Hard News by Russell Brown

153

Inauspicious

The craziest part of the shambolic execution of Saddam Hussein must surely be that the former tyrant was hailed at his end by sectarian chanting from supporters (or actually members) of the militias that the White House is considering sending another few tens of thousands of troops to Iraq to put down.

It comes on the heels of the incident in which British forces in Basra were obliged to stage an assault on a police station to retrieve captives being routinely tortured by a police force set up (and apparently co-operated with since) by the same British forces in 2003.

The other issue, as Nir Rosen explains, is that its clearly sectarian nature established Saddam's martydom in a particularly dangerous way. It's hard to imagine this event taking place in a less auspicious way.

The Listener let itself down with its 'Get the Most from Your Mind: The Secrets of Learning' cover this week. The slim story it relates to is an interview with Eric Jensen, an American who has built a publishing and seminar business around the idea of "brain-based learning".

By shopping it to us thus, the magazine effectively placed its authority behind Jensen's advice, which is unfortunate, given this detailed critique of Jensen's work, which notes a string of "disappointing" citations (most of them from other "pop books") and quotes some withering expert opinion on the whole basis of Jensen's pitch. There are further resources here, and a cognitive scientist's view (dismissing "any prospect of a brain-based learning program of any substance in the near future") published recently on the American Federation of Teachers' website.

Self-help sells off the newsstand, but in the long term, I think credibility is important too.

Oddly enough, it's otherwise a strong issue. The "How To" feature is a good holiday season concept, and would have made a good cover (I thought of something like a coloured tag cloud). The interviews with Scott Dixon, Flight of the Conchords, Martina Cole and Toby Young (I still have the famous swansong issue of the Modern Review somewhere) are also excellent.

A new blog by Mark Lillico, a human rights lawyer in Wellington, discusses the report on Liam Ashley's death and contends that it "reveals a contrast in regard for human rights between state and private sector agencies." (Hat tip: No Right Turn.)

Paul Litterick has been positively humming with his new(ish) fully-fledged Fundy Post blog. Of particular note in the he-does-it-so-you-don't-have-to department, see his post The Investigate Literary Supplement. Corker.

I've linked to Urban Dictionary a number of times - it's quite a fun project. But reader Jeff LePoidevin pointed out the dictionary's entry for "Maori", which consists of pages of racist drivel. Written, clearly, by New Zealanders. That'll be the Tragedy of the Commons.

And, in a completely different vein, I was sorting through on old box of papers from when I lived in London, and came across a fax I had completely forgotten about. I'm pretty sure it's Run DMC's rider, picked up when I interviewed them at the BBC studios, before they played Top of the Pops in 1989. It reads in part, and in original spelling:

NOTE 15 TOWLES ARE REQUIRED FOR STAGE!!!!!!

THERE SHALL BE COMPLIMENTARY BEVERAGE FOR ARTIST AND CREW

2 TWENTY-FOUR PIECE BUCKET KENTUCKY FIRED CHICKEN (ORIGINAL RECIPE)

12 BISCUITS WITH BUTTER, JELLY AND HONEY

8 EARS OF CORN ON THE COB

1 LARGE ASSORTED FRUIT TRAY

1 CASE ASSORTED SODAS (WITH CUPS AND ICE)

1 GALLON OF BOTTLED WATER

1 QUART OF ORANGE JUICE

2 DOZEN CONDOMS

--

6 HOT MEALS - ITALIAN FOOD (CHOICE OF MANCIOTII OR LASAGNA, PLEASE NO MEAT!!!!)

ALL CONDIMENTS AND PROPER UNTENSILS MUST BE PROVIDED.

1 CASE OF OLD ENGLISH 800 MALT LIQUOR

(NOTE: THE KENTUCKY FRIED CHICKEN MUST ALSO BE PROVIE IN ADDITION TO ITALIAN FOOD LISTED ABOVE.)

I remember the asbestos readings in the dressing rooms, and how authoritative Russell Simmons was, despite his girlyman voice, but I'd forgotten I ever had that. By the time I'd been through the box, I realised I don't know a lot of things I used to know.

Anyway, I trust your holiday season is serving you well, even if you've copped the El Nino thing in Wellington (feel free to file a report). Our New Year's Eve was family-friendly, and quite the most sober I've spent in years. My special Christmas whisky took a bit of a thrashing in erudite company the following evening, but that, of course, was precisely the reason it was acquired.

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