Monday, 30 May 2011
Donner und blitzen! It can't be easy being a German Green. No sooner have they got the possibility of a nuclear free fatherland on the horizon and they go and start poisoning themselves with organic cucumbers. Gott in Himmel! I knew that from this organic scheisse no good would come.
Saturday, 28 May 2011
The arrest and possible extradition of Ratko Mladic has caused a media revisiting of the break up of Yugoslavia and the dreadful bloodletting of the 90s. At the time I struggled to make sense of what was going on in the region. I tried to figure out what it was that could bring the "South Slavs" to want to wreak such unspeakable horror on each other. One mystery was why the inhabitants of Bosnia-Herzegovina were always known as Serb, Croat or Muslim; rather like referring to the British as English, Scottish or Methodist. But the real mystery was how the legacy of competing empires and religions could so distort the collective humanity of so many. I don't think that I am any closer to understanding any of this but I am convinced that people like Mladic are the subject of a deviant psyche and that once they have gathered enough followers around them they can bring untold misery to the rest of us. If there is a fault line in society such people are capable of driving in the steel wedge of fear and violence until they tear people apart from each other.
It would sound like the worst kind of trite leftist rhetoric to say that we need to recognize each other as members of a class rather than a religious, ethnic or national group; but it's true none the less. Not class in the crude economic or cultural sense, but rather the two classes of those who control - and those who are controlled.
I hope that Ratko Mladic is extradited, stands trial and spends the rest of his life under lock and key. Not just as retribution for the countless lives that he ruined but also that we may better understand how such deviant and essentially shallow individuals achieve power on the backs of the foolish and the timid.
Thursday, 26 May 2011
Surely the two best things about The Guardian, some would say the only things worth bothering with, are the resident cartoonists Martin Rowson and Steve Bell. I have been a fan of Steve Bell since the early days of if... and before that his work for Time Out and The Leveller. His mad eyed Thatcher, equally mad eyed Blair and the hapless Major with his underpants over his trousers all went some way to raising a smile during the grimmest of political times. I was lucky enough to be able to attend the preview of the new Steve Bell exhibition at the Cartoon Museum last night and it really is well worth a visit. In real life Bell is a good natured Falstaffian figure, but once he grips a pencil he gives no quarter and no member of the ruling class can expect to be treated as anything other than totally risible. It was a packed house last night but not a politician to be seen - I wonder why?
Tuesday, 24 May 2011
If like me you think that television should both inform and entertain, and that the best programmes should leave you feeling that that was an hour well spent, you will have really got off on Adam Curtis' All Watched Over By Machines Of Loving Grace shown on BBC2 last night. Like his previous series The Trap and The Power Of Nightmares this was TV as it should be.
Monday, 23 May 2011
Be they footballers, politicians, even bankers, I rarely throw stones at people regarding their sex lives. Powerful old stuff the sex drive and all any of us can do is commit to doing as little harm to others as possible. But honestly, it's one thing to be a world famous sportsman and decide to wing it and get in the knickers of a glamorous minor celeb that the Red Tops are all over like a rash - but don't expect not to be found out.
Friday, 20 May 2011
I have recently been camping in the New Forest and, if you close your eyes to the second homes and rip off local shops, it's a beautiful place to spend a few days. The Forestry Commission manage over half of the New Forest National Park and, as with the other woodland under their control, seem to do a great job. But for how much longer I wonder? When Cameron proposed the privatisation of our national woodland he fell foul of just about everyone from Chris Knight to the Countryside Alliance and in the face of an outraged protest movement quickly shelved the whole project and did his best to assure us that he was never in favour of such a daft idea in the first place. Watch carefully though. Like some street grifter who's patter diverts us from the slight of hand as he invites us to find the lady, so Cameron will use our NHS "reform" induced state of shock to slip through woodland privatisation. Woodlands, health, Olympics, Royal Weddings, welfare, workfare. There are so many cards to try and keep an eye on. Make no mistake about it - nowhere produces a polished conman quite as well as Eton
Tuesday, 17 May 2011
Despite the lingering suspicion that "The Legacy" will be something bequeathed mainly to various development corporations, I am determined to keep upbeat about the Olympics. However this grim optimism is getting harder to maintain by the day. I hear that meetings between the various organizing and executive committees involved resemble nothing so much as the TV comedy Twenty Twelve and that Transport For London and road race organisers met for the first time last week only to find that road events and VIP lanes were due to be using the same roads. Oh shit! The ticket lottery was supposed to keep us safe from the ticket touts but with thousands of pounds rolling of peoples accounts when all they wanted was a brace of tickets for the archery, the touts are starting to look philanthropic in comparison. None of this would have happened had the authorities adopted my proposal for a 1948 style austerity games complete with ex-army camp Olympic Village and extra rations of eggs and milk for the athletes. They never bloody listen!
