Now all the truth is out,
Be secret and take defeat
From any brazen throat,
For how can you compete,
Being honour bred, with one
Who, were it proved he lies,
Were neither shamed in his own
Nor in his neighbours' eyes?
Bred to a harder thing
Than Triumph, turn away
And like a laughing string
Whereon mad fingers play
Amid a place of stone,
Be secret and exult,
Because of all things known
That is most difficult.
Should you want a reminder, just before the year is out, of the sort of letters you've been reading regularly in the Guardian over the last year - no, two years; no, two years and a quarter - you can obtain it easily by looking at the first three here. One of them has this:
... "terrorism" - the use of violence by the powerless to counter the use of overwhelming military and economic power by the US...
"I am the Hitler of the time. This Hitler has only one objective, justice for his own people, sovereignty for his people, recognition of the independence of his people, and their right to their resources. If that is Hitler, then let me be a Hitler tenfold. Ten times, that is what we stand for" - President Mugabe in March
"No amount of noisemaking or megaphone diplomacy will help resolve the Zimbabwe issue" - Thabo Mbeki's spokesman Bheki Khumalo defending SA's policy of 'quiet diplomacy' on Zimbabwe
"My heart simply bleeds for my country" - Archbishop Pius Ncube in May
Here's a lovely, long appreciation, by Gideon Haigh, of a soon-to-retire cricketing titan. I would urge you to read it all if you love cricket; and, if you don't, just to read it from beginning to end. One passage I particularly liked was this:
[Geoff] Lawson enjoys telling the story of Waugh's record-breaking fifth-wicket partnership of 464 in 407 minutes with his twin Mark for New South Wales against Western Australia in Perth in December 1990: "It was the most sublime batting you've ever seen. McCabe at Trent Bridge stuff, against a quality attack including Terry Alderman and Bruce Reid."
But what Lawson recalls with greatest clarity is the Waughs' response to his declaration at 601 for four. "Mark [229 not out] came in all smiles; Steve [216 not out] was not happy. He was changing next to me in the dressing room and he started complaining, 'What did you do that for? What do we play for?' I was a bit taken aback, I can tell you, and I said, "Well, we do have 600.' Steve said, 'We could have got 1,000'."
Steve has been my kind of a cricketer. I've always been against premature declarations, especially by Australia when playing England.
An inevitable topic and so probably one to avoid. But, then, wouldn't that be just falling in with expectation? So you'd be running with the pack instead of doing your own thing in your own time (what movie people? what movie?), like the rugged, free-thinking, I-don't-take-no-shit-from-nobody kind of a cool smoojeroonio dude that a dude's gotta be. In which case, you'd better be discussing New Year resolutions after all, or else you're running with this other we're-too-cool-to-talk-about-it crowd. But won't that just put you back in the pack? Like you become the Eight of Diamonds or something even more creepy, the Five of Clubs. Oh no, not the Five of Clubs. Actually, I once knew someone who had a thing for the Five of the Clubs. I mean, she really fell for him; she luuuvvved him. The relationship lasted a couple of months, and then he dumped her. She was heart-broken. She was livid. What a bastard! So, it's not good to be in the same pack as the Five of Clubs and, especially, it's not good to be the Five of Clubs. But who's to say that that's the pack that you'd be part of if you did. Did what? Did the resolution-thing that would make you part of the pack. THEY are to say. And who are THEY? THEY are just plain THEY. Do we care? Who the hell are we? We are us, that's who. And us are people who, even if we do care, shouldn't. So:
New Year's Resolution 1: We're not gonna care about that, at least. We're gonna care about other stuff.
NYR 2: And I'm not gonna post at one minute before midnight, because otherwise I get to write 'pleased of the opportunity' where (in the previous post) you'll now find 'glad of the opportunity', and not notice that I've done it even after reading through several times; and I then get to receive emails of a giggling sort from certain friends of mine, but which implicitly impugn my judgement, powers as a writer and inner character, not to say integrity, not to say 'not to say', not to say bwaahhhhahhhahhhaaahhh.
