Saturday, September 27, 2008

Everton 0-2 Liverpool

It's hard to say whether we played well or Everton badly - I suspect it was at least in large part down to the latter - but for a derby this was a surprisingly comfortable game. True, Everton probably had the better chances of the first half - a Cahill air-kick from a corner and Carragher clearing off the line after Reina missed a cross - but they were isolated moments: the attacking play was almost all Liverpool, albeit without end product (just after half-time, my mate Tom predicted a 0-0 draw).

Thankfully, all changed in a five minute period. First Keane got on to a long pass and - doing well to keep it in - lobbed a rather hopeful looking cross into the box, over Kuyt (who'd dragged Lescott to the near post) only to fall invitingly for Torres to run onto and shoot into the net. Soon after, a second followed - this time, Kuyt was briefly given space in the box only for two defenders to slide in, the ball falling to Torres unmarked to slot home a second. I'm not sure whether it will last, but the Liverpool website is currently showing clips of both goals free.

Things could have got much worse for Everton as, over the next five or so minutes, we twice more had the ball in the net only to be ruled out. Kuyt's I think rightly, because the ball had clearly gone out of play and the defenders seemed to have stopped, but Torres was denied a hat-trick because Kuyt was adjudged to have fouled a defender, which I thought was rather harsh.

Still, things arguably even out when Cahill received straight red for a foul on Alonso after 79 minutes. It wasn't has bad as Pogatetz on Possebon, but somewhat similar in style - initially sliding with one foot, but also connecting with the trailing leg - so not too surprising to see it given red. Opinions are divided on whether it was harsh or deserved - personally, I'm sitting on the fence and saying that it was 'between red and yellow' (so couldn't complain much either way), but only a deluded fool would claim it affected the result: Reina didn't have to save a single goal-bound shot all match.

Overall, any derby win is good, but it was pleasing to see the 4-4-2 work better than against Stoke. Gerrard pulled some strings from deeper in midfield, while Kuyt and Keane got in the box - the latter showing some promise in creating the first goal - and, best of all, Torres is back to scoring form after his injury. In the first half, he looked a little petulant - even picking up an unnecessary booking - but as soon as he scored his body language changed. That's the way to answer critics. And I believe he already has more Premiership goals away from Anfield this season (3) than last (2).


Last night, I went to the Royal Oak to celebrate a friend's viva (well done Rachele). Totally unplanned, I bumped into my old flatmate Ed (celebrating his last day 'in the lab'), my good friend Nick (no longer based in Oxford, but celebrating a friend's submission or viva) and another former Jesubite Rhydian (also no longer based on Oxford), all there totally independently. It is indeed a small world, and one of the nice things about Oxford that it's so easy to run into people you know (when you've been here 8 years...)

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Censorship in Society

I've recently been having an exchange with my friend Rob, on this older post of mine about censorship in education. As he quite rightly points out, the example I use in that post is of a particular poem being removed from a GCSE anthology because of its bad influence, and this restriction of context is quite different in kind from a total ban on the poem itself.

Nonetheless, the point that I wanted to make is that we do care what we expose children to - controversy over 'Gollywogs' in Enid Blyton being another example - and, if this is our general concern, then there has to be a worry that context restriction will never be enough. (Of course, there's a balancing that goes on here: we may think that context restriction sufficiently limits harm with minimal loss of liberty, while a total ban - as Plato proposes - would be too great a price to pay to prevent undesirable influences).

Here, it seems, is an example where concern goes beyond mere context restriction. The controversy surrounds whether it is ok to use the term 'retard' in satire. That could be a matter of context, because there are some things that we think it ok to discuss but not make fun of; but as I read it, the suggestion is that the term - like, perhaps, 'nigger' (with the possible exception of between blacks) - should be taboo and not to be used at all, even in comedy (which is sometimes exempt from certain restrictions).

Note, in particular, the BBC headline: The path from cinema to playground. The concern is, in particular, the effect on the young, but the proposal is censorship far wider than school textbooks or even the school context. As Myles Burnyeat puts it, in his Tanner Lectures, "Plato’s insight is that if you are concerned about the souls of the young, it is no good simply laying down rules for parents and teachers, or agreeing to keep sex and violence off the TV screen until after 9:00 P.M. His conclusion: for the sake of the young, the entire culture must be purged" (p.47).

Problems Solved

Whoever wins the American election (a matter discussed here) will face some tricky problems given that the country seems to be leading the world into recession. Luckily, Colin Farrelly has hit on the solution: magic fairies. (His post links to a report that 55% of Americans believe they have been protected by a Guardian Angel, which concludes "Americans live in an enchanted world"!)