Sunday, 15 May 2011
I have just got back from the inaugural WAG into ALARM meeting. I had a lot of time for WAG, there were some good people involved and as far as morphing into ALARM goes I can but wish them well. I enjoyed the couple of pints and a chat but I don't cope that well with meetings to be honest. It has been pointed out to me in the past how ironic it is for someone who has made a lifetime hobby out of banging on about direct democracy, as opposed to the representative version, to have such an aversion to meetings. Perhaps endless meetings is the price we would have to pay for libertarian communism. No wonder it never takes off. Anyway, well done WAG - and good luck ALARM.
Saturday, 14 May 2011
Is there nothing that the odious Lord Snooty and his chums would not do to get the economy moving again? Apparently not. You might think that they would be content with cutting to the bone and making UK as employer friendly as anywhere outside of Central Asia, but you would be wrong. The coalition have now given the go ahead for the extraction of shale gas in the hinterland of Blackpool. The highly contentious method of "fracking" is being used by Cuadrilla Resources to hopefully kick start the North West's economy - but at an unknown environmental cost. Today comes news that drilling has been suspended due to an earthquake. An earthquake that may have been the result of the fracking itself!
Friday, 13 May 2011
Just got back from a few days spent in Sheringham on the North Norfolk Coast., eating fish and chips and crab sandwiches, drinking pints of Wherry Bitter and walking the coastal path. It's not an area I know that well, but I enjoyed Sheringham which seemed a friendly, unpretentious little resort and the surrounding countryside with it's wealth of birdlife is great walking country. Mind you, Sheringham might be unpretentious but some of the other towns and villages were a bit like Cotswolds On Sea; all posh shops and gastro pubs.
As I said, it's not an area that I know at all well but I have visited North Norfolk a couple of times before. On one occasion I was working on location for an episode of Dalziel And Pascoe. In those days I used to do a bit of what we called "marine co-ordination " for film and TV. This particular job, like many others, involved dumping a dinghy in a lake and hanging around the catering truck for hours. The other memorable visit was almost twenty years ago. My son was heavily into kickboxing at the time and was due to fight on a show in North Walsham. We were to all rendezvous at a gym in Isleworth and await the coach that was due to take us to this place that we only knew to be, "somewhere in Norfolk".
The arrival of the coach was a harbinger of things to come. It was very old and this along with the HAYES SEA SCOUTS painted on the side implied that it was not part of the fleet of one of the major coach companies. It was obvious that there was no way that the assembled number of fighters, trainers and assorted hangers on could all be found seats on the vehicle; a problem that was solved by filling the central aisle up with plastic chairs, cramming everyone in and hoping for the best. Hours later we arrived at what we hoped was the right town. "Is this North Walsham man, know what I meen?", inquired some of our black comrades of the dumbstruck locals. Eventually we arrived at the venue and the proceedings got underway. In those days it was usual for some kind of demonstration of martial arts to take place during the interval and this frequently involved someone trying hard not to knock themselves unconscious with nunchakus. A local instructor had decided to give us Cockney Wankers a taste of the rural by performing a kata with a garden fork. This unusual act came to an unfortunate end when he somehow managed to pierce his foot with the implement. The doctor, who with tweed jacket and leather elbow patches looked as though he would be more at home helping one of the local farmers with a difficult calving, was extracted from the bar and the casualty eventually sent to hospital. The doctor had hardly got back to his pint when he was again called to ringside to deal with a fighter who was choking on his gumshield. At this stage I was just heartily thankful that her indoors was not present. There was a crushing inevitability about my son loosing his fight and equally inevitable I suppose was the coach breaking down on the way home. Yes, few but memorable have been my visits to North Norfolk
Saturday, 7 May 2011
