The Stone City

Words Made to Last

Friday, April 28, 2006


[Background: Time Out magazine has an advertising campaign in London, wherein they post ads every two weeks, combining the themes of both issues. One of the first advertised "Alternative Medicine" and "Sports", by showing a masseuse beating her client with a tennis racket.]

The most recent advertisement in this series combines issues on "Paris" and "Ye Olde London". The picture is of an old horse-drawn carriage... upside down and on fire.

Worth the price of the Tube ticket, to me at least.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Translation Needed

Today in Le Figaro, an article reports that the illegal Luxembourg accounts allegedly held by Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy were in fact created to frame him, at the behest of "then Foreign Minister" Dominique de Villepin.

My French is not good enough to unspin the whole thing, much less to post a translation; but this looks like an amazing story.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

A Syllogism

1) The Iranian government is publicly committed to aggressive use of nuclear weapons;

2) The United States is the only power capable or willing to actively prevent this.

Or another:

1) Nation-building is long, costly, and a painful drain on American civilian morale;

2) Decapitation strikes, while not cheap, are quick and have a clear distinction between success and failure.

Or another:

1) Russia is a major obstacle to action against Iran, due to the profits it realizes from Iranian dealings;

2) By taking a hand in Iranian rebuilding, Russia could create a more-friendly and more profitable Iranian client.

Or another:

1) Iran has shown the futility of negotiation and the desirability of negotiating (especially with the EU) in bad faith;

2) The destruction of Iran's government is the only meaningful deterrent to other, similarly inclined governments.

All of these lead to the same conclusion:

3) We should decimate the government of Iran, now, and let the chips fall where they may.

[Hat tip: Mark Steyn, via Tim Blair.]

Monday, April 03, 2006

Panic Nation

An excellent book by Stanley Feldman and Vincent Marks, Panic Nation surveys several of the irrational panics, from DDT to beef, which have swept Britain over the past years, and shows how they become widespread and embedded in conventional wisdom despite their loose connection with reality. Though told from a British perspective, the book should be equally valuable to Americans.

[There is no point reading the US reviews, which are an off-topic political argument. has more and better information.]


Via Marginal Revolution, a nice insight into the problem with art today:
This, the artist and writer Art Spiegelman pointed out to me recently, may be the biggest change in art during the last half-century or so: that more and more artists make works they never expect will be lived with, looked at day in, day out by the same person; that much art is made for fairs or museums, designed to grab a distracted passerby's attention without needing to be experienced twice.
Given that I know in advance that I will not look at something twice, I hope I can be forgiven for not wanting to trouble to look at it even once.


Online at the Manchester Guardian, we find an interesting aside in an article on Prince Charles:

"What I've been trying to do for 20 years is just gently place the pedestrian at the centre of the design process rather than the car to automatically create more liveable communities," Charles said.

Anyone who has been to Riyadh, the Saudi capital, will know what he meant. It's a planning disaster and probably one of the least energy-efficient cities in the world. Cars are sacred and everything else comes second. There's no public transport to speak of and the city seems designed to make walking as difficult as possible. An obvious consequence of this is the number of Saudis who are overweight, and the health problems that result. High levels of diabetes are one particular concern.

[Emphasis mine.] This being the Guardian, it makes no mention of the widely known fact that women are not permitted to drive: thus the impossibility of getting around without driving is a powerful mechanism to enforce their second-class dependent status.

Here is one view of Riyadh's pedestrian network. Here is a residential district.


In a comment thread at Washington Monthly, Michael Cook makes a powerful defense of standardized testing as a tool for increased equality:

Standardized testing was developed precisely so that children from poor or working class families would have a chance to go to college by demonstrating they did have intellectual merit.

You see, back when there were no standardized tests it happened that teachers most frequently recommended kids from rich or influential families to go to college because, by golly, it seemed those kids completed their homework or did projects more often, usually did well on teacher-made tests, were more popular and participated in a lot of activities, etc. By all subjective measures, kids from richer backgrounds tend to get rated higher by local establishments.

This is well said, and certainly accords with my experience.