Nominees for the Fascist Octopus Award

by Henry Farrell on December 20, 2007

Via “Duncan Black”:, Mark Halperin comes up with a “doozy of a metaphor”:

Why is Drudge highlighting the McCain story, but has not touched other political hot potatoes that are swirling in the ether?

Those potatoes, turning this way and that as eddies and currents in the aether pull at them, heated to the boiling point by its luminiferous qualities. It’s almost as good as David Brooks’ famous “depiction”: of the Kossacks as squadrons of rabid, venom-unleashing command-lambs. Any other nominations for the most hilariously mangled metaphors and bad political writing of 2007? Halperin sets a high standard, but there must be other competitors out there …

Also, You Would Get Matching Funds

by Scott McLemee on December 20, 2007

Santa came a little early this year. The single most exciting possibility in American politics remains, of course, the idea that Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Central Committee of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA might emerge from the underground to campaign for the office of President of the United States. Alas, my appeal to him to do this has so far gone unanswered.


Instead, all we’ve had lately is a very long speech in which Chairman Bob talks about himself in the third person. What’s necessary is “a culture of appreciation, promotion, and popularization around the leadership, the body of work and the method and approach of Bob Avakian,” he says. Well, sure. But first you sort of need a reason to call a press conference. This is where the 24 hour news cycle is your friend. From a single spark….

In the meantime, Mike Ely, a former editor of the RCP newspaper, has come out with a cogent and thorough critique (pdf) of Avakian’s recent writings and the entire cult(ure) around him.

All irony to the side, I must say that this is a pretty interesting document, and so is the rest of Ely’s website. It is clearly the work of someone whose Maoism comes by way of Godard and Badiou as well as the RCP’s idiosyncratic Gang of Four-ism. For those who are interested in that kind of thing, it is the kind of thing they will find interesting. Thanks to Santa’s elves for bringing it to my attention.


I’ve made you some free X-Mas cards and gift tags!


Just like the ones your kids alway waste the good paper on! So there’s never any when you need it! But before I give you the download links, I have some explaining to do.

The world is filthy with X-Mas cards, says you. Well, I think mine are rather special and nice. They are based on visual elements extracted from Ernst Haeckel’s Kunstformen der Natur (1904). A very famous and beautiful work. Wikicommons has some lovely pictures. You know what I like best about that cover? (Thanks for asking, and feel free to click for larger.)

I like the fact that ‘Leipzig und Wien’ is in a sans serif font. Somehow that makes it perfect.

[click to continue…]

Best of 2007 – a personal choice

by Chris Bertram on December 20, 2007

I guess it would be fun to have a best-of-2007 thread. The trouble is, of course, that it turns out when you look closely that many of the things that you thought came out in 2007 actually came out earlier. But I’m going to ignore that, if paperback came out in 2007 (for example) that’s good enough for me. So here goes – an entirely perverse personal selection (nominate your own in any category you like in comments).

Film: Das Leben der Anderen. Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck’s portrait of East Germany under the thumb of the Stasi. Not released in the US and the UK until 2007, so it counts.

Novel: David Peace, The Damned United. (Paperback in 2007). No doubt utterly incomprehensible to anyone who wasn’t around in England at the time, this is a novelised day-by-day account of Brian Clough’s short tenure at Leeds United, as seen from inside Clough’s brandy-sodden head. Utterly brilliant.

Biography: “The Man Who Went into the West: The Life of R.S.Thomas”: , by Byron Rogers. I blogged about it “here”: .

Team: “Bristol RFC”: , the relegation favourites who ended up in the Guinness Premiership play-offs. (OK, so I’m biased.)

CD: “Gram Parsons Archive vol. 1”: . Two CD’s of Flying Burrito Brothers performances from 1969 that have been sitting in the Grateful Dead archive ever since. Great performances and unmissable, if you like that kind of thing (which I do).

Blog: “The Encyclopedia of Decency”:, or Decentpedia. Whilst some of us had wasted hours of our time in serious engagement with the “decent left”, Malky Muscular, the Decentpedia’s proprietor, managed to deflate them with highly effective ridicule.

Blog post: Any one of Errol Morris’s “discussions”: of photographic authenticity at “Zoom”: .

Time-sink of the year: “Facebook”: .

Project of the year: Project 365, over at “Flickr”: , into which Eszter inveigled me, and which gave me a lot of fun.

I’d love to be able to nominate a philosophical paper or book of the year, but I can’t think of anything that’s really knocked me out.

Most people in the political theory/philosophy community probably know that G. A. Cohen is retiring (that’s a verb, not an adjective, as anyone who knows him would know) from the post of Chichele Professorship of Social and Political Theory. A rather brilliantly prosaic job advertisement is on the Vacancies page at the Department of Politics and International Relations (deadline Jan 7th). There’s a grander job ad here. The holders of the position since it was established in 1944 (a very odd time to be establishing Chairs, I’d have thought) have been G.D.H. Cole, Isaiah Berlin, John Plamenatz, Charles Taylor (not the famous one) and G.A. Cohen (who has held it for quite a bit longer than any of his pedecessors). Very curious who will follow.