCP1QFIQMFCFGGAVCBQYIV0?xml=/opinion/2004/04/10/do1003.xml&sSheet=/portal/2004/04/10/ixportal.html :

bq. … in 1917 a British general … occupied Baghdad and proclaimed: “Our armies do not come into your cities and lands as conquerors or enemies, but as liberators.” … What happened in Iraq last week so closely resembles the events of 1920 that only a historical ignoramus could be surprised. It began in May, just after the announcement that Iraq would henceforth be a League of Nations “mandate” under British trusteeship. … Anti-British demonstrations began in Baghdad mosques, spread to the Shi’ite holy centre of Karbala, swept on through Rumaytha and Samawa – where British forces were besieged – and reached as far as Kirkuk. Contrary to British expectations, Sunnis, Shi’ites and even Kurds acted together. Stories abounded of mutilated British bodies. By August the situation was so desperate that the British commander appealed to London for poison gas bombs or shells (though these turned out not to be available). By the time order had been restored in December – with a combination of aerial bombardment and punitive village-burning expeditions – British forces had sustained over 2,000 casualties and the financial cost of the operation was being denounced in Parliament.

Suppose you’ve been given a sizeable pot of money to fund an annual lecture. Leaving the question of topics aside, who do you invite? Who are the best speakers in academia today? Is there someone you’ve heard speak who you think is underrated–as an academic, or as a public speaker? Now imagine you had to publish the speaker’s talk. Does that change things for you? Or is your top choice still the same?

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