Irish census 1911

by Henry Farrell on December 7, 2007

Anyone who has recent-ish Irish ancestry may be interested to know that “Ireland’s National Archives”: are putting up the data from the 1911 Irish census. At the moment, only data from Dublin are available – but this was enough to allow me (after a bit of foostering around – the data was under “Mac Neill” rather than “MacNeill”) to find the “census data”: for my great-grandfather and his family (not including my grandmother, for the excellent reason that she wasn’t yet born).

The end of the Pacific solution

by John Q on December 7, 2007

Without a great deal of fanfare, the new Labor government in Austrlai has ended the shameful ‘Pacific solution’ under which refugees were held in offshore camps, located on the territory of neighbouring countries which the Australian government bullied and bribed into hosting them. Most of the refugees held at the Nauru camp have been allowed to settle in Australia.

The ‘Pacific solution’ and Labor’s failure to come up with an adequate response under the hapless Kim Beazley was a major factor in the Howard government’s election victory in 2001.

Defenders of the Howard government can make whatever claims they like about this evil system, whether to say that it was justified by results or to claim that Labor’s policy isn’t really all that different. The fact remains that this was a cruel and brutal response to community panic; panic the government itself did a great deal to stir up, and even more to exploit politically. Those responsible, most notably Howard himself, will carry the stain of the Pacific solution to their graves and beyond.

Northern Lights, the Intercision

by Maria on December 7, 2007

Last weekend I went to a preview of The Golden Compass, the New Line film of Philip Pullman’s Northern Lights, fully prepared to love it. The trailers were terrific, and the casting of Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig was inspired. I’d heard Pullman’s insistence that cutting out all references to the Magisterium as a religious authority didn’t matter, because the Magisterium represented totalitarianism in all its forms. I didn’t buy it, but thought the film could still be worthwhile. Oh dear.
[click to continue…]

Happy Holidays!

by Maria on December 7, 2007

Fiji bliss
I moved to the US a few months ago (It’s been a bit of a shock to the system. Let’s just say that on account of me not being a blonde, big-titted wannabe from the flyover zone, it was never my life’s dream to live in L.A.). Going to church makes me feel at home for an hour or so a week. At Mass last week, the priest gave a good but very rambling sermon. A propos of nothing at all, he said parishioners should make a point of wishing others a ‘Happy Christmas’ or even ‘Happy Hanukkah’ instead of the ubiquitous ‘Happy Holidays’.

Now, this being a very cool, gay-friendly church with great music, one person shouted out ‘why should we do that?’ as the wave of applause moved from the front benches backwards, faltering somewhere around the middle. I happen to feel the same as the priest, but kept my hands firmly in my lap. [click to continue…]

Torture in Germany after World War II

by Henry Farrell on December 7, 2007

When leafing through a copy of the _New York Review of Books_ from a few weeks back, I came across Patricia Meehan’s “review”: (behind paywall, unfortunately) of Giles MacDonogh’s _After the Reich: The Brutal History of the Allied Occupation._ It’s an eye-opener. [click to continue…]

Favourite Christmas Songs

by Harry on December 7, 2007

Talking of music, can it really be 4 years since we asked what the most annoying Christmas record is? Well, since then, youtube has enabled us to play them for you. So, instead of most annoying, this year I’d like your favourites. Here are the rules. The recording must be recognisably related to Christmas, must be non-traditional in some hard to define way, and while jokes are entirely welcome, they must be funny. One more rule: no wry, ironic, or mean references to Cliff.

Let me kick off with two secular songs, and two religious. First Jona Lewie’s Stop the Cavalry. Despite the wierd anachronisms and slightly unrespectable ott anti-war message, I love it simply for the refrain. When I used not to be home for Christmas, I would sing the whole thing to myself over and over, knowing neither the name of the song nor the singer. I know our British readers will be appalled by my complete lack of sophistication, but I also love Merry Christmas Everybody (even if you hate it, as I’m sure you do, it’s worth watching the first few seconds just to see Kid Jensen and John Peel not enjoying themselves). My wife won’t allow it to be played in the house.

From the ridiculous to the sublime (and religious). I once read that In the Bleak Midwinter is Britain’s favourite carol, which surprised me; sung here by Bert Jansch, with slightly different words than I remember. And finally, for Lindsey in France and Val in Madison, here is Def Leppard (yes, really) with what I find the most moving Christian pop song of the lot, Lindisfarne’s Winter Song. (“for Lindsey and Val” — I should have been Michael Aspel, or perhaps the other Cliff). And after you’ve listened, whatever you think of the religious message, take up the secular message, get out your credit card, go to Oxfam and donate a little bit more than you think you can afford.

No brainbox

by Chris Bertram on December 7, 2007

In the thread to Harry’s “post”: on academies and Oxbridge, some of us got into a little exchange about “widening participation” and spotting “academic potential” (sorry for the scare quotes, Stuart). Now in the Telegraph there’s “the story of Barry Cox, the world’s only Scouse Cantopop star”: . Having left school with a bunch of poor to mediocre GCSEs and finding himself in a succession of unrewarding jobs, Cox decided, somewhat idiosyncratically, that the road to self-improvement lay via learning Cantonese with the proprietors of his local chippie. He managed in two years and is now a successful singer in Macau. Richard Spencer, author of the Telegraph article asks:

bq. someone, somewhere in Liverpool, particularly in Barry’s old school, should be asking themselves some questions about his achievement. How come a kid can master a truly difficult language, enough to forge a career in a highly competitive place like Hong Kong/Macau, but come out of the school as a “no brainbox, me” holder of five GCSEs just a couple of years before?

Good question. Lots of us have been signed up at some time in our lives to the idea that most people have a lot of unactualized potential and that the social structure of our societies (and institutional components like the education system) hold them back, undermine their sense of the possibilities, depress their confidence, tell them what is for “the likes of them” and so on. But then, when we sit as selectors for university places, we switch into a mind-set where only a few have a mysterious intrinsic quality called “academic potential” that it is our job to discern and then to develop. As for the rest, they must do as they do.

Relatedly (via Loren King) there’s a “Scientific American article”: about how damaging it is when parents push a model of achievement according to which you’ve either got “it” or you haven’t. On this view some (how many?) kids acquire a belief about whether they are, or are not, (in Cox’s parlance) “brainboxes”. Children (and other people) with the theory that being a “brainbox” is an instrinsic property react to failure by drawing the conclusion that further study is not for them and that things are hopeless. Fortunately for him, it looks as if Barry Cox didn’t have that damaging mind-set, despite his “no brainbox” comment.

[Thanks to “Blood and Treasure”: , where there’s more on Cox’s idiosyncratic choice of language/dialect.]