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Liverpool 2-1 Crewe

Too bad our young reserves aren't like Arsenal's; still, this was an opportunity for Benitez to name a completely(?) changed side, with only Babel really having a claim to be a first team regular (even if the 'fringe' players now include Pennant, Hyypia, etc). To be honest, I wonder whether the mix of players has something to do with the performance: maybe a full reserve side would have a better understanding from playing together.

Nonetheless, it apparently helps the likes of Insua, Plessis, El Zhar and Ngog to play alongside more established players and, while Crewe made them work for the win, they came through the test. Agger's opener was cancelled out, but Leiva restored the lead and - though we couldn't make the game safe, despite the introduction of Torres (who created several chances) - it was avaoiding a major scare or 'cupset' that mattered.

The main downside was finding that our new right back, Degen, is officially made of glass. I was surprised that Benitez named such a strong bench actually: surely a few senior players, in case the game needed 'rescuing', would have been caution enough, and he could've had some more youngsters in case we were coasting. Had he not named Carragher and Skrtel, for example, then not only could one of them have had a night off, but Darby could've got a chance too.

Anyway, let's hope to avoid Premiership opposition in the next round, and see what our second string can do there.

Monday, September 22, 2008


Today was the snappily-titled In Town Without My Car (ITWMC) day. I'm not quite sure what the scope of this initiative was, but the university provided a free breakfast and cycle check to members of staff at the University Club.

The breakfast was nothing special (one slice of toast, scrambled egg and orange juice), but the cycle doctor did fix my loose rear mudguard (too bad he couldn't do the front) - and getting there for 8:30 and having to wait until 11:30 meant I was able to get a solid couple of hours of reading done in the SSL.

Today is actually the first time I've cycled since my return to Oxford and, despite the large number of cyclists, I was struck by how the city isn't actually that cycle-friendly: I encountered unhelpful road signs/markings (places where I think something like 'no right turn, except cyclists' would be useful), broken glass, buses, pot-holes and one pedestrian who stepped out right in front of me without looking - in hindsight, perhaps I should have hit (or at least shouted at) her, to remind her not to do it again...

Toss For It

The BBC warns of a possible 'nightmare scenario' in the US election. They describe seven states as a "toss-up", but don't know what to do if the Electoral College vote is tied...

More seriously, the article does a good job of explaining some points about the electoral system and the fact that "The founding fathers centred the idea [of the state 'unit vote'] on the fact that the nation was a confederation of states rather than a pure democracy of individual voters".

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Alumni Weekend

On Friday, I took part in an open day at Corpus Christi College - my first official work for my new employer (even though my contract doesn't technically start until 1st Oct). Also this weekend, as a member of staff, I got a free invite to selected activities in the Oxford Alumni Weekend, so I went to talks on 'Universities and Globalization', 'The International Student Experience' and 'Undergraduate Admissions', hoping that they might be useful to my new role.

I guess they were, as one thing that I learned this morning was that a separate application form and additional payment is no longer necessary for those applying to Oxford. Also, on Friday, I found that PPE candidates no longer have to submit written schoolwork (thanks, Scot). I still don't see why they can't have a lottery. I actually asked a related question in the admissions talk this morning, but I'm not sure the guy really got it: he simply stated the obvious, that we'd still need to make choices. I suppose I'd better get back to reading Gataker (annoyingly, cheaper on Amazon than the publisher's own site, or even their conference stand)...

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Liverpool 0-0 Stoke

And so from a great win over United to a frustrating draw against the newly-promoted relegation favourites. This was never likely to be a stroll in the park but when it looked like Gerrard had put us in the lead after just two minutes I thought it could be comfortable. Unfortunately, so much depends on an early goal, and even the BBC commentators didn't really agree with the offside decision. Still, it certainly wasn't the worst decision of the day, and shouldn't have mattered, because we should have been able to score plenty more goals but - despite dominance (27 shots and 20 corners, compared to 3 and 3).

Sometimes matches like this happen, and not only to us: remember already this season we've season Arsenal lose to Fulham, Chelsea held by an out-of-sorts Spurs side and Man Utd get off to a poor start. The key is to remember it's a marathon, not a sprint, and make sure that these days don't happen too often. It's too bad we don't have some players like Crouch and Barry (or, as I predicted, Hyypia) then some of those corners may have been more dangerous. As it is, despite naming an attacking line-up, I don't think 4-4-2 really suits our players: Kuyt is not a wide midfielder and neither he nor Keane even looked like scoring.

Crewe next and hopefully we'll see a few young reserves (Ngog, El Zhar, Insua, Spearing), plus perhaps a chance for the likes of Degen and Agger to stake their claim for a place. Though I wouldn't be too surprised if Keane and/or Kuyt play, in the hope of scoring...

