As will have been obvious from recent diaries I was very much on the pro side of the Dabbler divide re the Olympics, but even I cannot defend everything about London 2012. On Thursday I mooched idly into the official Olympic souvenir shop at Paddington station, thinking it would be nice to pick up some piece of memorabilia or upmarket tat for my children to keep for posterity. But dear God, those Mandeville and Wenlock mascot things! And that logo! What the hell were they thinking? Even the golden afterglow of the Games cannot prettify those monstrosities. I left empty-handed. No wonder everyone assumed it would be a disaster. I seem to recall our handover bit on the Beijing Closing Ceremony was a bit dodgy too. But then Britain does have a reputation for falling at every hurdle except the last.
What’s your favourite thing about the Julian Assange fiasco? I like the way it has enabled us to distinguish the common-or-garden anti-American leftists from the out-and-out conspiracy theorist nutjobs like Oliver Stone and Michael Moore, whose argument can be summarised thus: “Julian Assange should not have to face due legal process in Sweden because America is bad.”
The case of the great mirror-licker is bit of a perfect storm for the left-wing commentariat. To take their natural position they’d have to both embrace misogyny and diss Sweden, which is of course where good leftists go when they die. This is too much for most and they’ve wisely ditched Assange. Others have simply been driven mad: try making sense of this clanging series of non-sequiturs by Seamus Milne, for example, which seems to be arguing that his crimes are probably not serious, but actually they are, and that only right-wingers want to see him extradited, but also that he should be extradited, but only on currently illegal terms.
Seamus Milne, incidentally, was the Guardian online comment editor at the time of 9/11, which is why that website was the principle British mouthpiece for the view that the people who died in the World Trade Center had it coming to them.
He is also one of Britain’s most privileged (son of a former BBC Director-General, educated at Balliol and Birkbeck) Marxists and Soviet-nostalgics. This from 2006:
For all its brutalities and failures, communism in the Soviet Union, eastern Europe and elsewhere delivered rapid industrialisation, mass education, job security and huge advances in social and gender equality. It encompassed genuine idealism and commitment, captured even by critical films and books of the post-Stalin era such as Wajda’s Man of Marble and Rybakov’s Children of the Arbat. Its existence helped to drive up welfare standards in the west, boosted the anticolonial movement and provided a powerful counterweight to western global domination.
…which copied and pasted chunks of a 2002 article in which he talks about the mass murders of communism in the same way that, say, Nick Griffin might talk about the Nazi Holocaust:
the number of victims of Stalin’s terror has been progressively inflated over recent years to the point where, in the wildest guesstimates, a third of the entire Soviet population is assumed to have been killed in the years leading up to the country’s victory over Nazi Germany. The numbers remain a focus of huge academic controversy, partly because most of them are famine deaths which can only be extrapolated from unreliable demographic data. But the fact is that the opening of formerly secret Soviet archives has led many historians – such as the Americans J Arch Getty and Robert Thurston – to scale down sharply earlier cold war estimates of executions and gulag populations under Stalin…. Despite the cruelties of the Stalin terror, there was no Soviet Treblinka, no extermination camps built to murder people in their millions.
But then here in the wicked west we have freedom of expression, and people are allowed not only to write stuff like that, twice, but can even get paid for it.
Since we Dabblers are currently banging on about eyes, I can bring up one of my favourite words. Sleepglue, being the sticky green stuff that sometimes accumulates in your eyelashes overnight and means, at its worst, that you have to force your peepers open by hand. It’s a neologism from A Clockwork Orange, as in “my glazzies were stuck together real horrorshow with sleepglue”. I’m not sure if much of Anthony Burgess’ Nadsat lingo has passed into common usage, but it should. Perhaps Mr Slang can tell us more.
Another resident expert, Susan, might be able to help with this one, which has been puzzling me for a while. What, precisely, are the differences between suave, debonair and dapper? My instinct tells me that Cary Grant is suave, Sir Roger Moore is debonair, and cricket commentator Henry Blofeld (panama, dickie-bow) is dapper. With our own Nige being at the ideal mid-point of the three. But again, one of you may know better.
NANDO’S UPDATE! The one on Southampton Place, opposite Holborn tube station, Central London. I give it 4 stars (out of a possible 5). Light and airy, food up to scratch but loses the extra mark for not having the handbaisin next to the cutlery. And alas the Fanta was off, so I couldn’t make any spezi.