Iain Sinclair got a bit sniffy about the South Bank's Festival Of Britain 60th birthday celebrations, and to be fair to the old sage of psychogeographers, not without good reason. However, misgivings about this MasterCard sponsored event put firmly to one side I enjoyed my afternoon on the South Bank. The museum in the Festival Hall basement is full of interesting stuff and the Queen Elizabeth Hall roof garden is a genuine delight and a credit to the homeless folk who created it. To round off our day we took in the BFI's showing of the 1952 Festival Of Britain inspired film The Happy Family. On one level this is a classic British comedy of the era. Stanley Holloway, Kathleen Harrison, Dandy Nichols and a very young George Cole do what they do best in the kind of movie that old farts like me like to wax lyrical about now but would have just not bothered with at the time; preferring even the worst of Hollywood westerns or war films. But The Happy Family is not just a light hearted romp but is a profoundly political film that offers a critique of what is perceived as the authoritarian nature of socialism. The story revolves around the Lord family who are threatened with eviction from their corner shop to make way for the building of the South Bank Exhibition. Distributed just after the Tory 1951 General Election victory this is very much a celebration of the struggle of "little people" against a monolithic bureaucracy. Sixty years later we hold retrospectives about the Festival Of Britain and fight rearguard actions to save the last remnants of the post-war gains for working people - and it seems to me are no closer to formulating a coherent case for a libertarian socialism powered from the bottom up; and no closer to challenging the assumptions made in The Happy Family all those years ago.
Friday, 6 May 2011
Julie Burchill's little spat in The Independent about the Bristol Tesco window dressers has ruffled a few feathers as was no doubt the idea. Shame really, Burchill usualy chooses her targets better than this. Far better value could be found in the Indie in the form of a fine piece of "state of the nation" journalism from Peter Dunn.
Thursday, 5 May 2011
This is turning out to be the dryest spring since records began and the same conditions are being experienced across Northern Europe. This comes after last year's dry summer and poor harvest resulted in the cost of animal feed going through the roof and Russia putting a ban on grain exports. If the drought continues British farmers and growers are looking at the possibility of some very poor yields. The grass will start to die back at the time when it should be lush and green. A poor hay and silage crop will force up animal feed prices yet again. Vegetable growers are struggling to keep young plants alive let alone grow and a very significant drop in cereal yields can be expected.
None of these concerns have been given much attention by the mainstream media as yet but the implications for all of this are plain to see. Next winter, just as the effect of the public spending cuts are really starting to bite, we may well be faced with some pretty shocking supermarket bills. Utility costs are set to rise as well and a hard winter could mean a very tough time for pensioners,claimants and the low paid; the gulf between rich and poor could widen yet further. How we will all respond to this remains to be seen.
Monday, 2 May 2011
This morning came news of the death of two very different kinds of people that had but one thing in common; the ability to inspire young men. Osame bin Laden used his wealth and influence to inflict fear and misery in the name of a narrow, autocratic and joyless philosophy. His passing leaves the world a better place.
Henry Cooper was a far simpler but infinitely more valuable human being. "Our 'enery" was a last link to the days when professional boxing was an integral part of working class culture. He used his talent to make an honest living and entertain the fans. Cooper never had the protected career of today's fighters and faced the reality of defeat on several occasions but win or lose Henry was always the gent. He inspired a generation of young fighters with the simple credo of enjoying the sport and doing your best. He gave pleasure to people as a fighter and as a reassuring presence in the land . Thanks Henry.
Sunday, 1 May 2011
Say what you like, it really was an outstanding propaganda exercise. In the obvious sense of acting as a huge diversion from the cuts of course, but also I think in more subtle and profound ways. The spectacle of The Royal Wedding helped secure the future of a dynasty and no matter how much we may mock the Saxe-Coburgs as a bunch of none too bright inbreeds they have shown a remarkable ability for moving with the times and adapting to the public mood. This latest episode in what remains our most popular soap is further evidence of the family's adroit survival skills. If that was all there was to it we could perhaps just shrug our shoulders and move on, muttering about the false consciousness of the masses and the like, but I think that the Windsor/Middleton pact is something else. It is the final episode in the Thatcher project. The irrefutable evidence that with hard work, determination, thrift and a dash of selfishness the sky is the limit. The Middle Class, after all those false starts, have finally arrived. If you can just get your daughter into the right school she too could be a princess. Heaven help us.