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Marseille 1-2 Liverpool

Not quite last season's demolition but, despite the loss of Nasri and Cisse, it had been widely reported that Marseille had strengthened this year. On the subject of the latter, I must point out how Babel reminds me very much of Cisse, and I saw many of the worse points tonight. Ok, maybe he has more trickery once he's on the ball, but his game is based around pace and power and he lacks intelligence. Several times I saw him fail to close down or make runs, even when we were in possession. To his credit, it was a good bit of skill that won the penalty, and he had two good chances to score a third (the first blasted at the 'keeper, the second hit the post), but with the arrival of Riera he'll have to buck his ideas up. Too bad he doesn't have Benayoun's intelligence to match his natural ability.

Anyway, back to the game, it was a surprisingly open match, with plenty of end to end action (if not necessarily clear cut chances). By the time Marseille's pacy attack finally sprung our offside trap to open the scoring, it could already have been 2-2. Thankfully, it took just minutes for Torres and Kuyt to combine to set up Gerrard for an audacious equalizer. (I've seen numerous videos remvoed from YouTube but it's currently here. Worth watching if still available).

Not long after, Babel's trickery in the box drew a foul and won a penalty - which Gerrard did well to score twice, after having to re-take for encroachment. After that, the game continued to produce chances at both ends - with Marseille probably enjoying the better share - but there were no more goals. Credit in particular to Carragher and Reina, who pulled off two great saves just in injury time. At the end of the day though, we all know Liverpool couldn't possibly win without Gerrard...

Stoke next, and I wouldn't be surprised to see more rotation, possibly with Hyypia starting.

p.s. I wouldn't be so sure that this puts us in a 'commanding position' in the group. We're second, after Atletico Madrid made a mockery of their 4th seeding with a 3-0 away win over PSV. This could well be the 'group of death'.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Oxford Panoramic Photos

I've been quite enjoying daily photos of Oxford on this blog - which nicely illustrates the Perch before (Jan 2007) and after (May 2007) a fire, and now (Sept 2008) restored.

For those looking for something a little more permanent, my friend Seth is a keen photographer and sells wonderful Panoramic photos of the dreaming spires and has a new website: Oxford Panoramas. I must admit that I haven't bought one myself, but largely because I'm unsure which to get.

The Scourge

Over dinner in Manchester last week, conversation turned briefly to the morality of abortion and I was reminded of a paper by my friend Toby Ord in which he highlights the problem of spontaneous abortion. I see it's now been published:

Ord, T. 2008. The scourge: moral implications of natural embryo loss. American Journal of Bioethics 7(8): 12–19.

It's a 'target article', featuring no less than seven responses. Well done Toby! (via Colin).

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Another Attempt at Journal Ranking

Having just had my latest knock-back (though with some helpful comments), I'm still giving thought to where to send articles. Thom Brooks helpfully lists the results of another ranking here.

Personally, I'm somewhat surprised to see some that are ranked A* and to see the likes of JPP and ETMP in the same category (A). Thom does point out a few problems with the methodology, so perhaps - like all of these calculations - it's worth taking it with a pinch of salt, but hopefully triangulation will lead to some reliable results (and it's always worth knowing people's perceptions, even if there is an independent truth).

RIP Mr Bayes

I just, somewhat belatedly, heard about the death of my old English teacher, Roger Bayes. A personal obituary - covering his three main passions: English, cricket and alcohol - can be found here.

For my own part, I'd like to add that I was taught by Mr Bayes in year 7 (1993-4) and again in Sixth Form (1998-2000), where my memories of his passion for Remains of the Day will stay with me - even if I did once catch him out on a textual point. That and him literally hopping around, even redder than usual, during a particularly animated portrayal of Norman from Ayckbourn's Norman Conquests. Sadly, I haven't had as much time as I'd like for literature since leaving CRGS, but his enthusiasm was an inspiration. RIP.

[From the school website] There will be a service in the school hall in memory of Roger Bayes on Friday, 26 September at 4.30 pm. Former colleagues, students and parents are most welcome to attend but we would be most grateful if you would e-mail JHowlett [at] (or telephone 01206 509103) if you are coming along, so that we may make adequate seating arrangements.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Liverpool 2-1 Man Utd

Last season, we took just four out of a possible 18 points against the other three top four clubs. Draws home and away to Arsenal and Chelsea meant that we didn't lose any ground against them but, had we won instead of losing our two games against Man Utd (a big IF, admittedly), we'd have finished ahead of them.