NYR 3: To be nice about my dnoc, which is a paper I do so love and even I cherish it, I even cherish it, I really chhhherrrisshh it even; for the time being anyway, till next time I feel like having a go, which may be soon. Because what is a dnoc for if you can't have a bloody good moan about it?
NYR 4: (To readers who have lost their way, please check back: NY is not New York. I once spent 24 hours in Manhattan, and that's all the time I've ever spent there. I loved it and I hope to go back.) When people say about some regrettable feature of the world, and in a resigned fashion, 'That's how it is. What can you do?' - to reply to them, 'You can moan.'
NYR 5: To see more movies than I saw this year.
NYR 6: To do things.
Now, if you've managed to stay with it this far, do reward yourself by taking the 'What Should Your New Year's Resolution Be?' quiz. I went through it twice and it gave me two different results, though I think I gave the same answers both times. The two results:
> to break things
> to incite a revolution through my art
Happy New Year everyone! Thanks to readers who have supported normblog!
I had the chance to meet Harry today - in a real world kind of a way. I was glad of the opportunity, having missed the London get together a few weeks ago on the first anniversary of Harry's Place. I thought I'd just give you all a brief account of our meeting.
We met outside Central Library in St Peter's Square and went into the Library Theatre cafe there and had a cup of tea. After about an hour we moved on to Albert Square and had a drink in the Slug and Lettuce. All the while we talked vigorously: everything from saying hello to swapping anecdotes about this and that, from blog-related stuff to sport and even politics - what else? After another hour or so Harry went off to meet his family and I came home to watch Gosford Park on TV with WotN.
I'm not about to try my hand at novel writing. But I enjoyed meeting Harry.
By the year's end it was still not clear who would be vindicated over the war in Iraq, its aftermath and the wider Middle East peace process. If Mr Blair is proved wrong, his circling critics will not forgive him. If he is proved right, many will be even harsher in their resentment. The righteous anger against an "illegal" war has burned too deep to be assuaged by mere success.
Martin Kettle on 'Living dangerously, but what other option is there?'
Opponents of the war may need to be reminded that public opinion currently approves of the invasion by nearly two to one.
Ministers say it is beyond doubt that Britain will one day be a target. How far this would be a consequence of Blair's pro-American policy over Iraq is an inevitable question, but recent terror-related cancellations of Air France transatlantic flights imply that Osama bin Laden is no respecter of individual national stances on the war.
And then do read David Aaronovitch today. Read what he has to say about the death toll from the Bam earthquake (in conjunction with this); and also read what he has to say about the Bishop of Durham.
From a thoroughly unsympathetic review of William Shawcross's Allies: The US, Britain, Europe and the War in Iraq by Ed Vulliamy:
But Iraq is something other than 'humanitarian intervention', let alone 'progressive war'. Iraq is an act of arrogance and of empire... For all the joy and relief at liberation among many Iraqis, there is so little, if anything, that is honest about America's invasion. It is the hardest part of the argument against this book: that moral language is not utilitarian. That motives for action do matter. As do the consequences of action, which, quite apart from enhancing the personal fortunes of America's ruling elite, may result in anything but 'democratisation'.
Serious moral reflection needs to weigh - to take account of - both motives and consequences. But note the untroubled movement of thought here. Joy and relief among Iraqis over liberation is more or less written out of the deliberation because of American lack of honesty and because moral language is not utilitarian. A couple of sentences later, by when the consequences of action have (also) come to matter, joy, relief and liberation have been forgotten for the 'personal fortunes of America's ruling elite' and what 'may result'. Both confused and obfuscating. (Thanks to Eve Garrard for the link.)
Hundreds of wild elephants are the latest refugees from violence and disorder in Robert Mugabe's crisis-torn Zimbabwe. The animals are fleeing the country by wading across the Zambezi river to escape being shot or trapped by so-called "war veterans" and illegal hunters.
Game wardens in Zambia say record numbers of elephants are crossing the Zambezi, which forms the border between the two countries, to avoid being poached by armed gangs in Zimbabwe
Tom Watson MP has now sent in (and posted) his choices for the normblog favourite movies poll. That's on top of all those listed here; and a lot of others besides. So what about you? Come on, everybody. We want a big and bustling entry, no? Yes, obviously.