January 18th, 2008



I gave up on The God Delusion and instead read Rajiv Chandrasekaran's Imperial Life In The Emerald City, which is a clear-eyed, meticulous and very entertaining - if I can use the word in this context - account of what went wrong in Iraq after the initial invasion. Much of the blame seems to be laid at the door of a turf war between the State Department and Department of Defence (sorry, Defense) about who was running the reconstruction effort. The rest of it is down to the fact that nobody appears to have known what they were doing, and those who did appear to have been sidelined as soon as they spoke up.
Chandrasekaran was the Washington Post's Baghdad bureau chief and he writes like a master. It's an object lesson in good, clear journalism. And apparently it's now being filmed.
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high flying

Over at Boing Boing I note a piece about Japanese members of the crew of the International Space Station launching a paper aeroplane into the Earth's atmosphere. Apparently the paper's been heat-treated and the aeroplane is expected to survive reentry.
I don't know about you, but I think it's wonderful that we live in a world where people can do something so marvellously, delightfully dotty. Where a lot of science fiction falls down, I think, is that while it does a good job of predicting the future, most of it ignores the flat-out daft aspects, the little quirks that make the future seem like a proper inhabited home rather than an Ikea show-apartment.
Of course, you can't blame writers for doing it that way. Quirks get in the way of the story (or wind up being more interesting than the story) and it's hard enough to think up a convincing future, let alone think up the myriad weird ways people might use it.
On the other hand, I kind of think this story of the paper aeroplane is in the spirit, if nothing else, of Arthur C Clarke.
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    black sabbath