Although we beat Utd in the FA Cup, Benitez had yet to register a league win over them, even if most of the games had been very tight - with Utd sneaking a few that they didn't deserve to. As a Liverpool fan, I tend to think that every year will be different, only to be disappointed yet again. When Berbatov pulled back for Tevez to open the scoring after only 3 minutes, I feared that those hopes would be dashed yet again.

Although there was some fortune about our equalizer - when Van der Sar punched the ball into Brown, only to see it rebound into the net - there's no denying that we were dominating possession and chances, even with Gerrard and Torres confined to the bench. Although there were unsurprisingly some scary moments, such as a Giggs shot that Reina was forced to tip over, had we a striker more clinical than Kuyt or Keane we may have put the match to bed earlier. (Not that I'm faulting them - both worked tirelessly to close down from the front and harry Utd into mistakes).

Better was to come when Mascherano beat Giggs, the ball fell for Kuyt in the box and he squared for Babel to score. There were a few nervous moments after that, but Vidic's dismissal for two yellow cards - either of which could have been red - helped ease the pressure in the final moments. Having ground out victories over Sunderland and Middlesbrough without playing well, it was pleasing to produce our best performance of the season and have even Ferguson admitting that the best team won.

Last year, Benitez was criticized several times when he rested Gerrard and/or Torres against 'weaker' opposition, resulting in drawing games that we should have won - it was nice to see the rest of the team step up this time. Mascherano and Alonso won plenty of plaudits in midfield, while Riera looks a useful signing - even if he did cut inside quite often. Certainly, after the first five minutes, his debut out-shone Berbatov's.

On the subject of former Spurs strikers, a lot seems to have been made of the fact that Keane hasn't hit the net yet, but last season apparently it took him a while to get off the mark before going on to hit 23 goals (in all competitions). I think he was probably over-priced, and we've had a struggle to fit him into our system, but I would rather have him than Berbatov.

CFP: Stirling Grad Conference

Stirling 2nd Graduate Conference
Thursday 11 - Friday 12th December 2008
Department of Philosophy, University of Stirling, Scotland

Keynote Speakers:
Prof. John Horton (Keele University)
Prof. Leif Wenar (King's College)

Submission deadline: 10th October 2008
Following the success of last year's event, the Department of Philosophy at Stirling University is holding the 2nd Postgraduate Conference Law and Philosophy. This event aims at bringing together postgraduate students working on any area of Political and Legal Philosophy. The focus of this year's Conference will be particularly, but not exclusively, on issues of Political Obligation and Global Justice (e.g. State Legitimacy, Anarchism, Civil Disobedience, Distributive Justice, Nationalism/ Cosmopolitanism, Legal Positivism, Natural Law, etc.).

Contributions are invited from graduate students working on any topic in political and/or legal philosophy. Each postgraduate presentation should be max 30 minutes, and will be followed by a 10-minute reply, and by an open discussion. Each session will last 90 minutes. Abstract of max. 500 words should be sent via email to by 10th October 2008. Selected participants will be required to send a full draft of their paper by 3rd November. Thanks to generous support from the Department of Philosophy of Stirling University, The Roberts Funds and The Scots Philosophical Club, there will be bursaries available for participant postgraduates. Inquiries should be sent to Ambrose Lee or Piero Moraro

(via Megan)

Friday, September 12, 2008

Back in Oxford

This week's conference in Manchester was great fun. There weren't too many senior professors - it was mostly PhD students and junior faculty - but that seemed to facilitate egalitarian discussion, academic and social. It was partcularly pleasing for me to give a paper in the sortition panel, allowing me to meet several members of the kleroterian email list (run by Conall Boyle) which coincided with the launch of a new series of books from Imprint Academic.

I must in particular thank my friend Becca, who kindly hosted me in her flat (rather than halls). I'm back in Oxford now - and starting to prepare for the coming term.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Travel Plans

I'm returning to Oxford tomorrow, although it will only be a brief stop as on Tuesday I'm off to Manchester for this conference - will be back on Friday.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Censorship in Education

Plato is often criticized as totalitarian for his willingness to censor vast tracts of Greek poetry, including Homer, in his ideal city. Of course, it is important that he proposed total censorship, rather than merely restriction of context. Nonetheless, when it comes to educational contexts, his proposals seem to differ from modern practice only in degree rather than kind.

I previously has other examples, such as fuss over Gollywogs in Enid Blighton, but this BBC story brought my attention to the recent removal of a Carol Ann Duffy poem about knife violence, 'An Education in Leisure' from GCSE anthologies. The Guardian's report reproduces the poem, while there's an analysis of it here.

The Guardian report quotes Michael Rosen, the children's laureate [not the ex-Oxford philosopher], as saying: "By this same logic we would be banning Romeo and Juliet. That's about a group of sexually attractive males strutting round the streets, getting off with girls and stabbing each other."